Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 04, 2006

MFOIA---The Saga Continues

I do not know if you will find this subject of interest or not but obviously I believe that there are serious principles at play that require that I continue on in my MFOIA matter.

If this interests you, keep on reading. If it bores you, feel free to skip this and other future BLOGS on the topic.

Before I can make an informed decision as to what I will do, there is some basic information that I need from the City. Accordingly, here is what I wrote:

  • To: Chuck Scarpelli
    Manager of Records & Eletions and
    Freedom of Information Coordinator

    Re: FOI 33-2006

    Thank you for your letter dated July 28, 2006.

    Clearly, you have a very good perspective on the records to be disclosed since you seem to know the exact number of pages to be copied.

    In order for me to determine what my next step should be, I would appreciate if you could provide to me the number of records in each of the seven parts of my request. All that you have given me are total numbers.

    I would also appreciate when dealing with each area, if you would also breakdown the records by year.

    As an example, and to be clear, what I am seeking for each of the seven areas is:

    Area #1 Records re plans or proposals to operate…the Detroit- Windsor Tunnel…
    -Total number of records
    -Number of records broken down by year

    Without this information, it is virtually impossible for me to make an informed decision.

    Please also let me know which Departments were contacted.

    With respect to the charge of $30 per hour, please advise how that was determined

    Given the short review period, I would appreciate this information as soon as possible. Please let me know if you cannot complete this request by the close of business on August 4, 2006. In such case, let me know the date when I can have the information.

Are Macquarie And Borealis Leaving Town

I went to a DRTP meeting the other night to see if they had anything new to say on their "Green Solution."

What interested me more however was one of the DRTP people who asked me why I wasn’t supporting a DRTP connection to the Ambassador Bridge to the border. He said that my BLOG gets so much publicity that I should be doing that. His comment reminded me of a similar remark made at the Teshuba conference a few weeks before. That must be the new DRTP mantra.

I thought the comment was an odd one to make. Actually, his comment heartened me. DRTP was finally coming to the realization that their Project did not work and could not. It was confirmation to me that the Bridge Co., no matter what certain bureaucrats may feel, has the only viable crossing alternative. If DRTP was now trying to partner with them, or at least was trying to make me think so, it seemed to me that the Bridge Co. had won.

I asked him why he needed my help. I thought that if they had approached the Bridge Co. and were turned down, nothing I said was going to change the Bridge Co’s mind. They had the technical skills I did not have to make judgments necessary as to whether the connection possibility made sense. If they had not approached the Bridge Co. by now, I wondered why not. What were they afraid of?

In any event, he did not answer my question and I left. It was quite a strange exchange that left me puzzled.

Then I read a news story that may have helped me out by explaining what was going on in the world of infrastructure investors. It was not pretty. It may mean more miseries for municipalities and their employees and taxpayers across Ontario if the situation applies equally to OMERS.

The following story was out of Australia. It set out the problems that infrastructure investments were having. I remembered that OMERS had written down hundreds of millions in investments a few years ago. Given the discussion I had, I wondered if this "Green Solution" push was to get rid of another asset that may have lost value, DRTP.

Since the story was about Macquarie Bank, it got me wondering whether they too were interested in selling out their interest in the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. It still has 14 years left to run. With all of the problems they might have with the Tunnel, it might be a good time to sell, especially if Windsor and Detroit may be trying to do a deal respecting the Tunnel. Why just the other day, we saw that Eddie and DCTC were fighting over the Tunnel, again. It seems that "the city of Windsor's tunnel commission has been opposed to adding more commercial vehicles at the tunnel and has remained at odds with DCTC over its truck plans. "

For DRTP and Macquarie---is it take the money and run from infrastructure investments in Windsor?

If they are going, then the question remains: why should taxpayers think that Eddie is smarter than they are as he does his Border Operator extravaganza using taxpayer money! If he is wrong in what he is doing, what are the consequences to the City?

One final thought; Mark Butler of Transport Canada made a very interesting remark in the Star the other day about the Tunnel. He said "The government's position is the tunnel must be safe, secure and promote cross-border mobility." In fact, the Federal Government intervened with Detroit officials when the Bridge Co. tried to do a deal re the Tunnel.

The question that needs asking is where is the Federal Government in all of this. Do they have any idea of what is going on? Do they know of the Windsor/Detroit dealings and have they decided that their "operational" desires are in the best interest of Canadians? If so, what were the criteria used? Are they intervening to ensure that we are protected? Have they demanded action on the Tunnel security issues?

The Feds wanted Bill C-3. What is their position when there may be issues at the Tunnel and DRTP Corridor! Or do they only act when it is the Bridge Co. that is involved.

Infrastructure funds off highs
Sydney Morning Herald, July 24, 2006

AS MACQUARIE Bank looks to split itself into a banking and infrastructure investment business operating under a holding company, investors in the listed infrastructure funds that have fired Macquarie's growth have faced a year of heavy capital losses.

Most of Macquarie's listed funds, along with those created by its major competitor in the sector, Babcock & Brown, have declined dramatically in the past 12 months despite making significant investments in new assets.

Babcock & Brown Infrastructure is trading down 6 per cent at $1.60 over 12 months and is well off highs of $1.90.

Macquarie Infrastructure Group, the biggest listed vehicle in the Macquarie stable with $7.7 billion in market capitalisation, is down 18 per cent for the year to $3.15 and Macquarie Communications Group, one of the stable's best performers over time, is down 10 per cent for the year to $6.07.

The declines have occurred despite many of the funds spending big on assets.

MIG and partners have invested over $20 billion in roadways on two continents, virtually pioneering private tollways in the US.

BBI has spent over $3 billion on acquisitions in ports, rail and energy infrastructure and been to the markets for a $700 million equity raising.

And the listed infrastructure trusts have performed far worse than the infrastructure index on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The index is up 19 per cent in the past 12 months.

Much of that gain is accounted for by the performance of mixed energy and infrastructure stocks like Australian Gas Light and Alinta which are about to join forces and split into separate energy and infrastructure entities.

But some pure infrastructure plays in that index have performed better, with Australian Pipeline Trust and the Hastings Utilities Fund both turning in positive performances for the year.

The listed offshoots of the investment banks appear to have performed so poorly because their growth prospects are seen as being linked closely to the interest rate cycle.

Burdened with heavy debt loads, there are market concerns a rise in interest rates will result in disappointing performances.

Shaw Stockbroking analyst John Colnan said this view was overstated as most of the funds had their debt locked in with hedging deals for up to five years, meaning it would take much more than a short term rate rise to dramatically affect them.

But interest rates are an important driver of their share prices as institutions trade them according to the direction of long-term bond rates.

If rates rise, the institutions will sell infrastructure trusts and buy bonds.


BEWARE, this BLOG contains subliminal messaging that may help you decide where a new arena should go and who should build it! READ THIS BLOG AT YOUR OWN RISK.

The arena issue will not be decided by a bunch of City Administrators crunching numbers to prove whether an East End arena, the Raceway arena or the status quo is the best choice.

The arena issue will not be decided as to which location makes the most sense from a tourist, financial or community perspective.

The arena issue will not be decided by which proposal will build more ice pads or bring in the better entertainers or will attract more hockey tournaments or will lead to more hotels and office buildings being built.


The arena issue will be decided politically. Why else did the Toldo and Rosati families go public to end-run the Mayor’s tactics. In fact, the politics have started. The Families hosted a lunch yesterday for an overflow crowd of civic leaders at the Caboto Club to whom they introduced their concept. The response was generally positive, especially respecting the financing.

The underlying tone of some of the discussions amongst participants at the session was very interesting for a political junkie like me. In a sense, it was not an arena being discussed but the style of governance in this City over the last 3 years and what would happen in the next 4 years if things did not change. It proved to me at least that Eddie Francis and a number of the Councillors are very beatable! Given the attendees, the incumbents should be running scared.


From what was said, the Raceway arena seems to be the best choice. [I wanted an arena downtown frankly, but that is never going to happen. And refurbishing the Barn is out even though it will be located at the entrance to the new Tunnel Plaza, an ideal location]. And not just because it will be run by private enterprise rather than City functionaries.

They are ready to go within a few short years. They talk about being ready by the 2008/2009 hockey season. Do you really believe that a City project can be done that quickly!


The Families have said that the City’s financial involvement is $15 million, maximum. [In a clever aside, they state "Since 1999, the City of Windsor has received $18.5 Million in non tax revenue from the Windsor Raceway slot program. The City is only required to re-invest $15 Million of those non tax dollars."] The Families will be responsible for any losses or deficits or overruns. Their money will be at stake, about $23 million so they have a lot to lose if it does not work out. With the East end arena, it is just the unlimited taxpayer funds at risk. The City arena cost has started at $55 million plus extra costs that a Councillor has told me would bring it up to the $75-80 million range plus we know that there will be Megaproject overruns.

The Raceway architectural firms are world-class and experienced in arena design.


There are synergies that can turn the arena into a Destination that can complement the Casino and not be viewed as a competitor. After all, Vegas has more than one Casino and Detroit will have three of them. There is no reason why both organizations cannot work together with the Convention Bureau to attract people to the Windsor area to spend at both.

Moreover, as Raceway revenues increase, the share to the City increases as well. As I said above, the City of Windsor has received $18.5 Million from the Windsor Raceway slot program.”

But the big differentiator: THE RACEWAY HAS WAYNE GRETZKY!

Given the number of attendees and the reactions at the Families' session, Council will be hard-pressed to be able to justify what they seem to be hell-bent to do, especially in an election year. I guess what really bothers me is the justification for a City-run arena as quoted by Gord Henderson:
  • “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.”

Frankly, those "torrents of money" rising to $36.4 million is my cash, taxpayer money, that is available, yours and mine. I’d like it back into my pocket-book thank you very much as a tax reduction. I do not want it available for spending by monument builders for "big projects" as Gord’s comment seems to suggest. It is not theirs to play with as entrepreneurs to be an arena or border operator but is for municipal purposes or to be given back to us.


I could go on and on, but I will leave you with an editorial that the Star published back in April, 2005.

Arena debate: Protecting tax dollars;
Windsor Star 04-19-2005

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is boldly predicting the city can leave more than 20 years of frustrating failure behind it and finally ensure long-suffering residents get the new arena they deserve

It's a brave pledge, given this city's embarrassing history of false starts and missed opportunities, but Francis insisted this council could pull it off after emerging from an 8-hour strategic planning session recently. Councillor Alan Halberstadt one-upped him, calling for the shovel to be in the ground within 18 months.

The city has already committed $15 million for the arena project and, before his state of the city address next week, Francis wants council to hammer out a proposed location, projected budget and list of wants and demands for potential developers.

Before council even begins to debate specifics like location, it must provide taxpayers with an ironclad guarantee they will be protected. Council must make it explicitly clear the city will not pay one penny more than the money already set aside. In fact, the city should strive to spend even less.

Arenas can be profitable ventures and there's every reason to believe a new arena in Windsor, if built and managed prudently, would turn a regular profit. The city shouldn't shy away from entering into a private-sector partnership but should do so only cautiously while guaranteeing taxpayers won't be left holding the bag for cost overruns or ongoing operational costs.

Francis is right to be optimistic in pursuit of the long-elusive arena because recent developments allow council to blaze a new path, free from the constraints of the past. Successive councils have long held fast to building an arena on the City Centre West lands adjacent to the Art Gallery, believing it would create a bookend to Casino Windsor to lure shoppers east and west along downtown arteries.

But the $400-million expansion of Casino Windsor means council can now look at more practical locations for a new arena. The expansion will create a sprawling convention centre, a 23-storey hotel and a 5,000 seat auditorium on the eastern edge of downtown, eliminating the need for a multi-use entertainment facility on the core's western edge. An arena on the City Centre West lands wouldn't complement the Casino expansion. It would compete with it and likely lose the battle.

A top-notch arena at Windsor Raceway is starting to look far more attractive given the casino expansion. It would create another critical entertainment mass and tourist draw and would serve as the centrepiece of a rapidly growing residential and commercial area easily accessible to county and city residents alike.

Parking wouldn't be a problem and the site is easily accessible. There is also more room at Windsor Raceway, meaning additional ice pads could be built to complement the large centre pad and help address this region's chronic ice shortage woes.

The casino expansion means the city no longer needs a multi-use entertainment facility in the core. It needs a new home for the Spitfires and their loyal fans and it needs a top-notch facility dedicated to hockey and figure skating. This city doesn't need another Taj Mahelephant. It needs a new arena and it needed it yesterday.

Locating the arena at Windsor Raceway would also free the City Centre West lands for sorely needed development. An eclectic mix of residential and commercial units in the shade of the Art Gallery would generate the east-west foot traffic the city so desires, encouraging a rebirth of the downtown retail sector.”


Thursday, August 03, 2006

More To Come

I have not given up in getting the documents I requested in the face of a $100,000+ bill from the City. I'll keep you advised as the saga continues. Here is part of what one reader said to me:


You do not know me but, maybe that will change. I have become an avid reader and in fact very much look forward to your daily writings. I have been following your Freedom of Information request with special interest.

Reading your column today, it is apparent to me that you have just discovered or are about to realize the true nature of things. The name of the legislation under which you are seeking information is "Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act".

If you actually thought you were just after "Freedom of Information" then you are under a misconceived conception. This legislation is not about the Public's access to information or right to know but, more about how the Government can legally keep any information it wants from you.

As far as what to do with your present request, hopefully you are independently wealthy because City Hall should be put on the spot for some accountability.

In closing may I remind you of a constant.

Government has 2 things going for it, unlimited time and unlimited money.

The second is important because it is your money being used against you."

Is Dwight Losing His Bet

I just did not have the space to run this BLOG when I first started writing it. It kept getting bumped by other BLOGS. I updated it however as news stories were published. Clearly, today is the day it MUST be run after the news about the Bingo Company's Receivership.

Here is what Dwight Duncan, our MPP and Cabinet Minister, said, "It will be an initially short-term decline, but things will pick up. In six months, we'll see who's right and who's wrong...we will monitor this very carefully."

I know it is not six months yet. But those darn gloom and doomers about the No Smoking laws are getting me down. Why can't they be upbeat like Dwight Duncan?

I am sure you read what Ken Lewenza said about the Casino recently:
  • "They call it labour adjustment. I call it layoffs," Lewenza said. "I have no doubt they will be announcing layoffs. We're already starting to see the first signs with our part-timers. I was shocked to learn from my members that no part-timers have been scheduled to work over the July 1st weekend."
John Fairley of the bingo industry also said a few weeks ago:
  • "There could be a realignment with hall closures on the horizon," said John Fairley, vice-president of marketing at CBC Bingo Group, which employs more than 400 workers at its seven bingo halls in Windsor and Tecumseh.

    "We could see fewer bingo halls."

    Although no job cuts were announced Monday, Fairley did disclose bingo sessions at two of its halls in Windsor -- Big D Bingo Emporium and Hollywood -- would drop by 18 hours a week starting July 7."
Dwight Duncan, the optimist, said that he did not "share their pessimism" ie Report prepared for the City on the consequences of the No Smoking law on our Community.

So what's been going on as is reported in the media:
  • Profit from charity bingos in Windsor plunged almost 40 per cent between 1999 and 2005, forcing some organizations to cut programs and staffing.
  • The crippling impact of the strong loonie, anti-smoking legislation as well as high gasoline prices is prompting the shutdown of a Windsor bingo hall, and fuelling the possibility of further closures in an industry still reeling from the fallout of the 9-11 attacks.
  • Nearly a month into Ontario's smoking ban, Windsor bingo hall operators say many Michigan customers are staying home.
  • Brentwood cuts beds, staff: the centre continues to depend on money from donations, bingo events and an annual lottery...the recent closure of Derby Bingo was a major blow to Brentwood's funding
  • Casino Windsor announced more than 300 layoffs Wednesday, citing a declining exchange rate, border issues, gas prices and the provincewide smoking ban as blows to its revenue and attendance...Ward said the company has seen a 20- to 30-per-cent decline in business since the smoking ban came into effect May 31.
  • A $124,000 ad campaign is being launched in Michigan, touting Windsor as a "smoke-free, hassle-free" tourist destination. The province of Ontario will contribute $48,000 to help the area's convention and visitors bureau advertise Windsor's new smoke-free status.

Now don't tell me that Dwight should not be appearing at some of those big poker tournaments. That man has a poker face and has nerves of steel as he bluffs his way through this crisis in his home town. Did he forget that he is no longer Minister of Finance and can demand more money on behalf of his constituents.

Dwight said recently in a Star story:

  • The $400-million Casino Windsor expansion will eventually win back U.S. gamblers lost because of a falling Canadian dollar, border delays and new anti-smoking bylaw (so now we have to wait years to prove Dwight!)
  • It also would be wrong to point to the provincial smoking ban as the sole factor in the casino's recent declining fortunes, Duncan said. (Only 20-30% drop in business since the no smoking law came in!)
  • Crowds are still there and there are 3,000 people working there (sure but smaller crowds and fewer employees now than before)

For his sake and electoral future, I sure hope that he is holding a Royal Flush!

UPDATE: The Star reported that "Ontario's chief medical officer said the provincial smoking ban should not cause permanent damage and could result in business increases."

Really. Would you think that Dr. Sheela Basrur would have said otherwise! "Some establishments could face "a term of adjustment." That's political-speak for going out of business.

UPDATE#2 The Star reported today about the Receivership of CBC Bingo that operates six of the city's seven bingo parlours. John Fairley said that the Company experienced "a drop in attendance of eight per cent and a 20 per cent drop in revenues within the last few months alone"

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

$101,089.00 MFOIA Answer

Well dear reader, I finally received my Municipal Freedom of Information Letter from the City. When I started the process I wrote:
  • I just do not have the patience any longer to wait for City Hall to provide open and transparent Government on the border file so I thought I would spend my $5 application fee and file a Municipal Freedom of Information Act application...

    Information is supposed to be provided to me within 30 days of the date of my request. Of course, I do not expect that to happen.

    There is a section that allows for an extention of the time limit set out for a period of time that is reasonable in the circumstances. I am sure that will be used first.

    And you know that solicitor-client privilege will be used to deny information as will certain other exemptions dealing with confidential "commercial" or "financial" matters.

    Why I would not be surprised if this disclosure did not occur until after the next Municipal election.
I have to admit that what was accomplished was expected but not exactly in the manner of doing so. No matter what happens, unfortunately, no information will be made available before the next municipal election on the areas that I was interested in. [BLOG June 29, 2006 MFOIA--Open And Transparent Government]

I will let you read for yourself what was said without any further comment on my part. If you were in my shoes, what would you do? I am not going to telegraph my strategy but I would be interested in your thoughts.

July 28, 2006

Dear Mr. Arditti

Re: Freedom of Information request – FOI 33-2006

This office received your Freedom of Information request June 28, 2006 for access to City records (copy attached).

I am informing you that all City departments were contacted and responsive records pertaining to your request were located. Your request, as submitted, will require a lengthy manual search through a large number of files by specific staff in each department. Many of these files are located off-site.

Under these circumstances the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows a municipality to implement a user-pay principal in order to complete your seven-part request.

Based on my review of a representative sample of the records obtained from each of these departments, the total fees to process your request are estimated to be $101,089.00. These records consist of letters, drawings, designs, minutes, agendas, plans, agreements, budgets, financial records, capital project documentation and correspondence.

The fee estimate is broken down as follows for manually searching, preparing and photocopying the records:

Searching Time

Search time is calculated by taking into account the actions necessary to locate the requested records and how the records are stored and maintained as well as the actual amount of time needed in each step of locating the requested records. (Fees, Fee Estimates and Fee Waivers for Requests Under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Guidelines for Government Institutions, IPC):

Search time for your request: 1060 hours @ $30.00/hour= $31, 815.00

Preparation Time

Preparation time is calculated for the actual records to be disclosed and includes the time spent on severing records, generally 2.00 minutes per page (Order P-4) since many of the documents may require multiple severing. (Fees, Fee Estimates and Fee Waivers for Requests Under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Guidelines for Government Institutions, IPC):

Preparation time for your request: 115,458 minutes/1924.3 hours @ $30.00/hours = $57,729.00

Photocopying Costs

Photocopying costs are generally charged for each page that is photocopied and/or printed from a computer. (Fees, Fee Estimates and Fee Waivers for Requests Under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Guidelines for Government Institutions, IPC):
Photocopying cost for your request: 57,729 @ $0.20 = $11,545.80.80

As we have not yet completed the search and reviewed all of the records in detail, no final decision has been made regarding access. I estimate partial access to the records will be granted, however the City may be relying on Section 6,7,10,11, and 12, Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

You are required to pay 50% of the above fee estimate by certified cheque which has been calculated at $50,544.90.

Under the Act, I will not proceed further with your request until the City Clerk has received this amount.

The Act also provides that all or part of the fee can be waived, if, in our opinion, it is fair and equitable to do so, in certain circumstances. Please find enclosed a copy of section 45 of the Act and section 8 of Regulation 823. You may be required to provide evidence in support of any fee waiver request. Please notify me as soon as possible if you wish to proceed with a request for a fee waiver.

Due to the large number of records involved in your request, under Section 20, Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, I will be exercising an extension of 10 months in order to complete your request. This will allow 11 staff persons (1 from each department) two hours per week, representing 6.0% of each staff person’s time per week, to work on your request.

You may ask for a review of this interim decision regarding the fee estimate and the time extension, only, within 30 days of receiving this letter by writing to: The Information and Privacy Commission/Ontario, 2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400, Toronto Ontario M4W 1A8, Telephone: 416-326-3333 or toll-free 1-800-387-0073.

If you decide to request a review of this decision, please provide the Commissioner’s Office with the following:

The file number listed at the beginning of this letter;
A copy of this decision letter;
A copy of the original request for information you sent to our institution; and
The reasons why you believe the records exist (if the decision was that no records exist).

In addition you must send an appeal fee to the Commissioner’s Office. If your request was for your personal information, the appeal fee is $10.00 The appeal fee for all other requests for information is $25.00. Please include the fee with your letter of appeal – appeal fees should be in the form of either a cheque or money order, payable to the Minister of Finance.

If you have questions or wish to narrow your original request, which could significantly reduce the above costs, you may contact me at 519-255-6285.

Yours very truly,

Chuck Scarpelli
Manager of Records & Elections and Freedom of Information Coordinator

Ken Lewenza Jr's Last Gasp

I just cannot believe it. If a Star "news" story deals with elections in the least little bit, Bill Marra gets slammed.

To the friends of Bill who have been encouraging him to run in Ward 4 because it will be "easier" for him, take a look at the Star story today "More candidates sign up." It was basically a non-story other than Percy Hatfield running and John Fairley not running.

So why was it published---to scare off Marra again and to encourage him to run in four years ("Mayor Eddie Francis is expected to seek a second term. He has said he will limit himself to two terms.") but more importantly because the E-machine is going crazy trying to figure out what Marra is going to do. It was meant to draw him out to make a decision! And who knows, this is probably part of Marra's strategy. It is so funny I might have advised him to do that too if I were working for his campaign team (I am NOT by the way so I hope another rumour will not be spread)

As for Junior, he had better get some political handlers if he intends to run for Joe Comartin's Federal seat if the rumour that Joe is retiring is true. He better learn to stop being used by the E-machine to go after Marra. Lewenza was in the "offensive mode" all right. If Francis did not dare attack Marra negatively last time around, Lewenza better be careful calling Marra nasty names as he did in the story.

Lewenza I am afraid has his problems. He did not make many Labour friends with his anti-Labour Council diatribe. I thought it was hilarious when Gary Parent was interviewed on Face-to-Face and said that Ken was "taken out of context" by Gord, whatever that means. That was the best he could come up with to try and salvage Junior's position.

If Lewenza was misquoted, why doesn't he have the guts to attack Henderson and say so if he is in such an "offensive mode?" Is he too afraid of the Star? If he was quoted accurately, then he just set up Gary Parent and gave him a feeble excuse to use that no one would ever believe.

Ken Jr. said that he looks forward "to getting out to talk with the constituents, this time with a record as opposed to last time when I didn't have a record." Unfortunately for him, the electorate may also know this time for whom they are voting and know of his record.

I like Ken Jr. and at one time thought he had a chance to be Mayor one day. Right now, I cannot see him beating Ed Sleiman for the second seat on Council in Ward 4 after Cassivi. I have met Ed and know that he is passionate about the City. Provided that Ed runs the same effective campaign as last time, he and David Cassivi will make a great team on Council for Ward 4.

Poor Ken. Another one term wonder?

The Speaker's $3.5 Billion Challenge

I do not claim to be an expert in American Political Science but I do know that the Speaker of the House in Michigan is one of the most powerful figures in Michigan State Government. The Michigan House website states:
  • "Leadership in the House is headed by the Speaker of the House...who makes committee appointments and designates which committee(s) each Representative will serve on."

Therefore, when the Speaker says something, then politicians whether a Governor (or someone running for Governor) or a head of a Department like MDOT better listen or one's political life could be quite unpleasant.

The Speaker, Craig DeRoche, issued a Press Release on the border that effectively warns the Governor and MDOT not to spend more money on DRIC and invites the Governor's opponent to support what he has said. It is one of the last chances that the Governor will have to act decisively on this issue and do something because Mr. Devos will. There is about $3.5 billion at risk being the cost of the new bridge and the Federal matching grants.

Read not only what the Speaker says very carefully but how he says it to understand how significant this Press Release will be for the next election and what will happen next. He is not talking about a few dollars either so it can grab the attention of voters quickly.

In my view, the Republicans have the Governor right where they want her on this issue, painting her as a spendthrift, not building needed roads and anti-Detroit. How will she react and is it now too late anyway?

Imagine, the City of Windsor helping to decide the Michigan Governor's election. And you had better believe that the Mayor's failure to fix the road to the border will be front and centre as well as we are used as the excuse for the broder crossing failure.
  • "For Immediate Release

    August 1, 2006

    DeRoche calls on governor and MDOT to reform river crossing process
    Keep important projects online - Don’t leave taxpayers footing the bill

    With the state transportation budget awaiting the governor’s signature, House Speaker Craig DeRoche today repeated his call that plans to add a crossing spanning the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor be fair to public and private interests, mindful of costs to state taxpayers and not put at risk important infrastructure projects throughout the state.

    “Massachusetts’ Big Dig should be Michigan’s big wake-up call,” said Speaker DeRoche, R-Novi.

    “If the governor and MDOT want to help the motorists of Michigan, they will do a better job ensuring the process is open to all parties and make sure taxpayers aren’t left footing the bill for a potential government boondoggle. That’s why the Legislature acted to put taxpayer protection language into the budget. I hope the governor will sign it, and MDOT will follow it.”

    As legislative hearings have revealed, MDOT, throughout the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) process, has curtailed opportunities for the project to be built, owned and operated by a private entity that would shoulder the expenses instead of taxpayers. In addition, public and community comment sought by MDOT and delivered in hearings appears to have been ignored by the department. In response to this and other concerns, the Legislature passed a budget amendment that allows no public funds to be used for the design or property acquisition by MDOT.

    “Coming from a county with massive infrastructure needs, I am very concerned that MDOT’s spending plans not only will rely completely on taxpayers, but will take away from other critical road needs in our state,” DeRoche concluded. “When we are talking about this much money, that is unacceptable.”


    NOTE: Below is the language contained in the conference committee report for the Michigan Department of Transportation budget:

    Sec. 384. The department shall not, directly or indirectly, expend any funds appropriated in Part 1 for design or right of way acquisition associated with a new crossing of the Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Where a person requests access to a record, the head of the institution to which the request is made ... shall... within thirty days after the request is received,
(a) give written notice to the person who made the request as to whether or not access to the record or a part of it will be given; and

(b) if access is to be given, give the person who made the request access to the record or part, and if necessary for the purpose cause the record to be produced.

SHHHHHHH Quiet In The Library

Do you recall the war between Council and the Library Board? The Star reported

  • "A deeply divided Windsor city council spent several hours Monday debating the merits of ordering an audit of Windsor library operations, with some councillors describing the move as "a witch hunt" and others saying it was necessitated by tips to the city's hotline over "possible fraud."
In the past, there were e-mails claiming computer equipment was stolen and anonymous tips about improprieties at the Library. No one seemed to know what the issues were but it may have had to do with what Councillor Budget said in the past "I believe the library should become a department of the city because we fund it to the tune of about $8 million, which is 90 per cent of its budget."

Well Council passed a Resolution and agreed to spend $65,000 to retain KPMG to do an audit:

  • CR170/2006

    That an independent financial and operational audit of the Windsor Public Library Services BE COMPLETED by KPMG in the form of a collaborative approach; and

    That this review ENCOMPASS the following:
    -A review and commentary on the effectiveness of corrective actions taken and implemented to address issues identified in the 2003 and 2004 External Auditor Management Letters;
    -A review of the appropriateness and adequacy of specified key management systems, controls and practices, including governance practices; and
    -A review of the effectiveness of specific key programs and operations; and further,

    That a Project Steering Committee BE ESTABLISHED to confirm the scope and objectives of the initiative, and that it BE COMPRISED of Roger Bryan - KPMG, as Project Coordinator; the General Manager of Client Services; the Coordinator of Risk Management; the Executive Assistant - Client Services; along with participation by Library staff (as appointed by the Windsor Public Library Board); and,

    That a budget of up to $65,000 BE FUNDED through the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund (139) to cover the professional fees of KPMG for the operational review; and

    That no senior level hirings at the Windsor Public Library be considered, until the completion of the operational review.


It appears that KPMG has completed its Report. It will be on the agenda at the next Council meeting. You would think that since there were serious allegations of impropriety that the complete Report should be available to the public. After all, money was taken out of the Slush Fund for unexpected expenditures to pay for it. If I were on the Library Board or was a member of Library management, I would demand it. If I were on Council, I would want to clear the air.

So I asked for a copy of the Report since it was not on the City's website. Silly me. I thought we had open and transparent government in Windsor. Here is the response I received from Steve Vlachodimos, Deputy Clerk:

  • "Thank you for your email respecting the Operational Review of the Windsor Public Library.

    Please note that the report indicates that the KPMG report is confidential in nature and has been distributed to the Mayor and Members of Council only."
Here is my reply:

  • "What is the legal basis for withholding the Report considering that taxpayers paid for it and it is on the Agenda for delegations to appear.

    The Report from Administration does not say that it is confidential (except in a reference re the Appendices.) In any event, by discussing it in the Report, confidentiality has been waived. I am sure that Mr. Wilkki will agree.

    Please provide me with a copy."

So far I have received no response.

But can you believe it! The Report is CONFIDENTIAL. I do not know if I should laugh or I should cry. The secrecy of this Council is incredible. Taxpayers pay for the Report and only the Mayor and Council can see it. Ridiculous.

What are they afraid of? They are so quick to claim that there is something wrong at the Library and to point the finger but so scared to release the results. Why? Does it mean that there was no problem and $65,000 was wasted. Does it mean that their rationale for doing whatever they wanted to do with the Library failed and they will have to make up some other excuse.

Where is the leadership by the Mayor in this? It's a farce already!

UPDATE---Here is the response I received

  • Further to your email of yesterday afternoon, yes, indeed the KPMG report is confidential as there are personnel matter references contained in that report.


    Steve Vlachodimos
    Deputy City Clerk

Of course, the "personnel"matters could be removed couldn't they! So I'll make that suggestion. I just need the balance right now.

Tunnel Mystery Revealed

I wrote the other day “There are too many strange Tunnel stories coming out in the media all of a sudden. There is something happening behind the scenes. It will come out soon I am sure.”

It did. The Today’s Trucking article on "a group of United States Congressmen and Senators seeking clarification on Homeland Security's apparent plans to expand commercial traffic processing at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel" and my reader who asked a question about the Tunnel helped me figure it out. He asked me another question:
  • "So why do we have to use up our paper one's by September. (says right on the paper) Why can't we exchange coin for paper ones?"
I just hate it sometimes when readers send me questions to try and answer. It makes me stay up half the night trying to figure out what is going on.

I am sure that there is a very simple explanation for it eg not to let people hoard paper tokens to keep their costs down and deprive the Tunnel of needed revenues. However, I have learned that with this Mayor nothing is obvious on its face. One always has to look deeper.

In the Star recently, we see that Eddie and DCTC are fighting over the Tunnel, again. It seems that
  • "the city of Windsor's tunnel commission has been opposed to adding more commercial vehicles at the tunnel and has remained at odds with DCTC over its truck plans. The city owns the Canadian side of the tunnel."

    "From the tunnel commission's perspective, we want the tunnel to be commuter- and car-friendly," said Mayor Eddie Francis, chairman of the tunnel commission. "We are focused on that."
Of course that statement is utter nonsense if one looks at the new Tunnel Plaza plans. That plan includes truck lanes and an "on-site Canada-bound truck secondary inspection area."

So here is Eddie picking a fight with DCTC. The final proof of my theory.

Now, as I have demonstrated, Eddie is a known procrastinator---why take action when you can study something to death instead. And he hates to make a decision because he could be wrong. But this September deadline bothered me.

If I am like Eddie, I work backwards from key dates to plan a strategy. Obviously the key date for him now is November 13, election day. Eddie obviously wants something to happen by the end of September so that he can use the event to boost his re-election bid.

The answer I think is that Eddie is hoping to conclude a deal on the Tunnel by that date. Exactly what that deal is to be and with whom is still unclear. But it does have to do with owning/operating/managing/financing the Tunnel, probably with the City of Detroit. He has to have it done by that date. What if he is no longer Mayor after November 13!

I have learned that, around the end of June, representatives of the City of Windsor met with Derrick Miller and other City of Detroit representatives, including someone from the consulting firm of Goldman Sachs, to began discussions about the Tunnel. The discussions were preliminary since both sides are in their information gathering mode re the operations of the Tunnel. There is no set timetable to determine what the best arrangement should be between the cities but it is for a joint operation of the Tunnel.

Since Windsor's deal with DCTC ends 2007, the City of Windsor is extremely interested in determining the best solution. I thought Detroit's DCTC deal ended in 2020. [And no wonder Eddie is fighting with DCTC...Let them know it will be years of hell working with him while they are running the Detroit side. Since he controls the Windsor side, he can make sure few trucks can be cleared by Canadian Customs if he chooses to minimize truck lanes in the new Plaza]. If so, obviously then, it would seem that Windsor is pushing the deal but clearly Detroit needs the money too. Detroit Councillors were reminded that the topic of the possible joint Detroit/Windsor management agreement was on the agenda at the joint meeting of the Detroit and Windsor City Councils in February.

I also am told that Windsor has hired PriceWaterhouseCoppers to assist in determining the value of the Windsor tunnel. The City of Detroit is using Goldman Sachs to assist in determining the value of the Detroit tunnel.

In my opinion, this is all part of the Eddie Plan to own/operate/lease or even sell the Tunnel to generate what he thinks will be huge dollars for his other ambitious Plans, whatever they may be. Just like his friend Mayor Daley in Chicago. Or it may be "securitizing revenues the City of Detroit receives from the USA side of the tunnel" as Detroit's Administration proposed last Fall along with Windsor revenues. Remember the infamous Agenda Item #5 when the Mayor and Council cut and ran after many citizens groups appeared as delegations to oppose what the City wanted to do! That was to give Eddie the legal justification to do what he wanted to do.

Eddie has obviously been trying to do an end-run around the Mayor of Detroit since he had signed a deal with the Bridge Co. respecting the Tunnel, which deal has been tabled. Why else would it have been Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr attending at Eddie's State of The City speech? Why else were the West End activists and politicians allowed by the Mayor to have the bus tour of Sandwich with the Detroit people? Make friends with Detroit Council and let THEM pressure the Kwame's office when required. Let them do Eddie's work since he was just a "snowplower" to Kwame.

The fact that the Derrick Miller is involved is an interesting point. Has Kwame given his blessing? Have the two Mayors made up now that Kwame co-hosted the Mayor's summit? I wonder what the Windsor Councillors know of this initiative. Probably nothing or the barest minimum.

An official in Detroit had conversations with City of Windsor officials about the potential benefits of a joint Detroit-Windsor management agreement regarding the operations of the Tunnel. After all, Windsor receives around $6.6 million in net revenue from the Canadian portion of the Tunnel and the City of Detroit receives about $700,000 in lease revenue. In fact, Windsor may be receiving even more than what they told Detroit since it has paid off its loans and has all of that extra interest money that it no longer pays out. It was suggested that a joint management agreement between the cities of Detroit/Windsor is worth exploring because joint marketing efforts of the two cities could further maximize revenues of the Tunnel for the cities to jointly benefit from.

It would seem to me that in any deal, Windsor is going to have to share in some of its income with Detroit or there will be no deal. After all, Detroit's population is 10 times ours yet we make 10 times the revenue.

How will this loss of income to Windsor be explained? It won't!

Probably the way it will be done is to work out a ratio and if the entire Tunnel is leased out together (in this case a whole is worth more than the two halves) we will only be told the big number and not how much this "sharing" with Detroit has cost us. As an example we will be told we have "X" per cent of some huge multi-million dollar amount. Few will ask how the amount was calculated and did it make sense. How can one argue against this huge influx of money? We will be told that the "X" amount is so much greater than Windsor could have achieved on its own that we should be overjoyed at our Mayor's brilliance.

It is not going to be an easy slam-dunk. Clearly before this deal will be done, both sides and their advisors and any potential finance source will have to undertake their due diligence to value the Tunnel assets and its potential revenue stream over a good number of years, probably 50-75 or more.

And with some of the doubts that are coming out over the Tunnel in the media….It should be interesting to see who may bid or whether anyone will.

If I were a betting man, I would not be surprised to see Mike Hurst involved in this before the deal is done. Remember what the Schwartz Plan proposed about a Tunnel.

Did Schwartz's concept signal something that we should have picked up long ago? That got me to wondering about what has really been going on for the past few years since so many things do not make sense. I have this theory...But that is for another BLOG.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Heading Into August

Exemptions not to apply

Sec 16. An exemption from disclosure of a record ... does not apply if a compelling public interest in the disclosure of the record clearly outweighs the purpose of the exemption.

DesRosiers On The Michigan vs. Ontario Auto Fight

The following is a commentary I received which I thought you would find of interest. I suspect that the information provided will be very interesting for the Devos and Granholm Michigan Governor's race. The numbers ought to worry the Governor.

It certainly makes one wonder as a resident of Windsor what our new Economic Development Commission will do. Probably little, since it has no Executive Director appointed yet. Surprise, surprise.

It was the best of times (Ontario) is was the worst of times (Michigan).

The final vehicle production by State and Province is now available and Ontario maintained a comfortable lead over Michigan as the number one jurisdiction in North America for the production of vehicles. In 2005 Ontario produced 2,675,788 vehicles and Michigan produced 2,516,633 vehicles. Ontario first out produced Michigan in 2004 and grew its lead over Michigan in 2005. We first started tracking production by state and province in 1985 and in that year Michigan produced 3.29 million vehicles compared to Ontario's 1.75 million vehicles. Michigan has lost 769,126 units of production while Ontario has gained 925,488 million units of production.

Michigan has obviously been hurt by the declining fortunes of GM, Ford and DCX and will likely see even more production declines as the current restructuring of these companies play themselves out. In addition, Michigan is highly unionized and has only attracted one new domestic producer (Mazda - Flat Rock) while Ontario has four new domestic plants (Honda -2, Toyota and CAMI) and is about to see a fifth when Toyota opens next year). Ontario also spent most of the last two decades aggressive promoting investments with the Japanese and welcoming them into our province while Michigan politicians, at all levels of Government, spent most of the last two decades fighting (bad mouthing would be a better phrase to use) the import nameplate companies arguing for quota's, tariffs etc and in general being negative to any and all import nameplates. A good friend of mine in the development community has always said that "Business goes where it is wanted and stays where it is appreciated". From that perspective, Michigan could learn a lesson from Ontario and Alabama and Kentucky and Mississippi and Tennessee, etc .. for that matter.

Other top producing areas include Ohio at 1.79 million units, Kentucky and Missouri at 1.15 million units, Indiana at 773 thousand units, Tennessee at 693 thousand units, Alabama at 479 thousand units, Illinois at 455 thousand units and California at 422 thousand units.

I find it very interesting to also look at the change over the last 20 years. Ontario is not only the top producing jurisdiction but also is the number one growth area for vehicle production with production up 925 thousand units. Michigan has seen the largest decline in production, down 769 thousand units. The US South has seen significant increases (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) as well as Mexico (Coahuila, Aguascalientes, Puebla and Guanajuato). But Ontario remains number one in both overall volume and change in volume since 1985 and arguably is the best jurisdiction anywhere in North America for the production of vehicles.

It is going to be tough but Ontario should be able to maintain and possibly grow its production over the next few years. We know that Toyota is adding a significant plant in Cambridge and GM, Ford and DCX have all re-committed to most of their plants in Canada. Honda has two significant plants and is holding its own. And CAMI is finally getting full use of its capacity in Ingersol. There might be some lost production at GM and Ford with their restructurings announced last fall and in January but the Toyota investment should offset these losses. The thing that is impossible to predict is whether the vehicles we produce in Ontario will continue to strike a chord with consumers. In some respects, Ontario's spectacular production performance has been related as much to the vehicle mix produced in Canada as to the investment commitment from the various OEMs. There is no reason to believe that this won't continue but you never know. We have very little exposure to the fastest declining market segments in North America (large and luxury SUV's) but we have fairly high exposure to mid sized vehicles (mini vans and intermediate cars). All these segments are under siege at consumers move down market to entry level vehicles and up market to luxury products. We also have high exposure to pick up trucks. The commercial use side of this market should be solid but the personal use side of the pick up truck market is soft.

I believe our vehicle production position is as much related to the market as it is to investment commitments and the cost of doing business in Canada versus the US or Mexico. This will tell the tale over the next few years.

A True International Spectacle For Sin City

If you thought the baseball All-star game was big in this area, if you thought that Super Bowl was big, if you think that Wrestlemania will be big, you have no idea how big this event will be for Windsor-Detroit and it will take place soon.

We lost the Rolling Stones for heaven's sake. We need something big to match that.

We need the Mayor out there promoting an event that will be a true international spectacle with the world's media beating a path to Detroit. A famous Canadian and American are involved! It's a union between Detroit's Favorite Son, whose father was a Detroit-area car dealer, and one of Canada's biggest star.

I can think of several Windsor tie-ins to capitalize on the event but I will let the Mayor's Office figure out the best way to do it. I just hope the Mayor and Council do not ask Administration to do a study on this first since that is the process that must be followed before this Mayor will move.

Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock Tie the Knot
By Courtney Rubin, Dana Kennedy and Nancy Wilson

Rock and Anderson


Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock had a wedding ceremony Saturday on a yacht in Saint-Tropez, PEOPLE has confirmed.

"She was the most beautiful bride I've ever seen – like a modern-day Brigitte Bardot," Jimmy Choo owner Tamara Mellon tells PEOPLE about Anderson, who wore a white string bikini to her nuptials. "Kid Rock was a total rock star. He gave her a good kiss. Everybody was crying." Adds Elton John's husband David Furnish: "It was a real rock n' roll wedding."

This is the second union for Anderson and the first for Rock (real name: Robert Ritchie) – and, apparently, there are more to come. "I'm going to get married a few times this month to the same guy," Anderson, 39, said July 26 during a news conference in Las Vegas. "We had to do Malibu, we've got to do Detroit, and we've got to do Nashville."

Anderson and Rock, 35, began dating in spring 2001. They became engaged on April 11, 2002, in the Las Vegas desert, but split the following year. Still, when they ran into each other early this month in Saint-Tropez on a mutual friend's yacht, the feelings were still there.

"It was like we'd never been apart," Rock told PEOPLE on July 11. "(I) love her to death." Anderson announced their engagement on her Web site on July 18.

So why the whirlwind nuptials? "It's just timing," Anderson told PEOPLE on Wednesday. "It's being in love, obviously, and it's time for me to move on with my life and get on with the rest of it with my kids."

The British Columbia-born Anderson has two sons, Brandon, 10, and Dylan, 8, with ex-husband Tommy Lee, to whom she was married from 1995 until 1998. Her kids were with her when she ran into Rock earlier this month. "It was so nice to see them," Rock told PEOPLE.

At their Saint-Tropez wedding, the bride planned to wear custom Jimmy Choo heels, according to a source.

Detroit-born Rock has a 16-year-old son, Robert James Ritchie Jr., whose mother is Kelly South Russell, a Detroit auto worker.