On the same day in December I went to two public meetings and in a post mortem thought how they presented a portrait of old Hamilton and new Hamilton.
The first meeting was about traffic. A city official was assigned to a marathon session of answering questions, and explaining the role of speed bumps, chokers, and knock down sticks. It was a review of the North End traffic management plan, held at a small room in a recreation centre. Most of the attendees were 40 plus, well versed in neighbourhood issues and seemingly worn down to a weary acceptance of complex traffic woes.
The next meeting was held by Environment Hamilton at Merit Brewing on James North. They were updating the year’s achievements and unveiling a new logo. There were a lot of young people at the meeting, they chugged craft beer and ate sausage while hearing about air monitoring, tree planting and a Climate Action Campaign. The meeting was convivial, even hopeful. The young people did not have that air of perpetual irritability you see at neighbourhood meetings. It was thought provoking to be in a room full of energy and enthusiasm.
It’s too simple to say that neighbourhood meetings are full of pessimistic old folk, but I bet at any neighbourhood meeting anywhere in Hamilton, you’ll see a core group who have been fighting the good and sometimes bad fight, for years. You can’t help but get cranky and suspicious after 30 to 40 years of wrestling with official plans and studies and surveys.
What I hoped for after seeing the beards and the cool haircuts and tattoos at the Environment Hamilton meeting, was that some of these people start coming out in greater numbers to neighbourhood meetings. Not to say they should all be environmentalists, but young would be good, new ideas would be good, and fresh perspective too.
Sometime after those meetings, I took a walk around Gore Park. There was an excellent art show at the lovely Red Church Cafe + Gallery called Heart of the City: Art Celebrates the Gore, with paintings, photos and mixed media pieces celebrating and reflecting 150 years of the Gore. Red Church is a new and welcome spot in Victoria Hall at 68 King Street East. It’s been a beleaguered stretch bordering the Gore, with elegant buildings eroding with neglect and others maintaining their dignity against all odds.
As I left the cafe I looked at the street scape and the skyline. The beautiful Right House was bathed in twilight, and the new 20 storey student residence was visible behind the renovation of the William Thomas building on James Street North. Like those two meetings it was symbolic of the old enduring Hamilton starting to share space with the new. New buildings, new young people, and new ideas. Maybe we won’t like it all but staying static is the path to decay.