Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Blow To A P3 Bridge

If it was not enough that Michigan law does not allow for a P3 bridge, the Chairmen of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit are leery of P3s.

Now it appears that the basis of all of these deals, cheap money, may be drying up.

Here is the latest in a story published in the Toronto Star. If these types of stories have already hit the popular press, then you know there is a major problem:
  • Chorus of fear grows over cheap money
    Jul 02, 2007 04:30 AM

    We reported a few weeks ago on the misgivings that the CEO of New York banking giant J.P. Morgan Chase has expressed about the dangerously cheap money that's fueling the global takeover boom. He's since been joined, last week, by the CEO of the huge Swiss bank UBS AG. Separately, a panel of European bankers fretted last week about a coming liquidity crunch if some of the recent, highly-leveraged takeover megadeals go sour. So did Michael Nobrega, also last week. Nobrega is CEO of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), which has more than 20 per cent of its assets tied up in infrastructure projects, whose price tags are getting way out of hand, Nobrega says.

    Speaking of OMERS, its venture with Apax Partners to take the Thomson Learning unit of Thomson Corp. private just became less lucrative as lenders in the deal last week demanded a higher interest rate on the buyout debt. Meanwhile, bankers are suddenly less willing to grant dealmakers so-called "covenant-lite" loans, in which lenders surrender their traditional power in deals that implode. Junk-bond interest rates rose last week, collateral damage from the sub-prime mortgage lending crisis, and central bankers in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere are expected to raise their key lending rates by year-end.

    Warning to investors in the spectacular planned IPOs of buyout firms Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.: Those firms stand to continue reaping 25 per cent annual returns only if the two giant deal-making shops have continued access to the cheap money and extraordinary co-operation of lenders in recent years. It may be an ideal time for private-equity kings Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone and Henry Kravis of KKR to cash out, but not so ideal for the IPO buyers padding the personal wealth of Schwarzman and Kravis.

Mr. Nobrega's comment is an interesting one. As we know, OMERS is involved in assets such as

  1. DRTP

  2. Confederation Bridge----The group generally doesn't release financial information, but it is known that at the end of 2003 the owners got a dividend payment of $2.6 million, not very much on a billion-dollar bridge.

    In 2032, ownership of the Confederation Bridge will transfer to the federal government. Representatives of OMERS told CBC News they hope their investment will begin performing better before then.

  3. Scottish Pipelines---- "Although the SSE joint venture has paid the lowest premium to regulated asset value, its 10.1% premium still adds up to (pounds) 289 million. This is a very sizeable amount to recover when one considers that the combined total operating controllable cost base for the two LDZs is no more than (pounds) 190m in the current year.

    "Even with SSE's management experience, it will be impossible to recover that premium within the current regulatory period to 2008. This is a full price and recovery of the premium will prove extremely challenging. In our view the acquisition is value neutral at best."

  4. Bruce Nuclear "Cameco Corp., the world's biggest uranium producer, withdrew from a plan to restart and refurbish nuclear reactors in Ontario because it didn't agree with the province's terms on the C$4.25 billion ($3.6 billion) project...

    Cameco said an agreement with the government ``did not meet its investment criteria.''

  5. Associated British Ports Ltd---The Goldman-led consortium, Admiral Acquisitions, said it had agreed a deal with the AB Ports board at 910p a share in cash. That was a significant premium on its former agreed offer of 840p.

    The auction has delighted the AB Ports board led by Bo Lerenius, the chief executive, which had first agreed to be taken over by Goldman Sachs at the price of only 810p a share less than two weeks ago, before Macquarie appeared.

    "Clearly the Goldman consortium has demonstrated how extraordinarily keen they are to secure AB Ports and the issue is: are Macquarie as keen?" asked Gerald Khoo, an Oriel Securities analyst. "Management describe the offer as fair and reasonable. I would describe it as bloody fantastic."

Doubling The Border Plaza Hypocrisy

Where is the outcry? Why haven't the Mayor and Council denounced the proposed action? Where are the thundering Star Editorials? Why isn't a Henderson column fuming about the fumes?

They want to put a dagger into the heart of a major part of our community.

Do they have no sense of respect for a Church that has been a pillar of our religious heritage for over 130 years? It might get damaged, plaster could fall on the heads of parishoners. Traffic increases could mean dangerous vibrations.

Do they not care that they will force people to breathe in fumes as cars and trucks idle in their vast expanse. There are homes nearby after all. In summer, people won't be able to open their windows because of the noise and exhaust.

Do they not care that they are wiping out businesses for the almighty dollar and will force them to move? Is the "Bottom line" their only interest? And who knows where some of the businesses can go? Why one had a spot but was prevented from moving there by the City of all organizations? How can one explain that one!

Do they not care that they may destroy the heart of a community that is suffering and is trying desperately to re-establish itself? Why all they are doing will only result in more parking spaces on the ground.

Oh and speaking about fumes and exhaust, Councillor Halberstadt tells us:

  • "Citizens closely following the border file might be interested in a few facts about the upgraded ventilation tower recently completed by the city-owned Windsor side of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. This six-to-eight storey tower, is across from the old Top Hat Supper Club on University Ave.

    The tunnel commission considered adding scrubbers, but eschewed the idea due to an additional cost of $7-$8 million on top of the final $20-million pricetag. In the end, it was determined that the emissions released by the tower were acceptable since they equalled the emissions measured at ground level in the same vicinity...

    City project research determined that even the ventilation towers connected to the Big Dig tunnel in Boston were not equipped with scrubbers. Boston accepted the same compromise -- that the emissions coming out the top were no greater than at the foot of the towers caused by street traffic.

