Beware The Ides Of February
We are so dangerous because we are prepared to write about and read about alternatives respecting some of the serious issues impacting our City. We are prepared to question and do not accept unhesitatingly the orthodoxy being spread about how wonderful things are in Windsor and who is our salvation. We are prepared to use our brains. Let me explain exactly what I mean.
I know the "Ides" is the 13th of February, so please do not scold me for the headline. I also know Saturday was not the 22nd of February. However, Saturday was almost 3 years to the day of the Saturday Special Strategy session of Windsor Council under Mike Hurst when supposedly, the majority of Council reversed themselves and advocated the building of DRTP North. That session shocked the City. That day's meeting resulted in the transformation of Windsor and lead to the end of the political career of Hurst. It also helped cause certain Councillors and the Mayor to be elected.
Isn't it ironic considering the day! In a bizarre twist of Fate, Saturday's Gord Henderson column and Eddie's "public" border meeting will mark the beginning of the end of the one-hit wonder term of Mayor Francis. It will also be the end of the careers of several Councillors. Someone should insert in the City's Procedural By-law that the Mayor must hide in bed under his covers on this Saturday every February. It is too dangerous otherwise.
Let me dismiss Saturday's border meeting quickly. I did not see the "Big City" Mayor so I assume that he did not get his 11 PM flight out of Ottawa. He was lucky!
I talked to a number of people there as did others I asked to help me "work" the room. General reaction---When people found out that this was Eddie's guess as to what DRIC wanted to do rather than what DRIC actually proposed, they were furious. It seems A-Channel's viewership is a lot larger than I thought since people talked to me about "scare-mongering."
If I hear an obviously phony number about attendance, I just may file a Municipal Freedom of Information Act application to get the list of attendees and shall count them, one by one, and might even call up a few at random to confirm that they really were there. You noticed that the Mayor has not talked about border traffic and bus numbers for Super Bowl since they are so bad notwithstanding what he said to expect before the big game. He knows if someone dares to give out incorrect information, I can call their bluff!
There was vast confusion at the session and about what it was all about. People wanted answers to questions, not boards and maps. People were angry at misinformation being spread. Councillor Budget was said to be out of character in suggesting money be spent on legal fees to fight DRIC. He has been virtually silent on the border for over two years even though he was elected as MR. STOPDRTP. The Ward 2 Councillors were very upset at what was taking place and the DRIC people I talked to thought Eddie was now in serious trouble with their political bosses!
Oh and Al Teshuba must be running for something municipally after failing to win federally for the Conservatives since he was holding forth too. I thought initially he was part of Schwartz's staff! Al's website discussion on the border was certainly underwhelming.
Snubbing results in Windsor only getting $100K out of $10M in amounts for St. Clair College and a certain Councillor asking why no one listens to Windsor but they do to LaSalle! What else will Windsor not get by annoying the people with power, money and control over our destiny?
BUT the big news with people was the Henderson column. No one understood why he attacked Bill "nice guy" Marra (the common view was that Eddie is afraid of him and that Bill would beat him easily if he ran) and the thought of spending MORE money on an arena would mean the end of whichever Councillor or Mayor supported it. If Eddie had not made the 25,000 seat stadium remark, it might not have bothered people as much.
The word of the day for Eddie "desperation!"
Let me deal with Gord's column now. I am not sure how to do it. Remember though Gord's column, "Reality check" when he wrote:
- "He's your boy. That's why you won't lay a hand on him," sneered one of a handful of blog and bacon peddlers who insist Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has been a disaster in his rookie term and will be easy pickings in the 2006 election."
Did anyone hear Bill announce that he was running for Mayor to provoke such an attack? What did the first part of the column have to do with anything that the rest of the column discussed? The attack just came out of the blue.
You know why it was done don't you? It was really written to answer the Blog I wrote the other day about "DesRosiers for Mayor." Remember what I said there: "that one of the tactics of the E-machine (Eddie's electoral juggernaut) is to "scare away opponents in advance." Does anyone want a better example of this?
