Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Art Of The BORDER War



video

I am certain that the military treatise of Sun Tzu will soon appear on the Mayor's Book of the Moment Club for reading by all loyal sycophants and cheerleaders.

There is no doubt in my mind that this book is on his bedside even now and that he reads it every night. In fact, as seems to be typical with the books that the Mayor likes, he has probably read it several times already. How else to explain the military talk with respect to the advertising blitz that has taken place previously and will take place again. How else to explain the reference to the "enemies" and the new enemy, "the County."

I am certain that Sun Tzu said, and if he did not he should have, that a micromanager Generalissimo like our Mayor should control his troops and know what they are doing at every moment. If not, then one of the loyal soldiers who thought that what he/she was doing to win the war in fact could mean disaster right when the war starts.

Unfortunately, that is what happened last Monday night at Council. The worst part about it is that the Generalissimo allowed it to happen and sat in the Mayor's Chair as his position was being undercut and did nothing.

I see that after my BLOG was posted, the Star reposted online the Gignac vs. Duncan story and now it is in print. How could Eddie ever have allowed the Gignac outburst to happen? How could he allow Councillor Gignac to take a shot at Minister Duncan? He gave Sandra and Dwight the "out" that they needed NOT to be involved. He totally lost his bargaining position against them.

For one small seeming victory in an insignificant battle, Councillor Gignac may have cost Eddie Francis and the citizens of Windsor the war. Because of her effort, Council will send another letter to the Minister of Finance re the Kentucky Coffee Tree Grove and Hackberry Grove. The result of this is going to be the same as far as the Minister is concerned. But more importantly she raised a ruckus about something that few people would have known about or understood and now has made a major issue out of it.

Take a look at the letter that the Minister sent to the City's Deputy Clerk. The Minister dare not intervene, he says, for fear of breaching the Members' Integrity Act. This Act is a real concern as Sandra Pupatello found out a number of years ago in the case involving her helping a friend ship out a number of boxes overseas. A complaint was filed against her under this same statute.



To be direct, I believe that the same issue arises for Sandra and Dwight if they dare intervene on the City's behalf with respect to the border road. It may well be now that the Windsor Star Editors and Gord Henderson will have to back off lashing out at them because of the Statute. Legally, they may not be able to do a thing even though I'm sure that they would want to help out their fellow citizens!

On the one hand they are a powerful resource to help out their City as we saw with the huge grant with respect to the Engineering Complex and yet on the other hand, they may not be up to doing a thing for us in matters that are crucial because of Legislation. What a dilemma. If only Councillor Gignac had left well enough alone and Eddie had ruled her out of order when she raised the issue at Council.

I wonder if this is the reason why Sandra and Dwight refused to meet with Eddie before or after the MPPs/Mayors' meeting. They were afraid that they would violate the provisions of the Act so that what they might be perceived as doing was influence peddling.

Here are the relevant provisions of the Act:

  • Influence

    4. A member of the Assembly shall not use his or her office to seek to influence a decision made or to be made by another person so as to further the member's private interest or improperly to further another person's private interest.

    Activities on behalf of constituents

    5. This Act does not prohibit the activities in which members of the Assembly normally engage on behalf of constituents in accordance with Ontario parliamentary convention.

Remember, the Mayor is not only the Mayor of Windsor but he is also the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission. When the Mayor is dealing with the border, which hat is he wearing? Are his interests at the time he is talking with the two Ministers public or private? He is putting them in an impossible position.

Is Eddie acting as a proponent in the DRIC matter even if he is acting as Mayor and is acting in what he perceives to be the public interest? The definition of "private interest" in the Act is a strange one:

  • "private interest" does not include an interest in a decision,

    (a) that is of general application"

Do Eddie's actions fall within this provision or don't they?

If Councillor Gignac had never raised this matter, then probably no one would have been the wiser. But she did raise it and everyone can now see Dwight's letter and what his position is. Where before, Eddie and the two Ministers might have been able to work out an understanding that would not breach the Statute, now the two Ministers and any other Minister in the Government must be very careful what they do when the Mayor approaches them.

After talking with Eddie, can Sandra and Dwight lobby on behalf of Windsor with the Minister of Transportation or is that crossing the line since it is his file and not theirs? Isn't that the reason why he came down to Windsor for the big meeting? I'm sure that you remember the Dwight/David Caplan Gong Show involving $500 million a few years ago. Caplan is the Infrastructure Minister. Now that Dwight is Minister of Finance, how can Minister Caplan go and speak to him about money for Windsor? Can any Minister talk to the Premier since ultimately he has to make the decision? Heck, can Sandra even talk to Dwight? Who can talk to whom. This is ridiculous.

What a mess this has now become. If only the Generalissimo had micromanaged this matter as he normally does. If only he had heeded the advice of Sun Tzu who said in respect of laying plans:

  • 1. The art of war is of vital importance to the State.

    2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected."

DUH, even at that time roads were important!

In Eddie's video on the Star website, there was the following exchange:

  • "Reporter: Is it just Council on Saturday or are you going to invite the MPPs?

    Francis: Right now it is Council but I am thinking, and I will, follow up with another letter. Last time we met with the Ministers of Provincial Parliament and the Members of Provincial Parliament, we did ask for a meeting prior to our meeting following that County meeting, for a meeting with Council and the response was no. So we will follow up again and to see whether or not they are available for a meeting this week and we will have the City Clerk send a letter out requesting their availability for a meeting for this Saturday and we will see what the response is.

Based on the Duncan letter and the Members' Integrity Act, Eddie should have saved taxpayer money on buying stamps. They cannot attend! As they told him:

  • "Local MPPs Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello sent a letter Thursday turning down an invitation to the Saturday meeting, citing the Members' Integrity Act, which they say prohibits them from commenting "on specifics of any proposal for a new border access road, including GreenLink, before a final recommendation is selected by (DRIC)."

15,000 Jobs At Risk In Windsor Poker Pot



[Groan] Now Henderson has to bring in his Italian in-laws in order to justify building Greenlink. I do not why he had to wait so long to do so. After all, his son returned from Italy last September/October it seems and Sam's presentation was October 9, 2007.

Amazing, what did Gord and his son talk about when the eldest son returned from overseas...his in-laws, the ambiance of Italy, the cities and sites visited? NOPE. They talked about the Autostrada and how "It's everything the 401 isn't. It makes the 401 look like a goat trail. Something from the Third World."

I can hardly wait to be invited to see a slideshow of the highlights of his trip: rest stops with clean washrooms and coffee machines, an Autogrill service centre with real meals, fresh baked goods, wines and picnic supplies, and tunnels with cows on top (isn't his son aware of the bovine flatulence issue!).

And in another column, after he has slammed everyone on the border and at the University for weeks and months, he has the nerve to say:

  • "Windsor is replacing longtime Windsorites with eager newcomers, many of them drawn by our relatively cheap housing.

    That could be a beneficial exchange, provided Windsor can produce large numbers of jobs to replace those that are pulling out. But what if we can't? What if the only work we can provide involves ministering to the needs of a massive, fast-aging boomer population? Given the social consequences, we better hope that there's more than changing diapers in Windsor's future.

I'm not sure that I appreciate that the Mayor is gambling with Windsor's future. How else can I explain what is going on with the border file. It is nothing more than a high stakes game of poker, as I shall describe the way I see it, and Windsor's hand is very weak. It's a winner take all except the odds are stacked against us when our Senior Level opposition has unlimited constitutional and financial power compared with a municipality. And when we depend on them for grants for huge deals.

This whole controversy with the Greenlink/DRIC roads has me so mystified. There really doesn't seem to be a significant difference between the concepts except for a few Schwunnels here or there. I would have thought that reasonable parties could sit down and negotiate away the differences to come up with a solution after all of this time. Instead, Manning Road is our new excuse for not negotiating a deal and declaring another war, this time on the County. This is added on to be war against the Senior Levels and the war against the Ambassador Bridge Company in both Canada and the United States.

