Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 04, 2007

Face-To-Face With The Bridge Co.

Watch a one hour special Face to Face with Dan Stamper and Skip McMahon from the Ambassador Bridge Company. Join John Fairley on Cogeco, Cable 11

Here are the first air dates.

One Hour Special

Sunday, May 6 at 9 pm

Tuesday, May 8 at 9 pm

Saturday, May 12 at 2 pm

Check out our website for future air dates.

A New Game For Windsorites: Six Degrees of Separation

"According to urban folklore, everyone in the world knows everyone else via just a few intermediaries - an effect summed up by the phrase "six degrees of separation." "

I am sure that you have heard about the trivia game in relation this concept respecting Kevin Bacon, the movie star. "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." If you want to see exactly how the game is played and to get the "Bacon Number" of a movie star go to

We have a variation of the game in Windsor....It's called "Six Degrees of Ambassador Bridge." You say a person's name who lives in Windsor or an event or mention a company and see how they can be connected to the Bridge Co. You then get the "Ambassador Bridge Number" by doing that.

This variation of the game was created by the Windsor Star and you know when they are playing the game since they use the word "link" in a headline of a story.

With my example, which may have been the first time the game was ever played, the headline read "Blogger linked to bridge firm." My Ambassador Bridge Number would be THREE ie the number of separations to the Bridge:
  1. I attended the Michigan hearings in Lansing where the border was discussed
  2. Bridge Co. executives and the wife of the owner were there
  3. I had coffee with them in a coffee shop afterwards
See how much fun it can be. Let's try another example with an event. The headline reads "Big rigs linked to Assumption decay." The Assumption Church Number would be TWO or THREE:
  1. "restoration [of the Church] is imperative"
  2. Trucks cross overhead at the Ambassador Bridge
  3. Dan Stamper, President of the Bridge Co. "promised to look into the situation."

Let's try one without the Star headline to show how much fun this can be at party. How about Mike Hurst. Mike's number would be TWO:

  1. Mike Hurst is CEO of DRTP
  2. He and Dan Stamper of the Ambassador Bridge each contributed money for Festival Epicure.

Hey, how about the Mayor. The number for Eddie Francis would be: FOUR

  1. John Skorobohacz was brought back to Windsor by Eddie as CAO
  2. Skorobohacz was on the CAO Task Force on Regional Economic Development that formed the basis of the new Economic Development Commission
  3. The Chair of the Commission is Remo Mancini
  4. Mancini worked for the Ambassador Bridge Co.

One last game and then you try it for yourself. The Windsor Star. Its number would be: THREE, FIVE or SIX

  1. The Windsor Star publishes stories on the border
  2. Dave Battagello is its main border writer
  3. Dave has met in private with Matty Moroun the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, has spoken to Bridge Co. executives over the phone and attended public meetings where they were present
  4. Dave attended the Michigan hearings in Lansing where the border was discussed
  5. Bridge Co. executives and the wife of the owner of the Bridge were there
  6. Dave was seen having a snack in the coffee shop afterwards where they were having a coffee

You see how easy the game is to link everything to the Ambassador Bridge!

Why I could even write a BLOG headline after playing the game: "Windsor Star linked to Ambassador Bridge!"

Is The Star Getting Edgy

Just a quick note.

Is the Star trying to get more edgy ie, daring, provocative, or trend-setting? How far can it go without getting readers angry and losing circulation from older readers?

Is this the start of a test? How about this language that did not make it past the editor for the published edition but made it online:

  • "It seems some people won't buy into the environmental cause even when its free.

    Representatives of the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup (DRCC) learned that lesson first-hand as they stood on a downtown Ouellette Avenue street corner Thursday trying to give away free weed pluckers to passersby to kick off its spring go natural: pull don't spray campaign.

    Melanie Coulter, campaign co-ordinator noted that, while hundreds of the people graciously accepted the yard instrument, many others cast suspicious, side-long glances and kept walking, as if to say "go pluck yourself."

How The D/W Tunnel And An Arena Delay Help The Engineering Complex

Oh my. We all expected something like this but so soon?

Is the $65 million and counting East end arena going to cost us even more money now? There it was, the headline "New arena behind schedule."

What does the contract provide for if there are delays? Weren't we told some horrific figure per month if this project was delayed when the justification for doing the deal in the first place was given. Lucky that we rushed into signing it eh!

You know, it looks like this is the City's fault:
  • "We had planned to be in the ground earlier than we were. This is reflective of our start date, there are no delays in construction said Helga Reidel."

If the City is at fault, PCR may be pretty pleased to be honest. Perhaps they can charge an amount as an extra to their "fixed price" contract because of the City's actions. I sure hope that the City does not cause more problems for the contractor because then we will have to give him even more money.

Oh thank goodness this was announced right AFTER the session on the Operating Budget. Imagine how we might have had to increase the tax rates to pay for the extra costs. Ooooops, I forgot. We cannot do that because Councillor Postma told us that such a thing could not happen.

I guess that the projects steering committee only found out this information yesterday. They would not have held it back from Council would they? Or did Council already know and just forgot to tell us or include it in the Budget deliberations?

Thank heavens that the Star story spared us the details of the amount of any extra cost. It might have ruined my evening when I saw it last night.

Why I remember Don Sadler saying

  • "Tuesday's proposed budget is not set in stone. If anything, costs will shrink in the event the contingency fund isn't used up.

    "This budget has got a 95 per cent accuracy," he said. "We're able to bring to this community a wonderful complex at the right price."

I know, I know...the answer will be that it's all part of the $2M contingency so let's not fuss too much. That's what a contingency fund is for isn't it?

I was interested that Helga Reidel, general manager of corporate services and project sponsor for the new arena gave us the bad news. You might have thought that such a momentous announcement would have been made by the Mayor or at least by the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget. However, if either made the announcement, they might have to take the blame too. Better to let Helga be the bearer of bad news.

What was the excuse:

  • "A delay created in assembling property and getting environmental clearance approvals."

Now I do not get this. I hope we get the actual details

What land had to be assembled? I thought it was to be built on the Lear site? That land is already there isn't it since digging has started? Has it been severed yet?

What environmental clearances? There was no EA was there!

