Saturday, February 28, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Love Me(at) Tender – Hamilton Company a World Leader

Morgan Van  Gronigen Launches Meat Mentor App
Love Me(at) Tender – Hamilton Company a World Leader

It may sound improbable, but VG Meats, a Stoney Creek butcher, may have begun a revolution in the way consumers anywhere will buy meat in the future. A family-owned business, VG Meats has been in operation since 1969 in Simcoe, and since 2011 in Hamilton. It’s now run by the four sons of the founding butcher, a man who clearly had a strong, positive influence in their lives.

I’m sure many readers, when faced with an array of cuts of beef on supermarket shelves - have wondered how to tell which cut will be the most tender. Now – if they’re shopping at Longo’s Supermarkets, and have VG Meats’ free “MeatMentor” mobile app on their smart phones, they can.

How that’s possible requires a little background.

According to studies, the quality consumers’ value most in meat is tenderness, something affected by many factors. To lesser or greater extent these include: genetics, what the cattle are fed; the age of the animal, the time the cut is aged, processing and cutting, marination, and perhaps principally, whether the animal is stressed prior to slaughter.

Scientists have established a predictor of meat tenderness, the Warner-Bratzler shear force test. In brief, a meat core from close to the 12th rib can help predict overall tenderness of the entire carcass. VG Meats has refined the formula, using six cores from each carcass. It allows them to precisely predict where each cut from an animal will fall on the tenderness scale. The scale runs 2 – 10 with the

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reports Relating to Complaints Against Lloyd Ferguson and Maria Pearson

To read the Integrity Commissioner's report on the Lloyd Ferguson issue, click here.
To read the Integrity Commissioner's report on the Maria Pearson issue, click here.

Integrity Comissioner Fails to Reprimand Councillor for Assaulting Independent Reporter, and excuses another.

On the heels of two recent long overdue reports from Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse, that clears both Clrs. Lloyd Ferguson and Maria Pearson in separate matters, Hamiltonians may be left to wonder if it is time that the model for an Integrity Commissioner be completely rehauled.

In the matter of Clr. Ferguson having pushed independent journalist Joey Coleman (an undisputed fact), Basse did not bother to issue any form of reprimand against Ferguson. Astonishingly, he also failed to interview the Mr. Coleman who since, has stated that Basse got some of the facts wrong and that his report unfairly questions Coleman's motives.

In a separate matter, Basse appears to excuse Maria Pearson's reliance on what Basse refers to as a "very informal and unscientific survey" that had no standard script or consistent manner of recording. Basse reports that Pearson " informed the Committee that she had made a diligent attempt to follow up with all residents that had attended the public meeting in May 2012 to determine their stance on the new amendment to the re-zoning application, which was the lowering of the density from ten (10) maisonettes to six (6) townhouses."

Basse concludes " The Councilor’s phone canvas was informal and did not provide a true picture of what the residents contacted wanted regarding the development of #2 Oceanic Drive" And despite having concluded that Pearson's methodology was flawed to the point of failure, Basse excuses the councillor despite her being a long time councillor who presumably ought to know better.

The messages sent by Basse's reports are troubling. Being able to physically assault a journalist without reprimand, is a disturbing message. Had it been a non-councillor employee of the City of Hamilton who acted as Clr. Ferguson did, it would be very unlikely that some form of reprimand would not follow.

Some might say that it is abundantly clear that having council have any kind of oversight, control or authority over the position of Integrity Commissioner, a position that is to query their conduct as it relates to allegations of Code of Conduct violations, is a conflict in of itself. A better model may be a reportingship to an independent consortium made up of citizens, picked randomly subject to meeting certain requirements to serve.

Do you believe it is time to reconfigure this role and position so that ordinary Hamiltonians have oversight? Is Basse holding people to  account, or is he coming across as an apologist?

RedHill Parkway Lawsuit $3,008,062.00 and Counting

The mounting legal costs of the city's lawsuit against the Feds over the Redhill Parkway continues to reach new heights.

