Tuesday, November 30, 2010

City Committees

On Monday, final determinations were made as to which councillors would sit on which committees for the upcoming term. Councillors also determined the memberships of four standing committees. Each councillor must sit on two committees, as well as the general issues committee (formerly called committee of the whole) and the board of health.

As reported in The Spec, the biggest surprise was Clr. Collins decision to step down from the Waterfront Trust, after leading it for a decade. The Clr. cited his interest in getting  a better understanding of what transpires on other committees.

Jason Farr appeared to be the most eager to step into committees, but also demonstrated good will when he voluntarily stepped away from certain committees in favour of not forcing a vote for competing applicants.

Clrs. Morelli and Whitehead are back on the Police Services Board, securing these spots over Clr. Lloyd Ferguson's bid.

The highlights, as listed in the Spec article,. are as follows:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mayoral Reflections- Eisenberger Unplugged

As reported in today's Spec, Mayor Fred Eisenberger reflected upon his term as Mayor, and shared some thoughts with Andrew Dreschel.

Amongst his thoughts, he clung to the notion that the West Harbour is the best Pan Am stadium site, factoring in the city building angle. He went as far as saying that had it not been for the city building aspect that, in Mayor Fred's view, the West Harbour option brought, he would have been in agreement with Clr. Merulla that fixing up Ivor Wynn would have made sense. He  was not very optimistic about the CP Lands working, citing the $50 million that has to be found to make that work. He thinks that the February deadline should be the final one, citing the need to move forward or move on.

In terms of his leadership style, he said that fairness and respect meant more to him that cracking the whip. He admitted to having some challenges (discomfort?), with the ceremonial part of his job. He added "laughingly" as reported by Andrew, that he might have been better suited to be the city manager than mayor. This comment, in the context of Mayor Fred being more process and policy driven.

Mayor Fred said he had a great four years and laid down some foundational pieces that can be built upon. While he cited projects such as the Lister Block, the downtown bus terminal and the market as accomplishments, he cited these as shared accomplishments with council. 

What the Mayor cited as being most proud of,  was energizing collaboration on the fight against poverty and the move toward prosperity and jobs.

Please see Andrew's column in today's paper. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Di Ianni Heads in Another Direction

"Larry Di Ianni is ending his 25-year political after finishing second in Hamilton’s mayoral race. “I’m confident I ran a good, positive campaign, and we met our vote target,” said Di Ianni. “We just didn’t think that someone would get 50,000 votes. At least I beat Fred.” That was a quote from an article in The Stoney Creek News. In that same article, it said "But he will also still keep a hand in politics. “I will support people who I think will do a good job,” he said.

It's no surprise that Di Ianni will remain involved in some shape or form, but some may have been surprised to learn that he will be hosting "For the Record" on Cable 14. The show that was previously hosted by Councillor elect  Jason Farr.

Di Ianni told the Spec "The fact that it sort of keeps me talking about municipal issues and other issues – albeit from the perspective of an interested citizen – is very appealing to me,” I love this community and I respect the role that politicians and leaders at all levels have to play.”

It will be interesting to see how the show develops with Di Ianni as host. Di Ianni has been a guest on hundreds (thousands?) of shows on air, on television, in print and on blogs. It will be interesting to see how he does on the other side of the fence. Certainly, he is uniquely positioned to bring a wealth of knowledge and history to the show.  The Hamiltonian wishes Larry well in this new direction. 

Your thoughts?

Please keep all comments professional. We will not edit comments. Either they will be posted in their entirety or not at all. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Plan B?

 On the heels of HostCo following through on its plans to begin looking for alternatives to Hamilton,  as a contingency in the event that Hamilton is unable to deliver on the Pan Am Stadium, Mayor Elect Bratina has suggested that a call for a "Plan B", should include  Hamilton as part of those plan B submissions.

As reported in The Spec, Bratina said "It raises the question, if we don't come to a satisfactory conclusion on what we have, which is the CP yard, and (HostCo) needs to cover their interests on soliciting other opportunities, why wouldn't that permit other sites in Hamilton to be considered?”  He added  "We should at least have the same opportunity as any other community to come up with another site”

You can't fault the Mayor Elect for trying, but some may interpret this as a way to get a second kick at the can (regardless of the fact that we've kicked the can so often that it likely looks like a bottlecap now). Do you support the Mayor-Elect's suggestion that Hamilton ought to have a chance at a Plan B contingency submission, or do you think that's pushing it?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Perspectives Virtual Panel- Post Election

We asked our Perspectives Virtual Panel the following question:

Based on the outcome, what lessons did we learn from this mayoral campaign, in terms of the strengths and downfalls of the campaigns. (ie: what worked and what didn't for the candidates?)  Please comment on any, some or all of the mayoral candidates. 

Here are the replies we received. Please feel free to add yours.

"The only thing I learned is that I have no idea how the City of Hamilton
voting population reaches its decisions. By normal forecasting analysis, based on media reports, blogs, discussions with the people where I get my hair cut, and speaking to professional politicians, Fred should have been fired, Larry should have been elected and Bob should be back at CHML. Bob was elected with no platform. Larry was defeated probably because he held the office once before and therefore was part of the group to be tossed out and perhaps because he had the old conviction around his neck. (Although Missisauga`s re-elected Hazel showed us that you can get re-elected covered with all kinds of mud.) 

My expectation is that the voters wanted to say they were unhappy but could not bring themselves to toss out their incumbent ward councillor, so they vented their anger at the Mayor`s office, without having any idea what they were buying. Perhaps I should conclude that what I learned from the election is that in Hamilton, the job of Hamilton City Councillor is a job for life. Hamilton voters still do not understandthat the Mayor only has one vote."

Herman Turkstra
Lawyer, Activist

The First 90 Days- Do's and Don'ts

Ordinarily, The Hamiltonian would ask a Mayor Elect what he/she would do in their first 90 days in office. The first 90 days, or the first couple of weeks for that matter,  are critical in that they set the tone for the new administration. They signal what will be tolerated and what won't. They signal priorities and areas of focus which hopefully have been built with consultation. 

This early period sometimes "tests" the mayor elect.

We thought we'd ask Hamiltonians to advise Mayor Elect Bratina. What should be be doing in the first several weeks, the first 90 days etc. ? 

What are the "Do's and Don'ts" that you might suggest?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Post Election Reflections: A Burning Platform and Other Things

A post election interview with Michael Baldasaro. Comments welcome.

Thank you for another great opportunity to explain myself and campaign to the electorate of the Greater Hamilton/Hemp Area.My Reply to your very well posed questions are as follows:

1. You have been running for Mayor for quite some time now and have incrementally secured greater support. What do you attribute these gains to? Is it your message? Is it the competition? Is it something else entirely?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bridge to Nowhere?

One of our readers, Marty Ann Burrowes submitted these pictures, with the following text: 

The 14 M structure is said by local residents of the east city to be " the bridge that leads to nowhere." Would this cost been better spent on LRT?

Your thoughts? Do you think this was a worthwhile expenditure?

Keeping the Heat On

While there may not be a lot that the union and U.S. Steele are agreeing to these days, there seems to be an acknowledgement from all sides that the operations of  coke ovens must be properly sustained as as to avoid massive and costly repairs. 

Supervisors and office workers are apparently maintaining the ovens during the lock out.

According to a Spec report staff working in the plant are being allowed out via buses, while incurring some delays by virtue of locked out workers blocking the gates. 

A faculty member at McMaster stated that coke ovens can't simply be decommissioned quickly. He stated that the bricks that line the oven, can crack if the oven is left to cool, which would result in millions of dollars of repair work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You May Need a Drink After Reading This....

...just don't make it water- we're trying to conserve that.

The story goes something like this:  We are asked to conserve water, but the net result of that, including the effect of business shut downs which, in turn, cause those businesses to cease consuming water, is that we are short 13-15 million dollars from our expected water and sewage revenues. (See full details in Spec today under Emma Reilly's Water Controls Dry Up Revenue.)

Water conservation is a good thing, but its place in the economic equation isn't. Less water used may mean a a 6-7% increase in water rates in 2011, due to lost revenues. 

It's a trend, not a one off. The last several years have followed suit. It also appears that residential users are getting better at conserving water, decreasing usage by 9.9% over the summer.

There's a flip side. Less sewage is going through the treatment plant, theoretically lowering treatment costs. Less stress on the treatment plant, means longer life of the plant before significant capital investment needs to be made. 

But given that immediate revenues have greater profile than longer term gains, conservation is hurting us (in a way). Need a drink to understand this twisted  logic? Make it water...or not......


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is it Time to Privatize HECFI?

As reported in The Hamilton Spectator, HECFI is in dire straits and is requesting a bail out to the tune of 7.25 million after a rough year. 

HECFI's CEO, cites a troubling year characterized by a sluggish economy and a difficult year for concert venues. He also said that the entertianment business is high risk and that the same challenges that HECFI faced, are being faced globally. He also said that some acts are going for larger cities like Toronto, instead of places like Hamilton. He referenced an American Idol concert that was expected to attract 12-14000 people, but only turned in 2000-4000. 

HECFI also laid off four employees and gave their managers a 5% pay cut, to try to cope with the financial situation. HECFI's CEO is also preparing a go forward plan to present to the board and council.

HECFI's chairperson seemed less accepting, stating that the board is extremely concerned. 

Do you accept the challenges cited by the CEO as understandable reasons why HECFI's situation is what it is? Or do you think it is time to privatize it entirely, or look at another model? 

Note: An interesting perspective from Terry Cooke, in this article.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Election Reflections with Paul Casey

One of the positive spin offs from this year's municipal election, is that Hamiltonians got to know some new candidates. We thought we'd invite Paul Casey, who ran in Ward 2, to reflect upon the process of campaigning and his journey. Welcome to Election Reflections with Paul Casey. Comments are welcome.

1 What have you learned in terms of what it takes to maximize your chances of success in winning an election.  

The easy answer would be to spend more money, however it is not that simple, and as 18 candidates for Ward 2 could attest to, far from a guarantee of success if the only measure of success is getting the most votes. 

I ran, perhaps naively, on honorable intentions, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to contribute to the future of

Pearson/Bustamante Information Update

Update: The Hamiltonian has been advised that the parties have agreed to a trial date of February 15, 2011.

Clr. Maria Pearson and Jose Pablo Bustamante are due back in court on November 17th, 2010, pursuant to Mr. Bustamante's allegation that Ms. Pearson failed to properly complete financial information, in violation of the Municipal Elections Act, during the previous election.

The Hamiltonian will endeavor to provide an update post the hearing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How They Voted in October

From the good people at CATCH. Comments welcome.

How they voted in October
This is a regular CATCH summary of votes at committee and council meetings. This report covers the month of October 2010, the last served by the old council. There are no meetings of the new council until December. The first line of each entry identifies the issue, followed by a brief description. This is followed by the location of the vote in the third line. Multiple votes on the same issue are reported together. Absentees are only listed where reported in the minutes and where the missing councillors are members of that committee or decision-making body. Links are provided to source documents. Note that the vast majority of council decisions are unanimous and the votes are not officially recorded.

Hip to be Square?

Don't tell me that I'm crazy
Don't tell me I'm nowhere
Take it from me
It's hip to be square 

That's an excerpt from Huey Lewis and The News' song. "Hip to be Square" but the  lyrics could very well serve as an anthem for 9 vendors who are being  ousted from the Hamilton Farmers' Market.

Vendors such as Charlie Chiarelli, who's family business Charlie's Corner Produce, has been at the market since 45 years ago,  have been told that they will be losing their spots at the Farmers' Market due to a shortage of available space and the city's vision of attracting young families and hip urbanites to the market through local and diverse products.

