Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 19, 2007

P3ing Windsor

The comment from Windsor's CAO, John Skorobohacz, to the Auditor General during the Windsor Utilities Commission fiasco has bothered me for a long time. It really makes no sense on its face.
  • "As we discussed it is in our interest 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."

An obvious explanation for the sentence at first glance could be the desire of City Hall to have a whitewash, to cover up their incompetence. But I always felt it was something more. There has never been an issue as far as I know about money being needed for watermain replacement. The issue from a pocketbook perspective is why the increase had to be 86% today and not phased in as is happening in other jurisdictions.

I never really understood also how this "WUC" crisis developed. It just seemed to come out of the blue at a meeting that was called to justify the big increases. That in itself was unusual since when does Eddie think it necessary to justify anything that he does.

From that meeting, came all of the issues that resulted in a section 9 Ministry audit. Given the way that the Ministry is treating citizens of Windsor, it should not be a big surprise to see a limited financial audit that accomplishes what the CAO wanted to achieve.

We will find out that in fact there is a need for huge amounts of money to fix up our water mains and there is no doubt that the Commission will get a little slap on the wrist for the way they handled things to make us mere mortals happy.

The question then is what happens next. All we will see is 86% increases this year, more next year and stories about the huge sums of money that will be needed to fix up our infrastructure.

What I think is that this has all been part of a big Plan to sucker taxpayers. Let me explain.

Water, sewer, electricity. Infrastructure is worth a fortune.

The issue though is how can a Municipality cash in on it. It's like how do you cash in on the value of the equity in your house that has increased over time so that you can use the money to pay down bills or to treat as "found money" and spend on all kinds of frivolities.

The real story will gradually come out as to how Windsor will make money on its infrastructure. I am sure that I am right. The only issue is whether it will be an outright sale of our infrastructure assets for hundreds of millions of dollars or a public-private partnership lease deal with money upfront payable to the City. Just like Windsor's proposed US $75 million payment to Detroit for the Detroit half of the Tunnel.

Compare these these two stories:

  • WUC hike biggest he’s seen
    Watermain expert says Windsor’s ‘dramatic’ increase could have been mitigated with legislation

    Lack of provincial planning contributed to the “huge” rate increases recently imposed on Windsor water ratepayers, says Frank Zechner, executive director of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association.

    Calling the 86-per-cent water rate hike recently imposed by the Windsor Utilities Commission the highest he’s heard of in the province, Zechner said the pain could have been mitigated if there was legislation compelling utilities, such as WUC, to set water rate hikes to pay for the needed watermain replacement projects — a pay-as-yougo method.

    “I have not seen a single increase of that magnitude in the time that I’ve been monitoring it over the last couple of years,” Zechner said Monday during a meeting with members of The Star’s editorial board. “There were allegations or suggestions they (WUC) had collected monies previously but the monies were not set aside, not in a dedicated reserve. Had they maintained a dedicated reserve there would be some funding, perhaps not sufficient, but perhaps something to offset the ultimate replacement project they have to embark upon.”


  • Water bills likely to rise by 9%
    Typical tab will increase about $47 next year

    Oct 17, 2007 04:30 AM, CITY HALL BUREAU

    Toronto householders with water meters can expect to pay $47 more for water next year – a 9.4 per cent increase – if city council approves Toronto Water's requested rates.

    But industries that use large volumes of water for processing will see their cost fall as the city tries to make rates more competitive with other North American cities. They'll have to meet certain conditions, including filing a conservation plan, to qualify for a lower rate.

    Toronto Water plans 9 per cent annual increases for householders through 2012 as it mounts an aggressive campaign to renew the city's aging water and sewer pipes.

    "More than half the water network is at least 50 years old and about 8 per cent is over 100 years old," said Councillor Shelley Carroll, the city's budget chief.

    The proposed increase – which must still be passed by council – will boost a typical household's water bill to $547, up from $500 this year, based on use of 315 cubic metres.

    Water rates for large apartment buildings and offices will increase about 7 per cent under the plan.

    Households without meters will see their rate rise 9 per cent in 2008 under the current proposal."

Now maybe I have missed the point but Toronto's water system doesn't seem to be so young. It seems comparable to that of Windsor. Their aggressive campaign to replace watermains and sewers seems comparable to that of Windsor too. Yet Toronto doesn't seem to need an increase of 86%, which is that of Windsor and which is described as the highest in the Province.

How can this be? If our Utility Commission is that incompetent that we need a price increase that is so dramatically higher than that of the City of Toronto and the rest of Ontario, we don't need a financial audit in Windsor. We need a complete investigation to find out what is really going on in the Windsor Utilities Commission!

But let's not get carried away by all of this. Remember what I speculated before. This is all scare tactics. This is to soften us up. Oh my goodness, monthly rates will increase dramatically and keep on going up, we need hundreds of millions of dollars, over $800M worth, and we need it all immediately or we won't be able to take a shower!

Wouldn't it be amazing if all of this hysteria over WUC that has been played out in the media and in the BLOGs was really designed to allow privatization of essential services and making it appear as if the public will demand that it be done. Why even Chair Lewenza will have to beat up on his union buddies to permit privatization to take place and they will thank him!

There is consolidation that is taking place in utilities business and it is going to come to Windsor. Gord Henderson already told us that we should basically scrap Enwin and start all over again. And that's what's going to happen. Isn't that the Plan? Gord's anonymous "Jim" was warning us what was coming. No wonder he badmouthed Enwin so much.

  • "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."

Who needs the Capitol Theatre when we have a drama like this that takes place in the Council Chambers and we can watch it in the comfort of our own living rooms every Monday night.

Watch for a private entity organization or a pension plan like OMERS/Borealis to all of a sudden appear on the scene as our Saviour, our white knight in shining armor. That would be ironic if it was Borealis: Mike Hurst saving Eddie's bacon!

Not to worry citizens of Windsor, we will be assured, they will finance it all for the next hundred years or so. They'll replace the infrastructure, they'll run the system, they'll even reduce the amount of increase from 86% to maybe half of that. We will be ever so grateful.

Naturally they'll make a profit, a very big one. But we won't care, since we will have all this money to reduce the City's budget and to build monuments to the ego such as a new City Hall. And to squander because we're very good at that in Windsor.

You think I'm kidding. I'm not. It's coming and it is coming more quickly than we know. In fact, the Province is encouraging it to happen as the story below states. Is that why we are seeing the Ministry of Municipal Affairs audit farce that is so apparent? If so, no wonder the Government seems to want to avoid talking to citizens.

By the way, isn't Dwight Duncan the Minister of Energy and wasn't he the politician who slammed Chris Schnurr and We.ACT!

Check out this story about what Chatham-Kent Energy wants to do in London, Ontario and tell me that I am wrong. Note the hilarious comment about negotiating in secret. That works perfectly well in Windsor:

  • $245M offered for London Hydro

    Wed, October 17, 2007, By JONATHAN SHER, SUN MEDIA

    Chatham-Kent Energy has offered to buy London Hydro for $245 million, the overture perhaps one of many as Ontario utilities jockey to buy, sell or merge.

    The offer comes less than two weeks after city council opened the doors to negotiations by formally establishing ground rules, which included reducing electricity costs but not maintaining jobs at the utility.

    "This will be the first of many outreaches," said Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, who serves as a director on the London Hydro Commission.

    The biggest player in Ontario, Hydro One, has expressed an interest in London Hydro, said Gosnell and Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best.

    In 2005, a consultant estimated the assets of London Hydro were worth $246 million and a sale might raise between that amount and up to 50 per cent more.

    The drive to merge, buy or sell is the product of several things, industry experts say.

    In the long-run, it's expected utilities will have to buy electricity themselves, a complicated endeavour that carries with it the risk of securing too much or too little, said John Todd, president of Elenchus Research Associates Inc. in Toronto.

    Larger utilities will be better positioned to navigate that market, using their size to negotiate rates and their expertise to judge when and how much to buy, said Todd, who has testified hundreds of times before energy boards across Canada.

    The province has created an incentive for deals by waiving a 33-per-cent transfer tax on sales of utilities until Oct. 17, 2008.

    While that window may be extended or opened again, its existence may spark discussion, Todd told The Free Press a few weeks ago.

    But while the offer by Chatham-Kent Energy surprised no one, its form -- in a public letter to the mayor -- caught Controller Gord Hume off-guard.

    "I'm not sure why it would have come to the mayor and as a public document. I would have thought it would be negotiated (behind doors). It's not the way I've done business in the past," Hume said.

    But DeCicco-Best said she appreciated the up-front offer, which lays out a number of options that Chatham-Kent Energy -- and its private minority partner Corix -- want to pursue.

