Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Scorecard

I gave a speech the other day to a local Service Club and one of the things I talked about was my view of the job that our Mayor and Councillors were doing. Co-incidentally, one of my readers suggested that it was time for me to do an assessment on the Mayor and Council.

It is slightly less than one year before the next election and people are starting to talk about who will run, will Eddie be challenged, and will the turnout be large or small thereby favouring the incumbents. It is interesting as well seeing the Councillors jockeying for position and just starting to break away from the unanimity façade that they have been trying to promote for two years now.

So let me deal with each of the Councillors and then the Mayor and let me give my opinion after watching them for the past two years.

Ward One

Dave Brister---Imagine the rush…from Senior Business Analyst to the equivalent of a Senior VP Finance in a large company.

Dave is bright, hard-working, and articulate. He may be a terrific analyst at his employer but he needs to grow to become a “Councillor” finally. He has to learn that he is not an employee of the Finance Dept but more like a member of a Board who must have a broad perspective. He gets too buried in the minutiae. The question is whether he is capable of doing so since it has been two years already since the last election.

His questions at Council are totally predictable. If it has to do with money, there is Dave. Most often Administration has the answer, and his smirk as he turns off the microphone and the way he pushes it aside with a flair suggests that he likes to hear his own voice rather than gain information.

I wonder why he never had undertaken the forensic audit of City finances that he pushed for in his campaign literature. Dave in his brochure claimed there was no accountability at City Hall and it seems there still is not. What has he been doing since the Mayor said that there was “no accountability whatsoever” in relation to the overtime matter as an example.

His raising of the “conflict” issue when something touches the border makes a mockery of the 11,000 votes he received and is a slap in the face to his Community. He has been virtually invisible on the issue that got him elected, not a smart thing to do, preferring to play the role of Councillor Budget instead.

Dave needs to start thinking independently and understand that he can get re-elected without Gord Henderson’s blessing on an issue.

Joyce Zuk—She is baaaaaaaaack. But not as often as she should be.

I do not understand why Joyce has been so nice over the past two years pretending that Council is united when it is a bickering place full of personal animosities. A few flickers over the past while of the contrariness that I like in Joyce. Over the past few months she has not minded being the lone Councillor voting against her colleagues.

Probably the smartest, quickest and toughest Councillor of the bunch. She has seemed to be under a lot of stress for these last two years for reasons unknown to me.

She has been accused of running for Mayor in the next election and personally insulted several times at in-camera meetings. I do not know why she hasn’t hit back as she did with the ex-Mayor when he annoyed her.

She has been a strong voice speaking for the individuals in the City who are not as well-off as her own Ward 1 constituents. She should be a shoo-in and the number one vote-getter in the Ward if she runs the strong campaign she did last time around.

Since Dave has told Henderson that he is never running for Mayor, that leaves an opening for Joyce if she plans to do so in future. If Joyce runs for Council, then Ward 1 can choose between Scrooge and Santa Claus

Ward Two

Caroline Postma---The Diva of Ward 2 knows her constituents.

She understands that being a Councillor is not just performing on Channel 11 every Monday but cleaning up the filth in the Ward, from “signs” to graffiti. She understood the hard lesson of keeping her mouth shut in her first year as she learned the ropes and went on the rubber chicken circuit speaking with almost every significant group in the City in place of the Mayor. The toss of her blond/brown/red (the colour du jour) hair has made people shake in their boots.

She is not taken seriously by some of her “educated” colleagues but they had better learn fast that she is raw Ward 2. No one else had better forget that either. She is starting to speak more now, giving the reasons for her votes a lot more than in her first year.

Caroline tends to personalize issues much more than her colleagues, reflecting how they impact on her and her family. I would expect that this resonates well with some constituents but can get a bit cloying on occasion if done too much.

Who would have believed at the start of their term that she and Ron Jones could ever work together given their animosities. Now they seem to be the only Ward Councillors that can do so and like each other.

Ron Jones— Part of the Dynamic Duo in Ward 2.

It took him awhile to understand that Mike Hurst is no longer the Mayor and he is starting to enjoy Council again. Yet he seems to be totally frustrated on many occasions which led to earlier talk that the was not going to run again for Council. His frustration level seems higher than that of any of his colleagues. Why he won’t come out and say what bothers him is something I do not understand. However, when he finally explodes, watch out.

He and the Diva have buried the hatchet and if the two of them can work together, Ward 2 may be the place to be as the border, an urban village and the Sandwich Corporation get resolved and favour the Ward.

Ron learned a bit about power politics after he spoke out courageously against Council secrecy. The Beztak incident re the arena in Ward 2 was an absolute disgrace as their plan was shot down in flames by his colleagues for a proposal at the Racetrack that seems dead in the water now.

I believe that Ron is a good Ward Councillor. Everyone from his area knows him and he knows everyone and makes them feel special.

I only wish that he and the Diva would take a stronger role on the border since it impacts their Ward the most (Yes I know, the role I wanted them to take!). It is fine to protect Sandwich but then what. That is the part they are missing. They do not have to worry…Brian will get re-elected even if they would only propose talking to the Bridge Company!

Ward Three

Alan Halberstadt---He asks so many questions publicly that people get angry sometimes when he asks them. Even if they are good ones.

Just listen to some “digs” from his colleagues at Council meetings. But that won’t stop him! Alan was the Council S***-disturber when Hurst was the Mayor and when that was needed. He had a bit of trouble at first adjusting with Eddie but seems a lot happier in his role.

He and Eddie get along, Alan was the only Councillor that came out publicly for him at the last election, but I have noticed a couple of testy exchanges recently between them when Alan dared question what Eddie said. Eddie better learn that Alan will NOT back down or be intimidated, friend or no friend. It may also be that Alan can see some of the handwriting on the wall re the next election and understands that his strength is being perceived as an “independent.”

I find him hard to read sometimes on how he will vote. He is leftist on social issue like the environment, but is a budgeteer on the rightist budget slashing. A red Tory, even though he likes the Greens?

I know personally that he keeps his constituents happy with his prompt action on Ward issues being 2 out of 2 on some problems I had.

I think that he has a much broader view than many of his colleagues about city issues, perhaps because of his journalist background. His supporters may still be begging him to run for Mayor.

