Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 14, 2007

Spanky's Economic Outlook and Greenlink's Death

Thank goodness that Dwight Duncan is our local MPP and also the Minister of Finance in the Ontario Government. Why if it was someone from some other part of the Province, there is no doubt that the platitudes about Windsor would not have been put into the Economic Statement.

Are we ever lucky that he spoke so much about Windsor and our border crossing but unfortunately said so little. Given Ontario's deteriorating economic position, it is no wonder that, since the election, Dwight has been in hiding and not said a word about Greenlink and government financing.

Has Dwight ever met the Mayor yet to learn about it? Now I understand why the Mayor has not submitted the City's response to DRIC (or if he has finally done it, it has not made public) since he too knows that Greenlink has no hope of getting Ontario financial support. Another failure for the Leader of Council on the border.

All of that media money wasted by the Mayor. It could have gone to buy some Library books.

I can hardly wait to hear what Sandra has to say about all of this and the positive spin that she puts on given what her colleague has said. I wonder if she and the Mayor still speak every day as she claimed before. Wouldn't you like to have heard what Eddie said to her after he read Dwight's comments!

This would not have made Eddie happy:
  • "Duncan said the province is also seriously considering what it can use from Windsor's GreenLink proposal."
How about nothing!

The Mayor is clearly between a rock and a green space... the best he could say to salvage his unsalvageable position was:
  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said he had hoped for a more concrete plan on the border.

    "I would have liked to see some stronger language and a more definitive comment on moving forward,"

Why didn't the Mayor, come out more forcefully? It is pretty simple. The Finance Minister would then ask the Mayor do you want money for jobs and economic development or do you want money for a Schwunnel! You see Eddie blew it. He lost his leverage over Dwight and Sandra once the election was over.

Let me set out for you now all of the comments that I could find in Dwight's Economic Statement and background materials that specifically mention Windsor. Some of it is repetitive. I will give you my comments as we go along.

1) Rapid re-employment teams have already provided immediate assistance in such communities as London, Smiths Falls, Windsor, Nipigon and Hamilton.

Fantastic... when a plant closes in Windsor, a group of civil servants "makes initial contact with the workers and employer within one hour of a public announcement of major downsizing or closure."

The name of the team is a bit of a misnomer since they don't actually find jobs for anyone but they do develop individual and Service action plans. Come on now, bureaucrats are good planners. At least they will have jobs for a long time as more and more plants close.


To encourage economic activity, help municipalities and enhance Ontario’s competitiveness, the government is investing an additional $1.4 billion to build critical infrastructure.

The Province will allocate some $500 million for transit projects and to assist municipal transitsystems across Ontario in dealing with immediate demands.

This will help increase ridership, address state of good repair, manage congestion and support the efficient movement of peopleand goods.

A $300 million investment will be provided for municipal infrastructure priorities — for projects that stimulate local economies such as roads, bridges, community facilities and water systems.

Projects to be funded will be chosen through a competitive application process. Some of the available funding will be geared specifically to small, northern and rural communities to help bolster their local economies.

In addition, $100 million will be dedicated to priority MoveOntario 2020 projects — the $17.5 billion transit and transportation plan for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This will help municipal transit projects such as the purchase of railcars and buses and track expansion at GO Transit that have been identified as priorities by Metrolinx, formerly the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.

Manufacturers and other business investors cite the quality of infrastructure as one of the most important factors in where to locate and where to invest. Investing in transit and transportation infrastructure helps communities and companies move products to markets and people to work.

These investments also have the added benefit of decreasing congestion and reducing greenhouse gases and air pollutants.

These new investments are in addition to other funding support for municipalities, including the gas tax and the Canada–Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF). The Ministry of Transportation will soon be announcing the allocation of the gas tax. In the near future, the Ontario Government, along with its federal and municipal partners, expects to announce the final round of funding under COMRIF. Municipal infrastructure investments represent another significant step forward in the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review.

The government will continue to make progress on the Highway 407 East extension and the Windsor border because they are particularly important to the manufacturing sector.

Now there is something positive for Windsor. I think. Ontario still will "make progress" but don't you wish that Dwight put his money where his mouth was. I don't remember any financial commitment to Windsor's border in the last budget and I don't see any now.

I do see $1.4 billion minus $500 million minus $300 million minus $100 million leaving only $500 million for the entire province. Now if the DRIC road costs $1.6 billion and Ontario's share is $800 million... how is the road going to be paid for?

If the DRIC road was the most expensive one ever to be built in Ontario, then do you really that the Province will pay the amount that Greenlink will ultimately cost. Don't be so foolish. Remember as well that the Premier liked the DRIC road.

I have an idea that might work. It's sneaky but it saves face for everyone and buys time for the Governments.

When the Ambassador Bridge engineered their suggested corridor to the border, I thought the total cost was about $300 million. Now that amount would have to be increased slightly because of the passage of time but if the Province and the Feds agreed that it is an "intermediate" road, they can fund it under the Border Infrastructure Fund now. They then can build the better road once there is more cash in the till.

Of course that should not be such a big deal since the DRIC road (and Schwartz's)builds on what the Ambassador Bridge proposed years ago.
It would be a simple proposition to design and construct the road so that it could accommodate both a road to the existing bridge and to the new bridge if it is ever built.

3) Government reaffirms its commitment to moving forward on the Windsor border gateway project and building on the progress it has made so far.

Yes, the Government should be committed.

The progress has been exceptional in Windsor... the overpass and long left turn lane on Huron Church Road make me proud of what has been accomplished since the signing of the Phase 1 Agreement between the City and the Senior Levels years ago. That certainly has eased the border situation dramatically.

4) Ottawa can do more to assist Ontario municipalities to make much-needed investments in public transit and infrastructure.

Ontario believes that the federal government has missed an opportunity to support investments in infrastructure and transit systems by ignoring repeated requests to provide $1.9 billion a year to municipalities in Ontario.

In June 2007, the Province launched the MoveOntario 2020 initiative to continue to address
transportation infrastructure challenges and further advance Ontario’s priorities in reducing
greenhouse gases and air pollutants. This multi-year, $17.5 billion rapid transit action plan for the GTA and Hamilton will deliver jobs and investment by reducing congestion.

While Ontario continues to invest substantially in the quality of its infrastructure, it is imperative that the federal government invest in it as well. One example of a successful collaboration between the federal and Ontario governments is the joint commitment with U.S. partners to build a new border crossing at Windsor–Detroit.

Ontario is committed to improving its infrastructure, and encourages the federal government to fulfil its commitments to public transit and such projects as the Windsor border gateway as soon as possible.

This is what all of this nonsense is really all about: a fight between Ontario and the Federal Government for a bigger share of money and a bigger split to be paid by the Federal Government.

Windsor and the border are just pawns in the game to be used by either party. In other words, the Province is specifically NOT setting out how much money it would put forward because then their position would be weakened, almost fatally. Clearly the Province wants more than 50% of the amount paid for by the Feds. The Feds have no intention of paying more in my opinion since they would have to provide this bigger share all across Canada.

I was convinced before and still am convinced that the Liberals in Ontario and the Conservatives in Ottawa have agreed to fight their infrastructure battle in the Windsor area and not in areas like Toronto which are key if either Party wants to form a majority Government.

Dwight says

  • "I'm deeply concerned that the federal government has not committed more than $400 million," Duncan said."

Windsorites ought to be deeply concerned that Dwight has not committed anything.

