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trees.... Apr. 3rd, 2006 @ 02:54 am
redhillvalley
CATCH News – April 2, 2006

Tree issues dominate committee agenda

Sewer and road work require the removal of more than two dozen mature city trees according to a report going to the public works committee on Monday, but a ‘triple bottom line’ analysis says this will enhance environmental well-being. The same meeting will consider a funding request to continue a program that planted 5000 trees in parks and natural areas last year, while a third report calls for tree trimming to improve views of the harbour.

The planting request is being pursued by councillor Brian McHattie, who along with Dave Braden, launched the Trees Across Hamilton program last spring using volunteers recruited by councillors and community groups.

McHattie is seeking one-time funding which he hopes will be replaced in 2007 by support from a trees and park foundation being developed with the support of the Hamilton Community Foundation. Green Venture, Mountainview Residents and Environment Hamilton are collaborating with the city in the creation of the new foundation.

Thirteen trees are being removed on Edgemont between Cannon and Main to facilitate sewer and watermain work including reconstruction of the road and sidewalks. Eight more are in the way of watermain work on Parkdale near Lawrence Avenue. The report says the work can’t proceed without the removals.

Six more trees will be sacrificed to complete the escarpment stairs between the east end rail trail and Mountain Brow Boulevard. Three are also scheduled to come down because of work on Ferguson Avenue, but 24 saplings will be installed as part of that project.

The tree trimming report responds to complaints of a citizen that the view of the harbour from several city parks is being obscured by vegetation growth. Staff disagree with the demand for tree removal, but support some branch removal using trimming monies approved in last week’s budget deliberations.

On March 27 the council agreed to slowly begin phasing-in a regular maintenance program that will eventually see all city street trees in both old Hamilton and the suburbs inspected and trimmed once every five years. The move to a five-year cycle was originally approved just before the 2003 elections, but was denied budget monies in both 2004 and 2005, and appeared headed for a similar fate this year until provincial grants eased the city’s financial woes.

The lack of funding has meant the maintenance schedule slipped from a 12-year cycle in 2003 to a 20-year cycle today as staff have been forced to deal with increasing numbers of resident complaints from both the old city and the amalgamated suburbs. McHattie moved approval of a $477,000 expenditure to begin a phase-in of a five-year cycle over the next five years. He argued the lack of regular maintainence makes the city more liable should an accident occur such as the one that killed a young boy on the RBG lands last year. “If we’re at 20, and we want to be at five, that certainly seems like a significant gap,” he noted.

But his motion was defeated on a 6-6 tie vote. McHattie was supported by Phil Bruckler, Chad Collins, Sam Merulla, Art Samson and Bernie Morelli. Opponents were Dave Braden, Maria Pearson, Dave Mitchell, Terry Whitehead, Tom Jackson and Mayor Larry Di Ianni.

A subsequent motion for a seven-year phase-in was approved at a cost of $325,000 in 2006. That should eventually add three and a quarter million dollars to the forestry department operating budget by the time full implementation is achieved in 2012.

The agenda of tomorrow’s public works committee is posted at http://www.myhamilton.ca/myhamilton/CityandGovernment/CityDepartments/CorporateServices/Clerks/AgendaMinutes/PublicWorksInfrastructureEnvironment/2006/April3PublicWorksInfrastructureandEnvironmentCommitteeAgenda.htm.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to CATCH@cogeco.ca.

wrong election statement, di ianni, chapman Apr. 3rd, 2006 @ 02:53 am
redhillvalley
CATCH News – March 23, 2006

Chapman says auditor examined wrong election statement

In her presentation to city council on March 6, Joanna Chapman raised major objections to the compliance audit of Mayor Larry Di Ianni’s campaign finances, even suggesting that the city wasted their money. Chapman told councillors that auditor Ken Froese examined the wrong financial statement from the mayor’s 2003 election campaign and consequently missed numerous apparent violations of the Municipal Elections Act.

Chapman’s request for an audit was based on the first financial statement filed by Di Ianni on March 31, 2004, but she says Froese actually audited the mayor’s third statement issued nearly a year later on March 1, 2005.

“I cannot believe that the Municipal Elections Act can be interpreted to say, that an elector can ask for a compliance audit based on one financial statement, but have the audit performed on a completely different one, with no consideration at all of the document that the court found showed an audit was necessary,” she told councillors. “This appears to render the whole process completely meaningless.”

She pointed to Justice Timothy Culver’s court ruling which specifically cites the 2004 statement. During the court proceedings, her lawyer attempted to put the 2005 statement before the judge but was blocked by Di Ianni’s lawyer, so the 2005 statement was not examined by the court.

Both of the statements are sworn declarations by the candidate, but the 2005 one is cumulative, including the donations first reported on the 2004 filing. The later filing corrects more than 50 errors, mostly changes from the 2004 statement.

The changes mainly involve re-assigning to corporations many donations previously attributed to individuals. Correcting these errors forced the campaign to issue refunds to 15 companies, but none of these are identified in Froese’s reports as apparent contraventions of the elections law.

Under current election rules, business owners can legally make personal donations as well as ones from their business as long as it’s incorporated. But what appears to have happened in the Di Ianni records, is that numerous corporate cheques were listed initially as individual donations, often alongside additional corporate donations.

Other corrections made in the 2005 statement changed the amounts of several donations and reported donations that had somehow been left off the 2004 statement. In nine cases, different addresses were reported for donor cheques on the 2005 statement than had been shown on the 2004 statement.

“These changes cannot be reasonably ascribed to clerical errors,” Chapman declared. “I do not see how monies can be split between two entities, or records changed inadvertently.” She characterized being audited on corrected statements as “akin to being caught speeding and then reducing your speed to the limit for the next 100 miles or so and claiming you did nothing wrong.”

Only one of these changes appears to have been caught in the initial Froese audit report released last October: “Pasquale Smith and Pasquale Paletta were incorrectly captured on the original financial statements and were correctly recorded as Paletta International Corporation and Tender Choice Foods in the final statements. They were associated companies and were refunded their over-contribution prior to the filing of the final financial statement.”

This appears in a list of companies identified as “eligible to contribute to the Di Ianni campaign and [which] thus do not represent apparent contraventions of the Act or the over contributions were refunded prior to the filing of Di Ianni’s final financial statement.”

Froese’s first audit report states that it covers the 2005 statement “although our process also addresses the process to reach the final financial statement and events subsequent to the filing of that financial statement”. The only direct mention of the 2004 statement is that quoted above in relation to Paletta. But the auditor does refer to the Taylor Leibow review commissioned by Di Ianni in the summer of 2004 after Chapman asked for an audit. Froese described the findings of that review in his report – 24 over-contributions by corporations, and two by individuals, which Froese says “were refunded to the contributors prior to Di Ianni filing his final financial statement on March 1, 2005.”

In his concluding remarks to his initial audit report, Froese says: “We identified five apparent contraventions of the Act in relation to contributions and one apparent reporting contravention.” This seems to suggest he may not have considered the problems found in the Taylor Leibow report to be contraventions, since they had been repaid by the time Di Ianni filed his 2005 financial statements.

An addendum filed by Froese in February of this year notes “There were 20 entries in the final financial statements that were changed from the original financial statements as a result of ‘clerical errors’ and 37 entries that were changed to reflect information contained on corporate cheques.” He goes on to explain that Di Ianni’s special project coordinator, Lorraine Carroll, was asked to review the campaign contributions and create the final list attached to the March 2005 statements.

Froese says she told him that “the first financial statements were created during the campaign and compiled by various volunteers,” and that “she could not comment on why the information was not captured correctly on the first financial statements.”

Froese says “this explanation is consistent with our review of the financial records, our review of the changes made between the initial and final financial statements, and other procedures in relation to contributors.”

The election campaign ended on November 10, 2003. The first financial statements were submitted nearly five months later on March 31, 2004. Chapman argues that Di Ianni’s campaign “seems to have been run by paid professionals with previous campaign experience. This does not appear to be a campaign driven by volunteers.”

Chapman’s objections to Froese’s report appear to have been lost in the media attention on the laying of charges against Di Ianni and two other candidates. It’s unclear whether they had any impact on the councillors who met in camera afterwards for over two hours and offered no public comments when they approved the charges.

The issue of what statements were audited came up briefly at the February 15 meeting of city council when Bob Bratina asked Froese directly: “did you examine the March 31st, 2004 statement…?” Froese responded that "we had that available to us. But our audit focused on the final report."

