Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hockey Pucking Windsor

Wow, the excitement is really building for the East End Arena Sellabration.

The Mayor and Council are really trying super-hard to sell this project to us aren't they. Hmmm, I wonder if this is being done in case the Project Ice Track boys are trying to lure the Pittsburgh Penguins to their new arena. They may want to move their franchise don't they? Imagine Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky together in Tecumseh!

To help sellabrate, customized free hockey pucks will be given away to the first 200 guests at the Icebreaking. My guess is that more than 200 were ordered to keep costs per unit down and to give out as souvenirs to "important" people but I may have to file another Municipal Fredom of Information application to get the details. Somehow I am sure this may provide damaging competitive information to the Town of Tecumseh and the Project Ice Track people so it will not be disclosed easily.

Oh well, the Spitfires get a new arena to play in and taxpayers get a puck!

Speaking of the arena, I had a question about what happened on Monday night at Council respecting financing the arena (Councillor Dilkens is not the only one who knows how to use a segue).

I am going to set out a lot of this material in great detail for you, because I believe that there is a question about how the City has acted. Of course it is commendable to try to save taxpayers money but the Province has said the way it must be done. Has the City complied?

Why am I raising all of this? Remember that I thought that the City may not have complied with its Purchasing By-law. I am still trying to figure out what has been done re an environmental assessment. And now the financing raises questions in my mind!

The agenda item dealt with temporary borrowing of money to finance the arena until torrents of money come in to pay it off by 2010. Since the timing of expenditures does not match the timing of the availability of internal financing, interim financing needs to be obtained. The proposal was:
  • to provide the temporary financings of the construction phase by bankers' acceptances

  • to pay off the temporary construction borrowings by the proceeds of a permanent, fixed rate bank loan

  • the entire project costs be repaid by 2010 from the debt reduction fund.

An RFP was issued and the TD Bank won the competition for the construction phase financing and agreed to issue bankers' acceptances. The borrowing cost was estimated at $2.7M

Interestingly, the fixed rate financing loan part of the RFP for the post construction period--2009 and early 2010--was "deferred" since total amounts of the construction loan are preliminary, subject to timing and corporate cash flows. A report is to come back to Council once definitive figures and timelines are agreed to. The TD Bank agreed to provide a fixed rate instrument (although I do not recall seeing an interest rate). The interest cost for this period was estimated to be $1.5M. Is this just an "agreement to agree?"

The purpose of this approach is the very commendable objection to avoid interest payments associated with long-term (20-30 year) debentures. Who can argue with that!

There were 2 references to the Municipal Act in the Recommendation to Council:

  1. The Municipal Act 2001, allows a municipality to authorize temporary borrowings to fund expenditures made in connection with a capital project, and

  2. There was a need for a fixed rate permanent financing loan for the post-construction period.

Being curious, I looked in the Municipal Act and Regulations. I thought I knew what sections were being contemplated as the basis but could not tell for sure. Accordingly, I sent this note to the City Treasurer:

  • I read the Council Report respecting the "interim bridge financing."

    Please tell me what section of the Municipal Act permits the "temporary borrowings to fund expenditures made in connection with a capital project" and what Regulation permits the interim financing as you have structured it ie the bankers' acceptance notes.

    I am only aware of temporary borrowings that are allowed "prior to entering into a long-term bank loan agreement" in the nature of a debenture only and no use of bankers' acceptance notes for your purposes. The only regulation that I have seen that may permit what you are doing is to "support municipal long-term financing of capital infrastructure" which this is not.

    I appreciate that the drawings are during the "construction phase" and that the temporary borrowing is supposed to be replaced by a permanent bank loan and the entire loan is to be repaid by 2010.

    Since Phase II is NOT being dealt with at this time, it appears to me that there is no legal authority to do the bridge financing. In fact, the Report says that "permanent financing" comes from the debt reduction fund

    I would also appreciate as well if you could tell me how this is "bridge financing" in any event. I am not aware that this term is to be used for multi-year borrowings as has been done now on several occasions by the City.

I received this response:

  • as indicated in the report, regulatory compliance was fully considered prior to making the recommendations contained in the report. You may note in the report that Administration recommended against options which in its view may not have been allowed under the act.

    In order to ensure legal compliance, staff from the City Solicitor's office were included as part of the team that made the recommendation. They indicate that the legal authority for the financing can be found in the Municipal Act 2001, section 405(1) and regulation 276. I concur with their opinion. Legal staff from the RFP respondents also considered regulatory matters in making their submissions.

