Friday, November 30, 2012

Pricing Police - Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

The Hamiltonian

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Going After a Pearl

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

Christopher Newman
Legislative Assistant,
City Clerk’s Office 

Mr. Newman

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

Sincerely yours
Gary Santucci

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Elephant in the Equation- by Jim Sweetman,

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Retrospective with Rossini

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

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

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

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

- our new area rating tax plan which improves fairness

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

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

How Council Voted in October

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Link of the Moment

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Singer/Songwriter/Musician- Joshua Weresch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Planting a Seed

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Evidence and the Casino

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Randle Reef Relief

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

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

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

A Rogue Referendum
Run by the people. For the people

Dear Hamilton,

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Music Awards- Blues nominees showcase

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Robbins Leaves the Nest

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

The Hamiltonian wishes Mr. Robbins all the best.

(special thanks to MB for the notice) 

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Working Hard for the Money- Part 3...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Release - Dolbec Retires from TransHub Ontario

For Immediate Release                          moving the world through southern Ontario

November 13, 2012 Hamilton, Ontario

Dolbec Retires from TransHub Ontario

Hamilton - The man who has led TransHub Ontario through its formative stage is retiring this week.

John Dolbec, age 62, will be retiring on Friday November 16, 2012, after serving as the founding President and CEO of TransHub Ontario, a multi-partner initiative aimed at realizing Southern Ontario’s full potential as a transportation hub.

“I feel that the time has come for me to focus on my family and community commitments, although of course I leave TransHub Ontario with some mixed feelings,” Dolbec said. “TransHub Ontario has tremendous potential to facilitate significant sustainable investment and quality job growth throughout this region. I still do very much want to be a part of that.”

“But, at this stage in my life, while my health is good;” added Dolbec, “I do need to devote more time and energy to other pursuits that will allow me to use my skills and contacts in new ways to benefit Hamilton and the area. I have not abandoned TransHub Ontario completely. I will still be involved as an active volunteer as long as the organization needs me.”

“We do thank John for his leadership and tireless efforts as our first President & CEO,” says Richard Koroscil, chair of TransHub Ontario’s Board of Directors. “We are of course sorry to see him go; but are happy that he isn’t going too far, and will devote at least some of his time and talent to help us move on with the next phase of our development, and indeed hopefully beyond.”

Koroscil stated that TransHub Ontario will not be replacing John immediately. The board will take this opportunity to reorganize and reflect on the tools, organization, and other resources that are needed to accomplish their very ambitious goals in our next phase of their development, which is to help attract Foreign Direct Investment locally.

TransHub Ontario was formed on March 7, 2011 as not-for-profit corporation tasked with promoting southern Ontario, centered on the greater Hamilton/Halton/Niagara Region, as a goods movement and logistics hub. It is a membership based organization, made up of 75 individuals, plus both private and public sector organizations, involved in and/or supporting the supply chain sector. Its broader goal over next two decades is to help attract up to 59,500 jobs to southern Ontario, using the region’s significant inter-modal transportation assets, as well as our natural geographic advantages as the key.

The Hamiltonian wishes John well!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rising to the Challenge?

Hamilton has been granted an extension to the time it will have to make a decision as to whether we would like to have a casino. (see full Spec story here or buy the print version) That extension came as a result of a request made by Mayor Bratina, of the OLG. The city now has until the end of February 2013. This is an additional two months. 

Rod Philips, President and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, attended city hall to field questions about a new casino. While Mayor Bratina saw this as a good sign and one that signals openness and a willingness to answer questions, Clr. Merulla, for one, had a different view.  Merulla did not believe his questions were answered by the OLG and cited the experience of other councils who found the relationship with the OLG adversarial in nature.

Notwithstanding, the OLG made it clear that while it is up to city council to make a determination about a casino, if council were to choose Flamborough as the location, it, according to the OLG, may not be the best pick and may result in the OLG  expanding its search for other municipalities to host a casino.

Regardless of the varying views on whether the OLG meeting was a good one, the casino matter will serve as another opportunity for Hamilton City council to signal that they can make big decisions with consideration and rationale underpinnings, or that they will be unable to rise to the challenge. 

While some Councillors have made respectable efforts to reach out to Hamiltonians via town halls, robo calls and other methods, and The Hamilton Spectator commissioned a statistically valid poll on the topic, whether city council can take all that information and more, and factor it to its considerations resulting in a good decision for Hamilton with a reasonable degree of alignment, remains to be seen. 

And somewhere in these considerations, the casino question may query its fit within a city who aspires to be, among other things, The Best Place to Raise a Child. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Core Choppers - Hamiltonian Opinion

Arguably, Andrew Dreschel's piece in today's Spectator (see it here or buy today's print copy), entitled "Police Hogged Information on Chopper Excercises" may suggest a disconnect between the facts of the matter and the headline.

It appears as though the central question is whether the police acknowledged a responsibility to inform the public about the helicopter military exercises that took place over the core. According to a police spokesperson  the police were under the impression that the military would be managing the information piece.  The military however, seems to have assumed the opposite; that the police would be doing so.

If we were to believe these accounts, it amounts to a misunderstanding at best, or someone dropping the ball at worst. And yes there should be follow up and proportional remedies. 

"Hogging" information seems to suggest deliberateness. In this case, the result of such deliberateness could have had many outcomes but the one in which emerged was concern and angst over noise levels and the nature of the activity by those  impacted. The Hamiltonian does not accept the premise that there was intentionality involved. We do believe that the situation should be diagnosed with a view toward preventing a similar outcome in the future. 

The Hamiltonian

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ontario Association of Architects Announces Hamilton for 2015 Conference


November 6, 2012…Toronto, ON – As Hamilton leads the province in economic growth and development opportunities, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) announces Hamilton as the destination for their 2015 Conference and Annual General Meeting.

2015 will be the first year the OAA will be holding their annual conference in Hamilton. During the four-day event May 5 - 8, the OAAwill invite its members from across Ontario and beyond to participate in important discussions about the state of architecture in the province. Over 1000 architects are expected to attend and tour Ontario’s fastest growing economy.

Over the past year, Hamilton has attracted more commercial and industrial new developments than any other city in Canada. Hamilton is also at the forefront of a booming real estate market with rising home prices, despite a cooling national average.

During the conference, visiting architects will explore Hamilton’s new construction and investment

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Link to Linc

A petition has been invoked that advocates for a statue to be erected outside of City Hall, in honour of the late Lincoln Alexander. To see and/or sign the petition, click here. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In Loving Memory of Dorothy Margaret Leaver

Dorothy Margaret Leaver
Our Publisher Teresa DiFalco  lost her grandmother yesterday. Teresa and her grandmother Dorothy Margaret Leaver shared a very close and special bond. They were inseparable. Teresa and her husband Cal were Dorothy's caregivers for the past 20 years. Dorothy always referred to Teresa and Cal as her "Guardian Angels".

Dorothy was born in Prince Edward Island in 1921, and moved to Ontario in the 1940's with her husband and family. Dorothy was Hamilton's first female chef at a Restaurant in downtown Hamilton called The Grange. She was a talented singer and could play just about every instrument under the sun. Her sense of humour, according to Dorothy, is what kept her young. She was also an avid gardener and treasured the years of family functions held at Teresa's. Dorothy was also a devout Catholic. She will be dearly missed and forever loved. Our sincerest condolences and prayers to Teresa and her family at this very sad time.

The Hamiltonian Staff

Youth Skills Link and Career Focus Programs- YWCA

Are you considering Hiring for existing or new positions?
Are you interested in getting immediate help, while Training and Evaluating a Young Worker?
Are you interested in Training Subsidies?

YWCA Hamilton invites private businesses to partner in the development and implementation of federally-funded Youth Skills Link and Career Focus Programs. Aimed at facilitating skills development and workplace participation for young women 15 to 30 years of age, the programs supports participating employers through a workplace training subsidy for placements of 3 to 6 months in length.

The training subsidy includes minimum wage for program participants along with mandatory deductions, vacation pay and WSIB costs for the length of the placement. Employers able and willing to contribute towards wages in excess of $10.25/hour are encouraged to do so.

Employers are required to ensure a system for adequate training and supervision and a process for regular reporting to YWCA. Ideally, placements will conduct to full time employment for program participants; however, this is not a mandatory condition for participating employers.

Interested private-sector employers are required to sign the Attestation Form (click here to download). It is

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Object of Desire #1

Object of Desire #1 – The Thermomix

Dear Santa,

Just saying, Christmas is coming and I feel I’ve been really nice. I’ll keep my list short: I want a Thermomix.

A couple of years back, one of my cooking buddies, Tom, gave me a great present. It was a book by René Redzepi, the chef behind the Noma cookbook. That might not mean much to you Santa, but Noma in Copenhagen had just been rated the top restaurant in the world in the prestigious San Pellegrino awards, knocking the iconic El Bulli off its perennial perch. It was clearly a well-merited award as they made it a hat-trick this year.

The book, “Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine” is a feast for the eyes. It’s filled with stunning photos and recipes calling for eclectic ingredients such as truffles from Gotland, hay (yes, you read that right – the reindeer would feel at home), complete chicken skins, Swedish goats butter and goosefoot leaves (whatever they are). The instructions are precise and many recipes call for processing in a Thermomix.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rossini Resigns

Finance Chief Roberto Rossini is leaving his post as Finance Chief for the City of Hamilton, in favour of taking a position with the City of Toronto as Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer.

The Hamiltonian wishes Roberto all the best and thanks him for his service and the information he has provided to The Hamiltonian, over the course of his role as Finance Chief for our city. 

The following letter was sent by City Manager Chris Murray:

Dear Mayor Bratina and Members of Council,

It is with mixed emotion that I announce the departure of Rob Rossini, our GM of Finance & Corporate Services. Rob has accepted the position of Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer for the City of Toronto.

Rob begins his new role January 7, 2013 and will be here at the City until the Christmas shutdown.

During his time here at the City of Hamilton Rob has been involved in so many major initiatives and accomplishments. Area-rating, the Downtown McMaster Health Campus, our budget process and achieving those budget targets are just a few of the things most recently that were achieved under his leadership.

I personally will miss his sense of humor, his advice and his ability to present complex information in such an easy manner. I know I speak for SMT when I say that his departure will be felt around the table.

In the interim, Mike Zegarac will step in as Acting General Manager while a search is conducted in the new year.

Please join me in wishing Rob continued success in his new role.

Chris Murray
City Manager

Please join us in wishing Roberto well.