Friday, May 31, 2013

Pic of the Moment

A Canadian flag flies at half mast at Winona Elementary School, in honour of the life of Robert Barlow.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Clr. Tom Jackson- on LRT

Enjoy our Q/A with Clr. Tom Jackson, on LRT:

Recently, in a council discussion regarding LRT, you maintained your support for LRT, but signaled the need for off ramps. Some may interpret this as you having second thoughts on the matter. Is that interpretation overplayed and are you simply signaling that it is a complex issue in which judgment needs to be held in check, or are you in fact having doubts about its feasibility?

The reason why I spoke of possibly taking what I’ve called an “exit ramp” off the LRT project is because I’m not on for any new taxes or fees or charges suggested by Metrolinx and or the Province. The original deal the first round of projects secured from the Province was for 100% Provincial dollars. That’s why I supported our City Council motion requesting the same deal for Hamilton. Now….I’ve been a supporter of LRT up to now in Hamilton for 3 reasons primarily….(1)….For those who criticize our City as not being “progressive” on different matters, then IF an LRT system could help alter that, I’m open-minded….(2)….So often over the years, all we hear is “Toronto gets everything”. Well…IF the Province is doling out money, I wanted to be “in the game” so that Toronto didn’t possibly get everything again….(3)….Even if an LRT line was not “in the cards” for let’s say another 20 years in Hamilton, but the Province wanted to support our current HSR system and help make it better and build a case like a BRT system as suggested in the City’s Rapid Ready Report by Don Hull, then I wanted to make sure we hadn’t removed ourselves from “being in the game”. So, to conclude, those were my reasons for initially supporting LRT, however, it is becoming clearer day-by-day to me that the Province will want some participation from Municipalities now and more and more of my constituents are realizing the potential extra costs to them directly for building this project and are against it. Finally, City staff have assured me that the Province has promised consultation with the Cities through the summer on these new “revenue tools”. I’m simply preparing everyone publicly and asking when is my last chance to take an “exit ramp” off LRT if I so desire, similar to what Councillor Powers recently decided.

 Hope this helps and bye for now, Councillor Jackson….

Police Board Needs to Take Financial Responsibility- by Shekar Chandrashekar

The Police Services Board has several healthy reserves available to cover certain costs. Some of those are for Vehicle Replacement costs, Sick leave, Tax Stabilization, Capital Expenditures, Vacation Pay, Police Litigation, Special Events and Police rewards. These reserves are intended to spread out fluctuations in costs or reduce pressures in current operating expenditures.

The actual balance in the reserves is reducing. Reserves totaled $12,421,938 at the end of 2011 whereas the projected balance at the end of 2012 is $10,017,530. One of the reasons for the reduction is that the

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In Honour of Robert Barlow

The Hamiltonian is saddened in learning of the passing of Robert Barlow, Trustee with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. Robert's life ended tragically after suffering a heart attack. For those who knew Robert, you would know him as a jovial person with a kind heart and soul. Robert's service as a School Board Trustee was also complemented by his genuine interest in politics as it related to the well being of others. Robert will be sadly missed. Please feel free to leave your condolences here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Conflict of Interest?

Update: The Hamiltonian has sent Clr. Johnson the questions below We will publish her response once we receive it.

In your role as Chair of the Selection Committee for the  Police Services Board, we are asking the following questions for publication purposes in The Hamiltonian. Your reply will be posted verbatim:
The appointment of Wlodzimierz Juchniewicz to the Police Services Board, has raised some concerns by some who point out that Mr. Juchniewicz was a contributor to Clr. Whitehead’s 2010 political campaign. As Clr. Whitehead is also on the board, some have raised questions as to whether there is a conflict of interest. The following are our questions asked of you as Chair of the Selection Committee:
1. Do you believe that there is a real or perceived conflict of interest?
2. Was the contribution information disclosed to the committee?
3. What processes, if any, was followed to ensure that conflict or potential conflict situations are brought to light and considered prior to a selection being made? 

Listen to this morning interview with Gary Santucci by clicking here and listening to hour two of the May 29th show.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Few Bad Apples?

The questions below were directed to Gerry Davis, General Manager -Public Works Department, City of Hamilton. As Mr. Davis was out of town at the time we sent these questions, the city replied on his behalf. Here are our questions along with the city's position and statement.

