Opinion

Are You Angry Enough to Get Involved?

I want a downtown that is a destination, not an avoidance. I want a downtown that is a model, not an embarrassment. I want a downtown that garners respect, not ridicule from other cities across Canada.

By Lorne Opler
Published December 07, 2009

Since moving here over the summer, I've been utterly struck by the state of the downtown. Because my gym is right inside Jackson Square, I am frequently in the heart of the city - but only at night, when I've had plenty of opportunity to witness the magnitude of its desolation.

Last week, however, I was downtown at the height of a lunch hour weekday. While it was good to see that the plaza area outside Jackson Square's main entrance was dense with people, that was the only positive thing I could say about my experience.

Rather than feel a sense of connection with that corner - a sense of involvement in the street life I was observing, the feeling that I belonged downtown - I felt alienated, out of place and just wanting to get out of there.

I know things are changing for the better. I can't wait to see the Farmers' Market and Library renovations. I was happy to see a large sized poster at the corner of Main and Walnut promoting upcoming plans to build a new high rise hotel.

I look forward to Gore Park's renovation into a more people friendly green space. And like everyone, I'm eager and excited to witness the restoration of the elegant Lister Block.

At the same time, I cannot disguise my frustration for all that still needs to happen. We need cleaner streets downtown. We need a safe and attractive Gore Park. We need a diversity of people. And we need quality retail along King East and James North, stores where I'd actually want to shop.

Don't Lament Past Mistakes

I'm not interested in reviewing how and why things got to the state they are in now. Sure it's a tragedy beautiful buildings were torn down, and an ugly indoor mall, devoid both of character and street life was put up. Thank bad urban planning in the 1960s and '70s for that.

But such egregious mistakes were not unique to Hamilton. Virtually every city in North America forty years ago was literally trying to bury its past for the promise of a faster, shinier, modern downtown.

Like Hamilton, every city that has suffered the consequences of Downtown Extreme Makeover - Nightmare Edition is now trying to find new ways to bring people back to the core.

What was, was. Lamenting what happened decades ago is not a productive way to address and prevail over the challenges that downtown currently faces. It doesn't matter anymore.

What does matter today is how we channel our frustration over what we see and what we don't like. Do we just complain or do we do something?

How much more frustrated do we have to become until we, as citizens of this city, say "Enough! I have to get involved in changing the downtown."

A Vibrant Downtown Hamilton

I'm a huge fan of downtowns. I moved from Toronto where I don't have to tell you what an attractive, vital and lively downtown it has. In fairness, comparing Toronto to Hamilton is like comparing that proverbial apple to an orange. Downtown Hamilton will never be a Toronto, or a New York, Chicago or San Francisco. Does that mean this downtown can't be vibrant and alive in its own unique way?

A fairer comparison would be to measure Hamilton against other smaller North American cities of similar size and background, cities that have managed to turn themselves around and become head-turning, show-stopping models of urban density, diversity and efficiency. Pittsburgh, of course, comes to mind.

Portland OR

is another good example. Twenty-five years ago, this was a city, similar in size to Hamilton, and unattractive, unproductive and unsafe.

Today, like Pittsburgh, Portland is an urban renaissance success story - a city with a flourishing and widely used light rail, streetcar and bus network; a city with a downtown full of restaurants, bars, retail and entertainment venues.

So what is stopping our city from becoming like that?

How Angry Do We Have to Get?

How angry do we have to get before we start doing something about the conditions outside of Jackson Square, in Gore Park and along King Street East?

How much longer do I have to tolerate the phalanx of young punks with tattooed necks, with pants hanging down around their crotches, with hoodies that conceal their faces as they smoke a cigarette with one hand and yell obscenities into a cell phone with the other?

How much longer do I have to tolerate walking past another pregnant teenage welfare mom, as she pushes a baby stroller into the mall with one hand while smoking a cigarette with the other?

How much longer do I have to walk past panhandlers and drug dealers?

How much longer do I have to wait until that blighted bingo parlour on King Street becomes a high end retailer? I have lived in other cities with some pretty dowdy downtowns, but none of them ever had a bingo parlour smack dab in the middle of what should be a thriving shopping strip.

Why do we tolerate this? It's unconscionable.

And finally, how much longer is downtown going to be the dumping ground for people on social assistance? Honestly, I'm tired of it all, and I've only been here four months! I want it changed. I love downtowns and I know this downtown can be as good as Pittsburgh, or Portland or Minneapolis or Halifax.

Reclaim the Downtown Core

We need to reclaim the downtown core. I have the right to walk down King Street where drug dealers are not part of the street furniture. I have the right to enjoy a sunny afternoon in lovely Gore Park without some punk's vicious attack dog sneering at me. I have the right to sit and read a book on a street bench without some panhandler asking me for money. It's my downtown too!

I want a downtown that is a destination, not an avoidance. I want a downtown that is a model, not an embarrassment. I want a downtown that garners respect, not ridicule from other cities across Canada.

So how is that going to happen? The only way I can think of is if Hamiltonians raise our voices in a chorus of "We're not going to take it anymore."

Now is the right time to start raising our voices and flexing our power. With an election coming up next year, we need to make downtown renewal a major election issue. We need to get those running for office to commit and to promise to return the downtown to a walkable, liveable, sustainable place to be.

While we need voices pushing for downtown improvement, we also need much more. We need more voices to publicize the value of light rail, to promote the social, economic and cultural value of urban density, not urban sprawl.

We need people who will advocate for the creation of more jobs, and for a downtown or waterfront stadium.

Finally, we need people to promote fairness and transparency in next year's critical municipal election.

Organizations

There are a lot of organizations that are working right now on these issues and could use your help, your support, and participation.

If you are reading this article, you already care about the city. We need people like you who want to see Hamilton succeed, flourish and thrive. Consider getting involved or supporting any of the organizations below. If you know other similar groups not listed, please feel free to include them in the comments section.

Lastly, if you have any new, constructive and practicable ideas, to advance a progressive agenda for this city, please share them. Because we need to start somewhere. If we don't, we go nowhere.

Jobs Prosperity Collaborative - a group of approximately 65 members dedicated to promoting Hamilton's prosperity through job creation and retention. Members of the JPC include leaders from all sectors including government, business, labour, education, environment, social services, not-for-profit organizations, healthcare, and others.

Hamilton Civic League - a grassroots organization focused on creating an all-inclusive, non-partisan civic league representing Hamilton community stakeholders. The goals of the HCL are to encourage and inspire Hamiltonians to become informed about local issues, to raise community involvement in local democracy, and to promote accountability, accessibility and transparency in our municipal government.

Hamilton Light Rail - citizens' group dedicated to promoting the goal of building a light rail transit (LRT) system in Hamilton and educating Hamiltonians about the many benefits of light rail. HLR is not connected to the City of Hamilton or any commercial interests.

Hamiltonians for Progressive Development - a grassroots group formed in 2005 to articulate and support the implementation of a progressive approach to city planning and development.


Note: The views in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent nor speak for the purpose and positions of the aforementioned organizations.

Lorne Opler is a freelance writer on the side, and has recently moved to Hamilton from Toronto. Coming from a city where anonymity is a way of life, Lorne is amazed by how friendly and approachable people are in Hamilton, and finds himself always telling people from Toronto (who don't know better) what a great place Hamilton is.

114 Comments

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 12:33:25

Lorne: Well you want comments! Well, I guess what frustrates me is people like you who come from outside of Hamilton, yet offer no clear feedback into why people struggle.

If you were to look at the jobs prosperity collaberative and see some of the very agencies that purport to help those that struggle are actually part of the problem.

The current system looks at those who struggle as liabilities, not assets. I guess you would have to actually have the experience of having to access these so called agencies that step on you, that adhere to workfare policies, that deny people access to food, that step on your rights as a worker.

I guess maybe you should of attended the 25 and 5 forum held last Friday at the Welcome Inn and heard the stories, the life experiences from those who struggle all across this province.

Anyways, who are to judge anybody without knowing who they are, what their circumstances are and why they struggle. Sorry to say it but you need to look in the mirror, your viewpoint is part of the problem.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 12:44:13

Good piece. I personally don't mind walking past what you call welfare moms or even some peddlers. I used to work downtown and loved seeing the accordian guy out front of the Canada Trust building. People sitting around asking for money drives me crazy though. IMO, people who have babies are are smoking should get a stiff right hook anyway along with the people who insist on smoking right by entrances.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 12:52:54

grassroots I think you're being a bit pedantic. I would have thought the Lorne was being judgmental except for the latter piece of the article which promotes activism. There are places and organizations for down on your luck people. They can get help unfortunately, Hamilton's downtown attracts those who don't really want it.

Initially I took offence at the mention of guys with pants around their ankles and welfare moms but if you look at the qualifying statements the viewpoint becomes more valid. Shady looking characters are all over the place downtown thanks to the seedy establishments that are sprinkled around the core. I think that has much less to do with a persons' position in life and more with a choice they've made. The point is those establishments that attract them shouldn't be in the downtown core, at least not with the saturation they are. As far as welfare moms, well if those on welfare can afford to smoke then they are either sacrificing too much somewhere else or they're getting too much money.

IMO, my hesitation with revamping the welfare system is that it gets abused by waaaay too many people. There are people who need it and then there are people who are just too lazy to do something with their life. If there was a real way to prevent the latter from happening, I'd be up for it. Welfare is meant to be a temporary thing and for far to many people it's permanent.

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By getmoving (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 13:01:18

Frank, Thanks for your good words. I appreciate it. Yes, my point was to get people motivated and interested to become involved with progressive civic organizations to make this city reach its potential which it has a lot of. Thanks again for your support.

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By getmoving (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 13:05:06

As a follow up to my article, I would like to add one more point. I am highly sensitive to the needs of people from underserved backgrounds. Indeed, I have spent my career working on behalf of marginalized populations. I have been a casemanager at a homeless shelter for older adults, I have worked as a caseworker for Social Services, and most recently, I have managed and developed a homeless outreach program.
My point is that downtown is for everyone and should be an inviting place for everyone. That will only happen when the downtown is diversified and made sufficiently attractive to all groups of people. Thanks to all for reading my piece.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 13:41:36

Frank: What you fail to acknowledge or recognize is that the many places you say help people are part of the problem.

So, if a worker, who is single, who has lost their job, EI has run out and they have just not found work yet, do you think $572.00 per month is fair amount? I mean you have to put yourself in the same situation.

Part of the grassroots organizing is giving people the skills to learn to speak up and tell their life experiences. If you have not gone through the system, then you really have no say.

For many years now, the PR spin, has proven that those who struggle are worthless, it is their fault, they have chosen this path. Exactly the opposite message that Mr Strickland brought to Hamilton. If you give people no hope, no opportunites, well guess what you are left with. It is right before eyes, put the blame where it truly belongs.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 13:54:42

Although I encounter all the same things you do, I have to admit that one can't escape these 'situations' in any downtown. Toronto is just as bad, if not worse in regards to street youth, drug dealers, pan handlers, etc. One thing Toronto is plagued with, whereas Hamilton lacks completely, is homeless people sprawled out across the sidewalk (unless you're on Ferguson between Cannon & Barton).

The REAL problem is that 25% of Hamilton's social housing is concentrated in the Downtown CORE; Not even including Strathcona, Beasley, Corktown, Jamesville, STINSON, and to a lesser-degree, Durand.

Once the City stops the unfair Welfare-Dumping in the general downtown area and spreads them out evenly, only then will the Downtown's values begin to rise. This will eventually show Big Name Reatailers that Downtown Hamilton is more than a Social Services Hotbed, but rather an actual downtown with good diversity in Ages, Sexe, Races, Culture, etc.

Right now, the only retailers Downtown can 'attract' are Pay Day Loan Shops (new stores openly almost monthly downtown) and Dollar Stores. This has nothing to do with the fact that we're not on the radar, but because we actually ARE on their radar.. as a BIG RED 'HELL NO'!

Who's to blame? There are a lot of factors, yes. But right now, if I had to choose, I would blame Hamilton City Council, specifically with their Connaught-Flop! 200+ more poor people downtown aint gonna attract a Bay Store, or hell, even a Zellers or Winners!

Anyone ever wonder why MEC really chose Burlington?

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By Really? (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:05:37

ps: Jackson Square Accordion Guy now plays at Yonge & Gerrard in TO in a surface parking lot for a Stale Tower proposal(Aura at College Park).. Right up the street from a youth homeless shelter, men's homeless shelter, and a couple seedy strip joints... Guess he just can't get Hamilton out of his system ;)

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:05:47

I encourage everyone to "DO THE MATH"

http://www.dothemath.thestop.org/

The voices from those that struggle

http://thespec.com/News/Local/article/68...

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By Fed up (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:05:50

"If you have not gone through the system, then you really have no say."

Really grassroots?

You make that comment on a site where the whole point is to involve as many people as possible in the issues facing this city.

According to you many of us here shouldn't comment on city politics because we don't work in city hall.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:09:44

Grassroots, I've volunteered in the system so I have a say. And that's exactly what I did say. I said there are too many of those establishments and the implication in that statement is that they are part of the problem.

Let's be clear here... I have been out of a job however I had learned to budget and found a job quickly enough so I didn't need EI or welfare. If someone is jobless for long enough to have EI run out, my question to them would be where have you gone to look for a job. I see "help wanted" signs in a lot of shops. It's Christmas time, there are all kinds of seasonal jobs springing up. People who have no job, need to look around and change the "pie in the sky" job for something thats may be more likely. There are many opportunities for retraining through employment agencies or EI as well as jobs that can be gotten with little or no initial skill required. We return to my original argument...that they're too lazy to do something about it and would rather accept a handout. There are always exceptions to the rule and it's probably those people who are speaking out (they're doing something rather than nothing) but until the system has a way of not supporting people who don't want to support themselves, they shouldn't be getting more money.

Life skills training is a must but it's not possible to force someone to take the training. Welfare recipients shouldn't be regular attendees at the local McDonalds. They also shouldn't be standing around doing nothing with their lives. Ok, you lost your job...get on with it! Don't live like you lost your job, live like a person who's looking for a job. You see the difference in perspectives? One's positive and forward thinking, the other is pessimistic and produces people reliant on handouts to get by. One accepts facts and moves on, the other wallows in self pity. One produces a desire to work, the other produces a desire to sleep in and blame others for their problems.

The amount of money (you say 572) is actually irrelevant. My argument was that if you can afford to smoke on EI you're either getting too much or sacrificing in an area that you shouldn't. And yes, I've lived off less than 572/mth but I wouldn't wish it on anyone. And that's the whole idea isn't it? If it's not enough, then get out there and find work. If you can't find work, become an entrepeneur... Motivation is lacking and giving someone more money reduces the motivation in those kind of people to get back into the workforce.

I think you're part of the problem as well, pointing fingers results in fingers pointing back at you. You lost your job, even if it's through no fault of your own, the onus is on YOU to get back up and move forward with your life... not those who you blame for your plight.

I'm all for EI reform, as long as it can be proven that the people who are on EI aren't on it for any other reason than as a temporary means to an end. I've heard the stories of way to many people I've worked with and it sickens me to think that it's those kind of people taking advantage of the system that ruin it for the people who really need it.

Lorne's piece was all about getting people involved in making the downtown a better place - volunteering or speaking out, not about the tiny part you're picking on. I fear you're turning into an ASmith with a more hip topic.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:11:25

As a side note, with minimum wage being as high as it is now, it's actually quite easy to make more then 572/mth in a no skills job. So stop bellyaching... move on!

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:30:20

Don't forget the most important thing you can do for your downtown is spend money in it. Don't blame the mountainites for staying up there when too often us inner city folk take the easy way out when we have to get our shopping done. The truth is, in the state the core is in now it is more difficult to find what we need, and more difficult to find time to get it when the stores are open. If we don't make a point of it to seek things out downtown, to find out when they are open and make time to visit them, the downward spiral will continue. We may even have to spend a few bucks more on the same item to buy it in our own community. With high rents or taxes and dwindling customer base, stores do what they have to do to stay in business. If that few bucks is more important to you, say goodbye to your downtown.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:39:27

Exactly JD, the money you save on the item would probably be spent on fuel as you're stuck in traffic on Upper James.

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By trevorlikesbikes.blogspot.com (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:39:48

Lorne, Frank, Jonathan you get it! Thank you for articulating it so well.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 14:48:51

^No problem, anytime.

I'll also add that I welcome and even look up to any outsiders perspective that presents a well intentioned criticism of Hamilton. We have been conditioned by decades of failure and need a little light to shine in from outside. In fact we need alot of it.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 15:00:08

Frank: I am so glad that are so many more out there in community who do not think like you do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kct6h7Fup...

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 15:07:30

Canadians and Welfare--Permanent Poverty?: from Poor No More, a Canadian feature documentary

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0yTVclbO...

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 15:14:07

Income Inequality and Child Poverty in Canada: from Poor No More, a Canadian feature documentary

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIWroI1wy...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 15:20:22

great piece Lorne.

I think it should be sent to all of council and the mayor. This should be their number one issue. end of story.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2009 at 15:30:36

Poverty in Hamilton is a symptom of what's wrong, not the cause.

It's easy to blame the poor for being poor, because it absolves the rest of society of responsibility - if you don't like being poor, get a job, right? - but there's no questioning the structural variations in our society that make continued poverty a certainty.

I'm conscious of all the advantages I've had since birth: I was born into an affluent family, went to good schools, had access to a high quality public library (and lots of my own books), vacations to interesting and instructive places, a physically and emotionally safe home and community, social contacts with people and organizations that could provide me with opportunities, and so on and so on.

This has all resulted in a cognitive state in which I believe that there are opportunities and that I have the capacity to take advantage of them, and in fact have managed to acquire a broad foundation of knowledge and skills that I can use to learn and cultivate my continued employability.

I make good money and live comfortably today, and I guess I could pay myself on the back and claim that I earned it, that I'm a 'self-made man. ... but it's bollocks. If we are to judge people adversely for benefiting from unearned subsidies given to them by others, then I'm the biggest welfare case around, as are most members of the middle class who have benefited immensely from safe, healthy communities, stable families, educated parents, good schools, high quality health care (how many poor people have family doctors?), and all the myriad of direct economic subsidies that enable the middle class lifestyle.

It simply makes no sense to talk about disadvantaged populations without taking all of this into account. I still remember the unit of my first year psychology class that covered "learned helplessness":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

It was an epiphany, this sudden realization that my so-called merit rested on a tremendous foundation of protections and opportunities that are utterly foreign to the life experiences of many Canadians.

As long as we continue to regard resources for the poor as "charity" that come from the benevolence of the affluent, and not as the extension of essential public goods necessary to produce affluence in the first place to everyone, we will continue the false economy of underfunding basic public infrastructure:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/954/

We will also continue to squander the potential of a whole segment of our citizenry. That's not merely bad for economic productivity; much worse, it's personally devastating for those people trapped in the learned helplessness of poverty and despair.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 16:24:39

Hey look, a hijacked thread that ASmith didn't comment on! No one's suggesting shoving aside the legitimately poor. I'm simply saying that there are many who are poor but not legitimately as well are those who take advantage of the system and until that's addressed the legitimately poor will get shafted... So fix that then we can dole out more money. I'm all for giving legitimately poor people more money but I'm not all for giving money to people who are just too lazy to work.

Your bleeding heart is just as much a problem as my unwillingness to spend more on those who choose to be needy.

The call goes out, "there are poor people who need money" so we set up shop and start handing out money without setting up a proper system to determine what's actually needed and if the monies are getting properly spent. That's how we get were we are...with a busted system that doesn't adequately support legitimately poor people and gets taken advantage of by those who aren't legitimately poor.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 16:25:53

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised that with a system that doles out money appropriately, the same funds spent now would suffice.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2009 at 17:13:50

with a system that doles out money appropriately

I believe you're missing the point. It's not about sorting the 'worthy' poor from the 'unworthy' poor (incidentally, itself an expensive, wasteful layer of process). Rather, our goal should be to create an environment for all citizens that: provides a solid foundation of high quality public education and health care (including public health); encourages healthy physical, intellectual, emotional and social development; and exposes everyone to employment opportunities that are reasonably gainful, safe, respectful and fulfilling.

All these are entitlements which the middle class takes for granted, and which are more or less absent from the experience of the disadvantaged.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 17:31:00

Ryan I think you're also missing my point. While that should always be the goal that doesn't eliminate the people who are abusing the system currently in place and will continue to do so. The rest of my posts should belie my opinion in that regard.

Creating an environment that allows citizens to thrive doesn't guarantee that they will. There are more factors involved than society and the system involved happens to be part of the problem.

High quality public education healthcare and social programs are available to everyone not just the middle class. The employment opportunites are also available keeping in mind that no one I know got a high paying office job as a first job. My first paying job was delivering newspapers and Sears catalogues - something that's spit on by job seekers these days.

The notion that everyone is entitled to a well paying job regardless of their drive and motivation to improve themselves and the world they live in is assinine, contrary to common sense and just as dangerous as the alternative. I don't want an selfish egomaniac running the company I work for or any department in the city. Then again, that's probably why we have the politicians we're "blessed" with and also most likely the reason we're in this mess anyway - a sense of entitlement rather than a desire to make their constituency a better place.

You speak of these entitlements, I don't view them as entitlements...I worked for them and to me that's something I earned.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 17:40:37

Great post Lorne. This adds to your other excellent posts on the Royal Cannot situation.

Hamilton has become a dumping ground for poor, lowlifes and general losers and bums, thus driving out middle class people. This is why you don't see any Starbucks or Indigo's downtown. Here in Hamilton we have Dollarama and the Salvation Army Discount Store. Who would want to buy a condo in such an area or open up an office?

What city has a halfway house across the street from one of its main entertainment venues? (The halfway house on york across from Copps)

Unfortunately city council is too busy collecting government money and handing out favours to friend e.g Royal Cannot and former Spallaci building.

90 Percent of Hamilton's image problem is because of the state of the core. And recent council decisions have made it worse.

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By A sign of the times ... (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 19:17:49

Lorne, Great article. I completely agree with your post. I used to have the same vision for downtown. Unfortunately, people like grassroots stand in the way of progress and prosperity. I'm pretty sure he's a Communist.

grassroots - your song and dance is getting old. I'm sure the welfare cheats, "activists" and drug dealers who stink up the core are proud to have you as their unofficial cheer-leader.

Hamilton has been used as a dumping ground for too long. Short term gain for long term pain. As we all know, this seems to be the city's approach to most issues. Maybe it's time to do what some of the American cities have done and give these scumbags a one way bus ticket out of the city.

Everyone runs into hard times from time to time - especially in these times. People who live their entire life down on their luck do it to themselves.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 19:36:00

Hamilton Urban Core: An urban crisis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t27EhbW9i...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pN-47BOK...

Sign of the Times: All You Fascists Bound To Lose

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwcKwGS7O...

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By grass smoking is the way backward (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 19:39:05

I get it now, our friend grassy lives in Toronto, and must run the buses that transfer all their scrubs to our fine metropolis! Why else would one defend the situation our downtown is in.


Feel free to down-vote this comment. I know it's totally retarded.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 19:51:17

"The notion that everyone is entitled to a well paying job regardless of their drive and motivation to improve themselves and the world they live in is assinine, contrary to common sense and just as dangerous as the alternative."

I actually agree with this. The idea of entitlement in this respect simply isn't sustainable.

Ryan, there is no question that you are right when you refer to the perpetuation of class through various advantages of environment, lineage, etc. but it's probably somewhat overreaching to term these "unearned subsidies". In most cases, middle class status was achieved by one or more members of a family through entrepreneurial success, education, or something of that nature. The advantages concomitant with such success are thereafter solidified/consolidated by subsequent descendants or they are dissipated.

If you look at the history of most middle class (and above) families you will often find that there was one ancestor - a generation or two or three ago - who started a business, became a professional, got a good job, etc. which in turn raised his/her immediate standard of living and in turn provided certain advantages to his/her descendants. Those advantages, if exploited, help to ensure the perpetuation of a certain standard of living, and in some cases, act as a springboard for an improvement in that standard. The old adage "the rich get richer" is largely accounted for by this phenomenon (as is the other half of that adage, given that economic opportunity is not infinite).

So yes, middle class people, with all their advantages and "unearned subsidies" are opportunity hoarders.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs, insofar as it means the perpetuation of disadvantage amongst other sectors of society, but it is not per se unfair.

In most cases, it is, and always has been, possible to break out of poverty and disadvantage. The son or daughter of a poor family will always have to work harder than someone from a more affluent background, but if he or she achieves success, his or her descendants may enjoy an easier life.

I don't think anyone could sanely protest the ability of an individual to confer advantage upon his or her offspring.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 07, 2009 at 19:58:50

Homeless for homelessness

Great effort by this Mohawk Student

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-88vrR9q0...

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2009 at 22:16:35

What about turning this discussion back to the quality of the built environment and atmosphere downtown, not another red-herring discussion on the poor. Grassroots and many others were at the Pittsburgh meeting, so I'm sure you and the rest of us can understand the importance of environment.

For too long, our downtown has been allowed to get decrepit - that includes lousy buildings. That means it is not attractive for most people besides one economic cross-section.

As a result, it's a "dumping ground" for poor people and very few who aren't poor congregate there. It does NOT help poor people to leave downtown as a dumping ground. while there are larger issues at play, improving the environment is good for everyone.

There's tons of improvements that could discourage illegal behaviour, improve the environment, and make it a better place for EVERYONE.

From King & James, you see peeling stucco/paint on the northeast side, a badly lit stairwell on the other side... that's a bad view to start with.

So... --- What about Jackson Square installing proper lights around the stairs? --- What about police officers around to discourage drug deals and give the appearance of safety? --- What about enforcement about the anti-smoking bylaw in front of businesses? --- What about enforcing bylaws about spitting and littering? Frozen phlegm on the sidewalk is disgusting, no matter who does the spitting. --- What about proper garbage cans with recycling and green-bins.. there aren't any further east than John, and the current ones have had the labels removed. Do it right! (and get a private ad company to install and maintain these) --- What about enforcing property standards in EVERY building in the downtown core, including exterior maintenance on things like stucco... AND interior structural issues? What about properly inspecting rental properties to ensure they meet fire, electrical, and structural standards? If not, get those slumlords out, unsafe buildings are bad for tenants! --- What about a real budget for art installations around the core? --- What about a scramble intersection to add interest at King & James? --- What about PRIVATE CITIZENS getting together to buy buildings and renovate them? That huge, hideous Power Drug Mart building was on sale for 250k a month ago and was sold right away. A group of people who could secure a half-million could have bought, gutted, and renovated it, tenanted out the upper three levels and split the bottom into two storefronts... --- And obviously, two-way traffic would be real nice....

But unless you go so far as to claim unfair discrimination against the drug dealers who were brought to this point by their tough lives... you can't say any of those things are hurting poor people.

comment edited by site administrator with commenter's permission

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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 01:37:30

I agree with Meredith's post. There's plenty of room downtown for everyone. Unlike, say, Kingston or Oakville, Hamilton's downtown multiculturalism (in the broadest sense of the word) is something that should be cherished, not derided. We can certainly have lots of social services downtown for the poor (indeed, I don't think it's a good idea to "spread them out" to the suburbs where the disenfranchised would simply be further immobilized), but much greater attention to some of the "little things", such as property standards reinforcement and garbage bins, will go a long way toward attracting a greater cross-section of the population - economically and culturally - to the downtown. I agree that having a number of officers regularly walking the beat or riding horses along the city's main corridors (ie. King and James) would be a good start.

Vancouver also uses something called "city ambassadors" which, I understand, don't have anything like law enforcement credentials, but, eminently visible in bright red uniforms, are there to give advice to tourists and act as an additional set of "eyes on the street." I also imagine they are paid much less than police officers. . .

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By BoldStreetLad (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 02:14:19

We may also look across the Atlantic to similar sized cities in England comparable to Hamilton: Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, all of which in the last 15 years have transformed themselves into thriving, exciting and dynamic cities that were once in a very depressed state of disrepair, following WWII up until the early 1990's when the local councils and citizens decided to do something about it themselves. They created the "Newcastle Development Corporation" for example. Local developers, councillers, businesses, local people all got behind the project. When that happened and plans were made, everyone in the wider Business world in London (where the money is), and from the National government starting to take notice, and they then wanted to get involved. I lived there for 15 years and watched it happen before my very eyes. Skeptics be warned, changing a city isn't that difficult, changing people's minds however is much harder.

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By Downtown Defender (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 02:46:01

If people are that easily intimidated by some of the local downtown scene, its no wonder things never change. Going to the Movies? try Jackson square Theatres instead of Silver City. Going out to dinner? Try one of the many restuarants on James or King William or one of the many others in the area. Shopping? Try Jackson Square or check out some of the newer businesses on King East. Interested in Art? try the Art Crawl on James North or the Hamilton Art Gallery. going to the Pub? Try The Honest Lawyer or go to Slaintes. Grocery shopping? Try the Farmer's Market. Looking to be entertained? Try the many events at Skydragon or check out Theatre Aquarius etc. There are a tonne of things to do downtown if you can get over any prejudice based on looks and income, take it from somoenone who is downtown often, the average "punk" or "welfare mom" will not harm you and has little interested in you or why you are there.

We can all lament what could be and seek change but why not just do it. Media and discussions like this paint such a bleak picture, the stalwart merchants and service providers downtown have to dig deep to stay alive on the premise that people will eventually come once some sort of unspecified change happens. Why Wait?

I feel no more in danger there than I do anywhere in Hamilton. As long as you are aware, you can easily have a great time.

So instead of waiting for politicians to"clean up" the core, make it your own space and things can only get better. Without your support nothing will change.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 10:38:18

Geoff's $.02 wrote:

I don't think it's a good idea to "spread them out" to the suburbs where the disenfranchised would simply be further immobilized)

The main reason for spreading out social services isn't to 'share the pain' so to speak, but because lots of poor people live in the suburbs. I live in West Hamilton which has the stereotype of being relatively privileged, but in fact we have a higher than city average of people living below the poverty line (and no, that doesn't include students). If the disenfranchised are immobilized in the 'burbs, it's because they are made invisible by the lack of services in their own communities.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 17:05:39

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 17:28:22

I don't know why anyone would feel entitled to anonymity on these sites when it's so easy to put 2+2 together. I figured out who most of the regular posters are without even trying. If you want to remain anonymous, you have to excercise some restraint in what you say here and how you say it, or else don't use your real name anywhere.

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By LoveLorne (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 17:30:27

Marry me Lorne Opler - best "How Much Longer..." rant ever! In total agreement!

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2009 at 17:32:35

First, I did not realize you were intentionally trying to be anonymous. There are several posters here whose identities are known. Ryan has edited your name out, as per your request. Your accusations are unnecessary and inflammatory.

Please also understand that I do have some experience behind my words.

  • I am not from Toronto. I am from St. Catharines. There's crackhouses a few doors down from my parents' house in either direction. There were periods of time during the 1990s when my father had no work and my mother could only find part-time work. We scraped by. I remember saving nickels for loaves of bread and lending my parents the $60 I had saved up as a kid... to cover groceries. During the best of times, we were a one-income family with six kids.
  • I RIGHT NOW live below the poverty line. My rent is not subsidized in any way, nor do I take handouts from anyone
  • I live in a much less nice area than the one you told me you do.
  • And I still maintain a level of dignity. For one, because I care about my environment.

So that's why I don't just call for cosmetic improvements: Property standards are very important. There was an apartment I looked at, in the area you've told me you live in. From the outside, it looks beautiful. Inside, it was missing a hallway window and there were pigeon feces on the window. Other people in that house are on disability.

Those inspections will HELP people on disability to have a property that isn't letting in snow and pigeons... I can't believe anyone would call that cosmetic.

Third and finally...

When I moved here years ago we went from two well-paying, full-time jobs to one poorly paying job and the other in school - with our student loans delayed for several months. Our savings were decimated. We had to empty out our RRSPs. And we were still late on bills and had no money for rent.

But you know what I did? I hit the pavement and got a minimum-wage, unskilled job at For-crappin-tinos making coffee, and I kept that job for a year until we were back on our feet. Because you do what you have to do, you don't sit on your ass and whine about how bad you've been done by.

So during that time, I DID live on $12.50/week for food IN HAMILTON. It's not nice, but it can be done with enough protein and multivitamins and veggies to get you by.

For about two years, my husband and I have lived on $25/person/week for food in Hamilton as well. Our grocery budget is $200/month. We spend little time on shopping or preparation. And we still eat well. I've been very honest and open about it because I think it's more skill needed, not more money thrown at people.

There was a reason I have the disclaimer on that blog post -- I knew people like you would fail to read that part of it. But so I can defend myself a little against these accusations, here's the whole thing - and please READ the whole thing. http://meredithbroughton.blogspot.com/20...

Because I'll bet you that I make less money than you have right now, and it's just what I do with it that differs.

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By MeredithRocks (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2009 at 17:52:18

Meredith has made incredibly logical and valid points without being "spiteful." Grassroots, stop challenging progressive ideas and let's work together. IMO, the "My way is the right way!" thinking is the BIGGEST reason a gorgeous and prosperous Hamilton has stalled.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2009 at 19:42:19

I like the Project for Public Spaces' ideas a lot - the "power of 10" principle (10 destinations around a public space, each with 10 things to do) being one of them.

Here's a list of articles, some of which I've read: http://www.pps.org/info/placemakingtools...

Placemaking Chicago has taken some of their content and made it into a more user-friendly format http://www.placemakingchicago.com/about/...

e.g. this diagram: http://www.placemakingchicago.com/cmsima...

