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Monday, February 28, 2011

Right - Wrong?

Andrew Dreschel's article in today's Hamilton Spec (see it here)  , puts an interesting lens on the potential results of an upcoming HECFI audit.


The article talks about Clr. Whitehead's predictions that the audit will ultimately show that HECFI is a well run facility. Andrew writes "If the west Mountain councillor turns out to be right, a lot of critics will have to develop a taste for crow meat"


Later in that same article, "If nothing else, you have to credit Whitehead’s grit. If the audit doesn’t confirm his oracular skills, he’s going to hit the ground from a pretty high limb."


Friday, February 25, 2011

The B.I.A. Interviews- International Village BIA

The Hamiltonian has invited all BIAs to participate in an interview. Here is the first, featuring Susan Braithwaite, Executive Director, International Village BIA, answering questions on behalf of the BIA. 

Comments welcome

1. In terms of the economic health of the business community that your BIA serves, how would you rate it using a scale of 1-10 (one being poor and 10 being excellent). Assuming there is room for improvement, what measures can the city and community take, to move the rating upwards?


I would say it is unfair to state a specific number that would rate our economic health. Many businesses within our BIA are thriving and others are struggling due to harder economic times that have affected us all. We definitely feel that things are on the rise in our BIA and are excited for what the future holds. We certainly have a lot of support from the city, but some of the feedback I get from businesses is that their tax rates are too high and it makes it harder for smaller businesses to succeed, let alone having to deal with the rising costs in utilities from year to year. We see a lot of support from the community, but it would be nice to see more community involvement in things like open houses etc. and we always welcome feedback about the needs pertaining to our businesses.


2. What are the unique challenges that your BIA is facing and what do think to be potential solutions?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rose Coloured Glasses?

Update:  The Hamiltonian contacted Ms. McIntyre, to better understand the basis for her conclusions. Here is our Q/A with Ms. McIntyre. Thanks to her for her prompt reply:



For the purposes of publication on The Hamiltonian, can you provide us with some information as to how you arrived at the conclusions that are cited in the article here? http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2011/02/on-a-robust-4.html Your reply will be published verbatim. We are seeking to have our readership better understand how you came to your projections re: Hamilton's economy.

Thank-you
Margaret for The Hamiltonian



Hamilton’s economy was hard hit by the global downturn—real gross domestic product contracted nearly 5

Raining Down on The "Rain Tax"

Update: Tax Axed - Read it here


Update: The Hamiltonian had contacted the responsible manager at city hall, and asked if a rain tax can be implemented in such a way that it could be de-coupled from the residential taxpayer. In other words, have it apply to businesses but not residences. At the time we asked the question, we were told that there was not enough information to make that determination. It seems that Clr. Merulla believes in a revised approach that would not ask residential taxpayers for any additional funding, which is consistent with what we had inquired about.


See full story on Page A4 of today's Spec. 


The storm water fee or "rain tax", is intended to target expansive parking lots and big box stores that send storm water rushing into the sewers without helping to pay for treatment costs. That fee would have climbed based on the area of concrete or other impermeable surface on each property.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Can You Handle It?


Back in the days when Citizen Band radios were popular, everyone had a "handle";- a nickname by which they identified themselves on air.

The equivalent in the internet world, would be a screen name . We strongly encourage those of you who are not using your names, to choose a screen name and stick to it. This would prevent the name" anonymous" being over used and thus making it near impossible to determine which person said what.

 Please assist us in making discussions more orderly by either using your real name or a screen name.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Facing the Music

Buskers and arrests have been the focus of several news articles as of late, the latest, being this one. Due to the prevalence of busker related issues making it into the news, The Hamiltonian asked the women and men of the Hamilton Police Services what their policy/approach is on buskers.

Inspector, Community mobilization, Scott Rastin, speaking on behalf of the Police Services, responded as follows:

Police are mandated to uphold the law as set out by the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Even though it is not an offence to busker, buskers sometimes become involved in trespassing, aggressive panhandling and disturbances. Officers receiving complaints will investigate and issue appropriate charges where required. Currently, the City of Hamilton is working on a busking bylaw and the Service has been involved in its development.

Hamilton Police Service continues to be focused on keeping our city safe for all. 

Thanks to Scott and our Police Services for providing this clarification. 

Do you have any advice or input, that you would like considered in the development of a busking by-law? Under what conditions should busking be allowed? Any constructive suggestions or ideas?

Comments that are off topic, unprofessional attack others or are otherwise disrespectful, will not be processed. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Survey Results - Information Item

The results of a couple of unscientific polls taken on The Hamiltonian, are in. It seems like Mayor Bob Bratina's speech to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce was, for the most part, well received. 57% of those who took the poll, indicated that the Mayor's speech was fair or better. 16% deemed it as Excellent while 19% deemed it as Good.


79% of those who responded, believe that The Hamiltonian should continue to allow for anonymous comments, provided they are respectful and on topic. The Hamiltonian will thus continue with its current policy with careful moderation, to ensure comments, in all cases, are respectful and on topic. Notwithstanding, we encourage you to use your real name when posting. If you opt to post anonymously, we encourage you to use a screen name so that your comments can be discerned from other anonymous posts. We encourage all to self govern their comments. Thank-you!

Up in Smoke Appeal Heats Up

Update: "(W)hile many may view the beliefs of the applicants and other members of the Church of the Universe as absurd, that is not and cannot be the test of whether the beliefs of members of that Church qualify as a religion.” Read the article here


February 15, 2011

Dear Hamiltonian,

Thank you for  providing this opportunity to make our point of view known to the Citizens of the Greater Hamilton Area.

Re: The Spec.com “Appeal up in smoke, as court says pot’s no sacrament”

http://www.thespec.com/news/canada/article/482687--appeal-up-in-smoke-as-court-says-pot-s-no-sacrament       

The Church of the Universe does not sell Marijuana but what the congregation does is share in the cost by making donations to help pay for the Sacrament they obtain.

The Honourable Courts are without jurisdiction until s. 1 of the Charter can justify the original attacks on the church in 1979 R. vs. Reverend Tucker and 1984 in R. vs. Reverend Baldasaro. The Supreme Court is upholding unjust laws by simply refusing leave to appeal and not giving reasons therefore, other than for us to assume its not a issue of “national importance” under the Supreme Court Rules? This in itself is a violation of the Charter, the right to be heard before a fair and impartial court of competent jurisdiction.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

HECFI Audit

Update:  City Manager Chris Murray was kind enough to provide The Hamiltonian with the following two documents, which set out how the procurement for audit services will be approached, as well as the scope of the review. Please see the following documents : Document 1 Document 2


Thanks to Chris for this information. 




You may recall that The Hamiltonian previously raised the question as to whether it was time to consider privatizing HECFI. The article could be found here. 

CHML reports as follows:

The audit of HECFI is going to cost Hamilton taxpayers 90-thousand dollars.It will probe things like the financial outlook, management structure, major board decisions and a five year review of all costs and profits, among other things.

City Council voted in December to conduct the audit after word that HECFI would need 1.5-million dollars on top of the annual subsidy of 5.75-million it already gets from the city.Council will have the option of examining a request for proposals for other firms to take over Hamilton Place, the convention centre and Copps.


Let's hope that the audit helps to determine what is best for Hamilton.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Bratina Mattina

The Mayor's address to the Hamilton Business Community, is pasted below, compliments of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. 


Comments? 


Members of the Chamber, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to take part in what has become a tradition in our community—the mayor’s state of the city address. I want to thank John Dolbec and the staff and directors of the Hamilton Chamber for organizing this event each year and for the many other opportunities they provide throughout the year for networking...big events like the presidents’ panel... and the many other occasions when the chamber spearheads community involvement and dialogue on issues of importance to us in Hamilton. The Chamber has been a steady voice of reason through some of the tough economic challenges we have been through...so it’s nice to be here at the chamber when the story is largely one of GOOD NEWS.

I’m going to walk through some of the economic highlights of the year just past...and then touch on a few of the things we hope to accomplish in this term and ...even at this early date... to talk about some successes. But first the local economy...

Sometimes I think we have become so accustomed to talking about our past struggles with the Hamilton economy that we don’t recognize it when things have significantly improved...That’s not to say we don’t have continuing challenges...but let’s take a moment to celebrate some real successes...First of all we have some great new players at the table. New McMaster Patrick Dean has already begun collaboration with our office regarding the University’s interest in helping our Downtown. New Police Chief Glen DeCaire has implemented new approaches to policing that have had immediate impact on the perception and reality of a safe secure City.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Anonymous Blogging Debate

It seems that the phenomenon of Anonymous Bloggers, has garnered a lot of attention here in Hamilton, particularly since Paul Berton, Editor in Chief of The Hamilton Spectator, wrote this piece.


Mark Cripps, Managing Editor of the Stoney Creek News, countered with this piece


In terms of The Hamiltonian, we have maintained the following:


1. We prefer that people post using their real name, as it adds weight to your comments.
2. We will allow for anonymous blogging provided that the post is respectful. We are now also monitoring (more-so)  to ensure posts remain on topic.
3. We do not permit personal attacks to be launched on others.


