Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 30, 2008

Compromise Or Complete Capitulation

Guess who are the winners and losers after Monday night at Council. This long BLOG will explain the results in detail.

Eddie Francis' misguided advocacy for his Greenlink solution has backed him into a corner from which he cannot escape. He is our City's equivalent of former Conservative PM Joe Clark now. Even getting 66% of the vote at a political convention was deemed a loss for Joe that ultimately cost him his job as Leader. Getting less than Greenlink but more than a DRIC road has to be a loss in political terms for Eddie as well that will be his legacy.

We have an investment being promised by the Senior Levels of almost $2B and 12,000 jobs for a troubled Windsor economy. But that is not good enough for our Mayor. Like Oliver, he wants more please.

No matter what happens, no matter what compromise may be developed, he has failed. He lost and did not get us his first choice, full tunnelling. He has lost again because the best he will be able to achieve now as he was told on Monday night in no uncertain terms, is a "refinement" of the DRIC road.

Oh it may be categorized as a "win" for Eddie by the cheerleaders and sycophants but you can feel the utter desperation in the Star Editorial today:

  • "What's the magic number? Somewhere between 33 and 64 per cent road coverage lies a compromise the city and province -- and long-suffering area residents -- should be able to live with. This town, with its proud union history, is no stranger to negotiations.

    But we can't negotiate with ourselves. If the other side won't do the work to understand our offer, let alone entertain the notion of finding common ground, what is there left to talk about?"
You read this BLOG not necessarily because you agree with what I write but to get an alternative point of view. Let me give you one today that you may find shocking. You may even need to read what I wrote twice just to make sure that you understand how I reach my conclusion.

I litigated or managed litigation using outside lawyers for most of my professional career. You need to understand the litigation lawyer mentality. What I found, with few exceptions, is that they like to sue. They like to go to court. That's why they are litigators. Accordingly, what took place at Council on Monday seems to be so out of character that one needs to try and understand why.

One need only look at the Capitol Theatre litigation to know that Windsor does not like to settle either. Just watch the Junction lawsuit to see how far it is pushed in the Court process before there is a resolution. Windsor does settle as with MFP but only because there our key document was allowed to be made public by the Court of Appeal thereby weakening our litigation position severely.

As far as I'm concerned, Monday night's performance at Council by the Mayor, Councillors and outside counsel was nothing more than complete capitulation by the City while pretending to be the tough guys. It was all fluff not stuff. They were waving the white flag of surrender and hoping that no one would understand that other than the Provincial politicians that Eddie had met in secret a few weeks before.

Monday night was not for the Senior Levels since Eddie had already met previously with Sandra and Dwight in secret nor was it for the DRIC people because they are mere bureaucrats and messengers, not decision makers. Monday night was theatre for the public, the media, and more importantly for the Councillors for Eddie to be able to keep them in check since otherwise he would lose control over Council.

Don't you find it amazing that so much time was spent at Council on Monday talking first about self watering planters so that if anyone was there to watch the DRIC people talking about the DRIC road, assuming that anyone knew they would be presenting, they would probably have left out of boredom at seven o'clock to watch the hockey and/or basketball games. It took that long for DRIC to appear.

Accordingly, few people would see the DRIC video on the DRIC road and it was very well done as even the Mayor admitted on Face-To-Face. All that they would know would be all of the media stories saying how Council and their lawyer destroyed DRIC with their brilliant questioning and cross-examination.

Why even Gord used my word "bushwack" to describe the farce staged by the Mayor and the Eminence Greasie to save Eddie's reputation and his future!

There is a game going on but I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what it is yet.

If the Mayor is right and the DRIC process was designed to fail, then all that Monday was designed to do was to permit the Mayor to look like a hero. Accordingly, when the Feds and Province "impose" what they always wanted on us supposedly because they cannot get anywhere with the City--- the expansion and upgrading of the E C Row Expressway--- Eddie cannot be blamed.

He will be our hero and our martyr as he forces the Senior Levels to throw money at us for the Tunnel deal and Brighton Beach (That strategy was around in Mike Hurst's day for heaven's sake so it really is nothing new!). How about money for the Airport lands or perhaps to fix up a brownfield or two like the Zalev site.

He tried as best as he could but after all, he is only the Mayor of a small town. He has no authority; he has no clout! That was another Hurst strategy!

Sure, accuse me of being very cynical but then again when only a relatively few million dollars will being given to expand the Sarnia approach to the border and almost $2 billion is being offered here, then one has to wonder and speculate. In my opinion, we are being Delrayed as I have said before by the conceptual DRIC video.

For the sake of argument today however, let's forget about my cynicism. Let's try and analyze what happened on Monday.

To me, it is totally out of character for our Mayor to set out his position so openly. When has he ever done that before? To me, it is very unusual to see an experienced litigator like David Estrin set out in public the legal arguments that he may make in six months time or perhaps even longer because the timetable for the Environmental Assessment states that it will not be completed until then. Why would he do it so far in advance and give DRIC's lawyer so much time to build a legal rebuttal?

Of course, I don't find anything wrong with setting out one's legal position even in great detail to try and force a settlement without the necessity of litigation. After all, in my opinion, that is what a good lawyer does. The last thing that a litigator should ever want to do is to have his client start a lawsuit and spend so much money in a legal case that is totally unpredictable no matter how good one feels one's case is.

That could well be what Monday night was all about. After all, in a previous BLOG, I showed you the last slide in the 46 slide Presentation and the last point on that slide where it said:

  • "Further consideration of GreenLink and its attributes will not delay the process and could help resolve EA process issues."

That is settlement talk although it took David Estrin about an hour to get there in his Presentation. Could it be that what was being said to DRIC was that our case is so powerful that you had better settle with us now?

Check out Henderson's column as well. It is the same approach. The vast majority of the column is telling us how strong the City was in its position with respect to DRIC. Yet at the end, Gord says surprisingly:

  • "Nobody wants to see this in a courtroom. That would be tragic, especially given how DRIC has been moving at tortoise speed. But that's where it's headed unless the preem and our MPPs kickstart a compromise.

    Francis is holding out the proverbial olive branch: "There's still time," he insisted. "But someone has to take the bull by the horns and fix the gaping holes."
    No kidding. Windsor needs a couple of heroes right now, folks who put this city's interests ahead of special interests. Dwight and Sandra, are you still with us?"

Again, is this an invitation by the powerful City to DRIC to negotiate or face the legal consequences?

That could well be the signal that City Council was delivering to DRIC. But I have to ask myself the question: if Windsor's case is so good then why not litigate now. It has been threatened enough times so why not do it when one's case is so strong, especially if it might not slow down the EA process but even could enhance it if there was a quick settlement.

Sue the bastards. Get on with it. Stop stalling and crying wolf. Why wait for six months or more?What is there to be afraid of? I am certain that Eddie and the Councillors can continue to delude themselves into thinking that the Public is behind them in whatever they do since they are fighting for the quality-of-life of Windsor for generations to come.

It doesn't have to lead to a trial. There can always be a settlement before the trial. The City does not have to wait for months and months if it is so clear that the DRIC process is illegal. Why prolong the agony? As Gord said:

  • "The message couldn't have been more succinct. Or menacing. Windsor can and will sue, DRIC was warned, unless you come down off your high horses and begin to recognize value in a superior plan. And offer real concessions."

I would suggest to you however that Friday's Star Editorial undercut Eddie and Estrin completely from a legal perspective. Why would the Star take such a weak-kneed position to the success fo a City lawsuit unless they had a strong inkling that Eddie's legal case was not as strong as it appeared. After all, we only heard the City's side of the argument:

  • "Whether that failure to formally analyze the plan constitutes a contravention of the Environmental Assessment process, as the city suggests and the DRIC team denies, is uncertain and a potential point of litigation...

    Even if there was no legal obligation on DRIC to weigh the city's plan against its seven factors, including air quality and community impact, there was a civic one and, in some respects, a fiduciary one."

I have to ask the obvious question whether the DRIC people are that stupid to prejudice their entire Environment Assessment and $30 million or so of taxpayer money already spent by not doing what is so clear if it needed to be done IE investigating Greenlink thoroughly. I am sure that this is not the first time that the City has made that suggestion to DRIC and I would assume as well that the bureaucrats have talked to their lawyers well in advance of Monday's meeting to understand their legal position.

