Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 16, 2005

From B.I.G.To B.I.I.Ger To B.I.I.I.Gest

For all of you cynics out there, you should hang your head in shame. Premier McGuinty made a major announcement for Windsor. Can you believe it. It took 5 months of dedicated, full-time effort, probably with teams of experts, for this to happen. The "Border Implementation Group" has become the "Border Initiative Implementation Group." BIG has become BIIGer.

The appointment of Michael Kergin should also cause us great excitement. He has a job to "to deliver a new Detroit River crossing no later than 2013." I hate to be a wet blanket but wasn't that the timetable of the Bi-national Partnership already that everyone has said is too long to wait? I thought the Premier wanted to expedite matters

I do think that Mr. Kergin is the right guy though. From his biography, I see that he was posted in Cameroon, Chile and Cuba, all underdeveloped areas. He should be right at home in Windsor after the auto industry takes away thousands of jobs from here and with little in the way of economic develoment in view!

We should be grateful for small miracles. It looks like 34 government people will be involved in the project. If they are all out-of-towners, we will have a few people replacing the hundreds of auto workers who will be leaving for St. Thomas and Oakville.

Kergin "will work with provincial officials, the federal government and the City of Windsor." It is clear that a former Ambassador is needed to work with these warring factions if we are ever to get a solution.

I wonder if the City is now snubbing its former ally. Not a word in the Press Release from our Mayor who praised the Premier previously. If you see the Mayor with a black eye, it is because he was hit across the head by a 2 X 4! The Feds and Province have just told him in no uncertain words that they have no desire to spend money to follow or carry out his billion dollar short-term dream. They know there is NO short-term problem at the border so why spend the cash!

The Feds have voters to buy in the next election with their budget surplus for heaven's sake. They cannot waste it on matters like our economic well-being. And Ontario is now a "have-not" province so we don't have the money at all

The Mayor may as well cancel the Schwartz contract and save some fees that way rather than keep spending money to pay for services that are not required any longer.

I also notice that Mr. Salmons' name was not mentioned in the press release. Now that would have been rubbing it into the faces of his former bosses at City Hall.

I believe that the weather helped the Premier today. I understand that his plane could not arrive in Windsor so he did his conference by phone. Better that way than to be laughed out of Windsor after this joke of pretending to be concerned about what happens to Windsorites or the economies of North America.

I bet the Americans will be mad that they are not included in this. Pretty soon we will see BIIIG: the Border International Initiative Implementation Group.

B.I.G. Deal

BORDER CZAR ANNOUNCEMENT COMING. CKLW reported that Premier Dalton McGuinty is to visit Windsor to announce who will be the special advisor on border issues. Former City of Windsor senior manager Steve Salmons is to head up a border office in Windsor. That office is to be part of the announcement.

This must be a BIG announcement since the Premier is coming here. Clearly, the Premier is concerned about Windsor's BIG problems. Why he stated only 5 months ago on April 19th, 2005, in a speech in Washington D.C., "his intention to create a new Border Implementation Group to oversee the important upcoming phase of border improvements. The chair of this blue ribbon task force will be appointed shortly and will report directly to the Premier."


Another way to pretend to be doing something when doing nothing.

Steve Salmons must be pleased. Back in 2004, a Star headline stated "Demoted manager quits post." Three weeks after he left as CEO of the Windsor Public Library, he was hired as a senior policy adviser with the Management Board of Cabinet. And now he is back in Windsor to work with his former bosses.

Who said McGuinty Liberals do not have a sense of humour. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the first BIG meeting between Salmons and his former bosses.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Premier is coming, The Premier is coming!

Joe Comartin better start worrying!

I hear the Premier of Ontario is coming to town tomorrow and is to make a border announcment. Who the heck picked this time when the CAW is negotiating an agreement.

1,100 Ford jobs gone, a chance of 1,500 Chrysler jobs going and who knows how many spin-off jobs. What about GM? What were his strategists thinking?

But what a great set-up for Eddie! What great co-incidental timing. Gord Henderson's column actually mentioned him by name today. It's not Eddie's fault we are in a mess. He's merely a "victim of bad timing." He's just not "lucky."

