Cal Difalco, the publisher of thehamiltonian.net has a series of blog postings in which he asks people living in Hamilton to answer what he labels as "10 Tough Questions. When he asked me to respond, I received his permission to ask myself my own questions. It was a bit of fun at the end of the year to be asked to deliver all my old sermons in one lump. By publishing them here I can imitate the group of inmates in a penitentiary somewhere who labelled all their old stale jokes by number. That way one could tell a joke simply by saying "22" or "13". Now whenever I`m tempted to preach on something about Hamilton I can just say "Question 1, Answer 4." and get on with real life. Here goes:
Question 1. Can you name 10 major current
Number One With A Bullet: Louise Dompierre's magnificent revival of
Number Two with a Bullet: Max Reimer who as Managing Artistic Director from 1996 to 2006 took Peter Mandia's foundations and made Theatre Aquarius flourish, eliminating its debt with an unbroken string of operating surpluses, record ticket sales, increased Arts Council support based on excellence as assessed by peers, and winning a Lieutenant Governor's Award for Business Excellence in the Arts and an Outstanding Business Achievement Award from the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
Three: Tom Beckett's and Ben Vandenberg's Hamilton Conservation Authority which preserved the waterfalls, forests, fields, and beaches that make up the principal natural resource attractions that bring talented people here. The current Authority seems to have meandered into a somnabulent state but that may be because the big job was done years ago.
Four: The unattached duo of Dave Braley and Don Fell who quietly and consistently took modest family assets and built hugely successful private companies with real jobs in
Five: The Sisters of St. Joseph who have found it in their souls to move ahead of the times and turn a parochial institution into a health resource that shows at nearly every bed and desk that healing involves people helping people.
Six: Don McLean and the volunteers at CATCH, who have heroically filled in the gap left by curtailed local media budgets and kept an window open onto City Hall. I wish I had their stamina and perserverance.
Seven: The move
Eight: The local risk takers who managed to build our great inventory of loft condo conversions, like the Bell Canada building on
Nine: The lunatic who thought first that
Question 2: Can you list 10 particularly impressive failures in this City:
One with a bullet:
founders would leave
Number Two: Our inability to clean house by failing to elect
Number Three: And subject to whether or not
Number Five: And because they can't even do that right, the abysmal condition of
Number Six: The Ferguson Avenue Boondogle, from the
Number Seven: The continuation of the Cannon-Wilson Expressway which has simply ruined neighbourhood after neighbourhood with not so much as bandaid offered in comfort or consolation.
Number Eight: The use of the
Number Nine: Thinking that
Number Ten: HECFI, even allowing for difficulties caused by the Canadian dollars fluctuation, the three buildings should have been given to an entrepreneur years ago. If the outsides looked as bad as the financial results of the insides, Property Standards would have issued a demolition order long ago. The problem is they look too nice so we think they are successful. They are an embarassment. The whole damn package.
Number ten plus one: (Because it has to be said) Actually not a failure, since it was done deliberately, but the pile of bricks on the corner of Barton and Wellington Street called the Hamilton General Hospital which demonstrates that with real skill, you can indeed construct a building that is ugly, intimidating, discouraging, friendless, boring, harmful to the human spirit and remote from any concept of healing.
Question Three: What do you think
One: Strictly adhere to the mission statement unanimously approved by Council in 2008: Judge all our actions by four principles: Make
Two: Change the system so that any expenditure over one million dollars has to be approved by vote of the citizens.
Three: Give all the communities who want to opt out of the City, the right to do so. (And I am a strong supporter of a unified centralized government and the elimination of regional government. But what we have currently is simply not accessible to any resident without deep pockets.)
Four: Take a three year holiday from municipal consultants and hire department staff and department heads who are personally qualified in the area of expertise that they administer. We have been hiring and promoting on abstract management skills rather than on hard technical skills. The consultants love it.
Six: Give municipal awards every year based solely on the number of jobs created by the recipient.
Seven: Triple our municipal spending on the visual and performance arts. No better still, spend ten times as much. We are talking about the heart of a community here.
Nine: Get the Waterfront Trust back to the Waterfront, which for the unitiated, lies just east of the QEW. If they don't our real waterfront will be nothing more than a 12k jogging trail in two or three years.
Ten: Think about the proposition that with every ten thousand people in growth in this City, we have regressed in quality of life. More people now leave
And Ten plus one: because again I can't resist: Convert the repaired City Hall to condo's and leave the City Staff where we can see them, thus eliminating the ivory tower complex for once and for all.
Question Four: Is there one problem at the heart of all the failures?
Answer: For sure. There is a clear sense in City Hall that by preaching we are missing something, or failing in comparison to some other city, or that there is some dream we are missing, the denizens of the City will respect our leaders because they seem to be working a variety of dreams to make big changes. In fact those dreams rarely make any real difference. Change comes in tiny steps, at the margin of where we are today. Building strong neighbourhoods, really tough parent councils, aggressive business groups, non-governmental agencies with strong Boards of directors, in other words, starting at the block and building up rather than in the sky and building down. Things like the Pan-Am games are sort of silly, probably not too harmful, and their impact is in the window-dressing rather than the substance which disappears when the show closes. We showed strong comunitiy building really well with the Vision 20/20 exercise which was promptly put on the shelf by every councilor and bureaucrat because, well because it started at the grass roots and built up and interfered with the dreams and the fantasies.
Question Five: Any other quick fixes?
Yup. Set term limits for Council and reduce the current City staff by some significant percentage, say 38.3%.
Question Six: Any forecasts:
Question Seven: What's going to happen at City Hall?
Zip. Nothing. Da Nada. Every Councillor who stands for re-election
will be re-elected.
Question Eight: Why are you this grumpy?
Because when you get this old, and remember when
Question Nine: Do you think anyone is still reading these questions?
Not a chance.
Question Ten: Any other questions?
Yup: Who is
ps. Any list of Hamilton successes and failures should include the fabulous job that was done to create Bayfront Park and Pier 4 Park, unique, functional, places of repose, solitude and natural connections in the heart of the City which are constantly threatened, as are all Hamilton open space by Councillors and engineers with an ingrained appetite to put cement and steel and bricks on any urban green space.