Fellow dissidents, misguided vigilantes, agenda people, and bloggers, it's time once again to review the words of our Dear Leader.
By Graham Crawford
Published September 06, 2011
Fellow dissidents, misguided vigilantes, agenda people, and bloggers, it's time once again to review the words of our Dear Leader. Although I made a commitment to myself and to RTH editor Ryan McGreal that I would not be doing any more transcribing, just call me the Transcriptionator.
At least this time I had help with the tedious task of transcribing the remarkable words of Bob Bratina (aka Dear Leader, at least by me). In fact, I did the smallest portion of the transcribing, thanks to Joey Coleman's suggestion that we use an online, shared approach to the task. Thanks also to David Young for his help.
A week ago, on August 31, Bob Bratina made one of his very regular visits on CHML (aka State Radio, at least by me).
His appearances have become so regular as to suggest Bob misses his decades-long career in the world of 20-second soundbite radio. It's as if he and Bill Kelly are co-hosting the show at least once a week, and sometimes more depending on how much bad coverage Bob gets that week in the other media. Yes Bob and Peggy (Bob's assistant according to Emma Reilly of the Hamilton Spectator), there are other media outlets. And yes Peggy, some have bosses.
So, let's get started.
Well, you just know the world is coming to an end when Bill "Big Voice" Kelly starts the show with a jaw-dropping statement of the absurd. Have a read:
Kelly: We'll spend some time today clarifying the record, because there are other opinions and other points of view in this community and we like to think we are a platform for that.
Bill, you're so right. Are the rest of you as tired as I am always having to hear the other side of the debate on Kelly's show? If I have to sit through another half hour of Chamberlain, Desnoyers, Freiberger, Geleynse, Jelly, Kuruc, McGreal, McLean, and their like, nattering on about Hamilton's challenges and opportunities, I'm going to switch stations to country music. Yee haw, indeed.
Kelly set the scene for Bratina's remarks with the following:
Kelly: But to begin with today, heated questions fired at the Mayor and City Manager Chris Murray after recent Pan Am Games revelations about the velodrome and about, of course, the stadium and the configuration of the stadium. City Council says they are being blindsided with information, not being given enough time to process it and there are accusations from certain Councillors, Councillor Brad Clark was on this show yesterday, that there is a communication issue at City Hall and some people seem to be in the loop, some not. Those accusations have, of course, spun off to a number of different sideshows and perhaps we'll touch on some of those too.
After Bob announced the sad passing of Bob Abramovich, one of the founders of the Balkan Strings, he got right to it when asked about the news there was enough money to build an entirely new stadium.
Bratina: Well, we have actually, in a sense, signed off on the stadium and it now becomes the project of Infrastructure Ontario with input from our staff, I mean we're there helping to design the thing. So, they realized at some point, after they now have carriage of it, that you know what, we can actually do a brand new stadium complete, not a partial renovation, within the same funding envelope. So, now demands are, well who knew, how much more, how much if you're saving this much money, what - we don't know how much money. They don't know how much money they're saving. For instance, who knows the actual value of the salvage of all the steel in the demolition? The girders, I don't know. So, are they supposed to come back to City Council and say, "Guess what? We found two more million dollars, ah you know, in extra salvage revenues. So what would Council like to do with that?" It's not our carriage.
We protected the City of Hamilton taxpayers by bringing a stadium in that would not add any cost to the tax roll, and we were lauded for that. And we said, "There it is, build us the best stadium you can. That's the amount of money the taxpayer has given you." And so what did they do, they came back with a whole new stadium. Thank you.
Protected. Thank you Dear Leader. Of course, if you learned about finance by watching Sesame Street, you would conclude this is all found money, that building a whole new stadium for the same money makes the north stand rebuild a free bonus. Rather than the more accepted approach to real-money budgeting where you would conclude you just came in under budget by $10,000,000, which you could then either give back to the Future Fund that you raided to get the money in the first place, or use it to reduce the cost of the velodrome.
Instead, Bob and Bill get all happy about the benefits of bad budgeting. Still feeling "protected," fellow taxpayers?
Bill then asks Bob what seems like a tough question related to the apparent delay in sharing information about the stadium build, including that the stadium might be reconfigured north/south.
Kelly: When did you find out?
Bratina: Well I heard informally that things were - you know, this was when they were talking about whether the stadium could be twisted around into a different configuration, or whether it would be one large horseshoe... I still don't know what the final design is, but I'm sure our staff won't want to embarrass themselves. But in terms of when did I know that there would no longer be a renovation, but a complete rebuild? I'd heard that within the last couple of weeks, that - "Hey, guess what? It looks like we might be getting a whole new stadium." "Great!" That's nothing for me to go and report. "Hey council. Stop, guys, let's have a meeting. Guess what I just heard?" That's not the way you do business. And frankly, Bill, the public is protected. The public interest was that we do not go over budget and that you give us the best stadium you can, and that's what's happening. I don't know why the discussion should even be continuing.
There's that word again, "protected". It's clear Dear Leader is always protecting his hapless flock. Including, I might add, from misguided vigilantes, whose number seems to be growing. Why do people try to destroy good things like bad budgeting and secret meetings and mismanagement of information? Damn them all. At this point, as much as I feel like taking a break for traffic and weather together, let's keep going.
Bill then comments on the apparent lack of communication between Councillors and the concern about not sharing critical information in a timely manner.
Bratina: I sat in a public meeting for five hours yesterday and made many comments about the issues that were before us. None of those comments were picked up by the media. And as I was leaving the meeting, three people started running after me, one of them shouting, "When did you know?" Now the protocol for media sessions with our office is to make an appointment through our Chief of Staff. And whether it's Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Ford - he won't even talk to half the media, but I talk to everybody - but as I'm walking along I hear this, "When did you know?" My responsibility is not to some sort of newspaper deadline. My responsibility is to the people of Hamilton, and my responsibility is to make sure that they get an accurate answer. In my mind, I'm thinking, "Well, we all knew." Right? So I go back to my files.
Kelly: All the councillors knew?
Bratina: I go back to my files and I find April 23rd, 2011, Emma Reilly, "Mohawk College actively seeking velodrome" [cf. Reilly, E. Mohawk may be on track for velodrome, Hamilton Spectator, April 23, 2011; Mohawk a favourite for the velodrome, Hamilton Spectator, July 26, 2011]. So everybody must have known since April 23rd. So I'm not sure why I'm being asked the question. It's puzzling to me. And so I leave the room and subsequently responded to media requests by Emma Reilly, as an example - I'm not picking on her, just that she happened to be there the other day. So I think we all knew.
Is Bob is relying on the Spectator to inform Council? The same newspaper he won't give an interview to, although he says he talks for everybody? I know he won't talk to me. Apparently, it's Council's job to read Emma's column and draw their own conclusions. Like how transparent is that? Exactly. But there's more.
Bratina: And in terms of the specifics, I was given a kind of a running commentary: "Looks like 20, looks like 30," then I heard 100 at one point - I said, "I guess we're not going to get a velodrome, then." But the information that council received I got at the same time: "Oh, look at that. How are we going to do this and that?" The issue the public has to be aware of is that you are protected. And no matter how angry councillors were that they didn't have 90 days or three months, it was in complete control of council. Council that day could have said, "We are no longer interested in this. The numbers are too high and we're not going to do this. All in favour? All opposed? Motion is lost." Council wisely decided, let's take the two weeks to see if there are the partners coming into this. And quite frankly, if there aren't, I don't see how this council could responsibly add $20 million, let's say, to the tax bill, based on having a velodrome. So I want to tell the citizens of Hamilton, whether the media wants to tell them or not, that your interests are being protected properly by the council of the City of Hamilton. And we will not make a ridiculous decision - I don't know what the suggestion was by some, that, what were we doing? Oh we snuck this in and everyone goes, "Yes! Oh my god, we just agreed to $20 million more dollars than we thought." That's not gonna happen.
Again, Dear Leader's new favourite word, "protected". I think Peggy might have helped him with that one.
Bob then added some additional info about the location of the velodrome.
Bratina: No determination has been made. Right to this day, and until we have that meeting on September 13th, I think, there is no determination. The preferred site right now is West Harbour, and that is the council-directed preferred site. The committee made their recommendation, which is fine. I have no -
Kelly: Which was Mohawk College.
Bratina: Which was Mohawk College. And so what Council was confronted with is the following: Your preferred choice is West Harbour. The recommendation is, based on the suggestion of the Advisory Committee, that Mohawk College is the better bet. So: Would you like to get West Harbour off the table, go with the velodrome at Mohawk College, drop out altogether, or forget about a permanent and ask the Pan Am organization whether they're interested in building a temporary facility somewhere in Hamilton. Those are the options - yes or no - that this Council will decide at the proper time, which is September the 13th. The four members of Council and the Citizens' Advisory Committee did not change any direction of anything, because the direction was right in the report that we had before us that we've tabled. Which is basically yes or no West Harbour, yes or no permanent velodrome, yes or no partnership with Mohawk, because remember if we do go to the West Harbour, there's no $17 million from Mohawk College. Plus there's, I don't know, 10, 20, 30 million dollars in infrastructure remediation costs - the premium that Gerry Davis, Director of Public Works, said would have to be paid on that site, over and above whatever the number it is that we're going to -
Kelly: Do you have a specific number as to how much it would cost to clean up that property in the West Harbour.
Bratina: I've never seen it. I've seen a range, I've seen a suggestion. And whether it's $3 million, which was the low-ball number, there's still infrastructure. You've got to dig up all those streets, put in all-new sewers, all-new roads, and that's in the millions of dollars, I'm going to guess $10 million easy - premium - if we do it at the West Harbour. But it's still the Council's preferred location. And it's carried in that report. You still want West Harbour? Yes/No? Are we going with this deal with Mohawk? Yes/No? Are we interested in a temporary facility? Yes/No?
As I have said before, beware big box in the WH.
When Kelly asked if the Mohawk deal is not a go, then the money being discussed is off the table, Bob's answer was creative.
Bratina: Well, Mohawk's money is off the table, of course. Their $17 million is based on the fact that they would be a beneficiary of this project. If it's down in the West Harbour, why would they put $17 million into it?
As has been written already on this site, Mohawk's $17 million is split along between the following projects: $15 million for their separate, but nearby, recreation centre, and $2 million to the velodrome structure, which is to include three gymnasium-sized spaces.
This does not include the approximately $3 million that City of Hamilton taxpayers (protected or otherwise) are responsible for in terms of providing across the street parking for the facility to compensate Mohawk for the land they are "giving" us for the velodrome site. Please see my earlier note about learning finance by watching Sesame Street. Misleading? You decide.
While you're at it, you can also decide if Bill Kelly is just a comedian when he says:
Kelly: Welcome back. Bill Kelly Show on 900 CHML. You're watching on Cable 14. Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina with us, trying to get some clarification on some of the issues and some of the - frankly - accusations that are flying back and forth between certain people in this community. And this is a pretty good forum to do it in. This is unfettered, unedited, we're not limited to 500 words and a couple of comments, we bring people on this program and then let them explain themselves, generally let the people who listen to this show make up their own minds as to what's right and what's wrong.
Kelly then asks Bob about his relationship with City Manager, Chris Murray.
Kelly: There's an insinuation, although nobody's gonna actually come out and say this, but the insinuation is still out there, that you and the City Manager are working in cahoots and trying to manipulate the agenda here.
Bratina: Well, we are working in cahoots to make a better city of Hamilton. I have an excellent relationship with the City Manager. I wouldn't say that was true in the past time, but certainly it's in the best interests of all......I respect him. He's man of integrity. We may have different opinions on issues, you know, and certainly I've had to change my position based on the realities staring me in the face on lots of things. I don't mind being flexible. The main thing is to ensure that the citizens of Hamilton are protected and given the best possible governance that they can be.
That word again? The more he says it, the more....
Kelly: Let me give you an example. There's an insinuation again that between you and the City Manager, either you or he or both of you decided, for instance, to pull the velodrome update away from a council agenda and put the Mac story on there because it was a higher priority for you.
Bratina: No, in fact, the issue with McMaster was provincial and other deadlines. I mean, it had to go... and, by the way, I have to tell my fellow councillors that many times we're gonna have to make governance decisions based on timelines, and we may not have 90 days or six months or, you know, to review, go to the cottage and read stuff over. Sometimes you get some stuff put in front of you and you have to deal with it in fairly short order.
Sounds like Lloyd Ferguson is getting admonished for not always being available for emergency meetings during the summer recess. There's Ferguson slacking off again. He's known for being lazy. Not! He's known for not having a handle on construction costs. Not! He's never expressed his concern that the stadium budget was inflated. Not!
Ferguson is one of the few who predicted this last year when the original budget was produced. He's also experienced enough to know that this is not found money. It's real money. Real taxpayer money. Real money that should be, well you know, protected.
Bratina: So that was the issue with McMaster, and I... no, I couldn't possibly have known any issue of manipulating agendas to put the velodrome here and Mac there, no. I mean, it's all coming before council. You know, we're not picking one over another: "Let's do the Mac one first, just in case there's no money left for the velodrome." I don't know where that's coming from. If there's no money for the velodrome, there isn't, you know? And frankly, we've been irresponsible in the past with, with issues like that. I'll give you a good example: We had an issue of flooding, right? And walked-on was the motion that said we should pay all of the uninsured flood damage costs. I put a motion forward saying, could we at least wait 24 hours to ask staff what the impacts of this kind of decision would be? We subsequently found that we could be $50, $80, $100 million and forever - the next flood, and the next flood, and the next flood. That was voted down. And so you'll recall that we had to break quorum. And when the next meeting was held and all of the members were present, it was voted down. So the quorum was being manipulated in order to affect a dangerous - in fact, a catastrophic, it would have been catastrophic, we could easily... If you look at those floods in Vermont, can you imagine every municipality in Vermont having major floods and the municipality being responsible for all the uninsured damages? It would be the end of it. So I brought forward a request to the Governance Committee, and I asked the Governance Committee if there was some way we could form a by-law, a procedural by-law, that says we would have to wait at least 24 hours before making a decision on large amounts of money... 'cause sometimes you have to put $250,000 out there to get a transformer, to get the hospital, whatever, right? But in terms of millions of dollars, I asked for a 24-hour reprieve. And it was turned down. So the council under the Governance Committee of this day is not interested in even 24 hours. So I'm not sure what the issue is here. In the question of, uh, City Hall, the City Hall Steering Committee, we went from $48 million to $56 million to $65 million and then we had the Steering Committee suggested a $5 million increase in the budget again. Now it's easy to stay under budget when you're always raising the budget. So the budget continually was raised. They met on October the 20th; on October the 29th, there was a Special COW, as we called it then - GIC - to review the Steering Committee's request for five more million dollars. And then that night was a City Council meeting where you have to waive the rules to bring in the new piece of information. Nobody seemed to be upset about that, and I mean it's basically all the same people. So there was another example. And then, the worst example of all, Bill, was -- and you were there... I'm not accusing you of anything, but you will recall this -- we had to go in camera to get the final details on the Lister Block, which would be a $36 to $40 a square foot cost....against $15 or something, right? We went in camera, and they actually had to wait for the media conference to cut the ribbon until our in camera meeting was over. There was no two weeks or "Why am I not getting 90 days to review this?" That's how it was then.
See, Dear Leader loves his history. He even likes sharing stories when they have nothing to do with what's being discussed. I couldn't tell if Bill was taking a little nap through Bob's history lesson about when he was a Councillor. Hey, I'm a guy who spends a lot of time embracing Hamilton's HIStory + HERitage (it's called product placement), but I like my leaders to stick to the current facts and the current issues. Maybe that's why I'm not a huge fan of Bob's.
Bob concludes his history lesson with a bit of personal fantasy, a fantasy he wants us to accept as reality.
Bratina: I think it's a lot better now. I think, and I'm proud of the fact, that because our staff and the Mayor's Office are working so well together, that you're getting better governance and the proof is in the pudding. The list of things that we have accomplished as a council since January are unprecedented in at least 10 years, and I would say more.
When Kelly said it was inappropriate for Councillors to be criticizing staff for the apparent withholding of information, Bratina was quick to respond, this time using his other favourite technique, the sports analogy. Notice though, how he slips in another mention of his history story at the end. Boy, this guy's good.
Bratina: Well if you look at the New England Patriots or any of the great football teams, there's not a regular piece in the paper where the players are all complaining about the coach or "We should've run the off-tackle instead of this and that." We, as a council, have to show respect for each other - and our citizens. And if we have some knock-'em-down-drag-'em-out issues, we close the doors and have it out. But almost everything that appeared in the media yesterday was irrelevant to the fact that the velodrome is in council's hands. If it's too expensive, we're not going to approve it. And we've got two weeks to mull it over and me and others will be going out to find other partners. And, frankly, if we can't find other partners, who in their right mind would commit the taxpayer to unknown amounts of money? Although a group of council tried to do that with regard to the flood relief, where there would be unlimited reliability forever if that motion passed. And it would've passed if we hadn't broken quorum.
Of course, no appearance by Dear Leader on the Bill Kelly Show would be complete without a jab at our former mayor, Fred Eisenberger.
Bratina: Can I say, I'm proud of our council and what we've accomplished so far.....It's collective.
Kelly: And that's not to say that you're not going to fall back every now and then, and there's gonna be disagreement. You get everybody on the same page, that usually means you're probably wrong.
Bratina: Well I'm not going to bring forward naturalized medians, I can tell you that.
Bratina: That was one the previous mayor lost 15 to nothing, or something like that.
Bob, let it go. You won the election. Over one-third of Hamiltonians voted for you. You don't have to slam him every chance you get. Ask Peggy how great you are. Now do you feel better?
Let's hear some more about LRT.
Kelly: I want to talk about rapid transit and I want to talk about LRT. Because this is one of the other major issues that people are accusing you and the City Manager of working in cahoots with, to say that you have abandoned LRT in favour of all-day GO service, and that you've somehow coerced the City Manager to move that agenda and to move staff around to accommodate your priority. Have you?
Bratina: I think the opposite might be true, that the staff was moved around to accommodate LRT, which is not a priority. The senior management team's list of priorities: Number one, GO all-day, two-way. There are very few people who don't understand that. Nevertheless, we've spent a lot of time and, frankly, money - over two-and-a-half million dollars of taxpayers' money, to get to a point where we still don't know what the component for the city taxpayer will be. And that's disturbing, because we should know early on - okay, if we're going to get serious about LRT, roughly 10, 15, 20%, what's going to be our participation cost? And then before we start designing the curve that goes around the Queenston Traffic Circle, before we get to that, you have to input the ridership projections. How many people will you need to sustain an $800 million project, riding every five or 10 minutes? And where are those people? Where will they come from? To show us that yes, we've got a good possibility of a successful LRT. Then you start designing, you know, the flowers that are going to go by the station at the Queenston... you see what I mean? Somehow, this has all been turned around.
Kelly: Yeah, but - lookit, are you abandoning LRT?
Bratina: No. We couldn't abandon LRT, because transit planning will continue on, ad infinitum into the... and if somehow a million people move to Hamilton over the next five years and we have traffic congestion all over the place, we will look at all transit options including LRT. It's a transit option. That's all it is.
That's right, Bratina said LRT is not a priority. We can't abandon it, but we can lower it as a priority and strip away its resources. Just like the dissidents, misguided vigilantes, agenda people, and bloggers said.
But, didn't Bratina say something about this on an earlier appearance on the Bill Kelly Show? Like on July 22, when he said:
Bratina: The LRT process is going on exactly as it was meant to. And even the recent furor about shutting down the LRT group is completely misunderstood because what the City Manager said was to stop all non-essential work. In other words, do the job that was mandated by Council, Council direction 2008, or it's a long time ago, 2008.
With only a very few minutes left in his allotted time, Dear Leader discussed all-day GO service.
Bratina: The requirement for all-day GO, most of the trackage is in place. I would think certainly before 2015, in time for the Pan Am Games. That would be one of the decision-makers' check boxes: Can we get this done in time [for 2015]? And the answer is yes, because the downtown, James Street North, all you really need is a platform and a place to buy tickets. And in doing that we not only get the GO, we get all of the VIA trains that go by there, including the New York train.
Kelly: The point I'm making, I think, is what you touched on a few minutes ago - that sometimes council has to shift priorities because of other peoples' time frames.
Bratina: Well that's true. But there's really no priority in terms of timelines unless there's funding that's going to run out. So we have no congestion - this is a long-term, distant horizon plan that has to do with economic development, population growth and projections and so on, whereas GO, we've had people in our office within this month asking when the all-day GO service is going to go so that they can begin to seriously look at West Harbour brownfields, other brownfield lands in the areas around the proposed downtown GO station. That's real. And by the way, the new hotel that's going up, the Staybridge, the Federal Building, the Connaught project, the McMaster project - none of these had any condition with regard to an LRT. But the hotel and the condos did have to do with McMaster and GO.
So, Dear Leader ends this edition of his mike-side chat with the citizens of the Peoples' City. Just before you leave this page, or go to write a comment, let's all take a moment to repeat the new word we learned today. That's correct. "Protected".
Now, let's try using it a sentence: May all citizens, including dissidents, misguided vigilantes, agenda people, and bloggers, be protected from this man and his ramblings.
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