Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 11, 2008


Dining Out In Windsor

Here's something I saw recently about dining out in Vancouver. I think it's a terrific idea.

When I worked in London, England, the Times sponsored something similar with restaurants not only in London but around the country.

I can't think of a better way to visit a top restaurant and pay a reasonable price while at the same time building up traffic for the restaurant in a slow period. Moreover, with all of the vineyards in the area, this would be the perfect opportunity to boost our local wines as well as our local restaurants.

I would love to partner with someone to do this in Windsor, perhaps with Windsor Eats or even the local traditional media. Let me know if there is interest.

Dine Out Vancouver™ presented by Visa
January 16 - February 3, 2008

It's bigger, better and back for the sixth year running! We invite you to savour Vancouver's delectable food and wine scene. Enjoy a three-course dinner at over 180 of Vancouver's hottest restaurants for $15, $25 or $35** per person, complemented by fabulous BC VQA wine paring suggestions.

Reservations highly recommended. Don't forget you can book online for many participating restaurants making it easier to secure that coveted eatery and avoid busy phone signals!

Plus you might be the city's most sought after date if you're lucky enough to win the Visa Dine Out for a Year Contest!

Breaking Resolutions

  • I wanted to see how observant my readers are. The answer is very observant. Here's what a reader wrote about the picture of the front page of the Windsor Star that I placed on my BLOG yesterday.

    "Is it me or does the Top Margin of the paper "HAVE YOU BROKEN YOUR 2008 RESOLUTIONS YET?" sound a little ominous considering the looks on their faces?

    This just couldn't get any juicier."

He was referring to the picture of the Mayor and the Warden on the front page as well as the story about Eddie's vow not to run for a third term that may now not be as solid as before according to Gord Henderson.

  • "Francis hints at 3rd term"
Please don't tell me that the Sheriff of the Posse of Windsor Star Renegade Reporters isn't riding high today. That big blue headline about breaking resolutions and the story about Eddie perhaps running for a third term are priceless. The juxtaposition shows that someone at a very high level in the Star is not very happy with our Mayor. And whoever allowed reader comments after Henderson's story and the one on the City/County disagreement clearly is part of the Posse too.

But the classic that you will have to check on for yourself, assuming that it is still on the website, is the slideshow "Listen to a tape of Mayor Eddie Francis as he vows to quit after two terms"

Who is the Renegade with the online Star who is getting his/her dig in at the Mayor?
  • "Asked three weeks ago during a Dec. 20 Star interview if this was to be his last term as mayor, Francis responded: "This is my last term. I made a commitment to the residents and my family."

Remember what Eddie said when he first ran for Mayor:

  • "I said to you earlier that I am not a politician and I am not running for office to be Mayor for life. My term in office will be energetic, focused and inclusive. Should I be fortunate to be elected to lead our city, and should I ask the citizens for a second term …….my term is not to exceed two."
The comments from readers of the Star on the Francis story as well as the one about the disagreement between the County and the City are brutal. Heck, my comments in these BLOGs are nothing compared with what some of the people are saying in their remarks. If this was a trial balloon to see how popular the Mayor was, especially if he decided to run for a third term, then the answer is that he may not make it that long if he keeps infuriating people so much. He may also have lost his job with the Tories as well if John Tory ever gets a copy of this.

How do you think the Councillors feel? I don't know what kind of environment there will be at City Council after this immature outburst by the Mayor. To be quite direct about it, if I were a Councillor I wouldn't stand for it and would demand a public apology by the Mayor.

A Reader suggested that perhaps the Governor's hubby was not the right man for the job to fix up Council and their dysfunction. He suggested that perhaps Dr. Phil might be the right man to bring in to try and fix up the mess at City Hall. However he said that Dr. Phil probably has his hands full (what with treating Britney Spears and now the controversy about his comments after his in camera meeting with her) He concluded by saying "maybe even Dr. Phil couldn’t put perfume on this pig."

Another reader asked a very serious question that someone needs to answer:
  • "You should ask the question about disfunction.....if the last council was dysfunctional and this council is also dysfunctional then is it the leadership that is dysfunctional or the other 10 people around the table!"

Now I thought that the Mayor would claim that this was just Gord's interpretation of what he said and that he was sticking to his vow to be our Mayor for only two terms. He will deny that he's going to run for a third term. He will explain the intense pressure that he is under constantly in fighting for us and that he wants to keep Council united for the battle against the enemies of Windsor.

Nope, he dare not do that to Gord! Instead, here is what the Star quoted:

  • On Thursday, the mayor had no regrets that he's now he's sending out signals he could change his mind.

    "My statement is 'I'm more concerned about doing my job, than about my job.'

    "I know the commitment I made and I intend to continue on it. There is more to life than politics. Others are approaching me to reconsider. I'm humbled by that, but I'm not even thinking about it."

It is pretty obvious what this is all about as I said in my BLOG: maintaining iron-fisted control over the Councillors.

  • "Scanton said it's to Francis' advantage to cast doubt on his previously expressed intention to leave. "It maintains his political strength as mayor. People will be less likely to cross him if he is mayor for a long time and running in the next election."

So it is all politics from a failed Mayor who is clinging for power.

There will be a lot of discussion over Eddie's seeming change of heart at the water coolers in various plants in the City, while people are having a coffee at Timmie's and in the Cabinet rooms in Ottawa, Toronto, Lansing, and Washington over this story. The question they will be asking amongst themselves is how far can the Mayor be trusted in keeping his word if Henderson's story is correct after the commitment that the Mayor made with respect to a third term. Will he walk away from an agreement if it is convenient for him to do so? Can there be any real certainty now with him?

It doesn't really matter what the answer is frankly. If you want to talk about someone who is responsible for spreading negative news about Windsor, one does not have to attack Bloggers anymore. After all, there was no need for our Mayor to have an interview with Gord Henderson to blast Councillors or even to open the door "just a crack to seeking a third term in the 2010 civic election."

Unfortunately it is Windsor that is suffering as this City is being made to look like a complete laughing stock. No branding initiative and PR flacks can undo the damage that has been caused already.

There is some good news in all of this believe it or not. Eddie has now created a strong united opposition against him that hopefully may become a majority of Council similar to that which happened to Mike Hurst in the last year of his term. That Council was probably the most productive Council in any municipality in a very long time. They ruled the City, not the Mayor.

If only we could be so lucky again.

Stop The Presses

A warm welcome to the ever-expanding phone booth to the Windsor Star Editorial Writers.

They did it much more elegantly but they have also joined the Posse along with their Renegade writers.

It is hardly a surprise but it is still quite shocking given all of the circumstances. It is very clear that Star personnel read the BLOGs. They read what their readers write on the Star Forums. They know what WeACT has been able to accomplish in a very short period of time with WUC and tax decreases.

It was inevitable that the Star was going to change its position after all of this opposition to what is going on at City Hall. It had to or else it would be totally out of touch with its own readership. And if that took place and circulation dropped along with ad revenues, well you could guess what would happen then.

The only other instance that I can remember that is as dramatic as this Editorial occurred when the Star dropped its support of DRTP. It is that significant a move.

I'll let you read the Editorial for yourself. If you don't get the Star, go out and buy a copy. It is well worth it.

Eddie's arrogance in even suggesting that he might run again after what he told the Star in late December had to be the last straw for them. His error was that he made the Star look ridiculous for supporting him. You decide whether what Henderson wrote in his front-page story was designed to help or hurt the Mayor. I have told you my thoughts about the subject.

What a come-down and so quickly. Clearly, Eddie has lost the support of the people of Windsor. He may also have lost the support of his colleagues no matter what some of them may say publicly. He is truly lame duck now unless he takes to heart what is being said and changes. Unfortunately for him, he has not shown the ability to be able to do that.

The challenge that faces Windsor now is who will be our leader if it is no longer the Mayor and who will help us over these difficult times. Will Councillors finally put aside their differences and a rally behind one of their colleagues or perhaps several of them? It happened exactly this way in the last year of the Hurst mayoralty and there is no reason why it cannot happen again.

Or, will someone from the Community take it upon him/herself to do so?

To be direct, I expect that the leadership will come from the group that met with Tony Toldo several weeks ago. If that happens, since these are the people who made this City successful, than we truly have a future to look forward to.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Eddie Slams His Council Colleagues

Now we know why John Tory came to Windsor right after the Provincial election. He was interviewing Eddie Francis for a possible senior position in the Progressive Conservative Party. How else to explain the brutal and vicious attacks on the Ontario Liberal Government that we have seen over the past few weeks. Eddie needs a new job and he needs one soon.

Frankly, if the Councillors do not force the Mayor to apologize publicly to them or run the Mayor out of town if he does not after all of the negative comments that were put in the Star today about them, then they are truly a bunch of wusses who do not deserve our respect.

I have never ever seen a Mayor do such a thing to his colleagues upon whom he depends for support. I will give Mike Hurst credit... even after he knew that Council opposed everything that he did, I cannot recall that he ever got involved in such public name-calling.

The Windsor Star front page demonstrates everything that is wrong with Windsor and points directly at the one man responsible for the mess that we are in.

I have to tell you in all honesty that I my sides hurt from laughing so much after seeing the Star. The noise that you may have heard early this morning from the east was from the Mayor of Tecumseh howling with glee at what was written in the paper. Those of you closer to the river may have heard the laughter from the Bridge Company people when they read Estrin's comments.

Take a look at the front page above again. On the left, the big story by Gord Henderson that Eddie might run for a third term. Not a regular Page 3 column, a front-page story with a byline. Ooooo, that means it is important. On the right, the attack on the Ontario Government and the Bridge Company. And in the middle, the photograph of the stern Mayor sitting below the Warden. Gee, I thought Puppet Masters pulling strings normally are invisible. But after all, I remember the story about how our Mayor worked to ensure that Mayor McNamara did not become the Warden of the County.

Most of you, dear readers, do not know me personally. I hope by now, however, that you understand that I do not take myself seriously but I certainly take my BLOGs very seriously. That may have to change. Perhaps, given the number of attacks over the last few weeks by the traditional media, I should finally realize that I have a lot more power than I ever thought. Let me tell you why:
  • the fixation that the traditional media have, both newspaper and radio, on attacking bloggers
  • anyone who is familiar with blogging in the City will understand that I am the main target of these attacks although my colleagues are also doing a pretty good job in revealing what is going on in this City. The combination of all of us is just too much for City Hall
  • who sent out the e-mail the other day talking about the Mayor being a lame-duck mayor
  • who is the one who is talking about the various Councillors lining themselves up for the Mayor's job in three years.

Now I don't want you getting mad at Gord Henderson. I hope that I've explained to you how to read his recent columns. The Sheriff of the Posse of the Renegade Windsor Star Reporters did it again. Did you really see anything in his column praising what the Mayor has done? I didn't.

What I saw was an attack setting out all of the negatives against a Mayor who does not have any power after all this time to control his Councillors and who has been shown to be completely incompetent as a Leader of the City. Gord attacks Eddie by supposedly helping him. He tells us directly what is wrong. What an indictment by Henderson.

Imagine, Eddie running to Gord and having an interview over the fact that the Councillors aren't listening to him. Poor Eddie. Does he need Gordo to slap them around a bit, to do his dirty work again for him? I guess he hasn't the guts to do it himself.

Look at the strong language used to describe a Council out of control: nitpicking, showboating, dysfunctional, backstabbing, clique-ridden, media-hogging. Why I can see a huge contract for the Governor's hubby coming up. It's only taxpayer dollars to help out Eddie mind you so why worry.

The Councillor formally known as Councillor Budget must be in mourning this morning. If you see a black armband on his jacket you will understand why. The only 2 people mentioned as possible candidates for Mayor are Councillors Halberstadt and Marra. Perhaps Councillor Brister will finally understand that he was set up to take the fall on the arena. His future is toast.

I thought that the comment about Councillor Jones being a big booster of the Mayor was hilarious. However the comment attributed to the Councillor was most disturbing. Isn't Councillor Jones one of the two co-sponsors of the Motion to clean up the downtown after the recent horrible shooting? How does he convince someone to do something:
  • "He joked that he warned him: "I'm going to take you out and get you drunk and make you sign on the dotted line."

So much for reasoned arguments. Such a good role model for our younger citizens.

I had suggested some time ago that there were rumours about the Mayor running for another term. They're not so silly now are they. The major parties that have a chance of forming the Government have little interest in him. He is persona non grata with the Feds and why would the Ontario Liberals have any interest in him now. Is the best that Eddie has is a chance to partner with a man who may not be leader of the Tories in Ontario any longer?

Would you hire him for a major Toronto law firm when he has not practiced in seven years and when you have available Bar Admission graduates who probably have more information about what is going on in the law than he does.

Maybe he has the connections that can justify him getting a big corporate job from someone. However, I doubt that he would have much influence with the new Windsor Mayor especially if that Mayor was one of the Councillors named in Henderson's column today.

It may be that the only job that Eddie can get is a third term as Mayor. IF he can win another election, something I believe to be doubtful.

You and I, dear reader, know what this column was all about. Eddie is desperate. He has to find a way to keep his Councillors quiet or else he is in big trouble. Gord in a column recently already told us that there is a strain in the relationship between the Mayor and Councillor Halberstadt. And Halberstadt was one of Eddie's biggest boosters. Everyone knows that Councillor Marra wants to be Mayor. Councillor Dilkens is not afraid to introduce matters that anger the Mayor. It is clear that Councillor Brister is positioning himself to run and there is talk about Councillor Gignac also being interested.

Wow, the Mayor has the two Ward 2 Councillors as supporters. That must give him a lot of comfort.

Just as Eddie used the Border to maintain unity, just as Eddie held out his endorsement to certain people if they were a member of the team if they kept their mouth shut, just as the media is being played to hammer possible opponents, Eddie needs something now to help him for the next three years. The only thing that he's got is: be quiet because I might run again. If I don't run, you don't want your chances destroyed over the next three years.

If anyone who is interested in running for Mayor believes that or will follow that edict then they do not deserve to be in any kind of a position of leadership.

The other big story obviously is about the Ambassador Bridge and the Ontario Government. Eddie clearly is desperate on this topic as well. Now I know why he mentioned the road to the bridge and in particular the road to the Ambassador Bridge at the last Council meeting. It was on his mind after the in camera discussion with his lawyer, David Estrin. Estrin, it appears, got the assignment to do the dirty work in the media. I found this remark particularly insulting:

  • "An order for a provincial environmental assessment must come from Ontario's environment minister or cabinet -- which includes Windsor MPPs Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello.

    "They are not doing anything about it. That's the most puzzling abdication of responsibility I've seen in 35 years of practice," Estrin said.

    "Are there special favours for the bridge? I don't know, but that's a conclusion someone can come to."

I almost believe that Mr. Estrin is hoping that someone will sue him for defamation. That would put the border file in a mess and the Mayor can say it was not his fault. It would also be a good way to try and get the files of the suing party opened up as if there is something shocking for him to find in them in an Examination For Discovery and in an Affidavit of Document Production. It is a dangerous game for the Mayor to play, if he is doing so, since he would be a party too. If a pesky environmentalist can shake him up, imagine what a skilled lawyer would do to our Mayor during an examination.

What is ironic though is that Eddie's comments at the Council meeting totally undercut the City's and Estrin's position on the road. He is the one who specifically mentioned that the DRIC road could lead right to the Ambassador Bridge. Thus there is an easy answer to how the trucks would get to the Enhancement Project. Eddie made the case for the Bridge Company already. There was nothing to the story therefore.

Eddie knows that. So what's the big deal and what's that story really all about other than to attack Sandra and Dwight. Was that part of his deal with John Tory?

Councillors should be concerned about this attack. Councillor Valentinis especially since he is the one who keeps asking why no one listens to Windsor and why Windsor doesn't get the grants that other jurisdictions get.


It is very clear that after going after the County with a threatened lawsuit, this story is nothing more than a threat of going after the Ontario Government and the Bridge Company on the Environmental Assessment.

Is the Mayor trying to destroy the City of Windsor completely? We are absolutely and totally dependent on the Senior Levels for our prosperity. Don't the Councillors understand this yet? Are they prepared to sit idly by while this single person mouths off. The only message that he is delivering is not a positive one for Windsor but one that tells both business and the Government that Windsor is closed down for any kind of economic development activity.

The one good thing about all of this is that he is driving the Governments, both Federal and Provincial, into the arms of the Bridge Company. Perhaps the three of these parties can finally sit down and negotiate their differences and get a solution for this area. AND THEN DO THE JOB!

The County has to be involved as well. They can't sit idly by and take threats from the Mayor who has stalled a border solution off for years and wants to stall off of their economic development as well using Greenlink as his weapon.

I wonder where Mayor McNamara picked up this line
  • "Too often Francis takes a "my-way-or-the-highway" approach," McNamara said"

Hmmmm. I wonder if he read my recent BLOG as well where I used a similar line.

There you have it. A Windsor Star front page and three stories. Actually there's a fourth story that makes our situation even sadder.

  • "Billionaire can't resist sports fan's fantasy
    Assumption high school grad, businessman part owner of Nashville Predators

    Windsor-born billionaire Doug Bergeron was explaining the business case for becoming a part owner of the NHL's Nashville Predators...

    Growing up in South Windsor and playing the game like most Canadian boys, Bergeron said he quickly grasped he was more a "science and math" guy than an NHL prospect..."
It's too bad isn't it that this billionaires is from Windsor.

