Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eddie's Border War Plan

I like poking fun at DRTP and Mike Hurst; they are such easy targets as they change as the wind blows. Whatever you want, DRTP has the answer. Now Mike’s a smart guy and OMERS is still paying him so I cannot believe that he is really spending all of his time trying to convince Windsor municipal candidates to support a tunnelled DRTP.

To be serious, and, notwithstanding all of the hopes and the hype, Windsor is NOT getting a multi-billion dollar tunnel to the border. It is too absurd to think about it. Perhaps Mike is working so that someone will buy the corridor but who wants it and for what purpose.

All those poor candidates buying into the glitzy DRTP Powerpoint. Candidate Greg Baggio in Ward 1 even points out the way to it as he says "I SUPPORT "DRTP" even if tunnelled. And he thinks he will get support in South Windsor for this position!

One may have to re-think one's choice of Councillor depending on border platform.

I have a big question. What I was wondering about is why is DRTP spending so much money on presentations, flyers, radio and newspaper ads. There has to be a real reason. Of course, the decision makers are in the Board rooms of CP and OMERS and Mike is merely carrying out their orders.

Why don’t we have some fun and try and figure out what is really going on.

I read 3 stories recently that might help us figure it out:
  • 1) McGuinty a 'three-P' convert

    Premier lauds public-private partnerships at Royal Ottawa opening

    Three-Ps are public-private partnerships, by which a government gets a consortium of private companies to finance, build and maintain buildings for a set amount of money…

    When they won the election, the Liberals made some minor changes that emphasized the public control of the building complex, renamed it "alternative financing and procurement," and gave the go-ahead…

    What's driving the movement to private financing and development of big public projects is simple: The government has lots of old, outdated public buildings to replace and a limited pool of capital with which to build new ones. The province has $30 billion of buildings and roads it wants to build over five years.

    In the case of the Royal Ottawa, a private consortium -- The Healthcare Infrastructure Company of Canada -- assembled the financing to build a $132-million, 400,000-square-foot building, backed by a 20-year lease deal with the hospital. The building replaces a decrepit collection of old asylum buildings that are connected by tunnels.

    The government hasn't paid a cent yet for the building but the hospital will begin paying monthly payments of about $800,000 on Nov. 1, a blended payment that covers both the capital cost of construction and maintaining the building complex. The centre includes a tower for teaching, research and administration, several outpatient clinics, as well as secure and non-secure wards for patients.

    "They put pressure on us. This project had a deadline. If we weren't finished by Dec. 17, we had a penalty. Every month that we were late, one month of revenue was gone," said Michael Rolland, senior vice-president of Borealis Infrastructure, one of the companies in the consortium…

  • 2) …Duncan Hawthorne was popping his $20-billion question to the residents of Kincardine, Ont., …[He ] is president and CEO of Bruce Power Ltd., operator of a massive, government-owned, nuclear power plant a few kilometres north of town... Hawthorne, to the delight of the three dozen or so local officials and business leaders on hand, had just asked the community to support one of the largest infrastructure projects in Canadian history. Hawthorne had just proposed that Kincardine — a breezy little town on Lake Huron best known for its stunning beach, its Saturday night bagpiper parades and its Scottish festival — help host an expansion at what is already the world's largest nuclear station and radioactive-waste facility. But not a single objection was raised.

    In Kincardine, many who directly or indirectly depended on the survival of the plant worried that the newcomers would wring out the last of its profits before shutting it down. (Troubles in the U.K. forced British Energy into bankruptcy and the Bruce lease was optioned to a consortium consisting of TransCanada Pipelines, Cameco, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension fund, or OMERS, the Society of Energy Professionals and the Power Workers' Union.)

    Another such long-term contract to backstop the refurbishment of the rest of the station's eight reactors once they begin wearing out within a decade — Hawthorne suggests this might cost a further $7 billion — would help capitalize the construction of four new reactors costing $8 billion. It doesn't hurt, of course, that OMERS, with $40 billion under management, has a 31% stake in Bruce Power. "I'm pretty sure we can put the cash together," said Hawthorne, assuredly.

  • 3) Canada's OMERS Fund Aims to Invest C$12 Billion in Public Works
    June 30 (Bloomberg) -- OMERS, the Canadian pension fund manager that is a bidder for Associated British Ports Holdings PLC, is considering C$12 billion ($10.8 billion) of investments in public works projects.

    The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, Canada's fourth-largest pension-fund manager and best-known as OMERS, is seeking infrastructure assets such as gas networks and water plants because they provide stable returns and low volatility, said board member Frederick Biro in an interview yesterday in London.

    ``Some will come to fruition,'' he said. ``We've already bought a number of assets in Germany, and Western Europe is our primary focus right now,' said Biro, whose pension plan manages about C$41.1 billion.

    OMERS is part of a bidding group that has offered 2.8 billion pounds ($4.4 billion) for Associated British Ports. The pension fund is bidding with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. [Goldman Sachs was consulting for City of Detroit on the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel] and the GIC Special Investments private-equity unit of Singapore Government Investment Corp. ..

    The fund invests in utility assets through its Borealis Infrastructure fund. It has investments in the Detroit River Rail
    [Note: NOT DRTP any more] in the U.S., the Scotia Gas Networks in the U.K. and the Bruce Power nuclear facility in Canada, according to its Web site.

So do you get it now? DRTP above or below ground is no longer a real issue. It’s dead. The exercise re the Green Solution and a tunnel is nothing more than a PR exercise to change the image of Borealis/OMERS/DRTP. They are re-inventing themselves, wiping away their past history. They are dropping their negative baggage and fixing up a refurbished kindler, gentler image. Why they may even offer to fund the East End arena too as they did in Toronto with the Ricoh Centre.

OMERS needs to invest its money---they and CP have probably already over $100M in the failed DRTP project and they need to get that money back in some way. At the same time, the Province needs to find money to invest in infrastructure to reach its objectives: “Investments in border crossing infrastructure and associated highways will assist with the efficient movement of goods and people across the border.”

The Province has a program ReNew Ontario and its 2005-2010 Strategic Highlights include:

  • “The infrastructure challenge is formidable. The government requires more innovative and more flexible investment and project management strategies to meet the test — and to ensure on-time, on-budget project delivery.

    While the provincial government will continue to take the leading role in funding public infrastructure, we will broaden our infrastructure strategy to include partnerships with the broader public-sector, including Ontario public pension funds and the private sector where and when it makes sense.”

The hospital in Ottawa and the Bruce Plant an expansion are just two such projects and both using OMERS pension fund money. [Do you remember how long ago the Government FSCO investigation on OMERS started! Around 2 years ago]! They are the precursor to similar investments in Windsor the Province wants to make with the border in Windsor.

Now this is not Eddie's concept since he had no real interest in the border before he was elected Mayor but he adopted it quickly. We just need to figure out who gave him the brain-wave!

I can just see Mike financing with Borealis money the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and a new bridge border crossing both of which would be run by an experienced border operator like Remo Mancini (perhaps including Sarnia and Fort Erie too under a Public authority as Schwartz suggested) all under the auspices of the Province of Ontario and the Mayor of Windsor after they have beat up on the Federal Government….after all aren’t Eddie and the Province, sort of “friends” today?

In other words, the Province wants to own the crossings financed by OMERS in association with Eddie. [Isn't that what Steve Salmons really leaked foolishly!] They will let the Feds have Bill C-3 to deal with governance but the other levels of Government will be the players!

I would even guess that there have been preliminary discussions about it in Ottawa and Toronto. The Tunnel Improvment Plan is just part of the process leading up to it as was Schwartz, except Sam's Report was a mere time waster and diversion until Eddie was ready.

Maybe that is why Mr. Estrin has been hired in what Councillor Halberstadt described as:

  • “Council has authorized a sizeable amount of money to be spent on legal fees in this latest response to the enemies.”

Councilor Valentinis gave it away:

  • “And the border file? "We're being challenged and you can't compromise your case," said Valentinis, explaining that the city is in a battle for its future with four powerful, tightlipped competitors who have mega-millions at stake -- the Ambassador Bridge company, the DRTP and the two senior governments.”

We are in a war, not against sewer backups or to fix our roads (which Dev Tyagi said would cost hundreds of millions of dollars although we have the money for an arena) but against THEM, our enemies. We are fighting to be a border crossing operator, which somehow has been turned into a core operation of City Government.

And if I know Eddie, he has decided that he has had enough of the Province. They have served their purpose and are no longer needed. Why share in the proceeds now. Eddie does not need a partner---ergo the attacks on Sandra and Dwight and the Liberals via Gord Henderson.

All this to be completed in Eddie’s last term too.

There is only one fly in the ointment: The Bridge Co. and Eddie has declared war on them as well with David Estrin as his general. I sure hope Windsor can afford it in the end when the dust settles. It will be ugly.

