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This afternoon, the Accountability and Transparency Committee (which the City refuses to livestream for reasons they won’t say, but I’ll record) will vote on allowing members of Council to participate in Council meetings by phone. My note today looks at this policy, and why Council should make remote delegations available to citizens as well.
Let’s separate policy from practice. As a matter of policy, providing Councillors the ability to participate and vote by phone is good for those unexpected and exceptional circumstances.
As a member of practice with our current City Council, this policy is likely to be abused; and even the creation of the policy is an attempt to address the chronic problem of cancelled and delayed meetings as more than 50% of City Councillors are not showing up to meeting on time most days, and often don’t show up to meetings at all.
Both the practice problem aside by looking at two recent examples of exceptional circumstances: Ward 14 Councillor Robert Pasuta’s medical leave of absence, and the December 2017 Special Council meeting on the OMB ward boundaries ruling.
Pasuta had to take over six months leave from City Hall last year after a farm injury prevented him from driving to City Hall, and even upon returning, he had to work limited days under his doctors orders. Could Pasuta have participated in Council meetings remotely (with the permission of his doctor) if the option was available? Is it good policy to enable a Councillor who cannot make it to City Hall due to medical limitations to remotely participate? Do we Hamiltonians, as the employers of our Councillors, wish to set an example as a good employer by accommodating our employees. I submit the answer is yes.
On December 12, 2018, the Ontario Municipal Board overturned City Council’s attempt to gerrymander wards to their own incumbent advantage. An emergency Council meeting was called for December 18 as Council needed to decide within 21 days if they would appeal the decision. The decision came during Council’s five week Christmas recess. What if a diligent Councillor had booked a vacation, this particular Councillor’s only one of the year, during this time period; not expecting an emergency meeting. That’s an exceptional circumstance.
What’s good for the Councillors is good for the citizens; Council should allow remote delegations into Council meetings from designated locations (such as library branches) across Hamilton’s suburban communities. Residents of Flamborough, for example, should be able to attend any of the three library branches in their community to be able to delegate and respond to questions from Councillors via video link.
Citizens should not be forced to drive Downtown to City Hall, only to site for hours on end in Council Chambers all the while feeding a parking metre. Hamilton City Hall say they are committed to “Community Engagement & Participation“, this is a great way of reaching that goal.
- Joey Coleman
- It may seem to be bad news for the future of the Sir John A Macdonald High School site in Downtown Hamilton, as the Province says no to funding a proposed community hub on the site. However, the province is allowing for a future re-applying, and most importantly (this is the good news part for the future) the Public School Board is not going to demolish or sell the site in the near future.
- An interesting report from TheSpec on the backlog at the Ontario Municipal Board with appeals prior to the change to Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. Of note, the City is seeking to have appeals against its priorities expedited. On the Pier 8 case (which TPR covered in March), the appealing parties were claiming the City was causing delays (claims which are not proven and the OMB has not ruled on).
TheSpec does not list the most impactful case in front of the OMB, an appeal against the City’s new mixed use commercial zoning. (Which still doesn’t have a pre-hearing date – TPR is planning to cover this case extensively)
- Brad Lamb appeared on Cable 14’s City Matters yesterday to discuss his Television City OMB case and his future plans for development in Hamilton. The full interview is available on the Cable 14 website, and not paywalled.
Some points of note:
– Lamb still plans to have two towers on the site, and while prepared to drop from 40 storeys, he doesn’t accept the City’s height limit.
– Lamb says projects like his will need incentives and tax breaks from the city to recognize that development in Hamilton is not as profitable as Toronto; and Lamb says Section 37 bonusing (where developers pay the City for public goods in exchange for additional height) will not work in Hamilton because the profit margins are not like those in Toronto.
– Lamb has multiple projects planned for Hamilton, and has purchased multiple properties.
(Lamb’s appeal on Television City now has a OMB case number PL180255. No coordinator has yet been assigned to it.)
- Two properties have appealed against the City’s new Centennial Secondary Plan, the owner of the commercial plaza at 558 – 640 Queenston Rd which houses a No Frills, Good Life, and Kelsey as tenants, and the owner of 860 Queenston Rd. 860 recently settled with the City on their mid-rise development, and I’d expect they’ll withdraw their appeal of the Secondary Plan. The case number is PL180235. No pre-hearing dates have been set.
- The HSR quietly posted their timeline for the “reenvisioning” exercise that will result in a long overdue review of HSR bus routes which were mostly designed in the 1970s and haven’t been changed since. While there may be minor tweaks in 2019, the timeline pushes back needed changes until September 2020 at the earliest. (City image below)
- Hamilton’s Youth Strategy continues building the foundation for a Youth Strategy Report later this spring, there will be an event on May 7th for youth serving agencies and residents to discuss how we can better support youth. (Expect me to write an update on the youth strategy in the coming weeks, especially as the City is acting on this file after I wrote an extensive column last year on their history of failing to meaningfully engage youth)
- The 75 nominees for the City of Hamilton Arts Awards were released yesterday.
- Shout-outs to two neighbourhood associations who now have development & planning working groups, and have started to plot planning applications in their ‘hoods onto maps. Downtown Hamilton’s Corktown Neighbourhood Association, and Downtown Stoney Creek’s Community Association.
The Public Record Recommends:
- Provincial budget removes property tax loophole exploited by U of T’s Victoria University – Universities are exempt from municipal property taxes; which makes sense as they serve a public purpose. However, this exception applies to properties the universities own, not just those used for educational/research purposes. Most universities voluntarily pay property taxes for land they are not using for educational purposes, but one UofT college refused to pay property taxes on land they were leasing to commercial and residential buildings, costing the City of Toronto over $20 million in lost tax revenue. This is something to watch as McMaster University moves into formal partnerships with private developers; and other institutions once again look at satellite campuses in Hamilton.
(There is a debate about the amount of cash the Province gives municipalities in lieu of property taxes but that’s a whole column on its own)
- Some interesting discussion of the future of shopping malls in this CBC Newfoundland article on the installation of a gaming arcade in a mall which – similiar to Lime Ridge and Eastgate – lost its anchor Sears store and is forced to respond to changes in shopping patterns. Mall redevelopment will be an emerging planning issue in Hamilton in the coming years.
- Mon. April 9, 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., 100 Main Street West: City of Hamilton Open House on Downtown Secondary Plan.
- Mon. April 9, 7pm, Hamilton City Hall: Ministry of Municipal Affairs information session for potential municipal election candidates.
- Tues. April 10, 7pm, Mills Hardware, 95 King Street East Useful Knowledge Society “Let’s Talk About Hamilton’s Downtown Secondary Plan” with General Manager of Economic Development and Planning Jason Thorne on the proposed Downtown Secondary Plan.
- Tues. April 10, 6pm, 294 James Street North: Public Info Session on Central Park Redevelopment details
- Thurs. April 12, 7pm, Stanley Avenue Baptist Church, Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association AGM. details
Newsletter top photo: Council Chambers at City Hall.