5) Ontario is committed to improving its infrastructure, and encourages the federal government to fulfil its commitments to public transit and such projects as the Windsor border gateway as soon as possible.

Yawn... see above

6) The package introduced today would also provide:
 $1.4 billion in new funding to build strategic infrastructure;

See above.

7) The government will also continue to make progress on the Highway 407 East extension and the Windsor border because they are particularly important to the manufacturing sector. The Detroit River International Crossing study team will soon present its preferred alternative for the new access road, plaza and crossing. Ontario will fully fund its share of the costs associated with that new access road, subject to the successful completion of all approval processes.

Whatever this means. Of course, we don't know the amounts and we don't know what the share is. That's what the fight is all about.

Note also that the Province is limiting the amount that they will pay out for the road only. Everything else is to be paid for by the Feds.

8) The most critical infrastructure investment for the Ontario economy is a new border crossing at Windsor. Stakeholders are unanimous: we need that crossing now.

The Detroit River International Crossing study team will soon present its preferred alternative for the new access road, plaza and crossing.

The Government of Ontario will fully fund its share of the costs associated with that new access road, subject to the successful completion of all approval processes.

As we make these investments, while respecting trade agreements, we will strive to ensure Ontario businesses benefit.

As above. The platitudes just keep on rolling and rolling and rolling. Dwight should be ashamed of himself.

Odd Thoughts

Here are some things I have been wondering about.


Here's my issue... I'd like to believe the Mayor and think that Windsor's problems are cyclical and that when I wake up in the morning everything will be fine. Then I read this story in the Globe and Mail about Windsor's local MPP/Minister of Finance and then get nightmares that problems are structural.

Which one is right? Here's the concern for Windsor. If Eddie is wrong, the City is in serious trouble because the strategy being followed at City Hall fits in with the wrong economic model of economic redevelopment.

Here is part of the Globe story:
  • "Ontario's government will offer financial assistance Thursday to companies and workers that have been hurt by the slowing U.S. economy, the high Canadian dollar and soaring oil prices, The Canadian Press reports.

    Government sources say Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will announce a $40-million rapid retraining program for workers who have lost their jobs because of the economic challenges when he tables Ontario's fall economic update Thursday afternoon.

    The sources say Mr. Duncan will also offer financial assistance to manufacturers and other companies struggling to cope with the economic slowdown in the United States, which combined with the high-flying Canadian dollar and oil prices has dealt a serious blow to Ontario exporters.

    Mr. Duncan will also announce a provincial government plan to strengthen the Ontario economy in the short and long term, said one source...

    “The statement updates the people of Ontario on where the province is today ... how projections may or may not have changed since the budget with respect to the coming two years,” Mr. Duncan said. “There's no questions that the state of the U.S. economy, the value of the Canadian dollar [and] world oil prices impact Ontario's economy...”

    “We're quickly getting to the point of a crisis in terms of job losses in the manufacturing sector, so hopefully they're going to recognize how dire the situation is in the update,” said Opposition Leader Bob Runciman.

    “We're looking for relief on the taxation side. We want to see some very strong messages sent out to the business community worldwide that Ontario is coming to grips with the [economic] challenges and this will continue to be a good place to invest and grow your business.”

    NDP Leader Howard Hampton accused the Liberals of doing nothing to curb the mounting job losses in manufacturing, forestry and agriculture.

    “My fear is we'll see a McGuinty government that says ‘don't worry, be happy,' and continues to ignore the fact that Ontario is losing thousands of good manufacturing jobs virtually every week,” Mr. Hampton said.


I have told you before how to read the Star. Often, especially on controversial matters, you should start at the bottom one third of the story to get the real important stuff.

Now I thought that was an Editor's trick to report the story so that no one can complain but to put at the beginning the stuff that the Editors wanted its readers to know. But I am wrong.

In fact there appears to be a rogue group of Star reporters who have joined together in a secret society to write negative stories about what is going on in the City but hiding their true feelings until the end of the story. They know after all, and they knew it long before we ever did, that Windsorites are 27th in adult literacy in Canada and probably can't read that many words without falling asleep, especially big words of 5 or more letters.

They knew what happened to some of the reporters/Bloggers at the Star and could not risk it happening to them. Media jobs are not that plentiful here. They knew their secret was safe because very few people could read so much and comprehend in this #27 City. And the few insightful ones that read that far and understood what they were driving at unfortunately were labelled as naysayers and whiners and bashers.

However, the Blogmeister has been doing some undercover, investigative work and can now reveal who the head of the secret Star Posse is. It is none other than Gord Henderson himself.

Yes that Henderson, the Star's #1 columnist. The man is brave, risking being run out of town on a rail, probably one of the rails to trails, to make the truth known to his readers. He may have to pack his bags and go to YQG and make a HQG (his quick getaway). He is in serious trouble now with City Hall. Do not expect him to have any more front page, byline stories. His sources will run dry.

His Thursday column is prime proof of what I am saying. What is the title "Bad times look good." Another anonymous type supposedly singing the praises of the resiliency of the City and attacking the naysayers, whiners and bashers:

  • "He was clearly having trouble reconciling Windsor's status as the country's designated basket case with such glaring evidence that the money taps have yet to be turned off. "

The beginning of his column was enough, frankly, to turn my stomach as I read it before breakfast. But I persevered. I read right to the end of it wanting to see how Gord would manufacture this silk purse.

However, something wasn't right. Something didn't make sense. I read this twice, and then a third time:

  • "Life is good for everyone except those getting pink slips and our youth, who, seeing no hope in the Windsor region, are forced to head west to Alberta or up the 401.

    Life is sweet for now. But the clock is ticking...

    These folks have already eaten our lunch when it comes to textiles, electronics and consumer goods. They rule our shopping carts. And now they're coming after the biggest prize of all, the North American vehicle market.

    Little wonder we're out spending and having a good time while we still can here in Canada's automotive capital. It's called whistling past the graveyard."

Henderson has been outed. He's one of us now and maybe he always has been.

Welcome Gord, to the ever expanding phone booth!


You have to admit that the Ombudsman's language is very strong

  • "You can't control our investigation. I think with some Councillors... they'd rather hire a buddy with taxpayer money."

Is this a similar reason explaining why the Minister of Housing did not have a forensic audit being undertaken by the Auditor General of Ontario but rather a whitewash, Ministry section 9 audit of the Windsor Utilities Commission. Even the City asked for a section 10 audit but it was ignored by the Minister so that all we will see is a very limited financial one that will not deal with all of the issues that citizens wanted answered.

But here is something now that the Mayor and Councillors have to consider given the ferocious attack by the Ombudsman. The City hired Local Authorities Services to undertake investigations into closed-door meetings. The Star reported:

  • "LAS has contracts with consultants who have given advice to the City of Windsor"

How then can we have assurance that LAS will act in an impartial manner when it investigates the City for a possible impropriety?

I thought as an example, if my memory is correct, that the Mayor hired, in fact, one of the principals behind LAS as his personal lawyer with respect to the question of his possible conflict of interest in the WUC file. According to the Mayor, he was told that he had no conflict by his lawyer.

I am sorry but I would have great concern if I made a complaint and LAS was asked to act in a matter involving the Mayor.

LAS seems to be in an impossible position in this City at least. Time for Council to reconsider whether they should still retain LAS or consider what they will do if there is a challenge to LAS' use in an investigation.