But all is not lost....we will have to buy the Star on Saturday to see what Gord's solution will be. Gord tells us there a "light at the end of the tunnel" [I hope he does not mean the DRTP Tunnel].

Gord will be able to incorporate McGuinty's announcement to demonstrate how well Eddie is working for us. I wonder if Gord's solution will include begging Eddie to go to Ottawa to be our champion there: to get us money for the border, to get us what St. Thomas and Oakville got for the auto industry. I guess all of us will just have to wait.

The Premier clearly has to endorse Schwartz and offer up some goodies because Sandra and Dwight have to get re-elected. Can't have all of those other auto cities getting the money and not the town of two powerful Cabinet Ministers! And there has to be a carrot of jobs for infrastructure work to start soon. We have lost too many already. I bet Dwight can take credit for that $500 million Gong show promise that he was forced to disown. Wow it's 2010 already!

Then Windsor's own PM Paul Martin and Eddie can negotiate the terms of the deal for Eddie to run federally "mano a mano." I hope that Eddie is a very good negotiator on these kinds of things.

I told you that The Real Plan! The Real Plan! has started

Joe, you better get out there campaigning already. The election will be in March, 30 days after the Gomery Report comes out. Or is there a Senate vacancy in Ontario?

Windsor's own, PM Paul Martin is coming to town tomorrow too for a fundraiser I was told. I guess the Three Amigos will be getting together if they are all around for a meeting about something important. (Don't worry, Gord's source will leak all the details so we can read about it in his Saturday column)

Bartown or Ghost Town...OR A New Urban Village?

I like Mark Boscariol. He has a tough job as DBIA President and a tougher one as a person who has invested his money in our City Centre. We have spent time exchanging emails and having a coffee (at his restaurant) talking about downtown. We don't always agree, and that's the fun of exchanging ideas, but we both want a better Windsor.

Isn't that the choice that he and his DBIA members are facing? Give him credit for thinking about downtown Windsor and trying to do something about it.

  • "A section of Pelissier Street risks becoming a "dead zone" if the city shuts down the retail section of a municipal parking garage, the head of the downtown business association warned Tuesday.

    Mark Boscariol said foot traffic along the 400-block of Pelissier Street will disappear if the ground floor commercial space reverts to parking."

Why would the City want to chase away retailers from the area: "[Gereige] pays the city about $2,000 a month for rent --more than what he paid Mady last year. Gereige believes the city upped the rent to scare away tenants."

If Mark and his members will understand that the downtown is being deliberately shifted eastward to the new Casino complex, then what is being done will be understandable. Why else would the City of Windsor's official plan be changed to confine "kiddie bars" to the downtown core. What retailer would want to open a new store or keep open an existing store in Bartown? If there are no retailers, who cares about pedestrians?

As the Mayor said in a Star story "Downtown is a place where you can live, work and play." What is conspicuously absent from the Mayor's listing is the word "shop!" There is no desire to have a retail element in what was once a thriving downtown when I moved to Windsor.

Good luck in getting "public debate on the issue so that businesses can make their case to council." Debate as much as you want Downtown BIA. The decision to help the Casino and to move the downtown was made a long time ago. We just did not know it, until now.

UPDATE: And Mark, you have bigger problems now since it looks like the University could not make a deal to go to a downtown campus. Who is going to fill up all of that empty space now?

I liked your concept about Kalamazoo in the Star today. (I would prefer it be more like Ann Arbor to be honest!)

Hey I have a real good idea. How about you and I going to meet Beztak and Chuck Mady and trying to convince them to build an urban village in the Windsor West area along the lines you have suggested with a new University/College campus as the focus. I have some ideas about other partners as well who I think would be interested. Perhaps Caroline and Ron, the Councillors in Ward 2, would like to help too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities

Chatham, Ontario

A new call centre is opening in Chatham, bringing some 300 jobs to the city. Minacs Worldwide says it will open a 33-hundred-square-metre facility early next year.

Windsor, Ontario

Windsorites are fearful of a bleak economic future as the effect of having 1,100 fewer Ford jobs trickles through the local economy.