How many more advertising blitzes do taxpayers have to pay for? Whatever happened with the results of the last advertising extravaganza? It looks like we have another two month border stall as new full-page ads are created for the Star, billboards put up and media ads on CKLW purchased. No wonder the media is so pleased and is prepared to strap W's all over their bodies.

Here is why I think that Eddie may be skating on thin ice, World Junior Hockey Championships or not. How long does anyone believe that the Senior Levels are going to stay in Windsor with all the abuse that they're getting from the Mayor and Council? When are they going to pull out and tell Windsor to call them when it finally figures out what it wants to do? Didn't this happen in the past when it was the City of Windsor who blocked the construction of Highway 401 to the border. That has got us into this mess in the first place with the traffic on Huron Church Road!

Doesn't Eddie realize that the Federal Conservatives' priority is the Asian Gateway in British Columbia? I'm not so sure with the Federal surplus reducing that the Federal Government is going to be all that concerned about pouring money into an NDP area where they have no hope of winning a seat when that infrastructure cash can be used for other places, say like the Greater Toronto Area, where there are seats to be won. Unless the Government comes up with money for Ford, it would seem that the Conservatives do not care about our area and even Jeff Watson is expendable.

How much abuse does Eddie think that Sandra and Dwight are going to take from him, his pitbull and Gord Henderson and the Windsor Star? Dwight has already given us a signal loud and clear with this statement "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG." that he has had enough. Heck, he is only the Minister of Finance. Interestingly as well, he is talking about jobs being at stake. What a nice way to pin the blame on the Mayor if everything collapses. Let Eddie take the heat as Dwight and Sandra go off into the sunset complaining that Eddie killed this magnificent opportunity for their hometown.

The consequences to Windsor are absolutely drastic. If Eddie gambles incorrectly, we are risking the loss of 10-15,000 high-paying infrastructure and spinoff jobs in this area. There is no doubt in my mind that if we do not get these jobs, and get these jobs quickly, that our City will be in terrible shape for a generation or more. These jobs are crucial if we are to transition ourselves from the automotive base that has given us so much success in the past into whatever it is that our new economy will become. These jobs provide the interim financial security for people in this City and is the only way that we will reduce our unemployment rate.

You want to know the difference is between high growth and low growth in this area:

  • "Assumes that Windsor's role as an economic centre and international economic gateway is significantly strengthened."

In 2026, the low growth employment figure is 125,220 while the high growth employment figure is 162,520. That is quite a difference isn't it! It is the difference between housing prices collapsing, mortgages being foreclosed, more people leaving the City and prosperity.

Those figures came from a planning study undertaken for the Official Plan Review in January of this year. What it says to me is that if this region wants to get thousands of new jobs for our new economy, then we better get this border finished already. We can hardly be an economic center and international economic gateway with the road system and bridge system that we have in place now! It tells me that, as I have argued before, this City can prosper because of our geographic location if only our political leaders have the sense to recognize it.

AND ACT NOW ALREADY!

I was sent an e-mail over the weekend by friend of mine who described to me a container ship that was built to transport goods from China to North America. It points out clearly how important logistics and warehousing will be in the future and how Windsor can take advantage given its location. That ship with a crew of 13 can bring over 15,000 containers of goods made in China! The goods arrive on that ship several days before the typical container ship. It means that the cost of transportation for a product manufactured in China is virtually nothing.

What are we doing as an example to become the western terminus of the H20 highway so that every ship that goes through the St. Lawrence system with goods for the US Midwest offloads in Windsor? Are we improving our border so that Windsor becomes the main distribution point for goods coming through and going to the southern United States? We have an important function to play even with goods coming from Asia since even if those containers are shipped by rail they still need to be offloaded somewhere before they hit their final landing spot.

Michigan Senator Cropsey's remarks are also very troubling. Doesn't Eddie understand that the US (and the Senior Levels) may decide that there is no need for new bridge at this time. The Michigan Senate would love to kill DRIC and the likelihood of them agreeing to build a DRIC bridge and duplicate facilities costing several hundred million dollars which they have spent at the Ambassador Gateway is minimal. If Michigan says no, then what will the Senior Levels do? If Michigan pulls out, then why would Canada and Ontario stay in? Let the Ambassador Bridge Company build their bridge for smooth crossing with the extra lanes added and then it is Windsor's problem how traffic gets to it.

I can see the Senior Levels making a decision very soon, especially since they're having a new traffic study undertaken by outside consultants, to leave the City taking their money with them and blaming it on the Mayor and Council. The excuse obviously will be traffic volume reduction.

What will the Mayor say then... he won!

There is something going on between the City and the Senior Levels that we have not been let in on. Greenlink is nothing more than the excuse that is being used by the City to use as leverage against the Senior Levels. In other words, Eddie is bluffing by using Greenlink as his way to put pressure on, or so he thinks. It is his way he believes to win the big poker pot.

Consider this remark by the Mayor and tell me that it is not a game of poker:
  • "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."

What is this? Keeping his cards close to his vest? Childish bickering? I won't show you mine unless you show me yours first! We're talking about a multibillion dollar transaction here, not some silly game. The parties really aren't all that far apart as far as the construction goes but they are very far apart as far as money goes as far as I'm concerned. And I don't just mean money for road construction.

I think there is more to this than meets the eye. Let me refer you to something that was said by one of our Councillors sometime ago and that was repeated in a slightly different fashion by a Councillor recently from what I've heard:

  • "As I enunciated in my comments Monday night, the city should seek a much broader border strategy...

    There will be little money left over from a total tunnel project for other infrastructure work. This is something that is not commented on enough regarding the border. Creation of this new 401 extension to a new bridge will have massive secondary and tertiary effects on city infrastructure. Traffic patterns will change, how local streets tie into the new highway will change, where storm water run-off ends up will change, even the viability of existing and proposed residential and commercial areas will change.

    The DRIC will try to chart these effects, but they will be focused primarily on getting the route and new bridge done.

    The city needs to pursue its own assessment of the ripple effects on local roads, and demand compensation to improve connecting roadways."
That's it isn't it, compensation for roads. Eddie could not care less where the roads are built. After all, he's not really opposed to Manning Road and upgrading EC Row. It is all timing and sequencing as far as he's concerned, not international trucks on our Expressway.

And if you want more, here is some language from from Eddie's Senate Testimony where it is clear that he is desperate to keep control over municipal roads. If Brian Masse had done his job, then Bill C-3 would not have destroyed Eddie's position. Pay us to be the host of international trucks is the cry:
  • "Of all Canadian municipalities, Windsor and its citizens are most uniquely affected by the situation of the border and border issues. In no other jurisdiction does local traffic co-exist and mix with international traffic in residential neighbourhoods or on city streets. This is an illustration of life in Windsor.

    This slide shows the primary corridor to the Ambassador Bridge, some 12 kilometres away from Highway 401. For traffic to cross the international crossing, they must pass through a local community. They mix with residential traffic, neighbourhoods, communities and businesses. The next slide is a photo or local traffic mixing with international traffic at an intersection...

    It is a concern that we raise with you, but it has historically been recognized by Parliament. Parliament has recognized that the City of Windsor is entitled to require its consent to be obtained in the establishment or modification of border crossings through the city...

    Windsor accepts the responsibility of hosting the world's international border crossing. We accept that responsibility; it is a responsibility that we have lived with for some time. However, I view the border in the city of Windsor and Detroit as a critical supply chain to this country's economy -- a critical supply chain that extends far well beyond our corridor, connecting us all the way down to Laredo, Texas; connecting us with the ports on the West Coast; and connecting us with the shipping lanes in Asia...

    There is one question you asked earlier in terms of consulting. If they consult with us, we may not get what we want; we are not asking for that. However, I do not want to leave this in terms of being not as clear as I can be. Consulting with the city is also reflecting the precedent that has been set by case law and has been set by earlier acts. Those consultations do not and should not give the minister of any day the authority to make decisions outside the scope of his or her jurisdiction. Municipal laws and municipal rules and authorities must be continued to be maintained. That is something that has been recognized over the past 80 years. That is our submission. It is one thing to consult and one thing to say that we will talk to you, but included in that consultation is that the municipal jurisdiction under the provincial spheres will be respected as well..."
Eddie wants to exact a price, a big price for that consent, for being the host. How much is our Mayor looking for? Oh how about $1 billion as a starter. You think I'm kidding. How else do you explain the use of the number $2.6 billion by Gord Henderson three times in his column as to the cost of Greenlink? Just an error? I don't think so. Neither he nor his editors are that forgetful that Greenlink was priced at $1.6B. That was the the starting maximum number. Eddie intends to negotiate down from there obviously.

Why else is Eddie waiting for DRIC to reveal their numbers first. He knows that their number is just an approximation since they have not done detailed construction and tendering. That's how Megaprojects are undertaken... based on estimates so that when they go over budget, it is too late to stop because the process has started already. He will force DRIC to increase their costs dramatically once he gets their figures and then his experts will come in with lowball numbers.

Does anybody believe Eddie's $1.6 billion for the Greenlink road. It's a 2007 dollar number and not for the complete road to the border but that has NOT been explained properly to the public who thinks that Greenlink and DRIC costs are the same. Why else the ad blitz but to pressure.

That was just the start of Eddie's bidding. Then he can graciously offer to back off of Greenlink provided that the Senior Levels pay to the City of Windsor the difference betweeen the actual DRIC road cost and Eddie's Greenlink numbers. He hopes to get a few hundred million dollars out of this to help pay for, say upgrading of E C Row as an example or the arena or the new City Hall or airport shovel ready lands or the Junior Hockey Championship guarantee.

Of course, it's not going to happen given the Federal Government's constitutional position and the new Bill C-3 if it was not clear before. How will the Senior Levels dare pay Windsor money and not all other border towns as well? That can never happen.

That is why we are having all these big threats of lawsuits and why Eddie really went to Ottawa. Eddie knows he cannot win but he certainly can stall for years and that would hurt the Canadian and Ontario economies. Stalling and starting lawsuits can cost major cost increases on big construction projects as well so that it might be worthwhile for the the Senior Levels, and the Ambassador Bridge Company, to placate him and hold their noses as they knuckle under.

It seems to me that our Mayor is trying to gamble with the City's future in order to get a few bucks out of the Senior Level Governments. If he was a good negotiator who has a proven track record of structuring good deals and who has not antagonized everyone that he has dealt with, then I might be prepared to support what he tried to do... if only he told Windsorites about it so that we would know what is going on in his mind.

Except he is not a good negotiator. I also believe that he is way out of his league in negotiating any kind of significant deal. He is still in the Jr. A Hockey ranks playing with experienced NHL-types. He is not as good as the cheerleaders and sycophants would have us believe him to be and as I'm sure he believes as well.

The problem Gord chooses to ignore is that our Mayor playing with your future and mine, dear reader, and that of our children. If he wants to gamble, I would prefer that he do so using his own money at Casino Windsor.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Do Oil And Water Mix




Oh dear, here we go again. And make sure you watch the video at the end for my take of what ultimately will happen.

First WUC and now Public Works if the audit is correct. I wonder what is next? Perhaps, for fun, one of the Councillors should demand an audit of the border file. It would include obviously going behind the fees and expenses charged to the City by third parties. That would be a hoot trying to figure out how much was paid to whom for legal fees, consulting fees, travel costs and expenses.

Do we have another WUC-type fiasco in our midst, this time involving vehicles and gasoline rather than watermains and sewers? I started laughing so hard when I saw how the blame for this was being put on a former CAO who's been out of the City now for years. Just like with WUC, blame it on the past, especially where the person is not around to say anything.

When we make a salad, we shake up oil and water together, to get a dressing. Well taxpayers need to shake things up too or we will get a recipe for financial disaster with our oil and water problems. I can hardly wait for citizens to speak at the budget meeting at the end of February if this matter isn't resolved quickly.

Will a number of City employees, especially given the anti-union attitude that they should be feeling right now, have had enough and finally break their silence and act as whistleblowers so that more and more scandals will appear. I would hope so.

This time I hope that Council has the nerve to actually bring in a forensic accountant to examine what is going on in this City before the citizens storm City Hall. If an 86% water increase was not bad enough and if what is being said in the audit report is true, there is no doubt that a full investigation will be necessary, perhaps even including the police.

I trust that the Mayor and Councillors have been reading the Windsor Star Forum. They won't admit it I am sure, just as they won't admit that they read the BLOGs. I'm sure that the attitude will be to tough it out and soon the the citizens will be quiet. It will cause a bit of a kerfuffle and and then that will be the end of it. Just like the Windsor Utilities Commission matter.

Or so they think!

In passing, a little birdie has told me that WeACT has not gone away with the WUC matter and will be taking further action with respect to WUC shortly. The approach taken will be rather startling as well if the information I have is accurate.

I thought you might be interested in reading some of the things that the auditors said about the Fleet Operations Review. To be blunt about it, if what the auditors said is true, heads should roll. But no worries, that won't happen:
  • We identified significant control conditions that in our opinion expose the Corporation to the risk of fraud, waste, abuse, incomplete and inaccurate records, inefficiencies and ineffective operations.

  • From 2005 to 2006 inclusive, the accumulated operating results of the Fleet Division show an excess of expenditures over revenues totalling $5,836,673. In addition, management estimates the operating expenditures will continue to exceed revenues by about $1.5 million per year.

  • The "Tone at the Top" of P. W. Fleet operations is not strong. Operational objectives have not been clearly communicated and there is little structure or control in place.

  • The Fleet Division would be placed in the category of an "Unreliable-Unpredictable" environment where controls are not designed, communicated or monitored.

  • We were unable to find evidence of an ongoing process of identifying, analyzing and mitigating departmental or organizational risk.

  • Management stated that they are unable to identify the reasons that operational expenditures continue to exceed revenues.

  • Management was unable to identify that there have been steps taken or that a plan of action has been created to address the issue of ongoing expenditures over revenues.

  • Monitoring is what managers use "to mind the shop." In all operational areas of Fleet, we observed at that monitoring controls were significantly lacking.

  • The basic controls of an asset management system were not found to be in place.

  • The lack of control results in excessive maintenance and labour costs, and inaccurate system data.

  • To controls over the city's fuel assets are significantly lacking... creates significant opportunity for fraud.

  • For many months, fuel inventory receipts and usage were not recorded or captured in the system.

  • There is little control over the fuel assets in manual sites. Fuelling at these locations occurs on an honour system.

  • Management efforts are concentrated on keeping things going as is, with minimal focus on control, risk and operational improvement.

  • By "treading water," management has has been performing only day to day tasks, which can give the appearance that things are going well when in reality there are inefficiencies, ineffective operations and a lack of adequate and appropriate controls.

I could go on but you get the picture.

Just to be fair Public Works in October, 2007 sent a two-page letter to the City Auditor, as was disclosed in the Audit Report, in which it stated that

  • "many of the findings are vague and the recommendations are equally vague. Many statements in the report are incorrect, incomplete and require revision."

There is a major difference of opinion in this letter whereby the Department claims that instead of a deficit of almost $6 million, they in fact have a surplus of $91,298 over the three-year period. That is such a dramatic difference that this in itself should result in the hiring of a forensic accountant to find that what is going on. It may well be that we need a new audit department rather than changes in Public Works. Could they be that incompetent?

There is a very interesting comment made that I believe points directly to the lack of action and direction by the Mayor and the Councils under his leadership in the Department letter:

  • "With respect to the statement that "the tone at the top" is not strong, I certainly concur, in that since the corporate restructuring in 2003, there have been 3 Chief Administrative Officers, 5 General Managers of Public Works, 2 Executive Directors, 3 Fleet Managers, and vacancies at the supervisory level. It is only since August 2007, that the Division has finally had a full management complement."

What's going to happen next... we see it in the Windsor Star just as what happened with the WUC matter. The counter-offensive has begun to discredit. Except the persons being discredited are the City's own audit group. That causes me a great deal of concern because if our own auditors are incompetent than they ought not to be doing the job in the first place.