Now don't say I did not warn you, dear reader. There was Mr. Sadler saying again:

  • "Environmental assessment complete; groundbreaking set for Jan. 31 An environmental assessment has been completed and a clean bill of health given to the new east-end arena site.

    "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."

Do we have another Peace Beacon on our hands

  • "Poor soil conditions are being blamed for $300,000 in cost overruns on construction of the Peace Beacon in Dieppe Gardens, according to a council report.

    "Every shovel full was another nightmare," said parks director Don Sadler."

And then there was this environmental problem around the same time. Who can forget the extra money to clean up the mess where Mr.Fahri is to build his new condo on the river that the City is paying for.

  • "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."

Thank goodness that you read this BLOG. You will get the real story here about what all of this means and how it is all tied together.

Again, as I have warned you before, you must read right to the end of Star stories to get the real info. There it was. You have been put on notice:

  • "Bad weather and unforeseen factors during construction could possibly push the opening date back even further, said Reidel, although that prospect seems remote."

Expect that the arena will NOT be built for some time. Why you might ask?


Here is my speculation. This money, $15M, was "set aside" for the arena when it was to be a P3 and this was the maximum the City was going to put in as its contribution. If the City wants the University to build its huge Engineering Complex downtown, Dwight has made it clear that the City has got to put in some big cash....

Well from where is Eddie going to get the money. How about the arena money...all $15m of it that was set aside.

Stall off the arena errrrrrrrrrr, I mean.... The arena has to be delayed because of external factors so we need to park that $15M somewhere (we don't actually have the money but have to borrow it but that is a small detail). So put it into the University complex or at least say you are going to do so. (I told you that Eddie is a quick-learn! He must remember the St. Clair and University of Windsor deals re Super Build funding)

Now it is the Province that has to ante up or risk losing two seats in the October election. High stakes poker game eh!

But when we need the $15M for the arena, I am sure the financial wizards will find that money in the budget somehow. Actually, once Eddie subleases the entire Detroit/Windsor Tunnel or securitizes the revenues, he will get money from that and we will be fine.

All figured out. No need to be concerned! Right. The Feds will be dumb enough to agree to put in their $75M for the Tunnel...Eddie has this under control. Nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Letters, We Get letters

Here are some more that came recently:

1) Ed Lumley is also a Walkerville High School grad... Ed, was the team captain.

As for this new downtown solution, of course it comes down to engineers to finally get a solution.

There's us and there's the rest of you.

2) Dear Canada Revenue Agency,

Enclosed is my 2007 tax return showing that I owe $3,407.00 in taxes.

Please note the attached article from the Globe and Mail, wherein you will see the Feds are paying $171.50 for hammers and The Royal Canadian Air Force has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat.

I am enclosing four toilet seats (value $2400) and six hammers (value $1,029), bringing my total remitted to $3429.00.

Please apply the overpayment of $22.00 to the "Conservative Election Fund," as noted on my return. You can do this inexpensively by sending them one 1.5" Phillips Head screw (article from the Globe and Mail detailing how CMHC pays $22.00 each for 1.5" Phillips Head Screws).

It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year.

A Satisfied Taxpayer

3) From the Star today on budget deliberations;

"What we have found is the cities that invest in themselves attract people -- and then the (corporate) investment will follow."

Jobs follow people is essentially what the Mayor is saying and it is ass backwards. People go where there are jobs. Calgary is a terrible place to live right now (I was just there). But 73 people a day move there. Because there are jobs.

4) last night's "looking forward" event was amazing...the glen murray part was anyway...he sure did make me wish he was OUR mayor...i'm sure a lot of things he said infuriated the mayor, though no doubt that was NOT his intention...i was not pleased to see gordon orr cut him short, as though we were pressed for time (when really the event was scheduled from 7-10pm and we got out at 9:30pm) while murray was being particularly passionate about and advocating for the benefit to a community of arts and culture...and strangely, i only heard soundbites from diane francis this a.m., not murray at all...he was very down to earth and charismatic and actually made you believe that change, of the positive sort, was possible...

5) just read the Diane Francis/Glenn Murray thing..........I am not knocking those two as they are sharp people but people here came to the same conclusions they spoke about except our leadership have poor listening skills.......and that includes the CAW.

it does bring up something interesting...........people with an entrenched or trapped mentality are more likely to listen to outsiders rather than people closer to the issues. Imagine if we were to bring prominent ex-pat Windsorites back to Windsor to speak about what it takes to progress. Imagine a Dick Peddie or Ernie Eves or Colm Feore....a Kin-Man Lee (publisher of the Toronto Sun and an old school chum) or ...even Shania Twain (gotta have a hook to get a full audience)....there are a ton of prominent medical people globally who came from here....and even old warhorses like Paul Martin or Dennis (he will need a governor put on him...) but he still is of use. Imagine that ...Ed.

6) Just had breakfast in a little restaurant in ***** Ontario. There were two gentlemen sitting at the table across from us discussing the story on the bridge in the globe and mail. They were saying how the government is trying to rob Matty Moroun of his business and if he is willing to invest in Canada then the government should get out of his way. I was quite surprised...

Just thought I would share this with you to give you an example of how far reaching the effect of the story is going to be.

7) Let me see.......With the millions of dollars in cash that Windsor reportedly has for major projects, why does Council HAVE to cut jobs?
How many jobs have to be cut to catch up with the single source spending?
With all the jobs being lost in this region you would figure any political leader would be saving jobs and not making people expendable.

8) maybe Dave Bing can give a seminar
[Reference is to the Detroit News story--"Former Pistons star and Detroit business leader Dave Bing has lined up a team of heavy-hitting business and civic leaders to back his $60 million luxury residential development on Detroit's east riverfront.

The project -- The Watermark Detroit -- is one of three major condominium developments city boosters hope will transform the once-blighted riverfront into a centerpiece of downtown Detroit's fledgling revival.]

9) How are you, I do receive your blogs every day about the Bridge the Tunnel etc...

Well my comment is what would a new bridge or a new tunnel do for a city which is dying day after day like Windsor!

Small businesses are suffering and of course nobody cares, neither the Government nor the City, what do you expect from a government who makes laws to fight small businesses; I'm a small business owner and I've never seen it worse, it's been getting worse and worse day and day and I'm wondering for how long can i survive, what do you expect when a government want to cut your only source of living!

What the city of Windsor is doing about it? NOTHING oh I forgot yes they charge me high property taxes ( I pay $350.00 Monthly For a 1200 Square foot), what the city is doing for me? I pay over $200.00 a year for business license) what the city is doing for me NOTHING; they're only taking the money which I'm not making and haven't been making for the last four years...

What about Downtown (I mean the GHOST CITY), We are near one of the biggest states (Michigan) Windsor should be busy 24/7 it should be like a small Las Vegas, what the city is doing about it? NOTHING ...

You call this thing Downtown...HA I've seen downtowns but none like the one we have here higher taxes no sevices and they think they doing us a favor those City Councill...

I voted for Eddy Francis in the first round thinking that this guy comes from a home of a small business owner and he knows that small businesses are the bone of the economy but what a big disappointment as if his parents never had any difficulties in running their Bakery!!! I still have his first campaign brochures about Downtown and the promises... here he is in the second term... and what we get here... things are getting worse and worse...

One of the suffering Small business owners

Random Thoughts

Just some thoughts after a busy few days of news


Remember the Mayor's first election promise:


    City Councillors must become active participants, with the Mayor, in governing our City. Our Councillors come from diverse backgrounds that are rich in different life experiences. Many will have previously served as Councillors. We must leverage the depth and breadth of their knowledge and expertise to the City’s advantage.

    Each Councillor has a vision of the City that encompasses more than just their immediate ward obligations. Councillors who chose to accept additional responsibilities will be assigned portfolios that suit their experience and skill set. These portfolios will include duties above and beyond their local ward responsibilities, including Social Services, Fire and Police Services, Community Services, Infrastructure Services, Finance etc."

I bring this up because it seems clear that Council is becoming more and more irrelevant as Eddie's second term moves forward. Council agendas are a joke, mattters are posted in the last possible minute and it looks like we may go back to bi-weekly meetings. If Ken Lewenza can lash out at the Mayor over spending $20,000 for his extravaganza and if Council sits quietly when the Mayor says he will tell them the Grand Prix sponsorship costs in the last second, then perhaps Council needs the Governor's hubby back again

But the real concern for me is that Council has little idea what the Mayor is doing and so far, no one seems ready to stand up to him. Tell me, how would you feel as a Councillor not to know about, or know about it in the last minute, the $75M Tunnel deal or the Engineering complex and have to give out quotes that make you look like a fool!

Anyway, I remembered this quote that Mike Hurst gave as Mayor as he introduced his "Made-In-Windsor" border solution back in March 2003. Don't tell me that Eddie is not a quick-learn:

  • "Hurst said that based on conversations he's had with councillors "my sense is that council will turn this down.

    "And that's disappointing because rather than trying something, they would prefer to offer nothing in the way of alternatives."

    Hurst said that as mayor his mandate is to look at the overall picture that will be of most benefit to the city.

    "Councillors don't have to do that but the mayor does," said Hurst.
    "You can't keep saying no because the feds and the province are only going to wait so long before they impose a solution on us."

This brought back the memory of the supposed reversal on DRTP North without notice to residents right after the Special Council meeting that opposed DRTP.

Imagine my shock at seeing the Star headline today:

  • "Council does tax flip-flop"

Imagine my bigger shock when Councillor Halberstadt said in his BLOG, using Councillor STOPDRTP's word:

  • "City Council betrayed Windsor's multi-residential ratepayers last night with a stunning reversal, without notice, of its decision just seven days earlier to begin a phased reduction of the multi-res tax rate from the highest in the province down to the provincial average.

    I was the lone Councillor to oppose the reconsideration motion, made by Council Percy Hatfield. Councillor Hatfield and other Councillors who supported the motion a week earlier, claimed they didn't fully understand the implications on other tax classes (residential, industrial and commercial) until it was pointed out to them last night by Mayor Eddie Francis."


Perhaps it's true. Nice guys finish last.

Here I was trying to put on a gentler, kinder face. I actually praised soemone at City Hall. I was trying to turn over a new leaf...and what happened...a kick in the you know where.

Remember the nice things I said about the Treasurer and how co-operative he was with me and others in answering questions. As you may also recall, I asked him some very specific questions about the City's reserves because I was concerned about the City's Standard & Poor's rating. Well here is the answer I got back:

  • "Mr. Arditti,
    if your concern is the status of the City's fiscal health, I would point out that the City finances are reviewed annually by the independent international credit rating firm of Standards and Poors. As you know, its most recent report in the fall of 2006 upgraded the City's credit outlook even in the face of a local economic slowdown. I believe that this is reflective of the soundness of the mayor's and council's financial policies. The report is a public document.

    Reserves have been reported accurately as per mandated municipal accounting rules and are subject to annual audits. Reported reserves, which are the basis of peer comparisons in the BMA study, must include those of local Boards and Commissions. Just as on the opposite side of the coin, the City's reported long term debt must also include the debt of those same Boards and Commissions (debt for these entities accounted for fully $111M of the total City debt of approximately $161M as of 12/31/2006).

    The recommended budget being tabled on Monday outlines the available City reserves as well as a reserve enhancement plan. The City of Windsor is also in the enviable position of not having to rely nearly as much as most of its peers on reserves as a major source of funding for its capital projects; the benefits accruing from the implementation of sound fiscal policies enable the vast majority of the capital funding to be in the nature of sustainable pay-as-you-go funding sources (please see the last paragraph of my previous e-mail).

    Respectfully, I would also point out that while of course I value residents' input, generally that input is more appropriately expressed at public occasions such as the recent Community Strategic Plan Consultations, Council meetings dealing with the particular issue of concern, council's budget deliberations (upcoming on May 2nd and obviously open to delegations), etc. Given the City's population it is not feasible to address repetitive individual concerns outside of the frequent noted public opportunities. That is the reason we have elected representatives."

Whack...don't call me, I'll call you, especially when it deals with the Mayor's speech!


I see that Stream held a job fair for applicants for bilingual call centre positions.

