Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 23, 2005

Taking A Holiday Break

I expect that many of my readers are heading off for the holidays a bit early to beat the traffic jams and the crush of the crowds at the airports and train stations.

I have posted over 190 BLOGS since this blogsite was started back in August. It's been a lot of fun for me and I hope it has provided you, dear reader, with some entertainment and some information. I know that not everyone agrees with everything I write (in fact, I am sure that some agree with nothing I have to say!) but at least I trust that I have given you a different perspective on some of the key issues that confront us.

Thanks for visiting with me every day. I hope to see you again in the new year unless something really exciting happens before that I just have to tell you about.

May you and your family have a very happy and prosperous 2006!

Joe Blog

Thursday, December 22, 2005


What happened?

My scheduled 28 minutes of fame did not take place. My interview with Veronique Mandal was not broadcast on Cogeco but a previous show was rebroadcast.

Did I make a mistake about the day? I don't think so.

Was my interview so bad that they decided not to broadcast it? I hope not.

Was the wrong tape put into the video machine in error? I hope so.

Or........Hmmmmmmmmmm I wonder.

If I find out, I will let you know!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


What's the Drill

Interesting story. Remember the recent outage in Detroit forcing the Tunnel to close for several hours. I know the Bridge has power back-up since it was open during the big black-out.

"Preparation and practice are critical for weathering disasters of any kind, and stakes are high for businesses and for citizens," said Laura Carlisle, regional vice president - Business of AT&T Inc. "When the 2003 blackout hit parts of the state, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was evacuated and the traffic was re-routed to the Ambassador Bridge in six minutes. The Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation had run that drill repeatedly after Sept. 11, 2001. Businesses should be equally prepared."

No Council Inquisition

The Star reported that Windsor Raceway has submitted an arena proposal to the City that will be made public next month.

Gee, I was hoping we might have seen the Raceway people (funny it is always the Raceway people, who are merely the landlord, and not some one from the Jebb group) being questioned by the Councillors right away. It would be interesting how they would have questioned the Raceway people in comparison with the Beztak reps.

Oh well, the Raceway people will have time to answer all concerns in private again before they hit the public Council session. One nice question to ask is how many of the County governments are onside now and will help provide financing. No need to be embarrassed with questions they cannot answer.

In August, Gord Henderson, around the time when Beztak entered the fray, claimed:

  • "the raceway plan involves an 8,000-seat arena and three other revenue-generating ice pads on a 30-acre site with 3,000 parking spaces adjacent to a refurbished slot palace and raceway grandstand. The proposal, like the one seven years ago, would feature a Wayne Gretzky restaurant and a Gretzky sports hall of fame utilizing the Toronto Dominion bank facade that's been in storage since the Norwich Block demolition.

    There's even a proposal to locate the restored Lancaster in the arena atrium. Other features would include a sports medic training centre, hotel, workout centre and retail outlets. In other words, a sports/entertainment attraction that would pay taxes instead of enjoying tax holidays. "
It will be interesting to see how close he is to the actual proposal.

Border Duo was back in town

I see that Messrs Estrin and Schwartz paid a visit here. It should be interesting how they oppose what the Bi-national wants to do seeing that it was similar to what they proposed and what Council unanimously endorsed in secret.

Can you imagine, the Mayor and Council being the champions of the people on Talbot Road! I can just picture how Ward 1 Councillors Zuk and Mr. Budget (oooops Mr. STOPDRTP) would be welcomed into their homes for a nice chat given their past relationships.

PM Martin and the Border

I wonder if he will huff and puff and say things down here to get votes but will so annoy the Americans that their Ambassador will no longer be prepared to pay the money that his predecessor said might be available. Being anti-American seems to be Liberal strategy these days

In that case, the Americans will tell just us where the border crossing will go and we can finally get on with life!

DesRosiers November Auto Industry Stats

Comments from Dennis:
  • "A couple of interesting things. First, the Honda Civic is very close to overtaking the F-Series Pick up truck as the best selling vehicle in Canada being only 105 units behind at the end of November. We have records going back to 1978 and a passenger car has never outsold a light truck. Being an import nameplate car also is symbolic of the issue GM, Ford and DCX are having holding market share. December will tell the story.

    Second, entry level vehicles were up 15.6 percent in November while all the other segments were soft or down. Maybe gas prices are affecting the market? The move to entry level also is negative for GM, Ford and DCX as these segments are typically where they have the lowest market share. Year to date, large luxury sport vehicles are selling well but not the last quarter."

Where's the Bacon Man

Rumour has it that city plans to increase parking meter rates in February 1. That should be excellent for Downtown and Erie Street business people. Who wants those crowds coming into their shops and restaurants anyway! And what perfect timing....just a few days before the Super Bowl so we can really stick it to the tourists who come here too.

A friend of mine, a business person, gave me a lesson in economics: when prices rise, demand falls. If it didn't, we'd see Devonshire Mall, and the Casino charge for parking.

Perhaps the new small business task force could look at parking as its first project or maybe just call Ernie for the solution.

Tough choices

Your staff and lawyers suggest and the union agrees with a $6,000 settlement in an employee dismissal arbitration case. Council turns it down and wants to pay only $1,500.

That is refused and a full-scale hearing takes place. I wonder what that costs will be even if the city wins. What will it cost if the City loses?

If it is a matter of principle as some on Council claim, then why offer anything? Did Council offer Jane Boyd a settlement? Where is that matter now and if in litigation still, how much has it cost us so far?

Library board member quits

After the miseries, I am surprised more Board members have not quit.

I wonder in which Ward Jeremy Tyrrell is going to run. I am sure that he will have some stories to tell about how this Council operates

It is going to get uglier and nastier and we still have about 11 months before the election.

Tofflemire Leaves

It is no surprise: John Tofflemire is leaving his job. I wonder what the rumour mill at City Hall will churn out about why he really is going.

I am sure that a number of people at City Hall will be quite "embarrassed" at John leaving. I wonder what secrets he really has about the border issue and I wonder if they will ever come out to "embarrass" someone. Wouldn't that be juicy!

Unfortunately, John I am sure will say nothing. I remember talking to him several months ago. I told him frankly that he upset me, given my job, with some of the positions that he seemed to advocate. He reminded me gently that his task was to carry out to the best of his ability what his political masters instructed him to do. He was a true civil servant in that regard.

I have heard that a number of other managers are upset at what is going on at City Hall. Morale I am told is low. Pay cuts, longer hours, redcircling, Star exposes do not make for a healthy environment. If one senior person after another leaves, who will work here? What kind of reputation does this City have out there? That is now becoming a big concern.
I am sure that the Mayor and CAO would agree with me that this has the potential to be "an embarrassment to the City" if not handled properly.

Exchange of emails between John Tofflemire and John Skorobohacz's office

To: City Council

I have just returned from a brief meeting with the CAO where I informed him that I have accepted the position of Director of Community Services with the Municipality of Leamington, and accordingly I am resigning my position as General Manager of Public Works. My last day with the Corporation will be Jan. 13, 2006.

There are many personal reasons for this decison, chief among them being the opportunity for my wife and I to relocate to our family farm in Leamington where I grew up, and to share that experience with my own family.

I am very proud of my accomplishments with the City over the nearly 25 years of public service here, and in particular of the staff that I leave behind. I will make myself available at every opportuinity to assist in any way I can, both during the next few weeks of transition and following my departure. I will only be an e-mail away.

Thanks to all of you for all of your considerations over the years.

Sincerely, John D. Tofflemire, P. Eng., General Manager, Public Works

From: Loader, Mary
To: City Council;

Subject: New Position for John Tofflemire

Sent of behalf of John Skorobohacz, CAO

John Tofflemire, General Manager of Public Works for the City of Windsor,has accepted a new position as the Director of Community Services with the Municipality of Leamington.

After almost 25 years with the City of Windsor, John has contributed enormously to the infrastructure development of Windsor. We are very grateful for his leadership during the last two decades and we wish him well in his new position.

John Tofflemire joined the City of Windsor in 1981 as the Assistant Director of Traffic Engineering. He moved quickly into the position of Director of Traffic Engineering in 1983. He was instrumental in introducing computerized traffic signals and applying new technological changes to the area of traffic engineering. He was named the Commissioner of Traffic Engineering in 1992. From 2003 - 2004, he was the General Manager of Infrastructure Services and City Engineer before being named
the present General Manager of Public Works in 2004.

John will be missed by his colleagues and co-workers here at the City however this new opportunity will enable him to return to the homestead on the family farm in Leamington.

Mary Loader
Office of the CAO

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's All Smoke and Mirrors

I wonder if Councillor Brister, the Chair, and Councillor Postma actually attended the same Operating Budget Committee meetings. You'd never think so after the Diva of Ward 2 slammed their Committee process right after the Chair made his remarks at Council last night. It was clear that she had had enough of the gamesmanship and the misinformation being spread about the "spenders" on Council and was not going to take it quietly any more.

So much for the pretence of Council unity. What a segue....Councillor Budget speaking first and then being ripped to shreds by his Committee colleague. Finally some spark. I can hardly wait for the new year.

It is also clear that Caroline understood what the role of a Councillor is in the budget process. And as she said, what happened to the one year wonder: "Whatever happened to People Based budgeting?"

I liked what Caroline had to say and so contacted her right after the Council meeting so that I could post her speech to let you, dear reader, read it for yourself. Wear fire retardant clothing. It is HOT!

  • "The Operating Budget Committee has been deliberating since November. Unlike our counterparts on the Capital Budget Committee we did not prioritize anything – we did not prioritize which departments/services should be cut based on 2004’s People Based budget priorities. The Operating Budget Committee was lacking strategic direction and vision.

    Impacts to the 6 strategic priorities set by this council in 2004 were not considered. Impacts to service set by People Based Budgeting were not been considered. Impacts to staffing and moral were not considered. We simply slashed and burned, based on nothing more than numbers without regard to policy or direction. Out of a $250 million dollar budget we slashed $20,000 here $1,000 there but never once did we allow for the public to truly participate.

    What ever happened to People Based budgeting? How are citizens going to learn what the cuts really mean? We did not even advertise our meetings.

    We made some cuts that we did not all agree on. For Example Huron Lodge. We used figures from the months of December to July to predict a whole year. How are we supposed to gauge what the fall & winter season will bring to our seniors in July considering that we are dealing with new strands of viruses year after year? How do we know how many residents will get sick, with what illness and for how long, especially when no members of the Operating Budget Committee have a background in Health? You don’t, you take an educated and reasonable guess from the people who have the experience in operating an institution such as this.

    It’s all smoke and mirrors in the end - we actually deferred spending about $5.7 Million and called it savings - in fact the Operating budget committee referred $4 Million to the Capital Budget Committee – which means capital projects likely got delayed – not savings – delays to service.

    I am greatly disappointed that some of my esteemed colleagues have labelled this Council as being at war with spenders vs. savers, good vs. evil, guardians of good vs. guardians of the public purse etc. There are many ways to stretch the truth to make yourself sound better than others, however all actions or mis-actions have an impact, some that you may not notice today but you certainly will in the future. Smoke and mirrors - I truly look forward to educating the public on the budget in an open truly people based process."

Ken Junior was remarkably quiet on this issue...does Caroline's speech mean there is a new Captain for the team?

Blogging And The Border

What power we Bloggers have. First a Henderson column to try and deflect Blogger criticism of the Mayor and now another Star editorial in favour of "Public" ownership of the new bridge. I am sure you remember the BLOG I wrote a few days ago: "The Border and Kids" and about the BLOG about the problems with public authorities in Western New York, especially the Peace Bridge Authority: "Only The Shadow Knows."

The Editorial Board does work hard to try and remain consistent even when they are seemingly inconsistent. Remember what they wrote before: "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."

First "redundancy" and then the "security" bugaboo to scare everyone. And now to depend on the NDP holding the balance of power in a minority Liberal Government to get what Windsor needs! The things that some will say to try and salvage a hopeless position.

So let's talk about it being a public bridge again:

  • "Public" tolls would be lower. But we all know that the round-trip Bridge Co.'s tolls are lower now than the round-trip tolls of the Windsor and Detroit Cities owned Tunnel.
  • "Profits go back into the community." But didn't the people that Brian Masse 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 private Bridge Co. pays on its profits and property in the City?
  • Public ownership "for national security reasons." But isn't the Bridge Co., not the Governments, the advocate for reverse Customs so that vehicles can be searched BEFORE they go over the crossing.
  • Public ownership "for economic security reasons." Wasn't it the Bridge Co., not the Governments, who sued the US Government to open the customs booths that solved the backups on Huron Church that prevented our economy from suffering?

As for the City of Windsor, our "public authority," why haven't the City and Province signed the Phase 1 deal re the Tunnel yet? Nothing will happen before 2007. What has happened to the City/Federal Government deal about Walker Road since it is delayed for a year now? Speaking of delays, more than six years after construction was to have begun on a new Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ont. and Buffalo, N.Y., a binational panel has settled on a design. Sounds like our bus terminal that was to be finished for the Super Bowl that has not yet begun construction!

The Star needs to give convincing answers as to where the billions for a new public crossing are to come from? Which Government programs should be cut to pay for this? We know provincially, there is no money until after 2010, as Dwight told us after the Gong Show announcement, and increased funds are not even provisioned in the Federal budget.

The Star needs to give convincing answers as to how the existing crossings can stay in business and the new public one be financially viable when traffic is decreasing. Or do we care if all of the crossings in SW Ontario go broke or require huge subsidies?

The Star needs to give convincing answers as to how many new crossings need to be built. Is one new public bridge enough or do we need more since terrorists are quite capable of hitting many targets at the same time? Why isn't the Star supporting reverse Customs instead?

The Star needs to give convincing answers as to why we should expect the NDP to do anything when Brian and Joe held the balance of power with their colleagues in the old Parliament and did nothing for us before? The border was not on Layton's list of urgent matters until the election.

