Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another CBC Radio Commentary

Monday between 6:30 -6:45 AM on CBC Radio 1550!

From The Information & Privacy Commissioner

Openness and Transparency, reflects two vital principles underpinning our democratic system of government. If the processes of government are not open to scrutiny and evaluation, then government becomes less accountable. This openness may be to the media, the public or opposition parties. Let us not forget that the government is there at the pleasure of the governed. Transparency and accountability are essential to a free society.

At times, being open and transparent may cause some discomfort for the government of the day – so be it. The need to allow for government decisions and actions to be publicly evaluated and openly assessed remains one of the keys to responsible government. We should have no less.

A successful access to information regime also opens the door to effective public participation in the democratic process. We often hear talk of the so-called “democratic deficit,” reflected in such things as decreasing voter turnouts for general elections. Providing the public with access to the information required to assess government actions is a means to reduce this is a way to connect citizens and government – hopefully bringing them closer together.

I believe that our freedom of information legislation in Ontario provides an effective means for accomplishing these goals. Both the municipal and provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Acts recognize the right of citizens to request and receive, not only their own personal information in the hands of government institutions, but general records as well. The Acts legislate a right of access to general records held by the government. Of equal importance, the Acts recognize and support the legitimate government interest in limited and specific exemptions to the right of access.

Flip-Flop On The Toldo-Rosati Arena

Now don't tell me that the E-machine is in control or knows what it is doing after reading the Gord Henderson column yesterday morning. It is damage control big time!

They just cannot do anything right it seems. Lucky Bill Marra. If this keeps up, he won't have to do anything when he runs for mayor. The failures of the E-machine itself will point out the flaws and weaknesses of the Mayor as CEO of Windsor in a way that no one could ever express. He cannot even ensure that his campaign team knows what it is doing.

I do not think I have ever seen Gord Henderson change positions so quickly. Well actually I have. And it had to do with the arena too. It occurred when Gord totally undercut his Councillor buddy, Alan Halberstadt, on refurbishing the Barn:

On February 9, 2006, Henderson wrote:

  • "... I can't see the city going down that road again. Minus an urban village, it would be up to city taxpayers to fund a new arena. Trouble is, we tried going-it-alone in 2002 with Mike Hurst as mayor, discovered the cost would be an unsupportable $49 million and ended up with a bill for $3.5 million.

    Windsorites would go nuts, and rightly so, if any politician were to suggest duplicating that process. But there is another avenue. Councillor Alan Halberstadt, my old canoe mate, is pushing for an expansion and retrofit of Windsor Arena to create a respectable home for our Junior A hockey franchise.

    Halberstadt argues, and he has drawings from an astute city planner to back this up, that the 80-year-old barn, considered a priceless heirloom by true hockey nuts like Don Cherry, is rock solid and could be transformed into a 5,000-seat arena with all the toys for a fraction of the cost of a new rink."

Then on February, 18, 2006 Henderson wrote:

  • "And now that the city has financial wiggle room, Francis appears set to invest some of that freed-up capital, not to mention his accumulated political capital, in fulfilling a city dream. At a strategic planning session tentatively set for next Saturday at Willistead Manor, Francis will make a pitch for the city to get behind building a new ice rink for the Spitfires.

    In an interview this week, the mayor all but rejected Coun. Alan Halberstadt's proposal to upgrade Windsor Arena and made it clear he'll be seeking council backing for one final push to replace the 80-year-old Barn.

    "My position is quite clear. I want to get one done. This city has demonstrated not only that it wants it, but that it needs it," said Francis...

    He wouldn't put it in those words. But the message I took from his comments is that the city... might have the means to move well beyond the $15 million already budgeted for a new arena, without increasing the load on city taxpayers....

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

Henderson, unfortunately for Eddie, spilled the beans. He called the Mayor a "a legal technocrat who is obsessed with detail, due process and getting all the T's crossed no matter how infuriatingly long it takes."

Exactly. He is a bloody bureaucrat not a leader. He dithers and wastes time and money studying issues to death. He seems almost paralysed, afraid to decide anything in case he is wrong (Gee Eddie, after going to the baseball game the other night, you should learn that you can be a multi-millionaire super star by getting a hit, on average, just over 3 times out of 10 trips at bat!). The border, the urban village, economic development, even the Youth Council, to name a few, are examples of "pretend" action for almost three long years under the Francis administration. The arena, frankly, is the best example of a Mayor who is incapable of making a decision and acting on it.

I said it before "That is our Mayor: all talk and no action on anything. He is a true bureaucrat, process oriented not action oriented. He studies but never executes."

The Toldo-Rosati families should throw in the towel now. Henderson has just set out in detail what is wrong with their project. Some of the problems he set out were new ones to me but will prove fatal to the deal in the end and act as justification for approving Eddie's East End arena.

From what I heard through my contacts, the reason the families went public was out of sheer exasperation! Do you really think that a Tony Toldo would have to use the pages of the Windsor Star to negotiate a deal. The fact that he went public speaks volumes about this Mayor.

There was the warning again---keep your mouth shut before the election if you want to get anywhere in this City :

  • "The last few days turned into a finger-pointing exercise that advanced no one's interests. Far better for the proponents to focus on nailing down the Spits, laying other concerns to rest and winning over individual councillors. There are times when quiet diplomacy beats banging the drums and this is one of them.

As for me, I think that this deal just cost Eddie the election. You just don't cross Tony Toldo twice. How many recall the first time?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Produce The MFOIA Documents Already

I will keep on making these calendars until they do!

Mayor's WHTI Summit Preview

You would think that the Windsor Star would have had a reporter and photographer at the bus at the Cleary last night to find out who went to the ball game. If they did, the story did not make the paper today!

Oh don't be so silly. I am just having a bit of fun.

This is not a photo of a couple of the attendees of the U.S. – Canada Mayors’ Summit on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative not wanting to be recognized by their local electorate as they travelled in their luxury limo to Comerica Park! I know that it was probably pretty heady stuff for the ones who went to be entertained by the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit and to eat "Baseball style cuisine" at the expense of the taxpayers of Canada. But did you really think I was going to go to the
Cleary and take photographs!

I wonder if a short, informative history of the Tunnel was given as the group passed through the City-owned Tunnel. I can hear the tourguide saying:
  • "The tunnel has become a unique security risk, which makes Customs and Border Protection officials nervous" or
  • "There’s this inherent security concern with the proximity of that tunnel to the downtowns of both Detroit and Windsor" or
  • US "Customs said that the tunnel doesn’t meet their requirements" or
  • If anything happened to the Ambassador Bridge, the industry is smart enough to figure out how to put their goods on smaller trucks to get it across...Right now [the Tunnel] serves as the redundancy
We should be grateful for these sports extravaganzas because we learn all kinds of things about the border that we never knew before that can save taxpayers a ton of money at the same time.

As an example, when Eddie talked about the 25,000 seat CFL stadium for Windsor at Super Bowl time, he said the border is not a problem for us. Whew, up until then it was, so we do not have to spend money to build a new crossing right away since the Bridge Co. fixed the short-term backups at their own expense by putting up a few new Customs booths.

Yesterday, I heard him say on A-channel news at 6 PM that it only takes 5 minutes to get through the Tunnel using the Tunnel bus. Whew, I guess we do not need to spend $30 million to build a Tunnel Plaza that is no longer needed (Wow did so much Tunnel traffic go that quickly to the Bridge after Eddie raised the toll rates!)

I would also have thought that the purpose of this meeting is to get as much publicity as possible. That means using the media and letting them hear what is being said to spread the news to the masses. No such luck. Those pesky media types could only hear the Opening Remarks (but with no questions permitted) and then are cleared out, never to return until after the conference was over to speak with whomever was left around.

I thought I would post what I am told is Eddie's "Welcome" with some comments of mine thrown in so that you will get a feel for the day:

July 20, 2006
Dear Summit Participants,

Thank you participating in the U.S. – Canada Mayors’ Summit on the Western
Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

On behalf of my co-hosts, Kwame Kilpatrick, the Mayor of Detroit, and David Miller, the Mayor of Toronto, I welcome you to Windsor for this important event. Over 50 Mayors and representatives from both sides of our border as well as a federal, state and provincial officials and business leaders are in attendance. [Out of how many hundreds of invitations sent? I must admit, I would have thought it to be good manners at least to have Welcoming remarks from the co-hosts as well as part of the Attendee package and not just that of Eddie alone!]

As you know, a recent U.S. government proposal, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), to require all Canadian and U.S. citizens to show a passport or other secure document to enter the United States by January 1, 2008, will have major economic and social impacts on countless US and Canadian communities. [How provincial we must be in Windsor. Are the Mayors only concerned about land borders only? On December 31, 2006 the Requirement will apply to all air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.]

