Saturday, May 31, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Walking and a’ Wandering – Culinary Tours and other Diversions

Steve Lovelace, Niagara Culinary Tours
 and Pillitteri wines
Walking and a’ Wandering – Culinary Tours and other Diversions

In my last column I teased this piece would feature “an Australian, a big knife, cool wife and tale of breaking into the Kremlin.” It does, as well as describing a new venture offering culinary tours in the St. Catharines and Niagara region.

I’ve cooked with Steve Lovelace, the affable Aussie in question, for several years now. Kibitzing aside, when big knives are involved you learn to work carefully in close quarters! Steve’s love of wine and food is infectious and was instilled at an early age: his Mum was a great cook and grandparents were bakers. “A bit of wine and a bit of water at the table as soon as you were a teenager, and as the years progressed, more wine and less water!” he says his raucous laugh filling my kitchen as we chat.

He and his backpack bounced about a bit as Aussies often do, working in the hospitality business including being part of the opening staff for Si Wai Lai’s Shaw CafĂ© in 1996. He got out of the restaurant business - again that hearty laugh - because the bank told him he had to get a real job if he wanted to buy a house! Settled in Niagara

Friday, May 30, 2014

Keeping the Chief

Charles Juravinski continues his efforts to have Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire stay with Hamilton, beyond the expiry of his present term. With Juravinski leading the charge, and Clr. Ferguson indicating that he is open to hearing compelling arguments for asking the Chief to stay on, we thought we'd touch base with the Chief. Here is our Q/A:

There appears to be a groundswell of support to have you stay with us in Hamilton as our Chief of Police beyond the expiry of your current contract. If this effort gains the reconsideration of the Police Services Board, will you be willing to engage in an exploratory discussion with the board concerning possibly continuing on as Chief of Police in Hamilton?

Chief DeCaire's reply:

I have great confidence that the Police Services Board is exercising their due diligence in the selection process for Chief of Police and Deputy Chief of Police. This process is part of the Board’s mandate. If you could please contact the Board directly for comment.

The Hamiltonian encourages all parties to reconsider this situation. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

CHCH- A Story of Innovation, Resilience and Teamwork

Before America's Got Talent, before American and Canadian Idol, there was Hamilton's CHCH TV's Tiny Talent Time. And as our friends at CHCH approach their 60th year anniversary, their story is very much one of innovation, resilience and teamwork.

Their journey has been a long and interesting one, sometimes taking as many turns as Billy Van's multiple characters on House of Frightenstein. If you're reading this and don't know who Billy Van was, or if television programs such as The Party Game, Tiny Talent Time or House of Frightenstein don't ring familiar, you'll probably get a lot out of 60 Years Strong, a 60-minute retrospective on CHCH's history, airing Friday June 6, at 8pm.  For those of you who recall those programs, 60 Years Strong will take you through a journey down memory lane, undoubtedly leaving a smile on your face.

The Hamiltonian was given a preview into the special, and we can assure you it will not disappoint anyone who is fond of Hamilton's history and , in particular, CHCH's contribution in putting Hamilton on the map. It had a special resonance with our Publisher, Teresa DiFalco who, herself was featured on Tiny Talent Time as a child.  And we are told that CHCH will be bringing back Tiny Talent Time.

Speaking to CHCH spokesperson Debbie Walker, it is clear that the station could not have been as successful as it has been, without a family-like environment in which to work. Equally as impressive is CHCH's stoic ability to remain independent and forge their own path into viewers' hearts.

Congratulations to our friends at CHCH . We look forward to your continued presence and leadership in the media landscape.

Santucci- Integrity Commissioner's Report Raises More Questions

The Municipal Act of Ontario clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of elected city councillors. Mr. Basse seems to be saying that the Deed of Trust and the lack of specifics therein seem to trump the Municipal Act responsibilities defined for councillors and supported by their oath of office. Is that the case here?

It raises the following question; when does a councillor cease to be a councillor in the performance of his or her duties as an elected official? Is not the public interest to be held first and foremost when serving as a representative of City Council on any board or committee?

His finding that the Executive Director of the Waterfront Trust is solely responsible for mismanagement of public funds and deficiencies in the financial reporting is perplexing. Is there no role for the Board in the fiduciary responsibility of the organization and the fulfilment of the mandate of the Deed of Trust, however lacking in the finer details? Is their sole responsibility only to hire and fire the Executive Director? 

