The Spectator caps a week of articles promoting sustainable urban revitalization with a Friday edition chock-full of Hammer Love that rides a welcome wave of sensible Council decisions.
After a vacation-depleted Council voted in July to reject the Downtown Transportation Master Plan Five Year Review on the basis of opposition to planned two-way street conversions, they reversed that decision yesterday and endorsed the plan, conversions included.
Even West Mountain Councillor Terry Whitehead, who had made a monthlong campaign out of opposing two-way conversion, came around yesterday and decided "to support it cautiously."
Kudos to Councillor Whitehead for demonstrating a willingness to change his mind when confronted with new information.
Today's Spec editorial applauded the decision, pointing out that the city needs to balance the needs of through motorists with the needs of local residents.
This came after a Wednesday article by Rob Faulkner highlighted the issue in anticipation of Thursday's council vote. (Shameless self-promotion: yours truly was quoted as part of the article.)
Council made a similar reversal after previously rejecting a staff proposal to review area rating, the city's practice of charging variable tax rates for certain services - including transit, fire, and recreation facilities - depending on geographic location.
Downtown residents pay the highest tax rates for these, while suburban residents pay much lower - in some case, five times lower - rates on their property tax bills. Not surprisingly, council is split between urban councillors who want to amend or end it and suburban councillors who want it to continue.
A staff report argued that it's unfair for some residents to pay more for public services that all residents are equally entitled to access.
After a mealy-mouthed debate on Wednesday, Council decided in a committee of the whole meeting not to touch area rating until after the next municipal election in 2010.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who previously claimed that area rating is "too divisive" to change, defended his opposition to the staff recommendation on Tuesday by saying, "Harmony overrides fairness."
However, they had a change of heart yesterday, and voted unanimously to fix the system before the next election. Councillor Tom Jackson called the decision "a turning point".
Spec columnist Andrew Dreschel called area rating an "unfair and illogical system" in a column today that credited Ward 7 Councillor Scott Duvall for "getting Hamilton councillors to accept a deadline" instead of sloughing it off for the indefinite future.
The week started on a roll with Faulkner's great front-page article on bicycle commuters.
That generated the predictable stream of vitriol from unrepentant automobile exceptionalists but also a supportive editorial by Lee Prokaska and a follow-up segment today compiling pro-cycling letters from residents struggling with the city's patchwork of cycling infrastructure.
Finally, after considerable pressure from advocates for the poor and vulnerable, the city is launching a pilot project to open cooling centres sooner during hot spells (of which the city has had scarcely any this wet summer).
The city will now open two cooling centres - the Good Shepherd Family Centre on Wentworth St. S. and the Sackvill Hill Seniors Centre on Upper Wentworth - and extend evening hours at municipal pools after two days with a humidex of 40+ or one day with a humidex of 45+.
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