Mayoral candidate Mahesh Butani expands on last week's open letter to Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel.
By Mahesh P. Butani
Published May 17, 2010
Editor's Note - On Friday, Mayoral candidate Mahesh P. Butani wrote an open letter to Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel in response to Dreschel's column on former Mayor Larry Di Ianni's possible candidacy. This is his response to the many comments posted on RTH and The Hamiltonian, which is posted here with permission.
It is time we start generating big thoughts in Hamilton by being more honest and critical about the state of affairs that we have inherited.
The big question on our minds is still not whether the new generation has a fighting chance to overcome the entrenched retrograde power structure in this city.
Instead the big question on everyone's mind is: Will Larry Di Ianni really run, or not? or, Did Mahesh P. Butani, a boutique developer and blogger, flash a "race card", or did he not?
To answer the second question first: Whatever the intent and extent of the slight, my response is not and most certainly was not intended to be, about flashing a 'race card' or about 'race baiting' in any direct or indirect manner.
Although, I will not hesitate to call a spade a spade in public if the situation demands it, in order to bring change in Hamilton; however, my reference to Andrew Dreschel - nowhere pointedly stated that he was a racist. The words "Aversion of coloured people and Hatred of new ideas, new immigrants who bring capital, energy and jobs" were pointedly used as examples to spell out my direct personal experience of Andrew.
This started with Andrew's phone call to me two day ago; his request to write about my campaign; our conversation on my education, skills and experience; my reminding him of our earlier conversation three year ago on specific downtown revitalization projects that I had worked on; him verbalizing his intent of the article he was writing on the upcoming election; and my approval to him for printing my thoughts.
His article the next day however totally contradicted his stated intent. His subsequent message to me later that day, to explain that it was the "breaking news" in his business, which was the reasons for doing what he did - was downright lame by any journalistic standards.
What was his breaking news that made him change his original intent: Larry DiIanni speculating on running for Mayor, and another councilor who was sitting on the fence, finally putting to rest his speculations about not running?
My response to Andrews article is based not just on this direct experience; but also on my earlier experience with him in July 2006 - at which time he never made a single attempt to publicly acknowledge some key information brought to his attention that was missed in his articles on the then music hall of fame bid - even after I had informed him in detail about the critical role I had played in securing the private construction financing for the music hall of fame bid, along with my total redesign of Pier 8 that was acknowledged to be stellar by an internationally renowned architectural and an engineering firm.
Besides this, he also was informed back then of my central role in the founding of the then Downtown Arts Centre, and many other projects I was directly involved in the city core.
In spite of all this information at his disposal, he however chose very consciously to once again marginalize my contributions to Hamilton's rebirth, by putting the most odious of opaque veils over my life and work in Hamilton. The kind of veil that one human only puts on another human - when s/he wants to deny the very existence of the other.
An incomprehensible act seldom committed by a journalist in light of facts brought to his attention. The words: nepotism, racism divisiveness - among many other social problems, were pointedly used as references to the systemic conditions that continues to prevail in our city - under his watch as the city's most well know journalist.
This was a direct call for Andrew to step up to the plate -- and in no way can it be spun as racist accusation towards him or the Spectator. However their record of employment to date for positions of any long-term significance in their organization - speaks eloquently of their own reality as it is.
Some of you, who are jaded beyond recognition, may write off all of this as - The ways of the Media; and suggest to get with it! or even develop a thick hide. You all are absolutely right!
Hence, the status-quo that has been handed over from generation to generation.
People like me who seek to change the very core of the rot in Hamilton - in order that a truly "Sustainable Eco-City" can be built for the next generation - do not dignify any such retrograde behavior by flashing a 'race card'.
We use allusions much in the same way as the media uses - such as 'aversion' and 'hatred' based on our direct experiences to express our indignation. This honesty does more to bring real change in society than the mere flashing of a race card.
I sincerely hope Andrew has discovered that 'Allusion' is a double edge sword that cuts both ways. If his pride is mortally hurt and is in need of being assuaged - he knows where to reach me. I am good at comforting too, and will be more than happy to discuss the new political reality of Hamilton with him over a drink and talk about the good old times that have brought us here.
For the record, the term "Racism" has for long been co-opted by the status-quo. After managing to brush it off the streets and turning it into a community empowerment buzz word - strategies to fight it are being developed at a corporate level.
In the meantime, has it disappeared? No. It has just been stuffed into a closet, and remains in denial. A denial that has prevented Hamilton from becoming an international cosmopolitan city with the right set of values, which enables sustainable street cafes and patios to pop up on every corner, animated with the vibrant chatter of humans discussing ideas, debating difference and celebrating the mere presence of the other.
To answer the first question:
I don't think Larry Di Ianni will run in the end. He will instead turn into one of the most tempered statesman that Hamilton has had in decades, while thriving as a local news columnist known for his astute political analysis under a renaissance that Paul Breton and Patrick Deane will soon usher into Hamilton.
Some of you have seen the pathetic power jockeying to neutralize Mayor Fred Eisenberger for his strong position on the waterfront location for the new stadium. Sadly, he has been made to buckle on this.
"Compromise" is the terminology that is now being thrown around as a new found virtue - to show leadership and progress. The same terminology that gave us our Lister deal and the almost new City Hall.
Personally, I do not agree with the contemporary notion of a stadium, for it does little for sports, besides bringing back memories of the Roman coliseum built for the express purposes of sedating the masses via live entertainment - while Rome was being bankrupted morally and financially. Nothing has changed since then in the field of stadium building.
So, is Larry capitalizing on the drama which will help Spec sell more newspapers, and give him cover to settles scores with Fred, without risking a real run? or is he really interested in the well being of the community?
Knowing him personally, I am totally confident that he is earnestly interested and passionate about the well being of the community, but is presently just taking a last shot at settling matters, before he segues into the new role of a statesman-journalist that will make this city proud.
Could Andrew have acted differently to avert a grudge fest, in favour of a more in-depth look into the available options that Hamilton could have in October?
In the words of Paul Breton, in connections to the infamous Ann Coulter's visit to Ontario:
...Sure. If we were high-minded, we could have ignored her visit altogether, deciding that while she is intelligent, educated, witty and a fierce debater, what she says isn't particularly unique or original and seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator in society. Instead, we could have covered one of the many other excellent speakers presented by various groups at Western and others around town."
- Paul Breton, Coulter or the media: who's to blame?, March 26, 2010
Political astuteness tell us that one can only foresees the gathering clouds on the horizon long before they are formed - if our mind is held high and totally free of parochial baggage.
Well, Andrew, let me invite you to the new world of political reality in Hamilton, which happened while we failed to look over our shoulders.
Is there still time to avoid a grudge fest and refocus on critical issues that can empower citizens to rebuild a more tempered and progressive city? I seriously think so.
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