Remember what I said in the conclusion:
- "Wait a minute. I just figured something out. The E-machine knows that Dennis is not going to run. Why does he need the heartache? He has a successful business. Why does he need a reduction in income?
Nope, this is directed at those who might dare challenge the Mayor. It is telling them what they are up against. It is telling Bill Marra NOT to run!"
And to further diminish the credibility of Marra, Gord says he won't even run in his old Ward, Ward 4 (the local joke in that Ward is that residents know now that they are voting for Junior not the senior Lewenza this time around so there is no confusion), but has to run as a "carpet-bagger" in Ward 5!
As an aside, there was the $1000 amount that I keep mentioning too ie the cost of Tylenol pills for seniors at Huron Lodge that the Budgeteers cut!
But then there was the real meat, the arena. I wrote to a Councillor this morning asking to "explain to me why it is wrong for you and your Councillor colleagues to give me information for my Blog while it is not wrong for the Mayor to give information to Gord Henderson for the Star." There has been a controversy about that within City Hall trying to guess who my sources of information are.
As I have been saying for weeks now and Eddie said it in Gord's column:
In other words, Eddie, if you cannot build an arena, you cannot do anything. It's black or white. It's easy to judge him on this issue.
STOP THE INSANITY!
Eddie will do anything and everything to get re-elected. His Plan depends on it.
Remember in his Kick-off speech for mayor when he said " I SAID TO YOU EARLIER THAT I AM NOT A POLITICIAN." Well he is one. He is a desperate one now and no one has yet announced that he/she might run against him.
- chase Beztak out of town even though they were not going to ask for money for an arena as the focus of the downtown urban village,
- then the Henderson dream column about the Raceway arena,
- then Raceway negotiations resulting in nothing but not discussed for a month,
- then a Councillor before the Raceway is even buried lobbying for a Riverside arena,
- then the 25,000 seat stadium,
- now the talk of an arena near Tecumseh and Lauzon.
- "Eddie Francis wants to be re-elected E-I-E-I-O
So he pulls out some cash to build an arena E-I-E-I-O
With an arena here,
And an arena there,
Here an arena, there an arena,
Everywhere an arena, an arena.
Eddie Francis wants to be re-elected E-I-E-I-OOOOOOOOOO."
- "...through zero-based budgeting, hard work and relentless belt-tightening, [we are] freeing up huge sums for capital investments..
And now that the city has financial wiggle room, Francis appears set to invest some of that freed-up capital, not to mention his accumulated political capital, in fulfilling a city dream. At a strategic planning session tentatively set for next Saturday at Willistead Manor, Francis will make a pitch for the city to get behind building a new ice rink for the Spitfires.
...he'll be seeking council backing for one final push to replace the 80-year-old Barn...
He said the city is in "a different position than we've ever been in terms of getting our financial house in order" but will not get into projects that don't make financial sense and are not supported by a business case.
He wouldn't put it in those words. But the message I took from his comments is that the city, building on the momentum of dynamic new Spitfire ownership and the Junior Pan Am Games and Super Bowl successes, might have the means to move well beyond the $15 million already budgeted for a new arena, without increasing the load on city taxpayers.
"It's time to really focus on building the city and having in our city what other cities have."
Poor Alan Halberstadt, learning in his good buddy's column a few days after his friend pushed to refurbish the Barn that his idea is dead because Eddie said so! We didn't even need a pesky Council meeting to dismiss Alan's idea. Alan must be getting a media-rejection complex already.... Eddie dismissed his request about Estrin's legal bills on Face-To-Face and now Eddie rejects him in Gord's column.
My Goodness. Gord Henderson is the biggest flipflopper in town: On February 9 he wrote:
- "There's a craving for a new arena and it's become larger than life. There's a psychological stigma attached to it," said Halberstadt. "But we just hosted the greatest show on earth and we seemed to survive without a new arena."
