Special Report: Casino

Whitehead: Downtown Commercial Area is Not a Neighbourhood

Councillor Whitehead says that the downtown core exists to provide the service and entertainment needs of the rest of the city, and all Hamiltonians should have a say in what happens to it.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 11, 2012

this article has been updated

Downtown Hamilton is ablaze over a recent comment by Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead over the proposal to allow a new casino in the downtown core.

Whitehead, who supports the casino, was discussing the matter over coffee with Matt Jelly, a downtown resident and social activist, when Whitehead reportedly argued that the commercial downtown core is not part of a neighbourhood.

In an email to RTH, Jelly provided the context. "When discussing the impact of people in proximity to a Casino, backed up by many studies and the expert advice of Medical Officers of Health for both Hamilton and Toronto, Terry essentially began to argue that not many people actually live here."

Jelly pointed out that many people live in the downtown core: "high-rise apartments on Market Street, apartments above shops on King Street, Condos across from City Hall on Bay, etc."

According to Jelly, Whitehead argued that the downtown commercial area "is not a part of anyone's neighbourhood. I informed him that the commercial areas of the downtown core actually do, by the city's own definitions, reside within the Beasley and Central neighbourhoods."

Whitehead Response

In email response to RTH, Whitehead wrote, "There are neighborhood plans that clearly outline the neighborhoods in the lower city."

For the record, the downtown core - the area bounded by Queen Street, Cannon Street, Wellington Street and Hunter Street - is entirely encompassed in four adjacent neighbourhoods: Central (northwest from Main and James), Beasley (northeast from Main and James), Corktown (southeast from Main and James) and Durand (southwest from Main and James).

View Downtown Hamilton ON in a larger map

Hamilton neighbourhood map (Image Credit: City of Hamilton [PDF])
Hamilton neighbourhood map (Image Credit: City of Hamilton [PDF])

Whitehead also defended his belief that a casino should go downtown. "Downtown is also the Center of Governance, Entertainment Conventions, Hotels, Plays, Art Gallery, Festivals etc. These investments were not expended just to service the downtown neighborhoods. It is to establish the downtown as a destination. If this purpose is changing then all Hamiltonians should have a say."

However, the argument against a downtown casino is not that downtown should not be the location for entertainment facilities, but rather the evidence-based conclusion - summarized recently in public health reports for Hamilton and Toronto - that a casino disproportionately targets vulnerable low-income families and that the risk of harm increases with proximity. In other words, that the best place in Hamilton to put a casino is far away from vulnerable populations.

In response to this, Whitehead argued that if a downtown casino was really harmful, the Province would "step in and exclude all downtowns from consideration for a casino."

Whitehead claimed that problem gambling is not concentrated in low income communities but "equally impacts people from all social economic backgrounds." However, the Toronto report by Dr David McKeown found that youths, seniors, First nations people and people with low incomes are over-represented among problem gamblers.

Whitehead noted that Hamilton's public health report did not actually recommend against a casino, through it did recommend that if one is built, it should come with a number of restrictions to limit harm.

He also noted that people can already take buses from downtown to casinos outside the core, like Flamboro Downs. "Access to gambling is a bus ride away." Again, the evidence documented in the Toronto and Hamilton casino health studies finds that the risk of problem gambling goes up with proximity.

Similarly, he pointed out that people also have access to gambling on the internet and other venues, including lotteries and illegal gambling locations. However, as Dr McKeown pointed out in a recent interview on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, internet gambling has been found not to contribute significantly to problem gambling:

Internet gambling, although it's widely available, turns out to be one of the least common forms of gambling - at least, the kind that lead to problem gambling. Most problem gamblers that seek clinincal treatment, for example, have trouble with slot machines and table games - exactly the kind of things that you find in a casino. And the closer to a casino, the more convenient it is, the more likely people are to gamble in a way that causes health problems.

Whitehead concluded by promising that his final position on a downtown casino "will be an informed one" and that he is asking questions of OLG and the Province about the health studies from Toronto and Hamilton.

Whitehead Letter

Whitehead has been feeling the heat from his remarks. Over the weekend, he sent a written response to several residents who objected to his position, which begins, "The commercial area of downtown is not in your neighborhood."

In the letter, Whitehead argued that the "function of downtowns" is "to serve all of the community" with various services. He claimed that downtown is "heavily subsidized by all taxpayers" and that those taxpayers have a say in how the city manages it and a right to "continue to drive taxes down" with a new casino.

The letter noted that Flamboro Downs generates $800,000 in taxes, provides 350 jobs and contributes $4 million to the city's revenues through a slots revenue sharing arrangement with Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG). He also noted that 50,000 Hamiltonians leave the city each year to gamble in other communities.

Whitehead pointed out that casinos have become socially acceptable in Ontario and have been promoted under provincial governments composed of the NDP, Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties. "It is here in Ontario and I be damned if the other communities benefit at our taxpayers' expense."

He also pointed out that Brantford mayor Chris Friel originally opposed the Brantford casino but now supports it. (Paul Wilson recently wrote about this on CBC Hamilton.)

In terms of downtown as a neighbourhood, Whitehead wrote, "The down town has more people working there than live there. They are affected by many decisions that are made on behalf of local neighborhoods."

He also pointed out that his ward is home to "one of the largest forensic psychiatric institutions for the criminally insane in Ontario" and "more group homes than any other wards," including a shelter that takes "destitute street people off the downtown streets and put them in a shelter that serves them alcohol." Whitehead notes that he supports this "because it was the right thing to do" even though local residents opposed it.

Whitehead concluded, "We all make sacrifices for the greater good, are you prepared to do the same?"

Public Harm

In a recent Facebook post, Jelly responded to Whitehead's arguments.

He argued that we should accept a casino even if we don't want one, because residents of Ward 8 generate more taxes than we do. He forgets the last 40+ years where many of the taxdollars generated by residents of the lower city subsidized all of the sprawl south of Mohawk. He forgets the last 40 years of us moving investment out of the core through our planning processes. He forgets 40 years of failed megadevelopments we've built, rather than focusing on providing a base level quality of life for the residents who live here.

Jelly also objected to Whitehead's contention that the opportunity to realize a very small decrease in taxes for Ward 8 residents trumps the harmful public health implications of putting a new casino in close proximity to vulnerable, impoverished communities.

Dr. McKeown's Toronto report recommended against allowing a casino on the basis that it would increase the rate of problem gambling in Toronto, with the negative health implications that go along with it. Dr Richardson's Hamilton report drew similar conclusions about the public health implications of a downtown casino, though it stopped short of recommending against a downtown casino.

At the public health board meeting on December 3 in which Dr Richardson's report was introduced, Whitehead immediately moved to receive the report and refer it to the gaming subcommittee - and not to discuss it, even though Dr. Richardson was on hand to answer questions.

'Move to the Mountain'

Jelly says Whitehead told him he "should move to the mountain" if he does not "want to live near a casino." This recalls comments made in the summer by Toronto deputy mayor Doug Holyday, who said that families with young children should not live downtown.

It betrays a startling lack of understanding about what makes an urban environment healthy and successful: the dense mix of uses that characterizes downtown must include people living there. To let downtown become a place where people would not want to live is to condemn it to a downward spiral of decline and despair.

Property developer Harry Stinson made this point in a written response to Whitehead, which he sent on Sunday afternoon. Stinson wrote:

[T]he downtown neighbourhoods are amongst the most important elements of the City of Hamilton, and enhancing their health is critical to the city's future.

Having been directly involved in the renaissance of various city-core neighbourhoods, I cannot stress strongly enough the massive positive impact on the image AND the finances of the City that will be generated through recognizing and encouraging centre-city residential communities.

The real irony here is that suburban development does not pay for itself. The lifecycle costs of building far-flung civic infrastructure are higher than the city collects in development charges and tax revenue, and low-density, separated land use does not support high levels of innovation and economic development.

Hamilton simply cannot afford to be a collection of suburbs without a successful, highly-performing centre. Yesterday's suburbs were funded through urban economic vitality and simultaneously served to sap that vitality. As long as we continue to regard downtown Hamilton as a dumping ground rather than a community, we will continue to miss the opportunity to reverse the long trend of sprawl and decline.

Update: updated to add a paragraph of context to Whitehead's statement, "We all make sacrifices for the greater good, are you prepared to do the same?" This was after noting that he supported a homeless shelter in his ward. You can jump to the added paragraph.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jer (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 08:04:35

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 09:35:06 in reply to Comment 83712

We should all have a say in what happens in Ward 8 too, since we all pay for it, but I'm willing to concede that the citizens in Ward 8 should have more say since they know the local issues better and are more directly affected by the outcome. Ditto the citizens who live and work in the downtown, whose hard work and dollars are the major reasons the downtown has been turning around. Why shouldn't they have more say than the rest of us on a development that will hurt everything they have worked for?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 09:06:29 in reply to Comment 83712

Yes, we all should have a say in what happens downtown.

Everything else that he says is wrong. He has not done the math and he has not read the reports. He admits it in writing even! It is embarrassing that we have let someone this obtuse become a leader of our city.

The casino WILL cost us more than it brings in. It WILL result in higher taxes. It WILL slow down development in the core. It WILL have a detrimental social effect. It WILL NOT increase tourism. All of these effects are well known and proven in various studies and through basic observation and analysis of existing casino cities in Ontario (Niagara, Brantford, Windsor, etc). If only our "leaders" would take the time to read, understand and discuss them, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Comment edited by seancb on 2012-12-11 10:39:10

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By wrong (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 08:39:14 in reply to Comment 83712

He's wrong when he says downtown isn't a neighbourhood. He's wrong when he says low income neighbourhoods aren't more vulnerable to the effects of problem gambling. He's wrong when he says his ward subsidizes downtown. He's wrong when he says a c@sino will reduce property taxes. He's wrong when he says a downtown c@sino is no worse than internet gambling. He's wrong when he says the province would step in to protect the poor, the same province that just cut social service discretionary benefits.

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By typical (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 08:07:04

A suburban Hamilton councilor looks down his nose at the core, Say It Ain't So! This is typical city hating from Hamilton suburbanites who quickly forget they owe their leafy neighbourhoods to money that poured out of the city to pay for the Mountain and the outer satelites. And they're still at it: instead of fixing up the downtown after 50 years of neglect they want to dig the hole even deeper with 4000 acres of new sprawl in Mount Hope.

And they wonder why people downtown get resentful sometimes.

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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 08:50:49

Commercial properties are taxed at a rate almost double the residential rate. Residential density is also vital to the survival of the business sector of the core to avoid further loss of tax revenue. City councils have over the last 30 years sucked the life out of the core with their suburban sprawl policies and continue to do so. City Council has a moral, ethical and fiscal responsibility to continue set the stage for the restoration of our urban and the economic health of the City. Councillor Whitehead's remarks are counter-productive and should be retracted.

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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 08:55:37 in reply to Comment 83715

That should read " the restoration our urban core"

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 09:03:00

It betrays a startling lack of understanding about what makes an urban environment healthy and successful: the dense mix of uses that characterizes downtown must include people living there.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ryan. This is exactly why the Beasley Neighbourhood Association has been arguing to respect the existing Downtown Secondary Plan that prioritizes building desirable residential neighbourhoods.

Whether you're pro or anti-casino, it doesn't matter because I think a fair look the current downtown environment will show that now is not the right time for a gamble on socially disruptive mega-project.

Council has yet again bought into an external actor's imposed schedule (OLG this time), but before the City starts drastically shaking up the slow-and-steady socio-economic progress we're seeing downtown, let's insist they 1) do their homework and perform a true net-benefits test; 2) hold a referendum, and 3) tell OLG we'll get back to them on OUR schedule.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-12-11 09:04:09

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By RightSaidFred (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 12:53:34 in reply to Comment 83717

Get back to OLG on 'our schedule'? Are you serious? This debate has been pushed to the forefront BECAUSE the OLG is restructuring and basically getting out of the horse business. I have no clue really where a casino should or should not go, I don't gamble but I, #1 will be extremely upset if Hamilton loses that revenue currently generated from Flamboro and #2 I believe Whitehead is correct in regards that a downtown does need to service the rest of the city's citizens. Yes, there must be residents there as well to sustain and support the neighbourhood but the core must serve a greater purpose. It is a neighbourhood but it must be treated differently than any other for no other reason than it is where and what outsiders to our city come to congregate or should. Including its own citizens.

