Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 13, 2006

MDOT Has No Objection To Bridge Co.'s Project Application

It came as a shock, right out of the blue!

I just received the Minutes of the Detroit River International Crossing Study Local Advisory Council/Local Agency Group Meeting of September 27, 2006. There it was, in the first point in the Meeting Minutes Note:

  • "Mohammed Alghurabi then indicated that a letter was sent by the MDOT Director Kirk Steudle to the United States Coast Guard indicating that there was no objection to the application submitted to the Coast Guard by the Detroit International Bridge Company."
While MDOT’s Algurabi lead off the DRIC meeting with this collateral issue (remember, DRIC has always said the Bridge was free to proceed on their own, separate from DRIC) MDOT’s position seems pretty clear & concise: "MDOT has no objection to the application…" Nor should they, as the Bridge is doing just what they said, not requiring anything from DRIC. Something was VERY CURIOUS about the reaction in the community: MDOT can attach a 3-page "explanation" from some group in Michigan as to what the plain wording of this letter means but does NOT attach the letter. Imagine that – a 3 PAGE letter to try and explain what MDOT’s 3 SENTENCE letter already clearly stated!

Now the real question: who in Government on our side of the river knew about this significant statement and kept it hidden from the Public? Why has it not been revealed before ? What else is being kept from us because it does not fit some bureaucrat's agenda!

That application in case you are wondering is for the environmental hearings in front of the Coast Guard for the Ambassador Bridge to build their enhancement project.

Do you, dear reader, understand the significance of this? Let me explain!

As far as the Federal US Government is concerned and the President of the United States, via the Department of State, the Bridge Co. is the only proponent that does NOT require a Presidential permit and is welcome to proceed with a new span. The DRIC bridge would need one, and is no where close to getting one. More importantly, the US Federal Government does NOT seem to favour a DRIC crossing. When DRIC sought "State Department concurrence in the conclusion that the centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing," they refused to give their concurrence.

We know where the Mayor of Detroit stands on this matter: He wants the Ambassador Gateway project location, not something on the outer rim of his City.

As for US DRIC itself, even they ranked the Ambassador Bridge very highly in cost-effectiveness, effectiveness and Regional Mobility.

As far as the Mighigan Legislature is concerned, they cut DRIC funding for MDOT and limited their ability to move forward with DRIC. And the Governor did NOT veto it. Now MDOT sends a letter, signed by the Director, Kirk Steudle, to the Coast Guard saying “MDOT has no objection to the application before you.”

Now I don't know about you, but if I worked in a large organization ((like a governmental bureaucracy), I sure would make certain that my boss, the Governor, knew what I was sending out on such a controversial matter before I sent it, especially when I remember what happened to my predecessor!

Now just between you and me...isn't it easy to understand what those few words mean. "MDOT has no objection." If you want a good chuckle read the 3-page letter attached to the Minutes that "explains" what some group thinks the plain words say!

In summary, no matter what someone says, this is a clear, concise and BOLD statement made by MDOT. Whether it is characterized as MDOT saying something new and unexpected or something that they have said for years in relation to the Gateway project or whatever spin someone wants to put on it, it is a showstopper. And Canada’s municipal, provincial and federal governments have failed to get the message!

In other words, MDOT reviewed the Ambassador Bridge submission and notice for their Enhancement Project which pursues a new crossing for the Detroit River. Not one single, solitary issue was raised! The most Senior government in the US, the one directly impacted the most by the Bridge Co. project, has no objection!

And we only learn about it in some Meeting notes distributed to a relatively few people.

There is a question that politicians on both sides of the border should be asking their bureaucrats today! WHY!

I supect that the Coast Guard will deal with what MDOT says about this project with the greatest deference and respect. After all, who should know more about this project and the impact on Michigan than MDOT?

One can say now with some certainty, that notwithstanding what DRIC tried to do or may say, politically, the Ambassador Gateway is the spot where the Bridge Co.'s bridge will land on the US side and will be built first.

Now if you believe that the Canadian Governments were not aware of this MDOT letter, I have a Tunnel connecting Detroit and Windsor for sale or lease. It has obviously caused them major problems. They thought they had gotten rid of the Bridge Co. or put a delay on their project. They may have thought that they had time to carry out their agenda of trying to build a new bridge to compete with the Ambassador Bridge or perhaps to try and strike a blow to the Bridge Co. to force them into a postion of negotiation for a sale.

Maybe but just maybe, what has been happening ever since the Michigan Republicans put the boots to DRIC has may teach the Canadians that what happens on the other side does have some importance. I expect that there were some urgent phone calls between Lansing and Toronto and Ottawa trying to figure out what this means and what to do.

My suspicion is that the two Senior Levels are starting to jockey for position now. Who will be left holding the bag, left to turn out the DRIC lights, and at the end looking foolish when this DRIC extravaganza folds as the Americans flex their muscles and the real political decisions have to be made. Which of the Canadian Senior Level Governments are the Americans going to blame if Michigan's economy suffers since the road to the border is still in limbo.

Right now the Province has the advantage. Federal Minister Cannon seems to be too busy worrying about electing Conservatives in Quebec than doing his job respecting the Windsor border. I won't even talk about the unique security risk known as the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel that Windsor's Mayor/WTC Chair is trying to flog.

Ontario Minister Cansfield took to offensive positioning when she came down here 2 weeks after the letter was released. She struck first in my opinion with her people hot off the mark after theMDOT surprise. Re-read my BLOG on Friday, September 29, 2006 "The Cansfield Shocker"

She backed off of her "As lead for the Border Transportation Partnership" statement for the time being but her speech laid out that Ontario is going to take credit for what happens on the border crossing come election time. She tried to pre-empt the Feds and she put Eddie in his place. She said:
  • respecting the road to the border, it's the DRIC road like it or not
  • no one is building a truck road through or under Ojibway or the ANSI
  • forget the quality of life and tunnel talk. No one is investing billions on a problem that will disappear in less than a decade
  • play ball or forget Tunnel Plaza improvements
  • by NOT mentioning the Ambassador Bridge volumes were spoken.
It was a very tough speech. Was Donna playing the Jennifer role just like the time when the Michigan Governor killed the Downriver crossing alternatives without telling anyone in advance? I bet she was and it was deliberate.

Eddie got the message. And did not like it. How else does one explain the Gord Henderson threat to Sandra and Dwight.
  • "The fix is in. If Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello could abandon Windsor on the arena file, what faith can we have that they won't hang this city out to dry on a far more important issue -- fixing the border?"
The Province was Eddie's only friend. They both ganged up on the Feds for years over the border. Donna's speech was so devastating to Eddie and so unexpected that the Star could not report it! Now I know why!

Eddie has to be desperate to keep the Province onside. He knows he is finished otherwise. A Provincial election is coming soon. Henderson's column, Fulvio's outburst against the Provincial cabinet members, and the NDP attack on Sandra over the arena issue in the Legislature appear to be a strong-arm move to show the Liberals what will happen down here if they dare defy the Mayor. It is telling Dwight and Sandra to enjoy their Cabinet perks because they might not have them after Eddie gets through with them.

It was a dumb move on Eddie's part. As someone told me, the Liberals were furious at what they perceive to be the Mayor's actions. You do not target your friends in high places, especially the ones who can send money down here. The Province's attitude is now that they will not shove something down Eddie's throat but they will shove it up his (where the sun don't shine) when they have to and when it is convenient for them to do so!

As for the Feds, they seem adrift at sea waiting for something to happen in the Senate with Bill C-3. I am not quite sure what they are doing to be direct on the border file these days.

What I suspect will happen is that the Feds and Province will call a truce before too long. They aren't going to fight each other over a Windsor border crossing. Why should they...they have Eddie Francis to be the fall guy and whom they both can blame for inaction and what they will be forced into doing.

For some, this will be sweet revenge for which they have been waiting for a long time. Payback can be fun.

Right after the municipal election, which is after the Michigan election, the real game will start. The Americans will request that action be taken on the border immediately. That's a no-brainer. Enough is enough. The Canadians will agree. Whatever the Feds and Province agree to will be shoved up or down Eddie because he refused to act. [It would be so much easier for everyone if David Wonham was Mayor since he is smart enough to know he does not know everything] And the hundreds of millions of dollars for border infrastructure and bridge creation will create thousands of needed jobs here and get the Liberals some votes. And David Estrin will not be instructed to sue.

After all, Eddie will learn (as Mike Hurst warned him and Eddie did not heed), that the Mayor of Windsor is the Mayor of a small town. He has no authority, he has no clout.

PS. As for the Bridge Co., the politicians will finally realize that they have to deal with them whether they like it or not. From what I can tell in Lansing and in Ottawa, the hearings have won friends for the Bridge Co. or at least an understanding of what their concerns are. The myths and disinformation are disappearing fast.

A deal will be reached. I have no idea what it will be. But I expect we will all be surprised by it. As Gord Henderson said:
  • "I'm in awe of Moroun and his hired hands. These folks are the masters. They're always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players in what amounts to a high-stakes border chess match."

West Enders Bite Bridge


I was reminded of this headline when reading the Star story "Bridge work raises fears." Would you have read a story "Bridge Co. doing what they are legally entitled to do."

I hope that none of the West end activists or politicians hurt themselves as they fell off of the Cabbage truck. Here is what we read in the Star today: the charge in the story and the answer in the story.

Of course you, dear reader, know that this is merely the precursor of a big anti-Bridge Co. story the Star is about to run. We are being softened up for it.

What did we read:

1) The charge:
"West-end community leaders fear land preparation by the Ambassador Bridge is linked to the company's bid to twin its span or resurrect a controversial ring road proposal in the heart of their neighbourhood.

The Answer:
"Bridge company president Dan Stamper said his company is just moving forward with its "well-known plans" to expand its customs plaza."

2) The Charge:
The bridge company has been bulldozing its properties, levelling them off. Gone are several former university dorms and custom broker office buildings it purchased, plus a handful of homes."

The Answer:
"The bridge company has levelled off land up to the back yard fences of homes it owns on Indian Road and has moved dirt against the fence of the Forster secondary school playing field and surrounding McDonald's restaurant.

"They kind of go together and we are moving forward on what we said we would do," Stamper said. "Things are moving along there.

"We've got permits for expanding the plaza so that's what we are doing. We are widening the plaza on the west side of Huron Church, so you are going to see (the land clearing)."

3) The Charge:
"I'm very concerned with what they are doing," said city Coun. Ron Jones. "It's incumbent upon us to be very vigilant and watch them closely."

The Answer:
Jones also said "We have (city inspectors) going in there on a regular basis to ensure our concerns are met.

4) The charge:
"While the bridge company can bulldoze its own properties, city infrastructure such as roads, sewers and other utilities are off-limits, Jones said."

The answer:
Jones also said ""We have (city inspectors) going in there on a regular basis to ensure our concerns are met. I have talked with one inspector who said they have not touched our infrastructure and (are) staying on their property."

5) The charge
West-end activist Mary Ann Cuderman, leader of a truck watchdog group, believes the bridge company work is related to owner Matty Moroun's pursuit of building a "ring road" -- a four-kilometre proposal to create a new bridge access truck route within the west-end Essex Terminal Railway (ETR) corridor.

The Answer:
It is NOT part of their Enhancement project. They operate a bridge. It is up to the governments to figure out how to get the trucks there [MY clarification]

6) The Charge:
"They are buying up properties and letting them deteriorate. Unfortunately, the way some of the neighbourhood is starting to look, it seems like they are getting somewhere."

The answer:
"The bridge company has been bulldozing its properties, levelling them off." [Didn't Councillor Jones recently complain at Council about certain properties and now he is complaining if properties are torn down!]

7) The Charge:
The bridge is approved to add six new Canada Customs truck inspection lanes -- for the first time taking its plaza west of Huron Church Road. But work on that project seems to have spilled over.

The Answer:
The bridge company has levelled off land up to the back yard fences of homes it owns on Indian Road

8) The Charge:
"Jones fears..."

The Answer:
"Transport Canada ...has no fears...we are not concerned about it."

I guess the headline DOG BITES MAN would not have worked either.

Making Friends In High Places, London Style

As Mayoral candidate David Wonham has said "Youthful enthusiasm in Windsor is an experiment that has failed!"

Clearly Windsor politicians and candidates for office should be given a copy of Dale Carnegie's
book as part of their election package.

Obviously, I communicate with bureacrats and politicians from both sides of the border at all governmental levels over border issues. How else would I be able to let you in on the breath-taking insights that only readers of this BLOGsite get!

Because of relationships established and in dealing with them, over the phone or over a coffee, we talk about a lot of things. One of my favourite subjects is Windsor and what goes on here. I will tell you in all candour that this City is viewed as the laughing stock of Caanda (and this by people who deal with cities and towns across Ontario and across Canada). There is absolutely no respect given to our Mayor and Council whatsoever. They are treated as jokes. I will not repeat some of the language used since it is not only uncomplimentary but obscene.

Now some of you will say, great. Our politicians are standing up to the Senior Levels. We will show them that Windsor cannot be pushed around. I have no objection to us being tough. If the last Council had not been tough and stood up for Windsor we would be smelling diesel fumes of Montreal-to-Tijuana trucks travelling the DRTP corridor into and from the heart of Windsor with a golf-course sized Customs plaza in the middle of our neighbourhoods.

We were tough then and the Senior Levels recognized that and respected us. There were no hard feelings when the PM and Premier came here. In fact, at one time we even signed a Phase 1 Agreement with them!

But there is a big difference between being tough and picking a fight or bullying. Or snubbing more than once. Being petulant, childish and immature does not help. Being so smart yet inexperienced in worldly matters is a recipe for disaster.

Is there an alternative way to act? I will let you read parts of the State of the City speech from the Mayor of London. I did not read the Mayor there asking why no one listens to London as Councillor Valentinis asked here.

I cannot include the entire speech. It would make you cry when you read about all of their successes compared with our failures. You, dear reader, decide which alternative makes the most sense!

  • "State of the City Address 2006

    Below is the part of the text of Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco's State of the City Address

    Reflecting on A Proud History & Looking to A Bright Future

    150 years ... that's the milestone we have just completed as a city. Celebrations abounded as we paid tribute to our roots, dating back to that first day of incorporation in 1855. For the past 12 months, the spirit of London came alive in many ways as we reflected on our history, our heritage, our successes and our challenges.

    Throughout our anniversary, I often echoed the thoughts of earlier leaders who believed, as I do, that we have a proud history and a bright future, not just for today, but for the next 150 years. London's future depends on you and all citizens stepping forward to create a legacy for the next generation. This legacy will be founded on a new appreciation of what London can become, a new vision for the city, establishing its place within the region, the province and the nation.

    Building a compelling, lasting and inclusive vision takes time, patience, persistence, determination and leadership. Vision is not about a slogan, or a catchphrase. Vision is insight, knowledge, and wisdom shared for the benefit of all. It means working together. And, if there is one theme in this presentation, if there is one thing that our first 150 years has shown, it is that - when London works together, together we achieve great accomplishments. Accomplishments such as the Canada Summer Games, the Memorial Cup, the John Labatt Centre, the Central library, a city that enjoys a lifestyle that is the envy of Ontario, and much, much more.

    City Council has also been listening. We have taken the opportunity to listen to you, whether it be through public input sessions, budget debates, open forums, or a series of articles written by a cross section of our citizens. We're all working together to make London better, and giving us a clearer understanding of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Londoners.

    Positioning London among Canada's Top Cities

    While City Council, working with our administration, has set a goal for London to be positioned among the top cities in our country, a vision for London cannot rest with Council alone. It must emerge from you. From within the community and be founded on our collective wisdom. I want to share our successes by focusing again on our five key goals, but before I do that, I would like to share with you, a few personal observations.

    First, today's London varies from the past. Our population is changing dramatically. We are more diverse and we are much more dependent on new Canadians for the future growth of our city. These new citizens come to London from all parts of the world, with amazing skills, expertise and knowledge and we must do all we can to enable these new Canadians to contribute to our growing community.

    Second, our economic base is different now. As you know, London was once primarily a financial, educational, institutional and health care centre for southwestern Ontario. Its regional significance provided the City with wealth and influence, and the legacy of this prosperity can be seen in the amenities and services we have today. But, to succeed in the future, we'll need to continue expanding in the fields of research, technology, manufacturing and life sciences.

    Third, we must create our prosperity of the future, rather than resting on past successes. That's why attracting new business is pivotal to London. It's also equally important that we make further inroads with the Provincial and Federal governments to ensure they make more significant investments in our local and regional economies.

    Fourth, it's important to recognize our young and dynamic population has a vital role to play in our prosperity. We must focus on retaining our best and brightest, who can, and will, locate in communities that are culturally, socially and environmentally diverse. They will choose to live where they find life most interesting - and, they have been clear, London must be more attentive to their needs, or they will take their creativity, ingenuity, and imagination elsewhere.

    Creating A Strong & Diversified Local Economy

    So how do we address these observations? City Council continues to make decisions based on five key goals as part of its strategic direction. Our plan of action is working and I want to take the time to share our achievements and explain some of the next steps.

    As you recall our first goal as a Council is to create a strong and diversified local economy, of which financial stability and fiscal responsibility are key components. About five years ago, Council decided to develop its first-ever Strategic Financial Plan. We identified this Plan as a necessary measure to competitively attract new jobs, to ensure basic needs are met without compromising other important projects and services, and to invest appropriately in our neighbourhoods...

    Our assessment growth continues to be strong and stable, a prime reason for the Aaa credit rating London has retained for the 28th consecutive year. Moody's awarded this distinction citing our expanding assessment base, modest debt and prudent fiscal plan. And, we continued to focus on increasing our revenues and finding new sources of funding.

    Establishing A "New Deal" with the Federal Government

    In this regard, the New Deal with the Federal government is now a 'real deal'. In all of our efforts, through the Big City Mayors' Caucus and Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), we have made an undisputable case that municipalities are the engine behind the economy. As each city in this country faces growing pressures to cover skyrocketing costs related to infrastructure, including roads and sewers, the Federal government has come to the table phasing in a commitment of 5-cents a litre of the gas tax.

    By 2009, this Deal will bring us an annual allotment of stable funding of just over $22-million to be reinvested in infrastructure needs like our wastewater systems, the development of bicycle lanes and social housing, to name a few. But, our work is far from over.

    We, as Big City Mayors, along with FCM, continue to advocate for a share of other revenues that grow with the economy. We have also identified key areas, including affordable housing; immigration; environmental sustainability; physical and social infrastructure; public safety; and emergency preparedness, to work in partnership to ensure all federal programs, legislation and other policy decisions are flexible enough to meet our needs.

    I want to thank our local MPs for their diligence in working with City Council. I also want to serve notice, that it's important for all MPs, who get elected in the Federal election, to clearly support investments in our cities as a priority. And, I ask all of you to take the time to advocate for our communities.

    Reaping Benefits from Provincial Government Partnership Initiatives

    On the Provincial front, the City also continues to reap benefits from the Province's commitment of 2-cents a litre of the gas tax towards new transit service. When fully implemented, it will provide for $9-million a year in new funding, a vital component as the LTC has had nine consecutive years of growing ridership, and last year, expanded service by 10-thousand hours. Also, City Council's work to secure resources to account for the imbalance of downloading is at last being recognized in part with $13-million in additional funding.

    Our positive working relationship with our local MPPs has paid dividends and I thank them for meeting and listening to Council on a regular basis. Looking ahead, we are going to need our MPPs commitment and direction in revamping the provincial arbitration process. There has been much discussion in the past three years regarding the impact of this process on the cost of providing emergency services...

    Benchmarking & Tracking our Financial success

    There is no doubt, London's long-term financial stability is crucial to its ability to be among the top ranked cities in Canada...

    To better illustrate this data, we've developed a financial brochure for your review, which can be used whenever selling London to potential new business clients. In compiling this information, we observed that significant investment by higher levels of government is being made within the greater Golden Horseshoe area surrounding Toronto. As such, I believe that by working together as a region, we have great potential to strengthen our broader Southwestern Ontario economy as well.

    For instance, the new Toyota plant being built in Woodstock is a recent regional success. This investment is a win for Woodstock, and a win for all communities in the southwest region of the province, including London, as we continue to attract related industries and spin-off companies, creating new jobs. With this kind of collaboration in mind and to improve and fortify our regional efforts, some very exciting developments are underway.

    I am pleased to announce that a regional economic summit will be held in May, 2006. Strategic partners from key sectors of our economy, including the University of Western Ontario, St. Joseph's Health Care, London Health Sciences Centre, and the London Chamber of Commerce, among others, will join forces in an unprecedented attempt to bring the leadership of our area together for two days of discussion and debate.

    We know our region - bounded by the Great Lakes, as well as the GTA to the east and the United States to the south and west - is rich in resources, has many natural assets and serves as the transportation corridor for Canada's heartland and NAFTA markets. We also have a competitive edge in manufacturing, food production and processing, health, education, research and many other fields. Together, we can find ways to take advantage of these assets, and develop greater prosperity and opportunities for our citizens.

    We have one goal - to build a framework for the future that allows us to work together and make the entire southwestern Ontario region stronger. We will need your help, support, suggestions and enthusiasm to make it work. Details for the event are currently in the works to bring the stakeholders together. More details on the summit will be announced in the months ahead...

    As you can see, we have intensified our business development efforts through the combined work of LEDC and the City. Even so, in today's competitive market, it's time to think outside the box. As such, 'London's Next Economy' is a bold, insightful, and strategic game plan to capitalize on attracting more high-tech businesses to London. Through this plan, the City, the LEDC, the Stiller Centre, the Small Business Centre and TechAlliance are forming a partnership to ensure London and our southwestern Ontario region is a globally-recognized destination for knowledge based companies.

    This plan is both exciting and ambitious. With your help, it will see 10,000 net new jobs in five years; will quadruple the number of fastest-growing companies, and increase the percentage of high-end jobs from 28% to 35% of the workforce. It will also increase by one-third, the number of graduating post-secondary students who choose to stay in London to work. And, TechAlliance has established the 'Emerging Leaders' initiative, aimed at developing the next generation of local leaders in the business, technology and research sectors. It targets 25-44 year-olds to connect them, to each other, through think tanks, mentoring programs and joint ventures. ..

    While, there is still much work to be done, now is the time for the community to embrace this next wave of business development. For five years, we have enjoyed great success with thousands of new jobs and companies making London their home, a goal recognized by the Conference Board of Canada a few years ago, naming London one of the fastest growing economies in the country. And, again recently, the Conference Board cited our well-diversified economy, in particular in manufacturing and construction activity, for posting real GDP growth of 2.7% this year in job creation.

    But, the market place is highly competitive and value driven. To continue playing on the world stage, we need to work collectively, with innovation and strategic thinking, to achieve the best for future generations of Londoners. We have much to offer. Our strategic location is central to over 10-million people with access from the 400 series highways, rail service and the London International Airport. We can proudly boast of a well-educated, diverse workforce, and we have a history of delivering a high quality of life to our citizens. We have other advantages as a city as well...

    Our fourth goal is core infrastructure and 2005 saw the culmination of several important road projects. They include the Springbank Road Widening, Phase One of the Oxford Street Widening, and the Airport Road twinning, which is now renamed Veterans Memorial Parkway. We also set the stage for the Hale/Trafalgar grade separation to help improve traffic flow.

    City Council also moved quickly to bring on the newest industrial park, called Innovation Park. It will provide approximately 120 acres of additional serviced, ready-to-build prime land. This comes as Forest City Industrial Park is almost completely sold out, and twice as fast as expected. And, the construction boom also continued with building permits and housing sales both sizzling, making 2005 the second strongest year in London's history...

    In similar fashion to downtown, the City has worked with the merchants, businesses and residents in East London, to put a plan of action in place to revitalize the area. The plan includes incentive programs for owners to improve their properties; a range of land uses and zoning bylaws to offer flexibility in enhancing the development of the commercial corridor; and the implementation of the second phase of the heritage conservation district. It includes 1000 homes, instilling pride in this unique neighbourhood full of architectural and historical elements.

    Accomplishing Great Things In Working Together

    The first is our people. We are blessed with extremely talented, caring individuals who are committed to making our city the best in Canada. There are people, leaders, workers, thinkers, and doers behind every achievement I have mentioned and without them, none of this would be possible.

    The second thought is cooperation. Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

    If there is one thing I have learned as Mayor that I can leave with you, it is this: When we work together, we can accomplish great things. When we join forces, set aside personal differences, and commit ourselves to a common goal, we have great power and momentum. It takes leadership - yours and mine. Together, we really can make a difference."

DRTP Ad Contest Winner

We have a winner!

The winning entry was that the trucks were using both sides of the road in the 2-lane DRTP tunnel to go in the same direction. This meant, if traffic was coming in the other direction, that there could be a catastrophic head-on collision that could close down the tunnel for who knows how long thereby disrupting cross-border trade to the detriment of the North American economy.

Of course there were a few other matters like:
  1. why doesn't DRTP tell us the cost of their plan and who is going to pay the billions for it since they cannot afford it
  2. how do they actually link to the Freeway system in Detroit
  3. how much will local international trucks and industry be hurt if trucks have to go all the way out to Highway 401 to be cleared by Customs and then have to go all the way back at what it costs per hour for a truck and driver.
  4. who pays for the cost of managing and paying for the upkeep of the new, multi-KMs long trails from rails (we cannot even afford the small Superior Park upkeep costs it seems) and who will pay for the policing costs?

Darn, I should have run another contest for that!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Canderel Subleasing Revisited

I am really scared now and seriously considering whether it is time to cash out my home in Windsor and move out to the "burbs." I love the area I live in and my home is truly my castle but I am getting very worried.

I got a tip from someone that I trust about the sub-lease at the Canderel building early this morning right after my BLOG came out.

I won't give any hints about who this person is including whether this person is a whistle-blower or not. All I can say is that this person is well-connected in the City and is fed up!

This person claims, in his/her own words, that the sublease deal is "THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY" for a tenant. He/she would not go into the gory details but what he/she said was enough to concern me.

Now we are told by the Mayor that the agreements are confidential. Perhaps Administration can be asked to go to the new tenants and to seek their permission to reveal the lease terms. Now that the deal is done, then there should be no problems. If the tenant allows the release, then why should the City care, right! We should get the info. Open and transparent Government after all.

Hmmmm I wonder if our Council put limits on what the Mayor and Administration could do. Did the sub-lease have to come back to Council for final approval? I can guess the answer to that one too!

Let me speculate on what my friend's concerns could be based on the Cleary deal as a good comparable:
  1. unbelievably low rent for the initial term of the lease to get rid of the asset
  2. huge payments for leasehold improvements and renovations where little work is required to be done
  3. sweetheart renewal deal for a very long term
  4. nice deal on monthly costs including how tenant space is calculated
  5. deal on escalators for price increases
Want to know why I am really posting this BLOG? I am not really worried about the Canderel sub-lease. And my friend is wrong. There is a real "100-year storm" deal about to hit us.

Wait until the same people who negotiated the sublease also negotiate the deal with PCR and the Spitfires and the land deal, especially if it is a land swap. If they are so desperate to do a deal in the last month of their 3 year term, imagine how desperate they will be to have everything wrapped up before the new Council takes office. Negotiating from a position of strength...hardly. And anyway, do they know how to do a sophisticated transaction given the City's track history.

And if the story I heard also this morning is true about who another tenant at Canderel is, I am sick!

We better all pray that the East End deal works out. As for me, anyone know a good real estate agent who can appraise my home!

Words Coming Back To Haunt Them

I told you that you would read about "gumption" soon.

Don't you just hate it when a person says one thing one day and then another thing another day, in fact something completely contrary.

Here are three stories that I thought made sense when I first read them. Now several years later when similar fact situations arise, the position first taken is wrong.

One explanation given to explain the change is that Windsor's finances are so much better today. If you believe that, then I have a Tunnel to sell you that goes betwen Windsor and Detroit. I sure have not seen it when our reserves are amongst the worst in the Province and dropping, when we are told we will see a tax hike or reduction of services next year and when debt in 2010 will be higher than today.

With our booming economy of thousands of jobs being lost and housing starts at very low levels, one wonders if the past should still be our present

How does one explain the inexplicable? How does one reconcile the irreconcilable?

1) David Cassivi the only one with "the gumption to stand firm against... bulldozer pressure"

  • Blindsided -- again;

    Gord Henderson, 02-23-2002

    Dave Cassivi has been the arena guy for most of his 21 years on city council. Through thick and thin he's kept alive the belief that Windsor needs a new downtown ice palace and entertainment centre.

    And yet when immense heat was placed on him this week to bail out the Windsor Spitfires with what amounts to $400,000 in taxpayer money or see the team leave and possibly the $41-million arena dream snuffed out, Cassivi dug in his heels and said no damn way.

    Five councillors, Fulvio Valentinis, Eddie Francis, Joyce Zuk, Al Halberstadt and Cassivi, had the gumption to stand firm against the kind of bulldozer pressure tactics and deadline fear-mongering from our civic "leadership" that have helped bring debt-ridden and grossly mismanaged Windsor to its current state.

    The Spitfire subsidy went through anyway, thanks to Mayor Mike Hurst's tie-breaking vote and those of his five council lackeys. But it took bigtime intestinal fortitude on Cassivi's part to place his principles and his duty to taxpayers ahead of his burning desire to see the arena, the holy grail of his political career, become a near-term reality.

    What made him do it? How could Mr. Arena, a guy who has spent thousands of hours pursuing a new home for the Spitfires, choose not to bail out the Junior A franchise to keep it from skating off to that hotbed of hockey interest (more like a Junior A graveyard if you recall the late and much lamented Flyers and Thunder) that is Niagara Falls?

    There were a number of reasons. Not least among them were memories of countless kitchen-table meetings with distraught residents of flood-prone Ward 4.

    Again and again Cassivi has been called out after rainstorms to view the turds floating in sewage-filled basements. Again and again he's heard heartfelt pleas from taxpayers to end the misery and make this a city where people don't have to dread a heavy rainfall.

    'Feeling helpless'

    "It's not a pretty picture. People are out there feeling helpless and hopeless. People are cancelling vacations because they fear that while they're away their belongings will be destroyed," said Cassivi.

    When they beg for help, for the kind of services any civilized community should be able to take for granted, Cassivi has always assured them the problem will be dealt with as soon as money is available. But he always cautioned that money is tight. Too many pressing demands. Not enough cash.

    And what does he tell them now? Sure. We would like to keep your rec room from being ankle-deep in sewage. But you have to understand. Your needs come a distant second to helping a private sector firm, the local Junior A franchise, that says it's ankle-deep in red ink.

    Cassivi is an arena crusader. But he's also a firm believer that Windsor needs to sort its priorities into two categories: needs and wants. The needs, like effective sewer systems, must come first. The wants, like bailing out a hockey club and building a spiffy new arena, come later. Perhaps much later.

    "Circumstances have significantly changed in the last little while and we have to pause and evaluate. We have to take a serious, dispassionate and composed look at where we are. I'm for an arena. But not at any cost."

    Cassivi is acutely aware of many businesses whose frazzled owners are hanging on by their fingertips during this economic slide. People who poured their hearts and souls into fulfilling a life ambition are now cashing in RRSPs to stave off the bailiff.

    These folks and there are hundreds of them who go bankrupt in the Windsor area annually, don't enjoy the luxury of meeting behind closed doors with city councillors and emerging with a bailout. "All they can do is plead with us to hold down the expenditures," said Cassivi. "They're struggling very hard and taxes are a significant part of that struggle."

    But instead of tax relief, they see a city staggering under the weight of the MFP and Canderel debacles and still unable or unwilling to turn off the tap. To add insult to injury, said Cassivi, council voted to prop up the Spitfires without having all the relevant financial information.

    At least they're consistent. It seems only natural that a city which was blindsided on MFP and totally in the dark about the Canderel cost over-runs should take another leap of faith with our money. No worries, mate. There's plenty more where that came from.

    Needed: One more councillor with a fiscal backbone and some respect for the taxpayers. And five fewer limp noodles. "

And now Henderson has to nerve to say when $70-80 MILLION is at risk, not just a few hundred thousand dollars, to build a complex not just for civic use but to build a building for the millionaire owners of the Spits so they will not look "foolish":

"And then there's David Cassivi. What a tragic figure. He spent his entire career fighting for a city arena and in the end, torn by conflicting loyalties and knee-capped by last Friday's shock announcement, he became its lone foe. He looked old, ashen and beaten Wednesday night. A shell of his former self. I felt waves of pity for him while recalling his 1988 promise to Windsorites that an arena would be up and running within three years."

To get that so-called Henderson pity, David was consistent in saying that
""I can't in good conscience agree," he said. "I firmly believe to the bottom of my soul that this does a disservice" to Windsor taxpayers.'


2) Spitfires $400,000 Bail-out

  • Spits' bailout just foreplay;
    Windsor Star 02-21-2002 By: Gord Henderson

    For a community that's becoming all too familiar with city hall screwups measured in tens of millions of dollars, the $400,000 bailout of the Windsor Spitfires might appear to be small potatoes.

    And no doubt the one per cent of Windsor-area residents who attend Spitfires games will be mightily relieved that city taxpayers are going to subsidize the team
    to keep owner Steve Riolo from moving the Junior A franchise to Niagara Falls.

    But my oh my, what a precedent those five council spendthrifts and Mayor Mike Hurst have set in approving a tin-cup policy to keep the Spitfires owner from making a pragmatic business decision.

    Get in line, gang. 'Cuz there's plenty more where that came from. That's the message Councillors Tom Wilson, Peter Carlesimo, Brian Masse, Bill Marra and Charles Hotham have sent in approving a $150,000 subsidy for the Spits for this season, another $150,000 for the 2002-2003 season, plus a $50,000 retroactive handout, a $25,000 dressing room overhaul and $25,000 for upgraded fitness equipment at money-losing Windsor Water World.

    If taxpayer bailouts are the right thing to do for the Spitfires, they're surely the right thing to do for every business in Windsor that has any significance and finds itself on the wrong side of the financial ledger. Why wouldn't we offer equal treatment to mould shops, restaurants and bowling alleys?

    Some struggling business owner should test these five councillors to see if they truly believe in equity when it comes to redistributing money extracted, on pain of losing your home, from defenceless Windsor property owners, including many seniors on fixed incomes.

    Yes, but this was a negotiation between a landlord and a tenant, some will respond. Yeah. Right. How many landlords in the real world offer tenants free rent retroactively, plus upgrades, to keep them from moving out of town? The last time I checked even the city's housing company didn't operate that way.

    What sickens me is how this was negotiated behind closed doors, away from the jaundiced eyes of city residents who are already fit to be tied over the Canderel and MFP debacles. It was justified on the grounds that the renegotiation of a lease is a private matter.

    Funny. When council told Wayne Gretzky and his Jebb partners in minute detail why they could take their $31-million arena proposal and shove it -- one year ago yesterday -- they did so in the glare of the council chambers with thousands of cable TV subscribers watching.

    Dodging the spotlight

    But they're camera shy now. And little wonder. The folks who run this city, the geniuses who stood by while taxpayers were saddled with 50-per-cent interest rates on leased equipment and while huge cost overruns were racked up on the ugliest structure ever to malign Riverside Drive, aren't especially interested in having the taxpayers see how they conduct business.

    Instead of calling Riolo (and more power to him for being a canny negotiator) on his threat to sell the team to out-of-town owners and make a hefty profit, which would have been an eminently sensible business decision on his part, the Squandering Six blinked. And started coughing up your money and mine. And believe me, the coughing has only just begun.

    Councillors were told behind closed doors that taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $1 million for architectural drawings for the proposed new $41-million hockey palace and the meter is still running at the astonishing rate of $185,000 a month. The message? If we don't keep Riolo and his franchise around, we'll look like idiots for blowing all that money on a fantasy project. As if there aren't individuals, including Gretzky and one or two current NHL players, who would leap at an opportunity to secure a Windsor OHL franchise.

    The scary thing is that the Spitfires' bailout is merely foreplay. It signals what's to come. The clear intention is to shove that $41-million arena down taxpayer throats and to hell with the ramifications for a city wrestling with the fallout from the Canderel and MFP fiascos.

    Hurst couldn't get elected dogcatcher now. But this frees him to do as he pleases over the next 21 months and he clearly has five councillors along for the ride. And never mind that building a new home for the Spits now would entail spending $8 million less annually on roads and sewers.

    To hell with flooded basements and alignment jobs. It's full speed ahead for the Mike Hurst Civic Arena."

Now, he was right about is $70 million Plus love affair today with the Spitfires previously just a business now being transformed into " an entrenched community institution." The team that could pack up and leave must now be saved no matter what the cost! We have to build an arena for them.

3) Public/Private Partnership and Go It Alone

When the Mayor was running for office he said specifically:

  • "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.

    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."

A P3 would be essential and what was being discussed was a building in the downtown at the Western Super Anchor site where the taxpayers paid out millions, which site was going to be the focus for the Urban village .....errrrr new urbanism. Now we go it alone in the east end at some unknown location and at some unknown costs with all of the risks being ours.

Who Else Is Moving Into Canderel

A Pessimist says----City still pays and pays and pays after subleasing

An Optimist says---"Subleasing saves city money"

I know we poor taxpayers are going to save money on the Canderel subletting. How do we know, Eddie Francis told us so!

We are told that "Francis wouldn't disclose how much the new subtenants will pay, citing confidential agreements with private companies, but said the long-term sublets will save the city "hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."

I expect that we are not saving all that much since the property was listed at $10 dollars per square foot for the best building in town. Isn't that around half what the City was obliged to pay? And I would not be surprised if the new tenant was able to get an even better deal than that. Of course, we had to increase the real estate commission fees for renting at the same time we slashed the rent charges and we had to give "tenant inducements" too. But hey, as the Mayor said "It has been a pretty significant weight on us."

Who else is moving in? That's a huge secret as well. "The city will let the new subtenants identify themselves, Francis said."

I wonder if the rumour is true about this well-known financial services firm going there.

Only time will tell!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

DRTP Contest

Believe it or not I have to congratulate Mike Hurst for once! At least he did NOT buy a full-page, full-colour ad in the Star today. He bought a smaller one, perhaps three-quarters of a page. He is at least trying to save money.

However, where is the Board of CP Rail as more shareholder money is being wasted on full-colour DRTP ads (and some radio commercials too I have been told). Where is OMERS who is supposed to protect their contributors and pensioners from waste?

It was a nice artist rendition of what they want to do. But then again their drawings and presentations are always very slick and well-done. I am not sure I can say the same about their proposal however.

You know I should have sent my kids to art school. They would have been fully employed in Windsor with the Schwartz Report drawings of Huron Church as our Champs-Elysées, the DRTP proposal(s), the East End Arena. [Oh, the PCR drawing was by Robert Lewicki. I sent him 2 emails with some questions about his work. He replied once but he has not replied to me on the second one. He probably won't]

There was something odd about the DRTP ad though. I threw out their other glossy brochures so I could not compare what was drawn before. (More money down the drain for pensioners and shareholders).

So the contest----what appears to be strange about the DRTP ad in the Star today. What are the consequences if you are right

David Cassivi MUST Be Re-elected

Ward Four voters have a number of good candidates to choose between. I am going to make it easier for them.

One of your votes MUST be cast for David Cassivi. You have no choice but to vote for him. He was the only member of Council with the gumption to stand up for taxpayers. You'll read more about "gumption" soon!

Read again what he said in the Star. It makes such obvious good sense.

  • "Cassivi said he still supports consolidating smaller rinks and a community centre.

    "There is still a business case for doing that, but to add a spectator arena when Ice Track is a stone's throw away (in Tecumseh) is not prudent," Cassivi said. "Now that we have $15 million set aside ... we should move ahead with consolidating facilities, but we don't need an arena. There may be celebrations today, but we may be saddling our community with hangovers for generations to come. I've tried to encourage the Spitfires to make a deal with Ice Track."

    Windsor missed its opportunity by not embracing the Ice Track proposal, the Ward 4 councillor said.

    "I can understand the frustration of citizens in missing out on that opportunity," Cassivi said.

    "I'm as disappointed as anyone on the foot-dragging and dithering. But it's also my job to make sure the disappointment shouldn't turn into desperation. What we don't want to do is jump on the bandwagon for politically expedient needs. Politicians may need an arena plan, but Windsor doesn't need a badly planned arena...

    "For 25 years I've been pressing successive councils for an arena," he said.

    "But this time the council agreed to proceed with entering into a development agreement with PCR Contractors Inc. and they did this with no operating cost analysis, no business or risk analysis. There is no location, which is so important to the success or failure to a project."

    "I think there is a feeling that we have to deliver an election commitment. When you get jilted at the proverbial alter, you shouldn't propose to the first person you see. You should at least date."

We need more people on Council with business sense, more people with gray hair, more people with experience in the real world. As Mayoral candidate David Wonham said, "The youthful enthusiasm experiment in running City Hall has failed." In my opinion, not only has it failed but it has failed miserably. The latest Arena saga demonstrates it.

Frankly, your second choice has to be between Ed Sleiman and Bill Marra. Perhaps John Middleton since he is a business person provided he tells voters what he stands for.

I must admit that what is being carried on at City Hall is so bizarre to me. No action for three years by this Council and then this huge rush to do a deal. I have done large complicated legal deals in my previous life and they are not something that can be done quickly. We have had that experience here before and it has cost us dearly! MFP, Canderel, the Bus Terminal to name a few.

I hope I am making people angry enough so that when they vote, they vote for the right people. We cannot afford any longer some of the people on Council who have no respect for the hard-earned dollars of tax-payers. More importantly, they have no respect for taxpayers!

I am sure that you noticed that I did not include the name, Ken Lewenza, as one of the people to vote for. I could not. Ken is honest at least----he had the guts to tell us that this year's budget was an election year budget. We should expect higher taxes or reduced services next year. He was also honest in telling us:

  • "…it is possible the arena deal will be signed, sealed and delivered before the Nov. 13 municipal election.

    A deal with the Windsor Spitfires can be completed in a matter of weeks and the issue of where the arena would be located is coming back to council in one week with potential sites…

    The further we get along in this process, the less of a chance of another council coming in and reversing it,” Lewenza said…

    “The majority of council would be overthrown to undo what we’ve done,” Lewenza said Thursday. “I don’t see anyone getting elected on a platform … of trying to undo the project.”

There seems to be an unseemly haste to complete the transaction rather than act in a reasonable and prudent manner in the best interests of residents. Speed should not be the criterion when entering into a project that may cost close to $100 Million by the time it is finished. There are 3 major transactions all at the same time: an arena deal with PCR, a deal with the Spitfires and the land transaction.

There seems to be a desire to prevent the next Council from looking at the transaction that is to be completed just weeks before the municipal election.

The Purchasing By-law provides :

  • Sec. 56. Where a Contract may extend beyond the term of Council, the Contract shall contain provisions to minimize the financial liability of the City of Windsor should the subsequent Council not approve sufficient funds to complete the Contract and the City of Windsor may terminate the Contract.

The purpose of the Section is to allow a new Council to have second thoughts about a deal entered into by a previous Council. However Councillor Lewenza seems to want to make that task as difficult as possible thereby frustrating the clear purpose of the By-law.

I would think that he is not the only one that feels this way. Perhaps some others want to do so as well. Perhaps they don't have the guts to say so in public or perhaps they have the "smarts" not to do so.

For that, a thumb up for honesty to the Councillor, but I cannot suggest that the Councillor Lewenza should be re-elected for rushing the deal. For that, a big thumb down.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Race" For The Park

The Mayor and Council should demand that Councillor Joyce Zuk immediately apologize to residents of Windsor after her comments in the Star today.

Who is going to cross the finishing line first in the great Superior Park Race? Will it be the the Conseil Scolaire de District du Centre-Sud-Ouest who now feel "the board was misled by city officials," unnamed and anonymous "City officials who told the board Superior Park has been for sale since 1995, Councillor Joyce Zuk who "continues to support the sale," or the "West Windsor neighbourhood...outraged at possibly losing Superior Park."

did not dare use the expression "French" Board like the Star did today for fear that Councillor Zuk might call me a rascist too! It's a good thing that Joyce decided not to run for office this time around. She wouldn't make it after the absurd comment she made "The people complaining are a bunch of racists. After I heard about the racist comments, there is no way I'm going to tolerate that."

I might respect her and her comment if she had actually attended the meeting. She, as the Ward Councillor, should have been there. At least Councillor Budget was there even though he introduced the motion that caused the problem in the first place. But she only "heard" the remarks. I wonder if it was second or third or fourth or fifth-hand and from whom?

And what shall we call the game that Joyce is playing now? A reasoned approach to solving a problem?

One of the reasons I heard that Joyce is not running for Council this time around is so that she can position herself if she decides to run provincially or federally. Obviously, there would be a concern that if she lost municipally, as she might well have, her chances for a Senior Level seat would be diminished.

She need not worry. Her absurd statement will linger for a long time, killing any chance she will ever have to be elected for anything!

And just in passing, don't you think a whole bunch of people ought to be fired for not acting promptly so that taxpayers are prejudiced. It is crazy what is going on and how taxpayers are being abused.

We learned that Conseil Scolaire de District du Centre-Sud-Ouest "got $15 million four years ago from the province to build a high school in Windsor." FOUR YEARS AGO!!!! And where do you think that costs have gone since that time----UP.

So how much more than the $15M will be needed now? Who knows what the 20 plus year arena saga will cost us. We know the 6 year bus terminal extravaganza cost us an extra 35%.

The next public meeting to discuss the park is scheduled for October 17. Of course, that meeting is now illegal since it is past the 30 days that Council gave for this matter to be brought back to them. Administration has no right to be holding it. It now has to be a matter for the new Council. Administration has to wait for them to be elected for instructions. This matter is now functus officio. [Look that up in your dictionary]

I like Trustee Francois Gratton. He has real style. He learned his "arena" lesson well. "If there is nothing in Windsor, LaSalle has land close to Windsor," Gratton said." Make Councillors macho again. No way are we losing another project to the County!

Macho and race...a sure way to try to win a vote!

What Does $48 Million Get Us--A LaSalle Arena

Something is going on here. We are being rushed, too quickly. Do we really know what we are getting?

About the LaSalle arena, the Star editorial fumed when the total package came in 44% above the arena only cost:

  • "LaSalle taxpayers not only have a right to feel angry. They have a duty. Their town offered them a great deal on a car and only told them after the sale they would have to pay extra for the engine. A new deal needs to be struck and can only be brokered at the polls."
And yet, the Star ran the headline "Council approves $48M arena plan." $48M is the arena only cost. Why didn't the Star run the real all-inclusive number. Simple: no one knows what that number is! Simple: The Star would not dare. Taxpayers would have run the Mayor and all of the Councillors, other than David Cassivi who had the guts to stand up to look out for us, out of town!

Here is something that might give Hockey League people pause. Where are the seats for the Practice Rink area? I did not see them on the PCR plan in their package! They were not referred to in their specs.

I thought I heard that there was going to be seating for 280 for the three "Practice rinks." But weren't they to replace Riverside and Adstoll? Does such a low seating number make sense if the way money is going to be made is to hold hockey tournaments, ice skating shows etc. Where are people going to sit? The PCR proposal only seems to include "in-rink and heated out-of-rink public viewing galleries for each rink" but no description of any seating.

Then this is NOT replacement but changing the whole nature of what the Community rinks were. It is nothing more than three ice-pads. It is NOT replacing Adstoll or Riverside. How could it be?

I received this information in an email from Mayoral candidate, David Wonham, who is a "hockey dad." His children played hockey and he travelled around to other cities for tournaments over the years.

  • "Adstoll sits 900, and has had 1300 at one time, Riverside's seating is similar [700 seating but sometimes up to 1,000 people attend]. Is the new facility of PCR only for practice ice, and not suitable for games, championships or tournaments.... Adstoll is about 60% WMHA, and hosts Riverside, Sunparlour and the Riverside Skating club also. Riverside is similar, but also has a large hall attached."
The cost of a Twin pad recreational facility was said to be in the range of $22 million. We are to get an extra rink with PCR but obviously, we are not getting the "arena" aspect of the existing sites if PCR's total price is $48M.

Here's a really dumb question but I do not know the answer. What kind of seating are we getting in our magnificent new arena. Are the "regular" seats plastic, polypropylene or Foam and Steel Composite, bucket or deep, highback or normal, with or without numbers, tread or riser fixed? The City is responsible for "Tenant Finishes" so if we want something that is other than what PCR proposes, we pay extra.

Can anyone on Council tell me what we are buying? I do not think I heard one question about exactly what we are getting for $48 million of taxpayer money. I bet you, dear reader, ask more questions of a salesperson when buying a house, a car or even a plasma TV set!

When did Council first see the details of the PCR offer...back in mid-July or when it became public toward the end of September? Did Council have any meetings with Administration to go through a detailed examination of the proposal or was that it at the Council meeting?

With this rush for signing a deal, I feel the pressure to do something and that makes me very nervous. Sign on the dotted line now or else. AND THE "OR ELSE" IS THERE! Did you hear anyone tell us that the PCR offer has a 60 day time-limit? And that time started running on August 31.

SIGN, SIGN, SIGN! Nice technique eh. Sign now or our price will sky-rocket will be the threat. It is an empty one. Who else wants PCR's proposal? They have not been able to get rid of it in how many years. A few more weeks or months won't matter, especially since the new Council can terminate the deal under the Purchasing By-law!

We are being played, dear reader, like a fiddle. Reasonable and prudent stewardship of taxpayer interests is being thrown out the window in my opinion for some reason to rush to lock-up this deal!

I am still left wondering what we are getting for our $48M with the PCR proposal. Are we comparing apples to apples with the numbers or apples with who knows what. Let me point out some matters that are still confusing me. I have this sinking sensation that we think we are getting one thing but are getting something else.

Are we getting a state-of-the-art 2006-designed facility that makes us a world leader in arenas or something designed in 1999 (or perhaps earlier) that was to be built in Port Huron? Have there been new, innovative design elements introduced since 1999? Has anyone compared what this arena is like compared with other arenas in other cities? Note that in its Report, Administration has said that it has NOT completed (or has it even started?) its due diligence of the PCR proposal. That was supposed to take 90 days

The big reason for this complex and the reason why we are going to save so much money and make profits is because we are replacing "Community rinks." But are we? Are we getting what we have now or something less?

The PCR drawing shows a "Spectator facility" with a separate "Practice rinks facility" of 3 ice pads and a Community Hall.

Here is the language of the PCR covering letter to Council on August 31. Read it carefully:

"Attached, we have provide a detailed design build, lump sum proposal to construct a new 288,000 square foot facility which will incorportate one (1) spectator rink, three (3) auxiliary rinks and a community centre."

They also say:

The Centre we propose is approximately 288,000 sqft which will include a spectator arena....Also included within this structure, provisions have been made for 3 recreational ice pads and a community center."

Note that each element is broken down separately: spectator rink (arena?), rinks, community centre.

That is also how they discussed it in their July 19 letter:
"Building Overview--Arena bowl with features, 3 Recreation Rink Center, Community Center"

Within the detailed proposal is this language which no one seems to want to tell us what it means: "“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”

I do not understand the phrase "provisions have been made." I do not want provisions but actual construction.

So does this mean that they are building everything, or that they are building everything but that the City pays for everything other than the arena or what? In looking through the details of the project in the PCR materials, it is not clear to me what is being covered.

Here is what one well-known Engineer person wrote to me as well.
  • "Just so you know, that is an enormous statement. This would entail all site work, including access (and traffic study to accompany) provisions, parking lot, landscaping, service connections and required roadway improvements assuming this is going next to Lauzon i.e. perhaps a new signalized intersection is required. Then there is the design of all of these elements, and no doubt they will come running to the foreground with ideas for connections to bike paths, bus bay drop-offs, eco-friendly areas etc etc

    The work as described can run you easily 20-30% of overall project costs, depending on what kind of quality they are looking for.

    Here's a key issue that you or even City Council may not be aware of. Disposal of excavated earth and materials has become a huge headache for municipalities and developers across the province after the recent upgrade in MOE standards this past year. In Kitchener, the reconstruction of Victoria Avenue ran over budget by $4 million (!) because of "contaminated" soils (there were a number of gas stations along the route) and the earth had to be trucked to Sarnia for disposal... the WHERE of this project is important because if it lands adjacent to any current or past industrial or commercial sites, you are looking at potentially a big clean-up cost, in the order of millions for something the size of an arena complex. Now... is this a cost that will be borne by PCR/Collavino or the City? You and I know the answer.

    You add to that the Opportunity Cost of swapping land and I think you are already looking at the city being on the hook for $20 million+ beyond the $49 million. This project will double in cost before it's finished with the myriad change orders, design revisions etc."
Another interesting litttle quirk and perhaps if Gord Henderson is right, the reason why the Casino is not objecting. In the first letter sent by PCR, the project had a viewing capacity for 7,000 for hockey viewing and 8,000 for concerts. In the PCR proposal the seating capacity is said to be about 6,500. There is NO provision for a sophisticated sound system that would be needed for entertainment and concerts.


Are we agreeing NOT to compete with the Casino complex to the possible detriment of taxpayers? Frankly, if we are to bear the risk (and isn't that the reason why Administration talks about only 48 events a year, 40 of which are Spits games) then let the Casino put up some cash if they do not want competition!

If we are building just a sports arena, then frankly why are we building it out in the east end? Why don't we build it downtown on the Western Super Anchor site that we already own ? In this way, we are revitalizing the downtown, providing a focus for an urban Village and can build smaller twin pad complexes in the East end at the Riverside site. Or we can fix up the Barn!

Here is what is really annoying too and, if I were one of the two NOTED and FILED proponents what would make me furious. What is the real difference between them and PCR such that they should be ignored.

PCR sent to the City their "unsolicited" letter on July 6 referencing a Windsor Star story of April other words, something 2 months before so they were not exactly speedy in approaching the City. They had "recent discusssions with our engineers and architects" so they did not act promptly after reading the story about the east End project. They acted when they saw a July 5 article in the Star about a July 24 Council meeting where a proposal would be presented. It was only after that article did they send in an "unsolicited letter."

Remarkably, there was no Council meeting until October, even though they were rushing for the July one. That gave PCR enough time to speak to Administration, tender their project and provide fixed details.

Did PCR get an advantage over other "unsolicited letter" writers? PCR could act as they did and no one complains but when the other two proponents act as they did, especially when one wanted to go downtown, they are ignored!

Let's go back to that LaSalle arena and the Star editorial.
  • "The town of LaSalle has pulled what amounts to a bait and switch on unsuspecting taxpayers. The town grossly underestimated -- or misrepresented -- the actual costs of a new recreation complex, which are now pegged to be 44 per cent above initially announced projections.

    Taxpayers were led to believe the proposed Vollmer Recreation Centre would cost $20 million, a princely sum for a town of 25,000 that caused property taxes to spike $150 annually for a $200,000 home. But just three weeks before the groundbreaking, council announced it will take another $8.8 million for the complex to be operational, accessible and furnished.

    The town knew, or ought to have known, about these expenditures - - down to the dollar -- when it embarked on the project. If administrators and councillors didn't know these costs were coming, they are irresponsible planners. If they did know they were looming but persisted in perpetrating the myth of a $20-million complex, then they can charitably be described as poor communicators.