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Monday, February 29, 2016

Link of the Moment

Click here to see the details of the upcoming Butler Community Hub meeting. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

7- Candidate Glenn Murphy

In our series entitled "7", The Hamiltonian will provide all candidates who are registered to run in the Ward 7 by-election, equal access to The Hamiltonian to get their message out. As per our standing policies, The Hamiltonian will remain nuetral and will allow all an opportunity.

Our series continues with Ward 7 candidate Glenn Murphy. Enjoy our Q/A with Glenn:

1. Why are you running for Ward 7 Councillor. What are you hoping to achieve by doing so?


We need someone that will be committed to the job. As an independent with no political association, my only agenda is to meet the needs of the constituents. I will be accessible, I will listen and I will take action. I will address all concerns expressed by the people living in Ward 7. I will be your voice at city hall.

2. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the Ward and facing the city as a whole. How would your contributions help to resolve these issues?

Media Release:Ward 7 Candidate Howard Rabb Proposes Plan to Increase Stock of Rental Apartments and Create Jobs

FOR IMMEDATE RELEASE
February 26, 2016

Ward 7 Candidate Howard Rabb Proposes Plan to Increase Stock of Rental Apartments and Create Jobs

Ward 7 Council Candidate Howard Rabb today announced the first of his platform pieces aimed at addressing both the shortage of available rental apartments in Hamilton as well as the estimated 30% of skilled trades’ workers that are currently unemployed or underemployed in Hamilton according to the Hamilton Building Trades.

"During a recent conversation with different developers on issues facing growth in our community I posed a question. Would a Development Charge Holiday on rental apartments be enough to get you to start building apartments? The answer I got was overwhelmingly yes. For this reason I am putting forth this item today"

"During the first sixty days of my Council term I will put forth a motion asking staff to provide recommendations as to what locations they feel would be best served by such a plan. I will also ask that the development charge holiday be time limited. Developers will have to be ready to have shovels in the ground within a specific time frame in order to qualify for these breaks"

Rabb states that he hopes that the work by Council and City Staff can be done in time for 2017.

With CMHC suggesting that Hamilton's rental vacancy rate is set to fall again in 2017 this prudent and responsible selection will help spur development, create more rental housing, and put people to work to help grow the economy.

"We need this housing now, and we need these jobs now." Rabb states.

Howard Rabb formerly worked at City Hall for Hamilton West Mountain Councillor Terry Whitehead. Prior to his time at City Hall he ran a successful software company that, under his leadership expanded throughout western and eastern Canada and into the United States and Mexico.

He is running in the upcoming by-election in Ward 7 on the central Hamilton Mountain. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Motions in Motion: Mayor Eisenberger re: Land Development Task Force

N O T I C E O F M O T I O N
Council: February 24, 2016

MOVED BY MAYOR EISENBERGER ……..……………….………………...

Land Development Task Force

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton’s Strategic Plan supports the development and implementation of neighbourhood and City wide strategies that will improve the health and well-being of residents;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton owns over 2,000 properties representing over 25,000 acres, and the City’s Portfolio Management Strategy sets out a framework for how the City’s real estate interests can be maximized to support and/or deliver key City priorities;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton has interests in real property that could be leveraged for broader community-building initiatives to achieve priorities for the City;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton owns vacant and underutilized properties which may present opportunities for value maximization through strategic repurposing, consolidation, or disposition;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton has to consider strategic land acquisitions to support LRT implementation;

WHEREAS significant needs have been identified regarding the availability of affordable housing, and the current condition of the City Housing Hamilton inventory;

WHEREAS the West Harbour development requires comprehensive consideration of the neighbourhood and City requirements;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton currently leases over 350,000 s.f. of office space to accommodate employees of the City, 85% of which will expire within the next 5 years;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton and its agencies have a number of dispersed facilities with common functions that may present opportunities for more efficient program delivery;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton has established vitally important partnerships among anchor public agencies and not-for-profit sector organizations, whereby combining our common property interests may present opportunities to deliver greater collective impact and benefit for the public;

WHEREAS a strategic and focused portfolio review, and identification and development of priority opportunities may positively impact the City’s tax base and/or revenue position;

WHEREAS the City of Hamilton is committed to “the Growth Plan that encourages intensification and transit-supportive, mixed use development to make better use of existing, underutilized infrastructure”(1); and,

WHEREAS the operation and management of City properties and the implementation of major City initiatives are currently undertaken by a number of different divisions across the City.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

(a) That the City Manager be directed to establish a focussed team comprised of subject matter experts, to identify strategic opportunities and to achieve realizable outcomes related to the City’s real estate interests; and,

(b) That the City Manager be directed to report back to the General Issues Committee with an enabling framework that includes but is not limited to models such as 1) an internal staff team, 2) an agency or 3) a Land Development Corporation; and,

(c) That the proposed work plan narrow the focus to a priority list that enables realistic and measurable completion targets for the initial 3 years that include, but are not limited to, vacant and underutilized properties which may present opportunities for value maximization, and tax revenues, through strategic repurposing, consolidation, or disposition; and,

(d) That the Council approved nodes and corridors master plan provide the primary focus of the 3-year work plan to be presented for Council consideration on or before April 31, 2016.

(1) Downtown and Community Renewal Community Improvement Plan, February 2014 Consolidation pg. 10 of 32

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

7- Candidate Jeanne Lise Pacey

In our series entitled "7", The Hamiltonian will provide all candidates who are registered to run in the Ward 7 by-election, equal access to The Hamiltonian to get their message out. As per our standing policies, The Hamiltonian will remain nuetral and will allow all an opportunity.

Our series continues with Ward 7 candidate Jeanne Lise Pacey. Enjoy our Q/A with Jeanne Lise:



1. Why are you running for Ward 7 Councillor. What are you hoping to achieve by doing so? 


I am proud to call Ward 7 my home. Ward 7 is where I grew up and it’s been my home for more than forty years. I am very familiar with the amenities, the businesses and the community. I am a patron of our local businesses and I have friends and colleagues living here. As a resident, I know there needs to be improvements made to better maintain our infrastructure while retaining the heritage of this community. I want to be your Ward 7 Councillor so that I can speak at City Hall about the concerns we all share about recreation facilities, transportation, pedestrian safety and the need for improved accessibility throughout the city. My strengths are not only my familiarity with the ward, but that I have worked for the City of Hamilton for a number of years in community development, and I have strong organizational skills and like to get a job done right. I have also worked in community and healthcare advocacy and I am self-employed.

In my opinion, City Hall needs to offer more opportunities for residents, groups and businesses to be heard. More public consultations could be incorporated into decision-making so that Hamiltonians are more involved and have of a say in how this city is run.

My goal is to improve the quality of life for people of all ages in Hamilton, whether it is seeing that much needed bus shelters are installed or by bringing new businesses and more affordable housing to both our ward and the city. I am committed to working with Mayor, the members of council and community leaders not only for the betterment of Hamilton but for Central Mountain. I recognize that safe and healthy communities are created through partnerships and strong collaborative relationships amongst individuals, community groups, businesses across the City of Hamilton. As your City Councillor, I will listen to you and work to improve the services that are vital to making Ward 7 an amazing place to live, work and play.

2. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the Ward and facing the city as a whole. How would your contributions help to resolve these issues?

Monday, February 22, 2016

7 - Candidate Chelsey Heroux

In our series entitled "7", The Hamiltonian will provide all candidates who are registered to run in the Ward 7 by-election, equal access to The Hamiltonian to get their message out. As per our standing policies, The Hamiltonian will remain nuetral and will allow all an opportunity.

Our series continues with Ward 7 candidate Chelsey Heroux. Enjoy our Q/A with Chelsey:


1. Why are you running for Ward 7 Councillor. What are you hoping to achieve by doing so?

I am running for Ward 7 Councillor to bring a voice to my community. I will bring what voters expect from our City's leaders: the principles, trustworthiness and integrity of a true representative; a councillor who makes decisions in the City's interest - not in the sole interest of being re-elected. Most importantly, I will manage taxpayers' money as if it were my own. My strong work ethic is evident in my 4 current jobs, and i will bring this same energy, dedication, and commitment to Council. I am uniquely positioned to motivate and encourage our younger generation to participate in our City's progress, while maintaining a strong relationship with our long time voters. Residents' concerns will always be heard because I will always be there to listen.

2. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the Ward and facing the city as a whole. How would your contributions help to resolve these issues?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

7- Candidate Lou Vecchioni

In our series entitled "7", The Hamiltonian will provide all candidates who are registered to run in the Ward 7 by-election, equal access to The Hamiltonian to get their message out. As per our standing policies, The Hamiltonian will remain nuetral and will allow all an opportunity.

Our series continues with Ward 7 candidate Lou Vecchioni. Enjoy our Q/A with Lou:


1. Why are you running for Ward 7 Councilor? What are you hoping to achieve by doing so?

Expressing one's opinion in government is important and this starts with voting in democratic societies. That is why running in this by election is important, for myself being elected is not the
issue, the people of Ward 7should vote for who they feel is best suited to give this ward a proper direction, in solving many of our social and economic issues.

It is about realizing what individuals can accomplish if they desire or put their minds to it. People shouldn't just sit on the side lines and just criticize what goes on in this beautiful city of wonderful people, doing something constructive, will far out weigh anything that can be complained about !
It's getting to the point where people have to giver back to their communities to repair and improve the place where they live, work and play!

Our "Silent Warrior" campaign is not about an individual, but the many Silent Warriors who keep their communities and city running despite what a handful of people think is right! Raising awareness that strengths in numbers, will achieve the greatest results.

2. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the Ward and facing the city as a whole. How would your contributions help to resolve these issues?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mayor Not Fond of "One Offs"

Hamilton Mayor
Fred Eisenberger
Recently, a Hamilton City Councillor wrote to the province concerning the issue of predatory lending. Ordinarily, communicating to upper levels of government is reserved for the mayor of the city; seeing that it is the mayor's position that acts as councillor at large.

We asked Mayor Eisenberger about the practice of councillors by-passing his office and writing directly to other levels of government. This is our Q/A with Mayor Eisenberger:



Q. Mr. Mayor. Recently a Hamilton City Councillor wrote to the province concerning payday loans. In the past, there have been other incidents where Councillors saw it fit to write to other levels of government directly. Putting aside the merits of any given reason for writing to another level of government, can you share your view concerning the appropriateness of doing so? Do you think it is more proper for the Mayor of the city to represent Hamilton's views upwards? What involvement do you have, if any, when Councillors decide to write directly to the province? Does this occur with your consent?

The Mayor replied as follows:

While we strive to adhere to the governance process in place when corresponding with upper levels of government, unfortunately this is not always the case. I believe a coordinated and united voice, being driven from the Office of the Mayor, is best practice when addressing issues with the Province and Federally and will yield us the greatest success and desired outcomes. 

The Hamiltonian thanks Mayor Eisenberger for engaging with Hamiltonians via The Hamiltonian

City Manager advises of Executive Director of Human Resources' Upcoming Retirement

The following is a letter sent by City Manager Chris Murray to Council advising of the upcoming retirement of Helen Hale Tomasik, the Executive Director of Human Resources
Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of Council. The Hamiltonian wishes Ms. Tomasik well with her future plans post retirement. 


Please join me in extending best wishes to Helen Hale Tomasik, the Executive Director of Human Resources, who has announced her retirement effective September 30, 2016.

As I read her retirement letter, I was once again reminded how lucky we are to have such talented and committed staff working for this City. And how stellar people like Helen take chances and change their career paths, continue to learn, take risks, and do great, leading edge work not because of any personal benefit but because of their unequivocal commitment to public service and to our municipality.

Helen graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Master of Science Degree in Nutrition and began her working career as a Lecturer in Applied Human Nutrition, first at the University of Manitoba and then at the University of Guelph. Although she was on a path to begin her PhD studies, in 1981 she was enticed to work for the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth, as our very first public health nutritionist. In 1984 she was appointed as the Director, Public Health Nutrition Service; then in 1994 became the Director of the Healthy Lifestyle Branch followed in 1999 as the Director of the Healthy Lifestyles and Chronic Disease Prevention Branch. While in Public Health, her work was published in peer-reviewed dietetic journals and she was a sought after presenter at national conferences. In 1995 she was awarded the Ontario Dietetic Association Award of Honour in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the profession. This was the highest award bestowed upon one dietitian across all sectors in the province of Ontario

In 2001, her career path took a sharp turn in a different direction when she became the Director of the Strategic Services Division supporting both Public Health and Community Services. And then, not deterred by the challenge, in 2008 she accepted the position as the Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development.

Helen has dedicated 35 years furthering the health of our community, and the wellbeing of our organization and staff. She has been a role model for us all in terms of her commitment and character. She is a courageous, humble, hard-working, patient, collaborative, smart, passionate and compassionate leader. There is nobody who has worked with more dedication than Helen.

I am grateful for her steadfast and stubborn push to develop a People Plan for the City of Hamilton. This will be her legacy – leaving us in a better place in terms of our understanding of what great leadership looks like and how to support and develop our people. She has been my trusted confidante and advisor, with a calm temperament and superb problem solving skills. I will miss her.

As we make the transition to Helen’s retirement, Lora Fontana will assume the role of Associate Executive Director effective March 7, 2016 and will begin to manage the day to day operations of Human Resources. Helen’s priorities and attention during this period will be on strategic HR initiatives that are priorities for my office and the Senior Management Team – including Succession Management, Leadership Profile and Leadership Development, the Employee Survey and Performance Measurement.

Please join me in congratulating Helen, thanking her for her dedication, and wishing her the best in her retirement.

Sincerely,
Chris Murray
City Manager

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Media Advisory - Community Forum on Predatory Lending and Payday Loan Licencing

Media Advisory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Community Forum on Predatory Lending and Payday Loan Licencing

The community forum on predatory lending will include keynote speeches, real life experiences, public input, breakout sessions and information on Hamilton’s payday loan licencing regulations.

Where: Tim Hortons Field, 4th Floor, 64 Melrose Ave. N.
When: Monday, February 22th, 2016 at 7:00pm

For more information contact:
Simon Granat
Executive Assistant to Councillor Matthew Green
W: 905-546-4550
C: 905-973-0285
Simon.Granat@hamilton.ca

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Media Release: Clr. Green







FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Minister Orazietti February 16, 2016

Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2

Dear Minister Orazietti,

Today, Hamilton took a historic step. Our city is on track to be the first in Ontario to crack down on predatory lending. I have seen the impact these practices have on neighbours in my community first hand. A payday loan of $300 can accumulate up to $1638 with interest in a year, trapping residents in a cycle of economic violence. To better serve our communities we need to do more and together we can do more.

Today, the Hamilton Planning Committee approved a staff report to licence predatory lenders. The report takes steps to ensure payday loan businesses post signs of the actual interest rate charged to consumers, provide City of Hamilton approved credit counselling brochures, and create a unique licencing category for payday loan outlets. These changes reflect the limited tools we as a municipality have to give neighbours a fair shot to make ends meet.

Now, I respectfully request the Province of Ontario do its fair share to stop predatory lending. The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services’ current consultations on predatory lending presents an opportunity to strengthen consumer protection. For your consideration I have included a prescriptive list of recommendations brought forward during community consultations and through the work led nationally by ACORN and locally the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction to strengthen consumer protections and stop predatory lending in Ontario.

I strongly recommend the Province of Ontario enact regulations to restrict payday lending. Whereas Ontario currently has no cap on the maximum amount of money lent through payday loan outlets and Quebec and Manitoba lead the nation in protecting consumers from predatory lending. I feel strongly that Ontario take this opportunity to enact better legislation and become a national leader in protecting consumers and restricting predatory lenders. Such recommendations at a minimum would ensure the amount lent is no more than 30 per cent of an individual’s income, the cost of borrowing is capped at $17 per hundred, a $20 default fee charged, a 2.5 per cent, per month maximum interest on arrears, and that Ontario legislation provide creditor protection against unfair collection practices and harassment by businesses who purchase overdue debts third party.

Predatory lending has a tremendous impact on residents and communities across Ontario. Hamilton has taken the first step but together we can and must do more.

Sincerely,



Matthew Green
City of Hamilton Ward 3 Councillor



APPENDIX A:

Enclosed are prescriptive policy recommendations from ACORN, Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, and community consultations that I have collected that I strongly urge the Ontario Government to consider. These recommendations were supported by Hamilton Planning Committee on February 16, 2016.

i. Make it a criminal offence to charge more than 30% interest per annum

ii. Make loan flipping and excessive refinancing illegal and require a signature of the borrower for all changes to the terms of the loan

iii. Institute interest and financing fee caps

iv. Institute government mandated registrations for all loans and require all companies that provide loans and financing in Canada to register with the government

v. Make it easier to report predatory lenders through a formal complaint process

vi. Restrict how consumers can use payday loans through a transaction tracking system

vii. Require payday lenders to take into account the borrower’s ability to repay by limiting the amount lent to a portion of their net income

viii. Lower the cost of defaulting on a loan by lowering the maximum default charge and by setting a total maximum monthly default costs

ix. Apply debt collection rules to the purchasers of overdue debts. Currently Ontario’s debt collection protection rules focuses on collection agencies rather than the owners of debt (3rd party collectors).

x. That the Min. of Social Services the Hon. Helena Jaczek implement a livable social assistance rate and that restrictions be made on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability usage of payday loans

Monday, February 15, 2016

Media Release: City of Hamilton's Municipal Access Agreement (MAA) with Bell Canada approved by CRTC

For immediate release

City of Hamilton's Municipal Access Agreement (MAA) with Bell Canada approved by CRTC
[Hamilton, ON – February 12, 2016 – The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved with changes the rates, terms, and conditions of a Municipal Access Agreement (MAA) between the City of Hamilton and Bell Canada.

In January 2015, the City made an application to the CRTC seeking to compel Bell Canada to enter into a new and improved Municipal Access Agreement (MAA) to better reflect the City’s expectations relative to performance and compliance with City protocols and procedures. Key highlights of the new agreement include Bell Canada being responsible to support, protect and maintain its equipment to the satisfaction of the City to ensure road safety and during municipal construction projects or operating activities, and that any costs above normal City costs for additional work on projects as a result of Bell Canada’s telecommunications equipment can be recovered by the City including staff costs, additional material costs or any additional City contractor costs attributable to the telecommunications equipment.

The CRTC’s decision will help the City realize cost savings and ensure that costs directly related to a carrier’s infrastructure are paid by the carrier rather than by municipal taxpayers. The City estimates the impact of direct costs due to Bell equipment are approximately $450,000 per year. When work-around charges are considered, that annual figure would be in excess of $1M.

The MAA also governs Bell Canada's access to highways and other public places in Hamilton, allowing Bell Canada to provide its services throughout the municipality, maximizing the choice of telecommunications service providers for local residents and businesses.

Link of the Moment- Lobbying on Trial

Today's link of the moment is an article from our friends at C.A.T.C.H.. The article highlights the flaws and shortcomings of the current version of the lobbyist registry. It is worth a read and can be seen by clicking here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Media Release- Parking Progress Not an Option

Parking Progress Not an Option

Hamilton, Ontario (February 4, 2016) – Doug Farraway, candidate for the upcoming by-election in Ward 7, finds the recent decision by the General Issues Committee to “park” expansion and improvements to the HSR on Hamilton Mountain not acceptable.

“The present “mountain” HSR infrastructure is unable to service the needs of the residents living in the two largest wards by population, Wards 7 and 8, let alone service the expanding needs of Wards 6 and 9.” says Mr. Farraway.

“Ward 7 residents deserve better than a promise from HSR that they will present alternative plans later this year.” Mr. Farraway goes on to say, “The HSR must work hand in hand with the Master Transportation Plan working group to ensure that the best plan, for all the people, involving all modes of transportation, is realized.”

Today, the FarrawayFor7 campaign releases his plan for all modes of transportation for Ward 7 and for the “Mountain” in general.

Contact Doug Farraway
doug@farrawayfor7.com

7- Candidate Robert Young

In our series entitled "7", The Hamiltonian will provide all candidates who are registered to run in the Ward 7 by-election, equal access to The Hamiltonian to get their message out. As per our standing policies, The Hamiltonian will remain nuetral and will allow all an opportunity.

Our series continues with Ward 7 candidate Robert Young. Enjoy our Q/A with Robert:

1. Why are you running for Ward 7 Councilor? What are you hoping to achieve by doing so?

Having a Dual Honours BSc. in Computer Science & Physics, successful businesses in Toronto and Hamilton, and family, I am a strong candidate for Ward 7. My first term priorities are as follows:

· Lower property taxes to the Niagara region average - *instead, collect revenues from user fees, permits, and licenses.

· Improved infrastructure; there are highly needed upgrades to our streets and parks. The current bus service on the mountain needs innovative routing and strategic planning for lesser wait times and more articulated patterns with closer access to home and businesses within the Ward.

· Small Business: Attract small business and collect revenues through new industries not yet realized, while ending wasteful spending.

· Housing and long term care for seniors and better transport to seniors apartment buildings.

· End wasteful spending, which is a bigger issue than revenue for Hamilton Council. There is plenty of money, revenue and taxes. In fact taxes are so high that there is no answer to where the money is going.

· De-politicize grants. By allocating block funding to the Hamilton Community Foundation, the city would save on overhead costs, as the HCF already gives out grants and loans.

· De-polarize ineffective Government Grants the “red tape” alone costs more than the entire project. If the Government cannot intervene correctly then the Government should not waste time & money to become involved at all.

· Save money while increasing revenues through legalizing and licensing consensual goods & services (savings can be made by redirecting policing away from consensual goods & services). These are lucrative industries that are devalued by having them conducted on the streets instead of behind closed doors.

· Conduct thorough spending reviews to find cost efficiencies and consult residents to prioritize spending.

· I will term limit myself as city councilor to no more than ten years, and I will donate 50% of my salary to local charities. As a successful business owner, I don't need to run for office but I believe Hamilton needs fresh perspective.

Ward 7 (and Hamilton as a whole) is a very high revenue (which is great) and low yielding (which is not good) economy. We have lots of money coming into council and no-one knows how to spend it. This is where the Honour Degrees and Hard Working step up!

My 40 years of business experience, mainly as business owner, have equipped me with strong financial management skills and I always strive to minimize operation costs.

The system generally needs change--we have had the same 3 Governments for over 200 years that continue to be re-elected with antiquated goals. It screams for change and increased voter awareness, which explains the lack of voter turnout.

2. What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the Ward and facing the city as a whole. How would your contributions help to resolve these issues?

In Ward 7 right now the most pressing issues are:

1) Property taxes.
2) Infrastructure.
3) Parks.
4) Accessibility to bus stops.
5) Bus routes to cover more area on the mountain.
6) Housing and long term care of the seniors.
7) Overspending of tax and other revenues.

I would concentrate on how to save money and cut back on spending, while at the same time opening the doors to new sources of revenue. One way would be to cut back on unnecessary policing of victimless “offenses” involving consensual goods & services. This revenue could then be channeled towards much needed improvements in the aforementioned areas. Public safety would be enhanced by removing these activities off the streets.

3. What is your current assessment of this installation of City council? Are you satisfied with their performance. What, if anything, might you add to council that would be unique or new?

The current City council gets along well together and appears to have a friendly atmosphere; however, their spending is reproachable. I hope that most people who get involved in council are as concerned as I am about the cash flow situation. There needs to be an innovative approach to raising revenues and saving money.

The residents of Ward 7 pay more property tax per capita than in any other Ward. It’s time for someone strong to step in and speak up for long overdue improvements to its parks, sidewalks and roads, transit and seniours care.

4. How can people reach you to ask you about your position on matters or to otherwise engage with you?

I am always available by phone, social media “(mainly Facebook)” or e-mail, and I am more than willing to discuss issues on radio, TV or any other media. I am open to onstage debates or question periods at schools or wherever appropriate. I am open to any debates in any format.

5. Tell us a little about yourself, on a personal note. Your hobbies, likes, dislikes, background etc. Anything that would have people get to know who you are on a more personal basis.

I am the first born child of a Doctor of Optometry. Doing very well in school I managed to skip in a few grades graduating with a dual Honours Degree in Physics and Computer Science from The University of York’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.

One of my tutorial leaders, and now a professor and spokesman for CTV and Canada’s Space Science Program, Paul Delaney, once taught alongside me at Upper Canada College as Seminar Leader.

Since then my main function has been as a Computer Programmer for International Banks and later operating my own family business. As a business owner I soon became popular in community circles which lead to becoming involved in supporting local infrastructure improvements.

I live in Hamilton with my wife Catherine of 21 years and 10-year-old daughter Sarah.

As a youth I enjoyed windsurfing and swimming pools. As my father passed away while I was still young I became a lifeguard for 12 years to help pay for my tuition. I am proud of having performed six solo deep water rescues during this time, and coaching a 7th deep water Lake Ontario rescue.

6. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I reside in Hamilton and at one point lived and worked all across Canada as a Computer Programmer / Analyst for BCI Bank (an international Italian Bank) for 6 continuous years, and 1 year as a Programmer for Honeywell in Calgary, prior to that.

My primary goal is Change. I come from an industry of constant change, progress and growth. The current Council, Politicians, getting bylaws passed, policies and procedures changed through municipal bureaucracy is like watching snails crawl in slow motion.

As a super-achiever, I have done well at (almost) everything I put my mind to. I tend to improve and move forward with goals and I find Hamilton seems to be in a deadlock deficit even with funds coming in. I think I would do very well in mitigating this problem and I am backed by a strong team of supporters with much experience and political know-how.