You know what, I agree with Councillor Postma when she said:

  • "It's a thankless job and I feel sorry for Eddie," said Postma. But she wonders, as a wife and mother, why he would want more of this grief. "I don't know if he should (run again) because he has a beautiful family. Why would he do that to his family?"

In my opinion, Eddie should not wait for another three years. He ought to resign now and let someone else have this grief.

Is There Another WUC Scandal

You tell me after reading this BLOG. I do not know.

However, here is another good reason why Windsor should have an Auditor General. Citizens need an independent voice in this City who can examine controversial matters to find out the real story.

If there is one, then this one was easy to find. It required absolutely no digging whatsoever. It was handed to me and to the subscribers of the Windsor Star on a silver platter.

Did you read the Letter to the Editor of Sylvia De Vries, Corporate Communications Manager of EnWin Utilities Ltd.? Councillor Halberstadt should take great comfort in this letter since he was the one who wanted to look into the relationship between WUC and Enwin as well in the WUC audit that he favoured. This letter proves clearly there is one, a close one.

Here we have Enwin's corporate communications manager speaking on behalf of of WUC. Where was a WUC representative? Where was the WUC Chair, Councillor Lewenza? Remember when the Mayor did his Whiteboard presentation at Council rather than the Chair. Why is it that Councillor Lewenza can't say anything on behalf of the Commission? Is he not allowed to do so because the other members of the Commission do not trust him to put forward their position properly? Are they afraid that he will put his foot in his mouth?

The letter was written to respond to the article that the Star's Monaco Wolfson wrote about WUC.

  • WUC to spend $13.5M on watermains in 2008
    Letter, Published: Thursday, December 27, 2007

    Re: WUC Work Falls Short Despite Rate Increase, Dec. 18.

    We would like to clarify the report in The Windsor Star that "Despite an 87-per-cent rate increase, the Windsor Utilities Commission will probably spend the same amount on watermain replacement projects in 2008 as it did this year."

    The article may be interpreted to suggest that despite the recent rate increase WUC will be spending the same on watermain replacement in 2008 as it did in 2007.

    In 2007, WUC spent approximately $7.6 million on watermains (approximately $7.3 million of which was collected from watermain levies) and approximately $1.5 million was spent on other capital projects, for a total of $9.1 million.

    For 2008, WUC has budgeted $13,519,975 on watermains ($12,582,515 to be collected from watermain levies) and $6,896,220 on other capital projects for a total of $20,416,195 -- a budgeted spending increase of 124.41 per cent over 2007.

    Windsor Utilities Commission held the first of several audit and finance committee meetings Dec. 18 to review its 2008 capital and operating budgets. WUC's audit and finance committee will be holding additional meetings in early 2008 to deal with revenues and the entire budget package, which will be put forward to the commission in February or March.

    Sylvia De Vries

    Corporate Communications Manager

    EnWin Utilities Ltd.


Now here is what Ms. De Vries did not say:

  • 1) in 2007, WUC will spend only about $300,000 of its Budget on watermain replacement since most of the funds to be spent will come from the levies.
  • 2) in 2008, WUC will spend only about $1 million of its budget on watermain replacement since most of the funds to be spent will come from the levies.
  • 3) to date this amount has only been a budgeted for 2008
  • 4) the money to be spent is below the $16 million to $17 million per year recommended by consultants
  • 5) she did not deny that "WUC has had to carry over $6 million worth of water main work, representing 46 per cent of what it planned to do."
  • 6) the "managed services" fees WUC pays Enwin also shot up by almost $1 million, or 10 per cent. Enwin, the city-owned electricity utility that shares meter reading and billing services with WUC, charges the water utility $8.3 million for its share of the expenses. That cost is rising to $9.3 million"

The big scandal as far as I'm concerned are in points #1 and #2. Watermain Levy funds were not meant to be the only amounts that WUC was to spend on watermain replacement. WUC was supposed to budget millions of dollars in each year and the levies were to be the "top-ups." Back in 2003, it was said as an example:

  • "It has been determined a new Capital Levy of 5% of each customers water bill will be required to provide the additional funding ($1.2 to $1.5 million) to allow this program to proceed."

In the 2004 Report, Max Zalev said:

  • "We continued to invest in our aging infrastructure. We spent a total of $10.75 million in 2004; $9.5 million in capital improvements for the distribution system...

    Our capital expenditure program over the next 5 years is quite intensive. We are scheduled to spend approximately $40 million to improve our distribution system and water treatment facilities..."

However, remember what was said in the WUC Financial Statement in 2005:

  • "we’ve spent less money on capital build programs, giving us greater cash flow and allowing us to meet key debt reduction targets. Our focus on debt reduction will help us to sustain financial stability and will allow us to continue to reinvest in our infrastructure and operational programs."

Paying down debt I assume must be more important than being able to drink water or take showers, items that Councillor Lewenza reminded us were so vital to our well-being to justify an 86% increase.

Does Ms. De Vries comment mean that only minimal sums of money were set aside in the WUC budget for watermain improvements in 2007 and 2008? If so that is a shocking indictment against the WUC Commissioners given what we are told is a crisis. If in fact there were capital funds set aside in the budget, what happened to that money? How was it used? Why wasn't it used for the watermains?

I'm sure that taxpayers would like to know the answer to the questions. Of course, with a whitewash audit, we won't get any answers. I guess that CouncillorMarra will have to live up to his word and will have to to ask for another audit so that we can get the proper information. Not only is he a Councillor but he is also on the Commission as well so it should be no problem for him.

In fact, in my opinion he has no choice but to ask for another audit, this time a forensic one by an independent forensic accountant if he has any hope of becoming the next Mayor of Windsor. He cannot back off given his desire to have an Auditor General.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Today's the day to show your support to help get Windsor taxes reduced even more!

It was too taxing for the Mayor to proclaim today as TAX CUT NOW! day in Windsor. City Hall refused to do so. But that was to be expected wasn't it.

So far, the pressure exerted by WeACT and other Windsor taxpayers has resulted in a decline of the tax increase to only 0.95% (not including other levies which will increase that amount).

If you will remember your limboing days, the question now is: How low can they still go?

WeACT needs your help to help drive down the tax rate even more. And don't accept the nonsense and scare tactics that by decreasing taxes you are also decreasing services.

Come downtown in late afternoon and look for one of the WeACT volunteers who will be pleased to present you with a TAX CUT NOW! sticker that you can proudly wear. In fact, take a few them with you so that you can give them out to your friends and family.


Which Comes First GreenLink Or The Egg

It's the age-old question isn't it that is being played out in Windsor right now. Which should come first? Should Manning Road be built now or should Greenlink with Manning following after? What about trucks on EC Row, should they be allowed or not?

Charge counter-charge, threat counter-threat. Can you believe it, a possible lawsuit against the County. Absurd. Eddie won't want to be the Star witness in a trial. I must admit though that the thought of him being cross-examined by an experienced counsel under oath in front of a judge does hold some attraction. The courtroom would be jammed. Who knows, it might even be shown on television.

Seriously, if you were the County and Councillor Brister introduced a Motion in City Council asking to set up sessions with you after the attack by Councillor Valentinis and a threatened lawsuit and that Motion was passed, would you have any interest? Oh I expect that the Warden will agree. He may as well be political about all this too. With the reception given to the Economic Development Commission and the Convention and Visitors Bureau people, I would expect a joint meeting to rival a WWE free-for-all wrestling match.

To try to figure what reality is, I went back into history. I was shocked at what I read. Before talking about that however, I thought it would be instructive for everyone to understand what the Mayor's position is. Below is the interview that he gave on the CKLW morning show on Tuesday:
  • Francis CKLW Interview Jan. 8, 2008

    Mike Kakuk: Lets talk now about something that you are going to have to deal in 2008 much like in 07, 06, 05, 04 [Francis: 03, 02, 01] trucks on EC Row and on Dougall Avenue. The two getting some attention these days. What's the latest and are we making any progress in this or does it seem like we are just kind of stalled in these talks.

    Eddie Francis: Well as you mentioned Mike, this is an issue that's not new to the City of Windsor and the underlying position of the City of Windsor is quite simple. We need to get trucks off the City streets, out of our neighborhoods and restore the streets for the use of the community. That has been our position from day one and continues to be our position and that's why we came up with a solution to fix the main border route.

    The reason that we have trucks on Dougall, the reason that we have trucks on Wyandotte, on Tecumseh, on Ouellette, on Walker are because they are trying to bypass the mess on Huron Church, so until the primary route is completed, until they do GreenLink, and the Province does what it needs to do, then we will continue to be dealing with the symptoms of the problem and we will continue to have trucks that are going to avoid Huron Church.

    So we agree, we need to get trucks off of our City streets, out of our neighborhoods, and that's why we will contine to push the Province, our Ministers Duncan and Pupatello, the Premier and the Government of Ontario to finally move and get the border crossing done, get the roadways done so we don't have to deal with these problems.

