Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Laughing Stock

Get real. Our Mayor was quoted in the Winnipeg Sun as saying:

  • “Employees could go to work during the week and come home on the weekends,” Francis said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

    “That would keep their paycheque here and keep their family together. It helps cities out west because they get an immediate supply of labour.”
Oh sure.

As an example, Saskatoon's vacancy rate is under 1% with "rents in urban centres averaging $660 a month." Cheapest rate for a room or sharing an apartment I saw on a Saskatoon site was between $350-500 per month. Food, transportation etc are extra.

One example of airfare via Toronto for Friday-Sunday flights was over $1100, 6 1/2 hours each way. Even assuming a half rate, it is still almost $550 per week. After paying all of that, how much would someone actually bring home to Windsor after taxes? What would the pay rate have to be just to break even? How much wear and tear would that person suffer mentally and physically by commuting every week as Eddie suggests?

I am disgusted. Let me express my outrage in as strong a fashion as I can!

Eddie Francis ought to be on bended knee in front of the the citizens of the City of Windsor offering his deepest and most sincere apology. He needs to beg for our forgiveness for trying to put one over on us. He certainly owes an apology to those people who are in economic distress today and who might have believed for a fleeting second that his Jobs Today program might actually offer some hope. It did, false hope!

In my opinion, no naysayer or whiner could possibly do the damage to the reputation of Windsor that our Mayor has done with his State of the City speech. No single person here could embarrass this City around the country the way he did with his Jobs Today plan.

Can you imagine if the investor from Tennessee happened to call back to ask the Mayor about our skilled and educated workforce. The Mayor would have to say honestly, if his Long Distance Comuting scheme came into being, that our best and brightest workers were sent out west by him because we had no jobs for them here, because our economy was crumbling and he had no other solution. If that did not chase the investor away, I don't know what would.

Don't you find it interesting that the Windsor Star has not quoted yet one single Councillor nor asked a Councillor what his/her opinion of Jobs Today is? Why is that? Is it because the Councillors would be able to say nothing because the whole concept was sprung on them as the Mayor was speaking at the Cleary? Is it because the Star knows that everything must come from the Mayor and that the Councillors mean nothing? Is it because any Councillor with a shred of self-respect would call the Mayor's plan a farce and a joke and an insult and the Star dares not let Windsorites know what the Councillors really think of the Mayor's PLAN?

Another built-in Mayoral excuse too just in case Councillors get carried away with themselves:
  • "If council doesn't agree to it, then nothing happens."

It's ironic that the Councillors this year shared some of the spotlight with the Mayor on stage on Monday night. In reality, they should have sat in the area where the audience did. They were just as much in the dark about what the Mayor was going to say as were citizens.

My inside moles tell me that Remo Mancini, Chair of the Economic Development Commission, was seen going into Eddie's office on Tuesday. I have no information whatsoever about what they discussed. However, I wonder whether he was going there to thank Eddie for the confidence shown in him and the Commission by giving them all of this responsibility under the Jobs Today Plan or whether he was going there to offer his resignation.

I know Remo from his days as an Executive at the Ambassador Bridge Company when I was with STOPDRTP. We chatted on many occasions since our interests were obviously similar. In all honesty, I cannot figure out how a former employee of the Bridge Company, which the Mayor describes as the "enemy" of the City and who obviously must have helped in formulating their plans, could have become the Chair of the Commission. It certainly says to me that people recognize his ability to achieve results for him to get the appointment.

However, as a former politician, he is smart enough to understand if he is being set up. Can you imagine taking on a position in a program with no money right now, no criteria for investment, staff who may not be sophisticated in these types of business transactions, in a down economy and to be told to produce results immediately! I would hope that he is smarter than the Councillor formerly known as Council Budget who took on being Chair of the East End Arena Committee so that he could take the fall for the Mayor if it comes in over budget. I cannot believe that Remo would be prepared to take the hit for the Mayor for failure with Jobs Today.

But it's more than that. How many times when this Mayor has opened his mouth has he shown disrespect for the Commission. He must not trust them or is it that he is such a micromanager that he can trust no one. He was the one who flew to Germany, not Remo or members of the Development Commission. Can you believe that it was the Mayor who did the cold calling to an investor in Tennessee and not someone on the Commission staff? Why was the Mayor "trolling websites and business publications looking for investment opportunities for Windsor?" That is the job of the Commission.

Did Remo have enough? Did he give Eddie an ultimatum and tell him that if he crossed the line again he would resign? How can the Commission dare ask the County for money to support its work when the Mayor is doing it all? Is the concept of a joint City/County Commission now being viewed as a joke since it is really the City that will prosper if new investment is made and the County is merely footing part of the bill?

I don't know any of the answers. Only time will tell.

What I do know, and as I have told you before, is that the Jobs Today PLAN is nothing more than a variation of the approach taken with the Schwartz Report. Huge on THINK BIG dreams and vision. Tiny on substance.

I hope I am wrong but there has to be some huge job disaster about to hit the City. Why else would the Mayor deliver his State of a City speech almost 2 months earlier than he normally has done so? How would you like to give that speech after another economic catastrophe. At the least, he would be able to say now if a crisis happens that we are fortunate that he has started on his Jobs Today program.

I admit it. I was one of the people who stood up for Sam to give him a standing ovation when he spoke to us first in January 2005 with his THINK BIG PLAN for Windsor. Within days though, as far as I was concerned, his plan fell apart. Then we had full tunneling after his area of mass destruction presentation. Again, it sounded fantastic but it wasn't workable. Then Greenlink... and I'm still waiting for the answer to 69 questions that I and other people have asked that have never been dealt with.

When one takes a look at what Sam proposed, they were always concepts that sounded terrific, looked great but were not workable in the Windsor context. Is it any different with what Eddie Francis did with his State of the City speech? Obviously, Eddie learned from the Master, or rather thought he did!

As for Jobs Today, once one read Gord Henderson's column, one knew that no money was forthcoming for years. That killed the plan there and then. It was a joke, just like Eddie's University proposal for the Engineering Complex. It was the same product, merely repackaged for a different use. A promise of money after Eddie left office. Stick it to the new Mayor and Council to work out and budget for but Eddie can take the glory today! Tell an investor to come to Windsor to create jobs but not get any inducement or incentive for years and years.

Then the Saskatoon Mayor said:
  • "Saskatoon won't be aggressively participating in the plan at the moment..."
If anyone thinks anything will happen quickly, well the Mayor of Regina said respecting the Loooong Ccommuting Plan:
  • "Fiacco explained that Francis will be identifying the skill sets available in Windsor and if those workers would be willing to commute to the prairies for employment. Once that inventory is done in about 30 days, a meeting is expected to be held between the mayors of Windsor, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton...

    However, there are several issues that must be addressed before such a plan is put in motion.

    "This is not just a question of bringing workers here. We have to make sure the airlines are onside so we can get the proper charters here. We have to make sure we have enough housing as well. It is one thing to bring workers in but if they're going to be displaced, then we have an issue," Fiacco said.

    "There is a lot of co-ordination that is going to have to take place with the Regina Real Estate Association, with the (Regina and Region Home Builders' Association), with our provincial government because they are very much a stakeholder here and, more importantly, with the private sector. Those are the groups that are going to be hiring these individuals."
Jobs Today eh! Here is How Eddie was quoted in the Saskatoon paper but not in the Windsor Star:
  • "The next step, said Francis, who announced the plan in his state of the city address Monday evening, will be to gauge local interest in the program. The city's economic development commission will be hosting an open house in the coming months to find the number of people already commuting to the West, how many people would be interested in doing the same and what their skill sets are. The city will then match people with appropriate job openings in Saskatchewan and Alberta."
Wow, that is action-oriented: "coming months."

Then the Star ran a story on Wednesday about the County's reaction. I was pleased to see at least that our Councillors were not upstaged:
  • "Santos said Francis did not ask for the county's input on the regional fund before delivering the state of the city address.

    "It's never been presented to myself or any county council members that I'm aware of," he said. "The county hasn't received any information about what the total terms of the fund are."

In other words, Eddie did not tell anybody anything about it. He just threw it out at the speech and then Gord Henderson told everybody what they should think.

As far as Eddie is concerned, it's only money. The Warden had the nerve to say

  • "We don't have any funding built in in our current budget that accommodates that type of funding. Any attempt to try to put funds toward this initiative would have a significant impact on the county budget...

    But in Essex County, coming up with a similar amount can only be done through budget and tax increases, Santos said.

    "For example, if we're going to put forward ($30 million) over a five-year-plan, that would be about $6 million a year and that cost alone represents close to a 10-per-cent tax increase," he said...

    it's not realistic for our community and our residents to have to try to pay that bill."

As for the Province, as I predicted, when the Liberals were hammered during Question Period at Queen's Park, Sandra said:

  • "the Liberal government "has invested $1.5 billion in Windsor and will continue to invest in Windsor.

    "We have invested in Chrysler, we hope to invest in Ford and our investment in a casino expansion, a new medical school and a new engineering school will all bring new jobs to Windsor."

What that means is no more cash from the Province and if Eddie has not yet phoned Jeff Watson, no money from the Feds either.

So here we have it: no money, no details, no buy-ins. So what does Eddie do... he backpedals and pretends that he really never had a Plan. It must be a figment of our collective imagination. Too bad that it appears nobody told Gord that it was nothing more than a big trial balloon:

  • "I presented it as an idea to talk about.... Obviously what I wanted to do is put it out there to see what everybody's reaction was," Francis said...

    "What I'm trying to do is provide a vision.... It's not meant to be the end of the overall solution, but it's meant to be a beginning. If others have better ideas, that's what we need to do. If council doesn't agree to it, then nothing happens."

It was nothing more than headline grabbing. It wasn't serious; it could never have been serious. Within hours, it was demonstrated to be laughable. Within days, even the Mayor now is forced to admit it. No new jobs, no help in paying for the mortgage just more talking and talking and talking.

It is just like what he did with the University in his speech that he delivered to the Downtown Business group. He knew that he was going to be criticized over the urban village. Lo and behold a scheme was put forward to put the Engineering Complex downtown. That extravaganza took months to resolve and probably has cost the University considerable sums due to the delay. In the final minutes, at the 11th hour, the Mayor put forward the same kind of ridiculous financial proposal that he offered on Monday night. It was rejected by the University Board.

Does he think that Windsorites are really that stupid? Does he really think that he can fool all of the people all of the time?

What more do Councillors need before they take over the running of this City from a Mayor who is a failure. How much more do they want citizens to endure? How much pain do people have to suffer? How many false hopes, how many tears?

Is there anyone on Council who will stand up and say "Enough!" Will anyone on Council stand up and be a leader for the people. Will anyone on Council stand up and say what most people know now: