Saturday, December 31, 2011

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Pic of the Moment

At Iroquois Heights trails last Sunday at sunset...

From the lens of Angelo Noto Campanella

Before and After

Further to this story (click here), The Hamiltonian thanks Walmart for taking corrective measures immediately to change their signage so that it was neutral.

Party On

It appears as though the Mayor's Levee is back on; only, it will occur on  January 14th between noon and 2 p.m. at city hall. As reported in The Spec, the mayor said the new date is more “reflective of Hamilton’s diverse cultures and religions,” pointing to Orthodox New Year’s celebrations that fall in mid-January as well as the Chinese New Year Jan. 23.

Meanwhile, there is a citizen driven levee to be held tomorrow. 

 Clr. Judi Partridge, for one, plans to attend. She tweeted " Citizens are hosting a New Years Levy @ City Hall ~ it's their bldg ~ I will be there to support them - thank you Chris Cutler!"

The Next Place

Katryna Arseneau
We thought it would be fitting, in honour of Family Day, to post a submission sent to us by Danya Scime. This song (click here) was written by Katryna Arseneau, Danya's second daughter, and is in tribute to her father, Tony who they tragically lost when Katryna was 8 years of age. The lyrics to the song are posted below. An alternate performance is found hereSome songs write themselves, based on the underlying emotions that drive them to be written. The creation and delivery of this song is unmistakably from the heart.  Thank you Katryna for sharing this touching song with our readership.   

The next Place ~ A ‘Peace’ of Cancer

Song, lyrics and music written and sung by Katryna Arseneau

It can not cripple my love for You ~ No it can not take your soul
It can not destroy all of our memories ~ You know it can not take them away from me
It can not shatter hope, so please hold on ~ and You will watch us overcome
It can not shade the strength I see in You ~ and it can not take away our dreams

I know the next place that I go. You’ll be standing there with welcome home and I know I won’t be sad. I will just be grateful for the life I had ~ in the next place...

It can not take away the person I was meant to be ~ And I know that I have made You proud
Every day that I am alone, I know it really isn’t so ~ Because I take You wherever I go
It can not shade my strength that I see in You ~ And it can’t take away our dreams
It can not weaken my hear or tear us apart~ And our love will never leave this place

I know I won’t be afraid, I will just be thankful for the life we made...in the next place...

Musical Notes- Smoke Wagon Blues Band

Smoke Wagon Blues Band
Enjoy this installment of Musical Notes, with  Angelo Noto Campanella as he reviews  Smoke Wagon Blues Band 

In answer to a need for a blues band to appear at the 1996 Hamilton Aquafest, a group of musicians then named "Broken Down Buffalo" came into being. Their first album, recorded at a home studio on Herkimer Street in 1997, named "Smoke Wagon Blues #36" was done so because coincidentally almost every song ended at :36 seconds ie: 5:36 or 7:36 and so on. From then on they were known as the "Smoke Wagon Blues Band".

The band is comprised of four primary musicians although others join in from time to time. Corey Lueck on Harmonica and Vocals, Mike Stubbs on guitar, Scott Silverthorn on Bass and Gavin Robertson on Drums. I'd also like to mention Scott Pritchard on Keyboards, he's been around the longest. They have been nominated by the Hamilton Music Awards and by Toronto's Maple Blues Awards for best new blues band, They've also opened for Ronnie Hawkins at Burlington's Sound of Music Festival and been invited to play Toronto's Jazz Festival.

 I've always wondered why the Harmonica is also called a Harp. If your interested check out these two sites http://www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q3.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica . My favorite names for the Harmonica are Chicago Blues Harp and The Mississippi Saxaphone.

Q - What role has the city of Hamilton played in your musical career?

Corey - It's a living for us. We've played festivals all over the place, all over Ontario; I've played in the Yukon and St. Johns and down in Mississippi and we're always telling 'em, "We're a Hamilton band". When your far away people seem to know Toronto but we always make sure to let them know we're from Hamilton, "ya know, next to Toronto". I met all the guys here, Mike and Gavin were born in Hamilton, we're all from around here. I use to go to Toronto to see different bands and people there don't realize how good the Hamilton music scene is. They (Torontonians) think we're just a bunch of steelworkers, they don't know anything about Hess Village where you can go bar-hopping and see all different bands within walking distance, alot of cities don't have that. 

 We got our start in "The Village"(Hess). It took us awhile to get in there, we were on the outside looking in. That's where we wanted to be in the early 90's; we mostly played 33 Hess and the Mermaid lounge back and fourth between the two for years at least twice a month. There were so many musicians around; during our breaks we'd pop over to see them play and they'd pop over to see us play, good times.

Q - What is it that makes your music so unique/ stand out?

Corey - I think it's our dynamics. Some blues can be really straight forward, we kinda started out being more of a jam band, our songs would be 20 or 30 minutes long, just jammin' them out. So it was kinda like Jam Blues, it wasn't structured, and then when we got more popular and we had albums nominated we got a little more structured and that still came out in our music. When you hear one of our albums it's never gonna be strictly "cry me a river blues", we always like to play on real Blues blues song but it has the classic rock elements and the roots, and it ends up having a lot of soul. We like to tell stories in our music and it's always stories that actually happened, sometimes there's a story within a story.

Q - What are you goals for the band?