    A full-scale tunnel along the Huron Church corridor would require several ventilation towers to let the pollution escape. Those concerned with aesthetics and costs are not in favour of this solution, and it could be hard for the city to insist that the senior levels of government install towers and scrubbers when it dismissed such an enhancement on the tunnel it owns."

I never thought about it until recently and then I wondered why they had been so secretive for so long. They gave the public the barest of information about their plans. They run their business in a very secret manner. Oh sure, they talk about how important they are to the well being of the City but in the end, they are nothing more than an organization that is out to increase revenues so they can pay themselves a big dividend.

Of course I am talking about the City itself, the owner of half of the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel. Their Tunnel Plaza Improvements are designed to increase the size of the plaza by about 90%, from 5.89 acres to up to 10.96 acres depending on which alternative is picked. And do they move a car through the Tunnel more quickly for the $30M of taxpayer dollars required to be spent (or more now I hear). Nope, it just builds a giant parking lot right smack in the downtown.

I saw David Estrin in town yesterday along with Mark Galvin of the City who is in charge of the Tunnel Plaza Improvement project, the project that seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth when its last open house was pulled in the very last minute. I assumed that something may be going on with the Tunnel again but who knows in this City run on the basis of secret meetings and keeping information from taxpayers.

Can you imagine what would be said if the Bridge Co. tried to increase their plaza by 90%. My oh my there would be screaming. The West end activists and politicos would have a field day. Yet where has there been a sound about the downtown expansion? Nada, Zilch, Nothing.

The Bridge Co. spends pennies compared with the taxpayer dollars the City wants to spend, quadruples capacity, improves security and not a word of praise from the City. Why the Mayor and Council won't even meet with them to learn how to enhance a border crossing either except for the 10 minute Presentation at Council a few weeks ago. I guess they get all the news the need from Bloggers.

What a strange City we live in. Mind you, since the City is the Bridge Co.'s competitor for border traffic, a lot of things are starting to make more sense now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Comments Keep On Coming

Here are some more reader thoughts:

1) [Re the Capitol Theatre] on and on and on and on and I thought it would over by now.

2) I can't wait till morning for this.

Drew Dilkens in the newspaper today stated "the winner with this is the trustee and the loser every community group waiting to put on their shows"

Oh please, can the dramatics and play the harp. These words are about 6 months too late and too little.

This seems to be standard procedure for council these days. If the city had done the right thing a long time ago, it would be no where near the trouble it is today.

The real loser is the taxpayer. The trustee is there for the settlement. If they don't like it they go to court. They KNEW THAT. Especially the Mayor. He is a lawyer, correct?

The fickle finger is trying to point blame again after lack of action by city council.

Give me a break. Is city council trying to replace the buskers with their own antics?

3) I just had an idea.

How do we designate the bridge as an Architecturally Historical Structure? It would have to be recognized by the Province and The Feds.

The city could arrange tour buses to view a significantly impressive piece of history. Well of course they would have to finish a road to access it.

Problem solved.

4) Ed:

You are fastidious so I am a little surprised at you overlooking a small point.

The last few times I crossed the bridge to the US it cost me about $7 CAD. Why? Because I paid the $3.25 USD fare, it is a choice offered to you at the bridge. Two of 3.25 is 6.50 which at the 7% premium the USD is at now is about $7 CAD give or take a few pennies.

5) Headline in my morning paper, "City's Border File Called 'Black Hole'"

Mr. Paranosic is only telling half the story. Remember when Sam Schwartz did his border study sales pitch in January 2005? The rail tunnel and transport hub at the airport were secondary to the big, big plan--the truck bypass. It wasn't just the "launching of an environmental assessment of the truck bypass" that created a stir, it was the concept of the bypass itself and where it would go.

Mayor Eddie Francis, the media, city council and opinion columnists gushed and wooed. A truck bypass! Go big or go home was the rallying cry.

Trouble was Mr Schwartz designed it to go in a horseshoe shape from Cabana and Huron Church (destroying much of the Ojibway Complex) and back again to Huron Church at the EC Row Expressway--an 8.5 kilometre road to nowhere. But the mayor wanted that bypass and Sam knowing the city had oodles of money to spend on him and his Toronto lawyer, gave Eddie exactly what he wanted. Anyone who criticized the idea at council was subjected to bitter harangues from the boy wonder mayor.

In 2005 it was a bypass. Now, two and a half years later, a tunnel. Little wonder Windsor is a laughing stock from Michigan to Toronto and Ottawa.

Go big or go home indeed. Well, the senior governments went home and took the money with them. Thanks to the city chasing up blind alleys like bypasses through forests and no hope tunnels, Windsor looks like a befuddled comic strip character that doesn't know its backside from its earlobe.

6) [Re An Eddie Insider speaks to Outsiders] One of your better Blog's Ed .... very well said.

7) I read about the trash bylaw, and in case you may write something about it, thought you might be interested to know, here in [an Ontario City] the trash collection will pick up absolutely anything you put curbside. I have seen on Mondays (garbage day in my neighbourhood) people put out fridges, stoves and mattresses which are all picked up by noon. Guess what? No dumping anywhere - I have yet to see a single piece of garbage in a ditch or vacant lot. Why the difference?

8) It would seem to me that the Environmental assessment for new access road must lay out the mitigation measures that adress the significant adverse environmental affects that the new highway will bring. This could include natural plantings, pederstrian cross-overs, ventilation (if needed), noise barriers etc.

I am not sure how a tennis court and other ammenities can be considered a mitgation measure. It sounds like more decoration than anything to address issues of pollution.

Perhaps DRIC would be well-advised to call the Francis/Schwartz bluff and accept the 'new' Schwartz plan with all the green spaces and land bridges - but then remind the city that what is put on top is a municipal responsibility.

I am not sure where else in Canada you would find a provincially or federally funded municipal park, biking trail, ball court etc. To me this reeks of nothing more than finding a convenient way for the City of Windsor to extort money for services that should correctly be the responsibility of the municipality, and then take all the credit.

Road To Ruin

No it is not the title of a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope movie but it is almost as funny nor is it a new album by a rock group.

Are these Government people crazy or something? Are they just begging for a huge lawsuit? Are they that eager to give money to the Bridge Co.? Or Is this the new tactic to be used to frighten the Bridge Co. to get them sell out?

Just in passing, did you notice that Sam will not be presenting his new road proposal at a big extravaganza at the Cleary (or whatever it is called now). Rather
  • "Schwartz's New York office is in the midst of finalizing his latest recommendations, which are expected to be unveiled at a council meeting in late July or early August."
At least Eddie is smart enough to know that no one would turn out to hear Sam's plan since it has already been dismissed out of hand by the Senior Levels. It is another road exercise in futility.

So why then is Eddie making the presentation---he needs to keep up with his job too of trying to force the Bridge Co. out of business by making Huron Church unfriendly to trucks. He is their competitor as the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission and as head of the new Tunnel Corp. after all along with being our Mayor.

If you remember the BLOG I wrote [June 19, 2007 "More On The New Schwartz Dream"] I talked about Ontario Minister Canfield's discussion about removing truck traffic from Huron Church Road. I also speculated that the new Schwartz solution would narrow Huron Church north of E C Row to force trucks to use a new DRIC bridge and road if ever built.

If I am right about Brian Masse jumping to the Liberals possibly as a Cabinet member, then I should mention what he said on WDET during his famous interview:
  • "it doesn’t take away the main problem – that’s going to and from the border crossing in the Detroit-Windsor region and that’s important to note...

    you still have the problem of the trucks and the cars can’t get to the 401. And that, at the end of the day, that’s the real problem. That’s why there’s been such discussion in our community over the years to come up with a, something that’s going to be healthy for the local area, as well as, the flow of the traffic through our region and that is important for the rest of the United States and the rest of Canada, but also is important for our regional economy...

    once again it just comes down to the bottom line of how do you get to the through traffic from the 401 that needs to go there and also capacity for local businesses and also more importantly, to our commuters."

The ROAD to the bridge is now Brian's main problem all of a sudden, not the destruction of Sandwich. Quite a switch don't you think! None of the DRIC issues are important but the road now is.

Brian's position now is a very telling one. As I have pointed out, every argument used against the Bridge Co. as justification for building a new DRIC bridge has failed. Their opponents' arguments are unsupportable when the true facts are known. Perhaps this road argument is the last attempt at pressuring the Bridge Co. before Ambassador Wilson throws in the towel and meets with them to settle the border crossing issue.

In a few months, the BIF program will end and there goes the $300M for improving the road to the existing crossing. The money was to be used to improve the road to the bridge and would have created 10,000 high-paying direct and spin-off jobs, not $9 per hour call centre jobs. Of course it is absolute discrimination based on what has happened elsewhere in Canada and what the Senior Levels are prepared to do at the Tunnel. The money set aside in the Federal Budget, the $400M, why it is for the DRIC road. Sorry Ambassador Bridge.

And if the owner of the Bridge did not understand that, here is what Transport Minister Cannon said when he was interviewed after his whirlwind trip to Lansing and Windsor:

  • "Cannon: And that is why for instance we have committed a great deal of money in Budget 2007 to our highways and border infrastructure and indeed we put set aside $400 million to be able to partner with the Ontario government in terms of the access road leading to the new crossing.

    Deveau: I am glad that you mentioned the access road because that is probably the most sensitive part of this whole issue to people here in Windsor. Did you have a chance to actually go down the corridor?

    Cannon: I will be this afternoon Melanie before going back. And as soon as we hang up on each other, I will be visiting pretty well this area and certainly going through the projects, which are also ongoing.

    Deveau: Is money an issue or not? And the reason I ask that is because people are really getting excited about the idea of tunnelling this road whatever it might be, but we know that this is going to cost a heck of a lot more money than doing an at-grade or a slightly below-grade road - so is money an issue?

    Cannon: Well you know, money ultimately is always, always an issue but let’s set that aside for the time being and say - what is the best way to be able to undertake this infrastructure? And of course the Government of Ontario is a partner as well as the Town of Windsor and so we have to be able to, I think, be open minded, listen to everything that has to be said and at the end of the day of course, we are going to make the decisions with the Government of Ontario on the specific design and the architecture of the road. But as I was mentioning this morning in the press conference, you know, I am a former town councillor and so I am always more sensitive to concerns that are brought up by people living in this area. The Ambassador Bridge, I come back to that Melanie just for a second, it is an important issue because you know there is the environmental assessment that they want to do, but at the end of the day there is also the fact that this access road will be going directly through the city of Windsor and I am not, I am not necessarily convinced that that is the right way and the right approach to take."

Why the Minister just had to come back to the Ambassador Bridge when discussing the access road. It's too bad that he failed to mention why the BIF funds were not used here to create jobs here when this City is desperate for employment!

Notice also he continues the DRIC misinformation that the Bridge Co. wants an access road on Huron Church. THEY DO NOT AND THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS THIS. It is another mis-statement designed to hurt the Bridge Co. but this time at the Ministerial level. Mister Minister---first the deception about plaza size and location and now this! Heads will roll.

Here is how roads tie in with P3s and why the Ambassador Bridge people are supposed to feel threatened. From a US GAO report:

  • "In addition to the franchise agreement, noncompete clauses have been key components of agreements between states and the consortia, under which the public sector agrees to varying degrees not to build any new roads or improve any of the existing roads that may result in additional capacity within a predetermined distance of the newly constructed road for a certain period of time. Four of the five toll roads we examined included noncompete clauses within their contracts."

As we can see, the Governmental partners and Brian are now trying to use the roads as a pressure point. This tactic won't work either since the DRIC road is essentially the WALTS road and that road leads to the Ambassador Bridge too.

Ambassador Wilson, time for you to make the call to the Bridge Co. before the Government of Canada makes a complete fool of itself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Which Star Headline Is True

Thank goodnesss for the Windsor Star.

It has become such a hilarious newspaper. Whenever I think I am about to run out of things to say, the Star does it again to make my life easier.

Here is the same story but with two different headlines. One from the online edition and one from the published edition.

You decide whether the jobs glass is half-empty or half-full. Don't worry if you cannot....neither could the Star.



Building Our Real Truck Border Road

Be honest, I did a very effective job the other day tearing down in advance what Gridlock Sam is going to propose for the City's new dream didn't I. And it was so easy to do as well. The concept is just too expensive for Windsorites.

Take a look at what other Bloggers have said so far. They have done a good job too:
  1. Chris Schnurr on his Website also did a very nice job too from his perspective

  2. Windsor Municipal Shadow has contributed his comments on

  3. Why even Councillor Halberstadt is continuing to show how ridiculous the City's approach is and risking the wrath of Junior

  4. DRIC was so concerned that they leaked in advance what they were going to do in an ad in the Star.

If you believe that any of this stuff that we are being fed from City Hall via the Star is what this is all about, then, congratulations, it is really true:


Don't you find it so surprising that so much has been revealed in advance? I sure do. And it is NOT to build up support for the Mayor's position. This is totally out of character of the Mayor! It is so public already with so much discussion.

Last time around there was hardly anything about Sam until the big presentation, certainly nothing when Sam first visited with Government many months before the public presentation. We never knew that Jeff Watson was right in his press releases and that Eddie's approach had been rejected by the Senior Levels early on in the game.

Now we are getting news reports of everything including how horrible the Senior Levels are in wanting a "cheap" solution. We are getting information in advance about what Sam wants including the comparisons that he will make between NYC, Toronto, and Windsor. We continue to be "deserving" of the better things in life because we are Windsor.

Of course the big problem is that Sam's approach may be violating the City's Motion on tunnelling so that I expect that Council will have difficulty approving it in a Public session without a Motion for Reconsideration. Who on Council will have the nerve to be anti-tunnelling in this City and introduce such a Motion.

It is being made so easy to attack Sam in advance, to discredit what he says. Why, it is being served to us on a silver platter by Sam and the Mayor. And we are reacting accordingly aren't we, denouncing Sam! We are totally predictable BLOGGERS. Someone has decided to play to our egos as we blindly go down the garden path taking you, dear reader, along with us.

So let's play along with the Eminence Grise's ploy and play stupid:

  • "Oh my goodness. What can be done to solve this dilemma?"

And here is the genius of the REAL PLAN that Eddie dreamed up. Remember the key line in Marrra's Motion, the one that Eddie introduced in the last minute many months ago. Eddie is a plotter remember who moves in small steps months in advance. The line gives it all away:

  • "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Windsor advise DRIC that they must have a tunnelled solution as the design of the highway through the corridor determined by the final DRIC process"

If there is NO DRIC road, then there is NO need for a tunnel is there? Why else would Eddie say in his State of the City speech "We are continuing to work with the DRIC on a new border crossing solution" and never once mention the word "tunnel" in his speech! Guess what he is working on and what he and Donna Cansfield discussed over lunch.

The simple "out" for the Mayor is to have DRIC adopt what he, I mean the City (since Eddie never puts HIS name on the line) wants as the final corridor. In that way, the Motion can be completely ignored and Council can save face too. Even Bill Marra has an excuse.

Oh and the Star told us that this approach is ok too when they used the C-word in their Editorial. They were telling us that we are not getting a tunnel. That is how the Star and Gord Henderson can stop looking like fools too.

  • "This proud community has a backbone too... This community is prepared to compromise on some points but it also stands ready to fight like hell and flex its electoral muscle."

So we will have months more of charges and counter-charges using Sam's Road as the basis. It is designed to stall off a DRIC road while Eddie as CEO of the new Company at the Airport gets taxpayer money from Council with the backing and justification from the Gazelle feeders to develop "shovel ready" lands at the airport.

And if we have a big transportation hub there, how will trucks get to the border. There is only one route isn't there:


That is what this silliness with Sam is all about.

It is all a game to get us to do what the powers-that-be want us to do in the first place. It is nothing more than a small-scale DRIC-type exercise which was designed to put the Bridge Co. out of business not to build a bridge costing billions a mile down the road. It is all an exercise to justify the use of E C Row as the road to the border and to allow Eddie to reverse what he said before about using E C Row for international trucks---just as he did with a public/private partnership on a new arena.

All this time and effort over nothing. What a shame to play citizens in such a fashion

And if you do not think that the Senior Levels are involved in this, then I have a profitable Tunnel to sell you in Windsor because that is what they wanted as the Cansult Report should remind us! It gives Dalton and Dwight the opportunity to look like real leaders before the provincial election too as they and not DRIC make the final decision. You see, no DRIC final corridor so NO tunnel needed! The Province is off the hook too before the election.

Of course, the seal of approval came when the Star reported that at Sandra's nomination metting "Ward 3 Coun. Fulvio Valentinis was also in attendance, and Mayor Eddie Francis sent in a letter of support." That was Eddie's side of the bargain that he made with Dalton's office now wasn't it!

In passing, Buzz Hargrove's attendance has also increased the rumours that Brian Masse is ready to jump the sinking NDP ship to join the Liberals. No wonder Councillor Jones is not running against Sandra as well. He would have had no CAW support. If the Federal Liberals win, will it be Senator Hargrove, the king-maker?

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together! Now you know what they are really dreaming up too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Blue Water Bridge Shocker

I do not recall seeing this story in the Star do you?

The headline on the WDIV-TV website on Friday afternoon was rather dramatic:

"Commuter Alert: Chemical Spill Prompts Blue Water Bridge Closure"

We learned that:

  • "The Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron is closed on the Canadian side due to a chemical spill.

    Officials in the area confirm there is a major backup in that area and commuters are being told to turn around.

    A tanker had a pressure-release valve release causing a chlorine spill onto the bridge on the Canadian side. The spill released a strong odor, causing local authorities to call crews to the scene.

    Traffic is backed up on both Interstate 94 and Interstate 69, according to Port Huron police.

    Drivers cannot enter Canada from the bridge."

Can you imagine the scope of the disaster if Eddie was successful and we had a tunnel from Highway 401 to the bridge. Can you appreciate the panic of the people stuck in the tunnel if there was a chlorine leak! Clearly it would have to be evacuated and then, before it could re-open, all of the drivers would have to come back and claim their vehicles. It would be absolute chaos for many hours thereby effectively closing down the border.

Can you imagine what would have happened in the almost 100 year-old DRTP rail tunnels if they were converted for trucks. I do not even want to think about it.

But you know what is more interesting is the sound of silence after the event:

  • Where was Brain Masse denouncing the transport of hazardous goods over the Blue Water bridge
  • Where was Greg Ward, the Ferry Company owner and a transporter of dangerous goods across the border saying things like "Worldwide, most major acts of terrorism involve trucks with hazardous materials. The Blue Water Bridge is publicly owned and trucks traversing it don't come under the strict scrutiny that the trucks we carry do. If something bad happens with one of these trucks carrying hazmat on the bridge ... if a catastrophe were to take place ... everyone would be screaming, 'How did we allow this to happen?' Funny, Greg used that exact quote except he said "The Ambassador Bridge is privately owned" where I inserted the BWB language in its place
  • Where was Transport Canada with its new Bill C-3 legislation taking responsibility for the fact there seemed to be a lapse in emergency readiness that caused major difficulties at a border crossing
  • Where is Ambassador Michael Wilson saying in relation to Sarnia as he did about Windsor "Equally, we also need reliable infrastructure in place in case, god forbid, there is another major event that may affect our access across the border."
  • Clearly with the shift of the auto business eastward, the BWB is becoming a vital border crossing. Where is Senator Kenny saying about Sarnia/Port Huron, as he did in relation to the Ambassador Bridge, that the area is "of such strategic importance to both Canada and the United States that fixing it requires war-time urgency."
  • Where was the Windsor Star
Accidents will happen and there will be problems when they do. The incident at Sarnia proves my point that what is taking place in Windsor about the Ambassador Bridge is all a fraud designed to take over the Bridge Co.'s business. If it had been Windsor instead where the incident occurred.....well you know what would have happened! The wailing and hand-wringing would have been disgusting.

What we have heard politicians and bureaucrats say for years about the Ambassador Bridge and the need for a new crossing is all sanctimonious BS! It has cost us millions of taxpayer dollars and years of wasted effort that have ruined our region.

You know what...I almost hope that the Bridge Co. sues. I can hardly wait to hear what certain people have to say under oath about what they have done.

Marra---Mayor Showdown

It had to come sooner or later. Bill Marra has had 6 months to be a "team player." Now it is time for him to be a Councillor and be what everyone expected him to be: the Council leader.

If Bill ever wants to become Mayor of Windsor and to earn our respect, then Bill is faced with an impossible dilemma right now. We'll see if he has the guts to make the tough decisions or if he just walks away.

I just do not understand at all what is going on with Schwartz and his new and improved Report. How can it be considered at all as the City's position? I do not remember anyone advocating for what it appears he is now proposing.

It is time for Bill and Council to take a stand. Let me remind you of the Motion that was passed by Council:
  • Moved by Councillor Marra, seconded by Councillor Hatfield,

    M74-2007 WHEREAS tunneling projects are common throughout the world; and

    WHEREAS the City of Windsor wants to protect neighbourhoods and get trucks off local streets; and

    WHEREAS tunneling combined with capturing and scrubbing emissions will significantly improve local air quality; and

    WHEREAS the Town of LaSalle adopted Resolution 7652/06 supporting tunneling and has advised Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) of that position; and

    WHEREAS the Town of Tecumseh Planning Committee adopted resolution PC-41/06, supporting LaSalle's resolution on Tunneling; and

    WHEREAS the Warden of the County of Essex stated that tunneling is the least intrusive option; and

    WHEREAS there have been numerous public statements and correspondence from the City of Windsor urging tunneling;

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Windsor advise DRIC that they must have a tunnelled solution as the design of the highway through the corridor determined by the final DRIC process, with an absolute imperative to mitigate any and all impacts on local residents and the community as a whole from Windsor Border Traffic. Adoption of this motion in no way indicates or implies any support for any existing Border Crossing Operator or Proponent of a new Border Crossing.


No matter how anyone wants to play it (and I have already explained how to get around the Motion thanks to Eddie's amendment that he sprung on Bill at Council), the City's position that everyone believes is a tunnel from Highway 401 to the border----no ifs, ands or buts.

Why then is Sam Schwartz proposing otherwise? Why has the Mayor gone out trying to sell something else? Why is the Council allowing him to do so or do they not yet know what Sam's plans are yet? Are Councillors just a bunch of sheep anyway who will let the Mayor do anything he wants?

If there is anything other than 100% tunnelling, is the Mayor in breach of the City's Procedural By-law? If so, Council must censure him. They have no other choice. Councillor Halberstadt got slapped down pretty hard for his BLOG comments! Why is no one taking on the Mayor?

And that is the problem for Bill. He has to be the one to introduce a Motion to censure the Mayor if he is acting contrary to the Procedural By-law. After all, Bill is the "tunnel Councillor." He pushed hard for the Motion to be passed and now, if the Star leaks are true, it is being ignored as if it did not exist. What a slap in Bill's face.

Of course, there is an easy way out. One move that the Mayor could consider making is bringing a Motion for Reconsideration. That will force the issue and make the Mayor and his colleagues put up or shut up. Was their tunnel commitment real or was it always a phony? Or is Sam's new Plan so superior that Council should readily change its mind?

The Mayor would never bring forward that Motion. Why it would be telling us the truth now wouldn't it!

Of course, when Sam begins his Presentation and he talks about something other than a tunnel, he must be stopped and told immediately that he is out of order. Bill has to tell him that his Presentation is NOT the City's position and is irrelevant. His Presentation cannot be heard without a Motion of Reconsideration.

So what will Bill do? Will his colleagues support him or look the other way?

In my opinion, Bill and his colleagues only have two choices:

  1. Disown Sam now and stop any further work thereby keeping the integrity of their Motion

  2. Fold

It should be interesting to see what happens.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hot Thoughts

Here are some more thoughts. They are short ones since it is too hard to think for a long time on such a hot day


You might want to read this story from the Port Huron Times Herald
  • "Foul cargo crosses border

    Emergency official: 'Everything' can come into Port Huron"

I wonder if this is the reason why there is no Truck Ferry there to carry hazardous materials.


Did you see the throngs at Festival Epicure over the weekend? I was there Friday night and the place was packed.

Oh the Mayor is such a spoil-sport

"Asked for reaction about the Ambassador Bridge-DRTP marriage to run the food festival, Francis said: "That's for them to have to explain."

I'd explain it as smart business. I guess that's why the Mayor needs to hire a quarter of a million dollars worth of PR flacks. The City should have been front and centre.

From the Bridge Co.'s perspective, its signage positioning was superb. Everyone who entered the grounds had to see their banner. I took a picture of it Sunday morning when no one was around so you could see it better!

The good-will achieved as sponsor with their name plastered everywhere for months was a bargain at the price paid considering the demographics of the people who attended---the kind of people who are influence-makers in town.


Where is Junior? We need his help right away. Here is what the Star Editorial said:
  • "This proud community has a backbone too and we won't settle for spin or second best. We want a solution that promotes our quality of life, along with a greener and healthier tomorrow for our children and grandchildren. That is hardly unreasonable. It is responsible. This community is prepared to compromise on some points but it also stands ready to fight like hell and flex its electoral muscle."

Shouldn't Junior now tell the Star Editors to shut up the way he told Councillor Halberstadt whom he accused of leaking confidential information

  • "Lewenza said Tuesday the use of the word "compromise" suggests the city is poised to settle with DRIC for something less than its official stance -- that the route must be tunnelled."

Oh he won't dare, just as he would not dare tell Eddie to shut up when he said that

"Our starting point is a tunnel."


That's the real town supposedly on which the movie Footloose was based. Perhaps we can get lucky in Windsor and have a movie based on the Junction alhtough no one would believe our By-law on dancing and music.

It looks like the Teen Dance by-law enforcement officers were out again on Friday night. More overtime? The Siblies always get their dancers I guess.

However, I have it on good authority that the Junction CANNOT be prosecuted. What the teens allegedly do at the Junction as the music plays can hardly be called "dancing" [showing my age!] Ergo, no conviction is possible.

Apparently at least one Councillor was disgusted at how much time the Junction affair took at Council. He/she was so angry that Councillors asked so many questions and wasted so much when it had all been "orchestrated" behind the scenes as to what Council's postion was to be. Didn't he/she understand that the in camera boys and girls needed to get the "public" hours up!

Is it true that one of the people who argued against the Junction at Council was insistent to be allowed to attend the Teen Dance as a "youth" and was turned away. The Junction owners had heard how bad teens were with all of the drugs etc. They did not want this poor young person exposed to such debauchery.

Apparently as well, the police were called Friday night to the Jucntion because of a noise complaint but did not find one. Hmmm I wonder who called and was it harrassment. I do not know if George or his lawyer can get the name of the complainant but if it was a phony complaint designed to harass George, he should file a criminal complaint!

Interestingly, the Junction took some steps designed to protect itself against this type of complaint. However, even if acquitted in the end, it would have cost them a huge amount for legal and expert's fees.


Keep count and at the end of the summer, tell me who uses those words the most at Council. Both politicians and Administrators are eligible


It's at 9.4% and the highest in Ontario.

I wonder what the rate would have been had the Mayor stopped playing silly games and stalling and actually tried to get a road built to the Ambassador Bridge under the BIF program. That program is to end in a few months and $300M disappears that could have been used in our community for about 10,000 high-paying direct and spin-off jobs.


Darn, why did that contest end so soon! It's not right. It's not fair.

They did not give us a chance to finish our East End arena and to enter it into the contest. Sure, sure it is delayed but so what.

By the time we finish paying for it, as the costs escalate, it will be our Taj Mahal. We would need the Treasury at Petra City.

Mind you, getting any information about the Spits' lease is like trying to break down the Great Wall of China. You'd have to pray to Christ the Redeemer for help.

I am sure that Colosseum will be part of its name once the Financial Institution is named as the winner of the naming rights bid. It has such a nice ring to it.

Mind you, Windsor is becoming a "lost city" with all of our problems. I am hoping though that we Maya do better in the future.

Anyway, Councillors Jones and Postma can take some comfort in all of this. They have a chance to get Sandwich into all of this:

  • "THE UN body for culture overnight blasted a private initiative that drew nearly 100 million Internet and telephone voters to choose seven "new" wonders of the world.

    "This campaign responds to other criteria and objectives than that of UNESCO in the field of heritage," said Sue Williams, the spokeswoman for the UN cultural body that designates world heritage sites.

    "We have a much broader vision," she said."

Congratulations should be extended to Stephen Funtig, the Trustee in Bankruptcy of the Capitol Theatre. He may become the newest member of the City's "Enemies" Club.

Since he did not knuckle under and do what the Mayor wanted, the Star reports that
  • "lawyers for the city are seeking to have him removed.

    They are also pushing to have former city clerk Tom Lynd removed as one of the influential creditors directing Funtig, alleging he is in conflict of interest."
Hmmmm, perhaps Tom should join too.

So the thinking must be to have only people favouring the City as Inspectors and a compliant Trusteee who knows the score when he/she is appointed so the City gets the Capitol assets. That's a lot better than fighting a lawsuit especially if the City's position is weak.

There is only one problem. There are other parties who may want the Capitol assets too as I talked about in a recent BLOG. They are the ones with "political agendas contrary to the City's interests." Any Trustee risks a major personal lawsuit from the Capitol or a prospective purchaser if a sweetheart deal is done! We know now that the Capitol assets are worth at least $1.4M thanks to the City revealing its lawyer's memo.

You see what I mean...a fight over removing a Trustee. Another bit of complexity in a simple matter that could be resolved with a phone call. Heck, why ask me to help; I am an enemy too I guess!

St. Clair will just have to wait a bit longer before they get the Capitol.

Liplock Sam Go Home

Oh I am not trying to be mean. I just do not think that Liplock eerrrr Gridlock Sam has any relevance any more for the border battle.

His first report was rejected almost immediately by Government (how many times it was actually rewritten before the Public saw it I do not know). His first Public Report was also rejected. (Remember Cansult finally put it out of its misery and then Councillor Valentinis disowned it by calling it a starting point). His new Report has already been rejected by DRIC as can be seen by their newspaper ad so he is off rewriting it again before it goes public.

What's the point of it all? To be honest, isn't he tired of being used by Eddie? Marko, his assistant, had enough obviously and left town! His scathing words about the City's inaction should cause shame at City Hall and disgust by Windsorites! Perhaps that explains why the Mayor is wasting more money on Sam: he has to be pretending that he is doing something.

Sam's new Report will be revealed with a great deal of fanfare, then shopped around for awhile and used to stall the process. It will then be put on the shelf along with his other reports as it is called "a starting point."

Now Sam was unmuzzled after Eddie decided that he was ready to be interviewed after his week of domestic bliss. I must admit I had no idea what he meant when he said:

  • "The road should fit itself around the community rather than the community around the road. You see this in Toronto and other places.

    "Windsor certainly deserves nothing less."

How the heck does Highway 401 in Toronto "fit around the community?" I lived there when it was expanded dramatically to what it is now. How many lanes is it at its widest? I think it has 14 lanes and it has been called "the busiest freeway in North America." Around what community is he talking about when it cuts right through the City?

Has he ever seen the Allen Expressway....But for former Premier Bill Davis, it would have gone into the heart of Toronto. Even now, it dumps traffic into the local residential community. I lived near its exit on Eglinton for years so please do not BS me about it.

Sam...Highway 3 was always the road to the bridge. It was around the community until our leaders allowed the area to be built up. That's our problem isn't it! Our leaders failed us in the past as they are failing us now. You are allowing yourself to be used as a tool.

Frankly, Windsor cannot afford Sam any more. No I am not talking about his fees although I'd like to know what the total amount is for all of the work he has done for us including his bill for the Coast Guard hearing in Cleveland.

Now Sam advocates a new approach:

  • "The five-mile long Hudson River Park is a highway project but features tennis courts, ice rinks, bike trails and gardens with the road discreetly tucked in between trees.

    "Windsor deserves the same thing. I know the mayor and council have been demanding it. To their credit they have backbone."

They may have backbone but they would be lacking in brains if they followed Sam's advice!

The man is going to "deserve" us into bankruptcy for heaven's sake! Look at the "tennis courts, ice rinks, bike trails and gardens." Let's assume that the Senior levels go along with it. Who is going to be responsible for the annual maintenance costs. Not the Senior Levels. It's the Windsor taxpayers. We are going to be left holding the bag forever.

The Buskers was cancelled since

  • "Officials explained the department was stretched thin planning other things, such as the new Windsor arena."

