When a constituent wrote to Mayor Bob Bratina to recommend a recent RTH article on urbanism in Vancouver as an interesting read, the Mayor wrote a reply in which he also copied Nicholas Kevlahan, the author of the referenced article.
Here is the text of the Mayor's response, as received by Kevlahan:
During the time I was downtown Councillor property values and new commercial tax assessment steadily increased. In fact there were only two Wards that showed property values increasing above the average of the entire City. One of them is Ward 2. New commercial taxes in the core over the past 5 years have increased by over a million dollars. We will likely do at least the same between now and 2015.
I have visited Vancouver and every other major Canadian City at least once every year over twenty years as a football broadcaster and watched all of those cities develop through that era. I also rode their transit systems as I still do and watched the LRT's being implemented in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
I became acquainted with former Vancouver Mayor, now Senator Larry Campbell... born in Brantford, went to Westmount high school here and worked at Stelco. His warning to me several years ago about advocacy groups has certainly come to pass. [emphasis added]
Mr. Kevlahan apparently is unaware that the rejection of the proposed LRT for Hamilton was led by the Durand neighbourhood association.
Finally, the LRT group headed by Jill Stephen continues to function, carrying out its mandated work. Nothing has changed except for the admonition regarding unnecessary work.
The LRT furor is a straw dog whose sound and fury signifies nothing.
Kevlahan has served for years on the board of the Durand Neighbourhood Association (DNA), and was also a founding member of Hamilton Light Rail, a citizens' advocacy group promoting light rail in Hamilton.
He was also a volunteer with the city's Rapid Transit Citizens Advisory Committee (RTCAC) until his recent resignation after City Manager Chris Murray directed staff to suspend all non-essential work on LRT planning and focus instead on all-day GO service.
Kevlahan wrote the following response to the Mayor:
I strongly object to the tone of your message, and the implication that engaged citizens ('advocacy groups' like the DNA and HLR) are somehow a threat to the City. I shouldn't need to remind you that a central part of the City's official vision is to encourage citizen engagement, which is essential to a functioning democracy.
I would also like to remind you that you personally supported the LRT advocacy efforts of HLR yourself when you were councillor by mc'ing our big public meeting and inviting me personally several times to speak on your radio show. Obviously, your views about the importance of citizen engagement and a full public airing of strategic issues has changed since you became mayor. [link to event notice added]
As far as I know the DNA has never opposed LRT. The system offered to Hamilton in the early 1980s was an elevated system, like the one in Vancouver, and I can understand why the DNA would have been concerned about its effect on neighbourhoods. I don't know how you could watch an LRT being implemented in Vancouver, since they don't have one!
What is being proposed for Hamilton is a street-level system that integrates well into neighbourhoods. The DNA has officially supported the current proposal since 2008, along with a wide array of other groups and citizens, because of its economic development potential, the high-level rapid transit it would bring to the overcrowded King/Main routes (which carry 13,000 passengers a day already), and its environmental and financial sustainability.
I also disagree with your interpretation of the state of LRT planning in the City. I was a member of the City's RTCAC, a group of 20 citizens who generously volunteered their time to help the City plan the best possible LRT system. As late as June we were all asked whether we would be willing to continue to serve another year to continue our valuable work. A month later a surprise announcement from the City Manager essentially killed this work by saying the City would not continue any work on its own beyond the end of the $3 million grant from Metrolinx.
The Rapid Transit team will be reduced to one person, and the planning work will essentially stop. The Metrolinx grant was to aid the city in its LRT planning, which had begun well before grant was made. There is no reason the City couldn't continue its own planning efforts, or ask Metrolinx for more money. The fact that this strategic decision was made by a bureaucrat is a worrying precedent, as has been pointed out by Councillor Ferguson and the media.
Taken together with your unrelentingly negative comments about the B-line LRT project and the associated land use planning, anyone interested in this project could only assume that you and the city manager are killing the LRT project by starving it of resources.