Friday, July 29, 2011

Heartbreaking Pic of the Moment

Click on Pic to enlargen 
Proof that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Special thanks to Angelo Noto Campanella for this contribution.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Who Knew?

The world would be a simpler place if only misinformation, distortions of information, or outright untruths would be revealed as apparently as was the case with Pinocchio.

Who knew what and when, and why weren't city councilors told in a timely manner, are some of the questions that are being asked about the Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) contamination that has poisoned fish and other wildlife in the Welland River and Binbrook Conservation Area.

With the stakes very high with the looming issue of liability, contradictory accounts of  when Tradeport International became aware of the presence of the internationally banned chemical on airport property, is further muddying the waters.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

U.S. Steele Turns Around

While it remains unclear as to how the dispute with U.S. Steele will end or turnaround, it is clear that U.S. Steele's net profit has turned around significantly from its first quarter to its second.

The graph to the left (click on it to see it better), demonstrates a net profit of $222 million in its second quarter, bouncing back from a loss of 86 million in the first quarter.

In 2010, they recorded a 25 million dollar loss in their second quarter. Thus, the 2011 second quarter results puts them in a much more profitable position.

U.S. Steel says it incurred about 40-million dollars in idle facility carrying costs in both the first and second quarters of 2011 due to the labour dispute in Hamilton.

Additional info here

Your thoughts? 

"Johnny Come Lately" syndrome?

John·ny-come-late·lies, or John·nies-come-late·ly (jŏn'ēz-). a newcomer or latecomer, especially a recent adherent to a cause or trend.

That's a definition found for the phrase "Johnny come lately", and respectfully,  it could very well apply to Clr. Ferguson in his recent lament about council not having enough oversight and say over what is happening at HECFI.

More specifically, Ferguson cited the fact that the interim board made up of Clrs. Merulla, Farr, Partridge Collins and Mayor Bratina, do not have to run their decisions past their council colleagues. (Spec article here)

Putting aside whether or not the Clr has a legitimate concern, one has to wonder why he is raising this matter so late in the process. The new interim board has been appointed and there appears to be a clear game plan to study the options and engage in a Request for Information and/or Request for Proposal process, to determine the best model, interest level and proponents for the future of HECFI. Personnel matters were discussed in camera. Moreover, one would assume that when this interim structure was designed, it was discussed and implications ought to have been foreseen. 

Sometimes we have to stand out of one another's way. 

In the Works

In common law jurisdictions, legal professional privilege protects all communications between a professional legal adviser (a solicitor, barrister or attorney) and his or her clients from being disclosed without the permission of the client. The privilege is that of the client and not that of the lawyer.

The purpose behind this legal principle is to protect an individual's ability to access the justice system by encouraging complete disclosure to legal advisers without the fear that any disclosure of those communications may prejudice the client in the future.
That's one definition found in Wikipedia.

As you may know, client solicitor privilege is sometimes cited by the city, as a reason for not providing certain information to the public. And many times, that's a proper thing to do if releasing that information may jeopardize the public interest in legal matters.

But as per this recent CATCH release, and a decision rendered against the City of Waterloo, it seems that there may be instances where client/solicitor privilege is being cited inappropriately  thereby unduly limiting the public's access to information that it is entitled to.

In the context of the RedHill Lawsuit, and in the recent issue around the city being saddled with court costs due to delays the city caused in the west mountain  arena lawsuit, client/solicitor privilege in whole, or in part, was cited as a reason to not disclose the amount of legal costs to date the city has spent related to the RedHill Lawsuit, or the reasons for the delay with respect to the arena matter.

