Comment 33464

By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 14, 2009 at 14:24:09

If you plop hundreds more poor people downtown you're just not going to get the sort of urban environment that most people who post on this site tacitly yearn for - i.e. the yuppie-friendly, arts centric, boutique, cafe and condo filled core that you'll find in places like Portland or Seattle. It's as simple as that.

Don't get me wrong - there's absolutely nothing wrong with that sort of urban environment. In fact, I wish Hamilton's was something more like that. I've been working for four years in a downtown law firm. My wife is a resident at Mac. Would we even consider living downtown? Not a chance, even despite the obvious plethora of benefits associated with living in close proximity to one's workplace. Instead, we live in a condo in Burlington and drive in everyday.

It's not because there's anything physically or culturally wrong with Hamilton. Environmentally and architecturally Hamilton is a beautiful city with a tremendously proud history. But, to put it simply, the downtown denizens are not of a type that I would feel comfortable raising a family around. Nor, to be honest, are they of a type that I want to be around myself. I spent eight years in post-secondary education to get to where I am today. When I think about it honestly, I have to confess that I want to live amongst people who have similar education levels, similar incomes, similar tastes, interests, and life experiences (it doesn't mean that I want to live in a gated community; it just means that I want to have enough of these people around so that I don't feel marginalized myself). With all due respect to the downtown's current denizens, I can't relate to them, and I doubt if they can relate to me. Sure that's snobbery - I won't deny it. But it's also something so deeply engrained in human societies that it can't possibly be engineered out.

The whole issue with Hamilton, particularly with respect to its downtown, really is a class issue - the city has lost it's socio-economic equilibrium. Most people on here probably want a downtown catering to the well-off or moderately well-off (shall we say "the respectable"). What you've got now is a downtown built almost entirely around the needs of the mentally ill, the disabled, those with substance abuse problems, the indigent elderly, etc. - in other words, the underclasses. It is an unsavoury and somewhat guilt-inducing thought to be sure, but the truth of the matter is that no one wants to live amongst these people - even what's left of the traditional working classes in Hamilton have decamped almost entirely to the mountain and the suburbs. Of course every city must have its underclasses. You can't live in Manhattan, or central London, or downtown Toronto without coming into contact with members of the underclasses on a daily basis. But to be surrounded by them, to be so overwhelmingly outnumbered by them as one is in Hamilton is an entirely different matter.

It all comes down to the simple irrefutable truth that middle and upper middle income people won't live or even spend time downtown unless there are lots of other middle and upper middle income people there too. Preach and pontificate all you want on the issue of social justice - you just can't overcome this fact.

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