Scott Park Seniors' Facility Needs More and Earlier Community Input

Citizens deserve better than to be treated like children when we offer to become engaged in plans that affect our communities.

By Paul Tetley
Published October 24, 2011

Public engagement, accountability and transparency. These three things are necessary in a well functioning city. They contribute to healthy communities. We should expect them from our elected officials. Most importantly, they should present in a democracy.

In 2010, Council unanimously approved $1.2 Million for the feasibility, planning and design work for a Seniors' Recreation Facility in the area formerly known as Scott Park. For over a year, Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli has stated: "Neighbourhood consultation with various stakeholders...will begin this winter" (Summer 2010), and "During all stages....extensive consultations with residents and groups in the neighbourhood" (Spring 2011).

To date no formal or organized consultations have occurred.

Two weeks ago, on the heels of the $5 Million cap for the Velodrome, Councillor Morelli brought forward a proposal for the money be redirected to the Seniors' Recreation should the Velodrome not proceed.

Council's approval of the proposal would mean $6.2 Million in secured funding without any public plan or community engagement. While I certainly welcome a new Seniors' Centre in my neighbourhood, I'm also greatly concerned that the vision and development of this project will have zero community input.

Last week, I emailed Councillor Morelli offering to organize a meeting for him to present his vision in the auditorium of the former Scott Park School. Below is his response.

Thank you for your e-mail. Plans are in the early stages of development. When details are more complete, neighbourhood will likely be informed of any scheduled meetings. As has been traditional, I am holding informal daily discussions with various individuals in the neighbourhood. If anyone wishes to speak with me, please do not hesitate to have them contact me directly.

I wasn't satisfied with his response, so I replied, pointing out that I hadn't asked for him to present details, only his vision for the project. I also asked whether I was correct to infer from his email that his vision was also in "early stages" and to suggest that, if so, perhaps the request for $5 million was premature. Below is his response.

You're welcome to infer anything and I'll leave the rest to your speculative imagination and I will relegate the harbouring of any of your excitements and/or commitments wherever, to you.

As with any major City project and as mentioned to you in my last e-mail, the neighbourhood will be advised at the appropriate time of any scheduled meetings. It would be expected as in most City projects that visions and potential visions would likely be shared at that time, subject to further comment and feedback..... Once again, as also mentioned earlier, I am speaking to a number of people on a daily basis and anyone is free to contact me at anytime to discuss the project and its current status.

I'm left feeling that informal - i.e. off-the-record - conversations are the best we can expect from our current Ward 3 Councillor. We will have no say as to when, or if, we are included in the project planning that will be spending our taxpayer dollars on a project that will greatly impact our community.

I fear our community involvement will once again be reduced to only an 'Open House' to view project renderings once all the decisions have been made through closed door meetings and "informal" conversations with the nameless.

We deserve better. We don't elect our officials to plan for our communities in a vacuum and treat us like small children when we offer to alleviate the lack of engagement.

The councillor encourages people to call him anytime to informally discuss the project. Council is meeting this Wednesday, and I encourage you to take the councillor up on his offer to learn more about his plan and its proposed location within the renamed Ivor Wynne Precinct.

If you do call Councillor Morrelli, please pass the information along to the Scott Park neighbourhood, as we'd like to know as well.

Paul is the founder of Ward 3 Residents Association, Parade of the Pumpkins and other community-based events. He lives in Ward 3 close to Ivor Wynne Stadium/Scott Park and ran in the 2010 Hamilton Municipal Election, finishing second to incumbent Councillor Bernie Morelli.


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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 11:43:55

You're welcome to infer anything and I'll leave the rest to your speculative imagination and I will relegate the harbouring of any of your excitements and/or commitments wherever, to you.

LOL, oh man... I would have preferred if he just came out and told me to fuck-off.

Good luck dealing with Bernie and his "traditionally informal" ways Paul, you'll need it.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 12:29:46

We deserve better. We don't elect our officials to plan for our communities in a vacuum and treat us like small children when we offer to alleviate the lack of engagement.

I'm loath to get all muddy here, given that over at Town Halls Hamilton, we're attempting to execute our inaugural town hall on November 10th ('An Evening with Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr'), and that I've already had to contend with certain 'players' in the city trying to foment a brand of 'turf mentality'...however, there is something obvious that needs to be said, and I should add that I'd have no problem at all saying it to anyone in any role at any level:

We, the residents of Hamilton, are the employers of all Councillors and the Mayor. In the past, we may not have taken that role as seriously as we might have, and many of us have entirely abrogated our civic and community responsibilities by way of a pretty crap voter turnout tradition, but that doesn't mean that the bottom-line isn't still the bottom-line...that we are the 'employers' and they are the employees.