That doesn't wash over with Chiarelli who was miffed at how 9 new vendors can be permitted, at the expense of long standing vendors who continued to pay rent during the bleakest periods (recession etc.). He is expected to appeal the decision (along with others) at a December 9th meeting in which applicants will be given a chance to argue their case.  (There is a story in The Spec today that you may wish to read.) 

One long time patron of the Farmers' Market shares Chiarelli's frustration adding " What are you talking about hip and young? About the aesthetic? Am I supposed to see somebody in Gucci jeans serving me my strudel?"

What do you think? Is this good city planning/shaping, or an unfair measure against long standing vendors? 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Round 2 - Aerotropolis

As could have been expected, Aerotroplis plans are being heavily contested on multiple fronts. A recent CATCH article reports that there are over 12 appeals to the OMB.

Some developers are appealing in hopes of getting residential/commercial designations rather than industrial. Some landowners are arguing that their land parcel must be purchased by the city, based on precedent. Others argue that the whole Aerotropolis plan fails to protect agricultural lands. Yet another argument maintains that the plan fails to make use of other available lands and promotes sprawl and reliance on automobiles. Click here to review the smorgasbord of arguments.

As per CATCH  "Most appellants are landowners arguing that residential subdivisions or various commercial complexes are more appropriate uses for their properties than industrial employment. Some councillors, including mayor-elect Bob Bratina, have long argued that these uses are the real future for the airport employment growth district." Some interested groups are attempting to leverage the argument that the plan "significantly over-emphasizes the Airport as a driver of economic activity. Interestingly enough, this is one of the arguments that Mayor Elect Bratina had emphasized.

So, in what has unfortuntely come to be a signtaure of sorts, another major initiative in Hamilton seems to be going for a tailspin. Are you surprised at the degree of resistance? Should this have been anticipated? Did we make a wrong decision?

Bratina's Aerotropolis Fly-By

While serving as Ward 2 Councillor, Mayor-Elect Bratina expressed grave concern over the recommendation to proceed with Aerotropolis plans. He was unsuccessful in his bid to delay the decision, to allow for greater consideration, given the volume of material that council was being asked to absorb and comment on in such a compressed period of time.

What seemed to have a great amount of resonance (from a perspective of reason), albeit largely ignored, was Bratina's observation (supported by a planning report) that the correlation between projections of an ongoing and sustained successful air traffic business, should not serve as the foundation by which the whole business case for Aerotropolis should sit. In other words, we ought not to over emphasize and thus rely on the airport as a driver of economic activity. And then there is the matter of high energy costs due to the service configuration and provider....... 

CATCH has does an excellent job of citing some of Bratina's concerns and reference. These are captured below. Do you   agree with Bratina's views? Please read what he said, below. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Lesson From Larry - Video of the Moment

Here is a video that serves as an inspiration to The Hamiltonian. It's short. Have a listen as to what Judge Judy says about Larry King. Click here  There's a good lesson to be learned.

A Shocker?

Seems like Harry Stinson has encountered some red tape. Here's hoping that common sense finds its place in this,  hopefully, temporary impasse. See the story here.

A "Can Do" Attitude?

On the heels of the Ti-Cats tabling a rather elaborate plan for the construction of a Pan Am Stadium, complete with a hotel/conference centre and entertainment district, Clr. Brad Clark is asking a very pragmatic question. "Pretty pictures don’t excite me anymore, “I need to know where the money is.” he said.

Russ Powers observed “Where’s the beef?”Clr. Whitehead, added: “Is it smoke and mirrors?”

But Mayor-Elect Bratina said the $30- to $50-million precinct adjacent to the proposed Pan Am stadium could excite the community and shake out some private-sector investment to cut an estimated $53-million funding gap on the stadium.Further, he said he will draw on personal relationships in the city in an attempt to raise money for the Pan Am stadium,  adding that he would use the mayor’s office to engage the private sector. In addressing his supporters the night the election results were announced, he promised to work "very hard". 

