Special Report: Pearl Company

Pearl Company Issue Indicative of City Attitude Toward Investment

Until the city's reaction to new investments is 'how can we help and make this work', Hamilton will continue to lose opportunities to those communities with a more positive engaging approach.

By Roland Dube
Published October 01, 2010

The Pearl Company situation is indicative of the overall attitude that resonates through almost every crevice of the political and bureaucratic process in The City Of Hamilton.

My Anecdotal example in trying to open Rolly Rocket's BBQ is different but equally ridiculous.

We had no zoning issues. We were opening a restaurant/bar in a location that was a restaurant/tavern/hotel/bar for 150 years! We followed the process as laid out by all City officials involved.

We went above and beyond what should have been required by hiring and engaging professionals who were familiar with the process of trying to open a business in Hamilton - two lawyers, an architect, an engineer, a licensing Consultant, and various licensed contractors.

We canvassed the neighbourhood, held open houses, creating a completely transparent application which was not reciprocated by the City.

We kept a completely open dialogue with the City, only to have our project opposed anyway. We only found out about the opposition by an internal source within the licensing agency (all the while we were in constant communication with those who triggered the opposition and yet they gave us NO indication there was an issue).

There was no basis for the opposition. It was simply used as leverage to attempt to have us change our project to suit the personal agendas of those who have no appreciation or comprehension for the sacrifice, effort and commitment that was being made to invest in this project.

We have every confidence the City would have failed completely should their opposition had reached the hearing stage. The city representatives were anticipating the time and added cost would be enough for us to bend to their whims.

It wasn't until City representatives realized the community was backing our project and they had more to lose than gain by upholding their frivolous opposition, finally they lamented - but not until we had incurred significant cost and loses with a delayed opening.

Miraculously, once the realization of the communities position on the matter came to light, enough could not have been done for us to help the process along. The only problem is that the damage was done. Although we appreciated the new change in attitude and new found co-operation, it leaves a very bitter taste that it had to happen the way it did in the first place.

The bottom line is that the City of Hamilton needs to do more than pay lip service and not just "say" they are making changes. They need to actually change the systemic negative "You Can't Do That" attitude and indoctrinate a "How can we" attitude.

The City's initial reaction to every project should be how can we help and make this work. Until this is a reality, we will continue to lose opportunities to those communities with a positive engaging approach.

Roland Dube is married with two children. He was born and raised in Hamilton. He has lived in the North End, East End, and Mountain, and now resides in Stoney Creek Mountain. He attended St Jean de Brebeuf High School and attended a professional "Organizational Behaviour" program at McMaster University. Professionally he has worked most of his adult life in sales, marketing and business develompent, and worked as VP of business develompent with an international health care recruiting firm. His last job before starting Rolly Rockets BBQ was with a development company researching and negotiating the purchases of developable property in Ontario, so he is somewhat familiar with the business practices of various municipalities in Southern Ontario.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2010 at 11:03:19

... so the obvious question is, what did they want you to change? That 11pm vs 2am thing? Was it the same octegenarian anti-fun wing that rules Westdale?

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By onaRail (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 14:36:47

another bit of the iceberg has been unveiled. i'M conviced the Pearl and Rolly Rockets, are just the tip of the iceberg in this town. Personally, I worry about the unheard majority that either suffered silently, failed, or left town to tell their friends and associates to never consider Hamilton.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2010 at 15:04:25

AGREED! 100%

I think we all know after the Pan Am Stadium fiasco (if we didn't know before!) that there are people who are allowed to make money & 'innovate?' in Hamilton.

Same old, same old boyz & 'Biddness as usual'! No others need apply.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2010 at 15:52:20

The bottom line is that the City of Hamilton needs to do more than pay lip service and not just "say" they are making changes. They need to actually change the systemic negative "You Can't Do That" attitude and indoctrinate a "How can we" attitude.

I agree completely.

I've had some very interesting conversations with people in the business community in Hamilton this summer, leading me to feature editorials such as this one: http://mystoneycreek.blogspot.com/2010/0...

Any time it's a culture you need to be looking at changing and not just a bylaw here or a clause there or a policy element wherever, you've got your hands full. The sad thing is that I'm not of the opinion that Hamiltonians in the main appreciate just how bad things are because of this 'culture of obstructionism' at City Hall. (Though noting that we currently have only 17% of the tax revenue pie being contributed by the business community should be reason for people to start asking questions...and demanding answers.)

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2010-10-01 14:52:44

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted October 01, 2010 at 19:21:03

There are two factors at work here which tend to reinforce each other.

