Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ambassador Bridge "Fly-over"

Here is the link to the Ambassador Bridge "Fly-over" showing their enhanced bridge as mentioned by Dan Stamper on Melanie Deveau's show on CLKW today. I found it on YOUTUBE

Hmmmm a very interesting video. Sandwich is not destroyed by the enhanced bridge, Delray is not destroyed by the enhanced bridge.

If one looks closely, hardly any space is used in Windsor except for a bit of land beside the existing bridge.

And to think, for all of this time we heard how bad it was going to be for these communities if the Bridge Co. built their enhanced bridge.

A BLOG You Will Never Read

With the Alinda deal, this BLOG is even more timely. Can you can guess now why I have not seen records even though my request went in at the end of June, 2006.

I am sure that you are never going to read this BLOG unless you are a glutton for punishment, you have a really big cup of Tim Horton's coffee to drink and your boss is away for the day or you want to convince your kids not to be a lawyer but to do something useful like be an electrician or plumber!

It's about 20 pages of typed sheets of paper if you wanted to print it to take it home for the weekend. Its either "War and Peace" or this for insomniacs.

I wanted to set out in its entirety my Answer to the City's Representations so that you can see what I had to do to try and get some documents from the City. It is what one sometimes has to go through with our Open and Transparent Municipal Government.

Remember they wanted me to pay over $100,000 under my Municipal Freedom of Information Act request. I was seeking information about the financing deal re the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel, the Duty Free Shop, Tunnel Plaza Improvements, the Burger King and Top Hat properties downtown and fees and accounts of all consultants and lawyers hired on the border file.

The areas of dispute from my perspective relate to:
  • the search for documents (excessive in quantity but deficient in quality)
  • financial hardship
  • reasonableness of search especially respecting the number of records the Mayor holds and the lack of specificity re the Windsor Tunnel Commission
  • adequacy of the City's filing system in searching for documents
  • fee waiver

But the most surprising part of the City's position was their reference to my BLOGs and the personal attack on me because of what I write. It's becoming quite common now.

I thought no one at City Hall would ever admit to reading them. Remember, as an example, what the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget said to Roseann Danese:

  • "Ward 1 candidate Coun. Dave Brister is not a fan of blogs. “I don’t read blogs,” he said recently.

    Most city councillors will never admit they read Arditti’s blog, but they do. Be certain of that. Privately, city hall employees have said they’ve been surprised from time to time at the accuracy of some of his inside information. He has moles. But no one seems to know who they are."

Well it seems the someone in the Legal Department reads them. I was accused of not working constructively with the City to narrow the request, that I am not motivated to be reasonable, that I am biased and need to cast public aspersions against the City and that my approach was confrontational and mocking!

Whew, and you, dear reader, thought that the Battagello story was harsh! What a character attack on me.

This was all due to my June 29 BLOG "MFOIA--Open And Transparent Government" and my June 30 BLOG "The Clock Has Started Running" it seems, part of which was quoted in the City's representations. And my calendar, as above.

Touchy, touchy. I may have been a bad fellow but you know what....I did say in my BLOG that I hoped I would be proven wrong in how quickly I would get the documents. Unfortunately, the facts demonstrate that I am a pretty good psychic!

Of course I answered the attack by talking about the City's "openness" and how the City had acted in other MFOIA requests. [See below]

I find it so interesting how concerned some are about a BLOG. To think that a few remarks on the Internet should cause so much consternation. I certainly do not have the readership of the Star and never will. I do not have as many readers as a radio station has listeners or TV station has viewers in Windsor and could never hope to do so. So what's the big deal?

I don't think I am the problem, dear reader. YOU are. I am not that important in the scheme of things but YOU collectively are very powerful and are viewed as a threat.

YOU are the one who chooses freely to come here to get a different perspective on what is going on in Windsor. YOU are not a person satisfied to get the "news" only from the traditional sources.

YOU are the one who scares some people, not me. YOU might start thinking critically. YOU might not swallow what you are being told. YOU might start asking some tough questions and demanding answers. YOU might get more involved. YOU are the one who demands to know more and comes here to read an alternative point of view. And not just mine either, but the other Bloggers in town.

YOU are the real danger, not me.

So if YOU have a few minutes over the weekend and have nothing else better to do, YOU might want to take a peek. Who knows, YOU might want to read "Anna Karenina" next.

February 28, 2007

Appeal No. MA06-302

Request File Number: FOI 33-2006

The representations by the City of Windsor are very distressing to me. Red herrings are introduced while relevant information provided by me is not acknowledged as if it did not exist. The City then introduces the irrelevant issue of “character” as if somehow this is important in determining the issues in this appeal.

In my opinion, the Windsor Representations are nothing more than a continuation of the City’s efforts to stall the release of required records under the provisions of the Act.


In answer to the question of who is requesting the fee waiver, it appears that Mr. Scarpelli on behalf of the City had no issue but the City’s lawyer has made up one. His red herring is that “of fundamental the person making the request for the records.” But he just makes this bald statement without saying why.

It should be obvious to the City with whom they are dealing. Rather, the City prefers to make an issue out of nothing as if my letter was never received. In my letter dated October 19, 2006 respecting the fee waiver, I said:

“On its face, a fee of $101,089.00 would cause financial hardship to an individual. There is no absolute requirement to provide “income, expenses, assets and liabilities.” The Order you referred to starts off by saying “generally” not absolutely. The basis of this Order is Order P-1393 and in that case the “The Ministry responded to the appellant's request for a fee waiver, by asking her to provide additional information regarding her financial circumstances.”

For your information, my financial circumstance is that I am in receipt at this time of Canada Pension Plan income and the combined family income for Income Tax purposes for my wife and me for 2005 is a small fraction of the amount requested. Obviously, this request would cause financial hardship to me.”

Can anything be clearer that the records are being requested by me as an individual and not Wyndham Hall Consulting.


It is beyond comprehension how the City can say that it made a reasonable search when it did NOT provide or identify any records from the Windsor Tunnel Commission, one of the named MFOIA parties from whom records were requested.

It was not identified by Mr. Scarpelli as one of the groups from which inquiries were made. All he said was “I would comment that the Windsor Tunnel commission records are duly represented by various departments namely Corporate Projects, Council Services Department and City Auditor.” (Oct11 letter).

What does that mean? That is a totally non-responsive answer and nothing more than an attempt to hide documents by burying them with thousands of others to make them impossible to be seen by the Applicant. WTC is a separate group in the City which ought to have its own files system. If it does not, that is not the fault of the Applicant.

It is absurd to suggest that there are only 30 records in the Mayor’s Office that are responsive to this matter. I find it fascinating that no one thought to ask the Mayor himself if there were more than 30 records, only the Chief of Staff. She merely asked the Mayor about “electronic files.” Is there a reason why there was no conversation about “non-electronic” records.

Lawyers, and the Mayor is one, are notorious for being packrats about paper. That there are only 30 documents is a virtual impossibility. Have efforts been made to store records in other locations precisely to frustrate the purposes of the Act. The Mayor is a known as a “micro-manager” who keeps tab of everything. The Tunnel “financing” file is a huge one for the City given its value as an asset. Micro-managers would have files and records.

Moreover, the comments made refer only to the Mayor’s “main office file cabinets.” Are there any other cabinets in other locations. As an example, when the Mayor was a Councillor, he made me aware in another MFOIA application that the then Mayor had “secret” cabinets. Does this Mayor have such cabinets. Does he have a home office or other location where documents are kept as an example?

The Mayor is also Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission. Did the Mayor keep his files in the WTC location rather than the Mayor’s Office precisely so that he can say as Mayor “I do not have any records.” He would be correct since he holds them as WTC Chair.

I have requested records surrounding the possibility of the sale, lease or securitization of the revenues of the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel. This is a major transaction that the City of Windsor has been discussing with the City of Detroit (each City owns half of the tunnel) and the Governments of Ontario and Canada. Here is one example from the Windsor Star:

  • Windsor Star 03-01-2006
    Councils join in historic meeting

    A meeting between city councils from Windsor and Detroit was labelled a historic first Tuesday night.

    Fixing border traffic problems at North America's busiest international crossing was the focus of the agenda, but the two- hour session was dominated by background presentations.

    A commitment was made by both councils to meet again soon with the hope of making joint decisions about several controversial border traffic issues -- such as the location for a new bridge and deal with a looming bid by the Ambassador Bridge company to take control of the U.S. side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel.

    "The fact these type of sessions don't happen every day was most important," said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. "This is a new chapter in our relations.

    "Background was very important. It's a first step in understanding of our realities. We can get together again and have more discussions."

    It was an historic evening with background presentations. The Mayor is a lawyer. He would have “records” for those presentations that he would have prepared or that he would have seen before anything was presented in Detroit.

In another article, it was said:

  • Detroit envies tunnel revenues
    Dave Battagello 03-02-2006

    Joint operating agreement mulled as Windsor earns millions more from tube

    The city of Windsor raked in over $6.8 million US more in profits the last three years than Detroit through operation of the Windsor- Detroit tunnel.

    Ownership appears to be the difference -- Windsor owns the Canadian side of the tunnel, keeping its toll revenues, while Detroit has leased its side and receives rent payments from an Australian bank.

    Even though Windsor must pay for upkeep, the profit advantages dwarf the deal Detroit has in place, according to figures provided during Tuesday's joint council meeting by City of Detroit fiscal analyst Irvin Corley Jr.

    While Windsor pulled in about $9.2 million US in profits in 2002-04, Detroit earned $2.3 million, he said.
    Several Detroit councillors hinted they want to see a joint operating agreement with Windsor to run the tunnel so Detroit can generate a similar level of profits.

    "Joint operation is something both entities should explore," Corley Jr. said. "This is an opportunity for both sides to do due diligence and do a better deal for both sides…"

    Windsor city council and Transport Canada have expressed opposition to the bridge offer, fearing it would give too much control of local border crossings to a private company.”

Windsor had an agreement with the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation to operate its side of the tunnel. It is not believable that an “operating agreement” and other relevant records respecting a possible “joint operating agreement” for an international Tunnel operation that the Mayor has estimated to be worth $2-300 million would only be 30 records.

Please note as well that both the City and the Federal Government opposed a competitive Tunnel offer. Again, is it believable that there was not substantial correspondence between the two levels of Government?

With respect to the competitive offers, here are other Star stories all of which suggest that there should be more records around:

  • “Tunnel operator upsets city over customs plaza;
    Dave Battagello 07-05-2005

    Mayor Eddie Francis and the city's tunnel commission say they are concerned the operator of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel has secretly offered support for an Ambassador Bridge proposal to create 200 inspection lanes in a joint bridge-tunnel customs plaza in Detroit…

    Local lawyer Clifford Sutts has been retained by the city and fired off a letter to the DCTC on June 17 reminding the operator it is not authorized to represent the tunnel commission or city of Windsor without prior consultation and "having received their consent to do so

    "The tunnel commission has expressed its position to the DCTC," Francis said. "The (joint operating agreement) is very specific."

  • Tunnel firm eyes new lease: Longtime operator hopes to thwart bridge's takeover attempt
    Byline: Dave Battagello 10-28-2005

    Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan sent a letter to Mayor Eddie Francis to emphasize there are no plans to move Canada Customs officers to Detroit -- as called for in the bridge proposal.

    There are also "serious concerns" about redundancy by creating one customs bridge-tunnel superplaza at North America's busiest border crossing, she said.

  • Feds threaten to sue Detroit: Single control of bridge and tunnel raise concern in Ottawa
    Byline: Dave Battagello 11-30-2005

    The Canadian government has threatened Detroit with legal action if it approves the Ambassador bridge's bid to take over the U.S. side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel...

    The federal government's concerns were raised in a letter sent by the law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn -- the Canadian government's legal counsel in the U.S. -- to the City of Detroit…

    Mayor Eddie Francis said he has received assurances from Kilpatrick and Detroit council president Ken Cockrel that a decision will not be made until a meeting with Windsor city council.

    "The (federal government) letter reaffirms support not only from our perspective, but also from a national perspective," Francis said.”

  • Detroit rejects Moroun plan:
    Dave Battagello 08-02-06

    Windsor's city leaders also voiced strong opposition, requesting a rare joint meeting in February with Detroit's council on the tunnel issue.

    "We had a number of discussions with Detroit and the mayor indicating the importance of the decisions with the bridge (company) to both jurisdictions," said Mayor Eddie Francis.

    "It was their decision to make. We shared with them the information that we had. The border decisions made on one side affect the other side.

In a memo dated February 28, 2006 a Detroit Fiscal analyst made reference to 2 documents prepared by the Windsor Auditor about the Tunnel and one prepared by DCTC’s CEO. Where are they located?

With respect to the second issue, I have NOT asked for “day-to-day” operations matters relating to the Tunnel but records in relation to “financing” issues” and with respect to specific parties. The City is well aware of the issues that I am raising respecting the Tunnel as can be seen from the above news stories as an example. The City is being disingenuous when they “misstate” what I am seeking.

Item #7 relating to the “border file” is specific in what it asks for eg law firms and other firms, their reports, bills and accounts etc. It is preposterous to suggest that this request is so “massive” and “[covers] an extensive and broad range of records.” Again, the City is being disingenuous when they “misstate” what I am seeking.

What must be concluded as well is that the documentation for items #4, 5& 6 is not massive and should be produced immediately since no references were made to them specifically but they are all lumped in together in one general paragraph. That is not evidence of anything

It is also noteworthy that in ORDER MO-1839, Appeal MA-030140-1 where the request was wider than in this request, although the time period was shorter, the City had no trouble identifying and producing documents and did not raise the issues they are raising in this appeal. What has changed in the interim to now make it so hard for the City to produce documents?


If the City believes that sufficient information was given to me, then it is again misstating facts.

In effect, the City is stating that its filing system is inadequate when it cannot find easily records that are very specific in their nature. Again, look at the response respecting the Windsor Tunnel Commission in the October 11, letter. “I would comment that the Windsor Tunnel Commission records are duly represented by various departments namely Corporate Projects, Council Services Department and City Auditor.”

One can only conclude that the City is deliberately making it extremely difficult to produce those records for reasons unknown but which give rise to suspicion. The applicant should not be made to suffer for the City’s inadequacy in long delays or excessive costs.

In order to reduce costs and work involved by the City, I asked twice for specific information to be provided. (August 3, 2006 and August 14, 2006) SUCH INFORMATION WAS NEVER PROVIDED:

In order for me to determine what my next step should be, I would appreciate if you could provide to me the number of records in each of the seven parts of my request. All that you have given me are total numbers.

I would also appreciate when dealing with each area, if you would also breakdown the records by year.

As an example, and to be clear, what I am seeking for each of the seven areas is:

Area #1 Records re plans or proposals to operate…the Detroit- Windsor Tunnel…
 Total number of records
 Number of records broken down by year

Without this information, it is virtually impossible for me to make an informed decision.

It is of interest to note that the City again sets out that it did not look at the Windsor Tunnel Commission files even though many of the questions related to the Tunnel.

It is perfectly obvious that the “Records Retrieval Form” information is useless. We are NOT provided with the question asked of the searcher in the first place. Clearly, if the question was to find the “broad and massive” range of documents as the City thinks I asked for, then the answer of “10,000” may well be accurate. However, since it is clear that the City misread my request, no wonder the number of documents “found” is incorrect and excessively overstated.

With respect as well, I would also draw attention to the previous appeal where I alleged that the City was non-responsive by throwing in every document imaginable and I believe it comes from the same Department that provided the representative sample in this case

“The City’s response was originally to grant him access to several boxes of files that contained information that was not relevant or responsive to the request, as well as information that pertained to the subject matter requested…

At that time, access was granted to a large number of records; but the appellant maintains that many of the records provided were not relevant or responsive to the request. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary from the City, I find that it did not comply with the requirements of sections 17 and 19. The City failed to identify those records which were responsive from the Council and Customer Service record holdings that were made available to the appellant and instead simply left him responsible for doing so.

While it would appear that the City did conduct searches for responsive records, I am not satisfied that those searches were sufficiently comprehensive.”


