Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 08, 2006

Will Hundreds Be Made Homeless By DRIC Plan

Nice headline eh (huh for my US readers).

We have read about the problems DRIC routes will cause to local homeowners and businesses on this side of the river depending on final location. The numbers are large too but I would suspect that most will get a perfectly adequate sum of money to let them buy a new home given where they live or to re-establish their business. The Star reported:

  • "The number of households to be displaced by access roads ranges from 125 to 220, depending on their alignment and location. The tunnel alternative generally results in fewer household displacements than the other alternatives.

    - Between 25 and 45 businesses along Talbot Road-Huron Church Road will be displaced. Other remaining businesses will likely be disrupted through property infringement and/or by a reduction in traffic access or visibility.

    - The displacement and disruption of commercial businesses in the Huron Church corridor will result in a loss of revenue of approximately $10 million and 100 jobs.

    - Industrial economic impact near each of the potential locations of the crossings and plazas (in Sandwich or Brighton Beach) from displacement/dislocation could result in approximately 100 job losses and nearly $100 million in lost revenue. "

Well if you think that is bad, take a look at the Detroit News story below. I am sorry, but how can our West End activists and politicos be so quiet? How can the Delray activists and politicians for the area remain so supportive of a DRIC process that is destroying them.

The alternative that does not destroy either Community----well not one of them dares mention it since it might spoil their agenda. Not one of them has the nerve to utter "Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project." They are too hung up over their personal animosities to look to the good of their communitities.

Think you could find a new home for $10,000 or would you join the ranks of the homeless. Read what I wrote to my US friend and then the news story!

  • Ask your leaders to justify making about 400 families homeless!

    The Governor has to be put under pressure since how can people find a new home if all they get is $8,000 or even 125% of that!

    This surely is all the excuse she needs to kill DRIC ie why should Michigan suffer again.

    The Mayor should also come out screaming today at those numbers. Why should Detroit lose 150 acres of land for another plaza

    Bridge plan cuts swath in southwest Detroit
    Andy Henion / The Detroit News

    A binational proposal to add another Canada-U.S. border crossing to ease traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, left, targets the Delray neighborhood and would involve demolishing hundreds of homes and businesses and closing up to 30 streets.

    As many as 384 homes and 56 businesses in southwest Detroit would be razed to make way for another bridge to Canada, according to the latest plan from a binational commission.

    The blueprint also calls for closing as many as 30 streets and demolishing the Beard early childhood center and a handful of churches, including the Religious Society of Friends' modest facility on Fort Street.

    "It would be difficult to leave our meeting house, but it would not be terrible," said Margaret Walden, clerk of the 15-member church. "Quakers are not, as a general rule, tied to a specific location."

    The plans, unveiled at a public meeting this week in Detroit, propose 13 alternatives for an interchange, plaza and bridge across the Detroit River. All alternatives focus on Delray -- one of Detroit's poorest neighborhoods -- with the bridge crossing from either Post or Junction Street.

    Mohammed Alghurabi, senior project manager with the Michigan Department of Transportation, warned that the plans are preliminary and will be adjusted over the next year. The commission of United States, Michigan, Canadian and Ontario officials already has spent about five years studying the issue.

    Some say they can't get clear answers on the project.

    "They'll tell you one thing in one meeting and the next meeting it will change," said Delray resident Steve Toth. "I think the state of Michigan has lost control of this thing."
    The crossing -- which would cost the United States an estimated $700 million to $1.2 billion, is expected to alleviate congestion on the Ambassador Bridge and boost the economy. Without it, officials say, Michigan and Ontario will lose nearly $29 billion annually and 49,000 jobs by 2020.

    If approved by both countries, the bridge would open to traffic by the end of 2013. Work -- drilling to check for underground caverns that could wreak havoc on pillars -- could start in the Delray area next month, officials said.

    On the United States side, the interchange and plaza are bounded by Interstate 75, Jefferson, Dearborn and Clark. In that general area:

    Between 18 and 30 streets would be closed.

    Between 189 and 384 homes would be razed.

    Between 37 and 56 businesses would be demolished.

    John Nagy, a lifelong Delray resident and chairman of the Delray Community Council, said his biggest concern is fair compensation. Homes in the area sell for as little as $8,000.

    "In other words, don't take their property and give them next to nothing," he said. "I would like to see them get substantially above market value."

    It's unclear whether the project passes muster under Michigan's eminent domain law, which voters approved Nov. 7. Under the law, if a property is taken to eliminate blight, it requires a higher standard to demonstrate the acquisition is for public use.

    The law also mandates owners be paid at least 125 percent of their property's fair market value.

    "We are going to do everything we can to minimize the impact and protect the community," Alghurabi said.

If this is what MDOT thinks minimizing impact is and protecting the community, I would hate to think of what they would do when they do not care. Environmental Justice anyone?

The Cansfield Interview

It was hardly tough questioning. Little probing. No trying to get her off of her scripted message. Letting the Ontario Minister of Transportation, Donna Cansfield, and her staff go on and on since they must have had an hour meeting set up.

Yet it was surprising...a taping of the Minister's Editorial Board meeting was put on the Windsor Star website for all to hear. (Interestingly, not the secret one with the Mayor a few days before where he said that secrecy was over and that the Privacy Commissioner rules).

You should download it if you still can and listen to it. It will be very instructive to you. Here are the main points from my perspective listening to it:
  • she will meet the Michigan Governor in January

  • Windsor is a top priority for the McGuinty Government

  • Technical info will be given out to the people this week in order to start the next round of discussion after people have digested the information

  • She confirmed signing an MoU with Michigan

  • "No decisions will be made next week" (one of her staff members said this)

  • The study is about finding a location for a bridge. It IS a bridge across the river [again, a comment by her staff member]

  • It will be in mid 2007 when a decision for a preferred bridge location will be made and Ontario will say how to get from 401 to there

  • The province assumed all of the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex moving projects from the City of Windsor and are acting as agent for the City since Windsor did not have capacity internally to do it. They took over project management since theProvince has the expertise to offer

  • She met with the Port Authority re the H2O highway project

  • Her relationship with Transport Canada Minister Cannon is good

  • The Schwartz Report fitted in with the Province’s planning since all was accepted other than the Horseshoe Road and going through Ojibway ("Information input into their study") ie 2 KM difference at Todd Lane

  • People on Huron Church don’t want to mingle with heavy trucks.

  • The Government's stated objective was to separate long-haul traffic from local traffic

  • They want to have Huron Church as a viable business section again and to maintain economic viability ie have it as a commercial route for tourists, attractions, dinner

  • The avoidance of large vehicles on that route is a huge and legitimate issue

  • People have had difficult times along that stretch of highway

  • Preferred route is a freeway with NO driveways off of it

  • She likes Sandwich; it's a phenomenal community, the best kept secret

  • Sandwich's history is important to the region and they have to take it into account when a bridge is to be built

  • Near her farm is part of the Underground Railroad so she has a has a connectiveness with Sandwich

  • Windsor, Niagara, Queenston is 70% of trade of Canada's trade while Vancouver's is 10% and so they have vested interest to make Windsor work

  • She is neutral on the Ambassador Bridge proposal but their position all along is that there will be a third crossing with public oversight

  • Bridge is 75-80 years old and there may be a business case for them as to why a twin is being looked …she said our case is quite clear, we are having a third crossing..we are neutral on what the Ambassador Bridge is doing

  • Decision was made with Fed Govt, US Fed and Michigan that it will be a bridge that has public oversight..financing may take other routes

  • Each have responsibilities and obligations

  • Brighton Bridge area looks ok for a new bridge

  • Prospect and Sterling Fuels areas being examined especially about solution mining

  • They are drilling 12 holes at a cost of $10M ie doing an "MRI" for the area

  • Same on US side

  • Foundation experts will look at those areas for next several months

  • Need a long span bridge at Brighton…1200 metres rather than 900 metres at the other locations

  • Challenges of a tunnel---natural ground condition and constructability, soil conditions, high water table, operational issues if emergencies, getting out of a tunnel for fire and safety issue, access from freeway to neighbourhood, ventilation and fumes have to come out to be dispersed, how fumes are dissipated

  • Governance ongoing ie how to operate is under discussion now…will be public oversight and ultimately the Feds decide

  • Will the Detroit Windsor Tunnel be part of this—some challenges around the Tunnel over cost (she did not seem to know much about it notwithstanding Keregin’s role) She would think that Feds would be very interested in Tunnel depending on what City is planning to do.

  • Manning Road to EC Row issue…we are at EA stage right now. County of Essex can determine what vehicles can use it. It's not being sold as diverting international traffic to EC Row but to service local businesses by providing better access

  • Trucks will use the easiest route to the border ie why go onto EC Row and mix with city traffic if can use 6-lane freeway directly to the bridge crossing

  • Solution being offered is greater capacity unencumbered by 17 lights and so people will go to the least encumbered route.

What does this all mean?

From listening to her, one would have to say that the Minister is an honest and sincere person who really does listen to people and is trying to do her best. However, she has been totally captured by her bureaucrats and was extremely well-rehearsed for the session. She said all the right things to make people locally happy. BUT her in-depth knowledge of the border file may be suspect, even though we again heard how important Windsor is. She may not have been given all of the facts, the bad as well as the good, by her advisors and may be made to look foolish one day.

The clear example is the Tunnel of which she obviously knew little. Yet Michael F. Kergin was appointed by Premier Dalton McGuinty in September 2005 to act as the Premier’s Special Advisor on Border Issues and he has been very involved in the matter. Why have the bureaucrats hidden that from her? She sounded flustered because it had not been "scripted' in advance for her. What else have they hidden from her that might allow her to make an informed decision, not one that the bureaucrats are leading her to make.

Does she, as an example, know why the Blue Water Bridge was twinned where it was and not in a downriver location as DRIC is proposing here? Does she know that the planning for that location did not work and that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars need to be spent there for Plaza improvements? Does she know that billions have been spent on a twinned Bridge there and on highway expansion on both sides of the border? Does she know that the gap between actual and projected numbers for Sarnia traffic is growing every year, as is happening here? Does she know that the Ambassador Bridge takes traffic from there in spite of their higher tolls and the mess on Huron Church Road? If so, how does she answer these questions (which none of the Star editors posed, good manners I guess) If not, why not?

She took a few shots at the Feds. Clearly there is a competition going on between them or she would not have had to hold a press conference with MDOT's Director over nothing. She wants more Federal money for Ontario, so she talked about the 70% of trade in Ontario, interestingly, a lot of that going over the Ambassador Bridge. However, she had to concede that the Feds are in control.

We received confirmation again that DRTP is dead except that they have not been buried yet. All of Mike's ads and brochures and spending has not convinced anyone to do anyhting with his project. Oh sure, she talked about a tunnel but also challenges about building a tunnel were discussed at length. What will Mike rename the project now? Somethign related to brownfield renewal might be a good bet since that seems trendy with this Mayor.

She was smooooooth on Sandwich and its importance as she told that Community that they were going to be sandwich-ed between 2 bridges. When will the West End activists and politicians finally wake up and come to their senses. They are getting the worst of all worlds! She was just as smooooooth about Manning Road and how it will NOT put trucks on E C Row.

It is clear that the DRIC road is the one we are going to get, without major tunnelling although there may be some. We heard again about the challenges with a tunnel. And how to win friends---sure we adopted most of Schwartz Plan but not the part that made the environmentalists unhappy. SLAM/WHAM Eddie....Nice move politically eh!

It took until the 35th minute into the interview for her to mention briefly the Ambassador Bridge and I thought she was rather dismissive of it considering it is Canada's main border crossing. What was interesting was that she dropped the concept of public "ownership" and went back to the bureuacrats' script on public "oversight." Again interestingly, she talked about a third crossing in the context of the Ambassador Bridge (ie a totally new one) but who says it cannot be the enhanced Ambassador Bridge project as in Sarnia. I wonder if, at her subsequent meeting with the Bridge Co. reps, they showed her in detail their "business plan!" If they showed her the graphs that they showed the Senators it will be interesting to see how the Government can justify financing a P3 bridge with traffic going down so drastically. As well, a bridge one-third longer and at much greater cost just to beat the Ambassador Bridge, absurd!

She may be smarter than her bureaucrats think since she left herself an out re the Ambassador Bridge that you could drive a truck through. More public "oversight" over an enhanced Ambassador Bridge financed by the Bridge Co.---- I wonder if that is the Minister's plan that she may shove down the bureaucrat's throats at the right time!

What also interested me is that she may have played into her bureaucrats' hands unknowingly. They may have set her up for a fall since she seems rather independent-minded. That has happened before to a Cabinet Minister in the border file. Some of her roadway remarks could be proven to be unfortunate as time goes on and could lead to a major dispute which politically will be laid right at her doorstep. Not a good idea if she has poltical ambitions for the future.

What in the end may decide our border's future will be her meeting with the Michigan Governor in January!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Website

Never cross a chicken. It might come back and peck you.

Take the City's Corporate solicitor, George Wilkki as an example. He might get hen-pecked soon if he is not careful. Do you remember when he made Dr. Dave Wonham, ex candidate for Mayor, and his Chicken leave the Council chambers, to fly the coop so to speak:

  • "City solicitor George Wilkki later told Wonham the ejection was in accordance with procedural bylaws.

    "The issue is council decorum. If the gentleman wishes to remove his chicken outfit, he is welcome to return to council chambers," Wilkki said. "I'm not going to debate the issue. Those are the rules of the game."

    Wonham argued that the bylaw recited by Wilkki doesn't mention dress code, and said that he and his chicken friend were "sitting perfectly peacefully and quietly" before they were told to leave."

Now Dr. Dave's Chimczuk Museum Inc has several domains. You remember one of them I suspect. The first one is since thousands of you went there. The Museum also has another one

It seems the City is not too pleased that the Museum owns them. Why the City did not know about them or do anything when the .com site was used during the election is beyond me. Maybe Administration was concerned Wonham might win and did not want to anger him. Well now that the election is over, guess what happened. You are eggsactly correct. The City laid it on the line. The City wants the .com site.

Did Dr. Dave panic or did he cross the road to the other side. No way. He is no chicken-livered coward. He knows his rights. He warned the City to take action to protect the name and when they did not, the Museum bought the .ca site too! What a sense of humour, a real comedi-hen. So much for the IT people and the lawyers at City Hall. I can just hear Dr. Dave say "A people-pox on both your offices!"

In the good old days, Dr. Dave would have received a registered demand letter in a big brown legal-sized hen-velope. Today, it is all done by email. Here is the exchange of emails between the good doctor and a law student who works at City Hall.

  • 1)From: "Legal Student"
    To: David Wonham


    When you get a chance, can you please give me a call so that I can talk
    to you about your museum website.


    2) Hi David,

    Thanks so much for all your advice today. It was nice speaking with you and getting your opinion on the website issue. I understand that there is a bigger problem than just your one website and I will be scheduling a meeting with the IT department to look into the matter. Remember the deal we have.

    I'll do my best to research the network solutions website and determine what other domain names the City should consider purchasing. But once I complete my side of the bargain and bring this matter to the attention of those responsible for making the final decisions, then you must allow the City of Windsor to take the website and reimburse you the $74.97 U.S.dollars that you spent to register the website.

    If you have any more ideas about this problem then feel free to email me. I'm happy to learn from your experience!!

    3) J..., you are working for totally incompetent persons. They have set you up to do their dirty work. They have not done their basic homework. If they were really concerned with the domain that I hold, they would have secured the extensions needed before sending you out to buy mine.

    If they wish to obtain this address, they may bid for it in the normal way. I have supplied you with the necessary information to do this, so go ahead with your project.

    David Wonham

For myself I believe it is fowl play! It looks like the City may want to make an eggs-ample of him. After all, with the City's finances, money does not grow on eggplants!

Dr. Dave was probably shell-shocked when he first heard about the City's demands. Probably next he thought it was a big yolk. He may have thought the sky was falling on him. Then I bet he got angry and eggravated. He probably eggs-ploded. He won't settle for chicken-feed now. He wants the golden egg. It is certainly not il-legal for Dr. Dave to have taken the action he did nor to demand compensation. He won't settle cheaply. My guess is that he would want in the range of $25,000 for each of the domains.

It looks like the young law student may have to start all over again, from scratch you might say. Talk is cheep after all. He may have to research this question for hours, even around the cluck. So much for taking out that chick for dinner. But I bet he is a plucky lad.

I wonder if some kind of a deal can be worked out, sort of a "You scratch my beak and I'll scratch yours" type of transaction. Otherwise we might have a bombeggshell dropped. And no one wants anyone's feathers ruffled. I am certain that Dr. Dave would negotiate provided he can see the whites of his opponent's eyes!

When he was running for mayor, Dr. Dave met with Liberal Premier DaltonMcGuinty. I wonder if they discussed this issue. To be fair, if the PC leader came to Windsor, I would suggest that the Chicken Catch-a-Tory to cluck about the matter.

What do you think that the Chimczuk Museum will do with the money it gets? It doesn't need a big nest-egg. It might buy a 2-door car for example, a chicken coop. It might invest in the stork market. Nawww, it will probably pay off its corporate debts.

Joseph Chimczuk left the City $1 million nearly 16 years ago. The monies have not yet been spent and have grown to nearly $3 million. What an Egg-ecutor of the estate the City is! The money is to be used to "Build a building to be known as the "Chimczuk Museum." And guess who owns the trade mark for the Chimczuk museum. Check out But that is another BLOG.

Windsor/Detroit's Classic Megaproject

It's a shame that no one on the US side has any guts. It is true as well that no one on this side of the river has any guts either. If they had, I would not be up at 4AM in the morning with my mind racing after attending the DRIC session and after listening to the Transport Canada doublespeak at the Senate hearings last night (more on this once I get the full transcript!)

The Danish Professor, if he were here, would be laughing himself silly. He has another chapter in his book. Our border crossing has become a true classic MEGAPROJECT. It is out of control!

We read the following in the Star story yesterday, "Michigan on side." This statement was supposed to have been read out at a public meeting last week but was pulled at the last minute:
  • "The administration [ie the Governor] and the department leadership [of MDOT] have growing concerns about the direction of the DRIC study and the delivery of a timely, affordable solution to the border issues. These concerns include the ultimate cost of a new bridge, the community disruption that its construction would cause and how quickly it can be completed...

    State budget and revenue forecasts were cited as prompting Michigan's withdrawal."

Oh if only it had been done, we would not be having this ridiculous charade being carried on. Now that we have some idea as to costs, this whole process is absurd. What is being proposed will cost taxpayers dearly by the time it is done. Maybe a crossing here was never to be completed but killed so that our region will die as Sarnia is being built up with hundreds of millions of new taxpayer (not P3) dollars. They are to be used to fix up the Blue Water Bridge to improve their traffic flow thereby making their region more attractive for new investment. And at our expense!

Perhaps we are being groomed with our future to be the call centre capital of Ontario with our employees in Windsor being paid minimum wage, sort of the Third World of Ontario.

Is it up now to the Canadian side to do something? Did the Governor decide not to be the one to kill DRIC since she learned the costs and figured out to let the Canadians be the fall-guy this time around? She took the heat before when she acted unilaterally in killing the Downriver bridges.

I have shown above a chart of costs. As Gord Henderson said in his column today (yes it is online at 4 AM), the tunnel costs have doubled, so far! "If they were cautioning us last year that a tunnel could cost as much as $2 billion, how did it almost double?"

And the costs above are just for a 6 km stretch and do NOT include the costs to build to the border, the plaza and the new bridge. So add at least $500M or more on to that.

Here it is though, what makes this classic. Not only do you need underestimating of costs but you need unquantifiable overestimating of benefits:

  • "1) The negative economic impacts are expected to be almost entirely locally oriented, affecting businesses within the ACA and some within close proximity.

    2) The positive economic impacts that the proposed access road and new international crossing will have in Southern Ontario and the greater Windsor region, including the city of Windsor and the towns of LaSalle and Tecumseh will be substantial.

    International exports account for $225 billion in provincial GDP, this represents over 40% of Ontario’s GDP. It is estimated that the Windsor-Essex County area accounts for over 3%, $7.5 billion, of Ontario’s international export GDP. Given the economic scale, any improvement to the speed and efficiency of goods and services crossing the border will have a tremendous impact on the economies of both Ontario and the Windsor-Essex County area. In addition, there is expected to be greater opportunity for industrial and large-scale commercial development along Highway 401 within the Windsor-Essex County area. The region will become more attractive for tourists from the United States to travel into the Windsor area and the reduction of traffic along local streets will, in many cases, assist local businesses. "
Oh please.....I cannot deal with this any longer. I do not have the stomach to hear this foolishness any more. Perhaps someone could give the DRIC consultants a copy of the Danish professor's book for them to read.

Dalton, Donna, Dwight and Sandra don't have the guts to do it. Stephen Harper and Lawrence Cannon don't have the guts to do it. Hopefully, the Chamber of sober, second thought--our Senate-- will have the common-sense to kill Bill C-3, the lynch-pin of this DRIC madness. Then the elected politicians can back off gracefully so that the real solution can be accomplished.

We need to do the right thing at a cost that makes sense and without disrupting communities using the public-private partnership that has worked well for almost 80 years in Windsor and Detroit! The Ambassador Bridge enhancement project can be finished in 30 months after Government approvals. It is time now to get it done.

This fiasco has now positively demonstrated that there is no other alternative that makes any sense! There, I have the guts to say it. I wish I had the power to do it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Inaugural Speech

Sorry, I must have missed it. I guess I must have been asleep. When did Windsor become a crime centre like Detroit or Toronto? I am shocked that the Mayor had to devote so much of his speech to crime.

I trust that the Mayor and Council will demand that the head of the Windsor Police Services Board be fired immediately for letting crime get out of control so badly. Wait a minute, the Mayor is the Chair of the Windsor Police Services Board. So is the Mayor saying that he as Chair has failed miserably? As he failed
as Chair of the Tunnel Commission!

I looked over the Mayor's election brochure. Sure there was mention of the police but not the panic that we have just seen. Eddie's brochure talked about "Increased police presence with greater focus on community safety." There was nothing on his "Report Card" about it. He may have been "working harder for Windsor" but obviously, he did not work hard enough about crime. Did you, dear reader, hear the Mayor talk about this as an election issue? Or did it just seem to pop up out of nowhere?

What can explain this? Drugs, gangs and firearms, organized crime, cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, marijuana grow-ops, is this something new for Windsor? We are going to see with a tremendous amount of media publicity "an unprecedented change and modernization of the Windsor police service." That is to match the honour that "Some of the prettiest police cars in the country are right here in Windsor and Essex County" that I read about some time ago.

To be frank though, if the City became so crime-infested under the Chief of Police, I am not so sure I want him telling us how to solve it. What makes anyone think he can do a better job than before? Surely Eddie's comments have to be a vote of non-confidence in him. Where is the peer review of his Department as there was with the Fire Department? The Police Department has a version of CitiStat...why did no one pick up the problems there before this time? Why wasn't it an election issue on the front page of the Star?

Do you think the real answer is that there may NOT be the problem and that there is some other reason for these scare stories? I will tell you how cynical I have become. Eddie did not even mention another family in Windsor who suffered a terrible loss due to crime, a beating, as justification for the new approach. Maybe too many others forgot the name!

The Star tells us that "The police budget will increase by $1.8 million to reorganize the force and create the major crime unit. " Isn't that sum remarkably close to what the Schwartz Report cost us, you remember the "dead" Report. We could have used the Schwartz money for the police for all the good Sam's Report did for us! So Councillor Halberstadt would not have had to worry about where the money will come from in the budget.

And speaking of the border, we see now why Councillor Halberstadt floated the conciliatory trial balloon on behalf of the Mayor. There on P17 of the 19 page speech, the Mayor finally talked about the border and let us know he is not an obstructionist. "we need the provincial and federal government to share our resolve." Even Councillor Valentinis on Face-to-Face on Cogeco talked about a meeting with Windsor, the Senior Levels AND, if you can believe it, the Ambassador Bridge Co. to solve the problems.

Oh I know Eddie threatened legal action and there was an admission that the City has "enemies" so that we need to spend $400K to fight them but Eddie was really kidding. Honest he was. He did not mean it. It was just for re-election purposes.

His first thought obviously was to link up with the Senior Levels to gang up on the big, bad Bridge Co. [When they do his bidding and help him with his Tunnel ambitions, he can do it to them again! He may assume that they will have forgotten the "snubs" when it served his purpose]. I expect that Eddie was probably going to try to co-opt the Province first since they have their own war with the Feds.

However, the Senior Councillor's suggestion means that Eddie finally learned recently and understands that there is a need for the Bridge Co. to be involved and quickly too. They have some cards to play too that Eddie might not like especially given his future ambitions. He now understands that he needs their help more than he wants to admit. After all, does he want to be the Mayor that gets the City involved in massive controversy as his legacy when he was supposed to solve the border problem?

I am going to quote the key elements of what he said about he border. Tell me what his Plan is, his Real Plan because I cannot figure it out:
  • Now, there are those who will claim that I am obstructionist. That I have been preventing them from just getting it done.

    Let me be clear about where I stand.

    If pushing for a better quality of life for our residents so they don’t have to see, smell, feel, or inhale fumes from the trucks makes me obstructionist …

    If standing up for our residents and giving them a voice makes me difficult…

    If asking for a real solution that gets trucks off of city streets and out of neighbourhoods makes me a nuisance …

    If defending the interest of our city means asking others to pause and consider other, better, more environmentally-friendly options …

    Then … I am guilty as charged.

    There is no reason why the new border solution cannot enhance our city, improve our environment, and make Windsor an even greater city!

    And that is what I – and this new Council – intend for it to do!

My view----the speech was political opportunism as its cynical best. Eddie has no plan whatsoever on the border. He is merely reacting to others. It is an easy way for him to say that they "imposed" it on him even though he was standing up for Windsor. That's his "public persona."

However, the conciliatory approach, the part I marked, is a somewhat different tact for this Mayor to play. It means that he can see a disaster coming and is trying desperately to head it off. Having no plan may now be his PLAN. He will accept anything reasonable so he can claim a victory for Windsor and himself. He will play the role of the "honest broker" facilitating the settlement. I just hope that the Senior Levels and the Bridge Co. can read the signals coming from Councillors Halberstadt and Valentinis, Eddie's two closest confidants on Council, before it is too late. I also hope that they are prepared to trust the Mayor, which may be the big stumbling block.

Here is the kinder, gentler Eddie wanting to work with those nasty County people too:

  • "We are not interested in competition … but cooperation.
    We are not interested in amalgamation … but collaboration."

Here is Eddie re-inventing himself. He has to be the friendly, co-operative team-player if he wants to achieve a senior position in the next PC Provincial cabinet. The election is less than a year away.

And what position is that to be? Why Attorney-General of course! Crime is a huge Toronto issue not a Windsor issue. Eddie's crime-beating accomplishments will be spread far and wide. He will be a natural for the Justice position given his extensive legal background as well. He's a lawyer don't you know. His great successes, trumpetted by the Windsor Star, will be picked up by every news service in the country.

Who will be Eddie's successor as he moves on? I bet Mayor-elect Halberstadt will take a lot of the credit for Windsor's successes too! He is being re-invented too from being the Leader of the Opposition to being a statesman leader!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Media Accreditation Update

Given the recent legal case in new Brunswick that said Bloggers are journalists, I sought media accreditation as a Blogger for the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa.

Here is what I was advised by the Secretary of the Press Gallery:
  • "Thank you for your note. I would invite you to contact "X" in the press gallery at [Phone number] if you wish to apply for accreditation in the press gallery. He can also brief you on the criteria for membership. In order to qualify for membership, an applicant must not only be a journalist but must also meet a series of criteria, including being assigned to cover Parliament Hill on a full time basis. Many senior political journalists from across Canada do not meet the criteria for entry because they are not based in Ottawa and do not cover federal politics full time."

So then I tried with the BIIG guy at the BIIG team in Ontario and with Transport Canada's media spokesperson since there is a big press conference in Windsor over the border issue:

  • 1) -----Original Message-----
    From: Ed Arditti
    To: Mark Butler ; Salmons, Steve (MTO)
    Sent: Mon Nov 27 09:21:05 2006
    Subject: Media accreditation

    Following the New Brunswick legal case involving Charles LeBlanc stating that Bloggers are "journalists," please provide me with Media accreditation for your Department's events.

    My Blogsite is

    Ed Arditti

    2) ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Salmons, Steve (MTO)"
    To: Ed Arditti
    Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 10:36 AM
    Subject: Re: Media accreditation

    Ed, I am forwarding your request to our Neal Kelly, the Minister's media guy... He will be able to give you the right direction in response to your request.

    3) -----Original Message-----
    From: OJIBWAY NOW!
    To: Salmons, Steve (MTO)
    Sent: Sat Dec 02 13:01:09 2006
    Subject: Re: Media accreditation

    I expect that I will be able to attend your media briefing on Tuesday that was mentioned at the Windsor Star Editorial Board session!

    Ed Arditti

    4) ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Salmons, Steve (MTO)"
    To: Ed Arditti
    Sent: Saturday, December 02, 2006 1:15 PM
    Subject: Re: Media accreditation

    Ed, again, I am forwarding your name to someone who can help you. I have no authority (or knowledge) over press credentials

    Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Device

I received accreditation right away from Mr. Butler, so I will be attending the event. But not a word yet from Ontario. Anyway, there seems little point in going to be honest, except out of principle, since Ontario reps seem to have already given a good part of the story to the Star now anyway. I wonder if other journalists in town are angry at that.

While Ontario's inaction may be disappointing, it is not crushing given the big news of the day. Now this story is something for the Windsor Blogmeister to be really concerned about. After all, it is a story about Canada with a Detroit connection!

According to the Associated Press:

  • "Pamela Anderson has filed for divorce from Kid Rock after less than four months of marriage, the actress' publicist said Monday.

    Anderson's representative said the former "Baywatch" star filed for divorce last week, but would not comment on the reason or any particulars of the divorce. The split was first reported by People magazine."

Hello Pamela, I have a question for you....

A Better Way To Spend Our Billions

We can build a tunnel that will be outdated due to technological changes within a decade and one which truckers will not want to use because of potential dangers and risks OR we can help subsidize changes to trucks immediately that solve emissions problems not only for Windsor but the rest of the country. Here is what is being done in Quebec now as reported by Today's Trucking Magazine on-Line:

  • "Time for Quebec trucks to quit smoking; anti-emissions rule takes effect 09/04/2006

    QUEBEC CITY -- La Belle Province is truly becoming non-smoking. Cigarette smokers have been forbidden to blow smoke in public areas since May, but now it's truckers' turn to stop fumes from their trucks in the province. This past weekend, Quebec’s road inspectors began giving tickets under the new anti-truck pollution program, Programme d'inspection et d'entretien des véhicules automobiles lourds (PIEVAL).

    This heavy-duty vehicle inspection and maintenance program -- which takes effect anywhere in Quebec below the 55 parallel -- was officially launched on June 1st with several educational demonstrations in different regions of Quebec. Enforcement began on Sept. 1st

    Targeted by the PIEVAL are the vehicles weighting over 3,000 kg, including trucks, bus, emergency vehicles and municipal vehicles. Excepted are farm and off-road vehicles.

    The Quebec government estimates that between 15,000 and 18,000 heavy vehicles using the province’s roads produces emissions exceeding standards normally accepted in other states and Provinces with similar vehicle emissions programs like Drive Clean in Ontario or B.C.'s Air Care On-Road.

    Inspectors will measure the opacity of exhaust smoke using a "snap acceleration method." Québec’s 240 inspectors will target and conduct road-side tests on trucks that either look or smell like they my be polluting.

    For the first two years of the program, acceptable opacity rates will be 45 percent for 1991 and newer trucks and 60 percent for 1990 models and older. After two years, 1991 and newer trucks have to meet a 40 percent opacity benchmark, while 1990 and older must pass a 55 percent standard.

    Owners of vehicles over the acceptable rates will receive a fine between $100 and $400, depending if the vehicle is registered to an individual or a company. Those who fail to pay within 30 days and prove the vehicle has been repaired at a provincially accredited re-test/repair facility, can be charged with fines between $300 and $3,000. Training on good maintenance practices and where emission control components could fail is now offered at to Quebec heavy vehicle owners."

Just so you know, Ontario has a comparable program as well.

  • Drive Clean for heavy-duty trucks and buses.

    "Ontario's Drive Clean program for large trucks and buses has been helping protect the quality of the air we breathe from its beginnings in September of 1999. And it will make an even larger contribution to protecting our health and our environment with the implementation of the diesel emissions test standards that are among the strictest in North America.

    Heavy-duty vehicles must pass regular emissions tests in order to have their registrations renewed. Tests are required for vehicles when they are five years old (beginning with 2001 model years in 2006 and 2002 models in 2007). Resale vehicles also require testing for ownership transfer if they are older than the current model year (i.e., model 2005 and older in 2006), as a consumer protection measure. There is no limit on the age of vehicles to be tested.

    This applies to diesel-powered vehicles registered anywhere in Ontario and to heavy-duty non-diesel vehicles in the areas of Southern Ontario where light-duty testing is required.

    Diesel vehicle emissions test standards are being tightened because diesel engines are a major source of fine particles or particulate matter (PM). PM is an important component of smog and is being increasingly viewed as a serious threat to our health and our environment."

The Most Powerful Politician In Windsor

Who is the most powerful politician in Windsor today? I was going to run a contest about this to see what my readers thought but I decided that there was no point in doing so since the choice is so obvious.

Many of you might have picked a Senior Level politician. You would have been wrong.

Most of you probably would have said the Mayor. Wrong.

A few of you contrarians might have said Caroline Postma since why else would she have been quoted saying she shopped in Detroit. In other words, someone set her up to let her destroy herself right away for some reason. Wrong again.

Clearly, if you were a person from Mars, and had been looking at the political scene in Windsor, you would have to say that Councillor Alan Halberstadt is the one.

He's here. He's there. He's everywhere. He is truly Windsor's Scarlet Pimpernel except that he is not elusive but accessible!

He's talking about everything, grabbing the headlines, having a Henderson column written about his ideas, he writes a Blog and a magazine column. He has had more coverage than the Mayor, more than all of the Councillors combined recently. You cannot go anywhere without seeing the Halberstadt name!

Look at what he has discussed in the last month as an example for which he has received media coverage:
  • looking after skunks and supporting an "educational program, with the provision that humane trappings be allowed in emergencies."
  • supporting SOCS and blaming the Province for our charities' ills
  • information on the secret, in camera meetings being disclosed because of his "Sunshine Bylaw"
  • forced some disclosure on legal fees on the border file
  • graffiti removal, more funding for sidewalk and alley paving and a greener Windsor, with more bike lanes and support of the rails to trails project
  • restrict overnight truck traffic along Wyandotte Street East
  • being quite upset because the street beautification, running from Pitt to Wyandotte streets, may end up costing almost double the city's 1998 estimate
  • Got big play in Henderson columns about secrecy and Ontario's smoking ban
  • improving the regional delivery of services, shifting voting power on county council or some minor boundary changes
  • new city council take a more conciliatory approach to the border issue and try to work with senior levels of government
  • Schwartz is dead by saying he will move to officially trash the report so the city can develop a new strategy on the border file.
  • open and tranpartent government in light of the Privacy Commission's ruling on the Keg garage parking deal
  • Ontario's smoking ban is devastating some Windsor charities and businesses
  • the city's two LIBERAL provincial cabinet ministers
  • Windsor's sewer system as outdated and in need of improvement.

I am truly worn out writing about all that he has done. But the real question is, for what purpose?

Loyal readers should be able to guess the answer. Let's just wait a bit for it to play itself out more publicly. All I can say is I bet that Alan has not thrown away his sign list from the last municipal election.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Is It Open Season In Windsor Now

I had to waste a good part of the weekend thanks to City Hall and I am annoyed about it!

As you know, I filed a Municipal Freedom of Information Act Application to try and get documents from City Hall. When I received their answer, I was told that they estimated that they had over 50,000 pages of them that were responsive to my request, would need at least 10 months to find them all and wanted me to pay over $100,000 for them to do the work to assemble them all.

I protested the secrecy of course and asked for a waiver of the $100K payment. The City just rejected my request for a "fee waiver." I am in mediation now on the way to adjudication with the City respecting the rejection and have to prepare material to support my position.

I was shocked as you know about this. I had expected games-playing but I thought this was hilarious. A reader scolded me and asked why I was surprised. He said that the Act was the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. He said I wanted the "Freedom of Information" part while the City clearly liked the "Protection of Privacy" part!

Well then we had the decision repecting the Canderel parking garage. So everything should be ok now right....the City would behave. (Or as Don McArthur in the Star wrote today: "It has already lost one appeal and been ordered to release information by the privacy commissioner. If it loses any more, city leaders will lose their credibility and taxpayers their faith and patience.)

Former Council candidate, Chris Schnurr, has a MFOIA application re the Canderel sub-tenants and the East End Arena. He should receive the information promptly now correct----Chris wrote in his BLOG :
  • "Well, according to Chuck Scarpelli, the City’s Freedom of Information Officer, I should have received a response to my FOI request today.

    And guess what? I did not. Unless I’m mistaken, today is November 30th - the day I was assured I would receive an answer. The Municipal Freedom of Information Act requires that the city respond to any request within 30 days of the request."

So actually I took comfort from that since it meant that the City was not opposing his request and therefore he ought to get a Commission order forcing the City to reveal all.

And then I remembered the recent Star story about Eddie and secrecy and knew why the City did not respond. Eddie really wants a delay as long as possible. He wants someone else to do the dirty work for him to support confidentiality if a circumstance requires it. He wants the Privacy Commissioner to take the fall, not him.

Our Mayor does not have the guts to stand up to anyone and make a decision for openness for taxpayers.

  • "I think one of the easiest ways to deal with this is to put a provision into the agreements that we will follow the Freedom of Information Act rules and whatever the FOI rules, that will be the test."

Bizarre, he's the Mayor and he is "paralyzed" to act. He does not need the Privacy Commissioner to tell him to open up City files for heaven's sake. HE IS THE MAYOR!

Now I found it interesting that the Star did NOT put a tape of the Editorial Board meeting with him on its website as they did with Transport Minister Cansfield. And I found it interesting as well that the end of secrecy was announced via a secret session.

However, Eddie giveth with one hand and taketh with another. You see the calendar see how long it takes for the Privacy Commission to make an order. 10 months for the Star. Another one in Windsor that has not yet been reported by the Star although it is on the Privacy Commissioner website was years in the making.

So Eddie is being very clever...something that is too hot to handle....graciously let the taxpayer file a MFOIA request, wait a year or two and by the time it is made public the matter is history.

I also liked this ridiculous statement in the circimstances:

  • "Francis insisted he would prefer to have such agreements made public. "It's easier for me to have the information out there to prevent speculation and rumours, and that doesn't help us in any way; it doesn't help us when we're trying to attract business."
SO MAKE IT PUBLIC! Make your life easier Eddie.

So what was the excuse with the Spitfires....did they have a choice? Where else were they going to play but in Eddie's East End arena! Eddie did not have to put in a confidentiality clause. Was it put in so that we would not learn how bad a deal the City made on the concessions, or the low ice time charges, or the upfront payments or who knows what that the City had to do to ensure that the Spits did not go to the Ice Track arena?

Then the piece de resistance for Secretary of War Francis who is in a fight with our "enemies," whoever they are, no matter what it costs taxpayers:
  • "Francis gave conditional approval to the bill [Sarnia Mayor Bradley's Open Meeting Act], "as long as it creates a level playing field in a fair and equitable manner among municipalities and doesn't compromise taxpayers' interests" as in the case of the city's border strategy."

Yes sir, Commander-In-Chief, do not tell us what the border war is all about. Keep it to yourself. We are too stupid to understand that you know better than us what is good for us. In fact, even though we have spent millions on the Schwartz Report, certain Councillors have admitted it is dead. Clearly the City has no strategy so there should be nothing to hide! Maybe that is what Eddie is really hiding from us

Anyway, I do not take Eddie's remarks nor the star Editorial Board seriously on this issue. Remember what the Star wrote in its Editorial on December 1, 2003 as Eddie took office:

  • "…it is absolutely imperative that elected officials be accountable for all of their decisions… there are two tools that councils can use to ensure accountability thrives -- recorded votes on all issues and a commitment to conduct business in open, public meetings…In Windsor, mayor-elect Eddie Francis has been a strong advocate of both those checks and balances and we think it's something every council in this area should endorse as their first order of business."
And how much did Eddie listen to them during the last three years.

Finally, did you read the "Opinion" today from Don McArthur in the Star. In my opinion, he has no idea what he is talking about. A "non-confidentiality" clause is totally inconsistent with the concept of the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. That Act is only there because the Municipality wants to hide information. With non-confidentiality, the Act is irrelevant.

The Act states:
The purposes of this Act are,
(a) to provide a right of access to information under the control of institutions in accordance with the principles that,
(i) information should be available to the public,
(ii) necessary exemptions from the right of access should be limited and specific

One is playing into Eddie's hands by buying into McArthur's concept:
  • "A deal with the City of Windsor is a deal with its citizens and subject to their scrutiny under the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information Act, which protects legitimate business interests while promoting the public good."

It is all spin-doctoring and damage control by the Eminence Grise. Has the Star been suckered too?

Buy into the MFOIA concept. Let someone else do Eddie's dirty work. Let there be litigation with the Privacy Commision office for years. In this way , Eddie has his cake and can eat it: "Oh we put in a confidentiality clause to protect business but if the Privacy Commissioner says that we must reveal something, we will. After all, let them make the deciison to protect taxpayers. I am only the Mayor of a small town and CEO of the Corporation of the City of Windsor!"

What a great way to keep Eddie's "secrecy" issue quiet for the next year so that Eddie is not embarrassed when he runs for a Senior Level position. Check-mark!

Anyway, back to my work for the Privacy Commisssion. I'll let you know what happens.

Clever Bureaucrats

I do need to apologize. The bureaucrats running the border project on both sides of the river are much smarter than I thought. They are waaaaaaaaay ahead of me in planning. Mind you, there are a lot more of them involved than just one of me. Ontario alone has 41 of them.

I could not understand at first how they could be so dumb so as to suggest looking seriously at a truck marshalling yard when there is no congestion problem. Who needs to spend $25 million on a facility that would never be used I foolishly thought. Maybe this was part of the DRTP deal, I feared, to have a staging area on the 401 instead of in the middle of Windsor.

It all became clear after I listened to the Senate hearing WEBCAST the other day when the Bridge Co. reps testified.

I made the classic citizen mistake. One should never take at face value or listen to what a bureaucrat seems to say since it is a diversion at first to make one undertake a wild goose chase and then a "gotcha" when they tell you exactly how they fooled you. It's like Eddie's Tunnel Improvement Plan which is said to be designed to get cars off City streets when I think it is really designed for reverse customs and to allow the Tunnel or its revenues to be financed in a third party deal. After all, wasn't he called a "legal technocrat."

I should just mention too that Government bureaucrats think they are clever types too. They think that we cannot figure out their plans.

So let's keep on pretending that we do not understand their brilliant plan. Let's pretend that we do not understand that the marshalling area is designed to force every truck to enter it so that the trucker can be told which crossing to use. Let's pretend that we do not understand that the mandatory marshalling area is the only way that a new P3 bridge has a chance of succeeding and a guaranteed throughput the only way that a private P3 partner would ever put in any financing. A P3 bridge at a toll of $50-60 per truck could otherwise never compete with the Ambassador Bridge tolls which are about 1/3 that amount now.

The bureaucrats MUST take business away from the Bridge Co. and direct it to a crossing and at a fixed toll. That is the only way that a P3 bridge can succeed and probably prevent all of the crossings in SW Ontario from going broke. Traffic has declined rapidly after all over the last few years without much hope of growth, contrary to what DRIC is telling us.

Oh and let's pretend that we don't know know that the idea that the mandatory marshalling yard will be located only between Windsor and Chatham is wrong too... We know it will be in the London area to control traffic for all of South-west Ontario!

It's a pretty good idea mind you, except now the trucks will go to Sarnia because the tolls will be cheaper there and not only kill their great plan but kill Windsor's economy as well.

But don't worry, that will be solved too. Sarnia and Fort Erie will get tied up in this marshalling system too. Then when tolls go higher, out of control, and traffic gets messed up royally, everything will be moved to the US so we won't have any worries about transportation. I betcha the bureaucrats did not consider that one.

They forgot that trucks are not airplanes and a truck navigation system won't work the way it does in the air industry.

Ok, I have to prove this to you skeptical readers again. Sheeeesh. Gridlock Sam told us all about this, back in the days when Eddie was the friend and confidant of the Feds. The Plan was inserted in the Schwartz Report to show how smart Eddie and Sam were when the Feds did this:

  • "Balanced Traffic between Blue Water Crossing and Windsor-Detroit Crossings

    Developing a balanced traffic network between the Sarnia-Port Huron and Detroit-Windsor Crossings would provide benefits without a new crossing but would be compatible with any of the new crossings. Essentially it means adopting acceptable levels of service guidelines at all facilities as a goal and maintaining the goal, as best possible, through Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) measures, policies, directing trucks after they are screened and pricing strategies. It sets aside the profit-motive, which means each facility is competing for the most traffic, with a utilitarian-motive: the greatest good for the greatest number. Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants.

    Authorities should consider rerouting long-haul trucks, originating from London or points east... Measures to re-route could be mandatory by pre-processing trucks at London and rerouting 30% to Blue Water Bridge or voluntary by using variable message signs and other forms of communications to long haul truckers advising them that the Blue Water Bridge is the faster route."

And the Finance Department mandarins are no slouches either. We are having a late spring/early summer federal election in Canada and they know the Conservatives will make a concentrated attempt to keep Jeff Watson's seat and win one or two more in the region. There is gossip about the attractive candidates the Conservatives are wooing.

Ergo and in the Nick of time, Minister Flaherty said in his Advantage Canada speech:

  • "Advantage Canada builds on the unprecedented $16.5-billion investment in infrastructure outlined in Budget 2006. We will provide long-term, predictable funding and a fair and transparent allocation of program funding supporting, among other investments, improvements to Canada’s core national highway system.

    We will also look for ways to get more out of infrastructure investments by taking advantage of the innovative financing provided through public-private partnerships.

    And let me say, Mr. Chairman, that we believe there is a lot of room for improvement in how we manage infrastructure projects.

    Take, for example, the Windsor-Detroit Corridor. Windsor-Detroit is the crossing point for 28 per cent of all trade in goods between Canada and the United States.

    It is just not acceptable that, after all these years, governments have not finished the job to make this crossing more efficient and secure.

    Surely we can do better, and we will. A financing strategy for this vital crossing will be addressed in the next budget to get the job done expeditiously."

So there it is, all laid out before you. Gee those bureaucrats are clever! But let's keep a secret. Let's pretend that we do not know why Bill C-3 is absolutely essential to their scheme. We don't want them to think we are smart too.