With respect to the Auditors, Mr Basse has created the impression that there was only one auditor involved at the crucial time when indeed the adverse opinion was issued by Guyatt Wood Moffat. When they were unable to reconcile the report with HWT, they bowed out or were replaced by Deloitte Touche who promptly gave them a pass literally using the same numbers. Why were the Audit firms not mentioned in your report? 

The original audit report made mention of potential conflicts of interest. Why was that information purged from the report? It was part of the adverse opinion. 

Finally, was it not the responsibility of the sitting councillors that the operations of HWT should have complied with and been in harmony with the policies and procedures of it's funder the City of Hamilton? Apart from the Deed of Trust that established the organization in 2000 where is the formal agreement spelling out the details of the business relationship between its funder, the City of Hamilton (the taxpayers) and the Hamilton Waterfront Trust? It is the sincere hope of this writer and many others in the community that the serious financial and management issues detailed in the IC report have been addressed and that confidence in the relationship between the Waterfront Trust and the taxpayers of the City of Hamilton has been restored.

Gary Santucci
Hamilton, Ontario
View the entire report by clicking here

Excerpts from the Municipal Act of Ontario

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Checking In with Mayor Bratina

It's been some time since we checked in with the Mayor, so we thought we'd touch base with him.

Mr. Mayor:

With attention to the provincial election, and with attention to campaigns for the upcoming municipal election in October, what issues do you believe Hamiltonians need to not lose sight of? Why are these issues important? Do you believe that because of the upcoming elections that some issues are being over-played? If so, can you comment.

Gimmicky approaches to problem solving shouldn’t guide voters as much as their inner sense of a candidate’s integrity and competence. The basics are what should matter to the electorate, namely fiscal responsibility, job growth and retention, health care, education, public safety and the environment. Personal attacks such as we’ve been hearing lately in the campaign often backfire on the accuser, and underestimates the public’s ability to decide for themselves the quality of an individual candidate’s character.

Mayor Bob Bratina

Media Release- Lavigne says No More Talk of LRT

HAMILTON- Crystal Lavigne is asking that the LRT “debate” be dropped.

“There is nothing more to debate at this moment,” said Lavigne, who is a Mayoral candidate in this upcoming October election.

“We need to work on alleviating congestion and mobility that encompasses all parts of our city, especially for those corridors with the greatest demand for use.”

Crystal Lavigne believes that if we are given upwards of one billion dollars to spend on transit that we don’t squander it away, instead we begin with the following:

· Widen the Red Hill Creek Expressway
· Widen Rymal Road between Pritchard and Upper James
· Widen Stone Church Road between Pritchard and Upper James
· Improve our existing bus services including our North/South routes
· Improve bus services to the far most edges of our city
· Install Gondola’s in two separate locations connecting our upper and lower cities

Lavigne says she does not support LRT at this time as she believes we need to get what we have working right first, before spending one billion dollars on any one form of transit that encompasses a small ridership in comparison.

She does not believe that “solid public support” goes much beyond the small portion of riders who may actually use the LRT.

‘We need to stop wasting our time visiting a topic that has so much clear resistance, and that resistance is because of more than just a price tag” Lavigne said.

“The citizens of Hamilton, I believe, have heard enough of this topic. We want to move forward, and by trying to force an agenda on the citizens of Hamilton that have clearly spoken out against it, we are losing any hope of progressing as a city in regards to our transit and what needs to be done now on several of our major routes, not just one!”

She believes the above will make it easier for the majority of citizens to move with ease throughout the city. Expanding bus services along the proposed LRT corridor will be just as effective as LRT along that route. She believes we need to help the motorists who are stuck in traffic throughout our many majorly congested corridors, several times a day, as well as our public transit riders.

“I believe the people of Hamilton have spoken. Why those at City Hall are refusing to listen is beyond me. It is not their job to push an agenda at City Hall that is not the agenda of the people they work for, which is the people of Hamilton.”

Proposed Costs:

- -Red Hill: $400 million
- - Rymal and Stone Church combined: $76 million
- - 2 Gondola’s: $140 million
- - Bus Expansion: $380 million

Monday, May 26, 2014

Congrats to Our Friends at CHCH TV

As you may know, CHCH is celebrating its 60th birthday this June, and to kick things off the station has created a 60 minute News Special that will air on June 6th at 8 p.m. that looks at this broadcasting stalwart from its launch in 1954 to its current incarnation. Until then, click here for a teaser. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

More Food for Thought...

Based on the popularity of Alex Bielak's Food For Thought feature on The Hamiltonian, Alex has developed a repository of past issues . To get there, click here. And don't forget to Like it on Facebook. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sick Time and Connecting Dots

According to a Spec article (click here or purchase today's print copy), councillors reacted with outrage last year at learning the average Hamilton city worker took 10.5 sick days a year, costing taxpayers more than a whopping $12 million. But through new software, the city confirmed that the average is closer to 3.4 sick days. They also found that 1000 of the city's 7000 workers account for 80% of the short term absences. The software is also able to identify those workers who take an inordinate amount of sick days, as compared to others. One of the measures being considered is to reduce the amount of time an employee could be off sick before being required to get a doctor's note. Currently it's five days for most employees. A move to three days is being contemplated.

In any organization, sick days are the norm. People are human, they get sick. However, most organizations who recognize the cost of sick time that may not be legitimate sickness but an abuse, will take measures to mitigate these occurrences and try to root out invalid uses of sick benefits. Reducing the amount of sick days before a doctor's note is available is one way. Having sophisticated tools to identify suspicious patterns is another. These are all prudent measures provided they are employed with intelligence and sensitivity to exceptions.

Having said that, not so long ago the city reported that a staff survey revealed that

  • 25.7 per cent of city employees feel they've been pressured to compromise their ethics and values 
  • 50 per cent of employees feel they can report misconduct without fear of retaliation 
  • almost 60 per cent are unsure or disagree that their code of conduct concerns are handled properly
Most may suspect that there may be a correlation, in part, between absences and working in an environment that is described by these findings. To exclude this dynamic from a conversation on sick days, may be an unfortunate instance of failure to connect the dots.

The Hamiltonian is following up with City Manager Chris Murray for an update on the survey results and what is being done. We'll report back when we hear from Mr. Murray. In the interim, The Hamiltonian reminds our readers that the majority of city employees are hard working good people who are not abusing the system. There are exceptions in every organization, but the exceptions are not the rule.

Mayor's Statement to McMaster

"As Mayor of the City of Hamilton I want to give my personal thanks on behalf of all of our residents to Michael DeGroote for this transformational gift. Hamilton can now be seen as a world leader in many areas of medical research which is a legacy of this gift that will be limitless in its benefits to our city and our country.
Thank you Michael DeGroote.
Mayor Bob Bratina

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Picture of the Moment

Our Publisher, Teresa DiFalco makes the front page of the Stoney Creek News for being named Citizen of the Year by the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce. 

Merulla Accuses Clark of Putting Election Interests Ahead of Hamiltonians

Update: New emails have been sent by Clrs. Clark and Merulla. Look at the end of this article for these new additions.

A war of words has broken out between Clr. Merulla and Clr. Clark, on the heels of Clr. Merulla's motion that calls on City Council to put a moratorium on any LRT debates until after the June 12 provincial election.

Clr. Clark sent the following email:

Mayor and Councllors,

Please note that I will never support any motion that effectively silences Hamilton councillors, on any matter, during a provincial election!


Clr. Merulla responded with the following two emails:

I'm not surprised that you would put your candidacy for Mayor ahead of what is the right thing to do for the residents of Hamilton. 

Thank you,
Councillor Sam Merulla

Perhaps Candidate for Mayor Clark needs to understand that he has supported a position and we are awaiting an answer from the province accordingly, and that answer can't be forthcoming prior to the new government forming. Hence, not supporting a moratorium is supporting a nonsensical, useless and self serving platform which only benefits his spin for political purposes. The moratorium on is the reality of the issue based on practical purposes that serves the city needs rather than Clark's shameless political wants.

Thank you,
Councillor Sam Merulla

Merulla's on air message on CHML can be heard by clicking here. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Rrroll up the Rim for Giveaway winners, and dates, dates, dates

Rrroll up the Rim for Giveaway winners, and dates, dates, dates

This long weekend edition of Food for thought plays catch-up while saluting a Hamilton icon.

First off the good news. Because of the generosity of the sponsor, ALL those who commented on my last column will win a three month subscription to WorldJikoni. I ask Scrap, Just an Observer, Kevin, Cynmom16, Brad Koziej, Brenda Lee and Colleen at Forty Something Bride to email me at fft@thehamiltonian.info and I will provide them with information as to how to access their prize. Congratulations to all and enjoy!

Also in the last column I mentioned the departure of Dave Hanley from Dishcrawl Hamilton and when I invited Dishcrawl to comment, they had not got back to me. I got a very nice note from Dominique Foreman,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Media release: LUMCO Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario


The Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) has invited each of the three Ontario party leaders to attend a special meeting in Brampton on May 23. LUMCO will provide each leader or designate the chance to discuss their platform as it directly relates to Ontario’s big cities.

“We’re working to advance the issues facing the majority of Ontarians,” says Mayor Jeff Lehman, LUMCO chair. “This Provincial election campaign provides us the perfect opportunity to find out where the leaders stand on our key priorities. We remain cautiously optimistic and hopeful that the important issues of infrastructure, transit and job creation will remain on the Provincial agenda, regardless of the election outcome.”

During the 2014 provincial election, LUMCO’s focus is on three key issues:

1. Gridlock and transit/transportation(Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) and cities outside the GTHA)
2. The rising cost of emergency services
3. Job creation in Ontario

The meeting will be closed to media. Following the meeting, the Mayors will issue a media statement based on the discussions.

The Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) represents 67% of Ontario’s population with Mayors of 26 communities over 100,000 residents. LUMCO advocates for issues and policies important to Ontario’s largest cities. Jeff Lehman, the Mayor of Barrie is the Chair of LUMCO.

Ajax, Barrie, Brampton, Brantford, Burlington, Cambridge, Chatham – Kent, Greater Sudbury, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Markham, Mississauga, Oakville, Oshawa, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, St. Catharines, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan, Waterloo, Whitby, Windsor

Notice of Public Meeting for Hamilton Farmers’ Market

HAMILTON, ON – May 15, 2014 – The City of Hamilton announces two public meetings to review the proposed governance of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. Each meeting will follow a Town Hall format and will start with a 20 minute presentation followed by discussion and a Q & A period. The meetings will also provide an opportunity for the public to drop in, get information and provide feedback.

WHAT: Public Meetings to review the proposed governance structure for the Market.

A 20 minute presentation will be followed by a Q & A session.

WHERE: Hamilton Farmers’ Market
WHEN: Saturday, May 24th, 10:30 am to noon, Community Kitchen, Hamilton Farmers’ Market
Tuesday, May 27th, 6:30 pm to 8 pm, Community Space, Hamilton Farmers’ Market

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Public Lobbying - by 'M Adrian Brassington

We’re all familiar with the notion of ‘lobbying’. As done by ‘lobbyists’. Where private individuals, acting on the behalf of a group, an organization or a company seek to gain the attention of, to curry favour with Those In Power.

Some of us are aware of how deeply-rooted and insidious this practice can be, how proper governance can be corrupted when lobbying has too much influence. More than five decades ago, U.S.President

Eisenhower warned Americans of the ‘military-industrial complex’, and how it might change the face of the nation forever. Other lobbying efforts can be found in the ‘petroleum-automotive-complex’ and in the ‘medicalpharmaceutical- chemical complex’, tobacco industries, food conglomerates to name but a few.

When lobbying is used to excess, effectively subverting the democratic process, bad decisions are made. Even when there’s restraint, it still smells bad. But it’s been part of Life on Earth since forever. In Hamilton, lobbying goes on, regardless of who is willing –or not– to admit it.

But there’s one type of lobbying that we could use a lot more of. The kind that could change the face of our

Monday, May 12, 2014

Media release -McHattie outlines Transit City Plan

Mayoral candidate Brian McHattie released his 4-part Transit City Plan today that outlines his vision for transit enhancements in Hamilton. McHattie also released a video called “Transit” explaining his vision. The video is available on his campaign website McHattie2014.ca

“Transit is one of the key themes that emerged from the online survey we conducted across Hamilton,” says McHattie. “How a city moves its people is a measure not only of its health, but also of its values.”

The 4-parts of the plan are:
Increase Neighbourhood Bus Service
Enhance the Upper James A-Line Express on the mountain
Implement LRT on the King Street B-Line
Provide online, real-time, mobile data for HSR buses
McHattie adds, “It’s fair to say, all Councillors agree we need to improve the level of bus service throughout the city. Some lines are already well-served, some are under-served. We need to fix that. And we need to enhance the A-Line Express along Upper James so that it moves people up and down the mountain more efficiently and connects with the new GO station on James North. We already have the technology to provide real-time information about when the next bus will arrive which will help ensure more convenient and reliable HSR service."

When asked about the future of LRT, McHattie says, “There’s been a lot of talk, and some confusion, about how much the province is prepared to fund LRT. That’s a hugely important discussion for us to have. But, it’s also important for us to talk about city-wide transit and transportation at the same time. Walking, cycling, driving, and public transit. They’re all important in the new Hamilton.”

In the video, narrated by McHattie, he says, “Making investments in our transit from LRT, to express routes like the A-Line on the mountain, to more local bus routes in a city the size of Hamilton is not a nice to have, it’s a must have if we’re to hit our growth targets.”

The targets he refers to are to the city’s population growth targets contained in a Metrolinx report that would see Hamilton adding nearly 150,000 new residents by 2031.

McHattie asked Council to commit to a 10 year local transit investment strategy which led to $1 million contribution in 2014, with improved transit on Rymal Road and Stone Church on Hamilton mountain. McHattie anticipates a similar contribution in Council’s 2015 budget.

McHattie adds, “When our transit plans are an integral part of our growth plans, we make it possible for people to choose transit to get to and from work. Whether they’re working on Burlington Street or on Wilson Street. Whether in Stoney Creek or in Dundas.” 

The Transit City Plan reflects all 5 of McHattie’s campaign themes - Stronger Neighbourhoods, Smarter Growth, Healthier Environment, More Open Government, and More Jobs. McHattie’s Plan aligns with the City’s Rapid Ready Report from 2013.

Working Hard for the Money- Part 5

You may recall our series entitled Working Hard for the Money, which focused on the degree to which city employees have performance agreements/contracts in place that would set the expectations for their work. Our query also asked how many employees who earned over $100,000.00, and thus are found on the Sunshine List, have performance contracts/agreements in place.

It appears as though the city continues to have no way to correlate those who are making over $100,000.00 to whether they have a performance contract/agreement in place. Or, at least, have elected not to do this type of analysis.

On a positive note however, it seems good progress has been made on the over all completion rates for performance contracts/agreements. The following is a follow up Q/A with Helen Tomasik, Executive Director of Human Resources, and an update to the graph that depicts overall completion rates.

1. Can you advise as to the percentage of city employees who are found on the 2013 sunshine list, who also

Santucci- Public Consultation Deception

In the matter of school closures controversies, there is only so much that we can blame on the Ministry of Education. Our local school boards and elected trustees have organized and convened hundreds of Accommodation Review consultations. They have invited members of our communities to volunteer thousands of hours to participate in these reviews falsely giving the impression that their input would be meaningful and that their decisions somehow could be influenced under the banner of public consultation. Almost to a person, for those members of the community who participated said that the results were predetermined and that their input had no effect on the final decisions. In addition, this process has divided communities and the real costs to our communities have been ignored. Our elected school board trustees knew full well that this was the case and willingly proceeded to engage our communities with a callous disregard to those costs. They also knew that the ARC processes would merely be used as a "democratic formality" to perpetrate one of the biggest public consultation deceptions in recent memory. Dare I suggest that some form of "truth and reconciliation process" be undertaken. Not likely however, as our Trustee-in-Chief Kathleen Wynne acting as if she were a modern day "Pontius Pilate" has washed her hands preferring to let the local school boards decide the fate of their communities. http://www.ckwstv.com/2014/05/08/wynne-campaign-arrives/ (at the 5:00 minute mark)

Gary Santucci
Hamilton, Ontario

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Picture of the Moment

New Pan Am Stadium...in progress

Thursday, May 8, 2014


LRT continues to be a hot topic in all things Hamilton. Some look at it with a jaundiced eye, doubting the benefits and shuddering the costs while others think it could be the best thing since sliced bread. Others are likely exhausted by the discussion and would rather talk about their morning BLT.

Still the topic is likely not to go away anytime soon and will have major play as we approach elections. According to a Spec article this morning. at least one expert is advocating for the resurgence of BRT for serious reconsideration arguing that a reassessment is prudent based on technical and economic realities.

No doubt that major commitments such as LRT do not come to fruition on their own, and people like Clr. Brian McHattie, who is also a mayoral candidate, has been championing the cause for some time; some might argue too aggressively. However, others might see his actions as the leadership behaviour necessary to bring home the prize. While others worry about whether it is in fact a prize, or a future unsustainable burden. 

Need a Tylenol yet? Hang in for the ride as the LRT vs BRT,  LRT and BRT discussion is far from over. In the interim, to learn what some of our mayoral candidates had to say about LRT, click on their names below:

Michael Bladasaro
Fred Eisenberger
Brian McHattie
Crystal Lavigne

Media Release- New microsite tells Living Wage story

Although minimum wage will increase by seventy-five cents on June 1st, 2014, the Worker’s Action Centre has indicated $11/hour will still leave workers 16% below the poverty line. That’s where living wage comes in: Living Wage calculates the cost of living and of basic necessities in communities and identifies an hourly wage. It is a no frills calculation that does not include the costs of home ownership, saving for education or debt-repayment. Living Wage does enable families to more fully participate in community life. Unlike minimum wage, a Living Wage is not legislated, but is something progressive organizations commit to achieving. In Hamilton, a Living Wage has been calculated at $14.95/hr.

(Click here to be directed to website)

"Our living wage storytelling site was inspired by the work groups such as the Hamilton Poverty Reduction Roundtable have been doing to make the case for employers to consider the real cost of living when they set their pay grade," says CCPA Ontario Director Trish Hennessy. "There are about 10 communities in Ontario calculating a living wage and sparking local conversations about its importance. This microsite helps bring some of those stories to life."

Judy Travis, chair of Hamilton’s Living Wage working group who was also featured on the website noted employers have recognized “that paying their employees a living wage will create greater value for their organization…which overall, creates a prosperous community”.

Local employers such as the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Mission Services Opportunity Centres, Mustard Seed Co-op, Workforce Planning Hamilton and the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton are amongst some of the dozen local organizations who have already committed to become living wage employers in Hamilton.

For more information, contact Tom Cooper, Director Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction (905)512-7863.

Tom Cooper
Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Media Release: McHattie: Former mayor has lost track of LRT debate

McHattie: Former mayor has lost track of LRT debate

According to mayoral candidate, Brian McHattie, former Mayor Eisenberger is not current when it comes to work that’s already been done on LRT planning.

“Former mayor Eisenberger’s prolonged absence from Hamilton civic affairs has caused him to suggest redoing work we’ve already done and paid for. We had a formal Rapid Transit Citizen Advisory Committee in 2010 with 23 citizens who represented all parts of the city and who worked together with staff for over a year. They talked to thousands of Hamiltonians. While I appreciate his input, I think Mr. Eisenberger is living in the past and seems happy to repeat it. He said ‘reset', but I guess he meant redo. I think that’s wasteful,” says McHattie. ” says McHattie.

In the past two days, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Transportation Minister Glen Murray have said the provincial Liberals will provide 100% capital funding for Hamilton’s rapid transit system. Although many still want greater clarity as to the specifics of that promise, McHattie sees this as a positive development.

McHattie also cited the op ed pice in today’s Hamilton Spectator, from the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, in which they restate their ongoing support for LRT.

McHattie added, “We need more details from the Premier, but at least we have a funding percentage to work with.”

McHattie believes an updated information package and community engagement explaining the benefits of LRT over BRT is a worthwhile exercise. He is putting forward a motion to this effect at today’s GIC meeting.

“I want to stay on track and move forward, not to go backwards and redo good work that’s already been done.”

Media Release-McHattie offers plan to deal with school closures

McHattie offers plan to deal with school closures

Amid a week of public delegation meetings focused on proposed school closures, mayoral candidate Brian McHattie presented the Board of Trustees with a 3-point plan he says will help deal with the disruption of school closures facing neighbourhoods across Hamilton. McHattie also sits on the City of Hamilton/HWDSB Liaison Committee which is scheduled to meet on Thursday.

