Special Report: Education

'Sweetener' Leaves Bad Aftertaste

Public Health qualifies for $21 million in provincial subsidies no matter where the Public Health Department chooses to locate their offices.

By Graham Crawford
Published March 05, 2012

So according to Andrew Dreschel, the Board of Education deal has been sweetened?

Thanks to provincial subsidies, the city's total financial contribution is now pegged around $26.1 million instead of the $47 million or so that's been bandied around for months.

The bulk of the $26.1 million consists of a $20-million capital grant from the city to help Mac build the facility and acquire the property from the school board.

The other $6.1 million is the cost of public health services leasing space within the Mac campus over 30 years - down from an estimated $24.5 million to $27 million.

Robert Rossini, general manager of finance, attributes the tumbling to about $18.4 million in provincial subsidies to help relocate and house public health.

For me, this "sweetener" leaves a very bitter aftertaste. Perhaps that's because it's not a sweetener at all, but rather an existing provincial subsidy that pre-dates the Board of Education debate.

I have to say I'm growing very concerned about staff behaviour. Here are a few examples:

  1. They miss deadlines related to the construction of infrastructure projects that cost taxpayers millions.

  2. They tell Council the swing space is not a deal breaker, yet McMaster tells Council it is.

  3. They don't inform a major landlord we're leaving (The Right House).

  4. They don't get any competitive bids for space (including swing space) for Public Health, only Yale Properties.

  5. They negotiate a deal, as yet unsigned, with a landlord (Yale Properties) that is suing the City of Hamilton, which is against our own stated policy.

  6. They neglect to inform Council that Public Health qualifies for $21 million in provincial subsidies, no matter where the Public Health Department chooses to locate their offices (24 hours before Council has to vote on this deal).

  7. They use the media (Andrew Dreschel at the Spectator) to inform taxpayers of the subsidies the day before a crucial vote is to be taken by Council.

Exactly who's running the show here? It's supposed to be Council.

I think it's time Council respectfully asked staff what's going on.

Why are Council and the rest of us being kept in the dark? Why are poor decisions and actions surfacing at Council meetings and in the media in the 11th hour? Why are Councillors so surprised by the actions of staff? Isn't this embarrassing?

I'm troubled by this apparent lack of transparency by staff and apparent lack of governance by Council. It looks as if Council is both out of touch and out of control.

What's going on? The optics are not inspiring confidence.

Adapted from a letter to Council.

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 Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 21:59:20

I wish I could say that I am socked by all of this. But it strikes me as more of the same rotten behaviour that has been a Hamilton hallmark for the last 50 years.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 22:53:11 in reply to Comment 75043

"Socked"?

I'm sandalized. ;)

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 10:08:01 in reply to Comment 75046

D'o!

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 22:42:55

I will agree with this one. The city staff has gotten away with too much crap for far too long. Contrary to popular belief, council isn't responsible for many of the debacles that have hit Hamilton over the last few years.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2012 at 09:41:56

Unfortuneately this is just more of the same old. The City Manager has his own agenda (not sure what it is), you can see this in the way the Stadium debacle rolled out. If you go back over the process there was definitely a bias in his presentations to council. This continued with LRT, who knows how deep this runs. Its not right.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 14:26:15

So many bad angles to this and seemingly getting worse. What happens if an army of concerned citizens don't tweet, blog and post about this?

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 15:44:49 in reply to Comment 75062

What happens if an army of concerned citizens don't tweet, blog and post about this?

Nothing sweet of course and yet y'all keep knocking mystoneycreek down from his overhaul town horse!

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-03-06 15:58:06

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 21:04:17

Somebody needs to make a film or a TV show about Hamilton municipal politics. It goes without saying that it would be fascinating. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes than many of us realise...and it's been that way for decades.

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 10:32:08 in reply to Comment 75072

Featuring

James Cromwell as Mayor Bratina
Owen Wilson as Clr McHattie
Howie Mandel as Clr Farr
R. Lee Ermey as Clr Morelli
Mark Ruffalo as Clr Merulla
Giovanni Ribisi as Clr Collins
Jason Segal as Clr Jackson
John Goodman as Clr Clark
Melissa McCarthy as Clr Pearson
Fred Ward as Clr Pasuta
Don Rickles as Clr Powers
Kristen Wiig as Clr Johnson
Markie Post as Clr Partridge

with cameos from

Wilford Brimley as MPP McMeekin
John Hawkes as MP Christopherson
Michael Gross as McMaster president Patrick Deane
Christopher McDonald as former HECFI head Duncan Gillespie

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 14:37:19 in reply to Comment 75080

And in the press gallery...

Stanley Tucci as Andrew Dreschel

Mary Lynn Rajskub as Emma Reilly

Paul Giamatti as Dan Nolan

and

Ed Harris as Paul Berton

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By Central Casting (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 14:45:22 in reply to Comment 75131

"Mary Lynn Rajskub as Emma Reilly"

I was thinking Amy Poehler.

Great job with Tucci as Dreschel though.

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 20:44:42 in reply to Comment 75080

Also starring

Clancy Brown as Clr Whitehead

Steve Zahn as Finance Manager Rob Rossini

Bob Balaban as City Manager Chris Murray

and additional cameos from

Matt Lucas as BOE Chair Tim Simmons

Donald Sutherland as Herman Turkstra

Carl Reiner as Larry DiIanni

&

Dennis Farina as Darko Vranich

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 11:07:33 in reply to Comment 75080

Ermey has dropped out but (huzzah!) Rip Torn will be filling his shoes.

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 13:45:27 in reply to Comment 75105

Brimley had a blow-up over the pronunciation of "diabetes" so now Ned Beatty is subbing in.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 22:18:58 in reply to Comment 75080

Great job with the casting! Box office hit, for sure.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 13:50:01 in reply to Comment 75080

Where is Peggy Chapmen in all this .. lol E

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 12:17:16 in reply to Comment 75087

Chapmen or Chapman? Either way, Bette Midler has applied for the position.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-03-09 12:19:15

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 07, 2012 at 12:08:49 in reply to Comment 75080

Waitwaitwaitwaitwait.... you mean Howie Mandell and Jason Farr are two different people? That's just crazy talk.

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 10:50:36 in reply to Comment 75080

Unfortunately, we've run into a scheduling conflict with Cromwell. Ken Howard has been tapped to fill the role.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted March 11, 2012 at 14:50:20 in reply to Comment 75082

There is only one man right for the part.

http://nsb.com/media/mediamanager/photo/...

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2012 at 08:53:37 in reply to Comment 75160

K's definitely got the look but we may have to CGI him another 5" of height, and get him a rage double (Michael Caine, maybe). K has the smarm and charm down but has limited cred on the bully pulpit.

BTW, was there a model of glasses favoured by male media types back in the day? Tom Cherington and DIck Beddoes seem to have the same frames.

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2012 at 09:08:01 in reply to Comment 75264

Also:

Joaquin Phoenix as Matt Jelly

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2012 at 15:42:13 in reply to Comment 75265

Bonus footage on the DVD is rumoured to include grassroots cameos from:

Paul Rudd as Ryan McGreal
Jude Law as Martinus Geleynse
Stephen Root as Graham Crawford
Kathy Griffin as Laura Babcock
Jack Black as Loren Lieberman
&
James Van Der Beek as Joey Coleman

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 21, 2012 at 10:01:35 in reply to Comment 75303

Paul Rudd as Ryan McGreal

I'm honoured.

Paul Rudd

Failing Mr. Rudd, we could always call on Bigfoot researcher Cliff Barackman:

Cliff Barackman

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-03-21 10:02:07

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By Casting (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 22:09:43

Do I hear a casting call for characters to play councillors? Burt Reynolds as Ferguson.

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 09:02:05

http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2012/03/call-to-lead-opinion.html

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 22:16:48 in reply to Comment 75078

Very well thought out opinion piece of which I am in total agreement.

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By debating club pres (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 09:38:08 in reply to Comment 75094

Sorry, where's the opinion in that "opinion" piece? Seems all the Hamiltonian is saying is lots of different positions might be fair but the parties to the BoE deal should try to make a calm decision on what's for the best. Well duh. That's the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what the best decision IS and this fluff piece doesn't offer anything other than platitudes.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 12:00:48 in reply to Comment 75103

Glad I'm not the only one who saw through the fake 'fair and balanced' routine. Just admit you can't be bothered to do the research required to determine which position is the best one.

It's lazy and cowardly to sit back and wag your finger and say "now now children..." in a transparent attempt to portray yourself as a serious voice of reason.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-03-08 12:03:48

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted March 08, 2012 at 16:52:25 in reply to Comment 75106

It may be fair to question...... It may be fair to question whether the Board is doing what's best for them. It may be fair to question whether the City of Hamilton is doing what's best for them. It may be fair to question whether McMaster is doing what's best for them. It may be fair to question whether those who oppose elements of this plan are doing what's best for them. It may be fair to question why the Hamiltonian rarely offers an opinion on anything? In fact, it is fair to question, especially when even the Hamiltonian labels their own piece as "Opinion".

I'm all for diverse views in as many different formats and sites as possible, but asking the same questions we're all struggling to answer is not my idea of an opinion. I'm 100% OK if that opinion differs from mine, but relying solely on the Socratic method for most posts doesn't do enough to move the dialogue along, especially when I think we can all agree that this Socratic method is being employed by people who seemingly have no more expertise on the topic than do the rest of us who engage in online and/or community-based dialogue.

That's not a put down, simply a statement of fact. I guess if Socrates himself was doing the asking, I might feel more compelled to play along. Having said all of this, I think the Hamiltonian is adding to the civic dialogue because they do reach out to newsmakers. They do solicit answers from them. I take the time to read those answers. But, I would prefer a lot more analysis and a lot less transcribing. Opinions can, of course, follow both approaches. Perhaps it's just a question of personal preference.

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By Jaybird (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 20:26:14

Sweetener-related LOLZ...

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/684198--loophole-used-to-remove-bird-habitat

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 09:48:29

'Thanks to provincial subsidies, the city's total financial contribution is now pegged around $26.1 million instead of the $47 million or so that's been bandied around for months.'

Notice this tactic. The city contribution has been pegged at 20 million throughout this deal. In past versions of the deal the contribution was supposed to be 10 million. Now we're paying 26 million - but it's a HUGE SAVINGS because really we were paying 47 million.

This is dirty accounting, plain and simple.

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By Allen (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2012 at 01:46:46

I agree with you totally

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By Glyph (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2012 at 16:46:56

Does anyone have any fresh theories as to how this fits into the picture?

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/690295--mcmaster-children-s-hospital-building-100m-treatment-centre-beside-hgh

It's definitely intriguing to think about the possibility of having two major Mac/HHS-related facilities worth around $100m per on opposite sides of downtown.

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