We in Windsor really shouldn't worry so much. After all, didn't we have recently the major announcement of the Keg opening up a new restaurant downtown! All those high paying jobs to help revitalize the community. <sarcasm intended>

Heck, things are so good here that we can chase a developer out of town who wanted to help build us an arena and an urban village in that part of the city that needs major improvement, the West End.

I just read in the Star the other day that the Mayor said that a new economic development report will be released shortly which "paints a 'bleak picture' for the future of Windsor and Essex County if the region does not diversify its economy."

Really! Did we need another report to tell us the obvious. But then again, economic development does not appear to be high on the list of "things to do" by this Administration. To give one example, Dennis Perlin of Enterprise Windsor just announced he is leaving town. I would have thought that his replacement should have been announced right away. I didn't hear of anyone.

Check out the Mayor's Report Card to see how little has really been accomplished in this area

Back in those pre-election days, the Mayor promised as part of his platform:
  • "Many cities across North America have identified and are seeking to develop their cities as technological growth areas. Windsor cannot be left behind.

    We need to plan how we are going to capture this business in a highly co-ordinated fashion.

    I will set up a task force to develop a strategy for helping us gain the huge potential of the knowledge industry

I think it is about time for that Task Force to be set up! I think it is about time we start doing something before it is too late.

Oh, and by the way, I just learned yesterday about a company that is very interested in opening a Call Centre in Windsor. It's about 40-60 new jobs. I think I'll give Dennis Perlin a call before he goes to let him know about the opportunity. Hmmmm I wonder whom he should call at City Hall to have this followed up? Perhaps that person might also want to talk to me about my idea for wireless broadband for the entire City building upon Enwin's fibre infrastructure. That might help out the Mayor's Task Force if it is ever set up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Guest Column The Windsor Star Refused To Print

I wrote the following note some time ago, or a version of it, several times and asked the Star to publish it as a "Guest Column." Unfortunately, I have not had any success. I still believe that its message is current.

The Star has just undertaken a series of steps---front page news story, Henderson column, editorial cartoon, Editorial--attacking the "secrecy" of the Bridge Company over the state of the bridge structure. It is now clear that the attack articles were really designed to try persuade people that a "publicly" owned crossing is the way to go.

The Star's actions may bolster as well the failed Plan of Mayor Eddie Francis, the billion dollar short-term dream when there is no short-term problem. Eddie needs Federal statute Bill C-44 passed if he is ever to accomplish whatever he wants to do on the border.

I believe that my solution makes better sense than what the Star advocates. Look how poorly the City has handled the Tunnel: the declining volumes and increased costs. Why is the Star so interested in having a multi-hundred million dollar lawsuit between the Government and the Bridge Co?

My solution is a good middle position that accomplishes what I believe everyone can live with!


I never thought the Cleary performance where the City snubbed the two Senior Levels could be topped. But I was wrong. Provincial Liberal Ministers Duncan and Caplan announced out of the blue that the Province had committed $500 million of new money to Windsor for the border (although they were unable to provide specifics on the spending and it was not even available until 2010). The next day, they had to apologize for revealing it! The "Gong Show" as Gord Henderson called it.

What a dismal outlook, with no political leadership at any level in sight. Thank goodness for "private enterprise."

Thank goodness for the Ambassador Bridge Company!

There I said it. Like them or not, one has to respect that, while the politicians flail away, the Bridge Company moves forward with their vision of a reasonable and practical solution for the border. I am saying publicly what most in Windsor already know but which, for some reason, people are afraid or choose not to give Matty Moroun, the company's owner, the credit he deserves.

Forget the public/private arguments and the charges of monopolistic power which the Bi-national Partnership demonstrated are untrue. If you look at the numbers post 9/11including those at "public" crossings, the Bridge Company is slowly but surely building back its traffic over time. It must be doing something right.

Sure it is doing this to make money. What a crime that appears to be to some! But they have to stay in business also and be competitive so they have learned not to waste money either. Can we say the same for our politicians?

The Bridge Company solved our immediate border problem without spending $150 million of taxpayer money as DRTP wanted and without destroying the heart of Windsor. It fought the US Government for over a year to get the four new US Customs booths opened and staffed fully so that truck backups on Huron Church Road have virtually been eliminated. Ask our Deputy Chief of Police. His big problem on Huron Church is speeders today, not traffic jams.

Now its newest announcement surprises the City. The Bi-national engineers admitted that their truck traffic projections were wrong such that their projections are off by 10 years. The Bridge Company’s new short/medium term solution for the border addresses that issue and even raises the question whether we need another crossing. Simply put, if 4 new customs booths work to end backups so well, then dramatically increasing the total number to 200 ought to work even better! It ought to keep trucks from being backed up on Huron Church Road and cars from blocking Goyeau and Wyandotte. Our redundancy is provided by a similar project in Sarnia. It minimizes social and environmental concerns on both sides of the border while the Bridge Company finances the project at their expense, not taxpayers.

Our Mayor, who is on the Tunnel Commission, reacted by merely talking about protecting the Tunnel’s competitive position in the cross-border market-place. Never mind that what the Bridge Company proposed would help the Mayor salvage the Schwartz Plan, which the Senior levels are ignoring, and help boost our economic development. The Mayor seems more concerned with Tunnel and Duty-Free Shop Revenues than the well-being of Windsor.

Let’s get real. We cannot rely on our politicians. They have proven to be failures at all levels. It has been how long since Gridlock Sam has issued his Report. Where is the promised action?

Where is the Agreement amongst the three levels of Government on our side to move forward aggressively considering that the US Ambassador to Canada said that he wanted a crossing now and the US might even pay for 50% of its cost!

Aren’t we all tired of hearing the Federal lackeys come to town telling us how important our border crossing is for the future of North America and then do absolutely nothing. They hide behind the multi-year Bi-National process and set aside not one penny for the border in the Federal Budget. The Premier wants a new bridge built now but who is the proponent for the lengthy Bi-National environmental process: the Ontario Government. He offers only a fraction of the money needed to build the "horseshoe" road knowing the Feds won’t pay the balance and the City cannot. And then there is the $500 million Gong Show money.

Windsorites have to ensure that our politicians do not mess things up. What we must insist upon is that the City meet the Bridge Company to form a strategic alliance that is in the interest of all of the parties, whether in Windsor or the rest of Ontario and Canada. We need a real short/medium term solution, not a billion dollar pipedream, that leads to the best crossing, if one is actually needed, and at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.

The City needs a strong partner with money, clout and strong US connections, who knows how to run a border crossing and who is an employer and taxpayer of the City. And whom the Senior Levels fear.

Mayor Francis is a clever young man. It should not be hard for him and Council to work with the Bridge Company to negotiate a satisfactory arrangement that makes sense for taxpayers financially, environmentally and socially. The Bridge Company has said again that its solution can fit in exactly with the City’s preferred Schwartz corridor. Then Windsor and the Bridge Company can let the Senior Levels know that it is Windsorites that are calling the shots so that we may get finality at last!

Update: Dropping The Ball: MFP Revisited

So the Mayor thinks we have done "The Right Thing."

He did however, make a slight math error in the Star story. He neglected to mention the extra $68 million taxpayers will have to pay out because of the MFP scandal. He also neglected to say why he refuses to take any action to try and recover that sum of money from parties who may have a legal responsibility.

With savings like the ones the Mayor said we have received, no wonder the City is in a budget bind!

Hmmmm I wonder how much per household per year that $68 million is.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Where In The World Is CITISTAT?

Citistat was the crown jewel of the Eddie Francis Mayoral campaign. It was what separated Eddie from Bill Marra. It helped him get elected.

Citistat is a real-time performance measurement tool that the City of Baltimore developed that was designed to improve operational efficiency and staff accountability throughout local government. Strategies are developed and employed, managers held accountable, and results measured week to week.

Citistat relies on Microsoft Excel for the spreadsheets and Arcview mapping software, both of which are available to the Windsor. Citistat would cost virtually nothing to buy and nothing for training but would save the City millions of dollars every year that would result in lower taxes.

Why has it never been implemented?

Remember what Eddie said in the Star during the election

  • “Francis said he will borrow cost-saving ideas from American cities.