Bratina pressed on: “So you did not review the March 31st, 2004 report?” and Froese clarified that “We reviewed it. There were a number of refunds after the fact, over the summer of 2004 and later on. And, we looked at the final report."

Later in the same meeting, Brian McHattie asked about the apparent contraventions identified in the Taylor Leibow review. Froese responded: “Our compliance audit dealt with the final financial statement that was filed. So, prior to the Taylor Leibow Report - and the refunds flowing from the Taylor Leibow Report, the over contributions, would have been apparent contraventions."

McHattie then asked if that meant council would need to consider the Taylor Leibow review “to get a sense of the over-all contraventions”, to which Froese replied “if you're looking at the first financial statement filed, yes, you would."

The implications of which statements were examined may be significant – both in terms of the number of contraventions of the law and in determining whether Di Ianni returned excess donations as soon as possible as required by the legislation.

For example, the refunds issued as a result of changing individual donations to corporate ones are not mentioned by Froese as apparent contraventions. And in this case, the refunds appear to have been issued more than one year after the over-donations were received.

Chapman’s presentation to council can be viewed at http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/cow/cow_060306.htm. The two audit reports by Ken Froese are on the CATCH website at http://hamiltoncatch.org/pdfs/FroeseReport-DiIanni.pdf and http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/pdfs/Addendum-Larry-DiIanni.pdf. The discussion at the February 15 council meeting is from the CATCH transcription available at http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/council/council_060215b.htm.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to CATCH@cogeco.ca.

enviro award? for sufferin dufferin? irony.... Apr. 3rd, 2006 @ 02:51 am
redhillvalley
CATCH News – March 21, 2006

Construction company win environmental award for Red Hill

Dufferin Construction has won the 2005 Canadian Construction Association’s Environmental Achievement Award for their work on the Red Hill Creek Expressway. The award recognizes “innovative or exemplary environmental conduct” by a member firm of the association and was issued last Thursday at their annual conference in Hawaii.

A city media release says it made “a joint submission with Dufferin” to obtain the award, but the CCA announcement does not mention any role for Hamilton other than as the location for the expressway. The CCA release explains that the 8 kilometre road goes through an environmentally sensitive area and “following extensive consultations, the project was modified to improve, and ultimately, excel at environmental stewardship.”

Dufferin Construction has played a central role in the Red Hill project, having obtained more than $130 million in tendered city contracts for the controversial $220 million north-south road. That goes right back to the initial preparatory work in 1990 when the company got $12 million for building the Queenston Road and TH&B railway bridges.

More recently it won bids for $19.7 million worth of work north of the CNR, $35.5 million for the Greenhill to Barton portion, and $62 million for the Barton Street interchange area. The company previously obtained the contracts for building the Greenhill interchange and for tree clearing in the Greenhill to Barton section.

The paving agreements for the valley expressway have not yet been awarded, but Dufferin did well in that portion of the competition for the Lincoln Alexander Parkway – winning contracts for the road surfacing from Dartnall Road to the Mohawk/Golf Links interchange. It also built the interchange at the 403 and picked up an $8.5 million contract for some of the grading work on the Linc.

The latter contract cost the former regional government dearly after council decided to take Dufferin’s bid even though it was second lowest. The low bidder, Wimpey Construction, successfully sued the region for $1 million.

Dufferin is an Oakville based company whose general manager until recently was Lloyd Ferguson, a former Ancaster town councillor and brother of the current Ancaster representative on city council. The company is a subsidiary of St Lawrence Cement which also owns TCG Asphalt and Construction.

The latter two are among 18 companies charged with making illegal donations to the 2003 election campaign of Mayor Larry Di Ianni. Associated corporations are only allowed to donate a total of $750 to an individual campaign, but in this case each of them made $750 donations. After the over-contributions were pointed out by Joanna Chapman, refund cheques were issued to St Lawrence and TCG.

The city media release on the award can be found at http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/75C9922D-255A-4D5F-82A1-5028C688F47A/0/MediaReleaseCCAMarch172006.pdf. The CCA announcement is at http://cnrp.ccnmatthews.com/client/canadian_construction_association/releaseen.jsp.

Correction

trees? Apr. 3rd, 2006 @ 02:48 am
redhillvalley
CATCH News – March 11, 2006

Another band-aid for city trees

City finance staff are again proposing to use their capital budget to pay for emergency maintenance of city trees, and again postponing funding of a regular tree trimming program that was approved nearly three years ago. Treasurer Joe Rinaldo told councillors this week that he is recommending “an additional $1.1 million to address the backlog on tree trimming so that we can get caught up completely as of December 31st, 2006.”

The measure is nearly identical to one announced in March of last year for the same purpose and nearly the same amount of money. At that time, councillors were told that a $1 million expenditure in 2005 would eliminate the backlog of 6900 outstanding resident requests for tree maintenance and then forestry staff could move in 2006 to a regular cycle that would trim city-owned trees in a grid pattern across the entire urban area at least once every five years.

The full-city five-year cycle was originally okayed in September 2003, just before the last municipal elections. But it has never been funded despite modifications that called for phasing in the spending and steadily reduced the first year and total commitments. As a consequence, grid trimming currently only occurs on the 75,000 trees within the old city of Hamilton and only on a 15-20 year cycle. The estimated 100,000 trees in the urban parts of the former suburbs are not included.

At Wednesday’s budget meeting, Sam Merulla asked how Rinaldo’s proposal will affect the long-standing objective of a five-year trim cycle advocated by the forestry division. .

“This does nothing to enhance it,” replied public works head Scott Stewart. “It’s not a five year cycle. We’re closer to twenty. It doesn’t do anything about bringing it down. It’s a short term fix.” He told the councillor that the grids trimming program is “one of those non-affordable things” in the department’s operating budget

Merulla suggested the city “could technically be allocating this money towards the grids program”, but Stewart explained that the $1.1 million is a one-time expenditure, not a permanent addition to the budget. This was emphasized by Mayor Di Ianni who pointed out: “This is a one time injection from capital. It doesn’t affect the [tax] levy. But it gets our backlog down to zero.”

Ironically, forestry had asked for only a $325,000 addition to its operating budget this year to begin a five-year phase-in of the recommended maintenance program. The fact that that is less than a third of the money being offered by Rinaldo underlines the difference between the capital and operating budgets. The former is one-time spending and can be borrowed if necessary. The latter, once approved, gets spent every year and must come out of annual taxes.

Municipalities are not permitted to borrow to pay for their operating costs. Allocating tree trimming to the capital budget continues an accounting innovation that began in 2004 when the planting of new trees along city streets was also deemed to be a capital expenditure.

A presentation of the details of this year’s tree trimming plan was postponed after time ran out at Wednesday’s budget meeting. The next budget session is scheduled for Monday March 27.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to CATCH@cogeco.ca.

charges against di ianni Apr. 3rd, 2006 @ 02:47 am
redhillvalley
CATCH News – March 7, 2006

Legal advice led council to lay charges against mayor

The advice provided by an outside lawyer appears to have been decisive in the city council decision to lay charges against Mayor Larry Di Ianni and defeated council candidates Marvin Caplan and John Best. It also provides some hint of the legal challenge the three men will face in court.

Kingston lawyer Timothy J Wilkins submitted a twenty-page legal opinion that was distributed to councillors on Monday morning. It was cited specifically in Monday afternoon’s motion to lay charges against the mayor, which stated in part “that the charges to be laid shall be those for which reasonable and probable grounds exist for believing that an offence has been committed as detailed in the legal opinion of Timothy J Wilkins dated March 3, 2006.”

The motion came at the end of a three-hour meeting that saw one hour of presentations from citizens, and two hours of in camera discussion by councillors. When they emerged from the secret session, the clerk read the motion on Di Ianni, and it was adopted without any discussion.

The motion was moved by Flamborough councillor Margaret McCarthy and seconded by downtown councillor Bob Bratina. It passed 12-1, with mountain councillor Bill Kelly asking to be recorded as opposed. Two additional motions – one on Caplan and the other on Best – were also adopted by the same tally, but without being read out, and then the meeting was immediately adjourned.

In his advice, Wilkins says “there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe [that] Mr Di Ianni committed the offence of failing to return a contribution made in contravention of the Act as soon as possible after he became aware of the contravention”.