Thus far, the City was ordered to pay $309,885.00 in court costs to the Feds. In addition, legal fees have climbed to $2,665,313.00. Add the cost of non recoverable HST in the sum of $32,864.00, and the total costs to date have ballooned to $3,008,062.00

Apparently lawyers working on the Federal Government side have been working at a discounted rate, presumably to save the taxpayers some money. We asked the City what the hourly rate is of the lawyers being used by the city, to which they have not answered. If we receive an answer, we will post it.

However, at a cost of $3,008,062.00 and presumably climbing, and in its unprecedented form as a government lawsuit against another level of government, it is clear that the costs to the taxpayer (of which there is one), is staggering.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Picture of the Moment

Ward 3 Trustee Larry Pattison celebrates the unanimous vote to support Parkview programs. Trustees are looking at making the special education program the Cadillac of programs. Staff to report back to the board in April where they Trustees will look at the best options for grade 9,10 & 11 enrolment.
Mountain Secondary school is not off the table to accept new enrolment but the board awaits the staff report.

Enrolment is a priority concern for Trustees and they were emphasizing the need to have a decision made sooner rather than later.

Photo and write up submitted by Joanna St. Jacques

Pan Am Update Presentation

Click here to see up update provided at the  Pan Am Stadium Precinct Sub-Committee meeting this morning. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Checking in with Transportation Director, Dave Dixon

Mr Dixon:

Assuming that increasing transit ridership continues to be a pre-requisite for a successful install of LRT, can you advise as to what transit enhancements are called for, for outlying regions such as Stoney Creek, Glanbrook, Dundas, Ancaster and the like? What budget asks have been set against these?

Most of the improvements in 2015 and 16 are in the urban areas due to overcrowding or insufficient runtime (see page 25 of the presentation). The improvements in 2017 with respect to the implementation of service standard (frequency) tend to be spread wider (see page 36 of the presentation). The growth component adds for 2017 and beyond have not been identified at present and will be based on emerging needs/trends. The modal split adds that begin in 2018 are focused on adding express service on all BLAST lines of at least 10 minutes or better.

Hope this helps.

David Dixon
Director of Transit
City of Hamilton – Public Works Department
Transit Division

See the presentation (10 Year Local Transit Strategy) Mr. Dixon is referring to by clicking here.

Your  thoughts. Is the city doing enough for the outlying areas? 

Our Own Alex Bielak to be a SoupFest Judge

Click on pic for larger image
The Hamiltonian’s own Food for Thought Columnist has been asked to be a judge at this major event taking place next Tues, February 24th. More than 25 area restaurants will compete for Best Soup, Most Creative Soup, Best Display and the Best Grow Local category. Local celebrities and politicians come out to serve soup and help with the event. There is a Toonie Auction & live entertainment.

There is still time to get Soupfest 2015 Tickets.  Tickets are available via the Living Rock website or by calling 905-528-7625 ext 250. All funds raised will support the Ministries’ efforts in responding to youth-at-risk. The event will be held at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

Congrats Alex. And congrats to SoupFest for rallying in favour of a great cause!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Media Release- Trash the Garbage Plant Information Event Planned for Sunday, February 22nd

Trash the Garbage Plant Information Event Planned for Sunday, February 22nd

"Trash the Garbage Plant - N3"

Trash The Garbage Plant, a Hamilton Grassroots Community Group opposed to the proposed Port Fuels controversial garbage incinerator have planned an information session to take place this Sunday, February 22nd at The Pearl Company.

“Port Fuels has said that they have engaged the community, but many people we’ve spoken to have either never heard of the proposal, or are unclear what the impacts would be to Hamilton.” Says organizer Kate Andrus . We wanted to be able to bring that data and information to the people, so that they can make up their minds for themselves. We think that most will agree that this is all-around not

Monday, February 16, 2015

Waiting for the Shovel - by Herman Turkstra

One of the primary reasons government-type people tend to dismiss local opposition to a project is that the opposition nearly always comes too late and in any event rarely poses much threat to a sitting councilor.  For most municipal councilors, the first election is normally a key to a lifetime job regardless of how or when the City may have run roughshod over its citizens in one part of town. And in any event, voters do not fire local councilors. They fire the Mayor. Its mind boggling but election after election, voters seem not to understand that firing a one-vote mayor rarely changes how councils function. If you want change, you have to fire sitting councilors, something we rarely do. So electoral threats and actions will not cure isolated bad planning decisions.

If you can't fire your local councilor, what can you do about that shovel before it arrives.The answer is citizen engagement. The problem is that you will not get involved on any threat when it is off in the distance. That applies to global warming. You will not reduce your carbon foot print until Lake Ontario is full of algae or that Caribbean resort you used to go to is under water and the price of fresh fruit from California is incredibly high. It applies to that new highrise in your back yard. It applies to the closing of a street, or the opening of one. As long as the tax increase is less than the rate of inflation, an equation that incidentally guarantees you are not paying for what you are getting from your municipality, you will not get off the couch.  Until the shovel goes into the dirt. Then you will. And you will almost always be too late. And accused of NIMBY.

That dilemma is at the heart of some quiet activity at City Hall. More than a decade ago, Hamilton ventured into a new and very progressive program of active and real citizen participation to produce a long term plan for the City. It was a marvelous work . Citizens from all walks of life came together to build the plan from the ground up. The result was Vision 20/20, a extra-ordinarily wise and sound long term plan for Hamilton. You will find it referenced in most planning and development reports to Council. Which is sort of hilarious because as far as anyone can tell, no one currently in City Hall has actually seen a copy. One of the remnants of Vision 20/20 was the concept of advancing citizen
participation. And so on Hamilton's mission statement you will see a reference to engaging citizens. And buried somewhere in the Hall, there is a Citizen Engagement Committee purporting to work. There is, however, no passion that anyone can find in the Council Chamber for this concept because every bit of decision making power you return to your constituents takes it away from the Council and the staff. So most of Hamilton's "citizen engagement" is cursory. Staff make the decision. A
public meeting or two or three is held. The staff decide what to report from the public meetings and normally the involvement of the public has no impact on the outcome.

Many years ago, Konstantin Doxiadis came to Hamilton to deliver a series of lectures at Mac. While he was in town he met with a number of Councillors. He was the planner hired by the Governments of Canada, Ontario, the United States, New York and Michigan to do a long range plan for the Montreal to Windsor corridor. He is the reason we have Highway 401. With over 1000 staff members, he worked on both sides of the Iron Curtain. When asked the difference between the two sides of the Curtain, he said "When I get a project in a dictatorship, I send two people to find what the boss wants and then after the project is done, I send 100 people in to fix the mistakes and defend against sabotage. In a real democracy, when I get a project, I send in 100 people to find out from the stakeholders what will work, and then when the project is underway, leave two people behind to iron out the wrinkles."

Jane Jacobs put it another way: You only get the City that works for all the people when all the people are involved in building it.

Those statements curl the hair of long term politicians and city staff.  The idea of real citizen participation gets in the way of "progress".  From the government's point of view, progress comes from grand sounding visions and vision planning is always curtailed by effective public consultation. The classic example of course is the child who mentioned to the nude King that he had, despite the advice from his out of town consultants, no clothes on. That is classic citizen engagement. It is
potentially dangerous for the King. Or at least for the King's consultants and staff.

The answer of course is that the stakeholders have to be involved at the start. In simple terms, you and I need to be constantly on the look-out for what the City is going to do to us next. And we seriously need to get involved in the decision process at the beginning. Waiting for the shovel to show up and then getting all upset and vocal is a total waste of time. Interestingly enough, when residents are involved from the beginning of a plan, the word NIMBY rarely shows up. And that is because when power is shared, responsibility almost always is also shared. My experience in project after project is that when a City shares power with its citizens from the beginning of a concept, the citizens will respond in a responsible way. There are the lunatic exceptions, but they are not the rule. We trust juries to decide if people should be put in jail for 25 years. We can trust them on whether farm lands should be burned up, or whether stable neighbourhoods should be urbanized to meet the needs of the 250,000 people who Canada brings into the GTA every year with a need for housing or whether the balance between vehicles and buses should be changed or how we should accommodate cyclists and pedestrians and children.

If you are reading the Hamiltonian, you are probably not the person this sermon is for. It really is for the persons next door to you who are paying no attention but who will scream bloody murder three years from now when the shovel hits the dirt. You have permission to forward this to them. (Smile)

Herman Turkstra

Herman Turkstra is a lawyer, community activist and engaged Hamiltonian. Thank-you Herman for your submission to The Hamiltonian. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Unsung Tastes

Sue Hofman of
Lakeshore Coffee House
Unsung Tastes

Before I get to the main platter in this edition of Food for Thought, here’s an appetizer for readers, a “meat Valentine,” if you will, particularly those who love a great steak. The next column will feature Stoney Creek’s VG Meats: they held a super event recently, launching their “MeatMentor” mobile app to an audience of hungry bloggers (it is also available for your Android or Blackberry, as well as your Iphone.). A Canadian – and perhaps world-first, it allows shoppers to ascertain how tender a cut of beef is before buying it. Details, interviews with the forward-thinking folk who developed it, and pictures from the launch, in a fortnight.

Last time around I mentioned Feb 22nd to March 15th is the prix-fix Taste of Burlington and promised an update on the January launch event. Click at the end of the column to see pictures of some of the mouth-watering dishes served up by participating restaurants.

The standout dish was the People’s Choice winner (and Judges’ runner up) served up by Chef Mitchell Lamb of Stone House Restaurant. Lamb’s dish of Maple & Bourbon Glazed Beef Ribs

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Media Release : City of Hamilton set to receive interim payment of $1,446,814 from the Province for ice storm damages

February 14, 2015 Hamilton, ON - City of Hamilton set to receive interim payment of $1,446,814 from the Province for ice storm damages

As a result of the damages from the ice storm in December 2013, the Province announced yesterday that Hamilton is among 55 communities receiving an interim payment.

When issued, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will base the final payments on the outcome of a complete claim review as noted.

"I am pleased to see the Province's recognition of Hamilton and the need to provide funds in the wake of the storm damage," said Mayor Eisenberger.

These funds are intended to compensate municipalities for extra costs associated with the remediation from the damage caused by the storm.

More than 30,000 customers were without hydro, downed trees and debris across the city were reported and additional crews were dedicated to the clean up.

Friday, February 13, 2015

MEDIA RELEASE Social Assistance Rates Must Reflect Costs of Living

Recipients of Ontario Social Assistance are living in the deepest poverty in society and falling further and further behind. 

That’s wrong as far as Hamilton Community Legal Clinic Staff Lawyer Craig Foye is concerned. Foye and his colleagues have been trying to change this for more than 10 years.

Now, with support from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, they are taking the case about inadequate social assistance rates to the people of Ontario through an online ideas generator run by the provincial government. TalkOntario.ca provides a forum to present ideas and have others vote on the merit of implementing the plan.

Foye has published the idea of creating an arms-length expert panel that would recommend evidence-based social assistance rates. The expert panel would be tasked with analyzing the costs of rent and food and other basic necessities across the Province and could even set regional rates. They would make recommendations on an annual basis.


“A previous Provincial Government cut 'welfare' rates by 22% overnight in 1995, Now, a single person gets a maximum of $656 per month. That is about what they would have received back in 1993, over 20 years ago,” says Foye.

The Provincial Government does not base social assistance rates on any analysis of the actual cost of living for people who must access those benefits. As a result, individuals and families on social assistance are often hundreds of dollars behind each month and forced to make impossible choices about whether to pay rent or purchase food.

“75% of all Hamiltonians going to food banks are actually on provincial social assistance, they don’t have adequate resources to purchase their own food; In a very real sense, the Province is legislating hunger by their inaction” said Tom Cooper, Director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

The impact of these inadequate rates on individuals and families in receipt of social assistance can be overwhelming.

Two years ago, the Roundtable produced a video called Putting A Face to Social Assistance asking recipients to portray how their lives would be different if social assistance rates were improved.

Emily said she could “get out of poverty instead of just surviving.” Bill would be able “to buy fruit and vegetables.” Ursula could imagine “a better future for her son.” That is just a sampling of comments from the video completed nearly three years ago.

“Sadly not much has changed. If inflation is factored, rates are lower today than in 2003 when this current government came to office” says Cooper.

