Municipal Election 2010

Candidates: Hamilton Not Doing Enough to Encourage Urban Reinvestment

Candidates express dissatisfaction with 'antiquated' zoning rules, regulations and charges that deter business investment in older neighbourhoods.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 30, 2010

this article has been updated

So far, 44 out of the 86 candidates for municipal office in Hamilton have responded to the RTH election policy question: Is Hamilton doing enough to support and encourage new investment in our older neighbourhoods? If not, what should the City be doing?

As at this writing, 39 respondents, or 88.6%, answered no. 2 respondents, or 6.8%, gave qualified maybe answers, and just 2, or 4.5%, answered yes.

Mayoral Candidates

Eight out of the 15 mayoral candidates responded, all arguing that Hamilton is not doing enough.

Michael Baldasaro wants the city to "put an immediate end to urban sprawl onto food lands." He believes this will "raise property values of our inner city and encourage its clean-up and rebuilding throughout."

Calling the Pearl Company situation the "tip of the iceberg", Mahesh P Butani calls for three steps: replace our zoning regulations with "performance and design based outcomes"; replace the "bureaucratic obstacles" at City Hall with "'can-do' personality types" to change the culture; and to develop a "humane solution" to address mental health issues in our older neighbourhoods.

Fred Eisenberger says, "We've done a lot but we need to do more." He touts the waiving of development fees in the downtown, a registry of vacant buildings to prevent demolition by neglect, funding for low-income homeowners for repairs, landmark restoration, and an anti-graffiti program. If re-elected, he wants to establish a "Hamilton 360 economic development team" to focus on brownfield redevelopment.

Edward HC Graydon notes that he has "experienced the red tape at City Hall first hand" and believes there is "no political will to allow for progress". He argues that the city must get more aggressive about stopping graffiti vandals and making them pay for the damage they cause. He also argues that the Downtown BIA is "derelice in duty" to bring excitement and change to the downtown.

Andrew Haines merely said the City should be doing "everything they possibly can!"

Ken Leach notes the city "currently [has] multiple programs directed at rejuvenation of our neighbourhoods" but that investors are "waiting to see progressive movement from the city" by removing red tape.

Tone Marrone believes the city has been "neglecting the core neighbourhoods for some time now." He states that Council's mandate should be "nothing but revitalization of neighbourhoods that have suffered years of neglect" and that rules should be based more on common sense.

Gino Speziale says Council's "'knee-jerk' reaction policy" has been going on for 20 years. He says the city should spend its money not on City Hall but on reconstruction and beautification on run-down streets coupled with stronger anti-crime measures.

The following mayoral candidates have not yet responded: Bob Bratina, Larry Di Ianni, Pasquale Filice, Glenn Hamilton, Victor Veri, Steven Waxman, and Mark Wozny.

Frustration with Pearl Company Issue

Several candidates specifically mentioned the recent Pearl Company situation, in which the the city has charged the owners of an art centre and theatre in a formerly abandoned industrial building of uses that violate the building's residential zoning.

Ward 3 candidate Paul Tetley argues that the Pearl Company owners' decision to close "after five years fo unsuccessfully dealing with the city's red tape" demonstrates the city is "not doing enough to attract new business or support and encourage existing business in our older neighbourhoods."

Ward 5 candidate Dave Stacey calls it a "shame" that "council has put bureaucracy before innovation when it comes to examples such as The Pearl Company." He says we should stop "punishing those who are helping to rejuvenate this city."

Ward 7 candidate Trevor Pettit argues, "The current brouhaha surrounding the Pearl Company highlights that we need to rethink the way we do business." He advocates cutting red tape and streamlining the applications process for business investment so Hamilton can shift the tax burden off residential ratepayers.

Ward 13 candidate Ron Tammer says the Pearl situation suggests the city is "trying to discourage" new investment in older neighbourhoods. He advocates "loosening the antiquated zoning bylaws and offering tax incentives to those who want to redevelop closed-down and dilapidated buildings, instead of kissing up to developers that want services handed to them when they build on prime farm land."

In a recent RTH article, the challengers for Ward 3 responded directly to the Pearl Company issue. Incumbent Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli has not responded to any of several RTH requests for comment.

Incumbents Generally More Upbeat

The two respondents who believe Hamilton is doing enough to encourage new investment in our older communities are both incumbents: Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson and Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson.

Pearson writes: "Hamilton Economic Development team is doing the best it can to encourage new investment in our older neighbourhoods. Further incentives, programs, etc. can always be brought forward and reviewed by Council."

Ferguson writes: "I believe we doing enough, based on the number of building permits which have been approved in those areas. Also ERASE provides exception from development charges and a 10-year tax break for those neighbourhoods."

The two respondents who gave qualified responses are also incumbents: Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie and ward 7 councillor Scott Duvall.

McHattie noted that the city as a whole has been in "an urban sprawl model" for the past two decades but notes that recent legislation is starting to change this. He points to recent examples of urban redevelopment in Ward 1, including the Victoria Park renovations, public art and streetscaping on Locke Street, bike lanes on Dundurn St, new "purpose-built" student housing in Ainslie-Wood Westdale, upgrades to Coronation Park and planned improvements following the Churchill Park master Plan.

Duvall touts grants, loans and programs to support business improvement areas and new business owners in older neighbourhoods. However, he notes that many residents in his ward "have been promised new sidewalks and roads for 15 or 20 years" and is "appalled" that the City continues to spend money on other projects while this "infrastructure crumbles".

Update: edited article to add response from mayoral candidate Mahesh P Butani.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

20 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By ThirdWard (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 09:59:07

Glad to see Morelli can make time for a flood photo-op on chch, but can't take the time to respond, or get his asst. to respond to these important questions.

Move on, Morelli! (Like he'll ever see this seeing its on that new fandangled world wide interweb he still hasn't figured out how to use.)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Wiccan (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 10:44:25

Just out of curiosity, how many people on this site support term limits for city council?

Ryan is this something that you have ever looked into?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2010 at 10:47:42

maybe he can get the internet tubes installed in his house at the same time he replaces his lead water main - i can understand him not wanting to dig his front yard up twice

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2010 at 10:56:04

Ryan is this something that you have ever looked into?

I think I understand the reasoning behind term limits, but I can't say I support them. The concept seems tied to a simplistic "throw the bums out" approach that assumes incumbents are by definition corrupt, incompetent and/or spent and must be replaced periodically.

The incumbent in my ward (Brian McHattie) is running for his third term and I'll be happy to support him, for the simple reason that he's still doing a great job.

He actually reads staff reports and asks intelligent, knowledgeable questions (unlike some other councillors, who blithely ask questions already answered in the executive summaries sitting unread on their desks), pays careful attention to ward issues and engages with community associations, and still maintains a focus on the big picture and the city's broader goals.

Terms limits would push councillors like him out the door just as surely as they would push out those career councillors who phone in their votes.

Rather than term limits, I'd rather focus on the following:

  • A more level playing field for candidates during election campaigns; and
  • More active citizen engagement between elections, so that councillors have an easier time making informed decisions that reflect the values and goals of their constituents.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-09-30 09:57:17

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Hamilton Pundit (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 12:50:46

RM said:

Rather than term limits, I'd rather focus on the following:

* A more level playing field for candidates during election campaigns; and
* More active citizen engagement between elections, so that councillors have an easier time making informed decisions that reflect the values and goals of their constituents.
--------------------

With all due respect, what does that even mean? Incumbency is the single greatest advantage a municipal candidate has (see Kushner, Siegal and Stanwick in Can. J. of Pol. Sci., 1997, 30, p. 539-553 for a study from Ontario). In that study, the incumbency coefficient accounted for almost ALL of the effect on electoral outcome in a large city.

Furthermore, the Municipal Elections Act has also attempted to "level the playing field" with contribution limits, restricting the ability for candidates to carry forward surplus funds, and excluding expenses related to disabilities from the overall expense count, among other changes.

Without adding "TERM LIMITS" to that list, what else do you think would appreciably "level the playing field" in a city the size of Hamilton? I would suggest that all other measures would just be ineffectual tinkering at the margins of the issue.

Incumbency is a massive advantage, and despite my love for McHattie, I don't think it would be a shame if he was given one term, and then have to look for other ways to affect change in his city. I'm not a big fan of "Up or Out", but I think there are far fewer McHatties in the world of municipal urban politics than there are those type of leaders who represent static group of interests, and who turn their wards into personal fiefdoms.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2010 at 13:43:25

With all due respect, what does that even mean?

