Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Question of the Moment

Can it be the answer?

A Shout Out to Staff on the LRT File

We thought we'd take a moment to recognize city staff for the good work and professionalism they have been displaying on the LRT file. 

It is often difficult speaking "truth to power" especially when the LRT issue has caused such division amongst council and the public. 

Still we find staffers such as Paul Johnson, Chris Murray, Gary Moore and we are sure countless others, doing their best to fulfill their roles of providing good information and advice to their political masters. 

We are also certain that additional information requests to help make a determination on this thorny issue has caused staff to be working long hours behind the scenes. In addition, the media lens can offer up yet another challenge and on behalf of The Hamiltonian, we can only say that staff have responded to our requests respectfully, promptly and professionally. 

On behalf of The Hamiltonian and all of us, thank-you.

The Hamiltonian

Monday, April 24, 2017


The following are some tips on conversing online on The Hamiltonian or at other sites:

1. Be prepared to be right and wrong. Someone once said that it takes no special talent to be mean.  Conversely, it takes great strength and eloquence to concede part or the whole of a position you took, when necessary.

2. Argue your points with spirit but don't surrender your respect for others.

3. Don't attempt to ridicule others by referring to them by anything other than the proper name or handle they identify themselves with. 

4. Whether you agree with others, understand that they are here because they have an interest in the well being of our great city. That, we can all agree on.

5. Don't make a nuisance of yourself. The Hamiltonian remains a not for profit service to Hamiltonians, and it is unfair to expect our staff to intervene in schoolyard like tactics. 

6. Try to have fun. Its all about our great city.

Pipe Dreams or Needed Enhancements?

Despite clarity being provided at the recent meeting, there appears to continue to be some confusion, at least amongst some, with respect to the need for replacing pipes in the LRT corridor, should the LRT project proceed. So, we went to  Gary Moore, Director of Engineering Services, City of Hamilton.

The following questions pertain to the pipes within the context of Hamilton’s 11km proposed LRT line:

1. In a recent meeting, it was said that these pipes are 20 years in to a 100 year expected life span. Is this true? 

This was a generalized statement in regard to the overall life left in the underground infrastructure as an asset class. It was meant to confer the idea that the underground is in very good condition and is relatively early in its life cycle condition. Relatively speaking, approximately 20 years old out of a one hundred year expectancy.

2. If LRT was not planned, or if the LRT plan does not go forward, would the city be doing any significant work related to pipes on this stretch, or are they in stable/good shape to continue on as is, barring any catastrophe? 

We don’t see any large scale work expected in the corridor to deal with condition, however there may be capacity related works to permit development that have to be done.

3. If LRT was to proceed, what is the opportunity(ies) that present themselves related to pipes/infrastructure, and how would the city seize them? What is their worth to the city? 

The single largest opportunity with respect to the underground infrastructure and the LRT is with respect to upsizing to facilitate development and address existing capacity issues. To construct the LRT, Metrolinx would have to move just about every pipe in the corridor. Although the network of pipes, both water and sewer, are in good condition they have been placed over a long period of time, as required and not necessarily in the optimal location or arrangement but economical at the time. This provides for an opportunity to have the system optimized and upsized at a fraction of what it would have cost the City to do the same work on its own. This work is conservatively valued at $160M to $180M+/- and the cost to City by leveraging the LRT work is estimated to be less than $10M.

4. With respect to the opportunities you may have identified in the answer to question 3 above, are these essential changes that the city would otherwise have done within the foreseeable future, or are these simply opportunities that are based incidentally, should LRT proceed? In other words, are they must haves that would have otherwise been done, or nice to haves based on opportunity to get them done?

They may or may not be done as they may be unaffordable otherwise. If the work was not done it would not eliminate the opportunity for development along the corridor but it would increase the Developer’s cost to the point where it may not be as attractive an investment. The underground infrastructure work, associated with the LRT initiative, should be seen an opportunity to get something that would be very beneficial and likely otherwise unaffordable.

Thanks Gary for this information and for your prompt response. 

Note: Comments that are disrespectful or otherwise unprofessional will not be published.If you don't see your comment published, rethink how you are conveying your thoughts.