According to the Star,

  • "The Dallas-based corporation Stream will stage a job fair Thursday at the Caboto Club between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. to test local interest in the company’s plans...

    Stream’s decision on Windsor will be based on the turnout at the job fair, as well as the ability to meet its need for workers who speak English and French, said company spokeswoman Katherin Dockerill...

    The company — which has 14,000 employees — is looking to Windsor for bilingual help because the call centre business is already saturated in Quebec, she said. Stream is also interested because this city is in transition away from the auto industry and has a large pool of available workers."

It may depend in the end on which media outlet is correct:

  • Windsor Star - Job fair attracts throng

    A sense of deja vu struck Mike Meloche as he joined hundreds of other job seekers who gathered Thursday at a job fair organized by a Texas-based outsourcing company considering Windsor as a site for a new location...

    Stream, a Dallas-based corporation with operations around the world, used the job fair to test the region’s bilingual base, said Jacqueline Meagher, senior human resources manager at the company’s London, Ont., operation. “The turnout’s been great,” said Meagher, who estimated that more than 200 people had showed up at the Caboto Club by early afternoon. “We had people here before the job fair actually started, so we’re really pleased.”

  • A Channel - Light Turnout At Call Centre Job Fair

    A global outsourcing company is considering a move to Windsor and looking to possibly hire up to 600 people --- jobs that are very much needed here. But you wouldn't have known that gauging by today's turnout at a job fair. Organizers say while the turnout wasn't what they expected it wasn't all bad either.

    About 400 people filled out applications.

Hmmmmm. I wonder why the Star neglected to report this story. Perhaps because of the embarrassment to the City of offending another major corporation or the strange reason why the Mayor voted to create a tie or the lawsuit to come or the effect on the Tunnel plaza improvements or...

Here is the Council Minute


I That the application of Burger King Restaurant for an amendment to Zoning By-law 8600 for Part of Block ‘A’ and Lots 50 to 54 inclusive, Registered Plan 91, and Part of Block ‘O’, Registered Plan 85, located on the southwest corner of University Avenue East and Goyeau Street by adding a supplementary regulation permitting a drive-through restaurant BE APPROVED. Further:
(i) Section 25.6 (a) (i) – Parking Area Separation from a Street shall not apply;
(ii) Access from an alley to a parking area or egress from a parking area to an
alley shall be permitted (Section 25.3 (c)).

II That the Site Plan Approval Officer and the Site Plan Review Committee BE DIRECTED to consider the following during the site plan review process:
(i) Design guidelines for a Mixed Use development in the City Centre Planning District (Section in the City of Windsor Official Plan) with particular reference to sub-paragraph (c) at least one building wall is located on an exterior lot line.
(ii) Access driveways to the site should be located as far away as possible from the intersection of the two streets.
(iii) Stacking spaces required by the Zoning By-law should be located in a single stacking space lane, uninterrupted by another parking space, aisleway or walkway.
(iv) Raised curbs, landscape elements or a combination of the two, should delineate stacking space lanes.
(v) Pedestrian access areas to the building should be physically separated from parking and stacking spaces/lanes and designed to be barrier free and clearly visible from the street and parking areas.
(vi) That during the site plan application process, Administration be directed to review the amount of pavement width on University Avenue to ensure there is sufficient space to permit through-traffic vehicles to pass around a vehicle that is waiting to make a left hand turn into the alley to access the subject site.

The motion is put and is lost due to an equality of votes.
Aye Votes: Mayor Francis, Councillors Brister, Lewenza, Hatfield and Dilkens.
Nay Votes: Councillors Halberstadt, Valentinis, Marra, Gignac and Jones.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In The Ivory Towers

Is there any institution as catty and political as a University? I guess giving faculty tenure helps to contribute to that.

The saga over the new engineering complex has so many twists and turns that it boggles my mind. Here are some concerns that I have:

Why is the role of Ed Lumley, the Chancellor, being downplayed so much? I find it interesting that the Chair ... Marty Komsa ... is boosting the Mayor and seemingly ignoring Lumley’s role. My understanding is that Mr. Lumley is the one responsible for telling the University Board to "THINK BIG" and stop thinking small town Windsor when approaching the provincial government. Put forward the best and demand the most is the approach that Lumley took. Why isn't he being given credit for this big city approach to fund raising and grand visions?

Of course, the knives may be out for Mr. Lumley because he had the nerve to help Magna get "$50-million investment in Magna's innovation, training and commercialization centre" from the government rather than getting that money for the University of Windsor, or so the story goes. Don't you think he would help us get money if he put foward the idea? But I just wonder what more there is behind it. Will this failure to appreciate and to recognize his contribution turn him off now?

Did someone outsmart themselves and will this entire project come crashing down? If so, who is going to get the blame? Right now it looks like Councillor Postma is set up to be the fall person with her quote in the Windsor Star about an educational institution:
  • "It could even be the university, I’m not sure; I know it’s an education institution," said Ward 2 Coun. Caroline Postma."

Of course, since I knew that it was the engineering complex already, only one person could have leaked that information (and I don’t mean a University person). It had to be, well you know who. Postma better get smart and let us know who told her the information! Why should she get the blame

From what I understand there was a meeting with Dwight and Sandra about a month ago and at this meeting the Mayor agreed with Lumley that the University needed to 'go big'. But Eddie wanted any City participation contingent on a downtown location. After all he is in trouble with his Urban Village concept and needed someone to bail him out. The University to the rescue, eh.

My reading of the situation is that the leak was deliberate to put pressure on Sandra and Dwight to finance the new complex or else face possible defeat at the election in October. The view seems to have been that if the news is public then Sandra and Dwight would be forced to do something and at the same time save Eddie’s bacon on the urban village.

It’s a big gamble. As is well known, the two cabinet ministers are in some trouble with their colleagues for sending so much money to Windsor. Would it have been better for them to work quietly behind the scenes to get the money needed for the new engineering complex? Now the anti-Windsor types in the government can say no new money for Windsor, thereby putting not only the engineering complex in jeopardy but the two seats as well.

The interesting part is to see how Ross Paul has been positioning himself to make sure that if there is a failure it is not put on his shoulders.

  • "University president Ross Paul repeatedly cautioned in an interview that nothing is set in stone…

    Paul, who will retire in 15 months, said he has no intention of leaving the university with a big deficit as part of his legacy."
  • "If things don’t come through, we won’t do it," Paul said. "We have to add up every piece and the province is only one piece."

Dwight Duncan has done the same by making it clear that the City has to put in cash and not just land and waiving fees as Eddie wishes to do.

  • "Historically capital costs are shared with local communities," Duncan said, pointing to $2 million the province gave U of W toward the $4 million in design fees for Phase 1."

In passing, if the City had not committed to $65 m and counting for the new arena, but only put in $15m in a P3 arena, we would have money to contribute. I'm not even sure where in the heck the City will get the money to help the University given the ineptitude they exhibit on some other projects that have had significant cost over-runs. I am so worried that the City is heading towards a financial crisis that will require another tax increase down the road.

But here is my big fear. The new proposal for the engineering complex puts the construction of the Phase 1 building which was to commence on June 1, 2007 on hold. As you know as well, the medical building is being constructed now and costs have increased dramatically. Read my previous blogs ... costs for many City projects always end up substantially higher than originally estimated. It should surprise no one at the University that the costs for the medical education building would have sky rocketed as well.

Picture this, fundraising starts for the medical building and given Windsor’s poor economy the money does not flow in as expected. Where would the money come from then? The only place I can think of is the money already set aside for the Phase 1 of the engineering complex. In other words, "borrow" from the engineering fund since it is on hold waiting for the downtown location to be finalized.

Even if the money is available for the medical building, we know that Medical issues trump engineering issues in Windsor ten times out of ten despite the importance of the automotive sector. Raising money for engineering was going to be a challenge already. Given the added demands for the medical complex now it would be near impossible to go to the community for the engineering complex as well.

In addition, I would expect at least a year to pass before new drawings could be drafted and various approvals obtained before the huge complex could be constructed downtown. Can you imagine people and companies who have been already asked to donate to the medical building being asked again to contribute to the engineering complex?

Even with provincial and federal contributions, the new complex would require tens of millions of private dollars. And who knows how much the cost of a downtown engineering complex will balloon. There are very serious operating and capital cost implications for a downtown complex which I suspect the University haven't even begun to understand. Where will all these added costs come from?

The $110 million being quoted was for the original location of the engineering complex on campus. There are no estimates for an engineering complex in downtown Windsor. And if the University thinks they can do a downtown location for $100 million then someone must be kidding themselves.

I can see then a downtown complex up in smoke when the number crunchers get finished and instead the University going back to plan A and building their Phase 1 building about a year later at an increased cost. This whole episode of the University urban village will have cost the University a year and untold additional costs. Why couldn't the Province just funded the full $110 million dollar original concept and be done with it. Why a downtown location other than to save face in the short-term when we found out that there was NO developer interest downtown?

With all of theses behind the scenes going on in the ivory towers of the University, the folks in Engineering should be concerned that this latest scheme could hurt the plans for their cherished and much needed engineering building.

Oh and by the way, Mr. Komsa's term as Chair expires in September so he won't even be around as all this develops. It will be the job for the new Chair, whoever is foolish enough to take the position.

A Real Urban Village Proposal

From the Free Press. As my reader wrote in sending me this:
  • "This is an interesting what is going on here. Two years ago this was property of a world headquarters and two years later they have a plan. Those Yanks don't screw around. Some lessons can be learned here."

And in case you wondered, the size of the site is 43-acres!

  • "We are excited to bring this world-class mixed use project to Troy," Chris Carbone, a director at BlackRock, said in a prepared statement. "The vibrancy of the retail beneath distinctive residential units surrounding the pavilions in the village green will make the Pavilions of Troy a unique regional draw."

    The Kmart building that occupies the site opened in 1972 and was vacated in 2006 as Kmart merged with Sears Roebuck & Co. and moved its headquarters to Hoffman Estates, Ill.

    In proposing a walkable, outdoor-oriented mix of shopping, offices, residences and entertainment, the developers are bidding to create a downtown in the heart of suburbia.

    The project needs the approval of the City of Troy, where many officials greeted the proposal with enthusiasm. Mayor Louise Schilling called it “the beginning of our renaissance in Troy.”

    Richardson said developers would file their formal application with the city within a week. He hoped for approval by the end of this year, with construction to begin in 2008 and the first phase ready for opening in 2010.

    The first phase would include:

    • 290,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

    •200,000 square feet of anchor tenants — including a health club, grocery, theaters and bookstore.

    •About 50,000 square feet of office space.

    •About 200 units of residences, with condos selling in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

    •Possibly a hotel with up to 250 rooms.

    Eventually, the project might include up to 750 residences, including some senior housing, and 300,000 square feet of office space.

    “What you want is as much activity” within a five-minute walk of the center of the project, Richardson said. “You want people living there, working there, in order to make it active even at times when it’s not historically active.”

    Other phases might follow if the first one succeeds. “It’s a balancing act as to how you create these things,” he said. “It’s got to feel complete so that there’s never a gap in your experience.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Question: What's Wrong With This Photo

I saw this file photo by Tyler Brownbridge in the Star "Letters to the Editor" Section the other day, (which I am using for fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review and news reporting) on which I have placed some captions.

Do you understand now why there will be no tunnel in Windsor connecting Highway 401 to the border?

The Answer to the question posed: [You fill in the blank]

Is There A Need For A Tunnel Now

Read this huge story from Saturday's Globe and Mail

Vitamin D casts cancer prevention in new light

Saturday's Globe and Mail, April 28, 2007

For decades, researchers have puzzled over why rich northern countries have cancer rates many times higher than those in developing countries — and many have laid the blame on dangerous pollutants spewed out by industry.

But research into vitamin D is suggesting both a plausible answer to this medical puzzle and a heretical notion: that cancers and other disorders in rich countries aren't caused mainly by pollutants but by a vitamin deficiency known to be less acute or even non-existent in poor nations.

Those trying to brand contaminants as the key factor behind cancer in the West are "looking for a bogeyman that doesn't exist," argues Reinhold Vieth, professor at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto and one of the world's top vitamin D experts. Instead, he says, the critical factor "is more likely a lack of vitamin D."

What's more, researchers are linking low vitamin D status to a host of other serious ailments, including multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, influenza, osteoporosis and bone fractures among the elderly.

Not everyone is willing to jump on the vitamin D bandwagon just yet. Smoking and some pollutants, such as benzene and asbestos, irrefutably cause many cancers.

But perhaps the biggest bombshell about vitamin D's effects is about to go off. In June, U.S. researchers will announce the first direct link between cancer prevention and the sunshine vitamin. Their results are nothing short of astounding.

A four-year clinical trial involving 1,200 women found those taking the vitamin had about a 60-per-cent reduction in cancer incidence, compared with those who didn't take it, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error.

And in an era of pricey medical advances, the reduction seems even more remarkable because it was achieved with an over-the-counter supplement costing pennies a day.

One of the researchers who made the discovery, professor of medicine Robert Heaney of Creighton University in Nebraska, says vitamin D deficiency is showing up in so many illnesses besides cancer that nearly all disease figures in Canada and the U.S. will need to be re-evaluated. "We don't really know what the status of chronic disease is in the North American population," he said, "until we normalize vitamin D status."

Sunshine vitamin

For decades, vitamin D has been the Rodney Dangerfield of the supplement world. It's the vitamin most Canadians never give a second thought to because it was assumed the only thing it did was prevent childhood rickets, a debilitating bone disease. But the days of no respect could be numbered. If vitamin D deficiency becomes accepted as the major cause of cancer and other serious illnesses, it will ignite the medical equivalent of a five-alarm blaze on the Canadian health front.

For many reasons, Canadians are among the people most at risk of not having enough vitamin D. This is due to a quirk of geography, to modern lifestyles and to the country's health authorities, who have unwittingly, if with the best of intentions, played a role in creating the vitamin deficiency.

Authorities are implicated because the main way humans achieve healthy levels of vitamin D isn't through diet but through sun exposure. People make vitamin D whenever naked skin is exposed to bright sunshine. By an unfortunate coincidence, the strong sunshine able to produce vitamin D is the same ultraviolet B light that can also causes sunburns and, eventually, skin cancer.

Only brief full-body exposures to bright summer sunshine — of 10 or 15 minutes a day — are needed to make high amounts of the vitamin. But most authorities, including Health Canada, have urged a total avoidance of strong sunlight or, alternatively, heavy use of sunscreen. Both recommendations will block almost all vitamin D synthesis.

Those studying the vitamin say the hide-from-sunlight advice has amounted to the health equivalent of a foolish poker trade. Anyone practising sun avoidance has traded the benefit of a reduced risk of skin cancer — which is easy to detect and treat and seldom fatal — for an increased risk of the scary, high-body-count cancers, such as breast, prostate and colon, that appear linked to vitamin D shortages.

The sun advice has been misguided information "of just breathtaking proportions," said John Cannell, head of the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit, California-based organization.

"Fifteen hundred Americans die every year from [skin cancers]. Fifteen hundred Americans die every day from the serious cancers."

Health Canada denies its advice might be dangerous. In an e-mailed statement, it said that most people don't apply sunscreen thoroughly, leaving some skin exposed, and that people spend enough time outside without skin protection to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.

However, the Canadian Cancer Society last year quietly tweaked its recommendation to recognize that limited amounts of sun exposure are essential for vitamin D levels.

Avoiding most bright sunlight wouldn't be so serious if it weren't for a second factor: The main determinant of whether sunshine is strong enough to make vitamin D is latitude. Living in the north is bad, the south is better, and near the equator is best of all.

Canadians have drawn the short straw on the world's latitude lottery: From October to March, sunlight is too feeble for vitamin D production. During this time, our bodies draw down stores built by summer sunshine, and whatever is acquired from supplements or diet.

Government regulations require foods such as milk and margarine to have small amounts of added vitamin D to prevent rickets.

Other foods, such as salmon, naturally contain some, as does the cod liver oil once commonly given to children in the days before milk fortification. But the amounts from food are minuscule compared to what is needed for cancer prevention and what humans naturally can make in their skin.

Vitamin D levels in Canada are also being compromised by a lifestyle change. Unlike previous generations that farmed or otherwise worked outside, most people now spend little time outdoors.

One survey published in 2001 estimated office- and homebound Canadians and Americans spend 93 per cent of waking time in buildings or cars, both of which block ultraviolet light.

Consequently, by mid-winter most Canadians have depleted vitamin D status. "We're all a bit abnormal in terms of our vitamin D," said Dr. Vieth, who has tested scores of Canadians, something done with a simple blood test.

How much is enough?

Just how much vitamin D is required for optimum health is the subject of intense scientific inquiry.

Dr. Vieth has approached the matter by asking: What vitamin D level would humans have if they were still living outside, in the wild, near the equator, with its attendant year-round bright sunshine? "Picture the natural human as a nudist in environments south of Florida," he says.

He estimates humans in a state of nature probably had about 125 to 150 nanomoles/litre of vitamin D in their blood all year long — levels now achieved for only a few months a year by the minority of adult Canadians who spend a lot of time in the sun, such as lifeguards or farmers.

For the rest of the population, vitamin D levels tend to be lower, and crash in winter. In testing office workers in Toronto in winter, Dr. Vieth found the average was only about 40 nanomoles/L, or about one-quarter to one-third of what humans would have in the wild.

The avalanche of surprising research on the beneficial effects of vitamin D could affect dietary recommendations as well. Health Canada says that, in light of the findings, it intends to study whether recommended dietary levels need to be revised, although the review is likely to be years away.

A joint Canadian-U.S. health panel last studied vitamin D levels in 1997, concluding the relatively low amounts in people's blood were normal. At the time, there was speculation vitamin D had an anti-cancer effect, but more conclusive evidence has only emerged since.

"There needs to be a comprehensive review undertaken and that is planned," says Mary Bush, director general of Health Canada's office of nutrition policy and promotion.

But Ms. Bush said the government doesn't want to move hastily, out of concern that there may be unknown risks associated with taking more of the vitamin.

Those who worry about low vitamin D, however, say this stand is too conservative — that the government's caution may itself be a health hazard.

To achieve the vitamin D doses used for cancer prevention through foods, people would need to drink about three litres of milk a day, which is unrealistic.

If health authorities accept the new research, they would have to order a substantial increase in food fortification or supplement-taking to affect disease trends. As it is, the 400 IU dosage included in most multivitamins is too low to be an effective cancer fighter.

Dr. Vieth said any new recommendations will also have to reflect the racial and cultural factors connected to vitamin D. Blacks, South Asians and women who wear veils are at far higher risks of vitamin D deficiencies than are whites.

Although humans carry a lot of cultural baggage on the subject of skin hue, colour is the way nature dealt with the vagaries of high or low vitamin D production by latitude.

Those with very dark skins, whose ancestors originated in tropical, light-rich environments, have pigmentation that filters out more of the sunshine responsible for vitamin D; in northern latitudes, they need more sun exposure — often 10 times as much — to produce the same amount of the vitamin as whites.

Dr. Vieth says it is urgent to provide information about the need for extra vitamin D in Canada's growing non-white population to avoid a future of high illness rates in this group.

Researchers suspect vitamin D plays such a crucial role in diseases as unrelated as cancer and osteoporosis because the chemical originated in the early days of animal evolution as a way for cells to signal that they were being exposed to daylight.

Even though living things have evolved since then, almost all cells, even those deep in our bodies, have kept this primitive light-signalling system.

In the body, vitamin D is converted into a steroid hormone, and genes responding to it play a crucial role in fixing damaged cells and maintaining good cell health. "There is no better anti-cancer agent than activated vitamin D. I mean, it does everything you'd want," said Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council.

Some may view the sunshine-vitamin story as too good to be true, particularly given that the number of previous claims of vitamin cure-alls that subsequently flopped. "The floor of modern medicine is littered with the claims of vitamins that didn't turn out," Dr. Cannell allowed.

But the big difference is that vitamin D, unlike other vitamins, is turned into a hormone, making it far more biologically active. As well, it is "operating independently in hundreds of tissues in your body," Dr. Cannell said.

Referring to Linus Pauling, the famous U.S. advocate of vitamin C use as a cure for many illnesses, he said: "Basically, Linus Pauling was right, but he was off by one letter."

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Border Solution Now---Perhaps

My, my, my..... the Windsor/Detroit border and more particularly, the Ambassador Bridge and its owner, hit the big-time on Saturday.

Did you see the huge coverage in the Toronto Globe and Mail? If not, go out and buy a copy before it is too late to see the actual hardcopy of it to get the dramatic effect or go online to to read the story.

A half page, full colour, front page, artist rendition of the enhanced bridge above the fold in the Business Section. Then two full pages inside with a half-page picture of the "reclusive" Matty Moroun who does not seem so reclusive after all.

You know that every senior politician and business leader in Canada will read the story. It's in the Globe after all. And if you don't think it will get results then you do not understand the world of Canadian politics and business! It seems that Matty Moroun does.

Clearly the Bridge Co. is ready to move forward. If this story is not the signal that it is, then I cannot think of another sign other than actually starting to dig. It is a challenge to the Federal Government and Transport Minister Cannon, in particular, who does not seem to know where Windsor is yet to get onboard or get out of the way notwithstanding Bill C-3 passing.

In my opinion, the Globe and Mail story is a huge positive that came out at exactly the right time for potential discussions with the Governments for a final border resolution.

It is NOT the words in the story that are all that important at first. It is the photos, the positioning of the story, the layout, the "white space" and the size that gives the story its importance. All of that will grab the attention and force people to start reading even if our border has no interest to them up until Saturday.

Here is my interpretation of what the Globe story means:

The Globe is the New York Times and Wall St. Journal in one in Canada. Every major business and political leader in Canada will have the weekend to read the story. It will be circulated by the PR types in Government and industry on Monday as part of their "media" circulation routine as a key story. Frankly, those who do NOT know Matty Moroun and the Ambassador Bridge will by Monday and will want to read about the "most powerful U.S. businessman most Americans and Canadians have never heard of."

No doubt that it will also be read out of the country as well, especially by investment types and bankers. A number of Legslators and bureaucrats in the US who are involved one way or the other with the border crossing will also see it. I expect the Bridge people to be inundated with lunch offers by those who chase infrastrucutre projects too.

A half page, full colour, front page, artist rendition of the new bridge and 2 pages internally including a half-page photo of the "reclusive" billionaire make this an IMPORTANT story with a capital "I." The Globe deemed it so.

There is no doubt but that Transport Canada will understand this. The Senior Level politicians involved will be impressed as well. Those not quoted including Eddie and the Provincial Ministers will be furious at the slight, especially Eddie. It certainly makes the federal role pre-eminent.

Obviously the story was a very positive one for the Bridge Co. since it got its message out. It will pressure Transport Canada to deal more seriously with Moroun. They understand now that he is not going away but intends to build the bridge. There may have been some doubt of that before notwithstanding the small fact that Moroun has already spent $500 million on property acquisition and work on the Ambassador Gateway Project.

Transport Canada has no choice now but to deal with the Bridge Co. immediately or become irrelevant as it moves forward. I would make the comparison with Eddie who could have negotiated a good deal 4 years ago but now has no power at all except as an insignificant irritant. Notwithstanding Eddie the politician's trip to the Senate hearings in Ottawa, Bill C-3 hurt the City. It has many positive features for the Bridge Co., seemingly unknown to Brian Masse who will find it in the future ironically a powerful Bridge Co. tool.

I have to wonder if Eddie Francis was even interviewed. If he was, why were his quotes not included or were they taken out. That confirms my own view of how much Eddie has cost this City from the time he became Mayor until now. There was nothing about the Province either. I am pleased to note that my role in Windsor was recognized since I at least merited a tiny quote! Ahhhhh, not so lonely any more.

This story will not be viewed in isolation but will be considered as part of an extensive and aggressive campaign by the Bridge Co. that started when its Executives went to the Lansing hearings and then to Ottawa with the Commons and Senate hearings. More importantly, it will be viewed in the context of the Estrin lawsuit, the public EA hearings, the attack on DRIC and the fight with the Mayor and Council.

The 2-page ad in the Windsor Star, the recent Press Release and news conference, the Youtube animation, the change in the Bridge website and the soon to be run TV interview will be viewed as part of a well-orchestrated campaign to gain favour culminating in 2 ½ pages in the Globe!

Frankly, what it means is that the Bridge Co. finally woke up and understood that being the #1 border operator is not enough. You get nowhere by good works alone these days. You have to go out and blow your own horn so you will be heard above the din. Look how well DRTP did with spending PR dollars until the reality of its plans caused it to fall apart. The Bridge Co. proposal actually has merit. Now everyone will know it!

There are some key points that should be considered in the story that were very strong for the Bridge Co.:

  • "the 79-year-old billionaire has decided to lift the veil on his high-stakes battle…But Mr. Moroun is letting his guard down, at least a little…" [People should now understand that the Bridge Co. is not fooling about the enhanced bridge since going so "public" seems so foreign to their nature. They misjudged Moroun and the "family" connection and now should understand the real reason why his son went to Ottawa. CenTra and the Bridge Co. is NOT just a one-man show].

  • "handing over the business to his son Matthew, now 33…Leaving a family legacy is vital to the transport tycoon. His son Matthew is CenTra's vice-chairman…When asked his opinion, Matthew Moroun, the son being groomed to inherit the business empire, throws down the gauntlet, challenging DRIC to make an offer for the Ambassador Bridge itself…If they don't want our business, get out of the way and let us do the right thing." [They misjudged Matthew and now know differently especially given what Matthew said in Ottawa re ownership]

  • "Mr. Moroun has spent a half-billion dollars building a land portfolio in the region to make possible his dream to add a new link to the corridor" [Buy-out costs just escalated to more than the $500M quoted as to bridge value!]

  • "he is in danger of being elbowed aside by a competing proposal backed by governments on both sides of the border." [The Bridge Co. called the Governments regulators and competitors and the Globe provides confirmation for the Legislators and others. Is it that obvious?]

  • "Much of the focus has centred on the bridge being a potential terrorist target — an invaluable link that if attacked, would devastate merchandise trade between Canada and the United States, slamming the economies of Ontario and Michigan…. [See below re Transport Canada position]

  • "During the next two hours, the secretive Michigan businessman steps out from the shadows, lashing out at his opponents and serving notice that he intends to effectively twin the 2.3-kilometre Ambassador Bridge, aiming to start construction as early as mid-2008." [The key reason why the interview was given, loud and clear]

  • "He doesn't mince words about DRIC's proposal to build a competing span. "It's a frontal attack…They're slowing things down and confusing people." [Basis of a possible lawsuit especially because of the DRIC drawing. Moroun fought the Government for 12 years on FIRA and supposedly finally settled their differences. Have they or are both sides gearing up for more affidavit battles?]

  • If the DRIC bridge forges ahead, both sides will lose, he warns. The Ambassador Bridge would lose business to the new structure and neither could eke out any profit, he argues. [So much for some P3 investor being interested in the DRIC bridge. The P3ers generally want a monopoly, not competition, to protect their investment. Hmmmm are the investors the ones who really want the Bridge Co. out of business or to sell out and are forcing the Government to do so if they want their money!]

  • "Spearheading DRIC on the Canadian side is Sean O'Dell, a veteran Transport Canada civil servant based in Ottawa who was born and raised in Windsor." [How will a Windsor boy treat his home-town. Better than Paul Martin I hope]

  • "Mark Butler, a senior policy adviser at Transport Canada, asserts that a new gateway that distances itself from the Ambassador Bridge is essential to Canadian and U.S. economies…DRIC has "rejected the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge," Mr. Butler says, citing concerns that Mr. Moroun's twinned structure would hurt neighbourhoods and also be vulnerable to a terrorist attack that could wipe out both bridges at once…."What we do know is that any new crossing must be safe and secure and be managed and maintained for the long-term benefit of both countries," Mr. Butler argues." [If this is the best and, it seems, only argument that Transport Canada has now, they have a major problem opposing the enhanced bridge. Did you notice that traffic volumes as a justification has disappeared? The "neighbourhood" issue has already been negated by the plaza footprint not changing and security and redundancy are handled by reverse customs and the old bridge. The terrorist tactic is nothing more than fear-mongering and failure to acknowledge the terrorists’ multi-target actions in other cases]

  • " Gregg Ward, who operates a ferry that transports trucks with hazardous waste across the Detroit River, questions whether a private citizen should control such an important bridge of commerce…Borders should be controlled by government. We need that for economic security," Mr. Ward says. [Oh I forgot, another private operator at the border. I wonder why he was ignored by the bureaucrats in the Ottawa hearings since he is a competitor who is the only one who can carry hazardous goods it seems. Is he going to be put out of business too or will he sell out to the Government or will he be allowed to continue to carry on business?]

  • "In the process, he fended off opposition from the Canadian government over concerns about private foreign investment in such a crucial asset to the economy." [The FIRA issue solved forever??? I don't think so with the "ownership" sections of Bill C-3]

  • "Citigroup Global Markets Inc. is the financial adviser to Mr. Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co., which would float the bonds in the United States and Canada… Royal Bank of Canada is among the Canadian financial institutions that have held talks to be part of the bond syndicate, sources say…Mr. Moroun would like to see the financing get the go-ahead within a year. [Another signal of moving forward and recognizing the role of Canadian banks as a partner. They should expect dozens of inquiries]

  • "If we get our environmental approvals, we would move quickly," [Another signal and encouragement to businesses concerned with the border and a boost for the Gazelle feeders in the region]

  • "The Canadian government would only be able to buy the Canadian half, and the U.S. government isn't interested in buying the American portion, industry observers say. [A roadblock to DRIC that is new to me]

  • "if DRIC builds a competing bridge, the Ambassador Bridge's value would plummet." [Is this is the real purpose of DRIC….to force a sale at a low price by using threats of a new Bridge amongst other tactics against the Bridge Co.?]

  • "any rival will have to deal with him to get anything done, given his land holdings." [Does Transport Canada get the idea, finally!]

In my opinion, this article can be a turning point that should get all of the key parties talking. Let's hope that it does!