In Wilkins’ opinion, there were about 25 instances in which this occurred. He argues that “it does not represent a proper discharge of a candidate’s duty under the Act to first wait until a complaint is made about having received excess contributions before determining whether they exist and then refunding them.”

Wilkins also explains the standards for “strict liability offences” such as those created by the Municipal Elections Act. Unlike criminal offences, there is no need to prove the accused intended to commit the offence. “Once the prosecution proves the accused has done what is prohibited by the Act, the burden shifts to the accused to prove on a balance of possibilities that he or she acted with due diligence and took all reasonable care to avoid committing the offence.”

Wilkins utilizes this standard to evaluate the potential for successfully pursuing charges against Di Ianni, Caplan or Best and includes in his analysis whether there is enough evidence to reasonably expect a conviction. In this light he advised against charging Di Ianni with accepting donations from ineligible donors because the compliance auditor did not determine who specifically received the monies given to his campaign.

“[I]n order to have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that Mr Di Ianni committed the offence,” Wilkins notes, “there must also be some evidence to indicate that he was the person who actually accepted the offending contributions.”

Since he was unable to find this evidence in the audit reports, Wilkins says “the possibility remains that it was someone other than Mr Di Ianni who accepted the unlawful contributions on his behalf”.

John Best, on the other hand, frankly informed the auditor that he was aware that he had received donations from a charity, and that, plus a failure to properly record some donations, led Wilkins to conclude he should be charged.

In the case of Marvin Caplan, Wilkins advised charges for “failing to retain his financial records for the requisite period of time”. Caplan misplaced his election material, but the Act requires it be kept for three years to allow compliance audits to occur.

The Wilkins report was initially confidential, but was made public by a decision of the council after they voted to lay charges. It can be viewed at http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/E07F2C87-DF20-4DC2-B5AA-532EC2723AF7/0/Mar06Barkwell.pdf.

The same file includes the advice provided to councillors three weeks ago by the city’s own lawyers. It’s content seems quite different from Wilkins advice. For example, it warned that “the laying of charges without the appropriate ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ may lay the complainant (and in this case the City) open to liability for malicious prosecution.”

It also asks councillors to consider whether “there is reason to believe that one or more of the candidates deliberately violated the Act” and says the charges would have to be withdrawn if the prosecutor was not satisfied “that, based upon the available evidence, there is a reasonable likelihood of obtaining a conviction.”

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) monitors Hamilton civic affairs. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to CATCH@cogeco.ca.



Motion and Vote

Moved by McCarthy, seconded by Bratina

(a) That the City of Hamilton institute the laying of charges against Larry Di Ianni under the Municipal Elections Act 1996, Chapter 32 as amended;

(b) And that the charges to be laid shall be those for which reasonable and probable grounds exist for believing that an offence has been committed as detailed in the legal opinion of Timothy J Wilkins dated March 3, 2006;

(c) That the City Solicitor shall report back to Committee of the Whole at the earliest opportunity, setting out for council’s approval appropriate retainer of outside counsel to have carriage of the prosecution of the charges.

In favour: Braden, Bratina, Bruckler, Collins, Jackson, McCarthy, McHattie, Merulla, Mitchell, Pearson, Samson, Whitehead

Opposed (recorded): Kelly

Absent: Ferguson, Morelli

Declared conflict of interest and did not vote: Di Ianni
Other entries
» oh di ianni
CATCH News – March 3, 2006

Dark date for Di Ianni?

The debate and decisions on the compliance audits of Mayor Di Ianni and two defeated candidates will take place on Monday afternoon at a special public meeting of city council beginning at 2 pm. The choice facing councillors is whether or not to lay charges over apparent violations of the Municipal Elections Act. The last council discussion on the audits attracted a large crowd of the mayor’s supporters.

The meeting will hear from an outside lawyer hired to give advice to council, and from Joanna Chapman, the Dundas bookseller who requested the audit and fought a long court battle to force council to order it after they had initially rejected her request. The two defeated candidates – Marvin Caplan and John Best – have asked to speak to the meeting, and auditor Ken Froese may also be questioned by councillors.

If Monday’s meeting results in charges against the mayor, June 24 may well be remembered as the date the wheels began to fall off his election campaign. And that’s not just because Chapman filed her request for an audit on June 24, 2004.

