Comment 2734

By jason (registered) | Posted December 21, 2006 at 22:43:56

great suggestion Ade, and great comments Schmadrian. Don't get the impression that we don't see and understand these same things you mention. Perhaps we don't do a good job of linking the two (perhaps intentionally so as to present our ideas as good for everyone, not just the 'underclass') but they are linked. Bogota, Colombia recently made cycling a human rights issue. They have built thousands of km of bike lanes and implemented the world's most comprehensive Bus Rapid Transit system. I've been there twice and guess what? The difference in the city was remarkable...only 3 years later.
In North America we have destroyed our cities at the expense of everyone, but most harmed has been this middle/under class. Folks who live along Barton, King or Cannon can't just walk around the corner for all of life's necessities as people have for generations in those same neighbourhoods. We've closed down inner city schools to build ones in the suburbs. Fortinos closes all neighbourhood stores and replaces them with massive boxes on the outskirts. The Barn closed their Hess street store and had a ruling passed that would not allow another grocery/food establishment on that site for 20+ years. Transit is slow, crowded and incovenient, yet we spend billions on roads, highways and acres of suburban parking lot.

I see these issues as very inter-connected. A city can't just strip away all of the basics that make up a good healthy neighbourhood and concentrate all public spending and development in the wealthy suburbs. The end result (thankfully we aren't anywhere near this) of that line of planning is US ghettos.
You are so right - people are what matter. We have thousands of acres of unused land in our central city and port lands, yet all the economic development department can talk about is 'getting more shovel ready land' out in the boonies for our future jobs. How will this help create work for ALL in our city? It won't - it's only for those who have cars and can get out to Glanbrook or the airport. If the city is serious about addressing poverty they need to do as Bogota did and realize that these things should be considered basic life necessities for all, not just for the wealthy or stable. Most of our underclass works, yet can barely make ends meet. Imagine dozens of new plants springing up along Burlington St linked by bike lanes and efficient public transit so people - rich or poor - could get jobs there?

City planning has much more impact on poverty - it's growth or reduction - than people realize. Most central city residents are used to being looked at down the noses of 'privileged' suburbanites who judge, scorn and reject them because of where they live. Why? Because the city has done the same. If you live at Cannon and Gage you better own a car or figure out a way to get to the Bay or Fortinos or Bulk Barn cause there ain't one for miles around. And the vacuum effect takes hold...people get tired of driving out to the burbs or sitting on horrendously long bus rides for their work and shopping so they strive to move there. Poverty will never cease to exist, but in Hamilton we could do a heck of a lot to minimize it and see it shrink. Starting with the Planning department. Our social agencies do great work in this city...some of the best in Canada. Yet we're spinning our wheels until city hall decides that it will treat all citizens equal and do it's best to create opportunity everywhere as Bogota has and not continue to rob from the poor to subsidize the rich.

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