Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, January 25, 2008

Special Council Meeting: Request For Deferral

Here is my request for deferral of the Special Council meeting this afternoon at 4 PM to the regular time of the Council meeting on Monday.

I am just so disgusted with what is going on in this City and with what I suspect will happen tomorrow at the MPPs meeting. We must not allow the people that we elect to "play" with us in this manner. It should never be tolerated.

I trust that there are at least 6 Councillors with guts today to stand up for Windsorites and to support the deferral request. Those are the leaders that we should respect!


REQUEST FOR DEFERRAL

I do not know whether I will be able to attend at the session at 4 p.m. today so please remove my name as a delegation to speak on the subject matter of the Interim Control By-law. However by means of this letter, I do wish to seek a deferral of the matter until the Council Meeting on Monday, January 28, 2008. I also wish it known that I am opposed to extending the Interim Control By-law

I would appreciate if you would circulate this e-mail to the Mayor and Councilllors and make this e-mail a matter in the record with respect to the deferral and the main Motion.

With respect to deferral, I am well aware of the provisions of section 38 of the Planning Act and in particular subsection (3):
  • (3) No notice or hearing is required prior to the passing of a by-law under subsection (1) or (2) but the clerk of the municipality shall, in the manner and to the persons and public bodies and containing the information prescribed, give notice of a by-law passed under subsection (1) or (2) within thirty days of the passing thereof.

With respect, once Council decided to hold a Public meeting with respect to the Bylaws, the meeting should not have been set up in a manner that this Special Meeting has been so arranged. It is the grossest insult to the people of the City of Windsor and in particular to those people in Sandwich who hold jobs who would be completely unable to attend at this session between the hours of 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to express their opinion. To hold it in addition on a Friday afternoon shows nothing but contempt for citizens. This matter affects people directly and to disenfranchise many of their right to speak to Council is disgraceful in my opinion.

This matter was not posted on the City website until late Tuesday afternoon /early evening. The Administration Report was not posted until sometime Wednesday and the bylaw itself was posted after that as well.

There is no excuse for this matter being posted so close to the date of the meeting. The Administration Report itself was dated January 10. There is no reason why the Mayor at the Council meeting on January 21 could not have announced at that time that there would be a Special Meeting. As an example he mentioned before Christmas that the first meeting of Council after the new year would deal with border matters. Why couldn't he have done the same thing with respect to the Special Council meeting.

There was no need for urgency as there was when the Bylaw was first introduced almost a year ago. The excuse at the time was that if notice had been given, certain people could take actions that could cause problems for the area that these Bylaws were designed to prevent. That is not the case now since the Interim Bylaw and the Demolition Bylaw prevent any negative actions from being taken.

There was no need, in other words, for such stealth actions that wound up depriving citizen of their rights to speak at Council.

Unlike the Mayor and Council, who have a staff of experts to assist them, ordinary citizens need time to digest all of this material so that they can understand what the consequences of it are. There is no reason why an extra weekend cannot be granted so it will give people enough time to make a decision whether they should attend or not on Monday and what they should say if they so choose to attend.

For those reasons I respectfully ask for a deferral until the next regular Council meeting on January 28, 2008.

To Snub Or Not To Snub, That IS The Question





You have to read to the end of this BLOG....It will be worth it.

I am playing a hunch!

I have sent the moles out on a mission. Get me a photograph of either Sam Schwartz or David Estrin or both arriving at Windsor Airport to meet with the Mayor and Council for the in camera session before the Special Council Meeting on Friday. I am sure that we'll get a photo unless David drives in from Toronto or they both arrived at Detroit Metro and drive in from there. They better not do that or Eddie and Federica Nazzani will be furious that they are not using YQG.

If they think that they will outsmart me, I'll have a mole trying to photograph them as they go into the Council Session.

If I get the Photo, I will do a BLOGextra. Wow, is this how paparazzis make a living? Just wait until Larry Horwitz and Pam Anderson are seen together again!

Why am I going to all this trouble you might think. I was rather surprised that there was going to be an in camera session on Friday afternoon. I shouldn't have been since I reckoned that the session was designed to plot the strategy both for the Interim Control/Demolition Bylaws matter and for the Saturday MPPs/Mayors meeting.

I decided that I would try and think like the Mayor to figure out what his game plan was for the session with the MPPs and the County Mayors. If Sam and David were coming, then I expected fireworks! They would not be coming in just for the by-laws. There had to be more.

All this week the Mayor and his pitbull have been badmouthing the Senior Levels and the County Mayors saying that they may try to gang up on the City and force a cheap solution. Now why would the Mayor do this if he actually confirmed that he was going to attend the meeting? That sounds like "snub" talk to me.

I had heard that the Mayor in his acceptance of attending the meeting said that he wanted a separate meeting either before or after the big meeting with the MPPs. Now what could that be about I wondered. The answer was obvious if Sam and David were coming to town. Eddie was going to present Greenlink to them.

That wasn't such a bad idea I thought. But I wondered if Dwight and Sandra could listen to a "proponent" on the road a few weeks before DRIC came out with their answer. It would be easy for someone to attack the DRIC result saying that the Ministers influenced it after listening improperly to Eddie, Sam, David and probably the 10 Councillors too for added pressure. That would put the Ministers into an impossible position since it was so close to the Report day.

If I could figure that out, so could the Mayor. After all, he has all of these high paid and smart Toronto and New York advisors around him. Obviously, a meeting with the Ministers would be embarrassing to them and they would have to decline such a meeting.

The Trap Was Sprung! This was Eddie's opportunity to walk out. He would not have to "snub" but THEY would force him not to attend or force him out. The only question now was when would he decide to do so.

If I thought like Eddie, here are some of the alternatives that came to mind to consider:
  • 1) if the Ministers refused to meet in advance, he just doesn't go at all accusing them of bad faith because they have never seen the Greenlink proposal, or it appears that Dwight has not. How can the Ministers hold a meeting when they lacked knowledge and Eddie was ready, willing and able to share it with them
  • 2) if they foolishly agreed to meet in advance, since he is such a Council booster--- well when Councillors are necessary to take a hit and so that they can share in the blame since he was just following their orders -- he would bring the Councillors, Sam and David with him and then walk out when the Ministers declined to meet with everyone ie they would see the cast of hundreds and not want to participate knowing they had been set up.
  • 3) if they foolishly agreed to meet after the main session, he would bring the thundering hordes with him and then walk out of the main session with them trailing behind him since he would accuse everyone at the main session of a bad faith following the script of this week.

I just have this image in my mind of the Pied Piper with the children following behind him. It seemed so appropriate.

Obviously, Windsorites would have to stand up and cheer for the Mayor and we could not criticize him for snubbing because he wanted to attend and in fact in two cases would have attended. It is the big bad Ministers and their "bought" County Mayors who have been influenced by the private proponents who are responsible and who forced him out.

Why, if this does not convince Windsorites, the Windsor Star and the Sheriff to come back and support him, then nothing will!

But hold your horses. There is one final alternative. This week of name-calling has all been a fraud. It is just theatre designed to fool the masses. Why in the Star today, it is said:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said Thursday local MPPs are using a weekend meeting with county mayors to force the city's "surrender" in a dispute over a new border route.

    "What they are doing is bringing the mayor into a room and use LaSalle, Tecumseh and others to gang up on Windsor to get us to surrender our request for a better solution," Francis said."
Oh my goodness, this is bad. There is a vulgar term I could use to describe what the scene Eddie detailed is like that uses the word "gang" in it but I dare not since this is a G-rated BLOG!

If you read more of the story, there is a slight glimmer of hope:
  • "Pupatello, Ontario's economic development commissioner, attempted to calm the waters Thursday during a 90-minute meeting with The Star's editorial board."
And this:
  • "Duncan has also toned down his comments since last week's outburst"
But there is even more going on I believe. In Chris Schnurr's BLOG, someone named Vincent Clement said
  • "I just heard that the Federal Government will be represented by Jim Prentice, Industry Minister, at the Mayors/MPPs meeting. I think the Province and the Feds have had enough of the bickering and will tell King Eddie exactly how things will work."

Clement claims he works in the City Planning Department I believe but it must be a pseudonym or he would be in big trouble. Let's assume he is right. Why would a Federal Minister come here? If he comes, then Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley has to come too since it is his file, not Sandra's or Dwight's. Cabinet etiquette and all that.

I do not know about you, but I do not believe that Ministers are coming to Windsor to help solve the dispute between Eddie and the County. That is too petty and unimportant for such powerful people. They are coming here to announce some kind of a deal if they are coming.

The 2 new Ministers will be the heroic "peace-makers" who will save the day! Eddie will bend a bit, the County will bend a bit and so will the Senior Levels. It would not surprise me to see some type of a Greenlink/DRIC road announced PLUS a deal on Manning, Lauzon and E C Row. Why it would not suprise me either if the price was $2.6B, the strange number that Henderson signalled 3 times in his columns.

We will see all of the politicians smiling and shaking hands too in a photo-op to prove that there now is a truce. One slight glitch that will not have been decided quite yet....who pays the extra cost, the one billion dollars? The road cost is supposed to be paid 50/50 between the 2 Senior Levels but I expect that the Province will ask the Feds to pick up a good chunk of the extra billion since the Ontario economy has been so hard hit. The Federal contribution in other words would be about 70% of the total cost if they paid $1.8B of the $2.6B price-tag. It would be justified as a one-time deal so other Provinces would not get too upset at the bigger Federal share if it goes through.

If this last alternative wins out Saturday, Windsorites will have been played for fools by the politicians at all levels. The drama would have had more twists and turns than a Shakespearean tragedy at Stratford. However, isn't that par for the course as far as politics is concerned.

So there are the alternatives as far as I am concerned. Let us see which one is right! I know where my bet would be placed.

The Complex President




Here are the remarks from the President's speech delivered at the University today dealing with the Engineering Complex.

I am glad to see that Ross Paul believes that Bloggers have a role in this City. We are pleased to keep everyone "honest," not just University Presidents! Frankly, if it were not for Bloggers, only ONE side of a story would have been told here on many important issues.
  • "The University in the Community

    My 2004 “State of the University” address got a lot of coverage because it focused on the University’s role in the community and especially in the development and sustaining of downtown Windsor. This issue has been front and centre since the wonderful announcement of the $40 million contribution by the Government of Ontario for our new Centre for Engineering Innovation. Whatever the needs are priorities of the University and its importance to the region, the Province of Ontario and Canada, its potential to make a major difference in downtown development has vaulted to the forefront of public debate.

    Let me say a few words about this week’s decision to locate the fantastic new Centre for Engineering Innovation (CEI) on campus as opposed to downtown Windsor. There has been a lot of emotion around this issue and the danger was always that it would breed negativities and divisions that would obfuscate and undermine the very obvious point that the CEI is going to be a fantastic asset, not only for the Faculty of Engineering and for the University, but for the City, the County and the rest of Ontario.

    That said, it has been an extremely difficult and complex issue to consider, especially given the size, and importance of this major project. I am not going to go into detail about the process and discussions leading up to the decision but I would like to make several points publicly so there is no question about where I stand on this issue:

    a. The Mayor, the Downtown Business Improvement Association and various other components of the City of Windsor bent over backwards to lure the University downtown. I have been in frequent touch with the Mayor and City officials over the past year on this and can state unequivocally that the Mayor did everything he could reasonably be expected to do to bring the University downtown. If the Board of the University had an inclination to move a programme as large and as important as the Engineering downtown, it could not have had a better site nor the prospect of better terms and conditions that could have been developed into a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties.

    b. At the same time, it would be equally unfair to chastise the Board of Governors for its decision. One should never forget that, together with the Senate, the Board is The University of Windsor and that it is made up of 35 people from quite diverse constituencies –business leaders, community volunteers, alumni, faculty, staff representatives of the Federated Universities, student leaders and the President.

    For the great majority of these Board members, the decision to put the CEI on campus was an affirmation of care and pride in our campus and in service to our students, not a rejection of downtown. The prevailing belief was that such as wonderful new facility on campus would build on the morale boosts and pride attached to the series of improvements we have made over the past few years – the Toldo Health Education Centre, the Jackman School of Dramatic Art, Alumni Hall, the stadium, the Forge fitness centre and the renovations to the Law School, the gravel pit and many classrooms and labs. It was also about ensuring that Engineering students were exposed not only to other Engineers but to faculty, staff, and students from across the University.

    It was very clear from an excellent three-and-one-half hour discussion that these were very strong values to Board Members, given that the on-campus site choice meant forgoing the acquisition of new land, building 10 new classrooms and having additional money to apply to the renovation of Essex Hall once Engineering moved out. Notwithstanding that the financial and space challenges will be greater, the Board opted clearly for the student experience and the enhancement of the existing campus, highly commendable reasons for such a choice, however disappointing it has been to those of us with a vision for a downtown Windsor that is built around post-secondary education and the arts.

    The most important thing is that this decisions is now behind us and we can put all of our energies and innovative ideas into the creation of an Engineering School and its Manufacturing Courtyard that, better than any other, integrates teaching, learning, research, innovation, co-op and hands-on corporate experience and hence, produces Engineers in demand all over the world for their unique blend of theory and practice, creativity and experience.

    The last thing we should do is apologize for the different opinions that have gone into the extensive consideration of the different options for the CEI. The role of a university in a community is almost always a controversial one. In Canada, in particular, where there is usually only one university in a medium sized city, as contrast with the American pattern of a great range of institutions in every community, it is obviously very important that every single university play an active and key role in that community…

    While the University will and should always put the needs of students and faculty first, as the sole University in our region, it also has serious community responsibilities and I very much hope that we can continue our dialogue with the City and with the County to pursue options of mutual benefit and bring the University more into the community in ways that benefit its academic programmes and services at the same time. I sincerely hope that the disappointment some feel at the decision not to locate the CEI downtown will soon be replaced by euphoria when the City and the University find the right win-win scenario for a much stronger presence of the University in a revitalized downtown Windsor.

    After all, our respective profiles and reputations are inextricably linked – a better downtown will enhance the University and a better University is central to a revitalized and dynamic downtown. This means that we really have to work together in ways that are open, imaginative, frank and persistent.

    There are many things that I really like about Windsor but one of the biggest challenges for the City, it seems to me, is, as another relative newcomer stated recently, it seems too often to be a City of 200,000 people acting like a small rural village.

    What is meant by that is that almost every issue seems to breed factions and to be divisive in a way that leads too many people to take great delight in denigrating or mocking those who disagree with them. Yes, we need bloggers and columunists to keep us honest, but we also need leaders in all factions of our community to treat each other with respect, to judge issues on their merits rather than on the basis of who is on what side. At its best, the University can be exemplary it its dedications to process and democratic decision making provided we learn to blend this with faster decisions making and a strong action orientation."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Young Entrepreneur Recount Demanded



There is a very strong rumour circulating that certain contestants in the "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" contest in the year that the Mayor won his title are demanding a recount. Eddie's University failure bothered them

However, as I will relate to you, there is much more involved than the University transaction. The deal for the Western Super Anchor Site was never going to happen but as everyone should know by now there is a reason why this transaction was set up by the Mayor and destined to fail miserably in my opinion.

Oh the contestants have had enough. They point to some of the deals that the Mayor has been involved in to demonstrate that someone must have made a mistake in adding up the numbers. (They had thought about hiring Grant Thornton to do an audit of the contest process but that accounting firm was too busy apparently proving that WUC people knew how to do mathematical calculations.) They point to agreements with respect to the Mady garage, the Keg, the funky bus terminal deal with Greyhound and the fact that the City's outside solicitors have been working round-the-clock on the Tunnel deal for months and months, since April 2007 at least, presumably generating huge legal fees, with no end to the transaction in sight.

I am told that they were too polite to talk about the Border file and the lack of resolution after the spending of millions in legal and consulting fees and wasting years of time.

What infuriated them, I heard on good authority, is Eddie's total mishandling of the University file. They are annoyed that the spin doctors are out there trying to prove that it was everyone else's fault other than the Mayor's that the deal fell apart. They point to the fact that the transaction started sometime around February 2007 and what was the best that the City could do when the University Board had to make up decision: they presented a proposal that was described as "too vague."

Can you believe it, the contestants say, that at the 11th hour and 59th minute and 59th second:
  • "The city was willing to give us something, but we would have to go back and negotiate it," said one of four board members who spoke with The Star Wednesday on the condition they not be named. "There was nothing concrete. I would have preferred a cheque or a timeline, something concrete. I think that would have made a lot of things easier."

They also point out the fact that the Mayor could not commit the City on his own but rather needed the approval of its Council. Had the Council done so when the Proposal was given to the University. Apparently not is the answer:

  • "city council met, also behind closed doors, and voted 8-2 to let Mayor Eddie Francis prepare a business case for the downtown site. Councillors had a casual discussion of money and threw around numbers, including talk of providing up to $25 million plus expropriated land behind the art gallery."

The contestants fumed when they heard the amounts of money that were being tossed around presumably for the extra costs that the University would incur and that the City would have to pay for. The Star reported $25 million, Councillor Halberstadt on CKLW mentioned $35 million plus all of the property taxes that would have to be waived and other amounts heard around town went up as high as the $50 million range.

