Crazy About Downtown

Crazy About Downtown

Recently the Burlington Gazette posted a story about an upcoming development at Elgin Street and Blathwayte Lane in Burlington Downtown. The article solicited a lot of comments which revealed some concepts about people’s opinions that are dear to us at the Core Residents Group.

One of the comments which stands out was by a commenter named Peter Rusin, presumably the recent mayoral candidate and local Real Estate Professional. He writes in response to concerns about the proposed development’s suitability to the site and requirement to change zoning:

“This site is actually quite suitable for an 8-storey redevelopment. There is no reason for any of the old Meed Ward crazy type of resistance; that negative philosophy increases taxes for everybody, keeps unwanted upward pressure on housing price increases for everyone, and kills downtown businesses that hope to rely on more people living in the core. I just hope the old Meed Ward mentality changes in the new term of council. I hope she does her math homework; this assignment is easy. Go to eight stories and encourage even more intensified projects; The future of Burlington depends on it.”

There was so much loaded in this paragraph worth responding to that it made sense to post as an update.

Let’s start by pointing out the obvious, and that is that the function of The Core Residents Group, and that of other groups such as The Neighbours of St. Luke’s Precinct, or the media, and the city’s own civic engagement process — is to promote and engage in a healthy dialogue. To voice matters important to each other, voice opinions, exchange ideas, educate on change and new ideas, and be informative and connected. As a foundation of the democratic free speach society we live in we must embrace this idea, and perhaps more so, encourage and treat dearly the climate or environment where people feel free to express themselves without fear of unkind judgements or alienation.

Mr. Rusin labels the downtown community groups as “crazy”. Not just crazy, the note asserts that the Core Residents and Neighbours of St. Luke’s Precinct are in some way minions of our Councillor Meed Ward’s philosophies. So to summarize, we’re crazy minions of some old style resistance bent on killing the downtown.

Though by nature of our argument, this is a rightful opinion and which may be shared by more than Mr. Rusin, the tone and intent is defaming with the goal to discredit and scare people into silence. This disrespectful tone is precisely the type of accusation style silencer shot toward individuals. It’s the type of bullying that groups like the Core Residents and other associations are looking to rise above and reach out to broad and previously silenced voices. Our goal is to facilitate conversation, to encourage debate and together feel confident and strong that our opinions matter and will be heard.

Mr. Rusin perhaps belongs to an ideology shared by some politicians and developers that suggest that residents — people who live in the area of developments, or people who are affected by policy — are uneducated crazy types that aren’t qualified to provide input. That we are too irrational, or simple, or don’t get the big picture enough to weigh in and influence the outcome.

Mr. Rusin suggests that the crazy people of downtown are followers of a Meed Ward-ian style of resistance presumably against all development and change. But more so perhaps the suggestion is deeper. Perhaps the assertion is that we share Meed Ward’s desire for transparency, connectivity, dialogue, accessibility to the civic process and conversation and influence on the outcomes. Perhaps we share a common desire to change the way the whole civic and municipal political system works and by plugging ourselves back in we can be once again a critical part of our city, rather than relegated to simply living here — quietly. Perhaps Mr. Rusin is suggesting this is a scary or dangerous idea.

This is truly our city and these are our neighbourhoods, our downtowns, and our process inside which we should influence the outcomes.

If Mr. Rusin wants to call that crazy — to call everyone passionate about where they live, build their businesses, raise their families and friendships crazy — then perhaps he is right. We’re crazy about the downtown and our great city of Burlington.

Please become part of the conversation and be heard. Join the list and stay connected as together we can shape our neighbourhoods.