Please read the articles from both Paul and Mark and take our poll question to the right.


Comments welcome. 



Friday, February 11, 2011

Pic of the moment

What you are looking at is some of our future leaders! 


Clr. Judi Partridge, who was a young Brownie in Greensville where she grew up, and  who continued on to be a  Girl Guide, took time out of her schedule to speak to these young ladies (Girl Guides) and to answer questions about her role as a councillor. She encouraged them  to give back to community at every opportunity with the goal to make our community stronger. 


Clr. Partridge was very well received as the girls enthusiastically peppered her with questions. Judi's emphasis was on the value of working together for our great city, and helping one another, in order to achieve.


Judi adds "Childhood mentoring programs, play a fundamental role in how we develop as young people into adulthood. Whether it is the Girl Guides, City Kidz, Kiwanis Boys & Girls, YMCA, YWCA or the many other youth leadership programs run by volunteers."


Thanks Judi for the fine example you are setting for these young ladies, and thanks to the Girl Guides, Diane Johnston (Guide Leader - 1st Carlisle Guide Unit) and all others who care about our community and our young future leaders!


Do you have a picture you would like to submit to The Hamiltonian for consideration? Please send it to adminhamiltonian@cogeco.ca

First Episode of SWAT TV

See it here

Comments? 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Staff Call?

Word has it that Mayor Bratina is asking staff to determine whether his donation to the United Way, broke any rules. The donation money, found through office efficiencies, continues to haunt the Mayor.

Are you satisfied with this course of action? Do you believe that staff should rule on this and then move on? 

SWAT TV - Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce is unveiling a new offering called SWAT TV. 


starting on Friday, Feb. 11/11 at 10:00 AM:

www.peopleinconnection.com/swattv.php.

Do You Believe in the Freeze?

While a challenging goal, the city is aiming to freeze taxes. Last Thursday, council voted unanimously to set a 0% tax increase guideline. This marks the first time in years that council have attempted to freeze taxes.

A 19 million dollar budget cut is required to achieve the 0% goal. Roberto Rossini, General Manager of Finance, stresses that this has to be done a way that allows it to be sustained. He says his staff will look “anywhere and everywhere” for savings. They will have to, given the size of the cut and the council stipulation that the freeze should not affect services.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the Farr Side.....



 Dr. Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook
For Immediate Release:
Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr and The Vrancor Group will be hosting a press conference regarding the preservation of the Federal Building friezes at 150 Main Street West. 

Following this brief press-conference, Internationally known artist, Christian Corbet, PPCPA, CGAM, BAMS, FIDEM, FA, FRSA will present the City Of Hamilton with a rendering of renowned Hamilton born artist, Dr. Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook, CM, O.Ont, RCA, OSA, SSC (1913 - 2009).

Further, we are pleased to announce a presentation hosted by Christian Corbet (Dr. Holbrook’s only protégé, 1996 – 2003), where he will graciously honour Holbrook’s life and work during a one hour event.

DATE: Friday, February 11, 2011
TIME: 3:30 pm - Press Conference
4:00 pm - Slide presentation of Dr. Holbrook by Christian Corbett
PLACE: Sheraton Hamilton, MacNab Room



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Checking In- With The Integrity Commissioner, Earl Basse

The Hamiltonian staff were considering the notion of filing complaints with the Integrity Commissioner and  considering the potential of how costly and perhaps even damaging it may be, to file complaints that may not be appropriate. In some cases, it may be confusing, even to the potential complainant,  to delineate  between what should be lodged as an integrity complaint, what may be just the result of incompetence or what may just be a well intentioned,  innocent mistake. 


So we posed a question to Earl Basse, the Integrity Commissioner. As Earl acknowledges, things are not always cut and dry. We fully appreciate his answer. Notwithstanding, Earl does offer some good advice on how to engage him. We thought we would share his answer. If it means saving the city some money by having only complaints worthy of examination being brought forward, and others not, it will be worth it.


Question posed:


Pay to Play or Hit the Road Jack?

Harry Kitchen, hailed by some as a municipal expert, argues that user fees on roads, sewers and stormwater facilities are necessary to impress on people that they are dealing with scarce resources.

“You need user fees so that the user realizes that the resource in question is scarce,” he argued. “In that way, it’s not overused.”

As recently reported in CATCH, Hamilton has about $15 billion in infrastructure with roads comprising the biggest portion. The cash-strapped city is currently managing to replace only one per cent of its roads each year, generating squabbles between urban and suburban councillors over whose roads should have priority.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hats Off to Paul Berton

In an article in today's Spectator, Paul Berton, Editor in Chief of The Hamilton Spectator, defended a practice that The Hamiltonian has long held dear- that is, the freedom for bloggers, anonymous or not, to post legitimate comments on topics facing our communities.


Paul used the recent United Way controversy as an example, citing Mayor Bratina's concern about the prospect of having to hold a city council meeting based on an anonymous complainer. As reported in The Spec, the Mayor went on to suggest that the true story was the anonymous complainer's identity and motives.


Berton disagrees, citing the legitimacy and relevant nature of the comments The Spec received,  some from anonymous sources. Paul also reminded readers that there was a time when papers accepted Letters to the Editor, with the sender's initials only. He writes " it was considered an integral part of democracy and free speech".  


Paul's article is worth reading in its entirety and we encourage you to see Page A2 in today's Spec. Parking the specific Bratina/United Way example, there is an important message that can be more generalized. 


He ends by saying" The days when politicians and newspapers can control the message are long gone. That was clear this week in Hamilton as it was in Cairo, where government is trying, without luck, to censor official media and stifle social media. The real story, no matter where you are, is now being told by all of us".


We couldn't agree more Paul! 

Community Gardening

In support of our community gardening poll question (to the right hand side of this blog), you may wish to review this CATCH release 


Comments welcome

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Khan- clusions

“His account of what happened and what the independent reviewers feel happened are two very different things.” That's the way City Manager Chris Murray described the findings of a review of Abdul Khan's allegations against the city.

The report also cleared former senior director of environment and sustainable infrastructure. Jim Harnum of any wrongdoing.

The findings are summarized in The Spec article here.

While the review concluded that many of Khan's claims were unsubstantiated, the review upheld Khan's claims about city staff selling scrap metal and using the proceeds to fund barbecues. In that respect, Mr. Harnum was also cleared of wrong doing as it was found that he did not know about the barbacue until a year later, and he did not profit from the matter.

With respect to city staff who were found to have participated in the sale of the scrap metal and the barbecue, "Murray says there's “no justifying” the behaviour of the city staff that sold the scrap metal.“The parties involved should have known that was against our policy. There's no way around it. It was the wrong thing to do and people should be held accountable.”

My. Harnum indicated that legal action he was considering against Mr. Khan, was awaiting the findings of the review. As reported in The Spec " Now that the city's reports have been made public, Harnum says he'll continue to pursue his legal action."

Mr. Khan's reaction to the Spectator, with respect to the findings, was one of surprise. “I have no idea … why they would have reached those conclusions,” he said. “I believe that I have said what is in the best public interest and that it was correct,” said Khan.

He added" “If that's what the outcome of this investigation is, I really look forward to a libel case so I can prove in a court of law that what I said was not wrong.”

Are you satisfied that this matter has been dealt with? 

Please keep all comments professional and on topic. Attacks or off topic comments will not be allowed. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Development?

Update: Ottawa says the federal building cannot be torn down and features and facades are protected under a covenant that runs with the land in perpetuity.

See full Spec update here



Mixed emotions are in  play with respect to the demolition of the former Federal building on Main and Caroline streets. The controversy surrounds an agreement (or covenent) that the owner of the building, ( Darko Vranich) signed with the Federal government at the time of purchase in 2004.

Amongst other things, the agreement requires requires him “to conserve, protect and maintain the heritage features and characteristics” and “not to raze to the ground or otherwise demolish the entire building”. The covenant identifies interior and exterior heritage features of the building that must be preserved including “the projecting entry wings and rear elevation with traditional ornamental carving”, and “the traditional ornamental low-relief carving framing the main entry”, and the stones surrounding the nearly square windows” on the outside, plus “bronze entrance doors” and “the existing physical and visual relatio nship with the sidewalk in front of the building”.


A request has been made from the Heritage Committee to prevent the building's demolition.

Tim McCabe, General Manager of economic development and planning, while admitting that he is caught between wearing multiple hats on this issue by virtue of his role, said to the planning committee " “But I tell you if we had to have a report to you, as a department head, with the many hats you’ve asked me wear, from a business point of view, from a n economic development point of view, from a downtown point of view, and in providing certainty to our business community, this type of process I do not support, and I would recommend that we not provide that uncertainty to our investment community again, and designate this thing at the ninth hour.”


McCabe added that the city does not hold up permits on account of an agreement that someone has with another level of government. The city's Chief Building officer added that he does not believe the city can withhold a permit on account of a covenant.

But Clr. Whitehead questioned the fact that city staff do not believe they have an obligation to inform the Federal Government of the demolition request. Whitehead argued the city should inform the federal government and asked how it would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. “Do we not feel ethically responsible to inform the appropriate autho rities at the federal government that an application for demolition has been made and then allow them to deal with it however they may?” he asked.