Why would they ignore Greenlink? The answer is that they did not since they already incorporated Greenlink ideas in their plans, or so they have argued, and produced a number of reports slamming Greenlink.

True, they did not do a full and expensive investigation of it. Why would they? Once DRIC decided that Schwunnels could only be a maximum of 240 metres, Greenlink was dead. It did not meet their criteria.

The City has put forward red herrings several times already to stall and delay the process. In fact, the City outsmarted itself with the full tunnelling solution which allows DRIC to ignore a full Greenlink analysis! DRIC need only look at reasonable alternatives and not every alternative that the City's experts can dream up to throw a monkey wrench into the process.

I go back to the Schwartz Report #1 and remind you, dear reader, that it was the City's position for so long until the Federal Government's Cansult Report destroyed it. Then it became merely a "starting point" for negotiations as Councillor Valentinis suddenly expressed. I remember the Schwartz full tunnelling approach that was investigated by DRIC and rejected.

How much time was lost and delayed by Eddie's actions in putting forward a position that made no sense in the end. He was the Chair of the Tunnel Commission. He knew the weaknesses of a tunnel and backed off of it, especially because his rival Council Marra was its sponsor.

Now he puts forward a third approach... Greenlink. It should be obvious to almost everyone that if full tunneling is not required and an at-grade road is not acceptable, then something in between is what will happen in the end.

What if Eddie comes up with another approach or one after that...when can DRIC say enough already? Are they always at his mercy for not investigating everything about which he THINKS BIG? It is over 3 years of delay already from Schwartz #1 for which Eddie must take most of the blame.

In effect, what we are fighting over between the DRIC Road and Greenlink is a few Schwunnels at a cost of around an extra billion dollars. It is not going to happen. I know it. You, dear reader know it. DRIC knows it. And so does Eddie. That is why DRIC was so strong at the Council meeting telling the Mayor that all that they are prepared to accept at this time are "refinements."

They did not need to get into an argument with the Mayor and Council to justify their position. They did not have to do so. They just needed to smile politely and last out the time in front of Council to earn their salary. They are not going to investigate Greenlink. It adds nothing to what is being proposed other than a huge expenditure.

The reason why MTO mentioned all of its world renowned consultants at the session is to make it clear to the City and its lawyer that no Court will second-guess what they say about the road to the border. Their approach will not be set aside unless clearly they have done something illegal and if that is the case you can be assured that Mr. Estrin will not have revealed it at the public session and would have started the lawsuit already.

Don't you find it interesting again, if the City case is so strong that Gord has to beg Sandra and Dwight and perhaps even the Premier to intervene. Is Gord delivering Eddie's message in case no one read to the end of Estrin's 46 slides or they didn't understand what he was trying to say.

Even the Editorial, days after the meeting is begging again:

  • "This town, with its proud union history, is no stranger to negotiations.

    But we can't negotiate with ourselves. If the other side won't do the work to understand our offer, let alone entertain the notion of finding common ground, what is there left to talk about?"

Eddie Francis is not interested in compromising. He knows that there is no compromise left. He met Sandra and Dwight in secret without Council before the Council meeting. He must have been given the message clearly about the DRIC road. No wonder he did not want the Councillors there. They would have been devastated and folded by now. They would be clamouring for a settlement to save their political necks as well.

I found it interesting that these lines were removed from the Star online story about Deputy Mayor Varga leaving the luncheon compared with the published Star story. It shows that Monday was a farce since Eddie was not interested in compromising just trying still to pretend to be winning. It did not matter what DRIC did or said:
  • "Windsor's mayor maintains that he will push for the GreenLink alternative because this crossing will shape the region for the next 100 years. He also dismissed coming to a middle ground with DRIC.

    "It's difficult to compromise when we have already compromised so much," said Francis."

After reading the Star Editorial, I know now why the lines were removed. They are begging him in the Editorial to stop being a fool and take a compromise or else he will lose badly! The only way out for him is somewhere in the middle and soon, probably before the DRIC Open Houses. Has the Star finally figured out that Eddie's ego is bad for Windsor's future?

Eddie has never compromised. His positions such as the Horseshoe Road and full tunneling have been examined and thrown out as unrealistic. Eddie is capitulating and that is why he needs some help politically to pretend that he has won.

This is the Hargrove/Lewenza method of negotiating to pretend that one wins when one loses badly. Didn't Henderson tell us about this and the role of the CAW in a column that he published recently.

One would think that Eddie is doing what he is doing because he thinks that he has a "no-lose" case. If more is added to the DRIC road, he claims victory because of the tough position that he took at Council on Monday. That is why he talked and talked and interupted so much. If he gets nothing, he wins too because what he says is that his tough position got us more than a mere at grade expressway.

The only fly in the ointment is that the Senior Levels can pull out costing Windsor billions in investments and thousands of job lost. No politician in this City could ever survive that. That is what Eddie is deathly afraid about right now because he has heard how angry the Senior Levels are at him and fears as well that the Americans will not do anything allowing the Enhancement Project to move forward.

He also heard loud and clear what Dwight Duncan said about no project being undertaken in Windsor at all and that he would be blamed for it since Dwight has said publicly "THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG". And we know how well that Eddie takes blame. I can suspect as well what Eddie was told in private by Sandra and Dwight and that he was not happy about it.

Now you know why Eddie said on Face-to-Face that the City and the Federal Government are getting along so well. He needs leverage against the Province.

Eddie knows that Dwight in the short term would be prepared to pull the plug on the DRIC road as Minister of Finance to destroy Eddie's career. Politics is a tough game isn't it especially when the Province risks becoming a have-not one and there is not a lot of money around. Dwight has many built-in excuses to blame Eddie for the failure.

Of course, just before the Provincial election, Dwight and Sandra would come forward with the money to restart the project in time to be re-elected. Eddie would be long gone politically since his term as Mayor ends before the next Provincial election and our two Cabinet Ministers/ MPP's would be here to save us.

Eddie cannot compromise. He has been backed into a corner because of stupid actions in the past. His support of a full tunnel and then on Greenlink have made it impossible for him to accept a mere refinement of the DRIC road.

If he dares utter the C-word, "compromise," then then he has to worry that a Councillor will hurl obscene vulgarities at him. Why Councillor Lewenza took on Councillor Halberstadt sometime ago over the use of the C-word:

  • "Lewenza said Tuesday the use of the word "compromise" suggests the city is poised to settle with DRIC for something less than its official stance -- that the route must be tunnelled.
    "This is a billion-dollar file and he is out there saying we want a compromise," Lewenza said. "I challenged him on that."

Chuckle about the comment about the previous position of "full tunneling" in that quotation too.

Eddie might be afraid that Gord would turn on him too as he did with his good buddy in the Three Blind Mice column:

  • "Halberstadt and Marra don't have the excuse of being rookies. Halberstadt has been waving the white flag for some time, mouthing off about compromises and trade-offs. This isn't a rummage sale, Al. This is Windsor's fate for the next century and beyond and you sound like someone prepared to auction it to the highest bidder. Not a becoming role."

And yet, Gord used the C-word in his column. But note the interesting way he used the word, compromise, since it would not be Eddie who is trying to compromise.


Gord has to maintain Eddie's aura of being the fearless and tough leader who made DRIC blink just like Buzz or Senior would do to those automobile companies:

  • "But that's where it's headed unless the preem and our MPPs kickstart a compromise."

It is used in the context where DRIC must:

  • "come down off your high horses and begin to recognize value in a superior plan. And offer real concessions.

Do you understand then that Eddie has no bargaining position. He is finished. He did it to himself. In the end, it all comes down to an investment in Windsor and 12,000 jobs no matter what the legal position is or what the Star says. Eddie is behind the eight ball because his negotiating strategy failed miserably. It is damage control time.

Monday night was nothing more than theatre for the masses with Eddie and now Gord and the Star Editors begging the Province to intervene to save Eddie's neck. Bravado and spending taxpayer money on an advertising campaign that did not get the number of postcards that Eddie optimistically said that he would get is not helpful either. The fact that the Deputy Mayor of LaSalle walked out on Eddie speaks volumes.

It was, in other words, complete capitulation.

Eddie of course could start a lawsuit in spite of everything. Politicians do crazy things if they think it will get them re-elected or help achieve some other career objective. As Margaret Thatcher's speechwriter wrote:

  • "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?"

