Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 11, 2008

Killing DRIC Using Their Own Words

It's my longest BLOG ever. It is probably not something that you will read over a coffee or at lunch.

However, if you have any interest in the border file, or more importantly the economic survival of our region, then you need to read this BLOG! You have not seen all of the the information elsewhere before. One obvious consequence: stop the US$75M Tunnel deal before Windsor goes broke!

Do not read this BLOG for what I am writing but rather what the US consultants for DRIC have written already in their Environmental Impact Statement. It is what the border battle is really about as I have speculated for so long.

Their report tells us so much now, at last. Print it out and take it home with you to read or read it in the evening when you have some time to devote to it. It is a long but easy read that I have tried to make easier for you with explanatory notes. You need to read it carefully and to digest the information fully.

We are all being played for fools. We are nothing more than pawns in the game, used by all levels of Government on both sides of the river to meet their objectives. Anything goes it seems, no matter what obviously.

US DRIC claims its exercise will cost $31M. Let us assume that the Canadian DRIC will be comparable. To put it in a readily understandable context, the cost of DRIC is about the cost of our new East End arena! And for what?

Can't people see the Ambassador Gateway cranes working! I-75 is closed for 18 months for this project for heaven's sake. The project was designed over a decade ago to accommodate a second span. The Bridge Co. has spent around $500M of its own money so far. They are not going to give up their business without a fight just because some bureaucrat is trying to pressure them. And the US Governments are spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Just to duplicate facilities downriver to meet Canadian demands in times of economic hardship. Get real!

It should disgust you and make you sick at the waste. It should make you wonder what this DRIC process is really all about other than the destruction of a community. Why--- in order to put an AMERICAN private enterprise business out of business by refighting the FIRA battle that was supposedly settled forever by the Canadian Government about 15 years ago.

You will see how we have been fooled on our side of the river but more importantly how the people of Delray had been put upon by promises that could never be kept. You will see how Governments in the name of progress don't care about people, especially the poor and minorities, when bureaucratic agendas are at stake. You'll see the vindictiveness of Governments who are trying to destroy the business of an entrepreneur who at his expense has made the Windsor/Detroit crossing the best crossing in North America and the number one crossing as well. All so that they can give his business to another private operator in a P3 deal for the next hundred years while wasting taxpayer dollars.

Here are some things that you should consider as you read the materials:
  1. when this process started, the idea was to remove some of the trucks from Windsor to make our life more livable by diverting trucks to the Blue Water Bridge and to rail and marine. Not anymore... the new DRIC bridge will bring traffic and more trucks to Windsor
  2. DRIC effectively admits that its traffic projections are phony and that traffic volumes will not increase. In effect, the only way that they could convince a private investor to put hundreds of millions into a crossing is by bankrupting every other crossing in the region
  3. why will trucks go to a new DRIC bridge when the tolls of the Ambassador Bridge will be a third to a quarter of their tolls? They will have to force trucks to go to the new DRIC bridge on a mandatory basis resulting in a massive lawsuit and more problems for our border crossing and for our region
  4. the residents of Delray are fodder for the DRIC bridge. Who cares that it will be virtually impossible for them to find a home since their homes are worth so little money now. It does not matter... hopes of revitalization of the community can be given to them as a carrot to keep them all quiet even though MDOT cannot do anything, the City of Detroit has no money to do anything and it will depend on private enterprise to redevelop the community when to date private enterprise has shown no interest in doing so
  5. the residents of Delray have no ability to fight against DRIC given their demographics. It made it easy to destroy them.
  6. where are the howls of outrage by the West end activists and politicos who said that Delray was like family to them. Can you imagine what would happen if the Ambassador Bridge Company said that they wanted to undertake a project on the Windsor side similar to what DRIC wants to do in Delray
  7. residents of Sandwich were outraged when DRIC claimed that the Bridge Company would destroy Sandwich if their Plaza had to be expanded to up to 120 -- 140 acres, something that was not true. DRIC is doing this in Delray.

As I post excerpts from the DRIC EIS, I will interject some comments for you to consider as well.

Corridors and Gateways are absolutely essential for Canada's future. It is our trade connection to the United States and to our continued economic prosperity by allowing us access to their markets. Actions taken by our Canadian Governments to preserve our economic position should be applauded shouldn't they.

However, not when Government actions are absurd.

The DRIC process has gone off the tracks. It is a farce.

It keeps changing as the reality is known. Who needs a new bridge when four customs booths ended the truck backups. Who needs to build lanes in the sky as a parking lot when the object of the exercise is to get through Customs quickly. Who needs to risk taxpayer money when private enterprise is prepared to risk theirs. New systems will make the border virtually seamless at a time when the Ambassador Gateway project itself can handle about 60-70% more trucks than are handled today IE 5.4 million compared with just over 3 million trucks crossing the border now.

But DRIC is a phony. It is part of an agenda. It has nothing to do with corridors and gateways in the Windsor area. Here, the object is to destroy the Ambassador Bridge Company. You think I jest. Here is what a representative of Transport Canada said at the Senate hearings with respect to the Bridge Company:

  • "Ms. Marcoux: 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."

Reconcile that statement with the fact that

  • "A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative."

Bill C-3 was nothing more than FIRA in a different suit. Take a look at the ownership rules and the ability to micromanage a business. Gord Henderson gave it away in his column a few weeks ago. I wrote at the time:

  • "What Gord writes tells me now that the border fight is not about capacity, redundancy or security. It is not about the economic well-being of Canada or the United States. It is all about some people who lost before to Moroun who cannot forgive him, even after all this time, for beating them and keeping control of the bridge:
  • "But we surely understand now why Herb Gray moved heaven and earth, as Liberal minister responsible for FIRA (Foreign Investment Review Agency) in the early 1980s, in a failed effort to prevent Moroun's trucking empire from acquiring the Canadian half of the bridge. That battle was lost in the federal courts and ended with an out-of-court settlement following a marathon legal struggle."

Start reading the excerpts from the US DRIC Report now. I hope you enjoy the explanation so you can undersdtand what is really going on:

The bridge for the border crossing and the impacts to the social fabric from the proposed project will “land” in Delray, a Detroit neighborhood.

Delray Neighborhood Today

[The demographis of Delray and why it was chosen to be the sacrifical community]

The Delray neighborhood is located in census tracts 5235, 5236 and 5237. Data from the 2000 Census indicate that Delray’s ethnic composition is African American (32.3%), Caucasian (32.4%) and Hispanic (Mexican & Puerto Rican) (30.2%) (Table 3-2A). The Hungarian community, once dominant in Delray, now has a very small presence after declining over the last 30 years.

In the Delray neighborhood there are 1,420 Households and 922 families...The most-common type of Other-Family reported in the 2000 Census is “Female Householder/No Husband Present,” which constituted about 51 percent of total families. Slightly more than 40 percent of the Delray households live below the poverty level...

Those living in Delray with a college education represent three percent of the total population...

The unemployment rate in Delray according to the 2000 Census was about 11 percent. The comparable statistic for the SEMCOG region in the 2000 Census was six percent. [The demographics show how poor this area is and how easily it can be manipulated with dreams of revitalization due to a new bridge.]

Hispanics are moving into Delray for a variety of reasons, particularly, the affordability of housing. A house in need of repair can be purchased for as little as $15,000. Information gained in a number of interviews indicates fixing the house is accomplished through the “sweat equity” of immediate and extended family members who are often skilled tradesmen. [Even with a 25% expropriation premium, where will these families go and find suitable replacement accommodation?]

Overall, between 324 to 414 dwelling units would be acquired and the occupants relocated, depending on the alternative examined. This includes the two apartment buildings (one north of I-75 and one south) that together total 100 dwelling units. There are also a number of duplexes/triplexes in the area... [Almost 25% of the units in the area! Imagine if it was 25% of Sandwich]

Between 41 and 56 active businesses could be relocated depending on the DRIC alternative (Table 3-3). They provide an estimated 685 to 920 jobs, based on information gained in interviews... [And where are they now going to relocate to startup? And where are the residents who work for those businesses in Delray to find new jobs especially when many lack cars?]

