Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Musical Notes- Record Producer Rick Iantosca

He's produced, played instruments for, written songs for or otherwise worked with such acts as Hall and Oates, Kool and the Gang, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Cliff and countless others. Rick Iantosca is a seasoned record producer and friend of The Hamiltonian. It's our pleasure to bring you this interview with Mr. Iantosca.

But first, here is a little more about Rick:

Guitarist/producer Rick Iantosca found his way into the music industry through a hard-earned spot as an assistant engineer at a recording studio. He had grown up in South Orange, New Jersey, where he quickly mastered several instruments and became an obsessive musician. After college, he found his chance to become an engineer and quickly started to learn the way albums are recorded. Suddenly, after a year of working at the studio, he was asked to take over some Jimmy Cliff sessions after the producer left the project. Kool and the Gang also tapped him for his production skills around the same time, and both their In the Heart and Cliff's Power & the Glory were recorded at the same time. Iantosca was poorly credited for both, but the gigs led to more production work with Cliff (earning him a Grammy nomination for Cliff Hanger) among others. His work throughout the 80's and 90's secured him a job with DeLite Records, as well as a staff writing position with Delightful Music.  While the chart above attempts to summarize Rick's genres, styles and abilities, these barely scratch the surface of Rick's talents. 

Enjoy our chat with Rick:

1.How did you make your way from having a musical interest, to becoming a successful music producer?

On February 9th, 1964, the Beatles, with their Edwardian suits and mop top haircuts, made their first American television appearance—LIVE—on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was 11 years old and became obsessed with rock and roll and the Beatles. I immediately got a guitar and played it at every free moment. Music became a part of my existence. As soon as possible, I put a band together and practiced incessantly.

Whatever the Beatles played, I had to play it also. From studying them, I learned harmony, drums, Guitar riffs and eventually keyboards. I was learning new things to play every day. Consequently, I never became bored with music. While everyone else was outside playing games, I was inside learning songs.

Somehow, some way I was going to get involved in making records. Although my songwriting was mediocre (at best), I continued to write. I spent a small fortune in small recording studios. I enjoyed playing all of the instruments myself. Writing became easier in time as did my recording skills. I failed miserably in attempting to “break in” to the industry, but I could not find any assistance along the way. This was frustrating. 

Finally, at about 28 years old I quit my day job and played in the local clubs full time with a friend of mine. The powers that be were not interested in him but they asked me if I would work there. That idea never occurred to me. The next day I went back, got interviewed and took the job which was at the very bottom of the barrel. The studio trained me in the mornings and I worked an exorbitant amount of hours every day.
Finally, a window of opportunity came my way.

They knew I played several instruments and asked me if I could produce a Reggae artist (Jimmy Cliff). It seems the producers were too busy to work with him and he was bored. I never knew anything about Reggae music but I  told them “no problem”. Obviously, I jumped on it. Before anyone knew it, I arranged the songs, programmed the drums, put background vocalists on it and over-dubbed my head off. All of a sudden, all kinds of opportunities came my way and I jumped on every one of them. Finally…hit records with my name attached came out. I was all over the air waves with different groups. It was a long wait, but it finally just happened. The string of opportunities just kept coming my way.

Even my earlier Nashville connections were beginning to happen.The funny thing about all of this is that I am basically a “rock & roller” but my records were mostly R&B and Reggae to Country Pop. I was fortunate to be involved in several genre’s of music. This is because I would never say “no” to any major project. I do not believe in luck. However, I do believe in “Windows Of Opportunity” and the ability to recognize one when it comes along. I was fortunate but I would NEVER try this again. There are simply too many variables.

2. Many in our city are musically gifted and finding a place in the music scene. What advice might you have for those trying to succeed in the industry either as a band who is playing out and/or an act aspiring to be
recording artists?

That’s an easy question. The answer is simply: “persistence”.

3. Technology has transformed the way music is recorded, with the advent such as digital recording using computer technology. In the face of all this new technology, how do you ensure you are using it to support music making as opposed to making computer music?

There have been advances in recording equipment for years. In the end, all that really matters is the song and the performance. Today it’s Pro Tools but what will be next? Chances are there will be another “NEXT”.

4. How important is writing your own songs, or using original material, to a band or performer's chances at success?

The answer is “VERY IMPORTANT”. Providing that are capable of writing commercially viable songs, there is a lot of money in writing your own songs. However, if you’re not quite ready, then you are better off using a professional songwriter to assist you.

5. What do you look for in a vocalist?

I personally look for a pleasant but “distinct” sound. If you want to sound like every other club singer, then you might as well play clubs.

6. What do you look for in a musician?

Playing ability, humility, personality, someone who is open minded and has the ability to be “team” player.

7. There are many who emulate or aspire to be like the current trending stars or artists. Do you think it is wise to model your efforts after a current star? Why or why not?

I think that most musicians emulate several artists. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless the musician loses their own personality. For example…the guitar player aspires to play just like (let’s say), Van Halen. In the pop rock market, Van Halen basically defined the very quick hammering of notes. If one were to incorporate this type of thing in their music just to sound like him, it would probably result in a great loss of integrity as a player. It’s already been over-done as it is. It’s probably a good thing to incorporate various styles in one’s playing from several different sources. In general it’s probably better to develop your own style.

Also, bear in mind that the music of tomorrow, is being recorded today in a studio. If you are trying to imitate the music that is currently popular, you would be lagging behind those who are making tomorrow's music by not imitating today's music.

8. What are common mistakes people make in the studio?

Some common mistakes people make in the studio are bad drum tuning, unnecessarily loud amplifiers, high chord inversions on the keyboards, bad arrangements of good songs, bad song titles, overly “clever” lyrics which make no sense to the average listener and finally too much ego and/or negative attitudes which affect the “spirit” of everyone else in the session.

9. American Idol, The Voice and The X factor are all popular programs that seek out talent. Are you a fan of this style of finding and promoting people? Please explain.

I am absolutely no fan of these types of programs. The panel usually looks for the “crooner” who sounds like every other good wedding singer. Actually, I believe that they should be looking for “distinct” voices. I mean to convey is that when you listen to songs, you should be able to immediately tell who the artist is. Otherwise these singers might just as well be out in Karaoke clubs with wonderfully smooth but non distinctive voices.
My guess is that if a singer, like Mick Jagger were being judged, they would be quickly eliminated. From the moment you hear a Rolling Stone song, you know who it is. This is to say that although Jagger may not have the smoothest voice in the world, he has a distinctive and memorable “sound”.

10. What are the elements of a hit song in the mainstream commercial market?

Great Lyrics
Great Melody
Great Hooks
Great Title
Great Performance

11. What musical accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

ALL accomplishments! This is an industry which is incredibly difficult to become successful in. Contributing to hitting the “Top 100” is probably what I am most proud of. I have been fortunate to have reached that point many times. It is nearly impossible to do. We’re talking about world famous songs which have now become a part of musical history. Who would think that I (from a small village in New Jersey), could accomplish such a thing. The best answer I can give is that “I” thought it was possible…and it came to
fruition. I suppose that you have to first believe in yourself. There are so many rungs on this ladder that I can’t possibly name just one single accomplishment to be proud of. The competition is extremely severe to
say the least. 

Thanks Rick for your time and expertise.

Hold, Fold, Walk Away or Run?

You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run....

Those are the lyrics to an old Kenny Rogers hit called The Gambler, but they could also be the anthem for McMaster's position on the downtown health campus deal. Seems that Mac is calling everyone's bluff by imposing a deadline of next week for the city and the school board to get their cards straight.

Andrea Farquhar, assistant vice-president of public and government relations, emphasized the need for clarity and direction, in order for Mac's  timelines to be met.

This is reference to delays around the decision for the city to lease "swing space" to assist the Board of Ed to vacate. The School Board had a delay of its own, recently voting to take the next month assessing whether they will locate downtown, rather than their standing choice.

For more details, read Emma Reilly's summary here. (great work Emma!)

So......are you sympathetic to McMaster?  Is it time to push for a decision and committment., or do you think they are putting the deal at significant risk by imposing a tight deadline? Hold em, fold em. walk away or run? 

Picture of the Moment

Left to right.
Board Chair Tim Simmons, Carole Miller.M.P.P. Paul Miller,
 Trustee Alex Jonstone, Hamiltonian Publisher Teresa DiFalco,
Principal Barb MacDiarmid,
Rose McAleer (M.P. Wayne Marston's office)
Our Publisher , Teresa DiFalco (third from the right) joins in the celebration of the opening of Winona Public, a new school that Ms. DiFalco fought hard to have built. 

LOL with Clr. Merulla

"Merulla saved his windiest blasts for the Spec’s editorial board. He called its members “morons” and accused them of having their “heads up their ass” for recently opining that calls for the federal government to directly intervene aren’t helpful."

That's an excerpt from Andrew Dreschel's column today (which can be seen here) in which he describes exchanges that occurred, relative to Clr. Merulla's fury at the Federal Government's handling of the U.S. Steel matter. Andrew concluded by describing Clr. Merulla as being reduced to "sheepish".

We asked Clr. Merulla's for his thoughts, in light of the write up. He responded as follows:

I'm proud that my motion was passed unanimously and I look forward to the Prime Minister intervening and providing answers regarding the Federal Governments betrayal of Canadians with the Investment Canada Act as it pertains to US Steel. Also being called sheepish was new but entertaining. Anything that makes me laugh out loud first thing in the morning is a wonderful thing :)

Musical Notes - Sam Klass

Enjoy this installment of Musical Notes, with Angelo Noto Campanella as he reviews  Sam Klass Master of the "LOOP" 

When I think of a one man band I picture a man with cymbals between his knees, a bass drum strapped to his back, a head band with a harmonica hanging in front of his mouth and a banjo strapped around his neck. Fortunately, thanks to today's technological advancements, a one man band no longer requires strapping cymbals between the knees. Sam Klass uses these advancements to his creative advantage.

With the suport of his family, Sam developed diverse abilities in several forms of music. At 4 years old he played piano, and later sang in the choir. He played trombone and violin for his middle school band. Also having prior experience in classical guitar, he chose to pursue this instrument at the age of 15 years. Through the internet Sam taught himself to play the guitar and learned all about the new technologies and gear available to him. One of Sam's most significant influences of this musical artform has been Keller Williams of Virginia, U.S.A. "He was the first guy that I ever heard that was making a whole show of live looping".

We sit down at a booth at the Snooty Fox in Westdale and I pull out my analog Panasonic tape deck that I have been using for all my interviews. I'm sort of embarassed for my little cassette recorder sitting in front of a guy who probably see's it as an ancient relic, but I begin the interview anyways.

Q: Most bands have one or two or more members giving input to a song, so my question to you is: What is it like to have total control of your music, and realizing your vision as to how a song turns out?

Sam: It's a double edged sword. I was in a band before and found that the friction that comes from the band members comes from negotiating creative control, but at the same time that friction is what shapes it. On the one hand, it's good because I do have complete creative control but it doesn't have that same developmental ...basically there is no one around to tell me if something sucks that I don't catch, like noise in a recording or phase problems.

Q: Is it easier or harder doing it alone?

Sam: It's easier but slower.

Q: How do you keep track of the loops on your pedals? Are they colour coded or...?

Sam: It's been a long process. A slow development of upgrading pedals. I started with that Digi-tech pedal, which is a one track thing so you can only layer things on top of each other. Then I upgraded to a "Jam Man", which is another Digi-tech pedal that has an "overdub undo" function, so that allows you to layer things and then remove them. Then the "RC50" is the big thing. That's what I use now. That gives you different tracks. It gives you three separate phrases on the same pedal that sync with themselves automatically. I keep the rythm to one track and the bass on another and the guitar part on another and then it still has the overdub and undo function so I can add a phrase and do a harmony, and then quickly remove it and still have the three tracks to work with so it is not completely set. I don't have one track that's always rythm and always bass. It's different on each song and depends on which tehniques I'm using and the structure of the song too.

Q: What role has the City of Hamilton played in your musical career?

Sam: It's kept me humble. Thats it. I'm a huge fan of Nilla. Nilla is a hip hop artist from Hamilton and her debut album that she won her Hamilton Music Award for is called "From The Ground Up". I love that album and I listen to it a lot. I really like what Nilla is about. She personifies the idea that music making is really just, on the ground level, it's an interpersonal experience. It's not this thing that's so disconnected from peoples lives. It's reality music. Hamilton has put me on the ground level. This is a place where there is a great local comunity, a great local art scene and a lot of people that are really interested in checking out shows. They don't care who you've opened for. They don't care if your signed. It's just that person to person thing and that's the essence.

Q: What is it that makes your music so unique or stand out?

Sam: The obvious thing is the looping. I think because it's sort of new. It's been around for long enough but it's had a bit of an uprising recently. The techological aspect is one thing, also my musical influences are from a different place. I grew up in Pennsylvania and I was born in Winnipeg, so the music I've heard and the culture that I've been exposed to is different. It's new. It's not what people are used to. It's not Canadian indie rock. It's unique.

Q: What are your goals for your music? Where are you heading?

Sam: My first release was more of a studio production that I did while I was a student. It was called "The Last Names". It was released in 2009. Last year in the spring, I released a record of all live looping, start to finish. There were no over dubs, no multi tracking, no fancy editing tricks. Literally one line into the computer and me singing and playing and doing the looping. I kind of wanted to show people as clearly as possible, the capabilities of what I'm doing and the potential to make things happen live that would have never have been possible, and to show people the new techniques that I've created. It was called "One Track One Take" produced by Kevin Park and The New Deal. It's a full length album that you can down load for free on my website. The next project I'm working on combines the production skills I've learned from my first record in 2009 and the live capabilities that I've developed from the creation of "One Track One Take".

If you want to find out more about Sam Klass and see some of his fancy footwork and incredible techonological musical creativity, follow the website below.

Here are a few Hamilton dates to see Sam Klass:

March 31st at Corktown
April 13th at Artcrawl

Bookings: samklass@gmail.com 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tweet of the Moment

Motion passes and City will look at downtown alternatives and report back in 1 month
7:52 PM - 27 Feb 12

Dan Jelly tweets an outcome during his attentive coverage of the board meeting. Great work Dan!

Clr Ferguson- On Hamilton's NHL Hopes

We asked Clr. Ferguson for his reaction to the NHL's statement in response to our query about the a NHL team in Hamilton.

Here is our Q& A with the Clr.

Q. In light of the NHL’s statement to the Hamiltonian , can we have your reaction? Do you think Hamilton should give up (at least in the short to medium term), on any hopes for a NHL team in Hamilton?

A. We should never give up but it is very important that we also never tease the people of Hamilton again. If I have learned anything we need the support of the NHL. before we pursue other opportunities.

Mayor's Speech

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce hosted this year's Mayor's Breakfast with Mayor Bob Bratina. The event took place at the Waterfront Centre on Bay Street North

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Conversation with Laura Peddle, Ward 6 Trustee for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board

Update: In the spirit of fair play, The Hamiltonian asked Trustee Judith Bishop if she had any comments in response to Ms. Peddle's comments. Ms. Bishop responded as follows:

Thank you for your invitation. I will be debating in the Board room, not the media

We reached out to Laura Peddle, Ward 6 Trustee for the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board,  to get her views on a number of things. Please join us as we hear from Laura on the Crestwood option, the controversy that unfolded around closed door meetings, and the like.

1. Your were at the heart of a controversy pertaining to allegations that you contravened the board’s code of ethics by disclosing confidential information at a public meeting held to discuss school closures. Do you agree with the investigation conclusions that this did, in fact occur, and would you have done anything differently if you had the opportunity to revisit this?

I have always openly stated that on Dec 7, 2009 the Board of Trustees held an in-camera meeting where Accommodation Review (school closures) was discussed. Hence, there was no need to spend any taxpayer money to conclude what I had always admitted to. It is now well known that decisions around school accommodation reviews must be made in the public domain as the Trustees received a formal legal opinion confirming this on May 9, 2011.

I continue to consider our agenda items and their fit for open versus closed meeting. If a topic surfaces that is not covered for closed meeting by the Education Act, I would remind my Trustee peers that the doors need to be opened. If that simple reminder should fall on deaf ears, I would press the issue by indicating my intent to launch a formal code of conduct violation for not following appropriate process. I would support my intent with my actions by leaving the meeting room.

2. Is there anything that did not come out through the investigative process, that you believe should have, or anything that should have been emphasized, but was not? If so, can you share observations in this regard?

Friday, February 24, 2012

NHL in Hamilton? Not Anytime soon it seems.

On the heels of our chat with the Conference Board of Canada, relative to a recent study which concluded, amongst other things, that a NHL team in Hamilton would be viable, The Hamiltonian contacted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's office to ask a question related to the NHL in Hamilton.

Here is our Q&A which was responded to by the NHL's corporate office.

Q. Commissioner Bettman. Recently, the Conference Board of Canada, an internationally recognized research facility, conducted a study which concluded amongst other things, that Hamilton Ontario Canada has a compelling business case that supports the viability of a NHL hockey team in Hamilton. The study also recognizes that an essential part of the equation is an investor or a group of investors who can put the necessary resources to such a proposal.

Being respectful of your role as Commissioner of the league, your governance structures and protocols, and assuming any prospective interest from the city of Hamilton and investors will also be respectful of the aforementioned structures, will you be open to a proposal from Hamilton? If so, how could interested parties best approach the league to ensure we are following and respecting the league's protocols?

A.  A variety of locations in North America, including Southern Ontario, have expressed interest in hosting a National Hockey League franchise. As we are not contemplating expansion and are not planning to move an existing franchise, we have no inventory to offer. Our focus remains the enduring heath and stability of our 30 franchises in their current locations.

The Hamiltonian would like to thank the National Hockey League for responding to our query. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our Chat with Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin

The Hamiltonian has a great deal of respect and appreciation for our Ontario Ombudsman André Marin and the critical role that he and his office plays. Welcome to a conversation with our Ombudsman of Ontario, André Marin

1. You have come out very strong against certain closed door (in-camera) meetings that were held by Hamilton City Council. What are the underlying principles that are at stake that support your position, and how can Hamiltonians ensure that their interests are not at risk through closed door meetings that may be held unduly?

My role, as the investigator chosen by the City of Hamilton under the Municipal Act, is to investigate public complaints about closed meetings and determine, based on the evidence, whether or not the municipality complied with the requirements of the Act. The Municipal Act is quite clear that municipal meetings should be open to the public except in very narrow circumstances. Even in those instances, the Act does not say a meeting “must” be closed – only that it can be closed. [The one exception is if the meeting is to discuss a request filed under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act – see section 239(3).]

I urge municipalities to embrace the spirit of the law and maintain openness as their default position: When in doubt, open the meeting. The public expects openness. As for what the public can do, the ability to complain is open to everyone. I encourage all Ontarians to educate themselves about the rules governing municipal meetings. One way to do that is to read our Sunshine Law Handbook, available on our website – http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Resources/Sunshine-Law-Handbook.aspx – or by mail from our office.

2. You have used social media, such as Twitter, as a mechanism for conveying your thoughts. Is your use of social media simply a reflection of leveraging contemporary communication tools by an Ombudsman who happens to also be social media savvy? Do you believe that social media ought to be included in the tool kit of people in authoritative/influential positions? What benefits might it have?

Paul Tetley's response to Ombudsman's Decision

Even though it was Mr. Marin opinion that it was not a meeting as defined by the Ontario Municipal Act and the open meeting provision did not apply, I feel my complaint had merit. Previously, Earl Basse the City of Hamilton Integrity Commissioner found my complaint was neither frivolous, nor vexatious.

The complaint gathered a great deal of attention over the last year from both local media and the Ontario Ombudsman's office, which can only benefit greater transparency in our municipal government. Councillor Merulla's statement "We’re doing well, but we need to be doing great" is something Council should strive to achieve.

In closing, I respect the findings contained in the report and believe it will serve to benefit more openess in our local government.

Best Regards,

Paul Tetley

NHL Meeting Okay says Ombusdman

You may recall a previous story on The Hamiltonian (see it here) where Paul Tetley filed a complaint with Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse over NHL Subcommittee members meeting with Edmonton Oiler President & CEO, Pat LaForge. Basse could not investigate the matter as following procedural guidelines is not within scope of the code of conduct. Thus, Tetley complained to Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin.

Marin recently shared his findings and concluded that the city’s NHL subcommittee didn’t break any rules when they privately met with a top-ranking league official for breakfast; thus, exonerating councillors Lloyd Ferguson, Jason Farr and Terry Whitehead, all members of the NHL subcommittee, and Councillor Rob Pasuta from breaking the municipal act.

Marin ruled the breakfast was not a “meeting” as defined by the act. As such, the open meeting provisions — that is, to notify the public in advance of the meeting and to open the proceedings to the public — did not apply.

“It was really small talk. But what we advised the city is that it’s best to avoid this kind of scenario and to avoid the kind of suspicions that are aroused by this kind of meeting,” Marin said. Spec coverage here. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Clr. Merulla on Radial Separation By-Law and Human Rights

In light of the controversy around the radial separation by-law and its relation to human rights legislation, we asked Clr. Merulla the following:

Barbara Hall, Human Rights Commissioner for Ontario recently came out strong against the practice of making planning decisions based on people, rather than land planning principles. As a city councillor, how concerned are you about Ms. Hall’s assertions, in relation to Hamilton’s radial separation by-law? What advice might you have for your council colleagues in this regard?

Clr. Merulla responded as follows:

Barbara Hall's interpretation of the Act will lead to an American like segregation between the halves and have nots in our City. The responsibility of providing an environment conducive to accommodating the most marginalized should not be a catalyst to marginalizing environments or neighourhoods. Her interpretation flies in the face of Canadian planning principles of diversity which has made us superior to our neighbours to the south who have based their planning principles on segregation.

The Hamiltonian thanks Clr. Merulla for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian

Picture of the Moment

A mud slide crashes through a retaining wall on the Claremont Access. 

Picture courtesy of our friends at Serenity Now Spa in Stoney Creek

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Matt Jelly- Part 3- "To My Educators"

In Matt Jelly's latest release (release 3) of his series "To My Educators" Matt does a masterful job of using a sense of sentimentality, that finds expression through the vision of the building's designer (an 87 year old Joe Singer), who seems to lament the building's fate. 

Joe talks about how the building was meant to be a symbolic testament to the value of education and how the ground floor, would give foundational rise to upper floors housing the administration. Complete with a brief background of Joe's military experience, it makes for a compelling perspective.

Joe ventures into the cost benefit of adapting the existing building as opposed to demolishing it, and laments its neglect on the maintenance side. He suggests it would cost less than 10 million to adapt it as opposed to over 30 million to demolish it and build anew.  Pictures of the inside of the building., while reminiscent of a different era's decor, nonetheless presents as clean and viable looking.

All the while, the background music morphs from sweet at the start, to foreboding as the story unfolds. 

The video ends with a call to action. We are interested in your views. How strongly do you agree with Matt? Beyond his knack for video production, is his underlying points just as  potent as the presentation?

See the video here

Excerpt of the Moment

Later, Haworth asked the mayor about the review of amalgamation Bratina promised during his 2010 election campaign.

“The review should compare the cost per household of a range of core services before and after amalgamation in Flamborough, as well as comparative analyses of taxation per household and size of bureaucracy,” Haworth said.

In response, Bratina said that he plans to issue a plan for his deamalgamation review over the next two to three weeks.

“I always look forward to your very valuable comments,” Bratina told Haworth.

As reported here, by The Spec. 

Almost in the Bag

The controversy over whether to go to bi-weekly garbage pick up, is nearly over. Clr.s Chad Collins and Russ Powers came up with a plan that is expected to gain the support of the majority of councillors. The plan will retain the one bag weekly pick-up. Residents will also receive 26 tags, free of charge, which will enable them to put out additional bags (1 tag per additional bag presumably). The plan also includes weekly leaf and yard waste pickup extended year round. Weekly bulk pick up can also be booked year round. 

Clr. Jackson believes that the new plan should not have an adverse effect on Hamilton's diversion rate (which is at 49%). Jackson also expects that the new plan would save 2.2 to 2,4 million dollars annually, as compared to the present arrangement. 

Some councilors continue to believe that there is a relationship between garbage pick up schedules and illegal dumping and are hoping that the new plan will alleviate the illegal dumping problem. 

If the plan is approved, it will take effect in April of this year.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Human Rights, Radial By-Law and Hamilton- Opinion

You may recall that in a previous article on The Hamiltonian (click here) , we warned as to how the radial separation by-law may be on a collision course with Ontario's Human Rights legislation. It appears as if our concerns were well placed.

Two issues have emerged.  The first is that there appears to be no definitive listing or inventory in Hamilton, of which facilities the very by-law was meant to address. While disturbing, it is not an insurmountable problem and can be addressed by a careful re- inventorying exercise.

The second issue, which is more grave, is the possibility (if not, probability), that the radial separation by-law, may fly in the face of Human Rights legislation.  

Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall released a report Friday outlining municipalities' legal responsibilities when it comes to zoning and care facilities. Her report states that planning regulations shouldn't be used to keep certain people out of neighbourhoods.

"It is illegal to make planning decisions based on people, instead of on land use and other legitimate planning principles,” Ms. Hall wrote in a letter to Hamilton City council. (source- The Spectator)

The reaction, from some councillors has been surprisingly brazen. Councillor Tom Jackson, said he'll take Hall's comments “under advisement.” “That will not be the only thing that governs what I do as an elected municipal official. It will be part of my consideration, but it won't be the only factor,” he said.

Councillor Farr, said he stands firmly behind the bylaw. “It's simply, for me, a planning issue. Radial separation is fundamental to good neighbourhood planning, in my opinion,” he said.

The Hamiltonian believes that council must take an anticipatory, proactive and respectful posture when it comes to Ontario's Human Rights legislation. While a precedent setting case has not yet landed, the pre-trial direction that came out of a January hearing, allows for a fulsome hearing to proceed. Commissioner Hall's language should be afforded a great deal of attention. While council may have the luxury, at present, to take it "under advisement", that luxury may be short lived. 

With all due respect to Clrs Farr and Jackson, and any like-minded councilors on this issue, we believe that Hamilton must take a more sophisticated approach, and recognize the impact that a human rights lens can have on this by-law. We don't believe the by-law is sustainable under that lens and encourage Mayor Bratina to assist council in navigating through this issue.

Teresa DiFalco
Publisher, The Hamiltonian 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Walmart Re Signed- or soon to be

The sign that you see to the left, is found at the new Stoney Creek Walmart Supercentre, located at 510 Centennial Pkwy N. It caught the eye of one of my staff members, Daniella, who noted that it  addressed only  the needs of mothers with young children, and not fathers or others with young children. 

We contacted Walmart to inquire. Their U.S. contingent, contacted their Canadian counterpart, who subsequently contacted us. Here is the response we received:

As per our telephone conversation, incorrect parking signs were posted in our parking lot. We are working with our landlord to replace these signs immediately. The correct signs say "Parking for Customer with Child."

I'd like to thank Walmart for being responsive to our concern. We'll post a picture of the new signs once they are up. Good work Daniella!

Teresa DiFalco
Publisher, The Hamiltonain

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NHL in Hamilton - Quite Possible Says the Conference Board of Canada

Mario Lefebvre is is Director of Quebec Affairs and the Centre for Municipal Studies at the Conference Board of Canada. The Conference Board of Canada completed a study that concluded, amongst other things, that a NHL team could be viable in Hamilton. Enjoy our chat with Mario:

1. The Conference Board of Canada studied the notion of a NHL team’s viability in Hamilton Ontario. What prompted the review? What is part of a normal work plan to complete such a review, or is there something in particular that prompted it?

In the Summer of 2010, I was invited to participate in a Documentary series entitled “Why Not Canada” that aired on TSN. The premise of the series was to examine whether one or several more Canadian cities could be home to a NHL franchise. I was invited to provide the economic background of Canada’s cities since this is my main responsibility as Director of the Centre for Municipal Studies at The Conference Board of Canada. In preparing for my meeting with Dave Naylor of TSN, I realized that there was very few studies that were analyzing the professional sport scene in Canada and felt like the Conference Board of Canada, given its in-depth knowledge of the Canadian economic and demographic picture, could contribute in a different way. Fortunately, Senior Officials from The Conference Board of Canada believed in the idea, allowing for the publication of 12 Briefing on the topic to date. More importantly, I found myself the best partner in this initiative in the person of Glen Hodgson, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the Conference Board. Glen took these Briefings to the next level analytically on top of bringing its in-depth knowledge of the professional sport world to the table. Lastly, as for every piece of research conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, each Briefing has been reviewed by experts from both the Conference Board and from outside the Conference Board of Canada.

2. The study concludes that it is feasible for Hamilton to have a NHL team, and that there is a business case to support it. What were the considerations made to reach such a conclusion?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Link of the Moment

Click here to go there. 

The White Star Group- On Setting Sail

In light of the recent activity around Setting Sail, we thought we would check in with the White Star Group and get their impressions. 

1. In the wake of the failed attempt at having a Pan Am stadium on the West Harbour, significant expropriation that had occurred in the area in anticipation of a stadium, and now, the prospect of a settlement with CN Rail over their proximity objections, what opportunities does the White Star Group see, and how do you plan to approach such opportunities?

At this time we are lacking sufficient environmental data for the City owned lands in order to respond to the residential density issues, since it will be the density that will ultimately pay for the remediation and make the potential developments economically viable to any potential developer/builder.

On the commercial development portion of the lands, we would need to see the City’s proposed plans and Urban Development Study in order to make a reasonable assessment on whether it is viable to be involved in the development of the suggested plans.

2. The community has been seized of the issues surrounding the West Harbour, and extensive community consultations have occurred. What continued role would you foresee for community engagement, and how might that take shape?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Ah huh? Moment

You may recall that The Hamiltonian recently ran a story  (click here) about the owner of Allusions Hair Studio and Spa for Men, and her efforts to seek approval to have a mini fridge in her establishment, where she can provide an alcoholic drink to her customers, as part of their spa experience. 

Her request met with terse resistance from Ward 10 Clr. Maria Pearson who suggested that there would be security issues and noise issues if the owner was allowed to have the mini fridge in the salon. The owner of the Spa, a Ms. Lily Fuduric, was miffed at why her request has been met with such resistance, which ultimately resulted in its denial.

A Licence Appeal Tribunal pre-hearing with city officials Monday, was characterized by the owner of the spa, (Lily Fuduric), as being constructive. There is still no resolution of the matter but Fuduric's comment seems hopeful.

Councillor Maria Pearson, who asked council to object to the application last fall, also attended the closed-door hearing and will report to council on the results.

Councillor Pearson has not responded to an email we sent to her on January 30, 2012, asking her as to whether she was willing to reconsider her position on this matter.

Link of the Moment

Grower makes presentation to council regarding concerns over the handling of the farmers' market. Click here to see the video.  With thanks to MyStoneyCreek for emailing us this link. 

The Activist - Franke James

Activists and the art of activism, is an important aspect of our form of democracy. Activists and their approaches can vary widely, and can have varying outcomes. Hamilton has, and has had,  its fair share of activists and some may argue, can use more of them.

Franke James, an environmental artist and activist, brings her own brand of activism to her convictions.   She's fought Toronto City Hall and won, for permission to un-pave her driveway and sow grass and plants instead. As if that weren't enough, Ms. James is at the heart of a controversy around her views around Alberta's tar sands.   In the 2006 and 2008 elections, she and her husband created a satirical “whack the PM”game online to prompt voters to “smack some sense” into federal party leaders on the environment.

Franke will be speaking in Hamilton on February 29th on the tar sands and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. We thought it would be interesting to have Ms. James as a guest to talk about her efforts, and share some lessons learned along the way. Enjoy our chat with Franke.

1. You have been the subject of controversy, in light of your message regarding the Alberta Tar Sands and your environmental advocacy. Can you tell us what it is about your message that has created such controversy and how you respond to those who are resisting your message?

This “controversy” started off very innocently. I was just doing what every Canadian believes they have a right to do – I was speaking up during a Federal Election campaign! In October 2008, I wrote a visual essay

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meet the Competition

What do the following entities have in common?

  • AEG/Katz Group, 
  • Global Spectrum/Live Nation, 
  • Sonic Unyon 
  • SMG/Form Equity
  • Carmen’s banquet centre 
  • Loren Leiberman 
  • Vrancor
Each of these entities have submitted a bid to run one or any combination  of Hamilton Place, the Convention Centre, and Copps Coliseum.

During the process, bidders are not permitted to speak to the media, city staff , council and HECFI employees. The bidding process allowed for interested parties to bid on owning or managing the facilities.

Information will be provided to council at Wednesday's General Issues Committee meeting, but a decision will not be made on HECFI's fate until March 21st.

Did We Dodge the Velodrome Bullet?

Did Hamilton dodge a bullet by not securing the velodrome project? According to Bruce Sharp, a professional engineer, energy consultant and  long time Milton resident, we may have. Here is an article Bruce wrote that got published in The Spec. Bruce sent us a copy of this article for The Hamiltonian readership's consideration. 


On Jan. 30 you dodged a bullet when Milton politicians provided their town’s support for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games velodrome. This decision came despite negative taxpayer sentiment and the likelihood of a high cost to taxpayers. The warning signs ignored are a cautionary tale for all athletic games hosts — prospective or actual.

Total Milton taxpayer dollars — to be paid, at risk or of otherwise questionable value — total $18.7 million. Adjusting for differing populations, this would be the equivalent of the City of Hamilton incurring an additional taxpayer cost of about $100 million.

On the surface, the velodrome project is not supposed to cost Milton taxpayers anything — upfront or on an

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Board Chair - Tim Simmons on Trade offs

Given the intensity of the discussion around the Board of Education's plans for a new location, and the sense of malleability that appears to be within reason, we asked Board Chair Tim Simmons, the following:

Q. You stated that the board would be open for the city to bring an improved option to the table. What would such an option need to look like. What are the absolute , non-negotiable “must haves”? Notwithstanding, will the board recognize the need for trade-offs? 

Here is Tim's reply:

Thank you for your question.

As Chair of the Board of Trustees I can only speak for the Board. Since, under our present context I have not engaged the Board in such a discussion on a hypothetical proposal, I don't have answers to your questions. However, I can say that through our entire five year process for consolidating our administration facilities we have had to make many trade-offs when balancing our fiscal realities against our ideals. It is this kind of balancing act that lies at the root of our democratic politics. I have assured the trustees that if/when I do receive an offer from city hall, I will bring it to the Board for discussion.

Thanks Tim for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Fiery Exchange

Councillors Merulla and Clark got into it over the configuration of fire department. Clrs. Clark and Ferguson raised concerns over the fire department being potentially top heavy in management, citing the fact that they have a Fire Chief, Deputy Chief, four platoon chiefs, three assistant deputy managers and twenty-five fire prevention officers.

But Clr. Merulla was quick to defend the fire department and its budget request of 3.5 per cent, stating that he trusted the information being presented to council, and that public safety needs to remain at the forefront of the conversations.

