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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cost of RedHill Lawsuit- Update

The Hamiltonian is continuing to ask the city why it will not tell Hamiltonians how much money it has spent to date, on legal fees associated with the city's RedHill Expressway lawsuit against the Federal government.


To review our previous write ups and the city's response, click here and here.

In a nutshell, pursuant to a council decision, the city will not disclose how much money has been spent to date on the RedHill lawsuit, opting instead, to reveal this figure when the case has concluded. 


The obvious question is why does it have to wait till then? After all, we are spending the money now.  


The question becomes harder to answer , in light of a recent decision by a Tribunal against the city of Waterloo, in which it found that client/solicitor privilege was inappropriately used to deny the public information that they would otherwise be entitled to.

The City of Hamilton seems to be saying a few things in response to our queries on this matter:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tweet of the Moment

The Hamiltonian (@The_Hamiltonian) has shared a Tweet with you:

"LarryDiIanni: Velodrome: As things stand the project is unaffordable in my estimation."
--http://twitter.com/LarryDiIanni/status/108517854378340352

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.4

Clr. Ferguson on Stadium Revised Costing

As many of you know, Clr. Ferguson has been on watch in terms of the recent costs figures related to the stadium and velodrome. We asked the Clr. the following question (his reply is posted verbatim)

Q. Having had the benefit of today's (yesterday's)  lengthy GIC discussion concerning the veledrome and the stadium, are you any clearer or comfortable with the pricing for the new stadium being the same as the rebuild, or are you still concerned as to how a new stadium could be offered up at the same price as the rebuild? Is there anything you'd like to convey to Hamiltonians in that regard or on any other issue concerning the veledrome or stadium matter.


I am very concerned that a fat budget was presented to us during the stadium debate. The record will show I regularly challenged the budget benchmarking off the cost of other recently completed stadiums like BMO. The cost per seat in the IO (Infrastructure Ontario) budget was double the BMO actual cost. We were told by IO at the time "that is the budget". It would seem logical, if it has now been confirmed the budget was to high than we should have been given some choices. The money could have been returned to the future fund, rebuild the entire stadium or used to fund the financial gap in the Velodrome project. Council was not consulted.
I intend too raise these issues at the next Stadium sub committee meeting in September 6th when City staff and IO officials will be in attendance.

Thanks to Clr. Ferguson for his service to Hamilton and his engagement on The Hamiltonian. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

On the Bill Kelly show today, the Mayor likened the stadium changes in the following way:   He said it would be like renting a small compact car, and to be later called by the rental agency to tell you that they are out of compact cars, but they would provide you with a mid size car, at no extra cost. 


The Mayor added that he did not see what the big issue would be, getting a new stadium at the same cost. Bill Kelly seemed to agree with him.


However, are they working with an imperfect metaphor/analogy?  After all, alternate versions of stadiums are not sitting idle waiting to be used. They have to be tendered and constructed. 


Do you believe the Mayor's metaphor was a fair one, or do you think we ought to be asking why we are getting something new, at the same price? When there is tax money at stake, should we be concerned with the difference in prices and how that could be?



Tweet of the Moment

"Mounting costs, shifting sands...Velodrome and Pan Am Stadium themes for the coming year....Councillors right to be concerned."


Larry DiIanni, former Mayor of Hamilton, Host of For the Record

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Switching Gears on Veledrome Direction & Stadium

Update: Latest Spec write up- click here. 


Seems like some switching of the gears is happening over the Pan Am Velodrome and stadium plans. Highlights of recommendations:

(a) That Item 1 of Committee of the Whole Report 10-008, approved by Council on February 24, 2010, respecting the location of a Warm up track and Velodrome at.the West Harbour site, be rescinded.

(b) That staff be directed to cease the active expropriations of land at the WestHarbour site, as was directed by Council on February 24, 2010 by way of Item 2,subsection (b) of Committee of the Whole Report 10-008.

(c) That Council:
(i)Confirms its participation in the Pan Am Velodrome project.
(ii) That Mohawk College be selected as the site for the construction of a permanent velodrome and be forwarded to Toronto 2015 and Infrastructure Ontario for inclusion in the RFP process.


Town Halls or Bust? - Article by M Adrian Brassington

M Adrian Brassington is a Hamilton native. He currently lives within The Amalgamated City of Hamilton and is the publisher of the blog My Stoney Creek. Adrian approached us about sharing his thoughts on The Hamiltonian, with respect to citizen engagement and town halls. We asked Adrian to submit an article on the topic and he opted to use a Q/A format.  Both the Q.'s and the A.'s are authored by Adrian, in a self driven interview format.  Comments on Adrian's thoughts are welcome. 


