The issues so far have been lame ducks. Let's hear a mayoral candidate talk about what it is a city leader and municipal government can do to make Hamilton great again.
By Trey Shaughnessy
Published October 20, 2006
The mayoral election platforms are starting to take form between Larry Di Ianni and Fred Eisenberger. Di Ianni has come out of the gates championing poverty and economic development in the form of 1,000 jobs a year. Eisenberger has chosen sprawl as well as the economy for his issues.
While poverty is an important issue in Hamilton, there’s hardly anything a municipality can do about it. It sounds good, however, when a politician talks about helping children living in poverty. It has everything except 'kissing the baby'.
Poverty is a fundamental problem that is out of reach of the local political scope of authority. We aren’t a city-state, so other then sending the issue upstairs to the corner office at Queen’s Park there isn’t much a mayor can do.
It's an issue for the Province or Ottawa, with their mandates of tax structure, minimum-wage, employment opportunity, and education. They are the ones holding the bag on poverty. The roundtable discussions are good for getting the issue in the open, but you don’t become a mayor of a city to end poverty.
Di Ianni has left many things unfinished from his first term. I would prefer he focused on what he started: downtown safety, the halfway house, downtown development, and Lister Block. I’ve heard nothing about downtown this time. Does anybody remember we have a big problem with a Halfway House neighbouring a high-school?
As for 1,000 jobs a year, where are these jobs going to be? In the big box developments at Clappison's Corners, Meadowlands East, Mud Street, and Centre Mall? He's caving to requests for zoning changes from employment lands to residential, unless the plan is for retail minimum-wage jobs.
What about our roads? Drivers in Hamilton think they’re in the Wild West, and can you blame them? The roads are practically lawless. If you only drive 10 km over the speed limit be prepared for some good old road-rage for driving too slow. We have had 21 traffic fatalities so far this year and that’s with many people afraid even to walk anywhere.
Cyclists and pedestrians are putting their lives in danger by doing something that should be totally safe and acceptable in a city. Di Ianni’s fifty new police officers won’t have any impact on public safety unless they are out of their cars and walking the beat downtown. Rudolph Giuliani cleaned up New York by stationing cops on every corner in New York and it worked.
Eisenberger has positioned himself as an agent of anti-sprawl – a good issue indeed. However, the Ontario Greenbelt legislature should have already put us past this. Unfortunately, Hamilton has been sprawl as usual, despite the Greenbelt and Places To Grow Act. Sprawl should be a done deal, except many developers still want to profit from farmland they speculated on 20 years ago.
Maybe Eisenberger’s anti-sprawl platform would be better served if it were communicated as pro-density and educated Hamilton citizens that their real estate would have real, sustainable value, not artificially inflated, because there’s real value in a dense urban city with transit options and real employment within the city limits.
Eisenburger will have a difficult job selling this. Density is a four letter word in Hamilton, in part because the housing developers’ marketing and public relations have convinced Hamiltonians that neighbourhoods, walking, cycling, public transit and even townhouses are undesirable. Heaven forbid someone who likes to take a bus, walk, cycle, socialize with neighbours and wants to live in a semi-detached house.
At least Eisenberger is talking about downtown and public safety. Without a thriving downtown and urban neighbourhoods, we will become a faceless city, a Buffalo that is dominated by its suburbs, strip-malls, fry-pits, box-stores, and McHouses. It should be the number one issue in every municipal election until it is fixed. If we need two police officers stationed on every downtown corner to rid the perception of crime (real or otherwise) and make people and businesses safe, then do it.
The issues so far have been lame ducks. Let’s hear a mayoral candidate talk about what it is a city leader and municipal government can do to make Hamilton great again. No city is defined by its suburbs and box stores. A city is defined by its downtown; it’s called the ‘heart’ of the city for a reason.
It pumps out prosperity or it pumps out decay to the entire region. Yes, even Ancaster will benefit from a healthy downtown Hamilton. I ask that the candidates stop acting like a Miss Universe contestant and telling people what they want to hear and show us doable vision and a game plan for greater Hamilton.
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