Hamilton's problem? Maybe The Spectator should look in the mirror.
On May 1, a Hamilton Economic Summit was held with the purported intent of kick-starting the revitalization of Hamilton. Speaker after speaker, including outside experts and local leaders, advocated a new spirit of creativity and positive thinking. The Spectator's headline said Hamilton is "poised for global greatness".
Urban studies expert Richard Florida, however, noted that while all the basics are theoretically in place for Hamilton, the factor that might stand in the way would be local "squelchers". Richard may not be a local, but he seems to know Hamilton.
I moved to Hamilton because I was excited by the opportunity to rejuvenate and redevelop historic downtown buildings. I attended this conference, and felt encouraged. The next morning, the day on which we were all supposed to go forth and be positive, I opened The Spectator and find a snarky editorial cartoon portraying me as an evil snake oil salesman.
Whether it is ironic or just puts the reality into focus, the Spectator was a sponsor of the summit. May I suggest that the emperor has no clothes.
Since moving here, my family and I have generally been impressed with the spirit and warmth of the people of Hamilton. The one sour note has been the mean-spirited, superficial personal ridiculing of the Spectator's editorial cartoons. Notwithstanding, I remain committed to restoring the Connaught and creating other buildings that will enhance the city.
Harry Stinson, Hamilton
Suck it up, Harry Stinson, you're supposedly one of us now.
Most Hamiltonians know that if they throw their name around and attract the glare of the spotlight they run a good chance of being subjected to the ridicule of local "squelchers". It's a common occurance in most cities, unless you're in a town like Havana, Beijing, or Harare. Fortunately, in this part of the world, freedom of the press allows expression in the form of editorial cartoons. Some examples where my work has received the praise of locals being poked at include the people in this cartoon, this cartoon, and in this cartoon.
In Harry Stinson's mind, The Spectator, having been a sponsor of the Hamilton Economic Summit, should've spiked a cartoon because it happened to make fun of an inflated developer who has so far been a lot of talk throwing a little money around. This doesn't sound out of the ordinary if you buy the into the myth that corporate interests of a newspaper dictates editorial policies.
If a couple editorial cartoons are enough to motivate a recently arrived developer into writing a letter to the editor to convey hurt feelings just wait until confronted by the legions of activists who'll roadblock every move to stick a dreamy 50-80-100 (or whatever storied) skyscraper behind the grand old Royal Connaught. Just wait for the wild criticism to be unleashed once the promise of a beautiful photoshopped downtown megadevelopment tickles our imagination only to be dashed once huge demands for public money are required to get things going. We've been down this road many times.
Harry Stinson has proven to be successful in building and restoring several handsome properties in downtown Toronto. It sure would be nice to witness his optimistic sounding visions and ideas translate into real action -- but this is Hamilton, not Toronto. Here, development faces much more caution and public scrutiny. It's a frustrating and exhaustive reality which has led many desperately longing for the coming of some messiah figure to solve our problems. The sycophantic antics of a few putting all their eggs into the Stinson basket makes me worry. Pardon my skepticism, but somebody has come to town talking about building a 90 story skyscraper and looking for occupancy by 2010. Some call that ambition - I call it pure fantasy. Now there's news of some property purchasing on the central mountain brow. Is this guy serious? Or, is this all about blowin' smoke? Yeah, it's obvious what I think about him, but I'd love to be proven wrong.
Some feedback about this cartoon posted on a local blog:
I actually saw that cartoon and almost called the Spectator. I get angry sometimes when I talk about the Core and where it can go and all I hear is "that's not going to happen" or "we can't afford that". Who says? I guess if there was less for the squelchers to complain about, they'd have to find something else to whine about since it's usually the people who put down Hamilton's core who squelch any plans for ambitious development as well.
* * * * *
The Spectator is disgusting in its willingness to lionize people one day and vilify them the next. I think Stinson should be given a chance to see what he can produce.
* * * * *
Anyone been to Toronto lately and seen the construction towers? There's been a boom going on that Hamilton has largely missed out on... and the boom appears to be slowing. We should be welcoming people who see opportunity... They will lead the way before opportunity is lost.