    As for your question on explaining why we consider this to be bridge financing, I would offer the following comments. We consider this to be bridge financing as it will bridge the time period from start of construction to the permanent financing at the end of the construction. The permanent financing loan will then be repaid by 2010. The funding for this project follows traditional municipal funding processes. The only unusual facet is that the project will be fully paid by 2010 instead of being funded by 20 or 30 year term debentures. This will save taxpayers millions of dollars in interest costs.

Section 405 and Regulation 276 were the provisions that I thought were applicable as the Treasurer stated. Here are the relevant provisions:

Section 405 (1)

  • A municipality may authorize temporary borrowing to meet expenditures made in connection with a work to be financed in whole or in part by the issue of debentures if,
    (a) the municipality is an upper-tier municipality, a lower-tier municipality in a county or a single-tier municipality and it has approved the issue of debentures for the work;

  • (2) The proceeds obtained under subsection (1) shall be applied to the approved work but the lender is not responsible for ensuring the proceeds are used in this manner.

Regulation 276

I had read in some Ministry materials that published in 2002:

  • "For the first time, municipalities will be able to borrow money from banks to meet long-term financing needs.

    A regulation filed September 27, 2002 under Ontario's Municipal Act, 2001, responds to municipal requests for this new flexibility. Currently municipalities can only undertake long-term borrowing by issuing debentures. Municipalities, particularly smaller ones, believe bank loans would be a lower cost alternative...

    This regulation is just one of the new tools to support municipal long-term financing of capital infrastructure."

The purpose of section 405 is to allow for "bridge financing" ie "Bridge financing is a method of financing used to maintain liquidity while waiting for an anticipated and reasonably expected inflow of cash. "(Wikipedia). Section 405 states there can only be "temporary borrowings" if there is a "debenture" issued. There is no debenture to be issued.

Fortunately, Regulation 276, section 7 allows a bank loan agreement to be used instead of a debenture.

So far so good except, is there a "bank loan?" That part of the City's actions has been deferred and may never be needed. We have no idea if TD Bank has even given an acceptable interest rate for the loan. There is only a committment to give one. Nothing has been approved.

Even if it could be said that there is a loan, is it a long-term loan in the nature of a debenture? Can a loan of perhaps a bit more than one year be classified as something that falls under the Act and Regulations notwithstanding what an accountant may say is a long-term loan. Is the City meeting the true purpose of the statute?

Is the bankers' acceptance a violation of the Act since it is entered into as a "temporary borrowing?" Is it a violation since it purports to fall under Section 405, something the regulation does not seem to allow?

Given what 'bridge financing" seems to mean, does the Treasurer's explanation fit within that definition?

Someone one day may have to deal with these issues. Perhaps the Councillors who allowed this matter to go forward on the Consent Agenda as an example. I hope for taxpayers sake, they are answered in a positive manner for the City. If not, then there will be hell to pay and I do NOT mean to a bank.

Windsor As A Negotiator

I think I am going to do a deal with the City of Windsor. It really does not matter what the deal is actually since I will be the ultimate winner.

Think I am kidding? Heck, everyone else is doing it so why shouldn't I too. Let me give you some examples:

1) Phase 1 Memorandum of Understanding with the Senior Levels where Eddie's agreement was viewed as opening the door for the use of E C Row as a border road for Montreal-to-Tijuana trucks:

"Canada, Ontario and Windsor agree to meet to develop a Phase 2 agreement on additional projects that will be pursued to improve the efficiency of the Windsor Gateway. Such discussions shall include consideration of, but not be limited to, improvements to Huron Church Road, EC Row Expressway, Lauzon Parkway and other options as they may be presented."

2) Cheap Keg parking at five cents a day

3) Canderel rent at an "average" of $7.75 per square foot when the City leased it for $23.08 per square foot initially. (I believe that the City rent was reduced after the City paid a lump-sum payment to the developer)

4) City is obliged to hand over "a clean site" to Shmuel Farhi, the developer who will get a prime waterfront parcel from the City and it will cost the City $200K to remove "foundation" materials there.

5) City agrees to pay for the East end arena "the building permits, at a cost of $900,000, and $300,000 for bonding and insurance" because that is what the developer negotiated according to Mr. Sadler.

