Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 28, 2007

And Some Want A PUBLIC Bridge


The Press Release speaks for itself.

It's too bad that Brian Masse did not allow Dan Stamper to participate at his conference the other week on public authorities. It might have made an interesting subject to debate.

We might also have learned about other negatives of public crossings like what happens if the State closes down.

Here is the dumbness of the DRIC approach in Windsor/Detroit. If a P3 bridge is built, it is "public" in name only. It would be leased out for up to 100 years. to a private operator! So in effect, one private operator might be replaced by another.

Is that all that DRIC was set up to do: to force the Bridge Co. to sell out! If they were doing a lousy job, one might have some sympathy. Too bad for DRIC that they are the best border operator between Canada and the US!


AMBASSADOR BRIDGE TRAFFIC WILL CONTINUE TO FLOW SMOOTHLY, DESPITE PENDING MICHIGAN GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Detroit. September 28, 2007— The Ambassador Bridge will remain open to serve the public as other Michigan government controlled highway operations prepare for possible state shutdown. In fact, Ambassador Bridge will boost employees and bridge staff to respond to additional traffic if government controlled crossings are impacted by the Michigan budget challenges. The Bridge’s portion of Gateway Project construction will continue on schedule and according to contract even if MDOT work is affected by the state budget.

“The traveling public and international commerce should know the Ambassador Bridge embraces its responsibility and obligation to accommodate our customers,” said Dan Stamper, Ambassador Bridge President. “As a taxpayer, employer and corporate citizen we are watching and sincerely hope for a positive resolution of the budget from state leaders. Until then, we want the traveling public to have confidence in the border and will have our dedicated employees ready to accommodate any effect on the other government crossing.”

“Our private sector status is a real plus during these trying times in Michigan government,” Stamper observed. “That’s why we have invested $500 million in border improvements and why we are moving forward with Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Span well ahead of the time it is needed.”

As North America’s most traveled commercial crossing, the bridge between Windsor and Detroit is privately owned by the Detroit International Bridge Company and the Canadian Transit Company. Private investment by the Ambassador Bridge has provided the ability for MDOT to obtain federal matching funds for the $225 million Gateway Project and investment for the Enhancement Span would offer $2 billion to Michigan for road projects. The new span will generate 3,700 new jobs without further burdening Michigan’s taxpayers.

“With a backdrop of economic challenges and Michigan budget woes, the Ambassador Bridge is making a real contribution to business confidence at the border,” said Stamper. “We are focusing our efforts on building a better bridge and we support Michigan’s elected officials as they invest the state’s resources where they are most needed.”

About the Ambassador Bridge
Built in 1929, the Ambassador Bridge stands between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario as an international symbol and link between the two countries. It is privately owned by the Detroit International Bridge Company and The Canadian Transit Company. The Gateway Project is a major economic development project that creates high paying local jobs by connecting area freeways to the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit's Mexicantown neighborhood. It includes reconstructed freeways, new interchanges for I-75 and I-96 and connections to I-94, and a state-of-the-art pedestrian bridge connecting east and west Mexicantown and is a partnership of Ambassador Bridge, MDOT and FHWA. The owners believe in the development and wellness of the local community where their business is operated and continue to support a variety of local organizations. www.ambassadorbridge.com

Four WUC Questions Of The Apocalypse


I cannot imagine what must be in the minds of certain people at City Hall, in the WUC boardroom and in the campaign offices of certain Windsor MPPs.

What's the big deal? Why won't four simple W.ACT questions be answered? Each question can be answered simply by a YES or NO. Instead of answers, we get distractions, diversions and smears.

Poor Chris Schnurr and his group. He is attacked by a City Councillor and a Cabinet Minister. It's not because he is not asking good questions. Nope, it is all because he lost out in a campaign for a Council seat and now he's accused raising an issue to help him in a municipal election that will take place over three years from now. His fellow members are attacked as, oh my goodness if I can even type the word, Conservatives. And finally, W.ACT is being chastised for not meeting the "condition precedent" to Junior's demand to come to the Windsor Utilities Boardroom. Never mind that it appears that Junior didn't want to be there all. I guess that does not count.

I am most amused that Doug McArthur of the Star is being blocked as well. He wrote in his Star BLOG:
  • "The Windsor Utilities Commission is refusing to release minutes from audit and finance committee meetings held this year and last.

    "I was told that the privacy protection act precludes us from releasing information if our audit and finance committee meetings are of a contractual nature," Syliva de Vries, manager of corporate communications for WUC and EnWin Utilities, said Thursday. "If we speak about ratepayers or contracts or anything to do with legal matters they are not to be released."
He is making a Municipal Freedom of Information Act request for the information that he is seeking. Trust me, that may not come quickly. With appeals, it should take about a year to get an anwer. Sheesh, if he cannot get information how can poor lowly Taxpayers get it?

Let's cut through all the BS. Here are the four questions:
  • "Of our city council we demanded that they:

    1. Withdraw the motion calling for a provincial-municipal audit;

    2. Apologize properly to the citizens of Windsor for their shameful behaviour and actions respecting the WUC/Enwin matter; and

    3. To clarify the issue of potential conflicts of interest, they must immediately bring an application under Section 7 of the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act to ask a Judge for direction on notice to citizens so that any who wish, may intervene to assist the Court.

    4. Properly introduce a new motion, with full public participation calling upon the Auditor General to conduct a broad-based inquiry and audit."

That is what the meeting was all about. That is what Chair/Councillor Lewenza would be asked to answer. Each question can be answered by one word, yes or no.

If all of the answers are "yes," then the controversy is over isn't?

If Junior does not want to meet, a simple written response is all that is required.

As the political saying goes, W.ACT must remain "on message." They must not change its course because of the silly tactics that are being used to divert people's attention away from the real issues. And they won't!

Schwartz Run-up



Can you feel excitement in the air as the day approaches when the new Schwartz report will come out. The anticipation is absolutely underwhelming.

I thought I would give you some information as a bit of a trailer before the main feature is shown:

  • Apparently Sam is working "round the clock" doing air-quality evaluations, soil evaluations and design work. Is this the same as working "feverishly?" For which activity can Sam bill at a higher rate?

  • Did Eddie's travel expenses to NYC to meet up with his experts come directly out of his expense account or were they charged to Parsons Brinckerhoff who would then charge Schwartz's company and who would perhaps then charge Estrin's law firm and then Estrin would charge the City as a disbursement expense item. Perhaps one of our intrepid, investigative reporters in Windsor could find the answer out to that.

  • Is there a reason he had to be in NYC on a Monday and miss Council and not some other day of the week?

  • If you want to know whether the report will come out before, after or during the election, the answer is yes

  • I must admit I don't know what the consultants are doing and why it is taking so long. They must have had something done in order to speak to the DRIC people and for someone to spill information to that Windsor Star columnist.

  • It seems that the consultants were hired to "counter" DRIC's plan. Don't you think it might be better for everyone if the consultants were instructed to work with the Governments cooperatively to arrive at a solution. Haven't we had enough of contentious matters.

  • I wonder if anyone has figured out how many reports Gridlock Sam has actually written since he started working for the City including drafts, redrafts and re-re-drafts.

  • Where will Sam's presentation take place this time, in Windsor or Tecumseh or elsewhere in the County if there is no space available on such short notice.

  • I wonder how many people actually will show up this time. If this is a Council meeting, will Alan McKinnon be able to register as a delegation and will he be able to cross examine the Mayor this time around

  • You know what would be very ironic. What if Eddie's consultants solve the air quality problem with their new road building. Surely it must mean that the Bridge Company no longer has to satisfy Transport Canada's requirements and so can build their bridge more quickly

  • I see that the DRIC deadline is October 15. My recollection is that the City has not always met deadlines and has asked for extensions. I wonder if they will do so again.

  • I can hardly wait to see the City Solicitor's report about how much this all cost!

Closing Dwight's Mouth





I would hope that after reading this BLOG, the Dwightbulb will go on in your mind! You know, the energy efficient, compact, fluorescent one that is being circulated. As our Minister of Energy, Dwight Duncan, said:

"Windsor is the perfect place to launch this campaign."

He's right since he has the support of our Mayor to do so. And right before the Provincial election too. What co-incidental, and perfect, timing as well.

Accordingly, Dwight Duncan did not need the letter of support from Mayor Eddie Francis at his nomination meeting the way that Sandra Pupatello did. His seat was safe! No one was going after him. He had his support already.

Sandra as everyone knows, had been bruised and battered by the Windsor Star on the arena file. She had to be taught a lesson that, in Windsor, as I have written before, "The Media is the Government." You must kowtow to the Windsor Star and its editorial opinion if you intend to be successful in this City as a politician.

Clearly there are a number of politicians in the City who understand the facts of life and do what they're told. Oh don't be silly, no one from the Star contacts anyone and says do this or do that. They don't have to. All the politician needs to do is look at the news stories, read the editorials, observe what Gord writes and see what Letters to the Editor are published. The message comes through loud and clear!

Think I am kidding.....did Bill Marra run for mayor last time around when in my opinion he was a sure and easy winner, especially after the Project Ice Track Tecumseh move. How many other people did NOT run for Mayor fearing that they would be hammered if they did?

Is this unique to Windsor? Hardly. The situation however is worse in a one newspaper town where the newspaper is the dominant media outlet. That is not unique to Windsor either.

What is troublesome in this City is the attitude of the newspaper where its Editor comes out and says:
  • "We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change. I think we got a lot of results this year and this now validates the results we got."

So the Star is on a mission, whatever it might be at that particular time, and we poor paying subscribers have to try and figure it out so that we might filter what the Star publishes. Thank goodness for the Internet so that we can see what other media outlets have to say and not be stuck just looking at the Windsor Star.

What's interesting to me is that we get some insight into some of the Star reporters and columnists because of their BLOGs. We even learn what makes some of them tick. It certainly allowed me to read their articles in a different light.

Let me give an example, as I have done before, of how the Star does things. You can form your own opinion for the reason for them doing so. Here is mine.

If one compares the online story originally written by Chris Thompson about W.ACT starting a Legal Fund "Legal fund to fight WUC established by angry group" with the story that was published "Legal fund planned to challenge WUC" not only is the headline changed but a key part of the online story has been removed:
  • "MPP Dwight Duncan (L. -- Windsor -St. Clair), who is Ontario's Energy Minister, said the citizens of Windsor should be satisfied that any provincial audit will be thorough.

    "This will be in my view the kind of audit people in Windsor can be confident in," said Duncan.

    "I'm satisfied the people will get the answers they are looking for."

    He said Schnurr should think twice before claiming to represent the citizens of Windsor because he has unsuccessfully ran for council.

    "I think Mr. Schnurr is just trying to make some news for himself rather than representing the people of Windsor," Duncan said."

I believe that this is a significant omission designed to help out Dwight. It was a very cheap-shot by the Minister and unworthy of him. It is "schmear" mongering by a politician who is running scared. He will win and big-time I am sure since his opponents seem incapable of capitalizing on the silver platter handed to them. But he still feels the need to lash out. He must still must feel the need to compensate for the "meltdown in a failed party leadership bid that made him a laughingstock" as described by Gord Henderson:

  • "To understand where Duncan is now, presiding over a financial juggernaut and just a heartbeat removed from the premier's office, it helps to look back to the night of Dec. 1, 1996, at Maple Leaf Gardens where Duncan, to the horror and rage of his supporters, crossed the floor to support an unpopular frontrunner for the leadership. He was eventually reduced to a puddle of pleading and whimpering "Where's Laura?" as he sought out his now ex-wife Laura Joy. It was a scene of despair captured for eternity by merciless cameras and mikes.

In effect, the Star is saving Dwight from himself.

But a comment like this is not untypical of Dwight. He made another unfortunate comment the other day when discussing privatization of Hydro. Dwight shot off his mouth by calling his opponent's claims "laughable" and said that the only debate that he would get involved in "can debate me anytime and anywhere by running for public office."

Those kinds of comments are uncalled for by a Senior Cabinet Minister. Doesn't anyone in Dwight's camp understand that Duncan is making a complete fool of himself.

The Star editors are very aware of this. Oh sure, someone can say there was not enough space in the Star to put in this comment by the Minister. However, the Star needs Dwight around. You see the Star's real mission is to make sure that the Ambassador Bridge Company never gets to build its Enhancement Project.

And back in February, Dwight said in a news story:

  • "Local MPP Dwight Duncan (Windsor Tecumseh) agreed public ownership must be in place at the new bridge.

    "There is an opportunity for private investment," Duncan said. "But at end of day this is a major piece of infrastructure that should belong to all people on both sides of the border.

    "We will proceed on that basis."

Why take a chance and have Dwight lose because of some ridiculous remark that he made concerning a citizen's group that has captured the imagination of the public.

After all, what we don't know won't hurt Dwight and the Star's "change, positive change."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Picture Is Worth A Lot Of Dollars

Spike Bell does not have to worry. As you can tell from the photographs I took, he does not have to be concerned about me being his competitor.

WINDSOR'S PREMIER ARENA FACILITY GEM




I took this photo about a month ago from Lauzon Road. Don't blink too quickly as you drive over the railway tracks or you will miss the view.

Pretty magnificent sight isn't it of our multi-multi-million dollar, on budget, on-time premier sports facility! In fact it is awe-inspiring. As in, AWWWWWWWWW are we paying $65M and counting for THAT!

I trust that there is something more there now for the big tour for residents that is to take place.

It's another property in town that is a "jewel." You'd think that we not only can afford to have Breakfast at Tiffany's but lunch and dinner as well with all of the diamonds in the rough in this City.

I read Gord Henderson's column some time ago where he waxed eloquent about the work being done there. I went out to photograph the site at the time but just did not have the space to post the BLOG until today

  • "Meet me at the security gate next to the Lear plant in 30 minutes," barked Sadler. A believer in show and tell, rather than vacuous press releases, he figured I should see with my own eyes how this long-awaited complex is taking shape.

    And the answer? It's really and truly happening. Tucked away behind the Lear plant, out of sight from Tecumseh and Lauzon roads, work on this 302,000-square-foot complex is racing forward and making up ground lost during strikes by labourers and equipment operators that set it back more than a month...

    [Collavino] understands why the arena is flying under the public radar. "I really think people don't know where it's at. It's a golden gem hidden away. The Lear plant and the old Woolco store do a really good job of hiding it." That will change this fall as the dome rises and with the extension of adjacent McHugh Avenue from Lauzon to a new Little River bridge to be built in 2008."

My photograph is taken from Lauzon right near the railway tracks. And you know what, they were right: hidden, flying under the public radar, Lear plant do[es] a really good job of hiding it.

TUNNEL PLAZA EXPROPRIATIONS


We now know what I have suspected. The Tunnel Plaza Improvement project is over budget ie the project was to cost $30M split amongst the three Governments. We have not yet been told what the new cost is. I have heard it is in the many millions over budget.

One needs to ask: Is there really a need for the expansion of the Tunnel Plaza?

I generally use the Tunnel to cross over to the US since it is more convenient for me. I wanted to cross over on Friday morning a few weeks ago around 7:30 AM or so and it looked like it was jammed since traffic was backed up on Goyeau.

So I thought I would try the bridge instead. It flowed smoothly with two or three cars in line ahead of me at Customs. I got through in no time at all!

My point is that more and more people may choose the bridge if the Tunnel has such problems.

Nevertheless, Governments, just willing to spend taxpayer money no matter what, may be moving forward at the Tunnel even if expansion is not needed. Burger King may have lucked out to get their move now.

I hear that the Burger King and Top Hat people may be close to a deal too. Burger King and the City negotiated something acceptable re the Drive-Thru. Perhaps the other land owners in the area can get their deals done now!

Some people may have thought the Tunnel improvements were falling through with all of the delays. I just happened to see this building which is across from the Tunnel entrance and the sign on it.

It looks like a pharmacy and Laser clinic were planning to go there.

Can you imagine the rent money that the owner of the building would receive if these 2 organizations opened their facility "soon!" Now the owner loses the rental if there is an expropriatiation. If the 2 groups started doing work on their leasehold improvements and then they are expropriated, then they would lose a bundle too. The amounts could be huge by the time this is done.

Obviously, these people acted like Fred's Market on Huron Church when they were in front of Council some time ago. They could not put their business on hold waiting for DRIC to make up their mind! In the same way, these people could not put their businesses on hold waiting for Eddie to make his mind so they moved forward.

From the phone number it looks like the owner of the building is the Windsor Detroit Tunnel Duty Free Shop Inc. or is somehow associated with them since that is their number. The extension given is the phone number of its Vice-President. That ties in with story the Star published in 2004 in relation to closing a portion of Goyeau which said:
  • "Along the stretch of Goyeau being considered, the only building not owned by either the city or the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop is a Burger King franchise opposite the tunnel entrance."
There could be some tough negotiations over amounts I would guess. I wonder if the expropriations will drag on as long as those at the Norwich Block and with all of the bitterness! But at least in this case the Feds and Province pick up two thirds of the amounts up to a project limit of $30M although I thought the City was to do the negotiating.

My assumption is that if the amouts go over $30M, City taxpayers have to pick up the balance.

You know what I was just thinking....Canderel here we come again!

We may have the best border crossing and Tunnel plaza that cost millions to create...except most everyone will use the Bridge! And then if a new DRIC Bridge is built to further divide the traffic, very few may use the Tunnel at all.

Thanks Mayor....you can have your Tunnel Canderel too as your legacy with us paying for it!

Will The Watermain-gate Truth Ever Come Out


Since Monica Wolfson is no longer writing any more investigative WUC stories and Dave Battagello is no longer writing BLOGs so he must have to be on his best behavior, I have no idea who at the Windsor Star would be interested to follow up on these tidbits of information you will read about today.

Somebody is trying very hard in my opinion to ensure that Windsor Taxpayers find out very little about the Windsor Utilities Commission matter.

For what reason, I do not know. Is there a scandal that is being covered up that we do not know about such as gross negligence or money issues or is there something that an investigation in WUC will ultimaely lead to that will open up a real can of worms or is the whole episode merely incompetence with one foolish move after another by our elected officials at all levels?

We have had Procedural By-law hijinks, a private phone call by the Mayor to the Ontario Auditor General, conversations between Ministers of the Government that no one is prepared to disclose and an audit whose scope has not yet been defined or whose Terms of Reference have yet been completed.

If that was not bad enough, no one wants to listen to Taxpayers. We have been shutout at City Council and ignored by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. To top it off, if one dares say something that could be perceived as questioning the Establishment then not only is one smeared by a local City Councillor who thinks he's a somebody because he has the title "Chair" but also by one of the most powerful Cabinet Ministers in the Government. Can you believe it?


Okay, okay... you think I'm taking this too far. Here we go again. You are going to read about another of his Conspiracy Theories you must thinking. And you are correct.


I will let you be the judge this time about my accuracy.

JUNIOR AND THE MEETING

Come on, get real... how hard is it to set up a meeting. One phone call or an exchange of e-mails, and it is done. Not in this City or when dealing with the Establishment!

You recall I'm sure that Don McArthur in a Star BLOG quoted Junior as saying:

  • "We will meet with every group. We will meet with everybody that has concerns."

I naïvely thought that Junior meant it. I was asked to act as a facilitator to set up the meeting and I try to do so. Here are the e-mails:

  • 1) From: Ed Arditti
    To: Lewenza, Ken
    Sent: Sat Sep 22 08:47:06 2007
    Subject: Acting as a Facilitator

    Chris Schurr read your comments in Don McArthur's Windsor Star BLOG where you said that you "will sit down for a chat with anyone and everyone in this city who has concerns or questions about skyrocketing water rates." It seems that includes W.ACT as well!

    Chris asked me, since he knows I know you, to try and set up a meeting with you ASAP to see if this matter can be resolved quickly. It does not appear as if there are big differences, perhaps just big misunderstandings that need to be clarified in a face-to-face session.

    Chris proposes meeting tomorrow (Sunday) with just the three of us in attendance since time is of the essence.

    There will be a W.ACT press conference set up shortly, and it is Chris' desire to have that conference say that everything has been resolved rather than W.ACT is in an adversarial position.

    If this makes sense, give me a call and we can set up the time and place.


    2) From: Lewenza, Ken
    To: arditti@sympatico.ca
    Sent: Sunday, September 23, 2007 7:56 PM
    Subject: Re: Acting as a Facilitator

    Sorry I was unable to get back to you yesterday as I was away this weekend.

    Unfortunatly I am booked all day tomorrow and I am in Toronto from Tuesday to Thursday morning.

    I will be glad to meet with Chris and yourself on Thursday anytime after 11:00 am.

    So that I am prepared and also seeing that Chris will most likely have questions that go much more in depth than most citizens require, I only ask that Chris prepare a list of items that he would like some clarification or answers too.

    If Thursday is to late for Chris than perhaps I can have him meet with Max.

    Ken



  • 3) From: Ed Arditti
  • To: Lewenza, Ken
    Sent: Mon Sep 24 13:33:46 2007
    Subject: Re: Acting as a Facilitator

    Chris and I can meet you Thursday at 5 PM at Vermouth 333 Ouellette Ave

    Let me know if that is OK

    Ed Arditti


  • 4) From: Lewenza, Ken
    To: arditti@sympatico.ca
    Sent: Monday, September 24, 2007 10:13 PM
    Subject: Re: Acting as a Facilitator

    On Thursday I will be @ the Windsor Utilities office. I will put aside a room where we can meet for 5:00 pm.

    I am some what perplexed as to why Chris has asked you to facilitate this meeting instead of just contacting me directly just as everyone else does.

    If its ok with you I hope you too may put a list together of items or concerns that you want to talk about as well, and e mail them to me so I can be better prepared to provide you with the information that the both of you seek.

    Ken


  • 5) From: Ed Arditti
    To: Lewenza, Ken
    Sent: Tue Sep 25 13:58:25 2007
    Subject: Re: Acting as a Facilitator

    My preference is to keep our session very informal and relaxed but very to the point. That is why I suggested a lounge. I am just as happy with a coffee shop downtown as an alternative

    If I had wanted an office arrangement, I would have set up a boardroom in some lawyer's office that I know. I certainly would want it in a "neutral" location, not the WUC office.

    No need to be perplexed. I thought I had explained why Chris asked me to set up the meeting in my first email.

    I am sure that you have read the speech Chris gave at the first press conference. That would be the subject-matter of our conversation.

    Ed Arditti


  • 6) From: Lewenza, Ken
    To: arditti@sympatico.ca
    Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 11:35 PM
    Subject: Re: Acting as a Facilitator

    Mr Arditti

    On Thursday I will be available to yourself and Chris in the Windsor Utilities board room.
    Based on the keen level of interest both you and Chris have invested on matters related to WUC, I think it would be best to hold this meeting in a professional atmosphere not to mention the fact that this is where the business of WUC takes place.

    I also wish to hold this meeting in the WUC board room for the purpose of having information @ my finger tips for the purpose of serving you better.

    Based on the history on this file in combination with my better judgement, I will only meet with you in the WUC board room at this time.

    Ken


  • 7) From: Ed Arditti
    To: Lewenza, Ken
    Sent: Wednesday, September 26, 2007 3:45 PM
    Subject: Re: Acting as a Facilitator

    Chair/Councillor Lewenza,

    My function was a very simple one. I was hoping that I could set up quickly and easily a meeting between you and the W.ACT Group to try and resolve issues and clear up any misunderstandings.

    It is obvious to me that you have not yet had the opportunity to read Mr. Schnurr’s speech at his first press conference or you would understand what the discussion was to be all about. I am not certain what more information you would need "at your fingertips" to deal with W.ACT’s issues.

    It was always the intention to deal in a "professional" manner with you. I do not understand why location is so important to you and now has become a condition precedent to meeting. I have never had such an experience before when trying to set up a meeting.

    However, a major concern is your attitude and whether any meeting would now be worthwhile. You continued your insults against W.ACT in the McArthur BLOG by saying:

    "We will meet with every group. We will meet with everybody that has concerns."

    Although he has questioned the motivations of local blogger Chris Schnurr and the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers (WeACT), Lewenza said he and Zalev would also be willing to sit down and talk with them. Lewenza stressed he wouldn't be keen on that particular meeting because he doubted Schnurr and the group, which is calling for a "full and complete financial, business and operational investigation of the WUC and any third party relationships with Enwin by an independent third party," would ever be satisfied.

    "I know the difference between meeting with a citizens group that no matter how many questions you answer they're just going to keep trying to add more confusion versus a person that has very legitimate questions. I have no time for people who have personal agendas and no interest in bringing some understanding to the issue," said Lewenza.

    "They deserve to have their questions answered but we have to look reasonably at how much time that we are going to spend on them when they have no interest in the answer."

    Notwithstanding your bravado, I had hoped that in an informal, yet professional, session between you and W.ACT would end any differences and achieve results for the Taxpayers of Windsor. Your final comment in your e-mail disturbs me greatly. You said

    "Based on the history on this file in combination with my better judgement, I will only meet with you in the WUC board room at this time."

    Your comment with respect to your "better judgement" is grossly insulting. It suggests to me strongly a bias on your side that can never be changed no matter what anyone from W.ACT says and no matter how reasonable their suggestions.

    To be direct, I do not see how a meeting between you personally as Chair of WUC and with W.ACT has any hope of being productive given your attitude.

    In the circumstances I think it would be best for you as Chair to delegate to another of your fellow Commissioners/Councillors the task of meeting with W.ACT. May I respectfully suggest that the person should be instructed to go into the meeting with W.ACT with an open mind.

    Ed Arditti
Look at how much has been exchanged and we still haven't got a location for a meeting. Not only that, it is an absolute condition precedent that the meeting must be held at the Windsor Utilities office or Junior won't attend. Mind you, maybe this is a typical political statement since Junior reserves the right to himself to change since it is only "at this time." Perhaps it would be different "next time."

I expect there to be a few more e-mails back and forth. If Junior didn't want to meet W.ACT since he's afraid of the group, why didn't he just say so. Well if he did, he would look like a fool for what he said to the Windsor Star wouldn't he.

Clearly, he's does not dare meet. He knows very well what Chris Schnurr wants and needs and is afraid to give it. Why is he scared, because it will open up a Pandora's box? It will become a source of unforeseen trouble that cannot be controlled by City Hall if a good forensic accountant is hired.

And that brings me to the second point.

WHO WILL THE FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT BE

You already know this:


  1. No one knows yet what the Terms of Reference are for the audit nor do we know the scope of it


  2. Our local MPPs/Cabinet Ministers have played a very active role in this matter in discussing the subject with the Minister of Municipal Affairs but we don't know what they said


  3. Dwight Duncan has chosen to protect the city government, not his constituents, right before an election


  4. Guess which female Minister from Windsor the Mayor supported at her nomination meeting!


  5. Dwight's latest Schnurr schmear..."He said Schnurr should think twice before claiming to represent the citizens of Windsor because he has unsuccessfully ran for council.

    "I think Mr. Schnurr is just trying to make some news for himself rather than representing the people of Windsor," Duncan said.
It is of course very vital to have proper Terms and a good forensic accountant involved or this becomes an exercise in futility. After all, no one wants a whitewash but the truth. Do you feel comfortable that the Province, the Senior Level of Government, really has our interest at heart or is more interested in protecting the Mayor and Council for some reason.

Here is what the Minister of Municipal Affairs wrote to the Mayor and Council about retaining a forensic accountant
  • “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.”

As you can see there is a process. For those of you who are used to Government tenders, you know that most tenders or Requests for Proposals are put on the MERX system.

  • “MERX is Canada’s leading electronic-tendering service

    MERX is the most complete source of Canadian public tenders, private tenders, U.S. tenders and private-sector construction news available in Canada. MERX has leveled the playing field so that businesses of any size can have easy and affordable access to billions of dollars in contracting opportunities with the Government of Canada (GC), participating provincial and municipal governments, the U.S. Government, state and local governments, and the private sector.”

I decided to check out the MERX website to see what the Request for Proposal was. I could not find anything. Accordingly I contacted a forensic accounting firm whom I knew was interested in doing the job and here’s what they wrote to me:

  • “When I initially inquired about the RFP with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, I was told that it would be posted in MERX (as per standard provincial procurement policy).

    Following up a couple weeks ago, I was told by June Wild (your contact?) that the Request for Tender would only be circulated to “at least three” existing vendors of record...

    We were not invited to submit a proposal.”

There is scuttlebutt that I have heard that there was only one proposal submitted.

Is this the way the Government normally operates? Why wouldn’t the RFP be offered on the MERX system so that any forensic accountant in the Province could apply? Was the process changed and why? Why would the Ministry only go to a few selected professionals. It is not that they are in any big hurry it seems since this matter has been outstanding for a very long period of time already with hardly anything being done other than annoy Taxpayers.

CONCLUSION

So there is my conspiracy theory for you.

Junior says he wants to meet. Does he or is he just looking for an excuse not to do so?

In passing, our august Councillor did not come up with the idea to meet that the public on his own but rather "Lewenza said he and Zalev opted for this direct communications approach after speaking with utility officials in another jurisdiction, who tried it." Can you believe that? Our City Councillors are so afraid of the electors that it is pathetic. Perhaps that explains their propensity for in camera meetings and secrecy.

More schmears from Dwight but no light as to what the audit will be from the Province.

Our desire for a full financial, business and operations audit of Windsor Utilities seems more and more unlikely. Our hope for an independent forensic accountant to undertake an independent audit seems dimmer and dimmer. I've pretty much given up on our hope to find the truth.

Finally, I sit here in disbelief waiting for one of the Opposition candidates to take a shot at the incumbents. Only Lisa Lumley who is running against Sandra has done something so far but merely issuing a press release that few have picked up on is hardly the way to campaign to win. Seriously now, if Dwight has to speak out again, then he has to be in trouble on this issue.

She and her colleagues had better start making WUC a campaign issue now before it is too late or they truly will be No-names going down to defeat! Time for a press conference or two...getting the Party Leaders involved and making it another Liberal credibility issue...get the workers out and knock on doors... spread the message.

This file is not becoming a whitewash. The way this file is being handled makes it all hogwash!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

W.ACT R.acts




I have to assume that some political genius thought that attacking a bunch of Windsor taxpayers would mean that they would run away and not do anything further.

How else to explain the absurd actions by WUC Chair, Councillor Ken Lewenza and MPP/Cabinet Minister Dwight Duncan as they tried to smear W.ACT's founder, Chris Schnurr and the members of his group. Instead of working with citizens, these politicians arrogantly chose to fight them. Don't they understand that taxpayers are not going to be intimidated by those whom THEY elected. They just make themselves look foolish.

Another press conference was held today, as promised, to outline what W.ACT was going to do. If someone believed that nothing would happen, they were sadly mistaken. An Ontario Municipal Board Application was filed. Its purpose was effectively to set aside what the Mayor and Council did in passing a Motion that the citizens of Windsor did not want. If successful, it will permit a full financial, business and operational audit to be undertaken as taxpayers want.

Confirmation was also provided the meeting will be held with Junior. Whether anything useful will come from that meeting given Junior's attitude to W.ACT remains to be seen.

I trust also that the Provincial candidates will see the reference in the speech to what Dwight and Sandra discussed and will understand that the Windsor Utilities matter is an election issue for them that could get them defeated.

To me however, the most interesting part of the speech deals with the Legal Fund. If the group can be successful in getting some financing from citizens, then citizens will have a powerful voice in this City once again will not be at the mercy of the Mayor and Council. The fact that donations may be anonymous will cause great consternation at City Hall. I can just see how worried certain people will be wondering who made donations. All of the people who are for business reasons afraid to jeopardize their relationship with City Hall now have an outlet. Since the group, the legal fund and the donors are not within the control of City Hall, I can just imagine how worried certain people are that they may now have lost control.

All of this because of a few drops of water in some pipes. It's crazy!

For your reading enjoyment, the press conference speech and Ontario Municipal Board application

Notes for Press Conference
September 25, 2007
12:15 P.M.


Concerned citizens and members of the press.

I’d like to start by thanking, first and foremost the residents of Windsor who have shared their concerns and offered their support to the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers or WeAct.

On behalf of WeACT, I would also like to thank George Sofos, owner of the Junction, for selflessly donating this space so we can hold our public meetings.

I’ll begin with a quotation from anthropologist and feminist Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Last week, Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers demanded a full and complete financial, business and operational investigation of the WUC and any third party relationships with Enwin by an independent third party. On behalf of taxpayers, we also wished to have input into the Terms of Reference before they are finalized by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs .

We also demanded the following from our City Council and our provincial cabinet ministers, Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello. Of our city council we demanded that they:

1. Withdraw the motion calling for a provincial-municipal audit;

2. Apologize properly to the citizens of Windsor for their shameful behaviour and actions
respecting the WUC/Enwin matter; and

3. To clarify the issue of potential conflicts of interest, they must immediately bring an
application under Section 7 of the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act to ask a Judge for
direction on notice to citizens so that any who wish, may intervene to assist the Court.

4. Properly introduce a new motion, with full public participation calling upon the
Auditor General to conduct a broad-based inquiry and audit.

Of our Liberal cabinet ministers we asked:

1. That MPP’s Sandra Pupatello and Dwight Duncan immediately ask the Auditor
General, under section 17 of the Auditor General Act, to undertake a “special
assignment” - a value for money audit of WUC and Enwin ;

2. In the alternative, that they immediately ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs under
Section 10 of the Municipal Affairs Act to “make an inquiry into any of the affairs of a
municipality” and in particular with respect to the WUC/Enwin matter as was requested
in the Mayor’s motion; and finally

3. The terms of reference of either alternative must be discussed with the citizens of
Windsor at a special meeting called for that purpose so citizens can finally express their
opinion as to what should be done.

We have called you here today to state unequivocally we intend to pursue our plan of action. We did not demand anything too onerous a task. We demanded accountability. We demanded transparency. We demanded answers.

Our message is clear – we do not simply talk about a plan of action. We Act.

The response from our elected officials, namely Councillor Ken Lewenza Jr. and Liberal M.P.P. Dwight Duncan were most unfortunate as they were dismissive of the concerns of residents. Rather than provide fact-based dialogue they felt it prudent to not only discredit the concerns of residents, but also to smear the call to action from our association. Rather than acknowledge and defend the rights that the citizens of Windsor have, Dwight Duncan chose to defend the City of Windsor from taxpayers.

We believe our demands are reasonable and are reflective of the concerns and needs of the voting taxpayers in Windsor.

Liberals, New Democrats, Greens and Progressive Conservatives in the city have united, not to “beat up the municipality” as Dwight Duncan claims, but to demand action. To demand accountability. To represent our concerns on an $830 million bill that will impact taxpayers now and into the future.

Our elected officials must remember what VOTE means – the Voice of Taxpayers Everywhere. Today, we stand united to remind them of this obligation, their contract, if you may, with the residents of the City of Windsor.

It’s about respect.

We deserve no less.

So, what are we going to do?

First, we acknowledge that we are currently arranging a meeting with WUC Chair Ken Lewenza. Despite his past insulting comments regarding the actions of our association, we welcome the opportunity to discuss our demands.

However, we laid out a comprehensive plan of action – an action plan that demanded meaningful discussion and compliance with our demands within a week.

While we look forward to meeting with Councillor Lewenza, we have filed our application to the Ontario Municipal Board, which you all have been provided a copy of. If our demands are honoured, we will withdraw our application to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Briefly, our OMB Application states that it is our opinion that with respect to the Motion regarding the Windsor Utilities Commission investigation, the City of Windsor has contravened or failed to comply with the requirements of the Municipal Act and the City’s Procedural By-law.

It is also our position that any action by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs carried out as a result of the Motion being passed is also improper and a nullity.

In our opinion, the only valid Motion was the one which requested that the Ontario Auditor General investigate this matter. That Motion was never heard and so was never voted on.

We do not seek confrontation – we simply demand that the wrongs as of late be corrected – that council respond to the wishes of the hard working citizens of Windsor. If no such resolution can be found – WE will ACT accordingly.

On the issue of potential conflicts of interest for our Mayor and some members of council who serve on the board of the Windsor Utilities Commission – our resolve is clear. Though the City of Windsor now seems to have changed their position and stated that there is no conflict of interest, we continue to believe otherwise.

However, the legal cost of undertaking such an application is enormous. The City of Windsor has at their disposal your tax dollars to hire lawyers to act for them. We, the residents of Windsor and members of WeACT have only our pay cheques.

This is the reality that we face.

Therefore, WeACT will establish a Legal Fund to which taxpayers may contribute to assist us in our endeavour. What other recourse is available to citizens when we are not even able to make council presentations. The purpose of this legal fund is to assist us with funding any potential challenges regarding conflicts of interest in the WUC matter; and to ensure that taxpayers in the City of Windsor will have a both a ways and a means of making legitimate challenges of decisions made by City Hall.

It will serve to hold our elected representatives accountable.

Donations to the fund would be anonymous if a taxpayer so chose, thereby eliminating any perceived or real concerns of retribution. The fund could grow, with what WeACT believes to be a symbolic gesture of a donation of an amount equalling one month of your new water bill.

The time for this is long overdue. The time has come for citizens to have a method of recourse.

Finally, WeACT continues to have concerns over the nature of the conversation between our M.P.P’s, the Mayor’s office and the Ministry, particularly since Dwight Duncan has expressed publicly that he is more concerned about protecting the City from ratepayers than he is in representing the residents. We call upon our provincial Ministers to disclose the details of these conversations to put to rest any suspicion of exerting influence.

This is not a blame game.

This is not about agendas or personal motivations.

This is all about accountability, transparency and public participation in the process.

Full, open and meaningful discussions with the public, by all levels of government, will yield better results for all ratepayers in Windsor.

We are not out to change the world. Nor are we out to “beat up” our city – the city which each and every one of us cares deeply and passionately about.

We are demanding our place at the table.

We are demanding that our elected officials represent our desires – without intimidation nor condemnation.

The thoughtful and committed residents are demanding respect.

To Minister Dwight Duncan and Councillor Lewenza – accountability is our agenda; the concerns of residents are our motivation.

We are committed and we will not rest until the concerns of residents are addressed accordingly.

TO: ONTARIO MUNICIPAL BOARD

RE: WINDSOR UTILITIES COMMISSION


I wish to file an application pursuant to Section 71 (b) of the Ontario Municipal Board Act with respect to the Windsor Utilities Commission.

TYPE OF APPLICATION

The Board has jurisdiction to hear and determine any application with respect to any public utility, its construction, maintenance or operation by reason of the contravening or failure to comply on the part of any person or municipality of or with the requirements of this or any other general or special Act, or of any regulation, rule, by-law or order made thereunder.

This appeal arises because of actions that took place at Windsor Council on August 13 and August 27, 2007 with respect to the Commission.

APPLICATION SPECIFIC INFORMATION

Windsor Utilities Commission provides a water distribution system for the Corporation of the City of Windsor as a “public utility” [a system that is used to provide any of the following services or things for the public: (i) water, under the Municipal Act]

There has been a major controversy surrounding the Windsor Utilities Commission respecting watermain replacement and the huge increases in the water charges that lead to huge increases in sewer surcharges. The issues include but are not limited to:
 Why wasn’t the watermain issue recognized earlier or was it
 Were watermain levy charges kept down due to “politics”
 Were watermain levy funds diverted improperly
 Are the levies proper ones
 Are there alternatives to replacement or methods of replacement?
 Could the charges be “phased in” over time
 Were certain customers not charged for water usage
 Who is responsible for the “fiasco”
 Were the Mayor and certain Councillors in conflict of interest when this matter was discussed at Council

As a result, the City of Windsor passed the following Motion on August 13, 2007 that was introduced by the Mayor:

Moved by Mayor Francis, seconded by Councillor Marra,

M218-2007 WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 9 of the Municipal Affairs Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.M.46, and amendments thereto, (the "Act") the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (the "Ministry"), may, whenever requested by any municipality expresses by resolution of its council, direct a provincial municipal audit into the financial affairs of the municipality; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to section 9(2) of the Act, the scope of such a provincial municipal audit may be limited to the financial affairs of any local board of a municipality; and

WHEREAS the Windsor Utilities Commission (WUC) is a local board of the Corporation of the City of Windsor; and

WHEREAS the involvement of the Provincial Auditor has been identified as the likely party to conduct such an audit of WUC; and

WHEREAS the Council of the Corporation of the City of Windsor requests a timely response by the Province to the matters identified;

NOW BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the Corporation of the City of Windsor requests that the Ministry direct, pursuant to Sections 9 and 10 of the Act, a provincial municipal audit into the financial affairs of WUC.

Carried.

NATURE OF THE APPLICATION AND THE REASONS FOR THE APPLICATION

This is a matter with respect to a public utility (the Windsor Utilities Commission), in which the City of Windsor has contravened or failed to comply with the requirements of the Municipal Act and the City’s Procedural By-law.

It is my position that the Motion was passed improperly and is a nullity with the result that any action by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs carried out as a result of the Motion being passed is also improper and a nullity. In my opinion, the only valid Motion was that by a Windsor Councillor, Alan Halberstadt, which requested that the Ontario Auditor General investigate this matter. That Motion was never heard on August 27, although on the Order of Business, since it was deemed to be a “reconsideration.”

The Mayor’s Motion was improper and rulings made in this matter at the meetings on August 13 and 27 were legally incorrect for the following reasons:

1) A Councillor’s Motion had been introduced prior to that of the Mayor’s Motion (M218-2007). Under the City’s Procedural By-law, the Councillor’s Motion had precedence yet the Mayor’s Motion was improperly heard first and passed first.
2) The Councillor’s Motion wanted the Ontario Auditor General to undertake the inquiry. That inquiry may have been prejudiced such that the Auditor General can no longer undertake it even if asked since the Mayor called the Auditor General privately and discussed certain aspects of the inquiry.
3) The Clerk incorrectly ruled that the Mayor’s Motion also had precedence since the Councillor’s Motion was a mere “Notice.” The Clerk erred because a Motion is commenced by a “Notice” under the Procedural By-law and cannot be heard until the next Council meeting unless the Rules are waived.
4) Under the rules, the Councillor’s Motion had to be voted on first
5) The Clerk should have ruled that the Mayor‘s Motion was “unfriendly” and could not have been heard at all unless the Councillor’s Motion was defeated
6) The Councillors’ Motion was never heard, although it was to be debated at the next Council meeting, since the Clerk held it was a Reconsideration under the Procedural By-law
7) The Clerk made such a determination in advance of the Council meeting and without hearing arguments first.
8) The Mayor introduced his Motion while still in the Chair and without surrendering the Chair and arranging for another Member of Council to be Chair in violation of the rules
9) The Mayor’s actions deprived members of the public of their right to appear as Delegations under the Procedural By-law and is a denial of natural justice.
10) The Mayor and as many as six of the other ten Councillors may be in a Conflict of Interest position under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act in this matter since they were or are Chairs or Commissioners of WUC or its related company, Enwin. If pooling of Board payments and dividing them equally amongst Councillors is considered, all Councillors may be in conflict.
11) At no time did the City Solicitor intervene, although present, and advise the Mayor and Councillors and the Clerk that what was being done could be viewed as improper except for the matter relating to conflict of interest and only because he was asked.
12) The Terms of Reference of the inquiry were not set out in the Motion

Enclosed is my money order in the amount of $125.00 for the Application in this matter payable to the Minister of Finance.

Respectfully submitted,

Dated at Windsor, Ontario, this 25th day of September, 2007

W.ACT MEDIA ADVISORY

MEDIA ADVISORY
NOTICE OF Press Conference

Windsor, Ontario, September 25, 2007

DEMAND FOR FULL WUC INVESTIGATION, AGAIN!

We regret that it was necessary for us to postpone our press conference until tomorrow, Wednesday. It appears that there were many events in town today, many of which were scheduled around the same time as our conference.

We wanted to ensure that the media had the opportunity to let Taxpayers know what steps we were taking in fulfillment of our commitment to Taxpayers.

We will be speaking tomorrow about
 our Ontario Municipal Board Application and the consequences to the Mayor and Council and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,
 the creation of a Legal Fund and
 our concerns about our local MPPs/Cabinet Ministers as the Windsor Utilities matter has become a local Provincial election issue.


WHERE: The Junction
1200 University Ave. W.
Windsor, ON

WHEN: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
12:15 PM

WHO: Chris Schnurr and fellow Windsorites

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

W.ACT Press Conference Postponed

There is too much going on in town today I was told for the media to cover everything.

Accordingly, I was informed that the W.ACT press conference has been rescheduled to tomorrow at 12:15 PM at the same location.

W.ACT Press Conference Today

If you have time today, come on out. You may find what is said very enlightening!

WHERE: The Junction
1200 University Ave. W.
Windsor, ON

WHEN: Tuesday, September 25, 2007
12:15 PM

WHO: Chris Schnurr and fellow Windsorites

The Star Depresses Me


Not the Windsor Star this time around but the Toronto Star. Read the story below on an empty stomach. Not to be outdone, the Globe and Mail has to run a story too that makes me ill! I have posted it too.

Thank our politicans for NOT doing anything on the border and losing out on 10,000 PLUS highpaying infrastructure and indirect jobs for buildig a new road to the border and NOT allowing the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement project to be built while our economy re-adjusts itself.

Frankly, just about every hotel/motel room and restaurant would be jammed every night as out-of-town workers came here for the jobs that our local building trades people could not fill. We might even need the Mexican refugees for the jobs our workers would not do.

Our retailers could actually have customers as workers spent money here and perhaps houses could even be sold rather than being foreclosed.


Instead, we can look for more stalls and delays as politicans here play. You know, the Schwartz tunnel debate, respecting a flawed DRIC process.

Let us continue to chase away investors by not allowing garages to be built.

Let us continue to tell people not to worry about unions as the CAW tries to unionize a call centre so they can pick up and leave town.

Let us continue to spend money like drunken sailors on arenas and Tunnel deals which are not core municipal government functions.

Let us keep the Capitol closed because who wants culture here

Oh, and let us continue to stonewall on finding out the truth about water and sewer charges and not being told what went wrong at Enwin.

Let us develop a "sin economy" as the Globe suggested. After all, we are known as Sin City aren't we. I believe since the zoning permits it....George Sofos ought to open a giant sex club at the Junction rather than a place for families as he wanted. That should make his neighbours happy!

Phoooooooooooey


CAMPAIGN SNAPSHOT: WINDSOR
Yet hard times fuel more apathy than anger in this depressed corner of the province

Sep 22, 2007 04:30 AM
Thomas Walkom
National Affairs columnist

WINDSOR – This is a city going through hard times. The rest of the country may be booming; Windsor, where the unemployment rate approaches double digits, is not.

Yet – and perhaps curiously – there seems to be little resentment against Dalton McGuinty's provincial Liberal government. The mood among those interviewed during an unscientific survey by the Star this week was almost fatalistic, as if Windsor were in the grip of forces that no politician could control.

"We're apathetic," explains Shawn Cousineau, owner of the Rogues Gallery comic book store. He says he may not bother voting on Oct.10.

Certainly, there is considerable reason for Windsor to be anxious.

Nothing is working out. The big auto plants, for decades the mainstay of this border community, are scaling back. The city's palatial gambling casino – part of a desperate government attempt to turn Windsor into a tourist mecca – is losing customers.

At Windsor Casino this week, croupiers presided over empty roulette tables, while rooms in the attached luxury hotel were offered to a visiting reporter at deep discount.

Ouellette Ave., the city's main downtown thoroughfare, is a succession of massage parlours and saloons. One of Windsor's few remaining competitive advantages is that Ontario's legal drinking age, 19, is two years below that of neighbouring Michigan. But even local business operators confess that this is shaky ground on which to build a successful economy.

"From Thursday to Saturday, this area is full of drunken teenagers from Detroit," sighs bar owner Dan Houtteman.

Alister Cameron says that business at his speciality restaurant, Three, has fallen back to where it was when he started. Windsorites aren't eating out as much, he says, while visiting U.S. teens prefer beer and burgers to tapas and wine.

Hard-luck stories are everywhere. Machine operator Paul Bryan was laid off last year after his employer, a plastic recycling plant, moved to the U.S.

Since then, he hasn't been able to get a job.

"If you don't have some kind of degree, you can't get nothing," he says. "At least nothing to write home about."

In LaSalle, a suburban community just outside of the city, gear-motor salesman James Murphy lists the customers his company is losing: the Ford plant that's closing, the General Motors operation that's moving to St. Catharines, the small auto part operations that have shut up shop.

"We used to get a ton of work in Detroit," he says. "But with the high dollar, we've lost good customers."

In a tidy middle-class enclave close to a big Chrysler plant, Natalie Metulynsky says she lost her job last year after her employer – an insurance company – relocated to Toronto.

Yet she says she will probably vote to re-elect the provincial Liberals. As does unemployed machine operator Bryan. As does salesman Murphy. "It's not that important which party is in power," explains Murphy.

For the Windsor area's three Liberal incumbents –Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan and backbencher Bruce Crozier – all of this is good news. Equally helpful to the Liberals is the fact that their main opponents – the New Democrats – are in some disarray.

The NDP is the party most likely to upset the Liberals. In the past, it has held Windsor provincially. Federally, it has two of the three Windsor area seats. But in this contest, thanks to a bitter feud between the Canadian Auto Workers and party leader Howard Hampton, the NDP faces formidable obstacles.

The dispute has its origins in the 1999 provincial election when CAW president Buzz Hargrove urged union members to support candidates – including Liberal candidates – best able to defeat the then-Tory government.

In 2006, after Hargrove publicly lent his support to the federal Liberals in the hope of getting more aid for the auto sector, a furious Hampton had him drummed out of the NDP. Now, the CAW leadership is actively hostile to Hampton.

"We support an issue-based campaign strategy," says Gary Parent, a senior CAW leader who heads the Windsor Labour Council. "We present the issues and suggest to our members that they vote for whoever they think deals with these issues the best ... But we don't urge them to support the NDP...

"When Hampton did that to Buzz (expelled him) he did it to all of the leadership."

In practical terms, says Kieran McKenzie, campaign manager for Windsor West NDP candidate Mariano Klimowicz, this means that the CAW no longer supplies paid cadres to work full-time on the party's election campaign.

"There's a political reality we're dealing with," he says." We don't get as many CAW volunteers as in the past. But the rift (between party and union) isn't as pronounced as most people and media think."

To outsiders, it might seem strange that the economy doesn't dominate Windsor's election campaign. Since 2002, and thanks in part to the soaring dollar (which makes Canadian goods more expensive in the U.S.) the city has lost an astounding 17,700 jobs.

Michigan's decision to legalize casinos in Detroit savaged Casino Windsor's business, as did tighter security at the border.

Over the last year, casino attendance has dropped by 11 per cent, casino revenues by a whopping 27 per cent.

At 9.9 per cent, Windsor's unemployment rate is well above the provincial average of 6.4 per cent.

Yet at the doorstep, the economy is not front and centre. When interviewed, Windsorites sound much like anyone else: They talk about funding religious schools, health care, tuition fees, the environment and parking.

Some say their voting decisions will be informed by a reasoned analysis of the issues. Others cite habit or pique.

Metulynsky, for instance, plans to vote for the Liberals largely because she thinks they've started to fix the health system.

"Wait time in hospitals have improved," she says. "My mom died eight years ago of cancer. My dad was in the hospital this year with a heart attack. I notice the difference."

Joanne Leyland, a nurse, disagrees. She says the McGuinty Liberals aren't doing enough. "There aren't enough bodies to care for people," she says. Last time, she voted Green. This time, she's not sure.

Kate Woltz, a recent University of Windsor history graduate, frets about high tuition fees. "I feel student needs have not been well met," she says.

Retired secretary Barbara Palenkas says that she'll make up her mind when she senses who is going to win – and then she'll vote the opposite way.

"That way the winner won't get a swelled head," she explains.

Retired autoworker Jack Gibbons is one who does focus on the sagging economy. He'll vote, as always, for the NDP. But not with many expectations.

"The current government hasn't done a lot. But when we had (former NDP premier) Bob Rae in power, he didn't do anything either. In fact, he did more harm than good. But I'm going to support the NDP. The other haven't done anything either."

Hairdresser Trina Meloche says that for her, the key issues are health and education. "PC or Liberal," she says. "Not the NDP."

Conversely, retired body shop owner Mark Sasseville will vote for no one except the New Democrats. "I voted Liberal a couple of times but didn't like it," he explains.

Throughout Windsor, the issue of the so-called third crossing resonates. Most say they want a new bridge or tunnel to Detroit. But few are willing to have it affect their neighbourhoods. In fact, the third crossing issue is so potent, that NDP candidate Klimowicz plans to focus on it, rather than the economy, according to campaign manager McKenzie.

It's as if everyone is trying to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room.

In his bar, Vermouth, Dan Houtteman has an explanation for Windsor's laid-back attitude: When it comes to the economy, the city instinctively sees itself as part of the U.S.

It's an attitude reflected in Windsor's very geography.

Tucked down in the extreme southwest of the province, it is a place by itself, a near island bounded by Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River – with Highway 401 acting as a causeway to the rest of the country.

Across the river from downtown, the gleaming skyscrapers of Detroit are visible reminders of just who is boss. Toronto and Ottawa seem very far away.

"We are so tied into the U.S., to Detroit and Michigan," says Houtteman. "And right now Michigan is not doing very well.

"Windsor feels like a third cousin to the rest of Ontario."

=========================================


THE DOLLAR AT PAR

Windsor sings the dollar blues
Residents fear loonie's climb will leave border city more dependent on its 'sin economy'
TARA PERKINS, September 24, 2007

WINDSOR, ONT. -- It's just past 9 p.m. on the last Friday night of the summer, the air is warm, and the Detroit River sparkles under its namesake's skyline.

But from the Hilton hotel to Casino Windsor, the sidewalk on this strip of Riverside Drive is nearly deserted. Mahdi Jouduh pedals his ice cream cart, no customers to stop him.

If anyone's got a right to complain about the Canadian dollar hitting par with its U.S. counterpart for the first time in decades, it's the citizens of downtown Windsor. But few of them are grumbling. Many appear resigned to the toll the dollar's strength has taken, although some fear what might be in store now.

For years, the rising loonie has been chipping away at the manufacturing and automotive base that props up this city, because the higher dollar makes products made here more expensive for buyers in the United States. At the same time, it discourages visits to Canada by U.S. tourists.

Statistics Canada said last week that travel into this country from the United States fell 5.2 per cent from June to July, sinking to the second-lowest level since record-keeping started in 1972, as the loonie rose for the sixth month in a row, to hit 95 cents (U.S.).

Americans made only 1.1 million overnight trips to Canada in July, about 81,000 fewer than in June.

Now some Windsor residents worry the loonie's climb will leave this border city even more dependent on its "sin economy" - the casino, bars and strip joints - an economy that's causing some Windsor citizens to fear going downtown at night.

Spattered throughout the city's core are signs on houses, offices, storefronts and restaurants that say "for sale" or "for lease." Many of those places lie empty. It wasn't always like this. Kim Chu at Ray and Kim's Super Convenience store recalls when Friday nights meant long lineups at local bars and restaurants, whose patrons would spill over into her store for cigarettes or gum.

"Now, you go into the bars, it's totally empty," she says. "This summer has been a very sluggish tourist season for us. It's not a very good scene."

She blames the dollar. And she suggests that headlines in U.S. newspapers and on TV stations blasting news of parity could make things worse.

"Not everybody's astute on that, some don't know the exchange," she says, noting that she's had American customers who were angry in recent days when she told them they would get no premium on their U.S. money. "I had a customer come in today who works at the casino and said people are getting irate - they want something back."

But over at the city's strip clubs, it's a different story. Locals say that Windsor's adult entertainment venues have been accepting the U.S. dollar at par for about two years. American tourists willingly handed over their greenbacks, even when they were losing more than 20 cents on each dollar.

That's the power of the sin economy, and why some fear that soon the only businesses left will be strip clubs, prostitution and, to a lesser degree, gambling and alcohol.

Economists would explain it using the price elasticity of demand, which measures how much the demand for a product will change as its price changes.

Goods such as alcohol and cigarettes are known to be relatively inelastic, meaning demand doesn't fall that much when the price goes up, which is why they're heavily taxed.

The staff at Windsor's bars say many of their patrons are 19- and 20-year-old Americans who come to Ontario to take advantage of the lower legal drinking age. That's another segment that will come despite the exchange rate, because they can't drink freely in their hometown bars.

Amid the uncertainty, work on an expansion to Casino Windsor carries on.

The Ontario government revealed the $400-million project in early 2005, as the local economy was already beginning to sink under the weight of the rising dollar. A new entertainment centre, another hotel tower, convention space and restaurants were all planned out, largely with hopes that they will help the area rebound. Unemployment in Windsor rose 81 per cent between 2000 and 2006, and the city continues to lose thousands of jobs.

In 2000, Windsor's unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent. By 2006, it exceeded 9 per cent, hovering well above the national average.

Over at Papa Cheney's Whiskey Well, doorman and bartender John Parent acknowledges that he doesn't see many Americans Sunday through Wednesday, but he's confident weekend traffic will continue to the city that's been nicknamed Tijuana North. "You're coming to a city where everything goes."

That's precisely why many Windsor residents are scared to venture downtown in the evenings, says Ronald Laplante, 76, who has run Vive le Canada Tours & Shuttle for about 10 years. Windsor's title of Tijuana North has "much justification," he says. "The only viable industries left downtown are fast-food places, bars and strip clubs."

He originally conceived his tour business to cater to U.S. travellers, whom he would drive around in a six-passenger van as he taught them about everything from bilingualism to Canadian health care to former prime minister Paul Martin's Windsor roots.

Five years ago, he was doing tours for audiences that were about 95 per cent American virtually every day, he says. "Now I'm lucky to get one a week."

Business has been progressively worse ever since the war in Iraq began, he says. That's a factor he blames more than the dollar. Americans feel less welcome in Canada, he says.

With demand for tours plummeting, Mr. Laplante recently had to get a licence to operate his van as a shuttle. "Now, 90 per cent of my income is from shuttling people out to Detroit airport."

He's noticed that, since the dollar hit and then surpassed 90 cents (U.S.), it's taking him a lot longer to cross into the United States on Saturdays. Canadians are going shopping. This Saturday, on the first morning after the dollar hit par, a snaking queue of cars waited to cross the tunnel into the United States, while traffic into Canada was sparse.

That's no surprise to John Estephan, a teller at the Canadian Windsor Tunnel Exchange Inc. currency conversion store. From behind a sheet of Plexiglas that separates him from customers, he looks out the window to the numbered booths of Canada Customs. "It's been dead, there's been no one," he says. "Just in the past couple weeks, it's been steadily going down."

His boss, Abe Taqtaq, owner of the exchange business, says the outlet is operating at a loss this weekend. He's offering customers a conversion rate of 1 per cent, just to keep the greenbacks coming in, because he takes them over to his location on the U.S. side, and that's cheaper than getting them from the bank.

But he closed the Canadian shop on Tuesday, and then again on Thursday afternoon. It was a tough decision because it's a service business, and "you don't want people to have to second-guess whether we're open or not," he says.

On Friday, the Canadian Windsor Tunnel Exchange location saw 98 people all day. On a normal Friday not so long ago, that number would have been more than 1,000, Mr. Estephan says.

As he talks, a family pulls up in their car, after crossing the border, and a young American man named Venkat Kasala walks in.

He exchanges $400 (U.S.), folds away the $400 in Canadian bills he receives, and looks at the three extra loonies jingling in his hand.

He's heading with his relatives on a two-day trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto, despite knowing that the loonie recently hit par.

"I did think about it, but we can't stop travelling," he says. Then he returns back to his car to drive out of the city.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Watermain-gate: The Next Bombshell





Watermain-gate just keeps growing bigger and bigger, with no end to where it will spread. I just cannot understand why no one has taken a firm hand to control this matter but so far no one has.


Two new matters have arisen that again require action to be taken. It is getting messier by the day and dragging anyone who has ever been close to the issue right into the muck!

I'll tell you who the latest victims may be as you read further.

First, what I found interesting was an interview between the Star's Don McArthur and WUC Chair, Councillor Ken Lewenza, that was reported not in the Windsor Star but in MacArthur's BLOG on the online Star. In that article, was a quote by Lewenza that:
  • "...he and Max Zalev, WUC's acting general manager, will sit down for a chat with anyone and everyone in this city who has concerns or questions about skyrocketing water rates.

    "Max and I, in our discussion the other day, said anytime anyone from the public -- and we're going to announce this at the next meeting -- wants to spend time with us, we are going to spend whatever time is required, within reason, in terms of helping people understand," said Lewenza earlier this week.

    "We will meet with every group. We will meet with everybody that has concerns."
Now Junior did continue his attack on W.ACT but what can one expect when Junior has a very bright adversary against him who won't be suckered by silliness:
  • "Lewenza stressed he wouldn't be keen on that particular meeting because he doubted Schnurr and the group, which is calling for a "full and complete financial, business and operational investigation of the WUC and any third party relationships with Enwin by an independent third party," would ever be satisfied.

    "I know the difference between meeting with a citizens group that no matter how many questions you answer they're just going to keep trying to add more confusion versus a person that has very legitimate questions. I have no time for people who have personal agendas and no interest in bringing some understanding to the issue," said Lewenza.

    "They deserve to have their questions answered but we have to look reasonably at how much time that we are going to spend on them when they have no interest in the answer."

Now is this all bravado so that Junior will be able to say that he invited people to talk to them but no one did. Unfortunately for him, and probably the Mayor, Chris Schnurr of W.ACT saw the article and proposed meeting with Junior before the next W.ACT press conference to try to resolve differences between City Hall and the citizens group.

Junior did reply Sunday night and will actually meet with Schnurr next Thursday but after the Press Conference. It's a good thing he did reply or it would cause another issue for City Hall. I wonder if the Councillor will be open to what Chris wants to discuss or is it just a pro forma session!

However that is not the big story. The second and newest revelation is something that came out of the office of Dwight Duncan. Dwight has now put into jeopardy his re-election and that of Sandra. Here's what I mean by that.

When this story first broke the Star reported on August 23, 2007, we read:

  • "Munce said Gerretson decided to proceed because it was a direct request from council and followed a discussion with local MPPs and provincial cabinet ministers Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello, who encouraged him to look at the issue."
As you know, I have asked on numerous occasions what they said to the Minister but have never received a reply. Take a look now at this exchange of e-mails sent to me by a reader:
  • "To: dwight@fightingforwindsor-tecumseh.com
    Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 11:35 PM
    Subject: Lost Confidence in Dwight Duncan

    Mr. Duncan,

    It is with great regret that I am writing this email to you. For years, our family has been proud to have you represent us at Queen's Park. However, after your refusal to support the increasing number of citizens in their call for a full financial, business and operational audit in the ever growing WUC debacle, we, a family of 6 eligible voters, have lost faith in your ability to represent us.

    On behalf of my family, while we may not know for whom we will be voting for come election, our choices have narrowed by one."

  • "From: dwight@fightingforwindsor-tecumseh.com
    Sent: September 20, 2007 11:54 AM
    Subject: Re: Lost Confidence in Dwight Duncan

    Thank you for your email.

    The City of Windsor asked that Dwight and Sandra get involved and request an audit be done by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. They contacted the Minister and although its not that Ministry's mandate to 'police' municipalities the Minister agreed at their (Dwight and Sandra's) urging.

    The City did not ask for the Auditor General to do the audit. THe Mayor or Council never asked any local MPP's to get the Auditor General here. Further, the Auditor General was interviewed by the Windsor Star - it was reported - he indicated that the Ministry Audit will be as thorough as one done by him. He has every confidence that the audit will be thorough.

    This is a municipal issue that must eventually be addressed by the City, and the WUC board.

    Thank you for your email again and its regretful that you will be supporting someone else this time.

    Regards, Jenna Duncan Campaing Team."
And just so you remember what Dwight had to say about the inquiry and how he wants to protect the municipality in preference to its citizens, he said:
  • "Unlike Mr. Schnurr and his Conservative friends, we don’t believe the provincial government should just go in for the purposes of beating up municipalities."
Do you understand now why citizens have the right to be so concerned that this Ministry audit might be nothing more than just a whitewash. If Sandra and Dwight "urged" the Minister to do something, then what was it? Do you really think it was to undertake a full financial, business and operational audits of Windsor Utilities? Or was it not to "beat up" the Mayor and Council!

The Ministers asked for the Ministy to be involved! Why not the Auditor General since they have the power to ask him to come in under Section 17 of the Auditor General Act:
  • The Auditor General shall perform such special assignments as may be required by the Assembly, the standing Public Accounts Committee of the Assembly, by resolution of the committee, or by a minister of the Crown in right of Ontario
Of course the MPPs were never asked to have the Auditor General involved. The Mayor talked to him first privately and then the shenanigans with Councillor Halberstadt's Motion prevented that from happening didn't it.

Oh and as far as Ms. Duncan goes, someone should send her a copy of the relevant statutes of Ontario and point out to her what the Ministry of Municipal Affairs does and what their powers are.

As I predicted, the WUC is becoming a local political issue for the Provincial election. If the No-names have any brains, they will make that issue front and centre and forget about all of the others if they think they have any chance of being elected. Lisa Lumley has started the attack by the Opposition parties by issuing a press release on the subject.

I have an idea for you. When Sandra or Dwight come knocking at your door and ask for your support, ask them whom they represent, the City Hall/WUC establishment or the people of the city of Windsor! Let me know what their answer is.

Komsa Shoots, He Scores




Even Don Cherry would not get the correct answer.

If I asked you who the best stick-handler in hockey is, would you say Rocket Richard or Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky? Well if you did, then you would be wrong!

As far as I am concerned, the guy who knows his way around the ice rink the best, is Marty Komsa of the Windsor Family Credit Union. He did a deal with the City of Windsor that is a marvel to behold.

The matter is supposed to be passed by Council "on consent" if you can believe it! That means it is supposed to be non-controversial.

Another black mark for this Arena transaction and another black mark for the way the City negotiates deals. Oh if we only had a few business people on Council who knew what they were doing!

Try and figure out if the Credit Union is actually paying anything for the naming rights or whether the City has again given away the "Barn." Oooops sorry for the bad pun but I just could not resist.

Marty certainly got the hat trick in this transaction in my opinion while Eddie just got butt-ended. Clearly most would have missed it but for the instant replay that you will find outlined in this BLOG.. Let's see what the deal is. You will find that the Star headline of $1.6 million is not quite accurate once you see the terms:
  1. City receives $1.62 million over 10 years, payable $40,000 quarterly per year. (If one does a present value calculation that works out to about $1 million)
  2. Marty gets the right of first bid to renew the deal for two periods of 10 years each (If that is the right of first refusal, it means that no one will ever bid seriously for the naming rights in the future because Marty can always match or beat their deal)
  3. It is not the naming rights just for the building but for a whole bunch of extra places as well (That means that City can't sell those rights to others to earn extra money. One may wonder why Marty was put on committee for other namng rights. Has City Hall just created a possible conflicts issue for Marty that could result in embarrassing him since he is both a naming rights proponent and a naming rights decision-maker?)
  4. Use of a private suite and not just for hockey (The Spitfire's VIP suite at the Barn goes for $2000 per game. I do not know what an East End Arena suite goes for. If there are 34 to 40 nights of hockey per year plus who knows how many other events that take place, it means Marty doesn't have to pay a lot of money to get a whole bunch of tickets for the games or other events and the Arena loses money.)
  5. Only WFCU ATM machines can be used (Well, the City makes some money from that but we don't know how much or whether others would have paid for the rights)
  6. Marty get some kind of a WFCU kiosk in the building, although not quite sure what that means (But, there is no charge for that)

I don't know how you feel about this transaction but it reminds me of some of the other deals that our distinguished Mayor has been involved in:

  • Remember Eddie was involved before he was Mayor, with the Mady garage transaction that wound up costing the city several million dollars.
  • The settlement of MFP where millions were lost
  • The five cent parking at the Keg restaurant, and
  • The granting of a 50% interest in the funky bus terminal to Greyhound for effectively no capital cost but merely paying operating costs
  • I am not going to talk about the Spitfires deal or the Canderel lease deal since we have not yet seen those details and I don't want to ruin my breakfast.

It was interesting reading the Administration report on this matter. I don't know if anyone else was interested in bidding on the naming rights since no one else's name was mentioned. I didn't see any kind of analysis of the transaction to show whether it was a good one or a bad one for the City. I guess if it was the only one, don't you think someone should have told us. If this is a bad deal, maybe Administration should have advised that the City not enter into it and not do a naming rights deal at this time since the economy is so bad.

Here are some other things that I did not see that are part of the City's policy with respect to naming rights:

  • The significance of the contribution made relative to the construction and/or operating costs of the item being named
  • The significance of the contribution relative to the market valuation of the naming opportunity
  • Results of a value assessment
  • The benefits to and obligations of both the purchaser and the City
  • Demonstrated public support for the sale of naming rights of the facility

I'll bet that this is been a very interesting time for Marty Komsa. Komsa as Chair of the Board of the University of Windsor tried to convince the University to move its complex downtown. Komsa as head of WFCU has been able to get naming the East end arena in this deal.

Can you imagine if we had a downtown arena AND a new Engineering Complex right across the street from a major Family Destination/Museum complex at the Junction. Why Ward 2 really would be the place to be in Windsor. Instead....you cannot get a garage built in parts of that Ward!