Saturday, March 31, 2012

Clr. Collins on the Centennial Parkway issue

In light of the concerns expressed over the effect of narrowing traffic lanes on Centennial Parkway, north of Barton, to allow for pedestrain traffic to the new Walmart SuperCentre, we reached out to Clr. Collins. Here is our Q/A with the Clr. :

Q. Many have expressed angst over the traffic congestion being caused by the narrowing of Centennial Parkway north of Barton, to make way for pedestrian access en route to the Walmart SuperCentre. Aside from the congestion, gridlock and air pollution by virtue of vehicles idling, has been the subject of concern from Hamiltonians. Can your share your thoughts on this problem and any plans to have it rectified? Are there any assurances you can provide to Hamiltonians?

A. An inspection of the bridge undertaken several years ago revealed the bridge is past its useful lifespan. The

Friday, March 30, 2012

Relax, Chill and Have a Drink

That will very soon be the case, as thanks to the tenacity of small business owner Lilly Fuduric , and with the involvement of the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario , a motion was tabled to rescind a previous council decision which stood in the way of Ms. Fuderic obtaining a liquor licence for her Men's Hairstyling and Spa business. Our previous coverage and interview with Ms. Fuduric can be found here.

In the end, it seems like the right decision emerged and Ms. Fuduric will now be able to have a small bar fridge in her spa, from which she can provide her customers the option of an alcoholic drink as part of the spa experience. Cheers!

City Lawyer Fired

The City has fired long time city lawyer, Peter Barkwell. City Manager Chris Murray announced the move via an email to councilors. (Spec story here). The decision takes effect immediately. Barkwell recently came under fire with his advice to council about closed door meetings, drawing the attention of Ontario Ombudsman, Andre Marin. Barkwell was also in the cross hairs over a recent issue that saw the city lose millions of dollars over investments gone bad and a failure to properly file a claim in court.

Peter has been with the city since 1988. He became the city solicitor in 2004 after acting in that role a year prior. The Hamiltonian wishes Peter well in his future pursuits. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Zip It or Else....

The City's Transparency and Accountability sub-committee voted to throw out any citizen complaints to the Integrity Commissioner about a councillor's behavior, if the complainant talks to the media before the investigation is completed. Clr. Ferguson spearheaded the idea, and found support from Clr. Whitehead. 

The City's lawyer, Peter Barkwell reminded the committee that the initial by-law had undergone significant consideration. He also warned that such a provision would be difficult to enforce, in that it would be difficult to get sufficient information to prove that the complainant was the one who actually spoke to the media. Barkwell is under the impression that " You’ll get nothing from the media as to where they got the story".

Joanna Chapman, who is on the committee, said that she would feel more comfortable if the committee received a report on the feasibility of such a change in the by-law. However, the committee went ahead and approved the change in spite of Ms. Chapman's suggestion. 

The subcommittee also approved a change proposed by Clr. Whitehead that will require the integrity commissioner to make a decision within 60 days of receiving a complaint – or make a specific request to council for additional time.

Do you agree with the decision as a way of safeguarding reputations prior to a decision being rendered? Or do you believe that speaking to the media in advance of the investigation concluding, does not make the facts less or more true and any fall out should be left to other mechanisms for redress? 

With thanks to the good people at CATCH. Full CATCH write up here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Episode 4b of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns"

In this episode of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns", loosely entitled "Men in Black", we find Clrs Merulla and Collins showing up in dark attire, complete with dark shirts, to serve up the censure motion against Mayor Bratina.  The press is perched, but the expected fireworks are a dud, reminiscent of the censure idea itself. 

In a voice at times barely audible and sounding a tad nervous (not typical of the councillor), Clr. Merulla reads it aloud, at times, seemingly almost to himself.  The motion unceremonially gets unanimous support, with the sole objection being registered by Mayor Bratina. While all are eager to move on without any debate or commentary whatsoever, the "Judas syndrome" is clear upon the body language of some councillors. 

Whatever outcome the motion was meant to accomplish, will perhaps be seen as we move forward. It's clear the "Teflon Mayor" took a "hit" tonight, but with blanks and rubber bullets, he may survive it.

Perhaps now we can switch to another channel. Here are some suggestions :  Channel 1 or Channel 2. Or maybe we can take a moment to thank council , our Mayor , staff and Hamiltonians for achieving a very low tax increase; stellar in fact compared to other municipalities. That would be something.....

Comments that include name calling, or are otherwise disrespectful/unprofessional, will not be published. 

Links of the Moment

How They Voted in February (complied by the good people at CATCH). Click here. 

Clr. Merulla on Laircast. Click here

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There's a Gunfight in Town......

...and it's happening at the upcoming city council meeting when the Mayor squares off with members of council, led by a motion authored by Clr. Merulla seeking to censure the Mayor. 

We asked Clr. Merulla about his level of confidence. Our Q/A with the Clr. is below:

Q. Clr. Merulla:  How confident are you that your motion to censure the Mayor will pass?

A. I'm confident that City Council will make the right decision thereby allowing us to bring closure to this issue that was forced upon us and move forward to governing on issues that matter.

Thank You,
Councillor Sam Merulla

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Let the Sun Shine In

Update:  City Manager Chris Murray, as well as a representative from his office, has responded to our request and advised that they are working with the HR department to determine how much time will be needed to pull together the information we requested. 

Our specific request is contained in this email that we sent to Chris:

Mr. Murray:

Upon review of the 2011 Sunshine list, we note that 749 City of Hamilton employees are found on the list.

Can you advise as to how many of the 749 employees listed, had a signed employment performance contract or agreement in place for the 2011 year.

Of those, can you advise how many had a formal finalized performance review/evaluation in place for the 2011 year end.

Of those, can you advise how many were deemed to have met the expectations of their positions as expressed in their performance agreements/contracts.

Please note: We are not asking for personal information but rather, aggregate statistics. We recognize that some people listed in the 2011 Sunshine list under the City of Hamilton, may not be under the direct control/administration of the city bureaucracy (e/g: Police Officers) . That being the case, please receive our questions , as they pertain to staff that are within the direct purview of the city’s administration.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mayor Bob Bratina: Media Attack or Investigation

Paul Berton
Today, our friend Paul Berton , Editor in Chief  of The Hamilton Spectator, published a piece entitled "Mayor Bob Bratina: Media attack or investigation? Readers and politicians should expect journalists to ask difficult questions" .  It is worth a read. See it here.

In his piece, Paul made reference to The Hamiltonian publishing a series of emails that were provided to us by Mayor Bob Bratina,  with intent to publish these on The Hamiltonian. We did so in the spirit of allowing both sides equal access to getting information out.

Whether the Mayor is being attacked by The Spectator or not, is for Hamiltonians to decide. To the best of our ability, we will continue to provide for all sides of this discussion.

The Hamiltonian

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Devil's Advocate

In "The Devil's Advocate", The Hamiltonian takes the role of the devil's advocate and challenges a stated position. The objective is to tease out the thinking behind the position and fester out its defensability.

Clr. Merulla is going forward with a motion to have council censure Mayor Bratina for his recent comments with respect to what has become known as "Peggygate". His motion is posted below and was kindly provided by the councillor.

Here's the Devil's Advocate Q/A:

Clr. Merulla, you are going forward with a motion to seek a censure of Mayor Bratina , in light of his recent comments with respect to what has become known as "PeggyGate", which refers to the manner in which a significant pay raise was provided to his Chief of Staff.  Some may say that this matter is under investigation by Earl Basse, the Integrity Commissioner and the scope of his investigation will render an objective decision. Thus, some may argue that the Mayor's further statements should be considered by Mr. Basse, and not be the subject of a council driven censure, which will serve to further distract from other issues facing our city.

Others may argue that whether the Mayor directed that the raise be given, after requesting an assessment from HR as to prior salaries paid to Chief of Staffs, or whether the HR staff did such a review unsolicited by the Mayor (which is commonly accepted as not the case), that, in the end, the Mayor issued the raise within the purview of his position and budget, and as informed by a HR assessment. In that sense, it can be argued that the reaction is unduly amplified and that the end result was defensible (notwithstanding the optics of such a hefty raise all in one swoop).

How do you respond to these arguments and why is your motion defensible?

The motion speaks for itself and I proudly state that I am confident that I speak on behalf of the vast majority of the residents of the City Of Hamilton accordingly. 

 Clr. Merulla's Motion:

Whereas, notwithstanding the Mayor's public apology to H.R. staff in  December 2011, he has recently stated that the matter of monetary  compensation to a member of his staff, was left to the outcome of a review by H.R.; and

Whereas, the Mayor attempted to direct that an investigation regarding the release of information to the media pertaining to a staff member in his office included on the "Sunshine List" be conducted, including a demand that staff provide signed affidavits, without any consultation with, or authorization by Council; and

Whereas, this Council believes these actions fall below the standards of conduct which are expected of a Member of Council.

Therefore Be It Resolved:

Council formally expresses its censure of Mayor Bratina for his conduct in this matter.

McMaster Downtown Health Campus Moves Ahead

McMaster Downtown Health Campus Moves Ahead

Hamilton, March 23, 2012 - McMaster University’s downtown Hamilton health campus has reached a significant milestone. The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and the University have solved the challenge of finding swing space for the Board’s headquarters so the campus project is able to proceed at the Board’s current location at Main and Bay Streets. 

HWDSB will temporarily relocate its offices to three nearby locations in the downtown core. 

“I am pleased that this solution will allow the downtown campus to move forward,” said city manager Chris Murray. “It also provides time for the School Board and the City to complete the work of the task force on HWDSB’s future administrative headquarters. The City’s next step will be to focus our efforts on finalizing plans with respect to the future of Public Health accommodations,” added Murray. 

When the idea of finding swing space that could be shared between the School Board and the City’s

Mayor Bratina on the 10 Million Dollar Issue

Further to the response we received from City Manager Chris Murray, to a question we posed regarding the 10 million dollar issue (see both the issue and Chris's answer here), we asked Mayor Bratina if he wished to add anything to Chris's reply. The following is our Q/A with Mayor Bratina:

Mr. Mayor:

Q. Mr. Murray was kind enough to respond to the question we left with both of you last week. The write up is found here (click here).   We are wondering if there is anything you would like to add to this response, from your perspective?

