Thursday, May 28, 2015

Coleman- on Assault Charges against Clr. Ferguson

Journalist Joey Coleman released the following statement with respect to the OPP not proceeding with charges against Clr, Lloyd Ferguson for assault.

The OPP is not proceeding to charges related to Mr. Lloyd Ferguson’s assault against myself on February 26, 2014 which occurred in the public foyer of Council Chambers at City Hall.

The OPP must weigh numerous factors in determining whether to prosecute offences and I agree with their decision that public interest is not best served by using court time and resources on this matter.

The OPP concluded that Mr. Ferguson’s actions were wrong and unjustified.

I wish to thank my fellow Hamiltonians for their support and both the Hamilton Police Service, and the Ontario Provincial Police for their professionalism.

Though I respect how these events have concluded, I do request that Council consider formal action to rescind former Integrity Commissioner Mr. Basse’s flawed report, a report that has been widely criticized , and a report that untruthfully maligns my character. I hope to work with staff to see this action taken.

Where these events might undermine public confidence in our civic government and civilian oversight of policing, increasing cynicism and disengagement, I implore the public to stay engaged with an inquisitive eye on City Hall.

My final message is thank everyone for your support. The strong support from the community is what enables me to continue my work.

Mr. Coleman's statement appears on his site. Click here to go there

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Motions in Motion

Whereas, the Province of Ontario has just announced that the City of Hamilton will receive LRT funding that will see the B-Line run from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Circle, Ward 4, East Hamilton and;

Whereas, the LRT will connect directly to the new West Harbour GO Station, which is now under construction, and protect for a future, high-order pedestrian connection to the Hamilton Centre GO Station and;

Whereas, procurement for the LRT will start in 2017, with construction starting in 2019 and;

Whereas, the province will extend GO rail service on the Lakeshore West line from the West Harbour GO Station at James Street North to a new GO station at Centennial Parkway in eastern Hamilton, with construction is expected to begin in 2017, with completion in 2019 and;

Whereas this undertaking equates to over $1B in investment, including construction and;

Whereas this announcement and scope of work will affect significant regions of the entire City of Hamilton, specifically around the B-Line, and GO station(s);

Therefore be it resolved that:

1. The City Manager be directed to report back on creating an office to facilitate this work, one that will work closely with Metrolinx and;

2. That a sub-committee of Council be struck and that at minimum, the affected Councillors along the B-Line corridor be asked to participate on the sub-committee.

authored by Clr. Sam Merulla

Media Release: Councillor Green Calls for Safer City Gun Buy Back Initiative

May 25, 2015- Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green announced he would take steps to make our neighbourhoods safer by proposing the Safer City Initiative, a gun amnesty and buyback program supporting past Hamilton Police Services amnesty programs by adding a financial incentive. Councillor Green will move the Initiative at the next Hamilton City Council meeting on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 in response to the recent brazen gun violence in Ward 3.

"I am supporting the community and police efforts in crime reduction by taking unwanted and illegal guns off the street. We are sending a message that we will all be working together and sharing responsibility to make our neighbourhoods safer.”

A gun buyback program would allow those with illegal firearms to turn in their illegal and unwanted firearms to the police. Last year’s amnesty program resulted in 374 guns and almost 20 000 rounds of ammunition turned in.

A similar amnesty and buyback program launched in 2000 in Toronto successfully made communities safer by taking 2000 firearms off the streets in two weeks.

“The best response to the events of last week in Hamilton is a show of force; not in the traditional meaning of the words. To get tough on crime you also have to get smart on crime. The gun buyback program is a show of the force of the resilience of the neighbourhood and the city as a whole to deal with the long-term factors that contribute to urban insecurity," says former Toronto City Councillor Rob Davis who championed the gun amnesty and buyback program in October 2000 and reached out to Councillor Green to provide support.

