Monday, September 28, 2015

Integrity Commissioner 2.0?

It is a matter of irony that Mayor Eisenberger, who was an initiator of the idea of having an Integrity Commissioner during his first term as mayor, is now serving as mayor in the second installation of an Integrity Commissioner.

The first attempt at  having an Integrity Commissioner serve Hamiltonians, by many accounts and on various levels proved dissapointing and some might say, a failure. Marked by late reports and the quality of some reports deemed unsatisfactory, combined with some of the elements of the contract being left unmet, Hamiltonians appeared miffed by the manner in which the position was allowed to play out. At one point, the Ombudsman of Ontario went as far as condemming one of the reports produced by then I.C. Earl Basse, vowing to use it as an example of how not to write a report.

Our initial chat with Hamilton's new I.C. and Lobbyist Registrar, George Rust D' Eye can be found here.  

A copy of his contract can be viewed by clicking here. A copy of the job description for the Integrity Commissioner position can be found by clicking here.

The webpage for the Integrity Commissioner can be found here.

A copy of the Code of Conduct can be found by clicking here.(Starting at page 40)

The Lobbyist Registry page can be found here.  and the by-law can be found hereA copy of the job description for the Lobbysist Registrar  position can be found by clicking here.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Rust D'Eye handles complaints that may come forward and whether he is able to gain the confidence of Hamiltonians  

The Hamiltonian continues to wish Mr. Rust D'Eye well in his new duties. 

Media Release- Free Veteran Parking at City-Owned Lots & Meters With Permit Starts October 1

Hamilton, ON – September 28, 2015 – Effective October 1, 2015, all Veterans who have been issued Ontario Veteran licence plates (excluding RCMP officers) will receive free parking in Hamilton at municipal parking lots and meters with the use of a special City-issued permit.

The veterans parking fee exemption is a 12-month pilot program offering veterans the ability to park for free in any municipal parking lot or on-street parking meter (for the duration of the parking meter).

Veterans currently participating in the City of Hamilton Veteran parking program will receive a parking permit for the pilot parking program in the mail. If not currently participating, veterans may apply for this permit through the Hamilton Municipal Parking System offices, 80 Main Street West at Summers Lane.

In addition to the veteran’s parking permit, the City of Hamilton offers all veterans exhibiting an Ontario veteran license plate free parking on Remembrance Day, November 11th of each year.

For more details please visit www.Hamilton.ca/parking, call the City of Hamilton’s Municipal Parking System at 905-540-6000 or e-mail parking@hamilton.ca.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - Sips and Bites – early fall 2015 edition, with bonus giveaway

Sips and Bites – early fall 2015 edition, with bonus giveaway 

There are a couple events, beginning TOMORROW, that merit mention. I’m also pleased to: share some breaking news about an exciting new premier bash that is being developed to launch next May; report on the recent Flamborough Chili Fest; and point you to a couple of tasty, quick reads.

The ever-popular Chef Michael Smith is at Springridge Farm tomorrow, Sunday 27th September, between 10:30 and 12:30. He will be speaking about his new Cookbook, ‘Make Ahead Meals’. You’ll see from a previous Food for Thought, he’s a genuine and funny presenter well worth hearing from. When I first met him at Springridge he stayed until every single copy of his last book (Family Meals - which recently won a Gold Medal at the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards) had been signed. He’s not perfunctory in the least, engaging with the crowds of folk who clearly adore him. It will be crowded, so get there early and take in some of the other offerings at this family and foodie-oriented destination.

The very enjoyable Harvest Halton takes place on Sunday, October 4, from noon - 4:00 p.m. at Country Heritage Park in Milton. Local farmers pair with area chefs to create dishes, and all food and drink tastings are included. A WagJag discount offer of up to 54% off of regular priced tickets makes the event even more affordable, with prices going down the more you buy. Kids 12 and under are just $5.00 at the door. Readers can win two tickets (valued at $60) simply by leaving a comment below, or tweeting to me @AlexBielak and using the hashtag #harvesthalton. I will draw from among entrants toward the end of the week.

I’ve heard the Royal Botanical Gardens is looking at introducing a major annual signature event that will be run “in tandem with the opening of their newly renovated and beloved Rock Garden.” It will feature local celebrity chefs, entertainment, and an “incredible finale” that is being kept under wraps for now. I’ll be happy to share more as I am able.