Off the top of my head:

  • Further limits on campaign contributions. Corporations and unions are not citizens should not be allowed to donate money and other forms aof assistance to election campaigns. A surprising number of candidates have rejected corporate donations this election compared to 2006, but many of the incumbents are still taking them. (One candidate, Glanbrook councillor Dave Mitchell, actually wrote that he does "not wish to discriminate" against corporations by not accepting donations.)

  • Better community engagement organizations. The Guelph Civic League did an amazing job four years ago of turning over a large fraction of Guelph's council, and my understanding from people in Guelph is that the city has become significantly more progressive since then. I'm not sure how the Hamilton Civic League is doing, but they were certainly inspired by GCL's success.

  • More accessible information for voters. The RTH Election site is our modest attempt to provide a more level playing field for candidates in Hamilton by avoiding the standard journalistic distinction between "leading" and "fringe" candidates. We hope to improve it steadily over the next few weeks and in future elections.

  • Better tools for community organizing. The internet has made non-corporate, non-hierarchical organizing a lot easier by dramatically reducing the associated transactions costs. We're just starting to see the impact of that on community organizing, but the general principle seems to be that when you make it easier for people to get involved meaningfully in something, more people do it.

Ultimately, a more engaged citizenry starts to see real benefits, which simultaneously encourages still more engagement while at the same time escalating the public's expectations of how responsive their government should be. I'm thinking, for example, of people in Portland OR losing patience with the City (which most of us regard as a kind of gold standard in progressive government) and engaging in guerilla crosswalk design and vigilante bike lane installation.

Engagement begets still more engagement in a virtuous cycle. Eventually, as the broad based organizing movement argues, it doesn't particularly matter who gets elected because all elected officials feel the constant heat of accountability.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-09-30 12:59:51

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2010 at 14:05:36

What churchill park master plan? Look, I love McHattie, but Churchill Park is not something to point to - every meeting on the subject has torpedoed any improvement, and Churchill's existing structures consist of a rotting abandoned lawn-bowling club and a rotting semi-abandoned bathroom/changeroom structure that looks like something out of a slasher movie... and nothing will ever change because Westdale is full of octegenarians that are, to put it bluntly, "anti-fun".

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 14:11:53

Yes, the systems needs fixing, but not at the price of removing citizens from the equation.

How many arts entrepreneurs have started up small galleries without problems from the city in the last 5 years? Why has the Pearl Company had so many problems? The Pearl Company circumvented the process whereby the people in the neighborhood get to have input in any changes to their neighborhood BEFORE a business opens. Sending flyers out TELLING the people around you what you are doing and changing is in no way the same as a process where the local citizens have an actual voice before an adjudicator. The owners of the Pearl Company have been obstinate in their belief that they were already a legal conforming use. If they had simply paid the $1200 and relinquished control to the neighbors for that brief moment they had a right give feedback, none of this would be happening! I'm sure the rebuttals will have numerous examples of other situations, I don't care anymore. The Pearl Company has made this the whole city's problem now and I have yet to hear any admission of any accountability for the whole goddamn mess from them. If they had followed the process that so many sneer at here they would have gotten their approvals and all of this negative energy wouldn't be hanging like a cloud over them.

I do not mock or deride the process in it's imperfections, it gives the citizens a FORMAL voice and say in the decisions made around them.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By allthekingsmen (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 14:55:00

@mrjanitor,

Agreed, that many arts entrepreneurs have started in the city. But they've almost without exception established outside of Ward 3.

Why do you think that is? Let me tell you what I think (ok, know).

I know of one art entrepreneur who found the perfect building, exactly what they were looking for to invest their money, but it was on the east side of Wellington (i.e. Ward 3). Guess what, they passed on that opportunity, they wouldn't even dream of buying in Ward 3. They ended up purchasing a building, and have built a seemingly successful business in Ward 2.

Why do you think they made that decision not to invest in Ward 3? Let me tell you why.

Comments like Jeremy Freiburger; "Our Councillor straight up told me he didn’t think our activity was right for “his” ward, we couldn’t get anyone to meet with the building owners at 270 Sherman who made the bold step to work with us....". The lack of councillor support they saw from the councillor at The Pearl Company drove them out of Ward 3.

