Comment 80777

By Haruspex (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2012 at 09:07:53

In hindsight, I would contend that two aspects of this motion made it more problematic than it needed to be.

1. Expanded Parameters

AFAIK, Queen and Cannon were evaluated as possibilities but never identified as two-way conversion priorities in 2001 or 2008, merely streetscaping opportunities -- "Pedestrian Improvements," quite literally. (For sake of reference, the York Boulevard improvements unveiled in 2011 were identified as a priority in 2001.) Whatever your take on the merits of converting those streets, they dd not appear to be earmarked on the city's to-do list (as noted in the June 12, 2012 RTH article linked to above).

It might have been one thing to win consensus on finishing the two-way conversion work the City committed to 4 or 11 years ago, but to position the two-way conversion of Queen and Cannon as the starting point for the coming fiscal year seems optimistic to say the least. Councillor McHattie has been on Council for almost a decade. He watched the two-way conversion begin in his first term, and he watched it stall in his second. And he appears to have misjudged his colleagues' progressive voting reflexes.

2. Contracted Timelines

My sense is that this motion was meant to dovetail with September's Tax Budget Guidelines & Outlook, part of the larger budgetary process. That's all well and good. The trouble is in the narrow window for advocacy and engagement around the motion. The original single-street motion (two-way conversion of four blocks of Mary) surfaced mid-August and was quickly withdrawn, but it was scant days from the time that this revised motion appeared to the fateful vote.

Contrast that strategy with the mixed success that we have seen in recent years even from protracted campaigns like Our City, Our Future (~3,500 supporters for the West Harbour stadium), HEARD aka Heritage, Escarpment and Responsible Development (~900 petitioners from people objecting to an six-storey condo development below Dundas Peak) and All Voters Are Equal (~600 petitioners to review ward boundaries). OCOF was, I believe, a month-long campaign that tapped a debate that had been ongoing for months. AVAE was a 10-week campaign. HEARD's community activism was sustained over approximately seven months.

If the councillors were banking on citizen back-up in this case ("there appears to be a strong convergence of public opinion in Hamilton in favour of converting one way street conversion"), they seemingly did little to catalyze that opinion to make their case hard to dismiss. The option to write letters of support came to light only after it was raised in one of the above comments, and the window for responding at that point was 120 hours, during the time of year when people are most likely to be cramming in the last of their summer escapes. Even though the motion itself acknowledges the need for a home run ("require strong and unequivocal political support to move ahead with adequate financial resources"), this aspect aslo seems to have been misjudged.

This was one of a number of disappointing turns in recent months, but as others have suggested, it was also an instructive episode. There is always augury in entrails.

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