Monday, December 31, 2012

Musical Notes- Weekend Riot Club

Enjoy this installment of Musical Notes, with Angelo Noto Campanella as he reviews Weekend Riot Club.

The three members of Weekend Riot Club were all born in "The Hammer" and seem to be gaining ground fast. I first heard about them during a Y108 battle of the bands competition in which another band I was following was in,  but I never got to hear them play. I missed hearing them play at 2 or 3 different shows for one reason or other and now I'm thinking I should look at a clock more often. I finally got to see them at a fundraiser for a music documentary of Hamilton's music scene at the Casbah last summer. The energy in that performance was astonishing, it was like they were giving their last performance ever, I was impressed. Their acoustic performances are mesmerizing and make the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end.

The band members are Melissa Marchese on vocals, Mike Chetcuti on guitar and backing vocals and Paul Fontes on drums. Only Melissa and Mike were present for this interview but I'd especially like to thank Paul Fontes...Mike - "we weren't a real band until we met Paul" The band does not have a steady bass player yet but are keeping an eye out for one.

ANC - Why did you pick Hamilton and not Toronto, did you always know that there was a good music scene here?

MM - When we first started going out we were living here, and we started going out to see music here. We went to see "Live How You Live" opening up for "Crash Karma" at the old (club) Absinthe. I remember walking into that show sometime in 2008 or 2009, watching "Live How You Live" a Hamilton band, and saying "Whoa S*#T, I wanna be as good as that" 'cause they were totally killing it. We never gave it any thought to going outside of the city.

MC - It was one of those things when we first started, we just wanted to play, so where do we play? In Hamilton because we're here, and then you see that there's a scene and why do you leave. There's no reason to unless you wanna get to other people, but if your just lookin' to learn how to be a band then Hamilton ....this is such a perfect place for a band to start.

MM - It's so funny how people always talk about Toronto. When we started people were always saying we gotta go play Toronto and I'm saying, what do mean play Toronto, every thing is here, we have an awesome scene here. We've played Toronto now, Canadian Music Week and these random things we've done, and there is nothing like playing in Hamilton for Hamilton people, it's a totally different animal.

ANC - You've been pretty successful so far, won a few awards, that one in Toronto for best new indie rock band... 

MC - Success for us has been the People. We've been so excited about the video release and the show we had at the Casbah before that. We're surrounded by all these people who hear what your saying, they post about liking the music and our new video, that's where it starts for us success wise. The Toronto Independant Music awards... it feels weird to win an award, it's amazing and we're thankful that they're puttin' it together, but you're with other bands and you know what it's like to be in a band, and judgment, it will destroy the creative process. We really like the purity of just the fan to band relationship. I wanna talk to people. Melissa is always talking to people, let's open doors here. As long as we're still talking to people and people are coming out to shows then that's pure success.

What role has Hamilton played in your musical career?

MM - For me it's been everything. Like we talked about before, when I saw the band "Live How You Live" that was the first moment that I thought, I wanna do this, I wanna really do this, I want to push myself. There is such a bounty of amazing people we can be inspired by here.

ANC - With all the incredible music going on in town, do you feel a competition or more of a commraderie?

MC - Nooooo...you know what it is...imagine a place you can go and have an epiphany after epiphany after epiphany every time you see another band. One of the very first epiphanies we ever had as a band was when we saw "Live How You Live" and I said HOLY! That's how good you could be? Not how good you gotta be or we're not as good as them, it's like, That's possible? Ok, I'm gonna do more. Another one happened to me the other night in Toronto watching "The Dirty Nil" who are from Hamilton, and I'm looking at that and watching them play and I thought, Oh my God! This is now two and a half years later...Holy...I could do that?...So you can grow so quickly because there's these moments that inspire you every where.

MM - It's every where. Even sitting in Shelly Marshal's play. I'm a woman sitting there and it's like WOW! Thank-You. Inspiration is every where you turn. I got to do that country show "Good Girls Gonna Go Bad" To be around all these women in Hamilton and sharing.

MC - That spirit comes from I think... this is maybe the third generation of kids of steelworkers. The thing about steelworkers is they care about their families, they're making the money, some one is taking care of things for the kids, all the kids all over the city feel cared for and loved and when you have that the next generation shows up and there's all these limits that we impose on ourselves when we don't get that love that now gets multiplied by the entire baseline population, and there's restaurants growin' up, there's services up the wazoo, the owners come up...these are all kids of steelworkers. The types of attitudes of our parents and grandparents is creating this rennaisance in Hamilton. Hamilton is just full of spirit, it's so cool.

ANC - What is it that makes your band so unique?

MM - I think we're damn weird LOL, all of us LOL.

MC - I think we're all pretty comfortable in the band with each others weirdness. We all have quirks and the band is a very safe place for all of them, and because of that the quirks multiply and create this tapestry of quirks and hopefully it's unique when people hear it.

MM - Not to mention, we all have very different backgrounds musically. I didn't grow up super into rock at all, I grew up into any kind of hit that came out on the radio or any where else, from country to pop to some rock. I think that's a little bit of what gives us our own flavor.

MC - Yes, very different backgrounds. Fontes is very much into the more dirtier grunge like Nirvanna and bands that were a little bit more gritty where as I never paid any attention to it. I was into guitar bands in that same era like the Pumpkins. It's funny how in the same era we paid attention to completely different bands. He was listening to the Chilli Peppers and I was listening to Pearl Jam. They're from the same area of the world they're all doing the same thing but we divided it and now were bringing it together after it's had a chance to age. It's a little bit of everything hopefully and hopefully it's the right mix.

ANC - What are your goals for the band?

MM - We just wanna play alot of shows and keep playing shows. 

MC - Yeah. Getting back to that connection with people. If we could just be in front of people playing that love to hear what we're doing then that's the goal. I see you in the crowd and I'm looking at you and I'm playing my guitar and your looking at me and we're grooving...that's priceless... and that's why we all got into music in the first place.

ANC - When and where are you playing next?

MM - We're opening for Carole Pope at This Aint Hollywood on April 11, 2013 and May 11 I'm playing without the band for Blackbird Studios next Fashion show, and then our cd release will be after that, we haven't picked an exact date yet, it could be the end of May or beginning of June.

ANC - One last question. Why Elmer the safety elephant for a mascot? LOL

Melissa - When I was teaching, I use to be a teacher, I got from an older teacher who was retiring, she had this old Elmer head hanging around and I said I'll take it off your hands. It hung in the garage for a couple of years, Mike was always saying "what are you gonna do with this Elmer head, can I take it to the dump?" No no no no we will use it one day, I'm saying this whole time.

MC - I saw that thing hanging in the garage for three years, I can't hang my bike cause this head is there...LOL

MM - I kept trying to convince my brother to wear it and then our friend Jacob decided that he would wear it to shows and he hands out suckers and download cards.

To find out more about Weekend Riot Club and to see their newly released video follow the Links listed below.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Whitehead Appeal

The now infamous email sent by Clr. Terry Whitehead to Roman Sarachman, initially landed Whitehead in hot water after Mr. Sarachman successfully pursued a judgement against the councillor for libel. However, Whitehead's appeal was also successful and, as a result, a new trial has been ordered. Whitehead has also been granted $12,300.00 in costs. Previously, the court awarded costs of $28,000.00 to Mr. Sarachman. 

Whitehead's defense was based on  qualified privilege. The new trial will likely examine whether malice was in play and if so, whether it trumps the qualified privilege defense. Whitehead reportedly suggested that he has apologized to Sarachman and that the issue is overblown. See Spec story here.

While disappointed with the appeal decision, Sarachman is showing no signs of backing down, suggesting that he has ample evidence to prove malice. 

You may recall that Clr. Whitehead pledged that he would do whatever he can in his power to offset the costs to taxpayers of the initial ramifications of the earlier decision. The Clr. seems to have won this round. It will be interesting to see what the ultimate outcome is. 

From Wikipedia: The defense of qualified privilege permits persons in positions of authority or trust to make statements or relay or report statements that would be considered slander and libel if made by anyone else. In New Zealand and Ontario, for instance, cases of political libel are inhibited by permitting open discussion of an allegation or rumor, if conducted responsibly and with due care for the privacy of the person whose reputation would be affected. This privilege generally doesn't extend to repetition of discredited statements, malice, or comments made out of process or out of order in the organization or institution in which the position of authority is held.

The defense has become very important in the UK, especially after a case involving allegations made by the Sunday Times against the Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. During that case the judge outlined a ten point test of 'responsible journalism'. If reporters and editors followed these points, the judge said, they would enjoy a degree of protection from libel action, even if they could not prove factual allegations.
To qualify for this defense, a report must be one of a public meeting/press conference that's:
  • Fair
  • Accurate
  • Published without malice
  • Subject to the right of reply in the form of a letter that gives explanation or contradiction
  • It need not be contemporaneous (depending on publication), where it has to be for absolute privilege

Friday, December 21, 2012

Link of the Moment

Mayor Bratina explains his views on the impact of Clr. Merulla's remarks regarding the OLG. Listen to hour 3. Click here. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mayor Bratina- Cut and Basted - Opinion

An email  sent by Mayor Bratina to Clr. Merulla, has been at the centre of a recent, in the works, controversy. The description of the events are captured in Andrew Dreschel's article which can be read by clicking here (or by buying Thursday's print version). 

The Mayor's use of original wording penned by PJ Mercanti, has been characterized as symptomatic of someone (allegedly the mayor in this case) who is is "made to look like a puppet" and Mercanti, as an "influence peddler". 

The exact words "Councillor Merulla’s comments are not reflective of the thoughts or opinions of the City of Hamilton, its staff, its councillors, or myself as Mayor" were apparently cut and pasted (or otherwise copied)  from  Mercanti's email to the Mayor and a sub set of yet to be disclosed councillors.

The mayor apparently found it convenient? to use the wording from Mercanti and include it in a draft that he requested Clr. Merulla's review of.  The Mayor certainly risked being criticized as he has been in Dreschel's write-up, and certainly would have been wiser to deliver the message in his own words. Suggesting that this makes him appear as a puppet however, is a little far reaching- given that he ultimately chose his position.  

Equally as problematic is the ire directed at Clr. Merulla. Perhaps Merulla's likening the OLG to a "crack dealer" was equally as far reaching, but not without some degree of generic reference. The fact that gambling,  like drugs can be addictive, is likely at the foundation of the  councillor's comment. The fact that he used such colourful  language is more representative of the councillor's passionate (perhaps too much so at times) style, than anything else.

In the end, Bratina and Merulla could have used more finesse and better judgment in terms of how they conveyed their respective messages.

Health Hazard's Program to Investigate

Update: The following update has been provided by Hamilton Public Health Services:

Public Health Services has concluded looking in to the allegations made by Mr. Santucci. Our report back to him is included below.

Dear Mr. Santucci,

I would like to provide you with information related to your email to Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, where you raised concerns regarding the safety of Sanford Avenue School during the 2009/2010 school year.

As you are likely aware, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is planning to demolish the school in the near future. An environmental engineering firm was contracted by the board to provide a site assessment of the building prior to demolition. The practice of a pre-demolition site assessment is supported by Public Health Services, as it can help identify any potential risks to public health and safety resulting from the demolition process.

The results of the site assessment performed on Nov.1, 2012, concluded that moisture intrusion resulting in mould, flecking paint (lead-based), and asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were observed in the building. Due to these factors being present, the engineering consultant recommended that individuals entering the facility should wear personal protective equipment that would lower the risk of any exposure to the conditions within the building. 

Regarding your concern that children may have been exposed to the same conditions being observed currently, I can safely say that there is no reason to believe there was any health risks to the children related to exposure of the indoor environment of the school in 2009/2010. The reason is that the conditions that exist today at the school are a result of more than two years of neglected maintenance and certain structural components have deteriorated. The building has not been maintained and kept in proper condition for use as a school since 2010, and the resulting mould, and flaking paint are part of the result. Regarding the asbestos within the school, this is a common feature of buildings as old as the Sanford Avenue School building. So long as the ACM were maintained intact when the school was operational, there should be no risk of exposure. I have no reason to believe that the ACM within the school were in a state of disrepair when the school was operational.