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 00:16:15

Lorne,

That's Downtown Hamilton, get used to it. I find your article hillarious because you're a newcomer and haven't witnessed all the dollars and effort spent on the Downtown since I've been following it (2001). Well over a $100,000 million and counting.
Do you actually think you're the first person to make these observations and demand action. Join the list of thousands of people. Politicians, bureaucrats, "community leaders" all have spouted over the years how we need to fix the downtown...........hell they even have a City Dept that's cost millions of dollars for nine years that does nothing else but Downtown. Nine years and minimal improvements. It's time to address the social needs of the community, create jobs, get people working, then maybe you'll see positive change downtown, pretty sidewalks, benches and light fixtures and giving money to "developers" isn't going to fix it.........it's been over a decade and that approach hasn't worked. Time to try something new. A shake up is in order.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 00:20:04

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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 00:57:08

Grassroots, you're being unfair with regard to Meredith's original comments. You wrote:

"Your calls for cosmetic changes have been done over and over again throught the years but then you would not know that since being here in Hamilton only for a couple of years."

Grassroots, any outside observer with a fresh set of eyes will tell you that there is virtually no property standards reinforcement in the city to speak of. There are no teeth attached. Having a cleaner, healthier downtown with buildings not infested by pigeons and cockroaches, and in which property owners are not allowed to get away with such negligence, would benefit everyone, including the people on social assistance that you are concerned for.

Bringing up Meredith's earlier, and more controversial, comments on the Connaught also seems to have little bearing on her initial post here. I read her comments on this article as an effort to find some sort of middle ground that everyone could agree on across the political spectrum.

I had to undo my comment threshold of "O" to read your posts, Grassroots. A. Smith, who is known far and wide for his/her trolling on RTH, effectively no longer has an audience. I would suggest, before you start stereotyping, name-calling, and pigeonholing everyone you disagree with into the caricature of a poor-hating, cold-blooded capitalist, that you make it a practice to read the posts here more carefully, and also get into the habit of responding in ways that are less polarizing, more constructive, and more respectful - if only to keep your threshold above "O" so that people like myself will actually hear what you have to say.

Your counterperspective is often helpful; it would be a shame if poor online manners prevented it from being heard.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2009 at 01:04:28

I wish you could see that I am not a rich person. I am working with a budget of less than that report recommends. And I am eating nutritious meals, shopping at No Frills and the farmer's market, buying food without a car, only what I can carry a few times a week.

A report that relies on rich people to calculate what a poor person's budget should be is somewhat methodologically flawed. Theoretically it may all work, but it has the same problems as the Illinois "experience" -- not being able to buy lunch is not impoverishment. Packing a lunch is not deprivation. Eating oatmeal is not a punishment.

So how about talking to someone like me who HAS been in that boat and see what they need to get nutritious meals... because nutritious meals do not consist of frozen pizza, "Lean Cuisine" and the neighbourhood KFC.

By the way... today I was in pacemaker follow-up and echocardiography, tomorrow I'm observing a couple ablations... I'm finishing a cardiac testing program and have undergone substantial training as a health professional, although I'm not a medical doctor.

Quite separate from that, I've taught people, including those in my neighbourhood and building, how to cook nutritious meals on a budget. (And next week I'm having some pre-teen girls over to bake sugar cookies, which aren't nutritious, but are a pretty inexpensive holiday treat - and something they can learn how to make.)

More money is not the only part of the equation. Part is having the KNOWLEDGE of what foods are nutritious and how to prepare them. For example, a lot of people don't know how to bring home a bag of $4 potatoes and 79c onions, then turn them into potato soup, baked potatoes with skin, oven-fries, mashed potatoes and potato pancakes... but that's easily taught, even if they can't read a recipe. We need more of that.

And that's why the organizations I'm involved with run weekly financial groups for people -- led by local lifelong Hamilton residents who have successfully faced the same challenges. They're not rich, but they're now able to start paying off their debts and live with some measure of financial stability. Because it's not just "more money" that's needed - it's more skills and an awareness that one's decisions with money can improve their life. It's a mystery to many people. It needs to be demystified.

Now please, can you leave this red herring alone, cease attacking me personally, and return to the discussion about downtown improvement? Poor people matter. I know. They have dignity, and should be given as much back as possible, I know. But empowerment consists of skills and enabling them to take control of their lives, not another $20 for pizza.

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By geoff's two cents (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 07:36:34

Grassroots, before you reply I should add that, much like yourself, I found aspects of Lorne's otherwise spot-on article rather offensive, particularly the stereotyping of Hamilton's poor as young punks, welfare moms, drug dealers with attack dogs and panhandlers. In fact, the article, otherwise a clarion call for greater civic engagement, which I'm sure you and I can both agree is a good thing, read in many parts like an immensely condescending rant mis-placing the blame for Hamilton's woes squarely on the backs of an apparently morally-bankrupt poor. So much so, in fact, that I found myself questioning by the end of the article my own desire that downtown Hamilton have more such middle-class amenities as department stores, cleaner parks and sidewalks, clothing boutiques, bookstores, etc.

(I've since resolved this dilemma, I think, in putting forth that I would like to see downtown Hamilton retain its economically and culturally diverse population - with, of course, an increase in a more affluent demographic as well. With all those parking lots, there's lots of room, as I've said, for everyone, rich or poor).

That said, I doubt Lorne intended it to read as such; as a contributing author for such a magnificent online publication promoting greater social and ecological consciousness, I think we all owe him the benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, the social conscience you obviously have is a necessary antidote to such elitism, real or perceived, and one I hope I can still have access to while keeping my comment threshold at "O."

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 08:31:36

Someone up there said something to the effect that there are no property standards being enforced in the City, and I have to chime in and say that that is absolutely not true. The Bylaw Services department has undergone a massive overhaul, and things are moving much quicker now. Reports of violations are being inspected within the week, which is quite an improvement as to what the wait time was like just a few years ago. And nobody is going to come out and broadcast it, but sloppy and unsafe property owners are being fined. You can't really see it happening, as these are the sorts of changes that occur over time, but slumlords are being charged and will continue to be charged. From my perspective, there really isn't any gray area. If a property is in violation, they get a notice to comply. If, during the second inspection, the violation hasn't been taken care of, then the work is done by the City and the bill is put onto the property taxes. Some landlords are getting caught in the crossfire as they have rented to tenants who don't feel the need to mow the lawn. I could go on and on, but really, just wanted to chime in and say there is a LOT of movement in Property Standards, looking at it from where I sit.

Also, I wanted to say that I like Meredith's idea (or someone in Chicago's, as it were) of 10 places. I've often thought that Hamilton could really use a Hamiltonian version of Dufferin Grove Park. http://dufferinpark.ca/home/wiki/wiki.ph... They have art in the park, and different community groups all work together. Their webpage tells you how they did it, how they had to fight with City Hall and sometimes still do. They have a large stone oven in the park where artisanal bakers make bread. And you can go with your own dough and bake it in their ovens. I would love to start something like that.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 09:44:58

Hey Balance, what are your own ideas? Please don't just crap on someone who believes in this city enough to move from a better one and take interest in it. Like I said, their opinion is worth more than the useless defeatism expressed in your post.

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By getmoving (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 10:59:10

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for offereing your comments and feedback to my article. I'm glad that it's promoted healthy debate, as this is a good thing. When people feel passionately about an issue, whatever side they take, means that they are engaged, involved and concerned. That indeed is the point of my article. To get people involved.

I'd like to comment specifically to "geoff's two cents" comments. Geoff, your points are well taken. I fully understand how, based on what I wrote, you would conclude that I'm placing the burden of downtown's problems on the backs of the underserved and disenfranchised. So, if I can address that issue here:

1) If you look at the top of the comment section, I included an addendum to my article that highlights my career background in working with people in need - from men and women living on the streets, to people on social assistance. I do care about helping people from underserved backgrounds. If I didn't, I would not have made a career out of it.

What I omitted in my article was a point that you articulated well, and I'm sorry I forgot to include it. That being, the downtown is for EVERYONE, from every class, from every background. I agree that diversity downtown means not just seeing diversity of well healed people downtown, but diversity across the economic spectrum.

Toronto is a good example in this respect. There are people from across all walks of life, all income brackets, all socio-economic backgrounds, all cultures, who populate the downtown. It's an example of how a healthy downtown accomodates ALL people. And that's what I would like to see in Hamilton - a downtown that is healthy enough to accomodate ALL people.

Perhaps the reason why I focused so much on the types of people I see downtown, is that I don't see enough diversity, and that is what I would like to see (a.k.a like Toronto). It's not that I want to see less of one segment of the population, but I would like to see more segments (without displacing those that already frequent downtown). Again, that's what it's like in Toronto, and t hat's one reason why Toronto is so successful in creating a vibrant downtown. EVERYONE is represented downtown.

My intention, in no way, was to imply that downtown Hamilton should limit who frequents its streets. Heaven forbid. I can understand how the omission of this point in my article, can leave people thinking that I am an elitist, classist, bigoted snob. Please let me disabuse readers of this.

I appreciate "geoff's two cents" response to my article, as he's given me the opportunity to clarify and qualify my points. I hope that these thoughts will bring a better understanding of my intentions to write this article.

Thanks again for reading.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 12:33:12

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 12:35:28

I question how economically and socially integrated Toronto really is.

Do poor people and rich people co-exist in a meaningful sense in the same neighbourhoods? Almost invariably no.

The poor in downtown Toronto are severely marginalized, pushed into a number of undesirable enclaves like Jarvis, Moss Park, St. James Town, etc. Even some of these areas are being "reclaimed" by the middle classes (note the recent construction of condos and townhomes on and around Jarvis for example).

Why is this?

Middle class (and above) people are uncomfortable in areas which they do not firmly regard as being their own territory. You may have panhandlers on Bloor Street, in Yorkville and in the Annex, but middle class people don't feel uncomfortable in these areas because they regard them as their own. They know that they outnumber the poor people, that the poor people are the ones who "don't belong". On the other hand, put an average middle class person in an area in which they are heavily outnumbered by the poor and they will instantly become anxious and uncomfortable, even if the poor people don't realistically pose any sort of physical threat.

(Of course some middle class people are more "avant garde" and can overcome the anxiety associated with residing in lower class neighbourhoods. These are the people who stake out enclaves in such neighbourhoods, eventually, in some cases, causing those neighbourhoods to gentrify entirely.)

I think this fact largely explains why downtown has struggled so hard to develop. Middle class people regard it as alien territory. It doesn't belong to them because they are manifestly outnumbered by the "other", compounded and emphasized by the fact that most of the visible facilities (the retail, the social services, etc.) are all geared towards the other. And while the "others" might not in reality be dangerous, middle class people are nevertheless intimidated by their presence, and will tend to see them in a threatening and derisory light - hence Lorne's remarks about "young punks with tatooed necks", panhandlers, drug dealers, etc.

This is not going to change by preaching to people about social and economic diversity. Average middle class people - for the most part - are never going to want to live (or even work and shop) in an area full of poor people. It just won't happen. They will tolerate the presence of the "other" but only if that presence is a marginal one (e.g. the occasional panhandler on the corner). If that presence is anything more than marginal, they will feel threatened, anxious, uncomfortable, and they will want to leave as quickly as they possibly can.

Saving downtown, in the way most people on this site talk about it, means giving it back to middle class people. It also necessarily means taking it away from the poor.







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By man of straw (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 12:59:19

>>"What do YOU people think that people should starve, have the CAS take their children away because they can no longer afford to pay heat and hydro because they have lost their jobs?"

For crying out loud Grassroots, stop beating on that strawman! NO ONE is saying people should starve or have there children taken away because their poor. OK? NO ONE. Stop saying it. Stop accusing people (like Meredith, who at least goes by her real name) of it. Just stop.