Comment edited by RightSaidFred on 2012-12-11 13:02:10

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 09:13:56

Based on what I've seen so far(quotes from Whitehead and his behaviour in council), I think that Ryan has been too lenient here.

Mr Whitehead needs to read all of the studies and be ready to discuss them calmly and logically before he opens his mouth again on the matter.

We are not paying him to be hot headed. We are paying him to make informed decisions about the future of our city.

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By SteveatthePMG (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 09:57:31

Whitehead's main argument, "Isn't downtown supposed to be the centre that we all share?" does address an important urban planning issue for me. Assuming that decentralization of Hamilton's shopping & entertainment district historically killed the once vibrant downtown through under-utilization and migration to the outskirts, it's fair to argue that a casino downtown is a move back towards a centralized downtown.

What he forgets is that this new batch of passionate downtown Hamiltonians has saved the downtown from complete ruin. If it wasn't for their pushing and prodding, the downtown would continue to deteriorate and we wouldn't even be talking about a casino. So - if their vision of downtown Hamilton doesn't include a casino, Council should respect that and weigh their input accordingly.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 10:27:33

It's hard to know what to say other than Mr. Whitehead puts me in mind of things I read and saw during the U.S. election. Defenders of creationism, Second Amendment protection, global warming denial - all might fit into Mr. Whitehead's approach to decision-making.

After all, why use evidence-based research when you already hold strong opinions and beliefs, no matter how ill-informed they are? Why listen to Chief Medical Officers when you went to a casino once and thought it was OK.

Why read and believe reports that show clearly the impact on neighbourhoods and the families within them when you can simply deny that any neighbourhoods exist in or near the proposed casino?

Why not just speak your mind, no matter what's in it?

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By oh terry (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 10:30:18

Isn't this the same guy who said to kill the backyard chicken bylaw as soon as possible or else people would want cows and goats too?

Isn't this the same guy who said one-way streets are good for neighbourhoods (as long as those neighbourhoods are downtown) but bad for neighbourhoods in his ward?

Isn't this the same guy who didn't want any more money spent downtown because his ward doesn't get subsidies (who paid for those roads and sewers again)?

Isn't this the same guy who voted for the gag law on people making integrity complaints?

Isn't this the same guy who got sued for defamation and lost, costing the city $15,000?

Isn't this the same guy who asked social services to stop sending poor people to his ward to live in because he doesn't want any more of them?

Isn't this the same guy who even other councillors start groaning when he gets up to talk?

Maybe we should cut him some slack. When you talk and talk and talk as much as Whitehead, you're bound to say some dumb things.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 10:54:49

Y'know, it's too bad the Ti-Cats let their domain registration on GoEastMountain.com lapse - that could've been useful.

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By kettal (registered) | Posted December 15, 2012 at 02:06:45 in reply to Comment 83729

what was Mr. Whitehead's position on that issue? Surely he was not in favour of placing an attraction outside of downtown?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 11:06:51

Downtown is also the Center of Governance, Entertainment Conventions, Hotels, Plays, Art Gallery, Festivals etc. These investments were not expended just to service the downtown neighborhoods. It is to establish the downtown as a destination. If this purpose is changing then all Hamiltonians should have a say."

I'll remember that when it's time to pay for LRT. Somehow I doubt he'll sing the same tune about that.

Funny how it works.

No, downtown, you can't have public wi-fi.

No, downtown, you can't have a stadium.

No, downtown, you can't have light rail.

No, downtown, you can't have a Board of Ed building.

But look, we've got a casino for you! Isn't that lovely!? We figured your addiction problems weren't bad enough. We're so thoughtful.