I trust you will find this information should address your concerns regarding any potential health risks existing at the school during the 2009/2010 academic year.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or concerns.

Matthew Lawson
Manager, Environmental Health
Hamilton Public Health Services

The Hamiltonian has learned that the City's Health Hazards Program will be investigating whether or not students who were temporarily placed in Sanford Avenue school while their schools were being  constructed, may have been subjected to air borne contaminants. 

The matter is explained in an email sent by Gary Santucci to Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Medical officer of Health. The email is as follows:

Dr. Richardson

In a recent conversation with Chair Tim Simmons of ward 3, he informed that access to Sanford Avenue School was restricted to persons wearing protective suits and masks due to air-borne contaminants. I had requested access so that a business case could be made for the adaptive re-use of Sanford School. During last evening's meeting of the committee of the whole for the Board of Education, it was confirmed that Sanford Avenue School was used by the Board as a holding school for students while their own schools were being constructed as recently as 2010. Based on Tim Simmons' remarks to me I am concerned that The HWDSB may have exposed students to these air-borne contaminants over an extended period. As the Officer of Health for the City of Hamilton, I respectfully request that you begin an investigation into this matter.

Sincerely yours

Gary Santucci

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Elephant Hunting

Rob Griffin would have been 46 this year.

Tragically, this cheerful, delightful go-getter, fellow-Rotarian and newlywed died on Boxing Day, 2003. It was not an accident.

He was returning in the wee hours from taking his mother to the Buffalo airport: a drunk driver, barrelling the wrong way on the QEW, hit his vehicle head on. The drunk walked away, Rob died.

Both sides of my family have experienced the pain and awful fallout from seeing a loved one do time for serial drunk-driving offences. With the holiday season upon us we all need to face the elephant in the room. It is our duty to speak up and prevent the overly-refreshed from taking the wheel.

It is clear that there are alternatives, and I want to mention two groups who are doing great work in raising awareness and providing solutions, one in Hamilton, the second in Burlington. You can even volunteer your services and win prizes!

The LCBO has added a new facet to its 4-year old “Deflate the Elephant” campaign. Stephanie Petroff, Senior LCBO Communications Consultant who leads their Social Responsibility initiatives, explained they are excited to have partnered with taxi companies in Toronto, Ottawa and, yes, Hamilton to “get people to plan ahead” to return home safely.

If you are in the downtown area (and particularly Hess village) between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. this Saturday (21st) or next (29th), and spot an elephant on top of a cab, you are not seeing things. Flag down one of the two specially marked Blue Line cabs and you’re eligible for a free ride up to $10 value. 

Anthony Rizzuto is Vice-President of Blue Line, which is Hamilton’s largest cab company. When I asked him how they had come to be involved, he said “we thought it was great (to raise) city awareness of the problems of drinking and driving. The Elephant in the Room is a great message to get out.”

He told me that for “twice the meter” Blue Line’s “Home Run Service” (905 525 0000) will get both you and your car back home. He added bluntly “there are around 250 cabs available in Hamilton. With advances in service such as GPS and computerization, it is easy to get one and there is no need for anyone to drink and drive.”

While I guess the same message holds true for Burlington, a group of dedicated Operation Red Nose volunteers are also on tap to get folk home safely this Friday and Saturday (21st and 22nd) as well as Saturday 29th December.

If you are impaired, all you need to do is call 905-634-6665. Earlier in the evening they will service Oakville, Hamilton, Milton and even as far as Stoney Creek. As things heat up they deal mainly with clients in Burlington.

Gary Jack is the local Rednose Chair, and told me that they can still do with some volunteers to help out. (You can sign up via the website or contact him at 905- 516-1513 for information.) “We treat them like gold, and because of the generosity of local sponsors there are prize draws for the volunteers during the course of the evening.”

Gary also explained to me that while the service is free, donations are certainly appreciated. Nationwide, proceeds exceed a million dollars and are distributed to over 100 charities across the country.

And with that, dear Food for Thought readers, I send best wishes until the New Year.

Be well, stay safe and happy Elephant hunting.

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info ) or on twitter @AlexBielak

Food for Thought logo, designed and kindly donated by Ninka Bielak. Ninka can be reached at ninka.bielak@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Simmons and Sanford

Tim Simmons
Update:  To hear Gary Santucci speak about this issue on CHML, click here. Listen to the last 15 minutes of hour 1 of the Bill Kelly show. 

In light of Gary Santucci's cautionary email (see it here), The Hamiltonian asked Board Chair Tim Simmons to comment.

Mr. Simmons' response is as follows:

As we do with all our schools, Sanford Avenue received regular maintenance to ensure the continued safety of all staff and students while it was in use. Sanford was last used as a school building in the 2009/2010 academic year. The City of Hamilton leased the gym in 2011. The building was finally closed to all use and decommissioned in September 2011.

On November 1, 2012, a site visit was conducted at Sanford. At that time, the building was noted to have deteriorated rapidly since its closure. Given the poor condition of the building, an environmental report recommended that all personnel entering the facility wear personnel protective equipment.


The Hamiltonian also contacted Hamilton Puiblic Health Services with the following question:

I  am contacting you in relation to the issue raised by Mr. Gary Santucci with respect to the possibility that students may have been subjected to air-borne contaminants while temporarily placed in Sanford Avenue School. We understand that an investigation will be launched through the Health Hazards program. Can you advise as to the timing of the investigation and whether there is a protocol to advise parents whose children could be potentially affected?

We received the following reply from Ms.Tara  Hall, Communications Officer with Public Health:

Public Health Services is looking into this alleged issue and have contacted HWDSB

Our response to Ms. Hall was as follows:

Thank-you. we are aware of that. Our questions are:

Can you advise as to the timing of the investigation and whether there is a protocol to advise parents whose children could be potentially affected? 

Once we receive an answer to our questions, we will post them. Stay tuned....

