Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 04, 2008

60 Days Hath September, April, June And November


Yes I know I am 30 days out on the days of the month but keep on reading and you will understand where I am coming from.

As I told you before, I have a very strange mind. Small things bug me especially when they seem irrational and out of the ordinary.

Take for instance the advertising blitz for Greenlink. Someone came up with the nice and very clever slogan:

  • "Our actions over the next 60 days will help define our community for the next 100 years."

I thought this was strange. The time period seemed very long to me if one wanted to influence DRIC or the Governments who are going to be making decisions within that time. Why would one wait until the decision had practically been made before putting on the pressure. Why not a concentrated campaign within 15 days or perhaps 30 days at the most?

If I had $300,000 of taxpayer money to blow in a town of 200,000 people, I certainly could do the job a lot better I thought and much more quickly. Heck overnight, when I was with STOPDRTP, we rallied the City, with hardly spending any money at all, when it appeared that the Council flip-flopped on a Resolution against DRTP. I remembered how angry people got virtually within a day when Project Ice Track went to Tecumseh or with the Windsor Utilities Commission levy matter.

It does not make sense to require 60 days and the spending of $300,000 of taxpayer money to get an immediate reaction especially when we have just gone through a previous ad campaign. It certainly does not require 60 days when it seems that the City has spent a lot of money on polling recently with respect to Greenlink and has already published a lot of material on their website.

It just seemed irrational.

Then I saw this comment by Cliff Sutts, the lawyer for the City in the Tunnel matter and wondered if this was just coincidental:

  • "Sutts said the transaction should be complete within 60 days, pending certain surveys "that are holding things up at the moment."

I have to admit I found that statement peculiar as well. If the transaction with Detroit was supposed to have closed in June, 2007, I would have thought all of the surveys would have been completed by that time as well with respect to the Canadian transaction. One could hardly close with Detroit if the new company was not ready to go.

So I got to thinking whether there was a connection between the 60 days for the Greenlink process and 60 days for the Tunnel deal. Then another Eureka moment... it hit me.

I have been rather shocked at the traditional media on this side of the river who have not yet seemed to have reported on the US DRIC Environmental Impact Statement. There are all kinds of lovely things in there to write stories about or around which to do radio and TV spots.

The most interesting fact that I saw in relation to the Tunnel was that the new DRIC Bridge might result in severe financial hardship to the Tunnel such that it might incur giant losses every year. The DRIC bridge would take a large amount of traffic away from the Tunnel, about a quarter of its business. It would also mean that the Tunnel would now have two competitors for car and truck traffic, not just one, and that there could be a huge battle over tolls which could result in a lowering of tolls for some considerable time. We already know that its dividend has dropped from $6.6M to $0 within a few short years. Here is what US DRIC said:

  • "The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel would register a 20 to 26 percent decline in total traffic, with the most significant reduction expected to occur in auto traffic in the U.S.-to-Canada peak direction."

Can you imagine the Tunnel losing a quarter of its business! Imagine what it would do to its valuation which I note was done in June, 2007. The US study was published in February, 2008.

It is no wonder why the City in its recent transaction used the earlier time period or the value of the Tunnel would have decreased significantly. That has to have a negative impact on the whole business deal.

Obviously, Eddie has to be desperate to complete this transaction, whatever it is, on the Canadian side within 60 days. If it takes any longer than that, the Canadian DRIC study will come out and probably will get much more coverage than the US study. It will have to confirm as well I would expect a significant drop in traffic at the Tunnel. That would be one of the major headline stories.

As you will recall, the Report from DRIC was supposed to come out around the end of March. That certainly was not something that Eddie could tolerate. It was probably a bit of a relief to him when DRIC announced that they might not produce their materials until June/July.

But of course, Eddie had to open up his mouth and accuse them of delay to show how smart and tough he was and to point the finger at them for stalling. Unfortunately for Eddie, his words backfired on him. It now appears that DRIC will split their announcements with respect to the Plaza and the road to the border with one to come in April and one to come later.

That of course puts Eddie behind the 8-ball again. He needs to stall them off for two months. What's the best way to do so... to have a 60 day advertising blitz followed by the time necessary to do a report to submit to DRIC for their consideration. I figure that's good for four to six months at the speed at the City works.

In the meantime, Eddie is in effect telling DRIC not to release anything because if they do, he will slam them for acting quickly and improperly and not being prepared to listen to the people of Windsor. It's a beautiful plan isn't it.

Obviously, this gives Eddie 60 days to buy time to do whatever it is he wants to do with the Canadian new Tunnel Company. That is the same time period within which Mr. Sutts said he needed to complete the surveys. The most obvious problem he must be having with the subprime mortgage meltdown is finding anyone to finance an asset that is decling in value as the Tunnel is.

Perhaps all of the Tunnel newspaper ads and billboards and the roadsign on Huron Church directing people to the Tunnel has nothing to do with the Ambassador Gateway detours but is designed to get the volumes up to get people to believe that the Tunnel has a future. Tunnel bus failures however will do more to scare people away from ever using the Tunnel.

The whole purpose of all this is to keep quiet as far as I am concerned for as long as possible the news about the Tunnel traffic decline. So far, the local media have not reported the story.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Who knows. The way that this file has been handled in secrecy disgusts me. All I can do is guess using my best judgment. If we had Councillors with guts who should have demanded that the Tunnel meeting be public, guessing such as this would not be required.

I am doing my duty now for the media. Here's another News Tip Of the Week for them.

All So Strange



Is there a full moon or something outside? So many bizarre occurrences in this City that seem so difficult to understand. Let me set out a few of them:

HOW TO MISS A HOCKEY GAME

Aren't you tired of reading all the excuses about the Tunnel bus another time. I know my daughter was stuck once for a couple of hours before the bus was able to clear US Customs.

Again, there was a problem when a "judgment call"-- whatever that means-- by US Customs caused more problems.

Did you know that
  • "Transit Windsor, 311, the Detroit Canada Tunnel Corporation and the CBP of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are committed to finding a solution to the lengthy delays that transit buses sometimes face. "

The Star story said that

  • "Delays in moving sports fans across the Windsor-Detroit border on Transit Windsor buses last week have been solved and shouldn't happen in the future, a spokesman for the transit company said Wednesday."

Take comfort from that....Don't. The City Press Release states:

  • "Due to traffic congestion in downtown Detroit, periods of heighten security or other circumstances beyond the control of Transit Windsor, delays may occur on the tunnel bus service."

As I have suggested before, the way to solve the Tunnel bus problem is for the buses to take the Ambassador Bridge!

FISCHER-ING FOR ANSWERS

Now we understand that in fact Mr. Fischer, or rather his company, was not hired for three years but three years subject to an early termination clause.

We also learn that the Commission is headed in a new direction. I wonder what that is... towards oblivion.

Don't you find it strange that when Mr. Fischer was hired that the Board did not seem to have a three year view of what they were supposed to be doing. It seems that the Board was happy with his initial work but now have decided that they need someone with "private sector business experience" to take the Commission to the next stage.

Did they think it would take Mr. Fischer three years to do his initial work? Mind you, it took years for the Commission to be set up in the first place and a year for them to find out they had no brochures to hand out to investors. If so, they are following the Eddie Francis timetable for jobs creation... remember that there was to be no money for the Jobs Today $100 million Fund until after Eddie left office in 2010.

Did they merely bring in Fischer to build a Business Plan for them for a period of just over a year knowing that they were going to dump him before the end of his contract? Here is a shocking comment that may support this:

  • "Our board took all the advice and experience that he had, and tried to use that to its maximum potential said Dr. Albert Schumacher. "We're ready for other ideas and ready to move in different directions "
If so, who would even think of coming here in the first place now!
Unless they did not read his CV, they knew that he did not have this kind of experience business experience when he was hired. In fact, as you may recall, he wrote the following when he was hired as set out in my BLOG:
  • "This will be a chance for me to put my theories into practice in a real-life, fast-paced environment."

There obviously is a very big story that we do not know about. And please don't give me this nonsense about confidentiality and all that. Saying someone was fired is very strong language. Citizens have a right to know what is going on. After all the Vice Chair said that:

  • "the decision to terminate Fischer was discussed by the board "for some time,

    "We can say that over the last several weeks, we moved in that direction," Schumacher said."

I am so thrilled with their decisive and timely action.

As a taxpayer who is funding this farce of an organization, they should be made to come clean in front of our City Council if they want any more money and explain what is going on there. They need to justify why they should not be wound up. Who could possibly have any confidence in this Commission? My only hope is that the County itself decides to pull the plug on it because the City does not have the guts to do so.