Councillor Green will gather with residents at JC Beemer Park on Thursday May 28 at 6pm for the #Proud2bWard3 rally in the wake of recent shootings in Hamilton. All residents of Hamilton are invited to attend.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tweet of the Moment

Premier @Kathleen_Wynne announces up to $1 Billion investment for light rail transit and GO service in #HamOnt. #LRT

Motions in Motion

Moved by; Councillor Sam Merulla

WHEREAS the public electricity system in Ontario is a critical asset to the economy; and

WHEREAS the public electricity system generates significant revenue for municipal and provincial governments and gives Ontario a competitive advantage; and

WHEREAS Hydro One is a profitable and well-run provincial utility; and

WHEREAS local control and decision making is important to meet the needs of our communities and residents; and

WHEREAS local electricity distribution companies provide a source of stable and predictable revenue to our communities; and

WHEREAS some Ontario municipalities have examined possible sales or mergers of their local distribution companies, and have decided not to sell to Hydro One or the private sector; and

WHEREAS the privatization, partial or whole, of electricity has led to higher rates and less control;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Hamilton call on the provincial government to:

Stop the sale of any part of Hydro One, and maintain Hydro One as a wholly public asset for the benefit of all Ontarians;

Strengthen Hydro One by investing in the next generation of workers and upgrading aging infrastructure;

Respect the autonomy and local decision-making powers of local distribution companies by not forcing these companies into mergers or sales; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Hamilton maintain ownership and control of its local distribution company; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Hamilton circulate this resolution to the Association of

Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Electricity Distributors Association, and work for its adoption.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Refreshing Rhubarb (with Red Pepper Jelly and Star Anise) and Road Trips

Refreshing Rhubarb (with Red Pepper Jelly and Star Anise) and Road Trips  

My wife loves rhubarb because it reminds her of her Grandmother. Grannie was a wonderful gardener and would give the children rhubarb stalks sprinkled with sugar to chew on as soon as the first harvest from her garden was ready. Tart and crunchy, it’s a memory of carefree childhood. 

Grannie’s approach is too tart for me, so I improvised a version that would work for both Roberta and I. This gloriously-refreshing stewed rhubarb recipe is dead simple to make, and can be eaten as an easy dessert (with a crisp oatmeal cookie, perhaps), as a fillip to the tastebuds at breakfast, or perhaps incorporated in a cocktail. The possibilities abound and I leave readers to experiment with ingredient quantities to their taste.

I took a dozen or so slim fresh rhubarb stalks (the leaves are poisonous), chopped them into inch long pieces and put them in a pan with a cup and a half of water. (They will release more water so use more or less water if you like your compote thinner or thicker.) I then added a couple of tablespoons of sugar, a large dollop of red pepper jelly (for an interesting colour accent, and to add a tad more sweetness as well as a colourful, fiery hit) and a couple of star anise pods.

I stirred the gently simmering mixture to dissolve the sugar and jelly, and as soon as the stalks were tender (perhaps ten minutes or so) I turned off the heat. As the contents cool you can adjust the sweetness: I sometimes add a touch of fresh maple syrup. You can eat the dish warm, or (my preference) chilled in the fridge. It’s delicious with or without a dribble of cream.

Thinking of spring also brings to mind road trips and discovering the bounty of other parts of Southern Ontario.

A wonderful event is coming up June 6th – 7th, just to the south, in Beamsville. Nearly sold out, Graze the Bench has eight wineries teaming up with some of the top chefs in the area for what promises to be a splendid weekend of bevvies, munching and tunes. You can also “Rock the Bench” on the evening of June 5th at Thirty Bench Winery. Our friends at Memphis Fire are providing the bound-to-be-tasty BBQ.

Try Smoking Buddha’s oriental offerings at Angels Gate winery, Chef Mark Hand’s fennel sausage at Mike Weir winery, El Gastro’s amazing food (Check out my early review of their new cookbook, Curbside, in the previous column) at the Organized Crime Winery, and Chef Victor Barrie’s “100 day aged chuck burger” at Hidden Bench Vineyard among others. As a member of Les Marmitons, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of cooking under the direction of all these chefs and can promise you their food is nothing short of amazing and alone worth the trip. And the wines at all the participating wineries aren’t half bad either!

Going north, I’d alert readers to the upcoming May 30th Spring Rural Romp in Wellington County. It is a self-guided farm, plant nursery and food tour and includes great opportunities to win prizes by participating in the Butter Tart Trail Challenge (mmm… butter tarts), and a photo contest.

Enjoy the warming weather and all it brings to bloom!

To see more pictures, click here.
To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives
Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Media Release: Barton Village Festival is One Month Away

By shining a huge spotlight on the positives of Barton Street a team of residents and volunteers are going to show the City how great Barton Street is this summer!

