Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 18, 2007

Spending More Capital On The Capitol

I really should start practising law again full-time again. There is so much work on the messes alone that the City is involved in (and will be involved in) that lawyers here are going to be very, very wealthy.

And the rates are good too with the bottomless pockets of taxpayers footing the bills.

Our latest extravaganza is the Capitol theatre. We learned today in the Star:

  • "On Thursday the city withdrew its offer to pay off creditors to the Capitol Theatre on the condition that the land and building become city property. Instead, city officials plan to file a statement of claim for the land and the building today in Superior Court.

    “We made the offer to pay off creditors so that we could act quickly,” Mayor Eddie Francis said Thursday. “But we’re not acting quickly. We can’t go on any longer, so we’re moving to enforce our security.”

Whaaaaaat? If the City's interest is secured, why does it have to pay off unsecured creditors? That was not in my Bankruptcy Law notes when I went to Law School.

Then we read:

  • "William Willis, a lawyer with the McTague law firm acting on behalf of the city, said he’s confident that he can argue that the city now owns the Capitol.

    Willis said the city’s case is two-pronged. First, he says, the $1.83 million was a loan. Second, a Capitol operating agreement outlines that the 87-year-old playhouse would revert to the city if the theatre ever ceased operations or became insolvent.

    “We believe we have a strong case,” he said. “The reason we’re filing the claim now as opposed to when the Capitol went bankrupt is not because we thought we wouldn’t win. It’s just that if we could have resolved this without going to court it would have saved the city money.”

Whaaaaaat? If the City owns the Theatre now, why would it have to go to Court in the first place?

Obviously, there is an issue as to whether the City has a security interest as I have written here before. I wonder what the City's lawyers told them that BEFORE the bankruptcy of the Capitol.

In the spirit of saving taxpayer dollars, I am posing some questions for the City's lawyer to answer. It might help him figure out if he has a case or not:

  • is there a registered mortgage or other security document. If not, is the City merely an unsecured creditor?
  • how much is outstanding on the loan. If $0, does the City have a position

  • did the "loan" ever require money to be paid back?

  • is the "operating agreement" a mere contract and has no validity as security in a bankruptcy?

  • why didn't the City take it over when the Capitol first became insolvent so that we would not have this mess and they had the contractual right to do so

  • is the reason the City did not act because the City was afraid to pay severance to a few employees so now it will have to pay the same amount and more to lawyers to fight this battle with no guarantee of winning!

This is taking on the appearance of another fine mess we have gotten into. More lack of foresight that costs taxpayers money. Oh and threats do not work against a Trustee in Bankruptcy, an officer of the Court! The Trustee could be sued if it gave up the theatre merely because the City paid off a few debts.

Now of course I have THE solution that works for everyone. But heck, if everyone else is going to be making a ton of money from City taxpayers, I may as well too. But I'll do everyone a favour. I'll charge out as a consultant and not as a lawyer!

Stacks And Stacks Of Letters


Here are some more letters from readers.

Don't be shy, you can be published too. Just send me a note at
windsorcityblog@yahoo.ca

1) The last time I checked, the corner of Sunset and Wyandotte was located in the City of Windsor too. Why this fascination with downtown all of sudden other than one's ego. Does the west end not need that building just as much. How about the local businesses and landlords there?

There is also this fascination with auto research as if that is all the new
Engineering facilitie(s) are about. Last time I checked, there were some other Engineering departments including Civil and Electrical Engineering too. Recall the Civil types...............the one's who (ahem) design and engineer say.......Bridges and Tunnels.

If I were a student I would be concerned about being disconnected to the main campus. No matter how much they spin it, some connection will be maintained
through administration, registration and taking other classes at the main campus.

One day some kid willwonder who the Dunces were that split the two when he/she's late from one site to the other.

It's about the students. Not the politicians.

2) Ed:

Long time no talk to. To add to your list of famous quotations:

Brian Masse: From his interview on WDET Detroit Public Radio*
"Now um that ..."*

(page 7 of 22 from the Chris Schnurr transcript, middle of the page)

[Clearly NOT an NDP supporter!]

3) Good morning Ed.

I bet your favourite song of the past is "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." (just kidding)

Man, you have hit the nail on the head again. This needs to get out to the "masses." Have you ever approached Cogeco about getting interviewed on Face To Face? This would be a further venue to hopefully catch those who don't read your blog. Another possibility...The A Channel show Viewpoint (I think) hosted by Jennifer Hall on Saturday night where she interviews politicians etc.... hey, you could go head to head with Eddie and Brian and the two conjoined twins Sandra and Dwight over the bridge issue (hee hee)

Just some ideas.

4) Just a thought I had today.
If the governments want to implement a "cheaper" form of ID, referring to a Driver's licence, the Government would stand to make billions.
The latest stat I have is in Ontario there are 8,413,504 licenced drivers.
Of course the Government would not pick up the tab.
If they implemented just an extra $10 fee...
Well you do the math.
That would well pay for a tunnel directly from the Gardiner in Toronto to Windsor.
That would solve both of the problems.
If they scare us with an 85 dollar fee for the passport, 35-40 would sound like a deal.
And even then the passport will have to come into effect anyway. Not everyone drives.

5) It's not a letter but I could not resist it:
Windsor Star. May 10, 2007

"Canada not 'For Sale:' PM"
[But perhaps we can do a P3!]

6) [Probably a letter to Brian thru me]

I have just read the transcript from the WDET interviews.
You keep repeating that tolls must go down and be kept down.
Why is the Tunnel crossing, controlled by The City of Windsor, increasing the tolls?
Why are you not stepping up and addressing that issue?
That would only seem fair and politically correct.
From what I have read the issue is still against a Private Corporation developing existing areas.
Why has the access road not been started?
That is the real issue.
Also if you want a crossing more west of the bridge, won't that destroy more area than necessary?
If the government cannot find a solution to the existing problem, which is road access, why is the time locally spent fighting a business that has every right in Canada and the US to be in business.
Security is not the issue.
Profits are not the issue or the Tunnel should be forced to drop fares, immediatly.
It seems to me the access route is the stumbling block, logically.
Where are we now?
The public has no idea.
Why?

7) Good morning: Ed, I really enjoy your blog. I am sure you saw the nonsense that came from Conc. Jones regarding the garbage pickup near the University. His thinking is fuzzy math at best. Did the city eliminate labor, equipment or overhead when they cancelled the previous practice? In order to pickup the garbage, do they have to hire collectors or buy more trucks? An acquaintance of mine works in the Sanitation dept and he tells me most collectors have a fixed route that they typically complete in approx 4 hours, after which they "disappear". Why not make them put in a productive 8 hours?

Keep up the good work.

8) Maybe the Canderel Bldg. can be salvaged after all. Good parking. Central. Great view of Detroit. Too bad there is not view of the Tunnel Plaza.

Eddie now has the digs for his new City Hall!

[Or the Economic Development Commission could have a new home and the County can pay a good chunk of the costs of the high rent. That'll fix 'em!]



The Price Of Inexperience



Who is advising Eddie Francis on the border? We should be told immediately who the behind-the-scenes people are.

Is anyone? Or is our Mayor so arrogant that he thinks he knows it all?

I am sure that you will have noticed the anger and frustration in some of my BLOGS recently. I cannot help it. We have no leadership in this City whatsoever. We have branding and sloganeering not action. Why even the Mayor was bored with his speech the other night. He was that flat in his delivery.

Sorry, this follows what I see as foolishness on the Engineering complex. I do not want to be negative, but I can see us losing the complex either downtown or at the University by the time this extravaganza is over. Leaking a story to the newspapers is not always the best tactic. Did anyone think through the strategy? In this case it might kill us.

And $75M for the Tunnel, with all of its problems! At least Cliff Sutts will be our guarantor against a bad deal.

I won't even get into the delay at the $65M and counting East end arena.

Have you noticed how quiet everything has been on the border file recently. I cannot remember the last big story in the Star. Oh there was the required border paragraphs in the State of the City speech with Eddie's standard form call to arms about quality of life but that's about it. The usual template. Not even tunnel talk.

I am so tired of hearing the Mayor's platitudes in his speeches and then seeing lack of action. Our problems are not that difficult to overcome. It's not rocket science. What's the reason for the delay? Fear, fear of failure, fear of failure due to inexperience.

Here is what is driving me crazy...a letter from a reader whom I met for lunch a few weeks ago. I like knowing who reads my BLOGs and I try and meet those who wrote to me as often as I can to understand their perspective of Windsor:
  • "I just had a really interesting conversation with a supplier.

    Last Sunday he flew to Kentucky. He was met at the airport by the Economic Development Office. He was taken to the facility where he was to set up tool cutter grinders. Small but a necessary aspect.

    They would pick up the equipment for him, set them up and do the paperwork for him so they would cut a cheque for his incentive the next day.

    Tax breaks and other incentives that are just too long to type out. The more I type the angrier I become.

    He spent two days training people on the machinery and they were up and running. He doesn't even have to be there.

    It sounds like he is going to open another place down there. Simple and the government wants you there.

    My next vacation is in Kentucky. I think there is going to be Bluegrass on my shoes soon."
My friend is a successful, small businessman in Windsor. The kind of business the Gazelle feeders should nurture. Now he is thinking about leaving!

Our Symphony Orchestra executive director is going to Edmonton. The GM plant is in trouble. Our area is a mess and we have inexperienced people at the top who cannot accomplish anything in four years. Talk, talk, talk is all they are good for.

Take a look at the graph above. It's a Special Report from the US Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics. We have a success story in Windsor---the Ambassador Bridge. Instead of partnering with them and taking advantage of their expertise to build what the Mayor now seems to want, a transportation hub for logisitics and distribution, we call them our "enemy" and spend millions of taxpayer dollars to fight them and stall them.

Seriously, have you ever heard of anything more stupid. Hell, our leaders are too afraid to even meet with them, having to get their information about their enhancement project from BLOG sites like mine and that of Chris Schnurr or second-hand. Even then, they cannot get it right.

Look at the statistics concerning value from the BTS report:
  • Exports through Windsor/Detroit higher than Fort Erie and Sarnia combined


  • Imports through Windsor/Detroit higher than Fort Erie and Sarnia combined


  • Exports and imports double that of Fort Erie and more than triple that of Port Huron


  • Higher value than Laredo, the top US/Mexico crossing.



Like it or not, the reality is "Trucks remain the dominant mode for transporting U.S.-North American freight, carrying $534 billion, or 62 percent, of the total value in 2006...Between 1996 and 2006, trucks accounted for most of the growth in the value of U.S.-North American freight."


It is very interseting that while traffic is going down the values are going up. That makes being a distribution centre even more important as I have Blogged before.


More stats

  • "In 2006, the leading overall truck gateway was Detroit, Michigan, with $115 billion of freight, followed by Laredo, Texas, ($79 billion), and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York ($59 billion)."

Are the politicians at the Senior Levels any better? No....they are so tied into their bureaucrats that it is pathetic. They are listening to people who frankly have lost touch and who assumed that they could force the Bridge Co. out of business. Now they are scrambling to regroup. Do you really think a bureaucrat can compete with a man who built up his business from nothing to what it is now? It is family money at risk not taxpayer money. Perhaps Brian Masse will understand that one day.

How about the Americans...the Legislators in Michigan have at least tried to end DRIC.

Why is this important for both countries:

  • "Michigan topped the list of states for value of merchandise trade with Canada in 2006. Goods transported between Michigan and Canada totaled $73 billion, which was nearly double the value of goods moved between Illinois (the second ranked state) and Canada. Illinois was followed by New York and California."

Windsor may be losing out on auto plants but Ontario and Canada are not. Our politicians better protect that trade by ensuring the border traffic flows smoothly:

  • "Ranked by value, motor vehicles and parts was the leading commodity group transported between the United States and our NAFTA partners in 2006.

  • "Over $1 out of every $6 (17.7 percent) of freight shipments between the United States and its NAFTA partners involved motor vehicles and parts, totaling $153 billion. Of this, $107 billion was traded with Canada and $45 billion was traded with Mexico.

  • Motor vehicles and parts was the leading commodity in U.S.-Canada land mode trade and second for U.S.-Mexico land mode trade.

  • The dominance of motor vehicles and parts reflects the continued integration of automotive production across the borders of the three countries."

Don't you find it odd that so much traffic still goes through Windsor/Detroit even though auto trade is now more east-west? The Bridge Co. must be doing something right even though their tolls are higher and the road to the bridge is horrible due to lack of action by all levels of Government here. Again, a lesson for Brian Masse about investing profits in infrastucture improvement to maintain and draw business from competitors, even public ones.

We have an opportunity here that has been staring us in the face for years. We all know it but some of us cannot forgive the Bridge Co. for being successful. It is better to call them our "enemy" and spread misinformation and disinformation.

We will just have to wait it seems until some people smarten up. In the meantime, the Bridge Co. will just keep on moving forward doing the right thing for the region in spite of our so-called leaders.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Who Cares About The University





I am absolutely furious at what is going on about the downtown University complex. Egos are risking a venture that is vital to our City's future and that of the University. We risk getting nothing and everyone who should be concerned is silent, afraid to open their mouths!

It's a good thing that you read my BLOG. You get in advance what the Star finally reports.

You will remember what I wrote the other day about what Eddie said about a downtown campus:

  • "And then the gutless part of the evening "Together, we are working to build the new, state-of-the-art Centre for Engineering Innovation. And, it needs to be downtown." Of course he “ad-libbed” so it would NOT be in writing when Eddie threatened saying if it was not going to be downtown, do not expect a City contribution.

    The City would play a role "if and only if the campus was brought downtown."

Well the Star reported today that

  • "The city has offered land and fee incentives, but only if the project -- which will accommodate 1,500 students and faculty -- is built downtown, Francis said."

Let's see what Eddie said a few days ago about the need for Engineering R&D. It was really in two parts. First was the need for an Engineering Complex and then the gratuitous add-on re the downtown:

  • "Second, we’re thinking long-term – investing for tomorrow... Focusing on engineering – to create highly-skilled graduates and commercial spin-offs that will mean jobs and prosperity...

    The Chinese are focused …they are strategic, and they are busy manufacturing one of the most critical success factors in today’s knowledge economy: engineering graduates...

    But we must do more. And that’s why a new engineering campus is so important. Our future depends on our ability to innovate … to cultivate talent and to invest in research and development.

    When we hear corporate leaders say: “the most valuable assets we have walk into the elevator, out the door, and go home each night...”

    Engineering matters. The training of engineers is a central ingredient of success, in today’s knowledge economy. All one needs to do, is look at the investments that China and India have been making in training and developing engineering students...

    Together, we are working to build the new, state-of-the-art Centre for Engineering Innovation.

    And, it needs to be downtown.

    The University of Windsor wants to attract more world-class engineering professors and students.

    Top quality professors want first-class facilities and equipment. But they also want more than that. They want to work and live in a place that permits a high standard of living and good quality of life.

    Downtown Windsor does exactly that.

    A new engineering campus would be a catalyst for the new construction of condos and restaurants and shops. It would further the revitalization of our downtown, and of our entire city.

    Imagine the benefits that will come to Windsor’s economy, through the development of a new, world-class engineering school."
You see that a top-class engineeering school is vital to our future and then how the downtown is slipped in. Where were Eddie and the City before when Phases 1 and 2 of the Complex were being talked about. Why weren't these arguments being made then to bring the campus downtown? Why only now? What was the City going to contribute to assist in something so vital to our future? Why weren't the City and University working together as one in a true Town and Gown partnership?

Here is what other cities have done:
  • "Cities nationwide have enticed universities to relocate faculties from main campuses to city centres.

    Kitchener is paying for the University of Waterloo's new school of pharmacy building, which will be located in its city core. Simon Fraser University is redeveloping an abandoned department store in Vancouver to house its school of contemporary arts. Wilfred Laurier opened a campus in downtown Brantford and the University of Alberta is considering moving into a derelict, vacant department store in Edmonton.

    "I think they're beginning to see the old ivory tower has a lot of punch in the downtown communities..."
Instead, Windsor "cobbles" something together in two weeks to present to Queen's Park! Pathetic.


Now Windsor is not, say Toronto, where it can take an hour to get somewhere. You get can almost anywhere in town in about 15 minutes maximum.

