A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[URBAN NOTE] “In Steeltown, a familiar refrain on light rail transit”

leave a comment »

NOW Toronto‘s Paul Weinberg reports on political controversies in Hamilton over mass transit, something that he notes is related to downtown/suburban tensions as well as to concern by some at the arrival of an increasingly large contingent of Torontonians. Change in Hamilton comes painfully, it seems.

I moved with my wife to the rust belt city in May 2013 after living in Toronto almost all my life, following other younger Torontonians moving here as well because of the cheaper housing. The local realtors’ association cannot say how many former Torontonians are buying up the reasonably priced building stock. The Transportation Tomorrow Survey offers a clue. It reports that more than a third of working Hamiltonians are commuting daily outside this city by car or GO Transit, with about 82 per cent of them headed directly for the GTA.

The migration to Steeltown has picked up to the point that locals complain of recent arrivals infecting the political culture of working-class Steeltown. The current municipal elections have provided flashpoint for that debate over an issue familiar to Torontonians – the car versus light rail transit (LRT).

Brian McHattie, a planner and local councilor since 2004 who is originally from Etobicoke, is running on a progressive platform and has the support of urban activists who want to see more streets like James North in Hamilton. His slogan: A New Mayor For A New Hamilton. To that end he’s released a four-part plan for improving neighbourhoods that he’s dubbed, wait for it, Transit City.

[. . .]

For local activists who have long been fighting uphill battles for two-way, pedestrian-friendly “complete streets” here, McHattie is a bit of a godsend. They see his LRT plan as an opportunity to transform whole swaths of an economically stagnant lower city into neighbourhoods that will attract smart development.

But there’s a major roadblock: the suburban residents on Hamilton Mountain above the Escarpment who find these lower city roads handy for zipping in, out or around Hamilton in their vehicles. That sentiment is often expressed by their political representatives on council who oppose the LRT even with the province potentially willing to pay for it.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 21, 2014 at 10:51 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

leave a comment »

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly describes the collapse of an online community she quite liked.
  • Cody Delistraty links to his article in The Atlantic about the benefits of multilingualism.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the numbers and implications of low-wage earners.
  • The Frailest Things’ Michael Sacasas links to articles about big data, suggesting ways in which it undermines our sense of self-control.
  • Geocurrents considers alternate history maps.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that West Germany had high inflation in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Otto Pohl thinks pan-Africanism can start by creating uniform electrical plugs.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer considers alternate histories for Mexico, paying particular attention to the idea of a smaller Mexico after 1848.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc argues John Tory bested Olivia Chow by not being over-specific.
  • Torontoist notes the travails of a girl who became an amateur hockey player in the mid-1950s.
  • Window on Eurasia considers how Russian liberals could return Crimea, deconstructs the alleged Chinese threat, and notes a startlingly anti-Russian press conference delivered by Belarus’ Lukashenko.

[LINK] “Scenes from the New American Dustbowl”

leave a comment »

Alan Heathcock’s Medium article takes a look at the consequences of California’s catastrophic drought for the dying farm communities of the Central Valley. Written very much from the perspective of farmers, with as one commenter notes little attention being paid to the migrant farm workers who actually grew the food or to the environments who make good points about the viability of farming in a semi-desert climate, “Scenes from the New American Dustbowl” chronicles a sad story of utter collapse. Is this what the future will look like, with despair and resentment aplenty?

Andy Vidak, cherry farmer and senator for the 16th district, [. . .] for the next 20 minutes goes deeply and conspiratorially political. He educates me on a long series of decisions made by a “small percentage of politicians who also hold the most power” in collaboration with radical environmentalists who have worked to destroy the farmers of the Central Valley. “This is perfect politics,” Vidak says. “The perfect war. This valley is conservative.” He contends big-city liberals are aware they can save the salmon, don the hero’s crown for environmentalists, all while eliminating conservative political opposition.

I respectfully suggest that one of the most productive agricultural valleys in the world couldn’t possibly be sacrificed in the name of politics — there’s a population base, functioning towns.

“No,” Vidak counters. “People in New York or Boise, Idaho, don’t care where their produce comes from.” The valley of farmers could go away, and so long as the product came from elsewhere no one would care.

He tells me a story of a local food bank. It was mid-summer and the men in line would be working if so much land wasn’t left unfarmed due to the water crisis. If that wasn’t bad enough, he noticed the food bank was handing out cans of carrots grown in China.

“Carrots from China,” Vidak says. “All while we have two of the largest carrot growers in the world down here. That’s just wrong.”

Written by Randy McDonald

October 15, 2014 at 1:05 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

leave a comment »

  • Bad Astronomy shares a picture of the astonishingly crowded center of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • blogTO recommends things to do in the Junction and Liberty Village.
  • Centauri Dreans notes an interesting new binary star discovery, one where a hot Jupiter orbits each star.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on further research done of a close brown dwarf.
  • The Frailest Thing notes an interview with spaceflight proponent Elon Musk painting him as a messianic figure, a Moses or Noah.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper suggesting that western Europe experienced growign longevity from an early age.
  • The New APPS Blog notes the intersections of philosophy, religion, and euthanasia.
  • Registan notes the arrival of Islamic banking in the former Soviet Union.
  • Steve Munro notes the return of streetcar service to Queens Quay.
  • Torontoist is skeptical of Olivia Chow’s transit plan, not detailed enough.
  • Towleorad reports on a Russian exchange student in the United States who has claimed asylum and reports on civil unions’ new introduction in Chile.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the weaknesses of the Belarusian economy, observes the linguistic links between Crimean Tatars and various north Caucasian peoples, argues that 1600 Russian soldiers have died, observes Russian belief that China is an ally, and notes that older Muslim communities in Moscow separate themselves from the newer immigrant communities.

