Does Windsor Have A Reason For Being Smug
I wonder what the reaction of Windsorites was when they heard about this Detroit Free Press headline:
- "FBI probes council in corruption inquiry"
After all of the issues involving the Detroit Mayor for so many months, now this. Coming right after the fire in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center office tower, who can argue with Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel who said:
- "Like everything else in this city right now, it’s fast moving.”
The lightning strike is almost the crowning event, she said: “It’s becoming like the Old Testament.”
Don't tell me that the Mayor of Detroit doesn't have nine lives. It will not be long before you hear his supporters saying that he ought not to be judged without a fair trial. The pressure on him surely has to be minimized after the FBI probe was revealed. As his lawyer said:
- "James C. Thomas, a Detroit lawyer representing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on perjury and other felony charges brought in March by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, said Sunday that members of Detroit City Council, who have moved on two fronts to attempt to remove the mayor from office, will now see what it is like to have unproven allegations leveled against them.
"It is ironic the City Council is now in a position where they're being scrutinized and I'm sure that they'll be willing to look a little bit more closely at the presumption of innocence and the benefit of the doubt," Thomas said.
If council members have been secretly tape-recorded or videotaped by federal agents, they may also gain a different perspective on the mayor's claim of privacy rights with respect to SkyTel text messages at the center of a controversy involving the mayor, Thomas said."
The latest scandal in Detroit has to deal with a sludge-treatment plant that was being built. This appears to be one of a number of investigations that are going on There are matters of:
- sale of city-owned properties to friends who resold the properties at a sizable profit
- friends and family relationships
It was not a small deal either:
- "Under the agreement, the city would pay Synagro about $47 million a year to handle 183,000 tons of wastewater treatment sludge. The company would recycle some of the sludge into fertilizer and invest about $125 million in a new plant that would incinerate the rest."
In passing, there are some questions outstanding about the sludge plant in Windsor that I Blogged about sometime ago that no one on Council seems to be concerned about [BLOG September 08, 2006 "How Smelly Sludge Turned Non-odorous "].
So should we be smug in Windsor, believing that it can't happen here. Hardly.
Oh sure, we have had Senior Level scandals like Adscam or gross incompetence like the Gun Registry or the HRDC $1-billion jobs grants program. Wikipedia even has a page that details them http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_political_scandals
But what is interesting to me is that there can be big scandals involving municipalities now and not just the senior levels of government. Remember MFP!
There are a number of reasons that I can see that may explain it, with the biggest being money. At the municipal level, there is no such oversight as there is at the Senior Levels with Opposition Parties, Question Period every day, and a considerable number of members of the media from all over a Province or Canada watching over everything like a hawk, just waiting to pounce if there is any hint of a scandal. After all, it sells newspapers and increases the number of viewers or listeners.
So stop being so smug. In Windsor what is there
- an "Opposition" that backs down when treated like kindergarten children at Council
- secrecy rather than openness and transparency
- questioning that on key issues can require a Councillor to wait for a year and still not get an answer
- a tame media that occasionally brings forward a story that is critical but generally wants to wear a "W" on their chests.
- I won't even get into the issue with respect to the Windsor Star that they have not disclosed to their subscribers yet in their newspaper that I can recall
- audits that take forever.
Look at the money that the Municipality has and what is going to have to spend in the future. Our operating and capital budgets are in the hundreds of millions of dollars range. We have the need to spend millions on infrastructure: our roads, sewers and watermains. This Mayor and Council believe that they are entrepreneurs as they throw money around on arena deals, Tunnel deals and develop intermodal hubs and airport plans. I can hardly wait until we develop our Brownfields. Can you imagine what will happen when this subject is debated at Council:
- "Windsor is being urged to impose a commercial development freeze through 2011. The move, according to the consulting firm Urban Metrics, would help to ease Windsor's high commercial vacancy rate. The freeze would be imposed in all areas except main shopping districts like the core area, Ottawa and Erie Streets. The company also says there's a need to make the core area more resident-friendly. Right now there's nothing to attract the average citizen downtown."
How about numbers:
- $800 million plus for watermains
- Eddie's $100 million dollar proposed investment fund
- hundreds of millions of dollars needed for roads, sewers and to reduce basement flooding
- paying for the losses on MFP and writing off the Cleary
- $65 million plus for the East End arena
- $75 million for the Tunnel deal and $30 million plus for the Tunnel Plaza improvements
- whatever sums can be negotiated on the multibillion-dollar road to the bridge and new bridge project for Brighton Beach as well as acting as "host" for international traffic as examples
- the millions needed to create shovel ready land at the airport and the airport in general
- the many millions needed to buy the Zalev facility and other Brownfields.
I could go on but I'm hoping that you understand what I'm getting at.
I don't think we are immune. I don't think we should be so smug. The temptations are great. The checks and balances are almost nonexistent.
Taxpayers need to be vigilant!