That's one of Windsor's big attractions. My big surprise moving to Windsor about 20 years ago was how nice the downtown was especially with a fur store on almost every corner. I live in South Windsor and I can get downtown in about 10-15 minutes. I like living where I am but I came downtown often for shopping and dining and just walking along the river. I did not have to live downtown to enjoy the downtown amenities.

My point is that the Mayor is jeopardizing the future of Windsor by insisting that the Engineering campus be put downtown or else the City will not play. He is playing the petulant child who is trying to force the University--and Sandra and Dwight-- to bend to his childish tantrum.

Is it really downtown or nothing? Is this leadership....What happened to the legal technocrat who is never rushed and crosses all of the "t's" and dots all of the "i's" and studies problems to death before he acts---or does that only apply if his neck is not on the line. When it is, as with the arena, he panics.

What if it makes no sense to move downtown? Do we throw away then the idea of making Windsor the intellectual capital of the automotive industry in Canada. Probably, because it is a Dennis DesRosiers concept and who wants to give him credit for anything!

What an absurd and harmful position for this Mayor to take. He is doing nothing more than trying to save his neck on his failed promise about the Urban Village. As Councillor Postma told us, there was NO interest in what the Mayor wanted to do before. He is not considering the future of Windsor whatsoever but his own!

His attitude is hardly a surprise. It is all "ME, ME, ME" and not the University's interest. Consider the following:

  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said he's been approached by Strasser and Paul about the written commitments made by Hurst but rejected their suggestion he should take the lead in approaching council about the $8 million. [a $3-million contribution to the college for the Ford Centre of Excellence and the city to contribute $5 million to support the institution's application for $10.7 million in Super Build funding]

    The mayor said the city still has a debt approaching $200 million, one of the highest debt ratios in Ontario, and is committed, as a condition of this year's budget, to paying down another $10 million in 2005 on top of regular debt payments.

    "Everybody's in a bind here," he said."


  • Mayor Eddie Francis, who will be co-chairman of the Pan-Am games committee with Paul, said Monday he expects the university will knock on city hall's door too...

    The stadium will be important for the city's image, said Francis. It will be one of the first structures visitors to Canada will see after coming over the Ambassador Bridge. [So much for "branding." Ironically, "The owner of the Ambassador Bridge is shelling out $2 million to help the University of Windsor pay for its rushed stadium complex." And the City has contributed how much?]

  • But Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, who supported the city's contribution to Together in Caring, predicted a "tough sell" for the medical school.

    It would be a difficult decision because Windsor needs doctors, he said, but "the days of funding outside groups is something that is increasingly being put under pressure. We can't constantly be coming to the table when there's a new initiative..."

    The city has not been asked yet to contribute to the expansion nor has it offered, said Mayor Eddie Francis.

    "Council has been very clear we have challenges, and we're trying to balance the needs of meeting our own priorities as well as other areas," he said.
Hardly a ringing endorsement in helping out the University. There were always other competing wants that had to be dealt with first. But all of a sudden Eddie want to help out....sure but on Eddie's terms only. Not what is good for Windsor but what is good for him personally. Downtown or nothing. Salvage my urban village mess or get lost.

Remember Eddie's words at the 2006 Inaugural. He washed his hands in helping out the University:

  • "The University of Windsor has so much opportunity and potential. The time has come for it to join the ranks of the truly great universities in this province and in this country.

    This, too, is largely beyond our City Council’s control."
Now everything has changed. The City is willing to help but on its terms only. Downtown or nothing.

I have heard that the City has offered $15M as an inducement as well as land. Where would that money come from? You and me. It would not surprise me seeing taxpayer money being paid over in a manner similar to the hospital levy.

My own preference is to have the Complex downtown too. I can provide all kinds of reasons why it should make sense. But I do not know what factors should be considered by the University. I do recall why they did not come downtown before. As the Star reported:

  • The suggestion to moving a campus downtown got a chilly reception with the board of governors
  • The economics didn't work out
  • The Cleary would have to be renovated, which makes the site unaffordable right now
  • An independent faculty like music could survive in a distant location, but the university doesn't want to isolate students as transportation to the campus could be an issue
Obviously, there are capital and operating costs issues and delays to take into account. These are items the University's Board will have to look at closely. Yet there are huge differences of opinion amongst Board members and anger at how their Chair and President have handled this. They are both fortunate that the University Board is not like a corporate board of directors these days or they might be be forced to resign for keeping their Board members in the dark until the story was leaked to the Star. Even that move-- to pressure Sandra and Dwight to salvage Eddie's mess too--could turn out to hurt us as MPPs from other parts of the Province resist giving money to Windsor.

Moving the University downtown is ego right now, not a disciplined approach to what makes sense. Trust us like the East end arena that is delayed and will be over budget by the time it is done. Trust us like the $75M Tunnel deal as the Tunnel Plaza Improvements disappear off the face of the earth. Trust us as with the Canderel leases, the Keg parking or the Spitfire lease that require Freedom of Information applications.

Eddie needs the University downtown for a big win and to erase a failure. Ross Paul needs it for legacy and to erase the Maclean's fiasco.

No one is looking at it from the University's point of view. If it makes sense for it to be located in Windsor, then the right location MUST be chosen. Wherever it winds up, downtown or on the existing campus, it will be good for Windsor and the downtown too.

We need leadership in Windsor not ego gratification. We need the complex here especially after the GM headline this morning. Where is the leader who will ensure that the Complex is built in Windsor? Frankly, where are the Councillors, where is the University Board and more importantly, where are Sandra and Dwight fighting for Windsor and not merely a downtown location to help out a spoiled Mayor.

We need a leader in Windsor who thinks about the well-being of our City! I wish we had one.

Jobs Rally Challenge


A letter from a reader follows:
  • Hi Ed,

    Read you faithfully.

    Enough about politicians TALKING. Can you help promote the people in this town who WORK, and would like to KEEP working, by giving some space to the Jobs Rally taking place Sunday, May 27th at the Ford Test Track?

    Yes, it’s a labour initiative (somebody’s got to have some), but since the Mayor’s speech on Monday, this thing has exploded and support and interest and offers of help are coming from everywhere. You say you represent the taxpayers, citizens, regular guy in town. Well, I guess we’ll see.

    Yes – you read it right – this is a challenge – but a very small one compared to what this City is facing. It’s time to see what everyone is made of – including you and me."

Gord Henderson's column today scolds the Labour Movement for not being quiet. Brand imaging you know. Maintaining unity.

What I have found strange is that Eddie's words about the unions weren't all that bad. I agree with Gord there. However, has everyone missed Eddie's attack on CUPE? I expect that the various locals will be brutalized as the new service delivery model is created. That means "outsourcing" and job reduction if you have not figured that out as well. If the Big Three can do it, so can City Hall. Investors will be impressed.

Anyway, for those who dare attack Eddie as he positions himself for his new career, understand that you will be attacked as well. Remember what Eddie said at his state of the City speech and be quiet:

  • "We need to put narrow interests aside – and promote the greater good.
    We need to think about the long-term, and not get distracted by arguing with one another over small, petty and personal issues in the short term.
    We need to end the fragmentation – where narrow interests compete with one another within Windsor.
    We need to recognize and sideline the special interests that seek to divide us.
    And we need to stop distorting our Windsor in the name of advancing other agendas – political or otherwise.
    We need to unite in the cause of promoting the benefits of our city and our region to one another … and to the world….
    Negative messages travel at the same speed as a text message or information on the internet…
    It’s time for a new mentality in Windsor. One where we always ask ourselves if our words and our deeds help our city’s image – or hurt it…
    Others are listening. Others are watching us. The old era of airing our dirty laundry in public is over.
    We must unite. "

It is the same message that Eddie uses with Councillors to shut them up...we must keep a united front or "OTHERS" will win. Shades of Dief the Chief's "THEY!"

Interestingly, Gord can suggest an Eddie-Kenny meeting while ignoring another big reason investors will stay away from here: the anti-business attitude of this Mayor. Perhaps Gord might suggest that there be a Matty-Eddie meeting and a Tony-Eddie meeting soon too so we can get thousands of high-paying new jobs created NOW, not just minimum wage call centre positions.

