Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hamilton's Dead...or is it?

In Report on Business Magazine, as found in the Globe & Mail, Trevor Cole recently wrote about our city, in an article entitled Hamilton's Dead. Or is it?

The article is found here Hamilton's Dead. Or is it?

Here's some small excerpts, but please read the entire article to get the whole context for it.  "The image of Hamilton as a grime-covered palooka destined for defeat has now hardened into something self-perpetuating."

"Stop mourning the death of Steeltown, and start fostering the birth of something new."

What do you think of the article? Fair? Balanced? What part of it do you agree or disagree with and why.

(Thanks to a friend for the tip about this article ;-))

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walmart and Winona

A good reporter follows the story. A good detective follows the evidence. I guess a good blog publisher should pick up on discussion patterns and host the topic.

The big box store syndrome keeps popping up throughout comments posted on this site. So, I thought we should discuss it. I'll write at greater length about my views on the matter, and in my role as Community Chair of the Stoney Creek Urban Expansion Committee CCAC, but for now I'll just say that I don't support putting a big box store in Winona. I think Councilors Maria Pearson and David Mitchell were very short sighted and are effectively selling out Winona by supporting such a move.

What do you think about a big box store in Winona, or big box stores in Hamilton? Too many? Good investment? Dead ends? Let's talk about it.

Start the Crusade?

I received this email from Yvonne Williams, President of Total Confidence Renovations, Training and Tool Rentals Company Website.  

Yvonne wrote to me in response to an opinion article that I wrote that appeared in the Hamiltion Spectator. The article was entitled "Who Are We Anyway?" It can be found here Who Are We Anyway?

Yvonne confirms what I suspect that many Hamiltonian's are feeling and what I expressed in the article. Let's examine her email.

Yvonne writes:

I loved your article and I would like to take this on the crusade to help rebrand Hamilton . I used to live in T.O and often get the "bad" look when I say that I am from Hamilton and people are amazed when I say that I moved back here ..

I am proud of this city . one of the ideas for rebranding could be " simple .. because we are nice" Torontonians are generally considered to be stuck up and I find that even though people here may be "rough around the edges compared to Toronto standards" that we are friendlier and we would help you out in a heartbeat.

or Hamilton, the real town (as people are very real here), we don't pretend to be someone else, nor do we strive to impress people with fancy things that we may not be able to afford, we accept people for who they are, not for what they may or may not have

Please let me know how I can get involved

I suggested to Yvonne that I feature her email as a topic on the blog and she kindly agreed.

What do you think of her comments and the need to rebrand Hamilton? Anyone in for a crusade?

(Thanks Yvonne for your contribution to The Hamiltonian)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Mark Alan Whittle

This edition of 10 Tough Questions features Mark Alan Whittle, a registered lobbyist and an engaged Hamiltonian. 10 Tough Questions actually involves 11 questions, 1 of which the featured guest can elect to pass on. In Mark's case, he elected to answer all 11 questions. Here are his answers verbatim.

1. You have stated that you are the only registered lobbyist in the City of
Hamilton. Do you think lobbyist should be required to register themselves? If so, what benefit would this bring to Hamilton?

I think all lobbyist plying their trade in Hamilton should be required to register, voluntary or otherwise. When I first started out there was no lobbyist registry at all and it was at my suggestion that the volunteer registry be started by city staff in the clerk's office. The perception out there that Councillors are being influenced is real, if someone hires you to represent them to council, by definition you are a lobbyist for that person or business. The public should know who is bending who's ear, just like the residents of Toronto are afforded through their Lobbyist Registry.

2. What is the nature of your lobbying activities?

My last clients family owns land near Flamborough Downs and Casino who wanted to open a driving range facility using an existing building on the property. Unfortunately the Green Belt legislation and Hamilton's rural land use policy is very restrictive in this area and I was unsuccessful after numerous meetings with city hall staff to find a way.

3. Do you believe Hamiltonians are getting value for their tax dollars.Why or why not?

No, since they have never went down as long as I've been living here, and the accumulated debt is past half a million dollars, the interest payments are obscene.