The 3rd Annual Flamborough Chili Fest was held earlier this week. I was sorry not to be able to accept the invitation to be a judge again this year, and hear I missed some great offerings. All the funds raised benefitted the Flamborough Women's Resource Centre: it provides support services for all women in the community including information and community referrals, individual counselling, legal advocacy and support, women's groups, transitional housing support for victims of abuse, and teen peer support groups. A worthy cause indeed.

Flamborough Downs carried off the majority of the accolades, repeating in three categories. They were again the Overall People's Choice winners, and took Best Garnish/Presentation and Hot and Spicy classes again as well, adding Best Booth to their haul this year. The lovely ladies at Roseto Culinary and Catering Services were also repeat winners carrying off the Celebrity Judge Favourite title. The Chili Fest will be back in 2016, and I hope to return as a judge too.

Finally, fancy a really good, fast, tasty read? Taste Canada in partnership with the Food Bloggers of Canada (of which I’m a proud member) recently celebrated the first-ever winners for best French and English-language posts on food blogs. The winner in the Category for Best English Post was "Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnut, Orange, and Saffron." The French gold laureate was "Pizza 3 minutes: saucisses italiennes, épinards, tomates cerise, coeurs d'artichauts et mozzarella.” Congratulations Allison Day from ‘Yummy Beet’ and Christelle Tanielian from ‘Christelle is Flabbergasting’.

To close, I’d mention this is the 90th Food for Thought. Stay with me to the centenary folks!

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)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Motions in Motion

Moved by: Councillor Sam Merulla

Whereas, the recent announcement from Metrolinx for LRT and GO will be transformative to the City of Hamilton; and

Whereas, the construction of LRT along the B-Line and A-Line will have significant impacts to stakeholders including local businesses; and

Whereas, the scope of this project is unprecedented in recent history; and

Whereas, to ensure the project is successful, a high-level of communication and engagement will be required; and

Whereas, Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton are beginning to establish a communications protocol to see the project through;

Therefore be it resolved:

1. That City communications staff be directed to develop a robust communications and community outreach strategy in partnership with Metrolinx; and

2. That the communications strategy be presented to the LRT Sub-Committee for approval.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Motions in Motion

The following noticeof motion was issued by Clr. Merulla this morning, followed by commentary from other councillors and Clr. Merulla:

Grey Cup Notice of Motion
Moved by Councillor Sam Merulla

Whereas the City of Hamilton is home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football club; and

Whereas Tim Horton’s Field is a new stadium and capable of hosting large sporting and entertainment events; and

Whereas the last time Hamilton hosted a Grey Cup was in 1996; and

Whereas hosting events at the new Tim Horton’s Field is an opportunity to showcase the stadium and community; and

Whereas there has been a commitment at the time of the stadium negotiations that Hamilton would host two Grey Cups within a 10 year timeframe upon substantial completion;

Therefore be it resolved that:

The City Manager and staff meet with the CFL and Hamilton Tiger-Cat’s Football club in an effort to

Monday, September 14, 2015

First Hearing at Ontario Court of Justice re: Election Finances

Update from The Spec. Click here

The Hamiltonian has been advised that two hours have been allotted on Thursday September 17th at 2:15pm, for the first hearing related to Vivian Saunders' action at the Ontario Court of Justice against several councillors concerning Ms. Saunders' assertions that compliance audits ought to have been ordered on these cases. We are also advised that the city will be bringing a motion to dismiss the matters. The hearing will be held in Courtroom 208 at the John Sopinka courthouse. 

Media Release: Nearly 10,000 Hamilton residents have enrolled in Service Line Warranties of Canada warranty programs

HAMILTON, ON – September 14, 2015 – The City of Hamilton is pleased to announce that its partnership with Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC) has reached its one year anniversary. Over the past year, Hamilton homeowners, including landlords, have had the opportunity to enroll in SLWC’s water and sewer service line warranties which cover repair costs to service lines that run between their homes and the property line for which the homeowner is responsible.

This past winter, residents with SLWC’s water line warranty coverage that experienced frozen, leaking or broken water lines due to extreme cold temperatures received prompt effective response from SLWC’s local contractor network. Residents can expect to receive another letter from the City and SLWC, providing them with the opportunity to enroll in the SLWC program consisting of three optional warranty coverages:

Water Line Warranty
$5.00* per month or $55.00* annual fee – Covers the cost of repairing broken, frozen or leaking outside water lines to restore flow.

Sewer Line Warranty
$5.75* per month or $64.00* annual fee – Covers the cost of repairing broken, frozen, leaking or clogged outside sewer lines to restore flow.