Q: I understand youʼve started an initiative, ʻTown Halls Hamiltonʼ. Why?

A: Short or long answer?

Q: Letʼs go the short route for now, shall we?

A: I donʼt believe that the way local governance currently unfolds in regards to how residents participate, how much say they have, the contact they generate with their Councillors is anything to shout about, itʼs not anywhere near what it should be...and that in the end, itʼs flawed.

Q: Why do you say this?

A: OK, Iʼll break it down. Over the past two municipal elections, around 40% of eligible voters cast ballots. Apparently 60% of these votes were cast according to ʻname recognitionʼ.

Q: So youʼre looking at increasing voter turnout? Thatʼs what ʻTown Halls Hamiltonʼ is about?

A: No. Thatʼs an admirable bonus effect, but itʼs not the main goal.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Odd Pic of the Moment

Click on pic for a better view
Those of you who read The Hamiltonian on the weekends will know that we try to mix in a bit of levity, in addition to the regular issues that are covered. Have a look above. Yes, that IS a van that has been converted into a cat. For the rear view, which is just as interesting, click here



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do It Yourself Demolition

Update: We asked Clr. Partridge to comment on this matter. We provided the Clr. with Brian Henley's post in this thread, which references her. In keeping with our motto "powered by Hamiltonians", we asked her for her thoughts after having read Brian's comment, and the topic here. Here is her reply verbatim

I voted against allowing this owner the 60 days or any reprieve. City Council needs to take a firm stand with negligent property owners or developers, to send a clear message that we mean business. Hamilton citizens, the good people who live in these neighbourhoods need to come first over those who continually ignore the rules. Bylaw staff recommended the city take action with demolition. We should have taken a firm stand, backed them up and voted in support of the recommendation for demolition, which I did. History has clearly shown, this owner, does not follow through on promised actions to comply. Now it appears we may not really know the condition or amount of contamenants on the site. It is shameful disregard for the neighbourhood and for city bylaws. Hamilton has some of the best management & bylaw enforcement, we give them the teeth, we give them the tools, when they recommended we enforce them, then we vote against their recommendation. Taking decisive action will send a clear message to everyone.


Encore


Missed our Hamilton Cruisers singing to stardom and victory, due to the storm last night?  See the performance here. 

Hamilton Last Night

From the lens of Angelo Noto Campanella.
Angelo, who has been a storm watcher for decades, advises that storms over Hamilton have become more and more violent over the last fifteen years. 






Do you have a story to tell about last night's storms? Comments welcome. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Tribute to Raymond Herbert Partridge

In tribute to Raymond Herbert Partridge, 1927-2011. Raymond grew up in Hamilton's north end. Ray owned Partridge Plumbing and Heating on Hughson St. North until it closed in 1982. He sponsored the Partridge Bruins Hockey team for many years.

On behalf of The Hamiltonian, and all Hamiltonians, our thoughts go out to Clr. Judi Partridge on the passing of her father in law. Wishing her and her family strength during this difficult time. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Media Release: Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion Condemns Hate Incident


For Immediate Release
August 23, 2011

Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion condemns hate incident

HAMILTON – The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion is speaking out against the anti-Semitic graffiti that was sprayed on Pauline Morris’s garage door over the past weekend.

“It is unacceptable that we continue to hear about incidents like this,” says Evelyn Myrie, Executive Director of HCCI. “We must send a clear message to perpetrators that this behaviour will not be tolerated in our community. We also want Ms. Morris and other victims of hate-motivated behaviour to know that people across Hamilton are working hard to create a welcoming, inclusive community. HCCI continues to work with community partners to address this serious issue.”

“This incident is an ugly reminder that hatred and ignorance continue to exist in our city,” says Milé Komlen, Chair of HCCI’s Governing Council. “Attacks of this kind against identifiable groups in our city are simply unacceptable. It is everyone’s duty to speak out against this type of bigotry because it only serves to undermine the safe and welcoming community we are all trying to create in Hamilton.”

HCCI recently released “Stop Hate Crimes”, a community resource document designed to help Hamiltonians recognize, report and prevent hate-motivated incidents. The resource is available in English and seven other languages, and can be downloaded from HCCI’s website at www.hcci.ca.

Formed in 2006, HCCI is a non-profit organization working to create a united community that respects diversity, practices equity, and speaks out against discrimination.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The City of W.......Walmarts?

A letter that was released to the media and city council, this morning. Comments welcome

RE: Another Wal-Mart for Hamilton (The Hamilton Spectator August 4th, 2011)
Is Walmart set to move into the Centre on Barton?


Lately, citizens and bloggers alike in our community have been talking about the loss of Made in Canada products or Protectionism where Free Trade is concerned. I read stories like these and then I think about a Walmart moving into my neighborhood, and it saddens me.


Is this what we want OUR Hamilton to be when it grow's up? A city full of Walmart's and way too many Tim Horton's? Next, Walmart will be announcing the opening of a Canadian corporate headquarters in downtown Hamilton.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Hammer Cruisers

They fight crime on our streets, they keep us safe, they tweet and apparently, they also sing. Join The Hamiltonian in wishing our Police Services' Hamilton Police Male Chorus luck as they compete on Global TV's Canada Sings. To learn more about the program, the Chorus and the individuals on the team, click here.

Clr. Farr on the Connaught Announcement

With all the hype around the prospect of a new project unfolding where the Connaught Hotel is concerned, we thought we'd ask Clr. Farr for his thoughts on whether the sense of enthusiasm around the stage the project is at,  may have been a little premature. Here is our Q. and A. with the Clr.

Q. While Hamiltonians want to see the Royal Connaught Hotel revived and vibrant, upon reflection, do you believe it may have been premature to release what seemed to be a very early view of what may come to be, where the development and the related essential steps to a successful development are concerned?

Hamiltonian,

Thank you for the question and your ongoing engagement with regard to the important issues our city faces regularly.

I would prefer to respond by simply stating that it is the future of the Royal Connaught Hotel that I would prefer to focus on.
That said, I am both confident and excited at the very real prospect that a yet another positive development is unfolding in our core.


However the news broke and whatever the timing of the announcement is inconsequential in the long term. As Ward 2 Councillor, I am dedicated to assisting the team moving forward in any way I can.

Jay


Thanks Clr. Farr for your response and for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Eat, Drink and Be Merry?

A review of former HECFI CEO Duncan Gillespie's expenses, reveal that he spent $17,571.55 over the last two and a half years on meals.  The numbers also showed that 37% of the meals charged, included alcohol.  A comparison was made to the group of 16 city councilors whose combined expenses over the same time period, were below Gillespie's.

Some are expressing outrage over these costs, particularly in light of the poor performance of HECFI and its need for public subsidy.


These numbers may not be as outrageous as they may appear to be. Some in the industry say that such expenses are reasonable for someone in the entertainment business, in Gillespie's CEO role.


Marcel Mongeon, who led the HECFI board said “When you’re trying to sell drinks, dinners and room space in most cases, there you have it,We’re trying to sell certain things. In that context, I would have let him know if anything was inappropriate.”

Some of the details behind the $17,571.55 are documented in this Spec article


What do you think? Was Gillespie simply incurring expenses that are reasonable for his former position and role of HECFI CEO. Or do you think his expenditures were inappropriate? If so, which ones? 

Connaught Count Chickens Before They Hatch- or Can We?

Update: Thanks to Brian Henley for bringing this link to our attention . Click here. 


Further Spec update here. 


We have the proverbial artist's rendering of what the new Connaught would look like .The mayor’s office released a photo of an artist’s rendering of the plans Thursday, which includes a condominium tower next to the Connaught that’s about 28 storeys high. See it here.  By now Hamiltonians are probably used to looking at  artists renderings and considering them drawings that may or may not come to be. Afterall, we have seen a number of these types of drawings for various initiatives, that quickly faded into nothingness. 


The Mayor's optimism that a Connaught project will soon be announced, is being tempered  by  facts in The Hamilton Spectator. For example, there is an assumption that the financing for such a project has been secured or is in hand. Apparently, the building's owners have not applied for city loans or incentives. 25 per cent of the project's costs could potentially be accessed as an interest free loan. Quite attractive incentive for a project this large, but yet to be pursued.


Do you believe the enthusiasm over the prospect of the project being complete, is premature?  There are a number of cliches that come to mind:
Don't count your chickens before they hatch
What happens when you assume....?


Or perhaps The Mayor and council have some inside information that have provided them with comfort and confidence in sharing this information? 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Say What?

Double click to enlarge pic
This picture submitted by Angelo Noto Campanella, of a lonely looking fire hydrant seemingly looking across the street,  begs for  a caption. (we recommend you double click on the picture, for its full effect)


It's the weekend so let's have fun with it. If this hydrant could talk, what do you think it would be saying? 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Aligning the Stars

While the organic evolution of Hamilton's downtown, propelled substantively by the artistic community, continues to move forward, there appears to be more of a traditional evolution that is running parallel, perhaps leading to an interesting intersection between these two modes.As of late, Mayor Bratina is talking proud about the momentum he sees unfolding, largely based on significant business decisions and ventures. McMaster's downtown health campus, which the city has agreed to contribute up to 20 million, is one of the factors that the Mayor is citing as a promising "trigger" to growth and new tax revenues. Mayor Bratina mentioned that when he spoke to Darko Vranich and mentioned the plans, he (Vranich)  "lit up", in recognition of the potential. Bratina referred to the recognition of a "trigger" effect the project would have.


Further, in today's Spec, Bratina is cited as saying "I can tell you right now, you will soon be hearing about the Connaught. The developers, the property owners are now moving forward with a project,”

Do you believe the stars are starting to align? Can this be the elusive corner that Hamilton has been trying to turn, for many many years now? Will the combination between the artistic based evolution that is happening in the core, with the more traditional approaches , serve up a powerful intersection in this journey?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lieberman and the Last Word

It could not have been easy for Loren Lieberman to read about the recent coverage in The Hamilton Spectator and in The Hamiltonian about his role on Festival of Friends and more specifically, how much he personally earned as General Manager of the festival.


In keeping with our commitment to neutrality and fairness, The Hamiltonian reached out to Loren to provide him with  room to say what he might about the coverage and/or about the festival. Thus, we are allowing Loren the last word.


Here is Loren, verbatim:


Thank you for inviting me to address some questions in regards to this year's Festival of Friends. In as much as there's nothing I'd rather discuss than the Festival, overall, I fear it more necessary to address the questions and concerns that exist on your blog than those questions you sent to me. Although I would prefer to discuss the move to Ancaster, the lessons learned, the amazing musical moments that occurred in the park, etc., the questions and concerns all seem to be about money.

The furor created around my quote "disgusting" could probably use some context around the interview. The various Spec reporters who have been interviewing me since the Festival were quite demanding in regards to this year's numbers. "How much money did you make from parking?", "How much money did you make from beer?", etc. were being asked feverishly. When I informed them that in-park revenue is taken off-site and deposited without being counted, and that we do not tally numbers before the event is put to bed, The Spectator ignored my response.


In turn, they began calling Board Members to seek numbers from them. Obviously Board Members are without those numbers until our first Board meeting after the Festival. When The Spectator was unable to have their questions answered elsewhere, they came back to me. This time, their focus was on my income. Questions were being asked about my contract in comparison to the Executive Director of the Ottawa Blues Festival (who just received a $200,000 signing bonus on the re-upping of his contract), a former CEO of HECFI's contract was also referenced. 

As I hope your readers can appreciate, these comparisons are nonsensical. I stand behind "Disgusting", as a description of the Hamilton Spectator's focus. What you did not read is how the Festival of Friends, under my tenure the last ten years, has paid every single invoice, and has never gone back to the City for additional funding in spite of several festivals being devastated by weather in the past few years. This is a fact we are proud of.

Now I would like to address various elements found within the stream on your blog:

1. I am not paid by the City of Hamilton to put on the Festival.
2. My contract has no performance bonus clauses, no pension, and no benefits.
3. Traffic/congestion is a policing issue. Adjustments made throughout the weekend were made by the police. (Please note that approximately half of the City money the Festival receives goes back to the City to cover policing.)
4. The HSR plans and executes the shuttle service. Adjustments made throughout the weekend were made by the HSR.
5. In regards to the Festival of Friends taking the time of a lot of administration staff at City Hall for planning and promotion -- this is simply untrue.

It is worth noting that the Festival of Friends operates with a fraction of the staffing, both in terms of bodies and dollars, than it did 10-15 years ago. This is in spite of the fact that the Festival is a much larger event than it was then. The days of government funding for events like the Festival of Friends are very different now than they were a generation ago. The covenants we have with government funders are as follows: The City of Hamilton gives us $80,000+ so that we provide free entertainment for Hamiltonians. Tourism Ontario gives us money to create tourism-based economic activity in this region. Both the City and the Province are more than satisfied that we fulfill our respective obligations.

Should any of your readers have any further questions and/or concerns that I have not addressed, I encourage them to contact me by calling the office at 905-777-9777. However, if you would like to be able to see every line item of our budget broken down to the penny, I might suggest that you vie to become our chartered accountant or a member of our Board of Directors. A successful event cannot be micro-managed by public consensus.


Be well,
Loren Lieberman

Thanks to Loren for his thoughts and clarifications. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Disgusting?

Update:  The general manager, who previously called questions from The Spectator about his compensation “disgusting,” said it would hurt his future employment prospects to advertise what he makes, which he called “a shameful pittance.”      As quoted in The Spec. Full article here. 


In the Saturday edition of The Hamilton Spectator, Paul Berton serves up a compelling case as to why asking General Manager of Festival of Friends, Loren Lieberman,  how much money he personally made from the festival, was an appropriate question asked by The Spec reporter.


Reportedly, in response, Mr. Lieberman said "That's a disgusting question." Paul's article, which you will find here, does a good job of providing examples of like situations where salary amounts are disclosed, as well as the underlying rationale as to why the public is entitled to know. The primary reason, in this case, is that Hamilton taxpayers have contributed about $95,000.00 to the festival.


It is unclear as to why Mr. Lieberman deemed the question to be "disgusting".  Perhaps it was the tone? Perhaps Mr. Lieberman read too much into its intent and assumed an underlying accusation/suspicion/criticism? Perhaps he has a good reason for doing so. Hard to say. Mr. Lieberman is certainly welcome here to explain his response. 


What do you think? Did Mr. Lieberman over-react? At face value, is asking how much he personally earned from the festival, a fair question? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cheap Shots to the Core?

The Monday August 15th edition of the Toronto Sun, feature this article (click here), written by George Bailey.  The article, entitled Hamilton's Downtown in Transition, presents as an attempt at a balanced view of what is happening in our downtown. 


However, if one reads the commentary posted on the blog comments section (directly below the article), there are some pretty cutting anti-Hamilton, anti-council, anti-Mayor remarks. The comments appear, for the most part, to be coming from those looking in to our city- although, that would be difficult to say for sure.


Here is an example of a posted comment " This is the cycle city in decline -> cheap rents -> artists move in -> artists make the area trendy -> yuppies move into cool trendy area -> condo boom -> artists can't afford rent, move on to next slum"


What do you think of the prevailing attitude that is within these comments. Cheap shots? Fair? What about the article itself?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Way We Were

(Double click on picture to enlarge)
Photo by Angelo Noto Campanella

Too Tough or Tough Luck?

City council is giving U.S. Steel 30 days to figure out a way to finish work on a critical water treatment plant. A treatment plant that is necessary to ensure that chemical based contamination is removed from the water, prior to it being discharged into the sewers. Hamilton’s sewer bylaw requires companies to remove the compounds before pumping wastewater into the sewers. Some companies are allowed to pump out higher than permitted levels if they have an agreement with the city to pay for extra processing until they find their own solutions. See full Spec article here.

A U.S. Steel spokesperson stated that there is a risk of the closing the coke oven battery, and possibly the entire plant, if the situation cannot be solved. The company admits to knowing in 2007, when it bought the company, that something had to be done.

The fly in the ointment, was the effect that the lockout had  and is having on U.S. Steel's ability to get the  work finished. When the lockout was imminent, , the contractor overseeing construction of the new plant pulled its equipment out and refused to cross Local 1005’s picket lines. Without that contractor, the project is stalled.

Apparently, U.S. Steele needs 4 months to finish the project - 2 months for the contractor to re-set up the equipment, and 2 months to do the work.

Council appears to have drawn a correlation between U.S. Steel's inability to finish, and its lock out. In essence, the argument seems to be;  if not for the lock out, you would not have this problem. Mayor Bratina added "“We would be happy to give them an extension if they were a month away from finishing, but the fact that they’re making coke for export really bothers people,” he said. “It would be different if that coke was going into a Canadian blast furnace.”

Do you support council's staunch position on this and the Mayor's observations? Or do you think this opens the city up to exposure. Can U.S. Steel argue that the city is unduly interfering in a labour dispute and exerting unreasonable pressure on the operations of the company, leading potentially to its closure? Did the Mayor's comments amount to an admission that could later be used against him? Or, do you think council needs to stand firm?



Tweet from former Mayor and Host of For the Record, Larry Di Ianni, later in the day.


"Compelling letter to editor about the importance of the coke ovens to Hamilton. Council is on the right side, but playing a dangerous game."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Too Farr Out, or Good Leadership?

As evidenced by the following quotes, there appears to be some disagreement between Mayor Bratina and Clr. Farr as to the timing of Clr. Farr's LRT motion. 


“I’m really reinforcing and reaffirming. I’m not trying to stir things up — I’m merely trying to keep the momentum going.” Clr. Farr, in defense of his motion on LRT.

“The senior management LRT report will come before Council in the fall, That is the appropriate time to consider such motions.” Mayor Bratina

Full Spec article here.

International Village BIA- Letter of Support for LRT


The following is a letter sent from The International Village BIA to Mayor Bratina and Hamilton City Council, stating their support for Light Rail Transit

Mr. Mayor and Members of Council;

As members of the International Village BIA Board of Management, we would like to formally state our

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Secret's Not Out - yet.....

Based on this article (click here) , we asked the following question of Mayor Bratina, and Clrs: Merulla, McHattie and Whitehead. Note: We will post responses as they arrive: Note: Clr. McHattie is on vacation and thus we do not expect a reply from him.


Q. Mayor Bratina, Clrs: McHattie, Merulla and Whitehead:

We are writing to you in the context of the costs to date, of proceeding with the RedHill Lawsuit. We note that in the past, each of you voted to make public, this information.

You will note that the city's official response, from Mr Murray, is published here: http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2011/08/city-responds-on-use-of-client.html

As part of the directing minds of this city, by virtue of your role on council, we are asking you for a comment as to whether you would be prepared to introduce a motion to release the costs to date to Hamiltonians, for the RedHill lawsuit. Any additional comments you may wish to make are welcome. We are making this request, for publication in The Hamiltonian. Our query and your responses will be posted verbatim.

Answers so far:





from Clr Merulla: 

I have consistently stated that the information related to this lawsuit should be made public. Unfortunately as result of the majority of council believing otherwise a motion without the support of the majority of council would be fruitless as it has been in the past. I will continue to monitor those opposed to this endeavour in an attempt to pursue the disclosure when the support for it is prevalent.

Tweet of the Moment

"My vote: Get it done.This council needs to take a stand, Hamilton citizens first over negligent property owners. Enough already"

Clr. Judi Partridge

Clr. Farr- Getting LRT in Motion


Click here to read Clr. Farr's motion on LRT.

Comments welcome

City Responds on Use of Client-Solicitor Privilege

Those of you who have been following this story, will know that The Hamiltonian queried the city's use of client/solicitor privilege, as a mechanism for denying Hamiltonians information pertaining to how much has been spent to date on the legal costs of the RedHill lawsuit, and also as a reason for not explaining why the city was saddled with court costs related to the arena lawsuit. You may want to review the original write up here.

City Manager Chris Murray, responded to our questions today. Our questions and his reply are posted verbatim :


Q. Our query is in relation to a Tribunal decision against the City of Waterloo, which is described in the following link http://hamiltoncatch.org/view_article.php?id=973. In essence, it appears as though a Tribunal has found against The City of Waterloo's argument that sought to use client/solicitor privilege as a valid reason to withhold information from the public. In light of this decision, and its potential transferability, will the city of Hamilton be re-examining its practices in terms of citing client/solicitor privilege as a reason to withhold information from the public on the legal costs of lawsuits?

The two examples we would cite are the Red Hill Lawsuit and its legal costs to date, as well as an explanation as to why the arena lawsuit was dismissed with court costs levied against the city. Will the city be releasing the relevant information that will inform the public of how much money has been spent to date on legal costs of the Redhill lawsuit, and an accounting as to why the city was penalized with court costs in the arena lawsuit?

As you can appreciate, the public is entitled to know information related to how the public purse is being utilized, unless there is a valid and defensible reason why that information ought to be withheld. Given the gravity of implications, we would appreciate a response to this email, for publication purposes on The Hamiltonian, so that Hamiltonians may understand the city's position and gain the degree of access to this type of information, that they are entitled to.

Thank-you kindly. We look forward to your reply, for purposes of publication on The Hamiltonian.


Response from City Manager Chris Murray:

I'm responding to the Hamiltonian's inquiry of July 20, 2011, to Gerry Davis. In answer to your questions:


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Toxic Tax Arrears

As reported in today's Spec, The city will give Dave Maden 60 days to demolish the crumbling building at 245 Catharine Street North that contains barrels full of high-phosphorus rainwater. If the owner does not comply, the city will do it, incurring a cost of $135,000.00, which is to be added to the owner's tax bill, presumably to relieve the taxpayer from having to absorb the cost.

This sounds like a plan, except for the fact that the owner is in arrears on property tax for the last 3 years. Based on that history, city staff believe that the chances of collecting on the $135,00.00, if it comes to that, are slim.

Over a year ago, The Hamiltonian raised the issue of the permissive atmosphere that allows for tax arrears to accumulate to such an extent. At that time, we heard an argument that held that it was a good deal for the city to be permissive, as fines and interest levied against those fines, were of benefit to city revenues.

However, the potential outcome of this situation underscores a potential consequence of the permissive approach to accumulation of tax arrears, including allowing for derelict buildings and, in this case, holding dangerous substances. Do you think the city needs to be tougher on back taxes owing. Do you think this situation is a case in point?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Media Release - Artists Rebuild City of Hamilton




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 8th, 2011
ARTISTS REBUILD CITY OF HAMILTON

HAMILTON – Ten local artists are rebuilding the city of Hamilton – at least on a smaller scale. The artists, all members of Hamilton Artists Inc, are participating in a map building project entitled BYOH: Build Your Own Hamilton devised by the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre in partnership with the artist-run centre.

“We’ve taken a map of the City of Hamilton and divided it into ten squares,” explains Andrew Lochhead, Labour Arts Coordinator at the WAHC, “We’ve then assigned a square to each of the participating artists who will artistically interpret their particular geographic region.”

The result will be thirty-two square foot interactive map of the city that members of the public are invited to rearrange to reflect their own experiences or visions of the city.

BYOH was conceived as part of Hammering Away: Erasure and Action in Hamilton an exhibition that explores the stories, communities and identities at work in the city of Hamilton. “

“The exhibition”, explains Lochhead, takes its name from one of Hamilton’s many nicknames: “The Hammer. It invites viewers to consider how a city’s image can change over time and what new possibilities present themselves when this occurs.

In addition to the BYOH Project, Hammering Away also features new works by Bryce Kanbara and Toronto based research, design and art collective Department of Unusual Certainties as well as art students from McMaster University School of Visual Arts all exploring the idea of “Hamilton and Hamilton-ness from a variety of perspectives”

The opening reception for Hammering Away: Erasure & Action in Hamilton is September 9th, 2011 at 7:00PM at the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre located at 51 Stuart St.

The show, which runs from September 9th to December 23rd, 2011

Hammering Away: Erasure & Action in Hamilton is curated by the SHIFT Collective, a group of local artists and curators interested in exploring the changing social, political and economic identities of Hamilton.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Baby and the Bath Water - Opinion

To the extent that the judge's comments are true, that there were three police officers who may have been unwilling to provide a complete and accurate account of what they saw on the day that police mistakenly entered the wrong apartment and forcefully subdued an innocent man, the spectacle on the front page of The Spectator on Friday, combined with the stinging words of the judge, results in a black eye to our Police Services, laid at the feet of those who may have acted that way. 


But beyond what has happened to date (which unfortunately, cannot be erased), it is what happens next that is important. This will be a tough leadership moment for Chief DeCaire.  He must consider whether it is reasonable to believe that the officers on hands' accounts, are credible, under the weight of a judge who has not found it so. He will also need to consider whether these accounts would withstand scrutiny in a civil court where the test is balance of probabilities, rather than reasonable doubt.


Moreover, to the extent that the Chief may have the same trouble accepting the witness accounts, as did the judge, DeCaire must somberly consider the underlying root causes of the behaviour. Was this a "one off" ?  In a world where culture has strategy for breakfast daily, the more serious question is whether this has a cultural permeation or a systemic one. 


Finally, the affect that this incident has had on Po La Hay and his family cannot be underestimated. From what we've read, that has not escaped the Chief.  Equally the efforts that Police Services have made in Hamilton, and the positive results that  have ensued, should not be forgotten or minimized in the shadow of this unfortunate incident.


Chief DeCaire will have to see through the noise of the unions and the press, and ensure that the right measures are taken and sustained while being careful not to defend the indefensible. As we see our way through this, let's recognize the gravity of the mishap, the impact it has had on Po La Hay, the need to ensure this never happens again, while not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The Hamiltonian

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Chat with Clr. Robert Pasuta

In keeping with our summer series "chat style" interviews with councillors, please enjoy our chat with Clr. Pasuta, as we talk about Aerotropolis, possibly running for Mayor in the future, and more.....

1. Your connection to the rural community and the fact that you are a practicing farmer, uniquely positions you to have an increased sense of understanding as to the issues of the farming community and the value of farmlands. As you think about things like Aeorotropolis and the impact it will have on foodlands, how do you reconcile the drive to move forward with employment lands, against the need to preserve fertile lands for future food production. Is it your sense that as a city, we are attaching enough value on the capacity to produce our own food, for present and future use? Please explain.


Owning the Sidewalks


Many of us are likely aware that there is a city by-law that allows for fines to those who ride bikes on the sidewalk. But due to lack of enforcement, it is likely not on the top of people's minds when they do so.


That may change as Hamilton Police have begun handing out cards that explain the city by-law. Those who are ticketed for riding on a sidewalk, will face a fine of $60-$80 if convicted.


Cyclists who ignore red lights and other rules of the road are also of concern as well as pedestrians.  Pedestrians seen not using a crosswalk or disobeying the crosswalk signal may face a  fine on conviction, between $35 and $50.


