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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Irony of Precision

Mayor Bratina 
Much has been made of Mayor Bratina’s stance on LRT, and more recently and more specifically, the messaging he is giving or may be prepared to give to the province with respect to Hamilton’s Rapid Transit priorities and directions.

There are those who believe that the Mayor is being purposefully coy about the whole matter, in the interest of undermining the effort, and giving his own opinion to the province, rather than carrying council direction and will- which he is obligated to do. That perspective found expression in Councillor McHattie’s unfortunate description of the mayor as being “ willfully stupid” on the matter. Unfortunate because the Councillor has earned a great deal of respect over his championing of the cause, and to belittle a Mayor who was elected at large, seemed to be in poor form. McHattie’s faux pas, seemed to find relief in the respectful way


Friday, April 26, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Dishcrawl , A win for Hamilton

What an extra-ordinary few weeks culminating last Tuesday in Hamilton’s 2nd-ever Dishcrawl in Hess Village. 

On the heels of my 60th birthday, and retirement from my day job, I had a broad variety of culinary adventures that will be grist for reflection and future columns. I attended the inaugural (and, for me, life-changing) Food Bloggers of Canada conference. What I learned on many fronts will help improve how I write about food and wine: if you want a taste of what went on see this recap of recaps by a variety of attendees.

I also: got to use some serious molecular cooking equipment at Cedarlane Culinary; took in a demo of Cutco knives and cookware; and participated in the Hamilton Partners in Nutrition volunteer recognition luncheon (they feed breakfast to ~23,000 kids A DAY!). I also survived an Icarus-like cooking disaster in my own kitchen, but that’s another tale…

I’ve mentioned Dave Hanley, the man behind the Dishcrawls, in recent columns about the Hamilton food scene. When I got to the gathering place for the Hess Street event, Koi Restaurant, Dave was there in his pork pie hat greeting guests, and seeing to last minute logistics.

The basic outline of a Dishcrawl is this: Guest stump up a paltry $60 online (actually $71.79 after taxes and processing) to secure their spot. This includes all taxes and tips but not drinks. 48 hours prior to the event participants are notified where to gather. After some introductory remarks by the restaurant owner or chef they are fed. The next location is then disclosed and the crowd decamps. This is repeated again and again, with each of the four restaurants seemingly determined to outdo the others. The atmosphere is great,


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Leadership on the HWT File? - Opinion

In today's Hamilton Spectator, Columnist Andrew Dreschel published a piece on The Hamilton Waterfront Trust and its failed G.S.T., C.R.A. audit.

Dreschel points out that the handling of the G.S.T. claim in question was clearly botched by the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. 


Andrew's article also cites quotes and perspectives from Clrs. Jackson and Ferguson as well as others. We encourage you to read Andrew's piece in full. You can find it here or purchase today's print copy.

Suffice it to say that, to various degrees, those quoted in Andrew's article appear to be putting a face on this failed audit. Had it not been for it being commonplace for politicians to often times attempt to put the most favourable spin on debacles, one might find such comments out of place. Unfortunately they are par for the course particularly where issues of accountability and failings veer their head. Such an approach is not born in Hamilton.

One thing you may never hear is this " I understand I am ultimately accountable and I accept that responsibility and here is what I am going to do to make sure this never happens again." That would be the language of exceptional leadership and it is something that is sadly lacking. Mistakes do happen but it is what happens next that can either restore or deflate public confidence.

In this case, fingers seem to be pointing to someone who has been referred to as the "previous accountant" throughout Andrew's article, but is reduced to a "glorified bookeeper" by Clr. Jackson's quoted remarks to his committee colleagues.

Andrew closes with asking a very important question. Where does the buck stop? He further asks "with the previous accountant, the management staff, or with the board of directors at the time of refiling?"

With respect to Andrew, one point of departure for us is our belief that the current board of directors remain ultimately accountable to the citizens of Hamilton. They are empowered and responsible to provide oversight and stewardship, regardless of when mistakes happened and have the ability to take reasonable measures to restore confidence.


The Hamiltonian

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Report Confirms Hamilton Waterfront Trust's Failure of CRA G.S.T. Audit

Our readers may recall that various media sources including The Hamiltonian, The Bay Observer and CHML, began reporting on the fiscal management and administration of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust, on the heels of what presented as possible irregularities of the same.