As for Mr. Fischer, if everything is so cut and dried, then why did he retain counsel?

This episode is very strange to me as well because of the similarity to the Windsor Utilities Commission matter where Eddie Francis did all the talking rather than the Chair, Councillor Lewenza. Where is the Chair, Remo Mancini, to explain to us what is going on rather than the Vice Chair. It is the Commission's future at stake, not just the job of one person.

This waste of time and money at a time when this Region is in serious difficulty is shocking and disgraceful. How many more millions do we have to waste!

IS BRIAN MASSE RUNNING FOR THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PROVINCIAL NDP

I wish Brian would stick to federal politics and try to accomplish something there rather than sticking his nose into everybody else's business. I must admit that, when I first got involved with STOPDRTP, I saw Brian running around so much doing municipal things that I thought he was running for Mayor!

Just look at the first paragraph of his Guess Column in the Star:

  • "The need for the City of Windsor's campaign for the province to fund the GreenLink proposal is an unfortunate situation that is the end result of a failed decision-making process set in place years ago. Compounding this tragedy was that it was predicted to happen at that time."

If it was predicted to happen years ago, then why didn't our illustrious Member of Parliament do something about it. Why did he sit on his rear end for years, especially when the NDP had the balance of power in the Federal Parliament. He did nothing on the border file while the NDP had the future of the Government in its hands. It demonstrates that he is totally powerless as an NDP MP to do anything for his riding where the new border crossing will go through, for his City or for the region.

Brian's call for "public ownership, public control" did not happen. If there is a P3 deal for the new DRIC bridge, that bridge will be under the control of a private operator for up to a hundred years just like other toll roads being built with private money. Moreover, that bridge will result in the financial destruction of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel and perhaps also severe financial hardship for the Blue Water Bridge. Brian has clearly not yet read the US DRIC report where that is demonstrated. I guess Brian can take credit for public institutions going into bankruptcy.

"These victories are significant" claims Brian. Sure, wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money for an NDP Member of Parliament is a victory. Socialism at its best. Why use private enterprise money that will build a bridge at the owner's risk and expense and from an operator who actually knows what he's doing being the best in North America.

Again Brian demonstrates his failure to achieve anything for this City

  • "The full tunnelling option, which was demanded by residents and which I advocated as the best possible solution for the city"

DUHHHH, we are not getting that either. So much for his advocacy on our behalf.

For the remainder of his Column, Brian focuses on the Province:

  • "first the provincial cabinet still has to exercise its mandatory responsibility and make a decision.

    Hopefully they have been listening to the residents of this area."

Brian, they're not going to listen to you either. Perhaps you should get Howard Hampton to do something or are you looking for his job because you are afraid that you may not be re-elected once Joyce Zuk announces she's going to run against you.

A note to Sandra and Dwight. Do us all a favour, please. If you want to make sure that Brian keeps his nose out of your business, then have Buzz Hargrove speak to him. Did you see the way Brian backtracked so quickly when Buzz took a shot at him over the Ford story in the Star. Hargrove said:

  • "I am furious that you could not rise above partisan politics and support Ford laid-off workers and the country's most important industry, especially in your own riding."

    Later Wednesday, Masse played down the apparent rift...

    "I appreciate where Buzz is coming from and, in fact, we spoke today and have agreed to meet in the near future to discuss the problems facing not only the auto industry but also the parts sector in Windsor and the surrounding area," said Masse.

To paraphrase Eddie's State of the City speech:

  • "I must be blunt and direct regarding exactly what we need.
    Sandra Pupatello, Bruce Crozier and Dwight Duncan – help us out!
    We have seen what you can deliver for our city and our region...
    We ask you to come to the table. To work with us.
    Today, I am asking … I am pleading … on behalf of 218 000 people in Windsor …for you to hear our call. You’re well-respected and senior people within the provincial government – and others senior within the CAW like Buzz Hargrove will listen to you.
    Work with our City to advocate for our community. Come back to the table, and help us keep Brian quiet."

GORD HENDERSON FINALLY GETS IT

He better be careful in supporting a tunnel concept, even a Schwunnel, for the new road to the border or he may cause severe financial problems to the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel resulting in its closure or, at the least, resulting in all trucks being sent to the bridge. Frankly, Transport Canada has no guts even though it has new legislation or else it would be looking seriously at the future of the Tunnel in my opinion.

As I have said before so many times, it is a "unique security risk."

I've written here several times recently about why Greenlink will never happen. It is a shame that our emergency personnel are not free to say what they think about the concept of Greenlink. Fortunately Gord has now said that for us:

  • "According to his sources, Exhibit A in this scare-the-rubes campaign will be a fiery pileup last October in a Santa Clarita, Calif., freeway tunnel which claimed three lives and closed a major interstate highway for days. GreenLink will be presented as a disaster-in-waiting that could paralyse international trade and cost Canada and the U.S. countless jobs."

It is such a huge risk to the border, as US Customs identified already with another crossing in the Region where there is not going to be a tunnel.

Gord makes this claim as a rebuttal:

  • "After all, Windsor has eight decades of familiarity with one that's longer, deeper and far less sophisticated than any of the proposed GreenLink tunnels."

If that is the case, and Gord is saying that this is effectively a non-issue, then why did his good buddy Eddie and Mr. Sutts see the need to incorporate a new Tunnel Corporation. After all, the big point raised by Sutts was:

  • "Sutts said the move to incorporate is intended to insulate the city from liability.

    "For example, if there should be a terrorist act that causes extensive damage and injury to parties, it wouldn't be a burden on the taxpayers of the City of Windsor," he said."

Eddie said the following as well:

  • "What we will be dealing with is a recommendation from legal counsel to put the tunnel into a corporation to protect the taxpayer from any financial exposure that might occur from an act of terrorism or accident," said Mayor Eddie Francis."
There is a new world out there Gord where the rules have changed. Eddie as Tunnel Commission Chair knows or ought to know it. Incorporation is merely a reflection of the obvious thereby demonstrating the heightened risks with tunnels. Limiting of liability is so important now.


Give it a rest Gord. Greenlink is dead along with the gazelles who are no longer going to be fed!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Tunnel Deal



I'm sure that you're wondering what the Tunnel deal is going to be with Detroit in the end.

I have no idea if anybody really knows what is going on but here are some elements of what has to take place.

Somehow the City of Detroit has to collect a net amount around US$60 million because that amount of money is needed to plug the financial hole in their Budget. That is the amount that the Detroit Mayor has told the Council that he expects to receive. I do not see them accepting less but I certainly do expect that Council may demand more if they don't like Kwame's deal.

The City of Windsor needs to find somewhere US$75 million if it is going to do the deal with Detroit. Unless there is a giant slush fund somewhere within the City, and that would cause a huge outcry, the City is going to have to find someone to finance this transaction.

The City will not be able to play games as they did with respect to the University Engineering Complex and Jobs Today by pretending to offer money but in reality nothing would be offered until after 2010. Real cash has to be produced now.


My recollection is that the deal was supposed to be completed in June of last year and in fact the deal is priced as at June, 2007. Why wasn't it done then? Why the delay? I wonder if it had something to do with the meltdown in the subprime mortgage market and private funds drying up such that the transaction could not be completed as originally structured.

If that is the case, then this deal might not get done for quite some time. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the transaction may have changed. We do know that Kwame told his Council that there was a potential new structure. In fact the irony of ironies would be if Borealis was the financing source even though Borealis seemed to have been rejected once before. The OMERS head was at Dwight's Rotary lunch along with 2 others on Monday. The three of them did not come to Windsor for the food.

I have no idea if Borealis is involved or not but the fun part would be that Eddie Francis may well be undertaking the transaction that Mike Hurst proposed when he was Mayor in 2001. The irony would be that Hurst is dealing with Eddie first and that he is helping to make Eddie successful but that Hurst is now the lender rather than the borrower.

What will the transaction be... I may as well quote the Windsor Star in 2001:
  • "Tunnel deal aims at cash; Talks under way may help reduce debt, stave off tax hike;
    Windsor Star 03-21-2001, By: Roseann Danese Star Municipal Affairs Reporter

    Windsor ratepayers may avoid a tax increase if the city is able to reach a deal with the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel operator for millions in "hard, cold cash."

    "Exploratory" discussions have begun with Macquarie North America Ltd. as the city considers entering into a deal that could be worth more than $36 million US by giving the company a bigger chunk of tunnel operations.

    "What do you do to meet the needs?" Mayor Mike Hurst asked.

    "I think it's at least worthwhile to look at some of your assets in determining whether or not you can strike an arrangement by which you can convert some of the asset into hard, cold cash."

    The tunnel itself would not be sold, Hurst said. The discussions will focus on selling more tunnel operations and the right to operate it beyond the current Joint Operating Agreement (JOA), which expires in 2007.

    "If this works out, we will be giving to a private sector company the right to operate the business for a period of time in exchange for a significant, up-front sum of money," Hurst said, adding that the company would make its money back on the tolls...

    The plan, described as a long-term debt funding strategy, is similar to what the city hoped to do when the province opened the energy market to competition. Windsor had planned to borrow against the assets of Enwin Utilities and use some of that money to increase the city's roads and sewers budget, retire the city's short-term debt and place the rest in reserves.

    That plan has been put on hold while the province vacillates on the concept of an open energy market...

    The fact the tunnel is such a large revenue-producer for the city will have to "be taken into consideration in any discussions," Hurst said. It will have a bearing on how much the city can ask from Macquarie.

    The plan is a creative attempt to adapt to the costs passed down by the province, Hurst said.

    "People are saying they don't want their taxes increased. We're trying to put in place a mechanism through which we can in fact significantly increase the level of dollars available for capital projects -- roads and sewers -- without having to significantly increase taxes to the taxpayer of the city of Windsor."

The story was a bit confused since it almost looked like a long term P3 lease deal at one time ie "sell some tunnel operations" or "giving to a private sector company the right to operate the business for a period of time in exchange for a significant, up-front sum of money" and then just a borrowing at another.

I guess my speculation with respect to the Windsor Utilities Commission and/or Enwin and the Tunnel may not be that far off the mark. However, my suspicion is that a P3 deal is probably not possible in a timely fashion these days with equity markets the way they are but that borrowing based on a mortgage on the Tunnel or Tunnel revenues might work.

As I speculated before, this idea is not new in this deal:
  • "I know you think I am just being foolish but I'm not. It wouldn't surprise me if, as part of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal, the two City Governments were not made aware of what happened with the toll road in Chicago and the Indiana Turnpike by their financial advisers.

    Just taking a look at Chicago, since that City's Mayor is a hero of our Mayor. They received $1.8 billion when they leased their toll road, a sum considerably greater than they ever expected to receive. That kind of money has to brighten the eyes of any Mayor in any city.

    That upfront P3 money could be used to pay down debt, reduce taxes in future years, be set aside for special projects, used for reserves and so on. My guess is that it would burn a hole in someone's pocket in Windsor and we could squander it building shovel ready lands at the airport for developers at taxpayer expense."

The Tunnel was supposedly valued at $111 million in the City rollover deal. Let's assume that one hundred million dollars could be borrowed against the Tunnel assets. In other words, the new Tunnel Corporation would borrow from a lender $100 million and then pay it back over time, probably on a non-recourse basis, from Tunnel revenues only. That would be one way to protect the City provided that the City also did not have the guarantee the Tunnel Corp.'s debts.

What would the Tunnel Corp. do with that money... the first thing obviously is to pay to Detroit US $75 million and then take over the operation of the Detroit side of the Tunnel for a number of years. (Let's forget about Alinda for the next dozen years since that complicates the matter). Windsor would then have control of the full Tunnel. As for the balance of the $100 million, the Tunnel Corp. could use it or perhaps declare a dividend and pass that money to the City which would then squander it.

I probably should not be so cynical and probably should suggest that we should congratulate the Mayor for using the asset to gain $25 million that could be used for City purposes. After all, that is what Mayor Daley did in Chicago and Eddie looks very highly on the Mayor. The only difference is Daley got almost $1.8 billion for his asset.

I certainly know what the cheerleaders and sycophants will say about the genius of the deal, forgetting that it really was one that Mike Hurst thought about first . I also want to say that this is a typical Eddie Francis transaction in which he cannot act it seems until it is too late thereby costing the City money.

What do I mean by that? As I posted in one of my blogs previously, the Mayor valued the Tunnel at between $2-$300,000,000. I assume that this was the Canadian side only from what he had said. If that is the case, the delay has cost the City $100-$200,000,000 in valuation.

But it gets even worse. Had the deal been done in June, 2007, perhaps the Tunnel was worth what the rollover amount is stated to be. I sure hope that Eddie locked in amounts with the lenders at that time because, frankly, I think the Tunnel is worth much less today. Why do I say that? It is very simple.

As I have posted previously, US DRIC came out with their Environmental Impact Statement a few weeks ago. In that report, it was said that the new DRIC bridge would take away traffic from the Tunnel. How much traffic...The City of Windsor owned Detroit/Windsor Tunnel could lose up to 26% of its total traffic! That's represents perhaps about $25 million, a quarter of the valuation on a pro rata basis, or the amount of money that would have come to the the City of Windsor if the deal was concluded. It may be that the only winner in this transaction is Detroit if they get their $75 million out of the first!

Obviously, if the money is borrowed, it has to be paid back. If you figure a $100 million loan at say 7% for 75 years, the annual payment of principal and interest would be about $6 million. Considering that the Tunnel volume is around 5 million vehicles both ways, it would mean that the toll have would have to increase by about one or two dollars per vehicle, payable only by the vehicles that enter on the Canadian side while Alinda is still around for a dozen years. How could the Tunnel stay in business at that kind of the toll rate comapred with the Bridge toll that is less now?

Even if it is a P3 deal with money being paid up front and someone operating be Tunnel for 75 years, they would have to increase the tolls as well to cover their upfront payment.

Hard to see how it can work but who knows.

The interesting issue to me now is who is chasing those dollars for the Tunnel investment and what will the size of the commission be IF money can be found. What conditions will be imposed on the loan and will taxpayers ever see the documents or will we have to do what Chris Schnurr and the Star had to do to see the Spits' contract.

Does it seem like this to you as it does to me? Everything that the Mayor touches seems to disintegrate. Does anyone know what the opposite of the Midas touch is called?

Even More News


Stories are coming fast and furious. I'll do my best to keep up with them and give you my perspective of what is going on.

VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN FOR KINGSVILLE

How many times have you heard that expression! Well, it is allowed so get moving!
  • "Submit your vote for Kraft Hockeyville 2008. Vote as many times and for as many communities as you like."

As a reader wrote to me:

  • "RE: Only 2 days left!!!!

    Hi Ed,

    This may seem frivolous to you, considering all the REALLY important stuff going on, but – can you encourage people to vote for Kingsville for Hockeyville?

    The average person has no real voice in this City/County chest-puffing nonsense. This just may be the vehicle to show that the average person can “git ‘er done”, while the politicians are busy looking in the mirror. Let’s build on the most positive national exposure this area has had in years – and WIN!!

    How about it? www.cbcsports.ca/hockeyville

REDEVELOPMENT AT THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION


Now I know where the Credit Union money is going. It is not going for brochures to hand out to possible new investors in our region. Nope, a good chunk of it may go for a severance payment and a good part of it may pay for a recruiter's fee for finding another CEO for the Commission. They should demand a refund until the Commission cleans up its act. And so should the City and County.

I do not know if the Commission hired a recruiter for the first go around but I see they are doing it now. This whole situation is disgraceful. I trust that those people who were responsible for recruitment from the Board are replaced this time around too.

Good to see a sense of urgency, NOT. As CKLW reported:
  • "The hope is to have the new C-E-O by the fall."

Lots of things are very strange about what went on. When is the last time you have ever seen in a press release that a person was fired! Usually, it is that the person is leaving to pursue other career opportunities or is resigning for family reasons or some other neutral term to save face for both sides.

Not in this case. If CKLW is correct, then Mr. Fischer has already hired a lawyer and this could get ugly unless a settlement has been reached.

Don't you find it strange as well that the spokesperson for the Commission was not the Chair, Remo Mancini. Rather it was Dr. Schumacher, the Vice Chair of the Board. I know, I know...the excuse given will be that he was the Chair of the CEO evaluation committee and that it must have been this committee that made the decision to terminate Mr. Fischer's services. Regardless, this is such a significant position in the Commission that I would have thought that the Chair should have been front and centre.

Interestingly as well, the rumours that I heard and the story in the Star were all wrong. Mr. Mancini did not become the CEO, even on an interim basis. I find that rather surprising since frankly the reputation of the Commission has to be scraping the bottom of the barrel now and I would have thought that the Commission needed a big name to a head it at this time to try to reestablish credibility.

I guess the Board decided that the Chair should never be CEO, even temporarily.

Whiners and naysayers are mere amateurs in badmouthing this City and providing negative publicity compared with what the Mayor is doing and now the Economic Development Commission.

By the way, whatever happened to Windsor's CAO, John Skorobohacz, in this fiasco? Wasn't he keeping the Mayor up to date? I ask this question because of the following comment that the Mayor made. I would have thought that the CAO would know exactly what was going on given his role with the Commission:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said late Tuesday he had not yet been advised by the development commission of Fischer's status.

    "They are supposed to get back to me early tomorrow and give me an update," he said."

GREENLINK AD AGENCY

In case you were wondering whatever happened to the Request For Proposal that Councillor Dilkens told us would be issued for the Greenlink advertising campaign project, here is the information that I received from City Hall. Sorry, no RFP. Hardly a surprise:

  • "The City of Windsor has decided to Sole Source the design, copy and artwork for continuance of the Green Link promotional campaign, to HCA Group. A Purchase order has been issued for approximately $15,000.00 for this work.

    This purchase falls within criteria and guidelines outlined for Sole Sourcing in the Purchasing by-law. Specifically, the HCA Group created and produced the look and feel for the initial promotional campaign for GreenLink Windsor in 2007. The current phase of the promotional campaign will require a look and feel that is consistent with the initial phase, to ensure recognition and effective messaging to the residents of Windsor. Thus, the new materials must conform to a plan that is maintained by the original creator.

    Greg Cecile
    Manager of Purchasing and Risk Management (Acting)"

EDDIE WHO

Not a mention about the Mayor in the Star Editorial about the Ford jobs. Did they snub him too:

  • "The government of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, including Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello, deserves credit for helping to cement this deal with $17 million in funding...

    Ford of Canada deserves credit as well for revisiting the decision to close the plant...

    But this deal would not have happened without the foresight and courage of Mike Vince, president of CAW Local 200, who realized the Ford jobs lost last fall would be gone from this community forever unless the union agreed to dramatic concessions in a new Competitive Operating Agreement."

Who will spread this news around about the CAW to boost our image?

HOPING

Why can't people in this City actually DO something instead of "hope." I wrote above about the Development Commission "hoping" to hire someone. Now this respecting the Airport Board:

  • "Our hope is that the ad will go out in April and then that will come back to council," Francis said."

Why can't the order be given to do it! Or else!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More News




Here are some more short news items of interest. Well, they are interesting to me anyway.

WHO WILL FEED THE GAZELLES NOW

Well you read it here first, again.
I would think that the Credit Union people who gave a donation of so much money must be furious today too. Has it all been wasted?

What a slap in the face for the Economic Development Commission and for our region. Another delay at a time when we cannot afford a delay.

And what a waste of money. How much more of the Commission's funds are going to have to be spent on another job search rather than being spent on printing brochures for possible investors? And how much more time?

To be direct, I am not in favor of Mr. Mancini being appointed to the CEO position when he is already Chair of the Board. He also has his own business so how can he run both? His function should be to find a new CEO right away, not to be involved in the day-to-day activities of the Commission.

If the Commission needs someone to help an interim basis, it is my understanding that Roman Dzus may be available. Wasn't he the person who was responsible for doing the work that earned the City of Windsor that prize from the English magazine that Eddie Francis keeps throwing in our face. Perhaps Roman might actually be able to do something with it because it seems to date no one else has on the Commission!

UPDATE: I see that CKLW claims that "AM 800 News has learned that Fischer has retained legal counsel." That to me suggests an unhappy parting. Considering that Fischer has a three-year contract at $169,000 per year, I wonder how many library books this settlement will cost the City and County.

I wonder if someone suspected something. The March edition of the WEDC "Goodnews" Newsletter did NOT include the names of the WEDC staff while previous ones did! Or perhaps it was merely a redesign.

SNUBBED

Now Eddie knows what it's like to be snubbed. Perhaps he, and Council, might get the message that he is considered irrelevant by Senior Level Windsor politicians.

If you watched CBC news on Monday, you would have seen Eddie Francis standing in a crowd of people watching the speeches by the Premier and others with respect to the Ford announcement. He was not on the platform.

To be frank about it, that was a gross insults to the Mayor. After all, he is the Head of the City.

However, what do you expect. When he was invited to attend the session with Dwight and Sandra a few days before, he chose instead to go to a public school Read-a-thon. He left town rather than meet Dwight at the pre-Budget meeting.

One can only snub or get into a fight with Cabinet Ministers so many times. I wonder if Eddie has told the story about the disagreement that he had with the Minister of Transportation at the meeting with the County with respect to environmental assessments.

This time around, my information is that he was not invited to attend at all when the Premier arrived in town. Yes, he was there but invited by someone other than the Province to attend. At the least, he got his 15 seconds of fame when he was interviewed by the CBC.

And certain Councillors whine about why Windsor does not get more money. Get real.

MOVING OUT WEST

Poor Eddie. Even if his Jobs Today program was real, which it is not, it just would not work out. In the first place, Windsorites would have difficulty finding a place to stay out of West and if they wanted to move out there, they could probably not afford to buy a home. Here are the latest stats:



Can you imagine someone trying to move fromWindsor to Saskatoon!

If that was not enough, the Detroit News reported:

  • "The high cost of fuel has airlines raising fares, cutting the number of seats available on routes, tacking on sizable fuel surcharges and changing baggage rules. For some carriers, the cost of jet fuel has more than doubled over the past year and that will translate into sticker shock for consumers, too."

It looks like people might not be able to afford to come back on the weekends either. The plane fares are rising so rapidly.

All in all, another disaster for the Mayor. Another plan that was not through properly but was just designed to meet a political need at the time.

$100,000 WISE, $111 MILLION FOOLISH

You know the expression "Penny wise, Pound foolish."

Its meaning as I saw one website is:

  • "Overcareful about trivial things and undercareful about important ones. The literal image is of the person who fusses over small amounts of money to such an extent that he misses opportunities to save or make large amounts. "

I could not help but think of that expression when I saw the story in the Star about the Low-Martin house:

  • "The committee agreed in principle to give Vella a $100,000 grant from the two city heritage funds, pending council's approval. The money was to be forwarded upon completion of the project and hinged on acquiring several estimates for the work.

    But Coun Dave Brister, a member of the committee, said Monday he was absent when the decision was made and asked that council's decision to be defered until mid-April so the legal department can investigate and more specifics can be gathered on the work to be done."

Here's my question for the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget. When did the Councillor receive the documentation with respect to flipping the Tunnel from the City to the Tunnel Corporation? How long in advance of the meeting? What due diligence did he undertake? What questions did he ask and of whom?

My information is that the Councillors and Commissioners received the package of materials, some of which were given out to the media and which I requested and received, shortly before the meeting. I'm not sure precisely how much in advance.

The documents are not easy to read or to understand and there are some very significant issues in them. How long did the Councillors discuss this matter at the meeting? Did the Ward 1 Councillor ask that this matter worth $111 million be deferred for several weeks so that it could be investigated and, frankly, so that members of the public would have the opportunity to speak about this at Council?

If he did, there was nothing reported about this in the newspaper. All that I saw was that the Councillor had difficulty with a $100,000 transaction such that he needed several weeks of study time.

Does the expression fit...you be the judge!

WHINY ANSWER TO FULVIO'S QUESTION

There he goes again asking his perennial question why Windsor was shortchanged by the Province. As if Councillor Valentinis did not know the answer. His slamming of the Province in not giving Windsor more certainly would not win favours with the Province when CKLW states:

  • "DUNCAN'S OFFICE RESPONDS 2008-04-01 15:19:02

    Windsor got what it asked for. That's the reply from Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's office to a question about infrastructure funding from a city councillor. Ward 3's Fulvio Valentinis wondered why last Friday's announcements were not done on a per-capita basis. Windsor got nearly 11.5-million dollars, while Tecumseh received 4.5-million. Valentinis thinks the city didn't get its fair share, based on what Tecumseh received. Steve Erwin, an aide to the minister, says the city asked for a specific amount in its application, as did Tecumseh."

Another answer is the whiny response from his colleague, Councillor Gignac, who enlightened us about the situation in Hamilton.

Perhaps if she listened to herself speak, she would have heard about a Cabinet Minister who works with the Mayor of Hamilton.

