Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Destroying Windsor's Credibility

On behalf of all the Bloggers in Windsor, I want an apology from the Mayor, Council, and the media. We are not the ones who are causing problems for the image of the City. Guess who is a significant contributor by getting the City tied up in the Mayor's scandal in Detroit.

I'm sure that you either saw or heard about the story in the Detroit News yesterday about the problems that we're having in the City. It certainly is not a positive story about the City but frankly it tells about the issues that we have to cope with here without sugarcoating things. It's hardly a surprise. For those who have not read it, I will attach it below.

But that's not the big news. The big news is the vote that Detroit Council is taking with respect to asking Kwame Kilpatrick to resign as Detroit Mayor. And here is what part of the reason for this:
  • "Council votes on mayor today
    Christine MacDonald / The Detroit News

    The resolution was beefed up significantly Monday, when council members added additional justification to the list of reasons they believe Kilpatrick should resign...

    Also in the resolution, the council criticized Kilpatrick for losing the National Conference of Black Mayors conference that was to meet in Detroit next month, and for failing to give council up-to-date information on a plan to lease the city's share in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to Windsor.

    The lack of details concerns Sheila Cockrel because the mayor already is counting on close to $58 million from the tunnel deal to help balance the city's budget."

From WDIV:

  • "Cockrell sighted three recent developments on why the mayor should resign: ... and by not updating the Council about the sale of the Detroit/ Windsor Tunnel, which is a crucial part of balancing the current budget."

If Kwame survives, what do you think that his relationship with our Mayor will be in the future. At Super Bowl, Windsor was nothing more than a source to help plow the streets if there was a snowfall. Imagine now what we will be, even if there is a new Mayor, if the deal does not go through for US $75 million and very soon! Watch the failure being pinned on Eddie for not being able to raise the funds necessary to do the deal so that Detroit is suffering financial problems.

Or was that always part of someone's plan to screw Detroit to take over the Tunnel cheaply? Now perhaps this explains why the Bridge Co. could never finalize their deal with Detroit to become the Tunnel operator.

Here's the Detroit News story about our woes:

  • Monday, March 3, 2008
    Woe is Windsor
    Border crossing hassles, factory job losses and weak dollar batter economy
    Steve Pardo / The Detroit News

    WINDSOR -- Michael Plunkett hasn't seen an economy this bad in the 30 years he's been serving upscale tavern fare to customers in downtown Windsor.

    "This is the most challenging time I've ever seen," said Plunkett, 55, owner of Plunkett's Bar and Grill. "There are ups and downs in every market; as businesspeople we know that. But in my professional experience, I've never seen anything this bad that has gone on for this length of time."

    Windsor, a manufacturing town and tourist attraction, is going through what economists and business owners call a perfect storm.

    The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, started it, delivering a staggering blow to the economy because of fewer border crossings. Events following over the years -- American homeland security issues; manufacturing job losses, passport confusion, international health scares such as SARS and mad cow; the weakest U.S. dollar in more than three decades -- all have piled on to further shake Windsor's economy.

    Experts are worried the sketchy Windsor financial system could continue to hurt the entire region. Windsor, like southeast Michigan, is vested heavily in the slumping automotive and automotive parts industries.

    While Canada had a 33-year jobless low of 5.8 percent in January, Windsor's unemployment was 8.7 percent -- the highest in Canada. Michigan's unemployment in December was 7.6 percent -- the highest in the United States. The Detroit/Livonia/Warren area was even higher that month at 8.0 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

    Ironically, the very things boosting the Canadian dollar are crippling Windsor. Canada has a comparative wealth of natural resources and as a nation is enjoying record prices on crude oil, gold, minerals and a strong demand for coal, chemicals and grain.

    But Windsor is a border town with a reliance on exported goods and U.S. visitors instead of natural resources. A powerful Canadian dollar drives up prices and makes everything from automotive parts to hamburgers more expensive for Americans.

    "It's unfortunate what's good for Canada right now is actually the worst thing in the world for Windsor," said Mark Meldrum, a business professor at the University of Windsor. "All the variables are there for a perfect storm. We are in the middle of an economic winter and I don't see the end in sight. The losses from the manufacturing base, that's hurt number one. Hurt number two is Windsor has relied on a cheap Canadian dollar."

    U.S. dollar loses value
    That cheap Canadian dollar doesn't exist right now. Six years ago, Americans were cashing in to the tune of about $1.60 Canadian for every greenback they exchanged. Now, the American dollar is about equal to the Canadian dollar -- or weaker.

    Inserting an American $20 bill at an automated currency exchange machine at Casino Windsor last week netted three five-dollar bills, four loonies and four nickels -- $19.20 Canadian. With future rate cuts projected by the federal government, odds are the U.S. dollar will decline even further.

    Goods and services are now seen as a bargain for Canadians visting southeast Michigan, and that's the silver lining, said Charles Ballard, Michigan State University economics professor.

    "As the dollar falls, it's tough for Americans who want to take a vacation abroad but it is bringing in some visitors to the U.S. because the dollar is so weak." Ballard said. "If Canadians are crossing the border to shop it's good for the retailer in Detroit. That is the one upside of the fact that we've been on this consumption-spending binge for the entire life of most Americans."

    Casino hurt, too
    Casino Windsor used to try to reel in Americans by advertising the exchange rate, where gamblers could get more playing time on the slots or rolls of the dice with their American dollars. That's no longer the case.

    "Back in 2002 you got six quarters for a buck and that's no longer an option," said Holly Ward, Casino Windsor spokeswoman. "Once you lose your competitive advantage, you've got to option another one."

    The casino is in the midst of a $400 million improvement. It has revamped its gaming hall. A 400-room hotel tower is under construction. The company is also adding restaurants, a 5,000-seat entertainment center and 100,000 square feet of convention space in efforts to improve business.

    The revisions are expected to be completed by June. "We're not immune to issues beyond our control but when they're happening you need to provide new reasons for visiting," Ward said.

    Three months ago Casino Windsor laid off 226 employees after posting $320 million in revenue for fiscal year 2006-07, down $120 million from the previous year.

    Farmington Hills retiree Charles Hill is a big fan of the updated Windsor casino.

    "This place puts the Detroit casinos to shame," said Hill, 67. "I like it better here. The staff is always nice and I love that there's no smoking."

    Visits from U.S. decline
    Windsor instituted a smoking ban May 31, 2006. The law bars smoking in all public facilities. Hill's comments aside, the ban on smoking is not seen as a positive in the gaming industry.

    "We're told by our friends at the casino (that) the high-end gamer is a smoker," said Sandra Brandt, Windsor director of tourism.

    Americans have been visiting Windsor less frequently for years. In 1999, Windsor saw nearly 7.5 million American visitors who pumped $687 million into the local economy, according to Canadian tourism statistics. By 2004 -- the latest figures available -- that number had shrunk to 3.76 million visitors who spent $335 million.

    The economy, the exchange rate, those are all factors, said Paul Twigg, owner of Lazare's Fine Coats & Jackets, an 82-year-old downtown Windsor business. But they're not the main factor.

    "The number one issue that has to be resolved is the border crossing," said Twigg, who has seen a double-digit decline in American customers since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. "You have to make it easy for people to come and go like we used to. We need to consider ourselves a neighborhood and not two foreign countries."