It is clear the contestants state that the Mayor never had any intention whatsoever of doing the deal and all that he wanted was publicity pretending to do so. Remember they point out that he announced his blockbuster of a possible deal when he was supposed to be making a speech to the Downtown business group who were demanding an urban village.

Final proof they assert that there must have been a mistake in the counting of the votes was the comment in Posse Sheriff Henderson's column that demonstrates conclusively that the Mayor's deal was so bad that no one in their right mind, even if they were an academic, could have accepted it.

The Sherrif claimed:

  • "an understanding hammered out between Mayor Eddie Francis and university president Ross Paul that would have seen the city contribute $25 million over a number of years, beginning in 2010, plus vacant downtown land valued at more than $12 million."

Even a University academic who lives in an ivory tower can figure out that if it costs the University millions and millions of dollars to move downtown, then a deal in which the money only starts flowing in 2010 with contributions spread over number of years that I have heard ranged from 20 to 30 meant that the interest on the extra costs probably wouldn't even be paid never mind the principal.

As an example, if the extra costs were $40 million, the interest costs alone per year on that would be several million dollars. If the City gave $25 million over 25 years, then tell me how this financial contribution on behalf of the City makes any sense whatsoever. It was easy to turn down this type of deal. The University got stung like this with the Provincial contribution on the Medical school I am told.

Of course, the University wasn't suckered in because the first payment would not have been made until 2010, when this Mayor was leaving office. Do you truly believe that any of the Councillors on the Council today who are thinking of running for Mayor in 2010 were going to stand for a deal in which this Mayor bound them and future generations for payments to the University for his own personal glory. Don't be ridiculous. 2010! What a joke

It was the typical middle-management-type way of doing things... study and negotiate a project to death until the last minute, sign the deal and get the hell out of office so that no one can blame you if the thing falls apart and if they do, blame it on your successor.

My moles informed me who these contestants were and I went out to see them. Fortunately, I was able to calm them down. I did so by explaining to them what this transaction was designed to do. Now, let me explain it to you, dear reader.

Of course, those who attack the Sheriff's column have not read it properly and will have ignored the huge hint that he has given to us and the warning about the boondoggle to come.

Effectively, the Mayor suckered his Councillor colleagues into being agreeable to fund almost $40 million for a project payable over a number of years, even higher if one includes the waiver of property taxes. All that is needed now is for the Mayor to put forward a gigantic transaction and Councillors will have no reason not to approve it. They will have no choice especially since it won't start until around 2010, just in time to get them re-elected. Just in time for Eddie to keep on saying for the next several years until his term expires:

  • "I know I'm not going to run again but do as I say and I'll make sure that you win again."

What a great way to maintain unity don't you think. That Eminence Greasie is slick!

Now what could this deal be... Henderson gave it away the day after Eddie was re-elected as Mayor and gave it away again today in his column. The item was dealt with at Council recently as well and the radio station of the "W" news director strapper just happened to run a poll on the subject. As the Sheriff warns us:

  • "If nothing else, that leaves the city with fiscal leeway for future deals that could include ... dare we hope, elimination of the Zalev scrapyard."

You will see the dream being promoted soon of a huge multi-million dollar deal for the Zalev scrapyard in which the three levels of Government each contribute $40-$50 million for the Brownfield redevelopment of this site. Obviously, Councillors and the public will jump on board and demand that it be done. A huge development at this site will be Eddie's legacy to himself.

That is why Eddie stalled off the University deal for a year, to buy time, and why he needed to convince the Councillors to be prepared to pay a huge amount of money around 2010.

As I told you, life is never simple in Windsor it seems. Isn't this insight the reason why you read this and other BLOGs in town!

Cheep, Cheep, Cheep





video


I wonder if this is what the Governor's hubby taught Eddie. Did he really tell him to mock people at the Senior Levels of Government especially when he wants money from them. He more than anyone should have been able to teach Eddie good manners with respect to dealing with Prime Ministers, Premiers and Finance Ministers.

What Eddie is saying again is for the birds. I guess I'm just tired of hearing Eddie chirping his bird song: cheap, cheap, cheap.

Eddie and his flock seem to think that taxpayers are a bottomless pit. It is the idea of "Windsor entitlement" that they are going to have to learn to shed already since it is not reality. Clearly, they are birds of a feather:
  • "DRIC's proposal has been denounced by Francis and council as a cheap and deeply flawed border plan that will divide and pollute the community."
Come on, it is $1.6 billion that will create 10,000 plus jobs in this area which has the highest unemployment rate in Canada. It is not chicken feed. It's nothing to sneeze at from a guy who flew over to Germany at taxpayer expense to get maybe 50 jobs if we are lucky. Eddie hatched that plan quickly to escape Dwight at the pre-budget meeting, but Dwight outfoxed him with the Saturday session.

I know that the early bird gets the worm in economic development but I am still waiting to find out what he actually accomplished! Probably nothing if there was no big announcement or press release after all of this time back home.

I really do think that it is time did Eddie stop his stalling and suck in his gut to make a decision. Whether he likes it or not he will have to negotiate something with the Senior Levels and with the County or they will just ignore him. Frankly, at this stage of the game that wouldn't be so bad after all since we have a pretty good idea where the DRIC road is going to go and what it encompasses.

I did a quick search of other road projects to see how much money was spent and how they compare with Windsor. Obviously, the projects are not completely comparable since Windsor's position is unique but let's see what others have cost. I think you will agree that $1.6B is not bad at all:

  • The QEW widening project through St. Catharines is the largest contract ever tendered by the Ministry of Transportation at $153 million. It is about 7 KM long. The high cost was attributed to the number of overpasses that needed to be constructed. I suspect that this is the project that Sandra was talking about when she mentioned that the DRIC road cost is 10 times that of the largest road project in Ontario.

  • Highway 407 around Toronto cost around $1.6B to build. It became the largest P3 deal in Canada eventually. It became the largest Canadian PPP to date, the original 69-kilometre toll highway was sold to 407 ETR in 1999 for $3.1 billion

  • $1 billion was set aside for the GTA transportation plan entitled FLOW. FLOW includes the extension of Toronto’s Spadina subway, rapid transit projects in Mississauga, Brampton and York Region, investments in Durham Transit, the widening of Highway 7 in Durham Region, the extension of Highway 404 north beyond Newmarket, and the extension of Highway 407 east to Highway 35/115

  • the City of Ottawa, had an RFP process for a $778.2 million design, construction, operation
    and 15-year maintenance contract for a portion of a light rail transit system

  • The Ontario government will invest $700 million over the next five years to expand northern highways - improving safety and efficiency and boosting economic development. Fifty-four new bridges and 62 kilometres of new roadway will be added within the next five years. For example:
    --The four-laning of Highway 69 for seven kilometres between Parry Sound and Nobel is underway and should be complete in 2008.
    --The four-laning of Highway 11 for six kilometres between Emsdale and Katrine is underway and should be complete by the end of this year.
    --The Northern Ontario Highways Strategy will accelerate the completion of the four-laning of Highways 11 and 69 within seven and 12 years, respectively.
    --The four-laning of Highway 69 is the largest construction project underway in Ontario.

  • The cost of a new Highway 7 will cost between $300 -$400 million when completed between Guelph and Kitchener. The new road, 18 kilometres long.

  • $336 million for ten highway improvement projects in Ontario. including ten construction projects to be carried out on Highway 401, Highway 69/400 and Highway 17. (eg
    Highway 401 between Windsor and Tilbury will be widened to six lanes, improving safety and facilitating trade.

  • In 1999, the $323-million Highway 416 connected the 401 to Ottawa, the nation's capital.

  • $1.5 billion for the Mid-Peninsula Highway The route will most likely begin at Peace Bridge or its planned twin bridge in Fort Erie as an alternative to the QEW.

It is time the Mayor stopped the childish name-calling and started acting like a professional. I am deathly afraid that one day soon the Senior Levels will have enough and walk away from Windsor. Then what would Eddie do? Claim a victory! That almost happened with the BIF money but for the extension.

Eddie had better learn quickly about a $1.6B bird in the hand.

First Letters Of The Year


Here is the first batch of reader comments for 2008. Oooops, where is YOUR contribution?

1)The public should be concerned about this! No matter what happens with Greenlink we will always have to work with the Ambassador Bridge....they have been here since 1929!

2)After reading the weekend Windsor Star I think the editor at the star may be silently roving a point.

Eddie Francis wants the Feds to cough up 30 million and the city will do whatever it takes to bring a new product to Windsor.

A smaller headline says 1 billion in construction to start but the city says no.
At the bottom of the page they are closing libraries because of an 800,00 forced budget cut.

