Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 20, 2006

New Border Bridge Financing 101

If it was not enough to examine 15 corridors, even though it was obvious that many were unacceptable right at the beginning, someone in Government has figured out that another task force needs to be set up.

This group is now being asked to look at the "Governance" side of the border crossing. What that really means is how is the new bridge going to be financed. [Note I deliberately said "bridge" since the DRTP is virtually ended.] My understanding is that a group examining this issue has been around for quite some time . What have been the results of that group? Why do we need another study?

Let me save them some effort and taxpayers some money. (And to save a few trees too since the Border Reports are sooooooo voluminous). No one in the private sector will finance it at this time since it is a money drain that may never make a profit! And the public sector won’t either.

Who in their right mind is going to finance a new crossing when the Bridge Co. has announced a new proposal for 200 Customs booths at a site in Detroit? That project would result in 50 million plus vehicles being cleared at the Tunnel and Bridge. That’s twice the total volume of all traffic being cleared in SW Ontario today! Our Mayor panicked when he heard about the proposal since he feared it could negatively impact the Tunnel if business was taken away and could kill his proposed leasing/operating proposal with Detroit. Imagine what a new bridge would do---cause severe financial problems for existing locations everywhere. (That’s why Gridlock Sam had to talk about sharing revenues!)

Are the traffic volumes there anyway? Only a very few years ago, the Bi-National Partnership Engineers gave us very optimistic projections about what was to happen 30 years from now that supported the concept of a new crossing. Well they had to revise those projections downward.

If the traffic is not there and we build another crossing, can someone please explain to me how the exisitng crossings are going to make money? Take a declining volume of cars and trucks and have a new crossing trying to capture the business. Want to bet how long the Tunnel remains solvent or even the new crossing? Even the Ambassasdor bridge might see some lower revenues.

I am not trying to knock people who make projections but if these sophisticated people cannot see only a few years into the future accurately, then how can financiers have confidence that their revised figures are any better when deciding to invest hundreds of millions of dollars?

One other consideration. The Bridge Co.’s project could be in place by 2007 at a cost of $200 million while a new bridge will not be built until 2013 at the earliest at a cost of at least $600 million plus infrastructure improvements. Which project would be in a better position financially? What traffic would there be for a new crossing? How could the new crossing ever compete on price without massive subsidies?

If not private money, then there has been a demand for Public ownership… Get real…who has the money for a border crossing when there are federal elections to be won by bribing taxpayers with our own money and Ontario is becoming a have-not Province. As for the Americans, do you really think they are going to duplicate the massive amounts of funds that they have sunk into the Ambassador Gateway Project at another location? We are looking at around $1.5 billion for plazas, roads and infrastructure on each side of the river as well as $600 million plus for bridge construction.

A public authority? That sounds like Gridlock Sam’s Report and Bill C-44. Both are virtually dead anyway and if someone really was serious, the Bridge company would litigate forever since both actions are directed right at their business. Has anyone asked yet if Bill C-44 is even constitutional or if the Bridge Co. is interested in sharing the money it earned through its own efforts? I wonder also how the Canadian Government would expropriate an American company’s assets in the US.

If the Bridge Co. was to back off however, and allow themselves to be expropriated or bought out, then we are talking over several billion dollars based on what Mayor Daley did in Chicago on a 99-year lease. Maybe I am wrong, but I’d rather use those funds to improve the doctor situation in Windsor or to replace the sewers on Erie Street that are still flooding or to fix some roads.

Wouldn’t it be silly to pay out all of that expropriation money and then still have to spend more to build a new crossing? Absurd!

These are not just my ramblings by the way. The only proponent that has given some comment to finances is DRTP. I assume that DRTP had a Business Plan that they offered to investors but even with their ambitious numbers I do not believe that they were ever 100% funded. I thought that they were in the mid-80% range the last time I heard them comment.

I also recall hearing one of their spokesmen say at a meeting I attended that their payback was over 20 years but he did not say how many years more.

DRTP’s Business Plan probably included their traffic projection on their website that "approximately 7,600 trucks per day will use THE TRADEWAY when it opens in 2007."

Could DRTP really take away that much of the Ambassador Bridge’s business? In any event, those numbers must have been based on projections similar to those of the Bi-national Partnership which have now been revised downward. If the volumes are down, is a new crossing financially supportable?

DRTP needed $150 million of Government BIF funding but as their website now says: "a $600 million new rail tunnel and high-speed truck route are proposed." BIF funding is only available for existing crossings so DRTP could not get that financing and neither could a new crossing. Interestingly, if the Bridge Co’s project is viewed as an improvement to an existing crossing, as it is, then BIF funding is available to build the DRIC road ie the work on the Canadian side. Wouldn’t that be ironic!

As the DRTP GM said previously
  • "As yet, there has been no financial commitment from any U.S. agency or government, though the DRTP is pursuing that, Sheahan said. "If we receive U.S. funding, it would mitigate our investment, but even if the only funding we get is the $150 million, we would go ahead with this project."

    Without it, we won’t be able to proceed on the proposed timelines. It may well make good business sense to go ahead with the new tunnel anyway, but not with the same sense of urgency

If DRTP are to build an "enhanced" project they need hundreds of millions more from taxpayers and if it is to be a new 6 lane road and 6 lane bridge or tunnel…well you calculate the billions needed.

If one adds together construction costs, the Canada Customs Cost recovery charges for new border crossings, financing costs even at some low interest rate, operating costs and some kind of a profit, then there is not very much room to make a buck especially when one has to compete against the Bridge Co’s tolls. I’ll let you figure out the cost per truck for a new crossing and ask you to compare it with the existing charges to see if someone can realistically compete.

Today’s Trucking magazine made an interesting comment recently:

  • "Even in the event that the new bridge would be contracted to another party, how would it compete with the Ambassador? Any new bridge would be heavily reliant on toll revenue just to keep above water for the next 30 years. If the Ambassador slashed rates (and Moroun could run for years at a loss), it would deter volume from spilling over to the new crossing and keep a large chunk of truck traffic right where it is. Then, with the new bridge desperate for revenue to pay off debt, can you guess who comes to the rescue?"

The Beginning Of The End For DRIC

A big surprise! Is sanity prevailing now on the border issue? Have American legislators finally woken up to the spending of money that is known as DRIC? While our Governments "respect" the process, the Americans obviously are having second thoughts about spending countless millions more on study after study.

I expect that the issue with the 15 crossings and the outrage expressed by the Downriver communities caused some of the Legislators to question why there was a need for DRIC. In fact, rumour has it that the Governor acted when she killed the 8 Downriver possible crossings to prevent state legislators from ending DRIC funding right at that time. (Now THAT would have been embarrassing to the Governor).

Again, rumour has it that Gloria Jeff is leaving MDOT so I do not know who would brief the legislators. Hopefully, it will be someone who can see the writing on the wall and will announce the end of DRIC. Their timing is impeccable too....when we are about to have an election and so no one from our side is around to try and dissuade them.
Perhaps the Americans are wondering why they have to spend hundreds of milions more to please the Canadian side by building duplicate border facilities. After all, they will spend about $200 million on the Ambassador Gateway project to fix up their side of the border plaza and road network and we will have have spent.....well, almost nothing! Because Canadian DRIC chose a plaza no one supported and a route no one advocated for to kill the Twinned Bridge, do we think that the Americans are that dumb not to understand what is going on?
It will be interesting to see what happens if the Americans want DRIC ended and we don't. I bet I know who wins that fight. Don't you?

Lawmakers threaten investigation
without info on another crossing

AMY F. BAILEY Associated Press LANSING, Mich
. -

A few Republican state lawmakers are trying to figure out which way state transportation officials are going on a new border crossing between Michigan and Canada after spending a few years and nearly $17 million studying the issue.

Four GOP lawmakers sent state Department of Transportation Director Gloria Jeff a letter Thursday asking her to schedule a meeting with them within 30 days to give them an update on the status of the international border crossing study.

If the department does not meet the deadline, lawmakers said they would schedule hearings to investigate the matter.

"We feel that an accounting and explanation of the process and expense of these funds is due," Reps. Phil LaJoy of Canton and Shelley Goodman Taub of Bloomfield Hills and Sens. Jud Gilbert of Algonac and Shirley Johnson of Troy said in their letter to Jeff.

LaJoy, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said his office has received calls from a few organizations that have submitted proposals for a new crossing to the group considering the issue and think that it already has reached a decision.

"What have they done and where are they now? That's what we want to know," LaJoy said during a telephone interview.

In 2004, officials working on building a new bridge or tunnel to cross the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, pushed back the projected completion date to 2013 - two years later than projections made a year earlier.

Border delays at the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel sometimes last more than two hours on weekdays. Canadian and Michigan transportation officials have said Michigan and Ontario could lose $28.6 billion annually and 49,000 jobs by 2020 without a new crossing.

Last fall, the Border Transportation Partnership, a group of U.S. and Canadian officials, announced that it eliminated two areas - Detroit's Belle Isle and seven potential sites south of the city - as possible locations for a new crossing between the two countries.

At that time, the Michigan Department of Transportation said fewer than a dozen sites remain under consideration and that a final decision was expected to be announced sometime in 2007.

Bill Shreck, a spokesman for MDOT, said Thursday that a decision is still on schedule to be made next year.

"We are happy to fully brief the Legislature, as soon as a briefing can be scheduled," he said.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Talbot Encore

Gord Henderson's column today was predictable if you read my earlier note on Talbot Road. (Read note below first). Giving people false hopes in my opinion and unreal expectations. And didn't you like the placement of the Bridge Co. expansion story right beside Gord's column. All those trucks going down Talbot Road due to the bad Bridge Co. expanding their plaza. Priceless.

But it is more as well. The column is unwittingly setting us up for an announcement in a few weeks that Eddie has a new idea for the roadway route in that area. I think it will be part of a "You scratch my back, I scratch yours deal" to help out Eddie there and elsewhere in the City. Don't forget the new rallying cry: CODA, CODA, CODA! Gridlock Sam is back in town after all.

Gord wrote:
  • "It's sickening to think that the bureaucrats, even in the volatile midst of a federal election, are leaning in favour of a bargain-basement fix for the most critical infrastructure problem in Canada and offering feeble excuses for not doing the job right...

    Whatever the DRIC recommends and whatever the two senior levels of government end up doing, Windsor will live with it for decades to come. And if the "solution" is merely an at-grade, six-lane urban freeway with a service road and sound barriers, an "80-metre swath" as Mayor Eddie Francis put it, Windsor will co-habit with an infrastructure monster. If a tunnel can't be built for technical reasons, Windsor deserves, at the very least, the below-grade cantilevered road proposed by "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz...

    If Australia and France can pull off these engineering and design triumphs, immense sources of pride for both countries, why must we here in Canada, and especially in Windsor, settle for lame excuses and chicken manure proposals? It's not as if Canadian firms lack technical expertise. They work on giant projects around the world. To repeat the question, where's the vision?"

An Engineer I know wrote to me the other day on this topic and said:

"I’m not sure there is any good message for the Talbot Road residents – let’s say we convince the MTO/TC to pay for a cantilevered or tunneled roadway… the construction in front of their homes will be a tremendous inconvenience for 3, 4 maybe 5 years – most of them might wish they had sold out."

The battle for Talbot Road is not for the residents. The battle is for a Mayor and Council who have done nothing worthwhile on the border and who desperately need to pretend they are doing something. The battle is for a Mayor and Council who failed their electorate and who did not "Dream Big" for a long-term solution right at the start but who rallied for a billion-dollar short-term dream. The battle is for a Mayor and Council who have kept their citizens in the dark because of their secrecy and have never trusted us and who now want us to help them out.

The Talbot Road battle is part of a phony war to try to get them re-elected! In that war, I intend to be a "conscientious objector."

Talbot Road

As General Counsel of STOPDRTP, I was quite aware of the problems faced by the people on Talbot Road. Our group was painted as being opposed to their needs as part of a NIMBY attack. We were positioned as wanting to protect the DRTP corridor neighbourhoods at their expense.

One fact must be kept in mind however. I read about the history of Highway 3 some time ago. When the new Ambassador Bridge opened in 1929, the highway routing changed:
  • "The opening of the Ambassador Bridge in 1929 resulted in a significant rerouting of Hwy 3 through Windsor. The highway had previously entered Windsor along Dougall Avenue, concurrently with Hwy 2. Until 1929, Hwy 3 ended at the International Ferry Dock between Dougall Avenue and Ouellette Avenue. When the new Ambassador Bridge opened, Hwy 3 was rerouted along Huron Church Line Road, a route which it retains to this day. The old alignment of Hwy 3 into downtown Windsor became Hwy 3A." (

Accordingly, the Talbot Road people have always lived on the corridor to the Bridge. The problem has arisen because of the dramatic increase of traffic over the past decade and the fact that Highway 401 was never completed properly to the Bridge.

To be absolutely brutal about it, no one in authority will care about people living beside expressways, whether for cars, trucks or both. The issue for them will be mitigation techniques. STOPDRTP was told early on that if our only argument against building that intrusive truck expressway was health or environment we would lose. Our focus became technical and economic!

Think about it. Homes abut Highway 401's many lanes in Toronto. Detroit is freeway heaven. Who in Government will sympathize with the residents of 69 homes on Talbot Road.

I do not wish to appear to be negative but the likelihood of a tunnel being built under Talbot Road is remote. It may make a great rallying cry to pretend that Eddie and Council are doing something for the City on the border (CODA, CODA, CODA) because they need something to be re-elected. "We want to see every option explored, including tunneling or anything that would basically see the trucks buried," Mayor Francis said. "It would improve the environment, quality of life and allow trucks to move more freely toward the border."

All that this "rallying" will be doing is giving the residents false expectations. You remember what happened to Eddie's last rallying cry for the Schwartz billion dollar short-term dream: ignored and shot down in flames by the Feds!

If we truly want to be doing something positive for these residents, since it seems everyone is conceding that the DRIC route has been chosen, we should demand that these people be moved now with proper compensation being paid to them to make the process as painless as possible. Why should they have to live with all of this uncertainty on top of living beside trucks!

Obviously, what I am saying will not be popular with people who have lived in their homes for many years but is there a realistic and practical alternative?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tonight's The Night

My Cable 11, interview with Veronique Mandal January 18 at 8 PM!

(Maybe this time if it is not bumped again)

Ford Better Get A Better Idea

My family and I have been driving Ford vehicles for a number of years and like them very much. I have always wondered why their sales are not better since they suit our family needs very well. Accordingly, when I read the newsletter of Dennis DesRosiers talking about his time at the Auto Show, "Three Days In Detroit," I found his comments about Ford most interesting and most disturbing. Check them out for yourself

Ford Still Struggling for Direction

Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, and so on and so forth. I heard the word "innovation" drop from the mouths of Ford executives too many times to count. "Innovation" in the present, "innovation" in the future, "innovation" plastered on all the press kits and printed materials. "Innovation" printed in foot-high letters from floor to ceiling on the gateway to Ford's display area. If there really was a significant amount of for-real innovation in the products, it would be allowed to speak for itself.

Ford never escaped the 'black cloud' of their impending plant closing announcements on January 23rd. Most media reps wanted to ask questions about which plants would be closed rather than the new products spinning on the turntables. Of course, whatever good intentions went into the creation of Lincoln's two vehicles didn't translate into excitement, and quite likely will not translate into sales. The MKX crossover (Ford Edge with a grill job) and MKS sedan (Five Hundred in a tux) move the brand even closer to Ford/Mercury than before. In her speech introducing the new vehicles, Lincoln COO Anne Stevens said that Lincoln does not intend to compete internationally: (paraphrased) "The real competition is here in the United States." Well, I'm sorry: If you can't compete globally then you can't compete in the U.S.

Do you think anyone at Honda has ever dared voice a similar opinion? Toyota? BMW? Insularity is never a strong strategy. Design for the best and consumers will notice the difference.

Stevens went on to say that Lincoln was aimed at people who work hard, love America, and, uh, work really hard! Apparently, it's not politically correct to say "successful blue collar." The irony is that Lincoln has likely produced a worthy vehicle, but their marketing machine refuses to recognize it as such.

There's a perceived credibility gap around Ford. Sitting at a Ford press briefing, murmurs, grins, and swivelled heads abound when the talk turns to hybrids, market share, or "competitiveness." These same jaded journalists become earnest when seated at a Honda or Toyota event. You can see the wheels turning in their heads: "Yes, I believe them when they say that they'll do this. They've stayed true to their word in the past." The same cannot be said for Ford, an entity that has consistently promised high and delivered low.

The End Of Gaia

If you truly do NOT want to be completely depressed, then skip this BLOG. I mean it. You will throw up your hands and say "Why bother any more!" I read this article in the UK newspaper, the Independent a few days ago written by a respected environmental scientist.

James Lovelock: The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. Each nation must find the best use of its resources to sustain civilisation for as long as they can.

Published: 16 January 2006

Imagine a young policewoman delighted in the fulfilment of her vocation; then imagine her having to tell a family whose child had strayed that he had been found dead, murdered in a nearby wood. Or think of a young physician newly appointed who has to tell you that the biopsy revealed invasion by an aggressive metastasising tumour. Doctors and the police know that many accept the simple awful truth with dignity but others try in vain to deny it.

Whatever the response, the bringers of such bad news rarely become hardened to their task and some dread it. We have relieved judges of the awesome responsibility of passing the death sentence, but at least they had some comfort from its frequent moral justification. Physicians and the police have no escape from their duty.

This article is the most difficult I have written and for the same reasons. My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news.

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This "global dimming" is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge. By doing this, we condemn ourselves to the worst form of slavery. If we chose to be the stewards of the Earth, then we are responsible for keeping the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface right for life. A task we would soon find impossible - and something before we treated Gaia so badly, she had freely done for us.

To understand how impossible it is, think about how you would regulate your own temperature or the composition of your blood. Those with failing kidneys know the never-ending daily difficulty of adjusting water, salt and protein intake. The technological fix of dialysis helps, but is no replacement for living healthy kidneys.

My new book The Revenge of Gaia expands these thoughts, but you still may ask why science took so long to recognise the true nature of the Earth. I think it is because Darwin's vision was so good and clear that it has taken until now to digest it. In his time, little was known about the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, and there would have been little reason for him to wonder if organisms changed their environment as well as adapting to it.

Had it been known then that life and the environment are closely coupled, Darwin would have seen that evolution involved not just the organisms, but the whole planetary surface. We might then have looked upon the Earth as if it were alive, and known that we cannot pollute the air or use the Earth's skin - its forest and ocean ecosystems - as a mere source of products to feed ourselves and furnish our homes. We would have felt instinctively that those ecosystems must be left untouched because they were part of the living Earth.

So what should we do? First, we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act; and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can. Civilisation is energy-intensive and we cannot turn it off without crashing, so we need the security of a powered descent. On these British Isles, we are used to thinking of all humanity and not just ourselves; environmental change is global, but we have to deal with the consequences here in the UK.

Unfortunately our nation is now so urbanised as to be like a large city and we have only a small acreage of agriculture and forestry. We are dependent on the trading world for sustenance; climate change will deny us regular supplies of food and fuel from overseas.

We could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous. We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of emissions. The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate.

Perhaps the saddest thing is that Gaia will lose as much or more than we do. Not only will wildlife and whole ecosystems go extinct, but in human civilisation the planet has a precious resource. We are not merely a disease; we are, through our intelligence and communication, the nervous system of the planet. Through us, Gaia has seen herself from space, and begins to know her place in the universe.

We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. Most of all, we should remember that we are a part of it, and it is indeed our home.

The writer is an independent environmental scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society. 'The Revenge of Gaia' is published by Penguin on 2 February

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What A Pity

Take pity on her. Roseann Danese of the Star, their City Hall reporter, has to go to Council every Monday. She at least gets paid to go there. Someone would have to pay me to attend the meetings of Council now and sit through them all after what I have witnessed over the past few weeks!

I used to go just about every Monday for several years, especially when a Border issue came up. I thought it important that I be there to understand what is really happening at City Hall. Then I started going every other week. My rationale was that the border was being solved, so I thought, so why did I have to give up every Monday night. Then I started skipping more....after all, I could watch it on TV. Finally, I stopped going. My excuse was the serious fall I had taken and I needed my rest

It was all a lie and I knew it. I went last night because there was a border issue on the Agenda so I felt I had to go. But sitting through most of the session confirmed what I knew. I did not attend any longer because this Council is a farce. A joke. I wish it was November already so we could be looking forward to some new blood running this City.

Remember the phony rap against the last Council. It was "dysfunctional." Well this Council is "impaired or functioning abnormally" as the dictionary would say. The old Council was not "united" ie there was a major split on every significant vote but it worked. This Council does not. They fight amongst each other, they are inconsistent, they do not share with the public or it seems amongst themselves. They cannot deal with the important issues facing the City as the old Council did. They got it handed to them on a silver platter and what have they done.

I did not stay to the end. I left after the matter dealing with the Bridge Site Plan. I should not say this but I will. Another fellow and I (and the two of us differ on what our solution for the border is) met up with the Bridge Co. people and had a coffee with them to see if there was something that we could do to try and get this whole border mess back on track. Imagine, the two of us doing what someone at City Hall should be doing---talking to the people who are the dominant player on the border. Ridiculous isn't it!

Oh and last night. I am sorry. I cannot take it. Where is the leadership on Council. From anyone.

I only stayed around for the Motion to Defer re the Library and not the main discussion since it was a foregone conclusion what the result would be. Imagine Councillor Zuk suggesting that there may be a "witch hunt" going on since she has no idea what the issues are at the Library. And Councillor Halberstadt talking about "possible fraud" due to calls from anonymous whistleblowers.

I know what some of the issues are but why should I tell Joyce. I do not understand why her Ward mate, Councillor Brister, had not explained things to her since he is on the Library Board. Ohhhh I forgot, they do not talk much to each other.

Can you imagine, Al Nelman agreeing with Caroline Postma on anything. Well they were allies last night. Al said he might even revise his Report Card based on what happened. Imagine, poor Al being told, in effect, that he did a lousy job on the Library Board, so bad in fact that an outside audit was needed.

And we are going to miss Councillor Wilson after this term is over. Can someone beg him to run again, please. Was he the only one that thought it absurd that KPMG was going to audit KPMG? Isn't there a chance that an issue in the "operational audit" might raise the question if the external auditors may have missed something in their annual audit so that the Library had a loss? How will KPMG report that when it may mean a lawsuit against KPMG? How can KPMG be put into such a position by Councillors who are so concerned about the Library? (Oh I won't mention that I have been asking for an outside auditor to do a review of MFP since the City has lost $68 million. But that is dead except for what one Councillor may be doing).

If I may be so bold, if the City's Audit Committee is so concerned about audits at the Library then what about the Enwin audit by the Ontario Government group. Where is the demand for an outside audit in that City subsidiary!

Then we had the Fire Department. Let's see now, what would you do if you were the Chief listening to Council last night. Smear stories about you in the Star, big pay cut being proposed, learning that you were one of the lowest paid chiefs in comparable cities already and then being expected to do your job and manage a massive re-organization. I am sure that he knows who is for and against him on Council too.

Finally we had the Bridge issue. Councillors had agreed unanimously with the Schwartz Plan which supported what the Bridge Company wanted to do. Council voted for the Site Plan before. Last night, the Bridge Co. was there to tell them they were going to do less work than before since it was no longer required and three Councillors opposed it! Even after the Bridge Co. and Administration answered every question asked so there were no outstanding problems.

Now I expected Councillors Brister and Gignac to oppose it. But Councillor Postma....what were you thinking?

What I found fascinating, and I am not sure if you could tell on TV, was that when Dan Stamper, the President of the Bridge Co. stood up and walked to the table to answer questions along with Skip MacMahon, the atmosphere in the room changed drastically. No longer were Councillors beating up on a "straw man" Library issue or a subordinate, even if he was Fire Chief. They were facing the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation who was not in the least afraid to sue the City, especially on an issue which Councillors before had conceded that they would lose! All of a sudden, the room got quiet and the questioning most repectful.

I am not at all suggesting that one need to be concerned about any company no matter how big. But it was abundantly clear that the Bridge Co. was not going to let some Councillors push them around and the Councillors knew it.

I have had it. Council is out of control. How can anyone deal with a Council when one has no idea what Councillors are going to say from one session to another even on the same matter. How can we as citizens have faith in a Council doing the right thing for us when even Councillors have not been given the facts and words like witch hunt and fraud are tossed around, possibly besmirching reputations.

To change the expression a bit....Only in Windsor you say, Pity!

Whatever Kwame Wants, Kwame Gets

In the end, we all know that politics will determine where the border goes.

With six Governments involved on both sides of the river and with needs that are not necessarily the same, we can already see the strains developing as we are getting closer to decision time. The Americans have determined to the surprise of few, given their massive investment, that the Ambassador Gateway is a good choice. The Canadians have determined that a crossing ought to go further downriver. So now we have the ridiculous discussion about diagonal or S-shaped bridges as a compromise.

No matter what the engineers say, a politician will ultimately decide and for reasons that we may never know or understand.

Who is that ultimate decision-maker? Who is the most powerful person dealing with the border issue?

I wish I could say it was our Mayor Francis but after a year of crying "Schwartz, Schwartz, Schwartz" and getting nowhere, he is merely tolerated by the Senior Levels. We still do not have a deal signed with the Province re the Tunnel Plaza or the Feds re Walker Road after all of this time.

How about Premier McGuinty? Nope, a spent force by appointing a Border Czar to ensure a bridge is built by 2013 after saying there is an urgent situation and his Minister, Dwight Duncan, promising a half a billion dollars but only after 2010.

The Prime Minister....who is he?

I was just kidding. We all know that it is the US that will make the ultimate decision and they will do what is best for them. We can only try and influence whatever they decide so that it does not hurt us too badly.

So you think that we had better run up to Lansing to see Governor Granholm. After all didn't she single-handedly knock off the 8 Downriver sites catching everyone off-guard. If that's what you think, are you ever wrong. If anyone wants to run anywhere, the The Manoogian Mansion is the place to go. In case you don't know what that building is, it's the residence of the Mayor of Detroit.

Here is a fascinating article I just found that was written in early November, 2004 in the National Review but is very relevant today:

  • In Michigan political circles, the conventional wisdom is that Granholm will be unbeatable in 2006. This is wrong. Michigan is a very resilient state for Republicans in non-presidential years because African-American turnout in Detroit is always lower. Turnout in Detroit makes or breaks Democratic campaigns in Michigan, and Granholm could have a serious problem there in 2006 — especially because there is no love lost between Granholm and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Granholm strained their relationship further by promoting the racino-expansion agenda [slots at race-tracks], which Kilpatrick viewed as anti-Detroit because Granholm's new out-state casinos would have cut into the revenue Detroit gets from the existing casinos in the city...

    Kilpatrick will receive a strong primary challenge from Freeman Hendrix, the right-hand man of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

    A nasty primary in Detroit will create political wounds that will be hard to heal before the 2006 gubernatorial election. Granholm will officially stay neutral in the mayoral primary, but behind the scenes her people, especially her money friends, will get pulled in the direction of supporting Hendrix, who will be viewed in Michigan Democratic circles as the more adult choice. If Kilpatrick beats back the Hendrix challenge, which he very well could, he will be in a position to pay Granholm back big-time in 2006 by doing little to turn out the vote in Detroit. If Hendrix wins, Kilpatrick's machine — which rests in Detroit's powerful black churches — is likely to be angered to the point of inaction. Either way, Granholm loses from the political bloodshed in Detroit.

Well we all know Kilpatrick won. A month after the election, the Governor's campaign chairman stepped down. Oh, that person was Dennis Archer. Granholm had to start being nice to the Mayor since, as Councillor Watson so directly put it in Delray, more people voted for Granholm in Detroit than in all of the Downriver communities combined. Oooops, sorry Kwame, the Governor must have been saying...I thought Hendrix would beat you too.

  • "Dennis Archer has stepped down as head of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's re-election campaign to make it easier for her to work with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

    "Governor Granholm believes it's important for the city to heal from the last election, and to move forward under Mayor Kilpatrick," Granholm campaign spokesman Chris De Witt told The Associated Press late Friday. "He (Archer) certainly realizes it's important for the governor to work with all the leaders in Detroit in her re-election bid."

Can we guess what Detroit's Mayor will favour on the border?

I would doubt that DRTP is Number 1 on his list of choices. After all DRTP's Byington sponsored a fund-raiser for Kwame's opponent a few days before the election and then Hendrix came out in DRTP's favour. Her sense of timing was priceless too. She was also the authoress of the infamous Press Release a day before the election and did the "it's not sour grapes" Today's Trucking magazine interview:

  • "We have heard from inside sources that the process has turned completely political," she said. "And because of that we really believe that the process has lost its transparency."

    When asked just what are the political entities that are manipulating the selection process against her group, Byington cited government officials in Windsor and Detroit, including the mayors of both cities.

    She said that it's no secret that Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has repeatedly backed the Ambassador Bridge owners in most of their ventures and shrugged off the DRTP plan as a viable crossing alternative. ...

    "I think it's important for us to speak out against the problems we see now rather than later when people might look at us and think this is all sour grapes," she said."

And our Mayor's Tunnel deal with Detroit? I hardly think that the Detroit Mayor will be too pleased with Eddie who came out shortly before his election day when he was struggling for every vote he could saying the deal that he thought made sense for Detroit should not be signed and that Windsor was investigating the potential violation of antitrust laws! As anyone in business in the US knows, that is a very serious comment to make in public, especially by a Mayor of a City.

I would think that he might be inclined to favour the Bridge Co.'s proposal considering he signed a deal with them re saving the Port Authority, providing money for cash-strapped Detroit, and having the potential for a new convention centre and massive redevelopment in SW Detroit. As he said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Port:

  • "Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick thanked Moroun for several recent projects, including the Port of Detroit deal and the creation of an industrial park near I-94 and Mt. Elliott. The combined projects will create several hundred jobs in the city.

    "I want to thank Matty for what he's been able to do in the city," Kilpatrick said. "That is an absolutely incredible undertaking, and he deserves applause."

With the Governor dependant on the Detroit Mayor for re-election, with Canadian politicans irrelevant, it is obvious that whatever Kwame wants, he will get.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ward 1 Showdown At The Council Corral

I can just imagine the theme from the movie "High Noon" playing right after the National Anthem at the start of tonight's Council meeting. It should be an interesting night at Council if you like showdowns. We are starting to see Councillors jockeying for position for the next municipal election campaign. The cracks of Council unity are becoming more apparent.

It should also be interesting to see whether the Mayor has lost control of Council or can still whip them into shape. As the former Mayor admitted, he lost control over Council in his last year and lost on every siginificant issue by a vote of 6-4 (actually, it was generally 7-3). At least there was a solid block of Councillors who allowed the City to be run. This time around, unfortunately, there is no Councillor leader and no real solid block other than the so-called "spenders."

Ironically, could anyone who knew them at the start of this Council in 2003 have imagined that Ward 2 Councillors Postma and Jones would ever speak to one another during their 3 year term. It is no understatement to say that the animosity between them was intense, probably going back to the by-election that Jones won and the Jones-Carlesimo run for re-election. Caroline had the nerve to get elected!

Not only are they speaking now together, but they seem to be the only Councillors actually working together all of the time for their constituents. They are quite a duo and a study in contrasts. Yet they seem to be an effective team.

Contrast this with my Ward 1 Councillors, Brister and Zuk, whose relationship seems to be deteriorating day after day, so much so that it was even reported by Gord Henderson. I hear it is so bad that a playground in the Ward is still waiting to be built because of their disagreement!

If you want to have some fun , watch Council tonight. I believe that this week Joyce's Motion re doctors getting space at Canderel should be heard. The idea was an interesting one but one that Gord Henderson called "misguided" in a column recently even though he said she "had the best of intentions in thinking, as she put it, outside the box ." Well if Gord does not like it, (and the Star Editorial opposed it today) can one guess how Councillor Brister will vote!

[Note I understand that Joyce's wording will be less definitive than the story suggested re free space after feedback she has received but it will be interesting to see how Dave reacts]

The other item to be dealt with has to do with amendments to the Site Plan for the new booths at the Ambassador Bridge. Councillors Brister and Gignac voted against the Bridge Co. when this was first brought forward thereby infuriating a number of their colleagues since they all had endorsed the changes by their approval of the Schwartz Report where it was supported by Sam. Especially upset were the Ward 2 Councillors who felt that they were upstaged by Brister and Gignac in a matter impacting their Ward.

Will Brister vote against the amendment? Will Zuk? If Brister votes against it and Joyce in favour, will she accuse him of being fiscally irresponsible since it could mean an OMB hearing wasting thousands in legal fees since the City would probably lose as was discussed last time around? Or will she and the Ward 2 Councillors accuse him (and Gignac) of playing to the crowd again, perhaps for other reasons. (Yes I know, Brister is NEVER running for mayor).

I also hear Brister and Zuk may get into a big battle over the calling of meetings with DRIC over Talbot Road and the road to the border. There may be blood spilled in camera over it. Perhaps they should talk to the Ward 2 Councillors about how working together on a Ward issue can be accomplished too.

Now if nothing happens, do not blame me. This BLOG is to give the Mayor a "head's up" to control his Councillors before Council collapses into complete disarray! So watch everything go on consent [sigh]

Then And Now

Oh my goodness. I think Eddie had better sell those Super Bowl tickets of his to help pay down our City's debt rather than go to the big game. It might be a very frosty atmosphere for him otherwise given what he did to Detroit's Mayor before the last election. How else to explain the comment made by the Detroit Mayor about Windsor's role at Super Bowl. At least he did not introduce him as Sin City's Mayor!


Windsor Star, October 22, 2005

"Detroit's embattled Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says the best regional partnership for his city is not with the suburban cities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, but with Windsor.

Detroit has tried unsuccessfully for decades to forge alliances with the suburbs in order to attract new business and tourism to the region.

"This whole debate over Oakland, Wayne County is terribly old and boring," Kilpatrick said in a recent interview. "The best opportunity Detroit has and Windsor has for survival into the future is to join together and market each other jointly."

That's been happening lately, particularly with the planning for the 2006 Super Bowl, and Windsor's involvement as a Canadian partner. It will be an opportunity to showcase the Detroit-Windsor region, said Kilpatrick. "And I just think it's time, it's time."


Detroit News, January 15, 2006

Kilpatrick introduced Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, thanking him for an offer to send snowplows and crews across the river if it snows on Super Bowl Sunday. Kilpatrick pointed out that Detroit is the only international Super Bowl host city.

[Shhhhhhhhhh Can you keep a big secret? We won't tell Kwame that Eddie said "but it will only come after our own needs are taken care of completely."]