Fulvio Valentinis---He should have been Mayor!

When he speaks, you have to listen. It does not matter the topic, Fulvio generally has the right answer. Quiet and unassuming, he has saved the City a number of times without getting the true publicity he deserves. I personally can vouch for that.

He is Eddie’s mentor and probably the only Councillor that Eddie really respects or trusts. He is always the one who points out problems or raises policy issues that need to be addressed. If there is a vital issue that needs to be dealt with in Windsor, then Fulvio is the man to see. Truly the Dean of Council.

I believe that if the Mayor and his colleagues had listened to Fulvio more, we would have had a practical border solution already so that we could go on to important matters. He took the fall for Eddie in my opinion on Schwartz---saying that it was a starting point after almost 8 months of telling the world that it was the City’s position. Incredible!

I still do not understand his emotional appeal re the vacant, agricultural lands rather than going on Talbot Road, a position that he had accepted when Schwartz was endorsed. Again, I believe that he is leading the attack for some scheme that has now been dreamed up. It should be obvious to Fulvio why no one listens to the City but he won’t say it in public anyway being the loyal soldier that he is.

Ward Four

David Cassivi—A long tenure gives one experience which ought not to be discounted on a Council made up of so many rookies.

The Senator is generally the last one to speak on an issue. Not, as some would say, to see how the wind is blowing, but because he expertly and succinctly gets to the heart of an issue in his brief comments to Council.

Dave IS the swingman on this Council as he was in the last one. Where he goes the majority will go. When he voted against Hurst, you knew that Mike was finished as Mayor. Eddie is desperately playing to his ego by making him his “emissary” (THAT may have backfired badly) and will get him involved again in the arena solution. Council is starting to line up 5-4 on many key issues with David as the swing again.

Dave was “trashed” recently by the Star. I explained why in a BLOG. I am sorry that David did not hit back as he ought to have done. Turning the other cheek may be “statesman” like but I would not have been as dignified as the Senator if that had happened to me.

I will be very interested to see how the dynamics on Council might change over the next few months as a result of this incident.

Ken Lewenza, Jr.----A guy who has the potential to be Mayor but is too inconsistent in how he treats his role.

Not his father’s Oldsmobile (or Chrysler given his job). Clearly he is a bright guy with a vision of the world, even if some view it as ”leftist” to label him improperly. For a guy who seemed not to take his election seriously at the beginning of term, he grew remarkably to present a passionate voice expressing his point of view at budget time last year. Then he allowed Eddie to steal his thunder at the Council meeting dealing with the budget and has gone downhill since. It was like the fire had gone out. But now the fire seems to be re-kindling but for how long.

Viewed initially as Hurst’s revenge on Eddie and a possible contender to Francis at the next re-election, that has all changed. He and Eddie are of a similar age. He has been a big booster of Eddie so far—why do you think the unions are so supportive on the border. He is the one person that Eddie has to be concerned about, not because Ken will undermine him, but because he is NOT a businessman. While Eddie attacked the union members who rejected the Casino offer as not understanding the “investment” opportunity being lost, Ken will discuss issues of “social (in)justice.” He now is playing the role of conciliator with one particular situation at City Hall that could turn ugly.

Like Eddie, he understands the media. (He started an alternative voice, city-wide newspaper after all). He has become the leader of the small person bloc on Council, not by design but by default. Some colleagues are looking to him now for direction as they used to do with Eddie. He will be the one leading the attack on the slash and burners this time around again but how effective he will be remains to be seen.

If Bill Marra runs for Council in the Ward, notwithstanding the Star attack on his Ward mate, I think that Ken is at risk to be a one term wonder.

Ward Five

Jo-Anne Gignac---Someone must have reminded her that she is on Council now, not the Board of Education.

She exasperated me hearing of her Board experiences when she was first elected. Who cared! I have not heard that as much lately. However, she still speaks in Education-speak when talking at Council.

Clearly she is an intelligent woman and works hard. You can tell that by the many questions she asks on all topics. She does her homework thoroughly. She fits the role of a Councillor with people being impressed by her style and appearance. [However, she should stay as far away from Percy’s Panel as she can. She is NOT good at answering his questions, seemingly getting flustered easily and giving poor answers].

Apparently, she is viewed as the one most likely to challenge the Mayor for re-election if anyone on Council is going to do it. It may go back to the time when Eddie beat her for election. She seems to be the only Councillor who is staking out her own position on the border as an example. While she is supportive of Schwartz, on several votes she has taken “populist” positions contrary to her colleagues.

As I said before, I just do not get a strong indication of what she stands for. I just have a difficult time making up my mind about her.

Tom Wilson---He is not running again so I shall be brief, or is he?

Some of the Councillors believe that he is getting so angry at some things taking place at Council that he may just run again for spite! I am told that the attack from the Star recently did not bother him one bit since, as a friend said “He doesn't care what the media writes/says.”

He still has it in him if he wanted. I thought he was brilliant on the Beztak debate. His questioning was excellent and to the point and his speech was passionate. Oh well.

The Overall Assessment

How would I assess this Council. One would think that after the nice things I said in general, the ranking of this Council would be high. Yet it is not. I rank them overall as a “fail.” If one wanted to characterize this Council, one would use terms such as:

1) Secretive. So much for “open and transparent government. They act in secret behind closed doors and do not trust us. Have we ever been given a chance to talk about the border or moving the arena to the racetrack or is the downtown being re-located to the Casino area. It must be bad if the Star is against them on this issue.

2) Indecisive. Their border strategy failed and what is their alternative, the bus terminal was to built for Super Bowl and has not even been started, who knows about an arena, Canderel has not been rented out (and the Keg must be worried with rumours of DCX going), we have no economic redevelopment strategy to recover our lost auto jobs

3) Fiscally erratic. Sure they are trying to save pennies on the budget but they have not tried to recover the $68 million MFP shortfall, they have the overtime mess, the pay equity mess, who knows what the border is costing us, the tunnel building surprise, some re-assessment problems and OMERS will add millions. And we are still paying for Canderel.

4) Achieved little………… tell me what they have done other than 311.

How can one explain why this Council has failed so badly. They are all good people, hard-working and devoted to doing the right thing for Windsor. I know many of them personally and understand how hard they work and for so little money. It is almost like having a second full-time job.

The expectations were so high! They were a new team, 4 new members, a fresh outlook, action-oriented, and going to solve all of our woes. To be very blunt, the old Council got a bad rap about how “dysfunctional” it was. It wasn’t. Sure there was not the “unity” that there supposedly is today, votes were generally 7-3, but the old Council made the tough decisions that still impact us today. In my opinion this Council compares poorly with the job the old Council did for Windsor, at least after February, 2003! This Council has coasted on their predecessor’s results and has had few significant achievements.

So how does one explain this? It’s called LEADERSHIP, or rather lack of it in Windsor.

The Mayor is the only full-time member of Council. Under the Ontario Municipal Act, the Mayor’s functions include:
(a) to act as chief executive officer of the municipality;
(c) to provide leadership to the council;

As can be seen above, one cannot talk about Councillors without talking about Eddie. So let’s talk about:

The Mayor

Eddie Francis---If you are a regular BLOG reader, you know what I think of our Mayor.

To be blunt, he is a disappointment to me personally. I feel let down. He is not the person I thought I helped get elected to lead us on some of the most important decisions this City will ever have to make. I did a lot of work for this man during the campaign because I thought he was the new Windsor. He is not.

It is too bad that most people do not remember what Eddie said during the campaign about his Real Plan and what a new Windsor will look like in 10 years. [If you want to read what he said, contact me.] In my opinion, what he offered sounded achievable but not now, after watching him perform for two years as our CEO.

He is an astute politician while denying that he is. Remember his campaign kick-off speech: “I will do this not as a politician but as a citizen who wants to serve you.”

He must be a good chess player, always moves ahead of anyone else. The combination of the Phase 1 Agreement and the infamous Agenda Item #5 is clearly a good example….precursor to buying/leasing the Tunnel with Detroit. Who would have suspected that?

Does he have a few trusted friends from whom he seeks advice and who will tell it as it is? If not that is a huge liability for someone in his job as leader of the City. Does he rely only on himself?

Eddie had weaknesses as a candidate as can be expected. These flaws have been magnified as Mayor and he has done little to change or correct them.

Eddie’s fatal flaw is his own brilliance. He is too smart for his own good. His “workaholicism” is due not to actual working but by trying to ensure that the real universe unfolds in the same way his model of it does. When there is a divergence, he has problems.

I am sure that a good part of his day is spent “micro-managing.” Unfortunately with the situation in Windsor, he cannot possibly do it all. He has to learn how to trust and let go.

While he has been the leader on the border, especially by keeping Councillors united, even those who admire his skills there knock him on lack of leadership on other issues. He has his own agenda and timetable and does not care what others think.

He likes talking about “Council” actions and decisions, not because he is modest or empowering of his colleagues but to deflect any negativism away from him if something turns out wrong. He is Teflon or tries to be (the Mady garage fiasco is classic). It is not his fault. He is the “nice guy.” Let others be negative, not him.

Eddie has forgotten who supported him, from some of the biggest business leaders in town, to his financial contributors to his workers. Most importantly, he has forgotten Windsorites. He has not learned what being a leader means. His lack of involvement by the “people” in the border process as an example is shameful by an advocate of Open and Transparent Government.

He has made the word PLAN a joke. Remember the quote from Warren Kinsella “the killer ballot question is always this one: "Do they have a plan?” Well Eddie learned his lesson. He has a plan, a plan for everything. And as a Councillor told me once “….he must have a Plan, Eddie always has a plan even if I do not know what it is yet.” I must admit with my border fixation, I do not see a Border Plan to accomplish a good solution for Windsor that I can support.

Council's Future

With lack of leadership from our Mayor, the only person who can afford to spend his whole day worrying about the City, it is no wonder that Council is floundering.

That is my assessment of Windsor’s political leadership. It is not a pretty picture with the serious issues this City has facing it and I must admit that I cannot see a lot changing in an election year. Oh, don’t worry, we will get all kinds of announcements….isn’t that par for the course in order to get re-elected.

I wonder if one of our Councillors will finally have enough, or better yet a group of them, so that we might have the Council of 2003 with or without the Mayor as part of them. It is our only salvation!

Friday, December 09, 2005

What's It All About Alfie

Wow, I always thought that Alfie Morgan was such a mild-mannered gentleman. But obviously behind the disguise of a retired University professor is his real identity, Super-Eddieprotector.

I do not think I have ever seen such an attack on someone in the pages of the Star since...oh, since a few days ago when Councillors Wilson and Cassivi were "trashed." Oh and a few days before that, when Chief Fields was told to shape up and do what he is told or be shipped out.

Alfie's Letter to the Editor about Dennis DesRosiers was brutal. And what annoyed me was the top billing it received and the fact that he was allowed 550+ words when the "normal" letter is not suposed to exceed 300 words.

I remembered that he was appointed by Mayor Francis as Acting Chief Administrative Officer of Windsor after Dennis Perlin was shifted to an economic development job and was a person retained to implement a business practices review for the City.

It is not the first time he defended Eddie either eg Eddie Francis had the courage to tackle 40-hour week and loss of OT for managers, Windsor is fortunate to have such an outstanding mayor, too many closed-door meetings and micro-management...I think I can shed a different light on these two issues, I will give the mayor a solid A. and so on.

Why DesRosiers, we are told by the ex-acting CAO, is nothing more than a self-promoting "consultant" (note the quotation marks in the letter) and a cheap one to boot since he cannot afford to buy advertising but uses the media to get his name accross. He is only a self-declared "expert" (again those quotation marks. They must mean something I guess)

And then, my goodness, the piece de resistance----he is a close friend (not just a friend) of Mike Hurst. Now I have gone and will go after Hurst as Mayor and CEO of DRTP because of his ideas and positions but I do not believe that it is a sin to be his friend, or even a close one.

Hmmm something is going on here. What do all of these people, DesRosiers, Cassivi, Wilson and Fields, have in common such they they became a focus of tough attacks.

I got it! I know. It is "MIKE HURST."

Does someone really think that Hurst might run for mayor? Mea Culpa. I admit that I started that rumour when I heard that Bill Marra might run in Ward 4. It left open for Mike the chance to run for Mayor to avenge his "loss" to Eddie. (See, I can use quotation marks because I am educated too) But I did it as a joke, honest. I did not mean it. I only told a few people. I did not think anyone would take it seriously.

Someone did....look at who got attacked:

  • Chief Fields who supported Hurst in 2000, five years ago no less.
  • David Cassivi who used to be a big supporter of Hurst when he was Mayor
  • Tom Wilson who I think said that Mike is still his friend
  • Dennis DesRosiers who is Hurst's close friend

I bet that you did not remember that just over a year ago, the ex-acting CAO went after Mike Hurst in a letter to the Star!

Now the ex-acting CAO knows "firsthand that Mayor Francis and councillors have been working diligently 24-7." If so, then obviously they get tired. DesRosiers must have been right, according to Alfie, when he said they were "sleeping at the switch."

Now I know as do you that Alfie was exaggerating about Eddie ....Eddie only worked 18 hours a day Alfie told us about 18 months ago with an "undivided attention and passionate, intense effort... [and with a] commitment to serve this city bordering on obsession."

I am not going to debate the ex-acting CAO about what he said in the second part of his letter since he is the academic not I. He is after all a Ph.D., and Professor Emeritus, Odette School of Business.

As ex-acting CAO, he clearly has an insider's perspective of City Hall. I was quite surprised, therefore, at his strong attack on DesRosiers rather than just an attack on his thesis.

If Eddie was that concerned about DesRosiers, Eddie should be quite able to look after himself being the excellent debater that he is. He does not need Alfie's help.

As for Alfie, I respect his intelligence. After all, he wrote a great letter just over 2 years ago saying "Where would Windsor be without the Ambassador Bridge." Now if he would only meet with his former employer and read him that letter so that the Mayor will do a deal with the Bridge Co. for the good of Windsor before the Detroit Councillors hammer us in January, then he will perform a great service to the City.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Big City Politicians Take Charge

Councillor Valentinis wondered why no one listened to the City of Windsor. Why should anyone listen when the only newspaper in town can call our two Senior Councillors "trash" and get away with it! I am told the Mayor said something about it on radio in his Tuesday CKLW spot but I have not yet seen City Hall demand and get an apology. In fact, the Star attacked the two Councillors again yesterday!

The Mayor's Chief of Staff should be instructed to contact the Star's Editor and get an explanation for this discourtesy. If no acceptable response is given and the Star refuses to make an apology, then Council should consider whether it should allow the Star to continue to have access to its Chambers.

When Mary, my friend from Delray, told me that there was going to be a DRIC meeting in her community and she expected some Detroit City Councillors to appear, I thought I would go over and see what big city Councillors were like in action.

I was not disappointed. These people are not Councillors of a small town. They have authority, they have clout (to paraphrase our former Mayor)

Mary introduced me to Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr, the Council President Pro Tem. He remembered me from the emails that I had sent on the border and confirmed that the Councils of Detroit and Windsor were planning to meet in the new year. I also saw Council Member JoAnn Watson but did not get a chance to say hello to her.

The DRIC public meeting was not like ours. There was about a 30 minute presentation with questions afterward. Extensive amounts of materials were given out. It was a Delray community meeting and they were being told the bridge is coming through there. It reminded me of our Special Council meeting in January 2003.

As far as DRIC was concerned, DRTP is dead and buried. While they said that DRTP was free to go on their own, as is obvious, the case made against them effectively said that it could never be a long-term solution.

The very surprising news was the confirmation that the Twinned Bridge was a favourite crossing choice of the Americans but was not acceptable to Canada.

But the reason why not was intriguing. According to Joe Corradino, the US consultant, the two sides had agreed that no crossing would be built if one side was unduly impacted more than the other. The Twinned Bridge would have been horrible for Canada since trucks would go down Huron Church Road and there would be an 80 to 100 acre plaza at the foot of the Bridge that would negatively impact the community there. Therefore the Twinned Bridge was "out."

There is one tiny, little problem with this explanation (and which would be the subject of a lawsuit by the Bridge Co. I am certain): that was NOT the Bridge Co. proposal at all but something that DRIC made up. They then could dismiss it as unacceptable rather than deal with what the Bridge Co. really proposed ie a plaza in "industrial" lands and a "dedicated" road to the bridge for trucks only.

Now we can understand why the diagonal bridge had to be talked about. The Canadians and Americans could not agree.

It seems to me that this is terrific ammunition for the Detroit Councillors to use when DRIC seeks their support for the destruction of Delray!

The real fun though was watching the Detroit Councillors in action. Councillor Watson asked the DRIC people why there was not a "no action" alternative put forward since that did not seem to have been addressed. That would be done the MDOT rep replied. (It signalled to me that perhaps the 200 booth proposal of the Bridge Co. made some sense to the Councillor as well since it did not require a new bridge to be built for about 20 years or more!)

She then went on and said flat out that the bridge was not going in Delray, that the SouthWest of Detroit was growing in population and that a bridge there would stop this growth at a time when Detroit needed more people. As for politics, and this was the good part, she let everyone know that Detroiters cast more votes for Governor Granholm than the people did Downriver. And isn't next year an election year for the Governor and Members of Congress? She invited the DRIC people to come to Council at any time since they are full-time Councillors and are around.

Ahhhh the use of full naked political power at its finest! No holds barred!

President Cockrel approached the problem differently. He had copies of the Detroit resolution against a new bridge and gave the DRIC members a copy of it. He asked what the hurry was since he had been hearing about the border for the 12 years he was in public life! He said SW Detroit was going to be the proposed home of a number of major developments and no one had looked at all of them in total to see what the impact on the community was going to be. One at a time perhaps, but not altogether. Accordingly to him, nothing would happen until Detroit finished whatever studies it was going to make.

How to be heard Councillor Valentinis....start acting like Councillors Cockrel and Watson. Get the community involved again instead of working in secret. And start using the common sense that I know YOU have, even if that common sense is not shared universally on Council. It is obvious what needs to be done. Do we have to wait until the Detroiters do it for us so that we have no bargaining position with the Bridge Co. at all.

By the way, given the opinions of these two Detroit Councillors, and the Resolution of Detroit Council, Councillor Gignac may have made a bad tactical mistake seeking a meeting there. Our Mayor and his Councillors may find themselves at odds with Detroit Council. It could get ugly if regional unity is broken, with WINDSOR the big loser!

The Super Bowl may be a lonely experience for Mayor Francis as well.

The Border and Kids

Sheeeesh, it's getting really bad. My border fixation seems to be colouring everything I see, say and do. Now I will suggest comparing the border choices with daycare. But really, can you blame me.

My friends at the Windsor Star Editorial Board are big boosters of a "public" bridge but want private choice for daycare, using public money however. It's like a Public/Private Partnership for kids.

Some excerpts from their editorials, first on daycare:
  • "Conservative leader Stephen Harper wants parents to choose the day care they want for their children while Prime Minister Paul Martin wants the government to make that choice for them...

    Both plans would help subsidize day-care costs for families and both would likely spawn a needed creation of child-care spaces across the country.

    ... Only the Conservative plan offers parents a real choice -- an essential ingredient for any day-care system meant to serve a country as diverse as Canada...

    The Liberal plan would create another layer of bureaucracy and restrict parental choice to a series of cookie-cutter institutions that reflect the ideals of bureaucrats and not parents. ...

    "The Liberal plan is for politicians to pay other politicians," said Harper. "Our plan is to pay families...

    The only debate is who chooses -- you or the government -- which type of child care is right for your children."

And their public bridge rationale

  • "Eventually, there will be another border crossing in our community. That point isn't even debatable. The economies of Canada and the U.S. dictate the need for greater capacity to move the goods that promote growth and secure jobs.

    The more difficult question would seem to be who will be given the green light to build the next crossing -- especially given the gamesmanship, lobbying and rhetoric that's now being fuelled by various proponents...

    The next border crossing should be fully financed and owned by the public.

    While that may seem to be an inconsistent conclusion coming from a newspaper that promotes the private sector over government involvement, the critical importance of the border -- in terms of both our national security and economic security -- changes the rules. Governments are the only ones with the ability to deal with these critical security issues."

In my day, the money paid out by Government for children was called "Family Allowance." First everyone got it, then it was based on certain criteria and then finally eliminated. Now it is back again but called daycare instead.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Only The Shadow Knows

For those of you who think that the new bridge in Windsor ought to be run by a "public authority," here is an interesting perspective out of Buffalo about the workings of the Peace Bridge Authority and several others there. Perhaps Brian Masse and others can explain the advantage of this kind of an operation here because I am having difficulty seeing it.

The following stories from WGRZ TV in Buffalo are not some theoretical discussion but outline the problems with public authorities that many of us here in Windsor have not heard before

Thanks but no thanks if this is what going "public" may mean!

Shadow Governments in Western New York

It's one of the biggest complaints Western New Yorkers have. How come nothing ever gets done around here? Some say an obstacle to real change are "Shadow Governments." They are boards funded by our taxes and tolls but, we don't elect the people who serve on them.

Shadow Government: The Peace Bridge Authority

Posted by: Aaron Saykin, Reporter
Updated: 11/30/2005 11:42:36 PM

The first public authority or "shadow government" 2 On Your Side investigated is the Peace Bridge Authority. While the group doesn't appear to have any major financial problems, some say it's a far different story when it comes to making real progress.

The Peace Bridge Authority is run by government appointees from both sides of the border, and is responsible for the bridge, its traffic, and its future. Its annual budget is $26 million, and all of the money comes from tolls.

But for nearly two decades they've been unable to get anything done on their most important project -- building a new bridge.

2 On Your Side spoke to board chairman John Lopinski.

Reporter: "The public looks and says, we've been promised a bridge for 15 years. We've seen at least four different designs. What's taking so long?"
Lopinski: "It is the process that the public has requested us to go through… The delay is not because of us. We're bogged down in red tapes between the governments and as soon as that gets cleared we will carry on and we will end up building the best bridge that we can."

Lopinski says he's referring to red tape like repeated environmental studies. Every time they change plans, it requires a new study. The authority has changed plans several times.

Something the board's vice chairman told 2 On Your Side earlier this year could appear to be emblematic of the repeated delays.

"We should have a shovel in the ground by the end of 2007," said Vice Chairman Paul Koessler in January of 2005.

Apparently, that's no longer the timetable.

Reporter: "When I was here in January, we were told that you'd have a shovel on the ground by the end of '07. Is that still the timetable?"
Lopinski: "I don't believe that we promised you that at that time. If we can't get a record of decision until some time in 2007 we would be hard pressed to get a shovel in the ground."
Reporter: "We've got it on tape."
Lopinski: "Okay."
Reporter: "That was the promise."

Meantime, a private business from Detroit, The Ambassador Bridge Company, is trying to build a second bridge here with its own money. So far, the Peace Bridge Authority and Canadian Government have blocked them.

"They've been working on another bridge for 20 years without any success," said Ambassador Bridge President Dan Stamper, who is quick to criticize the inactivity of the Peace Bridge Authority. "They've pointed the finger at everybody else except themselves."

Reporter: "Why should the public take you seriously this time?
Lopinski: "Look at what we have done. Look at the changes we have made."

Lopinski is referring to two major reforms that have improved the flow of traffic across the bridge: moving all of the tolls to the Canadian side to prevent deadly back-ups on the 1-90, and adding customs booths for trucks on the American side.

But when it comes to the one thing they've set out to do for nearly two decades...

Reporter: "When will we see a shovel in the ground?
Lopinski: "I can't tell you that."

And some excerpts from other stories about Public Authorities there

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority operates the Metrorail, buses, and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

"Five decades of lost opportunity,” said Represenative Brian Higgins, 27th district. “Virtually every city in this nation that had an industrial base through the 20th century has redeveloped their waterfront, Buffalo has not.

"State Comptroller Alan Hevesi says often times, authorities are not responsive to taxpayers' concerns because their members are appointed, not elected.

"Independence has come to mean in some cases, a kind of arrogance that they don't have to listen to the public," Hevesi said...

And so finally, after fifty years of missed steps, false starts, and broken promises, Buffalo may finally get it right.... And do what cities like Portland and Baltimore and Cleveland were able to do decades ago.

The Erie County Water Authority provides water for most of Western New York.

2 On Your Side’s Stefan Mychajliw: "There are political people on the payroll?"

Swiatek: "Are there people on the payroll because they knew somebody? Yes, I guess you can say that."

A 2 On Your Side analysis of Water Authority payroll records show at least 29 workers with various political ties pulling in salaries totaling almost $2 million dollars. The political ties range from being relatives of politicians, Republican and Democratic committee members and former politicians themselves...

Mychajliw: "What do you say to people who still believe there is a strong political influence in hiring here at the Water Authority?"

Mendez: "I would disagree with that. Is there some political influence? Absolutely. No one is that naive. And nor will I tell anybody that."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Missing Link

There are "missing links" in areas of evolution other than just between the ape and human beings it seems.

I attended a meeting the other day on the border. There were about a dozen people there from different fields, a wide cross-section of different professions. Some knew a lot about the border and some knew a bit from what they learned from the media, but not in great detail.

There was one gentleman there who seemed to know a lot about it from actually attending Bi-national meetings. I did not ask him if he was a "stakeholder" which means he gets to hear and learn the real juicy stuff or a mere mortal like the rest of us who has to get our crumbs from whatever the DRIC reps choose to tell us.

What he said was shocking although not surprising. Contrary to the appearance of unanimity that the Canadian DRIC members tried to portray, in fact the Americans and Canadians disagreed:


This clearly explains the need for the diagonal bridge as a "compromise." Accordingly, the only realistic spot where that can go clearly is somewhere near Brock (It can never be built at Prospect since it would be too long and too expensive to build) no matter how many Sandwich tours are set up by Ron Jones and Caroline Postma for the DRIC members or how many brownies that Ms Cuderman bakes for the visitors or what Brian Masse or Eddie Francis have to say.

The other interesting statement was that the US Federal Highway group has determined using their own calculations that a new bridge will NOT be needed until at least 2020 or perhaps even later because of lower traffic projections. That is a bit longer than the Bi-national revision but probably more accurate now given the sharp downturn in auto plants and jobs.

Assuming that this is really true (and who knows since the process changes so quickly) what does this mean for Windsor?

It probably means that there is little chance of a bridge being built soon notwithstanding what the Feds may want or the Provincial Border Czar may do since the Americans do not see an urgent need for it. After all, the US is picking up part of the tab for the new bridge. One of the Detroit papers has been on this bandwagon for some time. A finished bridge before 2013 is therefore unlikely to happen. This must certainly mean that the Bridge Co. is going to be around for a long time. No one has the guts, I believe, to expropriate their business at the existing bridge!

It also means that Windsor is in a tough bind for the truck traffic that will build up gradually between now and 2020. Where is it going to go....just to one spot, the existing bridge (with the 200 booths). How is it going to get there? AHHHH that's the rub!

This City should NOT tolerate trucks going down Huron Church for the next 15 years even if there are no line-ups. The only answer that I can see realistically is to build the City's WALTS road (ie the road which the the Bridge Co. proved that it worked by its Ring Road) which was supported in effect by the Schwartz Report and endorsed and supported unanimously by the Mayor and Council (until the change of heart last Monday at Council it seems).

There is the half kilometre or so that needs completion (the missing yellow spot on the map). Grin and bear it and deal with it because it is coming. Frankly, what other choice do we have since there will be no bridge for the foreseeable future and Cansult finished off the Schwartz Horseshoe road. We need a completed link to the Ambassador Bridge!

What the Mayor and Council should be forcing and, what Windsorites should be demanding, is that our Governments finally complete Highway 401 to the Ambassador Bridge. They must build immediately the WALTS/Bi-national/Schwartz/City road and add in the missing link to the Bridge so that Sandwich is not impacted negatively. They MUST spend whatever is required to do so in the most effective manner for the Community! That should be the NUMBER 1 issue in the federal election.

This is what the City should be fighting for and not another starting point or option out of a City Hall that has been strangely quiet since the Bi-national made its opinion known. Or is David Estrin being geared up to spend more taxpayer money on a useless and expensive cause so that our local leaders can pretend they are doing something

Thanks For The Mention

A big thank you to Joe McParland of Cogeco, Cable 11 for mentioning my BLOG and giving the website address right after the Council meeting on Monday night!

His kind words were much appreciated.

Masse's Tunnel Vision

Remember how I wondered if Deep Throat had met with Brian? [Deep Throat's Masse Conquest] I had suggested that "After the election, that's when he [Brian] gets tough on the Bridge Co. and and demands the "enhanced" WALTS Road."

I am more and more convinced that Brian really is coming to grasp the reality of the situation and much more quickly than I thought possible.

Of course, someone finally convinced the NDP Leader that the border was an issue and so it was mentioned in his Oshawa speech the other day. We'll see that in Brian's campaign literature shortly.

But the big news to me was that Brian "pressed the binational team to include consideration of tunneling of access roads." Surely Brian did not mean tunneling under the Ojibway nature reserve. Do you really believe that Brian would give up his Bronze medal in the Sierra Club's Eco-Olympics won for Environmental Team Work as a consistent supporter of environmental initiatives.

No, Brian must mean a different location. Where else then would tunneling be involved....yes, you got it...the final connection to the Ambassador Bridge, the obvious and missing yellow line on the map.

Hmmmmmm I bet that some of you are mocking me now. Brian is a staunch advocate of a "public" bridge. Or so you say.

Brian made some bad slips in the Star, or did he?

  1. Brian claimed that "public" tolls would be lower. But we all know that the round-trip Bridge Co.'s tolls are lower than the round-trip tolls of the Cities' owned Tunnel.
  2. Brian claimed that we had to ensure that "profits go back into the community." But didn't the people he brought in from Buffalo over the summer say that their Bridges made no profits. Wouldn't the benefit go to the out-of-town truckers who paid low tolls not the local community. Don't taxpayers benefit from the taxes the Bridge Co. pays on its profits and property in the City?
  3. Brian claimed we need public ownership "for national security reasons." But isn't the Bridge Co. the advocate for reverse Customs so that vehicles can be searched BEFORE they go over the crossing. Wasn't it the Bridge Co. who sued the US Government to open the customs booths that solved the backups on Huron Church that prevented our economy from suffering?