The direct response to this matter has to be limited as outlined by the City Manager. However the underlying concern about careful use of public money was an essential part of my election campaign messaging which I have carried through as Mayor. My office has saved $500,000.00 or about half of the Council-approved budget for the Mayor, including all staff salaries and expenses. With regard to the investment issue this Council takes its fiduciary responsibilities with the utmost importance and will insist on the best resolution possible for taxpayers.
Bob Bratina, Mayor

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Statecraft & Accountability: An On The Ground Example

This week, our Publisher released an article on Statecraft and Accountability (see it here) . In the article, reference was made to the city missing a time-frame to file a claim in court, resulting in a missed opportunity to reclaim a 10 million dollar loss, due to investments gone bad. 

The reference was held out as a real world example of how accountability plays out. The Hamiltonian asked a tough question of The Mayor and of City Manager Chris Murray. 

Here is the Q/A. The response is provided by City Manager Chris Murray:

Q. While Mr. Rossini’s explanation was very helpful  (see it here)  , in assisting Hamiltonians to understand the financial reasons why the City lost a 10 million dollar investment, and allowing for the fact that it appears as though some of these costs can still be recovered, as explained in Mr. Rossini’s answer, nonetheless a mistake was made in the proper filing of a legal claim which would have ensured that our claim for damages was directly and duly heard, thus providing for the possibility of a judgment in our favour. Clearly an error or a miscalculation was made by our legal department, which culminated in the court deeming our claim to be out of time, thus denying it and, as a result, quashing the possibility of recovery through that court. As we are dealing with millions of taxpayer dollars, Hamiltonians would like to know what consequences will occur, if any, and how those who caused this error will be held accountable. Also, what measures will be put in place to guard against a similar or repeated occurrence? Please note: We are asking for a clear and meaningful response, as we believe that Hamiltonians are entitled to assurances and outcomes. 

A.  Thanks for the follow-up. The questions you asked of me are addressed in the City's statement. But let me reinforce that at this time, the City is pursuing all possible avenues to achieve full recovery of its ABCP investments. Furthermore, I will be reviewing the details of this matter to ensure appropriate accountability. 

As the statement indicates, we are currently before the courts as one method of recourse, in addition to looking at all other options to recover the City's investment.

Having read the question and the response, are you satisfied with the response? Do you believe appropriate levels of accountability will be and are being excersized? 

Isn't it Ironic?

Based on the hard work of city staff, city council and our Mayor, Finance Chief Roberto Rossini, City Manager Chris Murray and, we are sure, countless others, Hamilton is on track to have the lowest 2012  tax increase, compared to other Ontario municipalities who have settled their budget.  Hamilton's increase is expected to be 1.2% or $42.00 per year for the average homewoner. While it is not the zero percent increase that we were targeting, it is a very respectable effort and obviously, stellar in comparison to other municipalities.

It was a little difficult to escape the irony when Roberto Rossini commented that the zero tax increase, would have required an additional 10 million dollars in savings- which he noted, was not feasible.  10 Million needed? To get a sense of the irony, click here. You may also wish to review the city's statement released today by clicking here .

City Releases Statement on Asset Backed Commercial Papers

Note: The Hamiltonian has contacted Mr. Juroviesky for a copy of his Statement of Defense (when it becomes available), or for any other comments he wishes to make at this juncture. If we hear back from Mr. Juroviesky, we will post his response.

City Statement: Asset Backed Commercial Papers (ABCP's) 

At this time, the City is pursuing all possible avenues to achieve full recovery of its ABCP investments. Furthermore, the City Manager will be reviewing the details of this matter to ensure appropriate accountability.

Asset Backed Commercial Papers (ABCP's) are a form of investment. On July 24, 2007, the City bought an ABCP investment from Deutsche Bank with a face value of $10 Million, payable on September 26,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Episode 4 of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns"

In this episode, entitled "A Dog With a Bone" or alternatively "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" , Mayor Bratina finds himself dogged by the local paper, attempting to ignite "Peggygate 2". But like with many sequels, part two is a flop. The quantum of the raise, the way in which it came to be and the person who received it, were all carefully dissected in Part 1, including a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner.

The sequel focused on the sunshine list, a weak theme that is the result of good old fashioned math, rather than a secret evil plan to slide the number past the public, who soon would see it in the public domain. The sequel falls flat and lands with a dull thud.

Note: Here is the latest write up by The Spec. Something tells us, Episode 5 may not be far off. 

Hamilton Ranks 77 in MoneySense's Canada 2012 Best Places to Live

MoneySense has once again published their list of the 2012 Best Places to Live in Canada. Hamilton placed 77 based on a number of detailed variables and ranking. For the detailed listing, click here. For a description of the methodology used, click here. For our previous ranking, click here

While there are many variables to examine, Hamilton was rated favourably in terms of availability of health care facilities, while scoring poorly on population growth. While Hamilton placed 77, it was out of 190 places and thus we made it to the upper half of the spectrum.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Statecraft - On Accountability

Definition of ACCOUNTABILITY: the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions 

In contemporary governance models, accountability serves as a fundamental pillar. With it, those governed can be assured that diligence is taken in the management of public affairs, and that, when that management falters, there are appropriate measures to prevent another occurrence, to learn from the error(s) and to address the fall out of the consequences of errors. 

While it is often the case that some "want blood" and to "see heads roll" when errors are made, such reactions can undermine the spirit and intent of holding people accountable, and can trigger the "spinning" of storylines to deflect responsibility or otherwise shift blame. We are not suggesting this happens invariably, but only that it happens.  At the same time, it is reasonable to expect consequences for errors made in the stewardship or management of public affairs. When errors are grave and costly, it is appropriate to expect proportional consequences. 