At that time, many councillors on GIC, and Clrs. Farr and Jackson as council members of the Board of Directors of the Waterfront Trust, came to the defense of the Trust and its Executive Director. In tandum Gary Santucci and Brian Bonham brought their concerns to GIC and presented them. The summary, presentation and the video footage of that meeting can be seen by clicking here. and here
 To hear Gary Santucci's recent guest appearance on the Bill Kelly show on CHML click here. 

One of the issues on the table was the Hamilton Waterfront Trust's handling of the G.S.T. rebate. This related to the  Hamilton Waterfront Trust's refiling of G.S.T. rebates for the years 2006 and 2007 seeking $495,000.00.

An audit of these claims conducted by the Canada Revenue Agency found that:

  • The Hamilton Waterfront Trust (HWT) charged GST amounts to the city in their invoicing, where GST charges ought not to have been charged. Thus any GST amounts kept by the HWT, or remitted, were not permissible.
  • HWT appears to have collected GST for revenues that were exempt, such as on interest earned and donations.
  • Some amounts were claimed twice on different worksheets.
  • Rebates were claimed where no GST was paid. 

Note: Full findings can be found by clicking here.

These errors resulted in an amount of $323,126.00 having to be repaid to the Canada Revenue Service. The initial amount owing of $428,945.00 was reduced to 
$323,126.00 after negotiating the amount owing with the CRA. 

In Mr. Santucci and Mr. Bonham's presentation at GIC, they stated "Councillor Ferguson rightfully asked of the G.S.T. audit, what had happened and what were the details."

These details have now become known and it appears Mr. Santucci , Mr. Bonham and Clr. Ferguson asked a pertinent and useful question on behalf of Hamiltonians. 

Whether this will result in greater scrutiny of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust's affairs, is yet to be seen. For now, the report confirms that this audit was failed. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In the Media- The Hamiltonian Talks with CityTV Reporter Saphia Khambalia

Saphia Khambalia
The following interview with our friend Saphia Khambalia, CityTV reporter  ought to be of particular interest to anyone interested in the media/news field, and anyone interested in reading about one of our own, making it in the competitive world of news media.   Enjoy our interview with Saphia as she talks about interviewing personalities such as Bill Clinton, her challenging moments in the business, comical moments and much more. 

1. You have had quite a career path, commencing on the news writing desk at CityTV and progressing to become a reporter. You’ve interviewed people like Bill Clinton and Aretha Franklin. Can you describe that journey, including your roots in Stoney Creek.

First off, thanks so much for that. Any recognition from my hometown means the world to me. I’m super proud of where I grew-up! It’s been an exciting journey so far, full of ups and downs, wonderful mentors and amazing experiences and I hope there’s a lot more of that to come. 

Yes! Stoney Creek! Oh, I owe a lot to the Greater Hamilton Area. All of my family is still around the golden horseshoe and I truly got my “start” in Hamilton and Stoney Creek. I was bitten by the media bug in high school when I started writing for the Stoney Creek News and volunteering at Cable 14-Hamilton. I may have been doing behind-the-scene stuff at first: pulling cable, running the audio boards etc. but, this whole new world opened-up to me. I loved learning every part of the puzzle that made the TV machine “work”. I also learned right away no matter how big your audience or how far your reach you CAN impact people with this medium. As a famous web-slinging-superhero once said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I was honoured to be in that position. I got the chance to do some roving-reporter work in


Friday, April 19, 2013

Mayor Bratina and his Chat with the Premier

Mayor Bob Bratina
The Hamiltonian asked Mayor Bratina for a statement on the issue of LRT, all Day Go and what may or may not have been said between Premier Wynne and the Mayor. The following is the mayor's  response, verbatim:

The Government has not received any messaging on Hamilton's LRT beyond what is contained in the Rapid Ready plan.  My direct contact with Premier Wynne this past weekend was brief, friendly and appreciative of her understanding and support for our City.  To repeat, no conversation took place between myself and the Premier about LRT and GO planning for Hamilton.

With regard to the implementation of the B-Line LRT, the approved Rapid Ready document contains the following direction  on page 30 of the report under "Core Actions".

