Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 06, 2006

Press Release From The Mayor's Office

I thought it important to post this press release from the City.

Do you truly believe that Windsor's economy is on the move as the Mayor suggests Or do you feel that we are in a very serious situation in Windsor with our economy at risk?

It should be obvious what I think and who I believe must shoulder the blame for this situation. What we lack in Windsor is leadership. Looking at the world in rose-cloured glasses, especially in an election year, is not helpful in my respectful opinion. If the best the Mayor has going for him is a report by the Daily Commercial News, then we are all in big trouble!

If you truly want to see what's going on in City Government, watch the Mayor's interview with John Fairley on Cogeco, Cable 11. I believe it is at noon on Saturday and Sunday (one half of the hour interview each day perhaps. The schedule is not clear)

News Release---Windsor‘s Economy is Shifting into High Gear

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis today welcomed a recent report by the Daily Commercial News headlined, “Watch as Windsor’s Economy Moves into High Gear.” The Mayor said the report is just one of many indicators that investors have their eye on Windsor and that 2006 is going to be a very solid year for Windsor’s economy.

“A significant number of changes have been made both within City Hall and outside,” said Mayor Francis, “and those changes have been recognized. We also heard from our bond raters earlier this year with regards to the great success we have had in taking a big chunk out of our debt and getting our fiscal house in order.”

In September, Standard and Poors (S&P) affirmed the City of Windsor at a strong AA- credit rating, with a stable outlook. The AA category is described as “very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.” In its report, S&P noted strong budgetary performance, assessment growth, and debt reduction. The report commented that, “the City remains pro-active in introducing various economic diversification initiatives.”

On December 7, economist John Clinkard published a review in the Daily Commercial News that noted that Windsor’s employment had remained at about 165,000 jobs for about four years as a result of restructuring and downsizing in the auto industry, but then went on to say,”…there are signs that Windsor’s manufacturing sector has turned the corner.” The Daily Commercial News report said, “Over the next 12 to 18 months, the outlook for the Windsor economy will improve dramatically due to three recent developments. First, lower oil and gasoline prices… have improved the outlook for the North American automotive industry in general and Windsor’s automotive-related industries in particular. This improvement, together with Chrysler’s plant expansion, will cause metropolitan Windsor’s industrial construction to rebound in 2006.”

DaimlerChrysler is investing an additional $610 million over three years in its new Windsor “flex” operations, and in research and development at the University of Windsor. The International Truck and Engine Corporation Centre of Innovation, a partnership with the University of Windsor and the City of Windsor, is another significant advancement in our region’s capacity for research, development and education. Also adding greatly to our expertise is a growing list of new and expanding high tech companies in the region including VistaPrint, Figleaf International, Axiom Technologies, Cybersystems Group and Eco TEMP. Investor confidence will be further bolstered by the construction of $100 million worth of new border infrastructure.

Mayor Francis says that partnering with Essex County and southeast Michigan in a regional approach to economic development will benefit not only manufacturing, hi-tech and agribusiness, but tourism as well – noting the ongoing $400 million expansion of Casino Windsor and the upcoming National Football League’s Super Bowl XL events. “We know what this region has to offer,” said Mayor Francis. “By all of us pulling together, saying this is what we want and we won’t settle for less, we can have a tremendous amount of success.”

Hello Steve Landry

Eddie, Buzz and Ken Sr.----Get that work here!

Detroit News:

Chrysler to build Volkswagen minivan

DETROIT -- Volkswagen AG said Thursday that it will collaborate with DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Groupon a Volkswagen minivan for the North American market that will start production in 2008. VW Chairman Wolfgang Bernhard told German-language reporters at the Los Angeles Auto Show that Chrysler will build the minivans either at a plant in Windsor, Ontario, or a plant near St. Louis.


A Reader speculates:

St. Louis will also get the current Pacifica production as well. Windsor will get a new product to go along with the RT in the future although its not announced yet what it will be...probably after the 2008 model year. Car companies nominate their assembly plants years ahead of when the public hears it.

[Is this why Buzz said today in the Star....""For us it's not really a big deal," Hargrove said from Toronto after the announcement, which was made at the Los Angeles auto show.]

Process Rules

Process, process, process. I finally figured him out. Eddie Francis makes a perfect bureaucrat and a lousy politician.

There are a whole bunch of reasons why I say this that I will not bore you with right now. The awakening came to me in reading the two exciting stories in the Star the other day. The first was about the Via Rail relocation and the other was about the 5,000 acre industrial park urged for Windsor and the County.

Here is what the County politicians said about the VIA Rail story:

  • I don't think anybody could be happier than Lakeshore with this because we have 25 miles of this," said Mayor Bob Croft. "I'm so pleased.... Everything that was screwed up in our planning over the last 100 years, we can re-plan and redevelop. ..." Croft cited the potential for walkways, green space or possibly a commuter road linking Windsor to Tilbury... The first thing we will need to do is bring in a designer to come in and look at this," he said. "What a great opportunity."
  • Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said, "There is a real opportunity here. Having no rail coming through the heart of our community will be a huge improvement. Once they make the announcement, the important thing is to act on this quickly." "I think it's important to look at everything," McNamara said. "Forget the municipal boundaries and look at the region and what is best."

Here is what Mayor Francis said about the VIA Rail story:

  • Eddie Francis said the issue of a commuter road in the corridor will be explored, but there are no guarantees it will become a reality, citing environmental assessments and who would pay for the costs of removing the railroad tracks..."It will certainly be considered to see if it is feasible," Francis said. "It's an extremely involved process and it's too early to tell what may or may not happen. We have to look at the potential for what that land may offer. It's way too early in the process.

Here is what the County politicians said about the industrial park story:

  • The City of Windsor and Essex County municipalities should do more than "pay lip service" to regional development by joining forces to build a 5,000 acre industrial and commercial business park in a central location, Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said..."Everyone talks the talk (of regional development), but when they go back to their municipalities they don't want to walk the walk," McNamara said.
  • Lakeshore Mayor Bob Croft, whose town has had the most success recently attracting new industrial and commercial growth, still supports the idea of a regional industrial park. "I agree," said Croft. "Everybody who puts something into it, would gain."

It appears as if Eddie was not interviewed for this story so here is what Roman Dzus, acting director of the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission , said about the industrial park story:

  • Roman Dzus also agreed the idea of municipalities sharing costs and tax revenue from a regional industrial park was worth exploring..."It eliminates the time and energy wasted in internal rivalries," Dzus said...The city and county have agreed in principle to reorganize the development commission and increase its funding and the idea of a regional industrial park should be on its agenda when the restructuring is completed early in the New Year, Dzus said.

Oh I am sure that there will need to be a lot done before this will all come true. But don't you see the contrast.

Great excitement from county politicians who have seen their towns being impacted negatively but now see great opportunities. More importantly, their view is a regional view for economic development and not a local, parochial one.

Our Mayor....why he could not be more bored about the whole thing, just so worried about the process. Not one word about the potential this could bring....Didn't he just bring in a world-class guru to talk about matters such as this!

As for the 5,000 acres, the Development Commission learned not to be too excited either but to place it on an agenda.

Vision compared with process...what a shame for Windsor and the region.

Processing Youth

Process, process, process. I am so sick and tired about hiding behind process. The Star news story below on trying to create an independent live music venue for teens was quite disheartening but isn't this how our City seems to work these days?

Now we see the joys of the by-law keeping dancing only in the downtown. I guess the people at the breweries will be happy that under-aged teens will have to go to the bar district to dance! Expose them to beer-drinking early on!

It's so much easier to say NO isn't it rather than here is what you can do since you have such a novel idea to meet an identified need.

And what has happened since the Devonshire youth meeting...any new initiatives. Well not quite yet. They are still working on creating a youth council that can get together sometime in 2006, like right before the election perhaps. It's not all that hard to do. Just ask Bill Marra since he had an idea about how to do it! ["Hello Devonshire Mall Loiterers" BLOG, November 4, 2005]

"...a load of crap" -- little more than a gesture for the media." Oh well, Colin is young. He can take the setback. It is an early lesson in politics that he just learned.

City blocks rock shows
Dalson Chen, Windsor Star, Published: Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Colin McMahon is feeling pretty damn punk rock these days.

But the punk show promoter isn't letting his sudden unemployment get to him. He has other things on his mind.

Since the early months of 2005, McMahon has been struggling to create something for Windsor teens: an independent live music venue.

In a city where loitering at the mall seems an attractive Friday night activity for many young people, the majority of places where bands can perform happen to be drinking establishments.

McMahon and his fellow punk rockers have yearned for a place to hang out and hold shows without worrying about security guards, liquor licences, and bar owners.

But on Dec. 19, McMahon ran into his biggest obstacle yet. At a meeting with the mayor's assistant and representatives of the city's building department, he was informed that what he proposed violated municipal bylaws.

McMahon said the city officials told him his idea of a venue falls under the definition of an entertainment lounge.

"Nobody can start an entertainment lounge outside the downtown district," McMahon said. "Any show with dancing that's held anywhere outside of an entertainment lounge is not legal."

McMahon said he was told that music events at community centres are forbidden and even high school dances are technically illegal. And if he attempted anything more permanent, it would have to be shut down.

"They were sympathetic. It's not that they didn't want to help me out. But they said their hands were tied."

All things considered, McMahon said, the venue situation for Windsor teens hasn't changed much in the past year. They're still no closer to having a dedicated gathering place, even after airing their grievances at a town hall meeting for youths held by Mayor Eddie Francis at the Devonshire Mall in October.

Despite that event's fanfare, McMahon said he never had high hopes for it, and he now thinks it was "a load of crap" -- little more than a gesture for the media.

"All the stuff we talked about, none of that has made any progress, really," McMahon said. "It's basically the same as it ever was.... All we've gained is the knowledge of what's not allowed."

But Francis said that much work has been undertaken since the special town hall meeting, specifically in developing a council of youth representatives that can bring the concerns of Windsor's young people to the city government.

Francis said he expects the youth council to be in place sometime in 2006.

Regarding the creation of a youth gathering place, Francis was less committal.

"One of the things I said at that forum was: 'Don't look to the city government to do this for you,'" he said. "I also indicated to (the youth) that the first step in the process was to bring them to the table, and that this wasn't going to happen overnight."

Francis said he knew McMahon met with the city on Dec. 19, but he hadn't been briefed on what happened at the meeting.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Windsor Misinformation,

Nope, I am not going to talk about gambling, Cuban cigars, strippers, escorts or booze. I'll let the Mayor walk the fine line when he talks about our cultural institutions like the Art Gallery, Windsor Symphony and Windsor Ballet to protect our City's image!

I am obviously biased but the Downtown entertainment centre committee should have used my son's promo line and logo above---WINDSOR IS ELECTRI-CITY---when they were looking for a slogan a few years ago so that names like Bartown would not be used.

Ok, you guessed's the border again. I saw this news story about a meeting in Oshawa:
  • OSHAWA -- An all-candidates debate hosted by the Canadian Auto Workers went off without a hitch Tuesday night, despite weeks of uncertainty leading up to the event...

    Traffic congestion on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit was another hot topic, with everyone acknowledging that a single truck breakdown can thrown the whole auto sector into chaos.

    While the three frontrunners floated ideas like a second bridge or a funding boost, Mr. Jobse [Green Party] was the only one to suggest that Canada shouldn't add to the traffic jam by trucking garbage across the border.

Is it too much to expect that our Mayor will jump to Windsor's defence on border congestion as he did about our "Sin City" reputation? Will he say that the stories about border back-ups are untrue? Eddie finally admitted the obvious on his Face-To-Face interview: traffic is moving at the border because of the actions of the Bridge Co. Ironically, I was driving last night and heard on WWJ that there was an hour long truck backup at Sarnia/Port Huron but everything was running smoothly at the Ambassador Bridge!

Let me know IF you find the news story where he says that we do not have back-ups here to counter the negative publicity to protect our City's image!

Sin City and truck backups: misinformation or is it something more?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

I've waited about 40 years to be able to use that line from Act 1 of Hamlet!

Clearly, there are certain phenomena that we just cannot explain using our logic. DRIC's treatment of the Twinned Bridge proposal is one of these matters.

If I were the owner of the Bridge Company, I am not sure what my reaction would be to what they have said. I'd probably have a meeting with my litigation lawyers at the least early in the new year. "Is something rotten in the state of Michigan and Province of Ontario?"

Is the Twinned Bridge or the 200 booth proposal "to be or not to be? That is the question." Is DRIC being "cruel, only to be kind?"

On the one hand, DRIC probably gave him a nice X-mas gift. As I wrote previously in "Is There A Santa Claus" on December 14, DRIC said:

  • "However, the Canadian evaluation notes a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would be an expansion of the existing crossing, not a new crossing of the river with new connections to the freeway systems in Ontario and Michigan."

Since the Bridge Co.'s Twinned Bridge or 200 booth proposal is considered an expansion of the existing crossing, the Bi-national has no control over them. Moreover, the Bridge Co.'s route can receive the $300 million funding to build the WALTS/Ring/Schwartz/Windsor road including the "missing link" to the Bridge under the Border Infrastructure Fund legislation. After all, it is not a NEW proposal but expansion of an existing corridor to the border.

On the other hand, the way DRIC treated his suggested crossing was unconscionable. Oh, his US side project, the Ambassador Gateway plaza was fine. It was more than fine actually:

  • "The most cost-effective Illustrative Alternatives are X-11/C-4 (Delray East)/Dragoon/I-75 and X-12/II-4 (Expanded Ambassador Bridge Plaza)/I-75 which rank first and second, respectively, in terms of cost-effectiveness by both the Citizens’ and Technical Team’s weights. These alternatives are also the top two performers in effectiveness (Table S-10) according to both the Citizens’ and Technical Team’s weights. These indices are very much apart from all other Alternatives. And, these two crossing systems are among the best performers in Regional Mobility."

But it was the way his Canadian side was treated that eliminated the Twinned Bridge. "The DRIC doth protest too much, methinks..."

  • "Specifically, the existing plaza in Canada at the Ambassador Bridge is approximately 20 acres. A suitable plaza size to meet the requirements of border agencies, accommodate all international truck and auto traffic and connections to a second span of the Ambassador Bridge is 120 acres... Ambassador Bridge crossing alternative is eliminated because, in Canada, the plaza and freeway connection leading to a second span would have unacceptable community impacts and the constructability of a six-lane freeway along Huron Church Road is doubtful in light of intensity of the surrounding development."

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't." What does this all mean? Take a look at the picture above. It shows what DRIC thinks the Twinned Bridge proposal is: a route down Huron Church Road to a plaza that takes over Sandwich! Now not even the Mayor and Ward 2 Councillors would have the nerve to accuse the Bridge Co. of wanting that proposal.

Instead of looking at the off-site Bridge Co. plaza and the "Ring" Road as the Bridge Co. proposal for a Twinned Bridge, DRIC created a fiction and thereby eliminated the Twinned Bridge. It was a "murder must foul."

The Bridge Co. never wanted an expanded plaza where DRIC said it did nor did it ever propose turning Huron Church into a 6-lane freeway to the border.

In the end, it probably does not matter. The Bridge Co. will just keep on doing what it has been doing in spite of DRIC. As Polonius said in Act 1 also: "To Thine Own Self Be True."

DRIC Engineers had better be careful though if litigation is a possibility:

  • "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
    Hoist with his own petar."

