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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Thanks

It's that time of the year again.  We gather with our friends and family and give thanks for what we have.  For some reason I have been reflecting a bit more this year than in the past.  Maybe I am just getting sentimental or just plain old.  In the end I have so many things to be truly thankful for.

First and foremost I am thankful for my family.  They are the anchor that keeps me from drifting out to sea, they keep me grounded and remind me what is really important in life.  I have learned so much from my boys in the last 5 years.  I am constantly amazed at how they see the world and how they interact with their surroundings. 

I am thankful for my wife. Her patience, understanding and belief in me over the years has been inspiring. Allowing me to take a leap of faith last year and change jobs, while she was on maternity leave, was a huge risk. It hasn't been without it's challenges but in the long run I think that it was the right thing to do for us. Having the patience to live in a house with what amounts to 4 kids, all of them male, borders on courageous. Watching how naturally amazing she is with our kids is heartwarming. Her confidence in me and my abilities makes me want to be a better person at all times.

I am thankful for my in-laws.  I won the in-law lottery hands down.  I don't think that there are many like them out there and I can say with all sincerity that the unconditional love and support they have provided us with over the years has been overwhelming.  I almost feel bad because all I have been able to give in return are three kids that continually trash their house, eat their food, occasionally break stuff and wake them up before the sun rises when they have a sleepover.

This summer especially I was thankful for the time that we were able to spend up at the cottage and the freedom that it provided the kids.  I watched them poke and probe their world entirely on their own and it reminded me of being a kid and being able to discover things on my own.  I have watched Declan grow into the role of big brother and laughed as Rhys and Leighton both follow him around like puppy dogs.  I am thankful for the time spent fighting big waves in Lake Huron with Declan and Rhys and time spent snuggling under the huge trees with Leighton.

All in all I have a lot to be thankful for.  Today I am thankful for being able to be around the people that I love and care about and share some food, stories and laughter with them.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Lovin'

Beginning of the summer
Summer is officially done and I think that I can safely say that the kids loved it.  More time was spent at the cottage than at home which for them is pure heaven.  There were day camps, long walks, swimming, swimming and more swimming, parades and generally tomfoolery.

Declan spent 3 weeks doing day camps both in Kincardine and Hamilton and loved every minute of it. Canoeing at the RBG was a hit and swimming at camp in Kincardine was his favourite.  I think Rhys loved his snuggles with Grandma Shirley at the cottage the most and will miss them terribly.  For Leighton it was a summer of discovering what he could get into and where he could go.  He is now in a forward facing car seat and he is just about to start going to daycare.  They are all growing up so fast.

I turned 35 this summer.  From what I am lead to believe I am now old.  There are certainly days when I feel it.  Today was not one of those days.  I was down at the beach with Declan and Rhys running around in the water and trying to catch minnows in the shallows of Lake Huron.  It was hilarious how bad I was at it.  Leave it to Andrea to upstage me and catch 2 in the span of minutes when I was trying for about half an hour!  At least I know I can count on her to forage if required!  In my defence I had Rhys' huge feet splashing around and scaring the fish.  Yeah, that's it, that's the reason I sucked.

One of the best memories I will have of this summer is watching Declan and Rhys play Crazy 8's with Andrea's Grandmother.  How incredibly lucky these boys are to be able to spend time with their Great Grandmother and at this point in their lives they will remember doing it.  Rhys' enthusiasm when we would pull up the drive with her in the car was absolutely enthralling.  He would almost physically pull her out of the van after opening the door for her with a hearty "Hi Great Grandma!"  Amazing.

On the nights when I would drive her back home we would normally have a quick discussion about the  way things were when she was young.  How amazing is it that I can speak to someone who remembers her Father being out on the ice in the winter on Lake Huron with the horse and sled, cutting ice to bring back to the ice house.  She remembers the first time she left town on a train bound for Toronto.  She remembers what it was like to live without cars, plumbing, electricity and so many other things that we take for granted.  On top of that all she is as sharp as a razor when it comes to Euchre.  She never misses a trick and I have learned more about the game from playing on that old table in the cottage with her, my Mother-in-Law Shirley and Andrea than I have playing with anyone else.  If that makes me old than so be it.  Unless you have had the pleasure of that company you will never understand.

Andrea and I also celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary on September 2nd.  We have certainly packed a lot into that time.  3 kids.  Wow.  Time is flying by so quickly.

Last long weekend at the cottage in 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Time to pull up stakes

I am sitting on my porch right now missing my family. This is longest I have been without them in years and it sucks. The only thing that it has done is give me some time to reflect. Andrea and I moved to this house almost 7 years ago. We weren't married yet and kids weren't anywhere on the horizon. I thought this house was perfect. In hindsight maybe I was rash and pushed too hard but at the time it felt right. I wanted to be downtown, close to what I considered to be a slowly revitalizing Hamilton so we purchased on Dundurn north. I can see the Castle from my porch, walk to the waterfront trail and be downtown in minutes. Sure Dundurn is a bit of highway but so what? I could live with that. Fast forward seven years. We have three young boys who ache for running space and I can't give it to them without supervising them the whole time. I want more for them. I think it's time to sell. Scary thought.