    Lisa Williams: Why can't we as the City just put signs up to say that no trucks on these particular City roads as we do with some.

    Francis: You can. The problem becomes and the challenge becomes, if you ban the trucks you have to ban them all. You can only regulate truck traffic by weight. You can not discriminate trucks by destination or origin so you have got to treat all the trucks the same.

    On our major arteries and those routes that are designated as truck routes such as Dougall, such as Wyandotte, and Walker, that affects local trucks as well. So you can't say we just don't want international trucks here. Local trucks you can go through, international trucks you can't. In law you can't. The police can't do it under the Highway Traffic Act, and under all the rules, there is nothing that we can do.

    You can put signs up but that is a provincial responsibility at the provincial highway to say this is the main route, but there is nothing that will allow you, to force, if the truck drivers decide to go somewhere else.

    So the very simple solution is get the primary route done and I think everybody agrees with that. The second issue that we continue to face every single year, and I think people, some people continue to push for trucks on EC Row as if the City of Windsor's position is going to change.

    It does not make sense to introduce 30,000 trucks onto EC Row. There is a move afoot to connect Manning Road to the 401. Some would like to connect Lauzon Parkway to the 401. You will recall that's been the cornerstone of the Government's plan for some time. Over the past several years, the City of Windsor, this Region, has stood up and said we do not want trucks on EC Row. EC Row is at capacity for local commuters and regional commuters. EC Row should remain a local community road. The last thing that we need and the last thing that our residents need is to be competing with trucks off the 401 while we are trying to get to work.

    So, the City of Windsor's position will not change on that. If you want to do EC Row, if you you want to do Manning and Lauzon Parkway, that should be done after the primary route is done and there is an agreement on that. Unfortunately the Town of Tecumseh and the County of Essex are continuing to push to get Manning Road done first. The environmental assessment is nearing completion and the City of Windsor's concern because obviously is that if you connect Manning Road to EC Row before the primary route is done, we all understand the consequences and the negative affect that those trucks will have ripping through the City of Windsor

    Mike Kakuk: Why is this dragging on so long?

    Francis: Inaction at the Government levels, Senior Levels of Government. Very simple. The Premier, our two Ministers, and the Province of Ontario have lead, have jurisdiction for the road. They can move and they can make this thing happen. All they need to do is act.

    The City of Windsor has done its part. We've put together a plan that's well-supported by the Community. We put together a plan that is reasonable, that is responsible, that is within the same framework that they have established as DRIC. All they need to do is act and we have put them in a position to do so, but they haven't done that. So if you are concerned about truck traffic on City streets like we are, if you are fed up with truck traffic on City streets like we are, I would urge you to call your two local MPPs and get them to act on the road."

Effectively Eddie's position is the following:

  • to solve trucks on City streets, we need to build the Greenlink, the primary route to the border
  • we don't want 30,000 trucks on EC Row since it is a Community road and at capacity
  • that will happen if Manning Road and Lauzon are built up
  • the City's position on EC Row will not change
  • the way to solve this problem is to build Greenlink first
  • then you can upgrade EC Row and do Manning and Lauzon.
Do you see the huge contradiction? Is the Mayor saying 2 contradictory things at the same time? He got the County onside with an upgrade to Manning Road in the original Schwartz Plan. Why should they stop what they are doing merely because he could not get a border road deal for 5 years.

I don't want to be too rude but this is nonsense. These are all scare tactics designed to frighten residents just like Eddie did before with respect to the road to the border and full tunnelling. You remember the meeting with the area of mass destruction around the proposed DRIC road.

The only person who has ever talked about 30,000 trucks on EC Row is the Mayor. Where did he get that number from? Has the truck volume been even half that number per day over the past few years? I hardly think so. 3.5m trucks divided by the number of days per year and even taking weekends into account does not produce that scary number. It's all gross exaggeration for effect.

The issue with respect to EC Row is very clear. I was there when the issue started with STOPDRTP. The objection to trucks on the Expressway had little to do with volume, although that is a problem because of capacity and increased population growth, but it had everything to do with trucks on the Expressway leading to the building of DRTP. It is as simple as that. The fear was that if there was an extension from Highway 401 to the Expressway via Lauzon Parkway, the pressure would be put on first to build DRTP North as a precursor to building DRTP South.

As we got into the subject, the issue of capacity came up but that certainly was not the main reason in the beginning why there was objection to Montréal-Tijuana international trucks on the Expressway. It all had to do with DRTP as the Mayor well knows.

Of course EC Row is a local Expressway and is the only one that we've got. Of course the Expressway is necessary for Community purposes. No one doubts that. The reality though is that the Expressway is a mess and will require millions of dollars to maintain it and fix it up, money that the City does not have. In the end, the Province will have to take over and it will do so. And when it does it will upgrade it to probably 10 lanes, the middle four of which will be dedicated to trucks.

I remember having a meeting at City Hall when this was all explained to me. There is space for more lanes in the middle of the Expressway and again the Mayor knows that. He could go and talk to his planners but then again most of the border stuff is done out of his office. Once it is confirmed that DRTP and the truck route are truly dead, then the issue of the Expressway and trucks disappears as well.

Obviously, those four lanes will become the redundant road to the border. Just like the old Ambassador Bridge will be the redundant bridge for the new one, the Expressway will be the redundant road for the main road to the border The Huron Church/Talbot Road corridor will remain the main route. That is exactly how it is been since the Ambassador Bridge was built and that is how it will remain. That has been conceded already by everyone including the Mayor.

Greenlink will not be the road that is built. It is too expensive in the first place if Gord Henderson's number of $2.6 billion is accurate. That is $1 billion more than on the Greenlink website and does not even go north of the Expressway. A variation of the DRIC road will be the end result and everybody knows that as well. In fact, unless the City smartens up, I can see the Senior Levels pulling of Windsor completely or perhaps only building an at grade DRIC road. Why spend billions if it is not appreciated and you are attacked for doing so.

Again, Eddie knows this. That explains Lewenza's ridiculous outburst at Council and Eddie's silly remarks during the interview. It is all showmanship to accomplish another purpose as I will discuss later.

It is important as I said at the outset to go back and look at what Schwartz actually recommended the first time around. He had a five phase construction process:

  • Phase 1: Huron Church bypass, Ferry, ITS, Bridge and Tunnel Improvements

  • Phase 2: New rail tunnel, rail consolidation, multi-modal facility, new station

  • Phase 3: Lauzon Parkway and Manning Road Extensions

  • Phase 4: Highway 401 Improvements and extension

  • Phase 5: Build the new crossing

Look at the order of the different phases. Where does Greenlink fit in with all of this? When you look at it closely, building the Greenlink road was the last step and not the first step in the process as the Mayor is now telling us. That's the way I read it.

There really was no Greenlink in Schwartz's original plan so suggesting it should be built first is a stretch. The Phase 1 road was the Horseshoe road. That was part of the fast-track process to be built right away, not part of Greenlink:

  • "We recommend that the segments of the options discussed for access to the Industrial Crossing be built as “stand-alone” infrastructure to serve existing needs until a new crossing is chosen. The elements include a bypass for trucks from Highway 401 to Brighton Beach....The current problems are so significant that this new roadway is justified as a bypass solution which links into the current crossings, regardless of whatever may be the outcome of the on-going Bi-National environmental assessment process."

Cansult, the expert retained by the Federal Government, killed the Phase 1 by-pass by stating:

  • "In summary, while a Transportation Center/marshalling yard could be of some minimal benefit in addressing congestion along Huron Church Road, the proposed location at Brighton Beach, in combination with the truck bypass, does not seem to be practical or cost-effective. "
If you look at Phase 2, the key element for Eddie was the multimodal terminal, again not Greenlink. He needs that hub as the basis of his development on the airport lands. As I stated in a previous BLOG, Tecumseh also has a block of land off of Manning Road that could be used as a hub. In other words there is a competition between the two cities as to which one gets the prize.

It is in Phase 3 where Manning Road is allowed to be built under the Schwartz timetable. It is really in Phases 4 & 5 where the equivalent of Greenlink and the new border crossing are built. In other words Manning Road is built before Greenlink not the other way around as the Mayor is suggesting in the Schwartz plan as I read it.

If I have misunderstood this, then I apologize but the way I read it, the City has no position that is supportable. One could make the argument that in fact we need an upgraded Expressway so that there is a route to the border for trucks while the DRIC road is built.

Greenlink now is nothing more than the tool that the Mayor is using to prevent the County from getting a transportation hub. He's using that road as a stall tactic in the same way that he used the first Schwartz Report and then full tunneling.

When you look at what he said on CKLW, Eddie contradicts himself. No trucks on the Expressway he states firmly. Well not so firmly because he admits the trucks will be able to go on the Expressway after Greenlink is built. If it is wrong to have a road system that allows trucks on EC Row, then it is wrong before and after Greenlink is built. It is not an issue merely of timing and sequencing. Either trucks are allowed or they're not allowed. The excuse used is a phony one.

I think that the Mayor has lost it frankly. His attack on Dwight and Sandra will get him nowhere. He leaves office in three years while they are still in office for another year after that. He has no leverage over them now. He made a calculated move before the election to support them and it backfired on him badly. He made a gross political miscalculation that is hurting the City badly.

The reality is Dwight and Sandra don't need Eddie but Eddie desperately needs them. We saw what happened with the Sutherland jobs. If it were not for Sandra coming in at the end and putting in Provincial money, there would be no jobs even if they are only at minimum wage. Without Dwight and Sandra, we wouldn't have to worry about where the Engineering Complex is going to go because there would not be one. And as for economic development, as Matt Fischer, one of the Gazelle Feeders, stated we are totally dependent upon the Province to bring us any big, new, industrial growth since the Economic Development Commission does not have the size to go and get that kind of business.

Does the Mayor think it is smart business to bite the hand that feeds him?

There are two strains running through what the Mayor says. First is the issue of the transportation hub. Second, there is the issue of Eddie's credibility. All that the Mayor is doing is putting himself in the position that when the Senior Levels have had enough and impose a solution on Windsor he'll be able to say that he did everything he could for us and lost. He is our champion and our martyr and we should still praise him for trying.

In reality, Eddie learned a good lesson from Mike Hurst. Eddie will tell us that he is merely the mayor of a small town and that he has no authority and no clout. NO. The reality is that he had it and he blew it.

A short postscript. Do you remember when I talked about Agenda Item #6 in a previous BLOG? What you should know is that the number one project that Administration wanted to spend any excess Border Infrastructure Fund money on was the Lauzon Parkway Environmental Assessment--EC Row to Highway 401. That also was the "suggestion" in Agenda Item #5.

No wonder they were both quickly deferred until some unknown time in the future without any conversation whatsoever by Councillors. The two items completely undercut the City's position!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Don't Badmouth Dennis Or Else

It's time some people in Windsor strapped a W to their brain rather than to their chest.

So much for going after "outside experts" who tell the truth about Windsor and who are attacked for doing so. No wonder certain people are concerned about Windsor Bloggers as well. People might start believing us.

I wonder if Dennis DesRosiers will have this story from the Financial Post Business Magazine framed and hung on his office wall. It is that flattering a portrait of him.

Windsor will probably get more coverage because of this article than anything that the Mayor could accomplish with all of his branding initiatives and hiring of PR flacks. It certainly does not paint the Windsor Star in a very good light does it.

However the more important aspect of this article from Windsor's perspective is to get Dennis to help us, not hurt us. It is time that Eddie swallowed his pride and phoned up Dennis to see what he can do to help the Mayor gets us some auto industry business for the City. Obviously, with his experience in the industry, connections and reputation, Dennis can do more for this City than anyone else.

The tragedy for us is the grudge carrying because Dennis helped our former Mayor with his auto policy. No one gives him credit for it but isn't what the Engineering Complex is all about exactly what DesRosiers has been advocating for years now. In case you did not know it, he is on the Board of the University and helped it on its financial side.

One other thing that might be worthwhile for City Hall and its sycophants and cheerleaders to understand, especially those in the media, is that if there is a controversy between Dennis and the City, Dennis wins every time. There is no point trying to badmouth him because no one in the industry will believe his opponents when they try to smear him. His reputation is that good.

Attack him on ideas... he and I are on different sides on DRTP... but listen to what he has to say about an industry that he's been involved in for over 20 years.
  • Know-it-all

    Analyst Dennis DesRosiers might be one of the most powerful people in the Canadian auto industry - he's surely the most quoted

    Matt Reeder, Financial Post Business, Published: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    The problems were mounting at Ford Canada. It was early 1998, and under then-president Bobbie Gaunt, car sales were on the decilne, and the automaker was also losing ground in the truck sector. Feeling the heat from her Detroit bosses, Gaunt - an American with 25 years of corporate experience with Ford's U.S. operations - called on veteran Canadian auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers for help.

    That April, DesRosiers came to the boardroom of the company's headquarters in Oakville, Ont., and delivered a presentation to Gaunt's executive team. What he advised confirmed their fears: It was time to eliminate the company's underperforming chain of Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in Canada. The executives were upset, but DesRosiers' data and analysis showed that sales were so poor that it would be pointless to keep flogging the brand.

    That fall, Gaunt announced that all Canadian Lincoln-Mercury dealerships would be converted into Ford-brand outlets. The decision caused friction with many of the dealers, but ultimately steered the Canadian division back to profitability. "The restructuring plan was really big. No one else in the Ford world had done that," recalls Gaunt, who is now based in Saugatuck, Mich., where she's a partner in a company that owns Ford dealerships across the U.S. "We had to get more knowledge in order to meet our business goals. That's what Dennis helped us do."

    Calling on an outsider for advice on key internal decisions might seem unusual, yet Gaunt is just one of many executives at major auto manufacturers who have relied on DesRosiers' expertise over the years: Leaders of the Canadian divisions of GM and DaimlerChrysler have also counted on him to be a catalyst for major changes. Though he's virtually unknown to the general public, the 57-year-old Windsor-born analyst is the de facto guru of Canada's automotive scene and a mover at a corporate level. After spending 22 years consulting and providing market research, data and forecasting for manufacturers, dealers and aftermarket companies, the often-controversial analyst knows the auto industry like a seasoned mechanic knows the parts of a car. "Rather than having to deal with four or five experts, you have a generalist who has a ton of knowledge in his head," says Gaunt. "DesRosiers' insights are always supported by metrics, and he takes those and creates what he thinks the future might look like." By stimulating auto manufacturers to become more competitive, DesRosiers is helping push one of Canada's largest industries forward - the sector was valued at $88.5 billion in 2006 and currently employs nearly 500,000 people - at a time when it's facing a raft of serious problems and an uncertain future in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

    Based out of the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, Ont., DesRosiers' 12-person firm, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, stands apart from competing auto analysts such as J.D. Power and Associates, Maritz Automotive Research and those working for the major banks. This is largely due to DesRosiers' willingness to dole out criticism. He's not shy about voicing unpopular opinions in a very public way in his newsletter, through his e-mail list and in the media, despite the risk of alienating his clients. "He is unique in Canada because he's not afraid to speak his mind about issues that the manufacturers are grappling with, even though it may not reflect well on a certain manufacturer," says Chris Travell, of Maritz Automotive Research. It's an approach that's earned him nicknames in the press such as "Dennis the Menace" and "The Don Cherry of the auto world."

    DesRosiers isn't shy about smashing industry preconceptions. For example, last year, his data showed that American auto parts makers shouldn't pin their current problems on China: The country only accounts for about 3% of auto parts sold in North America and his research showed they wouldn't be a serious player for close to a decade. "One of the ways I've managed to get a fair amount of profile is that I've consistently come out and countered some popular thinking in the industry, grounded in fact," he says.

    The analyst fields approximately 5,000 media requests a year, and his words are splashed across the business pages of newspapers across the country almost on a daily basis. (In fact, while being interviewed for this story, DesRosiers simultaneously took a call from a reporter asking him to comment on cross-border auto shopping.) To the media, DesRosiers has become the go-to-guy because he can sum up complex issues in entertaining, bite-sized chunks. But most importantly, his close watch on the Canadian industry has helped reporters stay abreast of trends, pushing coverage of the auto sector forward. "DesRosiers knows about a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes, and it supplies the background for his analysis," says Norman De Bono, who covers the auto beat for the London Free Press. Chris Vander Doelen, an auto reporter with the Windsor Star, says: "There's almost no question that you can come up with that will stump him." Though stakeholders in the industry might not always react favourably to DesRosiers' criticism of their strategies, they're sure to listen.

    DesRosiers' roots in the auto industry run deep. In addition to growing up in Windsor, Ont., Canada's quintessential blue-collar auto town, DesRosiers' father was an auto mechanic. "He wouldn't let me near a car," recalls DesRosiers. "He'd say 'You're smart enough, go to school.' So I did. I fooled him though, and became Canada's leading auto analyst." But DesRosiers didn't plan it that way. After earning a degree in economics in 1973, he moved to Toronto to be a junior economist in the Ontario government. That same year, the oil crisis hit, causing rapid changes to the auto sector. Knowing DesRosiers was from Windsor, his boss asked him to take over the auto portfolio.

    During that time, and his subsequent stint as director of research at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, DesRosiers began forming a plan to start a consulting firm. "I had literally dozens of companies call me and ask 'Where can I find a consultant to do this? Where can I find data for that?'" he says. He'd identified more than a dozen successful automotive companies in the U.S., but there wasn't a single one in Canada, so DesRosiers launched his firm in November, 1985. DesRosiers Automotive Consultants now brings in $2 million in annual revenue.

    DesRosiers first made a splash in the industry when GM and Ford launched a complaint against Hyundai in 1988, claiming the Korean automaker was illegally dumping cars onto the market at low prices. Thanks in part to DesRosiers' research, the Canadian Import Tribunal ruled in favour of Hyundai.

    More recently, DesRosiers has taken an interest in helping attract investment in Ontario. Joe Cordiano, Ontario's former minister of economic development and trade, says DesRosiers' insights were important in helping launch the $369-million auto fund initiative in 2004, an incentives package that has helped lure $7 billion in new plants and brought thousands of jobs to the province. "He provided insight into the industry and what direction it was going," says Cordiano. DesRosiers' involvement in projects such as this show that the analyst contributes more to Canada's auto industry than just giving astute suggestions to individual clients - he's also helping the sector attract new investment.

    If you're involved with the Canadian auto industry, you'd better make sure you don't get on DesRosiers' bad side. Last year, he put an auto reporter at the Windsor Star - and the entire CanWest newspaper chain, including the National Post - into his "penalty box," the term he uses when he refuses to deal with someone who has made him angry.

    It all started last Jan. 9, when DesRosiers began receiving calls and e-mails from colleagues and relatives in Windsor asking if he'd seen journalist Gord Henderson's column in the Windsor Star. The column included a rather unflattering characterization of DesRosiers that referred to reader sentiments saying he would be happy about the auto job losses being suffered by Windsor residents. Though DesRosiers admits to having "stirred the pot" in Windsor in recent years by criticizing mayor Eddie Francis for his handling of the city's economic troubles, he said there were no factual grounds for Henderson's claim, especially considering that he had assisted many local companies and brought investment to his hometown. In response, DesRosiers refused to supply quotes or research to the Windsor Star and the entire CanWest chain until the reporter wrote a full apology in the paper. The following week, Henderson gave in, and the paper printed an apology.

    DesRosiers continues to irritate Windsor politicians and auto workers by declaring there is no future in propping up the ailing auto manufacturing sector. Instead, DesRosiers believes Windsor can regenerate its muddled economy - its unemployment rate is one of the highest in a Canadian urban area, currently around 9% - by replacing lost auto jobs with higher-paying research and development positions. It's a point of view, he says, that local politicians and Canadian Auto Workers leaders need to start accepting.

    DesRosiers' overall relationship with the CAW has become chilly in recent years. "Until, say, five years ago, we could sit down and have a fair discussion," says the union's chief economist, Jim Stanford. "But DesRosiers has become virulently anti-union and it infects the way he analyzes the auto industry. He sees a plant shut down and somehow blames the union." However, according to the Windsor Star's Vander Doelen, labour leaders are wrong to criticize DesRosiers. "His critics are the ones being laid-off, and they're mad when he points out why it's happening. It's like blaming the doctor who tells you you have cancer." DesRosiers agrees. "[My critics] can't handle the truth," he says. "It's denial."

    DesRosiers insists there are serious obstacles all stakeholders need to overcome to ensure the future success of the Canadian auto sector. "Our governments are bound, bent and determined to regulate this industry, and they could cross the line and destroy much of what this industry has built," he says. "Canada needs to be extremely cautious with its social policy initiatives such as climate change and fuel efficiency." He also believes that the industry should put more resources into research, design, and testing, and that the government needs to attract new investment by creating a competitive environment, not just by offering subsidies.

    This may seem like a tall order, but DesRosiers says tackling these challenges hinges on a simple point: a new outlook. "Too many people in the auto sector think that the perfect storm is the forces of globalization. In reality, it's peoples' reaction to the storm that's the problem," he says. "In a global auto sector, if you're insular you get killed. You've got to be global and outward looking."

    How Canada's automakers will react to DesRosiers' advice remains to be seen, but you can bet that whatever happens in the industry - if the country's automakers thrive or collapse - DesRosiers will be there to explain what happened, and to give insight into what will happen next.

    Analyst Ink: A sampling of DesRosiers' recent comments on key industry issues

    The 2007 United Auto Workers-GM contract: DesRosiers told the Windsor Star the lower costs GM gained threaten the entire Canadian industry. "The Auto Pact is gone and our health-care advantage is gone. Throw in a par dollar, and all of Canada's competitive advantages are now toast."

    Feebates: In a Canadian Press story, DesRosiers criticized Ottawa's so-called feebate program, which rewards consumers for buying fuel-efficient cars, saying it costs taxpayers too much. "[The government] are cowards and they're not willing to tell people what it's really going to cost them."

    The Big Three: DesRosiers has no problem with American automakers' loss of market share. In a Windsor Star story, he said: "I'm in favour of consumers buying Hondas, Toyotas and Suzukis built in such communities as Ingersoll, Woodstock and Alliston. Let's face it, 100% of the vehicles sold in Canada are manufactured by foreign-owned companies."

Eddie's Way Or No Highway

You are going to have to read right to the end of the BLOG today to read the startling news. I decided to use the Windsor Star technique of writing stories but keeping the big news to the end. At least I am warning you. I do want you to read what a joke this Council has become so you should read the entire BLOG.

The subject title is just a play on words of the usual saying.

Take that County. You do it the way Eddie wants or you just don't get it done at all. It is as simple as that! If you wondered why the relationship between the City and the County is so bad, then all you had to do was watch and listen to the Council meeting last night.

Now tell me, considering that each Councillor gets about $45,000 a year in salary (including the fees received from the various Boards) and considering that the Council meeting took less than an hour last night, would you say that the Councillors deserved their thousand dollars an hour compensation for what happened?

Oh sure I'm being silly and not taking into account all of the long hours that the Councillor spend in all of the meetings they attend but I trust you get my point. If last night is going to be what Council meetings are going to be all about in 2008 then they are a waste of time. Dealing with pit bulls, feral cats and feeding pigeons would have been more interesting.

It appears now that we have three kinds of agenda items in Windsor. We have those that are in camera. We have those that are on the public agenda. And then we have Agenda item 6... whatever that is.

I didn't see it anywhere on the public agenda but it was dealt with last night. All I know is what Councillor Jones said about it when he sought to have it and the Son of the Infamous Agenda Item #5 deferred. What he wanted is that those two items be referred to outside counsel, Mr. Estrin. It was a submission request for additional border infrastructure funding.

What the funding is for, I haven't got the faintest idea. It wasn't publicized on the City's website. Now the way democracy works now in Windsor is that items are placed on the Agenda without telling anybody. That certainly does make it easier for the Mayor and Council to get what they want since there cannot be any delegations who speak to these items. How can they; they don't know about them.

It was a fascinating meeting last night. I suspect that Agenda Item 5 was deferred again since the City wants to stall off dealing with the road plan for the region. If the City hasn't approved the study, then clearly nothing can be done. Sure it's only been outstanding since 2005 and sure the County has not dealt with issues the City has raised but who cares. Since the City and County don't talk to each other over anything it seems, nothing is going to get done anyway. If ever the Province wanted a reason for amalgamation, this is it. This is stupidity at the expense of taxpayers of the City and the County.

Whew, thank goodness that Councillor Brister introduced his Motion to have meetings between the City and the County. All he forgot to do was to add the Governor's hubby in to facilitate everything. I'm sure that the Councillor's Motion will solve all of our problems. By the way, whatever happened to the Motion that the Councillor promised to introduce about setting out the terms of a Motion?

So many things to talk about in such a short meeting. Pecuniary interest, what pecuniary interest. In previous discussions about traffic on Wyandotte and on an issue about Dougall, the Mayor disclosed an interest and did not participate in the debate. But not last night. He told us about his house near Dougall and his wife's business in the Plaza on Dougall and he told us about his Father's property on Wyandotte but now they are not an issue.

I wonder what caused the change for him. According to the Mayor, he went out and got a legal opinion on the subject that said that he had no pecuniary interest in violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. I wonder who the Mayor's lawyer was who gave this opinion. I hope the Mayor tells us or perhaps some energetic member of the traditional media could find out. it could be a much bigger story too. Why did he all of a sudden go out and get this opinion? It is all very strange to me.

I wonder if the Mayor will now tell us as well what "the general nature thereof" he has with respect to the Duty Free Store at the Tunnel. He has told us that he has an interest but he has not gone any further than that. In fact, he declared an interest twice as revealed in the Tunnel Commission Minutes but did not tell us what it was all about. If he is so careful with respect to his wife's and father's interests, surely he can reveal his interest with respect to the Store. Again traditional media, go and do your job.

Those are 2 news tips for my friend the News Director at CKLW by the way. Gee, I wonder if one will be the news tip of the month.

I wish that Council or Administration was forced to answer questions of delegations. Al Nelman raised a very interesting point with respect to the Windsor Library System. He asked a very simple question: what other Department of the City has been asked to cut their budget by 10% and yet still maintain the services expected of them?

What he was really getting at is why is Council acting so vindictively towards the Library? It really needs some explanation. All that may happen is that the Library System will be totally destroyed by this Council.

I was quite amazed at Councillor Lewenza's outburst against Dwight and Sandra. Mind you, he told us the obvious. Greenlink is dead. If our two Cabinet Ministers won't sit down with the City to talk, then the message should be clear. My guess is that someone got very angry at Sandra's comments today at her luncheon speech and Junior took it upon himself to lash out. He was the front man wasn't he! I wonder if anyone will take the remarks seriously considering where they came from.

I was not at the luncheon but Sandra's assistant was good enough to give me copies of her speech notes. She stated with respect to the border:
  • "Our border location has been our strength for decades
  • With unforeseen events, we need the border upgrade, and it cannot be delayed
  • Infrastructure today isn’t just about roads and bridges
  • Route to border so far 10x the per kilometre cost of any road ever built.

If the DRIC road is that expensive, do you honestly believe that Dwight as Minister of Finance has the nerve to ask for $2.6 billion (Henderson's number) for Windsor and Eddie's Schwunnels! Don't be absurd. Obviously someone has told Sandra to get on board as well. After all, as you remember, the Premier liked the DRIC road.

Poor Eddie. His leverage is gone now that the Provincial election is over and he will not be Mayor after three more years. The Liberals can ignore him now. He is truly a lame-duck Mayor. I wonder if the Councillors have figured that out yet.

Just in passing, I wish someone would tell us the truth about the relationship between the City and the Province respecting the City's response to DRIC. I was told by the Province around Christmas time that no report had been received yet from the City with their answer to DRIC. Sandra claimed in an article in the Star that DRIC

  • "received the city's proposal for a partially tunnelled bridge access route at the end of October or mid-November."

On the Windsor Star website, there's a video in which the Mayor talks about Greenlink:

  • "The latest on Greenlink is that we have provided the Province of Ontario and their team with the technical information that they were requesting. One item that we have not provided them with, but we have deliberately held back on is the issue of costing.

    We’ve asked to see their costing; they have not completed their costing yet, so once they submit their costing, we’ll provide our own costing. But we’ve shared it with them in our meetings, but we just haven’t given them a hard copy."

I'm sorry I'm just so totally confused by all the stuff. What's the truth? All I see is absolute pettiness on the part of everybody at all political levels with nothing being accomplished for years while Windsor slowly dies.

Some more events at the meeting. Councillor Dilkens was able to get the Dougall matter put on the public agenda for January 21. Believe it or not, three Councillors voted against it. I wish I could tell you who those Councillors were but unfortunately Cogeco did not show the voting on camera.

The Agenda item on Manning Road was like two children pointing fingers at each other and trying to say that the other one was to blame for what is going on. The City and County agreed on something in 2005 with respect to Manning Road and now the bad old County is doing something unilaterally without telling the City. That would be terrible except the City has known what the County has been doing with respect to Manning Road so Windsor could hardly claim to be taken by surprise as Councillor Valentinis wanted us to believe last night.

There was the Eddie lawsuit threat over the issue. It was nice to have David Estrin in town. He could stand up and answer a couple of questions to justify bringing him here. Councillor Valentinis could then introduce a Motion on the whole issue with respect to Manning Road to have Mr. Estrin "provide the appropriate response in keeping with Council's position." Whatever that means but it sure sounded threatening to me. I expect that Mayor McNamara will be shaking in his boots when he hears about this.

How many lawsuits by the way is it that Eddie has threatened so far and done nothing about. Yup, Eddie wants to appear on the witness stand under oath! That would sell tickets and eliminate the Capitol's debt forever if the trial was moved there.

I almost forgot to mention... there is another lawyer involved from another big firm in Toronto to assist the City in property matters with respect to the DRIC road. Even more legal fees to spend. I don't remember anything about retaining him, do you?

As far as I was concerned however, the shocking news came at the end. We learned that our Mayor is not really against expanding the Expressway or upgrading Manning Road or Lauzon. No wonder Agenda Item 5 was deferred. It would have been absolutely clear what the City's position was if there had been a vote on it. Instead it was deferred again since we are told that the issue is not roadbuilding but rather timing and sequencing. In other words, everyone must do what Eddie wants and on his timetable.

But Eddie gave it away. Everything he has been doing is nothing more than a stall to accomplish whatever it is that he wants to accomplish but hasn't told us yet. The Ambassador Bridge Company is going to get what it wants. He cannot oppose them really but can merely delay them. Eddie talked in these terms in this sentence fragment:

  • "Once the final border solution... a shovel is in the ground, ready to go, primary route for trucks from the 401 to the new border crossing and to the existing Ambassador Bridge."

A road to the Ambassador Bridge! Was it a Freudian slip? Perhaps. Or deliberate? Regardless, it was acknowledgment by the Mayor that there will be a new road to the Ambassador Bridge and not merely just to the DRIC bridge. From his comment, he cannot be opposed to it. Really how can he be because the Schwartz Greenlink solution is recognition that there is a way to connect communities while building a border road as the Ambassador Bridge suggested years ago.

I think it is more. I think it is recognition that the Ambassador Bridge has won the race. It is recognition that the Enhancement Project will be built first and there will have to be a road to the Bridge constructed whether anybody likes it or not. It is merely reflecting that there is no capacity issue with the truck volumes being down so low as they are. Even Minister Cannon in his recent P3 speech acknowledge the same thing when he stated:

  • "The existing border crossings between Windsor and Detroit have performed admirably in moving commuters, travellers and goods from one country to the other for many years.

    There is no question they will continue to be an integral part of this strategic gateway. However, as business people on both sides of the border know well, we need to do more to keep Canada competitive and support continued economic growth.

    We have to increase capacity over the next few decades in order to maximize trade and strengthen our already strong partnership with US neighbours.

    And that is precisely what the Government of Canada intends to do."
Eddie can read the hand-writing on the wall after Sandra's comment re the cost of the DRIC road and given Councillor's Lewenza's strange outburst. I have this question: was that a trial balloon suggesting that Eddie wants to be friends with the Bridge Co. now since he has no one else. It may be that he needs them now. He won't be the one to approach them at first however but I can think of the person who would be his delegate. And I do NOT mean Councillor Lewenza.

All of that in under an hour. But then again, it was a strange day yesterday. Sixty degrees F. and a tornado watch last night. I can hardly wait for next week's Council meeting.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Is Windsor Paranoid

Wikipedia defines paranoia as

"a disturbed thought process characterized by excessive anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat."

Clearly, the City is not but can we say the same about City Hall? How else to explain the bizarre opening of the Gord Henderson column on Saturday:
  • "Councillor Drew Dilkens nearly blew a gasket when I asked him Friday about rumour mongering that he's a frontman for special interests seeking a wedge issue to shatter the city's united stand on a border infrastructure solution.

    Dilkens, whose call this week for action to address the 18-wheeler problem on Dougall Avenue made him public enemy No. 1 among truckers but scored huge points with his South Windsor constituents, told me he's had it up to here with a whisper campaign that's portraying him as a tool of various border interest groups, including the bridge company, the DRTP, the area's Liberal cabinet ministers and certain bloggers."

See what I mean....they, the enemies, are everywhere! Make up a phony story to discredit an opponent. Blame it on rumours too so no one takes responsibility for spreading lies.

I'm so glad that I am that important in the City and apparently that powerful that I can be linked with border proponents and powerful Cabinet Ministers. To show you how bad things are, apparently as well, so the rumours circulating that I have heard suggest, I have nothing better to do with my time than to write all of those negative letters on all of the Windsor forums that attack City Hall. All of this just because I write a BLOG on local politics. Unbelievable!

If you want to know what is wrong with City Hall than this column demonstrates it perfectly. There is no discussion of issues in Windsor but rather there are personal, ad hominem attacks if one dares not to have a "W" strapped on to one's chest. You are not allowed to think in this City and if you do, and heaven forbid if you have a differing opinion, then there is a whispering campaign and rumour mongering started against you as Councillor Dilkens found out. Welcome to my phone booth, Councillor.

It is interesting to me that Gord, perhaps inadvertently, has disclosed why people have been so quiet in Windsor for so long as this City falls apart. Who can dare say anything negative publicly without fear of having their business or reputation destroyed in the snap of a finger. Fortunately, this City has been blessed with a number of Bloggers who are not afraid to speak out. If one reads the Windsor Star forums, and I suggest that our local politicians do so, then you will see that Windsorites are now starting to tell it as it is and putting the blame where the blame is deserved.

Some more interesting things from the Henderson column. The name of the Councillor formally known as Councillor Budget was conspicuous by its absence. The reason for that is obvious. On a road issue dealing with the border, he has been invisible. It is his rookie Wardmate who has taken action on something that is so important to the residents of the Ward. Is Councillor Dilkens right or wrong, it does not matter. It is the fact that he brought it to the public's attention that is important.

What is also important is that this matter was not on the public Agenda for delegations to speak on. Rather, it was hidden as part of the Communications Package. Delegations are not allowed to speak on that under the Procedural Bylaw. Wasn't that something that was amended while Eddie was Mayor? If so, it speaks volumes about democracy in Windsor.

Interestingly, the other Communications Package matter about trucks on Wyandotte was previously discussed in public.

Do you want to know why Greenlink is dead... for the second time, Henderson has written that its cost is $2.6 billion. I have no idea where he got that number from which is $1 billion more than is set out on the Greenlink site. Given his relationship with City Hall, there is a question that needs answering: What increased the costs in a few months by such a huge amount of money or is this another mistake that will have to be corrected?

There is more. If the border solution fails, it is not Eddie's fault because he has not been able to negotiate a deal with the senior levels after how many years as Mayor? I guess that snubbing the Senior Levels and coming up with ridiculous road solutions should not be considered as part of the reason why he has been unable to do what he was elected to do in the first place. No, it is Dwight's fault and Sandra's fault. Find a scapegoat.

Gord asked the question:

  • "Why, three months after GreenLink was rolled out, are we still waiting for them to get off the pot and get moving?"

Perhaps he should ask the Mayor if the City has submitted yet its response to the DRIC proposal that was supposed to be submitted in mid-November. You know the response that cost the City how many thousands of scarce taxpayer dollars in full-page media ads, radio advertisements and Ward meetings across the City. If it has still not been submitted, the how can anybody possibly know what the City's position is? We would know as well where to point the finger of blame too.

You see the tactic that is used to silence Councillors. If you dare speak out, then you are accused of "shatter[ing] the city's united stand." It is a great technique that has been used for years. First it started with the original Schwartz report, then the full tunneling solution and now Greenlink. It is prevented a border solution and thousands of high-paying jobs being created for years now. There is no "united stand." What we have is an unholy alliance of people who are afraid to speak out for fear of being hammered in the media and are afraid that if they say something negative their mayoral chances in the next election will be reduced significantly.

We now can see the mentality at City Hall in all of its glory and set out publicly. Anybody who has a differing opinion is accused of using a "divide-and-conquer tactic designed to sow discord." Imagine, a Councillor has to justify in a newspaper column why he asked a simple question months ago or else risk his political career being ended. It is one hell of a way to run the City.

So there you have it... speak out and you are part of the conspiracy. You cannot think but you must obey. Dare think and you are a conspirator.

As for me, I'm not paranoic, even though I keep looking over my shoulder!

What Will Councillor Brister Do Tonight

It is going to be a tough night for the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget at the Council meeting.

It is common gossip amongst a number of his colleagues that he is going to run for mayor, or at least he hopes to do so, once Eddie chooses to leave office. There is no doubt that he must be hoping for an endorsement by the Mayor if he does. After all, why would he be that foolish to take on the role as guardian of the taxpayers in the East end arena file but to curry favour with the Mayor. He hasn't figured out yet that he will become the Mayor's scapegoat when the costs go wild since he is basking in the praise of the famous Windsor Star columnist who keeps mentioning his role.

The fun tonight will be the clash between him and his Ward 1 colleague, Councillor Dilkens. Drew has been getting much too much favourable publicity over the Dougall Avenue matter including mention in two of the national trucking publications.

It seems that Drew has captured the attention of his Ward 1 constituents and that he has received a very high approval rating for what he is suggesting. This builds on his Motion for openness. That can't be good for his Wardmate who wants to be Mayor when he has had scooped out from under him the issue that got him elected in the first place: a border road.

What will Councillor Brister do? Will he go along with what Drew suggests? Will he oppose it? Will he come up with his own alternative?

Just watch the sparks.

Oh, it should also be interesting to see what Councillor Brister does with respect to the request to pre-funding a number of agencies in the City. Does he go along with it or does he demand that the amounts be reduced or what? He of course will have to be the main speaker on this matter since he plays the role of Penny-pincher on Council.

The big fight will clearly be over the "arts" contributions and that of the Library.

Why Are The Mayor And Council So Afraid Of WeACT

You know the reasons as well as I do.

First, we had the incident with respect to the huge increases by WUC in which WeACT pressure forced the Mayor and Council to request a Ministry audit, even though it will turn into a whitewash as we all know.

In fact, Councillor Lewenza, the Chair of WUC has still refused to answer the four simple questions that WeACT asked of him back in September. So much for his openness. I guess that Eddie did not give him the answers so he was afraid to say anything:

  • 1. Withdraw the original motion calling for a provincial-municipal audit;

    2. Apologize properly to the citizens of Windsor for their shameful behaviour and actions respecting the WUC/Enwin matter; and

    3. To clarify the issue of potential conflicts of interest, they must immediately bring anapplication under Section 7 of the Municipal Conflicts of Interest Act to ask a Judge fordirection on notice to citizens so that any who wish, may intervene to assist the Court.

    4. Properly introduce a new motion, with full public participation calling upon the Auditor General to conduct a broad-based inquiry and audit.

    These questions are straight forward and a simple yes or no would be satisfactory."

Oh by the way, do you ever remember this happening as Councillor Lewenza was quoted in the BLOG of Don McArthur of the Star:

  • "Councillor Ken Lewenza Jr., chair of the Windsor Utilities Commission, says he and Max Zalev, WUC's acting general manager, will sit down for a chat with anyone and everyone in this city who has concerns or questions about skyrocketing water rates.

    "Max and I, in our discussion the other day, said anytime anyone from the public -- and we're going to announce this at the next meeting -- wants to spend time with us, we are going to spend whatever time is required, within reason, in terms of helping people understand," said Lewenza earlier this week.

    "We will meet with every group. We will meet with everybody that has concerns."

He never did meet with WeACT.

Then there was TAX CUT NOW and the handing out of stickers created by WeACT around the City by WeACT volunteers. What happened then... a tax increase of less than 1%, ignoring the various levies that will increase the amount that taxpayers have to pay by more than 1%.

Of course, we can't forget the creation of the WeACT Legal Fund, which monies will be used to protect taxpayers' interest.

But let me demonstrate to you the ultimate. Chris Schnurr on behalf of WeACT submitted an application to the City for the Mayor to proclaim January 9, 2008 TAX CUT NOW day in Windsor. The City's Proclamation application form was filled in and submitted to the City Clerk. Surprise, surprise. The application was rejected.

Remember what I wrote before:

  • "WeACT has asked the Mayor to proclaim January 9 TAX CUT NOW day in Windsor at a Council meeting.

    Let's see if that is done or whether City Hall will censor that proclamation. If it does, then you will know how strong WeACT and the curmudgeons really are."

Here is a copy of the response that Schnurr delivered to the Clerk to see whether the Procedural Bylaw that she is to enforce will be respected:

  • "December 30, 2007

    Ms. Valerie Critchley
    350 City Hall Square West
    Windsor, ON N9A 6S1

    Re: Letter dated December 20, 2007 regarding WeACT Proclamation

    Dear Ms. Critchley:

    I acknowledge receipt of your response to the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers’ proclamation for “Tax Cut Now Day” on January 9, 2008 and the City’s rejection of said proclamation pursuant to Section 8 of the City’s Procedural Bylaw.

    As the City of Windsor is aware, Section 8.2 of the City of Windsor’s Procedural Bylaw does not grant the City Clerk the authority to reject proclamations. Section 8.2 of the bylaw states:

    The Clerk shall review the request and make any appropriate amendments to the proclamation, which in the Clerk’s view improves the structure and/or intent of the requested proclamation. The Clerk shall present the proclamation to the Mayor for signature.

    Section 8 does not grant the City Clerk or the Mayor of the City of Windsor the authority to reject a proclamation. The bylaw states that the “Clerk shall review” and “shall present” the proclamation to the Mayor for signature.

    According to the Interpretation Act of Canada, the expression “shall” is to be construed as imperative and the expression “may” as permissive. (R.S., c. I-23, s. 28.). Additionally, according to the Interpretation Act of Ontario, “In the English version of an Act, the word “shall” shall be construed as imperative and the word “may” as permissive” (R.S.O. 1990, c. I.11, s. 29 (2)).

    The use of the word “shall” in Section 8.2 of the bylaw does not grant the Clerk authority to reject a proclamation for any reason. The Clerk, according to the bylaw, must “review” and must make any “appropriate amendments to the proclamation” which “improves the structure and/or intent of the requested proclamation.”

    Therefore, the City of Windsor must adhere to its Procedural Bylaw and undertake its legally binding responsibility to review, amend and present the proclamation of the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers to the Mayor for signature forthwith.


    Chris Schnurr
    Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers"

It will be interesting to see what the Clerk does. Regardless of the action that she will take, WeACT has proven its point: this Mayor and Council are terrified of the people who elected them.

So under the authority vested in me as being the BLOGmeister of Windsor, I hereby proclaim January 9, 2008 as