Other notable relocations of community facilities include: up to seven churches; the Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) offices on Livernois Avenue (all Build Alternatives); and, the CHASS Medical Clinic (all Build Alternatives but #14). It is critical to relocate CHASS in the area to serve the needy, low-income population with little access to an automobile.

MDOT will inform individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations of the impact, if any, of the project on their property. Every effort will be made, through relocation assistance, to lessen the impact when it occurs. [How will that be accomplished, with a one-time payment of cash and then let them sink or swim on their own?]

Project development now addresses Environmental Justice (EJ) in an attempt to prevent such disproportionate impacts. The EJ policy stated in Executive Order 12898 has three major parts:
• Avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects, including social and economic effects of the project, on minority populations and low-income populations...

The Delray Study Area encompassed 40,435 people in 2000, 69 percent of whom were minority...

Almost 32 percent of the households in the study area have annual incomes below the poverty level...

[The disaster for Delray specifically listed] The Build Alternatives would have an adverse effect on EJ and Title VI population groups. These potential impacts would include the following.

• Between 324 and 414 households would be relocated.
• Between 685 and 920 jobs may be relocated from the Delray area. Some are held by minorities and low-income people. This is particularly the case because those businesses taking advantage of the Empowerment Zone tax credits must employ local residents to gain those credits.
• Three cultural resources which are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the Berwalt Manor apartment building, would be lost • Up to seven places of worship would be lost (Section 3.1.4, Table 3-3).
• The CHASS (Community Health and Social Services) Center would be relocated by the project. It serves the needy, low-income population, many of whom have no access to an automobile.
• The Rademacher Recreation Center, although now closed, would be eliminated.
So, would Rademacher Park and one small playlot.
• Normal traffic patterns would be disrupted and travel made more difficult because interchanges with I-75 will be closed/modified and a number of streets crossing
I-75 would be closed.
• Three bus lines would be rerouted so they can still serve the people of the area. This is particularly important because the population affected has relatively low access to an automobile.
• Between two and four of five pedestrian crossings of I-75 would be removed. MDOT will work with the community to re-establish pedestrian access in the area. was determined that there would be adverse impacts to both minority and non-minority population groups in the Delray Study Area...

As the Practical Alternatives are further evaluated, there may be disproportionately high and adverse effects on low-income population groups in the Delray Study Area. Such impacts may include, but are not limited to, disruptions to community cohesion, possible isolation, and loss of economic vitality...

[Projecting job numbers. Is DRIC any more accurate than with their traffic volume errors? The Enhancement Project could accomplish the same since the solution is throughput not capacity. It is now the prosperity of the State vs. the residents of Delray] The economic analysis done as part of the DRIC Study determined that without more border-crossing capacity the opportunity to attract 25,000 jobs to the State of Michigan in 2035 would be lost. Ontario would not attract 16,500 jobs. Almost all of these jobs would be in manufacturing and related sectors. To the State of Michigan this represents a potential income tax loss of about $500 million in 2035 alone. At the same time, the introduction of a new crossing would change the accessibility of the area and slightly impact population and employment growth.

[Look at what Windsor is losing by Eddie's stalling. Of course, the Enhancement Project produces comparable jobs and spending] Building the DRIC project would result in spending $1.28 to $1.49 billion (labor, materials, etc.) on the U.S. side of the border causing a positive ripple effect in the local economy. Data available from the FHWA indicate seven full-time equivalent jobs are generated for every million dollars of construction spending per year (Year 2000 dollars). A recent study of MDOT’s Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal Project found a similar multiplier. The FHWA analysis also found that 18 indirect jobs would be supported per million dollars of construction spending per year. So, the DRIC alternatives are expected to generate 8,939 to 10,416 direct jobs and 22,986 to 26,784 indirect jobs over the period 2010 to 2013 from construction spending on the U.S. side of the border.

Bridge operations would support a permanent staff of approximately 775 estimated as follows: 400 at Customs and Border Protection; 200 brokers; 70 at tolls; 20 at maintenance; 75 at duty free; and 10 in administration. [DUH....why spend money on duplication of staffing too! This could run to $50-60M per year depending on salary and benefits! These are ongoing costs as well for the life of the bridge that someone has to pay. Wouldn't it make more sense to deploy staff more efficiently at existing crossings to eliminate back-ups]

[The carrot to keep the Community quiet until it is too late! Exploring, studying, refining...telling people what they WANT to hear!] MDOT, in partnership with FHWA is exploring a number of concepts by which enhancements may be made to the Delray area as it becomes the “host community” for the DRIC project. These concepts include partnering with the private sector and with other government agencies in areas such as job training, small business development, improving and replacing housing stock, and other community enhancing amenities. Depending on comments from stakeholders and community leaders, these concepts may continue to be studied and refined as the DRIC Study moves toward the selection of the Preferred Alternative, which will be addressed in the FEIS... ["Host Community." What a wonderful euphemism. It sounds like Delray is the location for the Olymic Games and not a 6-lane bridge!]

[Bankrupting other crossings] Providing a new border crossing would cause travel shifts over a wide area. For example, a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could attract travelers from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron, Michigan. At the same time, the proposed border crossing would reduce traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel... [Why spend $440M in Port Huron for a new plaza just to take away their traffic!]

Table 3-11B provides further definition of how traffic on the DRIC alternatives is drawn from other border crossings in the Port Huron/Sarnia and Detroit River areas in the 2035 PM peak hour. It illustrates the following: [All to attract the P3 investor since traffic numbers are down! This is the fatal flaw in DRIC!]
  • A seven percent decline in overall auto traffic on the Blue Water Bridge and a 16 to 18 percent decline in overall truck traffic with the introduction of a proposed DRIC crossing in the 2035 PM peak hour. The decline is expected to be greater in the peak U.S.-to-Canada direction than the Canada-to-U.S. direction.
    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. [Eddie is out of business]
    • With Alternative Set #1/2/3/14/16 and Alternative #5, the Ambassador Bridge would realize a 37 to 39 percent reduction in car traffic. Also, with Alternative Set #1/2/3/14/16 and Alternative #5, the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of 75 percent of its truck traffic.
    • With Alternative Set #7/9/11, the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of only 30 percent of its car traffic and a reduction of 54 percent of its truck traffic. The increased travel time of Alternative Set #7/9/11 compared to the other DRIC alternatives causes retention of car traffic at the Ambassador Bridge...

The traffic volume assignments for the Ambassador Bridge and proposed DRIC crossings are highly sensitive to travel time differences. A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative...

Travel demand modeling shows a new bridge would cause travel shifts over a broad area, including drawing traffic from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron/Sarnia. Its greatest effect would be on Ambassador Bridge traffic.

Considering the Ambassador Bridge together with a new bridge, a proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic and 60 percent of all traffic in the 2035 afternoon peak hour...

[Killing the need for Greenlink] Substantial emission factor reductions are shown for passenger vehicles and trucks. A positive influence on emission factor trends is that the future vehicle mix will include an increasing proportion of very-low-polluting vehicles, such as hybrids...

However, it is recognized that stricter vehicle emission controls and fuel standards being put into place will result in future mobile source (vehicular) pollution being less than it is in 2008.

Efficiencies can be expected from increased enrollment in the NEXUS and FAST programs when a clear lane through the border area becomes available with the DRIC project... [That is what the Enhancement Project does by adding a third lane.]

On the Canadian side, they reflect the impacts of the crossing and plaza because at this point, the Canadian analysis of the Practical Alternatives for the access road is not complete. Nonetheless, work to date does not support further analysis of two alternatives for the access road: an end-to-end at-grade roadway or tunnel. Although an at-grade solution was found to be the least costly solution and carried fewer constructability risks, this alternative offers fewer benefits in terms of protecting community and neighborhood characteristics in comparison to the other alternatives. Similarly, the analysis did not support further investigation of an endto-end tunnel. The limited additional benefits of an end-to-end tunnel solution do not justify the associated additional cost, when other solutions are available that offer similar benefits at less cost and with less risks during construction.

