Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 15, 2008

Media Battle

You better set aside Tuesday evening to watch on Cogeco cable the drama at City Council on the issue "Canadian Transit Company Request for Lane Closure and Detour Traffic." In case you're wondering exactly what that means, it is all about what today's Windsor Star says:

  • "Bridge barrier annoys mayor"

In all seriousness, this is nothing more than a headline fight for the Mayor to try to take away some of the positive momentum that the Bridge Company has been achieving lately.

Before everyone gets too excited about all of this, please remember one thing. Under Bill C-3, the Bill that Brian Masse takes credit for passing, the Federal Government can close down that entire stretch of Huron Church anytime they want. In fact, as Eddie and David Estrin conceded in the Senate, the Feds have the power to take control of the road all the way to Highway 401 if they really want to do so. So far, the Feds do not have the political will to do anything nor do they want to have the financial responsibility of the road if they can pass it off to the Province.

I wonder who will be the person assigned to take on the Bridge Company at Council. Of course, the Mayor and Councillors don't give out tasks in camera or coordinate approaches or prepare questions to ask or discuss voting. So I am certain that someone spontaneously will do so.

I doubt if it will be the Mayor because he doesn't like getting into confrontations with Dan Stamper if he is going to be there and last time around Paula Lombardi, their lawyer, walked all over him on the Interim Control Bylaw issue.

I doubt if it will be one of the Councillors in Ward 2 since they don't want it to appear as if they are anti-Ambassador Bridge with the Interm Control Bylaw issue coming up again next week.

So the first big issue will be who will take on the Bridge Company or will they try and let Administration do the dirty work for them. Or just not say anything at all to keep the Agenda Item short.

It really is amazing. Did you know that this tiny stretch of road is so vital to the survival of Windsor and its downtown. If that is really the case, one would have thought that City and the Bridge Company would be talking. Instead, the parties joust and exchange soundbites on A-Channel News and in paragraphs in the Windsor Star.

Obviously, this road is not that important. I am not aware that there have been any face-to-face conversations between the Senior people in both organizations. One would think that the Mayor would have contacted the Bridge Company by now if it was that crucual an issue. Mind you, how can he talk to them if the Ambassador Bridge is classified as the "enemy" by him? Who would be his intermediary, his Henry Kissinger? It's a real shame that the Bridge Company cannot convince the Mayor to treat them as a "friend" the way Eddie treats the Casino.

Mr. Battagello got his story slightly wrong. If you want to know the difference between a "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" and a "Real Entrepreneur," then Battagello's mistake is quite telling. He wrote:
  • "City administration has recommended council deny the request until the bridge company provides more information about the exact nature of the construction work."

Read what I have posted right above which is the exact recommendation from Administration. Do you see the word "deny" in it? I don't. What I see is another City stall tactic as part of the process to do whatever is possible to prevent the Ambassador Bridge doing anything in this City without a war.

Give us more information, demonstrate to us, do more studying and review, spend weeks doing a report... more of the Mayor's do-nothing tactics. How much stall time will that buy the Mayor, a month, six months, a year?

Unfortunately for the Mayor, the Bridge Company is not the Federal or Provincial Governments whose members are afraid of the Windsor Star for their political future. You see, the Bridge Company has to run a business because, unlike the Mayor, they cannot increase Enwin utility rates or increase water rates to bring in money. They do not have the Mayor's luxury of time nor can they afford the stalling of Administration reporting. As the Star story states:

  • "He said the road needed to be closed this week because the company is "doing inspection on work that's going to be done."

There is a business need to take action now and not when the Mayor decides it is time for them to be allowed at his whim to do something. They will stand up for their rights and are not afraid to do so.

Dan Stamper has a business to run and it seems to be forgotten that what he is doing is on the Bridge Company's "private" property. I do wish at least his opponents would get their stories straight about what his real motive is. There are several that are attributed to him in the Star story. No one wants to believe what he says but then again he is a City "enemy" so how can you believe anything that he says.

I am not 100% sure why Stamper is saying:

  • ""The City of Windsor is not willing to do anything to be helpful for us," he said."

Do you think that he is comparing his Company's request to temporarily close down a small part of a street with what the Casino has been able to do for how long now with respect to how many street closings downtown? Why the difference in treatment?

Speaking of the Casino, don't you like the way that they are shooting down what the Mayor says, and Mr. Horwitz as well. I wonder if they have finally learned that the East End Arena is their competition now thanks to the Mayor. Here is the scare, according to the Mayor,

  • "They know I have expressed (that) any closure of the road will hurt downtown. "We need that exit to secure access to the casino, to downtown businesses and restaurants. This clearly eliminates that."

I guess that Americans coming over here are so stupid that they can't figure out how to get to downtown Windsor.

It is not as clear as the Mayor suggests I am afraid. It appears that the Casino has solved that problem very easily. They put up a few signs. As the City does when it puts up "Detour Signs" on road construction, say like on Walker Road:

  • "pointing U.S. customers coming off the bridge to use eastbound College Avenue and Crawford Avenue to get downtown.

    "The signs seem to be doing what is intended," Ward said."

That is the difference between a bureaucratic mentality that the Mayor has and how a business really operates. There is a problem and they solve it simply and easily. And of course cheaply! Of course the City could put up signs too to prevent problems but then Eddie could not complain could he and could not slam the "enemy."

This reminds me of the huge cost of Eddie's Horseshoe Road which was to solve the truck border backup problem at a price tag of several hundred million dollars. The Bridge Company solved it by opening up four Customs booths at a tiny fraction of the cost. A bureaucratic mentality compared with a business mentality.

The Mayor got elected in part because he was this so-called business genius. He should be rubbing his hands with glee now. Look at all the business that his Tunnel could take away from the Bridge because it is a direct exit to the downtown. Instead, the Mayor is really saying that he is not a good business person. He does not know how to react. He still has no idea what to do from a marketing perspective. He is still so afraid that the Bridge is the main crossing for people to use to come to the Casino and to the restaurants and the few retailers in the downtown area.

As for Mr. Horwitz, perhaps it is time that he start wearing his marketing hat. Instead of fighting with the Bridge Company, he ought to be talking with them to see how they can help him get people to go into the downtown. I can think of one way to do it now that is relatively simple but then again he has a downtown guru who knows everything who should be helping him out.

Let's call this silliness what it really is. It's not a fight over a tiny stretch of road that all of a sudden has become a key route to the downtown. It's a public relations war between the Mayor and the Bridge Company. The Mayor believes that he will get some points by showing that the Bridge Company is the City's enemy. He believes that the Bridge Company will back off because they are getting good publicity right now and cannot afford a setback. It just shows how wrong Eddie is and how he totally misjudges situations and his opposition.

Unlike the Mayor, they don't run their business based on what polling and the headlines in the Windsor Star say. They run their business as a business. They don't run to Gord Henderson to get him all worked up so he can write a blistering column. That is why they are successful and why the Mayor has failed in what he has promised to do for the City.

Eddie can feed the Opponents of the Bridge Company. Others in the City will applaud the Company for taking a stand and making the border work at their expense. In the end, this is a tiny skirmish in a huge war that the City wants to create. It makes no difference whatsoever in what will happen in the end.

For those who think that the Bridge Company will lose this publicity battle, it just goes to show how shortsighted they are. In my view, the Bridge Company cannot lose, no matter what the Decision at Council. A negative decision here and a negative decision next week with respect to the Interim Control Bylaw are what the Bridge Company are expecting I am sure and what they have factored in already.

Anatomy Of A Leak

Click on the video above before you read the rest of this BLOG. [NOTE. It is the video that you should focus on, not listening to the audio] It will give you an indication about how I get an idea when I write a BLOG and how I try to draw facts together to come up with a different way of looking at an incident to gain some insight for you.

The video an excerpt from a recent A-Channel news broadcast. To be honest, it is not the news story itself that interests me but what is behind the story that I think is the real news. Considering that the letter was written in September, 2007, obviously there have been ongoing conversations over the last 4 months to resolve outstanding issues. It is all part of the EA process anyway. So what's the big deal anyway right? However, answering a few questions about why the story was leaked at this time and by whom will give us some indication of what is going on in the border wars.

The first interesting point is that it is A-Channel and Daryl Newcombe that has the story and not the Windsor Star and Dave Battagello. Daryl has been doing some excellent reporting on the border file by doing some digging to go behind some of the stories to explain what is going on to viewers. He beat the Star on the recent bridge story too by a few days.

But if you think that is the reason why he got the story, I would tend to disagree. In my view, someone wanted to slap the Star and especially Dave and let them both know that they are not necessarily the only show in town. It was a very strong message to the Star about who gets the scoops.

Remember the leaks given to Today's Trucking magazine although I don't think it is the same person who is responsible for the leaks. I speculated that the leaks were done there for a reason ie how to get a story out without causing a major media incident. In this case though, I believe that someone is trying to teach the Star a lesson.

Clearly it is an anti-Ambassador Bridge story. The timing is very interesting given the negative Editorial from the Star that came out right out of the blue teh otehr week. The scare story of the Ambassador Gateway project which I guess was designed to send people to the Tunnel if they want to cross the river did not accomplish its purpose. Go to the Star Forum

The negative comments about the Mayor and the strong support about what is going on in Michigan demonstrate to me that Windsorites are not buying any longer the stalling from City Hall. In passing, I found it very interesting that in one day, there were three Letters to the Editor in support of Greenlink and not one negative letter. That doesn't seem to make sense to me given what is written on the Star Forums.

The most important part of the story however is the fact that an "original" letter or at least "an original copy" of a letter was shown in the news broadcast. It was sent to Dan Stamper. I doubt he gave it out. How then did Daryl get it? As he said, "A-Channel News has learned..." How did he learn that? If he'd gone out and obtained the letter on his own, I'm sure that he would have told us. Due to the process of elementary deductive reasoning, someone must have given it to him so that A-channel could run an anti-Bridge Company story suggesting that their Enhancement Project is in trouble. Who could that person be?

Those of you who are thinking that someone from the media got the letter and gave out the story so suspicion would not be focused on them are bigger theorists than I am! Don't be silly, the news media are competitive since they need readers or viewers or listeners to get ad dollars. You do not give away scoops to competitors!

The obvious people to point to would be someone from Transport Canada. It would be in their interest to leak the story now wouldn't it since they are in favour of a DRIC bridge. Nothing would please them more than to see problems for the Bridge Company. Since the issue in the story is the Plaza and the Bridge Company has attacked DRIC on how they kicked them out of the process by suggesting that there was a need for a huge Plaza in Sandwich, it would seem a natural that Transport Canada would want a negative story out or perhaps the DRIC people themselves as payback.

What makes the story even more appealing is that the letter was not written by Transport Canada but rather by the Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Customs. Why that could show how sneaky Transport Canada is by using another government branch as their proxy to put pressure on the Bridge Company.

Transport Canada people, and DRIC consultants too, are not fools however. I'm sure that they like keeping their jobs as a Civil Servant and like lucrative Government contracts. A bureaucrat gets paid well and the benefits are good too. As for the pension... The risk that they run is that the Bridge Company gets very angry about the leak and demands that the Leakor be identified within the Government Department. It's not worth the personal risk of getting caught. Therefore, I think the likelihood of it coming from the Feds is very remote.

If you were writing this BLOG, what you would doing now is reducing the number of potential Leakors and speculating about which parties and/or individuals have an interest in harming the Bridge Company. You would speculate that the letter was part of the EA process and that is why it was revealed. The simple issue now is to find out who requested the letter and then follow the path until was disclosed to Daryl Newcombe.

Once that is discovered that tells us everything we need to know about who is involved and why and what this is all about. And that, dear reader, is how I get an idea for a BLOG, how I write it and why I take the appoach I do.

You finish the BLOG. Get your creative juices flowing and let me know who you think the responsible party is and why.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Bouquet Of Comments

I could not afford to send you flowers or chocolates, dear reader, because I had to put aside money to pay for the higher rates on my Enwin utility bill.

I have very little left since I just finished paying my WUC bill and had just filled up my gas tank at a service station. [Bet you thought I would make some snarky remark too about Fleet Operations but how could I when everything was reconciled.] So let me give you these ideas to ponder instead.


What a wonderful way for the Windsor Star to welcome our new University President. And to let him know who the real boss is in this City in case Ross Paul forgot to tell him.

Considering that it is Valentine's Day, I thought a little poem was in order to let the new President in on the facts of life in this City:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue
Your story and pic on our back page
Support Eddie or we'll teach you!


Oh my goodness, Brian Masse may be in big trouble right now. That's right, our Windsor West MP who may have thought that he would have no competition in winning his seat in the next election may be in a serious jam.

Why do I say this... here is what the Globe and Mail reported:

  • "Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove emerged from a half-hour meeting with the Prime Minister saying he is also prepared to publicly praise the Conservative government if it does act [to rescue Canada's endangered auto sector.]

    “I told him I'd be happiest guy in the world to praise him, but if he does nothing I'm going to clear my schedule and I'll make a speech in every major community and every small community during the 60 days of the election campaign,” Mr. Hargrove said."

Does this mean that Buzz who traded in his NDP shirt for a red Liberal one will be switching again to the Conservative side?

Can you imagine, the Windsor Labor Council endorsing the Conservative candidate? What about a May Day parade in praise of Stephen Harper? How about Councillor Jones wearing a Conservative Blue suit as he goes knocking door-to-door during the election campaign?


No need to spend $400 per hour or so on expensive out-of-town lawyers. Since I'm always trying to help this City save money and do things more efficiently, here is a part of a note I received about outsourcing legal activities:

  • "Over the past few years, in-house lawyers and law firms in the U.S. and U.K. have been taking advantage of outsourced legal services using offshore lawyers in India..

    [Clients have access] to a team of 430 lawyers based in Mumbai and Punei in India, each of which is fully trained and qualified in English common law. The lawyers have varying levels of experience and areas of expertise, and their work is vetted for quality control by lawyers in Canada...

    Offshore legal services can save between 30 to 70 per cent in costs while improving speed and delivery of service."

Given our Mayor's long days with little sleeping, this service would be terrific for him to consider using:

  • "The time difference between Canada and India allows offshore team members to work overnight to dramatically improve turnaround times."


Do you remember a Star story on this matter that took place at Council on Monday? It was quite nasty and possibly could lead to a lawsuit. It would be interesting to see City files on this one.

Downtown seems to be the area where Councillors can't figure out which end is up and keep changing their minds.

Can you imagine how frustrated the Burger King people must be. Several months ago, they came to City Council with a proposed plan for their new restaurant, which was rejected, and are told to take certain action. They do it. They come back to City Council and then a Councillor introduces a Motion to go back to doing something that they had been told to change. Fortunately that Motion was defeated.

However all is not well. They are prevented from getting another access entrance to their site that they call a deal breaker. Now what happens?

It looks like they own their existing site and they have bought the Top Hat site but may not be able to use it. In any event, all this action being done because of the Tunnel Improvement Plan which may not happen for years now since the City has not set aside any money in the Budget for this project.

In passing, if the Senior Levels walk away from this project, is the road to the border next so that we lose billions in infrastructure money and 15,000 jobs?

Poor Burger King. Perhaps stuck with two properties, one that can't be used, and the other that is blocked by Tunnel traffic on busy days with no improvements in sight. If I did not know any better, I would think that they were just hit with a Big Mac attack.


No I do not mean that they were given a turkey. However, their lawyer might argue that they received a turkey of a decision when Council rejected their offer to house the 311 Call Centre.

Ironically, it was Joe Mikhail whose family gave out turkeys at Christmas to the needy who appeared as a delegation to have the RFP reconsidered. His big objection, for which I have a lot of sympathy, is that Council should have looked at a downtown site.

My recollection may be faulty but I thought that the downtown was rejected as a site because of redundancy concerns. In the case of an emergency downtown, there was a desire to have the centre in a different location. If so, I do not understand why the Mayor allowed Mr. Mikhail to speak at all since his remarks were off-topic. It may be that no one visited his site, something of which he complained, because his bid was nonresponsive to the RFP. If, on the other hand, any location anywhere in the City was eligible, then it was in order to listen to him.

In any event, the Administration decision was rejected not because of anything wrong with the Mr. Bay site. In fact, I don't even think the site was discussed by the Councillors. Rather, Councillor Jones in particular thought that the RFP was too narrow in scope and should be completely redone.

I don't know the legal side of this but I wonder whether this is a proper basis upon which to reject the Mr. Bay bid. I'll let their lawyer worry about that however.

I will give Mr. Mikhail credit. At least he admitted that some of his comments could be considered self-serving since he wanted the project to be located in the downtown where he has properties. According to the Star:

  • "He has vowed to build a new 14-storey office tower on adjacent vacant property his company owns, by 2010.

    He has been courting the provincial labour ministry to be a main tenant."

He was really at Council it seems to make a pitch for a City/private enterprise partnership to revitalize the downtown. A very commendable idea.

A previous Star story suggested that he was going to build a four-story Bank building plus a 14 story office tower. The recent Star story was not clear whether or not Mikhail wanted to move the Call Centre into his new building when it is built or into one of his other buildings that is vacant downtown. My impression is that he wanted the Call Centre moved to one of his existing buildings.

The four-story building was to be occupied by the Toronto Dominion Bank or if that deal fell through, by "other banks [who] have expressed interest." Apparently,

  • "Conditional agreements have already been reached with tenants to occupy seven of the planned 14 floors."

It was a nice artist's renderings that he showed of that new building at Council wasn't it. What a fine addition it will be to the downtown when it is completely finished.


I wonder if City Hall has statistics about the number of buildings empty in the City. As one of the Councillors pointed out, 41 sites were made available by owners for the Call Centre location.

It has to tell you that this City is hurting badly.

To be direct, the additional examples of the Burger King matter and the RFP rejection make it very difficult to do business here.


Finally, a Ward 1 Councillor appeared on John Fairley's show. No, not the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget. He must be petrified to go on there and probably never will.

It was rookie Councillor Drew Dilkens who appeared. He at least has picked up a couple of tricks from other politicians, one of which is to take so long to answer a question so that time runs out on the interview show. Heck, he is still a newbie and needs to learn how to deliver soundbites. To be fair though, I thought that he needed to give a very long explanation about what was going on with Trucks on Dougall.

A couple of interesting things that will not make him many friends amongst certain of his Councillor colleagues. He said that as far as he was concerned the Interim Control Bylaw was a directed towards the Ambassador Bridge Company. Mind you, I thought just about everybody in town knows this except for a few Councillors.

The other interesting matter that was raised was the relationship between the rookie and his Wardmate Councillor Brister. Given what Drew said, and also the way he said it, it is obvious that relations are strained between the two of them. One wonders how they actually work together or if they do.

As a resident however of Ward 1, I know what I'm going to do if I ever need a problem solved. I will write to both of them at the same time and copy in each other. In that way, they will know that the other is trying to solve my dilemma and so they will be competing to see who can solve my problem first. Pretty clever eh!


It must be really nice for a Councillor in a responsible position not to answer questions from lonely BLOGGERs. I asked on here the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget, who is the fallguy for the East End arena, to let me know some answers with respect to the private boxes. So far no response.

In case he has forgotten, because I have not, here are the questions again:

  • "I just read the Budget for the arena on the Council Communications Package. I have a challenge for the Councillor to answer some question about the arena. Let's see if he has the guts to answer them. Oh, and here is another news tip for the media:

    We know that the arena will have 31 private boxes. Did the Port Huron arena have provision for so many private boxes? If it did not, who is paying to have those boxes constructed in our arena and how much is it costing? Private boxes have to be fitted up... who is paying for those costs and how much are they? Where are all of these costs set out in the budget for the arena? Alternatively, are these costs in fact being charged to the City and if so to which Department? Where are those costs in the budget of that Department? Are those costs going to be considered to be part of the $64.9 million cost of the arena? Or has the arena cost just sky-rocketed?

    That's something for the traditional media to ask. It might make a nice news story for them since the Councillor I am sure will never answer me directly. I will be interested in hearing what the Councillor has to say as will taxpayers.

    I expect that Councillor Brister might pass the buck to Don Sadler to answer. No matter as long as the questions are answered promptly."


Remember this BLOG I wrote:

The story states:

  • "This practically unheard-of largesse is courtesy of Crestwood Mayor Chester Stranczek and his trustees, who have engineered such an efficient village government for the nearly 12,000 residents that they literally can pass out money to ease the property tax burden..."

Here is the story rewritten Windsor-style

  • "Council Keeps Taxpayer $4 Million; Citizen Recall Movement Started To Retire Mayor And Council"

The story states:

  • "Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, an Enwin board member, defended the board's decision to give the $4-million dividend, noting the money is going back to the local taxpayer.

    "Shifting from one pocket to another, I guess that argument that can be made," he said. "If you didn't do this, well that's another one per cent increase on (municipal) taxes. It's a decision the (Enwin) board made...

    City treasurer Onorio Colucci said the dividend funds are not earmarked in the 2008 budget for any specific purpose and will be lumped into overall operating revenues.

    "(Enwin) is an asset of the city," he said. "This is normal business practice. If we didn't have it, council would have to find $4 million from other services or reduce services by that amount. "

Due to popular demand, I will BLOG about "recalling" politicians next week.

A Tax Is A Levy Is A Utility Rate Increase

On Valentine's Day of all days. How rude.

That's the day that most Windsorites will see the Enwin story in the Star. In this case, a rose is not a rose is not a rose in the City of Roses. Shakespeare is wrong too: in this case a tax, unlike a rose, by any other name does not smell as sweet.

It just smells when games are played by our elected politicians to try to fool us.

I want to thank the Windsor Star for ruining my evening. There was no need for them to post the Dave Battagello story about Enwin so early, it was around seven o'clock when I saw it. Of course it meant that I would have to write a BLOG about it since it is such an outrageous story.

Clearly, one of the Editors has a devilish sense of humour. The Editor wanted Bloggers to stay up all night analyzing the story for our readers in the morning. I mean we have to do it don't we. You expect it of us.

It really isn't all that unusual story, even though it will will make taxpayers furious. The City uses a variety of their divisions and commissions to get money into the City coffers. Let's take the Tunnel as an example and look at the relationship among the City, the Windsor Tunnel Commission and Transit Windsor. Here's what I wrote before. Just follow the money:
  • "I am sure you noticed about the Tunnel Bus that "Transit administrators proposed increasing the cost of the tunnel bus by 25 cents to $3 per trip to make the service break even, but the proposal was rejected."

    Why break even right, continue to lose $25,000 per year.... While "City officials stripped the Transit Windsor budget to its bare bones" it left losses in the cross-border service.

    Transit Windsor pays money to the Windsor Tunnel Commission for each bus that uses the Tunnel. Transit tried to kill the service (or the payments) to reduce money during Budget time last year I was told. The WTC went ballistic since it would mean a reduction in revenues. Not such a good idea if the Tunnel needs to show HIGH income. It could also mean a reduction in what the WTC paid the City as a "dividend" which meant taxes would go higher. I was told last year that the tolls paid were close to $300K.

    So the City, as required, subsidizes Transit Windsor who pays tolls to the WTC who paid a dividend to the City who subsidizes Transit Windsor who pays tolls.....!"

You see what I mean. The use of non-arm's-length entities to the City can accomplish great things. Remember as well that the City wanted to do a big Tunnel deal with Detroit and having substantial revenues coming out of the Tunnel operations wouldn't hurt as investors would consider its balance sheet when deciding if they were going to get involved in financing the City's plan.

The Battagello story is a variation of that. Let's follow the money here:

  • the Enwin Utilities' dividend to the City of Windsor is $4 million, $1 million more than last year
  • WUC water rates increased dramatically last year to help pay for watermain replacement except only a fraction of the money was used that was collected for replacement
  • WUC pays Enwin a management fee. The whitewash audit told us "the "managed services" fees WUC pays Enwin also shot up by almost $1 million, or 10 per cent. Enwin, the city-owned electricity utility that shares meter reading and billing services with WUC, charges the water utility $8.3 million for its share of the expenses. That cost is rising to $9.3 million."

What a remarkable coincidence. The water rates increased so that the Water Commission could pay Enwin an extra million in management fees which just happened to go to the City as a dividend.

Why it is just like the Tunnel Bus. If you follow the money you see how it gets to the City after it goes through various City owned or controlled non-arm's-length entities. It almost gets lost from view doesn't it since it is so hard to track. Not of course for the City's Treasury Department people who are so smart and can tell where this money is at all times I would bet.

Now don't get too upset, dear reader, it is all a game that has been played for years and I'm sure by many municipalities. You see, no city wants to be at the top of the tax rate in the Province. I mean, after all, would you want to move to a place or invest and start a business where taxes are high. So games are played by keeping tax rates low but adding on levies as Windsor does that are not taxes in the technical sense but money still goes to the city from the taxpayers pocket. As Councillor Valentinis said:

  • "If you didn't do this, well that's another one per cent increase on (municipal) taxes."

Is it really any different with the utilities and management fees? Increase the water rates, increase the electrical company management fees and pay a dividend to the City. It's just like a tax but you can't call it one. It's perfect.

It helps as well when the City controls all of the entities and can make the money flow so smoothly. It also helps when the Mayor and Council congratulate themselves on keeping the tax increase so low and confuse citizens at the same time.

A few other odd items from the story:

  1. Enwin at the same time received the right from the Ontario Energy Board to increase the hydro rates by 2.1%, half a percent higher than the average in Ontario. Yet the OEB apparently did not know that an extra million dollars was being paid to the Utility even though the rate increase hearings were held late in the year. Is the Enwin accounting so poor that it could not tell the OEB about its true financial position.

  2. I think that Councillor Valentinis has trouble distinguishing where my pocket ends and the City's pocket begins. He "defended the board's decision to give the $4-million dividend, noting the money is going back to the local taxpayer." Uhhhh, sorry Councillor, it is not going to the taxpayer, is going to Council for you to waste errrr, spend.

  3. I have to tell you that I'm very worried when I read things such as Enwin is out of cash, yet can pay an increased dividend. Its excuse for increasing Hydro rates was "Enwin cited inflation and capital costs as reasons for needing the increase." Oh my, are the capital costs for replacing all of the Hydro lines that are now getting old. Are we being gently told that we're going to have a huge increase in Hydro rates similar to that of WUC in the future to replace borrowings?

  4. Wouldn't you think that Enwin should keep the money in its accounts if its financial position is looking precarious. The Treasurer said "the dividend funds are not earmarked in the 2008 budget for any specific purpose and will be lumped into overall operating revenues." I wonder if it will be used to pay down the East End arena costs.

  5. It looks like the City had included that amount in the budget for 2008 yet Enwin did not seem to be able to tell the OEB be about it in their rate hearings.

  6. Perhaps someone can explain to me how the Enwin rates are competitive when they are half a percent higher than the average in the Province.

  7. By the way the Enwin action is not something that just happened but seems to be deliberate. Again the Treasurer said "If we didn't have it, council would have to find $4 million from other services or reduce services by that amount." In other words, the Mayor and Councillors knew exactly what they were doing. They decided that they would not take money from your tax pocketbook but would take it from your utility pocketbook

  8. The Treasurer is clearly a jokester except the laugh is on us. Does you really expect us to believe "The increase [in dividend] is because of improvement in operations." It came because of the water rate increases.

Now don't get your shorts in a knot. There is another reason for all of this as I tried to explain before. Look for one or both of the Water Utilities Commission and Enwin to be dealt with in a Public/private partnership deal that should bring the City a ton of cash so that Eddie can spend it on his entrepreneurial ideas before he leaves office. I told you that the City of London was looking for about a quarter of $1 billion for their Hydro operation alone. Eddie does need a legacy after all.

Who would be interested in throwing money at a Windsor Utility when comparing it with those of other cities in Ontario unless it was making oodles of money. The Water Utility is making a ton with the big rate increases and could make way more with the technology it discussed that could reduce the need for watermain replacement by extending the life for of a watermain for about 50 years. It means that its profits will be gigantic and will go directly into the bottom line of a private equity investor or pension fund rather than into the City balance sheet.

Of course, all that citizens will see will be the big upfront payment by the investor for which the local politicians will take credit. They won't really appreciate how high the rates will be in the future over the 99 year term of the lease since who will live that long (unless they are pumping gas at City fleet facilitites) nor will they actually do the math to calculate the huge profits that will be made as well by the investor.

Enwin gets in on it too and is attractive to an investor because it can declare and pay huge dividends while at the same time increasing Hydro rates. Just look at the fun that the investor will be able to make if it controls both utilities and can charge management fees as it so desires to maximize its financial position.

I know, I know you think I'm kidding about all this but I'm not. Remember the amendment made to the Purchasing Bylaw even after the MFP matter when Eddie became Mayor:

32. (1) A Sole Source purchase may be used for the purchasing of goods and/or services for Contracts of any Contract value, in the following circumstances:

(i) Where a public/private partnership exists.

As I speculated before, why else did Standard & Poors give the City such a good credit rating.

Our tax situation is just like a rose garden...lovely to look at but beware the thorns!

PS. Read the Star Forum on this and be shocked at the nastiness directed against the Mayor and Council. It's getting brutal

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mexican Jumping For Joy Beans

I am tingling with the excitement. Maybe it's I am shivering from the cold instead, I'm not sure right now.

Did you see that exciting press release from the City of Windsor about the one charter flight from Mexicana airlines. I wonder how many new staff they had to hire at the airport to deal with this huge influx in business.
  • "Growing Activity at Windsor Airport

    In the past seasonal workers were typically flown to Toronto and then they travelled to Windsor by bus. Starting in January, Mexicana Airlines has agreed to revive its Mexico-to-Windsor charter to facilitate the quick transfer of migrant workers coming from Mexico to Essex County.

    “We gladly welcome this new commercial activity at the airport,” said Mayor Eddie Francis. “This will increase airport revenue and benefit our regional community and agricultural sector.”

    “It is exciting to be part of this mutually beneficial partnership between Canada and our Mexican neighbours and further supports our need to expand operations into Mexico for leisure charters” said Federica Nazzani, Airport General Manager Your Quick Gateway (Windsor) Inc. The inaugural flight of this new partnership will arrive at Windsor Airport on Wednesday, January 30th, and plans are in the works to see more flights like this in the future."

Wow, "plans are in the works." Now that's business development talk folks that we can feel good about eh! It's almost like saying that a compny is coming here with jobs but we cannot tell you more because of confidentiality concerns or we are going overseas:

  • "to lure unnamed cargo and food distribution warehouse operations to Windsor's airport.

    He said the airport could be a centre where products from around the world are handled, stored and shipped out to final destinations."

I wonder whether this means that Eddie and Frederica will now have to travel to Mexico City together to build on the results, whatever they are since we've never been told, of their taxpayer all-expenses paid trip to Germany. I would suggest that they go now when the weather is cold so they can explain to our new Mexican friends what kind of clothes they will need for Canada and perhaps they could take examples of parkas, scarves, gloves, sweaters and boots with them. Why it might take a week or two or in the sunshine for them to do all of that.

I think they could teach people in Moncton, New Brunswick as well a thing or two about Airport development and how to bring in business. I just happened to see this story about what they're doing in Moncton. We of course have had this program since 1993. Just look at how successful our Airport operation is. Why it is so successful that we have to make a big deal about one single solitary charter flight:

  • "Moncton airport approved for transshipment program

    OTTAWA, Ont. -- The Greater Moncton International Airport has received approval to participate in the international air cargo transshipment program. The program simplifies air carrier access to the airport for air cargo transshipment, allowing the airport to seek new market opportunities and further develop its air cargo transshipment activity.

    "Our government is pleased to have the international air cargo transshipment program in place," said the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. "The Greater Moncton International Airport now has an additional tool to help develop its air cargo business, which will benefit the local economy."

    The international air cargo transshipment program allows air cargo to be moved through Canada for shipment to third countries. For example, cargo could be flown from the US into Moncton, stored temporarily, and then flown to a European destination. Similarly, international air cargo could also arrive from overseas and then be shipped by rail or road from Moncton to the US.

    "Our economy and our standard of living still depend heavily on exports and imports. Last year alone we exported $458 billion worth of merchandise and imported another $404 billion," said the Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister responsible for New Brunswick. "This announcement we are making today is another signal to our trading partners that Canada is open for business. This program will improve the flow of goods and provide major economic benefits to the Greater Moncton area and the rest of the country."

    "We are extremely pleased that the Canadian Government and in particular, Transport Canada, has recognized the Greater Moncton International Airport as an official air cargo transshipment centre," said Rob Robichaud, president and CEO of Greater Moncton International Airport. "This announcement supports our goal of growing our air cargo presence internationally. We thank all levels of government and our many public and private sector partners for supporting the Greater Moncton International Airport with this very important initiative."

    The program enables the Canadian Transportation Agency to authorize any Canadian or foreign air carrier to use Greater Moncton International Airport to transship international air cargo, even if these rights are not provided in Canada's bilateral air transport agreements. In addition, air carriers will be able to combine such cargo transshipments with other services for which they may be licensed.

    Cargo security is addressed during the application process, and on an ongoing basis, in the context of broader security monitoring by Transport Canada and the operational activities of the Canada Border Services Agency.

    The international air cargo transshipment program was introduced in 1982 at Mirabel Airport as part of a larger effort to improve the use of Montreal area airports. It has since been expanded to other airports, including Hamilton (1987), Windsor (1993), Gander (2000), Winnipeg (2004), Edmonton (2006) and Calgary (2007). The program is also being introduced at the Vancouver International Airport and at the Abbotsford International Airport.

    During the course of its international air policy review, Transport Canada determined that Canadian airports should be given the freedom to attract cargo transshipment activity where there are market opportunities, in line with its new market-oriented Blue Sky international air policy."

Anderson, Indiana's Lessons For Windsor

I wonder if the City of Anderson, Indiana had a newspaper whose editors would write something like this to help out a Mayor who had failed in everything that he had tried to accomplish:
  • "Windsor is in the midst of a crisis it didn't create and it can't solve."

What a terrific excuse for a do-nothing Mayor and Council: "it can't solve." What it means is don't even try and point at the perfect storm of problems if the citizens' finger of blame is directed at you.

Take a look at the article below. Anderson sounds very much like the City of Windsor doesn't it. But there is a big difference. I did not read anything in this article about the politicians moaning and groaning with their hands out demanding that someone else solve their problems. They started to solve them on their own.

The article talked about "aggressive leadership" not stallers and obstructionists with no solutions other than THINK BIG dreams that are unrealistic and to say "NO, NO, NO." Their City welcomed business unlike ours which chases away business people.

What's the difference between that city and ours? They have a Mayor, and an Economic Development Commission as we do. They put the emphasis on "aggressive business diversification, infrastructure improvements and ability to hold the line on property taxes" as we can do as well. My Three-part series is a roadmap for success.

Look at us as a contrast. There's only about $2 billion of infrastructure improvements that the Ambassador Bridge Company and the Senior Levels are trying to throw at us but which we refuse to accept. Our Gazelle Feeders cannot even find brochures for potential investors. As for our taxes, I just do not want to get into that now after the WUC and fleet gas fiascoes.

Can you imagine what Anderson's Mayor would have done if he had Eddie's advantages, or for that matter, any other Mayor in Canada! Words cannot convey my disgust!

  • What works: Anderson, Ind.
    A success story

    By LARRY RINGLER / Tribune Chronicle POSTED: February 10, 2008

    Thousands of high-paying jobs vanish as General Motors Corp. auto parts plants close. Holes pockmark the streets, jarring drivers as they travel through the city.

    Abandoned houses and failed factories spread like cancer, withering its host with blight and broken dreams.

    The image very well could be the Mahoning Valley’s epitaph. It nearly was Anderson, Ind.’s.

    In a continuing series, the Tribune Chronicle examines ‘‘What Works’’ for communities that in many respects are comparable to Warren but which are rebuilding their economies.

    Today, the focus is on Anderson, for decades a thriving hub of parts manufacturing before plant closings wiped out all of its roughly 27,000 GM jobs.

    Through aggressive leadership, the city is winning national, even international, attention as a turnaround town in the middle of the Midwest Rust Belt.

    The Indiana State Chamber of Commerce in September named Anderson the Community of the Year for its aggressive business diversification, infrastructure improvements and ability to hold the line on property taxes.

    In April, Forbes magazine ranked Anderson 98th on its list of 100 best small cities for business and careers, based on cost of doing business, including taxes, job growth over five years and population over age 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

    Large and small employers are rewarding Anderson with money and jobs.

    Global food giant Nestle chose the city over Lima and others for its biggest plant, paying 300 workers an average of $19.50 an hour to supply the world with coffee creamer and beverages. Another company pays 30 workers an average of $29 an hour to develop lithium batteries for vehicle, military and other uses.

    Helped by the city’s lobbyists in Washington, federal and state agencies have awarded Anderson nearly $25 million in grants over four years — money used to help create a cluster of business incubators, clean abandoned industrial ‘‘brownfields,’’ and replace the city’s public transportation bus fleet.

    City leaders cut taxes below the 2004 level, saved money by paying workers to retire, then combining jobs, improved streets, built a fiber optic loop that allows wireless Internet in six parks and upgraded sewer and water lines.

    As a result, the community — about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis — is popping up on business radars from Germany to China, thanks to an aggressive marketing program that includes Japanese language Web pages.

    It wasn’t always so for a town that, like Warren, has been rocked by the loss of its high-paying auto parts manufacturing jobs.

    ‘‘The attitude was one without hope,’’ former Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said of the gloom that enveloped the city as its GM auto empire crumbled through the 1980s and 1990s. ‘‘People equated Anderson’s existence to GM.’’

    Flush with GM supplier jobs at Delphi Corp., Guide Corp. and Delco Remy, the city once was known as ‘‘Detroit South.’’ It trailed only GM birthplace Flint, Mich., with the highest concentration of GM workers — one of every three workers to Flint’s one of every two.

    Near-death began in the early 1980s with job cuts that continued for more than 20 years, limping to an end with the shuttering of the 1,300 worker Guide lamp plant in January 2007. Delphi ended its presence in August with the closing of its ignition plant, which by then was down to a caretaker.

    Anderson’s plant closings mirror steep GM job losses in the Warren area, which at its peak also counted roughly 27,000 GM workers at the Lordstown car assembly and the Packard Electric vehicle wiring complex.

    The damage to Warren has been softened because about 6,000-plus hourly and salaried jobs remain at the two operations, and hundreds more at nearby supplier plants — although many at drastically lower wages.

    Even so, Warren’s income tax receipts ended 2007 down nearly 10 percent, or about $2 million, from 2006 — a year inflated by retirement and buyout payments to persuade workers to leave Delphi Packard.

    The loss of such prestigious jobs — a painful reminder of the area’s steel industry meltdown 30 years ago — has battered the city’s self-confidence.

    ‘‘We spend so much time dwelling on how things used to be because of our dependence on the auto industry and steel industry. It’s frustrating,’’ Warren Mayor Michael O’Brien said.

    O’Brien insists hard times provide opportunities. Warren is looking to turn a closed Delphi Packard building into an incubator to nurture startup businesses — something Anderson successfully has done with its Flagship Enterprise Center and downtown Anderson Business Incubator.

    O’Brien said he’s meeting with companies that will decide in the next few months about locating in Warren. He declined to elaborate due to confidentiality.

    A Warren development agency just announced it is looking for financing to develop an arcade linking the city parking deck to Courthouse Square and a retail business incubator next door.

    Anthony Iannucci Jr., director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp., said the agency has taken options on two West Market Street buildings for the projects — the former Showcase Books store and the former Job and Family Services one stop center. Iannucci said training would include Internet marketing and he envisions the businesses making as much as 75 percent of their sales online.

    Warren also is making strides in diversifying its economy, although at generally lower wages than Anderson.

    Last year, the city attracted Leedsworld, a light manufacturer from western Pennsylvania that puts names or logos on clothing, luggage, coffee cups and other promotional items for companies.

    The England-based company committed to hiring 241 workers in three years, paying an average nearly $10 an hour, plus benefits, at a former Delphi Packard distribution center.

    Warren leaders have made quality-of-life improvements — a paved riverwalk and the Warren Community Amphitheatre. Meanwhile, a business group known as Trumbull 100 installed free wireless Internet in downtown Courthouse Square.

    But Anderson clearly leads Warren in attracting a diverse mix of new employers at respectable wages.

    Anderson will be a world player in the food industry this spring when Nestle opens its $400 million plant. Workers will use a patented process to make Nesquik drink and Coffee-Mate liquid creamer.

    Altairnano Technologies, a company relying on former Delphi and GM employees to develop lithium batteries, grew from two workers in the Flagship Enterprise Center to 30 permanent workers averaging $29 an hour. Even the company’s 13 temporary workers average $23 an hour.

    For even more diversification, Hoosier Park race track and Centaur Gaming broke ground in October for a $100 million-plus slot machine casino at the track. The project is expected to add 500 jobs averaging $14.42 an hour, including benefits and tips, when it opens this summer.

    Much of the new economy took shape under Smith’s leadership. A business major in college, Smith said the first thing he did was hire a professional ‘‘city salesman’’ — Greg Winkler, a former sales person with a national engineering firm.

    Winkler’s job, Smith said, was to do ‘‘nothing but make contacts at the corporate level with industries that made a good fit with Anderson.’’

    The Winkler hire became a flashpoint during the election, partly due to his hefty annual contract. Smith, a Republican in a longtime Democrat stronghold, lost his re-election in November, although he’s challenging winner Kris Ockomon’s Anderson residency.

    The second thing Smith said he did was make sure the state government directed inquiring businesses to Anderson. Smith said he discovered the state was not mentioning Anderson when companies inquired about locating in Indiana.

    Dick Wohlberg, general manager of German-based manufacturer Muhlen Sohn, has no doubts who was responsible for attracting the company’s first factory outside its native country to Anderson.

    He said Smith and his staff rate ‘‘a big star as far as I’m concerned. They gave us instant answers and were very thorough. They’re very business-friendly.’’

    Smith said he also got his own house in order. For example, Anderson’s street department, he said, had ample workers, but not enough money to pave roads. So the city offered early retirements to workers and combined jobs, shrinking the payroll to 600 from 700 while boosting efficiency, Smith said.

    The move helped the city save $10 million on its budget over four years, when factoring in expected increases. Anderson paved more streets, built new ones and still had $3 million in the bank through 2006.

    Smith aggressively pushed Anderson onto the global business stage. He traveled to China, Japan and Israel to make personal contacts that he believes some day will pay off.

    Anderson also improved quality of life. It restored its 1929 Paramount Theater and Fine Arts Center — improvements cited in awards from Forbes and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

    Smith informed residents and the world about the city’s transformation through detailedweekly e-mails, along with public appearances.

    Anderson outstrips Warren in competing for and winning federal and state grants – a key resource for rebuilding aging streets, water lines and other infrastructure that can attract employers and residents.

    While the city was getting grants for brownfield assessments and incubators, Warren lost its grant writer, Heather McMahon, last fall to a position in neighboring Youngstown.

    Anderson’s future is still far from secure. The population continues to shrink, hitting an estimated 57,500 in 2006 from a peak of 70,000. About 13.1 percent of residents had bachelor or better degrees, below the state average of 14.4 percent as of 2000.

    Crime is increasing. The city’s violent crimes nearly doubled to 287 in 2006 from 149 in 2004. The city had no arsons in 2004; it reported 17 in 2006.

    But Smith, who received praise as a visionary as he left office, said he believes his administration will be remembered for the positive changes it brought to the city.

    ‘‘I think people probably will look back and say those years really began to change the direction of the city,’’ he said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Border Bombshell

No I do not mean that Pamela Anderson is coming to meet with Larry Horwitz in the middle of the Ambassador Bridge. Rather it is another shocking revelation that I found from the Corradino group, the consultant for US DRIC. And if I can know about it so should the political masters of DRIC in both the United States and Canada.

It is becoming more and more clear to me at least that the DRIC project is nothing more than a vindictive action to put the owner of the Ambassador Bridge out of business. There's no way to explain what is going on otherwise. The more I find, the more obvious it becomes.

How many more bombshells do we have to endure? How many more stories do we have to uncover before someone will tell us the truth? Why is it taking so painstakingly slow for us to be told the real facts?

I saw this 10-year old Windsor Star news story on another website and thought that it was important for me to reproduce it below. What troubles me about it is that it makes a mockery of any position taken that it was not always the intention to build another crossing exactly in the spot where the Ambassador Bridge Company wants to do it now.

Truly, is someone out of their mind? Do they have no respect for taxpayers and the amount of money that will be wasted on the DRIC project if it is ever built. No one needed to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars to drill a holes in the ground because there are salt mines and brine wells in the area where the Ambassador Bridge is located as had to be done with the DRIC locations. No experts peer review of the Enhancement Project is necessary as will be done with the DRIC project to ensure that a new bridge will not collapse.

This is the third bombshell from the Corradino group that to me destroys any need for a DRIC bridge and suggests to me that an investigation is needed on both sides of the border to uncover how this process has gotten so far out of control.

1) the head guy at the US DRIC consulting firm has admitted recently that "it is believed (by Joe Corradino) that the market won’t support three bridges." In other words, there is not enough volume of traffic. MDOT's Mohammed Alghurabi, had said as well that only one span will be successful. The private plan is further along in the process. "We've been clear that the intent is not to have two bridges," Alghurabi said. "If the Detroit International Bridge Co. were to succeed (in getting cleared for construction), then the (public project) will not continue."

2) next we read as I Blogged recently that the Ambassador Bridge can handle a huge volume of trucks and that was recognized a decade ago:
  • "Other positive effects of the project are increased safety through better access to the Bridge to handle almost twice as much traffic in the next 20 years as is present today; improved air quality, as Bridge traffic is not interrupted by stop lights."

The article was written in 1997... [by Corradino and MDOT's Zeigler]. The volume in 1997 was 2.7 million trucks. Doing the math, the Ambassador Gateway project was designed to handle 5.4 million trucks. And that is before all the significant changes with respect to Customs that have been taken and the new booths that have been added.

There seems to be little recognition in any of the Government materials that the Ambassador Bridge is operating at about half capacity and that the measures that they have taken to increase the capacity of the bridge are working.

As I have said before, the Bridge people are their own worst enemy. If they had not been so successful in operating their bridge, it would not have given the Governments the opportunity to play games with them for so long.

3) Now the coup de grace. This article says it all. Read it for yourself and see why I'm so disgusted. The new bridge was to have gone exactly where it is being proposed to go now in the Enhancement Project i.e. right beside the existing bridge. Everything was designed to accommodate the new bridge.

Please tell me why we have spent so many millions of dollars and wasted so much time with DRIC probably proposing to duplicate everything about a mile away at a cost of multi-billions of dollars with the disruption of hundreds of businesses and residents. I'm sorry. I just do not understand it.

  • Bridge firm eyes birth of a twin:
Preliminary groundwork is being laid for a second span alongside the Ambassador Bridge;

Douglas Williamson, Star Business Editor. The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ont.: Mar 29, 1997.

It's been the stuff of urban myth in Windsor and Detroit for years.

Now, the prospect of a second bridge spanning the murky Detroit River has taken on the air of reality.

There are developments on two fronts:

- Ambassador Bridge owners and Michigan state and local governments are officially planning preliminary groundwork for a span alongside the current structure, tied initially to freeway renovations in Detroit.

- A rival Windsor group is quietly but vigorously working on its own bridge proposal, according to sources who do not want to be identified. ``There is a serious interest out there for a second bridge,'' said a Windsor official. ``Obviously there's a competitive situation lining up.'' The group has engaged the services of a city surveying firm which also refuses to comment.

At various times in the last two decades, rumors have had a new bridge coming to Amherstburg or Windsor. Reports surfaced again in the early 1990s, when cross-border shopping was the rage.

But no one has seen any evidence of groundwork such as land assembly, said Doug Lawson, chairman of the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission, adding that the commission has received no information on a bridge proposal.

Company cautious

For its part, the Ambassador Bridge company is playing it cautious.

``We've always said that when traffic warrants it, we will consider building a second span,'' said Remo Mancini, president of the Canadian Transit Company, one of two firms owned by the U.S. family that owns the bridge. He said it could be 15 years before the need for a new bridge becomes acute.

``You don't want to wait until you have traffic jams before you start planning for the future,'' the former Liberal Essex South MPP added.

As part of a $100-million US overhaul of the tangled entrance to the Detroit road and connecting freeway system, a larger new ramp/deck will permit the later addition of a twin to the Ambassador Bridge.

Second ramp

During planning sessions, bridge owners asked that the new deck accommodate a ramp that can veer west toward a second bridge, said consultant Pat Holland of The Corradino Group of Louisville, Ky., which is overseeing the urgently needed freeway-bridge entrance renovations for a consortium of state and local governments and the bridge company.

``I think that says that it's been thought about at a relatively high level,'' Holland told The Star. ``We were instructed and we've (designed) an approach, that will handle one bridge or two bridges.

``They're the ones who initiated that discussion, but it was obvious to everyone that if we're going to build something for the next 30 or 40 years, that you'd have to have it so it can accommodate a second bridge if one were built.

``The bridge company did in fact say that they would prefer it if they had that option open. It can easily accomodate another bridge just downriver which is west of the present bridge. We can accommodate it within 150 or 200 yards probably,'' Holland said.

``We're building an access ramp up to the bridge and part of our directive has been to build that ramp such that it could serve another bridge if another bridge was built, and that is part of our charge and we're designing it in that fashion.

``So based on what we've done, we could accommodate a second bridge.

``The place where you build it, is land that they own,'' he said, referring to bridge company-owned property on both sides of the river. ``It's my belief that the existing bridge would become one-way toward the U.S. and the new bridge become one-way toward Canada. That means that the traffic now going over this (planned) deck on to the present bridge would divert on to a new bridge.''

The U.S. federal government will pay 80 per cent of the cost of the freeway-bridge entrance renovations, and the Ambassador Bridge company the remaining 20 per cent, Holland said. Interim work should begin later this year but no date has been set for completion of the entire job, necessary to improve what is acknowledged to be one of the worst international freeway access points in North America.

``We've building a new access to the Ambasador Bridge from the interstate systems. There are three interstates plus a lot of local streets that all try to get on the Ambassador Bridge at the same point, which makes it look like a bowl of spaghetti,'' Holland said. The improvements, including the new deck, will allow vastly improved car and truck traffic flow from the bridge to local Detroit streets and connecting freeways.

Regarding the new deck, preliminary design and planning is done, actual design will begin this summer, and construction could start in a year and half, Holland said.

In the freeway-bridge entrance redesign, the new deck is to be built over existing businesses and roads, Holland said.

Mean Mail

It is getting meaner and nastier. Where's your contribution to either tone down the rhetoric or boost up the volume!

1) Talk about a personal agenda. Eddie is single handedly destroying relationships and business by himself.

Mayor McNamara said it point blank and we can only hope that is a warning shot.

If the outer communities launch legal litigation, Windsor is sunk. Period.

Eddie seems to be able to start them, but has no experience when it comes to defence.

Business in Windsor need to step up and say something loudly. Eddie is not just hurting Windsor, he is slowing opportunities for business throughout Ontario. The Provincial and Federal MP's have to step in and end all this petty political sabre rattling.The rest of Canada is at an all time low with unemployment while this area is losing daily.

Ed, you know my story and the tens of thousands of dollars I saved by moving out of Windsor. In this economy it saved me. Big corporations are not going to invest in this area if the leaders can't even decide on a road ten years from now when none of them will be around. I have seen it and know of many that are staying well away. The London area is getting way more opportunity than we will ever know. Guess where my work is going? With all the empty buildings in Windsor, how can the Mayor not look himself in the mirror and decide to do something, anything today?

Windsor doesn't have a lame duck Mayor, it has a penguin that thinks it's an eagle. At the very least the Mayor could recognize the Volkswagon investment. Jobs anyone?

2) Despite all his rhetoric and legal threats, he has done little to advance the border file. Rather he is putting up obstacles. And yet with the same bravado he comes hat in hand for more money. Not sure what sort of strategy this is - insult them but then ask for a favour.

3) Just why, oh why, can't our local media have the gonads to do some investigative journalism on on our city administraton much like Detroit's media did with the mayor of Detroit? No, I am not suggesting there is any impropriety but I would suspect there would has to be something behind all these secret meetings and behind-doors agreements.

Whatever the reson, council should be open to those that they serve. If we cannot find out what is going (supposedly in our best interests), nor the media, then perhaps a threat of impeachment is all that is needed for this mayor and council to open up and become truly a transparent administration and one that serves the people that elected them. To not do so promotes speculation and is simply insulting to the good people of Windsor.

4) Why don't you do a specific blog on the new math? DRIC has been priced at $1.6 billion. Greenlink has been priced at $1.6 billion. That's the same number, isn't it. It was when I went to school. So, if DRIC is implemented, why are we selling out and implementing a cheap solution when the costs are the same? Why do we let Eddie get away with saying his plan costs the same as the DRIC plan, but their plan is cheap and a sell-out? You know, for the smartest guy in the room, it sure seems to me that he created a loophole in logic that you can drive a truck through...

5) Congratulations on the 3 Part Article. Maybe you could turn it into a play that could be the headliner when the Capitol Theatre re-opens or even a movie for the next Windsor Film Festival... could be a "Blockbuster". The title of the play
or movie could be "City Rises From The Ashes".

Keep up the good work

6) How can a person with your understanding of what Windsor needs possibly hide from his responsibility to run for Mayor?

7) In other jurisdiction, the dead can only vote. Apparently in Windsor they not only can vote, but you give them cars & gas…

8) [Re Halberstadt BLOG about Eddie] He’s thrown down the glove, and hopefully others will be emboldened to not de facto fall in line behind Eddie. This is the next big chink in the armor exposed.

9) Even though he went out of his way to praise Ross Paul and Eddie by definition when [Ed Lumley] endorsed the on-campus decision he went against Ross and Eddie.

10) "Our track record speaks for itself to host these events," Francis said. "From the Super Bowl, to Wrestlemania, to the Grand Prix."

Yes, an impressive track record indeed, to glum on to Detroit events and pretend that the Mayor of Windsor was somehow relevant...Where is the Downtown campus, the urban village... Impressive track record indeed!

11) When this process all began after 9/11 and outside the strong vocal and
physical authority of Home Land Security, the state of Michigan has been
relatively quiet of making any border changes other than greater security,
even their present gateway project was long in planning before 9/11. What I
am getting at is that over the last years Mayor Francis never really had a
dance partner, he even went so far as to assumed that he had a date to dance
with Michigan on the third crossing issue, it never it seems to have entered
his mind that Michigan would actually say no!

And my gut feeling was and is that Michigan would dash any hopes that Eddie
had of having a dance partner.

This is what has disturbed me ever since DRTP, DRIC and Greenlink proposals
were made! Michigan was playing wallflower to Eddie's advances. Doesn't
Eddie know that Michigan is losing jobs faster than Windsor, that out
migration in the state is even faster..the state has no money. So if a free
enterprizer like Moroun wants to build a bridge with his own money, cheaper
than two governments with no subsidies, what option do you think the state
of Michigan has already chosen.

Neither Duncan, Pupatello or Francis in their lawyering joust would figure
that the governor of Michigan and now a senator would but say anything but

My suspicion is that Duncan and Pupatello already know this, that there
isn't going to be a Greenlink, there is not going to be a third crossing
(not in my or your future) and a steaming pot of Crow is now being cooked
for him.

As you have said, Eddie is now trying to position himself as the victim of
all the cruel and mean governments machinations everywhere that he, Eddie
did his best. But we pay for the lawyers. He isn't going to get his way, I
don't care what buzz or spin he puts on it, it is not in the cards.

One thing that all governments should do is reducing the polluting emissions
of the trucks that are now on the road through legislation and regulatory
devices to clean them up or help purchasing more efficient new trucks.

It will be very interesting to see/hear what buzz Eddie is going to put on
the Senator's interview.

12) The Capitol Theatre has bookings till dec 08. So far starting the 3rd of March.

13) The bridge to nowhere.
The access road to nowhere.
The City of Windsor is getting nowhere.
Financials of Windsor left with nothing.
Nice legacy for Francis to leave with.
Now the city has to sell the arenas.
It may have been part of the deal with the new one. What I want to know is
how much of an incentive will there be to buy them?
If the track record stays the same, the city will be paying someone to take
them off of their hands. I might be skeptical but can you blame me?
When was the last time anything great happened without controversy?
When is the last time council made anything happen?
Come on now, besides fiascos.

14) [Re Sleep Deprivation]One of your better blogs Ed ... keep it up.

15) You know how some names, songs etc bring up old memories (often bad ones)? My memory takes me back to Eddie Munster, the child "star" for the TV series the Munsters. He was a little scallywag, causing all kinds of mischief. After his stint as an actor, he tried his hands at being a musician and a few other things, but has never found substained success. How I know this? He was just featured on a television program titled "Where are they now?". This will be no doubt 'our' Eddie's legacy in a few years, perhaps even sooner. I just hope that our city will not suffer the same fate due to this mayor and council's constant tirades against the provincial and federal governments.

16) Hi Ed

You have written very good blogs lately and I liked your three part series on what could be in Windsor if it weren't for Eddie et al.

17) What I would like to see audited are the consult and legal fees.

18) You can't blame Eddie the Eagle for his lack of negotiating skills.He has no idea what a lawyer does, honestly. Just because he finished the schooling does not give him any expertise on legal matters.It just means he can practise law. That is just what he is doing, practising.

Successful barristers, such as yourself do not want to go into a courtroom. That complicates things andcosts and time will rise dramatically. I'm sure his leagal council is more than willing to put time in.Who wouldn't? It's free money. From what I have learned over the years it takes negotiation skills and talk. Yes plain and simple.Shooting off with the mouth does little more than alienate people.

I can see the bridge and the outer communities getting together on a class action lawsuit against Windsor. Worst case scenario but what other choices has Eddie left the business world?

19) With regards to the fleet leasing and the response we received from the Manager.

"We did not find evidence or records to show that people were accessing the city gas pumps who are known to be deceased."

Is it any wonder Windsor ranks at the top of illiteracy in Canada? Now you know why the statement was made that way and by a Manager to boot!

20) I say it's high time you start opening up this can of worms on your web page - The North American Union.

Time to start educating your wise readers about just what is going on.

Dwight's Integrity Act Dilemma

Dwight better train his assistant better. His unfortunate remarks quoted in the Star could prove costly for Dwight's political career.

Who knows, if this happens again, Windsor might not have a Minister of Finance at the Cabinet table any longer as I show in the video below.

I am sure that Councillor Gignac who was so angry at Dwight at last week's Council meeting for not supporting a tree project and the Mayor who allowed her to speak at Council will be thrilled about that. That will teach Duncan for saying "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG." Eddie may get his revenge after all.

I expect that the Windsor Star made an error. Dwight Duncan's usual spokesperson, Steve Erwin, must have been away from the office the other day and the reporter spoke to Steve Urkel instead. There is no other explanation that I can think of.

No Ministerial spokesperson would ever make the kind of comments that were made knowing that they could be reported.

If what Erwin, errrrrrr Urkel, said is correct then Dwight Duncan in my opinion may have severe problems under the Members' Integrity Act. If what was said is not correct, then Mr. Urkel may have to start looking for a new job since he put his Minister at risk.

Can you believe this comment:
  • "He can't publicly have a letter out there supporting a group in Windsor that wants funding for a project," said Erwin.

    He said Duncan can support the tree project privately, minister to minister, which he did with a letter to Training, Colleges and Universities Minister John Milloy.

Huh, you can breach a law of the Province of Ontario merely by doing something but in private. One law for you and me and another for a Minister of the Crown it seems. Didn't Mr. Urkel know that there is no public/private distinction under the Act?

  • "When it's a specific proposal for specific funding, he can't be seen to be influencing that," said Erwin."

Oh, he cannot be seen to be doing that, but if he does it privately as Duncan did-- "which he did with a letter to Training, Colleges and Universities Minister John Milloy"-- then it is okay in Mr. Urkel's world.

Then the ultimate line

  • "There's a reason why those rules are in place," he said."

Yes there is a reason for it but is not what Mr. Urkel said

  • "Otherwise, every minister would be lobbying for their own riding. That's political influence."

The Act is designed to prevent influence peddling. That is what is improper. And it is improper whether it was it is done publicly or privately, or whether the Member of the Legislature is a Cabinet Minister or a mere MPP.

I suspect that I know who's talking to their lawyers already about these comments after seeing them in print in the Star. That person might be concerned that his business was being adversely impacted illegally by decisions made in private ie "improperly to further another person's private interest." It looks like the City may be trying to set up a legal challenge to DRIC too after listening to the Councillors attack the new Sandra and Dwight letter.

I am sure that the Ombudsman will be very interested in this in respect of the Ministry's action in the WUC matter too. WeACT has raised the 2 Windsor Ministers' conversation with the Minister of Municipal Affairs before the terms of the whitewash WUC audit were determined.

If I was a member of the Opposition at Queen's Park, I would have a field day as well.

Quick Mr. Erwin, get back to the office and never leave again. Or else the following might happen to your boss.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

But do dead men pump gas at City of Windsor fleet facilities?

Just keep on reading to see the Jay Leno "headlines" moment in all of this. It is truly a classic line that will make you laugh out loud when you read it. Please ensure that you do not choke with laughter on your coffee and that you do not disturb your colleagues at work.

I just cannot believe it. This is the WUC fiasco all over again. There are so many similarities in this matter with what happened before that I almost think that people at City Hall are having fun with us.

At least, City Hall has learned from their past mistakes. Now the new, rewritten version of what should have been said first is coming out so much more quickly. Moreover, have you noticed that the Mayor is not front and centre this time around but that all the underlings are out there trying to take the heat away from him. Do you think were going to have a special whiteboard presentation by the Mayor at Council tonight to explain why the media were wrong in what they said. He can't scold them too much mind you because of all of those W's strapped to their bodies.

Just like with the Windsor Utilities Commission affair, first, you have to blame all of the problems on the past Administration, especially when the head person who was involved before isn't in Windsor now to defend himself. It would have been so messy if he was here to challenge what is said.

A big issue with with WUC, if you remember, was water that seemingly had not been billed out. the Mayor and his State of the City speech in 2007 said:
  • "With the new system in place, we discovered that there were one thousand water meters that were hooked up to water consuming customers, but the Windsor Utilities Commission didn’t know, and wasn’t charging them."

That became a huge symbolic issue with the 86% increase in water rates until we are told that there really was no issue and there really weren't a thousand customers who hadn't paid.

Was fleet gas used but not charged properly? In the Star story, it was claimed that "Dead people [were] pumping gas" presumably because "The audit even found that records of people using the city gas pumps "who are known to be deceased and others who are no longer with the corporation." That was supported by the audit conclusion that "We identified significant control conditions that, in our opinion, expose the (city) to the risk of fraud, waste, abuse, incomplete and inaccurate records."

Never fear though...just like at WUC, the truth supposedly came out subsequently. I think.

The Treasurer "called the actual amount of funds "wasted" on vehicle repair costs, fuel and mismanagement "miniscule" while

  • "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."

So now the Treasurer says there was a "miniscule" amount of money lost while Mr. Palanacki doesn't know if any amount was lost or not just that there was no evidence of it. He also thinks so little of the Audit Department that he didn't give them the documentation to prove that everything was fine.

To further compound the situation, the City's Audit Department chimed in with a press release "to clarify a number of statements." They had to clarify what they wrote because no one clarified before they issued their report what they said even though they had the opportunity to clarify what was wrong. Does that clarify everything?

I know it was meant to clarify the situation but here is exactly what was written in the press release. Honest, I did not make this up. I am not that good a comedy writer:

  • "We did not find evidence or records to show that people were accessing the city gas pumps who are known to be deceased."

This is a Jay Leno memo and I should send it to his show to prove that Stephen Colbert may have been right about what he said about Windsor.

DUHHH, people who are known to be deceased don't pump gas. THEY ARE DEAD! We don't need a clarifying memo to say that.

I think I know what they meant to say but they didn't say it here. They did say that

  • "We did not identify any occurrences of fraud or misappropriation of assets."

Of course not. They wouldn't find that kind of a situation anyway because they were not doing a forensic audit or one designed to uncover fraud.

At the Audit Committee meeting on February 5, 2008, the auditors said:

  • "the department has been able to reconcile and account for the identified fuel variances."

Wow, that happened with WUC too. A blown up problem was not a problem at all! Confused, I sure am. I wonder how good the City audit was now.

To answer the charge that it took the Audit department two years to do an audit of a City Department for a three-year period, the Audit Department press release blamed it on "Staffing issues." So much for the Mayor's promise in 2003 that

  • "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."

Whew, just like with the WUC time period, it only took the Mayor about four years to get to the starting line for the Fleet Group from the time he took office. Is that the kind of action that any business would tolerate? You know the answer as well as I do. It is a disgrace. I wonder when the audit of all of the other departments are going to come out as promised, before Eddie's term as Mayor ends do you think?

Now all that needs to be done is for the Mayor's flunkies to come out and tell us why the other hundred plus pages of the audit are not correct. They have to figure out if the audit is not correct why we are using these auditors in the first place.

I am thrilled to see that "Currently, the Fleet Operation is operating under an "unwritten" mandate defined by the Executive Director of Public Works."

They are doing their part to cut expenses to the bone. Why waste paper to let people know what their mandate is considering that the Audit Report said that "Management did not provide evidence of defined, documented and communicated organizational objectives, mandates or departmental goals."

I am relieved to know that the auditors clarified that

  • "The findings within the report do not imply that the operation is losing money...There is no net loss to the City as the users are internal."

I have a teeny-weeny problem with that clarification however because it seems that either the Department or the auditors can't do the math very well. As I wrote before:

  • "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."

I don't know what's right or wrong. Perhaps it is time for another Ministry whitewash audit to not get at the truth. Then it would be a perfect WUC clone!