On Monday night, in an old industrial city 60 miles from here, a philanthropic leader gave a remarkable speech. In it, he announced a goal for his old city: to create more mixed-income housing and so end the isolation of social classes from one another.
The speaker was Terry Cooke, the ex-politician who now heads the Hamilton Community Foundation. Cooke is the former elected official who led the consolidation (in Canadian, they say “amalgamation”) of the city, county and suburban governments there about ten years ago. After some time in business, he’s now in charge of Hamilton’s biggest foundation, and he has his board’s endorsement to focus the community’s philanthropy to work preventing poor kids from falling through the cracks. But instead of the usual approach, Cooke and the foundation are going to try to do what Syracuse University’s Gerald Grant described in his book Hope and Despair in the American City, namely, ending the isolation of the urban poor.
Stay tuned: Cooke got interested in city-county merger, and then led the charge to get it done in his home town. Then Cooke read a review of Grant’s book in Artvoice, and now he’s got buy-in to tackle the problem that’s been killing snowy old industrial cities on both sides of the Niagara River. Buffalo may be the city where sound policy ideas go to die, Hamilton may be where they go to live.