Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Dollars and Sense" with City of Hamilton Auditor General Ann Pekaruk

When we last chatted with Ann Pekaruk, Hamilton's Auditor General in May 2012, she was just in her new role as Auditor General. A new role which was to be a pilot of sorts with a three year evaluation period attached to it. You'll find our previous chat with Ms. Pekaruk by clicking here.

We recently contacted Ms. Pekaruk as a follow up. Here is our interview with her:

1. Can you share with our readership what items have been on your work plan with respect to the focus of your value for money audits. Which of those have been completed and which are still in the pipeline?

See the work plan under the response to question #5 and the progress to date in the response to question #3.

2. On the heels of the revelation that the city had been cheated out of over 1 million dollars from a former

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for your Kitchen Renos

The Top Ten Do’s and Don’ts for Your Kitchen Reno

Thinking of re-doing your kitchen? Then here are the top ten things you should consider to save your sanity as well as some dollars. Rest assured you’re not just getting my views; I solicited input from some of the kitchen designers, countertop specialists and cabinet builders at the Fall Home Show and Sale in Hamilton last weekend. I also checked in with the designer of our own kitchen, and asked our long-time handyman and house reno consigliere, Mark Gilroy of Marx Group, for his top do or don’t do item when he dropped over to do some work at our place.

We re-did our kitchen a few years back. It’s awesome, and as soon as we had the butcher-block island countertop installed, it shifted the centre of the house. The kids immediately started to hang out and do homework in the warm, renovated bright space while we made supper. It was money well spent, but we learned some hard lessons along the way, not least when the company we hired to do the work began to go bankrupt. (They’re back in business in the same location but under a different name, so, as always, buyer beware. And yes we had checked references before we signed the contract. And yes contact me directly and I’ll tell you the whole story.)

So here’s the top ten:

1. Unless you have money to burn, you want to do the reno once and forever. Elysha Cesar, the designer for

Monday, September 23, 2013

Following Up with Integrity Commissioner- Earl Basse

You may recall this story (click here) where council passed a motion to have the Mayor investigated by the Integrity Commissioner for comments the Mayor made to City Manager Chris Murray offline during the course of a council meeting.

We thought we'd check in with Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse to inquire as to what the status of this investigation is; if, in fact, it is to proceed as such. 

Mr. Basse's interpretation of the Municipal Act has him fairly reserved in terms of disclosing information; even it seems, if the information sought is more a matter of process than of specifics of the case. (see our previous chat with Mr. Basse on Integrity Matters. (click here) for further information as to his perspective)

Notwithstanding, here is our Q/A with Mr. Basse:

Can you provide an update as to what stage the investigation is at pertaining to allegations that Mayor Bratina inappropriately addressed City Manager Chris Murray during a council meeting. Have you passed the stage where you could determined if the complaint was trivial and or vexatious.   Can you give us a sense for the target completion date.  

The confidentiality provisions of the Municipal Act do not permit me to provide information relating to this complaint. However, since the complaint came from open Council, I can tell you that I have received the complaint and am processing it in the normal fashion.
Follow up question:

Can you give Hamiltonians a sense of what stage you are at and/or a projected target date of completion? We don't believe these questions would compromise your obligations under the Act.

I cannot provide that information at this time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Handling of a Tragedy- Opinion

Whenever a life is lost, either through an accident,  mishap, or in the case of Steven Mesic, through a conflict with police, emotions are understandably high. The need to make sense of something that presents as senseless in the broader context of treasuring life and preserving it, is difficult to reconcile. Family members, friends and the general public demand and deserve answers.

Unless there is irrefutable evidence of what transpired, answers are often times not readily available. In some cases, answers or the truth, are not to be had. This understandably is a is a difficult pill to swallow, particularly for those who lost a loved one.

Unlike the case of Sammy Yatim, where there was video footage that was widely shared and that was widely distributed on the internet, rightfully meeting with the outrage of all who saw the video, there is no such documentary evidence in the case of Steve Mesic.

The only people who truly know/knew what happened that morning are the officers involved, and the late Mr. Mesic.

The need for a thorough investigation is thus of paramount importance. In the interim, there are many lenses

Hamilton Farmers’ Market Celebrates National Organic Week

Hamilton Farmers’ Market Celebrates National Organic Week

Hamilton, ON – September 20, 2013 – The Hamilton Farmers’ Market celebrates National Organic Week Saturday, September 21 and 28, 2013. National Organic Week is the largest annual celebration of organic food, farming, and products across the country.

Hamilton Farmers’ Market National Organic Week celebrations feature: 

Organic farmers at the Outdoor Market on Saturday September 21 and 28, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The over 60 permanent vendors inside the Hamilton Farmers’ Market also carry an array of organic products.
Free Organic themed cooking demonstrations in the community kitchen:
Kids Cooking at the MARKET at 10am and Cooking at the MARKET at 12pm on Saturday September 21 and 28
Children’s scavenger hunt September 21, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Displays, information for consumers and more! Saturday September 21 and 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Free on street parking on Saturdays.

For everyone from neighbours to gourmet chefs, The Hamilton Farmers’ Market and its over 60 vendors bring together the best local and international food and food products. Come, meet your vendors and experience the flavor of the Market.

For more information about National Organic Week events at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market visit www.hamiltonfarmersmarket.ca

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quote of the Moment

"We don't manipulate it. Anyone who suggest that...that's just crap!" (or words to that effect)

CHML Talk show host Bill Kelly responds to listeners who alleged that the preponderance of listener calls who support Mayor Bratina's position on resigning from the Police Services Board  was the result of screening those calls in. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mayor Bratina's Statement Announcing Resignation from Police Services Board

The following is Mayor Bratina's statement announcing his resignation from the Police Services Board and his reasons for doing so:

When tragedies occur within municipalities there is an  expectation that mayors be responsive in ways that would aid the healing process.  This was brought home to me following the tragic death of Steve Mesic and the impacts it continues to have on his partner Sharon Dorr, the Mesic family, relatives and friends.            

When I first heard about this my  instincts were to reach out to the family as I believe most people understandably would. However, the advice I received as  a member of the police board was to not make any statements or have contacts with anyone connected to the investigation.   

When Ms. Dorr, family and friends attended the recent police board meeting it became apparent to me that my position as member and chair of the board  interfered with my ability to meet the expectations of the  public in responding to events.  

It was immediately following that meeting that i decided to  relinquish my seat on the board and  allow council to designate a replacement.

This decision  should not be seen in any way as a reflection on the performance of the members of the force, the Chief and senior officers, or my colleagues on the board.   The citizens of Hamilton elected me as their mayor and I intend to carry  out my responsibilities to the fullest.  

Bob Bratina,
City of Hamilton

Presto? - Update

Update: Don Hull. Director of Transportation for the City of Hamilton, provided the following clarification in response to our questions:

With respect to the Presto pass, and with reference to this write up on The Hamiltonian, http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2013/09/presto.html, can you advise as to what modeling or intelligence was used to substantiate the decision to move forward with the Presto investment? To the extent that projections or modeling was done, when was the anticipated return on investment expected to materialize? 

Good morning;

Presto is a Province of Ontario program, administered by Metrolinx. The GTA-Hamilton municipalities are required to participate in the program to remain eligible for Provincial Gas Tax. Hamilton continues to be supportive of the program and view the future payment of Transit fares by Cash and Electronic payment as inevitable. Each municipality has some unique operating logistics to resolve to allow full implementation and full realization of the benefits of the program. The return on investment specific to Hamilton will be realized when the current parallel paper fare media (ticket and monthly passes) are eliminated. Presto has now reached a level of development that will allow Hamilton to proceed to full implementation.

Don Hull
Director of Transportation
City of Hamilton

Presto! Abracadabra....not enough uptake. 

Those words can pretty much sum up the challenges that Hamilton is facing in justifying its implementation of the Presto regional transit pass. While the pass has several advantages, including the ability to use it in neighbouring cities in the GTA, a Spectator article reports that  the card is used to pay for less than 8% of bus trips in the city. With a $500,000.00 investment to implement, that's a hard pill to swallow.

In an effort to increase usage, the city is offering an incentive to riders who use the card for 11 trips per week. Such users will enjoy the rest of the week riding free.

What remains unclear is whether the city had done any modeling that would have suggested that an adequate mass of Hamiltonians who ride public transit , who would also be interested in transit travel in neighbouring cities or other benefits associated with Presto, actually exists or can reasonably expect to materialize in time to justify the investment. 

The Hamiltonian hopes that the city's efforts to increase uptake, succeeds and encourages Hamiltonians to give the Presto alternative serious consideration. To learn more about Presto, click here.  For more on this, see Spec article here or purchase today's print edition.

Note: The Hamiltonian is following up with Mr. Hull on this matter and will report our findings once we receive a reply to our questions. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Khan Gone from Medicine Hat Job

Our readers may recall Abdul Khan, the city's former Director of Water and Waste Management Treatment, who made a series of allegations against his employer which garnered media attention and a police investigation. Click here for a reference.

Mr. Khan, after leaving Hamilton, got a job in Medicine Hat, where he was recently dismissed without cause from his job as Development and Infrastructure Commissioner. A 5-3 council vote sealed Mr. Khan's fate. The story as well as Mr. Khan's perspective and the perspective of others, was reported in the Medicine Hat News. You can see the full article by clicking here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Going for (culinary) Gold

Going for (culinary) Gold

One of the joys of writing (and I hope reading) this column is the unexpected tangents it takes.

There I was thinking about a column about a local food outlet, when I was “cordially invited to the Canadian Food and Wine Institute ~ Benchmark Restaurant” as their guest.

It turned out that the Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI - nowadays one of the top culinary training institutes in the country), needed sixty knowledgeable and critical eaters to provide feedback on a trial menu. Not just any menu that is, but a potentially golden one.

Before the dinner began, the Acting Dean of the college, Craig Youdale told us that the Canadian Culinary Federation hosts a Junior Competition every three years to allow young and aspiring Chefs to compete to

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Must See

Tom Murphy, former Pittsburgh Mayor,  will be speaking about city building in transitioning economies using lessons from the story of Pittsburgh.

It promises to be an interesting address. You can catch it tomorrow (Sept.13th) in the former BMO building above Jackson Square. 5pm start- admission is free. 

Contact Martinus Geleynse at mg@mginternational.ca or at 905-537-4819 for more information. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No Quarter for The Pearl

We approached the city to see if there was any room to begin to heal the conflicts it has had with the Pearl Company. Here is our Q/A, responded to by City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkpovski

1. In light of the Hamilton’s new Urban Official Plan, and its potential impact on the objectives that the Pearl company has been trying to achieve through its use of its property, and in the interests of resolving a thorny issue that has been costly to all parties, will the city consider withdrawing the historical zoning infraction charges levied against the Pearl Co. years ago with a view toward moving forward in a more positive way?

In response to your inquiry the goal of City zoning enforcement is compliance. The City prefers voluntary action by the business to obtain zoning compliance (typically by rezoning application) but will enforce through charges if the business fails to pursue compliance on its own. Rezoning is required under the new OP as well. The charges have not prevented the owners from making an application, although as the court noted in its ruling, no such step was taken to cure the zoning in the year the court allowed before making its decision.

It would not be the City's intent to withdraw the charges. There is a requirement to comply with zoning, which for The Pearl will require a rezoning, and that still has not occurred.

Janice Atwood-Petkovski
City Solicitor
City of Hamilton

The Hamiltonian has received several emails from Mr. Santucci, co-owner of the Pear Co. in reply to our request for a response to Ms. Atwood-Petkovski's answer.The following is what we received:

I have attached an email. Point one of the email answers Petkovski's point. You will see that many were

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Media Release: CasiNO! Will Be Saying “Yes” to Flamborough Location at Supercrawl

CasiNO! Will Be Saying “Yes” to Flamborough Location at Supercrawl Hamilton, ON (September 11, 2013) – No Downtown Hamilton Casino will be  at Supercrawl this coming Saturday to voice their support for Hamilton  City Council’s unanimous resolution to keep all Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) casino operations located at the Flamboro Downs site.  Supercrawl visitors are invited to visit the Information Booth, to be  located outside HIStory + HERitage at James and Cannon on Saturday, September 14, 2013, to review literature and sign a petition lending their support for Flamboro Downs as the only location for a casino in Hamilton.

“It’s not widely known that OLG has included clauses in the lease of  Flamboro Downs that will allow the winner of next bid for the Hamilton gaming zone the right to close the racetrack and move OLG gambling
operations anywhere they please within the gaming zone,” says event organizer Mark Richardson. “Ultimately, only Hamilton’s City Council has the power to say ‘No, we will not approve of any relocation’ and we want to remind them the Hamilton’s citizens support that stance.”

Local and international business interests, along with the OLG, are working to convince City Council to sanction OLG gambling operations in the downtown core. No Downtown Hamilton Casino aims to remind and reassure City Council that the citizens of Hamilton support the wise, educated, and principled stand Council has already made.

For more information, please feel free to visit
http://nodowntowncasino.ca, or contact Mark Richardson at (289)808-5192,
or by email at info@nodowntowncasino.ca

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Media Release- Next Steps for PBW2 and Participatory Budgeting

Next Steps for PBW2 and Participatory Budgeting

After a successful round one, Participatory Budgeting Ward 2 (PBW2) is already gearing up for round two. I would like to update you on our current activities and next steps.

Under the Bylaws of PBW2, I officially remain Facilitator until my successor is elected. I have appointed a Transition Team, and delegated to it all my authority under the Bylaws, to organize the transition into round two. At present, the Team is focused on organizing annual general meetings for the eight assemblies.

At their AGMs, each assembly will elect its organizing team for round two. Once elected, the organizing teams will elect a Facilitator and the Transition Team will dissolve.

The assemblies will also elect a representative to the Governance Committee, which is responsible for

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Pearl and the Swirl

The roller coaster ride that has had the Pearl Company swirling about in red tape and court proceedings continues as a recent court ruling refused to dismiss the case. The case had been put off to allow the city and the Pearl Company time to find a solution. That solution may be stumbling in, in the form of the City's new Urban Official Plan which, Barbara Milne, co-owner of the Pearl, believes may resolve part of the issue.

In a statement to The Hamiltonian, Milne said " Thursday’s Spectator announces that the New Official Plan (that permits our use without having to apply for rezoning) is now in effect. This is what we tried to get our city to do for us a while ago, to build a bridge to the new Urban Hamilton Official Plan (UHOP). Are we home?"

In a Spectator report (purchase today's print copy), the city, stated in the context of that plan, that the Pearl would need to conform to a new neighbourhood plan, which would include provisions for parking. Regardless, it appears that the Pearl must still defend against the city's prior charges related to zoning infractions.

Milne adds "Over the years we have approached city planners with a number of possible solutions, one of them being to find a creative way to bridge our zoning until the UHOP comes in and at that point re-zoning becomes redundant."

The Hamiltonian is hopeful that in light of these new developments, the city and the Pearl will find a way to move beyond this in a way that is respectful of both parties and that relieves both parties of the pressure and costs they have been incurring.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Debacle of the Moment

Ward 11 Clr. Johnson and Ward 10  Clr. Pearson
"Debacle" can be defined as a sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco, and it seems fitting to Tim McCabe's  announcement that the Stoney Creek Fruitland Winona Secondary plan, which was a multi year process, needs to be amended, which sums to basically throwing the plan out.

Click here to read Joey Coleman's extensive coverage. 

It appears that the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on the multi year effort, as well as the person hours spent diligently working through a torturous process, have been wasted. Ward 11 Councillor Brenda Johnson and Ward 10 Councillor Maria Pearson will have some explaining to do to the people of Hamilton. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mayor Bratina on Police Chief De Caire's Announcement

We asked our Mayor for his reaction to Police Chief Glenn De Caire's announcement via The Hamiltonian, that he will not be asking for an extension to his contract. This is what Mayor Bratina had to say:

Glenn De Caire is one of the finest men I know and his record as Chief of Police speaks for itself. Men and women of his caliber are not easily found or replaced but luckily the systems and strategies he has implemented will stand us and his successors in good stead for many years. I personally have learned a lot observing how Chief De Caire has handled many difficult situations. Away from work my wife and I have enjoyed the company of the De Caires at banquets and other events. Chief De Caire's  departure will be a loss to the administration of the city.

Bob Bratina, Mayor

Chief of Police Glenn De Caire Will Not Seek Contract Extension

Hamilton Police Service

Chief of Police Will Not Seek Contract Extension

Statement of Chief of Police Glenn De Caire:

The members of the Hamilton Police Service continue to perform with excellence and professionalism and I remain extremely proud of the efforts that each member has put forth in delivering community based police services to our diverse communities across Hamilton. Our partnerships in the community are strong and we are working together to enhance community safety, revitalize the city, encourage investment and growth and we, as a community, are doing amazing work together.

I have been proud to work with such great colleagues in this Service as we raised our enforcement levels over 50% from 2008. Arrests have increased from a yearly average of 7,200 to the 2012 level of 8,600.

Police budgets from 2001 – 2009 saw 7 of 9 budgets in excess of 4% and 2009 – 2013 saw 4 of 5 budgets

Monday, September 2, 2013

Three Mayors and a Question

We asked Mayor Bratina and former Mayors DiIanni and Eisenberger, the following question: 

Can we get your reaction to the The Spec's story today about Clr. McHattie possibly running for Mayor?

To read Mayor Bratina's reply, click here.
To read former Mayor DiIanni's  reply, click here.
To read former Mayor Eisenberger's reply, click here.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Musical Notes- Ian Andrews

Enjoy this installment of Musical Notes, with Angelo Noto Campanella as he reviews Ian Andrews

Ian Andrews a Smoking Scoundral

Most of the interviews I've done thus far are of musicians who have been in a band for a while and have put out an album or two. Some of them have been in the business for 20 years or more and are just now starting to go somewhere. This time I have decided to go with an instinct, and my instincts tell me that we will be hearing the name Ian Andrews for years to come. I first met Ian at a bank line up on Upper Gage and Mohawk. There was this skinny kid with steel toe work boots and ripped blue jeans sporting the wildest pompadour hair cut I've ever seen. He turned to my friend and I and said "You guys like music?" I said "I sure do" and he handed me this small poster of a band playing at one of the bars in town. He was very polite and personable and I thought, what a great front man this guy could make for some band. 

 A few weeks after that I saw him at This Aint Hollywood to see one of Brisco's Blues Review shows and we chatted for a bit. He mentioned something about a show he was gonna be playing at The Corktown in a couple of weeks, something inside told me I should go and check it out. I was to attend three different shows that night and Ian's was in the middle and when I got there I find out they're running late. It was a disaster, Ian broke two guitar strings before the show even got started and was playing with guys he'd never played with before, I don't even think they had a rehearsal. I ended up leaving before the set was over but I heard something that really impressed me, he could play that guitar of his very well and his voice sounded pretty good too. He also played an original song he wrote called Handsome Devil, it was fantastic, so from then on I thought I'd keep a close eye on this young man's career. By the way, I call him a young man because he was just this side of 20yrs old and is only 22yrs old now.

Ian was born and raised in Guelph and just like many musicians before him, he got a guitar as a Christmas present when he was 10yrs old. He took guitar lessons for about a month and then stopped but he kept playing on his own. He would visit relatives here in Hamilton quite often and, as it turns out, his cousin also played guitar and taught him some Black Sabbath and Nirvanna songs. When Ian was in grade 8 he started up a SKA band with some friends using some power chords he had learned. They played one show in his parents garage with many of the kids from school in attendance, his mom and dad sold soft drinks for a dollar. The last band Ian was in before he left Guelph to come to Hamilton was called Cornelius and The Damned Dirty Apes...LOL...he had written a couple of songs, "Handsome Devil" and "Diva" ....Ian - "I've always been a shy guitar player, I never sang, I would just stay off to the side and play guitar. That was the first band I ever sang in, and since then my sound with those songs have really developed into what it is now" This young man has so much RAW talent and was just ripe enough for the picking when he first came to Hamilton, he was lucky enough to meet some of Hamilton's amazing blues players who have been mentoring him since his arrival. When I asked him when it was he discovered the blues...Ian - "I discovered the Blues only 2yrs ago. It smacked me right in the face" ...not bad for a guy who mainly learned to play by ear...Ian - "that's where I learned from, playing and hanging out with people. People would say that I know fairly intense guitar theory but...not really. I wouldn't know what it's called, I played by feeling and they kinda told me about the one four five, and that's how I'm learning".

ANC - Do you think your going to stick with the Blues?

Ian - Yeah, I think I'm always gonna stay with the Blues but I can see it evolving and blending it with other things. I'm learning the Blues but it's not just the guitar or the technique, it's in here(hand over his heart) it's learning that mojo. Maybe I'll pick up that mojo and find another cool sound to play with as well and kinda blend them. I play alot on feel, I go into this other dimension at times when I'm playing. Blues is all about the Mojo. I think what I gotta do now is find the right band of people to just stick with.

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

Ian - It's played a major role, it's put me in touch with so many players. I remember hearing King Biscuit Boy when I first moved here and how my eyes just popped out of my head, and Crowbar, and just what's going on live around here and getting that rumble feeling in my gut. Could there be something in the water? (that's fueling the music in the city)....LOL

ANC - What is it that makes your music so unique/standout?

Ian - I'd say it's different....It's hard for me to say. I'm a very very modest person so I just don't...I think I just have fun with it. It seems to me that it's catching a lot of eyes and ears around town and it does have this brightness about it, but I wouldn't say I'm top dog around town or anything like that. I'm just kinda buzzing around the scene a little bit and I'd like to do some more. I would say that it's a different kind of Blues, I'm blending that dirty white boy blues with that rock n roll/rock a billy sound but also blending it with...I'm kinda learning the likes of Albert King and the Chicago Blues and all those influences...the licks a little bit but the way they're expressing.

ANC - Ian Andrews and The Smoking Scoundrels, what a great band name. How did that come about?

Ian - I started singing in that band in Guelph, Cornelius and the Damned Dirty Apes, so I kinda liked that whole fronting thing and I started writing more and taking more of a leadership role in actually putting a band together...I was in my garage at my parents house having a cigarette and I just thought of it. Smoking Scoundrels, it sounded hot ya know, I feel like I have a hot sound. I'm still looking for the right Scoundrels to play with.

ANC - So what are your plans for your music career?

Ian - I want to get a lot done. Coming from 2012 and 2013 it's been a lot of learning and I think I've hit a plateau...right now I've got an idea with a friend to build a studio and record an EP. It's gonna be a long project. I've got lot's of stuff written, probably 3 albums worth of songs. I would say that I'm ready to release a 12 song album, some of them maybe borderline worked with that would be worked with in the recording process. I'm a big fan of concept albums, I've been pondering doing a two part album kinda thing like two mini's, two ep's separate releases kinda thing. It's gonna have a theme and a flow to it. I really wanna record at Porcelain, that's somewhere I'd really love to record...it's a nice room, we can do a lot of isolation with live off the floor recording mic...with this EP I'd wanna be doing like some cool horn stuff and like some gospel choirs and things like that. I'm all about the big sound, when I get the chance to...well usually I'll have two or three horns, have a tenor and alto sax or a trumpet and harmonica, and I always like to have an organ.

ANC - When and where will you be playing next?

Ian - The next show I have booked is April 19th at the Shakespear Arms in Guelph.

I think we should keep our eyes and ears open for Ian Andrews and his ongoing search for his Smoking Scoundrels. His drive and dedication to his craft has made many people in town take notice of his so called Dirty White Boy Blues, and once he hones some of his RAW abilities, he's gonna be dynamite. Ian does not have a web site but you can contact him on facebook for bookings. I am also putting some video links to some of his performances over the last few years just so you can see what all the buzz is about...Enjoy.