Special Report: Education

Help Me Understand the Board of Education Deal

Under the plan, the City gives out tens of millions of dollars in public money to pay for land it already donated to the Board and gets nothing in return.

By Graham Crawford
Published February 26, 2012

Dear Council,

Help me understand something. Am I to conclude that you voted to give McMaster University $20 million ($10 million of which comes from our Future Fund) of taxpayers' money and that we will not own any part of the resulting asset, including the parking lot that will be severed as per McMaster's instructions to the Board?

So, we give Mac $20 million. They sell the parking lot and keep 100 percent of the proceeds. The citizens of Hamilton do not receive even a penny in return.

Please to do not tell me the parking lot will contain tax-paying enterprises in the future. Of course it will, when Mac sells it to a developer. All the more reason for the citizens of Hamilton to receive some return on their initial investment upon Mac's sale of the property.

As an investor, you're saying to your business partner, "Here, take my money and in return I expect to receive absolutely nothing except that you'll agree to become a neighbour and pay absolutely no taxes, ever."

Not only that, but you're also saying, "If you can sell, for a profit, any portion of the asset we gave you money to acquire/create, you can keep all of the money."

Not only that, but you're about to approve swing space for the other partner who got our land for nothing and will keep 100 percent of the sale of that asset. They sign up for a two year lease and the taxpayers sign up for a 20 year lease to make this happen.

If this is the case, who is advising you? Really.

Would those of you who have invested your own money in a for-profit enterprise please talk to those Councillors who have not?

Graham Crawford was raised in Hamilton, moving to Toronto in 1980 where he spent 25 years as the owner of a successful management consulting firm that he sold in 2000. He retired and moved back to Hamilton in 2005 and became involved in heritage and neighbourhood issues. He opened Hamilton HIStory + HERitage on James North in 2007, a multi-media exhibition space (aka a storefront museum) celebrating the lives of the men and women who have helped to shape the City of Hamilton.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted February 26, 2012 at 20:23:04

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By LetItGo (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2012 at 20:59:56

It is a crying shame that the posts of Bhutani are now met with disgust from me (and probably more people) regardless of content. Still in a state of disgust after his last round of attacks (baseless) on Mr. Crawford and others. Makes me really want to stop reading the RTH and I know it in no way reflects the efforts of everyone who volunteers their time to write articles and post comments. Still bugs me though.

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By disgust (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 10:00:31 in reply to Comment 74756

disgusting is down voting posts that simply quote city documents because they come from a particular poster and generally running off anyone with an opinion that doesn't comply. Its sad this level of closed mindedness has overcome what used to be a good place for discussion

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 04:45:49 in reply to Comment 74756

It is a crying shame that the posts of Bhutani are now met with disgust from me (and probably more people) regardless of content.

I agree. It's saddening.

It reminds me of the situation in the US regarding the Tea Party and far-right Republicans, where, because they're wrapped in their flag (ideology), they're unable to actually discuss important issues.

It speaks volumes about the level of discourse in this city.

But I appreciate you having the self-awareness to recognize what you have. Peace be with you, my friend.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted February 26, 2012 at 21:19:07

Jeez...when you put it that way it doesn't sound very good, does it?

Thanks for continuing to hold council's feet to the fire. We need some answers, and soon.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2012 at 22:35:52

It seems to me that the trueness of the issues at hand here are not to do with what building is going to be knocked down and to where it is going. A building is nothing more than sticks and stones, not a living, breathing thing. The trueness of which I speak is of the entire city at large being improved. Mr. Turkstra made it very clear in his great role as an educator, who is still educating the ignorant massess to this day, the Board building is a fancy immitation that had some significant importance in the time frame it was made, but is not heritage or important when future education purposes enter. All the fancy videos made by aspiring artists and politians only shine up an otherwise uninspiring ediface. Honestly it would be easy, and has been done so, to lay out the many important values that are being had by the University coming to this place.

A small congregation of concerned citizens pushed for West Harbour to rise out of the waters and become Atlantis anew with football stadium, condos and flashy new developments. This is no different to uberelitist devastation against Barton and Ward 3. Lets try and understand the motives and designs being dealt here today and not be swayed from the real issues: total city renewal.

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By heritage is a side issue (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 12:44:55 in reply to Comment 74758

Why can't mac build on the parking lot? A simple question, but there seems to be no answer.

I assume it's because this whole deal hinges on free money from taxpayers, re-gifting of land, and then selling that land off at profit.

This is our tax money at stake and we should all be furious.

If you think it's such a great idea then YOU cut the cheque.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 07:20:09 in reply to Comment 74758

It seems to me that the trueness of the issues at hand here are not to do with what building is going to be knocked down and to where it is going...Lets try and understand the motives and designs being dealt here today and not be swayed from the real issues:

A new dimension of care facility
Just fellow the money
You'll get there
Eventually

If stem cell research turns into therapy then I guess this facility is a self fulfilling prophesy of a supply and demand tax money monopoly, but go ahead and blame council or the school board for the swing space anomaly of an umbilical blood accord that has wrap wound this city.

Ezekiel 8 & Ezekiel 33

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-02-27 07:22:39

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By Spektor (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2012 at 22:38:58 in reply to Comment 74758

Well said!

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By Spektor (anonymous) | Posted February 26, 2012 at 22:50:47

I'm pretty sure Jan Zurakowski probably built a doghouse or a shed at some point in his life. Shall we alert the proper authorities to have those declared UNESCO Heritage Sites? Maybe the sustainability fairy will flit over from Portland, sprinkle some pixie dust and POOF, a magical organic food co-op that generates eight figures worth of annual profit will arrive, buy the BOE, and turn it into an adult fingerpainting collective.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 12:00:48 in reply to Comment 74760

For some people it's not about the building, for some people it's about the City throwing money at other organizations in deals which are of questionable value to the city as a whole. Read the article above - the heritage and architecture of the building is not metnioned once! The whole article focuses on costs and benefits.

It has nothing to do with organic food co-ops and fingerpainting. As with all complex issues there are a variety of reasons why people might be in favour or against this deal. Some people are in this to save the historical building, others are in it to save a building that is too "young" to be torn down, others are in it because they want the HWDSB somewhere downtown (not necessarily in that building) and some just question whether we're getting the most for our money.

Lumping such diverse arguments together with some hypothetical and ridiculous arguments to "negate" them is just bad form.

Tell me, do you not care what the city does with your tax dollars?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 12:13:41 in reply to Comment 74770

The GP comment is concerned not with debating in good faith but rather with stereotyping, mocking and dismissing.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 12:12:46 in reply to Comment 74770

http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2012/0...

What I've noticed is that so many don't even want to discuss the various elements and how they've shaped opinion...mostly, I guess, because they can't imagine that their own 'weighting' of elements is off.

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By RobertD (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 13:26:46 in reply to Comment 74772

That is a fairly accurate list of issues on your website.

You seem to imply people should discuss the various elements and how they've shaped opinion. Are you advocating discussion for the sake of information exchange, to get citizens to have a greater appreciation of other viewpoints, or are you suggesting such discussion should be used to determine the weighing of elements to be applied in order to achieve the "correct" answer?

Because while the first is worth (if problematic) goal, I think the second is the job of council/HWDSB/McMaster, and it's merely the job of citizens to ensure that their personal elements (whatever those might be) were considered appropriately (which is why process and transparency are so important).

I think a bit part of this issue is citizens feeling their own personal elements were either not given sufficient weight, OR that the decision was pre-determined some time ago with no consideration given to any objective elements.

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By @Robert (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 13:41:17 in reply to Comment 74775

"Because while the first is worth (if problematic) goal, I think the second is the job of council/HWDSB/McMaster, and it's merely the job of citizens to ensure that their personal elements (whatever those might be) were considered appropriately (which is why process and transparency are so important). "


I believe this is where the breakdown of civil discourse originates. It seems to me that if citizens are only interested in promoting their own ideas while ignoring the ideas of others you get the type of political environment that reflects that reality.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 13:40:55 in reply to Comment 74775

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Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2012-02-27 13:45:58

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 13:59:57 in reply to Comment 74778

People just haven't participated sufficiently along the way. You snooze...you lose.')

Could we please stop perpetuating this zombie lie? This was a closed process, consciously designed to exclude the kind of public input they received initially - the input that showed the overwhelming public preference for keeping the board downtown. Or is this the type of input you consider 'personal' and 'arbitrary' and therefore justifiably ignored in your books?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2012 at 14:07:56 in reply to Comment 74782

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Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2012-02-27 14:09:03

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 02, 2012 at 14:16:57 in reply to Comment 74783

How's this?

On top of doing an atrocious job of rationalizing the Mountain move, the board inexplicably kept secret a report that looked at other sites.

Perhaps it finally occurred to trustees that if they had released those documents last year when they made the decision to move to the Mountain, the community would have had almost a full year to properly debate and sift through the options.

As it is, they’re now paying a very public price for their unnecessary secrecy, just as they’re on the verge of trying to consummate a complicated deal with McMaster.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 14:33:48 in reply to Comment 74783

What on earth are you talking about? The only thing I am trying to shut down is the inaccurate notion that the board went through an open process that the public failed to participate in.

What 'discussion point' is it exactly that you wish to 'examine'? Oh, and BTW online fora are public.

One would think you'd revel in the chance to put those who have transgressed so baldly against Hamiltonians on the spot, to finally get some 'justice'.

Again, no idea what you are talking about. I have made numerous requests to trustees to release evidence that would disprove some of my contentions, contentions that I arrived at after a thorough examination of what little evidence they have released to date.

and to be accurate, I was relating SOMEONE ELSE'S THOUGHTS

Yes. Relating someone else's falsehood is what is known as perpetuating a falsehood.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-02-27 14:40:35

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 18:12:36 in reply to Comment 74784

You have both (MyStoneyCreek and Highwater) made important points and contributed to this discussion.

I think it's important to know that some people out there think that there was a process, and no one participated in it.

I also think it's equally important to question whether that statement is accurate, and to consider evidence that suggests the decision was made 1) in advance, 2) without little or no input, 3) in a closed process, 4) and that what little input was solicited was ignored (for reasons that are remain unsatisfactorily explained).

Both points are important, and you were each right to make that point, but as with the HWDSB the process could leave something to be desired.

It's clear you're both passionate about this issue and this city, but, in my humble opinion, you're both getting too personal. Take a step back and try and write (and read) each other's posts with a little less vitriol, because we need both of you, and people like you (and Jason and Ryan and Mahesh and Capitalist and everyone else), working together if we're ever going to make things better.

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By myamalgamatedcity (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2012 at 21:05:23

I would take mystoneycreek a little more seriously if he wasn't so damn personal all the time. Positivity goes a long way!

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 06:16:01 in reply to Comment 74795

Positivity goes a long way!

Then be sure to check out tomorrow's Spec.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 08:21:45 in reply to Comment 74843

You mean this?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:26:18 in reply to Comment 74847

Uh... Nope.

That's today's Spec.

: )

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 13:37:05 in reply to Comment 74857

Ah. I thought your comment was from last night.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2012 at 04:36:34 in reply to Comment 74878

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Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2012-03-01 04:39:13

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 00:26:18

Anything to do with public money should be debated publicly, with allowed input from The affected public.

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2012 at 10:13:11

Good letter Graham. There are too many extra inserts to this deal. It's like buying an Easyjet ticket. 9 pounds for the fare. 40 pounds taxes. 5 pounds paying by credit card. 10 pounds baggage. The 9 pound upfront fare is what you get in the PIC stage, and that sounds great. By the time the total costs are laid out it's past that stage. Too late to complain people, you had your chance.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:26:52

And on a completely speculative, 'downer' note...

http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2012/0...

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted February 29, 2012 at 11:29:24

Graham never ceases to amaze me how he can so eloquently take a very complex issue, analyze it and create a brief summary. Brilliant, even though the summary makes me sick.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 09:38:56

Hasn’t the straw man arguments of Herman Turkstra been debated and dismissed already on the Hamiltonian? I think he realized he overstated and made an error in judgement. It would be nice to see a public retraction from such an important voice for progressive change in our city.

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 10:01:07 in reply to Comment 75011

I wonder if the attitude of Turkstra, Bratina et al about the building stems from their generation's gut instinct that they - and I don't mean them personally - totally screwed up our city in the 60s, and so here they're trying to make amends in the only way they know - by doing the same thing they did in the 60s! It was an attitude that said buildings are merely pieces of the urban fabric that can be put up or taken down at will. It was built on the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation's post-war opening of the coffers and the fed's guaranteeing of homeowner debt - buildings can just be built; credit can just be extended. So if there is a problem with the building - too large a setback, too few people using the forecourt - then you just try again. It ignores the fact that buildings are expensive, or rather it ignores the fact that costs of a building are far greater than merely the capital line or the depreciation. It ignores the fact that taking down a building means uprooting a community and filling a landfill. I think newer generations are getting this idea. I expect a time will come when the very idea of demolishing a building will be seen as sacrilege - not to mention that the price (here I go on price again) of construction and demolition will be more accurate and hence unjustifiable.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 12:21:14 in reply to Comment 75014

There's an incredible amount of ego involved here too. I've never been a big fan of Victorian architecture but I would never dream of suggesting a Victorian building should be torn down just because I don't happen to like it.

The arrogance it takes to advocate demolishing a perfectly sound public building based on one's personal preference is staggering.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 09:47:07 in reply to Comment 75011

To anyone who dismisses the building's architectural significance because it's from the 1960s, I say this.

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