10 stories to watch in Hamilton politics in 2014
It’s never dull at Hamilton city hall, and 2014 is scheduled to be just as raucous as 2013
It’s never dull at Hamilton city hall, and 2014 is scheduled to be just as raucous as 2013.
There will be a municipal election in October. The new Pan Am stadium will open. The city will hear from developers interested in Hamilton’s waterfront land. And that's just a start.
Here’s a list of what will be 10 of the top political news stories in 2014:
1. The election
The election on Oct. 27 will be a shake up. Mayor Bob Bratina is expected to fight to retain his seat. Coun. Brian McHattie and former mayor Fred Eisenberger will also run for the top job.
Challengers will vie for McHattie's current Ward 1 seat. Coun. Bernie Morelli, long-time representative of Ward 3, has battled health issues of late, which may influence his decision to run.
Nominations open at city hall on Jan. 2. McHattie will kick off the 10-month media show with an event at 10:30.
Public and Catholic school board trustees will also be elected on Oct. 27.
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2. Two-way streets
Should King and Main streets be two way? A late 2013 staff report recommended eventually converting the streets. It also recommended converting a number of the lower city’s main thoroughfares, such as Cannon and Bay, to two way.
Councillors were due to debate the five-year transportation plan on Dec. 4, but it was deferred twice. It will likely reappear at the Jan. 15 general issues committee meeting.
3. New stadium opens
Tim Hortons Field will open this year. When it does, it will mark the end of years of debate over its design and potential location.
The city is contributing $45 million to the $145-million stadium, scheduled to open in June. The stadium will host soccer games during the 2015 Pan Am Games.
4. Developing the waterfront
The city will put out a call for interested developers for Piers 7 and 8 this year. That will include condos, restaurants and hotels.
The dream of a developed waterfront became reality in April when the city gained control of the two piers. Coun. Chad Collins describes the waterfront vision as being “more Halifax than Toronto.”
5. Epipens in restaurants
In March, the city will launch a pilot project to put an auto-injector (often referred to by the brand name Epipen) in a Hamilton eatery to treat people with food allergies.
During the one-year pilot, the city will analyze how often epinephrine is used and other impacts.
It will start with an auto-injector in a single food court or chain restaurant. If it’s successful, the city will expand it to other eateries.
6. The bus lane
Last October, the city designated a lane on King Street as transit-only.
Some residents were happy, while others complained about the congestion. The bus lane, which runs along King Street from Mary to a block east of Dundurn, cost the city $300,000.
This fall will mark the end of the one-year pilot project, when council will decide whether to keep the bus lane.
7. Contaminated airport lands
The issue of contaminated airport land will come to a head this year.
In the 1980s, the federal government used lands at the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to train firefighters. But the foam contaminated the land with the toxic chemical PFOS.
The city is meeting with the provincial and federal governments, as well as airport operator Tradeport, to hammer out a final clean-up plan, Coun. Brenda Johnson said.
She expects that plan to come to the city’s general issues committee in January. She also hopes to hold a public meeting in Mount Hope in March.
8. Randle Reef
Construction will begin this year to clean up Randle Reef. The mass of toxic coal tar sits in Hamilton Harbour, and it’s the largest sediment of its kind in Canada.
The federal and provincial governments finally committed money to the $139.9-million project in 2013. The cleanup will involve using 10,000 tonnes of rolled steel to build a containment facility.
9. Environmental charges against ArcelorMittal Dofasco
ArcelorMittal Dofasco is facing 13 environmental charges related to emissions from its smokestacks.
The Ministry of Environment is fighting the steel giant in court on emissions that happened between April and August 2012. Both parties will appear in court again on March 27.
10. The culture at city hall
City hall was fraught with scandal this year, and none of it painted it as a very good place to work.
A female HSR employee won a human rights challenge in 2013 related to sexual harassment by a male supervisor. The adjudicator wrote a damning report saying the city’s inaction actually did more harm to the woman. Furthermore, the supervisor received glowing recommendations from his Hamilton bosses and another transit agency hired him.
More than 20 public works employees lost their jobs in 2013 after an investigation revealed that the workers were doing very little work — and were linked to missing gravel. Another employee was fired after being linked to nearly $1 million in missing money. Police have yet to lay charges.
Then in the fall, there were public allegations that an employee had sex with a prostitute during work hours — in a city van.
City manager Chris Murray acknowledged in 2013 that the city needs to work on its corporate culture. This year will be the judge of whether a mixture of new training, new human rights managers and a new message will put an end to the negative headlines.