Mayoral candidate, David Wonham, must have been smiling broadly at about 10:15 AM Friday morning. His chances of becoming the new Mayor of Windsor just increased dramatically. His campaign slogan of "Empty Words and Broken Promises" may have been proven to be true without him lifting a finger!
It should be amusing to watch the E-machine spinmeisters try to salvage the mess that the Mayor is in. I suspect that the Tecumseh deal over the past few days was known in advance by some at CityHall and expected by the E-Machine, as you shall see below. Eddie expected that there would be a negative reaction but that he could manage it to his advantage.
He was wrong!
I think Eddie totally misjudged the intensity of the negativity directed towards him and how the banks would overflow with the flood of disgust of voters for three years of inaction! People finally realized that Eddie was NOT what he and his E-machine painted him to be: an extra-ordinary politician who would achive greatness for Windsor. Rather, he is a run-of-the-mill big talker who has PLANS, lot of PLANS and who promises but does not deliver!
It almost seemed as if Windsorites were waiting for an issue, any issue, so they could show their negativity. Unfortunately for Eddie the issue was the arena. Remember what he said in his platform about the arena three years ago...see how far he has strayed:
We need to revive the idea of public/private partnership for a new arena. It is the only realistic strategy available that will ensure that this project will become a reality.
We need to move forward, recognizing what other municipalities already know. London, Mississauga, and Sarnia all have new structures that have become successful entities and address community needs. Their example is worth noting: a multipurpose facility cannot be built by public nor the private sector interests acting alone. The synergy created by the private/public partnerships gives better service to the taxpayer, and allows a much needed multipurpose facility to be built in our City.
A public/private partnership is the key to our arena’s ongoing success and viability. Council has already allocated the required money and land for this project – we need to aggressively seek a partner.
I believe that Eddie thought that he could capture the mood out there and use it to his advantage to show that he was the only one sticking up for Windsor---exactly like the game he is playing on the border where he is standing up for Windsor against the big bad Senior Levels. I don't think that charade will work any longer now either!
Eddie guessed incorrectly....I have never heard such animosity directed to a Mayor and Council since the time of ex Mayor Hurst and Council when it appeared in March, 2003 that they had reversed their position on stopping DRTP North. The Council meeting on March 3, 2003 was the beginning of the end of Hurst's mayoralty. I expect that the Special Council meeting on the Arena on the 4th may do the same for Eddie and certain Councillors.
My belief---the mood in Windsor is unforgiving against this Mayor and Council after blowing the arena deal. Interestingly, the only person on Council who may come out of this deal smelling like a rose, if he projects himself properly, will be David Cassivi. He was the only one standing up for a proper process in dealing with Project Ice Track!
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. What really is going on.
Was Windsor “blindsided.” Or, are Windsorites being played as fools since there is something more going on than we know. Was there a desire to move to the East End and no matter what Project Ice Track did or did not do, they would be made the fall-guys and the pretext to move to what was wanted for many months? You be the judge
Oh it is not so dramatic as December 7 when Pearl Harbour was attacked or so earth-shattering as the 9/11 terrorist attack or so tragic as November 22 where everyone knows where he/she was the day JFK was shot but now Windsor has its own day of shame that will live in people’s minds for a long time “7/11”
July 11, 2006--7/11-- is the day Windsor lost Project Ice Track to Tecumseh. That is the date that Project Ice Track told the Mayor that there was a chance that someone else might scoop our arena from us:
I am going to explain to you the what I think may be the game-plan behind what happened last Friday respecting the arena and what made the Tecumseh deal happen.
I would expect that every candidate for office in Windsor would be at the Special Council meeting on the arena on October 4 as a speaker to express their disgust about how our City is being run. The meeting could be brutal so get there early to find a seat.
I wonder if Eddie Francis and his Eminence Grise were splitting their sides laughing themelves silly early on Friday morning when the news of the move to Tecumseh first broke. Eddie's PLAN was coming to fruition. He must have thought that everyone was stupid in Windsor as he outmanoeuvred them. The beauty of it was going to be that he would not have to manipulate events to get what he wanted. Rather, people would beg him to do it. He wanted the Raceway out of the picture and instead of him having to do the dirty work, the Raceway saved him the job by partnering with Tecumseh. By early afternoon, I wonder if they were scrambling fast trying to put a brave face on a horrible situation that they miscalculated. Damage control big-time needed!
If you think this happened out of the blue, then I have an "about to be albatross around taxpayer neck" Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to sell you. Here is Councillor Halberstadt’s BLOG on September 18. You remember Councillor Halberstadt----the only Councillor who publicly supported Eddie for Mayor last time and Gord Henderson’s good buddy. Alan gave it away:
“Meanwhile, rumors and accusations are swirling that the Raceway, if rejected by the city, has a deal in the works to rebuild the horse track, and add the arena facility, in Tecumseh, on land donated by the town near the soon-to-be expanded Manning Road.”
DUH!!!! If Halberstadt knew this, then the Mayor did as well. But Alan also did us a favour by telling us on the same day what the real game in town is and why what happened on Friday fits perfectly into Eddie’s Plan:
“It has become evident to the west-end proponents – the Toldo and Rosati families -- that Mayor Francis opposes their proposal, which would entail a public-private partnership with the city throwing in $15 million to the $38-million project.
The mayor is said to favor an east-end four-plex proposal to be financed entirely by taxpayers at a cost of some $50 million. The Collavino family has ready-made plans to build this facility at a reduced cost since a similar project in Port Huron went south in mid-construction when a private investor ran out of bucks. The $50 million would not include the cost of the land.”
It will be made obvious to everyone that this is the PLAN:
1) Make sure that the competitive position of the Casino is never damaged
2) Use the Raceway to chase out Beztak when they appeared in town and buy time by “negotiating” with them for as long as possible
3) When the “unsolicited letter” of PCR comes in, do not tell the public about it but hold off for as long as possible
4) Have the Administration do a massive Report that no one will read, other than the Raceway people (they forgot about the Blogmeister I am afraid), and structure it so that the pre-selected option wins no matter what Council chooses
5) Spin, Spin, Spin---Bad mouth the opposition by spreading Secrecy stories and hiding Ethics issues.
It was all given away last Saturday in Gord Henderson’s column. Nothing would be done by Eddie that would even hint that the Casino was going to be double-crossed after they announced their expansion plans.
“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?
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…
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?”
Did you notice there was nothing mentioned about the Casino being angry about investing in a "publicly" operated arena/entertainment complex in the East end for a regional market and not a US patron market.
What Gord said is hardly the surprise he is now making it appear. Eddie had said before, within his first months of being Mayor:
“I wanted [Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission Chair Stanley Sadinsky] to understand that we also have a commitment to improvements in the city and the future of the casino...
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."
Here is an additional thought for you. Gina Leslie is Vice President and General Counsel, Windsor Casino Limited and past Chair of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce. She was also just appointed as a member of the Board of the Economic Development Commission. Do you really think she is going to receive an appointment and shortly thereafter have her employer hurt badly so that she might have to resign and embarrass the Commission?
BEZTAK and THE RACEWAY
You know the story about Beztak. They were going to dare and build an arena in the Western Super Anchor site and be a direct downtown competitor with the Casino.
You remember the Council Inquisition that chased them out of town and how the Raceway deal was used as the alternative to them. How convenient that was. Now ironically, the Raceway was chased out of town, all the way to Tecumseh!
The most interesting part of the story is the “unsolicited letter” from PCR.
Administration needed a “stalking horse” to chase the Raceway away. Enter PCR Contractors. They sent in an “unsolicited letter” in early July about their idea of a design-build project for the east end. Lo and behold, Administration suggests in Option B of their Report that they be instructed to undertake a due diligence review of their proposal.
Now I have to ask a question… how did PCR became the contractor of choice? Are there no other contractors who could build an arena? Whatever happened to the Tender process in this City? The Construction Association ought to be fuming and demanding fairness! Every contractor in the City ought now to send in an "unsolicited" letter. There should be a level playing field for everyone.
I think George Wilkki, the city solicitor, needs to give a legal opinion whether any deal can be made with PCR at all. Is it a "sole source" purchase under the City's Purchasing By-law if it is NOT a Public/Private Partnership (it's a design-buld deal) and it is NOT for the sale of goods (is constructing an arena "goods?")
When did we hear about PCR? Their letter was dated July 6, 2006. Yet the Star only reported on September 22 that
Imagine, no public disclosure of that for 2 months. Why? What was the reason for all of that secrecy?
Another interesting question---when did Councillors know of PCR? By 7/11 the Mayor knew of it. He must have responded to the Raceway people's letter. Did he make available to Council all of the information as it relates to proposals received to 7/11 at the time? if not, why not? How did the Mayor repond to the Raceway's 7/11 letter?
Interestingly, on July 5, a day before the PCR letter, the Star reported that
It was not presented.
On July 17, the Star reported 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, [July 20] when a special meeting is already scheduled, but Francis doubts detailed reports will be ready that soon. At least one city councillor is on vacation, and procedure requires at least a week's notice of meetings, the mayor added.”
It was not presented.
But let me point out something quite strange in that story. “Francis said he wants councillors to have detailed analysis of both proposals so they can clearly decide what's in the city's best interests. "We're working on that," he said.”
Those proposals were “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” and the raceway proposal.
WHY DIDN’T EDDIE MENTION ON JULY 17 ANYTHING ABOUT THE THIRD PROPOSAL, THE PCR PROPOSAL, WHICH HE ALREADY KNEW ABOUT!
In his September 12, BLOG, Councillor Halberstadt said that “I am told that the debate should be at a special meeting later next week, or one day the following week. It's at the call of Mayor Francis.”
Then the Councoillor told us “it would be prudent for the mayor to stretch this whole mess out until after the election. The administrative report on the issue has already been held up for several months as speculation abounds on how many votes there are on Council to bless or repudiate Ice Track.” Or was it beinng held up for another reason?
Finally we received the word from Alan “In quick order, a special meeting of City Council was called -- next Wednesday at 6 p.m. [crosed out ie September 27] Wednesday October 4th at 6pm.
Why weren’t meetings held before as scheduled? I note that the firm PCR proposal was not submitted until August 31. Does that have any bearing? Were matters delayed so that they could finish their work? I have no problem with that but why weren’t we made aware of PCR until September 22, five days before the supposed September meeting which was later changed.
Interestingly in Saturday’s Star it was reported
Does that make sense now? Why is this moving forward so quickly now? Shouldn’t Council regroup.
BETTER STILL, LET THE NEXT COUNCIL DECIDE WHAT TO DO SINCE THIS COUNCIL’S TERM IS VIRTUALLY OVER?
Heaven forbid that alternative since many of Eddie’s colleagues may not be around after November 13 nor might the Mayor if the public mood remains so nasty. Let’s rush a decision immediately. Appear decisive, right!
Or rather, is it, we need to get out Plan in place NOW?
THE ADMINISTRATION REPORT
Why would the Project Ice Track people want to stay around after they read the Report. It is a huge joke. Why stay around when it is obvious that you are not wanted? To humour the Mayor or Gord Henderson? This is a business deal for huge sums of money not a high school dance party!
Seriously, who has read it other than the Project Ice Track people who knew that they had no chance after they read it, the Blogmeister and a few others who are political junkies!
Now the Report is pages and pages and pages of nonsense. Numbers, figures, commentary, proposals, letters designed to hide what was really what was desired no matter what happened at Council on the 4th. Compare the many pages in which Project Ice Track was torn apart with the few pages dealing with other proposals. That should tell you something...just like the Beztak Inquisition did.
You and I probably thought that we were going to get a comparison of 3 alternatives: fixing up the Barn, the Raceway proposal and an East End arena complex.
Were we ever wrong!
We need not bother reading. In my opinion, the whole Report was a mere diversion. The deck is stacked so that the Mayor and Council get exactly what they want no matter which alternative is chosen: namely an east end deal.
Let me explain that now.
Read carefully what I have to write about the relevant parts of the 2 options being presented to Council:
Council supports in principle the Raceway proposal and [here’s the key part] Administration be authorized to enter into negotiations for the acquisition of the required lands in the East end of the city to develop a twin ice pad facility
Council thanks the Raceway for their proposal and tells them the City “is not interested in continuing further discussion,” and [here’s the key part] Administration be authorized to enter into negotiations for the acquisition of the required lands in the East end of the city to develop a Recreational complex.
I hope you read carefully. I did not read anything about a comparison did you? BUT, did you note the similarity of language in the 2 Options!
Option A does not mean that the Raceway wins. No way. It just means that Council “supports” them, whatever that means. No one is authorized to deal with them at all, ever
Option B tells the Raceway, to be blunt, to get lost.
However, there is one common statement in both Choices:
In the end, it does not matter which Option is chosen. In the end the only thing that Administration is authorized to do is to go and try and buy some east end land. No matter what, east end land will be bought and something will be built there.
Isn’t that the REAL PLAN?
Now PCR’s proposal is interesting. An associated Company was a subcontractor in 1999 on a $60M arena and 4 icepads project in Port Huron. That project failed financially. They propose to use the unused components and plans in that job for Windsor to reduce costs.
Remember, the Bus terminal.. well its cost was estimated in 2000. We just learned that its actual 2006 cost has increased by 35%. If we use that same percentage, then the PCR arena should cost $81 Million to build
But wait a minute. In the Administration Report, PCR’s price with parking is $50M. How did a $60 M project in 1999, that might be costed out at $81M in 2006 be offered at $50M. That’s quite a discount.
If you read the PCR proposal carefully, the cost is described in this manner:
Is the Administration Report incorrect on the numbers since the PCR price may NOT include the icepads? If that is the case, would the view be that the whole PCR project is much too expensive and would have to be thrown out so that all we would be left with would be the icepads. This must be clarified immediately
Now we were not supposed to know that until after the election since Administration had to do another “due diligence” report on PCR which would take 90 days from October 4.
In early January, 2007, that would be a shocker wouldn’t it if the PCR price was arena only. Would we continue on notwithstanding the increased price or would we just build ice-pads and give up an arena? Or might we just walk away from everything, again
Surely the public would demand something then. If it was ice-pads only, PCR would be angry, obviously but they could be calmed down with a $20 or $30 million project for a ice-pads and recreation centre in the East End. The Spits would be in trouble given their support of the East End complex but perhaps Sandra and Dwight could muscle the Toldos and Rosattis to let them in for their e-election.
That could be the Plan but maybe there is more to it than this. Maybe PCR will get to build the arena after all. Interestingly, the Star told us all that we probably needed to know on September 23 and when is the Star ever wrong with matters involving the City:
“Buried on the last page of the lengthy administrative report is a single sentence, concluding that an east-end arena constructed by the Collavino group "would be of greatest benefit to the city."
“The Windsor Spitfires released a statement supporting an east-end arena constructed by the Collavino family and the Killer Bs…the Spits organization sees it as key to future success.”
How can we NOT do what the new millionaire owners of the Spits want us to do since we do not want them called “foolish.” How can we let them down after they paid so much for the Club. After all they said, without offering to put up any money for a facility that is for their benefit and pocketbook,
“We need a new arena because we're in the Dark Ages here. We'd like to be dropping the puck in a new rink by September 2008.
"If we didn't feel it would get done, and we're still in Windsor Arena 10 years from now, we're the most foolish business men in the world."
So the E-machine election strategy was for our rough and tough Mayor to posture, gun-slinger styel, to say that Windsor will not be bullied (do you hear that Senior Levels on the border), we will not be rushed, we will deal with the proposal by brothers Paolo and Renzo Collavino for an east-end facility. So there...In your face Tecumseh.
In fact, isn’t that what the Mayor and Council were going to do anyway? In fact, our Mayor will say it is a race to the swiftest: As Henderson said “The prize will go to whoever gets a shovel in the ground first.”
Council already approved an East end deal in April
"In an unusual show of solidarity, city council voted unanimously to forge ahead with plans for a $55-million, four-pad arena, featuring a 7,200-seat rink somewhere in the east side of the city.
Entitled Greater Windsor Multiplex Arena, the proposal was presented Thursday by senior city administrators...
several councillors confirmed the east-end location is a done deal. It's now a matter of finding the land."
Alan Halberstadt told us as much in his BLOG too on September 18:
"It has become evident to the west-end proponents – the Toldo and Rosati families -- that Mayor Francis opposes their proposal, which would entail a public-private partnership with the city throwing in $15 million to the $38-million project.
The mayor is said to favor an east-end four-plex proposal to be financed entirely by taxpayers at a cost of some $50 million. The Collavino family has ready-made plans to build this facility at a reduced cost since a similar project in Port Huron went south in mid-construction when a private investor ran out of bucks. "
What about the Casino? The Casino might not be too upset after all with a “sports only” East End arena since it would NOT compete with their complex.
That’s right, no “entertainment.” Interestingly, when one reads what was to be included in the Arena project of PCR, there is nothing there set out about concerts, just sports, and nothing priced for a sound system. Thus one could not have "competitive" entertainment there and so not compete with the Casino!
Somebody thought of everything didn't they (except perhaps how to fill the arena for so many nights a year so it would NOT lose money and cost taxpayers a bundle!) I bet that very shortly we will learn that the City has a deal with a "manager" for the building who can bring in events. It is obvious that this will happen since Project Ice Track must have talked to several companies to do that. When the City makes the announcement, then we must ask when that Company first started talking to the City. I know someone who might be able to pinpoint that date very accurately too!
SECRECY AND ETHICS
Gord Henderson fumed:
"If someone really and truly wanted a partnership with the city, wouldn't it make sense to wait five more days to find out whether they had won or lost? What logic would there be, as one of two finalists, in walking away almost on the eve of council's decision?"
Eddie Francis whined:
Oh come on Gord. Project Ice Track lost. Be real. It was the City that did not want them at all. Forget Eddie's campaign promise about a Public/Private partnership. They did not need to be embarrassed in public at the public whipping post too for our amusement.
Want to hear about the pot calling the kettle black: Eddie and secrecy! Enough said. No I won't ask about the secrecy involving the PCR letter for 2 months.
But you want to talk secrecy...there is a huge issue of “ethics” involved.
In the Report it is said that, if the Raceway arena is selected, then Administration would try to bring the Raceway and Spitfires together to negotiate a deal. Yet at the same time we learn that the City and the Spitfires have been talking about the East End arena
The Spits announced on September 22:
We have had preliminary discussions with the City of Windsor and have reached a preliminary understanding that also would satisfy the needs of the community and the major tenant, the Windsor Spitfires.
As the City of Windsor strives to provide the best facilities for the community, we too are committed to being one of the elite organizations in the Canadian Hockey League. To reach this objective, we would need a new facility. The proposal currently set forth to the City of Windsor by the PCR group provides many of the same principles that we, the ownership, believe in—community, junior hockey and family atmosphere.
Wait a minute, a deal done for the East end arena already....the knees of the Raceway were cut off by the same City that wanted to have an arena for the Spits. Unbelievable! Now who was being blindsided?
So you decide, dear reader, was Windsor "blindsided" or was there a Plan, a Real Plan, already in place to acquire East end land to build something? Was the process a true one or just a sham? What game are we involved in now? Should this Mayor and Council be allowed to engage in a game of building something regardless of cost just to get a shovel in the ground first? Are we being stampeded? Is there more to come that will be revealed soon that may be even more shocking? Did the E-Machine misjudge? Is there a need for a Judicial Inquiry under the Municipal Act to "inquire into any matter connected with the good government of the municipality" or "inquire into the conduct of any part of the public business of the municipality" to get to the bottom of this?
Will David Wonham's words ring true as he becomes Windsor's next Mayor: