Giant ‘Hamil­ton’ sign will light up city hall It will cost $250,000 to $300,000, but tax­pay­ers are off the hook

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL

It’s taken a lit­tle longer than ex­pected, but the mayor’s plan for a huge eye-catch­ing sign on the fore­court of city hall goes be­fore coun­cil­lors this week.

Fred Eisenberger says the sign, which will spell “Hamil­ton” in giant il­lu­mi­nated let­ters, will cost $250,000 to $300,000 to build and in­stall but tax­pay­ers will pay “zero” for it.

“This is gift from the pri­vate sec­tor to the City of Hamil­ton for Canada 150,” he said.

The de­sign will be un­veiled at Thurs­day’s public works meet­ing. It’s based on sim­i­lar let­ter signs in cities such as Toronto and Am­s­ter­dam where they’ve proven pop­u­lar pho­to­graphic back­drops for tourists and res­i­dents alike.

“I think the de­sign is unique in the sense that it’s styl­ized, but it’s in that vein. It’s the ‘Hamil­ton’ name, noth­ing more dra­matic than that. It’s a par­tic­u­lar font with light­ing ca­pa­bil­ity and vari­able light­ing op­tions.”

Eisenberger says the de­signer is lo­cal but de­clines to re­veal the name un­til coun­cil has seen the re­port.

He’s also keep­ing the pri­vate donors un­der wraps un­til the ini­tia­tive is ap­proved. The plan is to hon­our them with name plaques at­tached to the let­ters.

Eisenberger re­vealed he was round­ing up pri­vate fund­ing for the sign as part of Canada’s 150th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions at the an­nual Cham­ber of Com­merce mayor’s break­fast in May.

P.J. Mer­canti, CEO of Car­men’s hos­pi­tal­ity group, and Laura Bab­cock, pres­i­dent of Pow­er­group Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, are spear­head­ing the project on his be­half.

Ac­cord­ing to Eisenberger, he’s spo­ken to all mem­bers of coun­cil about it ex­cept for two he was un­able to con­nect with. Of those con­sulted, he says all sup­port the idea ex­cept for one who was non­com­mit­tal.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Eisenberger has picked up some com­mu­nity crit­i­cism along the way.

Some com­plain the sign is an unin­spired copy of what oth­ers cities have done. Oth­ers ar­gue that for such an im­por­tant public space as the city hall fore­court there should be a de­sign com­pe­ti­tion to cre­ate a unique work of art.

Both are valid points. But in his own de­fence, Eisenberger says the idea is to get the sign lit up dur­ing the sesqui­cen­ten­nial year. An open com­pe­ti­tion would have com­pli­cated things.

“We could have gone down that road but it would have taken a heck of a lot longer, and the idea was to make it a Canada 150 event. To do it some­time next year wouldn’t have had the same ca­chet.”

The mayor ini­tially thought he’d be able to bring the plan to coun­cil last month but it was side­tracked by the cru­cial de­bate over LRT.

“We kind of lost our mo­men­tum, but we’re back and we want to be able to get it done for this year.” Speak­ing of LRT … Eisenberger says he won’t sup­port Matthew Green’s im­pend­ing mo­tion ask­ing Metrolinx to en­sure that the light rail sys­tem will be run by the city-owned HSR in­stead of a pri­vate com­pany.

Green, who orig­i­nally in­tended to in­tro­duce the mo­tion Mon­day, is hold­ing off un­til a spe­cial LRT meet­ing Aug. 9.

Eisenberger fully sup­ports union mem­bers work­ing for the pri­vate con­trac­tor who will ul­ti­mately be hired to de­sign, build, op­er­ate and main­tain the $1-bil­lion LRT sys­tem. And there is noth­ing to pre­clude that con­trac­tor ne­go­ti­at­ing with HSR to run the sys­tem.

But he says Green’s mo­tion to “man­date” that HSR run the sys­tem is “too ab­so­lute” and “be­trays” the pro­cure­ment model set out in the signed mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment be­tween the city and Metrolinx.

“The mo­ment you open up an agree­ment, that leaves it open to chang­ing other things as well. I think that’s the dan­ger and I don’t think that’s nec­es­sary.”

Eisenberger agrees with Sam Merulla that the mo­tion would be a re­con­sid­er­a­tion vote re­quir­ing a two-thirds ma­jor­ity to pass. Hav­ing al­ready crossed so many ma­jor LRT hur­dles, Eisenberger doubts coun­cil will be will­ing to raise a new one in the project’s path.

“I think many would be loath to take an­other step back.”

An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. adreschel@thes­ 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

This is a gift from the pri­vate sec­tor to the City of Hamil­ton for Canada 150. MAYOR FRED EISENBERGER

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.