Note: This is an experiment in liveblogging using the WordPress platform. In theory, it will automatically update as I type. You will see my initial spelling errors and blemishes in real-time.
City Council is meeting as General Issues Committee this morning. Items of note on the agenda:
- Public delegation regarding the financial and transparency concerns at the Waterfront Trust
- Establishment of a Ward 1 and Ward 2 One-way to Two-way Streets Implementation Team
People are slowly filing in.
The meeting is beginning. The clerk has a long list of additional items, including four public delegations and 84 letters regarding two-way conversions in Wards 1 and 2.
Minutes of previous meeting are approved.
They will be going in-camera for at least one item.
With that, coverage ends here.
Thank you to all participants and your feedback was much appreciated.
GIC is now discussing if they can defer their in-camera items.
The Ward 2 Area Rating fund projects are being approved right now. Ward 2 projects were omitted by mistake at the last meeting.
GIC passes a request to the Separate School Board for an additional 60 day extension to sale deadline on BR to allow more time for city to find a way to purchase parts of building it needs.
Collins is speaking to the Bishop Ryan School sale.
The City’s rec centre’s power, utilities, gymnasium, fire suppression system, are all contained in Bishop Ryan.
HWCDSB is selling the building at the end of this school year – there will be a new BR high school on the Mountain.
GIC passes a motion to have staff meeting with HWDSB about cancellation of school bus service on Upper Mount Albion.
The road does not have sidewalks.
and the main motion carries unanimously.
Studies will begin on Cannon and Queen conversion to two-way traffic.
Will come back for the 2013 budget process for consideration then.
Amendment carries unanimously.
Okay, there are going to pass the motion with amending wording. There will be studies and consideration in the 2013 budget process.
Farr is noting that Queen is already partially two-way at the bottom of the hill.
How would two-way north of Herkimer cause congestion?
We remain in discussion of wording. Basically, councillors don’t want to commit to implementation without more studies and budget implications.
Clark does some wordsmithing as well.
He’s noting the challenges of reversal flow with multiple entry and exit points.
Merulla asks for amendment to allow for a reverse-flow option to be studied. Says that has the support of Jackson and Whitehead.
McHattie notes Queen St is a difficult access for accessing Waterfront and Downtown, it’s two way until Herkimer.
McHattie’s now reading his amendments – wording is changed to committee from implementation team. Committee is still to create an implementation plan.
McHattie still wants to move on Cannon and Queen in the 2013 budget year.
Farr argues that Ivor Wynne traffic is “part of the traffic” – the only person who wants to get out of their quickly is the “president when the Cats lose”
Farr notes the positive impact of the Wilson conversion to the Beasley community. Dr. Davy school benefits from being easy to walk to.
Whitehead notes three hospitals are in the lower-city. Notes traffic congestion in Edmonton without one-way streets.
Whitehead says when people moved downtown, they knew about the one-way streets.
“Let’s go slow, to suggest Queen Street … now you want to put a system that will chock those accesses off to downtown.” – says it will hurt business as people from Mountain will not come downtown or to the waterfront.
Whitehead speaking for a second time.
He’s supportive of a high-level process to study. Concerned about ambulances being stuck on Queen St Hill, James South, and the increased in collisions along James South since conversion.
Partridge supports conversion of “neighbourhood streets” downtown, but concerned about changing King/Main and how it will impact with LRT.
She is concerned about language.
Cannot support motion with King and Main “in the mix”
Collins is comfortable with the motion with the additional wording.
Clark is asking to amend language as well.
Not surprising considering all the side-conferencing….
McHattie making amendments to language to liaison team or study group from implementation team.
Collins wants a wider discussion involving all of council and city.
Collins asks for an amendment to this effect.
Collins notes the positive impact of slowing traffic down. Cites Hess Street patio life once Hess was “pinched” to slow down traffic.
Collins could not imagine success of Art Crawl if James was four lanes of barreling traffic.
Merulla, Jackson, and Whitehead currently having a side-conference.
Merulla now side conferencing with McHattie
Maria Pearson reps Ward 10, lower urban Stoney Creek.
Pearson notes Council has approved conversion that haven’t happened.
She wants a staff report to look at where the city is on conversion.
Concerned about the implementation language.