The Hamiltonian makes no judgment or conclusion as to what transpired that caused citizens of Hamilton to forgo the potential recovery of 10 million dollars, by virtue of not filing a proper claim in court. The Mayor's response, which was to defer comment until he and council are apprised of the details, is a prudent one.

The Hamiltonian will be interested in how this particular matter plays out in the context of accountability. Through an email exchange with City Manager Chris Murray, we were assured that by week's end, we will either hear through his office or from The Mayor, the answer to the following question we left with them:

Q. While Mr. Rossini’s explanation was very helpful  (see it here)  , in assisting Hamiltonians to understand the financial reasons why the City lost a 10 million dollar investment, and allowing for the fact that it appears as though some of these costs can still be recovered, as explained in Mr. Rossini’s answer, nonetheless a mistake was made in the proper filing of a legal claim which would have ensured that our claim for damages was directly and duly heard, thus providing for the possibility of a judgment in our favour. Clearly an error or a miscalculation was made by our legal department, which culminated in the court deeming our claim to be out of time, thus denying it and, as a result, quashing the possibility of recovery through that court. As we are dealing with millions of taxpayer dollars, Hamiltonians would like to know what consequences will occur, if any, and how those who caused this error will be held accountable. Also, what measures will be put in place to guard against a similar or repeated occurrence? Please note: We are asking for a clear and meaningful response, as we believe that Hamiltonians are entitled to assurances and outcomes. 

The Hamiltonian is looking forward to a reply to our question, will post it verbatim when we receive it, and, in the interim, hopes noone drinks the hemlock ;-)

Teresa DiFalco
Publisher, The Hamiltonian

Media Release

On Wednesday, March 21, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) will host 50 candidates at a special community ceremony at Mohawk College in Hamilton.

Prior to the ceremony, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship will hold another in its series of community roundtable discussions. These unique ICC-designed roundtable discussions aim to strengthen the connection between new Canadians and their communities.


Citizenship Judge Ted Salci


Fred Eisenberger, Former Mayor of Hamilton

Monday, March 19, 2012

How Low Can You Go?

Pretty low..  in fact, to zero when it comes to Clr. Partridge charging expenses against her budget. In light of zero costs being charged, we asked Judi the following question:

Q. You registered zero costs for reimbursement of items related to carrying out your role as councillor. Some may be puzzled as to why this is and may incorrectly conclude it is either a result of not sufficiently engaging, or of absorbing the costs on your own. Can you explain, and comment as to why you choose this approach and if this is something you will continue to strive for (zero costs)?

The Clr.'s answer is as follows:

Thank you for the inquiry, I always appreciate the opportunity to respond to your questions. It is my personal choice not to claim any expenses and certainly not a reflection of other council members, nor should others ward expenses be measured against mine. My meetings within the Flamborough community are many and we try to structure them into my travels to city hall or back home. Flamborough no longer has a Town Hall (it was torn down) so most often I meet my constituents at local coffee shops, restaurants or their homes. Community meetings are paid for through the ward 15 budget. I have always felt that I am paid ample amount to cover the events attended. Again, it is my personal choice. Should there be any conferences or required travel for city business, I would claim those expenses. 

Best regards, 

Thanks Clr. Partridge for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian

Kudos to Councillors and Mayor

Under the Municipal Act, councillors and the mayor are required to make public, how much they spent on job related functions such as mileage, attending community events etc. The Spectator published the totals for each councillor and the mayor, in today's paper (see it here) . There was  a wide variance between expenditures.  Some of the variance may be explained by attending one time bigger functions (out of town events), or, in the mayor's case, by virtue of his expanded role as mayor. Generally, it seems our council and mayor have been reasonable, relative to the size of our city. Here is the list as found in The Spec:

Mayor Bob Bratina - $6,323.03
Scott Duvall - $5,527.88
Russ Powers - $4,318.01
Brenda Johnson - $4,202.03
Terry Whitehead - $3,733.37
Robert Pasuta - $3,703.37
Sam Merulla - $3,180.78
Brian McHattie - $2,651.72
Bernie Morelli – $2,180.79
Tom Jackson - $1,898.89
Lloyd Ferguson - $1,703.73
Maria Pearson - $1,655.67
Chad Collins - $1,367.52
Brad Clark - $900.40
Jason Farr - $512.80
Judi Partridge - $0

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Million(s) Dollar Question

Under the precept of accountability, we asked the following question of Mayor Bratina and City Manager Chris Murray. We asked these gentlemen for a joint response, or a response in a form they deemed appropriate. The Mayor has responded to our question. There will be more follow up on this matter, but, for the moment, we thought it was  a reasonable interim response

Q. While Mr. Rossini’s explanation was very helpful (see it here ) , in assisting Hamiltonians to understand the financial reasons why the City lost a 10 million dollar investment, and allowing for the fact that it appears as though some of these costs can still be recovered, as explained in Mr. Rossini’s answer, nonetheless a mistake was made in the proper filing of a legal claim which would have ensured that our claim for damages was directly and duly heard, thus providing for the possibility of a judgment in our favour. 

Clearly an error or a miscalculation was made by our legal department, which culminated in the court deeming our claim to be out of time, thus denying it and, as a result, quashing the possibility of recovery through that court. As we are dealing with millions of taxpayer dollars, Hamiltonians would like to know what consequences will occur, if any, and how those who caused this error will be held accountable. Also, what measures will be put in place to guard against a similar or repeated occurrence? Please note: We are asking for a clear and meaningful response, as we believe that Hamiltonians are entitled to assurances and outcomes.

Mayor Bratina responded as follows:

I will be happy to reply once I am fully apprised along with Council of all the details. We need to do a better job accounting for the expenditures of millions of dollars by the City and its boards, agencies and other related entities which have access to taxpayers' funds.
Bob Bratina

Further Information from Finance Chief Roberto Rossini

Note: The Hamiltonian has learned that the external law firm that Mr. Rossini refers to, is a Toronto firm. 

Mr. Rossini has provided the following additional information:

I understand this question was posted on the Hamiltonian.

You can publish the following response:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dollars and Sense with Finance Chief Roberto Rossini

In this edition of Dollars and Sense, we asked finance Chief Roberto Rossini the following:

Q. With respect to the 10 million dollars that was lost as a result of the city not meeting the court's requirements to properly file an appeal for an investment gone bad, do we have protocols in place that dictate how safe or low risk an investment has to be in order for the city to invest public funds? If so, how did this matter develop as it has? If not, are there plans to develop such protocols?

Here is Roberto's response:

Mayor Bratina Responds

Update- Click here

The following emails were received from our Mayor for publication:

On Thursday morning I was contacted by Andrew Dreschel who had information about my employee's salary that I did not have.  The question arises, how did he get information that apparently is only known to a few staff members.  There is a process that directs us to make public the so-called Sunshine List of those whose compensation exceeded $100,000 dollars in the calendar year.  However the information had not been given to me regarding my employee until we requested it because of the media inquiry.  We received an undated draft copy which theoretically is not public yet.

Below is my response to Mr. Dreschel, and his reply today.   The only inference one can take from the Spectator article is that I somehow concealed for devious purposes information that inevitably would become public.  Mr. Dreschel and his Editorial Board heard me state publicly at the Rotary Awards night

Maybe it's the Math Thing

In what appears to be on the verge of being positioned as "PeggyGate" Part 2, Ms. Chapman may be found to be on this year's "sunshine list", which identifies those in the public sector who make over $100,000.00. Questions are being raised as to how she might be found on that list for 2011, when her $30,0000 raise was not yet in play. Andrew Dreschel's write up is here.

Peggy was characterized as fumbling and being off guard with the questioning around this. But could it just be math? One possibility is that her entitlement to five days pay in lieu of overtime, may have put her over. Unused vacation days may be another factor.

The Hamiltonian is interested in the facts before this spins out of control. It may very well be a function of monies that Ms. Chapman is entitled to. 

Update: @EmmaatTheSpec: Chapman got $8000 in vacation pay, which along with her $30k raise (which began in Nov.) bumped her up to over $100k

Cable 14's Access the Mayor

Click here for the recent airing.

Dear Hamiltonian.........

Northbound view (click on pic to see it bigger)
The email below comes fromWinona resident Ken Chartrand, who is concerned about what is happening on Centennial Parkway, north of Barton street. 

How Much is this Costing the City this Time? 

After traveling south on Centennial Pkwy., to my amazement I noticed one lane of traffic has been reduced to accommodate the safe walking passage for potential buyers at the new Wal-Mart. I asked myself a few simple questions. Who is going to pay for the cost of having this detour erected? Who is going to pay for the rental of the jersey barriers? Why was this concern not discussed and planned for before this shopping outlet was put in place? 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

" Unconscionable"

In light of Hamilton taxpayers losing 10 million dollars as a result of a court deeming our legal appeal related to an investment gone bad, to be out of time, we asked Clr. Merulla the following:

Q. In light of 10 million dollars lost as a result of the city failing to meet the court’s requirements in the filing of an appeal for an investment gone bad, are you satisfied that the city’s legal department met their obligations in this matter, or will you be seeking changes to the way such matters are handled? Also, are you satisfied that the nature of the investment itself was an appropriate one, given the use of taxpayers funds?

The Clr. responded: 

The outcome and the performance of legal leading up to this outcome is unconscionable and a significant amount of effort from a systemic perspective is needed to prevent such an outcome in the future.

News Story of the Moment

SISO former Director Morteza Jafarour charged in 4 Million SISO fraud. See it here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not "Too Little" , but Too Late

Hamilton's bid to recover $10 million dollars for an investment gone bad, from a German Bank and Canada's largest bond rating service, has been shut down.

The city had two years to file a claim, but failed to do so within what the court deemed to be that time period,  prompting it to dismiss the effort. The city did its best to convince the court otherwise, arguing that it could not reasonably know that it had been injured or damaged until the investment matured on Sept 26, 2007. Thus it claimed that it was within the two year timeframe- having filed the suit on September 25, 2009.

The court rejected that argument. Additional details are found here. The consequence to the city is the lose of $10 million. Finance head Roberto Rossini expressed disappointment in the decision and indicated that the city would be consulting with its lawyers and brief council on what the next steps may be. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Q/A with Brian Hatch

The Hamiltonian contacted Brian Hatch and asked him some questions about his complaint to the Integrity Commissioner concerning the manner in which the Mayor handled the pay raise to his Chief of Staff. Some of our questions may have been a little "pushy" but Brian was kind enough to respond. Here is our Q/A with Brian Hatch.

1. Some may wonder if your complaint(s) against Mayor Bratina are inspired by a pervious conflict with the Mayor either is his existing position, or in his prior role as councillor, or based on some sort of political or personal agenda. Accepting that the nature of the complaint is being treated by the Integrity Commissioner as being non trivial and non vexatious, and allowing that the complaint should be heard, can you comment on whether there were other historical factors that may have encouraged your actions? In other words, is your complaint solely based on the incidents in scope of the complaint? Note: The question does not challenge your right to file a complaint, nor the merit of it, but attempts to clear the air in terms of any notion that there may have other interests at play, other than strictly the common good.  

This is definitely not the case. I have never had a previous conflict with the mayor. As with all politicians

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse on Hatch Complaint

In response to Brian Hatch's letter to Clr. Ferguson (see our coverage here), that laments the amount of time that has lapse since he filed his complaint against Mayor Bratina, the subject of which was the manner in which Mayor Bratina handled the raise he granted to his Chief of Staff,  we asked Earl Basse some questions. Here is our Q/A with the Integrity Commissioner:

Q. Can you review the email and material from Mr. Hatch which is posted here www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/03/brian-hatch-on-lapsed-time.html and confirm or clarify whether Mr. Hatch's assertions are correct. Including, the date you actually received a reply from Mayor Bratina?

A. Mr. Hatch’s information is essentially correct. His complaint was received just before Christmas 2011.

As you know I was down with the Flu for most of January and unable to perform my duties as the Integrity Commissioner. I contacted the Mayor in late January 2012 and he responded to my request in a timely manner on February 9, 2012. His response was lengthy as is the video stream from the Hamilton Spectator which forms an integral element of the investigation. I am currently reviewing and analyzing the accumulation of information I have compiled. I will be conducting interviews over the next 2 weeks and will then compile my report for Council. 

I take my responsibilities to the City of Hamilton very seriously. As a result, I take the utmost care in my investigations to ensure they are thorough and complete. This takes time.

Further clarification received from Mr. Basse:

I would just like to clarify that my response relating to the accuracy of his comment related to Mr. Hatch’s communication with me only. I do not agree with his comments on other issues that he surfaced.

Thanks Earl for engaging with Hamiltonians via The Hamiltonian.

A Lesson in Statecraft - Integrity

Last week, The Hamiltonian read a tweet by Clr. Jason Farr, that supported a notion that would have Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse come and speak to council about Integrity issues. Clr. Farr added in a subsequent tweet, that it may also be a good idea to have Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin, do the same.

The Hamiltonian half-jokingly tweeted that it would be a good idea to bring a motion to simply practice integrity. Clr. Farr responded "good one".

And on the heels of that, a good example of practicing integrity, on the ground, in the form of a principled position taken by Clrs. Clark and McHattie, follows. According to a C.A.T.C.H. release, Clark and McHattie refused invitations to private dinners with the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, which is a break from historical practice.

“I also want you all to understand that I have declined dinner invitations with the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association in my capacity as chair,” Clark announced “I don’t feel that that it was appropriate to be meeting with them.” 

He went on to say that “our staff have graciously agreed that they will follow the same lead and make sure that if there’s systemic items that they are wanting to deal with in terms of policies, they should be coming before us presenting it publicly”.

Clark and McHattie's position, serve as an example of good statecraft and integrity being practiced on the ground. Having private meetings can lead to either perceived or real conflict of interest situations. Based on contemporary definitions of "conflict of interest", engaging in an activity that may be perceived to be a conflict of interest, makes it a conflict of interest. 

The Hamiltonian salutes Clr. Clark and Clr. McHattie for practicing good state-craft. You can read more about this matter by clicking here and here

Teresa DiFalco, Publisher
The Hamiltonian

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Call to Lead - Opinion

It may be fair to think that McMaster is holding the city and the Board Of Ed's feet to the fire in imposing a tight deadline around the 3 way deal.

It may be fair to view the revelation that the city's contribution nets out to 20 million dollars less than originally understood, with suspicion.

It may be fair to question why swing space was not tendered.

It may be fair to question whether the city is prepared to do business with an entity that it is involved in a law suit with.

It may be fair to question the cost benefit or lack thereof, of tearing down the Board of Ed building in the core.

Crestwood vs. Jackson Square or other sites, may also be a good question.

Link of the Moment

Canadian Idol winner and Hamiltonian Brian Melo sings Eye of the Tiger for superstar Sylvester Stallone at Carmen's. Click here to see it. 

Thanks to Brian for sending it to us. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brian Hatch- On Lapsed Time

The following email was copied to The Hamiltonian, by Brian Hatch, who filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner against Mayor Bratina, pursuant to the incident around his Chief of Staff's raise. In the email. Mr. Hatch laments the amount of time the process is taking and make suggestions as to how to address this. 

To: Councillor Ferguson March 7, 2012
Cc: All Councillors

Dear Councillor Ferguson

I am sending this email to you, my councilor, because I am disillusioned, disappointed and frustrated with the existing Integrity Complaint Process.

In an email to Integrity Commissioner Mr. Earl Basse on February 17th I stated: “I understand that your investigation needs to be thorough and complete in order to be objective and fair but it also needs to be timely to be effective and meaningful.” I filed my complaint affidavit eighty-one days ago on Dec. 19th and since then I have sent Mr. Basse seven emails requesting information on the status of his investigation. (Attached are all of my emails and the three responses from Mr. Basse.)

To date the only progress that I am aware of is that in his email of Feb. 25th Mr. Basse reports he has finally received a response from the mayor. To my knowledge the Integrity Commissioner has not contacted anyone at The Spec, Cable 14, etc. to verify any of the facts in my affidavit. 

I have two requests:

First is that council officially request Mr. Basse report on: A) Why is this investigation taking so long? B) What is the current status of this investigation? and C) When will the final report be issued to council?

Second that the current by-law be amended by adding time lines to the investigation process. My suggestion is that the Integrity Commissioner be required to issue interim status reports every 30 days to council with a goal of issuing a final report in 90 days. If the I. C. needs more time then he should be required to ask council for an extension. The existing Integrity Complaint Process is flawed and needs to be amended to ensure it works in a timely fashion to be effective and meaningful. If not amended then it should be eliminated entirely.

I am looking forward to your response.

Thanks and Regards

Brian Hatch


Email exchanges are below:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Missing the Boat, Part 2

Lily Fuduric, owner of Allusions Hair Salon and Spa, has been fighting to have the right to serve an alcoholic drink(s) to her customers as part of their Spa experience. (see previous write up here) Ms. Fuduric's request was denied by council, in response to a motion by Ward 10 Councillor Maria Pearson. In that motion, Pearson argued that security issues and noise issues would ensue if Ms. Fuduric were permitted to install a mini fridge in her establishment . Ms. Fuduric is going through an appeal process. Invites to Clr. Maria Pearson to engage with Hamiltonians via The Hamiltonian on this matter, have not been responded to. The Hamiltonian also reached out to Ms. Fuduric, who agreed to an interview. Ms. Fuduric agreed on the condition that she is not able to answers questions, at this juncture, about the hearing(s) that are ensuing. The Hamiltonian has respected this request.

1. Your application to include a mini bar in your Hair Salon and Spa, which would permit you to serve an alcoholic drink(s) to customers as part of their experience, was opposed by Ward 10 Councillor Maria Pearson who subsequently secured the support of council to deny your request. The motion to do so cited security concerns and noise concerns that would materialize if your request was granted. Can you relate to these concerns? Are there conditions surrounding your business that would warrant these types of concerns? If not, why not?

To answer your question simply, we are not a bar.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Perspectives - One Liners

In this edition of Perspectives, we gave our Perspectives Virtual Panel a bit of a challenge on wordsmithing. In an adaptation on word association, we gave the panel a series of topics, and they were asked to respond with only a single sentence. Participants were permitted to skip a question by responding "pass". 

Enjoy our Perspectives Virtual Panel on One Liners..... 

1. In camera meetings by Hamilton City Council

Much ado about nothing, after all decisions have to be ratified in public, and debating in private can often lead to better decisions. Marvin Caplan

Generally inappropriate and often illegal. Herman Turkstra

Soon to be a Kodak moment, record everything all the time, just to be on the safe side. Mark-Alan Whittle

The city should not be hiding the people's business from the people. Rene Gauthier

Only when necessary but not necessarily always. Larry DiIanni 

Overblown compared to the multitude of daily illicit transactions this city thrives on. Meredith K.A. Broughton

Accountability to residents needs to be at the forefront of all council debate and activity. Brent Kinnaird

Use sparingly. Paula Grove

Protect what must be, not what may be. Danya Scime

Only for property, personnel and legal matters and not to duck public scrutiny. Marvin Ryder

There are times, even the Councillors are not sure if the agenda item should be held in camera. Ken Chartrand

2. Crime in the city.

McMaster Holds Firm

In what is leading to a showdown of sorts, McMaster University seems to be holding firm on its demand that it receive clarity by the end of this week from the city and the board of education, as to their plans.  Have a look at our Q/A with Mac:

Q.  Allowing that it is understandable that deadlines be set to guard against the deal failing at the hands of lapsed time, does McMaster not worry that the tight deadline may equally jeopardize the deal or, is the deadline more of a useful tactic that may actually allow for progress and further negotiation, by virtue of the clarity it might bring. Secondly, what shape does a "plan B" take if the deal falls apart?

A. McMaster’s timeline for the project has not changed. We have a commitment to our students and the province to begin training resident doctors by July 2014.

If the downtown campus is to be built to meet this timeline, we need certainty of how we are able to move forward. If we don’t have certainty by the end of this week we will have to consider our options.

The downtown campus is a tremendous opportunity and will bring significant benefits to Hamilton and the people of the city. 

Thanks to McMaster University for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Budget Update from Finance Chief Robert Rossini

The Hamiltonian asked finance chief Robert Rossini for an update on the budget process. Rob was kind enough to advise as follows:

The General Issues Committee (GIC) has already approved all the budgets for our Boards and Agencies.
At Friday's General Issues Committee meeting, GIC approved all the departmental budgets, except for the Planning & Economic Development (PED) department. GIC as asked for some additional information regarding the PED budget. 

As well, GIC wants more info related to a few more items related to the Public Works Budget (ie, DARTS Transit, Storm Water maintenance, and Roads & Sidewalks maintenance).

These items will be dealt with at Tuesday's March 6 GIC meeting.

The current tax budgetary increase is at 1.4%.

The Budget is tentatively scheduled for approval at the March 7 Council meeting. 

Council may want more time and may extend the budget deliberation process.

Thanks Robert for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonians.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hamilton's Worst Driver

TV Show Seeks Hamilton’s Worst Drivers 


Toronto, ON (March 2, 2012) The producers of Discovery Channel’s hit show Canada’s Worst Driver are calling on the people of Hamilton to find the area’s most delinquent drivers. Proper Television, the company behind the show is coming to the steel city in search of candidates for the new season. Nominations are being accepted now through the end of March. 

Now in its eighth season, Canada’s Worst Driver aims to improve road safety by rehabilitating the nation’s worst drivers, one bad driver at a time. Through a series of challenges and intense drivers training, motorists relearn the rules of the road while improving their core driving skills. Each episode, one person graduates and returns to city streets as a safer, more skilled motorist. At the end of the season, host Andrew Younghusband will name one lousy licensee ‘Canada’s Worst Driver’. 

Submissions can be sent by email to driver@propertelevision.com or by phone 1-866-598-2591. All Hamilton entries will be considered for the new season. Producers will be in the area this April to meet with the nominees. Those selected for the show will be flown to Ontario in June to take part in one of the world’s most innovative and effective driver’s training programs. Riding shotgun, the brave nominator. 

And just who qualifies? Friends, relatives, husbands, wives, grandparents – anyone who would benefit from full-on, hands-on, driver’s training. “Let’s face it, everyone knows a bad driver. We’re here to help. This isn’t just about a TV show. For a lot of people, driving means freedom, and driving safely might mean saving lives,” says Guy O’Sullivan, Executive Producer of Canada’s Worst Driver. 

To nominate the bad driver in your life, email driver@propertelevision.com or call 1-866-598-2591

Friday, March 2, 2012

You're Out of Order!!!!!

The image to the left is from a scene from the movie "And Justice for All" when Al Pacino is told in the courtroom he is out of order and bellows back "No , you're out of order!!!!"

Have a look at this transcript excerpt involving an exchange between Clr. Clark and Clr. Ferguson. Sound like the same script?

Clr. Clark to Clr. Ferguson:  Councillor you're out of order. Councillor you're out of order. YOU'RE OUT OF ORDER (banging mallet on the table)

Clr. Ferguson: I can ask any question I want. Do you want me to come and hit you over the head with that thing? I have the right to ask any question and I want to to slam that gavel like that, it's disrespectful!

Clr. Clark: Clr. You're being disrespectful

See the video by clicking here here and going to 1:19 on the timeline.
Hear an enhanced audio clip by clicking here
Read The Spec's write up here

And let's go easy on the Clrs.. Obviously tempers are flaring under the stress of budget talks. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Helping Camryn

Camryn who will turn four years old in April has recently relapsed with cancer. Camryn was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of two and after countless days/nights living in hospitals and not being able to go home, the cancer finally went into remission late 2011. 

Unfortunately days after Camryn’s family returned from a Make a Wish Disney Cruise,  that Camryn was sent on (paid for by the Make A Wish Foundation) in January of 2012 to celebrate her remission, Camryn came down with a fever. She was taken to the doctors and the worst case scenario was confirmed;  Camryn’s Leukemia had returned. It is now back to living in hospitals for Camryn and her parents for the foreseeable future. The family is incurring significant expenses due to travel from home to Kingston General and more recently, to Toronto Sick Kids hospital.

Bracelets have been made in honour of Camryn’s fight against cancer and to help support her family. Each bracelet is $5 . They come in pink with green writing , with the words “Camryn’s Courage” and vice versa. All proceeds go to help pay for Camryn’s treatments. Any help would be appreciated. 

Camryn has a facebook page that gives updates on Camryn http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/119056491503911/

You can order a bracelet by contacting Cari at this email address young.cariann@gmail.com

You may also make a donation by going to  any CIBC branch  ans citing Transit #04842, Account #8437831, or simply ask for the 'Caring for Camryn' fund.

Thank-you for your consideration. On behalf of The Hamiltonian staff and Hamiltonians, we wish Camryn and her family strength and the very best.

A Chat with Walmart

Based on Walmart's increased presence in the Hamilton area, we checked in with their corporate office.  Have a read through our Q & A.

1. Walmart has expanded its presence in the Hamilton area, recently opening its Stoney Creek Walmart Supercentre. There have been mixed reactions to the increased presence of Walmart centres and stores in Hamilton. How do you respond to those who suggest that such prominent deployments are harmful to small business and hurtful to communities?

We often see stores in the areas around a new Walmart flourish thanks to the additional traffic our stores bring to a neighbourhood. Canadian consumers are value focused and have overwhelmingly embraced our commitment to everyday low prices. New locations, like the store in Stoney Creek, allow Walmart to offer a wider range of products, including fresh produce in a convenient one stop shop closer to where our customers live and work.

2. As part of the new Stoney Creek Walmart Supercentre deployment, we have heard concerns over the city ( and consequently taxpayers) having to fund transit services to the new centre. Despite an apparent commitment by Walmart to contribute $50,000.00 per year for a four year period for these services, it appears that the city is left with the lion's share of funding for the required transit service. Some estimate that the city may pay up to $150,000.00 per year for this transit. How much of this issue is Walmart prepared to address, and is Walmart open to increasing the yearly funding (to at least a half way point of the real costs) and sustaining it beyond the four years?