Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's All The News

Here are some more news items of interest


With the playoffs season starting, isn't it a shame that Economic Development is not treated the same way as playing hockey. I would think in the EconDev League, from what we are being told, the Kitchener-Waterloo region would be number one while, with the shenanigans that are taking place here, Windsor would be in the basement.

Here's a story out of Waterloo that should be of interest to the "owners" of our EconDev team:
  • "CEO of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc Will Step Aside Later This Year

    Canada's Technology Triangle, Waterloo Region, April 11, 2008 – John D. Tennant, the Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc (CTT Inc), the public-private regional economic development partnership for Waterloo Region, has informed the Board of Directors that he intends to resign when a successor can be found. The Board has established a committee to lead the search for a new CEO...

    Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc ( is the not-for-profit, public-private regional economic development partnership marketing the Waterloo Region and the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo to the world. Its mandate is to attract new businesses, investment and talent, while promoting regional economic growth. The organization works closely with the Economic Development Departments of its partner municipalities, member-based business organizations and the four postsecondary educational institutions."

If this was hockey, Windsor might have offered a trade of Matt Fischer and a herd of gazelles for Mr. Tennant.


Thank goodness the University received funding from the Province just in the nick of time:

  • "Provincial government funding worth $7.2 million will help the University of Windsor "catch up" on a long list of maintenance projects, Neil Gold, vice-president, provost, said Friday."

I wonder if maintaining the financial postion of Dr. Ross Paul as being the "highest-paid civil servant in the Windsor area" at $329,706 is one of those projects.

You see, while he is leaving his position as President, he is still around for two more years I am told and is not actually retiring.

Apparently this is not out of the norm for University Presidents. I am told that the theory is that while President they can't do any research or teaching so they are paid to do this after they leave their position. It's all part of contract negotiations.


Another ad campaign blitz will be started soon in Windsor on top of the Greenlink and CANW.E. campaigns. This is in addition as well to the "strap-on" exhortation by a local radio station.

To counter all of the negativity and bad news coming out of City Hall (sending people out of town to work is just the latest farce to discredit us across Canada) and the fiasco with the WEDC, watch for a major media outlet in town to come out with a "Believe in Windsor" campaign.

Designed I am sure "to bring about change, positive change," it is supposed to achieve "a lot of results this year."

Expect the media outlet to reach out for help from the local BLOGGing Community. This "partnership" is being undertaken for one of the first times ever by a traditional media outlet in recognition and appreciation of the good news spread by Windsor BLOGGERS who have worked hard to educate the Community about what is going on at City Hall.

Yea right!


In an article by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, I read that the Mayor of Detroit has very extensive powers eg.
  • The mayor is the chief executive of the city and, as provided in this Charter, has control of andis accountable for the executive branch of city government. Executive and administrative authority for the implementation of programs, services and activities of city government is vested exclusively in the executive branch.
  • Requests for the purchase or disposal of city property originate in the executive branch while approval of the City Council is needed to sell or in any way dispose of property.
  • The office allows the mayor to represent the city in certain public/private partnerships.
  • The Mayor can make appointments, formulate and execute a budget, and plan the reorganization of city government.
  • City councils tend to act as oversight bodies and as checks on the executive, with relatively less emphasis on policy and program development.
  • The mayor may propose a budget, plans, ordinances, contracts, appointments, and other policies or actions, the Council frequently has the authority to delay, alter, or block such policies or actions.

He has the power in other words.

So picture our poor Mayor. He has been working with his good buddy Kwame for almost 2 years now to do a Tunnel deal, spending over $1 million of Windsor taxpayer money so far in legal and consultants' fees. He is desperate for a solution to justify those fees and to achieve whatever purpose he has in his mind that has not yet been shared with the citizens of Windsor.

Unfortunately, Kwame has problems of his own these days. However, clearly the Tunnel deal is a major issue for him since it is needed to plug a $58 million hole in the Detroit budget.

So what do you do if you are Eddie? It is pretty clear that the Detroit Mayor's powers are significant and he ought not to be offended. Nevertheless, he has been harmed by the Text Messages scandal so one needs to be on good terms with Council members. And I do remember that President Cockrel attended one of Eddie's Cleary speeches.

Do you deal only with Kwame, taking the risk that he may not be Mayor or that, even if he is, his Council will block anything that he tries to do? After all, it is HIS job to do the deal. Or, do you deal with the President of Council Ken Cockrel Jr. since he might become Mayor if Kwame resigns or is removed. In any event, one needs the support of Council in the transaction, so why not keep him in the loop.

No matter what Eddie does, he may offend one or both of them since Kwame took a shot at Ken in his State of the City speech. Ken hit back calling "Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s proposal to sell bonds for public works projects “a joke.” And now Ken may run for Mayor against Kwame!

I hope that Eddie does not mess up as he did with him thinking Hendrix could be Mayor by taking Kwame for granted!

I have heard that our Mayor has been in Detroit quite a bit over the last little while. I wonder with whom he has been meeting... Kwame, Ken, a third-party finance consultant, all of the above.

It is a very delicate game. In effect, Eddie is walking amongst landmines and one false step-- like insulting one of the parties by trying to play that person against another--- can result in this deal blowing up right in his face.

From a Windsorite perspective frankly, unless I get a clear indication of some financial advantage for this City, it would not bother me in the slightest if the landmine exploded.


No, I'm not talking about Mark Boscariol who stated in a very open and brave manner:

  • "Often I have been cited for “ideas” when readily I admit I’ve rarely had an original idea beyond my ability to use “Google.”

In his CKLW interview on Tuesday, the Mayor may have borrowed from Mark when he said:

  • "the success of things that can be done in our city, you can only need, and you only need to look to other city’s that have successfully done it.

    You do not need to reinvent the wheel. A lot of cities have tried to reinvent themselves. A lot of cities have tried things that are new. Look to those that have succeeded. Borrow from them. Implement. Execute."
Now I don't really disagree. Sometimes it is better to be the second one in, or even later, because you can learn from all of the mistakes of the person who first tried to do something.

However, I have to tell you that I first voted for Eddie Francis because:
  • "The need for change is obvious. It’s time to lead this City in a new direction...

    Today I offer you a new vision, a fresh perspective and a clear choice for change…

    I am ready to do things give this city what it desires and deserves…something fresh - something new - something that will help us move forward…

    Change will be the order of the day."

To be blunt about it, if I wanted Mike Hurst's ideas, I would have voted for him had he chosen to run and not for Eddie.

I swear that I heard voice mannerisms of Mike Hurst when Eddie was delivering his State of the City speech. Consider also the following:

  • was the brainstorming session led by our Mayor nothing more than a regurgitation of the Mike Hurst "City Centre Revitalization and Design Study outlined in the Windsor Star on November 1, 1994" as Chris Schnurr claims in his BLOG
  • was Eddie's Tunnel Plan nothing more than what Mike wanted to do in 2001
  • both Francis and Hurst used Sutts and Estrin as lawyers
  • is Eddie's Greenlink ad campaign blitz similar to Mike's DRTP ad campaign blitz
  • tell me how Eddie's $30M "commitment" to either Jobs Today or to the University's Engineering Complex is any different than a Mike's "carefully worded the letter in support of the projects and [that] purposely made no promises to" St. Clair and the University
  • are the intensely negative feelings about Eddie as expressed for example in the Star Forums any different than those expressed against Mike in his last year as Mayor?

Perhaps the answer is that after a certain period of time, politicians all start sounding the same.


It's not so far-fetched now is it considering what is going on in the County with respect to ELK Energy Inc.

  • "Lakeshore offers up utility share; Seeks competitive bids for its third of ELK Energy, co-owned with Essex, Kingsville;
    Gary Rennie Windsor Star Windsor Star 02-13-2008

    "In the month or so the town has been talking about selling the shares, three different offers have come in, Bain said. He didn't want to discuss the numbers with a proposal call now pending.

    Bids could come from Lakeshore's two partners in the 9,000- customer utility -- the towns of Essex and Kingsville -- or other utilities such as Chatham-Kent, Hydro One or Essex Power. Bain said Kingsville appears to have some interest in buying the shares."

When three people from Borealis are in Windsor to hear the Minister of Finance speak at a Rotary luncheon, I doubt if it is for the food.

Here's an interesting story out of Mississauga that may give us an indication why they were here. Of course, a deal such as this brings in money to a municipality but over time, it has to be paid back plus interest doesn't it. Before this takes place in Windsor, we need a true an open discussion about it.

Don't expect to have one however if Council acts as it has in the past. Remember what I told you before about the Purchasing Bylaw amendment when Eddie Francis became Mayor:

  • "32. (1) A Sole Source purchase may be used for the purchasing of goods and/or services for Contracts of any Contract value, in the following circumstances:
  • (i) Where a public/private partnership exists."
MFP was a P3 too remember. Didn't we learn anything from that expensive fiasco that wound up costing us millions?

  • Mississauga to sell utility
    TORONTO STAR, Apr 10,

    Enersource deal for up to $300 million could help city solve infrastructure crisis

    Mississauga has taken the drastic step of offering its municipally owned hydro utility for sale, in hopes of bringing in a windfall that would help it tackle the city's looming infrastructure crisis.

    The decision to put Enersource Corporation up for sale was made at a council meeting yesterday. Estimates are the sale could bring in between $250 million and $300 million, depending on how it is valued. The city has engaged RBC Dominion Securities to provide a valuation with a report due in June.

    The reason for putting it on the auction block is simple: to help pay for millions of dollars in infrastructure repair and renewal, the need for which threatens to put the famously debt-free city in the red.

    It's an idea that Mayor David Miller's blue-ribbon fiscal review panel earlier this year hinted might help Toronto out of its current economic jam – that is, sell part or all of Toronto Hydro to pay off a $2.6 billion debt.

    The sale would not affect consumer electricity rates, which are regulated by the province.

    In Mississauga's case, said Councillor Carolyn Parrish, it could offset the need for an annual 5 per cent infrastructure levy contemplated by council to help offset millions of dollars in extra infrastructure costs over the next 10 to 20 years.

    "Council is contemplating putting the money away in an infrastructure fund because the two senior levels of government don't seem interested in our plight," said Parrish, who represents the city on the board of Enersource.

    The utility is 90 per cent owned by Mississauga and 10 per cent by Borealis, the investment firm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).

    Potential buyers include other municipal utilities such as Hydro One or Veridian Connections (which serves parts of Durham Region). Other potential buyers are private-sector companies and Borealis, with which the city has a contract clause that could force either partner to buy the other out.

    Cash from the sale of assets, including buildings, equipment, transformer stations, poles, wires and other equipment, could be placed in a reserve fund against which it could borrow money. Or interest earned could be put toward city needs such as roads, sewers, buildings and bridges.

    Yesterday's vote came while Mayor Hazel McCallion was out of town, but has been in the works for several months.

    McCallion has engaged in a very public feud with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, accusing him of ignoring the infrastructure crisis facing municipalities.

    The decision to sell took on added urgency after talks broke down with Powerstream, the municipal utility that is majority-controlled by the City of Vaughan and which also serves Markham, Aurora and Richmond Hill.

    Eric Fagan, a spokesperson for Powerstream, expressed surprise at the sale but acknowledged that talks between the two municipal utilities had not gone anywhere.

    "We had some discussions for several months, and a few months ago we decided to go our separate ways," Fagan said.

    The decision also follows a year of very public turmoil between city council and Borealis over the remuneration paid to board members.

    Council decided board members were grossly overpaid and slashed the salaries of its eight appointees to the 10-member board. Once earning $32,000 to $45,000 a year, Enersource's board members had been among the highest paid at a GTA municipal utility. Their pay was cut to $15,000; the chair's pay from $75,000 to $45,000 a year.

    Municipalities took ownership of their local utilities after Ontario's electricity utility was deregulated in 2002. Since then, the province has encouraged the consolidation of the sector, with some municipalities choosing to sell while others, like Vaughan, have chosen to expand. The last major sale in the GTA involved the buyout of Brampton's hydro utility by Hydro One, for about $265 million.

    But with 185,000 customers, an Enersource sale would rank among the largest, though it's still smaller than Powerstream, which has about 237,800 customers.

    According to the latest filings, Enersource brings in about $700 million in revenues a year, has about $630 million in assets and is about $289 million in debt. It's not clear how the debt would be handled in a future sale."


I hope you are not eating something when you read this item since you might choke. Do not drink anything hot either since I would hate for you to burn yourself as you laugh yourself silly.

I am merely going to provide what the Mayor said on CKLW and you can write a BLOG for yourself.
  • HOST: So what’s the plan here? You had your first meeting last night, your strategic planning session, ideas were tossed around, what do you do with those ideas and how do you narrow it down to a few and get them started?

    I should say we were taking calls earlier this morning and one caller said, you know, this city is known for just over analyzing…

    Mayor Francis: Absolutely.

    HOST: …everything, studying everything and even if it was narrowed down to one idea, would that take forever to really be implemented?

    Mayor Francis: Actually, I heard that caller and I agree. We have to get out this mindset that everything needs to be studied. And really we can’t be afraid of making decisions. If they’re the right decisions and they’re supported, then there’s a reason to make them.

    On the arena issue, and I go back to our track record. We never, on my term and on my watch, we got it done. We didn’t study the arena. We just got out there. We knew what needed to be done and we got it done...

    Let’s not get seized in the fear of making decisions. Let’s recognize that we were elected to move this city forward. Let’s recognize that part of that, is making difficult decisions.

    You’re not going to be able to please everybody all the time. But at the end of the day, if you’ve got the best of interests of the city first and foremost, and you’re able to make this city move forward, then that’s what it is about."

Just to give you one small example that probably is the cause of your laughter, as I wrote before, the Mayor's first priority is jobs. We can make a very strong assumption that the Mayor started looking at the Jobs Today program sometime in February. He gave his speech outlining it on March 17 and then said the following recently in the Star:

  • "Francis informed council he is still in the midst of preparing a report on his proposal - first mentioned last month in his state of the city address. He would not provide any timelines on when he will bring it forward.

    "I'm still working on it, as soon as I have it ready I will bring it council," he said after the meeting."