"Light rail transit and bus rapid transit are ultimate goals and their implementation will require regular bus service restructuring.  In preparation, the objective will be to increase bus service levels in the A-line and B-line corridors to emulate rapid transit."

If Council wishes to put forward a motion stating that "the City of Hamilton requires that upon approval of the Metrolinx funding plan work begin immediately on the B-line LRT project" I will of course make Council's decision known to the Provincial Government.

Respectfully,
Bob Bratina, Mayor

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Losing it.......

photography by Joanna St Jacques
















This photo, submitted kindly by Joanna St. Jacques www.stjacquesphotography.com, underscores significant heritage lost in the core, and serves to remind us of the importance of this event (click here)

"The Maggies" - Media Release

The late Maggie Hughes
Join us as we celebrate the launch of the Hamilton Independent Media Awards

("The Maggies")

Homegrown Hamilton, 27 King William St.
Friday, April 19
7 pm Meet & Greet
8 pm Special presentations
9 pm Music
feat. Steve Sinnicks - Raphael Keelan - Safety Collective
Tickets $10 in advance @ Homegrown or Dr. Disc (20 Wilson Street)

HAMILTON: Join activists, journalists and engaged Hamiltonians as we celebrate the launch of the Hamilton Independent Media Awards.

The first Hamilton Independent Media Awards will occur in the spring of 2014. We hope you will come


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Keeping Safe - Opinion

In the tragic aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the loss of innocent lives and the countless others injured, the value of security and policing is likely at the forefront of the public's conscience. 

On a lessor scale, Hamilton is seeing its way through a passionate debate on the police budget and has arrived at a compromise. That compromise has alleviated the potential for the matter to be heard before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, who has the authority to render a decision independently of city council or the Police Chief. 

That possibility had some questioning whether it is appropriate for such an entity and ability to exist, and why that power is not vested solely with city council. 

The fact that a council is elected may be both its strength and its weakness. On the face of it, being accountable to an elected city council makes sense and has been a long standing model for most other, if not, all other departments- via the City Manager. One exception is policing, which has access to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. While this break from the norm may present as peculiar, it  provides a public safeguard. 

While there is no disputing that city councils are capable of making sound decisions on issues (and allowing that in some cases, appear unable to) , the delicate topic of public safety may benefit from the assurance that budget decisions ,can be insulated (if need be), from being politicized. If a council for example, were to set its sights aggressively  on a zero tax increase,  that agenda may result in a compromise to public safety if the police were left with inadequate funds to reasonably respond to crime and invoke prevention. 

In such instances,  the Ontario Civilian Police Commission can serve an invaluable purpose in ensuring that the ability to provide a reasonable degree of policing services, is not eroded. Of course, in such deliberations, what is 'reasonable' would have to be reconciled. 

Fortunately, Hamilton has not had to go the route of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission . However its utility could be of great benefit  to the public interest. 

Congratulations again to the Chief DeCaire, The Police Services Board and City Council for having seen their way through this issue. 

The Hamiltonian

Media Release- from Clr. McHattie


MEDIA ADVISORY For Immediate Release 

Citizens’ Forum on Cultural Heritage Conservation

HAMILTON, ON (April 17, 2013).…Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie invites the community to get involved in inventorying and protecting cultural heritage properties in Hamilton.

Who: Jointly sponsored by Councillor Brian McHattie, City of Hamilton’s Municipal Heritage Committee, the Hamilton and Burlington Society of Architects, and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario – Hamilton branch

What: To educate the community on the importance of cultural heritage and to enlist citizen assistance in assessing properties for protection.

When: Saturday, April 20, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Council Chambers, Hamilton City Hall, 71 Main St.W.
Why: There are approximately 7000 heritage properties of interest in Hamilton but the City has taken little action to assess these properties and determine which ones should be placed on the Register as per the Ontario Heritage Act. This forum is the first step in enlisting the help of citizens to see these properties evaluated for protection. 


Jim Leonard, Ontario Heritage Trust, Michael Seaman, Director of Planning, Town of Grimsby and Jeff Feswick, Historia Building Restoration Inc. will present their perspectives on heritage preservation and Kayla Jonas Galvin, Heritage Resources Centre, University of Waterloo will introduce a citizen tool to evaluate properties.

The City's Licensing Dept....on Hillbilly Heaven

Further to this media release (click here)  issued by Cameron Bailey, owner of Hillbilly Heaven, we approached Al Fletcher from the City of Hamilton's licensing department for answers to the following questions:1. While allowing that business owners ought to comply to city requirements with respect to licensing and other provisions regarding business start up/continuance, a number of emails shared by Mr. Bailey between yourself and he, form the basis of the following questions;

It appears as though Mr. Bailey takes issue with his application not being accepted as it did not include a cheque for a fee. Apparently, he was questioning the purpose and applicability of the fee and wanted to proceed with the application while asking that someone discuss the fee with him. The city's position seemed to have been that the application must be complete, which would include payment of the fee, prior to it being received.

On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable approach. However, how do you respond to those who would


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Clr. Whitehead on Chief DeCaire's Contract

Q. Some would say that the spirited debate on the police budget was a healthy and necessary conversation to have.

Now that it is near a resolve, there is talk as to whether Chief DeCaire's  contract renewal may be in jeopardy, based on the approach he took on the budget issue. 

Some would say that making a connection between the approach he espoused and the renewal of his contract, is inappropriate and unduly punitive.

1. How do you respond to that?.
2. Can you ensure Hamiltonians that reprisal will not be a response.


Discussions regarding the renewal will be based on a comprehensive matrix and not just one element. The Police services board by majority supported the Chiefs budget. The police services board will review the Chief's performance and determine by majority vote whether the Chief's contract should be renewed. I fail to see how the budget discussions alone would impact the chiefs tenure.

Respectfully,
Terry Whitehead

Media Release- Closing of Hillbilly Heaven- Upper James Location

I am sorry to announce that Hillbilly Heaven BBQ at Upper James and Fennell has served it’s last dinner.

In the last hour of an emotional evening, everyone ate for free.

What began in September 2011, with a simple inquiry regarding about the status of our business licence, devolved into a maze of inefficiency at lack of accountability at City Hall

I made several attempts to co-ordinate the departments of licencing, building and planning to answer two simple questions: what do I need?, what do I have to pay?

Finally in February, I presented the City with a package containing all the applications – including expensive


Monday, April 15, 2013

With the Mayor......on Transit

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina
The following question regarding solving transit problems, was asked of Mayor Bratina. Enjoy our Q/A with the Mayor.

Q. With Premier Wynne's interest in solving transit problems and, in that mix, considering a LRT solution through new tools for funding, subject to recommendations, are you optimistic that Hamilton may finally find a way beyond the funding impasse? What types of considerations should Hamilton city council brace itself for and what would you see city council's  approach being in deliberating in this matter responsibly and with deference to the Hamilton taxpayers?

It has to be made clear to residents how much they will pay per household to support the transit initiatives, whatever funding tools are selected. Our finance staff is preparing a report for Council which will help us to understand the impacts of the proposed funding options. I expect that report early in the month of May which will help direct Council's decisions on growing transit in Hamilton through the next decade and beyond.

Bob Bratina,
MAYOR
City of Hamilton

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?

There may be an exception to the adage ' there's no such thing as bad publicity', as Cameron Bailey, owner of Hillbilly Heaven may be finding out.

Most recently, Mr. Bailey copied The Hamiltonian on a string of emails in which he expresses concern about feeling being held out as the "poster boy" for illegal businesses. This on the heels of the city's value for money audit unit announcing that it will probe the presence of businesses operating illegally without a licence. In today's Spec story (see it here or purchase the print version), mention is made of Cameron Bailey's issues with the city licencing process/fees. It is questionable whether the focus on businesses operating without a licence, would have been on the radar if not for Mr. Bailey's situation.


Still, earlier controversy ensued when Mr. Bailey's business bore the confederate flag as part of its signage. He has since taken it down. From the emails shared with The Hamiltonian, is appears that Mr. Bailey is also concerned about getting what he has characterized as an uncaring attitude from at least one member of council, on issues he has asked about concerning his businesses. 

Bailey also faults the city for allegedly inadvertently closing his file that pertains to his Upper James location. The city alleges it was closed due to inactivity after discussions between staff and Mr. Bailey, while Mr. Bailey maintains that he has numerous discussions in which the city failed to follow up.

While Mr. Bailey appears to be media friendly, as indicated by the many interviews he has granted to many media sources, can the old adage - 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' be backfiring, in this case? Is Mr. Bailey's public profile contributing to his grief? Or is he simply getting entangled in red tape? 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Are we a culinary wasteland?– Part 2.

Are we a culinary wasteland – Part 2?

YES, Anonymous, I was being a “provocateur,” and it’s clear the answer to the question is NO we are not a culinary wasteland. Food for Thought readers responded vigorously to part one of this column, offering many opinions and suggestions. One thoughtful commentator wrote (sic):

“I love the Hamilton that is not like everywhere else. Most great things about Hamilton have come about despite (and perhaps because of) nothing comes easy. Diversity rising out of adversity, a cultural Galapagos largely ignored and spurned by the rest of the country. I could give a toss whether we rate alongside Toronto or Montreal on some fabled "culinary roadmap … Could things be better? Absolutely. Celebrating and supporting what we have and not wasting too much time bemoaning what is not seems like a good place to start.”

I think we can build on that sentiment and the passion evident in various other responses. I wrote earlier “we


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Quote of the Moment

"My position has been consistent from the outset and remains in support of the Police Services Board recommendation of a 3.71 percent increase over 2012. I will again vote in support of this position at the Board’s next meeting. .”

Mayor Bratina clarifies his position, post Wednesday's vote on the police budget.

Working Hard for the Money - Part 4

Our readers may recall that in April 2012, we asked the city how many employees who were found on the Sunshine List (which lists employees who make over $100,000.00 per year), had performance contracts/agreements in place. At that time, we were told that due to technicalities, there was no way to make that determination. (see story here).

This led to more questions about the overall completion rates for employees, regardless of wage amounts. While we found that while year over year, progress was being made on completion rates of performance contracts/agreements, overall, the completion rate was poor, coming it at under 50% completion    See our follow ups at these links:

http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/04/working-hard-for-money.html
http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/05/working-hard-for-money-part-2.html
http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/11/catching-up-withcatching-up.html

Recently, we asked the questions below of the city, as a follow up to this ongoing story.

1. As at April 2012, the city advised that due to some technicalities and other issues, there was no way to determine if city employees who are on the Public Disclosure Sunshine list (by virtue of earning over $100,000.00 per year), have a signed performance contract/agreement in place. Is there now a way to make that determination and if so, can you advise as to the percentage of employees on the sunshine list that have a signed performance contract/agreement in place to guide and align their work and gauge performance outcomes?

2. In previous articles with The Hamiltonian, you stated that you were expecting that a an improved performance management system would be in place by the fall of 2012. In November 2012, Helen Hale Tomasik, Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development outlined the approach ( http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/11/catching-up-withcatching-up.html). At this point, we suspect that Hamiltonians are interested in the outcomes of these efforts. Can you identify what outcomes we have achieved?

3. In April 2012, data was provided to us that demonstrated the completion rates for performance contracts/agreements on a year over year basis for the years 2008-2010. http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/04/working-hard-for-money.html This was supported by the underlying statistics on a department by department basis (see it here: http://www.musicfusion.us/share/pa.pdf). Can you provide an update to this data to reflect the most recent stats?

The following was received from the city, as an interim reply.

In terms of an update with respect to your questions, the General Managers of each of the departments have been given until May 3rd to submit their 2012 PA completion rates to Human Resources. This is similar to last year when we provided you the information late in April I believe.

Once that information is received we can then consolidate both the department and City-wide results and then cross-reference it with the “sunshine list” as you have requested and share them with you at that time.


The Hamiltonian will continue to follow up on this story, with a view toward receiving answers to the questions above. Stay tuned...... In the interim, we invite your comments. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How They Voted in February

This invaluable service, is brought to you by the good people at C.A.T.C.H.


This is a regular CATCH summary of votes at committee and council meetings. This report covers the month of February 2013. The first line of each entry identifies the issue, followed by a brief description. This is followed by the location of the vote in the third line. Multiple votes on the same issue are reported together. Absentees are only listed where reported in the minutes and where the missing councillors are members of that committee or decision-making body. Links are provided to source documents.  Note that the vast majority of council decisions are unanimous and the votes are not officially recorded.
Stoney Creek townhouse development
Staff recommended approval of rezoning 2 Oceania Drive in Stoney Creek from commercial to residential to

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

From Clr. Whitehead

I am hosting a poll asking Hamiltonians how they feel about the Proposed Rental Housing Licensing By-law. This is not your typical "yes or no" poll. I want to know your opinion. What are your questions for Council? Go to www.terrywhitehead.ca to cast your vote and ask your questions!