Sanford School Closer to Demolition

The notion of suspending plans for the demolition of Sanford Avenue School, in favour of having it open for viewing for the prospect of potential development, seems to have suffered a fatal blow. Trustees of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board voted to stay the course, which would see the school demolished to make way for green space for a neighbouring elementary school and for a possible expansion of a neighbouring recreation centre. 

The decision continues to spark controversy and has invoked counter movements within the community. Do you think the Board is making the right decision, or do you believe that the heritage value of the building, as well as the value of the building itself warrants a repurposing?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Integrity Matters - with Earl Basse

In this edition of Integrity Matters, we are chatting with Hamilton's Integrity Commissioner, Earl Basse.

Our first question to Mr. Basse was prompted by some comments that appeared in The Hamiltonian, from our readers. 

Q. As we are sure you must be aware, the Hamilton Waterfront Trust matter continues to be discussed in local blogs. With respect to these matters, the following comments have appeared:

 Comment 1: Anon., Mr. Basse's picture and contact info are available on this comment page, scroll up and look to the right. hen....click and contact ;) Mr. Basse needs you to contact him, not the other way around.

Comment 2:  . I cannot agree with you and here is why.Mr. Basse, in my opinion, has done a pretty

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quit Your Wining -and Dining?

Clr. Clark
A recent C.A.T.C.H. release describes Clr. Brad Clark's adamant opposition to the notion of councillors accepting private dinners or favours from individual developers or  associations.  Clark cited invites he has received to dine at places such as the Edgewater Mansion, of which he declined. 

Clark's principled stand bodes well with the code of conduct which forbids councillors from accepting a fee, advance,  gift or benefit directly or indirectly connected with the performance of their duties.

 Clr. Brenda Johnson supported Clark's views, adding that she had received gifts from developers which she gave to the food bank with a return note to the donor, asking them to donate to their favourite charity next time. 

For the full story and details as to how this relates to the Lobbyist Registry , please see this report from the good people at C.A.T.C.H.

HWT to Manage Additional Projects?

Despite the controversy over the Hamilton Waterfront Trust (HWT)  and questions surrounding financial management and operations, as expressed by a historical adverse audit, a litany of losses posted and holes in its record keeping, The Hamiltonian has learned that the city may entrust further projects to the HWT.

Upon review of a document,  (2013 Tax Supported Capital Budget) submitted by the Corporate Services Department - Financial Planning and Policy Division (see it here), Appendix D which represents the HWT's forecast for GIC's consideration, it prompted us to ask the following question. Roberto Rossini, Finance Chief, responded:

 Q.It appears that the Corporate Services Dept. will be including The Hamilton Waterfront Trust’s capital forecast for GIC consideration ( see Appendix D of the following document http://www.hamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/ACBC28F7-3BBD-4820-BD96-0CDFEB56A13E/0/Dec11EDRMS_n385796_v1_FCS12096_2013_Tax_Supported_Capital_Budge.pdf)

Does this mean that the HWT can request funds from the city based on these projections, or is it simply an information piece? In other words, can this be taken to be a pre-cursor for a funding request? 

Mr. Rossini: We have provided almost $3.8 million (net) in funding for waterfront projects across the City. Since there are more potential projects than funding available, we are seeking Council direction with respect their priorities.

If HWT projects are selected by Council, you should note that many of these would be on City lands (eg, Pier 7 & 8, the skating rink property improvements, etc) and they are City assets (not HWT assets). The HWT would then act as the City's construction manager.

The Hamilton Waterfront's Trust's forecast as expressed in the 2013 Tax Supported Capital Budget, is being submitted to council at this point, for its consideration.  Your thoughts? Are you comfortable with further projects being managed by the HWT or do you think it is time, as some have suggested, to wind up the Trust and have its facilities managed in another way? What advice might you have for council? 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Celebrating Area Businesses- APEX Results Realty Inc.

From time to time The Hamiltonian will showcase area businesses and the good work that they do. Enjoy our chat with Bob Van de Vrande, owner of Apex Results Realty Inc..

1. Apex Results Realty Inc. is a relatively new brand. Can you tell us its fit within a changing real estate industry?

While the Apex brand is fairly new, the company has a history of more than 20 years. The industry is changing in such a way that personal relationships and networking are more important than they have ever been. Rather than a focus on corporate brands, buyers and sellers of real estate are selecting their salesperson based on their existing relationships and recommendations from family and friends. From the salesperson's perspective this means that personal branding and promotion are far more important that spending their funds on corporate branding.

2. Can you explain the benefits that Apex Results Realty Inc. would offer to A) Real estate buyers and sellers B). Real Estate Agents

For buyers and sellers Apex provides support for their individual salesperson who is focused entirely on providing professional service and expertise based on their own requirement. For sellers, our salespeople can devote their marketing dollars on promoting their listing rather than a corporate brand. For buyers, our salespeople are in a position to provide whatever service their clients require without undue pressure due to huge overheads that exist in other environments.

For real estate salespersons, Apex provides a full-service brokerage at the lowest cost available in the

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Loaves and Fishes

Stainless Steel
In my younger days I used to poison fish for a living. To learn why that bit of trivia is not quite as disturbing as it sounds, read on. This may give you pause for thought about your holiday baking and actually help you with your Christmas shopping.

In the seventies, I was a budding biologist working as part of team to find out whether nickel and chromium interacted at very low concentrations to become more toxic to rainbow trout than either of these metals alone at far higher levels. Cool eh?

This was one of my first real jobs, and so I have always felt an affinity for toxicologists and the important work they do to keep us and the environment, safe.

So I was very interested when I read in the December edition of my favourite environmental policy bulletin,

Friday, December 7, 2012

Link of the Moment

Click here

Media Release

50 million cheers! TD Bank Group employees and customers raise $50 million for Children’s Miracle Network member hospitals and TD is named North American Corporate Partner of the Year. 

- TD employees know first-hand the benefit of giving to Children’s Miracle Network member hospitals - 

Toronto, November 30, 2012 – Most Canadians have a story about a Children’s Miracle Network member hospital, either through first-hand experience or that of someone they know – and the impact is significant. TD employees have also come together to share their stories of how Children’s Miracle Network has touched their lives. 