Clark says the motion is problematic because it calls for implementation before the environmental assessment – he cannot agree to that language. He supports a study and looking at conversion.
Clark says two-way streets increases the cost of regional trade.
Clark notes he didn’t support conversion of John and James due to the slowing down of emergency vehicles. He note this has happened – the slowing of emergency services.
Clark: notes Paris, France has one-way streets.
One-way is important to encouraging trade movement. London, England as well.
Clark notes Portland has a bunch of one-way streets.
“You cannot look at these from an ideological viewpoint.”
You cannot believe there is “no other solution than two-way streets”
Clark wants to hear from EcDev about how much regional trade is downtown and be truck.
Jackson is opposed to the main thrust of the motion.
Jackson is very concerned about conversion of Cannon with Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Jackson is concerned about conversion being done too quickly.
Jackson: when people in my Ward hear I support two-way, “they think I’ve lost my marbles”
Jackson notes they wouldn’t even consider one-way streets on the Mountain.
Notes his support for previous conversions.
“Now I’m getting concerned” about his motion, Jackson says.
Jackson is concerned this motion is implementing on these two streets.
Merulla cites the Sherman Cut as an example of one-way rush hour peak traffic routing.
Merulla: I’m supporting this motion, it’s incremental.
Says he supports a discussion about rush-hour one-way periods and two-way reminder of time for major routes.
Morelli: I will be supporting the motion.
Morelli notes that other cities have special road direction changes for game days. One-way inbound before the game, one-way outbound after the game.
Morelli notes that two-way will help get trucks off residential streets in his Ward – north/south is difficult for trucks.
Ferguson speaking with force – notes that citizens of Hamilton have been investing a lot of money in downtown.
He’s not comfortable “with this one” (referring to motion)
“I have real problems” with changes to the main routes. If they want to change the secondary streets, fine.
Ferguson continues by notes many in Ancaster have to travel to work downtown and in the industrial area.
“We’re investing a $145-million in a stadium on Cannon Street and now we’re going to make it difficult to get to?”
“This is a bigger issue than just Ward 1 and 2,” ‘it’s city-wide’
Farr: We’re not talking about closing streets. He notes they may install bike lanes and pedestrian friendly features, but the streets will remain open for traffic.
Farr speaks about the numerous groups calling for two-ways and studies supporting. (Check http://www.raisethehammer.org for extensive evidence-based discussion)
Farr speaks about the numerous groups calling for two-ways and studies supporting. (Check http://www.raisethehammer.org for extensive evidence-based discussion)
Farr refers to Richard Florida’s theories about the “Creative Classes” and the importance of quality of life resulting from two-way traffic.
Whitehead says the context of conversion cannot be “self-serving” in context of where people live.
Whitehead: expresses concerns about the traffic congestion that could result from two-way when 20,000 people are leaving Copps.
He asks what this means for traffic out of Ivor Wynne.
What about Queen – it’s a mountain access, Whitehead notes.
Whitehead wants to ensure that people outside of downtown are involved in the discussion.
“This is not just lower city streets, this is the city’s streets and we should all be included in the discussion,” says Whitehead.
McHattie notes that conversion of King and Main are part of the LRT process and not this motion.
McHattie notes the conversion must undergo an environmental assessment.
He says EA must include citizens, how they want their neighbour infrastructure to change with two-way conversion.
Many streets are designed solely for one-way traffic.
This means Morelli is in favour of the motion as well. Cannon is one-way starting in Ward 3 at Sherman.
McHattie is reading out his motion right now.
The motion is being amended to include Ward 3 in the implementation team.
Council passes the entire open for business minutes from August 16.
The two-way conversion motion is now up for debate.
GIC votes to receive the letter from Monte McNaughton MPP about his private members bill.
We’re now discussing the Casino issue. OLG reps are attending the next GIC meeting.
GIC is currently debating endorsing a private members bill that will require referendums in any community a casino is proposed for.
Council votes to amend the motion to have staff report back with an option to deal with Emerald Ash Borer within the existing budget. Only McHattie opposes.
The rest of the report is approved. Staff will report back during the 2013 budget process.
Council has received the staff report on how to react to the Emerald Ash Borer.
Councillors are concerned about public reaction to cutting down of healthy trees to remove all ash trees over a 10 year cycle to allow for replanting of the canopy.
It’s expected that all ash trees will be infested and need to be removed within 10 years.
The challenge with this issue is that ash tree roots quickly rot once a tree is dead. The city owns approx 23,000 plus ash trees. They could be over 300k ash trees across the city on public and private property.
The Ash Borer will destroy all of them in ten years time unless there is expensive preventive treatment program.
The City will have to remove the city owned trees at a cost of between $16-to-27 mil
Mississauga expects to spend $51-mil on their replacement program.
We’re back. Discussing how to detail with Emerald Ash Borer infestation – in ten years, we could have no ash trees left in Hamilton due to this infestation.
Council is now in-camera for discussion of the Red Hill Expressway lawsuit against the federal government. I’ll tweet when they go back into open session
Council continues to discuss the HWT, putting many items onto the public record. Expressing support for the Trust, asking what direction it is taking, and some questions about the operations.
HWT says they plan to break even this year and then turn a profit next.
HWT is discussing it’s projects and achievements, there is not much of note that you’re not already aware of.
Santucci leaves the room as Waterfront Trust begins it’s presentation. They have slides explaining who they are and what they do.
Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins on Twitter: “For some reason today feels like one of those #groundhogday”
Santucci, I’m here as my own person.
Farr – you wrote you are here today because of concerns written in the Bay Observer and The Hamiltonian.
To Santucci – are you alleging fraud?
Santucci – I’m asking Council to have oversight to ensure the operation complies with the parameters set out in the deed of trust.
“Fraud, I’m not qualified to ask them. I’m asking of oversight and answers to questions that came,” Santucci.
Farr asks the question again
“No, I’m not alleging fraud,” Santucci.
Farr – are you aware the John Best was recently on Laura Babcock’s Laircast?
Farr – Laura asks Best “Is their fraud” “John says No” “Is someone stealing money” “No” “Is there any criminal activity” “No”
To Santucci, in light of this and today’s discussion, are you satisfied that HWT matters are resolved?
Farr is now taking down the Bay Observer for their inaccurate headline that started the “whole blogsite thing happening”
Merulla closes by saying his point-by-point takedown shows a forensic audit is unnecessary.
The room is quietly listening into the discussion. Santucci is not being combative or pushing back. Very firm, but calm, discussion.
Farr is still awaiting his turn to speak.
Merulla is playing lawyer today.
Partridge says let’s move this along.
Merulla say’s he’s trying to make sure the points are dealt with.
Partridge says he’s doing a great job.
HWT failed to have adequate insurance for an accident that involved a cyclist. The City was named and paid for the HWT’s liabilities.
The HWT has repaid the City.
Merulla happily says this ‘takes that issue “off the table”‘
Rossini will be revealing the details of a 2002 worker injury that the city covered the cost of liability.
Merulla asks about the deed of trust. Rossini says, yes, the deed of trust requires the HWT to provide their financial statements to Council on a yearly basis..
Yes, there were years late in the first few years.
Rossini says this is not unusual or surprising for a new organization.
This was a problem, that has been corrected, says Rossini.
Now discussing the canal washroom issue. Rob Rossini, the city’s finance chair, notes the cost of the washroom project included other improvements in the area.
It was all paid on one invoice – includes management fee for the entire waterfront trail project.
Councillor Farr is the only speaker left on the list.
Merulla now summarizes his points.
Partridge intervenes to stop Merulla and Santucci from getting into a back-and-forth debate.
All discussion at meetings must be thru the chair.
We’re now getting into the repetitive part of the debate. Council is making clear they support the HWT today and that all issues, if they believe there are issues, are in the best.
Merulla: CRA has no issues with the HWT today.
Merulla is aggressively taking down Santucci’s points – point by point.
Merulla – with the charitable status, to Santucci, do you know that HWT has regained its charitable status.
Santucci is aware.
Merulla – issue is off the table.
Merulla says Santucci’s conclusions, based upon 2007 adverse opinion audit, no longer stand.
Asks Santucci if he agrees.
Santucci, not surprisingly, does not.
Partridge and Merulla now double-up – Do you understand that an adverse opinion is not a failure.
Merulla is now asking his question.
Thanks Santucci for taking his suggestion to make a presentation.