I work great both solo and with a team; I think there is much effort needed to move Ward 7, as well as the rest of Hamilton, forward. Ward 7 needs fiscal responsibility and new higher achieving goals.

As I said at the beginning: Ward 7 is a very high revenue (which is great) low yielding (which is not good) economy. In other words, we have a lot of money and no-one knows how to spend it!

As a small business owner and father, I know the importance of balancing budgets. Hamilton has a spending problem and council keeps increasing property taxes every year. We need to subordinate our spending while reaching out to new industries for new revenues rather than increasing taxes on old revenues like Property Tax, we need to prevail, we need a more robust economy, and we need change now!



Food for Thought with Alex Bielak -A Taste of Spring



A Taste of Spring

It’s February, and decidedly wintery. But it’s getting lighter out, and a sure sign of spring being around the corner, the winter edition of Taste of Burlington is set to run at a couple of dozen Burlington restaurants, February 21 – March 13, 2016. Based on dishes I sampled at the launch event, held at the Performing Arts Centre earlier this month, diners are in for a treat. And, nice to see, several participants are new to the promotion this year.

Before I dived in, sipping on an intense Bodhi Bar organic cold-pressed beet juice with cinnamon, ginger carrot and apple, I enjoyed visiting with Kim Hartley, the nice lady at the Visit Myrtle Beach booth, particularly as I’m planning on a visit to South Carolina next year. You can win a trip for two to this upcoming culinary destination when you eat at a participating “Taste” establishment.

About half the participating restaurants were present at the launch, with the Holiday Inn’s Alloro, a welcome newcomer. They pulled out the stops with a mushroom-stuffed, herb-crusted veal tenderloin, red roasted garlic mash, served in a mini Yorkshire pudding with brandy demi-glace. In thanking the organizers for the invitation I predicted they would be in the running for top honors along with dishes from a couple of past winners.

Two offerings, in particular, stood out from the pack. The Queen’s Head produced a steak and wild mushroom Wellington, with a splendid gorgonzola and double smoked bacon cream sauce. Big props to them: they’re clearly not missing Chef Will Edsall who helmed the pub to serial victories in the past. Parenthetically, I gather Edsall is now in Toronto, having scored a gig as Sous-Chef in the new Susur Lee restaurant, Fring’s, in Toronto. It’s a collaboration between Lee and Drake, and you don’t get many higher profile placements than that!

Chef Mitchell Lamb (Stonehouse) played to his strengths again, countering with a compactly and prettily-layered apple-braised pork shank, with a chorizo and smoked cheddar cornbread and a beautiful morel mushroom foam. It was the dish of the evening for me, the first I finished every last morsel of. But that was because the pastry on the Wellie was a bit soggy, otherwise it would have been a tie. (My wife disagreed, ranking Queen’s Head first and Alloro second, so there you go.)

There was much else to enjoy (see photos) and the winners were ultimately deemed to be as follows: The Judges’ top honours went to the Queen’s Head, with Stonehouse and West Plains Bistro 2nd and 3rd respectively. I gather the result was close, with less than a 1/3rd of a per cent separating first and second. I hope there was a recount!

West Plains was one of my stronger contenders: I liked their potato-crusted salmon with a lemon aioli, but, not being a fan of olives I was less keen on the sundried tomato and green olive tapenade that came with the dish along with a potato chip and lemon-dressed arugula.

The coveted People’s Choice Award also went to Queen’s Head, with Alloro in the runner up spot. Third was a tie between Stone House and West Plains. A special mention (by me) for the key lime, ancho chili-spiked crème fraiche by Ivy Bar and Kitchen: it was right up there with the sauces by Queen’s Head and Stonehouse.

A final note. Tourism Burlington organizes the launch event and has done since 2008. With approaching a decade of experience, the affair goes from strength to strength under the watchful eye of Linda Cvetanovic, who deserves huge kudos for sweating the details. A fun evening that usually sells out, it draws guests from Oakville to Stoney Creek; the organization really is spectacular and seamless, at least from the perspective of someone invited to partake of and report on the goings on.

No detail is overlooked. There are clear descriptions of the food in the program, and all the pertinent social media information is readily to hand, a wonderful green crew provide efficient cleanup and re-cycling (I still want to write about Burlington Green, you guys!), loyal local beer (Cameron’s) and Coffee (Lakeshore Coffee House) sponsors, great communication, and manageable queues.

One small thing for the organizers to consider. How about putting the dessert folk together in one area, perhaps alongside Lakeshore Coffee? I began my evening by inadvertently sampling Pepperwood Bistro’s sticky toffee bread pudding. Though it was declared by my wife as, and I quote, “mmmmm,” I could have done without it being my first bite of the evening. But that’s a small quibble, and I know many, whose mantra is “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first,” would vigorously disagree.

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Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Democratization of Music and Smart Music?

"
Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left."

David Bowie'

Remember the days when albums stood as a testament to the musical genius of musicians and songwriters? Do you remember when the artwork alone on an album was a showpiece?. Do you remember the countless classic musical masterpieces like Hotel California, Led Zeppelin 4, Songs in the Key of Life, The Wall, Scary Monsters, Highway 61 Revisited, Born to Run, and the list goes on and on.

Recall when cuts from an album made the greatest sense and had the most impact, when heard as a whole; sides A and B? In short, remember the days before cherry picking songs from Itunes and assembling them into a playlist?

How did we get from the music of “then” to the music of “now”? The answer to that question may depend to some extent on music genre, but if we consider the world of rock and pop and today’s mainstream “hits”, unpacking the main thrusts of the answer become apparent.

A primary factor that has lead us to where we are now is the democratization of music. What is meant by that?

In the not so distant future, playing an instrument required musical talent and ability. The best songs were the ones that were written from the heart and soul. The ones that said something to you. Many of us can recall some of our most memorable moments in life, to specific songs that spoke to us at the time and still speak to us now.

With the democratization of music, computers and other gadgets make it possible for almost anyone who can operate a computer, to write or produce a song. Or, at the very least, to assemble a host of sounds. The ability to assemble and align pre-recorded loops of music (drum beats or whole segments) and place them into digital recording software, has never been easier, cheaper and generally more accessible, as ever before. It doesn’t require extraordinary musical ability or cost.

The average Mac computer for example, comes stocked with Garage Band and Apple loops, making it possible to create multi track music productions with no additional equipment.

Gone are the days when you had to book expensive studio time, have quality gear or be fluent with an instrument. We’ve even reached a point where software can automate the process of songwriting with a few interventions from the user.

Much of the pop music industry has resorted to track and hook approaches to song production, rather than personal songwriting. Track and hook is a process whereby producers and/or technicians /musicians produce loops of music, carefully arranged and assembled to produce a continuous stream of music.

These preassembled music streams are then farmed out to singers or other creative people , who take a shot at laying a melody and lyrics over top of the music. The goal is to create a hit song, often characterized with a strong hook or series of hooks embedded throughout. The lyrics may or may not make sense. The core requirement are the hooks, that entice and seduce the listener.

It is not being suggested in this article that the process of creating music through a hook and track approach, as opposed to a historically traditional approach, does not take talent. At some level, the ability to discern what might work, and the pairing up of the music track with the melody and hooks, requires judgment and skill.

But it is still very different than sitting on a back porch with a guitar, pouring out one’s heart in a song about having lost at love. Or sitting in the room crafting Bohemian Rhapsody. It can be argued that the computer itself, has become an instrument, or perhaps a component of making music itself.

Coupled with the advent of music streaming, mp3s , Itunes and the rest of the digital music revolution, the world of producing and consuming music has changed dramatically. 

Creating playlists on many of the streaming services, creates data repositories where streaming companies can determine what kind of music you are listening to, what kind of playlists are being created and what time of the day you are listening. This type of information can be invaluable to music producers who may wish to write to spec. In other words, the data garnered can be used to define a formula of sorts as to what type of music is most in demand. The industry can respond to that demand by creating music that subscribes to these consumption trends.

Looking back on the late David Bowie’s words, they seem to be prophetic. Bowie understood that with the advent of these new creation and distribution technologies, artists would have to rely on touring and live shows in order continue to generate income.

So, is the democratization of music good or bad? Is the ability to produce “smart music” whereby music production is in response to consumption demands, a good thing? The answer to these questions can only be had from you; the end consumer.

While some strands of music such as country music, appears to be clinging to the more traditional ways of producing music ; ie- songwriters writing the old fashioned way, and while some pop artists still write and produce music in that way, there is no doubt that the track and hook manner of music production has a commanding presence in the industry.

Do you think the democratization of music is a good thing? Or do you see it as a mindless way of making manufactured music?