It seems to me if a business wanted to spend 1 billion dollars, as a business person, a real one, I would be there finding out what I could do to supply or negotiate with them for a piece of the spending. That is common sense.
The taxes and fees would be enormous for the city coiffures. That is called co-operation.

There would be plenty for the budget and libraries could stay open. By the way, libraries have been and always will be for the ones who need it the most, not he people who have. Remember that point.

Why is when budget cuts are made they are done at the level that is easiest to cut?
Also why did the mayor of Windsor create a company to run the airport? This new company he has become in charge of does not have to get council approval for anything.

The headlines about the city stopping the bridge is not helping the economy around here. Ask any business person who depends on the crossing.

3) Ed,

What a wonderful opportunity the Star has given all citizens of Windsor. Post your comments regarding the Ambassador Bridge twinning!

But, guess what, as of 10:30 a.m. this morning they have yet to post a single comment. It must be a terrific task to censure so many opinions!

I posted mine at 8:00 a.m. thus morning and have yet to see it (all rules complied with). should be a lot of interesting reading.

[Then subsequently after comments were posted] Ed... looks like we have ourselves a bonafide revolt !!

4) Hello Ed, and greetings from [Town in Ontario].

While attempting to explore a CRTC site in order to submit a complaint of my own, I accidentally stumbled across your blog and immediately became interested in your encounter with CKLW's Jason Moore's comments. My interest was piqued because like so many other "experts" who think they are up there with the Lord, they often make comments or replies that are thinly disguised personal attacks against individuals who have little or no recourse for a rebuttal, nor are resources offered whereby they may rebuttal. While I am a strong proponent of freedom of speech etc., I do not believe that one should have an advantage over another simply because of his or her position such as Moore appears to have. This offends and angers me greatly.

Anyway, the essence of this email is to say that I did not see the final outcome and was wondering how it all turned out for you.

However, irrespective of the outcome, I salute and encourage you to continue as you are doing. Remember that democracy and freedoms are only as good as those who guard them!

I have bookmarked your site and look forward to reading your blogs.

5) Did you catch the responses to G.H.'s column online? The people are ready for a revolution!

6) [Star Editorial] I couldn't have written it better myself. The last two paragraphs say it all. I am glad we are not the only ones who believe that dissent is the very foundation on what democracy was built upon.

7)"Questioning the need for further study, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said Thursday a high-speed rail link between Windsor and Quebec City "is an idea whose time has come."

"I don't know if we need another study. Everyone agrees this would be a great thing." "

This from the mayor who wants to study everything else ad nauseum.

Eddie will run again. Where else can he get a $160k a year job?

8) Hi Ed

Keep those fingers of yours flying, you have published some great work lately!! If it wasn't for your blog and others,l wouldn't have been able to have a complete and thorough picture of the mess this city is in from its roads, sewers, bridges et al and then there is his warpship!

9) Does Eddie really think HE is the ONE that can stop the road access to the bridge?(In reference to the Matrix movie I apologize)
His head is well, you know.
If this wasn't so serious it would be an incredible joke.
April 1st anyone?

Quote...
His ward mate, Caroline Postma, told me she's sickened by a dysfunctional, backstabbing, clique-ridden, media-hogging council which she compared to a Grade 9 class at her old school, Forster Collegiate. This council, said Postma, has been poisoned by misleading, two-faced blogs and by third-party associations and influence.

Ms Postma had better utter a complete and full apology to every student at Forster. I had some great years there.

10) Bill Marra for Mayor!

11) Is Windsor in trouble, again?
Ontario and Quebec are going to do a study on a high speed rail line from Montreal to Windsor.
Will the city be split in half?
Train traffic on top of trucks?
The city's lawyer will be busy for years demanding an impact study for Windsor if they want to do something in Montreal.
Talk about carte blanche.
Will it screw up the green link?? Will they have to move it because of railway tracks?
Will they have to move the arena site, again?
Will EC Row become a route for high speed rail lines at the expense of city residents?
Who knows but Eddie's comments are sure going to be colourful.
You can almost plan sarcasm ahead of time.

12) Why would the province spend all that money to fix up E.C. Row, when the cheapest solution is to take the existing Huron/Talbot corridor and turn it into a 6 lane controlled access highway right to an enhanced Ambassador Bridge. No matter what route is chosen there will be bitching and whining from our mayor, ultimately cheapest will win.

IMO, the ultimate decision on where or when anything will be built is in the hands of the U.S. Federal Government and their Department of Homeland Security. The upgrades will be to move auto-parts between the Southern U.S. and plants in Eastern Ontario. When this becomes a priority of the corporations that control the U.S. Government then something will happen. Some big talking, small-city mayor is not going to change that.

13) Today, I admit I read your entire blog. And I laughed out loud three times! Schwunnels is very funny!

I was glad you acknowledged Dennis' longtime advocacy on the engineering school

14)[Eddie's Way Or No Highway] absolutely a terrifc blog today

15) I watched most of the Manning Road item and all I can say is - what a bunch of whiners! All I could hear was WhaWha... WhaWha!

Regardless of any other considerations, Manning Road needs to be widened. Haven't any of those people been to Tecumseh lately and seen the development?

Putting that on the agenda itself speaks to the childishness of these people. If I heard correctly, the county's letter requested a meeting. That should have taken place instead of this sorry display of public childish whining. Are there no adults on city council? Are there no people with even the smallest modicom of professionalism?

It was embarrassing.

I think senior levels of government would be very wise to start talking to Mayor Bradley, or explore the idea of building a new crossing in the Walpole Island vicinity.

16) I have not seen any of the truckers websites taking a strip off Dilkens (Todays Trucking and Truck News both did an article in their online editions - but not critical). What galls me is that Henderson is obvioulsy referring to the comments posted on the Star's own website - some of which were critical of Dilkens but the majority were complimentary. Perhaps if he puts so much store into the comments posted by readers on the Star's website, he should devote some time and column space to interpreting the negative comments about the Mayor and generally the council in response to three recent Star articles. Perhaps not a scientific sampling, but I would suggest as scientific (and a lot more fair) than the city's samplng of comments to 311 re Greenlink. At least in the Star, readers are not discouraged to leave negative comments.

17) ...it makes me sick that Windsor is not supporting the Manning Rd. improvements and that they are also not moving forward with the Lauzon Pkwy extension to 401.
Of course trucks are using Dougall - they cannot get to 401 by any other logical means. Would it not make more common sense to have trucks use the freeway that was designed to take them in the interim to the Greenlink project completion??? The LP extension would also benefit all of those industrial plants in Twin Oaks that were promised this by past governments as incentive to locate here.

Where are trucks going to travel while Greenlink is being built? - why wait until this becomes a serious issue too late to deal with?

Pardon my use of the phrase "common sense" - I know it is taboo in this city.

18)...if you can make people say what you want them to say [in a movie], please have a movie where Francis says he is resigning now!!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Putting Students First



It looks like the President of the University of Windsor is singing from a different songbook today. Notwithstanding his impassioned plea, the University Board Members overwhelmingly rejected the idea of constructing the new Engineering Complex downtown.

Finally, a Public Authority in this area has done the right thing. There is no doubt that Board Members recognized that they owed a duty to their students first. It was their duty as well to act in the best interest of the University. They made their choice by understanding what their legal obligation was. They rejected the notion that it was their "duty to help renew downtown." They also rejected being bullied by a Mayor who stated that he would only provide them with money if they did what he told them.

By my reckoning, in the end, I would suspect that there were very few Board Members who voted in favor of moving the Complex downtown. I would be surprised if the votes to go downtown exceeded the number of fingers of one hand.

Given what was called an "overwhelming" rejection, a number of different factions on the Board must have voted together. It would seem that the academics, the student representatives and the business and community representatives all voted together to oppose moving the Complex away from the campus. Clearly this action also must have weighed on the minds of Board members and such perfect timing too:
  • "The U of W faculty association informed board members prior to the meeting that faculty opposed a downtown campus."

Of course, the big loser in this matter was the Mayor. He just cannot pull off a deal! Third time still unlucky with respect to the lands downtown: the arena, the urban village, and now the Engineering Complex.

Did you find it amusing that the Mayor was not available for comment to the media after the Board meeting. However he had the time to craft a press release stating that "the University has missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." Yes, the opportunity to save his neck! Of course, blame it on someone else, the University, for being so stupid.

I wonder what would have happened if the University had decided to move downtown. Can you spell P-H-O-T-O-O-P and a big speech instead of press release. With a press release, the Mayor avoids interrogation by the media about why he failed.

For something so important to him, he demonstrated again that he does not know how to close the deal. When you look at it, all that he did was mess up what the University wanted to do in the first place. He cost them a year of time and probably extra millions of dollars of construction costs because of the delay. Not only that, my understanding is that the project would have started in the fall of 2007. How many jobs were deferred because the project had not started and will not start for some time.

