Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 16, 2007

Who Is Windsor's Master Politician

We ought to have a contest again. I have not run one for quite some time.

Given that it is election time coming up provincially in a few months and perhaps also federally, I considered if I should ask you who is the best of the best of the politicians. And municipally, we ought to look at people as they jockey for Eddie's job since he is a lame duck Mayor who is losing his control over Council rapidly.

I decided however not to do it. It was no contest.

Now I bet that some of you thought the winner would be Eddie (Mind you, don't forget a chicken suit got almost 18% of the Mayoral votes last time around). What about Dwight or Sandra or Brian or Joe. Percy is trying to be a Councillor of the people building on his CBC fame. Councillor Budget or perhaps Alan with his exposes might be considered. Some smart guys might think that I am talking about Windsor's CAO. I know he rules Council now.

All of them would be good guesses. If that is what you thought, though, you would be wrong.

Nope, there is only ONE choice in town.

Who else would have hired an Economic Development Czar and had him out there talking to business people the week of the Chrysler layoffs.

Who else would have made sure that the Czar had a nice story in the Star on the Friday after the bad news saying all of the right things.

Who else would have made sure that the Czar had already worked on a "120-day action plan" that would be presented to the Commission the day after his name was revealed in the Star so that good news could be reported on Monday.

Who else will ensure that the action plan is widely circulated.

Bad news in Windsor? What bad news? By Tuesday morning you will think that we are living in the most prosperous City in Canada with the greatest opportunities possible. This week will be a distant memory by then.

And if there is no gushing Henderson column Saturday or Tuesday making my choice a hero, I will really be disappointed

Yup, it's a no-brainer. Everyone else is an amateur. Eddie better sign him up for his next campaign before someone else does.

The winner by a long-shot: Remo Mancini!

Short And Sweet

Nothing sugar-coated. Just straight forward commenting on some news of local interest.


Is the Star having some bad financial times too? I wonder if Gord Henderson just got a cut in salary or was he red-circled. He is out there breaking news stories now it seems. Is he a reporter now? Does that mean the Star cannot afford him as a columnist any more?

Naaaaaaw, I think this is a signal to us dumb subscribers. This is supposed to mean that the story is IMPORTANT with a capital "I" in case we could not figure it out for ourselves.

I am sure you saw his front page story:

"500 more IT jobs headed our way"

I have to admit I was confused. Are there jobs coming as the headline suggested or not. Here's what I mean in reading what Gord wrote:
  • "It will be scant comfort for those impacted by the DaimlerChrysler layoffs, but a key player in the information technology field will soon unveil plans for a downtown Windsor call centre with more than 500 jobs...

    Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis refused to confirm or deny reports of a downtown IT centre. He said he was focused on responding to the grim news from DaimlerChrysler about a radical downsizing of its Windsor workforce...

    This much is certain. If and when the announcement is made, it will draw sneers on radio talk shows and in letters to the editor that Windsor is trading $33-an-hour jobs with out-of-this-world benefits for bargain-basement jobs paying a mere $10 to $15 an hour."
Nope the only sneering will be from people who hate the cynical way this story was reported: big story to help Eddie when there is all of this bad news. Try to offset the negativity and lack of economic development action since he became Mayor

Such a co-incidence that it was reported on the day the Chrysler job losses were reported in the Star. Amazing that it got front page play rather than page 3

Amazing it was a Henderson story and not just some reporter so it must be true.

How did Gord get the info? Who leaked it? When did he get it?

And is it real?
  • "a key player in the information technology field will soon unveil plans....Business sources say the announcement, to be made in the next two to three weeks if there are no last-minute hitches...If it comes to pass...Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis refused to confirm or deny reports of a downtown IT centre...If and when the announcement is made"


No heritage designation for the GRAD Building at the University. Here's the hypocrisy though. Councillor Budget said

  • "he didn’t think council would support designating the house, which is currently being used as a restaurant and student office space, because doing so would interfere with the university’s plans to build the medical school.

    "The committee did not want to put council in a position where we had to put the medical education facility at risk,” Brister said."

But Council thinks nothing of putting Sandwich development into limbo for how long? Or rather Ambassador Bridge multi-hundred million dollar development.

Nor did Council oppose designating the property of the Sisters of St. Joseph as heritage.

  • "Council's move could cause the nuns to lose the highest bid for Holy Rosary Convent, at 3975 Riverside Dr. E., from the Mady development company."

"The heritage committee has to select its battles wisely," said chairman Gregory Heil in speaking about the Grad house even though "the committee agreed Gignac house, also known as the Grad House, is worth saving based on its historical and architectural merits."

Mr. Heil must have forgotten his earlier comments on the Sisters' property "Heil said the building is in good shape and "highly worthy of designation" because of its architectural significance as a well- preserved example of the tudor revival style."

I wonder if Councillor Budget's remark could result in an appeal. What does subsequent use have to do with whether the building is heritage or not. Did he go off on a tangent or is that relevant for heritage. I'll let the law students at the University work that out with the heritage proponents. There's a pro bono group active I thought at the Law School.

The City and the University better watch out. The site is is very near a yellow zone on the Windsor Archaeological Master Plan. Whew, thank goodness it is not in Sandwich!


Here is some comfort for those who will be pressured or shamed into retiring early to save the jobs of their fellow workers or for those who get laid off or in suppliers' plants that will be let go:

  • "It could have been worse...

    "The announcement I think was very positive for Windsor," said Tony Faria, an auto industry expert at the University of Windsor.

    "It could have been a lot worse. We have not been hit hard with anything. Period."

    Faria said he had long ago written off the 800 jobs for those employees currently on layoff..."

ScotiaMcLeod Windsor branch manager Matthew Tobin said Wednesday's announcement should be viewed in terms of the short- and long-term implications...

  • The silver lining, Tobin said, is that Windsor's cost of living and real estate prices will remain low, something the community must capitalize on."

Yuppers. Using that logic, let's close everything down so there will be real home bargains here too. I guess Mr. Tobin does not work for the mortgages side of ScotiaBank.


  • "Detroit's three state-licensed casinos rang in the new year by recording higher revenues...

    The Detroit gaming houses raked in an extra US$5 million in gaming receipts in January for a total of $109.3 million. The casinos saw revenues increase by an average of 4.8 per cent compared to the same month in 2006."


There is an issue about whether the former Lakewood golf course clubhouse should be demolished or whether the 88-year-old building deserves historical designation and preservation

I have an idea for Cheryl Hardcastle, of the town's heritage advisory committee. She "wasn't sure how long it would take to come up with a recommendation on historical designation. The town has never been through the process before."

Eddie should immediately call up Mayor McNamara to provide our expertise. Windsor has a lot of experience in such designations! Hundreds of millions of dollars worth.

Grad House Demolition

Geez, what's the matter with University students these days. Are they so passive, no creative ideas? Why in my day if we had wanted to save a University building, we would have had a sit-in or two by now and sung Koom-Bhay-Ya.

I guess that is not in vogue these days so why haven't the students jumped on the bandwagon.

Surely someone has figured out that to get Council interested in saving the building one only need say that it has a relationship to homes in Sandwich or with its heritage or better yet, it would block the Bridge Co.'s plans! Didn't some famous Sandwich personality ever visit the building? That should be enough.

The building is the 80 year old Grad Building at the University of Windsor. The University's paper, The Lance, reported that a number of students want to preserve the building rather than tear it down to make space for the new Medical School. It was called an "integral part of our campus for many years." An attempt is being made to designate it as Heritage as well. In fact there is even an idea to move it to a new location!

The City's Policy Planner for Heritage did not offer much hope for designation since only the "best of the best" get designated although Craig Pearson of the Star however called it:
  • "It’s just that, the Tudor Revival-style Grad House, recently and awkwardly renamed Café Sunset Bar, represents more than just eight decades of good times.

    The Grad House is easily the most beautiful home on Sunset Avenue south of University, in the heart of the campus."
Can they expect help from Ward 2 Councillor Ron Jones who is so concerned about historical homes. Here's the comment from the Councillor who is involved with Town and Gown:

"[He did not] express any concern when was asked what he thought about the proposed demolition. He said "I don't have any problem with it." this part of Ward 2, unlike Sandwich, there does not seem to be any need to "maintain historically significant structures -- and there are plenty of them in the [Sandwich] area."

If it is on Indian Road it must be the best of the best but not on Sunset it seems.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another "Newspaper" For Windsor

The number of people who contacted me about the front page Star story and photograph on Bloggers was quite surprising.

Was it a slow news day for this much coverage to be given to a relatively "nothing" story? Hardly. The real reason for the story is that that someone in town is getting quite worried about the power of Bloggers to warrant that kind of front page "negative" coverage. All of this consistent and uncomplimentary blogging about what is going on in this City must be hitting the mark.

What is the saying about the truth hurting? Well I assume someone must be in great pain!

It appears though that we Windsor Bloggers are going to be less lonely for the next little bit at least. Thanks to Paul Synnott for this head's up.

Here is a review of Bloggers in town
  • "This concern lead me to a quick and dirty peek through the wired to see if my beloved hometown was being adequately represented online. Verdict? It is, and how!

    Granted, reading all of them at once is like looking at 17 paintings of the same thing [which we'll discuss further in a moment], but that is to their credit, because they're all extremely well researched and well written. I present them here, for your perusal.

    Schnurr's Sound-Off. Former MP candidate Chris Schnurr has been blogging daily since November of last year with informative posts about all things muncipal in the Rose City. An eyecatching design coupled with an understanding of layout make for a mandatory stop on your evening surf.

    WindsorCityBlog. Windsor lawyer Ed Arditti is another thoughtful blogger from Windsor who comments on everything from Gord Henderson to border issues. He encourages correspondence and activism from his readers. Though his layout strikes me as a tad familiar... [NOTE: we both use Google as our host and use a Google template]

    Windsor Municpal Shadow. He is exactly what he says he is. While not as prolific as Scnurr or Arditti, Paul Synnott unloads on the faults and foibles of council without snark or sarcasm, which is a dangerous balance to maintain.

    Windsor Independent News Blog. The closest thing to 'successor' for the old Voice of Windsor, WINB is an open forum site that encourages readers to take an active role in the creation of content on the site. The site currently focuses on community events with local news sprinkled throughout, but who's to say it will remain that way? That's up to you.

    W.E. Speak. Too much surfing for you? Windsor Essex Speak gathers every new post from the sites in its network and puts them in one place for you. How easy is that, you lazy bums?

    And surprisingly, local politicians are blogging as well, with Ward 3 Councillor Alan Halberstadt offering a considerable amount of content every week."

And do not forget the Star's own Bloggers too.

Worry, worry a lot. There now is an effective alternative media in Windsor. And our numbers will only keep growing!

Hmmmm, you know what would be fun...if we Bloggers joined together and started an online "newspaper." I am sure I can think of someone experienced who could be our Senior Editor. There must be lots of people who would like to write. I bet that the cost of starting up would be minimal. If the comments from my readers are an indication, there is a desire for an alternative voice in this City. We might even get some advertisers so we could afford to write and eat too.

Hmmm I wonder....At least I won't be so lonely any more.

Lear-ing At The New "Signature" Little River Bridge

Whew, good thing it was the Chair, Councillor Budget, in charge of that arena steering committee session that increased the cost of the East End arena by only $3.7 million (plus interest too). Can you imagine what it would have been like if some of those free-spenders on Council were in charge.

But then of course some may think that this amount is rather high considering that Council did not help out Brentwood--bad precedent you know with all of those other charities since it could open the floodgates for requests but spending taxpayer cash for a private company is OK--and had to spend hours listening about the Capitol Theatre bail-out.

Some silly people were also concerned that we did not have enough money for the emergency rent bank. Why no need to be concerned, we just took it from the community children's fund that is used for school breakfast and snack programs! Let them eat cake!

And the slow-down in the economy and the high unemployment rate with the increased demands on City social services...pshaw, we have a new CEO of the Development Commission about to be named and those new 500 IT jobs that Gord talked about this morning. I wonder in whose building downtown they are locating in? Joe's perhaps or in Chuck's former building?

After all, as Councillor Budget said "We want a premier facility in this city" [It's too bad, Councillor Valentinis, that we are not better friends with the Premier the way the folks in Lasalle seem to be. They got a $3.8M provincial gift!] You know THINK BIG and all that.

I am relieved though. Don Sadler said that "This budget has got a 95 per cent accuracy," Mind you, he wasn't too accurate on the Farhi site and his X-ray eyes weren't working too well at the Peace Beacon lands. I sure hope he is accurate on the fact that "There are no environmental issues" at the Lear site. Again, I hope the plant work they did there is not the same as was done at the Lear plant in Walker, Michigan where there was a major environmental issue. Otherwise more millions to spend.

Speaking of the Little River Bridge, I hear that the City has a BIG budget for the McHugh extension. They want to spend a lot of dollars for a "signature" bridge over the Little River to reflect the new arena and "new Spitfires". Costs go up a few more million.

Just to help out, I offer up a picture of an example that can be used. There is a Windsor "connection" if someone at City Hall wants the name of a person to call about it.

One more random thought. The Heavy Construction Association really should have sued the City over the Purchasing By-law brouhaha. If a considerable amount of capital works spending is tied up in the arena, it must mean almost no significant road or sewer work will be bid out until 2010 at least when the arena is supposedly paid off. I wonder how many City projects are on "indefinite lay-off." Is it any wonder that I am hearing that City staffers are pretty upset as well.

Remember what my mole told me that Eddie said at the Association's dinner around this time last year [[BLOG: Where's the $300 Million Already Feb 24, 2006]:
  • "It was the perfect lead-in for Eddie to tell the contractors that the city has increased the capital works budget this year and will be for the next few years in order to get the "city needed" projects done now before all this infrastructure work comes to them. He told them he doesn't want them to be tied down with small city projects so that they miss out on all the big money projects."

Is he invited back this year to speak? If so, it should be fascinating to hear what he says now!

After the news about the increase in arena costs, I wanted to let my friends at the Ministry of the Environment know. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to do the math so they could find that more than $3.5M was to be spent so as to trigger the EA. The letter follows:

  • To: Ministry of the Environment

    Further to my letter dated February 5 and our recent telephone call, I understood that the Ministry was going to wait until February 19 when the City was going to provide figures for the arena cost.

    I am sure that you have read the Windsor Star this morning about the increased arena costs in the amount of $3.7 million.

    The breakdown given was:

    Base construction costs: $47,920,000
    Site servicing costs: $6,299,145
    Contingency on site servicing: $629,915
    Fit-up costs: $4,429,200
    Contingency on fit-up: $442,920
    Building permits: $396,900
    Bonding fee: $500,000
    Architectural advisory: $200,000
    Land purchase: $1,400,000
    Land cost, excavation of rubble: $300,000
    Closing and land transfer fee: $70,000
    Financing during construction: $2,700,000
    Financing post construction: $1,500,000
    Financing contingency: $800,000
    Overall project contingency: $2,000,000

    As you can clearly tell, the costs already exceed by far the $3.5 million set out in the Regulations.

    Accordingly, please advise when you will require the City to comply with the Act and undertake the statutorily required environmental assessment.

    Yours truly,

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Where's the Environmental Assessment For The East End Arena Site

I was on the City's website the other day trying to find out information about the environmental assessment that was or is to be done on the Lear site where the arena is to be built. As you will notice from the image on the left, an EA is not even indicated.

I know that Don Sadler, the city's director of parks, said "There are no environmental issues." But then I remembered about the Farhi lands and the Peace Beacon site where his X-ray eyes were clouded up it seems.

It is such a big project. I found it very strange that there was nothing mentioned. I knew that the there were exemptions from the Environmental Assesment Act for such projects as:

1) The activity of constructing, owning, operating, maintaining, altering and retiring facilities and works to be located at the Windsor Casino for the production, supply and delivery of heat energy, chilled water and related services to any person, corporation or commission in the City of Windsor, Ontario be exempt from the application of the Act

2) The activity of developing a waterfront park, covering approximately 35 acres, bounded by Riverside Drive, Viale Udine, Devonshire Road and the Detroit River, providing for a range of recreational and tourism uses.

If you can believe it, there was an EA undertaken to confirm the need for any required modifications to McDougall Street and to identify the preferred solution for the Casino expansion but nothing for the East End arena that I could find.

In passing, I note that the costs of the Vollmer arena in Lasalle are $28.8M. "the building’s price is capped at a guaranteed maximum of $20 million. The remaining $8.8 million is the cost of installing access roads and other amenities necessary for the centre to operate." That extra $8.8M for roads and amenities is something that needs consideration when looking at arena cost. We do not know that figure for Windsor yet.

You know that I already have questions about the use of the Purchasing By-law for this project and how financing is being undertaken. And we just found out that another $3.7 million more plus interest has been added on to the arena cost. Think of what we could have done with that money! But it's ok since Councillor Budget said "We want a premier facility in this city"

I figured that I may as well ask the Ministry of the Environment about the EA too. Here is the letter I wrote:

To: Ministry of the Environment

I am rather disturbed that there has not been an environmental assessment proposed with respect to the massive Windsor East End arena project, one that will cover at least 23 acres of land with almost two thousand parking spaces. That project is located at the industrial Lear Plant site near Tecumseh Road and Lauzon in Windsor

Under the Environmental Assessment Act, it states:

  • 2. The purpose of this Act is the betterment of the people of the whole or any part of Ontario by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management in Ontario of the environment.

    3. This Act applies to,
    (a) enterprises or activities or proposals, plans or programs in respect of enterprises or activities by or on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Ontario or by a public body or public bodies or by a municipality or municipalities;

    5.(1) Every proponent who wishes to proceed with an undertaking shall apply to the Minister for approval to do so.

    5.(3) No person shall proceed with an undertaking unless the Minister gives his or her approval to proceed under section 9 or the Tribunal gives its approval under section 9.1

You told me that Regulation 334 applies to this project and in particular:

  • 5. (1.1) For the purposes of clause 5 (2) (a),
    "estimated cost" means the most current estimate of the cost of an undertaking prepared by an engineer, architect, official, planner or construction contractor, which estimate has been submitted to the council or other governing body of a municipality or a committee thereof and has been accepted by it as the basis upon which the undertaking is to be proceeded with, and where an undertaking is being constructed in phases includes the cost of all phases, but does not include any costs for,
    (a) the acquisition of land,
    (b) feasibility studies and design carried out for the undertaking,
    (c) the operation of the undertaking,
    (d) a building, the construction of which is regulated by the Building Code Act,
    (e) any furnishings, equipment, facilities or machinery ancillary to a building described in clause (d), whether contained in it or not, or
    (f) any facilities or machinery contained in a building described in clause (d), whether ancillary to it or not. O. Reg. 456/93, s. 2 (1).
    (2) An undertaking by a municipality is exempt from subsection 5 (1) of the Act where,
    (a) subject to subsection (3), it has an estimated cost of not more than $3,500,000;

It is very clear that the cost of the project will exceed $3,500,000 and it thus subject to the Act. The City’s general manager of parks, Don Sadler, stated that “about seven acres will be required for the four-pad arena complex and another 16 acres for parking.”

The Windsor Star reported on January 13, 2007 that:

  • “The full cost of Windsor's new arena is expected to be $61.2 million, and the city says it will be fully paid for in only three years.

    In addition to the base cost of $47.9 million, a fixed price guaranteed by PCR Contractors Inc., the company that will build the arena, the city will pay $5 million to service the site and add a parking lot, $4.4 million for changes and finishes to the design called fit-outs, $4.2 million in interest on interim financing, $1.5 million as part of the land swap with a London developer, $900,000 for building permits -- which goes back to the city --$750,000 for a contingency fund for servicing and fit-outs and $300,000 for bonding…”

    City treasurer Onorio Colucci will also recommend an $800,000 contingency fund for the interest costs.

In addition, it now appears that as part of the land swap for the arena, an extra $100,000 will have to be paid to clean up the exchanged land.

As you can see above, taking into account the definitions under the regulation, the estimated costs outlined in bold above greatly exceeds the $3,500,000 amount. The servicing costs alone or in combination with the interim financing are over twice the statutory figure. Add in anti-pollution costs (see below) and this is a very costly project.

It appears as well that a Request for Proposal has been issued as part of this to

  • “qualified consulting firms for engineering services related to design, construction drawings, specifications, contract administration and inspection, of the McHugh St Extension from Lauzon Road to eastern entrance of arena and secondly over Little River on to Florence Avenue.”

An estimated cost of that project is around $4 million for roadway, bridge, contingency, typical engineering fees and construction administration/inspection costs which would have to be added in as well as part of the costs.

In addition, what is very troubling is a report broadcast on radio station, CKLW, that there may be rainwater run-off problems into Little River from the arena parking lot. [I have a copy of that news broadcast which I can forward to you]

Apparently, the Little River Environmental Group has asked for a change in the design and size of the parking lot. The issue is the quantity and quality of the water coming off the parking lot after it rains since it can increase pollution. After every rainfall, there would be run-off down the drain or off the parking lot into the drainage ditch that leads into the storm water retention pond.

For a parking lot of 1,800 spots, there would be 16 acres of "hard surface" parking lot according to the City. Water cannot penetrate and soak into the ground and has to be drained off by means of catchbasins, sewers and ultimately get dumped somewhere. That is a lot of water in a big storm which is enough to literally destroy the Little River ecosystem in one shot (run-off water has very poor oxygen content, and at certain times of year very high salt content, both of which can damage aquatic life). Obviously, parking lot run-off is notorious for being dirty (oil, salt, grime etc.)

Mr.Sadler appreciates their concerns as he states in the radio broadcast so it is clear that there is a real issue that needs to be dealt with. He claims that “hopefully” they have a grading plan that works by collecting and distributing the water so that very little enters Little River.

Clearly grading will not be enough and the Ministry will probably require a storm water retention system to be developed, at an additional cost of several million dollars not to mention, Oil-Grit Separator (OGS) structures for quality control of the water. Again, that increases the cost of the project.

I am shocked that there will be a meeting with the Ministry this week “to see if the plan can be approved.”

I am unaware of what authority the Ministry can grant such approval. The Act does not allow for “informal” environmental assessments not open to the public and not subject to the strict terms of the Act.

Moreover, I am unaware that the Ministry will accept “hopefully” as the basis for solving a problem and granting an approval in such a serious matter!

One other matter needs addressing urgently: soil contamination. According to the City, the Lear site is free from contaminants. On January 11, 2007, the Star reported:

“There are no environmental issues," said Don Sadler, the city's director of parks.

The area, which sits behind the Lear plant on Lauzon Road, was inspected for metals and other contaminants, Sadler said.

An environmental assessment was also completed on land next to the Art Gallery of Windsor, which will be given to a London developer in exchange for the east-end site. The downtown property has also been cleared for environmental contaminants.”

Yet only a few days later, on January 16, 2007, we found out that the land near the Art Gallery had a major problem. Again the Star reported

  • “The city will have to pay up to $200,000 to remove a foundation left behind from an old brewery on the Riverside Drive site that is part of a land swap for the new arena development.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said the old foundation was located on part of the site where the current Art Gallery of Windsor sits and next to an empty parcel of land the city will give to a London developer in exchange for land on the east end of the city for a new arena. "What happened was they just dumped dirt on top of it to close the hole."

On January 26, 2007, Mr.Sadler stated with respect to another site near the Art Gallery lands, the Peace Beacon site

  • “Every shovel full was another nightmare," said parks director Don Sadler. "There was no way of knowing without x-ray eyes the extent of everything that was in there."

Council will be asked to approve the unexpected hike in costs, as well as an additional $303,000 that had been taken out of the original budget, for a total increase of $603,000 in the project this year.

The soil conditions encountered when digging began included wood, woodpiles, large concrete foundations and organic fill. The materials had to be removed and shipped to the landfill, causing unforeseen costs of $104,000. The fill that was removed had to be replaced with engineered fill in order to hold the footings to support the new structure, Sadler said.

  • "Soon as we got digging down a little bit deeper to place the footings, then we ran into a tremendous" problem.

    Sadler doesn't blame the firm hired to conduct the test because the problems could be missed when digging so deep. "At 50- foot intervals, you don't always hit every pocket…"

    "I don't think we can ever contemplate what's underground," Francis said.

Frankly, I cannot argue with the Mayor respecting what is underground especially at the arena site which is an industrial property. Given the two recent incidents respecting soil contamination where none was expected, I have a great concern with what may be found at Lear since I assume that no one had “x-ray eyes” there either. I wonder as well if 50 foot interval soil testing is inappropriate and therefore, the soil testing should be redone completely.

Given the size of this project being in excess of the amount set out in the Regulations, the road work needed for the arena, the Little River contamination and the question re soil contamination, it is my opinion that a full environmental assessment of the project is required forthwith.

Please confirm immediately that the Ministry shall require the City of Windsor to undertake an environmental assessment under the Act forthwith and that all work must stop at the site until such EA is satisfactorily completed.

Yours truly,

So Much For Knowledge-Based Replacing Manufacturing Jobs

It's the new sensation, our newest salvation. Not just in Windsor mind you but everywhere. "Knowledge-based technology." But keep reading, right to the end of the BLOG because something is still bugging me, again.

I heard Eddie talking about it yesterday on his CKLW interview show. In the globalized market we were going to have to transition into a Knowledge-based economy. That transition we are told does not happen overnight.

That is certainly true in Windsor. Two years we have been playing with an Economic Development Corporation whose CEO will be announced Friday. If my sources are right, that person will be Matthew Fischer. is his website. I think I found his photo on the internet too

Welcome to Windsor. Of course it is only our future that is riding on your abilities. As Eddie said, we had our eggs in one basket, manufacturing, and now what we need to do is diversify. So make sure Matt that we don't hang our heads down but stand up and make the transition as Eddie demands.

Whew, Eddie's job is done now. It's your fault Matt if this does not work. (But keep on reading)

So get onboard folks...we are "transitioning" to become the next Silicon Valley. Everything undertaken will be Leading Edge, State-of-the-Art, innovative research projects with research excellence. We'll be a global player and a global leader. The world is flat so don't fall off the edge.

The Star gushed:
  • "Knowledge-based sector holds promise

    If the experience in Moncton, N.B., is any indicator, Windsor has the potential to develop a thriving "knowledge" sector based on the new call centre operation opening here this month."
Doesn't that sound an awful lot like what casinos were going to do for cities and what it was going to do for tourism in Windsor.

Of course we had the chance to be a real leader three years ago, when the head of an Ontario city's innovation group wanted to move to Windsor and kick-start an IT revolution here but we were too stupid to hire him. That city had already set up a group whose function it was to help their City with economic diversification in Information Technology or knowledge based industries. We could have saved years of effort and time and money but of course we did not. I guess we are an Eddie-come-lately community after all.

When Mike Hurst was Mayor, Dennis DesRosiers "recommended that the City of Windsor aggressively pursue a strategy of attracting "intellectual capital" to the area. Research, design, development and testing activities annually amount to over $20 billion in the North American automotive sector and these activities have to continue whether a company is doing well or not."

It was a smart strategy and we can see by the results that it has helped Windsor. It resulted in over $1 billion in investment in intellectual activity with about 20 significant 'intellectual' investments in the area. For our future, Dennis suggested that "Why not reposition Windsor - Essex County as the "Intellectual Capital" of Canada's automotive sector and one of the key intellectual centres in the entire global automotive sector. Now that's dreaming big and a lot more reachable than digging a billion dollar tunnel under the Ojibway environmental reserve."

Clearly we have to build on what Dennis suggested. But I am not so sure that this is our salvation since "knowledge" jobs are going overseas too. The reason why follows (Thanks to Allenparkpete for the story idea. As he said, once the "intellectual knowledge is lost...and it aint ever coming back.). It's an older story but still relevant:
  • Engineers' work goes overseas, GM says
    Next cuts in Mich. set for this month

    April 6, 2006


    General Motors Corp. will cut its engineering staff in Michigan for a second time later this month as it continues to shift some work to emerging markets such as Brazil, where GM is hiring engineers to develop the next-generation small pickup.

    The job cuts, following last week's forced layoffs of hundreds of GM white-collar workers, will be the last round for the engineering department, and Michigan will continue to be home of GM's largest engineering center, a top GM official said Wednesday.

    "North America is still huge. By far, it's our largest center, and it will continue to be our largest engineering center," Jim Queen, GM vice president of global engineering, told the Free Press.

    "It's just that we're going through a difficult business period right now and it's getting right-sized."

    Queen and a GM spokesman declined to say how many engineers, technicians and others would lose their jobs in the next round.

    GM officials did not specify how many white-collar workers lost their jobs in last week's cuts, other than to say it was less than 500.

    GM's engineering department employs 22,000 worldwide, with most clustered in 12 engineering centers.

    Last week's U.S. job cuts were aimed primarily at GM's Tech Center campus in Warren, but they also affected about 30 other facilities in the United States. They follow one of the worst years in the automaker's history.

    GM lost $10.6 billion in 2005 because of declining U.S. vehicle sales and rising costs, which spurred many analysts to conclude that the automaker could be forced into bankruptcy unless it turns the corner.

    Emerging markets

    GM's cuts last week to its engineering staff stem not just from cost-cutting efforts, but from continued efforts to rely more on its far-flung engineering centers in emerging markets, where wages are lower. These centers have grown in recent years with the addition of GM Daewoo in Korea and new engineering expertise in China.

    "There's significant emerging markets elsewhere in the world where we're going to be adding resources, and we're going to be adding to it this year," Queen said.

    GM is close to announcing that it will codevelop the new pickup trucks in Brazil with Isuzu Motors Ltd., Queen said.

    GM will again work with Isuzu despite disappointing sales for the current pickup, which was also codeveloped with Isuzu. In addition, GM confirmed last month that it is in talks to sell its 7.9% stake in the Japanese automaker.

    Over the last six months, GM has sold its most of its stake in Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. and all of its shares in the parent company of Japanese automaker Subaru.

    But GM will continue to work with Suzuki and Isuzu to develop vehicles in an effort to cut costs, Queen said.

    GM will add some engineers in Brazil for the small pickup truck program, Queen said.

    Before that program starts, they will also work with Europe on developing the next-generation small- and midsize cars like the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saab 9-3 and Opel Astra.

    Asia expands, too

    GM also is adding jobs in India.

    The automaker has posted want ads on its Web site for several jobs at its recently established research and development lab in Bangalore, India, including positions such as research engineers and senior statisticians.

    GM also has notified professors at Wayne State University's College of Engineering, asking whether any Indian nationals earning a degree are interested in the positions.

    India already does much of the design for automotive parts and components for many vehicles engineered elsewhere around the world, Queen said.

    Despite growing engineering work in emerging markets, North America will remain the center for developing large pickups, SUVs, small crossovers and rear-wheel-drive luxury cars, Queen said.

    By making one of GM's engineering centers responsible for a particular type of vehicle, the automaker can eliminate overlap and cut costs.

    For example, GM used to develop five different types of midsize cars. But now, all the midsize cars share a similar set of components referred to as the Epsilon architecture.

    That focus will allow GM to "do more with less," Queen said.

    "That's exactly what we want and what we need to have if we're going to survive as a company."

Now you know what I think about never really know what he is planning. I think all of this Knowledge stuff is irrelevant to him. It's another diversion to his Real Plan. If you want to know what it is, go back and read my BLOG on Thursday, October 27, 2005,
"Deep Throat"

It was a throw away in the Schwartz Report for dreamers but he brought it back with his Cansfield lunch remarks.

  • "We want to engage the province to arrive on a solution the city can be proud of," Francis said.

    The mayor said simply presenting the provincial government with one option -- a tunnel -- was not the best course of action because a whole range of solutions are needed, including reducing the number of rail tracks in the city and creating a transportation hub at the airport. "

You got it...Windsor's future is the same as New Jersey's. We are to become an important transportation hub in rail, air, truck and marine (Hwy H2O). Why do you really think Remo Mancini was brought in as Chair of the Developmnet Commission. After working at the Bridge Co. for years, he knows distribution better than knowing how to turn on a PC!

I read in Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG that "Speaking of the mayor and the Bridge, I understand they are meeting today in the mayor's office at the request of Matty Maroun." I sure hope that conversation goes well.

If this is really Eddie's PLAN, then Matty Moroun ought to be Eddie's biggest ally. Who better than he knows how to move goods from POINT "A" to POINT "B." That's is how he made his money, the bridge just came along for the ride! And that is really why we need a proper border solution that involves the Ambassador Bridge Company. Much more than the border is involved

I asked a question in my New Jersey BLOG and I'll ask it again: Does Mayor Eddie have the guts to try and partner with the Bridge Co.? I'll read Alan's BLOG to see if my question is answered.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Toronto Star Estrin Lawsuit Story

It was just such an interesting story in the Toronto Star today that revealed all kinds of new information that I just had to post it and make comments about the remarks made in the body of the article. Remember, I am a "fisker" after all.

I guess it means that when Big City newspaper reporters call they get a lot more information out of Big City lawyers, our Mayor and the Federal Government.

It's a shame that the national media do not pay more attention to the border story that is vital to Canada's economic prosperity. If they had, then we would not have the mess and lack of action that we have had for years down here.

Bridge owner sues law firm, claiming it spanned both sides
Feb 13, 2007 Tara Perkins,business reporter

One of Canada's biggest law firms is fighting a lawsuit launched by the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge, in a saga that ensnares the City of Windsor, a leading Canadian lawyer and a rich and secretive U.S. transportation magnate.

Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns and runs the Ambassador Bridge that links Detroit to Windsor, is suing Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP and one of its partners.

DIBC says Gowlings worked for the City of Windsor to try to thwart plans to build a new, six-lane crossing right next to the Ambassador Bridge. At the same time Gowlings did work for DIBC, including raising more than $500 million (U.S.) in financing for the project.

Wait a minute, the Windsor Star Story did not say this. It merely said that the Bridge Co. "recently used the firm for a variety of legal dealings...The bridge company sought tax advice from an accountant at the Gowlings office in Ottawa in June 2005...The work eventually extended to include a tax lawyer in the law firm's Toronto office in December 2005. "

It's a lot different if the Toronto Star is correct to have one part of the firm trying to raise money for the enhancement project and another part trying to kill it.

"Because of its retention of and contract with Gowlings, DIBC provided Gowlings with substantial confidences and secrets, as well as other privileged information, with regard to the development and financing of the span which Gowlings would not otherwise have received," court documents filed in Michigan allege.

"Success with respect to the span would position the Ambassador Bridge to remain the premier commercial and tourist border crossing between the United States and Canada."

Gowlings is asking a Michigan judge to dismiss the suit, and is fighting DIBC's attempts to have it heard by a jury.

DIBC is controlled by billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who will be 80 this year and who also controls major trucking firms.

In the 1970s, Moroun bought out legendary investor Warren Buffett's stake in DIBC to take control of the company, which remains the only private entity to own a major border crossing between Canada and the United States.

In a 2004 article, Forbes magazine described Moroun as a squat, soft-spoken man who jealously guards his interests.

He has taken on so many foes in court that one lawyer described him as "a one-man lawyer employment act."

Accordingly, I wonder if Dan Stamper has been in front of judges (as a witness) more times than Eddie has been in actual practise in front of a judge as a lawyer.

The City of Windsor has been pressing Moroun to carry out thorough environmental assessments on his plans for the new crossing, including examinations of how noise and vibrations from extra traffic would affect residents.

"Every chance they get, they make representations that say, `There won't be any harm to the City of Windsor, so we don't need to do that study,'" Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said in an interview.

Oh yes, is Windsor doing these tests for its Tunnel Plaza Improvemnts project as well? If so, I have not seen the results. Nor have I seen a Report on the effect on the environment downtown of exhaust from the unscrubbed Tunnel Ventilation Building. It is somewhat hypocritical to require the Bridge Co. to do a "thorough environmental assessment" when DRIC is doing less.

The governments of Canada, the United States, Ontario and Michigan have been working for several years to choose a location for a new border crossing that will be a public-private partnership.

Francis said Windsor supports that process, which has identified three options, all west of the Ambassador Bridge on the industrial side of Windsor.

Now Eddie supports the DRIC process. When did that happen?

Transport Canada spokesperson Mark Butler said a final choice is expected this summer. The governments plan to call for tenders and build a bridge by 2014, at an expected cost of $1 billion to $2 billion.

So governance has been decided already, a P3 bridge, and the cost has been estimated. I did not hear about it, did you?

Depending on interest rate and term of a lease, a bidder could expect to pay around $100 million per year just for interest cost and principal costs alone never mind operating costs. Since that is substantially more than the Bridge Co. supposedly earns now then taxpayers can foot the difference forever. Even assuming that the new bridge can capture 50% of the traffic at the crossing, I figure that the tolls will be around 3 or 4 times more than the Bridge Co's tolls.

No wonder there is a need for Brian Masse's public authority. A NEW BRIDGE COULD NEVER COMPETE IN THE MARKETPLACE.

What happens when all crossings here go broke due to lack of traffic, more Government subsidization with the Sarnia/Port Huron people laughing themselves silly at our misfortune?

Theoretically, the western government project and DIBC's second bridge next to the Ambassador Bridge could both be built.

I was fooled by this phrasing. I thought she meant the story on February 9 about Canada's federal government and the government of British Columbia "have agreed to cost-share the construction of a new seven-lane bridge across the Pitt River" The Federal government is providing $90 million in funding.

Yes Councillor Valentinis, no one is listening to Windsor nor giving us any money. DON'T YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES GET IT YET.

The suit against Gowlings by DIBC and its parent company, CenTra Inc., also names Toronto-based Gowlings environmental lawyer David Estrin, who has been representing Windsor since late 2002.

Estrin has lived in Toronto for decades and is fighting the suit on the basis that the U.S. court has no jurisdiction over him as a Canadian.

"Basically, the lawsuit, in my view, is an attempt at intimidating me from continuing to act for the City (of Windsor)," he said yesterday.

He said he was served with the suit in November, just as he was about to walk into a key meeting with senior officials from the U.S. Coast Guard in Cleveland to argue that DIBC's proposal needed further environmental review.

"Just when I was about to walk into that meeting, the elevator doors opened. Out walked Dan Stamper, the president of the bridge company, and his American attorney and a processor, and I was served with this lawsuit.

"So, the timing of the service of this was clearly an attempt to intimidate me from going into that meeting and proceeding with that meeting. And, subsequently, they have told our American lawyers that they're prepared to settle this lawsuit for no money. All they want is me off the case."

Don't you just love the theatre of this, such drama. Just like the movies.

Frankly, if I were a Gowlings partner and the Bridge Co.'s allegations are true, I would jump at a settlement that says remove the conflicted lawyer from the file immediately, you won't have to fight a lawsuit and your E&O insurers can close their file, you won't have to talk to the Law Society and it won't cost you any money in a possible huge damages claim. Poor Mr. Estrin was so intimidated that he attended the Senate hearing the next day with the Mayor

DIBC's lawyer said a request for comment was passed on to the firm, but company officials did not respond. The suit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and legal malpractice. The company says it did not know until last fall that Gowlings was working for Windsor.

"There's clearly no conflict here," Estrin counters. "They clearly knew at the time they retained the (Gowlings) tax people that I had been acting against them for many years. I had meetings with Mr. Stamper in his office in Michigan, and had sent him several letters threatening lawsuits, not only on behalf of the City of Windsor, but on behalf of other clients. They came to Gowlings and retained the tax people knowing that we already acted against them on the bridge issue."

Hmmmm I wonder when he threatened lawsuits...Did Councillors authorize that? Where are these letters? More interestingly, who were the other clients?

In court documents, Gowlings said that when its tax lawyers were hired in 2005 by Canadian Transit Co. – a subsidiary of DIBC that owns the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge – a standard conflict search was done in the firm's client database.

"The search did not reveal Estrin's representation of Windsor adverse to CTC because, when Estrin's general representation of Windsor on border crossing matters gradually turned adverse to CTC in 2003, he did not amend his initial conflict filing to add CTC as an adverse party."

Fascinating..Gowlings must have 2 conflicts search systems, one more thorough when a party is adverse in interest. If Gowlings did not know about this, and they are his partners, then how could the Bridge Co.? Is this an admission of negligence? Why didn't Estrin amend his initial filing? He was an experienced partner in the firm and would understand the significance.

I found the comment about his representation turning adverse in 2003 strange.
He was retained to fight the JMC Report in late 2002. I was told by a Senior City Administrator that his initial retainer ran out in February, 2003, something that was unknown to me anyway. He was retained later in 2003 to fight the Rail lands bylaw issue. In 2004, he was retained to "be at the table during an upcoming OMB appeal of a city bylaw which prohibits non-rail use of railway lands. And he will represent the city during talks with the federal and provincial government over funding for border road improvements."

When did he become adverse? I don't really know what he did for Windsor since i
n May, 2006 " City solicitor George Wilkki would not itemize the legal fees or provide a description of the work that was done...That type of detailed information could reveal the city's legal position and strategies, "leaving the city at a legal disadvantage," he said in a report to council."

It was not until November, 2006 that we learned publicly that "The City of Windsor considers the proposed bridge to be fraught with significant and adverse environmental consequences for the city and its residents," according to a 35-page report presented in Cleveland by Toronto lawyer David Estrin, the city's hired gun on border issues."

It will be interesting to see how Estrin supports his comment.

The Extra Point Try: The Tenth Point Of The Nine Point Plan

Is the real border story finally coming out, even though it is only one step at a time?

What would Windsorites ever do without John Fairley and Face-to-Face! Where else do we get politicians telling us the truth and not even knowing that they are putting their foot in their mouth as John raises that eye-brow of his. Was Alan Rock, the former Infrastructure Minister in the Liberal Government, the latest victim?

Oh the memories. The infamous Nine Point Plan from May, 2003. How we in Windsor hated it, remember. Rock helped bring it in and he still likes it too.

But you know what, as time went on over the border fiasco, some of us wondered if we were really being dealt with fairly or whether a decision had already been made and DRIC was nothing more than the justification for what had already been decided.

Let's speculate. Did ex-Minister Rock let us know that there was a Tenth Point that was never revealed until John's show. Were we right after all?

In case you have forgotten, here is a summary of the "public" Nine Points:

The Governments of Canada and Ontario have agreed upon the following nine point plan:

  1. Province will assume full responsibility for E.C. Row Expressway between Lauzon Parkway and Ojibway Parkway, and will widen it by one lane in each direction.
  2. Province will assume full responsibility for Lauzon Parkway south of E.C. Row Expressway and will extend/upgrade the highway from Highway 401 to E.C. Row.
  3. Work together with the City of Windsor and Town of LaSalle on improvements to Highway 3/Huron Church Road, including the grade separation of the Tecumseh Road intersection north of E.C. Row Expressway, pedestrian overpasses at key locations and the grade separation of all major intersections between Highway 401 and E.C. Row Expressway to improve the flow of traffic and enhance the safety of residents.
  4. Work together with proponents, the Canadian Transit Company (Ambassador Bridge) and the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership in their efforts to build connections to the border crossings, concurrent with the Bi-National Planning Process.
  5. Work together with partner agencies to accelerate the Bi-National Planning Process, and work with all proponents of new border crossing capacity, including the Canadian Transit Company (Ambassador Bridge), the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership and Mich-Can, in the context of this process.
  6. Seek the City of Windsor's commitment that it will put in place arrangements to support the redevelopment of Windsor-Detroit tunnel plaza to meet the growing needs of the Windsor-Detroit community.
  7. Promote the development of commercial vehicle pre-processing and staging areas to expedite and improve the flow of trucks across the border.
  8. Develop and implement a plan for the deployment of technology that will facilitate the flow of traffic and enhance access to the border.
  9. Work in cooperation with City of Windsor, Town of LaSalle, Town of Tecumseh, County of Essex and any other municipality affected by this plan.

Now that we don't have to worry about DRTP any more (It has lost the "Rail to Fails" battle when a gutless City Council refused to even talk about a tunnel in its corridor or anywhere in Windsor), the Nine Point Plan does not look so bad. With a bit of tweaking here and there, it is quite workable. Perhaps this is the real legacy of DRTP. Its invasive role in Windsor has delayed a proper resolution of the border issue for years!

You know, it would not surprise me to see Eddie adopt now a variation of that Plan and call it his own. Is that why tunnelling had to die? After all, Windsor cannot afford to upgrade E C Row on our own. Interestingly, his discussion with Minister Cansfield was about airports, rail and the border.

Hmmmmm. As an aside, why was he talking to a Provincial Minister about federal matters? Obviously to create a "transportation hub vision" for the next Provincial election. Let's call it Son of Sam Report. You know what, all of those projects would need an upgraded E C Row. So maybe there were some preliminary talks about a buy-in to an Eddie-Plan to upgrade E C Row by uploading it to the Province.

Anyway, back to former Minister Rock. Rock revealed that he and then Ontario Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation Minister Flaherty had a deal on a Tenth Point, one that we never knew about.

Here is the Tenth Point: He reached an Agreement with Flaherty that each would contribute "X" number of dollars. They agreed to create the possibility of a new, third crossing with the Americans. He said that they would NOT be twinning the bridge but there would be a separate crossing.

Rock saw Flaherty who is now Canada's Minister of Finance in New York recently and told him not to forget the Plan "we cooked up" for the border crossing. Now Rock realizes that changes are necessary to accommodate local concerns but basically he still thinks it is a good plan.

In answer to John's question again that the twinned bridge is not a reality, Rock said at the time, the better plan was to build a third crossing.

In passing, one wonders if Rock is an emissary for Windsor now? After all his law firm works for the City doesn't it and they have received some nice sized fees over the past few years. Will Eddie phone up the Federal Finance Minister after Rock smooths the way and ask for help? Help first for the Tunnel obviously and then for the new crossing. Stay tuned!

Now doesn't this tell you something. The Feds and Province had already agreed on a new crossing in 2003. Don't forget the Bi-National process was really just starting and had years and millions to spend to come to that conclusion.

It was not until January, 2004 when the Bi-national Partnership produced a final Planning/Need and Feasibility (P/NF) Study Report that identified the Central crossing and the Ambassador Bridge as the best two locations. DRIC really got started after the Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference was approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment in September, 2004

Kind of makes a mockery of the DRIC process if you are the Ambassador Bridge Co. (or even DRTP) if I am right. They never had a chance of being successful if the decision had been made already in early 2003.

The Governments at the time said:

  • "The Windsor Gateway Action Plan complements the Canada-Ontario-United States-Michigan Bi-National Partnership Planning Process currently underway to develop a longer-term strategy for the Windsor-Detroit Gateway. The Governments of Canada and Ontario continue to support the bi-national process which will address the longer-term capacity requirements for the Windsor-Detroit Gateway. Canada and Ontario will work with all proponents for new border capacity within the context of the bi-national planning process."

Was that true? It appears as if a decision had already been made for a third crossing.

If the decision was made, then why was there the need for DRIC? That should be obvious: there was a need to slow down the Bridge Co.'s plans for a twinned bridge. Keep them in the process as long as possible while planning took place on such items as passing Bill C-3, doing the engineering work for the third crossing, lining up financing, trying to get a Presidential permit etc. DRTP needed to be kept around too to stir things up as they so nicely did.

Now I think I understand why a "broad" EA was undertaken notwithstanding that Ontario's Court of Appeal said that a "scoped" one could have been done. More time-wasting. I was specifically told:

  • "the Minister of Environment may approve a TOR that provides for a scoped environmental assessment if the Minister is satisfied that an environmental assessment prepared in accordance with the TOR will be consistent with the purpose of the EA Act and the public interest.
  • However, the decision in the Richmond Landfill case does not require proponents to undertake scoping during preparation of a TOR. The proponent retains the ability to propose, in a TOR, the approach that the proponent wishes to take in the environmental assessment process. In this case, MTO made the decision, in consultation with the members of the bi-national transportation partnership, to propose a broad environmental assessment within which a full range of alternatives would be evaluated and that is what MOE approved."

But something about what Rock said bugged me. It was his choice of language. He is a lawyer, a Cabinet Minister and was Canada's Ambassador to the UN. He would use words very precisely. He used the expression:

"Create the possibility of a third crossing".

He talked about upgrades to E C Row and to widen access to the bridge on Huron Church. Now those are costly matters for mere short-term needs. That sounded to me like traffic solutions for the long-term, as the Fed's consultant Cansult suggested. It also suggested to me a route to the the existing bridge, not some new crossing

Eureka, I thought that there was another Tenth Point. To me, what the real Tenth Point in the Nine Point Plan was to pretend to create a new crossing, but really put pressure on the Bridge Co. to force them to sell out. Why else build costly roads to the bridge "short-term."

That is why Rock used the word "possibility!" They were creating the possibility of a new crossing but did not really want one. After all, hundreds of millions were spent on the Ambassdor Gateway project on the US side and the Bridge Co. has already spent $500M to buy property for the new bridge over the past decade. Why not use all of that rather than moving a new crossing a mile downriver at a cost of billions!

How was pressure imposed: by eliminating them from DRIC, passing Bill C-3, hold them up on their EA amongst other matters. Who knows if the Interim Control By-law which supposedly holds things up for up to two years to be followed by a Heritage designation is not part of this too as Windsor's contribution. Nothing would surprise me now.

Pressuring the Ambassador Bridge would result in their objective being reached: to force the owner to sell out to the Governments for fear of being put out of business. What choice would he be given but to knuckle under to the all-powerful Governments. After all, the threat of a Government P3 bridge with heavily subsidized tolls, a mandatory marshalling yard on Highway 401 to direct traffic (Rock mentioned a "staging area" on Fairley's show as well), no trucks on Huron Church Road, a new DRIC Road to a new bridge and being controlled under Bill C-3 are pretty scary propositions

After all, the thought is that he is a smart man who does not want to see his valuable asset reduced in value and then bankrupted so he will sell out now and at a price that is lower than he could get in the market-place but still a nice package. After all, no one would want an asset that can be negatively impactd by a Government crossing.

Accordingly, the Govenrment would buy it at a much reduced price and then when the costs come in from DRIC that show that the new crossing will costs billions, why the other best crossing from the P/NF study will be used instead: the twinned Ambassador Bridge! Just like with the twinned Blue Water bridge. With a widened Huron Church road (DRIC Road) and an upgraded E C Row as well.

Heck that would service the new East End Arena too wouldn't it and the transportation hub that Eddie is now talking about with the Ontario Transportation Minister? She builds the roads...perhaps she might upload E C Row and do a deal on Brighton Beach after all for Lauzon/E C Row as in the Nine-Point Plan as I suggested a long time before!

Have we all been made to look like chumps by backstage political machinations for all of these years? Have we been fed a bunch of BS? What is the truth? Will we ever find out?

Now if I could figure this out, I am sure the Bridge Co. can too. If so, then I suspect that the Extra Point in the Nine Point Plan will be blocked and will be No Good!

Monday, February 12, 2007

New City Hall Progress Report

Work is continuing on Eddie Francis Square, the location of Windsor's new City Hall.

As you can tell from the advertisement run in Saturday's Star, a Transportation study is underway to see what the traffic effect will be on the new Casino and 400 City Hall Square especially after the Tunnel Plaza Improvements are completed. Clearly that will impact the exact location where the City Hall will be built.

Remember I showed you before the "golden triangle" linking the Casino, 400 City Hall Square and the new City Hall. I have always assumed that the Barn will be torn down.

It's not designated as Heritage even though Councillor Halberstadt wants to do so. Designating it as "heritage" such as that given to the Tunnel Ventilation building, would cause all kinds of headaches. As the Councilor said
  • "Halberstadt said though there are no plans to tear down the building, heritage designation would "cement" Windsor Arena's future. "

As I see the Barn's future, it is in cement all right--cement shoes to the bottom of the Detroit River! It will be a casualty to a demolition ball.

Now the Glengarry Housing project will also have to be torn down to make a sweeping new vista for the City Hall, a grand plaza as in Toronto. It will be a "signature" area to signify the re-birth of our new downtown as well. This new downtown will be furhter east of our exisitng downtown, the kiddie bar area, notwithstanding Mark Boscariol's protestations.

Moreover, it will be redevelopment in Ward 3. The area needs it badly. As the police recently said:

  • "We have some very unique policing issues in this city with the American (visitors) that come downtown on the weekends and some of the downtown housing projects like Glengarry,"

Sure things are getting better there, but seriously, can you imagine allowing a crime area right beside the Square?

  • "Once the domain of hookers and drug dealers, Glengarry Court [public housing project] is cleaning up.

    The area has seen a "significant" reduction in crime since residents staged a protest at city hall about two years ago...

    Mayor Eddie Francis took note of the situation and the city joined the Windsor Housing Corporation in vowing to help rid the complex of drugs, prostitutes and crime. A security guard and security cameras were introduced. Enwin Utilities installed 38 street lights to make residents feel safer at night. Casino Windsor donated computers and money to help refurbish a library in one of the buildings. It has also agreed to allow police officers assigned to patrol its premises to attend to trouble in Glengarry Court."

Don't worry, the people who will be moved from there will have a new home, in Ward 2, right beside the funky bus terminal. They will be the main users of Transit Windsor so why not make it convenient for them to catch the bus. It will provide "quick and easy access for people who depend on public transportation" as Mr. Fahri said about his $40 million condominium building being beside the terminal.

Frankly, it would not surprise me to see Mr. Farhi build the new City Hall too. He has experience in working with Governments in London and in Windsor already: 2400 Ouellette Ave. The Company has experience in housing "three levels of government, Federal, Provincial and Municipal" including a "a 70,000 square foot free-standing design-build federal government building."

So far, so good. No one has yet figured out what is really going on except for readers of this BLOGsite. And don't worry, after the arena is paid off in 2010, we will still have torrents of money coming in to pay for this monumnet to ego too!

Watch for new Progress Reports as they happen

Repeal The Interim Control By-law Quickly

Some small-minded people have said recently that I and a number of Councillors do not get along because of my harsh criticism of them. It is said that my tough BLOGs have created an animosity. It was suggested that I should "lighten up" on them.

How ridiculous.

The Councillors know exactly what I am doing. I am commenting on matters of interest to Windsorites. I am expressing MY opinion. One Councillor, who some mistakenly think is my biggest foe, chuckles when he discusses our different opinion on the border file as an example. He understands that we differ on this issue but as he says, we can sit down afterwards and have a beer together because we are both doing what we have to do. It is "politics" not personal.

It's just like two lawyers acting on behalf of their clients in court or hockey players trying to score a goal for their team or any situation where two people have opposing views. One takes one side and the other takes the other side. There is no reason for the one with a different perspective to get upset and take personal offence.

So let me try and offer some advice to Councillors to show I am trying to be helpful.

Here's a nice law school type question:

  1. What is the personal liability of a Councillor who votes in favour of a By-law that the Councillor knows is illegal ie outside of the scope of Council to pass or is passed illegally?

  2. What is the personal liaiblity of a Councillor who does not know and passes it in good faith?

  3. What is the personal liability of a Councillor who does not know but then subsequently finds out that it is illegal and does nothing about it?

You may wonder why I am asking these questions but here is my dilemma. I happened to be looking at the liability sections of the Municipal Act and saw this one:

  • Sec 448 (1) No proceeding for damages or otherwise shall be commenced against a member of council or an officer, employee or agent of a municipality or a person acting under the instructions of the officer, employee or agent for any act done in good faith in the performance or intended performance of a duty or authority under this Act or a by-law passed under it or for any alleged neglect or default in the performance in good faith of the duty or authority.

I read the language of the Interim Control By-law and its justification. It was passed supposedly to allow "the municipality to complete and implement a Community Improvement Plan" for Olde Sandwich Towne. I wondered if other CIPs had resulted in this type of a By-law being passed, say like in the urban village area, but I did not have time to research it. Of course I wrote a skeptical BLOG about it but that is just me.

Then I remembered what the Mayor and Councillor Jones said was the reason for their action:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and Ward 2 Coun. Ron Jones said the interim control bylaw was passed to maintain historically significant structures -- and there are plenty of them in the area -- while the community improvement plan is developed.

    Jones said a committee spent the last 18 months developing recommendations for the Sandwich area. He said some properties are 200 years old and the area could be the site of underground tunnels used by slaves escaping the U.S."

You know, dear reader, that did not sound like the reason given in the Administration Report. It sounded "heritage-like." Then I thought I remembered that there was a recent meeting and I found it on the City's website:

  • "Heritage Conservation in Sandwich
  • The Sandwich Heritage Conservation District Study is underway, the purpose of which is to determine whether all or part of the Sandwich Neighbourhood should be designated as a heritage conservation district. Your input is welcomed at a public information meeting. Thursday, January 25, 2007."

I was shocked...that was the day before the Interim Control By-law was put on the agenda in the last minute. Something bizarre was happening. There already was something going on about "heritage" in Sandwich. I thought it was a rather long and involved process including the hiring of an outside consultant. I started reading the Ontario Heritage Act but got a headache reading the sections on "HERITAGE CONSERVATION DISTRICTS" since it seemed so complicated and time-consuming.

But then I got a cold shiver down my spine for my Councillor-friends. Weren't the Mayor and Councillor Jones talking about "heritage" when they talked about maintaining historically significant structures when they gave a reason for the Interim Control By-law. Shouldn't they have been acting under the Ontario Heritage Act? If so, were they acting before the Statute had been complied with? Wasn't the By-law therefore illegal? How could it be justified when the heritage study had just started. I wondered if the first By-law would expire around the time when a heritage one would come into play to tie up Sandwich forever.

Oh my I thought, this could be serious. I knew Dan Stamper said in the Star "Bridge lawsuit 'last resort'" but what if it reached that point. I quickly looked back at my questions. I did not have time to do legal research on the issues but I was sure that George Wilkki would.

I was afraid for my Councillor friends that if what was done was wrong and they now knew it and did nothing, they would be at risk.

Oh my goodness, I hope someone moves quickly a Motion of Reconsideration if George tells them I am right!