In case you missed the announcement, WeACT will be promoting January 9, 2008 as


I thought the budget was supposed to be finished in December. For some reason, it was said recently that the budget will not be completed now until sometime in February. That would give Windsorites lots of time to make the Mayor and Council aware that we want a tax reduction and not a tax increase.

Then I saw the story in today's Star that now says that Council has wrapped up their budget sessions. What gives? Wow, is it now February? Or were Windsorites lulled into thinking we had 2 more months?

Several members of WeACT were giving out TAX CUT NOW stickers last weekend around the City. My understanding is that they ran out of the several hundred that they had produced within a very few short hours. Apparently the response was more favourable than anticipated, and why not since our tax rate is so high. The WeACT people underestimated the large number of people who were eagerly prepared to show support for what WEACT is trying to accomplish.

If you want a copy of the sticker or want to assist in distributing them, then just drop me a line at my yahoo e-mail address. You will have to wait however until the next batch of stickers is produced.

Interesting too that right after the WeACT announcement, the tax increase rate is now said to be 0.95%, a significant drop from the 2%+ it was before. A co-incidence...I hardly think so. The Mayor and Council are scared of angry citizenry! They actually read BLOGs and forums where they can see the anger being expressed.

Here is the press release announcing TAX CUT NOW day. Let's see how much lower we can go

JANUARY 9, 2008

Join WeACT members and Wear the Sticker. Give it out to 10 of your friends, family and colleagues. Help Spread the Word!

The Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers (WeACT) is announcing that Tuesday, January 9th, 2008 will be observed as "Tax Cut Now" day in Windsor.

WeACT spokesperson, Chris Schnurr, said that the purpose of the day is to send a message to City Council that any tax increases given current economic conditions are simply unrealistic. Taxpayers expect that Council will reduce taxes - not increase them.

"While some believe that taxes in Windsor are below average, the overall tax burden -especially on working families, seniors and the unemployed - is high compared to other Ontario cities."

Volunteers will hand out "Tax Cut Now" buttons around the City to promote the day. Buttons can also be obtained by emailing a request directly to WeACT via the WeACT website

WeACT is a citizens' group dedicated to promoting accountable, transparent and efficient municipal government and opposing unnecessary taxes and user fees.

"We are asking that Council seriously consider the ramifications of further tax increases on residents and our ability to compete for jobs with other jurisdictions."

Given that utility rates are increasing dramatically, especially water and levy rates, rather than attempting to have a tax increase even if close to zero, WeACT demands that every effort should be made to realize a tax decrease by focusing upon core municipal services.

"The city may have wants, but we need to focus upon delivering our needs effectively and efficiently," said Schnurr.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Denounce The Star Writers

Where is the Star Editorial? Why hasn't Jason Moore done another CKLW commentary yet? I can hardly wait until Gord Henderson calls him a naysayer and whiner. As for the Mayor, he will dismiss him out of hand.

Of course I'm talking about Dave Hall the business writer of the Windsor Star. How dare he write a story about the Conference Board of Canada Report in the Star telling us that

"Windsor performs badly in six other categories and is ranked 23rd overall in a report released today."

It's another one of those ridiculous think tank type stories to try to show us how poorly this City compares with others across Canada. What hogwash!

How dare he tell us how Windsor ranks:

  • "Windsor's smog days hurt its environmental ranking. A shortage of residents in the 25-34 age category -- considered the most mobile and educated -- low voter turnouts and low usage of public transit hurt the city in the society category.

    In the report, Windsor's highest marks are for innovation (7th) and the city ranks in the middle of the pack for environment (17th) and society (17th), but falls behind in housing (21st), economy (23rd), education (24th) and health (25th).

    In the sub-categories that influenced rankings in the larger categories, Windsor was first in immigrant population growth, had the third best climate and the fourth lowest labour cost growth. But it was at or near the basement in such sub-categories as disposable income (26th), medical specialists per 100,000 people (25th), general practitioners (26th) and adult literacy (27th)."

Oh he is one of them all right. He tried to hide it by writing that Windsor "Ranked seventh for innovation" and by featuring Scientist Roman Maev, the founder of Tessonics, in his story. But it didn't work. He showed us his true colors by not being positive and pointing out the flaws in the City. He could have said something negative about the Conference Board too but didn't!

Oh you think his crime is minor don't you but it's not. He didn't have to report the story. He could have talked about it a bit so the Star could pretend it covered the news but not gone into the gory details. After all, if one wants to see a copy of the report, one must pay $2400 to the Conference Board. We don't have to do so now that we know how badly off Windsor is thanks to Dave.

Come on Jason... it's time that you can get back at the Windsor Star for all the scoops you lost out on. It is not just Bloggers who are reporting reality.

But the naysayers I'm afraid are getting a lot bolder even though they're trying to be clever about it.

Take the story written by Marty Gervais. He thinks he's being very smart too and that he can outmanoeuver the cheerleaders and sycophants. He can't. They are on to him now also.

Look at the story he wrote about William Phillips, a former economics professor and head of that department at Assumption and later the University of Windsor. It's a prime example. At the beginning, if one reads the story, one would think that Marty is part of the crowd that sees nothing wrong with Windsor:

  • "Doom and gloom.

    The sky falling.

    Now 50 years later, one man, at 86, remembers vividly what it was like back then.

    It's on his mind because the chorus of doom and gloom is being heard again.

    Layoffs, plant closings, and forecasters are predicting the worst is yet to come.

    William Phillips, a former economics professor and head of that department at Assumption and later the University of Windsor, has seen it all before.

    He recalls the whining naysayers claiming Windsor was "at the end of the line."

Gervais knows since Windsorites are 27th in adult literacy that few people in town will ever read to the end of his story. Accordingly, he can appear to be a "good guy" while he really is not. One has to read the last half of the story to see what he is getting at.

  • "The judge told me his father's real interest was getting the message out that all this current talk about the bleak outlook for the future of this city, and this country, is much the same as what was faced in the early 1960s. He also told me his father wasn't all that keen on making himself the focus of any story.

    Too bad.

    The message Phillips felt needed to be delivered was good 50 years ago.

    It's also good today.

    It doesn't mean sugar coating anything, or covering one's ears and eyes in hopes that trouble will disappear.

    It means hard work.

    It means facing realities.

    Phillips knew what that meant in the 1960s. Canada was then in the throes of a recession, and the doomsayers were chanting much the same thing as they are today.

    He got on his typewriter and drew up a call to arms. The slogan he drafted was simple and effective: Yes, Windsor Is Moving Again.

    The thrust of it was to mobilize those in business, labour, education and the professions to pool their talents to embark on projects to help the city.

    This was organized under the auspices of the Greater Windsor Foundation, which was created in 1961.

    Phillips, as its president, called for "a sober and realistic assessment of the positive points of this community..."

    But Phillips was clear in his message that it would take more than a spirit of boosterism to get Windsor moving in a new direction.

    In one speech in April 1964, he said: "If any city is conscious of its shortcomings, from having seen them paraded before itself and before others, it is Windsor.

    "The city has come to grips with stark reality too often to be moved by flag-waving or booster club tactics.... The day may come when we can wave flags, but not yet."

    True enough. We're there now. Again. We need this kind of leadership again. We need this kind of vision."

What a nerve. Who does he think he is... is Gervais giving a boost to the Tony Toldo initiative and giving it his approval? Toldo recently called together a group of business and union leaders in Windsor to see what could be done. Hmmm not a word of praise for whatever it is that the Mayor is doing with his secretive conference to which Councillors are not invited.