    Chatham-Kent Energy CEO Raymond Payne said he needs to know if council, on behalf of Londoners, has some interest before he commits time and resources into negotiations.

    Chatham-Kent and Corix want to expand the utility so it becomes the dominant utility in Southwestern Ontario, he said.

    In their drive to do so, the biggest competitor is London Hydro, he said.

    Don't expect a decision tomorrow when the offer goes to the city's board of control , DeCicco-Best said.

    "We'll want to refer this to London Hydro's working group," she said.

    The mayor acknowledged she's skeptical about selling London Hydro and losing local control over the utility but said she wants to keep an open mind.

    "($245 million) is a lot of money but, at the onset, I wouldn't want us to look at that number and make a (quick) judgment," she said.


    A letter to London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best from Chatham-Kent Energy -- and its private partner Corix -- lays out a number of options the potential buyers of London Hydro want to pursue:

    - Buying London Hydro for $245 million and also giving $1 million to support London-based community groups foundations and $2 million to help create jobs in those organizations.

    - Buying London Hydro for less than $245 million and leasing its assets to the city.

    - Buying some of the assets of London Hydro but leaving the city of London with majority control of the utility.

    - Becoming an investor and buying shares in London Hydro -- right now the city of London is the sole shareholder.

Do you see what I mean. Nothing in Windsor is simple. Nothing in Windsor can ever be taken at face value. Be aware for what is lurking in the shadows.

Has Brian Deserted Eddie Too

The way I heard it a bunch of Senior Windsor Liberals were sitting around a back room the other day.

Normally, it would be a cigar-smoke filled back room but this time there were bubble gum wrappers strewn around the premises. You see none of them were certain whether the Provincial Liberal No Smoking law applied if they were discussing Federal politics and they did not want to cause a constitutional law issue over the subject.

The shocking news that I heard was that these Senior Liberals thought that Eddie Francis is going to run federally in Windsor West for the Liberals. I could not believe what I heard. Why would Eddie run against the guy, Brian Masse, who was one of his friends and big supporters with respect to the border crossing issue?

Then I got to thinking... Eddie did move into the Windsor West riding and he did send a letter support to Sandra Pupatello whose provincial riding overlaps the federal one. Of course, Brian is also pushing for a Public Authority for the new crossing and perhaps he is hedging his bets, positioning himself for a new job in case he loses.

Then it all made sense. I am sure that you saw the Star story that mentioned Brian Masse's new position:
  • "MP Brian Masse (NDP -- Windsor West) has been appointed NDP transport critic by the party's federal leader Jack Layton.

    In a news release issued Monday, Masse said his new responsibility comes at a "critical" time, as Windsor prepares for a new border crossing -- an issue that is in Transport Canada's jurisdiction.

    Masse is also the NDP critic for auto policy and U.S.-Canada border issues."

I must admit that I looked at his new job differently. I wasn't sure if it was a promotion or recognition that Brian failed in his job to get a public bridge at the Windsor Detroit crossing.

Frankly, I think Brian is a better politician than at achieving results. I think that he can see the writing on the wall and knows enough to back off while the time for backing off is good. I think that he is smart enough to realize that the Bridge Co. has won and will get its Enhancement Project. After all, isn't his big issue now making sure that people who are expropriated for the DRIC road get the proper amount of compensation.

This may have infuriated Eddie and he decided to try and teach Brian a lesson. The story is out there now that Eddie may run against Brian just like the story that Councillor Ron Jones was going to run against Sandra until he said no, presumably after the Liberals buckled. Is the same thing happening now with respect to Brian? Will Brian knuckle under as well or will he call Eddie's bluff and dare him to run against him?

If Eddie starts to make nice to The Junction owners, then you really know that Brian is in big trouble.

I can take both sides of the argument as to whether Brian was demoted or promoted. It looks like his job was expanded in general but as far as Windsor is concerned, have his responsibilities been reduced? Take a look at his history of jobs with the NDP

New shadow Cabinet job
Canada Border Services,
Deputy Critic for Industry (Auto Policy)

June 30, 2007
Industry, Science and Technology,
Canadian Borders,
Automotive Policy

June 2006
Serves as the NDP critic for Industry, Science and Technology, Auto Policy, Canada/US Border Issues, and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency; also acts as the Urban Affairs Advocate.

You see what I mean. It looks like his Transport Canada portfolio has expanded but his "border" responsibilities have been reduced so that his Customs responsibility is CBSA only and not border issues in general. His Industry, Science and Technology responsibilities have been greatly reduced.

If I am right about a demotion, then it appears to me that truly Eddie is a irrelevant on the border. He has no friends now to help him out. We'll know for sure right after the Provincial election when the Liberals will have to make good on the deal that they made with Eddie.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why Was London's Air Used

Double-click the movie above to understand the context.
A reader asked me this question:
  • "Ed,

    I don't usually dwell on these things, but something on the GreenLink website caught my eye. Maybe it's nothing. Then again, maybe it's worth investigating. Here's a quote from the GreenLink website:

    London, Ontario airport meteorological data is considered representative of the Southwestern area of Ontario and recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Environment to use for dispersion modeling in this area. The wind rose for data collected at this airport in the year 2000 demonstrates that the prevailing winds in the area are coming from the west.

    Why is the City of Windsor using weather data from the London airport when DRIC is using weather data from Windsor airport, and their own monitoring stations on Huron Church Road? At the last CCG meeting, unless I heard incorrectly, I'm sure they said they were using Windsor data. They even had colourful graphs and diagrams.

    So has DRIC wasted all kinds of money setting up weather stations here when they could have simply used London data? Or is there something about the London data that differs from Windsor data that somehow casts the GreenLink plan in a more favourable light than if they were to use actual Windsor data?

    Maybe this is nothing. But to borrow a cliché, the devil is in the details. Perhaps this one is worth checking out."

I happened to be speaking to a fellow I know and he offered the following explanation. No, no, has nothing to do with the suggestion that was made to use London's airport infrastructure as a model for Windsor's airport.

Is he right? I don't know. Perhaps Sam can explain it.

  • "Ed, in the report for Greenlink they discuss the prevailing winds used for their study. They used London Ontario winds. These are the average winds used to determine which direction the runway should point. Using that we know the earth rotates east to west so the prevailing winds will most likely come from the west with moderate changes due to air pressures. Elementary meteorology.

    When they say London is a representative of Southwestern Ontario I tend to disagree. Wind data is READILY available at the Windsor Airport. The winds tend to be a little slower and higher due to the rising air from Detroit and southern Michigan.

    Ground level winds are always slower than the upper atmosphere, for examples.
    Windsor today is 220 at 6 knots
    London today is 220 at 9 knots
    At 3000' the winds are 230 at 12 knots.

    You can see the winds slow down closer to the ground as stated above.

    The asphalt and cement heats up and the hot air rises. This causes the winds to change direction and or slow down when the air mixes. Detroit does cause a lot of our weather.

    If you monitored the wind data difference Windsor would be always a little slower, not a lot, but none the less noticable.Considering the volume that is quite a bit of air.

    As a matter of fact the weather will always change dramatically once you pass Tilbury because the wind coming over Lake St. Clair is unobstructed.

    This being the case, London's overall air quality will be better because there will always be a higher volume of air moving.

    Since they used London's model they can assume there would be less parts per billion than there will be. Sort of like sweeter icing on a rhubarb cake.

    In their own statement...
    "Dispersion in the atmosphere depends on a number of atmospheric conditions that could either enhance or inhibit it. HIGH WINDS and UNSTABLE turbulent conditions ENHANCE DISPERSION while stable atmospheric conditions and low wind speeds don't promote mixing. In addition, pollutants tend to disperse downwind."

    By tunneling you are CONCENTRATING the toxic fumes by not letting them disperse freely in a higher volume of air.

    In doing so, even the jet fans will not be able to disperse the fumes and since they are heavier due to concentrate they will fall to the ground closer to the tunnel exhaust portals than farther. Particulate matter is not lighter than air.

    Has pollution ever dispersed upwind? Right. That is quite a revelation for an engineering report.

    Hope I explained it."

I Am A Malcontent etc.

Gord Henderson owes me and my colleagues a huge apology. And I want it now, and publicly.

I have had enough already of his unceasing cheerleading for failed plans put forward by a Mayor who was achieved virtually nothing on the border issue while childishly threatening lawsuits against the people who would have to fund all of this stuff and who are the ultimate decision-makers.

Instead of action and solutions, we have seen failure and stalling. If we are at 11:59 p.m., as artificial a point as I have ever seen to create drama that is better played in the Capitol Theatre, it is because of the arrogance of a Mayor who squandered all of the support and goodwill that he inherited when he was first elected and the uncritical support given to him by a Columnist in the only newspaper of significance in town who has been wearing Windsor rose colored glasses for much too long.

I admit it. I am a part of the group that Gord identified. We are a “motley collection of malcontents, myopic whiners and hired saboteurs who've been doing their damnedest to stop Windsor from securing a first-rate border infrastructure solution.” First-class, in Henderson’s terms perhaps, not anybody else’s.

I admit it. I was one of the first people who slammed Schwartz’s first report within days after it was first released at the Cleary to a standing ovation. I was right and Gord and Eddie were wrong. Just reread the Cansult report.

I admit it. I was one of those against “full tunnelling” not because I was against a tunnel but because I knew it would never work as presented. I have just been proven right again while Gord and Eddie have been proven wrong again.
  • "This was reality check time. Several people told me, wistfully, how in their hearts they would still like to see end-to-end tunnelling. No matter what it might cost. But they get it. They understand it's all about securing the achievable. "
I admit it. I am one of those who is skeptical of what is being proposed now because there are a lot of questions that need answering. But not Gord and Eddie. They are as right now as they were previously.

This was no engineering analysis but another sales pitch to stall the border road for a purpose that I cannot yet figure out. We have already lost five years and now we will lose more time as DRIC will be forced to put the Schwartz material through their detailed EA analysis unless they reject it right away. Garden of Eden or Paradise Lost!

I do not want you to let anybody know about this but a secret member of our group is James Brophy, executive director of the Occupational Health Clinic in Sarnia. He was said in Friday’s Star that:
  • “Throwing $1.6 billion at a road solution such as GreenLink, which promises to bury border trucks in tunnels, is not the right approach to ending the environmental and health impact of diesel emissions, says the author of a six-year-old report that detailed how Windsor suffers higher rates of mortality than the rest of the province.”
Another member of our secret society is the Editorial writer of the Star that wrote the lukewarm Editorial the other day. And so is Gord’s colleague, Chris Vander Doelan, who wrote in his BLOG
  • The Inagaddavida Expressway: It's So Windsor!
    So they're promising us a "garden of Eden" expressway through industrial West Windsor, en route to one of the most environmentally blighted places on earth, the poisoned environs south of Michigan's Zug Island.

    Only members of the political liararchy could deliver such fragrant cow manure with straight faces. And deliver it they did this week -- a whole truckload of it, just coincidentally dumped on us the night before the provincial election.

    I guess we were supposed to think that the re-elected government might consider giving Windsor a big present if we voted for them.

    Now that the election is over, what do you think the chances are that senior levels of government will pay through the nose to give Windsor its grand vision for the border? If you think there's a 50-50 chance, you're dreaming.”
I'd like to know which first-rate border infrastructure solution Henderson is talking about. That's a fair question isn't it. He's raved about so many of them that would solve all of our problems but which proved to be disasters when analyzed that I have lost track.

Let me be blunt about it. I want you to understand, dear reader, and Gord Henderson better learn, that if it were not for my colleagues and I, Windsor would have been stuck with the inferior Schwartz Report #1 solution or Schwartz Report #2 or the ridiculous full tunnel scheme of the Mayor and Council. Instead, Windsor is getting closer to a proper border road that may in fact be doable but for some absurdities that Henderson and Francis don’t want to talk about.

Changes are needed to improve what is being proposed, and they're going to happen, even though Eddie has said what is being proposed is "non-negotiable." We all know by now that Eddie does not know how to negotiate properly any significant transaction and that what Schwartz is proposing is merely another "starting point. "

We all know that the advertising blitz, including the third straight day of full page ads in the Star on Saturday, is nothing more than trying to salvage Eddie's future. He can't get a good job when he stops being mayor when he shows on his resume a huge failure on the border issue, the issue why he was elected in the first place.

Can you believe this stupid comment by the Mayor. The Parks Department cannot even afford to cut the grass that we have now properly since it doesn’t have the budget or the manpower to do so and the Mayor has the nerve to say:
  • Francis agrees costs are not an issue -- even upkeep costs for cutting the grass or replacing tunnel lights if the Schwartz plan is constructed.

    "Everybody is talking about maintenance costs, cutting the lawn," the mayor said. "But what will it cost me if Huron Church remains the way it is today? That's the issue. Cutting lawns, brush, whatever, that's nothing."
Of course Francis can say maintenance is not an issue. He won’t be Mayor when it comes time to pay the bills. The Schwartz Road would take about 4-5 years to build. He will be long gone and will leave it to his his successor to be stuck and to be abused by taxpayers as taxes skyrocket to handle all the maintenance costs that have to be dealt with when you’re dealing with a Central Park in Windsor. Sam should know of course, because didn't he say he was involved with the Hudson Trust. However did he tell us in his sales Pitch of the problems? Here is what I wrote before:
  • "The man [SAM] is going to "deserve" us into bankruptcy for heaven's sake! Look at the "tennis courts, ice rinks, bike trails and gardens." Let's assume that the Senior levels go along with it. Who is going to be responsible for the annual maintenance costs. Not the Senior Levels. It's the Windsor taxpayers. We are going to be left holding the bag forever.

    The Buskers was cancelled since

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

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

    I found this remark about the NYC park:

    "But along with the increased park area comes the growing demand for maintenance requirements of all kinds: gardening, trash removal, policing, plumbing, carpentry, etc. Those responsibilities are undertaken by the Trust's Operations & Maintenance department."

    I wrote about this extra cost to Windsorites when I BLOGGED about DRTP's gift to taxpayers: Rails to Trails. Thanks but no thanks.”

You see the way that the City operates. Secret behind closed doors deals. Hammering anyone who dares think, speak, and, heaven forbid, criticize. Smear and innuendo.

That there has to be a deal between Francis and Pupatello and Francis and Duncan and that it was done behind closed doors seems clear to me now. Why else would DRIC under pressure from the Premier’s office talk about short tunnels before the election? Why else would Dwight Duncan take slams at WeACT so that the Province can undertake what apparently seems to be a whitewash audit since no one will tell us what the Terms of Reference are or who the auditor will be? Why else would Eddie send out a letter of support at Sandra’s nomination meeting? Which person who helped Eddie greatly on some of his Detroit extravaganzas worked for Sandra during her election campaign?

Agree with Eddie or Henderson slams you. I guess he likes the role of being Eddie’s muscle. Juvenile name-calling is the preferred approach it seems.

If you are not on Eddie’s side, blindly, then you are demonized and pulverized. We saw that with Sandra as she was attacked viciously in Henderson’s column and then on the floor at Queen’s Park. She became nothing more than an abused politician who got scared that she was going to lose her seat and so knuckled under while Dwight Duncan was treated with kid gloves. If you’re not on Eddie’s side then you are an enemy or an implacable foe. If you are not on Eddie’s side then you’re open to be smeared in a column by the Windsor Star’s main Columnist.

But you know what, I don’t care. My colleagues and I will keep on doing what we're doing. We are not intimidated or not scared. We are a danger precisely because we cannot be controlled. We have a point of view and we are not afraid to express it. We can see the obvious faults and are prepared to point them out. We are prepared to say that "The Emperor is wearing no clothes."

We are doing what we are doing because we love Windsor and what it can be. We are not going to remain silent and see this City suffer now and in the future. That is precisely why a number of Windsorites started up WeACT and suffered the smears from Ken Lewenza and Dwight Duncan. But that has not stopped We.ACT either but has actually helped it grow in strength.

Whether Eddie and Gord like it or not, and no matter what they do, we malcontents, whiners and saboteurs will offer positive suggestions for improvement. We will make criticisms. We will point out weaknesses. We’ll keep doing the kind of things we’ve been doing for the last five years to stop first one Mayor who who was doing the wrong thing for our City and we will stop another if necessary.

Today Gord calls me and my friends "A tiny, myopic minority." That makes me proud, it is a badge of honour.

Just as we were before, we are right in what we are saying. Just as we did before, this minority will make this City the best in North America in spite of the Mayor, the Councillors and their team of highly-paid, out-of-town lawyers and consultants along with their local cheer-leaders, sycophants, hangers-on and yes-men.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


In my past life, I had a lot of experience dealing on behalf of clients with the need to create slogans and logos for promotions. I've also been involved with a number of groups who needed to come up with acronyms for use in different campaigns. It is an interesting exercise to see how a particular phrase is developed.

That's why I wondered how the word "Greenlink" was developed. The most obvious explanation is that we have an environmentally green parkland connecting communities. Perhaps though the City is having fun with us with a double entendre but doing it with a straight face so that taxpayers never know. Those City-types have such a sense of humour!

