Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hammered in the Hammer?

A missed fax has been cited as a reason as to why the city did not respond to a 2005 bid that saw two carpenters who had been doing work for the city apply to the Ontario Labour Board for certification that locked up all city projects involving even a small amount of carpentry work. The net result of that action is that, only companies that employ carpenters from the union can bid on Hamilton contracts. See full report by The Spec's Emma Reilly here

City staff have suggested the union monopoly could increase costs by $4 million to $10 million a year. The city was also concerned that these circumstances can prevent the most qualified companies from bidding on highly specialized work.

Last summer, the city and the union struck a deal for its water and wastewater projects. The terms of the deal required the city to first seek out general contractors who are signatory to the carpenters' union. But if three qualified contractors with a relationship with the union couldn't be found, the city was allowed to open the bidding to everyone.

The deal was expected to save taxpayers millions on water-treatment projects. When the city put out the call to prequalify contractors for the $55 million wastewater bid, it received only two responses from contractors affiliated with the union. The city then opened the bidding.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Media Survey Results

In an unscientific poll conducted on The Hamiltonian, people were asked what media sources they preferred, in order to keep up with local politics or issues regarding Hamilton. The pie chart above is the result of that poll. (please double click on the pie chart to see it larger). Please note that the poll allowed for people to select more than one media source.

I concede at the onset that The Hamiltonian had the "home ice advantage". Obviously, if you completed the poll on The Hamiltonian, it was in of itself indicative that you frequent the blog. So I make no claim as to the relative contribution of the blog, other than to say I am pleased with the response . Nor do I make any claim as to the capacity of this blog, compared to any of the other sources listed.

I also believe that each one of the media sources cited above, as well as others not specifically named, all contribute to an essential mix of sources that cumulatively , serve us well.

Please feel free to provide your comments. I would ask that the comments be kept constructive. Please refrain from personal attacks on individuals in the media as such posts will not be displayed, in keeping with the blog’s policy.

What do you think of the results? Surprised by them? More or less what you thought they might be? Media folks are invited to comment as well.

Cal DiFalco
Publisher, The Hamiltonian

Friday, March 26, 2010

Clean and Green a Dream?

Noone, I assume, is going to dispute that Mayor Eisenberger's declaration that he wants Hamilton to be the cleanest city in Canada by the time the Pan Am games come to town is one of those "feel good" statements that we would all like to see materialize.

The mayor launched the Clean and Green by 2015 campaign yesterday at a workshop aimed at local businesses looking for ways to combat litter and graffiti.

He added " "I think it's very doable. A lot of what we need to do is already under way,"  "We have to set the bar high and use the Pan Am Games as an end date. We want to look our best."

Reportedly (as per The Spec's piece on this) , our progress will be measured with reference to the work of the Keep America Beautiful campaign, which helps to set benchmarks and define strategies.

Do you think the mayor's idea is a good one? Is this election year maneuvering? Do you think linking this to Pan Am justifies the timing of this launch, or are you wondering why this is being announced now? What about the state of buildings that are in disrepair? Do they not also factor in to trying to "look our best"?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

En Gaged

As reported in The Spec,  the City has decided to proceed with the transformation of Gage Park.  The Gage Park Master plan was approved this week. The plan has been in the making for five years.

The plan calls for a new Children's Museum, expanded tropical plant house and an aviary ( a building where birds are kept).

Staff have been asked to report back on the costs of the project by year's end.

Are you looking forward to a transformed Gage Park? Are you supportive of this initiative? Do you think we can afford it and will it be a good investment?

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Royal Pain?

A letter from By Law Crawl Activist Matt Jelly to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and City Council

ATTN: Mayor Eisenburger and Hamilton City Council

Good afternoon,

I'm writing today to urge your immediate action on downtown Hamilton's historic Royal Connaught Hotel.

As some of you know, I've recently started a citizens group called By-Law Crawl. We focus on vacant and derelict properties, primarily in the downtown core, documenting serious infractions on these properties and forwarding those infractions to appropriate By-Law Enforcement. We meet on the first Saturday of every month, and our third By-Law Crawl event takes place on April 3rd, and I'll be forwarding more specific information on this event to all members of council later this week.

A Lofty Idea

It's always nice to showcase innovative ideas intended to breath life into our city and our arts community. Here is a pre-launch announcement from Filmwork Lofts, Hamilton's Theatre District Loft Condominiums. Impressive vision and project. Comments welcome.

Pre-Launch Announcement ! FilmWork Lofts - Hamilton's Theatre District Loft Condominiums

For those who are seeking high quality urban living - in a city that is fast emerging as the place to be for the creative industries - FilmWork Loftsoffers a great opportunity to test path-breaking ideas and aspirations in sustainable living.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Feeling Left Out?

Yves Dubeau, a regular blogger on The Hamiltonian, sent me the following write up for a topic. Comments welcome!

We learned this week that the Province was in secret negotiations with Siemens in order to keep the jobs here in Hamilton. The Hamilton Spectator reported that city hall was in the dark in regards to these events, and as Sam Merulla was reported to say , he was “disillusioned” by the fact that nobody from the city was at the table for these negotiations ( I agree that the city should be part of these talks).

The Contenders- Ward 6's Nathalie Xian Yi Yan

Nathalie Xian Ti Yan, is a MD (China) of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. She's also a contender for Ward 6. She not a quitter, having run before in this ward. Welcome Nathalie to The Hamiltonian and best of luck in your campaign. Comments welcome.

1. What is your sense for the constituents in your ward’s, satisfaction with their current councilor? What do you bring to the table that differentiates you as a candidate? What will you do differently?

I feel that the constituents are satisfied with the incumbent. He has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the constituents of ward six.

What I bring to the equation is economic savvy that is global in scope. Hamilton’s economy is in dire straits. The Hamilton summit of 2008 painted an overly rosy picture to placate the citizens of Hamilton did not carry over to the summit of 2009.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pay Dirt or Dirty Money?

As reported in The Spec, property owners at the Pan Am site, are being offered $1500.00 in good faith money, to clear the path for environmental testing on their land. The money is conditional upon signing an agreement to allow the testing to proceed.

An offer of relocation help is also in play. City spokesperson David Adames, characterizes the $1500.00 payment as part of the process and not in response to complaints. He adds that they are trying to be sensitive to the land owners as the process begins.

Clr. Bratina has advised residents to consult with lawyers and is concerned that the testing may devalue the property  values.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Hires

I'm not suggesting that new hires to the city will have quite the rough ride that is depicted on the left, but certainly, challenges lie ahead.

In a gutsy move, City Manager Chris Murray is doing an overhaul of sorts, of his team. As reported by Andrew Dreschel in The Spec, Chris is hiring two new influential advisors to help guide the city's priorities.

His existing staff will need to re-apply if they are interested in keeping their jobs. He’s also bringing the city's legal department under his preview. The jobs are posted and if existing staff apply and don't succeed, they are to be shuffled into other departments. The postings are open to outsiders as well.

The rehaul will not add more costs to Murray's budget, as the money will be had from other departments.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Should Bratina Have Resigned from Housing Board? Or is this more Shhhhh?

As per a Spec article, Councillor Bob Bratina tendered his resignation from the City  Housing Hamilton Board amidst concerns that he may have distributed confidential information. The information in question involves statitics surrounding how many times city police were called to city housing properties. He said that the police had answered about 1000 calls to three city housing properties over the past year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Digging Up the Dirt

Update: Here is an interesting article in today's paper, about the concerns of citizens who's properties may be displaced. Selected quotes:

""The only thing I want to hear is for them to get the hell out of here," said Rose Benassi of the city's interest in her neighbourhood. "They're driving me crazy.""

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Contenders - Ward 11's Ken Chartrand

Ward 11's Ken Chartrand has been out and about meeting constituents, listening to their concerns, taking in their ideas and providing his views on issues. I have found Ken to be approachable, respectful and responsive to the views of his constituents and to others who have the best interests of Hamilton in mind.

It's a pleasure to welcome Ward 11's Ken Chartrand to The Hamiltonian.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Harbouring Doubt

As much as I would like to see a stadium built in a location that would help us draw people to the downtown core, there is suffcient cause for concern. The cost of remediation being a major consideration, further aggravated by the wild card nature of not knowing how bad and costly it is going to be.

Parking is another big issue and while constrained parking availability may force people to use alternate forms of transportation (which on the face of it, is not a bad thing, but may introduce logistical nightmares and adverse consequences), the question of whether that will put a damper on the whole idea and perhaps dissuade interest on many levels, is a valid concern.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Out of the Park"

The Federal and Provincial governments have given a boost, to the tune of 200 Million dollars towards the upgrade of the Woodward Avenue wastewater treatment plant.The province and feds are each contributing $100 million through the Green Infrastructure Fund, a stimulus program that focuses on large-scale environmental projects.

