Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 31, 2007

BLOGexclusive: Watermain-gate Government Letters

What's the purpose of reading out emails or letters at Council meetings and never posting them so we can read them or read what is left out too for ourselves.

Here is a copy of some of the exchanges between the City, the Auditor General and the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Apparently, these were part of the materials given to Councillors but not made part of the public Comunications package that I saw on the City website.

It is quite clear now why the materials were kept away from citizens. See my observations at the end:

From: Skorobohacz,
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 4:20 PM
To: Jim McCarter
cc: Skorobohacz, John

Subject: Telephone Conversation – Windsor Utilities Commission

Dear Auditor General

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss with you the nature of the Windsor Utilities Audit inquiry to your office. Pursuant to our discussion, I am attaching a copy of the section under the Municipal Affairs Act Section 9 dealing with provincial municipal audit requests.

As we discussed it is in our interest to ensure that an independent audit is conducted on the recent water rate increases and that the public is provided assurances that the rate increases are warranted.

This confirms your advise that the process as outlined under the Municipal Affairs Act will be a timelier and most costs effective approach. Thank you for you guidance and direction.

Sent on behalf of Mayor Eddie Francis, Windsor Ontario

Your reply as possible as we have a Council meeting this evening

John Skorobohacz
City of Windsor, Chief Adminstrative Officer


From: Jim McCarter
Sent: August 13, 2007 4:47 PM

To: Skorobohacz, John

Subject: RE: Telephone Conversation – Windsor Utilities Commission

Dear Mayor Francis and Mr. Skorobohacz:

I am emailing you back to confirm my earlier discussion with the Mayor regarding whether I felt that city council passing a motion requesting under section 9 of the Municipal Affairs Act that the Ministry conduct an independent review of the PUC issue was a reasonable alternative to my Office conducting a review if so requested by a Minister

I believe that this would be a reasonable option assuming that the interpretation of “audit of the financial affairs” allowed for an assessment along the lines of what is needed. Although the Act states a “provincial municipal audit” from the independence perspective, I suspect this would need to be under the auspices of the Ministry as opposed to a joint audit.

As you know, even if we received a request from a Minister, this would not take precedence over our current legislative work and even if we accepted the Minister's request, we would not be able to start this work for eight weeks or so. Assuming the ministry was agreeable to undertaking this request, this would likely allow the work to be started earlier. As well, if the ministry decided to engage some local expertise to assist them, this could well result in the cost of the review being less than if my Office was to conduct the work given that we are based in Toronto.

Jim McCarter
Auditor General of Ontario


August 16, 2007

His Worship
Mayor Eddie Francis and Members of Council
City of Windsor
350 City Hall Square West
Windsor ON N9A 6S1

Dear Mayor Francis and Members of Council

I am writing in response to Council Resolution M218-2007, by which you request me to direct a provincial municipal audit into the financial affairs of the Windsor Utilities Commission pursuant to section 9 of the Municipal Affairs Act.

I concur with your request and am prepared to direct that an audit of the Windsor Utilities Commission activities take place. In agreeing to direct this audit, I want to advise you of certain requirements. As set out in section 15 of the Municipal Affairs Act, the fees and allowances for expenses for the audit will be fixed and the City will be required to pay these fees and expenses. We will need to establish an appropriate set of terms of references for the audit to establish the scope of work. A process will then be followed to select and appoint an auditor in accordance with Ontario's procurement policies. Once appointed, the auditor will require full access to all relevant records respecting sewer and water operations, and including but not limited to, the financial records of the Windsor Utilities Commission and of the Corporation of the City of Windsor.

Staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will be contacting the City shortly to advance this process as quickly as possible.

I want to thank you for bringing this important issue to my attention.

John Gerretsen

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Nothing like emailing the Auditor General 90 minutes before the Council meeting and asking for an immediate response. That allowed Eddie to achieve what he wanted at the meeting.

  2. I wonder what "nature of the Windsor Utilities Audit inquiry " means. What facts were and were not disclosed

  3. Do you like how the AG is directed into thinking about a Ministry audit rather than one of his own

  4. Do you like this language : "it is in our interest to ensure" No recognitionof the "public" interest. Yes sir, it's in our interest to remain on Council for the next 3 years!

  5. How much of WUC's affairs can be looked at... past Administrations, Eddie's 4 years... nope "the recent water rate increases"

  6. Look at how limited the City's audit request is "the public is provided assurances that the rate increases are warranted." Nothing about diversion of funds, the 1,000 customers, "politics," 3-year freeze on increases, phasing in of increases, alternative methods to extend watermain life, Tecumseh watermains

  7. Do you see anywhere a request to do even a financial audit

  8. Whew, they got the answer they think they wanted to eliminate the AG. One has to ask what the hurry is....we have 100 years to pay for all of this. Just to let you know, I got a note from he Ministry on the 30th saying "no decision has yet been made regarding the scope and the terms of reference" and an RFP has to be issued. I guess the Ministry process is not so speedy after all.

  9. What is the propriety of the Mayor calling the AG in the first place when the Mayor might be investigated by the AG.

  10. Why does it matter what the AG thinks about "reasonable alternatives" Did he know about the facts of the situation or only what the Mayor told him they were? If he knew the facts, would he have said that it made sense to "engage some local expertise" since Windsorites want outsiders to be involved

  11. Note the key comment of the AG "assuming that the interpretation of “audit of the financial affairs” allowed for an assessment along the lines of what is needed." What the City set out is clearly not sufficent.

  12. The vital issue in the Minister's letter "We will need to establish an appropriate set of terms of references for the audit to establish the scope of work." Who is "we" is it the Ministry alone, the Ministry and the Mayor and/or Council? Since the matter is so "rare," do Windsorites get any say in this matter?

  13. Why is a Section 9 audit only being looked at and not a Section 10 as well since that was in the City's Resolution. Section 9 is only a "financial affairs" audit while under Section 10 the Ministry "make an inquiry into any of the affairs of a municipality." Can one see a whitewash coming.

  14. What did Sandra and Dwight have to say to the Minister

  15. The fun section of the Act is Section 12. The auditor "may require any officer of the municipality and any other person to appear before him or her and give evidence on oath touching any of such affairs

  16. Why was the audit enlarged to "sewer" operations? Where did that come from? Sewers are NOT a WUC responsibility although WUC collects the sewer surcharge. is there osemthign goin on withteh sewers that we do nto knwo about but the ministry does? Remember I pointed out soem seeming "diversions" of sewer surcharge amounts to non-sewer matters. Is this a story that Monica Wolfson is investigating now and is that why she has not written an article for so long?

  17. I hope that the auditor selected is outside of Windsor

  18. Note as well that the City's financial records are to be examined


  20. Let's be blunt...if there is any suggestion of a cover-up by the Ministry, then Sandra and Dwight are at risk politically. It is a long time before the Provincial election! If there is a cover-up, then we will need to ask why and whether there are any secret deals that may have been made!

As I said before, the story is merely just beginning.

Quick Thoughts

Let me know what you think


No that is not the state of City Government in Windsor. There are no words to describe what a farce it has become and what a disgrace during the first year of the 4-year Eddie Francis term.

That is the language used at Council to describe the condition of the overpasses on E C Row. This confirms what I speculated before.

It means that we can look forward to a bill of around $12M or more when the rehabilitation plans come back from the outside consultants.

For how long has the condition of the road been known? Why wasn't it fixed up before? Is there money in the budget to pay for it?

When will it be uploaded to the Province for the start of it becoming the redundant truck route to the border or do we get a new toll road when it is leased out long term to a P3 company?


After Dave's first BLOG posted on the Windsor Star site, which is not at all complimentary to City Hall, how long will it be before he goes back to reporting the border only?

And speaking of Bloggers and former City Hall reporters, isn't Roseann Danese allowed to do one in her new job? She has not written one since March.


Where are her latest stories on WUC, Enwin and Councillor payments. I keep opening the Star waiting for the next installment. Rumour has it that she had a couple of good ones under investigation. I wonder when they will be published. They must be huge stories since she must be investigationg them for such a long time


Something else makes little sense in the Star. One little story on arena land costs "No taxes collected in arena land deal" by Battagello with no follow-up. That's not the way he normally writes. That would have been the first of several articles in a series eg on Sutherland there were 3 of them. When is the next one coming out?


Welcome to the Club, Alan. You have finally joined the growing ranks of Windsorites who have become disillusioned by our Mayor.

The guy who was Eddie's first Councillor supporter and who said so publicly when Eddie first ran for mayor has now discovered what many of us learned a long time ago. Just watch the sycophants try to discredit him. It only helps Alan out.

When Gord does his next column slamming him for standing up to the Mayor at Council by demanding that the people be allowed to speak, then you know that Alan will be a full-fledged member!


I wonder when someone will explain to Junior the facts of life. As Chair of WUC, will he resign if Eddie promotes a P3 for the Utilities or will he stay around trying to justify it?

Gord has just told him that the unstated City Hall position on Sutherland is for the unions to back off trying to organize the workers there. So what does Junior do now since the CAW is trying to organize them.


Did Junior already wake up and is now setting the groundwork for a huge Francis disaster after the audit/inquiry comes in? Is he as Chair of WUC distancing himself from the previous Chair of WUC, the Mayor, so Junior can blame it all on the past Administration?

Here is what Junior said after Council as shown on a clip from the Windsor Shadow BLOG:
  • "[Francis] has known every step of the way everything that is happening at the utilities."

Hehehe....Kennie just put the blame right on Eddie and on Eddie alone!

Very similar to the thought that Bill Marra tried to convey in his interview on Face-to-Face.


History is repeating itself and Eddie should have learned its lesson.

You can pinpoint the second when ex-Mayor Mike Hurst's mayoral career ended. It occurred when Charlie Hotham demanded a vote on Council on border resolutions after the supposed flip-flop by Council on DRTP North in March, 2003.

Can one say the same about the second when Alan Halberstadt had enough and demanded that Eddie "call the question" (ie vote on a Motion) rather than letting the Mayor continue his rambling speech on whatever it was that he was trying to say at Council.

It seemed that Teflon Eddie needed to "prove" that he was not to blame for the utilities mess since his remarks were obviously prepared in advance. Put the responsibility right on Council.

I don't get it. Why do Councillors accept blame from him for his screw-ups.


I am waiting for Eddie as Mayor and Head of Council to demand that the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget apologize for his remark to the Mayor of Monmouth.

I found this quote of interest from a Council "down under."

  • "Councillor misbehaviour and controlling Councillor misbehaviour affects the environment in which Council operates. It clearly makes a statement to those in the community who have been subjected to Councillor abuse or aggression. How ratepayers are treated at Council meetings filters into the community at large and that affects how the community perceives the Council and the Councillors.

    Ratepayers who are subjected to uncontrolled abuse or aggression may feel doubly disillusioned, because one Councillor has abused them and the other Councillors or the chair has not protected them."

Closed For a Private Party

This is strictly a rumour but from a very good source.

If any of you high-rollers want to have a drink at the VU bar at Casino Windsor on Friday night, you are out of luck. It's been taken over for a few hours by a group.

They must have a big budget to be able to spend so much cash for one these kinds of functions. Closing the bar on a Friday of a long holiday week-end for several hours could have cost the Casino a bundle so you can imagine how much the Casino expects to make on this party.

Can you believe as well the power of the party's host to do this. Amazing! He must have connections.

The Bar is described in the following terms.
  • "VU carries a cool, casual vibe featuring funky decor in sexy shades of cranberry and purple, modern furnishing and whimsical murals. While listening to great music, customers can order one of 20 signature drinks on VU's exotic cocktail menu.

    The main element of this bar is revealed in its name - spanning the length of this stylish venue is a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular panoramic views of the Detroit skyline and Windsor riverfront and an outdoor patio."

Imagine that, the decor is described as "funky." Doesn't that sound like the description given to the City-owned "funky" bus terminal!

It will cost the host a pretty penny I bet since drinks I am told are quite pricey there. I wonder if it is tied into the Grand Prix event.

I wonder who the host is? I am sure that the traditional media will be there in full force to let you know who rented the room and who attended the function! It's too bad that cameras are not allowed in the Casino isn't it? Mind you, some of the new cameras are so small...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

If the City does something that is one thing but if a private entrepreneur does it watch out!

I am trying to figure out how "Dancing with the Stars" was allowed to have music and a dance on the river outside of the Entertainment Lounge area I believe and with more than 250 people while the Junction could not, even if it was a charitable function.

Here is the exchange of emails that I had recently. I did not get anything from Councillor Brister. We little people do not count except at election time it seems:

  • From: Ed Arditti
    To: Sibley, Diane; Marra, Bill; Brister, Dave
    CC: mayoro; Dilkens, Drew; Jones, Ron; Postma, Caroline; Halberstadt, Alan; Valentinis, Fulvio; Lewenza, Ken; Gignac, Jo-Anne (Councillor); Hatfield, Percy
    Sent: Sun Aug 19 10:57:07 2007
    Subject: Dancing Under The Stars

    I understand that there was a charitable event on the weekend near the river and that you were in the vicinity on Saturday night.

    Could you please let me know:
    1) the actual geographic location of the dance eg north of Riverside Dr.
    2) if there was music and dancing
    3) your best estimate of the number of people participating in the event eg 250 or more
    4) under what City by-law or licence or other authority this function was permitted
    5) was the seating capacity of the Bistro expanded and if so by how much.