It was exactly a year earlier, on June 24, 2003, that the first five donations over $100 were deposited to Di Ianni’s campaign account. One came from I Waxman & Sons Ltd for the maximum $750. A second, for the same amount, came from Lightning Distribution Inc. Both were signed by Chester Waxman.The two companies are located at the same address on Centennial Parkway.

Chester Waxman, Bailey Waxman and Gary Waxman are directors of both companies. Auditor Ken Froese subsequently confirmed Chapman’s suspicion that the two companies are associated, and thus only allowed to make a total donation of $750, not the $1500 they gave Di Ianni.

One of the other donations deposited that day came from Mountain Cablevision Ltd. It was for $200, but in October the campaign accepted another donation for $750 from this company. The over-contribution wasn’t noticed by Chapman because the second cheque was recorded as a personal donation from Owen Boris on the sworn financial statement submitted by Di Ianni in March 2004. Then on Di Ianni’s final campaign statement a year later, this donation was re-classified as a corporate cheque and a refund of $200 was issued to the company.

Also on June 24, 2003, the campaign received a $1000 cheque from Village Green Denture Clinic in Stoney Creek. It was deposited the next day, but for some unexplained reason was recorded in Di Ianni’s financial records as two separate donations – one for $250 donation from Paul Pacifici (whose name appears on the cheque) and one for $750 from Village Green Denture Clinic.

Chapman noted that the clinic is not a corporation and therefore not eligible to donate. This has now been confirmed by auditor Ken Froese. But it wasn’t until Chapman got half way through her court battle for an audit that she was shown the Clinic cheque, and realized it was also for $250 above the limit.

This single cheque appears to have generated three separate violations of the Municipal Elections Act – it was for too large an amount, it came from an ineligible donor, and it was recorded incorrectly on Di Ianni’s sworn financial statement. The $250 was refunded by Di Ianni 15 months later in August 2004. The remaining $750 was re-assigned to Pacifici, making it a legal donation.

June 24, 2003 was also the day of the Di Ianni campaign’s first major fundraiser – a $200-a-ticket affair at the Ramada Plaza Hotel attended by 109 supporters. Ramada subsequently made three donations to the mayor’s campaign – $250 on September 30 and a further $850 on November 4. The latter donation came in two sequentially numbered cheques – one for $750 and one for $100.

The campaign recorded these latter two as coming from different sources – one from Ramada Plaza Hotel and one from Sahar’s Hospitality Inc. All three cheques bear both company names. All three also carry the same signature and are in other respects identical except for the dates and amounts.

The mayor returned $250 to Ramada on July 23, 2004, a month after Chapman pointed out the over-contribution. The additional $100 was refunded on December 10, 2004.

Not surprisingly, the June 24 fundraiser was followed by the deposit of 92 donations on the following day. According to the March 2004 financial statement, 48 of these were from corporations and 44 from individuals. However five of the deposits attributed to individuals were subsequently changed to corporate donations on the March 2005 financial statement.

The changes meant all five donated more than the maximum $750. Eleven other corporate donors whose cheques were deposited that day also subsequently were issued refunds for over-contributions to the campaign.

It’s unclear why Joanna Chapman chose June 24, 2004 to file her request for a compliance audit, but it would be understandable if Mayor Di Ianni chose to stay in bed when that date rolls around again this year.

Chapman filed another letter with council last week. It can be viewed at http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/40462C06-D3A8-4A72-82B8-810F2F39D3BF/0/Mar0664.pdf.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) monitors Hamilton civic
» trees cutbackagain..
CATCH News – February 18, 2006

Tree care facing axe again

Improving city tree maintenance to acceptable levels may be headed to its third consecutive sacrifice on the altar of budget restraints. A staff report that will likely be debated at budget sessions on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, is recommending against the expenditure despite new confirmation of the need and calculations that part of the cost could be offset by new revenues.

Just prior to the last city election in 2003, councillors voted for a five-year cycle of tree trimming and maintenance that covered all urban areas in Hamilton, but didn’t approve the budget for the program in either 2004 or 2005.