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By help! (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 11:32:10

This city is like a nightmare you never wake up from. How the hell do other cities manage to get things done? What are they doing differently that we're not doing?

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By Evelyn Woodhead (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 12:13:14 in reply to Comment 83731

Electing literates, for one (Rob Ford notwithstanding)

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By 81.5%-87.5% Incumbents (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 12:30:19


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By Ward 8 Casino (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 13:05:23

Why not put it in Ward 8? Say Upper James somewhere or the Rymal Stonechurch area? There is plenty of possibilities and if an area with a commercial district has no neighbourhoods as Mr. Whitehead contends then there should be no problem. Easier to get to, theres highway access, the link... If he wants it so bad he can take it and the neighbourhood problems on directly.

In truth it is not adviseable to have in Hamilton but if the cash grab is that desperate than put it in Flamborough to replace the horse racing. Just because something is a bus/short drive away is not an argument to make it even easier by placing temptation even closer.

Have we not been bled dry enough by our government to have them wave money in our face as a temptation to lose what we have left?

If downtown is developing anything it is an arts and entertainment not gambling and further poverty.

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By JM (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 13:20:45 in reply to Comment 83740

westcliffe mall could use a new anchor tenant...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 13:17:54 in reply to Comment 83740

Let's back up and think about the Stadium debate again - are there any casinos with great highway accessibility and parking in the GTHA? Brantford's is solidly downtown away from the main expressway, as is Fallsview.

There's a real opportunity here to have a casino that could serve the whole GTHA - that could be more convenient than Fallsview for gamblers in St. Catherines and the rest of the Niagara Peninsula, as well as gamblers from Burlington/Oakville/Mississauga.

And let's not forget parking. We've got tons of room for parking along our expressways. The solution is obvious:

Go East Mountain!

Hey Terry, you want to know what "Not a neighborhood" really looks like? How about the place you wanted to put the stadium?

Not a neighborhood

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-12-11 13:21:15

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 13:09:08

Whitehead said downtown is not a neighbourhood. Neighbourhood residents from downtown hoods took offence. Never did any of them say that downtown didn't belong to all citizens, just like every other part of the City belongs to all who live there and who support it through their tax dollars.

This is a red herring. A false argument. What isn't a red herring is a Councillor who is stupid enough to suggest that neighbourhoods are not neighbourhoods, especially when he says it to the people who live there. Do people who live within blocks of McMaster University not consider Mac to be part of their neighbourhood? Can anyone go to Mac? Do all citizens not end up paying for MacMaster to exist since they pay zero property taxes, but all city services are provided to the campus? So what? Who cares? That's not the point of the neighbourhood frustration with Whitehead.At least not from my vantage point as a downtown dweller.

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By mattjelly (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 14:12:36

Residential Density By Ward, 2006 Census

Ward 2006 Census Population Area (ha) Density (pph) (persons/per/hectare) 1 30,080 1,521.3 19.77 2 37,815 662 57.12 3 39,910 1442.1 27.67 4 35,635 1654.7 21.54 5 38,965 2078.1 18.75 6 40,645 1598.5 25.43 7 58,395 1,746.7 33.43 8 48,400 1,738.7 27.84 9 26,695 1,931.5 13.82 10 24,975 1,235.5 20.21 11 25,900 27,404.7 .95 12 31,040 11,002.8 2.82 13 24,695 2,547.4 9.69 14 15,920 41,455.2 .38 15 25,490 1,4892.1 1.71

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 14:15:05

Oops- screwed that up. Here's a graph from planning that shows residential density by ward for the City of Hamilton- to Councillor Whitehead's claim that people do not live in close proximity the commercial area of the downtown.


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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 09:51:43 in reply to Comment 83748

Awsome info Matt well done :)

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 15:55:47 in reply to Comment 83748

Six tracts, 15,000+ residents.