What utter gall. Pointing out how Phillips did not need a team of PR flacks costing $250,000 and did not spend $900,000 on branding of the City but merely banged out a new slogan on a typewriter. Imagine, shunning boosterism and cheerleading.

I'm afraid that the Thought Police will have a much bigger job than was considered if this kind of activity by two senior Star writers is allowed to continue. I know the regular police force cut their $60+M budget by 1% but there is no doubt that the budget of those who want to close down anyone who says anything negative will have to grow exponentially.

And today in the Star, we have read the ultimate heresy. I wonder if you know to which story I am referring. I will wait a day or two in case the writer may have second thoughts. He may have to get a job in Calgary ASAP once his words get out.

The Arena's New Parking Lot

There is something very strange going on but I don't know what it is.

Are we being set up again with the good news story before we hear the bad news?

I am sure that you saw the story in the Star

  • "Arena cost saving eyed

    The Spitfires’ new hockey home could cost almost $1 million less than budgeted, Windsor’s chief financial officer told a city council committee Friday.

    An anticipated savings of $962,000 is being projected on the total $64.9million price tag for the WFCU Centre, said city treasurer Onorio Colucci. Construction of the multi-ice pad facility is still on track and expected to be completed by the end of 2008."

On track, on time and on budget...didn't we hear something similar before with respect to the funky bus terminal and the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel renovations. [August 23, 2007 "Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics"]. Now I am really getting worried. As I said at the time

  • "Effectively what this means is that there can be no lies. It also means that there can be no truth. Lies and truth are now flexible concepts depending on what someone chooses to use as the starting and finishing point. Those points are determined by what one wants to achieve."

If I were the Mayor, I would be shouting the savings from the rooftops. If I were the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget who is responsible for ensuring that the project stays on budget, I would be taking credit especially if I was going to make a run to be the next mayor of Windsor.

So why did they let the CFO take the credit instead? Why were the names of politicians conspicuous by their absence?

Perhaps this is one reason. I do not know if this is true or not but a reader sent me the following note:

  • "I thought that you might like to know that the tender for the new arena closed last week, estimated cost another six million dollars. They still have to build the road and the bridge over Little River. The tender was for the parking lot, concrete sidewalks and electrical lighting for same."

I think will be considered extras and not part of the $64.9 million arena cost although the Star should say to be consistent that they should be included based on their Editorial that they did about the LaSalle arena.

But here's something else. We all know that the number of parking spaces for the East end arena is inadequate. You don't really think that people who go to Spitfire hockey games are going to be happy to take a Windsor Transit bus after the game to some off-site location to pick up their cars do you.

Obviously then a solution is needed to find more parking spaces nearby. Let me suggest an alternative and help save the City a couple of hundred thousand dollars so that they can use that money for the crossing guards.

Did you see this story in the Business Section of the Windsor Star as well:

  • "City mulls testing at Wickes site

    Windsor city council is considering spending $200,000 for an environmental assessment of the contamination levels on the former Wickes Manufacturing property at 9082- 9152 Tecumseh Rd. E.

    The 8.89-acre property was recently listed as part of the city’s annual property tax sale valued at $2.66 million, but there were no bidders, largely because of the potential contaminants that remain in the soil.

    City deputy treasurer Janice Guthrie said the assessment will also help the city decide whether to assume ownership of the property.

    Under legislation, the city has two years to decide whether to assume ownership. If it does, it then has the option to use the property for municipal purposes or sell it on the open market.

    Wickes, which manufactured bumpers, vacated the site in 1990 and left behind chromium, copper and nickel deposits."

Now isn't that plant near the location of the arena? The land may be contaminated and so no one is going to buy it. Why spend $200,000 when the City can turn it into a parking lot for the arena.

Here is a news story back in 1987:

  • "It has not been a good week for Wickes Manufacturing Co. Ltd., which owns Windsor Bumper.

    ..the company appears disheartened by a "high risk" label pinned on it last week after two years of trying to clean up its act.

    A report commissioned by the Environment Ministry released last Friday said Windsor Bumper posed more risk to human health than 112 other waste sites on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes between Amherstburg and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The Ministry went on to say that

  • "the risk posed by the ponds ended with their removal, and that the reaction to the study has been excessive, since it was almost 18 months old by the time it was released last Friday."

Notwithstanding what the Ministry said, that quick search of my database ought to be enough to justify that the land may have serious problems. Now we can do a "signature" Brownfields redevelopment, have parking for the arena and keep the crossing guards working at least for the next six months by saving $200,000 on another consultant's report.

So that may be why the Mayor and Councillor Brister are keeping their heads low. Save a million here, spend millions there.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The More One Learns, The More One Wonders

I really cannot understand the reason for all of us forgetfulness. Has the Windsor amnesia disease spread throughout the entire region on both sides of the border?

To be honest, after all of this time, I would have thought that I and others who are so involved in the border matter would have uncovered by now most of the relevant documentation that would deal with the border crossing issue. Unfortunately, the answer is that we have not.

I am sure that there are still tons of information buried in the files of the Ontario Transportation Ministry and MDOT as an example that would be very helpful in understanding what the issues in the border crossing matter really are. And would save time and money too.

We should not have to search to look for this documentation. Rather it should have been presented to us by the various Governments involved as part of the overall information package. Why have they been hiding this data from us? The clear answer has to be that if we had known about the information presented then it might have deterred the politicians from doing what it seems the bureaucrats want to do regardless of how much it costs.

Remember my BLOG [February 22, 2006 "A Waste Of Three Years"] where I discussed the 300+ page "Michigan-Ontario Railroad Border Crossing Infrastructure" Report. I wrote at the time:
  • "I am shocked that MDOT has been sitting on a document that effectively killed a DRTP-type project in 1991! If this kind of a project made no sense, then why was this not brought forward right away. Why did DRTP have to be examined and only now eliminated?"

I found another article over the weekend and it troubles me greatly. What bothers me even more is that the consultant involved in this article is also the US consultant on the DRIC project. The MDOT person has also some involvement in the DRIC project. If one goes to the article, the first question that immediately jumps to mind is why is anyone talking about building another border crossing. The second question is what other information is there in the Gateway and other files that we ought to know about.

The article is: "Ambassador Bridge/Gateway Project Major Investment Study: The First Application in Michigan" by Andrew J. Zeigler, Michigan Department of Transportation; and Joseph C. Corradino, The Corradino Group. It is a description of how the Ambassador Gateway project was carried out. Doesn't this sound like DRIC:

  • "This project is unique for several reasons: (1) it represents a cooperative effort with a privately owned international bridge; ... and (3) it involved a consortium of state, local and federal agencies and the private sector represented by a Steering Committee that provided guidance throughout the project.

    The project included an intense public involvement effort. Public meetings were combined with numerous one-on-one outreach efforts. Alternative access design concepts were progressively developed both in number and scope from illustrative concepts, to practical alternatives, and finally resulting in a preferred alternative. Item after item was debated at the Project Steering Committee meetings, which the public was invited to attend, and did!"

One notable exception however is the following:

  • "The resulting MIS was completed months ahead of schedule; with public support and a community that endorsed the project openly; and a package of $100 million in highway access improvements without displacing any buildings within an urban setting."

We are still dragging on with the DRIC process with a seeming lack of support by the public and it looks like there will be major disruptions on the US side of the border at least and perhaps on the Canadian side depending upon where the new DRIC bridge and Plaza are located.

Here's the problem that the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to solve:

  • "The problem being addressed by the MIS is the need for improved access at the United States end of the Ambassador Bridge. Access improvements are key to accommodating future border crossing traffic which is growing exponentially and is stimulated by trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico."

The issue in other words was traffic capacity at the Ambassador Bridge and improved flow-through. Interestingly, once the final solution was reached (after 15 alternatives were considered)

  • "The most significant aspect of this proposed $100 million project is that only one residential unit will be taken by its construction."

Isn't it amazing that hundreds of homes and businesses have to be taken now in Delray and no one thinks twice about it.

Here though is the key sentence in the article:

  • "Other positive effects of the project are increased safety through better access to the Bridge to handle almost twice as much traffic in the next 20 years as is present today; improved air quality, as Bridge traffic is not interrupted by stop lights."

The article was written in 1997. 20 years from that date is 2017. The volume in 1997 was 2.7 million trucks. Doing the math, the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to handle 5.4 million trucks. And that is before all the significant changes with respect to Customs that have been taken and the new booths that have been added. The article was also written just before the height of the truck volume in 1999, which volume has never yet reached that height again. The Bridge volume in 2006 was 3.64 million trucks with the Bridge at only 50-60% capacity today. Does this mean that the Bridge can now handle over 7 million trucks?

The article, it should be pointed out also, did not state that the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to accommodate another bridge. In case you have forgotten as well, US DRIC said that is preferred crossing location was the Ambassador Bridge site.

Please explain to me therefore how DRIC can suggest going forward knowing that the Gateway project can handle 5.4 million trucks, without another bridge, a volume that may not be reached now for decades as both MDOT and Transportation Minister Cannon have acknowledged recently.

Does any of this make sense to you? Why have millions been continually spent when there is no justification for doing so? When it was clear that traffic volumes have decreased significantly, why the push to go forward? Why haven't the consultants and the MDOT representative revealed this information?

While I am sure that the P3 conference in Toronto was very interesting, did the Transport Canada officials warn investors that they might not be able to recover costs for decades to come, especially given the competition from the existing bridge? Please tell me who is going to invest in the new bridge without a huge subsidy paid for I assume by the taxpayers of Canada and the United States. If I am right in my analysis, how can this new bridge be paid for and what will happen to the existing crossings in southwest Ontario and southeast Michigan if they have to compete with a taxpayer-funded crossing?

The DRIC process is out of control. Our politicians are acting like fools "respecting the process" as millions are wasted and relevant information is not provided.

There is more too in another article that I found on the Blue Water Bridge. I've mentioned this fact before but I thought that it was worthwhile mentioning it again given the huge amounts of money that had been spent on trying to figure out where a new bridge should go to duck the salt mines and brine wells.

The article is "A Tale of Two Bridges, Spanning Blue Waters." The relevant section that I think is important is the following:

  • "[In the 1920's] With politics heavily influencing the decision about where to place the bridge, all four proposals called for it to extend from downtown Sarnia to downtown Port Huron. City officials in both municipalities feared economic damage to their central business districts if the proposed bridge were located away from the downtown areas...

    In the 1970s, increased traffic volume inspired bridge planners to begin to study the need for a second bridge. Similar to the situation fifty years earlier, the politically sensitive issue of where to locate the bridge preceded who would build and pay for it. However, the established bureaucracies of the 1970s were familiar with transportation planning and had the experience to conduct the needed studies.

    The Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications (OMTC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) assembled an international team of engineers and transportation and environmental planners to direct the St. Clair River Crossing Study. The team selected three locations to examine: one adjacent to the existing bridge; another to the south that would link Marysville, Michigan, and Sarnia; a third location between Marine City and Sombra, Ontario. The study team wanted to learn if a new bridge at any of these three locations would divert enough traffic from the Blue Water Bridge to significantly extend its life. The study also looked at a tunnel option, but exorbitant costs quickly caused the team to drop it...

    After holding public meetings and studying several alternatives recommended construction of a second bridge just south of the existing bridge.

    The Canadian Blue Water Bridge Authority, which owned and operated the existing bridge, had already purchased right-of-way immediately to the south side of the bridge. A new bridge located there would require less displacement of property and homes than one to the north. A southern location would accommodate the expansion of the bridge plaza on both the American and Canadian sides of the bridge."

Do you see what I mean, again. Please don't tell me that the ideal location is not right beside the existing bridge. Please don't tell me that the DRIC people don't understand that. Please don't tell me that the decision-makers don't understand that a new bridge is not a financial go for years because of a lack of volume and will not be a go for years to come.

Please don't tell me that this entire process is not designed to force the Ambassador Bridge to sell out and to sell out cheaply so that the Governments can do what the Ambassador Bridge Company wants to do.

Or have a whole bunch of people suffered a memory lapse!

Stage-managed Grandstanding

None of the City Hall Insiders that I talked to could figure it out.

Why would Ward One's Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget stand up at the end of a Council meeting and out of the blue tell everyone how generous he was and that he was not going to receive a CPI salary increase. That was a 2% increase on his Councillor salary I believe.

Of course, not accepting the thousands of dollars in the Boards salaries he receives as an extra would have been more meaningful but, hey, let's not carry the Christmas spirit too far.

Everyone assumed that it was part of it his mayoral campaign and it probably is. But there was more to it than that as we are finding out.

I wondered about Councillor Lewenza and his sudden desire for openness. There was more to it than that as well as we are finding out:
  • "The public should know our tough decisions," Lewenza said. "I disagree with meeting in camera on these issues. The public needs to know services we might be eliminating and the tough choices that are being made."

    Lewenza will bring forward a recommendation at the next budget session on Monday that council take the critical discussion of employee layoffs out into the public venue and not remain in camera as they have done for the past two weeks.

    "I have to cut things this budget year, I couldn't agree to last year. We are now going to be cutting services I didn't have the appetite to cut the year before...

    Mayor Eddie Francis said Lewenza brought up his suggestion of bringing the debate from out behind closed doors on Tuesday.

    "He raised the issue with me. I think it's good idea, we just have to make sure we are not violating the municipal Act," Francis said. "As long we are not violating rules, I'm OK.

    "We might need a legal position on how to do it. It's not possible to do in all areas. I told (Lewenza) to bring it up on Monday see what what the response is of others and administration. I just encouraged him to do it."

I thought that this was the way that the pro-union Lewenza would put pressure on his Councillor colleagues to do the job cutting in public thereby forcing them not to do so. I was wrong.

Oh, and as for openness and transparency... Councillor Lewenza voted against the Motion of Councillor Dilkens so that did not last very long.

Now we see what the stage managed grandstanding was for. Just read the recent Henderson column and especially its last two lines:

  • "These folks need, and deserve, a city hall as cost-efficient and business-minded as any corporation fighting for its survival.

    So spare us the collective hysteria over relatively modest municipal job cuts."

That's what it's all about. Finding two suckers, three if you include Councillor Halberstadt whose name was plastered all over the column, to take the hit for "Francis Days" and the big job cuts that are about to come at City Hall.

Councillor Lewenza is such a loyal Eddie-Councillor. He discussed his issue with the Mayor in advance and received permission from the Council Principal to do so. He doesn't have the nerve to raise issues the way Councillors Marra and Dilkens did without telling the Mayor. After all he did not want one of those stares and a scolding or to be kept after school with a detention. What will his union buddies say now? You see, it will not be so tough for him to have union workers fired too when WUC goes P3. After all,

  • "I have to cut things this budget year, I couldn't agree to last year. We are now going to be cutting services I didn't have the appetite to cut the year before..."

As for Councillor Teacher's Pet... well he did the dirty work before for Eddie on the arena and earned a pat on the head from Gord. He just received another one.

  • "We can't expect employees to make sacrifices if we don't."

You can imagine the loyalty of these two Councillors to the Mayor:

  • "There aren't many issues Brister and Coun. Ken Lewenza agree on. But Brister endorses Lewenza's call for public budget sessions over staff cuts."

That's how stage-managed grandstanding is done. When something out of the ordinary happens at Council, expect something behind it. The end result always is that the Mayor finds someone else to take the hit if it goes wrong and the praise if it goes right.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fighting Like Cats And Dogs

I rarely watch Council "live" anymore. To be honest, I can't stomach it. It just makes me so angry. The games-playing, the posturing, the lack of discussion about key issues in the City, and the lack of respect and civility. You can almost feel the tension in that Council Chamber every Monday now, even watching it at home.

What I do is tape it and playback any interesting parts. This also allows me to play a specific portion of the tape several times if there is something that I need to Blog about.

So imagine my surprise last night when I played the tape and saw the bickering between the Mayor and Councillor Halberstadt. It got quite bitter actually when the Mayor interrupted the Councillor's speech with another one of his "clarifications." He especially likes to "clarify" when he might be blamed for something. I guess the Mayor just cannot hold himself back but must butt in right away. Of course that also breaks the train of thought of the speaker and also doesn't allow the listener to hear the complete message in one complete statement. Is that a debating trick learned too?

I must admit that in going through the tape quickly I could not find a reason for the animosity between the two last night. I thought maybe it had to do something with the proposed Pet Shop issue. Then I read Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG this morning. No wonder there were fireworks.

Councillor Halberstadt revealed that the Mayor and all of his Council colleagues are prepared to spend $900,000 as part of the Capital Budget for a branding exercise. You read it correctly. At a time when we are pennypinching every dollar, we're going to rebrand the City. According to the Councillor
  • "$900,000 off the 2008 capital budgetcould lower our tax rate, now at around three percent, by one-quarter of a percentage point."

I am not sure if this is meant to be a sick joke or not but it is certainly not something that I'm laughing about. Is this another of the issues that the Mayor wants to throw out like cutting the school crossing guards to see if anyone is listening? I know that he has not yet been able I believe to get his $250,000 to hire a bunch of PR flacks but is this another way to do it?

Now I personally am tired of being criticized for what I say about Windsor. Councillor Halberstadt added a new negative term in his BLOG "Windsor basher." I certainly do not want to be categorized in this fashion so I am going to do something positive to help out the Mayor. I'm going to suggest a slogan for the City, will prepare a speech for him to publicize it and do it all at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, I will even suggest bringing in a private enterprise partner to help out and an event whwere the public can be involved. Now if that is not being positive, then I don't know what is. Here goes:

  • "I want the spirit that we showed during the Super Bowl … to live on.

    It was about us discovering ourselves.

    Believing in ourselves.

    And proudly showing off our city.

    Attitude matters. The way people talk and act is contagious. People’s attitudes impact the way cities thrive and grow, or wither and stagnate.

    You can feel a new attitude walking the streets of Windsor today. You can feel it.

    We felt it during SuperBowl week.

    That attitude is making a tangible difference to the quality of life in our city.

    The time has come, to embrace this new attitude. To show it. To live it.

    To love it.

    That’s why tonight, I’m sharing a new idea that captures our new attitude.

    We’ve been calling it … “Love this place”.

    “Love this place” is about Windsor’s new attitude. It is about the better future we’re building together. It is about the positive, roll-up-your sleeves approach that is seeing things get done in this city.

    And it is about all the reasons why we love Windsor.

    Like our symphony.

    Our downtown.

    Our parks.

    And our art gallery.

    Our neighbourhoods.

    Our friends.

    And for those of us who are here at the Cleary tonight, I need your help.

    I need you to sign the “Love this Place” banner we have outside this room and write down the things that you love about Windsor.

    Now, “Love this Place” and the new attitude we’ve got in this city, deserves to be celebrated.

    As does our City.

    A century ago, Windsor’s birthday was an important event that brought the whole town – as it was – together.

    Yet over the years, the celebration of our birthday was forgotten.

    It’s time to bring it back.

    And tonight, I want to invite everybody to come together – as we did during the SuperBowl. This time, we’re celebrating our birthday – just like it was years ago.

    We will be holding a birthday party for the City of Windsor on May 24th weekend.

    I want everyone to come down to the riverfront, and have a good time. Meet new people. And enjoy what our city has to offer.

    There is one other exciting new way we can celebrate Windsor.

    For years, Roots clothing has symbolized what’s great about being Canadian.

    The spirit of outdoor adventure. The beauty of our land. And the effort and perseverance that it takes … to be an Olympic champion.

    And now … Windsor has its own line of clothing designed by Roots.

    It is cool … modern … and proud – and so is Windsor.

    We will be the first city associated with the Roots brand.

    Those of us at the Cleary tonight will be able to see the new Roots wear in the Canadian Club room during the reception after this speech.

    Let us know what you think before it goes to Council for final approval."

Oh you caught me, dear reader. You are a lot smarter than I give you credit for. I should know never to underestimate my readers. I did not plagiarize this language. I took it and copied it right from the Mayor's 2006 State of the City speech.

You see we already spent a ton of money on branding in Windsor for the "Love This Place" slogan. Whatever happened to it? Didn't anyone love us? Did we put the slogan into the trash bin? Does anyone remember actually seeing a branding campaign based on that slogan?

What I find interesting is that the Mayor gave us this positive message in 2006 and he still giving it to us. Don't you find it strange that nothing has happened to make things better? In fact all we get is slamming of those who aren't looking at the world through Rose City-coloured glasses.

So there you have it... being positive... doing all of this work for the City for free to save capital dollars on sloganeers who create logos that do nothing for us.

Okay, if the City wants a new slogan and logo I'll give you one. It's one that my son created a long time ago as an idea for the Downtown business group:

Windsor is Electri-City

What Greenlink Will Really Cost's going to happen again and will it ever be costly!

Dwight Duncan, Ontario's Minister of Finance will have a bird. No wonder he has not said a word about Greenlink. The Federal Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, would see his budget surplus drop precipitously. He needs the money to buy voters across Canada to earn a majority Government.

It is the funky bus terminal all over again. It is the Tunnel Ventilation building all over again. No, I will not talk about the arena, this time. Now it is the East End fire hall.

You saw the story:

  • "Fire hall's price tag more than doubles

    A new fire station proposed for Windsor's east end would cost more than double what city council believed five years ago because the original estimate is outdated, city council was told Monday.

    Fire Hall 7 at Lauzon Road and Riverside Drive would cost $3.75 million, instead of the $1.83 million predicted in 2002, Chief Dave Fields told council during a capital budget meeting.

    "The question that begs to be asked is why was the first number put in front of council if there was no science behind it," Mayor Eddie Francis asked Fields...

    Fields said he provided an estimate as requested in 2002 but that since then prices have risen and fire hall standards have become more stringent."

Take a look at this from the City's Greenlink site.

We have to ask the question now that the Mayor has about the Fire Hall. Are the Greenlink numbers real in the first place or was there "no science" behind it? I have no idea.

Have they played a silly game again? Did our local politicians try to fool us again. Are they afraid to tell us the truth? Were they afraid that if they did, few people would have supported Greenlink in the first place?

Was the game to bring in the Greenlink costs at the same price as the DRIC road cost to show how smart our consultants are? Our consultants can build a road so much better than the DRIC consultants and at the same price we are told by our leaders. Well of course they are because they priced in 2007 dollars while DRIC priced in 2011 dollars I have been told.

So if we take the examples of the bus terminal or the ventilation building or now the fire hall, we can see that the cost of Greenlink, assuming the numbers are valid today, can be as high as $3 billion!

Citizens would have known that Greenlink was a nonstarter with that kind of number. They would have seen it as it really is: nothing but a stall device to put pressure on the Ambassador Bridge Company.

It is time now for people to get real about the border. It is time now for people to get realistic about the border. It is time now for Eddie and Windsor City Council to grow up and stop playing games as this City is being destroyed day by day by their immaturity and silliness.

Thousands of high-paying jobs are at stake as is the future of our City. It is time that we demanded better from our municipal leaders and got it. If they cannot, then the Senior Levels better! Let our Council talk about cats and dogs instead.

The New Border Letters

What bothers me a lot about this border debate and what is the source of a lot of the difficulty in getting a resolution is the misinformation being spread around, especially by people who should know better.

The Ambassador Bridge people were outraged by the DRIC plaza report which they claim resulted in their project being removed as a possible border crossing. The DRIC report suggested that a good chunk of Sandwich would have to be taken over by a Plaza of up to 120 acres while in fact, they have all the space needed for their Enhancement Project already.

The US side isn't all that much better. Senator Basham of Michigan is an opponent of the Bridge Company and that's fine. He is entitled to his opinion after all. He is not entitled to spread incorrect information to his constituents and others about the effect of Bill C-3. Here is what he said in his latest newsletter:
  • "Basham Works to Ensure Study on Detroit International Bridge Crossing Continues

    Supporters of the ongoing study of a new crossing, including the Senator, have argued the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge does not address future capacity needs at Michigan’s and the United States’ busiest commercial trade corridor. Furthermore, Canadian authorities have already rejected the plan to twin the Ambassador Bridge and passed legislation last year that explicitly prohibits a private entity from owning any future international crossing."

Do you see what I mean? Where does Bill C-3 explicitly prohibit what the Senator says it does. The answer is that it does not. His comment on the statute is wrong. Yet, his newsletter will go out to people and they will believe that the Bridge Company is unable to build its Enhancement Project. He should be forced to issue a correction.

I am providing copies of recent letters that you might find of interest. To those in Michigan who claim that they have been told that the Canadian Government will never allow the Ambassador Bridge to land its new bridge in Canada, then the letter from Transport Canada should end that disinformation.

The letter from the Senior Transport Canada official makes it very clear that the Government will act in a legal fashion and if the Bridge Company is entitled to its permits, then they will receive them. Perhaps you can see something in the letter that I cannot but I see the Transport Department acting the way the Senate suggested they should. Perhaps this is the explanation about why Dan Stamper was so pleased after the meeting in Ottawa.

On the Michigan side, I already BLOGGED about the Governor's letter of support for the Bridge Company. The story was broken by Today's Trucking Magazine.
And just to make sure that everyone understands what MDOT's position is, it is set out in the Director's letter. This really isn't new either since MDOT sometime ago said that they would not oppose the Enhancement Project. For the Bridge Company, this is all good news since the letter came out after the Governor wrote to the US Transportation Secretary.

If there is a race between the Bridge Company and DRIC, as the media suggests, then it would appear that the Bridge Company is far in the lead. According to Dan Stamper at his press conference, they expect to receive their permits this year and start building right away.

In case you are wondering how I received copies of the letters, it is no big secret. No, I did not get any inside information nor did the Leakor do me a favour and give me a scoop. It is all on the Ambassador Bridge Website under "What's New"

I wonder if the Star and CKLW will report what I have Blogged. Probably not since it may not be what the Mayor wants to hear and you know he only likes cheerleaders.

I left a little surprise for you if you go to the website. You can read the letters that were written to President Bush and to Prime Minister Harper as well.

Monday, December 10, 2007

You Are Dismissed

Thanks to the Windsor Municipal Shadow BLOG, I read a report over the weekend "Ontario Municipal CAO's Benchmarking Initiative Report for 2006." The Report is interesting since it compares municipalities in Ontario.

If you want to read the entire report, go to

If it was reported in the Star or on the CKLW headlines I must have missed it. Must be viewed as "bad news" and so not worthy of mention since you would just become depressed.

Now do not get mad at me and accuse me of naysaying. Don't shoot the messenger as Gord would say.

Unlike the Think Tank report or the CIBC report, this report must have included input from Windsor's CAO. I'm not sure therefore how the Mayor will be able to "dismiss" this report the way he dismisses anything it appears that doesn't agree with the message that he wants to deliver these days. Oh I forgot, there's the Standard and Poors AA rating defence. That's great if you're an investor, not so good if you're taxpayer.

I thought that what I would do would be to comment on a few of the graphs in the Report that I found of interest.

Want to know how the upgrade of E C Row will be justified, then take a look at this graph. Didn't the Mayor just say that the Expressway was at capacity? Isn't the population supposed to grow by about 50,000 people in the area? I'm still waiting for answers about the shape of the Expressway and whether there is a risk to users.

Never fear, we are getting an upgrade... the only question is when and in what order.

Thank goodness that we are able to pay down our debt to keep investors happy. That is at least a bright sign. However, if you are a driver, then you may not be so happy to see that your tax money is being used to help investors and not to help fix up roads. Remember the fiasco involving watermains where monies WUC was supposed to use for capital infrastructure improvements were used for operating costs instead.

These next numbers show the problem that Windsor is going to be in as the economy worsens. The numbers in 2006 were the second highest in the Province and will only get worse as unemployment numbers get worse. Thank goodness that we are spending money on an arena, around $50 million more so far than if we had gone with the Mayor's initial P3 approach. That is how one diverts people from "bread" issues to "circus" issues.

Even with the $65 million and counting East End arena, we are in pretty bad shape especially with respect to smaller community centres. One has to ask why we did not spend the $50 million on smaller centers if there was a need for more recreational facilities.

UGH.........This one is too horrible to comment on. I hope all those people who see the English Financial Times Report about what a great city this is to invest in don't see that this graph. Great place to invest but horrible place to live. Mind you, there is always the County! I am not sure if this amount includes the various levies as well. Given the number of levies that we have in Windsor, I wonder how much higher our number would go over the median.

And by the way, we are not too successful in collecting taxes either. But then again we don't want to be it seems because that is viewed as a revenue source with the overdue interest charge being a good source of revenue.

Even with the funky new bus terminal and with the St. Clair College students downtown, our transit ridership numbers are not very high in comparison with other cities. When you combine that with the poor road condition, it makes travelling in Windsor difficult. Increasing Transit Windsor fares won't help much either in drawing numbers to the service. Who knows, perhaps it is because the purchase of new buses was deferred that people are choosing not to use the service. Who wants to sit in an old and out of date vehicle. Don't they know that we need to maintain our AA rating so new buses can wait.

I do not understand this one. Why do we treat so much more wastewater than do other municipalities? Is there a savings that could take place here?

It's the same question with respect to water treatment.

