Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, June 16, 2006

Please Call (519) 968-2161

Can you believe it....people actually read the Star, and all the way through too!

The following story was published in the Business section about my son's new business (I am helping him out!)


    A local consulting firm has been appointed Windsor agent for UNITZ Online to provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to Windsor residential, commercial and corporate customers.

    Wyndham Hall Consulting, operated by Ed Arditti and son Michael, started offering the service in April.

    Operating since 1997, UNITZ's VoIP system is the second largest provider of local telephone numbers over high-speed Internet connections in Ontario with 24.5 million calls placed .

    Residential plans begin at $22.95 a month and business plans start at $34.95 with such features as local calls, unlimited Ontario long distance, 9-1-1 service, caller ID, call blocking three-way, voice mail, call forward and call waiting.

    For information, call Wyndham at 972-3989.

In one day only, we have had calls for possible connections for around 100 lines!

OH MY GOODNESS! A testimonial, and from me, about the Windsor Star. One has to give credit when credit is due

Thanks to Dave Hall for running the piece.

Sports As A Revenue Generator

"Greater Windsor Multiplex Arena"---who the heck comes up with these names? Probably the same people who came up with "Love This Place."

One of the justifications for the City going it alone it seems, and spending $55 million of taxpayer money on an East End arena, is all of the money that will be generated by sports tournaments. (Oh, let's get real, as several Councillors have told me recently, the cost is really in the $75-80 million range when you add in land costs and design fees).

Councillor Wilson gushes that "word is spreading among developers in town. If the new four-pad multiplex is built in the east end, there would be eight ice pads within a short distance of each other, if the rinks in the Town of Tecumseh are counted. The cluster of rinks would make the city a sports-entertainment destination for hockey tournaments and other ice sports."

Sounds pretty exciting BUT.

I have already blogged several stories about the Super Bowl effects on Detroit. Well now we do have an idea of what Super Bowl did for us, or rather did not do, thanks to Councillor Hlberstadt and his column in Biz X Magazine. I won't quote much of it so you can get it for yourself but here are some interesting parts of it
  • "The first dose of reality, and this isn't a bad thing, is that the teaming downtown crowds appear to have been comprised largely of Canadians. [Note as I had previously blogged, traffic numbers at the border were down considerably!]...

    traffic and sales were down at the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop, attendance was up at Casino Windsor, but revenue was down. Erie Street did not see the numbers anticipated with Thursday being the busiest of the three nights...

    one watering hole proprietor in Walkerville told me he experienced no spillover business. Even Ouellette Ave. bars, south of Ouellette, found business spotty as the crush occurred in the northern section featuring bars that cater to a more mature audience...

    Reports from retailers were not positive. Long-time downtown stalwart Jack Shanfield described his sales on Super Weekend as "horrible." One unnamed retailer ordered in a slew of extra stock and had to return it all to his supplier."

Another story in Saturday's Star talked about the economic effects of the Pan-Am games, the four-day sporting event last July (442 athletes and 141 coaches from 35 different countries with more than 20,000 spectators):

  • "...visitor, capital and operational spending related to the Pan Am Games amounted to about $11 million. But the biggest chunk of that economic pie went toward the construction of the University of Windsor stadium, which cost $9.5 million.

    "If we don't include the stadium, the economic impact of the Pan Am Games (on Windsor) is not that great," Taks said. "But it's still definitely a plus for the community.

    The study shows that visitors from outside Windsor and Essex County spent nearly $1 million in the city on lodging, gas, food, beverages and entertainment."

A $1 million sounds good but as a study on the economic impact of Super Bowl on Detroit states, one must look at "net new economic activity directly associated with hosting the Super Bowl that would not have otherwise have occurred in the area."

When the numbers cannot justify the expectations, we get the soft benefits "positive publicity, community involvement and volunteer work...These types of events have now given us the credibility in the market-place to be able to compete with others."

If Windsorites are prepared to spend $80 million of taxpayer money for another monument (and we know it will be more, much more) for an arena, then let's do it. We know it will be a drain every year as well as it does not meet its "profit" targets. But let us not justify it using arguments that just do not hold water, frozen or not!

Hurst Hurts

He has got to be hurting now. Mike Hurst, CEO of DRTP, cannot be happy with the OMB decision on the Rail Lands By-Law. Effectively, the decision puts the fate of his corridor in a Council that is opposed to using the corridor for a truck expressway. No wonder DRTP transformed itself again into something new, into the "Green Solution."

The OMB rejected the DRTP arguments and held:
  1. The City's Official Plan and Implementing By-laws are consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement
  2. They also represent good planning since there was a need to deal with non-rail uses of rail lands
  3. The City did not act in bad faith in adopting the Official Plan and by-laws to thwart DRTP but acted to protect the interest of the public
  4. It is difficult to conclude that "Truck transport facilities" can mean a private toll road even if one looks at it broadly
  5. The effect, if DRTP was right, was that DRTP could construct a toll road without further consideration of the Official Plan policies including the provision for an environmental assessment
  6. Thousands of individuals along the corridor are entitled to notice if there is to be a "predesignation" since public participation is fundamental to the planning process.

Oh there will probably be an appeal. And the issue whether a municipality can pass by-laws impacting Rail lands is constitutional will have to be dealt with. But DRTP has been hit a terrible blow such that they cannot say that their corridor can be used at all right now.

So where are we?

  • DRTP is not a probability and the possible use of its corridor is a non-starter for years to come
  • DRIC is just about dead given the House and Senate Resolutions in Michigan.
  • The Mayor of Detroit in a letter to the Governor has said what he wants.
  • The US President has said that the Bridge Co. does not need a Presidential permit.
  • The State Deparment refused to give its "concurrence in the conclusion that the [DRIC]centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing.”
  • In fact it said "“the proximity of any new crossing to the existing crossings may mean that a problem at any one crossing may affect all the centrally located crossings.” While the language is not the clearest it could be, State was saying that the location that DRIC wanted made no sense since problems could be created.
  • The City of Windsor is on the outside looking in having made enemies of the Senior Levels
  • I have heard that there seem to be no roadblocks to the Bridge Co.'s "enhancement" project from the federal or provincial perspective.

What can one conclude---the only project that can move forward is the Ambassador Bridge "enhancement" project.

And now all Eddie has to do is what he should have been doing and what he was elected to do. Stop playing politics and think you can be the Border King. Do your job as Mayor and fix the road to the Ambassador Bridge so this area can finally prosper before Sarnia and Fort Erie overtake us!

The Marketing Of The Cleary Deal

Do you understand this statement of the Mayor? We are giving away the Cleary, an asset of taxpayers worth at least $16 million, for nothing and paying someone several millions of dollars more to take it off of our hands and he said "The Cleary's losses are going to be picked up by someone else."

Huh??? Please tell me who other than taxpayers are picking up the losses? Taxpayers are out $16 million plus right off the bat! It's like your spouse telling you about all of the money saved while maxing out your VISA card!

If you understand the words to mean nothing more than the way the deal is being sold to taxpayers before an election, you will be fine.

You know of course that we have NOT seen all of the details about the Cleary deal, and we won't! And you know from what we HAVE seen that the deal sucks. (Sorry Execs of DWBIA, read the whole BLOG first before you dump on me again. I want a downtown campus as I have written before!).

I may even have to say nice things now about Councillor Gignac since it appears that she was the only Councillor opposed to the deal. (No disrespect intended but three of the "financial" Councillors---Valentinis, Halberstadt and Brister---were conflicted so it was a slam dunk for Eddie!)

Should we be happy about a deal from a Mayor whose negotiating skills and under whose Administration fiascos have included:

  • allowing St Clair College to walk away from the Income and Security building
  • a settlement with MFP in which we "saved" millions but it cost us much more than we thought we bargained for (and we have still done nothing to try and recover the extra we paid out)
  • not being able to help bring about a taxi strike settlement
  • failing to get us an agreement on the border file
  • doing a Keg parking deal that would be interesting to see
  • offering a great price on Canderel subletting---for the Tenant
  • doing a deal on the bus terminal that is a winner----for Greyhound and
  • being the one who brought forward the Park 'N Go Garage agreement now in receivership.

People will focus on the small stuff frankly. What seems absurd. Because that will get people angry. Paul at Blue Blogging Soapbox points out as an example:

  • "As icing on the cake, city staff and their kids will get a 30-per-cent break on college tuition and the city can remain rent-free in the Huron Lodge nursing home - which will be owned by the college as of July 1 - while construction of the new nursing home is delayed for six months. "

    Nice perk if you can get it - which most of the city’s taxpayers can’t.

    Can someone please explain to me why the city staff and their kids deserve a special taxpayer subsidy for St. Clair college?

    ‘’Icing on the cake'’ - how about salt on the wound?

The deal was done in a really neat way too. The City discussed it in camera. Councillor Gignac's concerns, whatever they are, were heard only in camera (with some tantalizing bits in the Star this morning). Then the details came out in the Star. And the dreaming begins again.

Let's see what kind of nerve Councillor Gignac has. I wrote to her and offered to give her space to set out her concerns so the public can see what kind of a deal it is. Let's see what her problems are. But don't hold your breath that she will write to let us all know.

One thing though. You cannot view this as true negotiations between the City and St. Clair. The City wanted to get rid of the Cleary to eliminate a Casino competitor, Eddie needed the deal for his re-election and Strasser held all the cards. The deal was not about how much the City would get but how little the City would pay out!

So let's try and work it out:

  1. Cleary appraised value: $16,000,000
  2. Half the salary for two years of the 125 mostly part-time employees who opt to stay at the Cleary, but as employees of the college: $2,000,000
  3. Capital costs for renovations: $846,000
  4. City makes $29,000 for a parking garage (Ahhhh still competing with private parking lots. So much for the Receiver who thought he could do a deal re the parking garage behind the Cleary!)
  5. "Icing on the cake" well only if you work for the City (don't worry, that will be sold as a cost saver as a tax-free employee perk! Don't you just "Love this Place!") plus a million savings for the City on rent

TOTAL CITY COST $18,000,000

Now I had been told by a well-placed source how this deal would be sold and it came true. It was not that it was costing the City anything really. The City was saving money such that we should congratulate City Hall. Sure we were getting rid of taxpayer assets for nothing and giving away taxpayer money too to have someone take the Cleary off our hands but it made sense.

The theory was that the Cleary was costing taxpayers $800,000 a year. So if we held it for 25 years, it would drain City coffers of $20 million which we would lose. Never mind how much more would be lost when the Casino expansion opened. So in this manner, we were bringing people downtown into the new urban village so stop complaining!

Whoa---remember how poor Councillor Zuk got hammered for suggesting to give doctors free space in Canderel since we were paying rent anyway. What's the difference?

The story really falls apart when you examine it. It is nothing more than a play by numbers game. As the Mayor said, "We wanted to be sure the city and the college were equally getting the same benefit."

  • Now the loss is almost a million a year which brings it up to the $25 million a year Gord mentions (Wow, look how much this deal is saving taxpayers and St. Clair is "only" getting $19 million of value. Now that is Big "N" negotiating!)
  • "Sources" say that the Cleary project that was worth new $33 million is only worth $16 million now. I'd rather see that appraisal report if you don't mind rather than trust "sources.". Mind you, if the City ran it into the ground, then it might only be worth that. And I guess "prime" riverfront property isn't worth that much any more after the City's Canderel giveaway.
  • Let's see, "half the salary for two years." Isn't that full salary for a full year. By golly, isn't that what an employee might get as a "severance payment" that St. Clair was unwilling to pay and wanted the City to be responsible for!
  • We sure stopped St. Clair from flipping it and making a profit. All it means is that they could "sub-let it" and make a profit. And if the deal is a bad one for St. Clair----are they stuck? Nope, the City gets it back!
  • And being consistent with Canderel, we help pay for the renovations too.
  • Oh let's not mention that the Cleary will still compete with the private sector for business: "The community will still have its banquet facility in the Cleary. The college's culinary arts students will continue to operate the hall, together with current staff."

Oh stop, I am not against the deal. Anything that makes the downtown as it was when I first came to Windsor makes sense. I won't ask why we didn't try and offer it to someone other than an educational institution to run it as part of the urban village concept or a new arena. (I bet you forgot that "The Jebb team, which includes respected arena, convention and theatre operators S.M.G. from Philadelphia and Olympia & York from Toronto, offered to take over management of the ailing Cleary in conjunction with the new arena operation").

For me, it has nothing to do with downtown. It is just another example as far as I am concerned of City Hall trying to fool us. It is unforgivable, no matter how good or bad the deal may ultimately be. It's all Alice in Wonderland anyway:

  • 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

    'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

    'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hello Mister Chips

I am too predictable now. Here is what a reader wrote to me the other day:


No comment on the tentative Cleary deal?

Let me guess.....A bad deal for the city if the college approves it and the mayor's fault if they don't....."

Why would I comment in advance on something I knew was going to happen no matter what, as you shall see. Eddie had to have a deal done as he has to do so on the arena as well. (Oh I heard a rumour about a big Raceway announcement in 3 or 4 weeks). He has the "quality of life" and tunnelling all locked up for the border too. He has told us how well off financially we are. So now he is well-positioned for the November election. It's what politicians do isn't it? Why my reader was so shocked at me I do not know.

I must admit, if I were a Board member at St. Clair College, I would be mad as hell. I had just been given the details of the deal on Tuesday night and "approval of the pact won't be sought until the board's next meeting later this month, Strasser said, adding that he wanted to give members time to digest the numbers." Now the I and the other board members would be put under intense pressure to approve this deal, whether it is good or bad, or face the wrath of citizens. Very unprofessional in my opinion.

Why would President Strasser open himself to such criticism. Why would the College wait for 2 weeks? Remember, many a true word is said in jest. As he said in the Star
  • "The city got a really good deal on this," college president John Strasser said when asked to comment on the details of the agreement.

    "I've got to go back and renegotiate," he quipped."
And he will now that he has the City by the....well you know. That will be for blaming the College and making them look foolish for pulling out on the Income and Security Building deal. The City has to start to learn not to "snub" or "blame." It is costing us a fortune.

If you want my take on this, it is all a big farce anyway. Oh it's a good idea that we have an "urban campus." It may even do some of the things that have been advertised about the deal. But we are being sold a dream. Again. The truth is being hidden from us. Again. It will cost taxpayers millions. Again. It is to serve another agenda. Again.

This has nothing to do with the urban village or moving St. Clair downtown. It has nothing to do with the economic revitalization of downtown. In fact, it is part of the destruction of the downtown as we know it that started with the imposition of the interim control by-law. It was all part of chasing Beztak out of town, buying time with an initial Raceway offer and talking about an East End Megacomplex. It is all part of a process to turn our downtown into a sleazy Yonge Street with a bunch of kiddie bars and where no retailer would think of opening up a shop no matter how hard the DWBIA tries to fix it up. [Just ask them about the City's new streetscaping plan. It outlined only 2 of downtowns shortest blocks with portions already complete. At that rate, it will take years to complete].

There is no interest in our downtown with its huge office vacancy rate. It is a write-off now. Let it die and build up a new core with the Tunnel Plaza and Casino the new focus. It is all part of shifting the downtown farther east to the Casino lands one step at a time.

It all started within months of Eddie becoming Mayor. Here is what the Windsor Star reported in January, 2004--the start of the new Council:
  • "The city's involvement in the convention business could be on the chopping block if consultants recommend Casino Windsor expand to include a convention facility.

    That was the message Mayor Eddie Francis gave the chairman of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission Tuesday
    . Stanley Sadinsky and Francis met to "get acquainted" and discuss common issues.

    Francis said he was impressed with Sadinsky.

    "I like him. I find him open and pleasant and we had a great discussion," said Francis. "I wanted him to understand that we also have a commitment to improvements in the city and the future of the casino."

    Francis said topics discussed included improving access to the tunnel and the marketing expert's report and recommendations for the casino, due in late February.

    "If one of those recommendations is that the casino develop a convention centre, then it may not make sense for the city to be in the convention business," said Francis, referring to the Cleary International Centre.

    "We want to be partners with the casino, not compete with them or duplicate services they offer. I made it clear that city council will work with the province to do whatever we can to turn things around."

And if you really wanted to know what the plans of the City are, well our good buddy Gord told us about 18 months ago:
  • "With a new convention/entertainment centre in the works, Windsor could jettison plans for a multi-use facility on the Western Super Anchor site and make that property available for uses that could include a trendy urban village being promoted by a U.S. developer. The city, which has budgeted $15 million for an arena, could then build an arena for the Spitfires at a location that would have ample parking. It would also enable the city to push ahead with plans to unload its Cleary International Centre albatross."

And about 14 months ago:
  • "I'm told a council majority wants a multi-pad development with lots of parking at Windsor Raceway that could involve the Jebb Group, including Gretzky, and a prominent local developer. The argument is that the Casino Windsor expansion, with its massive convention centre and entertainment theatre, has made a downtown arena superfluous.

    A raceway site, along with the track, slots and the new Ambassador golf course, would create a leisure hub and boost Windsor's take from raceway slots revenues.

    Raceway proponents will meet stiff resistance from those, including former education minister Dave Cooke and Ray Chu, head of the City Centre Business Association (CCBA), who believe a downtown arena, perhaps built by an American developer along with upscale housing, is integral to the area's revival.

    But what if there was a better use of the site than as an underutilized hockey arena? I've spoken with CCBA board members who believe a downtown University of Windsor or St. Clair College campus, with the money-losing Cleary thrown in, would be a godsend for downtown while making those schools more appealing to prospective students."

There you have it. It all has to do with giving the Casino the significant share of the entertainment market and the control of the convention business. They build us a new addition, we agree not to compete with them and delay and perhaps kill the building of a new arena in the downtown or elsewhere. It all has to do with moving retail east to the Casino area. It all has to do with building a new downtown and to enhance the value of the Tunnel so Eddie can lease it out. And the justification for doing all of this is students downtown and the prosperity it will bring.

As Gord said in his Thursday
  • "the dream is back. In spades. Instead of a convention facility that has community embarrassment written all over it, Windsor will boast a downtown college campus, a hospitality and culinary arts centre, that will fit like a glove with its casino, restaurant and hotel industries."

Urban village, urban campus, urban shmurban.

More On High Finance

The writer at BizX magazine was bang on with the numbers set out in the story I quoted the other day. Here below is the exchange of emails I had with Onorio Colucci, Windsor's Chief Financial Officer and City Treasurer.

Just as an aside, I am getting a real complex. My email was tagged by the City's system as "MAYBE SPAM" which suggests to people to delete it without opening it. And then, a City Hall insider told me that when he/she clicks on my BLOGlink in his/her Blackberry, an Error pops up saying that my BLOGsite is not authorized! I guess the City's computer system does not like anyone who may not be a cheerleader.

I am having some real difficulty figuring out the math. Eddie's speech recently said:
  • "Our municipal debt had grown too far, too fast. It was projected to be $276 million dollars by the end of this year...Thanks to our debt reduction plan, the debt is now only projected to be $161 million dollars at the end of this year."
Well if the Treasurer is right, the number at the end of 2007 is $217 million, a huge jump in one year, $56 million. Of that, only $42 million is for the Lou Romano Treatment Plant. Should another $7.2 million be added for the "bridge financing" of the water mains to make it $224 million?

The Mayor then went on to say:

  • "And by 2010, our plan will result in dividends of approximately $40 million dollars. Then another $40 million in each and every one of the following years."
Yet the Treasurer's number shows that our debt will be $191 million or $30 million higher than today! How can we pay $80 million for an arena?

Frankly, I am not familiar with the term "placeholder" but does it mean we add in another $22 million for the reservoir or is that already contemplated in our debtload?

I wish that I also understood what was going on at Enwin. I wanted to review their financials but their latest online is the one for 2004. It seems that its year end is December 30, yet its 2004 annual report was not delivered to Council until August, 2005. (The latest City financial statements posted are 2004 as well)

We do know that the problems were so severe that Councillors increased their salaries dramatically attending meetings there but we do not know what that was all about. Why the secrecy? The Mayor's language "We’ve focused on helping ENWIN to get back on track" really scares me becasue I do not know what it means. Why isn't the Windsor Star taking investigative action to find out what is going on there? Don't they want to win any newspaper prizes for this?

In the Mayor's State of the City Speech, he said that "Over the past two and a half years, ENWIN’s debt has been reduced by $43 million dollars." But then I read that the scary comment in the Enwin Report: "The high degree of replacement of existing capital relative to new customer growth translates into a reliance on existing customers to "carry the load" of system replacement costs." Oh and that is a $50 million capital spending program in case you wondered.

Debt reduction is very commendable but how was that done? In 2004 for instance, the debt was shown to be $128.6 million. It was as high as $158 million only a few years before. However when you read in the Report "The high degree of debt leverage, as measured in the level of debt to equity of the Windsor Canada Utilities Group, continues to be a concern to management," then taxpayers should be concerned.

What's the point of all of this? It just seems to me that I do not have a good grasp of where this City is financially. Here it is mid-2006 and the financial material posted is year-end 2004. We told about huge savings off of "projected" amounts. Our taxes are cut to the bone yet we can fund millions of unexpected expenses. What looks like a loan is "bridge financing." Somehow we have the cash flow to finance an $80 million monument. Our debt is going down yet we have major amounts that are to be added on.

If any of my readers can explain this stuff to me, I'll buy you a coffee at Tim Hortons. After all, that's where the big financial deals are done in Windsor.
  • From: Colucci, Onorio
    Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2006 1:31 PM
    Subject: RE: [MAYBE SPAM] City finances question

    Mr Arditti, due to workload issues I am only now getting to your e-mail. Please see responses below.
    Onorio Colucci

    -----Original Message-----
    Sent: June 9, 2006 10:32 AM
    To: Colucci, Onorio
    Subject: [MAYBE SPAM] City finances question
    Importance: High

    I would appreciate if you could provide the following information:
    Will a debenture will be issued for the Lou Romano Treatment Plant? Will you please provide me with the amount of the debenture. When will this debenture be shown in the Financial Statement of the City [I understand the amount to be $42 million in a debenture to be issued either late this year or early next year. [Colucci, Onorio] The projected amount at this time is $42 million. If it is issued in 2006 it will be shown on the 2006 statements, if it is issued in early 2007 it will be shown on the 2007 financial statements.]

    If no debenture will be issued, how will the amount be financed. [Colucci, Onorio] There is no other financing method currently being contemplated.

    How much will be required for the Windsor Utilities Commission to finance a new reservoir. Will a debenture be issued to pay for this? If not, how will it be financed? [I understand the amount to be $20-million ] [Colucci, Onorio] Currently we have a placeholder of $22 million debenture issue in the plan for this matter.

    By 2007 and by 2010, what will the long-term debt be projected to be? [I understand the amounts to be 2007--$217 million, 2010--$191 million [Colucci, Onorio] these amounts are indeed our current projections ]

    I intend to post this information on Monday and would appreciate confirmation of the numbers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Border Bits

Here are a few small items that I wanted to talk about respecting the border. They are not enough for a full BLOG but are deserving of mention.


Imagine that your boss is angry that you have been spending money so freely on a project and has told you that you ought to be careful about how you are spending money. In fact, your boss says do not spend any more money on the project starting at the beginning of the next fiscal year which starts October 1 or at least not without his/her permission. If you were the employee, what would you do:

  • (a) Stop spending money immediately

  • (b) Gradually reduce the amount spent

  • (c) Spend money only to wind down the project

  • (d) Spend money only as approved by your boss

  • (e) Ignore your boss and keep on spending

If you are MDOT, the answer seems to be (e)

I received an email from Mohammed Alghurabi of MDOT saying:

  • "The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) would like to thank you for your continued interest in the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) Study. The purpose of this email is to notify you of the cancellation of the June monthly meeting of the DRIC Local Advisory Council (LAC). The cancellation is due to the first meeting of the DRIC Geotechnical Issues Advisory Group, scheduled for June 28-30, 2006. At the last meeting of the LAC in May, the attendees voted to postpone their next meeting until July, rather than convene on a different date in June.

    Also at the May LAC meeting, a presentation giving an overview of the drilling program was offered. This presentation can be accessed on the DRIC Study website at Additionally a geotechnical information packet was distributed, which can be accessed at, under the heading "U.S. Field Investigation of Brine Well Locations - Summer and Fall 2006." The packet included the following elements:

    * Drilling Notice
    * Field Operations Contacts
    * Field Operations Organization Chart
    * Estimate of One-way Truck Trips during Investigative Drilling
    * Designated Haul Routes for X-10
    * Designated Haul Routes for X-11
    * Haul Route Signs
    * Communications Protocol for the Investigative Drilling Program
    * Hydrogen Sulfide Contingency Plan
    * Safety Orientation for the Investigative Drilling Program"

I was rather shocked by what I read and could not believe what MDOT was doing. I thought the drilling would cost a small fortune. So being the curious person that I am, I sent this note to MDOT seeking some answers:

  • "To: "MOHAMMED S. ALGHURABI" and to "Kirk Steudle"
    Subject: Re: DRIC Local Advisory Council Meeting Cancellation

    I was quite interested in receiving your email. It would appear to me, from viewing the material on your website, that the cost of doing the drilling and the time required will be quite extensive.

    Perhaps MDOT is not aware that the House and Senate of Michigan passed bills dealing with this project. For your information, they are:

    SB-1097, As Passed Senate, May 24, 2006

    Sec. 384. From the funds appropriated in part 1, the department shall not use any funds to support the Detroit River international crossing study or to implement any recommendations made from such study.

    HB-5796, As Passed House, May 24, 2006

    Sec. 393. No funds appropriated in part 1 may be expended for the study of a new crossing of the Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario without prior approval of the house and senate committees on transportation.

    While I appreciate that these bills deal with matters in the next budget year, I would be pleased to understand the justification that MDOT has for spending all of this money on continuing on with the DRIC program when it is clear that the House and Senate want spending stopped.

    I would be interested in knowing as well how many millions of dollars will be spent between this date and the start of the new budget year and what specific projects will receive that money. Would you also please advise me if any projects that were planned for the next budget year have been moved up to this budget year and the rationale for doing so."

No response yet.


If you needed confirmation that DRTP is in serious trouble, the Bill provides it.

As I have explained, it is pretty clear now that DRTP has given up hoping that its rail tunnels will be converted for trucks. The concept was shot down by MDOT a long time ago as I posted before while Schwartz and the DRIC engineers have said the DRTP project is not the solution for the border crossing problem.

Given all of that Bill C-3 states:

  • "No person shall construct or alter an international bridge or tunnel without the approval of the Governor in Council

    "alteration" includes a conversion, an extension and a change in the use of an international bridge or tunnel"
No wonder that DRTP is trying to sell its corridor for use as the road to the Ambassador Bridge as was shown at the Tunnel Forum the other night.


In case you did not know, Windsor has a new General Manager of Public Works to replace John Tofflemire. Dev Tyagi comes here from his last job as Controller of Plant/Facilities Management for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

However, what interested me about him is that he said on Cogeco, when he was interviewed by Joe McParland, that he was part of the decision-making process that decided to twin the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia.

Yes that dirty “T” four-letter word.

I wonder if that was known by the team that hired him. Will he finally bring some sanity and common sense to City Hall on the border mess.

As you will recall from my BLOG [March 22, 2006, Learning from the Blue Water Bridge], Engineers went through an exercise similar to what was done here and they reached certain conclusions that should be eerily familiar to us:
“The tunnel did not fare well in the analysis. Building a tunnel would cost three to four times more than a bridge. Likewise, new bridges at the two southern locations would cost two times more than a bridge next to the existing. New access roads and toll/customs facilities drove up the price of these options. More importantly, the existing highway systems in both countries led to the Blue Water Bridge site and a new bridge to the south would not divert enough traffic to benefit the old one…

After holding public meetings and studying several alternative locations for a second bridge, the team members recommended that a second bridge be constructed just to the south of the existing bridge...”

I hope someone warns him what is politically correct in Windsor especially in an election year. We cannot have him saying nice things about a twinned Ambassador Bridge and undercutting our Mayor and Council! He does not want to cut his career short prematurely does he?

Oh, and as for John, I hear that he really is very happy in Leamington. I am sure that he would be willing to show his former bosses how to build an arena inexpensively and how to make it a true part of the community. In case someone wants to know where his office is, it is right in the arena along with other services for the local community.


I saw this BLOG on the DREWBUDDY Blogspot and thought you might find it as interesting as I!
  • "Tunnel Vision

    The Detroit Free Press carried an article this morning about renaming the Detroit-Windsor tunnel in honour of Rep. John Conyers, a Democratic politician from Detroit. It was proposed by his wife, who sits as President of Detroit City Council...

    Street names and monuments used to be named in honour of a cherished part or person of our history. I'm admittedly not a fan of the Conyers proposal, as I don't know if Conyers has had the kind of impact on the city as, say, Coleman Young. But if it passes, we should respond in kind by renaming our end the "Remo Mancini Tunnel", if only to stir the pot a little bit."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lessons In High Finance

So you think everything is OK financially at City Hall do you? Just keep on reading and I'll tell you what the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's Financial Indicator Review 2005 tells us about Windsor's situation in comparison with other cities in the Province.

First though, it looked like the [Utility] lightbulb just went on in Gord Henderson's head and in mine as well. Is a recent Saturday Henderson column a not-so-subtle message to the Mayor from his bestest buddy? Has Gord finally figured out what is going on and doesn't like it? Just look at the excerpts below, especially the italicized comments.

Only a month ago, Gord wrote:

  • "..there's been a mind-boggling transformation of Windsor's finances over the past two-and-a-half years, from fiscal basket case to a city that has cash jingling in its pocket and revenue streams in its future to match its aspirations.

    ...I asked Mayor Eddie Francis to walk me through the numbers Friday. He did...

    But it doesn't take a mathematical wizard to recognize that Windsor, under its current leadership, has made a spectacular financial comeback."

And then on the Saturday he wrote:

  • "LaSalle residents, along with those of Windsor and other county municipalities, have been scuppered by politicians who used these new utilities as below-the-radar sources of new tax revenues.

    "It's a shell game. Now you see it. Now you don't," said Green, a former LaSalle Utilities Commission member, explaining that the province allowed municipalities, which were reeling under the burden of downloading, to set up new utility corporations and have them make hefty payments -- a staggering $46 million in Windsor's case -- for the former utility assets and provide juicy dividends to their municipal owners.

    But the money didn't grow on trees. It had to be borrowed by these new corporations from the banks. And guess who's paying for that? You and I, the suckers in this shell game, every time we pay a utilities bill...

    Talk about blind and dumb. Like most Windsor and Essex County residents, this end run on the taxpayers sailed over my head at the time...

    The tragic thing, they say, is that few people understand how they've been screwed and continue to be screwed in order to provide politicians with revenue streams to support monumental ego exercises like the LaSalle recreation complex that's now $8.8 million over budget."
Wow, that is strong talk. How does Gord reconcile what he quoted in his Saturday column respecting the Lasalle arena and what he said a month ago? Perhaps Gord no longer believes what he was told in relation to "revenue streams."

  • "By 2009, when major projects like the Norwich Block fiasco, the city hall welfare tower mistake and the new Huron Lodge at St. Clair College have been paid off, the city will find itself with torrents of money flowing in and no major funding obligations. In 2009 it will have an additional $23.5 million available, in 2010 $36.4 million and in 2011 another $36.4 million.

    Taxpayers like me, long accustomed to thinking of Windsor as being one step removed from the poorhouse, have a hard time getting our heads around the concept of this city keeping a lid on taxes while having cash available for big projects.

    "If this was 2002 financial circumstances, it wouldn't even be talked about. But our financial prudence is paying off and giving us flexibility. We can pay for this (the arena complex) without going to debentures and without going to the taxpayers," explained Francis."

Here are some things that have been bothering me for a long time but I never bothered sitting down and trying to figure them out until now. According to Eddie, "the numbers tell the story." But if we read Gord's column, do they:

  1. How could the city absorb $23 million of unexpected increases when we supposedly cut our Budget to the bone so that there would not be unnecessary expenses ie for pay equity, OMERS pension increases, provincial downloading expenses, Estrin/Schwartz legal and consulting fees, other "unexpected costs"

  2. How could the projected long-term debt be reduced from $276 million ($1300 per man, woman and child in Windsor) to a projected $161 million by the end of the year if we are only paying down $10 million a year on debt? The Province's number as you will see below is almost $2,000 per person. [Note I read in the Star that "The $10-million annual commitment doesn't pay down current debt levels but it does enable the city to avoid borrowing to pay for long-term projects. ]

  3. How could we pay for $130 million for large projects like 400 City Hall Square, Huron Lodge and the Norwich block without any new debt

  4. How does the Employees' future benefits liabilityof $200 million fit into all of this and why doesn't the Mayor mention it as part of our debt since it is shown in our balance sheet?

  5. If torrents of money start flowing in -- an additional $23.5 million available, in 2010 $36.4 million and in 2011 another $36.4 million and $40 million thereafter--then what are we going to do with it?

  6. Eddie claims we can use this money for better roads, better playgrounds and great arenas and to deliver better services. I did not see anything in his speech that said let's reduce taxes and take the burden off of City taxpayers. [How about better water mains as you shall see in my other Blog today]

  7. What is the scandal at Enwin, what were the "unnecessary risks in other business areas" and how much did it cost us now that "Enwin is back to basics" considering that Councillors had to attend so many more meetings

  8. How did Enwin's debt get reduced by $43 million

  9. While Canderel and MFP deals "saved" us money, how many extra millions are we paying for MFP than we expected and how much are we still liable on the Canderel leases even after the sub-leasing

  10. How could, in the Mayor's words "other municipalities have struggled. And all some could do was raise taxes, or cut important services. [but we had] no new debt … and no new taxes?

Back to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's Financial Indicator Review 2005. What does it show about our financial position?

  1. Windsor's over-all risk level is "moderate"

  2. Our total debt per household is $1,977 while the median of comparable municipalities is $890 and the average is $1170 (although to give credit, the debt is down from $2,543 in 2002) [High Risk although when including "own purpose debt charges," the overall debt level is Moderate]

  3. Total reserves and discretionary reserves per household are $1,001 while the median is $1,083 and the average is $1,203 [Moderate Risk]

  4. Total reserves and discretionary reserves as a % of Municipal operating expenses is 14.9% while the median is 26.8% and the average is 26.65 [High risk ie little flexibility to offset non-budgeted revenue losses or expenditue increases]

  5. Municipal Position per household (I am not sure what that means) is (3177) while the median is (229) and the average is (511)

I have talked before about an "election budget" that was passed by Council this year. [BLOGs January 10, 2006 "Windsor Budget Fables," April 13, 2006 "Wiggle Room," May 02, 2006, "Slip And Fall On The Budgetary Crack"]. Who can fault a Council that keeps costs down supposedly and yet we have the cash to pay out all of these unexpected costs and large projects. Does it sound to you that perhaps we are being "over-taxed" in the first place. Moreover, Councillor Lewenza told us previously that we would pay big time NEXT year after the election.

Gord talked about the "Whopping hidden tax." Well back in 2001, city treasurer Roman Martiuk said the cost of borrowing for projects will be covered through the Enwin funds, raceway slot revenues and a one per cent capital levy, which would be placed on tax bills for the next five years, additional sewer surcharges and higher development fees. Fees, surcharges and fees but no "taxes!"

Councillor Valentinis has said in the past "I'm finding that people are inundated with these special levies and increases and they resent it...Whether we tack on a little here and a little there, the taxpayer is the one asked to fork over the money." Councillor Halberstadt has remarked "Call them levies, call them surcharges or call them taxes, it's still money out of people's pockets." In other words, doesn't a rose by any other name smell the same?

Roman Martiuk had warned Council in the same time-frame that "no other major projects" are to be funded between 2002 and 2007 if the city's finances are to remain on track. " At that time if you will recall, the downtown arena was only to cost $41 million not the $75-80 million or more the East end arena will cost us if it is built.

Our new fiscal mantra is "pay as you go." It was started under Martiuk. "Get rid of the borrowing. That's what pay as you go is all about." I guess it works but now City taxpayers become the "bankers" as we pay for these projects right away out of our pocket-books rather than the City borrowing the money at very low interest rates these days. We don't get the savings either since the monies that would otherwise go for interest go into capital projects like say an exorbitantly priced arena rather than for tax reduction. We have this $40 million coming up soon that is just begging to be squandered in monument building.

What is even more frightening is what "Heard on the Street" in the recent BizX magazine said:

  • "The mainstream media has been sold a bit of a bill of goods on the City of Windsor's long-term debt prospects as City Hall attempts to make a political case to spend $55-million on a new arena complex. This mantra, as outlined in the mayor's state-of-the-city address, trumpets savings over the last two years through a debt-reduction plan based on eliminating debentures except for a select few high-cost projects.

    Prior to the debt plan, it was projected that the city's long-term debt would be $276 million by the end of 2006. Now it is projected at $161 million, with the $105-million differential saving $4.1 million in interest a year.

    Taxpayers should note that a few things haven't been emphasized, the first being the one-percent capital levy charged to taxpayers every year to enable the pay-as-you go policy. Secondly, City Council built $10 million in debt-reduction money into the tax rate in 2004. Most significantly, a projected jump in the city's long-term debt from $161 million to $217 million by the end of 2007 also isn't mentioned.

    The city needs to debenture its share of the rebuilt Lou Romano Treatment Plant at approximately $42 million, either late this year or early next year. This is on top of a 20-percent surcharge on your water bill to help pay off the $110-million plant. Another $20-million debenture will be needed for the Windsor Utilities Commission to finance a new reservoir. By 2010, when the city plans to pay off the go-it-alone arena without a debenture, the long-term debt is projected at $191 million.

    Windsor did not fare very well in the last financial indicators, published by BMA Management Consulting Inc. The average debt in Ontario for 22 single-tier municipalities was $532 million per capital at the end of 2004, with Windsor sitting at $820. Only Ottawa, Thunder Bay Chatham-Kent and London had higher per capita debts, with the Forest City on top at $1,066 per capita. London, coincidentally, opened a new arena in 2004.

BMA also published some interesting information on taxes that you can see on the left (click on the image).

Windsor Councillors were shown a similar page except the CVA column was not shown where Windsor's value is in the bottom quarter. They were given the good news that "Windsor’s total residential tax burden of $3,504 is also in the mid range when measured against
comparable municipalities." I guess I would not mind paying taxes at such a high rate if my house was worth more!

The BMA data in its 2005 Municipal study (that's the best I could find online) also showed that, in comparison with 67 other municipalities in Ontario:

  • Our 2001-4 population growth was below average
  • Our 2004 building permits per capita were below average
  • Our Net Municipal Levy per Capita was the highest
  • Our Reserves as a % of Total Expenditures was third lowest
  • Our Debt Charges as a % of Total Expenditures was fourth highest
  • Outstanding Debt to Reserve Ratio was second worst
  • Taxes on properties were generally above the group average
  • Office taxes ($ per unit) were above average

As the Mayor said in his Chamber of commerce speech: "And there is no clearer measure of that progress, than our municipal finances. High taxes and a crippling debt make municipalities uncompetitive, and unattractive."

Standard & Poor's said this about Windsor on 03-19-2005 "Although the rating is considered strong, a review by the bond rater said the city doesn't have enough cash "to finance its planned capital expenditure program in the next five years." It concludes: "the city's debt burden is therefore expected to increase significantly in the medium term."

On 09-29-2005, Standard & Poor's said "that a "healthy budgetary performance" was partly responsible for the good news. The city's outlook remains stable. But the bond raters warned the city will have to deal with a growing burden posed by rising post-retirement benefits that have left it with a future liability of $170 million. "Windsor's large post-retirement liabilities ... are among the highest compared with its peers," the report said. "

So ask a lot of questions before you accept that everything is turning rosy financially in the City of Roses.

Broken Water Mains

Councillor Budget better learn body language.

When the Mayor starts talking a mile a minute about a topic in answer to one of his questions and makes excuses saying what a great job other Departments or affiliates have done with their problems, then the Councillor should sit down and be quiet. When the Mayor says something that may be a problem will be handled in a like manner, then it means that the Councillor should drop the subject because it is embarrassing. When the Mayor tells us how well things have been dealt with in this term of Council, then the Councillor should hide under the Council table for making a huge faux pas!

There is that darn Communications Package again. This time buried near the bottom as Number 28 out of 38 on Page 72 out of 76 pages is a Report: Funding for Construction of Watermains on City Projects.

The Report states that the Windsor Utilities and the Works Department try to co-ordinate jobs so that roads are not fixed up and then subsequently have to be torn up for water main replacement. Makes sense. However, in early 2006 (note "early") Windsor Utilities told Public Works that it could not fund construction of water mains due to an increase in City roads and sewer projects.

Does anyone recall hearing this when Council congratulated themselves on their great job on the Budget in early 2006?

It is only a $7.2 Million shortfall after all we learn in the middle of 2006 (note "middle"). Six alternatives were discussed for dealing with the financial problem and five were rejected. What was recommended is that the WUC borrow money from a financial institution to fund the work.

The Report calls this "bridge financing." A definition of bridge financing that I saw is "Interim financing of one sort or another used to solidify a position until more permanent financing is arranged." In this case, WUC is to "borrow the funds directly and make repayments in future years from their water revenues." Does this meet the test of "bridge financing?" I assume that the outside auditors will have to agree that this is a proper characterization of the debt.

[Oh I get it now, it's subliminal Finance Department humour. Bridge financing over troubled water mains]

You see if the City provided the money, the City might have a budget problem itself. So now that WUC borrows the funds, they can increase the water rates to pay back the loan and interest and you will never know about it since it will be buried in your water bill. It is NOT a tax so don't complain.

Perhaps someone can explain also how this fits in with "pay-as-you-go." Frankly, if we have all of these millions all of a sudden coming available to build an $80 million arena and we had the cash to meet all of the millions for unexpected costs in the City as the Mayor mentioned in his recent speech, then we should have been able to deal with a trifling $7.2 million easily!

One final thought. Should a matter like this be buried in a Communications package as an item "To Council for Information." I do not think you?

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Little River Bridge But A Big Splash

A loyal reader who, for obvious reasons, must remain nameless reminded me of this story.

I am sure that you saw the story in the Star in relation to the Little River Bridge, what the Star called the "BRIDGE TO NOWHERE.

Clearly something odd is going on.

  • "City vows bridge will open
    Roseann Danese,Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    A long-awaited bridge that will take commuters to their homes on the city's far east side will be open by year's end, city officials promise...

    A $4-million bridge that crosses Little River was installed last year. The span is part of an $8.8-million extension of Wyandotte, from Riverdale to -- eventually -- Banwell Road. The bridge features two car lanes plus bike routes, with the potential for expansion to four lanes.

    Construction of the project stopped, however, after the bridge's arches were installed late last year. And because it's taken a long time for the work to resume, rumours started to circulate in the neighbourhood about the structural stability of the bridge.


    Palanacki dispelled questions about the bridge's soundness. "This bridge, if anything, is over designed," he said.

    The delay was the result of "funding shortfalls" and difficulties acquiring the property.

    The city's long-term goal is to have drivers use Wyandotte instead of Riverside Drive..."

    The multimillion-dollar Wyandotte extension is one of many projects aimed at fixing the city's roads and sewers. In total, almost $60 million will be spent this year on infrastructure projects throughout the city.

    "It's almost double what we've spent in the last few years," Palanacki said."

There are certain "buzz" words in the story that should have tweaked your interest and told you that more is really going on: long-awaited bridge, take commuters to their homes, potential for expansion, structural stability, BRIDGE 'OVERDESIGNED,' funding shortfalls, long-term goal, infrastructure projects, aimed at fixing the city's roads.

If I had talked about a bridge and used that language in a BLOG, what would immediately have jumped into your mind: the new bridge border crossing!

I already speculated about a deal to change the name of the about to be sold "Fort Frances" bridge to the "Fort (Eddie) Francis" bridge if Windsor were to take over that bridge in Northern Ontario. [BLOG March 15, 2006 Fort Frances Bridge] The Fort Frances Mayor said "We absolutely want to see it go into public hands...We do understand there may be another party interested in the bridge..."

Now it can be revealed. The Little River Bridge was part of the in camera Megaproject Master PLAN that few know about. Yes, dear reader, you heard it here first. The reason for the delay in the construction of the Bridge is so that our Mayor can complete his investigation in how to do a major sale/lease deal of the this bridge perfectly as preparation for his hostile take-over bids for the Fort Frances Bridge, the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge and the Blue Water Bridge! The Mackinac Bridge may be part of this too! (After all, Eddie is now part of "the Big Five" area political leaders who will be speaking at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference) Eddie wants to be the Ultimate Border Operator of SW Ontario. Think I am kidding---re-read the section in the Schwartz Report that talked all about it:

  • Balanced Traffic between Blue Water Crossing and Windsor-Detroit Crossings.

    Developing a balanced traffic network between the Sarnia-Port Huron and Detroit-Windsor Crossings would provide benefits without a new crossing but would be compatible with any of the new crossings. Essentially it means adopting acceptable levels of service guidelines at all facilities as a goal and maintaining the goal, as best possible, through Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) measures, policies, directing trucks after they are screened and pricing strategies. It sets aside the profit-motive, which means each facility is competing for the most traffic, with a utilitarian-motive: the greatest good for the greatest number. Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants.

    Authorities should consider rerouting long-haul trucks, originating from London or points east... Measures to re-route could be mandatory by pre-processing trucks at London and rerouting 30% to Blue Water Bridge or voluntary by using variable message signs and other forms of communications to long haul truckers.

You know how long it takes Eddie to do anything...forever. The licensing deal for the Roots clothing took 2 years. So something major like this would take much longer. I reckon the planning has been in the works since before the signing of the Phase 1 Agreement with the Senior Levels. Eddie made a tactical error by going public on the infamous Agenda Item #5 but pulled back into the safe and secure in camera cocoon when opposed by 16 citizen groups.

Word was out that there was to have been be an "informal" roundtable meeting a few weeks ago that the Mayor called with groups who supported him on his failed Schwartz Plan (don't these people ever learn) such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (but not the Windsor local), CAW, CME, OTA, car companies, etc. As well, the Ontario and Federal Governments had been asked to attend. That meeting was called off I was told.

There was no doubt that the Mayor and those groups were to have pressured the Governments to release Dwight's $500 million "Gong Show" money earlier than 2010 and to leave a good chunk of the Federal Government's recent Budget announcement of $5.5 billion over four years infrastructure money in Windsor.

It's all part of the Plan. Little River first, then the world!

Bargain Basement Lease Rate

A reader sent me this real estate listing for a nice building downtown.

Obviously rentals are being reduced because of what the City is charging for the sublet at the Canderel building and because we have a huge office vacancy rate (30-50% depending on whom you ask).

So not only is the City competing with the private sector, its low rates are pushing rates down too at a time when we have a glut of office space and no reason to hope that people are moving back downtown.

His comment:

"Instead of $3.50 why not simply say ZERO. Amazing where this city has gone to in such a short period.

We May Get Some Satisfaction

Oh ye of little faith! You mocked my border solution. You made fun of my idea about how to get a new arena at minimal cost for Windsor by partnering with Detroit to make Joe Louis Arena the new Joe Louis Detroit/Windsor International Center/Centre (DWICC). You doubted when I told the Mayor and Council how to deal with our tourism problems.

I am sure that you saw the front page story in the Star about the possibility of the Rolling Stones coming to Windsor for a concert. To Windsor, you say, how can that be possible? Well, after Allan Rock moving here, why not? For heaven's sake we have a funky bus terminal after all and Councillor Zuk may do a dance for us....

For your information, I have attached below the Regina newspaper article for you to read.

The question remains though, why was Windsor chosen in competition with all of the other cities in Ontario if the story is correct. You, dear reader, should know very well.

Remember my BLOG May 08, 2006 Where's Mick Jagger
  • "It is again up to the Blogmeister to save this City. I had a really wild idea which the Report authors did not consider. We need to hold a Rolling Stones benefit concert like the one in Toronto after the SARS epidemic to put Windsor back on the map after all of the disasters we have lived through. Do you think it is ridiculous? Remember who headlined the Half-time show at Super Bowl XL in Detroit!

    And who do you think was seen with Paris Hilton, John Travolta and Hugh Hefner dining at a very famous restaurant in downtown Windsor? If that does not get the gossip columnists talking about Sin City again, nothing will!"

So there you have it. The world-wide reach of this BLOG brought Windsor's plight to the attention of the Rolling Stones and their managers. They decided to help us out based on my suggestion! Of course, I cannot tell you about what happened at the restaurant in Windsor when they held their Super Bowl concert but clearly something did or else Windsor would not have been considered.

For those of you who may write or call me asking for tickets or backstage passes, please do not. While the power of this BLOG to bring the Stones here is now obvious, I have to line up at Ticketmaster just like everyone else.

When will the concert take place? Just another hint for you.

I am sure that you are aware that President Bush and Prime Minister Harper are meeting on July 6. The items of discussion will include border security, trade, energy, and environmental progress. But where is that meeting to take place?

Given that the border and trade will be discussed where is the most important border crossing in North America located? Energy---Who is the Minister of Energy for Ontario and where is he located? Who was Minister of Infrastructure in the Liberal Government and where is he moving to? The July 6 meeting is right after the big July 1 and July 4 celebrations. And where is the biggest international fireworks display in the world? The answers---Right here in Windsor/Detroit.

I am sure you read "[Canadian Ambassador to the US] Wilson wouldn't say where the meeting will be. Harper had originally hoped to visit Washington in June but there were scheduling problems with the White House." Our leaders were so crafty.

Now you know why the meeting was postponed and where it will take place. Bush and Harper are meeting in Windsor to watch the Rolling Stones on July 6! It's the dress rehersal for the Stones' big European tour that starts July 10.

Now start believing what I write!

Rolling into Regina?
Gerry Krochak, The Leader-Post

Naw ... it can't be. Can it? Can the persistent rumours really be true?

Could this really be a Thanksgiving weekend filled with the satisfaction of the Queen City hosting the world's greatest rock and roll band, the Rolling Stones? Yes ... it can.

We're all aware of conventional wisdom and cliches which insist that if it's too good to be true it probably is. Forget that notion for the time that it takes you to read this column and dream the biggest rock and roll dream Regina has ever known.

It seems almost a certainty that The Rolling Stones will give this province the concert of a lifetime at Taylor Field on either Oct. 7 or 8. Nothing is written in stone(s), but this show, you can't imagine, how close it is to happening.

Nothing is confirmed, but organizers from Regina and officials from the band are working very hard to make this happen, one of our well-placed sources, who requested anonymity, said Friday. The official announcement will come around mid July -- if the show proceeds, the source added.

One of the biggest earlier hurdles to a show in Regina, a head injury sustained by guitarist Keith Richards while vacationing in Fiji on April 27, has now been cleared. Last week, Richards declared himself good to go. "Feeling great, happy to be home and looking forward to getting back on the road with the Rolling Stones next month," he was reported as saying on several Web sites.

Further indication that all is well with the legendary axeman are rescheduled 'Stones dates appearing on which indicate that the tour will commence July 10 in Nuremberg, with additional dates throughout Germany as well as the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

Multiple sources indicate the band will then come to Canada, for a three or four-show tour. The other Canadian cities that would host the outdoor stadium version of the group's Bigger Bang Tour are Halifax, Windsor and Vancouver, in effect covering the west, east and, of course, the middle, of this great country. News of the Halifax show has also apparently leaked out.

If the Regina date seems far-fetched, consider the success of the group's appearance last Sept. 3 in Moncton, N.B. The show drew 90,000 people and netted the act somewhere in the vicinity of seven million clams.

Although the band hardly needs the dough, it's never shied away from playing ... well, anywhere, really. The way it sits right now, Saskatchewan is the only prairie province that has never hosted a Rolling Stones show. Clearly, it's our turn.

The massive stadium production is the group's most ambitious to date, requiring roughly 80 tractor trailers to transport. Considering the size of the stage and the seating capacity of Taylor Field (including the field), the stadium which will go from hosting football greats to rock and roll legends, will probably be bursting at the seams with a crowd of anywhere from 40,000-45,000, although Taylor Field's capability to stage such an event remains a detail that has yet to be worked out.

Tickets are not yet on sale, and I can't stress this enough, so don't phone the usual places, because they have no information or ducuts to sell -- at least not yet. But if and when tickets go on sale in July, folks in Saskatchewan will also have to compete with fans from Manitoba, Alberta, Montana and North Dakota for tickets that are sure to be snatched up immediately.

If time is finally on our side, this concert just might be the single greatest event in the city's 104-year history. And that's no Thanksgiving turkey.