Foye’s idea for a Rates Board was actually introduced as a private member's bill by MPP Ted McMeekin in 2007. The legislature was prorogued the next day and the bill died. In spite of considerable support from social policy experts, the bill has not been re-introduced as a government bill.

“Politicians regularly commission experts to look at their own pay rates, and then often justify their own pay increases based on those expert recommendations. Let's apply the same evidence-based approach to social assistance rates,” says Foye.

Media Release- Right to a Healthy Environment.

The HamiltonBlueDot initiative needs your immediate support.

Please consider forwarding the text posted below to your Councillor and Mayor to request support for a declaration acknowledging your right to a healthy environment. Add your Councillor’s name, your name and your ward number to the text and feel free to add your own comments. For your convenience, email addresses for all Councillors follow.

Aidan Johnson Aidan.Johnson@hamilton.ca 1
Jason Farr Jason.Farr@hamilton.ca 2
Matthew Green Matthew.Green@hamilton.ca 3
Sam Merulla Sam.Merulla@hamilton.ca 4
Chad Collins Chad.Collins@hamilton.ca 5
Tom Jackson Tom.Jackson@hamilton.ca 6
Scott Duvall Scott.Duvall@hamilton.ca 7
Terry Whitehead Terry.Whitehead@hamilton.ca 8
Doug Conley Doug.Conley@hamilton.ca 9
Maria Pearson Maria.Pearson@hamilton.ca 10
Brenda Johnson Brenda.Johnson@hamilton.ca 11
Lloyd Ferguson Lloyd.Ferguson@hamilton.ca 12
Arlene VanderBeek Arlene.VanderBeek@hamilton.ca 13
Robert Pasula Robert.Pasuta@hamilton.ca 14
Judi Partridge Judi.Partridge@hamilton.ca 15
Fred Eisenberger mayor@hamilton.ca

Please copy mayor@hamilton.ca and HamiltonCivicLeague@gmail.com on your email. Share this email with your contacts so they also have an opportunity to encourage their Councillors to support our right to a healthy environment.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Media release: 2015 Interim Property Tax Bills

HAMILTON, ON – February 12, 2015 – The City of Hamilton has issued 2015 Interim Tax Bills for residents who do not pay their taxes through a monthly pre-authorized payment plan or through their mortgage company.

There are two installments for the 2015 Interim Tax Bills. The deadline for the first installment is on March 3, and the deadline for the second installment is on April 30.

There are various payment options for a property tax bill:

In person at a local Municipal Service Centre, or at Hamilton City Hall, Citizen Service Centre, 71 Main Street West, Hamilton from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
In person at any bank or financial institution, or through on-line or tele-banking
After hours at drop boxes located at Hamilton City Hall, or at local Municipal Service Centres in Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Stoney Creek.

Alternatively, residents may join, free of charge, one of the convenient monthly pre-authorized payment plans. 

Residents that have questions about the 2015 Interim Property Tax Bill should contact:

· (905) 546-CITY (2489) for general inquiries
· (519) 647-2577 if calling from 519 area code (St. George exchange) in Flamborough
· (905) 634-2971 if calling from Campbellville

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When Projects Meet Politics

HSR Transit Map
Big transformational projects such as LRT, require visionaries, bold leadership and an appreciation for what's required and how to get it done. On media sites such as The Hamiltonian and others, there is some times talk about council not being up to projects of this size. Some point to the fiasco surrounding the Pan Am stadium and the like, and wonder if Hamilton has what it takes to lead and deliver on the big stuff.

As reported in The Spec (see it here or purchase today's hard copy), from talk around the council table it appears that we are falling into that trap. The hard copy headline reads Council fears bus cash bid will hurt LRT promise. The reference is to Mayor Eisenberger's understanding that the Premier promised 100% capital funding for LRT in Hamilton.

It has long been known that the success of LRT, and a pre-requisite of that success, is to have a critical mass of riders already using transit. In comes Director of Transportation Dave Dixon who points out that 80 new express busses are required, at an ask for 302 million dollars- which would include the busses and maintenance facilities. Admittedly, it's a big number and perhaps it can be shaved somewhat, but it remains a significant ask and Dixon emphasizes the immediacy of parts of it.

Through a political lens, such an ask is fraught with perceived risk. In this instance, it is thought to possibly interfere or frustrate the Premier's promise of 100% capital LRT funding.

But Dixon's ask is not a revelation nor should it be. LRT has never been solely about capital funding. It's been about preparation, capital costs, operational costs, infrastructure changes, and a whole slew of other considerations. Dixon's suggested ask, to anyone who would be looking at such a project holistically, should have been anticipated, even, planned for.

Hence coming full circle: does Hamilton have the necessary leadership and understanding to make big projects like LRT work?

Your thoughts?

Note: Please review this video from 16:30 onwards for some additional context. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Media Release- Failing trees to be removed and replaced at City Hall

HAMILTON, ON – February 5, 2015 –Beginning this Saturday, February 7th, a City forestry crew will be removing eight Siberian Elm trees at the rear of the City Hall property. The removals are required based on the poor condition of the trees and repeated failures during high winds and storm events which may pose a risk to public safety and property. All eight trees will be replaced this spring with a more suitable species for this location.

Since the City Hall property is a designated heritage site under the Ontario Heritage Act, a heritage permit was required for this work. The trees are scheduled to be removed on February 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Cheque is Not in the Mail

It seems that Canada Post continues to earn the ire of Hamilton City Council amidst a plan to cut door to door service and replace it with community mailboxes across Hamilton. (see Spec coverage here, or purchase the hard copy).

Assurances thus far from Canada Post to cover the costs of the transition, are falling short of expectations as costs can balloon depending on the choice of sites and the changes that will be required to install and maintain the community mailboxes. Some are referring to the impact of Canada Post's intentions as unfairly downloading costs to the city. 

From a common sense perspective, it would seem that the move to an additional 4,000 community mailboxes, sadly, may result in fewer postmen/women needed. If that assumption is correct, elimination of such positions may translate to a permanent stream of cost savings in favour of Canada Post. 

One might think that if this is a certainty, a deal might be struck which would see the real and total costs of the new installation fully covered, incrementally and fueled by the  resulting costs savings. 

As it stands now, it is unclear if that cheque will be in the mail.

Your thoughts? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Media Release: Hamiltonians Say 'No' to Incineration Plant

Trash The Garbage Plant, a Hamilton Grassroots Community Group

Hamilton residents in opposition to the proposed controversial waterfront garbage incinerator are gearing up to begin a series of protests next week, speaking out against the company's lack of transparency over environmental costs and health impacts.

“It’s not clean, it’s not green, and it’s not the answer to waste.” says Patti Encinas, a spokesperson for the group. “From the carbon footprint generated by bringing truckloads of garbage here each day, to the release of cancer-causing nano-particles, heavy metals, dioxins and acid gasses into the air, it’s a poor solution”.

In what seems like a divergence from the city's plan to revitalize the waterfront and surrounding communities, the proposal for a giant garbage incinerator at the end of Sherman Avenue is making headlines. Plans for various garbage incinerator plants have recently been defeated by grassroots community groups from Hawaii to Spain. The proposals all followed a pattern of misleading and incomplete information. This proposal, it seems, is no different.

“The numbers keep changing. At this scale, the process is untested and dangerous. The technology is not viable and the company keeps double talking. The bottom line is, there is no way to filter the toxic waste nano-particles from the air, and the health consequences of that are certain.” Encinas explains.

The health and environmental risks of the plant are not outweighed by economic potential, either. More jobs are easily acquired by increasing our focus on recycling efforts.

“Further toxins in our neighbourhood will only increase the staggering disparities in our health.” explains Ally Ridge, a resident of the Sherman neighbourhood and a registered nurse. “Many of my neighbours are chronically ill, often with respiratory disease or asthma, and experience lower life expectancy rates compared to the rest of the city. No one in this neighbourhood will see the profits of this plant. The air here can't take more.”

Event Details: Meet at the Northeast corner of the Sherman and Burlington Street, Thursday February 5th at 4pm. Dress warmly and bring your enthusiasm!