With the investigation and subsequent firings of certain public works staff who were found to have neglected their duties, committed time theft and/or breach of trust, we are asking the following questions on behalf of Hamiltonians:

1. Allowing that one could not have imagined that these acts were being committed, and having caught up with these serious transgressions, what lessons have you learned as a General Manager responsible for this department and how will you apply these learnings going forward?

2. Hamiltonians are likely understanding of the old adage “a few bad apples in every bushel”, but in this case, it appears as though there were over 30 employees involved, some at the supervisory level. Given that this was not the act of one person or a handful of people, how would you explain to Hamiltonians how this could happen without earlier detection? What actions are being taken to ensure this does not happen again?

We have concluded the second phase of our investigation which focused on the supervisors. The investigation focused on 14 individuals. You’ll recall that we have confirmed already that 5 of the 14 in question immediately left the employment of the City of Hamilton as soon as the investigation began. Of the remaining 9 – they will be facing varying levels of discipline, receiving in the range of up to 30 days unpaid suspension.

With respect to performance management and monitoring -- we will and believe it is important to always look at staff performance. We have and continue to put a focus on this issue as we design, implement and put in place any changes to existing methodologies or as we develop new ones. We want to ensure the appropriate staff training is in place. Our goal is to always make sure that our staff know what is expected and they have the skill sets and disciplines required. This is part of their core competences and therefore is incorporated into the overall performance management program.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Click on pic to enlarge
Clr. Terry Whitehead continues to challenge Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire, after calling the Chief a "liar". 

To see this exchange, and what preceded it, click here . The relevant piece starts at 56:20. Thanks to one of our readers for posting the video link and reference. (Thanks to the work of Joey Coleman and his ever present video coverage.) 

On of our readers, Mahesh Butani created his own slideshow collage of   this exchange. You can see Mahesh's collage by clicking here. 

Angels Among Us

This gem of a picture, captured yesterday from a Stoney Creek backyard, shows what appears to be an image of an Angel within the clouds. 

Special thanks to Adri for snapping the pic. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Kewl Kitchen, Part 2

Kewl Kitchen Kit – Part 2

In the last column I promised to write about some of the kitchen gear I’ve had the opportunity to use recently.

At the SIAL food marketplace held recently in Toronto, among the myriad products the Cookina stood out. A free sample of this re-usable, 100% non-stick alternative to aluminum foil, parchment and wax paper was immediately put to use by the bakers in my family. Good to 500°F, it is one of a line of several related products and available online, or at local Metro stores.

Though I have a full complement of pots and pans, two of the new Nordic Ware line of cast aluminum enamel-coated Traditions cookware I mentioned in Part 1 have quickly become favourites for certain tasks. Manufactured in the US since the mid-1940s (and available at 100 Sears locations in Canada), they obviously don’t hold the heat as well my (far heavier) cast iron standbys, but they do heat up faster. They also require no seasoning and because of the “texture fuse non-stick interior” cleanup has been a snap.

I used the 4 ½ quart braising pan to make 3 racks of ribs: Having earlier applied a dry rub I popped the ribs

Waiting on Whitehead

Ward 8 Clr. Terry Whitehead
We asked the following questions of Clr. Terry Whitehead pursuant to the exchange between him and Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire. The Clr. has yet to reply. If we receive a reply, we will post it verbatim:

1. The Chief of Police has demanded a written apology for your calling him a liar. This was further to your allegation that two Officers from the ACTION team were observed standing idle, talking on cell phones for 45 minutes- allegedly doing nothing job related. In the context of the recent heated debates you had with the Chief over the police budget, some might think it is highly coincidental that you and/or your assistants happened across what you allege were two officers from the ACTION team not doing anything job related. How do you respond to those who might suggest that you may have an agenda to make the ACTION team look bad, as a result of the heated budget debate discussions?

2. Do you have any intention of offering a written apology as asked for by the Chief? If not, why not?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire....

Update: The Chief wants an apology in writing. See Spec report here

Whitehead apologizes. Click here for Spec report. Also, see further below in this article, for a correction  of facts submitted by the Hamilton Police Services. 

Liar, liar, pants on fire...it's a juvenile phrase that many of us likely heard in our schoolyard days. Sadly, an exchange between Clr. Terry Whitehead and Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire, descended into the Clr. calling the Chief a liar, as captured on a tape recording by a Hamilton Spectator reporter (see story here).

The exchange is unfortunate as Clr. Whitehead served as a staunch opponent of the Police Services' request for a budget increase and, in our view, both the Chief and Whitehead demonstrated necessary leadership in hashing out this matter.

