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Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics – Raise the Hammer
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.
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Liberals' ability to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny plays into system of 'image politics,' critics say – National Post
OTTAWA — The Liberal government has avoided months of parliamentary scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead using televised daily briefings with the prime minister to further its system of “image politics,” an expert in democratic process says.
The Liberals and New Democratic Party agreed earlier this week to suspend parliamentary proceedings until September 21, equipping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a “tremendous amount of power over the summer,” said Kathy Brock, professor at Queen’s University.
The decision comes after Trudeau has for months appeared in the House of Commons on a limited basis, instead using his daily briefings outside Rideau Cottage to announce major new spending measures and take questions from the media.
He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model
“This government is very focused on messaging and image politics and that meant that it wanted to respond to the needs of Canadians when the pandemic came up,” said Brock, who has served in various advisory roles to all three major political parties over the last 30 years.
“But when they started to face criticism for not acting as quickly as possible, the prime minister turned to the easiest tool, which is having briefings with the media outside Rideau Cottage,” she said.
The approach has been met with criticism by opposition parties and parliamentary experts, who say politicians have not had adequate time to press the Trudeau government on some of its largest spending measures, which now top an estimated $150 billion. They also say the government overreached in an earlier attempt to equip itself with the authority to tax, spend and loan money with almost no parliamentary oversight for nearly two years, well beyond the expected timeframe of the pandemic.
Other observers point out that Parliament would typically rise for the summer months regardless, and that “hybrid” forms of Question Period, which include virtual questions and answer sessions, have continued for the past few months.
“The cut-off in June is not an aberration,” said Lori Turnbull, professor of political science at Dalhousie University. However, she questioned “why there’s such a desire” to close off access to other forms of scrutiny, like private members bills or written questions to Parliament.
Turnbull, like others, has been surprised by the Liberals’ ability to secure the support of opposition parties to restrict in-person sittings of Commons.
“Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government,” she said, “It’s incredible what this government has done. We usually see more push and pull between the opposition and the government.”
The NDP has faced criticism for making an agreement with the Liberal party to suspend Parliament because it allows for the government to sidestep proper scrutiny.
NDP House leader Peter Julian pushed back against those claims in an interview Thursday, saying the deal secured four sitting days in the House of Commons during the summer — a provision that other parties were not pushing for.
“There’s been a lot of exaggeration,” Julian said.
Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government
The NDP opposed a Conservative proposal that would have had regular in-person sittings in the Commons well into June, in which a select group of roughly 50 people would attend in order to maintain social distancing measures. The proposal would have allowed Parliament to exert its full powers before summer break, but Julian argued it would have needlessly excluded the majority of MPs in Canada.
“I think it’s a very Ottawa-centric interpretation,” he said.
A spokesperson for Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez reiterated that all parties agreed to the March 13 motion to suspend Parliament until April 20. The agreement with the NDP allows for the continuation of a special COVID-19 committee that meets several times a week, but is not afforded the regular powers of the House.
“We believe it is a responsible plan that ensures accountability and transparency, and respects public health advice,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.
Candice Bergen, Conservative House leader, said there has been a push for months by the Liberal government to avoid regular parliamentary sittings. MPs in recent weeks had been sitting in-person on a limited basis once a week.
“I was clear with Pablo that we felt Parliament needed to resume,” Bergen said. “But that was clearly not what the government wanted and they found a dance partner in the NDP.”
She said Trudeau has instead opted to convey the Liberals approach to COVID-19 through the televised briefings at his official residence, where media ask daily questions.
“He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model,” Bergen said, adding that media “is not a substitute for the official Opposition.”
Brock, at Queen’s University, said the Rideau Cottage meetings give Trudeau more time to craft his own message on a daily basis, unimpeded, while taking only a select number of questions from journalists.
“It certainly operates in the Liberals’ favour, because they’re receiving media attention and it seems very positive because they’re responding to a crisis,” she said. “But it means that they aren’t getting tough questions to the same extent on other, lesser known files.”
Keep Politics Out of Reopening Houses of Worship – The New York Times
More from our inbox:
To the Editor:
Re “Firing Salvo in Culture Wars, Trump Wants Churches Open” (front page, May 23):
Last Friday was not the first time we have witnessed a politician attempting to ingratiate himself with faith communities. Through the years, leaders from both major political parties have sought the support of houses of worship in their electoral campaigns.
Certainly those of us who devote our lives to religious leadership would like to consider our work “essential.” And we eagerly await the day when we can welcome our congregants back to their spiritual homes. While we can pray to God anywhere at any time alone or with others, and while the internet has provided a viable and meaningful vehicle for gathering our members in this time of physical distancing, nothing could ever replace the power of in-person congregational worship.
But religious communities must not become political pawns for a president seeking to placate his evangelical base. In Judaism, the saving of life supersedes all other religious responsibilities. The decision whether or not to reopen houses of worship belongs in the hands of local authorities alone, guided by health concerns, not political ones.
Joshua M. Davidson
The writer is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.
To the Editor:
The cynicism of President Trump’s call to governors to open the churches is staggering. I am a Catholic who attends Mass every day. I have always loved the ritual of the Mass, and I rejoice and celebrate as I gather with friends old and new who enrich my life. I will return joyfully to my church when our governor deems it safe to do so, not when it is politically expedient for our president.
John T. Dillon
West Caldwell, N.J.
To the Editor:
President Trump asks all governors to immediately open up churches and allow in-person worship — without testing. Yet everyone who meets with Mr. Trump must first be tested.
So, what’s good for the gander ain’t good for the goose. If he truly believes that in-person worship is safe, let’s see him go to these churches (or restaurants or theaters) without testing — and let’s see him mingle with the folks not wearing masks.
Marc R. Stanley
Which Is the Better Bridge: The Brooklyn or the George Washington?
To the Editor:
Re “The Star of the City Sells Itself,” by Michael Kimmelman (Critic’s Notebook, Arts pages, May 7):
OK, the Brooklyn Bridge is wholly in New York City and joins two of its boroughs. And it was something of an engineering achievement. Book after book has been written about it; it appears in a wealth of movies.
But the great bridge in the New York area is the George Washington.
When I sought to read a book on the George, I discovered that there were none. Participating in a symposium at Columbia University on American icons, and listening to others drone on about the Brooklyn, I asked “What about the George?” There was complete silence. Then one participant said, to almost universal laughter, “But look where it goes,” the suggestion being that since the George crosses to New Jersey, it couldn’t possibly be important.
The George is also the gateway to Interstate 80, on which one may travel in a straight line to San Francisco. New Yorkers think of themselves as sophisticated compared with New Jerseyans, but they can often be decidedly parochial.
Michael Aaron Rockland
The writer is the author of “The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel” and a professor of American studies at Rutgers.
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