City lawyer Lisa Pasternak backed up Spolnik’s understanding of his legal obligations but said city officials could approach the federal authorities if they wanted to do so.


The committee voted to reject the attempt of the Municipal Heritage Committee to designate the federal building for heritage protection.



Do you agree with Clr. Whitehead's position on this? Also, do you think a Heritage designation is in order, or do you agree with Mr. McCabe's views. See the full story, as captured in the CATCH release here


Comments that violate the blog policy, are off topic or attack others, will not be published.

The Art of Giving or Give Me a Break?

Leadership can be shown in many different ways. In the case of the United Way, Mayor Bratina chose to lead with the intent of inspiring others to contribute to the United Way, by making a hefty donation in the amount of $10,000.00. A procedural issue has been raised however, which maintains that the Mayor ought to have sought permission from council to allow for exceeding a $350.00 cap per donation that is ordinarily set. The $10,000.00 donation  was made out of his office budget. It was not a personal donation.

The Spec article is interesting as it highlights varying arguments and perspectives. The more sinister perspective casts this as merely a "photo op" and an abuse of process. The dramatic photo of Bratina seemingly tossing the cheque, serves as fodder for that argument.

Others have commented on the process part, arguing that Bratina ought to have brought the matter before council. Bratina responded "You may recall that a deadline of Thursday was given for United Way to reach its goal. You may also recall that a severe winter storm was forecast for Hamilton. Are you suggesting that a meeting of council should be convened because of some anonymous complainer? The story here is their identity and motives.”

When asked whether he thought it was appropriate to use tax dollars for charity, he dismissed the question as ridiculous.

Still others mentioned Bratina is saving taxpayers money by keeping a small amount of staff in his office.

Clr. Whitehead called the handling of the matter a "rookie mistake".

Do you think it is okay to use taxpayer's money for charity? To the extent that the Mayor may have made an error in process, is it a forgivable one? In a nutshell, do you support or accept the Mayor's actions in this matter? 

Note- posts that go off topic or attack others, will not be posted. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day? Enjoy a Warm Roast

Snow day? Too cold to be out? Well, enjoy a warm roast as The Hamiltonian brings you full excerpts of each of the roasters in last night's Fred Eisenberger roast. 

There were some witty exchanges throughout the event, as panel members, ( in person and via pre recorded video messages) , each took their turn in roasting former Mayor Fred Eisenberger. It was interesting to note that not one member of the current or past council attended.

However, enjoy the evening. The clips are cut individually, allowing you to choose which of them you'd like to hear. They are presented in the order that folks appeared. There is also a clip of former Mayor Morrow performing one of two piano pieces, for the opening. Laura Babcock did a great job of moderating the evening. 

Mayor Morrow playing piano
Andrea Horwath
Ron Foxcroft (by video)
Mark Chamberlain
Charles Juravinski (by video)
Rob MacIsaac
Chris Charlton (by video)
Larry DiIanni

Fred's closing remarks.

Audio recorded with kind permission of the organizers of the event. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Breaking News -Complaint Bound for Integrity Commissioner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PENALTY CALLED ON  NHL SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS
– Ward 3 Resident’s Association President, Paul Tetley, complains about an improper N HL Subcommittee meeting.

Hamilton, Ontario – February 1, 2011 – Paul Tetley, President of The Ward 3 Resident’s Association, has submitted a formal complaint to Hamilton’s City Clerk regarding the NHL Subcommittee members meeting with Edmonton Oiler President & CEO, Pat LaForge.

It has been reported in the local media that Terry Whitehead, Lloyd Ferguson, Jason Farr along with non-committee member Rob Pasuta met without publically announcing or recording minutes for the meeting. The meeting was held over breakfast, with 3 of the 4 subcommittee members present and City of Hamilton business including; NHL, HECFI and the Pan Am Stadium was openly discussed.

Paul Tetley states, “It is a commonly held practice in professional settings that mealtime meetings where business is discussed are formalized meetings. With 3 of the 4 NHL Subcommittee members present, quorum was achieved and the meeting must be held as outlined in the Municipal Act, 2001.”

Paul continues by stating, “The fact the 4th member of the subcommittee was invited, but was unable to attend and was substituted for a non-committee member further confirms the formal nature of the meeting.”

The Municipal Act, 2001 rules exist to ensure the residents in Ontario receive a standard of transparency through the holding of open meetings. Unfortunately, that standard of transparency is often lacking and quickly brushed aside by Hamilton’s elected officials.