The counter-offensive is interesting however:

  • "Mike Palanacki, executive director of operations, maintained Wednesday there remains no evidence of fraud involving the city's fuel pumps.

    He said the department had more documentation that was never considered regarding the city's fuel than was indicated in the audit report.

    "I do have issues in the way the audit was done and the report," Palanacki said."

DUH, Mike, if you had all of this information, and you had the opportunity to give it to the audit group, why didn't you do so. An incorrect report would not have been issued and we would have had no headlines. Did Mike think so little of the audit group of the City that he felt that he could ignore them? Sure he had issues about the audit, so much so that he did a whole two-page letter as I referred to above.

City Treasurer Onorio Colucci

  • "called the actual amount of funds "wasted" on vehicle repair costs, fuel and mismanagement "miniscule" compared to the overall $5.8-million cost recovery shortfall cited in the audit, which looked at a period from 2003 to 2006."

Well, dear Treasurer, that is hardly an answer. If one multiplies the miniscule amounts in every division and Department of the City, those little acorns can add up very quickly to a giant oak tree. What an absolutely irresponsible comment to be made by someone who controls the City's finances.

I am so glad and thrilled that Councillor Hatfield

  • "he has "full confidence" in the people today overseeing the department and their abilities to get any problems under control."

Personally, I'm not so confident that if what the auditors say is true that these people can manage their department properly. For years and years and years these issues have been outstanding and nothing has been done to deal with the matters. The Councillor ought to read the report to see what they say about Management.

I thought that Price Waterhouse had spent a lot of time and taxpayer money dealing with controls after MFP. If so, then how can Councillor Gignac say

  • "We have a very large corporation with a large number of employees, but you can put things in place to ensure the corporation is run right."

How many more times do our systems have to fail before things are done properly in this City?

It is pretty clear that the City Audit department is treated as a joke, especially since it took two years for them to complete their investigation on one department covering a three-year period:

  • "Fleet management initially restricted the information it supplied to the auditor," the report said. "In all stages we were required to request information multiple times before obtaining adequate documentation from fleet management."

And even then, if what is said by Mr. Palanacki is true, they did not get complete information.

I'm sure that by now you would have expected that I would of taken a shot at the Mayor and his lack of management skills. Why should I, it's obvious. He is such an easy target.

As the only full-time Member of Council and the chief executive officer of the municipality, it is his responsibility and duty to ensure that the organization is managed properly. It is not acceptable for him to say that he is the one that asked for an audit to be done in 2004 that brings out all of this information. It is his responsibility to ensure that there are managers in place who manage properly so that when an audit is done there are few negative comments.

Again, if the audit is correct, the Mayor has failed in his function.

So what is going on? Is the audit correct or are Mr. Palanacki and the Treasurer correct? Whom are we to believe? Given what seems to be contempt for the Audit Department by an Operating Department, Council ought to be very concerned.

I'm afraid that the only solution is to bring in an outside independent auditor again, hopefully this time a forensic auditor, to clear up this matter.

Do you really think though that the Mayor and Council want to go through what they went through with WUC? Don't be silly. Just check out the video and remember the words of Councillor Lewenza at the end in a few weeks from now.





video

PART III--JOBS, JOBS, JOBS


This is the final installment of my Three Part Series on the future of Windsor. Does it really seem all that hard to achieve success in this City? I don't think so.

PART III
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS


He had to bang a few heads together but it really wasn't all that difficult. He pointed out that either the parties worked out a deal or there would be litigation for the next 10 to 15 years that would harm the economies of Canada, the US, Ontario and Michigan, never mind the cities of Windsor and Detroit. He just had to be forceful and threaten to lock them in the meeting room at the refurbished Capitol Theatre until an agreement was reached. Now that was great drama.

The agreement amongst all of the parties was reached very soon thereafter and he was given the credit by everyone. It allowed the Bridge Company Environmental Assessment to be completed as quickly as the law allowed. The DRIC report setting out a location for a new crossing and the exact road to the border was publicized and then tabled.

What happened next was quite shocking except to the Mayor's insiders who helped structure the deal. It was based on an idea written by the BLOGMeister in his BLOG "Wednesday, April 11, 2007 How A Kangaroo Can Save Canada's Economy."

The two Senior Level Governments admitted that truck volumes had dropped rapidly and that the basis for a new crossing, capacity, was no longer there. They said it was unconscionable to expect taxpayers to pay not only for a new crossing but to subsidize that crossing as well until such time as the traffic developed. They thanked DRIC for all of their efforts and said that at this time they would not build a new border crossing although they would protect the corridor to the crossing from encroachment until such time when it was needed.

To meet the “intermediate” needs of the region, and note the use of the word intermediate, under the existing Border Infrastructure Fund, the Governments agreed to fund the building of the road to the Ambassador Bridge. That was a genius move since existing program monies already allocated could be used. Interestingly, Schwunnels immediately disappeared from the City’s vocabulary as did the need to spend millions on maintenance and security of parklands. Everyone agreed that the DRIC road would be built along the DRIC corridor and it would be designed to permit it to serve both the existing bridge and the new bridge if ever one was going to be built.

The justification for the Enhancement Project was that it was not a capacity increase but rather an upgrading of the existing crossing to permit the freer flow of trucks and cars using the FAST and the NEXUS systems. The old bridge would provide redundancy backup in the event of a problem with the crossing. Again, that project fit under the criteria for BIF.

Naturally, with the strong support of his colleagues behind him and with the endorsement of the County, the Mayor was able to say that the entire region was behind this transaction.

In the blink of an eye, the border crossing issue disappeared. From the fall of 2008, when the EA was completed until today, thousands of high-paying jobs were created to build that bridge. Even more thousands of jobs were created as spinoff jobs as out-of-town workers moved to the City and needed places to stay, to eat and drink, to shop and to spend their money. Three or four times as many jobs were expected to be created once the road project cleared all of its hurdles.

A minor industry was created in Windsor… providing red ribbons for plant openings. All the dignitaries had just attended the ceremony at the Chinese auto plant located near the airport. The announcement that the border crossing had been fixed finally permitted industry to see what a gem Windsor was! Its location and skilled and experienced work-force were the positive inducements to the Chinese to look seriously at putting up a new plant in the Windsor area rather than in the Southern US. With the new engineering complex nearby and with many automotive suppliers opening up research facilities there, it was a natural for the decision to be made to build in Windsor.

Interestingly enough, the head of the CAW was in attendance as well and he was part of the opening ceremonies. Their deal with Magna was used as proof to demonstrate that the unions were more than capable of adapting to the times.

This plant obviously spawned a whole boom of new plants opening up around it by parts suppliers to support the building of the automobiles. It wasn’t hard to get incentives as well from the Senior Levels of Government to help induce the building of the plant in Ontario. After all, the fight about the reopening of the Ford plant made the careers of a number of local politicians. They were not shy in the using that precedent to encourage the Senior Levels to keep on spending.

There was little need for the Gazelle Feeders to go out and sell the region. Their problem became coping with the influx of requests for information about where new plants could be built. Fortunately, the Mayor and the County had built on the suggestion made by Tecumseh’s Mayor some years back to create a huge industrial Park of 5000 acres. It was readily available for all who wished to build a plant bringing prosperity to the region.

I could go on and on talking about economic diversification, the sale of homes, the creation of a new retail in downtown and all of the tourists who are enjoying the facilities of the Casino and the Capitol Theatre. There was a little hiccup when the WFCU arena almost went into bankruptcy. Fortunately, the Mayor was able to twist the arms of the former Project Ice Track people and they came in to take over the running of the project and even kicked in some money as well.

You saw the video on the Star website online and on TV about the opening ceremony at the Ambassador Bridge today. Exactly 30 months after the EA was completed and precisely as promised, the new bridge was finished. “Ahead of time and below budget” as Dan Stamper the President of the Bridge Co. kept on saying! The joy on the faces of the owner and his family members and those who worked for him was matched by the expression of delight on the faces of the members of the public who came there to share that moment in history of the bridge opening. It had been a long time coming.

There was one sad moment and one of nostalgia. While I was standing there watching the ceremony, off in the distance I saw a lonely figure whom I thought I recognized. As I went over there to try to talk to the man, he must have seen me, and started walking away. I thought I heard him say under his breath “It was all my PLAN. They just would not share in my Vision. I should have been there opening the bridge where I wanted it to go.”

Immediately I knew who it was then and just let him go. My attention was brought back to the platform when the Mayor was introducing the Bridge owner, the Premier, the Transport Minister and Senator Kilpatrick, asking them to cut the red ribbon to signify the opening of the bridge!

His Worship, the Bacon Man had brought home the bacon for his hometown. It wasn’t so hard after all. And you could see the big smile on his face.

=====================
There it is. What Windsor can become if only we have the right people there to make it happen. It really is not all that far-fetched now is it. It builds on what is going on today. All it requires is that decisions be made and actions be taken now.

Mayor Francis and his Councillor colleagues have the opportunity to do so. It will require a drastic change of thinking on the part of our Council. It will require Councillors to take a more active role in what is going on in the City just as the Council in 2003 did.

Decisions are not that hard either. We have enough facts. We don’t need more studies and more consultants and more THINK BIG dreams. We have had years of those already and nothing has happened.

I hardly think that we need litigation to move us forward. As we can see, threats don’t work against the Senior Levels who hold all the cards anyway. All that hiring lawyers will do is delay our future for years and years so that cities like London can keep on getting the plants that should be coming here.

The key to the solution however is YOU, dear reader. YOU must keep on reading the BLOGs. YOU must start demanding action from our Council, whether contacting the Mayor and your Ward Councillors directly or by commenting on the BLOGs or writing on the Star Forums. We must keep the pressure up, you and I together.

After all, is only our City’s future that is at stake.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

From "Get 'R Done" To "Fill 'R Up"




Oh my goodness. Were some people fortunate that only a Section 9 financial audit of WUC was undertaken? If such an audit had been undertaken of the City vehicle fleet, it would have received a clean bill of health since operations would NOT have been part of the auditors' mandate, only finances!

I wonder what a Section 10 audit or an Auditor-General or forensic audit of WUC would have uncovered. Councillor Marra has NO choice now after the latest City financial fiasco but to demand a full investigation into WUC!

Heartiest congratulations to the Mayor for taking decisive action in 2004 that is now bearing fruit only 4 years later, a record time for his Administration. Can you imagine what the Service Delivery Review report will uncover 30 months from now just before he leaves us as Mayor! I would guess that he will take credit for asking for such a review rather than commenting on what it uncovered during his two terms as Mayor. Just like now.

Here is his comment as reported in the Star concerning the fleet mess:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said the report confirms why the city auditor position and the audit committee were formed in 2004 in the wake of the MFP scandal.

    He vowed council would move "deeper into the organization" to conduct similar audits if determined necessary."

Now mind you, it is better than nothing but in Eddie's Mayoral platform, he did say that the would do the following:

  • "Detailed Audit of All Departments
    We need a starting point, a place to know where we are so that we can judge how well we do when we look at results.

    We will conduct in-depth audits of all of our departments to assess where we stand, and to identify inefficiencies and implement sound management principles across the corporation."

If that promise had been kept and promptly, wouldn't the fleet operations mess have been discovered years ago?

I decided to go back to Eddie's platform when he first ran for Mayor and see what else Eddie might have done to make things better in Windsor from a management perspective. In reality, the fleet report is nothing more than a complete failure of management. And what was supposed to ensure that something like this would never happen... CITISTAT.

You remember CITISTAT don't you? In looking at what virtues that system had, you will see that it would help solve a number of our problems including overtime costs to graffiti to "Guns, gangs and drugs," to the vacant homes, matters that have plagued Eddie's tenure as Mayor. It certainly would have saved us millions of dollars over the years that Eddie has been Mayor so that we wouldn't have to worry about not buying books for the Library System or laying off crossing guards or not helping fund the Buskers Festival.

Read what he wrote about CITISTAT in his Platform and then ask the question why it is never been brought into Windsor since it was the main plank of his platform to help him beat Bill Marra the first time around when he ran for Mayor. My recollection is well is that the cost of introducing the entire CITISTAT system was virtually nothing since these City of Baltimore would have helped trained our officials as well.

The lack of implementation of CITISTAT has always mystified me. Who has been opposing it? I wonder if CITISTAT would have turned up other financial skeletons. It looks like we may never know!

Here is some fun for Councillor Marra: he should introduce a Motion to demand that it be put into operation immediately. Such irony!

CITISTAT

TRANSFORMING THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS- GREATER ACCOUNTABLILITY

Windsorites deserve a City government that is effective, cost-efficient, and responsive to their needs – a government that gets the job done right, on time, and within budget; a government that is accountable to all Windsor residents. As Mayor of Windsor, I will transform the way our City government does business by investigating and then implementing the best elements of new management processes and technologies. One such outstanding system deserves close examination for application in Windsor; it is an innovative and highly successful management strategy called CitiStat.

What is CitiStat?

Under Rudolph Giuliani’s administration, the New York City Police Department introduced a police management system that combined technology and weekly accountability sessions to reduce crime. They called it ComStat. Mayor O’Malley of Baltimore expanded on the successful program to track all of Baltimore’s operations and services. He called this expanded program CitiStat.

Using computer pin mapping, biweekly data collection, and analysis and accountability sessions, ComStat helped the NYPD to significantly reduce crime, restore public trust and motivate police officers. Similarly, Mayor O’Malley sought to build the kind of information and control system that would enhance the capacity of Baltimore’s city departments to identify, respond to, and anticipate problems as they were emerging. This new, extended system, CitiStat, resulted in Baltimore claiming savings of $13 million dollars the first fiscal year. In the second fiscal year, Baltimore saved an additional $30 million. In year three, all of Baltimore city agencies participated in CitiStat, resulting in cumulative savings of more than $40 million, including about $10 million in reduced overtime, $5 million in reduced operational costs, and $4 million in increased revenue streams.

It’s a simple fact that you can’t manage what you don’t understand. CitiStat would allow Windsor to collect information on a real time basis and provide tools for rapidly evaluating the performance of a wide variety of city functions and concerns. These include everything from crime, graffiti, vacant buildings and sewer backups, to potholes and summer recreation programs. City agencies would be required to regularly measure their performance and to report on how well they serve the public.

The CitiStat Process

The CitiStat Process is a disciplined one. CitiStat participants are required to report financial and operational performance data on a biweekly basis. This information becomes the basis of each department’s CitiStat report. Each manager would be required to submit data to the CitiStat team for pre-meeting analysis, which would be the basis of the manager’s performance presentation at the weekly meeting with the Mayor, Councillors and the Executive Management Team.

A manager would be required to set out goals and objectives so that the CitiStat team would be able to audit the data and compare it with previous presentation’s objectives, to provide a summary for the CitiStat meeting. Accumulated over months, these reports become an excellent barometer of the department’s performance in a fiscal year.

The data would cover a wide variety of information. Public Works, for example, would submit data on everything from dirty alleys and missed trash pickup complaints to the number of sick days taken by workers in a particular division, and overtime rates. By reviewing the data and questioning the managers, City government would be able to quickly identify successes that could be shared among all Departments, and highlight areas requiring improvements.

Action plans would be developed to address problems immediately and corrective action plans assessed. Strategies would be developed and employed, and managers would be held accountable to results that were measured not yearly, quarterly, or even monthly, but on a week-to-week basis.

How CitiStat Will Improve City Government

CitiStat will enable the City to make better choices based on real-time data. The current practice does not allow for this type of discussion or analysis to occur. Council will be able to make budget decisions based, not on anecdotal information or “best estimates,” but on reliable, up-to-date facts.

City Government requires new techniques to learn how to maintain and improve municipal services, recognizing that resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Doing so will allow us to recognize and maintain desirable civic services without imposing massive tax increases.

By identifying problems areas more quickly, sharing successes, targeting waste, eliminating unnecessary subsidies, re-engineering inefficient processes, increasing productivity and operational effectiveness and establishing measurable performance standards, the City will do more with less, and live within our means.

What successes can we expect CitiStat to help generate?

CitiStat is based on 4 pillars:
  1. Accurate and timely intelligence that is clearly communicated to everyone who can help do something about it
  2. Rapid and synchronous deployment of resources to address problems
  3. Using effective tactics and strategies
  4. Follow-up and assessment.

As stated above, Baltimore claims outstanding success with the system: savings of $13million dollars the first year and another estimated $30 million, in year two.

Clearly a process that is disciplined, measurable, performance and goal-oriented that works in “real-time” is a vast improvement over Windsor’s current practices. CitiStat provides the means by which decision makers have control over the operations of Government and the Departments are obligated to meet their targets or explain deficiencies.

More importantly, valuable information is generated quickly and efficiently, not at some indeterminate time in the future when it is less “actionable.” Costs can be controlled and waste can be identified more quickly, so corrective actions can be taken. Here are some examples of what CitiStat has helped other City Governments achieve:

  1. Reduced and controlled the City’s use of overtime and sick leave. In less than a full year of participating in the program, Baltimore realized approximately $6 million in overtime savings.
  2. Saved Millions in Reduced Operation Costs
  3. Saved Millions in Increased Revenue Streams
  4. Saved Millions in Reduced absenteeism and accident time
  5. Saved Million by eliminating costly, low-priority purchases
  6. Rewarded employees in Departments whose efforts exceed objectives
  7. More than 2,700 illegal dumping grounds inside Baltimore have been slashed to fewer than 200
  8. Reduction in crime (NYC violent crime declined 47.6% and property crime declined 48.8%)
  9. Cleaned and boarded up 1,000 vacant homes in three weeks
  10. Potholes were filled within 48 hours
  11. Trash routes were reshaped
  12. The savings actually allowed new employees to be hired to help improve service to citizens
    Reduced the City’s potential liability costs through proactive risk assessments and management
  13. CitiStat identified a number of costly projects, planned expenses and troublesome practices that necessitated intervention
  14. Department information was placed online for citizen review and increased public accountability
  15. DrugStat measured how well drug treatment centres were doing their jobs; KidStat measured the city’s efforts at reducing youth violence.

CitiStat relies on Microsoft Excel for the spreadsheets and Arcview mapping software, both of which are available to the City. Baltimore has not trademarked the CitiStat name and encourages other cities to participate by not charging for training. It actively invites cities to observe CitiStat operations in Baltimore.

Mayor O’Malley of Baltimore said “CitiStat brings the sense of urgency that we need around here. It has already produced a much deeper and faster culture of accountability,” the mayor said. It has produced millions in savings. Citizens of Windsor should expect no less.

PART II: OPEN FOR BUSINESS


This is the second instalment of my Three Part Series on Windsor's future. It is where I believe that Windsor could be moving with the right leadership. Our problems are not as big as some would want us to think for their political agenda and are not as hard to solve as some would want us to believe.

PART II
OPEN FOR BUSINESS


Windsor was finally open for business and not only was new investment wanted, it was welcomed with open arms. And how welcome it was.

Windsor’s prime border location meant that not only was it a key spot for trucks and rail traffic to cross the border, but also it became the terminal of the H2O highway. The ports of Windsor and Detroit played a key role in the expansion of trade from overseas. The region became the distribution and logistical centre for the distribution of goods from around the world into the US Midwest and to and from Canada to the southern US ports and Mexico. A whole new industry was created since Windsor learned how to present itself as a transportation hub.

It was just like what happened in northern New Jersey. New Jersey for heaven’s sake, becoming an economic powerhouse! That was happening to the Windsor/Detroit Region now:
  • “the solid if dull warehouse sector [was the] driver of the area's commercial real estate… Its central location on the eastern seaboard along with its excellent highway, air, rail and seaport access make it a hub of choice."

    It was not too long before the region's median income shot higher, home prices increased and the area's shopping malls were busy again.”

We were building on the feeling of excitement in the air that occurred a year ago when the Chair of the Board of the University of Windsor, Dennis DesRosiers, cut the ribbon for the start of construction of the final phase of the University’s Engineering Complex. In addition, the bulldozers were there to start clearing the land for the University/Industry/Government auxilliary 300 acre Research and Development site on the airport lands in a complex designed for both the automotive and medical industries. Companies were virtually banging on the doors demanding space at the facility. It helps when your Chair is a recognized expert in the automotive business and can call in a few IOUs to help out his hometown.

The City, the University and the three levels of government had stopped feuding and were partnering with a number of the major worldwide industrial leaders in bringing new R&D jobs to the region. Retraining of employees who had been laid off in the automotive sector was part of the innovative approach taken by the new partners. It really was remarkable how easily people who were skilled in one area of an industry could adapt to meet the changing needs of another. Who would have thought that automotive tool and die makers, with a bit of assistance mind you, could create some of the most exciting medical devices around.

Enough of the past. It was a celebration of the present and the future of this City. All the dignitaries were there at the opening ceremony. US Senator Kwame Kilpatrick represented the President of the United States. He was very gracious and forgiving. He didn’t hold a grudge against Windsor for not completing the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal even though it did cause of a bit of embarrassment for his Budget since he had counted on the money from Windsor. Oh there were a few rude people who shouted out about text messages but they were ignored. As the saying goes, it was all water under the bridge.

Federal Transport Minister Dwight Duncan came down from Ottawa to his hometown to be there. His decision to leave Queen’s Park and his position there of Minister of Finance to support the Liberal Leader seemed to energize the Federal Liberal Party and give credibility to their Leader. Lo and behold, in next federal election the Liberals formed a minority Government. Dwight was offered any position that he wanted by the Prime Minister and he chose Transport so that he could be involved in concluding the border issue. Being part of one of the biggest capital projects in Canadian history that was vital to the economic future of Canada wouldn’t hurt either if he ever chose to run for Leadership of the Federal party. Saying the former Mayor was wrong had not hurt his career locally either. He was smart enough as a politician to understand that he was given on a silver platter an issue that would galvanize the Community in his favour.

His departure opened up the job for Premier in Ontario. He was the frontrunner to take over from the outgoing Premier but when he decided to go to Ottawa the race became wide open. It took five ballots but finally Premier Sandra Pupatello won out! She had a leg up you might say once Dwight decided that the greener pastures of Ottawa made more sense to him. After all, Dwight did learn how to speak French.

Sandra was at the ceremony too. There was no way that she was going to allow the border file to be concluded without her being front and centre either. It was a bit of payback for her as well given all the shots that she had taken from certain people in Windsor over the years who attacked her on her border position and her supposed do-nothing approach. What choice did she have when she was told that she had to “respect the DRIC process.”

She had more than made up for it with all of the money that she arranged to place in Windsor for some of the other projects that she saw around as her plane was circling YQG for a landing. Its status as a major feeder airport especially for private jets and cargo planes was a great positive for the area except when Air Traffic Control kept her plane in the air because of congestion on the ground.

It really was remarkable what happened. Fifty jobs compared with fifteen thousand made it a no-brainer. The brilliance though was to figure out a face-saving way for everybody to pretend to get everything that they wanted with no losers.

It was never clear exactly who came up with the idea but someone mentioned something about a BLOG about kangaroos and what happened in Australia to use as a precedent.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Star Story That Never Was



No room for this story in the published Star again?

It's incredible. I am in shock and awe. The war between the Province and the Windsor Mayor and Council is a serious one now. It is a real fight. Unfortunately for Windsorites, we will all be the casualties in the end in this losing battle. The Province has the big guns and all of the financial and legal resources to win.

Previously, who could take seriously frankly Councillor Junior's remarks. But when Councillor Gignac gets angry, and that is so untypical of her, then we know that there is a real war going on. Her attack on Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan, as reported in the Star was a real shock to me. Clearly front-page news!

Wait a minute you say. What are you talking about? What Gignac attack? What Star story?

