Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 26, 2007

Governments As Blockbusters

Someone at MDOT or at FHWA will have to explain it because I sure can't.

The West End politicos and activists in Sandwich will have to start asking themselves some tough questions as well. They really will have to look in the mirror one day and ask themselves if they've been played as total suckers. Perhaps Councillor Postma may have to revise her suggested Blockbuster Resolution.

No one seems to care I guess that hundreds of families and businesses will have to be moved out of Delray to make way for a new DRIC bridge. Once the final location is determined in Windsor, we'll see how Sandwich is sandwiched. When there are no Schwartz tunnels for Sandwich, who will cry for residents?

But let's not talk about our side, let's talk about the US side. The Detroit publication, Metro Times, just ran a story on the activist, John Nagy, moving out of Delray. I'll post a copy of that story below and then comment on it.

You remember John Nagy don't you. I've mentioned him in my Blogs several time. He is the guy who said about DRIC:
  • "When the DRIC project first came to Delray, only a few people showed up at a meeting. He took it upon himself to inform the community of all the latest developments and the upcoming meetings. He made sure MDOT had a mailing list for Delray, and he himself went house-to-house, wrote addresses down, and submitted them to MDOT...He stressed that it is unfair to characterize the MDOT/DRIC team as a “villain.” The DRIC process always let an individual say what needs to be said.

    He noted that the MDOT/DRIC team has been more than open with the community."

  • "But lately Nagy, a retired machine operator who's lived in the neighborhood his entire 51 years, has become excited by a proposed project he hopes will spur nascent redevelopment efforts...

    You'd think Nagy and other community leaders would be dead set against funneling thousands of semis spewing diesel fumes through their neighborhood every day. But the promise of development dollars has helped win them over...

    MDOT officials have met frequently with residents, promising to sweeten the pot if and when a bridge is built. At 23 public meetings conducted so far in southwest Detroit, agency director Kirk T. Steudle and study director Mohammed Alghurabi have sat with residents in community centers and high school gyms, answering questions and seeking input. They promised the agency would help bring housing and commercial redevelopment to the neighborhood, showing pictures of varying styles of residential buildings, cultural attractions and business projects, asking residents which would be most welcome.

    At first, Nagy says, he had no intention of agreeing to an international crossing running through his neighborhood. But after hearing MDOT's promises, his opinion changed.

    "I think, overall, the bridge is a win-win situation," he says. "It's going to do away with a lot of blight and contaminated properties."
Perhaps he finally realized what I written on here before about DRIC and the revitalization of Delray:

  • "C. Bob Benson noted revitalization of the community is not MDOT’s responsibility. MDOT will make recommendations; it will be someone else’s responsibility to implement those plans. Some people may have the impression that MDOT is going to lead the revitalization of the area.
  • R. Mohammed Alghurabi noted MDOT is responsible for the DRIC study. And MDOT will be responsible to build the new bridge, plaza and interchange, if the project is approved. He noted MDOT will need partners to revitalize Delray.

  • Q. What will it take to implement the conceptual land use plan for Delray that the DRIC Study Team proposed?

    A. It will take a partnership among many units of government, including the City of Detroit, and the private sector. MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration can serve as a catalyst and make some but not all the investments. And, the DRIC Study Team believes it will take 20 to 25 years to fully revitalize Delray as portrayed in the conceptual land use plans."

To me it is a tragedy about how people are being used as pawns in this border matter. Take my friend in Delray as an example. She has a large house there. What's it worth, perhaps $20-30,000. Add in, say another 25%, because of the taking by MDOT and she will get slightly under $40,000 at most. Other people with smaller homes, and Nagy said that some are worth around $8,000, might be lucky to get around $10-15,000. Now tell me where are they going to move?

That's a pretty simple question... I wonder when a representative from MDOT will answer it. I wonder if MDOT has stopped showing all of the lovely artists' renditions of what Delray could become now that reality is sinking in. I know it's an academic question for us on this side of the river but I'd be curious if someone here could make a stab at answering that question as well.

We can huff and puff about saving the heritage of Sandwich but I don't see anyone trying to save the heritage of Delray from our side.

Someone needs to explain as well frankly why Sandwich should be saved and not Delray. After all wasn't the Ambassador Bridge proposal kicked out of the DRIC process because no one side of the river was supposed to be hurt more than the other.

Of course, both Sandwich and Delray could be saved if the Enhancement Project was built since it does not require any more land in either community. For some reason however, that isn't accepted as a viable solution. I can't figure this one out either.

Here's here's the magazine story. I'll have some comments about it afterwards and let you know what the significance of it is:

  • "The last stink
    A community activist calls it quits in Detroit
    by Curt Guyette

    John Nagy has been alive for 53 years, and every one of them has been spent living in Delray. Until now. A well-known grassroots activist, Nagy has pulled up stakes, moving from his lifelong neighborhood on Detroit's southwest side to Monroe's Frenchtown Township. He's left the community where he was born and attended school, moving from the house on Bacon Street he and three brothers grew up in and continued to live in as adults. And, most importantly for those who remain behind, he's left the community he's been trying to better for decades.

    All that history and all the points of connection that come with it are being left behind because Nagy's finally fed up with a city he says doesn't care about the neighborhood he loves.

    "I hit a brick wall," he says.

    The breaking point came in the form of a composting facility that moved into southwest Detroit last year and received final approval from the City Council on a 5-4 vote earlier this year. Nagy and others complain that the facility produces a nauseating smell — one he can easily distinguish from the other foul odors that also plague the neighborhood, like the stink that comes from the city's wastewater treatment plant located nearby, or from the diesel fumes belched by big semis that roll through the area day and night.

    "C'mon," says Nagy, "let's go for a ride and I'll show you what I'm talking about."

    We took a similar ride back in January, when Nagy was still fighting the composting facility. On that trip he pointed out efforts by people in the community to make improvements to their homes, a new porch here, new siding there and a fresh paint job at another spot. He also pointed out the challenges, but the emphasis was on highlighting the reasons to be optimistic in a neighborhood that, at last count, had about 4,000 residents.

    This time out, the rose-colored glasses were gone. Around the corner from his house is the long-closed McMillan Elementary, which Nagy says was purchased a few years ago. "Look at it now," he says. "It's wide-open. There's no boards on the windows. Anyone can get in." Land around the building has been turned into a dumpsite.

    "I've made numerous complaints to the city about this," he says, "but nothing's been done."

    He makes a right-hand turn and points to a line of doors leaning against a chain-link fence enclosing a yard strewn with junk. It's another source of complaints that have gone unaddressed. "I turned that one in three years ago," says Nagy.

    Farther down the block he points to another house. "That guy's running a used appliance business out of there. The city just lets him do it."

    He turns the corner and goes down another street until he gets to a mound of trash and junk several feet high. Since the city cut back to doing bulk trash pickup once every three months, three pickup cycles have come and gone without the garbage pile getting hauled away.

    "It's just gotten to the point where I'm tired of fighting battles I can't win," he says before pulling in front of an abandoned, vacant house with the exterior brick gone.

    "I called the city's Buildings & Safety Engineering Department as the guys were actually there stripping the bricks, and they [B&SE] told me they didn't have enough inspectors to send anyone out. And the guys were right there, stealing the bricks."