Pre-Election DesRosiers Rant

To all my friends in Windsor-Essex County and others who are interested for competitive or other reasons in W-EC and all of south western Ontario for that matter, I pass on the following article written by Daniel Howes at the Detroit Free Press.

"Don't expect a quick fix in Mich."

To view this article on The Detroit News Web site, go to:

Daniel is one of the best automotive writers in the nation and I find his take on the local situation in Michigan, which he writes about quite often, very insightful. He recently wrote this article about the state of the economy in Michigan following the Democrats win on Tuesday. As I read the article I was substituting in my mind the words .... Windsor-Essex County for the words 'State of Michigan' .... or the words ... 'University of Windsor' for the words 'State of Michigan'... or the words ... 'Eddie Francis' for the words Governor Granholm ...

I found these new words fit extremely well. Read this article and substitute your own local words into the sentences be they the local political situation, your local politic candidate, the local economy, a local company you are involved with or a local Institution be it a hospital or a high school, College or University. What Daniel is saying makes a lot of sense if we impose the same line of thought on our own situation in Windsor.

He tells us there are "no quick fixes" .. "likely to get much worse before it gets better" .. "efforts to resist aren't going to work" ... "we're not going to be able to build a wall around us" ... "were not built to play in an environment that prizes flexibility, speed, innovation and constant change" .... "too many people would rather stop change than manage it" ... " the dubious distinction of the nation's highest unemployment rate" ... "ill-prepared" ... "one of the least competitive" ... "culture of expectation and entitlement" ... "What's more valuable -- innovation or time served?" ..."demonization" ... "a crude Midwest xenophobia" ... "expectations that Washington (ie: Ottawa) will ride to our rescue" ... "what's ailing (substitute your own local situation) has far more to do with the products (services) they sell, the business model that created them and how those products (services) are perceived by consumers than ... Government programs" .... " turn ... culture and communities towards the future and away from the past, and a lot more things fall into the right places" ... " the fall out of a lot of this re-structuring hasn't occurred yet" ....

"BUT IT WILL" I repeat ... "BUT IT WILL".

These words describe Windsor-Essex County very well and indeed describe many of the local organizations and businesses and unions in the local area very well. I can tell you definitively that the Windsor Star would never publish an article like this. The local reporter that would attempt to write such an article would be shown the door. Witness the Star's political picks for the upcoming municipal election. The Windsor Star missed the biggest question that any politician should be obliged to answer ... "Are you better off today than you were when you elected these people three years ago". There is absolutely no debate on this issue ... the answer is unequivocally NO. So how they can endorse incumbents is beyond me. But then I just re-read Daniel Howes column about the Windsor-Essex County culture and I do understand why the Star backs the politicians that they do. The Windsor Star is part of this culture.

My rant for the day.

Eddie in Ottawa (Part Cluck, Cluck, Cluck)

If Eddie Francis should be beaten on Monday's election, even with Gord's endorsement, will he still go to Ottawa? I know that is a silly question to ask because everyone expects David Wonham to lose badly to the mighty E-machine. Just like Eddie and DRTP's Marge Byington thought Kwame would lose in Detroit.

Now that Eddie knows that Dan Stamper is going to testify, whom will Eddie take with him for moral support---Norma Coleman, Helga Reidel, David Estrin, all of the above. Well he actually won't need anyone now. Here's the new revised schedule:



    Wednesday, November 22, 2006


    Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act.

    * WITNESS:

    City of Windsor:
    His Worship Eddie Francis, Mayor


    Tuesday, November 28, 2006
    9:30 a.m.
    Room 257, East Block


    Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act.


    Canadian Transit Company:
    Dan Stamper, President

That's right, Eddie will testify on the 22nd and Dan Stamper will testify on the 28th. Not only will we not be able to compare them and what they say on the same day, now Eddie will not have to talk to Dan on the airplane down or back or have a coffee in the Toronto terminal while they are switching planes.

I understand that the meeting had been postponed to the 28th at first but somehow Eddie was allowed to speak on the 22nd.

I know. It must be due to a low-priced, advanced purchase, non-refundable air plane ticket....always thinking of taxpayer expense, our Mayor! I sure hope he is Mayor on the 22nd. What an embarrassment otherwise.

Eddie skipped out on one event with his opponents after asking them to reschedule, skipped out on a CBC debate and now he won't have Dan Stamper to deal with. And this is who is to represent our interests and fight for us?

Oh, I am sure he is no chicken. Why, he's a growler ROOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR

Why Rails To Trails May Not Be The Answer

Sloganeering and artist's renditions are the big growth industries in Windsor. We should have someone count the number of slogans that our last two mayors have created over the last three years and how many pretty pictures and Powerpoint presentations their staffs and consultants have produced for public consumption. However, we won't ask the tough question: what are the results achieved.

I found a copy of this newspaper article published 20 years on the subject of Rails to Trails. It's not a new concept but one which Eddie obviously found and now so has ex-mayor Mike. Scary that they are thinking along the same lines isn't it!

There is nothing wrong with Eddie learning about what works in other areas and adopting the concept for Windsor. Why re-invent the wheel. BUT, he needs to examine the idea first in depth before he latches on to it and tries to impose it on us!

The phrase makes a nice slogan but it looks like the issues raised in that story may be the same today. Issues it appears that our sloganeering Mayor and ex-Mayor have not considered. I already raised a couple of concerns raised by Ward 4 Candidate, John Middleton previously:

  • "...if the DRTP corridor is tunnelled, all of the many KMs of it, then who will be responsible for policing it? Who will be responsible for maintaining it? The city?

    If we do not have enough money for policing now, and we are struggling with finding tax money for essential services, is this a "gift" that we really want? If we can get rid of Superior Park, to get money from the sale surplus park assets as Councillor Zuk claims, why would we now take-on more park-space.

    In fact, Chris Schnurr in Ward 2 suggests that we NOT remove the rails since they will never be put back in but that we ought to look at all of our rail lands in the City and County for public transit services eg like a GO Transit-type service perhaps to get cars off the roads!"

The article above points out other problems:

  • who pays the cost to buy the trail in the first place
  • who pays to build the trail
  • how long would it take before a trail was really opened

Ward 2 Candidate Schnurr also sent me this article that I found of great interest. You may want to think about it before you fall for the latest Francis/Hurst slogan:

  • Preserving Urban Rail Corridors

    The terms of reference asked the Panel to consider "the advisability of specific measures designed to preserve urban corridors for future mass transit use in the rail line abandonment process." The Panel's interest in this issue was reinforced by several parties that came forward to discuss related topics, including access to urban rail lines and railway access pricing practices. In addition, some interveners expressed concern that unless the federal government provides funding, useful mass transportation corridors may be lost if the railways choose to discontinue lines in urban areas.

    For many years CN and CPR, provided commuter rail services in several Canadian cities, in particular Montreal and Toronto. Over time, however, the railways found they were losing substantial amounts of money. As Canada became more urban and cities continued to grow, increasing the demand for better commuter services, railway-operated services gradually gave way to operations managed by local commuter or transit authorities, established and funded in part by provincial governments. As the railways' commuter services were terminated, some of the corridors used for those commuter trains remained in service for freight. In some instances commuter service has now been reintroduced.

    In other cases, however, urban and ex-urban corridors not used for commuter services were abandoned. Some were acquired by a provincial or municipal government for current or potential use as a transportation corridor (e.g., part of Ottawa's bus Transitway operates in a former CPR rail corridor). But commuter authorities and municipalities remain concerned that no more rail corridors with transit potential be discontinued without their having the option to acquire them.

    Today, the commuter and transit authorities — Montreal's Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT), the Toronto area's GO Transit, and the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority (TransLink) — have a mandate to provide commuter services. GO was Canada's first interregional public transit system, established to link Toronto's local bus, streetcar and subway services with the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area. AMT is responsible for developing and operating a commuter rail system and for co-ordinating the efforts of transit operators on the Island of Montreal and in the surrounding areas. TransLink provides ferry, bus and commuter rail systems through subsidiary organizations, including West Coast Express.

    Transit authorities receive operating funds from a variety of sources. Some, such as AMT and TransLink, receive funding from fuel taxes collected in their respective metropolitan areas, while GO Transit receives funding from the Greater Toronto Services Board. All receive money from the fare box as well, but revenue shares from fares vary considerably among service providers.

    Fare box revenues are insufficient to allow commuter authorities to fund capital projects, which means that acquisitions of capital assets such as property must be funded by other means. Market borrowing would be circumscribed by the inability even to cover operating costs. Accordingly, the ability to acquire capital assets without assistance is limited.

    Continued urbanization will bring greater traffic congestion in the next 20 years, with continued growth at suburban and ex-urban nodes also contributing to commuter demand. Several Canadian cities anticipate that commuter rail will become an increasingly attractive option as population and traffic volume rise. In order for the option to be available, existing rail corridors might need to be preserved from abandonment and redevelopment. The Alberta government, for example, recommended protecting urban corridors where needed for mass public transit. TransLink recommended designating urban rail corridors as general transportation corridors. In the city cores, rail corridors are one of the few options available for expanding urban transit or developing it where it does not yet exist.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Off With Their Heads--DRIC Is Now A Proven Farce

Did Ontario bureaucrat Steve Salmons pull a Granholm?

You remember, out of the blue, she unilaterally killed a number of the potential downriver Michigan DRIC crossings without consulting anyone? At least she was a Governor not a bureaucrat.

What is the purpose of going through the DRIC process and spending millions of taxpayer dollars to justify what the bureaucrats want to do anyway. The politicians have no role in this frankly as is becoming obvious now. The bureaucrats just out-wait them to do what they want .

It is clear however that the bureaucrats on our side are much stronger than the American Civil Servants. The MDOT ones allowed the Michigan legislators to outflank them and the Michigan Governor not to oppose the Ambassador Bridge's project.

Our bureaucrats though are much better organized. Has Federal Minister Cannon been allowed to come to Windsor yet to see the border and talk with proponents...NOPE. Will Cannon meet them in Ottawa....Not that we have ever heard. When Minister Cansfield comes here, does anyone know about it so they can meet with her....NOPE (unless she makes a speech that the Star does not report!)

For once Eddie Francis and I agree on something "Mayor Eddie Francis said he was under the impression terms of ownership for the crossing were still being decided by the binational government team assigned to decide the new border route." As far as I know that is also the Federal Government position as well.

BUT not for Ontario's BIIG bureaucrat Steve Salmons. He has had enough of the border file indecision. He wants it over and the Province owning the bridge. And Federal Finance Minister Flaherty can pay for it too. Why pussyfoot around:
  • "Steve Salmons, policy adviser to Ontario's Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield, confirmed the feds and province will explore private sector funding to help fix Windsor's border traffic problems.

    "This development is expected and welcomed news," said Salmons. "This project was always considered for alternative funding methods."

    While private investment for the new bridge or feeder roads will be weighed by Ontario, "private ownership or operation of the next crossing is not an option on the table," Salmons said."

Note the Minister almost let the cat out of the bag in a magazine article a few months ago and obviously had to be slapped down by her bureaucrats for speaking too soon. As I said before [BLOG Friday, September 29, 2006, The Cansfield Shocker]:

  • "Note that she backed off completely from her previously published comment that the Bridge would be publicly owned in the Star interview saying now that "the next Windsor-Detroit crossing will "definitely have public oversight, but we will look at a variety of options when it comes to ownership." One of the 41 staffers finally gave her the party line on that!"
Obviously, Mr. Salmons has had enough. Either what he said is true and that means DRIC is a farce and everything we are told is a lie or, if he is wrong, then Mr. Salmons must be terminated from his position!

And Dwight Duncan better be careful what he says. Cabinet solidarity and all that! I'd hate to think that the Premier might demote him too.

In either case, Mike Hurst now has support for his DRTP lawsuit and on a silver platter. Let's see if he has the guts to do something other than do pretty Powerpoint presentations about parklands.

Do Eddie's Two Wrongs Make A Right

How can a parent teach a child about right and wrong when our Mayor makes absurd statements to support a failed process. Especially because he should know better given his educational background.

Probably the most absurd justification given for the process so far that the City of Windsor went through to approve the East end proposal was given by the Mayor:
  • "Francis noted that the association's complaint about sole sourcing would have applied to Windsor Raceway's proposal for the Ice Track arena, since that would not have been tendered either if council chose that project. "That would have been sole sourced as well."
Do you want to laugh or do you want to cry? One can justify the process being wrong with the East end arena because it was wrong with Project Ice Track too! So two wrongs make it right so stop complaining Construction Association

Of course this is a bunch of BS. The process involving Project Ice Track was following the Purchasing By-law if the Mayor would only read the By-law. It was a public/private partnership which the Sole Sourcing section specifically allows and is exactly what Eddie wanted when he was a candidate for Mayor!

It was the East End arena proposal procedure that was faulty in my opinion. It had to be rushed through since the Raceway called the Mayor's bluff and went to Tecumseh. If Eddie had not done something quickly, he would no longer have a hope of being Mayor and he knows it.

Remember also that the Mayor said that the By-Law could be "waived." Of course that was ridiculous as well since the By-law is "mandatory" under Provincial law.

The Teflon Mayor, and only he, can take the blame as CEO of the Corporation of the City of Windsor for the mess that the arena fiasco has become. These slip-ups from the legal technocrat Mayor suggests he knows he is in big trouble over the arena. And it will only get worse as time goes on.

If the Mayor is so wrong on something so fundamental as the Purchasing By-law, then I am so afraid of the rest of what Administration has said as justification for the expenditure of over $70M by the time this is done. MFP and Canderel, here we go again!

Can you imagine if the Mayor allowed himself to be questioned on his positions on the process by someone who read the By-law. Hey........he's on CKLW on Friday isn't he! Perhaps we will get our chance after all.

No readers will recall, I contacted Gord Henderson's "star performer" performer in Ward 5, Councillor Jo-anne Gignac, and asked her to "let me know forthwith which section is that because there is none in the By-law that I can find. Section 32, the Sole Source section, has no such provision." She claimed "a contractor can be chosen without asking for bids, if the city feels it's in its best interests."

The following is her long, detailed and thorough response that obviously must have been cleared by the Mayor's office and Administration:
Here is the latest Press Release issued by the Wonham camp on the arena:


Arena deal should be open to the public

(Windsor) – Dr. David Wonham wants details of the arena proposal open to the public, removing the cloak of secrecy that envelops the eleventh-hour deal endorsed by Eddie Francis.

“It’s the least Windsorites can expect when they’re footing the bill,” said Wonham. “They should demand to know what the total of that final bill is going to be. The mayor says $48-million, but we all know that’s smoke and mirrors.”

“Does anyone remember Toronto’s Skydome? It was originally announced to cost only $150 million but by the time it opened cost $630 million, most of it public money. It was bought by Rogers in 2004 for $25 million. This should be a lesson and a concern for us all especially given the hidden, secret and untendered actions of the mayor and council. Isn’t this how we got into the MFP, Canderal and Cleary fiascos in the first place?”

Windsorites should demand answers to many important questions.

Why was every arena proposal over the past 30 years subjected to a tendering process, but not the present deal?

Why is the arena being built in an obscure area hidden behind an industrial complex? It’s so far from downtown that it will only further hurt the remaining businesses and ensure the longest commute for almost all fans who currently attend.

Why are so many issues surrounding the deal hidden from taxpayers?

How much of the deal was cooked up behind closed doors long before the public heard about it?

It’s time to come clean. But that will only happen if there’s a change in the mayor’s office.

Nov. 13, Windsorites should send a message to the mayor and vote for Dr. David Wonham.

He’ll make change happen.

More Letters To The Blogmeister

Here are a few more letters from readers. Can you guess who wrote the first one?
  • "Our Future Starts Today" I read with interest that the current mayor of Windsor ran on a campaign slogan three years ago of "Our Future Starts Today". What Eddie Francis didn't tell Windsorites was what that future would be. Let’s look at then and now

    1. Then: Windsor in the middle of Canadian unemployment rates. Now: Windsor has second highest unemployment rate of any city in Canada.

    2. Then: Promised an automotive strategy. Now: no auto strategy and the city has lost thousands of automotive jobs.

    3. Then: Promised more open and accountable government. Now: a record number of secret behind closed doors council meetings.

    4. Then: Promised to solve the border. Now: no closer to solving the border, despite secretly spending millions on New York consultants and Toronto lawyers.

    5. Then: Promised regional cooperation. Now: Tecumseh announces a new arena and a week later Windsor announces they will spend at least $50-70 million to compete with it.

    6. Then: Promised to negotiate from a position of strength. Now: announces a new arena in a panic, with no tender process and no site.

    7. Then: Promised to Help Small Business. Now: Raised license fees in some instances as high as 700%. Has not released the Small Business Task Force Report completed in July, 2006.

    8. Then: Promised to Revitalize Downtown. Now: Downtown Commercial Vacancy Rates are approaching 40%.

    9. Then: The previous Mayor is committed to Windsor's most valuable resources, The University of Windsor and St. Clair College. Now: The Mayor backtracks on these committments and forces these institutions into scrambling to make up for lost funding.

    10. Then: A positive future with the right leadership. Now: A bleak economic future even with new leadership.

    If the next 4 years are anything like the past 3 years, Windsor should brace itself for more of the same: job losses, out of town consultants, secret meetings, falling real estate values and economic woes.

A better use for arena monies?

  • I like your Bambi mailbox but you better take your deer off or it will be stolen and sold. You know parks are fair game to sell off now.

    Take that 48, 58, 79 million for the arena and put towards necessities in this city. Just so you know I work in our health care system and guess what I see and what that money could go towards. Daily I see a tremendous amount of cancer, old and elderly people who need help and people who cannot afford to eat.

    So wake up council our new arena is not going to help our fellow residents but the slot money will and so will our parks; they help clean up the air pollution and environment and maybe we will even live long enough to enjoy an arena.

    Fawn (Bambi's baby)

A letter from reader who has an issue with City Hall who answered my question about whether "your residents supporting a candidate for Mayor?"

  • Yes, those I have asked are. Frankly, I’m trying to encourage them to Mr. Wonham. Mr. Francis record and decisions are unimpressive to us. We are putting a petition together and each person we discuss the matter with we recommend Dr. Wonham. I’ve spoken with Tom Lynd and he is of the opinion that since there is such chaos and controversy that under normal circumstances, unfortunately the old Mayor gets elected again because it ‘brings’ out the voters. Hope Dr. W pours on the steam.

    Thank you for including us in the blog. You are truly a public servant in the truest sense."

Another reader refers me to 2 articles in Detroit papers recently, parts of which I attach:

  • "Nation to Big 3: Grow up, times have changed

    Eight days from now, Michigan will pick its CEO for the next four years.

    Be it Gov. Jennifer Granholm or Republican Dick DeVos, the challenge will be enormous. Jobs are disappearing, homes values are sinking, automakers are retrenching and the entitlement class is digging in -- all of it the ugly by-product of Michigan's cultural clash with the global world.

    And not enough people are talking about changing it because that means acknowledging the end of a hallowed era built for comfort, not competition.

    In a column Friday, I argued that the "expectations of comfortable middle-class culture forged by industrial America are blocking change." In essence, that Detroit's "enemy" isn't Japan, NAFTA, dumb product decisions or the Republicans so much as us."

  • "MITCH ALBOM: The mediocrity of today's greatness

    I witnessed something recently that said a lot about who we are in America. It took place not on a big stage on a Saturday night in New York, but on a daytime talk show in the middle of the week...

    I was to be a guest on that TV show. It was one of those shows liable to have a cooking segment, followed by a pets segment, then a segment on sexy Halloween costumes.

    On this day, they were doing a mini-talent contest -- a singing thing, like "American Idol..."

    You kept waiting for someone to come out from behind the curtain and say, "OK, it was all a joke, clearly these people can't sing." But no one came. A winner was awarded. And nobody mentioned how foolish they all looked bragging about their talent, when their talent, once displayed, was little to brag about.

    What seemed most important was that everyone clapped.

    The bigger the boast ...

    Now, the same day this was going on, I happened to be having an ongoing conversation about a Belgian girl we know. She is 15 and already has graduated from high school. She is now taking university courses. At 15! She is, politely put, brilliant. She speaks English better than most American kids, even though it was not her first language.

    Yet, because her culture emphasizes conformity, humility, more and harder work, and less and less talk, she thinks she is nothing special. She is shy and demure. She would blush if you asked her to say she was going to win this thing. And she would put on sunglasses only if it was sunny.

    I thought about her as I watched this small-town version of "It Ain't Bragging If You Can Do It -- And Even If You Cant, It's Still Good." You see this everywhere in America. Rappers sing about their greatness while recording in someone's basement. MySpace is full of teenagers boasting Web personas they would never live up to in the flesh. Athletes make bold predictions, and if they are shut down, nobody calls them on it.

    What seems most important in America is that you have another boast in your bag if your first one falls through.

    Why this concerns me is that, in many ways, we have become a place more interested in telling you how good we are than in actually working to be that good. Somewhere along the line we fell so in love with having a positive self-image that good became great and mediocre was also great and lousy was great, too.

And another Riverside Bike lane letter

  • I'm finding your blog to be an interesting foil to the established media. I check in regularly to see what's going on.

    I just read some of the comments about the bike lane controversy, and thought I would put my own (lengthy!) spin on it, and cycling in general:

    I was on the Windsor Bicycling Committee for three years (96,97,98), and Riverside Drive improvements were the hot issue. When major reconstruction is undertaken, such as after sewer work, the road has to be constructed to established standards. By these standards, the Drive would need to be widened. The plan was to take the wasted space between sidewalk and road, and use it to widen the lanes. This wouldn't work for the entire width, so some stretches would need to reclaim encroached land, and expropriation would be required in other instances.

    The consulting engineers were also faced with the task of traffic calming. They recommended the bike lanes as a traffic calming measure. This would narrow the car lanes, which apparently slows traffic. The road standards allow for a narrower car lane when combined with a bike lane.

    The point of this is that a reconstruction will widen the road, with or without bicycle lanes. So why have some bike riders become the heavies in this issue? Because it's a tactic to stop the whole project.

    One argument against widening the drive is that two lanes will become three or four at the whim of council. If one believes in the technical standards, that won't happen. I'm not sure if council can override these standards; however, the objective is to calm traffic, not to create a commuter superhighway for Tecumseh and Lakeshore.

    Another argument is the loss of some trees. I cannot say that this is a good thing. I can say that less car traffic will mitigate the negative environmental effects of tree loss.

    Assuming that more car lanes aren't going to happen, what's the next objection? Encroaching fences and walls will have to be pushed back or removed entirely. How do affected residents deal with this? They are not likely to attract much public sympathy. So, find another angle - go after the bike lanes.

    The fact that road improvements required widening with or without bike lanes was lost in the controversy. One opponent played the "child safety" card, stating that the lanes were unsafe for children; somehow it was implied that the city wanted kids on bikes to play in these lanes. Another cited the noise factor of bicycles, while others claimed that the lanes would cause traffic to pass too closely to cyclists. Suggestions were made to use Wyandotte St or link the Ganatchio Trail to a system of east-west back streets.

    When this finally went to council, advocates for both sides made their pitch. Council decided that night not to decide, but to defer a decision until the Windsor Area Long Range Transportation Study (WALTS) was completed, and the Bicycle Use Development Study was updated into the Bicycle Use Master Plan. Council did appoint a Riverside Drive resident to the Bicycling Committee. So, all of this has happened, and and we're back to where we were nine or ten years ago.

    Now, a new objection seems to be that the traffic calming measures aren't sufficient. Some want stop signs or traffic lights, others want 'bicycle boulevards' (see, which looks to me like the first step towards a gated community.

    Since the bike lanes were implemented on the Drive west of Strabane, I have used these lanes in favour of Wyandotte Street. A single trip on a bike under the viaducts is enough to convince any cyclist that these lanes are superior. Farther east, in Pillette Village and Riverside, cyclists have to contend with on-street parking and the dangers of car doors opening, or the shifting of lanes, forcing what is essentially a lane change left into traffic. If Wyandotte is the preferred east-west route for cars, what better street for bikes than the Drive? Some have said that back street routes can accomplish the same objective for bikes. But these routes are really only adequate for short neighbourhood trips. Bike commuters, like car commuters, want the most efficient route.

    There are many opinions about the cyclist's place in traffic, but I offer these:

    1. the Highway Traffic Act defines vehicles to include bicycles ("vehicle" includes a motor vehicle, trailer, traction engine, farm tractor, road-building machine, bicycle and any vehicle drawn, propelled or driven by any kind of power, including muscular power, but does not include a motorized snow vehicle or a street car;
    2. the City of Windsor prohibits bicycles with a wheel diameter greater than 26 inches from riding on sidewalks. This essentially allows children's bikes on sidewalks.
    3. municipal roads are financed primarily through property taxes. Bike riders aren't freeloading at motorists' expense.
    4. the number of cyclists breaking the law is exceeded by the number of drivers breaking the same laws.
    5. cyclists aren't required to have driver's licences or carry liability insurance. Bicycles are not registered or licenced.
    6. if every bike on the road equals one less car, then the traffic calming has already started.

    Opinions #1 and 2 mean that if bike lanes exist or not, bikes still belong on the road.
    Opinion 3 means that cars do not enjoy a special status because they pay fuel taxes.
    Opinion 4 means do not judge bicycle lane usage by the lawbreakers.
    Opinion 5 reflects the potential damage that motor vehicles represent compared to bicyles. Licencing revenue would be swallowed up in the administration of such a venture (does gun control sound familiar?). Many persons who cycle for economic reasons would be forced to walk. Kids would become outlaws.

    This leads one to consider who actually is a cyclist. Some do it because they have no alternative, some do it because they want to. Some don't have cars, and some do. A bike ride can be a shopping trip, a trip to work or school, a relaxing day outdoors, or part of a fitness regimen. The reasons are many. Automobile owners or property owners don't have special status that allows them to control access to public streets or determine the choice of transport. So the arguments about using other streets are groundless.

    This issue is bigger than homeowners on Riverside Drive. It's about transportation and recreation options. It's about making Windsor more attractive to tourists, and to the doctors we are trying so hard to move here. How can our local economy diversify from the automotive industry when all of our infrastructure serves only the automobile?

    In some yellowed letter to the Windsor Star, I invited council to ride the Drive with me, and I even offered to buy the coffee. No one has taken me up on the offer, but it still stands. And I extend the offer to you and your readers.

    thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion

Eddie In Ottawa (II)

Guess who else will be a witness after Eddie speaks at the Senate hearing in Ottawa. Now that should be fun to listen to and you can via the Internet!


    Wednesday, November 22, 2006
    6:15 p.m.
    Room 256-S, Centre Block


    Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act.


    6:15 p.m. - 7:15 p.m.
    City of Windsor:
    His Worship Eddie Francis, Mayor

    7:15 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.
    Canadian Transit Company:
    Dan Stamper, President

If they take the same flight together, given the amount of time it takes to fly between here and Ottawa, and if they talked, do you think the border issue could get resolved finally? For our sake, I would hope so but I am not holding my breath.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Swap Meet

Whew. If the Canderel and Arena leases are the DEALS OF THE CENTURY, then the purchase and swap of lands for downtown and the arena is the DEAL OF THE MILLENIUM!

I received a very interesting letter from a reader but I wanted to tell you the significance of the deal first from my perspective:
  1. Unlike the Collavinos, Mr. Farhi did not even have to send out an unsolicited letter to gain a prime piece of Windsor property or worry about Purchasing By-laws or RFPs since the City called was given to him on a silver platter.
  2. Now I know why the RFP for the Urban Village has never been sent out to developers. It was not going to get done until Eddie was ready for it to happen
  3. Mr. Farhi now is in a dominant position in the Urban Village lands
  4. Which developer will even bid when the RFP comes out
  5. Developers will remember how others have been treated and will start walking away from Windsor.
  6. Didn't we kick Beztak out of town because they wanted control of the Urban Village lands
  7. The Casino is thrilled since how can a downtown complex be built now to compete with them
  8. Those Marriott/Fairfield people were geniuses to be able to guess so far in advance where the arena lands were going to be built since the McHugh extension lands will service their hotel and the arena perfectly
  9. I thought that Mr. Duben said after Council that the McHugh Extension capital costs were in the 2006 Capital budget. What foresight!
  10. The Lear workers better start looking for a new was suggested by Mr. Duben that their plant may close down sooner than expected presumably so that Mr. Farhi can redevelop the property
  11. Mr. Farhi is a pretty smart developer too: at the May 8, 2006 Council meeting he had the property, 1600 Lauzon Road, rezoned to permit business office within the existing building to be added as an additional use.
  12. And all of this happening at his site that he purchased about a year ago and is for lease now!

I expect that a number of my comments will be proven correct after what Mr. Farhi said in the Star today "Farhi said he foresees the Lear plant moving to an industrial area in a few years, which would pave the way for him and other landowners in the area to create a commercial and recreational hub surrounding the new arena. "This place, the way I see it, it is going to be transformed into a new development."

Here is the note I was sent. You decide who got the best deal out of this:

  • Obviously, from the picture, you can see all of the additional work that will be incurred beyond the arena. What I wondered was how good a piece of property this was before the city decided it was an arena site. If this guy from London had wanted to do anything with the site he would have needed the McHugh extension and bridge over the Little River, which would have been AT HIS COST. Now the city will extend McHugh and build a new bridge (cost = $8-10 million) to service the land at taxpayer cost and he gets a piece of riverfront property + cash. The city got snowed big time. Add that to creating a new access road to the homes along the north side, and then intersection improvements that will be needed to accommodate the event traffic and you are looking at major costs.

    All of this will require a fairly extensive environmental assessment, so nobody should think shovels are going in the ground in the next year. There is effects to the Little River watershed to consider, effects to local traffic, environmental site assessments etc that need to be done beforehand.

Remember what I wrote about a Star editorial on the LaSalle arena. It is starting to sound familiar for Windsor now isn't it:

  • "...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."

Eddie in Ottawa

Rumour has it that our Mayor will be going to Ottawa in 2 weeks to appear in front of the Senate.

Contrary to what some may think, he is NOT going there to learn lessons about how to appoint people to cushy positions like the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission chaired (as the Windsor Star told us in its Editorial on Saturday) by former Ontario cabinet minister Remo Mancini.

Instead, he is going to Ottawa for the Senate hearings on Bill C-3. Now you may understand why the Star wrote the story headlined by "Ex-bridge exec against twinning" When I saw that I thought immediately that Mancini had changed positions! Mancini used to work for the Bridge Co. but the Star seemed to have forgotten that it would appear.

Expect Eddie to talk about certain issues raised by Roy Lancaster (strange that Ross Clarke did not give the interview, but then again, he was not the former President!) and to justify what he is saying based on the Star story!

What good luck that Roy gave this interview just before Eddie's big day.

My Windsor Electoral Choices

It's that time when Windsorites have to make their big decision. The question, not for whom to vote, but should they bother to go out to vote or not? Will we get even close to 40% voter turnout this time around?

There is little point trying to predict who will win since the decision will be made by so few of our residents. In the end, the winner of each race will be the one who can get his/her supporters out.

Watch out also for party politics. Big support by the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives who are all backing candidates this time around.

If I were a voter in each Ward, for whom would I vote:

Ward 1 is my Ward

Drew Dilkens is my choice. I just like his style even though I may argue with him on some of his positions. He is bright, articulate and works hard. His background and his world-leading Segway campaign tells me that he will help Windsor move forward

Although I expect he will be re-elected, you know that I would never vote for Councillor Budget. I did not vote for him last time either even though we worked together on STOPDRTP. As far as I am concerned, he abandoned his Community over the border. Part of the in camera secrecy crew, he has been virtually invisible on the issue except for the odd remark in Gord Henderson's column and his ridiculous threat of a lawsuit. And he still yells Schwartz, Schwartz, Schwartz as the border solution long after Sam has left town.

Second choice....hmmmm that's a tough one and I probably will make up my mind at the last minute!

Greg (Mr. I support DRTP) Baggio probably has ruined all the good work he did campaigning with his pro-DRTP stance. Did he forget he is running in Ward 1? That little green sticker at the bottom of his signs supporting DRTP is certainly rubbing it into Brister's face!

I disagree with Al Teshuba totally on tunnelling and he is spending too much time on it. While I know how passionate he is about it, and he spent money on that tunnel conference, I don't want another one issue candidate like last time. There is no doubt that Al will not be pushed around by Administration or the Mayor unlike some of the incumbents but will they work with him?

As for the others, they have no chance. Perhaps I just won't vote for a second candidate. That's an option too. Effectively, I have given Drew 2 votes that way.

It should be interesting to see the smear-mongerers come out full force this week too in the Ward just like last time. You can guess very well who the target will be too and how their message will be delivered. Disgusting!

UPDATE: Even Councillor STOPDRTP has jumped on the tunnelling bandwagon as his new brochure shows. It's a change from what his website shows now. I wonder if he is that unsure of his vote this time around. That should give Al Teshuba some hope after the raucous Roseland meeting and further hurt Greg Baggio's chances!

Ward 2

Probably the only real shoo-in is Councillor Ron Jones although in the last few days I have heard that he is having some problems too. It's a moody electorate out there this time. Lots of unhappines with this City but not knowing where to turn. With our differences on certain issues however, I'd have a tough time voting for him. Others won't have that problem

As for the #2 spot, clearly it has to be Chris Schnurr. From what I have seen, he has worked hard and his BLOGS are thoughtful. He was the best by far of all of the participants on the CKLW election show. He is prepared to make tough choices and is NOT afraid to take positions that can get him criticized if he believes it to be in the best interest of the Ward and the City. He also seems to be a media favourite which will not hurt his chances and there is a "buzz" out there about him.

What happened to the Diva this year? She seems to have disappeared. The big knock: she does not answer phone calls as well as she did in the past from constituents. Her "Read my lips: No arena taxes" on the front page of the Star will cost her a lot. Moreover, there is an undercurrent of resentment in the rest of the Ward about the overwhelming amount of emphasis that she and Ron spent on Sandwich. Whether true or not, that is how non-Sandwich residents feel and how they will vote.

The only question and only hope for Councillor Postma: will the combination of Gail Growe and Dan Petoran split the vote enough so that Chris Schnurr will not get enough votes so she can be returned.

Ward 3

I'd vote for Tony Blak. I spent 3 hours over a coffee with him one day recently and at the end, I told him that I was sorry that I had not known him better before. He would be a serious voice on Council for fiscal responsibility, not a pretender.

For the choice betwen Fulvio and Alan, that would be a tough one. I like Fulvio a lot not just because he knows everything about Council business but because people respect him. No one is a bigger pain in the butt on Council than Alan. He will remain the trouble-maker on Council asking the tough questions, no matter what. I probably would toss a coin at the ballot box but ultimately, I think I would vote for Alan to keep the Mayor and Council honest!

Ward 4

This is the toughest Ward to call but the easiest about the person not to vote for....No to Ken Lewenza Jr. Enough said about him.

I think that Bill Marra will get in. I did not think so initially but Lewenza's silly actions show a man who is too desperate to be re-elected. The arena fiasco will help Marra, as will his name recognition, since there will be a need for someone who will publicly stand up to the Mayor, something no Councillor was willing to do to the City's detriment. Marra will be viewed whether he likes the title or not as the Leader of the Opposition and he better live up to it if he wants a future in politics.

I had wanted David Cassivi back in too. Until he flipflopped and voted for the East End arena. I lost a lot of respect for him I am afraid to say. I always thought he made good sense. He helped himself with his passionate speech on the arena, being the only one on Council with the guts to oppose the steamrolling E-Machine. It looks like he caved in. Lewenza's electoral collapse would have helped him as voters would have given him more of their votes since he is the incumbent but now.....where will the votes go?

And for Ed Sleiman? But for the Cassivi's former position on the arena, he would have won a seat. I thought he would not make it. Now after Cassivi's change, he just may sneak up the middle based on his strong performance last time around. I thought that all of the money he spent on signs and billboards may not be enough. It may help him now as voters will look to place their second vote somewhere.

And yes, John Middleton is running too but I still have no idea what he stands for. In the end, it is a 3-person race and any of the three candidates could win.

My second choice after Bill...another toss of the coin at the ballot box between Cassivi and Sleiman!

Ward 5

I don't like Councillor Gignac but I would probably vote for her. She has the brains and the potential. If only she would stop thinking of herself as a School Trustee and start acting like a Councillor. Perhaps in her second term she will starrt demonstrating that she has a political philosophy that is understandable. Rumour has it that she may run federally as well or, if she stays around, for Mayor after Eddie goes.

I would have thought that starpower should guarantee Mr. Hatfield a seat BUT his margin of victory will be lowered by his wife's 145% School Board salary increase. I noticed as well that his website is still "coming soon." Not a good sign for someone that is expected to take action on behalf of citizens. And Steve Farrell, he may pick up votes after the great publicity he got with his arena petition

The Mayor you think I would ever vote for Eddie Francis for anything again, including voting for him a year from now if he runs for the Tories in the Provincial election in my riding!

I have to vote for David Wonham to show my protest even though it is clear that Francis will win. If many others do as well, then at least it will bring Eddie down to size and give some guts to the Councillors who are elected that they must take over the running of the City for the next 4 years. Council did that during Hurst's last term and we had a great year with a solid Council majority on every key issue!

We don't know much about David since he decided to run so late, meaning the money boys and girls were not going to finance someone they thought would lose. They did not want their names to appear down the road on the E-machine hit list. Windsor's really a small town that way when even the powerful Construction Association is afraid to do anything after the arena fiasco.

Obviously I have spoken with him and like his honesty. I do know that he has held a senior position in a hospital so he is no slouch and knows how to run meetings with a group of people in an organization. We might even have an effective City Council if he were in charge. for his Bio.

He handled himself well at the press conference when he handed in his nomination papers. I expect that this may have scared Eddie. Too bad that no one has been able yet to hear Dr. Dave against Eddie in a debate since the E-machine's strategy this time around must be to keep Eddie hidden. They are following the DRTP approach: let his billboards do the talking. [I told you that Eddie learned well from Mike!] Quite a contrast from Eddie's "Listening [to the electorate]Tour" last time around. This time it is the "Ignore the electorate Tour" since Eddie cannot defend his record of non-accomplishment. As an example, Dr. Dave was the one who picked apart the arena offering and he was right about it as can be seen by the changes to the project.

Wonham's biggest advantage: experience and maturity. He is not a petulant child who has to get his own way or he picks up his ball and goes home. Being a responsible Leader in the Community means not acting to put your City at risk from the real decision-makers but working with them, persuading them of your case; something that an experienced lawyer knows and a young lawyer should understand.

Wonham is smart enough to know that he is not smart enough to know everything. Sure he knows the issues and can offer up solutions for some of them. But he seems to have this novel idea on the border, as an example, that one ought to talk to the proponents rather than ignore them and that one ought to work WITH the Senior Levels rather than snub them.

I am sure that he does not know how to create more jobs here but there are some very smart business people in town who do. David would not spend three time-wasting years setting up a Development Commission that still does not have a CEO but does have a window-dressing Board and Chair. No, he would go out and get these business people together to find a solution for our economic ills. For him, no "empty words and broken promises."

You know what, if Dr. Dave does lose, then I have an idea for him. Stick around. Build up your name and reputation locally. There may well be a by-election in a year if I am right about Eddie and the Conservatives. Become the Leader of the Opposition if we have another love-in at Council. Be there for the media to interview. Speak your mind. Let people know what is good and what is bad in this City.

We need an alternative voice to the cheerleaders who see little wrong, ever. Become it!

That should scare the E-machine. And I know 2 people who will thank you, a lot!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Eddie's Secret Blackberry Code Contest

Eddie The Magnanimous.

Whew, add that title on to Gord Henderson's "the high-voltage smarts and boundless energy of Eddie Francis, a young business dynamo who's tackling this contest with the same ferocious determination..."

Why didn't we have a real mayoral campaign? Is it because the Mayor was afraid to be the "bully who pounds the tar out of 99-pound weaklings." Nawwww...Eddie's problem is that he has a "glass jaw" and would have beeen knocked out early on. As I keep saying, we saw that at the Tecumseh meeting with Alan McKinnon.

In my opinion, he would never survive the cut and thrust of a Cabinet position at the Federal or Provincial level and would never survive the political machinations in a senior position in a major corporation. People at that level can "smell" weakness, they would go for his jugular.

Now if you have been to the Eddie's Secret Blackberry code site: Click here for Blackberry Secret Code then I am certain that you have typed in certain commands for Eddie to perform.

Sooooo, let's read about your favourites and let your fellow readers play Eminence Grise too! Just drop me an email at with your Top choices.

Why Did Eddie Chicken Out?

I understand that CBC TV had scheduled a TV debate to be taped on Wednesday for viewing on air before the election. However, I have just learned that the Mayor has pulled out.

Really, can you blame him? He expects to win bigtime so why give any kind of publicity to people who will say that he has made some mistakes or has not done what he promised to do. If there is a debate and he makes a big mistake, there it is for everyone to see it. No percentage in that. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Now why Eddie is so scared is beyond me. It's true that he has no control over the debate. (No Procedural By-law he can fall back on if the going gets tough). I know that he does not like to be attacked (remember what Alan McKinnon did to him in Tecumseh). However, the Star told us "He's been knocking on doors, shaking hands on the streets and preparing an election file to respond to his critics. "

I don't get it...when he had the chance to "respond" he cut and ran.


Another exclusive story uncovered by the BLOGmeister.

We have cracked the Mayor's secret Blackberry code. The rumours are true. Every single action that Eddie makes on camera at Council is choreographed by the E-Machine and telecommunicated to him via his Blackberry. Nothing is left to chance

To access the top secret Blackberry portal to send instructions/requests directly to Eddie Francis , please go to Click here for Blackberry Secret Code and type in your request. See if you can get him to follow your instructions and implement your policy. (I suggest you start by suggesting he “build an arena now” and see how he responds…)

Now YOU can feel like the Eminence Grise and control Eddie!

PS Let your friends and colleagues know how they can play in the political "backrooms" too by forwarding this BLOG to them. Egg them on!

Border and Arena

There are two big files that have dominated Windsor in this term of the Mayor and Council: the border and the arena. I had this strange thought that the way the arena file is being handled is very similar to what we've seen with the border file. See if you agree:
  1. In megaprojects, proponents overstate benefits and understate costs
  2. Are we getting a "Port Huron" solution for the new arena but NOT getting a "Port Huron" solution on a twinned bridge, at least not so far
  3. The Government wants to compete with private enterprise in a matter that is not a core function of Government
  4. No one knows how much money the Government will ultimately have to pay but we all know it will be a lot more than advertised
  5. No one knows exactly where the new crossing will go; no one knows exactly where the new arena will go
  6. The two arenas will be a mile apart; the two bridges will be a mile apart
  7. The consultant is at the borings stage with the border; the arena is at the boring stage
  8. The Government is prepared to spend all the taxpayer money it can to ensure that it owns/controls the new crossing or arena
  9. Government has an unfair advantage since it is a competitor of the private enterprise entrepreneur and can impact the private project negatively
  10. Government action is undertaken in secret in a less than an open and transparent manner
  11. Private proponents do not seem welcome
  12. Beztak and Project Ice Track were chased out of town by Council; DRIC and the City (via Sam Schwaratz) chased DRTP and the Ambassador Bridge Co. away
  13. Senior Levels are fighting amongst themselves on the border; Windsor and Tecumseh are fighting over the arenas
  14. It is a "horse race" to see who builds the new crossing; it is horse racing at the Project Ice Track Tecumseh complex
  15. Sam Schwartz wanted a Horseshoe road in Windsor; Gary McNamara got horseshoes in Tecumseh
  16. Gridlock Sam was involved with the City over the border; gridlock will be involved if we have 2 arenas in the same location
  17. There is underutilzation at the existing arena, the Barn, so we want to build 3 new ones; there is 58% utilization of the Ambassador Bridge and Government wants to build a new crossing
  18. Overcapacity can mean financial problems or bankruptcy of a new or existing crossing or arena
  19. There are threats of lawsuits over the arena decision; there are threats of lawsuits over the crossing decision
  20. The Bridge Co. does not need a Presidential permit from President Bush to build its crossing; Wayne Gretzky does not need a permit from Mayor Francis to build his restaurant in Tecumeseh at the Project Ice Track Arena.
  21. Were the choices in the arena and border pre-determined
  22. The Spits will play at the arena; the border file makes me spit

Monday, November 06, 2006

DRIC And School Buses

At our last DRIC CCG meeting, we heard from one of DRIC's experts telling us about their air monitoring program. It will last until some time in the new year I believe.

I guess it makes everyone feel better to know that this is being done. It can be said, with a straight face, that DRIC bowed to the community demands. Of course they are dealing with something irrelevant but it plays well in presentations made by DRIC to demonstrate community responsiveness. I must admit that I am not sure what the purpose of it really is from a community perspective other than "feel-good" or perhaps to give someone an argument why Governments should spend billions when it is not needed.

Diesel emissions will no longer be a problem. The end result due to community demands will actually be that tunnels and below grade roads will not be needed and at grade roads work just fine thank you. The reason, emissions will fall rapidly over the life of the new road. In other words, the community do-gooders just sealed their own doom and the air monitoring work being done can support a minimum case being proposed by DRIC as our solution. Ironic, isn't it!

That this is perfectly clear should be apparent when Minister Cansfield came to town. She said (unfortunately not reported by the Windsor Star):
  • "We’ve heard your concerns that an increase in truck traffic will increase air pollution in Windsor and Essex County. Our air quality specialists are working with provincial and federal agencies to identify the air quality impact of the various options.

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

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

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

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

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

    The access road to the new crossing will continue to be consistent with the existing homes and businesses along Highway 3/Huron Church Road. That won’t change. Highway 3 is a provincial highway and has been for 75 years, the only difference is the trucks using this road will now be headed for the international border instead of city streets."
Since the trucks will have the reduced emissions by 2013, the year the new bridge is to be built, do you really think that billions of taxpayer dollars will be spent for DRTP's Green Solution just to make Mike Hurst happy or for a tunnel from Highway 401 to the Ambassador bridge? We know where the road is going since the Minister just told us and we know already what kind of road it will be. Why aren't we building it now and creating thousands of infrastructure jobs when we need them? Sandra better start working on that after the jobs she already produced for us.

Do the Tunneleers want to do something useful to address a real problem and stop dealing with the phony one created by the Eminence Grise for re-election purposes? Here is an excerpt from a Sierra Club report dealing with health risks to children:
  • "Certain groups have an even higher risk of developing cancer as they are exposed to higher than average ambient air concentrations of DPM:

    Children riding on school buses are exposed to DPM levels that would lead to a lifetime excess cancer rate of up to one in 256 if they were exposed to this concentration of DPM over their entire lifetime. While this is an extreme example, it demonstrates the severity of the emissions that children are exposed to when travelling to and from school. This risk is above and beyond the cancer risk that everyday exposure to average ambient air DPM levels poses to children."
If someone wants to do something useful on diesel fuel emissions, here is a simple strategy. Spend the billions for a tunnel in Windsor to:
  • "Protect children by retrofitting existing school buses and restricting future purchases to clean alternative-fuelled school buses"
  • Retro-fit trucks now so that all of Ontario can have reduced diesel emissions!

What's Wrong With Windsor Government: Monday Council Agenda

When you decide for whom you wish to vote in a week, remember this last meeting of Council before the election. Secrecy, MFP, the arena, fiscal responsibility and the border all in one meeting. It is almost as if the Mayor and Council are rubbing it into our collective faces and daring us to do something about it.

I have the perfect example of what is wrong with our local government. Monday's Council Agenda fits the bill perfectly. It represents everything to me in a nutshell that is wrong. And those in power just do not care.

Let me prove it to you:

COUNCIL COMMUNICATIONS (Posted late Friday afternoon after 2 requests by me)

It's buried there as Item #13. A good choice of number too. The City Solicitor "apologizes" for not giving Council the monthly report on Legal Fees on the border file as he was directed to do. (Of course where were the fiscally responsible Mayor and Councillors ensuring that the reports were prepared but that is another question).

We learn the fees have gone up in total to $2.8M approx. We have no idea if these fees represent all of the costs since the basis of the numbers has never been disclosed and which Departments are included is unknown. It is just "border file" however someone has decided to classify it. If it is not within that classification, it is NOT reported. As an example, is the Tunnel Improvement Plan "border file" work or not?

The fees shown are about a $270K increase from some date. The last reported fees in the Star were in May, 2006 for a total of $2.3M. Were there any reports in the interim? If not, the difference between $2.8M and $2.3M is $500K, not $270K. How is that explained? Where did the extra $230K go?

One interesting point: in the May story, it was written "Estrin's fee for the OMB hearing comes to $771,712. But the figure does not include the approximately two weeks he spent at the hearing itself." The new Report says Estrin's additional fees charged for the Interim Control By-law/OMB hearing was almost $175K. I'd like to know what that amount represents. Does it represent 2 weeks work?

Let me guess what is really going on that is being hidden from us for our own good I guess. We are at war in Windsor. We have "enemies" according to Councillor Halberstadt. His Ward mate, not to be outdone before an election states: "[Councillor] Valentinis, explaining that the city is in a battle for its future with four powerful, tightlipped competitors who have mega-millions at stake -- the Ambassador Bridge company, the DRTP and the two senior governments.”

I'd like to know why they are "enemies" wouldn't you? What have they done to deserve this. I may disagree with them but "enemies" and "battle." Overly dramatic don't you think? Is this Estrin's language or Council's? I would like to know.

But the Mayor and Council will keep us ignorant as they spend, spend, spend knowing what's best for us. After all, who wants to know what the real facts are since it might spoil the REAL PLAN. It's better to pretend that we are in a war....better than telling us how to fix the border when Schwartz is gone and Eddie does not know what to do.

THE ARENA (Filed some time after noon on Friday)

I sent this email early Saturday morning to Councillor Gignac and copied her colleagues and Council candidates, amongst others, after reading her quote in the Star:
  • "You are quoted in the Saturday Star as saying:

    "But the bylaw also allows for "sole source" purchasing under certain circumstances, meaning a contractor can be chosen without asking for bids, if the city feels it's in its best interests.

    Current Ward 5 councillor Jo-Anne Gignac said the city proceeded under that section of the bylaw."

    Please let me know forthwith which section is that because there is none in the By-law that I can find. Section 32, the Sole Source section, has no such provision.

    Clearly you are admitting that Council is acting without authority! What do you intend to do about it on Monday night when the Arena matter is before Council. You have no choice now but to ask that the Arena matter be reconsidered and that the By-law be complied with.

    I do expect your answer by noon on Monday, before the Council meeting, so that I may decide if I should be a delegation."

Pretend that we are in compliance with a Section of the By-law that no one can point to so far. Check out Item #7 on the agenda and see what you learn about the arena:

  1. The torrents of money that Henderson said we will have here due to the Mayor's brilliance financially are not here yet. Pretend that they are and call our need to finance the arena "interim bridge financing" so no one is the wiser. This is the second time that I have seen the word "bridge" used for loans. I don't see this as short-term money but as a loan. Time to talk to some accounting experts on this one!

    Do you see anywhere how much that is....nope. They don't dare tell you. Why is what I wrote before:

    "If the building of the arena is fast-tracked, and wouldn't it have to be if the Spits want it soon, the Treasurer admitted that there would be $4-5 Million of "temporary costs." I hope we have the budget for that or we might have to raise taxes and then Councillor Postma would be in big trouble if she was still on Council."

    Pooof, the cost of the arena has just ballooned to $52M and we have not even got started yet! That's money that could have been given to the poor starving children for breakfast meals to replace the slots revenues that Eddie lost for us!

    Remember the infamous words "Read my Lips; no new arena taxes."

  2. You now know that Councillors were in such a rush to do something to get re-elected that they had no idea what they were getting and that they were buying something that did not work for us ie a 1999 Port Huron arena (pop. 35,000) for 2006 Windsor uses (pop 200,000+). Pretend that it does however!

    Ex-hockey dad, mayoral candidate Dave Wonham first pointed out the lack of seating at the three "Practice rinks" so tournaments could not be held. Now we will have "bench seating" for 150 at each rink. That is a far cry from the number of seats at Riverside (700 seats) and Adstoll (900 seats). You just know that additions will blow up the cost higher.

  3. Now the PCR people have given a 60-day extension to their offer to build the arena. Councillor Jones asked for a slight delay. Didn't the PCR rep say previously that costs could rise if the project were delayed. I remember that increase could be several percent. I guess that changed now.

  4. I wonder why Administrators are signing the deal and not the Mayor? If it goes wrong, then he can say that he did not know!

  5. There are "fit-up costs" and "site servicing costs" but they are NOT revealed.

  6. I wish I could ask the City's experts how a 1999 arena priced at $60M can be built in 2006 after the increase in costs over that time period (eg 35% for the bus terminal, tripling for streetscaping) for $48M

MFP: PricewaterhouseCoopers Review of the Controls and Procedures of the Financial Services Function of the Corporate Services Department

Pretend everything is under control.

This report is as a result of MFP ie to ensure that the proper controls are in place and being followed. Oh MFP, that's the file that Eddie now says "saved" us so much money ie somehow spending an extra $68M or so over what we expected to spend is turned into a "savings." Eddie forgot to mention how an error allowed our Forensic Accounting Report to be used against us!

PWC was retained to ensure that an MFP type situation could never happen again. They issued a report. I'd love to be able to tell you what is in it but I cannot. It is not posted. Oh we are given the good parts of what PWC says in the Agenda item but who knows if there are still problems that were identified. We'll never know that. (It was just like the MFP Forensic Audit Report in the first place---it was never posted online either so we could learn how bad things were).

Now I have to ask the good folks of PWC some questions.

  1. Their Report may have no value....after all, they did the work for Project Ice Track which several Councillors tried to discredit. That report was critical of Administration. Shouldn't PWC be concerned now about the quality of Admin work? Where are the checks and balances to ensure that does not happen again?
  2. PWC can see how easily Councillor Gignac may have been given incorrect info about the Purchasing By-law. Couldn't that happen again? Where are the checks and balances to ensure that does not happen again?
  3. PWC should wonder whether what the City is doing in respect of the arena may be in violation of the City's By-law. Where are the checks and balances to ensure that does not happen again?
  4. MFP was a Public/private partnership deal. When Eddie became Mayor, Section 32 of the Purchasing By-law was amended to allow P3 deals as Sole Sourcing. In other words, another disaster waiting to happen. Where are the checks and balances to ensure that does not happen again?

There you have it:

  • Megaproject running amok
  • Secrecy
  • Late posting on a Friday afternoon of key Council Agenda Items
  • No citizen "right" to appear as a delegation on late reported Agenda Items but only if Council allows it
  • Reports being put on Council Communications so citizens cannot appear as a delegation at all to ask questions or make comments
  • Administration ignoring Council requirements
  • Seeming errors in calculations
  • No concern about potentially improper Purchasing activity and a failure to answer legitimate citizen questions
  • Not telling us clearly about extra costs, potentially being millions of dollars
  • Not providing key reports on line so they can be reviewed thoroughly
  • Lack of controls even after Canderel and MFP

Oh heck, let's pretend everything is OK for the next week.

Saturday Star Follies

A few interesting stories from Saturday's Star to talk about:

  1. Do you remember this blast from the past: Windsor Star 10-09-2004 "Francis confirmed in an interview that a deal could be signed within days to sublease two floors of vacant tower office space that have been costing city taxpayers a staggering $77,000 a month in rent." What happened in the 2 years between then and now? Did it take Eddie that long and $2M of taxpayer money down the drain to figure out he inherited a lemon? Just like he lost a ton of money in the Tunnel by keeping rates uncompetitive. Seems like a pattern of management failure.

  2. Remember that a source of mine called the sublease deal at Canderel, "THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY" for a tenant. I wonder if that is why a financial firm like Stewart, Fisher & Associates Inc. considers the move "economically wise." They can figure out the dollars that they will save on the rent and renewals over the life of the sub-lease and how much cash they can put in their pockets for "leasehold improvements" right now.

  3. Speaking about the Spitfires, I see that Private Financial Group financial advisers is also moving to Canderel. Peter Dobrich is President of Private Financial Group, a boutique financial advisory firm in Windsor, Ontario. He is also an owner of the Spitfires. I wonder if he too negotiated a DEAL OF THE CENTURY. I bet that he asked for a "rent inducement" to secure the Firm's agreement to become a subtenant of the Canderel project. I thought about asking him about it but he would probably neither confirm nor deny any such approach. Typical media-type response.

    Now the Canderel deal is "confidential" and the Arena deal is "confidential." Don't you find it interesting, as Chris Schnurr, the Ward 2 Candidate, wrote: "That’s standard in the industry for arena agreements with these clubs, to protect the business interests of the owners...was the reason cited in the Windsor Star. But what about the interests of the taxpayer?"

    When describing the Spits' deal, the Mayor used this language: "We're very pleased we're able to secure a major tenant. That tenant has signed on for 20 years." It makes me nervous when I see the word "secure" used because then I think about "rent inducements" again and wonder if the Spitfires also got the DEAL OF THE CENTURY at the arena.

    Now the Spits could demand big bucks too...20 year tenant who will occupy 40 of the 48 nights the arena bowl needs to be used. That gives them great bargaining power, especially after Dobrich must have negotiated his Canderel sublease and knew how poor the City was as a negotiator. I'll bet he was smart though. He'd never ask for a sum of cash. He probably would suggest some kind of a formula for the payment.

    What is really funny about this too is that the inducement would have to be a huge one from the City. I am sure that you have forgotten, dear reader, that the City was competing against Project Ice Track for the Spits and locked them up before the Raceway people knew what hit them. I bet the Spits asked for big dollars from the Raceway people too, probably based on some formula as well and the City had to match or better it. If it is big enough, it could help him pay off the big price he and his partners paid for the Spits in the first place. They supposedly paid over $5M for the Spitfires, one of the highest prices paid for an Ontario Hockey League franchise.(According to the Star, "in recent OHL transactions, Oshawa was sold for $3.8 million in 2004, Belleville for $3.5 million in 2004 and North Bay, which moved to Saginaw, Mich., in 2002, for $3 million.")

    One day we may find out.

  4. We are seeing the kind of money that is being used at the Canderel building: $580,000 to renovate third-floor office space at 1 Riverside Dr. W., and $350,000 for renovations on the fourth floor of 1 Riverside Dr. W. The Star says "The building and development department, which does not disclose applicants' names [for building permits] recently issued building renovation permits." I'd like to know if that is the City's costs. I have heard amounts in the multi-millions as the amount the City will have to pay out.

  5. Good thing we got those 1,000 jobs. Just in the nick of time as our unemployment rate is "now tied for the worst in Canada with Saguenay, Que., at 8.8 per cent." "Some 15,000 more factory jobs were lost, most of them in Ontario and Quebec."

    Some more stats: CMHC Housing outlook for Windsor says fewer people are moving to Windsor, apartment vacancy rate is highest in Canada at 10.3%, 2-3 times higher than most other places, rents are high here, mls sales are down and are projected to slow down even more over the next 2 years and home starts are falling.

  6. The story on the mayoral candidates "Mayor's foes face uphill fight" was different than the others. In the Councillors' profiles, there was a bit of an introduction but then the position of each person was set out. In this case, I thought that there had been a debate the night before. First Wonham made some allegations and Eddie gave his response. Chams made his comments and then Eddie gave his side. Beydoun was barely mentioned (I assume that he did not tell Roseann much or she would have given him more coverage). We found out about the candidates but in a much more disjointed way than the Councillors.

  7. Have you ever wondered much Editorial writers make and how well they live? Obviously not very much and not very well from this statement in Saturday's editorial. "The 1,000 jobs to be created by Sutherland are not equal to the standards of the automotive industry but they have wages that can provide for comfortable lifestyles." Geeez, didn't they see that the pay is $9-10.25 per hour in the classified ad I posted! If that amount of money, about $21,000 per year, brings a comfortable lifestyle...

  8. Gord Henderson is good....when his column to make Eddie look good by bringing in jobs turned out to be wrong-- "The source said people are mistaken if they assume this is just another minimum wage call centre " and it is---and that Eddie played a key role, it was really Sandra, he finds "a toxic minority in Windsor" who are "moaners" "peeing on the welcome mat" with "nasal drip." I am not one of those. I am just one who wishes we were told the truth.

  9. I just had to add this one in. In Monday's Star, this story "Bypass will let trucks avoid Montreal bottleneck." In this case, "Prime Minister Stephen Harper, striving to make inroads and shore up his slipping popularity in Quebec, came to the seat-rich suburbs around Montreal yesterday to pledge money for a $1-billion-plus traffic beltway."

    Eddie has had three years to accomplish something similar and has produced zippo, zilch, nada, nothing, even when he had the Prime Minister, Premier and the US Ambassador eating out of his hand. Just keep on snubbing and threatening lawsuits! It's pathetic already.