Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend reading: Windsor's Future


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.








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.








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.







"If You Cannot Do The Job, Get Out Of The Chair And Let Someone Else Do it."


As a litigator for most of my professional career, it was my job to try and figure out what the "truth" was in a fact situation that obviously was different depending on which side that the client was on. I understood that it was my job not to take my client to court to fight a lawsuit but rather to look at the fact situation and try to assist my client in obtaining a resolution with the other side. I found that once I was able to assist my client to get away from the rhetoric, my client was much more capable than I in figuring out ways to solve the business issue with the opposition. After all, my client was a business person who understood the business better than I ever could. My job was to try to help my client achieve that result in a situation where the two sides were at odds.

I always believed that a lawyer who saw his/her function as merely going to court was doing a disservice to his/her client. Lawsuits take years and cost thousands and the result when one appears in front of a human judge is never predictable.

A good resolution was always better than a bad court judgment in my opinion.


I give you this background because I trust that you enjoyed reading my Series on Windsor's problems and how they can be solved. In effect, using my professional skills, I'm suggesting to you, dear reader, that our problems are not as big as some would want us to believe nor are they all that difficult to solve. I believe that the resolution set out in my Series is workable, practical and easily achievable if people are prepared to put their egos aside and to try to resolve outstanding issues in good faith.

The statement I set out above is a variation of the remark that former Councillor Joyce Zuk made to ex-Mayor Mike Hurst at a Council meeting when she was exasperated at how he could not control the meeting.

I thought about this line when I read the Editorial in the Star the other day. In it, the Star blames the entire world for the problems that Windsor has, our perfect storm remember, and effectively throws up its hands and says that nothing can be done here without Federal assistance.

"Windsor is in the midst of a crisis it didn't create and it can't solve."

HOGWASH!!!

Who would not want money regardless of the source but is it likely that Windsor is going to get any. What do you think? After declaring war on everyone why would anyone want to help us out! Now Councillor Valentinis has the answer to his question about why no one listens to Windsor and why we don't get grants as do other communities.

The Editorial is interesting as well because it effectively says there is nothing that our Mayor can do other than whine and cry and stamp his feet to get money from the Federal Government. In other words, make excuses for a Mayor who has failed us on everything.

I won't give myself any credit but it is very interesting that this Editorial came out right after I completed my Three-part Series on how to solve Windsor's problems and create jobs and prosperity for the region without much difficulty. If my proposition is correct, then there is an important role that Windsor's Mayor can play to achieve success for the region now. He does not have to sit on his ass doing nothing but hold out his hand asking for money.

This brings me to the Saturday closed door meeting on the border. You remember, the Mayor has just said he wants another costly advertising blitz to support the City's position, whatever that is, but in order to do so he has to hold a closed-door meeting keeping everything away from his citizens. Only a few people in this entire City will understand what the strategy is but unfortunately those people will not be taxpayers just Councillors.

Instead of holding a closed-door meeting in which the City and its lawyers are plotting against everyone and preparing for litigation to stall things off, the City should be holding open door meetings in which they talk to everyone in order to resolve issues.

You are well aware, dear reader, that there are differences between the City and the Ambassador Bridge Company with respect to its Enhancement Project. Would it not make more sense to have the Bridge Company sit down with the Mayor and Council and resolve differences now!

You are well aware that there are differences between the City, the Bridge Company and the Senior Levels with respect to the border road and other matters. Would it not make more sense to have the Bridge Company and Senior Levels sit down with the Mayor and Council and resolve differences now!

If one wants to talk a war analogy, it is time for the peace talks to be held already in order to start the reconstruction of the area that has been devastated by this ridiculous battle.

It is time for the City to stop having an entitlement mentality. It is time for the Mayor and Council to stop blaming everyone else for the City's woes. The Bridge Company and Senior Levels are here to create thousands of jobs in Windsor now and yet the Mayor and Council are stalling and opposing them. Why?

It is a shame that we do not have a person like Councillor Zuk on Council now. If we did, that person would say to the Mayor if he cannot do the job, then is time for him to get out of the Chair and let someone else do it! And do it now!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

DRIC: Bankrupting The Border


From the same group who were wrong on traffic border numbers increasing dramatically as justification for new border capacity ie a new DRIC bridge, come new figures. They seem so outrageously optimistic that one has to ask the question why they are presented.

The answer is obvious. Just in time for spring break as promised:

MEGA-PROJECTS GONE WILD

High border traffic numbers especially for trucks and huge traffic volumes going to a new DRIC bridge taken from the other existing border crossings are the only way that any private firm would even consider a P3 investment in the proposed DRIC bridge without huge government guarantees of revenue and investment payback. If the high traffic numbers are not there since there is little traffic growth then cannibalize the existing crossings.

Yes, dear reader, it is the latest edition in the series of "Gone Wild" projects that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars world-wide. Not to be outdone, our region will now boast that we have one of the premier INTERNATIONAL boondoggles that cross boundary lines of two countries.

The multi-billion cost will not only result in it going bankrupt or will cost taxpayers multi-millions in subsidies annually but will also bring down every other border crossing in the area causing huge financial problems for the economies of Canada and the United States.

How those numbers will be achieved will be the subject of another BLOG soon that will show why it is dangerous for bureaucrats who have never worked in the real world to be allowed to make business decisions.

What happens if those numbers are wrong after a billion dollar plus investment by say a pension fund like OMERS. Who gets sued?

For those of you who thought that I didn't know I was talking about, and there might be a few people around, when I said that a new DRIC bridge would bankrupt the other border crossings, I was absolutely correct.

I want you to take a look at the following comments and table from the latest US DRIC report. Bear in mind that the DRIC numbers with respect to traffic volume bear no relationship to reality and in fact the volumes for the various crossings will be significantly less than the optimistic numbers of DRIC.

I will say nothing more about what DRIC has done and will let you look at these inserts for yourself. All I know is that there is no way that anyone in their right mind would allow a new bridge to be built with traffic volumes so low. The net result would be that the governments of the two countries will have to subsidize all the crossings or trade between the two countries will absolutely die as the crossings go broke.

If this is what the exercise was supposed to achieve in the end, then they are absolutely successful. If the purpose was to bankrupt the Ambassador Bridge, then let the lawsuits begin.

Two side issues. First, the Tunnel deal between Eddie and Kwame now has to be dead officially. Who will invest, other than a Government with an ulterior motive, in a Tunnel that is already in a mess financially with the expectation that a new DRIC bridge can take away 26% of its business.