6) Cleary deal with St. Clair where we not only gave them the building but are paying them to take it from us.

7) Our MFP "victory" (after the Court of Appeal decided that the City's key document was not privileged and the other side did not have to hand it back) that cost taxpayers an extra $68 M over what we initially were led to believe the deal would cost us.

With all of this background, I can hardly wait to see what the various agreements with the Spitfires will be!

Taxman 2006 Income Tax Software

It's that time again. Remember what I wrote last year....Well I am doing it again!

Do you hate paying taxes? Isn't it awful having to do those calculations to fill in those tax forms?

Isn't it adding insult to injury to have to pay for software in order to do the work needed to pay your taxes to the Government or to hire someone to do it for you?

There is a not to paying taxes but to paying for software. For the last few years I have gone to and downloaded the free "Taxman" software. That's No payment required

Of course, I make no representations about it. Make your own decision about using it. (Caveat emptor and all of that). All I know is that I have used it and it makes life simpler for me

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Different Windsor Champs Elysee

Shhhhhhhhh. Keep it between us. I don't want to give the bureaucrats another idea. Or Mike Hurst either. He'll come up with another slogan for the DRTP corridor ---"Double-deck Windsor" as an example--as he will try to sell it for this purpose too.

It could actually work with not too much disruption to our existing road system and not look bad either if the Tampa elevated road artist rendition is accurate. In fact, if the elevated section is constructed higher than required to cross city streets, such a design could take the traffic noise away from ground level.
How about looking at an elevated roadway to the new border crossing

Not possible you say? What if DRIC or the Governments decide that Windsor has blown it. We have waited too long and the $300M BIF funds can be used in other areas of Canada and Ontario for infrastructure (and to keep the Governing Party in power in Government at election time coming this year).

However, there is a need to do something in Windsor to move trucks. I have heard that a rough plan has been developed that could build an elevated road on Huron Church Road between E C Row and the new border crossing for well under $100M.

Will that be our future? It might be if it is so inexpensive and practical. Let's see a la Gord Henderson what other countries are doing to solve congestion problems quickly and inexpensively. Combine this with a totally reconstructed E C Row at Senior Level expense and here is another option for us that we should consider!

And if you do not like it on Huron Church, build it on EC Row for trucks! Trucks above and over the wide median while preserving future expansion for local use.

Bangalore-Mysore Toll Road, India

India's technology capital Bangalore is to get an $87 million toll motorway to help battle the city's growing congestion problems. It is due to open in April 2007 and 33% of the cost will be paid for by the business tenants.

This forms part of the larger 111km, four-lane Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP), a realisation of over a decade's planning to solve the growing congestion problems of India's technology capital.

The proposal is to build a four-lane elevated concrete toll expressway (expandable to six at a later date) to link Bangalore with a key job-spinning suburb to tackle traffic problems stemming from high levels of growth.


ITD has the distinction of being the first private road and highway contractor in Thailand and the only Thai contractor with a continuous record of road and highway construction since the Thai Government first invited private contractors to participate in road construction in 1963.

From the simplest of laterite fill road formations to the complexity of elevated expressways and interchanges, railways and bridges, ITD has an impressive list of successfully completed projects. Some projects, such as the steel prefabricated flyovers constructed over some of the busiest intersections in Bangkok, required innovative construction methods to be developed by ITD's project implementation teams to minimise time on site and to maintain traffic flow...

Elevated expressways and bridge projects are strongly supported by ITD's "in-house" ISO 9002 certified precast concrete factory and structural steel fabrication facilities, along with a comprehensive inventory of general and specialist plant and equipment. ITD generally fabricates its own specialised elevated expressway segment launching equipment. [Just think of the jobs we could have in Windsor to support such a road!]

Tampa's El opens

Tampa's brilliant 14.5km (9mi) long elevated reversible express lanes (El) opened for inbound traffic 6am Tuesday July 18. The St Petersburg Times editorialized:

"Commuters said they shaved a quarter hour or more from their drive into work, a savings of time and frustration beyond any rational measure."

Tampa Tribune reporters said that the trip on the El was 10mins in the rush hour compared to 20mins on the old lower lanes.

They got these quotes from motorists:

"Awesome," Aida Gonzalez of Valrico said after exiting the highway at Meridian Avenue and Twiggs Street. "Oh my God! It took like 10 minutes or so."

Elaine Cook said her first trip on the one-way highway was "fun" but "a little bit scary."

"I didn't want to be the first one on the news to go off the side," Cook said. "But it was nice looking down at all the people bumper-to-bumper into Tampa on the crosstown."

"I loved it," said Susan Hinson of Brandon.

High concrete box girder

Two thirds of the project is elevated concrete box girder construction down the median of the existing 2x2 lanes of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, the major route into downtown Tampa and the port of Tampa from the east. It was constructed Figg Bridge of Tallahassee for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority (THCEA), one of three major metropolitan toll authorities in Florida (the others being in Orlando and Miami.) Figg specialize in prefabricated concrete box girder construction.

The facility has variously been named a bridge, a bridgeway, reversible elevated express lanes, Pat's Folly (after its champion, former Tampa Expressway Authority CEO Pat McCue). We'll call it the Tampa El after the New York City and Chicago abbreviation for Elevated.

It grew from two lanes to 3 plus 2 shoulders

The project started as just two lanes in a deck about 11m (36ft) wide but grew to the present three 3.65m (12ft) travel land and a breakdown shoulder of 3m (10ft) on both sides for a total deck of 17m (56ft) over most of its length. The far eastern end at Brandon is only two travel lanes. The El is high so that full sized vehicles can travel under its cantilevered sides. There is space to widen the local lanes inward to 2x3 from the present 2x2 by going under the El.

With traffic highly directional - inbound or westwards mornings and outbound or eastwards evenings - the express lanes facility will be reversed in direction in the middle of the day allowing up to 5 lanes (3 express over much of the distance, 2 lanes at the eastern end in Brandon plus the regular 2 lanes of the established surface expressway. The reversible feature can also be tailored to large traffic flows to or from downtown sports stadiums, the convention center and cruise ships in the port. The importance of the facility will be enhanced by a planned north-south I-4 Connector road through Ybor City, a trendy area of lofts, shopping and eating in old brick tobacco warehouses to the immediate northeast of the downtown.

The El is for downtown-bound or downtown-originating traffic with only one intermediate entry/exit point. At its western end near downtown the El feeds into Meridian Boulevard an attractively landscaped and signalized distributor road that was built by the Expressway Authority as part of the overall project. There are similar high quality distributor improvements off the eastern end in Brandon.

Elevated expressway: 68 km, 4-lane speedway

New Delhi, April 17, 2005: An elevated expressway above Ring Road now seems to be a distinct possibility with the Delhi Government seriously examining the feasibility study that was submitted last week.

The report on the Rs 4,600-crore project for the 68.5-km expressway—second only to the Delhi Metro in scale and size—was prepared by Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS).

It divides the Ring Road into six segments, and using statistics, explains the need for an elevated expressway and Metro rail. The exponential growth of vehicles—currently numbering around 44 lakh—at the rate of 6.45 per cent each year, has forced the Government to look for more road space. Analysed by Wilbur Smith Associates, the report says the current travel time on Ring Road is a tiring 2.5 hours. The current average speed of traffic on it is 25 kmph—in some sections, it is even below 16 kmph.

Using a sophisticated multi-modal transportation model using the software, TransCAD, the report has projected that there will be a traffic gridlock by 2020, as the average speed on Ring Road would then be a mere 7 kmph.

To avoid traffic congestion, delays and pollution, the report underlines the need to provide increased road capacity as the Delhi Metro, High Capacity Bus System, Electric Trolley Buses and Light Rail Transit system would not be able to take care of all the congestion on Ring Road. So, a 50.5-km long expressway is proposed to be built above Ring Road. Of this, 45.5 km will run elevated.

Marra And The Tunnel

Who is going to wear the crown of Mr. Tunnel in Windsor now that Al Teshuba was not elected? We do need someone to pick up the tunnel rhetoric after all.

There certainly seems to be a competition going on between the Mayor and the Mayor To-Be over it. Bill Marra actually was the one who started the tunnel talk during his mayoral campaign against Eddie the first time around, a very brief mention mind you. Then when Eddie's Schwartz Plan disappeared in a sinkhole in the West end, out came the Mayor with Tunnel, Tunnel, Tunnel as his scare-mongering platform for re-election.

In a move of Tunnel oneupsmanship, Marra signalled his intent to introduce a Motion "for a council resolution informing the Detroit River International Crossing study group that "they must have a tunnelled solution for Windsor border traffic."

OOOOO, I can just see the DRIC forces shaking in their boots as delegation after delegation, with leader Al in charge, speak at the Council meeting in favour of a Tunnel. (I bet no one discusses the real concern: Essex County and Michigan cows but that is another BLOG! And if you think I am kidding, see Sunday's Detroit News). The poor Councillors who will have to vote in favour of this absurdity will not thank Bill for putting them on the spot. Of course, none will have the nerve to vote NO!

Now why would the Mayor allow Bill to take the lead respecting Tunnels. It's his issue isn't it? The answer is simple: Eddie knows, as do all of us, that there is no hope of a multi-billion dollar tunnel ever being built here. It got him re-elected so it served its purpose.

But Eddie had a major problem after the election. Eddie had to create a strategy to get people to forget about him and tunnels. He knew he could not deliver. Thank goodness for Eddie that Bill did the work for him! Bill has chosen on his own to come forward to be the scape-goat when the Tunnel issue falls flat on its face.

How many rabbits' feet did Eddie have to rub to get that accomplished? Talk about good luck!

Let Marra take the lead and be made the loser on the issue as he is ignored and proven ineffective. The consequences of this:

  1. That will allow Eddie's real choice for Mayor when he goes to Queen's Park to be appointed by Council. (You did not think there would be a by-election did you).
  2. That will allow Bill's colleagues the excuse not to vote for him
  3. That will allow Bill to be smeared subsequently as a closet DRTP-supporter after Hurst jumps on the tunnel bandwagon.
  4. That will allow Henderson to blame Marra and his Liberal friends for undermining Windsor and Eddie's great scheme so that Eddie can go to Queen's Park to save us.
  5. That will allow for all of the Hurst-Lite venom that was going to used against Marra, during the mayoral campaign that never was, to be employed against Bill to destroy his mayoral ambitions.

And as for Eddie, why he has another Plan that he will spring on us before the provincial election as Marra's concept sinks into the afternoon sun with him being discredited completely.

Of course, you know that the Senior Levels have just about had enough of this. They are going to have some fun too.

I would not be surprised if you see a trial ballon demanding that the City put up one-third of the cost of a tunnel if we want it so much. Windsor will have to find up to a billion dollars for the City-desired tunnel. Then after the noise about that dies down, the coup de grace: an announcement that the $300 million BIF money is being withdrawn after so many years since Windsor has no solution for the border road. If the pollsters are now saying there will not be a Federal election in the spring, then watch out. The Conservatives can pull the funding, blame Windsor and then, when the election is announced, can use money to help get their candidates elected in Windsor.

Eddie will have been elected by then and will be in John Tory's Cabinet as Attorney General. Frankly, by that time, he could no longer give a damn!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

City Hall Thoughts

Just a few things I thought about over the last few days with the goings-on at City Hall. They are not enough to write a complete BLOG about but interested me:

  • Remember, the employee morale survey undertaken a few months ago, well morale must be so good due to the efforts of the Mayor and CAO that the non-unionized employees want to unionize.

  • DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET. When listening to Council on Cogeco, that buzzing sound is not a problem with your TV set. I called the TV repairman about it and he said that it was a common complaint. The noise is actually the vibrators on the Blackberry units of the Councillors going off and being picked up by the microphones. Council meetings are so dull that Councillors message themselves to stay awake.

  • Who is the genius who stayed up late at night to call the ceremony re the East End arena the "Icebreaking Celebration!" A freudian slip or a shot at Project Ice Track

  • LaSalle arena gets $3.8M grant...Windsor's Arena gets.....Oh I forgot, Eddie fought with Dwight and Sandra, Fulvio made some nasty comments about them while Gord Henderson slammed them

  • Dennis DesRosiers must be happy now. Henderson had to devote a whole column to him. Who cares what he wrote! A media type I know suggests that it may not have been completely a co-incidence that a well-written letter praising DesRosiers found its way to the Letter to the Editor section as well. Since Dennis' letter also was published, is that a hat-trick for him?

  • If the "average" lease-rate for Canderel is $7.75, which tenant got the highest rate and which got the lowest to arrive at the "average." I can guess who got the lowest, can you?

  • I think Eddie must have forgotten to tell us what the yearly escalator for the rent is or what the renewal rate is. Is there a reason why he forgot to tell us? Must be that darn amnesia virus again.
  • Do you know the reason that Eddie felt so obliged to tell us exactly what the legal and consultants fees for the border file accomplished?