If that privilege is being used inappropriately, it would be of serious concern to Hamiltonians. We thus have asked the following question of the City. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Link of the Moment

 To learn more about about Rapid Transit, visit the Hamilton Transit Website by clicking here

Be sure to visit the reports tab for some interesting papers, such as this one. Here is an excerpt:

In many rapid transit discussions, technical meetings and public forums, questions regarding light rail transit 
(LRT) technologies commonly arise.  Many wonder if the vehicles and infrastructure can meet the various 
challenges surrounding Hamilton’s particular geographical and street level constraints, while others are 
interested in how they operate and what design considerations are required.  This analysis provides an 
investigation of the technologies associated with rapid transit infrastructure and aims to:  
• Examine light rail infrastructure, rolling stock, power systems and operational aspects  
• Provide an in-depth investigation of potential LRT technical challenges in Hamilton  
• Investigate technologies that may be able to address Hamilton’s geography and planning constraints 
• Investigate the operating and maintenance costs of these technologies 
• Examine the historical context of light rail technologies in Hamilton  
• Develop a basis to guide further planning and design research 
• Develop recommendations and considerations for further planning and construction efforts 

This analysis is divided into the following sections:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Haunted Hamilton

Custom House
Whether you're looking for a unique form of entertainment, or are an amateur or serious inquirer (such as the Halton Paranormal Group who joined our tour) into the world of the paranormal, Haunted Hamilton offers a unique series of ghost walks and other offerings that are sure to prod your imagination. Hamiltonian staff have been on many Haunted Hamiltonian outings; the most recent of which was yesterday at the Custom House, in which tales of "the dark lady" and other troubled spirits are served up against the backdrop of a historical building full of intrigue. 

The events are augmented by tour guides who are dressed in costume and speak in the voice of another era. The overall presentation easily captures the imagination and makes for a chilling journey into history and the spirit world. Adventures of Haunted Hamilton have been featured on TV programs such as Creepy Canada and the Space network. 

At a very affordable price, it is a great night out that the entire family can enjoy. For more information, click here.  

Note: The Hamiltonian is a not for profit service. Any event or outing that we feature here, is not a paid advertisement. It is simply the function of Hamiltonian staff wanting to share, what we see as good opportunities, with other Hamiltonians. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pic of the Moment

Click on pic to enlargen
A Laker passing under the Lift Bridge into the Hamilton harbor. Special thanks to Angelo Noto Campanella for this shot. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quote du Jour

“We’re still in the LRT game,

LRT has not changed on the priority list. GO has been a priority for some time and is imminent. No one believes LRT will be operating until 2020 at least.”

Mayor Bob Bratina, as quoted in today's Spec.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tweet of the Moment

"LRT, one thing still not made clear: LRT is good long range planning 15-20 years. It has wrongly been sold as today's transit answer."

Larry DiIanni, former Hamilton mayor and host of For the Record. 

Pic of the Moment- The Hamiltonian Canine Unit

The Hamiltonian's Canine Unit, led by star reporter "Stella DiFalco", takes a moment to show us how to beat the heat. 

For more tips on how to stay safe in heat wave weather, click here. And don't forget to look in on each other to make sure everyone is safe during this heatwave. 

Acting City Manager Responds to Light Rail Inquiry

With all the controversy and potential misunderstandings around Hamilton's committment to Light Rail, we put the following question to City Manager Chris Murray. As Chris is on vacation this week, Acting City Manager Gerry Davis, responded:

Q. Recent comments made with respect to LRT and the emphasis on winding down study work on LRT, related to the funding received to do that work, have been interpreted as a death nail to LRT in Hamilton, or something of that nature. Are people reading too much into your direction? Is LRT still of interest to Hamilton, notwithstanding parallel interest in all day Go service?


The City Manager is on vacation this week. In my capacity as Acting City Manager, I can offer the following points of clarification, however any information required beyond this will need to be addressed by the City Manager upon his return.

The City remains committed to fulfilling the agreements we have with Metrolinx regarding the completion of studies for light rail transit in Hamilton. While we are completing the necessary requirements for this phase, the City has not allocated funding for the next phases of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) planning so we’re taking some time to get a clear picture of the financial implications of the LRT initiative and identify next steps.

A follow-up report to Council will be prepared and we will continue to collaborate with Metrolinx as we move forward.

Thank you.

Gerry Davis, CMA
Acting City Manager

Thanks to Gerry for his kind response. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tweet of the Moment

"Improving Go services and moving forward on LRT are not mutually exclusive. The signals sent to Metrolinx are saying RIP LRT. Awful!"

Former Mayor of Hamilton, and Host of For the Record, Larry DiIanni, via Twitter.