The first is a fairly open class-based prejudice that people who aren't "rich" (and these guys have a fairly pricey definition if they reject people like Gary Santucci) aren't capable of owning or running establishments which are good for the area. Buildings are better off vacant and owned by big well-connected developers than individuals, because then they'd be opened as something silly and it would be a real pain to evict them to put the building to a proper use. And if the local elites can't do it, we're better off importing failed real estate tycoons like Harry Stinson than opening up the process to people who make $800 000/year or less.

The second is an institutional culture which tends to believe that the process is more important than the product. The assessment of a new project is based far more on how they "play the game" than the actual pros and cons of the situation on the ground. An enormous number of petty, personal politics come into play here. There's little if any real assessment of whether the process itself is hindering startups, or whether people who were rejected "deserved it". Likewise, there is little or any assessment of the effects of such laws and departments in past generations.

When combined, we have a bureaucratic atmosphere which really only trusts strip mall and condo developers, out of a perceived fear that all hell would break loose if they started to allow innovative projects. They hold out hope, while neighbourhoods crumble, that some big cash cow project will appear to "save the day". This then translates to an open fear and disdain for the people of these "decaying" neighbourhoods, blaming them for the problems, and further reinforces the need for some big investment project to rescue the area.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2010 at 12:35:53

^nailed it.


last night's performance by Tom Wilson at the Pearl was fantastic. I even enjoyed a drink at Rebel's Rock bar beforehand. Without the Pearl, I don't think i would ever be in this neighbourhood, and that is a shame.

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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2010 at 18:43:45

Henry and Joe

We are only one month into our fall season and didn't think we would eclipse the magic of the two sold out Rita Chiarelli concerts. Tom Wilson with Lee Harvey Osmond and the opening set with Harlan Pepper just soared to another level. Paul Tetley and his wife Deborah have become great supporters of the Pearl Company; attending many concerts and purchasing art produced by our local artists. When he approached us about doing the Fundraiser for his Campaign for Change, we knew that he would be taking a risk, however he wanted to support our efforts and show that great things could happen in ward 3. I believe that's what leadership is all about. Henry and Joe I'm glad you stopped by Rebel's Rock. We always refer all of our performers there for their pre-concert meals and they are never disappointed. We also have the Victoria Curling Club,tucked away behind King Street and of course the Greek Bakery at King and Ashley, just to mention a few.

Come Back Soon!

Gary Santucci

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 03, 2010 at 19:20:05

I was there too, and yes it was a whole new level of magic. I've seen Tom Wilson several times and a number of performances at the Pearl, but there was something special about last night. (I think the surprise appearance by Brent Titcombe may have had more than a little something to do with it.) My friends and I are still talking about it.

Henry & Joe, too bad I didn't know you were there. Next time you go out in public, please where a Henry & Joe name tag, and I'll promise to where my 'highwater' t-shirt!

Gary, thanks for the tour of your eyrie. The Pearl is so worth fighting for.

Comment edited by highwater on 2010-10-03 18:20:39

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted October 03, 2010 at 22:28:12

Hey Gary, thanks for your reply, and for making me aware of the Victoria Curling Club. Some friends and I are looking for a place to curl this winter. We'll definitely check that out.

@ Highwater... lol..i don't have a clothing line yet, but maybe I can make up a pin in the meantime.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted October 04, 2010 at 01:31:23


City of Hamilton total employee wages/benefits

2009 $ 656,149
2008 $ 574,360
2007 $ 532,177
2006 $ 493,281
2005 $ 466,359

Hamilton population

2009 525,697
2008 519,109
2007 518,181
2006 515,214
2005 518,745

City Wage/benefit costs per resident

2009 $1,248
2008 $1,106
2007 $1,027
2006 $957
2005 $899

According to the 2010 economic accounts for the Province of Ontario, total wages in Ontario (2005-09) have gone from $289,997 to $323,911, a jump of 11.7%, less than that on a per capita basis.

In contrast, for the City of Hamilton, public sector, city worker wages/benefits per resident have jumped 38.8% in the same time period.

If we are concerned about having a strong, dynamic local economy, does it make sense to give 3x more money to public sector workers than our private sector workers?

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 04, 2010 at 08:37:13

Even though that post was rational from A Smith does it get voted down because he is really A Hole?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 04, 2010 at 08:42:56

^ I don't know about A Hole but he's definately a Black Hole of debate from which no reasoning can escape.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2010 at 10:19:28

A Smith gets voted down because he frequently pulls conversations very far off topic, and people have gotten used to scanning and dismissing his comments, especially when they appear from afar as lists of percentages masquerading as an argument for tax reform.

I agree he raises a good question here, and I believe that overpaid city staff who have no sense of responsibility and no incentive to make the city succeed is a major problem for Hamilton and a significant road block to investors.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted October 05, 2010 at 11:40:49

Where's zookeeper when you need him/her?

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