Cities Don’t Just Build Themselves

In the cradle of the American Revolution, home to the Boston Tea Party and No Taxation Without Representation, your hotel room rates come with 3 add on taxes. State and municipal occupancy taxes, both in and around 6%, plus something called a Convention Centre tax adding another 2.75% to your bill.


Nowhere did I see a casino, tucked away in 8 per cent of the floor space, its slots churning out the necessary revenue to build the structure that housed it. The recent refurbishments and expansion to the south Boston convention centre was paid for, at least in part, by a tax placed on visitors to the city, many of whom, I am guessing, had zero political say in implementing the charge. No taxation without representation indeed.

Further inland, there is a ball park, built in 1912 and now more than a 100 years later, remains the beating heart of a neighbourhood, if not the entire city. (No less a nation, even. Red Sox Nation.) The place is quirky. It is a little dumpy. It seats far fewer people than would eagerly come out to watch their beloved Sox play ball if they were to tear it down and build a bigger shrine with all the mod cons.

Toronto also had a baseball stadium, re-built a couple years before Fenway. It’s been merely a memory for nearly eight decades now. Plowed under to make way for an airport on the island which, in the 1930s probably seemed like a very good idea. But as circumstances changed over the years and the city developed in ways our predecessors could never have imagined, earlier decisions seem a little quaint and maybe even woefully misguided.


Cities don’t just evolve, organically, on their own. They are shaped by choices, both officially and not. What seems like a no-brainer in an earlier era strikes the next one as pure bone-headedness. Bad decisions are unavoidable. Nobody can predict the future with absolute accuracy.

Mistakes can be mitigated, however, and reduced in numbers and scope when facts and informed opinion are utilized rather than simple wishful thinking. Pure self-interest and expediency seldom generate good public policy or a satisfying public realm. Craven appeals to crass politics, hoping for some miracle to appear to spare us the hard work of proper city building is short-sighted at best, an abuse of power and an abdication of responsibility at worst.

A city reflects the attitudes residents have toward it. Benign neglect is certainly the easiest option. It avoids dealing with difficult problems and passes them along, with interest compounded, to the next generation. Benign neglect allows a city’s history to be bulldozed and hands over the future to those with very narrow vested interests.


Those are the cities people tend not to flock to but away from.

submitted by Cityslikr

6 Responses to Cities Don’t Just Build Themselves

  1. says:

    …Especially when we have those centre-centric southpaws always doin stuff against the wishes of Patrick Smyth.

  2. Sonny says:

    Toronto is no Boston! City building will require the Public support.
    Now since Ford can’t get funding for his subway he should get out of the way

  3. Patrick Smyth says:

    “A city reflects the attitudes residents have toward it.” Good grief! Let’s be honest here.

    This city reflects what the Circus under the Dome brings to town.

    Like the time when the Circus paved over parkland on the Waterfront to build condos for future downtown NIMBYS.
    Like the time when the New Development Party created a free-for-all for developers at the same time as shrinking the Planning Department.
    Like the time somebody slipped in a clause to erect bike lanes and then decided to rip them out.
    Like the time the clowns voted to kill the VRT and so many of them regretted it later.

    Like the time Perks, Vaughan, Davis, McConnell, Fletcher, Augimeri, Carroll voted to kill free affordable housing units in my community making some of those 156,000 needy residents wait longer for somewhere decent to live.

    • Ron Wheeler says:

      Attaboy Patrick…I knew it would be interpreted as a sleight on your interests..

      • glenn storey says:

        affordable housing, affordable housing, affordable housing. i know what the people want folks, and it’s affordable housing.

  4. Simon Says says:

    I heard they built a city with rock and roll…

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