The watermain break numbers are pretty scary as well in Windsor and can provide justification for the 86% increase. On the other hand, we know that WUC was aware of the problem many years ago but nevertheless diverted money from capital to operating. Investors may be happy if WUC's debt was paid down but I'm not so sure that taxpayers are happy today with the big increases. The whitewash Provincial audit won't give us any real answers either I am sure.

That is a snapshot taken that compares Windsor with other cities. I'm not sure how this will be dismissed but I'm certain that we will see some kind of spin. Or, will it all be ignored by City Hall and the cheerleading media since it is more bad news for Windsor.

The Mayor's Race Is Now Officially On

You read it in Gord Henderson's column. The first shot is over the doublestack rail tunnel:

  • "Ward 1 Coun. Dave Brister, who played a pivotal role in the community fight against DRTP, is appalled by the timing of Marra's motion and the naivete of anyone who could be so easily convinced DRTP has capitulated."
Attack Marra, support Brister is the clear short-term message. Is it ABB--Anybody But Bill-- and is Brister the short-term tool to be used now?

It's official... the horses have left the starting gate. After one year after the last election and three years before the next one, a number of Councillors are signalling that they are going to be running for Mayor.

Too early you think, hardly. An incumbent starts his campaign for re-election the day after the election when he/she is elected. Anyone who wants to run for an office should do the same.

The two early runners, who may not have the stamina to last out the entire race or who may suffer a broken leg due to a stumble between now and three years from now are clearly Councillors Brister and Marra. They may well be overtaken by one of their colleagues as the race continues or by a longshot who appears out of nowhere. In the meantime, let's try and handicap the race so far.


How can he run after what he said in the Gord Henderson column?

  • "In fact, said Brister, he has zero interest in becoming mayor.

    “Write that rumour off forever. It’s not something I ever want to do and it’s just never going to happen."

That's not what a number of his colleagues believe! But you know how it is in politics. Just ask Dalton McGuinty... when the Draft Brister For Mayor Committee forms and when only he can save the City from financial ruin what choice will he have? It will be a groundswell of support. I mean really when you look at what he said, Gord probably misunderstood. Or maybe there was a misquote. Dave probably only meant he would not run while Eddie was still Mayor.

You can see the strategy that the Councillor is using by watching him at Council. Try to discredit his enemies in advance, play the budgeteer role to the hilt and pray that the Mayor will endorse him. However, if the Councillor makes silly slips, those may come back to haunt him as the race goes on as his opponents keep storing them up.

The Council meeting a few weeks ago was a classic night for Brister.

The Councillor has always likes to hear himself speak and that Monday night was a good example. He raised the strange occurrence involving something that was done by error it seems. The City Clerk had to tell the Councillor twice that she could not reveal information to him with respect to a communication sent by Chris Schnurr for legal reasons I believe. He does not know enough when to be quiet. He had to be told NO twice. Not good.

From what I understand, few of his colleagues knew what he was talking about. That leads to the question about how Councillor Brister knew about an e-mail that was sent by error in the first place. Who told him about it if the Clerk could not reveal it? You see what I mean about silly mistakes that can come back to haunt him. Schnurr is taking steps to discover what happened:

  • "But, dear reader, there is more to the story than a mispresentation of the facts. However, that I will leave with the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to investigate."

Didn't the Councillor look majestic when he was Acting Worship. He must have been in Seventh Heaven. I imagine he could picture himself sitting there in the future. He was in the Chair on an item about which his mentor spoke. We learned from what he said that he also worked with the Board of Habitat for Humanity and that his wife worked on one of their Builds. Now that is community involvement isn't it.

Some think my name for him, the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget, is too long. So I thought of a couple of new ones after watching him perform that night.

How about Councillor Grandstander. Out of the blue, at the end of the Council Meeting, he stood up to remind his Council colleagues that they need not accept a CPI Increase in their salary. He wanted to remind them that he had opted out of this privilege and obviously at the same time told us about his generosity in not going for this magnificent increase in a time of struggle for Taxpayers. Had he said that he would not accept the increase by receiving money from Boards, then that might have been something significant.

The other name that I thought might be appropriate was Councillor Teacher's Pet. Surely the Mayor did not intend that Dave "Spit anything out." Oh there was the Councillor jumping up, late mind you, seeking to defer the Maryvale matter so that Council would not get sued by the Ambassador Bridge Company. They'll probably exempt Maryvale when they renew the interim control bylaw and demolition bylaw. So much for Maryvale perhaps losing a huge grant.

Then, after Councillor Marra introduced his Notice of Motion about the rail tunnel, up jumped the Councillor again to complain that both he and Councillor Dilkens really should be introducing their full Notices at the time when they seek to do so. Eddie was clearly taken aback by Councillor Dilkens and was almost furious at Councillor Marra since he is the Lead on the Border don't you know. It looks like both Councillors chose not to let the Mayor know what they were going to do. But it's okay, Councillor Teacher's Pet is going to introduce a Motion requiring people to do so.


He is clearly the Mayor-in-waiting and the odd's on favourite.. Frankly everyone expects him to be the new mayor. He has a well oiled machine that will help him on election day. But for a few very bad mistakes, he would have beaten Eddie Francis for Mayor in their first head-to-head competition, believe it or not.

The only thing that will beat Bill is Bill himself. Mistakes will be his downfall and he is prone to taking advice from people who use him for their own agendas. That is a characteristic, probably because he thinks so well of people that he doesn't recognize opportunists, that he must improve upon or he will be known as the Mayor who might have been.

He's been a good boy so far, even earning a few pats on the head from Gord. Bill being in the background and relatively quiet for the first year of this term was probably deliberate. He had to show his colleagues that he was a team player and not a Showboat. Well on Monday, he signalled that this one year time period is over.

He did an awful lot of talking on a number of different items at the Council Meeting, showing his breadth of experience as a former Councillor. His Motion was a direct challenge to the Mayor no matter how it is played out. It is a no-win for Eddie and a no-lose for Bill if the strategy has been well-considered.

However, the one bit of advice I would give to him right now is delete the word "Tunnel" from your vocabulary.

This I am afraid may well turn into a gigantic blunder on his part unless he plays it very, very carefully. When Bill ran for Mayor, he supported tunnelling at the time. Unfortunately for him, the word tunnel then meant DRTP. That cost him key votes especially in the STOPDRTP corridor ie where people turn out to vote.

He introduced the Tunnel Motion as a member of Council this time around and that effectively has been completely ignored as Greenlink seems to be the City's position even though it is in conflict with Bill's Motion. It shows he can be out-manoeuvred and may lack support from his colleagues. Obviously some want him to fail for their own political reasons so that is another concern.

Now he introduced a Motion dealing with the rail tunnel. As I have shown in previous BLOGs, it is so easy to take the position that the rail tunnel is a first step in DRTP going back to their truck Expressway. Bill may get tagged as being a DRTP front which is political suicide. Will he be able to extricate himself by showing that a rail tunnel is necessary for Windsor and showing how he can protect against a truck Expressway replacing it?

Watch which Councillors take a shot at him and whether the Mayor does too when the Motion is introduced and how Marra handles himself. It could result in a nasty fall for the front-runner if he is not careful or it may increase his lead dramatically and reduce the possible field.

Do you see what I mean... do you see how easy it is for even a front-runner to stumble over the next three years if he does not think through everything?

Get your bets in early while the odds are the best and pick out who you think will be the winner three years from now. Guess who I think is a 1,000-1 shot!