I'm sure that this is not the case with Greenlink but I just got to wondering when I saw an e-mail that was being circulated.
  • "I know some of you don't always read the newspaper or follow much in the way of local news, but this is very important and it's your chance to change the future of this city forever.

    You may have seen the press release about this, but you'll also be getting a cool direct mail piece from the City of Windsor in the next couple of days. "we're at a crossroads"

    PLEASE DON'T THROW IT OUT - READ IT - THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! (besides, I wrote most of the copy, so don't hurt my feelings!)

    You're all aware that for the last million years or so, there have been ongoing arguments about what to do with Huron Church and our border. There have been a ton of different options presented, and the last one DRIC is a proposal for a submerged highway right through the heart of the city - it would look a lot like I-696 in Detroit, and would cut a swath right across town.

    The city has come up with a new proposal - Greenlink Windsor. We've been involved as the agency for the city on this project (which has been pretty cool - and ultra-secret!). This is a fabulous option that will create a mostly tunnelled truck route through the city, and will also create ACRES of parkland and greenspace.

    Here's the point. The city is asking for EVERY resident to check out this Greenlink proposal, compare it to DRIC, and then speak up and choose. It doesn't matter where you live in this city - it's going to affect you, so please take this opportunity to voice your opinion.

    How cool is that? You can change the course of the future of Windsor - with a single phone call.

    This is for all City of Windsor residents - not just per household - every voice counts.

    Call 311 or 519-255-2489 NOW and pledge your support FOR GreenLinkWindsor and AGAINST DRIC.

    It only takes a minute to answer 3 or 4 questions to register your vote FOR GreenLinkWindsor. If you don’t, you get the proposed DRIC, and you’ll hate it! We ALL will.

Like wow is this e-mail ever super cool. Man, the writer is really with it! I knew about Valley girls from the movies but I never knew that people actually wrote this way too. Whatever.

My oh my, I am not sure if the e-mail was designed to help out the City with Greenlink or to help out writer get more business because she was involved in the ultra-secret City proposal. Fer shur, the people to whom it is addressed may not be the brightest people in Windsor since they may not read newspapers or follow the news. Typical clients I guess for an ad agency. As if!

We know already from the Windsor Star that $500,000 has been budgeted for the consultants. Barf me out! But I wonder for what time period? From June, from August, until when? Does it include presentation costs, atttending at Open Houses or negotiating with DRIC?

Like, oh my God I'm glad to see that the Mayor has decided that he doesn't need to spend a whole bunch of money on an internal PR department. That's tubular. He can just go outside and hire those services as required.

I wonder if the writer will submit a big bill for all the work that she did. The author, after all, wrote most of the copy. If she charged the City a lot of money, and I don't want to hurt her feelings, will Eddie be able to use this as an excuse to justify having his own Communications Group? That would be totally radical, Dude for the Mayor huh!

Now don't have a cow: $500,000 for Sam and PB. Some money for solicitor David. A few dollars for the creative. Full-page ads in the Star. Ads on the radio. A flyer sent out to everyone. Paying for people to be at the Open Houses.

I got it! I know what the "Green" in Greenlink stands for and it isn't for the environment. If I'm right, that's really cool and ultrasecret between us guys!

The Eddie And Sam Road Show

Nice crowd that came out Monday night to see the Eddie and Sam show at Massey Collegiate. Can you imagine how upset Eddie would have been if no one had come after spending all that taxpayer money on three full-page ads in the Windsor Star, oodles of radio spots on CKLW and a flyer sent around the City in which we're told that we "deserve a greener future."

Does this exercise all feel surreal to you? It does to me. However, I must admit that I feel cheated as well.

I like a nice orderly world. Everything in its place. I play by the rules and expect others to do so too. So explain to me one thing if you don't mind: how can the City possibly support the latest and greatest Schwartz report? It's a simple question. The City passed a resolution that said:
  • "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Windsor advise DRIC that they must have a tunnelled solution as the design of the highway through the corridor determined by the final DRIC process"

How then can the City even consider a "partially tunneled" solution. It violates their position doesn't it? If the City wants to change, my understanding is that there would need to be a "Reconsideration." That would mean that citizens are allowed to appear as delegations at Council. I sure hope the City Clerk requires the City to follow the Procedural Bylaw since she is such a stickler with the rules.

I believe that Councillor Marra has no choice, since he introduced the motion, but to stand up at the next Council meeting and demand that the Schwartz position be rejected out of hand. Oh I know, I'm being silly. No one on Council has the guts to do anything like that. They do what they're told.

Back to Monday night. I didn't stay very long at the high school since the throngs were around all boards and I wasn't going to fight my way to the front. If I knew that all that I would see was on the Internet anyway, I probably wouldn't have gone in the first place. However that's not what bothers me.

I'm hardly an expert in the area. I have lots of questions I would like answered but shouting above the din of the crowd probably wouldn't have given me too much information. I might have liked to have asked some of my questions in a five-minute presentation at Council as a delegation but that wasn't going to happen either. You see the Mayor and Council prevented mere citizens from speaking at Council so that other Windsorites might be able to hear them.

Here's what troubles me. I have no idea how many reports Mr. Schwartz prepared and what was in them before he presented at Council last Tuesday. It must have been something else since the Windsor Star editorial told us in July:

  • "Schwartz has apparently come up with new ideas for a border access route and has shared them with the city, provincial cabinet ministers and the Detroit River International Crossing team. But the city, which has shown a disturbing tendency toward secrecy on multiple fronts but especially the border file, has opted against sharing those ideas with the people they would most affect."

Even before then, Gordon Henderson told us in June:

  • "Negotiations between Windsor and border route decision makers are in the ditch over bureaucratic preference for a below-grade truck route that city officials fear would devastate parts of South Windsor and isolate west-end neighbourhoods.

    According to informed sources, the talks collapsed when the Detroit River International Crossing team (DRIC), in response to a tunnel proposal prepared by New York traffic guru Sam Schwartz and U.S. engineering giant Parsons Brinckerhoff, offered only token improvements in plans for a depressed roadway running parallel to Huron Church Road.

    The Schwartz proposal, which involves eight to nine tunnel sections of varying lengths, designed to shelter adjacent communities and create new parkland atop the tunnels, was presented to the DRIC as an olive branch -- the city's first significant concession since this process began -- but it apparently made little impact."

Those people are a lot smarter than I am and have a whole bunch of experts to help them out. There must have been problems or something wrong or else why would they have rejected what Schwartz and Parsons Brinckerhoff had said. I wish I knew what those problems were since what Henderson described seems so close to what was being presented today. I wonder what the issues were: fires in tunnels, exhaust and pollution, fun with figures over costs, who would pay for what or was Central Park mitigation or enhancement.

So it appears that Sam had to go back and rewrite what he presented before and do it all over again. What happened next? The new and improved report was presented in camera to City Council. The Council has been involved in this matter for years and years and years and have listened to experts for years and years and years and have experts on staff who are experienced for years and years and years.

I don't really think it was fair for taxpayers not to know what Councillors asked Sam. In fact I don't even understand why there was an in camera meeting since it doesn't appear to meet the criteria for secrecy under statute law.

According to Drew Dilkens who was interviewed by John Fairley, there were lots of questions asked. Mind you, it probably didn't matter what they asked since it it was too late for them to make any changes since the report was to be presented several days later. Now Drew was away when the in camera presentation was made, but he got to have his own special briefing he told us. I bet he got answers to all of his questions too.

Didn't you like a stage managing of questions at the Council meeting. I think that Councillor Halberstadt must not have received the memo not last too many questions because he kept going on and on and on. I believe Councillor Lewenza passed him a note. Do you think it was telling him to keep his mouth shut? I sure wish I knew what it said.

Now it looks like, contrary to what it appears, that there have been some intense conversations between the City and the Province anyway. At the CCG meeting, as I told you before, the Ministry of Transportations's representative, Dave Wake, said that the two sides were not too far apart and that we should not believe everything that is written in newspaper. That sure sounds promising did it not.

Why just the other day on Melanie Deveau's show, even Sandra said:

  • "every time the DRIC has introduced our next round... the city has responded in an official way...

    And this is simply that next round of the city responding to that report that came out in the middle of August. So right from that tabling in the middle of August, those people got busy. There was an awful lot of interaction between the Ministry of Transportation experts and Schwartz and his experts working on behalf of the city; questions back and forth comparing data."

Gee that seems seems very strange don't you think. There were conversations in June, there were conversations after the latest DRIC report. From what Sandra said, it look very collaborative to me and hardly confrontational. Why even Sandra was involved:

  • "Well, I've seen it [Sam's Report]. I've certainly been in on a lot of the questions going back and forth."

Sandra tells us

  • "But I'm really pleased because I think we've worked well with the City. We've listened carefully. You know there's going to be fighting back and forth on detail, experts comparing notes, one engineer says one thing, another engineer says another and that's fine. We're just being very open minded. The Premier is determined to listen to the City. And I'm going to make sure that that happens."

So all of these people have had all of these conversations with all of these experts and the only ones who really have no clue as to what is going on are us, you and me, Windsor taxpayers.

This is a multibillion dollar transaction and all that we get is stage-managed questions by City Councillors, very little real information, looking at boards at a high school gymnasium and knowing that all kinds of things are being done behind closed doors.

There has to be some reason why were to be spending two months and wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on advertising campaign. I really wish I knew what it was.

One final note. Sandra made it simple for all of the proponents who were rejected to sue and to sue successfully. She stated

  • "it [Schwartz Plan] has to meet the EA first. And that really is important because any of the proponents that have been pulled off the table, they're going to say does it meet the EA? And if it doesn't meet the EA then why is this going forward and mine not going forward?

    And then those people will be in a legal position, frankly, to stop it altogether."

To be direct about it, can the Schwartz plan meet the EA since it is in violation of the City's official policy as fixed by its Resolution.

Utter and complete chaos rules again.

Windsor In The Throne Speech

That's it as far as the speech goes but we'll hear more as time goes on especially if there is an election called!

The Conservatives have too much money to spend for nice projects that would earn them seats as you will read below. But will any of it come to Windsor where we have 2 NDP MPs?
  • "Our Government will announce an infrastructure program, the Building Canada Plan, to support our long-term growth. By investing in our transport and trade hubs, including the Windsor–Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways, our Government will help rebuild our fundamentals for continued growth.

    The result will be safer roads and bridges, shorter commutes, more competitive business, improved cultural infrastructure and a better quality of life for all Canadians."

Some more information is to come out later according to the Minister in a September speech:

  • "More precisely, I am here to discuss our Government’s unprecedented $33-billion Building Canada infrastructure plan.

    The plan sets a new standard of commitment by the federal government. It provides more funds over a longer-term than any preceding federal program...

    In the coming weeks, I expect to unveil more details about our Building Canada Infrastructure Plan.

    What I can tell you tonight is that this $33-billion over the next seven (7) years plan is the largest single federal commitment to public infrastructure in 50 years.

    With our partners’ investments, we expect the new plan will generate another $50 billion in infrastructure funding.

    The Building Canada Plan also includes a Fund.

    The $8.8 billions Building Canada Fund is one such program that will address both large, strategic infrastructure projects while also providing funding for smaller-scale municipal projects.

    The Fund will focus on projects that deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits—things that matter to Canadians, such as: major highways, drinking water, wastewater, public transit and green energy.

    Public-Private Partnerships

    We all realize that private capital and expertise can make a significant contribution to building infrastructure.

    As a result, the use of public-private partnerships – or P3s as they’ve come to be known - around the world has been expanding rapidly, with many countries taking practical steps toward the development of programs aimed at fostering stronger P3 markets.

    Canada has made some progress in the use of P3s with the development of some high profile projects such as the Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, the Canada Line transit project in British Columbia and the Highway 30 Montreal bypass.

    But more needs to be done.

    So, Canada’s New Government is taking a leadership role in developing P3 opportunities through its $1.25 billion Public-Private Partnerships Fund.

    This program will support innovative projects that provide an alternative to traditional government infrastructure procurement.

    In addition, our Government is committing $25 million over 5 years to establish a federal P3 Office.

    Borders and Gateways

    A stronger and safer Canada must support a seamless flow of people and goods.

    That’s why in Budget 2007, we announced the creation of a $2.1 billion national fund for gateways and border crossings, in addition to new and continued funding for the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative now totaling over $1billion.

    Current funding

    As I mentioned, I expect to be in a position to unveil more details of the Building Canada plan in the coming weeks."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spending The Green Greenly

If you are thinking that Eddie Francis is in a fabulous mood today, then you are wrong. He must believe that, no matter what he does, Fate is against him and that whatever he tries to do will never succeed.

It is almost as if he is playing out the main role as Mayor in Thomas Hardy's novel, "The Mayor of Casterbridge!"

According to the Star, and even accepting that their numbers are inflated, 1500 people turned out at the Ward 1 meeting to take a walk around the Massey gymnasium to read about Greenlink. CKLW said it was "hundreds." How many actually signed up on the City sheets should be disclosed so we would get a better feel for the real number. No matter what, it should be viewed as a big success that so many people came out.

I have to admit that I was surprised at the number of people who turned out. Given the abysmal showing of Windsorites who attended the Council meeting to hear Sam speak, I thought that the numbers would be low. It just goes to prove how small a town Windsor really is. Things can change overnight here and that is a good thing about this City in my opinion. Three full-page ads in the Windsor Star, blanketing of ads on the radio and Windsor Star and Gord Henderson stories about our new Garden of Eden can produce wonders.

But if you think Eddie is happy, he's not. This two-month ad blitz really has nothing to do with the citizens of Windsor. It has really has everything to do with impacting the Senior Levels and in particular the Federal Government. The assumption has to be that there will be a Federal election shortly. It is pretty clear that there is some kind of a deal between Eddie and the Province and this ad campaign has to do more with Federal/Provincial relations than it does with the Windsor border.

Look what has happened to Eddie's best laid plans. First, we have the fire catastrophe in the Los Angeles tunnel just the other day. Don't tell me that anyone will be able to approve the length of tunnels in Sam's plan without a major research project being undertaken on fire safety.

Oh I know what Parsons Brinckerhoff have done in the Detroit airport tunnel. I have read their research on it and the use of jet fans. Unfortunately, their modelling only involved one truck and not 28 plus a car. The Federal Government would be absolutely irresponsible to follow the Schwartz proposal since one jack-knifed tractor-trailer could destroy the main economic route between Canada and the United States for months.

In my opinion we are looking at a major research study both with respect to tunneling and fires and with respect to redundant roads that is going to require that the consultants spend at least a year or two redesigning everything that they have done so far. Good for their pocketbooks, not so good for ours.

Secondly, and perhaps fatally to Schwartz, is the EnviroTruck. It really troubles me that a traffic guru would design his road system and barely acknowledge that diesel trucks and diesel fuel have changed for the better. This concept has been around for a long time. It just did not happen overnight. The DRIC people took it into account. Did Sam? If he had, he would not have talked about trees eating pollution, especially those that only have their leaves for six months.

So why didn't Sam talk about the new diesel truck and diesel fuel in much more detail. If he had, his plan would have been shot down.

On the one hand, one can say that there are no longer any negatives respecting pollution so we don't even need trees eating pollution at the end of Sam's tunnels. On the other hand, one might be silly and ask what's the purpose of spending extra billions on a tunnelled or even partially tunnelled solution when there no longer is a problem respecting pollution.

The story of the EnviroTruck is in the Star today.
  • "In the green lane
    EnviroTrucks feature smog-free engines

    Tory MP Brian Jean admits exhaust from the new so-called EnviroTrucks can be cleaner than the air some Canadians breathe, but Monday he sped right past a request for a new federal incentive program to encourage trucking companies to put more of these tractor-trailers on the road.

    Emissions from the exhaust stacks on the trucks is greatly reduced and even passed a white handkerchief test.

    "This is not a trick -- this is the real thing," Jean, parliamentary secretary to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, said after examining the still-clean white handkerchief that had been held over an exhaust stack for a minute. It would have been black if held over a regular truck's exhaust stack.

    "The quality of life of Canadians, of North Americans will get better as a result of this initiative," Jean said...

    The alliance is looking for a federal incentive program to help trucking companies defray the $8,000 extra cost of buying EnviroTrucks, said David Bradley, the alliance chief executive officer."

I'm sure that you saw the quotation that I emphasized about quality of life. Why do we need a tunnel now to control pollution when there is not going to be any truck pollution within the decade, or it will be greatly reduced at a minimum. Who needs Greenlink? Our quality of life will be better with or without Sam's proposal.

So the real issue is do we want to have Central Park in Windsor. Do we really need the extra parkland when we can't look after what we have now properly? And how are we going to pay for it when we have already cut the Parks Department budget? What that means is the only issue we have left is how to "connect" communities whatever that means. Eddie's mantra of "protecting" and "quality of life" have disappeared as issues.

We know the Bridge Co. showed that connecting can be done for $300 million because they did so in their engineering of the WALTS Road years ago. We also know that DRIC said it can be done for $1.5 billion because they did it in their recent plans. We also know that Sam's numbers are incomplete, are 2007 numbers and we have no idea what the final number will be once a complete road to the bridge is completed. We know now that his plans can be downsized because his issues are no longer relevant.

In passing, don't you find it odd that so much attention is being spent on the "rich and powerful" south part of Windsor. Why Councillor Brister was so concerned about the Southwood Lakes area. (Hmmmm perhaps he expects a lot of campaign contributions from that area when he decides to run for mayor). I've not heard a word about Ward 2 and Sandwich. Where are their tunnels and their quality of life? No one's going to be too concerned about them. No one has been concerned up to now anyway except as a means to block the Ambassador Bridge Company from building their Enhancement Project.

So I did some serious thinking. We need a solution that works from a practical point of view and from a financial point of view.

I don't care what anybody says, the Federal Government is not going to build the Schwartz Road in Windsor and set a precedent that they will have to follow across Canada. If Toronto and Ottawa have expressways including 20 lanes on Highway 401 in Toronto, then Windsor is going to get one too. Right or wrong, the Garden of Eden is just not going to be built in an area that elects 2 NDP Members of Parliament. Any kind of announcement of a project down here that would create jobs would get Jeff Watson re-elected so that they do not have to worry about that. Check out the Thrown Speech tonight.

Here is my solution.

Build the WALTS/Ambassador Bridge/City/DRIC/Schwartz road. Use the roadway model that both the Ambassador Bridge and DRIC have used and even Sam has adopted finally. That road would go right to the Ambassador Bridge since we don't need to spend money building a new bridge that may have salt mine and brine well risks. Are we really that stupid to even consider that? Throw in a bit of grass to make Eddie look like a hero politically with the locals.

Now if one considers, using 2011 dollars and not 2007 dollars, that the cost of the DRIC Road is about $1.5 billion and that a fully tunneled road is about $4 billion, then we would have $2.5 billion left to play with. What I would suggest is dividing that $2.5 billion by $8,000, the extra cost to buy EnviroTrucks. That means that 312,500 trucks could have anti-pollution add-ons that would impact positively pollution all over North America and not just a tiny patch in the Windsor area.

Now that is spending our taxpayers dollars in a wise and green manner and probably even helps out the Conservatives with respect to Kyoto. Our border is finished in a responsible and safe manner and we have helped out our environment. Gee, I might even win a Nobel prize for this idea too.

PS. I was listening to the Lynn Martin show on CKLW this morning. Her discussion of tunneling after the meeting last night lasted only about half an hour! And not everyone was in favor of tunnels after the Los Angeles fire. It really isn't a good day for Eddie after all is it. Three hours for Dan Stamper and 30 minutes for Sam's Greenlink. Who really has Windsorites' support!

Throne Speech Preview

We should know tonight what the future holds for the border issue in Windsor.

There is no doubt that Eddie and Dalton McGuinty have some kind of big deal between them for Eddie to commit himself so strongly on anything such as Greenlink.

I have to believe that Eddie has agreed to be the front. He is to make outrageous demands for outrageous sums of money for infrastructure to help out the Premier in his fight against the Federal Government. There are three issues: money in general, the financial split between the Governments over costs and more money for the central Canada corridor to the United States. After all, it is the Feds who have all the cash.

Here are some things to look for in the Thrown Speech tonight.

There is no doubt that there will be a considerable amount of discussion respecting infrastructure. The question is how much of that discussion will revolve around Windsor in comparison with both the Pacific and Atlantic Gateways. There was a big announcement about the Atlantic Gateway involving billions the other day since that will help the Conservatives win some votes in the Maritime provinces.

Will there just be generalization about Windsor as we have seen in the past or something firm?

It should be very interesting to see what the Speech says specifically with respect to a new bridge (will the Government confirm again that it will be a P3 bridge). One cannot take it too seriously if specific sums of money are not set aside for that bridge.

What about the road to the bridge? $400 million has already been set aside by the Government for its share of the road. Will that amount be increased?

The real big question is how much of the border monies will go into Ontario and what share will the Province have to pay. Right now each of the Federal and Provincial governments puts in 50% of the costs. Will the Federal Government put in more and with a better split as Ontario hopes?

I must admit that my expectations are very low but then again I didn't think that too many people would come out to the gymnasium at Massey Collegiate. And I expected the Lynn Martin show to go on more than 30 minutes on tunneling and Greenlink as well this morning.

My pessimism is built on the fact that if there was going to be good news then Eddie would not have to spend thousands of Windsor taxpayer dollars on a 2 month advertising blitz.

Let's see what happens tonight!

Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place

I can just imagine the blistering phone calls to the Station Manager, News Director and others that must have come. Friday's CKLW morning show kept going on and on as City Hall was being beaten up on the border issue and made to look ridiculous on Greenlink. 180 minutes of it too!

Poor Leah Hansen, do you think she will ever get called back now to host a program on CKLW when the regular host is away? She probably thought she was doing the right thing. After all the phone lines were jammed and a lot of people wanted to go on the air. Her job was to get ratings for the station after all and not to please certain people. I guess that she did not understand that sometimes one must be politically correct in order to survive in this City.

He was only supposed to be on the air as far as I know for one hour but instead, Dan Stamper, President of the Ambassador Bridge Company, spent three hours being questioned by citizens on that Company's Enhancement Project and other matters.

I thought about using the word "interrogated" but that would have been the wrong word and given the wrong flavor about the tone of the conversation. That would have suggested opposition and strong debate. It was not like that at all. Rather there was respectful discussion on both sides with the lots of questions being answered and lots of disinformation being eliminated.

What was very interesting to me was that even professional truck drivers gave credit to the Bridge Company for the way in which they operated their crossing in comparison with public authorities at other ones. Not a bad endorsement and a kick in the you know where to Brian Masse's concept!

As for Eddie, during the show I heard three commercials in which he was pitching his Greenlink solution. Presumably they were paid for. Three minutes for him, 180 minutes for Stamper and at no cost to the Ambassador Bridge Company. Do you think that Eddie will demand a refund?

Stamper took his shots at City Hall and probably had fun doing so. He told callers to speak to their Ward 2 Councillors about why residents could not demolish a garage to build a new one or why his Company could not demolish homes on Indian Road to beautify the area with green space rather than have homes left boarded up as eyesores. You could hear the frustration and the anger when he said that he was tired of the City using him as excuse for not allowing residents to improve Sandwich.

By the end of the show, it was pretty clear that Eddie, Sam and Parsons Brinckerhoff along with their solicitor-client privileged lawyer David had outsmarted themselves on the border road. Oh, they were all so brilliant in what they did to try to embarrass DRIC, their implacable foe, that they forgot about their other so-called enemy. Stamper picked up on the absurdity of their position and how it fell right into his lap.

It was quite a revelation to listen to that happen. Stamper congratulated Eddie for finally legitimizing what the Bridge Company had proposed five years ago with respect to Huron Church Road. Respecting the new Eddie/Sam mantra: protect, connect and quality of life, the Bridge Company had shown how that road could be used for traffic and at the same time connect communities. Of course, since it was proposed by the Bridge Company, it was automatically opposed by the City at that time.

Naturally no one chose to remind citizens that the corridor was the one that the City's own WALTS study had picked as a solution and which is, I assume, City policy even today. It took DRIC and the Schwartz reports to prove the Bridge Company was right after all.

Dan was polite. He really didn't rub it in Eddie's face as much as he could have. He was quite low-key when he said that he could have been in the Bahamas for five years and returned back now with nothing changed.

Now Eddie can get some comfort from the fact that Stamper seemed to have approved of Greenlink. But he really didn't. The Bridge Company really doesn't care whether the road is at grade, below grade, bore tunneled or cut and covered. And why should they? As long as it leads to the Ambassador Bridge, the Company seems to have no preferred option.

Stamper's position was simple and unassailable. Effectively, DRIC and Schwartz were in agreement, he said, that there should be a partially tunneled road. Get going and finish it to the Ambassador Bridge. Let him complete his Enhancement Project since thousands of jobs can be created at a time when Windsor needs them. That's pretty simple even for the Mayor and City Hall to understand don't you think.

From Highway 401 to E C Row, the brilliant city experts demonstrated the newest, latest and best road technology that not only developed a workable truck road but also developed Parks and recreation areas that connected communities and resulted in environmental purity for our City. And all of that at the same cost as those nasty DRIC people who wanted to impose a cheap solution on our City. It truly was remarkable listening to all of this at Council.

Stamper however put the boots to Eddie in a very quiet and respectful fashion when he asked the question why the City decided to stop at Huron Church and E C Row. Why didn't the City just continue on was the question that need answering. There was no need to stop if they were so brilliant south of E C Row. They could have been just as brilliant northwards as you roll right up to the Bridge entrance. And that's how they outsmarted themselves.

There is no justification for them stopping. They could have built a ring road or they could have gone right straight up Huron Church Road.

Here is how the City's WALTS study put it with the two alternatives given. It also puts the lie to the fact that no one knew what the Bridge Company was going to do at the border. It should not be therefore be a big surprise to anyone that the Bridge Company is going to build their Enhancement Project. It was known in 1999 and earlier. That is why the shenanigans with respect to Indian Road and Heritage are so childish and are easily seen through for what they really are:

  • WALTS REPORT---"Option 2 Expand Existing Bridge Capacity

    In this option, widening or twinning the four lane Ambassador Bridge to 6 or 8 lanes would be associated with operational enhancements at or associated with the Bridge Plaza (customs, inspection, tolls, etc). The Canadian Transit Company has proposed that this twinning would link with the Plaza via Indian Road, where the Company has acquired almost all property along the east side.

    WALTS forecasting data and analysis shows that this option would also require further, concurrent improvements on the connecting link to Highway 401. This could be accomplished in at least two ways. The first would be to improve Huron Church Road capacity at least from the Bridge to EC Row Expressway. At this point, improved access could be provided to Highway 401 either via the existing Huron Church Road/Highway 3 connecting link, or via a new easterly link from the EC Row Expressway south to Highway 401 via an improved route such as Lauzon Parkway/County Road 17 and the 10th Concession Road

    A second connecting link option would be from the Bridge Plaza to Ojibway Parkway or EC Row Expressway via a route parallel to College Avenue and the ETR Railway line. Both of these, and other connecting link options warrant further study. Whichever solution is followed, significant roadway capacity and operational improvements would be required along the chosen route, depending on further route selection and functional planning.

    Finally, in considering the Bridge twinning proposal, traffic forecasting and analyses conducted by WALTS and MTO both show a significant need for capacity improvements on Huron Church Road between the Bridge and Expressway to accommodate a doubling or tripling of bridge traffic. In this case, providing up to 8 lanes on portions of the Road may be required, with associated major land acquisition needs along one or both sides of Huron Church Road to accommodate the widened right-of-way."

Now to be direct about it, the Ambassador Bridge's proposed road solution from my recollection is not quite as good as the one that Sam did. But do remember they provided an engineering solution within the context of the BIF money which was only $300 million (that program has now expired thanks to political inaction) rather than the $1.5 billion that Sam had to play with. I assume that the Bridge Company's engineers could have done a bit better job with five times the amount of money at their disposal.

I hope that Eddie listened to what Dan Stamper had to say. There was no doubt that Stamper held out the olive branch to Eddie by saying that he would work with the City to accomplish the building of the road for traffic and for connecting communities. However, he also made it clear that if Eddie did not do so, there would be consequences.

I cannot think of any reason why, after Sam's brilliant report, a road to the Ambassador Bridge cannot be built using one of the solutions suggested in the WALTS report. There is no justification for stopping now is there?

But what if, for some crazy reason, Eddie decides to do so? Stamper provided the reason why Eddie would be in very big trouble if he did. You see, Eddie is not only the Mayor of Windsor but he is also Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission or maybe now President or CEO of the new corporation set up. In other words, he is the Ambassador Bridge Company's major competitor in Windsor for border crossing traffic!

As I have said before the Mayor is in a very awkward position, wearing two hats. He must act in the City's best interests as Mayor but he also has to act in the Tunnel's best interests as Chair. And that is how the problem has arisen.

I would like Eddie to explain now how we can build a road to EC Row that is so brilliant but not to the Ambassador Bridge. Did Sam's brain stop at a certain spot on Huron Church? How can Eddie say, if he does not allow the building of the road immediately to the Bridge, that he is not preventing the Bridge Company from competing fairly with the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel? He cannot! He is preventing them from improving their operations while at the same time, along with $30 million of Municipal, Federal and Provincial government monies, he is proposing to improve the Tunnel's operations so they can take traffic away from the Bridge.

Nothing like being placed between a rock and a hard place.

As I have said before, it is not that the Ambassador Bridge people are that smart, it is that their opponents are that dumb. They keep shooting themselves in the foot.

It made for some very interesting listening to the three hours on CKLW. It was shocking to me that there were so few negative comments about the Bridge Company. In fact, there weren't any. One woman even said "God Bless" to Dan as she slammed her Ward 2 Councillors.

It was unbelievable. Three hours of a public lovefest on the radio with the Ambassador Bridge would have been unheard of even a few months ago. Have Windsorites finally figured out that they have been told a bunch of stories over the last five years and longer by people who should have known better? Have they finally figured out that the Bridge Company, the best border operator in North America, really knows what they are doing. They have been consistent in what they have said unlike some others who keep changing to meet whatever the circumstances at the time require.

We should be grateful, to be direct, to Eddie, Sam, PB and David. They have given us the solution... it is a road suggested five years ago by the Ambassador Bridge Company that leads directly to their Enhancement Project!

But for the Plaza embellishment by the DRIC people who increased the size of the Plaza from 20 to 100-120 acres, the Ambassador Bridge would be the number one choice for the crossing. Now that we know the truth and that the Americans have said that the Ambassador Bridge is their preferred place where the new bridge should go, who in their right mind would spend hundreds of millions of dollars locating a bridge in an area of brine wells and salt mines and take the liability risk of a collapse. Just as in Sarnia, the experts looked up river and downriver but in the end decided to build the new bridge at the exact spot where the old bridge was located. It made the most sense there and makes the most sense here.

We know that Michigan can't afford a new bridge, Ontario can't, the US Federal Government is still fighting a war while ours is gearing up for an election. Harper has better places to put their billions of infrastructure money than in Windsor right now since Windsorites persist in voting in NDP members.

We still will have all the fun and games. Two months of Eddie the pitchman, two months of an ad campaign blitz, two months of Sandra and Dwight pretending that they have an interest in the new border crossing and perhaps a federal campaign. There will undoubtedly be some new bombshells to come out but in the end we all know now what the outcome will be.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees

You, dear reader, I have to say modestly, are very fortunate to be reading this Blogsite.

No, it is not just for the stuff I write but for the information provided to me from readers just like you. I'm going to talk about something that a reader sent to me shortly. The consequences for science are mind-boggling and may throw into disarray everything that we have been led to believe is true.

If you will remember, quite some time ago, I raised the question of bovine flatulence, cow farts if you will, as a concern with respect to air pollution. The more that we read about bad air in Windsor, the more that we see that it comes from outside of the City. Many people believe that the bad air comes from the United States but I suggested to you that the Governments needed to have a major environmental study undertaken by DRIC with respect to cows and bulls.

I'm not aware however whether such a study has been undertaken. My suspicion is that the Governments are afraid of losing the rural vote when a federal election is so close and we have just finished a provincial election. Accordingly they were afraid to undertake such a study for fear of what the results might be.

Well some shocking news has just come out of Toronto. It could have a dramatic influence on the debate over what kind of road Windsor will have. Wouldn't it be ironic if an unprotected below-grade road would be the best solution for Windsor since diesel engine technology and new diesel fuel specifications mean that within the decade there should be very little contamination from trucks.

How could that be you say? How could an expressway be better than Central Park? Frolicking amongst the trees that eat up pollution supposedly (except for the six months when the trees don't have any leaves) seems to be such a "green" idea. Come on, we can't be a world-class destination with another expressway built here. How can we compare with Toronto near the airport where there are about 20 lanes of traffic. Now that's a world-class destination for tourists worldwide!

Unfortunately, the news out of Toronto may be all bad:

Sam may have made a gross error. In all good faith, he may dooming us and the six generations that will follow. I am surprised that Sam ignored the event depicted in the photo above that took place in Central Park in 1996!

Yes that's right, trees may be our enemies. The combination of tree pollution and cow farts could prove to be fatal to many people in the Windsor and Essex County areas. This is not a laughing matter. This is something that Governments must investigate immediately. I'm not saying it; the City of Toronto is. And if we cannot believe Toronto, then whom can we believe!

Here is a story from the Toronto Star just published days ago that you will read here, on this Blogsite, and not in the pages of the Windsor Star or of any other media outlet in the region. In fact, as you can tell from the story, the results are so shocking and so disturbing that the report is to be rewritten. In fact one may wonder if it will ever see the light of day:
  • Do trees spew 'contaminants'?

    City report that says vegetation emits huge amount of `compounds' into air sent back for a rewrite

    Oct 11, 2007
    John Spears, Toronto Star Staff Reporter

    A city report that says trees and vegetation spew more than a half-million tonnes of contaminants into Toronto's air each year has been bounced back to staff for a rewrite.

    Councillors on the city's parks and environment committee asked staff to clarify and, if necessary, correct information in the report on air and water emissions in Toronto.

    The report took a blast from Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, who said the report contained errors and was written in such an impenetrable way that even "self -avowed policy wonks were scratching our heads."

    "I felt like I was reading a different language," agreed Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale).

    One eye-opening passage on air emissions focused on six air contaminants singled out by Environment Canada.

    They include carbon monoxide; compounds that cause acid rain; fine dust that causes respiratory ailments; and "volatile organic compounds" or VOCs.

    VOCs include a wide range of substances – some man-made chemicals such as benzene, and some natural substances.

    The smell of cut grass, for example, comes from VOCs.

    Air emissions of the six contaminants total just over a million tonnes in Toronto, the report says, and more than half of that total is made up of "VOCs that come from trees."

    Christopher Morgan of the Toronto Environment Office, who helped write the report, said the intent was not to ring alarm bells about trees.

    "I'm not trying to knock down trees, for heaven's sake," he said in an interview. "I'm trying to say: Put more trees in."

    VOCs can curb the harmful effects of some other contaminants, he said:

    "The contaminants in the air aren't necessarily bad things."

    Hartmann said the section on trees spewing contaminants – even if technically correct – shows where more focus and better use of language is needed.

    "The way the report reads, it's very easy for someone to conclude that a lot of the smog-emitting pollutants out there come from trees and vegetation," he said. "I suspect that's not what the authors wanted to convey."

    The point of the report is to focus on man-made chemicals, he said, not those that are part of the natural environment.

    Because of the difficulties in interpreting the report, councillors asked staff to produce a non-technical summary that's understandable for the general public.

    The report must come back to the committee in November for another review before it is sent to council for final approval.

You have been warned!

Three Faces Of The Star

Do you remember that old movie starring Joanne Woodward, The Three Faces of Eve? It was about a woman with multiple personalities.

That movie seems so appropriate to me when thinking about the Windsor Star. I cannot tell on any given day which personality of the Star will be present. I cannot find consistency in what the newspaper does and the positions that it takes in relation to local municipal political matters.

You know what I think of the Star. I am so angry at them that, if I had the time, money and the assistance of people who really knew what they were doing, I would love to start up an online newspaper to compete with them. This City needs an alternative voice and the only one right now the City has is that provided by a number of Bloggers online.

However, I thought the Star had changed. Perhaps it was becoming a readable newspaper once again. After all, it did some fine investigative work on the Windsor Utilities Commission matter. Its Editorial on the Schwartz Report was relatively balanced, for the Star. Oh I know about Gord Henderson but I read him more now for amusement then for information or insightful journalism.

But is the Star really making a change? I'll give you two examples below. One dealing with WUC and the other dealing with the border road. I'll let you decide which face of the Star is showing up.

First let's deal with the Windsor Utilities Commission. With the examples I have shown on here before of changes in Star stories, usually the Star makes the Published version a lot more friendly to City Hall than the Online version which is published first.

How do you explain this then? Which Editor decided to add and incorporate the negative comments in the Published and why:

    WUC's help with water bills called 'a start'

    Monica Wolfson, Windsor Star Published: Friday, October 12, 2007

    The Windsor Utility Commission's water rate assistance program will be able to help only about 200 people if they seek the maximum $125 per person grant that will be available for 2008.

    Starting in January, WUC is creating a $25,000 assistance program that will be run by the same people who administer Keep the Heat, an assistance program for poor people who can't pay their winter gas and electric bills.

    The water program will give out a maximum $125 one-time-only payment once a year to consumers who are in arrears. If every qualifying client seeks the maximum, the fund will be exhausted with 200 applicants.

    In August, water rates increased 86 per cent. The average yearly water bill will rise to $406 from $219. The sewer surcharge also increased 60 per cent. The average sewer bill will jump to $629 from $400.

    "The initiative will evolve," Lewenza said. "Water is a non-discretionary service."

    WUC Commissioner Rocco Lucente asked administrators to approach the city about creating a similar assistance fund for residents who can't afford to pay sewer surcharge fees.


    WUC fund 'token' effort

    Monica Wolfson, Windsor Star Published: Saturday, October 13, 2007

    The Windsor Utility Commission's water assistance program will be able to help only about 200 applicants if financially struggling consumers seek the maximum $125 per customer grant that will be available next year.

    Coun. Alan Halberstadt said administrators made a hollow effort to help needy people.

    "It sounds like basic tokenism to show they are helping people," Halberstadt said.

    The water program will give out a maximum $125 one-time-only payment once a year to qualified consumers who have received a disconnection notice. If every qualifying client seeks the maximum, the fund will be exhausted with 200 applicants. The plan must be approved by WUC's audit and finance committee in November.

    In WUC documents, administrators call the program a "made in Windsor solution" to provide assistance to low-income families, the disabled, the terminally ill and the elderly.

    In August, water rates increased 86 per cent. The average yearly water bill will rise to $406 from $219. The sewer surcharge also increased 60 per cent.

    The average sewer bill will jump to $629 from $400.

    WUC's water distribution revenue was $29 million in 2005, according to an annual report.

    When asked if the assistance was too little, WUC chairman Ken Lewenza said "it's a start."

    "The initiative will evolve," Lewenza said. "Water is a non-discretionary service."

    Lewenza proposed lobbying the province and federal governments to get money to help Windsor residents pay their bills. Halberstadt called that idea a "non-starter."

    "The program is subject to review," said Victoria Zuber, chief financial officer for WUC. "We just need to see how this goes."

    The water assistance program will be operated in the same way as other energy aid programs, said Sylvia deVries, spokeswoman for WUC.

    "Once our customers get a disconnection notice that will be the notice to go to social services," deVries said. "Records will be processed and once they are reviewed, they will issue payment for the account. For water, if a person is in arrears, it's the same trigger."

    WUC commissioner Rocco Lucente asked administrators to approach the City of Windsor about creating a similar assistance fund for residents who can't afford to pay sewer surcharge fees.

    "They should be providing $37,000 because that's 150 per cent of $25,000," said Lucente referring to sewer surcharges, which are calculated on 150 per cent of the water bill.

    Halberstadt said city council will receive a report soon on sewer surcharge revenues.

    "I think we should look at reducing that percentage from 150," Halberstadt said. "That would help everybody rather than the odd person."

That was quite a difference in the two stories. It almost seemed as if the reporter was sent out to get more quotes and on the negative side. Note that the last "Made in Windsor" solution was a failed plan by ex-Mayor Hurst on the border involving parklands and the DRTP South area!

Next, let's talk about the border and more specifically, Sam's shunnels or short tunnels. This really is the major difference between what DRIC proposed and what Sam proposes.

What is the big story over the weekend with respect to trucks, roads and tunnels: the blazing inferno in the Los Angeles tunnel that involved 29 vehicles and killed three people resulting in the closing down of Interstate 5 and necessitating major repairs to the truck tunnel that may take many weeks.

I hurriedly went to the online version of the Windsor Star, as I normally do in the morning, to see how the Star covered the story. To be direct about it, given that Sam's presentation had only taken place a few days ago, I expected massive coverage of the story.

After all I am sure you remember the big story in January about pollution in California, "Kids' health woes, road fumes linked: Development of lungs one issue cited in big U.S. study." Shouldn't we expect therefore a similar story on the truck tunnel fire?

I did not find a thing on the Online version. (Note, I did not go to the digital version of the Star since I get the hard copy in the morning). I am sure that you can imagine what I was thinking about the Star and its editors! I was ready to write CanWest and demand that the entire Star management staff be replaced with people who understand journalism and then file a complaint with the Pres Council.

Unfortunately, I can't do it. The Star covered the story. But they did it in a very nice way. Check out the image of the page below.

It is on the back of the Classified section, on Page C-8, just after the comics! Because it is a photograph with a few lines of text underneath it, I assume that is why it was not shown on the Online version. If I had not gone through the entire Star looking for the story, I never would have found it. Read the text yourself to see how thorough the story underneath is.

I must admit that I thought the placement of the story strange and the lack of information about the accident and the consequences even stranger. Frankly I do not consider it to be responsible journalism in the context of what is going on in Windsor these days. No one can argue that the Star didn't cover the story now but the way in which they did to me is disgraceful.

So which personality is the Star? You may not have known that a book was published after the movie was finished. It was called "The Final Face of Eve." I wonder when we will see that face of the Star.