Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Javid Mirza

Javid Mirza was the past President of the Muslim Association of Hamilton (serving for over 8 years), a current member of the Hamilton Media Advisory Council on Anti-Racism, and a successful businessperson who founded Seven Star Sports in 1989. He was born in Pakistan and came to Canada in 1974. He also was a candidate for Hamilton Center with the Liberal party, a few years ago. By all accounts, Javid serves as an example of community minded citizen who is engaged in the best interests of Hamilton. Javid has elected to answer all 11 questions I have put to him. Welcome to 10+ Tough Questions with Javid  Mirza. Comments welcomed.

1. Let's start with a really tough question. To what extent does racism still exist in Hamilton? Please explain from a personal lens and from a systemic one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Pat Matozzo

Pat Matozzo and I spent many mornings traveling to Toronto on the early morning Go Train. Pat and I had many talks about Hamilton politics and Hamilton, during those trips . Pat is a very talented Project Manager, PMP certified, and one of 35,000 plus people who we lose each day to jobs outside of our city. Thanks Pat for being a guest. Comments are welcome.

1. How do you feel about Hamilton being part of the winning bid for the Pan Am games? Are you confident that Hamilton will  use this opportunity to help turn it around, or do you believe that it will be badly handled or otherwise end up badly? Please explain.

Right now, I’m ambivalent. Am I happy for Hamilton, yes? Will it have a long lasting economic/social impact? The Pan Am games will create some initial construction work, not sure how a pool, veladrome and a stadium will lead to long lasting economic and social sustainability that will benefit Hamilton. Moreover who’s paying for it? Can Hamilton, turn its self around leveraging the Pan Am Games, let me think, Vision is what’s required, and I don’t see it. Who will be the leader within Hamilton who’s going to lead the Vision to turn around this City? .

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who's the Looney Tune?

A) Which city councillor recently called a group of citizens who came out to a public meeting "Looney tunes"? 

B) Where is that Integrity Commissioner when you need one?

Music to My Ears

"2009 HMA "Careers in Music" Conference      Friday, December 4, 2009 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM     Mohawk College, Fennell Campus.  The sixth annual "Careers in Music" Conference is a component of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Hamilton Music Awards. It's designed to introduce local area students to the wide spectrum of career opportunities in today's music industry from business, to creative, to technical occupations. This year's conference theme is "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally," and the industry panels consisting of music sector leaders and stakeholders will brainstorm ways to intensify Hamilton's music scene, to help ensure local, regional and international success. Free admission for students and accompanying teachers. Student i.d. required for post-secondary students.

Otherwise, $20 at the door (cash only). To learn more and/or register, visit http://www.hamiltonmusicawards.com/ ."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Women in Local Politics?

As reported in The Spec today, a new women's coalition has been formed to bring a voice to women's issues. The coalition hopes to increase the number of women in politics. see story here

Project Scratch the Surface Women's Coalition was launched yesterday at the MacNab Street YWCA, with founders Catherine Pead, CEO of the YWCA, and Ines Rios, executive director of St. Joseph's Immigrant Women's Centre, taking centre stage.

Some facts:  12.5 per cent -- number of Hamilton city councillors who are women.
                    62 cents -- amount a Hamilton woman earns for every dollar a man makes.

What are your thoughts.  Would you like to see more women in local politics?

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

It's been a week of surprises. First, Glenn De Caire is announced as the new designated Chief of Police. De Caire is a staff superintendent from Toronto,  which drew controvery and speculation as to why two internal candidates,  who were seen to be the most likely to assume the role, were passed by. 

Today, we learn that Councillor Bernie Morelli decided to step down as Chair of the Police Services Board. This after 12 years of service. He intends to remain a board member, but will relinquish the Chair's position in January. The Spectator article, found here, is an interesting read.

What do you make of these changes?  What do you think is up? Do you support these changes?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hamiltonian Poll Results

Two polls have recently concluded on The Hamiltonian. While these polls are not scientific, the results are as follows.

On the question of whether Hamiltonians believe that we can still have a meaningful deployment of an Integrity Commissioner, 68% said No. There are a number of people who still have hope (32%), but the majority have lost confidence in the Integrity Commissioner's deployment.

On the question of whether Hamiltonians believe that this city council has what it takes to lead us into the Pan Am Games, 89% said that they do not believe that this city council has what it takes.
Thank-you for participating in this poll. Each Hamiltonian counts!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Dave Kuruc

It is hard to envision a revitalized downtown core, without factoring in the enthusiam and insight that people like Dave Kuruc bring. Dave is one of those people who is "walking the walk", in terms of demonstrating how personal committment and ability to work collegially with others, can make a powerful  impact and lead to positive change. Dave has elected to answer all 11 questions put to him. Enjoy 10+ Tough Questions with Dave Kuruc. Comments and input encouraged.