Second, was Transport Canada telling stories to the Senate to get Bill C-3 passed:

  • "Ms. Evelyn Marcoux, Transport Canada Director General, Surface Infrastructure Programs: The intent of this bill is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge. The intent of this bill is to ensure that the government fulfills its constitutional obligation and that it has the tools to do so.

    The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge.

    That being said, this bill is greater than the Ambassador Bridge. It will provide the government oversight capabilities of all crossings. It is not the intent of the government to penalize. If we were to penalize or drive the business away from the Ambassador Bridge today, we would create problems with respect to other bridges. Why would we want to do that?"

Nope, taking away most of their business so the new DRIC bridge carries 80% of the total truck business and 60% of the total traffic is of no consequence. You better sell out now Mr. Moroun, and quickly! You seem to have little choice now. The plan to scare you has to be making you shiver.




Hidden Agenda In Play







Let's see now, what expression shall we use to describe this.

We could call it sucking and blowing at the same time or perhaps blowing hot and cold with the same breath or how about speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

I'm still that furious about the story in the Ottawa newspaper with respect to the Big Cities Mayors Meeting in Ottawa. Here we have the Mayor of Windsor who has stalled off the border process for years with his THINK BIG dreams and who now will not accept the word of the Ontario Minister of Transportation having the nerve to say:
  • "By doing good infrastructure projects, you put money back into the economy. Those workers then spend while at the same time we are modernizing our infrastructure."

Tell that to the people whose mortgages are being foreclosed or who have lost their jobs or who have to move out of town or whose businesses are going bankrupt.

The Star wrote one of its most ridiculous Editorials ever:

  • "Even Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who has tried to remain optimistic in the face of plant closures and devastating layoffs at former powerhouses like Casino Windsor, and who has never stopped touting to investors the benefits of Windsor's location and its skilled and dedicated workforce, sounded grim and exasperated shortly after news of the Nemak closure broke...
    "Every time you think you've hit rock bottom, something else comes along..."

    "We need help," pleaded Francis. "It's not that we want assistance. It's that we need it..."

    Windsor is in the midst of a crisis it didn't create and it can't solve. It is bound to get worse before it gets better. This community needs help from the senior levels of government. Desperately."

Tell you what... it appears that our Mayor is incapable of doing anything to solve our problems. In fact it would appear that he did not even understand that we had problems. Given that, perhaps he and all of the Councillors ought to resign and let someone else do the job, say the Senior Levels, and we could save all of their salaries to use for other purposes.

Sure Windsor is in a crisis. While other places get government grants, new plants and are begging people to move to their locations because they need employees, Windsor is toughing it out. As I tried to demonstrate in my Three Part Series, if Windsor had a Mayor that knew what he was doing and was prepared to work with the Senior Levels a lot of our problems would disappear. No such luck, especially with a Council that is afraid to stand up to the Mayor for fear of being scolded like kindergarten children.

It's nice of Eddie to jump on the bandwagon finally. After all, he did say a few weeks ago that getting new jobs is the most important priority in this City. I can't remember if that was before or after Dwight Duncan talked about the 7,500 jobs that could be created by the road to the bridge construction.

I expect that the Eminence Greasie has told Eddie that he better put "jobs" in his vocabulary since he can't let Dwight "out job" him. Put that there along with the PLAN, DRIC's "cheap solution" and "guns, gangs and drugs." He may as well sound good while he continues to do nothing and tries to divert the blame from himself.

None of this makes sense anymore. There is something going on behind the scenes as I have suggested before. There is the hidden agenda that is being played out and we Windsorites are being made to look like fools.

While I would like to do so, I must admit I don't buy completely into this war between various Councillors and Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello while at the same time that Sandra tells us that she talks to the Mayor every day. There is a disconnecrt somewhere.

Our fears and emotions are being used to accomplish what I do not know. It is just like the charade that was played out with Sam's area of mass destruction to try to convince people that a fully tunnelled solution was necessary. It's also very much like the negotiating where auto unions snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat at the last possible second before a strike. But then we find out that the auto Company won everything and the so-called win is nothing more than theatrics to get a majority vote of the workers.

Here's what the Mayor wanted to achieve in his behind closed door in camera meeting:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said discussion first dealt with the city's GreenLink plan and efforts to have it adopted by the binational Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study...

    "We want to have all our responses and community reaction in place."

That's ridiculous. Eddie has all that now and has had it in place for months now after the previous ad blitz. Obviously he did not get the results he wanted the first time around so he is trying it again until he gets the numbers he wants. Hasn't everyone heard about the "cheap solution" already but I guess that people do not think $1.6B is so cheap after all.

What happened with the big advertising blitz before? We never got anything to tell us what the results were after spending all that taxpayer money on full-page Star ads, radio spots, Ward meetings and so on. All that wasting of money only got the Mayor a few thousand people who supported Greenlink. It does not appear that Eddie has ever given to the DRIC people a formal report setting up the city's position. In fact the news story states:

  • "Some data was not made available until recently," said Erwin."
Eddie acknowledged at Council that he has not given DRIC everything since they are playing negotiating games. In fact his bureaucrat admitted that the techical teams and DRIC had not met for two months! The Mayor has admitted that he is not given the Greenlink costing information to DRIC either so how are they to know if his plan makes any sense or not. Moreover, more attacks on Dwight and Sandra and possible legal challenges to Council meetings for secrecy are not going to advance the file are they?


So much for Eddie's urgency on the border.

I thought that there were all these conversations between Sam Schwartz and the DRIC people and didn't Sam think that they were going to accept almost everything that he said. After all Sam claimed:
  • "I would be surprised if they did not incorporate the vast majority of the elements that we've put forward."
Sam's remarks makes it seem that the two sides are close to a deal doesn't it. So why the sound and fury that signifies nothing out of the mouth of the Mayor? Is Sam's statement false? What is the truth? Heck, Eddie even got a letter from the Minister of Transportation re Manning Road that should give him comfort.


But nothing is good enough for Eddie. He still has to ask for more. But more of what?

So what is it, what is Eddie's hidden agenda? Do the Councillors know and if so will they share that information with us or have they been kept in the dark too and are afraid to ask any questions of the Mayor for fear of getting that Eddie stare?


There is no doubt that the agenda has something to do with roads but I think it more has to do with money and how much of it can Eddie squeeze out of the Senior Levels to do with as he chooses. It all has to do with compensation for roads in Windsor, for Windsor being the "host" for an international border crossing, and those discussions must not be going well for Eddie to put this much pressure on.