We own our own local governance, yet we haven't consciously taken stewardship of it. To me that's a shame.

Owning it means, for example, that we have the right to conduct town halls. In fact, it's vital that, in due consideration of the power dynamic that exists...and I'll just refer you to aspects of Paul's article rather than yammer on about them...that town halls are not 'granted' to residents by Councillors.

Let me be perfectly clear here: nobody has a monopoly on town halls. Anyone can gather residents together to talk, to share information, to ask questions, to create dialogue and discourse. At the same time, it's a Councillor's right to decline to appear...within reason. However, it's not up to a Councillor to decide arbitrarily whether or not there's merit to a gathering, if it's something that should or shouldn't be executed. (I tend to think that if you had repeated instances of a Councillor not attending town halls organized by residents, then there would be a reaction to this action. At the next election.)

So having been in touch with various people over the past week about the idea of town halls in this particular ward (don't forget, there's an unfolding situation concerning Mission Services and Mohawk College that you can update yourself on here: and here: ) my reaction is this: get organized and put on a town hall. Put it on, invite your Councillor, invite any and all who you believe would be able to provide input and context...but at the very least, getting residents in a room to express how they're feeling about things, acknowledging commonalities and coming to some kind of agreement as to move forward can be accomplished. And you don't need any "employee's" permission.

Naturally, Town Halls Hamilton will provide whatever assistance we're able.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-10-24 13:41:00

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 08:43:21 in reply to Comment 70824

'An Evening with Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr'

Tell me more.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2011 at 09:11:29 in reply to Comment 70866

Time and such are at the top right of the Town Halls Hamilton site, mgrande.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 13:11:51

' When details are more complete, neighborhood will likely be informed of any scheduled meetings'

LOL so in other words ... 'Once we've made up our mind as to what to do , We MAY inform the neighborhood of any scheduled meetings. Just what is the point of the not informing the neighborhood of meetings about the neighborhood? My bet .. The five million goes to Bob young to build a parking lot, some how using the rationalization that seniors drive to TieCat games.

Perhaps it's time for a ward 3 town hall. I think the pearl company would be a great location, I'm sure Bernie would show up there.

Comment edited by rednic on 2011-10-24 13:12:35

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 14:30:39

I would think with the change of plans for the Ivor Wynne district, that that would also change the plans of the location of the seniors centre. Before, Ivor Wynne was to be tore down and likely housing was to go in it's place, and subsequently a seniors centre placed on the Scott Park grounds - or something like that.

Two things bother me about this:

1 - Most of all that we talk about Scott Park as if it's our property. Somebody owns Scott Park school. The city may think they will be able to get that property back, but I think we are a better community for talking to the owner and talking about a partnership with him if we want 'it' so bad - rather than looking for a loophole or waiting for him to fail. I'll repeat myself for a moment here:

Picture entering Scott Park School (and I have never been in there so bare with me). The front doors are glass from brick to brick. You enter, to be greeted by an information desk. The room sharply decorated and almost split in half. The right side, is almost childlike in it's bright, youthful decoration. The left, historical and sports-themed. Busts, trophy cases, framed jersey's, etc.

If you enter to the right, you walk into the community centre which also accesses Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool. It's history alone, compliments what you find upon making a left when entering the old High School.

When taking a left, you enter a joint venture between the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and the Hamilton Sports Hall of fame which is looking for a home and has already expressed interest to locate within the new stadium - how about close to it with some pieces of HSHoF and CFHoF memorabilia within the new stadium and the main Halls, being where the CFHoF original stood - at Scott Park.

The new homes of these two HoF, in an area that hundreds of thousands of sports fans will venture to throughout the CFL season alone, could occupy 5 floors. In turn, we create more attractions for fans to check out when visiting Ivor Wynne or tailgating at Scott Park Field.

I believe the owner of the the old Scott Park High, has dreams of turning it into a community centre, with his favourite part of the building being the auditorium/stage.

Why don't all parties from the City, the Cats, the current owner, citizens, and the boards from both hall of fames, get together to talk dreams.

2 - This district planning is supposed to be run by a committee - not one councillor. What about tailgating at Scott Park? That's one of the best aspects of the whole game day experience. How much would this new facility take away from the space currently available? What are the plans for Parkview/King George? Parking? I hope not. That wouldn't fit in with the feel of the 'neighbourhood.'

But these are just some of my concerns/dreams. By not sharing plans for this seniors centre, we are making plans for a district that was supposed to engage the citizens in it's planning.

Let's be a community.