This initiative is rooted in the concerns over pedestrian and cyclists' deaths over the last year and to date. Are you okay with this clamp down? Do you think it is long overdue, or do you think it is unnecessary?


special thanks to MAW

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

LRT- Yes or No?

In a opinion piece in The Spectator, lawyer, activist and engaged Hamiltonian Herman Turkstra, suggests that Light Rail Transit and the decision  to pursue it, is of such significance that it can be likened to a once in 100 years type of decision that can be transformational. See Herman's exact characterization here, as well as his other thoughts. 


Herman also suggests that the matter is of such significance that it need not, and ought not to be left in the hands of a few bureaucrats. He maintains that a referendum, in which the citizenry at large can vote in favour of or opposed to LRT, is a good way to seat the decision in the hands of the collective wisdom. He says


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Hamilton Hammers!

Coach James Chester of the Hamilton Hammers Soccer Team reached out to us to tell us about the Hammers and their achievements. Please join us in a chat with the coach.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about the Hamilton Hammers. How did they come to be, how long have you been involved, and what is the team’s objective?

Hamilton Hammers is one of the age group competitive soccer teams representing the Hamilton Soccer Club which is the travel division of Hamilton Township Recreational Soccer Association. After being in existence for three years, the team was dissolved and recreated with a new set of all eighteen players in May 2011. This became necessary due to organizational issues which resulted in lack of player commitments and dedications.

I have been a volunteer youth soccer coach with the Hamilton Township Recreational Soccer Association for the past five years and that is how I became involved with Hamilton Hammers. I am currently the General Manager and also coaching with the assistance of my partner Coach Paul Belardo who is also associated with the club for the past several years. Our objective for the team is to help the children develop their skills as soccer players and to have fun while doing it.


2. Obviously you are very proud of the team, as expressed in your email to The Hamiltonian to get the word about about The Hammers. What is it about the team that makes you so proud?

Is the Case for Aerotropolis Dwindling?


The city's decision to urbanize over 3000 acres of rural land around the airport, will be tested with the start of a hearing before the Ontario Municipal Board. 


There are many perspectives and interests being brought to bear on this issue and the stakes are high. As per this CATCH release, some agree with the expansion but believe the lands should be zoned for residential development rather than industrial. The city put forward a case for expanding the boundary, by arguing the necessity for employment lands.


Those who are in opposition also cite the following:

  • The loss of foodlands, coupled with projected higher costs of producing/delivering food going forward.
  • The increasing costs of oil and its effect on the viability of the aviation industry; particularily smaller airports.
  • Hamilton's population projections being over-estimated.

The OMB process starts Monday, August 8 at 10:30 am with a pre-hearing in the former courthouse at 50 Main Street East  Along with procedural issues such as timing of the full hearings, it’s the only opportunity for non-appellants to seek party or participant status in the process.


Are you as convinced that the expansion is sound? Or do you think that the case for was, or has been weakened?


Clr. Partridge, on the Ladies Lingerie League matter

We thank Clr. Judi Partridge for her candid remarks regarding her views on the LFL booking in Hamilton. Here is a Question we put to her, and her reply.

Q. With the lingerie football game causing much controversy from a financial and moral perspective (see our coverage here http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2011/07/blame-and-shame.html ), and given your dual presence, of being a ward councillor and bringing to bear the perspective of a woman, can you comment on how you feel about the appropriateness of this type of event in Hamilton.


A. It isn't my role as councillor to pass judgment on the organizers or players involved in the event. People are free to make their own decisions about the event, but I feel the lack of attendance says it all. What I am angry at, is the waste of taxpayer dollars - HECFI has cost us millions in subsidies, we need to stop the bleeding, take back control and make it healthy again. Whatever the future holds for HECFI, the private sector would only be interested if each facility is financial healthy and a good investment. Without a reasonable ROI (return on investment) the private sector investors won't step up.


Blame , Shame? and the Game

We checked in with Clr. Merulla  today, to ask for his take on things, now that the event has taken place and the outcome is known. The Clr. advised us that "all my comments stand", meaning his convictions on this matter remain unchanged. 


Latest coverage from The Spec, here.


"Lingerie football features women playing a seven-on-seven version of full-contact football while wearing a uniform that consists of a metallic pink bra and panties, lace garter belt, choker and protective pads." That's the way lingerie football is described in today's Spectator.The article goes on to state " The July 30 ‘All-Fantasy game’ at Copps Coliseum will be the first of its kind in Canada." 

Clr Merulla is fuming over the fact that the event may end up costing Hamilton taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, due to a shortage in anticipated ticket sales.