Undoubtedly Clr. Clark is asking a very good question and one that must be answered soon, particularly because there are no updated costing figures to work from.  Having said that, are we getting a glimpse of Mayor-Elect Bratina, as a "can do" type of mayor? Do you find it reassuring that he seems to be setting this type of tone? Or are we reading too much into this? 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

De Pressed - The Mayor Elect and The Spec

In a topic posted on The Spectator's Hallmark Blog, Emma Reilly comments that Mayor-Elect Bratina has refused to comment to The Spectator, after an article entitled "Question-and-answer session with mayor elect ends abruptly" was printed.

Reilly states "Since then, Bratina has chosen not to comment to the Spectator. He has told several of my colleagues that he's the mayor-elect, not the mayor, and as a result, doesn't have the authority to comment on issues." Reilly further points out that Bratina has spoken to other media, namely, The Bay Observer, which Reilly points out is home to Peggy Chapman, Bratina's new Chief of Staff.

Reilly concedes "Some people will dismiss this as sour grapes on the Spectator's part. Fair enough. But one of the most important tenets of journalism is independence of the press, and right now, it seems that the lines between the Observer and Bratina's office are somewhat blurred."

John Best from the Bay Observer stated "  A few days after the election Peggy advised me that she was

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How They Voted in September

Published by the good people at C.A.T.C.H. Comments welcome:

How they voted in September 
This is a regular CATCH summary of votes at committee and council meetings. This report covers the month of September 2010. The first line of each entry identifies the issue, followed by a brief description. This is followed by the location of the vote in the third line. Multiple votes on the same issue are reported together. Absentees are only listed where reported in the minutes and where the missing councillors are members of that committee or decision-making body. Links are provided to source documents. Note that the vast majority of council decisions are unanimous and the votes are not officially recorded.
 Wireless services
Staff recommendeda four year contract with Bell Mobility for cell phones and other wireless services,

Monday, November 8, 2010

There's Always a Positive Side to Everything- Or Is There?

No doubt Hamiltonians who make, or have made their money at the former Stelco (now U.S. Steel), will surely feel the impacts of the recent lockout . Our hearts go out to them and their families. The impacts are surely to be felt more broadly, affecting anything from the degree of raw materials flowing through our port to a myriad of other direct and indirect impacts.

Fears of whether the plant will ever re-open, are being expressed. While we hope that for the sake of all affected, that this matter can be resolved, it begs the question of how Hamilton might adapt if the plant closed down indefinitely. Are there any positives that might come out of this? Or do you believe that Hamilton will always benefit from having steel making as part of its mix of offerings and that we should fight to preserve the industry here in Hamilton? 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nerves of Steel

The ongoing battle between U.S. Steel and the union, has come down to a few key issues. Amongst these is the curbing of pension indexing for retirees and to change the existing defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution scheme for new hires. More details here

The battle of wills has reached a boiling point as U. S. Steel announced it  will lock 900 Hamilton workers out of their jobs Sunday evening. As per the U.S. Steel V.P., the only way to avoid that, is to put the company's final offer to the membership for a vote. The union argues however, that the offer is so wanting, that it is not worthy of bringing it to its members for a vote. 

Others argue that regardless of how good or bad the offer may be, it should be submitted for a vote. The union Preseident said in an email: "The company has the right to force a vote, but they want the union to do their dirty work. They want us shaft 9000 pensioners and eliminate the pension plan at the former Stelco".

Do you think the offer should be voted on, or do you believe the Union President is doing the right thing by not bringing it forward?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Poll Results

In an unscientific poll conducted on The Hamiltonian, 75% of those who responded, believe that public consultations held by the city, are not meaningful.  So, if that's so, what can Hamiltonians do about it?

Looking for 9

There's a lot in the mix, that will be facing Mayor Elect Bob Bratina when he takes office December 1st. Staff's assessment that LRT cannot be completed on time for the Pan Am games, Bratina's own views about how LRT should run,  and that little "stadium thing", are some examples of issues that will require immediate attention. Add to that the U.S. Steele fallout,  poverty, infrastructure concerns, and an expected motion from Clr. Merulla to attempt to quash the Pan Am stadium direction, and you've got a slew of issues that need to be sorted and decided upon urgently. 

Bratina is playing it smart, making face to face discussions with councillors his first priority. No doubt, he will try to arrive at some degree of understanding, or, at the very least, ensure that their views have been heard.  Will Bratina be able to get 9 votes on the big issues? 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mayor Elect Bratina Picks Chief of Staff

Mayor-elect Bob Bratina has asked Peggy Chapman to be his chief of staff. (See Spec Story here)

Public Facades, Shadow Planning and Make Believe Consultations

The City of Hamilton is infamous for its public consultation processes. Sadly,  it is also known for flaws in these processes. The perception and perhaps reality in some cases, that  decisions are made behind the scenes by city staff and politicians, in advance of public consultation , results in consultative processes that quickly lose the confidence of the public.

Herman Turkstra, engaged Hamiltonian, lawyer and activist is calling out the city on this front. Representing The North End Neighbours and the Harbour West Neighbours, in a matter before the OMB (see today's Spec for details), Turkstra asserts that the planning process was "hijacked by the city's engineering department in 2002, that the public planning process was a facade behind which the real planning process was being conducted by city insiders." He referred to this as a "shadow planning process".

Turkstra seems to be on to something. In a recent Ward 10 debate held in Stoney Creek, much to the dismay of the community, Ward 10 Clr. Maria Pearson said that she would "likely" approve the Winona/Fruitland Secondary plan, although the community advisory committee did not agree with it. Ward 11's Councillor-Elect Brenda Johnson took a different tact, expressing bewilderment that the plans had been altered from the original plans formulated by the community, and advised that she would support revisiting the community's desired plan. 

The practice of pre-determining matters and then carting out a consultative process to seemingly engage the public( to the extent it happens ) , is a time waster, an affront to the intelligence of the public and a money waster. What are your observations in this regard? Have you experienced these types of "consultation processes". Have you been part of a good consultative process? Do you believe that shadow planning is practiced in Hamilton?
Note: Another example: 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Seinfeld Strategy- Say Nothing ?

Larry Di Ianni, reflecting upon the mayoral campaign, referring to Mayor Elect Bratina's campaign, told the Hamilton Spectator 

" He ran the Seinfeld campaign-it was about nothing. He rode on his personal popularity which is considerable. He said nothing, and got away with it".

Do you agree with Di ianni in this regard? 

(please keep all comments respectful. We will not edit comments. They will either be posted in their entirety or not) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Being Fair to the Mayor

In an unscientific poll conducted on The Hamiltonian, 71% of those who responded, believe that Mayor-Elect Bob Bratina will not be treated fairly by the ward councillors. (this is a generalized outcome of the poll and allows that some councillors may, in fact, treat the mayor fairly)

Considering the stature of the Office of the Mayor, as opposed to any particular individual that holds the title, and if  the poll is telling us anything, what do you believe Hamiltonians should and could do to ensure this next term is respectful of the Mayor's office? Or do you think there is a role at all for Hamiltonians in this regard? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just Another Pretty Face?

In an opinion article in The Hamilton Spectator today (see it here), Robert Howard praises the restoration of the Lister Block and while he admits the troubled path to getting there, he argues that it was a path well worth taking.

You will recall that Mayor Fred fought hard to salvage the deal for its restoration, believing that the iconic building would make an invaluable contribution to the face lift that the core desperately needed (needs).

Mayor Elect Bratina was  quoted in The Spec as saying "I'm glad the building is being restored, but the cost is way out of line,” he said. “I never supported spending that much money on it.” 

Upon reflection, do you think that the Lister was well worth the expense? Will it fulfill the expectations some have set upon it? Or will it be just another pretty face?