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Sibley, Diane
    To: Ed Arditti ; Marra, Bill ; Brister, Dave
    Cc: mayoro ; Dilkens, Drew ; Jones, Ron ; Postma, Caroline ; Halberstadt, Alan ; Valentinis, Fulvio ; Lewenza, Ken ; Gignac, Jo-Anne (Councillor) ; Hatfield, Percy ; Wilson, Jan
    Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 11:06 AM
    Subject: RE: Dancing Under The Stars

    This is nothing licensing would be involved with...we do not licence charitable fundraising events. By way of this email, I have included Jan Wilson. She or a member of her staff may be able to comment on the issue or provide insight to the matter.

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Taylor, Mike
    Cc: Fama, Carl ; Sibley, Diane ; Brister, Dave ; Marra, Bill ; Gignac, Jo-Anne (Councillor) ; Dilkens, Drew ; Postma, Caroline ; Halberstadt, Alan ; Jones, Ron ; Mayor's Office ; Valentinis, Fulvio ; Lewenza, Ken ; Hatfield, Percy
    Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 11:43 AM
    Subject: dancing under the stars

    Mr. Arditti,

    Your email that you sent to Diane Sibley was referred to me.

    1. The event took place at Dieppe Gardens Municipal Parking Lot 5, located where the new Bistro By The River. This location has hosted many events in the past

    2. There was amplified music and ball room dancing adn demonstrations

    3. There were approximately 500 people present throughout the event times, which were 6 p.m. - 1 a.m. Friday the 24th August and 6 p.m. - 1 a.m. Saturday, August 25. On both evenings, the event shut down earlier because of inclement weather conditions (I believe they wrapped up at 11:30 p.m. on Friday and 11 p.m. on Saturday). In total over the weekend, approximately 2000 people attended the event.

    4. This event was approved by the CAO office under a Delegation of Authority CAO 726 August 2, 2007. The event was first held on Erie Street in 2006. It was conducted by In Honour of the Ones We Love organization as a fund raiser for children with cancer. Celebrities danced to ball room dancing music, did demonstrations, and were judged by those in attendance. Many local dignitaries, politicians and celebrities were included in the event as competitors.

    5. The Bistro did not increase their seating capacity. The Bistro was the caterer for the event, selling beverage and food items to those in attendance. Other vendors were also on site selling jewellery, tee shirts and novelty items on behalf of the organization. Guests to the event sat in the Bistro, on the Bistro patio, and walked around the site enjoying the entertainment.

    Please feel free to call me at my office should you have any further questions or need for clarification.

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Ed Arditti
    To: Taylor, Mike
    Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 2:41 PM
    Subject: Re: dancing under the stars

    Thanks for your email.

    I do not understand how this could go forward since it seems to violate the Entertainment Lounge By-law even if a one-time event.

    Could you please explain if I am right or wrong on this and why

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Taylor, Mike
    Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 4:09 PM
    Subject: RE: dancing under the stars

    This particular event falls under special events portfolio, similar to events such as Festival Epicure, Bluesfest, MCC Carousel By The River, and the many other events that are hosted on the streets and within park sites located throughout the City each year. Organizations, individuals and agencies apply to the City to host a variety of events and functions on City property, not private property. There are certainly many things that each group needs to adhere to regarding stipulations, rules and regulations, not only with the City but with other agencies such as the AGCO, Police, etc. depending on what it is they are proposing to do on these City properties for their event.

    Responsibilities including rental fees, security, noise stipulations, traffic, etc. are many of the things each group must arrange for, adhere to, and be accountable for, again depending on what it is they are doing.

    I think perhaps you might be mistaking things under lounges and entertainment places, which have nothing to do with community events taking place in municipal parks and facilities.

    Hope that answers your questions
To be honest, more questions are raised than answered. But I have a solution for George Sofos and the Junction:
  1. arrange for Canadian Pacific Railway and DRTP to donate the Gateway Public Park to the City
  2. the amphitheatre with room for bands and a (wink-wink) big stage area where the public can stand and move around to the sound of the music should be built
  3. hold a charitable events there every night so that you can provide the catering since your building is next door.
  4. arrange for your premises to be licensed like the Bistro on the waterfront.

Everything is solved since these are charitable events "on City property, not private property. " So what if the neighbours complain. Yes I know that the neighbours would not have heard the music and dancing enclosed in your building. But what the heck, it is now the City's issue not yours.

I trust that what was said by the City is correct. If there is doubt, then guess which Councillors I would call to be witnesses at the Junction trial for their alleged by-law infraction if I was George's lawyer!

What I Learned In School Today

Information is exploding around us. We just need to know where to look to find it


According to Councillor Valentinis at the last Council meeting, one of his law school profs told him that you cannot suck and blow at the same time.

That may be true but my law school prof told me that you can blow hot and cold with the same breath. Try and you will see I am right.

The laws of physics therefore are as adaptable as is our Procedural By-law.


As I blogged a short time ago, it seemed to me that the DRIC road with its short tunnels, or shunnels, was very similar to that which Sam Schwartz was going to propose in his many times rewritten report, at least according to Gord Henderson.

My moles have told me that Sam's report was not available until now since they were having a tough time distinguishing his short tunnels from those of DRIC.

Apparently recently, there has been a major break-through.

While DRICs short tunnels will be called "shunnels," those of Sam Schwartz will be called "Schwunnels."


Leona Helmsley, the "Queen of Mean" died recently. She was quoted as saying "only the little people pay taxes"

If she had lived in Windsor, I think that line would have changed slightly. She would have said "only the little people pay levies"


Fire chief Dave Fields may be asked to open up a new fire sub-station outside of the Council Chambers every Monday night.

Its function would be pour water on any "PANTS ON FIRE"


Someone told me that there was a multi-page feature in the Detroit paper over the weekend on the race.

Now I do not get the paper so I do not know the answer. However, my informant demanded that I ask my readers to try and find a reference to Windsor in it other than on a map.

What a spoiler for us. If true, it is an F1 $US80,000 disaster for us on a scale of F1-5 with F1 being the worst. We did not even make it to the checkered flag. DNF in other words. It is the pits.

We clearly did not have enough horsepower to do better. No doubt about it, we got lapped. No pole position for us. We got throttled!


I wonder if the Tabloids will cover the expoits of the Ministry staff as they dig through WUC's books and records.

I wonder if the City Sloganeeers would like this moniker as the new motto of Windsor: "IMWTK---Inquiring Minds Want To Know"

Sheer Arrogance

This exchange of emails speaks for itself:

From: Pete Angermann
To: undisclosed-recipients
Sent: Sat Aug 25 09:47:43 2007

Dear Subscribers,

M.O.M. has upgraded to Feedburner. Please save to your RSS feeds and/or favourites. Please notice the new link called "NOOOZBITZ" to the left for local news issues. As always, thanks for for reading M.O.M. Please open following link:


Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2007 09:59:44 -0400
To: momnews

Not interested.

Remove my name from your mailing list and find a charity to which you might devote your time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Windsor's Political Crisis And Its Simple Resolution

I was at the Council meeting on Monday and could not believe what I heard.

Finally, after all of this time, the City Solicitor spoke on the issue of Conflict of Interest involving participation on the WUC matter by the Mayor and Councillors who sit or sat as Chair and Commissioners of WUC and perhaps Enwin as well. Where was he before on this vital matter and why wasn't the question asked before?

I wonder exactly what the role of the City Solicitor is at Council meetings. What is his job description? Does he just sit there until spoken to or asked a question or is his job meant to be proactive, to let Council know if they may be doing something wrong to stop it or at least to let them know that they are in dangerous waters?

Sitting beside our lawyer/Mayor in Chambers, is the CAO, an experienced Administrator and the Clerk who is supposed to be the expert on procedure. Without boring you about the details, the Procedural questions at the Council meeting were interesting ones about whether the Mayor's Motion that was passed was legal or not. Councillor Halberstadt's Motion had been introduced first and the Mayor was in the Chair when he introduced his Motion rather than leaving the Chair as he did with the whiteboard presentation.

I thought that Councillor Halberstadt did an excellent job setting out why his Motion had precedence and frankly thought that the Clerk was wrong legally in her decision. What if she was wrong and it was obvious....what is the City Solicitor supposed to do? Does he say something or just sit there because it is not in his job function to interrupt. If the City might be sued down the road because of a breach of procedure, can he say that I was not asked and so did not speak out.

If that is his role, then that had better be changed quickly as this matter has demonstrated. If his job is to interrupt to set out a legal issue, then why did he not do so? Councillors must ask this question immediately and in public!

What also is the extent of his role in protecting the Mayor and Members of Council on their personal legal position? Does he do so or does he tell the Member to get his/her own legal advice?

I ask all of this because of a note a reader sent to me in which he transcribed a key section of the Council meeting [Note it is clearly not a complete transcript and he has "editorialized" about some of what took place since we do not have the video. Watch it on Cogeco Council replays]:
  • I have spent a good deal of time reviewing the VHS Video of the Aug 27th Council meeting with the purpose of determining WHEN the Mayor said he was going to leave the chair..That point is quite an obvious moment.

    The Mayor had EARLIER consulted with the City Solicitor for a few seconds after saying: "Just so you're all clear . .I'm going to consult with our City Solicitor. I'm gonna get my own opinion …You guys govern yourselves accordingly."

    then came back to the Chairman's position, turned-off his Microphone, tipped it over, picked up a pile of papers and appeared to be leaving (moved his chair back on the dias, looking as if he might be leaving..) etc.

    As he did, he did say something in the direction of Councillor Valentinis (unheard).

    It was after that that Wilkki turned on his microphone and spoke:
    (Eddie Francis was still at the rear of the Council dias, listening, not in the Chair position.)

    "Your Worship, Members of Council; if the issue is as to a position of conflict - - that the individual councillors who serve on either Enwin or the W U C Boards may or may not have, then my opinion they should not be debating, moving, seconding, participating whatsoever in the discussion of the issue."

    The Mayor remained in his chair further back, then moved forward, to the normal "Chair" position, turned on his microphone and addresses Councillor Valentinis who replies asking the question about 7 out of 10 - -"7 people could be in conflict?" [on Halberstadt's Motion] and about "3 members of Council will play God!"

    A Halberstadt explains his motion and its intent...

    The Mayor: "Members of Council, There's a motion on the floor moved and supported. Legal Counsel has provided advice. I am going to remove myself from the Chair. The rest of you can govern yourselves accordingly; In fact, members of council, whether it's 3 or so becomes a quorum - - Councillor Valentinis, on this issue.

    (E/F rises from the Chair, lifts a pile of papers, looking like he's about to depart)

    Councillor Marra asks into his microphone: "So the legal advice is. Then if you are a member of WUC it's inappropriate to debate this motion?"

    The Mayor points toward Wilkki (to answer this question.)

    Wilkki replies: "That's correct. The way, as I see it, if you feel you have a conflict with regard to this issue of the audit- - you shouldn't discuss anything, --with respect to the terms of reference of the audit or whether in fact the audit should proceed in whatever manner."

As you know, the Mayor did not in the end leave nor did any of the Councillors and they kept on debating and voting.

Read what the City Solicitor said again because it is so important. He makes it clear that there is a big problem, the Mayor knows there is a big problem for him personally since he threatens to leave and then the City Solicitor, because he cannot give individual legal advice to Councillors, tells them if they have a concern, do not participate.

I don't get it...why didn't they leave? The Mayor was going to do so but didn't? Did they think there was no issue? Were they playing chicken with each other---you leave, no you leave, no you leave first...

Do you think that all of these experienced people are dumb? Why wasn't this issue raised when the Mayor introduced his Motion in the first place? But for Councillor Halberstadt not knuckling under and withdrawing his Motion this subject would not have come up publicly except in the rantings of the "usual cast" as we are described, the Amoebae!

Accordingly, the Mayor's Motion passed by Council is suspect legally, the Ministry Inquiry if it is based on the Motion is suspect legally and everything is open to legal challenge.

Moreover, we may no longer have a "legal" Council and may need a new election (Hmmmmm some may say that this is a good idea). Here's why: Section 5 of the Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act:

  • Section 5. (1) Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, the member,
    (a) shall, prior to any consideration of the matter at the meeting, disclose the interest and the general nature thereof;
    (b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and
    (c) shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question.

Based on what was said at Council, 5 members of Council---the Mayor and Councillors Marra, Lewenza, Jones and Brister--- who have all received money directly from WUC may have a conflict because they have an interest in what the audit is.

Adding in the Enwin appointees makes it 7 members.

But remember that all of the money received from Boards is pooled and distributed to Councillors so if indirect interests are added in, then every member of Council may be in conflict!!!!

One could argue that Councillors did not know this when they debated and voted at the meeting re the Mayor's Motion but after the discussion at the last Council meeting AND NOTHWITHSTANDING THE CITY SOLICITOR'S OPINION, none left the meeting by declaring a conflict. I believe a good argument can be made to remove them all from office as the Act provides:

  • Section 10. (1) Subject to subsection (2), where the judge determines that a member or a former member while he or she was a member has contravened subsection 5 (1), (2) or (3), the judge,

    (a) shall, in the case of a member, declare the seat of the member vacant; and

    (b) may disqualify the member or former member from being a member during a period thereafter of not more than seven years;

Now the Judge does NOT have to do this and there are saving provisions but there is this doubt out there now that has to be dealt with in respect of the Minister's Motion and the individual position of the Mayor and Councillors. We cannot have this uncertainty with all of the big issues that have to be handled.

Will the Senior Levels as an example negotiate on the border with a Mayor who may be unseated at any time? They just may move forward now on their own pointing to the uncertainty caused by Council itself. What a tragedy and disgrace that would be caused by our elected local officials!

What can be done---it's so simple and I do not know why this was not discussed at Council:

  • Section 7. Application to judge

    (2) Where in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1), the remaining number of members who are not disabled from participating in the meeting is less than two, the council or local board may apply to a judge without notice for an order authorizing the council or local board, as the case may be, to give consideration to, discuss and vote on the matter out of which the interest arises.

    (3) The judge may, on an application brought under subsection (2), by order, declare that section 5 does not apply to the council or local board, as the case may be, in respect of the matter in relation to which the application is brought, and the council or local board thereupon may give consideration to, discuss and vote on the matter in the same manner as though none of the members had any interest therein, subject only to such conditions and directions as the judge may consider appropriate and so order.

Now I knew this on Monday. So why didn't I speak up at Council you may well ask and save the day?

Very simple. I could not. The Mayor never permitted any mere citizen to speak at Council on any of this although permitted by the Procedural By-law to do so. And if I had tried, the Clerk would have ruled me out of order as she did earlier to another mere Windsorite. That is Windsor Democracy inaction.

Bring the Section 7 Motion and please let me know about it, Mr. City Solicitor. I may want to appear as an intervenor or will that application be kept in secret too!

Now I cannot believe that the smart people in Administration did not know all of this. The question that keeps going around in my mind is what is going on at City Hall? There is more here than meets the eye!

Windsor's Own Reality TV Series

I just had to post these 2 reader emails. They say it all so well

1) City Council and Mayor Francis,

I have a simple suggestion for all of you people. Get a copy of Monday nights City Council meeting from Cogeco and watch it....I would love to know what some of you think of the way you reacted last night. Good God I think that Cogeco could sell the rights of Windsor City Council meeting broadcasts to the FOX TV network as the next reality series, I am sure the ratings would blow American Idol out of the water!

A good portion of you should be ashamed of the way you reacted and that goes right to the top to the Mayor himself, well ya know when he wasn't hiding behind all his bylaw crap and top council executives to feed him what to say next. I really wished you would have finished your little fit and took your binders and stormed out of chambers like you were going to do. Maybe then the meting could have continued with the respect and dignity that it should have.

ALL of you owe the City of Windsor residents an apology for the way that meeting went out of hand. Let me tell you, it was my first time watching a city council meeting, and I was appalled that you people run this city, but it does explain to me MUCH clearer why the city is the way it is today.

Way to go Alan - A good portion of the city stands behind you! No one would know that though, cause the mayor refuses to allow the public ANY input on this at all. Guess if it doesn't praise him, its not allowed in the procedure bylaw?

2) Good morning Ed.

Amazing what a little "dirt" will do for the mind. One thing Eddie completely forgot was the future savings on water main replacement. Since there are so many jobs and factories leaving Windsor, would it be prudent to replace what will not be used? Imagine the savings. Sort of disappointed he didn't think of that.

There are way too many distractions going on at City Hall to focus on one fiasco. Or is that the plan? Confuse them with shock and awe. Where did that come from?

[Note: I am surprised with the big demand for watermains across North America that we are not building watermain manufacturing plants. Do I have to do the thinking for the gazelle feeders too now!]

P3ing Watermains, Sewers And Roads

It's amazing what a day away from a PC can do for a person's brain. It all became crystal clear thanks to Gord Henderson's column yesterday. Did Eddie divert and I do not mean levy money.

It did not make sense to me. There had to be more behind all of this. WUC prepared a detailed report in 2002 for replacing watermains but as Monica Wolfson stated in her Star article:
  • "it was only after the utility came under the control of the city that a 31/2-year freeze on rates was imposed."

Is that logical to you when watermains needed replacement? Is it logical to you that Eddie in 2005 hoped water rates could be reduced?

We have all been bombarded by scare stories with huge numbers concerning Watermain-gate and time periods when only our future generations will be around.

$330M in spending over 50 years, $600M over 30 years, $660M over 100 years, $750M, $830M and that is just for watermains. We collect $35M per year in sewer surcharges. Many of our roads are deficient and we will have a huge bill for E C Row upgrading.

We are told that one option for watermains is:

  • "The 2007 report suggested doing the bulk of the work up front.

    It said WUC needed to do 66 per cent of the work at a cost of $440 million in the first 25 years. The rest of the work in the 100-year plan would be done at $6 million to $8 million per year in the remaining 75 years."

Who is going to pay for that---taxpayers and increased levies? Where are we going to find all of that cash unless the Senior Levels help out? Who else has such a huge pot of money that they can afford to invest so much now and then wait out the long term?

I got it. There is an answer: big pension funds like OMERS or Teachers or private equity companies or Macquarie Bank or Alinda of Tunnel fame.

I am surprised that no one has suggested yet a public/private partnership. Let me use this statement from the Borealis Infrastucture website as an explanation. Borealis is involved with DRTP as an investment (Note: I am NOT suggesting that they have any interest whatsoever in watermains in Windsor):

  • "Historically, virtually all assets characterized today as infrastructure assets were owned by governments. In the past 20 years, there has been a substantive and beneficial shift to involving the private sector in financing, developing and operating infrastructure facilities and services within public policy frameworks. Increasingly, governments are gaining confidence in turning to the private sector to provide capital, corporate leadership and asset management skills through public/private partnerships and other investment vehicles. All governments face an infrastructure deficit at a time of fiscal strain when it is difficult to raise the revenue needed to meet all public service demands."

Fixing roads and sewers can be soooooooo hum-drum, especially if you were a former "Young Entrepreneur of the year.". Running an arena or airport or a border crossing or developing shovel ready lands or cleaning up a brownfield is much more interesting and challenging especially when you can use taxpayer money. Think of all of the high-paying board meetings that can be held too. A nice addition to a lowly Councillor salary.

Is that what this is really all about....setting us up for a public/private partnership? Let the private sector finance improvements and then operate for a profit the boring infrastructure while politicians become entrepreneurs. What's a small road toll on E C Row after all if you have an extra lane of traffic built in each direction.

If that is what is intended, then let us have a true debate about the subject of P3s with the pros and cons of giving up what has been traditionally the role of municipal government. Let us not go into something on the basis of a manufactured crisis.

There seems to be a pattern. I remembered that Tunnel tolls had been kept low at the Windsor-owned Tunnel for quite some time. Even so, Tunnel business tanked while it took forever to find someone to "breathe" the Tunnel. Dividends to the City from operations were drastically reduced under the watch of the WTC Chair/Mayor. Then there was the airport where the outside management company's request for a loan to which they were legally entitled was "deferred." Soon after, they gave up their contract. And how can the City run an arena when that is not a core function and we have little expertise.

Effectively, that is what the Detroit Tunnel deal is all about. It will be a public/private partnership of some kind, and you will see the airport lands being dealt with in a similar fashion. I thought there was an RFP to the private sector for arena management outstanding as well. Oh the public sector owns the asset but it is run by the private sector for long periods, in some cases 99 years (The Tunnel deal was 75 years wasn't it).

Are roads, sewer and watermains next for P3s?

The irony of it all....If I am right, Councillor Lewenza, who is a union man, could be the last public sector Chair of WUC before it effectively goes P3. Now THAT would be something to discuss with his unemployed brothers and sisters at the union hall! After all, the private sector does not need as many people on its payroll either.

Can you imagine, Chair Lewenza having to justify the P3 investment as Chair and being forced to approve of the private partner cutting union jobs. Geeez Ken, why else were you made Chair. You can take the hit for this as Eddie smiles in the background. Who is WUC Chair when this whole mess took place in the first instance! Did you ever get suckered!

I hope Junior reads this article first "Who benefits - corporations or communities? The clear choice about water"

Oh and about did his column start out:
  • "It would take immense political courage, but the only real fix for the Windsor Utilities Commission and Enwin might be to blow up these bloated organizations and start over.

And how did he conclude:

  • "The way to really fix this mess, said Jim, would be to shut down WUC and Enwin Powerlines operations and hand them over, on contract, to the private sector to run on a turnkey basis.

In my opinion, that's the real story behind WUC. The audit and the Monday Night drama are all mere diversions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Time To Smell The Roses

Where has the summer gone? I don't remember it passing this quickly. Hasn't Daylight Savings Time just started?

Writing a BLOG has become almost a full time job. It was not something I ever expected when I started doing this. I have written over 1300 BLOGs so far and hope to write a few more. I am gratified by the number of readers I have and appreciate the comments that make it all worthwhile, even the negative ones.

Trying to stay topical and being well-researched means long hours, sometimes well into the evening. Attending as I did Council last night and trying to get something meaningful out to you the next day is not as easy as it may seem. One gets an appreciation for the job done by the professionals in the media.

I was going to write something on what happened but if you tuned in to Cogeco to watch Council, you know what happened last night cannot be described. It was a complete farce. Eddie lost control of Council completely. It was disgraceful watching him "lecture" the Councillors as if he was the teacher and they were being scolded for doing something wrong at recess. Who does he think he is!

If you did not tune in, there is no possible way I can say to you in words what a joke this Council has become. You have to watch it for yourself on the replays. Trust me, you will not believe what you see. Yes, these people are our local Government. They control millions of dollars of our money. It's scary. Where is the Governor's hubby....Eddie has a new job for him after the Detroit Grand Prix.

The only member of Council for whom I had any respect last night was Councillor Halberstadt. He had the guts to stand up for the citizens of Windsor, he argued his procedural points with accuracy and he shot the Mayor down on several occasions when Eddie tried to bully him.

My view---last night was a turning point in the political career of Councillor Halberstadt. He has become the leader on Council and its strongest member. Oh sure, he has enemies amongst his colleagues but when the going gets tough, the only one that they will be able to hide behind is Alan and they know it. They need him. He does NOT need them. Assuming he remains in this mode, Eddie just created his official opposition yesterday.

It is going to get worse too. Did the City solicitor really state that certain Members of Council may well be in conflict of interest. I have to check my videotape. I think the City Solicitor's remark must have worried Eddie. He was going to leave the Chair at one time. Interestingly one of the members of the public who was again not allowed to speak at Council by the Mayor was interviewed by the media afterward. When asked what he was going to do if there was a conflict, he said that he was going to consider his options. His consideration was made so much easier.

So please excuse me. I need a short break. I intend to do some gardening over the next few days. It's time I did some chores around the house. I have a few ideas rattling around in my mind for future BLOGs that I will write about to try and put some of the events in Windsor into a perspective. I may even try and tell you what really happened at Council too at that time.

Cutting the grass, pruning the shrubs and planting flowers ie being away from the computer, ought to make things easier and will recharge the batteries.

Now as long as it does not rain....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Watermain-gate: What Will Council Do

Monday night at Council should be a very interesting one. Councillor Halberstadt's WUC Motion is to be presented to Council for consideration. Come down to the Council Chambers or watch it on Cogeco.

You know that the Eminence Greasie has been working hard over the past few days trying to figure out all of the political permutations and combinations before a decision will be made as to what action should be taken to deflect the impact of the Motion and how to spin it!

It appears that six citizens have registered to speak at the session. They at least were aware that the Motion was going to be heard. The ordinary citizen who generally would never come to the City's Council website would never have found the item unless by a fluke happened to read the Order of Business page. That's where the Motion was buried.

Good old Democracy, Windsor style. Why put Motions on the Agenda page where someone might actually see it.

If you read the Star Saturday Editorial on the border, aren't those six people petty. Why they are only concerned about silly matters like the truth in Watermain-gate. All they want to know about is hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that may or may not have to be spent. They are only worried about pocket-book issues that will impact everyone today and for years in the future. Don't they understand that there are BIG issues and that Eddie is our hero and only hope:
  • "It would be refreshing if Duncan used the word "we" to describe himself and the residents of Windsor and Essex County instead of an unelected body of bureaucrats fixated on jeopardizing the future of this vibrant community with a quick and cheap border fix. When Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis uses that pronoun, he's talking about you and your family and everyone else in this community tired of traffic jams, pollution and trucks on city streets.

    "This is the most important issue that we as a community have to deal with. The solution we agree to will not only impact our lives but the lives of future generations," said Francis. "We want a solution that brings communities together. We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past and have people 50 or 60 years from now asking what happened. If we don't fight for it, if we don't stand up for the city, who will?"

When I read that I got all choked up especially when I remember how Gord told us last Thursday that Eddie could "hammer out a compromise that might not be everything the city wants but will be dramatically better than the DRIC pitch." Wasn't Councillor Halberstadt virtually called a traitor for using the "c" word in his BLOG but now Henderson says compromise is OK.

In reading the names of the people who registered to be delegates, I do not expect the Mayor to have too much support from citizens for what he and Council proposed at the last Council meeting. In fact, I expect that the Mayor in particular will be severely criticized. And that is something that poor Eddie cannot handle very well.

I expect that they will be in support of Councillor Halberstadt's Motion or might even ask for more! There is one problem however. Will Councillor Halberstadt's Motion get heard at all?

Would Council dare not allow the matter to go forward? I can think of a Procedural By-law reason for not allowing it to go on. But that issue could be dealt with easily enough PLUS it would make the Mayor look afraid (Of course, he would defer to the Clerk and CAO who would have to do the dirty work by making the decision so the Mayor would not be blamed).

The real reason why no one may be allowed to speak is a simple one and is set out on the City's website:

  • "Delegations will only be heard should this motion receive a seconder."

That's right, it seems that another member of Council has to second the Motion or it does not get heard at all and citizens do not get the right to express their opinion. I should let you know that I have heard that at least 5 Councillors have been contacted so far and not one of them has agreed to date to second the Motion. [See below for the change]

Let's assume that no one on Council seconds the Motion. Is Eddie off the hook? He can always pass the buck to his colleagues and say that THEY did not second the Motion so do not blame him. Of course if he still is in the Chair, he could second the Motion since he has nothing to fear. If he does not, then the finger points back to him.

But a little birdie has told me something. If no one does second it, a novel approach might be taken that could shock some people. No, I am not going to tell you what it is. It may never happen for a variety of reasons.

Anyway, do you think I would let you know on here in advance so someone can try and devise a way around it. No, I'll let the suspense build so you will have to watch Council on Cogeco. I'll give you a hint though: don't believe everything you read on the City Hall website.

Surely the easiest way out for Council is to have someone second the Motion, let the citizens speak and then vote it down as we all know they will. Then who can complain, right? Expect that to happen unless Eddie just cannot face hearing criticism and we'll get another Procedural move to try to block the Motion. It will be the Clerk who raises the issue, not the Mayor.

It's all a big game of chess isn't it. Plan, counter-plan and counter-counter-plan. Another little birdie told me confidentially that there is a check-mate move in the background that may be used as well depending on what happens at Council and who does what.

I did not ever suspect that local government was this convoluted and complex. Heck, we are just fixing watermains aren't we? What's so complicated about that?

PS. According to the Star online, Councillor Dilkens will second the Motion.

  • "Coun. Drew Dilkins said he would at least second a motion by Coun. Alan Halberstadt so the issue can be discussed.

Congratulations to him for having the guts to do so.

It won't matter though, the Clerk I am told will now say that the Councillor's Motion is out of order since it is really a Reconsideration and Council's approval is necessary to hear it. Will Council have the nerve to reconsider and hear the delegations? Now that should be interesting to watch!

Where Did The Sewer Surcharge Money Go

I cannot handle this any more. Every day there is a new revelation in Watermain-gate that demands a full and complete investigation. According to Chris Schurr's BLOG,
  • "in the 2006 WUC Capital budget, $2,572,075 was earmarked [for] the construction of a feeder main to supply the Town of Tecumseh with water."

The obvious question is:

  • was Windsor watermain levy money used for these new Tecumseh watermains and not for replacement of Windsor watermains!
That was just in 2006. What about in previous years? Were those sums included as part of the Mayor's Council presentation to justify that no watermain levy money was diverted? If so, is that how Windsor levy money was to be used?

Then I had a blinding flash of inspiration. Is there an issue also with the sewer surcharge funds for which we need an investigation?

Perhaps the Ministry or Auditor General or outside forensic auditor can add this to the list of matters to be investigated along with the watermains. I note that in a Letter to the Editor in Saturday's paper, a writer added the arena to the mix. What the heck in for a penny, in for a pound I always say---add that one too!

Windsor has a big sewer problem similar to that with watermains:
  • "Windsor and other cities... have old sewer infrastructure systems that will require a significant amount of funding to bring them up to current standards.

    Windsor has problems with regards to aging and inadequate sewer systems similar to these older cities. More specifically, Windsor assumed inadequate sewer system infrastructures through previous annexations that were at lower standards than what was being installed in the City at the time. The City also has numerous “combined” sanitary & storm sewers. In most cases, the upgrades require the separation and installation of both sanitary & storm sewer systems to correct the problem."
Why am I talking now about sewers? Is it just me or didn't you find it odd that the Mayor spent so much time at the last Council meeting berating Councillors, and Councillor Halberstadt in particular, about the sewer surcharge? I really did not understand the reason for him doing so.

He also made a big point of saying that the sewer surcharge was under the control of Council. In other words, he was saying to them that they were at risk on this one. They could not hide behind some separate organization like WUC if there was a problem. It would be all theirs. It was almost like he was threatening them with it for reasons unknown.

I found it rather presumptuous of the Mayor to tell us no matter what, the water rates are staying where they are. Strange from a guy who 2 years earler thought they could be decreased.

So I got suspicious. Did he want the water rates kept high to increase the sewer surcharge amount? Why was so much money needed for sewers...just to eliminate back-ups or was a lot of money needed for sewer projects for the East end arena or the Tunnel Improvements or to create "shovel ready" land at the airport for developers at taxpayer expense. I'd like to know the answer.

A bit of history. The sewer surcharge was first introduced in 1994. The sewer surcharge amounts are huge. The following are the revenues generated by the City Sewer Surcharge on the water bill for the years 2003 to 2007:

2003.......$28.3 million
2004.......$33.0 million
2005.......$37.1 million
2006.......$36.2 million
2007.......$18.4 million for the first six months

One reason for fighting to keep the water rates so high is that it generates increased sewer surcharge amounts. Thus $600M over 30 years for watermains is a lot better for the sewer surcharge than $660M over 100 years. You get to add the sewer amount on the $20M per year ($600M/30) rather than $6.6M ($660M/100)

I have not been able to find out exactly what the sewer surcharge is to be used for. With the watermain levy, it was clear that it was for capital projects only. I cannot find a specific document which outlines the use of it.

Here is a funny comment from the past though from ex-Mayor David Burr in 1987. It shows how wrong one can be talking about the future, just like the "temporary" income tax or the DRIC traffic projections:

  • "Most residential and commercial property owners would get tax decreases if Windsor established a sewage surcharge on water bills, Mayor David Burr told the Windsor Rotary Club on Monday.

    Burr said large water users would pay relatively more, but they should because they also generate more sewage for treatment."

The closest I can find about the background is this. In 1993, it was said:

  • "Council decided Tuesday that sewer costs will no longer be rolled into property taxes. Instead, the $9.8 million it costs the city to treat waste water and maintain the sewer system will be raised through surcharges based on water consumption."

It was also said in 1993:

  • "Regardless of the response, Mayor Mike Hurst says the city is determined to press ahead with what he believes is a fairer "user-pay" approach to funding sewage treatment costs.

    If you flush more water down the drain and into a sewage treatment plant, you should pay more, the mayor says...

    "For the average residential taxpayer, it (the surcharge) is going to be a wash; that's the bottom line," predicts finance commissioner Wills."

In a 1996 Star story I saw the comment:

  • "The sewer surcharge goes into city coffers but is collected by the Windsor Utilities Commission, which is responsible for providing water and electricity.

    The surcharge is used to maintain and replace sewage treatment plants, pumping stations and sanitary sewers."

In the 2004 Opeating Budget I saw the comment that there was a reserve account:

  • "for ongoing maintenance & repair of the existing sewer system and pollution control plants"

In July, 2007 Council passed a resoution stating:

  • "the revenue from the combined Sewer Surcharge rates BE USED to fund the City’s ongoing sewer operations, the operationalization and long-term debt charges for the Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant Upgrade & Expansion, and continue to fund the sewer infrastructure upgrade program to address the basement flooding issue."

It is clear that sewer surcharge money was to be used for sewer costs only, both capital and operating, unlike the water levy which was specifically capital only. There were to be no sewer charges from property taxes. The surcharge amount started out at 73.5 per cent of what customers pay for water and has grown since then.

If there was a written statement from an equivalent "Ms. Zuber" on the sewer side, then the task of finding out where money went would be easy. Unless one has access to the accounts of the City, there is no real way to find out if the sewer surcharge money has been used the way it is supposed to be used. However, I have been able to find out the following:

  1. In 2004, "almost $900,000 in streetsweeping and litter-pickup costs [were charged] to the city's sewer surcharge account" rather than to the the pollution control and environmental services division so it could "reduce its budget by 7.3 per cent."

  2. In 2004, "Council has approved $180,000 as the city's part of an expenditure of $360,000 to continue a larviciding program in the city to counteract threats from the West Nile virus and vector mosquitoes...The city's portion will be covered by the existing sewer surcharge.

  3. In 2005, funding was again approved for a larviciding program at an estimated gross expenditure of approximately $100,000, and a net cost of approximately $50,000 from the 2005 allocation for sewer surcharge

  4. Have we overpaid on sludge processing [BLOG "How Smelly Sludge Turned Non-odorous" September 08, 2006]

  5. In 2005 "Council approved spending $7 million for a series of sewer rehabilitation projects across the city....Also included in the projects will be new pavement and watermain construction, all of which will be funded from the sewer surcharge fund.

  6. Again in 2005, there was an expenditure Rossini Boulevard Sewers, Pavement, and Watermain Rehabilitation to be funded from the Sewer Surcharge Fund and from a developer contribution

  7. What projects make up the "Ongoing city-wide general sewer rehabilitation program" that went from $1,620,349 in 2004 to $7,297,000 in 2007.

Are some of these expenditures adding insult to injury given Watermain-gate. Don't you find it ironic that we have a watermain levy for which money was to be used for capital but that was used for operating instead and perhaps for Tecumseh watermains. And now, it seems that money that was set aside for sewers was used for watermains. It's bizarre.

Is this merely the tip of the ice-berg? It's not a huge number of matters that I found. I grant you that the amounts of money spent (other than #7) are relatively small. In the circumstances, however, I believe an explantion is required. In the circumstances, that explanation needs to be provided by an outside expert thoroughly examining the sewer books and records. In the circumstances, we need that explanation now.

Watermain-gate: Little Sideshows

Oh WUC Chair and Councillor Junior. You need a lesson in Corporate Governance and quickly. You are the Chair of the Windsor Utilities Commission for heaven's sake. You have legal duties and responsibilities.

Councillor Lewenza's classic comment which will last forever is:
  • "There's nothing in the management ranks that an auditor is going to find that is going to alleviate residents from the ultimate responsibility of having to pay those fees to replace the system," Lewenza said. "We need to stop focusing on these little sideshows and focus on the real priority of fixing the city's infrastructure.

    Lewenza said Halberstadt has been adding fuel to the fire to create confusion. "

Councillor/Chair Junior should be ashamed of himself. He is trying to divert attention away too now. He does not have to continue sniping at Councillor Halberstadt. Gord Henderson has used the "c" word --compromise-- when talking about the border file and the DRIC road so everything is fine now.

Little sideshows like truth and ending confusion in a matter that may be worth over a half a billion of taxpayer dollars are unimportant I guess in his realm. What is going on at the WUC circus is something that the Chair seemingly cannot tell us for some reason since it is the Mayor who does all of the talking and explaining not him.

If Monica Wolfson is correct and a consultant's report says that WUC "needs to spend $660 million over 100 years" then an auditor doing a traditional audit would not be interested in this. However, an investigator trying to uncover the truth about rates would. It may be that we can do what needs to be done but in a different fashion that causes less hardship to taxpayers.

I know it is only a dollar a day to the Councillor but then again how much extra payment is he receiving because of all of these WUC problems that would cover that buck-a-day.

Did WUC's auditor pick up that money may have been diverted from capital to operating in violation of a Commission Resolution? If not, why not? If so, what did they do about it?

The Councillor just does not get it. He and his colleagues are just not believed any more on this subject! The issue is no longer just the WUC rates but it is their credibility both in their oversight of WUC and as politicians.

Just think of this. In November, 2006, the Mayor was re-elected with almost 78% of the vote. Less than a year later, after citizen outrage, he is forced to bring in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to do an investigation! Such an action is almost unprecedented in Ontario; it is so rare. Has the Mayor's popularity dropped so much, so quickly? Has he lost the support of Windsorites so that he has become a true lame duck politician?

The comment by Councilor Lewenza is most strange anyway. You would think his due diligence as Chair would require him to find out the answer to the questions he raised. Wasn't he the one who said right at the beginning:

  • "Coun. Ken Lewenza, who is chairman of the Windsor Utilities Commission, said he didn't know how long the commission had been diverting funds.

    Officials were vague on the details about why a designated fee would be used for other purposes, or whether doing so is illegal...

    Lewenza said he understood the commission started diverting the funds to pay for overhead costs to avoid raising water rates. He suspected it's been a practice for several years and said it appeared politicians didn't want to raise rates, so utility administrators had to find money somewhere.

    Since a former regime at the utility left several years ago, councillors have been overhauling the way the utility operates.

    "It's been a long and drawn-out process," Lewenza said. "We are finding out things every day. We still need to do a lot of things to better run the utility."

Perhaps the Councillor is confused himself. Perhaps he is the source of confusion and Councillor Halberstadt's Motion is to clear it up.

Junior also said:

  • "We've been focused on how do we fix it, we haven't been looking at blame," Lewenza said."

It's time now to start looking at blame! Depending on the results, certain people may not be holding their positions for much longer.