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Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics – Raise the Hammer

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Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics

Strategy only makes sense if we’re all trying to build on our common values and interests, and the zero-sum politics of resentment are antithetical to common values.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2020

With 1,000 bikes, 26,000 active members and 350,000 passenger trips a year, Hamilton Bike Share is a bargain at a gross annual operating cost of $700,000. But Hamilton City Council cannot resist the atavistic urge to put identity politics ahead of strategic planning.


Hamilton Bike Share hub at Chedoke Golf Course

After yet another ultramarathon session of ocean-boiling hyperbolic bikeshedding over a project with utterly miniscule costs – we are talking, after all, about 0.02 percent of the city’s annual budget – Council deadlocked on whether to fund the continued operation of Hamilton Bike Share for the rest of the year.

Instead, Councillors voted to spend an unknown amount of money to warehouse the bikes once the system shuts down on June 1. Amazingly, the motion by Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann would have funded the system using money already earmarked for local spending in wards 1, 2 and 3.

That is to say, the councillors opposed to this motion voted to overrule the wards 1-3 councillors spending money from their own dedicated ward capital reserves to keep the program running.

This is a gross double standard and the kind of anti-urban hypocrisy that has been drearily common over the past two decades since amalgamation.

Legacy of Anti-Urban Resentment

The most vocal anti-urban sentiment has been from angry suburban leaders who never wanted to get bolted onto Hamilton through amalgamation (but were happy to have Hamilton subsidize their infrastructure through regional government, of course).

But amalgamation – which was imposed on all of us by the Conservative Mike Harris government – has left the old city subject to the one-way whims and caprices of anti-urban resentment and grievance, which suburban councillors openly embody and shamelessly encourage to this day.

The framing of every issue in us-vs-them terms is deliberate and debilitating for a city trying to build common ground and move forward.

In the face of such grievance-based identity politics, strategic plans don’t matter. Strategy only makes sense if we’re all trying to build on our common values and interests, and the zero-sum politics of resentment are antithetical to common values.

Likewise, the facts don’t matter. This decision isn’t about making the most cost-effective use of scarce resources, it’s about driving a wedge into the body politic and pandering for rhetorical points against the ‘other’, no matter the actual cost.

Nor is consistency a factor. Many of the councillors complaining that bike share doesn’t serve their wards are the same councillors who only agreed to allow it in the first place as long as it didn’t go in their wards.

Stubborn Refusal to Learn and Grow

Facts and arguments need to take root in a worldview to influence our decisions. The angry, anti-urban worldview that drives Hamilton’s identity politics is stony ground indeed. It is the place where so many transformative ideas go to die.

Anti-urban resentment is a failing strategy for Hamilton as a whole, but it works well for the cynical politicians who stoke it. Keeping their constituents misinformed and bitter keeps them employed even as it harms the city as a whole – including their constituents, who deserve better.

On the rare occasion where an inclusive urban project actually goes ahead and is successful, that just makes the aggrieved anti-urban haters even more bitter and resentful. It certainly doesn’t inspire them to reconsider their opposition to it.

For example, how many lower-city one-way dead zones do we need to convert into vibrant two-way people places before the haters finally acknowledge that city streets work better when they are more inclusive?

How many new protected two-way cycle tracks have to fill up with cyclists before we are willing to acknowledge that there is a huge latent demand for safe cycling infrastructure?

Identity Politics Trumps Strategy

Bike Share was widely (by the haters) expected to be a total failure. Instead, pound for pound it has been one of the most successful systems in North America: built and operated on a shoestring budget, it achieved 26,000 active members and 350,000 trips a year.

Far from mollifying the critics, its success just made them hate it even more. Bike Share has had a target on its back since the day it launched.

How do you reason with bad faith? How do you negotiate with malice? How do you build on a foundation of cynicism, grievance and deliberate misinformation? After close to two decades of caring about what happens in this city, I am no closer to a workable answer now than I was in 2003.