“When I say your world has changed as you know it – it’s an understatement - and when you think about

Pressure Continues for Forensic Audit on The Hamilton Waterfront Trust

The following email was sent this morning by Gary Santucci to Mayor Bratina, all of council and several media outlets, including The Hamiltonian. It is published verbatim

Mr. Mayor and City Councillors

The absence of records in the files of the Waterfront Trust regarding the GST audit is firstly alarming in itself and secondly is compounded by the assertion (as of yet unfounded and undocumented) that CRA is responsible for a delay in not providing the information back to the Waterfront Trust that was provided to them in the first place, whose duty it was to safeguard the records to comply with the original terms of the Deed of Trust. 

As to the alleged delay, I can report that we requested taxation information from CRA that was misplaced from 2008 to be able to renew our mortgage. They sent the requested information to us within the 10 business days that is their policy as they had to find the hard copy and provide a photocopy. 

The reported delay by Werner Plessl through Robert Rossini seems to stretch the bounds of plausibility. Furthermore, not having received the copies by October, would they not have tried to expedite the request so that it may have been reported to you at the December 5 GIC?

 In conclusion, the missing records seem to echo the conditions as expressed in the Adverse Opinion that was issued by the Trust's external auditors on May 30 2007 and questions the completeness of all subsequent audits. These facts combined with almost $2 million in losses over the last four years with 2012 yet to be reported call out for an external forensic audit to be commissioned immediately to provide the answers to our many questions that were dispatched off the table with such reckless haste, seemingly ignoring the interests of the taxpayers of City of Hamilton.

Sincerely yours
Gary Santucci

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wishful Thinking?

On the heels of a published study that looked at rates of car collisions in Ontario, we contacted Allstate Insurance, who published the study. Here is our Q/A:

We are contacting you in relation to Allstate’s release of its study on the reduction of car crashes in Ontario. Our question is as follows:

The study, amongst other things, concluded that Hamilton area drivers are driving safer and that the rates of collision for these drivers has decreased. By way of comparison, and due to incidents of increased basement flooding in the area, many Hamiltonians who hold insurance policies on their homes through various providers, experienced a home insurance rate increase due to the prevalence of basement flooding in the area. 

With the study’s conclusion that drivers are driving safer in Hamilton, and overall Ontario wide, drivers may be wondering whether the aforementioned concept also works in reverse. In other words, will Hamilton drivers for example, see a decrease in their car insurance rates by virtue of car crashes decreasing. if so, what shape will that take and how long before it is implemented. if not, why not?

Here is the response to our query from Saskia Matheson from Allstate Insurance Company of Canada:

Santucci Renews Call for HWT Forensic Audit

On his appearance on the Bill Kelly Show on CHML (hear it by going here), Gary Santucci renewed the call for a forensic audit where the operations and finances of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust are concerned. Gary cited the fact that the recent report submitted by finance chief Roberto Rossini (see it here), further confirmed the need for such an audit.

The audio is more comprehensive, however highlights of the points Gary made include:

Records are missing from the Hamilton Waterfront Trust (as named in Rossini's report).

Gary maintained that a forensic audit is, in fact needed and is back "on the table".

He also suggested that this municipal government holds itself to a different standard than it does its citizens. Essentially Gary was arguing that citizens are held to account if they do not follow rules, whereas it appears as thought this concept is not being applied to the HWT matters. 

Do you think it is time we have a forensic audit on the Hamilton Waterfront Trust? Do you agree with Santucci that it is time to hold this municipal government to the same standard as its citizens, and to account for the issues related to the Hamilton Waterfront Trust? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Santucci on CHML

Veteran Host Bill Kelly
Catch Gary Santucci on the Billy Kelly show on 900 CHML, as Gary and Bill talk about the Hamilton Waterfront Trust and Sanford school. 

Gary joins Bill today at 10:05am. You can listen live at that time by clicking here, or you can dial it in on 900 on your AM dial.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hamilton Waterfront Trust Report- Back on the Table

The General Issues Committee meeting held on September 6 2012, in which Gary Santucci and Brian Bonham brought a delegation to express their concerns around the Hamilton Waterfront Trust's financials and management, has remained memorable largely due to the issues that Santucci/Bonham raised and how their presentation was received. 

The full video of the exchanges can be found by clicking here.   

Today Mr. Santucci made The Hamiltonian aware that Finance Chief Roberto Rossini submitted  a staff report on the matter. The report can be found here. 

We will leave it to our readers to watch the video of the meeting  and read the report. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pan Am Stadium- Exposed

According to an article in today's Spec (see it here or purchase the print version), the Pan Am stadium design does not comply with city design guidelines. 

Among the things that are in questions are:

  • The underneath of the stands will be exposed to the street. City guidelines require that the stands be enclosed. 
  • Large areas of blank walls should be dressed up to look pleasing architecturally

Additional shortfalls are covered in the article. 

One- Way or No Way - by Shekar Chandrashekar

In keeping with our motto "Powered by Hamiltonians", here is a piece written by Shekar Chandrashekar, a 50 year plus resident of Hamilton. 

One- way or no way

I have been a resident of Hamilton for 50 years. I worked downtown and attended McMaster University. I have witnessed the changes taking place in Hamilton over those years.

I am concerned with the issue of Hamilton’s one way streets because I value the serenity of Hamilton. Hamilton is surrounded by the escarpment, the lake, Princess Point and small towns each having their own identity. It is both a mosaic and a homogenous community that unites during crises. I have been following the two-way to one-way street conversion (and their reversal) for many years. The concept of one-way streets

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Seed Money

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Members Flock to Mustard Seed Co-op Launch

The Mustard Seed Co-op launched its membership drive Thursday the 29th at the Central Library in Hamilton. Over 300 Hamilton and area residents attended, united by their common passion for local food. Founding member and Board President Graham Cubitt delivered an inspiring introduction to the Co-op, “Tonight we’re celebrating our collective passion and commitment to our community. We’re celebrating that we can change how we buy our groceries; that we can impact our local economy by supporting our producers. We’re celebrating that wholesome food can become more available and affordable for ourselves and our neighbours.”

Local interest in Hamilton’s first non-profit grocery store was abundantly clear: approximately 300 people

Musical Notes- Ginger St. James : "FEARLESS"

Enjoy this installment of Musical Notes, with Angelo Noto Campanella as he interviews Ginger St. James. 

I first heard the name Ginger St. James in 2011 at an annual summer party in Grimsby. They had 3 or 4 bands that played that year, so there were quite a few musicians that stuck around and sat at the campfire after the party was clearing out. We were discussing the music scene in Hamilton when someone turned to me and asked "Have you heard of Ginger St. James?" Four or five grown men blushed and giggled like little school girls. All they said was that she was fantastic and recommended I go see her; I was intrigued. A few months later I was at Super Crawl wading through the crowd on James Street when I heard this powerful voice singing an old blues tune called "Love me like a man", it sent shivers up my spine, in a good way. I followed the voice to a large crowd and pulled out my camera and started recording...there she was, holding a "v" shaped guitar accompanied by a guy on drums. She had heels on and still looked tiny; I just could not believe that this voice was coming out of her. I made up my mind right there that I had to see her perform again somewhere some time soon. Over the next year and a half I did my best to see one of her shows but I kept missing her or getting to the venue after she was done, or catching just a song or two. Very frustrating to say the least.

Some of the phrases used in articles I've read about Ginger St. James are: "A tiny firecracker of a woman", "full of piss and vinegar", "sultry", "so damned hot", "combines country, blues and rock and roll like a bartender mixing a million dollar drink." Ginger is definitely all of these things and more when she's on stage, but personally I think she's a little sweetheart of a girl with a heart of gold, "but don't get me mad" she says...LOL. Over the last few years I've seen her perform with different band members, but she has found the right people now in Snow-Heel Slim on guitar, Greg Briscoe on keyboard, Andre' Tellier on drums and Pete Sisk on bass guitar. I could probably write a novel about the talents of each individual band member, but lets just say that when you mix Fire -Ginger, with Dynamite - The Band.....KABOOM BOOM BOOM!!!

ANC - You've done Burlesque, you span the genres of music (Broadway tunes, Blues, Rock, Country), your acting in movies, and now you have a radio show...Is there anything you can't do in the entertainment field?

GSJ - Hmm, well I’m sure there are many things that I can’t do, but I am constantly learning. I like to think of myself as pretty well rounded, and who knows what opportunities are waiting to present themselves. I guess we’ll have to see.

ANC - I'm a firm believer in diversifying yourself, it makes good business sense and you become a more sellable product. You seem to be fearless, where does this come from?

GSJ - I am stubborn, defiant and like a challenge. I”ve been this way all my life..my poor mother. Lol. I get a thrill from doing things differently, and pushing envelopes. Everyone has an opinion in this business, and for all those who say “you can’t” I say “oh yes I can” . And I do, we do. Taking risks and trying new things is exciting, and in the end when the crowd roars you know you have victory. boring’s so boring..

ANC - What role has the city of Hamilton played in your careers?

GSJ - Hamilton has been crucial in the development of my career. This city is tough, and its given me a great opportunity to cut my teeth and get “broken in” so to speak. I have learned and done so many things here and we’re still growing and going strong.

ANC - What do you think it is that makes your music so unique/stand out?

GSJ - Having a band full of unique individuals definitely makes us stand out as a group. As far as material goes, having so many different influences and experiences makes for some interesting songs. I’m not afraid to step out of one genre and into another. It’s the band that gives it a cohesive sound. Really, I just give it all I got and try not to give a damn..we have a whole lotta fun, and I think it shows.

ANC - What's next for Ginger St. James? (New music, another career etc...)

GSJ - We are completing our full length record which should be out in the fall (crossing fingers) and we've just signed a 5 year booking agreement with JD Elder and Associates. I’m looking forward to some exciting adventures, you never know whats around the corner in this business. ;)

If you want to find out more about Ginger St. James go to her website: www.gingerstjames.com

Also, I recently found out that she performs every other Thursday at The Pour House at the corner of Upper Ottawa and Fennell. The next date is June 20th.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pricing Police - Opinion

Police Chief Glenn DeCaire
"Chief don't care" may be a "cute" play on words,  allegedly bantered about, and repeated in the media with respect to the allegation that Hamilton Police Chief Glenn DeCaire has a perceived disdain for queries and input, but it is not helpful, nor necessarily representative,  as Hamilton considers the Chief's request for a budget increase.

At the heart of the issue, and what ought to be at the heart of the issue, is the question of what is an appropriate amount of policing resources against the city's needs and crime profile. In that context, Chief DeCaire has an onus and responsibility to bring forth what the Police Service believes to be necessary, given the metrics, regressions stats and intelligence that policing professionals have gathered or can bring to bear on the discussion. To do any less, would be irresponsible. It appears that the Chief has done just that; he has proposed a budget increase that is reflective of a considered approach.

That doesn't necessarily mean it is a slam dunk. Clr. Bernie Morelli and Clr. Terry Whitehead, as reported in The Spec (see the story here) , to a greater or lessor extent asked questions of the Chief and perhaps challenged the argument for the quantum of budget increase. There is room for that discussion and even if it were to become a spirited and pointed exchange, there is also room for that. In our view, there is nothing wrong with this type of back and forth, either with the challenges to the assumptions, or with the responses. In fact, it's healthy. Such exchanges are ordinarily informed by the quality of the information and the strength of the arguments presented. To the extent that the conversation did not rise to the level of a public "grilling" or stoning, may be reflective of the quality of the proposal and the leadership ability of the Chief. There is also room for the Mayor's opinion that the public and council would benefit from a better understanding of  the need for the proposed increase.

There are no heroes or villains in this discussion.  It is a matter of deciding "how safe" Hamiltonians would like to feel or be, in the context of a greater or lessor degree of police resourcing. Some may argue that fear mongering is a common tactic in an attempt to make the case of alleged disproportionate budget increases. However, those arguments are shaken by the presence of metrics, regression stats and intelligence reflective of a city's crime profile and emerging trends.

Despite all of that, it comes down to striking a balance between risk adversity and cost. It is our view that Chief DeCaire has tabled a responsible proposal in keeping with his responsibility to propose what the service believes to be the best fit relative to Hamilton's needs. It will be up to council and potentially other   bodies to render a final decision. Citizen input is an important factor in this discussion and The Hamiltonian hopes that with that input, and with  the information put forth by the Chief and the judgment brought to bear by council on behalf of Hamiltonians, we will emerge with a solution that affords respect and acknowledgement to the expertise of our policing professionals while reflecting our tolerance for risk,  desire for safety and the related cost considerations.

The Hamiltonian

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Going After a Pearl

Gary Santucci of the Pearl Company has written to the legislative assistant in the city clerk's office, city council, the City Manager, and has copied The Hamiltonian and other media, in an email that seeks to have The Pearl's Company's nomination for a Heritage Recognition Award, immediately restored. The circumstances prompting his request, are captured in his email below:

Christopher Newman
Legislative Assistant,
City Clerk’s Office 

Mr. Newman

It has recently come to my attention that the Pearl Company was nominated for a Heritage Recognition Award 2012 and that our nomination was subsequently deferred to 2013 as we were involved in litigation with the City of Hamilton regarding zoning. Both of these events, the nomination and deferral occurred without our knowledge, however I am happy to report that on August 10, 2012 Justice Casey rendered her verdict on the case, ruling that the City of Hamilton failed to present evidence to support the charges against the Pearl Company. I have attached the relevant documents and would ask you to forward them to all of the members of the Heritage Committee so that they may immediately consider restoring our nomination for the 2012 Heritage 
Recognition Awards.

Sincerely yours
Gary Santucci

To view the documents Gary had attached, please click here and here. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Elephant in the Equation- by Jim Sweetman,

The Elephant in the Equation- by Jim Sweetman, Chair, Finance Committee of the Hamilton Civic League

Like every story, there are two sides to every equation. One of the most important equations for the people at City Hall is the financial one relating expenses and revenues. It’s no different for citizens or businesses. If you spend more money than you make, bad things happen.

The staff and Councillors at City Hall have been working hard to find ways to increase revenues. Some want us to sell the naming rights to all kinds of public assets. Others want to sell advertising space along our roads. A new downtown casino, a new football stadium, a greatly expanded employment growth district at the airport could all contribute new revenue.

A consultant suggested things like increasing parking fees, increasing recreation fees, selling off a city-owned

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Retrospective with Rossini

Prior to Roberto Rossini moving on to his new position with the City of Toronto, we thought we'd ask Rob to do a retrospective type interview with us, reflecting upon his time here. Enjoy our chat with Roberto:

1. Reflecting upon your time with the City of Hamilton, what would your say was your greatest highlight and/or achievement, and what was your greatest challenge. Please elaborate as you see fit.  

Successes: I think we have had many important accomplishments over the last 3 and a half years.
I say "we", because everything the City does or achieve is through the efforts of many people working together - Council, Senior Management and staff. Key successes include:

- a new focused Strategic Plan and corporate work plan that concentrates on 3 Priorities: Healthy Economy, Excellent Service Delivery and Leadership & Governance.

- our new area rating tax plan which improves fairness

- the recently released Service Delivery Review which identifies not just potential savings but highlights where the City performs well

- our last three budgets where we managed to maintain and improve services, invest more in infrastructure

How Council Voted in October

From our friends at C.A.T.C.H. . How they voted in October (click here) 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Link of the Moment

The Spectator released its midterm report for Hamilton City Council. The report can be read here ( or buy today's print version). The Hamiltonian is providing this link for information purposes and makes no comments on its conclusions/content. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Singer/Songwriter/Musician- Joshua Weresch

Joshua Weresch,
Photo Credit:  Rachel Novak of Rachel
The Hamiltonian is pleased to share our interview with Hamiltonian and talented songwriter/singer/musician, Joshua Weresch.

1. Your music seems very introspective/"deep." Obviously you have elected a non-mainstream approach. What informed that choice and who would you envision your audience to be?

My non-mainstream approach comes, I think, from the fact that I play piano, solo, and my songs are in the genre of folk music; because of the instrumentation, because of the songs themselves, maybe even because I’m a bass and have a lower voice than many other mainstream musicians, these qualities have put me into that category. My audience would be those people who are getting tired of popular music and are listening for something that, I hope, speaks to them and reminds them that they’re not alone in their difficulties and struggles. I don’t know how much popular music does that, as it sometimes seems to be very replaceable and forgettable.

2. What and who has influenced your approach to music? How have those influences helped to shape you as a musician and songwriter?

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Belgian Delights, Canadian lists

Pierre Marcolini - Grand Cru chocolate bar
Funny how things turn out: In addition to the desired professional outcomes, my recent four-day business trip to Belgium was full of unexpected culinary references and delights.

First off, the Air Canada in-flight magazine was the annual food issue. I love the breadth of content and the writing, and look forward to it each year: As usual En Route Magazine featured their take on the year’s best new Canadian restaurants. The top ten included no less than 6 eateries in Toronto, and two each in Calgary and Montreal. I really have to wonder, despite a long list of contributors to the deliberations (and a 2010 top ten place for Quatrefoil in Dundas), whether restaurants outside of the major metropolitan areas get sufficient consideration. 

A similar list recently published by Macleans (The 50 Best Restaurants in Canada) had 12 restaurants in Toronto listed, with another two in Ottawa completing their list for ALL of Ontario! That may say something about the ascendance of Toronto as a

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Planting a Seed

November 23rd, 2012
Grocery Cooperative Launches in Hamilton...The Mustard Seed

The Mustard Seed Co-op is about to become Hamilton’s first non-profit grocery store. Hamiltonians passionate about improving local and wholesome food options are creating a new grocery alternative - a beautiful place to shop that promotes food access and education, strong connections between local producers and consumers, and a vibrant sense of community.

The Mustard Seed will be a community-owned store. Local residents can directly impact their community through a $100 membership share, providing a direct democratic tool for reshaping our food choices. The Co-op will help consumers overcome the challenges of eating local – research, logistics, buying power – while making wholesome and organic products more affordable. Emma Cubitt, one of the founders of the Mustard Seed, says that ‘Members can directly impact the issues of food access faced by many in our city.’