CT 5370049: 2011 Pop’n 2,473 / Density: 5,549
CT 5370065: 2011 Pop’n 3,381 / Density: 2,473

CT 5370048: 2011 Pop’n 1,858 / Density 5,015
CT 5370064: 2011 Pop’n 1,658 / Density 2,901

CT 5370037: 2011 Pop’n 2,464 / Density 7,798

CT 5370036: 2011 Pop’n: 3,243 / Density 9,013

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 14:30:26

Locate it by the highway beach strip and suck the funds of passers by, coming through the city. At least it wont be there to solely suck Hamiltonians dry, raining the profits provice wide.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 20:32:08 in reply to Comment 83750

That's not a terrible location, actually, and not one that I had considered.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 22:19:44 in reply to Comment 83760

Put it at Confederation Park, where the stadium was proposed to go!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2012 at 07:47:02 in reply to Comment 83766

Or on an industrial tract off Burlington Street so that skywayers who currently think "oh there's dirty steel milly hamilton", can instead think "oh there's dirty, steel milly, casino laden hamilton"!

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 13, 2012 at 06:13:48 in reply to Comment 83774

You're not casino-laden with 1 casino there pal

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2012 at 08:41:45 in reply to Comment 83806

It's a joke there pal

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 16:49:21

Well, I have a number of good points, but apparently I can't use words that are likely to be SPAM when I post annonymously...

I wish I knew what those words were so I could revise my post...unfortunately I'm stuck not knowing...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 17:03:07 in reply to Comment 83756

Casino. Create an account and you won't have to worry. But the word is casino. Y'see, spammers like money, and money can be made from gambling, because gambling involves taking money from people. So they like to spam about casinos.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 20:13:04

I find all the comments from Mr Whitehead absurd to say the least, on this issue. So Mr Whitehead has said that gambling is now socially acceptable, yet back in the day so was smoking.

I have lived all over the city, including on the mountain, and I will say that living in one of the downtown neighbours, I have had the opportunity to meet and engage with many, many wonderful people. However living on the mountain was not the same experience in terms of living down in the city.

So no matter where you live in the city, if you are against this gambling joint, please show up at Thursday's action at City Hall, 9:30 am. If people come out in the thousands, it does say something. It would advantageous if people outside the downtown core who show up to wear a sign, saying from which part of the city they do reside.

In solidarity!!

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 21:19:29

I have such a hard time listening to anything Mr Whitehead has to say: I just can't stop looking at that ridiculous wig! If that thing's not a hair piece, then he needs to find a new barber post haste.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2012 at 21:42:34 in reply to Comment 83762

Seriously, I honestly don't care if that helmet-hair is real or not... whatever it is, it's so hideous it distracts me from listening every time he's on camera.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 11, 2012 at 22:27:11

Terry Whitehead is slime IMO, I live downtown and his comments are deserving of censure.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-12-11 22:27:46

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 02:19:55

While I disagree with the idea that downtown is not a neighbourhood, Terry makes a good point in that downtown must serve the needs of the whole city. That's something we can all agree on. I often make the point that it's in everyone's interest to have a well performing downtown. At least we can agree on that. The real issue here isn't the semantics of whether someone considers downtown a neighbourhood, but the importance of residential within that downtown to its success.

I wrote the following to Terry Whitehead:

Hi Terry, I'm an active and engaged citizen and business owner in downtown Hamilton and I'd like to address some of your recent comments regarding the purpose of our downtown core.

You said that the downtown must serve the needs of the whole city, in terms of commercial uses, employment and entertainment, to which I agree. It is in the interest of all of greater Hamilton to have a successful downtown, especially for those who work there or enjoy its restaurants and entertainment facilities.

What I think you are missing is the importance of a strong residential component to downtown development. Not only can residential coexist with commercial and entertainment uses, it is vitally important to the success of those amenities which the rest of the city also enjoys. Any downtown has historically been mixed use, from the apartments above storefronts to the condo towers of recent times. This serves an important role in downtown life - to economically support various businesses outside of business hours, and to provide safety by means of more eyes on the street.

In a successful downtown, real estate values are above average as people will pay a premium for the advantages of proximity and walkability. Thus, in addition to higher taxes being paid by commercial property owners, downtown residential development performs better economically per unit area than its suburban equivalent.

