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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Expressions

City Manager Chris Murray, during a press conference that advised that the city has become aware that a city staff person had stolen over 1 million dollars over the course of a nine year period. This prompted some tough questions about checks and balances in the system and how this could have happened. 

(Thanks to Joey Coleman for the video from which this shot is based)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Where's the Dialogue and Partners?

Please Note: The City has advised that they had not received our emails on this matter, and thus, had not replied. We accept the city's explanantion and continue to invite them to provide a response.

After the now infamous parting of ways between the City of Hamilton and Dialogue Partners, whose involvement in a community engagement piece was frought with problems, City Manager Chris Murray, at the time, issued this statement:

“We can all agree that the public launch of this initiative did not go well for a variety of different reasons,” However, it is important to recognize that Dialogue Partners has provided us useful information and a sound strategy for completing this process. While we will be working with new partners going forward, I want to acknowledge the work undertaken to get us to this point and offer my thanks,”

Following this, the city signaled that the work will carry on albeit in a different form and was to include consultation with local folks who were in a position to provide advice on community outreach/ engagement  The matter was to go to a GIC meeting for an update as to next steps.


We followed up with the City to determine the status of this initiative particularly in light of the the amount of money that was spent to date, prior to ending the then existing arrangement with Dialogue Partners.

We have yet to receive a reply from the City. If we do, we will publish it verbatim. Until then, the questions remain: Where's the dialogue, where's the partners and how do Hamiltonians see a return on this investment?

Media Release- Clrs. Farr and McHattie

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On Monday June 24th, 2013 the Hess Village Community Liaison Committee held their spring meeting.

The Committee is comprised of neighbourhood association representatives, Hess Village business owners, City staff, Hamilton Police, and Ward 1 Councillor McHattie and Ward 2 Councillor Farr. It was formed in 2009 to provide an open forum for all neighbourhood stakeholders to discuss issues and concerns. Garbage, noise, crime and public nuisance are among the topics discussed at meetings, where both business owners and residents have the direct ear of city officials, police and the ward councillors.

As part of their discussion, the committee is presented with statistics related to incidents involving police. 2012 data shows a dramatic decrease in calls for service, down by approximately 66% when compared to 2009 to 2011. Paid duty policing incidents decreased by over 40% from 2010. Early statistics for 2013 show that positive trend has continued.

Those who attended the meeting were pleased with the statistics, and the general consensus was that they reflect the improvements the area has seen over the past 3 years, and that the efforts made by all of those on the Committee contributed to these improvements.

The Committee has also suggested that the positive elements of Hess Village should be promoted to the public. The recent success of the Dish Crawl is a good example of the vibrant dining scene that is often overlooked when many Hamiltonians think of Hess Village. "The success of the late night weekend bar scene often overshadows the wonderful lunch and dinner experiences that people enjoy there," says Councillor Jason Farr.

Neighbourhood residents heard from operators committed to providing a vibrant dining scene and an enjoyable environment for Hamiltonians of all generations throughout the day and evening. “We are excited about the addition of new dining establishments which are expected to expand on the dining options in Hess Village in the coming weeks” adds Councillor Brian McHattie.

The committee is committed to continuing its co-operative approach to working on ongoing challenges, and looks forward to meeting again in the fall to assess the 2013 summer patio season.

Anyone interested in attending Hess Village Community Liaison Committee meetings can contact Alan Waterfield at Alan.Waterfield@hamilton.ca

Jason Farr-Ward 2-Downtown Brian McHattie-Ward 1-Chedoke/Cootes
905-546-2711 – jason.farr@hamilton.ca 905-546-2416 – brian.mchattie@hamilton.ca


Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hamilton Sends Message to Calgary

Hamiltom Mayor Bob Bratina sent the following message on behalf of our City, to Mayor Nenshi of Calgary. 

Dear Mayor Nenshi,
 
This is to assure you that Hamiltonians are deeply touched by the news we are watching of the flood emergency in Calgary, and of course other affected Alberta communities. Every year for 20 seasons as a football broadcaster I have visited and marveled at the beauty and growth of Calgary. As a marathoner I have run many training miles on the Bow River pathways and so feel a great sense of tragedy that such great beauty has become a conduit for catastrophic occurrence. We continue to monitor and stand ready to respond with assistance upon request.