Corey - Our new album is almost done, we're in the mixing stages now. Me and Mike(Stubbs) have kinda broken off a little bit and we wrote all the songs. We've used some of the guys in the band and some friends that have always been around the band like Jessie Obrien, and Robin Banks is singing on it, and Nick Succi
playing some piano. We just grabbed him; what a great piano player he is. We just did a couple of shows with him recently at a place on Upper Ottawa called Bottoms Up. A friend of mine, who use to be our original drummer, plays there every Sunday night and he sometimes asks Mike and I to fill in, that's where we met Nick. We got him into the studio right away. I'm really exited about the album. After that we're gonna, I don't know if it'll happen, we're gonna try to take the rest of February and the beginning of March off. Then we have an acoustic show at Shakers in Oakville April 14 and then again with the full band April 28 with Sonny Del-Rio, but something might come up before that. Then we're heading into the festival season, we'll be at the Waterdown ribfest and the Milton streetfest & ribfeat, and also the CNE.

To find out more about The Smokewagon Blues Band, where & when they're playing, and to listen to some great blues music follow the links below.





Friday, December 30, 2011

Mayor's New Year's Levee Canceled

The Mayor has canceled the annual New Year's levee. The Mayor's office cited the desire for the Mayor to have some down time with his famly, after not having been on vacation for some time.

The Hamiltonian wishes the Mayor, his family and all Hamiltonians the very best over the holiday season.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Still Spinning?

According to a report in today's Spec, a mysterious funder has emerged who is interested in bringing a Velodrome to Hamilton. While all is tight-lipped in terms of who he or she might be, the talk is that millions could be brought to the table.

On Friday, Mayor Bratina confirmed that it was a possibility and that several million dollars were being discussed.

Are you optimistic? Even if the funding did pan out, do you think we can afford to operate and maintain the facility? Should we get behind this effort, or is it better left in the past?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Teflon Mayor?

Click on Pic for better view
Just when you thought "Peggygate" had run its course, Brian Hatch, an Ancaster resident filed a complaint against Mayor Bratina for the Mayor allegedly contravening the code of conduct on several fronts. Section 13 of the code prohibits councillors from maliciously or recklessly injuring the professional or ethical reputations of city employees. This allegation in relation to the mayor's claim that Chapman's $30,000.00 raise was initiated by Human Resources. The Mayor subsequently clarified that it did not occur that way.

Mr. Hatch's comments, as quoted in The Spec, "I just disagree with his comments about being open and honest and then complaining about leaks" sounded a lot like laments heard from some councillors.

Hatch was talking tough "“He (Mayor Bratina) needs a wake-up call .I believe that the mayor is acting like the Teflon Don ” - (Teflon Don being a term that was used to describe the late mafia Don, John Gotti). 

Do you believe a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner is necessary and useful, or are you of the view that this will serve as an expensive distraction that will take the focus off of the issues that Hamilton must address? 

LRT- On the Right Track and Getting a Little Closer?

Short of a public stoning, there's not much more Mayor Bratina could have sustained in terms of criticism of his handling of the LRT issue. Some argued that there were mixed messages from the Mayor over his commitment to the issue and that he was unduly deemphasizing LRT in favour of All Day Go service. Council expressed concerns over the messaging as well, asserting that the Mayor's message was not in line with council's. The Mayor countered that such a project had to follow a process and following the process was the most effective way to make our case for it. Still, some say that the Mayor did not go with council's direction,  failed to speak with a unified voice and should have been more vocal about our interest in LRT. 

Putting that aside for the moment, there appears to be some merit in the Mayor's argument that making the case for ourselves by following the process and methodically presenting the strengths of our position, will serve us well.

As evidenced by a letter to Paul Berton, from MetroLinx CEO Bruce McCuaig (see below)  the Mayor's approach appears to be valued.

RE: “Citizens must champion LRT, Mayor will not”, The Hamilton Spectator, December 7, 2011

Dear Mr. Berton,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Episode 3 of "As Hamilton Twist and Turns" - the one where Peggy keeps the raise

It's the weekend, so we thought we'd run Episode 3 of As Hamilton Twists and Turns - "the one where Peggy keeps the raise"

In this episode we find Mayor Bratina once again fending off a near mutiny 
( hot on the heels of Truth or Consequences) . This time the troubled waters involve a $30,000 raise he granted his Chief of Staff Peggy.

In this episode,  the Mayor's council colleagues go behind closed doors a few times- the latest of which was to determine whether they can force the mayor to rescind his decision to grant the raise, citing policy or whatever other tool that could do the job.

The plan is brilliant, cunning and clever   or    idiotic, shallow and silly, depending on your perspective and what the end game was supposed to be.  

The plan was hoisted in a closed door discussion with the Mayor present. The arguing spilled into open forum, only to have the city lawyer Bark -  Well, if  we do that, we're probably going to be more exposed to liability- (or lawyerly words to that effect).

The episode concludes with Peggy keeping the raise, Mayor Bratina a little beaten and bruised and some councilors red faced, peeved and tweeting.  

He's making a list, checking it twice 

As we go to a commercial, we leave you with this question. What do you think - great tactic or cheap trick? 

gonna find who's naughty or nice, Santa Clause is coming to town....

Note: The Hamiltonian has received comments that contained unsubstantiated accusations. We will not be publishing such comments

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the Cross Hairs

It's clear that City Council is keeping Mayor Bratina in the cross-hairs  on the Peggy Chapman raise issue. A closed door meeting to discuss whether there is a mechanism to reverse the Mayor's decision to give Chapman a $30,000 raise will take place Friday.

The issue has moved in focus, to whether the Mayor has the authority to grant such a raise. 

Whether or not he does, the optics of the amount of the raise ($30,000), continues to reap havoc from critics- including the mayor's own council.

But are we making too much of it? In its purest form, we can potentially be over-reacting. After all, the Mayor is within his budget and executive support often comes at a premium. Or can it be that people are reacting to the personalities involved? Is it about Bratina's choice of Ms. Chapman, and the style she has imprinted through her role, or is it about strictly the quantum of the raise? Is it a little of both.  Do you believe it's time to move past this? Are we being fair to the Mayor? 

The Story That Keeps Giving-Link of the Moment


Not Down on the Mat


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bullying at City Hall?

In the midst of the discussion with respect to The Mayor's messaging around Ms. Chapman's raise and his subsequent clarification and apology, a serious allegation was made. The allegation as stated by Clr. McHattie was that the Mayor's office was bullying some staff.

The Hamiltonian would like to be clear that we have no information to suggest that any allegations made by staff (if any) are true or untrue. 

Based on the gravity of such an allegation, we asked both Clr. McHattie and Merulla, not to identify individuals, but to describe the conduct that would support such an allegation. To ensure that we have captured their thoughts precisely, we have posted their replies verbatim at the conclusion on this post.

You will see from their replies, both councillors wanted to remain respectful of confidential conversations and also wanted to ensure they do not compromise staff.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mayor Apologizes - But Are Staff Being Bullied?

On the heels of a firestorm of controversy, and pressure from councillors and other interested parties , Mayor Bratina offered up the following apology to councillors, relative to to the Chapman pay raise explanation that he initially gave. 

Dear Colleagues,

I met personally with Helen Hale Tomasik yesterday, and this morning over the phone to personally and directly apologize to her. I also read to her the following statement which I am now forwarding to you, members of City Council.

“I recently answered a reporter’s question about a pay increase to my chief of staff. The statement I made was very brief, with the intention of protecting the privacy of my employee as required by employment law.

Unfortunately my comments were not well-worded and taken to mean unintentionally that the H.R. department initiated or directed the higher salary. For this I take full responsibility.

This is not the practice of the department, and it was not the intent of my brief response to the reporter to suggest this. However since my statement caused discomfort I asked to meet with the director of Human Resources, and expressed to her my regret and made a personal apology.

I also apologize for any misunderstanding or discomfort caused by my words to the Human Resources staff, members of Council and the community.”

Respectfully and sincerely,
Bob Bratina.

One  Councillor however is suggesting that this is symptomatic of a bigger problem. Clr. McHattie,  is concerned about the way staff has been treated by the Mayor's office behind closed doors. As reported in The Spec,  McHattie said "“I think you’ll find it will be very rare for staff to go public on how they’re treated by the mayor’s office. It becomes a bullying situation - it becomes a difficult place to come to work.” The Hamiltonian has made inquiries as to this allegation and will provide an update.

The Mayor defended himself by directing what seemed to be a leading- some might say self-serving question to Chris Murray, asking Chris about whether he (the Mayor)  has “treated staff with the upmost respect that they deserve”. Murray responded positively but Clr. Merulla deemed the question distasteful. 

Do you believe this matter has been exhausted or are you concerned with Clr. McHattie's view that there are other problems under the surface?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mayor and Councillor Pay

                                                                                   Click on pic to see it better

The following document will provide information about how much the Mayor and Councillors are paid. Click here. Thanks to our friends at city Hall for the reference. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Truth or Consequences- A Councilor's Perspective

Update: Clr. Whitehead's response has been included below: 

In light of the ongoing scandal concerning the Mayor's account of how Ms. Chapman's raise came to be, and his subsequent statement of clarification, we reached out to a couple of Councilors for their views. We initially approached Clrs. Merulla and Whitehead and have since extended our invite to all councillors. In the spirit of balance and fairness, Mayor Bratina and Peggy Chapman have also been invited to comment. We will post all comments asap after receiving them, verbatim.  

Q. Subsequent to the statements the Mayor made to the press around how Ms. Chapman’s raise came to be, he issued another statement attempting to clarify his prior statements that were deemed by some to be misleading. He suggested that in light of his clarifying statement, that it is time to move on and focus on other issues. Do you accept his statement as satisfactory and, to the extent you don’t, why is it not? What underlying principles do you believe are at stake?

Clr. Sam Merulla:
The City of Hamilton's Human Resources staff and the residents of Hamilton deserve an apology because and only because our professional staff must be insulated from political issues and initiatives and because the public would agree with this belief.

Clr. Terry Whitehead:
It appears that trust has been compromised. If that is confirmed at Tuesday's meeting when the Mayor presents his side of the story, I would need to understand if he truly regrets his actions or is his statement the result of pressure from council and the general public. 

If it is determined that the Mayor purposely misled the public, then I believe that nothing less than the Mayor publicly saying sorry to all those who have been impacted by this deception. A sincere sorry should not be the hardest word to say.

To move forward I need to understand that a lesson was learned by the Mayor thereby allowing trust to be reestablished over time.

With out trust it will be very difficult for the Mayor to successfully lead.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tweet of the Moment

I will be bringing a motion forward to have Council release all costs to the public related to the Expressway lawsuit against the Feds

Clr. Merulla

Friday, December 9, 2011

Damage Control?

"Wednesday, in an interview I made comments regarding the salary adjustment given my Chief of Staff that left the impression that the initiative originated in the Human Resources Department. This was not the case, as I noted in the clarification I issued when I realized the impression that had been created by my remarks. I regret any negative inference that may have been created. The issue of salary review for this office is, of course, my responsibility as mayor. While I did seek comparative historical information from Human Resources and while I acted on the basis of that information, it was not my intention to suggest that the final approval was anyone's other than my own. It is time to put this unfortunate distraction behind us, and hopefully we can get back to tackling the many important issues and exciting opportunities that we will face as a council in the coming year."
Bob Bratina, Mayor

Do you accept the Mayor's explanation, or is this a case of damage control?

Truth or Consequences?

In what presents as a Hamilton version of "Truth or Consequences", Hamilton City council, minus the mayor, met to discuss whether the Mayor's explanation of Peggy Chapman's pay hike, broke the code of conduct.

At issue is whether HR initiated the review, or whether the mayor asked HR for information that subsequently triggered his review. 

If there are to be consequences, council is examining whether it will ask the mayor to publicly apologize to HR or to issue a formal censure against Bratina.

An email circulated amongst councillors, authored by Helen Hale Tomasik, head of HR, says that the mayor approached HR for salary information paid to prior chiefs of staff, and the mayor then determined her salary.

The Mayor has said " HR reviewed Peggy's employment status and she was vastly under compensated based on job description and history. I didn't give a raise and she didn't ask for a raise" (source-thespec.com)

What do you think. Truth or consequences?   

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Handcuffing The Integrity Commissioner- by accident

In a surprising revelation Earle Basse, the City's Integrity Commissioner believes that he cannot legally address violations of the Councillor code of conduct. The revelation is troublesome because, , this was the very core of what he was hired to do.

Section 15.1 of the Code reads ""Members of Council shall observe the terms of all policies and procedures established by City Council, provided that a member of Council's failure to observe the rules of procedure contained in the Procedural By-law is deemed not to be a contravention of this Code of Conduct,”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bratina Masterful Today - Opinion

The Hamiltonian was impressed with the way the Mayor handled himself today. He controlled the conversation, asserted himself as a leader and directed the conversations sans help. He masterfully handled barbs that would otherwise lead to headlines and respectfully responded to more neutral and useful questions from the likes of Paul Berton.

It was a good day for our Mayor.

The Hamiltonian

Here is a link to the discussion, as kindly provided by Mahesh Butani and as sourced by our friends at The Hamilton Spectator.

Bratina Live

Screen shot only. Clicking on Play will not work
Here is a link to the discussion, as kindly provided by Mahesh Butani and as sourced by our friends at The Hamilton Spectator.

More Tweets of the Moment- RedHill Lawsuit

@ the rate we are going the lining is the gold lining in legal costs for the lawyers!
Clr. Sam Merulla

And that is too bad Sam. Also agree costs should be public. But to let govt get away from keeping our money isn't gd

Former Mayor of Hamilton, Larry DiIanni

Chapman's Raise

Mayor Bratina says citizens got a $30,000.00 bonus because Ms. Chapman should have been paid $30,000.00 higher (according to Human Resources) since she started, but has not been getting that pay.

The Spec's write up here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tweets of the Moment

This is not a council issue and I'm not even sure why it was made public through an announcement.

Normally this would be maybe public at the end of a fiscal year through Sunshine Legislation.

Peggy was making more than councillors prior to her raise.

Clr. Sam Merulla via Twitter on Ms. Chapman's raise. 

The position as a chief a staff is a contract position to the Mayor . It is my understanding that the city policies do not apply.

It is the Mayors budget and he can spend it however he decides. The general public will judge in the end.

Clr. Terry Whitehead via Twitter on Ms. Chapman's raise. 

Breaking News

Laura Babcock reveals on The "O" Show that Chief of Staff Peggy Chapman has received a $30,000 per year raise. Reportedly the raise was not the Mayor's idea, but was recommended by the Human Resources department after observing that Peggy's pay is significantly less than others in the same position.

Your thoughts? Are you okay with bringing the Chief of Staff's pay up to par? 

Uphill on the RedHill

As reported in today's Spec., the city suffered a setback in its continued effort to prevail against the Federal Government on the RedHill Expressway lawsuit matter. For more detail, click here.

In a nutshell, the city was denied a pre-trial ruling on its allegation that federal politicians and staffers knew they were in the wrong when they were alleged to have conspired to delay the expressway. This setback is being characterized as a key legal battle. If the city was granted its request for a pre-trial ruling, it would have allowed the trial to proceed with an agreed upon set of facts. Instead, the city will have to prove in court that the federal government and staffers intended to block the project and knew that they were operating outside of the rules. 

While everything to do with this action is less than certain due to its unprecedented nature, what is certain is that the ongoing costs associated with pursuing this suit, continue to be visited upon taxpayers. The city and local council continue to refuse requests to reveal to Hamiltonians how much of our tax money has been spent on this matter to date, maintaining that they will reveal these costs once the matter is concluded.  

In March 2008, a spending cap of $450,000.00 that was previously in place, was removed by council, clearing the path for expenses to be incurred in excess of $450,000.00. As of September 2007 , we had already spent $243,000.00.  The city's failed bid to get a pre-trial ruling, will surely add more costs, to visit the matter in court. 

Do you support staying the course? Do you think it is time for council to tell Hamiltonians how much tax money has been spent, and how much is expected to be spent on this matter? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Long Road Ahead

A recent CATCH report is warning that there is not near enough money being earmarked for the city to keep up with its ailing roads. This despite the fact that more than half of next year’s discretionary capital budget is earmarked for roads including ninety percent of federal gas tax monies. Additionally, no monies are being set aside for numerous large projects such as light rail transit, several major park re-development plans, the West Harbour proposals or a new police building. For more details, click here. 

Is this a case of the city needing to re-examine its priorities? An aging infrastructure that simply needs more than we can afford to give? Or something else? Are you worried that we will be impeded from achieving game-changing moves such as Light Rail, in the face of the looming infrastructure expenses?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mayor Bratina- The Spec's Write Up

Click here to see The Spectator's write up of Mayor Bratina's first year as Mayor. 
Dreschell on Bratina's "dark side". Click here

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mayor Bratina - 3.5 Stars out of 5 (Opinion)

It has been just over a year since Bob Bratina became the Mayor of the City of Hamilton.  Given this one year mark, and in recognition that the lion's share of his term lies ahead of him, The Hamiltonian shares its observations and opinion as to Bratina's mayoralship thus far.

Symbolically and ceremonially, Bratina seems to have embraced the role. The Mayor regularly wears the ceremonial chain during council meetings and is often heard referring to himself as Chief Magistrate. In the context of a system where the Mayor only represents one vote and is on equal footing with councillors, pulling any lever that may elevate his stature is worthwhile. It remains symbolism however and, in the end, is ordinarily not a factor when tallying votes. Still, Bratina's appreciation for the symbolic, and its formality is different than the days of Mayor Fred, who took a less formal and "folksy" approach to the mayoralty.

An interesting aspect of Bratina's ascension to Mayor, is his employment history and how it influences his approach to the mayoralty. Having been an outspoken councillor for Ward 2, combined with his multi-decade experience as an on-air radio personality, Bratina enjoyed great exposure and name recognition. The question of whether his experience, and in particular his on-air experience, is proving to be a help or hindrance in his present role, is interesting and, in some instances, it is proving to be a hindrance as much as it might have been a benefit.

For example, Bratina's comments, often laced with humour, irony and sarcasm, in what would have made great radio chatter, sometimes fall flat or are otherwise received as flippant or, at the extreme, offensive, depending on the audience, the comment and the context. While the Mayor has conceded the need to be sensitive to how humour and irony is received and sometimes mis-read in the context of his new role, whether he is willing or able to invoke the necessary discipline to course correct, remains to be seen.

Bratina's relationship with the media; main stream media, new media and social media is terse and strained; save for his regular appearances on CHML and his appearances on Cable 14's Access the Mayor. Chief of Staff Peggy Chapman who is intent on landing a media policy, purportedly to bring a perceived need for greater order to relations with the media, as well as to promote better information sharing, has already been met with a healthy dose of skepticism by some in media circles in this regard. Coupled with the fact that it is taking so long, the idea has yet to gain any discernable sense of momentum.

With respect to his approach to the media, Bratina's mayoral preparedness, suffers a blow, betrayed by a rich history of past mayors who accepted media relations as an integral component of conveying leadership, direction and vision.  Bratina's gravitation to CHML and Cable 14, which in of itself is not a bad thing, serves to shut out or otherwise, to a significant degree, ignore the presence of other media thus unduly stratifying his reach.

On the question of focus, Bratina's emphasis on the bottom line, fiscal responsibility, accountability to the taxpayer and municipal government being good stewards of the public purse, is admirable, resonates and is worthy of recognition. Bratina's push to ask tough questions in this regard , was met with resistance from his peers, allegedly more in format than substance, when it came to the operations of The Waterfront Trust. While the Mayor withstood some heavy criticism laced with feedback ranging from cheap shots to legitimate concerns, the tone he has set for fiscal responsibility has been reinforced through his actions, agnostic to how well he is sometimes received.  The point being, that he walks the talk in this regard.

Bratina also has a tendency to think out of the box and examine trade-offs, and connections between opportunities, potentially leading to solutions that would otherwise not emerge. Mixing and matching assets, opportunities, partnerships and efforts seems to be something the Mayor naturally tunes in to as part of his scan for solutions. That's not to say that he is able to land these all the time, but it demonstrates an imaginative side to his thinking- which will serve him well, at the very least on a micro scale.

Bratina boasts about achieving better decorum in council, and no doubt there have been some very good sessions and decisions that fell out of those sessions. Area Rating for example, was a potentially divisive issue that council found its way through with the help of some invaluable input from others. However on issues such as Light Rail Transit and the Waterfront Trust, the mayor was bludgeoned with criticism from his colleagues and others.  The LRT matter almost culminated in a motion that would have seen to it that the Mayor's dealings with other levels of government, were supervised. It turns out that a more diluted solution was found to address the issue, but noteworthy, is the underlying need that council felt compelled to address. The Mayor's relationship with his council, appears to be fractious at times and following from that, is a threat to decorum.

In a system where the Mayor is but one vote, and in that sense, on equal par with councillors, being persuasive and popular are two ways that can work to help mitigate what presents as a disproportionate power imbalance. The Mayor has been heard boasting that the criticism that he has received in some forms of media, is not consistent with what he hears from the people he meets on the street, who, the mayor assures us, tell him he is doing well and to keep going. Not only is that measure unreliable and invalid statistically, but it can serve up a false sense of security . Worse still, it can serve to undermine him, in that over estimating his own popularity can lead to an over inflated sense of how he is being received. Further, those who may have hoped that de-amalgamation would have been probable under a Bratina Mayoralship, are likely dissapointed, which may put a dent on whatever gains he made during his campaign. 

According to a Forum Research poll, as reported in The Hamilton Spectator, 57% of Hamiltonians approve of the job Mayor Bratina is doing. Only 35% of the 408 people who responded, said they would vote for him again. We would suggest that such a poll is a better gauge of the temperature than would be individual conversations .

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of what lies ahead for the rest of Bratina's term, is whether he could lead Hamilton to achieve transformational change. Big projects like LRT require vision, commitment, courage, political savvy,  persuasion, boldness, partnerships, good relations with other levels of government and stakeholders, good relations with his own council, alignment, collaboration and a degree of informed risk taking. Will Bratina's respect for fiscal responsibility, or his previous approach to LRT outweigh, cloud or obstruct his ability to lead us into transformational change?   Time will tell.

To sum up, The Hamiltonian gives Mayor Bratina a 3.5 out of 5 star rating. Our initial instinct was to land on a 3/5 rating. However, the additional 1/2 point was won over by the following considerations:

Bratina scores 3.5/5
1. The areas for growth and improvement that have been stated in this article, are things that the Mayor can overcome through a refinement of his approach and changes that he could make. They are not insurmountable issues.

2. Bratina's love for Hamilton and loyalty to it, is beyond doubt.

3. Bratina's positives.

The Hamiltonian wishes Mayor Bratina all the best for the remainder of his term, and hopes that this council, under the Mayor's leadership,  will lead us into bigger and better things!

The Hamiltonian

Cooking on the Coleman

Joey Coleman, journalist, blogger, technologist etc., has turned his mind to hacking. But unlike the typical manifestations of hacking : spreading malicious viruses, breaking into accounts etc., Joey is involved in a group who executes "Random Hacks of Kindness". In a nutshell, like minded individuals examine how they can leverage technology to add value and provide access to information to everyday people.

Here is the latest release and information on what they are working on:


Please see the news release below for details of Hamilton's first weekend open data hackathon. This is a major step forward for Hamilton's open data community and a unique hackfest among the global open data community.

This weekend will see the launch of four ambitious and exciting local open data initatives. I've attached a backgrounder about these local projects to this email.

Hamilton's one of the smallest communities approved to run a Random Hacks of Kindness event. This reflects the respect of the international open data community for the local open data movement's efforts to progress open data standards such as our recreational data specification project.

Hamilton and Toronto are the closest sites for RHoK worldwide. This is the first time RHoK approved a smaller community so close to a major centre to hold a separate RHoK, a further statement to the respect Hamilton's open data community is earning worldwide.

Note there will be further events in the new year. They will be announced on Sunday during the closing of this hackathon.

Thank you for your time,

- Joey Coleman

Volunteers and Experts around the World Collaborate To Solve Global Challenges Through Random Hacks of Kindness

December, 2011 - - The Hamilton region will be participating for the first time in the global collaboration known as Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Working on......

......our views on Bob Bratina as Mayor (thus far). Stay tuned. (first draft has been written. Now up for team review.)

Update: In the interim, click here to listen to The Mayor on his CHML Town Hall, speaking about topics such as his two new hires, the Waterfront Trust, his assessment of the last year and how the city is doing and the CD Howe Institute report. The Mayor ends by fielding a few calls.

Musical Notes - Radio Free Universe

Enjoy this installment of Musical Notes, with Angelo Noto Campanella as he reviews Radio Free Universe (RFU)

I was impressed with every musical nuance this band presented. Great guitar riffs, driving rythms produced by the bass & drums , giving the illusion of a rolling freight train. All this is highlighted by a seasoned front man reminissant of rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple & Black Sabbath. Some of the tracks I heard inspire the audience to sing along while others relate specific stories.

Radio Free Universe(RFU) has been together for about 2 years, they did not form by conventional methods. George Panagopoulos, creator of the band states "I've gotten really good at using my intuition. I based my choice in finding people that fit into not necessarily I think this is a good idea, but I feel this guy would be a good idea. I was drawn to work with these individuals, I never would have chosen these guys logically". The band consists of Marc Mcnamee on guitar, Adrew Clewer(Drew) on drums, David Hale Miller(Sake) on bass and George Panagopoulos on vocals. I recently spoke with George:

Q. What role has the city of Hamilton played in your musical career?

I found my band here. I was living in Toronto and moved to L.A. and then came back to T.O. in 2005. I was there for two months and found no mojo, no music and no life, there was nothing to turn into music. Hamilton is a real place with real things going on, "Real Life". People work & thrive here, whatever the state of economy is getting to, Hamilton gets there first, that's "Real Life". It's a hard city, for whatever it is, it makes great music, that's why there's so many great musicians here. I had a choice of many real musicians to record and work with, people who put their music first and do it always not just part time. There is a dynamic(musically) here that I have not seen anywhere.

Q. What is it that makes your band stand out? 

The intuitive way we got together for one. We've got over 70 songs written and write a new one almost every time we get together. You can't just have a sound today, you have to represent people's tastes which are great and vast, we've all been exposed to so much music. This particular time of music isn't so much about how important you are to millions of people, it's how important you are to your community and your immediate surroundings. Muddy waters sang to a community, blues was created for a culture.

Q. What are your goals for the band, gigging/recording? 

We are finishing up a record to be released in January or February. We want to take it to radio and send it out every where. This band has given me the tenacity to wanna do this for a living.

If you would like to contact Radio Free Universe and listen to some of their music follow the links below:



Careful What You Ask For

The old adage, "careful what you ask for' may be applicable to the story described beelow in a CATCH release. It involves the airport lands, the desire of the city to acquire a portion of lands that are currently owned by others, and what we may have walked in to. Have a read. Comments welcome:

(From the good people at CATCH):

The most recent CATCH article has left some of our readers confused, so we’ve provided a brief chronology below in hopes of increasing understanding of a complex situation.

City officials initially envisioned an Airport Employment Growth District of 2800 net developable acres, but after extensive back and forth with provincial government officials, the AEGD was reduced to 1636 acres (2700 gross acres).

However, the urban boundary expansion brought to council in September 2010 also included a 530 acre “airport reserve” slated for future expansion of the airport.

The Wasserman family owns 53 acres in this “airport reserve” and at the September 30, 2010, their lawyers argued that the designation means their land can only have one purpose (airport expansion) and could be sold to only one buyer (the city), because the airport reserve designation makes it illegal for the landowner to do anything with the land except sell it to the city. Therefore, they contended, according to the Nepean Principle, the city should be requi red to purchase their land.

On October 5, 2010, city planners and legal staff said they agreed with the Wasserman argument and recommended council direct staff to purchase the land – and council did just that.

In November 2010, the Wassermans filed an Ontario Municipal Board appeal to the city bylaw that established the AEGD and the “airport reserve”.

A second landowner in the “airport reserve” – Freeland Developments Limited – also appealed and made the same argument as the Wassermans – ‘the city must buy our land’.

If all landowners in the “airport reserve” successfully make the same argument, the city would have to purchase 530 acres. Since the most recent city purchase of airport area land cost in excess of $67,000 an acre, the potential total bill is over $35 million.

This month, after an in camera discussion, council voted to reverse the October 5 position, refuse to buy the Wasserman and Freeland lands, and defend the city’s new position at the OMB hearings that are expected to begin in March of next year.

Multiple outcomes are possible. The city could win. The landowners’ argument could prevail. There could be a compromise, or even a city abandonment of the airport reserve designation. Of course, there will be litigation costs to both the city and the appellants at the OMB.

Celebrating Local Businesses- Serenity Now, the Spa

Please join us as we celebrate local businesses in Hamilton. Enjoy our chat with Melissa Drury and Pamela Armour, owners of Serenity Now. 

Tell us about Serenity Now The Spa. How long have you been in business, what type of services do you offer, where are you located and what is it about Serenity Now The Spa that makes you special?

Serenity has been in business since 1999. We have carefully created our series of treatments for you by applying the principals of healing for the mind, body and soul. Serenity Now the Spa has been designed to exceed the expectations of the most discriminating spa-goer. Our professional and friendly staff provides treatments adhering to the highest hygienic and ethical standards, focusing on personal care and attention, using exclusive holistic products. Our spa provides a full line of services including registered massage therapy, specialty body treatments, skin care, hand and foot care and specialized retreat days.

What benefits from a health perspective, or otherwise , do your customers get through receiving spa services?

Our customers receive the highest hygienic and ethical standards, focusing on personal care and attention, using exclusively Dr. Renaud’s non-surgical medical skin care line. Our spa provides services that heal the mind, body and soul of our customers.

What is it about Hamilton and Hamiltonians that encouraged you to have a business here? What makes your business successful?

Hamilton has been a hot bed of entrepreneurial activity since its earliest days. It has played host to many ventures such as; health, cosmetics, restaurants, and special events that have made Hamilton into the powerhouse it is today. Serenity Now is committed is to deliver excellent customer service with highly educated health care practitioners performing therapeutic treatments.

4. What clients groups do you serve and can you comment on any trends you are seeing? Some may assume that Spa services are primarily geared toward women. Is that true or is your client group broader than that?

Serenity Now the Spa services a wide range of clientele. We are dedicated in treating men and women in both therapeutic and cosmetic modalities

5. Is there anything else you'd like Hamiltonians to know about Serenity Now The Spa?

Our friendly and professional staff assures each client receives six star service at the spa. Serenity Now the Spa provides a full line of services to accommodate every need and want of our clients. Our focus is on you! 

T’is the Season for Serenity! Treat your loved one with a Serenity Now gift card, which allows your loved one to choose their favourite spa service. Serenity Now offers for the month a December Dazzle Deal that includes Deluxe Manicure and Pedicure $60.00, Spa Body Treatment $75.00 and “Pure” Botox Facial $85.00. Check out our website, www.serenitynowthespa.com for much more services.

“Giving the Gift of Health Since 1999”

“Happy Holidays from Serenity Now the Spa”

Thanks Melissa and Pamela and Happy Holidays to you as well. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mayor Hires Help


Audio of the Moment

Angelo Mosca on the Bill Kelly show, talks about the Joe Kapp incident. Click here

Monday, November 28, 2011

Down on the Mat

As many of you will know, The Hamiltonian has made many efforts to have the city tell Hamiltonians how much we have spent on the legal expenses and overall expenses related to the Red Hill Expressway lawsuit.

In response, we have been mired with legal language which basically asserts client/solicitor privilege as a reason for withholding this information until such time that the matter is resolved. We are not alone in seeing this as unjustifiably skirting the issue. Further, the City suggests that we seek recourse through a Freedom of Information/Privacy Commissioner complaint.

We would do so, if we did not believe that the city's position on this is telling of its resistance to a legitimate question posed on behalf of Hamiltonians and that, that alone, says enough. We recognize that the city's position is that it is constrained by a council direction. That, in of itself, does not make it right.

We are prepared to lose this battle, with the realization that our intentions were in the best interests of Hamiltonians. We continue to believe that Hamiltonians have the right to know how our tax money is being spent and in what quantum, unless there is a compelling reason why this should not be the case. Citing client/solicitor privilege, in our view, does not contain the necessary definition to assure the concerns of Hamiltonians. We proverbially "rest our case" and leave it to Hamiltonians to render a judgment as to the appropriateness of the city's reply.

Clr. Ferguson recently lamented having to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to learn of the plans for the Pan Am stadium designs. He was quoted as saying "“This is public money. We should have the right to have oversight — we’re the ones being held accountable,”  There is an underlying premise that extends to our queries on the Red Hill matter and to the pocketbooks of everyday Hamiltonians. We wonder if that is recognized. 

We may be on the mat on this one, but with no regrets.

The Hamiltonian

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Disturbing Video of the Moment

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.1

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Pointe with The Nutcracker Ballet of Hamilton

Hollie Jordan, Olivia Patiakas, Matthew Benso
 Marris Castonguay and Christine Benson
 of Hamilton
On Pointe with The Nutcracker Ballet of Hamilton

When Ballet Master Isabel Cortina claps her hands to signal the end of class, twenty-three exuberantly smiling girls and boys dressed variously in pink and black leotards, curtsy and bow as one. For six hours every Sunday from September through to opening night of The Nutcracker Ballet on December 9th anywhere from twenty to sixty children coming from fifteen dance studios across Southern Ontario gather for rehearsal at The Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble's studio in

Friday, November 25, 2011

Finance Head Rob Rossini - On City Accounting Practices

Here's a Q/A with Finance Head Roberto Rossini:

Q.   Respecting the fact that you will need an opportunity to thoroughly read the Howe Institute report, can you say whether as part of its review, the city will be considering moving to accrual accounting, or whether that is already in the plans?

A. For the Financial Statements, the City of Hamilton, as do all Ontario municipalities, use accrual accounting. Since 2009 and the implementation of Tangible Capital Asset reporting, even the capital expenditures within the Financial Statements are based on accrual accounting.

With respect to our Budgets, we use a cash basis of accounting for operating and commitment based accounting for capital. To my knowledge all major Ontario municipalities, except Markham, also take this approach.

The CD Howe report makes some good suggestions on budget presentation.

Hamilton is actually making changes to its budget materials and will implement some of the suggested

Hot this Month on The Hamiltonian

This graph shows what topics got the most hits over the past month. It is a point in time, and the data may be somewhat skewed, as topics that have been up earlier in the month, will have been available longer for hits to occur, while other topics may have been up recently and have soared. For example, the topic "Fred's Fed Up", came online over this past weekend, but has already taken 2nd spot.  But it gives you a sense. Click on the graph for a better view.

Tech Fret

Update: Apparently staff will be examining "thin client" computers as a way of curbing costs and reducing energy consumption. Thin clients are ordinarily computers that load much of the software they require, from a server. Thus the software does not reside on the local computer hard-drive, but is called from a server, on demand. 

In terms of replacement cycle, Clr. Clark is still questioning the status quo, arguing that moving from a 3 to a 4 year cycle, is only a slight change. He argues that computers can be replaced on an as needed basis. In theory, that may be true. In practice, it may increase support costs of maintaining various models. Let's see where this goes......

It seems like many people love gadgets. Ipads, Tablets, BlackBerries, IPhones and the list goes on. But Clr. Brad Clark , in his capacity as chairman of the city’s audit and finance and administration committee, is questioning wants vs. needs. 

12 Angry Men

Last night The Hamiltonian attended a dress rehearsal for 12 Angry Men. Based on the television screenplay by Reginald Rose, and written by Sherman L. Sergel, Director Willard Boudreau does a masterful job of assembling a potent blend of actors, 50's style props and ambiance, that makes the play instantly real. 

The story centres around jury deliberations of a murder that is alleged to a young man who is said to have killed his father. As the jury carefully decomposes and peels back each shred of evidence, as much is revealed as to their individual prejudices, as the crime itself. A must see. For more details, click here. (special thanks to Michele and Martin Futrell (Producers), for the invite. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Audio of the Moment

Mayor Bratina on CHML talks about the C.D. Howe Institute report. Click here

Clear as Mud

Hamilton has earned a failing grade when it comes to its transparency related to the city budget. In a report released by think-tank the C.D. Howe Institute, the institute studied how the largest cities in Canada explain their budgets to citizens. Of the 23, we were the only city to receive a failing grade.

We were placed at the bottom because we have not adopted any of the clear and transparent budget practices of the provincial and federal governments. The Institute observed that it is extremely difficult for the average taxpayer to find out exactly how much the city is making and spending because the budget is divided into three categories: the rate budget (which covers water and utilities); the capital budget (which covers hard infrastructure costs and construction) and the operating budget (which covers the day-to-day operations of the city).

One official from the C.D. Howe Institute said. “The current system makes it easy for the city to hide potentially large increases in water rates, for example.”

Mr. Robert Rossini, head of fiannce for the city would not comment specifically until he has a chance to read the report, but, as reported in The Spec, he says that the city invites comment on its budget and strives to make it as clear as possible.

Mayor Bratina took a tougher stance stating "Residents have a right to accountability and transparency of all public transactions, and it’s our responsibility as a council to review the material and determine what is needed to correct any problems,” 

Apparently the city is still using cash accounting, which has been shelved in many, if not most significant organizations, in favour of accrual accounting, which presents a more accurate accounting of how and when money is expected to be spent and received. 

The C.D. Howe Institute also observed : Hamilton’s budget information is also not clearly accessible on its website.“The cities that get an ‘A’ have these on the front pages on their website. And Hamilton just doesn’t do that,” “The City of Hamilton needs to have a budget and financial reporting process that is best in class.”

Your thoughts?