How about the Tunnel deal as a suggestion too.......If the Feds won't finance it, perhaps the Province might as Kwame suggested yesterday.

  • "The one-time tunnel deal with Windsor, which the mayor has been counting on to eliminate the city's deficit, was stymied because Windsor was having a hard time getting the cash from conventional sources. Windsor hopes to get the money from its provincial government. It's unclear how large the deficit is, but when Kilpatrick announced the plan in 2007, he hoped it would raise about $75 million."
The only question I have is whether Eddie has factored in that the Senior Levels may decide to pull out of Windsor instead. Then what happens?

I wonder which will come first... Eddie's success or Windsor's devastation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Those Who Can, Can. Those Who Cannot...


...become Windsor City Council members.

Do you think that I am being insulting. You ain't seen nothing yet!

As I predicted yesterday, the interesting part of the City Council Meeting last night was not the result, because that was expected. Rather, the part that I was interested in was the contrast between the Bridge Company and the Mayor and the City Council members.

It is the difference between those who can and who can achieve and those who cannot and are afraid to do anything for fear of being wrong and who are prepared to hurt anyone who is prepared to try to succeed.


Just watch the Windsor Star video on their website before they take it down. Listen to our Mayor's excuses. He has to blame the defeat of what the Bridge Company was proposing on the Canadian Border Services Agency. He is incapable of standing up on his own and taking responsibility for his own and Council actions. He cannot bear the risk of making a mistake.

Customs had to be the scapegoat last night for Eddie the way Council always is. Why else do you think he always uses the word "Council" when a decision is made. Eddie wants the glory of the title but he does not want to be the witness in the lawsuit as the one who actually acts as CEO of the Corporation.

It is just as he had to have Mike Palanacki take the hit for the Fleet Audit to deflect his incompetence of being the CEO of the Corporation of the City of Windsor for the last four years. The buck stops with him and his pre-election promises for not ensuring that the Corporation was run properly. But for a few comments by the Lead Internal Auditor which were devastating about the Fleet Operation, we heard nothing from the Audit Department. If Eddie had allowed Audit to say more, Council would have had no alternative but to demand a proper forensic accounting on the Fleet Department. This way, just like with the whitewash audit of WUC, Eddie and Council can hope that it all goes away.

What is very interesting to me is that Eddie talked to reporters about, and Administration included in their Report Package, certain letters. Eddie made a big point about saying those are the public document records that people should take a look at.

Don't you find it find it strange however that when he read out a letter from the Bridge Company at Council about closing southbound Huron Church it was dated in October, 2007, about 4 months ago. Strangely, this letter was not included in the package of letters that Administration set out. Why would they include it when it would become known that the Bridge Company started talking to them in October. It's better if everybody is led to believe that the Bridge Company was trying to do something sneakily.

Obviously, Gord Henderson meant it as a slur and smear in his recent column when he described Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper as
  • "billionaire, 80-year-old American transportation tycoon Matty Moroun, and his supporting cast."

I'm afraid that Henderson and Council don't understand how Moroun and Stamper have achieved what they have and how they have arrived where they are. As Henderson also said before and as he has forgotten it seems:

  • "I'm in awe of Moroun and his hired hands. These folks are the masters. They're always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players in what amounts to a high-stakes border chess match."

Something was going on at Council last night and I'm not sure I understand yet what it is. But I will take a stab at it.

Were you surprised at how calm, cool, and collected Dan Stamper was last night. I was. He sat there in a very respectful manner answering the questions that he was asked. I must admit that if I was in Stamper's position, I would have hit out at the Mayor and Council especially when Councillor Jones tried to emulate Perry Mason cross-examining a witness when he had no idea what he was talking about.

I think that the Councillor needs to be scripted a lot better before he tries to engineer another one of these TV lawyer performances. For Councillor Jones' benefit, "Black Letter Law" is defined as "The principles of law which are generally known and free from doubt or dispute."

In fact, the Councillor is so smart when he asked for the interpretations of a certain sections of the new Bridges and Tunnels Act, and he did not seem to understand what he was talking about with respect to the statute last night, that he just made it easier for the Bridge Company to get exactly what they wanted in the first place.

It is very clear to me that it was a no-lose situation for the Bridge Company. That is why Eddie tried so hard to put the responsibility on CBSA. If Council granted what the Bridge Company wanted, then he got what he came for. If Council refused, as they did, then Stamper has another reason to argue bad faith against the City of Windsor. As you know, the Mayor is the Chair of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, his competitor, and whose members include City Councillors. Eddie wanted to try to point his finger at someone else and say that if there was bad faith, it was their actions not his. He does not want some Judge saying that he is responsible so that the City has to pay out huge damages in a lawsuit.

If you want to consider it that way, then I should stop writing in my BLOG now. I have said it all. Clearly however, that is not why you read this Blog. You want insight, you want to know the real story, you want to know the story behind the story. Just keep on reading and you shall learn.

Remember what Henderson said about the Bridge Company as I write this,

  • "They're always two or three cunning moves ahead of the other players."

Let me tell you what I believe really happened last night. The City turned down the operator of an international border crossing, the Ambassador Bridge, from undertaking in a timely fashion maintenance and preventative maintenance of its Bridge. That is a safety issue especially given the fact that it is an older bridge as the City's own Sam Schwartz keeps telling everybody.

What does this mean? Clearly, the Ambassador Bridge is not going to fall down but when the operator says that he should be taking certain steps why is the City refusing to allow them to do so and stalling them off. After all, the Mayor knew in October what the Bridge Company wanted to do with respect to the road. Why didn't the Mayor tell Administration to contact immediately the Bridge Company to discuss what should be done. He has a responsibility as Mayor of the City doesn't he? Or was it better to sit back and do nothing and then make it appear that he was caught by surprise. That darn October letter again.

The Mayor was trying to play again, to assert that the City has power under the 1921 statute that incorporated the Bridge Company. He is trying to assert therefore that he can prevent the Bridge from doing anything, especially building its Enhancement Project. That was the Mayor's objective last night.

Unfortunately, he lost that argument in front of the Senate when they rejected his approach point-blank. It is ironic that Eddie's buddy, NDPer MP Brian Masse, takes credit for passing Bill C-3. In reality, he hurt the City's position badly to the advantage of the Bridge Company. That Act has made it absolutely clear that the City has no power whatsoever.

Transport Canada wanted that Bill. They got it. They must now tell the City that the running of an international bridge is under federal jurisdiction and that the City has no responsibility whatsoever in this matter. The Bridge Company has forced Transport Canada to take a position and to tell the City that it is the Federal Government who makes the rules in this matter, not some mere municipality.

In other words, the fight is now between the Federal Government and the City of Windsor to resolve this issue. It is up to the Minister, Lawrence Cannon, to tell the City that they are out of order and to remind the City what the true legal position is. The Bridge Company has now forced the Feds to act.

The problem that the City also has is that if someone wants to have a bit of fun, then that person should demand of Transport Canada that maintenance reports on the Tunnel should be made available so that we could know what condition it is in. I suspect that, as a very old structure, it has problems as well. Do you ever recall Sam Schwartz talking about the Tunnel? Oh, I forgot, he could not talk about his client's structure and what shape it is in.

That may mean that the City may have to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars, taxpayer dollars, to fix it up. It also means that the City has to take steps immediately because the Tunnel has been described as a unique security risk. Transport Canada must require the City at this time to take active steps to eliminate that concern. Bill C-3 requires it. Who would invest in Eddie's US$75M Tunnel deal now as a financing party. Sorry Kwame but you now have a $75M budget hole thanks to Eddie!

The Bridge Company people can sit back smiling now and let Transport Canada do it all or else they are in violation of their own statute that they wanted so badly to introduce into law.

But if you think that is the best that the Bridge Company could achieve last night, you are sadly mistaken.

They just won the border war.

There is no way now that any Government can justify spending taxpayer dollars on a new bridge crossing. Oh yes, there is still a need for a road to the bridge if the Governments really want to build one, and I'm not sure that they do. However no one in their right mind will now build or invest in a DRIC bridge after what happened at Council.

In effect, the Governments of Canada, Ontario, Michigan, and the United States will have to provide absolute guarantees that an investor in a P3 deal will not lose their shirt on a new DRIC bridge. They cannot do it after last night and if they cannot do it, no one will invest. As you will recall both the Government of Canada and MDOT are not prepared to spend governmental money on building a new bridge. They expect a P3 investor to do so. You remember that MDOT has said that "tolls" will pay for the new crossing.

That is out and out BS. The tolls at the new bridge, assuming there is fair competition, will have to be about three times higher than that at the Ambassador Bridge. Since the Ambassador Bridge is free-flowing and its tolls are lower, then very few truckers will ever use the new bridge as the high-priced alternative. Accordingly no one will invest unless the Governments guarantee. Not only will they have to guarantee principal and interest, but they'll have to guarantee that there is enough revenue for operating costs. And the Governments don't want to do that nor can some of them afford it.

What am I talking about you may say. How do I read all of that into what happened at Council last night?

It is very clear. It is the traffic stoplight issue that makes what I am saying so very obvious. Even though the Bridge Company had to pay to have the stop lights put up in the first place, the reason that the City wants to have the lights taken down is because the lights were put up for CBSA employees to cross the street safely. (Who cares if Bridge employees get hit by a car when they try to cross Huron Church, they don't count).

And why isn't CBSA concerned about their employees crossing the street? It is because Customs employees will never man those booths, not even in an emergency or as insurance.

To be direct about it, CBSA is saying that in no circumstance can they ever see in the foreseeable future the need to have the six additional booths or even to have them manned if an interim need arises.

That is a breathtaking revelation that changes the whole border debate dramatically.

We know how smart CBSA is in relation to other Government Departments because, after all, they are there on the front lines dealing with border crossing matters on a day-to-day basis. Accordingly, they are a lot brighter about these things than Transport Canada, the main mover behind a new DRIC bridge. If CBSA is saying that they don't need any new booths, then please explain to me how Transport Canada can justify spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money for a new bridge that is not needed as disclosed in writing by the Government Department most familiar with this matter!

In fact, the Bridge Company must bow to their superior knowledge and agree that they spent all this money for nothing for building those booths.

How can anyone now doubt that there is no need whatsoever for a DRIC bridge. There is no need for it on capacity because truck volume numbers are down as CBSA has made so clear by their refusal to man the booths, there is no need for it for security and there is no need for it for redundancy. CBSA has just said so in no uncertain terms! I might say in "Black Letter Law" to make Councillor Jones happy.

The Bridge Company people must be laughing themselves silly at the antics of the Government of Canada. CBSA has killed any justification for a new DRIC bridge and has made it impossible for any financial person for any P3 partner to justify to his/her management the need for investing in this project. All that the Bridge Company needs to do now is to take the CBSA letters to the American Legislators and let them think for about 10 seconds about the consequences of what has been said by the Canadian Government. The US law-makers will not spend one single, solitary penny more on this DRIC extravaganza if I am correct.

Now you are sitting there, dear reader, saying that the Bridge people can't be too smart either if they have invested in these booths and if they want to build a new Enhancement Project. In fact, Councillor Valentinis who ought to know better, impugned their integrity. He cast aspersions on their motivation.

Unfortunately, the Councillor has a very short memory. Moreover he doesn't run an international border crossing.

He forgot that there is an economic justification for building the Enhancement Project. After all, isn't it easier and less expensive with a new car then with one that is a dozen years old even if it is running well considering all the work that is required to maintain it. It is no different with what the Bridge Company wants to do. They have said that they can recoup a great deal of their costs for a new structure since it is costly to maintain the existing bridge while traffic is on it.

And since Sam Schwartz is the world's expert on bridges, just ask Eddie, they would be derelict if they did not immediately start construction but for the Governments. An extra lane in each direction helps traffic move much more smoothly for the pre-cleared traffic.

Believe it or not, the Bridge Company made a bad mistake before 9/11. They did not anticipate a terrorist attack on New York City and did not have enough booths available at the Bridge so that there were huge backups in Windsor and at every other border crossing in North America. Gee, even Public Authorities make mistakes too I guess.

The Bridge Company at least learned from their mistake. Remember how the truck back-ups on Huron Church were eliminated? Not by spending $1 billion on the first Sam Schwartz Report Horseshoe road and other short-term remedies but by spending a few million dollars to open up four new booths. If you will recall as well, the Bridge Company had to sue the United States Government in order to do so. When the booths opened, the backups disappeared and generally have disappeared ever since that time.

I believe that the Bridge Company vowed never to be caught like that again. That is why they are continually opening up new booths even when there does not appear to be a short-term need for it. Unlike the government, they are prepared to spend their own money to ensure that this border crossing works and remains number one no matter what may happen in the future. Does anyone honestly believe that a Public Authority would do the same thing or would have the money to do it!

If, heaven forbid, there is another calamity, at the least there will be be these booths instantly available to allow the border to run smoothly. Perhaps Councillor Valentinis can now apologize and recognize that perhaps he doesn't have all the answers.

The City of Windsor is again acting in a manner that will chase business away from this City. If you are concerned about Windsor having a reputation as a union town, forget about that. We have two Councillors who help picket against the Bridge Company in a demonstration thereby revealing their bias against the Company. The same Councillors participate in a Council debate respecting the subject matter of the demonstration and in fact introduce and second the Motions to defeat what the Bridge Company wants to achieve.

We see a mean and petty Mayor and Council who are prepared to close down a road to their Tunnel everyday to help their business when needed but who will not accommodate their Competitor when they want to do maintenance on their international bridge.

And if the Bridge Company has problems, a private investor who may want to invest in a DRIC bridge will see that they have to deal with such a Council as well. Who needs that.

We see the same mentality in this Mayor and Council that is similar to that of the City officials who refused to allow Highway 401 to be completed years ago to the international border. We are the beneficiaries of that mess. Imagine what our children and grandchildren will have to deal with after this Mayor and Council are responsible for the Senior Levels walking away again.

We see a mentality that US states, especially Michigan, must love of an anti-business City Administration and seemingly powerless Senior Levels of Government. The Americans can point out the failure of the border to operate thereby asking investors who want to build somewhere in North America why they would want to build in Ontario and in Windsor in particular. Sending a trade mission to this part of the world as well would make a lot an awful lot of sense since I would expect a number of businesses here could be easily convinced to move their operations into US where their customers are. Canadian Senator Kenny no longer has to worry about the American "Dirty Little Secret." We are doing it to ourselves.

However, if you want me to be really insulting, let me do so now. If you want to see an absolute disgrace, just keep on reading

Do you know what else was on the agenda last night: the request of waiver of fees to close roads for the filming of a TV series. Why our Administration is so busy creating a new Film policy/procedure that will help determine how to close roads for film companies that provide so much benefit to this City that they can ignore the Ambassador Bridge Company whose bridge is only what made this City what it is today and what the City could be tomorrow if we had a municipal government who had the faintest idea what they were doing. Had the film people come up with about $1700 and not asked for a waiver of the fees, I am sure that the City would have helped them close streets down. Heck, it would be justified as helping start a new industry in Windsor. Larry Horwitz would have come out in full support of it, probably hoping that Pammie would come to town so he could see her again.

I will be doing a BLOG on the right of recall of Government officials soon! It is badly needed in this City.

Border Hissy Fits




We had Three Blind Mice in Windsor dealing with border matters and now we have the Three Border Stooges: Eddie, Larry and Gord. As I point out at the end of this BLOG, the Border Stooges are killing Windsor more than they know.

What a contrast in attitudes. The Americans call their quarter of $1 billion Ambassador Gateway project that will disrupt traffic at the Ambassador Bridge for two years "Connecting Neighbors." Our Stooges scare off tourists to Windsor with the use of language about the Bridge Company's bridge maintenance project resulting in "Keeping Away Neighbors."

If there happened to be an American who was interested in coming to downtown Windsor, they would not have a brochure to help them the way MDOT prepared one. Rather they could go online and read about the hissy fits thrown by the Stooges over the closing of the Bridge Company's private road for a short period of time. With an attitude that some of the key figures in the City have with respect to the Bridge Company project I doubt anybody will come to the City of Windsor again.


Can you blame them? Here is what the Stooges had to say to scare off everyone:
  • Eddie said "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."

  • Larry called it "one more attack on small businesses.

    "I'm not happy. Other construction projects leave a lane open or do not disrupt traffic flow," he said. "Access to downtown in every other city is considered sacred.

    "The bridge doesn't understand the business case -- how the downtown and casino feed the bridge. This cannot be a unilateral move without taking business interests into consideration."

  • Gord talked about "erecting barriers blocking the main access route to downtown Windsor for motorists entering Canada...

    It could be days before search parties locate some of those dazed and confused Yanks who were redirected south along Huron Church with endless streams of 18-wheelers and ended up marooned (or is it Morouned?) in the frozen wilds of South Windsor. Or maybe Holiday Beach."

I really have to wonder how far Gord will go to show his animosity to the Moroun family personally and to try to work people up with his xenophobia. A few columns back he took a shot at Matthew Moroun and now an attack on his father, "one billionaire, 80-year-old American transportation tycoon." I wonder if Gord is suggesting that we should oppose him because he is older, worked hard to achieve his success or his citizenship.

Wow, it's all over one lane. You can see the backup of American cars below jamming this lane when I took the photo Sunday around 11:00 AM.

Compare what was said in the Star with Sunday's Detroit Free Press which dealt with the Ambassador Gateway project:

  • "Prepare for 2 years of detours on I-75
    Shutdown will scatter metro motorists all over


    Very early on Feb. 25, metro Detroit will lose I-75 near the Ambassador Bridge for nearly two years as Michigan's most expensive road reconstruction project shuts down the freeway, scattering traffic widely for an overhaul at one of the nation's most crucial international border crossings.

    That morning, drivers will face their first commute without the region's major north-south freeway. The first week or so is likely to be a mess.

    I-75 is closing as part of a $170-million rebuilding and realignment of I-75 and I-96near the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit. The endeavor will change how traffic flows between the bridge and the freeways and erect a new pedestrian overpass connecting the east and west sides of Detroit's Mexicantown, split for decades by the expressway.

    The shutdown will send drivers onto freeway detours all over town, but I-94 and I-96 are expected to take the brunt of the hit. While the state's main detour will follow I-275 and I-94, other drivers will flee to routes including Telegraph and the Southfield Freeway...

    The impact can't be understated, not only for Downriver residents, but for vacation travelers, commercial traffic and visitors to southwest Detroit.

    The Michigan Department of Transportation said the Ambassador is the nation's busiest border passage with Canada, with 11 million crossings each year accounting for $115 billion in trade. By the state's count, I-75 carries about 110,000 vehicles a day in that area.

    MDOT's aim is to modernize the nearly 40-year-old freeway near the bridge, move commercial traffic out of southwest Detroit neighborhoods and improve traffic flow.

    The bridge will remain open, with detours posted for commercial and passenger traffic. Those crossing into Windsor will stay on I-75 in either direction until they're forced off.

    Crews also will repair bridges in phases from downtown Detroit north to the Clarkston area, rebuild a stretch of the freeway between the southern Wayne County border and Gibraltar Road and repair a section of the northbound I-75 Rouge River Bridge in Detroit, which was damaged Jan. 10 in a tanker explosion.

    A longtime undertaking

    The $230-million project, called the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, has been in progress for several years.

    Detours to steer drivers westward

    Traffic between Detroit and the Downriver suburbs will be most affected, along with drivers from points south trying to pass through metro Detroit.

    Despite the scope of the project, MDOT said it doesn't mean it will be impossible to get around or into Detroit from south of the city. The heavy concentration of major freeways converging in or near downtown provides numerous alternate routes.

    The state also will adjust the timing of traffic lights to optimize travel on Fort Street and Grand River and Michigan avenues in the city.

    "Detroit's still open for business," Kratofil said. "You can still get to the bridge..."

    Still open for business

    Business owners in southwest Detroit said business is already hurting because of construction under way that hasn't affected I-75 traffic yet. They worry they'll suffer more when the freeway closes, despite what MDOT said will be an extensive public relations campaign to remind people that the area is still open for business.

    Nowhere will that message more important than in Mexicantown, where business has been down since construction equipment came in last summer for preparation work and building new service drives.

    "It's like, 'Yikes, it's here! And what are we going to do?' " said Maria Elena Rodriguez, president of the Mexicantown Community Development Corp. "It's been discussed for over 10 years. I don't think we're any more prepared than any other groups."

    Restaurants, stores, markets and other Mexicantown businesses are handing out bumper stickers that say, "I found my way to Mexicantown, and I'll be back!"

    Rodriguez said she hopes people still come to all the restaurants and attractions.

    "Don't be afraid to come down," Rodriguez said. "It'll take a little longer to get here, but it's not that difficult."
It is a somewhat bigger project don't you think than doing some maintenance work on the bridge. I do not hear whining and crying from the US side. I do not see columnists concerned that Canadians will disappear off the face of the earth. What I do see are business people dealing with the adversity trying innovative measures to minimize the problem unlike our business leaders.

I did see something interesting in the story that might concern the Head Stooge though if he keeps badmouthing everybody who wants to do something that may change the City:

  • Number of jobs connected to the project in 2008-09: 2,800!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

End Bits

They are not enough for a full BLOG but some of these stories I think are pretty interesting. In case you missed them, here they are.

JONES AND POSTMA MUST RECUSE THEMSELVES



video

Here is a clip from CBC news showing Councillor Postma attending at the big anti-Ambassador Bridge rally yesterday. Well, if you consider a rally of about 20 people to be big. So much for the so-called anti-Bridge Co. protest by "business owners and residents." It does not appear that too many people were fooled by the Mayor's and Henderson's histrionics after all if this is the best that they can do.

I understand that Councillor Jones was there as well but I did not see him on the broadcast or I would have showed his clip too.

What a clever manoeuver by the two Ward 2 Councillors so that they will not be able to vote on the Bridge Company's desire to temporarily close the private access road.

Since they have publicly identified themselves as opposed to the Bridge Company project in advance of the Council meeting, and without hearing what the Bridge Company had to say as well, a strong argument can be made that they are biased against the Bridge Company or that the Bridge Company has an apprehension of bias. Accordingly, it would seem to me that they must not participate or the Mayor and/or the Clerk should prevent them from participating in the Agenda Item at Council.

And here I thought that Council Postma was trying to be friends with the the Bridge Company. Why, she wrote on one of the BLOGs in town with respect to the Interim Control Bylaw:
  • "In terms of the Ambassador Bridge Company, the by-law was not imposed because of them. Go ahead laugh out loud – get it out of your system.

    I can see why most people think it is since exemptions are turned down in fear of precedent setting, the timing of the CIP as it compares to the Ambassador Bridge work and DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing)."
I am sure that the Bridge Co. lawyers will thank the Councillor for helping them out with what approach to take by setting out the issues so clearly.

As for me, I had better stop laughing now because my sides hurt so badly. I guess I was one of "most people" who were fooled. I feel so dumb now. It sure looked like it to me.

DEAD PEOPLE DO NOT ATTEND COUNCIL MEETINGS

I will tell you right now that I'm very upset. Here I was thinking that we're going to see another whiteboard presentation by the Mayor with respect to the damning report on Fleet operations. Remember he did that with WUC. Even then, the Mayor was forced into doing a third-party whitewash audit.

I wonder if the same thing will happen with respect to the fleet operation group. The Council Agenda states:
  • "Report No. 32 of the Audit Committee

    Mike Palanacki, Executive Director of Operation, Angela Marazita, Fleet Manager and Diana DiGirolamo, Technical Support Manager to present Council with a status of Fleet Services and particularly the contents and the recommendations of the Fleet Audit Report."

Don't you find it strange? No one from the Audit group is attending in case a Councillor has a question about the report that was done. That is most bizarre. Can it be that there is a lack of confidence in the Audit group. Why else would no one from that group attend?

I just thought of something different. Perhaps their report is so good that someone might be afraid that some Councillors might actually want to have a forensic audit done of Fleet operations to see it in fact if there were improprieties. We can't have that now can we. How many whitewash audits can the City pay for after all!

I tell you what though, I think everything is going to turn out all right. I just read part of Report 32 and here's what our ever vigilant Audit Committee stated:

  • "IV. That upon completion of the foregoing recommendations, that Lead Internal Auditor BE REQUESTED to provide a re-evaluation of the control maturity, which, during the audit process was unreliable, and at high risk, but at present is well on its way to to stability."

No worries now. Even though the Audit Report just came out, we are being told that everything "is well on its way to stability." How that is known so quickly is beyond me but who am I to argue with the all knowing City Audit Committee. No need for an outside forensic audit now.

You remember this Committee and the people on it don't you. They are the invisible ones who had so little to say on the WUC matter. I am so glad though that they have given the Lead Internal Auditor his marching orders.

MAYOR'S REPORT ON GERMANY TRIP

You have got to look hard in order to get the facts in Windsor and you have to look in the oddest places as well.

I would have thought that after a taxpayer paid trip to Germany, the Mayor owed it to people here to tell us what he accomplished. No such luck. Everything is very hush-hush very secretive. Oh, sorry, that's the norm.

However, again as is usual, you have to read to the end of every Windsor Star story in order to get relevant information. They are in the story about Air America we found out something about the German trip:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis was in Germany a few weeks ago to explore the potential of a Frankfurt-area food distribution warehouse operation locating at the local airport.

    Company officials who met with Francis are scheduled to visit the Windsor area on Feb. 22 and 23, Francis said, to meet with various local business leaders who ship their food-related goods by air."

    Perhaps I'm reading this incorrectly but it seems to me that the Germans are coming here to take business from Windsor shippers IE they want people to use their services and facilities when shipping goods from Windsor to overseas.

    If this is correct, then how exactly did Eddie's trip help us get jobs in this city?

And in case you missed it on CKLW this morning, Eddie confirmed there is no "done deal" with the Germans. He is heading in the right direction though. That is a relief. I am so glad as well that "hopefully jobs might be brought to our region. I do know how he can get 15,000 jobs quickly but I don't think I will get a call from the Mayor on that subject.

Kind of makes you wonder why we need Council meetings and Councillors if they hear about the Mayor's trip on radio and read about it in the Star. Look at what we could save in costs and salaries to reduce taxes.

YQG

It looks like very few are getting a quick getaway from our airport. In fact, it looks like very few are even going there.

Thank goodness for Air America Logistics and its general manager Vicky Kyriaco-Wilson.

  • "Air America has also been instrumental in spinoff work at the airport -- for fuel sales, ground handling equipment, local trucking services and maintenance work.

    More than 800 aircraft movements associated with Air America occurred last year involving DC-8 jets, Boeing 727s, Boeing 737s, DC-9s and numerous other small jets.

    The company handled more than 5.4 million pounds of freight last year.

    "We're the lynchpin that keeps the cargo aspect humming over here," Kyriaco-Wilson said.

    Other changes to improve operations and finances at the local airport have been slow since the city took back control nearly a year ago from Serco Aviation. Much of the airport's finances remain largely dependent on Air America's business."

I have an idea...perhaps Vicky could operate the airport on behalf of the City. Nawwwwwww, she knows what she is doing.

BRIDGE COMPANY PRESS RELEASE RE ROAD CLOSING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAINTENANCE WILL REQUIRE TEMPORARY TRAFFIC SHIFTS AT HURON CHURCH ROAD EXIT FROM AMBASSADOR BRIDGE PLAZA

WINDSOR, Ontario (February 18, 2008) – Traffic onto northbound Huron Church Road will experience temporary detours over the next few months to accommodate necessary maintenance and repair work at the Ambassador Bridge plaza.

Closing the plaza area under repair is likely to increase congestion during peak volume hours. For the safety of motorists using the bridge and to optimize traffic flow, it will be necessary to reroute access to Northbound Huron Church Road at these times.

This closure was tested last week to study the impact on traffic flow through the plaza during all hours of operation. The exit is currently open for northbound traffic.

As a result of this test, the Bridge Company hopes to be able to safely allow normal traffic flow most of the day, with detours limited to peak volume hours only. Bridge personnel will continually evaluate the impact and adjust accordingly.

Further signage will be erected to help direct tourists to their destinations, including downtown Windsor and the Windsor Casino, and additional personnel will be assigned to direct traffic as necessary.

The maintenance project is scheduled to take three months.

“We regret any inconvenience we may cause during the maintenance project, especially those tourists headed into Windsor, and will do our best to complete the project quickly,” said Dan Stamper, President of the Ambassador Bridge Company.

"It's very unfortunate that special interests seem determined to portray us as having some sort of anti-Windsor agenda, when all we are trying to do is protect the safety and efficiency of cross-border traffic,” Stamper said.

NEW CLICHÉS ANONYMOUS LOCATION SET UP IN WINDSOR

I received a very funny e-mail today from one of my readers that I thought I would share with you:

  • "The Mayor likes oft-used sayings like "you can`t put a price to it......"

    Reporter: How large of a budget have we authorized for administration?

    Francis: Again, City Council has directed the different aspects take place. And with regards to budget. I believe that City Council is saying that the lives of our residents of the City of Windsor and the quality of life and the right to a quality of life, you can`t put any price to it.

    I have an idea - how about since the Mayor is so concerned about quality of life and the fact that can be no price put on it - that the City of Windsor ante up some cash to the project should there be a difference between what the city wants and what the province and feds are willing to contribute. Should be lots of cash around since Enwin is donating $4 million, the city can afford approximately $4 million for Schwartz et al - to say nothing about the cost savings from fewer crossing guards, library closures, lessened snow removal and the sale of surplus recreation properties.

    Perhaps he could consider for future interviews another oft-used saying........."put your money where your mouth is."

CAN KWAME AND EDDIE STILL BE FRIENDS

If Mayor Kilpatrick was not having enough problems in Detroit, now he needs our Mayor's failure on the Tunnel deal to cause him even more grief. Here's what the Detroit Free Press wrote:

  • "Fiscal report shows big deficit
    It disputes claim that city will balance books
    By ZACHARY GORCHOW • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • February 15, 2008

    Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has said the city will wipe out its deficit when the current fiscal year ends June 30, but the City Council's chief budget analyst has issued a report saying there's still at least $100 million worth of red ink.

    A report released this week from the council's fiscal division also notes the situation could worsen dramatically if the city fails to complete a deal to lease its half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to the City of Windsor for 75 years for $75 million, a move that was supposed to be part of balancing the 2007-08 fiscal year...

    Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said the recent report confirms his suspicions that the budget was built on too many uncertainties.

    "Many of us thought the mayor's budget was more of an if-come budget than a realistic budget from the very beginning, and it's proven to be that," he said."

I guess that our Mayor's deal is one of the if-comers which apparently has not come yet!

MAJOR CHANGES IN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW FOR TRANSIT PROJECTS PROPOSED

Unfortunately, not for the border road, at least not yet.

I saw this story in the Toronto Star thanks to a reader and will just give you the summary that was set out:

  • "Environmental assessments for new transit projects will be faster and more focused under rules approved this week and expected to be law by June. Changes include:

    An assessment must be complete in six months. Now there is no limit; a transit project review takes, on average, two years.

    Public consultation is limited to 85 days. There is now no limit.

    The minister of the environment has 35 days to review and rule on a project. There is no concrete time frame at present.

    The scope is limited to environmental concerns. Right now, everything that was argued over during the municipal planning process, including how wide a dedicated bus lane should be or whether a streetcar project is even needed, is rehashed at the environmental assessment."

Can you imagine, high-priced environmental lawyers might lose out on some work.

WE MAY BE LUCKY TO GET EVEN A "CHEAP SOLUTION" SOON

There goes Premier McGinty crying crocodile tears again about money and asking the Federal Government to help out. If he keeps going on like this, then he and Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan, will be thrilled at our Mayor's attitude so that they can blame the Mayor when the Province pulls out of Windsor. Our "cheap" solution may become "no" solution thanks to Eddie!

  • "Ontario is the ``economic engine'' of Canada and needs a federal government that will help the province muscle through the uncertain economic times that lie ahead, Premier Dalton McGuinty said in laying out his wish list for the upcoming federal budget...

    Investments in public transit and the Windsor border crossing are also crucial to ensuring people and goods can move swiftly, McGuinty said. The $17.5-billion cost of expanding public transit in the Greater Toronto Area alone shows the province can't do it without help, he added.

    ``If I had to sum it up to one thing: we want a partner,'' McGuinty said."

Howdy pardner. I know that the Feds have ponied up $400 million for the border road but I don't remember seeing the Province ante up any money. They just keep on pleading poverty. Oh I forgot, the $500M Gong Show money after 2010 from Dwight!

I can just see the showdown at the O.K. Corral at High Noon if there is a Federal election and the Provincial Liberals decide to take on the Conservatives who are looking for a majority government federally.

Downtown Access Roads: Your Turn To BLOG



I have been writing a bit too much over the last few days so my fingers hurt from typing. I thought that I would create another one of those Do-It-Yourself BLOGs where I give you the facts and you can make up a BLOG for yourself. If you want, you can send it to me and I can publish your comments too.

In this case, I will show you how co-operation works and especially how important it is to have a Provincial Cabinet Minister on your side. I will give you some information that took place in the 1990s that will help explain why the City and the Bridge Company are such competitors. Then I will provide data to you about what happened with previous changes in plazas at both the Tunnel and the Bridge. Finally I will let you decide what all of this means for yourself.


You could as an example ask why what happened in the 1990s cannot happen today even if the Bridge and City are competitors. Or you can explain exactly why Eddie is fighting the Bridge Company and will not give them an inch. Heck, you might even want to throw in why we ought to co-operate with the Senior Levels. Or you might have a totally different angle on this.

Whatever you do however you should understand that the issue on the access road is a lot more complicated than the Mayor and the Windsor Star are trying to make you believe. In this respect, I hope that I am helping you learn a lesson from the past.

COOPERATION TO FIX UP HURON CHURCH ROAD

$14 million more for Huron Church work
Windsor Star 1989

The province is funnelling another $14.5 million into the widening of Huron Church Road, pushing the reconstruction date forward by an estimated two years. Ontario Transportation Minister Bill Wrye announced this morning that Phases II and III of the project can get under way as soon as engineers draw up the plans.

Calling Huron Church Road a "vital link between Ontario, Michigan and the entrie American midwest," Wrye (MPP - Windsor-Sandwich) said the stretch of Huron Road from the Ambassador Bridge to Cabana Road will be widened to six lanes with a centre median barrier, possibly as early as 1993.

Wrye said he brings a "local sensitivity" to the traffic dangers and congestion that have plagued the stretch of road plus a cabinet position which didn't hurt the acceleration of funding.

"I know that we've been waiting long enough," he said...

Mayor John Millson said the influx of money was a signal of the co-operation between the the city of Windsor and the Ontario government, calling the project "a wonderful step forward... for the beautiful gateway to Canada."

COMPETITORS

Improvements to Bridge coming;
Windsor Star 1991.

Major improvements around the U.S. side of the Ambassador Bridge to quadruple its traffic flow are expected to be detailed today.

The plans include expanded trucking and customs inspection services on the Detroit side of the bridge...valued at more than $20 million US...

Windsor will be represented by Councillor Rick Limoges, who said today he didn't have any details of the development. But any improvements that remedy congestion should encourage more tourists to come to Windsor, he said.

If the development does reduce congestion at the bridge, it could attract customers from the tunnel. So the city finds itself in a curious position - it stands to lose revenue if the bridge makes these improvements.

"There are only two guys playing this game - one is the Ambassador Bridge and the other is the tunnel," said Councillor Mike Hurst, a member of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, the city arm of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Commission.

"If our main competition is going to expend funds to make it easier for motorists to get back and forth, that's a challenge the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Commission is going to have to take up - no doubt about it."

Recently, the Windsor commission voted to look at revamping the Windsor exit of the tunnel, realigning the lanes and the Customs and Immigration plaza so more cars can be accommodated. While the tunnel has just two lanes compared to the bridge's four, improvements can be made to increase the capacity of the tunnel, Hurst said."

CONSTRUCTION AND KEEPING TRAFFIC FLOWING

IN GEAR: Bridge, tunnel improvements tackling tie-ups;
Windsor Star 1994

Remember those wearisome tie-ups at the border three years ago?

The owners of the two main traffic funnels linking Windsor and Detroit are pouring millions of dollars into improvements to avoid a repeat as the local economies pick up.

The Ambassador Bridge and Windsor-Detroit Tunnel are getting their most dramatic facelifts and reconstuctive surgery since opening over 60 years ago...

BY THE END of this month, the Windsor Tunnel Commission wants the rebuilding and expansion of its plaza under way...

Each step of the plaza reconstruction will be timed to keep traffic flowing smoothly, said Gilda Everett, project assistant with the city.

"We're working on a marketing project during the construction because we don't want to give the impression that the plaza is obstructing traffic," she said.

Stamper says the bridge company is completing construction on new Canadian toll and customs buildings earlier than planned to accommodate the casino. It's also putting up additional interim toll and customs booths on the American side in the next few weeks. All of the existing U.S. toll and customs buildings are to be replaced over the next year.

But the casino wasn't a factor in the bridge company's decision to do major renovations and expand customs and toll-collecting facilities, Stamper said.

The traffic tie-ups that plagued border crossings in Ontario during the peak of cross-border shopping in the early 1990s were the wake-up call, he said.

That is when officials with the Detroit International Bridge Company, which owns the bridge, started to plan for the future.

COMPETITORS CO-OPERATING

Border crossings taking on new look;
Windsor Star 1995.

By the summer of 1995, Windsor will have two of the newest and most up-to-date land entries into Canada...

Improvements at both border crossings are being completed just as traffic volumes are on the increase...

Architects Bruno Bortolotti and John Couchman, partners in J.P. Thomson Associates Ltd., did the design work for the new bridge and tunnel plazas.

Both projects have been models of how quickly and effectively all the parties involved worked together, said Bortolotti, who is also an engineer.

At the bridge, which is privately owned, the architects had to work with the owner, as well as customs and immigration officials. Customs and immigration each has its own rigid standards for its facilities at border crossings, Bortolotti said...