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A tale of two cities

October 14, 2013

Dear Sir,

I was advised by some sincere friends to stay out of politics and concentrate on business and advancing my own life. I know they are right except that my foolish way doesn't permit me to be silent for reasons affecting my personal good. I feel as though I was born as an experience to be shared, therefore I need to pass on a couple of observations for the sake of assisting in our current reasoning on matters of state.

I can recall during the 70s several meetings in little rooms on Mr Joel's property near the Dellwood School with a little group including Mr Joel and others like Ms Eva Robinson and Henry Ming to name a few. We were trying to get the attention of the CoH for simple matters like street lights; police etc.

They never listened or gave much attention to our back of town group. You may say well that was the old days. Ok coming forward up to the nineties I had designed and passed the first multi-storey mixed use apartment/condo complex for North Street.

It had one commercial level and three stories of residential units. I could not build it because it needed at least five stories to be financially viable, six stories the project would have been flying, but every attempt to get approval for the additional floors failed. The laws for back of town only permitted four floors and government was inflexible.

The then leader of the country had the gall to publicly say that my political activism was motivation by my failure and frustration to get the building up, he said “He is just angry because he can't get his building up.

Unlike the planning code for Front Street to Victoria Street, the codes for North Hamilton were repressive to development, unless you already had a few million in your bank account.

The equation was obvious, but where was the representation for that issue, which really affected every owner in North Hamilton? It wasn't coming from government or the municipality.

The closest that I can recall came from a government committee and even then only in the form of a recommendation couched in a planning statement, which said we needed to create a special committee to ensure the development of North Hamilton. The recommendation was never adopted.

With all the wisdom and business acumen embodied in both government and the municipality (CoH) do you think it was just oversight? If you have a section of people within the city who aren't cash rich and only need special legislation that will alter their potential, was it a deliberate failure to create the appropriate adjustments or just an oversight?

Or was it coming later somewhere down the pipeline when the Front Street investors were ready for North Hamilton? If we cannot find individuals to blame, then we chalk it up to the system. This systemic repression of North Hamilton was happening in our municipality all through the boom years for the city.

Having a country with a diverse population who are fully empowered would have been the life blood of harmony and without such diverse empowerment, is a recipe for social conflict fuelled by poverty.

If the CoH could not fix itself to be representative of the diverse needs of the city and country, then it needed to be changed. The Progressive Labour Party took the liberty by creating a new electorate that would change the paradigm, but hopefully experience will have taught us and them that you don't fix one wrong by replacing it with another.

The need for inclusion and the dream of empowerment, however genuine the cause, cannot be justified “By Any means necessary”. The goal of empowerment must be achieved with nobility. The celebrated words in the song “America the Beautiful' sums up the proper ethics, “Til all success be nobleness and every gain divine”.

The fundamental difference between our municipality and that of larger jurisdictions is that our residential sector is a minority. In most countries the city resident populations are dense. The population density for our city is less than that of Pembroke or Warwick therefore the businesses will always out number residents.

It is only right that rate payers have a vote and while it seems to be the appropriate course, we must remember the historical problem of under and even no representation for North Hamilton.

The needs of North Hamilton are different from those of the proverbial Front Street; it's the tale of two cities.

The job of the current CoH should have been to fix the electoral mandate, they should not have needed to have it forced upon them. They also needed to have developed a special committee specifically charged with the role to provide leadership to North Hamilton. Hamilton could be treated like two boroughs because specific leadership is needed in multiple directions.

The waterfront needs special focus separate from the areas between Front Street and Victoria Street extending westward, and then there is North Hamilton that needs sustained leadership respected by the area with a focus to capture its potential. Reducing the structure down to eight councillors may seem as a sensible business approach however I can only hope that they can meet the diversity of needs within the City of Hamilton.

KHALID WASI

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Published October 14, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 14, 2013 at 9:35 am)

A tale of two cities

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