Quote of the Moment

"The reality is, social media is too often a swamp of derision, rudeness and bad manners. The belittling excesses we're witnessing over the LRT debate are, regrettably, to a large extent also a sign of our times. But this dark side of the LRT debate goes well beyond social media or personal encounters."
Andrew Dreschel of The Hamilton Spectator

The Hamiltonian agrees that discussion can often times become belligerent in all forums, and hopes that we can model good behavior here while discussing LRT and any other issues.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

LRT-The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

There is no doubt that ailing infrastructure is a real problem for many municipalities.  However, attaching the problem to LRT may result in casting LRT as a misdirected solution. Hamilton is attempting to find the right transit solution for its immediate and future needs. If it proceeds with LRT as its choice, the fact that it will involve access to and replacement of a selected 11km stretch of infrastructure is incidental.

While allowing that some incidental benefits would result, by virtue of access and repair/replacement/and enhancement (in some cases) of infrastructure and technological features, the thirst to address these issues which, arguably should have been done as part of good statescraft and governance, may be having the adverse affect of sending LRT adrift.

As part of Tuesday's meeting, a certain degree of strain was apparent in efforts to cast LRT as an opportunity for replacing and upgrading underground pipes, allowing for upgrades in utility technologies and even a reference to the mitigation of storms caused by climate change. Staff did an excellent job of responding forthrightly to questions concerning auxiliary benefits a LRT implementation could offer.

For example, staff indicated that the pipes along the stretch were in pretty good shape and one staffer stated that they were 20 years in, on a 100 hundred year life expectancy. Having said that, the staffer also allowed for the opportunity of upgrading the pipe to a bigger capacity.

And while we would not dismiss that this type of implementation, based on its degree of  penetration of existing infrastructure, can provide for auxiliary benefits albeit confined to an 11km stretch that may, in some cases, have a greater city wide impact (but not necessarily the case in all instances), treating LRT as salvific in this context, can serve to make people wonder about whether we are considering its implementation for the right reasons.

Hamilton is attempting to find the right transit solution for its immediate and future needs. We sincerely hope that it finds the right transit solution for its immediate and future needs.

The Hamiltonian

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Taking Care of Business- Tanya Smith Photography

Tanya Smith
In this edition of Taking Care of Business, feature whereby The Hamiltonian features a local business, we weclome Tanya Smith of Tanya Smith Photography. Enjoy our chat with Tanya:

1. Your photography business is located in the Cotton Factory. Why did you choose Hamilton and how long have you been in business in Hamilton?

Honestly, Hamilton was not my first choice. In fact it was not even on my radar, but I knew exactly what I wanted in a studio, but all I was finding was boring office spaces with low ceilings, no windows and beige carpet. When I started investigating more creative spaces, there was Toronto or Hamilton. Toronto was too far for me to drive, not to mention way too expensive, so I decided to check out the Hammer. The Cotton Factory was suggested to me, and the minute I stepped in the front doors, I knew I had found the new home for my studio. It was love at first sight! Brick walls, amazing windows with natural light, 18 foot ceilings, original hardwood floors- it's a photographers dream come true! And only 30 minutes away. I have been there for almost 3 years.

2. What sets your business apart from other like businesses? 

 I specialize in photographing women. I wont shoot your wedding, or your babies, but I am very good

Friday, April 21, 2017

With Paul Johnson- on LRT

Enjoy our chat with Paul Johnson Director, LRT Project Coordination, Light Rail Transit Office .

Mr. Johnson:
Can you advise if any representatives from the utility companies or cable companies have approached the city with any plans or proposals to conduct any upgrade or repair work on the 1km LRT stretch, should the project proceed? If so, what is the nature of their proposals.

Paul replied:

Third party/private utilities deal directly with Metrolinx on this project. I asked Metrolinx for a statement regarding your question below and their response was as follows:

“There is ongoing engagement with private utility companies. Part of this engagement involves identifying potential enhancements that they may require in the corridor. At this stage in the project, these discussions with utility companies are ongoing and at this time there is no further information to share.” 

Thanks Paul for facilitating this response. 

Episode 9 of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns"

In this episode of As Hamilton Twists and Turns, the one dubbed "Heroes and Villains", we find both Mayor Eisenberger and Clr. Terry Whitehead potentially being cast as heroes or villains depending on which side of the LRT fence you are on.

Clr. Whitehead can be cast as the hero for delaying  a key vote that could have seen the end of LRT.  Likewise, the Mayor has a strong claim due to his relentless and heroic efforts in selling the perspective on the value of LRT.  

Conversely, Whitehead could wear the villains mask by, according to some,  being an ongoing thorn in the LRT file, while the Mayor can do the same for, according to some, trying to push a solution that is not right for Hamilton.

Many of the other councillors have figuratively jumped into costumes while a few stragglers are eyeing them. 

To complicate matters further, a poll reveals that 55% of decided respondents are not supportive of LRT, while The Hamiltonian warns of the marginal value of such polls, given where we have been. For her part, The Premier refers to the 1 Billion as designated for transit in Hamilton, adding that she hopes it's LRT. 

In the interim as our heroes and villains clash, our friends at The Hamilton Spectator featured a quite telling front page picture of audience members asleep during the marathon Tuesday meeting that ended in a deferral.

And while LRT's secondary benefits are being touted as something akin to the best thing since sliced bread, former Mayor of Hamilton and current M.P. Bob Bratina submits his thoughts in The Hamiltonian.

Could it get more interesting? Almost certainly. Stay tuned and sharpen your fingernails....

Fade to black with Paul Johnson looking a little tired, turning to Chris Murray; Clr. Whitehead trying on a cape while Mayor Eisenberger opts for Captain America style shield bearing LRT on its face. M.P. Bratina at his keyboard.....

Missed Episode 8? Click here to go there. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The LRT Matrix

After a marathon meeting, the Mayor very wisely asked staff to develop a matrix that would assist council in making a decision with respect to LRT and its fate. The Mayor asked that the benefits of going forward are clearly laid out, as well as pros and cons. Clr. Whitehead asked that risks also be included.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mayor Eisenberger Keeps Pushing

With a crucial vote that may effectively derail Hamilton's LRT objectives, the Mayor continues to go all out to persuade his colleagues and Hamiltonians. The following is an email the Mayor sent this afternoon to his council colleagues, copying the media.

Colleagues, Attached is a great article about the economic uplift realized and to be realized in Kitchener/Waterloo as a result of their LRT investment. According to Regional Chairman Seiling the 13 station stops has already generated 1.8 Billion dollars of investment around them. That does not include the additional investment that have been realized in between stops. Please read the article for added additional information re: real estate forecast. http://www.cushwakewr.com/news/right-track-real-estate-insights-region-waterloo-rapid-transit-system
Cheers Fred

Monday, April 17, 2017

M.P. Bratina- On LRT Survey Results

M.P. and long time friend of The Hamiltonian, Bob Bratina, had this to say about the results of the LRT survey: 

"The Provincial Government will now be aware of validated public opinion re LRT as they approach a difficult election. Council should now consider presenting options that benefit all area ridings based on the Premier's commitment to Hamilton transit funding. The Rapid Ready Document which calls for transit ridership growth as a precursor to future LRT. The Province made it clear that Regional Express Rail is now driving transit planning which could help accelerate half hour all day GO Train Service from Stoney Creek to the GTA, especially in view of the recent Federal announcement of $196 million in funding for the Burlington-Stoney Creek corridor."

And the Survey Says......

55% of decided respondents are against LRT. 

63% believe that a referendum should be held prior to a decision being made.

See Spec story here. 
See Polling for Numbers here. 

LRT and the Wisdom of Solomon

As the Mayor continues to double down on LRT, doing his best to convey the value of going forward, the question remains whether his colleagues are convinced.

No doubt, the project is large and complex and presents inherent risks, which is true for any such large scale project.

Some have proposed that the LRT solution is a solution that gets at our ailing infrastructure, and while that argument may be relevant, it may put the transit component of LRT in a secondary light. Does that add or detract from the value of LRT as a transit remedy; you decide.

Facing death by delay, Wednesday's vote will be very telling. With 30 million dollars  already spent, will council see Wednesday as an opportunity to curtail the spending on a project that is not right for Hamilton, or will it invest in LRT as the right solution for Hamilton?

One thing for certain, this moment will require the wisdom of Solomon.

Update: The Spec is reporting that the results of the city wide survey reveal that 55% of decided respondents, are against the project. See full article here

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter

For those who subscribe to the Christian faith, have a blessed and Happy Easter. For everyone, Happy Easter and happy holiday. 

The Hamiltonian

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pic of the Moment

Mayor Fred Eisenberger at his visit to the Waterloo Region’s LRT.

Here is the text of the Mayor's letter to Councillors, that was included inn this media release:

Dear Councillors,

I would like to take this opportunity to update you on my visit to the Waterloo Region’s LRT open this past Saturday.

As I arrived at the LRT’s maintenance and storage facility in Waterloo, I could not help but be impressed by the crowd of more than 1,000 people who lined up to see the LRT car and inspect the first LRT car firsthand. There were literally people of all ages on hand, from small children to seniors.

I was greeted at the open house by Ken Seiling, Waterloo Region’s chair. He explained to me that Waterloo Region has branded its LRT with the name ION. GrandLinq is the Region’s public-private

With Clr. Skelly- On LRT

Enjoy this Q/A with Clr. Donna Skelly:

Clr. Skelly: You have long been rather fearless about expressing your concerns about the LRT project.

Many are marrying the LRT funding to an opportunity to refresh our infrastructure and address other longstanding concerns. What do you say to those who warn that turning our backs on the 1 Billion is also akin to a missed opportunity to address our other related needs?

I have been consistently opposed to the LRT for a number of reasons. The funding package offered to us by the province could, in my view, be better spent on more modern transit options; such as electric buses. The money could also be used to expand GO service, and address the bottleneck at Aldershot. This $1 billion has never been about infrastructure, as the infrastructure that would be replaced has a lifecycle of between 10 and 15 years remaining. If the money can be used towards updating infrastructure, there are many other projects in the city with a higher priority.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak - A Slice Off the Old Block

A slice off the old Block

A month or so ago, a cooking buddy gave me the heads up about a new place in Burlington I had to visit. Thanks Chris!

Barely into its third month of business, the Block Company’s website is as full of promise as the newish John Street store. The brainchild of restaurant business veteran, Troy Smith, the narrow shop features a refrigerated case containing an enticing array of cured meats and premium cheese.

Smith’s friend, Chef Joshua Ross, is lending a helping hand to get the business off the ground. He says “It’s all about the best of the best, so the public can have access to restaurant quality charcuterie and special cheeses.” The latter are mainly local artisanal offerings, including great ones from the Upper Canada Cheese Company in Lincoln, New Hamburg’s Mountainoak and Gunn’s Hill in Woodstock. There are also international gems like the sumptuous – and mortgage-worthy – Truffle Sottocenere from Italy, among others.

Smith says “My charcuterie and cheese is forever changing, hence why I don’t have an online menu. We have a community board here at the shop where locals make a list of things they would like to

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Polling for Numbers

Policy by polling is a very slippery slope and resorting to it to inform the LRT debate is more a reflection of desperation than anything else. 

It seems that some politicians are investing in an expected "ah ha" moment that would fall out of the poll. Let's assume that 80% of the people polled felt LRT was a great idea. Or that 80% felt it was a terrible idea. What does it really tell us, and should we hang this decision on a poll?

We suspect that what all sides of the equation would agree on, is that LRT is a big project; one that is rife with layers of complexity. That inofitself is not sufficient to determine its fate. Many projects are by nature, complex. 

And so after years of consideration, votes, information packages, debates,briefings and the like, are we to believe that a poll of 2100 people no less, could help tip the balance?

Polls are useful tools and they have a time and place. Effective community input is a critical component of any endeavor, and input on the LRT project, if anything, has been abundant and spirited.  

We hope the poll is administered as effectively as possible and its results beyond dispute. But even so, what will it prove and what does it say about Hamilton's ability to make appropriate decisions? 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Episode 8 of "As Hamilton Twists and Turns"

In this episode of As Hamilton Twists and Turns, entitled the Hanging by the Fingernails one, we find Mayor Eisenberger seemingly miffed at Clr. Partridge's op ed, in which she states that she can no longer support the LRT project . The Clr. is already being criticized by some from the LRT lobby who have referred to her rationale as "absurd." 

Meanwhile, desperate attempts are being made to remind Hamiltonians of the history of the support behind the project as well as attempts to marry the 1 Billion dollar influx of cash to a remedy for aging infrastructure and other aliments that plague Hamilton.

The warning that it's LRT money only, and it will be reallocated almost immediately to others who are pining for this type of funding, has taken on a darker shade, perhaps demanding of a horror movie soundscape. As the pressure continues, the Mayor may be swinging his squash racket a little bit harder these days.

While Eisenberger gets full points for plowing ahead in the face of greater degrees of resistance, the real question is whether the tide has turned. And if it has, will LRT be found washed ashore, another victim of polarization, politics and ?

Stay tuned, and hang on by your fingernails....

Fade to black with an image of Clr Partridge speaking to her constituents, Clr. Whitehead speaking to Clr. Skelly while the Mayor and others huddle.