Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 29, 2006

Eddie Builds Arena---In Tecumseh

So Eddie kept his word. He helped build an arena but unfortunately not in Windsor.

We should not be too surprised though. Windsor holds border Special Council meetings in Tecumseh too

And poor Eddie...his worst nightmare. Now the pressure will be on to build a Manning Road link between Highway 401 and E C Row. Trucks on our expressway now may be Eddie's border legacy!

Large Venue Sports and Entertainment Centre to be built at Manning Road and Hwy 401

TECUMSEH – Today it was announced that an agreement has been struck between the Corporation of the Town of Tecumseh (“Tecumseh”) and Ice Track Corporation (“Ice Track”) to construct an arena, practice ice pad, new racetrack and slots facility. It was also confirmed that the site will play host to new restaurant facilities owned by M-Ten Enterprises and a hockey franchise.

“Today is a landmark day for Tecumseh”, declared Mayor Gary McNamara. “Not only will the townspeople of Tecumseh be well served by this new facility, but this will be of great benefit to Essex County. On behalf of Tecumseh, I want to welcome our new partners to Town.”

The public/private partnership, announced today, has the following components:
- A 6500 seat Spectator Arena that will play host to both the hockey franchise and to a Wayne Gretzky G99 Restaurant and Museum.
- A practice ice facility that will be constructed adjacent to the arena
- Guaranteed hours for community access with favourable rental rates
- The construction of a new horseracing facility. This will be the new home of standardbred racing in the Essex County region
- The construction of a new slots facility to replace the Slots at Racetracks Program currently operating at the Windsor Raceway Site.

It is expected that this regional facility would be open and operational in the fall of 2008.

“We are pleased to join with the Town of Tecumseh in making this project a reality,” added Ice Track proponents Anthony G Toldo, Nick Rosati and Tony Rosati. “Ever since the Town approached us, we have been impressed with their focus and determination to make this project work. We are certain that the Town’s enthusiasm for Project Ice Track will only enhance its success going forward.”

For its part the Town of Tecumseh has committed $15 million towards the construction of the arena facility. The land hosting the arena will be donated to the Town and leased back on a long term basis to Ice Track. Development charges will be paid by Ice Track on all properties save and except those hosting the arena as they will remain under the ownership of the Town. The horseracing and slots facility will be constructed simultaneously with the arena.

The new facility has been earning praise from other stakeholders involved in this process. Brian Tropea, the Executive Vice President of the Ontario Harness Horse Association was clear in his support of this project. “This facility will drive a renaissance in harness racing in South Western Ontario”, declared Tropea. “The location is ideal and we are certain that we will realize a growth in interest in our sport as people attend this new facility. We can’t wait to start racing in Tecumseh.”

Tecumseh Town Council unanimously approved the arrangements with Ice Track at a meeting of Council this week.

The Cansfield Shocker

Now that she found her way down here, if she keeps speaking like this, we may have to welcome her more often!

Donna Cansfield was a real surprise. Where has Dalton McGuinty been hiding her? For once, a Canadian politician who actually takes a position on some of the border issues in a clear manner that can be understood. If she keeps her promises to come down here once a month, Sandra and Dwight might see their power usurped by this lady! She will be more important to Windsor than they!

Now of course, she did not tell us everything. Some matters are clearly in flux. However, it looks like the Ontario Transportation Minister delivered a very provocative speech to the Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Much stronger than I expected. I also heard that she had a meeting with some of the snake and tree huggers at Ojibway and made a shocking remark that will probably be edited from the news coverage.

I was told that she did not acknowledge our Mayor in her remarks even though he was sitting at the Head Table. In watching his interview on TV after her speech, he looked very uncomfortable with what she had to say. If true, was it a mistake, breach of protocol or deliberate snub right back at him! If you ask me, if true, then I think she cut him off at the knees.

Of course YOU want to know, dear reader, what she said , not filtered by some media type. So I went out and got a copy of the speech for you which I have posted below.

It's a good thing I did too. If you read the Star story, the Bridge Co. owner got more coverage than the Minister did. There was nothing about her speech. The online version had just this comment:

  • "Her chamber of commerce luncheon speech at the Caboto Club emphasized many of the same points raised by other federal and provincial cabinet ministers, that any solution will protect Windsor’s environment, provide better traffic flow and improve the quality of life in the city."

In summary though, what did the Minister really say? I have highlighted a number of sections in the speech that are significant. But what she did NOT say is important too.

  1. See if you can find anything in her speech that could help out DRTP? Oh yes, a tunnel was mentioned but not along the DRTP corridor.
  2. The "Huron Church/Highway 3" corridor was mentioned as the main focus, not the DRTP corridor. In fact, CBC TV News reported last night that she said DRTP is "off the map!"
  3. Her Letter to the Editor’s "leadership" language is gone too. I guess the Feds reminded her who was in charge!
  4. What happened to the mention of Eddie's Tunnel Plaza Improvement? After all, wasn't it part of the Phase 1 deal? Will that become dead too since $30 million for a parking lot is absurd.
  5. The fact that she mentioned twice that "fifty per cent of cross-border truck traffic [is] directly connected to the regional economy and regional jobs" clearly means that a customs area out at Highway 401, as DRTP is now suggesting, makes no sense. Local traffic would waste time and money going out there.
  6. While the Minister did NOT mention the Ambassador Bridge either, (she is NOT going to be made a municipal election issue) the road she is talking about and the fact that 50% of traffic is local suggests to me that their enhanced project is still in the running.
  7. Sure she talked about a "new crossing" [but ONLY in the briefest of manner] but with traffic going into the toilet, who could afford to build it and run it? Note though the comment: Highway 3 is a provincial highway and has been for 75 years. That road was built for the Ambassador Bridge

Here are some mattters she did speak about and why they are significant:

  1. The issue respecting designated inspection lanes for the specific use of trucks with pre-border security clearance under the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) and NEXUS programs is precisely why the Bridge Co. is looking at their enhancement program for a bridge with extra lanes for such traffic
  2. Oh yes, the gracious mention of a tunnel but the reality:"new truck emissions standards come into effect in January 2007 [that] will eventually cut emissions by more than 90 per cent."
  3. She did her math and engineering numbers very well too. Just around the time the new bridge will be built in 2013 " by the year 2012 – 2014 trucks will have these new engines with reduced harmful emissions."
  4. There will be no tunnel. There should be nothing more clear now after her comments that if anyone thinks that Governments are going to spend billions on a problem that will not exist in future, then they are fooling themselves and, if a local politician, the community!
  5. I must admit that I did not understand this line: The access road to the new crossing will continue to be consistent with the existing homes and businesses along Highway 3/Huron Church Road. That won’t change. Does that mean no one will be expropriated?
  6. Now for Ojibway and a truck route through it. Do you think it is going to happen after the Minister said "This is a fragile and important community resource, recognized around the world for its uniqueness. We are working with all levels of government to keep it the way it is, for current and future generations to come."
  7. More than that, if the media people have the guts to report it, she apparently said something along the lines of "with few natural and such low tree cover in this region, what kind of ***** would ever consider putting a highway through here." [fill in the blank for yourself] I gather she is a strong conservationist.

Note that she backed off completely from her previously published comment that the Bridge would be publicly owned in the Star interview saying now that "the next Windsor-Detroit crossing will "definitely have public oversight, but we will look at a variety of options when it comes to ownership." One of the 41 staffers finally gave her the party line on that!

It seems clear that the Province has had just about had enough of our Mayor and Council. And the Province, until recently, was Eddie's ally against the Feds. It also seems clear that the Feds have exercised a bit of muscle given the differences in tone between Cansfield's Letter to the Editor and her speech. After all, the Feds have lots of money around with a $13.2 Billion surplus, some of which Ontario can use for say, a subway in Toronto.

It should be interesting after the municipal election to see what happens. Unfortunately for us, we won't have a seat at the table. That was squandered by this Mayor and Council. All that we can hope for now is that the Senior Levels take pity on us!

  • Remarks for The Honourable Donna Cansfield

    Thank you, Neal [Belitsky, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel]. Good afternoon.

    I’m very pleased to be here to speak to you today. When I became Minister of Transportation I made a pledge to come here often to visit your beautiful city.

    I was pleased to be invited to address you today. The business community has played a huge role in Windsor’s prosperity since the Great Western Railway was established in 1854 and Hiram Walker built his distillery in 1858.

    The Windsor of this century faces a unique challenge. Prosperity has become inextricably linked to the free flow of goods and people across this international border. Windsor is a city that works, with fifty per cent of cross-border truck traffic directly connected to the regional economy and regional jobs.

    This is Canada’s busiest international border crossing. I want to assure you that increasing border capacity at the Windsor-Detroit Gateway is the McGuinty government’s number one economic infrastructure priority.

    But we are also deeply aware that any solution must consider the quality of life of the people who live here – that includes air quality, which I know is very important in this community.

    We want everyone in Windsor to know that the McGuinty government is taking a thorough and balanced approach to finding a solution to border congestion that works for everyone.

    Key messages:
    • Increasing border capacity at the Windsor-Detroit Gateway is the McGuinty government’s number one economic infrastructure priority.
    • Community input is essential to choosing a preferred site for a new crossing and the governments of Canada, the US, Michigan and Ontario are on schedule to open a new crossing by 2013.
    • The McGuinty government cares about the local economy, jobs, air quality and general quality of life of people who live in Windsor and Essex County and is making progress on several projects to address border congestion.

    Local Presence

    We are here. We care. We are listening. And we are progressing with the Detroit River International Crossing because we know how critical it is to the prosperity of Canada, Ontario and especially your businesses, your community and your families.

    You know, a lot of people are talking about the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study and border issues these days – and that’s a good thing. It shows that people are engaged and care about what happens in their community.

    So are we. We’re working hard to get our messages out and make sure that people have all the facts about this important project. We value your opinion and your input. And to make sure we get it right, we’ve set-up a team in Windsor with people who know and love their community.

    Since my appointment in the spring, I have made a personal commitment to be here about once a month.

    Our office in Windsor is staffed by people from Windsor, so that residents have access to the latest information. Many of you may know Steve Salmons. He’s from Windsor. He knows Windsor. He knows me and he knows I care about Windsor and Steve is here to advise me and to help me understand your perspective and to ensure local voices and concerns are heard.

    We also have a project team, that some of you may know, like Ray Mantha, Michael Kergin and Janice Coffin and many others who bring the best talent available for this project. Senior staff, with decades of experience on many complex projects have been brought together to bring their considerable knowledge and skills to your community.

    Some of you may have heard that we’re proposing a 12-lane superhighway that will divide the city in half. Actually, what we are proposing is a six-lane roadway to accommodate the increase in cross-border traffic. We’re considering five options for this roadway, including a tunnel. In all options, international traffic be separated from local traffic.

    We know you are concerned about the impact of this roadway. That’s why all of the alternatives under consideration will separate international traffic from local traffic … minimize air pollution and noise … and improve the overall transportation in this community.

  • We’ve heard your concerns that an increase in truck traffic will increase air pollution in Windsor and Essex County. Our air quality specialists are working with provincial and federal agencies to identify the air quality impact of the various options.

    Air monitors have been placed along the Huron Church/Highway 3 corridor – I visited the site this morning.

    This is an extraordinary step in response to what we’ve heard from the community.

    Air quality modelling is an essential part of the DRIC air quality assessment. Computerized models will allow us to make informed and reliable decisions about the air quality impact of the new crossing, plaza and access road.

    People in Windsor and Essex County should also know that new truck emissions standards come into effect in January 2007. A combination of new engines and lower-sulphur fuel will eventually cut emissions by more than 90 per cent.

    The average truck life is about five to seven years, according to the transport industry… that means by the year 2012 – 2014 trucks will have these new engines with reduced harmful emissions.

    The access road to the new crossing will continue to be consistent with the existing homes and businesses along Highway 3/Huron Church Road. That won’t change. Highway 3 is a provincial highway and has been for 75 years, the only difference is the trucks using this road will now be headed for the international border instead of city streets.

    This morning, I had the privilege of visiting the Ojibway Prairie Complex and learning more about the many rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals that can be found there. It is considered to be one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada, and a designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest and Provincial Park.

    Families living in the Windsor area directly benefit from this precious natural resource, which not only provides breath-taking outdoor walking trails and recreational space, but also improves air and water conditions through its ecosystem.

    This is a fragile and important community resource, recognized around the world for its uniqueness. We are working with all levels of government to keep it the way it is, for current and future generations to come.

    Sustainable transportation

  • All of us in this room know how important it is to clear the backlogs at our borders. We know that quick, reliable and safe transportation is vital to our jobs, economic success and quality of life.

    Sustainable transportation is also vital. As Minister of Transportation, sustainable transportation and the protection of our environment is one of my highest priorities.

    When we look at solutions to border delays, … removing truck traffic from residential neighbourhoods, … keeping goods and people moving safely and efficiently, … we want to bring the knowledge of our own experience and the experience of other countries. We’ve learned that any solution must be a sustainable one.

    Some of our border crossings, including Windsor, have designated inspection lanes for the specific use of trucks with pre-border security clearance under the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) and NEXUS programs. These programs help eliminate congestion at our border crossings.

    Many of you may have heard that American legislators are proposing a 17-month delay in requiring Canadians to produce a passport to enter the United States. If this proposal were successful, these new requirements would come into effect June 1, 2009.

    We want a transportation system that balances prosperity with the environment and our quality of life – one that works for the people who live here today and one that will work for the generations to follow. As I’ve said before, fifty per cent of cross-border truck traffic is from local business in the Windsor-Detroit area and we must build a sustainable transportation system to support local business.

    DRIC update

  • The governments of Canada, the United States, Ontario and Michigan are committed to building a new Detroit River crossing by 2013.

    Public input and consultation are an important part of the process. Since January 2005, we have conducted more than 100 public meetings, an average of twice a week. More are planned. We’ve listened and we will continue to listen. For example, as a result of community input, tunnelling from Highway 401 for all or part of the route to the new crossing is now being considered.

    The tunnelling option is being considered equally as important as a surface or sunken roadway.

    The best solution will not necessarily mean the cheapest. And again, we are looking for sustainable solutions that work for all of our partners for the next 30 years and more.

    We are on track to identify a single, preferred option for a new crossing next year (2007), with design and construction to begin in 2010.

    Let’s Get Windsor Essex Moving

    The Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy is another example of our commitment to improved traffic flow at the Windsor Gateway.

    The strategy is a $300 million investment by the Government of Canada and Province of Ontario. This $300 million is in addition to the six-laning of 401 Windsor to Tilbury.

    To date, nearly $20 million has been invested and several projects completed:
    • A pedestrian bridge over Huron Church Road is providing safer access for students and residents
    • We’ve made intersection improvements on Huron Church Road at Industrial Drive to accommodate trucks turning left to the pre-processing facility
    • Intersection improvements on Highway 3 at Outer Drive and Walker Road, and
    • Installed traffic cameras on provincial highways and city streets to monitor traffic approaching the border.

    Constructing two new railway underpasses on Walker Road and Howard Avenue will also improve traffic flow along these two busy roads.

    We also recently announced improvements to Manning Road to promote movement of goods in and out of Tecumseh and Lakeshore.

    And we are installing signs to direct trucks carrying hazardous materials to the ferry crossing.

    This is just some of the work that is being done now to address traffic issues at the Windsor-Detroit border.


    I’ve mentioned the important working relationship between our other government partners in the Windsor-Detroit Gateway, including local municipalities, Transport Canada and our US partners in Michigan and Washington.

    There is a lot of great work being done in this community with a lot more to come.

    The support of the business community, … a strong partnership between all levels of government, … and input from the people who live in Windsor and Essex County … is critically important to us.

    Border infrastructure issues are not new. They have developed over many, many years. The McGuinty government is looking ahead to develop solutions that work. We’re not looking for a “quick fix” when it comes to backlogs at the border.

    We need long-term sustainable solutions.

    Solutions that recognize our jobs and prosperity depend on an efficient border crossing …

    Solutions that recognize the importance of security in today’s world climate …

    Solutions that recognize the importance of strong communities and the quality of life of people who live here …

    And solutions that look to the future, conserving our natural resources and respecting our environment.

    A sustainable, safe and efficient transportation network to ease traffic flow at the Windsor-Detroit border is crucial to the local economy, jobs and quality of life of the people who live here, and travel through here.

    And we want to get it right. So please, keep your comments, calls and letters coming – we want to work with you and we ask for your continuing involvement in, and support for this very important project.

    Thank you.

Information Crisis Pandemic

A break from the calendar today.

I see that I am not alone in being frustrated with the Freedom of Information application procedure. It's an interesting story that I am posting below.

The reason for the problem is that when one finally gets the documents, the "smoking guns" are quite often revealed.

As you can tell, I do Not intend to stop with my application against the City of Windsor. I hope you come along for the ride and let me have your thoughts along the way.

Organization conducts access to information audit
Shannon Proudfoot, Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, September 22, 2006

When it comes to Canadians getting information from their government, facts are likely to grow stale or citizens exhaust themselves long before public documents are relinquished, an audit by the Canadian Newspaper Association shows.

Despite repeated admonishments from the federal information commissioner that unreasonable delay undermines Canada’s freedom of information laws, those who seek basic public information can still wait months for any acknowledgement of their requests. More than half the time, information is not released within the legislated timeframe, if at all.

"Delay is a chronic problem in every FOI system," says Alasdair Roberts, a Canadian specialist on access to information who teaches at Syracuse University. The lack of political will to fix the problem, he adds, has resulted in a shortage of resources devoted to processing requests and the absence of effective enforcement.

Government agencies will not take seriously the need to release public information in a timely manner unless there is a political price to pay, Roberts says, and Canada needs more watchdog organizations like those in the U.S. and Britain to exert such pressure.

In the CNA’s National Freedom of Information Audit, reporters across the country filed 66 formal written requests for basic public information, including pesticide use, bonuses paid to hospital executives and crime statistics. Of those, 53 per cent were outright denied or no records were provided within the 30-day limit set out in the legislation.

Federal information commissioner John Reid says more government agencies are automatically taking time extensions beyond the 30-day limit. A large number of those extensions, he says, are not justified.