  • Why did a Star reporter get access to letters sent to Premier McGuinty and Transport Minister Cannon but a City Councillor had to ask for them in public at a Council meeting? Couldn't the Mayor just have given them to him?

  • Did the City really have to buy customized hockey pucks to give away free at its Sellebration of the East End arena and also free commemorative flyers? I hate to be a party pooper but how much did they cost and would it have been a better idea to make a contribution to Brentwood instead if the City has so much money to throw around

  • Take a look at the Tunnel Commission before you seek to become a member. Members of the Commission for this prized asset of Windsor get a whole $60 per meeting. Disgraceful for the amount of effort that would have to be put in. Who would want the responsibility! I thought about applying for a position on the Commission but I would not get it since I'd vote to close it down unless its unique security risk was dealt with immediately and someone was hired to run it as the Mayor/Chair promised months ago.

  • I'd probably have to fight too many Councillors to get appointed to the Windsor Utilities Commission. They get $8,156 per year to attend 8 meetings it seems. I am not sure if that is in total or per member.

Zuk: Off And Running

Hands up if you are surprised that Joyce Zuk may be running against Brian Masse for the Liberals in the next Federal election. No one? Anyone?

She was a Stephane Dion supporter for the Liberal leadership.
  • "Joyce Zuk support Stephane Dion, who has 16 per cent of the vote. "I like what he has to say about balancing a thriving economy with sustainable development," said Zuk. "He's the only candidate speaking with any credibility about the environment and how you can have a focus on the economy without devastating our natural heritage.

    That's important to her, she said, and she and other Dion supporters believe it will resonate with voters because the environment is becoming a priority."
It is pretty clear to me now why Joyce decided not to run as Councillor municipally. She had said back in July that
  • "she's dropping out of politics...It's time for me to find some other ways to serve the people...Zuk said her main reason for not seeking a third term is she wants to devote more time to her executive director position at The Well-Come Centre -- a shelter for homeless women."
That objective did not last very long did it!

Obviously, if she wanted to run federally, it would not be such a good idea to jump right after you had been elected municipally would it? More importantly, there was no guarantee that Joyce would have won in Ward 1 with Councillor Budget still running strong and Drew Dilkens running a tough campaign. Running as a losing municipal candidate in a federal election would not have looked very good.

Joyce has had all of this time to concentrate on her Federal campaign and how to beat Brian Masse. Known as a powerful organizer, I would not be surprised at all to see a very strong political machine come out against the NDP incumbent. Expect a campaign as well on "we need a woman for Ottawa" to be the under-current since it worked so well for her municipally last time around. Who knows, Joyce may have been offered a cabinet position as well as her way of "serving the people."

Both she and former Cabinet Minister Alan Rock, also a Dion supporter, were pleased at Dion's win. And Joyce knows how to say the right things too, especially since Jay Strosberg, president of the riding association in Windsor West was an Ignatieff supporter:

  • "It was amazing. I've never been more proud to be a Liberal," retiring city Coun. Joyce Zuk said Sunday in a phone interview, en route to Windsor. She supported Dion "from Day 1" and said his victory is the first step toward Liberal party renewal.

    "I'm riding the train home with Ignatieff delegates and we're all so happy. I haven't seen this level of unity in years."

Forget the talk that she may run in the east end. Her strength is Ward 1 which is a good part of the Windsor West riding. Why anyone would think that she would consider going to the east is beyond me. I can think though of 2 reasons why the east maybe a lot friendlier for her. Joyce made a lot of enemies in Ward 1 over her border position as well as in Ward 2. Moreover, the Superior Park "racists" have long memories too!

In the east, rumours of Liberal candidates have ranged from Councillor Gignac to Liberal Provincial Minister Dwight Duncan who would want the victory to help promote his candidacy for the leadership of the Federal Liberals if Dion loses badly to Harper. Will Alan Rock run or will he continue to practise law? The big new name that is circulating though is that of Mayor Gary McNamara of Tecumseh. He had run provincially as a Liberal. The chances of him winning though would be remote since a good part of the riding is in Windsor and there would be the Project Ice Track bitterness that could hurt him.

What is interesting as well may be the number of members of Windsor Council who may decide to run federally.