With a grand opening target of May 2013, a Membership Launch Party is scheduled for November 29th at Central Library. Anyone passionate about quality local and wholesome foods, equitable food access and affordability, and community health is invited to join.

When: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:00-9:00pm
Where: Hamilton Public Library, Central Branch – Wentworth Room
Contacts: Emma Cubitt, info@mustardseed.coop, 905-546-7348
Jacqueline Norton, jnorton@quickclic.net, 905-515-1856
Website: www.mustardseed.coop
Facebook: www.facebook.com/themustardseedcoop

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Evidence and the Casino

As Hamilton contemplates whether it wants a casino in the core or elsewhere, the fact is that casinos have been deployed elsewhere throughout the globe and locally, and there is bound to be a wealth of evidence of the pros and cons associated with having a casino. That context prompted us to ask the following question of Tim McCabe, General Manager Planning and Economic Development Dept. Our question and Mr. McCabe's response, follows: 

The Hamiltonian: As Hamiltonians consider whether they would want a casino in the core or elsewhere in the city, city council may be relying on information by way of polls, town halls etc. to inform their decision making. We are assuming that staff will also want to provide advice and/or information to council on this matter. Can you advise as to whether the city will be utilizing an evidence-based approach to advise council on the pros and cons of a casino, utilizing information available locally and/or more broadly ? If so, how would you factor in the information in this report http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/hl/bgrd/backgroundfile-51872.pdf Thank-you Mr. McCabe

Mr. McCabe:  Staff will provide Council with any information that is directed by Council for staff to provide, if we have such information.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Randle Reef Relief

"I'm pretty happy". Those are words from Mayor Bob Bratina reacting to the announcement that the province has upped their contribution to the clean up of the Randal Reef, to 46.3 million dollars. In a three way split that would see the province, the federal government and local contributors (including local governments and other stakeholders), cover the cost of cleaning up the polluted harbour, the provinces's recent announcement clears the path for the federal government to release its funds. To this point, the feds were waiting on the province prior to it releasing theirs. See Spec story here or purchase today's print version. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dear Hamiltonian- A Rogue Referendum Run by the People, For the People

The Hamiltonian has received the following open letter from Larry Pattison (Lawrence Thomas)

A Rogue Referendum
Run by the people. For the people

Dear Hamilton,

We seem to have passively resolved that a referendum held outside of an election, is a cost we are not prepared to incur to solve our cities dilemma with regards to a proposed new Casino in Hamilton.

After attending the Wards 1, 2, & 3 Town Hall at City Hall hosted by Ward 2 councilor Jason Farr, it inadvertently reminded me of the many flaws in our voting system. Although the room seemed to lean heavily towards the side of keeping a Casino out of our downtown core, the night was a good balance I thought, of the pros and cons of what a Casino brings to a city – good and bad.

Although I was on the side of Andrea Horwath and her very public desire to have the OLG give Hamilton time to hold a referendum on this issue, I left the Town Hall session that night feeling otherwise. I have great respect for Ms. Horwath, but the discussion made me realize that so many of the opinions we hold with regards to issues facing our city, the world, and people, are ones often held without all of the facts. At least all of the facts from a diverse collective.

Either way, it seems council is going to upset half of Hamiltonians if you take all polls floating around to date, but in an ideal community these major decisions should be made with the wishes of

Hamilton Music Awards- Blues nominees showcase

Ange Noto Campanella shares some photos from Stonewalls' Hamilton Music Awards showcase for the Blues nominees. To the left is Harrison Kennedy. For more pictures featuring Corey Lueck and The Smoke Wagon Blues Band, click here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Robbins Leaves the Nest

Publisher of The Hamilton Spectator, Dana Robbins, will leave his post at the end of this year for a new opportunity with Metroland.  Robbins will serve as VP/Regional Publisher of the Peel and Southwestern region. He has been Publisher for The Spec since 2008. 

The Hamiltonian wishes Mr. Robbins all the best.

(special thanks to MB for the notice) 

Please note: As per our policy, only respectful and professional comments will be published.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Working Hard for the Money- Part 3...

In April and May of this year, The Hamiltonian did a story about performance contracts. What started off as a query as to how many city employees who were  on the 2011 "sunshine list", also had an evaluated performance plan/contract in place, grew to a story about performance plans and rates of completion for all city employees.  Our initial findings can be seen by clicking here and here

Despite the year over year trend of completion rates showing improvement, it was also found that even at their highest point of completion  in 2010, they still fell below the 50%. mark.

We exchanged information with City Manager Chris Murray about this, and Chris said, among other things,  that he hoped to have a redesigned performance management system in place by the fall of 2012. We thus decided to check in with Helen Hale Tomasik, Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development, with a view toward getting a sense for where this work is at. Here is our Q/A with Helen:

Q. The Hamiltonian is doing a follow up on a previous article concerning performance agreements and systems. You can see this article here http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/05/working-hard-for-money-part-2.html. In that article Mr. Murray advised that the performance management system is being redesigned and that he had hoped to have this new system in place by the fall. For publication in The Hamiltonian, we are asking if you could provide our readers with an update as to the status of this initiative and when you would expect results to be demonstrable as to the advantages of this new system.

A. In an effort to provide your readers with the background, let me reiterate that as outlined in our Strategic Plan, the City of Hamilton remains committed and is implementing a performance management system. Our goals are to improve business results, build organizational capabilities and develop our people for the future. The following provides an update on our system design and implementation to date and the changes and new processes we have implemented since last you checked in with us.

1. The City’s New Performance Management Process has been designed to: 

  • Align individual work goals and objectives to the City’s business strategy.
  • Increase individual’s commitment to personal work goals and objectives.
  •  Drive performance improvement 
  • Recognize and acknowledge desired behaviours and achievements.
  • Identify and provide development opportunities
  •  Identify talent across the organization.
  •  Build ownership for personal growth and development.
  •  Provide an input for other Human Resources processes
2. Our Cycle of Performance Management at the City includes: