Hamilton City Council meets as a whole for their only August GIC meeting today. On the agenda: 2018 Budget Guidelines, Tax Incentive Grant for 27 Bold Street, Environment Remediation Grant for 1165-1167 Cannon Street East, Cooling Off period for former Councillors, Creating a fashion incubator at the former Eastmount School in Ward 7, update on the Hamilton Future Fund, Poverty Reduction spending strategy, and buying school properties from the public and Catholic English language school boards.
Replay of liveblog:
Good morning everyone. It’s 9:30am, Council fails to start on time today as, once again, they fail to have quorum.
Only 6 of 16 on time today.
Jason Farr (2)
Matthew Green (3)
Sam Merulla (4)
Maria Pearson (10)
Brenda Johnson (11)
Lloyd Ferguson (12)
Council underway at 9:35am
Presently, (9:39am) they are discussing the City’s improved credit rating from Standard & Poors
Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green says the City needs to better communicate that City Hall’s financial are in great shape, and the City needs to better communicate this to the public because there is a “hysteria” out there about the City’s financial state.
Now Councillor Judi Partridge saying the City needs to make the public aware “singing from the mountain tops” about the City’s “great” fiscal state and improved S&P credit rating
Lisa Pasternak, a solicitor in the City’s Legal Services division, is presenting an overview of changes to the Municipal Act which were passed with Bill 68, which was given Royal Assent on May 30, 2017.
The City had sought changes to the Municipal Act to increase their ability to go into closed session more often, they did receive some of the changes they sought, but not as many as they hoped.
Now discussing changes to the Municipal Elections Act. Two of the big changes is regulating “third party” campaigns (advocacy of positions), and increasing the contribution limit from $750 to $1200 for individuals and corporations giving to municipal candidates.
More changes to Municipal Act regulations, a good summary of changes can be read here: http://www.newmarket.ca/TownGovernment/Documents/2017-06%20-%20Bill%2068%2C%20Modernizing%20Ontario%20Municipal%20Legislation%20Act%20-%20Information%20Report.pdf
After over 30 minutes of Councillors asking questions on changes to the Municipal Act, Matthew Green asks where in the changes is there increased accountability for municipal politicians?
Notes that the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act has been watered down.
He knows Rob Ford’s actions as Mayor of Toronto, lack of repercussions.
“They haven’t added any teeth to the legislation”
Council starting their 2018 budget dance with the preliminary budget overview. Cost pressures are staffing, adding staff for new services, and policing.
The “preliminary” tax increase number is 4.8%, representing a budget increase of $43.7-million.
Reminder that the initial number is always high, it creates the narrative of a hard-working penny-pitching Council as they “drop” this number to the final increase.
City budget chief Mike Zegarac tells Council that commercial assessment pressures are a challenge, many large retailers are aggressively appealing their property value assessments.
Zegarac says Home Depot won a reassessment three weeks ago that will see the City’s tax revenues from their two sites in Hamilton decrease.
Zegarac says Loblaws (Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills, Fortinos etc), Wal-Mart, and other large retailers are appealing.
He says the sharing economy is another challenge as business activities move away from operating in commercial properties.
Council sets the budget increase target of 1.5% for City departments, boards and agencies, police board.
The Council has traditionally set 2%, being an election year in 2018, they’ll be looking to cut everything (except of course their free lunches, rings, and other Council perks)
Councillor Tom Jackson expresses concerns about increasing water rates – notes that due to the wet summer, with people using less water for lawns etc, the current 4.5% projection for water rate increases will likely be higher
Council on reports and grants.
On the Ward 7 Fashion Incubator report, Councillor Donna Skelly says she is disappointed in the consultants report into the feasiblity of a fashion incubator. She is very critical of the consultants, questions their work beyond just this report.
The consultants are CivicPlan.
Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr was the next speaker, and he says Skelly’s criticisms are unfair, that CivicPlan a great “progressive” consultant with a history of great work, deep understanding of the arts sector, and the report is well researched.
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead is next speaker after Farr, says CivicPlan is a “downtown centric” consultant, says they had a bias against the Mountain.
Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Green reins in the discussion, brings it back to the focus, and suggests a compromise motion to look at using Ward 7’s former Eastmount School in a model similar to the new Ancaster Arts Centre which is housed in the former Ancaster Memorial School.
Now Council is debating their previous 2015 motion to demolish the school which Skelly says needs $4-million in repairs. The 2015 motion to purchase the school was to purchase, demolish, and expand the adjacent park.
In the end, Council voted to table until Friday’s Council meeting when they hope to have more details on options for the former Eastmount School building.
Debate on Future Fund report, questions on St. Mark’s sewer connection costs.
School Properties Report – one item tabled to allow Skelly to review if she wishes to use ward funds to purchase site.
Council now in closed session.
Council’s closed session is ended. Now awaiting the call to order to return to open session.
During closed session, Council discussed the Ticats’ proposal for a professional soccer team at the Civic Stadium.
In open session, Council voted unanimously to instruct staff to “refrain” from further discussions with the Ticats about soccer at the stadium until such time as the ongoing stadium construction litigation is complete.
Council is now adjourned for the day.