4. Do you believe that Hamilton is "business friendly" enough?

That depends on the business and how many jobs they create. Wal-Mart seems to be a favourite of late. At least they pay their property taxes and they pay their employees well above minimum wage and have some benefits included.

5. What is the best decision that you believe that city council has made over the course of this term, and what do you think was the worst decision made?

The best decision this term was the creation of the Integrity Commissioners office and the worst decision was appointing George Rust-D'Eye to the position. A gifted defence Lawyer like George is good at getting clients off, not holding them to account. My pick would be soon to be retired Hamilton Police Chief Brian J. Mullan.

6. If you were in charge of creating a marketing plan for our city, howwould you approach this? What would be your focus?

If I was in charge of Marketing this city I would be working closely with Hamilton Philanthropist Chris Ecklund who has been promoting Hamilton as the city of waterfalls, something we have more of than any other community in the world. Not a penny of taxpayers' money was used.

7. What would you say is Hamilton's greatest strength and what would be our greatest weakness?

Our greatest strength is the residents and how we help each other get along and our weakness is a dysfunctional council, which I feel is due for a shake-up at the ballot box. Too much dead wood.

8. Who would you say is the most effective councillor and why?

I would say ward seven councillor Scott Duvall who personally delivered a new blue bin to my house after municipal garbage collection staff broke it by flinging it onto my cement driveway during the winter. He also responds to constituents in a timely fashion. He reminds me of past ward seven alderman Henry Merling, a real constituency man.

9. If you could provide one piece of advice to council and/or the Mayor, what would that be?

Spend more time challenging the assertions of staff and cut through the bafflegab by doing the spade work on research and past decisions. I've read so many reports that run for pages, yet have little to say.

10. Do you believe Hamilton has its financial house in order. If not, how would you suggest we proceed?

To get our house in order staff should be directed to adopt zero-based budgeting and have to account for every cent they spend, just like the rest of us trying to survive have to do. Having department start off with an automatic 2 or 3 percent increase will only encourage staff to waste more than they save.

11. Do you support the need for a full time Integrity Commissioner?

I fully support an Integrity Commissioner that is on call for whenever his services are needed. Hopefully council will appoint someone soon, now that they have about 50 applicants on file.

Thanks for allowing me to have a say.

Special thanks to Mark Alan for his contribution to "The Hamiltonian" and for his interest in our city.

Blog Policy Note: Bad language, name calling or other inappropriate posts will not be tolerated. Posts of this nature will not be edited. Rather, they will not be posted. Please keep your comments respectful

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pan Am Funding

As reported in today's Spectator, the Freedom Party of Ontario has launched an Internet-based campaign to derail the southern Ontario bid to host the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The No Tax for Pan Am campaign launched yesterday with a website, notaxforpanam.com, as well as a Facebook group and a presence on Twitter.

Their goal is to get the three levels of government to withdraw all funding commitments for the Games.

Mayor Eisenberger stated "I don't see any reason to step back, although I'm fully aware that there might be some who might be opposed and might align themselves with this,"

An excerpt from the Freedom Party of Ontario's site reads as follows:

The Toronto bid proposes that the lion's share of the $1.7 billion hosting costs be charged to all Canadian taxpayers: the taxpayers in all provinces, territories, and cities. That's over $50 for every man woman and child: $200 for a family of four. Worse: because the governments of Canada, Ontario, and Toronto are all running deficits, that additional money would have to be borrowed. Even worse: the interest on that money would cost taxpayers additional hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, in the coming years. To add insult to injury: only the tiniest fraction of all Canadians will ever be permitted to attend the Games (even if they are held in Toronto).

What's your take. Should tax money be used for this purpose?

Monday, August 24, 2009


With the cost of the Eisenberger/Clark investigations nipping  taxpayers to the tune of $128,000.00, there is talk of whether the taxpayers of Hamilton should be reimbursed for the costs of the investigative process. The argument being, that the investigations would not have been necessary had the code of conduct been respected.

Do you think the taxpayers should be reimbursed the cost?

What if this applied to a citizen initiated complaint that was made in bad faith?  Under those circumstances, should a citizen also be required to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of an investigation?

Should there be a higher standard that is applicable to those elected?

Should payback be required at all, or is this the cost of doing business and making corrections?

A Very Encouraging Start

“The Hamiltonian” blog/ezine has had a very good start. Since the site launched, a mere week or so ago, we’ve had over 2000 hits. The site was inspired by the good work of the Hamilton Spectator, and more specifically, Nicole MacIntyre with her Hallmarks blog, which provided an opportunity for engaged citizens and councilors to exchange ideas on topical issues.

The Hamiltonian will continue to evolve. At present, it provides a similar forum that Hallmarks provided. Additionally, it doubles as my personal blog, which, from time to time, may feature my views on issues. The blog has featured “10 Tough Questions” and has featured past and present politicians. Its intent however, is also to capture the views of Hamiltonians and in the future, it will feature citizens also responding to questions.

The blog is moderated and I have a dedicated support person to post new topics, clear posts,  and have them appear in a timely fashion. I believe in respectful discourse so I invite constructive criticism and even pointed criticism, as long as it is in good taste.

What can you do to help ensure this blog remains vibrant and active?

1. Tell all your friends about it. Send out an email to your network encouraging folks to visit.
2. Post your views
3. Send suggestions on how to make the blog better to thehamiltonian@cogeco.ca
4. Post a link to your website and encourage others to do so as well.
5. Send suggestions for new topics you'd like to see explored to  thehamiltonian@cogeco.ca.

Hamilton has always thought of itself as being on “the verge of greatness”. I believe we can get over this hump and I believe it starts with citizen engagement. Please use this blog to voice your concerns, ideas and aspirations for our great city. People are listening.


Cal DiFalco

Saturday, August 22, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Councillor Brian McHattie

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie shares some thoughts on 10 Tough Questions.

1. Your interest in getting a start on banning plastic bags in Hamilton was met with some skepticism. A cartoon featured in the Hamilton Spectator,put a sharp point on this criticism. . I note that many stores are now selling plastic bags and many people have grasped the concept of declining bags in favour of using their own packaging. Were we short sighted in thisregard?

It does appear that stores are responding which is positive. I am not aware of any Hamilton studies that measure the uptake of non-plastic bags by shoppers in the city. Hopefully they are using cloth bags etc in a more significant fashion. To me, this is the age-old argument about making change voluntary or mandating it via policy or legislation: my view is that we need both; in practice some folks will only respond when they are legislated to do so.

2. If you could change one thing about how council operates, what would that be and why?

This may sound minor, but there should be regular shifting of where each Councillor sits in Standing Committee, Committee of the Whole, and Council meetings. You’d be surprised at how the seating arrangement (currently alphabetical) influences Councillors’ comments and decisions on votes. On the other side of that, sitting beside a colleague that one doesn’t usually have much time for allows for better understanding and relationship-building. This sort of rotation could occur every three months for example.

3. What was the most useful criticism you have received as a politician and how did that change you?

I don’t know if this was entirely outward criticism or self-criticism but given my background on environmental and social justice issues, and concern with urban sprawl, early on in my tenure I tended to knee-jerk against pro-development interests, and my responses now are much more balanced (although I’m not sure that all would agree with that). Same goes with a keener focus on economic development, while still being passionate about ecological sustainability.

4. What are the top three issues in your ward and how do they reconcile against the greater interests of Hamilton?

1. Impact of Student Housing Proliferation in Ainslie Wood - Westdale (decreased quality of life, property standards/noise issues, folks abadnonding neighbourhoods leading to student-only areas/loss of balanced, multi-perspective neighbourhoods)

This issue is largely specific to the Ainslie Wood - Westdale (AWW) neighbourhoods around Mac, although it is now filtering into Kirkendall and Strathcona neighbourhoods. The area around Mohawk College portrays similar problems according to Councillor Whitehead. City-wide this affects our relationship with Mac as they have been very unhelpful in assisting with impacts of their large increases in undergraduate student enrolment, this leads to conflict, with students having a poor experience in AWW, making it less likely they'll want to stay in Hamilton, post-graduation.

2. Reducing Car Travel in Favour of Pedestrian and Cycling Improvements

This is a very important issue for many of my constituents and we’ve been working at installing bike lanes (did York Blvd, Dundurn Street coming, along with extending the rail trail, Longwood Rd next). We’ve undertaken a community-based walkability analysis for neighbourhoods in Ainslie Wood Westdale and our City-run neighbourhood master transportation plans have emphasized alternative transportation and implementation of the International Charter on Walking, signed earlier by Mayor Eisenberger. We are very supportive of LRT on King with two-way traffic flow on both King and Main. Hopefully our work can inspire other neighbourhoods.

3. Redevelopment of Brownfield/Greyfield Sites - Intensification
As discussed in the Spec, the former school board building at 220 Dundurn Street has been empty for many years and is really a blight in the neighbourhood. I have been working with our Bylaw department for the past two years to improve property standards, and most importantly we have a site plan approval for a new residential development. Another example of this redevelopment is the former Tim Hortons site at Aberdeen and Dundurn, where a condo development is planned. In these infill examples we’ll need to seek a balance between neighbourhood requirements and our mandate to promote intensification as outlined in the new City Official Plan. This will be a debate on sites across the City so again our work will provide examples for others.

5. If you could change a single decision that was made by council over the course of this term, what would that be and why?
It would be take the original staff advice and recommendations of the Hemson report to protect all of the available industrial land as employment land as required by the Places to Grow Act versus exempting the four-five properties that Council did, paving the way for additional big-box stores, and creating a need to find the lost employment land elsewhere, perhaps leading to a larger sprawl-style business park on important farmland around the airport. Specifically, the decisions to allow big-box developments at 50 Rd and Centennial Parkway are problematic.

6. In this present term, there has been sensational reporting on some of the antics that go on at council. Do you think that good news stories and accomplishments are under-reported?
Vastly under-reported due to the sensational-style reporting style of the media, especially the print media.

7. In some ways, you are a representative for our “environmental conscious”. Are we doing enough on that front and how do you balance environmental responsibility with fiscal constraint?

My view is that the health of the environment in Hamilton is the underpinning for success in our community. In this, I mean that if we don't take action (ie., spend more on transit and other alternative transportation choices to mitigate the impact of climate change and prepare our community for a peak oil and gas scenario) on the larger ecological imperatives such as climate change adaption and long-term prevention; poor air quality; protection of local farmland ensuring the ability to feed Hamiltonians, then the City of Hamilton will not be a place that industries and citizens move to; especially as the economy becomes more focused on knowledge industries requiring highly skilled workers who can choose where they wish to work.

8. Are we doing enough to address the needs of the poor in Hamilton? If we could do one thing differently, what would that be?
I would be so bold to state that we are leading the Province in this respect through the work of many, facilitated by the Roundtable on Poverty Reduction. The Province of Ontario and national and international jurisdictions have made this observation as well. Although we have been active on this area, the key activity we need is to work more on establishment and support for small business as they create most of Hamilton’s jobs.

9. Leadership is an important attribute of moving agendas forward. When embattled in controversial issues, how do you demonstrate leadership?
While I don't always achieve this goal, it is critical to remain calm, cool, and collected and most important, not to make the issues personal, despite the passion we all bring to issues.

10. I think we can all agree that Mayor Eisenberger has a tough job. What advice might you have for the Mayor?
Stay the course: as the term has carried on, Fred has vastly improved his skills as Mayor – a position that is tremendously complex and must be learned on the job as it is significantly different than the Councillor position that Fred held earlier. One piece of advice would be to continue communicating with Councillors on controversial votes, particularly those of special importance to him, towards attempting to reach consensus prior to full-out Committee of Council discussions.