“I’m glad we’re here today to clarify any misunderstanding”
City Hall internet connection is cutting in-and-out. If there are delays in updates, this could be why.
Whitehead thanks The Hamiltonian and Santucci for raising their concerns about the HWT.
He preambles about the role of the HWT – is it to generate profit.
Whitehead is interrupted by Partridge – do you have a question.
Whitehead: seems like a tempest in a teapot. I don’t have the concerns about the HWT from my constituents.
Ferguson says on the GST issue that the period of appeal to the CRA is passed and the matter is in the past.
Partridge is trying to allow for a healthy discussion. Santucci and members of Council are verbally sparing.
Ferguson expresses his support for the current HWT board.
Ferguson says many improvements have been made at HWT after the adverse audit opinion.
Says mistakes were made – ‘that ship has sailed’
He notes the recent audits have been positive for the HWT – not sure what a forensic audit would achieve.
Clark is very strongly questioning Santucci’s position.
Now moving to Councillor Ferguson for more questions.
Santucci’s response is evasive – says Clark is asking him to speak as an citizen as an expert on forensic auditing.
He’s is open to any suggestions Council has about alternatives to a forensic audit.
Clark notes that an adverse opinion is not a failed audit. He asks if Mr. Santucci is aware of that distinction.
Clark is asking why the call for a forensic audit.
(Forensic audits are extremely expensive and should only be done when they are concerns or evidence of fraud)
A regular audit takes care of most financial control concerns.
Santucci has 14 slides
- Failed audit in 2007
- Loss of Charitable Status
- Failure to provide requested financial information
- Failed GST audit
- Continous losses – notes it’s nearly $2-mil in the period 2008 to 2011
- Accounting Irregularities
- Failure to report – late financial statements to Council
- Failure to insure – HWT did not have it’s own insurance.
- Unanswered questions – why did some members of HWT and Council not respond to questions from Teresa DeFalco, The Hamiltonian?
- Unanswered questions – second slide
- Charitable Status – why non-complaince
- Fiduciary Trust – are they good stewarts of City funds?
- Forensic Audit – a call for a forensic audit
Deputy Mayor for September, Judi Partridge, reminds the delegation to “be quick” because ‘Council has a lot on the agenda today’
The next delegation is Gary Santucci in regard to concerns about the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. This promises to be interesting.
Council will draft a motion to the provincial finance minister against contraband tobacco.
Mayor Bratina relates a story of a walkalong he took with Hamilton Police. They encountered a woman selling cigarettes out of a clear plastic sandwich bag. ‘She was at the bottom of the supply chain’ says the Mayor.
‘Do we have a plan to break the supply chain’?
Clark says he will support a motion. He’s concerned about the sale of contraband tobacco to teenagers in Hamilton and it’s more dangerous nature – lack of regulation and standards.
OCSA has a proposed motion they’d like Council to pass. The motion calls on the provincial government to increase enforcement against contraband tobacco.
Public Delegations are now beginning. First up – Dave Bryans of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association respecting the distribution and sale of contraband tobacco
Mayor Bratina notes AMO is working on a policy paper related to the AODA changes.
Clark and Merulla are going to meet “offline” and draft a motion regarding cost support for meeting new standards under the AODA.
Clark notes that during his recent bout with arthritis, he noticed how many invisible barriers there are in the community. Notes challenges of stairs to washroom at restaurant he attended and difficulty opening doors to Council Chamber at City Hall.
Clark notes the costs of the new regulations under the Ontario Disability Act will be very substantial.
Says City will need to ask both the province and federal government for financial supports.
Council is now discussing the new provincial standards for “Built Environment” under the Accessibility for Ontarians Disability Act.
The province has given municipalities until September 30th to respond to new proposed regulations.
In short, City will have until 2025 to be FULLY accessible in all locations and services.
GIC approved the minutes of the Hamilton Association of Business Improvement Areas. Ward 2 Councillor Farr made a point of noting there are 12 new businesses in the Core.
Council talking art installations for the market district. Ana Bradford, director of culture, suggests the installations could be things like bicycle racks shaped as fruits and vegetables.
Enbridge delegation requests have been approved for the next GIC meeting
GIC is debating staff recommendation to move a delegation request from Environment Hamilton to present findings of the Dustbusters initiative to the Board of Health.
After 4 minutes of debate, passed.