How can the Department possibly look after this new park addition. Why even with all of the summer students, grass on City lots grew to over a meter high at an "unkempt city-owned lot" in South Windsor.

I found this remark about the NYC park:

  • "But along with the increased park area comes the growing demand for maintenance requirements of all kinds: gardening, trash removal, policing, plumbing, carpentry, etc. Those responsibilities are undertaken by the Trust's Operations & Maintenance department."
I wrote about this extra cost to Windsorites when I BLOGGED about DRTP's gift to taxpayers: Rails to Trails. Thanks but no thanks.

But what Sam has NOT told us is that we are going to have to pay for this Park. It won't be a gift from the Senior Levels. In NYC:
  • "Hudson River Park Trust is a partnership between New York State and City charged with the design, construction and operation of the five-mile Hudson River Park."

Will the cost be one-third of it for each level as with the Tunnel Plaza improvements or perhaps a billion dollars for Windsor taxpayers alone? Even if it was only 10% for Windsor, that is $300M that we have to find. Eddie will never get that much cash out of selling the Tunnel or Roseland or the marina. What will he do, toll E C Row?

Now the Mayor will support this project. After all, the Mayor of New York is a Board Member of the Hudson River Park Trust. Eddie can be CEO of our Windsor Park Trust and can get an increase in salary for this too along with his other new CEO positions. Nice work if you can get it and you can with a compliant Council!

I thought you might find this article of interest before you get carried away with all of the nice words about how wonderful this will be for us and how it will make us a world-class destination, a green road leader and a tourist draw etc etc etc. To heck with supporting the University of Windsor Green Corridor people---they work with the Ambassador Bridge Co. don't they!

Hudson River Park project threatened

  • A cash crunch in the development of Pier 40 is in limbo, with no one at the helm.
    By: Julie Satow, June 17, 2007,

    The Hudson River Park Trust is responsible for creating a unique waterfront esplanade that will stretch five miles from Chambers Street to West 59th Street, with winding car-free paths where New Yorkers can run, bike or Rollerblade and public piers or lush lawns where they can enjoy sunsets over the water.

    But nine years after its inception, the trust is facing a crisis. The city and state, which finance the trust and jointly appoint its board of directors, have awarded it just $10 million this year--the smallest amount in its history. Short on cash, the trust lacks the financing to complete construction of the TriBeCa segment of the park. In addition, one of its most critical projects, the creation of an income-producing development at Pier 40, is in limbo.

    These problems come as the trust drifts leaderless. Its chairman, Charles "Trip" Dorkey, is a lame-duck George Pataki appointee with little power. Gov. Eliot Spitzer has yet to appoint a successor.

    "This is a particularly bad time," says Albert Butzel, president of Friends of the Hudson River Park, a nonprofit advocacy group. "The amount of money the park has been allocated isn't even enough to keep construction going next year."

    The 550-acre Hudson River Park, created in 1998, is the largest open-space development in Manhattan since Central Park. The trust has so far been allocated some $263 million. Only 40% of the park is complete, and another $130 million is needed to finish it, according to Friends of Hudson River Park. Moreover, once completed, the park is meant to be self-sustaining, with revenue generated from the maritime district at West 42nd Street, Chelsea Piers at West 22nd Street, Pier 57 at West 17th Street and Pier 40 at West Houston Street.

    "I have been quite clear that I think authorities are not necessarily the most cost-efficient methods of operation," says Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a critic whose district includes the park.

    On reason for the cash crunch is escalating construction costs. The TriBeCa segment of the park has the most urgent need for funds. Last year, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. awarded the trust $70 million to complete the section around North Moore Street, but now the project is expected to cost as much $100 million.

    Neglected facility

    Pier 40 is also in trouble. Built 45 years ago for the Holland America Line, it was abandoned as a shipping facility shortly thereafter and has been used for warehousing, parking and sports, but generally has been neglected. Some $14.2 million is needed to repair a leaking roof, according to a letter written earlier this month by the president of the trust, Connie Fishman, to Mr. Butzel. Some $7 million is needed immediately to repair dilapidated concrete and steel piles that hold up the pier.

    Other repairs include replacing part of the facade on the eastern wall, fixing part of the perimeter and overhauling systems.

    Pier 40 is pivotal because it is expected to generate enough income to cover 40% of the park's maintenance costs, which could be as high as $19 million a year.

    Choosing a plan for the site has been difficult. In 2003, the trust rejected three plans to build a cultural complex, an aquarium or a superstore. Now the trust is considering two drastically different bids.

    Options for improvement

    Cash-rich Related Companies is proposing a $626 million complex that would transform the pier into a permanent home for the TriBeCa Film Festival and a theater for Cirque du Soleil while preserving the existing sports fields for the community. The second option, dubbed the People's Pier, is led by nonprofit group Urban Dove, which serves at-risk youth, and summer camp operator The Camp Group. It calls for the creation of additional park space, sports fields and a high school, all for $145 million.

    "The Related bid will throw off more money, but the People's Pier has the support of the community that sees Pier 40 as a neighborhood treasure, not a tourist destination," says Fredric Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

    No action is expected until a new chairman is chosen. A spokeswoman for the governor said the search for a new chair "is in progress" but declined to comment further.

    Despite all these difficulties, the trust says its projects are on track and that a new chairman could tackle its problems.

    "As soon as there is a new chair, which I'm guessing will be before the end of July, one of the first things that person and the vice chair, [Daniel] Doctoroff, will do is make a decision on Pier 40," she says.

    Combined state and city allocations to Hudson River Park Trust. In millions.

    2004 $42

    2005 $20

    2006 $30

    2007 $33

    2008 $10