In the heart of Barton Village on Saturday, June 20th the first annual Barton Village Festival is taking place at Woodlands Park. “We want to showcase the amazing diversity on the street and bring people from across Hamilton to see what a great community it is.” Festival Director Rachel Braithwaite says. “The hope is to increase awareness of some of the many assets it possesses, and shine a different light on a much maligned street. Really, it’s a fantastic area.”

This free family-friendly festival will feature food, fun, music and much more.

With three stages of music, the main stage in the park, a youth stage beside Sign Aids and an acoustic stage inside 541 Eatery & Exchange, there will be something for everyone. Musical acts will be announced on the Festival’s website very soon.

Other activities at the festival include Zumba and belly dance instructing, a flash mob, and a presentation by the Hamilton Aerial Troupe. The Dundas antique fire truck will be on display and Little Ray’s Reptiles will be putting on two shows. A photo contest is underway, asking “What do you love about Barton Street?”

There will be over 40 vendors at the Barton Village Festival, “which really speaks to the interest there is in celebrating the area.” Braithwaite says. “We’re all so excited for June 20th and to show off Barton Street!”

Thanks to our sponsors: Hamilton Community Foundation, Pan Am Hamilton, Councillor Matthew Green, Little Ray’s Reptiles, Sign Aids and Ruffin’s Pet Centre.

For more information, please visit http://www.bartonvillagefestival.com.

Monday, May 18, 2015

MEDIA RELEASE- City reaches tentative deal with CUPE 5167

City reaches tentative deal with CUPE 5167

HAMILTON, ON – May 18th, 2015 – The City of Hamilton and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 5167) have reached a tentative agreement through collective bargaining. The two parties met all day today and late into the evening with a provincially-appointed conciliator.

The tentative agreement reached comes after twenty-five days of negotiations over the last four months.

The CUPE negotiating committee will be presenting the tentative agreement to their membership next Monday with a recommendation to accept the deal. The report will be received by City Council on Wednesday May 27th.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Media Release- 4 Mountain Clrs. Write to the Minister of Transport re: Canada Post Installations

For Immediate Release

The four mountain Councillors Tom Jackson (Ward 6), Scott Duvall (Ward 7), Terry Whitehead (Ward 8), and Doug Conley (Ward 9) have written a letter to the Minister of Transport the Honourable Lisa Raitt advising her of a recent gas line that was severed by a Canada Post subcontractor working to install Super Mailboxes here on the Hamilton Mountain without the required city permits. 

The letter requests that the Minister direct Canada Post to halt its installations in Hamilton until the Canada Post complies with all local rules and regulations.  The Minister spoke in the House on April 23rd in response to a question from Chris Charlton (MP, Hamilton Mountain) on why Canada Post was disregarding the bylaws in Hamilton.   

The Minister responded by saying: “...In siting these community mailboxes, Canada Post must work with the communities, and it must follow all rules and regulations.”

 To see the letter, click here. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Statecraft- on A Culture of Low Expectations

It's difficult to think of a more damning characterization of an organization that to deem it to be to be one that has a systemic culture of low expectations. By any account, it spells the word "failure" and it would weigh very heavily on anyone saddled with the responsibility for this dire outcome.

The Hamiltonian feels for City Manager Chris Murray who, bureaucratically is accountable to the directing minds of this city- city council. However, we feel particularly empathetic to all those employees of the city (and we would like to think it is the vast majority) who go to work each day, do their jobs with pride and to the best of their ability, often times putting in long hours and going beyond reasonable expectations of their work. Those employees should not be painted by the same brush and they serve as a testament for the need for change; beyond the obvious need for change demanded by the public interest and the public purse.

The magnifying glass should not only fall on City Manager Chris Murray and some of his managers, but on City Council as the directing minds of this city. Chris serves at the pleasure of council, who serves at the pleasure of the electorate. That chain of command requires that city council serve as a vanguard on behalf of the public and guard the public interest and trust.

While Clr. Merulla may have been correct in his recent observations that public works' productivity has increased as a result of the investigations and actions related to the recent scandal of alleged time theft and the like, that perspective should not be the prevailing one. City Council should have made demands on the bureaucracy long ago and they would have been absolutely correct to have done so. 

And while fighting off the spirit of "I told you so" banter, initial signs of the criticality of the issue of performance was raised by The Hamiltonian in a series of articles pertaining to the then, dire state of performance contracts/agreements. You may want to read these articles by clicking here. 