1) The most obvious is Ken Lewenza Jr. Notwithstanding that Joe Comartin said "he plans to run in the next campaign, noting that his nomination meeting is slated for Feb. 1," the strong rumour is that he will retire. Why else would Kennie have been so desperate to win re-election in Ward 4. If he had lost, his political careeer would have been over.

2) Alan Halberstadt has already been pursued by the Conservatives to run in Comartin's riding. Check out his BLOGsite and his interview by Nick Kouvalis. The timing of that was strange given the trial going on but if Kouvalis is acquitted, then he becomes a powerful Conservative voice in this region and guess whom he will owe a favour for standing by him publicly during the darkest days of the trial.

3) Councillor Gignac's win can help her with her Liberal connections as could Councillor Brister's ego after his win. Some of his backers have strong Liberal connections (but they may be holding him back to run for mayor even though he said he would not do so)

4) And then there is Eddie...

By the way, if a Councillor or the Mayor wins, don't expect a by-election either. The Municipal Act provides for "appointments." We need to ensure that the "right" people are on Council, don't we. We cannot let electors decide since what do they know.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sticking It To DRIC

Council rezoned some land along the DRIC corridor on Huron Church to the new crossing last night at Council. The land at the northwest corner of Huron Church Road and Lambton Street is to be used for a motorcycle dealership. The Ministry requested that the matter be deferred.

Several Councillors and the Mayor made a big point about how the City cannot sit back and prevent commercial development along the corridor merely because it may be decided to use that road one day and that the rezoning was consistent with Council and the Community's desire to keep that road for local use.

Was the City right in doing what it did? Absolutely.

Was the City wrong in doing what it did? Absolutely!

It was not a planning decision last night but a political one. I guess it means that the land-owner may get a bonanza from the Senior Levels if he is ultimately expropriated since the land is now worth more.

Here we are again sticking it to the Senior Levels, causing problems, beating our chests in a fit of machoness instead of working with them for a proper solution. Oh we are obstructionists in this City aren't we!

One should expect the Province to appeal to the OMB so more taxpayer money will be wasted on a decision at Council that was political in nature. Councillor Budget made that absolutely clear in his comment in support of the motion.

And Councillor Valentinis still wonders why Windsor does not get grants and why no one listens to us. {sigh}

Dennis Has Friends Too

The Edmonton Journal is a sister publication of the Windsor Star, both owned by Canwest. Here is what its Business Columnist, Gary Lamphier, wrote about Gord's attack on Dennis DesRosiers:

  • "I've known Dennis DesRosiers, Canada's top auto analyst, since I was a Toronto-based auto industry reporter in the 1980s. Since we both hail from Windsor, Ont., we often compare notes on our hometown.

    Although DesRosiers has lived in the Toronto area for many years, he still spends several weeks a year in Windsor, as an unpaid member of the board of governors at the University of Windsor, and advising on industry issues.

    Thanks partly to his efforts, Windsor has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in auto industry-related investments over the years.

    With the Big Three auto makers announcing plant closures in the face of stiff competition from Toyota, Honda and others, Windsor is in a funk these days. Job losses are looming and the housing market is moribund.

    It's not surprising that Windsor Star columnist Gord Hendeson would anguish over the state of the city's economy. But it's downright bizarre for him to imply in his Jan. 9 column that DesRosiers is "wringing his hands in glee" over the woes of his hometown.

    Shame on him."

And good for Gary!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Are Ford And Microsoft "In Sync"

I am sure that you read the story about Microsoft and Ford forging an alliance:

"Partnering with Microsoft, Ford announced that starting this fall, it is making available on many of its models a factory-installed "Sync" system, a voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system for cellphones, digital music players such as the iPod, and other media-storage devices."

You just know that the comedians of the world are going to have dozens of jokes using the word "sync."
  • Here's a variation with the recent DCX story where "Chrysler says its strategy to stay on top is to copy every feature offered by the competition, then raise the ante with options the other automakers don't have."----Is it true that Chrysler is throwing everything into its new minivan except the kitchen Sync?
  • Is it Sync or swim time for Ford now

Ok, so I am no Jay Leno!

However, just to brighten your day, I thought I'd remind you of the GM/Microsoft jokes that went around a few years ago when there was supposedly a feud between the 2 companies. It was an urban legend of course but the jokes were funny:

Microsoft versus GM

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1000 mi/gal."

Recently General Motors addressed this comment by releasing the statement, "Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?"


1. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car.

2. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

3. Occasionally, executing a maneuver would cause your car to stop and fail and you would have to re-install the engine. For some strange reason, you would accept this too.

4. You could only have one person in the car at a time, unless you bought "Car95" or "CarNT". But, then you would have to buy more seats.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five percent of the roads.

6. The Macintosh car owners would get expensive Microsoft upgrades to their cars, which would make their cars run much slower.

7. The oil, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single "general car default" warning light.

8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.

9. The airbag system would say, "Are you sure?" before going off.

10.Occasionally for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

11.GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither need them nor want them. And attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50% or more.

12.Every time GM introduced a new model car, buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

13.You'd press the "Start" button to shut off the engine.

14.Cars will have emergency "driver protection error" signs.

15.If the driver for the vehicle is not performing properly, he/she will have to be updated or re-installed

16.All cars will run in "Safe mode."

Oh in case you were wondering, the picture is that of the Boy Band, "NSync"

Legal Precedents Are Binding

Mark this day down. The City almost did something right.

On the Council agenda for this week, there is Agenda Item #4 Legal Action - Invalid Building Permit. The details of the issue are quite's a lawsuit against an Owner and Builder to recover $69,000+ for bounced cheques and interest for building permits. Permission is being sought to start a lawsuit. The agenda item goes through in gory detail all of the events that support starting the lawsuit but does not reveal names of the parties.

This is a shock to me. I cannot recall seeing an agenda item like this before. Normally, it would be handled in camera under the provisions of the Municipal Act:

239. (1) Except as provided in this section, all meetings shall be open to the public.

    (2) A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is,

    (e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;

    (f) advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;

So how do we explain what happened? Openness triumphs finally? Eddie cannot take the pressure of Star Editorials attacking his secrecy when he needs the Star's continued support against Sandra if he ultimately decides to run provincially against her? A slip-up in the City's Legal Department since it should have gone on the in camera agenda?

Let's be generous and agree for this BLOG anyway that the City is trying to do the right thing and be open to citiziens. Now that the City has set a precedent, and the Mayor knows the importance of precedents as a lawyer, let us ask the City to follow this openness policy on litigation and do the same for the border file.

We learned last Tuesday in the Star that "Council recently approved another short-term allocation of $400,000 for further legal costs" for the border file. Accordingly, when can we expect a full discussion, as in Agenda Item #4, about the issues in the matter so we as citizens can understand what the City is doing. The Mayor feels that he can take credit for past actions--against the Bridge Co., DRTP and the Senior Levels---so let him tell us what he plans to do with all of this taxpayer money.

Let him put the issue in front of Council and the citizens of Windsor for debate to decide as Eddie claims:
  • "When you consider what we are up against, we have to continue to do what we need to in order to protect the city's best interests.

    It's unfortunate a local government has to be put in a position of having to spend funds on something like this. But what choice is there? Otherwise we might as well fold up our tent and put up a For Sale sign"
I know a better choice. I know you, dear reader, do as well if you have been a BLOG reader for a period of time.

I suspect that Councillor Halberstadt will NOT agree with the Mayor either that litigation is the way to go to protect the City's interests if what he says on his BLOG is his point of view.

  • "members of the new Council, including myself, have asked for a Council session to review the border file and perhaps alter the cloak-and-dagger approach to border issues"
  • "At some point we need to stop acting like a petulant child. We need to end our adversarial relationship with the senior levels of government if at all possible and come to the table to discuss technical strategies that will work for all
  • It is time for the City of Windsor to take a more conciliatory stance and discuss pros and cons face-to-face with the other agencies, rather than communicate at arms length through expensive legal letters."

I can think of several other Councillors who have had enough of unproductive litigation and who would be supportive of a better approach.

But don't expect anything to happen. The border file will be "distinguished on its facts" as lawyers like to say. The precedent will be ignored.

Eddie cannot dare show division amongst Councillors to the public or it would undermine his claims of unity. Moreover, if it ever reached the public agenda, then anyone could speak to it and we all know, after the "Tecumseh Council meeting" that Eddie cannot take criticism.

And for all the money his management of the border file has wasted with the lack of any results, there WILL be criticism.

But the main reason it will never reach the Council Agenda: some of the "enemies" might be given a public platform so that they could make their case. That could never be allowed since they might actually make sense!