Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Redundant Border

You remember Senator Kenny don't you.

He is the Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence which did the BORDERLINE INSECURE Report. That Report said that "Windsor-Detroit is of such strategic importance to both Canada and the United States that fixing it requires war-time urgency." The Committee proposed "Only those proposals for new crossing infrastructure at Windsor-Detroit which provide separate and secure infrastructure redundancy be considered. "

The redundancy argument has had an interesting history. It just keeps appearing and disappearing when appropriate. I guess it is something pulled out as required when all else fails whenever the going gets tough for a new crossing.

What prompted this comment is a note I received from a reader that deals with the redundancy issue.

Assuming that redundancy is a concern, then how many new crossings need we build so that we have enough. Is one new bridge satisfactory here or do we need several? Are there alternative actions that can be taken that can achieve the redundancy that we may need without spending billions on a new crossing? Perhaps it is time to address this issue if my reader is correct.


Redundant - serving as a duplicate for preventing failure of an entire system (as a spacecraft) upon failure of a single component - Miriam Webster Dictionary

Disingenuous - lacking in candor; also: giving a false appearance of simple frankness: CALCULATING - - Miriam Webster Dictionary

In its January 2004 “Transportation Problems and Opportunities Report,” the Detroit River International Crossing Study (DRIC) states (page 44) that one of the problems to be addressed by the study is:
  • The lack of reasonable options for maintaining the movement of people and goods in cases of major incidents, maintenance operations, congestion or other disruptions at any of the existing border crossings.
What Are They Really Talking About?

The staff of the Ambassador Bridge has proven that they can handle disruptions on the bridge promptly and professionally. The bridge undergoes maintenance operations without disrupting traffic.

The delays following the events of 9/11/01 would not have been any less had there been two bridges. That is, the inspection staffing and facilities that were adequate on 9/10/01 would not have handled the problems of 9/11/01 regardless of whether there were two bridges or just one.

In fact, what the DRIC is really referring to is the specter of terrorist action to disrupt the crossing.

The Terrorist Modus Operandi

As witnessed by their attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, the attacks on the London Underground, and the attacks of Lebanon recently, the M.O. of the terrorists is to use multiple strikes at multiple targets.

If there were to be a terrorist attack on the SW Ontario / SE Michigan border it would surely be aimed at disrupting the national economies. Consequently, there is every reason to believe that terrorists would attack all of the crossings simultaneously. The addition of another crossing would require only one more load of explosives.

A Disingenuous Argument #1

Those arguing for another crossing based on redundancy have never made any proposal whatsoever to strengthen the existing crossings against a terrorist attack. Presently vehicles drive onto the bridges and into the tunnel without even a cursory inspection to determine if they are carrying a suspicious cargo.

Clearly, if a terrorist strike is a concern (and it is the only valid concern here) then all vehicles must be inspected before they drive onto the bridge or tunnel. This process, known as reverse inspection, has not only never been proposed by those who worry about redundancy, it is never supported when it is proposed by others.

The concern for a terrorist strike is completely disingenuous.

A Disingenuous Argument #2

Between Kingston and Niagara Falls there are just two bridges carrying significant commercial traffic across the border. They are so far apart that they cannot possibly be seen as reasonable alternate routes, for each other in case of a breakdown. The commercial traffic between Canada and New York State is economically enormous and critical to the economies of the two nations.

Yet there is no talk of redundancy.

Between Vancouver and Sudbury Ontario there are only a, very widely separated border crossings served by major highway connections. Among them is a bridge (Sault Ste. Marie) and two land crossings (Winnipeg and Calgary). In each of these cases there is just no reasonable option for maintaining commercial traffic flow.

Yet there is no talk of redundancy.

In only two cases, between Vancouver and Montreal, is there a border that is served by two truck crossings located less than one hour apart. Something that might be called “redundancy.” Those are at Lewiston-Queenston / Peace Bridge and Blue Water Bridge / Ambassador Bridge.

And the pressure for “redundancy” is at the Ambassador Bridge.

If the dictionary ever needed an example of disingenuous this is it.

Saving Me Into Bankruptcy

You know how it is. Your spouse or significant other comes home after going to the mall with this expensive item that neither of you really needs and probably cannot really afford. He/she tells you that it was on sale. It is pointed out to you how much he/she saved you by this great shopping and what a terrific deal it is. You protest saying that you do not need the item no matter how much is saved since you don't have the money for it in the first place.

You cry out plaintively as you look at the pricetag, "Dear, you are saving me into bankruptcy!" as you are dismissed out of hand.

That is how I felt with the MFP settlement to be honest. We had a potential liability of over $300 million but settled by paying out amounts at "conventional" rates I believe rather than the "special" rate we thought we were getting in the first place. I think the extra costs were $68 million. [Of course, no one seems to be interested in looking at ways to reduce that amount as I have written before other than one Councillor.]

Wasn't it presented to us when the settlement papers were signed as how much we were saving rather than how much extra we were paying out?

Oh, you do not believe me do you.

Do you think I could really make up on my own that paying out extra money was a savings or that I would dare? Well be my guest and go to the Mayor's 2005 Report Card Take a look at Item #13 under Fiscal Discipline. What does it say---"MFP Settlement saves city $154M."

I had a similar thought when I read the story about Canderel yesterday and the two parties the City was negotiating with. I was confused by this comment:

"Mayor Eddie Francis said the lease rate would be comparable to others negotiated for tenants in the building. It's fair and reasonable, given market conditions," said Francis."

Hold on there. Does this mean that the only tenant in the building that ever paid "full price" for the rental was the City? Did the others get a big discount that we did not get. After all, the Mayor said "the lease rate would be comparable to others negotiated for tenants"

Remember I told you that the sub-lease rental was slashed to $10 per square foot because the City could not get anyone interested in subletting the space. (The Star reported the City was paying $18 per square foot plus about $15 in common fees for maintenance and taxes) Does that mean that others were paying $10 before since the $10 being negotiated now would be comparable to what others are paying?

And it may not even be $10. It could be less. City solicitor George Wilkki had said "the city is willing to look at "anything reasonable.... Any offer that would come in the door we would take to council and see what council wants to do with it."

So when the lease is made with these two parties (if it ever is made), we will not be told how much we will still have to pay until the main lease expires (being the difference between the $18 and the sub-lease rate). Nope, the Mayor's Report Card will show how much we have saved.

Finally, the bus terminal. You remember, it was supposed to be in place for the Super Bowl visitors. I hope we will see what the contract terms are (I would be surprised if we do....commercial confidentiality and all of that). I heard that Transit Windsor turned down a lease offer from Greyhound since it was a bad deal but was forced into one similar some time ago. I have no idea if this is the same deal being presented but the one I heard about was not something to write home about.

The Mayor's Report Card will tell us how much we are saving by receiving the Provincial $2 million grant but not how much it will cost us in the long-term.

Hmmmm I wonder why the taxes have not gone down even more with all of the money that the City is saving.

Taxman 2005

Do you hate paying taxes? Isn't it awful having to do those calculations to fill in those tax forms?

Isn't it adding insult to injury to have to pay for software in order to do the work needed to pay your taxes to the Government or to hire someone to do it for you?

There is a not to paying taxes but to paying for software. For the last few years I have gone to and downloaded the free "Taxman" software. That's No payment required

Of course, I make no representations about it. Make your own decision about using it. (Caveat emptor and all of that). All I know is that I have used it and it makes life simpler for me

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What Sunshine Does

Welcome back from Florida, Gord.

Sounds like he had a good time dodging those bulldozers that were ripping up Paradise.

I wonder how can I get in on some of those sweet-heart real estate transactions. $US 600,000 profit with only a $30,000 investment...better than a week-end in Vegas or writing BLOGS!

I do have a question. Did he change his position on Ojibway nature preserve? I was not sure. It seemed like his change from supporting refurbishing the Barn one week and then changing a few weeks later and supporting building a new arena.

I do not know.

I am not going to try and rationalize the columns or try to understand the subtle nuances. I am just going to post them and let you, dear reader, figure it out for yourself.
  • "Paradise paved here

    Gord Henderson, March 09, 2006

    Oranges and alligators? Forget about 'em. A more realistic symbol of the new Florida is the bulldozer that's levelling forests and carving up grazing land in a mad dash to transform this former paradise into one enormous parking lot boasting gazillions of gated McMansions.

    You have to see the construction to believe it. Everywhere one turns, even miles inland, roads are being expanded and building sites cleared to accommodate glitzy outlet malls and a seemingly endless demand for fortress communities featuring lavish homes, immaculate landscaping and palm-lined championship golf courses...

    Sadly, it's that very popularity, and the greedy, uncontrolled rush of development to satisfy it, that will be this region's undoing."
But wasn't this the same person who said only a few weeks before:

  • "Twisted priorities

    Gord Henderson February 23, 2006

    It speaks volumes about our society's twisted priorities that maintaining a strip of tall grass prairie in a pristine state takes precedence over protecting the quality of life of generations of Windsor residents.

    South Windsorites who've been coming out in droves to public meetings over the past week are learning, to their horror and disgust, that they've being sacrificed on the twin altars of environmental correctness and fiscal expediency.

    Defenders of the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve and adjacent green areas have saved the grass, every last precious blade of it, from the encroachment of 18-wheelers proposed last year by traffic guru Sam Schwartz, but the victory comes at the expense of neighbourhoods bordering Huron Church Road."

The Excavation...When Is..Not....

I thought it was hilarious, the Star story about the Docherty excavation downtown. It reminded me of how the DRTP lawyer at a preliminary OMB rail lands hearing described the DRTP corridor.

So I started thinking and came up with a list of "When is...Not..." So if you need a break at work, then send in your best lines and I'll post them! (Keep them clean please!)

When is a hole in the ground not a hole in the ground -- when it's an "engineered slope." (Docherty's lawyer)

When is the DRTP truck expressway not a truck expressway--when it's a transportation corridor

When is a billboard not a billboard--when it's art at the South Windsor underpass art gallery

When is Windsor's Schwartz border solution not Windsor's border solution--when it is Windsor's starting point

When is the shortest distance between 2 points not the shortest distance--when it is an S-bridge or a diagonal bridge

When is a dysfunction Council not a dysfunctional Council--when they pass a Cultural Project Report unanimously

When is a downtown arena not a downtown arena--when it is a Raceway arena, a Riverside arena, a Tecumseh/Lauzon arena or a refurbished Barn

When is an open and transparent Council not an open and transparent Council---when it is an in camera Council

When are vehicles at the Tunnel Plaza moving not vehicles at the Tunnel Plaza moving--when the vehicles are parked at the $30 million Tunnel plaza.

When is the Brighton Beach Industrial area not the Brighton Beach Industrial area--when it is the Brighton Beach truck parking lot

When is an Ojibway nature reserve not an Ojibway nature reserve---when it is an Ojibway truckroad

When is vigilant fairness not vigilant fairness---when it is Marra profiled

We Are NOT A Tag Team

Now some of my readers (and a few souls at City Hall I suspect) may think that Councillor Halberstadt and I had this all worked out in advance. First a Halberstadt interview on Face-To-Face, then a "More Catch-Up Please" Blog, then a Star Story ("Costs kept under wraps") and then another Blog ("Why Are Legal/Consultant Bills Hidden"). I wish it was that easy to accomplish a good result.

Then the Star story yesterday---"Council to disclose border expenses." Someone who is advising Eddie finally had enough sense to tell him to come clean before this got all out of hand. After all, one just needed to look in the past to see what Eddie had said before and how inconsistent it appeared he was now. As a reader wrote to me "
I thought your research on Councillor Eddie's lobbyist questions in your Blog was illuminating."

But now there are more questions. Councillor Postma suggested the expenses are $2.2 million, hundreds of thousands more than Councillor Halberstadt thought. The Mayor denied rumours of the fees being $4 million...the highest rumour I ever heard was $3.5 million.

In going back in history again, I note that on Augsut 25, 2005, the Star reported that "Toronto lawyer David Estrin, the city's border traffic expert, outlined a $2.2-million legal game plan for himself back in September 2003 after council asked behind closed doors what he could do for Windsor. The high-profile solicitor has since racked up $1.7 million in payments to himself and his experts with much more to come, according to city estimates." What is the truth?

I should point out as well, that, other than the by-law issue which is a 4-5 week hearing starting in May, we have not seen any major litigation which could rack up big bills too or any major Environmental hearings.

Of course we know that there is going to be a further battle over fee and consultant disclosure and eventually a Municipal Freedom of Information Act application if the City does not act in a meaningful way. We will get some lump sum figure that will be totally useless. City solicitor George Wilkki better be careful when he says the City will not provide a breakdown of costs since "a breakdown remains under solicitor-client privilege." That is not necessarily so.

Moreover, Councillors Postma and Halberstadt already said in the story that "I'm concerned about transparency. There has to be a certain level of detail available to council and the public." and "She wants to see an itemized breakdown of the expenses and to see it released." Previously, Councillor Jones had said,"There is a need to look at where this is going. I think the direction for council is to go to the public and ask, 'what do you want?'" I am sure that the Budgeteers will have to support openness since otherwise it makes a mockery of the Budget process doesn't it?

We need to know at a minimum:
  1. which law firms have been involved, including US law firms, Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor firms, not just the Gowlings firm
  2. which "lobbyist," stratetgic and consulting firms have bveen used (and let us not play games with words describing their titles either)
  3. which polling and survey firms have been used
  4. which technical and engineering firms have been used and which transportation planners, air, health and noise experts, land use planners, government/media relations expert, social impact analyst and an environmental assessment expert
  5. what costs have they charged us in a way that is meaningful so that we can see if we received value for money on a particular file or part thereof
  6. which firms billed the City directly and which ones billed through our law firms or other parties
  7. what work did they do for the fees incurred
  8. we definitely need to see all disbursements including those paid out by the City for trips for the Mayor, Councillors and staff.
  9. we need assurance that these are ALL fees and expenses to every City Department including the Mayor's office and through his budget through certification by the Mayor and the CAO.
  10. it should cover ALL border work, not just under Francis but under Hurst as well including bu t not limited to the Rail lands by-law, Tunnel plaza

Does it sound like I am not trustful----You betcha! And if Windsorites do not get the information, then it costs only a few dollars to get it formally!

Just one other comment in passing. It looks like we have spent $2 million in developing a strategy. Wilkki stated "itemizing costs...would betray the city's strategy." Without being, sarcastic about it, I would like to know what the City's REAL strategy is because I cannot figure it out. I mean it...I would like to know what our end objective is and why it has cost us $2 million or more to get there when we had everyone eating out of our hands when this Council was elected. But that is for another day.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Is DRIC Dropping Windsor

I am sure that you read the old news in the Star today about the Michigan hearings about DRIC. I bet it would not break the Mayor's heart if it all turned into chaos. He might even take the credit for it too to help (along with the arena) to get him re-elected.

If it is true that Senior Level mandarins are trying to figure out what to do about Windsor these days, I thought I should speculate on what would happen if DRIC is ended.

After spending all of this money, you might wonder why anyone would want to terminate DRIC before it has come up with its answer. What better time to do it before someone gets angry if DRIC makes the "wrong" choice! A crossing at Sterling Fuels would cause a war in Windsor while one in Delray West would equally cause a call to arms! Both scenarios are possible too.

Who would want to end DRIC? The easier question is who still wants it around? The process has become farcical, the locations that seem to be the ones chosen will result in Sandwich or Delray suffering (unless they build the S-bridge or diagonal bridge) and the costs of a new crossing seem astronomical ie at least $3.5-4 billion including the cost of the infrastructure and bridge. Yet who knows if we need one with the traffic projections not being that optimistic any more. [Wait until the border ID issue and no smoking rules are factored in.]

The jockeying right now is to see if one side can pass the blame to the other for ending the project. Who will do it in the end?

Alternative 1---Our side. Windsor is a problem for the Conservatives. I expect that DRIC will choose a crossing landing at Sterling Fuels which will get the Mayor and Council all hot and bothered. Estrin will be called in to sue but before he does, the Feds will call it all off.

Alternative 2---Their side. If Delray West is picked, then Kwame and his Council will call the Governor to remind her of their Resolution. And if she doesn't terminate DRIC, the Republicans will after embarrassing MDOT and showing that the Governor is responsible for a huge waste of money. It's an election year for the Michigan Governor remember.

Alternative 3---Both sides. Regardless which choice is made, the total cost will be too high so the Report will be tabled to gather dust. And an S-bridge or diagonal bridge as our "Signature Bridge" to be the laughing stock of the world....

If DRIC ends, will the BIF money go too? If the $300 million does and jobs are lost here because of that, someone's head will be on the line. That should be Eddie's major concern since it will be his head, especially after the carrot he held out at the Heavy Construction Association meeting. After the "Snub" by the Mayor, I can see the Senior Levels pretending to do so to make him squirm and to teach him a lesson in power politics.

However, I do not think it will end since money is provided for "reducing border congestion and expanding infrastructure capacity over the medium term." DRIC really has nothing to do with this since they are involved in long-term projects. It may require a new Mayor before we get the money, someone who is capable of negotiating what is right for Windsor but in a proper manner without offending the other side.

Obviously, the ending of DRIC cuts off the money for the long-term. Thus we will have no new bridge being built under Government auspices. It's the "No-action" solution that can be justified because of traffic declines. That means no bridge in Sandwich (or Delray). Certain Sandwich residents and their Councillors and probably the Mayor too will take credit for this massive victory that saved the Sandwich heritage.

But this "victory" may result in their ultimate worst nightmare. What will they do then?

What will the alternative be if DRIC ends?
  • No Action---probably for the short term until traffic gradually picks up since the new customs booths opened by the Bridge Co. solved the short-term problems
  • a private DRTP project----hardly, they do not have a chance any more after everyone has knocked them around so much (the Rail lands by-law OMB hearing is starting May 1) and it does not seem that they have the money for a "tunnelled" DRTP without massive Government intervention
  • 200 booths at the Ambassador Gateway...likely since its cost is relatively low and it can clear through Customs double the traffic capacity of all of the existing crossings in SW Ontario.
  • Bridge at Ojibway...unlikely since Mich-Can would be finished and that was never the Bridge Co.'s first choice for a location. I think they might have gone there to please Eddie at one time but not now after he has tried to paint them as the "bad guys" on the border issue. It MIGHT come back if the 4 Governments want a public bridge and are willing to litigate against the Bridge Co. but I just do not see that happening either

But we know what the obvious result is don't we: the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge. It was bound to happen and we got clear indication of that when DRIC eliminated the Bridge Co's proposal from the long-term review. As I wrote previously:

  • [DRIC stated] "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. The Bridge Co. can now act on their own. ..After all, it is not a NEW proposal but expansion of an existing corridor to the border. "

Isn't it ironic, that those who considered themselves the biggest enemies of the Bridge Co. in fact turned out to be the ones who are responsible for them being the builders of the next crossing.

We will be back again to the more mundane issue of how traffic will get to the existing bridge and then the 200 booths or a Twinned Bridge in the future. Of course we can go back to the trucks and eventual problems on Huron Church by doing nothing. But we won't.

We will build the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge using the $300 million BIF funds since our industry needs work and we need jobs. The Senior Levels will see to that. Schwartz made it easy now since his suggested routes incorporated Talbot Road and our Mayor and Councillors endorsed it no matter what they say.

We will NOT have to worry about a tunnel on Talbot Road. The Senior Levels will expropriate the properties there that are needed. If one wants to argue for a tunnel, the better position is to build one in the Sandwich area as required. That would happen since the Senior Levels do have to give something to that area after the residents there were lulled into a false sense of security thinking that a Sterling Fuels bridge would not happen.

I don't see the Senior Levels building the Tunnel plaza either. The City's plans make little sense since they do not move a single vehicle through more quickly. They won't waste $30 million on a Brighton Beach East parking lot. I expect the Bridge Co. to make another bid to operate the Tunnel which Detroit will accept and Windsor will be forced into it as well. [Note: Eddie left that route wide open as his fall-back if Detroit rejects his advances. The Windsor City Auditor's notes distributed to Detroit Council said Windsor prefers to have the Tunnel operated as a "utility" for the benefit of Windsor and Detroit. That does NOT mean that there is no role for a manager/operator such as the Bridge Co.] And then the Bridge Co. will make the Tunnel work!

There can be a fly in the ointment. I can see some local politicans playing silly games again. Let's assume that they are that dumb to actually start a lawsuit against the Senior Levels to prove a point whatever that may be (Oh you see why I am against 4 year terms for municipal councils). In that case, we will get what we want in Windsor----tranquility as industry pulls out and the $300 million goes to build Sarnia/Port Huron and the east-west corridor.

Hopefully, we will see through that stratagem and throw out of office anyone so foolish as to suggest that tactic!

Eddie's Secret Plans Revealed

Roger Penske probably did not let our Mayor sell his Super Bowl tickets to pay down our Budget deficit or rather, to pay for a new arena to get him re-elected.

However, our Mayor is resourceful.

I showed you the work of Art that was put on display on the wall of the new South Windsor Art Gallery.

Since no one objected expect more art work on other underpasses around the City to raise revenues.

But the ultimate is what Eddie proposes to do at the new Tunnel Plaza. Forget the $30 million in spending for the new Brighton Beach East parking lot. That is a mere diversion.

The City is going to sell "naming rights" for millions of dollars just as it will do for the new arena! The artist rendition found its way to me and is shown above.

Not only is Eddie taking Bill Marra's ideas and making them his but now he is taking the Bacon Man's concepts too!

Letters To The Blogmeister

Here is another unpublished Star Letter to the Editor. I told you that John Coleman was busy since he had to go through so many letters from readers and that space was limited.

Did you like the new term that John coined "vigilant fairness." I do. It means as an example that if you are Al Teshuba, you can get a letter published on February 15 (Campaign conducted with mutual respect) and on March 07, 2006 (Above-ground plans archaic and unhealthy.) but not if you are Bill Marra writing as Chair of a Hospital and then as a private citizen.

Oh well, I guess it helps if the second letter happens to be a cause that the Mayor supports. My calculation shows this second Teshuba letter was published about three weeks after the first not the "six to eight weeks" that applies to other mere mortals.

But my favourite part is about "profiling." Whew, that word is an odd one to use in this context. The Star must be vigilantly fair about a person "profiled as a potential candidate in a news story."

Wait a minute though, it was the Star that decided to interview Marra and ran the news story in the first place. If the Star had not run the story or "profiled" him, then he presumably could have had two letters in the Star just as Teshuba did.

Oh so that's how they do it if they want to keep you out of the newspaper Letters section. Now I know!

Hi Ed. Please feel free to publish my letter on your Blog. I am forwarding the letter I submitted and John Coleman's response. I responded to John and indicated to him that I understood his rationale. My Lori Dupont letter appeared in last week's Weekend Edition and because I have been profiled as a "potential candidate", the Windsor Star will be exercising vigilant fairness to everyone.

Thanks in advance Ed!!

-----Original Message-----
From: Coleman, John
Sent: March 7, 2006 6:35 PM
To: 'Bill Marra'
Subject: RE: Document2

Hi Bill, i'm just catching up with some letters that hadn't been used. As you know, your letter on the Dupont case was published on Saturday, and we are only able to use a letter every six to eight weeks from one writer - based on the increasingly high number of letters we receive, and out of fairness to other writers.

We also must be vigilant during an election year to ensure fairness to everyone, particulary when it comes to individuals who have already declared, and in the case of someone who has been profiled as a potential candidate in a news story.

sincerely john coleman

From: Bill Marra
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2006 11:02 PM
To: John Coleman
Subject: RE: Document2

As a member of a Council that was also accused of being "dysfunctional" by critics, I have some sympathy for what the Mayor and Council are experiencing.

I took strong offence at that label and still do. Remember, it was the past Council that laid the foundation for this Council to be able to exert such a strong influence on the Senior Levels of Government, and our American friends, as it relates to the border issue. My regret, to be frank, is that this council's efforts have not yet matched our expectations.

I expect that being in a municipal election year, the smallest irritant is blown out of proportion at Council. When you have people of different opinions and views, one should not always expect harmony and agreement, but one should not expect the need for "group therapy" for those whom we elect. I recall some disagreements on our Council, some of which were quite bitter, but at no time did we lose our respect for each other. One of the skills that I possess is the ability to work with people and bring people together. I am confident that this helped avoid the type of animosity that we are now seeing with our Councillors.

City Council must refocus on the matters important to Windsorites. Clearly, trust must be re-established by working with Windsorites openly to achieve a border traffic solution that makes sense. Windsorites want to be engaged. They showed up by the hundreds at two public meetings over the past week.

There is a real threat to the economic security of our region by the migration of industry and traffic to the Blue Water Bridge area. This needs to be taken seriously and dealt with imediately.
Our Super Bowl experience proved once again how important our downtown is with regards to our tourism industry and economic development. Accordingly, we must start to develop our Urban Village and not just rely on the Casino as our salvation.

We must also re-establish productive working relationships with the Senior Level of Governments and our American neighbours since we cannot do it alone. We must simply bring all of the stakeholders to the table. Through the Mayor's Office in Windsor and the Mayor's Office in Detroit, invite the local stakeholders for the Border all to the same table. Our crisis is a Border Traffic Crisis. We must develop a fully dedicated transportation corridor which will take International Trucks from the 401 to a Border Crossing and from the Border Crossing to the 401. Get the trucks off our city streets.

Our Mayor and Councillors must put aside their personal differences and work with our community and our stakeholders for the benefit of everyone. Windsorites want to work with City Council. Is City Council ready to work with Windsorites?

Bill Marra

From: Bill Marra
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 8:05 AM
To: John Coleman

Subject: Document2

Good morning John. I submitting this letter for your Opinion Section of the paper.

Bill Marra

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Why Are Legal/Consultant Bills Hidden

Googling on the Internet is fun. One never knows the gems that are around until one looks. I found this interesting quote:

Windsor Star 10-10-2002. "It was left to Halberstadt, the defiant whipping boy, to diagnose the malady at city hall: "The administration treats city council like they're marginalized. That's the culture here and it needs to be broken."

It's still the same now if you read today's Star and if you watched Alan's recent Face-to-Face interview! And Halberstadt is still leading the charge. The only difference is that it is not the Hurst Administration that he is attacking but the Francis Administration.

Can anyone explain it? Why do they change? What is it that happens to politicians when they come into power? How can they forget everything they stood for before?

One obvious explanation is that it must be different when one is in power because now you have to protect your turf when before it was easy to attack that of someone else.

I can remember asking a local politician why he did not take a certain action that in my opinion seemed like the right thing to do. The answer was simple. He did not want the same thing happening to him so he was not prepared to take the action required! Or remember the politician who attacked secret meetings and now is part of them endorsing proposals in camera.

No this BLOG is not about Harper/Emerson compared with Martin/Stronach. That is inexplicable. I am going to talk about something more mundane: legal fees and consultants.

I am sure you read the story in the Star today:

  • "A city councillor wants to know why the city won't release details of the costs for consultants and lawyers involved in the border file...The Ward 3 councillor [Halberstadt] said there better be "a good reason" for the information to be kept from public perusal, otherwise it should be released."
What was interesting to me was that the Star reported that the fees were $1.7M in August, the approximate sum that Eddie said was spent when he was interviewed by John Fairley in his year-end Face-to-Face show but now the Councillor tells us the fees are $2 million.

I am sorry, but I find it hard to believe that not very much was spent in 4 months but then about $300K was spent in 2 months.

Sam Schwartz told me that he made at least 50 presentations similar to the ones he made to Detroit Council so they must have cost something. Are they part of the fees? How many consultants have been used? How do they bill---directly to the City or through the outside law firm? Who is monitoring the fees being charged so that we are assured that taxpayers get value for our money? Are these legal fees a budget item or do they come out of a contingency fund?

I found it interesting that the Star story did not ask the Mayor why he thought the fees information should not be released and why we should not know who the consultants were and what they were doing. But then again, the Star could not ask him could they after what Eddie had said in the past. Let me remind you what he said:

1) Windsor Star 04-16-2003

"councillor Eddie Francis wants to know what messages are being communicated to the two senior levels of government on behalf of the city. Francis has requested a report from city administration about how many lobbyists are on retainer with the city, who authorized retaining them, what issues they're dealing with and what positions they're communicating to senior levels of government. "

2) Windsor Star 04-19-2003

"Councillor Eddie Francis, who requested a report on the city's lobbyists at Monday's council meeting, was surprised to learn of Enterprise Canada and its various ties, including the city.

"This is concerning on a number of levels," Francis said. "You have an individual working for the city who neither I or any of my colleagues were aware of. I don't know what's being said or done.
"...We need to know who's been hired and for what purpose...

Francis said the only message from the city on the border issue should be the resolutions passed by council."

3) Windsor Star Editorial 04-23-2003

"Windsor councillors should be fully informed about any taxpayers' money that is being spent to supposedly further the city's interests. However, Councillor Eddie Francis has raised a legitimate concern that when it comes to hiring lobbyists, council isn't getting the full story.

As a result, Francis wants a report from the city administration listing the number of lobbyists who are on retainer, the person or persons responsible for hiring them and what issues lobbyists are dealing with and what positions they are pitching to senior governments. It's a reasonable request and one that should be quickly answered...

"The last time (this) happened and council raised the issue, we were told we would have been informed about the lobbyists had we asked," said Councillor Francis. "I don't want to see the same situation arise again, so I'm asking."

However, no councillor should have to make a special request to find out how the city is using lobbyists. Tax dollars are involved and public issues are at stake."

4) Windsor Star 05-22-2003

"Councillor Eddie Francis, who first raised the question of lobbyists, said he was unaware the city had hired lobbyists to deal with gaming issues.

"I'm just trying to pursue the issue of value-for-dollar, what purpose they're serving and whether or not we're getting that service," Francis said. "I'm not arguing about whether or not they should be retained, I just want to make sure we're getting what we want from them..."

Council also decided to request a periodic report from lobbyists outlining their efforts on behalf of the city."

Let me try and guess what is going on. The bills are horrific, the consultants numerous and the results are not what they were expected to be. The strategy at City Hall was to spend, spend, spend and when the Senior Levels made a deal with the $300 Million BIF funding, then Windsor would get its money back so who would be the wiser.

Well that is NOT happening and so Windsor taxpayers may get stuck with paying it all. That could never do so the stall is in. One might just have to do a Municipal Freedom of Information request to get the informtaion if Councillor Halberstadt is rebuffed. What a disgrace from an "open and transparent" Council. And the Premier wants to extend their term to 4 years in future!

I found an interesting comment on legal bills:
  • "for a legal account to qualify for exemption under the municipal equivalent of section19, its contents must relate in a direct and tangible way to the seeking, formulating or provision of legal advice. On this basis, the application of section 19 to a legal account (or to a part of such an account) must be judged on a document by document basis. It necessarily follows that a record will not automatically attract the section 19 exemption simply because it is characterized as a legal account."

Helping Out John

I am sure that you know that John Coleman is the Editorial Page Editor of the Star.

Well he has a very hectic job. So many people send him Letters to the Editor and he has so little space that not all of the letters get in.

I want to help out John. If you have sent in a Letter that he has not published, perhaps I can do so.

Here is one that was sent to me by a Reader of this Blog that, so far, has not made the Letters to the Editor page of the Star. This Letter is obviously in answer to the column by Gord Henderson dealing with Bill Marra:

"I'm was shocked at Gord Henderson's column discouraging a potential candidate from entering the mayoral race. There are many issues that need to be debated and the best way to do that is in an election campaign. It is also one of the best ways to educate the public on important issues such as:

  1. How much money should the city spend on an arena and where should it be located?
  2. What ever happened to "citistat"?
  3. Why are there no actions on the recommendations of all the costly Community
    Improvement Plans that we spent thousands to produce?
  4. Could a better border strategy have yielded more short term results?
  5. Is it hurting Windsor to have such a caustic relationship with the Bridge who we depend on?
  6. Is there a better strategy to deal with this Conservative government?
  7. Why didn't the Mayor call our closest connection MP Jeff Watson to congratulate him?

Discouraging a mayoral race will prevent the public from being educated better on these issues and more and will prevent alternative ideas from being presented to our community. Regardless of someone's chances at winning, elections bring healthy debate and strong candidates only improve the quality of that debate."

Use Your Imagination

Was it only a just over a year ago that we were breathlessly awaiting the issuance of the Schwartz Report that was to be our salvation?

Imagine if Council had been forcing the long-term solution during the last year rather than rallying for the short-term Schwartz billion-dollar dream.

Imagine if the Mayor on the Sunday after the Schwartz Report was delivered had not appeared on Detroit TV conceding that the Bi-National was the final decision-maker.

Imagine if the Mayor after the first Schwartz Report was turned down had not panicked and had another one drafted but instead rallied the people of Windsor against those who dared defy us.

Imagine if the Mayor and Council had constantly kept citizens aware of what was going on rather than acting in secret behind closed doors, unlike the US politicians who stood up publicly for their constituents and won.

Imagine if the Mayor had used the relationships he had already built with the PM, Premier and US Ambassador to accomplish what Windsor wanted on the border.

Imagine if the Phase 1 Agreement actually made sense in solving the truck issue rather than being the first step in Eddie's desire to be a Border operator by using Senior Level funds to expand the Tunnel Plaza.

Imagine if City had actually revealed what its real plans were rather than playing games with the Schwartz Report which we now learn was merely a starting point or an option.

Imagine if Councillors Jones, Postma and their colleagues really knew what the Mayor was thinking so they would not have to take DRIC reps and Detroit Councillors on tours of Sandwich!

Oh yes, just imagine.....

Another Secret Council Border Resolution

Did you have fun at the South Windsor arena a few Saturdays ago? Were you made sufficiently angry or concerned so that Eddie and his Councillors can be your champions? How many Councillors were there in attendance? Six I think. Anyway, Windsorites were being manupulated for the sequel to follow.

Windsorites were not asked to endorse the Schwartz Report which was passed by the Mayor and Council in secret since, within days of its release, it was discredited by many thoughtful observers. It was nothing more than a billion-dollar short-term dream that accomplished little for the region.

It would hardly have been a smart move would it to have it voted down by the public after the City spent so much time and money on it. No, it was better to pretend for 7 months, use it as a rallying cry and then call it a "starting point" when its failure was about to be exposed by a Federal Government consultant.

Another Resolution was passed in secret a few weeks ago I was told. This time I heard that the Mayor and Council want to bring it in front of the public.

Surely, now they have finally learned their lesson you say. Open and transparent Government after all of this time with this Council, you say. You have got to be kidding, I say.

It's election time in a few months and this Mayor and Council need to point to something. They promised us a long-term solution and failed. Now they can be our road design champions. (Damn, I should not have exposed the term, Conditions of Design Acceptance.... Eddie won't dare use it now or he will acknowledge the leak. I can just picture in my mind Eddie in a bulldozer crying out "CODA, CODA, CODA" as he leads a charge of the six Councillors who were at the arena down Talbot Road)

It won't matter what the delegations say. We may not even know the wording of the Resolution until after all of the delegations have spoken so that we have nothing to oppose if opposition is necessary. It may then be sprung upon us as something that just "hit" a Councillor who moves the motion. Councillors can speak on it at that time but not the public. But when it is approved in a vote, then the Mayor and Council can say it was done at a "public" session!

For a bit of fun, we should start up a pool to guess which Councillor will introduce the motion. I have my choice!

I trust you understand that anyone who speaks is being co-opted so understand the game being played.

What is the Resolution going to say? Eddie told us in the Star article that the City's response to DRIC will be "based on the feedback from the meeting." And I would not be surprised if the response just ties in almost exactly with what Council already passed in secret! (If it doesn't the feedback will not see the light of day like the consultant's report that never came out after the summer meeting) So what can we get out of the Star story:
  1. "Anything this side of Prospect Avenue is unacceptable" in the words of Ms Cuderman
  2. To avoid an "environmental impact of a potential border traffic feeder route" on Talbot Road and to avoid a road being "five metres from properties backing onto the road", we need an underground tunnel
  3. So that there is no need to use E C Row during construction of Huron Church and so no businesses or homes will be taken by an 80 metre widening, keep the new road west of Huron Church

Now you do not have to go to the Council meeting since you know what the Resolution will be and for the benefit of the Mayor and Council, no delegations need appear so they can practise what the Governor's hubby preached.

Watch it all happen on TV. But shhhhhhhhhh, don't tell them. I am going to be there and I may have a counter-plan I intend to spring on them.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It was Eddie's To Lose

“Payback is sweet, and deep down satisfying if you are administering it.” I bet that’s how David Cassivi feels today.

I admit it, I missed the message David conveyed a few weeks ago but I got it loud and clear when I read the Star this morning. David in relation to the arena said:

  • “Coun. David Cassivi is dismayed council is even considering a new option of a four-pad arena when the Windsor Raceway proposal isn't dead.

    "We tend to lose our focus," Cassivi said. "This is why we still don't have a (new) arena after 25 years."

    Cassivi said the city never met with Windsor Raceway and its partner, the Jebb Group, to see if a deal could be restructured.”

Now David is not a foolish man. Sure he thinks a Gretzky connected deal makes sense but with the Raceway throwing in the towel and Millson leaving, the chances of a Raceway arena are slim to none. So there has to be more to it than that. And there is. Let me try and explain.

As I have said before, “David Cassivi is an honourable man. He is an experienced politician who serves Windsor well.” He is known to be close to the Mayor of the City, no matter who he/she is and is portrayed as a “loyal soldier” to the person in charge (as if that is a fault sometimes).

David was hurt badly when he was “trashed” by the Star. It was totally uncalled for. But in my opinion, what he was really hurt by was the Mayor not sticking up for him and defending him. After all, he took several of the trips on behalf of the Mayor. Why couldn’t the Mayor have been loyal in return?

I think David finally understood what he instinctively knew but refused to admit to himself at the beginning. He knew what this was all about and got angry. The last thing a young Mayor should do is have the experienced Senator get mad at him! David understood that it was he who was being fingered to be sacrificed to lose his Council seat and he was NOT going to allow that to happen.

How then does one teach the Mayor a lesson? It was Eddie’s bud, Gord Henderson, who gave him the means to do so. As I pointed out before:

  • “Eddie has figured out that the arena is fundamental to his re-election. It's not that he really wants one but he said that he could get us one in order to be elected in the first place. It's an easy issue for a voter to decide upon unlike the border that is so complicated. Either the arena is built or it is not. He chased Beztak out of town, used the Raceway and Jebb groups to buy time and now has to do something or at least appear to do so.”
As Gord Henderson wrote:

"Now or never. And if it's now, what a coup that would be for city politicians in an election year."

He really meant Eddie but it was his way of saying that Councillors better come onside too. What Gord did though is give David and the other anti-Eddie Councillors on Council the easy way to make sure that Eddie is a one-term wonder: vote against an arena.

The Star headline writer must be a Bill Marra supporter. Can you believe today’s headline about the arena: Four-pad complex may doom small arenas.

Now to salvage Eddie’s career another new idea out of the blue, a 4 pad arena which means that neighbourhood arenas around the City will close down so that the parents have to drag their kids all over town! That won’t play very well.

We already know that the gossip at City Hall is to put the new Arena/ice-pad structure near the recently sold Lear plant. We should have a rough idea as to costs. (After all, Fulvio could tell Beztac what the costs were when they were chased out of town!) I just cannot see spending money for an East End arena (to get Gignac onside) when for a much lower cost, we can refurbish the Barn, give Riverside a twinpad and fix up the West End facilities too. (Notice that A.D. Knox was barely mentioned or else Councillors Postma and Jones would have gone ballistic!) Why wouldn't we keep an arena downtown when the new road plans at the Tunnel make it so convenient for tourists. Didn't we just see what a downtown stadium did for Detroit during Super Bowl.

Oh the decision was put off for a month so that Administration can do its report, so that Councillors’ arms can be twisted and so people can forget about the local arenas closing.

What has this all got to do with David you must be wondering? In trying to predict what Council will do, my reading is that the vote now is 5-4 against building a new arena or even the 4-pad hybrid that someone dreamed up in the last second. Who is the deciding vote and he knows it: David Cassivi.

Will David vote for a new arena---NO!

Will David vote against a new arena---NO!

David will vote to “follow process,” as the Mayor so much likes to do. He will vote to go back to the Raceway to talk to them. In this very business-like and proper manner, David gets his revenge.

When David voted against Hurst on the border in March 2003, we knew Mike’s career was over as mayor. Effectively, David cast his vote against Eddie in March, 2006 on the arena. Eddie’s mayoral career is now over too!

Never cross a Windsor Senator. It can be painful. When I see David, I’ll buy him an Apple Martini because it is sweet and satisfying too!

It's Marra's For The Taking

You know the game: "Good cop, Bad cop"

If Bill Marra wanted to be the next Mayor of Windsor, he would be! There is no doubt in my mind now that in a repeat of the last mayoral election in Windsor, Bill Marra would easily beat Eddie Francis. After all, Eddie only received 53.45% of the votes and he did not have a dismal record that he will have to justify as he does now.

I know that is not what the E-Machine wants everyone to think but is there any other conclusion that one can draw?

We have seen the "Bad Cop" nasty approach to try to scare Bill into not running. A few days ago, I noted the following comment published at the end of a news story about Marra "Political observers, like Lloyd Brown-John, suggested that Marra target a councillor's seat rather than the mayor's chair. "I don't think Eddie Francis is beatable for a lot of good reasons," said Brown-John, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Windsor. "He hasn't really offended anybody."

Why was it necessary for the Star to run another Marra running for office story? Is there something going on in the Community that involved Marra and political office that required it? Other than Bill "thinking" about it and "talking" to some people about it, I did not see a reason for this story.

Of course we cynical people can suspect why! Was there a need to provide some semblance of balance to the Henderson attack on Marra's chances just 2 weeks before. You remember "Francis is a shoo-in. One hundred per cent. I don't care who runs against him. Even if Buzz (Hargrove) were to come down and run. I'd bet a thousand bucks on that one," said one of Bill Marra's closest supporters.

I think that approach will back-fire and might even encourage Bill to run. So why not try the "Good Cop" approach. You know the one that was started almost immediately after the November election: 12-04-2003 "The Liberals, having failed to land Masse, should beg Marra to run in one of the Windsor ridings. He wasn't the city's first choice for mayor. But he would make a first-rate member of parliament. "

Now the obvious position that may become vacant is that of Sandra Pupatello our Windsor West MPP. Her husband, Jim Bennett just became the new leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal party. If she decides to move to Newfoundland to help her husband win or she decides not to run for re-election, then Bill should be the obvious Liberal choice to replace her.

Other possibilities include running in Dwight's riding IF he chooses for run for the Liberal Leadership or running federally in the next election.

Why should Bill run for mayor now and then risk losing a second time will be the cry. Why should Bill jeopardize a promising career at a Senior Level?

When those stories start, then you know Bill is our new mayor!

The Tunnel Plaza Is Mickey Mouse

In investment terms, I think that the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel may be a Sleeping Beauty as we have seen with Windsor's desire to own/operate/lease it with or without Detroit.

It is prime for a takeover since it has huge potential for taxpayers in Windsor and Detroit if it is managed by an experienced operator properly and not run by a bunch of wanna-be entrepreneurs. We do not need a BAMBI (Bloody Awful Management Buy-In) going wrong. It has got to be done right! The potential is not just revenues but encouraging trade and tourism.

We in Windsor are looking at the Tunnel as can be seen from the sparsely-attended Public Information Session a few days ago. "The tunnel plaza study is being prepared by McCormick Rankin Corporation who were hired for $870,000. The City also paid traffic planner Sam Schwartz $40,000 to prepare a traffic routing report."

We need a "Louie" after Huey and Dewey. I think that one more company needs to be hired: Walt Disney Imagineering.

I say this because if all we are looking at is queuing, and I do not think that it should be, then we need the experts to help us out. I read this interesting quote about queuing in Disney's parks:
  • "..the incredible queues of visitors who patiently wait, sometimes for hours, for admission to exhibits. These queues...provide evidence of the considerable inconvenience that people can be persuaded to tolerate so long as they believe that their best interests require is, interestingly, reinforced through the queueing process itself. In many exhibits queues are structured so that one is brought close to the entrance at several points, thus periodically giving one a glimpse of the fun to come while at the same time encouraging one that the wait will soon be over."

Is this the goal that the Plan is trying to achieve?

Now I am NOT being Goofy. Walt Disney Imagineering "is the master planning, creative development, design, engineering, production, project management, and research and development arm of" the Disney empire. Seriously, what is the one thing that everyone remarks on at Disney's various theme parks: the line-ups at the rides (some an hour or more in length during busy periods) and how well queuing is handled.

As an example:

  • "The light green show building that houses the Indiana Jones® Adventure...physically stands in the parking lot at the southern border of park, which posed an interesting problem to the Walt Disney Imagineering design team: How to get the patrons from Adventureland, to the distant show building and back? The answer came in the form of an elaborate queue that stretches over a mile in length. The Imagineers used what they had learned about themed create a queue that is an attraction unto itself."

Jiminy Cricket, don't we need their expertise at the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel to make the experience Winnie the Pooh bearable for Tunnel patrons? We have a serious problem that needs a solution. The reduction in traffic is Seven Dwarfing our revenues at the Tunnel.

I am not trying to Peter Pan the work done to date but it seems almost Alice in Wonderland with what it is proposing. The Tunnel Plan Report as I read it does not solve the line-up problem at the Tunnel going into the US. It is really just an exercise "to reduce/eliminate the queuing on City streets."

We really are being Dumbos. Didn't we learn from the Bridge Co. actions that the opening of a few Customs booths at a relatively low cost and having booths fully staffed ended the line-ups as if by Disney magic on Huron Church Road. We cannot Donald Duck the issue at the Tunnel. We learn in the Tunnel Plaza Report "However, even with the currently planned expansion of its queuing space, the U.S. Tunnel Plaza cannot accommodate the expected increase in U.S.-bound traffic." That does seem odd to me frankly since the 50% increase in traffic brings volumes back to the pre 9/11 days. It also makes mockery of objections to the Bridge Co.'s plans for the Tunnel.

We also learn a very important key point. Why the Bridge Co. could solve the problem but it appears that Windsor cannot. "Major improvements to the U.S. Tunnel Plaza to provide adequate processing capacity –outside the City’s jurisdiction and the scope of this study. "

We need to get Detroit involved if we are to solve our problem. I am not sure what their attitude to us is at this point in time after the Joint Councils session. We need to have more than a Plutonic relationship with them don't we? Are we viewed as trustworthy or as Pinocchios? We need to have them fully involved if we are to get a long-term solution.

Aren't we wasting taxpayer money by NOT dealing with the root cause of the problem. To paraphrase: "It's the booths, stupid"----not enough of them and not fully staffed on the Detroit side! Otherwise, we are dealing just with cosmetic issues. The Tinker Bells should be going off now: $30 million merely to create space for queuing in Windsor and not moving traffic through the Tunnel seems like a lot of wasted money to me. And I say this not trying to be a Scrooge McDuck.

We need to rethink, in my opinion, our whole approach to the movement of traffic at the Tunnel. Getting cars off of Goyeau or Wyandotte is not the answer for a tourist who wants to go home quickly. If we do not do it right, then traffic will migrate to the Ambassador Bridge whether we like it or not.

The Tunnel has the potential to be a Cinderella asset. I was told that the only money committed to the Tunnel project so far by the Senior Levels is the money for the Tunnel Plaza Report. I believe that no more money should be spent until the real problems of the Tunnel are addressed! We need to live in the real world, not Fantasyland.