As far as we know, to date, the city has no way of correlating whether those on the sunshine list (employees making over $100,000.00 per year), have a performance agreement/contract in place, and further, whether the expectations expressed in such instruments are being met. 

On a positive note, we understand that the performance agreement/contract instruments have been revised and improved and progress has been made with respect to the amount of staff who have one in place. The process of measuring against such agreements has to be done with the necessary sensitivity so as to resist  measuring for the sake of measuring, and rather, invoking a system that meaningfully and supportively takes stock of performance and allows it to improve with the necessary coaching and training.  Such a system would also be useful where progressive discipline is required and would help to withstand any challenges at arbitration or before other judicial or quasi judicial bodies. 

Public reporting, in the form of a report card that can be accessed online by anyone, with understood measures by department and progress against those measures, would be the ultimate expression of accountability to the public.

Back to city council- are they demanding these measures? Are they asking about the degree of performance contracts that are in place and completed meaningfully? Are they asking why those on the sunshine list may or may not have performance contracts/agreements? Let's hope they are.

In terms of City Manager Chris Murray and his journey to change the culture, unless he moves quickly to hold the organization to account, he would have truly failed the very people who excel in their work, and left those who are permitted to waste public funds, to do so.

We wish Chris well and warn him that culture has strategy for breakfast daily. 

The Hamiltonian

Motions in Motion- Merulla's Motion re: Redhill Safety

Whereas the tragic deaths of Olivia Smosarski and Jordyn Hastings on May 6th occurred on the Red Hill Valley Parkway;

And Whereas the City of Hamilton parkways have been the scene of other traffic fatalities and accidents; 

Therefore be it Resolved:

That the City of Hamilton consider additional safety measures for the Red Hill Valley Parkway and Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway, such as additional guardrails, lighting, lane markings or other means to help prevent further serious losses and injuries; and

That staff report back to the Public Works Committee with recommendations in 2015.

Thank you,

Councillor Sam Merulla,
Ward 4, East Hamilton,

Monday, May 11, 2015

Going Too Far?

According to a Spec report,(see it here or purchase today's print copy), Hamilton police will take measures to keep the peace over disputes involving the installation of super mailboxes, but will not take sides on the issue, citing that the matter is before the courts. This in response to the militant actions of some, who have taken to standing in holes to prevent Canada Post contractors to install the mailboxes.

The Hamiltonian is expecting a statement from city Councillor Terry Whitehead, who  appears to be leading the charge in terms of the city's position on the matter of additional super mailboxes being installed. Clr. Whitehead's comments are expected to arrive next week and will be in reference to a statement released to The Hamiltonian by Canada Post General Manager Jon Hamilton. See that statement by clicking here. 

What are your thoughts. Is this going too far? 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Sips Between the Lines, Curbside Bites and Tastebuds Edition

Sips Between the Lines, Curbside Bites and Tastebuds Edition

Just published this week, Curbside: Modern street food from a vagabond chef (Whitecap Books), is a terrific book by Chef Adam Hynam-Smith: he and his partner own the gourmet food truck – El GastrĂ³nomo Vagabundo (know simply as El Gastro to his many mates) that ranges throughout the Niagara Region up to Hamilton.

I just received my review copy a few days ago, and was totally blown away by the quality of the nearly-300 page book. Hynam-Smith, Aussie by birth and now Niagara-based, is one of the bright lights on the culinary scene, and in the book he shares his own innovative recipes, along with

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Q/A with Canada Post over Installation of Super Mailboxes in Hamilton

The following is our Q/A with Canada Post's General Manager Jon Hamilton:

Hamiltonians are likely wondering about the ongoing difficulties between Canada Post and city of Hamilton local council with respect to the installation of super mailboxes. There being only one taxpayer, despite the multiple tiers of government, taxpayers are likely concerned about how our tax dollars are being spent with one level of government countering another over the mailbox issue. The simple solution would be for the Federal government to work very closely with the city, to respect its by-laws where these installations are concerned. Can you explain why that does not appear to be happening and can you provide any reassurance to the taxpayers of Hamilton that this stalemate of sorts will be sorted out quickly in the spirit of goodwill and responsible state craft?

Thank you for your inquiry. I would first like to point out that the move to community mailboxes, which is part of our plan to secure the future of postal service, was designed with the taxpayer in mind. Canada Post’s longstanding mandate is to serve every Canadian household while remaining financially self-sufficient. It’s an important balance which means no funding from the taxpayers to operate the postal service. That balance becomes more and more difficult with the amount of mail dropping each year. Last year alone we delivered 1.4 billion fewer letters than we did in 2006. When we held sessions across the country to talk about the issues we were facing, we heard loud and clear that Canadians wanted their postal service to change to meet their changing needs – while not becoming a drain on them as taxpayers.

Delivering mail to central locations such as community mailboxes is the best way to preserve the postal service for all Canadians. The reality is that two-thirds of Canadians do not have mail delivered to their door and will see no change to their delivery. That includes apartments and condos with lobby mailrooms, rural boxes and community mailboxes. Community mailboxes were introduced in the 1980’s and today serve roughly 4 million households, including 34,000 in Hamilton, each day. Those boxes were installed over many years by working constructively with municipalities and within the laws that govern postal service in Canada.

Canada Post therefore regrets that court action is required to address the recent impasse. Canada Post has the legal authority to install the boxes on municipally-owned property, however our approach is to do so in a thoughtful and consultative manner. The City of Hamilton was first advised of the intention to convert roughly 36,000 households to community mailbox delivery in June of 2014. Since that time, Canada Post has met repeatedly with city officials to try and seek input while keeping them aware of our progress. That included providing maps of proposed locations last fall, addressing constituent concerns and sharing the changes made based on the feedback of local residents.

The locations we are installing today have been chosen based on feedback we received from residents in each neighbourhood and longstanding guidelines that consider important factors such as safety, accessibility and proximity the households they will serve. Many changes have been made based on local feedback. We also understand the importance of a safe installation and we “call before we dig” to have any utility lines marked before beginning construction.

Digital alternatives are decimating the mail business and we’re seeing that trend pick up steam in 2015. We understand the changes we are making are not easy, but we must act with urgency to secure the postal service.

Jon Hamilton
General Manager
Canada Post

Monday, May 4, 2015

Media Release: From: Councillor Terry Whitehead – Ward 8 City of Hamilton

On April 23rd in response to a question from Hamilton MP Chris Charlton, Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt made the following statement. “…in sighting these community mailboxes Mr Speaker Canada Post must work with the communities and they must follow all rules and regulations”

Unfortunately here in Hamilton, Canada Post is doing the exact opposite. Instead of working with the municipality to find safe and convenient locations for these boxes by going through our newly developed permit process, we have mailboxes being installed in the drip lines of trees, at busy corners, and entrances to sub divisions. Boxes are even being installed in one instance inside a resident’s new driveway.

These actions show that Canada Post is clearly not obeying our local rules and regulations and as such I’ve sent a letter to the Minister asking her to direct Canada Post to do just that.

See the full letter here. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Most of 29 Workers fired for Alleged Time Theft, ordered reinstated.

The City is learning the hard way that when labour disputes go to arbitration, despite how glaring they would assume violations are of the work contract, outcomes can be difficult to predict. In a Spec article (read it here or purchase today's print copy), it is reported that the city has found that most of the 29 employees it fired over alleged time theft, have been ordered to be reinstated into their positions.

City Manager Chris Murray indicated that he accepts the order, while respectfully disagreeing with it.

And while the city may be in wonderment at the outcome, The Hamiltonian applauds City Manager Chris Murray and the city for drawing the line and taking decisive action when becoming aware of the issues. The outcome may not have been to their liking but the city, through its actions, sent a clear message.

Media Release- City of Hamilton presents survey findings identifying most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness

City of Hamilton presents survey findings identifying most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness

City of Hamilton 20,000 Homes Registry Week Survey Results Are In

HAMILTON, ON – April 30, 2015 – At a community presentation in Council Chambers, City of Hamilton Housing Services Division staff presented survey findings from the 20,000 Homes Registry Week.

On April 26 and 27, over 150 committed community volunteers, on 40 teams led by professional service staff canvassed the streets, community agencies, and emergency shelters in Hamilton and completed a short health and housing survey with over 470 people experiencing homelessness.

The City of Hamilton is one of the first communities in Canada to pilot the 20,000 Homes Campaign and was selected as a pilot community because of our history of supporting Housing First programs.

“We are not starting from scratch, Hamilton has been committed to the Housing First philosophy for