Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 18, 2006

Is The Letter In The Mail

Still no response from the City. I guess they are slow or want me to appeal. It does not matter. It means more time is wasted before the City has to reply.

Here is what a reader wrote to me that I thought was interesting. I will probably use his comments if I am forced to appeal.

  • "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."

DesRosiers On Ford's Announcement

I thought you might be interested in what Dennis DesRosiers has to say about the Ford announcement. Clearly the 1,000 jobs at Ford in Windsor are now at risk.

And what is Windsor's strategy other than talking. Perhaps if the Economic Development Commission did something, say hire a new Executive Director. Perhaps the Mayor can tell us when he returns from France.

I'll offer a suggestion in the other BLOG I post today. Except Windsor contractors better not read it

  • "Like everyone else I just read the Ford announcement on their cut backs this fall.

    This is the latest of a number of significant negative announcements by Ford over the last few years. They position it as moving faster on their "way forward" announcements made in January. Anyone who watched that press conference in January though, just knew that they would end up in this position. This latest cut back should have been made in January and they would be in better shape today. They waffled in January whereas GM was hard hitting and got the bad new behind them, Ford didn't and now they have to go through all this negative media over the next few days. And since August is a very slow news time they will get more negative news out of this than if they had bit the bullet in January.

    What's behind this. Three things.

    First the US market is very soft and is paying for all the foolish incentive dollars poured into the market over the last few years. Pay me now or pay me more later. Well it is later and the US market is not going to get better without major incentives and nobody can afford big incentives and nobody has the appetite for big incentive money. The pie is shrinking.

    Second, Ford continues to struggle in the market. They are not losing a lot of market share in North America but they are losing some share and this creates a doubling up of the problem. To lose share in a declining market forces companies to react.

    Third, Ford's strength is in the least fuel efficient vehicles. Need I say more.

    Hope this helps."

Windsor Contractors Must NOT Read This BLOG

If you are a Windsor Contractor starting to read this with your coffee and bagel, then


Immediately close down this BLOGsite for today and do NOT read any further. Health Canada has warned that the following story is not good for your health since it will increase your blood pressure dramatically. If you do decide to read this BLOG, you do so at your own risk.

Here is what a reader sent me. Read it first and then I will make my comments.
  • "Hamilton builds 10,000 more construction jobs in 2006

    In the first seven months of 2006, Hamilton has added close to 10,000 construction jobs, a 55.6% year-to-date increase that comes at a time when construction employment for the country as a whole is up by 6.5% year to date.

    Of the four major building construction categories – residential, industrial, commercial and institutional – the industrial and commercial categories in Hamilton appear to be the most active. Industrial construction was up 52.9% and commercial up 26.8 % year over year in the second quarter.

    A closer look at the Hamilton economy reveals that the pickup in commercial construction is due, in part, to two years of double-digit growth in office-based employment. Over this period, robust growth has been exhibited in finance, insurance and real estate, professional services and managerial services employment.

    However, while it is comparatively easy to see what is driving commercial building, the underlying cause of growth in industrial construction is not as obvious. Especially when you consider that manufacturing employment is down 16.4% year to date in 2006, following a 12% drop for 2005 as a whole.

    The answer lies in Hamilton’s location and value. According to Guy Paparella, Director of Industrial Park and Airport Development for the city. Hamilton is attracting a growing number of small and medium-sized industrial companies looking to take advantage of its strategic location and much lower (than the Toronto CMA) cost of serviced industrial land. Mr. Paparella pointed out that the cost of industrial land in Hamilton – at $180,000 to $300,000 an acre – is approximately half that of other municipalities on the “fringe” of Toronto.

    Looking forward, the whirlwind of construction activity in Hamilton will probably subside mid way through 2007. However the city’s proximity to two major north-south corridors, an international airport and excellent port facilities will continue to attract companies interested in lower transportation costs and ready access to the hub of U.S. and Canadian cities that form the largest concentration of people of North America."

Doesn't it just make you sick. Here we are at the main border crossing point in North America and our unemployment rate is about the highest in Canada. But for a proposed call centre that has not yet been revealed and Chrysler-pressured plants moving here, what have we to show in Windsor!

Look at the lost opportunity. Reread what I wrote about Fort Erie and how they are capitalizing on their border location. Contrast that with all of the talk and inaction with our Economic Development Commission over the past 3 years.

Infrastructure can be used to create jobs. So what are we doing with the $300 million BIF funds....we built an overpass that is hardly being used, increased the size of the left-turn lane into the Bridge Co.'s processing Centre and are wasting millions on a DRIC study and a Tunnel Plaza Improvement scheme tobuild a $30 million parking lot so Eddie can play Border entrepreneur.

How many jobs would have been created if we started building the road to the border that the City endorsed with WALTS, one of the options of SCHWARTZ and one that even DRIC liked! Instead, Eddie and Mike Hurst spew "tunnel" talk.

Imagine if we had really figured out that the Bridge Co.'s enhancement project actually makes some sense and the $500 million or so that they were going to spend had started already.

Imagine if industry was actually welcomed her with a border that works. All industry is going to hear about now is the new hour or more delays at the border!

Remember what I posted before about Eddie and Sam at the Construction Association meeting [BLOG: February 24, 2006, Where's the $300 Million Already]:

  • "How would you like to go and meet an industry group that has been suffering with this economy and tell them that you have had a couple of hundred million dollars in your pocket over the last few years but because of your inability to complete a deal, they cannot have it. That was the task that Mayor Francis and his buddy, Gridlock Sam faced the other night in their presentation to the Heavy Construction Association of Windsor...

  • Sam spent most of the night pumping up the contractors on how much work they would be getting through this plan and how they need to be creative and innovative in their methods of construction, mitigating traffic confusion and disruption during the construction period and how to be proactive in keeping the flow of international trucks flowing freely across the border until construction is completed. Sam told them that if they did all this in their bid packages it would help keep out the big construction conglomerates from coming here and taking their work.

    It was the perfect lead-in for Eddie to tell the contractors that the city has increased the capital works budget this year and will be for the next few years in order to get the "city needed" projects done now before all this infrastructure work comes to them. He told them he doesn't want them to be tied down with small city projects so that they miss out on all the big money projects."

So where is the work now that Sam is virtually invisible and his Plan has been put on the back burner? Where are the jobs? So much for carrots.

Oh I know, it's all about "quality of life" and tunnels and election campaigns. Tell that to the unemployed workers and close to bankrupt contractors!

Public Bridge Financing Woes

Governments are talking about the new Windsor bridge being financially "self-sustaining" as part of their Governance model, presumably in the context of a "public" bridge. They want to keep tolls as low as possible by maximizing revenues from other sources and getting involved in sophisticated financing packages to do so.

This truly sounds fantastic. What more could anyone want. Of course, anyone who reads the House of Commons debates on Bill C-3 knows that it won't happen. Just take a look at them and read about finances and public bridges.

If a precedent is set in Windsor about financing the cost of a bridge, both from its construction and its operation, then the Governments are going to have to get into the bridge subsidy business across the country. And that is unlikely to happen.

On January 20, 2006, I wrote a BLOG on "New Border Bridge Financing 101." On February 3, I wrote a BLOG about "Bankrupting The Border."

The gist of what I wrote was:

  • "No one in the private sector will finance [a new border crossing] at this time since it is a money drain that may never make a profit! And the public sector won’t either."
In looking at the DRTP project, I did some calcualtions and said:
  • "If one adds together construction costs, the Canada Customs Cost recovery charges for new border crossings, financing costs even at some low interest rate, operating costs and some kind of a profit, then there is not very much room to make a buck especially when one has to compete against the Bridge Co’s tolls."
I suggested with respect to the existing crossings:

  • "If the traffic is not there and we build another crossing, can someone please explain to me how the existing crossings are going to make money? Take a declining volume of cars and trucks and have a new crossing trying to capture the business. Want to bet how long the Tunnel remains solvent or even the new crossing? Even the Ambassasdor Bridge might see some lower revenues."
It is time for a reality check!

I am raising all of this again since I think it would be really interesting to do some actual calculations on how a new border crossing would compete against the existing crossings and what the effect would be. The recent increase in Tunnel tolls and what the impact has been on their volumes gives us real insight into what another crossing will do financially. The governance issue is still being discussed amongst the bureaucrats who may not know how to do the math for building a border crossing and operating it. (Or may not want to!)

The Tunnel tolls were changed on July 1.
  • "the vehicle rate on the Windsor side of the tunnel will jump from $3.50 Cdn to $4 and $2.50 US to $3.50.

    The largest increase will be a 50 per cent hike in the US rate for a roll of tokens from $40 to $60. The Canadian price for tokens will also go up from $60 to $70."
I have heard that the Tunnel took a big hit in July. I was told that their volumes dropped by about 60-70,000 vehicles. Presumably a considerable number of vehicles diverted to the Bridge because of their lower rates or people stopped coming over, the Tunnel increase being the last straw. What it does seem to demonstrate is price sensitivity on the part of Tunnel users---increase the price and they go elsewhere or do not come over as often or at all.

It's a wash. I would think that the toll revenues due to the increase has almost been matched by the reduction in revenues due to the huge loss of volume at the Tunnel. Some more good management planning I see by the Windsor Tunnel Commission Chair. How will the Tunnel pay for the large cost over-runs on the Ventilation building if the revenues do not increase---creative "bridge financing" as the City did before with WUC bank loans or straight out City subsidies or loans via the taxpayers?

Let's do a bit of math to prove my point. The new crossing is conservatively estimated to cost $1.5 billion for each side of the border. MDOT has been emphatic, especially at the hearings in Lansing, that we ought not to worry about costs since tolls will be charged to cover the costs.

Well obviously the geniuses at MDOT have no understanding of how the real world operates. If we take MDOT at its word and amortize the cost of the crossing, here is what we get as an example:

The Amortization table is calculated based on the following information:

Loan Amount: $1,500,000,000.00
Interest Rate: 5.00%
Loan Term: 75 Years

The payment is about $76 million a year for each side of the border.

If we assume that there are 10,000 trucks crossing the border daily and that 50% of them will immediately use the new bridge, then just to pay the amortization costs alone, the toll on the new bridge would have to be about $42 per truck. If one adds in Canada Customs Cost recovery charges operating costs and some kind of a profit, add in another $15-20 or more

Considering that the average truck toll cost at the Ambassador Bridge is between $15-20 and that it operates now at about 50-60% capacity, let us ask some questions:

  1. Who would pay $50 or more per truck to use the new bridge when they could pay less at the Ambassador Bridge
  2. Which private enterprise group would finance a bridge that could not compete and could not cover interest payments.
  3. Which private enterprise group will even consider financing the bridge once the Bridge Co. starts building their enhancement project
  4. Why should taxpayers have to finance a money-losing crossing
  5. Who other than taxpayers would have to finance the losses of the new bridge every year forever
  6. How much will the the Government lose on the new bridge when it goes bankrupt

We have not talked about car traffic yet. Remember that the new bridge would carry both cars and trucks

  1. Does the Tunnel now have a new competitor who will take more traffic away from it putting its financial future into jeopardy
  2. How would the Bridge Co. respond to a threat to its car volumes too. If it acted as a rational operator, it would cut costs to the bone in order to keep tolls low or offer other inducements to attract traffic. [We saw what happened to the Tunnel when it increased tolls]
  3. Will all three crossings now have major financial difficulties requiring Government bailouts to keep the economy going

But never fear, there is the bureaucratic answer: Bill C-3. There is no doubt but that Transport Canada would first direct traffic to each crossing and probably divide it "equally." Of course, with three operators fighting over traffic volumes that are not increasing much now and are well below the high numbers of years ago, we might have a problem. Two operators are struggling financially now---how will adding a third help?

So then the obvious answer is to increase tolls at each crossing so as to make the crossings at least break even. But wait, that helps the operators but what about consumers of the crossings, both trucks and cars. They would have to pay substantially more to use the crossings. So Bill C-3 becomes a statute that hurts consumers in the pocket-book not helps them. The likely result--more trucks will avoid Windsor by using the Blue Water bridge and tourists, especially day-trippers will stay away, thereby ruining the cross-border business! Of course for commuters, costs will increase dramatically too so that they will need a higher salary!

Remember also that the need for and the viability of a new crossing is based on optimistic DRIC traffic projections that growth will take place. What if they do not? The projections have had to be revised downwards several times already. Does anyone see traffic volumes going upwards significantly in the future and if so, on what realistic basis? Not tourist business and not based on industry with jobs being lost in the region.

We need a solution that makes practical and financial sense already. The more that this goes on, the more ridiculous it becomes. It really is time for politicial leadership at the Senior Levels to get involved and to stop "respecting the process." The Legislators in Michigan have at least acted. They have voted for a private enterprise solution by killing the MDOT financing. Isn't it time that the Canadians did too!

Let Government do what it does best--own and build roads to a crossing. Let private industry do what it does best--own, finance, construct and operate a crossing. Make sure that there is the appropriate Government oversight and everyone wins!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Deadline Has Passed

I expect a letter by mail eventually rather than a reply to my email. Given the Post Office, a few more days' delay.

If The Soo Can Do It, Why Can't Windsor

Sault Ste. Marie is a small town compared with the City of Windsor but we have our similarities. Its industries, steel and lumber, have seen their ups and downs over the years as has our auto industry and associated businesses. It borders on the US, Sault Ste. Marie Michigan while we border on Detroit. It has a bridge as an international border crossing: Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. They have an OHL team and so do we.

There are some differences. They are about one-third our size in population. They recognized their economic difficulties early on and set up an Innovation Centre that brought them new technology jobs. In fact, they have an IT strategy. We have an Economic Development Commission with no Executive Director. They are big on call centres that brought them almost 3,000 jobs already. (I hear we may be getting a big one soon in Windsor too. Eddie would have announced it shortly to boost his campaign if he needed it but does not have to do so yet). One other big diffference...their new arena is almost built, with the Ontario government helping to pay for it. Their OHL team play their games there.

That's right, the Soo with a third our population can build and support a facility that has a seating capacity of 5,000 for hockey games and 6,500 for concerts, conventions, meetings and other attractions. It's a Sports and Entertainment Centre called the Steelback Centre. And guess how much it cost----$25 million! I have no idea what the history behind the Centre is but surely it can be nothing like the 20 year journey of Windsor which still has no end in sight.

And speaking of local content, they figured out how to do it too:
  • "When the city of Sault Ste. Marie set out to build a new sports and entertainment centre, maximizing local content was high on the priority list.

    “We wanted to make this a showcase of local talent,” said Nick Apostle, the city’s commissioner of community services.

    Council did not issue a directive per se, he said. But local content was identified in the composition of design teams when requests for proposals were solicited.

    “That was spelled out in our documents.”
Somehow they got Government grants for their building that we seem to be unable to get: $7.4 million grant under the Canada-Ontario infrastructure program and $1 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp." Just take a look at the article below that discusses a Government grant and some details on the project.

Oh and as for the Soo's waterfront, like Windsor, they have a development plan for that too. They have a $54 million tourist development, Northern Ontario’s biggest-ever tourism project. The project includes plans for a 144 room luxury hotel, a performing arts theatre, space for retail outlets, restaurants, a 35 thousand square foot educational biodome featuring exotic tropical plants, an upscale day spa, and an ice hotel to be operated during the winter. The Ontario government provided $15 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to help build it.

It seems they have a truck problem too . But:
  • "On the transportation end, the city’s truck route is to be finished by September. The $18.5-million project is part of a larger $22-million plan that will address a long-standing problem of improving the traffic flow of transport trucks around the International Bridge Plaza and through the downtown...

    About 60 properties were acquired and demolished by the city to make way for the three-kilometre corridor, paralleling the Canadian National Railway line and connecting the bridge to Second Line, a main transportation artery in the city’s north end that joins with the Trans Canada Highway."

Look at them and look at us. They act and can do all of this and we just talk about PLANS. We have 2 Liberal Cabinet Ministers in Windsor but we also have a Mayor who snubs the Senior levels.

Go Figure!

  • Province Gives Another Million Dollars To Steelback Centre

    SooNews Staff -- -- Friday, June 23, 2006,

    With City Councillors and staff present at the Civic Centre Friday, Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti announced the McGuinty government will be giving another 1 million dollars toward the new 25-million dollar Steelback Centre.

    This increases the province’s share of funding toward the new facility to 4.7 million dollars.

    Councillor James Caicco praised Orazietti, saying that he was, as his fellow Ward One City Councillor back in 2000, an integral part of the original driving force behind the new facility, and that the Steelback Centre would not have happened without his continued efforts as the city’s current MPP.

    Caicco thanked the province for its increased contribution, noting that other new arena projects in Ontario received no provincial funding.

    Orazietti announced that 35 part-time and five full-time jobs will be created at the Steelback Centre as a result of the new money, which will also go toward a sound system, a score board/clock, kitchen/concession equipment, multi-use suites and washrooms.

    Here is the official media release from Orazietti’s office, released Friday:

    The McGuinty government is continuing its support of Sault Ste. Marie’s economic growth and tourism through an additional $1 million investment in the new Steelback Centre, David Orazietti, MPP announced today.

    “The construction of the Steelback Centre is great news for Sault Ste. Marie; this sport, entertainment and events facility, along with the many other tourism initiatives our government is supporting, will give Sault Ste. Marie a distinct competitive advantage in the medium-size events marketplace,” said Orazietti. “By creating 35 additional part-time and 5 full-time positions this facility will bring far-reaching benefits to our community."

    The McGuinty government, through the NOHFC, is investing $1 million toward the tourism and multi-use features of the new 140,000-square foot Steelback Centre. The multi-use features supported by this investment will include a sound system, a score board/clock, kitchen and concession equipment, as well as additional multi-use suites and washrooms. The new complex will attract events such as meetings, conventions, conferences, major concerts, theatre productions, equestrian competitions and other specialty shows.

    “We are on the side of northern prosperity by fostering economic growth and enhancing tourism opportunities throughout Northern Ontario,” said Bartolucci, who also chairs the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). “We expect this new multi-use centre will become a major economic driver for the downtown core of Sault Ste. Marie and beyond.”

    Today’s investment is in addition to the $3.7 million already provided by the McGuinty government for the building’s capital costs under the Ministry of Tourism’s Sport, Culture and Tourism Partnership Secretariat (SCTP). Former federal Member of Parliament for Sault Ste. Marie, Carmen Provenzano, also secured $3.7 million for the Centre’s construction, with the Municipal government financing the remaining costs.

    “The City of Sault Ste. Marie has worked hard to get a multi-purpose events centre off the drawing board, and today’s additional funding from the provincial government will help deliver important enhancements to the new facility in the heart of our downtown core,” said James Caicco, Ward 1 City Councilor and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sports and Entertainment Centre.

    The $25-million Steelback Centre will also be the new home of the Soo Greyhounds – Sault Ste. Marie’s Ontario Hockey League franchise – and will regularly host traditional major sporting events and competitions such as hockey, figure skating and curling. The new centre will have a seating capacity of 5,000 for spectator sports and 6,500 for concerts, conventions, meetings and other attractions. Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed this fall.

Michigan Says Good-bye To DRIC

It looks like the Windsor Star may be in trouble. How can they quote now the Democrats, Representative Tobocman and Senator Basham of Michigan, telling us that the Governor would veto the Republican's legislation on DRIC?

Tobocman had said: "the amendment will likely not survive the scrutiny of full legislative debate and required approval of Gov. Jennifer Granholm."

Basham attempted to block the DRIC action.

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for taxpayers on both sides of the border, the Governor did NOT veto what the Republicans passed. Frankly, she did not dare in this election year.

What the fall-out will be from this, who knows! Just as no one understands any more what is going on in the border file. It is total chaos now.

What Is The Tunnel Worth

It is very clear that there is a movement to do something with the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

Never fear, Windsor taxpayers who actually own the Tunnel will never be asked what our opinion is. It will be presented as a fait accompli by Eddie, but a brilliant one at that, when we hear how much money will be coming into the civic coffers. Moreover, we probably won't be asked either but will be told what will happen with the money---more monuments to be built after all, like a new "signature" City Hall for instance.

It is clear to me now, after what I posted recently, that this has been the Mayor's Plan ever since he signed Phase 1 of the border agreement with the Senior Levels and then tried to sneak through the infamous Agenda Item #5. Why else did Eddie and Councillor Budget say what they did when the Bridge Co. announced its plans for the border? Why else did the Feds dump on the deal involving the Tunnel? Why else was there the need for the Joint Councils meeting? The City wants to prevent anyone from messing up whatever the deal is supposed to be.

Infrastructure is sexy these days. Organizations like OMERS, Teachers Pension Plan, Canada Pension Plan, and Macquarie Bank amongst others have so much money around that they are going after these deals as part of their portfolios. It's the trendy thing to do. It would not be a big surprise to me if OMERS/Borealis of DRTP fame would love to buy into the DW Tunnel somehow (and probably as part of the deal to get rid of the DRTP Corridor---rails for trails after all).

What is the Tunnel worth? It could be worth a lot of money actually depending on the kind of deal structured. It could be a long-term lease deal or payment based on securitizing revenues or some kind of management agreement. I doubt if there would be a sale. It could be worth a lot more if it went out to competitive tender too. [Oh it won't be by the way. That's not the Mayor's style. He has to be in total control. It will be a Public/Private partnership so it will fall under the Single Source exemption under the Purchasing By-law] It would be worth more if Windsor and Detroit dealt with it as a whole rather than two separate parts.

OR perhaps the Tunnel is really not worth very much at all!

Eddie's failure to execute in a timely manner may mean that the world has passed us by. Reality about the Tunnel's operations may have reduced significantly what that City asset is worth as more stories come out about its problems.

Let's play wheeler-dealer entrepreneur and figure out how much the Tunnel is worth. Let's pretend that we are playing in the big leagues, and have a couple billion Blog Dollars to park in an infrastructure investment. (Just like the big boys, it's more fun to play entrepreneur with other people's money – except no taxpayer money or pension or privatized social security retirement investments will be at risk in our friendly Blog-hypothetical.). Let's figure out what the few comparable deals have made and then factor in some business risks like the following to come up with an amount:

1) DCTC problem

The Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation has an agreement with the City of Detroit with 14 years left to run and one that ends in 2007 with Windsor. We'd want to get rid of them right away so we'd have to buy them out. But that's a big problem.

"In January 2001, the owners of DCTC agreed to sell their shares to Macquarie North American Infrastructure Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Global Infrastructure Fund (GIF)). The acquisition of DCTC was funded by $US53.5 million of senior debt." Moreover, DCTC is not a non-profit so it would be losing profits over the next 14 years. Don't forget that Windsor makes $6 million plus per year on the Tunnel while Detroit makes 1/10th of that and, even though DCTC pays the costs, there has to be a signifcant profit aspect that must be dealt with.

The buy-out amount would be huge...the amount outstanding on the debt and 14 years worth of profits represent big money. It's like a mortgage on your house that would have to be paid off before it was sold.

2) The Tunnel is getting old

"The tunnel was opened in 1928, one year after its competitor the Ambassador Bridge."

Remember how Gridlock Sam made a big deal about the age of the Ambassador Bridge. Well tunnels get old too and need reconditioning. Take the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel in New York City, Sam's hometown. "Beginning in the late 1990's, after nearly a half-century of service, the tunnel received the first major rehabilitation in its history."

  • $100 million was spent to install a new ceiling and new lighting in the tunnel.
  • "In 2002, MTA Bridges and Tunnels completed a $55 million project to rehabilitate the tunnel superstructure, roadway and drainage system. The project addressed the deterioration of the roadway slab in both tubes of the tunnel. Tunnel leak repairs and wall tile replacement was also performed. That year, the agency also completed a $10 million rehabilitation of the vent buildings."
  • "The final part of the project, which will be completed in 2003, involves a $35 million installation of new pumps, exhaust fans, fire standpipe and waterline valves, variable message signs, and traffic control and signal systems."

We've seen the cost over-runs of the Tunnel Ventilation building here...the cost has sky-rocketed to $20 million. While we do know that "A $50 Million renovation program was launched in 1993, including a completely new road surface, new sidewall tiling, new lighting, complete video surveillance and restoration of the Tunnel's stone cover beneath the Detroit River," I must admit I have no idea what else needs doing in the Tunnel. Presumably a big chunk of money would have to be set aside for repairs by any operator of a 75 plus year old structure if a long-term deal is arranged.

3) Detroit will want its fair share

Detroit has 10 times the population but only gets 1/10th the revenue. No matter what the deal, Windsor will get less than before if the contract is opened up.

4) The Tunnel access roads are a mess.

Eddie wants $30 million to build a parking lot for vehicles going to the Tunnel to keep them off City streets. Well, that is partially true but it is really for the redesign of the Plaza to further his ambitions at the cost of someone else. If the Senior levels choose not to finance it, then who will since the Canadian side is such a mess?

Is the US side any better with the tie-ups on Jefferson. Moreover the ability to do major renovations on the US plaza is hampered by the lack of room given the Tunnel location.

"Preliminary engineering designs estimate that the cost to provide a workable solution on the US side within the existing 4.5-acre footprint would be in the range of US $50 to US $70 million."

5) Unique security risk

That's what the Tunnel is. The shocking part is that this must have been known for a long time yet the focus has been put on the Ambassador Bridge. I think that Senator Kenny was not given all of the facts!

What action will have to be taken to make the Tunnel meet US requirements and how much will that cost? Will certain kinds of traffic be banned thereby reducing revenues as well? Is there a Bill C-3 risk to the Tunnel if Transport Canada ever wakes up.

6) Tunnel volumes

If you buy an asset, don't you want one that has the potential to grow, not remain the same or decline. Since 1999, the Tunnel's volumes have declined from 9.6 million vehicles to about 6 million in 2005.

The Tunnel Plaza Improvement notes stated "Although traffic growth has slowed in recent years, it is still expected that traffic will grow substantially over the next 20 years: about 50% for cars and buses, and 40% for trucks." In other words, in the next 20 years it will get back to where it was in 1999.

With the high Canadian dollar, terrorist threats, passport requirements, No Smoking law, health scares, new Casinos in Detroit, border delays and so on, do you see room for optimism for increased volumes?

7) Competition

The Tunnel could not take away business when its tolls were less than that of the Bridge going into the US. It increased its tolls in July 1 and its volume decreased by 60-70,000 vehicles.

When the Bridge project for 200 booths opens, when its enhancement project is finished and if a new bridge with car lanes opens who will want to use the Tunnel with its few lanes!

8) The Councillor Brister bomb-shell that remains hidden

He's on the Windsor Tunnel Commission so he knows. In May 2005, Henderson quoted him as saying "[Brister sees] "a number of big-dollar issues on the horizon that lead me to believe we should not be proceeding this way. I don't think we need to be spending more tax dollars on bricks and mortar at this point. In my opinion, we're going to need those funds." The budget chairman said he cannot provide any details but there are major issues pending involving the Windsor-Detroit tunnel and Enwin that will consume "a significant amount of taxpayer resources."

We still do not know what this means and how much it will cost.


So what do you think the Tunnel is worth? Is it an investment that you think will grow and if so at what rate? Given the unknowns, how do you factor that into price?

Is the Tunnel beyond hope as an investment or something that financiers should leap at? Clearly steps can be taken to make the Tunnel a viable crossing long into the future and to solve the problems I have identified. There are some obvious actions that can be taken right away but that take creative thinking, a willingness to compromise and a recognition that there is a need to work with others. That will never happen with this Mayor and Council

As for me, I'll stick with mutual funds!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And Still Waiting

I must be asking very difficult questions if I cannot get a response yet! Wait until I ask the tough ones.

Where's Joe Krall

I am outraged. I am disgusted. I demand a correction. I demand an immediate apology.

I am sure, dear reader, that if you read Gord Henderson's column yesterday then you will know to whom Gord was referring:

"If Marra -- a graceful loser in 2006 -- is getting his career advice from the right people, he won't spend the next four years pandering to the peanut gallery, which appears to consist of one or two bitter and obsessive old men."

I resent what was said! How dare he claim I am "old!" How rude. The Blogmeister's hair is brown after all, what little of it is left, with distinguished gray at the temples. Hrrrrrrmpf! "Old" is merely a state of mind.

Who is the other man? I thought I had this function all to myself. Funny though, if our ranks are so small, then why did he have to mention us at all.

It was a very strange column too. It seemed as if Gord was not sure how to praise Marra while at the same time burying him. The funniest lines in the column were: "Listen carefully and you can almost hear the sigh of disappointment over in France where Mayor Eddie Francis is involved in activities... But it must be galling for someone as competitive as Francis to be denied a replay of the 2003 showdown that saw him sweep all five wards, including the home base of his older and more experienced rival."

Oh please. The only sigh one heard amongst the champagne bottles being uncorked in France when the Marra news was relayed over and at E-machine HQ was one of relief. In my opinion, there is only one back-room boy in town who could have master-minded the E-machine campaign so well that Marra and his closest advisors would decide not to run for Mayor. It was a high-stakes gamble for Eddie and he won out. The back-roomer knew full well that Eddie was at risk and could be beaten with a strong campaign.

Am I disappointed that Bill is not running for Mayor. Yes. I thought it was essential to have a full debate over the path that the Mayor is following. More importantly, if there is to be a change in Councillors, there needed to be a voice who was articulating the problems so that the incumbents could be challenged. Now it will be much more difficult for anyone to beat a sitting Councillor.

Did Bill make the right decision? We'll find out on November 13. However, it would be presumptuous of me to tell Bill or anyone else what they should or should not do. It is after all, his life and that of his family that are involved. Only they can decide what makes the most sense and I respect his decision.

It will be a tough fight in Ward 4. Marra and Lewenza will be the main contenders who will get most of the publicity for the second Council seat (everyone assumes that the Senator is a shoo-in) but watch out for Ed Sleiman. If he runs the campaign that he did last time, and adopts a new approach as well, he could surprise everyone.

We have seen a glimpse of how Bill will be attacked during the campaign in the last part of Henderson's column. And if you think that the E-machine wants him to be on Council as a possible Leader of the Opposition.....well election to Council will not be easy for him.

If he is so lucky as to be elected, then Bill is being warned how he must act, or else "He'll have to appear statesmanlike and demonstrate he's a team player whose critical comments are in the city's best interests, not his own." In other words, do not rock Eddie's boat.

It will be a horrific time in Windsor for the next 4 years if there are not major changes in the way this City is run. We have already had 3 years of plans but no action on anything of significance. Gord's Councillor buddy is right "The next mayoral race will begin on the evening of Nov. 13." And he or she may be one of the contenders. Of the current councillors, at least 5 or 6 of them may want to run and I can think of several outsiders as well. The Governor's hubby will be very, very busy with Council next term.

Those of us in the peanut gallery, and there are more than you think, are not "bitter" but are disappointed. We are disappointed that what we worked so hard to achieve by getting Eddie and a new Council elected, a Council of change, never happened. What we got was the most secretive bunch of elected officials imaginable who failed to take their electorate into account, who failed to trust the people who elected them and who accomplished little for their constituents.

We were promised so much and received so little. Unfortunately for the Mayor, as head of Council and the only full-time politician, he must take the blame for the mess, no matter how hard he tries to shove it off to his Council. My real disappointment is that this Council did not have the guts of the last one to stand up to the Mayor and take over the running of the City.

We peanut galleryers are obsessed...obsessed to make this City great and to prosper with or in spite of our Municipal politicians. And we will do it. We are not afraid to point out the failings of those who have misused our trust. We don't wear blinkers nor are we cheerleaders.

Be honest...don't you just feel this City drifting without any sense of purpose or direction. Are we better off in Windsor now than we were three years ago? That slogan alone would win the mayoral election, even for a nobody.

Gord asked "Why didn't he tackle Francis?" and gave his version of an answer. The real answer has only two words in it. You can guess it easily I am sure.

I wonder if there is another Joe Krall around. In case you do not remember who he is, read this from my buddy Gord. Just replace "Hurst" with "Francis." It applies even more today:
  • "Did Windsor Mayor Mike Hurst kick butt? Or was he on the receiving end of a slap upside of the head from tens of thousands of unhappy city residents?

    The simplistic interpretation is that Hurst grabbed more than 60 per cent of the vote and strutted away with the grand prize and that makes him the undisputed champion. People wanted him back for another three years. End of story.

    If that's the only message Hurst takes from this exercise, it will be a long grind to November of 2003. You think we've witnessed contempt for lesser mortals? We ain't seen nothing yet. If Hurst chooses to interpret Monday night's numbers as "a ringing endorsement" and confirmation he's the king of the hill, God help Windsor.

    I happen to think Hurst is smarter than that. I think one reason people at the Caboto Club found him a little testy is that he knows a chump challenger, a guy who by rights shouldn't have drawn loose change, attracted almost 20,000 votes. An insider with 13 years of council experience beat an outsider with three months of public exposure. Hardly a monumental accomplishment.

    Joe who?

    Joe Krall? When Krall announced his candidacy at the Caboto Club on Aug. 10, reporters were scratching their heads. Who was he? Where was he coming from? And where on earth did this far from charismatic nobody get the idea he could run for the top job without paying his dues on the school board or council?

    We didn't take him seriously. But after the snickering died down, Krall proceeded to run a professional, high-voltage campaign that surprised just about everyone.

    Droves of Windsor residents were clearly looking for an alternative. But when election day arrived, they didn't feel safe handing over the leadership of this city to a mystery man with no political track record. Better the devil they know."

CBC Arena Commentary: Exasperation

Last Wednesday, CBC Radio ran another of my commentaries. Here is the text of my remarks:

I looked up the word "exasperate" in the dictionary the other day and saw that it had several definitions. It means to "make very angry, "to annoy greatly" or "to trouble the nerves, specially by repeated vexations."

Doesn't that seem like the perfect word to describe why two of Windsor's most successful families, the Toldos and Rosatis, went public with their arena proposal? They had made a pitch to the City privately about their proposal, on May 29, but nothing had happened with it. So they acted to end-run Council to let Windsorites know what was going on.

Windsorites must feel exasperated when thinking about the 20 year arena saga. Why over the last year, the location of the arena has moved several times. It has gone from the Western Super Anchor site in the downtown to the Raceway in the West. It then went to the East End Greater Windsor Multiplex Arena site and is now back to "Project Ice Track" at the Raceway.

Tax-payers are exasperated too. The Beztak Group was run out of town by the Mayor and Council. Beztak had said it would build, operate and maintain a multi-use facility downtown without money from the City (although there were several conditions attached to their proposal). The Toldos and Rosatis wanted $15 million of taxpayer money for their Raceway arena. They said that they, not taxpayers, would be responsible for operations and cost overruns. Council, however, seems to want to go it alone at an East End arena. We are told that the amount involved there is $55-million plus some indefinite amount for land costs, architectural and project management costs and provisions for cost overruns.

Let's get real. This is not a fight over an arena; rather it is a fight to preserve the competitive position of Casino Windsor. After all, just after the Mayor was elected he said "We want to be partners with the casino, not compete with them or duplicate services they offer."

Isn't that the real reason why the Cleary had to be unloaded: it was in the convention business. Hand it off to a non-commercial, educational institution like St. Clair College. However, talk about reviving downtown and cloak it with "urban village" rhetoric when doing so.

Beztak...why they were going to build a multi-use facility and in the downtown…they had to go! An arena on the Super Anchor site would be a nearby Casino competitor.

The East End multi-plex looked like it might be a winner. We heard that the cluster of rinks in the area "would make the city a sports-entertainment destination for hockey tournaments and other ice sports." And developers wanted to build hotels out there too.

But a destination in Windsor other than the Casino... oh no. Do you really think that taxpayers will stand for an expenditure of well over $55 million so that the Spitfires's new multi-millionaire owners can have a place for their team to play? At the same time, we would have to close down local arenas.

So now we come to the Toldos and Rosatis. They want to make the Raceway and arena a Sports and Entertainment Destination too. A "Destination." There's that D-word again!

It will be a destination where there will be entertainment facilities, a Gretzky restaurant, Sports Hall of Fame, and hockey to draw people and keep them there. Obviously though, the main reason for all of it is SLOTS ---That's how they are going to make the real money. That means direct competition with the Casino in their core business, gambling.

Come on, do you think they have a chance after the Casino announced a $400 million expansion.

We are not being given the complete picture. The arena debate is a mere distraction. It buys time while the Casino complex is built. If the opinion of the Mayor and Council is that what is good for the Casino is good for Windsor, then tell us, so that we can have a true debate on the subject. Don't take actions piecemeal, and behind closed doors, designed to fool the

That's why I am not exasperated. I am disgusted!

For CBC Radio, this is Ed Arditti.

Word Is Getting Out, Finally

We ought to be thankful for Gord Henderson's Saturday column. It is finally identifying to the public the obvious security problems that we are having at the border.

There was the required slam on the Ambassador Bridge of course: "Kenny, who has stressed repeatedly that Windsor's Ambassador Bridge is one of Canada's most inviting targets." There was no direct mention that a major concern to US Customs is the City owned Detroit-Windsor Tunnel which poses a "unique" security risk. That is to be expected since this information has not been widely circulated it appears.

Then there was the real breakthrough in Gord's column although not mentioned by name:

"Five years after the World Trade Center, we're still drifting. A Windsor Star news team bound for Metro Airport Thursday morning got stuck in the Detroit-Windsor tunnel behind a large truck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. No trunks had been opened and inspected. No vehicles had been given even a cursory screening."

What he means is that there is NO REVERSE CUSTOMS, something that the Bridge Co. has been advocating for many years.

The fatalistic last line is absurd, as if we cannot do anything. "But it's only a matter of time before we receive the ultimate wake-up call."

We will if we continue to sit on our rear-ends and not demand what air travellers have had for years at certain airports. With VACIS, trains will have it too in Windsor. The Governments of Canada and the United States must implement REVERSE CUSTOMS at the Bridge and Tunnel. As well, what we should be demanding now is for Transport Canada and the City of Windsor/Windsor Tunnel Commission/DCTC to do their job at the Tunnel immediately to take drastic action to reduce as far as posssible the risk there.

Transport Canada's failure to act is disgraceful given their platitudes about the need for Bill C-3. One cannot help wonder if "safety and security" was a phony reason for the Act after all.

When you read my BLOG on REVERSE CUSTOMS, you will understand something that, again, should have been obvious to me about REVERSE CUSTOMS and the Tunnel but was not until recently. It's that inherent conflict that Windsor mayors have as Mayor of Windsor and Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Still Waiting

Just waiting to see what the next response from the City will be

Help Wanted: New MDOT Director

I am not sure that the new MDOT Director gets it yet! The House and Senate of Michigan have spoken very clearly about what they want and do not want. Unless he wants to suffer the fate of the previous Director, Kirk Steudle had better start listening, especially if Dick Devos becomes Governor.

The Legislators want the $2 billion available in Federal matching funds if the private enterprise Bridge Company builds the new crossing (I have totally discounted DRTP as an alternative since they are too busy trying to get their money out by flogging their corridor to anyone ).

They do NOT want one penny of public money going into building a public bridge.

They do NOT want to build a public crossing a mile from the Ambassador Gateway project where Government funds have already been spent in contemplation of a twinned bridge.

They do want the Federal funds to be spent fixing up and building local Michigan roads.

I read an intgerview of what the MDOT director said. Here are some excerpts which you and Michigan Legislators may find of interest:
  • Personalities In Politics: A Conversation With Kirk Steudle

    Current Michigan Transportation Director Kirk STEUDLE was appointed by Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM earlier this year to replace outgoing Director Gloria JEFF.

    Steudle is a 19-year veteran of the Department and trained in road building. The following is a question and answer interview MIRS conducted with the new Director last week. The interview topics range from his experiences in the new post to the Detroit River International Crossing and mending fences with the Legislature.

    The following are excerpts from that discussion.

    Q. When the state announced it would be assisting locals in accelerating projects by leveraging federal funds with state borrowing — does doing more projects now necessarily mean there'll be fewer projects done down the road?

    A. What it means, particularly with the local Jobs Today, is that the primary driver was the federal funding that was attached to our last federal reauthorization that came specifically for earmarked projects. They were called high-priority projects.

    What we heard loud and clear from many local communities was now we have this earmarked, but we don't have the match, and in that case, that money would stay in Washington, unless that particular member [of Congress] who designated it, changed it to another spot, that money can only be spent on that project.

    So, there was the very real possibility we would leave federal money in Washington. That was the primary driver for this particular program. Let's pull all the possible funds from Washington and let's not wait until 2009 to do it, let's put them on the road now and let's help jump-start the economy...

    What we saw here was the private sector side was down, so last October we said let's advance some MDOT projects in our Jobs Today program — let's pull those forward to help boost those up and get those folks working. Then we realized that's only part of the solution, we've got this federal aid sitting out there in Washington that could potentially not get used, so how do we pull it down and help the economy as well, spurring the public side investment while the private side is down as well.

    In totality, you could say well, "yeah we're taking a project from 2008 and moving it into 2007," well that's true. That project was going to be done a couple of years later but now we've moved it forward and done two things. We've put people to work today when the market really needs it, and we've allowed the motorist to enjoy that brand new road for a year or two or three that they might not have been able to originally.

    Q. Is MDOT still subscribing too the "Fix it First" theory that was laid down by the previous director?

    A. That is a key driver in our program; so yes. Gov. Granholm said we have to focus on fixing what we have first. So, clearly that is a priority for us. But we also understand there is a balanced approach that we have to take. We have to maintain our eye on holding our assets together.

    We've got multi-billions of dollars invested in roads across the State of Michigan. We have to make sure those are there for the future. At the same time we have to have the balance to say there are some capacity pieces that need to be moved in here, that are needed to enhance the system.

    Q. The Detroit River Crossing, is it fair to say it will end up at Zug Island?

    A. I'm not going to make any statements as to where it might end up because we're in the middle of that study process. There are viable alternatives, so it would be inappropriate for me to say it should be here, or it should be there.

    I have no personal preference either, it's a federal process that has to be followed. We'll take input from every stakeholder, everyone that has an opinion, and we'll follow that federally mandated process.

    Q. Why is the federal government going ahead with a crossing when we've had interest expressed from two private entities for projects that would accomplish the same goals?

    A. The DRIC study does not preclude those from going forward. When the study started, they were all included in the analysis. Then for a variety of reasons they were not picked as practical alternatives.

    But, that does not preclude them from building those projects. The statement said these are completely privately funded projects. That's absolutely right. They'll still have to do some form of environmental process on the Canadian and the American side to tie into the interstate system, and all the rest of it.

    Q. So these projects, expanding the bridge or adding a tunnel, are they dead?

    A. No, they're not dead at all. Those remain as viable private investment projects.

    There could be room for two [private and public]. It depends on what comes out of the study as the best possible alternative. What we've heard from the business community is that they need more capacity across the Detroit River. That's their bottom line. I've heard from one manufacturer that they do 700 round trips across the border every day — they need additional capacity.

    Q. What have you done repair the Department's relations with the Legislature?

    A. I don't know if I want to answer that one [chuckles].

    Let me put it this way. One of the priorities when I was appointed by Gov. Granholm was to meet with key legislators, meet with the full transportation committees and Speaker [Craig] DeROCHE (R-Novi) and Senate Majority Leader Ken SIKKEMA (R-Wyoming). I reached out in the first couple of weeks to meet with every single one of those folks.

    And, I've continued to meet with these folks. What I'm focused on, stressing, "I'm not here with an agenda, but how do we work better together?" Because at the end of the day, what the governor did was to hire me to run an agency that is for all of Michigan.

    In my view, the Legislature is a key component of this. They represent all of the 10 million people, so I've reached out to those folks and said let's figure out how to work together.

While I understand that the Director must be "politically correct" in not shutting down DRIC, frankly I am shocked that the Govenor has not done it after the Legislature's budget action and after she unilaterally took a number of crossings off the table Downriver for poltical purposes. She knows what the Mayor of Detroit wants and she still has not acted. I assume that she must now believe that she can win the State without Detroit and without Kwame's help. Dick Devos must be happy now!

On the one hand, the Director wants to utilize NOW matching funds for infrastructure jobs and to create new and fixed roads and on the other he seems reluctant to use $500 million of Bridge Co. money to get matching funds. He will use $80 million of scarce State funds and does not consider $500 million of private funds. Does anyone see a disconnect here?

One can go further. Imagine if the State has to pay for the new public crossing, what happens to the $80 million or other future State funds which goes into building roads. It cannot be used to get matching funds. Does anyone see a disconnect here also?

I can understand why the Director is reluctant to say what he is doing to repair relations with the Legislature. Nothing like talking platitudes while spitting in their faces! Effectively he has said that they are moving forward with a public bridge and private industry can do what they want.

Is Kirk Steudle really serious in thinking that TWO new crossings can be built. If so, perhaps he might call Gloria to see if she needs a new Deputy in Los Angeles.

As an aside, I will give Director Kirk Steudle a plaudit for one thing: he understands that infrastructure spending can create a lot of new jobs NOW when the economy needs it desperately. Too bad that Eddie and the Senior Levels cannot figure out that simple proposition and build the road to the bridge now! If any city in Caanda needs help now with unemployment, especially in light of the Ford announcement, it is Windsor.

Province's Border Mismanagement

No wonder the border file is such a mess.

Can you believe what was said about Ontario Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield as quoted in the Star: "Just recently appointed to oversee the province's transportation ministry, the Etobicoke Centre MPP does not yet appear well-versed on Windsor's complicated border crossing and feeder road debate."

She was appointed on May 23 to her new position. Previously she was Minister of Energy. (Interestingly on Cogeco recently, at least twice during the day, they ran an interview between her, when she was Minister of Energy, and Sandra Pupatello. I wonder if that was Sandra's slap at Dwight who is now back as Energy Minister). I cannot believe that after 2 months she cannot understand what is going on here.

Frankly, it makes a mockery of her statement that the Windsor border is "a top priority for our government." If she cannot learn the file after all of this time, one wonders what is of higher priority that is taking up her days.

The story says she is coming down here "often." I hope someone has given her the route so she will not get lost since she knows so little about us. But no fear of that. The Province has "41 people involved here (in Windsor) for some time." Do you believe that---41 people and they are doing what? Perhaps 10 or 15 of them might have the time to educate their Minister.

She is coming down here on Thursday, September 28, 2006 for the Chamber's Annual Transportation Luncheon. This year it is sponsored by the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

Just so you know, she was the Minister who announced the $357,000 in road improvements on Huron Church Road at Industrial Drive. Perhaps someone can take her there so she can see what fantastic work has been done on the border so far and then go north a bit to see the multi-million dollar overpass that few school kids use.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Here We Go Again

I finally received a letter from the City supposedly answering my request for information. It is attached below (Note: I did not include the entire letter, removing the information for search hours and preparation time since it is not necessary for this BLOG)

It was non-responsive to my request. So out went another letter which I include below as well.

In looking at the exchange of letters, however, some interesting matters jump out right away. I'll leave that though for another time. I'll let you start forming your judgement as to what is going on as I am forming mine.

Letter to me from the City dated August 8, 2006

Re: Freedom of Information request – FOI 33-2006

This office in receipt of your e-mail letter dated August 3, 2006 in which you asked for a further breakdown of how this department arrived at the described costs for photocopying, number of hours, and preparation time relating to your request. I would remind you that when the fee is $100.00 or more, the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario allows municipalities to estimate the numbers of records based on a representative sample of the records and/or the advice of knowledgeable institution staff that are familiar with the type and content of the records before the actual search is completed. Once these figures are determined, an interim access decision letter is sent to the requester, such as was submitted on July 28, 2006.

Your request is for a large number of documents covering a wide range of records held in the custody and control of the Corporation and as such each potentially responsive record must be reviewed by staff to ascertain if the content of your seven-part request is contained within any part of the record, which would qualify it as a responsive record to a part of the request. As discussed previously, this in-depth search and review can only take place once the City Clerk has received a fifty percent deposit as previously submitted to you in the July letter.

I provide the following chart that describes each area of the City and where the responsive records are located:

Department---------------------- Pages--------- Hours-------- Preparation Time

Building and Development-----------74
Chief Admin. Office---------------9550
Council Services----------------- 10000
Public Works----------------------15000
City Auditor----------------------10000
Corporate Projects-----------------5000
Legal Documents Clerk--------------200
Cost Totals

Grand Total 101089.8
Requester to pay 50% 50544.9

In addition to this, you have asked how this office arrived at the $30.00 per hour charge. I would direct you to Regulation 823 under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection Privacy Act, section 6 which sets out the fees to be charged for the purposes of an access request made under the Act.

 Photocopying: $.20 per page;
 Searching: $7.50 for each 15 minutes;
 Preparing, including severing a part of a record: $7.50 for each 15 minutes.

If you wish to contact me at any time regarding this request I would be pleased to assist you in further clarifying or narrowing the request to detail specific records which will then have an effect on the fee estimate as presented.

Yours truly,

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

To: Chuck Scarpelli

Re: FOI 33-2006

Thank you for your letter dated August 8, 2006. Unfortunately, it is not responsive to my request.

I asked “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.” You have still not given me that information

You also did not breakdown the records by year.

As an example, 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.

You also have not provided me with any information at all respecting the Windsor Tunnel Commission even though it was requested.

Given the short review period, I would appreciate this information as soon as possible. Since this information was requested on August 3 and not provided, I must ask that it be provided by the close of business on August 16, 2006.

Reverse Customs

Why are we asking for money at the Windsor Court House for security officers to check people as they go into the building. Why don't we just check them quickly as they leave?

Why do we have these long line-ups at Security checkpoints at airports? Why don't we just check the bags after a flight has arrived?

Why, when entering certain buildings in New York or London, does the security officer call up to the person you are meeting and make them come down to escort you to his/her office? Why don't they just ask whom you met as you are exiting?

No I have not been out in the sun too long. Isn't this the absurd situation we have at the Tunnel and Bridge? People who go into Canada or the US are searched after they have gone through the Tunnel or over the Bridge.

Here is an excerpt from the news story about the recent session at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base:

  • "In addition, the outbreak of fighting in the Middle East has heightened the need for detecting and stopping people with links to terrorism from crossing the country's northern border, said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Patrick Brennan, commander of the agency's Detroit district.

    "The movement of persons with possible terrorist connections into the U.S. from Canada is of grave concern to the Coast Guard and all of our (Department of Homeland Security) partners, as well as our Canadian partners," Brennan said at Selfridge Air National Guard Base not far from the Canadian border.

    The Detroit district contains "several of our nation's most critical pieces of infrastructure" linking the two countries, Brennan said. They include the Ambassador Bridge, which alone carries 40 percent of the trade between the two countries, he said.

    The Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron, Mich., and Sarnia as well as nearby train tunnels, are crucial economic links between the deeply connected trading partners, he said."

Does the system of inspection we have now make any sense to you? Does it make you feel more secure? Is it really that difficult a problem to solve?

Back in December, 2004, Ann Mclellan and Tom Ridge announced Land Preclearance Pilots:

  • "On the 3rd anniversary of the signing of the Canada-United States Smart Border Declaration, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Anne McLellan, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge today released the fifth Smart Border Action Plan Status Report. Highlights of the significant progress made include:

    issuance of a framework to put land preclearance in place at the Buffalo-Fort-Erie Peace Bridge and at one other border crossing. The preclearance pilot at the Peace Bridge would involve the re-location of all U.S. primary and secondary border operations for both commercial and passenger traffic from Buffalo to Fort Erie. At the second pilot site, Canadian border functions will be moved to the U.S. side of the border, with the two Governments actively exploring crossings where this may be suitable, such as the Thousand Islands Bridge or Queenston-Lewiston."

I would have thought that "reverse customs" is a no-brainer but apparently not. I am not sure what the status of the pilot is but I did see an article that said

  • "More than a year after the shared-border management pilot project was announced by senior Canadian and American officials, an agreement between the two countries setting out the legal and administrative framework still hasn't been finalized. "

In Windsor, the Bridge Company has been pushing for reverse custom for years. But our Mayors and Chairs of the Windsor Tunnel Commission have not been doing it until recently. And why not you might ask since isn't the job of the Mayor to be concerned about the safety of Tunnel users.

Of course it is but then again the Mayor wears another hat too: Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission. Reverse Customs would have made the Tunnel uncompetitive with the Bridge:

  • "...bridge officials are pushing strongly for the reversal of customs. Under a plan already devised by the bridge company, drivers would pass customs and pay tolls then take off across the bridge "as if they were back on a highway" without any stop on the other side.

    He said the plan includes a combination of truck pre-clearance and filtering traffic to specific lanes that separate leisure travellers, commuters, just-in-time trucks and other transport traffic.

    Hurst, who sits on the tunnel commission, said such plans are not feasible at the tunnel.

    "It creates some real difficulties because as you know there is not a lot of plaza space available on either side," he said."

The inherent conflict of interest as Mayor and as WTC Chair may have been a cause for risks at the Tunnel and the Bridge that are unacceptable in this world today. The lack of action has been shameful.

Now that the Senior Levels are going to throw $20 million to fix up the Tunnel Plaza, it makes it easier to do reverse customs at the Tunnel. Thus Eddie at the Mackinac Conference can come out in favour of it and pretend that he is now interested in Tunnel safety. He better stop pretending and start getting concerned too or else Tranpsort Canada will be under huge pressure to close down the Tunnel since it poses a "unique" security risk!

Hmmm all of this non-action on reverse customs to help the Tunnel's competitive position. Is this perhaps a pattern---all of the non-action on the various arena proposals to help out the Casino's competitive position. I wonder....

Another Windsor Summit Meeting

I guess it is our consolation prize since we lost out on the Pamela Anderson/Kid Rock wedding and honeymoon.

Yes, it's another Big Summit-type Meeting in Windsor sponsored by our Mayor. This time it is the Southwest Economic Assembly.

Dozens and dozens and dozens of local officials will be invited. How many will really attend? [Don't worry, the number of attendees will be inflated like last time around. Board members from Windsor's new Economic Development Commission will fill up plenty of the seats]

You would think they would have learned with the other meeting that had to be postponed because of a holiday conflict to look at the calendar and to pick a convenient date for a meeting. It does not seem to work that way in the Mayor's Office. The BIG Meeting is to take place on September 6. Isn't that 2 days AFTER the Labour Day long weekend, the time when everyone is just starting to get back into the groove after the summer holiday period. Who can afford the time to come to Windsor to meet Eddie, again.

Oh well, if the Canadian Consul-General in Detroit will provide baseball tickets as he did for the last Summit (unfortunately, it is only Seattle playing), someone might actually show up. I mean, after all, it is a typical Eddie meeting---it is a planning meeting to discuss future activities and plans not to do something. It is to "operationalize" ideas whatever that means. It is all talk, no action.

Anyway, Eddie needs the photo-op for the upcoming Municipal election.

Here is the invitation in case you are interested:
  • August 8, 2006

    Dear Colleague,

    As promised during the Southwest Economic Assembly held in Stratford, May 23-24 the City of Windsor will host a planning meeting on September 6th, to discuss the future activities and plans of the Assembly and to build on the consensus established in Stratford.

    You are invited to participate in these discussions which will take place at the Giovanni Caboto Club, 2175 Parent Avenue, Windsor, from 10:00a.m.-2:00p.m. on Wednesday, September 6th in the Galileo room. We are hoping to attract a range of people from across the Southwest region and from a variety of sectors. The goal of this working meeting is to begin the work of operationalizing the ideas that emerged from the Stratford meeting as well as to commence the preparatory work for next year’s Assembly.

    We encourage you to join us with you top 3 ideas for making this One Region… Join us with your common objectives…Join us with your top 3 industry needs…Join us with your thoughts and ideas of how we can work together…Join us with your top 3 development needs…Join us with your vision of what we could accomplish if we put our One-Region first.

    The agenda will focus on the four sectors of the economy which were identified in Stratford: trade and manufacturing, agriculture and agrifood, tourism and culture, and the knowledge economy. You will have an opportunity to participate both in group discussions in one of the sectors of your choosing, and to report back to the plenary.

    We would be grateful if you could advise Mr. Tony Houad of the City of Windsor if you plan to attend the meeting. We would also be interested in learning of your recommendations for other people who should participate. Please contact Tony at , tel 519 255-6100 ext 6219.

    In the event you are unable to attend the meeting, we are looking at options to involve interested individuals to participate by telephone conference link up. Please advise Tony Houad if you are interested in this option and we will provide you with appropriate instructions.

    In closing bring your top 3 needs, your top 3 ideas, and your vision of how we can work together to make our Region better, stronger, more productive, create more jobs and be more vibrant.

    Join us in Windsor on September 6th and make a difference

    Yours sincerely

    Mayor Eddie Francis

    City of Windsor

    Southwest Economic Assembly Planning Session

    Windsor, Giovanni Caboto Club, Galileo Room

    September 6m 2006

    10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

    Draft Agenda

    1) Welcome
    2) Opening Keynote Address
    3) Planning Process for the 2007 Assembly
    4) Criteria and process for identifying funding needs
    5) Breakout sessions
    a) Tourism and Culture

    b) Agriculture and Agrifood

    c) Trade & Manufacturing

    d) Knowledge Economy

    6) Report back to plenary and brainstorming

    7) Wrap-up