1.You've referred to the arts movement downtown as a movement that will evolve organically You have also suggested that there are already significant signs that it is taking hold (eg: the success of Supercrawl). Allowing for the strength and creativity that a natural evolution of sorts offers, do you see any embedded risks to the city in that journey and, to the extent you might, what ought the city be doing to help shape this movement?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Posting Comments to The Hamiltonian

Posting comments to this blog is a two step process. You must first preview your post. The system will then present you with a code,  that it will ask you to key in (this code is simply a random set of alpha characters). Once you succesfully do that, hit submit. Due to a quirk, sometimes you have to do this more than once. Your post is only submitted, when you get a message saying words to the effect "your comment has been submitted for review". Unless you see that statement, your comment will not reach this blog. Please follow these instructions, as we would really like to hear from you. Thank-you.   The Hamiltonian team

The Hamiltonian and The Hamilton Spectator

The Hamiltonian and the Hamilton Spectator have agreed to the following: The Hamiltonian will be a featured link on The Spectator's web site. You can find a link to The Hamiltonian under the Community links tab of The Spectator's front page. It will also briefly be featured on "What's Hot".

The Spectator will use excerpts of commentary found in The Hamiltonian, for their opinion pages, when they choose. As identities on blogs cannot be assured, excerpts only will be used. The blog policy has been changed to refelct this.

What does this mean? The Hamiltonian gets greater exposure by virtue of being on The Spec's web page. The Spec benefits from the views of Hamiltonians through commentary found on this blog. Bloggers who frequent the Hamiltonian may someday see their views being broadcast through The Spec opinion pages (albeit without being named). I see this as a win/win situation and am grateful to The Spectator for their interest. Keep blogging. Your voice is being heard! A special thank-you to Daniella, Cari, Adri, Margaret, Matthew, Aaron and Kyle for all the work they do to keep this site running!

Taxing by Jury?

Nothing is quite as controversial as the attribution of how taxes are levied. It’s a complicated issue which weighs several factors including the access and use of services, relative to the contribution you make for these uses. Add in the dimension of urban verses rural living, and the deviations that occur along the way, and solving the problem in a fair an equitable way, becomes almost art and science.

Rob Rossini, Manager of Finance, observes that our current system was based on a snapshot, which needs refreshing. The message is, things have changed and thus, the way we tax needs to correspondingly be recalibrated. Somewhere in that mix, in the Mayor’s notion that a citizen jury made up of randomly selected citizens, can be useful to provide advice to council. Some have characterized this as a “cope out” of sorts, which essentially lays the problem at the feet of a jury, who can then serve, in part, as a justification for proceeding down a selected path.

On the table are proposals to change transit and fire area rating to reflect service areas rather than ward boundaries, stop area rating culture and recreation programs, and adding sidewalks and street lighting to the area rating pool.

The report also recommends phasing in the plan in two stages -- 2011 and 2015 -- so residents in rural areas won't face an immediate large tax hike.

City staff say their top priorities are to keep the process revenue neutral -- meaning the city won't use the process to bump up its tax income -- and that no one will face service cuts. Although staff has included the option of eliminating area rating, Eisenberger said he doesn't want to abolish it entirely.

"No one's talking about the elimination of area rating. This is not about elimination," he said.

"It's about making adjustments that have built up in the last nine years. The question is, how much more has been urbanized?" See full Spec story here   

What are your thoughts? Is this achievable? In the implementation of a citizen’s jury, the the way it is currently being contemplated, helpful? Do you think we will emerge with a fairer way of taxing?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Order in the Council?

Mayor Eisenberger is suggesting the formation of a "citizen's jury" that would essentially provide advice to council on issues such as how to tax Hamiltonians. This "jury" of sorts would be made up of randomly selected citizens who presumably would deliberate and render advice to council.

I am trying to bite my tongue on this one, and won't say much other than that I think the Mayor's intentions are good but I don't get the sense that the implementation of this idea has been well thought out.  "Judge" for yourself.  See full Spec article here.


The age old "mob mentality" that suggests that welfare recipients are all 'bums ripping off the system", has been in play for a very long time. I'm not suggesting that the majority of people subscribe to this line of thinking, but there are many who do.  Having had the opportunity to work as an Income Maintenance Supervisor, and earlier as a caseworker in the previous Family Benefits Allowance program (bridged into ODSP) early in my career and in Hamilton, I met thousands of social assistance recipients in their homes and in the office.  I know better to make such generalizations because I have seen their circumstances, seen their struggles and heard their stories first hand. Today's Hamilton Spectator revealed the dire stats with respect to poverty in Hamilton. See Spec story here The welfare caseload rose by almost 3,000 cases in one year, to its highest level since 2000. Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, seems to have attributed this, in large part, to the effects of the recession.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hamilton Heroes - An Interview with Larry Strung

Larry Strung is a Hamilton hero of sorts. For those of you who may not be aware, Larry took it upon himself to start and deliver on a project entitled Hamilton 365. You can see the Hamilton 365 website here.

Larry profiled one Hamiltonian per day, without fail, by posting  a picture per day for each day in 2008. This resulted in 365 Hamiltonians being showcased.

Larry captured people from all walks of life. He saw something very special in Hamilton and in Hamiltonians. His innovative and celebratory project culminated in each of  the 365 photos being displayed in the Hamilton Art Gallery. I am indebted to Larry for the photograph he took of me, which I proudly use on this blog.Larry is a true pro with a big heart. I would strongly encourage all Hamiltonians to think of Larry when they are requiring the services of a gifted photographer. You can reach him at his web site here  Also, please consider Larry's answer to question 8.

Hamilton Mountain News Features The Hamiltonian

Thank-you to our good friends at the Hamilton Mountain News. See it here

Special thanks to Abigail Cukier from the Stoney Creek news for writing the article and to Mark Cripps.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Raise the Hammer's Ryan McGreal

Ryan McGreal has been a pioneer of sorts in promoting the use of social media in Hamilton. His successful blog, Raise the Hammer has become a staple for helpful discourse in moving our city forward. When I first started The Hamiltonian, Ryan was one of the first to provide words of encouragement and support as well as tips on blog do's and don'ts.  He's a class act! It is with great pleasure that I introduce him as a guest on 10 Tough Questions. Ryan has elected to answer all 11 questions posed to him. Enjoy! Comments encouraged.

EDIT- Ryan adds "RTH is a collaborative exercise among a large group of volunteers, from the core writers to a larger group of occasional contributors to the many readers and commenters who make the site worth visiting. I'm proud of RTH but I can't by any means take full credit for it."

1. Raise the Hammer has certainly earned respect from bloggers and citizens. Have you achieved what you set out to do with the blog? What are the future directions of the blog?

Our original mandate was to encourage more public discussion around what we regarded as distinctly urban issues of downtown revitalization, sustainable development, land use and transportation, and so on in a city that has suffered several decades of suburban sprawl and a corresponding hollowing-out of the core.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Legal Advice?

In terms of the revealing the costs to date of the Redhill Expressway lawsuit, city solicitor Peter Barkwell said the amount constitutes solicitor advice and was privileged information. 

With all due to respect to Mr. Barkwell, the cost of a publicly funded lawsuit, ought not to be camouflaged by a seemingly weak solicitor/client privilege argument. I am no lawyer, but in my view, this sounds inappropriate. Moreover, there is a correlation with the public being the client. See full story here. I am open to being corrected but this seems to be in very bad form.

Animal Magnetism or Pet Peeves?

A controversial harmonized animal control by-law will be discussed at a public meeting tomorrow. Amongst other things, the by-law proposes to:

-abandon a controversial proposal to licence cats,  previously brought forward in September 2008

-endorse a  proposal to stop the picking up of feral cats -- most of which are destroyed within three days of entering the shelter 

- limit the number of pets allowed in a household based on size of the home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fair Hike?

While the cost of a seniors pass will not increase, Hamiltonians will pay 15 cents more for bus fares beginning Jan. 1. (see Spec coverage here)

An increase that will see fares climb from $2.40 to $2.55 passed with a narrow 9-7 vote at last night's city council meeting. Tickets will also go up 15 cents to $2 and monthly passes will climb to $86 from $79.

The 15-cent hike was a "compromise," said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.
Mayor Eisenberger said "In a perfect world, I would have liked to see 20 cents," he said. "Twenty cents is what's necessary, and 15 cents is a reasonable compromise."

How they voted:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 Tough Questions with John Dolbec

It's my pleasure to welcome John Dolbec, Chief Executive Officer of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, to 10 Tough Questions. To read more about John, click here. Comments welcomed.

1. In the context of the Chamber’s mission statement, which signals a commitment to making our city and its communities a great place to live, work, play, visit and invest, and given that this trend is not new and has been trending this way for a long time, how do you respond to over 35,000 Hamiltonians traveling each day to Toronto or other cities to work? This elongated trend suggests a failure of sorts. Would you agree and what needs to be done to provide Hamiltonians with opportunities in their own city?

I would fully agree that we, as a community, had indeed been materially "failing"; i.e. we had indeed

Monday, November 9, 2009

Read My Lips. No New Taxes

While the Mayor has not made the same mistake that former President George Bush Sr. made when he declared “Read my lips. No new taxes”, he did say this, in relation to the Pan Am games: "I see a reasonable equation for not having any tax increases, certainly not at this point." See Spec story here

While I admire the Mayor’s sense for optimism, do you think the statement he made is credible? Or do you agree with Councillor Merulla’s notion that this will leave a legacy of tax burden for the future?

In my view, this can be hugely successful. It will come down however to execution, delivery and acuity in terms of how to position ourselves in partnership with Toronto. Given our history of decisions re: Lister Block, City Hall and Winona Wallmart which, in my view have been poor decisions or, at minimum, sub optimal, do you believe we have the caliber of leadership required to get us there?

Friday, November 6, 2009

On Top of Our Game?

Congratulations Hamilton!!!!!  The HAMILTON toronto, Pan Am bid was successful.

 Are you shocked? Surprised? Expecting it?

Clr. Merulla told The Hamiltonian  "I congratulate the City of Toronto for alleviating budget pressures through the Athlete village being developed and the hard infrastructure and I'm mourning for the residents of Hamilton for the legacy of subsidies the Toronto Pan Am games will create as a result of the veledrome and stadium not being affordable nor sustainable. If the Hamilton Ti Cats need to be subsidized 150 thousand dollars per game to play in the old Ivor Wynn it begs the question how the Ti Cats can afford a new stadium? Toronto's wins and Hamilton loses tens of million of taxpayers dollars."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

10 Tough Questions with Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

Amongst many things, Clr. Lloyd Ferguson has been known for bringing  a business mind to city hall as well as championing the City Hall rennovation project. Enjoy 10 Tough Questions with Clr, Ferguson as we explore these and other topics. Your comments are welcomed.

1. It has often been said that you bring a business lens to the City. If the city was, in fact, a business and you were the C.E.O., what would you do in your first 90 days?

No culture shift can be put in place in 90 days. Two significant observations I’ve made between the private and public sector, in the public sector the way to solve problems is to throw money at it – it is exactly the opposite in the private sector. You would put a team together, come up with a solution that generally meant spending less money.

Blowing the Whistle

Hamilton is considering a new whistleblowing bylaw that's the first of its kind in the province.
The proposed bylaw would protect all city staff who come forward with allegations about misconduct by other staff or council. It would apply to staffers who report incidences of "serious wrongdoing," such as lawbreaking, misuse of city money or endangering someone's health or safety.
It would also require staff and council members to co-operate with any investigations that arise

The mayor and city council will be exempt from the bylaw because any allegations of their wrongdoing will be dealt with by the integrity commissioner. See full Spectator story here

Do you support this by-law. Do you think people will feel safe enough to utilize it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fare Hike? Or Not Fair?

The proposed twenty cent HSR fare hike would raise the adult pass by $9 a month or $108 a year. Cash fares would rise to $2.60 a ride from the current $2.40

The following table, as compiled by CATCH, demonstrates how each area would be affected.

What do you think? Should we absorb a modest increase in order to avert a fare hike? Before voicing your opinion, please read the entire CATCH article posted below, as there are more facts to consider.

Double Double, or Trouble?

As per a C.A.T.C.H report (see story here)., it appears that our efforts to curb and decrease city pollutants, is heading in the wrong direction. An analysis of our greenhouse gas emissions suggests that our numbers are going up for both the city’s own operations and the community as a whole.

While recognizing that this is only one of many contributing factors to this trend ( and that the lion’s share of contribution is from big industry (Steel industry contributed 61% in 2008)) , the issue of drive throughs has been previously raised in the context of the contribution that idling vehicles make while waiting in drive throughs. If I recall correctly, while there was some will to look at this issue, some were skeptical that closing or restricting drive throughs, would ever come to be.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How They Voted - A Great C.A.T.C.H.

Amongst the many valued added features that Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) provide to Hamiltonians, is a monthly record of how each councillor and the Mayor voted on the issues before them.

Please find below, an example of this service that C.A.T.C.H. provides. It is a great way to evaluate and assess how your councillor and the Mayor are voting.  Voting patterns, vote choices and trends can be very telling.

Here is a cut and paste from CATCH 's email. Thanks to CATCH for the great job they are doing!!!!

CATCH News - October 28, 2009

How they voted in September