In Home Plumbing Warranty
$6.50* per month or $73.00* annual fee – Covers the cost of broken or leaking water or sewer lines inside the house, including drain lines connected to the main sewer stack.

*Plus applicable sales tax

Over the past year, SLWC has addressed over 450 warranty claims allowing Hamilton residents to avoid the high cost of these unexpected repairs. Approximately, $145,000 in repair work was completed by SLWC’s network of local, licensed contractors, providing significant economic benefits to Hamilton. Based on customer satisfaction surveys, SLWC has consistently enjoyed a 96% customer satisfaction rating.

“I am pleased that the partnership between the City of Hamilton and SLWC has been a success over this past year”, said Mike Zegarac, General Manager, Finance and Corporate Services with the City of Hamilton. “Residents who have enrolled with SLWC were able to receive efficient service to restore flow where their water lines froze this past winter.”

To enroll, or for more details about SLWC, please visit www.slwofc.ca or call 1-855-326-4730.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - How I “cooked” with @CHEF_LYNN

How I “cooked” with @CHEF_LYNN

Life is good. Today is, of course, the 22nd anniversary of the official recognition of the baguette (thanks Mother Google), and I’m just back from the first ever Scottish Salmon Festival in Inverness. As noted in my last column, I took the opportunity of being in Scotland to partake of three splendid and educational tours: at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, and Glenfiddich and Abelour distilleries in the Highlands. I’ll be writing about them later and will provide links once the piece is published.

Re-entry to the Southern Ontario food scene was swift. I received an invitation to participate in the 5th Stein and Dine in Waterloo. The main draw was Pitchin’ In star and Chopped Canada Judge Chef Lynn Crawford. (Readers may recall Food for Thought covered Crawford’s appearance at Denninger’s Diamond Anniversary about a year ago, but was unable to secure an interview at that time.)

The Waterloo gig was clearly going to be my chance!

In many ways the Kitchener-Waterloo food and drink scene is poised to take off the way Hamilton-Burlington has prospered during the past three years. KW has long been known for the bounteous St Jacob’s Farmers’ Market, and hosting what National Geographic crowned the best Oktoberfest outside of Munich, Germany. But there’s a lot else going on these days, with fine culinary talent being attracted to the area, new breweries abounding (as befits the area’s Germanic origins) and active social media devoted to the topic. I’ve often directed readers south toward St. Kits, Niagara and east to Halton : I can heartily recommend going a bit further northward as well. 

Dave MacNeil, Executive Director of Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest told me the festival now counts four silos: Cultural and family activities, Sports, Business to Business, and Culinary. They’ve brought food “front and center” and while “there has always been the traditional foods like schnitzel, and sausage on a bun available at the fest halls, there will be more food events than ever this year.” There will be a Taste of Oktoberfest culinary series featuring Bavarian-inspired menus and beer pairings, Oktoberlicious (think Taste of Burlington’s prix-fixe menu program), and Oktoberfeast, a food truck gathering with trucks from all over Ontario. For full details see the Oktoberfest website.

So there I was at the culinary kickoff, Stein and Dine, for a dinner prepared by Chef Lynn and the staff of the Waterloo Inn. When I finally got to eat it, it was pretty tasty. “My” salad with beer-pickled beets was light and well dressed. A trout schnitzel with pilsner remoulade was a standout, perfectly cooked, quite the trick given the number of portions served. The Applewood-smoked pork chop with sausage gravy was very tender and accompanied by an unusual side: a ham hock, apple and sauerkraut bread pudding.

Dessert was a signature dish from Crawford’s restaurant, Ruby Watchco, a sweet pretzel streusel with airy pumpkin cheesecake, served in a small mason jar. Each of the dishes were well-paired with a Molson product (Creemore Springs lager and pilsner, and Rickard’s Red and White) by Justin Lamontagne, one of only 8 Cicerones (think beer sommeliers) in Canada.

You’ll note I said “My” salad. Yes indeed, I ended up on stage, endured a Survivor-style elimination (see photo by Sylvia Pond Photography), and was dressed by Chef so I could prep the salad with her. That involved more of the same, i.e. no, as in zero, handling of food, except for pieces of pickled beet stuffed in my mouth and a bit of jar shaking. Now I admit I had provoked Chef with my comment about silly hats (see photos again), and fully deserved the continuous ribbing I took from her, to the delight of the crowd.

