Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How do you solve a problem like Chedoke?

I read in The Spec and on the CBC in the last couple of days that Hamilton has to look into how it can make it's public golf courses more profitable.

I don't much about King's Forest but I spent years walking through Chedoke on my way to meet up with friends in Westdale from my parent's home on the West Mountain.  I vividly remember the ski hill and going down it on toboggans in the winter.  I understand why the ski hill ended up shutting down and how much it sucked for the people who used it.

Well here is the kernel for my idea on what should be done at Chedoke Park:

That's right, I think that Chedoke should be developed into a proper tubing park.  I would also suggest a zip line since we have the magnificent Niagara Escarpment to use. This is something that I have though of for years but seeing Chicopee develop it in Kitchener has solidified it for me. Gosh why not throw in a Gondola for the heck of it as well!

I agree that the clubhouse is a wasted opportunity for golf but it would be awesome for apres tubing hot chocolate if it was updated. Lighting that area up at night and doing some night tubing would be a great opportunity.  A quick look at Chicopee shows that they do tubing in the summer as well using some special plastics.

I think that the worst thing that could happen would be sell that area off to developers.  What a tragic loss of publicly owned greenspace.

So what do you think Hamilton? I think that this would be awesome!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yesterday my family lost someone incredibly to us. My Wife's Grandmother, my children's Great-Grandmother Muriel passed away. She would have been 94 in June.

I was asked if there was anything I wanted to say or reminisce about at her service. I declined because I don't think that I could put into a succinct speech how important she was to my family and I.

I would have had to thank her for so many things. Thank her for giving Andrea and I the furniture for our very first apartment. It just happened that she was downsizing as we had decided to move out on our own and our apartment ended up being outfitted with her dining and living room furniture. Without that we would have been hard pressed to afford to purchase all of those things.

Thank you for offering me your car when you stopped driving. I could never have afforded to purchase one myself at the time and it reduced my commute to work for a time from an hour to about 15 minutes. That was extra time I could spend with my new son and was invaluable.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me on the long drives from Kincardine when I would go up and get you for visits down in Dundas. I was always struck with how vividly you remembered your childhood and early years. I will never forget you telling me about your first train ride to Toronto or your Father hitching the horses to the sled in the Winter to take you places. We have lost a touchstone to our past.

Thank you for being my Euchre partner. I cannot begin to explain how much I learned about that game from you. I am thankful that 2 years ago I told you that probably the most content I have ever been was at the old kitchen table in the cottage playing Euchre with you. I want to apologize for being such an atrocious partner and cannot fathom how we were still able to pull off wins against Andrea and Shirley when you were so badly handicapped by me. I must admit it is a bit off putting to be given the gears or hear smack talk about how poorly you play by a 90 year old. I promise to continue trying to improve my game.

Thank you for being a remarkable Great Grandmother to our boys. They know how to play Dominoes and Crazy Eights because of the patience you had to teach them. It is incredibly heartwarming to watch a 4 year old sitting at a small table with his Great Grandma learning to play a game. You were always amazing with our kids and never had a cross word to say to any of them even though they deserved it sometimes. They are better for having known you and you will be missed by all three of them terribly. Declan told us yesterday that it won't be the same up in Kincardine without you. He is right.

Thank you for raising such an amazing family. I see in Shirley and Brenda two of the kindest most giving people that I have ever met. The unconditional love that they show their family is a reflection of where they came from.

When I sat in the hospital with you last week and held your hand I hope you felt it. I hope that you knew that you weren't alone and that those who love you were there with you. You have been in our thoughts constantly and will always be a presence in our lives. I am fortunate to have known you and feel lucky to have been able to spend as much time as I did with you over the last decade.

Thank you for holding on as long as you did. Your strength was remarkable and the grace with which you held yourself, though you must have been in constant pain, is inspiring. As we take the next week to gather our thoughts and prepare to say goodbye this last time all I can say is Thank You.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gimme Shelter

About 3:00am Sunday morning I was returning home from a gig in Grimsby.  Driving into Dundas I came up on the bus stop that I use every day on my way to work at the corner of South Street and Ogilvie.  One of the panes of glass was shattered into a million pieces.  I thought to myself that it sucks and seems to happen much more than it should throughout the City of Hamilton and honestly didn't think much more of it.

By Sunday night someone had swept the glass into the bus shelter and placed a couple of pylons around it.  A note was placed by someone on the shelter indicating that the HSR was aware of the issue.  I was surprised that it was still in that shape and disappointed that the no one had swept the glass into a container and removed but I figured it was the weekend and maybe the City had a rash of these that they were working on.

By Monday morning when I had to walk to the bus stop it was evident that nothing was being done about the mess.  I took a picture and uploaded it to twitter, tagged my Councillor and the City of Hamilton.  Until the writing of this I have had no reply from either account acknowledging the issue.

In the age of social media that in and of itself is shocking.  This is the perfect example of the Hamilton Street Railway needing a social media presence.  A social media manager would have picked up the tweet and been able to advise of what was being done to fix the issue.

I have been advised from a friend who is a bus driver that the HSR doesn't have anything to do with the shelters and that it is a City issue.  If that is the case I wonder if a single bus driver reported to anyone that the glass was shattered or if they are even required to do so.  If not then what does it say about the state of the transit system in this City?

It may seem like such a small thing but I honestly think that this is a symptom of the overall sickness that is pervasive in the Hamilton Street Railway and the way that it has been mismanaged and underfunded for the past 20 years.  I think that it is also indicative of how poorly this City is being run currently.

The fact that as of Wednesday night glass has been sitting in the shelter for at least 4 days is unacceptable to say the least.  The fact that the bus lane was removed on the say of Councillors who have little to no skin in the game is appalling.  The fact that Council has muddied the water of the LRT ask by including a request for an additional $300 Million dollars, with almost all of that money going to a garage that costs more than Tim Horton's Field or replacement for Copps Coliseum, is insane.

When are we going to say enough is enough?  When are we going to hold the decision makers to task about how poorly they have handled the transit file and continue to ruin the transit system in this City?  It may be one pane of glass but it truly is a symptom of everything that is going wrong with transit in the City of Hamilton.  I don't see it getting any better anytime soon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Council Puts the ME in Mediocre

This post has been written and deleted a few times in the last week.  I was going to lament the lack of vision that City Council has for Hamilton, I was going to decry the lack of decorum among certain members of our Council in the face of withering criticism online and I was going to outline all of the reasons that I decided to move my family away from downtown Hamilton after being there for over 10 years.

If I did all of that this would be an incredibly long post and I am convinced I would just delete it again halfway through due to how much anger it evokes.

I will, however, start with something the City of Hamilton primarily got right.  The reason I start with it is that it coincides closely with my decision to move downtown originally.  It was the World Cycling Championships.  Never have I been prouder to be from Hamilton.  It was the first time I ever felt that people outside of this City got to see it for it was:  A gorgeous canopy of green at the head of Lake Ontario.  The live TV shots of the Queen Street Hill were stunning; the bikes flying down James Mountain Road were terrifying.

This was my City as I saw it and the rest of the World got to enjoy it along with me.  How incredibly exciting.  I lived on Bay Street South at the time and had to get a special parking pass that would allow us to park outside of the race zones.  I had to walk 3 blocks to get to the car over Thanksgiving weekend because if we parked in the zone we weren't allowed to leave.

Who cared?  I sure didn't.  The City had got it right and I was living in the middle of the most urban experience you could have.  I loved being downtown at that time.

Fast forward a few years and my wife and I decided to buy our first house.  We were priced out of Durand and Kirkendall but were able to find a lovely Worker's cottage in Strathcona that retained all the original workmanship with a few modifications to allow for plumbing and electricity.  When I stepped out on my porch and looked left I had a view of Dundurn Castle every day which you really can't beat.

I had bought into a walkable, easy to negotiate neighbourhood.  We were within walking distance to most of our needs and I eventually began working at Bay and King so I could be at work in 15 minutes if I walked briskly.  The neighbourhood could have been considered "up and coming" because we had a mix of low income families, newcomers and elder neighbours but when we took the kids to Victoria Park playground none of it mattered.  The kids played together and everyone enjoyed what the neighbourhood offered.

During our time on Dundurn I was able to participate in the Truck Off campaign and enjoyed the removal of Dundurn Street from the Master Truck Route.  The change in quality of life was immediate.  Our house used to rumble from the trucks going down the street.  I would not say it was quiet by any means but it was much more manageable.

Over time I became more attuned to what was happening at Council.  I was always disturbed to hear about efforts to keep things at the status quo.  I was excited to hear about plans to modernize the streets and convert them back to two-way.  The idea of livable, walkable streets was exactly what we were looking for.

I was excited for the bicycle lane to be implemented on Dundurn.  The sidewalks are so tiny that having that extra buffer between you and traffic was a godsend.  It also removed an unnecessary lane and slowed traffic down.  Everyone talked about how terrible it would be for traffic and there were serious concerns that it would not go through.  I honestly believe that without Brian McHattie's leadership on that file it would not have happened.

During all this good I was dismayed to watch the City go through the Pan-Am Stadium process.  It was easily one of the most infuriating things I have experienced as a spectator to Municipal politics and processes.  To this day I am baffled at how we allowed a sports team to dictate planning and policy when they would only be using the stadium for a maximum of 11 dates a year.

Remarkably as of the writing of this the stadium is now not anticipated to be complete until at least February 2015 when it was supposed to be done in June of 2014 and the professional soccer team that was supposed to be negotiated to play in Hamilton as part of the underhanded deal for the stadium site is nowhere to be seen.  No one on city Council is being held accountable for any of this and that is mind-blowing.

I watched from my office as the City allowed the Board of Education to walk away from the Downtown and sell land that was GIVEN to them by Hamilton.  How did this happen?!?!  It was supposed to be given to the Board for them to use in perpetuity for the Education Centre.  At the least it should have reverted back to the City when they deemed it no longer necessary.  Instead I watched that beautiful building be tore down.  The new Education Centre is in the middle of a neighbourhood off of local transit lines on the East Mountain.  How is this responsible leadership?

The straw that broke my back was when I contacted Brian McHattie's office to see about having the cross walk that was right in front of my house on Dundurn repainted as it had slowly eroded over the years.

Imagine my shock when I was told that the City was no longer replacing the painted lines for fear of litigation from people being hit by a car crossing the road.

Imagine the thought process that brings you to the conclusion that it is safer to not repaint those lines. I hope that the few people who actually read this find it impossible to come around to that rationale.

My love affair with living downtown underwent a death by a million paper cuts.  There were so many instances where City Council just didn't get it and my patience with the renaissance that I believed downtown was going to have had run out.  After long discussions with my Wife we decided it was time to move our family out of downtown Hamilton.  We listed our home and said goodbye.  Dundas was to become our new community.

During our time in Dundas I have continued to wave the flag for downtown.  I believe strongly that it needs to be healthy for the rest of this City to thrive.  To that end there are various things that need to be done to create that health.  I firmly believe that Rapid Transit in the form of LRT is an absolute necessity.

I take the bus daily and applauded the introduction of a Transit Only Lane (TOL) through the Core.  One of the real struggles that I had before that lane was that buses were rarely reliable.  I always had a real problem estimating when I needed to be at my stop because there was no consistent schedule.  The TOL brought schedule reliability to the 10,1, 5 and the 52 which was amazing.

This week in their infinite wisdom, despite overwhelming support by transit riders, facts, figures, support from the HSR Director, City Staff reports and the fact that we are going to need a transit only lane during the PAN-AM games Council killed the TOL.  If at any time I had waffled on my decision to move out of downtown this is the sort of decision that just verified that I did the right thing.

It really is heartbreaking to see Council so unmovable amidst so much proof against their opinion.  I cannot stress this enough, Chad Collins, Lloyd Ferguson, Tom Jackson, Scott Duvall, Terry Whitehead, Doug Conley, Arlene VanderBeek, Robert Pasuta and Judi Partridge voted to kill the lane based solely on their feelings about it.  Not due to the fact that it was ineffective or inefficient but because in the suburbs it took some of their constituents 5 extra minutes in the afternoon to drive home.  And I find it difficult to believe that they were inundated with calls about this since most of their constituents wouldn't be coming through downtown from the beginning of the TOL to Dundurn to get home.

I have a message for those Councillors.  Now that the HSR schedule reliability is set to be rubbish again, I and THOUSANDS of fellow bus riders face the possibility of getting home anywhere from 10 - 15 to maybe 30 or 45 minutes later than normal due to missing transfers and the like. Too bad for us transit users though eh?

The amount of disdain that those Councillors have is remarkable.  They are the reason that the City of Hamilton will take longer than it should to reach its potential, they are the reason that people are resigned to fact that this City may never get better and they are the reason that despite getting amazing press from the media such as The Star, The Globe and Mail and The National Post that internally we feel that aren't good enough to be a World Class City.  It's because we have Councillors who are so backwards as to be laughable.

I am so incredibly sick of it.