Sincerely,
Bob Bratina, Mayor,
City of Hamilton

Clr. Ferguson- On Temporary Replacements on Police Services Board

In light of the controversy over whether it is proper to appoint a replacement for Clr. Terry Whitehead on the Police Services Board, we asked Clr. Ferguson the following:

Q. As it pertains to the question of whether a replacement member can be temporarily appointed to sit on the Police Services Board, pending the results of the investigation against Clr. Whitehead, it appears as though there is no precedent for doing so. At the same time, despite the term “unlawful” being attached to that intention (and while recognizing your objection to the use of that term), it appears as though a city solicitor believes that the ability to temporarily appoint is provided for in the Legislation Act.

Setting aside the legalities for a moment, some other municipalities did not proceed with temporarily appointment replacements, based on the lack of urgency to do so. Hamiltonians may be wondering why the case is being made now to appoint a replacement. Are there any urgencies that you can identify that could not be handled by the current configuration. If there are such matters, can you identify them and explain why a replacement appointee is essential?


The Hamilton Police Services is an important and busy organization so there are always pressing matters that come up. The Province appoints 3 members of the board, the City one and also appoints three members of


Clr. McHattie Chats with The Hamiltonian about LRT

Q1. Many have formed an impression that council's support for LRT is somewhat tentative. Clearly, funding mechanisms are a significant consideration and may account for a reluctance to provide unwavering commitment for LRT. At the same time, big projects do not materialize without clear leadership and commitment. Short of unconditional commitment to LRT, are their other steps or decision points that you believe council should be pursuing so as to strengthen their commitment to LRT and make it more meaningful? If so, what might those steps be? Or are you of the view that you either plunge in or you don’t?

For now, Council has taken the key step of approving the Rapid Ready report that contains the 30% King Street LRT design that was requested by Metrolinx and makes the $811M request for full 100% Provincial funding. Having received the funding tool recommendations from Metrloinx, the ball now lies with the Province of Ontario to outline their plans on how the Big Move projects across the GTHA will be funded, including priority projects etc. I anticipate this will occur as part of their 2014 Provincial Budget process late

The Hamiltonian In Cider

Blessed with predominantly hot and sunny weather, this year's Cider Fest in Winona made for the perfect country gathering. Good music, drink and food was enjoyed by all. These pictures were taken mid day, but by the evening the place was packed. Apparently, we just missed Mayor Bratina who was in attendance.  More pictures, click here.   

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Keep Niagara Green!" - Pic of the Moment

"Keep Niagara Green!" It was an unexpected but welcome statement bellowed into the microphone from one of the bands that were playing Cider Fest in the Fruitland-Winona area. 

To the left, our Publisher Teresa DiFalco hams it up with the Brett Kingswell Band. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Hamilton Tastebuds

Hamilton Tastebuds – 23,000 breakfasts a day, and counting

In my last column I wrote about the jarring contrasts one can find on the streets of our city. Of juxtaposition and dissonance: of wealth and poverty. This piece showcases a remarkable collaborative effort to address the latter and to provide a nutritious breakfast to all children in Hamilton’s schools.

Hamilton Tastebuds Student Nutrition Collaborative,” to use its full name, is the brilliantly re-branded Hamilton Partners in Nutrition (HPIN). It’s shepherded by the not-for-profit Social Planning and Research Council (SPRC) of Hamilton and managed by Senior Social Planner, Deirdre Pike.

To put it in perspective, Hamilton Tastebuds helps deliver 23,000 breakfasts a day at 144 venues, about 80% of them schools, and most of those in the inner city. That leaves almost another 100 schools without a program. (To find the current venues see the map on the old HPIN website that is slowly being folded into the new Tastebuds site.)

While those are stunning numbers for you to consider as your read this with Timmies in hand, or online at your local Starbucks, the program is not just about feeding kids in need; it is also about ensuring all children get a nutritious start to the day.

I’d first come across Pike when we were both part of the Spec’s Community Editorial Board, and recently became interested in an initiative proposed by SPRC to foster links between the breakfast program and local farmers. So I was delighted when she invited me to participate in a HPIN event, held in April, to honour volunteers in the program. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the large crowd and chat with some of the many partners (too many to list here) who have come together to make the program a success.

To say that giving Pike a microphone is like pouring gasoline on a fire is an understatement. It might be her

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Role of a Mayor

It is sometimes easy to forget that while the Mayor of a City holds an equal vote to his councillor peers, there are many aspects of the role of Mayor that transcend that parity. One of these areas of distinction is found in the Mayor's role on the Police Services Board. In a recent blog entry, Hamilton's Mayor, Bob Bratina, explains. See it here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Conflict of Interest, Real or Imagined - Opinion by Gary Santucci

Note: Comments that veer off topic will not be displayed. 

The following is an opinion piece submitted by Gary Santucci

Hamilton City Council Selection Committee; Conflict of Interest, Real or Imagined?

Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead issued the following statement regarding the appointment of a campaign donor to the Hamilton Police Services Board:

“The Provincial Government has provided strict rules on election donations by limiting donations to prevent any perception or real influence on elections. People donate to people they believe will represent them well. The list of people that donate to candidates are filed as a public document. This information has already been disclosed. Donating to campaigns is a part of democracy and should not be discouraged. Any one that donates to my campaign expect nothing in return but hard work. Let’s be clear no rules have been broken. I have been told and advised that if I can exercise my decisions objectively and there is no pecuniary interest there is no conflict! This has been the practice for decades. Now it is an issue? I have no problem having a debate on this issue, however, it should not come at the expense of an appointed representative that clearly has the qualifications and was supported unanimously by council. It is surprising that Gary (Santucci) did not ask the question how many of the Liberal Provincial Appointees on the police services board donated to the

Pic of the Moment

Tim Simmons, Chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (left), and Terry Cooke, President of the Hamilton Community Foundation (middle), look on as Mayor Bob Bratina compliments the metamorphosis of "Hamilton Partners in Nutrition" into "Hamilton Tastebuds". For more about some of the people behind this remarkable program that provides a daily nutritious breakfast to 23,000 children in Hamilton schools, see this weekend's Food for Thought column.

Too Many Men on the Ice?

It seems that Clr. Terry Whitehead's temporary suspension from the Police Services Board pending an investigation into his conduct as a board member, may have greater impacts than initially thought. The Spec is reporting that the province has deemed that  an attempt to temporarily replace Clr. Whitehead's presence with Clr. Ferguson, is unlawful.

The board's Chair, Nancy DiGregorio stated that the province deemed the temporary appointment unlawful, as it adds a person to a board whose maximum membership is not to exceed seven. Opponents argue that as Whitehead is suspended for the moment, he is in effect, a non participant. 

Given that Clr. Morelli, also a board member, is on sick leave, council representation on the Police Services Board is weakened. The Mayor observed that there are many times where the board has been short of a full compliment and caused no concern.

See the Spec's write up here, or purchase today's print copy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Merit vs. Block Mentality

In a recent write up (see it here)  by Spectator Columnist Andrew Dreschel, in making the argument that council and Chief DeCaire ought to find a way to mend their differences, Dreschel also describes what appears to be an odd rationale where commentary of the make-up of the Police Services Board is concerned.

Clr. Sam Merulla has been an advocate of petitioning the province to allow council to have control over the police budget by removing it from the Police Services Board and assigning it to council.  Clr. Clark argued that council  has control of the budget by virtue of having a 4-3 presence on the Police Services Board.

Dreschel points out however  that during the budget discussions for example, Mayor Bratina who represented one of those four council votes, routinely voted with the Chief, thereby not securing council control.

In his article, Andrew writes "Throughout the debate, Bratina, a member of the police board, routinely sided with De Caire and the civilian members.  Unfortunately, no councillor saw fit to pull that thorn during Wednesday's debate. It's important because it's a crucial counter to the argument made by Clark and Robert Pasuta that council already enjoys a controlling voice on the police board."

Clark said ""We still have control — 4-3,"

In our view, perhaps the fly in the anointment is that the Police Services Board's structure does not require any member to vote a certain way on any particular issue. They are assumed to be free thinkers.  Creating an expectation, or buying into an expectation that any member would vote, or be required/expected to vote  in a certain way , would serve to undermine the efficacy of the one free vote per person system. 


Mayor Bratina appears to have voted with what he thought to be right and,  in the case of the police budget, his view happened to be outside of what some on council would have obviously expected. In the context of the Mayor casting his vote based on  meritorious arguments from the Chief  that satisfied him, some might call that leadership. The result was a democratic one. 