“As I said last week at the Flamborough delegation meeting, a complete community is only complete with a school. Given the challenges the HWDSB is facing with enrolment numbers, the City of Hamilton and the Board must work together if we’re going to try to stop strong neighbourhoods from being weakened by losing their schools,” said McHattie.

McHattie's plan has three parts.

1. Slow down the school closure process.
2. Develop facilities partnerships between the Board, the City, and local businesses and organizations.
3. Work with the HWDSB to get the province to change the school funding formula.

McHattie says, “Creative collaboration will ensure we keep neighbourhoods strong with active schools and avoid flooding the market with school properties, both buildings and parkland, the city can’t afford to acquire.”

As an example of creative collaboration, McHattie cited the example of Central Public School, the oldest public elementary school in Ontario, located immediately behind City Hall. In the 1990’s, student enrolment had dropped. Rather than close the school, Trustees, leased the second floor to a local insurance company, and operated the public school on the ground floor. When the lease was up, the number of school-aged kids in the neighbourhood had risen, so the Board took over the entire school once again. It’s still operating today.

W.H. Ballard school in the east end is too big for its projected level of enrolment of 462 by 2022, compared to its capacity of 850. It was previously the largest elementary school in the Commonwealth.

“It’s a big, beautiful, and solid heritage building that has many years of life left in it. We need to work creatively with partners to keep it alive as a neighbourhood school by using the excess space in other ways,” adds McHattie.

McHattie says, “This is the kind of innovative collaboration I’m talking about. People know I’m fond of saying it, but it’s true - together we can do more. And we can. I want to work with our partners, not against them. The vitality of our neighbourhoods and our communities and the daily lives of our kids are at stake.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tweets of the Moment

Click on pic to upsize

Media Release- Eisenberger challenges councillors to hit re-set button on transit

Eisenberger challenges councillors to hit re-set button on transit

Citizen forum on public transit needed now

HAMILTON – Fred Eisenberger is challenging Hamilton City Council to create a community engagement process now on public transportation instead of waiting until after the fall municipal election.

“We need a citizen forum on public transit right now,” said Eisenberger, candidate for mayor.

“The people of Hamilton are saying they need more information on public transit options including LRT, so let’s not wait. Let’s do it now.”

Eisenberger’s proposal has three key elements:

· Create a citizen forum to include people from all parts of the city through equitable representation similar to the consensus forum on area rating. The community forum will assess all options at public meetings held throughout the entire city as frequently as necessary to inform them and get substantial community feedback.

· Charge the citizen forum to access all available evidence from City staff reports, Metrolinx and third party studies on public transit options for Hamilton including Light Rail Transit (LRT on the B-Line, & A-Line), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), compared to the need for additional roads, and expanding the existing transportation system; including on the unresolved issue of transit area rating.

· Make recommendations to City Council on the future direction of modern public transportation for the city of Hamilton based on their research, evidence based information and community feedback.

Eisenberger says he supports LRT because it will bring millions of outside investment dollars to our community, resulting in thousands of new employment opportunities, growth and re-urbanization, and huge potential for economic uplift and additional revenue for the entire city.

“While there has been solid public support for LRT, there are people in our community who have real concerns about the cost of LRT and the impact on the city,” Eisenberger said.

“We need to talk about the benefits and the real return on investment from modern public transit and most importantly, we need to address the concerns of people. Council can do that now by pressing the re-set button on the subject. Community engagement is the best way to get the conversation going, and the only way to reach consensus on this important issue.

“I can’t think of a more significant city wide issue to have informed, robust public discussion on and City Councillors have an opportunity to make it happen now,” Eisenberger said.

“Only with significant community support can we move this city-building project forward with vigour.”

Voter Beware- The Electronic Town Hall

Like any other tool, having an electronic town hall can be used appropriately, or not. The idea is to have a town hall meeting by telephone, rather than in person. The general idea is that at a preset time, people are able to join a group conversation by telephone and engage in discussion. The technology allows for a large amount of people to join in, ordinarily subject to a moderator who will regulate who gets to speak and when. Already in Hamilton, we have seen this tool being used and we suspect it will continue to be used to some extent by some candidates.

In theory, the idea is a good one and can be very effective when deployed with the purest of intentions. For example, if your goal is to get some quick initial feedback on a particular issue, an electronic town hall may be a good choice in terms of costs and expediency. 

However, when used in the context of a political campaign, voters may be wise to look out for the following troubling indicators:

Does the call start with a candidate scripted speech that is clearly designed to invoke support or otherwise promote a sense of like-ability for the candidate?

Are callers able to challenge the candidate by asking follow-up questions or otherwise asking for clarification as to what is being conveyed, or are they cut off from the conversation immediately or shortly after asking their question of the candidate- leaving the candidate latitude to respond as they see fit without risk of being challenged. 

Are there questions being asked that seem like "lob" questions or softball questions-  friendly questions that appear planted and that play to the candidates strengths?

Is your call screened before you are able to participate?

If your question is challenging, do you get the opportunity to go live with your question? Or does the call end before you get a chance? 

Is the conversation disrupted with requests of you. For example, asking you to push a certain number on your phone, if you plan to vote for the candidate. Or asking if you would like a lawn sign?

It there a point made during and/or at the end of the call to announce how many people are purportedly on the call. If so, is the number large and is their any auditable way of verifying participation?

Some may argue that having phone based townhalls are eficient and useful. However, if delivered in a contrived way for political gain, they often times present as a bad play acting. In the end, phone based town halls are not a  substitute for a real town hall where the candidate's views can be tested by the whites of the eyes. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Sips and Bites – Arrivals, Departures and Giveaways

Sips and Bites – Arrivals, Departures and Giveaways

There’s lots going on with several developments impacting the regional culinary scene. So we’ll dive in... mouth first… Do please read through to the end for details of how to win one of three exciting, tasty giveaways.

I was surprised to hear the agreement between dynamic Dave Hanley and Dishcrawl Hamilton has ended and Hanley will no longer be running the events. I reached out to Dishcrawl for comment, but as of my deadline had not heard back. Dave told me “I am sure there will be another ambassador in place soon. In the interim, I will be focusing on my other ventures in Hamilton.”

I wish him well as he’s a man of boundless energy, ideas and vision: he and his pork pie hat will be missed in his Dishcrawl persona. In the meantime you can sponsor Dave who will be rappelling down 100 King St.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Media release- McHattie on Liberal government’s budget

McHattie pleased Hamilton is in budget, but says it’s too soon to draw any conclusions about transit funding

In response to the Liberal government’s budget that was presented today, mayoral candidate Brian McHattie says, “I’m pleased to see that the provincial government has followed through on their plan to invest $15 billion in transit in the GTHA. Also, that Hamilton is mentioned specifically as being one of the priority rapid transit projects.

Having said that, there are still a number of important questions Hamiltonians need answers to related to the government’s specific level of investment in Hamilton’s proposed LRT. It’s too soon to draw any conclusions, in my view. I’m looking forward to sitting down with senior Metrolinx officials as well as Glen Murray, the Minister of Transportation, to discuss the details of the budget.”

The Strathcona Community Council needs an overhaul- By Santo Barbieri

In response to my article "Political Art or Public Art" someone wrote:

"Santo, since you did such a good job informing the community about this project (regardless of anyone's view point), why don't you join the SCC and volunteer your time to spread the word about future meetings and future projects. More community participation is needed to maintain successful representation, and though this is an assumption, I believe that much of Strathcona is still unaware of the SCC's existence, and most people are not engaged the way you are."

I wish to address that comment. The public meeting which took place April 17/14 regarding the Frankie "Venom" (FV) statue and my experience in going door to door confirms for me there are several problems with the SCC that need to be addressed. One elderly man at the public meeting stated, "I have been living in this neighbourhood over 35 years and I don't have a clue of who you or your organization are." I believe this speaks volumes to the disjointed demographics of the SCC and the community they claim to represent. There are several large seniors buildings in the community. Seniors probably make up the largest group in the neighbourhood. I don't think the SCC has one senior member. A large number of the SCC executive is under 35 and also falls short when it comes to ethnic and political diversity. Besides these factors, there is a hypocrisy that prevails within the organization. Krist Hayes SCC executive member wrote in Raise the Hammer:

"I'm happy to see that it's led to so much enthusiasm in civic engagement. I encourage everyone who got so involved in this process to keep it up."

At the same time, concerning the meeting, Krist wrote on his website:

"The result was a medieval display of “grab your pitchfork and torch” type of civic engagement that I am