Oh I forgot, you probably weren't up around 11 PM last night to see the online story that was prepared by Dave Battagello. But I was and I have a copy of it. I wanted to see where it was placed in the published Star today but it was not there at all. I went back to the online version to see what comments were made but the story was not online any longer nor in the Star archives when I checked this morning.

When I clicked on the link that I received from my news aggregator about the story, I was directed to this story instead: "After-hours clubs to keep late closing time."

Interestingly though, someone slipped up at the Star because the first few comments clearly had nothing to do with this story but rather the Gignac story.

Why wasn't the story published? It is clearly a very important one. Was the Star trying to protect Spanky since he is one of their big favourites or is Councillor Gignac another one of the Anybody But Bill possibilities in case Dave Cooke does not run for Mayor?

In any event, here's the story in the continuing war. Now you understand why I'm so concerned about the Senior Levels pulling out of Windsor. If you don't see the handwriting on the wall after this story then you will never see it.

Gignac vs. Duncan
Windsor councillor questions MPP's support of city
Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star, Published: Monday, February 04, 2008

The ongoing war of words between city council and local MPP Dwight Duncan (L -- Windsor-Tecumseh) took another turn Monday when Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac expressed her frustration over his refusal to support a proposed local tree research project.

The city last fall applied for job creation grants from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to support creation of the Kentucky Coffee Tree Grove & Hackberry Grove. It is anticipated to cost about $550,000.

Council previously passed a resolution to provide close to $100,000 toward the costs.

The council resolution was sent to local MPPs, who were asked for support.

But Duncan, Ontario's finance minister, responded in a Jan. 29 letter to the city that he would not provide support, citing his role as a cabinet minister and saying he can not be perceived "as attempting to influence or interfere in a decision."

That triggered Gignac's anger during Monday's council meeting.

"We got a letter back saying sorry but he is a cabinet minister and he couldn't do that," she said tersely. "We need to ask him how he advocates for this city."

Council passed a motion Monday backing Ggnac's request to send another letter back to Duncan, asking him to clarify his letter and better explain why he feels it's a conflict to offer support for the city's provincial grant application for the tree research program.

Both council and Duncan have been at odds over a looming decision to resolve Windsor's border truck traffic problems. A few weeks ago, Duncan told council and Mayor Eddie Francis to call off its lawyers, who are threatening to delay a Manning Road expansion project in the county.

Francis and council, in turn, have accused Duncan of trying to develop Manning Road as a new border link for international trucks between Highway 401 and E.C.Row.

Naysayers Beware




It appears that writing a political BLOG in Windsor can be hazardous to one's health, especially if one has the nerve to write anything that some may perceive as being negative.

I hope though that is not yet a crime in Windsor to read a political BLOG or else you, dear reader, may be in serious trouble.

You have seen my trials and tribulations with some of the media in Windsor but now it appears that a well-known business person has taken it upon himself to attack BLOGGERS, and especially me in particular, with a reference to me being an Anti-BLOGGER. I guess that means that I am anti-this and anti-that in Windsor since he cannot see the W strapped on my body. It is just another term that I can add to my list of abusive terms.

I really can't complain about people taking shots at me since my criticism of City Hall and others can be quite direct and strong. If you cannot stand the heat... and all that.

I cannot complain therefore if people criticize my ideas or my point of view or the fact that I have been of the opinion for years that one must deal with the Ambassador Bridge Company if the border issue is to be resolved. I cannot even complain if they say I am too harsh on the Mayor and Councillors. They are entitled to their point of view just as I am entitled to mine.

However, I don't intend to sit idly by if a person goes too far in his or her criticism of me. I am not some pushover who will run and hide and be quiet. In my opinion, Mark Boscariol, past Chair of the DWBIA, Chair of the Windsor International Film Festival and owner of Chanosos and other establishments, crossed the line in a BLOG article he wrote. He stated the following:
  • "I know, I know, the naysayers will say that they’re providing some sort of valuable service to our city by insulting our councillors and mayor. Heck, I’m sure Al Qaeda probably claims responsibility for the current round of mideast peace talks too."

There were more comments that he made but I will not bore you with the details. It was this one comment that caused me great distress. I will let you form your own judgment about what he wrote and its appropriateness.

As for me personally, I'm disgusted that he would make such a heinous comparison. I will let at least give credit to the owner of the Blogsite where this remark was written who changed Boscariol's BLOG after I filed a complaint.

Mr. Boscariol and I have both agreed and disagreed in the past in private exchanges of e-mails on City issues. We have a different point of view but I thought until now we were civil to each other.

After this comment, however, I choose never to spend one penny in any of his restaurants again. I also have no intention of attending the Windsor Film Festival while he is still involved.

THREE-PART SERIES: How It All Began


It started with a small hole in the dam. A few Bloggers in Windsor started digging and writing to try to explain to their fellow citizens what was really going on in town.

The hole started getting bigger. More people started writing BLOGs and more importantly, more people started reading them looking for an alternative viewpoint. Smears, innuendo and name-calling were used to try to close up the outpourings but the patches did not work.

Rather, it backfired giving Bloggers increased credibility. Renegade media types, Editorials, the people speaking out in Windsor Star Forums and finally Dwight Duncan’s saying publicly “THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG.” That made it official when the second most powerful person in the Ontario Government said what we suspected but many were afraid to say.

The dam burst and all hell broke out.

It has all happened so quickly. The question that should be on your mind now is what happens next. It is easy to tear down something but it is so difficult to build it up. That’s what we’ve been hearing for so long. City Hall was supposed to have the Vision and the Plan and was supposed to be our salvation.

Instead, the simplest of matters have become complicated. Lawyers, consultants and outsiders are doing our thinking for us. Does it need to take almost a year in the Capitol Theatre matter to get agreement on which Court should hear it? Is it really that hard to find a solution to the border crossing? Do we really need to threaten the Senior Levels and the County with litigation? Is it really that difficult and takes so long and costs so much to try to diversify our economy. Is it that hard for the Mayor and Council to be open with us on mattes like WUC or the Tunnel deals?I don’t think so. These problems have become overblown for political reasons.

Let me show you what I think the future can bring for us. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your coffee. Over the next three days let me try and help bring a resolution to some of these issues and to show us what our future can be. I’ll try to demonstrate that it really is not as difficult as some people would lead us to believe.

PART I
HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Who would have thought that the Blogmeister would be hired by the Windsor Star to replace their main columnist when he retired. But then again, the Star started transforming itself into an online newspaper due to the popularity of the Star Forums that gave its subscribers an easy way to react to matters that were taking place within the City. It became the unofficial Town Hall of Windsor and helped bring change, positive change in this City.

Today was a momentous occasion in Windsor and the Mayor deserved to feel proud of what he had been able to accomplish in such a short time. It was another ribbon-cutting ceremony, the latest of many but the biggest so far. He had learned early on not to just talk and deliver speeches but to execute on his ideas. He learned that he had to complete the deal and be ready to face the consequences of his decisions! He knew that if he were open with his electorate, they would understand and be supportive. No one would dare stand in his way then. Today was the culmination of his efforts.

Looking back, no one would have believed that what he achieved was possible just by working hard and actually accomplishing something. From stagnation to exhilaration in only three years. What a remarkable success. He never let on though that it was a lot easier to achieve than most people thought. It became especially easy when he admitted to himself that he did not know all of the answers. He brought around him a bright group of individuals whom he could trust to give him sound advice in their areas of expertise. He had no ego in drawing on their talent whenever he needed help.

Windsor is a small town after all and in small towns things happen very quickly.

He had seen it happen before, three times in fact. But this time he became front and centre as the new Head of Council, the beneficiary of citizen disgust. The first time it was Council’s supposed DRTP reversal. The next time was when Project Ice Track pulled out of Windsor and moved to the Town of Tecumseh. And then there was the WUC fiasco and the 86% increase followed by the whitewash audit.

Within a day in those matters, Windsorites reacted immediately. The Mayor and Council were forced to retreat. This time it was an innocuous trip to Germany that just drove everybody crazy. The former Mayor decided to hop on a jet and take a jaunt to Germany to capture perhaps 50 jobs, or maybe a few more, just as London announced up to 1,000 jobs with new Korean plants.

