Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 18, 2008

More News Commentaries


More and more and more to tell you about.


BUSINESS ETHICS

Wow, the Business Schools are asking tough questions on their business ethics exams these days. Here's one for your consideration:
If an organization of which you are a member was hiring a person for a senior position and you were on the hiring panel, what would you do if your close business associate was one of the short-listed candidates for the job:
  • Resign from the committee
  • Make sure that the interview with your associate is very short since you know everything about him/her anyway and the job is in the bag for him/her
  • Stay on it since no one would know and convince the others to hire your associate
  • Say the panel is a farce since you are the real power in the organization and you want to hire your associate
  • Hire your associate and look shocked if someone says there was a conflict of interest.
Explain your choice!

WINDSOR'S CHEAP SOLUTION

Thanks to the stalling of our Mayor, the funds for the $1.6B DRIC road may disappear. We may just get the "really cheap" at-grade road after-all!

The money will probably be used up soon by other parts of Canada as Harper's way to get a majority Government. All we will have is $400M from the Feds matched by the Province. And Ontario's Minister of Finance will be relieved since he won't have to spend the money and can blame Eddie!

Every part of Canada can be made part of one of the Gateways and Windsor's allocation is now front and centre. Don't expect much more to come our way in my opinion.

If you think I am kidding, take a look at this news story:
  • "Garnering support by federal bashing

    Politics Experts weigh in on premier's current lack of tactful diplomacy with Ottawa

    Daniel McHardie, Telegraph-Journal, April 14th, 2008

    FREDERICTON - Premier Shawn Graham's unabashed charm offensive with Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be coming to an end as sharper criticism of the federal government is seeping into his rhetoric...

    Still employing carefully measured words, Graham picked the relatively low-profile issue of infrastructure funding to inject some calcium into his intergovernmental relations backbone.

    He didn't call the prime minister names or threaten any lawsuits. Instead he repeatedly challenged the federal government "to accelerate funding for the Atlantic Gateway Initiative."

    But he also capitalized on a well-worn strategy of contrasting the funding windfall flowing to Ontario and western Canada against what was heading eastward.

    Since the creation of the $2.1-billion national fund for gateways and border crossings, Ottawa has siphoned off $400 million for the Windsor-Detroit corridor and $1 billion for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.

    Graham's Liberal government is angling for cash to help complete $275 million worth of upgrades to Route 1 en route to the St. Stephen-Calais border crossing. Not only did he demand Ottawa ante up the necessary funds, he urged the entire legislature to call on the federal government to quickly fund the infrastructure project.

    "We are hoping for an equitable funding partnership with the federal government.

    "We are prepared to do our part, we are calling on the federal government to do theirs," Graham told the legislative assembly...

    Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said the "tweaking" of tone doesn't suggest a failure in his earlier strategy.

    "This doesn't disturb New Brunswick's approach to intergovernmental relations too much but it may be a symptom of a new kind of scarcity in federal largesse and New Brunswick might be sensing that the feds don't have as much as money as they might have thought for assisting different regions," he said...

    "But because they are inexperienced in bashing the feds, they need to test the waters.

    "They need to see what happens if it is a disaster so they pick a sector that is important enough to garner attention but not so important that if this goes wrong they have damaged relations for years to go."

    Desserud said if the Liberals witness a surge in support provincially, that could be a harbinger for tougher tactics with Ottawa in the future."

WILL THE SPITFIRES DARE APPEAL

I hope they do not do something foolish and decide to appeal the decision to release their contract with the City.

If they do, then one obvious conclusion to draw is that this is such a great deal for them that citizens will be furious! If citizens are mad at them, will they buy tickets for the games next year?

I would love to see the contract terms to see what kind of negotiator the City is. A contract done when Project Ice Track was going to Tecumseh obviously put the pressure on the City to do a deal. The City politically needed a deal and would be bargaining from a position of weakness.

You already know what I think of the City's ability to do a complicated transactions. That's why the thought of the Tunnel deal scares me completely!

CAPITOL THEATRICS

Two interesting news stories:
  • Capitol doors to open again as fight rages; Proposals sought for shows

Dave Battagello, Windsor Star 12-21-2007

"But Francis said the theatre has remained closed because it was deemed a fire hazard after inspectors learned sprinklers were not operating during the Les Miserables performances.

"They were told they could not have more shows until the deficiency was corrected," the mayor said.

"That's why there hasn't been any other shows. You can't have shows in a theatre if it's a fire trap.

"(Funtig) is in control of the theatre. He was told once if that was corrected he could have as many shows as he wanted.

"Our position is that it should be open. As long as it complies with fire and safety codes, he has always had the opportunity to open it back up."

  • Curtains go back up at Capitol Theatre

Craig Pearson, April 13, 2008

"Either way, Funtig said the only reason shows haven't run sooner at the Capitol is that the city declined to grant hall licences until a number of "deficiencies" were corrected.

Funtig said the Capitol estate spent almost $20,000 for such things as adding a firewall, moving a sprinkler, and checking alarms and lights."

MAPMYCITY

There already is a website owned by an anonymous party: http://www.mapmycity.com

That's where I went when I saw the original story about Mapmycity. Instead, one must go to http://mapmycity.citywindsor.ca/

I wonder if there is a deal respecting use of domain names with the owner of the other site.

I had a problem with the City's website on Sunday morning when all kinds of gibberish appeared on it when I landed there along with my anti-virus system telling me that it was stopping viruses being downloaded on my system. Was there a system problem or was the City website hacked?

HEADLINES NEVER TO BE SEEN IN WINDSOR

From the Free Press:

  • "Council refuses to hear mayor's budget proposal

    The Detroit City Council delivered a stinging rebuke to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and in a stunning development told the mayor it would not accept his budget recommendation today.

    Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. told the mayor the news after he sat down at the council table."

From the Detroit News

  • "Detroit council refuses to hear Kilpatrick's budget
    Christine MacDonald / The Detroit News

    DETROIT -- In a surprising move Monday, Detroit City Council members, with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick sitting before them, figuratively slapped him in the face by refusing to allow him to deliver his 2008-09 budget proposal.

    "It is the feeling of the majority of the council that we will not address your budget at this time," Council President Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., said. He quickly called for a voice vote, and the council refused to listen to the embattled mayor."

HUBRIS SYNDROME AND POWER

I thought you might find these recent quotes fascinating and very appropriate. Hubris as described by former British Foreign Secretary and doctor David Owen

  • "In ancient Greek drama, a hubristic career proceeds something like this: the hero wins glory and acclamation by achieving unwonted success against the odds. The experience then goes to his head: he begins to think himself capable of anything. This leads him into misinterpreting the reality around him and into making mistakes. Eventually he gets his comeup-pance and meets his nemesis, which destroys him."

What really interests politicians as described by Margaret Thatcher's Chief speechwriter, Ferdinand Mount:

  • "At last, my sluggish civilian’s brain began to understand.

    The decisions that really matter to political leaders are those to do with the getting and holding of power. Other decisions may turn out well or ill. They may cost billions of pounds or hundreds of lives, but for enlisted politicians those decisions are secondary. What matters to them is: will I still be here after this? And the spectacle of Mrs Thatcher by the huge Tudor grate at Chequers, exhausted by the day’s work like Cinders after a hard time from the Ugly Sisters, made me realise it."

YOUR Point of View


Now it's your chance to speak your mind


1) [Believe it or not, this came from a Windsor Councillor] I think you should run for council.


2) In case you are not up to date, thought you might like to see where your tax dollars are going.



3) FYI ... more bad news for Windsor unfortunately.


4) Since you live in Windsor the only numbers to play in a lottery would be 9-1-1 .

5) I think this just blew Eddie's plans out of the air. [Increase in cost of aviation fuel] They may as well be one way tickets out west.

He didn't show for the money being handed out lately.The teacher must have kept him after school.

6) The tunnel could become a lame duck.........

7) Good morning Ed. The terrorism crap that is spewing about the tunnel is ludicrous.If they had to change to another holding company and there was an act of terrorism, a good bankruptcy trustee would see right through that. If the tunnel is in that precarious of a position for an act of terrorism,then the Tunnel Commission MUST warn all users about the risk.Since they know full well it can happen in their minds, they should and canbe held culpable.They should re-direct traffic to the bridge now, to save Windsor any legal litigationsif there were to be a huge accident or act of terrorism.Tunnels, as you know are notoriously famous for the spread of fires, as we have seen over in Europe.

8) I'm going to keep an eye on the Greenslink box at the Central Library and see if it fills up, I've added one, might add more with my comments.

With our citizens leaving faster than arriving, I doubt that we in this city could build Greenslink if we wanted to. The Golden soon to become Platinum Greater Horseshoe can't find workers now for all the infrastructure they are attempting build now!

The conduct of our mayor has gone beyond chirlish and childlike of someone who assumes that his ego has been hurt, to that of being totally detrimental to this city.

I call Greenlink, Greenslink because it reminds me of a slinky toy and its movement

9) Did this change in ownership receive approval from the IBTA gurus at Transport Canada? Is it a joke of an act if they didn’t? Don’t the people who use the tunnel and subsidize the tunnel deserve to know just what liability they are/were exposed to and what liability they are being protected from?

10) [RE BLOG readership] The force is with you !!!Use it wisely.

11) So the city has formed a "share capital corporation" to buy the tunnel for $111 million, of which $103 million will be city-financed through an IOU. How is this advantageous to the city?

12) You know as well as I do when Eddie says "We believed it then and we believe it now" and to "believe in our own possibilities" he really means "WE (As in himself and council) believe we know what is in the best interest of Windsor, not the citizens".

13) Stephen [Funtig, the Trustee in bankruptcy] could end up running the tunnel and the airport. [Along with the Capitol!]

14) What must be done to get a copy of the Mayors Business plan to acquire and operate the tunnel ?

We must not allow the City to acquire the tunnel without the approval its citizens. In the present business environment it would be fool hardy to burden the city with avoidable debt of this magnitude. Eddie is dreaming. If he thinks the idea of creating a seperate company is a means to his dream, lets see the plans and the time line to a sucessfull ending.

15) Hi Ed, there is quite a difference between activities and results. Going aimlessly through the motions creates the illusion of progress ---- lots of motion, no forward movement! Square table free form meetings rarely yield any useful results. Clear and measurable objectives based on a reality based strategy are needed to attain desired outcomes, more so in the age of scarce resources.

16) With regards to your post about Coun. Valentinis and global warming as to why grass cutting was falling far behind.

It couldn't be because of the slashing of the Parks & Rec's budget by council and Eddie could it?

... I was told that some parks will be returned to "naturalization" due to budget cuts. Which begs the question. How will Windsor afford the upkeep of Greenlink if we add another 300 acres of parkland? We can't afford the parks we have now!

17) I'm still trying to figure out if Bears eat Gazelles or if Gazelles eat Bears . . .
I guess Bears really do eat Gazelles!

18) The Lawn Chair Precision Drill Team is just the thing to entertain Cogeco viewers and visiting tourists on Windsor City Council meeting nights. Instead of a prayer, Eddie can begin the meeting by leading ten councillors in "Precision Chair Drill". Councillors not participating do so at their peril.

When finished precision drilling, the councillors sit at their desks and tend to important affairs like cutting library costs despite having a 5.4 million surplus and budgeting more dollars for out of town legal beagles and traffic sharpies. The Greenlink designers know the rubes in Windsor will pay them big bucks for just about anything they propose even if senior governments think the whole Greenlink thing is a joke.

Long live the Lawn Chair Precision Drill Team!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Show Me The Money


I know that I have a broad readership including people from the other side of the river. However it is not very often that I get notes from them about what I write.

Imagine my surprise then when I received a note from a Detroiter in which I received a very gentle scolding. The gist of his note was why I was attacking the transaction over the Tunnel deal. He said that the deal was good for Detroit, presumably because it helped out Detroit on its budget issues, and gave Windsor advantages. He thought that we on our side ought to be applauding our City Government for this and then asked in the end:

  • "tell me where I am wrong?"

To my reader in Detroit and to you, dear reader, let me say that there is a big difference between me not supporting the transaction and attacking the transaction. I'm still at the stage where if I can be convinced that the transaction made sense I could support it. Unfortunately I'm not at the stage. Just wait until I start opposing it if I think it is a dumb deal and will hurt this City and me personally as a taxpayer.

I am aware that a number of infrastructure transactions have been arranged. The P3 deal in Chicago that gave that City almost $2 billion is obviously well-known in Windsor and Detroit City Government. The concept might well have worked here (although many commentators object to P3 deals since they do not all work as well as claimed) and might be something I could congratulate our Council for achieving. In fact, if it had been done years ago when the Mayor said the Tunnel on our side I believe was worth $2-300M, I would have been happier.

What I would say to my Detroit reader is very simple. What is the deal? What is the transaction? Is it a P3 lease, is it a sale, is it a loan, is it a combination of all of these or is it something different? How does Windsor make out well financially. Is some MBA going to give me a spreadsheet of traffic and revenue projections for the next 75 years showing barrels of money coming in.

You know what I think about those projections after DRIC's traffic projections proved to be so incorrect. I have not got the faintest idea what is going on. Even the Detroit Mayor recently described the deal in different terms only days apart. To be blunt, if the deal is that good, why would Detroit settle for just $75M? Is our Mayor taking advantage of a friend because of YOUR financial problems?

To be blunt about it, I have never signed a blank cheque in my life and I don't intend to do so now.

Let me even be more direct... while I have the utmost of respect for my neighbours in Detroit and understand their financial problems, I happen to live in Windsor. I see no reason at this time to help solve Detroit's financial problems by putting the burden on Windsor taxpayers in a transaction I do not know anything about.

I am a Windsor taxpayer. I really have no desire to see Windsor close to bankruptcy if this or other big transactions fail or to see our taxes rise dramatically to cover the losses. We have seen that already on Canderel and MFP. I ask my friend in all seriousness, would he help us out in Windsor in the way he is asking me?

I assume that I and other Windsorites are to take comfort from these remarks by the City's outside lawyer:

  • "I've said all along from square one I will not recommend a deal to the city of Windsor that did not make business sense," he said. "My intention has not changed.

    "In all of these negotiations everything I've done is with that in mind."

I am certain that Mr. Sutts means that. His reputation as a lawyer in Windsor is extremely high from what I know. I remember his advice on one of the arena deals a long time ago that he did not like from a business perspective and he said so.

However, with all due respect to Mr. Sutts and his abilities, I am surprised at his remark. I thought he was hired as a lawyer. Was he also hired as a business consultant? What are his qualifications to advise from the business perspective especially on long-term infrastructure deals involving both sides of the border? If he wants to provide a real assurance on the business side, put something in writing to that effect and have his partners back it up in writing as well! Let him assume the business risk and liability if the deal goes sour. Words in the Windsor Star do not give me personally comfort no matter how well-intentioned they are meant to be.

It is very simple my Detroit friend, if you want my support, show me the money. Show me how Windsor does well on the transaction when the City looks like it is going to be borrowing and putting our financial position at risk in the amount of $75 million or substantially more in my view, but of course I don't know.

This has nothing to do with the personal issues that the Detroit Mayor has. This has nothing to do with the controversy between the Detroit Mayor and the Detroit Council. I'm not choosing sides since I have very little information to go on other than what is said in the media. This has everything to do with not knowing what the business transaction is.

Let me make my Detroit friend a little bit aware of some of the reasons for my skepticism. He may not know that this Mayor and Council have been criticized severely, including by the Windsor Star, of lack of openness and transparency. My simple question is that if this deal is so good for Windsor why hasn't the Mayor explained fully to the people by now. He can use some good press.

I have to wonder how bad things are in this transaction since it was supposed to close in June 2007, is still not closed and may not be closed for some time since the City does not have a financial source for the borrowing. I assume that the City or perhaps even Detroit or its consultants have been trying to find the money. To go to the Province of Ontario, after the Feds have turned down being involved in the transaction, suggests to me that no private investor wants to be involved and that this is the lender of last resort for this transaction.

My dear Detroit friend. I have this sneaking suspicion that Windsor doesn't have much free money to play with and yet we are prepared to put the City at risk for a borrowing of $75 million. We did not have enough money today to invest in moving the University's Engineering Complex downtown. We do not have $30 million to put into a Jobs Today fund today to help get our people back to work since our unemployment rate is about the highest in Canada. We don't even have enough money today to put into the Tunnel Improvement Project and deferred it for a number of years even though the Senior Levels are committed to paying two thirds of the cost estimated at $30 million. Well, that was the sum of money some time ago and is more today I would bet.

You may not know this but we are building at taxpayer expense a new East End Arena that is supposed to cost $65 million but few really believe that amount when you add in all of the costs including roads and infrastructure. It was supposed to have been a P3 deal downtown on land already expropriated by the City with the City's maximum exposure at $15M. Many of us expect the costs to increase dramatically. Our Treasurer warned Council that we really have no money to do anything else if we intend to pay it off according to the very tight schedule that Council demanded. And you want me to support the borrowing of $75 million? I as a taxpayer am already being the Bank for the City through my taxes so that the Mayor might impress S&P.

We want to reduce borrowings and increase reserves which are very low in comparison with other cities after increasing water rates by 86% to fund almost $850M in watermain charges. And you ask us to fund this deal too on blind faith!

In one of my BLOGs, I estimated what the Tunnel is worth with my uneducated appraisal perspective. It was nowhere near $75 million for our side. I take some comfort in my numbers from the fact that the Bridge Company offer was less and that our Federal Government walked away. Can you imagine my shock when the City rolled over the Tunnel to a subsidiary in an amount over $100 million. I asked for a copy of the valuation but I have not received it.

Why not dear friend? What's there to hide since it really is the asset of taxpayers? I have noted that the valuation was done as of June, 2007. That was eight months before US DRIC said that its new bridge would take away about a quarter of the Tunnel's business. They did not say how much the Ambassador Bridge would take away as well if the Bridge Company had to compete against the DRIC Bridge for car and truck business. Already, the Tunnel's tolls are higher than that at the Bridge. If the tolls increase at the Tunnel, how much more market share will they lose? I estimate a charge of at least another dollar per car to cover interest costs based on 5M cars per year. What if we cannot pass that amount on or lose traffic to the bridges? Who pays the interest?

A couple of years ago, and you may not have been in attendance, our two Councils met in a Joint Council Session and the idea of a joint operation of the Tunnel was hatched. I was there to listen. At that time, I believe that Detroit was told that the dividend that Windsor received from our operation was in the range of $6 to 7 million. Do you know how much our dividend is today from the Tunnel: $0! The Tunnel's market share is dropping like a stone and even with extensive advertising and the Ambassador Gateway project under way, it still has lost more business year to date compared with last year. Can you explain that to me?

I have written this before but I do not believe that this City is capable of entering into a sophisticated financial transaction without a mess occurring. It should be fascinating to see the terms of the agreement with our hockey team that was wrapped in confidentiality until the Ontario Privacy Commissioner made a decision that it should be opened to the public.

We have had huge losses with a public-private partnership called MFP. Our showplace building on the river that you can see from the Detroit side has been a fiscal mess that cost us millions. The Mayor was involved when he was a Councillor and a Tunnel Commissioner in doing a deal with a garage near the Tunnel that cost us millions. He gave away our Cleary Auditorium at a value of many millions to a local Community College. I never understood the Greyhound Bus Company deal where they obtained a 50% interest in our funky bus terminal. If you want cheap parking when you dine in Downtown Windsor, ask a server at the Keg restaurant about the five cent parking deal.

My dear friend, with that kind of a track record do you expect me to support a transaction that may cost the City dearly without knowing anything about it.

Let me ask you to give me an answer. And this has been asked of me rhetorically by other of my readers. If we have to borrow $75 million, or more because the City has to make something on the deal, how do we pay it back? The interest charges alone depending on the interest rate will be several million dollars a year. Where does that come from especially when maintenance costs will increase dramatically given the life of the Tunnel. Repairs at the Tunnel ventilation building cost many million dollars more than originally budgeted. What happens if there is not enough money to pay the interest? What then?

There are more things I could say to you but let me tell you why I personally am very troubled by the transaction. It all has to go with faith in government and of government. To be blunt, I personally have little faith in our Mayor and Council and I have little faith in them on this deal from what I have seen to date. Just look at my criticism about how they are ruining this City by the stalling on the border crossing issue. We need jobs and we get an advertising campaign.

I have made a complaint to the Meetings Investigator. My issue is very simple. Why didn't the Mayor tell people that a public meeting was going to be held to discuss the rollover of the Tunnel to a new Tunnel Corporation.

As was quoted in the Star before the session, he told us that there was going to be discussion about incorporating a company and that it needed to be held in camera. I guess that he forgot that there had already been such a discussion and that it had been held in public many months before. I guess that he forgot that the Canadian Tunnel Company had been incorporated in the fall of last year. Perhaps he was talking about the US Tunnel Company but he already had permission to incorporate one on the US side. After the meeting he told us that there were conversations about the negotiations in Detroit. It was only because subsequently I asked for and received the Agenda for the meeting that I was shocked to find out that in fact the rollover was discussed. For some strange reason the Minutes of that meeting had not been posted although the Minutes of the meetings before and after were.

I won't bore you with my complaint about what happened to my deferral request on another Tunnel matter when it appeared that several members of Council were in a hypnotic trance such that the Mayor had to poke them to let them know that they had already agreed to defer my request.

Why is our Mayor so afraid to have me and other members of the public appear as delegations to talk about such a huge transaction. Is there something wrong with it, will we be able to convince Councillors that they should not do the transaction. Oh by the way, our Councillors sometimes don't look at agreements even though they approve them, even on big transactions. That hardly gives me a feeling of comfort especially when I ask one of our Councillors to provide me with information that she claimed give her comfort when the legal bills that we are paying to our outside lawyer and consultants are in an amount of over $1 million.

I hope that this short note helps you out, dear friend. I am sure that there are other factors I could comment on but I trust that this gives you some insight into my thinking.

It is not that you are wrong. I would really like to help out my neighbour who has troubles. But I am getting no assistance in supporting you from my Mayor and Council so at this time I cannot support the deal.

Could I ask a big favour of you? As a Detroiter, our Mayor may well listen to you more than his own taxpayer strange as that may seem. Would you be good enough to write him and ask him why he is so afraid to let us in on the deal. Perhaps after I have seen the details, I could become a cheerleader too, just this one time!

The End Of The RCMP Musical Ride

It was a Canadian institution that played in front of crowds around the world. The red coated Mounties on their trusty steeds will unfortunately be no more. They have been superseded.

The Snowbirds, that crack Royal Canadian Air Force team of aerobatic flyers who have thrilled millions, are now passé.

The Ontario Provincial Police Golden Helmets Precision Motorcycle Team who tour the Province of Ontario giving exhibitions of superb riding skills at fairs, festivals and parades can go back to writing parking tickets.

Yes dear reader, the truth can now be told. The City of Windsor has capped them all.


The secret was in the Greenlink materials online where it stated by Parsons Brinckerhoff that 217 jobs would be created which reflected direct, indirect, and induced employments.

Now that blew my mind since our Mayor had pooh-poohed the amount of maintenance required on these hundreds of acres of Greenlink parkland. I wondered what work would require so many people. The Mayor gave it away on CKLW on a recent Tuesday interview:
  • "HOST: What we can do to bring more people, more families and entertain the families that are here already to the City of Windsor? What do we need here, we’ve been taking calls from our listeners this morning, and some of the ideas that came up are a water park, a science museum, things of that nature. Where did this conversation begin and where do you hope it ends?

    Mayor Francis: The conversation really began several weeks ago in my State of the City address where I launched, announced a program for Jobs Today. And really the focus is how do we bring more jobs and how do we bring more investment...

    And what I said to Council yesterday, is that’s one part of it in terms of attracting jobs and investment. That’s one tool that we can use. Things are so competitive now and we want to bring jobs and we want to bring investment. We need to be firing on all fronts...

    we also need to give sense to the fact that when we go to meet investors they say what does your City have to offer? And why is your City different than the city that was just here 15 or 20 minutes ago...

    How do we add, how do we bring more family attractions? You know with the rising gas costs and people now sitting on their wallets more than they have in past – that discretionary spending dollar is no longer there."

The plan is brilliant and has been kept secret, under-wraps until now. Obviously what has been created is designed to be the equivalent I would think of the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill or at Buckingham Place. Certainly, it will take place in front of our City Hall for tourists as a magnetic draw that will distinguish us from all other cities in the region.

But it is much more than that. Clearly given the number of employees involved there will be touring companies that will travel throughout North America and abroad spreading the name and word of Windsor and drawing attention to us for both tourism and investors.

Through some brilliant investigation, my inside moles were able to take a movie of a dress rehearsal of our new tourist attraction:


Lawn_chair_drill_team__



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dwight Saves Kwame


A variation of the title of this BLOG will be the headline in every media outlet in Ontario if the Province of Ontario provides money to Windsor so that it can do the Tunnel deal in Detroit to plug up the hole in Detroit's budget.

I will tell you though that, given what is going on with the Text Messages scandal in Detroit, I can think of a lot harsher headlines that some editors will use, especially if the particular region of the Province has been turned down by the Infrastructure group for a loan for essential LOCAL public services.

Can you imagine not giving money to [INSERT NAME OF REGION IN ONTARIO] so that the Ontario Government can give money to Eddie to funnel to Detroit to help out their financial situation, and at a much lower interest rate than the market would normally charge. Give me a break

Look at page 3 in today's Star and tell me if you are the Minister of Finance, would you provide money to Eddie for his Tunnel boondoggle, one obviously that no other private investor or the Federal Government will do, or would you give the money to hospitals.

Moreover, my suspicion is that Eddie wants substantially more than $75 million which is the amount that Kwame needs. I would think that Eddie would probably be looking for an amount in the range of $176-200M so that the Windsor Tunnel Corp. would be able to pay off its promissory note to the City of Windsor in the amount of $101 million so that Eddie can squander the cash on some more of his entrepreneurial schemes.

Dwight Duncan has already had a near death political experience a number of years ago with his meltdown on CBC television at a Liberal Leadership convention. He's been able to resurrect his political career and is now in the second most important job in Ontario and is one of the key politicians across Canada. Do you really think that he is going to destroy his career for his political opponent in Windsor?

It is time that Council start focusing on the real needs in Windsor and stop this nonsense to boost Eddie's entrepreneurial career at the expense of taxpayers.

Fisking The Mayor's CKLW Interview


I have often wondered whether the Mayor's CKLW interview is scripted in advance. Are the questions provided to the hosts so that the Mayor knows what he's going to be asked? On occasion, when he speaks, I could almost swear that he is reading from a script. It just seems like he's giving us a speech rather than answering questions.

I can't remember when he was actually asked something difficult and not thrown lobs that he can hit for a home run! Mind you what do you expect from a strap-on "W" radio station interview.

In any event, when I was listening to the Mayor's comments on Tuesday, it brought me back to my days at STOPDRTP. No matter whether you, dear reader, were personally for or against us, you do have to admit that our group was a very successful in achieving our objectives. I remember the Star writing in effect that no local politician could be elected if in fact they opposed what our group was trying to achieve. And none were.


The interesting part to me was that we did it without having very much money. Basically, all the money that we received was spent on signs that we plastered all over the DRTP corridor, videos that were sent to key individuals in the binational process and in Government and literature that we distributed. Our success was based on being able to get hundreds of letters and e-mails sent out almost overnight as required.

I would doubt frankly that the total amount of money that we raised over the time that we were in existence equalled the cost of one full-page ad in the Star. And then I compare it with the gross waste of money that that City has spent on the past Greenlink campaign and now on this one. That sum must total in the range of $1 million.

And what has the City been able to achieve? Well the last go around was a response rate in favor of Greenlink barely just over 1% of the total population. That is hardly overwhelming support in my opinion. Now the Mayor is going at it again to try to get that number up. Imagine having Councillors giving out postcards from a booth in Devonshire Mall. Eddie just copied what STOPDRTP did. Just an aside, I'm surprised that the Mall did that since the booths there are not supposed to be political. That was one of the issues that we had when we set up our stand in the Mall years ago. It had to be for information only.

Why was STOPDRTP so successful with so little money while the City is spending a fortune and achieving little? The answer should be obvious: our group was a grassroots citizens' group who reflected the views of the majority of the people of Windsor. Everyone knows that the Greenlink campaign is nothing more than a politicians' advertising blitz to achieve some agenda that no one really knows about.

While STOPDRTP was taken seriously by decision makers, the Mayor is treated as irrelevant.

Of course, the Greenlink campaign is not what one thinks it is. In my opinion, it really has nothing to do with Greenlink but has more to do with starting a lawsuit against the Senior Levels similar to that that was started in Hamilton using Mr. Estrin as a lawyer in that area as well. Your Greenlink postcards will be used as evidence that the Senior Levels are not listening to Windsor and lo and behold the people will demand that millions will be spent on a lawsuit to preserve the quality of life in Windsor. You read it here first!

Here's what the Star reported in 2005 and I believe that the Hamilton lawsuit is still ongoing:

  • "Windsor's legal representative in hot water over mushrooming bills for Steel City

    Toronto lawyer David Estrin, who is representing Windsor in its fight to ease border traffic, is facing criticism in Hamilton over hefty legal bills in that city's battle to build an expressway through protected parkland.

    Estrin was hired in 1999 for about $300,000 to stop an environmental assessment on the $415-million Red Hill Creek Expressway.

    But legal fees for Estrin and a team of experts he hired on the city's behalf has since mushroomed to more than $6.8 million as of mid-July, according to council records...

    Estrin on the city's behalf has initiated a $75-million lawsuit against Copps, the federal government and three other former cabinet ministers, David Anderson, Herb Dhaliwal and Christine Stewart.

    Hamilton has accused the former ministers and 65 federal staff of "deliberately and unlawfully" using their authority to harm the city by calling for the full federal environmental assessment of the controversial expressway.

    The lawsuit -- narrowly endorsed in an 8-7 vote by council last November -- charges "the defendants abused their public office by engaging in targeted malice towards the city's completion of the expressway" and utilized environmental assessment "in an unprecedented, illegal and unconstitutional manner in order to achieve that objective."

    [Note that the legal fess quoted included consultants fees and were for a number of related files and not just the lawsuit against the Feds]"

Will something similar take place here? Eddie has threatened lawsuits against the Senior Levels on several occasions. As well, we are seeing the beginning of a transformation of Eddie from the weak, ineffectual leader to the action oriented, do something now, without study leader.

Of course, if the lawsuit is started, it is not Eddie that wanted it done but rather you, dear reader, and all of the other residents of the area who demanded it. So don't complain if it costs us millions of dollars more. He is only doing what the people want.

Here is part of the CKLW interview with my comments:

CKLW ---April 15, 2008

Host: Let's talk about Phase 2 of the GreenLink campaign which will get underway this week. [Interesting, if this is correct, it means that it was always planned that there would be a Phase 2. This does not suggest to me that what is being done now is something new. Does it mean that Eddie knew at the time of the first campaign that what he was doing would not be successful?]

Eddie: We started with these GreenLink postcards. What we wanted to do is to sign up as many people as possible to express their support for GreenLink and to take those cards and deliver them to the appropriate authorities at Queen's Park in Toronto. [Don't you find it very interesting that the Mayor and Councillors did not have Ward meetings this time? Were they afraid that they would not get any support at all? The last time around, at least at some of the Ward meetings, they got a very big resident turnout I wonder if that is what they got from their polling]

Female Host: And have people done that?

Eddie: We have. We have about 3000 cards that have been signed - that's through the Devonshire Mall kiosk that was set up by members of City Council and some support that we received from other groups. [I wonder who these other groups are. Don't you find it remarkable that the postcards received almost equal the number of people who wrote in before in support of Greenlink]

But we have also heard from residents that they wanted to sign a card but many of them can't get to the mall or many of them can't get to these groups so they want to have a card in their hands so they can fill it out. [You see, it is not Eddie's fault that he's got to spend all that money on postage. Some of your fellow residents, dear reader, demanded it. The poor shopowners at Devonshire with all these people who cannot get to the mall]

So starting this Wednesday and you will probably see them in your mailbox Thursday and going forward, we are going to be delivering through Canada Post, a GreenLink postcard. It's very simple. All you have to do is detach it, fill out your name, your address and put it in the mailbox. The postage has already been paid. What we are hoping to do is put a postcard in everybody's hand, in everybody's household, and once we get their cards back, we will take those cards and submit them to DRIC as well as to the Provincial Government. [I wonder if the first batch of postcards and signed support documents for Greenlink were ever submitted]

Time is of the essence. We are hearing that within the first week of May or perhaps the second week of May, DRIC will be coming out with their announcement. Again, this is third party information, we haven't been able to confirm it. So we want to do what we can do to ensure the voices of the residents as well are understood in Toronto. [Oh Eddie, Dwight already gave publicly the times for when he thought that the DRIC announcement would be made. One of your operatives must have given you that information]

Female Host: You know I am sure there are some people saying, "Don't you think their minds have already been made up. Isn't this too late to be really trying to change anybody's mind if it needed to be done."

Eddie: Well, again, you know the skeptic in me says that their mind is already made up however just because their mind is made up doesn't mean that they can do what they want to do. This is a process that is legislated under Ontario law and the law dictates that this process must consider public input. So if you have 15,000, 20,000cards and people saying that they support GreenLink, the process must show how they responded to the Community needs, because once DRIC wraps this study up, the study needs to go to the Ministry of the Environment. And the Ministry of the Environment then looks at what the community's position is and looks at how the community's position has been addressed through the DRIC process. So what we are trying to do is ensure that there is no doubt left in the minds of the decision makers at Queens Park as well as the individuals within the DRIC team where Windsor stands.

[There you have it... the beginning of the lawsuit against the Senior Levels alleging that they are not undertaking the environmental process properly because they do not listen to the people of Windsor. It has nothing to do with Greenlink but rather to stall the process, again, at a time when Eddie should be working with the Bridge Company and the Senior Levels to produce 10 to 15,000 jobs for the area. Eddie must know already the number of cards that he will get back or else he would not have set out the numbers. If he does not get those numbers, then he is dead in the water as far as DRIC goes.]

And I can't tell you how many times I have sat in meetings with DRIC officials and they have indicated "well the residents don't believe that Mr.. Mayor." So we have been able to demonstrate over the past several months what the residents believe. We know the residents want a better border solution - a solution that connects, a solution that protects, a solution that uses tunneling and we know that most residents prefer GreenLink over the DRIC proposal. We have heard that through the different opportunities that have been provided. So it is our hope that this final effort to put the cards in people's hands and will get it to the Province so there is no doubt in their minds. [A 1% response rate is hardly overwhelming support after spending hundreds of thousand dollars on an ad campaign!]

Host: All right. So sign that card and get it in the mail [Eddie needs you. His future depends on it!]

One-liners

Here are 30 of them to inform, educate, question and entertain you:
  1. Who covered more billboards in this town: the combination of taxpayer related entities like the City (Greenlink), the Economic Development Commission (CANW.E.) and the Tunnel or DRTP?

  2. Did you know that a doublestack rail tunnel was proposed back in 1998 when CN was being pressured to sell their 50 percent share in the Detroit River Rail Tunnel

  3. Did you see the Detroit TV commercial where the fellow was annoyed when he had to wait 2 weeks for an MRI so he went to a clinic where he got it done in 2 days

  4. With a salary nearing $200K as Mayor and with taxpayer paid travel, why wouldn't Eddie run for a third term

  5. I wonder what DRIC will call the name of their road to the border

  6. How many times did Eddie Francis use the word "surplus" during the Budget deliberations as reported in the Star

  7. Who told S&P in the fall that Windsor would have a budget surplus but of only $3M and why did that person not tell taxpayers at the same time

  8. Who is spending more money on their ad blitzes, Windsor or the Development Commission and frankly, other than the waste of taxpayer money, who cares

  9. How does Eddie measure "success" this time around with his new DRIC campaign so as to intimidate the Senior Levels with Windsorites' "overwhelming" support for Greenlink and will they care anyway

  10. What if Windsor-Essex canNOT

  11. Is the audit of the 400 building which is to come out soon as bad as insiders are claiming and if so, what does this say to City handling of projects

  12. Speaking of projects, why not do a quick audit now of the East End arena including all of the costs absorbed by City Departments but not disclosed and not included in the arena charges to find out what it is really costing us so far

  13. While I wish the Detroit budgeteers no harm, from a Windsor taxpayer perspective it is time to put to an end to this deal that potentially could bankrupt us as Tunnel traffic collapses

  14. If only Windsor had a Councillor who is not intimidated by Authority like Detroit's Monica Conyers (She wanted to name the Tunnel after her husband too)

  15. Watch the news soon for some interesting action that will render the border virtually seamless, exactly what the Brookings Institute wanted (Think tanks are soooo behind the times)

  16. When will DRIC admit that the Bridge Co. people are right and that the traffic numbers at our crossing are horrific and cannot on their own justify a new crossing

  17. Did you know that a study on traffic forecasting shows "with a very high statistical significance that forecasters generally do a poor job of estimating the demand for transportation infrastructure projects [resulting] in substantial downside financial and economic risk...such risks are typically ignored or downplayed by planners and decision-makers, to the detriment of social and economic welfare

  18. Watch for earth-shaking tremors to come out of Lansing soon

  19. Which politician will be the first to call the DRIC project a Megaproject run wild

  20. Which local politician would be furious if he/she opened a box of Shreddies and got the old square ones and not the new diamond ones

  21. Did John Fairley ever get an answer to his question about whose wedding Eddie and Farhi both attended at the same time in London

  22. If the Engineering Complex had been built downtown or if parts of the University might still go downtown, would the Farhi lands have been used for student housing

  23. When the Tunnel deal fails, will Eddie dare go to the Grand Prix festivities for which we are paying so much sponsorship money for the next several years

  24. Which Councillors are NOT thinking of running for another political office

  25. Why are local politicians so afraid of the Windsor Star

  26. Where are the Star investigative reports that I heard are being prepared on several big City business transactions

  27. Since Alinda Capital Partners is proposing to fund a new sewage plant in Santa Paula, California, are they a money player who could tie financing for the Tunnel with leasing or buying Enwin/WUC from the City

  28. Do you feel more comfortable now that the Premier has said this about the downturn in the economy "Trust me, folks. This too shall pass."

  29. Do you expect Brian Masse to run for the leadership of the Ontario NDP now that "Howard Hampton promised...that his future plans as Leader of the Ontario New Democrats would soon be revealed."

  30. If there is no WUC increase in 2008, how big will it be in 2009!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Council Last Night


I almost feel as if I am now playing the role of a colour commentator on a sports event on television when I comment on City Council meetings.

If you want to know the factual, "what happened," then you look to our traditional media: radio, television, newspaper. If you want to know why things were done or what some inside stories are, then it is necessary for you to take a look at the BLOGS in town. There really is no other place for citizens to go anymore in the City for this kind of analysis.

Perhaps what I should do is go out and buy a different kind of sports coat and shirt so that I could look more like Don Cherry when I do these types of BLOGS. Speaking of jackets and fashion, someone from Cogeco needs to tell Councillor Valentinis that the jacket he wore last night is just too "busy" for television and that he needs to change it to something more TV-friendly. If only the Councillors could look as good as Councillor Lewenza who seemed so healthy and tanned from his vacation trip. That was probably better than sitting in Devonshire Mall giving out Greenlink brochures.


Just dealing with some of matters at Council, are you as tired listening about the Library System as I am? I still have not figured out why there is this absolute fixation on the Library. Now Councillor Marra wants public hearings into why a library branch should be closed. Will this soap opera ever end? Probably not, until we find out the real reason why the City wants to take over the Library.

I liked listening to Councillor Brister try to justify himself so that it wasn't his fault that the Library Branch was going to close. His approach as reported in the press was to slash ther reserves to make up the deficiency. Interestingly, at the same time, the Mayor at the same Council meeting made a big deal about trying to increase the City's reserves. Nothing like the City talking out of both sides of its mouth.

Remember when Councillor Valentinis stated at one of the Council meetings that one of his law profs told him that you cannot suck and blow at the same time. Well this Council can.

They can allow Mr. Slopen's client to tear a house down on Howard provided that the owner of the land agrees to landscaping but the Bridge Company cannot do so in Sandwich. Administration wanted to deny that request since the building was structurally sound and could be repaired. They at least said that if it was to be torn down, it should be landscaped.

It was interesting to me that Mr. Slopen's argument for demolishing the home was that it was derelict, could be a fire hazard and, notwithstanding what Administration said, was very damaged. He also said that the neighbour wanted it torn down and that there was nothing his client could to secure the premises from vagrants. I was also surprised that Mr. Slopen mentioned that there were no plans to redevelop the site either. Gee, doesn't that sound like the Bridge Company arguments?

Council agreed to the demolition with landscaping. That was the sucking part; I will talk about the blowing part later.

Regretfully, I may have to file another Meetings Investigation Complaint depending on what I receive today from the Clerk's office at City Hall. From reviewing the videotape of the meeting last night, I saw that initially my request to defer the Tunnel matter on Agenda Item #4 was granted. For some reason, the Mayor had to have a subsequent cleanup Motion dealing with all deferred items. I've never seen that one before. A new procedural stunt is conceived all the time it seems.

With that Mayoral prompting, fortunately, Councillor Hatfield woke up from his slumber to the fact that this matter had been deferred already. Councillors Brister and Valentinis who moved and seconded the deferrals of my matter and others also woke up from their hypnotic state and stated that they had never intended to defer my matter.

Accordingly, after Motions to waive the Procedural Bylaw and to Reconsider, a request for deferral was rejected. It's not sour grapes on my side that I lost. But it is more than sour grapes that I lost because apparently, according to Councillor Hatfield, the City's lawyer, Mr. Sutts, sent to the City a communication saying that there was no reason to defer.

I did not get a copy of that communication. It was not on the City's website that I could find. I don't know if it was attached as part of the Agenda because I could not attend that meeting. I was not advised of the communication so that I could respond to it. It appears to me, unless the Clerk's office provides me with information otherwise, that this matter was dealt with by the Councillors based on the Sutts' communication before the Council Meeting ever started. The public would never have known about the communication but for the remark by Council Hatfield.

That appears to me to be a decision made in camera and accordingly done in violation of the rules. Accordingly I will file another complaint unless the Clerk's office provides me with information why I should not do so.

I wanted to talk about Councillor Jones being away from the Council meeting. I understand that there was a family emergency and he could not attend. Nothing as far as I'm concerned is more important than family, even a Council meeting, especially meetings of this Council. I wish the family member of Council Jones my best wishes.

However, it appears that Council Jones no longer has any interest in Sandwich. Perhaps after reading all of my BLOGS, he has finally understood the errors of his way and is supportive of the Bridge Company's position. There is no other conclusion that I can reach but this after what happened at Council.

If you had watched the proceedings you would have seen two of his colleagues ask for deferrals of specific items because he wanted to appear to speak about them. One dealt with an application for a Waste Transfer Station and the other dealt with the downtown. Specifically though, Councillor Jones did not ask for a deferral of the Sandwich matter. That absolutely shocked me.

That Councillor Jones has to be a pretty shrewd fellow. I am sure that he saw the Bridge Company letter telling the City that their bylaw does not apply to them constitutionally. He must have figured out that if he was not there at the Meeting and did not vote on the Administration recommendation, it might mean that, if the Mayor and Councillors were sued personally, his damages would be reduced by his absence. If he did not vote, he could not be accused of dealing in bad faith at that meeting.

Don't tell me that the Councillor doesn't understand about Black Letter Law after his question about that concept at Council previously. He learned about legal concepts very quickly I am sure.

The only blow to the Councillor's ego I'm afraid was when the resident respecting Agenda Item #6 had no idea who he was.

Fortunately the downtown item was deferred as well. Do you see how Fate intervenes? Councillor Gignac at the Strategic Planning Session the week before had expected to talk about the downtown but they did not. She wanted to have a session to deal with this matter before it was discussed at Council. There did not seem to be enough time to do so within one week but fortunately it could now be deferred without the embarrassment of any Councillor having to justify waiting for more time. It all worked out in the end.

I was interested to see that the Greenlink banner was still up in violation of the City's Procedural Bylaw. I wonder if the cost for that banner was paid for out of the Budget Stabilization Fund like some of the consultant fees on the border.

I'm so glad that Eddie played the role of the schoolmaster again. I saw him demonstrating to Councillor Halberstadt how he should hold up his hand. Follow Eddie's instructions. Hold your hand up high Councillor just like you were taught in kindergarten when you had to go to the bathroom. I am not sure if I have ever seen such contempt for a Council colleague as that shown by the Mayor.

Now the blowing part of the sucking and blowing:

In dealing with the Sandwich matter, the Mayor scolded the Councillors for not wording their resolutions properly. That was because a number of the Councillors thought that they were dealing with criteria for exemptions and demolitions and not just a process which had been discussed previously before. The Mayor made it clear that the wording in the Resolution was "process." Funnily enough, when he introduced this matter, he specifically said that the Report from Administration was speaking of "criteria." My goodness, if an intelligent man like the Mayor was confused no wonder the Councillors were confused too. Fortunately, Administration is not confused and they took the easy way out.

Everyone was so thrilled when it was said that Norm Wilson's matter was going to come before Council in two weeks. I'm not sure why. He can't get what he wants anyway since his property has to be rezoned at a cost of several thousand dollars. I think they just want to bring him in front of Council so that they can end the political embarrassment with people talking about residents of Sandwich not being able to tear down their garage. Norm has become the symbol of the absurdity of what Council has done in destroying part of this City.

Councillor Halberstadt called the report exactly what it was, nothing but a stall. He effectively told Sandwich residents that nothing can happen until next January. He told them that they are being stonewalled.

As an example, if the Ambassador Bridge ever came forward with an application to demolish their homes, it would not be allowed. The Community Improvement Plan would be used as the block because it will take about another eight months for it to be developed.

However, the Mayor is a pretty smart guy. He knows that there will be another eight months of hell for the residents. How does he know this... he actually went to the area on the weekend to look around to see the deplorable conditions. Interestingly, the Mayor told us that the City and citizens were put into that unfortunate circumstance. What he wanted everyone to believe was that it was the Bridge Company's fault and not that of the the City who passed the bylaw in the first place. I guess he learned from his Super Bowl adventure that sometimes the best defence is a strong offence. Blame it on somebody else because he is after all our Teflon Mayor.

The absurdity of his position was when he suggested that the homes were purchased for a specific reason to cause a specific reaction. I guess he meant that the Bridge Company purchased the homes to destroy the neighbourhood to embarrass the City by having the neighbours force the City to allow them to demolish the homes. Now I know that Matty Moroun is a very smart man but not even he would have anticipated when he purchased the homes years before that the City would introduce an Interim Control and Demolition bylaws. As Dan Stamper said, if they had ever suspected that, they would have torn the homes down right away rather than allowing the former owners to live in them rent-free for quite a period of time!

I think that the Mayor is learning from Councillor Jones how to try and build a defence before a lawsuit is started. I don't think he succeeded very well.

And finally, more Greenlink talk. Amazingly, the City has already received about 3000 responses in favor of Greenlink, remarkably similar to the number received before. We are all going to receive a brochure in the mail, all of 70 to 80,000 households, asking for support for Greenlink. We are to return the form of support to the City by prepaid mail. I wonder how much all this will cost the City in postage.

I expect that DRIC will challenge every signature and force the City to prove the validity of each card. That should take forever and costs multi-thousands! I know that Councillor Jones at a Council meeting demonstrated that technique. It was when he said a petition had signatures that were remarkably similar and questioned its validity.

Did you know that according to the Mayor that DRIC must listen to the City and must meet with Council. The City and its citizens are stakeholders don't you know. So far, neither the DRIC people nor our local Ministers want to meet with Council. It's those nasty DRIC people who are delaying things too by not responding immediately to the multi-pages of materials that the City sent to them. Of course the Mayor did not tell us how long it took for the City and its consultants to prepare those materials in the first but never mind.

Anyway, this was nothing more than Eddie building up his position so that when DRIC makes its announcement, he can have Mr. Estrin use the same kind of tactics and take the same type of action that he started elsewhere. I wonder if the Estrin fees will be the same as he charged elsewhere too and whether that will be on top of the millions we've spent to date with no success.

That's it for now... I just could not stomach dealing with the City Budget in this session... back to your regularly scheduled Websurfing.

Tunnel Deal Exposed

You would think that the Tunnel deal that was to close in June, 2007 would have everything ready to go but apparently not.

Lots to talk about with respect to the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel, including what I think will happen with respect to the financing and who might do it. It may be that the Province of Ontario is not only going to open a trade office in China but will be involved in an international border crossing. They must think that they are the Federal Government or something.

I have all kinds of legal questions on our side about whether or not the Regulations to the Municipal Act to supposedly allow a new City of Windsor American Tunnel Corporation to run the Detroit side actually give the permission requested. My view is that the Municipal Act itself must be amended in order to do so and that has never been done. I also have some doubt whether the rollover meeting was a valid one and that is why I sought to have the Agenda item at Council deferred yesterday so that the Meeting Investigator can make its report.

I also wondered whether there are US Homeland Security issues involved that we have not heard about that might have caused problems given that the Tunnel is a unique security risk. One of the Detroit Councillors raised that matter about a year ago.

I have requested certain documentation from the City but have not yet received it so that I as a citizen can make my own evaluation of whether there is a business case to be made for this transaction. As you know by now, it may be a great deal for Detroit but is becoming a poorer and poorer deal for Windsor as I see it

Does anyone really know what is going on? Detroit talks about a lease of the Tunnel and everything that I have heard on this side of the river talks about a loan.

Here's a story from the Detroit News

  • "A Detroit City Council committee has today delayed approving a $75 million deal to lease part of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to help balance the city's budget. Questions remain about the deal's financing, and those questions could be answered by April 25.

    The deal is seen as crucial in helping the city balance its budget and reduce what is projected to be a nearly $124 million budget deficit, according to City Council estimates. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's staff is predicting they will end the year with a balanced budget."

Yet on our side, the City's lawyer needs about two months to complete surveys just so that he can complete the rollover transaction transferring the Canadian side of the Tunnel to the new Tunnel Corporation. Naturally, citizens have been given little information with respect to this transaction including valuation of the Tunnel.

The deal is getting riskier every month. I saw recently some statistics on border traffic to the end of March. To say that the numbers are horrible, both car and truck, is an understatement. Instead of volumes going up as DRIC would have everyone believe, they are going down and rather dramatically. There is no doubt that the Ambassador Gateway project is hurting the Bridge Company's numbers.

Once again, one must question the DRIC results on border traffic numbers and hope that the company that is being retained, Wilbur Smith, to do an investment grade traffic survey analysis will do a proper job and report on what the real numbers for the border traffic projections will be.

I do not know how any reasonable observer with a history of traffic today both here and in Sarnia could claim that there is enough traffic volume for a new bridge and that additional capacity is needed. What is needed, as the Canadian Government says through one side of their mouth through Minister Prentice and the $75M in the Federal Budget, is more Customs officers to man booths. The Bridge Company built six new ones on the Canadian side but can't use them...absurd. In fact, Customs has no use for them which must mean there is no increase in traffic that they can see for the foreseeable future.

What is more fascinating however is that the drop in traffic is not being picked up by the Tunnel in spite of their massive advertising on our side. In fact, the Tunnel had a drop in traffic in March again. The volume lost by the Bridge Company did not go to the Tunnel but clearly it means that people, both tourist and industry, did not come over to Windsor at all. That is extremely distressing for this City's future. For the year, the Tunnel is down about 5% in their traffic volume even with the work on the Ambassador Gateway.

Again the question that needs asking from Windsor's perspective is why are we plugging the whole in Detroit's budget when this deal seems to make no sense and may open up a hole that we can drive a truck through on our side.

Finally, I believe that I may know where Eddie's source of money is. We know that the Feds won't put any money in. I doubt that any private investor will do so since the Tunnel is a declining asset, it is old and it looks like it's going to have major new competition that will take away at least a quarter of its existing traffic. Why would you invest in this asset if there are so many other good ones out there is a logical question to ask.

Accordingly there is only one other group that I think of that has the ability to put money in without necessarily caring if they get a proper return. That party is the Province of Ontario.

Remember, that the Mayor of Detroit had suggested that the Province would put money into the project. I must admit that I cannot see the Minister of Finance sinking in a bunch of money into a border crossing when money is getting tighter in Ontario and there are a lot better things to put his money into such as the Ford plant.

In my opinion, Dwight would be attacked viciously in Queen's Park if he dared put money into the Tunnel. Not only that, it totally undermines the Provinces's position with the Federal Government when they plead poverty on infrastructure for Windsor and other areas and yet at the same time can waste up to $75 million or more in helping Detroit out.

Given also Dwight's comment THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG. I do not see him being all that interested in helping out his political opponent, our Mayor, especially when our Mayor snubbed him at the pre-budget meeting and snubbed him and Sandra when they came down to offer infrastructure money.

However, there is another Government Department in Ontario where money could be available. That Department is headed by Minister David Caplan, Dwight's good buddy I am told. That Department is the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal. You remember Minister Caplan don't you. He and Dwight came down here sometime ago and offered $500 million from the Province one day and then withdrew it the next day in what was described as a Gong Show performance.

I must admit I cannot believe that if Caplan has any involvement in the transaction that he would want to be embarrassed again in a border file. I cannot believe that the Opposition at Queen's Park would not go after him in exactly the same way that they would go after Dwight.

However that Department can make up to 40 year loans for all capital expenditures. One major risk for Windsor is that if there is an event of default, "Infrastructure Ontario is authorized to request the Minister of Finance to intercept certain provincial grants to the borrower in the case of default."

Could this be the way that the transaction will be financed? Perhaps. However, I would be surprised if the Government would waste its scarce resources to finance a moneymaking venture when other municipalities have infrastructure needs.

I have doubts that it would meet a key mandate of the program:

  • "benefit key public sectors and the standard of living in Ontario over the long run."

I expect as well that what was undertaken at the the University with respect to its recent financing was used by Eddie and his consultants as a model. The viability of the program however depends on the Tunnel being able to stay in business for a good number of years at a profit without requiring massive renovations. Being that it is a unique a security risk, I get very nervous about the whole thing.

UPDATE:

It gets even curiouser. Here is a story from the Detroit News:

  • "Also Friday, a City Council committee delayed acting on a deal to lease Detroit's part of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to help balance the city budget. Members want more information about the deal's financing, and those questions could be answered by April 25.

    Adams asked the committee members to establish an authority to which Windsor would deposit the money at a later date. He also asked committee members to approve the lease of the Detroit side of the tunnel for a "minimum of $65 million."

    Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel was reluctant to approve pieces of the deal and wanted to see the full proposal before voting.

    "This has the feeling of essentially giving preapproval of the entire transaction," she said. "For this council member, it is an absolute nonstarter."

    Adams disagreed.

    "Setting up the authority does nothing ... but it allows the parties to move forward," Adams said. "It does not transfer the asset itself."

    Adams said Windsor officials are negotiating with their provincial government to get the money."
From the Free Press
  • "Tunnel, economic plans are criticized

    Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's idea to lease the city's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to Windsor as a way to patch the budget got a chilly reception Friday from the City Council.

    And his $300-million economic and city improvement plan got an even chillier review from the council's fiscal analyst.

    At a meeting of the council's Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said that the administration has yet to provide enough detail to expect the council to approve the lease, which Kilpatrick says would yield $65 million to keep the 2007-08 budget balanced.

    He proposed the tunnel deal in his budget presentation a year ago, but didn't send the documents to the council until April 4. He is to present his 2008-09 budget to council Monday.

    "We can't turn this around on a dime," Cockrel said.

    A report from the council's Fiscal Analysis Division says its staff envisions "virtually no possibility of completion" of the tunnel deal prior to the end of the current fiscal year, June 30.

    But Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams warned of a "cascade effect" if the council waits too long to approve the deal that could jeopardize closing it in time and keeping the budget balanced."

Hmmmm "deposit the money at a later date," "approval of a lease in advance," piece-mealing the transaction. Did you also like the expression "cascade effect." Probably sounds better than "domino effect."

The big point is that the amount of the deal has dropped $10M to $65M already and will have to drop a lot more if DRIC is right about taking away a quarter of the Tunnel business.

It sounds to me like a deal that is on life-support but no one wants to say pull the plug...just like Mr. Sutts needing another 60 days to undertake surveys. It is not convenient for anyone yet to say the deal is dead so keep it breathing for awhile longer.

As for the Province putting up the cash, we can only hope that Dwight's animosity with Eddie continues and that Infrastructure Ontario has more sense.

It will be fun watching Kwame pin the mess in Detroit's Budget on Eddie! And you better believe he has to do it politically.

My advice to Deputy Mayor Adams. Do it before our Mayor blames it on you. That is his style you know...find a scapegoat because he is never wrong or to be blamed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

BLOGBreaking News: Is It Unconstitutional



Something has happened. It appears as if the Bridge Co. has had enough. The stakes are much higher today than they were last week for the City of Windsor and the Mayor and Councillors personally aren't they! Especially financially.

The Bridge Co. has picked up the challenge thrown at them by the Mayor and Council. It seems that the Report at Council tonight, Agenda Item #12, has to be viewed by them as just another stall tactic since it sets out no new criteria for demolition or exemption for their homes in Sandwich but deals with "process" which was well understood already! It pits the City not only against the Bridge Co. but the citizens living in Sandwich as well. And against the Senior Levels too.

Really, isn't that what the Greenlink ad blitz, the CKLW interview and Henderson column were all about: to transform Eddie from the indecisive and weak leader into our hero and champion when the war actually begins against the "enemies!" Just see my earlier BLOG today.

Thanks to the passing of Bill C-3 (for which Brian Masse takes credit), there is a Federal statute which makes it absolutely clear which level of Government has control over border crossings and bridge safety and security. It's NOT the City. It's the Feds. If the Feds are asked the question, they will have to support the Bridge Co.'s position or they will have gutted their own legislation!

In fact the City's position on the Rail Lands by-law also hurts them.

Thanks to Eddie's statements at the Senate hearing on Bill C-3 such as the following, it is clear that the City's position regarding the Ambassador Bridge is indefensible:
  • "I agree with you, in terms of the jurisdiction that the federal government has over general works for the advantage of Canada -- the bridge, the plaza, the facility, and the immediate area."

And it should be clear now which road will be built to the border by the Senior Levels and why. It is NOT Greenlink. The City has no voice except to the extent that the Senior Levels choose to listen to it. Sure the City can sue but what happens if that is viewed as bad faith too!

It is time for the City's silly posturing to stop already and to start dealing in good faith with the Bridge Co. and the Senior Levels. If Eddie refuses, then Council has no choice but to become the Voice of Windsor for the border crossing issue, not the Mayor. If that happens, then Mayor Francis will have morphed into being ex-Mayor Hurst in his last year as Mayor!

How much will it cost taxpayers if the City still tries to oppose the Bridge Co. if a bad faith law suit is started by the Bridge Co. and they win!

Will individual Councillors who acted in bad faith be on the hook personally as well?

This matter ought not to be considered as a small concern either. I do not know what the City's insurance covers but I doubt if it covers intentional acts or "bad faith."

Under the Municipal Act, bad faith is not covered either:

"MUNICIPAL LIABILITY

Immunity
448. (1) No proceeding for damages or otherwise shall be commenced against a member of council or an officer, employee or agent of a municipality or a person acting under the instructions of the officer, employee or agent for any act done in good faith in the performance or intended performance of a duty or authority under this Act or a by-law passed under it or for any alleged neglect or default in the performance in good faith of the duty or authority. 2001, c. 25, s. 448 (1).

Policy decisions
450. No proceeding based on negligence in connection with the exercise or non-exercise of a discretionary power or the performance or non-performance of a discretionary function, if the action or inaction results from a policy decision of a municipality or local board made in a good faith exercise of the discretion, shall be commenced against,
(a) a municipality or local board;
(b) a member of a municipal council or of a local board; or
(c) an officer, employee or agent of a municipality or local board. 2001, c. 25, s. 450.

All of this and putting the City at risk financially. For what?

The fun and games and taking free shots are now officially over! It is time to resolve the border issues, put people to work immediately and to tell the world that Windsor is open for business.

Councillors , do your job finally!

The Transformation of Eddie





Last week was the week of the beginning of the rebranding of the image of Eddie Francis as our Mayor. Just wait if DRIC dares try to do something at the end of the month that hurts the City.

Knuckle under to Greenlink boys or Eddie will be all over you. If he talks about lawsuit, he won't be threatening this time around. You can bet on that one.

We're seeing it right in front of our eyes. Clark Kent turning into Superman. Dr. Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk. The Transformers live and in person!

It started on CKLW on Tuesday with the following comment from Eddie:
  • "We have to get out this mindset that everything needs to be studied. And really, we can’t be afraid of making decisions. If they’re the right decisions and they’re supported, then there’s a reason to make them."

It was followed up with and Gord Henderson's column on Saturday with this comment:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis told me this week that he's asked the city's legal department to craft a bylaw that would let the city declare war on eyesores. "Don't tell me I can't do it. Tell me how I can do it. We need to have something that can't be challenged in court," said Francis of the city's current legal impotence."
I'm sure that you saw the story in the Star about the demolition of former fire engine factory on Walker Road, the Seagrave Building. Everyone is demanding an explanation and that heads roll because this building was torn down.

It's interesting to watch the finger-pointing going on. For example take a look at what the Chair of the Heritage Committee said:
  • "It was a very significant industrial building that we had hoped to designate (give it official historical designation) someday," Heil said Thursday..."

    "The building department dropped the ball," Heil said..."

    "We're not in the business of trying to designate every single building on the inventory. I would classify this one though as one of the more prominent and important buildings on the inventory, and we very, very much regret seeing it lost," Heil said."
Well it is not as easy as that. Perhaps if Mr. Heil had acted yester--day and not some--day the building would still be up.

In any event, let's take a look at Gord Henderson's Saturday column. It starts off talking about the "The tragedy of the Seagrave Building." And then, halfway through, all of a sudden the column is transformed into discussion about abandoned buildings and homes! Gord changes the conversation just like Eddie ordered in his State of the City speech.

The Mayor of Windsor is quoted there. Does he take responsibility as the CEO of the City for the snafu... Eddie, take any blame, oh please. Does he let us know that he is undertaking an immediate investigation to ensure that this does not happen again... Eddie's Administration never makes mistakes, please. But if a scapegoat can be found, so much the better.

Lo and behold there is our Mayor huffing and puffing and banging on his chest being all-powerful. Now it is the new Eddie, the tough, take action guy who doesn't require months of study in order to take action. I guess that is what the headline in the Henderson column meant when it said "Trash the Past." It is Eddie's weak past that is being trashed supposedly.

His image requires an immediate transformation so that he is no longer viewed as the consultant-hiring, report and study preparing, weak, ineffectual leader who is afraid to make any kind of decision in case he is wrong.
  • "Don't tell me I can't do it. Tell me how I can do it."
Wow! Now that's the kind of Mayor that our City needs. At least I'm sure that's what his polling told him.

I wonder if Eddie will really call anyone to use

  • "moral persuasion to convince owners .. to fix up their properties. "I'm sure they'll be co-operative when we call them. I know they'll help us."
That moral persuasion stuff is really tough talk isn't it. I sure am impressed!

I wonder if his first call will be to the owner of the Ambassador Bridge and demand that he tear down the homes on Indian Road and replace the derelict buildings with green space instead using the assistance of the University's Green Corridor Group.

Ooooops, my mistake. That is what the Bridge Company wanted to do and Eddie and his cohorts on Council prevented them from doing that.

Eddie has his chance Monday night at Council. He can ensure that the criteria for demolition of buildings in Sandwich includes those homes!

But don't hold your breath. After all, it's just another ad campaign. It won't last long. Just until the next one starts.

It's All The News



Here are some more news items of interest

NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT HEAD IS AVAILABLE FOR WINDSOR

With the playoffs season starting, isn't it a shame that Economic Development is not treated the same way as playing hockey. I would think in the EconDev League, from what we are being told, the Kitchener-Waterloo region would be number one while, with the shenanigans that are taking place here, Windsor would be in the basement.

Here's a story out of Waterloo that should be of interest to the "owners" of our EconDev team:
  • "CEO of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc Will Step Aside Later This Year

    Canada's Technology Triangle, Waterloo Region, April 11, 2008 – John D. Tennant, the Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc (CTT Inc), the public-private regional economic development partnership for Waterloo Region, has informed the Board of Directors that he intends to resign when a successor can be found. The Board has established a committee to lead the search for a new CEO...

    Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc (www.techtriangle.com) is the not-for-profit, public-private regional economic development partnership marketing the Waterloo Region and the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo to the world. Its mandate is to attract new businesses, investment and talent, while promoting regional economic growth. The organization works closely with the Economic Development Departments of its partner municipalities, member-based business organizations and the four postsecondary educational institutions."

If this was hockey, Windsor might have offered a trade of Matt Fischer and a herd of gazelles for Mr. Tennant.

WILL ROSS STILL BE #1

Thank goodness the University received funding from the Province just in the nick of time:

  • "Provincial government funding worth $7.2 million will help the University of Windsor "catch up" on a long list of maintenance projects, Neil Gold, vice-president, provost, said Friday."

I wonder if maintaining the financial postion of Dr. Ross Paul as being the "highest-paid civil servant in the Windsor area" at $329,706 is one of those projects.

You see, while he is leaving his position as President, he is still around for two more years I am told and is not actually retiring.

Apparently this is not out of the norm for University Presidents. I am told that the theory is that while President they can't do any research or teaching so they are paid to do this after they leave their position. It's all part of contract negotiations.

BELIEVE IT WHEN I SEE IT

Another ad campaign blitz will be started soon in Windsor on top of the Greenlink and CANW.E. campaigns. This is in addition as well to the "strap-on" exhortation by a local radio station.

To counter all of the negativity and bad news coming out of City Hall (sending people out of town to work is just the latest farce to discredit us across Canada) and the fiasco with the WEDC, watch for a major media outlet in town to come out with a "Believe in Windsor" campaign.

Designed I am sure "to bring about change, positive change," it is supposed to achieve "a lot of results this year."

Expect the media outlet to reach out for help from the local BLOGGing Community. This "partnership" is being undertaken for one of the first times ever by a traditional media outlet in recognition and appreciation of the good news spread by Windsor BLOGGERS who have worked hard to educate the Community about what is going on at City Hall.

Yea right!

WITH WHOM WOULD YOU DEAL

In an article by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, I read that the Mayor of Detroit has very extensive powers eg.
  • The mayor is the chief executive of the city and, as provided in this Charter, has control of andis accountable for the executive branch of city government. Executive and administrative authority for the implementation of programs, services and activities of city government is vested exclusively in the executive branch.
  • Requests for the purchase or disposal of city property originate in the executive branch while approval of the City Council is needed to sell or in any way dispose of property.
  • The office allows the mayor to represent the city in certain public/private partnerships.
  • The Mayor can make appointments, formulate and execute a budget, and plan the reorganization of city government.
  • City councils tend to act as oversight bodies and as checks on the executive, with relatively less emphasis on policy and program development.
  • The mayor may propose a budget, plans, ordinances, contracts, appointments, and other policies or actions, the Council frequently has the authority to delay, alter, or block such policies or actions.

He has the power in other words.

So picture our poor Mayor. He has been working with his good buddy Kwame for almost 2 years now to do a Tunnel deal, spending over $1 million of Windsor taxpayer money so far in legal and consultants' fees. He is desperate for a solution to justify those fees and to achieve whatever purpose he has in his mind that has not yet been shared with the citizens of Windsor.

Unfortunately, Kwame has problems of his own these days. However, clearly the Tunnel deal is a major issue for him since it is needed to plug a $58 million hole in the Detroit budget.

So what do you do if you are Eddie? It is pretty clear that the Detroit Mayor's powers are significant and he ought not to be offended. Nevertheless, he has been harmed by the Text Messages scandal so one needs to be on good terms with Council members. And I do remember that President Cockrel attended one of Eddie's Cleary speeches.

Do you deal only with Kwame, taking the risk that he may not be Mayor or that, even if he is, his Council will block anything that he tries to do? After all, it is HIS job to do the deal. Or, do you deal with the President of Council Ken Cockrel Jr. since he might become Mayor if Kwame resigns or is removed. In any event, one needs the support of Council in the transaction, so why not keep him in the loop.

No matter what Eddie does, he may offend one or both of them since Kwame took a shot at Ken in his State of the City speech. Ken hit back calling "Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s proposal to sell bonds for public works projects “a joke.” And now Ken may run for Mayor against Kwame!

I hope that Eddie does not mess up as he did with him thinking Hendrix could be Mayor by taking Kwame for granted!

I have heard that our Mayor has been in Detroit quite a bit over the last little while. I wonder with whom he has been meeting... Kwame, Ken, a third-party finance consultant, all of the above.

It is a very delicate game. In effect, Eddie is walking amongst landmines and one false step-- like insulting one of the parties by trying to play that person against another--- can result in this deal blowing up right in his face.

From a Windsorite perspective frankly, unless I get a clear indication of some financial advantage for this City, it would not bother me in the slightest if the landmine exploded.

NO ORIGINAL IDEAS

No, I'm not talking about Mark Boscariol who stated in a very open and brave manner:

  • "Often I have been cited for “ideas” when readily I admit I’ve rarely had an original idea beyond my ability to use “Google.”

In his CKLW interview on Tuesday, the Mayor may have borrowed from Mark when he said:

  • "the success of things that can be done in our city, you can only need, and you only need to look to other city’s that have successfully done it.

    You do not need to reinvent the wheel. A lot of cities have tried to reinvent themselves. A lot of cities have tried things that are new. Look to those that have succeeded. Borrow from them. Implement. Execute."
Now I don't really disagree. Sometimes it is better to be the second one in, or even later, because you can learn from all of the mistakes of the person who first tried to do something.

However, I have to tell you that I first voted for Eddie Francis because:
  • "The need for change is obvious. It’s time to lead this City in a new direction...

    Today I offer you a new vision, a fresh perspective and a clear choice for change…

    I am ready to do things differently.....to give this city what it desires and deserves…something fresh - something new - something that will help us move forward…

    Change will be the order of the day."

To be blunt about it, if I wanted Mike Hurst's ideas, I would have voted for him had he chosen to run and not for Eddie.

I swear that I heard voice mannerisms of Mike Hurst when Eddie was delivering his State of the City speech. Consider also the following:

  • was the brainstorming session led by our Mayor nothing more than a regurgitation of the Mike Hurst "City Centre Revitalization and Design Study outlined in the Windsor Star on November 1, 1994" as Chris Schnurr claims in his BLOG
  • was Eddie's Tunnel Plan nothing more than what Mike wanted to do in 2001
  • both Francis and Hurst used Sutts and Estrin as lawyers
  • is Eddie's Greenlink ad campaign blitz similar to Mike's DRTP ad campaign blitz
  • tell me how Eddie's $30M "commitment" to either Jobs Today or to the University's Engineering Complex is any different than a Mike's "carefully worded the letter in support of the projects and [that] purposely made no promises to" St. Clair and the University
  • are the intensely negative feelings about Eddie as expressed for example in the Star Forums any different than those expressed against Mike in his last year as Mayor?

Perhaps the answer is that after a certain period of time, politicians all start sounding the same.

ARE ENWIN/WUC FOR SALE

It's not so far-fetched now is it considering what is going on in the County with respect to ELK Energy Inc.

  • "Lakeshore offers up utility share; Seeks competitive bids for its third of ELK Energy, co-owned with Essex, Kingsville;
    Gary Rennie Windsor Star Windsor Star 02-13-2008

    "In the month or so the town has been talking about selling the shares, three different offers have come in, Bain said. He didn't want to discuss the numbers with a proposal call now pending.

    Bids could come from Lakeshore's two partners in the 9,000- customer utility -- the towns of Essex and Kingsville -- or other utilities such as Chatham-Kent, Hydro One or Essex Power. Bain said Kingsville appears to have some interest in buying the shares."

When three people from Borealis are in Windsor to hear the Minister of Finance speak at a Rotary luncheon, I doubt if it is for the food.

Here's an interesting story out of Mississauga that may give us an indication why they were here. Of course, a deal such as this brings in money to a municipality but over time, it has to be paid back plus interest doesn't it. Before this takes place in Windsor, we need a true an open discussion about it.

Don't expect to have one however if Council acts as it has in the past. Remember what I told you before about the Purchasing Bylaw amendment when Eddie Francis became Mayor:

  • "32. (1) A Sole Source purchase may be used for the purchasing of goods and/or services for Contracts of any Contract value, in the following circumstances:
  • (i) Where a public/private partnership exists."
MFP was a P3 too remember. Didn't we learn anything from that expensive fiasco that wound up costing us millions?

  • Mississauga to sell utility
    TORONTO STAR, Apr 10,

    Enersource deal for up to $300 million could help city solve infrastructure crisis

    Mississauga has taken the drastic step of offering its municipally owned hydro utility for sale, in hopes of bringing in a windfall that would help it tackle the city's looming infrastructure crisis.

    The decision to put Enersource Corporation up for sale was made at a council meeting yesterday. Estimates are the sale could bring in between $250 million and $300 million, depending on how it is valued. The city has engaged RBC Dominion Securities to provide a valuation with a report due in June.

    The reason for putting it on the auction block is simple: to help pay for millions of dollars in infrastructure repair and renewal, the need for which threatens to put the famously debt-free city in the red.

    It's an idea that Mayor David Miller's blue-ribbon fiscal review panel earlier this year hinted might help Toronto out of its current economic jam – that is, sell part or all of Toronto Hydro to pay off a $2.6 billion debt.

    The sale would not affect consumer electricity rates, which are regulated by the province.

    In Mississauga's case, said Councillor Carolyn Parrish, it could offset the need for an annual 5 per cent infrastructure levy contemplated by council to help offset millions of dollars in extra infrastructure costs over the next 10 to 20 years.

    "Council is contemplating putting the money away in an infrastructure fund because the two senior levels of government don't seem interested in our plight," said Parrish, who represents the city on the board of Enersource.

    The utility is 90 per cent owned by Mississauga and 10 per cent by Borealis, the investment firm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).

    Potential buyers include other municipal utilities such as Hydro One or Veridian Connections (which serves parts of Durham Region). Other potential buyers are private-sector companies and Borealis, with which the city has a contract clause that could force either partner to buy the other out.

    Cash from the sale of assets, including buildings, equipment, transformer stations, poles, wires and other equipment, could be placed in a reserve fund against which it could borrow money. Or interest earned could be put toward city needs such as roads, sewers, buildings and bridges.

    Yesterday's vote came while Mayor Hazel McCallion was out of town, but has been in the works for several months.

    McCallion has engaged in a very public feud with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, accusing him of ignoring the infrastructure crisis facing municipalities.

    The decision to sell took on added urgency after talks broke down with Powerstream, the municipal utility that is majority-controlled by the City of Vaughan and which also serves Markham, Aurora and Richmond Hill.

    Eric Fagan, a spokesperson for Powerstream, expressed surprise at the sale but acknowledged that talks between the two municipal utilities had not gone anywhere.

    "We had some discussions for several months, and a few months ago we decided to go our separate ways," Fagan said.

    The decision also follows a year of very public turmoil between city council and Borealis over the remuneration paid to board members.

    Council decided board members were grossly overpaid and slashed the salaries of its eight appointees to the 10-member board. Once earning $32,000 to $45,000 a year, Enersource's board members had been among the highest paid at a GTA municipal utility. Their pay was cut to $15,000; the chair's pay from $75,000 to $45,000 a year.

    Municipalities took ownership of their local utilities after Ontario's electricity utility was deregulated in 2002. Since then, the province has encouraged the consolidation of the sector, with some municipalities choosing to sell while others, like Vaughan, have chosen to expand. The last major sale in the GTA involved the buyout of Brampton's hydro utility by Hydro One, for about $265 million.

    But with 185,000 customers, an Enersource sale would rank among the largest, though it's still smaller than Powerstream, which has about 237,800 customers.

    According to the latest filings, Enersource brings in about $700 million in revenues a year, has about $630 million in assets and is about $289 million in debt. It's not clear how the debt would be handled in a future sale."

STUDY THIS

I hope you are not eating something when you read this item since you might choke. Do not drink anything hot either since I would hate for you to burn yourself as you laugh yourself silly.

I am merely going to provide what the Mayor said on CKLW and you can write a BLOG for yourself.
  • HOST: So what’s the plan here? You had your first meeting last night, your strategic planning session, ideas were tossed around, what do you do with those ideas and how do you narrow it down to a few and get them started?

    I should say we were taking calls earlier this morning and one caller said, you know, this city is known for just over analyzing…

    Mayor Francis: Absolutely.

    HOST: …everything, studying everything and even if it was narrowed down to one idea, would that take forever to really be implemented?

    Mayor Francis: Actually, I heard that caller and I agree. We have to get out this mindset that everything needs to be studied. And really we can’t be afraid of making decisions. If they’re the right decisions and they’re supported, then there’s a reason to make them.

    On the arena issue, and I go back to our track record. We never, on my term and on my watch, we got it done. We didn’t study the arena. We just got out there. We knew what needed to be done and we got it done...

    Let’s not get seized in the fear of making decisions. Let’s recognize that we were elected to move this city forward. Let’s recognize that part of that, is making difficult decisions.

    You’re not going to be able to please everybody all the time. But at the end of the day, if you’ve got the best of interests of the city first and foremost, and you’re able to make this city move forward, then that’s what it is about."

Just to give you one small example that probably is the cause of your laughter, as I wrote before, the Mayor's first priority is jobs. We can make a very strong assumption that the Mayor started looking at the Jobs Today program sometime in February. He gave his speech outlining it on March 17 and then said the following recently 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."