[URBAN NOTE] On bigotry and Ford in Toronto and with Olivia Chow

leave a comment »

NOW Toronto‘s Enzo DiMatteo writes about racism in Toronto, both that directed towards Olivia Chow and that evidenced by continuing support for the Ford brothers.

She has the best grasp of the inner workings of City Hall among the top contenders for mayor. She has the most political experience and the resumé to prove it. In the spring she was the overwhelmingly popular option to save the city from Rob Ford.

But for most Torontonians, Olivia Chow just doesn’t fit the bill, according to public opinion polls. Too stiff. Too scripted. Maybe too Chinese. I know you didn’t want me to go there, Toronto. But the racist attacks have been a little too overt to ignore, haven’t they?

The question of race has certainly dominated the campaign discourse of late.

Chow is reluctant to comment on what effect the fact that she is a visible minority is having on her electoral chances. As she told NOW’s editorial board Monday, October 6, she’ll leave that to the pundits. She always says that when she doesn’t want to answer a question directly.

But much like the anti-gay undercurrent that helped kill George Smitherman’s chances against Ford in 2010, disdain for Chow’s foreigner status may carry more weight than we’d like to admit.

It’s an uncomfortable reality to contemplate for a city whose motto is “diversity our strength.” Maybe we’re not so world-class. Just how did a guy like Rob Ford with a track record of racist and homophobic remarks get elected in the first place anyway?

In 2010, voters knew about his Air Canada Centre tirade. They knew about his AIDS comments. His bigotry was no secret. They knew exactly what they were getting.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 10, 2014 at 10:04 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

leave a comment »

  • blogTO looks at what the Financial District was like in the 1970s and 1980s, recommends things to do in Little Italy, and has ten quirky facts about the Toronto Islands.
  • Centauri Dreams notes simulations of how solitary stars like our own Sun are formed.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting that evidence of a planetary system outside our own was first gathered in 1917, from a spectrum taken of Van Maanen’s Star. It was only a matter of no one recognizing what the spectrum meant.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a study of filesharing services suggesting that rich countries tend to see music downloads while poor ones download movies.
  • The Planetary Science Blog takes a look at the discoveries of Dawn at proto-planet Vesta.
  • pollotenchegg maps changes in industrial production in Ukraine, noting a collapse in rebel-held areas in the east.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer compares the proposed Home Rule that would have been granted to Ireland in 1914 with current proposals for Scotland.
  • Torontoist notes that despite population growth nearby, the Redpath Sugar Factory will be staying put.
  • Towleroad notes that Estonia has become the first post-Soviet nation to recognize same-sex partnerships.
  • Why I Love Toronto recommends Friday night events at the Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the collapse of Russian civil society is a responsibility of Russian citizens as well as of their state.

[URBAN NOTE] “The Ford Family Subway Plan”

leave a comment »

Toronto transit expert Steve Munro is critical, at Torontoist, of the latest iteration of the Ford brothers’ plan for more subways as recently presented by Doug Ford. He makes the argument that it’s unworkable, being too expensive for the city as it is likely ever to exist and that cheaper and better alternatives exist.

Ford proposes subways on Eglinton East, Sheppard East, and Finch West. Building these would require Toronto to accept that transit and road networks should be completely separated—transit can’t even be next to traffic lanes, but only under them—regardless of the financial impact this would have on the City’s capital and operating budgets. That is an oddly profligate attitude for a family noted for its parsimony with public spending. Capital expenses may come out of thin air (more about that later), but operating a subway where ridership does not generate substantial revenue—and these subways would not—can only lead to higher costs for the municipal government, or operating cutbacks elsewhere. Toronto already faces an operating deficit with the Vaughan subway extension, and a much larger network of subways will only worsen the problem.

A common question for any transit proposal is, “Where will the riders come from?” Part of Ford’s funding scheme includes taxes from new development spurred by his subways. However, that development depends on new construction in the immediate vicinity of stations, not along whole routes; if the Scarborough subway is any indication, there will be long gaps where would-be riders would have to hop on infrequent surface buses. What Ford’s plan does not tell voters is the kind of city we’d need to build to support his plan—just how much we would need to increase development in order to produce that new tax income. And “higher density” is a phrase many voters dislike almost as much as “higher taxes.”

[. . .]

Overwhelmingly, Doug Ford’s transit platform is about subways and the benefits of moving people underground. In a clear case of subway envy, he compares maps of Toronto with New York, London, and Tokyo, but conveniently forgets that decades ago these were huge cities with a market for rapid transit, while Toronto was still operating horse-drawn streetcars serving a fraction of their population. Those networks arose from the scale and histories of older, denser, larger cities—something that would be very difficult and expensive to duplicate today. Toronto certainly should have a more extensive transit system, but a subway line under every main street is an unattainable, unreasonable goal whose pursuit only distracts us from what we can and should achieve.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 9, 2014 at 12:24 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 377 other followers