Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 31, 2006

Cheap And Cheerful Things

Not THAT!!

Get your mind out of the gutter! Jim Yanchula, Windsor's manager of urban design and community development was talking about the expansion possibility of the South Windsor Art Gallery on Dougall under the E C Row underpass.

My goodness gracious. That unanimous vote at Council a few weeks ago re Cultural projects has certainly changed the minds of some of the Budgeteers. They understand that saving money is not all that Council must do. For the appropriate project (especially if it can be justified as helping bring in tourist dollars) then certain Councillors will agree to open the purse to spend money.

Here is what Councillor Halberstadt had to say in Saturday's Star after attending a forum that involved brainstorming ideas to improve the look of the designated civic streets like Howard and Dougall:
  • "The issue of money was not addressed at the design forum, but several councillors attended the session to get a sense of what people wanted. Some of them said they're willing to start loosening the purse strings because the beautification of the two roadways is a priority.

    "I think we're going to have to find the money somewhere," said Coun. Alan Halberstadt. "But it's difficult. There's just so many bucks out there."

Now I have talked about the opening of the South Windsor Art Gallery before and showed its first acquisition [February 02, 2006 "Is This Windsor Art."] Well since then, thousands of Windsorites and tourists have viewed the new mural depicting the downtown skylines of Windsor and Detroit--what Mayor Eddie Francis called "a vast improvement over what had been "an ugly" bit of infrastructure."

Now I call it a "billboard" but what do I know about "art." (I wonder if Councillor Cassivi has finished reading the "62 pages of downloaded answers to the question, "what is art?" given to him by Brenda Francis-Pelkey, director of the school of visual arts at the University of Windsor.)

Accordingly, Jim, who may be in line to be the curator of the gallery and oversee its expansion, could say

  • "The stark concrete walls in each of those underpasses of the E.C. Row expressway offer enormous opportunities to do a 'POW.' They could be developed as mural programs or art projects... That's cheap and cheerful..."

He did say that the expansion probably wouldn't start for a year or two but it is another checkmark on the Mayor's Report Card, you know, "in progress."

More From Lansing

The Lansing hearings saga continued with at least one more session to come. This week, I thought the presentations were good but the questioning did not match the quality of last week.

There were 3 representatives from the Delray Community who made a joint presentation gushing about how open and helpful MDOT was and how a new bridge in Delray would revitalize the community there. Yet on our side, the Sandwich reps want the new bridge to stay as far away from Sandwich as possible because a new bridge there could destroy the community.

The Delray people slam the Bridge Co. and their proposal (which does not impact Delray at all) yet think a public bridge in whose shadow their community will be in is somehow better. Strange, the reps have a history of opposing a private bridge in one part of town and now want a public one in theirs. Sandwich does not want a bridge in their community, public or private.

Which of the two communities is correct in their view? I was rather confused to be direct by the Delray position. But then again, I saw the lovely boards and pictures that DRIC reps showed at the recent CCG/LAC meeting of what Delray could become and I thought about moving there was a new paradise on earth. Perhaps the Michigan Legislators should be shown them as well.

It would be as hard for someone in Delray to reject that view of the future as it would be for a Windsorite to dismiss Gridlock Sam's slide of the ugly Huron Church Raod becoming the Champs Elysee of Canada! Those artists' renditions are wonderful.

Marge Byington of DRTP gave a very effective performance. I could see her lawyers trying in court to stop DRIC soon using her materials! The start of a STOPDRIC movement perhaps. There were at least a dozen or more factors she identified as problematic for DRIC. She even used a Face-to-Face interview of Councillor Halberstadt who confirmed DRTP's view that the process was "political" not technical.

It was interesting as well how she was trying to gain the "friendship" of the other rejected private enterprise company, the Bridge Co., by talking about a multi-modal solution of bridge and tunnel which would give 6 lanes of traffic across the river and would meet the DRIC requirements.

She also claimed that the DRTP project would now cost $2 billion (I assume that is the tunneled DRTP and not the original DRTP). I thought she said that private money would finance the whole project where before they needed $150 million Government and $450M private. Why the Government share dropped when the project more than tripled in cost is something I do not undrstand. Nor do I understand how a project that may be have problems being successful at $600 million if traffic projections decrease is financially viable at $2 billion.

Then the highlight for me, Deputy Mayor of Detroit, Anthony Adams. As I said before, I like big city American politicians. Detroit he said was not going to be pushed around by MDOT. The Mayor speaks for the City. He said that the DRIC process was unacceptable without Detroit's involvement. He rejected the view that MDOT could make land use planning decisions for Detroit

He effectivley challenged DRIC and MDOT saying that dollars had been spent already for the crossing and re-aligning roads and why did they want to spend more money and relocate people and businesses when it may not be necessary.

He said flat out that a new crossing was not needed at this time since the existing infrastructure was good. He said that Detroit needed to remain the pre-eminent border crossing point in North America and that they therefore needed to maximize the use of the money already spent and protect the investment they have already made.

Brian Masse surprisingly showed up, actually, not so surprisingly. He stated his usual about an authority to manage the border and public ownership. Other than that, I have no idea why he even attended. Is there the verbal equivalent of a photo-op? If so, that was Brian's presentation!

Bridge Co. consultants spoke last. They challenged the assumption that traffic would pick up saying that DRIC had changed their projections 3 times in several years already. They said that the Blue Water bridge was twinned yet their traffic now is lower than before. They pointed out the obvious like reduced traffic due to loss of jobs, and the region changing from manufacturing jobs to knowledge-based ones.

They challenged the view that "public" is better saying that a private operator has no incentive for not building when traffic is there and would maintain its property. Back-ups were not good for business! Again the obvious, that a public bridge was subject to politics not economics since taxpayer money was used.

They talked about finances ie how will a new bridge generate tolls and was there enough business so that a crossing might go broke if there was not.

But the best part was the long listing of essential roadworks the State needed to have done and which would not be done if the $400 million for the bridge was all public money and would be used up for the border project ie you cannot use the same dollar twice. That should have brought things home to politicians who were running for re-election.

One other interesting point, if Michigan spends its money on a bridge, there is no Federal matching money. But if a private company spends theirs, then the Feds match it.

The consultants also confirmed that the Bridge Co. had already applied for the permits to build the Twinned Bridge.

More of this to come...what the result will be...who knows!

Another Windsor Semi-Snub

DRIC put on a number of presentations for the last several days for the public but also for the local media earlier this week (I attended that one as an "accredited" BLOGMeister).

There was also a presentation for members of the local Councils in Windsor and Essex County I believe.

Like them or not, the DRIC people play an important part in the decisions that will be made for the border. I attended the media meeting since I thought it important to undrstand their thinking especially in answering questions from media people who are not always so nice in how and what they ask. PLUS it is a less formal atmosphere so people tend to say more.

So I wondered who from the Windsor Council attended the DRIC meeting the same morning since this is such a vital matter for us, especially after the Resolution passed at the Tecumseh meeting and the need for the Sandwich Heritage District.

Here is who attended according to my sources from Windsor (a number of County officials attended): the Mayor. Period.

Not one Councillor I was told. Not one single Councillor from Ward 1, not a Councillor from Ward 2, not a Councillor on the "Border Issues Communications Committee," not a Councillor who is on the Windsor Tunnel Commission.

Some of them could go to a session about refurbishing the Barn on the same day but not to a border meeting. It's only the most important issue that faces Windsor and our Councillors did not go.

Not a total snub...but enough to be noticed. And Windsor wonders why no one listens to us. And why the Feds put money into roads and an arena in New Brunswick and why the Province does not put money into our Science Centre.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lansing Bound

I am off to watch Week 2 of the Michigan hearings on DRIC in Lansing.

Of course, you will be able to read the "good stuff" here tomorrow. I will give you not only some "facts" but my view as to what is happening.

Where's The Cabana Tunnel

Where's the outrage? Where's the Mayor? Where's Councillor STOPDRTP/BUDGET since Cabana is in his Ward? Where are all of the tunnel groups that have just sprung up?

Gord Henderson's column on Cabana Road "Road rage" was hilarious and disturbing. It demonstrated more clearly than anything I can imagine the absolute hypocrisy of this Mayor and Council on the DRIC road to the border!

Honestly, how can anyone take them seriously any more?

Imagine that Eddie cannot be consistent about whether to tunnel one road and not tunnel another. Doubling the size of Cabana is OK but increasing the width of Talbot Road is not so tunnel it. Destroy one residential community and protect another. Hmmm I wonder if someone did the calculation where there are more votes.

The front page headline screams: "Officials to study tunnel to border." Transport Canada's Windsor Gateway Project representative Mark Butler says: "We've heard the concerns. We've heard what Windsor residents have told us... Because of those meetings, we're looking at tunnelling as an option."

Instead of claiming a partial victory at least, what are our local elected officials doing: turning two lane Cabana into a four lane road. Never mind that there are several schools on or near Cabana, homes on Cabana, churches on Cabana and businesses on Cabana. Let's make it into a major east-west thoroughfare.

I attended the DRIC media briefing the other morning. BLOGS must now be considered "information sources" for the public along with the traditional media I hope. I asked if the City had asked for BIF money from the Senior Levels to help pay for this increase in lanes on Cabana. I was told that no request had been made.

Now why would I ask this you might think. Isn't the BIF money for border road improvements? Of course. And didn't Mike Palanacki, acting general manager of public works say that "Cabana will never become a truck route." Absolutely.

But don't you find it strange that this story just came out a few days after Eddie's big tunneling meeting and on the DRIC announcment day. Well I did.

Maybe I am reading too much into things again BUT if Eddie's tunnel is to be built on Talbot Road and the trucks need to detour, then where would be a nice place for them to go----how about to an upgraded 4-lane Cabana Road as a "detour" not as a "truck route." Only for a few short years, mind you. Keeps those nasty trucks off of E C Row too so Eddie is keeping his word.

The road would all be paid for by the Senior Levels under BIF since "the project isn't in the five-year capital works program" of the City. It would solve Eddie's financial and road problems too.

Now this has to be a devastating column about the Mayor except you do not see his name there. Can you imagine if it had been Mike Hurst who dared do that? The "City" is mentioned and so is "Palanacki." But did you see Eddie's name as the head of Council and the only full-time member of Council who is supposed to know all about this mentioned? Not a word.

It is time for Gord to stop protecting a Mayor who is losing rapidly the trust of Windsorites. Perhaps if Henderson and the Star had not treated Eddie so gently for so long, he might not be making the errors he is making now. He might have learned.

However with the almost total lack of criticism by the major media outlet in town, our Mayor is free to keep on making mistake after mistake with few consequences. It has to be the longest political honeymoon in history. I wonder why.

Two Headlines Today

I tell you what. YOU, dear reader, write the BLOG today! I'll let you figure out what to say about this.

By the way, there is a bigger story in here than the headlines. Let's see if you can guess what that is too. More to come about that next week.

Interesting, a previously unknown $30,000 for the Mayor? Is it time for the long-delayed forensic audit of City Hall if money can be lost so easily? Or was there newly found "wiggle room?"

Where is Councillor Budget now and why didn't our financial expert catch this? He should be fuming!

Council salaries balloon
Roseann Danese, Windsor Star, Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thanks to payments from Enwin and the Windsor Utilities Commission, city councillors received a 22.9 per cent pay hike last year, boosting their salaries by $8,601.

Meanwhile, Mayor Eddie Francis earned about $30,000 that was not previously disclosed for his work with the public utilities. He made about $141,583 in 2005.

Income gap growing in Windsor
Area has Ontario's highest median income, but more people standing in food lines
Anne Jarvis, Windsor Star, Thursday, March 30, 2006

The gap between the rich and the poor in Windsor -- a city known for its social activism -- is larger than the national income gap and growing, according to the first Windsor and Essex County Well-Being Report by the United Way.

The after-tax income of the highest earners was 12.9 times that of the lowest earners, according to the report, which uses Statistics Canada figures from 2000.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Under the B---Disaster

Do you get the feeling that there is no sense of urgency about anything at City Hall. Everything seems to take so long and even then there is no action.

The latest Schwartz presentation was last minute it seems since the only place that could be found to hold the meeting was outside of Windsor in Tecumseh. Then there was a 2 year study on the taxi industry that the Mayor talked about during the taxi strike and a Report that was to be examined by Administration for 6-8 weeks. Has that been released yet?

Then there is bingo.

I only played BINGO as a kid. I have never even been inside a BINGO hall in Windsor or elsewhere. I really do not understand the industry or how it is such a big business in Windsor or why but it is.

On December 6, 2005, Bingo Country closed Bingo Country on Northway Avenue that employs 24 people and generates more than $1.5 million for local charities.

On December 7, the Mayor was quoted in the Star saying:
  • "This is a multimillion-dollar industry that supports tourism, that supports charities, that supports local and provincial economies," Mayor Eddie Francis said.

    "When the industry comes knocking at your door" and says it's on the brink of collapse, "then you need to move if you believe this industry needs to continue."

In early January, according to the Star, "Options to stop the financial bleeding for charities and operators were discussed Wednesday by a group of five city councillors during a closed-door meeting with consultants reviewing the bingo business.

On Monday, over 3 months after the Mayor's comments, a Report came before Council dealing with this matter. It does impact not only the industry but also about 600 charities, $18 million in revenues and about $2 million in City licensing fees. Wasn't it tabled for more comments?

Then today's Star told us about the Report that says we may have devastation in our economy: "Strategic Advisory Group concluded that the traditional economy of the region is facing a crisis." And this Report was started in November, 2004. Almost 15 months in the making when we have a crisis that has been proven true by the auto plant problems! Why couldn't someone have "hurried up" the Report? Read the Star story for yourself and the Report is on the City website.

No wonder the Chamber wrote the press release it did the other week. "The Chamber calls for a recast organization that understands and knows the needs of the business community. The new Economic Development organization should have a business-led Board of Directors from the region that would be capable of making binding decisions for this organization." [March 14, 2006 BLOG"But We Have The Keg"]

Nothing to me shows the state of denial that City Hall is in than 2 headlines in today's Star:

Crisis looms in economy, report says Global competition hurts local business

Tunnel 'can be done:' Francis Mayor urges binational agency to drop freeway options for border.

Let's litigate rather than fix our roads to the border. Let's start a lawsuit and hide behind "solicitor-client" privilege rather than use up the $300 million BIF funding for infrastructure improvement and jobs. We all know we are not getting a complete tunnel from the end of Highway 401 to the border. Why not arrive at a compromise with the Senior Levels now that will work for everyone and will allow us to get through the EA process quickly and get the road built sooner rather than later.

Nothing will ever be enough for Eddie. Even though DRIC has said they will look at the tunnel option, he demands that they drop every other option. He knows that will not be done so he can keep on manufacturing crises.

Oh well, we know the really huge crisis that has to be dealt with first that is even more important than economic devastation: getting this Mayor and Council re-elected! That's the priority.

Which Solution Is Best For Sandwich/Delray

My wife asked me the other day the question which is the subject-line of this BLOG. I told you, dear Reader, that I would try and answer it after the events of the last few weeks.

It was an interesting question that followed on from the Blog I wrote recently about the ending of DRIC and what would happen next.

Here's the dilemma as was stated in today's Star:
  • "There will be difficult decisions with some real tradeoffs," said Wake. [DRIC's Dave Wake of the Ontario Transportation Ministry]

    One potential conflict introduced to the public this week is Crossing Alternative C, a proposed bridge span west of Prince Road that comes closest to Windsor's historic Sandwich area. Wake acknowledged it would have the greatest residential impact on the Canadian side but that it poses the least impact on the U.S. side.

    The Sandwich bridge crossing also boasts the shortest river span at 735 metres -- a half-kilometre less than the 1,220-metre span of Alternative A in Brighton Beach, which is the furthest removed from Windsor residential neighbourhoods. Alternative B lies in between and would see an 870-metre span just south of Prospect Avenue.
What are the possible solutions:
  1. No action
  2. 200 booths on the US side
  3. New bridge and plaza somewhere in Windsor's West End and in Delray
  4. Twinned Bridge

Let's get one thing stated upfront. No matter what the solution is, Windsor roads to the border must be upgraded and soon. The road to the existing bridge must be built now and must be able to connect to a new border crossing if one is ever built since it will be at least another 8 years, or probably more, before a new bridge is built under DRIC.

The Detroit Mayor has forced the issue and has put the focus right on Eddie with his letter to the Governor. That will teach our Mayor about playing in someone else's backyard and trying to embarrass Kwame before the Detroit election. And Kwame has months more time to have fun with Eddie before our next municipal election unless he decides to take pity on Eddie. [Note Eddie has still not learned his lesson...I guess Eddie will use his newly developed, delegation cross-examination skills on the Detroit Mayor: "I'm going to raise the issue with him," Francis said. "If he feels a border crossing is 'unneeded and unwanted' I need to know what he's basing that on." I wonder if Kwame will even talk to Eddie now since he no longer needs our "snow clearing" services!]

The "Windsor roads" issue came up again at the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit where the Mayor was forced to admit that we have been sitting on $300 million in BIF funds for over 3 years, since September 25, 2002, and have done nothing to fix our roads (but did take action and spend money secretly to try and operate the Tunnel). It also came up in the Lansing hearings where a Senator said that fixing our roads was probably cheaper than building a new bridge!

Those funds were "to upgrade existing infrastructure on the Ontario approaches to the Windsor-Detroit border crossings." Eddie said he had plans for the money. But if macho Councillor STOPDRTP/Budget has his way, we may get involved in lengthy and expensive litigation over the road. [Litigation was the message I got out of the Windsor Council meeting in Tecumseh so the Mayor and Councillors can hide behind solicitor-client privilege before the next election.]

While the Americans have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and suffered the pain of the Ambassador Gateway project, we still fume in Windsor and do nothing.

What else could Eddie do but say "he was in agreement with Kilpatrick that Windsor's roads leading to the border need to be fixed..." Unfortunately for everyone, Eddie has no Plan for doing so other than getting people agitated and concerned so he can be re-elected. That's what the South Windsor arena meeting and DRIC response meeting, which was so last-minute that it had to be held in Tecumseh, were all about. And that darn Alan McKinnon speech and the reaction afterwards hurt that game-plan too.

This lack of action has been noted on the other side and commented on to our detriment. The Governor is well aware of the issue as are the Mayor and Councillors in Detroit now. State politicians in Michigan who are fighting to find funds to build new roads in their part of the State or to repair existing roads do not seem too sympathetic to Windsor that is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in roadbuilding funds and is doing nothing. The Feds are aware too through Jim Steele of the Federal Highways Authority who claimed that he is the US Federal decision-maker.

Our approach to forcing the Americans to spend even more money money to preserve our Sandwich "heritage" rings somewhat hollow notwithstanding the bus tour proposed to be set up by the Ward 2 Councillors to influence the other side.

So let us assume that we will get a new road built, if you were a Sandwich or Delray resident which option would work best for you?

Clearly the No Action and 200 booth alternatives should make good sense. Nothing changes in that part of the world ie no new bridge, no new plaza. Traffic volumes are down, nothing should make them increase dramatically that we can see so why do anything. The 200 booths do not impact Windsorites at all since they are located in Detroit and are far away from Delray. Reverse customs should solve the redundancy issue.

What about a brand new bridge? It also will require a brand new plaza. Isn't that what the fighting is all about now? No matter where a new bridge and plaza are located, someone gets hurt. Is a bridge going into Sterling Fuels or Delray West? Why do we need to give up over 100 acres of prime industrial land in Brighton Beach? We hear Sandwich crying about their history and heritage and the same for those who live in Delray and who do not want to move.

Does this seem to make a whole lot of sense?

Then there is the Twinned Bridge. The Ambassador Gateway Plaza is almost completed on the US side. On the Canadian side, there is an industrial area where the Bridge Co. now has land that could be used for a plaza that would not impact neighbourhoods negatively and could link up with the DRIC road to the border easily. Dan Stamper in Detroit at the Joint Councils session I thought said that a new bridge would only impact 30 homes most of which they already own I believe.

While it is heresy to even think about a Twinned Bridge in Windsor, to be realistic, does one really think that Governments are going to spend billions to build a new bridge and duplicate the infrastructure that is already built on the US side a mile or so down the road?

Fix the roads in Windsor, either do nothing or build 200 booths in the intermediate period and deal with the inevitable and plan for it IF it is ever needed. Worrying about where new bridges and plazas should go makes no sense to me any more and just hurts residents on both sides of the border with the uncertainty.

It's time for us to get on with life after all of this hell! We have serious problems in Windsor that need our undivided attention already. We are tired of the games Council is playing. We can see through them as the applause for McKinnon should have demonstrated clearly. That is emphasized by the fact that there was no gushing Star editorial on the Joint Councils meeting and a luke-warm Henderson column on the Tecumseh meeting.

Do the Mayor and Council get the message yet? That, Councillor Zuk, is the real reason why you and your colleagues feel the hostility!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Is This Eddie's Future Job

This is a real job ad. I did NOT make it up. The Source is The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press - Detroit, MI

President and CEO Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation

Location: US-MI-Detroit
Base Pay: N/A
Employee Type: Full-Time Employee
Industry: Accounting - Finance
Manages Others: no
Job Type: Accounting Management
Req'd Education: None
Req'd Experience: Not Specified
Req'd Travel: Not Specified
Relocation Covered: No
Ref ID: 0001294502

President and CEO

Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation, Detroit, MI, seeks a President & CEO to be responsible, and accountable to the Board of Directors, for the effective, efficient and profitable operation of the Company.

  • Must lead, direct, supervise ;
  • manage company operations in U.S. & Canada & ensure that the Detroit Windsor Tunnel is safely operated & maintained in accordance with best practice & meets the needs of its many stakeholders & users;
  • develop strategic & operating business plans for Board approval & implement such, ensuring the profitability of the corporation; maintain key relationships in all levels of government in both US & Canada;
  • lead negotiations with the Company's 2 unions;
  • sit as a member of the Board of Directors and regularly sit on other related boards, sometimes as the Chair;
  • assist with the merger & acquisition of new assets.

Candidate must have MBA, BS in Civil or Mechanical Engineering, be a registered P.E. in either U.S. or Canada, be admissible to Canada, & have 10 yrs exp. heading an operating company while reporting to a Board of Directors in a unionized environment, including 5 yrs. exp. working for or with U.S. or Canadian municipal governments, 2 yrs. exp. working for or with Federal and/or State or Provincial government agencies, and 2 yrs. exp. developing and successfully implementing both strategic & operating business plans.

A Tale Of Two Mayors

Kwame's vision includes a Tunnel
Eddie has tunnel vision

Kwame writes to the Governor about the border.
Eddie writes to the Governor's hubby about his dysfunctional Council.

Kwame is listened to by his Senior Levels
Eddie is ignored by his Senior Levels

Kwame deal with the problems respecting the Detroit Zoo
Eddie creates the Windsor "Zoo" problems at a Tecumseh meeting

Kwame tries to build prosperity based on the Super Bowl momentum
Eddie wanted to build momentum on a 25,000 seat CFL stadium

In order to save me some time and typing effort, may I suggest that you, dear Reader, go back into the archives to look at several BLOGs I have written about the role of the Detroit Mayor in the border struggle. May I suggest that you go back to:

  1. January 17, 2006 "Whatever Kwame Wants, Kwame Gets"
  2. January 27, 2006 "Famous Words"
  3. February 16, 2006 "Kwame Is The Real Border Authority"

Kwame is not the ultimate decision-maker. Who that is frankly remains a mystery to me notwithstanding what was said at the Michigan hearings last week. However, given that it is election time in the State in November, what Kwame wants will help elect the new Governor. As much as some may choose to deride him, he got elected and is Mayor for 4 more years. He fooled by his win a whole bunch of seemingly smart people politically such as DRTP's Marge Byington and Windsor's Mayor Eddie Francis.

His letter was quite perceptive recognizing the issues. I am told that there is more in it than the Star reported including:

  1. He wants the Governor to act decisively as she did Downriver
  2. He recognized the threat to the region from Sarnia given the 20-30% loss of traffic Detroit has already suffered
  3. He views the DRIC study as a threat to Detroit
  4. If the Governor could end DRIC for the Downriver towns, she can do it for Detroit [as he did not say, especially since more Detroiters voted for her than in all of the Downriver communities combined!]
  5. Cross-border traffic has declined considerably
  6. Why are scarce resources being used to replicate what Detroit already has: a world-class border with supporting infrastructure
  7. The road system for handling international traffic cannot be duplicated anywhere else
  8. The International Center Project must be started now since economic development and new jobs will be created
  9. Concerns of citizens must be relieved
  10. Detroit has already made the hard choices once to fix up an area for the border so why should Detroiters be forced to do it again
  11. DRIC's "seeming" alternative is not an acceptable one for Detroit
  12. Windsor must do as Detroit and Michigan have done; fix up their road to the border.

Effectively, Kwame has now changed the border debate. The letter was brilliant, touching on most of the issues that are relevant to what is going to happen here. Do we spend billions to replicate what we already have when traffic is down? We better act quickly to stop the erosion of business to Sarnia! Windsor, fix your roads already.

I have to tell you something however. I cannot stand the arrogance of our Mayor any longer. He knows not only what is good for Windsor but what is good for Detroit too it seems. He cannot handle criticism as we saw with Alan McKinnon and Eddie's shameful and immature attack at the end of the Council meeting. It seems that only Eddie knows the TRUTH and no one better dare challenge him.

Eddie's is losing his friends quickly. We saw that at Super Bowl where Windsor changed from being more important to Detroit than its suburbs to being nothing more than a snow cleaner. All in about a year too.

Do you really think that Kwame would pick up the phone to receive a call from Eddie after Eddie's comments re the Tunnel deal could have cost him some votes. Let Eddie fix our border roads so that they work, as Detroit is doing, then let him speak to the Detroit Mayor.

Border News

A few random thoughts on the border over the last few days


I really wonder if the Mayor of Detroit has any interest whatsoever in what Eddie thinks about the border and a new bridge. Eddie basically repeated on A-channel news yesterday that he wanted to talk to the Mayor of Detroit about his letter to the Governor.

Can't you just picture it in your mind, Eddie cross-examining Kwame in his office about his opinion, just as if the Detroit Mayor was a delegation at a Tecumseh Windsor Council meeting.

It appears that Eddie thinks he knows better what is good for the region and the City of Detroit than the Mayor of Detroit who has already seen his roads fixed up to deal with border traffic. Our Mayor has sat for three years with $300 million available and still cannot have a decision reached on how a truck can get to the border. Where was he for the last year when he should have been boosting the tunnel option if he thought that made so much sense. Not just now a few months before the municipal election.


The City should withdraw from the Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association or at least ask for lower membership fees. Imagine, the Mayor and Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission still does not have statistics for border crossings for Super Bowl time.

According to the Mayor:
"Francis... added, the city has yet to get a handle on the final number of fans who may have crossed the border during the week of the Super Bowl, through Feb. 5"

Wanting to be helpful to the Mayor I can give him the answer. The numbers during the week before were almost the same as last year but the Super Bowl week-end numbers as I said previously were horrible, much lower than last year.

Come on now, Eddie must know the truth as well or else he better start getting some answers from DCTC why they do not know.

If he won't know the final figures on expenditures for another month, why is he making bold statements like he "expected Super Bowl visitors who stayed in Windsor spent about the same per person [as those who stayed in Detroit]"

Was there an increase in domestic economic activity during the week of the big game? Probably, and we should all hope so and be thrilled about it. Was there an increase that was the result of cross-border activity? Absolutely not! And we better start getting worried about that.

After all, the Star started running some stories about how good the shopping is now in the US!


I was at Council yesterday and the session on the Sandwich heritage designation was interesting but the discussion was generally irrelevant to the Report. Since it all played into the border strategy of the City and the DRIC meeting is tomorrow, it was allowed to go on and on and on...

However, what was interesting was:
  • a previous attempt at setting up a heritage district in Walkerville failed because of the problems with the impact on private properties as I mentioned
  • if every building in the Sandwich "Pie" area has historical significance and could be viewed as "heritage," then there would be an impact on the City finances. For just a few buildings, I thought the number given was $10,000. Imagine if there were 2616 buildings!
  • Part of the reason for this heritage designation was due to the "threat" of the building of the Twinned Bridge according to two of the delegations and a Councillor

Oh and the part that bothered me the most...if you dare criticize and do not jump on the "heritage" bandwagon, then you are a "naysayer." Especially it seems if you live in SOUTH Windsor.

Obviously Sandwich can be a prime tourist area but it needs money and developers interested in helping out. There are many ways to bring development to Sandwich without the need of making everything "heritage" under the Act and all of the problems that can bring.


If you are the Feds and you have had enough about listening to "tunneling," what can you do to end the discussion until you are ready to reject it? If I were them I would issue a "NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT of an environmental assessment" and in it say:

  • "the recommended approach route from Highway 401 will be identified within a corridor that generally follows Highway 3-Talbot Road to Huron Church Road, north to E.C. Row Expressway and west towards the river. This connection is expected to require six traffic lanes, with the possibility of adjacent service roads, interchanges, roadway and railway grade separations and road closings. At-grade, below grade and tunneled freeway cross-sectional alternatives are being considered. The width of the right-of-way required is expected to be 80 to 100 metres, with additional land required in areas of significant grading, or for possible at-grade separations and interchanges. The study is considering the possibility of tunneling the entire freeway or selected portions."

And that is exactly what the Feds did on March 22, 2006!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Don't We Ever Learn? Senior Levels Snubbed Again

More on the budget from Windsor's own Dwight Duncan: "We're supporting the 2007 Toronto International Arts Festival... And we're providing a further $49 million to support capital projects at the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, National Ballet School, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Royal Conservatory of Music and Canadian Opera Company."

How much for Windsor's Science Centre?

I then found this very interesting news article from New Brunswick.

Infrastructure jobs to help an ailing economy, stadium and roads....How lucky they are in that region that the local mayors did not snub the Senior Levels. We in Windsor have to pay for everything while others get help.

Expect another Henderson "fuming" column as he did re the gifts to Toronto.

NB Telegraph-Journal. March 25, 2006
  • $400M highway deal inked
    Funding also announced for Saint John Harbour cleanup, Moncton stadium

    By Shannon Hagerman

    FREDERICTON - Five of New Brunswick's busiest and most treacherous highways will be upgraded over the next decade as part of a $400-million deal signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Bernard Lord.

    During a whirlwind blitz of the province's three major cities Friday, the two Conservative leaders also announced millions for a new stadium in Moncton and pledged to begin cleaning up Saint John's sewage-clogged harbour.

    The smiling duo brushed aside criticism the deals were timed to bolster Mr. Lord's fragile minority government.

    "I will not apologize for bringing the prime minister to New Brunswick to deliver major announcements for the people of New Brunswick," Mr. Lord said. "I am not planning to call an election until 2007, so I am not going to stop work because there's speculation that maybe there could be an election."

    The two levels of government will each contribute $200 million toward long-awaited upgrades for Routes 1, 7, 8, 11 and 17 over the next 10 years.

    "This is an investment that will help secure a brighter more prosperous future for all New Brunswickers," Mr. Harper said in Fredericton.

    Construction on some of five highways could begin as early as 2007...

    The size of the funding deal came as a surprise for many.

    "Honestly, this is more than I was expecting," said an almost gleeful Transportation Minister Paul Robichaud...

    The $400-million announcement earned applause and whistles from a crowd of onlookers

    Construction industry officials said the announcement means momentum from the Trans-Canada Highway twinning won't be lost when the multimillion-dollar project finishes in the fall of 2007.

    "It obviously helps our industry, but this also means there will be safer highways in New Brunswick for residents and visitors and that's great news for everybody," said Con Kingston, president of the New Brunswick Road Builders Association...

    Mr. Harper began his three-city tour in Mr. Lord's hometown when he bolstered Moncton's bid to host the World Junior Track and Field Championships in 2008.

    The federal government has committed $6 million to the $13-million project, but only if the bid is accepted next week by the junior track federation in Osaka, Japan.

    The province is contributing $5 million toward the project.

    Mr. Harper said amateur athletes display hard work and fair play in communities across Canada.

    "The Premier and I believe that Moncton would be the ideal community to showcase these laudable Canadian values to the world," he said.

    The city has already budgeted the remaining $2 million needed for the stadium.

    The bid, up against Bydgoszcz, Poland - which hosted the same event in 1999 - has always been contingent upon having a stadium built in time, since there are no similar facilities in Moncton already."

Does anyone think that Eddie might learn from that? Naaaaaw, he can practise his cross-examination techniques on delegations instead. Here is what happened at the announcement about the extra $8.856 million for roads at a "budget breakfast" meeting with more than 100 area officials and invited guests at the Fogolar Furlan

  • "The announcement on who gets what locally was such a surprise that nobody from city council or Windsor's public works department had thought to attend the breakfast gathering...

    Pupatello said her office had sent an invitation to the city for Friday's announcement.

    Mayor Eddie Francis wasn't aware of the coming grant but said he had a friend's funeral to attend that morning.

    "I don't want us to be perceived as ungrateful," said Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, who chairs council's capital committee, adding he was available and would have attended but wasn't informed of the meeting."

Where is the Mayor's Chief of Staff to handle matters such as this? Probably too busy rounding up the bills to pay for Windsor Council's "Tecumseh" meeting.

Preserving Our Past Or Impairing Our Future

It should be an interesting time at Council tonight. Based on what may decided, while we may be preserving the "heritage" of Sandwich, we may also be at the beginning of a process that impacts the properties of thousands of Windsorites. It all has to do with our history, or so we will be told. But it really is much more as you shall find out below.

The purposes of the Ontario Heritage Act are very noble:
  • "The Ontario Heritage Act came into force in 1975. Its purpose is to give municipalities and the provincial government powers to preserve the heritage of Ontario. The primary focus of the Act is the protection of heritage buildings and archaeological sites."

And we in Windsor are doing our part not only with respect to buildings but now to districts, with one being proposed being a huge one as well that impacts about 10,000 people!

Did you see the press release about Prado Place?

  • Windsor’s first Heritage Conservation District - the 200 block of Prado Place

    With the passing of the by-law appeal period (March 11), City Council has now officially established Windsor’s first approved Heritage Conservation District (HCD), encompassing the 200 block of Prado Place. The Prado Place Heritage Conservation District was made possible by the support of the homeowners in the district.

    The Ontario Heritage Act allows for designation of individual properties under Part IV of the Act and for the designation of groups of properties as Heritage Conservation Districts under Part V. The HCD designation will compel the City of Windsor to take the heritage value of the street into consideration when undertaking infrastructure projects.

    The Prado Pace Heritage Conservation District is intended to preserve a streetscape that is unique in the City because of its 50-foot right-of-way and 16-17 foot pavement width, with mid-block landscaped island. There are ten original Town of Riverside street lamps along the block – the only cast iron streetlights that remain as installed in the former town. This, combined with its eclectic mixture of fine homes, overhanging shade trees, and landscaped front gardens, makes the 200 block of Prado Place a unique residential environment worthy of preservation.

That action seemed to make some sense. If that could be done for an area of one block, why not, as Sam said, "THINK BIG." In comes the request for the "Pie" area of Sandwich:
  • “On February 28, 2005, Windsor City Council requested the Planning Department to undertake a planning study for lands located west of the Ambassador Bridge…”
It is not for one block as in Prado but an area encompassing 3.2 square Kilometres including 2,616 properties with 4,000 dwelling units where 10,000 people live. Now that is some project.

The Motion for this is bizarre though…..remember they have just finished Prado. They want to know the process for designating Sandwich. DUH….Council just did it and they have to ask how again? What gives other than wasting more time. [Oh but there is more, much more, as you shall see]

The other very strange thing is to bring this Motion before Council before the Community has had the chance to express its opinion. On the City’s website it is written:
  • “Community Feedback

    The Olde Sandwich Towne Community Task Force would like to obtain public input on the Issues Identified and the Initial Strategies and Actions developed. It is important for the community to have a voice in the planning process and to be involved in shaping the neighbourhood.

    Feedback Questionnaire

    Thank you for all your answers and comments. Please return the completed questionnaire by April 7, 2006 to the City of Windsor's, Planning Department.”
How foolish of me. I forgot, this Mayor and Council do not really care what the public thinks. That is why we had the Tecumseh meeting in the last possible second and why we are waiting still for the consultant’s report from the border meeting last summer.

Here it is so obvious. Why couldn’t Council wait until after the Community spoke. There must be a reason to hurry!

I am not going to debate now the merits or disadvantages of designating an area as “heritage” or not. There are negatives, primarily:
  • “The Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities the power to decide whether alteration, new construction or demolition can take place within a designated HCD. In making its decisions, the municipality should be guided by the provisions of the HCD district plan. [In other words, it can impact private property ownership rights negatively].
To do this for the City will cost us big dollars. For the study alone, we may have to hire a consultant at a cost of up to $50,000. There is no staff work program capacity in the Planning Department to do the study, there is no capital budget for it, the process may take years and we will need to create a bureaucracy to handle the needs of thousands of property owners when they want work done on their sites if the area is designated.

Wouldn’t you think the easy answer was to designate ONLY the key buildings as “heritage” under a different section of the Act rather than all of the "Pie" area of Sandwich so it does not impact every building. Not every building in that part of Sandwich is “heritage” anyway.

Of course, if you thought that, then you do not understand what this is all about.

You must have figured it out by now I am sure, when I mentioned the study area was “for lands located west of the Ambassador Bridge.

Now I finally understood the big push over the past few months talking about Sandwich's history, and the unanimous approval of the Cultural project when even the Budgeteers were onside. It all fits like a glove now!

While it may also be historical, this looks like, in my opinion, another attempt by the City to put roadblocks to the border solution.

I am sure that it could be used to try to stop or delay the Ambassador Bridge Co. from building their Twinned Bridge if they were ever to build one which would be sited on “lands located west of the [existing] Ambassador Bridge.”

Just like what Eddie said in his Town Hall meeting in Sandwich when he sprung the idea of the Sandwich Development Commission. It would empower the Community allowing the Community the ability to stop the bridge from being built in a manner better than any zoning by-law could!

Or perhaps now, the target is DRIC depending on what they want to do with a bridge crossing, plaza and road system.

Oh well, Mr. Estrin can be hired to do this litigation too except he may have 2,616 land owners in the area who may not be too happy once the word gets out about what the City proposes to do!

PS. One teeny, tiny matter I just found out. Certain properties under the Heritage Act may be eligible under the Municipal Act for "tax reductions or refunds in respect of eligible heritage property." Does that mean that non-Sandwich taxpayers have to pick up the burden of those rebates?
  • "The amount of the tax reduction or refund provided by a local municipality in respect of an eligible heritage property must be between 10 and 40 per cent of the taxes for municipal and school purposes levied on the property that are attributable to,
    (a) the building or structure or portion of the building or structure that is the eligible heritage property; and
    (b) the land used in connection with the eligible heritage property, as determined by the local municipality."

The Star reported that Amherstburg had an issue with this tax refund:

  • "The purpose of these changes is to provide for more accountability on the part of the applicant to ensure the refunds are being used for the preservation and maintenance of the heritage building," according to a report written by the town's tax collector and deputy treasurer, Pamela Malott.

    Deputy Mayor Anthony Leardi got the ball rolling on the changes in November when he raised concerns about heritage property owners "pocketing the money" they gained from the tax rebate instead of using it to maintain their buildings.