Special thanks to Councillor McHattie  for his contribution to "The Hamiltonian" and for his service to our city.
Visit him at http://www.brianmchattie.ca

Blog Policy Note: Bad language, name calling or other inappropriate posts will not be tolerated. Posts of this nature will not be edited. Rather, they will not be posted. Please keep your comments respectful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction has been doing magnificent work in tackling poverty in Hamilton. I received an email from Tom Cooper of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, in which he provided selected highlights of this good work. I wanted to share an excerpt with you, which Tom kindly agreed to have me post. Tom wrote:

The Roundtable has adopted a 'change framework' that looks at poverty reduction investments in key points in the lives of children, youth and their families. Prior to the start of the economic downturn, Hamilton was one of the few (if only) communities in Ontario to see a reduction in poverty in the last census - with more than 6,000 individuals moving above Statistic Canada'slow-income cut-off.

More recently, in the last year, more than $27 million has been leveraged from governments, funding organizations and individuals towards poverty reduction priorities. 47,000 children youth and families in Hamilton have been provided with enhanced financial and social assets.

As well, Hamilton's efforts have been recognized provincially (through the province in part adopting our framework in the Ontario Poverty ReductionStrategy), federally (the Roundtable was recently recognized by theCanadian Urban Institute for its work) and internationally as we routinely host guests from countries as far away as New Zealand as a community of'best practices' around our work on poverty reduction.

Congratulations to the good folks at the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and their networks, who have worked very hard, and continue to work very hard to battle poverty in Hamilton.

Visit http://www.hamiltonpoverty.ca/ where you can learn more about this important and worthwhile effort, as well as see a more fulsome account of their many accomplishments.

Blog Policy Note: Bad language, name calling or other inappropriate posts will not be tolerated. Posts of this nature will not be edited. Rather, they will not be posted. Please keep your comments respectful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dirty Politics or Necessary Evil? Have Your Say

They operate under the comfort of anonymity, often times using fake names on blogs, emails or other modes of communication. They are fixated on “the other guy/girl”, and, in the extreme, their objectives are simple :

Destroy the other candidate,
Humiliate him/her,
Keep kicking to ensure he/she stays down- at least until the election is held.
Leave no evidence

This is the work of a brand of political operative performing “opposition research”. These people are often referred to as “Oppo men” or “Oppo women”. Their methods vary depending on their scruples or lack thereof.

Opposition research can take many forms. It can take the form, for example, of scouring public records, emails, blog postings and web pages to find anything that could potentially embarrass the targeted candidate, or anything that could be “spun” so that it appears as something other than what it is.

Tactics can be more sinister, including setting people up, fabricating rumours, attacking people online, hacking web sites or using any tactic that just might accomplish the objectives.

Often times the candidate who the “Oppo man” or “Oppo woman” is working for, will distance himself or herself from the operations of “oppo work”, in the interest of plausible deniability. In this mode, if the “oppo man” or “oppo woman’s” tactics are discovered and exposed, the candidate who the “oppo man” or “oppo woman” is working for can claim that he or she had no idea that the activity was going on, and certainly doesn’t condone it.

Opposition research was well demonstrated by James Carville, the American politico who worked on Bill Clinton’s campaign by deploying a “war room” style of disseminating, reacting to and manipulating information and perceptions. Not all “oppo men or women” are unscrupulous and not all candidates use opposition research in sinister ways. In fact, when done well, it can be quite useful and effective.

Some argue that this type of research is necessary in that the public has a right to know as much as they can about the candidate’s past and present conduct and character. Others argue that these activities amount to dirty politics and hurtful, mean-spirited tactics.

What do you think? Necessary evil or dirty politics? Does this play out in Hamilton politics? When does this type of “research” cross the line?

Blog Policy Note: Bad language, name calling or other inappropriate posts will not be tolerated. Posts of this nature will not be edited. Rather, they will not be posted. Please keep your comments respectful.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Former Mayor Larry Di Ianni

Larry Di Ianni, former Mayor of the City of Hamilton and head of Larry Di Ianni Consulting, kindly agreed to be the charter guest for 10 Tough Questions.