Resolutions on WHTI were adopted at the recent annual meetings of both the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the US Conference of Mayors. [Then why is it necessary at this time to duplicate what was already done "recently" by the much larger and more prestigious organizations? Obviously, Eddie messed up on the first meeting that he had to postpone and had to have another one or look foolish]

This Summit will give municipal leaders from both sides of the border a chance to raise further awareness of WHTI, propose solutions that will enhance security and facilitate travel and trade between our nations, and speak directly to federal government officials. Together, we can add our collective municipal voice to this important debate. [It has already been raised at the PM and President Levels. Is there anywhere higher? The municipal voice has already been heard]

Changes are needed along the Canada-United States border to improve security and increase efficiency. This is not in question. The issue is how to do this. The post 9/11 security environment provides the catalyst for real change. We need to take the time to get it right. [Post 9/11 as a "catalyst." How patronizing! This is typical Eddie....more "time" is needed, not action. Should we wait too until 2011 to get it right at the Tunnel that the Mayors travelled through and not fix its "unique" security problem immediately!]

I look forward to our discussions. [Another checkmark on the Report Card for "discussions"]

Dear Consul General

A quick note I sent to the Consul General this morning about the big game last night. I will be interested in receiving the answer quickly. When I do, I will post it here so you will see it too.
  • "Would you please let me know the number of people who attended at Comerica Park for the evening sponsored by the office of the Consulate General of Canada, Detroit, Michigan. Would you also provide a list of the attendees.

    I would also appreciate if you would advise if attendees were presented with any souvenirs of the evening and if so by whom, what were they, what was the cost and who paid for them?

    Would you please advise what the cost of the evening was broken down by each item such as suite rental, Baseball style cuisine, beverages etc.

    Finally, would you please provide me with the details of all other costs incurred by your office with respect to the Summit by specifically setting out what the cost items were and the amount paid out.

    I intend to post this email today and your response when received on my Blogsite."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Another Day Older

The Commissioner reports that, for the third straight year [2004], the number of freedom of information requests filed across Ontario (33,557) rose to a new record. She praises a number of ministries and municipal organizations for outstanding records in meeting the 30-day response standard for FOI requests.

Who Is Paying For The Tigers Tickets

Well, dear reader, the Windsor Star let you down! They did not tell you who was paying for all of those mayors who are attending Eddie's big "passport" conference and are being wined and dined with "Baseball style cuisine" at Comerica Park at taxpayer expense.

Frankly, I was shocked at the small size of the story in today's Star about the "MAYORS' SUMMIT." I must admit that I expected a huge story with Eddie's name and photo plastered all over it. Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after. Or maybe both days to rub it in.

No matter what happens though, the conference is a dud (except for those going to the game at taxpayer expense)! Eddie's timing is way off since the Prime Minister and US President already discussed the issue at their meeting several weeks ago. What Eddie will be doing is an after-thought for local political purposes.

Moreover, there were hundreds and hundreds of mayors in Canada and the US invited. So far, according to the Star, "More than 60 mayors and government officials from both sides of the border will be in Windsor." In other words, if you reduce the numbers by the speakers and other "officials" who are attending, you can probably expect only a small fraction of the mayors who were invited who are coming! Interestingly, Eddie's numbers may be off again. He said "expectation [are] 70 to 80 mayors will come" and the meeting was to take place in June.

I may let you know who they are too tomorrow. I will try to arrange for someone to get a camera with a big telephoto lens and take souvenir shots of them for the folks back home as they get on the bus (I hope it is a Transit Windsor bus at least) at the Main Lobby of the Cleary International Centre. I am sure their citizens would be anxious to see how hard their elected officials are working, having to stay up until at least 11 PM to see the whole game! Or maybe a friend can get a standing room only ticket to Comerica and take photos there.

You might also be interested in knowing that the instructions about how to get to Windsor from Detroit Airport to the Cleary only gives one option as the means of crossing the border---and it is NOT the Bridge! Way to go Eddie, get those traffic numbers at the Tunnel up!

Ok, here is the answer: "Game and Box Seats sponsored by the office of the Consulate General of Canada, Detroit, Michigan." At least the Feds are paying for something. I wonder if it comes out of the $300 million BIF Funds.


Not everyone in Woodstock was thrilled about their donation of $17,000 to the City of Windsor for the border file it seems. Imagine what they will think now once they learn that Sam Schwartz's guy in town announced he was leaving for a new job. If that does not signal the Schwartz report and the new Estrin/Schwartz proposal are dead, then nothing will!

And here is how Windsor thanked Woodstock too:

"The City of Windsor will be flying the flag of the City of Woodstock outside Windsor City Hall as requested by City Council, from today, Monday July 17, until Friday July 21. This is a tribute to the generous gesture made by the City of Woodstock in relation to the border plan." A full 5 day week ...for $20,000 they might have got the weekend too!

I found this Letter to the Editor in the Woodstock newspaper and am posting it here. The $34,000 donation over two years represented a dollar per person from Woodstock's 34,000 population. I think at least one person wants his money back!

Rebuttal to editorial
The Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Coun. Dave Nadalin - Woodstock
Tuesday June 20, 2006

In response to the editorial in the Friday, June 16 Sentinel-Review, there are a few points in need of clarification on my behalf.

I have been accused of many things over my political career, but I don’t recall a "cheap politicker" being one of them. Unlike some, I make no attempt to control the media and my comments referred to were solicited by the radio station, with the timing being totally of their control.

There are a few basic principles to good journalism. Be objective, accurate and never let yourself be manipulated.

The issue of the Windsor donation from the City of Woodstock has had numerous objections stated on my behalf. One of the most recent was a final budget meeting this year, when I offered up this year’s $17,000 instalment to fund the mayor’s excursion to Japan. The fact the Sentinel chose not to report that is something I have no control over.

In dealing with the $34,000 gift to Windsor, I will state again there are a few fundamental flaws with this overindulgence of generosity.

There should have been a stipulation that Windsor lobbies other municipalities, at the very least for matching contributions even though I’m sure there would have been few takers. The money that would have had a significant impact on our operating budget means absolutely nothing, to a city sitting on a $300 million reserve for this project and the Schwartz report it originally targeted is dead. Since there is no Canadian senior government support and the Michigan legislature has reportedly pulled out of any deal with Windsor for this project, you now have a real waste of Woodstock taxpayer money. Due diligence should have caught that before Couns. Sobeski and Lauder, who are very honest and hardworking individuals, were hoodwinked into being part of an ill-conceived gesture to begin with.

I would have preferred to hire six new crossing guards than donate money just to have our flag flown at Windsor City Hall.

If there was a desire to help overcome the issue of traffic at the Windsor/Detroit crossing, then one must remember macro issues belong at the macro level. Even the naysayers would have to agree that a group like the UWO Regional Alliance would be a perfect fit for this issue, so that cities such as Woodstock, Windsor, London and Stratford could lobby senior governments in a collective fashion. At the very least it could have been seed money for the lobbying effort. The only cash or manpower donation I can remember the city giving another municipality was for disaster
relief. Our trip out to eastern Ontario to aid after the ice storm is an example.

I will take responsibility for not pressing the issue further, but in case you haven’t noticed, my opinions on the spending habits of this council don’t carry much weight. The money wasted on the Goodwill OMB hearing, the thousands spent on a bye-election that had a miniscule turnout, the fell swoop double-digit pay raises and the lucrative perpetual land deals with our neighbours are examples that my bitching becomes an exercise in futility, unfortunately.

If I return in any capacity next term, rest assured the new council will be pressed not only to do due diligence on the cause, but to attach stipulations to fund a larger scope lobbying effort before the second $17,000 is cut, if in fact one is cut at all.

Maybe a stipulation could be that Mayor Francis pressure Windsor Raceway to live up to its end of the bargain with the Woodstock Agricultural Society, after many have tried including the late Couns. Joe Pember and Jack Dunn.

The editor who penned the critical editorial, I’m sure, has a bright future ahead as many of his predecessors before him have, but it is important to keep the principles I have mentioned close to heart in future reporting. Particularly in an election year that will in all probability, include a very important and definitive mayoralty race. That is all I ask.

Sure-thing Bet

The Raceway Arena is dead!

The lesson to be learned, being smart in business does not necessarily make you smart in politics.

Whoever has been advising the Toldo and Rosati families should be looking for a new job. Imagine going public before the Mayor permitted it to let the public in on their arena plans at the Raceway. Why even Gord Henderson seemed to like the concept, at first at least. Then the ultimate sin...issuing a press release on Monday to "clarify" what the Mayor said in the Star on Saturday.

What a nerve!

Even hinting that Eddie has made a mistake is fatal. He is the Teflon Mayor after all. All good things are due to his efforts. Mistakes are made by Council, not by him.

Look how Eddie attacked CPOW's Alan MacKinnon at the Tecumseh Council meeting. Why Perry Mason could not have cross-examined a witness better. And the Shock and Awe attack on the Labour Council and the vicious smashes against Bill Marra even before he annouced he was running...just more examples.

The Families released a press release on Monday---so what...who knew, who got a copy. But there is a Star story in which Eddie points out their mistakes. He never makes mistakes and we all have to know it just in case someone actually saw a copy of that release.

I am being somewhat facetious. Since these families ARE smart, there has to be more to it. And I am sure there is. They are going public, in my opinion, to try and circumvent the Mayor. It has been made clear to them I am sure that there are so many issues that their proposal will never get in front of Council in a timely fashion. For the Jebb group, I will guess what is being done to them by this Administration is deja vu! So how to raise the stakes---go public! That to me was a sign of absolute desperation on their part. What did they have to lose?

So they will get their Council meeting on Thursday but there will be no decision. More information will be required. Administration will be directed to meet with them. Eddie has already signalled that in the Star story. When in doubt, administrate!

In the end though, the Toldos and Rosatis have no chance.

Why not you might ask. I watched a story about their proposal on A-Channel news last night. The more I listened, the more I knew they were done. Their complex is to be a Sports and Entertainment Destination. There will be entertainment facilities there, a Gretzky restaurant, Sports Hall of Fame, and hockey to draw people and keep them there. Obviously though, the main reason for all of this is gambling. SLOTS---That's how they are going to make the real money.

So who then has become their competition? Eddie's favourite: the Casino!

Do you honestly believe that the Mayor is going to allow anyone to compete with the Casino after they are going to spend $400 million here. More importantly, it is the Casino and the shift of the downtown eastward that is key to his vision of the re-birth of Windsor's downtown, not the Urban village (That is Bill Marra's idea for heaven's sake!). The old downtown is being destroyed as the new one is being created. And the ultimate irony, the DWBIA is running multi-page ads supporting the actions of the Mayor who is putting them all out of business!

The Raceway arena proposal had its purpose. Its leaked concept initially helped chase Beztak out of town. The exclusivity period for negotiations bought time. Adminsitration questions made life difficult. The end of the Barn refurbishment and the out-of-the-blue East End megacomplex pointed to the ultimate Council choice. Even the St. Clair deal had a use. Their Cleary transaction means there is no downtown alternative to the Casino arena for conventions, even small ones.

No wonder the Toldos and Rosatis went public. But do not bet on them winning the horserace.

UPDATE: Obviously, Eddie has felt the heat of insulting one of the most prominent and "giving" persons in Windsor. So what does he do, the Star quotes: "Mayor Eddie Francis and the proponents of an arena development at Windsor Raceway say talks are moving forward."

But they are not. Eddie is following his typical trick: process over action:

  • "You can't negotiate these matters in the media," Francis said. "There is a process."

    The process involves the preparation of two reports by city administrators. One scenario would see the construction of a complex on the city's east side... The other scenario involves a main pad at the racetrack.... "We're not going to rush to a judgment here. There has to be a solid business case."
The end result to get it out of the front page of the newspaper and cool things off (and let the Casino build more):


    The arena issue was to be discussed at a special meeting of council Thursday, but it's been deferred because staff reports analyzing two proposals are not ready. Mayor Eddie Francis said he's not sure when the arena proposals will be debated by council, but it should be within the next few weeks."
If the Toldos and Rosatis do NOT keep it on the front page every day, and do not start lobbying Councillors, then they are very, very foolish. And if they want total success, then get Bill Marra onside. Then Eddie will have to support it!

The Raceway Press Release You May Never Have Seen

Here it is. That infamous press release that Eddie had to talk about and that no one otherwise would have known about. And if you want to know more about the Raceway arena, go to


Project Ice Track Responds to Mayor Francis’ Concerns

July 17, 2006 – Project Ice Track is a proposed Regional Sports and Entertainment Destination development at the existing site of the Windsor Raceway that would be developed jointly by the Toldo and Rosati Groups of Windsor. The Project Ice Track proponents anticipate the destination will include live horse racing, the Slots at Racetracks program, a spectator arena, a second community ice pad, a Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame, a Wayne Gretzky restaurant and ancillary operations. The Project Ice Track Team first met with and submitted its detailed proposal for Project Ice Track to the Mayor of the City of Windsor on May 29, 2006.

On July 14, 2006 after meeting with all stakeholders, Windsor Raceway announced the proposal to integrate its horse racing operations into Project Ice Track.

Windsor Raceway’s exciting announcement was covered by local media outlets and in the Saturday, July 15, 2006 edition of the Windsor Star Mayor Eddie Francis indicated some issues needed to be resolved before Windsor City Council could consider the merits of Project Ice Track. The main issues identified by Mayor Francis included 1) lands that are a part of the Tom Joy Woods; 2) the proposed rate to be charged by Project Ice Track for ice time to be used by the City; and 3) the negotiation of an agreement with the Windsor Spitfires Ontario Hockey League franchise.

In an attempt to move the project forward to Council, the Project Ice Track Team quickly responded by letter to Mayor Francis to address his concerns voiced in the media. Project Ice Track is pleased to share with the community some clarification with respect to the issues that follow:

1. Land Issue: In the July 15, 2006 edition of the Windsor Star the Mayor said 50 acres of the Tom Joy Woods was required from the City “for the footprint of the new arena”. The Project Ice Track Team has sent a letter to Mayor Francis clarifying that the Tom Joy Woods lands were never requested for the footprint of the new arena. The letter also reconfirms that the land necessary to accommodate the Project Ice Track arena utilizes existing Windsor Raceway land.

2. Ice Time Costs: A second concern expressed by Mayor Francis was with regard to a request that the City commit to a guaranteed number of ice hours on an annual basis at rates which the Mayor described as “over and beyond” what the City currently pays. The rate referred to was taken from a pro forma business plan which sets out a blended rate for all ice rentals. The blended rate is not the rate that the City will pay. The Project Ice Track proposal submitted to Mayor Francis provides that the City will only pay comparable facility rates and the Project Track Team has confirmed to the Mayor that the City will pay nothing other than competitive commercial market rates.

3. The Windsor Spitfires: Another concern expressed by Mayor Francis was that the Windsor Spitfires have yet to commit to the proposed Project Ice Track arena. The Project Ice Track Team has updated Mayor Francis on discussions with the Spitfires and expressed surprise that their proposal might not be placed before Council until an agreement is in place with the Spitfires. The Project Ice Track Team let Mayor Francis know that the Spitfires have expressed their desire to remain neutral with respect to site and operator until Council makes a decision. On July 7, 2006 the Project Ice Track Team submitted a Letter of Intent to the Windsor Spitfires and they have requested that the Spitfires meet to discuss the proposed terms. The Windsor Spitfires have agreed to meet on July 18, 2006 at which time the Project
Ice Track Team hopes to receive initial comments from the Windsor Spitfires about the Letter of Intent.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Shakespearean MFOIA Question

Will I get the MFOIA documents or will I not get the MFOIA documents, that is the question!

Well technically, the answer is yes I will get the documents but the real question is which ones will I get and when?

The City is approaching its deadline for providing me with the information I have requested but I expect that they will seek an extension of time. Moreover, there is no doubt that with some of the documents I have requested, they will refuse to produce them. That means an appeal.

The likelihood of my request being fulfilled before the November municipal election is therefore very remote!

But then again, I may be totally wrong and be pleasantly surprised

Take Me Out To The WHTI Ballgame

Seriously, who would want to come to Windsor on July 20 to discuss the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative at the Big conference to be hosted by Eddie Francis. You remember, it is the one that had to be "postponed" because Eddie's staff forgot about a US holiday weekend!

However, I am sure that there will be a lot of mayors in town this time around. How can that be done you might ask? Very easily. I am told that an "Evening Event" was added to draw the crowds.

On the agenda for July 19, is this item: "DETROIT TIGERS VS. CHICAGO WHITE SOX baseball game! That's right, the hottest ticket in town. The lucky Mayors will arrive at Comerica Park to watch the game from the Detroit Tigers Corporate Box. [I sure hope the Tunnel is not blocked so they miss the first pitch! Oh well, there is always the free-flowing Bridge.]

Now who would not want to see two of the best teams in baseball from a corporate box at no cost! As the Star said today "Tiger fever makes tickets hot commodity." However, I wonder if this would cause a problem for some Mayors if it is perceived as a gift of more than nominal value. I remember politicians telling the media that they paid for their own Super Bowl tickets as an example.

20 Person Suite pricing starts at $1,600 which includes outdoor seating for 11. I believe food and drinks are extra. As the ad for a party suite says:
  • "Eat your food in style in one of the 12 party suites at Comerica Park. Party suites, located down the leftfield line on the upper and lower suite level, are a great place to entertain clients, reward employees or celebrate a special occasion with family, friends or colleagues. Party suites can accommodate your group of 20 to 330. Suites have private restrooms, individually-controlled climate and indoor and outdoor seating."
What's the score? Will all of the invited major league guest speakers come or will they send minor league replacements or will their performance be "rained out?" Will Eddie hit a home run with this pitch to the Mayors to come or will he strike out again?

Oh and don't worry taxpayers. Eddie will tell you that Windsor is not paying for it! I'll let the Star ask who is putting up the funds and report that!

Circling The Wagons

There is full-fledged panic attack taking place at E-Machine HeadQuarters. They are circling the wagons. They have to stop Bill Marra from running for Mayor at all costs. They know that Eddie cannot win once people start looking at his non-record of achievement. The Labour Council attacked Eddie's biggest myth, fiscal responsibility, and the E-Machine did not like it. The counter-attack is on!

One vicious, last ditch effort is being made to discourage Marra and to lead him to the "Promised land," a Ward 4 Council seat. [I hope that Bill is smart enough not to fall for that one. If Eddie is "acclaimed" then Marra will be attacked even more viciously to keep him off of Council entirely. Eddie does not need a competitor!] At the same time a warning is being delivered to any foolhardy soul who dares say a bad word about His Worship!

Imagine, another Henderson column taking a shot at the Labour Council and a Star Editorial as well. Unbelievable! I do not get it though. I thought that Gord suggested that no one listened to the Labour Council any more so why all the print being wasted on something so unimportant.

Shock and Awe tactics just to make sure challengers and critics get the message before the election campaign begins: Don't mess with the Mayor!

Not only that, can you imagine the arm-twisting required to get Councillor Ken Junior, son of the CAW 444 President, to lead the charge against Labour. "Ken Lewenza Jr. believes the labour council is in dire need of new blood and fresh, visionary thinking... "I read it in horror. It showed a lack of class," fumed Lewenza."

It makes my head swim. Eddie through Ken Jr. just told Labour to BUZZ off. [Ed Sleiman and John Fairley, if he runs, better start preparing a victory speech for Ward 4 Council seat. One of them will need it after Ken just committed political suicide!] Now you know the Schwartz border plan is dead since the CAW was a big booster of it. Eddie does not need Labour any more for anything.

As I said before, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Labour Council. It has everything to do with:
  1. Re-elect Eddie for Mayor by discouraging Marra from running
  2. Get Marra to run in Ward 4 and then make sure that he (and Cassivi?) don't win
  3. Labour endorsement is no big deal since Eddie is not going to get it anyway
  4. Preserve the myth of "fiscal responsibility"

Don't you find it hilarious. Another Henderson attack on Marra too. Bill must be splitting his sides with laughter knowing that he is generating such fear at E-Machine HQ merely by saying he is running. Here is what Gord wrote this time:

  • "Lewenza has come out swinging and with good reason. If former Ward 4 councillor and failed mayoral candidate Bill Marra chooses in the next few days to try to reclaim his old seat, that will be the most hotly contested race in November.

    The last thing Lewenza needs at a time like this is a labour council playing into Marra's hands with cheap shots at the current council team."


Now Ken Jr. is not dumb. Why would he be doing this? Well he did suck up to the Mayor on the Urban Village at Council praising him to the point that Eddie had to shut down his microphone. I am sure that Ken knows that it is July and assumes that he can do a "mea culpa" when he needs Labour bodies for his campaign and they will forgive him. Or perhaps he is foolish enough to think that he is an Eddie Francis who needs no one at all to win or that Eddie's coattails will help him win!

I enjoyed the patronizing Editorial by the Star giving Labour an education in Municipal Finance 101. If the Star was doing its job frankly, we would have known by now what "are major issues pending involving the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and Enwin that will consume a significant amount of taxpayer resources." Do you know who was the Councillor who revealed that there was a problem but would not tell us what it was. Why none other than Councillor Budget of Ward 1, the same one that the Star praises so highly!

What financial surprises is the Star not reporting? And why not? I guess they do not want to win any more newspaper awards for investigative journalism.

Have you seen the Star take action after Councillors received a huge salary increase by attending meetings trying to fix Enwin's problems? What will the real cost of the Tunnel Ventilation Building be? What deal is being proposed re leasing and operating the Tunnel? What is the true financial position of the Tunnel after years of low tolls. Even Gord was "damn anxious to know what misery is coming at Enwin and the tunnel."

So why aren't our fiscally responsible Councillors telling us? And where is the Star demanding answers from their favourite, fiscally responsible Mayor and Councillors? Where is the Star demanding open and transparent government?

Are our municipal politicians hiding bad news before an election perhaps? After all, wasn't it the same Councillor Lewenza who told us the truth about this year's "fiscally responsible" election budget:

  • "But Lewenza said there's very little wiggle room in the budget and taxpayers should not expect to see the frugality of the last two budgets repeated next year. "This is probably the last go- around," he said, adding that there will be either higher tax hikes next year or a reduction in services."

If I were Bill Marra, I'd just sit back and enjoy the summer. I'd make the odd comment here and there, be seen around town a bit and give an interview or two. It will drive the E-machine crazy.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Public Scrutiny

"One of the foundations underlying freedom of information is the principle that organizations that exist by virtue of public funding should be subject to public scrutiny through FOI laws."

Toronto Mayor David Miller “Council recently gave direction to city staff to routinely disclose everything possible. That’s our obligation as a government, and if that’s not happening, it will change because that’s the philosophy that I believe in and that city council overwhelmingly believes in as well.”

A Tunnel Question

A reader sent me an interesting comment which I thought I would pass on to see if you, dear reader, had a good explanation for it, other than annoying customers.
  • "What's the deal with no coin tokens?? How can a city not get tokens for the tunnel.

    Now they are using paper. You cannot take your paper token out of the booklet rather you have to have the guy at the toll booth do it. Why?

    And what's the deal with the paper tokens have to be used by September. If I have the coin tokens, I can use them anytime. If I have the paper ones I have to use them by this September.

    The best is have the guy in the booth, try to explain why this is ? I even tried asking the guy at customs and he looked at me like I was from outerspace. Not his problem so don't bother me.."

My guess, look for another big increase in tolls to cover more unexpected Tunnel Ventilation building costs. Costs have increased by $7 million so far to $20 million. I wonder too, given the Transit Windsor $3.5 million subsidy shortfall as reported in the Star, how much is being lost on the Tunnel Bus.

Obviously, the Tunnel does not want people buying paper tokens and giving them out to friends or colleagues. And they do not want coin tokens precisely because they can be used any time.

The other alternative, the Bridge, with its lower tolls, may take away so much business that the Tunnel tolls will have to be reduced! That decision would be made in several months, say by the end of September.

Of course if we had Bill C-3 in force, the Mayor and WTC would complain to the Federal Bureaucrats. Since traffic would have beeen increased at the Bridge, the "flow of traffic" there would no longer be "efficient." Accordingly, the Bridge would be forced by Gvernment to INCREASE its prices to match the new higher ones at the Tunnel.

Weird though, under the Act, the poorer, less successful operator can force the better one to increase prices. So much for protecting the interests of users under this Government! Will Brian Masse take the credit for this part of Bill C-3 too?

I am told that coin tokens are now available!

I Toldo You So

I just cannot figure out what is going on with this arena stuff. I won't even try and tell you what has gone on either.

All I know is that we were to have one downtown, then ran Beztak out of town when they proposed building one there at no cost to us, then we gave exclusivity for several months to the Raceway who wanted $15 million of taxpayer money, then we looked at an East end mega-entertainment complex at a cost of around $80 million that we were going to build on our own and now we have the Raceway again. And in the process we threw out refurbishing the Barn. Does that sum up our near history?

I saw a Star story by Gord Henderson praising the raceway deal. He claims that "Plans for a 6,500-seat arena and entertainment complex at Windsor Raceway are complete and construction of the $38-million project could begin within six months of a green light from city council." Gord makes the obvious statment as well "Given that this is a municipal election year and that city residents have been waiting decades for a new arena to replace the 81-year-old McDougall Street rink, it’s difficult to imagine city councillors turning down an arrangement that limits the city’s financial exposure to $15 million."

Then there was the Star headline on Saturday "Mayor cools arena buzz" The story went on: "the city's mayor says there's a lot more work to be done..."From our perspective, a deal of this nature requires a lot of due diligence and a lot of details to be satisfied," said Mayor Eddie Francis."

Huh, do you get it? I sure don't! Eddie's statement makes it seem like the old Jebb deal that fell apart, "There has to be a solid business plan that justifies this. City council and I are not going to get into a deal that does not make business sense and that doesn't meet the needs of the community. And we continue to ask for information." But would Eddie leave Gord out on a limb like this?

What are the alternatives to consider:

  1. Pretend that we are interested in building an arena to buy time to give the Casino the opportunity to finish their complex and make another arena uneconomic
  2. This is typical Eddie Francis--study something to death to avoid making a decision that could turn out wrong; procedure beats action every time
  3. Kill the idea but do it nicely and blame Council, not the Mayor, since Tony Toldo is an important man
  4. Kill the idea by having Administration do a Report and build an East End arena since there is Councillor support for it
  5. Work over Councillors with Henderson election scare tactics since there is no support for a Raceway arena on Council right now (Before, the Raceway had those Councillors who want the project downtown against them, they had the Budgeteers against them and they have those who believe that Beztak was treated shabbily against them. Now they will have those who committed to an East End arena against them)
  6. It's a done deal but pretend it's on again, off again like the St. Clair/Cleary deal to keep the arena in the headlines for the next few months so that when Eddie pulls it off, he is our hero.

I guess we will all have to wait as this plays itself out. Again

PS. I just read this quote in today's Star which to me sums up Eddie. How many of the points above does it cover:

"Some councillors hoped that could happen as soon as Thursday, when a special meeting is already scheduled, but Francis doubts detailed reports will be ready that soon. At least one city councillor is on vacation, and procedure requires at least a week's notice of meetings, the mayor added...Francis said he wants councilors to have detailed analyses of both proposals so they can clearly decide what's in the city's best interests. "We're working on that," he said. "