By the way, the Stadium sub-committee has only met twice and we are almost exactly 9 months removed from the approval date. We don't have long to plan this and together, we could accomplish so much more.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-10-24 14:32:14

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 15:15:26 in reply to Comment 70836

When people refer to Scott Park, I think they refer to the park. That is, the 3 baseball diamonds and green-space that are adjacent to the school, not the privately-owned Scott Park school (now National Art College of Canada or some similar pretentious and misleading name).

Either way, while I dont' really see anything intrinsically wrong with a senior's centre, it kind of smells like vote-buying to me. Seniors are the most prevalent voters, so pandering to them seems like Morelli's way of staying in office while he ignores every other problem in his ward.

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By Stuart (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 15:37:40 in reply to Comment 70839

National Art College of Canada is gone (name removed above door) and I believe there is a new owner of the school. I read somthing about a change in ownership in The Spec ages ago.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 15:29:26 in reply to Comment 70839

I have no problem that he wants to make good on his campaign promise and a seniors centre is likely needed in that area and would probably be good for the Ward. Why so hell bent on that location?

I am not sure the residents would be okay with Scott Park field having any space taken away from the nice open field they have now and ball diamonds, etc.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 24, 2011 at 17:03:31 in reply to Comment 70841

Either way, that park's days are numbered. With the 9-figure numbers going into the stadium, there's no way that council is going to be leaving the nearby baseball fields unmolested. Timmis is already going to be a parking lot. Be thankful if Scott Park Field doesn't face the same fate.

It's only a matter of what is going to be built on that site, not whether something is getting that site.

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By GoGo (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 15:21:28 in reply to Comment 70839

You hit the nail on the head Pxtl! That is what Bernie promised the seniors the last election!

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 14:43:45 in reply to Comment 70836

A good thing to point out Lawrence, this Senior Centre was always being discussed in context of a replacement for Ivor Wynne. Now that we are keeping Ivor Wynne, where does this go? As you mentioned, there is the school, but it isn't the city's. If we're talking about ripping up youth recreation facilities (i.e., ball diamonds) to build a senior centre, I'm not too keen about that.

What are we even talking about? A senior centre that was proposed to replace Ivor Wynne should have died when Ivor Wynne was given a new lease on life no?

So, why are we even still talking about building this at all on that site? That's my first question.

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By Oh Really? (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2011 at 22:54:16 in reply to Comment 70838

Where did you get this information? It's factually incorrect.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 20:21:49

The points of critique are all fair. I can't come up with any reason why Bernie would attend this meeting. It is a beat up the councillor set up. It resonates like sour grapes from Tetly who lost the election, though I don't doubt his sincerity. I would like more info about this Ward 3 association that doesn't have a website link or email. As a concerned Ward 3 citizen I would love to know about this.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted October 25, 2011 at 06:10:14 in reply to Comment 70845

I can't come up with any reason why Bernie would attend this meeting. It is a beat up the councillor set up.

I hear this sentiment often. The idea of constituents 'beating up on' their representative.

But what does this mean, exactly? Within the context of there being a relationship between the residents and the Councillor?

If you've gotten to the point in any relationship...domestic, educational, workplace...where there's pent-up emotions due to frustration, anxiety, or just plain bad communication...then clearly, things haven't been maintained all that well, have they?

In any given situation, when you begin having town halls, there may well be a 'break-in' period where all these elements need to be given their due before the salient issues can be rationally and authentically dealt with.

So what?

We're human. We're emotional. We're chock-full of fears and resentments and misunderstandings...and hope and trust and communal spirit.

Besides; if you have a solid moderator at a town hall, then you manage the emotions and forge proceedings that are respectful, even convivial.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 21:02:00 in reply to Comment 70845

If anything resonates, it's the stink of Old-Boys-Club coming from Morelli's response. It's his JOB to get community input and when he says he's not going to involve the community until after a detailed plan is already made (if even then) there's something seriously wrong. Maybe Morelli wouldn't get beat up if he was doing his job and meeting with the community. The whole community, not one-off meetings where no one gets to hear anyone else.

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By South Stipley (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 20:33:54

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By wardThree association (anonymous) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 20:48:15 in reply to Comment 70846

on facebok!/groups/102941263108125/208456425889941/?notif_t=like

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By ward3 association (anonymous) | Posted October 24, 2011 at 20:35:37

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By TnT (registered) | Posted October 25, 2011 at 08:14:20

Oh don't misunderstand me: he absolutely should attend this. I am pointing out what I believe his attitude and perception of it would be.

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2011 at 11:53:35

Informal discussions = promise everything, deliver nothing

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