Clr. Clark however countered that he was simply asking for a report to council that would outline the fire department's staffing levels and was entitled to make such a request. In the end, the motion for the report passed. 
(With thanks to Emma Reilly at The Spec)

Herman Turkstra- On the Board of Ed Building

Board's potential sites- see it here

Update: Matt Jelly's reply to Herman, posted below. 

With reference to a video recently posted by Matt Jelly on Matt's  views re: the Board of Ed building and its fate,  we obtained a copy of an email (furnished kindly by Herman Turkstra - lawyer and activist), on Herman's  views concerning the Board of Ed building. Here is the content of Herman's email. We are sure you will find it interesting.

There are least two sides to this issue and I invite you to pass this email on to the people who received the first one from you. I write as someone who spent years fighting to preserve Durand, plus parts of York Street and the Palace Theatre, the Sunken Gardens, and the original Farmer`s Market as well as the civic square of open space which was originally the goal of much of the downtown urban renewal and which now is covered, in part, by the parking lot shown on Matt Jelly`s movie as well as the Art Gallery.

The hardest thing is to recognize that battle, north of Hunter Street, was lost.

Hamilton is a different City today than it was when the Board of Education was built, as a result of the steps taken in the fifties and sixties. Main Street is an expressway. The buildings that fit in the core are now built like Hamilton Place and regrettably, like the Thompson Building and the IBM building at Main and McNab. They do not warm the soul. But they are staying right where they are today.

There are two sets of architectural views on the Board of Education building. Matt Jelly and friends believe it is special. Mine is that is mostly a style fake, suitable for location on some 25 acre parcel. There`s nothing I can see in the design that reflects Canadian styles. A bit of Greek, a bit of Romanesque, a sort of rotunda effect on Bay Street. Even the statute may be a fake. If my memory serves me correctly, the fund raising drive among dutch canadians faltered and what was donated was the model for the sculpture, not the sculpture itself. I understand the real thing was never cast. In my respectful opinion, the building itself simply does not have any significant value compared to the prospect of getting Mac downtown, where it belongs, and keeping the Board downtown, where it belongs. The preservation of the building will do neither, unless someone comes up with a horrible mix of modern curtain wall added to the existing Board headquarters.

That said, I know there are people who look at the building and see the curves, and non-curtainwall lines, the whiteness, and like to look at it, seeing it as a respite from the 20th century urban style that dominates everything built downtown in the last 50 years. I respect that view, and that view is held by some good friends. The discussions among us is heated.

But my point is that the issue of preserving or not preserving that building is not a single facet issue. And we have to be very careful in these days of moderated budgets, to spend our resources wisely. In other words, pick our battles.

Hamilton has chosen, and its people wanted it to be so, to have a highly urban centre core divided by the the King/Main and Wilson/Canon expressways. Gardens, grass, open space, lawns, flower beds, gracious buildings, are all inconsistent with that reality. The front lawns of the Carnegie Library serve no purpose. The front yard of City Hall is useless. The attempt to put people at ease on the second level at Hamilton Place and the Art Gallery is largely a failure. We have, for better or worse, decided as a city to have a modern highly urban core. If that assessment is correct, then our real focus should be on the uses we bring to the core that will make it lively and successful. The existing Board of Education Building by itself does nothing to accomplish that. We will mourn it, but its loss will be minimized if the issue of design of what goes there in its place is handled sensitively and graciously (for a change).

Now, if we could turn back the clock and get Main Street back to two lanes and two directions - a feat no elected politician in this City can accomplish - there might be a reason to keep a sedate white building with curved windows that looks like it belongs on a huge estate, but in the reality of what the people of this City have decided on for the centre of the City, we are looking at the wrong issue when campaigning to keep that building. In my view, we should be highly focused on keeping the Board in the core, bringing Mac to the core, and ensuring that the new buildings are pleasing to the eye and help to create a human spirit for the downtown. That will take a huge amount of will and community pressure. The price that should be paid by the forces working to tear down the existing building and redevelop the site should be a firm commitment to creating a sense of beauty and human scale in the new buildings. It can be done if there is the will and the community energy demands it.


Matt Jelly's reply to Herman (Used with  Matt's permission)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thank-you to The Hamilton Spectator

I would like to thank our friends at The Hamilton Spectator for featuring material from The Hamiltonian, on their site. We believe these partnerships and sense of mutual respect are both necessary and of tremendous value to Hamiltonians. We also believe it is an expression of a contemporary approach in media.   Click here to read it.

Teresa DiFalco
Publisher, The Hamiltonian


The Hamiltonian would like to express its congratulations and appreciation to city staff, ATU (Bus driver's union), and our council for working out a deal that would see a strike averted. From what we gather, it took some give and take from all sides. Thank-you!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Drive-Thru s in Motion

Operators of fast food establishments are challenging the right of municipalities to restrict drive through restaurants. To that end, Clr., Brad Clark will be presenting a motion (see it here) tonight, which seeks to have us attach ourselves, as party, to an OMB hearing that will look at drive through policies for the town of Oakville. 

The owners of Tim Hortons and other fast food chains have appealed Hamilton’s new urban official plan because it includes some restrictions on drive-throughs. 

Do you support Clr. Clark's motion? Do you think muncipalities should have descretion to restrict drive throughs, or do support unrestricted deployment of drive throughs?


The Remedial Action Plan Stakeholder Forum is being reconvened and the first meeting is being held on Wednesday, February 15 from 5:30 PM - 9:00 PM at Canada Centre for Inland Waters, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington. The meetings are open to the public. Anyone interested in attending, please register with Kathy Trotter at the RAP Office at 905-336-6279. Photo ID will be required at security when arriving. Further information is available at www.hamiltonharbour.ca

Mayor Bratina- Monthly Town Hall on CHML

Click here to hear Mayor Bratina's appearance on the Bill Kelly Show. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Message from Matt

The following is a message received from Matt Jelly:

Hi there,

Last night, I released a new 5-minute video (click here) pertaining to the proposed demolition of the Board of Education building at 100 Main Street West.

Please give it a watch, and if you feel as I do that this building should be renovated and adapted into a new development, please take the time to email your School Board Trustee, and the Minister of Education, Laurel Broten (lbroten.mpp@liberal.ola.org)

Also, please check out this photo album of the Interiors of 100 Main Street West- it truly is a remarkable building, inside and out. http://on.fb.me/A9bSxK

Please feel free to share the video with your friends and family, and join our campaign on facebook: facebook.com/100MainSt

Thank you,
Matt Jelly

Sails Settling?

Update:  Click here

The City, through its secondary plan, known as Setting Sail, may be in a position to settle a long outstanding dispute with CN Rail, which saw the Setting Sail plan being appealed by CN to the OMB. At issue was CN's argument that the plan called for residential living that was in too close proximity to the waterfront rail yard.

A settlement proposal is in the works for council's consideration. The proposal has been characterized as a "new position" the city will take. If all parties are not able to agree on a settlement, the matter will proceed on February 21 and 22nd to a hearing. Council will be considering the proposal on Wednesday, but those considerations will not be aired to the public. 

Some are expressing frustration over the process, particularly in light of the fact that years of community consultation had gone into the secondary planning process. A new settlement position may not meet with the community's support; especially if the matter is decided in a way that does not allow sufficient time for further community input. Clr. Farr however, while not being able to speak to the details of the settlement proposal, vowed that the community will eventually get a say. 

Others do not seem as confident. Shawn Selway, a member of the North End Neighbours group, involved in the OMB appeal was reported in The Spec as expressing concern. While not being able to talk details, Selway said "All I can say is that we aren't particularly happy about the settlement"

This neighbourhood has already been traumatized by the expropriation of over 20 homes and businesses to make way for a Pan Am stadium that never came to be in the neighbourhood.  Your thoughts?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Audit the Audit - Opinion

In today's Spectator, Howard Elliot writes about whether the city should strengthen the internal auditing department at city hall. The options seem to be, do nothing and leave it as is,  strengthen the department or procure such services externally. The objective is to allow for value for money type audits. 

Some Councillors such as Clr. Ferguson, are not warm to the idea- arguing that internal checks and balances are working fairly well. He also seems concerned at the cost of strengthening the department, which can cost upwards of $500,000.00.

Clrs. Jackson and Collins appear to see the value of the idea, arguing that sometimes you have to make an investment, to save money.

It was also suggested in the article, that an audit function with greater capacity, can bring the necessary objectivity required  to ensure that citizens are receiving value for their money. In the end, Elliott suggests that exploring the strengthening of audit capacity is worth it, but is hopeful that such a move can be accomplished at a reasonable price and not necessarily at a cost of $500,000.00

We agree with Howard, with a few additions:

1. Value for money audits should be prioritized to projects with the greatest risk to taxpayers (cost wise and otherwise).
2. The audit capacity should be positioned and received as being of assistance to staff, and not as an adversarial force to be reckoned with.
3. Number 2 above should not be watered down to the point where the audit capacity becomes ineffective and loses its value. The team would quickly lose its objectivity if it became too cozy.
4. Lessons learned should be propagated to to other projects.
5. A return on investment for increasing audit capacity should be carefully tracked and presented to council as  as a pilot project initially. 
6. A stop/go decision point will allow council to determine whether the audit strengthening has earned its value ( essentially,  a value for money audit of the value for money audit dept).
7. A public report should be available to taxpayers, reporting on achievements of the audit department, and rationale for a continuation or scaling back of the effort.
8. There should be clear evidence that lessons learned out of audits are being applied to other projects, and that desireable outcomes are a result.
9. The City Manager should approve the scope of the audit department's workplan. 
10. The city should be able to clearly demonstrate the value achieved for this investment. 
The Hamiltonian

Your thoughts? 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tweet Tweet

What do you get when you have a council who is not adverse to going in-camera more often than many would like to see, a city solicitor who's judgment as to the appropriateness of going in camera is being questioned, and an Ombudsman who's prepared to take council to task for in-cam meetings, while using Twitter as a way to draw attention to the issue?  What you get is chaos.

In what presents as a circus of sorts, interests are squaring off against one another.

For one, council has been criticized in the past for going in-camera seemingly needlessly, and, in one instance, for a sub set of councilors having a meeting, (possibly contrary to council rules), with NHL officials in 2010.

Add to the mix that Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin has been critical of council and has been butting heads with city solicitor Peter Barkwell, over Barkwell's advice to council about in-cam meetings. 

In the latest "head butting" of sorts, Mr. Marin asked for some preliminary feedback from council on a draft report he is working on, relative to the NHL meeting referenced above. Mr. Marin apparently sent an email,  asking council for feedback, on the condition that the draft report be not be made public in its draft, unfinished form. (sounds like a reasonable request). 

Peter Barkwell, felt that he ought to provide council with legal advice on the matter, suggesting that perhaps the Ombudsman himself may appreciate the need to not be public about the matter . But Marin, decided he would share the details of his email to council, on Twitter (presumably, to his Twitter followers). 

So, it appears as though a number of questions are swirling about including:

When is it appropriate to go in-camera? (you'd expect that guidelines would be clear enough)
How to avoid a knee-jerk reaction which would see Mr. Barkwell's advice unduly devalued. 
How to react to an Ombudsmen who has Twitter in his toolkit.
Will the lesson about in-cam meetings cause an extreme swing the other way and if so, is that appropriate?

Confused? Don't feel badly- it is confusing. What do you make of all this? 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Petition of the Moment

Re: Aerotropolis   Click here to go there

Note: The Hamiltonian takes no position on petitions posted here. They are provided for your consideration. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Celebrating Hamilton Businesses

In this edition of Celebrating Hamilton Businesses, we feature Mizener's Antiques and Flea Market, run by someone who is well known to The Hamiltonian- Danya Scime. 


Although we have always been considered the rural area of Hamilton, and better known as the Town of Flamborough (aka RR#2 Dundas) ~ true Hamiltonians have been visiting our Market since 1961.

Proudly, we have claimed to be one of ‘Ontario’s oldest, largest, authentic Antique and Flea Markets in