The 700 Million dollar upgrade is expected to enable future development, help control flooding and be a major step forward in the cleanup of the harbour.

The Mayor called the announcement yesterday "an out-of-the-park home run" for the city and the culmination of years of work. See Emma Reilly's coverage here.

Comments welcome

Shutting People Down?

I am a bit surprised at the amount of time and energy is being spent discussing whether outdoor speakers should be mounted at the renovated city hall, or whether they should be portable. Should they be painted white or not?

I acknowledge that at some level, there are practical considerations that need to be decided. I am rather miffed that two of the Stoney Creek Councillors (Mitchell and Pearson), seem to have fixated on this. Perhaps other councilors have been as well, and to the extent that they too are spending an inordinate amount of time on this, I would suggest that they need to rethink priorities.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How They Voted

A great feature of C.A.T.C.H. releases, is the monthly summary of how councillors and the mayor voted on issues.  An examination of how your councillor or the mayor is voting, or not voting can be interesting and quite telling. It's always good to look for trends and patterns over time. We apologize for the formatting on this. It was cut and pasted from a CATCH release, and  the formatting got a little twisted in the transfer to this blog.

Lobbyist Registry

As reported in The Spectator, the accountability and transparency committee asked legal staff to come up with a definition for lobbying. The definition is expected to be sent to a sub-committee, which would include the Mayor, councillors, members of the community and city staff.

Its intent is to make Hamilton municipal government more open and transparent. In 2008, Toronto became the first city in Canada to create a lobbyist registry. They define a lobbyist as someone who represents an individual or organization that communicates with public office holders about council decisions. The city solicitor says he will likely use Toronto's definition as a starting point.

What do you think of the definition and the intent of having the registry.  Will it make Hamilton municipal government more open and transparent? Should it be mandatory registration? Will Mark Alan Whittle finally have others on the list with him?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Contenders - Ward 10's Jose Pablo Bustamante

Jose Pablo Bustamante has a likeability factor that resonates within minutes of speaking to him. He's bright, passionate for the community and the city, highly educated and knows how to campaign. As he is running in my ward, it's a special pleasure to welcome Jose to The Hamiltonian.

1. What is your sense for the constituents in your ward’s, satisfaction with their current councillor? What do you bring to the table that differentiates you as a candidate? What will you do differently?

When I came to Stoney Creek, my first impression was that the current city councillor was doing a good job due to the fact that she served as city councillor for a long period of time. Then some of my neighbours started to point that “she is never around except by election time” and that “someone else should take over”. When I asked them why she won in the previous elections, their response was that in 2006 there were no better candidates. Then I started to think about running for office.

A Promising Sign?

 As reported in The Spec (see full story here) , in 2009, Hamilton improved its non-residential tax base. The gains have largely been attributed to industrial and commercial fronts. Industrial building permits grew in value by 113% in 2009. Commercial permits grew by 37% over the previous year. Relative to other municipalities, a claim has been made that Hamilton’s progress exceeds the norm.

Projects such as The Tim Hortons Coffee roasting plant, the CANMET materials lab and the Mountain Plaza mall were cited as significant contributors. 

Do you see these stats as an indicator that Hamilton is showing signs of promise? To the extent you do, what do you attribute this to?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

10 Tough Questions with Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse

Please welcome our Integrity Commisoner, Earl Basse to The Hamiltonian's 10 Tough Questions. Earl- welcome to the Hamiltonian and welcome to Hamilton.

Comments to Earl's answers are welcome.

1. Much has been said about the fact that you are Hamilton’s Integrity Commissioner while remaining at your post as Windsor’s Integrity Commissioner, as well as , reportedly, running your own business. What do you say to people who may conclude that you would not be able to allot the time required in Hamilton? How will you balance these roles?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Contenders

Note: For greater clarity, please note that The Hamiltonian emailed those contenders that had, at the point in time that they were emailed ,  registered.  Ken Chartrand, Jose Bustamante, Mark DiMillo, Nathalie Xian Yi Yan,  Bruce Whitelaw,  Geraldine McMullen and Judi Partridge were emailed am invite.

Responses have been received from Ken Chartrand, Jose Bustamante, Mark DiMillo and Nathalie Xian Yi Yan.

All contenders are invited to participate. They need only email us at adminhamiltonian@cogeco.ca. When the initial invite was sent, it did not go out to those who did not list their email address on the city web site. Notwithstanding, all are invited and there will be a second/third round of invites.

Hamiltonians who participated in an unscientific poll held on The Hamiltonian decidedly indicated that they welcome new contenders for ward councillor positions. 87%, in fact, said so.

A few weeks ago, I emailed contenders, who had declared at that point in time, a series of questions. Each received the same questions and the same deadline. I have received submissions from Mark DiMillo (Ward 3) Ken Chartrand (Ward 11) and Jose Bustamante (Ward 10). Each will be featured here, starting with Mark DiMillo.

Please take this opportunity to comment on their answers. Please keep it professional.
Cal DiFalco
Publisher, The Hamiltonian

The Contenders - Ward 3's Mark DiMillo

1. What is your sense for the constituents in your ward’s, satisfaction with their current councillor? What do you bring to the table that differentiates you as a candidate? What will you do differently? 

Preparing for the upcoming campaign, and to help myself understand the specific concerns of the constituents of Ward 3, I have been engaging voters and the consensus is clear. Voters are dissatisfied with the lack of progress, and the lack of fundamental change. Largely, they feel that their Councillor is disengaged, and they feel a disconnect with local democracy
to their credit, they have realized that there was no real viable option and
therefore have settled for the status quo for the past 20 years. Although,
Ward 3 has a low voter turnout, they are crying out for change, and local
Politics is in people’s conversations.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

By Law Crawl Redux - Spring Edition

Here is a message from Matt Jelly, conveying details of the upcoming By Law Crawl happening on Saturday.
This is a quick message to remind you about this Saturday's second monthly By-Law Crawl event, starting at 1 PM in Gore Park, in front of the Royal Connaught. The crawl will end with an afterparty at This Ain't Hollywood, at 345 James St. North, starting around 4 PM.

By-Law Crawl is an event designed to locate, identify and report properties which are in serious violation of the City of Hamilton's Property Standards By-Law, in hopes of proactively preventing further decay and demolition of Hamilton's building stock, and ensuring that buildings do not pose a danger to the public. I'll be distributing copies of the By-Law, as well as offering some guidance to participants on what we're looking for, and the proper way to go about spotting these infractions.

Effective By-Law enforcement is the only tool we have as citizens to ensure properties don't fall into disrepair and require demolition, or that vacant/derelict properties don't detract from the communities that surround them. This isn't just an issue of heritage preservation and public safety, it's also an issue of waste- 30% of our landfills are composed of building materials. Not every building can be saved- but if we proactively enforce certain standards, it's far less likely that an absentee property owner can allow a building to decay to the point that demolition is the only option.

Two times the charm?

The city is again pitching social housing projects to the province, in the hopes of receiving stimulus funding.This application is Hamilton's last chance to receive funding from the joint federal-provincial program. (see Spec article here).

The city has narrowed it down to 4 housing proposals that they will put forward. The top ask, is the Hellenic Community of Hamilton and District. It asks for $210,000 to turn an old fire hall on its property into four affordable housing units, which would add to the 39 units the non-profit organization already operates.

The second priority on the list, submitted by Homestead Christian Care, is for 46 housing units at the site of a former bar on Main Street East. The two final proposals, which were also included in the last round of applications, are proposals for 27 units for families on Burton Street and 59 units for seniors on Upper Gage.

Do you think the city stands a chance? Previous applications, which included a request to turn the Royal Connaught Hotel into mixed use housing, was turned down.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going it alone?

As reported by Ken Mann at CHML, the Downtown and Community Renewal Division's 2009 report shows that 95 building permits were issued downtown, representing 108 million dollars in construction.

90% of it can be traced to five public sector projects.

They include city hall renovations, the library and farmer's market development, the Lister Block and the new Dr. Davey school and community centre.

On the other side of the ledger, downtown renewal spokesman Ron Marini confirms that the city has cancelled over 12 million dollars in loans for downtown residential development because projects failed to proceed within a required two years.

Marini is optimistic that the private sector will re-enter the game this year as the economy continues to recover.

Are you as optimistic as Mr. Marini?
Thanks to MAW for the suggestion