While an end-to-end tunnel alternative offers some advantages to air quality in the immediate corridor through lower particulate concentrations compared to the do-nothing alternative, through improvements to fuels and technology all the alternatives provide this same benefit to some degree.
• The benefits offered by an end-to-end tunnel in reducing particulate concentrations are offset somewhat by increases in concentrations of gaseous pollutants emitted over a larger area beyond the access road corridor from the ventilation buildings and these cannot be captured with current pollution control technology

The cost of the end-to-end tunnel was found to be three to six times more expensive than the other alternatives under consideration, representing a difference of between $2.5 and $3 billion. These costs are reflective of both the increased effort and materials needed to construct an end-to-end tunnel as well as the increased construction risks and complexities.

[DRIC road is the choice!] As a result, a “parkway” alternative, with a number of short tunnels, has been developed to reflect the Canadian analyses to date and agency/public input. The Canadian study team will complete the technical and environmental studies of the access road in the spring of 2008.

[Now the Americans are projecting Canadian advantages as well! I wonder how inaccurate they are too. We are viewed as foolishly as Delray residents. Of course, the Enhancement Project provides the same opportunities but shhhh, do not tell DRIC] Accessibility improvements are projected to be more significant in Windsor/Essex County than in the SEMCOG part of the bi-national metropolitan area. This could lead to increased development including more jobs, if local governing bodies so choose. From a trade perspective, it is estimated that the Windsor-Essex region accounts for more than three percent, or $7.5 billion, of Ontario’s international export GDP. Any improvement to the speed and efficiency of goods and services crossing the border would have a major positive impact on the economy of the Windsor-Essex region as well as the economy of the Province of Ontario. This expected improvement in trade would benefit numerous industrial businesses, improving gross revenues and increasing employment. Furthermore, there would be much greater opportunity for future industrial development along the Highway 401 corridor.

The benefits would also be positive for commercial and tourism-related businesses. The new border crossing and highway connection would increase the speed and ease of travel, increasing the number of people traveling through the Windsor-Essex region and southern Ontario. This would enhance existing businesses and future opportunities for numerous commercial and tourism-related businesses in these areas, especially along Highway 401. The improved movement of goods would also positively affect these businesses, as supplies would be transported more quickly and efficiently.

[DesRosiers slammed this section!] U.S. and Canada: It is expected that local businesses may develop or expand in several sectors related to a new border crossing. Such change would be associated with an increase in local jobs. This would then help the local tax base grow. But, it is recognized that much of the cross-border trade in the Detroit-Windsor area is tied to the auto industry. While American auto companies are struggling now, the U.S. demand in 2035 for new automotive vehicles is forecast at 26 million.19 This is a 53 percent increase from the 16 to 17 million current annual U.S. consumption of autos/trucks. This growth is similar to that which occurred over the last 20 years, when 15 new auto plants were built in North America, eight of which were built in “northern” locations (e.g., Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario, Canada). The implication is that another dozen auto manufacturing plants will be built in the U.S. and Canada in the next 20 to 30 years. With a new border crossing, Michigan and Ontario will be in a position to gain 25,000 to 35,000 new jobs.

By helping to build partnerships among federal, state and local agencies and the private sector, the ability to influence this pattern in a positive manner is enhanced. In this regard, the Build Alternatives have significant potential to: build on the transportation and industrial strength of the study area; make improvements to push unwanted truck traffic out of residential areas; create public/private partnerships to advance a “doable” revitalization effort in Delray; create some jobs which can be directed to people in the local areas around the project; and, prepare/train community residents to be able to take those jobs. [Part of the MegaProjects justification. What a perfect example for the Danish Professor to use in the next edition of his book!]

[Costs are phony too! Another part of the Professor's book for Megaprojects!] The U.S. cost of the combined bridge, plaza, interchange and associated property and utilities ranges from $1.277 billion for Crossing X-14 with a cable-stay bridge to $1.488 billion for Crossing X-16 with a suspension bridge...

These costs will be updated once the Preferred Alternative is chosen. At that time, costs will be provided in the terms of the year in which they will occur, meaning the costs will be inflated to each year of construction.

[Oversight really means Government ownership. Another euphemism] The Partnership is committed to maintaining public oversight of the crossing and has established that it will be governed by one of several models:
• Government owned and operated (similar to the U.S. half of the Blue Water Bridge);
• Public-private partnership – concession with government ownership;
• Bi-national Authority (similar to the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
with government ownership; or,
• Private-sector owned and operated with government oversight.

This evaluation is being combined with legislative efforts to allow Michigan to enter into an agreement with Canada to implement the project and to provide authority for Public Private Partnerships. [What if the legislation is NOT passed!]

However, at this time, a Public Private Partnership is seen as a likely and viable alternative as it will foster competition in the private sector to provide governments and the public with the best value while ensuring the appropriate levels of transparency and accountability are met. [Assuming that the Bridge Co. is put out of business first because P3 investors want no competition!]

MDOT, in partnership with FHWA, is exploring a number of concepts by which enhancements may be made to the Delray area as it becomes the “host community” for the DRIC project. These concepts include partnering with the private sector and with other government agencies in areas such as job training, small business development, improving and replacing housing stock, and other community enhancing amenities. Depending on comments from stakeholders and community leaders, these concepts may continue to be studied and refined as the DRIC process moves toward the selection of the Preferred Alternative, which will be addressed in the FEIS.

[Here is something that SEMCOG wrote that is quoted in the DRIC Report. Please explain to me how this justifies such large increases in vehicular traffic that we need a new DRIC Bridge! To me, this kills DRIC]

SEMCOG, in a report issued in April 2007 titled A Region in Turbulence and Transition, states the following:
  • “Southeast Michigan’s economy is in the midst of a fundamental restructuring that has serious consequences for the region’s long-term future. This turbulence and transition is due to the shrinkage of the domestic auto industry, where the Big Three have seen their share of U.S. light-vehicle sales (cars, SUVs, vans, pickup trucks) decline from 73 percent in 1995 to 53 percent in 2006.

    “The consequences of the changes in the auto industry are profound. Losses of jobs in the region’s core industry are rippling through the economy and will be felt across many sectors, from retail to construction.

    “Southeast Michigan has lost 128,000 jobs since 2000 and will not begin to gain total jobs until 2010. By 2035, the region’s employment will have grown seven percent over 2005 levels

    “The other major factor that will affect the region in the long-term is the aging of the population. By 2035 Southeast Michigan will have 651,000 more people 65 or older and 296,000 fewer people of prime working age 25-64. This is a trend that will also be felt in the U.S. as a whole where, as in Southeast Michigan, the percentage of population 65 or older will increase dramatically. For the region, the percentage 65 or older will increase from 12 to 24 percent by 2035, and for the U.S. it will go from 12 to 20 percent.

    “Combined with more deaths in an aging population, increased out-migration is now causing Southeast Michigan’s population to decline. The region will only recover enough, beginning after 2015, to add about three percent to the population over 30 years (Figure 3-11). Southeast Michigan’s population will be 5.1
    million in 2035.”

    With these observations as background, SEMCOG reduced its 2005-2030 forecasts of growth in population (Table 3-8) and employment (Table 3-9). The changes still reflect positive, albeit, small growth.

WEDC Demands Hwy 401 Be Renamed

The Windsor Essex Development Commission as part of their new CANW.E. campaign to boost the image of the W.E. region, Windsor-Essex, has demanded that the Ministry of Transportation for Ontario rename that part of Highway 401 westbound only from London to Windsor.

In a strongly worded letter to MTO, the WEDC pointed out that, while the official name of the Highway is the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway, many people, especially out of country tourists, have no idea what that means or who those names are.

They point out as well that a precedent was set when a part of the Highway was dedicated as the Highway of Heroes.

The WEDC noted that Windsor's Mayor is striving to achieve a unique identity for the City and to build our tourist industry. Accordingly, it stated that Highway 401 westbound to Windsor needs to be rebranded not only to create a new and easily remembered introduction to the area but also to re-inforce the feeling of comfort for returning local residents who may be working out of town these days because of the poor local economy.

After what can only be described as a massive brainstorming and strategic planning effort, the WEDC's outside consultants came up with the ideal name:

There is no doubt that tourists, especially those with children, will immediately identify with and remember the name because of the nursery rhyme. That should be a huge boost to our tourist industry with all of the family attractions to be built in the region if the Mayor gets his way.

How easy it will be to give directions from the highway to the attractions eg. take This Little Piggy Highway to Exit 14, turn right and then go "X" KMs to [Name of Family Attraction]

More importantly, for residents coming back to the area, they can cry out as they return to spend time with their families for the weekend:
  • "W.E.! W.E.! W.E.! W.E.!" all the way home.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Straight Tunnel Talk

I want to talk about two matters with respect to the Tunnel in this BLOG. One has to do with financing the Detroit deal and the other has to do with the Council meetings on March 27 and next Monday, April 14.

Why can't we have a boring Mayor and Council who see their job as fixing roads and sewers. Why do we have to have entrepreneurs who are prepared to play with taxpayer money and put the risk on us. Oh well, if it doesn't work out, I guess we can just not re-elect them as we all go to the poor-house.

First, I'm getting more and more concerned about whether the City should be entering into a US $75 million transaction at all with Detroit. I do not see a business case to be made for it to be direct.

In the Star story dealing with legal fees, the following comment was made:

  • "One source suggested Windsor needed to create a corporation of its ownership in order to use the asset as collateral to secure a mortgage or bonds to finance a deal for the Detroit side.

    The federal government was originally supposed to help fund the deal, but backed out of the talks nearly a year ago."

Let's assume that the City wanted the Feds to pay the $75M, or more likely more, to provide the financing. You remember how much less the Bridge Company offered to do this transaction and they are a pretty smart border operator.

We should expect that the Feds would have an interest in the Tunnel given their recent legislative action on bridges and tunnels and their Corridors and Gateways policy. We should also expect that they would have undertaken an evaluation of both the finances of the Tunnel and its condition.

If they pulled out, should we assume that they thought that the amount asked for was excessive or perhaps the condition of the Tunnel was poor requiring future repairs or both?

If I am right, then why are we doing this deal at this amount of money merely to help out Detroit's Budget hole. Who's looking out for Windsor citizens' pocketbook? I have no desire to be in the hole either.

I was glad to see that Detroit Council President Cockrel made the comment:

  • "the idea has to make sense for both cities."

I was pleased when Council Dilkens stated, given his financial background:

  • "There ought to be a very strong business case before we jump into any kind of deal of this magnitude. At this point, we haven't seen that."

I was deeply concerned about the negativity in his remarks about the deal but extremely delighted to see that Council Marra who knows how to run a large organization said the following:

  • "Coun. Bill Marra, a member of the tunnel commission, said his comfort level has declined since the federal and provincial governments backed away.

    "Initially, it was based on being able to secure funding from the provincial and federal governments. I understand those opportunities don't exist. Regardless of how this is set up, it falls on the municipal taxpayer and there needs to be a good business case."

    He noted that tunnel traffic has drastically declined in recent years to the point where the city's dividend from tolls has dropped from $6 million to zero.

    "(Sutts) is the best you can have on this," Marra said. "My concern is not legal finds, but ultimately is this decision favourable for the taxpayer. What looked good eight months ago might not be good today."

Let me turn your hair white if you are a Windsor Taxpayer, dear reader, when I give you this information:


2002 - $14,170,702
2003 - $12,658,749
2004 - $11,051,779
2005 - $10,202,456
2006 - $9,895,000
2007 - Probably even less given the 10% drop in Tunnel volume over 2006.

Down every year even with an increase in tolls, 30% or more since 2002.

I have been told that these are the official Tunnel numbers for the Windsor side of the Tunnel. If that is the case, please explain to me how we could finance $100 million deal for the Tunnel by using the asset as collateral to secure a mortgage or bonds ie. approximately 90% of the $111 million valuation of the Tunnel rollover amount. If the money was borrowed for example for 75 years at 6% with a 75 year amortization, the principal and interest to be paid back every year would be about $6 million!

If the Tunnel is not paying a dividend now, how would this money be paid back since there are expenses for operating an old Tunnel? Where would we find an extra $6 million? If tolls are increased, vehicles would merely move to the Ambassador Bridge where the tolls are lower already thereby decreasing revenues some more.

Given what US DRIC has said about the new bridge if it is built, it would take away almost one quarter of the Tunnel's business. Was that factored in by anyone since the Tunnel Rollover amount was calculated in June, 2007!

Where's the Business Case to justify the deal? Please explain to me then how the Tunnel would not go bankrupt. What is the rationale that would demonstrate that the Tunnel would be a viable operation if the worst case happens.

Is this why the Feds pulled out? If they pulled out, then why is Eddie so insistent about doing this deal? Frankly, I wish that citizens were given a proper explanation for this huge transaction. Please do not give me the nonsense about transferring the risk to a new Corporation because if the Tunnel goes bankrupt, then the City is hurt dramatically. Taxpayers will suffer regardless.

And that leads me to my second point.

If you have read my BLOG for awhile, then you will know that I was pretty upset about what happened at the Joint Tunnel Meeting between the Windsor Tunnel Commission and the Windsor Council that was held on March 27, 2008.

Accordingly, I filed a Meeting Investigation Complaint under the new procedure that was introduced with respect to meetings.

I was also annoyed when I saw the Windsor Star article and then looked at the Council Agenda for Monday and saw an Agenda Item: Item 4 Closure of Part of Park Street East Abutting the Tunnel.

Given the fact that I was already complaining about the previous meeting, I would have thought that this matter should not be heard until my Complaint was dealt with.

Accordingly, I sent the following e-mail requesting a deferral of Agenda Item 4 to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk with a copy to the Mayor and Councillors:

  • "Request for Deferral: Item 4 Closure of Part of Park Street East Abutting the Tunnel

    I will be unable to attend the Council meeting in person on Monday, April 14, 2008 because of a previous engagement. Please accept this email as my formal request for the above-noted matter to be deferred until such time as the LAS investigation into my complaint respecting the March 27, 2008 Council meeting is completed.

    If my complaint is upheld, then it may be that the "Tunnel Rollover" to the new Tunnel Corporation may not be proper. Accordingly, it would not make sense to take any action with respect to Item 4 on Monday's Agenda until such time as LAS renders its decision.

    Notwithstanding that I have submitted my complaint to LAS, I have requested that LAS recuse themselves from making a decision for the reasons set out in my complaint. Accordingly, I have also forwarded my complaint to the Ombudsman of Ontario for handling."

You can watch Cogeco TV to see what the outcome will be. Can you guess what it will be?

By the way, the Clerk, the Mayor and every Councillor except one has acknowledged receipt of my email seeking a deferral. The one who has not is the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget! And he is my Ward Councillor too.

So much for the dandelions being cut in front of my house in a timely fashion.

More Thoughts

Lots and lots of think about in this City. Here are some more thoughts from me for your consideration.


I must admit I do not understand it. Minutes away from us we have world class hospitals with experts in their specialties. We have facilities such as MRI units that would ensure that residents with problems could be seen quickly without a long wait as happens in this City.

I do not understand why OHIP cannot make arrangements with medical providers in Detroit to deal with Windsorite medical problems that our system cannot deal with locally. I cannot believe that American providers would not be prepared to accept Canadians even at OHIP rates.

Instead, Windsorites are forced to travel to London or perhaps even Toronto to have their needs met. Think about it. Sure, the medical costs are covered but what about the out-of-pocket costs. For a day surgery in London, it requires at least two days. On the first day, the blood work must be done. On the second day the surgery takes place. Depending on the nature of the day surgery, it is probably a six hour extravaganza. Arrival is required about three hours before the surgery while the surgery and recovery takes about three hours. Then there is a trip back home.

What it means is an excessive amount of travelling back and forth or probably a two or three day stay in a hotel in London with meals at a cost of several hundred dollars.

If it is more serious than day surgery, then obviously the costs increase dramatically.

Compare that with the cost of going back and forth to Detroit and with the time saved.

As I said, I don't understand it. Why can't we take advantage of what our American neighbours have so close to us.


Wait a minute here. I don't get this headline in the Star:
  • "Council mulls cures for the core
    Downtown revitalization front and centre - again"

I must admit when I was at the Strategic Planning Session I was shocked to hear that there were still problems with the downtown.

Don't they know that Eddie's plans have worked out perfectly. We have the funky bus terminal, the Keg restaurant with a five cent parking and all of those St. Clair students downtown.

Can't you feel the excitement as you go downtown to work, play and shop. And just wait until the Casino addition opens and the throngs of visitors to the Convention Centre flood our restaurants and shops and fill hotel rooms. After all, look at how well the Casino did for our downtown until now.

Surely, the Councillors could put a big checkmark beside downtown revitalization with all of these terrific achievements and get on with other things like fixing the border.

Can you imagine Mr. Bellmio, criticizing Council for their

  • "recent decision to halt funding for the city streetscaping project -- after just three blocks were completed down Ouellette Avenue -- is a bad move because it "looks like a bridge to nowhere."

Doesn't he understand that, since our Downtown is now such a huge success, there is no need to complete the job! Heck instead, we can spend $80,000 to put in a sidewalk to please theWard 5 Councillors:

  • "Riverside councillors Jo-Anne Gignac and Percy Hatfield wrangled $80,000 to build sidewalks in subdivisions near the new $65-million east-end arena currently under construction."


When you see a photograph in that Star of Eddie Francis and a white board or an easel and felt pens, then you know there are problems.

I wish that City Council would stick to City matters rather than trying to be entrepreneurs. It's bad enough that we are in the arena and Tunnel businesses and now we are back to talking about having an aquarium in the downtown.

Why doesn't Council understand that its job is to create an environment for private enterprise to come in and take business risks rather than undertaking the risks at taxpayer expense.

It was humourous to see that Council is now considering "closing off streets to traffic" after the fiasco with the Ambassador Bridge Company who needed to close a street temporarily for maintenance on the bridge. Aren't they afraid that Americans might get lost trying to find their way to a downtown hotel?

However the biggest laugh that I had was the idea of "operating riverfront trolley car to take people from Olde Sandwich Towne to Hiram Walker." Do you know why this funny... guess which building in town used to be a trolley barn that presumably could be used today as a historical site for a museum: The Junction.

That's right, the building owned by George Sofos.

If you want to read a history about streetcars in Windsor, then go to to see what this building could have become but for our Council and Administration.

Still as I wrote before, if someone has any sense... it could be a perfect place for a City Museum. [BLOG July 25, 2007 "Windsor's Major New Museum Destination"]. Do not hold your breath.


I wonder who is quicker, a turtle or the Mayor finding jobs for Windsorites.

Considering that the Jobs Today Fund was announced on March 17 at the Mayor's State of the City Speech, let us see what its progress is.

In the newspaper last week, the Mayor made a big deal that he was going to "be lobbying city councillors to endorse his plan to direct $30 million into an economic investment fund."

It looks like that did not happen. Thank goodness for small miracles. Instead, the unemployed and those at risk to become unemployed would have read this in the Star:

  • "Francis informed council he is still in the midst of preparing a report on his proposal - first mentioned last month in his state of the city address. He would not provide any timelines on when he will bring it forward.

    "I'm still working on it, as soon as I have it ready I will bring it council," he said after the meeting."

Heck, it's more fun talking about streetcars and aquariums and having more strategic planning sessions than actually producing results.


Come on, you know that the reason why BLOGs are created in this City. It's so that people can get advance publicity before they run for elected office.

I have had that accusation made at me more times than once. In fact, after a very disagreeable argument with a local politician, the Councillor accused me of writing this BLOG so that I could run for mayor in the last election.

How many times have you seen that attack made on Chris Schnurr and there is no doubt that his Councillor colleagues are concerned about the purpose of Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG.

Well if that is what this kind of writing means then clearly Mark Boscariol and Chris Holt are running for office. Those who know him know that Mark is deeply interested in politics while Chris has run for the Green Party. AND they have a BLOGsite.

Their BLOGsite has recently been revamped for which they held a well-publicized launch party, they have run a conference ("About two dozen small business people and professors listened to presentations") and now they are doing a weekly radio show.

Quite impressive don't you think. I am very envious. Especially when they have an ad agency to help them out

  • "Our organization would not be achieving the amazing success and influence it is today if it wasn't for Debi Croucher's involvement. From our redesigned website, coordinating our amazing launch party, and filling our ongoing public relations needs, Debi's fingerprints have been on everything, and have, undoubtedly, led to our continued development in an untapped field in Windsor and Essex County."

Boscariol for Mayor. Holt for MP! You read it here first!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More News Features

I think I need an assistant soon to help me out with all of these breaking new stories. I need a staff of people to look after all the things that are going on in Windsor and Essex County these days.


In light of the fees charged by Mr. Sutts, here are the fees charged to the border file as at year end:


Given his schoolteacher stare when he dresses down his Councillor colleagues, he is certainly not afraid of any of them and treats them accordingly when he tells them to "Spit it out."

However, there clearly is one person that he is so afraid of that he will do anything not to be near him, especially on a platform. Let me give you some hints:

  1. Eddie went to Germany at taxpayer expense to meet some people from a startup company so that he would not have to confront this person at a pre-Budget meeting.
  2. Eddie preferred to attend a read-a-thon at a public school rather than be there when Sandra and this person gave out over $11 million to Windsor for infrastructure
  3. Eddie was not invited to the session where the Premier gave money to Ford, presumably because the Premier's Office must know that Eddie was terrified of this individual, but since Eddie needed to be there for political reasons, he showed up but was lost in the crowd of people watching the Premier
  4. Eddie was front and centre when Sandra gave money to the Economic Development Commission on Friday when this person was NOT there.

Have you figured it out yet... the person who scares Eddie the most? Why it is none other than the person who said "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG."

If you don't know who that is by now after being a reader of this BLOG, then you never will!


There were a few billboards on Huron Church Road and near the Central Library branch a few months ago talking about the H2O Highway. In case you don't know what it is, it is another opportunity that Windsor is wasting while a city like Hamilton is trying to become a main terminal for ships:

  • "Comprised of the St. Lawrence River, St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes, HIGHWAY H20 is a 3,700-kilometer (2,400 mile) marine highway that runs between Canada and the United States. Hwy H2O flows directly into our commercial, industrial and agricultural heartland, home to some 100 million people, roughly one quarter of the Canada/U.S. combined population."

I was reminded of this because of the story in the Star about wind turbines:

  • "Two years of meticulous planning, including computer simulations, will be put to the test after the ocean freighter BBC Delaware arrives from Denmark at Morterm Windsor docks next Wednesday.

    It's the first of six freighters that will unload the massive sections of the 44 wind turbines to be erected at Kruger Energy's $200 million wind farm in the Port Alma area of Chatham-Kent.

    Each ship will take Morterm three days to unload."

What are we doing as an example to become the western terminus of the H20 highway so that every ship that goes through the St. Lawrence system with goods for the US Midwest offloads in Windsor? Instead of fighting over the Greenlink nonsense, who at City Hall is making sure that we are a player in this game?

If you want to know the difference between the foresight of private enterprise and the lack of attention to economic development by our City, ask yourself the question who saved the Port of Detroit from bankruptcy. That Group should be Windsor's partner in the border crossing file in helping to improve the Port of Windsor but thanks to our Mayor and Council, they are our enemy! Instead of working together for the betterment of the region, our City throws up roadblocks preventing that Group from tearing down their homes on Indian Road, to forcing them to remove a traffic light and not allowing them to close down a road temporarily and intermittently.

But it's okay, we can send our people out West to work and let Hamilton get the upper hand.


Honestly, I don't know what everybody so excited about. We are getting a bargain from Mr. Sutts. Remember the other day when I quoted something that he said from the Windsor Star. Can you imagine if we were being charged "private enterprise" fees rather than "reasonable" fees.

Give Cliff a break for heaven's sake. As the Mayor said months ago:

  • "The discussions are proceeding, the teams are meeting nearly every day."

Note the use of the word "team." Clearly, more than one lawyer is on our side, not just Mr. Sutts. Eddie has said before:

  • "Our legal team is looking at different financial options that are available," Francis said."

So when you have a bunch of lawyers working almost every day for two years, you have to expect the fees to be substantial. However, what you have not seen yet disclosed is the real reason that the fees are so high.

How do you think that the lawyers cross over into Detroit? They use the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. Of course, to keep revenues high at the Tunnel, they pay the standard fee ie the highest toll in the region, $8.75 return. Naturally, they bill that out to the City as a disbursement I am sure and get reimbursed. Too bad that Mr. Sutts never uses the bridge. He would have known that their tolls were lower and he could have bought cheap gas there too!

Just think of how much money the Tunnel has made on this team of lawyers crossing over to Detroit so many times over the last two years.


I wonder if I should start a new feature setting out the most absurd statements made by a Member of Council over the past seven days and then giving out an award. Clearly the first winner would be Councillor Joanne Gignac.

She said in the Star in relation to the Tunnel legal fees matter:

  • "With the information put in front of me, I'm comfortable with (the legal costs)," said Coun. Joanne Gignac."

I'm glad that she is comfortable because frankly I am in a great degree of a discomfort.

She seemed in the past pretty eager to protect business interests over that of the City

  • "She said if the city wants to get into business with private companies, it must agree to protect the business interests of those companies. Otherwise, no one will want to do business with the city.

    "I think it's for a pretty good reason," she said of the confidentiality clauses in the Canderel leases and the agreement with the Windsor Spitfires for the team's use of the new east-end arena.

    "There's a mayor and 10 councillors there and we hash these things out."

Dealing with the confidential Spitfires' agreement, she seems to have caught the City Hall amnesia disease along with the Mayor:

  • "But Mayor Eddie Francis said he didn't remember whether the Spitfires document contained a confidentiality clause. "I don't recall," he said this week.

    Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac also claimed not to have known about the confidentiality clause. "What I do remember is we got what I consider to be a fair bargain for the residents."

We'll see pretty soon how good a deal that she was able to get for residents once that contract is disclosed to the public.

You have to remember mind you that:

  • "Councillors have not seen the agreement itself."

In order to get my comfort level up, I sent the following e-mail to Councillor Gignac. I don't expect an answer from her because she hasn't done so in the past when I've written to her. Oh well, I'm a mere taxpayer:

  • "Tunnel story in the Star today

    In the Star today I read the following comments that you made:

    "With the information put in front of me, I'm comfortable with (the legal costs)," said Coun. Joanne Gignac."

    I would appreciate if you could provide me with a copy of that information so that I too could be comfortable with a legal and consultants bill of over $1 million.

    As you may know, I've been waiting now for about a week to receive a copy of the PWC Tunnel valuation and the Trust Agreement set out in the Asset Purchase agreement.

    Anything that you could do to expedite the delivery of those documents and to provide me with the balance of information will be much appreciated."


What a knockout punch was sent by Councillor Halberstadt in the direction of CAO John Skorobohacz. If this wasn't a vote of nonconfidence, then I don't know what is:

  • "A city councillor is calling for at least one elected representative to serve on the board of the Windsor Essex County Development Commission in the wake of the abrupt firing this week of Matthew Fischer, the commission's chief executive officer.

    The board currently consists of nine appointed members, including the chief administrative officers of the city and county...

    Halberstadt said having elected representatives on the board would enable councillors to get more information about the workings of the board."

Now that was a hard shot to the midsection that should leave the CAO gasping for air! I would have thought that the City's CAO was supposed to be performing that function. However, in another hard blow to the CAO, Councillor Jones stated:

  • "Coun. Ron Jones said council as a whole had received "no information whatsoever about the situation and that is unacceptable."

I would think that "unacceptable" is being generous considering that the Mayor wants to entrust this Commission with $100 million of taxpayer money. It is extremely disturbing that Councillor Jones seems to be so far out of the loop in this matter when the Vice-Chair of the Commission has said:

  • "Schumacher -- who heads the commission's CEO evaluation committee -- said 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."

Council needs to ask of the CAO why they were not informed of the troubles at the Commission much earlier so proactive steps could have been taken.

Finally, I hope that Councillor Jones finds out why he was not invited to the conference call with the CAO.

  • "Jones said he wasn't aware of any conference call. "For me, there's been a complete lack of information and that is troubling in the very least."

Moreover six other Councillors need to explain why they weren't in the call either. Or don't they care?

Does Obama Support Windsor-Essex

Now we know why Eddie wanted to "change" the conversation! Here is why he used the expression "We believed that then, and we believe it now" so many times in his State of the City speech while he asked us "To believe in our own possibilities."

Now we know why Eddie has been going to Detroit so often over the past few weeks, using the Tunnel of course.

Here is the startling revelation about the brilliant success of the CANW.E. program that will be made public in a few days!

US presidential candidate Barack Obama is onside!

Now we can guess with some more certainty why Obama said recently:
  • "Obama on Monday promised Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans help with their grievances _ save one. "I know it drives you nuts. But I'm not going to lower the drinking age," the presidential candidate said."
Of course not! Lowering the drinking age would have destroyed our competitive drinking advantage and could have been the final nail in the coffin for our downtown if US young adults would not come over on weekends to get drunk! Our bars have been saved by BARack.

Is there any doubt after this subliminal message in one of his website photos:

Why is this being disclosed now? The primaries are very close. For political reasons since the race between him and Hillary Clinton is so tight, he needs a counter to this to win over every vote possible:

  • "the information about Hillary Clinton's French-Canadian ancestry was published last November in the journal of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan. There was little known about Hillary's French-Canadian connection until the research was done by Gail Moreau-DesHarnais and Diane Wolford Sheppard, uncovering her relationship to some of the founding families of the Fort Ponchartrain (Detroit, Michigan)-Sandwich (Windsor, Ontario) region."

Some of my readers have suggested what the "W.E." stands for that may differ from my guess:

  • We',
  • Wasn',
  • WEcan',
  • Who',
  • Whereisn',
  • itWasn',
  • Where'

But you can stop writing is what it is all about:

Can W.E.

It's oh so clever. The sloganeers must have been up until the wee hours of the night thinking up this one. It's a real teaser. It will have people talking at the water cooler for the next week or so.

I'm sure you have seen the billboards sprouting up around town with the expression "Can W.E" and the website One that I saw was right beside a Greenlink billboard

If you go to that website all that you see is the following:

Do you feel the excitement in the air? Obviously something big is supposed to happen in 9 days or so. Who can the owner be? What's it all about? Which major organization is the sponsor?

Now I have no inside information on this so far but it would look to be something involving Windsor Essex considering the initials. It looks like a feel-good campaign designed to get everybody in the region all excited about all the great things that we can do together like:

  • CAN W.E. create high-paying jobs or
  • CAN W.E. expand our automotive R&D or
  • CAN W.E. be the major border crossing in North America etc etc.

You get the picture I hope. A whole bunch of questions designed to be answered with a loud "YES" as the W.E.'s are strapped to our collective chests.

The owner of the website or at least the representative of the owner is said to be:

Registrant Name Hargreaves Mandal Inc.
Registrar DomainsAtCost Corp.
Renewal Date 2009/03/06
Date approved 2008/03/06
Last changed 2008/03/06

Administrative Contact
Name Paul Hargreaves
Job Title
Postal Address Hargreaves Mandal Stewart 1539 Erie Street East Windsor ON N9A 4A3 Canada

I believe that the firm or an affiliate does work for the Windsor Essex Development Commission, perhaps being their Agency of Record. Do you think it may have something to do with them? You know W.E., Windsor Essex. Get it. Clever eh!

Well CANWE is a question so we need an answer, something positive for branding. I would not be surprised to see a new website come out subsequently, say like

What a play on words! Windsor Essex Can as the "positive" answer to the questions and Windsor Essex Canada as a memorable address for all of the investors who will come flocking here. Sheer genius.

Interestingly, that domain was registered to:

Registrant Name Hargreaves Mandal Inc.
Registrar DomainsAtCost Corp.
Renewal Date 2009/03/03
Date approved 2008/03/03
Last changed 2008/03/03

Administrative Contact
Name Paul Hargreaves
Postal Address Hargreaves Mandal Stewart 1539 Erie Street East Windsor ON N9A 4A3 Canada

If it really is WEDC, I wonder if Matt Fischer was involved in helping with the campaign. If so, those termination damages just keep on getting higher if he helped plan an effective campaign. If not, then why not? Was the Commission looking to fire him by early March (the date of the domain registration) and was the VW remark the convenient excuse?

One other thought. How does the WEDC branding fit in with Windsor's branding strategy? Are they complementary I hope so or were they undertaken separately?

How about this for Windsor's new domain or

You are most welcome Mayor. My fee is only $10,000! Hurry while the registrations are still available. Careful or the Chicken Suit might get them first like this example:

If I told you what other one is owned, someone would have a real bird.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Council BS Session

I just got this cartoon in an e-mail from a friend and thought it was very appropriate considering that a Council meeting was cancelled for a Council BS Session.

I admit I couldn't take it. I lasted only about an hour and a half at the Council Strategic Planning Session and then had enough. I can't take this BS stuff anymore. BrainStorming, what else did you think I meant. I expect you'll read about some of the factual events that took place in the Star or on radio and TV.

I just went there to get a "feel" for how this meeting was going to be handled rather than its content. Apparently, a number of Councillors were extremely upset at how the meeting was structured I was told. There was a bit of that at the beginning but not enough to dare challenge the Mayor. Anyway, he probably would have given that teacher-to-kindergarten student stare of his to quell any revolution and dismiss any negative comments.

I am glad to know that my inside moles were right again. There was no agenda, just everybody was supposed to speak and say what was on their mind. I was somewhat surprised at that given that they are a year and a half into a four-year term. This seemed to me to be what a Council should do right after being elected not now. Setting goals and objectives was a task that should have been accomplished a year ago.

All the Councillors were there except for Councillor Lewenza. He was away. Now that was strategic thinking on his part.
I would have thought that there would have been some information given to Councillors about decisions made in previous strategy sessions and what the status of the various items were. As Citistat was supposed to do.

There were some sheets on the walls of the meeting room with some of this information written on it but it was mentioned at the beginning in passing and then ignored. I would have thought that the Councillors should have made the Administrators steward to the various plans and programs that had been proposed in the past and then make changes if required based on the situation that the City is in today.

To be direct about it, my view is that the session should have taken place at six o'clock at Council and on Cable TV so that everyone in the City could see what the Councillors were thinking. There was no reason to have it at 4 p.m. off-site and out of sight. Please, the excuse given was that it was too tough to line up City staff otherwise. The only people there other than politicians and Administration were representatives from the media and two WeACT members and myself.

Here is an interesting part that I found extremely disturbing. Councillor Gignac immediately raised a Point of Order because she expected a discussion about the downtown to take place especially since the matter is on the Council Agenda for the 14th. She had expected some documentation and papers to be presented but there was nothing.

What boggles my mind is that the Councillor seemed to believe that it was quite proper to have a discussion about an important issue in the absence of citizens. Decisions can be made she seems to think at a strategic session rather than in Council Chambers so that the public can't know what goes on. But then again, this Council seems to run a lot of in camera sessions don't they.

One needn't worry however since the Mayor said that they could have more strategic sessions if they needed them. Perhaps one can be held before the next Council meeting or perhaps the next Council meeting on the subject can be deferred so that the Councillors can discuss this amongst themselves first to get a unified position. No point letting citizens know that people have different opinions.

I learned a few things at the session:
  • the Treasurer pointed out that the City is financially constrained and that there would be difficulties taking on new projects unless cuts are to be made in existing programs. What he meant to say but was too polite to do so is that the arena is sucking up all of our money
  • the CAO pointed out that we should not expect our public servants to do a tremendous amount of work over the next little while since 40% of them apparently are close to retirement age and he does not expect them to stay on even if the law entitles them to do so. With all of the days off and holidays that they are entitled to, we should not expect that a lot of work to be done in a very timely fashion. Morever, expect labour unrest as contracts are coming up for re-negotiation
  • thanks to the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget I learned that our industrial taxes are about the third-highest in the province and that our multi-residential taxes are also up there as well
  • it seems that people think that Windsor can be a retirement community except they forget that seniors need doctors and hospitals something that this area is lacking
  • good to know that some people believe that finding jobs is actually important
  • Unfortunately, jobs creation in construction is not too important it seems since tenders have NOT gone out promptly with many millions from last year still outstanding
  • when Administrators were asked to comment on what they thought was important to do, I was glad that those who spoke protected their own fiefdom
  • Greenlink was conspicuous by its absence
  • the border was hardly mentioned at all while I was there.

The most fun however was the beginning of the session. Planning, Windsor-style, at its finest.

The meeting was supposed to start at four o'clock but did not get started until 4:10 p.m. At that time, the Mayor demanded that the seating in the room be changed. Total chaos then. An indication of how he thinks strategically I guess---at the last minute and in a reactive not proactive manner. The Jobs Today Fund is a clear example of this.

Initially, the room was set up box-like, in a manner similar to the Council tables in the Chambers. The Mayor was at the front with several of his Administrators beside him in long row and with the Councillors sitting in long rows on either side of him. So there were three sides of a rectangular box filled in but not the fourth side. The Administrators were sitting as if they were in the audience at a Council meeting in several rows of chairs looking at the Mayor.

Well that was not good enough for Eddie. Staff was called in and for 20 minutes they brought in tables and chairs to rearrange the seating so that the Councillor rows could be extended and so that the fourth side of the rectangular box could be completed with Administrators sitting there .

It was now an impenetrable box with the media and citizens sitting outside of it, obviously where we belonged. It is strange that the Mayor told Council to

  • "Get outside the box."

And then he turned around and created one. Weird eh!

The other funny part, to me at least, was when the Mayor went around the table and asked each person to identify themselves and their position. Does that mean that some of the Administrators don't know each other or may not know who the Councillors are? Scary isn't it!

I really do not know what the session was designed to accomplish. For me, it was a waste of time when there are important issues that this Council must deal with now.

However, there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction as far as I'm concerned amongst several of the Councillors. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be at the boiling point yet. Or more likely, there is no leader yet on Council who is prepared to challenge the status quo and around whom the other Councillors can rally. Until that time happens, if it ever does, this City will stagnate.

DesRosiers Slams DRIC

DRIC has been so wrong on predicting border traffic volumes that it is laughable. It looks like they are wrong again. If they are, the consequences the taxpayers would be wasting billions of dollars to meet a need that is absolutely not there.

If DRIC can be so wrong, then the argument has to be made that before a decision is made, their work must be carefully scrutinized to make sure that their assumptions are valid and the conclusions are supportable.

Of course, the only real justification for building another bridge in the area is because the existing crossings cannot handle the volume. DRIC predicted that the volumes would increase dramatically but in fact that has not been the case. In fact, based on the material that the Bridge Company provided at the Senate hearings, one wonders if there will be any growth all. Volumes have certainly decreased since their highs. It is not a mere temporary blip either given the job situation on both sides of the border and the lack of tourist traffic.

It is amusing that the Bridge Company was able to virtually eliminate the backup into United States by adding a few Customs booths. They did not create new lanes in the sky as DRIC would do at a cost of billions. It is also amusing to see that the Budget of the Federal Government provided for $75 million for a new Customs officers across Canada to ease congestion. I did not see the Federal Government putting huge monies aside for the building of new border crossings across the country.

However, in order to justify the building of the bridge, and to be able to give Wilbur Smith some ammunition for saying that the volumes would increase, US DRIC in their report wrote the following:
  • "It is expected that local businesses may develop or expand in several sectors related to a new border crossing. Such change would be associated with an increase in local jobs. This would then help the local tax base grow. But, it is recognized that much of the cross-border trade in the Detroit-Windsor area is tied to the auto industry. While American auto companies are struggling now, the U.S. demand in 2035 for new automotive vehicles is forecast at 26 million. This is a 53 percent increase from the 16 to 17 million current annual U.S. consumption of autos/trucks. This growth is similar to that which occurred over the last 20 years, when 15 new auto plants were built in North America, eight of which were built in “northern” locations (e.g., Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario, Canada). The implication is that another dozen auto manufacturing plants will be built in the U.S. and Canada in the next 20 to 30 years."

Well Hallelujah brother! All this doom and gloom about the auto industry is all wrong according to the prognosticators from DRIC. Wow, we are going to see some new auto plants up north going alone with this huge increase in automotive demand. Our future is secure, no one needs to be sent out West, we can splurge with Eddie's Jobs Today Fund hundred million dollars on all kind of circuses.

It seems however that there may be a contrary point of view. If this view is correct, then this rosy picture painted by DRIC isn't worth anything and the justification for new bridge goes into the toilet.

Apparently, Dennis DesRosiers had a chance to read this part of the DRIC report and here is the blistering response that he sent out"

  • "They are smoking something. The 20 year growth between 1987 and 2007 was 9.1 percent ... they are forecasting a 20 year growth starting in 2007 at 58 percent some 5 times the historical achievement. Impossible. But the 26 million is actually forecast for 2035 which is a 28 year forecast not a 20 year forecast. Over the last 28 years the market has grown by 19 percent and they are forecast it to grow by an additional 58 percent by 2035 ... also highly unlikely.

    A better way to look at his is to examine annual average growth rather than total growth. Average annual growth over the last 28 years has been 0.6 percent and they are forecasting it to be 1.7 percent about 3 times what was achieved historically. Also impossible.

    And remember the last 30 years has seen auto sales grow substantially but of the baby boomer reaching driving age. The boomers will be shedding vehicles over the next 30 years as they reach retirement rather than adding vehicles to their driveway.

    A more realistic forecast for US auto sales to 2035 would be somewhere in the 20-21 million range NOT 26 million range.

    They are also missing a critical point. Americans each and every year buy more and more product from overseas and Mexico which requires Port infrastructure and Mexican border infrastructure NOT Canada US infrastructure. See attach table for 2000 to 2007. Vehicles sourced from Canada dropped by 500,000 units. This may stabilize but it certainly won't go up.

    Look carefully at the two attached tables .. they tell the story."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Good News Bear UPDATE

Oh how embarrassing for everybody.

I just thought of this. If Matt Fisher has retained a lawyer, it looks as if he does not want to accept a six-month payment of salary in settlement for his termination.

Already, that amount, about $85,000, plus the amount to be paid to a professional recruiting company to find his replacement, about $40,000, equals almost the amount paid over by the Credit Union to the Commission. If he is successful in getting a payment which might equal the balance of his written contract, depending of course on what the termination term is if there is one, then perhaps the final payment might include almost the total amounts paid in by the Credit Union, the City and the County.

Poor investors... they won't get to see a brochure now.

Can you imagine if the Roman Dzus syndrome hits the Commission again. Roman left that job after doing all the work to get Eddie his bragging rights for the English magazine award. Now the City and County have just received $600,000 from Sandra Pupatello to start up a "Virtual Incubator." What if Matt did all the work to get that money for the City and was then terminated. His damages would increase dramatically. That's gratitude.

However, the person who has to be blushing today is our Cabinet Minister, Ms. Pupatello. Talk about bad timing. She put her foot into it. I just received her Community Calendar 2008- 2009. What is the photograph that will stare in the face of all of the Members of the Board of the Economic Development Commission in May. No, it is not a picture of our Mayor since he is completely ignored. Here it is:

Did They Really Say That

Another comment that people will remember in a month when the dandelions come out:
  • "She said dandelion haters can get on their knees and pull them out, while Halberstadt said lawn and garden lovers can learn to live with a little imperfection for the sake of a healthier environment.

    The city uses less than 10 per cent of the pesticides it applied to local parks just a decade ago, said Sadler"
Those remarks do not match the obvious prize-winner of Councillor Valentinis though last year:

  • "According to Councillor Valentinis, the reason why "Grass cutting at city parks [is] falling short" is "with global warming, grass appears to be growing earlier and faster every spring"
Fortunately the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget is in that business and I am certain that he can use his expertise to fix everything up.

You may remember this from my BLOG, Monday, May 14, 2007, "City Of Roses" as something we can look forward to on City property in the future it seems:

Oh well, Council never promised us a Rose Garden.

Good News Bear

Thank goodness.

The police missing person file can now be closed. The bloodhounds can stand down. The search parties can be called off. He has been found, alive and well and still living in Windsor-Essex.

Yes, dear reader, the Chair of the Economic Development Commission, Remo Mancini, has surfaced. He had been invisible over the last few days when Matthew Fischer was terminated as CEO of the Commission.

The task of delivering the bad news and standing up to the questions of the media was left to the Bad News Bear, Vice-Chair of the Board, Dr. Albert Schumacher. The Chair, was nowhere to be found. I'm sure that you also noticed on the Press Release I posted the other day about the termination of Mr. Fischer, Mr. Mancini's name was not mentioned there either as a contact.

Chair Mancini should be annoyed at the omission. What a slight! If you will recall, he said:

  • "his top priority as chairman of the group is to hire a full-time chief executive officer within the next few months to lead the commission's efforts to improve the regional economy...

    Mancini said the commission is seeking a "dynamic, energetic, and knowledgeable" person to act as CEO."

Oh well, perhaps the professional recruitment company can do better even if it costs a few bucks. The Commission people involved in Fischer's hiring just so you know were:

  • "Roger Bryant of KPMG is facilitating the search process and members of the search committee include Skorobohacz, Essex County CAO Brian Gregg, commission chairman Remo Mancini and members Gina Leslie of Casino Windsor and Allan Conway of the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor."

I'm sure you remember this story in the Star some time ago. It looks like Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Burton was right in what he wanted to do. Who knows what he might have seen in the Minutes about the mess that the Commission was in had he been given access to them. City and County Councils might have been able to intervene to do something. Mind you, wasn't that the job of the CAOs to keep their Councils advised:

  • "Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Tom Burton's bid to cut off funding to the Essex Windsor Development Commission if agendas and minutes of its meetings aren't made public received little support this week from county councillors.

    Burton was accused of "grandstanding" and being "antagonistic." His motion was rebuffed Wednesday night in a 10-3 vote.

    "It's not grandstanding," responded Burton. He said...Every municipal council, county council and other publicly funded bodies separate their public and in-camera meeting minutes, he pointed out.

    The city and county fund the commission, and minutes of its meetings should be available to the public, not just those who sign confidentiality agreements, Burton argued.

    Burton has been trying for six months to see commission records...

    "I hope the public goes nuts," concluded Burton."

However, when there is something positive at the Commission, guess which Good News Bear is front and centre with the quote: oh I'm sure you can figure it out for yourself! Here's the press release.

  • Attention News Editors:

    Ontario Invests In Diversifying Windsor Economy
    McGuinty Government Stimulating Growth In New Sectors

    TORONTO, April 4 /CNW/ -

    Windsor-Essex will use a grant from the provincial government to develop a "Virtual Incubator" to identify and support local businesses responsible for job creation.

    The program will help the region respond to changes in the automotive industry and the affects of a high Canadian dollar - and make Windsor-Essex "investment-ready" for future opportunities.

    Run by a not-for-profit corporation, the incubator will stimulate local economic growth and job creation. The province is providing $600,000 as part of its Communities in Transition program to get the incubator up and running.

    The incubator will have board representation from the Odette School of Business, the School of Computer Science at the University of Windsor, Deloitte LLC, BMO/Bank of Montreal, Woodslee Credit Union and the WindsorEssex Development Commission.


    "Windsor-Essex has the skills and the resources to succeed," said Minister Sandra Pupatello. "Our government is working in partnership to give this community the tools they need to create jobs for this highly skilled workforce."

    "This is great news for the people of Windsor-Essex," said Bruce Crozier, MPP, Essex. "Our government's support will help give this community options and solutions moving forward."

    "This initiative plays a key role in creating new opportunities for our local economy," said Remo Mancini, Chair, WindsorEssex Development Commission. "This announcement of the provincial government's support is welcome news."