After its successful suppression of attempts to get information about the Hamilton Waterfront Trust by Ward Seven Councillor Donna Skelly Hamilton City Council may be satisfied that all is well in the world of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. Certainly that was the impression given when councillors would not even second her motion for a closer examination of the HWT– but for the taxpayers of Hamilton some important questions remain unanswered after last month’s General Issue Committee meeting. Here are just a few for consideration:
- Exactly how much future work has staff been authorized to sole-source to the Hamilton Waterfront Trust? Does anybody know? A signed agreement between the two parties suggests it’s pretty much up to interpretation. Is there an understanding in place that has not been made clear to council?
- Since it is apparent the HWT cannot survive without continuing support from the city in the form of grants or sole-sourced contracts; does this mean the city will permanently suspend its established procurement policies in order to support the HWT?
- If, as was revealed in the October 18th GIC meeting, the city has no jurisdiction over HWT and it is truly an arms-length organization; does it not now fall into the same category as any other outside contractor who might bid on city work? Again begging the question of how this situation can jive with City purchasing policies on an ongoing basis.
- It has been repeatedly asserted that the HWT performs work at a lower cost than would be the case with city staff. How can that be when the HWT hires contractors and consultants to perform the work, as the City would; but then is allowed to tack on a 10% management fee? And what does this claim say about the competency of city staff—some 7,000 strong. Is there nobody in-house who could oversee this work? If so it is a damning indictment of the organization.
- Notwithstanding the fact that the city has paid HWT over $4 Million since 2013, the organization continues to lose money. Is there a long term business plan to make the operation sustainable? If so, let’s see it.
- What happens after the Pier 8 properties are finally turned over for development and there are no more waterfront projects to hand to the HWT? Will it move on to overseeing non-waterfront projects on a sole-sourced basis? And if so what would be the justification?
It is disturbing that council, especially those serving on the HWT board, seem to place more importance on protecting and sustaining the HWT than fulfilling their sworn obligation as councillors to protect the public purse. One can only assume that the bullying that was evident towards Skelly last month also applies to any staff that might be uncomfortable with the way city policies and procedures have been distorted and in some cases ignored, in order to keep HWT afloat and to keep council and the public in the dark as much as possible.
HWT and its supporters continually point to the impressive network of trails and amenities as apparent justification for the continuation of current opaque practices; and as successful as the HWT has been in making the shoreline a people place; the ends cannot justify the means. There is no magic alchemy that we are aware of that would justify the perpetuation of the current relationship between the city and HWT. The Hamilton Waterfront Trust effectively fulfilled its mission of connecting people to the waterfront ten years ago. The organization deserves our thanks, but it is now well past the time to move on. Council to its shame, has shirked its responsibility repeatedly on this file.