An article prompted by an issue that deserves its own town hall...or multiples...
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Over at My Stoney Creek, I posted an article dealing with an area of discussion about our city that I feel is vital.
Beyond the issues themselves, the real question is: 'Who's going to shine a light on this stuff?'
I cannot imagine The Spec leading the way, because they've set their tone with the 'Code Red' series.
I also can't imagine The City leading the way, because there seems to be too much intertwining of effort for there with non-profits to be authentic discussion coming from them. (I could be wrong, I'd love to have it proved so.)
What are the odds that we'll get something pushed along by CHCH, CHML or Cable 14? Something that strips away the usual veneer that such subjects are usually coated with?
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
When I began Town Halls Hamilton, the aim was to 'increase the relationship of engagement between residents and their councillors.' This resulted from a conversation I'd had during the 2010 municipal election campaign with Raise the Hammer Editor Ryan McGreal. He'd opined that what mattered most, regardless of who was elected, was this relationship. It felt right to me, so I ran with it.
Some months along, I've re-thought things.
Which is why if you look at the blurb beneath the logo, you'll see a slightly different emphasis being presented. How come?
I always suspected that there would be 'resistance' from councillors to the notion of organized, city-wide, town halls...that weren't controlled by them. I always suspected that there'd be 'turf protection' going on, especially after The Hamiltonian was so kind as to 'poll' Council on how they felt their engagement with their constituents was going. (The consensus was 'Just fine, thank-you. Grr...') I learned some very important lessons with our inaugural town hall in November, some directly, some indirectly.
Since then, in standing back and taking a good look at things going on in the city, I've discovered that a) I don't want to fight the fight of trying to convince councillors that they should consider having Town Halls Hamilton events, because b) there are actually far more important battles to be fought in Hamilton that make trying to win over 15 people seem... Well, absurd.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Some of the links from my friend's email are –to me, anyway– just...inspirational. Take a look:
I especially loved this paragraph:
In December, we met with the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, which is facing many development pressures. They told us that their main take-away from City Builder Camp was the focus on “how to get from NIMBY to YIMBY” and that this has affected their approach since September. They also deeply appreciated the opportunity to have such a positive and productive conversation with architects, planners, and developers as they shared their insights with CWNA at City Builder Camp. Thank you to our panel members for making this possible!
And this video about the St. James Town community.
Five Good Ideas
Including this event.
So; can you imagine this degree of engagement in Hamilton? I'm not asking this question out of naïveté, or dismissing what's in place right now. I am aware of many of the efforts underway, the various associations and umbrella organizations. But it sure seems to be that there's a more advanced form of 'proaction' extant with our neighbours around the lake, as opposed to the opinion proffered by someone in Hamilton recently that "The problem as I see is people here have gotten into a mode where they would much rather complain than do something about things that bother them..."
Surely we're better than that.
And we are, as the above commenter continues with an actual suggestion:
"It would be good to skip (this entire crowd) –way too much negative energy there– and approach the neighbourhood organizations and community groups directly to jump start a real solutions driven community engagement, which does not have any political axe to grind, and does not start or end with a premise of teaching politicians/staff a lesson for supposed lapses on their parts."
Can you imagine...?
M Adrian Brassington
I tend to share a fair amount of 'stuff' with family and friends. No, not cute kitten photos or videos of dogs talking. Rather, stuff that I think the person might appreciate, continuations of conversations I've had with them, or articles that I feel might help illuminate something for them.
That has enormous value in my life. Moments when things are illuminated. This makes sense; I began this Town Halls Hamilton effort to increase engagement, and illumination is certainly part-and-parcel of that process.
Late last night/early this morning, a dear friend sent me an email. And I'm still going through its links, appreciating the illumination it contains.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Uncharacteristically, I'm going to get right to the point: I believe that we as Hamiltonians have not taken ownership of our city.
I believe that, as per tradition, we pay our taxes, vote Council and a Mayor into office...and then see how the cookie crumbles.
'Politics' and 'development' have traditionally been areas of Life that almost all of us have seen peripherally...or when something sucks, with frustration and anger, jumping up and down in front of it...because...because that's just the way it's always been.
But the world has changed. We now have greater access to the most precious resource available –information– than ever before, in myriad ways, at all hours of the day. We are linked far more powerfully than we've ever been, if only via social media. The power at our fingertips and by way of our monitors and screens would make a civic activist from a half-century ago drool.
What used to be cloaked in mystery is gradually being revealed.
What used to be regarded as 'unfathomable', or 'unapproachable'...especially within the context of our public officials being 'the parents' and we citizens being 'the children'...is no longer.
To a staggering extent, if you want to access information pertaining to your city, to your governance, to the essence of the Quality of Life on your street, you can. Not everything, to be sure, but make no mistake about it: we've been empowered.
And yet we haven't taken actual ownership of these new abilities...and we have nobody else to blame but ourselves.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
The January issue of urbanicity has a piece by Graham Crawford, 'A Tale of Two Cities'. (At the time of this editorial being written, there was no direct link to the article. But here's a start.)
It's about the idea of 'rethinking ward boundaries'. Something that has captured my imagination a little lately...mostly because of how, as a Stoney Creeker previously, and currently a Dundas resident, I'm more aware than many of how amalgamation has skewed things.
I've known Graham a little while. I've always been a fan of his editorials, no matter where they've been featured, at urbanicity, at Raise the Hammer, or at The Spec.
But I while I agree with many of his background sentiments (read the article, it's well worth your time), ultimately Graham and I veer and take entirely different approaches when it comes not only the actual framing of the discussion, but also how to approach any redrawing of the boundaries.
As I've admitted, I tend to see things differently than most. (For the record, not just regarding civic engagement or community issues. I recently expended a fair amount of energy trying to explain my perspective on Love to a friend...and I still don't think she 'gets' my beliefs.) Part of this can be attributed to the fact that I'm a writer. A storyteller. And therefore situations often appear differently for me, if only because I see the different threads of the tale, the contributing factors and how they hang together.
And I also fervently believe in the human spirit, the desire to 'do good'...as well as happy endings. Suitably, all of these are vital elements of making for a better Hamilton.
To me, the key to eliminating this behaviour isn't having more bylaw enforcement. It's not more signage, more bus-media advertising. And as much as I applaud efforts such as 'Garbage Crawls', I don't believe that such efforts are the best way to approach the problem, no matter what degree of awareness and engagement they produce. (I'm rather reminded of the husband who's compelled to be loving and intimate with his wife every Valentine's Day or anniversary or birthday, being thoughtful and kind and making offerings and taking her out to dinner; is this really the best way to get him to see things differently, to steer him south-southwest three and a half degrees towards a more desirable intimacy default setting...?)
Photo property of Tanya Day Ritchie,
Ward 3 Residents' Association, facebook
How do you feel when walking down sidewalks that are littered, through open spaces that have debris scattered, along streetscapes that seem little more than receptacles for castaway this and that?
How does it make you feel about the place?
What images does the experience bring to mind? What kinds of thoughts are connected by way of all the... All the crap?
Most people, if they take notice of it at all, probably shiver in disgust, sniff their judgement, register a negative vote.
Now, as to the converse: cleanliness, uncluttered, spotless...?
Chances are, not much registers at all. Save for a sense of rightness.
Just as surely as we define our environments, we're defined by them.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
...and the new one arrives quietly, its the time for reflection and forecast.
I can't stand 'Top Ten' lists or anything of the sort, and crystal ball junk-casting just seems so...so indulgent.
So instead, some yammering-on inspired by this book:
Now, despite the cover photo of George Washington, it's not about America. It's actually about all of us. It's got a global focus, because the merde we're about to be inundated by is global merde. Of our own creation...even if most of the book points to the contributing factors of the 2008 financial meltdown and the subsequent –and current– unfolding of the next phase in this process. I say 'most' because at the end, Mr. Lewis deals with a couple of situations that while focusing on California, are actually quite emblematic of stuff unfolding right here in our own universe, The New, Amalgamated, City of Greater Hamilton. Additionally, a theory is presented as to what the background reason is that we've gotten to where we are right now.