I departed the stage arms full: a jar of brown derby dressing, a spoon, a chef’s hat, a cleaning cloth, her book (At Home with Lynn Crawford), and a tube of Rub A535 to soothe my aching arms. As I said later on Twitter, I’m expecting the offers to come rolling in from the fest halls now I’ve proved my mettle as a beer carrier.

The thing I did not leave the event with was an interview with Chef Crawford.

Third time lucky?

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)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Good Job?

Leaders will often times pass on complimentary comments to staff, when  such comments are received by the public or others who take the time to do so. In a world where people are quick to complain when things go astray and yet hesitant to offer positive feedback when good service is rendered, it is tempting to seize such moments. Often times, a leader will see this as an opportunity to boost morale and remind subordinates that the job they are doing is important and is appreciated. In jobs where staff are prone to take the brunt of bad situations and frustrations, such morale boosters are often very well received and needed. 

It appears that this was the intent of Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire's when he affixed a personal note to an email that was received. The email, appears to have been received through the Police Service's website and  commends the police on the way they responded to the senseless and unfortunate murder of  Shariek Douse, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of a housing complex on McNab north.

The Chief's handwritten note reads: "All of our Officers that responded to the (hard to make out word) homicide did a great job. Keep up the good work."

The email that was received however, also contained the following statement, that was made by the person who sent in the email " I also wanted to say that I believe that it is time for these black kids to stop blaming the Police for crimes that are committed by gangs and individuals causing this grief"

While the Chief's comments did not focus on that part of the email, the fact that he commented on such an email, albeit from another angle, caught the ire of Clr. Matthew Green who believes that the Chief's comments may be contributing to an "us vs. them" mentality when it comes to community relationships.Further, it appears that the Clr, interprets DeCaire's comments akin to his stamp of approval of the entire messaging in the email.

Police Services spokesperson Catherine Martin advised that the Chief's practice to  communicate community feedback directly to members, does not mean that the Chief endorsed the opinion in the email. Clr. Green remained unconvinced, arguing there may be an issue of cultural competency.

Dreschel's write up in The Spec (see it here or buy the print copy), describes the statement in the email as it pertains to blaming police, "provocative".  Further, he states" True, the offending sentence was in the context of a specific killing and, apparently, community comments made to the media in the aftermath. But by posting it in its entirety, De Caire appears to be remarkably tone deaf to the sensitivities and nuances of a diverse community."

What do you think? Do you think that by virtue of affixing his comments on the email, the Chief ought to have known better as to what the reaction to them would be? Or do you believe the Chief was simply acknowledging good work, and took a moment to offer a morale booster to the members?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

On Greenbelt Lands

In a recent C.A.T.C.H. release, (see it by clicking here), reference is made to public consultation sessions to be hosted by the City of Hamilton, that will be used to inform which lands (if any) will be considered for removal or addition to the Greenbelt. The intent of the Greenbelt, which was put in place by the province, is to protect and preserve agricultural or natural areas.

The Hamiltonian asked Steve Robichaud, Director of Planning and Chief Planner Planning Division, Planning and Economic Development Department, the following questions related to this effort. Mr. Robichaud's responses follow the questions below:

1. What criteria will be used to help determine potential additions or removal from the Greenbelt? 

The criteria has not been finalized. A workshop was held in July, 2015 with stakeholders representing the agricultural, environmental and economic sectors to provide feedback on a broad list of draft criteria.

Based on the feedback, ideas and suggestions received at the workshop, staff further revised the draft criteria that will be part of further public consultation before being utilized to assess which lands (if any) the City of Hamilton will be recommending to the Province for consideration to add to the Greenbelt Plan area or to remove from the Greenbelt Plan area. The final determination on adding/removing lands is with the Province of Ontario.

2. In a C.A.T.C.H. release, you were quoted as follows: 

Then we will follow up with consultation with the general public and/or landowners as we apply those criteria,” stated Robichaud about the identification of “areas that should be removed from the Greenbelt Plan in order to accommodate the projected growth.” 

Can you specify how you have determined what the future growth will be, relative to the scope of lands that fall within Hamilton’s boundaries. Can you provide numbers related to that projected growth and the source of those numbers

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe identifies population and employment forecasts, targets and policies for managing growth and development in the GGH to the year 2041. The City of Hamilton uses the Growth Plan to inform growth management decision–making in Hamilton. The Growth Plan forecasts Hamilton’s population to be 780,000 people by 2041 and employment forecast to be 350,000 jobs. For more information on the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, please visit: http://www.placestogrow.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=9&Itemid=14

The Hamiltonian thanks Mr. Robichaud for his reply.