Letter to Councillor Farr from the Beasley Neighbourhood Association, Downtown Hamilton Mosque, The Commons and Living Rock Ministries on the proposed downtown Hamilton casino.
By Michael Borrelli
Published September 19, 2012
This letter was sent to Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr by Michael Borelli and Sylvia Nickerson on behalf of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association, Sayed M. Tora on behalf of the Downtown Hamilton Mosque, Randy Neudorf on behalf of The Commons, and Al Craig on behalf of Living Rock Ministries.
Dear Councillor Farr:
On behalf of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association, the Hamilton Downtown Mosque, The Commons Church Community, and Living Rock Ministries, we the undersigned express to you the Beasley community's strong opposition to any proposals to bring a casino downtown.
Furthermore, an unscientific poll placed on the OurBeasley.com website also indicated that approximately 88 percent of respondents "strongly oppose" a casino in the neighbourhood, with another 3 percent mildly opposed.
Discussions with members at our most recent BNA meeting only confirmed the opinions reflected in the poll, which had 200 responses, so we feel very confident in stating that the community is not supportive of any drive to bring a casino here.
This decision was not an easy one to make. As you know, the BNA prides itself on rejecting knee-jerk NIMBYism and remaining open to all development opportunities in our neighbourhood.
However, the BNA's vision is to "improve the quality of life for people who work, live and play in the Beasley neighbourhood," and after a month of consultations with our neighbours and the community partners who co-signed this letter, we strongly believe that pursuing casino development in or around the neighbourhood will lead to net negative effects on quality of life.
In addition to contradicting our vision for the downtown, a casino in the downtown core is inconsistent with the Downtown Secondary Plan's principle to "Make downtown living attractive" and "recognize the the value of modest improvements and changes," as well as the theme of "creating quality residential neighbourhoods."
We are strongly in favour of the Downtown Secondary Plan, and we think it should be respected and fully implemented, and concomitantly, we believe that a casino in the downtown core will challenge recent efforts to create attractive and quality residential neighborhoods .
Moreover, we think it is important to draw special attention to the principle of "[recognizing] the value of modest improvement and changes." While we appreciate the potentially transformative nature that a casino may have on an area's economic prospects, we do not believe that Ward 2, especially the Beasley Neighbourhood, is ready for such change.
Ours is still a Code Red neighbourhood with many residents struggling against poverty and at higher risk for addictions.
While gambling may be widely viewed as a socially acceptable entertainment activity and revenue generator for governments, its risks do not affect all people equally.
We are specifically concerned that a casino in downtown Hamilton will set back longstanding efforts to get some of our most vulnerable residents back on their feet, and we do not think it is ethical for the City of Hamilton to consider a neighbourhood like ours as a site for a casino, not at least until Beasley has developed the sufficient resilience and strength to resist negative effects such as gambling and substance addiction, crime, and personal bankruptcy, among others.
On the equity of siting a facility downtown, our position is quite stringent: Beasley is not a dumping ground for the negative effects of social experiments like casinos. We do not believe that our neighbourhood, or Ward 2 as a whole, can afford to deal with the potential negative effects of a casino.
Should council decide that the revenue from gambling is irresistible, and that a casino is an acceptable facility within Hamilton, then those councillors in better-off, more resilient parts of the City should volunteer their own Wards for a site.
We hope you will consider our input before the issue comes to Council's General Issues Committee on September 19th.
Michael Borrelli and Sylvia Nickerson
Co-Presidents of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association
Sayed M. Tora
Imam, Downtown Hamilton Mosque
Community Curator, The Commons
Executive Director, Living Rock Ministries
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