It’s been several years since the Hamilton Waterfront Trust used up the $6 million trust fund it was created to administer, now it is without a chairperson with the sudden resignation of Bernie Mueller. It also has no visible means of support with the drying up of sole-sourced city construction contracts that kept it alive. Yet somehow, like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it soldiers on. The Trust now has a new board of directors, consisting of Councillors Kroetsch, Alex Wilson and Mike Spadafora. Traditionally the Board has also had citizen representation, but with the departure of Mr. Mueller, it is not clear whether that position will be filled or not. Actually, not much of anything is clear about the HWT, which is a bit surprising given the current composition of the board.
Last fall, thanks to an inadvertent lapse, there was open public discussion about the likely wind-down of the organization and the retirement of its executive director, Werner Plessl. It turned out all of that had only been discussed in closed meetings of the HWT and as such, was not supposed to be discussed publicly, but it was. Chair Mueller fired off a letter complaining about the breach, noting that it left many seasonal employees wondering if their jobs were in peril. Apologies were given and Mueller declared the matter closed, but now he is gone.
Given the accidental spilling of the beans, and the departure of Mr. Plessl, is there any reason for discussions about the future of the Waterfront Trust to be held in camera any more? You wouldn’t have to be Nostradamus to guess that the Williams coffee pub and all the summer activities will likely end up under the wing of (wild guess here) the city’s recreation department. The public enjoy these facilities and there is no chance council will shut them down. Public works already has management of the trails. There is an investigation by the Provincial Ombudsman that has been dragging on for part of two years that could still qualify. one supposes, for in-camera discussion. Most of what the Ombudsman investigates with municipalities is the misuse of in-camera meetings, and if the organization is about to disappear, we probably could let that one pass.
The Hamilton Waterfront Trust has had a great 20-odd year run, and it has fulfilled its mandate of connecting people to the water. One could argue that all of this could have been done by city departments, but that point is moot now. Its great work in creating trails and amenities was tainted unnecessarily by its secrecy and in the case of the Sarcoa debacle, incompetence, but it is now water under the bridge. If this year is the denouement of the organization, let it be done in the open.
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