But Whitehead's allegation that two ACTION officers were standing around for forty five minutes, talking at city hall, seems to have taken the conversation elsewhere to a different level on the down elevator. The Chief stated that the officers parted after nine seconds- (this has been found to be incorrect. Please see correction below). This prompted Whitehead to say to the Chief "You're a liar". The Chief characterized the Clr's actions as "exhibiting a crisis of credibility". Whitehead's version of the facts were somewhat mashed- getting the date that the incident allegedly occurred wrong but allegedly, the rest correct.

This is not the only exchange that recently transpired between the two. Whitehead's characterization of ACTION team members as "giraffes", prompted the Chief to ask Whitehead to issue a sincere apology to the officers. Upon Whitehead's refusal to do so, the Chief wrote Whitehead a formal letter. The letter and the write up from The Bay Observer, can be seen here.

Do you believe Clr. Whitehead is spiraling downwards where his views on the Police Service are concerned and that his observations may be perceived as "sour grapes" on account of the budget outcome, or do you have an alternative view of this?

Please note that the following corrections were brought to our attention by The Hamilton Police Services, relative to a story in The Spec. The Hamiltonian understands that these corrections have also been sent to The Spec. :

In the second paragraph, it states:

'The chief said the officers parted after nine seconds'. This was not stated. In fact, the Chief stated: 'The two photographs were taken, not 45 minutes apart, but 9 seconds apart'.

Later in the story, it is stated:

The chief said he researched the photos and told board members the two members of the ACTION team were only together for nine seconds. Again, as above, the chief did not state this. Again, the Chief stated: 'The two photographs were taken, not 45 minutes apart, but 9 seconds apart'.

The chief did state:

I have reviewed the deployment of the officers and have found that they were deployed properly,
assigned to a specific patrol area and were within the assigned area, were performing legally authorized and required duties related to traffic enforcement and were in compliance with the direction of their supervisors. Their highly visible presence along contributes to the safety of the public.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Media Release- Transit fare parity changes coming in June

Transit fare parity changes coming in June

HAMILTON, ON – May 21, 2013 – Effective June 1, 2013, the City of Hamilton is implementing two major changes to its transit system.


A new fare structure is being introduced for DARTS/ATS. Fares for registered DARTS clients will follow the same fare structure as the HSR which will result in a savings for current DARTS clients. DARTS tickets will be replaced with HSR tickets and passes. Current DARTS paper tickets can be refunded at the HSR Service Centre located at 36 Hunter St. E. (Go Centre) up until August 30, 2013.

To find out more about the new DARTS/ATS fares please call 905-529-1212 or visit www.hamilton.ca/ats

HSR Voluntary Pay Policy

The Voluntary Pay Policy for persons using Personal Mobility Devices (canes, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs) and Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) cardholders will be replaced with a Temporary Promotional Transit Fare Special Program as approved by City Council.

This new policy allows transit riders who require the use of a wheelchair, walker or scooter the option of paying the applicable fare or riding at no charge. Those using canes, including four-prong canes, will not be covered under this new program and will be required to pay the applicable fare.

CNIB cardholders can use their CNIB card as a fare when presented to the HSR Operator. If no card is presented, they are required to pay the applicable fare.

For information on the new HSR Voluntary Pay Policy, please call 905-527-4441 or visit www.hamilton.ca/hsr

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clr. Russ Powers - On LRT/BRT

Clr. Russ Powers
Enjoy our Q/A with ward 13 Councillor Russ Powers.

At a recent council meeting, you signaled your withdrawal of support for LRT, based on affordability considerations. Is this a point in time position, or do you remain open to reconsideration once the funding structures are known? At present, some have interpreted your statement as final, however, we are wondering if you meant it to be so?

 I may be proven wrong but I can't foresee the Province providing 100 cent dollars towards our proposed LRT (or any other system). If we do need to contribute then I'd prefer my share to be a % of $300M rather than $900M (2011 $s) leaving monies for the many other demands within the City. I will continue my support for BRT in Hamilton.