Safety is also less of an issue in a diverse and healthy downtown as there are more people keeping watch. The residents feel a sense of ownership and crimes are more likely to be reported. On the other hand, if there are few residents, the streets will be empty after 6pm. People will feel much safer walking back to their car if the streets are alive and lights are on in the buildings. The perception of safety is a large factor in whether people will visit downtown.

These facts have long been known to Hamilton planners and councillors, and that is why our Council mandated planning guidelines have been crafted to encourage and incentivize residential development both within the central business district and the surrounding neighbourhoods. Millions of dollars have been allocated to the downtown residential loans program to make the inner city more palatable to developers. The Downtown Transportation Master Plan, 'Putting People First', emphasizes the importance of livability in transportation planning. The Urban Official Plan stresses the importance of quality residential neighbourhoods.

I live in the Central neighbourhood of Ward 2, and my street has been featured in one of the many national newspaper articles documenting the growing appeal of Hamilton amongst more affluent GTHA communities. We enjoy being within walking distance to all downtown has to offer, such as the Farmers Market, Hamilton Place and Copps Coliseum. Facilities such as those of course help downtown serve the needs of the entire city, but also increase the desirability of downtown living.

Many residents and business owners downtown feel that a casino, unlike a hockey arena, theatre or office building, will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of residents downtown, and by extension, on the vitality of other existing amenities here which serve not only our neighbourhoods, but the entire city.

Thank you for reading, and I hope I've been able to better explain the concerns of those living in and around downtown.

Sincerely, Jonathan Dalton

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2012 at 07:55:57 in reply to Comment 83769

This is bang on. Thanks!

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 07:24:11

I wrote to Terry Whitehead and received his dismissive canned response. To which I responded with the question, "If a casino makes my real estate value decline, then the taxes I pay to the City decline also. Studies have shown that casinos in urban areas have an adverse effect on property values. How will this downward spiral help the city?"

He wants me to tell him about these studies. Isn't there a subcommittee to do that???

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2012 at 13:17:22 in reply to Comment 83772

If anybody has such a study handy, probably the correct person to send it to would be the Vraniches.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 13:44:20 in reply to Comment 83789

Omg not Vraniches .. im tierd of seeing plaster building going up .. brike and mortor like the lister block

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2012 at 13:45:37 in reply to Comment 83790

Well, my point is that they've invested a lot of money downtown, have the ear (and possibly other body parts) of council, and probably would not like to see a casino damaging their investments.

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By Peripheral (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 07:52:25

Comin' down the mountain
One of many children
Everybody has
Their own opinion
Everybody has
Their own opinion
Holding it back
It hurts so bad
Jumping out of my flesh
And I said.... cash in!

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 08:17:20

According to this article titled "Full force for second Lister phase" by Andrew Dreschel in today's Hamilton Spectator, LIUNA is moving ahead with its plans to design and build a residential tower behind the Lister building. A commercial building fronting James Street North will also be constructed. http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

One hopes that the people who will purchase and live in the condo units of the residential tower will be encouraged to view the downtown as a neighbourhood.

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By Over/Under (anonymous) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 08:26:09 in reply to Comment 83779

"As per discussions with LIUNA, their intentions are to construct a development adjacent to the Lister Block containing approximately 100 rental retirement home units and 100 condominium units for seniors (“Adjacent Development”)."


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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 12:12:50

Frankly I have a hard time believing any councillor would make such statements without ulterior motives. Where is the other shoe and what will it be full of when it drops?

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 22:24:11

I am coming to the conclusion that cities are politically, culturally, ecologically, and economically crippled by suburban and exurban politicians. To thrive, urban cores must be freed of the suburbs.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted December 12, 2012 at 23:23:49

Bring on the Royal Connaught Casino

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By Choice Metaphor (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2012 at 10:58:16 in reply to Comment 83804


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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 13, 2012 at 08:25:26

There are two articles by Samantha Craggs on the CBC Hamilton website today about the Hamilton casino issue:

"Hamilton small businesses say no to downtown casino" http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/20...

"Ancaster ministers warn against downtown Hamilton casino" http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/20...

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