1. What is your biggest political regret?

Not winning the 2006 Mayoralty.

2. "Hurricane Hazel", Mississauga Mayor is seeking another term, which she says will be her last. In the last election she won 92% of the vote without running a campaign. Why is she so successful as a politician?

She is a good, strong leader and was in charge of a growing, new community with money to spend. Mississauga does not have the challenges that an older city like Hamilton has. In Hamilton, even Hazel would have had her problems. The post-Hazel Mayor in Mississauga will also have challenges now that some of the same infrastructure issues are beginning to surface there. These problems will also increase Hazel’s reputation even further. However, it cannot be denied that although she hasn't been infallible, she has been very strong.

3. Many Hamiltonians might characterize the present city council as dysfunctional. Is that a fair assessment and, to the extent that there is some truth in that, how would you approach the problem.

I recall that people used to call some of Stoney Creek Councils 'dysfunctional', and now remember those Councils as great. Memory fades. Contention is part of local democracy especially when you have 16 people elected on their own platforms, or lack of same, in some cases. The biggest problem is that Council hasn’t united around one coherent theme that I can tell. The other problem is that the good works are unreported and the fights and tantrums and peccadilloes receive front page treatment. All of this undermines the public’s confidence.

I would not presume to give Council advice but only recount what I tried to do. As Mayor, I selected 10 major issues I would focus on. This list was developed in consultation with community, staff and councillors. I had some level of buy in from the beginning and this helped when I brought issues to the table. I published the list as well to inject some accountability and accomplished or initiated 9 of the 10 items, leaving out only one, the creation of a business/medical park in the West end. I left this out because McMaster Innovation Park came along.

4. What are your thoughts on the recent investigations and their results, where Clr. Clark and the Mayor are concerned?

Read my blog at www.chrisecklund.ca Larry's corner. I dedicate a whole column to this. I also found Mark Cripps’ column in the Stoney Creek News on the issue to raise some excellent points.

5. You lost the election by a very narrow margin. How much of that would you attribute to the Joanna Chapman complaint and how do you feel about it today?

She didn't help but she wasn't the fatal blow. The fatal blow was the 7 days of 'Corruption at City Hall' reportage just before the election by the Spectator, falsely targeting Sam Merulla. That issue splashed on me big time. We were doing rolling polls and the financing issue wasn't registering, but as soon as the Spec stories appeared, my numbers began to go down...as it was, I lost narrowly. I also took bad advice and didn't go after Fred on his vulnerabilities. He got a free ride and won. Good for him. Bad for me and the city,( says he in a very partisan way.)

6. Can you tell us about any projects you are presently pursuing?

I am involved in a few business projects and am doing volunteering and am doing some private consulting and playing golf...very badly.

7. How do you think Mayor Fred is doing and do you have any advice for him?

Being Mayor is a tough job. I understand that Fred is stubborn and won't take advice. If this is true, Fred, take my advice, don't be so stubborn.

8. Do you support the elimination of union or corporate contributions to municipal elections bids- explain.

Sure. One can raise money from individuals as one can raise money from businesses or unions. I did this in the Federal campaign without too many problems. However, eliminating those sources of funds doesn't necessarily improve the system. Tell me what is the difference between accepting a donation from Mrs. X president of ABC company from her personal account or Mrs. X, President of ABC from her business account? Brian McHattie says it is all about perception. Lloyd Ferguson says it is all about integrity in not ‘selling your soul for $750. I agree with Ferguson. What I would really like to see is consistent rules at all three levels of government. Now, the municipal system is different from the provincial, and the provincial is different from the federal. Similarily, there needs to be some recognition that the mayoralty race needs to have different limits than the councillor’s race, only because of the sheer size of trying to cover 5 Federal ridings. The $750 limit for the mayoralty race should be bumped up to Toronto’s limit, or close to it at least.

9. Your style as Mayor appeared to be much more aggressive and some might say, "heavy handed" as Mayor, as compared to Mayor Eisenberger's style. Is the current Mayor aggressive enough and, upon reflection, were there moments where you were too aggressive?

