INFOGRAPHIC: Participatory Budgeting Ward 2 #HamOnt

 

 

 

This infographic explains how the participatory budgeting process works, currently underway in Ward 2 (Downtown Hamilton). For more information please visit: pbhamont.ca/participate. Click on the image to view in fullscreen.

INFOGRAPHIC: Participatory Budgeting Ward 2 #HamOnt

 

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Ministry of the Environment seeking public’s help with investigation re: 350 Wentworth Street North #HamOnt

A message from the Ministry of the Environment re: 350 Wentworth Street North in Hamilton:

The Ministry of the Environment’s investigation is continuing into the discovery of waste drums concealed behind a basement wall at 350 Wentworth Street North, Hamilton.

We are seeking the public’s help with information that can aid our investigation.

Anyone with information about activities at 350 Wentworth St. N., or any other locations where waste products associated with businesses operating at 350 Wentworth St. N. might be located, is encouraged to contact the Ministry of the Environment Pollution Hotline at 1-866-MOE-TIPS (1-866-663-8477).

For example, anyone who may have knowledge of when or how waste barrels were moved around the property or the building of a wall to hide them is asked to call 1-866-MOE-TIPS (1-866-663-8477).

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Cut away in cinder block wall reveals a space approximately 16 feet deep and 64 feet wide concealing waste barrels.

Barrels and containers of unknown waste products are stacked three high and five deep.

Barrels and containers of unknown waste products are stacked three high and five deep.

Unknown waste product in barrels and pails will need to be individually tested to identify the nature of the contents.

Waste barrels packed tightly together.

 

 

 

 

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More Waste found at 350 Wentworth Street North #HamOnt

 


An update from Jennifer Hall, Ministry of the Environment on 350 Wentworth Street North:

“Today, acting on information provided by current owners, Ministry of the Environment staff entered a building at 350 Wentworth Street North,Hamilton and confirmed a large quantity of barrels of unknown waste material concealed in a basement room behind a concrete wall.

Ministry staff are currently working to safely remove portions of the wall to confirm the number of barrels and their condition, as well as investigate for other concealed areas where waste may be stored.

The building has been secured with an order that limits access to the site while work is undertaken to assess the contents and nature of the waste.

A longer-term order will be issued to enable the ministry to plan for the safe removal and disposal of the waste.

The ministry has notified the City of Hamilton Fire Services and Public Health, and will coordinate with them to ensure the property is appropriately managed for the safety of the community.

 MOE’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch will also be asked to investigate.

The ministry will provide additional updates once we know more.”

Context

From the Spectator’s Nicole O’Reilly, a timeline of the property at 350 Wentworth Street north can be found here. In 2012, the Ministry of the Environment required partial compliance with current and former owners of the site for materials that were present on the surface. 

 

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If the OLG is a monopoly, why do they need to advertise? #HamOnt #TOpoli #Ontpoli #Toronto

The Ontario Lotto and Gaming corporation spent over half a billion dollars in the 2009 fiscal year on advertising, marketing and ‘comps’ for ‘high rollers’.

If you go to a movie in the theatres right now, you’ll see an extended infomercial touting what the OLG did with money they generated- 36% or more of it from problem gamblers. The OLG likes to tell municipalities and communities that decisions regarding new Casinos are theirs to make- but then goes on to campaign to sway public opinion. Is this the business of government?

If you walk around town, you’ll see billboards with a photo of happy smiling folks and an OLG mascot, with the slogan “bet you’ll have fun”. The major national newspapers have been printing content from the OLG, nearly indistinguishable from regular editorial content. If you watch the evening news, you’ll see an annoying commercial of a girl breaking up with a guy, suggesting that if you’re sad and ‘need some fun’ you can go to Fallsview Casino. Our government revenues at work.

Some Casino proponents make the relativistic argument that because the LCBO exists, we should also support the OLG in whatever they feel is best for our community.

I’m no social conservative. I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-decriminalization and eventual legalization of marijuana, and I’m in favour of harm reduction strategies to mitigate the impacts of injection drugs. I’m very liberal in this regard.

I’m in favour of sensible regulatory frameworks around substances and behaviours that have risks to the individual and by extension to the community. I get why the government is in the business of regulating and taxing alcohol and tobacco, and controlling the sale of the product. If governments don’t play this kind of role, the black market happily will. I do not support prohibition.

The OLG and the lotto corp were created with this in mind. It’s a mandate I support- gambling will naturally occur in society, and much of that is relatively harmless.

However, we don’t just regulate and tax gambling as it naturally occurs in society. The OLG goes further to promote gambling through advertisements- they spend hundreds and hundreds of millions encouraging people to gamble. Is this what governments should do?

The industry will tell you that the citizens of Ontario want to gamble, and they’re just providing that service to those people. If that’s the case, why spend billions on advertising and promotion? If the OLG has a monopoly on gambling in the province, who are they competing against exactly? I would think most people who would have the desire to gamble could easily google the address of the nearest Casino.

The OLG is proud of their record in donating to charities and in funding hospitals and education in the Province. However, aren’t we in a bit of trouble when we start considering investments in healthcare and education as “nice things to do”, rather than investments? Healthcare and education are the cornerstone priorities of any civilized society- why don’t we fund them fully from the taxes people already pay?

Why? Because our three levels of government are spending $1.4 Billion on the Pan Am Games. The provincial Liberals blew millions and millions on e-Health, ORNGE, relocating gas plants to win by-elections. We spent more than $1 Billion on the G20 summit, and ended up spending some of that money to beat the shit out of our own citizens, most of whom were just peacefully protesting in public space.

There’s now a $14 Billion deficit in the province of ontario, and we wonder why.

And now our provincial government, such wise and sound managers of Ontario’s finances want to put mega-Casinos in tightly-packed residential neighbourhoods, let communities and municipalities clean up the long-term mess for them, all so they can fill their $14 Billion hole in the short term. Bullet points on re-election pamphlets are more important than sound governance.

If the OLG is concerned about healthcare and education, perhaps instead of spending half a billion on cheesy ads and limo rides for known problem gamblers, they could just take that money and invest directly into our schools and hospitals. Half a billion dollars could go so far.

And I might suggest they don’t just run another ad congratulating themselves for their “kind generosity”.

For more information please visit http://www.yestohamilton.ca

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Combating Bullshit #HamOnt


Usual suspect. Rabblerouser. The Vocal Minority. Nimby. Obstructionists. The Anti-everything crowd. This is the dogwhistle language of civic engagement in Hamilton, Ontario.

The first time you speak up, as a citizen, you’re rightly considered a concerned citizen. But if you then continue to pay attention, attend meetings, write councillors regularly or make citizen delegations to City Council, you’re branded by one of the above terms, or worse. While I’ve gotten used to this treatment and it doesn’t bother me, I do worry about uninitiated citizens who may be confronting it for the first time.

We often collectively complain about low voter turnout and our lack of engagement in the city. But we seem to have a media-driven political culture that not only resists civic engagement, but actively belittles and discourages civic engagement.

CHML 900’s Bill Kelly wrote recently about “The Usual Suspects”, a term favoured by Bill and other local pundits. It’s a clever phrase that implies both criminality and minimizes the public support or opposition of a proposal at City Hall.

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina recently wondered aloud at a meeting regarding lobbying at City Hall whether community and neighbourhood groups should be considered lobbyists- somehow blurring the line between a citizen or group of citizens volunteering their feedback on issues, and paid lobbyists working to advance commercial interests.

PJ Mercanti, a very visible proponent of the only known Hamilton Casino bid, stated that he believes “the social groups are lobbyists”. It is unclear who Mr. Mercanti would describe as “social groups”- perhaps referring to the citizens who have spoken up against the negative health and social impacts that an urban Casino would represent. When asked directly if he was a ‘paid lobbyist’, Mr. Mercanti emphatically responded that he was not. Within only two weeks, Mr. Mercanti publicly stepped forward with an intention to form a partnership to bid on the Casino- well before Council has completed a fulsome discussion and decision on whether a Casino is supported by the community.

In early December I sat down for coffee with Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead to discuss the Casino issue, having gathered that he was a strong proponent of placing the Casino in the downtown, in a Ward he does not represent. As a resident of that Ward, I wanted to share my genuine concerns with him, as I have with my own councillor and others. He went on to inform me that the commercial area of the downtown core is not in anyone’s neighbourhood. He further reiterated these comments in emails to many residents.

I was amazed by this assertion, knowing that the downtown’s Ward 2 is the most dense group of residential neighbourhoods in the entire amalgamated City of Hamilton. There are not only large, dense residential neighbourhoods surrounding the downtown core business district, but large residential developments that reside exactly within the core business district, in large apartment towers and condos, single family homes, townhouses, housing co-ops, and seniors towers. There are over 37,000 people who live in Ward 2, and a density of residents close to 60 per acre, twice the residential density of the next most dense Ward.

I don’t point this out to suggest downtown is more important than any other Ward in the city by any means. I point this out because I find myself in the ridiculous position of having to explain that this dense residential neighbourhood even exists, and that residents should have considerable input on the proposal to place a Casino in their proximity.

Paul Godfrey, chair of the OLG, recently parroted Councillor Whitehead’s comments in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade. In pursuit of a downtown Toronto Casino, suggested that he himself wouldn’t want a Casino in his own neighbourhood, which he describes as residential, made up of single family homes and townhouses. Mr Godfrey further suggested that downtown Toronto, where the OLG desperately wants to place a Casino, is not a residential neighbourhood. Considering Mr. Godfrey’s opposition to a Casino in his own neighbourhood, I don’t think anyone can fairly accuse anyone of being a “NIMBY” (Not in my backyard). It would seem the vast majority of Ontarians have no interest in living near a Casino, including some of the folks who are most in favour of building a Casino.

