Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sleepless In Detroit/Windsor Tunnel

Isn't this precious.

Someone involved with the Tunnel figured out a way to be creative. They went out and bought a billboard with this cute saying on it. I guess that is supposed to draw traffic away from the Bridge since it is on Huron Church Road!

I must admit though the first time that I went by it, I just glanced at a billboard and I thought it read:
  • "You could have slept in…the tunnel"

That usually seems to happen to people in the morning going into United States waiting to clear US Customs or going back to the US after a weekend in Windsor. Isn't that the reason why so many Windsor police officers are stationed at Wyandotte and Goyeau to direct traffic because of the traffic mess around the City-ownedTunnel? (Hmmmm. I wonder if the cost of the officers is charged to the Tunnel or is it a cost borne by taxpayers). Being stuck at US Customs in the Tunnel is the case on occasion for hours if you take the Tunnel bus as has been reported. What else can one do but sleep for hours sometimes until the bus is cleared.

Talking about sleeping though, where is our investigative reporting from Windsor's traditional media. Were they asleep at the switch or were they afraid to do anything before the Mayor's State of the City Speech for fear of offending him and losing access to City Hall? Or after too!

What is one of the matters that Kwame over in Detroit has been accused of neglecting so that the City's budget is not balanced: the US$75 million Tunnel deal with Windsor. How long has it been so far that this deal has not been finished and yet the City's outside lawyers are working so hard to achieve a resolution. I would hate to think what the legal fees are by now.

So when Councillor Halberstadt writes about a possible Tunnel deal on his BLOG, you would think that someone from the traditional media would actually read about it and try and find out something about it. After all, it's almost like getting a big story on a silver platter.

Not so far it seems. Not a peep from anyone. Or rather not until the 26th, the day before the meeting, when we are told to swallow this:

  • "What we will be dealing with is a recommendation from legal counsel to put the tunnel into a corporation to protect the taxpayer from any financial exposure that might occur from an act of terrorism or accident," said Mayor Eddie Francis."

Please don't tell me know that nobody from the traditional media reads the Councillor's BLOG. I thought he got into trouble with some of his colleagues because of what he wrote on there. If no one reads what he writes, other than a few unimportant taxpayers, then he need not be concerned what he reveals on there and should be telling us more. After all, but for his BLOG would we have known at all about the meeting on the 27th?

In case someone is interested, here is what he wrote:

  • "Kwame should be asked about the long-delayed negotiations between Detroit and Windsor to secure possession of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and infuse $75 million into the coffers of Kilpatrick’s cash-strapped administration.

    Protracted, top-secret negotiations have been dragging on since last summer, at undisclosed legal costs. But now it appears that a deal may be near. Mayor Francis has called a special joint meeting of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, which he chairs, and Windsor City Council, on Thursday, March 27 at 3 p.m."

Of course, I'm not a reporter from the mighty Windsor Star or a media person from a radio or TV station so what chance do I have to get information from the powerful. I do have a few people I talk to however. From what I have learned to date from people on both sides of the border, no one seems to know if there is a deal to be concluded or not. The overall consensus of people is that there is no deal that is finalized at this time and that the meeting on the 27th must be about something else.

Of course, these people are not privy to all of the confidential haggling that has been going on, including trying to get financing for this project. I would be surprised if the City could finance US$75 million on its own out of City Finances since my understanding is that the Tunnel Improvement Project is dead for the next few years with no money allocated to it from the City.

To help out the reporters, may I suggest a possible way that the deal could be completed. The Province, not the Federal Government, may fund Eddie's Tunnel deal for the following reasons:

  • Province has already passed Regulations allowing it (Unfortunately, the Province needed to amend the Municipal Act so it is not legal for the City to do the deal in my opinion)
  • Council and Tunnel Commission Meeting is taking place AFTER Dwight's Budget.
  • Kwame was quoted in the Detroit media saying: [Detroit News Thursday, February 21, 2008] " The one-time tunnel deal with Windsor, which the mayor has been counting on to eliminate the city's deficit, was stymied because Windsor was having a hard time getting the cash from conventional sources. Windsor hopes to get the money from its provincial government."
  • Feds have said that they will not finance the Tunnel.
  • The Agreement may only be an Agreement in Principle so far since the Province would have to get approval from the Feds under Bill C-3 and no changes of ownership regulations have been pased so far.

As unlikely as this seems given what Dwight did NOT say in his Budget, I have heard that the Province wants an interest in the new DRIC Bridge. If they have an interest in the Tunnel, it may give the Province leverage as a border operator to allow it to have some oversight or ownership interest in a new DRIC border crossing if one is ever built.

I have asked both Dwight and Sandra to comment on the above thought but I have not heard yet back from them, and probably won't. Maybe local reporters might want to ask around now or are they doing their CVs for jobs out West too!

I wonder as well if any agendas have been sent out to Councillors for Council meetings that are upcoming and, if so, is there an agenda for this Meeting. Do the Windsor Tunnel Commissioners know what is going on since I believe that they have not had a Commission meeting for months since I have not seen any Minutes? If not, and if I was a Councillor in the City of Windsor or a Commissioner, so as not to be embarrassed, I would contact the Mayor immediately and find out what is going on so that if the media contacted me I would not look like a complete and total fool.

Remember how Councillors complained when the audit on the Fleet Operations came out and they had no idea what was going on. Here we go again. They never do learn or is it that the Mayor just doesn't care.

Oh and I sent this email out to Councillors this morning since I chose NOT to swallow what was said in the Star story:

  • "Tunnel story in the Star today

    Please explain to me why the meeting re the Tunnel has to go "in camera."

    This matter as described in the story---incorporating a company---has already been discussed in public as justification for the new Tunnel Corp. in the presence of Council's outside lawyer. It does not need to be discussed again.

    If there is something else on the agenda please let me know what it is so. The public should have the right if required to appear as delegates at a Special Council meeting!"