I can tell your angry. Sure there's lots to be angry about. I'm angry too, and embarassed we do such a crap job of taking care of poor people. But the author has made it clear what he's trying to say (see his comment ^^ from earlier today) but you're not listening to that, you're throwing stuff at shadows.

People are going to stop paying attention to you if you keep ranting and refuse to listen to what people are saying.

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 15:28:56

Meredith, I'd be interested in seeing a sample menu of a $25/person/week for food.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 15:58:44

Remove all zoning and height restrictions for buildings in the downtown. Let consumers decide what gets built, not politicians.

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By frank (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 16:16:17

From grassroot's earlier comment:

"Frank writes: My first paying job was delivering newspapers and Sears catalogues -something that's spit on by job seekers these days.

A group in the community on workers rights did an investigation into a local newspaper, who subcontracts these types of jobs out. They are paid peanuts, they are denied being put on a proper payroll, in which EI, CPP or even taxes would be deducted. How about access to WSIB if they got injuried? Who is ensuring the Occupational Health and Safety issues are addressed? No, people like him never ask the hard questions, they are too busy poor bashing."

I said my first job... that was a job when I was 14? maybe 13. Sears catalogues was even earlier. I was brought up in a much different way than people are brought up these days. I didn't need CPP or EI or WSIB. I rode a bike and delivered newspapers. It's not meant to be a fulltime job, it's meant to provide supplemental income. Can you not read a full paragraph and grasp a concept before jumping on single sentences? The reason I brought up that point was to demonstrate that what many people today view as entitlements, I don't. When you're working as a paper delivery person, you don't need EI or CPP or WSIB in fact the costs to do that kind of thing would essentially make the job worthless. They don't get paid much because they don't work much. In fact, when I delivered papers, I worked about 45 minutes to an hour and that was for over 100 houses. We collected money from the people at the door and our wage was maybe 3 cents a paper plus tips. What it did teach me is the value of money, how to save and how to spend. Something kids and adults these days are lacking in spades...

You seem to enjoy implying all kinds of things about what I'm saying and how I feel about the less fortunate while refusing to address the actual statements I'm making. It doesn't take a genius to see you have a passion for poor people and that's fantastic. Many of us do, the point we're discussing in this forum isn't whether or not there should be poor people downtown but rather why there's such a disparity between the number of poor people downtown compared to other parts of the city or compared to other socio-economic groups downtown.

If you'd like to discuss welfare reform, write an article and have it posted, I'm tired of your tunnel vision.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 17:29:57

Tammany wrote:

I think this fact largely explains why downtown has struggled so hard to develop. Middle class people regard it as alien territory. It doesn't belong to them because they are manifestly outnumbered by the "other", compounded and emphasized by the fact that most of the visible facilities (the retail, the social services, etc.) are all geared towards the other. And while the "others" might not in reality be dangerous, middle class people are nevertheless intimidated by their presence, and will tend to see them in a threatening and derisory light - hence Lorne's remarks about "young punks with tatooed necks", panhandlers, drug dealers, etc.

This is largely true, but I think you're overstating the intimidation factor. When I go downtown I tend to stick to the AGH, JS, the market, the library, and James N. I occasionally come across panhandlers and street youth in my travels, but they don't phase me or keep my from enjoying my time downtown. However, I almost never venture along King E or Gore Park, not because I'm 'intimidated', but because it is quite clear to me that the businesses along there are aiming for a different target market and are not interested in my business. It's the same reason I don't go to Hess Village or patronize the fast food joints geared for students in Westdale.

It's not rocket science. People go where they feel welcome, and a disproportionate number of businesses downtown do not welcome middle class customers. I realize this is a chicken and egg thing and doesn't really help solve the problem, but going on about how 'intimidating' downtown denizens are obscures the culpability of many downtown businesses.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2009 at 17:47:30

Highwater, it's not just the panhandlers and street youths. I'm not talking about physical intimidation so much as the more abstract sense of intimidation (or perhaps you would rather call it unease; I also use the term anxiety) which many if not most people feel when inhabiting an alien environment.

I don't think it's any sense of immediate threat to personal safety which keeps most middle class folk out of downtown. Rather, it's a sense of "being out of place".

At any rate, the semantics are unimportant as far as I'm concerned.


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By meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2009 at 00:00:52

anon, email me at meredith dot broughton at gmail dot com - i have a few of our two-week meal plans and shopping lists i can email over. i made 'em last year and usually riff of them.

The basic "rules" i follow are: little to no white carbs, some soy/legumes, but mostly meat and dairy sources of protein, and "real" food as much as possible - not artificial sweeteners or fats. The Food Guide's a good start but lacks some things.

I try for the really simple rule of a veggie, a protein, and a carb at most meals + a decent fat/protein/carbohydrate balance. If anything, its a little heavy on sodium but my blood pressure's low and I need my salt.

e.g. Breakfasts are easy: A lot of breakfasts are these muffins for me - but i make batter for 48, then make 36 huge muffins, wrap, and stick 'em in the freezer (Plus I halve the sugar) http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Low-Fat-Blu... . They do a good protein/carb/fruit mix and you can microwave one for breakfast in about 30 seconds. And in an hour you can make a month's worth of breakfasts.

Or just make oatmeal and toss some frozen berries and brown sugar on top, there's enough protein and good carbs in the oatmeal to keep you going all morning.

Or take an egg (20 cents, $2.40 for 12)) on a whole-wheat English muffin (22 cents, $1.29 for 6) with a slice of tomato (15 cents, 1/10 of a $1.50 tomato at winter prices) or make an frittata with the egg and 1/8 of a package of frozen spinach (20 cents, $1.59 a package) - chopped onion if you have the time. Breakfast with all the food groups, under 80c in under 5 minutes.

A pound of real butter (at $2.97) will cook a LOT of eggs and is far better than hydrogenated margarine or any breakfast you can buy for a buck or two.

Multivitamins are $18 for a year's worth... that's about 5 cents a day.

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By meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2009 at 00:03:34

And apologies for getting off-topic, but when it's food I find it difficult to resist :)

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By meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2009 at 00:07:36

(and i forgot the cheese on the "english muffin" example.) i look forward to editable posts.

Re: Highwater's comment -- I used to go to Infusions in Gore Park. Since it's changed, I've been to the Italian restaurant once for a coffee, but its not really the same experience as it was... if there's nothing in the park to go to, I'll be there less.. seems pretty simple to me.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2009 at 09:10:28

I'll say this about the Italian restaurant (Al Centro): their panzerotti is fantastic! The crust is almost like puff pastry and the dipping sauce is fresh and flavourful. I highly recommend it.

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By canbyte (registered) | Posted December 10, 2009 at 09:42:34

You said :" We need to get those running for office to .....

We need to throw the bums out, especially Morelli of Ward 3, champion of all your favourite social agencies. Except he has a self fulfilling strategy that is too hard to beat: 1 be a heavy and 2 import your voters and make sure they live in your ward by making more social housing.

Many posters see the problem - sad sacks all over and also that social housing pays no taxes so what is the city supposed to run on?

Odd that above seems to have missed the political angle. I'll keep an eye here to see if anyone picks up on this - suggest a strategy to get common minds working together.

BTW, the agencies he mentions at the end i suspect to be quite useless - more of the same smug attitude i see in our local newspaper. I don't think they really want change. Never mind, it will come anyway but not in the way you expect. When the crisis hits, it will sweep all before it. The system will be purged and renewal will come at last. Are you ready? No? Ok, vote me down.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted December 11, 2009 at 09:10:59

What a great discussion. I'm learning tons, taking in disparate points of view, seeing how they're responded to. Well done.

However...

This statement actually stopped me reading, and quite frankly did a number on my perception of Lorne's credibility:

"I'm not interested in reviewing how and why things got to the state they are in now."

Everything that followed was sullied by this one sentence.

My memories of Hamilton go back to the mid-60s. And I can tell you from experience living here, in the UK, in the US that it's vital that understanding how we got to where we are now be the foundation of where we go. Otherwise, we're screwed. Seriously.

Doesn't that saying about 'Those who choose to ignore history...' hold any relevance to anyone?

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2009 at 10:29:55

Thanks Meredith. I can use those tips! Need to save money next year. Will email you.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 11, 2009 at 10:35:59

Point taken re the dangers of ignoring history, but I took Lorne to mean that he is tired of hearing all the 'remember when' stories. Too often in this town the 'remember when' mentality is paralyzing, and employed by the sort of people who have written off the downtown and advocate the wrecking ball as a solution. Newcomers to this city tend to see the potential and the beauty of what remains, which gives them the kind of hope that many longtime Hamiltonians have lost as a result of decades of loss and disappointment. That seems to be where Lorne is coming from.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 03:00:30

Family of five and a grocery budget of $800 a month (and that's shopping at Costco and Fortinos) Could do it on less (we buy a lot of organic which costs more usually) by doing no-frills, the market and more Costco so.....

But about downtown, more police are needed on their beat not in cars, and the (ready for comments) bums have to go. And by bums I mean the teenagers who's mentality of privilege sickens me to the core and the smoking welfare mom's AND dad's is nothing but child abuse (IMHO). Also, no more low income housing down there, my god, lets get everyone with little or no money crawling through the downtown.

When did we forget that when you get less help and you realize no help is coming you tend to work harder to survive, Europe showed this through both world wars for example. Yes a certain amount in todays society is required (I guess) but no one can deny the abuse of the system that tends to continue through the generations. And please don't jump on me in regards to the disabled etc. I'm refering to the able bodied and minded individuals who would rather have a cab drop off their beer than buy an extra bag of milk for their kids.

(cringing, waiting for the storm of replies)

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 08:00:29

woddy10 wrote:

...more police are needed on their beat not in cars...

This is the number one thing I'd like to see our new police chief do. Police patrols using their vehicles are necessary but I think a visible police presence would deter a lot more crime than any camera or police drive-by could.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 10:58:19

Healthy Food Basket:

701.29 per month for a family of four

which is 175.32 per week for a four of family of four

which works out to be 43.83 per week per individual

which works out to be 6.26 per day per person

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By Mussolini (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 13:32:55

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By Really? (registered) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 14:54:55

Police Pressence in the Core has diminished severly over the last several years, at least from a Downtowner's observations.

I'm in Gore Park a lot (at least once a day), and I haven't seen police walking the beat in over a year, at least. Not to say they aren't doing anything, but it's clear that they're not doing enough!

Put more UNIFORMED Police in the Core, not just the U/Cs. To see a police officer on your 'corner' would be deterrent enough to NOT sell drugs there! I'm pretty sick of being accosted lately; Something that I've never had a problem with over the last 6-7 years I've been living Downtown. Sometimes I don't know if it's a real drug dealer or an u/c cop... regardless, it needs to stop!

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By argybargy (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 17:47:14

To ?Really's point: John Sewell researched the Toronto Police force a few years back. He found the police arrest an average of 7 people a year. Which begs the question - what are they doing the rest of the time? I see Police escorting prisoners to Emerg, handing out speeding tickets and, of course, driving around. But why can't they get out of their cars and walk the beat and mingle?

The Police Dept is the single most expensive Dept in Hamilton's budget (now over 100 mill a year). Hamiltonians deserve to know what they are paying for.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 14, 2009 at 18:56:22

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2009 at 00:55:13

(This does fit in with the article. I'm going to tie it together at the end).

Re: that last video... come ON...

Emotional provocation at the expense of the facts is one of the things I find incredibly offensive in any area.

Within the first 20 seconds of that video, you see:

  • One: students shopping at Fortinos... there's a quarter of your problem price-wise, especially with your free university student bus pass to go anywhere and shop at any store.
  • The first two items: brand-name lunchmeat full of water and nitrates -- and white bread (at full price, not the half-price rack)

Those first two foods cost the exact same as a small jar of peanut butter and a loaf of whole-wheat bread... and if someone is truly trying to find nutritious food, that's what they'll buy, not that crap.

If one is in university, their little Crayola box is more than a few crayons short if they claim to be concerned about nutrition... and then the first things they reach for are white bread and baloney!

I'm very surprised that you'd excuse that kind of ignorance or promote that video as truly portraying people trying to find nutritious food.

The next two foods are fresh broccoli (frozen is half the price) and grape tomatoes (3 times the price of regular tomatoes for the same weight).

This is manipulation of the facts of what is available for that money, and promotion of ignorance as the norm.

What do you see next? Individual apples (worse than buying a bag), expensive oranges, a carton of milk instead of a bag that's far cheaper by unit price.

The cart goes on to show brand-name corn flakes (nutritionally poor), brand-name flavored yogurt, pre-packaged pre-peeled baby carrots), and LIGHT peanut butter. Give me a break.

Where's the leafy greens? Where's the frozen vegetables? Where's the whole grains? Where's any of the bulk items like flax seed or 12-grain cereal or soy? Where's the canned tuna or the dried beans or the lean meat?

The solution isn't just more money - it's teaching people how to PREPARE foods and UNDERSTAND nutrition... and especially among university students, it's not acceptable to say they're incapable of preparing it or learning the skills how to. It's not rocket science, but that video is just manipulative and foods were likely intentionally chosen for their shock value.

This is simply a video showing how ignorant the makers (or their portrayal) was of HOW to buy nutritious food on a budget, not qualitative proof that it's impossible.

I'm very, very surprised that you're so opposed to the idea of educating people about nutrition. Sure, more money can be part of the solution, but without SKILLS it continues to go into more non-nutritious food. It's lunacy to think that people who are used to a diet of pizza, KD, and convenience food will suddenly start shelling out for the Good Food Box or be thrilled they can finally buy enough baby spinach instead of lettuce. Those nutritional habits don't change just by giving people more money.

But especially when people claim to be concerned about nutrition, and say they're trying to eat well, and still buy crap... the wider problem is that we live in a culture where it's acceptable to know nothing about food, because the common train of thought is that we should all be rich enough to buy whatever the heck we want, including food prepared for us and made to be nutritious without us thinking about it...

Cuz gosh geez, how d'you expect 19-year-olds to figure that out all by themselves? Not like they're adults or anything... or got into university or anything! The low expectations of students - and your low expectations of poor people no matter their age - just stagger me.

Not that it's uncommon - I was helping a friend of mine last night from Mississauga to figure out how to prepare nutritious meals - she's graduated from university, grown up affluent, and just never had to bother with it even when teaching overseas. But now she's trying to figure it out in her mid-twenties, and guess who she talks to?

But if you have less money, you're not in a place to be able to buy convenience food and still get nutrition -- or to expect that as a right.

Nutrition should be expected, convenience comes at a price, and you can't say everyone has an equal right to convenience. I sure don't. But that's okay, because I still eat well, even if it takes me a few extra seconds in the day.

We've completely abandoned thrift as an ideal or the thought that hard work has any value in itself, and that deeply disturbs me... especially when that laziness transfers to something as important as food and intelligent people pursuing a university education claim they can't get nutritious food... and all the while they're picking the white bread and baloney and shopping at Fortinos.


So now let me try to articulate why this fits in with this topic:


Re: the title of this article... this issue seriously makes me mad, and that's why I help people in practical ways with this stuff. If they want to learn, great. If I can help, awesome.

I'm not a professional in food preparation, but I do know nutrition, and I learned very simply - making recipes as a kid, learning how to make food for myself in university living with roomates, in recent years using more recipe websites and correlating everything with the nutrition, coaching, and health information I've learned at different parts in my education, but it's all fairly basic stuff no matter where you go.

And usually the only way for people to learn that something is possible is if they SEE people who are in the same boat as them making it. And seeing everyone around you buying crap doesn't help you think that buying groceries on a budget is possible.

And if the message from well-meaning people like grassroots is all "oh, how horrible it is! you're so powerless, nothing can be done! especially if you're a student/on welfare/on OSAP/in _________ type of situation" it just reinforces helplessness! And if all you see are bad examples like that video, then what motivation does someone have to try and change the situation? what motivation does someone ACTUALLY have to try and buy nutritious food, because they've just been told it's impossible?

It's not impossible, and I'm sick of this defeatist garbage about how someone like me should be eating crap instead of what CAN be done on a budget, even when you're already pulling 60-70 hour weeks of work and getting groceries in a few spare minutes a few times a month.

Do you know how cheap it is to make mirepoix and freeze a huge Tupperware of it for use over several months? It may not be as top-notch as continually preparing it fresh, but you can do next to anything starting with that stuff.

Why not make a video of ten examples of people in Hamilton who ARE able to live on that amount of money a month, DO eat nutritious, lively, and varied meals, and can SHOW others how it's done..... and let it inspire people? Instead of re-posting that poorly constructed piece of drivel that just discourages them? I'm so sick of this defeatist "Poor Us! Help Us! We're Totally Lost!" mentality instead of starting with the things people can change and helping them to take control of their lives.

[Comment edited by Meredith on 2009-12-15 23:57:51]

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 12:16:54

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 13:20:22

Grassroots, I think you should start a business and then hire all the poor people and then pay them $15/hour. If paying poor people more more is the right thing to do, why wait for the government to agree with you, do it yourself. If you won't do this, why do you expect others to? Perhaps you're nothing more than a hypocrite? What do you think?

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By birdie (registered) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 14:29:43

Do you know how cheap it is to make mirepoix

Know how I know you're actually an elitist snob instead of a thrifty poor person? You cook french cuisine. /JK

Seriously, though, it saddens me to see you and Grassroots talking past each other. You both have valuable contributions, I wish you could meet in the middle. YES, poor people really do struggle, and there's lots of economic social political and physical reasons why lots of people can't just whip up a mirepoix. And YES, through education and support its possible to help some people become more self sufficient and healthy even on limited means.

It's not either/or.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2009 at 15:31:16

My two points were simply:

  • I expect more of university students than doing a poorly researched video with food, housing, and more chosen for shock value instead of a true representation of what's possible. If you're going to play on my heartstrings, don't expect me to check my mind at the door.

  • I'm sick of hearing "because you're poor, a terrible life is a foregone conclusion" because I certainly have a rich, varied, interesting and worthwhile life - and have found both great housing and great food for very little money in this city. And I will not apologize for believing it's possible for many others with a little skill, even if they, just like me, have to pay for hydro and clothing and transportation and more too.

Now, all of that said:

I have NEVER said welfare is always adequate - certainly welfare is often too little, and disability can be difficult to live on. I have also said in the past that I support people getting money for more nutritious food. I don't disagree on that point.

I'm not sure why I have to say that again, though. It's on the blog entry grassroots read, I don't know why she hasn't remembered that.

Grassroots, we've talked in person about how I'm a huge supporter of free public daycare and leveling the playing field so that rich people aren't being subsidized while poor people are missing out -- So I'm really not sure why you're accusing me of putting no thought into it or several other issues.

What I do not support is a mindset that says "More money is the ONLY answer" - because that talks about one side of the problem and fails to talk about skills, mindsets, mentors, examples, community and empowerment - which are all keys I HAVE had access to, even though the only money I have accessed for education was student loans and summer jobs - and I think I got a $500 scholarship once. And I'm still in that process.

As my great-uncle said - I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is better ;) (I add, however, that being poor isn't all that bad.)

Call me whatever you want politically, but you don't know how I vote and you certainly shouldn't use "right-wing Christian" as a slur.

(Heck, the last thing I was at with political guys had Glen Murray and John Tory joking with each other at the table, so you figure that one out...)

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 16:48:00

Grassroots, when are you going to start a business that hires poor people and pays them living wages? You seem to like telling other people how they should pay their workers, yet I am assuming you don't even employ one person. Am I incorrect?

Perhaps you should get in the shoes of business owners before you start telling them how they should run their businesses.

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By scrimpy (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 17:03:00

The poverty argument is not simple. Clearly there is a 'poverty trap' that some folks can't seem to get out of, and clearly the geared to income benefits approach has many flaws.

I live in a mixed neighbourhood and have had some interesting observations during my time here. For the most part, the 'poor people' I have gotten to know seem to have a sense of entitlement and very little get up and go. These are not folks who used to be rich, they are poor people who have always been poor. When they come to my house they drink my beer and don't think to return the favour. In the past some of my wife's less well off friends have borrowed money with no intention of paying it back. They have a real attitude problem, and I doubt that any money in the world would enable them to be successful and create wealth for themselves.

When I give these friends ideas about free training programs and how they might improve their lot - they do nothing. They are listless!

I wonder if this is a common trait among people who have always been poor? That they see those with money having all the fun and become envious and agitated and develop a sense of entitlement...?

This is certainly not a trait among folks who became poor. If I became poor I would kick like hell to get enough money and I wouldn't expect free handouts for the rest of my life. Poverty, if it strikes you, should only ever be temporary. The fact that we have so many people suffereing in long term poverty means there is a serious problem - either with certain people's attitudes, or with the way we are addressing it.

I agree with Meredith - more money is not always the answer. It may help in certain cases, and less red tape too, but I think we need to acknowledge that some people DO have the support they need to do better, they just can't adjust their attitudes enough to pull themselves up.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 17:06:54

Grassroots, all you have to do is rent a store front, hire lots of poor people, pay them a minimum wage of $15/hr and then sell your goods and services for above average prices. If the majority of people in Hamilton feel as you do, that it's important to support a living wage, you should have absolutely no trouble competing with the likes of Walmart, McDonald's, Canadian Tire, etc. People will gladly pay higher prices to offset the higher labour costs your business incurs.

When will we see your new "living wage" business in operation? If it's successful, I may want to invest.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 16, 2009 at 20:47:30

A Smith wrote:

When will we see your new "living wage" business in operation?

About the same time we see your citizens' group pushing for lower property tax rates, I imagine.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 01:10:12

Highwater, unlike yourself, I feel no need to be part of an ineffectual group of community activists, I simply want to get my message out. RTH allows me to do this, so why would I waste my time reinventing the wheel?

Furthermore, you're likely just sour because tax rates ARE continuing to fall, while your left wing causes are going nowhere. No major cycling improvements, no LRT, no reduction in bog box stores, no freezing of transit fares.

As far as my recommendation to Grassroots, I am just asking him/her to do what he/she expects others to do, pay people a living wage. The equivalent to my position would be to ask me to lower my tax rate. Since I don't charge people taxes, I have already accomplished that goal.

One last thing, why is it that you, who owns a business, has no interest in lowering their tax bill? If commercial tax rates were brought down to Burlington levels, you could reduce the prices of your goods and services, increase your sales, expand your business, hire more people and even pay higher wages. This would add to the quality of the neighbourhood, which in turn would raise property values and otherwise make the city a better, more prosperous place to live.