    Baltimore manages all its municipal functions through a computer program called CitiStat. Data on every pothole, sewer backup and police call is plugged into the program and statistics are automatically generated. Baltimore credits CitiStat with reducing crime, absenteeism among municipal staff, overtime and illegal dumping, saving $43 million in two years.

    CitiStat updates statistics daily, making city departments more accountable for their spending, Francis said. "In the real world, performance is evaluated every day ... not yearly."

I had seen a report that was prepared for Eddie by Sue Braiden in January, 2004 that seemed to provide justification for moving forward

I wanted to know where we stood today on Citistat. The best information on the Mayor’s webpage that I could find was his 2004 Annual report [*This report is not the final draft. This report will be updated periodically. Check back here for future updates.*] Citistat was shown as “In Progress.” Hardly the timely reporting that we should be entitled to expect. Hardly evaluation every day….not yearly!

The problem is that the Mayor’s failure to implement Citistat is costing us real dollars. Eddie in his election Platform expressed his commitment about the value of Citistat in this manner:

  1. Once implemented, Citistat will free up dollars to be applied against future debt.
  2. Citistat will: Reduce operating costs
    Increase revenue streams
    Reduce lost time from absenteeism and accidents
    Eliminate cost over runs in purchasing
    Identify new efficiencies

Eddie went on to say that “Estimated savings will amount to $10 million per year. Based on the success of other municipalities using Citistat annual savings growth increases over time.”

We have gone through 2 budget cycles under Eddie’s regime and are just about to start the third. No Citistat.

Using Eddie’s numbers, the City has not saved at least $20 million so far plus annual savings increases. Even assuming that there is a will to implement Citistat, and I see no evidence of that commitment, how long would it take to bring it into effect. I would suggest that it would take at least 2 years since that is how long it took to implement the 3-1-1 program. Zero-based budgetting for all City Departments is still being carried out. Citistat seems to be a very complex program also.

That means at least another $10-20 plus million lost, or $30-40 million plus in total that could have been used for all kinds of City purposes like paying down debt or lowering taxes or fixing infrastructure or etc etc .

It should not be that big a deal for Windsor anyway. My understanding is that Windsor Police have a version of Citistat that they have been using for years now. Isn’t the Mayor on the Windsor Police Commission? Why can’t the City learn from that experience and take advantage of the expertise already developed?

To quote Eddie again: “Mayor O’Malley of Baltimore said “CitiStat brings the sense of urgency that we need around here. It has already produced a much deeper and faster culture of accountability,” the mayor said. It has produced millions in savings. Citizens of Windsor should expect no less.” Amen to that!

Part III- The Ambassador Bridge Is Falling Down...

Wow. The Star is really hammering the Ambassador Bridge Company isn't it.

On the week-end, we saw an editorial cartoon and today an Editorial. This followed the front-page story in the Star that started all of this and a Gord Henderson Column.

I cannot remember this kind of attention on one issue in a long-time. Ths strange part is, what prompted it? Dave Battegello's story just appeared out of nowhere. It wasn't a new story either. We had heard Schwartz say this months before.

I guess the Star must really concerned about our safety isn't it? If so, then where are the stories demanding that the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel open up its books too. The Tunnel seems to have some big problems that are costing the City many more dollars than expected. After all, isn't the Mayor the head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission?

But there is more to this than what it seems on the surface. Rumour has it that the Mayor will be speaking to Windosr's own Prime Minister Martin about the border soon. The flurry of Star excitement might convince the PM that Bill C-44 needs passing as Gord Henderson demanded. Bill C-44 is really Eddie's underpinning for The Plan! The Plan!

No the series of Star attacks has very little to do with the structural integrity of the Bridge. Rather, they are really in furtherance of the Star crusade to make the next crossing a public one. The Editorial finishes off by saying:
  • "This community desperately needs another border crossing and the controversy over the Ambassador Bridge's maintenance records is just one more reason why that new crossing should be fully financed and owned by the public.
    The vital role ... can best be protected by public ownership, public scrutiny and public vigilance."

I will provide tomorrow a copy of the "Guest Column" that I have tried to have the Star publish on a number of occasions, but which they have refused to do, in which I have argued a different point of view.