Ac-Custom-ed To The Perk

The things you find in old Council minutes when you really weren't looking for them and did not even suspect they existed. Here's an example from December 13, 2004:

"That the appointment of Judge Carl Zalev (retired) as arbitrator pursuant to the notice of arbitration delivered by MDC Madison Developments Ltd. regarding the Park N Go Garage BE APPROVED; and
That Mr. Clifford Sutts, Q.C., BE AUTHORIZED to advise MDC’s counsel accordingly."

I wonder what happened in the arbitration and why something could not be worked out to salvage what turned into a Receivership due to "operational issues" that the Mayor identified on Face-to-Face.

The taxpayers of Windsor will have lost up to $3 million or so by the time the Park N Go garage near the Tunnel is finally sold off. But that will not be our only pay-out by the time this is done.

I learned that City taxpayers are most generous people too.

I was told that the City of Windsor (or perhaps it is the Windsor Tunnel Commision) arranged for Federal Customs employees to park at the garage for free 24/7, 365 days a year. As many as 50-60 spots are involved. In fact, I was told that while the garage was being constructed, the City arranged for Customs staff parking at other locations garages.

Presumably the City is so generous because we own the Windsor half of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel although it does not follow why we should have to arrange for Customs Officers parking.

I obviously do not know all of the gory details about the deal or whether the City or Tunnel Commission pays an amount or if spaces are set aside for the officers. I believe that the monthly rates at the garage are $70 per spot. If the Customs officers paid for parking, it would mean that they would pay out annually around $40-50,000 in total.

If the City or Tunnel Commission paid out this amount to the garage (or even if the spots were "reserved" so they could not be rented out to the public), it's not a big amount in a City budget of several hundred million dollars. It's enough however to buy a few Tylenol tablets for seniors or to pay for a Science Centre for kids.


I noticed in yesterday's paper that the Receiver is looking for an Expression of Interest to purchase the garage. It will be fascinating to see if the City will make a bid to buy the garage in the hopes of salvaging some of the taxpayers' $3 million investment.

I remember what Mr. Mady's lawyer said in the Star:
  • "But if the city is waiting in the wings to snap up the property at fire sale prices, it is taking a risk, McNevin said. "There will be other interested parties who also may come forward ... and the city might get outdone and ultimately take a hit on its $3 million. That's a dangerous strategy, in my view."

And if the City does take over the garage and Mady's company has to pay on its $500,000 guarantee to the Credit Union as the Star reported, it will be interesting to see what would happen next given the bitterness between the parties.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why No One Listens To Windsor

Councillor Valentinis and Trustee Cooper want to know why Windsor is ignored. The answer is easy. Read the news story below, 2005's Top Story in the Downriver area. Read how politicians reacted on the other side and what happened when citizens partnered with them.

It used to be like that here too, with the PREVIOUS Windsor Council. Council and citizens working together. We got everyone listening to Windsor.

Then we had the municipal election that should have meant complete victory with a long-term solution for Windsor. Instead we had presented a Schwartz Report with a billion-dollar short-term dream that turned out to be a mere "starting point," endorsement in secret, no opportunity for the public to speak, the "snub" and now what on our side: CODA, CODA , CODA!


2005 Top Story: 'Not on, over or under'

Leaders and residents joined in opposition

By Bobby Ampezzan, The News-Herald, PUBLISHED: January 1, 2006

Mayor Tim Durand of Riverview called it his "lost summer."

Beginning in April, the Downriver area — especially Grosse Ile, Trenton, Wyandotte and Riverview — was faced with the prospect of its very own Ambassador Bridge at the base of the Southfield Freeway, Pennsylvania or King roads or West Jefferson.

The issue was introduced at the first public meeting of the Detroit River International Crossing Project, a partnership of transportation agencies in the United States and Canada surveying the area for a fourth Detroit-area border crossing.

The three current crossings are the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Jobs Tunnel, which is used for commercial rail traffic.

In October, Gov. Jennifer Granholm ended the specter of a crossing Downriver.

Wyandotte and Riverview, especially, were early outspoken opponents.

About 500 Downriver residents met at Wyandotte's Biddle Hall on April 11.

Many present echoed the disgust of Wyandotte resident Richard Miller when he said: "We have (River Rouge Mayor Gregory) Joseph and (Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel) Moroun who want it. Why is (the partnership) down here in our area when we told you no?"

Joseph later said Zug Island, just north of the city, was contaminated and would be a good location, but that he was not in favor of a landing on the shores of River Rouge.

Interest and activism around the issue rose in the succeeding months, with community leaders Durand, Mark Drysdale of Riverview, Corki Benson of Wyandotte, Cindy Dingell of Trenton, Henri LaFrance of Brownstown Township and Kurt Kobiljak of Grosse Ile, among others, attending local advisory council meetings set up for the express purpose of receiving community input on the project.

State Reps. Kathleen Law (D-Gibraltar) and Steve Tobocman (D-Detroit) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives in early June that would ensure public ownership of any new crossings and increase public oversight of existing crossings. That legislation has not come to a vote in the state House.

When the partnership announced another possible crossing location in June at King Road, a number of Grosse Ile residents — such as Tom Burkhart, who began a "stop the southern corridor" petition — became involved in the opposition.

At the second round of public meetings, nearly 1,200 people turned out at Crystal Gardens in Southgate, prompting Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano to say, "All of us are in concert in opposition" to a bridge Downriver.

Ficano, like many city and county leaders, threw his support at the Jobs Tunnel, which would convert the existing rail tunnel for commercial truck traffic.

