Three's A Crowd
It was a crowded day for me yesterday from early morning to late at night. Lansing, Toronto via radio and Tecumseh oooooooops Windsor Council meeting I mean.
What I want to do is give you an overview of the events yesterday and then try and make some sense out of it for you.
Sure not as exciting as the Army/McCarthy hearings or Watergate hearings or impeaching Bill Clinton but probably more important. It was an hour and a half of a presentation by and questioning of MDOT. I was told that the way the system works is that the real work is done by staffers who help out the Senators and Representatives in reaching a decision. What was very interesting though were the number of people asking questions and each of them asking specific ones on different topics. When put all together one can see a comprehensive position being taken.
Let me just briefly set out some of the questions in no particular order:
- what is the charter for DRIC, its structure
- who are the decision makers
- what is the cost, how much has been spent to date, who is supplying the money for it
- explain the traffic projections especially the reason for the dip in 1998 and why traffic should pick up
- what is the role of Port Huron in reducing traffic to Detroit/Windsor
- didn't the Ambassador Gateway project for which hundreds of millions were spent solve the problems and if it is now no longer part of DRIC , why should more money be put into it
- what is the cost of a new plaza
- what good is redundancy if there is improper security at Michigan bridges
- is there Federal/Homeland Security money around to help pay for a new crossing
- has there been "sunshine" on the process
- what are the cost diffferences between a short and long bridge
- can freeways handle bridges so close together
- how many homes will be taken
- compare costs with the economic impact
- why is it viewed that "public" can do a better job in operating a new bridge
- Is Canada paying its share
From my perspective, MDOT did a poor job of responding. As an example, to answer #6, MDOT said it was a "short-term" solution to "accommodate" a new crossing and is just needed until a new bridge is built. Everyone else seems to know it was designed for a Twinned Bridge.
MDOT's quoting of figures was inconsistent with their own written materials, as if the spokesperson had not done his homework. That was inexcusable to me.
My reaction when I heard that only US$5 million of $21 million budgetted for DRIC was spent was to close it down and save $16 million!
"We'll be moving forward with the federal government on our $300 million investment in the Windsor Gateway." That's it
In the backgrounder:
"Investments in infrastructure will create a competitive advantage, economic growth and a higher standard of living for Ontarians. The government's key infrastructure initiatives include:
with the federal government and other partners, an investment of $623 million to enhance border crossings in Windsor, Niagara and Sarnia;" That's it too.
Windsor Council's "Special " Tecumseh meeting
It was "special" now, not public.
It was truly deja vu all over again. Here we were 3 years later ranting and railing against what the Senior Levels were going to do to us. We had the pitch to save Talbot Road as before but with a slightly different way of "sharing the pain." (although not too many Talbot Road people spoke for some reason). We had the environmnetal pleas but more emphasized because of Ojibway and the pleas re our health and well-being. My friend Moe was there trying to salvage DRTP. Still.
I have already posted Alan McKinnon's speech. When the crowd was down to about a quarter of its size or so, the most bizarre incident of the evening took place. Eddie a la Perry Mason tried to cross-examine him into conceding what I am still not clear.
More likely our august Mayor decided that he could not stand being attacked as Alan did and thought he would embarrass Alan. Unfortunately, our Mayor who has not practised much as a lawyer, should learn that, to cross-examine a "witness," one should know what your opponent will say and be careful when you take on someone almost as smart as you and someone who knows his field better than you. All Eddie appeared to be was a bully trying to harrass a citizen. It did not go over well with the crowd. A number of people came up to Alan afterwards to congratulate him.
I guess our Mayor has a thin skin for a politician.
Council passed a Resolution last night. I hope it is published soon so I can know what it is since it was quite confusing. How a Resolution is passed at a meeting which I consider improper is something else too. How it was passed within the rules of the Procedure By-law I am not sure either . Of course, we were never told in the City materials beforehand that a Resolution was to be passed at all! It does not really matter anyway. DRIC will ignore it.
But the star attraction was Gridlock Sam again who gave us the good news (darn, he violated the Procedure By-law too by going more than 10 minutes but the Mayor ignored the time-limit for him for some reason but not for delegations) and his assistant Marko who had to deliver the bad news. And then there was our Toronto lawyer who told us how he would argue against DRIC ie what his litigation strategy would be frankly. I am disappointed though he did not set out what his fees would be as well.
Sam gave us the tunnel under Talbot Road although I do not remember that being a big part of his pitch before, while Marko gave us the "area of disruption" that scared everyone out of their minds
I was terribly disappointed in the rest of what Sam had to say to be direct. He said that he wanted a spectrum of alternatives for an Environmental Assessment for a road west of Huron Church. I did not; I wanted his solution. He obviously listened to Marko who had advocated for a "a yellow fuzzy swath." He did what the Mayor accused DRIC of doing: "too vague and broad."
But that lead perfectly into David Estrin's legal argument that a Municipal-Provincial EA should determine the road not DRIC who should only be concerned about the bridge and plaza. (That concession, in my opinion, will prove to be a major reason why the City will lose if it is ever litigated.)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN
In the end, Lansing or the Governor or the Detroit Mayor or some combination thereof will determine what happens with DRIC. We have no input. From the tone of the questioning (although that is not always a good sign) there was a strong anti-MDOT mood.
Building a bridge and infrastructure a mile away from the Ambassador Bridge for billions makes little sense when the Legislators know that MDOT does not have enough money to build and fix roads in Michigan. By the next meeting, we should get a better feel for where they want to go.
I saw Steve Salmons at the Council meeting last night. He must have been gloating after Dwight kicked Eddie you know where with NO more money for the Windsor border. Let's get real....money for tunneling along Talbot Road. Nope, just enough to pay for the expropriation. Another E-machine problem. No money for what Eddie wants to do which means he cannot pull it off before November. (Infrastructure is not a Conservative priority either.)
And the pre-election campaign kick-off meeting, I thought I saw oxygen being taken to some E-machine members as the applause swelled for McKinnon. A Councillor called me this morning and spoke to my wife claiming only a few people clapped. Well I have the tape of the applause and it was loud, the loudest of the night!
It was a farce...a meeting that does not meet the Municipal Act in my opinion, passing a Resolution that Councillors had trouble understanding that will be ignored by the decision-makers. Were the DRIC people there able to contain their laughter?
Macho Councillors were almost begging for litigation so that they can say for the next few months until after the next election: "Sorry, talk to our lawyer about it." Councillors so worried about re-election that they are forgetting that we have serious problems here in our competition with Sarnia.
Joyce Zuk's cry about the level of hostility...well who caused it, not citizens. Just like three years ago too. Perhaps the causes should be discussed secretly in camera when the Governor's hubby comes back.
Again, the Chamber of Commerce bashed Council. Is that twice in two weeks?
My friend summed up the meeting well. He described it as the throwing of nuts and bolts into moving machinery. All that was happening he said was the creation of confusion and concern.