The wonderful enthusiasm of Hamiltonians is at risk of being smothered by City Hall's tedious infighting, chronic delays, and partisanship. With the municipal election rapidly approaching, Hamiltonians have an opportunity to change that.
By Marie Robbins
Published September 24, 2014
As avid followers of municipal affairs are no doubt aware, our municipal discourse has turned toxic.
Those who are 'for' one-way streets are completely unable to reach common ground with those who are against, and visa versa. The pro-light rail transit (LRT) camp and the anti-LRT camp are barely on speaking terms, and hardline stances have taken hold across a variety of other city issues such as: the casino, (de)amalgamation, the stadium, or Bob Bratina's censorship, to name a few.
We have effectively substituted healthy debates on issues and policies for nit-picky critiques of other people's stances. Nobody is to blame for bringing us here. In fact, pointing fingers is a big part of the problem. But with our City at the brink of something very big, we will to move past these foul points of contention if we hope to get the important things done.
LRT is a good case in point. Is LRT the penultimate transit system perfectly tailored to the character and needs of Hamilton? No, it is not. Is BRT the flawless transit system we have all been waiting for? No, not either.
Most careful and thoughtful studies of transit avoid entirely the question of which system is better than the other, because it is an impossible question to answer and an unconstructive question to ask.
There is seldom an indisputably 'best' alternative. Those who claim otherwise in spite of important contextual nuances and the impossibility of perfectly predicting the future are not giving the issue careful thought, they are shouting the slogans of their favourite team.
We instead need councillors who are willing to give impartial and cool-headed analysis of what course of action will be best for the city and their constituents.
In the case of LRT, the opportunity the provincial government has made available right now does not include a BRT alternative and so we can't be restarting the 2010 debate on whether BRT or LRT is better for us. Especially not at this moment when our options are effectively: LRT with funding, or no LRT with no funding.
Between these choices, I think it is quite clear that accepting the provincial transit investment in our City is the most sensible option available to decision-makers.
Hamilton has been patiently waiting for its turn to receive a modern high-density transit system, and is currently the only city of Canada's ten largest cities to be without one, having rejected a fully funded monorail project nearly 30 years ago (and having regretted it ever since).
Now is the time to get building and to continue moving through the laundry list of items that need to be accomplished in order to bring Hamilton up to snuff with its peer cities in Canada.
Although I am strongly against feeding the trolls of unhealthy debate, there is a time and place everything, including for incendiary debate at Hamilton City Hall. While at times exacerbating, this is the hallmark of our democratic process and I am glad to see it occur.
However, we cannot afford to mistake endless combative debate for a truly constructive free-marketplace of ideas, or to mistake impassioned discussion for timely action. At some point, we need to close the book on the issue of the day and move on to the next item of city-building, or we will find ourselves running in place.
For a city with so much potential and so many opportunities awaiting our engagement, Hamilton, of all places, should be particularly sensitive to staying on track and how much we can accomplish with a steady hand and sustained effort.
This is going to require councillors and citizens who are brave enough to occasionally concede their points of contention with others, once the time for discussion is replaced by the time to act.
Our City will accomplish much more without representatives that habitually succumb to the temptation of reviving dead (or non-relevant) issues to win support from parochial interests. There is far too much to be done for us to keep looking backward like this; we must be keeping our eye on the prize.
Hamilton's development is now approaching a critical juncture. Private investment is flooding-in, public investment is (or should be) just around the corner, enthusiasm about Hamilton is possibly at its highest point ever with 150,000 people attending Supercrawl and many others wearing "Hamilton: It's Happening" T-shirts and the like.
The city is bursting at the seams with raw energy and a newfound sense of destiny as 'The Ambitious City' that is waiting to be tapped, directed and encouraged by budding leaders. Sadly, some of our municipal representation is holding us back from the quality of life we deserve.
The wonderful enthusiasm of Hamiltonians is at risk of being smothered by City Hall's tedious infighting, chronic delays, and partisanship. With the municipal election on October 27 rapidly approaching, Hamiltonians are being giving an opportunity to change all that, by voting in a city council that has the courage and vision. We need to keep looking forward or we risk losing this fantastic momentum forever.
Raise the Hammer has an open call to candidates for the upcoming municipal election to submit opinion articles for publication. We will publish any submission that meets our submission guidelines.
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