In 2003, city-owned trees were trimmed only within the old city of Hamilton and only once every twelve years. That cycle has now slipped to 15 years and still doesn’t include about 100,000 trees in the former suburban municipalities.

Councillors took the unusual step last year of allocating $1 million from capital budget to catch up on a backlog of 6900 resident requests for maintenance of city-owned trees, but again balked at increasing the operating budget for regular trimming work.

The latest report says Stantec Consulting has confirmed the need for a five-year maintenance cycle and that a “street tree inventory [should] be completed as soon as possible”. At this point, the city calculates it owns about 75,000 trees in the older part of Hamilton. Its estimates for the suburban areas have dropped from 225,000 to 100,000.

Stantec agrees with forestry staff that the five-year cycle “approaches best practice standard” and would “optimize benefits derived from street tree infrastructure”. The report also warns of increased liability risks if no improvements are adopted. “[T]he longer the tree trimming cycle, the greater the risk of legal claims arising and the difficulty for the City to successfully defend such claims.”

A five-year phase in of the new trimming cycle would add $477,000 to this year’s operating budget – equivalent to about $2.25 per household. Increases in subsequent years would eventually raise this to $3.2 million, or about $15.30 per home.

The report envisions that Horizon Utilities would pay the city about $77,000 a year for trimming, but only if the work is done on hydro’s five-year cycle. It argues that such a partnership “is essential in providing best value from program resources and optimal program effectiveness through a single service provider.” Concerns have been raised in the past by forestry staff that hydro crews focus on their wires and don’t necessarily pay appropriate attention to the health of the trees they trim.

While it appears certain that forestry staff want to see the program adopted, their division is part of the public works department which is already seeking large spending increases for other areas such as waste management. The new staff report can be viewed at http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/D44F7ED0-B2E1-4FAF-A903-35163A46F00A/0/Feb16PW05015b.pdf.
» Di I anni campaign..again
CATCH News – February 9, 2006

Compliance audit raises more questions about mayor’s campaign

Yesterday’s report by auditor Ken Froese has pushed the total of apparently illegal campaign donations to Mayor Di Ianni over the $25,000 mark. It also reveals that LIUNA donors ploughed $4000 into the mayor’s 2003 election campaign and raises more questions about a gift provided by Italo Ferrari, the manager of the Hamilton City Centre who remains in personal bankruptcy.

Froese’s supplementary audit report identifies five additional problem donations totalling $3100. This raises to 62 the number of refund cheques issued by the mayor’s campaign for inappropriate gifts, and the total amount returned to $25,850.

That’s 8.2% of the $316,352 raised by Di Ianni. However, that calculation only counts the amounts given in excess of the legal limit of $750. The donors who made these contributions also gave $35,000 to Di Ianni that fell within the legal limits, so their total donations were $60,850. That amount is 19.2% of all the monies received by the campaign.

In his 20-page report, Froese details $4000 in LIUNA donations, but concludes that only $750 already returned clearly violates the Municipal Elections Act. The donations included $750 from LIUNA Station, $750 from LIUNA Gardens, and $750 from LIUNA Local 837.

“LIUNA Local 837 confirmed that it owns both LIUNA Gardens Limited and LIUNA Station” says Froese, “[but] the Act is silent in relation to situations where a trade union owns corporations.” The legislation requires that associated corporations limit their total donation to a candidate to $750.

He also notes that LIUNA’s parent union gave $500, the LIUNA Ontario Provincial District Council gave $750 and the LIUNA Contractor’s Training Council gave $750, but again decides the elections law doesn’t specifically say these should all be treated as associated donors.

Froese concludes: “Accordingly we have concluded that there likely was no apparent contravention of the Act in relation to these contributions.”

The report provides some details of Froese’s attempts to determine whether or not the Training Council even exists. He eventually found a registered corporation called “Canadian LIUNA – Contractors Training Council” at a different address, but determined that it had failed to submit required filings in 2002 and subsequently has filed a notice of intent to dissolve.

Froese concludes: “Accordingly, we have been unable to confirm whether the Training Council is appropriately constituted and eligible to contribute to municipal election campaigns.”

LIUNA also made donations to seven other members of council. A $30 million leasing agreement between the city and LIUNA continues to generate controversy.

Froese also tried to determine the legality of a donation by Italo Ferrari, the general manager of Fercan Developments Inc, the company that owns the downtown City Centre [formerly Eaton’s Centre] where Di Ianni had his campaign offices. Both the company and Ferrari gave the mayor $750 in-kind donations that were deducted from the office rent, but Froese notes that “Ferrari was not an owner/shareholder of Fercan”.

Ferrari told Froese that he had made the donation through a deduction on his pay stub. Vince DeRosa, the president of Fercan, told the auditor that Ferrari “receives monthly bonus payments that vary considerably from one month to another”. DeRosa confirmed that $750 “was taken from his (Italo Ferrari’s) October 2003 bonus compensation”.

But Froese was unable to document these statements. He says: “Fercan does not have any documents from October 2003 that disclose this deduction” nor does a review show “a bonus payment that is $750 lower than other months”.

He concludes: “The information provided to us is consistent with there not being an apparent contravention of the Act by this contributor. However, there is no available underlying documentation to support this position.”

The city recently signed an agreement with Fercan to relocate staff to the City Centre for two years while city hall undergoes renovations.

The full Froese report is posted on the CATCH website at http://environmenthamilton.org/CATCH/pdfs/Addendum-Larry-DiIanni.pdf.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) monitors Hamilton civic affairs. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.environmenthamilton.org/CATCH. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to CATCH@cogeco.ca.
» sewage contaminates creek
CATCH News – January 21, 2006

City sewage still contaminating creek

Water samples downstream of the city’s Woodward Avenue sewage treatment plant are much more polluted than those taken from higher up in Red Hill Creek, according to a study conducted last fall by students working under the direction of McMaster professor George Sorger.

Dr Sorger’s stream stewards program trains high school students in formal laboratory methods of analysis so that they can test waterways of concern to local residents. In a decade of work, the program has examined many local streams, regularly identifying problems that were subsequently confirmed by government investigators.

Effluent from the Woodward plant has been repeatedly examined over the years but Sorger has found little improvement. The latest report was released on Wednesday evening at a meeting of the Beach Preservation Committee attended by over 80 people. It found “very high counts of total coliforms [bacteria]” downstream of the sewage treatment plant as well as “very high ammonium concentrations and very high phosphate in the same effluent”.

The results generated renewed demands for the establishment of a community liaison committee focused on the Woodward plant. One existed in the past, but was arbitrarily replaced last year with promises of occasional public meetings.

At the request of the Beach community, the student group also examined a ditch running along Eastport Drive. Residents fear that toxics may be escaping from nearby ponds used by the Hamilton Port Authority to store contaminated dredgings from the harbour. These confined disposal facilities are also sometimes referred to as the tollgate ponds. The ditch lies between the ponds and the residential area that sits along the sand dune forming the beach strip.

Sorger’s team used water fleas (Daphnia) to test the ditch for toxic contaminants and compared the results to waters taken directly from the harbour and got mixed results. More Daphnia were killed by the ditch water than the bay water in some samples, but not in all of them so the study concludes that “more extensive and precise measurements need to be taken here.”

The full report will be posted soon on the Environment Hamilton website where several earlier reports can also be found at http://www.environmenthamilton.org/projects/water/water_intro.htm.
» redhill company charged
Charges laid against Red Hill company

Rock blasting for the Red Hill Expressway that sprayed mountain homes with softball sized rocks have resulted in charges against one of the city’s sub-contractors. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has charged Consbec Inc with two counts of “discharging a contaminant into the natural environment that causes an adverse effect” and two counts of failing to notify the Ministry about the incident.

City staff had assured Hamilton councillors that “staff and its field management consultant (Stantec) also reviewed the revised procedures and are satisfied that the Contractor (Aecon Construction) and its Sub-contractor (Consbec Inc) are taking the necessary precautions to carry out the blasting in a safe manner."

The Waterkeeper Alliance and Environment Hamilton spurred an investigation of the incident when they submitted information to the Ministry in the summer of 2004. Waterkeeper’s weekly newsletter reported Monday that charges were finally laid early last month. The company is due to appear in court in Hamilton on February 7.

Free subscriptions to the Waterkeeper newsletter can be requested at www.waterkeeper.ca. Information on the blasting incident can be found at http://www.waterkeeper.ca/lok/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=6969.
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