In the world of  free speech via fast distribution channels, there are bound to be samples of the good, the bad and the ugly, in terms of commentary. Fortunately, on many local blogs, we've seen great dialogue and ideas. Here's an example, written by a blogger that goes by the name of Sorce. His/her? comments are in regard to the court costs levied against the city in the arena lawsuit.:

"I'm getting tired of hearing about this "confidentiality" excuse. This case is over and we have the right to know why it was handled so damned poorly. If the lawyers are mis-using confidentiality as a way of not answering to the public, then a complaint should be made to the law society. That simple!"

It seems that Sorce was on the right track. According to a recent CATCH release, a recent tribunal decision may force both Hamilton and Burlington to reveal how much public money each has spent in controversial lawsuits.

From the CATCH release:   In response to a Freedom of Information request the city (of Waterloo) had argued release of this information could directly or indirectly reveal the content of confidential communications between the city and its legal counsel. Client-solicitor privilege has also been used by Hamilton council to justify keeping the Red Hill lawsuit costs secret, but the court decision in Waterloo specifically rejected this argument.

“I have reviewed the record and I am unable to see how one could deduce or otherwise acquire the content of solicitor-client communications, wrote Brian Beamish on behalf of the Privacy Commission, “even if the appellant or opposing counsel in the litigation is an ‘assiduous inquirer’.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Chat with John Hertel, HECFI Interim CEO

John Hertel, newly appointed interim CEO of HECFI, was kind enough to answer a few questions posed to him by The Hamiltonian.  Please join us for a chat with John.

1. You indicated that the decision to appoint you as the new interim CEO of HECFI, was to look at the options. In that light, how will you go about gathering information about alternative models and their comparative strengths and weaknesses? Will this work culminate in a recommendation to the new board or will it simply present the information and analysis? Do you have a sense as to when you will be in a position to present your findings?

As a point of clarification I would mention first that in the current alignment of roles and responsibilities I am continuing my role as Chief Administrative Officer with some added areas of responsibility as Interim CEO reporting to the City Manager Chris Murray.

I will remain focused on supporting the day-to-day operations of HECFI, while the assessment of future opportunities for the venues will be facilitated by the City Manager for consideration by the Board and Council. The City has engaged KPMG to assist in this activity, and it is my understanding that more details of the process and timelines will be articulated in September. It is an opportune time for all ideas to come forward so that the very best can be selected to guide the future direction of these great facilities.

2. We have heard the notion of privatization being touted as an obvious route for HECFI to take. Will you be looking at more creative options, perhaps one being the notion of a public-private partnership, as described in this article http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2011/07/hecfi-next-steps-opinion.html that appeared in The Hamiltonian? Any thoughts in that regard?

I am personally a big fan of public-private partnerships and have been fortunate to have some experience and some success in this area in the past. Your July 3rd article does an excellent job of framing both the benefits and challenges of executing a 3P. Being clear at the front end by documenting agreements and governance along with performance metrics creates a framework for potential success. There is never a guarantee but at least all parties give themselves a chance to be successful. Ongoing and frequent communication, particularly in the early stages, helps everyone gain alignment to the goals and objectives of the partnership.

3.This must be a difficult time for the staff who work within HECFI and its facilities. Mr. Murray sent a supportive message (to the extent he could), to those who may be worried about being job threatened, as a result of the changes that may emerge. As Interim CEO, what is your message to staff who may be affected? Given no apparent certainty in terms of job security beyond the end of this year, or even absolute job security up to that point, would they be wise to begin to consider all the possibilities, including job terminations? Or is that premature at this point.

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

With the very hot weather that we've been experiencing, and ahead of us, don't forget to stay hydrated and look in on others;  particularly the elderly, children , animals and those who do not have air conditioning.  Have a look at these tips from the Red Cross

And remember, Hamiltonians look after each other. 

At The Fringe

Jared Lenover and Elaine Hale, deliver a
compelling performance
59 Minutes in the Maxwell Suite, is an original Canadian play featured at this year's Fringe Festival. Powered by a clever script, flawless performances,  twists and the intrigue of what the future may hold when technology is intermingled with politics and ethics, 59 Minutes in the Maxwell Suite keeps its audience seized.  I caught the show last night, and found it to be interesting, entertaining and very well executed. A surprisingly affordable evening of top notch theatre in the heart of Hamilton. For more information on performance dates and times, as well as the cast/crew/writers and producers, click here.

For Youtube previews click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf-VbBcG4ZE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTIrLNFYjgE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBmO0GIOXpA

Special thanks to Beth Bandler for drawing this to our attention, and John Bandler for his hospitality and exceptional writing talents.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hamilton and Light Rail (opinion)

The question as to whether light rail is right for Hamilton, is one that has been bantered about for some time now. Despite council's 2008 decision to instruct staff to pursue a light rail solution, recently there have been signals of uncertainty at the councillor and at the bureaucratic level. This has upset staunch advocates of light rail.

The Hamiltonian is disinterested in the emotions behind the arguments, and thus will not be applauding the advocates of light rail, or demonizing those who reserve their endorsements or outright oppose it.

The decision as to whether to pursue light rail or not in Hamilton, is a multi dimensional one involving many variants. The many angles, perspectives and interests, compounded by the fact that it is a major investment regardless of how you look at it, can sum to a "fogginess of war" effect whereby it becomes difficult to clearly see the landscape and arrive at an informed decision. Thus, it is useful to go back to basics. 

The following is a sample of some of the considerations that we believe are essential and fundamental to the central question of light rail in Hamilton. The list is not comprehensive, nor is it in sequential order.

Business Case: Is there a favourable business case for light rail in Hamilton? This step should allow for comparisons to other places in the world who have implemented light rail, but it should not solely rely on examples of success or failure. Instead, the business case examines this evidence as one piece of information; recognizing that there are other variables and characteristics of a Hamilton implementation that may warrant special consideration. A good business case considers the experience of others in implementing light rail, but digs deeper and seeks to define not only the possibility of a successful implementation, but the probability of a successful implementation. To do so, broad based comparisons and references are too blunt to serve as a gauge of predictability. The adage “the devil is in the details” rings true when considering an issue of this magnitude and complexity.

The probability factor cannot be properly diagnosed unless the many other variables and characteristics of a Hamilton implementation are examined clinically.

Stakeholder Alignment: Assuming you can arrive at a compelling business case, stakeholders must be aligned to recognize its value, its potential, and most importantly, they must be able to find themselves and their interests within it. In other words, the “what’s in it for me?” question, must be answered.

The city must see the opportunity through the eyes of the partners they will need onboard to make it a success, while ensuring the common good and its associated ROI is not unduly surrendered or otherwise minimized to a level that has little if any value.

Stakeholders must be involved upfront in meaningful conversations that present accurate information. The stakeholders will be diverse, and so it will take some very bright minds to ensure that the stakeholders that are the primary and secondary enablers to a project of this magnitude, have a reason to support the effort. Without deviating too much from the spirit and integrity of city held objectives, there may be a need to explore customized fits for certain players, in the interests of making it work. Thus, the business case may need to be reshaped, or possibility re framed as these interests are better understood. If we’ve learned anything from the Pan Am experience, it’s that stakeholder alignment is critical to success. 

Rationalization - Light rail must be rationalized within the current array of transit solutions that are to be available in Hamilton. It must also be rationalized within the plans that are otherwise envisioned. Number of and location of stops on a light rail line, for example, may determine whether or not a parallel alternate mode of transportation is needed (thereby potentially significantly increasing costs). Environmental concerns must be considered. Uptake must be effectively modeled to calibrate the service. Staging must be contemplated so as to ensure that the implementation exploits the ROI on multiple fronts.

Investment: Where  exactly is the money coming from to fund the implementation and to sustain it? What is the return on investment for the funders and partners. How will the sharing of revenue be distributed? What is the residual cost to the Hamilton taxpayer, immediately and in the out-years? What are the projections going forward and what contingencies will be in place if course correction is required? What are the real costs, including any costs attributed to retro-fitting.

Collateral Benefits : What form do these take, how soon do they occur, where are they concentrated and who will be positioned to benefit?

Risk: How is the risk managed and distributed?

This list is not comprehensive, but it is intended to provide a sample of the considerations that have to be made when undertaking a decision of this magnitude.

So, is Mayor Bratina crazy when he suggests that we had better be certain on the return on investment if we are going to "make a big play" with taxpayer money? No! He is recognizing the complexities involved and the skill it will take to make the right decision for Hamilton.

Is former Mayor Eisenberger crazy when he cites the bold move of the Waterloo Region to support Light Rail there? No! He is underscoring that it takes leadership to make change of this magnitude happen. Nor does it appear as though he does not get the underlying complexities to be considered.

Is City Manager Chris Murray crazy when he expresses concern over not having enough development interest at this point? No! He recognizes the importance of partnerships, stakeholder engagement and its relation to success probabilities. (Although we ought to not make the term “investors” synonymous with “developers”. They can be one and the same, but not necessarily. Venture capitalists may select a developer as an instrument, for example. Let’s not pigeon hole ourselves. )

Is Clr. Clark crazy for insisting that the city set priorities and be mindful of the information needed in order to properly consider light rail? No! He understands the need to rationalize.

Are the folks at Raise the Hammer crazy for relentlessly advocating for Light Rail in Hamilton? No! They recognize that bureaucracies are slow, are not always ahead of the game and need the necessary prodding to move them to a decision point.

Are taxpayers crazy for harboring concern over the potential impact on local tax rates? No! It is a legitimate concern that would resonate with anyone who is simply trying to make ends meet, or is concerned with fiscal prudence.

In summary, The Hamiltonian would like to see Hamilton have the right conversations, information, and engagement that would lead to a well considered decision as to the value of Light Rail in Hamilton. These conversations start by resisting the temptation to demonize anyone who does not share a particular perspective. Instead, we ought to invite them to take part in these important discussions. We should begin by ensuring that if we proceed with light rail, it is because it has passed a series of crucibles and has been deemed to be sound, rather than artificially salvific. 

Finally, despite all of the intellect, methodology, information, evidence and probability models that can be brought to bear, in the end, this will be a leadership moment. Whether Hamilton will move forward with Light Rail or not, will not only depend on the convergence of all the various components described in this article (as well as other components), but the leadership ability to recognize the direction to proceed in, and have the strength to make a calculated decision that is defensible and in the best interests of Hamiltonians.

We must prove ourselves to be professional stewards of our own destiny. We cannot stumble through an initiative of this magnitude. 

The Hamiltonian
Information in this article may be used only with the expressed written permission of The Hamiltonian. Contact us at adminhamiltonian@cogeco.ca

Musical Notes - The City and the Sea

You may have seen some photographs appear on The Hamiltonian, which were taken by Angelo Noto Campanella. In addition to Angelo's photographic skills, he is a music buff  wired into the music scene locally and abroad. We are pleased to feature Angelo's  first music review/interview with the local band City and the Sea, for The Hamiltonian. Here is a little intro by Angelo as well as his interview with the band. 

Eight years ago I got back into going to hear live music; a friend asked me to come to a Classic Albums Live show. Classic live shows feature bands that perform a classic album "note for note, cut for cut". This was a safe bet for me seeing as how I love classic rock. One thing led to another and I was out hearing live music all the time, mainly in Mississauga and Toronto, but I recently discovered that the city of Hamilton is a musical Mecca.

One Hamilton band that has caught my attention is City and the Sea.  City and the Sea is a rock band with a hint of soul. They cover songs from Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" to Pink Floyd's "Money", but it's their original songs that first caught my ears. Music, like art, is mostly about composition, the sounds of the instruments and the voice,  creating a unified sound which is pleasing to the ear. City and the Sea creates these pleasing sounds with Nick Cino on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Dave Marini on bass, Dano Stajduhar on drums and Jonathan Daly on lead guitar. I had an opportunity to interview the band:

Q.  What role has the City of Hamilton played in your music?

Nick Cino: "Hamilton is a working class city" with the "Blue Collar" attitude of not giving up, "We share the same ideology"...."We've been doing this for 10yrs while other bands have come and gone"...."Hamilton has always had a strong music scene even when I was a kid watching other's playing"....."we wanted to be just like them"...."When I was a kid growing up my mom always played the oldies station" 50's and 60's, motown, rock n' roll, "that was the best"...."my dad was into Zeppelin"...."my sister introduced me to the modern stuff, bands like Oasis".

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

Nick Cino: "In terms of our music, I think our music is....I was saying this to the guys the other day, we just wanna be a rock band....and that's something that's not so apparent anymore like the creative rock bands like ....The Beatles, Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, but we try to aspire to the ideals of what those bands stood for, and similar bands like Oasis and Foo-Fighters or  Nirvana....and bring back that rock style....there's alot of indie rock and indie pop music that's become popular, but it's about bringing it back to a more of a rock esthetic. I think that's what separates us" from other bands.

Q: What's the goal?

Nick Cino: "Well, I think for us it's touring....that's our goal right now short term....we've toured in the past, we've been out west, done Europe, we were down in New York in January, which was like a really productive trip for us, and that's just something we really wanna keep doing is travelling and getting on the road; that's our biggest goal, going forward....our new album is something we really wanna do....we're in pre-production with that which means writing, demoing, rehearsing and then we're gonna start recording it in about a month....it'll be out in early 2012 in February or March....longterm it'll be about just finding a sustainable way of making music, to continue making music....it's obviously not an easy business to be in and it's naieve to think that we're just gonna be able to make alot of money, so it's about trying to find a way of making enough money to at least sustain the band and keep it going....the short term goal hopefully contributes to the long term goal.

City and the Sea will be playing August 12th at "The Boathouse" in Kitchener and August 18 here in Hamilton at "The Lazy Flamingo" on Hess.

To keep up on the band re: their next gigs or cd's, and new album releases  follow this link: http://www.cityandthesea.com/blog/ and the link below


The Hamiltonian

Add this to the Bill

You have to meet a rather severe test of abandonment, delay or reckless behavior, to have a court saddle you with court costs. In the case of a credible entity, as a City would normally be regarded, presumably, your performance or lack thereof must be pretty bad, to move a court to make a finding of costs against you.

But it seems that that is just what happened, in a long standing lawsuit that the city brought against the builders of the west mountain  arena. Additional details are here, but suffice it to say that the excessive delays that were found to be the fault of the city, has caused a court to make the city responsible for court costs which has also resulted in the city surrendering any claim it may have had. The court costs and legal fees alone, are reported in The Spec as being $260,000.00. If one adds to that loss of opportunity costs, it could very well be in the millions. 

Andrew Dreschel also mentioned in his write up that had it not been for a reader who alerted The Spec, there is no assurance when this matter would have surfaced. 

As might be expected, people are already quick to distance themselves or otherwise deflect the problem. Council was not aware of this issue,  confidentiality considerations may make a full explanation as to what happened impossible, expressions of displeasure with the performance of some in the legal department, are already some of the responses being concocted. While the myriad of blame shifting and attempts at deflection and damage control will surely result in a confused public that may once again sigh in resignation, one thing is very clear....

The taxpayer is once again, paying.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Pelican Brief - Pic du Jour

Click on Pic to enlarge
This American White Pelican, who made a brief appearance at the end of May at Princess Point, did not escape the watchful lens of photographer Angelo Noto Campanella

In the works.....

The Hamiltonian Staff are working up their opinion on Light Rail in Hamilton. It may surprise you. Stay tuned for a possible weekend release

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Link of the Moment

How They Voted in June Published by C.A.T.C.H.

There Will Be Blood

Well perhaps the picture and heading on this post is a little too dramatic, but it is not completely out of sync with comments made by Clr. Merulla, as the move to reconfigure HECFI continues. In reference to a period of time when staffing increased at HECFI, Merulla stated that if those staff aren't needed, they need to be eliminated "No ifs, and or buts". (As an aside, read this)

While City Manager Chris Murray, tried to give staff a sense of comfort by assuring them that their jobs are relatively safe until the end of the year, we would assume that the term "relatively", does not amount to an absolute assurance.

John Hertel, HECFI’s chief administrative officer and the agency’s second-in-command, has been installed as the new interim CEO, relieving Chris Murray of that temporary designation that fell to him previously.

Mr. Murray continues to remain tight lipped around the reasons why Duncan Gillespie, former CEO was ousted, likely due to the confidential nature of such personnel related matters. For his part, The Spectator reported that Mayor Bratina avoided questions after the meeting, by walking directly across the second floor of City Hall, to his office; an act that was the subject of tweets yesterday.

Do you think this matter is being handled properly? Is it time to "kick butts", or should we proceed more cautiously? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hamilton - Believe it or Not (Opinion)

Don't stop believing
Hold on to that feeling...

That is an excerpt of the lyrics to a Journey song entitled, Don't Stop Believing. If not for the volume of political rhetoric that has become commonplace, that song could have served as an anthen for an important signal at a recent council meeting.

At that meeting, Clr. McHattie, in the context of a discussion around development fee hikes, commented "We've got to start believing in ourselves". The Clr. was emphasizing that Hamilton sometimes short changes itself and undermines its own self worth, by not fully standing behind what it is we have to offer as a city in terms of infrastucture, and other features. 

This was followed by Clr. Merulla using forceful language, arguing that the world won't fall apart if development charges were brought in line, and that past arguments (fear mongering it seems), that suggests otherwise, from certain interest groups, simply has not panned out. In true Merulla style, he was not shy to use words such as "hypocrites"  to further describe the dynamic.

It's easy to allow these comments to blend into the sea of others that we hear at council meetings. At face value, they sound like more rhetoric. But if we consider these comments in greater depth, their underlying premise and thus, power, becomes apparent. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pic du Jour - A Harry Moment

click on pic to enlarge 
Construction begins at the Stinson School Project, signaling that Harry Stinson's vision for the school, is soon to become a reality. Congrats to Harry and all those who have invested in this interesting project.  

Bratina Sails by Goldring

Mayor Bratina with Able sailor, Helen Dam sail to victory!
Photo by Chuck Sweet

On Saturday afternoon July 9, 2011 Mayor Bob Bratina successfully defeated Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring in a three race sailing regatta on Hamilton Harbour. In doing so Bratina won the right to be the first Mayor to speak at the Opening ceremonies of the Rotary Mobility Cup, August 29.

See full details here

Special thanks to CJ for the update

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pic of the Moment

The art crawl tonight was electric, and acoustic ;-)

The picture is a bit blurry. Hard to take a good picture when you're tapping your feet and clapping. A great night for Hamilton!

Dunkin Duncan

Was Duncan Gillespie, who ran the city's entertainment and convention agency since 2004, fired, did he resign, or was he squeezed out? City Manager Chris Murray, who has been appointed interim CEO in Gillespie's place, isn't saying. 

The mystery surrounding his departure, coupled with the intense scrutiny brought upon the agency, on the heels of a consultant's report and increased political scrutiny from council, culminating in a temporary HECFI board made up of five councilors, only begs additional questions such as :

Was Gillespie fired or did he go on his own accord?
Is this a signal of a crackdown on accountability at senior levels?
Will there be more of this to come, in other areas within the city?
To the extent that council involvement contributed or forced the removal of Gillespie, what does that say about governance in Hamilton and the responsibility of the City Manager to make staffing decisions?
Was the city fair to Mr. Gillespie or was this too much of a knee jerk reaction to a flawed model?
Will Mr. Gillespie seek recourse and if so, will the taxpayers be facing additional costs over and above severance payments?
Who will replace Mr. Gillespie, or is a replacement needed in the course of a new model?
How quickly will this whole matter be resolved and will the entertainment/convention business in Hamilton suffer in the interim?
Is this a long and overdue move to invoke reasonable measures of accountability, or is Gillespie a scapegoat?
Did we change speed from glacier speed to Indy500, too quickly in order to solve this problem- or is it high time we did something significant?

Are there other questions this matter has raised for you? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pic Du Jour

Mother Nature and Hamilton

Picture courtesy of Angelo Noto Campanella

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

By Law Enforcement - Paying Off?

As reported in Today's Spec. the increased focus on by-law enforcement of property standards is slowly paying off. The city hired six new enforcement officers last July for Project Compliance, an 18-month crackdown on bylaw busters across wards 1 through 8.

Over the past year, 550 city orders to comply with property standards, were issued, netting a 50% compliance rate.

If you look at just the financials so far, it may appear that the return on investment is not worth it. To date about $43,000.00 in fees have been collected, against the $413,000.00 cost of the enforcement program. However, if these efforts are resulting in properties that are more presentable, and that do not present eye sores, do you think the return on investment is already being realized in a more meaningful way?

The Hamiltonian continues to recognize Matt Jelly and his by-law crawl teams, who were instrumental in bringing a sense of urgency around these issues. The Hamiltonian also applauds city staff for responding. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Media Release- HCCI teams up with sports celebs

HCCI teams up with sports celebs to bring Amazing Race leadership event to Hamilton youth

HAMILTON - Grey Cup champion Corey Grant and Softball Canada star Erin Forman will help Hamilton’s marginalized youth discover their inner leader at an Amazing Race-style event at Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary on Saturday July 9.

Teams will battle the clock to complete activities like Lego Listening, Electric Fence and Human Tic Tac Toe.
Newcomers to Canada are the focus of the program, but youth across the city are welcome to attend the event. More than 30 have registered to date.
The program is a partnership between Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, a local non-profit dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive city, and Rising Stars, an organization focused on developing youth through hands-on fun educational opportunities.

Saturday’s event is a kick-off to a larger leadership program that will provide youth with public speaking, employment and community development skills. Reporters, photographers and videographers are welcome at any point during the day. Pat Wright, manager of training and community engagement for HCCI, can help facilitate photo ops and interviews.

What: Amazing Race-style youth leadership event

Where: Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary School, 99 Ferguson Ave. N.

When: Saturday July 9, 2011, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

HECFI Next Steps- An Opinion

The strength of privately owned and managed facilities is that such a model brings to bear the rigor of private sector approaches. An important distinction to make is that the primary focus is on the pursuit of profit. While it would be safe to assume that good private sector owners would also want to be good community and corporate citizens, there is no assurance that when competing priorities surface between what is best for the bottom line and what may be best for the city and its interests, that the city’s interests will prevail or be given ample consideration. Notwithstanding, the private sector model remains compelling.

Sustained tension is an important part of sustained success. What is often lacking in a business model that is failing,  is the loss of the necessary tension required to keep performance optimized and contemporary. The strength of a public-private partnership is that tension is embedded and sustained by virtue of the nature of the complimentary and divergent interests of the two parties (Public and Private). This type of tension is a healthy tension. The model allows for both parties to succeed but not at one another’s expense. The private partner’s quest for profit is informed and sometimes tempered by the public partner’s interests in the common good, and its own ROI.  Both the public and private partner put “skin on the table” and thus both are vested in making it work. One side of the partnership cannot afford to fall behind in its duties, as the other side will surely react. In summary, a joint venture that shares risk and benefits, also keeps one another in check, and serves public and private interests. This type of partnership may also allow the city to retain some of the talented people who are involved presently in HECFI. 

A Public-Private partnership is a complex structure that can be fraught with peril. The key is to have very clear terms at the onset that contemplate consequences of success or failure. Each party needs to know precisely what they signed up for and what path the relationship takes when things go well, and when and if hard times hit. Service level agreements that are time specific, and other instruments become critical to regulate each partner’s role and contribution. It thus becomes critical that not only the public/ private partners are involved upfront, but that those who understand how these structures work, are also involved in the design. Arbitration is also a necessary mechanism that must be built in.

The Hamiltonian
Information in this article may be used only with the expressed written permission of The Hamiltonian. Contact us at adminhamiltonian@cogeco.ca

NHL Subcommittee Meeting- Complaint Update

You may recall this story, where Paul Tetley, engaged Hamiltonian and community leader, filed a complaint with Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse, regarding the NHL Subcommittee members meeting with Edmonton Oiler President & CEO, Pat LaForge. 

It turns out that Basse could not investigate the matter as following procedural guidelines is not within scope of the code of conduct. Thus, Tetley has filed a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman's office. For his part, Basse will be recommending an amendment to the code, to include compliance with procedural guidelines.

A spokesperson for the Ombudsman's office said that there are no penalties if councillors are found to have broken the rules.The only step municipalities have to take if they break the rules is to publicly share that information.