This city is broken. I have no idea how we can fix it. But until we do, every new project faces a hurricane of resistance, every existing project lives in existential jeopardy and each tiny step we take upward is on a slurry of unstable land that is itself inexorably sliding backwards.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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On Poetry, Politics, and Candy Crush – The Boston Globe

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Molly BallTim Coburn

In “Pelosi,” longtime political reporter Molly Ball charts the path that led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to become one of the most powerful people in American politics. Ball has covered Washington politics for Politico, The Atlantic, and currently for Time magazine. She is an analyst for CNN and a regular on the PBS program “Washington Week.” She lives in northern Virginia with her family.

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

BALL: To be totally honest, between working from home, home-schooling three kids, and doing a virtual book tour, I haven’t had much time for reading. I’ve been digging into the new Hilary Mantel, “The Mirror & the Light.” I love her. I’m not usually into historical fiction, but her trilogy transcends genre. I like good books regardless of genre. I’m not into science fiction but I love Margaret Atwood, and a few years ago I got into the South American writer Jose Saramago, whose books are kind of science fiction-y.

BOOKS: What was your last best read before the pandemic began?

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BALL: The last couple of books I was reading when this hit were books by friends. My colleague Charlotte Alter’s “The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For,” which is about millennial politicians. The writing is so evocative and the descriptions of people are really fun. The other one is Olga Khazan’s “Weird,” which is a social science-y book about how being different can be an asset in life. She also writes about being a nerdy Russian Jewish immigrant in Texas. She’s hilarious.

BOOKS: Do you read many books about politics?

BALL: I actually don’t. I mostly read literary fiction and nonfiction. Politics is my day job and I need an escape but I did read Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized” just before the pandemic hit. That is phenomenal.

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BOOKS: What kind of nonfiction books are you drawn to?

BALL: I love nonfiction novels. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo is one of my favorite books of all time. That’s such a deeply researched book. “Random Family” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is another all-time favorite. It’s like 900 pages long but it’s so riveting.

BOOKS: Who are your favorite novelists?

BALL: Growing up, my favorite writer was James Jones, who wrote “From Here to Eternity.” As an adult I’ve gravitated to more women writers. I devoured the Elena Ferrante books. I love Alice Munro. My favorite book of the last 10 years was “Netherland” by Joseph O’Neill. It’s about cricket and 9/11, two subjects that interest me barely at all, but it’s so beautifully written. I picked it up because it was on Barack Obama’s reading list. I’m not necessarily an Obama fan but he has a good taste in writing.

BOOKS: Did you read any biographies as background for your own book?

BALL: There’s a great biography of one of Pelosi’s political role models, Philip Burton, “A Rage for Justice” by John Jacobs. He’s a fascinating character. Another friend of mine, Sally Bedell Smith, has written a number of great biographies. I read her book about Prince Charles, which is really interesting even for someone who’s not at all interested in British royalty.

BOOKS: What else do you read?

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BALL: I was an English major in college and read poetry almost exclusively though I took a class on Joseph Conrad that changed my life. My thesis was on James Merrill. What blew my mind my freshman year was discovering “Paradise Lost.” I became obsessed with Milton. “Paradise Lost” is still one of my favorites.

BOOKS: Which poets do you read now?

BALL: I have a couple of shelves in my home library that I will dip into to soothe my mind. I always go back to Philip Larkin. I have a lot of his poems memorized and recite them to myself when I can’t sleep. I also go back to Merrill. A.E Stallings is a poet I like who’s working today. She’s American but lives in Greece. She’s a formalist but does some interesting things with the form.

BOOKS: What do you read for a guilty pleasure?

BALL: I don’t read for a guilty pleasure. My guilty pleasure is Candy Crush.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane” and she can be reached at amysutherland@mac.com.

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Politics

Free Market Politics Part 2: Can We Fix America's Political System? – Harvard Business Review

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July 02, 2020

The two-party system has been an entrenched feature of the U.S. electoral system since its inception. Is change even possible?

In the second episode of this special two-part discussion, business leader Katherine Gehl and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter discuss innovative reforms, like ranked-choice voting, that promote competition and accountability.

Later in the show, we talk with attorney and author Jeff Clements, of American Promise, about his efforts to reform campaign finance laws.

Want to explore more of the world of FOMO Sapiens? Follow Patrick McGinnis: FacebookLinkedInInstagramTwitter. Download the free FOMO Sapiens Handbook and more at www.patrickmcginnis.com.

HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.