Only my detractors thought I was being heavy handed; I was conciliatory and consensual. I also put councillors on paid boards that I should have been on. This is the Hydro Board where I felt it was important to involve others. The position paid $15 to $20 thousand per year as I recall. I could have kept it to myself, as I suspect the mayors prior to me did and the current one is doing, but I sought others (Merulla, McHattie) to go on the board to spread the expertise. And I didn't make a big deal of this at all. Is this being heavy handed?

However, I did drive agendas otherwise nothing would get done. There were community groups and individuals who criticized me for this, but only because they disagreed with the agenda of support for jobs and businesses in my estimation. Others felt I wasn’t being strong and heavy handed enough. For example, the Spectator criticized me for letting the Maple Leaf deal dissipate even though it was other councillors and some community myopics who fought the deal. I led Council to support Maple Leaf, but the company itself got spooked, yet, I as the Mayor was criticized. Fair enough; it comes with the territory. For example, look at the situation Obama is facing with health care. He wanted Congress to pass the bill before the summer recess and was called heavy handed for ‘rushing it’. He relaxed the timeline and is unfortunately losing some steam. Sometimes people want you to relax your intensity so they can defeat your proposal. If you think what you are doing is right, one must forge ahead with all the support you can get. I never thought unanimity was possible, even though desirable. I always strove for majority.

10. What is Hamilton doing right? What is Hamilton doing wrong?

Hamilton has many assets and lots of challenges. I like the light rail initiative, but we are being shut out by the Feds on funding it. The Mayors getting kicked out of Metrolinx was a real shame. I would not have allowed that to happen without a very public fight. The sitting Mayors rolled over on this one and that is a shame. Having said that, the province is moving in the right direction on public transportation. The Feds are nowhere to be seen. Also, in terms of our problems, our taxes are too high and we are not perceived as being business friendly. That needs to be changed.

Special thanks to Larry for his contribution to "The Hamiltonian" and for his service to our city.

Visit him at http://www.chrisecklund.com/diianni_column.html

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Clark/Eisenberger Investigations

The Eisenberger "tapegate" investigation and the corresponding investigation into the conduct of Councilor Clark, have cost the taxpayers of Hamilton $128,603.08.

Both investigations were completely unnecessary had both gentlemen abided by the code of coduct.

Both made a very serious and costly mistake. While intent has been offered as a defense in both cases, these defenses aren't compelling. Moreover, it's the impact that counts.

$128,603.08, could have bought a lot of food for those who are on ODSP, Ontario Works or the working poor.

While I thought the reprimands resulting from these investigations were rather "light", the impacts as described above, should weigh heavily.

On balance, I continue to respect Mayor Eisenberger and Councilor Clark. Their respective lapses in judgment however, have not served us well. That balance is fragile.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Union and Corporate Election Donations

I support the move to ban corporate and union election donations. While I accept Councilor Ferguson’s assertion that councilors will not sell their souls for a $750.00 corporate or union donation, it is less about actualities and more about, as the Mayor correctly stated , perceptions.

Having said that, we should not exclude the possibility, as distasteful as it may be, that a $750.00 donation may "buy" impact; particularly when it becomes $750.00 multiplied by the number of companies or unions willing to contribute.

I do not find the argument that these corporate and union donations serve as an essential means to allow companies and unions to convey their values, compelling. There are other ways of doing so and if for a moment, we accept the premise, notwithstanding perceptions, that a $750 maximum donation is inconsequential to any sense of influence, it follows that the cessation of that measure is inconsequential or of marginal impact to companies or unions.

Mayor Eisenberger’s campaign demonstrated that it is possible to win an election without the need for union or corporate contributions. Sure one can argue that there were other factors at play and that the successful election bid did not hinge solely on the presence or absence of these types of contributions, but that can be said of any election. In the end, the direction the Mayor has charted allows an opportunity to rid the process of a factor that , rightly or wrongly, may be perceived as a contaminant.

It’s the right thing to do and my parting advice to council is to stay the course and not flip flop on the issue.