    At the end of the tour, Nagy stops at a yard at the end of his block. It's enclosed by chain-link fence, has trees and shrubs and roses. It used to be an abandoned eyesore sitting next to one of Nagy's rental homes. He simply took control of the property, spending a few thousand dollars to landscape it before eventually acquiring it from the city. In the yard sits a large wooden sign, painted blue with gold letters that announce: "Welcome to Delray." He built the sign and planted it in the ground, he says, "Because I've always been proud to be from Delray."

    It is hard to calculate what it costs a community like Delray to lose a John Nagy, but his move out certainly comes with a price to be paid by those who remain.

    "John leaving is an incredible loss," says Lisa Goldstein, executive director of the group Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision. A frequent ally, Nagy took a lead role in assisting Goldstein's group in the battle against the composting facility.

    "I also understand why he came to the point where he felt like he was beating his head against he wall," says Goldstein. As with other problems in the community Nagy points out, Goldstein says it has been a struggle getting the city and state to keep odors at the compost site in check.

    "I'd say enforcement has been fairly minimal," observes Goldstein.

    As a result, Nagy feels particularly bad for his neighbors, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes. Unable to afford air conditioning, they have to leave their windows open on hot summer nights, when the stink is often at its worst.

    That kind of concern will surely be missed, says Thomas Cervenak, executive director of the nonprofit Peoples Community Services. The organization is concerned with the provision of social services to people in the area's needy neighborhoods; Nagy serves on its board of directors.

    "The thing about John," says Cervenak, "is that he's always clear on his agenda, which is the betterment of his community. For some activists, they are active to see what they can get out of it. Not John. All he's been interested in is to make sure his community thrived as best as possible."

    Nagy's departure doesn't represent a total break from his community — he intends to remain involved with Peoples Community Services and promises to remain active on other issues, but his move out raises anew a basic question about Delray today: Located as it is in an industrial zone, should it continue to be a residential area at all?

    "The city is trying to have its cake and eat it too," says City Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr. Continuing to allow new industry to move into an area where residents are already shouldering more than their fair share of polluters, and at the same time selling city-owned property to new homeowners, doesn't make sense, he says.

    He thinks the best plan might involve relocating homeowners, but that takes money the city doesn't have. And even if a funding source were found, some residents would fight leaving.

    "There are folks living there who have their roots planted pretty deep, folks who are not going to go no matter what," says Cockrel.

    It always seemed like John Nagy would be one of those people.

    Until now."
What I find fascinating is that the article did not say that Mr. Nagy sold his property, just that he's moving out. Did he sell or not? If he sold, who was the buyer? Who would want to buy property in Delray if it is so bad to live there? Could the buyer only afford to buy in Delray and nowhere else in Detroit? Has Nagy instead been forced to hang onto the property waiting for DRIC to buy him out?

Interestingly, try and find a word in that article about the DRIC bridge. There isn't one. The issue is a composting facility, not a bridge with thousands of trucks over it. With all of his opposition to the Ambassador Bridge and his support of DRIC, there is nothing in there about the border issue. And Metro Times has not been shy about its opposition to the Ambassador Bridge Company.

If you were a resident of Delray and you found out that the famous community activist was leaving town, wouldn't you be concerned too? If he could go after saying that he was never going to move, why should you stay? Would you start looking for someone who would buy your property? Would you start begging MDOT to buy your house or perhaps some speculator who is looking to make a 25% profit on the price that he pays?

Here is a key line in that story:
  • "Located as it [Delray] is in an industrial zone, should it continue to be a residential area at all?"
Don't you see it? Want to learn how to be a good blockbuster? One merely needs to look to Government to be educated into how to destroy communities big time. Build them up with great plans and artists' renditions, call them residents' concepts only when push comes to shove, say there is no Government money available and when a community activist pulls out hope the leaving is publicized through the media, then you know you've won!

Let's destroy Delray. It doesn't deserve to be a residential area any longer. That's what John Nagy's leaving means. If Nagy goes, it must mean the Community is doomed so everybody better go and leave the land vacant for a new bridge. The people don't matter; just the Governments' objective does.

How does the American concept of "Environmental Justice" fit in with all of this?

And if you don't think that the game is the same in Windsor, then your head is buried so far in the sand it will never come out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mail Call

I missed the note that you were going to send but did not. I am sure that a lot of your fellow readers would like to know what you think about the issues:

1) Ed, did you get the one by Hydro One to install a thermostat in your house so that they could turn your AC up or down, ha,

I sent it back and said that while they were at it, include my TVs as I watch too much, I also Asked them to put a notice light on the controller so that I would know enough to smile when I Went by for the small camera they installed !!!

1984, just a little late.

Anyone I spoke to threw the request in the round basket !!!

2) Just got my second bill. $4.06 worth of water used but $76.00 bill! So why the effort to conserve when it doesn't really bring down the overall cost of the bill? I would rather pay $1.50/CM and less of the various charges that I can't control and maybe then we can see some conservation.

3)Bridge Open House

It struck me like being at a good restaurant. More than once, again as I was leaving the building, I was asked questions by Bridge employees if I was favorably impressed with the display. I was, so each time they seemed to brighten a bit. I gather this PR job is considered extremely important by the Company.

I saw Susan Whelan interacting with a group looking at a model of the Plaza and Indian Road enhancements. Another woman saw me watching and quickly came to explain details to me. I remarked that the new bridge reminds me a lot of the new bridge over the Dneiper River in Kiev. These people know bridges! She immediately asked if I was Ukrainian. Explaining no, that I had been there because of my wife's relatives she told me she has seen and travelled over the very bridge I was talking about.

All of the other presenters were very capable and personable. I left favorably disposed to their presentation. As one of the men said, the meals and sleeping arrangements alone for the construction crews will lift the Windsor economy let alone the supplying of material and maybe some local hires for those qualified.

Hope they get it done.

4) Ed my friend ..... it is obvious to me sitting at my desk that Windsor no longer has a Mayor or even a local Government.

The bridge rightfully is proceeding with their initiative since they could not get anywhere with City hall. Tony Toldo call a meeting of movers and shakers and nobody from local Government is invited and nobody from the Development Commission.

Interesting since the topic for the day was economic development in Windsor. Why not invite these people .... well all they do is try to make sure nothing happens so why would you invite them?

Did you know that we have a new Mayor in Windsor .......... hooray ......... his name is Toldo. Not sure whether it is senior or junior but they are the shadow Mayor(s) and they are running the local Government. This is what these other inept politicians don't understand. They were elected to serve the people. They do not want to do this instead they prefer to play their silly games. So the citizens of Windsor do the right thing, they ignore the inept politicians and do what's right for Windsor. Three cheers for the Ambassador Bridge and the Toldo's.

5) I have some experience with Mexican workers and I have been impressed with their industriousness and general integrity. As you know I spend more time at the racetrack than most people since I am involved with horseracing in my area. The backside (the barns) of the track are staffed largely by Latinos and most of them are Mexicans. They show up on time and do their work well for minimum wages.

My son is an attorney in several outlying counties where Mexican immigrants chose to live. His experience is that Mexicans, more than most other immigrants, can be trusted to show up when they must and to pay their bills.

My stepdaughter is based (with her husband who runs a major plant) in Guadalajara. My wife and I have both spent significant time there and I have observed that, while the standards for 100% perfection on a job are a bit lower than we have in many jobs here, nevertheless, the workers are on the job and the job gets done. The "mas o menos' attitude is reflective of a slower life style and not a shirking of duty in my judgment.

They make a good contribution to a community.