It was too much for a City that had the highest unemployment rate in Canada, with house prices crashing and mortgage foreclosures increasing and people being forced to move out of town away from family in order to get a job to survive. The former Mayor flies to Germany and does not report back the results of his meeting as people leave the City in droves. Instead, he declared war and threatened lawsuits for the umpteenth time virtually guaranteeing that the City economy would lose thousdands of jobs.

We all know the story. How the new Mayor raised a ruckus, said enough is enough and talked to the movers and shakers whom he knew were ready to save the City that they all loved and where they had all prospered. He didn’t have much convincing to do. They had just attended the Toldo Luncheon and were eager to get together and to follow someone who was not afraid to lead.

He had ideas. Oh boy did he have ideas. But because he was not part of the Establishment of the time it was fair game in the past to mock him and to discredit him and to ignore what he had to say.

In hindsight, it is not a surprise. The trade-off was 50 jobs or 15,000! That was an easy message to deliver, it very easy for people to grasp. The Minister of Finance legitimized the question that the Bloggers had been asking for a very long time. Why didn’t the Mayor just drive across the Bridge to the Bridge Company headquarters or fly to Toronto or to Ottawa and talk to his “enemies.” He could have negotiated an agreement that would have resulted in all of those jobs.

Within six months, WeACT pressured the Premier into passing an amendment to the Municipal Act allowing for the right of recall. It did not hurt that the two local Cabinet Ministers had had enough of being brutalized and used by a bunch of ungrateful local politicians.

It didn’t take much effort to get the petitions signed and the recall vote started. Several of the Council members saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to gracefully retire before they were kicked out of office anyway. The Three Blind Mice had no worries and they were supportive of their new leader. The new Mayor and Council promised action and they delivered.

The message was clear and it did not need PR flacks and expensive branding exercises to trumpet it:

WINDSOR WAS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!


It was like a breath of fresh air. People actually started to talk to each other and found that they were not as far apart as they thought they were. It was remarkable what could be achieved by getting people in a room together and telling them that they could not leave until a deal was hammered out. Sure there were differences and there still are but both the public and private sides found that they had a lot in common. It was the failure to communicate that caused the problems not their differences.

Success on the DRIC road was the icebreaker. Homeland Security and CSIS along with the Customs services of both countries explained the security facts of life and why Schwunnels made no sense. They were the obvious target and not the bridge if someone wanted to paralyze the border crossing and ruin trade.

The meltdown of the economy didn’t help either. And yet it was the impetus for the resolution of differences. On the one hand there wasn’t enough money around to pretend that some grandiose vision of a road would be built. Yet on the other hand, the creation of so many infrastructure and spinoff jobs helped ease the transition into the new economy and created badly needed jobs in the region.

The Bridge Company people learned to hold their tongue and did not rub it into the faces of the politicians and bureaucrats that what was being done now had been proposed almost a decade before by them. Everyone was learning how to save face for the other parties to achieve the deal.

There was almost an audible sign of relief in town when the ink dried on the Agreement amongst the Governments on the border road. The signatures meant that Windsor was finally open for business and that not only was new investment wanted, it was welcomed with open arms.

Monday, February 04, 2008

STARTING TUESDAY: SPECIAL THREE PART SERIES


THE FUTURE OF WINDSOR


The BLOGmeister takes an in-depth look at the City of Windsor: where we are, what can our future be and how can we get there!

It is a practical and realistic analysis of the major issues facing Windsor today.

Starting at THE BEGINING and suggesting how Windsor can again be OPEN FOR BUSINESS, the three part series identifies what steps need to be taken immediately and who must lead us to our ultimate goal of JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.

Taxpayers' Corner: Guaranteeing London's Success




Go, Jamaica, Go!

But take pity on Windsor's new Mayor. First Eddie tries to stick him/her with paying $30-40M on the University Engineering Complex, starting in 2010 and now this!

It's an event in 2012, after Eddie is no longer Mayor and doesn't care what his Plans today may cost us tomorrow. Glory to himself above all! Yes 2012, that is the year of the World Junior Hockey Championships that the Mayor would like Windsor to co-host with London.

Sure it may not be that popular an event but it might sell a few seats in the East End arena on one of the non-Spits' nights:
  • "Canada usually holds the tournament every third year, but lack of interest from other countries moved the International Ice Hockey Federation to award Canada the right to host the 2010 tournament in May."

That Councillor Valentinis is such a stick in the mud [in my best Don Cherry imitation]. He better get on the sports bandwagon if he knows what's good for him with all of the players here. What's he interested in talking about: a Symphony in the Armouries for heaven sakes, more books, computers and software for local librairies, plays at the Capitol, a downtown educational campus. All that artsy stuff.

We sports jocks in Windsor don't give a damn about money... look at the $65 million and counting premier facility we are building in the East End. The Councillor is concerned about a few million dollars for renovations to the Adstoll Arena to turn it into a basketball facility. Who cares it was supposed to have been sold so that we can pay for the new Home for the Spitfires.

Stop your posturing for the cameras Councillor:

  • "It all comes down to what's driving this process. It's not the need, it's the finances. We're under critical pressure financially in terms of making sure we don't incur additional debt."

Get with the program, Councillor. Money, Schwoney. We can find millions to pay Estrin and Schwartz to achieve little so you can take a few more dollars from the taxpayers' pockets. I'm sure that Councillor Lewenza can tell us that it all works out to a few pennies per day.

Get on board the think positive Windsor Express train and stop this negativity about money. What's a few bucks for a renovation of an arena when one would have to guarantee Hockey Canada millions of dollars. It's a good thing that someone in London was smart enough to recognize that they could pass off some of the guarantee costs to Windsor to play on our collective inferiority complex and Eddie's ego to succeed at something.

  • "Ottawa, which will host the event in 2009, guaranteed Hockey Canada a profit of $12.5 million. Vancouver, which staged the event in 2006, guaranteed $5.2 million and made almost $9 million.

    'SIGNIFICANT GUARANTEE'

    "It's a significant guarantee," Francis said. "The challenge will be ticket sales. That will drive a successful bid process. If (interest) is not there, it poses a challenge."

Now there is one small little thing that the Mayor forgot to tell us. It might have an impact on ticket sales and if there is any interest in Windsor in the tournament. What games will be played here? Here's what the London Free Press said about the joint bid and something that the Mayor neglected to tell us or the Star missed and so could not report.

  • City chasing juniors again
    Sat, February 2, 2008

    London joins forces with Windsor this time to try to win the 2012 world junior tournament...

    In the London-Windsor bid, the 9,000-seat John Labatt Centre would house all of the Canadian team's games and the medal round. That doesn't bother Windsor mayor Eddie Francis, whose city will unveil the new $65-million, 6,500-seat WFCU Centre in December."

Here is what the Windsor Star wrote:

  • City joins London in World Jr. proposal

    Bid for 2012 tournament
    Jim Parker, Windsor Star, February 02, 2008

    Windsor was a late arrival to the bid, with London approaching the city. The 9,090-seat John Labatt Centre will be the focal point of 20 of the tournament's 31 games in the package, including the gold-medal game. Windsor will get 11 games at the 6,500-seat Windsor Family Credit Union Centre, which is to open this fall. The new facility can be expanded to 8,000 seats, but Francis indicated that wasn't being considered at this time."

Oooooops. Of course it does not bother Eddie. He won't be around to take the blame if there are empty seats! None of the important games I see are to be played here at all. Heck, I'm sure that we will enjoy the games involving Slovakia, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, and Denmark.

I can see clearly now too, this is all part of an overall Plan... if Jamaica can have a bobsled team in the movies for the Winter Olympics, perhaps someone from the Windsor International Film Festival can arrange for a film to be produced with them starting a hockey team too for the Jr. Championships in Windsor to premiere here when the games open.

I wonder if Pamela Anderson will come at Mayor Horwitz's urging to drop the first puck?