Friday, June 24, 2016

Episode 8 of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns"

In this episode of As Hamilton Twists and Turns, " the one with the big guns", we find Mayor Eisenberger reaching out to MPs and MPPs, unleashing  a letter of support for LRT and asking them to endorse it. And while some took the bait and provided a strong endorsement, others such as MP and former Mayor Bob Bratina - who in the past appeared to have serious reservations about LRT as it is presently envisioned, according to an aid, declined to sign the letter electing not to influence council's decision. (source- The Spec).

Meanwhile, The Hamiltonian, while unnerving some by continuing to remain neutral and allow for all sides of the discussion to be engaged, engaged its Perspectives Virtual Panel for their advice and found that for the most part, LRT seems to have met with representatives of the Virtual panel's support, albeit in different shades and colours. 

Meanwhile. some fundamental questions posed by The Hamiltonian, (see them by clicking here) appear unanswerable at present , prompting some to question whether the city can sufficiently pass a proof of concept test where LRT is concerned. 

And as quoted in the Hamilton Spectator, Mayor Eisenberger said " I think it's important for people to know how all the elected representative view this significant investment in the city of Hamilton." reminiscent of a pressure driven tactic, which in the past, backfired - click here for the "put up or shut up" ultimatum and how that ended. Still, the Mayor is earning full points by being present in the ring and continues to work this file, as he should.

But will it be enough? Will the "others think it's a good idea, so I should as well" mentality work, or is the real battle in the details? Will the mayor be seen to be trafficking in opinion rather than facts? And is the business case for LRT so strong that it will come to nullify any doubt? 

As the Clr. Terry Whitehead's of the world continue to delve into details and acid test the direction LRT may be headed, will it be the answers or lack thereof to the hard questions that win the day, or will the appetite for LRT be so pervasive that risks teeter between the reasonable and the mysterious? And will the newest Councilor , Clr. Skelly lend force to the acid test? 

All this and more as As Hamilton Twists and Turns continues....

Fade to black morphing between the following images - Clr. Whitehead at his desk reading reports and comparables, Ryan McGreal drafting an article on Raise the Hammer, Mayor Eisenberger speaking to a councillor with a serious look on his face,  Bob Bratina with a grin that could be saying -I told you so....the creative mind of Graham Crawford drafting a poster"

Missed the previous episode of As Hamilton Twists and Turns? Click here to go there. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In Honour of the late Mahesh Butani

The Spectator's tribute to Mahesh can be found by clicking here, or buying June 24th's paper. 

Mahesh Butani was a passionate individual who was steadfast in his convictions. His love for Hamilton was second to none, and we are deeply saddened to learn of Mahesh's passing.

We thought it most fitting to honour Mahesh by reposting an answer he gave to a question we once asked him in The Hamiltonian:

If you had the undivided attention of all Hamiltonians, including city council, what would you say to council, and what would you say to Hamiltonians, in terms of advice on how we can better succeed as a city?

To the Council:

Endeavour to meet at least one other councilor and their family for an informal dinner once a week through the term, in spite of conflicting agendas and schedules.

Always be wary of forming a quorum at barbeques, games and chat rooms.

Stay the course on the vision of making Hamilton a ' People's Place' as per the internationally recognized definition of the term, in spite of conflicting agendas.

Hand over the baton with grace when you feel you have given your best to the community and have nothing more to contribute to the ever evolving public good in rapidly changing times.

To Hamiltonians:

Form new Citizens Talent Banks and not new Watch Groups.
Start trading in innovative ideas amongst different talent banks and the Council.

Collaborate with your Councillor to achieve your aspirations for Hamilton.

Don't be afraid in forming a quorum at barbeques, games and chat rooms.

Stay the course on the vision of making Hamilton a 'People"s Place' as per the internationally recognized definition of the term, in spite of conflicting agendas.

Mentor with grace those who you feel are capable of leading the next guard to enhance the ever evolving public good in rapidly changing times, and show up to vote for them when your time comes to take a stand.

Rest in Peace Mahesh. You will be missed!

The Hamiltonian

Monday, June 20, 2016


The following email exchange is between Clrs. Green and Skelly with respect to a motion of Clr. Green that seeks to purchase public broadcast rights to live stream the Tragically Hips final show on Aug. 20th .

Whereas The Tragically Hip are perhaps the most Canadian Band of all time

And whereas front man Gord Downie is considered the voice of a generation

And whereas it has been announced that their final Man Machine Poem National concert night on Aug 20th is to be broadcast to the public on CBC television.