Processes are circumvented all the time, i.e. a developer getting a zoning exemption on the Studebaker Plant, without even having an offer on the building, a gymnastics club getting added in at the last minute by their councillor (Lloyd Ferguson). No process, no questions, it just happened. And where is the developer at the Studebaker plant now, 2 days in April and then nothing. How does a shady deal like that happen for an out of town developer with nothing invested? I'll tell you Lloyd Ferguson wanted an exemption for the gymnastic club in his ward and like a masterful magician used the Studebaker plant as a diversion.

Morelli hates the arts. Why? Because, he hates anything he can't control, anything that doesn't have an angle for him, and like Humpty Dumpty is ready for a great fall.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2010 at 19:14:01

From the beginning, there's been a rather shrill and adversarial tone to much of Milne and Santucci's lobbying, and I suspect that has as much to do with this as anything else. I've been involved with a lot of "fights" in my time (I usually specialize in ad hoc rental law) and this is a huge factor. Once things get personal, they get ugly, no matter who's right, legally or otherwise.

The issue here is not whether the city is creating a "attractive environment for business", it is whether the city is acting to actively discourage it, across the board. Granting a few exemptions or large cash grants doesn't change this. How can we, as a city, claim to be fighting car dependence and global warming when we still make establishment owners pay tens of thousands of dollars for not providing parking lots? These laws are the problem, not the Pearl Company.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By annoyed (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2010 at 21:04:01

The problem is that the same City bureaucrats have been sitting around, over-paid since well before amalgamation.
As much as we love to blame Council, ultimately it's these Fat Cats at City Hall who need a massive turnover more than anything.
Sadly, said individuals aren't subject to elections.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted September 30, 2010 at 22:41:16

I'm not sure how the Hamilton Civic League is doing, but they were certainly inspired by GCL's success.

At this point, the HCL is doing OK. We won't be able to get a fantastic organization going until the next election, but thus far this is what's in process:

  • Bus ads encouraging voting have been donated (one per bus inside, some exterior) and the design is finished
  • Regular Cable 14 spots on voting and its importance
  • Radio ads (running on several local stations)
  • Print ads encouraging voting
  • Statistically significant number of survey responses within multiple wards - unfortunately not enough volunteers this time around to get that information within all wards.
  • Downloadable poster campaigns (going up on site this week)
  • 1 hour primers at high schools
  • Access to voter resource at WeVote.ca. (again should be up this week)
  • Newcomers, young voters , Renters, Poverty are focus areas since those 4 groups don't vote much
  • networking with several organizations (campus organizations, poverty organizations, newcomers organizations) as a part of that
  • Series of monthly forums (now often in conjuction with other groups and not promoted as specifically Hamilton Civic League)

This is with a small group of volunteers who mostly work 50+ hour weeks, and three of the four board members have gone through significant job changes within the last six months, and we have a ton of great volunteers/contacts but unfortunately we haven't been able to leverage them as well as planned, especially on a shoestring budget (most has been dedicated to printing costs and open houses).

Next time around, there will be a better-focused process, and even clearer leadership and volunteer recruitment, etc. We're doing OK for the first run-through, but it'll be a much better machine the next time, and we'll have learned a ton. Personally I hope to be a better leader through the process and not in the middle of a job change the next time around either!

Focus, however, is something we've certainly gained (we're not the GCL, but we also have been looking in a lot of different directions to start, and we'll have a better focus as we continue on).

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jarod (registered) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 00:42:21

Can someone tell me why Jason Farr is running in ward 2? Honestly, when I saw the piece called, "A bridge to Farr" I thought it was going to be about how he has serious ambitions if he thinks he could get elected in ward 2. The only thing I know/heard in terms of city activity, was that he was the spokesperson for the goeastmountain site.

This could be wrong, there could be more. Anyone have some details that might shed some light?

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By FarTooLong (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 09:24:58

Jarod, he would be ensuring a long standing tradition of electing radio personalities ;). When I saw the article on Farr island I thought is was about him as well...

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Seriouslyjadednow (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 13:30:13

Farr's name is recognizable by many, maybe even most, people across the City.

It seems that MANY voters will vote for a candidate based on this name recognition alone. Really, who needs a platform, or experience, as long as this remains true?

How else to explain the power of incumbency? Or Bob Bratina for that matter.

(I have a niggling worry that not-Lloyd Ferguson could actually win Ward 2 on this basis. We could conceivably elect to council somebody who has not even campaigned, or who may have put his name on the ballot as a lark.)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2010 at 14:09:33

@Seriouslyjadednow

Yeah, I had the same thought about Marvin Caplan. Even if I had no idea about his platform or who he is, thanks to his real-estate signs I've known what he's looked like for the past decade or so.

I never understand why real-estate agents really want to be famous personally. My dentist doesn't have signs with his face on them.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-10-01 13:10:35

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 15:55:11

My dentist doesn't have signs with his face on them. - Pxtl

But that dentist with the ridiculous haircut has ads on buses.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 16:01:42

...a long standing tradition of electing radio personalities - FarTooLong

Well when one of the main criteria for sitting on Hamilton council appears to be loving the sound of your own voice, I guess it makes sense???

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Jarod (registered) | Posted October 02, 2010 at 02:54:01

That's what I thought. Radio personality, public image and all...a sign for him just popped up on a lawn down the street...I have only had to prevent myself from making a cheap looking kite a couple of times.

I have to admit I like the campaigning aspect. I don't know what it is, but there's something about having a candidate (respectfully) offer you their time and tell you what they're about. After which, I/we usually spend a few moments picking apart the conversation.

I find sometimes, though, a candidate might do worse for themselves by talking to people. Sometimes being the key word.

Mer and I were at the amazingly super-tastic SuperCrawl and happened to walk by the window where James Novak(sp?) has his campaign material. I asked who this guy was and she mentioned that despite a lot of words on a piece of bristol board (or something of higher quality...) that it said nothing about what his positions/opinions were on certain things.

Luckily he was standing just out of peripheral to swoop in and .not. answer any questions we had. I find it difficult not to openly speak my mind in such circumstances. We asked about his material and his choice of how and why he put together the material present. His answer was simply that he wanted to establish that he had been around a while and was respected and respectable and all the good traits people wish they had.

He then spent the next 5 minutes down-talking Matt Jelly and his campaign manager, at which point Larry DiIanni came and shook our hands (it was unavoidable...awkward, and cowardly on my part to be honest...to not tell him where I thought his campaign material belonged)

It's amazing how much attention people will pay to make their written image seem as something, and perhaps enhance their physical image as well. But when you get down to it and talk to people, it's pretty easy to see who's talking with tuna salad in their mouth, and who genuinely believes what they're gunning for and how they think they'll get it, and the career politicians who have more control over their facial expressions and reactions than pro poker players.

One of the reasons I like mayor Fred to be honest. You can see very clearly the frustration he has at some Council Meetings. And it's not a manufactured irritation to make it appear as though you're invested in a topic or situation when really you could care less...it's genuine. (either that, or he is SO good I haven't yet seen through him) But I doubt that to be the case.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted October 02, 2010 at 08:48:31

There is a thought inducing opinion piece titled "What would you do with $60m?" by Mark Chamberlain in the print version of today's Hamilton Spectator. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an available link to it on thespec.com.

Mr. Chamberlain makes a particularly important observation:

"With all the issues facing our city today, we have for far too long been focused on the best place to locate a $150 million-plus, publicly funded football stadium, of which $60 million plus is planned to come from the Hamilton Future Fund even though the board has made it clear that the fund should only be used if the stadium is located at the west harbour.

The fact that discussions continue should alone be cause for alarm, but even more concerning is there has been no public engagement for alternative uses of the $60 million.

Imagine what this could do for city building."

Mr. Chamberlain later states that there are many possible alternative uses for the $60 million from the Future Fund and he provides two examples:

  1. implementation of the Shifting Gears Cycling Master Plan;

  2. investing the money "into family medicine and training of family doctors while redeveloping our downtown" although he notes that such a facility is now planned for the McMaster Innovation Park because a previous plan to build it downtown was deemed to be unaffordable.

He then provides a litmus test in using these Future Fund monies: "Have we considered the absolute needs of Hamilton? Improved health, affordable housing, public transportation, walkable/cyclable infrastructure and jobs- or a stadium?"

Mr. Chamberlain completes his opinion piece with a cautionary note: "Investment in luxury will be the largest misuse of public funds in the history of our city and will haunt us and our children for decades.

I love football. I love the Tiger-Cats. I love my city more."

And this city needs more people like Mark Chamberlain. His question, "What would you do with $60 Million?" should be asked to each candidate for mayor and councillor during the current Hamilton municipal election campaign.

-

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2010-10-02 07:54:09

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds