Comment 76551

By Ersatz (anonymous) | Posted May 07, 2012 at 10:58:33

Seems to me that the trick is reaching beyond preaching to the converted. These events seem to bring in those who are already convinced of the value of the cause and the wisdom of the measures and strategies required to get there. The shortfall is in broader public engagement. This seems to be particularly true of charettes, which tend to occupy a very narrow bandwidth.

Hamilton has always talked a good game. That has never been the problem. Solutions for what ails the city have bubbled up from every Tim Hortons in the city for 40 years or so. Over at City hall, they are hip to the trends and up on the buzzwords and postures required of with-it policy makers in the 21st century. They can vogue with the best of them. But in general, we're happy to settle for that. We celebrate our most mundane achievements, invest them with significance disproportionate to their real-world importance, and rout critical engagement in favour of universal boosterism and the belief that there's nothing that next-gen marketing can't solve.

I will echo the disrespect shown to those who have been working for change over the long term. There is often the perception among newcomers that those who went befgore lacked for something, whether an evolved appreciation of urban dynamics or work ethic. None of which is, strictly speaking, true, but it is common for the newly converted to be full of piss and vinegar.

It is easy for someone who has arrived here in the last two or three years to shake their head at what they see as a populace that has become ground down and dispirited in the midst of so much potential and opportunity. I am not disputing the mojo of insurgent money and cultural values, though there is a risk of Hamilton defining itself around transplanted urban aesthetics, which is arguably a variation on the "second city" inferiority complex: Hamilton will have turned the corner toward actualization when it can lay claim to a Smoke's Poutinerie and a Burrito Boyz and a handful of commercial blocks with a superficial resemblance to Queen West or Parkdale.

And it is easy for those who arrive in the hyper-networked world of today to tsk-tsk, but I wonder how many of today's I Heart Hamilton cohort would have the passion to slug it out in the trenches without being able to connect via cell phones and social media 24/7/365? Even five years ago, this was not the case. I'm not questioning the role or value of that ecosystem, but real change requires more leverage than a hot hashtag.

Voicing these thoughts is perhaps part of the problem, but candour is required if we are to move forward. It also needs to be said that this movement needs to draw on the energy and expertise of all corners of the city. Downtown renewal can't simply be a Ward 2 concern, or a Ward 1-3 concern. If that continues to be the case, in 2027 we'll be having a Cusp Plus 25 Memorial Charette on the former site of another landmark.

Not to worry, though: There'll be plenty of parking.

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