No one dares speak out in this City. There is a real element of fear and of possible retribution. I speak from personal experience on that one. That is why I get so many tips from readers! I can BLOG what they do not dare say.

This fear is why this City is in such a mess. It is time that people begin to speak up. Unity or no unity!

Looking Backward: Remembering Our Past



Sometimes it gets depressing writing this BLOG every day. All of the gamesmanship that goes on is enough to wear one out. I have to admit I am in one of those moods these days.

I only wish that our politicos would not treat us as children or as fools. They must think we cannot remember. Let's look at the "Looking Forward: Windsor’s Future in a Changing World" Seminar as a case in point.

Let's look back!

Did we see anything about "These distinguished guests were invited to Windsor as part of the City of Windsor’s Official Plan Review" the first time around? Not that I can recall.

Did anyone really believe that the first postponement was " due to low ticket sales?" Hardly. I was told that "According to my insider at the Capitol tonights show sold 180 tickets and 80 were comped so the small theatre was near 100% capacity."

That total was 260 people. How many came to the Caboto Club for the rescheduled session: "The event -- which drew a capacity crowd of about 300"

Do we have a budget problem in Windsor---Obviously not. According to the Mayor "We've heard the voices from within," the mayor said. "Now we're trying to find out how outside people see us."

Councillor Lewenza told us at Council that the extravaganza cost us $20,000. I think he was too low. Did that include the several ads in the Star, the room rental? Were there refreshments? Were there cancellation fees for the last event eg money for transportation for the speakers if they were coming by plane, their fees, the money wasted for advertising, cost for hall rental and the refreshments that cannot be served.

Last time around at least some of the costs were going to be recouped by the $10 charge. This time, to get the same number of people, it was FREE! It was all paid for by you and me!

What did we learn:
  • "You've either got to do what you need to do to stay in the game, or you're out of the game"
  • "Everyone in the world is in the same boat as Windsor...it is to say it's a fluid world."
  • about our border difficulties. "You know what? You've got to figure out how to get that fixed. I don't know how. But you've got to figure it out."
  • Outlining a "Darwinian" economy where massive global consolidators are eating smaller companies, [means our gazelle feeders may be out of a job soon]
  • "People that don't believe in globalization have to realize that globalization started when we left the jungles of Africa,"
  • "We've robbed our neighbourhoods. We've made our places boring, plastic and generic"
  • "Don't look to Ottawa or Queen's Park to solve your problems. Don't look for a new auto pact or a new Honda plant,"
  • investment in arts and culture generated revenue while enhancing the city (I hope those pesky Capitol people did not hear that).

Now that should help our planners a lot shouldn't it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ambassador Bridge Co. To Help Jones' Museum


I am sure that you remember the recent news story where Councillor Jones said

  • “We have had a lot of stuff dug up through archeological digs that are now in Toronto,” Jones said. “We want to bring them back to a museum we hope to open up in Sandwich Town.”

I imagine its location might be near the new drug store that is opening in Sandwich, hopefully near where a new financial institution might one day open an outlet after the out-of-town investors have started their developments. It would probably be near the Felix/Mill St. roundabout after the schoolkids in the area name it.

It's a real shame that Councillor Jones did not know about the "weekend" destruction of the 80-year old Grad House at the University, the building that university students wanted to designate as "heritage." I know that it was not in Sandwich--merely a few blocks away--although it was in his Ward. He might have been able to have its destruction managed properly.

Mind you, he did know it was going to be torn down at some time. Aparently "[He did not] express any concern when was asked what he thought about the proposed demolition. He said "I don't have any problem with it."

The reporter must have left out the key part of what Jones must have said. Surely, he must have demanded that "on-site archeologists" be on-call just as he is now demanding be available for demolitions in Sandwich. As I am certain Councillor Jones will state, an archeologist is needed for Indian Road demolitions where the Bridge Co. has vacant homes. One might then ask why didn't the Councillor demand that one should be needed for a University building on Sunset. Did the discovery of artifacts conveniently stop at Huron Church Road?

Back to the Bridge Co. Apparently they took seriously Councillor Jones' desire to have a museum built in Sandwich. They knew, since they are a backer of the arts in Windsor, that, to have a museum, it has to have artifacts eg "Artifacts of the First Nations people. Artifacts of the Underground Railroad."

A spokesperson for the Company said:

  • "Which is better for heritage: (1) leaving potential artifacts buried below existing, aging and vacant housing where no one can examine or enjoy them, or (2) taking down the houses to uncover artifacts if any for display at a museum for the education and enjoyment of all and the creation of heritage education programs for the schools?"

Obviously, finding artifacts by getting rid of vacant homes by demolishing them is the answer. How else logically can you find out if there are any artifacts buried there. I assume that Councillor Jones went to 3616 Peter St right after the big fire that destroyed the 150 year old historical house "of significance to the local black community and targeted for preservation" and has asked that an archeologist be involved.

  • "Damage is estimated at $280,000 and the building is likely going to have to be demolished."

Now being reasonable, one should assume that there are not any artifacts where the Bridge Co. has homes since the area has already been developed. If there were artifacts they would have been found 100 or so years ago when the homes were first being built. Just like the $1500 buried in the ground found when another Peter St. home was built many years ago. However, one can only hope that there might be something of value to fill the proposed museum.

Clearly Councillor Jones and his Ward mate, Councillor Postma will vote for the demolition requested by the Bridge Co. At least in this case, the Bridge Co. and the Ward 2 Councillors will be speaking with one voice!

The Emails Just Keep Coming


Here are more reader thoughts:

1) Eddie's speech reminds me of the Captain America cartoon. I can just see Eddie deflecting all issues as the tune plays....

  • "When Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who chose to oppose his mighty shield must yield.....

If any policy from any government has been implemented at any time there might have been a lot more cushion.

I forwarded you the letter I received from the Provincial powers that be. They knew years ago what was happening. They did nothing. Now there is reaction just before an election. Cute.

The jobs lost in this area are overwhelming. The reaction to the job loss is less than helpful. Gazelles. Big bad bridge company.

Eddie should keep that shield handy. It seems that's what you need to be politically successful on your way over the fence to greener pastures.

Ken Lewenza Jr. must be infuriated.
Current council should be ashamed. Period.

They may not have been able to do anything about the manufacturing sector, but they sure as the blue sky they could have had thousands of construction jobs on the go in this area.

Infrastructure with funds available for the last 6 years.

How much money has been put aside for projects and single source purchases?

What percentage of job cuts at City Hall are required now to pay for those projects?
Windsor deserves better.

By the way, is Detroit hosting any other significant event? Windsor needs to be on the heels of something......

2) What The Chrysler Sale Means For Windsor? Darkness, yes or no.

It all depends on Windsor, the workers, the civic,provincial and federal leadership and most importantly it depends on the product Windsor produces.

I wonder if anyone in Windsor realizes that yesterday was probably as big a day in this city's 105 auto history as anything in Chrysler's 82 year history.

So what will happen? A lot!

For Chrysler Holdings LLC, they have a lot more freedom to do what they want. Recall that Chrysler, like Ford and GM and pert near every other car company on this planet is now have to peg their recovery and their future to the Toyota Business Model. Do anything else and your days are numbered. And this is what they will do:

They'll reduce the number of dealerships in North America. An ugly job considering how dealership franchises are set up; particularly in the U.S. as dealership franchising is legislated through individual U.S. States. Chrysler's General Counsel
will be busy.

The unions and the white collar will take a hit. Look for upper management structure to change dramatically and flatten out ala Toyota or Nissan. The Chiefs will be closer to the Indians. A greater emphasis will also be put on "product first" rather than "me first" which is so prevalent in the Detroit car industry.

The rank and file are going to lose a few as well. I think there are no surprises there but the UAW and CAW will squawk. Recall now they deal with a private
company. The rules are different.

Jeep has too many products. They currently have 7 and need no more than 5 nameplates. The Commander and Compass don't need to exist. Bye ya!

Chrysler's mid-level cars are not up to snuff. If you consider that segment the equivalent of the little black dress..........everyone has one. If you dont do
well in that segment it really shows the overall health of your company. They need to dramatically re-style a segment that is fairly new.

Too many SUV's as well. Deep sixing the Pacifica was a no brainer. I will miss that vehicle though as going down E.C. Row behind one allowed me to get better gas mileage. Who says NASCAR is only on the tracks of the Southeastern U.S. ?

But what about Windsor?

Unfortunately, 1 Riverside West will be almost empty soon and the surviving punters will be on their way to Mississauga. Those Spitfire guys will have the whole building to themselves. Mayor Francis should seriously take a look at moving City Hall downtown and make the old city hall site an urban village (wink..wink).

For Windsor Assembly to survive, it goes without saying that the product has to have high quality ratings and be what the consumer wants. Prices will be higher as GM and Ford bowed out of that market so rebates will not be as prevalent. With a single wheelbase vehicle as well, the marketing types better have gotten in correct. Having that new VW van built there will help. Somehow VW has a good reputation amongst the muckety mucks. VW quality in the last 6 years has been atrocious. Let' see if Windsor can turn the tide on that.

But where WAP needs a break or needs help is 1) a new border crossing. Times running out and Spanky, Eddie, Sandra, Masse, Dalton and Harper better step it up. Otherwise the UAW will lobby hard for more work in the U.S.

The dollar needs to sink too. Or should I say the U.S. dollar needs to strengthen. That is out of the hands of anyone in this town but it plays a great part in the survival of WAP.

As for local leadership. Tom Lasorda is currently King but only because Wolfie Bernhard has a no compete clause for two years. I am sure the Cerberus brass will cut some deal with VW now that the sale is public, to make sure Dr. Bernhard takes the helm eventually. He is a far, far superior product guy to LaSorda. Ask anyone in Auburn Hills.

Finances....Daimler ain't stupid. They saw that Cerberus has 51% of GMAC and that provides a nice return when merged with Chrysler Financial.

Eventually Chrysler will come out of this much leaner and more Toyota like. It will have an interesting effect on GM and Ford now that Chrysler Holdings can move quicker. They will have to react to what Chrysler does as much as anything. Look for the Ford family to eventually sell their voting stock..........gee, maybe Frank and Belinda can buy it.

3) Ed, you have done it again! Thanks for the column on the downtown campus.

You are correct that the city has yet to even tender a RFP. You are also correct that this is going to be a fiscal and logistical nightmare. But you failed to mention that the city hasn't even tried to advertise the area and what they want to accomplish. Instead the city decided to spend more money on the arena (go figure! We knew there would be cost overruns) and on the double priced peace beacon (remember, it was to cost ONLY $300,000).

Instead the city would rather the university take over the urban village and have the students run amok like they do in the UofW district. Nothing says loving like furniture piled 8 feet high on garbage day or fire code infractions, dismal landlords etc...

Forgive me if I don't agree that 19-21 year old students will turn the downtown area around considering students have some of the lowest disposable incomes in age demographics. So what will we get for our downtown turnaround? More bars and more policing! I thought a vibrant downtown needed to be diverse? I guess all of those studies that other cities have paid for are just toilet paper when it comes this administration.

Why does this city always go against the norm and try to do what they "think" will work when instead of what has been tried and what is true?

Can you take another 4 years of Eddie? I will be glad if he does go away after this term but what will replace him? Bill Marra?

We are in for a rough ride whether Eddie stays or Bill comes up next? Maybe London isn't looking so bad now?

4) WUC is significantly increasing water rates following three years when there was no increase as the mayor and the counsellors were too afraid politically to deal with things properly. They are using the excuse that watermains need replacing now for the increase, but the program to replace the mains has been going on for at least ten years. A reason for the increase is the need to put up the Banwell Road reservoir ($20M) to accommodate the addition of Tecumseh on the Windsor system.

I wonder if the water increase will also create a significant increase in the Sewer Surcharge for the City in this years budget. Remember the sewer surcharge is 180% of the water rate.

Sorry State Of The City


Was it just me or, if you saw Eddie delivering his speech in person or on Cogeco, did it seem as if he was reading what his speechwriter wrote for the first time? He seemed bored reading it, without the fire and passion of other speeches that I have heard him make and I was bored listening to it.

The numbers in the crowd seemed lower too from the TV shots. Lots of bureaucrats and high-salaried policemen in the crowd in uniform filling up the front sections but lots of empty seats too. Someone there told me it seemed half full (or half empty--take your pick)

You can read the speech for yourself by going to the City's website but let me give you some highlights (or lowlights if you are one of the people who was attacked by the Mayor as a naysayer):

  1. I am sure that this will make the Chrysler workers happy today and the rest of the 9% and counting workers who are unemployed in Windsor "I just wish there was something that I could do to make it all better – right away." I guess that Eddie has been reading his parenting book. "Here my child, let me kiss your scrape to make it all better."

    Had Eddie acted when he knew that economic problems were developing, we would have a strategy for economic diversification, not just Gazelle Feeders with 120 days in action plans after almost 4 years of his term as Mayor. I have already suggested how infrastructure jobs would tide us over but Eddie will not allow it. It's up to Jeff Watson, Sandra and Dwight to take action in spite of Windsor's Mayor and Council if they want to be re-elected!

  2. The poor guy can never sleep "There isn’t a morning when I wake up … or a night when I go to sleep … when these people aren’t on my mind. " I thought he had told us previously that he could not sleep worrying about other city problems and now this.

  3. Very interesting what he said about the Capitol Theatre----nothing. The word "arts" was never used while symphony and art gallery were mentioned once, in passing. The new buzz-word was "quality" used 15 times.

  4. And if you think any of this is Eddie's fault, since nothing ever is, why "Economies naturally go through good times and bad times – there is nothing we can do about that." After all , "I am not in the Boardroom of DCX, or Ford or GM. I am not at the Cabinet table of the federal government, able to introduce a manufacturing policy."

  5. If you believed that hiring PR flacks for $250,000 was dead, forget it "Changing the perception of our city among outsiders" and "the communications function... Imagine bringing them all together under one communication umbrella" will be very important as will be boosting Eddie's image with outsiders at our expense. After all, he is looking for a new job in three years. "Your City Council is investing in a new branding initiative." Yes, at our expense.

  6. The City unions better get worried. Eddie mentioned job cuts and then said more about "streamlining operations. Reducing overlap and duplication. And getting out of areas that may be better managed by someone else.... That you just can’t change entrenched bureaucracies." Sounds like more job cuts and outsourcing jobs to me. Hmmmm I guess it means that Global Spectrum will manage both the Arena and Capitol and that some private equity Company will run the Tunnel under long-term deals.

  7. Again we heard about the problems at Enwin (but not at the Tunnel) that boosted the salaries of Councillors so dramatically because they had to attend so many extra Enwin Board meetings but again we are not told what the issues were there that were corrected. I guess we take it on faith, eh.

  8. After "[doubling] the size of the Windsor police service’s Drugs, Intelligence, Guns and Surveillance Unit.... In the past three months alone, our police have tracked down and taken seven illegal hand guns off of our city streets. " Wow....

  9. Long discussion about transportation hubs...expect that to cost you more too as we have to pay for the servicing costs of the airport lands to create "shovel ready" lands for developers if only those militant unions be quiet.

  10. And a reference to the Ambassador Bridge too without using its name “we host the busiest commercial land bridge in the world” and without calling them the “enemy.”

  11. An interesting conversation about the Tunnel too without telling us why the Detroit half is worth US$75M and how it can compete against the Ambassador Bridge and a DRIC Bridge if built. Also Eddie did not tell us that "Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick plans to present the Detroit City Council with a contract June 15 for its approval to turn over the city's side of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to Windsor.”

  12. Did you notice the suck-up to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and not to the Province over the border. Eddie needs the Feds for the cash for the Tunnel so he is nice to them today.

  13. Same stuff about the border but not a word about a tunnel to the border from Highway 401. I told you that E C Row will be the border road. It’s a done deal. What else do you think he and Donna Cansfield talked over at lunch a few months ago. As far as lawsuit threats go----Eddie would NOT dare. He needs their help against the “enemy.” “We are continuing to work with the DRIC.”

