Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 01, 2008

Three Little Words

It was a vicious mean-spirited column. And yet some dare condemn Bloggers for being negative or being similar to "American style attack-ads" Rubbish!

The Windsor Star is the major media outlet in this region. As such, I believe it has an obligation to its readers to ensure balance in its new stories and fairness in its opinion columns and Editorials as well.

That is not to say that the Star and its columnists are not entitled to have an opinion that differs from its readership. Of course opinions should be allowed to be expressed to present a different point of view. The Ontario Press Council says that opinions are entilted to a "wide latitude." I would expect that. But when it does present an opinion, especially if it is controversial, the Star should at least ensure that the comments are reasonable and not unnecessarily hurtful before they are published. It should ensure that a fair conclusion can be drawn from the stated facts.

It seems that the Star's Editor may actually care what his readers think. After all, without readership, the ad revenues would decline. Something must have happened with the Kwame coverage for him to write a Column about why the Star printed so many stories about the incident as it did. Was someone afraid of offending a powerful person? Did the Editor have to placate somebody who was outraged and did he feel the need to try to pacify that person or group by justifying what they did:
  • "At morning news meetings, editors asked themselves, Is this our story? Do readers care? If our mandate is to deliver outstanding local coverage, is Detroit local enough?"

I would respectfully suggest to Mr. Beneteau that instead of looking at stories from across the river, he ought to check his own newspaper to see how Windsor is covered. If he does that, then he ought to insist that his columnist, Gord Henderson, and whoever approved his column for publication, should offer an apology for the disgraceful column that was allowed to be published in the Star yesterday. It was despicable as far as I am concerned.

It is a shame that readers' comments were not allowed to be made at the end of the Henderson column. You see the Star Editor learns

  • "reader appetites by monitoring page views on, and by the volume of responses to poll questions and Sound Offs."

He would have had his eyes opened had he done so in my opinion.

Henderson's column really had nothing to do with the University. That was the excuse for Henderson to write his attack. What was the column really all about? It is very simple, these three little words:


Those three little words were capitalized, right smack in the middle of a column so they stand out clearly for everyone to see. I suspect that someone else at the Star was responsible for that insertion but it clearly shows that this person understood what this column was all about as well doesn't it. The column was nothing more than an attack on those people whom Henderson believes have prevented our Mayor from achieving whatever results Henderson had hoped that he would have achieved by now. They have prevented Eddie from being a political Superstar and are slowing down whatever career goals he set out for himself when he first ran for Mayor.

It is hardly earth shattering news to say that Henderson is probably Eddie's biggest media booster. There is no doubt that Henderson supports Eddie for all the reasons that he has pointed out in his columns starting even before Eddie ran for Mayor. I believe, as Henderson told me years ago, that Gord is still of the view that Eddie is all that we have to fight for us against the "enemies." That may well colour Henderson's view of Eddie.

It appears, with some few exceptions, that Eddie can do no wrong in Gord's eyes. Good luck to Gord on that; he is entitled to his viewpoint as I am entitled to mine. However, in my opinion, this column went too far. This column in my opinion is really Gord lashing out at certain individuals for not allowing Eddie to achieve Gord's vision of greatness for him.

The vote at the University is nothing more than an excuse. How hypocritical it was for Henderson to write about behind closed door meetings at the University. I don't recall seeing an open door meeting of the City Council about the commitment to spend $30-40M of our tax money for the University either. Who were the 8 who voted in favour of whatever it was that Council approved since we still do not know officially and who were the 2 opposed? Didn't Gord want to know that? Make a slight change in what Gord wrote in his column and you would see this:

  • "I guess we'll never know for sure, given that this publicly funded institution's [City Council] made the most critical site decision in decades behind closed doors."

Who was the Chair of the City Council meeting that allowed the in camera session? Why didn't Gord condemn him for his actions?

The column was nothing more than attacking people who have contributed to Windsor in order to save Eddie's neck. He attacked people to hide that Eddie failed again as a business person to complete a deal. He wanted to attack people so that everyone will not learn that Eddie has no interest in the Western Super Anchor site, while pretending he does, as he allows the "new" downtown to be created eastward to the Casino area. He attacked so Windsorites would not focus on how absurd the Mayor's offer to the University was.

He first went after Tom Burton, deputy mayor of Tecumseh. He was not the real targt was he? The real target was Gary McNamara, the Mayor of "a town that's in a take-no-prisoners war with Windsor." So much for City-County co-operation on anything.

Wasn't it McNamara who almost took away the arena right from under Eddie's nose? What if the arena goes over-budget or is a financial flop? How many private suites have been leased out so far, how much did it cost to construct and fit them out and where are the costs shown as just one example. It wasn't supposed to be built now anyway if you remember the Administration Report. It was still to be studied but for the Project Ice Track move to Tecumseh. No wonder Henderson has set up the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget to take the fall.

Isn't it also McNamara who wants Manning Road to be constructed. He can't afford to wait while our Mayor dithers and delays and stalls. He is ruining whatever plan that the Mayor has which he refuses to tell anyone with respect to the border and the border road.

The next victim is Dennis DesRosiers. I wonder whether Dennis will cut off the reporters from the Star and their sister newspapers again after this attack. He should and force Henderson to write another column in which he is forced to grovel. I guess neither Eddie nor Gord can forgive the fact that Dennis was hired by the ex-Mayor to help develop auto policy for the City. If the Mayor actually had one, perhaps I could understand the animosity, but then again the whole idea behind the Engineering Complex is one that Dennis has promoted for years. Imagine the University listened to him and not to our Mayor. Isn't Dennis allowed to express his opinion about Windsor, his hometown, and its leadership in speeches to local groups now?

Thank goodness that Henderson brought in the son of the owner of the Ambassador Bridge. What would a column like this be like without making the Bridge Company the enemy. Just because Matt happens to be around Eddie's age and has the skill and training to be responsible for helping to run a multibillion-dollar organization is no reason to be jealous of him. It is not his fault that he has the ability to complete a business transaction in a timely fashion and make a profit on the deal. It is not his fault that his father's company has been able to figure out how to solve the border problems at their Bridge while the Mayor's Tunnel business is dropping like a stone. It is not his fault that the Mayor tried to become the Border Czar by trying to take over the Detroit half of the Tunnel, by trying to improve the Tunnel plaza and finally by trying to control the border road and failed miserably in all of these matters.

And then finally to bring in Tony Toldo! What an insult! He is not a member of the Board. He didn't have a vote. All he did was contribute some money for the construction of a building that was named after him. And for that Henderson insults him. Yes it is a shame that Toldo decided to go Tecumseh with his project thereby forcing Eddie's hand and yes Toldo did sponsor a luncheon for the leading business people in the region to help make this area prosper rather than feed Gazelles, but is that the reason to try to discredit the man.

I am surprised however that whining, nay-saying, negative, anti-Windsor Bloggers were not included in the list. What a letdown.

I cannot believe to the depths to which Henderson would sink.

Henderson knows as well as I do that the arena sucked all the cash out of Windsor. He wrote in fact "city contribute $25 million over a number of years, beginning in 2010." Wasn't the arena to be paid off by then so that is the first time that money might be available? 2010....isn't Eddie leaving office in that year too since he dare not run now for a third term? The University could never accept that deal. I'm sure that the Board Members remember the Hurst letter! Gord also knows whose land would have had to be expropriated as well for the Engineering Complex to go downtown.

Eddie had all the time in the world to negotiate a deal with the University since last year and did not do so. He never even got his colleagues onside.

In case you, dear reader, missed it, I am reposting what Councillor Halberstadt had to say had to say about the University transaction:

  • Written by Alan Halberstadt
    Saturday, 26 January 2008
    There are people who like to leave the impression that City Council is united on just about everything of greater importance than an alley closing. This could not be further from the truth, nor should it be in a democratic society.

    For instance, no-one from the media ever asked me my opinion on the wisdom of the University of Windsor’s new engineering complex locating downtown. These deliberations were held behind closed doors on the grounds that city land and possible expropriation of surrounding private lands were up for discussion.

    On January 25, at an in camera meeting, Mayor Eddie Francis received approval from City Council, in an 8-2 vote, to concoct a business case to offer free city land, $25-million in cash, plus expropriation costs, to convince the University of Windsor to build its new $110,000,000 engineering school on the western anchor site.

    Two days later, details of this closed meeting were leaked all over the pages of the Windsor Star in the wake of a January 26 decision by the university board of governors to reject the downtown site and locate the new faculty on campus.

    Columnist Gord Henderson told us that Mayor Francis was to come back to Council in three weeks with a business plan, a rapid timeline I do not recall being pinpointed to Councillors.

    I am not sure what the mayor communicated to university President Ross Paul regarding Council’s closed-door decision prior to the board of governors meeting. As one of the two Councillors who opposed the resolution, it offends me that it is now taken for granted that Council gave the green light on the $40-million package.

    In fact, all the Council majority did was to give the mayor permission to develop a business plan. Once that came back, I would certainly presume that it would be vetted in full public view, including details of the obvious hit to the property tax base, the city’s financial plan and the much-acclaimed debt-reduction policy.

    In my view, the university governors saved Councillors much stress and teeth gnashing by deciding to build on their own land."

I'm sorry for Mr. Henderson in his view of the world. It is a shame that he has to attack people who have contributed to our region in such a hurtful fashion because the Mayor has failed. It is a shame that he cannot recognize the flaws in the Mayor that have contributed to his failures and point them out as one would have expected a columnist in his position to do. How he can draw his conclusions about the University vote from the facts that have been disclosed to date I do not understand.

Three little words. "Foe of Francis." Isn't that what it is all about?

I don't care what Henderson's position is frankly on anything. It is his opinion and he is entitled to it. However, when the leading columnist of the major newspaper in town writes a column such as this, it is the duty of the Editor of a Newspaper to take action. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Beneteau has the nerve to write an Opinion justifying this column.