Ryan has told all you left wingers many times before, if you want more of something, you tax it less. If the goal is to have more wealth in this community, we need to keep reducing tax rates on wealth gains from property. Currently the City of Hamilton taxes each new dollar in assessed property wealth at 1.59% for residential, 4.33% for commercial and 6.26% for industrial.

In contrast, Burlington, a community where wealth is allowed to be reinvested by the smart people who earn it and not spent on unprofitable government schemes, only charges 1.076% for residential, 2.46% for commercial and 3.80% for industrial property.

That is the major difference between our two cities. Hamilton likes to punish people who create wealth, Burlington doesn't.

The bottom line is this, if we want more wealth in this community, we need to stop punishing people who create it. The only way to do this is to lower TAX RATES on each dollar of assessed property value. That should be the major goal of the city and anything that threatens this goal should be cast aside until our tax rates match our GTA neighbours.

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By Irving (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 01:27:39

Setting aside the political squabbling, do all of you seriously think Hamilton is unique in having panhandlers and other unsavory types in its downtown? I'm very familiar with Portland, Toronto, and Montreal, and I can tell you that you're viewing their downtowns through rose tinted glasses. Sure they're all great cities, but they're not utopias of prosperous, smiling, well-fed educated people who all shop at corner groceries and never drive out to Zeller's or Home Depot. I've spent a little time in Hamilton, and I think you guys are a little too hard on yourselves. But then, I thought the bingo parlor was kind of cool (it certainly has more local character than a Starbuck's), and I actually buy stuff at dollar stores. On the trendier side, I thought Denninger's was great (people in Portland would be all over something like that), and I found a couple of restaurants (Thai and Italian) that I thought were pretty damned good. Compared to many of the crapholes of similar or greater size in the United States, Hamilton's a nice place. Check out downtown Dallas sometime if you want to know what hell is. In the meantime, Hamilton's okay by me, and good luck with making it better.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 01:52:36

Aw, A Smith. You so fear human contact that you have managed to convince yourself that being an object of ridicule on RTH is more effective than getting together with like-minded individuals to try to bring about the changes that you would like to see. You're breaking my heart.

One last thing, why is it that you, who owns a business, has no interest in lowering their tax bill?

Repeat after me: there's more to life than taxes. Of course you would have to leave your apartment to realize that, but trust me on this one. We have low rent in a beautiful location. It's a creative business and there's a great talent pool of creative, skilled people here in a niche industry that simply doesn't exist in Burlington. We would have to go to Toronto to find a similar labour pool, but then the overhead would be prohibitive, not to mention the commute. Maybe you'll own a business when you grow up, then you'll realize that taxes are only one of many variables.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 09:50:44

I can really relate to Meredith's posts here. My own anecdotal evidence suggests that more often than not, lazy or underinformed culinary habits are more crippling than simple lack of funds.

Let's face it - if you're making $572 / month, the one commodity you are not lacking in is time - and that's a valuable commodity. And yet, I've known people with more time than money to buy the worst convenience - oriented food products on the market. I mean, Pre-sliced cheese for crying out loud? Someone with all the time in the world, but no money, will spend twice as much for a worse product, to save a few minutes? Believe it. It gets worse.

I work full time and commute and am usually tired and don't have much time but still manage to cook real food because it's important and get this - it's not that hard! We have probably the best downtown farmers market in the country and if you're on welfare there's 4 days a week you can go there. Find the $0.99 / lb tomatoes and make a big pot of sauce that will last you a week or more. Or buy a big bag of chick peas from Tilly and some $1.49 pita and make falafels for the week. As long as I can make the market on saturday, I eat well for not much money. Not only that, but there's no need to endure the soul - crushing atmosphere of supermarkets and tabloids and awful music.

Nothing to cook with? Check craigslist and the spec classifieds, appliances are basically free. I've never had to pay for them. Housewares is one area where you can live quite comfortably off the excesses of society.

Cooking and eating well is not only affordable and easy, it's good for the soul. Why don't we all learn? I guess I blame television.

[Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2009-12-17 08:50:59]

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 10:00:35

I'm going to go on another food tangent here and suggest that where you shop is also important. As Bill Strickland kept reiterating, people are a product of their environment. Supermarkets, especially discount ones, are the most oppressive places. They force feed you garbage music, garbage magazines and, for the most part, total garbage food. I honestly believe that atmoshpere reinforces poverty in peoples' minds and might even affect their food purchases for the worse. Poverty is sick - it doesn't make you buy wisely, it sets off a mental chain of events that convinces you you only deserve crap, and you buy accordingly, even at greater cost. That might sound wacky, but I've seen it over and over in real life and that's the only way I can explain it.

[Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2009-12-17 09:00:57]

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By Irving (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 10:51:36

The anti-tax fanatics can't really be reasoned with. They're like a guy with a screwdriver who thinks the screwdriver is the only solution no matter what the circumstances. Of course, if you took their "logic" to its ultimate conclusion, there would be no taxes, and therefore no functioning government. I'll pass. A common tactic they use is to cherry pick two cities/provinces/states to demonstrate the wonders of lower taxes, while conveniently ignoring any counter examples that might get in the way of their conclusion, or any other relevant variables. The current wave of this nonsense was arguably instigated by Arthur Laffer, Grover Nordquist, and their ilk. Laffer observed that tax revenues are inversely correlated with tax rates, which is true at or beyond a certain point (just as a screwdriver works well in specific circumstances). Of course, the point at which revenues are optimized is open for debate, but it's absurd to think it's a fixed amount, and is not dependent on economic circumstances. It's also absurd to think that government revenues or tax rates are the only concerns in tax policy. Short term economic conditions may warrant running deficits, using tax cuts as stimulus, etc. But even when tax cuts are warranted, the issue remains of where to target them. Do you target them at the wealthy in the hope that they'll reinvest? (Didn't work too well in the United States if you look at the resulting deficits and the growing disparity between rich and poor). Or do you target them at the lower and middle working class in the hope that they'll spend money? Like most things, it's more complicated than what's typically presented by right wing tax cut fanatics. They should be ignored for the most part until they have something more than just a screwdriver, and until they acknowledge that well functioning societies have shared responsibilities, which includes paying taxes.


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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 14:05:42

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 14:36:27

Highwater >> We have low rent in a beautiful location.

You only have low rent because nobody else wants to locate here. If businesses could make more profits in Hamilton, do you think your rent would be as low as it is? No, they would be bid up by the marketplace. Therefore, celebrating Hamilton's low priced rental market is really just celebrating the fact that Hamilton is a bad place to make money.

Where I agree with you regarding taxes is that they should not be lowered if the result is more poverty, but this wouldn't be the case if the city moved to a progressive tax system. Leave the top rates where they are, but exempt the first 50k of property value from taxes altogether. This would put areas of the city which have seen the biggest decline in demand back in the game.

For example, if you owned a 100k home, your tax rate would fall from 1.59% to 0.795%, a 50% reduction. In contrast if you owned a $300k home, your tax rate would only drop from 1.59% to 1.325%. Therefore, by embracing a progressive property tax system, the city would preferentially target tax breaks to those property buyers who bought up the least loved properties.

The net effect of this progressive property tax system would be to constantly reward those who bought into areas which need the most investment. In contrast, the system we have today rewards those who need the least help, communities like Ancaster and Dundas.

Which system do you prefer Highwater, a flat tax, where poor people pay the same tax rate as rich people, or a progressive tax rate where tax breaks are targeted towards run down areas?

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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 14:47:30

Wow grassroots, you sound very bitter and mean spirited. "If I could wave a magic wand, many people here would have karma kick them in the butt and have to exist at least a year on 572.00 per month." So you actually want people to suffer, just not the people you are supposed to speak for. Gotcha.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 14:58:57

If I could wave a magic wand, many people here would have karma kick them in the butt and have to exist at least a year on 572.00 per month

Karma for what? Working hard?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 17:49:25

I am not a big believer in government spending, but according to the 2009 city budget, only $2,207,594 was spent on economic development by the end of 2008. That's $2.2M out of a budget of $711M, or 0.31%.

In contrast, recreation received $23,376,920 and transit $41,258,765. We all know that the major issue facing Hamilton is the lack of good paying jobs, or jobs period, so might it not be a better idea to focus our efforts on this, rather hockey arenas and public golf courses?

If the city spent just 2% of the total budget on promoting economic growth, that would be $12M more each and every year that could be focused on creating new goods and services to sell to the rest of the world.

In time, we might even gain a reputation as being a good place to find a job, something Hamilton used to be known for.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 17, 2009 at 23:35:19

You only have low rent because nobody else wants to locate here. If businesses could make more profits in Hamilton, do you think your rent would be as low as it is? No, they would be bid up by the marketplace. Therefore, celebrating Hamilton's low priced rental market is really just celebrating the fact that Hamilton is a bad place to make money.

Again, your simplistic analysis betrays your lack of life experience. There are lots of reasons why our rent is low, not the least of which is the fact that the landlord is semi-retired and likes having us around 'cause we make cool sh*t. Like tax rates, rent is one of life's many variables that don't always conform to the Ayn Rand playbook.

Step away from your computer. Leave your apartment. Make some friends. Start your own business. It will be scary at first, discovering that humans exist and they often make very human decisions based on more than just the bloodless pursuit of profit, but you will be a happier person for it in the end. Now's as good a time as any. Stand up. Shake it off. Start living! You can do it. I believe in you, I really do. You've obviously got intelligence, now you just need some life experience to burnish it with wisdom. Peace and goodwill and all that stuff. Now off you go!

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted December 18, 2009 at 09:40:16

What an interesting debate.
I'll speak as one of the middle classes who doesn't like coming downtown. There are two reasons: parking and ickiness. I too had a gym in Jackson Square, but canceled the membership after a year. Granted I wasn't crazy about the panhandlers hitting me up for change, or having to run the gauntlet of smokers outside the mall entrance, but the real reason I moved gyms was because I didn't want to pay for parking. I don't have a bus pass and buying one just to go to the gym was absurd, so I got a membership where there is a free parking lot and no gauntlet. Philosophically, I agree with paid parking, but I pay it willingly only when I'm visiting a specific shop that I need to go downtown for. Otherwise, I'll stay in the suburbs. I don't know how to resolve this, but I'm wondering if the rain tax on paved parking that the city is talking about might not force a reconsideration of asphalt wastelands, and then I'll have to pay for parking.

I still go downtown, and I'm not really afraid, but apart from James Street, it's not enjoyable. The buildings are beautiful (and often not run down), there are some interesting things to do (art gallery, some restaurants...) but the unrelieved misery of the people is depressing. If I'm looking to treat myself, I'm not going to surround myself with misery. I think there is a pent-up demand for an appealing downtown, as seen in the popularity of the Art Crawl. I used to hate going to James Street but we had to for a few specific destinations. I hated walking past all the groups of men gathered outside the restaurants. But the Art Crawl has done for James Street exactly what people are advocating - adding "diversity". The groups of men are still there, but so are many other people, so it's not so bad. As most people seem to agree, give people a reason to come downtown, and they will. If Meredith is still reading, I agree with everything you write, including the other post that people were disapproving of. I visited your blog and then read that. $700.00 per month for food for 4 people is ridiculous. You sound wonderful and I will beg your menus off you via email. Grassroots: you are even worse here that you are on The Spec's Poverty Blog. Wishing bad karma on people is nasty and hilarious. Don't you see the irony?
A. Smith: Progressive property taxes seem reasonable, and so would development fees that actually cover the cost of new developments as Halton has recently insisted upon. Sadly, many of our politicians make choices that can only be explained by corruption.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 18, 2009 at 12:04:28

Hey D Knox: The men on James Street have always been there, I would say it is tradiitions that come from the old country. Anyways. someone weighed in on your rant in the poverty blog. I would say their view was correct, as many others in our community would agree.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted December 18, 2009 at 17:18:01

d.knox wrote: "I hated walking past all the groups of men gathered outside the restaurants."