  14. Long discussion about the importance of Engineering and R&D activity and its importance and not a word of thanks to Dennis DesRosiers as Eddie takes his ideas and makes them his own! “All this research and innovation…All this activity that is precisely what a regional economy needs to grow and thrive in today’s economy…”

  15. And then the gutless part of the evening "Together, we are working to build the new, state-of-the-art Centre for Engineering Innovation. And, it needs to be downtown." Of course he “ad-libbed” so it would NOT be in writing when Eddie threatened saying if it was not going to be downtown, do not expect a City contribution.

    The City would play a role "if and only if the campus was brought downtown."

    Who does he think he is threatening. He huffs and puffs with no aces in his hand. He needs the University to save his neck on his failed urban village not the other way around. He is in no position to demand anything.

    As if the University should care. Imagine if the Engineering complex was opened at the University, would he refuse to attend, would the City refuse to play, would he “snub” them too? Obviously not. It would make a total mockery of what he said in his speech.

    He was playing his "bully" role and everyone knew it. Of course, good old Gordo came to his rescue with a Star column threatening Sandra and Dwight. At some point those two need to stand up or Eddie will blackmail them right until the election day in October. I am sure they saw the signal in his column that Eddie, like Oliver, wants “MORE PLEASE.” Next is the border!

  16. Then the insult of the evening “We need to put narrow interests aside – and promote the greater good.” In other words, do what I say because I am the Philosopher King who knows it all.

    "We need to think about the long-term, and not get distracted by arguing with one another over small, petty and personal issues in the short term. We need to end the fragmentation – where narrow interests compete with one another within Windsor."

    Don’t read what we BLOGGERS write any more.

    “We need to recognize and sideline the special interests that seek to divide us. “

    Whammo to the Ambassador Bridge Co. and anyone who dares support them!

  17. The "who me?" wide-eyed innocent line of the evening “And we need to stop distorting our Windsor in the name of advancing other agendas – political or otherwise.” I am sorry but who has been beating the drums saying we have a border mess in Windsor to accomplish his political or otherwise agenda!

  18. Finally, Eddie showed that his friendship with Junior, and the unions is over. He no longer needs him or the CAW…Windsor is to become a non-union town. Heck, you gotta be a toughie if you want a big corporate position. Next time Junior will learn not to choose the CAW over Eddie on the Diane Francis session!

As I said...read the speech for yourself. Take out of it what you will.

As for me, I'll just keep doing what I am doing. I prefer to consider what I am doing as helping to save this City from those in power who think that doing things in secret, not informing Windsorites and making life complicated is the way to achieve results. If this is being a naysayer, so be it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Environmental Guru Help Needed


A reader sent me a note about the East Windsor Cogeneration Centre. In case you did not know what it is, it is

  • "a proposed 84 MW natural gas-fired cogeneration facility using modern technology to generate reliable clean power for over 80,000 homes in the Windsor area and steam for Ford's Windsor operations. The project will encompass approximately 1.5 acres of industrial land, located adjacent to the existing Ford powerhouse and will be equipped with modern emission controls to meet all federal and provinical air quality standards."

I am little bit confused about that statement since their press release states:

  • "The EWCC will provide the Ontario electricity system with an annual average of 84 MW of electricity for delivery to the Hydro-One Networks transmission system."

So is the plant for Windsor power generation or just to supply power for the grid?

Julia Ciccaglione, spokeswoman for the project said

  • "that there are plans to establish at $300,000 sustainability fund to support environmental initiatives in Windsor."

Eddie Francis seems to like the project. In a press release, he stated

  • "This project has significant benefits for our community," said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. "It creates substantial construction jobs and adds long term efficiencies to the existing industrial base in the City of Windsor. Its power and heat generation technology is entirely in line with our City's need for environmentally friendly industrial ventures."

Everything sounds so environmentally wholesome that I was surprised to read in their "Air Quality Assessment" report:

  • "Appendix D Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement Notification Form

    The Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement
    Transboundary Notification under Article V

    Under Article V of the Canada/U.S. Air Quality Agreement, Canada is obligated to notify the U.S. of any proposed actions, activities, or projects which, if carried out, would be likely to cause significant transboundary air pollution. At present, we are providing only notification of such actions under within 100 km of the Canada-U.S. border. This form provides the information to fulfil Canada’s obligation under Article V of the Canada/U.S. Air Quality Agreement. The form needs to be completed for any NEW air pollution source located within 100 km of the Canada/U.S. border that is expected to emit greater than 90 tonnes per year of any one of the common air pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, total suspended particulates and volatile organic compounds, where VOC’s are defined as compounds containing at least one carbon atom, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons. Notification is also required for major modifications of existing facilities which would result in an increase of 40 or more tonnes per year of one or more common pollutants. With respect to hazardous air pollutants, Notification is required if a new source, or a modification of an existing source, results in a release of greater than 1 tonne per year of any one hazardous air pollutant. For the purposes of Notification, a hazardous air pollutant is any substance in the National Pollutant Release Inventory.

    If the proposed facility does not meet the Notification criteria, there is no requirement to complete and return the form to Environment Canada.

    What are the estimated annual quantities of the following pollutants released to the atmosphere (tonnes per year)?

    SO2 11.2 tonnes/year
    PM 35.8 tonnes/year
    VOCs 83 tonnes/year
    CO 228 tonnes/year
    NOx 385 tonnes/year
    (equivalent to NO2)

    Note: These are maximum annual rates, assuming 24 hr/day, 365 day/yr operation at 100% load for the worst-case operating scenario of the facility. The annual VOCs provided above, conservatively represent the total Unburned Hydrocarbons (UHC-total). The total annual VOCs released are estimated at 8.6 tonnes per year.

    List hazardous air pollutants with emissions estimate (tonnes/year) for any hazardous pollutants with expected annual emission rates of greater than 1 tonne per year:

    Formaldehyde 2.3 tonnes/year
    Ethane 1.5 tonnes/year
    Pentane 1.2 tonnes/year

    Note: These are maximum annual rates.

I have no idea what this all means. Are there problems or not for those who like to breathe clean air? I have no idea, if this plant is producing energy for the grid, why it has to be located in Windsor. Perhaps someone out there can explain this all to me.

Oh and if there is a concern:

  • "If, after reviewing the ERR and supporting documents, any individual or group feels that significant environmental concerns remain unresolved, they may request that the Director of the Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch of the Ministry of the Environment make an order for the project to be elevated to an Individual Environmental Assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act. Elevations must be made in accordance with the provisions set out in the Ministry of the Environment’s Environmental Screening Process for Electricity Projects. Elevation Requests must be received by the Director, Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch, Ministry of the Environment, 12A Floor, 2 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, Ontario M4V 1P5, by May 19 2007, with copies sent to EWCLP and their environmental consultants."

Thanks for your assistance

What The Chrysler Sale Means For Windsor


So Windsor is about to take another hit with the purchase of Chrysler by Cerberus. Just how bad will it be is the big question that has to be answered!

In passing, politicians should stay out of business matters until the dust settles. Last Friday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm thought Magna would be an excellent purchaser for Chrysler.

Remember back in November, 2005 when there was talk that Chrysler might move its head office out of Windsor:

  • "Losing DaimlerChrysler's headquarters to either Mississauga or Toronto would be a devastating blow to Windsor in terms of white-collar jobs and prestige, especially given that the City of Windsor has poured in excess of $40 million into the downtown office tower development where DaimlerChrysler is the lead tenant."

Well it could be worse than that now. Not only should we expect there to be a strong move to reduce staff at the Chrysler headquarters at the Canderel building (will there still be a Chrysler Canada in anything but name by the time the blood-letting is over) but this could turn into a disaster in more ways than one.

  • "Cerberus led a group of investors that bought a 51 percent stake in finance company GMAC from parent GM, the world's largest maker. Detroit-based GMAC makes loans for purchases of homes and cars."

Why wouldn't Cerberus roll Chrysler Financial into that unit. It's a very profitable arm. Is there a need for a separate unit to manage the finances of the Chrysler business or can it be done with the computers of GMAC? If there is a desire to streamline, how many jobs will be lost in the Canderel building and other Chrysler locations?

Just a nagging question....I had heard a rumour that if Chrysler moves out, the City might be on the hook for the rent of the empty space. I wonder if that is true. Perhaps the Mayor could let us know....sure he will!

Should the Windsor Assembly Plant expect more job losses and worker pay and benefit reductions. Probably yes to both.

  • "Cerberus and other private-equity firms are interested in the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker because they expect to profit on their investment by reducing wages and paring other costs such as pension expenses."

It made a bid for Delphi Corp.

  • "but told the company last month it was withdrawing the bid because it was not satisfied with concessions offered by the United Auto Workers."

What was interesting was this comment by Buzz Hargrove that ought to cause a great deal of concern to workers here:

  • "It pissed me off greatly that these discussions had led to a final deal (Sunday) and there had been absolutely no dialogue with our union. We still are a player here."

It should be remembered that CAW and Cerberus have a history. They "clashed over major job cuts and pension plan changes at Air Canada." Is the UAW President smarter, or at least more political, by saying that he supports the deal since he may be able to take jobs away from Canada if the CAW maintains an aggressive posture?

Windsor may lose out also because

  • "Cerberus's auto division is run by former Ford executive David Thursfield" and "Cerberus may have established itself as the front-runner by hiring former Chrysler Chief Operating Officer Wolfgang Bernhard as an adviser...Bernhard, who left in 2004 after four years as COO, has a strong personal relationship with Zetsche."

Where does this leave Windsor born, Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda? Has Canada lost a strong voice in the boardroom?

I will let poeple more connected to the auto industry tell us what the significance of all of this means but all I can see is more darkness for this City.

Isn't it time that the Mayor and Council open up their eyes to some infrastructure improvements to tide us over or will they remain that pig-headed?

The Secret Border Memos Exposed


It just did not happen. It took a lot of effort, pleading and cajoling. I explained that it was for the good of our regional economy, for the well-being of hundreds of thousands of workers and millions of residents.

I told him/her (I cannot even reveal the gender of my source these days with witch-hunts going on for leaks) that he/she had to do it for the good of Canada, to become a "whistleblower."

AHHHHHHHHH that was the magic word that did it! Now I can disclose the top secret memos:

TOP SECRET
From: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
To: Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon


Larry, what has happened? I made you effectively the Deputy PM and the Minister responsible for Quebec and what is the result? The SES-Sun survey shows we are bombing in Quebec. Our "public opinion has tanked by a whopping 11 points to 17% from 28% last month, almost all of it moving to the Liberals."

Mon ami....stop wasting so much time on that Windsor matter, find us some cash and start buying support in Quebec with taxpayer money!

From: Transport Minister Cannon
To: Faceless Bureaucrat
CC: Prime Minister Harper


As you know, I am spending almost no time whatsoever on the Windsor Border matter. I have never been down there to tour the facilities and I have never yet met with the Bridge Co. notwithstanding the fact that they are a major border operator and have invited me many times to meet.

As the Prime Minister said, it's time we walked away from that border mess and focused on matters of national importance---our re-election. Figure out how we can do it and save face, whom we can blame and FIND ME SOME MONEY!

From: Faceless Bureaucrat
To: Transport Minister Cannon
CC: Prime Minister Harper


Minister, the money part is easy. The Windsor border was allocated $300M from the Province and ourselves under the Border Infrastructure Fund to build a road to the Ambassador Bridge, an existing border crosssing. We have not spent one single penny to do so.

As you know the program ends in Septermber, 2007 and since we are not going to do anything, our share of that money is immediately available for use in Quebec.

To silence critics, we can say that the money was rolled-in as part of the $400M in the Budget that we allocated for roads, which of course we have NEVER committed to spend! Just like with the Toronto subway.

This action should make the Province happy since they have to find cash to put into some dumb urban village/University Engineering complex deal if they want to save their 2 Ministers' seats in Windsor.

Naturally, we will pin this on the Windsor Mayor and Council (and the Province will go along I am certain) arguing that the program has expired since in five years they were never able to work out a border solution. Naturally we will keep the door open, inviting them to contact us when they figure out what they want to do.

I expect that it will take at least another decade for anyone to agree on anything down there. In the meantime, the Bridge Co. will keep on solving border problems and we can keep on saying it is a national priority for us.

I expect that most Windsorites will accept this. After all, how long did it take to get an arena built there and the E C Row!

I have drafted a short Press Release to justify what we are doing. A copy is below:

  • CANADA'S NEW GOVERNMENT SHELVES DRIC PROCESS

    "The Government of Canada and Transport Canada have growing concerns about the direction of the DRIC study and the delivery of a timely, affordable solution to the border issues. These concerns include the ultimate cost of a new bridge, the community disruption that its construction would cause, and how quickly it can be completed.

    Accordingly, after discussions with our governmental colleagues in Washington, Michigan and Toronto, we have decided to withdraw as a participant on the DRIC study.

    These growing concerns are also prompted by the recently passed Constitutional amendment on Eminent Domain in Michigan, as well as community disruption concerns and the effect of emerging federal, state and provincial budget and revenue forecasts.

    Traffic volumes have dropped dramatically and we see no significant increases occurring in the near future to justify spending billions of taxpayer dollars. We are working in the meantime with our US friends to take measures to beef up security at the border including re-examining Shared Border Management and reverse customs."

I trust that this approach meets your needs and that of the Prime Minister.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Where's Perry Mason


It's time for a quiz.

I have been giving you lessons in Windsor Star journalism for some time now. I have tried to teach you that when something suddenly appears in the Star, especially if it is City related, and more particularly Ambassador Bridge related, we are being subliminally set up. Usually what happens is that there are a series of pre-event stories designed to get us to think a certain way before the event.

Let's take Friday's Star.....what page and what story is a perfect example and what will be the event that triggered this pre-event story.

QUESTION 1

If you said: out of the blue and for no apparent reason we see this big story on the top of Page 2 of Friday's Star with the big bold font headline "West end heritage protection touted" then you get a gold star!

The story continues:
  • "Future demolitions and developments in Sandwich Town will require on-site archeologists if Coun. Ron Jones has his way.

    "We have discovered lots of artifacts in that area," Jones said Thursday. "Artifacts of the First Nations people. Artifacts of the Underground Railroad. So we're concerned about the whole area..."

Those borders include land owned by the Ambassador Bridge, which has proposed building a new six-lane span just west of the existing link.

  • "When we have been doing construction on our properties, we've had an archeologist on site," said Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Company. "We've been doing that for months now."

QUESTION 2

Ok now what is the event: that could be tougher but why don't we say the demolition of vacant houses that the Ambassdor Bridge owns that would be used in their enhancement project. After all, there were complaints about these homes at the Public Open House sessions that the Bridge Co. ran and the Bridge Co. must be applying to Council under the demolition by-law to take them down (Actually the Bridge Co. does not have to do so but are probably doing it out of courtesy to the Council as a good corporate citizen and taxpayer.)

Don't you think that the timing of "a draft report called the Sandwich Heritage Conservation District Study, discussed at a Windsor Heritage Committee meeting Wednesday night" is very co-incidental. I would not be surprised if the City already knew what the Bridge Co. wanted to do and so ensured that they had a nice report in their hands to fall back on before they allowed the Bridge Co. to appear in front of them!

I would think that the matter will be heard shortly given the Star article, perhaps as early as May 22 (It's not on the agenda yet.)

You know that this is all childishness. It is an irritant. Brian Masse's efforts in Ottawa on Bill C-3 ironically undercut the City's position as far as I am concerned. The Heritage designation was designed to come into play right after the 2-year Interim Control by-law expires.

In my opinion, this can be viewed as the City trying to use its municipal powers to hurt its competitor on border crossing (The City being a competitor was one of the big revelations to many people that came out of the John Fairley interview I was told ie the City was a competitor with the Tunnel)

But it is more than that. For four years now, this Mayor and two Councils have not dealt with the border issue to arrive at a long-term solution. Oh they played with the Schwartz Report but it was merely a stall document while Eddie worked on his big Tunnel deal.

What has the result been:

  • no proper relationship with the Senior Levels so that Councillor Valentinis can keep asking why Windsor is being ignored

  • $300M in BIF funds wasted since the time-period has almost expired on the program and no road is proposed yet to be built

  • 10,000 plus high-paying construction construction and spin-off jobs for road building and bridge building lost

  • an anti-business attitude on the part of Council (forget about the union fears...at least they are trying to appear reasonable some times)

  • a message being given out that Windsor does not function so why would anyone want to talk to the Gazelle feeders.

Let's see what happens about the demolition of the houses at Council. Although I do not wish to jinx the application, I almost hope that the Bridge Co. does not get permission. Obviously that would trigger a lawsuit between the City and the Bridge Co., its "enemy!" That was a term that the Bridge Co. people found most offensive.

Remember the news story about cameras in Ontario court rooms? Wouldn't this trial be a doozie! Can you imagine Councillors Jones and Postma on the stand being asked questions. That would be interesting to watch.

However, the big TV ratings would come when Eddie Francis took the stand. I can almost see the smile on Dan Stamper's face, when his Perry Mason asks Eddie the first of many questions!

The Political Complexity Of It All


Everything is so quiet on the surface, like a duck. You’d never know it’s paddling like crazy underneath.

Take the Capitol Theatre…last I heard, the Mayor told us that we supposedly owned the building. So why are “Some city councillors and members of the arts community … frustrated that Capitol Theatre bankruptcy proceedings are taking so long.”

The Tunnel deal and our $75M….what’s happening there?

And our delayed arena? Do you really buy into the reasons given for the delay? Note we have not been told how much more this will cost us.

But the real quiet has to do with the University urban village. Remember, something was to be presented to the Province within 2 weeks. Where are we at with this project?

Let’s do a quick recap. As a loyal reader of my BLOGS, you, dear reader, already know that Eddie is in real trouble. Virtually everything he has touched has gone wrong. The border is a mess, the arena is now delayed, the tunnel deal seems to be vastly over-priced while Eddie is waiting for the Feds to see if they will bail him out, unemployment is the highest in Canada, our reserves are sinking… I could go on but I do not want to depress you more than I have to.

And now his dream of an urban village is crashing as private money heads for the hills. Actually, Councillor Postma told us that there was no interest in it anyway.

We need to factor in a few other things too as I tell you the tale about what is happening in our Western Super Anchor area. After all, my inside moles at City Hall want some credit for what they have found out.

First, Eddie locked himself into a maximum of two terms as Mayor since I assume that he believed he could do everything he wanted in that time-frame. Secondly, he is success oriented. He can never be wrong or blamed for anything. After all, isn’t that why it is Council that decides everything. It’s their fault if it is bad and he takes the kudos if it turns out all good. Remember the “Perry Mason-type” cross-examination of Alan McKinnon at the Council Tecumseh meeting when he dared criticize Eddie.

So the University urban village is a good thing for him. If it works out, he gets the credit. If it doesn’t, he needs a fall-guy or gal. It won't just be Councillor Postma either

Thirdly, Eddie is incredibly lucky. He must have horseshoes around his neck. Before he has to give a speech to the DWBIA and talk about the RFP for an urban village, the University is sitting in his office asking for money. What an opportunity.

Just in case anyone doesn't know what's going on at the University let me give you a quick update. Last year they raised a big pile of money, through a Bond offering, which will pay for a bunch of capital programs. At the centre of this building boom are two political sexy initiatives … a new medical school (for which Sandra and Dwight have already received a lot of credit) and an engineering building to replace the dilapidated Essex Hall.

The University needs money to get all these capital projects fully funded. The University's new Chancellor, Ed Lumley, is brought in for advice and he tells them that if they want money from the Province they had better “THINK BIG.” [Oh I am so tired of this expression] Politicians don't fund buildings that are already almost paid for; they like big exciting projects that give them headlines especially before an election in October.

The medical school has started and the Phase 1 of the Engineering complex to be built on campus was to start in June. Now there is a second phase for this engineering complex but it was on hold pending fund raising success. With “THINKING BIG,” the University has their cause. Let's build both phase one and phase two of the engineering building together. It is a very politically attractive story if told correctly.

But The University, in its haste, makes a big mistake. They go and ask Eddie for money before securing provincial funding. This is where it gets real good so listen carefully.

In the University's political naiveté, Eddie Francis quickly sees a political coup. The lightbulb goes on. He understands that the solution to his Urban Village problem is sitting in front of him. You see, Eddie got a lot of positive play out of St Clair College taking the Cleary Auditorium off his hands. And he remembered how excited people got a few years ago when Ross Paul mentioned "going downtown" in one of his speeches and in his Star article.

Oh sorry, the fourth trait of Eddie, he has a quick mind.

So why not off lay the urban village problem onto the University of Windsor as part of the City of Windsor helping out the University. If he can get away with it, he would offer land only but if worst came to worst, Eddie has the $15M he can hold out from the delayed arena deal for the Engineering complex.

The solution: The City of Windsor will help but only if the University builds their engineering building downtown. Works for Eddie and for Ross Paul who wants a legacy other than being the President whose University came in last so many times in the Maclean's poll. Moreover, he might be able to use this to stay on longer as President---fundraising and all of that. After all, the job pays well: in the .07% of top incomes in Canada.

Marty Komsa who now chairs the University's Board of Governors until September wants a big win too for his legacy and to help out the Mayor. I have heard that the Board did not know very much about this proposal until the leak in the Star (and my BLOG mentioned that it was the Engineering building). Obviously, the internal political game being played at the University (as Eddie does with his Councillors) is not tell the Board. Instead they push this forward as quickly as possible to make it more difficult for the Board to scupper once it is presented.

Why would the Board scupper this, didn't the University want a downtown location? You are forgetting the Cleary aren’t you?

When the University explored a downtown location, before St. Clair got involved, they found it was going to be cost prohibitive and a logistics nightmare. An engineering building would be even more problematic. After all, this isn't a few dozen arts students. It would be over a thousand students and faculty. Moving this many students and faculty back and forth between campuses for classes would be real difficult. And who knows how much all this would cost.

So how does one get this by the Board of Governors who may start to ask some tough questions… there is a simple solution. Bring the downtown project so far along that the Board will not have a choice but to approve it. How could you as a Board member dare say NO to what will be a symbol for the re-birth of Windsor and might get the University out of Maclean's cellar, right!

So Eddie needs cash to get this built and a fall-person if it goes off the tracks. Which brings us to Dwight and Sandra, the autumn election and the question of whether Eddie has outmanoeuvered our Provincial Ministers.

The first thing is the leak it to the press. This is obviously done to put pressure on Dwight and Sandra. Pay up or lose your seats. It was a calculated gamble since it could back-fire if other Provincial politicians get mad at more money being poured into Windsor.

We read the Henderson column and Marty’s praise of Eddie (Sounded so similar to what happened with the call-centre jobs in Henderson’s column too didn’t it?) So now Eddie has interjected himself into this whole project and is now positioned to take most, if not all, of the political credit if this goes ahead. He has gotten all the headlines so far. Sandra and Dwight must love this. If they find funding for the project then Eddie gets the credit. Thank you University of Windsor. If they don't find funding for the project then Dwight and Sandra are to blame and Eddie has successfully off laid his Urban Village fiasco onto Dwight and Sandra.

Downtown revitalization is now their problem to solve NOT Eddie's. Eddie had a solution and they didn't back it. Thank you University of Windsor.

And if this all blows up it positions Eddie to run against either of them in the fall election if he chooses to do so . (Don’t worry, John Tory will forgive him). You can hear his stump speech. "I'll pound the table in Queens Park and make darn sure Windsor gets taken care of." Sound familiar? This is exactly what he has done with the Border file.

But the political problems for Sandra and Dwight don't end there. Another very real scenario is that they actually find money for the project (You've got to believe that Lumley can make this work since he found $50M for Magna!). Once the University moves ahead with this downtown building they find costs escalate (they always do), fundraising comes up short and logistics turns out to be more of a nightmare than even the biggest pessimists calculated.

Now what happens...who has to come up with the extra cash? The Province, the City or the University?

Oh it’s all so exciting. Let’s see how good Sandra and Dwight are at playing politics! The ball---and the complex---are in their court.

City Of Roses

Just thought I would take a photo of the City median near my home.

I wonder what other services have been cut along with the pickup of garbage in the West End to pay for the delayed East End arena and the $75M Tunnel deal.

I expect my Councillors to tell me that they never promised me a rose garden for all of the taxes I pay!