An Eyebrow-Raising Reaction to Proven Ideas

By Jason Leach
Published July 24, 2013

An article in today's Spectator about the participatory budgeting vote planned for Ward 2 included a bizarre line.

So far, 150 residents from eight neighbourhood groups have combined to pitch 56 possible projects, visible at, with a shortlist to be voted on Aug. 24 and 25.

Suggestions range from improvements that rank low on the city's global to-do list, such as new crosswalks, to eyebrow-raisers like an outdoor brick oven in Beasley Park or community-use pianos.

The article refers to the proposed Beasley Park outdoor pizza ovens as an "eyebrow-raiser".

Really? Heck, you only have to drive an hour down the QEW to Toronto to find a public park that has had two outdoor ovens for almost 20 years.

Here's what the Dufferin Park coordinators have to say about their outdoor ovens:

When we first put out feelers in 1995 to see if anything would stop us from building a communal wood-fired oven, we found to our amazement that there was nothing to stop us.

The building inspector said the oven was too small to come under his jurisdiction. (He also looked at the oven plan diagrams and told us he had once been a bricklayer, and that he thought, personally, that our plans looked good.)

The park supervisor said he didn't see anything wrong with our oven plans, and then he went away on holidays. The fire department said they had no problem with an enclosed fire set some distance away from any other building.

A government agency that had given us a small "child nutrition grant" said that fresh bread from an oven sounded nutritious to them, so we could use some of the grant to pay for the oven materials.

A friendly and capable contractor in the neighbourhood looked at our plans and said, sure, he was busy in the week but he could get our oven built in a couple of weekends. So with nothing to stop the oven, we went ahead and built it.

What's eyebrow-raising is that in 2013, ideas that were already in operation decades ago in other cities can still be considered eyebrow-raising in Hamilton.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By Sara (registered) | Posted July 24, 2013 at 15:11:48

Thank you Jason. This was exactly my reaction. I tweeted with Matt Van Dongen, the reporter to gently chastise him. This participatory budgeting hapening in Ward 2 is totally under the media's radar, and I'm very glad to see it finally covered. It's probably the largest participatory budgeting exercise in Canadian history.

I really felt like the eyebrow comment was written with the Spec's older readership in mind. But to attract younger readers, Spec reporters should adopt a more open-minded writing style for things that have not come to Hamilton yet.

Comment edited by Sara on 2013-07-24 15:14:47

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By Sara (registered) | Posted July 24, 2013 at 15:16:56

Here's a great link with more info about public ovens in Canada:

There's actually almost 10 in Toronto now.

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted July 24, 2013 at 15:17:30

The oven is a project our community worked on for the past couple of years. Further, "eyebrow-raiser" is an opinion - not fit for a news article.

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By movedtohamilton (registered) | Posted July 24, 2013 at 15:37:15

"Brick ovens in Hamilton? For people to use? You must be insane! Think of the liability! Someone might get heartburn from the quattro formaggio con salume pizza and sue the city! Think of the children, who might eat well and have fun! Never!"

The above message is brought to you by Fortress Hamilton, where all good ideas are stomped on...until FH proposes it.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted July 24, 2013 at 20:03:59

Wow... my eyebrows went up and down so much I have a headache. ;-)

Lots of gardens and beautification ideas, as well as pedestrian-oriented projects and a few social projects. I wonder if the most bang for the buck would come from funding a lot of smaller items instead of a few larger ones?

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By wcj (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2013 at 20:59:46

When does participatory budgeting get to the largest ward in the city, the seventh?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2013 at 09:26:49 in reply to Comment 90436

Alright, you and I, let's get on Councillor Duval about that.

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By wcj (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2013 at 15:45:03 in reply to Comment 90446

I'll e-mail him. Should we get an area-wide petition going?

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted July 24, 2013 at 21:23:57 in reply to Comment 90436

Ask your Councillor to use participatory budgeting to decide how to spend the area weighting money. Ask him what he is spending it on now ...

Ward 2 has participatory budgeting because Councillor Farr thought it would be a great way to decide how to spend the area weighting infrastructure money. Ward 1 had a similar (although less participatory) process to decide how to spend their money. There is no reason the other wards receiving this money couldn't use participatory budgeting to help them decide how to spend it.

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By wcj (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2013 at 15:48:46 in reply to Comment 90437

I have a .pdf of the projects on current Ward 7 area rating funded projects, but I'll bring to the councillor's attention the possibility of participatory budgeting. I'll be speaking with Mr Norman Kearney, of, tomorrow afternoon about Ward 2's process, so that'll definitely help. As it's the largest ward in the city, it probably has the lion's share of area weighting monies, though it may not, by property value, be the wealthiest.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted July 25, 2013 at 12:23:39

Isn't this a bit of an over-reaction to said "eyebrow-raising reaction" to said "eyebrow-raising idea"? And anyways, if you choose to read that line in a negative tone, that's your business. If you think this is Typical Hamilton Squelching (TM Ryan McGreal), okay. But I honestly passed right over it the first time I read it. They are ideas that stand out, hence "eyebrow-raising". Not every word needs to be dissected. Next time the author of the original piece might not even bother mentioning the more interesting ideas because he can't win for losing. If he didn't mention it, he'd get yelled at for not mentioning them. When he does, because he threw in a line for flair, he gets yelled at. Everyone just Keep Calm and Carry On.

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted July 27, 2013 at 13:03:48 in reply to Comment 90459

I agree with you, Matthew. But expect a lot of Spec articles to be dissected word-for-word to show the Spec is uncool and not fit for progressive-minded people (due to blowback re: the paywall). I think Matt VanDongen was trying to pick a more compelling adjective than "interesting".

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By race_to_the_bottom (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2013 at 13:08:50 in reply to Comment 90516

Or maybe a lot of us are just tired of being condescended to by grumpy old men. Witness today's editorial, "So, why not start down the road of legalization? Because a significant part of the population is dead set against it. They are older Canadians, more likely to vote, and unlikely to be ignored." Now GET OFF MY LAWN.

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By Mr. R. U. Biased (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2013 at 06:23:04

" eye brow raising in Hamilton " sorry Jason but it was the Spec that raised an eye brow or two and not Hamilton

careful your penchant for skewing is showing

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