Comment 69391

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2011 at 20:17:43

Changing Hamilton's narrative to acheive the desired Urban SHIFT:

Changing demographics implies changing patterns of living and working. Ward boundaries are an antiquated construct that needs to be left alone. While they do serve an existing purpose to keep the enterprise functioning, they do little to take a city into its next phase of growth.

Geographically dividing up a city through ward boundaries, freezes cities in time. Incremental or drastic changes to this only manages to alter the frozen state for a little while before atrophying again.

Yes, cities and neighbourhoods also drift to their natural state of status quo - if we continue to use the same old approaches to frame new questions.

Playing around with ward boundaries may give a sense of order-making and empowerment, but it is a superficial exercise, and most often its motives are insidious - they do not spring from a deeper understanding of geography, economy and culture - but they spring from an impulse to push social and political preferences on to others. It is such ignoble impulse, shrouded in logic and science - which has destroyed the vitality of most North American cities.

In this day and age of unpredictable economic shifts, one thing that remains constant is human beings natural migratory patterns towards urban settlements. We need to leverage our existing circumstance to facilitate and accelerate this trend -- not by re-framing old questions, but by introducing a new vocabulary, with a new narrative that celebrates this on-going shift towards a fluid geography and economy -- and channel our diminishing resources and efforts to shatter the notions of myopic boundaries to enable the growth of local ecologies that are a truer representation of the new geography that is shaping around us.

Totally new modes of living and working - beyond the mere affectations of exposed-brick clad urban lofts, is what such a shift is capable of delivering. Real new jobs and respect for other life forms and other views, can only come from such a position.

To acheive this, it is imperative that we quickly learn how to frame questions.

Was opening up retrograde conversations about old boundaries at this stage in Hamilton's growth, really necessary? What kind of city building does such intent really expect to deliver?

This whole issue of Suburban Wards having more voting power than Urban Wards -- is a fallacy arising from arbitrary definitions, and aesthetic and political preconceptions.

If one has no problem calling the Aberdeen/Dundurn/Locke/Westdale area as Urban -- then one should have no problem calling Wards 6 to 8 Urban too. For they too has the same characteristics as Ward 1, albeit less aesthetic and less older, and possibly less wealthy, but nonetheless, essentially a suburban experience in an urban setting.

If this view is acceptable -- (and only a person trapped in old patterns would chose to counter such a narrative) -- then the population of Wards 1 to 8 can correctly be seen as an urban population of: 329,845 and the population of Wards 9 to 15 can correctly be seen as a suburban-rural population of: 174,715

Hamilton's Urban SHIFT - image.

The Urban SHIFT that occurs with this simple recalibration of what constitutes Urban - opens up an entirely new way of looking at our city. It puts to rest the absurdities of looking up or looking down at neighbourhoods - an activity that has consumed so much of our time and energy, and instead, allows us to focus on the task at hand, which is the equitable intensification of all areas which are now embraced as Urban.

This SHIFT also factors in the intensification of business districts in suburban and rural areas, and accords them the same attention and respect that is given to the unified city's core.

This Urban SHIFT is clearly achieved without any clamor for LRT or a sports stadiums - which if/when they happen is just a bonus - for such a SHIFT does not depend on infrequent high-points, but is founded on a much more realistic and incremental building of a true community binding multi-modal Transportation strategy.

Fortunately, we already have new low-mid rise/high densities in place on the King/Main corridor from downtown to Westdale. We just need to recognize this new urban re-generation tool, and expand intensification city-wide, by using the same techniques used in Ward 1 & 2 presently.

By keeping the same Ward boundaries and the same Councillor numbers - we are in a position to acheive this SHIFT quite simply.

We have a system in place in the public works, which is just about getting used to the existing patterns of ward boundaries and work processes initiated a decade ago. Fooling around with it would require re-engineering an entire system at a phenomenal cost and work disruption - with zero returns. The immense costs of rejigging such archaic systems once again, would never be recoverable.

The same energies can be used to bake a larger bread for all instead of putzing around with facile boundaries, and worn down citizen emotions.

With the inclusion of 6 new development officers in the six Zones above, a comprehensive and concurrent rapid intensification plan via new and in-fill development can be executed.

What is required is an entrepreneurial spirit to turn this city around in four years and not tinkering around with systems and processes which gives the illusion of progress while in fact creating more dependencies on tax-payer funding to acheive increasingly insignificant progress.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in new assessment revenues are simply waiting to be extracted from these six development zones. What is needed is just a new narrative and the ability of seeing the forest and the trees.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-09-11 20:25:42

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