No Brian is moving closer step by step to the right answer. After all, he first supported the South Bridge, then the Ojibway crossing, did not object to the Bi-national adoption of the City's WALTS and Bridge Co. route and finally supports tunneling. There is no other conclusion to draw but that Brian will beat up the Bridge Co. to be re-elected after the next minority government falls!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Santa And George End DRTP

A friend of mine wrote a Letter to The Editor to the Windsor Star the other day, a copy of which he sent to me. I would not normally scoop the Star on something like this but I will post it here first if you do not mind, dear reader. (My friend agreed and I trust the Star will not be too mad at me for doing so or deprive my friend of wider coverage for his thoughts)

I think that it is of the utmost urgency to get the message out right now since it looks like the Star failed to report this important border story. I just read a US DRIC study of tunnelling that concludes:
  • "In summary, it is not considered practically feasible on the basis of available data to attempt construction of a highway tunnel under the Detroit River in the DRIC Study corridor."

That means the 2-lane DRTP cannot be increased to 6 lanes by the addition of new lanes under the river and so can never be our long-term solution!

Here is the letter and you will see why time is of the essence to get it out:

  • "Does CP have a dual personality?

    On the one hand, the CP Holiday Train is making an appearance in Windsor. It is a very generous idea to help out the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association. The train will visit more than 60 towns, cities and villages in Canada in the fight against hunger in Canada. CP also makes cash donations to local food banks.

    On the other hand, there is the story in the Star about the CP and OMERS owned DRTP. Ex-Mayor and now DRTP CEO claims that the DRTP future is bright even though it has been rejected by the Bi-National, the City of Windsor by formal resolution, by our MPs and MPPs. This is the project that is to drive thousands of Montreal-to-Tijuana trucks into the heart of Windsor, a portion of whose costs need to be picked up by taxpayers especially if it is tunnelled in South Windsor only where the residents have been the most vocal against it.

    But maybe there really is a Santa Claus and Windsorites will finally get what we hope for in our stocking hanging by the fireplace. Hurst has to prepare a budget for 2006 and beyond for his board within the next few weeks. Perhaps the CP members who have influence on the board will still be in the holiday spirit and kill the DRTP budget so that the monies can be used for something worthwhile. Like increasing the Holiday Train donation to the Windsor-Essex Food Bank as a good example."

Sorry Mike. But don't be glum over the holiday season. I hear there is an opening at the Race Track now that your buddy, John Millson, has left! Perhaps Mr. Toldo might consider your application if you get your resume in right away.

PS. Remember I did tell you, dear reader, that the Americans were making the decisions and to listen when George W. spoke! More to follow as you will learn.

Essex Title Fight

I really do like the Windsor Star! It's so much fun reading it. I guess it was boob day at the Star today and I do not just mean Pamela's.

I wonder how many Letters to the Editor they will get about the pictures on Pages one and five today. I wonder if the Editorial Board has a pool on this... Winner take all!

Take also, for instance, its attack on David Cassivi. Two stories and an editorial today. Totally predictable. The Fire Chief after his thorn last year at Budget time, two stories, an editorial, a Henderson column and an editorial cartoon. Totally predictable.

Now they are delivering a message to Susan Whelan with their front page story of her. Shape up or else.

Of course the Star is fair.....if you go inside the newspaper to finish reading the whole story. There is the front page attack on Susan (although there is a nice picture of her there too so they really don't mean it Susan) and the attack on Watson inside [Watson after all was a DRTP supporter. He published a number of press releases for which Eddie Francis was not too pleased and for which Watson was pilloried. They turned out to be pretty accurate though didn't they.]

BUT WAIT A MINUTE. Did you read the totally separate story on Page 2 where the first few paragraphs slam Watson. In effect, the whole front page story was a NON-STORY after all.
  • "Despite the controversy over Whelan's strategy, none of her lawn signs noticed by the Star on a drive through of the town Saturday read "re-elect" or referred to Whelan as incumbent.
What controversy....the Star-created controversy? Gee, do you think the easy answer was that Susan used her "old" signs since the "new" ones were not printed or delivered since she was not chosen yet as the candidate before the nomination meeting?

Why was this done? Lou should know. Remember what I wrote before in the BLOG: "THE MEDIA IS THE GOVERNMENT!" It will be interesting to watch the Star coverage of that electoral fight and to see if Susan learns her lesson and how quickly. You better support Eddie on whatever he does on the border or else!

Has The Senator Been Fields-ed

David Cassivi is an honourable man. He is an experienced politician who serves Windsor well. He and his wife make a good team and are responsive to his Ward 4 constituents I have been told. He speaks very practically at Council, usually at the end of the debate, even though I sometimes do not agree with his position. He is loyal to the Mayor, sometimes being criticized for that, until the person is no longer worthy of support. The "Senator" is a retired high school teacher and was first elected in 1982. Before that, he was a Catholic school board trustee for 13 years. He is the longest-serving Councillor on Council.

Imagine then his surprise when the first story in Thursday's Star attacked him and Councillor Wilson for overspending "the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority's budget for travel by politicians for three of the last four years, including trips to Arizona, Texas and Lake Louise." Then came Saturday's front page story about "Cassivi seeing world, on us."

Poor David. It was a perfect hatchet job of the first degree. What had he done behind the scenes to deserve this? Nine trips over three continents in two years mind you (if it was only one year it would not have been so dramatic I guess). And it was not until Page 4 that we learned that three of the trips were as stand-ins for Mayor Francis and a fourth was paid for by the FCM!

Now perhaps David will know how the other David, Fire Chief Fields feels after the job done on him through the Star. Don't you find it bizarre that the Mayor was not interviewed to stand up for his stand-in (and if not around, mention made of that)? I do.

Is there an explanation for this. Of course but it is complicated.

Travel budget stories are headline grabbers and easy news to write. Everyone understands them since we all wish we could travel to exotic locations at someone else's expense. As you may recall, before the last election, Bill Marra spent money for travel since he was doing municipal association work that was revealed during the election year and while Eddie Francis spent not one cent. That was very clever of Eddie wasn't it, if planned long in advance, especially if he had decided that he was going to run for mayor or thought seriously that he might.

