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By LL (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2009 at 17:13:50
I must admit, I was excited that such a populist mayor was elected - perhaps the least establishment mayor since Sam Lawrence. Although he was anti-valley (I think a lot of people were through expedience), he seemed to get the overall concept of sustainable urbanism.
However, no single politician can change a municipality. To modernize, Hamilton needs broader social movements. The developers who are pushing sprawl are not a "community"; they are a class; an anti-democratic force that dominates the municipal institutions. They need to be opposed and run out of town politically (with all the risks that their mafia connections entail). This triple-bottom-line stakeholder BS is not cutting it.
Hamilton is not Toronto. A progressive consensus wont happen through educated white-collar workers moving in to downtown. Although that certainly is happening to a lesser extent, you've got to capture the imaginations of the existing blue collar population. Blue collars may seem to conform to anti-city, mass motoring ideology. What do you expect when the people pushing alternatives come off so poncey? You've got to vibe with Hamilton's union and social democratic traditions. You've got to attack mandatory motoring, sprawl, and the developers on class terms. It's time to start naming names of the a$$holes who are getting rich by controlling city hall. (That's why I love CATCH so much.)
Sprawl isn't just a "feedback loop" or an accidental manifestation of cultural ignorance. It goes right to the heart of the way capitalism has been structured for the last 60 years. Fordism - the "regime of accumulation" that is at the root of sprawl - is over. In the chaos of restructuring, the working ("middle" my ass) class is either going to be captivated by class consciousness on one hand, or by the old standys of racism and a war against nature. Activists need to realize this and not be so... well... liberal.
A lot of "green urbanism" is certain to happen around the world as a way to activate surplus capital. Manesh could be right that Hamilton has largely missed the boat on that. If city hall drops the ball on light rail and fails to fund the cycling network, I would say Manesh is definitely right. I'm not going to cry too many tears. A lot of this has amounted to a socially unjust gentrification game. Here in Hamilton and cities like it, the debate needs to be framed more radically - as in an access to civic use-values for working people and the poor, a shorter workweek, and direct citizen participation in planning.
LL believes that the problems of the city reflect deeper social contradictions
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