Perhaps if she rereads the Hamilton newspaper story she will see that

  • "[Mayor] Eisenberger met with McMeekin -- a former Flamborough mayor and regional councillor -- and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to outline Hamilton's unique circumstances and needs."

I guess she forgot [that darn City Hall amnesia disease again] that our Mayor had a chance to meet the Minister of Finance in a pre-budget meeting so he could outline Windsor's "unique circumstances and needs" but he chose to fly to Germany, taxpayer paid, to meet up with a start-up company instead. Hamilton met with Dwight in his pre-budget meeting last January to make their pitch! They asked for $20M but did not receive it all either.

Perhaps if she stopped her Mayor from talking about a $1.6 billion "cheap" solution, the City might get somewhere.

Perhaps if her Mayor did not threaten "enemies" such as the Senior Levels with lawsuits or run massive advertising blitzes against them, the City might get more money.

Perhaps she might advise the Chief of Staff of the Mayor to ensure that the Mayor's calendar is flexible so that he can attend meetings where our local Cabinet Ministers give us money, and he might be invited to attend sessions where the Premier gives out cash.

Good thing that the Mayor recognized Councillor Gignac before Councillor Lewenza. Imagine if he had praised the Province for giving money to Ford before she went on her rampage against the Province.

I think that Councillor Gignac with this childish outburst just demonstrated to me that she is not mayoral material for a City like Windsor.

CliffSuttsnotes: Our Tunnel Study Guide




American readers of this BLOG know what Cliffsnotes are. We have the equivalent in Canada called Coles Notes. There is an interesting history between these two series but I will let you look that up for yourself.

In case you do not know, these Notes are used by students to help them in various subjects. In my days, they were used primarily with the various Shakespearean plays to help people understand them.

They are study guides designed to "save study time... to get the most out of your busy schedule." It is said that "You should use them as starting points to open yourself to new methods of encountering, understanding, and appreciating."

We are very fortunate in Windsor that we have a study guide to help us on the Tunnel deal with Detroit. That Tunnel deal is so complicated that it would be almost impossible for any poor Windsorite to understand it. After all, our outside law firm has been working around the clock on this transaction for months and months and months. And they are still not finished with that, needing another 60 days to complete some surveys.


We have a variation of those study guides in Windsor called CliffSuttsnotes. They help explain to us what this transaction is all about. In case you did not know, Cliff Sutts is the outside lawyer retained by the City to assist in this transaction. He has been speaking with the media recently and he has given us a very good indication of what is going to happen with the Tunnel deal.

Going back in history, Mr. Sutts has effectively told us that the City will not be at risk in this transaction. That is a pretty nice guarantee that Mr. Sutts and his firm are providing to us.
  • "the deal will not be completed until he is fully assured local taxpayers will not be hurt.

    “We will be extraordinarily cautious so costs of the acquisition will be self-supporting of the project itself. That there will be no need to go to the well of the city to support this transaction."

Whew, absolutely no risk to taxpayers or City assets ever. The Mayor and Mr. Sutts repeated in the last couple of days this assurance by saying:

  • "But Sutts and Francis said Tuesday they are being careful not to complete any tunnel deal that could prove costly in the years to come."

Nice to have Eddie personally on the hook as well. Especially if he is no longer Mayor "in the years to come." We do not want his successor burdened do we by a bad deal.

But what is the nature of the transaction that we are going through respecting the flip of the Tunnel to a subsidiary. Again thanks to the CliffSuttsnotes study guide, we can cut through all of this stuff. According to Mr. Sutts:

  • "the move allows the city and the new corporation to arrange financing independently of each other. However, any sale of tunnel assets would require the approval of the City of Windsor -- the corporation's sole shareholder."

It is very interesting to note that the CliffSuttsnotes only talked about a "sale" requiring City approval but not about a financing or a mortgage or a P3 deal. Why did Mr. Sutts not mention them too? He must mean then that the Tunnel Company could do those kind of things independently of the City as a separate legal entity. Hmmmm if there is a blame to go around eventually on this transaction, is that the reason why Windsor Tunnel Commissioners were made part of the new Tunnel Company?

However, I am confused about one thing that I hope the CliffSuttsnotes will clarify. In the Free Press, we read:

  • "Kilpatrick and Cockrel...discussed Kilpatrick's proposed economic stimulus package, the proposed leasing to Windsor of Detroit's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the city's budget, according to the statement."

Yet our Mayor said

  • "the discussions aren't about Windsor trying to gain control of both sides of the tunnel.

    "The city's efforts are to ensure that the border continues to remain in public hands, and that the two (sides) continue to operate as one entity,"

We do know that the Mayor of Detroit presented to his Council a new structure of a deal but we do not know what it is.

If Eddie is correct, then it does not seem as if there will be a lease transaction but something more along the lines of a Joint Operating Agreement with Windsor perhaps being the operating party.

What may be happening is a transaction whereby Alinda is either bought out or allowed to operate until their contract ends in Detroit and then Windsor takes over. It appears that Alinda's agreement has been extended but may be terminated on 90 days notice in Windsor.

It would seem to me that what is proposed to happen is some kind of a financing---a mortgage on the Tunnel or a loan secured by the Tunnel assets or the toll revenue stream--- whereby Detroit gets the first $75 million of the deal and Windsor in effect takes its position for the next 75 years and Windsor gets the balance of whatever is left over from the financing. That allows Windsor to deal with the whole Tunnel.

The key question is who in their right mind would finance a declining asset like the Tunnel that no longer pays a dividend, has been losing market share and is also a unique security risk. Is that the reason for the 60 day delay, to find a financier? I did not see anything in the CliffSuttsnotes about that part of the deal.

Here's the real kicker as I have said. The Tunnel will lose a chunk of its business, about 25%, if the new DRIC bridge is built according to the US DRIC consultants. Now the Ambassador Bridge is to lose some of its bridge business to the new DRIC bridge as well so what business will they go after... the Tunnel business. That should cost the Tunnel even more volume.

Good thing that the Tunnel valuation in the CliffSuttsnotes study guide was said to have been determined in June, 2007 rather than February, 2008 or the valuation would have had to drop considerably and the CliffSuttsnotes revised.

No wonder there are problems raising funds from any private equity investor these days with money drying up. Is that why the OMERS people and Dwight were in town, to talk to Eddie!

The situation that we can get into is that the City could lose the Tunnel. I assume that the Tunnel deal will apply to the new Tunnel Corp. only without any kind of a Guarantee from the City. Let us assume that the transaction results in a financing today of a hundred million dollars. That would mean an additional toll fee of about a dollar a vehicle just to cover repayment for the next 75 years based on last year's Tunnel volumes. Let us also assume that the US DRIC projections are correct in that the Tunnel loses market share. How then does the Tunnel Corporation pay back the loan? It will be extremely difficult when market share drops like a rock. If tolls are raised too high, the Bridge gets the vehicles.

Whoever then is the financing party may have the great pleasure of taking over an old Tunnel that may require millions of dollars of improvements if there is a foreclosure. Assuming that the party is that foolish, then the City may lose the asset and all we have done is help out Detroit's budget while ruining our balance sheet. And it could impact tourist traffic negatively too. Makes a lot of sense doesn't it.

A couple of other thoughts.

I think that Cliff Sutts is a smart lawyer as far as his client is concerned. One day I remember meeting a consultant when I worked for one of the auto companies in town. I commented on the fact that the consultant hired a Rent-A-Car that happened to be the same brand that my employer manufactured. He just smiled and said, "What else did you expect from me. I know who my client is."

It is obvious therefore that in his negotiating with the City of Detroit that Mr. Sutts only uses the Tunnel when he goes across the border and that he is totally unfamiliar with the Ambassador Bridge. If he had any familiarity with the bridge, one would ask how he could make the following comment:
  • "With 4,000 Canadian commuters travelling to Detroit daily, keeping the tunnel in public control is of greater importance to Windsor, Sutts said.

    "It's important tolls are reasonable. Private enterprise would jam it up as high as possible," Sutts said."

Obviously, Mr. Sutts does not seem to know that the round-trip toll at the Cities-owned Tunnel is higher than that at the privately owned Ambassador Bridge. That was a mistake that Brian Masse seemed to be making on numerous occasions until this BLOG corrected him. I hope now that Mr. Sutts will not make this error again. Perhaps he should use the Bridge on occasion in order to gain competitive information.

The other point that I thought was interesting is that I assume that Mr. Sutts is charging a fee to the City for his services that is bordering on pro bono! After all he was the one who talked about private enterprise jamming up their charges as high as possible. Clearly, he only wants to charge "reasonable" fees.


I remember that Mayor Hurst had said in the MFP file when discussing his fees:
  • "I think what we had to do was to get the best in the business involved and getting the best in the business is going to cost you big bucks," Hurst said. "

I know Mr. Sutts is good but "Big bucks." Come on now. With Eddie, I am sure that we got the best in the business without taxpayers being jammed. I read that in my CliffSuttsnotes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Do Sandra And Dwight Want An OMERS Job




Surely, that has to be the explanation for what happened yesterday. I can think of no other. After all, the Government person who received the most money in 2007 was Paul Haggis, former OMERS CEO, who earned $2.24 million in 2007 as well as about $10,000 in taxable benefits.

I suspect that his salary is overstated because he did leave the organization last year and was replaced by Michael Nobrega. I'm sure there are some extras thrown in that would not normally be part of the salary. Nevertheless it is a reasonably generous organization when their Senior Vice President, Sponsor & Government Relations makes over $400,000.

A Cabinet Minister with greater responsibilities receives a lot less.

Accordingly, after years in Government service, it would not surprise me if those two Cabinet Ministers may well be looking for new opportunities in the private sector given their vast experience.

If that is not the case, then it looks to me as if a serious faux pas has been committed by our two Cabinet Ministers at the Rotary Meeting yesterday when Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan, delivered his speech. And the horrible part is that they should have known better.

I am afraid that the consequence of this breach may well be disastrous and will put back this region for years and years. To me, based on what the Ministers have said before, the DRIC process has been contaminated and must start all over again.

A very good legal argument can be made that there is either bias or an apprehension of bias involving the DRIC process given what the Ministers did. What were they thinking?

Go back to my BLOG February 08, 2008, "The Art Of The BORDER War" and take a look at the letter that I attached that was sent by Dwight. More importantly, a similar letter was sent by Dwight and Sandra on February 7, 2008 with respect to the border file. That letter is below.


The letter makes it absolutely clear that the Ministers cannot be involved in dealing with specifics with respect to the border before DRIC makes a final recommendation. Moreover, they cannot even meet with a local Council on the matter before the recommendation is made. It would be "inappropriate."

If the Ministers cannot meet with the Windsor Council, then surely the Ministers should not be dealing with a border proponent. That would follow from what the Ministers wrote to the City. I would think that doing so would be even worse.

Fortunately, dear reader, you receive this BLOG. Here again is some information that you did not receive in the Windsor Star. All they did is cover a bit of Dwight's Rotary speech and tell us that Councillor Dilkens was "baffled" by Sandra and Dwight's refusal to meet. Doesn't that make things even worse for Dwight and Sandra:

  • "We've had indications they're not prepared to sit down at this point for fear of jeopardizing the work that DRIC (the Detroit River International Crossing study, a binational government process to determine the location of the next Windsor-Detroit border crossing) is doing and it's not our intent to jeopardize the work that DRIC is doing," Dilkens said."

What the Star did not report is that Michael Nobrega of OMERS was in attendance at the luncheon. You remember OMERS don't you... that is the municipal employees pension plan that is the owner of DRTP along with CP rail. Or maybe it is the owner of the Detroit River Rail Tunnel now or DRRT (that I pronounce as D-I-R-T). Not only was he there, he was sitting at the Head Table I was told. Moroever, he was introduced by Dwight who said some very nice things about him.

Was Mr. Nobrega just in the neighbourhood and thought that he would drop in for lunch? Was the only seat that was available for him at the head table? If Dwight and Sandra could meet with him, then why couldn't they meet with Eddie and the Councillors? Nobrega represents a proponent after all while Eddie and Council represent the people of Windsor, you know the same people that elected Dwight and Sandra.

It is very strange that the Ministers can hobnob with a proponent but not with the City. Somehow they can argue that meeting with the City can be prejudicial to the process but not when dealing with a proponent. There must be a difference that they can see but I must admit that I'm having difficulty figuring out what it is.

Now let's get real. There was a reason why Mr. Nobrega was in town. He did NOT come all the way down from Toronto for nothing. We know that OMERS is very chummy with the Minister of Finance since Dwight's predecessor contacted OMERS to see if the Province could use their money for some of their projects.

  • "Ontario ’s Finance Minister Greg Sorbara invited some of the province’s most powerful investors to consider helping to finance the rebuilding of the province's crumbling infrastructure. According to Sorbara, the province's pension funds have a central role to play in financing public-sector projects. "

Dwight himself is very knowledgeable about OMERS because when he was Minister of Energy his department and OMERS worked out a deal on the Bruce a nuclear plant.

So why was he here. I can think of several reasons:

  • he likes Rotary food
  • interviewing Sandra and/or Dwight for a job
  • helping to finance Eddie's Tunnel deal with the new subsidiary and/or with Detroit
  • putting in an offer for Enwin and/or the Windsor Utilities Commission
  • arranging some kind of P3 deal with the Province for Windsor, perhaps for the road to the border
  • negotiating to be the P3 partner in the new DRIC bridge
  • lobbying the Windsor MPPs for the doublestack rail Tunnel
No, he could probably could do all of those things over the telephone since they are pretty small deals. It has to be something much more difficult that requires his personal involvement since the money and the stakes are so high.

No matter what the intended result, DRIC has been compromised. Let the lawsuits begin.

BREAKING BLOGnews: Development Commission

There is a rumour about an announcement to be made on Wednesday.

Unfortunately not one about new jobs or the VW plant coming here. It involves the internal operation of the Organization I am told.

The Joint Tunnel Meeting


video


I need your assistance in this BLOG, dear readers. I figure that with all of you reading this and expressing to me your point of view, I am more likely to understand better what went on at the Joint Meeting of the Windsor Council and the Windsor Tunnel Commission.

You know the variation of the expression: More heads are better than one.

First though, I thought you might be interested in hearing what the Deputy Mayor of Detroit had to say about the Tunnel deal. Just click on the screen above and listen in.

He sure seemed to think that the deal was going to be concluded on or about the 25th of March. But we know now that this is not going to happen. Mr. Sutts stated that "the transaction should be complete within 60 days." He also seems to think that he is going to get $58 million from the City of Windsor to help Detroit's financial position.


If they do get the money, it will certainly help Kwame in his relations with the Detroit Council. If they don't, I would not like to be Eddie going over to one of the Windsor taxpayer-sponsored sports events in Detroit. I'm sure in that case that his welcome would not be very friendly.

The whole Kwame issue in Detroit must certainly cloud a lot of the Tunnel negotiations. The issues are very serious over there. Have lies been told? Has there been a perjury? Has information been kept from Council? Are there confidential agreements that Council did not know about? Did the Mayor not give enough information to his Council on the Tunnel deal for example? Is the Tunnel deal at a preliminary stage or is it about to be concluded?

It must be somewhat frustrating if one is not sure that the deal will even go through because Council is fighting with the Detroit Mayor. If you were a financier, would you really want to get involved in the middle of a mess? Perhaps you would in order to capitalize on the situation by getting a better deal than you would otherwise normally get.

But I don't want to talk about the deal with Detroit right now. I want to focus on what is going on with Windsor and the flipping of the Tunnel from the City to the Corporation which we shall call "Holdco."

Here's what I am going to do because I can't quite understand what is happening. I need your help, dear reader, to clarify all of this for me. I will set out the facts that I think are relevant and ask a bunch of questions afterwards that perhaps you might be able to answer. That would help me out a lot in my thinking.

  • June 11, 2007---City Council resolved the following:

    That Administration BE AUTHORIZED to incorporate a share capital corporation under the Business Corporation Act (Ontario) (“Holdco”) of which Windsor will be the sole shareholder; and

    That Council APPROVES the name of the corporation to be “Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation”, or such similar name as may be available for use; and

  • September 17, 2007---Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation incorporated

  • March 18, 2008---Detroit Council resolution against Kwame suggesting that the deal will not get done during their fiscal year and that it was at the preliminary stages.

  • March 18, 2008---Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, chairman of the tunnel commission, said Tuesday that negotiations are continuing in the city's bid to gain control of the U.S. side of the tunnel, owned by Detroit.

    "Those discussions are coming close to a conclusion," he said.

  • March 25, 2008---Adams interview: "City of Windsor, I believe, is supposed to be moving today. We are simply waiting on the City of Windsor to take their vote before we actually present the final Tunnel documents."

  • March 26, 2008---"City council will be asked Thursday during a closed-door meeting to approve a new corporation for the Canadian side of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, which is owned by the city.

    “What we will be dealing with is a recommendation from legal counsel to put the tunnel into a corporation to protect the taxpayer from any financial exposure that might occur from an act of terrorism or accident,” said Mayor Eddie Francis.

  • March 26, 2008---My email to Councillors to which I received only one reply:
    "Please explain to me why the meeting re the Tunnel has to go "in camera."

    This matter as described in the story---incorporating a company---has already been discussed in public as justification for the new Tunnel Corp. in the presence of Council's outside lawyer. It does not need to be discussed again.

    If there is something else on the agenda please let me know what it is so. The public should have the right if required to appear as delegates at a Special Council meeting!"

  • March 27, 2008---JOINT WINDSOR TUNNEL COMMISSION/CITY COUNCIL MEETING AGENDA
    THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2008
    (immediately following Joint closed meeting at 3:00 p.m.)

    AGENDA ITEMS

    (1) Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Rollover to Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation

  • March 28, 2008---"Francis said Thursday’s meeting was held behind closed doors because the city was receiving legal advice about its negotiations with Detroit."

Here are my questions that I'm hoping you can help me answer:

  1. If Council, in a public meeting in which outside counsel was in attendance, authorized the incorporation of Holdco in June, 2007 and the company was incorporated in September 2007, then why did the Mayor in March 2008 claim that the meeting was "to approve a new corporation. " The Corporation was already in existence and no approval was needed at all. Interestingly, the members of the Board are the Windsor Tunnel Commissioners
  2. The Mayor had told me in the past that he had a photographic memory. Were the negatives so cloudy such that he forgot about the incorporation in September or was he subject of the infamous City Hall amnesia disease? I am terribly disappointed that no one on his staff or in Administration or the outside law firm picked up on this error and allowed him to make a correction before the Meeting
  3. Why was it necessary for the meeting to be held in camera, if previously it was held in public before and on television too with delegations attending, even if some of them opposed what the Mayor wanted to do
  4. Why did the reason for the meeting change from approving Holdco to “receiving legal advice about its negotiations with Detroit”
  5. Where was the notice publicizing the Joint meeting, and in particular, where was the Agenda publicized. If it was not publicized, why not
  6. If the meeting was to discuss legal advice about negotiations with Detroit, then why did the public agenda deal with the “Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Rollover to Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation”
  7. Why didn’t any of the Councillors provide me with this information
  8. Did the Councillors know what the purpose of the meeting was and did they receive an agenda in advance and full documentation so they could ask intelligent questions
  9. If the materials were not distributed in advance, then how does one justify doing a major transaction involving over $100 million in such a small amount of time? Are the Councillors that experienced that they can make a decision so quickly
  10. Since presumably the rollover has been approved, does this mean that members of the public have no opportunity to appear as delegations before Council to discuss this matter
  11. Why didn’t the Mayor and/or Councillors advise the media of what was taking place so that the Public could be aware and perhaps decide to appear as delegations
  12. What issues were “concluded.” And which ones are still outstanding
  13. Have the various comments with respect to terrorism increased the risks to the Tunnel and lowered significantly its value if some transaction with respect to the entire tunnel is to be concluded subsequently? Has the value of the Detroit side been decreased by these comments
  14. Has the City received a written opinion from its outside counsel that, in fact, the City and taxpayers have been protected by the incorporation of Holdco against any possible claim for damages? Has Council considered the risks of such items as under capitalization, incorporation merely for the purposes of protection of assets, City employees working for the Tunnel and the City providing assistance to the Tunnel under a Services Agreement, nonfunctioning in fact of Corporate directors through control by the City and other factors that the courts look at when deciding whether they should pierce the corporate veil
  15. Have Mr. Sutts and his partners given us a written assurance that, as he said
    “emphasized the deal will not be completed until he is fully assured local taxpayers will not be hurt.

    "We will be extraordinarily cautious so costs of the acquisition will be self-supporting of the project itself," he said. "That there will be no need to go to the well of the city to support this transaction."
  16. Considering that the City has to guarantee to the Bank of Nova Scotia Holdco’s payment of amounts owing under a Letter of Credit, how can it be said that the City may not have to go to the well.

I’m sure dear reader that you can think of other things to ask about based on the facts that I have presented but these are a few items that cause me a great deal of concern. I would be very appreciative if you could write and explain to me what this all means.

My quick, initial thought was that it almost seems as if information was being given out to ensure that members of the public would not know what is going on and therefore not attend at the meeting and not appear at delegations to speak with respect to the rollover. Remember, the information about the meeting did not come out from the Mayor and Council originally but rather from Councillor Halberstadt via his BLOG.

However, I am probably completely wrong and need you to point out what the explanation really is and why I am mistaken.

I thought I would ask Local Authority Services Ltd to help me out as well since their services are free and they can get a lot more information than I can. That's the Company hired to do meeting investigations!

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Bunch Of Small Stories





There is so much going on that is hard to keep up.

I wish I had the time to write full BLOGs on each of these items but I don't. So here they are in a shortened version just to let you know some of the interesting things that are going on in our town.

THE SHERIFF COMES OUT

As I have explained to you before, on many occasions, you might want to start reading Windsor Star stories and columns from the end. That's where all the important revelations are laid out. In another Larry Horwitz column, Gord Henderson right at the end wrote the following:
  • "It's time for the five footdraggers on council and Mayor Eddie Francis to find some spinal fortitude on this issue."

Imagine that, Gord actually saying nasty things about the Mayor, saying he has no backbone!

Don't mark the column date on your calendar quite yet. Don't get too carried away. This is Gord just giving Eddie a gentle slap on the wrist. So far.

OVER THE MOON OR BEING MOONED

In case you have forgotten, here are the people that Gord Henderson believes will fight for being Mayor in 2010 when Eddie leaves:

  • "I'm placing early money that it will be between Marra and Ward 1 Coun. Dave Brister."

I am convinced that while Gord owes the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget a favour since Brister helped save his home as Chair of STOPDRTP, he is realistic enough to know that Brister could never beat Marra in an election. Marra is much too smooth for Brister and Marra's election machine would be just too powerful.

Once again, Brister is being praised by the Star's columnist or so he thinks:

  • "The next day Brister was over the moon at how well (with a couple of predictable exceptions) these two supposedly hostile groups got along. "It was a beautiful thing. You walked out of there feeling absolutely vindicated."

    He wasn't totally surprised. "I knew from sitting on ERCA (Essex Region Conservation Authority) that there are good people in the county that we can sit in a room with and hash stuff out. There were a lot of people in that room (Wednesday) night that I have a huge amount of respect for."

What a strange word to use "vindicated." For suggesting a meeting? For thinking that people have brains and can get along?

Of course, the quote from Brister is typical of him and shows how much of a divisive force that he is. He places people into camps, the good and the bad, just as he did with his Council colleagues:

  • "This term it's totally different. Now it's insiders and outsiders, with Marra, the guy who insisted during the last campaign that he would be Francis's biggest supporter and a virtual deputy mayor, the apparent leader of an undeclared opposition that includes Al Halberstadt in Ward 3, Drew Dilkens in Ward 1 and Ward 5's Percy Hatfield.

    "I would call it the 'take down the mayor' clique versus those who want to move the city forward," said Brister."

So Brister has identified "hostile camps" within his own Council. I guess he does not have respect for those considered his enemies. Frankly, how can anyone now work with him on Council from the outsider side after that slur?

Gord has a sense of humour, allowing Brister to bury himself. The funniest quote that Gord disclosed was the following that most people will not appreciate. It is Gord mooning Brister, again:

  • "It's a matter of getting to know people and recognizing they are not the enemy, said Brister. He said for three or four city councillors, this was their first direct contact with as many as five or six of their county colleagues. For the first time, they could move beyond being suspicious strangers in rival armed camps."

Here is Brister talking about meeting people and understanding that they may not the enemy. Yet, when he has a chance to meet a border proponent and learn that maybe they have something to offer:

  • he does not vote to give the Bridge Co. extra time at Council to discuss their billion dollar Enhancement Project (neither did anyone else)
  • "DRTP officials have been busy in recent weeks meeting with politicians and transportation authorities on both sides of the border to explore the possibility...

    He [Brister] declined an invitation to meet with DRTP over its latest plan" the double-stack rail tunnel."
  • "Brister, a vehement opponent of the original DRTP plan, has not met with the group to hear about the revised design [underground truck road]. He could not be reached for comment about why he declined the group's invitation...

    But his ward mate, Coun. Joyce Zuk, felt she owed it to her constituents to listen."

Compare Brister today with what his Ward-mate Drew Dilkens says:

  • "Dilkens said he'll talk to anyone, including high-profile bridge company and DRTP representatives, "but that doesn't mean they're running me in any way, shape or form. I'm an independent thinker but I try to get as many inputs as I can."

Letting people know about what you are doing openly and transparently:

  • "Unfortunately, Dilkens' motion was defeated by a 6-4 margin, with ...Couns. Dave Brister... endorsing the secretive status quo that spawned this democratic accountability initiative in the first place."

Poor Dave, one day he will learn.

ANOTHER GREENLINK AD

I wonder who at the Star advertising department heads the City of Windsor account. The bonus for that person with all of this Greenlink advertising will be quite attractive I'm sure.

I should find out again if there was a Request for Proposal for the agency to create all of these advertisements. Last time I asked in mid-February, I was told, after Councillor Dilkens said on Face-to-Face that he expected an RFP to be undertaken:

  • "The procurement of goods and services for this particular project will follow the Purchasing By-law, whether it be through the competitive bid process, or Sole Sourcing, whichever is deemed in the best interest of the City of Windsor.

    As of today, I have not received any formal written requisitions from the Department, for anything related to this particular project."

It would be nice if the Agency and the Mayor got together on what the main focus for Greenlink should be. Try and find the word JOBS in the latest advertisement.

NOW WE KNOW WHO DID THE POLLING

The secret is now out.

I've written to the City Clerk asking for a copy of the entire report on the poll since it is now a public document being mentioned on the Greenlink site.

I wonder how much this cost taxpayers and how many books for the Library could have been purchased instead.


EDDIE IN HIS PJ's

Excuses, excuses, excuses. That is all the Mayor gives us.

You know already that the Mayor's excuse for not attending the meeting in which Ministers Duncan and the Pupatello handed out money to Windsor was:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis did not attend because he was at a read-a-thon at General Brock elementary school."

Fortunately, two good Liberals, Councillors Valentinis and Marra were able to attend. Of course, I assume that this was an excuse for Eddie not to meet with the Ministers.

I must admit that I find it very strange that the Mayor could not change the time when he was attending at the school so that he could accommodate the Ministers. After all, from the General Brock School website, it states that:

  • "Read-a-Thon activities take place all day long from JK to Grade 8."

Seriously, how do we know that he really was there and not just hiding from the two Ministers as he did when he flew off to Germany at taxpayer expense so he would not confront Dwight.

We need proof that he really was at the event. There is only one way that he could demonstrate that as far as I'm concerned. Now here is something that I would like to see to prove his attendance at the Read-a-Thon:

  • "While our main goal is to raise funds and promote literacy, we are going to have a lot of fun in the process. Read-A-Thon day is also pajamas Day at Brock! Our staff and students really dress down on that day…they wear their comfy, cozy flannel PJ’s, fleecy slippers and robes! Many of our guests have even promised to wear their PJ’s, slippers and robes, too!!"

Where's the photo? After all, a promise is a promise:

  • "It sends a powerful message to kids if we cancel at the last minute," said Norma Coleman, Francis's chief of staff."
It sends a powerful message to the Government and the citizens of Windsor if we do not see Eddie in his Pj's, slippers and robe.

A JAY LENO HEADLINES MOMENT


Oh I know it's not fair since it was a typo, but it's too hilarious not to point out.

In the original story on the Windsor Star online dealing with the infrastructure money to be given to Windsor to repair roads and bridges, the following quote was attributed to Mike Palanacki, executive director of public works of the City:
  • "We are taking preemptive steps to fix brides before we have serious issues with them."
I thought that was pretty tough talk and rather sexist. I wonder what they were going to do to brides. I did not know they were broken. This was subsequently changed to:
  • "We are taking preemptive steps to fix bridges before we have serious issues with them."

"Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way."



Two Star front pages. Two big stories about jobs. Two stories, one real and one make-believe.

In all seriousness, which story pleased you more? And why? Which story helps out the region and which story is a joke? And why? Which story is political posturing at its worst and which story will actually put people to work now? And why?

Even if you are a Martian and arrived in Windsor for the first time, just looking at the front pages should give you the answer. It tells you everything you would want to know about our leadership and to whom one should be looking to help this region transition into the new economy before it is too late.


On the Greenlink page, immediately below the main story you would read "Mayor Kicks off PR blitz" and then "Bankruptcies soar in Windsor."

On the other front page, you read about a "BUILDING BONANZA" and how much money was actually going to be spent in Windsor and in the County. Immediately below, you would read about the opening of the Essex Engine Plant.

Real jobs starting now to build up decaying infrastructure and reopening plants compared with THINK BIG DREAMS as people go broke.

Real jobs starting now compared with Jobs Today that may not start for years since the City could not put in any money until after 2010 and shipping people away from their homes and families.

Real jobs on real projects to achieve something positive for the region compared with cheerleaders and sycophants promising us the moon to hide the truth.

It should make you sick as it does me that our local government is so incompetent in the face of so much hardship. Think of the thousands of jobs, 2800 of them, that are starting on the other side of the river with the Ambassador Gateway project. Think of the thousands of jobs that could have been started already on our side of the river if the road to the border and the Enhancement Project had started but for our Mayor and Council's stalling.

Think of how well this region would be doing and the signal we would be giving to industry that we are open for business rather than the signal that we're giving now that we need to ship our people away from here because this region is an economic disaster.

Think of the Mayor that snubs the pre-budget meeting of the Minister of Finance and flies off to Germany using taxpayer money to talk to a startup company that can do little for us. Think of a Mayor that snubs a meeting where infrastructure dollars are being presented to the City by two of the most powerful Members of the Cabinet. Oh, I am sorry, it was not a snub. The Mayor could not rearrange his busy schedule:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis did not attend because he was at a read-a-thon at General Brock elementary school.

    “It sends a powerful message to kids if we cancel at the last minute,” said Norma Coleman, Francis’s chief of staff.

I wonder what kind of powerful message Eddie's failure to attend gives with Dwight and Sandra. And with the Premier who is supposed to be here today. If Norma wants the answer, she should talk to some of her insider Liberal friends to hear what they have to say "off the record."

Poor Norma. She had to fall on the sword for the Mayor because he did not have the guts to give that kind of excuse personally. No one believes that. It just makes Eddie look even more foolish and immature. It just reinforces the fact that he has little leadership ability and is again failing his constituents.

I wonder if Eddie will snub the Premier as well on Monday. I don't think he would dare do so.

It really is time for residents of this City to say that they have had enough of our Mayor and Council. Let them stay in their booth at Devonshire Mall to hand out brochures. That is about all that they are good for.

I hate to say this because of my involvement early on with STOPDRTP when we fought bitterly against Queen's Park and Ottawa. At that time, the majority of Council worked with its citizens to try to achieve a good result The situation has reversed itself completely. We have an out-of-control Mayor and local Council that just doesn't care what the citizens think. They are prepared to spend another $300,000 and to waste 60 more days with PR blitzes after spending how much on polling.

It is my opinion that the Senior Levels by now understand that they must listen to the citizens of Windsor and not our politicians. It is my opinion that they understand by now that the citizens of Windsor are not dumb and do understand what is best for this City notwithstanding the posturing of the Mayor and Council. It is my opinion that they also understand that citizens of Windsor will stand up for what is in their best interests no matter what local politicians may say or do.

We have done it before when we, the citizens, first opposed the truck expressway through the heart of Windsor, when we opposed the use of EC Row for Montréal to Tijuana international trucks to feed DRTP, when we looked for a better and practical solution to the road to the border and when we acknowledged that the Ambassador Bridge Company will build their Enhancement Project.

Our Minister of Finance is a very shrewd politician. It is obvious that Dwight knew what he was doing and did it on purpose when he said "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG" and then told us that the road to the border would produce 7500 jobs. He judged perfectly what is in the minds of the people.

It is time already that the Senior Levels come in and do the right thing for Windsor and Essex County. Do they not understand yet that this Mayor and Council know that they have failed and are in fact begging the Senior Levels to come in and impose a solution. It lets them off the hook they pray.

Prime Minister, Premier, do your job already, start leading. Get these projects moving. Get us the jobs. It's time you got Eddie out of the way!

Imagine the headlines then!