The Star needs to give convincing answers as to what will happen when the Governments are sued for the "politics" of the Bi-national and the "expropriation" of the Bridge Co.'s business. How long will it take to litigate in both countries and what will be the impact?

No thanks Editorial Board....the people who gave us Canderel, the Income and Security building, the arena and MFP cannot handle big deals. The Senior Levels talk a good game but do nothing. We have border projects already in limbo and can see what has happened in Buffalo. I think that private enterprise has not done too badly for us in Windsor.

There is an easy answer to solve all this but why would anyone want to talk to the Bridge Co.! It seems that politicians think they cannot get elected if they dared do so. Pathetic isn't it!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sharing The Alberta Surplus

I saw all of the Operating Budget and Capital Budget stories in the Star and had a great idea.

I just figured out not only how to eliminate Windsor's budgetary deficit but to provide all the money we need for infrastructure spending on roads and sewers and other important community services such as the Buskers Festival.

The Globe and Mail reported that "new government figures show Alberta is amassing a record $8.7-billion budget surplus" and that Premier Klein is preparing "to tour Eastern Canada to promote how his wealthy province is a "sharing and caring" place."

Now that is a nice surplus. I recalled that in August, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce wrote that "Ontario’s position, in terms of relative competitiveness and personal income levels relative to the rest of Canada, is at risk. Ontario will almost certainly fall below the Canadian average in income per capita within the next few years, reducing Ontario to "have-not" status." It is predicted that we will arrive at this position by about 2010 unless changes are made to the system of transfer payments.

Obviously, the other Provinces believe that Alberta should share the "windfall" they are receiving due to the price of oil sky-rocketing while the Premier reminds people that Alberta made sacrifices in the past when it had a $22 billion deficit. So fair's fair!

I cannot figure out which side is right or wrong on this matter but in my view of the situation, it does not matter. I believe that our Mayor is making a fundamental error by going after Ottawa and Queen's Park only for more money for Windsor. Instead, he should be focusing on Alberta and should be demanding that we get our fair split of their surplus.

I am sure that you are wondering how I could possibly make this suggestion. After all, we are a community in Ontario, not Alberta. My statement is very logical IF you understand the oil industry where I was employed as a lawyer by one of the biggest companies for about a dozen years.

Alberta does not really earn royalties by the production of oil. Who would want that black, gooey mess anyway. Oh sure it gets its money from crude oil but it is only because that "black gold" can be refined into transportation products such as gasoline, diesel, motor oil and grease that it has any value. In other words, the more vehicles there are and the bigger they get, then more and more crude must be refined with royalties increasing with increased gas guzzling.

I am sure that you can figure out where I am headed. Windsor is the "Automotive Capital of Canada." If it were not for us producing all of those vehicles over the years and parts for vehicles assembled elsewhere, no one would buy crude from Alberta. Why the residents there would be living in poverty! If it were not for Windsor, Ralph Klein could not afford to do his Eastern Canda jaunt.

Alberta owes Windsor and owes us big time! Windsor deserves a piece of that surplus because we are responsible for them having one in the first place!

I am not an Economist and it would probably take a team of them years to figure out what the proper formula should be for a proper split. So how about if we just ask for a straight ten percent. That's almost $900 million that should flow into Windsor's coffers!

It is not all that unusual...after all Ottawa shares million of dollars with Windsor under a new gasoline tax revenue-sharing deal for infrastructure projects based on a formula involving gasoline taxes.

Premier Klein must have been thinking of Windsor subconsciously when he named his Province as "sharing and caring." After all Windsor coined the phrase the "cardiac caring community." Our former Mayor called Windsor "the most caring community in Canada." Herb Gray said Windsor is "a wonderful caring and sharing community."

Makes sense to me...Mayor and Council, be my guest and use this idea as you see fit.

[And no, I have NOT been drinking too much holiday cheer. It is meant to be a joke]

What Else Can $10 Per Sq Ft Get You Downtown

The Star reported on Saturday that "an in-camera meeting that was held by city council to reduce the lease rate for the two floors of space at the DaimlerChrysler building was held in July. The issue of real estate commissions for the agents who have listed the property was dealt with at an in-camera meeting a few weeks ago." I believe the commission issue was brought forward in a public Council meeting

Wow, reduce the price dramatically in July, change the commissions AND " the new lease rate isn't written in stone and sections of the two floors -- like the back half facing Pitt Street -- could go for less than $10, while the section facing the river could go for more....The city, [City solicitor George Wilkki said] is willing to look at "anything reasonable.... Any offer that would come in the door we would take to council and see what council wants to do with it."

Just curious to see what $10 per square foot could get me in the downtown core, I found the property shown above. (I am not making a true comparison since one has to add in the maintenance costs too and it is a "storefront" rather than a Triple A office tower). Interestingly, it is part of the Mady parking garage in which the City is involved and which is now in receivership.