The push toward block vote mentality, is one more reason why governance of the police budget should be left exactly as it is. 

The Hamiltonian

Mayor Bratina- Cashing In

Mayor Bratina landed a part in the documentary “My Father and the Man In Black,”, which is the story of Saul Holiff, who worked closely with Johnny Cash and had a rather volatile relationship with him. The Mayor landed a part as a news anchor. For more information about the documentary  its trailer and the mayor's role, see his blog by clicking here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Striking Exhibit

This striking picture is but one of many that our very own photographer at large and music reviewer, Angelo Noto Campanella will have on display as his collection of lightning shots that he has taken over the course of 15 years, are featured this Friday during Artcrawl at Homegrown Hamilton on KingWilliam street. The exhibit is entitled "Lightening Strikes the Hammer" If you are around, stop in and say hello to Ange.

Keeping Safe Redux

In light of this recent direction (click here), we thought we would republish our opinion, which can be seen by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hamilton City Council Unplugged

Our readers may recall that Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin took city council to task concerning the number of closed door, in camera meetings Hamilton City Council was holding. On the heels of Mr. Marin's observations, the idea of recording all in camera meetings was brought forward.

Such an idea would see to it that any closed door meetings are recorded so that they may be reviewed in the future if need be.

But, as reported today in The Spec (see story here or purchase today's print version), members of the Governance Committee quashed the idea. At the heart of the matter seems to be Clr. Jackson's assertion that city councillors do not have immunity like Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliament. If Clr. Jackson is correct, it may mean that anything said in closed door meetings, if accessible, can form the basis of a lawsuit. Jackson further expressed that he can be quite forceful in closed door meetings and shudders at the thought of a Freedom of Information request revealing what was said.

The elephant in the room seems to be that council is bound by its Code of Conduct, which presumably would ensure that behavior by councillors meets a certain standard behind closed doors or otherwise. There are also exceptions to Freedom of Information access requests, designed to ensure that a body does not unduly reveal information that would be deemed inappropriate, under various exception heads defined under freedom of information legislation.

Do you agree that closed door meetings should not be recorded and do you buy Clr. Jackson's rationale, or do you think this is a step backwards in the spirit of transparency and accountability?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gary Santucci- On Policing Costs Over Time

The following opinion piece was written by Gary Santucci

The Police Budget, is it really about the money?

In just nine short years from 2001 to 2009, under the Chairmanship of Councillor Morelli and with Chief Mullan at the helm, The Hamilton Police Services budget grew an incredible 33% from $80 million to $120 million. The increases ranged from a high of 7.91% in 2003 to a low of 3.46% in 2009. It is interesting to note that the 2013 budget under Chair DiGregorio and Chief DeCaire came in at 3.5%. The Morelli dominated Board also had Mayors Wade, DiIanni and Eisenberger as well as Councillors Jackson and Whitehead as members. From 2001 to 2009 the Police budget increases averaged 5.24%. From 2010 to 2013 under Chairs Bruce Pearson and Nancy DiGregorio, with Chief DeCaire at the helm and Mayor


Friday, June 7, 2013

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Juxtaposition, Dissonance, Approval

Juxtaposition, Dissonance, Approval

This column was supposed to be a profile of Dave Hanley, the driving force behind the Hamilton Dishcrawl. It’s not. He’ll understand.

It is about the James St. North Dishcrawl held May 28th.
It’s Hamilton in 200 meters.


4:45 a.m. May 29th

It’s about the thoughts that come at dawn, and a very different piece thrashing itself awake. I’m thinking of the food we ate. And then the beggar in Jacques PrĂ©vert’s poem “La grasse matinĂ©e”. (Read a decent full translation here.)


Whitehead- Defending and Digging? or Justifiably Peeved?

The following Q/A is from an interview Clr. Whitehead had with our friends at CBC Hamilton: (read full interview by clicking here)

CBC Hamilton: What will this do for Coun. Merulla's motion with regards to dissolving the Police Services Board and bringing decisions regarding police under council?

Clr. Whitehead:  I think it just strengthens it. I believe a number of my colleagues understand what's going on. We have a number of issues. We have a mayor that clearly has no allies on council, but he does have allies with the three provincial appointees on the board. So this is one way of him seeking retribution on a council member.

I have a lot of respect for the three provincial appointees. I don't want to undermine that. But having said that, I think they're being somewhat co-opted in this whole process.


The Hamiltonian asked Mayor Bratina for a response. The mayor advised us as follows:

Chair Nancy Digregorio is the spokesperson for the Hamilton Police services board. There is a mandated process in place which will ultimately speak to the issues related to this matter.

It appears from Clr. Whitehead's remarks that he is making a serious allegation against Mayor Bratina; that being, that he alleges that the Mayor is somehow using the three provincial appointees on the Police Services board against Clr. Whitehead. Whitehead has previously alleged that Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire is/was also out to get him. 

Can you identify with Clr. Whitehead's allegations and do you think he has cause to be concerned, or do you believe he is off-base and is digging a  hole for himself? 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Clr. Terry Whitehead's Statement to The Hamiltonian

Update: Clr. Whitehead has been suspended from the Police Services Board, pending the results of an investigation. See the Spec story by clicking here, or purchase today's print copy. 

Clr. Terry Whitehead has been the subject of several news stories as of late. Mr. Whitehead made the following statement to The Hamiltonian. It is published verbatim.

I see part of my job as holding the  line on taxes and ensuring the taxpayers are getting value for  every dollar spent. A safe community also must  be an affordable community. 

I have been very vocal on  some aspects of the action team ( not dissimilar to the
 Police Association Views). I have been persistent in making the argument that we are not getting value for part of this strategy. we should deal with crime head-on, rather than displacing it from ward to ward. This is an issue I have raised on a number of occasions.

At a meeting in my office with staff we observed two Action officers at approximately 1130 am. We never thought much of it until time lapsed during the course of my meeting. At the end of the meeting, they were still there. I asked my staff, who observed the same thing as I did, to take a picture, so I could better illustrate


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Media Release- PLACE and SPACE Closing Reception

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

270 Sherman will host PLACE and SPACE Closing Reception on June 22, 2013

On Saturday June 22, 2013, 270 Sherman will host a closing reception in honour of their first Artist in Residence C. Well’s art exhibition, “PLACE and SPACE”.

All are welcome to this special event to view the exhibition for the final time. The art exhibition will take place in the Third Floor Mill where over fifty pieces of artwork are displayed in a breathtaking 30,000 square foot open space. C. Wells’ work which began in 1996 and proceeds today has been praised as a mini documentary examining the line marker as a global communication device and a visual language. The industrial themes of the artwork and the building pay a high compliment to one another.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Hamilton Police - ACTION Strategy Making Headway on Hotspots

Recently, the Hamilton Police Service released the fourth of a series of spatial analysis reports, An Overview of Violence-Prone Areas in Hamilton Three Years Later. Its purpose was to evaluate any changes in the levels of violence in the city, since the implementation of the Service's anti-violence ACTION strategy and provide evidence-based support to the strategic deployment of scarce resources within the city.

The ACTION strategy involves focusing police resources below the escarpment, in the downtown core and in the areas of high concentration of violent events while maintaining the flexibility to redeploy these resources, rapidly, to any location within the city of Hamilton in response to public safety concerns.

The report highlights encouraging results of the ACTION strategy including:
  • over the past three years, violent, assaults and property crimes show double digit decreases 
  • drug crimes have increased 39%, which reflects the Service's strategic focus 
  • when compared to the size of the violent hot spots calculated in 2009, the violence-prone areas have decreased by 36% in 2012 
To see the report, click here. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pic of the Moment

Fruitland-Winona residents rally against the city's intent to dismiss a secondary preferred plan for the area that was developed cooperatively with city planning staff, city hired consultants, the councillors for Wards 10 and 11, stakeholders and community members over the course of many years through a committee commissioned by the city entitled the Community Advisory Committee. The city unilaterally introduced a new plan that was voted down by the Community Advisory Committee. The matter has the community outraged.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Seeking Clarity

Ward 11 Clr. Brenda Johnson
The Hamiltonian emailed Ward 11 Councillor Brenda Johnson a few questions in an effort to have our readers better understand the vetting process where the filling of vacancies for the Police Services Board members are concerned. As Clr. Johnson is the Chair of the selection committee, we are looking for clarity from her on this matter. To date, we have yet to receive a reply. If we do, we will post it verbatim. Here are the questions we've asked:

Clr. Johnson:

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, were followed to ensure that conflict or potential conflict situations are brought to light and considered prior to a selection being made?