Former Mayor and pro-Casino activist Larry Di Ianni, speaking on CHCH in favour of a Casino in early December, claimed “there are a dozen activists who are saying we don’t even need to look at this opportunity”- a clear attempt to depict Casino opposition as just a small group of people with an agenda. Judging by the amount of people who have now spoken up, it would appear the former Mayor’s comments are wildly inaccurate. When asked by a local blog for his predictions for 2013, the former Mayor said “Downtown activists will continue to perpetuate a ghetto-like mentality for our core.” 

Perhaps with no sense of irony, the former Mayor made this comment on the same day councillors received a report from Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, City of Hamilton Medical Officer of Health, which detailed the health and social impacts of gambling, and recommended a number of reasonable restrictions on any potential gambling facility, in the interest of at least somewhat mitigating some of the factors that lead to increased rates problem gambling. Some of these suggestions included limiting the hours that a Casino can be open, restricting access to alcohol on the gambling floor, and banning ATM’s within the facility to prevent compulsive gambling.

These restrictions were notably described as “ridiculous” by pro-Casino cable access pundit Loren Lieberman. Many have pointed out that these restrictions are not in place in current OLG facilities, and considering the OLG’s plan to privatize (they prefer the term ‘modernize’) Casino operations, it remains very unclear whether any of these reasonable suggestions will be enforced. Dr. David McKeown of Toronto Public Health has advised that the best thing from a public health standpoint is to have no Casino at all, and both officers of medical health advise that proximity to a Casino undoubtedly leads to increased rates of problem gambling.

At last night’s Public Consultation meeting at City Hall, a minority of attendees showed up with ‘YES’ signs- which of course is a misguided position they are entitled to hold. Many of the folks carrying ‘YES’ signs noticeably left the meeting as it proceeded. One of those who did remain yelled out that “the people on the ‘YES’ side have jobs to be at in the morning.” Again, with no sense of irony, this statement was yelled out just as local lawyer Ned Nolan was stepping down from the podium, having just delivered a passionate plea to councillors not to endanger lives in pursuit of profits and revenues.

Late last night, an anonymous commenter on the Hamilton Spectator’s website posted a comment directed at myself and others, proudly stating that some of the ‘YES’ supporters visited a downtown restaurant after the meeting, and went on to question why there were no Casino opponents at the establishment in question, and suggested that we went home to our ‘parents basements’.

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I know what you might be thinking- by no means do I claim to be a perfect angel in the way I choose to communicate as an activist. Everyone who adds their voice to public debate will likely misspeak from time to time- in so many cases this is excusable, especially if the mistake is somehow corrected or retracted. However, in the context of this Casino debate, we have seen a number of rather shameful comments from pundits in local media, trying to restrict and castigate citizen engagement in this ongoing debate. I would prefer a debate that focuses on the merits, a serious discussion about all aspects of this proposal, a thorough examination and analysis of the expert opinions available to us.

To those in the media and in the public who are in support of a Casino, I would suggest that the proposal will not succeed if the predominant arguments include classist dogma, anti-democratic intimidation or by trying to deny the rights of average citizens to participate meaningfully, based on what they make, where they live, or how regularly they speak up on issues that matter to them.

As someone who wants to see the concept of a downtown Casino soundly rejected however, I would strongly advise casino proponents to please proceed with this ill-advised strategy.

It helps our effort enormously, and for that, I thank them.

For more information, please visit: www.yestohamilton.ca

Video by: Mark Van Noord

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Momentum #CasiNO #HamOnt

An excellent video by Mark Van Noord of last night’s Casino consultation meeting at Hamilton City Hall.

For more information on the debate, please visit yestohamilton.ca

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Lots of ways to donate to #HamOnt foodbanks

Summer time is always typically a time when our local food banks are very low on donations. Here’s a number of ways you can help:

You can drop off non-perishables for local food banks at the following locations all month: Dr Disc (20 Wilson Street), Upper Gage Garage (451 Upper Gage Ave), Papa Leos Restaurant (638 Concession Ave), The Casbah (306 King Street West at Queen) and Strut Salon (84 Walnut Street South). (If there are any locations to add to this list feel free to let me know.)

UPDATE: From now until October 31st, for every pound of pasta sold at La Piazza Allegra (180 James Street South), they’ll donate one pound of food to local food banks.

If you’re heading to The James Street North Art Crawl tonight, you can drop off non-perishable food items, personal care items and cash donations for the Welcome Inn Community Centre Food Bank. We’ll be at the northeast corner of James North and Cannon in the blue canopy tent.

If you’re heading to Festival of Friends this weekend, they’ll be accepting non-perishable food items both where the shuttle bus picks up and at the Festival entrance.

And as always, if you’re not going to make it out to these locations any time soon, you can donate online to Hamilton Food Share, which supplies all of our local food banks: www.hamiltonfoodshare.org

UPDATE 2: Food Share also has a great set of tips on how to organize your own community food drive. If you are organizing something, feel free to send your info to me at mattjelly@gmail.com or on Twitter @mattjelly and I’d be happy to help get the word out.

Feel free to pass on this information to friends. Thanks!

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