There is some interesting scuttlebutt around about whether there was an offer or not by the City to induce the University to move downtown. What I heard was that the University was told that Council had made a commitment. On the other hand, I was told that Council had not done so. The best that they were able to achieve in an in camera meeting was to agree to have a business case prepared. I wonder what the truth is.

My understanding is that big numbers were bandied about in the in camera meeting. Apparently a number of Councillors gagged when they heard the number of millions being thrown around. Council was told that the University would have some very significant increased costs if they were to move downtown. In the Star story, the President stated

  • "We would have had to build 10 more classrooms downtown because even here (on campus) students have classes in other buildings," Paul said. The city would have been expected to pick up the cost difference between what would have been needed downtown and the on-campus design."

I had heard that the cost differential was in the range of $30-$50 million. Does anyone honestly believe that the Councillors would have agreed to spend that kind of money in this economic climate? That was the deal-breaker right from the beginning.

Why it took so long to figure that out is beyond me. Why wasn't this presented to the University Board a long time ago so that they could have obtained a firm commitment from the Mayor to move forward if this is what he was prepared to do. My recollection is that the Mayor had discussed various ways of providing money or money's worth up to only $15 million. If no firm commitment could have been obtained, then the University could have gone on its merry way without this huge delay. I don't understand the reason for the stalling.

Don't you like the comment of the President that there was no "specific offer" from the City but that there was "an understanding of the type of things that would be done." I just cannot believe that the President would make a pitch for a downtown campus after he got burned once by this Mayor with respect to the Hurst letter. Would it make sense to move forward on $100 million project without an absolute commitment from the City to contribute money. Astounding.

However, if you think matters were so "iffy," then you have another think coming. Again the scuttlebutt says that the City made an offer to pay the difference to bring the Complex downtown. Except here's the hilarious part. No monies would come from this Council but rather the monies would start flowing in 2011. I also heard that the full amount of money would not be paid up front but over a period of a considerable number of years.

If in fact such an offer was made, it is so ludicrous that no one in their right mind would accept it. I truly hope that the President did not put this forward to the Board. It would be an offer not worth the paper it might have been written on.

Can you imagine if the University had started work based on such an offer and the next Council decided that they were not interested in pursuing it as they have a legal right to do. What would the University have done then? They would be in a huge financial hole! Can you imagine someone from the City actually trying to bind the next Council and the next several generations of Council to an offer such as this. Incredible.

I was quite interested in this comment by the President

  • "Paul didn't rule out prospects of another program moving downtown."

I'm surprised that the President did not have a Motion in his back-pocket to pull out in case he lost the vote so that he could have the Board vote on moving, say the Law faculty or the Music faculty, to the downtown or least to start talking about it immediately to save face for everyone. To be realistic, I don't think that even he would have dared do something so foolish such as that even if he wanted to help the Mayor.

It is also typical of other projects in the City: stall off a development, increased costs, create the giant dream, talk it to death, build a media campaign to slap down anyone who dares oppose, take in camera action, talk big dollars and fail. Sound familiar... the County Mayors and our MPPs might think so on Saturday when they look at the history of the border file.

I have an idea. Since the President will have so much time now until his term is over perhaps I might suggest that he write another song based on Gilbert and Sullivan. He might want to have some fun and play with the lyrics of "The First Lord's Song" from HMS Pinafore. I can hardly wait until the next Symphony concert.

The Day The Music Died



I am ashamed of what this City has become!

Friday at 4 p.m. this Mayor and Council will hold a Special Council Meeting to discuss whether the Interim Control Bylaw in Sandwich should be extended.

As you may know this bylaw expires on January 29. This Mayor and Council had months to set up a meeting to discuss whether or not this bylaw should be extended or allowed to expire. This matter could have been discussed at Council in a regular meeting on January 28 or at last week's meeting except perhaps the Mayor was too tired after his taxpayer paid trip to Germany.

Instead this Mayor and Council decided to hold a meeting right before the weekend.


Of course, people in Sandwich who might want to build a garage or people who might want to build a house or who might just want to comment on this bylaw but have to work at that time will not be able to do so. It means fewer delegations so that the Council Members don't have to stay around so long and listen to the great unwashed speak.

It is laughable and typical of this non-open and transparent Council. Screw the people on one hand and then demand their support for Greenlink! This is the Mayor who wants support against the Senior Levels and the County from Windsorites and he treats us this way. Why should anyone believe anything that he has to say after this kind of action.

I am disgusted by this action. It is nothing more than an attack on Democracy in Windsor. Unless one looks on the Council website, and it was not posted until late Tuesday, one would not even know about this meeting until it was too late.

That's the point isn't it, not to let anybody know about it until the last minute. Moreover, if it's held on Friday it can't be televised and no one will see how the Mayor is attacked for this ridiculous bylaw.

I called to City Hall on Tuesday afternoon when I found out about this meeting to try and get a copy of the Administration Report so that I could take a look at it. I expect it to be very, very thick because a whole year's worth of work has been done and an explanation will have to be given why more time is needed. The report was not available because it had not been signed off yet. Can you imagine, they had months to draft a report and it has not yet been signed off in the last minute.

Why give anybody any time to look at it? In that way someone might actually have time to prepare an argument against what the City wants to do. Heaven forbid.

There's no point in me ranting about it. It is typical of this Mayor and this Council. I have never seen anything like it and unfortunately we're stuck with them for three more years. Time soon to start a petition to demand that the Premier give us the right of recall as an offset of giving these people in extra year in office.

Windsor's only hope is that a few of the Councillors may decide they can't stomach this any longer and that they ask that this matter be deferred until the regular Council meeting. If they lose on that, in my opinion their only choice is to walk out and not participate in this disgrace of a meeting.

It will be difficult for them to do that. They will be crucified by their colleagues who remain as grandstanders and giving in to the "enemies" of the City. So be it. I for one will applaud them. And so should you!

WUC Report Whitewash



Special Council meetings Friday at 4 p.m. on interim control bylaws so few can attend. Releasing WUC audit reports to the media at 5 p.m. so that TV news at 6 p.m. will accentuate the positive since the Reporter would not have a chance to read the entire report, be able to analyze it and to report it on the news within the hour.

Now why does Eddie need a team of PR flacks when he knows how to spin the news so well on his own!

Now I don't want to say I told you so but I told you so. It is a whitewash audit at about $2,000 per page. As an example, the auditors identified a key question that caused concern:
  • "Concerns voiced by some Councilors and citizens including:
    􀂃 Fees received by WUC for “capital replacement reserves” were used for general revenue
    and/or operations."
I am still trying to find out where they answered it! I do NOT think they did because it was outside the scope of their mandate.

Of course, there is a smoking gun in all of this that I will describe later. It is a damning indictment of why we are in this mess.

Here is one sample:
  • "Toward the end of 2004 it became apparent from the declining cash position and increase in net debt that even these rate increases were insufficient to stem the cash drain and WUC undertook a review of “rates design”. The process of “rates design” continued for a number of months through 2005 and into 2006 and culminated with the engagement of external consultants to assist in the development of a rates design strategy. In the meantime rates remained unchanged for all of 2005 and 2006. "
I am so glad the auditors "Conducting interviews with senior management and senior accounting staff." Too bad they did not talk to WeACT members! Can you imagine the fee they would have received if they had. It would probably have gone up dramatically given all the issues that WeACT would have raised.

The question is where we go from here. Obviously the Mayor will be happy and so will a few Councillors. However, Councillor Marra now has to do what he promised to do: demand a proper forensic audit if this one proved unsatisfactory. And it did.

Will Councillor Marra do now as he promised? Will any other Councillors have the nerve to support him or will they leave him out there alone to try to destroy his chances to run for mayor? We'll see what are Councilors are made of before this incident is over.

Let's be blunt about it. The Report does not answer the questions that were asked by citizens when this matter first arose. Obviously the Mayor is very fortunate that Dwight and Sandra were his friends at the time when the Section 9 audit was set up. Notwithstanding that the City asked as well for the the much broader section 10 audit, the Ministry chose not to do that. Can you imagine what would have happened had Councillor Halberstadt's Auditor General value for money audit taken place?

I want you to read the Summary of the Findings very carefully. These are the Findings of a financial audit examination and not of a forensic audit investigation. The issues set out are not the ones that the public was concerned about. The issue was never "did the Commission follow generally accepted accounting practices." It was much broader than that and involved political matters as well.

It is no wonder now that the Ministry refused to meet with the citizens of Windsor so that citizens could provide input into what the Terms up Reference were. One should not blame the auditors answering the questions that they were asked. It is just that the Ministry refused to ask the right questions.
  • Summary of Findings

    For the periods ended 2003 to September 30, 2007:
  • 1. The financial analysis and budgeting processes implemented by the City and WUC followed many of the “Recommended Budgeting Practices” (Appendix 8). The analysis including all relevant budgets and capital plans was adequate for the purposes of determining water and sewer rates, the recommended increases in those rates and the financing and billing to support those rates and increases.
  • 2. Capital expenditures by WUC on watermain infrastructure projects for each of the periods ended 2003 to September 30, 2007 exceeded the Watermain Replacement Levy revenues in each of these periods. (Appendix 10).
    3. Sewer surcharge revenues collected by the City were allocated 100% to capital infrastructure replacements and repairs and/or sewer operations.
  • 4. The accounting policies followed by management of the City and WUC as disclosed in their audited external financial statements were in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting policies.
  • 5. The accounting policies and internal financial records of WUC and the City appropriately “track” revenues and expenditures, including capital expenditures, by source for all water and sewer related activities.
  • 6. Expenditures allocated to the Water Treatment and Distribution Division at WUC including the Management Services Agreement expense were reasonable, in accordance with contracts and agreements and supported by invoices or other supporting documentation.
  • 7. The policies and accounting procedures followed by WUC for the period 2003-2006 regarding installation of water meters by third party contractors were deficient in that monthly fixed meter charges may not have been recorded in many instances for the period from the time of installation by the third party contractors to time of sale of the property by the developer. The new policy implemented beginning in 2007 has corrected this deficiency. The potential unrecorded fixed meter charge revenue for the period 2003 to 2006 is not estimated to be significant.
  • As an observation we would comment that the communication strategy to keep ratepayers informed of the state of the water infrastructure and the implications of the water rate decisions was generally ineffective, and indeed contributed to the confusion and misunderstanding of the circumstances faced by WUC and the City.

Finding number two might give some of some comfort because that's what the Mayor said on his white board presentation at Council. No one doubts that the actual expenditure is higher than the water Main Levy brought in. The levy was a top up amount. In order to determine whether it be proper amount of money was spent for water Main replacement, one has to add in capital amount and water Main Levy amount. As I will show subsequently, more was taken in been spent.

With respect to Finding number three, that finding is WRONG based on the BLOG I wrote "August 27, 2007 Where Did The Sewer Surcharge Money Go." If this Finding is wrong, then what else is wrong with this report.

Oh yes, the issue respecting all of those meters for which people were supposedly not charged, Finding number seven deals with those.

The Observation is what got WUC into this mess!

Take a look at these three appendices from the report. When you look at them they cry out that there is a fiasco at Windsor Utilities Cmmission, especially during the time when the Mayor was in charge.


Appendix 17 was just like the Mayor's white board presentation. It shows that the amount spent on the watermain replacements exceeded the levy. Naturally that is the case because the levy was a top up amount only. There is that fatal flaw that the Mayor's presentation also suffered, it did not include the capital amounts.

Here is where the fun is, Appendices 10 and 18.





THESE CHARTS DEMONSTRATE HOW POORLY RUN THE COMMISSION WAS AND WHY WE ARE IN THIS MESS. THIS IS THE SMOKING GUN! THE COMMISSION WAS RUN INTO THE GROUND.

What we see clearly demonstrated was that the total amount of budgetted capital and watermain Levy amounts was not spent on actual replacement. In fact we know now from the letter of Ms De Vries of Enwin/WUC that only $7 million was spent in 2007 although $15 million it looks like was budgetted and there was more than $3 million in levy charges as well.

Take 2005 as an example. $2.886 million of watermain Levy plus $9.5 million of capital budget plus $1.045 million of developer capital but only $7.279 million spent. Where did the other $6 million go?

WHERE DID ALL THE MONEY GO THAT WAS NOT SPENT?

The other Findings frankly are irrelevant to the issues that the people are concerned about.

Some of the items that still need explaining Councillor Marra and for which I expect you to demand a forensic audit include:

  1. What are the facts involving the watermains and costs of replacement and were alternatives to replacement considered. NOT EXAMINED


  2. What are the costs of replacement or repair since they have escalated to over a half a billion dollars NOT EXAMINED


  3. Were numbers picked "out of the air" by the previous WUC Administration or did they exercise sound judgment in what they were doing NOT EXAMINED


  4. Why were rates kept as low they were and not increased to cover capital and operating costs NOT EXAMINED


  5. Why was debt paid off at a time when watermains needed replacement NOT EXAMINED


  6. What role did "politics play in the decision-making NOT EXAMINED


  7. Was water levy money diverted from the capital account to the operating account in violation of the Commissioners' express directions NOT EXAMINED


  8. What is the true financial position of WUC today NOT EXAMINED


  9. Did KPMG spot the diversion and what did they do about it NOT EXAMINED


  10. Do the WUC Financials have to be restated NOT EXAMINED


  11. The Investigator must name names and tell us who should be praised and who ought to be condemned NOT EXAMINED


  12. Has there been an attempt made to "cover-up" this matter and to attempt to fool citizens. If so, who was involved NOT EXAMINED

  13. Did the WUC Commissioners carry out their function in a proper fashion both with respect to oversight of the WUC and with respect to the issues now causing such concern in the City NOT EXAMINED

  14. Did the Windsor Audit Committee carry out their functions in a proper fashion when the WUC fiasco became public NOT EXAMINED

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where's The Schnitzel



video



Just a few quick thoughts after listening to the Council meeting last night, reading the Windsor Star and listening to the radio.

UP THE HIGHWAY 401

A reader sent me this funny note this morning:

  • "Whoops, wait a minute. Where is the press release on all these jobs he brought back from Germany?

    Or is he hiding the schnitzel again?"

I'm surprised, no shocked, that so far there is not one word about the Mayor's trip to Germany and all the jobs that he brought back. A trip to Europe is not inexpensive so one would have expected to see some kind of report about what the Mayor accomplished.

I have to tell you that I'm a little bit suspicious about what Eddie was really doing in Germany. Don't you find it odd that Sam is talking about the German magazines as well

  • "The GreenLink project has garnered international attention, added Schwartz, who has been interviewed by media as far as Germany.

    "A German magazine is covering this; they are very interested in this"

Do you think that Sam was over in Germany with Eddie? If so why? Was Eddie's real purpose in going over to Germany to see if he could get financing for the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel or for the Windsor Utilities Commission or for Enwin or for Greenlink from a big European investor? Wasn't Federica Nazzani also involved in helping to price the Detroit side of the Tunnel.

Compare our Mayor's job announcement with that of the Mayor of London. Go to the BLOG of Chris Schnurr and get ready to cry: "Blog Extra - London to attract up to 1,000 jobs" http://chrisschnurr.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/blog-extra-london-to-attract-up-1000-jobs/

THE MPP'S LETTER TO THE MAYOR

Here it is for you to see. Why is Eddie so mad? It was sent to him but ccd to the other Mayors. Did they get originals or should they feel slighted:

  • Jan. 21, 2007

    Mayor Eddie Francis
    350 City Hall Square West
    P.O. Box 1607
    Windsor, ON
    N9A 6S1

    Dear Mayor Francis,

    The Detroit River International Crossing will be announcing its final recommendations for a new access route this spring.

    Given that the proposed route will be situated across several municipalities, we are proposing that the elected leaders of these jurisdictions meet to discuss how the process will unfold.

    Specifically we are proposing that a meeting be held Saturday, Jan. 26 involving the mayors of Windsor, Tecumseh, LaSalle, Lakeshore and the Warden of Essex County.

    A location for the meeting will be determined this week.

    If you are unable to attend, please send an elected alternate to speak on your behalf.

    Our mutual interests in seeing progress on border infrastructure solutions for the Windsor-Essex region will be accelerated through consensus and a collective approach. Timely border infrastructure improvements are vital if we want to ensure prosperous local communities in the years to come.

    Please confirm your attendance by contacting [NAME] in Dwight Duncan’s constituency office.

    Sincerely,

    Cc: Mayor McNamara, Town of Tecumseh
    Mayor Baxter, Town of LaSalle
    Mayor Bain, Municipality of Lakeshore
    Warden Santos, Essex County Council

Here is something else to consider. Eddie is making a big fuss as described on CKLW that

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis says he get his invite more than an hour after the media was alerted. Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Dwight Duncan's office tells AM 800 News that they sent Francis his invite more than half-an-hour before the media release."

Here is what I would ask: what time did Eddie's office get the invite, not when did Eddie first see it! You have to listen carefully and get the facts before you think Eddie was slighted.

DID EDDIE REALLY SAY THIS

I truly cannot believe that this is the reason why shippers should deal with Windsor's intermodal hub. Does the Mayor understand the consequences of what he said!

  • "Windsor’s location offers a huge advantage for such a warehouse operation because it is so close to the U.S. border. Food-related products destined for the U.S. from Europe or the Middle East have increasingly been subject to an intense security screening at U.S. airports, Francis said.

    “It becomes more cost-effective for them to ship to Windsor, take the goods off the airplane, put them on a truck and take them across the border."

WOULD YOU FINANCE EDDIE'S TUNNEL DREAM

I know that private equity money looks to the long-term but would you finance the US $75 million deal for our Mayor? It's bad enough that the Tunnel is losing market share and volume but now it's going to get even worse since the Tunnel is going to lose a good chunk of its truck revenues for about a year because of construction:

  • "With Dougall's connection with Highway 401 soon to shut down, access to the city's core area and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel from the highway will become even more difficult...

    Palanacki suggested the only access to the tunnel or downtown from 401 will be via Huron Church Road, doubling back on eastbound E.C. Row Expressway."

LAST OF THE BIG-TIME SPENDERS

Didn't Sandra say in a recent speech that the cost of the DRIC road is 10 times more than any other comparable road in Ontario? And wasn't the number of $1.6 billion on the City's Greenlink site 2007 dollars meaning that the actual cost of the Greenlink road when started would be much higher than that?

Where I come from, $1.6 billion is not "cheap." I do not believe that Eddie is scoring any points by keeping on repeating that word. All he is doing is angering taxpayers who have to put up that cash.

The Senior Levels already know that Eddie is playing with numbers and I'm sure they don't appreciate it. I would certainly expect that the Minister of Finance certainly doesn't appreciate what the Mayor is saying when he sits at the Cabinet table to try and convince his colleagues to put in the money for Windsor.

There is no gratitude from this Mayor, just demands of more, more, more. And it shows as everybody but Windsor gets Government grants.

REFERENDUM

Oh no. Say it can't be so. Please don't tell me that we are going to have a referendum on Greenlink. Councillor Lewenza dropped that hint at the Council meeting on Monday. Is this Eddie's way to try and pressure the Senior Levels by getting the population on side?

Here's the problem for him however. He and Sam have already claimed that about 99% of the population is in favor of Greenlink based on their scientific survey ie the calls to 311 and surveys completed at the Ward meetings. If the referendum is held and the vote is less than 99% then it is a loss for the Mayor because it means that people have moved away from their overwhelming support of the project.

Will He Or Won't He





Show up that is.

It looks like the Liberal MPP's in the area have had enough of the fight between the Provincial and Municipal governments and the fight between the City of Windsor and the County Governments.

Apparently, a letter has been sent to the various Mayors inviting them for a meeting to discuss the border issue. The question that everybody has on their mind is whether the Mayor of Windsor will show up or whether he will snub the meeting as he has done before.

In my opinion, Eddie has no choice but to show up. He would not dare do otherwise. He does not have the nerve to snub it especially after the brouhaha with the Minister of Finance. Eddie has to hit back at Spanky; that is his nature. He has to prove that he is always right. However, this time, Eddie had better watch himself. I am sure that polling has been done and Dwight knows Eddie's weaknesses. He is not afraid of a lame-duck Mayor.

If he does not go, the Province and certain County Governments (along with some corporate interests who Councillor Lewenza has said have been "bought" although by whom he did not say) will ram a solution down the throat of the City of Windsor. That obviously would lead to litigation but I don't believe that Eddie has the stomach for it nor would Windsorites tolerate it.

Accordingly, what better way for Eddie to be our hero than to attend the meeting and to persuade everyone else there to follow what he wants to do. That would be a dream come true for him would it not. Of course that would never happen and the meeting will end up in a shambles. Even if it all falls apart, Eddie could claim that he is standing up for Windsor as our hero.

It is a no lose for him EXCEPT does he have the nerve to sit in a meeting in which everybody attacks him for his stalling, delay and his ridiculous Greenlink solution. He is not one to take criticism well and it would not surprise me to see him walk out of the meeting in a stage-managed fit of anger. Now that is drama and showmanship. Attending and snubbing at the same time. Brilliant

Never fear, Councillor Lewenza dropped a hint at the Windsor Council meeting that perhaps the City will waste some more money and stage a referendum to show that the citizens are behind Council and Greenlink. As if the Provincial and Federal Governments care.

The Referendum would be used as another stall tactic by the City to delay a resolution on the border road.

There is no doubt that the Mayor and Council have been negatively impacted by the vicious public outcry against their inaction. Poor Councillor Lewenza. There he was standing up for the Mayor and all the Mayor could do is pull out the rulebook, the Procedural Bylaw, and make him look like a fool. Sigh, will Junior never learn. How many times must the Mayor cut him off when making a statment before Kennie understands that Eddie uses him merely as a pit-bull to say the statements that Eddie wants to say but does not. Ken looks like the scolded kindergarten student; Eddie is the teacher as he makes him wear the Dunce cap.

Is Eddie's new Plan nothing more than to demonstrate that Eddie is the obstructionist in the region so that the public will be supportive when the Province and the Feds impose a solution on Windsor.

Eddie and Sam are playing the obstructionsit role to the hilt too already in advance of the meeting
  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis signalled Monday he won't enter the room meekly.

    "If this is an attempt to get the mayor into a room, beat up on the City of Windsor and try to get us to change our position in regards to trucks on E.C. Row (expressway), our position is not going to change," Francis said...

    "I've been on this far too long to understand this is deja vu, predictable," Francis said. "My first question (Saturday) is why do you continue to advocate for a cheap solution when you can achieve a better solution?"

Yes, Mayor, we have all been on this "far too long" because of you. As for Sam, consultants should be seen and not heard:

  • "Let's make sure the elected officials are on line and let's make sure this doesn't fall to the wayside to a mega-billion-dollar project in some other part of Canada. So, it's really important to dig our heels in. To quote Abraham Lincoln, 'Right makes might,' and we're right."

As you can see, Eddie wants to be painted as a problem. How can the meeting be fruitful with this attitude?

Do you know what, that's what Eddie needs desperately... that's his way out isn't it. I guess he must be sweating because it is taking the Province too long to impose a solution and the length of the delay makes him look more foolish in the eyes of Windsorites.

Perhaps, Sam can go along with Eddie since I do not believe that all the County governments and the Minister of Finance have seen his presentation. I assume that the Rotary luncheon was nothing more than a dress rehearsal for that session and to build up momentum.

But really why bother doing one? Sam has told us what has to be done. After all, he's "writing the guidebook here in Windsor on sustainable highways." And who can argue with that.

Ross Paul's Swan Song


It appears that the esteemed President of the University of Windsor is not only an educator and administrator but a singer and satirist as well. On Saturday night, according to the Star, he "sang Nightmare Song, from [Gilbert & Sullivan's] Iolanthe." He even created the lyrics to the music as well. His version is set out below.

One definition that I saw stated that satire is "A way of criticising someone, an idea or an institution, in which humour is used to show faults or weaknesses."

What does the President's little ditty mean? Why I could just hear the Professor in English 101 at the University discussing this song with his/her students:

  • "Now class," the Professor would say, "this song was written just before the vote was taken on the Engineering Complex. I would like you to write an essay of not more than two pages setting out what you believe the President meant by this song.

    Was he having fun at his own expense for example and letting the audience in on it? Or, was he under intense pressure? Was he slamming the Mayor who was forcing him to jeopardize the position of the University for his own political objectives?

    Now remember in framing your answer, I want you to consider the following as Wikipedia says:

    "Gilbert had targeted the aristocracy for satiric treatment before, but in this "fairy opera," the House of Lords is lampooned as a bastion of the ineffective, privileged and dim-witted. The political party system and other institutions also come in for a dose of satire. It is a Among many potshots that Gilbert takes at lawyers in this opera, the Lord Chancellor sings that he will "work on a new and original plan.." Throughout Iolanthe, however, both author and composer managed to couch the criticism among such bouncy, amiable absurdities that it is all received as good humour."

I know what I would write if I attended that English class. I would expect to get an A+ as well as my grade. What about you, dear reader? Since the term of the President is just about over, was he lampooning the ineffective, privileged, and dimwitted in this City? Was he telling his fellow Board members how to vote but in a way that it could not rebound against him? What do you think after reading what the good President had to sing?

PS. Oh by the way, the President is absolutely serious about this song. It was part of the package that was sent out to Board members I was told. I wonder what they will make of it too.

  • Ballad: A Nightmare
    (Modified from W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan's Iolanthe)

    Work, incompleted, robs me of my rest
    Work, honest work, my ardent soul encumbers
    Work, nightmare like, lies heavy on my chest
    And weaves itself into my midnight slumber...

    When you're lying awake with a dismal headache, and repose is taboo'd by anxiety,
    I conceive you may use any language you choose to indulge in without impropriety;

    For your brain is on fire - the bedclothes conspire of usual slumber to plunder you:
    First your counterpane goes and uncovers your toes, and your sheet slips demurely from, under you;

    Then the blanketing tickles - you feel like mixed pickles, so terribly sharp is the pricking, And you're hot, and you're cross, and you tumble and toss till there's nothing 'twixt you and the ticking.

    Then the bedclothes all creep to the ground in a heap, and you pick 'em all up in a tangle; Next your pillow resigns and politely declines to remain at its usual angle!

    Well, you get some repose in the form of a doze, with hot eyeballs and head ever aching,
    But your slumbering teems with such horrible dreams that you'd very much better be waking;

    For you dream you're perusing a Windsor Star bruising with rumours that everyone's hearing
    That what's new at the U is all about you and your plans to screw engineering

    And you're giving a treat of TBQ meat to a party of plotters and schemers
    They're a ravenous horde - and they drag you on board one of Paul Martin's passing tramp steamers

    And bound on that journey you find your attorney (who started that morning from Chatham);
    He's a bit undersized, and you don't feel surprised when be tells you he's only an Atom.

    Well, you're driving like mad with this singular lad (by the bye the ship's now a four-wheeler),
    At Casino games, where he calls you bad names when you tell him that "ties pay the dealer";

    But this you can't stand, so you throw up your hand, and you find you're as cold as an icicle,
    In your shirt and your jocks (Lancer blue and gold socks), crossing Jackson Park by bicycle:

    And he and the crew are on bicycles too - which they've somehow or other invested in
    -And he's telling the tars all the particuLARS of a company he's interested in -

    It's a new border crossing, and there's none of the glossing o'er all the resistance he's facing
    Tunnel or bridge, furnace or fridge, the Mayor, he never stops pacing.

    They take you downtown and try you to drown in the gorge of a swirling Eddy
    But you stand up and fight and think you're all right 'til they call you J. Francis Leddy.

    But then you absolve to hold your resolve and stand up to every faction
    But when you refuse their downtown to choose, they take a Strosberg class action.

    The shares are a penny, and ever so many are taken by the family Toldo
    And just as a few are allotted to you, you awake feeling so very old... ohhhhhhhhhhh...

    You're a regular wreck, with a crick in your neck, and no wonder you snore, for your head's on the floor, and you've needles and pins from your soles to your shins, and your flesh is a-creep, for your left leg's asleep, and you've cramp in your toes, and a fly on your nose, and some fluff in your lung, and a feverish tongue, and a thirst that's intense, and a general sense that you haven't been sleeping in clover

    But the darkness has passed, and it's daylight at last, and the night has been long - ditto, ditto my song - and thank goodness they're both of them over!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Road Warriors




All of this hand-wringing about Manning Road. Fingers being pointed at who is responsible and who is doing what and what political favours are being paid. It is all very funny don't you think.

I keep talking about the amnesia disease at City Hall but it is clear that the Medical Officer of Health needs to do a thorough investigation and if necessary cleanse the building from what is causing this pandemic.

The issue with respect to international trucks on EC Row has to do with DRTP and everyone including the Mayor knows it. The concern about the use of the Expressway was that it would lead first to the building of the DRTP North and then would create a demand for the building of DRTP South.

The issue now with respect to the use of the Expressway as the main corridor to the Ambassador Bridge is a phony one since it is very clear that the DRIC road continues a history of using that corridor as the route to the Ambassador Bridge since 1929. It is absolutely impossible for DRIC to now reverse itself and use the Expressway as the main road since it would mean restarting the entire Environmental Assessment process. That road has never been considered by DRIC as the border road. Of course, I expect that the Expressway will be used as the redundant road to the bridge once the Province uploads it and upgrades it to 8-10 lanes.

One very important note just in passing. It is now absolutely clear as I have suggested before that the road condition of the Expressway is very serious and requires immediate maintenance befoer something could happen. Remember I had asked the question why certain parts of the Expressway were being asphalted. I wondered whether there was a concern that ice freezing and thawing cycles over the winter could cause severe damage at certain overpasses.

I believe I am right. The City is looking for money from the Province for bridge rehabilitation on the Expressway. Administration's comment to justify the request is frightening:
  • "deteriorated structural condition of these bridges makes this a high priority in terms of public safety...value for money is high"

Is EC Row safe or isn't it?

In my opinion it is disingenuous to use timing and sequencing as a justification for preventing the building of Manning Road. If it is the City's position that Montréal-to-Tijuana international trucks should never used the Expressway, then why does Eddie say that Manning can be built after Greenlink is built. Isn't there a real risk that half of the so-called 30,000 trucks that Eddie keeps talking about would use EC Row to the disadvantage of residents? That volume is significantly higher than the total volume today. [Where Eddie gets that 30,000 number from, I have no idea. The total volume todays is less than half of that]

That is why it was necessary to defer Agenda Items #5 & #6 from the previous meeting on the roads since those items were the recommendation of Administration to do an EA on Lauzon. If that was done, then obviously the City would be advocating that international trucks use the Expressway, a position that Eddie is not prepared to concede at this time.

Let's be real about who is responsible for what is going on. It is the Mayor and Sam Schwartz. They were the ones who added in Manning Road and Lauzon Parkway to the first Schwartz Report. It was not necessary to do so but the Mayor did it for political reasons as he said on Face-to-Face to get the County on-side. The County politicians outsmarted him, pure and simple. His decision has turned around and bit him in the you know where and he doesn't like it. He is trying desperately to divert our attention away from his mistake.

His historical revision about road construction phases is not justified by Sam's Report either as he well knows. With the Cansult destruction of the Horseshoe Road, Sam's phasing went out the window. Moreover Sam's first report has long been rejected as the City's position. How then can Eddie hold the County to a Resolution the basis of which has disappeared? In addition, as I wrote recently, when one looks at what Sam said and at his five phases, the building of Manning Road came before the completion of the road between Highway 401 to the border. In other words it came before Greenlink.

No matter how many times Eddie pretends to set out what the position is, it is not correct in my opinion. I'm tired of him refusing to take the blame for his mistakes.

But this whole matter that is causing such a controversy is not about highways and roads and expressways. We need some honesty here. It's all about money....for the Tunnel and for future development opportunities such as construction of an Intermodal hub. That was exemplified by the Mayor running to Germany. Where will that hub be located, in Windsor at the airport or just off of Manning Road in Tecumseh?

The Manning Road discussion is nothing more than a diversion. The County politicians thought that they would try to make a go of it in the event that they could outmanoeuver the City of Windsor. The Province has no desire to build on Manning no matter what Dwight says. Their preferred corridor is in fact Lauzon. If you want proof of that just go to the Report that started all of this, the Joint Management Committee Report back in 2002, and try and find a recommendation with respect to Manning Road.

The building of Manning was opened up by the Mayor for his short-term political purposes and now the Province is using it to try to pressure the Mayor to build Lauzon. The Mayor has no choice but to do so if he wants his airport hub to ever be built.

But there is more to this than meets the eye as well. On the agenda on Monday will be the issues re trucks on Dougall Avenue and on Wyandotte. However, it is the add-on about trucks on McDougall that gives it all away.

In effect, trucks have to remain on McDougall since it houses the Customs facility for secondary inspection for trucks that use the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. The City owns that facility and would lose revenue if it was no longer used.

The report goes on to say that there really is no other good alternative route to the Tunnel other than McDougall. If McDougall is closed and the other roads are not appropriate then obviously trucks will not go to the Tunnel. The Tunnel does not get a lot of trucks but the tolls that they pay make up a very significant part of the revenues of the Tunnel. The Tunnel is in such a horrible financial position that they cannot afford to lose that revenue.

How will the trucks get to the Tunnel? One way is to go north on Dougall. Another way is to go on Wyandotte. Do you see what I'm getting at? Councillor Dilkens cannot get what he wants. It is all to do with money and not the needs of residents. I find this rather strange since they City has always taken the position publicly that the Tunnel is viewed as a "public utility" and not as a commercial operation that produces revenue like a crossing owned by a private operator.

The real question to be answered is how do you keep international trucks on the road to the bridge and off City streets. The obvious answer is to make the border road attractive to them so they will NOT want to seek an alternative route, something that we have been trying to do here for 5 years and who knows how much more while our Mayor stalls. Fix the border road and that fixes the local streets issue.

That's what I like about Windsor. Even the simplest of matters is so tied up with politics and hidden agendas and disagreements between Administration and Council and politicians at all levels that it is no wonder that nothing gets done.