For me, those guys standing around outside in their shirtsleeves actually added to the cultural ambiance (Even my partner, for whom such a large group of uber-masculine men eyeing every female who walks by is somewhat intimidating, agrees). I found it made James N. feel like a really unique and interesting place. At any rate, it doesn't get much more "little Portugal" than that - at least not in a Canadian city.

Just my two cents.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted December 18, 2009 at 20:09:01

Geoff: Funny comment. It was sort of authentic, in a horrible "American Girl in Paris" sort of way. And while I did appreciate the authenticity, I didn't like being there. It's much better now. I can appreciate the authenticity without being overwhelmed by it.
An earlier poster mentioned the feeling of "not belonging". That is a really good way to describe it. I just hope those nice old Portuguese men feel okay about having such crowded sidewalks on James Street now. :)

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2009 at 01:59:06

Grassroots, according to the 2006 census, 25.1%, or 102,180 out of 407,590 (15 years or older) people living in Hamilton were without any type of educational certificate/diploma, including high school/trades.

In contrast, only 15.8%, or 20,930 out of 132,695 Burlington residents (15 or older) were without any formal educational certificate/diploma.

Perhaps one of the mandatory requirements of accepting welfare should be to attain a high school equivalency. If the welfare recipients of Hamilton were forced to study and learn in order to receive taxpayer assistance, perhaps they would have less need for these handouts altogether.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 19, 2009 at 03:25:37

A Smith: The illiteracy rates for those on Ontario Works is very high, somewhere around 75% of those accessing services.

Peer to Peer has had people coming in who express the wish to be able to have the opportunity to learn to read, do math and other skills but the current system is not set up to help people. Some people may need specialized learning environments.

People need to be properly assessed by both health and educational professional to find out exactly what they truly need.

Forced is such a strong word but I would advocate for reform that would enable people to be treated as people, to guide them, toward what they truly need to help them. A system that listens to the people, not dictate. The current system does not do that.

The system is about paper pushing, not helping!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2009 at 15:24:34

Grassroots >> A system that listens to the people, not dictate.

This should be the agreement between those who accept handouts and those who give them, either study hard and improve your work prospects, or say good bye to the free money. You talk a lot about poverty and a living wage, but how does allowindg people to remain uneducated help in this regard?

If people were given the choice to either study or starve to death, 99.9% of them would study. The current system, where people are allowed to remain ignorant doesn't help anyone, taxpayers nor welfare recipients.

I am all for freedom, but sometimes people need to be forced to do things they don't want to do. Getting a high school diploma is one of those things. furthermore, this will not only help those individuals getting the education, it will help their children and likely the whole community.

According to the following link,

www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

people in the U.S. without a high school diploma earn a median wage of $10.65/hour. In contrast, those with just a high school diploma earn a median wage of $14.78/hour.

If society got even tougher and forced people on welfare to get a two year college degree, their median wage would rise further to $18.40/hour. I don't know about you, but forcing someone to study so that they can help themselves and their family doesn't make me feel guilty. Call me mean, but the time for simply handing our cash to people needs to come to an end. The sooner the better.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 19, 2009 at 22:02:41

A Smith: You are missing the point I am trying to get at.

You write: If society got even tougher and forced people on welfare to get a two year college degree, their median wage would rise further to $18.40/hour.

For the majority on welfare, if you read my previous post, the illiteracy rates are high. There numerous reasons why this is so.

I stated that Peer to Peer is getting people coming in who want to learn , but you negate the fact that there is real opportunity for people to do so.

You negate the fact, that the current system is not about moving people forward.

I have college education and struggle to get living wage, despite having almost 20 years experience in my field. It is the way it is. If I have problems navigating the system, where does that leave those who cannot read, write, do simple math? I did a temp assignement in the filing department of OW, I know what reality is.

You have no idea what people have to go through, it is a maze of no wheredness, dealing with people who are not trained in many areas. The only question they ask is is your WSIB payment is to update, they will never ask beyond that. As a worker. who knows, there are no rights, you are chastised, made to be the bad guy, if you ask the real hard questions. What is the word, oh yes privitization. Who really cares if people are actually being helped?

I called the main office of the first place they will send you , you got to wonder, when general manager admits, we do not know nothing about Ontario Works, yet OW sends many there? Privatization, is this really the best model, when you deal with people who are completely unqualified? There job is only to fill out paperwork, which you pay for, meanwhile back at the ranch,!!!!

Currently, if you are a young person, who comes from a bad environment say. If you are on Ontario Works, as a single person, which you get 585.00 per month. If you are in a shelter, you get only street allowance which is considerably less. If you want to complete GED, it costs about $100.00 to register with courses, so you have to make a hard decison whether to pay rent, food, or go have the opportunity to go to school. She system does not help you in any, to complete grade 12. Some programs lead nowhere, meaning you will not get accredited by the "high" school system.

I thought I would add, the stats are meaningless to me, in a sense, as they only represent numbers, not human life or reaction or ability to participate. My back ground is accounting and numbers.

Yes, education is the way forward, but you must ensure that it is a envrionment that promotes learning, acceptance, understadning. Your words are too "one sided". There are many variances, one does have to have a soul!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2009 at 18:47:39

Grassroots >> If you want to complete GED, it costs about $100.00 to register with courses, so you have to make a hard decision whether to pay rent, food, or go have the opportunity to go to school.

More excuses. The bottom line is this, if a person wants to succeed in life, he/she will find a way. I guess you just don't want to be a success bad enough. So sad for you.

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By birdie (registered) | Posted December 21, 2009 at 08:05:44

"A Smith" wrote,

I am all for freedom, but sometimes people need to be forced to do things they don't want to do.

Q.F.T.

[Comment edited by birdie on 2009-12-21 07:06:53]

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By community builder (anonymous) | Posted December 27, 2009 at 18:19:23

Thank you Lorne for coming to Hamilton and sticking with it - for writing through this venue. You are part of the 'creative class' of Hamilton that will help develop Hamilton's potential. We need more forward thinking people from outside Hamilton to move here. Grassroots,you are obviously never going to give up your stance based on the rhetoric of the social justice set. I did not come from privilege or an easy life. I was a high school drop out and later managed to complete my education and move onto university (mature student entrance)- it is a lot of work but leads to success and fulfillment. Canada has so much support for people who want help - it is there - you can walk into any government agency or Board of Ed, community college or university and find out what is available. Recently Mohawk College offered free programmes to offer unemployed people a way to develop new skills geared to the job market. Unfortunately, even thought the program was free and subsidized by tax payers money less than 40% of the spots were filled. Mentors and educators are needed to help people who have given up on themselves. A hand up not a hand out is the solution.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2009 at 19:36:53

Test

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 29, 2009 at 21:25:15

By community builder (anonymous) writes: Recently Mohawk College offered free programmes to offer unemployed people a way to develop new skills geared to the job market. Unfortunately, even thought the program was free and subsidized by tax payers money less than 40% of the spots were filled.

So let me ask you a question, how come so many spots were vacant?

Or is it the current system itself that fails to direct people to what they really need?

The current system is set up to give a hand out not a hand up. So if you have no money for transportation, how are you getting there?

What good does it do when you cannot operate a computer, or if you cannot read or do simple math or write?

Please explain these programs? Because the only ones I know of are resume, interviewing networking, along those lines, which do little when you lack the skills that I have just mentioned.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted December 29, 2009 at 23:54:22

Grassroots-

Maybe the spots were vacant because the courses weren't delivered to their homes by Blue Line??

The point about transport is maddening at the least. Other than the disabled, those without work and looking for new skills can actually walk or ride a bike. Or are you suggesting if they get jobs they can't work till somebody provides transport for them?? I often ride my bike to work and I know many who walk over an hour to get to their jobs. I guess the good the courses can do for those who WANT to learn is to actually teach those skills as "community builder" suggests. No more handouts to those who do not try because of lazyness please. I've witnessed it my whole life, there needs to be a change.

(Ranting cause I'm having a bad day, sorry)

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 30, 2009 at 21:34:13

Woody10: Yes,I would say you are having a bad day.

Ok what if do not have a bike? Or if you have to walk say from Eastgate area to Fennell campus? That is a few hours.

Yes, I have walked to work, about an hour, no vehicle, no bus service, as they were on strike. I have ridden my bike before as well.

I don't know Woody but I do know that illiteracy rates are high for those accessing welfare. I have seen some of the paperwork and it is pretty sad that many for whatever reasons fell throught the cracks of our education system.

Peer to Peer Mentoring Group is getting people coming in who want to learn. I know of someone who was born with Fetal Alcohol, they had a very rough life. They made the decision to go to school and spent four years at one of the local programs.

This person is a very warm and loving person. Yes, they learned something, they can articulate ideas, they have a creative sense, the enjoyed the subjects geared toward, history and geography. They can read pretty good, their writing skills need some work. All in all, though, they were very disappointed that after four years, they got very little recognition for the work they did. This person would love to go to higher education but at the present time cannot get more then grade nine for GED, even though some of the courses, completed were Grade 10, 11 and 12.

I think more emphasis has to put on the system, that is failing and not so much on individuals, can you understand what I am saying.

People can learn, if given the opportunities, it is just that in today's world, those opportunities for those who are behind are far and few between. There are only so many spots.

Yes there are some programs, that are geared toward teaching working skills, like landscaping, building and such, but again, there are far too few spots. I spoke to a couple of people in the one school program, they liked the learning environment and to to be able to work with their hands.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted December 31, 2009 at 01:47:07

Well from what I read grassroots, you fail to mention anything about the need to change the system in regards to the purely lazy ones getting away with sucking the system dry. Surely you must agree that if this happened it would free up money, services etc. for the truly needy that you mention.

Maybe a complete fresh start?? Unrealistic I know, Initial costs would be high but it would be a way to re-screen everybody. I'm also not too big on the way our immigration system is draining us either, but that's another topic. (but on similar lines)

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 31, 2009 at 18:21:02

Woody: Can you explain who you think are the ones who are sucking the system dry?

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted December 31, 2009 at 19:40:45

Hmmm, lets see. Was it the family I lived across from who lived with their brother (also sucking) waited for the monthly check, called the cab, got the beer and shoved the little ones out the door to fend for themselves or the other bunch down the street who sat on the porch and gave me the thumbs up everytime I walked by and said "enjoying another day of not working?" not to mention a few choice words with their thumbs up sign. And if you believe these people are all ficticious, you need to get out and look around a bit more. I even know a guy who rents strictly to welfare people (he has several rental properties) because he says they will never try to work and if they miss their rent all he has to do is call the welfare office and they slide him the money!! I'm only one person with many first hand experiences. It's not possible i'm the only one with such experiences.

Also, I did say that there are truly needy people who deserve the use of the system. I just want them to have full benefit.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 31, 2009 at 22:07:42

Woody 10: Well, ok, should not the system itself and analyzed as to why some people are made to jump through hoops yet others are not?

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted January 01, 2010 at 02:31:47

I think that's what I said in a different manner, but with a complete overhaul at the same time so history doesn't repeat itself.

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