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Politics – The Economist

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Police in Hong Kong made the first arrests under a draconian national-security law imposed from Beijing. Hong Kongers can now be jailed for life for vaguely defined crimes such as “subversion” or “conspiring” with anyone abroad to provoke “hatred” of the communist regime. Mainland secret police can now operate in Hong Kong. America’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to put sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who implement the crackdown. See article.

Boris Johnson reiterated his promise that Hong Kongers who were born before 1997, when the territory was handed back to China, could settle in Britain. The handover agreement back then stipulated that the city would retain its basic freedoms until at least 2047. See article.

Following months of talks, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a 90-day global ceasefire to allow war-torn areas to battle covid-19.

India banned 59 apps developed by China’s tech giants, including TikTok, accusing them of threatening the country’s security. The apps have hundreds of millions of users in India. See article.

A terrorist outfit seeking independence for Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, claimed responsibility for an attack on the stock exchange in Karachi. The assailants killed three people before they were shot dead by police.

Iran issued an arrest warrant for Donald Trump. It asked Interpol for help in detaining him and 35 others it accuses of involvement in the drone strike that killed Qassem Suleimani in January. Suleimani was an Iranian general who oversaw Shia militias that carried out attacks all over the Middle East. Interpol dismissed Iran’s request.

Scores of people were killed during demonstrations in Ethiopia that erupted after the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a prominent Oromo musician. His songs helped inspire a protest movement that led to the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as prime minister in 2018.

The leaders of Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania met to discuss ways of strengthening security to stop a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel. They were joined by Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister of Spain. France has more than 5,000 troops in the region.

Zimbabwe froze most mobile-money transactions to defend its ailing currency. It also suspended trading on the stock exchange, where traders had been observing share prices to estimate how much the currency is really worth.

Nearly 30 people, thought to be from the New Generation Jalisco drug gang, attacked the armoured car in which Mexico City’s police chief was riding. Two bodyguards and a passerby were killed. In the town of Irapuato, 24 people were slain by gunmen at a drug-rehabilitation centre. One of the government’s central pledges is to reduce gang violence.

Mexican police arrested a new suspect for the murder of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero in 2014. An earlier report by the government contended that police had handed over the students to a gang, which killed the students and burned their bodies. The report was widely seen as flawed.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), came into force. See article.

Mississippi’s legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state flag, which has flown outside the Capitol building since 1894. It is the last state to unstitch the emblem of the Confederacy from official regalia. See article.

Russians voted in a plebiscite on constitutional reforms. According to the electoral commission, 78% approved a package that includes inflation-proof pensions, a high minimum wage and a ban on gay marriage. It also allows Vladimir Putin to run twice more for president, and to sack judges. Voters had to say yes or no to the whole package. See article.

In France Emmanuel Macron’s party was hammered in the second round of local elections. The Greens won the mayor’s office in a number of big cities; the Socialists handily hung on to Paris. Mr Macron is now under pressure to relaunch his presidency with an extensive reshuffle. See article.

The first round in Poland’s presidential election was inconclusive, a rebuke to the incumbent Andrzej Duda, who is backed by the ruling Law and Justice party. Polls show him running neck and neck with the liberal mayor of Warsaw in the next round.

Ireland got its first-ever coalition government between its two historic main parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. The new prime minister, Micheal Martin, replaced Leo Varadkar, who will return to the office in two years’ time if the coalition lasts that long. See article.

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, invoked the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt when he announced a “new deal” to rebuild the economy. Many of the “new” projects are already in the pipeline. Mr Johnson has urged his countrymen to go to their local for a pint when pubs reopen on July 4th. See article.

Coronavirus briefs

More states in America reimposed lockdowns amid a surge in covid-19. The number of daily cases nationally passed 50,000 for the first time. In California, which had been considered an early success, restaurants and other businesses in 19 counties were ordered to shut. In Arizona, where infections have doubled in the past two weeks, the governor ordered gyms, bars and cinemas to close again for at least a month. See article.

Leicester, a city in Britain, was put back under lockdown as cases there continued to rise, to three times that of the city with the next-highest rate. See article.

The European Union reopened its borders to residents from 14 countries where the virus is under control, such as Canada and New Zealand. The list does not include Brazil, Russia or the United States. China will be added if it reciprocates.

This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics”

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