What would the lawsuit be? Why if I did not know any better I would say that it would be a variation of what David Estrin did in Hamilton where he was acting as outside counsel:

  • "The city is suing the civil servants and four former federal cabinet ministers for $75 million, charging the public servants illegally used the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) in 1999 to stop or delay the Red Hill Creek Expressway."

The one group in all of this who is being very quiet and merely sitting by watching it play out is the Ambassador Bridge Company. As Dan Stamper said:

  • "We continue to review our legal opportunities. I'm not going to talk about how we will challenge or if we will challenge. We are just monitoring what they are doing, telling people what's wrong with what they are doing and see how it adds up."

The irony of all this is that Eddie may actually start a lawsuit to stop DRIC and all that happens is that the Bridge Company continues on to get its permits to build its Enhancement Project.

Brian Masse And Public Authorities

This is an open BLOG to Brian Masse for which I would like an answer but which I will not receive because it is too embarrassing for our NDP MP.

I need Brian to tell us again why he is in favor of a Public Authority to run a public Bridge in the Windsor area. I have written a number of BLOGs already warning of the dangers of these types of bodies and suggesting strongly that we seriously consider what takes place in this area.

Now Canada's Auditor General has written a scathing report with respect to the Blue Water Bridge. All I know is that if private money was involved, a person would be fired on the spot for the inadequacies shown in this report. But not with Government. What's a few million dollars of taxpayer money?

Moreover when one reads the conclusions of the Report about how the Authority carries on business, it is a damning indictment. It is no wonder that the Ambassador Bridge is the best operated border crossing between Canada and the United States. Heads would roll in a privately run business.

Don't you just love the bureaucrateze:
  • "we noted opportunities for improvement in other areas"

The interesting question to ask is what was the money actually used for. The Auditor General should investigate that and not just leave the matter.

$7.5M for "a US consulting firm... to promote the Authority's interests to US and Canadian government officials and politicians, and to provide various consulting services" seems remarkable.

Since the Authority reports to Parliament through the Minister of Transport, what action is the Minister going to take to find out whether funds were spent inappropriately.

Given that the Ministry now has new powers under the International Bridges and Tunnels Act, I expect that the Minister will immediately send in the team to investigate the deficiencies and see how they have been improved. Or will that only happen with private crossings?

Here is the Report:

  • Blue Water Bridge Authority—Special Examination Report 2007

    What we examined

    The Blue Water Bridge Authority owns the Canadian portions of the Blue Water Bridge linking Point Edward, Ontario, and Port Huron, Michigan. Its mandate is to operate, maintain, and repair the Canadian portions of the Blue Water Bridge, including the approaches and adjacent structures it owns. The Authority finances its operations mainly with revenues from bridge tolls, and it generated a surplus in both 2005 and 2006. It has 78 employees, and expenses in 2006 totalled $20.7 million.

    The Authority was established in 1964, became a Crown corporation in 2002, and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Our special examination covered the period between September 2006 and March 2007.

    Why it's important

    The Blue Water Bridge is a major access point for commercial traffic to the south-central United States, handling about 10 percent of Canada's trade with the US. About 3.7 million passenger vehicles and 1.7 million commercial vehicles use the bridge each year.

    What we found

    We identified a significant deficiency in the Authority's management of a contract for consulting services.

    The Authority paid a US consulting firm about $7.5 million, over nine years, to promote the Authority's interests to US and Canadian government officials and politicians, and to provide various consulting services. It awarded the contract without competition and without the Board's approval. It did not specify the services to be performed and did not regularly assess the services it received; nor did it inform the Minister of the consultant's US activities. In December 2006, the Authority terminated the contract.

    While we found that the Authority has good practices for planning and managing its structures, we noted opportunities for improvement in other areas.

    The Authority needed to develop policies and procedures for contracting with suppliers and monitoring their work; re-establish formal coordination of bridge maintenance activities with its US counterpart; develop an environmental policy setting out goals and activities; improve its strategic planning by identifying relevant objectives, strategies, and performance measures; monitor its performance; and provide more complete performance and strategic information in its corporate plans.

    The Board of Directors needed to exercise closer stewardship, particularly in its relations with the Authority's major stakeholders, in strategic planning, in approving contracts, and in assessing its performance and any impact the number of directors might have on its efficiency.

Breaking BLOG News: Cropsey Slams DRIC

I would not want to be the MDOT spokesperson in Lansing these days who has to deal with the Michigan Legislators on DRIC! Take a look at the Press Release that Michigan Senator Alan Cropsey just issued. That is the Legislative equivalent of the WOW Factor considering who he is.

Cropsey is the Chair of the Special Committee that is going to look at how MDOT handled the DRIC study in Legislative hearings to take place shortly. After all, only $34M has been spent on the study on the American side of the river alone.

I just hope for their sake that MDOT did not dot the "t's" and cross the "i's!" I wonder when Canada's Auditor General will follow along. After all, wasn't there a Blue Water Bridge fiasco recently over a much smaller sum of money!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Amnesia Pandemic Alert To Be Issued

I have it on good authority that a medical alert about a possible amnesia pandemic is to be issued shortly by the Health Department to cover a very specific area in the City of Windsor. That area is around Windsor City Hall.

I have warned in the past that fumes from the Tunnel Ventilation Building where Tunnel exhaust is spread seem to concentrate in one particular area and cause dramatic changes to the memories of those who breathe in the Tunnel exhaust fumes. That is why DRIC would have needed to do intense investigation into the many Schwunnels of Greenlink if it was to move forward as an alternative. Thank goodness it is not!

As an obvious example, our Mayor and Councillors cannot seem to agree as to whether or not full information about the Tunnel deal has been shared completely. Somebody has forgotten what has been disclosed to date it seems.

Actually, given the fact that the Detroit Council seems to want nothing to do with the Tunnel deal at all anymore, perhaps someone has forgotten to call off the team of outside lawyers who are working so much on this file so that taxpayers do not have to spend any more money on a transaction that appears dead. We have spent a million taxpayer dollars PLUS already in case our Council members forgot.

But I digress. I'm certain by now that you have read about or heard about the brouhaha involving Eddie Francis and the Deputy Mayor of La Salle, Bill Varga. Mind you, if you get your news from the CKLW webpage, you will have no idea what I am talking about because when you read their News Headlines it appears that Bill and Eddie are the best of friends.

In any event, at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon during his Greenlink presentation, the Mayor again went after the Laurier Parkway issue
  • "Francis was befuddled as to what caused the controversy Wednesday, saying he was just stating the facts.

    "I indicated that in comparing 2007 to 2008, it now provided for a future connection to Laurier Parkway," Francis said of the DRIC process. "I even gave LaSalle credit for being able to convince DRIC that it was important."

Do you see what I mean? Even the Star noticed and commented on the fact in the news story!

Eddie was "befuddled" so quickly, in a matter of a few minutes now! The poor man forgot that this Star story said the following:

  • "Two Windsor councillors suggested Monday night the province held a secret meeting with some county politicians and, by promising funding for other projects, bought their support for last week's long-awaited border-access proposal...

    He was asked if that means DRIC support from some in the county was bought with related road projects.

    "It would certainly give that appearance," Valentinis said.

    Coun. Ken Lewenza said the deals that may have been negotiated with county politicians in exchange for DRIC support are the Manning Road expansion in Tecumseh and a project for Laurier Drive in LaSalle."

Those remarks are truly inflammatory! How could anyone forget them since they are so serious a charge. They are verging on alleging an illegality.

It is very, very scary what is going on from a health perspective. I do not would wish to minimize the impact of the possible serious disease. Now you know, dear reader, why I rarely attend at Council sessions when I used to go there before so often. Now that I do not go there on Monday nights, I am remembering things so much better like my wife's birthday or our anniversary.

In case you think that I am joking around, I am not. Here is an excerpt I transcribed from the A-Channel News video from the luncheon in which the Mayor said:
  • "For a strange reason unbeknownst to any of us...they now provide a direct connection to a future Laurier Parkway."
Oh my goodness, the Mayor's memory has failed completely! There was a letter dated May 20 that was sent to him by the Province explaining everything. If only the City Website had been working so that it could have been posted as a Communications item for everyone to see but unfortunately as you know now I was told that there were IT problems with the website most of last week.