Why is David being crucified when all he did was to stand-in for the Mayor who could not attend since he was so busy failing on his border strategy and why now?

People know that Bill Marra is a likely challenger against Eddie for mayor and a very serious opponent. Bill could beat him easily I believe since he does not have the baggage of the poor performance of Council this term so far. Marra has been "challenged" publicly to try to discourage him from running as have others who might dare to run (Remember how Councillor Brister acted like a scared puppy with Henderson to deny he would ever run for mayor after one of my Blogs!).

Obviously, now is the time when a person running for mayor would seek out the community to see who would support him/her financially and otherwise.

There is electoral gossip that Marra may run for Councillor in Ward 4 instead of running for mayor. Obviously that would be helpful to Eddie wouldn't it since it would almost guarantee his re-election as mayor.

If Bill ran in Ward 4, it is quite likely that Cassivi or Ken Lewenza Jr. would lose or at least, there would be a heck of an election fight. Unfortunately, David's Dad is not the head of CAW 444 and moving onto bigger and better things in the CAW. Sure David supports Eddie but that support is not enough I am afraid. Ken Junior has to win again to maintain the union connections even if it means losing David on Council.

Therefore, David is now identified as a spendthrift on WORLD-WIDE JUNKETS no less even though, ironically, David is trying to hold a tough line on Council financially. People will remember his world travels won't they as they are spread on campaign literature for Ward 4 by his opponents thanks to him standing in for the Mayor so much.

So Bill has been given an easy way to win a Ward seat and no one will be too upset since David has been around a long time. The stories will predictably say that it is time David enjoyed his retirement! A no-lose seat on Council has been handed to Bill on a silver platter at David's expense.

I am sure that Eddie will call David up to give him his backing (and to keep his vote on Council) and might even come to David's defence. By then, it is too late isn't it? That defence won't be on the front page.

Oh well. Live by the political sword, die by it!

PS. If there is an editorial after the two news stories, a Henderson column about this in the next few days and especially if there is an editorial cartoon, well then David is history. Then the two Davids can have a long, cool one together in an exotic retirement locale and share war stories, this time paid by their OMERS pension plan monies.

Well the Star did not disappoint me: an Editorial after all. BUT the language used is inexcusable. "Wasteful trips: Cassivi, Wilson should resign. It's time for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority to take out the trash"

Hmmmm. I wonder who provided the "tip" that got this all started.

I do not care if the Star believes these Councillors should resign or not, the use of the word "trash" is a pathetic attempt at being "cute." I believe the Councillors should demand an immediate apology and if the Star has any sense of honour, the Editors should give it!

And The Audit Results Are

In a surprising turn of events, Council Valentinis asked Council to invest $15,000 in an audit for the Income And Security Building project so that we could learn from any mistakes and take advantage of any good lessons and practices learned.

Is this audit ready yet and were any mistakes made or good practices found that can now be shared? When will the results be released to taxpayers?

Speaking of results....what ever happened to the report on the border that some outside consultants were supposed to do based on meetings in the summer. I would hate to think that we spent money on consultants and did not get a report. When may we see that one too?

Do you want to bet that the "in camera" report on the Fire Department will somehow be leaked again and surprise, surprise, it will be mostly the negative parts.

It's Not Overtime That Is The Real Issue

Now this is a major world event story! It is so important that we have had a front page news story, an editorial, a Henderson column and an Editorial cartoon. On Monday there will be an in camera Council discussion about it and I'll bet on Tuesday (maybe even Monday if the Report has been presented already) another major news leak about a Fire Department audit by an outside group. Can you imagine. All of this just to build a case to try and get rid of the Fire Chief, Dave Fields!

Frankly, he probably should go. After all, he was only voted Fire Chief of the Year in 2003 and has been awarded Queen's Jubilee Medal. Check out what he has done for Windsor at He really is not all that experienced either: 38 years experience. 14 years with the city the first time, 12 years as chief this time, 8 years with the Fire Marshal of Ontario and 5 years as Nepean deputy chief.

Overtime is a problem at the Fire Department these days but that is not the only problem that the Mayor and Council think they have. Aparently he had the nerve to campaign door-to- door on Mike Hurst's behalf in the 2000 election. (Some people have long memories and can never forgive either) The Budgeteers cannot tolerate that Chief Fields stood up to them by doing his job.

Remember last year the thorn that the Star gave to the Chief by forcing Council to open their eyes to his and their legal responsibilities:
  • Windsor Fire Chief Dave Fields: Chief Fields has trotted out the safety card in an attempt to place himself above council's attempt to cut costs and hold the line on taxes. "I can't knowingly recommend budget cuts that would jeopardize public safety," Fields said this week, suggesting he would likely be charged under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act for creating a public safety hazard. But that's a gross misrepresentation of what council is asking Fields to do on the taxpayers' behalf. Like all departments, Fields has a responsibility to look at every nook and cranny of his budget and find realistic cuts that can be made. It might mean doing things differently, or more creatively, but if Fields wants to be a public servant, he'd better make an effort. No one who is spending taxpayers' money should be above accountability.

And in the Editorial from Council's cheerleader, in order to give them guts when they talk "in camera" again (this kind of secret discussion does not bother the Star it seems) :

  • "Fire chief Dave Fields, who played the public safety card last year when asked to find budget savings like other city departments, didn't confirm or dispute Halberstadt's figures but admitted there was a problem that was worse than previous years."

No one dared to stand up to the Chief to tell him he was wrong at the time and to do something like the Star ordered. After all the Chief only had to do his usual job but also had thrust on him new duties such as restructuring at city hall, zero-based budgeting and functions under Emergency Management Act. So they waited until this year and went after him, like drastically trying to slash his salary by over $20,000 I have heard.

Remember how Gord Henderson talked about the Police: "Windsor police Chief Glenn Stannard has essentially drawn a line in the sand, declaring that it's "absolutely impossible" to reduce the police budget. In fact, in comments last month, the chief said the issue is how much of an increase he'll be looking for. "

One wonders why the Fire Department gets so much abuse while the Police Department does not.

Interesting way though to get rid of a long-standing employee. Pillory him in the City's only newspaper. Imagine how easy it will be for the City to hire a replacement for him and for several other Senior Administrators and non-union management who have to wonder when the ax falls next on them.