Terry
Councillor Terry Whitehead
Ward 8 - West Mountain
City of Hamilton

Friday, April 5, 2013

Episode 5 of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns" - Follow the Leader

In this episode of As Hamilton Twists and Turns, the "Follow the Leader" episode , Hamilton finds itself besieged by a war of wills with respect to the Chief of Police's budget request on behalf of the police services.

While whittled down to approximately a $250,000.00 difference which, if accepted would have given the Chief what he needs to deliver (albeit in a compromised amount), a satisfactory degree of police services to address public safety, council has dug in and so has the Chief.

The Chief, not without allies in Mayor Bratina for example, and armed with a battery of compelling arguments, facts, trends and trajectories, continues to face off with the likes of Clr. Terry Whitehead who continues to lead the charge in the name of what he says is necessary fiscal restraint.

Whitehead may have convinced council to send back the Chief's budget request, but the Chief is not without recourse, potentially accessing the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, who has the power to conduct a public hearing into the dispute and to settle it. In other words, unbound by council or the Chief.

Meanwhile some factions of the press are characterizing the Police Services Board and in particular, some members of the board, as "stepford-like"; unthinking people who gravitate to the Chief's every suggestion, or shiny coins in the sun; ignoring the fact that these folks are thinking people who can discern compelling arguments from weaker ones.

Quite possibly, Hamilton is not caught in another series of twists and turns, but is seized by stellar examples of leadership. On the one hand, Chief DeCaire has proven to be competent, charismatic and unrelenting in conviction and substance, providing staunch leadership in the name of public safety. Whitehead, on the other hand, has brought his own brand of leadership to the table, pushing back with a  degree of success, in the name of what he believes is necessary fiscal restraint.

And recently, there has been a suggestion that the Chief's approach may have damning consequences on his contract being renewed. Hamilton needs to be see more of  the Chief's  type of leadership and not less. Attempting to tie the presentation and advocacy for a legitimate set of arguments, to jeopardizing a contract renewal, appears short sighted.

The Hamiltonian continues to believe that:

Chief DeCaire has made compelling arguments that ought to be considered very carefully.

That there is room in this conversation for Clr. Whitehead's views and those who support him.

That members of the Police Services Board are decent people who ought to be afforded more credit.

We have the ability to make a sensible decision short of dragging in a Commission to adjudicate.

That the leadership shown by the parties involved ought to be applauded and not scorned, as, Commission adjudication or not, Hamiltonians will be better off by virtue of these discussions. 


Congratulations to Chief DeCaire and Clr. Whitehead for bringing it on. Let's not confuse inappropriateness with leadership . 

The Hamiltonian

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hillbilly Heaven or Hell?

Earlier today, The Hamiltonian became aware that Cameron Bailey, owner of Hillbilly Heaven announced via a tweet that he will be taking the confederate flag down from his signage. We asked Mr. Bailey to explain this turn of events. Here is his response:

At the outset of the controversy I had intended to remove the flag – it was not my first choice for that space on our signage. In fact, the day it drew media attention, I sought out Councillor Jason Farr and asked him to broker meetings with the offended parties. Those meetings were never arranged and the situation took on a life of its own. To some extent, it polarized the city

Once the threats, vandalism and intimidation began, I had no choice but to stand my ground. There was no way that I would reward that behaviour and set the future standard for conduct in Hamilton. I am sure that position cost us customers but I felt I had no choice but to hold to the values that most of us share.

Although the controversy has subsided, it has come to my attention that my landlord is now a target of attack. Why people would choose to intimidate a 70 year old man is beyond me. He understood my stance and supported me but this week he asked me to give him some peace. I agreed.

I would like to thank Chris Cutler for his work in arranging an opportunity for me to meet with Gary Warner. Gary and I have met and spoken on numerous occasions since and I hold him in the highest regard. He inspired me to take a more active role in civic leadership – something I seek to do in 2014.

Hopefully this turns the page on this story, once and for all


A reminder that comments that include name calling, or are otherwise unprofessional, will not be published. If your comment does not appear, please consider rewording it so that your perspectives can be read.

Clr. Farr on the Hillbilly Heaven Licensing Matter


Update: Response from Cameron Bailey- owner of Hillbilly Heaven: 

I appreciate Mr. Farrs “no comment” representation of a business owner in his Ward on your website. The day I was contacted by The Spectator, I called Mr. Farr's office for help the day. I got nothing - not even a call returned

However, he is right, I have a meeting at 10:00am tomorrow morning I have an email from Al Fletcher, the head of licencing, stating that the City mistakenly closed our file and did not follow up with anything.

For 6 months, I chased the City to re-open the file and get this done. For my efforts, I am painted as trying to cheat the system

Should anyone want to see the full email exchange, please email me and I will forward you a copy: bbq@hillbillyheaven.com

Cameron Bailey 



In light of the Spec story which revealed that Hillbilly Heaven has been operating its locations illegally based on not paying its licencing fees, we decided to approach Clr. Farr last week to share his thoughts on the issue. Here is our Q/A:

It has been reported that the two Hillbilly Heaven locations in Hamilton are operating without a proper license. Further, the owner appears unwilling to comply. In the context of the controversy that seemingly continues to surround Hillbilly Heaven, and in recognition that businesses must comply with policies and rules, can we have your thoughts on this and what, if anything, you will be doing, in conjunction with city staff and perhaps Mr. Bailey, to resolve the issue.


Hello Hamiltonian and thank you for your patience.

With respect to this issue(s). There is a meeting scheduled with the HH owner on Thursday morning with Building, Planning, Committee of Adjustment and Licencing to discuss the two properties.
J


Note: To read Mr. Bailey's perspective, click here

A reminder that comments that include name calling, or are otherwise unprofessional, will not be published. If your comment does not appear, please consider rewording it so that your perspectives can be read.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Media Statement: Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

Invest in poverty reduction in this Ontario Budget: Poverty Roundtable to Minister of Finance.

With a provincial budget weeks away, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction is reminding the Government of Ontario that investing in people by fixing Ontario’s broken social assistance system must be a priority.

Roundtable member and vice-chair of its social assistance working group, Laura Cattari will be presenting to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa when he hosts pre-budget consultations with individuals, organizations and other stakeholders this afternoon at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington from 2:30pm to 5:30pm.

The Roundtable has called on the provincial government to act immediately on recommendations from the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario by implementing an immediate $100 increase to rates. Ontario’s social assistance recipients are living in deep poverty: benefits for a single person on Ontario Works are currently $606/month and do not come close to reflecting the actual costs of living in Hamilton or Ontario. According to Hamilton Food Share 75% of all food bank recipients are on provincial social assistance programs as many do not have the resources to purchase food. “We cannot slash our way to better health; physically, socially or economically” said Cattari who is on the Ontario Disability Support Program.

She will be asking the provincial government to make investments that enable individuals and families to move out of poverty through jobs. One way to do this is by changing the amount of money a person on social assistance can earn at a job before benefits are clawed back. Changes to earnings will have an immediate and profound impact in communities to improve opportunities for individuals living on social assistance.

Cattari will also be reiterating to the Minister the Roundtable’s long-standing demand to reverse last year’s budget cuts to community start-up and maintenance benefits and discretionary health benefits – critical programs that assist low income residents to maintain housing, retain dignity and promote health.

Roundtable Chair, Howard Elliott said “We look forward to the government acting on the proposed recommendations and helping Ontario become a more prosperous and sustainable province.”

What's the Plan Sam? - Redux

Further to this story (click here) concerning the City Motor Hotel and its plight, we checked in with Clr. Sam Merulla to determine if there was any further clarity on what might happen to the site. Here is our Q/A with the Clr:

Do you have any further clarity as to what will become of the city motor hotel? More specifically, is there clarity around what purpose the site will serve, who will assume operations of it, and who will be paying for the site purpose to date and in the future?


These questions have all been answered publicly numerous times. The first objective was to gain possession and the demolish the site for the repurposing of the site. I have repeatedly stated that the site will be repurposed with either a P3 or full quasi private development for commercial, residential and public transit hub which will be pursued subsequent to full public and neighbourhood consultation regarding the specs of the RFP. Nothing has changed.