Eddie Francis Square
Have you ever been to Toronto and visited Nathan Phillips Square? It is a magnificent area with a City Hall building that is Toronto's signature to the world. The Square was named after Nathan Phillips, who was the Mayor of Toronto from 1955 to 1962. He was Toronto's "Mayor of All The People" and a truly beloved man whose sole job was to sell Toronto to itself and to the world!
I thought about that Square when I read the story in the Star that "The City of Windsor will spend about $200,000 to hire a private firm to study what renovations and upgrades are needed at 350 City Hall Square West and at a west side fire station....We have an aging building portfolio," said Sergio Grando, the city's executive director of hospitality and corporate facility planning"
It really is like playing a chess game when you deal with a matter at City Hall these days. A move today could have an impact tomorrow. Just like the signing of the Phase 1 agreement on the border with the Governments of Canada and Ontario which had nothing to do with the truck issue on the border but resulted in $30 million being set aside to upgrade the Tunnel Plaza.
It seemed absurd at the time. Now we know the real reason for that deal. About eighteen months later we learned that Eddie's Plan was to have the Senior Levels pay for upgrading the Tunnel Plaza so he could own/operate/lease out the new and improved Detroit/Windsor Tunnel with or without the City of Detroit! He would be a big-time Border Operator if that happened, not just a passive Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission. And then think of the great financial deals he could swing with that asset at his fingertips. (Fortunately for us, the Bridge Co. was a few steps ahead of him or Eddie might have added a huge debt load to the City when the Tunnel got into financial difficulties)
You may remember what I said about the $15,000 spent on the Report on the Income and Security Building. I was shocked when it was first announced. I could not believe that the City was auditing itself. If you recall my conclusion:
- "In thinking about it, it is geared towards what should be done if we are going to do another project like this again. Oh my goodness, does this mean that the City is in the land development business now too? Land development, running a border operation, setting up a CFL franchise with a new stadium--everything except running a city. Can you blame the Mayor and Council though...it is such dull work. It is much more fun being an entrepreneur with taxpayer money."
I think Councillor Halberstadt may be right. Spending $200,000 to do an investigation into a $4.2M repair job seems excessive. I wonder if the Report will come back saying that City Hall cannot be saved, that there is no point pouring all of that money into a building that should be re-built. A perfect example is yesterday's Heritage Day-award winning Tunnel Ventilation building. Isn't it an old building that shot up in cost during renovations because of unknown building deficiencies. It's a good precedent isn't it?
So here is how it will work:
- the study will be undertaken
- the report will be finished in early summer but not released by Administration at that time because they have to spend the time studying it so that they can give a thorough report to Council
- it will be released when Eddie wants it released
- the study will come back and be very negative about the building and suggest that the renovation costs will be substantially more than the $4.2 million
- it will also tell us how to move Departments around for better use of space to save outside leasing costs
- Eddie Francis will have another interview with Gord Henderson talking about the need for a new City Hall a few days before the Report is introduced at Council
- Gord Henderson will demand that, with the great financial situation that the City is now in after the Mayor's hard work on the Budget, we build a new "signature" City Hall for Windsor to make us the envy of the world
- Gord will remember that we spent $15,000 to develop a system for handling big projects internally and that this should be a City run project
- Gord will demand that we follow the example of Toronto and have an international competition to design this building that will build on our Super Bowl success.
- Gord will tell us to "Think Big" and get over Windsor's all-pervasive "inferiority complex," especially since we had just killed Eddie's new arena deal at Tecumseh and Lauzon and we have $15 million (or more) set aside anyway
- A Council resolution will be introduced and passed in early fall getting this whole process "in motion."
- No one will listen to the cries that this is another "Canderel."
- The Star will run a series of articles just before the election about the history of Nathan Phillips Square and how it made Toronto an international city
- A letter writing campaign just before the election will demand that the new City Hall Square be named after the Mayor that started all of this, "Eddie Francis Square!"
- The new Mayor, Bill Marra, will say that a few cans of paint are all that is needed to 'fix up" the building and will get down to the real work of rebuilding Windsor
That's how chess is played at City Hall.