Clr. Russ Powers

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Way We Were

This photo comes courtesy of Joanna St. Jacques of St. Jacques Photography (click here to go there). The stone was found as a result of the Sanford demolition. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mayor Bratina on Behalf of the City of Hamilton

"The entire community has been devastated by the senseless loss of the life of Tim Bosma. Our grief as relatives, friends, neighbours and caring residents can hardly approach that of Mr. Bosma's closest loved ones but it is profound and deeply heartfelt. My sincere thanks as Mayor is extended to the outstanding work of the Hamilton Police Service, their fellow officers from nearby services who are providing assistance, and members of the public who assisted the investigation through various means including social media."

Bob Bratina
Mayor of Hamilton

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location. You've probably heard this phrase as it pertains to the importance of location when it comes to the value of real estate. In the following article, Gary Santucci makes the argument that the location of a historical building has intrinsic value, that ought not to be disrupted.

Gary's argument is with respect to the intention of the Hamilton Public School Board to physically move an old historic school house (Mohawk Trail School, which is now a museum), from its current location on Mohawk Rd. West, to the board's new headquarters near Lime Ridge mall.

Here is Gary's email to the Mayor, Members of City Council, Trustees of the HWDSB and Members of the Heritage Committee, setting forth his argument.

Mr. Mayor, Members of City Council, Trustees of the HWDSB and Members of the Heritage Committee 

I urge you to consider the following; 

I take issue with the rationale that somehow relocation is the only way the retrofitting (what does this mean?) and the restoration due to neglect by the School Board since 1967 can be accomplished. The relocation is

A Sad Note

Timothy Bosma
The Hamiltonian is saddened by the loss of Timothy Bosma, whose life was tragically ended. We extend our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.  We hope that those responsible will feel the full force of our justice system.

To read The Spec's coverage, click here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Murray Takes the Floor

City Manager Chris Murray takes the floor. 
A motion brought forth to have comments made by Mayor Bob Bratina to City Manager Chris Murray, during a debate on Light Rail Transit,  investigated by  Integrity Commissioner  Earl Basse (see previous story here), was passed. The sole councillor who refrained from supporting the motion was Clr. Brad Clark.

With the Mayor out of the room, council deliberated. (see video first hand here)  Those deliberations had Clr. Clark wanting to ask City Manager Chris Murray what exactly the Mayor said to him during the exchange. However, Clr. Whitehead (who was chairing the meeting), argued that council ought not to play the role of the Integrity Commissioner by asking such questions, and that the scope of council's involvement was to be contained to

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Kewl Kitchen Kit (and the ethics relating to free stuff) – Part 1

I am going to tell you about some interesting kitchen equipment I’ve come across recently, but before I do so I think it’s important you be aware of why and under what conditions I am writing about this stuff.

In my last column I noted I had attended the first Food Bloggers of Canada conference. It had been organised by a talented and committed trio who worked their collective buns off to deliver a superb event. For a treat – but only after you’ve read the rest of MY column – do check out their wonderful blogs: Eyes Bigger than my Stomach by Melissa Hartfield; Eat.Live.Travel. Write by the Macaron Queen, Mardi Michels; and Feeding Ethan by Ethan Adeland.

The conference was held at Hockley Valley Resort which as you can see in the photos has its own giant charcuterie display fridge, thus qualifying as an official foodie haven Although I paid full freight to participate in this kaleidoscopic introduction to the food writing world, registration came with a bunch of unanticipated benefits: The bag of swag awaiting us was so large the contents filled the table in the laundry room for days as I sorted through it. All during the conference representatives of a number of brands were on hand to talk about their wares.

For instance Canada Beef, the presenting sponsor, hosted the first dinner and had a number of their

Friday, May 10, 2013


Clr Collins reacts at Mayor Bratina questioning City Manager Chris Murray as to whether anything the mayor said  threatened or bullied Chris. See video by clicking here.

At The Shaw- An Interview with Jay Turvey

Jay Turvey
Enjoy our chat with Jay Turvey, who is a Director with the Shaw Festival.

1. You will be directing The Light in the Piazza, that opens in July, as part of the Shaw Festival’s 52nd season. The play is unique as it was written by a living playwright Adam Guettell. Does that change the way you would otherwise approach directing this piece, and can you explain what makes this play worth seeing?

Adam Guettell wrote the music and lyrics and Craig Lucas wrote the book. They're both alive but that doesnt' change the way you approach directing the piece. As with any play, you mine the text and music for themes and try to bring those to life in performance.

Why is Piazza worth seeing? It's a beautiful musical about love: a mother's love for her daughter and the love between two young people and how that changes everyone around them. The music is lush and romantic, even transcendent at times. And it takes place in Florence, Italy! What more could you ask for?

2. How do you prepare for this type of production and what are some tips that you might share with our

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


In this installation of "Expressions" (our first, by the way), dubbed "Awful Nasty", we see Clr. Jason Farr attempting to scold Mayor Bratina during the now infamous LRT debate exchange. The Mayor advised the Clr. that he was out of order. To see the video, click here. 

Special thanks to the work of Joey Coleman and others, who captured this meeting. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bullying or Undue Drama?

City Manager Chris Murray
Councillor Sam Merulla will be bringing forward a motion that, if passed, would engage Earl Basse, Integrity Commissioner of Hamilton to investigate an allegation of bullying against Mayor Bob Bratina. The motion is as a result of a comment Bratina made to city manager Chris Murray during a debate on Light Rail Transit. For reference to the video, and to our write up of that meeting  please click here. To read The Spec's story this morning, click here or purchase today's print copy.

If the motion is passed, Mr. Basse may embark upon a multi witness investigation that potentially can include over ten people, including councillors and senior staff who were present. Merulla admits that he did not hear what the Mayor said, while Clr. Farr said he did hear it and described it as "awful nasty".

At the meeting, the mayor said that he asked Murray "why would you say that?" or words to that effect, referring to Murray's comments on LRT.

Bullying has become a very serious allegation in contemporary society, and for very good reasons. As one of our readers observed, bullying has led to people taking their own lives, after being subjected to, often times, sustained victimization.

One of the things that Mr. Basse must decide, is whether the Mayor's questioning of Mr. Murray, in the way that it happened, violated the code of conduct. Presumably Basse would also consider the allegation of bullying and whether this situation rose to a reasonable definition of what bullying is.

There are some who would argue that it is bullying, while others may suggest that a pointed question, or a heated question from one of your bosses is par for the course,  and ordinarily would not rise to a reasonable definition of bullying.

If the motion gets passed, it will be interesting to see whether it passes one of the initial gates; that is, the Integrity Commissioner having to make a determination as to whether the complaint is frivolous or vexatious. 

Your thoughts? Should Hamiltonians bear the cost of an investigation in this matter, or are you of the view that we should move on? Is this simply playing politics, or do you believe the incident warrants a formal investigation?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Stumped on Where to Find Unique Art?

Bill Le Blanc with 'Sirens of the Sea'- in progress, 
Click on pic to zoom. 
Stumped on where to find some very unique art?  Bill Le Blanc's work may be the answer. Bill can be found on the Hamilton beach-strip carving art out of what would have been idle tree stumps. 

The current piece he is working on, entitled Sirens of the Sea, is featured in the photo to the left, and is characteristic of Bill's unique gift of bringing to life tree stumps.  Our Publisher Teresa DiFalco caught up with Bill as he was working. 

Bill described his passion for this form of art, and has made it a practice to be inspired by, and dedicate his work to his daughter and grandchildren. A retired steelworker and a true blue Hamiltonian, Bill relishes in the creative outlet his passion provides him. 

He is humble about his accomplishments and has gotten accustomed to lookers-on stopping and marveling at

Media Release

Budget commitments a start… Poverty Reduction must remain the priority. 

Several poverty-related measures were announced in today’s Ontario budget: including increasing social assistance rates by 1% (as well as an additional $14 monthly increase for singles on Ontario Works) and increasing earnings exemptions for those on social assistance that are able to work. However, the changes do not go far enough to address the crisis facing

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ante Up for LRT?

Councillors are considering instruments for future transit project funding at a GIC meeting. As reported in The Hamilton Spectator (see it here or purchase today's print copy), the following tools are being looked at:

1. Employer payroll tax
2. Fuel tax
3. Highway tolls
4. Parking space levies (opposed by the City of Hamilton)
5. Property tax (opposed by Hamilton)
6. Sales tax
7. Vehicle kilometres travelled
8. Development charges (opposed by Hamilton)
9. High occupancy toll lanes
10. Land value capture
11. Transit fare increase (opposed by Hamilton)

While Clr. Clark previously cautioned about being insistent on 100% provincial funding, which he suggested may backfire on Hamilton and exclude us from consideration or result in new targeted taxes on Hamilton, Clr. Merulla has said that he won't support any funding tools and will only endorse the east-west LRT line if the province covers 100% of the cost.

Whose perspective do you most support- Clark's or Merulla's? Which do you think has the greater probability of succeeding?