He concedes that enforcement of information laws is a problem because fining government bodies simply results in public money recycling back into the same pool.

"Basically, the only weapon we have is publicity and shame," he says.

As wielded by Reid’s office, that weapon has been at least partly effective.

After he took over as information commissioner in 1998 and instituted annual report cards that forced government departments and ministers to account for delays, complaints about the issue dropped off dramatically.

In the 2003-04 annual report, Reid reported that delays generated just 14.5 per cent of complaints to his office, compared to almost 50 per cent in 1998-99. However, complaints about delay are on the rise again: 24.1 per cent in the most recent report, up from 21.1 per cent the year before.

"The time limits in the act have become like the speed limit," says Jay Krushell, an Edmonton lawyer who specializes in information and privacy law. "A speed limit is intended to be a maximum; most people view it as a minimum."

Krushell believes some of the sluggishness in the system may stem from access to information and privacy legislation itself. Before these became prominent issues in Canada, bureaucrats were not as "hyper-aware" of the implications of releasing information, any information, to the public, he says.

"The act is supposed to promote access, but practically speaking, in some ways it’s actually defeating that purpose," Krushell says. "The privacy part of the act is almost becoming a shield to justify not disclosing."

In the CNA audit, some of the longest delays stemmed from requests about pandemic planning at the federal level. Dean Beeby, deputy bureau chief for the Ottawa bureau of Canadian Press, filed six information requests with the Public Health Agency of Canada in late March. More than five months later, he has yet to receive any information.

After getting no acknowledgement of his requests, Beeby received a phone call the day before the 30-day limit was to expire, informing him that the agency was taking a 60-day extension. The staff member who called was apologetic and said the department was overwhelmed by work.

A full three months after he filed the requests, Beeby received a letter stating there were no records pertaining to one of them. There has still been no response to the other five requests.

The agency is well aware they are not processing or even acknowledging requests in a timely manner, says Ross Hodgins, the access to information and privacy coordinator for Health Canada, which also processes requests for the public health agency. Their office gets a higher proportion of complex requests for third-party information than other government departments, he says, but they recently increased staff numbers and hope to be caught up by the end of the year.

"We acknowledge we’re behind, we acknowledge we’ve got a backlog. The good news is there’s support right from the minister’s office to ensure that gets resolved," Hodgins says.

However, there is evidence that delays in other departments are deliberate and intended to thwart media access to information that could be politically damaging if exposed to the public. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein came under fire in the spring of 2004 for his personal use of government airplanes. Soon after, Klein made it known that his office would vet all requests to examine the logs, and opposition politicians and reporters on political "fishing trips" might be denied.

In response, a pair of Edmonton Journal reporters made a freedom of information request to view the flight logs. Hefty fees were assigned, and no fewer than nine individuals signed off on the documents before they were released close to six months later -- two days after the provincial election in which Klein was returned to office.

The logs revealed wasteful use of the government planes, and the newspaper ran a series of stories last March, one of them quoting an unidentified civil servant who explained that government employees are instructed not to process information requests from the media during the "red zone" preceding an election.

However, Marisa Etmanski, director of communications for the premier’s office, is critical of reporters pursuing an "agenda" against her office, and insists staff simply needed more time to process a complex request.

"Does it look suspicious? Yeah, because it was around an election time," she says. "But our thing is, it just takes so long."

After an investigation for the provincial information commissioner found that a doctored e-mail had been submitted as evidence in a public inquiry on the case, Alberta Justice asked the RCMP to formally investigate whether a government employee should face criminal charges. Experts say this is the first known case in Canada of a criminal investigation involving breaches of freedom of information law.

Charles Rusnell, one of the Journal reporters who made the initial information request, says his newspaper has now made it a policy to fight each access to information decision against them.

"What is forgotten in all this is that this information does not belong to the government -- they’re merely the keepers of this information on our behalf," he says. "This information belongs to the public, and we should have access to it in a reasonable way."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Empty Words, Broken Promises: WONHAM FOR MAYOR

"Empty Words, Broken Promises"

You’ll hear that phrase a lot over the next month and a half as Dr. David Wonham challenges the Mayor for the top job in Windsor politics.

Youthful enthusiasm is an experiment that failed! So said the man who is running to be the next Mayor of Windsor. But he did not say it unkindly, and not in a negative way. He praised Eddie for trying his best. Wonham just lead us to draw our own conclusion that Eddie just could not do the job!

I attended David Wonham’s press conference today just after he announced he was running for Mayor. I wanted to see what he was like, to hear what his issues were and to see how well he stood up against the media questioning.

He did an excellent job, but why not since he has chaired various groups and dealt with the media for years. As an example, he negotiated the agreement “to get around long hospital waiting lists for heart patients by sending patients to a hospital in Detroit.” He even got some of the news people to laugh at his jokes too.

There was no phoniness or staged applause. There was no hoopla, no throngs calling out his name, no signs or confetti being thrown. Just a tall, distinguished semi-retired surgeon who has had enough of what he has experienced here over the last three years and decide to run. He saw what is wrong with Windsor’s body politic and will use his surgeon’s scalpel to cut it away.

He had no backers to whom he owed something and was just putting together his campaign team he said. He was not a one-issue candidate concerned about an arena with a museum attached. He hoped that the support would come since he had some innovative ideas to put his message across, not just the traditional lawn signs approach. He welcomed debating with Eddie and was not afraid to face the Great Communicator.

And he has a wicked sense of humour to boot. When commenting on Rails for Trails, he wondered why that meeting had to be held tonight as a Special Council meeting rather than the one for the arena that is obviously more important. Then he figured it out---he said we needed better trails for all of the people moving out of Windsor to find a job in Alberta!

His first three priorities were jobs, jobs, jobs. He did not understand, respecting the border why the Mayor had refused to talk with both DRTP and the Ambassador Bridge Co. He already met with them both! He pointed out that the Bridge Co.’s proposal would inject a billion dollars into the region that would produce many new jobs.

I’ll let the media present comments on the specifics of what he said. But he knew the issues. What interested me is that the E-machine has a problem. The good doctor is NOT afraid to say that the Mayor is wearing no clothes and has not done so for 3 years. Instead of a coronation, we are going to have a tough fight and Windsorites will finally hear what we have not heard in 3 years: Windsor has major problems.

Let me give an example of what some politicos might consider “courage” in Windsor. Dr. Wonham dealt with the Windsor Star right upfront in a very fair and quiet manner. Frankly, to me it showed that he was not a man who was afraid of dealing straight on with an issue that has been an undercurrent for months with many people proposing to run for office. I believe it was the second point of his initial remarks. He pointed out what BLOG readers know that Eddie’s Chief of Staff, Norma Coleman, is married to John Coleman, Editorial Page Editor of the Star. He said that he knew John and that John was a man of integrity and that he knew he would get fair coverage in the Star. That was it, no fuss or muss, issue solved.

Probably the way Wonham would solve many of our many outstanding issues. Perhaps being grey-haired has a virtue or two.

Will Wonham win? To be direct, even he must know that his chances of being successful against Eddie are low. His chances of getting a significant number of votes, enough to win, depend obviously whether he can get his message out and whether people will believe that Eddie has done nothing for three years. Or as he put it: “Empty Words, Broken Promises.”

But what Wonham’s running will do is create a race. It will actually discuss issues. It should help galvanize what has become a non-event so far: the municipal election. It should boost the chances of the newcomers for Council against the incumbents. It has been so quiet so far, as if the incumbents made a pact not to stir up the populace so they would all win again.

Now that won’t happen. The incumbents will have to confront the electorate and try and explain away three years of failure on the border, the arena, City finances and so on and so on and so on.

Whether Dr. Wonham becomes Mayor or not is irrelevant frankly. He has already won. He will get Windsorites thinking about their City and what must be done. For that alone, he will get my vote!

Oh Donna, Where Can You Be? Where Can You Be

Isn't the line from the Richie Valens song, "Oh Donna," appropriate?

I hope the Minister found her way to Windsor, ONTARIO since it appears she has not been here very often. She may have been confused since Windsor is South of the US! Perhaps if she made it here safely, then she could give instructions to Federal Transport Minister Cannon. He has been absent as well.

And I thought our border crossing was important, silly me

You no doubt saw this Letter to the Editor by Ontario Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield. I am certain that she wrote the letter a few days before her speech in Windsor to the Chamber of Commerce Annual Transportation Luncheon so people in town will actually know who she is. You would think that with 41 Provincial people working for her on the border file, a few of them could actually have gone around to make it known who the Minister really is. She has been virtually invisible on the border file.

In case you missed the letter, here it is:
  • McGuinty government committed to border
    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    In (the editorial) Ford Cuts: The Road Map to Follow, you wrote about the urgent need for another border crossing and the essential "planning for the movement of trade 10, 20, or even 30 years from now." I couldn't agree more.

    That's why the McGuinty government's number one infrastructure priority is the Windsor-Detroit Gateway. As lead for the Border Transportation Partnership, we are actively implementing a forward-thinking, long-term 30-year transportation strategy that will address the various challenges of the Windsor-Detroit Gateway. This strategy will culminate in the construction of a new state-of-the-art, efficient and secure border crossing that will serve the regional, provincial and national economies for generations to come. Our timeline allows for the construction of a new river crossing, inspection plaza and six-lane access road by 2013.