I am disappointed that the Solicitor for the City did not include the two letters where I attempted to narrow the scope of my request and obtain information so I could make an informed decision about records. I stated above what I asked for and what the City refused to provide.

The failure of the Solictor to provide the letters and to acknowledge my requests is a shocking affirmation of the City’s actions which I consider to be an attempt to prevent me from seeing records to which I am entitled.

It is self-evident from the “Records Retrieval Form” that the City’s record keeping is a shambles if it takes 270 hours to find the limited documents I have requested. That should be the City’s costs, not the Applicant’s.

If one does the math of the “representative sample of responsive records,” 51 documents found in 4.5 hours of searching should total 3060 in 270 hours yet the City alleges that there are 10,000 or more.

Are the other estimates as to number of records as inadequate?

I have produced evidence (see above) as to how I would suffer financial hardship and the City has not only not acknowledged what I stated again, but more importantly, has produced no evidence denying the truth of what I said.

I have already commented in a separate document re the fee waiver (October 19, 2006) but let me state the following:
 It is absolutely wrong to say that the request was “massive. Rather it was limited as outlined above
 I asked a specific question to narrow the scope, twice, and was ignored
 It is impossible to say that the City worked with me when I was ignored


If what I have stated is accepted, then it is ridiculous to assume that 10 months are required. I am prepared to work with the City even now to reduce the scope provided that the City will work in good faith with me.

Obviously the amount of time will drop considerably since the records request is limited.

However, given the shabby condition of the City’s file system, the applicant should not be prejudiced by having to wait 10 months even if that is the period estimated. The City should be required at its expense to provide the manpower to provide the records within a reasonable time period, say 30 days.

Such an Order would force the City to maintain a proper filing system for other requests.


The City’s solicitor has chosen to make “character” of the Applicant an issue. I am not sure what the relevance of that is in an information request under the Act. Even if I am the most miserable person around, what has that got to do with what the Act requires. This is merely designed to prejudice the Ajudicator against the Applicant!

In passing, it is interesting to note that what I predicted based on the last MFOIA application and what took place before I wrote my BLOG, that my prediction was quite accurate as to the City’s actions. Being correct cannot be described as exhibiting “animosity!” I did say that I hoped to be proven wrong in my prediction. Obviously I was proven right.

However, if that is the Solicitor’s choice then one needs only to look at what the facts are including the actions of the City in this and other MFOIA applications and the reputation of the City with respect to freedom of information in general and being secretive rather than being open and transparent:

I have already in several places in this note expressed my opinion of what the City is doing to prevent me from obtaining records in and a timely and affordable fashion.

I draw your attention to ORDER MO-1839, Appeal MA-030140-1 including what was said there about the City as quoted above.

In ORDER MO-2117, Appeal MA-060055-1, on page 4, it is stated:

  • “[The City submits the following:}
    It can be inferred that the price for the service was negotiated in confidence because the [affected party] requires the information be kept confidential in order to maintain a competitive position relative to other potential tenants in the facility.

    The affected party made no representations as to whether the terms of the lease were “supplied” to the City. With regard to whether the terms of the lease were supplied “in confidence”, the affected party stated that:
    …the commercial agreement was negotiated in confidence at the request of the City. The City has not to this day consented to the disclosure of any parking related information.

The City asked for an “inference” to be drawn rather than admitting the truth. The adjudicator had to point out that what the City was saying was patently incorrect.

The Windsor Star reported on this matter in the following terms:

  • Windsor Star 11-18-2006
    Privacy czar opens secret garage deal:
    Roseann Danese

    Details of city's subsidy of Canderel parking under wraps

    Ontario's privacy commissioner has ordered the City of Windsor to release a secret agreement with the Canderel building owners for spots in the municipal parking garage attached to the tower.

    The Windsor Star sought the information to determine if the city was offering taxpayer-subsidized rates for patrons of one of the building's tenants

    Ten months ago, The Star requested a copy of the city's agreement for parking spots that would be used for customers of the Keg restaurant.

    The garage, which sits at the corner of Riverside Drive and Ferry Street, is owned by the city and, while it was a money-losing operation three years ago, it now breaks even, according to Mike Palanacki, who oversees the city's parking operations.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said the city will comply with the privacy commissioner's order. "From our perspective, it's always easier to release information so we don't have to deal with rumour and speculation."

    Francis said the city refused to disclose the agreement because it did not have the permission of the building owner Windsor Asset Management Ltd., a subsidiary of Commerz Immobilien GBH, a German investment bank

    The agreement is for an undisclosed number of parking spots in the municipal garage that are to be used by Keg restaurant patrons, but it was signed with the building's owner.

    "We were asked to keep it confidential," Francis said Friday.

    But a passage found on page 4 of the ruling by assistant commissioner Brian Beamish suggests it was the city that wanted the deal to be kept confidential.

    "With regard to whether the terms of the lease were supplied 'in confidence,' the affected party (the building's owner) stated that: '...the commercial agreement was negotiated in confidence at the request of the city. The city has not to this day consented to the disclosure of any parking-related information…"

    Chris Schnurr, who lost his bid for a council seat in Monday's election, said he has filed two FOI requests -- for the agreement between the Windsor Spitfires and the city, as well as the agreement between the tenants subleasing city space in the Canderel building.

    The city has refused to release those agreements, too, based on the same arguments used to withhold the parking agreement.

    The city had been arguing that disclosure of the agreement would have revealed third-party commercial information supplied in confidence. It also argued the disclosure would have prejudiced the competitive position of the building owner.

    But the privacy commissioner's Beamish said none of that applied because the agreement was a negotiated one and not one that was reached through information that was supplied.”

Chris Schurr is also a BLOGGER in Windsor. Here is his experience of dealing with the City respecting excessive costs to be charged for providing him with the same information that the City had already found for the other MFOIA request:

  • Freedom of Information Request - Spitfires appeal
    Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

    Well, as you know, I was granted access to the Canderel leases, and the Keg Parking arrangement…

    Now, I have been communicating back and forth with regards to the cost of accessing this information. In their initial access letter, the City of Windsor stated the cost would be $261.98. They finally agreed to lower this to $154.98, as I have requested to view the records in person and copy (at 20 cents per page) only what I deem relevant.

    In my letter to the City, I requested a fee waiver and stated that the “costs as presented were invalid.” I questioned the search time required as the Windsor Star requested the same information regarding the The Keg parking arrangement, as well as the leases in the Canderel building. So why the charge for 5 hours of search time, when the search conducted was in response to TWO similar requests? I figure, the search time should be only 2.5 hours. The City, unfortunately, did not acknowledge the two times I brought it to their attention.

    But here’s the thing. According to the Windsor Star (January 6, 2007, A1), “The City of Windsor will make public 466 pages of agreements reached with the companies subleasing city space in the DaimlyerChrysler headquarters building at rates below market value.”

    According to the city’s letter to me, they stated the search time was high because I did not specify a year in my request. So why then was I granted access to only 390 pages of agreements versus the Star’s 466 pages? I have been given access to fewer pages? There goes the “didn’t specify a year” argument.

    According to the city, my request was “time consuming given the scope of your request since you did not specify a year and you had asked for “all leases, and subleases, and other agreements."

    Well, if this is the case, why was I granted access to fewer pages? I would expect that given that my request was so daunting, I would have access to more pages than the Star. The Star’s story clearly confirms that the City granted them access to more documents, so how was my request “time consuming” when they had already searched for the records in question in response to the Star’s request?

    The City wouldn’t possibly be witholding information - if not, why is the Star being granted access to more pages of lease agreements then me, when I asked for all of them?

    Something is clearly amiss. Oh well, it appears I will have to spend another weekend filling out my appeal to the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario - again!

Here are some additional Windsor Star stories and editorials relating to the City’s “character:”

  • City council: What constitutes a 'meeting'
    Windsor Star 12-16-2006 Section: Editorial/Opinion

    It's crystal clear transparency isn't a strategic priority for Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and the newly constituted council. Neither, it seems, is honouring campaign promises to conduct the public's business in public.

    It's a shame. The month between November's election and Thursday's secret meeting was full of so much hope. Now it's back to business as usual for city leaders who appear to embrace open government only grudgingly and only as a last resort.