Indeed we did. And if anyone thinks Windsor still needs more than a functional hockey rink, they should stroll over to Pitt and McDougall and check out this city's answer to the Grand Canyon.
You have to eyeball this cavernous expanse of concrete and rebar to comprehend the massive scale of the $400-million hotel, convention and entertainment centre being added to Casino Windsor. This is our long-awaited multi-use facility, writ large, and it's going up as we speak.
Now all we need is an improved home for the Spits. The barn reno/ expansion would serve that limited purpose admirably without becoming a drain on taxpayers.
But it's never that simple in Windsor. I'm told fallback plans are being cobbled together for a twinned Riverside Arena at a new location that could service minor hockey as well as the Spits."
STOP THE INSANITY!
Is someone smoking something about our fiscal position and the room in the capital budget? There is no wiggle room! I spoke to a number of Councillors and they are unaware of this "wiggle room" to waste money. Here is what they said in the Star only a few short weeks ago after the Capital Budget meetings:
- "City Council will soon choose its poison -- pass a small tax hike or be prepared to accept a greater number of bone-rattling potholes and sewage-filled basements after a storm...
The committee -- consisting of councillors Fulvio Valentinis, Tom Wilson, Ron Jones, David Cassivi and Joyce Zuk -- passed a second recommendation that more than $4 million in funds removed from the city's reserves by the operating budget committee be replaced. The city's reserve funds were at $22 million before recent payments surrounding the MFP settlement and $7.2 million for pay equity, dropping the balance to about $10 million.
"That gets very dangerous," said Valentinis, chairman of council's capital budget committee. "We have a downturn in the economy coming. There are all kinds of surprises that crop up so it's important to have reserves in place."
There is little wiggle room for council to reach a zero tax increase, said Valentinis, who cited the annual three per cent employee pay hikes plus rising utility and gas costs.
The only option for councillors to consider is reductions to the city's sewer and road rehabilitation budget, he said, noting the combined proposed spending total of more than $15 million for 2006.
"Council can achieve zero, but it will have to come out of roads and sewers," Valentinis said...
John Tofflemire, the city's general manager for Infrastructure Services, emphasized to council how there was "no value" in cutting back roads and sewer repairs after so many year of neglect in the annual budget.
The city has close to 1,000 kilometres of roads, excluding E.C. Row Expressway, with 20 per cent rated as "deficient," meaning they need immediate work. In order to prevent further deterioration, an average of $13.8 million needs to be spent annually.
This year $8.4 million for road rehab is budgeted, although that is up substantially from last year's $4.55 million.
"We have an overwhelming infrastructure deficit," Tofflemire said. "Even before a nickel gets cut out of this year's budget, it's going to be inadequate. What councillors have to decide is how much can be deferred."
Each of the five councillors on the capital budget committee seemed to favour a small tax hike over cuts to the road and sewer repair funds.
We can't let the city fall down around us," Jones said. "We have to maintain infrastructure because in 2009 or 2010 (repairs) are going to cost a lot more than now. It's pay now or a lot more later.
"People will understand a tax increase when they see us doing improvements in roads and sewers."
Coun. Tom Wilson agreed.
"It's not an option for me," he said. "What's the top call we get? Sewage in the basement from collapsed sewer lines.
"We keep looking at zero zero, zero (tax increases). All of a sudden, we need to catch up. (Taxpayers) can appreciate a one or two per cent increase when they see the full amount going into roads and sewers."
I have written too much already. I hope you had an extra large coffee while reading all of this. Let me again quote Gord about what this is all about:
"Now or never. And if it's now, what a coup that would be for city politicians in an election year."
This column will have ramifications much more significant than the mere election of a mayor. I suggest you refer back to my BLOG "Twenty Fearless Predictions For 2006" dated January 3. What is scary to me is that many of them are really coming true and it is only February!
STOP THE INSANITY!