    Although some would consider seven years a long wait for such a vital infrastructure project, rest assured that we are keeping to an aggressive schedule that still allows for extensive public consultation. We are on track, on schedule, and have met every stated milestone to date.

    To meet the more pressing short- and medium-term transportation needs in the Windsor-Detroit gateway, we are also working closely with our partners to address congestion issues and improve border efficiency in Windsor. Together, Ontario and Canada have committed to invest almost $500 million in the local road network and border crossing systems as part of the Let's Get Windsor Essex Moving (LGWEM) strategy.

    Now more than ever, the critical need for a third border crossing in Windsor is apparent.

    Additional border capacity will reinforce Windsor's strong and historically significant role in the manufacturing, importing/exporting and tourism industries, upon which so much of the regional and provincial economy depends.


    Ontario Minister of Transportation

Wow---a forward-thinking, long-term 30-year transportation strategy. Isn't that re-assuring since her Ministry has not been able to solve the short-term here and now. They had to leave that to the "private" Ambassador Bridge to do that!

Her letter is the typical stuff we have been hearing from Ministers from the Provincial and Federal Governments for how long: need for another border crossing, number one infrastructure priority is the Windsor-Detroit Gateway, the construction of a new river crossing, inspection plaza and six-lane access road by 2013.

Is she so totally out of touch with border realities? She states: "Now more than ever, the critical need for a third border crossing in Windsor is apparent." In light of the Ford job cut announcement (coupled with the Daimler-Chrysler production cuts, the smoking ban, the strong dollar, etc. – the border demand decline in general) a new crossing is needed in Windsor like Riverside Dr. needs bicycle lanes!

I wonder if the DRIC guys have revised downwards their numbers, AGAIN! Has she not heard of the Tunnel's sharp drop in traffic and revenues and its sorry financial shape? Imagine what another new crossing would do to the financial viability of all of the crossings OR is the object to bankrupt Windsor and move everything to the Sarnia-Port Huron area?

Since the Minister claims that Ontario is the “lead for the Border Transportation Partnership,” then she should be able to answer some questions and hopefully she will do so in her speech:

1) As for being the "lead," has any one of her 41 staff members told her about Bill C-3 and the expressed intent of the Feds to be in charge? Have any of them actually read the hearings so that they will understand that it is the Feds who call the shotsand are in charge and the Province is viewed no diffferently as an operator than say, the Ambassador BridgeCo.!
2) Is she well-versed on Windsor's complicated border crossing and feeder road debate unlike the last time she was interviewed by the Star in August
3) Will she do a photo-op at the long left-turn lane for which $357,000 in road improvements on Huron Church Road at Industrial Drive was paid out
4) Will the widening of Manning Road (Essex County Road 19) from north of County Road 22 to the VIA Rail line lead to trucks on E C Row
5) If improving the flow of traffic in the Windsor-Detroit Gateway is one of the Ontario government’s priorities, then why hasn’t the $300M been used yet to build the road to the Ambassador Bridge since it is an existing crossing.
6) Is she in favour of “public” ownership of the new crossing or was she misquoted
7) What has happened to Dwight Duncan's $500 million Gong Show money for the border
8) Thank goodness theProvince has the lead...when will she force the WTC Clair/Mayor to fix up the unique border security risk known as the City-owned Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.

Perhaps the Minister will speak to her Colleague, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Sandra Pupatello about fixing the border so that Windsorites can get new jobs in infrastructure. I just read what was said at the new Toyota plant in Woodstock:
  • “Toyota held a ceremony on the plant site yesterday and Minister of Economic Development and Trade Sandra Pupatello applauded the official beginning of construction.

    "It is about community, it is about prosperity and it is about jobs -- 2,000 high-value jobs . . . 3,000 when you count suppliers -- and the community also prospers," she said."
We may have an increase in our unemployment rate soon. We need some big applause down here fast---or Sandra and Dwight may be out of a job too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Would A $101,089.00 Bill Cause You Financial Hardship

I finally received my "waiver" letter from the City, sort of. Now I am going to have to spend some more time answering it. I wonder if we should have a pool to guess what the answer will be in the end.

It' seems strange to be asking the party that seems to be putting roadblocks in front of me to prevent me from getting the information in the first place to waive the fees. Oh well, that is the process. Who am I to argue?

  • "Subsequent to an interim fee estimate decision letter issued by this office July 28, 2006 and further to a clarification letter sent from this office dated August 8, 2006, we have received your email dated September 21, 2006 in which you asked for a fee waiver as follows:

    “I would ask that the fee in this matter be waived by the City since it is fair and equitable to do so. Please confirm that the City is prepared to do so immediately.”

    Under the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, s. 45(4), in order for an institution to consider a fee waiver, it is the responsibility of the requester to present representations to the institution identifying and demonstrating to the institution one or more of four considerations (s. 45(4) MFIPPA) which would establish a case thus allowing the institution to review all the presented circumstances surrounding the request for a fee waiver. I have quoted these considerations as follows:

    Section 45(4)
    “A head shall waive the payment of all or any part of an amount required to be paid under subsection (1) if, in the head’s opinion, it is fair and equitable to do so after considering,

    a) the extent to which the actual cost of processing, collecting, and copying the record varies from amount of the payment required by subsection (1);

    b) whether the payment will cause a financial hardship for the person requesting the record;

    c) whether dissemination of the record will benefit public health or safety; and

    d) any other matter prescribed in the regulations. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.56, s. 45 (4); 1996, c. 1, Sched. K, s. 23 (2).”

    In order to make an informed decision, I will require evidence of the above considerations which will assist me in making a decision about the fee waiver. Such proof for 45(4)(b) shall consist of details regarding your financial situation, including information about income, expenses, assets, and liabilities [Order MO 1895] to support this consideration. Such proof for 45(4)(c) shall be:

    Whether the subject matter of the record is a matter of public rather than private interest;

    Whether the subject matter of the record relates directly to a public health or safety issue;

    Whether the dissemination of the record would yield a public benefit by,

    a) disclosing a public health or safety concern, or
    b) contributing, meaningfully to the development of understanding of an important public health or safety issue;
    the probability that the requester will disseminate the contents of the records.
    (Orders P-2, P-474, PO-1953, PO-1962)

    I would also point out that the Act permits the waiver of payment of all or part of the fee, in certain circumstances.

    I have also enclosed the pertinent section of the Act for your convenience. Please respond to this request before Monday, October 23, 2006 otherwise I will consider this issue abandoned.

    Yours very truly,

    Brenda Andreatta for Chuck Scarpelli

Eddie's Tunnel Super-Vision

It just does not make any sense to me at all. There has to be more to it but I just do not get it.

The guy was "Young Entrepreneur of the year" so we thought he was a successful business person. He is a Lawyer (although he really went almost immediately from his Bar Admission course to running for office) so we thought he knew how to dot the "I's" and cross the "T's." He is the head of a Corporation now with thousands of employees, hundreds of millions in assets and a budget of over a quarter of a billion dollars so we thought he could manage. Were we all wrong?

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was going to be his big success that would allow him to achieve amazing things in his second term as Mayor. Instead, it may symbolize his failure as the border and arena debates are doing now.

What do we know about the Tunnel already that has taken place under the Eddie Francis watch:
  1. Its value as an asset that can generate funds for the City may be decreasing rapidly as more negative information about it comes out
  2. Its traffic volume has continued to decrease from 1999 to the end of 2005 from 9.6 million vehicles per year to 6 million and it sinking fast this year too.
  3. Revenues have continued to decrease by a third in that time period, declining every year from about $18M to $12M with no end to the decrease in sight even with increased tolls.
  4. The $6.6 million Tunnel dividend, will be reduced drastically this year and may completely disappear next year thereby increasing our tax load
  5. The Tunnel’s low tolls policy, designed to take traffic away from the Ambassador Bridge, failed as the recent increases demonstrate
  6. Cost overruns on the Tunnel Ventilation Building renovations have increased the price from $13M to over $20M.
  7. The Tunnel Plaza Improvement project costing $30M, ten million of which will be borne by City taxpayers, will not move one single vehicle through the Tunnel any more quickly and may now not be necessary (see Point #9).
  8. The Windsor Tunnel Commission may have to borrow up to $15 million from the City, reducing our already fast shrinking reserves.
  9. Downtown traffic jams have become so bad because of Tunnel backups that we are now going to allow vehicles to queue inside the Tunnel to take the pressure off of City streets.
  10. In a recent article in the Journal of Commerce, the Tunnel was described as a “unique security risk” that does not meet US Customs requirements.

We know that, as much as he wants to dodge it, he was a member of the Windsor Tunnel Commission and a Councillor, and so has to take the responsibility for the Park 'N Go fiasco which will cost the City millions as it went into Receivership. The Star reported that "Francis said the agreement should have contained other legal protections for the city. It didn't..." The responsibility must be that of the Mayor since "In April 2001, then-councillor Francis made the motion at a tunnel commission meeting to approve the partnership agreement." While he says "All I know today is when agreements come on my desk, before I sign them I read through those agreements," it would seem that yesterday this was not his practice resulting in the loss to the City. Eddie failed to ensure that the City had protection.

As a business person and manager, he should know how to run a business profitably. After all, didn't he have a successful Pita business that he expanded and was able to sell. Yet look at how he has run the Tunnel

Years ago in relation to the Tunnel Eddie "acknowledged that "our traffic has gone to the bridge and we have to do a better job of convincing people that the tunnel should be their crossing of choice." One of his Board colleagues stated "We have tried in the past to keep fares low to encourage usage, but it appears our patrons are not being supportive of that position because we are losing business to the (Ambassador) bridge." Councillor Cassivi, another member of the Commission, made the point that "painful as it may be to consider, we may have to look at a rate increase because it is a business."

Eddie's toll pricing actions were an abysmal failure as can be seen by the fact that the tolls finally had to be increased to stop the revenue bleeding. It seems that the tolls were kept low. DCTC as an example, had to increase the tolls coming into Windsor to pay for costs such as rising health care costs for U.S. employees and high insurance premiums. The Tunnel experienced revenue losses in the millions. Yet, until recently, the DCTC toll into Windsor was $4.75 while the WTC's toll into Detroit was $3.50. Of course, this does not even consider the US$2 per toll if Tunnel tokens were bought in bulk.

Eddie was quoted in the Windsor Star saying, "Francis countered there hasn't been a noticeable increase in traffic numbers despite the Windsor side of the tunnel providing the cheapest cross- border tolls at either the bridge or tunnel in recent years."

Over 18 months ago, the Mayor said "I think it's time to assign a specific individual or individuals to better manage the affairs of our greatest revenue-producing asset...We need to find a person or persons who will live and breathe tunnel business," said Francis. "We shouldn't be merely interested in preserving our market share at the tunnel, we need to improve it and we need to develop a comprehensive strategy that will allow us to do that. "And the only way to do that is to give the tunnel more attention."

So what was done? Who is that person or are those persons? If no one was hired, no wonder the Tunnel is in a mess. If he/she was hired, then why is that person in the job still. Finally we learn today that someone will be hired by Christmas. What a joke. No wonder Windsor and the Tunnel burn as Eddie procrastinates. And he uses the same line that he used so long ago, "The tunnel is a strategic asset for us and requires somebody living and breathing its interests seven days a week."

Am I being unfair? I do not think so. I am told that the Tunnel volumes for this year in comparison with last year's volumes are down by about 220,000 vehicles

If the trend continues downwards as it is and the loss numbers are as large each month, the Tunnel could lose 10% of its volume in one year or about a loss of around $2 million in revenues. The reduction in volumes alone after the tolls were increased is about 170,000 vehicles in July and August alone I have heard.

The Tunnel is bleeding red ink by the bucket.

Is Eddie is too busy dreaming the dream of Tunnel infrastructure deals, outsmarting the Bridge Co. and fooling the Senior Levels to worry about the mundane maters like operating a successful border operation? We know running a family Pita business is not running a multi-hundred million dollar cross-border transportation corridor. If Eddie cannot succeed today, think of what competition he will have to face when the Bridge Co. completes its enhancement project and if a new bridge is built. Think of the competiton from a 200-booth border crossing and a new state of the art one with the cramped Tunnel sandwiched in the downtowns of Detroit and Windsor.

Yet Eddie is a micro-manager; none of this would escape him. He hates being criticized and taking blame. He is success-driven, success-oriented. So what is behind this seeming failure? Is he trying to run down the value of the Tunnel? Is he trying to discourage other investors away from the Tunnel including the Bridge Co.? Is it to be able to buy out Detroit's interest and DCTC's at a low cost to scoop the profits later? Is this a short-term pain ploy to get more money from the Senior Levels for the Tunnel to "save" it from ruin for a long-term gain?

My guess is that it's probably all of that but it is the really the fall-back plan because the Bridge Co. beat him in Round 1 of the Tunnel battle--the 200 booths and then the potential deal with Detroit wrecked Eddie's PLAN. So now there is a need to start all over but this time around make sure the Bridge Co., and any other investor, is discouraged or chased away. It almost seems like a pre-emptive strike on his part.

Think of it, control the whole Tunnel at a low cost, get the Feds to pay for improvements and buying out DCTC who will be thrilled not to suffer more losses, use the DCTC plans to fix up the US side. Once Reverse Customs is in, start building up traffic and near the middle of the Mayor's second term as volumes are increasing, do what he wanted to do now--sell or lease the Tunnel or securitize the revenues. What I am saying is that the Tunnel is being allowed to suffer short-term to fix it up long-term as astounding as that may seem.

It is a big gamble. If Eddie loses, why his assets are not at risk. Windsor taxpayers foot the bill for his lack of entrepreneurial skills.

The other alternative, is it simply being in a situation that he cannot get out of, something over his head? Is he sinking fast but afraid to tell us he failed as with the Schwartz Report and the border?

It's time the Windsor Tunnel Commission Board intervened. Do they know what is going on? If not, they had better find out. They have a legal obligation in this matter too. It may well come down to agreeing with the Mayor/WTC Chair or giving him the ultimatum: to resign or be fired.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Windsor Reply Not Here Yet

I am still waiting to see what the City of Windsor's response is to MFOIA my fee waiver.
I guess the City email servers are slow or they used the same mail service that was used for the Superior Park notices.

No Contest Winner, Sorry

The contest is now closed and unfortunately, there were no winners although there were some clever answers.

You may recall that I ran a Transport Canada contest a few days ago. I provided a webpage and a list of International Bridges in Canada. I asked:
  1. What is missing from this website
  2. Why
The first question was easily answered: the Ambassador Bridge. It was the second question that caused the problem.

The answer has to do with CSIS, Transport Canada, Bill C-3 and Senator Kenny. It was all masterminded by a secret group whose function it is to protect Canada's valuable assets when in reality we have no money to do proper security.

Bill C-3 is actually more concerned about security of tunnels and bridges yet Transport Canada has no money to do anything about it if proper steps have to be taken at all of the international crossings in Canada. [Damn the "private" Ambassador Bridge, as the Ottawa hearings revealed, they have the best security in Canada! It forces the "public" sector to spend money to keep up to their standard]

The Senator has been on a top-secret mission from a group deep within the bowels of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) who play a leading role in protecting the national security interests of Canada. Until the public knew better when the US magazine article came out identifying that the Tunnel was a "unique" security risk, everyone assumed that the real border risk was the Bridge.

You may remember Senator Kenny carrying out his role with his Senate Report and when he made statements like: "If someone really wanted to lay waste to Canada’s political and economic future – and wound the Americans at the same time – the best target would be the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario."

The plan is so obvious now that we should have thought of it before. A CSIS genius told Transport Canada to divert attention away from the Tunnel to the bridge. Voila, perfect security for the Tunnel at no cost!

But the plan backfired as Bureaucratic plans normally do since many of them live in La-la land as far as the real world goes. Their model says one thing until reality bites and the plan is shown to be flawed.

Someone at Transport Canada obviously woke up in a sweat one morning (probably after he/she met Dan Stamper of the Bridge Co. at the Ottawa hearings) and figured out that the good Senator had been too successful. Too much attention was now being focused on the Bridge.

Sources tell me that a top-secret meeting was held in Ottawa involving Senior Mandarins from a number of Departments to deal with this imminent crisis. After days of discussion, another solution was agreed to, another no cost solution.

You have to admit the new plan was sheer genius. The ultimate security action is to pretend that the Ambassador Bridge does not exist! If it does not exist, then it cannot be a security risk. If it is not a security risk, no money has to be spent to protect it. What is the easiest way to pretend it does not exist: take it off of the list of Transport Canada International Bridges. If it is not on the list, then no one will know about it. Problem solved.

Oh, there you go again, laughing at me, thinking I am making this stuff up. No one could make up these things I am telling you! Want proof???

We know that the Tunnel is a unique security risk and this obviously has been known for a long time. Action could have been taken long ago--reverse customs is one answer-- to resolve the problem but, as I disclosed before, that would have made the Tunnel non-competitive with the Bridge. So what is done to pretend that the problem has been solved at no cost:
  • "Tunnel blueprints yanked
    Doug Williamson, Windsor Star 08-14-2004

    Mayor Eddie Francis has ordered the removal of Detroit-Windsor tunnel blueprints and other structural documents from the public library... a button-click away from sensitive data.

    Francis, citing two sections of the Ontario Municipal Act which give him such authority, ordered library director Steve Salmons on Aug. 4 to remove the tunnel documents, which included detailed blueprints, from library archives, and put them under lock and key...

    He said he also urged the Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation, which manages the entire tunnel for Windsor and its Australian- based management company, to remove all information relating to tunnel infrastructure from its public website."
Now that was fast action by the Mayor. But I wonder why he has not taken real action at the Tunnel. After all, and Transport Canada should also take note of this:

"You never want to be in a position where somebody could say, 'You knew, you ought to have known and you didn't do something,'" Francis said."

Wow, quite a statement from our Mayor/WTC Chair/legal technocrat which I hope no plaintiff's litigation lawyer will ever have to use against the City or the WTC!
Eddie has NO choice now. He must call Ottawa forthwith and set up an appointment this week. He must go to Ottawa and have a meeting with senior Transport Canada officials and get this issue resolved. Poor Eddie, someone might otherwise say that he "didn't do something."

Superior Park Saga Continues

It no longer has anything to do with Superior has to do with how this City seems to run. In a nutshell, the Superior Park story confirms to me why I get so angry at the way things are done, and why I started this BLOGsite.

Frankly, I expect that most of you are well past your "Bambi" days (except perhaps for your kids or grandkids) and probably do not care all that much whether Superior Park is sold or not for a French High School. If it was as simple as that, but for my friends being involved, I would not care all that much either. But it is not that simple to be direct.

And there is more to this story that is being disclosed as I am finding as time goes on. Council needs to ask some serious questions of Administration about some information that they have not yet been told. Read all the way through to the end and you shall see.

Just so you know, one of the people opposed to the sale is my friend Debbie who is famous for asking Mike Hurst the "Is this a done deal" question at the public meeting on the border in January, 2003.

Why should YOU be interested in this battle.

Simple, if it can happen to Superior Park, then it can happen to you too. What is the "it?" Not necessarily the sale of a Park but the way the City tries to ram something down your throat as a citizen while pretending to be listening to you!

The tale of Superior Park is an interesting case study. Is this how a City should to operate.

  1. As you will recall, the sale of the Park was put forward in a secret, in camera meeting.
  2. Then there was a Report to Council trying to pressure Council into accepting a deal with the School Board immediately [a so-called August "drop dead" date by which the sale HAD to be done was inserted]
  3. No public meeting was ever called as is required if Parkland is to be sold.
  4. The motion was presented to Council as a done deal without notification to neighbours and in the summer when many people would be away on vacation and who therefore would not know about the deal until it was too late.
  5. When a fuss was raised, Administration sought a 90 day extension but that was reduced to 30 days and a public meeting was to be held. A victory for Democracy----hardly!

So what has happened since that time. First the "key people" had to be invited to a small "informal" meeting to see what their "objections" were and to placate them. That is to get them "on-side." That is a very clever ploy. Once that is done, the trouble makers have been co-opted right and then the City can have a "peaceful" public meeting.

Except now the public meeting is not a Town Hall-type meeting as one would expect but these darn information sessions designed so no one can know what another neighbour really thinks. Of course, there was a mailing in the last minute and an ad was placed in the paper on the Saturday before the Tuesday meeting. Why give people a lot of time to adjust their schedules so they could actually attend and have their voices heard.

Here let me set out the exchange of emails so you can read it for yourself. Oh by the way, look at another tactic used which is to provide so many meetings that people get fed up and tired and so do not attend:

  • In regards to the meeting held at City Hall on September 20/06, between a few residents of Superior Park, Councilor Brister, Don Sadler and Mike Stamp. The Neighbours of Superior Park feel that the conditions of this Public Meeting that is planned for September 26/06 is unacceptable!

    1) To have the notifications sent out before we had any discussion about a Public Meeting is a sham!
    2) To hold the Public Meeting outside our ward, for those who not drive, is a farce!
    3) To hold this meeting on a night when a majority of this community will be attending a Church Mission, is totally unfair!
    4) To hold this meeting without an Italian interpreter is discriminate! Keep in mind this is a very strong Italian community.
    5) To have it 2-4 P.M. is absurd for those who are working and cannot get away to attend.
    6) To have it at 2 different times and the way it is structured, means residents will not stick around for the entire time.
    7) The entire meeting process is designed so that neighbours will not hear what other neighbours have to say about this project.
    We demand to have a Town Hall style meeting at 7P.M. at St. Patrick's Church on another date. We are also shocked that this project is allowed to continue when we were informed by two Councillors that the School Board was looking at other sites. We intend to make this an election issue, if it is not resolved immediately to our COMPLETE satisfaction.


  • Kevin & Debbie,

    Thank you for meeting with us last night and thank you for the "e" mail below. As Don and I stated last night, if the area residents don't think one public meeting is sufficient, we indicated we would schedule another meeting so that everyone has an opportunity to participate.

    We will continue with the meeting on the 26th as those notices have gone out and schedule another meeting at St Patrick's church for a later date. That date hasn't been established yet as we need to check with the School Board on the availability of the Trustee and also with the church on the availability of its hall.

    We are always aware of the diversity of our neighbourhoods and we make every attempt to have staff available at the meetings to address those whose first language isn't English.

    Since Windsor is a "shift work" economy the scheduling of the meeting from 2:00 to 4:00 and 6:00 to 8:00 is standard for this type of public meeting. It is not designed this way to prohibit people from communicating with one another. We apologize if it has been interpreted this way.

    To accommodate scheduling of the Trustee and the 30 day deferral period set by Council, our original intention was to hold the meeting on the 26th at St. Patrick's. We were told it was not available. We were not advised that there was a mission meeting which would be attended by a great number of the neighbourhood residents. The meeting was then scheduled at the College Avenue Community Centre.

    As soon as we have some tentative dates set for the second meeting we will advise you. Once a date has been finalized we will send out additional notices and place another ad in the Windsor Star. The format of the meeting will be discussed with you as well.

    We are hopeful that the scheduling of 2 meetings will allow for full participation by the area residents.

    Mike Stamp
    Senior Property Agent.

Then the absolute piece de resistance:

  • We would like to know why the residents of Partington have not received their notices about the Public Meeting of the Sale of Superior Park, that is going to take place on Tuesday, September 26th? In discussions with the neighbourhood, the residents on Mark & Rankin have received their notices yesterday. For us to receive these notices by Monday are too late! We would just like to know what kind of games are being played? It is obvious that this is an another "act of adding more fuel to the already smouldering fire" and reason to call off this meeting!

And the reply:

  • Mr. MacDonell,

    All of the 230 notices for the public meeting were mailed out at the same time and should have been delivered by Canada Post. We mailed out individual notices to all property owners within 400 feet of Superior Park both north and south of Totten. There was also an ad in the Windsor Star this past Saturday. As I advised in a previous "e" mail this will be the first of 2 meetings on the subject of Superior Park.

    I hope you will be able to attend on the 26th

    Mike Stamp
    Senior Property Agent


Tell me this is NOT like the Border fiasco with the secrecy and the only public meeting on it that was scheduled in inconvenient Tecumseh.

Tell me it is NOT like the Arena mess with the secrecy and re-scheduled public meetings, with new players popping in and out at different times.

It's not the first time the City has had an issue like this. Why is there such a screw-up? This file has it all:

  • Acting one way in the in camera meeting and then posturing in public
  • Behind the scenes lobbying
  • Secrecy
  • Phony deadlines and demand for immediate action
  • Not following their own procedures
  • Inability to set up a meeting properly and in a readily accessible Community setting
  • Information sessions to diffuse neighbourhood complaints rather than a Town hall meeting
  • Of course, after the citizens complain, then compromise is suggested.

Now let's get to the fun part. Is there something odd about what is going on that has not been disclosed to Council. If so, why not?

  1. Why weren't Councillors Jones and Valentinis who sit on a school liaison committee not consulted
  2. If Councillor Jones "could provide the French board with a list of alternative sites as long as his arm" why has this not been pursued
  3. Was there some deal made in 1998 with the City involving zoning and St.Patrick's school which was closed down and is that deal still valid
  4. Is there an issue about the "ball diamond," since it appears to have been dropped from the plans, and concerning money donated and a lease?
  5. Have the school Board of St. Edmond's and the parents been made aware about this school coming given the deep concern about mixing elementary and secondary students?
  6. Why is the School Board paying supposedly $1.8 M to buy woodlots just to exchange them with the City who would then turn around and make a new park? Is this sum one that is justifiable in the circumstances?

I am sure that there is more to this than I have discussed. Council needs to have a full fact-finding before being asked to make a decision. The public must be allowed to have a proper meeting to be able to express their concerns --or their approval.

Now you may want to understand why it is not only Bambi who should be concerned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Not Saying Yes, Not Saying No

I had some fun trying to get a straight answer out of the City on my Municipal Freedom of Information Application.

I was told by one of the "intake" people at the Privacy Commission that if I wanted a fee waiver, remember the City wanted over $100,000 to produce the documents I requested, I had to ask them for the waiver first. Without going into the gory details, I agreed and sent the following request:

  • I would ask that the fee in this matter be waived by the City since it is fair and equitable to do so.

    Please confirm that the City is prepared to do so immediately.

Nice simple request I thought, easily answerable by a yes or no answer. Here is the response I received:

  • Dear Mr. Arditti;

    Thank you for your e-mail concerning FOI 33-2006. I would refer you to my decision letter dated July 28, 2006 in which I stated that you could request a review of the City's decision by filing an appeal application to the Privacy Commissioner/Ontario, sec. 39 Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I will quote that paragraph from the July letter below:

    Quote from Decision letter dated July 28, 2006
    "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."

    Chuck Scarpelli Manager, Records and Elections Freedom of Information Coordinator

Now I do not know about you, but I don't know what the answer was to my request. I think it was a "kiss-off" letter but since I was not certain I wrote back:

  • I was told by the Commission that I must specifically ask for a waiver, which I have done, and request an answer to my request, which I am now doing for the second time.

Later, I received a phone call from the Commission, probably because I cced the Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, with my note. I was told that the City had been asked to send me a response to my request and they were going to do so. Since I have not received it yet, I wonder if it was sent out by snail mail rather than sent by email. It takes longer that way doesn't it?

I don't get it...They are going to answer NO to the waiver request. Why couldn't that just have been done instead of requiring all of this rigaramole.

Another St. Clair Giveaway Coming

I am just tingling with excitement, aren't you.

If only I was Mayor and knew all of the fantastic but confidential matters that are known to City all of the great jobs that are supposed to be coming here but which we cannot be told about since it is confidential.

Why just today we learned that "Investors are "waiting in the wings" with new plans for the downtown...While unable to divulge specifics, Francis said "a number of investors" have told him the new urban campus with its influx of students into the core helps make the case for new developments in the downtown."

Wow, a thousand students, some on OSAP grants, and who are coming eventually will spark the rebirth of downtown along with the Keg and the funky bus terminal. Mind you, the unknown investors did not say that they were actually going to do anything downtown but they do have "plans."

September will be a give-away month at City Council.

At the last Council meeting we gave away money since Council was incapable of building a Bus terminal, funky or not, for 6 years resulting in a cost 35% higher than estimated. Of course, we had the Mayor, in one of his rare speaking engagements at Council, justifying it as vital for our new urbanism.

This Monday, we will see the Cleary deal approved. I wrote about that deal on Friday, June 16, 2006 "The Marketing Of The Cleary Deal." Effectivley, we are giving away the Cleary, an asset of taxpayers worth at least $16 million, for nothing and paying someone several millions of dollars more to take it off of our hands. I figured that it is costing us about $18M. But we will have the Mayor justifying it as vital for our new urbanism.

Then on Monday, we will see the completion of the TOTAL Cleary deal. Well not quite on Monday. We are being set up for another disaster so that we will let St. Clair take another asset off of our hands: the Capitol theatre and maybe the old Salvation Army building too .

Agenda Item #14 is to explore partnerships for the Capitol since it too is having financial woes, especially with the bingo revenues being decreased significantly. It may have trouble staying in business and the taxes are in arrears. The Capitol has never signed a lease for the Salvation Army building. Both St. Clair and the University have expressed an interest.

Of course there are massive problems if the City takes over both buildings naturally eg maintenance and insurance of vacant buildings. Moreover, it is so hard to appraise the value of the Capitol and the Salvation Army building is gutted. (Yet a short bit later Administration says it is worth $2 million). Smell another give-away coming.

How do I know we are being set up. Obviously we are if the two agenda items are on the same night (Why, it would not surprise me to see a deal done right at Council, never mind going to Tim Hortons again)

Moreover, there was a Star story 2 weeks ago that said:
  • "St. Clair College is interested in a partnership with the Capitol Theatre, but is concerned about the arts organization's financial viability, college president John Strasser said Friday.

    Strasser met with Capitol officials Friday to see if there's common ground for further talks. The college has been courted for several months to consider expanding its downtown campus plans at the Cleary International Centre.

    The Capitol Theatre is struggling financially, projecting up to a $300,000 deficit when the fiscal year ends in June, and is looking for a partner to help prop up the ailing arts centre. The college's theatre program could fit the bill, allowing students hands-on experience working on real-life productions.

    "Philosophically, it would be great," Strasser said. "Are we close to a deal? No. We're just exploring possibilities."

    The Capitol is being managed better than it ever has...But it still relies heavily on bingo revenues... and the college will not be involved in bingo events because it is not about to start competing with community groups for those limited funds.

    "So you'd have to figure out how to make up that money without doing that," he said.

    "We can't take away from our academic programs to subsidize something."
Why make the Mayor and College President eat donuts again. The precedent has been set. Let him take the properties of our hands because otherwise it will be another problem for us. Sell the deal exactly how they sold the Cleary deal to us. If we can be fooled once, why we can be fooled twice.

Just think how the Mayor will explain that deal. The Mayor will be justifying it as vital for our new urbanism.

The Arena Shoot-Out

You knew it already didn't you. You were expecting it. You would read the first detailed and thorough analysis of the City's Arena Report right here on this BLOGsite with your Monday morning coffee.

Do you remember a BLOG I wrote about Megaprojects: April 13, 2006, Windsor's "Big Dig." You ought to reread it before reading through this BLOG.

Honestly, after reading Administration’s Report on the arena, I did not know whether to laugh or cry. It’s Beztak all over again. It chases the Raceway away this time (Ironically, the Raceway was used to eliminate Beztak. Will the same fate happen to PCR?) and leaves the whole arena debate wide open. It decides nothing until after the election but it eliminates a possible contractor to whatever happens. If you were the Toldos or Rosatis, would you bid on a City arena deal again?

You remember Beztak don’t you. They were going to build an arena downtown on the Western Super Anchor site in the West End where Council wanted a complex to be built to help revitalize the downtown ie you know in the Ward of Councillors Jones and Postma. It was to be the start of the urban village errrrr, new urbanism to make Ward 2 bustling; that plus the Keg, the funky bus terminal and St. Clair students. There was an Arena Inquisition at Council and Beztak was run out of town.

Seriously, to save time and effort, why doesn’t Eddie just tell us what he wants to do and we can all rubberstamp it. We need not go through a charade like this any more.

I thought we were supposed to have, according to Gord Henderson’s column, a process whereby "According to Francis, councillors at the end of this process will choose among three options: the status quo, a $55-million go-it- alone arena complex and community centre on the east side and the raceway proposal." That to me means that each of the proposals would be put under the microscope and analyzed intelligently by Administration using the same criteria. Then Councillors could make an intelligent decision. Adn what happened to the status quo option even though Council rejected it before?

But we are not getting that. Instead, it is acceptance, sort of, or rejection of the Windsor Raceway proposal and a gift to PCR Contractors Inc.:

Option A—Council supports in principle the Raceway proposal and authorizes to negotiate for land in the East end to develop a twin ice pad

Option B---Council thanks the Raceway for their proposal and tells them the City “is not interested in continuing further discussion,” authorizes to negotiate for land in the East end to develop a Recreational Complex, undertake due diligence of the proposal of PCR for the purpose of finalizing the construction of the Complex.

With both Options, reports are to be completed within 90 days so that this Council cannot do anything about anything since the election is November 13. The obvious question then is why is this Mayor and Council doing anything other than pretending they are taking action while what they are doing is usurping the role of the new Council.

The Options are hilarious---even if the Raceway is supported, nothing happens. Yuppers, no negotiations for a deal. You got our support guys, whoop de-doo!

However, note that they are to move forward on an East end deal in Option A. In Option B, they are to move forward on an East end deal as well AND “undertake due diligence of the proposal of PCR for the purpose of finalizing the construction of the Complex.” Strange difference eh!

So obviously, no matter what, someone in the East End will sell some land to the City or swap land or have their option to purchase bought out or whatever has to be done depending on the land title. And some contractor will build something. Exactly what the final deal is to be, we mere mortals do not know yet.

What bothers me is how PCR became the contractor of choice in the Administration Report merely because they sent in an “unsolicited” letter. So whatever happened to the Tender process in this City? As I read it, it is NOT a public/private partnership and "goods" are not being offered for sale. Building of an arena is not sale a "good." The Construction Association ought to be fuming and demanding fairness! Every contractor in the City ought now to send in an "unsolicited" letter. It should be a level playing field for everyone to get the prices even lower for taxpayers.

I know that PCR has Windsor experience---their website says, as an example, that it contracted to demolish a large portion of the existing structure of the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free, then build the new addition that including adding a second floor to the entire building. But still, aren’t there other companies that should have the right to bid.

There is something odd about PCR's numbers that needs explaining to me—or else Council get received a bill of goods re the funky Bus Terminal. Remember just a week ago, we learned that the terminal was 35% over budget for a variety of reasons. One of the key ones was that the terminal estimates were developed in 2000 and now we were in 2006 and a lot had changed.

The Port Huron project of PCR was pre-2000. I did research on it and have some idea what happened. PCR quotes a number for the cost of the Port Huron deal of $60 million in 1999 and that they will build an arean here for around $47-48M. Now part of the structure was built before that project went broke so it would be interesting to see what components exactly PCR has kept for 6 years. I would think that the carrying costs that PCR has are pretty steep if there are a lot of components.

Wait a minute, how can this be? Let’s use the same increase factor as the terminal. (Didn’t PCR bid on the terminal and was disqualified as incomplete? I wonder what their tendered price was.) If we increase the arena cost to today’s dollar costs based on the terminal figures, we are looking at a cost of about $81 M. How can they drop the price to $47-48M? That’s one big discount even with components.

PCR talks about their Port Huron deal which was an arena and 4 ice pads. Their August 31 letter is interesting though. They are proposing to design-build a Greater Windsor Recreation and Sports Centre that includes a “spectator arena” and within the structure “provisions have been made for 3 recreational ice pads and a community centre.” "Provisons" is not actually building is it?

Here though is the language that I do not understand:

“PROJECT CONSTRUCTION PHASE—“All items included within this listing are for the Arena area only; all other work beyond the arena footprint is by the City

There is a Schedule “A” attached that is Arena only as far as I can tell and the price is good for only 60 days from August 31! So it does not fall within the 90 period that Administration needs. It would no longer be binding and would be open for re-negotiation when the Raceway deal was long gone.

I do not understand if PCR’s proposal is arena only or if it includes the cost of the additional ice-pads. If the ice-pads costs are additional, then the Administration Report seems to be incorrect and their go-it-alone number seems very suspect as well.

I have gone through all of the documents presented by the City in great detail and could bore you to death with pages and pages of comments. But I won’t. Let me give you some highlights:

1) As with Beztak, the Raceway proposal was scrutinized under a microscope. Look at the Report itself and see how detailed the examination was and how many pages were involved. For PCR, hardly anything was analyzed. Administration is to “undertake due diligence of the proposal of PCR for the purpose of finalizing the construction of the Complex.” Why hasn’t this been done by now. After all, PCR sent in their unsolicited letter on July 6 and otehr details have been provided long before the Report date! Better to get rid of the Raceway first I guess (and then perhaps PCR down the road so NO arena is built and the Casino is safe???)

2) Why weren’t we given all the information about the “status quo” option? Come on, it would NOT surprise me if we are being set up for that in the end with the Barn. Look at the Star front-page story on Saturday “Fans love arena's magic" dealing with the Barn and Henderson’s Saturday column “Could the $400-million Casino Windsor addition be the elephant in the living room that everyone involved in the arena debate is choosing to ignore?”

3) Poor Councillors Jones and Postma and their Ward 2 constituents. They lose out if a 4-pad arena gets built in the East End. I thought they were the fighters for the West End that this Report seems to ignore. It seems that just the East end needs facilities as a priority. Weren’t they only going to support at one time the Super Anchor site in their Ward and now have switched it seems? Where have the Budgeteers gone with their fiscal responsibility or the Councillors who thought we had priorities other than an arena? Perhaps Alan and Fulvio could offer a ticket or two to a game for those of their constituents who keep getting flooded out when it rains. Better to build an arena than fix sewers with all of that freed-up cash after projects are paid off.

4) Isn’t it interesting that the City got a 2-page letter from a consultant on May 31 extolling the virtues of an East End complex several days AFTER the Raceway talked to the City about their proposal.

5) The Report talks in great detail about how much extra Slots revenues the City might forego under the Racetrack deal but no numbers are given about how much extra the City would receive. Foregone revenue is somehow transformed into another contribution by the City to the Raceway project that increases the City payment of $15 M dramatically. It's called weird math.

6) There seems to be little discussion about the operating costs and the City’s responsibility to cover them and to keep the arena operations going. If the City could not run the Cleary and make a profit, how can they operate an arena (Yes yes, I know the City has already lined up a management company for the arena part but they have not revealed that yet publicly….You don’t show all of your cards yet.)

7) So much discussion about the Raceway project going bankrupt and protecting the City. Is this Eddie learning his lesson from the past where he did NOT do this? Strange, no discussion of the City arena losing money hand over fist and the taxpayers being required to bail it out year after year by increasing taxes as it seems we will now have to do with the Tunnel!

8) If Council approves the Raceway deal, then Administration would try to bring the Raceway and Spitfires together to negotiate a deal. That may prove to be impossible since we learned already that the City and the Spitfires have been talking re the East End arena “Through preliminary discussions with the Windsor Spitfires, a framework for a new agreement with the City has been reached.” Isn’t that a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for cutting off the Raceway at the knees! No wonder the Raceway is looking at an AHL team when the City negotiates with their possible prime tenant! Is this an ethical way for the City to act? I wonder who negotiated on behalf of the Spits. Was it their lawyer?

9) If Administration is concerned about the amount of work involved by it with the Raceway deal, imagine the effort at the East End owned and operated complex.

10) Administration presented a number re an East End arena of $55M. Is that figure as good as the Bus Terminal number where the actual was 35% over estimated?

11) Interestingly, there is a proposal to construct the East End arena in phases…just as the Star predicted months ago!

12) I am very curious to know why the Mayor did not tell the Community about the PCR deal when it was received in early July. I did not see anything that said that it had to be kept confidential. Is this why so-called public meetings on the arena have been postponed until October?

I read on July 17 that,
  • “Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis promised Sunday that city councillors will quickly get details of the two arena proposals now under consideration to replace the 81-year-old Windsor Arena.

    Some councillors hoped that could happen as soon as Thursday, when a special meeting is already scheduled, but Francis doubts detailed reports will be ready that soon.…
    City staff have been previously asked to develop a business plan for a municipally financed, $55-million, four-pad arena complex, including one with 7,200 seats, at a site yet to be chosen on the city's east side. “

Don’t you find that bizarre considering the PCR proposal was already made! Why didn’t Eddie tell us about it and ask Administration to make it part of the review?

13) Now the City has to undertake partnerships with the East End deal to enhance the Facility. Perhaps Ernie Lamont can be involved in this as the City’s negotiator since he has interesting ideas about advertising. Not only are our municipal Government officials going to be operating a Tunnel but now they are going to operate an arena. Who will run the City?

14) Isn’t a twin pad East End structure less costly than the East End Arena extravaganza and needs less land thereby putting doubt on what Administration has said in the cost comparisons. Speaking of comparisons, which proposal for an arena is the better one with better facilities, furnishings and design?

15) I am not going into the Debt Levy Funding discussion since it ignores serious issues relating to the huge increase in debt in 2007, the $200 million employee benefits issue and we still do not know what is wrong with the Tunnel and Enwin. Perhaps someone could consider REDUCING TAXES with all of that freed up money as an alternative to spending on a monument to ego. It seems that the politicians think that is their duty an d obligation to spend the money they have not give it back to poor taxpayers.

16) I’ll let the accountants pour over the numbers since I find it boring but the key phrase used by Administrations that gives me heartache is “Assuming all projections and assumptions hold true over time” What if they do not as with the Bus terminal or Huron Lodge!

17) Frankly, if I were a downtown business person I would be furious at both the Raceway deal and the PCR deal. Could this story be one for Windsor as it was in Port Huron:
  • "Downtown frets about its future
    Border Cats' departure expected to cost stores
    By JESSIE HALLADAY Times Herald September 12, 1999

    The recent announcement that the Border Cats hockey team are leaving McMorran came as downtown Port Huron vacancies were reaching their highest rate since 1996."
Anyway, do not get worked up over this. There will be no arena. Gord Henderson told us so on Saturday and certain obedient Councillors will follow suit:
  • “Call me a raving conspiracy theorist but I have a sneaky suspicion that assurances given to OLG, formerly the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, prior to its Valentine's Day, 2005 casino expansion announcement, could be a key factor in this struggle over who gets to build a replacement for Windsor Arena.

    I was told months ago that the city persuaded the province to go bigger than it originally intended -- a 100,000-square-foot convention centre and a 5,000-seat entertainment facility -- by agreeing to get out of the convention business and not compete with the new facility.

    A big part of that was fulfilled with the decision to take the Cleary out of the convention business and transfer the building to St. Clair College.

    All well and good. But what if that same city then turned around and invested $15-million of public money in a privately operated arena/entertainment complex at Windsor Raceway, just a few kilometres to the west and in a prime location to attract U.S. patrons? Would that violate the spirit of any no-compete commitment, verbal or otherwise, that the city might have given the province?…

    What if they [the OLG and casino management] believe there's a finite entertainment market here (in a city that can't even support the Capitol Theatre without big injections of bingo money) and fear that a raceway operation could siphon off business and make their $400-million dollar investment, which was condemned by the Tories at Queen's Park as outrageous political favouritism, look like a remarkably dumb decision? I wouldn't want to be an OLG official trying to explain that to a Conservative government headed by John Tory after the 2007 election.”

I wonder if this is the sort of assurance that Gord was talking about and guess who would have given it:

  • New casino boss, mayor talk shop;
    Veronique Mandal 01-28-2004

    The city's involvement in the convention business could be on the chopping block if consultants recommend Casino Windsor expand to include a convention facility.

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

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

    Francis said topics discussed included improving access to the tunnel and the marketing expert's report and recommendations for the casino, due in late February. "If one of those recommendations is that the casino develop a convention centre, then it may not make sense for the city to be in the convention business," said Francis, referring to the Cleary International Centre.

    "We want to be partners with the casino, not compete with them or duplicate services they offer. I made it clear that city council will work with the province to do whatever we can to turn things around."
Don’t you find it weird though. The attack by Henderson is just against the Raceway. Isn’t the PCR/City deal effectively the same since it is an Entertainment Destination but only in a different location. There will be a need for entertainment to pay for the East end arena too.

Gord’s final remark says it all “I won't be jumping off the fence until I see more details as to how the numbers crunch. How does the Collavino proposal stack up against $15 million for the raceway project plus the cost of replacing Riverside and Adstoll arenas and building a new community centre?”

Nothing is going to happen. It’s all election show a month before the big day. Wow is Eddie ever scared of David Wonham after all!