Six weeks later, Downriver residents again turned out en masse at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on the issue in Grosse Ile. There, MDOT Director Gloria Jeff enumerated the obstacles to a Downriver bridge that all but precluded further consideration.

After the meeting, state Sen. Bruce Patterson (R-Canton Twp.) vowed to fight to have all state funding for the study examined and possibly cut.

Sen. Raymond Basham (D-Taylor) said he suspected the Downriver alternatives already had been dismissed.

In October, weeks before the planned DRIC Project announcement, Granholm eliminated the Downriver alternatives.

The announcement came on the heels of a meeting that Durand, Trenton Mayor Gerald Brown and City Manager Bob Cady had with Jeff. At that meeting, Brown pleaded with Jeff to consider the real estate losses to the communities laboring under the shadow of the bridge.

Trenton currently is negotiating sale of its riverfront property to developers that could lead to a multi-million dollar project.

Aside from the bridge itself, a number of municipalities reported stagnant property sales as a consequence of the bridge study.

"We didn't realistically think a bridge could be built down here," Durand said recently. "Our concern is we would be a finalist and this would go on for two more years and we (would lose) investments."

Kobiljak said it reaffirmed his belief that government will respond to its citizens.

The reason the bridge idea won't happen Downriver is that "they knew there was no way we were going to let it happen," he said.

Currently, southwest Detroit is the lone remaining alternative for the next border crossing, a future Tobocman and his constituents are equally opposed to.

CODA--Eddie's New Border Strategy

You do have to have some sympathy for the Mayor. He had a grand vision for himself and for Windsor. The border crossing issue would do marvellous things for us both. Instead, he totally blew it for himself and for us! Whoever his strategists were, if in fact he had any, allowed him to overplay his hand. He had nowhere to go but down and down he went.

From a position where Eddie had the PM, the Premier and the US Ambassador eating out of his hand, now they all but ignore him. From a place at the table, he was forced to "snub" them. $80 million or so in projects in limbo. $200 million plus doing nothing for Windsorites. A route to the border that DRIC decided on being imposed on us. Windsor begging them not to destroy the Sandwich Community.

His grand concept of owning and operating the Tunnel (with or without the City of Detroit) perhaps even being a proponent for a new visions of sugar-plums dancing in his head at Christmas time. Instead faced down by a smart Bridge Co. protecting their business, who out-manoeuvered the "Young Entrepreneur of the Year." No wonder Gord Henderson admitted: "I’m in awe of Moroun and his hired hands. These folks are the masters. They’re always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players…"

When Eddie had a chance to partner with the Bridge Co., and they begged him to do so in a series of advertisements in the Star, he ignored them. The best he could say about their intermediate term, 200 booth solution was "The commission feels (the bridge plan) doesn't make any sense." Why partner with a company proposing to redevelop South West Detroit. Why form an alliance with a Company that would enter into a public/private partnership if the Bloomberg story is right. Why deal with a Company that would improve the Tunnel's operations.

Oh and his border strategy: rally for the billion-dollar short-term Schwartz dream that fell apart within days of its release, and concede the long-term decision-making to DRIC. After all, he was only elected to develop a long-term solution for the City.

Instead of asking Windsorites for help when the Senior Levels reacted negatively, he did not share that information with us. The proponent at election time for open and transparent government could only have his Plan endorsed in secret, afraid to even have a formal Council Resolution introduced! And when it did come forward, in the infamous Agenda Item #5, the matter was deferred because of the fear of the consequences when almost every citizen's group in the City opposed it.

His waste of time and money trying to promote the Schwartz Proposal was revealed finally as nothing more than a "starting point" when the Feds finally had enough and called his bluff with the Cansult report. And with that, one wonders why anything he says will be taken seriously again!

And was it Eddie who made the admission....of course not. His mentor had to fall on the sword in public, in a TV interview, protecting his colleague. His mentor also was forced to ask the question publically at Council in the presence of DRIC about why no one listend to the City of Windsor. They listened to the communities in Detroit. They had power while Windsor did not. At least the DRIC members had the courtesy not to give the answer.

It is a sad story not only for the City but for the Mayor's future. What has it come down to now....CODA, CODA, CODA. Another new buzz word. We received a hint of what it is on the Face-to-Face interview when Eddie talked about roads in Windsor. We no longer have a position on the border crossing.

What is CODA? It was explained to me in the following way:

  • "CODA stands for Conditions of Design Acceptance.

    CODA has nothing to do with whether the bridge is public or private. It has nothing to do with bridge location. Its purpose is to proactively propose what the City would be willing to accept in terms of route designs. The City needs to be able to say what it is for, instead of just stating what it is against.

    The City would not be fighting DRIC but instead would be trying to push them in a direction more favourable to Windsorites. This would be consistent in keeping with the principle of coming up with locally derived solutions for the community and trying to dissuade the DRIC from imposing on Windsor the cheapest solution."

Now the cries of Councillor Valentinis and the Mayor at the Council meeting when DRIC was in attendance about agricultural and vacant land make sense. Mere posturing again for public consumption when they know we have NO bargaining position. Imagine the people on Talbot Road trusting this Council!

"Oh please do not build a road that way DRIC engineers," Council and the Mayor will plead, "but listen to Gridlock Sam, whom we are going to hire again, and build it his way." As if they will really listen!