And whereas ticket scalping has made attending these concerts difficult for the local fans

Therefore be it resolved that staff urgently explore the feasibility of purchasing public broadcast rights to live stream the Tragically Hips final show on Aug. 20th at Gage Park or another suitable city owned location and report back on a cost recovery strategy for the lowest possible ticket price for the general public.

Dear Councillors. I understand your interest in webcasting the Tragically Hip concert but I must stress that I believe this is an area that council should not be delving into. Securing broadcast or multi platform rights for any concert or public event can be costly and should be left to the private sector. There is massive interest in the upcoming Tragically Hip concert. If it can be webcast I am sure other more experienced and more suitable companies / promoters are already exploring the options. We should not use taxpayers money asking staff to look into something that does not fall under our mandate. The CBC and private broadcast companies have the resources and experience to pursue such matters. I think we should leave it to the professionals. Regards Councillor Skelly

Councillor Skelly,

I’m already told that countless municipalities across the country are looking into doing the same given the circumstances of the Band and the deeply regarded band’s Canadian culture impact. In fact, it is my understanding that the Band is actually hopeful that the public can come together around this tour through the CBC Live Stream and their management team is open to working with interested partners.

Furthermore given that this is being streamed by the CBC which of course is a publicly funded broadcast corporation, it appears that government is already fully participating in this Nation building event and local partners have already indicated that it’s not all the complicated. You may remember the public screenings of the Pan Am Soccer games that were wildly popular last summer?

Having said all of that, the beautiful thing about our democracy is that you will have the opportunity to vote against the Public Interest of live streaming the last performance of The Tragically Hip.

Thank you for your advanced comments on the matter. My motion stands and I am hopeful to have broad support.

Councillor Green. I appreciate your comments but I stand by my earlier views. Clearly the recent developments have created a great deal of interest in the “Hips” upcoming series of concerts. Members of the private sector have already shown an interest in broadcasting and or webcasting the event. I am confident that our staff will work with any company or organization that comes forward with a plan to do so . Having said that I do not feel comfortable spending tax dollars “purchasing public broadcast rights to live stream the Tragically Hips final show.” Like you, I respect our democracy and look forward to voting on your motion. Respectfully Councillor Skelly

I am most interested in seconding this motion.‎ I would suspect it we will easily find an avenue to make this cost nutural (sponsors) and free to the public given the national interest. I would also welcome a "pass the hat" scenario during the live stream of the TV event, where all proceeds go to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada (or the charity of the Hips choosing).
JCF (Clr. Farr)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Marvin Ryder- on LRT

Marvin Ryder who is a member of our Perspectives Virtual panel, was on vacation when the latest assignment was issued. He thus asked if he could submit his views upon his return. Please find below Marvin's reply to our questions:

It is dawning on many that LRT is both a large and long-lived infrastructure investment for Hamilton. The project would be simpler and less costly if tracks were being laid on barren ground but to have the right impact, tracks are being laid over other infrastructure (like sewers, water lines, gas lines, phone lines, etc.) buried in the street. The infrastructure under the ground has to be in perfect condition - if a water main breaks, the 12 kilometers of LRT shuts down. This makes it unlike the bus system we have. One small breakdown and nothing works!

Along with track, LRT consists of a number of stops. These are more than a place to board or disembark from the LRT - these are designated nodes/hubs of future development. Condos or commercial developments constructed over the next 25 years will be located near those hubs. We are arguing about the need for LRT and the route now. We will argue about the hubs/nodes next.

Does Hamilton need an LRT in 2016? I don't think so. We don't have enough transit users today. But over the next 25 years, Hamilton is supposed to grow by 100,000 to 200,000 citizens. Assuming we honour the greenbelt and end suburban sprawl, the only way to accommodate these people will be through intensification. Reminiscent of Europe, people will buy flats or condos rather than a house on a plot of land. Community parks and recreation spaces will become more important. The intensification will most likely be driven in the urban part of Hamilton - people in Rockton or Elfrida or Carlisle need not worry about seven story buildings. Thus an LRT constructed in the next five years is to serve the Hamilton of the next 25 years. You don't wait for the intensification to happen and then build the infrastructure; you try to get out ahead of it. For those who live in Dundas or Ancaster or Waterdown or even Stoney Creek, the LRT will likely have little impact on your life. But the impact of the new citizens choosing to live and work in Hamilton will grow the assessment base and should help ease the sting of municipal property taxes.

Do I think the LRT will lead to an economic boom? No. It is the increased population which will demand more products and services. The LRT will drive the choices of where the new housing and commercial developments will happen. Too often in Hamilton, people look to the "one big thing" which is supposed to fix everything. If only Hamilton had an NHL team or a casino or a new football stadium or an LRT everything will be rosy. On its own, the LRT will not make life better but it sends a signal to those entrepreneurs who want to build and invest that Hamilton is a city that is ready for the 21st. century.

I know that provincial dollars come from the same taxpayers who fuel the federal and municipal governments. Still, this offer of funding cannot simply be ignored. My advice is to reconfirm the commitment to LRT. We do not need a referendum. Councillors are elected to represent their constituents but also, sometimes, to lead constituents. We constituents tend to focus too much on the present and what we can touch, and too little on the future and the possibilities in front of us. Once reaffirmed, the focus should shift to finding the right route. You only get one chance to build infrastructure like this - we have to get it right. (I don't think we got the siting of the stadium right but LRT location is ten times more important!)

Marvin Ryder

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

LRT- Answers to Follow

The following questions were posed to City Manager Chris Murray. The reply to the questions was submitted by Kelly Anderson, APR | Manager of Communication; Engagement Light Rail Transit (LRT) on behalf of Mr. Murray:

You recently stated that work on LRT continues, even as the matter is again being discussed at the council level.

1. Given that the planned installation does not go from destination to destination, but rather is a destination to node concept, and given that the first phase of LRT does not proceed to Eastgate, when might the public know the following:

a. How much a fare will cost to from Mac to Eastgate, assuming that there will be a transfer from LRT to busses along that route.

b. Whether there will be a premium attached to traveling by light rail, based on its features.

c. How much faster or slower will traveling by LRT will be, relative to the alternatives.

2. While 1 Billion in provincial funding is a welcome influx of funding, the average Hamiltonian may be wondering how we can make a determination that LRT is the right choice, unless the questions above are known. Do you believe that to be a fair assessment; why or why not?

3. If a premium were to be attached to traveling by LRT based on it being more modern, reportedly faster etc., do you worry that the nature of public transit will cease to be affordable in a city where poverty continues to be a important concern. What measures might be considered to mitigate this?


Fare levels have not yet been determined. As part of the project implementation, Metrolinx will work with the City of Hamilton to examine operating and maintenance options. Decisions about who will operate and maintain the LRT – including decisions about fares –are expected to be made over the coming months in conversations between the City and Metrolinx.

In terms of the speed of LRT, a study is ongoing to project travel times and will be shared with the public in September as part of the Environmental Assessment Addendum process. HSR is also working on bus realignment plans and schedules to feed the LRT line.

We are in the first year of an 8-year project and there are many details to be confirmed as we move through the process. This is typical for a major infrastructure project of this magnitude and complexity. We understand that there are a lot of outstanding questions in the community and we will continue to provide the most updated information through the LRT Subcommittee of Council as it becomes available.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ward 7 Clr. Donna Skelly- on LRT

Please enjoy our chat with Ward 7 Clr. Donna Skelly on the subject of LRT.

1. Do you believe the call for a vote to reaffirm support for LRT was necessary? Please explain your answer. 

 I do not believe it was necessary to call for a vote to reaffirm support for LRT. Instead of “reaffirming support” the motion has raised many, many questions while prompting residents , who until recently had not been engaged in the discussion, to voice their opinion both in support of and against the proposed plan.

2. Are you in favour of a referendum with respect to LRT, to gauge the will of Hamiltonians across all wards?

I would support a referendum.

3. What would be the top reason(s) why you might support moving forward with LRT, and what are the top reason(s) that might give you pause?

Since Councillor Merulla’s motion to “reaffirm support” for LRT, I have been meeting with stakeholders and guaging support for the billion dollar transit plan. I have visited Kitchener Waterloo to see their LRT project, York Region to look at their BRT service and will be heading to Buffalo on Friday. I continue to question the location of the proposed line and the necessity of the project. All of the transit studies before council have stated that LRT should not be built without first addressing difficiencies in the current transit system. I want to see an expanded bus service across all of Hamilton as well as improved connectivity between the lower and upper parts of the city and improved GO service. This should be the priority for council.

4. Is there anything else you’d like Hamiltonians to know about your considerations and thinking with respect to the LRT question?

I would add that the city should wait until all information requested has been made available before moving forward with LRT. 

Thank-you to Clr. Skelly for engaging with Hamiltonians via The Hamiltonian.

Please note  The Hamiltonian will not publish comments that attack the Clr. or one another. Nor will we publish any comments that are unprofessional or otherwise disrespectful. Please feel free to agree or disagree with one another respectfully. Thank-you