    The public was barred from a council meeting Thursday by John Skorobohacz, the city's chief administrative officer, who told reporters he was concerned councillors might not be able to speak freely if taxpayers could hear what they had to say. Francis spoke privately with Skorobohacz and then told reporters they would have to leave

    "Apparently I have no authority," said Francis.

    Whether Francis was deferring to the advice of his top administrator or using him for political cover is for you to decide, but the decision to hold the closed door session appears to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Ontario's Municipal Act, which stipulates all meetings should be open except in limited and specific circumstances."

  • Open the closed doors;
    Don McArthur Windsor Star 12-04-2006 Column

    The pledge by Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis to stop using confidentiality clauses when the city inks deals with the private sector is a welcome step, but he should go further to ensure taxpayers aren't being unnecessarily kept in the dark.

    Francis should embrace the concept of non-confidentiality clauses -- a paragraph clearly articulating the importance and necessity of open and transparent government that can be inserted into every contract the city signs with the private sector…

    The section in the legislation dealing with third party agreements, like the deals with the Windsor Spitfires and the tenants in the Canderel building, lists very specific reasons why municipalities can withhold information from taxpayers.

    Confidentiality is only one of them, meaning it alone is insufficient to deny access unless other conditions are met. Businesses promised confidentiality might learn that lesson the hard way.

    The crucial condition is what is known as the "harms" test. In order to deny taxpayers access to reports and contracts, the city or the third party must provide "detailed and convincing" evidence the disclosure could "significantly" harm their competitive or economic interests. This test is wrongly used by municipalities across Ontario as a broadsword to deny the public access to whole documents when it should more rightly be used as a scalpel, exempting only very limited and specific details.

    "When government organizations use individuals or companies in the private sector to help develop, produce or provide government programs or services, the public should not lose its right to access this information," wrote Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian in her 2005 report…

    The only question is whether the city releases the information voluntarily or is forced by Ontario's privacy commissioner

    The city should proceed carefully before denying access to these and other deals and only refuse public access if there is clear and compelling evidence of potential economic harm.

    It has already lost one appeal and been ordered to release information by the privacy commissioner. If it loses any more, city leaders will lose their credibility and taxpayers their faith and patience.”

  • Parking deal: Ruling favours openness;
    Windsor Star 11-21-2006, Editorial/Opinion

    The city of Windsor has been ordered by Ontario's privacy commissioner to release one secret deal and it should voluntarily release at least two others to spare the commissioner's office unnecessary work and provide taxpayers the open government they deserve

    The city has refused to release the agreement it reached with the owners of the downtown Canderel building for spots in the attached parking garage, which is owned by the city and, by extension, you and every other taxpayer in Windsor. The parking spots in question are for patrons of the Keg.

    There has been much speculation the city agreed to heavily subsidize the cost of those spots to lure the restaurant downtown. The fact Mayor Eddie Francis staged a press conference to announce the Keg's downtown expansion added fuel to the speculative fires.

    Attempts by ordinary citizens and The Windsor Star to secure copies of the agreement to determine whether and what amount of tax dollars were in play were rebuffed by the city, which hid behind provisions in Ontario's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

    The city maintained the disclosure of the agreement would reveal confidential third-party information and would have prejudiced the competitive position of the building owner. Hogwash, concluded assistant privacy commissioner Brian Beamish, who on Friday ordered the city to release the agreement.

    Francis said the city would oblige and added "it's always easier to release information so we don't have to deal with rumour and speculation." It's a curious statement to make given the number of deals the city has laboured to keep secret, but we couldn't agree more.

    We would urge Francis to immediately release copies of the long- term deal the city inked with the Windsor Spitfires as well as city- subsidized lease agreements with tenants occupying city space in the Canderel building. The arguments the city has been using to keep those deals hidden are the same ones it used to keep the parking deal under wraps.

    The privacy commissioner's office deemed the city's arguments so weak in the case of the parking spots that it didn't even ask The Star to rebut them during the review process. The city's arguments aren't likely to hold any more water in the other two cases so it should voluntarily open the spigot and let the information flow as it should to taxpayers.

    The city can withhold and, in fact, is obligated to withhold any information supplied in confidence that would be harmful to the Spitfires or the Canderel tenants, but the law requires a reasonable and narrow test be applied. Those third parties, of course, can consent to the release of the information. But it is not the balance sheets of these third parties that taxpayers are entitled to review but the financial details of the deals as they relate to the public purse.

    What the city should release, and what it will likely be ordered to release should matters once again go to the privacy commissioner's office, is an accounting of money or benefits, including waived fees, being paid by or to the city and a list of any inducements provided by taxpayers. It's our money after all. We just let the city manage it.

    The deals the city inked might be good for taxpayers, they might be bad or they might be neutral. The city obviously believed in them and can hopefully defend them on their merits. But the only people who can make the final determination are city taxpayers and, to do it, they need to look at the deals and the numbers in them.

  • Spits' deal: Details should be public
    Editorial/Opinion, Windsor Star. Windsor, Ont.: Nov 24, 2006.

    There are several disturbing aspects regarding the city's secret deal with the Windsor Spitfires, including the memory lapse of Mayor Eddie Francis.

    Francis, who waxes often about the importance of open government, said this week he couldn't recall whether a confidentiality clause formed part of the 20-year-deal. That's an extraordinary admission for Francis to make given the expectations surrounding an agreement that was signed just weeks ago and announced with considerable fanfare.

    It is also unacceptable. Agreeing to a clause that denies the public an opportunity to scrutinize a deal involving public money is not a niggling detail. It is a crucial and controversial aspect of the deal. Thankfully, a few councillors have filled in the gap in the mayor's memory to explain a disconcerting process that has left taxpayers in the dark.

    Councillors Fulvio Valentinis and Ron Jones and recently retired Coun. Joyce Zuk confirmed a confidentiality clause is part of the deal that will see the Spits play in an arena to be built for a base price of $48 million. Valentinis said the clause was inserted for "competitive reasons" at the Spits' request but was unable to say who, exactly, the OHL club was competing with.

    The clause is designed to prevent taxpayers from learning how much the hockey club pays for its lease and how much it will collect from concession and alcohol sales, advertising and private boxes. The clause also keeps hidden whether any ticket surcharges will be shared with the city like they have been in the past. Such details are clearly in the public's purview considering city taxpayers are footing the bill for the arena.

    Those details were always made public in the past. Valentinis said the Spits asked for the confidentiality clause but he is getting that information second-hand from administrators. Taxpayers have no way of knowing how vociferously city negotiators objected to the suggestion or if they objected at all. Was the clause a potential deal breaker or did city negotiators view it as routine? Have they been instructed to negotiate similar clauses on other deals?

    Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said his city's agreement with the Sarnia Sting is so good it's "available to anybody who wants it" and he wouldn't have it any other way. Bradley said he is often asked to sign confidentiality agreements but simply refuses.

    "Just because someone asks for confidentiality doesn't mean they get it," said Bradley. "I'm not signing a gag order to participate in a discussion about the community."

    The fact Sarnia's deal with the Sting is public is good for Sarnia taxpayers but it is troubling for their Windsor counterparts because Windsor councillors were told by administrators that all OHL arena deals were confidential. One phone call proved that false.

    Even more troubling is the fact councillors themselves haven't seen copies of the deal. Council endorsed it based on a report produced by administrators that was taken away from them following in-camera discussions. This lack of oversight is appalling, especially considering the deal was negotiated hastily before an election. If the MFP financing fiasco taught us anything, it's that elected officials must carefully scrutinize all deals before signing them.

    Council should immediately release the agreement so taxpayers know how their money is being spent and they should enact a policy forbidding the use of confidentiality clauses in the future. A mechanism already exists to determine what information should and shouldn't be public. It's called the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

    Francis and city councillors should commit it to memory. To make sure they don't forget it, they should post it on their fridge.”

Such a representative selection of stories and editorials is stinging indictment of the City of Windsor’s desire to maintain secrecy at any cost. It helps explain why the City has acted how it did in respect of my request for records and why the Solicitor acted as he did.

I respectfully request that the City be required to provide all of the records that it has identified to date for my review forthwith at its cost and expense in the following manner and be required to undertake a proper search for any other records:

  • The Commission must actively supervise the City in the search of records since the City is acting in bad faith and needs Commission oversight to ensure that it complies with the Act

  • The files containing the records be pulled forthwith and placed in a convenient location where I may review them and that the City provide the adequate manpower required such that everything is completed within 30 days of the date of the order

  • Only those records that I require will be photocopied

  • It is not necessary for any staff to be involved other than those who pull the files or do the photocopying

  • All the documents of the Mayor and the Windsor Tunnel Commission be produced

  • All costs, fee and charges to be charged to me are to be waived

  • I undertake to work with the City to reduce the amount of work and effort required

I also hereby request that the fee be waived in whole or part or that the amount of the fee be reduced significantly.

Respectfully submitted

Is Seattle Today Windsor's Future

A reader referred this story to me.

Tell me that this will not happen shortly here with all of the Mayor's Tunnel silliness. Just replace Seattle with Windsor and see how the story reads. As I have been warning about the $300 Million, read the last three paragraphs.

The Windsor Construction Association better get off their rear ends and start screaming! And fast!

Never mind what the Federal Budget says as I Blogged before. It's all political, like Windsor being so important to the economy and the border crossing being the #1 infrastructure priority. The Conservatives actually are deluding themselves by thinking they might be able to get someone elected here. They might have a slight chance if a certain person ran against Joe Comartin but otherwise it is a 2-way fight between Joe and Joyce Zuk for the Liberals.

Nothing is changing here

DOT rejects "tunnel lite" option to replace Seattle viaduct

02/13/2007 By RACHEL LA CORTE / Associated Press

The state Department of Transportation rejected Seattle's scaled-down four-lane tunnel proposal Tuesday, saying there are too many operational and safety concerns with the $3.4 billion design to replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The city has scheduled a March 13 public advisory vote on the "tunnel lite" option, as well as a cheaper rebuild of the viaduct — the elevated highway along Seattle's downtown waterfront.

But in a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire, state Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said that following a review of the tunnel plan, he "cannot recommend to you approval of this proposal as an acceptable viaduct replacement option."

Gregoire's spokeswoman, Holly Armstrong, said the governor was still reviewing the letter and would have a statement later in the day.

Democratic and Republican transportation leaders in the Legislature immediately issued a joint statement calling for replacing the viaduct with another elevated structure.

"Given what we know today, the state cannot support the city's proposal to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a hybrid tunnel project," Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said in a written statement. "It makes absolutely no sense to replace an unsafe Viaduct with an unsafe tunnel."

Mayor Greg Nickels' spokeswoman, Marianne Bichsel, said the letter was "more of a political document than a technical report."

Bichsel said there is a "clear bias to shove a twice-as-big and uglier elevated structure on our waterfront."

"Are we going to accept Olympia telling us we have to have a bigger, uglier structure on our waterfront?" she asked. "I think the people of Seattle are going to say no."

Bichsel said the ballots for the advisory vote were going to the printer Tuesday, and there were no plans to change the language, which will allow city voters to say whether they prefer the tunnel, a new elevated structure, both plans or neither option.

"Absolutely not," she said. "It's up to the voters of Seattle. Voters of Seattle get to have their say and not rely on the biased opinions of Olympia."

An expert review panel disbanded last Friday, advising the governor that it would be impossible to do an adequate job of scrutinizing the cost and other issues about the tunnel plan within the hurry-up timeframe.

Bichsel said the state has done more than 2,000 hours of analysis of the smaller tunnel plan, and that the Department of Transportation came up with the pricetag.

On Monday, Republican transportation leaders in the House and Senate said that while the viaduct question is being sorted out, the money should be redirected to projects where initial phases are ready to go, such as a new Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington and expansion of Interstate 405 in the suburbs east of Seattle.

"The delays with the viaduct replacement project are especially frustrating when there are other major projects that are just as important," Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee, said in the joint press release.

But while Gregoire on Monday said that the March vote would be flawed and without credibility, she said she's not ready to accept Republican calls to shift billions of dollars in state financing to other mega-projects.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Did Alinda's Detroit/Windsor Tunnel Deal Give It All Away

I think I have finally figured it all out. Maybe. Is this the grandest conspiracy theory of them all... Read on please and you be the judge.

It is all becoming clearer now since we are getting down to the short-strokes on the border file and the players are starting to make their moves. Is the Alinda Tunnel deal the key to explaining everything and understanding who is allied with whom?

We know who the "enemy" is but who has ganged up together to fight them? Will we be shocked when we find out who has been working with whom behind the scenes for so many years so that we can say now we understand the last four years of hell in Windsor?

It's weird how quiet everything is all of a sudden. Imagine the noise if it was the Bridge Co. taking over the Tunnel's operation (Hmmmm I thought their deal with Detroit was only "tabled." The Bridge Co. might still get the Tunnel operation after all. Wouldn't that be funny!) Is there now a list of "good" private operators and "bad" private operators?

Was national security at stake for Canada with the Alinda deal? Where's Brian Masse screaming at Transport Canada about a change in the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel control and no action on their part? I am shocked at his silence on something so fundamental. Where's the Transport Minister doing something with his newly, Royally Assented Bill C-3? Does the Transport Minister even know where Windsor is? Where's the Mayor, where's the WTC , where's Council, where's anybody?

To be direct, I am not sure if very many people really know what is going on at the Tunnel and where the changes have been made. Shouldn't someone know? At least to keep US Customs advised given that the Tunnel is a unique security risk.

The Star finally has reported about Alinda now operating the Tunnel. You, dear reader, were alerted to that long before by this BLOG. And as is a Star practice in some cases, the big news is buried at the end of a story on tunnel queuing, a completely different topic.

Hardly anything was said. Why? A lot was written when the Bridge Co. tried to do something at the Tunnel.

Now shouldn't we expect more from the Star than Alinda is in New York (checking their website says that) and that "The change is not expected to have any impact on tolls." Gee, I wonder why the Star asked that question.

Now if I had had the chance to interview Neal, I would have asked the following questions:

  1. Is Alinda the operator for both Detroit and Windsor
  2. If not, for which side
  3. For what period of time is Alinda the Operator
  4. Did Alinda pay any money to Windsor or Detroit and if so, how much
  5. Has Alinda guaranteed Tunnel revenues
  6. Does Alinda agree to pay a guaranteed amount to the Cities
  7. Considering that the Tunnel operation was shown on Macquarie's books at $70M, how much did Alinda pay for it
  8. How can Alinda pay all of that money and not raise tolls given the drop in traffic
  9. What assurances can we be given that NO toll increases will take place here given what Alinda did in Alabama
  10. How will Alinda increase the traffic at the crossing
  11. Is the Tunnel exhaust scrubbed
  12. Has the Tunnel's unique security risk been solved to the satisfaction of US Customs
  13. Considering that vehicles can queue within the Tunnel, do we need to spend $30 million on Tunnel Plaza improvements
  14. I know that you have made presentations about how to move traffic through the Tunnel more quickly. How much would your improvements cost and why has your suggestion not been made part of the EA study?

I am sure that I could dream up a whole bunch more if I tried. Heck, if I was doing the Star story I probably would have called up the Mayor and all of the WTC members and asked them what they thought of the deal and when and how they found out about it! That would make a story in itself since one person I dealt with had NO idea what I was talking about when I mentioned Alinda!

Now here is something really funny that you might wonder about. I would ask this of Transport Canada or perhaps the Department of Justice who retains outside lawyers on behalf of Government Departments. Did they do a conflicts check on their Detroit law firm? Now those Government lawyers are pretty thorough and must have a checklist of questions to ask when a firm is hired to do a high-profile file. They must have done one and satisfied themselves that there were no problems.

Here is why that question is important. Remember when the Bridge Co. tried to become the operator of the Tunnel. We read the following:

  • "Feds threaten to sue Detroit
    Windsor Star 11-30-2005

    The Canadian government has threatened Detroit with legal action if it approves the Ambassador bridge's bid to take over the U.S. side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel...

    The federal government's concerns were raised in a letter sent by the law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn -- the Canadian government's legal counsel in the U.S. -- to the City of Detroit...

    "The (federal government) letter reaffirms support not only from our perspective, but also from a national perspective," Francis said."

Remember that law firm name for a few minutes.

How many of you spotted in the ad in the Detroit papers that I Blogged the other day the two names, "Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corp." and "Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC."

I started doing some research on those companies and guess what I saw---Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn were involved with the Certificate of Merger between Macquarie North American Infrastructure Inc and Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC on May 12, 2006 and one between the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation and Detroit Windsor Tunnel LLC on May 12, 2006.

For the heck of it, I checked out the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation. Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn were involved with the Restated Articles of Incorporation of the Company back in 1991.

I had no idea what all of this meant to be honest or how much work the law firm did. I wondered though if the law firm had done legal work for DCTC for all of this time. Had there been a hiatus between 1991 and 2006? Those were interesting questions to ask. I sent an email to both Gordon Jarvis and Neal Belitsky of DCTC (or is it now Alinda) asking the questions but did not get back an answer.

The reason for the questions was that if the Honigman firm was acting for DCTC at the time when a threatening letter was to be sent by the Government, how could it act for the Government of Canada too? If it was not acting for DCTC during the period, then presumably there is no issue. But if it was, why would the Government use a law firm whose other client was a competitor of the Bridge Co.? Doesn't that just invite criticism? Doesn't it appear as if the Government was favouring one proponent over another? Why would it put itself in that position?

Want proof that the Bridge Co. and DCTC were in competition? Here is what Mr. Belistsky said:

  • "Operators of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel said Thursday they are willing to renegotiate the remaining 15 years of their lease with the city of Detroit in a bid to thwart a takeover bid by the Ambassador Bridge. "We have been here for 75 years and our goal is to be here 75 more or beyond that," said Neal Belitsky, general manager for the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation (DCTC). "

In another story,

  • "Fearing a takeover bid by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, operators for the Windsor-Detroit tunnel are in Washington this week raising their concerns with several government agencies. Among those receiving briefings over two days -- Monday and today -- were officials from the Canadian Embassy, Department of Homeland Security, business associations, lobby groups and other government authorities, said Neal Belitsky, the tunnel's general manager. "From a business perspective, we have a lot of concern," Belitsky said. "

For the sake of this BLOG, let's assume that the law firm was acting for DCTC....why would the Government allow them to work for it too? I thought long and hard about it and came to one possible conclusion:

the Feds and DCTC/Macquarie were working together to try and stop the Bridge Co.!

Since they were on the same side, the Government lawyers did not care about the concern!

If that is so, no wonder the Bridge Co. was so worried when Bill C-3 was in committee stage about the Government trying to destroy their business with the Act! If the Government was dealing with a party to stop the Bridge Co. at the Tunnel, are they doing the same about the new crossing? And could that party be a P3 partner with the Government ?

Does that explain the lack of action from Transport Canada on change in control? Have they already agreed on Alinda so don't care? Bill C-3 is clear: "No person shall, without the approval of the Governor in Council...acquire control of an entity that owns or operates an international bridge or tunnel." Or was this all done before the Act was passed?

We need answers!

City taxpayers need answers too. Has the Tunnel been sold, leased for a long-term and if so for how long or has its revenue stream been securitized? Now I am beginning to understand why my Municipal Freedom of Information Act has been handled the way it was. I was asking embarrassing questions.

How could the deal be entered into anyway...I don't recall a Request for Proposal or a Tender Request going out to get as much money for the City as possible.

Has it all been done behind closed doors again? Is it being done through the Eddie Francis Sole Source P3 amendment in the Purchasing By-law that makes a mockery of what MFP was supposed to teach us? Was the infamous Agenda Item #5 part of this? Was the fact that the only significant thing that the City has agreed on with the Senior Levels is improvements at the Tunnel Plaza part of this and now that seems to be going nowhere?

Oh my goodness......The light just went on in my brain for the Windsor side of the river: Tunnel, Gowlings, Estrin, Eddie.

  • David Estrin is a partner in Gowlings.
  • Eddie retained Estrin of Gowlings to fight the City's enemy, the Bridge Co.
  • One of David's partners at Gowlings, is David McFadden.
  • McFadden is National Group Leader Infrastructure where Estrin practises
  • McFadden is Chair of the Board of the Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation and Deputy Chair of the Board of Macquarie Canadian Infrastructure Management Limited.
  • Gowlings worked on
  • -------Detroit-Windsor Tunnel – Acted as Canadian counsel to Macquarie Global Infrastructure Fund in its acquisition of the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation, the operator of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is the second busiest crossing between Canada and the United States.
  • -------Buffalo and Fort Erie Bridge Authority – Represent the Authority for the purpose of obtaining all environmental approvals required for the twinning of the Peace Bridge.

Are the City and Macquarie working together too? Are Windsor, the Feds and Macquarie working together?

My brain was reeling. I noted that Gowlings works for competitors of the Bridge Co. I knew that at one time they were Governance Counsel for Borealis too.

Oh no.....Were Windsor, the Feds and Macquarie working together along with Borealis?

Were Macquarie and Borealis going to be the P3 partner for the new border crossing?

I had to stop thinking.....this was getting completely out of control! Was there a deal, wasn't there a deal. Did it violate Bill C-3 or not, was it in compliance with the Purchasing By-law or not, why is everyone so quiet, is there a grand conspiracy? My head was spinning. I still had not even touched on the international aspects of it either.

Making Long Stories Shorter

I am sensitive to the fact that my BLOGs are very long and involved.

Generally, if I write something, it is to give you the background and reasoning behind an issue and to tell you where I think it is going. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes up a lot of space because it is so involved. I hope you understand.

To make up for my wordiness, here are some short stories for you:


Now where did you think some of those production went when the Capitol said it was closing down:
  1. Canada South Performing Arts presents DORIAN GRAY went to Mackenzie Hall
  2. MJM Entertainment Productions Presents "It's Over in the Clover!" went to Mackenzie Hall
  3. Korda Artistic Productions presents Shakespeare's Romantic ComedyMUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Mackenzie Hall

Here's something you may not have known: "In 1981, an organization of concerned citizens, the Friends of the Court, formed to save the abandoned hall. Within two years the City of Windsor purchased Mackenzie Hall and began an extensive restoration process."

I wonder if the City will be forced to buy the Capitol from the purchaser from the Trustee if I am right that the City may not be able to obtain possession of the building if there is a bankruptcy. [NOTE: Please remember, I have not been provided with any documentation so I may be wrong but it is a question that needs answering by the City]


Just remember this section:

    32. (1) A Sole Source purchase may be used for the purchasing of goods and/or services for Contracts of any Contract value, in the following circumstances:
  • (i) Where a public/private partnership exists.

If there is a Tunnel deal with no public discussion, this section will justify it.

Interestingly, this section of the By-law was amended after Eddie became Mayor I was told and after the MFP fiasco. So much for controls to prevent another MFP.


Hey Brian, it does NOT exist. That is the ultimate in not being controlled isn't it. A note from a person in the Buffalo area:

  • "I always refer to the Buffalo and Fort Erie PUBLIC Bridge Authority by their given name and not the PEACE Bridge Authority which is what they prefer. There is no such animal as the PEACE Bridge Authority."


Wow, three five star reviews already on Amazon for the Governor's Hubby's new book including one from Ontario!

Incredibly one reviewer "will buy more of these books for my everyday leaders -- my mom, my best friend, and a few folks at work and help them step into leadership."

Now the Author is not above doing a sneaky thing to encourage sales of his book like

  • "Bookstores and distributors often base their buying decisions on sales of a book on Amazon. So, if you were considering buying it online, I would be very grateful if you’d do it this week at Amazon to help me move up their list!"

But it's ok..."Your purchase will also support a great cause, as I am donating my proceeds to support Mentor Michigan." And it worked too from 248,000th place on Amazon's List on Monday morning, up to the 600s.


What an absurd term to use. Which brilliant sloganeer though that up presumably to distinguish the Conservative Government from the old, tired Liberal one

The Harper Government was elected in January, 2006. If it were a drug for animal health, the term "new" could only be used for a maximum of one year. I assume that the use of the word "new" is designed to drug humans until after the next election.


Why are Councillors so silent on the Capitol mess? Obviously, Eddie has told them his game-plan or rather that part of it that he wants them to know. Wouldn't it be nice to share it with taxpayers?


It is being proposed at Council.

I bet that Councillor Marra supports it. He should. Another election platform of his when he ran for Mayor in 2003 taken by Eddie


A resolution and by-law are being proposed dealing with this subject in relation to the Science Centre. The effect wil be that no municipal property or education taxes will have to be paid.

Why couldn't this have been proposed with the Capitol whose taxes were in arrears anyway, almost $43,000 worth.


Ohhhhhhhh, now we know how we got those fantastic Sutherland IT jobs. The City agreed to spend up to $500,000 to "support the development of a municipal parking lot" for them. You see, there was a desire that the employees' cars not intrude into the neighbourhood.

I wonder if the employees will be charged for parking or is that a freebie gift from taxpayers?

By a remarkable co-incidence, on the Council agenda as well is "Update on Ontario Works Recruitment with Sutherland Global Services"

Social Services Department "will continue to build on our success. "


The beginnig of the end of the Barn has started. It will be torn down for our new Signature City Hall and Eddie Francis Sqaure to be built after the Tunnel Plaza Improvements are finished.

The Capital Budget Committee will discuss paying for upgrading the dressing rooms and enhancing its heritage componnets. The costs will be huge once detailed plans are drafted and the work will be deferred until times are better and all the roads and sewers in the City are fixed first. (It is to be considered along with other capital projects you see) With our new arena, the pressure is off to do a lot of work at the Barn, right!

It won't be made a heritage building as Councilor Halberstadt wants since that would put a real monkey-wrench in the plans for our new downtown focused around the Casino district. We will "celebrate its historical significance through static and interative displays" that do not mess up the plans for the area.

Seriously, who dreams up this language....does anyone really speak this way?


Only $7,000 for their Combat Challenge to be charged against the fire reserve account.

It will be fun watching how Council handles this one. Probably on the Consent Agenda!


School kids get March break. Lonely Bloggers should have one too. In the US, there is something called Sunshine week which takes place this year on March 11-17, 2007

Its purpose: promote open government and freedom of information

  • "Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know....

    Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger."

Do we ever need some sunshine in this City to go along with the hot air!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A New Job For The Governor's Hubby

Speaking of Daniel Mulhern, the First Gentleman of Michigan, he has written a new book it seems. The University of Michigan Press will publish his new book, "Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics, and Life." The book hits bookshelves March 1 so the book reviews have to be coming soon.

There is a big rumour circulating, whether true or not, that Windsor will have a big chapter in the book. I wonder, if true, what will be said and if names will be dropped? From what I knew about personal relationships on the old Council, it could be ugleeeeee!

Why don't I buy a copy and review it----you have got to be kidding. I expect it wil appear on the Eddie monthly book list as a book to read and he will read it 5 times like his other monthly selections. We'll hear enough about it I am sure.

Will we read inside info about the border file given his wife's job or other Canada/US matters? Will he tell us truly what he thinks about our Mayor and Councillors? Will he claim credit for their so-called unity before the election? Was he the one who created or promoted the "tunnel" idea as the concept they all could rally around to get re-elected? I can hardly wait to find out.

I am sure that you remember when the Mayor retained the services of the Michigan Governor's Hubby, to create unity and cohesion for the previously dysfunctional Council. Well I have another job for which the City needs to hire him.

Clearly the Mayor and CAO have been singularly unsuccessful in building morale at City Hall with managerial staff. Why else would white collar workers be so upset that they are unionizing.

Just to show you the depth of feeling, here is what one manager wrote in his/her BLOG. Right or wrong, it does not matter. This is how this person feels and why this person is doing what he/she is doing:
  • "Traditionally, the relationship between senior management and CANUE [Civic Association of Non Union Employees] was informal and was built on a level of trust and respect. Quarterly meetings with the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) were the norm.

    That all changed 6 years ago when a top-down reorganization led to the sudden departure of 14 non-union employees. The reorg was a disaster. It was never fully implemented, front line staff did not buy into it and municipal councilors and the general public were confused as to who did what. But the haphazard way people were terminated, while others were promoted or seconded, left a bad taste in most non-union employees. Trust and respect were in doubt.

    A pattern in actions taken by senior management began to emerge. A new Hours of Work and Overtime policy was developed that initially involved non-union employees. However, somewhere along the line, senior management did not like the path that process was taking and came up with their own plan. This was the infamous '40 hour work week' I mentioned in a previous post. Despite the fact that unionized employees work a 35 hour work week, non-union employees were to work a 40 hour work week. In reality nothing changed. If you worked 37.5 hours before the new policy, you continued to work 37.5 hours after the new policy. It was mind boggling. Trust and respect were closer to dead.

    Next came the compensation review for all non-union employees, including senior management. Part way through the process, senior management pulled themselves out of the process. They agreed on setting salaries for the rest of us at the 50th percentile, while setting their own salaries at the 100th percentile. Around the same time, a morale survey was conducted and senior management attempted to paint a rosy picture. In reality, things were much worse. The CANUE executive turned the survey on it's head and several councilors picked up on that. Trust and respect were completely dead.

    Which brings us to the important meeting. The topic at hand was the future of CANUE. Do we maintain the status quo and hope that things improve or do we vote to transform CANUE into a trade union. We heard from rep the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and explained the process to forming a trade union and what can be expected. People asked questions and provided their opinions on the matter. A vote was taken on whether to begin the process of forming a trade union. In the end, 95 percent of attendees (about 140 people attended the meeting) voted in favour.

    The result was and was not surprising. I think many people were initially reluctant to take the step to forming a trade union. They figured that senior management was not going to give up on a 20 or so year relationship. They figured that things would settle down and that senior management would want to improve the relationship. That was not to happen. It is clear that senior management was going to use CANUE as the wedge against the union locals. Unfortunately, senior management thought wrong.

    So, despite my long-time anti-union stance, it looks like I'll be a union member before the end of the year. Nice one senior management."

So what can the Governor's Hubby do for Windsor. "Michigan first gentleman Dan Mulhern is chairing a new initiative designed to encourage Michigan companies to adopt practices that attract and retain talented workers."

Here is what Mulhern said. Just replace "company" with "City Hall" and see what kind of trouble we may have as we try to grow our economy:

  • "Mulhern said that a company “that is a great place to work serves as a magnet for economic growth, because it attracts and retains highly talented workers, and that leads to corporate success."
Mulhern should have been hired a long time ago to help out before matters got to this stage. Perhaps it is not too late. I guess the Mayor dropped the puck on this one!

Don't Cry For Windsor, Councillor Valentinis

So now the Capitol may not be going into bankruptcy.

  • Wow!!! This Capitol Theatre saga is getting as complicated as any Elizabethan play I ever studied in high school. It makes Hamlet look easy to understand. However, I have not yet figured out whether it is a Comedy or Tragedy.
  • A recent Press Release gives another chance for the distinguished Councillor of Ward 3 to cry out "Why not Windsor?" after he reads this story:

    "McGuinty Government Invests $4 Million In London Sport And Recreation Facilities

    Key Element In Strategy To Further Boost Jobs And Economic Renewal

    LONDON — The McGuinty government is providing $4 million to the city of London to upgrade the North London Optimist Community Centre and the Thames Pool as part of the province’s $190 million economic stimulus plan, Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson announced today.

    “Active living is crucial to good health,” said Watson. “Improving these facilities will encourage the people of this community to participate in physical activities and achieve a better quality of life...

    The government’s $190 million economic stimulus package is a key component of the plan to foster a stronger workforce and a stronger economy.

    Announced in the 2006 Fall Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the stimulus package aims to boost jobs and growth through a focus on four key areas:
  • Focused training and job services to help job-threatened and laid-off workers find new jobs
  • Fast-tracking infrastructure projects to generate immediate economic activity and job creation
  • Encouraging Ontario tourism to boost economic activity and tourism-related jobs...”

I can figure out that the Capitol does not fall under this program but if the Province had given us cash for the arena already there might have been some money for the Capitol. The City Treasurer was right when he said that the East End arena would suck up money from other projects.

Back to the Capitol...Can you figure out who is telling us the real story in all of this and who is not. I am having difficulty. Charge, counter-charge...statement, counter-statement. It's not productive; it's counter-productive one might even say if one is trying actually to salvage the Capitol. Let's try and make some sense out of this.

The Mayor, Council and Administration can read the newspaper as well as I. In July, 2006, it looked like the Capitol was doing fine financially. It was "operating $100,000 in the black" but warned:

  • "it may not always stay that way, despite cost-saving measures that have been taken.

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars" in bingo revenues have been lost because the bingo business has taken a nosedive."

They were right...on September 9, 2006, only 2 months later, we read

  • "The Capitol Theatre is struggling financially, projecting up to a $300,000 deficit when the fiscal year ends in June."

Administration's Report also identified on September 25, 2006 that that the Capitol's deficit in 2007 could be $366,650. The City can hardly claim that they did not know 6 months ago how bad the situation was.

Now I have to ask any business person amongst my readers that if you go into your Bank and throw your office keys on the table, does that sound like you are in good financial health! It is saying, "Here take the business, it's yours."

Effectively, isn't that exactly what the Capitol did on January 29, 2007 at the Council meeting:

  • "John Funnell, President; and Tom Lynd, 1st Vice President and Acting General Manager, Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre, appear before Council to state that at the Annual General Meeting of the Capitol held on January 23, 2007, a motion was adopted granting approval for transfer of the operating entity known as the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre, along with current assets of the Capitol to the City of Windsor for the purpose of preserving this community cultural asset."

And Council accepted it by Resolution

  • "Council Resolution 01-29-07

    That City Council ACCEPT the transfer of the operating entity known as the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre (Windsor) along with the transfer of all capital and current assets of the organization to the City of Windsor for the purpose of preserving this community cultural asset; and

    That the Chief Administrative Officer BE DIRECTED to work with the current Board and staff of the Capitol to bring about an orderly transition and √dissolution of the operation with full √ √that the Board provide full√ disclosure to the Chief Administrative Officer; and further,

    That the Chief Administrative Officer BE DIRECTED to perform due diligence on behalf of the City and bring back a report to Council regarding costs associated with the facility, options for it’s future use, as well as suggestions for a new Board, with input from the Arts Council Windsor & Region and the various Theatre/Artists groups who utilize the facility."

Now there seems to be some confusion as to what the City knew and when. I wish the City left their reports online so that you can read them after the Council meetings but of course they do not. So let me give you the highlights of what Administration told Council in their report that was presented at the February 19 Council meeting. It's a lot to read so take your time and I will make comments as you read through it:

  • A meeting was held on February 5, 2007 with members of the transition team and Capitol Theatre Board members. The meeting was positive and established a collaborative working relationship. [So far so good. No hint of problems between the parties]

    It was also agreed that City of Windsor staff may attend the Capitol Theatre Board meetings as observers only and that regular meetings with the Capitol Board would continue to ensure an orderly transition. [City knew everything]

    The Chief Administrative Officer and the Executive Assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer attended the Capitol Theatre Board meeting of February 13, 2007. Financial information presented at the meeting identified the magnitude of the required cash infusion to sustain the Capitol Theatre to June 30, 2007. It was suggested that the Capitol Board submit a letter to the City of Windsor advising the Mayor and City Council of the following: [Financial problem identified]

    --Capital Board could wind down operations to facilitate a transition for the operations.

    --What the financial requirements would be to allow for an orderly transition [Administration knew exactly the financial position and no alarm bells were rung]

    A next step in the process will be the preparation of an Expression of Interest or Request for Proposals to determine the level of interest from outside organizations to operate and manage the Capitol Theatre. [Global Spectrum or whomever, here you go!]

    The transition plan would require the financial assistance of up to $285,000 should the process take until June 30, 2007 to complete. [Oh my, a specific sum was known]

    It is Administration’s recommendation that the first payment be used to transfer the general security of the assets to the City of Windsor. [The $50,000 security I assume. Again, no big deal. They contemplate the first City payment dealing with this so why the fuss subsequently?]

    To eliminate any ambiguity the Capitol Theatre Board must also clearly demonstrate that their cash flow cannot meet the demands of their creditors. [Administration is talking the "insolvency" definition under the Bankruptcy Act. Again, no panic and the financial details were known]

  • Excerpts from February 14, 2007 letter from the Capitol


    Board members attended a meeting on Feburary 5 at City Hall with the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and city staff and the CAO attended the February 13, 2007 Board meeting at the Capitol. The Board expressed concern that the Capitol will be able to make payroll due on February 23, 2007 but will not be able to pay any of the outstanding accounts payable which total $88,502.58 as of February 13, 2007. In addition there is an outstanding loan in the amount of $50,000.00 which is secured by a General Security Agreement and a lease for computer hardware and software which is repayable in the amount of $11,545.51. [Effectively, the Board stated in mid-February that they were insolvent so no big deal]

    The attached cash flow projection prepared the City to the end of June indicates an accumulated deficit of $284,218.57 at June 30, 2007. [Financial information was presented]

    At the meeting with the Board on February 13 the CAO requested the Board to advise of the earliest date when the Capitol Board could win down operations and requested an estimate of the amount of money from the City which will be necessary to meet the financial needs of the Capitol and allow for an orderly transition and dissolution of the operations per the above resolution. [Everythng is friendly and preparing for an "orderly transition"]

    The Capitol Board deliberated on this requres and adopted a resolution that the Board is agreeable to the transfer of the operating entity known as the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre (Windsor) as early as March 31, 2007 pursuant to Council’s decision in the first paragraph of CR46/2007. This would allow Council to appoint a new board as suggested in the final paragraph of the resolution. Transition on this date would require funding from Council in the amount of $213,000.00. This would allow us to pay all the accounts payable that are outstanding at February 13 and retire the $50,000.00 loan and computer lease. [Full disclosure about the $50,000 security]

    It is critical that funding be provided immediately since some creditors have placed holds on accounts and are not advancing further credit. Operations will stop if utilities arrears are not paid and service is cut off. This will also shut down the Chrysler Theatre Box Office which is operating on the Capitol’s server/box office system. Advance of funds to pay creditors and retire the $50,000.00 loan will allow the city to protect its interests with a new General Security Agreement on the assets. This request for and advance should be considered by City Council no later than February 19, 2007 to establish a process for payment of creditors. [City knew the Capitol was insolvent and that money would be used to pay off the security]

    This will necessitate an initial transfer of $60,000.00 before the end of Februrary to begin addressing critical payables and establishment of a schedule for payment of the remaining money necessary to allow operations to continue until the established transition date. [Payment to be made of $60,000 and since the $50,000 would be paid off, then the City's amount would rank first]

It all seemed a go with the Council resolution on the 19th and no big problems at Council. The transition seemed orderly and well-planned out. Then for some reason it all fell apart and we got the High Noon drama.

Where the "blank cheque" idea came from , I am not sure either but it makes nice press and makes Eddie sound fiscally responsible.

So can you figure it all out and what it is happening. My best guess as to what is going on:

  • The City wants the Capitol to blink and put itself into bankruptcy so the 12 Capitol employees do not become City employees
  • I would be interested to know if the City has the legal right to the Capitol building in the event of bankruptcy or is this just a big bluff saying it does, not expecting anyone to question it or contest it.
  • Are the Capitol and East End arena now going to be packaged in one nice deal for someone to manage using their own employees, not City employees eg like a Global Spectrum for instance who appeared at Council during an arena meeting
  • Whatever happened to the old Salvation Army building and how does it fit into this

Is this what all of this drama and tension is about. Your guess is as good as mine. It will play itself out soon. Just watch and see. After all, Eddie does have a Plan, he always has a Plan as a Councillor once told me.

Wouldn't it be a hoot if the Capitol just decided to carry on seeing as there is a big bequest coming. In fact, the worst thing for taxpayers may be the Capitol's bankruptcy since someone might be able to buy the whole thing for pennies on the dollar from the Trustee and scoop it if the City has no right to the building. Wouldn't that be a huge shock to Council and the Community! Has anyone in Administration considered this?

Where is Shakespeare when you need him to write a play!