How the mighty have fallen. From being a decision-maker re the border, Windsor can now only offer engineering advice on how a road to the border should be built! That is the legacy of Eddie Francis as our Mayor on the border.

The tragedy is that it did not have to end this way.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

CODA And The Kids

What's the matter with the Windsor Star? Was there no space in the paper for such an important story because of all of the holiday advertisements? Were all of the reporters away on early vacations?

Oh my goodness: "Schools at risk." I am sure that you saw the front page story about the School Board wanting "cash [from the Federal Government] for six new schools if the new border crossing cuts through the heart of West Windsor."

Why I am so angry is that the meeting took place in mid-December. If it was that vital that it is the main story on the front page, why wasn't it reported earlier?

Ahhhh, here's the key. "The education of thousands of children will be affected if these roads aren't put in the proper place."

And where might the roads go? Forget the Horseshoe and Ring roads--"Talbot and Huron Church Roads will be the feeder routes carrying truck traffic to a new crossing."

And what about that big DRIC plaza in West Windsor? "...if a bridge is built in historic Sandwich, General Brock and Marlborough elementary schools and Forster secondary school would be wiped out by a 95-acre customs plaza." [An upset mom in Ward 2 told me the gossip about Brock and Marlborough closing anyway so DRIC gives the Board a perfect excuse to do so and to close Forster and save Harrow Collegiate!]

Then there is Trustee Beth Cooper sounding like Councillor Valentinis: " haven't listened to anything we've said?' What do I have to do to get them to listen?"

The headline is so obvious...Now it's a "kids" issue! It is the start of the frenzy so that the Mayor can be our Champion over Sandwich and the roads as he discussed on the FACE-to-FACE show. If the story was published in mid-December, it would have been forgotten by now.

It is all part of the build-up for Schwartz and CODA that will help the Mayor and Councillors get re-elected. They have to show that they are doing something.

For those that are curious, I'll tell you all about CODA tomorrow.

WINSDOR--Where Nobody Knows Our Name

What's the expression: it doesn't matter what someone says about you in the media, as long as they spell your name right! If that's the criteria for success, then the Mayor, DWBIA, Convention and Tourist Bureau should be ecstatic this morning!

Not only did Windsor get a rave review for being a "fun place" in the Detroit News, we got coverage in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and a bunch of other newspapers as well.

A black eye for our town...rubbish! I frankly thought that the Mayor and Judith Veresuk, executive director of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association sounded a bit too stuffy in some of the articles.

Heck if the Mayor's name and face can appear in an advertising guide put out by Budweiser, then lighten up. Forget CP Rail's Christmas Train for charity...we have the "Budweiser Super Bowl Tailgate Train to help football fans across the country take Super Bowl fever to a whole new level." Why that train was launched right here in Windsor. Mayor Francis said at the launch "it's only fitting that the Budweiser Super Bowl Tailgate Train should be part of one of the most exciting community celebrations in our two cities' history. We welcome our Super Bowl visitors and promise you a fantastic time!"

Come on now, we have to keep our image up...."More than 500 hundred football fans will be transported from Toronto to Windsor aboard the exclusive train and join the ultimate in Super Bowl festivities in Windsor on February 5, 2006."

Why are we putting on a downer on all of this drinking and partying for heaven's sake. Windsor tourism has a new demographic...young males. Imagine 500 of them drinking during the 4 hour trip to Windsor from Union Station in Toronto. If they have a lot of fun, I can see this happening every weekend.

So what if the Wall Street Journal just reported: "Young people tend to drink more in areas with more alcohol advertising compared to areas with less advertising, according to a new study...People who reported seeing more ads and who lived in areas with higher-per-capita alcohol advertising consumed more alcohol than those exposed to fewer ads."

Get up and party Windsor....Aren't we "Bartown?"

Twenty Fearless Predictions For 2006 is the time that soothsayers bring out their crystal ball and make predictions about what will happen during the new year. Here are my top twenty forecasts for 2006.
  1. The border will still be an important election issue but amalgamation of the City and County will become a major topic
  2. The City will be hit by a huge scandal
  3. The relationship between the Mayor and Councillors and amongst Councillors themselves will deteriorate badly, finally coming out into the open
  4. Eddie Francis will be a one term Mayor IF any credible candidate runs against him, a big IF right now
  5. Bill Marra will decide early in the year if he will run for Mayor or Ward 4 Councillor or at all
  6. If Bill runs for Mayor, Eddie will desperately seek someone else to run to split the vote so he can sneak in.
  7. There will be big surprises in Wards 1, 4 and 5.
  8. The Raceway arena will effectively be dead and gone early in the year
  9. St. Clair College will pull out of the Cleary deal since the price will be too expensive but will still relocate downtown, perhaps in a joint deal with the University
  10. The Mayor of Detroit will rebuff Eddie's entreaties over the Tunnel
  11. Sam Schwartz will appear back in Windsor to make a new presentation on the border and soon thereafter close his office here.
  12. No one will care what the City says on the border issue
  13. The Americans will force the ending of DRIC
  14. Governor Granholm and Mayor Kilpatrick will announce a major initiative with the Bridge Co. to redevelop SouthWest Detroit
  15. In Windsor, the Mayor's Office will continue to churn out press releases like the one saying "Windsor‘s Economy is Shifting into High Gear" rather than actually doing something.
  16. The Bridge Co. will start building their 200 booth "intermediate" border crossing project
  17. The DRIC road to the border will be started by the Senior Levels as part of a "jobs" and economic redevelopment program for Windsor since hundreds of people will have to be employed to build it
  18. The two floors in Canderel will finally be rented out but at a huge discount and there will be vacancies in the Income and Security Building that will be filled by more City workers being moved over
  19. Some new financial surprises will come out that will cost taxpayers dearly resulting in a lowering of Windsor's bond rating.
  20. The Windsor Star will face serious challenges this year resulting in significant changes

Monday, January 02, 2006

Holiday Leftovers

I can just imagine how eager you are to be back at work or school after all of that time off. You can't just start right away; you have to eeeeeaaasssseeee back into it slowly.