6) Re: Is there good news for of your best

7) I read the article Gord wrote about that meeting. My hope is they can and would be able to bring more development to the city and area.

This is not a concern. These business people know how to get things done.

The stick in the mud is the city. Like you stated Ed, they can't even get a garage built. Local government and even the province is powerless to stop the job loss around here.

Let's let the people who know how, do what they do best. Invest in the community without petty hindrences.Action on all levels and from everyone is required.
Mr. Mayor and council, that includes the Bridge. Way too many years and funds have been wasted.

Get over it.

8) Good morning Ed.
So much for tourism in Windsor.

Eddie is once again side shifting the forum. Yell about something insignificant and the people will forget last week. Usual typical politics.

Besides he is really po'd because they used the bridge.

9)Hi Ed.. ... I recently retired from the Meteorological Service of Canada
(Environment Canada). I can assure you that weather in London and in Windsor is very dissimilar. Stating that London weather is representative of Windsor weather is like saying is Toronto's and Peterborough's... the prime winds in the northern hemishere blow from west to east... we all learned that in grade 5 climatology.

London's weather is affected by both Lake Huron and Lake Erie and the "lake effect" winds are much different than that of Windsor. London has the notoriety of being the
thunderstorm capital of Canada because of "lake effect" ... bet you always thought that Windsor had the most thunderstorms in Canada! Windsor may be more humid and possibly hotter in the summer thus more "smog days" than London and this is a more critical factor that prevailing winds. The pollution concerns of ozone and nitrous oxides and particulate matter abound on "smog days" and are again much different than what is happening in London.

The Ministry of the Environment (provincial agency) are responsible for monitoring air quality wherein Environment Canada monitors the weather per se and issues forecasts and warnings. Environment Canada receives hourly observations from the Windsor Airport provided by a private contractor. London, on the other hand sends it's weather data from automatic sensors at the London airport which are very much prone to error. The Ministry of the Environment run by the province does monitor wind, temperature, dew points and air quality from several locations across Windsor both downtown and the west end. It would only make common sense that who/whomever was responsible for doing their due dilligence regarding weather would use this (MOE) information instead of simply stating "London's weather is representative of southwestern Ontario."

using London data would be showing less critical concerns for pollution (better air quality) than using Windsor data.... again because of the high number of "smog days" Windsor experiences than London. It certainly would cause one to question why
Windsor data was not used in the Greenlink study.

1) Transit Insurance
Make business pay $10k each for transit service.
Make it a quick death for business instead of a slow one.
2) The Barn is a Heritage site. It can't be torn down without an act of Parliament. (In Windsor's case an act of Eddie and the legal beagles)
3) Tunnel Bus - Use the Bridge due to lower rates and better management. Better view too.
4) Mexican refugees. Open an authentic Mexican plaza and have the Feds fund it. Include a restaurant.
5) Get Eddie and the council better batteries for their blackberries. The ones they have seem to be selective when it comes to community projects. That way they can attend the bridge's open house. I thought that first hand info was always credible against second hand to third with a little prejudice inserted. Oh I forgot; the bridge wants to spend money, create jobs, and ENHANCE the area. Current council wants to wait, and for what I have no idea. Elected officials come and go but the bridge will be there and will continue on.

Imagine if the Mayor worked with someone, anyone??
6) Consistencey. Never heard that word to describe council. The proper term is prevailing winds. Decisions change with the wind and air pressure. But don't use Windsor as a model. Use London. They are more consistent.

Is the WUC issue dead or has something else taken its place?

That's my rant.



That expression should be Windsor's new motto after THINK BIG. And not only does it apply to Windsor but also to those who are dealing with the City of Windsor.

Of course, it is about as useless as Sam's phrase is.

When it comes to screwing taxpayers however, politicians will act quickly.

It looks like the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is taking that motto to heart. How else to explain their auditor starting last Tuesday and supposedly finishing their work in several weeks. Such speed. It makes you wonder why.

I find it quite reprehensible that the Ministry is doing anything right now with WeACT's Application in front of the Ontario Municipal Board outstanding. What if WeACT wins? The application if successful means that Windsor's actions in its request to the Ministry were improper and the Minister had no jurisdiction for setting up the audit in the first place. It means it all has to be done all over again.

Naturally, WeACT anticipated that action and has made another Application to the OMB. If successful, the effect would be to put on hold the Ministry audit until such time as the OMB has made its decision.

Never fear however, the System cannot permit mere citizens to triumph. The next challenge to WeACT will be that the OMB has no jurisdiction to hear this matter in the first place.

More to come.
  • "October 24, 2007

    To: Ontario Municipal Board
    From: Chris Schnurr

    RE: OMB Case No. OMB File No.:

    As you know, this matter involves a determination whether the Motion passed by the City of Windsor was proper. 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.

    The Windsor Star today reported the following:

    WUC audit to cost $156,610
    Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star

    Published: Monday, October 22, 2007

    An auditor has been selected to investigate the financial dealings of the Windsor Utilities Commission.

    The process is expected to be completed in three to four weeks, according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

    Council received a written update Monday following its request to have an audit conducted on WUC to help explain a 86-per-cent annual water rate hike and satisfy concerns expressed by many angry ratepayers.

    The Toronto firm Grant Thornton LLP is expected to begin the audit as soon as an introductory meeting with city staff can be arranged, according to a ministry letter included in council's package at Monday's meeting.

    Costs for the audit will be paid for by the city. The final price is estimated at $156,610.

    Mayor Eddie Francis said how the audit will be paid for will be determined by council during next month's budget deliberations.

    Council requested the audit on Aug. 13, approving a motion brought forward by Francis, although some residents and Coun. Alan Halberstadt, fearing the process will not go far enough, instead wanted the investigation conducted by Ontario's Auditor General.

    WUC officials had said the water rate hike was needed to help repair the city's crumbling watermain infrastructure.

    Terms of reference for the audit have also been released by the ministry. It will focus on financial analysis of WUC dating back to 2003. It will also determine how the water, wastewater and sewer rates were accounted for in both WUC's and the city's financial statements.

    The audit may also include examination of any books, accounts, records, receipts, funds or financial transactions relevant in the opinion of the auditor.

    Upon completion, a written report will be submitted to Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

    Coun. Alan Halberstadt, who has been outspoken in his concerns about WUC's financial dealings, said he is happy to see issues, such as dozens of residential water meters not being hooked up and WUC's watermain replacement levy possibly not being used properly, being investigated.

    But said there are too many unanswered questions he feels will not be covered by the audit. He had hoped that the related utility, Enwin Utilities, would be included in the investigation.

    "It appears Enwin might be in the clear on this, but we don't know," he said. "Administration wasn't able to answer my questions about that, so I'm going to call (the ministry in) London.

    "I'm not content unless I find out if there is more substance with regards to the information." [emphasis added]

    Given the time period of the OMB process, it is obvious that the audit will be completed before the OMB has had the opportunity to make its determination.

    I wrote to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and made the Ministry aware of my application to the OMB. Notwithstanding the application, as the OMB can tell, the Ministry has moved forward.

    Pursuant to its jurisdiction under sections 34-37 and 48 of the Ontario Municipal Board Act, I hereby request that the Board make an order requiring the Ministry to discontinue the audit until such time as the OMB has made its final decision. Failure to do so, makes my application meaningless since the audit will have been completed long before a final decision is made.

    In the circumstances, I hereby request that this action be taken forthwith.


    Chris Schnurr

    P.S. We have learned today from the Star that the auditors have have started on Tuesday to undertake the audit so that our request must be heard immediately or there is in fact is no point in even having the OMB involved.

I trust that this ReACTion supplies proof why WEACT can use your support. As I said yesterday, your donation may be paid into the WeACT Legal Fund by visiting any branch of the Royal Bank and making a deposit to Account #08152-1008275. Donations can be made anonymously too.

And if you want to help out too, email me at and I will get you in touch with the people at WeACT. A couple of practising lawyers and some law students who would like to do some "pro bono" work would be a useful and welcome addition to the roster!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nothing But Contempt For Citizens

I was accused the other day by one of my readers of being negative in my BLOGs. Be more positive I was told. Say nice things. Look on the bright side for once.

I do not mind the accusation. I'm not really negative, or I do not think I am. I have written a BLOG about this subject before: February 27, 2006 "Why Is this BLOG So Negative?"

I concluded at the time:
  • "I am sorry, now you may understand the reason why I cannot be positive. Can you blame me when you see amateurs trying to play entrepreneur with my tax dollars!"
Is it any better now or worse? If you read my BLOG properly, my objective is to try to point out ways that this City can prosper. Sure I take positions that are different than others, especially the cheerleaders. So what, it is my point of view that I express. If revealing what is going on behind the scenes, how it is killing this City and why it's happening is negative, so be it. Why do I want to sit idly by as my City is being destroyed.

If we were talking about putting up stop signs or dealing with pitbulls or feral cats or animals in circuses, strippers' signs and the like, then I can understand the criticism. But we are not.

We are talking about an arena that may cost in the neighbourhood of $100 million, a watermain infrastructure deficit of $830 million never mind that for sewers and roads, a multi-billion dollar border solution and multi-million dollar brownfields redevelopment. We have a US$75 million Tunnel deal, a $30 or 40 or 50 million Tunnel improvement project, a new City Hall, shovel-ready airport lands and who knows what else. And I haven't even talked about our taxes, levies, charges and lack of economic development with so many jobs and businesses leaving town.

To be fair how can anyone say anything positive about the City and what is happening to it. How many chances do we have to give our political leaders before we are allowed to say that something is seriously wrong here? Let me give the best example other than the border issue.

The biggest fiasco that impacts every man, woman and child and business in Windsor is that involving the Windsor Utilities Commission. It is a total mess. What else can one say about. Even the Windsor Star has confirmed my analysis of it by their choice of language in several Editorials.

We had all of the obscene maneuvering at Council that I won't bore you with today but which you know about that prevented the value-for-money audit by the Auditor-General of Ontario. We had all of the disgusting actions by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs that I have related to you. The big joke to me is how certain people in town are so scared of something, which we will find out about soon enough, that they have to resort to smear, innuendo and character assassination.

Let me remind you of what Chair/Councillor Ken Lewenza told Don McArthur of the Windsor Star about a month ago:
  • "Councillor Ken Lewenza Jr., chair of the Windsor Utilities Commission, says 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."

A month already. Perhaps the Commission has not yet had its "next meeting" but I don't remember any announcement from the Commission.

And if you read another of McArthur's BLOGs:

  • "The high price of public information...

    ...I received a response from Enwin today regarding my Freedom of Information request for minutes of meetings dating back to 1999. It came in the afternoon mail, just in the nick of time, because today was the deadline to reply to my request, which was made Sept. 19.

    I had requested "copies of minutes for all board meetings and minutes for any and all subcommittee meetings held by Enwin Utilities Ltd, Windsor Canada Utilities, Enwin Powerlines and Enwin Energy from 1999 to present."

    The letter indicates Enwin has "identified and assembled 241 Minutes of Meetings" but that it will cost me $1,959.20 for them to respond to my request. The letter also indicates they can't even tell me at this juncture whether or what portions of documents they might release until "February, 15, 2007." I'm assuming they meant to say 2008...

    Enwin is demanding I put down a deposit of fifty per cent of the total, or $979.60, before they continue the review of the records, even though they haven't determined whether these records should be released or not. That means I could fork over that deposit and then wait four months for Enwin to come up with reasons for not releasing the minutes."

Does this sound familiar to you? It sure did to me. Even assuming that the Windsor Star will finance any of this investigation because, to be blunt about it, which citizen would be prepared to do it, the results will not be made available until well after the Ministry Whitewash audit is completed.

Oh dear, did I use the word "whitewash?" Now why would I want to use that word since, we are having an investigation into the affairs of the Commission. Shouldn't we be thrilled and happy about it, aren't we getting what we want?

You have read enough of my BLOGs and my conversations with the Ministry to know that I never believed that there would be a proper audit, one that the citizens of Windsor want and demanded. Heck, why should anyone listen to us anyway? We're just an open pocketbook to be used by every level of government. We're just mere conveniences to vote, whose only function is to re-elect politicians every few years after they tell us all the wonderful things they've done for us and all of the wonderful things they are going to do for us.

It does not matter what the truth is. Just ask the members of WeACT what a Cabinet Minister promised to do before the election ["I do get your concerns and I'm checking, I just don't have the info yet, keep u posted"] and whether that promise was kept. Darn, and the provincial election is over now and the Cabinet Minister was re-elected.

Let's take a look at the latest story in that Star about the whitewash. To be honest, I find it extremely depressing to even write about it. What do we learn:
  1. Ontario's Finance Ministry was involved in the process [I wonder why another Government department was brought in. Sandra and Dwight were involved too. Was the Premier's office involved as well?]

  2. Five firms registered with the government for this type of work were requested to make submissions on the WUC audit [The public MERX system was not used. I wonder why not? I heard from a Cabinet Minister that only one firm put in a proposal. If that is true, why didn't the other four firms put in a proposal?]

  3. Is it the forensic side of the firm of Grant Thornton that is involved or the auditing side only [If it is only the auditing side, I guess we're getting a KPMG type audit]

  4. The audit started Tuesday [So much for the Ministry ever talking to mere citizens. What is Government so afraid of, I just don't get it!]

  5. "The request to us was not value for money. (Council) defeated that for whatever reason. We are responding to their request" [So we will NOT get our questions answered now. The Ministry statement made is absolutely incorrect. Council asked for a section 10 audit as well and that was ignored by the Minister. Council never defeated the Auditor-General request because of the Mayor's Motion. It was never heard]

  6. Enwin was excluded from mention within the terms of the audit because it is a separate corporation not controlled by the municipality [Is the Ministry treating us like complete fools? Enwin is owned by Windsor]

  7. "The audit should be completed in three to four weeks, with the report turned over to the municipal affairs minister."Upon his review, he decides what to do with it," Wild said. "He will then release it to the City of Windsor and it would be public information. What they do with it is up to them" [Oh well, maybe we will see the report and maybe we won't]
So tell me, what does everyone have to be so afraid about? It is not that some investigative journalist or whistleblower discovered all this. It was revealed by the Mayor. He was the one who raised all of the issues. He was also the one who is responsible for this mess because of all the confusion that he created. WeACT and other citizens merely got involved to get answers to the obvious questions.

But we are not going to get them. We're not going to learn the truth. The hired auditors will do a good job but they will only do the job that they were directed to do. Nothing more. Be prepared, Eddie and Junior will say that they were exonerated, that there was nothing wrong and this was a waste of money because of a few malcontented citizens.

The System worked again. It beat everyone down. It's all a matter of money and how much you can afford to spend out of your own pocket while the politicians have your money to indemnify them.

Now do you understand why people feel powerless and that the system has no interest in them. Now do you understand why people need a group to fight for them. Now do you understand why court cases are needed.

Now do you know why Windsorites need a group like WeACT. Now do you know why Windsorites need a fearless group who is not afraid of Government to stand up for them. Now do you understand why WeACT needs money to fight these battles.

It is fine to sit there and moan and groan and to say what else can one expect of politicians. If that's what you want to do that's all right but then don't complain. If you want to continue to have have your pocketbook picked by Government, then do nothing. Or you can send a cheque to WeACT. I already gave my donation.

Your donation may be paid into the WeACT Legal Fund by visiting any branch of the Royal Bank and making a deposit to Account #08152-1008275. Donations can be made anonymously too.

More Short News Items

Just a bunch of things for you to think about.


My initial thought when I saw the story in the Star "Transit "payoff' angers stores" was all of the grade B-movies I have seen where the mobsters' goons tell business owners that if they don't want serious damage done to their premises they had better pay "insurance" to the mob.

In Windsor's case, the story is a slight variation:

  • "Revisions to the Dougall 6 are deferred until the Downtown Windsor BIA can obtain funding to cover the additional costs associated with changing the route," the bus company said."

Apparently when the new bus terminal opened, the routing of the buses was changed and the buses were removed from Ouellette Avenue. If the businesses such as the one that is losing a hundred customers a day want them back, the businesses have to pay.

And you want to open up a small business in Windsor! I wonder what the Professor Emeritus at the University of Windsor Business School would have to say about this.

Now in most of the movies I saw, the businesses had a champion who stood up for them and fought the mob. In Windsor, we have Councillor Postma. She is the Chair of Windsor Transit. All she could say was that she was not pleased, dumbfounded and uncomfortable. I wonder if she had her thesaurus with her as she was being interviewed by the Star.

In any event, the champion of the Downtown Business Association will take decisive action to "go back to transit administrators to see if some compromise can be reached."

Can you imagine Clint Eastwood doing that! Wouldn't he be saying Git-R-Done.


The Star story "Old Barn steeped in history, humour" is a very ironic one. It states

  • "But the clock is ticking down for the Old Barn as quickly as the girders for the new WFCU Arena are being erected.

Windsor Arena is headed toward its final curtain call, but what a wild ride it's been, one most certainly worth remembering."

"Final curtain call???" "Worth remembering???" What does that mean? I don't remember anybody saying that it was going to be torn down just because the new East End Arena is going to be built.

Oh sure, I know I'm reading too much into it... it really means the end of the Barn For Spitfires hockey I will be told.

Just remember that you read here first that the Barn site will be the location of Windsor's new City Hall.


Here we go again. More problems for those people who take the Tunnel bus to go to sports events in Detroit. It has been an ongoing problem for several years that has not yet been solved.
I will offer my advice once again to be Windsor Transit Commission and its Chair, Councillor Postma. Of course she won't take my advice because she may consider that she has a conflict. On the one hand she has a Windsor Transit Commission issue but on the other hand she is anti-anything to do with the Ambassador Bridge.

As I have suggested before, the easy answer to end the Tunnel bus problems is for the Tunnel bus to use the Ambassador Bridge!


And here I thought that Eddie running to the washroom was all due to the influx of allegedly illegal Mexican refugees. I was wrong!

What a graphic comment Eddie made:

  • "It turns my stomach inside out, because I know that world-renowned experts are saying that it is doable, and it can be done within the budget (the government) has established," Francis said.

Our Mayor is not the only one who is sick with tummy troubles. I'm outraged and sick to my stomach that we have spent and are spending so much money on experts and we are asked to accept what is said on faith. All we have now is a new starting point for another $500K.

Pass me the Pepto-Bismol please!


I attended the first session at Mackenzie Hall in Sandwich. I stayed for about an hour and as I mentioned previously, David Estrin, the City's lawyer was there for the entire time. At least while I was there, I did not see any City Councillors or the Mayor in attendance. If they were so interested in knowing about the project, I would be interested in knowing if any of them went to any of the open houses. If not, why not?

I did not see some of the Bridge Company opponents there either. Perhaps they came at some other time.

The numbers were clearly not as big as those that came out for the City to see Sam's response or who cane before to see DRIC's. Why would so many people come out to the DRIC session and the City session and not to the one of the Bridge Company?

In my opinion, the answer is inevitability.

I do not think that many people took the Bridge Company seriously when they said that they were going to build their Enhancement Project. I don't think that the Governments took them seriously until the Globe and Mail story. I have already told you what I thought was going on and how the Governments were trying to force the Bridge Company to sell out.

We know where the road to the bridge is going to be built. It is the City's WALTS road which the Bridge Company engineered to show that it would work and were attacked for doing so. Schwartz picked up on the same corridor as did DRIC and few people complained about it. That was the big surprise to me. The big numbers at the DRIC open house were people who went out to see if their homes were going to be expropriated and if not, they didn't want to know anymore about it.

We know that it is unlikely that the Governments on both sides of the river can afford to build a new crossing virtually in the same location as the Ambassador Bridge and Ambassador Gateway project. With the huge costs necessary to look at existing infrastructure to ensure their safety, how can any Legislator justify spending billions on a new crossing?

People are smart enough to understand that to build a new bridge in a brine well and salt mine area is crazy. They are smart enough to understand that the Bridge Company will build its Enhancement Project. They are tired of all of this pettiness and want the project started already. We need the 10,000 plus jobs that would be created by both of these projects and we need them now.

What will happen next... who knows. Will Michigan end funding for DRIC? Will Eddie continue to play his tunnel games? What will happen after the Provincial election? Will the Feds spend any of their surplus budget money in this area or will they spend it in other regions where they can pick up votes given that there will be a federal election shortly.

To me the tragedy of all of this is that when Eddie Francis first became Mayor he had everybody eating out of his hand on the border issue. He blew it and I don't know why. I really cannot figure out his agenda.

All I know is that the Bridge Company just kept on moving forward despite the tactics employed against them. It is inevitable now that they will get what they want. And all that we have done is waste five years and countless millions of dollars. For what?


Poor Kevin Flood. I don't know if you saw the picture of the home that he wanted torn down. It was basically half the house completely open to the elements. A chimney collapsed and he made the decision to tear down half of the house because it was a safety hazard.

I think he was chastised at Council for not putting up with a border right away around the house to protect against injuries to the public instead of making a decision to tear down the dangerous part.

Not only was he denied an exemption under the Sandwich anti-demolition bylaw, but because he went public, Bylaw Enforcement will probably have to go to his building and charge him for the violation of the bylaw for tearing down half of the house.

That's adding insult to injury but then again in Sandwich, consistency in being ridiculous is more important to this Council than redevelopment of the community.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Scrapping The Scrapyard

As I am sure you will remember, I predicted that our Mayor would make the Zalev scrapyard another of his monumental projects. It was hardly my brilliance but rather reading a Gord Henderson column the day after the election when he talked about the Zalev property.

Poor Max Zalev. I hope that his friends are understanding and that he still gets invited to dinners and parties. After all, it's bad enough that he is involved in the Enwin/Windsor Utilities Commission fiasco. Every time there is an environmental mess in Windsor, the "Zalev" scrapyard is mentioned.

My understanding is that the Zalev family sold its ownership interest. According to Crain's, in 1996, Detroit businessman Anthony Soave became the majority shareholder in Ferrous Processing. Ferrous Processing made a few acquisitions after the Soave purchase, including $200 million-a-year Zalev Metals Inc. in 1998. I wonder if there was a term in the agreement that the new owner should change the name of the scrapyard. If not, there should have been.

We have just had the typical Star series of stories process leading up to a big climax when something significant is going to be announced involving City Hall. The Star is oh so predictable already about how it softens up its readers to accomplish its mission. You must remember the recent series of stories about the Zalev scrapyard:
  1. City demands solution to Zalev truck tracks, 09-26-2007

    City council is refusing to co-operate with the ministry of environment and Zalev Bros. Co. to begin developing settling ponds to limit iron oxide runoff into city sewers until the company tackles a long-standing problem of trucks "tracking out" rust deposits onto city streets and sidewalks.

    The ministry had requested that it, the city and the Windsor- Essex County Health Unit develop the on-site settling ponds, but councillors decided Monday they would not sign off on any on-site agreement until the tracking out problem has been solved.
    In the meantime, iron oxide from the company's Grand Marais yard continues to enter the Grand Marais Drain.

    Ward 3 Coun. Fulvio Valentinis said the tracking out problem has been going on too long."

  2. Zalev tips toxic scale; Firm pushes Ont. to No. 1 in emissions over Texas, report says 10-18-2007

    Windsor's Zalev Brothers recycling company accounted for 19 per cent of Ontario's toxic emissions in 2004, according to a NAFTA Commission for Environmental Co-operation report.

    The annual report, Taking Stock 2004, takes into account both "releases" -- such as gases vented to the air -- and "transfers" -- wastes sent to a treatment site or a recycler.
    Zalev shows up as a source of pollution on paper, but in reality, it recycles scraps of metal that come from elsewhere and discards only the material that can't be recycled.

    Still, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said he's "anxious" to see the report.

    "Given the government's focus on environmental sustainability ... if (Zalev) turns out to be a major source of pollution, we look forward to working with the province on this," he said.

    Francis said the city has tried "for years" to get the company's Grand Marais iron and steel scrap recycling yard cleaned up. In the past, there have been discussions about replacing the large site near E.C. Row Expressway with a commercial or light industrial development."

  3. Emissions report has it wrong, Zalev says
    ‘Spreadsheet error’ 1,000 times too high

    "Zalev Brothers says data in a NAFTA report calling it one of the largest single polluters in Canada and the United States was exaggerated by 1,000 times because of an error by the environmental consulting firm that crunched the numbers.

    “It was an error in a spreadsheet,” said Gavin O’Neill, vice-president of the consulting firm, Waterloo-based CRA. “I guess we just didn’t see the numbers. “It’s human error with big ramifications.”

    Added Zalev spokesman Emile Mahanti: “We’re not the polluter that people think we are, according to the report...

    Zalev’s Mahanti said the company’s emissions were much smaller than the volumes reported, and said the company has made a serious attempt to clean up the site since new owners took over in 1998.”

But lest anyone think that Zalev may not be a concern now because of the error, the Star quoted other with issues about the site in the same story:

  • "Even if the numbers are too high, Windsor should still be concerned about the situation, said Frank Butler, president of the Citizens’ Environment Alliance.

    “The city has great reason to be concerned,” Butler said from Toronto. “God only knows what’s leaching out of that site. They’ve been there for generations.”

    He said pollution from the site is a major concern no matter what numbers are finally proven correct. “Even if they’re lower, we should still be concerned. First, find out what the real picture is. Taking Zalev’s word is not a good idea.”

Even in a correcting story, the owners of the facility get a shot taken at them. It must have been important for the Star to get that quote since they had to call Mr. Butler in Toronto.

And then we come to Gord Henderson's column on Saturday.

  • "Time to scrap Zalev here

    Is the timing right for a deal between Windsor and Michigan waste disposal magnate Anthony Soave, the Grosse Point Farms resident who owns the former Zalev Brothers recycling yard and perennial city eyesore...

    Windsor councillors, who fired a shot across the company's bow late last month in refusing to endorse an agreement with the provincial environment ministry and Zalev for a capital investment until action is taken on rust being tracked onto nearby city streets, are now screaming for the ministry to get off its butt and become aggressive in supervising the company's environmental performance.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Eddie Francis, who made a 2003 election commitment to eliminate the 50-acre Zalev mess once and for all, recently asked the company to schedule a meeting on the operation's future. "The time has come for us to have a serious discussion, to see what is possible and what is doable," said Francis...

    As for the environment ministry, Francis said he's not happy with its low profile here. "In terms of frustration, it's right up there. Seriously, where are they? We would certainly welcome a more robust and proactive role....

    Ward 3 Coun. Fulvio Valentinis...thinks the site could become a "poster child" for senior government co-operation in brownfield development.

    In the meantime, he believes Windsor must start raising hell about inadequate provincial environmental enforcement and monitoring here since cutbacks in the 1990s...

    Does Soave, described in U.S. media as Michigan's "trash baron" and a major financial supporter of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, need the aggravation of this minor Windsor asset? Surely not. It's time to talk turkey."

Frankly I didn't understand the story. Have there already been conversations? Is there a deal in the making for which we are being softened up because of costs? Have they turned out poorly so that there is no deal?

In looking through my database, I note that the Star reported in 2005 that there was

  • "a now-abandoned two-year-old initiative to turn Zalev's Scrapyard in the heart of Windsor into an eco-industrial park...

    Admitting the Zalev's initiative is "dead because the owners don't seem interested in selling the site."

Perhaps they're still not interested in selling.

Don't you find it very strange that on a complicated and possible huge land transaction like this, someone has gone public. Now let me think... who could possibly have spilled the beans? Gord gave us an inkling. It is someone with an "intimate knowledge of the Zalev operation." Other than the people who work there now, I can only think of two other people that fit the bill. Can you guess who they are?

Wouldn't this be the normal matter that you would treat in camera? Of course and who could object? In fact my sources tell me that this subject has been bandied about City Hall for some time now. What this suggests to me is that there may been overtures made but the owners have rejected any idea of a sale.

So why then is there the article in Henderson's column? I'll answer that in a minute.

I found it very interesting to see the numbers $50 and $100 million mentioned in Gord's column.

  • "The value of that property has diminished because the business has shrunk," said this individual. In his view, it's probably worth no more than the value of industrial land, less reclamation costs, and rumoured price tags of $50 million to $100 million are way off."

Gee, I like how this disinterested person is telling the Detroit owner of the property what its land is worth. How nice of him to provide a free appraisal.

The hundred million dollars came from Eddie Francis as far as I know at the time he was running for mayor the first time. I remember a friend of mine wanting to support Eddie as a candidate provided that Eddie committed to get rid of the Zalev scrapyard. I remember Eddie coming back to me and telling me that this would be impossible to do because the selling price was $100 million based on conversations that he had.

I had a discussion with an insider at City Hall recently and the Zalev property came up for discussion. I jokingly said that I bet that the price is reduced now by half to $50 million. It was confirmed to me that this number has been used in relation to Zalev. And there is that number in Gord's column too.

Let's try a different assumption: there have been no conversations about buying the property. Let's assume also that the business is in as bad a shape as Henderson's column states. Let's assume as well that perhaps someone is very smart, may understand the business and is interested in buying that business and especially the land cheaply.

What would a good price be? My guess is that the land is probably not worth very much except for redevelopment provided that someone is prepared to take on the risk of the environmental disaster and the gigantic cost for cleanup. My guess is that someone might go to the owners saying that they won't give them very much for the land and business but will give them a complete indemnity against any cleanup costs imposed by the Environmental Ministry since the City is getting so aggressive.

Surprisingly, that could be an attractive deal. It eliminates a huge potential cost to the owners of the property and the new owner gets to buy it cheaply.

Who in their right mind would do something like that-- obviously only a person who thinks he/she can make money in the scrap business. Perhaps someone with experience or a competitor.

But if that person is very smart he/she would have another plan. That person would know now, after the Star story, that he/she could turn around and probably sell that property to the City which can turn it into a brownfields redevelopment model supported by the two Senior Levels of Government. Imagine, getting the property almost for nothing and then getting Governments to pay you for it and to eliminate the cleanup risks. This would be a significant brownfields redevelopment since this plant is said to be one of the major polluters of the area!

Now that's a land transaction. What a deal for Eddie and for Sandra and Dwight who can talk to their Environment Minister cabinet colleague to start putting on the pressure! And not too shabby for the new owner too who makes a few bucks on the flip.

Another variation, amongst others, is the City partnering with a land developer to do all of this. I can think of several developers who would love to partner with the City on such a project. The City arranges for the purchasing, financing and the cleanup with the Senior Levels and the developer makes the profits. Yes, yes yes...the excuse will be that the City makes property taxes from the project and we had to encourage someone to get involved with this "dirty" site using incentives. Since it gets rid of Zalev, no one will care!

So it turns into a redevelopment but a redevelopment for what? There was some talk one time about the arena going there but that's not going to happen now. My source told me that there has been conversation involving that property and rail lands consolidation. Interestingly, one of my readers speculated upon this matter some time ago:

  • "It would require local leaders of great vision to say that we don't need an Light Rail Transit today, but we might 20 years from now. Let's set aside the corridors and do the planning so future generations can enjoy a transportation mode that Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Hamilton, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and other Canadian cities have or are planning on building. This wouldn't be folly, this would be forward thinking and optimistic instead of reactionary and pessimistic.

    Speaking about EC Row yesterday, and how it could tie into the Zalev site, look how an LRT line along the DRTP corridor could connect the University of Windsor with the commecial areas in the south of Windsor, and also intersect an east-west line along EC Row right at the Zalev's site. The mayor does a lot of talking about the Zalev's site, when will he actually do something about it? It is an eyesore, an environmental disaster and sits, quite possibly, in one of the most strategic spots in the city in terms of development and infrastructure."

And another thought from a reader

  • "Could the potential closure of the Dougall and Dominion interchanges lend itself to plans for the Zalev lands north of the expressway?

    Could there be tie-ins with the Rail Rationalization study, such as creating a platform for a east-west regional Light Rail Transit corridor adjacent to the expressway?"

Remember as well that there was talk of a Motion of Reconsideration respecting Lauzon/E C Row and the need for a connection if there is going to be development on the Airport lands.

Now here's a wild idea that ties all of this into Greenlink. Here's what the Mayor said in one of his 1966 State of the City speeches:
  • "City Council and I have started the plans that provide the framework for transforming the city’s old rail lines from a rundown, divisive old web across our city, into a system of trails and opportunity.

    It will run through all five wards, connecting neighbourhoods to one another, creating green space and recreational paths, converting brownfields and scrap yards –all the way to the riverfront...

    A rail study being conducted in partnership with the Federal government is nearing completion. It will provide the technical framework for rationalization and consolidation.

    Our brownfield and environmental report will provide us the tools to convert these lands to new uses."

I don't think anybody talked to the owners of the Zalev property. I think that this is all part of a softening up process. Beat them up in the media, beat them up at Council, get the public against them, don't do anything with the Ministry of the Evironment, and be as uncooperative as you possibly can. With a declining business and all this misery, why wouldn't the American owner of the scrapyard sellout.

Hey do you know what... isn't this the same tactic that the three levels of Government are using against the Ambassador Bridge Company ie threaten their business to force them to sell out. Use the power of Government to force a sale of a private interest by threatening to destroy what they have built up using their own money. Make their business valueless by using the power of Government so they sell out and sell out cheaply.

What's fascinating though is that Eddie will try and set up a meeting with the Zalev owners but he won't set up a meeting with the owners of the Ambassador Bridge. It just makes you wonder why not.

PS. Check out Agenda Item #1 on next week's Council agenda. It's "City-wide Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy and Community Improvement Plan Consultant Selection."

Can the proposed Integrity Commissioner deal with matters in which Council treats taxpayers as fools!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Muzzling Councillor Halberstadt

Pages and pages and pages of an Administration report designed primarily to keep one of Ward 3's Councillors quiet without pointing that out so that people will know that. I'll take you through some of the report so you will understand what is and what is not going on tonight

I'll talk more about Councillor Halberstadt later. Let me say this about him now. Alan tries and is trying on occasion. He has a streak of independence about him and that independence is showing up when you see the tension between him and Eddie on Council over the past few months. Is it becoming like the conflict between Alan and ex-Mayor Mike Hurst? What is very strange about it all is that Alan was one of Eddie's big boosters when Eddie first ran for mayor.

I am not sure that I can say this about anybody else on Council or on the last one. Most of them just let Eddie do the thinking for them except on the odd occasion. He is after all their Voice on the border issue and it seems their Brain too on that and other matters.

Alan infuriates me when he talks out of both sides of his mouth. You know what I mean, he says one thing at Council and and something else later on that goes completely against what he said. He takes the hits for it as Eddie reminds him of his dual positions and increasingly so at Council. His usual justification is what else could he do. And the answer is, probably nothing. He has to vote the way he does because it is that the best of all evils but it is still not satisfactory.

Nevertheless, Alan is viewed as a troublemaker on Council. His BLOG and his column in BizX magazine where he sometimes says things that must bother City Hall obviously rankle some of his colleagues. Of course they could write a BLOG as well, but most of them claim that they don't read BLOGs anyway so why would they write them? But sources tell us that our elected officials actually do read what we Bloggers have to say.

I was asked whether I was going to speak at Council tonight on the issue of "Accountability, Transparency & Good Government." That topic is of course a joke in the City of Windsor given the secrecy of our Mayor and City Council. I decided not to go since there is no point in doing so.

Remember Counillor Postma's Notice of Motion of an eternity ago that was introduced to put some limits on post employment. That was buried years ago. If what is being presented today is what the Mayor is prepared to approve, then trying to change the minds of the Councillors is an impossible task. They won't dare defy him, not on this issue.

At Council tonight, AMO's Local Authority Services will be retained I am sure as the Meetings Investigator whose job it is to investigate any meeting of Council to ensure that it complies with the law. Oh I know that some people think that this is a meaningful provision since it will allow citizens to request that someone investigate all of our secret, in camera meetings. The Investigator will obviously be kept very, busy in Windsor

That group has been hired by a number of municipalities to be their Investigator. It makes sense for Windsor to do so as well does it not. That is what Administration suggests.

I don't know about you but I'm troubled by this appointment if Council follows through. It's an industry association group after all that is being retained to be the Investigator of its members. Then, apparently LAS will "delegate authority to a third-party company set up to deal with meetings investigations." We are told that the "chosen delegate company is Amberley GavelLtd."

I'm not sure what that means frankly and why we need another party involved as well.

Do you know who one of the principals of that company, Amberley, is? His name is Fred Dean. He's an experienced lawyer who has "acted extensively for municipalities and municipal associations in Ontario."

Isn't Mr. Dean being put into an impossible position when he acts for municipalities and at the same time has to be an Investigator who may have to act against them. Wasn't he also the fellow who advised Eddie and told him that he had no conflict of interest in the Windsor Utilities Commission matter?

Next Council is to adopt a Code of Conduct. That works for me. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of what is being proposed since a lot of it is adopted from a Code worked out by the City of Toronto. Of course, the provisions with respect to post employment conduct are weak but that is hardly unexpected. So much for Councillor Postma's clout.

Then there is the "Let's shut up Alan Halberstadt" Integrity Commissioner that will be approved. I'm sure that Councillor Halberstadt is concerned about it given what has been said in the past but I assure you that it will be used actively by taxpayers. Unlike the Ontario model, members of the public are all out to file complaints.

The Councillor has written comments such as this on his BLOG:
  • "For those Councillors who want to shut down my blog (we can only pray that the Integrity officer Mayor Francis and Councillor Lewenza want to hire with taxpayer dollars does not become a censor), I would like to remind them that this website has a "Guest Blog" feature."
  • "Censorship Commissioner?

    Mayor Eddie Francis and Councillors Ken Lewenza and Fulvio Valentinis suggested last week in the Windsor Star that hiring an Integrity Commissioner might be a good idea in the wake of a controversy surrounding the posting of "alleged" sensitive information on the border file on my website.

    Actually, the mayor and some of my colleagues have previously rattled the sabres about putting an Integrity Commissioner on the city's payroll, usually in close proximity to suggestions that the blogs I post on my website are negative, or depart from Council's team concept...

    I have a hunch that some of my colleagues would love to see an Integrity Commissioner monitor my blogs and administer punishment on me for expressing opinions that do not jive with the Council majority. While I can see the merit in Councillors refraining from challenging Council decisions after the fact in ongoing debate around the Council table, I have grave concerns about any Commissioner being given the power of censorship over a public forum such as this.

    I find it hard to believe that such a vile process would even be contemplated in this country in this day and age. But, If that day ever comes to pass, I have a threat for my colleagues, and it isn't veiled.

    I will be bringing Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the fray with every ounce of energy in my body and soul."

Finally the provisions that would have been helpful in the Windsor Utilities Commission matter, the creation of an Ombudsman's office and the need to appoint an Auditor General are being deferred. They are the really important matters and nothing will be done for months, if ever.

It is the old political trick: ask for a report or pass it off to some other committee to review and recommend. It's just like with Councillor Postma... her proposed Motion was deferred years ago to the City's next Strategic Meeting never to appear again.

(Pssssst. Don't tell any of the Councillors that City Auditor Mike Dunbar sent a report to the City's audit committee in December, 2006 "suggesting the city consider developing an auditor general's office. "That is under review as we speak."

Sure, sure, Administration wants people examining their activities.

So Councillors will be muzzled. Loss of up to three months pay is a chill factor that can be imposed upon them if they are bad little girls and boys and don't play nice with the other team members. More reports needed on the subject of an Ombudsman and an Auditor General to stall for more time and a Meetings Investigation program set up by the municipalities' own trade association.

That is open and transparent Government Windsor style. Do you see why I am not speaking tonight!

Catastrophes Of Biblical Proportions

Are we seeing the truck tunnel equivalent of the Seven Plagues of Revelation or the Ten Plagues of Egypt?

Poor Eddie Francis and Sam Schwartz. Not only are residents raising issues with respect to some of the concepts outlined in the Greenlink presentation, but it seems as if everything is turning against them in the trucking world.

One mess after another in the short time frame since Sam's newest reoport became public. Some would call it just plain bad luck and co-incidental timing. Others might say that there was a superior reason...

We already know that the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel is a unique security concern but its issue differs from that which we are talking about in some respects. Here is what I mean about the tunnels and plagues.

The first one that we had was the horrible tunnel fire in Los Angeles that involved 29 vehicles and resulted in the deaths of three people. The road system on Interstate 5, a main road in California, will be in a mess until everything is fixed up.

Next, we learned about the EnviroTruck. As some of us have been saying for some time the changes in diesel technology and diesel fuel will eliminate a lot of the pollution and exhaust issues that gave rise to the demand for a tunnel. I hardly think that the Senior Levels will spend billions on a problem that is disappearing and which would set a precedent that they would have no interest in following in other jurisdictions across Canada.

Now another plague. We learn that there was a 22,000 litre spill of vegetable oil that spilled out on Ojibway. Can you imagine if it wasn't vegetable oil but something else and it had spilled into the tunnel that Eddie wants built. What kind of environmental and economic disaster would we be facing today?

Even more plagues. I did a bit of research and found that there have been a number of truck accidents in Windsor recently. If they were in the tunnels, would the emergency crews have real disasters on their hands? What do Fire and Police really think about tunnels never mind what the truck drivers have to say:
  1. A jack-knifing big rig spilled an estimated 350 litres of diesel fuel onto the E.C. Row Expressway on Wednesday afternoon, closing the route during peak traffic for about three hours. September 27, 2007
  2. Truck went out of control, rolled and rested on its roof. September 24, 2007
  3. Two days after two crashes on Highway 401 near London involving commercial trucks claimed three lives, OPP officers took to the ground and to the air for a 24-hour traffic and vehicle safety crackdown Thursday. September 14, 2007
  4. A tractor-trailer accident frustrated local drivers and commuters by bringing westbound E.C. Row Expressway traffic to a standstill on Thursday afternoon since diesel fuel spread across the road . August 24, 2007

The most recent concern came out of a judicial investigation in Québec as a result of an overpass collapse in Laval. It reminded me of the Big Dig accident. The news report stated:

  • "The Quebec government, along with several engineers and companies, are being blamed for an overpass collapse in Laval that killed five people last year...

    the main causes for the disaster: a "total lack of quality control"; shoddy construction; and low-quality concrete used to build the overpass...

    Johnson is making 17 recommendations, including that the provincial government spend $500 million per year for at least 10 years on bridge and overpass repair and construction."

All that money needed for repairs and we want to spend billions here on a Garden of Eden Concept! I do not think so.

I'm sure you can see what I'm getting at. Just having nice artists' renditions Central Park in Windsor is insufficient and troubling to me. We can talk all we want about the Garden of Eden but no one seems to want to talk about the blazing inferno that we might see one day if an accident occurred. It's so much easier that way and so hard to argue against.

There are serious questions that need answering. All that we get from our local newspaper cheerleader is not analysis but name calling of those who dare have a different opinion or who want to help improve things around town.

Oh sure, we are going to be given the utmost assurances that the tunnels will be built to the most modern standards possible but that was said too about the Chunnel between England and France before their big fire.

It really doesn't matter because Sam's proposal is never going to be built in the form that it is being proposed. It was never designed to be built but was designed to stall. Schwartz report #1 lasted almost a year before it was rejected and became a "starting point." Full tunnelling lasted even longer and became a tool of negotiation. A full environmental assessment of the Garden of Eden will take some time too as Eddie says for the third time that it is non-negotiable.

There must be some logic behind all this. Perhaps soon we mere taxpayers could be let in on it.