By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton’s suburban areas are feeling left out as city officials focus on investing millions of dollars into the most needy communities in the downtown area.
As Paul Johnson, director of the city’s Neighbourhood Action Strategies provided an update to the two-year project to rejuvenate 11 neighbourhoods in the lower city at the general issues committee meeting Oct. 2, some suburban councillors wondered when the resources will extend into their communities.
“We are doing great stuff,” said Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead. “But it needs to reach out to the broader community. “There are 22 neighbourhoods in Ward 8. They are screaming for quality of life issues.”
The city’s neighbourhood development staff is working in 11 neighbourhoods since the project was created in September 2010. Since then eight neighbourhood action plans, created by residents in those areas, have been approved by council. The other three plans are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014. So far over 300 actions items have been identified by the neighbourhood groups, with 137 of them underway, and 33 completed.
The city has spent about $360,000 out of its $2 million budget to bolster the strategy. That money, said Johnson, has attracted $2.6 million from private and non-profit organizations, including the Hamilton Community Foundation.
Whitehead said he understands the city’s commitment to redevelop the 11 neighbourhoods, which had been identified as at risk. A few of those neighbourhoods that have implemented a few projects include Quigley, Stinson, and Stipley, in the South Sherman area. But at some point, since the strategy is being paid for by all taxpayers, his residents should also see some benefits.
“Our process is a pilot,” said Whitehead. “We need to see how it works first. But it can’t be centred in 11 neighbourhoods.”
In the Flamborough area, says councillor Judi Partridge, projects are usually done by volunteers and non-profit groups to improve their community. But, she said, residents in the rural areas are wondering why are the city is devoting resources to the lower city while ignoring the suburban areas.
“I do hear from my residents,” said Partridge. “They say ‘what about us’. They want to be more connected to services. I don’t think we should wait too long.”
Johnson acknowledged once the neighbourhood strategy is well underway in the lower city, it can be used in other parts of the city.
“This can work anywhere,” he said. “Neighbourhood development should happen everywhere in the city. It’s fairly easy to do. We need to understand to learn more.”
Jim Diers, who wasSeattle’s first director of the city’s department of neighbourhood from 1988 to 2004, said even though Hamilton’s strategy is among the best inNorth America, residents outside the downtown area should be patient. It takes time, said Diers.
“Everybody needs government,” said Diers, who is no fan of the U.S. Tea Party’s ideology of limited government. “Everybody needs community. We must allow them to do their best.”
Despite the political mantra that ‘government is a business,’ he disagrees.
“You can’t treat people like customers. They will just see themselves as taxpayers,” said Diers. “Business is not a democracy. We need to bring people (back) to the process. People hate bureaucracy, but they love the people they deal with. We need to re-establish the personal connection.”