Hamilton's secrecy hurts trust in government

Opinion Nov 24, 2019 Stoney Creek News

It is getting more difficult to trust what officials from the City of Hamilton say or more importantly don’t say to the public.

After revelations earlier this year that city staff had buried a critical consultant's report on the Red Hill Creek Parkway for almost six years, it was revealed by the city — under pressure from a Hamilton Spectator story — that 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater runoff spilled into Chedoke Creek over four years.

The leak was reported and known by staff at least since July 2018 and fixed not long after. However, in January 2019, councillors behind closed doors ultimately decided the report should remain private after the legal advice stated the public disclosure could harm the city’s ability to defend itself from major fines.

It is even more damning to councillors and staff alike that while they were debating informing the public about the spill, they were also wrestling with how the Red Hill Parkway report was being kept away from the public’s scrutiny.

A city news release last week stated that stormwater and untreated sewage had spilled through a bypass gate that had been left open by about five per cent since January 2014. It was the first time the public had heard about the spill since the waste was discovered floating in Cootes Paradise in July 2018. The city says it doesn’t know why the gate was left open.

As well, the city didn’t notify the provincial Environment Ministry about any issues with the discharge until July 2018.

The province issued an order to the city on Aug. 2, 2018, forcing it to identify the amount of sewage that was discharged and what was in the sewage, along with an evaluation of the impacts to the creek and the need for remediation. The ministry is now investigating.

The city says it has taken several actions including retaining an external consultant to review the environmental impacts of the leak and to make recommendations about how to clean up the creek.

That isn’t good enough by a long shot. The city should start by apologizing — yet again — to the citizens of Hamilton for its incompetence, but more importantly, trying to hide the fact someone tried to cover up the problem.

Hamilton council, under pressure from the public, finally did the right thing and approved the creation of the Red Hill Parkway judicial inquiry and apologized to the public for hiding a key piece of evidence that could have improved the parkway sooner.

Now the city is faced with a similar blunder that only enhances the lack of trust the city has with the community. While the environmental impact to Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise is terrible, the attempt to hide the fact the city messed up again is a slap to the face of Hamilton’s hard-working taxpayers.

There needs to be a full and complete investigation overseen by new city manager Janette Smith, as to why the gate was left open. But also why city officials and councillors decided to prevent the information from being released to the community, despite advice from lawyers to keep the problem secret.

Only then can the healing begin and, if possible, trust restored to a severely compromised city leadership.

Hamilton council's continued desire for secrecy makes it look worse than if it came clean

Opinion Nov 24, 2019 Stoney Creek News

It is getting more difficult to trust what officials from the City of Hamilton say or more importantly don’t say to the public.

After revelations earlier this year that city staff had buried a critical consultant's report on the Red Hill Creek Parkway for almost six years, it was revealed by the city — under pressure from a Hamilton Spectator story — that 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater runoff spilled into Chedoke Creek over four years.

The leak was reported and known by staff at least since July 2018 and fixed not long after. However, in January 2019, councillors behind closed doors ultimately decided the report should remain private after the legal advice stated the public disclosure could harm the city’s ability to defend itself from major fines.

It is even more damning to councillors and staff alike that while they were debating informing the public about the spill, they were also wrestling with how the Red Hill Parkway report was being kept away from the public’s scrutiny.

Related Content

A city news release last week stated that stormwater and untreated sewage had spilled through a bypass gate that had been left open by about five per cent since January 2014. It was the first time the public had heard about the spill since the waste was discovered floating in Cootes Paradise in July 2018. The city says it doesn’t know why the gate was left open.

As well, the city didn’t notify the provincial Environment Ministry about any issues with the discharge until July 2018.

The province issued an order to the city on Aug. 2, 2018, forcing it to identify the amount of sewage that was discharged and what was in the sewage, along with an evaluation of the impacts to the creek and the need for remediation. The ministry is now investigating.

The city says it has taken several actions including retaining an external consultant to review the environmental impacts of the leak and to make recommendations about how to clean up the creek.

That isn’t good enough by a long shot. The city should start by apologizing — yet again — to the citizens of Hamilton for its incompetence, but more importantly, trying to hide the fact someone tried to cover up the problem.

Hamilton council, under pressure from the public, finally did the right thing and approved the creation of the Red Hill Parkway judicial inquiry and apologized to the public for hiding a key piece of evidence that could have improved the parkway sooner.

Now the city is faced with a similar blunder that only enhances the lack of trust the city has with the community. While the environmental impact to Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise is terrible, the attempt to hide the fact the city messed up again is a slap to the face of Hamilton’s hard-working taxpayers.

There needs to be a full and complete investigation overseen by new city manager Janette Smith, as to why the gate was left open. But also why city officials and councillors decided to prevent the information from being released to the community, despite advice from lawyers to keep the problem secret.

Only then can the healing begin and, if possible, trust restored to a severely compromised city leadership.

Hamilton council's continued desire for secrecy makes it look worse than if it came clean

Opinion Nov 24, 2019 Stoney Creek News

It is getting more difficult to trust what officials from the City of Hamilton say or more importantly don’t say to the public.

After revelations earlier this year that city staff had buried a critical consultant's report on the Red Hill Creek Parkway for almost six years, it was revealed by the city — under pressure from a Hamilton Spectator story — that 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater runoff spilled into Chedoke Creek over four years.

The leak was reported and known by staff at least since July 2018 and fixed not long after. However, in January 2019, councillors behind closed doors ultimately decided the report should remain private after the legal advice stated the public disclosure could harm the city’s ability to defend itself from major fines.

It is even more damning to councillors and staff alike that while they were debating informing the public about the spill, they were also wrestling with how the Red Hill Parkway report was being kept away from the public’s scrutiny.

Related Content

A city news release last week stated that stormwater and untreated sewage had spilled through a bypass gate that had been left open by about five per cent since January 2014. It was the first time the public had heard about the spill since the waste was discovered floating in Cootes Paradise in July 2018. The city says it doesn’t know why the gate was left open.

As well, the city didn’t notify the provincial Environment Ministry about any issues with the discharge until July 2018.

The province issued an order to the city on Aug. 2, 2018, forcing it to identify the amount of sewage that was discharged and what was in the sewage, along with an evaluation of the impacts to the creek and the need for remediation. The ministry is now investigating.

The city says it has taken several actions including retaining an external consultant to review the environmental impacts of the leak and to make recommendations about how to clean up the creek.

That isn’t good enough by a long shot. The city should start by apologizing — yet again — to the citizens of Hamilton for its incompetence, but more importantly, trying to hide the fact someone tried to cover up the problem.

Hamilton council, under pressure from the public, finally did the right thing and approved the creation of the Red Hill Parkway judicial inquiry and apologized to the public for hiding a key piece of evidence that could have improved the parkway sooner.

Now the city is faced with a similar blunder that only enhances the lack of trust the city has with the community. While the environmental impact to Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise is terrible, the attempt to hide the fact the city messed up again is a slap to the face of Hamilton’s hard-working taxpayers.

There needs to be a full and complete investigation overseen by new city manager Janette Smith, as to why the gate was left open. But also why city officials and councillors decided to prevent the information from being released to the community, despite advice from lawyers to keep the problem secret.

Only then can the healing begin and, if possible, trust restored to a severely compromised city leadership.