To help you get going, here are some short Blogs that I just had to tell you about. I did not want you to miss a thing over the holidays.

So grab that cup of coffee, finish that muffin, it's time to Blog.

My Cogeco Interview

It's now scheduled for January 8 and 15 at 12:30 PM. It got bumped from an earlier telecast because of a new sponsor I was told.

And speaking of Cogeco, can someone explain to me why the Mayor's one hour interview on John Fairley's Face-to-Face program started 5 minutes late on December 26 ie at 9:05 PM rather than the advertised 9 PM?

Another glitch or did someone want people to believe that it was not on and switch the channel so that no one would watch the show and hear what the Mayor had to say?

Remember how many citizens turned out for the Mayor's last State of the City speech which was so poorly advertised!


I recall John Belushi's Animal House cry of "Toga, Toga, Toga." I recall seeing the movie "Tora, Tora, Tora." Well Windsorites will have a new battlecry soon: "CODA, CODA, CODA!"

CODA is the new acronym for the Mayor's way to salvage the border mess. Looks like Gridlock Sam will be invited back to Windsor to prepare and make a new presentation to the public (Eddie cannot stand the secrecy heat any more). If you remember, you read here first, not in the Star, that Sam had not been doing any work for the City for months on the border issue.

Supposedly now, the citizens will rally behind Council with whatever it is that Sam will present. The only problem is that Sam has been discredited by the City. The Senior Levels will not listen since it will be viewed as merely another City "starting point" from a lameduck Mayor who cannot control his Council and may not even be around after November's municipal election.

And don't worry, I'll tell you what CODA means soon.

The Star and a Public Bridge

The Star writes editorial after editorial about having the new bridge publicly owned. Doesn't it see how ridiculous its position is when it has the nerve to write in an editorial about a study on diesel fumes:
  • "A Ministry of Environment study released last year found idling trucks on Huron Church spewed deadly concentrations of diesel fumes...

    Mayor Eddie Francis seized on that study to illustrate the need to move trucks away from the community and Mills' study provides him one more weapon in the campaign to ensure this city gets a new border crossing that helps keep trucks off city streets.

    Prime Minister Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper barely talked about the border crossing issue, and offered nothing substantive, when they rolled through Windsor on whistlestop tours recently. NDP leader Jack Layton offered something more but all three tend to focus on the economic importance of infrastructure and the Windsor-Detroit trade corridor.

    The economics are significant for this region, province and country but of more importance to local residents is the negative effect border congestion and truck traffic has on their health and the quality of their lives. Those pernicious effects won't get any better until a new border crossing is constructed that doesn't result in any more truck traffic on E.C. Row or city streets.

    This community has waited too long for a new crossing. Residents have been more than patient with plodding politicians. They shouldn't have to be hospital patients as well."
Doesn't the Star get it yet, the "plodding politicians"--Francis (to whom most of the blame must be put since he is OUR Mayor and is in charge of the border file), Martin (or whoever may replace him) and McGuinty---have done little for us.

Is someone deliberately trying to create a crisis for reasons unknown. How else to explain, even now, people saying there is a crisis and back-up at the border when there has not been one for a very long time!

Can you truly imagine how long the line-ups would be now if the "private enterprise" Bridge Co. had not fought the US Government to get those new Customs booths opened.

The Star should read my BLOG on what happened in Western New York State with the Peace Bridge Authority. Why does the Star insist that we should continue to suffer here with the inaction and with "plodding politicians."

Windsor's Bad News Bear

When the arena deal is finally killed off, the Eddie strategists are praying Windsorites won't blame Eddie too much. [They will not want us to remember what Eddie said during the mayoral campaign "I'm the only person that offers the plan to make this a reality," said Francis.]

We are being prepared for that disappointment already by the bad news revealed first in Gord Henderson's story.

The cynical amongst us won't ask who revealed to Gord those magnificent Raceway Arena plans around the time when Beztak wanted to provide the "free arena"---why take what Beztak was offering at no cost to the City when the Raceway Arena had these grand visions at a cost to us of up to $15 million. Nor will we ask who revealed the end of the arena although the Report has not yet been made public.

Oh well, no more feeding arena proponents to the Councillor lions on Cogeco for Monday night entertainment for the masses

Ken Lewenza, the people's Councillor

I think that Ken Jr. better turn in his populist club membership card. Has he become an elitist? Can you imagine that he wrote the following in a piece in the December, City Times newspaper:

"Looking back on the people based budget, I witnessed minimal value in allowing the exercise aside from allowing citizens to express themselves and for allotting city councillors the privilege to mingle with their constituents."

The prize winning PBB had "minimal value." How generous that Councillors "mingled" and allowed us to "express" ourselves! Little opportunity for the public to have any input into the budget process this time around (as my OMERS Blog pointed out). Council's secrecy attitude on the border and the arena and the downtown has obviously rubbed off on Ken Jr.

You think I am being too tough on him. Reread Councillor Postma's speech. And here is the timetable for this year's budget approval and how the public is allowed to contribute:

  1. Regular Council meeting rescheduled to January 24 because of the Federal election
  2. Council meeting on January 25 to hear stakeholder/general public feedback on both the Operating and Capital Committee recommended budgets. (Presumably a maximum of 5 minutes per delegation in keeping with the City's Procedural By-law that the Mayor enforces)
  3. Council meeting on January 26 for Council deliberations and approval of both budgets

Who wants to know what the public thinks about anything eh!

Why I Love NYC!

Here's how they handle illegal strikes in the Big Apple!

Associated Press Update 30: Screws Tighten on NYC Transit Union

Threatened with huge fines and possible jail time, the city's transit union suggested Wednesday that it would be willing to end a strike that has shut down bus and subway service for two days - if the city drops its plan for changing workers' pensions.

The contract covering 33,000 New York transit workers expired last week, and the union called the strike Tuesday morning despite a state law banning public employee strikes...

As the strike proceeded through a second day Wednesday, state Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones ordered Toussaint and two of his deputies to court Thursday morning to face criminal contempt charges for ordering the illegal walkout.

Jones has already imposed $1 million-a-day fines on the union, and he could impose individual fines on union leaders and workers as well.

New York's attorney general has asked Jones to fine union officials, and Jones said it was a "distinct possibility" that he could jail them for defying a court order barring the strike...

Lawyers for the city began a separate legal proceeding to turn the financial screws on rank-and-file union members, a move that could bring them to court to face charges of civil contempt.

Michael A. Cardozo, New York City's corporation counsel, asked the judge to issue a second order directing union members to return to work. If such an order were ignored, Cardozo said the city could ask for heavy fines per worker - a punishment beyond the docked-pay penalty workers already face.

The fines, at the judge's discretion, could range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars and would come out of the workers' own pockets rather than union coffers.

"We're doing everything possible to make the union obey the law," the judge said, adding that union members need to "realize the economic consequences of their actions..."

Myra Sanoguet, who was with him, said they saw a group of pickets during the drive. Just briefly, "we were thinking about running them over," she said.

Have Joe and Brian switched ridings?

The Globe and Mail profiled Joe's Windsor-Tecumseh riding.

In the article, he talked about the border rather than his buddy Brian Masse who is the MP of the riding where trucks really have the main impact. That's why he gave out more misinformation about what is really happening here to our Community's detriment:
  • "Joe Comartin, the incumbent MP, says that about 12,000 trucks cross the Ambassador Bridge each day and that, until recently, less than half the gates were in use, causing a permanent bottleneck of traffic."
Come on Joe, there have not been any significant back-ups due to Customs since the Ambassador Bridge opened up the four new Customs booths. Stop perpetuating the myth!

Bloomberg Bridge article

I am still trying to figure out why the Star ran this article. Of course the significance of it is that WINDSOR loses out again because of the Mayor's failure to negotiate a deal!

Do you remember the three full-page ads in the summer that the Bridge Co. ran in the Star in which they begged the City to partner with them in a new crossing?

Do you remember the Star editorials in which they advocated for a public bridge?

Well Windsor could have a had a public/private partnership with the Bridge Co. and have had the border issue solved by now! Instead, we are still floundering. Here is what the article said:
  • "The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority has signed a dockland contract with a Moroun company that could be used to give him exclusive operating rights to an additional bridge across the Detroit River, according to both sides in the deal. The agency may sell bonds to build a bridge that Moroun would run, says Deputy Director Steve Olinek."

I hate to clear up the confusion that others seem to like to spread but this approach was exactly what the Bridge Co. proposed with the Tunnel. The State and City-owned "public" Port would own it and they would operate it!

Will history repeat itself

Is DRTP finished in Detroit now too? Freman Hendrix who supported DRTP has finally given up so that Kwame Kilpatrick is officially Mayor of Detroit. I wonder what deal the Detroit Mayor and the Bridge Co. will now develop. The biggest irony would be a joint deal between the two Cities, Windsor and Detroit, and the Bridge Co. for it to manage the Tunnel completely!

If that happened and the City partnered with the Bridge Co. for the new crossing and how a road to the border should be built, perhaps the economy might get going again in these parts!

However, this will never happen while Eddie Francis is Mayor (his vanity would never allow this) unless Council finally takes charge of the border file as it did under the former Mayor in the final year of the term.

Amalgamation of the City and County

Except for politicians' vanity, does it really make sense to have so many governmental authorities and duplication of services in Essex County.

The VIA Rail and 5,000 acre industrial park stories made it clear that for economic reasons, we have to work together and cannot be hamstrung by "boundaries.". Now the County is talking about "greater sharing of services like police, fire, garbage pickup, road maintenance and snow plowing to improve efficiency and cut costs."

Time to bite the bullet and look to have only ONE government for the entire area. But that won't happen until after the next municipal election provided we start talking about it and demanding it now