Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 12, 2007

Who Is Windsor's Champion

If there are any doubts amongst my readers that it will likely be a slug-fest between Sandra Pupatello and Eddie Francis in the next Provincial election, then Gord Henderson's Saturday column should provide the definitive answer.

Another brutal attack on Sandra but with a few nice words about her too because after all, Eddie learned with the 1,000 call centre jobs: he has no power without her money. He is, after all, nothing but a small town mayor and she is a Cabinet Minister so he still needs to use her for his own poltical gains short-term.

Oh there are no absolute guarantees. Sandra might run federally (so ex-Councillor Joyce Zuk would take her place) and Eddie may decide in the last second not to run because he (or more likely, the Tories for whom he will run) cannot win. Eddie won't take any chances as he did not last time around either. His election to a Senior position has to be a virtual sure-thing or he will not run.

Just expect to see more and more anti-Liberal, anti-McGuinty and anti-Pupatello stories over the next few months.

First Eddie's opposition needs to be softened up as is going on now. Beat them up, wear them out. Then we'll know the kick-off to the Francis nomination campaign has started when Henderson starts talking about a John Tory government as he did twice in columns last September (eg. "I'm presuming Duncan and Pupatello are preparing for new careers when the John Tory government assumes power next fall")

We'll know that Eddie is in over-drive when Henderson keeps saying nice things about John Tory personally as he did last March ("Now I understand why John Tory emerged from nowhere in the polls to come within a hair's breadth of becoming mayor of Toronto and why the Dalton McGuinty Liberals have recurrent nightmares about him. The Progressive Conservative leader is a smoothie, a self- assured corporate charmer who can laugh at himself and admit mistakes while conducting damage control with a surgeon's deft touch.")

In the latest Star tunnel story, Sandra was front and centre saying things like:
  • the DRIC's final recommendation may feature the best from each of the road alternatives.

  • ventilation towers or giant fans required for a lengthy tunnel may create a huge cluster of air or noise pollutants in nearby neighbourhoods.

  • "No matter what method we use -- at grade, below grade or tunnel -- someone is going to be negatively impacted by this," Pupatello said. "No one vision is perfect. But it will have to be something that is the least impactful on the community."

  • Comparisons between other tunnels worldwide and Windsor should not be done

  • the Chunnel between England and France "would be a baby (in width) compared to what we need."

As a smart politician, couldn't Sandra figure out that she was being set up for another fall? She thought she was being helpful but instead the Battagello-Henderson one-two punch knocked her for another loop.

Sandra was set up so nicely too. And it could not have been easier. Batagello asks the innocent questions, she answers and Henderson hammers. No matter what she said it was a loser for her. She put her foot in her mouth respecting the Chunnel no matter how she now tries to spin it with the "width" being the issue.

If I were a boxing ring announcer, it would go something like this:

  • Ladies and gentlemen, for the championship fight for the riding of Windsor West...

    In the red corner for the Liberals, Sandra "The Dragon Queen" Pupatello delivering the goods for Windsor, to the tune of $1.4 billion since 2003.

    In the blue corner for the Progressive Conservatives, Eddie "The Legal Technocrat" Francis defending the interests of the people of Windsor with a Plan to achieve a vision of a better tomorrow to make Windsor an even greater city!

And off in one of the private boxes in the arena, almost hidden from view, would be Dwight Duncan laughing himself silly as his two main protagonists punch each other numb. He is keeping his head down and being "non-committal."

He's the King of the Castle. Neither of them can touch him. He will still run Windsor, no matter who wins!

Legends Sports Bar Betting Expanded

As you know, Casino Windsor opened up an area for Sports betting. There are 4 different kinds of sports games that can be bet there now. Sports involved are, US Professional and College Football and Basketball, Professional Hockey and Baseball.

I guess that business has been good but I hear that growth is going to be exponentially higher as they add a new Sport for a period of about 2 months only, until March 7.

The name of the Game is "Pick the Windsor & District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards" winner. The Star reported today that "This year's event has been changed from an awards-style show with the winners known in advance to a gala dinner with the winners names being announced on the night."

What better way to keep the locals happy but to allow betting on who is going to win a Chamber award. Now the Casino Mangement people are smart folks. They know that the big money is going to be bet on the "International business" category. The nominees are VistaPrint ("leading online supplier of high-quality graphic design services"), Technophar Equipment & Service Ltd ("designing and engineering Hard and Soft Gelatin Capsule Machines... for Pharmaceuticals, Nutritional and Cosmetics") and the Ambassador Bridge (well, you know what they do).

It appears that the odds against the Bridge Co. winning anything in Windsor are astronomical right now! Why even the Mayor may be involved in the betting too. Why just the other day he admitted that he has been using millions of taxpayer dollars on the border file and wants $400,000 more for, amongst other things, slowing down the Ambassador Bridge's permit approvals to twin its span.

Now some smart bettors I have heard are waiting for the last minute and will plunk down good hard cash in favour of the Bridge Co. winning since they expect the odds to be very good. They remember the successes that the Bridge Co. had at Lansing and at Ottawa in the hearings despite unfavourable odds. They know that Ontario and Michigan have little cash to spend billions on a crossing and that private investors will think twice about financing a crossing that has its traffic decreasing.

So it appears that the smart money is being bet on the Bridge Co. to win. What a surprise!

PS..Someone at the Chamber has a weird sense of humour. VistaPrint was to build in Ojibway but did not because of possible soil condition problems and the person to be honoured is Sandra Pupatello of "Chunnel" fame.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

People Based Budget: The Sequel

It's enough to make you want to cry (or laugh, I cannot figure out which yet).

I read this News Release on the City's website with a title that is so unbelievable that it is almost insulting to taxpayers:

  • "Working Together For Our Community’s Future - Our People Based Community Strategic Plan

    The City of Windsor is engaging the community through a series of ward workshops to complete our Community Strategic Plan and to assist City Council to shape their priorities for their four-year term of Council. Meetings in each ward will familiarize residents with this People Based City Plan and will present Council’s strategic priority statements. Input collected from workshop participants will help the City refine the Plan prior to its final adoption.

    Attendees will be placed in small, facilitated working groups in order to freely share their ideas. Those who wish to attend should register by calling 311. Registrants will receive a pre-work package containing materials to be reviewed in advance of the meeting. To ensure a broad and diverse representation of our population, some personal information will be collected, which is protected under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. "

Remember our "People based Budget." It has been morphed into a "People Based Community Strategic Plan."

Gee if only I could get to meet Eddie one-on-one, perhaps my BLOG would be different when I knew the "inside stuff" that mere taxpayers were not allowed to know. Acccording to Gord Henderson, who spent time with Eddie being briefed in camera (heck the City won't reply to me about giving me media accreditation while the Senior Levels have already done so), his opinion was changed by a persuasive Mayor it seems:
  • "Here we go with the usual slick facilitator and moronic power point presentation laid on for a handful of the usual suspects in order to collect pie-in-the-sky ideas that won't see the light of day but will enable politicians to boast of consultations with the great unwashed.

    That was my mildly jaded initial impression. But after listening to the Monday night council presentation and spending some time with Mayor Eddie Francis for the first time since the November election, I view those ward meetings in a different light.

    These aren't feel-good time wasters. These are urgent, last-ditch opportunities for Windsorites to have a direct say -- on issues ranging from the mundane to the visionary -- in how Francis and the Gang of Ten spend our tax dollars in 2007 and over the following three years."
I have to ask in all sincerity, who is making fun of us more, the Mayor and Council or Gord Henderson or both equally. Of course these sessions are not time-wasters when you need check-marks for your Provincial campaign.

Here is what I have written before on the People-Based Budget:
  1. People Based Budget--By Phone

    "Whatever happened to the People Based Budget process that seemed to work so well last year? Whatever happened to the "web site and an interactive online survey that not only provided citizens with relevant budget information but enabled them to give their opinions and rank their priorities."

    Remember what the Mayor said in his State of the City speech:

    "And the People-Based Budget will not be a one-year wonder!

    It will be back next year, when it will feed into our zero-based budget. Having public input into our zero-based budget process will truly yield more effective – and efficient – city government."

    Here is what Councillor Postma said in December 2005:

    "What ever happened to People Based budgeting? How are citizens going to learn what the cuts really mean? We did not even advertise our meetings....

    I am greatly disappointed that some of my esteemed colleagues have labelled this Council as being at war with spenders vs. savers, good vs. evil, guardians of good vs. guardians of the public purse etc. There are many ways to stretch the truth to make yourself sound better than others, however all actions or mis-actions have an impact, some that you may not notice today but you certainly will in the future. Smoke and mirrors - I truly look forward to educating the public on the budget in an open truly people based process."

    Councillor Lewenza gave the justification for killing the process:

    "Looking back on the people based budget, I witnessed minimal value in allowing the exercise aside from allowing citizens to express themselves and for allotting city councillors the privilege to mingle with their constituents."


    Did you see the story in the Star about the budget meeting. Perhaps we should all attend.

    "City council schedules public meeting on budget

    City council will hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss how the 2007 budget process will unfold.

    The meeting is open to the public and will be held in council chambers at 5 p.m.

    City treasurer Onorio Colucci said the discussion will centre on process rather than numbers."

    We should be concerned since Councillor Lewenza has said about next year's budget "there's very little wiggle room in the [2006] budget and taxpayers should not expect to see the frugality of the last two budgets repeated next year. "This is probably the last go- around," he said, adding that there will be either higher tax hikes next year or a reduction in services."

    Don't worry, we aren't having a People-based Budget process next year again. We had it once and it won "silver medal at Ottawa's GTEC exhibition of public sector information technology innovation." As Councillor Lewnza said "Looking back on the people based budget, I witnessed minimal value in allowing the exercise aside from allowing citizens to express themselves and for allotting city councillors the privilege to mingle with their constituents."

The whole People Based Budget concept was deemed a total failure effectively and was dropped and now we are doing it all over again. Do these people think we are that stupid? Or do they just have no respect for the electorate!

However, I should tell you that the City is very serious about this. I just applied for the "pre-work package containing materials to be reviewed in advance of the meeting." I was just called by a nice lady at 311 asking if I needed transportation or child-care in order to go.

Perhaps if everyone says "NO," Council can send that money to Brentwood since we have so much money to throw around! Council ought to do something useful with it instead of throwing it away on another farce.

DesRosiers Hits Back

Clearly, Dennis DesRosiers is "mad as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore!"

Rather than giving you a long introduction, what I will simply say is here is his letter to the Windsor Star written as a result of the Henderson column the other day! It will be fascinating to see how the Star responds.

January 10, 2007

Mr. Jim Venney
The Windsor Star

Dear Mr. Venney:

Re: Last Paragraph of Mr. Henderson's Column dated January 10, 2007:
"Misguided Optimism"

Further to the above referenced matter, kindly find attached the subject column which appeared in your newspaper yesterday. As publisher, the ultimate responsibility for the newspaper's content resides with you. I have contacted the Ontario Press Council and they advised that their rules state that I write to you first to obtain a satisfactory resolution before making a formal complaint to the Council.

Therefore, I wish to officially inform you that I am making a formal complaint to The Windsor Star with respect to the last paragraph of Mr. Henderson's column where he egregiously abuses his column to take an incredibly cheap shot at me:

"If so, it can't come fast enough for readers who've reminded me, in the wake of a New Year's "glass half full" column, that as many as 2,000 high-paying Windsor automotive jobs will disappear in a "summer of lost jobs" that will, in their view, have auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers "wringing his hands in glee at the continued suffering of his hometown." -
Gord Henderson, January 9, 2007

Mr. Henderson is stating very clearly and unequivocally that I will take personal pleasure from the thousands of families who will be seriously impacted by having their jobs lost. That statement is grotesque, demeaning and insulting. There is no evidence anywhere of me taking "glee" from my hometown losing thousands of jobs and seeing families endure hardship. For anyone to say such a thing about anyone is beyond belief. I will not even bother to respond to the columnist and his editors since I can't lower myself to their level. This is not only an insult to myself but to the hundreds of other volunteers in the City of Windsor who work behind the scenes to help improve their City.

In addition to asking for a formal apology from you on behalf of a Canwest newspaper, I also want a dedicated column from Mr. Henderson in which he also apologizes and corrects this gross misrepresentation which appeared in your newspaper.

It is worth noting that since leaving Windsor in 1973 I have spend hundred of days and thousands of hours volunteering for organizations in Windsor to the benefit of these organizations. For instance, I've been on the Board of Governors at the University for over six years and I have donated over 100 days of my time to the school during my term as one small example.

I have also worked on many serious automotive issues related to the City of Windsor all of which were dedicated to helping the City of Windsor. I could write a book on all the things I have been involved in where I've tried to help the automotive sector and the City of Windsor. I will spare you from going through this list right now, although I will be pleased to discuss it with you.

In addition to my time, my company and I have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to various charitable causes in Windsor and I have personally represented organizations in Windsor and indeed, I have personally raised or am in the process of helping them raise many millions in additional charitable donations. All of my efforts have been to help my hometown.

In a perverse form of irony, the columnist who wrote that grotesque statement demeaning me, has also used some of my information and points of view in many of his columns. He does not always agree with my efforts or accept the positions I've taken on various issues in the City of Windsor but I've always viewed this as healthy debate and have thus accepted his right to criticize or debate me.

But critical to this complaint is the fact that on a number of occasions, in his column, this columnist has complimented me on my work in the City of Windsor. This is clear evidence that he and his editors understand at least some of what I've accomplished to improve the City of Windsor. In addition, I have also met privately with himself and his editors to discuss some of these initiatives. They have never questioned, to my face, my dedication to my home town or my accomplishments.

Also, critical to this complaint is the fact that the columnist and his editors knew just how positively involved I've been with the City of Windsor and he and his editors knew of many of my accomplishments. They may not have known the fine details of my efforts since I prefer to work quietly in the background on most but they fully knew the broad strokes of these initiatives and how beneficial they have been to the City of Windsor. The fact that at times I've chosen to use a two by four instead of a gloved hand to try to get things done is not relevant to this case. They knowingly published a grotesque misrepresentation of my view of Windsor and my accomplishments and I deserve an apology.

Given the columnist and his editors knowledge of my positive involvement with the City of Windsor I find it unconscionable if not unethical that the columnist would use this reference to me and that his editors would allow it to remain in the column. I fully understand that the reference in the column is a quote from anonymous 'readers' rather than himself. I view this as simply an editorial trick to deflect the issue and to protect themselves. Since both he and his editors have full knowledge of the absolute lie that appears in the column, it is their responsibility not to use the quote. Hiding behind anonymous 'readers' doesn't exonerate their culpability. Indeed, on a number of occasions I've been questioned by the editor on the accuracy of letters to the editor that I've written to the Windsor Star and I have been asked to change the letters because I could not substantiate their accuracy. This is evidence that they review the contents of these articles and do not allow 'errors in fact' to be published. I believe it is part of the code of edicts of a journalist to not knowingly publishing false information. Since they knew the quote used in the column was an "error in fact", they should not have published this "quote". Doing so damaged my reputation with the readers of your newspaper, my industry, my family and my friends in Windsor. Indeed, it is somewhat despicable that they would hide behind anonymous "readers".

This incident also goes to the root of the perceived 'conflict of interest' situation between your editors and City Hall and clearly demonstrates that the Chinese wall that you have established at The Windsor Star to deal with this 'conflict of interest' is not working. Most of my criticism of what's happening in Windsor has centred on the Mayor's office and one cannot come to any other conclusion but believe that that this "cheap shot" is coming directly or indirectly from the Mayor's office. This will also be part of my Ontario Press Council complaint should it go that far.

For these reasons I respectfully request an immediate, visible apology from The Windsor Star and a dedicated column from Mr. Henderson in which he apologizes. Mr. Henderson's column must set the record straight on this issue and he should not be allowed to weasel out of it by doing a "yes, but" apology. Only a full apology is acceptable. I also ask that any and all 'letters to the editor' which uses this false information to further criticize me not be published.

If this is not done within the next week I will have no choice but to proceed to the next step and to file an official complaint with The Ontario Press Council. In the meantime I have taken all reporters from the Canwest media chain off my distribution list and formally asked them not to use my information or information produced by my company in any of their stories. Until this is resolved either by you or The Ontario Press Council, I do not want any association with an organization that allows its editors to knowingly let one of its columnists lie to its readers like this and to personally attack me. You also need to know that when they do this with a public figure like myself that actions will be taken.

I look forward to your urgent attention.


Dennis DesRosiers

Sandra And Dwight Produce For Windsor Tourism

In case you missed the small story buried at the bottom of Page 3 in Monday's Star, rather than on the front page, it looks like our two Liberal Cabinet members/MPPs have been able to send a quarter of a million dollars down Windsor way for convention promotion (and to help out in their re-election). Nothing like starting out the year in a positive fashion for the folks back home.

"The City of Windsor will receive up to $250,000 from Queen's Park to attract new national and international conventions and conferences, Tourism Minister Jim Bradley announced Sunday."

Well, it's not really that big a deal actually since the only real convention facility we have will be the Casino's when it is finished so it's really the Government giving the City money to promote its own facility.

However, beggars can't be choosers.

Interestingly, convention business is not very good in Windsor these days and it also seems that the Convention Bureau is not quite sure how to "sell" the Casino. Here's what their December Minutes say:
  • "G. Orr comments on the convention statistics and states that fewer groups will translate into fewer delegates this year and it may affect the 2006 target. He is optimistic however about the new casino/convention center build. He explains that the CVB is still learning in terms of its relationship with the casino convention space. However, CVB account executives will work with them and continue to sell the destination. "
I hope it's not a waste of $250K!

However, did you see the big mistake in the story?
  • "Gordon Orr, managing director of the Windsor Essex County and Pelee Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in a news release he was "thrilled" the Ontario government recognizes the positive economic impact of conventions."

"Thrilled" Come on Gord...get with the program. A word like "thrilled" does not help out Eddie running against Sandra.

Haven't you figured out that you should have been "disappointed" that Windsor only received $250K out of $2M that was available and that it took the Government this long to figure out that conventions were important.

Where's that "We are a border city and we have special needs" rhetoric that has not worked yet for Windsor but is good for the locals to eat up to show how Queen's Park is ignoring us? The no-smoking law should have been good for at least an extra $100K if you had threatened to repeat Dwight's words to the public to remind us of his "What me worry" attitude.

Hey, throw out the Mayor's outrageous numbers re Super Bowl, not the real ones, to show how tourist spending can help out Windsor's battered economy. (That stat "The average convention attendee spent $598 per visit, 312 per cent more than what an average visitor to Ontario shells out" was a good one!). That should have been worth more cash too since the WWE is coming to Detroit in April.

Where's that demand for "More, please." Have you asked Fulvio to raise at Council his "why no one is listening to Windsor" cry again?

Come on Gord, no more "conventional" thinking if Eddie is involved. We have a Cabinet Minister to elect!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Unique Security Risk

We are so focused on the new Bridge crossing that we are giving the problems at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel a free-ride as I have tried to demonstrate over the past year.

Is it "bleeding red ink" too as is our airport apparently since it is facing huge drops in traffic and revenues? I am not sure that there is a plan yet to correct the problem especially since no one seemingly has been hired who will "breathe" the Tunnel business (but not the air from theTunnel Ventilation building exhaust I hope).

Now that Bill C-3 has passed, the Tunnel has a major problem which Transport Canada can no longer ignore. It must act even if it may mean as a last resort closing down the Tunnel unless a viable alternative is suggested!

Think I am overstating the case...Check out this story from the past.

Train mishap prompts evacuation; Detroit officials feared propane explosion in tunnel;
Windsor Star 12-20-2000
By: Veronique Mandal Star Staff Reporter

DETROIT-- Hundreds of workers were evacuated in downtown Detroit Tuesday afternoon when a CSX train carrying flammable material from Canada became stuck in the CN tunnel beneath the Detroit River.

Detroit fire officials received word at about noon from Canadian rail managers that a CSX train, carrying butane and propane, was stuck in the tunnel and were asked for help in case of an explosion.

From what CSX could tell, there had been some type of mechanical breakdown, probably involving the train's brakes.

Rail and fire officials initially feared some of the 43 cars on the train may have ruptured, leaking the gas.

Potential disaster

"The potential for a disaster was there because there are hundreds of people working in the buildings directly on top of the tunnel and if those tanks had gone up it would have been terrible," said Tyrone Scott, deputy fire commissioner for Detroit.

"We treated this as a potentially major disaster. Even one car filled with propane going up would be disastrous. The situation was very volatile and with everything being confined to a narrow tube like a tunnel, we had to take all precautions, which is why we evacuated the whole area."

Mike Whelan, a worker at John Johnson Co., was glad to be leaving the area.

"The fire officials came in to see the boss and the next thing we knew we were being told to immediately go to our cars and go home," said Whelan. "We were told there was a derailment and a propane spill so we got out of there."

Emergency workers kept well back from the entrance to the tunnel where only the blue and yellow nose of the engine could be seen. They were waiting for information from CSX on the contents and status of the cars before deciding what action, if any, was required by them.

According to CN spokesman Ian Thompson, CSX sent engines into the tunnel in an attempt to haul some of the cars off the back end of the train and out on the Canadian side of the tunnel.

"For some reason that didn't work so CSX sent special inspectors into the tunnel to do an on site inspection, checking for gas leaks and discovered that the problem was caused by a malfunction in the air system on the train," said Thompson.

"Air controls the brakes and if there is a breach in the system, there's a safety feature that causes all the brakes to come on and the train makes an automatic emergency stop," Thompson said. "The only way to get the train out is to pump air back up into the system so that the brakes will disengage."

The rail tunnel is about 1,600 metres long and the stopped train spanned about 1,300 metres of it.

Removed at 5 p.m.

Thompson said it isn't often that trains get stuck in the tunnel, but there have been occasions when CP has tried to run trains through which have been too wide. CSX officials were able to remove the train at about 5 p.m., but expected it would take several more hours before the tunnel would be re-opened.

Because of the incident, dozens of trains, mostly belonging to CSX and CP, were backed up. Many of them were being held in Toronto, creating long delays and playing havoc with the schedules, according to CSX officials.

CN operations were not affected, said Thompson.

Wacky Windsor Warnings

I am sure that you saw the story in the Star about the winning entries in the Wacky Warning Label Contest, run by an anti-lawsuit group, M-Law in Michigan. (Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch). The winning entry was a warning label on a washing machine at a laundromat that warns, “Do not put any person in this washer.” It is an actual sign shown in a photograph on their website.

I was walking around the City the other day and saw a bunch of other wacky warning signs and thought I share them with you. If you have found any, please be sure to send them along.

  1. Keep in camera darkroom door closed to the public, light of day will destroy what we are developing inside

  2. Too much lying will make your nose grow longer

  3. (Sign at entrance to City Hall) Danger: Memory Loss Area

  4. (Sign at exit from City Hall) Danger: But I forgot why

  5. Lying is hazardous to your political health

  6. Cry of Windsor-Essex County Health Unit tobacco program enforcers as they lay charges: We're smokin'

  7. Bleach must not be used instead of Mayo in egg salad sandwiches

  8. Optometrist sign: We treat Tunnel Vision

  9. (When citizens speak at Council) Ear protection must be worn

  10. Payday loans at the new Arena

  11. (New confidentiality clause in City contracts to be determined by the Privacy Commissioner) Information in this contract is confidential and may be legally privileged. Or maybe it is not and cannot be.
  12. Excessive Blackberry use at Council sessions may injure your fingers

  13. DRIC crosing ahead: Troubled bridge over water

  14. Purchasing by-law, what puchasing by-law

  15. Short-term Detroit-Windsor Tunnel loan: bridge financing

  16. Hello Windsor 311: If you are paranoid, we know what you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Good-bye To DRTP's Rails To Trails

I saw a copy of what purports to be a DRTP document. Interestingly, it is focused on CP Rail primarily and hardly deals with OMERS or Borealis.

I can understand the reason for that since the gossip is that the long-awaited Financial Services Commission of Ontario Report is due out shortly. FSCO, the body that regulates pension plans has been conducting a review with regard to some of OMERS investment practices, specifically in relation to Borealis Infrastructure.

When describing the existing rail tunnels, I was surprised that there was no mention of it possibly being used by trucks although there was a map included that was more appropriate for the truckroad than rail. Pictures included show that "much of [the DRTP] corridor is surrounded by vacant or industrial land." Except for those homes built in South Windsor subdivisions or the shopping area around the mall I guess.

The document gives a glowing introduction to people about CP Rail, describing its rail network and its importance to the economies of North America. It goes on and on for pages. Of course, since DRTP is still the Jobs Tunnel, amongst other names some of which are printable, it points out the millions of jobs that depend on the railway in both countries.

The CASO/DRTP corridor is described from Highway 401 to the border with several pictures shown of it. The corridor is described as "vital to the National Transportation Network."

DRTP uses a great line in the document, so politically correct it is hilarious:

"The tunnel is challenged by its age."

In other words, it is almost 100 years old and the new taller rail cars do not fit inside it. As an example, Honda's new rail cars will not fit through the tunnel since they are too tall.

Finally the pitch: a new taller rail tunnel has to be built beside the existing ones.

Then a description of how the tunnel can be built and that it can be built 4 years after environmental approvals are given and government permits issued. As well, a whole page devoted to effect, pre-clearance for trains!

What the document then tries to do is to seek to be involved in a study to improve freight and passenger rail service in Detroit and to make Detroit a transportation hub between east coast Canada and the US midwest. Of course, in DRTP's opinion, their DRTP corridor is vital and the study will disclose how to optimize its use locally, regionally and nationally. Freight, commuter and passenger rail traffic will all be part of this study.

I think the document then asks for money but the way it is worded, I am not sure. Somehow money is directed to be directed to MDOT for the study.

I was pretty happy when I saw the document. Its emphasis on rail exclusively ought to mean that the DRTP truck project is dead and gone. Even DRTP must believe that no one will buy into their project I hoped.

What I am not sure (although I was told that this document has been around since September, 2006) is actually when the document was presented. It certainly has been shown to those in various Government groups very quietly. I have not heard any publicity about it until the other day.

Let's assume that it was shown last September or October....then why did DRTP spend so much money on their Rails to Trails Windsor municipal election initiative? If the road route is dead, then why spend cash pretending to keep it alive? If the CASO line is still going to be used for trains, then why pretend that it is going to be used for Trails? Is DRTP proposing to put trains underground too now? Isn't it inconsistent talking about trains on CASO while at the same time talking about converting CASO to a new Ganatchio Trail?

Is this really just another way to build the truck expressway---Tradeway, Jobs Tunnel, Green Solution, new rail tunnel, who cares what. After all, a new rail tunnel was part of the DRTP project. Weren't the truck tolls going to help pay for it? Is the new DRTP approach now to de-emphasize the truck and accentuate rail so that once rail has been agreed to (and no rails to trails can be built OR tunnel as well), the truck route can be brought back?

It is all very confusing to me.

The Cheap Shot

If I were Dennis DesRosiers, I would file a Press Council complaint!

I read a definition of "Cheap shot" as "an unnecessarily aggressive and unfair remark directed at a defenseless person."

What else can one call Gord Henderson's comment in his Tuesday column respecting DesRosier. After effectively acknowledging everything that Dennis said in the past was true about the economic woes of Windsor, Gord ended up with this line:
  • "If so, it can't come fast enough for readers who've reminded me, in the wake of a New Year's "glass half full" column, that as many as 2,000 high-paying Windsor automotive jobs will disappear in a "summer of lost jobs" that will, in their view, have auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers "wringing his hands in glee at the continued suffering of his hometown."

I wonder who those anonymous people are. Don't they have the guts to make their names known? If not, why quote their nasty remarks?

I'll let Dennis defend himself if he chooses to do so. However, I have gotten to know Dennis over the last year or so because of this BLOG. While he and I may differ on some things (and he likes to rub it in about E C Row in particular), there is no doubt in my mind that he wants Windsor to succeed and is a good part of the success of certain institutions in this City!

I'll let Gord do the research for the money and jobs that Dennis has helped bring into Windsor with his contacts in the auto industry. I'll let Gord interview members of the University of Windsor Board to find out what Dennis has done there to make that instituion financially viable. I'll let Gord talk to some City politicians to ask them how Dennis offered to provide his services at no cost to the City to help to develop a new auto strategy for Windsor at this most difficult time for our City.

All I know is that Henderson owes him and Star readers an apology!

Border Rumblings

Sure I deal with the border a lot. Interestingly though, my readership numbers are highest on those days which tells me that others are fascinated too.

I cannot think of a more important story that the national media have so far, other than the odd story, ignored. It is a disgrace that no solution has been found yet but if you are a regular reader of this BLOG, you know why.

I hope that one day a PhD student will do a thesis on what has really happened over the last few years. What would be necessary though is for the people involved to tell the behind the scenes stories, the stuff that we poor members of the public could never hope to learn but what is really influencing what is going on.

Until that time comes, here are some interesting matters to consider when thinking about the border crossing issue these days:


  • "The nasty little gift Gov. Jennifer Granholm dropped on Michigan residents this week has spoiled our Christmas spirit.

    With her re-election campaign safely behind her, the governor announced that Michigan faces a $1 billion budget deficit over the next two years." (Detroit News)

I read a couple of the Letters to the Editor recently concerning the buses carrying hockey fans to the Wings game against the Leafs. One fellow got on the Tunnel Bus at 5:15 PM to go to see the teams play and got off at 7:40 p.m. "We had missed all but four minutes of the first period and buses that left after ours missed up to two whole periods." Another mentioned an obvious problem "Two-and-a-half hour tunnel bus ride with no washroom."

This is not the first time that Tunnel bus riders have complained about problems and yet neither Transit Windsor nor the WTC Chair/Mayor seem able to solve the problem.

The solution is simple: the Tunnel bus should use the Ambassador Bridge!


How many more stories can be published in the Star saying the same thing all over again. Don't they know that no one is interested. And when nothing happens as the Senior Levels do their own thing, it will prove that our Mayor and Council have no power whatsoever!

Oh well, at least we learned in the last one that Essex County Warden Nelson Santos is a smart politician by favouring a tunnel. It does not impact him or his constituents so why make an enemy of Eddie right away. It will happen soon enough.

As for Eddie, Brian, Sandra and Dwight....more of the same old, same old.


I found Eddie's comments on the tunnel costing extremely arrogant:

  • "Saying it's too expensive is an argument of convenience," Francis said. "A little homework shows it's possible and attainable. You can do anything with today's engineering."

Of course coming from a Mayor who has no idea what the final cost of the East end arena will be and who signs off on a deal before it is finalized so he has no bargaining position, what can we expect?

$6 billion is the largest outside cost number that the road to the bridge would cost using the DRIC numbers (oh I know that it will go hugely over-budget as all mega-projects do but forget about that for the minute). We also know that within a decade, pollution from trucks and diesel fuel will be minimized. So if you were Mayor of Windsor and the Senior Levels offered you $6 billion for the good of Windsor, would you build a tunnel?

I think not either. But it is a good issue to run on for the next Provincial election


Interesting story the other day about

  • "City council is calling on Ottawa to dismiss the Ambassador Bridge's application to twin its span, citing concerns about the impact on Windsor's environment and residents.

    The demand was made in a letter recently to federal Transport minister Lawrence Cannon."
I thought it would be interesteing to read that letter and the one sent to Premier McGuinty referred to in the story as well. Therefore, in keeping with the new spirit of openness at City Hall, I sent the following letter to the Mayor:
  • I saw this story in the Windsor Star. Since this letter to federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has been disclosed to the media, I would appreciate if you would provide me with a copy of it. I would also appreciate copies of the other letters sent to Premier Dalton McGuinty and other provincial government leaders."

Want to bet whether I will ever see them or not!

I assumed that this was part of the strategy that the Mayor had suggested to Council at their recent strategy session after the election since they were supposed to spend time on the issue during their meeting.

Imagine my horror when I read Council Halberstadt's BLOG where he said:

  • "These messages are quite misleading in my mind, since the present City Council, which took office at the start of December, has not discussed or set a strategy on the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge or given direction on any matter pertaining to the border...

    I anticipated wrongly that the border file would be seriously addressed when Council met over three days prior to Christmas in orientation and strategic planning sessions organized by the bureaucracy and two external consultants"
How could this be I thought...multi-day strategy sessions and nothing on the border! Why only at the beginning of December in his Inaugural speech Eddie had said:
  • "Let me speak with you about another environmental issue, economic issue, and quality of life issue about which I feel passionately.

    And that is our border crossing."
Wow, that flame of passion died quickly!

But that is not the BIG story. The BIG story is that the Public, and it seems Council, was misled. It was said that the letters were sent "recently" which would suggest that THIS Council was taking an anti-Ambassador Bridge position. I was surprised when I read that because I do know that there are a number of Councillors who can think on this Council and they are coming to the realization that all of this anti-Bridge Co. reaction is not productive and that one MUST deal with them.

Well then Alan told us:
  • Nowhere in the story did it say when these letters were sent. In fact, they stem from a Council direction at an in camera meeting of the old City Council long before the Nov. 13th municipal election."

What even Alan did not tell you was that Eddie's 13 page letter dated November 23 was faxed to the Minister and several others my inside moles tell me. An interesting date. After the election so the old Council would not care and before the new Council was sworn in so they would not have any input. I wonder who on Council actually saw a copy of the letter.

Someone owes the Councillors and the Public and apology. AND an explanation why we could not have been told the true facts.

Frankly, I would not be surprised, after Halberstadt's BLOG, if Ottawa and Toronto would not accept what the Mayor tells them is the City position unless it was supported by a public Council resolution.


Another 63,000 vehicles less in December, 2006 than a year earlier. Not good for the Tunnel's bottom line, not good for the WTC, not good for Windsor and certainly not good for taxpayers who have to make up the huge multi-million short-fall through City taxes. I believe that the total loss for the Tunnel is around 10% of the volume compared with last year.

Are the WTC Board members ever going to tell us what they are going to do to stop the bleeding of volumes and revenues? When is the new Tunnel Guru supposed to start breathing the Tunnel (not the fumes being spewed out of the Tunnel ventilation building I hope)

Can you imagine what the City of Detorit must be thinking now? Eddie told them at the Joint Councils meeting that Windsor's dividend was $6.6M per year and now, a year later, Windsor may not be receiving anything. And this is the City that some in Detroit want to be their partner?

Oh well, I am sure that Eddie will keep on running to Toronto and Ottawa to "demand" that they help him out. Someone has to because I cannot believe that any infrastructure investor would sink money into the Tunnel when there are so many other investments to make that have a chance of making a profit.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Has The Attack Started

You laugh. You think I am joking, that I cannot be serious in some of the BLOGs I write. It's not all bull contrary to what some may want you to think!

As you know, I have inside moles in many locations who feed me information. I try to warn my readers in advance so that you will be well-prepared. My spy at the Cow Palace in San Francisco gave me the heads-up information about bovine flatulence, cow farts to you.

And the first attack may have started. Did you read the story from CNN about New York. Why do you think I really went there during Christmas...the shopping was a mere cover story. Now YOU are warned!

Mayor Bloomberg: Natural Gas Odor Not Dangerous

January 08, 2007

The mayor said this morning that it is not clear what caused the natural gas smell throughout the city, however he said it is not believed to be dangerous and that city sensors are not reporting elevated levels of natural gas.

Hundreds of reports of the odor began flooding the 911 system around 9 a.m. in parts of Manhattan and New Jersey.

Bloomberg said there was a small natural gas leak reported at 6th Street and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village earlier this morning, but that it would not have caused such a pervasive smell.

Con Edison and various city agencies are still working to determine the cause of the odor.

The mayor said that air quality sensors throughout the city do not measure any high concentrations of natural gas that would be cause for concern, and that Con Edison has said that there has not been a drop in pressure along the natural gas system, which would indicate a leak.

He reminded New Yorkers that natural gas is colorless and odorless and that a chemical called mercaptan is added to natural gas to give it a strong odor so that it can be easily detected. The smell could have been caused by a mercaptan leak.

Early reports indicated that the odor was spread throughout Manhattan, from Battery Park City to Upper Manhattan, and in various parts of New Jersey, but the odor seems to have dissipated.

Some buildings throughout the city were reportedly evacuated, but are said to be reoccupied.

PATH train service was restored around 10:30 a.m., after it was suspended earlier between Hoboken and 33rd Street and between Journal Square and 33rd Street.

Subway service was not affected. No injuries have been reported.

On Bended Knee

  • If this keeps up, then Transport Minister Cannon and provincial counterpart, Ontario Minister Cansfield, may have to go on bended knee and beg the Bridge Co. to build a new bridge at their site. Similarly Mayor Francis, if the Detroit Windsor Tunnel continues the bleeding of traffic volume and revenue, may have to swallow his pride and beg the Bridge Co. to manage the Tunnel for him after all.

    When I was away, the Star carried a story about the GreenField Ethanol plant being abandoned. The plant that was going to be built in Windsor was now going to Johnstown, Ontario near Cornwall. It was a $120M plant with 50 full-time people and 200 spin-off jobs so it was a big deal.
The reason for the abandonment: "engineeering difficulties [that] centred around the stability of the Ojibway Industrial Park land, which has been called into question in past environmental assessment reports. The bedrock technically can settle....we have seen engineering studies that have shown us it is possible."

I probably should not have been so surprised. Back in September, the Company announced "The project itself has slid down our priority list." At the time, it was said "The concern is that the soil conditions and bedrock on the Ojibway land won't be able to support the planned plant, which was supposed to become the country's largest ethanol-producing factory."

Interestingly, VistaPrint had the same problem so it abandoned its plans and went to Lakeshore in 2004. "The international graphic design and printing company had been interested in building a 64,000-square-foot plant in Ojibway Industrial Park." However "Ojibway was ruled out because it was found that soil conditions couldn't support a printing plant." Windsor lost "Nearly 200 new, permanent, full-time, high quality/high skill jobs with good wages and benefits" although they at least stayed in the region in Lakeshore.

Roman Dzus, the acting director of the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission, back in 2005 had said that the "the majority of the Ojibway land cannot accommodate heavy industry because of soil conditions. Such conditions eliminated the area as a location for VistaPrint's new printing plant."

So please give me your thoughts on this: if we cannot build a printing plant or an ethanol plant at Ojibway because the soil will not support it and if we know that the area has major problems, how can DRIC suggest that we build a bridge or a customs plaza or even roads in that area. Sure they are spending millions of both sides of the river to prove it can be done but...who is going to be the one to guarantee it. And I hope whoever does it has the insurance to back it up if there is a problem down the road!

Can someone please explain to me why we need to take such a chance when a mile down the road we know that there is a spot where there are no problems whatsoever ie the Bridge Co. lands.

Oh, oh...I just answered my question. Anywhere but there must be the reply. We will spend whatever it takes, build a bridge longer than required whether diagonally or in an S-shape and take the risk just so the Ambassador Bridge lands will not be used. It can cost hundreds of millions extra but what's a few taxpayer dollars amongst friends.

When someone in Ottawa or Toronto does wake up and identify the risk, guess who will have to be called and asked if a bridge can be built on his property. Just as Eddie will have to do as the Tunnel goes deeper into its own financial "sink-hole." Nothing like bargaining from a postion of weakness.

PS. I found the timing of the Star story interesting. It came out right after Christmas I believe when not too many people read the paper. That day's edition of the Star never made it into the Star archives so try and find the story at all. Could it be that the Star did not want to ruin everyone's Christmas by telling us that hundreds of well-paying jobs were leaving the region. I know we have all of those high-tech call centre jobs coming to replace them...

But here's the really strange part of all of this, the Star's sister publication, the Ottawa Citizen reported on December 9 that the GreenField plant was moving to Johnstown. In fact, a Press Release was sent out by the Company about it on December 4. In other words, the Star knew about this, or should have, weeks before but did not report it.

I understand though. How could the Star report the bad news when Eddie was giving his Inaugural speech a few days later on December 6 where he said that Windsor had to be a
  • "A place whose strong economy and well-paying jobs create a high standard of living. A place of prosperity – with families earning good money, and young people choosing to stay in Windsor or return here for high-paying, skilled jobs."

Bloodless Coup D'Etat In Windsor

Wait a minute. I am totally confused now. It appears that Fiji is not the only place that has had a revolution recently that overthrew the Government. Windsor has had one too that you probably missed because of the holidays. Not surprisingly, it happened right after the election so that the local political forces with 3 newbies could do nothing to prevent it!.

It appears now that Mayor Francis, as a lame-duck Mayor by his own choosing, is a powerless figure-head in the City of Windsor for the next 4 years--- if he stays around that long. If someone supposedly as powerful and intimidating as he can be so easily ignored by his own bureaucracy, how can he be an effective negotiator for the City of Windsor on important matters like the border file with Senior Levels. As Eddie is now someone who commands no respect in Windsor, they can effectively ignore him too! And Windsorites as well.

Did you see the story about the City NOT revealing the information about the rental price at the Canderel building. The City is prepared to make the entire lease available except that "The dollar amounts were severed," from the rest of the leases, said Chuck Scarpelli, the city's Freedom of Information co-ordinator."

Clearly this is Administration running amok again as the CAO did at the secret Council strategy session where he over-ruled the Mayor and chased away reporters. It was reported that "Windsor's chief administrative officer John Skorobohacz said it was his decision to hold Thursday's workshop behind closed doors and he did not consult with city councillors." This time it is a lower level bureaucrat who seems to be making decisions and over-ruling the Mayor.

Chuck must have been away and missed the Star story "End secrecy, Francis says: Mayor urges city to abandon confidentiality clauses." OR, perhaps he does not seem to care what his supposed political boss has to say. Presumably another bureaucrat makes the real decisions as head of the municipality for the purposes of the Act. That person is the City Clerk, Brenda Andreatta, although her name does not appear on the decisions.

The Mayor said in that November 30 story:
  • "With regards to moving forward, 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," Francis said during a meeting with The Windsor Star's editorial board...

    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."

Frankly the Mayor's position is a ridiculous one: let some other bureaucrat make the decision for the City, this time a Provincial one. But at least from the City's position, he appeared to want openness.

He did NOT say that the City would actively oppose an application. Effectively though that is what Scarpelli is doing. Now the Star must file an appeal because of what Chuck did by keeping the rent secret. His position is not what the Mayor said it was going to be. He is making the Mayor's job harder.

Moreover, the City is taking a strange position on an appeal by ex-candidate Chris Schnurr when in his case they could not even respond within the statutory time-period and there was a "deemed refusal" under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. You know already about my case as well.

Now the City is having a bad time in MFOIA requests. We know the one the Star won respecting the Keg parking. But a few days before the Keg decision came out, another one came out that the City lost also! It is a 23 page decison, ORDER MO-2115 released on November 7, 2006

In that case, someone asked for "records concerning the disposal and treatment of City sewage sludge." [Check out my BLOG September 08, 2006 How Smelly Sludge Turned Non-odorous for a discussion about this ] What was requested was "Price Quotation, Equipment Amortization Schedule, Unit Pricing Information and site work specifications." The application was opposed by the City. "The City denied access, in part, to records responsive to Parts 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the request, relying on the exemptions set out in sections 10(1) (third party information) and 11 (economic and other interests of an institution) of the Act."

The City should know by now that:

  • 1) "Previous orders have found that except in unusual circumstances, agreed upon essential terms of a contract are considered to be the product of a negotiation process and therefore are not considered to be “supplied” [for the purposes of section 10 of the Act]

    2) "A bid proposal may be “supplied” by the third party during the tendering process. However, if it is successful and is incorporated into or becomes the contract, it may become “negotiated” information, since its presence in the contract signifies that the other party agreed to it."

Interestingly, in the case the City lost:

  • "The entire Memorandum of Understanding has been disclosed to the appellant, except for the unit and invoice amounts, which have been severed. The undisclosed portions of this record are the amounts of the amended unit prices, amending the unit prices set out in Schedule “E”. For the same reasons as in Record 2, I find that undisclosed portions of this record were not supplied for the purposes of section 10(1)"

That should make it easier for the Star and Schnurr to win.


  • "Furthermore, Schedule “A” to the Operating Agreement, the proposal call document, contains the following statement:

    The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) applies to all proposals submitted to the City. The City will consider all proposals confidential, subject to the provisions of the disclosure requirements of the Act. Please identify those portions of your proposals which contain scientific, technical, commercial or financial information which has been supplied in confidence, and which will, in the proponent's opinion, cause harm if disclosed."


Francis talked about the "with regards to moving forward." He did not tell us that his moving forward was the "way back." I guess this is true "Back to the Future" Francis politics. It is just like his "Future starts today" campaign signs that were three years old.

I do NOT like being played. Please explain to me how Eddie is not trying to make a fool of all of us with his so-called "new" approach if that approach seems to have been around for at least a decade already.

What are the real facts? Which Councillor has the guts to stand up in public at Council and demand an answer from the Mayor.

Surely, one person should be Councillor Hatfield. As a hard-hitting journalist, he would not let a story like this go. I can imagine his questions on Percy's Panel. What about the Mayor-in-waiting, Bill Marra? Here is his chance to show that he would never do such a thing. The Councillor with the Blog, Alan Halberstadt, should be doing another of his exposes on Purchasing practices.

As for feeling like foolish, that prize has to go to the Windsor Star and Don McArthur in particular. McArthur wrote back on December 4 that

  • "The pledge by Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis to stop using confidentiality clauses when the city inks deals with the private sector is a welcome step."

Some welcome step that may have been City policy for years already. How does he feel today, and the Star Editorial Board, after it seems that Eddie offered them a "new" solution that may be a decade old. Did he make them look like saps as they spread the message that perhaps Eddie had reformed? Were they all suckered like we may have been? If I were in charge at the Star, then I would have Ms Danese do a follow-up to see what the City's purchasing practicers have been in relation to Freedom of Information so the true facts will be made public!

But don't hold your breath!

It is time that Council take control over the Mayor and Administration. If not, it will be a very difficult 4 years for Windsor. Council controlled Hurst in his last year. It would be easy for them to control a lame-duck Eddie!

If the facts as outlined here are true, then Eddie must offer Windsor an apology immediately.