The majority of the people then would have given up and would therefore have never seen the letter. You see, if other people had been to the City website and saw the letter they could have reminded the Mayor at the luncheon about it because they saw it already.

Here is the letter that the Mayor forgot about:

What is even sadder is that the MTO rep at the Council meeting said the same thing to the Mayor, something that seems that he forgot about in only a few days between the date of the Council meeting and the luncheon. What is even more troubling is that it looks like the Councillors forgot about the letter also so those that attended the luncheon could have corrected him on the spot!

I'm telling you... stay away from City Hall. The pandemic is spreading rapidly. You have been warned!

So You Think We Are Getting A DRIC Road

Of course we are.

Just like the Delray Community will become a great place to live in Michigan after the new bridge goes through their community after looking at the conceptual drawings DRIC provided.

  • "MDOT, in partnership with FHWA is exploring a number of concepts by which enhancements may be made to the Delray area as it becomes the “host community” for the DRIC project. These concepts include partnering with the private sector and with other government agencies in areas such as job training, small business development, improving and replacing housing stock, and other community enhancing amenities."

But you have to watch out for those pesky disclaimers such as the one in the bottom left corner of that design:

They do not promise to do anything because legally MDOT cannot, the City of Detroit has no money to do anything and it will depend on private enterprise to redevelop the community when to date private enterprise has shown no interest in doing so.

Promises, promises. It was all a dream designed to shut opponents up until it was too late to complain.

Take a look at the Sarnia story from the London Free Press below. They are getting $26M for 2 lanes of concrete for a 16 km road to the border with no environmental assessment and we are getting $1.6B for a DRIC road of almost the same length with an EA that has gone on for eternity and has another year or two to go still.

We will get the DRIC road when pigs can fly! We are getting an upgraded E C Row expanded to at least 8 lanes uploaded by the Province. Don't fool yourself thinking otherwise. Windsorites have been Delrayed!

I wonder when the Sarnia Mayor will demand a tunnel or a Greenlink equivalent for his road to the bridge too. His City is being short-changed by the Senior Levels by almost $1.5B for heaven's sake. I am sure that Sarnia can use the money too being a "host community" for international trucks as well.

I think Eddie gave away the game at Council on Monday. If Eddie is right, and he probably is because he knows a good part of what will really happen given his position as Mayor, we will never get a DRIC road. The DRIC process was designed to fail so that their road never gets EA approval and never gets built. And the Governments do not waste money on a road that is 10 times too expensive to build. The closest we will get to it is the animation of it on DVD!

Karl Marx was wrong----Artist's renditions and animations are the opiate of the masses!

  • 402 truck waiting lanes decried

    Sun, May 11, 2008

    BORDER TRAFFIC WOES: Sarnia opponents of a highway-widening plan cite congestion, environmental concerns

    A 16-kilometre-long "parking lot" full of idling trucks waiting to cross the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia?

    That prospect has Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and environmentalists decrying the just-approved addition of two truck lanes for Highway 402 from the bridge east to Mandaumin Road.

    The extra lanes, specifically for border-bound trucks, are part of the Ontario government's road-widening plan, estimated to cost $26 million.

    Border backlogs often plug up traffic for kilometres east of the Blue Water Bridge.

    The extra air pollution from adding more traffic lines, in an area known for bad air, has led several residents to plead for a full environmental assessment.

    But Environment Minister John Gerretsen has rejected that, paving the way for the project's go-ahead.

    "A generation from now will curse this generation if this project proceeds," says Bradley, a longtime opponent of the highway-widening plan. He prefers a truck-marshalling site away from the urban area, where rigs could wait out border congestion.

    Port Huron, Mich., across the border, needs an expanded border entry, but that won't happen for several years.

    The Michigan city must be pleased, Bradley said: "We become their parking lot, their marshalling yard, with no significant economic benefit."

    Last week, MPP Bob Bailey (PC - Sarnia-Lambton) said he was told the widening will proceed. The Transportation Ministry has yet to make any announcement.

    Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice has urged the U.S to put more money into facilities to speed traffic at border crossings.

    Robert Swift of Point Edward, one of several citizens who pushed for a full environmental assessment (EA), is bitterly disappointed, noting it will add more bad-air diesel emissions to "the heart of our community."

    "Shame on all of them," he said of the McGuinty government and groups like the local chamber of commerce and Blue Water Bridge Authority who pushed the plan.

    Swift argued no case can be made for the expansion. "There is no pressing need for the two dedicated truck lanes, given the ever-decreasing volume of trucks crossing the bridge over the past four years," he said.

    He received a letter from Gerretsen this week rejecting calls for an EA. Gerretsen said air quality will be monitored once the road is widened.

    Bradley said he's disappointed a provincial government that says it cares about the environment by banning pesticides, promoting recycling and cleaning up toxic sites is pushing this project.

    In Windsor, city officials have environmental concerns about a proposed $1.6-billion, below-grade border entry, but they favour an alternative plan, arguing it will produce fewer emissions.

    "Both communities are saying we are not going to put economic development ahead of our health," Bradley said.

The Ultimate "W" Strap-on

I am sure that CKLW's News Director, Jason Moore, can explain the different treatment of news coverage by his station compared with that described by the other local media. I am sure that his website visitors would like to know too!



The Deputy Mayor of Lasalle is sticking up for the City of Windsor. Bill Varga is responding to comments made by Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara, who chastised city council for questioning the DRIC group and its border access route proposal. Varga says it's not helping anyone to go on the attack against another municipality. He thinks Windsor council has a right to voice an opinion.


LaSalle deputy mayor walks out on Francis' speech

'I thought it was inappropriate what was said'

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LaSalle Deputy Mayor Bill Varga walked out of the annual chamber of commerce mayor's luncheon Wednesday, angered by what Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis had to say about LaSalle's proposed Laurier Parkway.

"I thought it was inappropriate what was said," said Varga, a 34-year veteran of municipal politics.

"I listened to the mayor, then he got to where he brought in the Laurier extension. I didn't want to listen to that. He made it sound like we were taking away from Windsor."


Bill Varga Loses Appetite At Mayor Francis's Luncheon

La Salle deputy mayor storms out as Francis gets political over Greenlink

Mayor Eddie Francis chose to politicize his speech to 300 members of the Chamber of Commerce at the annual Windsor mayor's luncheon .

However, by the time he had finished.. 299 guests remained.

CBC News

They also reported that the Deputy Mayor was upset and he said that he could not sit in after what was said that was "totally uncalled for" and not right.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More On Monday's Council Meeting

Just some more thoughts about Monday's Council meeting:


You may have seen the Star online headline the other day:
  • "City may seek legal action to derail DRIC"
It could have been written this way instead based on past examples:
  • "City may seek legal action to derail DRIC...OR maybe not"
Our little shepherd boy, the Mayor, and his flock of sheep are threatening a lawsuit again against the Provincial Government road. How tedious [yawn].

Of course, this time, to try to build up their credibility, they had to bring in the heavy artillery by having their outside counsel and experts bushwhack the DRIC representatives. I wonder how much this extravaganza cost taxpayers in airfare alone, never mind legal and consulting fees for so many people. They better have travelled through YQG too. Or else!

I'm sure that our Provincial representatives, Sandra and Dwight, who organized the train trip to Toronto to boost Windsor must wonder why they bothered but for the fact that they owe a loyalty and a responsibility to their hometown.

I wonder what the potential investors in Toronto must think, if they actually even read the stories about Windsor and the border, of a City that is prepared to chase away an investment of several billion dollars over a couple of Schwunnels.

My reaction would be what kind of a City Government do they have in Windsor given the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star stories that outlined Windsor's woes when the Mayor and Council want to bite the hand that feeds them.

I know that if I was in their position, all I would do is shake my head and look to see how I can invest in other areas of Southwest Ontario.

Seriously though, we should all strap a "W" on our chests and get the message out there that Eddie doesn't really mean it. He does not have the nerve to start a lawsuit because if he did he would have started already given what Mr. Estrin had to say.

As I wrote before [May 07, 2008. "The Mayor Who Cried Wolf"]
  • "It's all a joke anyway. Eddie has no intention of suing so he should stop posturing before he completely destroys this City. He would be the star witness in the lawsuit and he could not take that kind of pressure. Can you imagine if the City lost and he was forced to take the blame as the Senior Levels pulled out and 12,000 jobs disappeared...

    Isn't our Mayor the little shepherd boy. I think I have lost track of how many times he or one of the Councillors threatened litigation against the Senior Levels."

I can just imagine what the DRIC representatives said after the Council meeting on Monday. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaa


He is not pulling the wool over my eyes!

What a wonderful presentation that David Estrin gave with respect to his proposed lawsuit respecting DRIC's Environmental Assessment process. I know that I would be shaking in my boots if I was a Provincial Government representative after hearing what Mr. Estrin had to say. NOT!

The PowerPoint presentations given by the City's representatives at the meeting totalled 46 pages according to the copy that I was sent after I made a request. What the City was actually trying to accomplish with everything they did on Monday night is the set out in the last point on the last page.

All that Eddie wants to do is talk some more and some more and some more. After his performance on Monday, if I was advising the Province and the Federal Government, I would tell them to ignore him. He is irrelevant from now on in this matter.


What childish behaviour over the border road that is being displayed by our Mayor. He should be sheepish over this

If you don't support Greenlink and everything that he wants, then he calls you names! You are a Nine-Point Planner, an E C Row destroyer and an at-grade road cheapo.

When you are called an "enemy," then you will know that you have made it!



Obviously, one of the weak points of the City's position with respect to Greenlink and the DRIC Road is the high cost of Greenlink. DRIC estimated I believe that the Greenlink cost was $800 million more than that for the DRIC road. It was interesting to me that Mr. Estrin's presentation did not deny the cost differential or, at the least, provide an alternative amount.

The key factors for the difference in costs according to DRIC are:

  • Is based on a 7.3 km highway, not the 9 to 12 km highway needed to fully connect
    Highway 401 to a new bridge inspection plaza.

  • Does not account for inflation and is presented in 2007 dollars.

  • Does not include engineering and contract administration

  • Specifies substandard shoulder widths

One would think therefore that a good part of Mr. Estrin's presentation should have been spent on the cost differential so as to justify it. Instead, he just glossed over it using the tactic to ignore it so that it is forgotten and goes away.

Here is how the $800 million difference was dismissed in the PowerPoint presentation

Another slide said

  • "While GreenLink is initially somwhat more costly than the Parkway, GreenLink provides more long-term benefits."

Wow...Those Toronto lawyers sure live in a different price bracket than I'm used to now that I live in Windsor. Can you imagine, Mr. Estrin can describe $800 million as "somewhat less," "somewhat more costly."

In my world, that position is somewhat ridiculous.


I heard from a usually reliable source that none of the DRIC people have been sleeping properly since Monday night. They lie awake in bed at night just counting sheep. Even the "apology" for Windsor's behaviour from the Mayor of Tecumseh did not help. They knew that Gord would not have time to do a column for Tuesday's newspaper but absolutely expected a brutal column to be published today attacking them in a way that only Gord can do.

Shockingly, not only was there no column but there was no Star Editorial either.

I understand that trauma counsellors have now been assigned to some of the DRIC members, who may be in a deep psychological depression due to the Estrin legal attack and the expected Henderson counter-offensive, to help them cope with with what will definitely be a fuming Henderson diatribe, a Star Editorial and cartoon on Saturday.


I thought that the Mayor in answer to Councillor Halberstadt suggested to citizens that all of the Councillors were fully informed about the Tunnel issues. Imagine my surprise when I read this on Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG:

  • "I would remind you again of my still outstanding Council question, presented on June 25, 2007, almost a year ago now, asking for an acturarial study, a detailed financial prospective, a risk assessment, a traffic volulme/revenue/expenditure analysis since Sept. 11, 2001, and a projection of the lifespan of the facility.

    Counc. Bill Marra has asked for a similar analysis as a member of the Tunnel Commission, and is also cooling his heels waiting for answers, in his case for nine months."

What's going on here? There seems to be two conflicting points of view. Have the Councillors been fully informed by the Mayor and his lawyer or haven't they? Seriously, over a million dollars of taxpayer money has been spent on this file so far. That could have been used to buy a lot of lamb chops for Councillor dinners.

That should be a very simple question to ask and to have answered. Perhaps the Windsor Star and Gord Henderson could start asking some questions because they have been disturbingly silent too.

While it would be nice to know who's actually telling the truth in this matter, I am more concerned about controlling what the Mayor and Council want to do with respect to the Tunnel. Accordingly, in my opinion Councillor Halberstadt should in fact introduce a Notice of Motion at the next Council meeting demanding that no action be taken for 30 days after the Mayor presents his Report to Council with respect to the Tunnel deal so that Councillors and the public have sufficient time to digest the information to determine whether the deal makes sense or not.

At the Council meeting after this when the Notice is debated, assuming that another Councillor has the guts to second the Motion, Windsorites get the opportunity to appear in front of Council as a delegation to express their point of view on the Motion!

In the meantime, the Councillor should demand that the Mayor come clean now and tell us what this deal is really all about in detail.

Don't you wish that we had a Council member who has the intestinal fortitude to speak out like the President of Council in Detroit who said:

  • "Cockrel called the proposal to sell the city's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel for $75 million an "irresponsible and shortsighted" plan that would fail to address the city's structural deficit, now in its fourth year. Noting it is the second time the mayor has proposed the plan, Cockrel said each time the proposal was given to the council without adequate information or time to review.

    "Council has yet to be convinced that limited information in the current incarnation of the deal [is in the city's interest]," he said."

Instead, we get Councillors who are prepared to allow themselves to be muted by confirming a Resolution that the Mayor is the Voice of Council and that they cannot say anything in detail about the border issue without his permission. We also get Council members who seem agreeable with the following since they have been silent on the Tunnel issue as well:

  • "Coun. Bill Marra, a member of the city tunnel commission, said councillors have been asked to refrain from commenting until the [Tunnel] negotiations are complete."

All I can say about this is: Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Money For The Arts Community

Enough of the border for a bit!

You had better get your tickets early or you will miss out. After all, the play's the thing.

I always wanted to be an theatrical impresario and produce plays in the community or be a producer in the movie business. Heck, I even did a movie outline once based on a personal experience but it never got very far unfortunately. I had planned that Tom Hanks was going to play me in the film too. Oh well.

I tell you this because I had this is really wild idea after reading a story in the newspaper the other week. I figured that this could be my claim to fame. Moreover, I would be able to help the Arts community by generating a very substantial sum of money for them. Now I haven't got it completely worked out yet but let me tell you where I am heading with all of this.

I am sure that you saw the story in the Star where the owners of the Junction are suing the City for $1.5 million. Included in that figure are amounts of $500,000 for bad faith, and $250,000 for punitive and exemplary damages. That would make the lawsuit really ugly if it went to trial since those are very serious allegations AND very fascinating as well as a dramatic story.

A key line in the story for my strategy for my idea is:
  • "Mayor Eddie Francis took the unusual step of removing himself from the chair of the council meeting a year ago during a final debate on the Junction's fate in order to strongly oppose the restaurant's bid for a business permit."

That line makes the Mayor a key player in whatever happens. His action was so strange that it demands understanding why he did it.

I have not seen the court papers yet on this lawsuit so I don't know whether anyone other than the City is being sued. If people are being sued personally as well, that makes the lawsuit even more interesting and the story even more compelling. But if not, it really doesn't matter.

In case you have forgotten also, another person who might play a role in this file by the time it is over is our NDP MP, Brian Masse. Again as the Star reported:

  • "Masse, who decided to enter the political arena on the heels of his fight against the Junction's plans for a mega bar more than a decade ago"

Tell me what you think of this idea.

Claudio Martini is the lawyer for the Junction. He is no pushover especially considering that he is the lawyer for the downtown bar, the Box Office sports bar. He already has a controversy with the City over the 4 a.m. mandatory closing bylaw. So you know that his questioning of City representatives in the Junction case will not be pleasant as the matter proceeds to trial.

Depending on how the case goes, it could well be that both Francis and Masse could be forced to attend Examinations for Discovery and give evidence and also appear as witnesses at trial.

Are you starting to see where I am headed with all of this? Can you feel the theatrical tension building considering who may be involved in whatever the Junction owner and his lawyer are planning? Lawsuits are like theatre in my experience.

Now here is what my idea is. Examinations for Discovery are generally held in private with just the lawyers and the person examined being in attendance. However, a transcript is prepared as questions are asked and answered. So far, we do not allow television cameras in the courtroom at trials in Ontario so that we can see the court process live but again, transcripts of the questioning at trial are prepared.

What I suggest the Arts community do is either rent the 5,000 seat Casino convention centre or the 6.500 seat East End arena or perhaps both, depending on demand, and immediately after the transcripts are prepared have actors read the transcripts as if it is a play. It should be done both for the Examination and trial. The transcript would serve as the script of the play. I am sure that they could sell out the tickets for the performance easily especially if Eddie and Brian were being examined.

It would be just as if we were a participant sitting in at the Discovery or at the trial watching every move being made. As if we were really there, like a fly on the wall (Oooops, that is another court case.)

The actors would play the part of the lawyers and witnesses. The lawyer-actor would ask the question and the witness-actor would answer it using the appropriate theatrical style based on the characteristics of the person being represented. It would be as real-life as possible!

In total we are looking at about 11,000 to 12,000 seats and with the drama that will be created, people would come in droves to watch the show. Now an Examination or the trial could last anywhere from four to six hours per day so probably the performance would start at around 6 p.m. and continue until 10 or 11 at night. During all of this time people would be eating and drinking so think of the concession sales as well. In passing, the Spits would make a fortune too at the arena for doing nothing because of the arena deal with the City.

The fun part in all of this, and the way to get the ticket sales booming, is to hold auditions for the parts of the various "stars." You've seen them on television so budding actors would be asked to apply for the role of Eddie Francis or Brian Masse or Claudio Martini or George Sofos. Clearly, someone will have to be the Judge as well but perhaps I can play that role!

We could have an American Idol type audition process where citizens would vote as to who the actor should be for each part. By the time the performance was ready to begin, there'd be so much demand for it that I could see the story being spread across North America. Movie rights, theatrical rights, TV rights... those could all be sold by the Arts community and would keep the various organizations in the black for years to come. Who knows, it might even help to reopen the Capitol Theatre too.

When the trial was over, the transcripts could be condensed to the length of a typical theatrical performance and could head to Broadway or the West End in London. Imagine the actor playing Eddie winning a "Tony" or the play being chosen as "Best Drama of the Year!"

Don't tell me that I don't have a "W" strapped onto my chest with an idea like this to put Windsor on the map. Perhaps the WEDC people when they head off to London at taxpayer expense in a few weeks could scout out a theatre for us!

If it worked for the Junction case, can you imagine the sales for the DRIC lawsuit by the City. The TicketMaster system could crash because of ticket demand. Who would play Dave Wake or David Estrin? Why the possibilities are endless in this City for lawsuits.

Lights, camera, action... I can hardly wait until this starts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DRIC: A Process Designed To Fail

It all came to me in a flash, another Eureka moment. It came in an aside from the Mayor that was caught on the microphone. One sentence of significance in all of those four and a half hours of talk, talk, talk. A piece of wheat amongst all of the chaff.

DRIC was a process designed to fail!

I needed my beauty sleep. No wise-cracks please. There was no way that I intended to stay up half the night writing a BLOG about my impressions of the Council meeting. It just was not worth it given the charade that was being played out yesterday.

Eddie is merely playing his usual game of trying to divide the Feds and the Province for his advantage. Remember when Dalton McGuinty was his buddy against the Feds. Now he has no problems with the Feds as he told John Fairley on Face-To-Face but the Province is the stumbling block as he tried to demonstate last night. Unfortunately, Eddie has not yet realized that both of them cannot tolerate him.

If last night was "real" and if Council wants to understand why there will be no co-operation with DRIC and the various Governments, the silliness at Council last night will be the prime reason. Last night was the kind of discussion that Windsor taxpayers are used to having at Council. It is all one sided with no desire to listen or to understand. It was clearly designed by the Mayor for the Mayor and for his future to pretend that he is not responsible for the border failure.

If there was a human on the Phoenix Landing craft that landed on Mars looking down on Earth yesterday and at the City of Windsor in particular, they would have called 911 to have the police attend at City Hall. You see there was a mugging by 11 men and women in the Council Chambers against some poor, innocent out-of-towners. Here is what was originally on the Delegation List:
  • "Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC)
    -Dave Wake, Manager, Planning Office, Ministry of
    Transportation-Windsor Border Initiatives, Implementation Group;
    and Fausto Natarelli, Director, Ministry of Transportation-Windsor
    Border Initiatives, Implementation Group

    -David Estrin, Legal Counsel; Nasri Munfah, Parsons Brinckerhoff;
    and Peter Walker, Walker Nott Dragicevic Associates Ltd.-Planning
    & Urban Design Consultants (available for questions)

The phrase "available for questions" was removed sometime after 1:20 p.m. yesterday, the time when I copied what was on the City website. I was shocked that Mr. Estrin gave his performance yesterday for about an hour after what I had read. But that was the point wasn't it, to fool everyone. It was nothing more than manipulation of the Agenda as I have pointed out before to accomplish a purpose. In fact, if you look at the Order of Business, DRIC is not mentioned at all.

Last night was the coward's way out. An hour of Estrin huffing and puffing and trying to blow down the DRIC house by suggesting to them that what they did was in violation of the law and would give rise to a major lawsuit. But then we had the Mayor again asking for timelines and making it clear that nothing was going to happen until after December when the DRIC Environmental Assessment was complete. So we have about another six more months of this nonsense. If the Mayor wants to sue, then sue. If Mr. Estrin is correct, then the City already has the legal grounds necessary to stop the process. Why doesn't he do it? What is he waiting for?

Clearly, Eddie has no intention of doing so. It is another threat with no substance. Crying wolf again.

Four and a half hours last night was nothing more than Eddie Francis pretending that there was going to be litigation while in fact he is hoping for a settlement. The session was nothing more than trying to convince the DRIC that they needed to sit down with the City to avoid years of lawsuits. The trouble that the Mayor has with the Governments is that he has no bargaining position. If they decide to get tough with the City, they just walk away taking billions of dollars of investments and thousands of jobs with them. Even Eddie Francis with all of his cheerleaders and sycophants could not survive that.

As you will recall, the Minister of Finance has already threatened that Windsor could lose everything. Last night's extravaganza will be pointed to as the main reason why the Senior Levels could do nothing with the City of Windsor if that was to happen. We will have the fiasco of Highway 401 not be completed to the border all over again. History will have repeated itself with Eddie as Mayor this time. It would be his legacy and his shame!

Windsor would again make it to the record books with a road project as the City that squandered the biggest opportunity ever to get out of the depression that we are in economically.

I expect that the DRIC people at first were quite shellshocked at the intensity of the attack against them and the unexpectedness. I expect that the Councillor questioning was well orchestrated with Mr. Estrin sitting nearby to feed the Mayor additional questions as the night wore on. By the way, the Council chambers are becoming a platform for advertising with the Greenlink banner and the Red Bull cans last night. I can hardly wait to see the Mayor and Councillors in sweatshirts with some company's logo on it shortly. Perhaps that is one way to reduce the City's deficit.

The DRIC people were able to gather their wits around them quickly because frankly they didn't care. They had to put in a few hours of torture but then they were finished dealing with this Council for more months. Towards the end, there was some testiness in the answers to the questions that were being posed because I think by that time they had had enough of following orders that they clearly had received from Queen's Park to be polite and respectful.

I enjoyed watching the faces of some of their people last night on camera smiling smugly with a look of amusement as the Mayor and Councillors ranted on. Why should they care... the Premier and the senior Ministers from this area are on their side already.

That Mayor of ours is one tough Perry Mason. He was all over the DRIC people with his days of actual legal experience showing in his cross-examination attempts. I wonder what he will feel like when he is a witness in whatever lawsuit that he brings. I expect that he will fold like an accordion after a tough, experienced practitioner starts asking him questions. We have seen that already with him not being able to face criticism or blame. Just remember that pesky environmentalist who took him on successfully or the Bridge Co. President at Council!

To be direct about it, one of the main purposes of the evening was for Eddie to demonstrate that the City, and himself primarily, was not to be blamed for any delays in the process. Dave Wake was much too polite when he attributed the one-year delay to the foundation work that the DRIC had to undertake to find out if the brine wells and salt mines would cause any problems. I'm surprised that he did not talk about the Schwartz Report #1 and the full tunneling positions put forward by the City that never had a chance of ever being acceptable but which had to be examined in detail by DRIC as being part of the problem. Moreover, how much money is the City actually spending to support Greenlink as another stall device.

We now know that City's campaign was a failure after spending so much of taxpayer dollars. And it came out of the mouth of the Mayor. There are only 16,500 postcards supposedly in support of Greenlink that came in after the massive advertising blitz. Wasn't Eddie's number between 20 and 30,000? So he got about half as many as he optimistically expected. Last night it was also mentioned that amongst that number of postcard signers were people from the County. If the County is included than Eddie's numbers are even worse. That will hardly convinced DRIC to move forward by incorporating more of Greenlink into their Parkway.

It can hardly be made any clearer that DRIC has no interest in discussing Greenlink any further. They have incorporated in the DRIC Parkway that they have put forward everything of Greenlink that they are going to accept. All that will happen now is "refinement."

A big issue will be whether or not DRIC have the obligation to examine Greenlink the way Estrin said that they must. I'm sure that the Bridge Company will be able to use his presentation as the basis of their lawsuit against the Governments. I could not help but think last night as I listened to Estrin that what he was doing was helping the Bridge Company to sue to take the City off the hook so that it would not have to do so. Let the Bridge Company take the hit for costing Windsor jobs, not Eddie.

After all, if Estrin is right that DRIC had to examine Greenlink as a reasonable alternative, then DRIC also had to look at the Enhancement Project in the same way. Of course they did not do so. Dave Wake said that last night that it was DRIC that put forward the 15 Crossing alternatives as their own suggestions. None of the alternatives was the Enhancement Project but was DRIC's version of what the Ambassador Bridge was going to do. It bore no relationship to reality but was a good way to kick them out of the process to achieve their objective of forcing the Bridge Company to sell out cheaply.

The DRIC people are smart. If they needed to put in a comparison with Greenlink they would have done so. If they didn't need to do so, then obviously they wouldn't have done it. Of course, what we heard last night was the advocacy position put forward by the City's lawyer. Naturally it was going to be one-sided. But seriously, could DRIC be as stupid as Estrin was suggesting.

Let's assume that they are not stupid. Then the Estrin presentation was nothing more than another negotiating tool that just will not work unless the Governments are concerned that Estrin's lawsuit, even if it is frivolous, will be a stall. For that reason they might negotiate something.

But let's assume that Eddie was right. That the DRIC process was designed to fail by not properly examining Greenlink. Why would the Senior Levels do something seemingly so idiotic?

The answer is obvious: Windsor has been Delrayed!

For years we have been led to believe that we are going to have this magnificent roadway to the border crossing, 10 times more expensive than any other road project in Ontario. Why that video prepared by DRIC was fabulous. Parks, bike trails, green space... why it is heaven on earth. Of course, it is now receiving visibility from other areas like Sarnia, like Sault Ste. Marie and the Maritime provinces for all of the money that the Governments are going to spend in Windsor. Can you imagine, $5 billion for a Bridge here is being quoted. No wonder the rest of the country will want a piece of the action and their chunk of heaven too when a new roadway projects are to be built anywhere else in Canada.

This is just like in Delray when MDOT did their conceptual drawings for what the new Delray would look like after the Public Bridge was built. Of course, the US Governments would not pay for the improvement of Delray legally and it would be left for the financially struggling City of Detroit to redevelop or private enterprise and we know that's not going to happen.

It's no different here. We know in our heart of hearts that the Governments are not going to spend $1.6 billion on Windsor. We also know that our E C Row Expressway is going to be the main road to the border and will be upgraded and uploaded to the Province. We know that there will be some modifications to Huron Church Road to make it a better access route to the border. That gives us, or rather the Senior Levels, road redundancy to the border crossing. It all will cost significantly less than DRIC and will be consistent with what the Senior Levels have wanted ever since the Joint Management Committee Report came out in late 2002.

It will be so easy to do as well. The Senior Levels will denounce Windsor, upload the road very easily and use the new rules for Environmental Assessment that have a six-month maximum time period to do so. It hardly changes the timetable for what they Governments wanted to do in the first place. What it does do is give them the excuse for doing what they wanted to do in the first place.

Is Eddie a willing participant in this charade? It would not seem so after last night. I really have no idea. However, if the Province kicks in $75 million or more for the Tunnel deal, then one would have to be very suspicious. If the Feds propose a nice deal over Brighton Beach, then one would have to wonder. Remember, even the first Schwartz Report supported the upgrading of EC Row without saying so specifically. The issue about that road for the City has been timing, not whether it should be done or not. All one needs to do is take a look at is the drawing "Phase 3: Lauzon Parkway and Manning Road Extensions " to understand that.

A few more thoughts about last night. If you watched some or all of it, then Eddie's position was very simple, just like a spoiled child saying my road is better than your road. This was not designed as a meeting to try to get cooperation but as one-upsmanship and trying to force something down DRIC's throat. It makes a mockery of wanting to have a fruitful discussion with the Ministers from the area as well. Why should the City position be any different with them? It provides another reason for the Ministers not to meet.

My daughter towards the end of the evening came into the room where I was watching television and wanted to know if everything was all right. You see, she heard me screaming at the television set for Eddie Francis to shut his mouth.

This wasn't a session for Councillors to ask questions of DRIC but for them to be his foils. It was a session for Eddie Francis to show how smart he is and how irrelevant the Councillors are. It was an opportunity for him to demonstrate positively why he is the Voice of Council and that they may not discuss the border issue in detail without referring the matter to him to allow him to be the star.

How many times did he interrupt the Councillors? How many times did he take it upon himself to let DRIC know what the Councillors really meant by their questions? How many times did he take over the Councillors' questioning to try to score his cross-examining points? How much did he speak in total in comparison with Councillors? How many mayoral clarifications were there? I would be ashamed and afraid to show my face in public if I was a Councillor after the Council meeting yesterday. They have been made to look like fools and in public in front of electors by the Mayor.

Eddie Francis was incapable of keeping quiet last night. The one big thing that surprised me was that the Mayor did not give us one of has long, self-serving statements at the end of the meeting setting out his brilliance and summing up for us what the evening was about. The opportunity was certainly there but I expect that he did not want to do so at 11:30 PM at night because most people would have gone to bed after watching the hockey and/or the basketball game.

As Eddie Francis said in the Gord Henderson column today:

  • "I'll tell you the reason why the bars were half-empty. It's because Windsorites were at Joe Louis (Arena) watching the game," said Francis. He said Torontonians might not understand this, because they don't get to go to Stanley Cup finals (and probably won't in this lifetime if the Leafs stay true to form), but thousands of Windsor area residents would have been among the more than 80,000 fans who took in a smorgasbord of top sports events Saturday, including the Red Wings game, the Pistons playoff game and a Tigers game."

As for Eddie, he will have lots of opportunity over the coming few months is to let us know how wonderful and intelligent he is since he will not sue no matter what Estrin said. Why would Eddie waste words at Council when no one at home is watching.

Last night was nothing more than a farce but part of a plan designed to show that we have a tough Mayor who forced the Senior Levels to blink with his strong threats. I guess he has spoken with the CAW's Hargrove and Lewenza already to learn how to claim victory in the face of utter defeat!

The Star story today was rather short don't you think. Wait until Gord's fuming column and the thundering Star Editorial.

Bridge Company Presentation to Michigan House Committee

This presentation of the Ambassador Bridge Company was different than other presentations that they have given before in a very subtle way. They spoke in front of a Michigan House Committee on the border issue. A lot of what they are stating, they have said before. However, what they are doing now is challenging their opponents with the Ambassador Gateway Project as their prime weapon.

What they are throwing at their opponents is not something like a pie-in-the-sky plan concocted by a phalanx of expert consultants that will never see the light of day and which is designed to scare them so that they will sell out at a reduced price. Rather they are putting forward a real and concrete project that is being built after they worked on it and spent money on it for a decade. And it is all taking place at the same time as the Hearings are going on for the Legislators to see!

All one needs to do is cross the bridge into the United States to understand the importance of the project to the border and to the Bridge Company. The gist of what they are saying in their presentation is that they, as a private enterprise company, have invested their after-tax dollars in building up this crossing to be the best in North America based on an understanding arrived at with Michigan. They take direct aim at DRIC and their megaproject mentality and at the Canadian Governments who have failed to complete the road to their Bridge.

What I found interesting is that the Bridge Company is setting up the position that Governments are acting in bad faith at a time when there is no need for capacity because traffic is falling. They are specifically setting out how much money the Company has invested over the last decade in improving the border both before and after 9/11 and setting out in detail what steps they have taken based on the arrangement made with respect to the Ambassador Gateway project. One of the objectives of that project was "to accommodate a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge."

The dollar figures being thrown around are huge for a private company, over half a billion dollars over a decade. Is there any Public Authority who runs a crossing who has spent that kind of money in advance? Those numbers alone should give Governments pause if their intention is to change the rules of the game considering how much has been done. It will be an eye-opener for some in Government who had no real understanding until now respecting what the Bridge Company has done and at what cost.

There is an undertone as well of bitterness at the Government of Canada who settled the decade-long lawsuit issue of ownership of the Bridge with the Bridge Company many years ago. The Bridge Company as I have Blogged before believes that the Government is trying to ignore the settlement. The Bridge Company goes after DRIC and the Government in very strong language and, I am sure, in a way that the Government is not used to dealing. You need to take a look at the second half of the Presentation to see what I mean.

Their language is also very pointed towards MDOT as well:

  • "It is unconscionable that MDOT would be so willing to duplicate such sacrifice when Canada has failed to fulfill its obligation by fixing the road to the current crossing."

Read it for yourself and form your own opinion. The grounds for a resolution of the border crossing issue have just been set out or the basis for another decade-long lawsuit has just been created.

Frankly,when you add in what City Council said last night, and the Mayor in particular with respect to the border road, one has to be extremely pessimistic but realistic that all we will get in Windsor are giant lawsuits.

MI House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee
Hearings on DRIC, Rep. Gonzales, Chairman

Ambassador Bridge Testimony offered May 19, 2008
Dan Stamper, President
Mickey Blashfield, Governmental Relations

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today as part of your oversight hearings on the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study. As the stewards of North America’s #1 border crossing, we certainly have opinions on the direction of the DRIC study and its impact on business confidence in our region. Before we get into that, it is important to understand a brief background of the Detroit Windsor border and the manner in which the Ambassador Bridge has addressed the real challenges at our border.

Others have already spoken of the significance of this border – its importance to the economies of our great nations of the United States and Canada – and no one will dispute the trading relationship that has been nurtured over the years. Michigan recognized and embraced these facts some 14 years ago by partnering with the Ambassador Bridge to implement the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project which is in the final construction phases as we speak.

From its beginning in 1994, the Gateway Project was set in motion well in advance of the challenging events of September 11, 2001. From the very beginning, Gateway embodied three specific goals:

  • 1. Facilitate direct connections to the three interstates (I-75, I-96 & I-94) while improving access for the local community.
    2. Accommodate a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge.
    3. Host a “Welcome Center” at the foot of the Bridge.

So far, MDOT/FHWA have dedicated $230 million to accomplish these Gateway goals. In addition, the Ambassador Bridge has invested $50 million directly in infrastructure to accommodate the Gateway, and $500 million property acquisition in both the US and Canada. The Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project has provided a bold blueprint of action, and our company took that commitment very seriously in that all improvements at our crossing for over a decade have been designed to fit the Gateway foot print. The Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Span compliments the intent of Gateway by building a six-lane, cable-stayed bridge adjacent to the existing span, allowing effective, efficient use of improved facilities. Moreover, the advent of our new span will allow efficient use of Customs processing of traffic by ensuring pre-cleared freight & people get to the dedicated inspection facilities.

This is where history is instructive. Since the early 1990’s, the Ambassador Bridge has invested millions of after tax dollars to maximize the functionality of our crossing by offering facilities and services from which the trade and tourist users have benefited. Since 1992, DIBC has invested millions of after-tax dollars in property acquisitions and new infrastructure in order to ensure the ability to improve our facility by adding additional infrastructure at the appropriate time.

These improvements include, but are not limited to:

  •  Created additional entrances and exits to the Ambassador Bridge in the early 1990’s
     Built a dedicated commercial vehicle-only ramp off the bridge allowing for the efficient separation of truck and car traffic prior to the inspection lanes and more than doubling the size of our U.S. Customs secondary parking facility in 1992
     Removed the old Canada Customs administration building allowing for better traffic flow on the Canadian plaza in 1992
     Built a new Canada Customs plaza and administration building more than doubling throughput capacity in 1994
     Opened new duty free store in Canada in 1995 with traveler amenities
     More than doubled the size of our Canada Customs secondary parking facility in 1995
     Re-located entire toll operation to the U.S. plaza in 2002 freeing up much needed plaza space in Canada for traffic management purposes
    And, since the terrible attacks of 9/11:
     Added 7 additional Customs booths in the U.S. and 9 additional Customs booths including a new dedicated ramp to them in Canada to eliminate truck inspection delay time
     Reconfigured US Customs secondary inspection facilities to accommodate radiation portals, license plate readers, stationary cargo x-ray devices (and other security technology) as well as absorbing additional staff
     Established new Advanced Border Processing Centers (ABpC) in advance of the border to assist trucks, drivers and cargo in complying with new “E-Manifest” and pre-notification requirements. ABpC has reduced wait times for paperwork delays by 90% at secondary Customs processing for commercial vehicles
     Embraced and built dedicated NEXUS lanes for pre-cleared passenger vehicles, eliminating delays for frequent border users.

It is important to understand the profound change that occurred at the border in 2001, as Customs changed its mission from revenue collection & documentation to homeland security. Trucks were backed up at every crossing and port in the US. But at the Ambassador Bridge, we responded by increasing the inspection capacity by 160% in the US and by 90% in Canada. More inspection facilities combined with implementing pre-clearance technology (FAST & NEXUS) have ensured that traffic moves. We recognized the border is like a supermarket checkout lanes – it’s not the roadbed capacity of the crossing but the inspection capacity that is key. If you were waiting at a grocery store to “check out” you would open more checkout lanes – not build another store next door.

Detroit auto manufactures commended the efforts of the Ambassador Bridge for responding to those changes and for restoring the flow of cross border traffic. Letters from GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen recognized our prompt response and our investment of private funds to accomplish the improvements. In 2006, we were recognized by the Department of Homeland Security for fulfilling DHS’s “25% challenge” to improve thru-put at the border. In fact, the Ambassador Bridge’s expansion of Customs facilities carried our entire region in meeting the “25% challenge.” And our commitment to continued improvement and our advancement of the new span has been continuous.

And that brings us to the DRIC: a solution in search of a problem. As you fulfill your statutory duties of having oversight hearings on “the involvement of MDOT’s [the department] on the DRIC study” and “an accounting of any DRIC project costs,” you should be very concerned with the build-it-at-all-costs mega project mentality of the DRIC. At a time when border traffic continues to decline, at a time when auto assembly plants are closing (not expanding), DRIC proposes to duplicate the Gateway project about a mile away – before the concrete is even dry on the current construction. Now while no one disputes the importance of cross border trade & tourism, even the auto industry would never build a new assembly plant that isn’t needed for two decades.

Let’s look at traffic: since 1999, border traffic has declined (not increased as DRIC projected) at all crossings in the region. You see, reality is a pesky thing. Last week, SEMCOG provided testimony in response to a question from Rep. Gonzales about the adequacy of addressing border needs for 30 to 50 years, and Mr. Palombo answered honestly: “it depends on how you define ‘needs’ – is it capacity or redundancy?” In response to a question from Rep. Agema about the accuracy of the traffic forecasts, the SEMCOG representative acknowledged that they had to come up with a “new [traffic] model for this study to accommodate international traffic. Regardless of their method, it has proven overly optimistic. From 2004 to 2008, the DRIC projections called for dramatic traffic increases, yet traffic actually declined (as it has since 1999). In your oversight role, you should not confuse the general significance of trade (as Rep. Tobocman & the associate with the Brookings Institute emphasized) with the urgency for a DRIC bridge, especially given the accuracy of DRIC traffic projections. Using DRIC’s official forecasts from 2004, the study is drastically wrong in the first four years (from 2004 to 2008) and has little credibility for its 30 year projections.

Traffic at the Ambassador Bridge has dropped off 26%; Blue Water Bridge traffic has dropped 12% and stands at 1990 levels – before the second span at Port Huron was built. Detroit Windsor Tunnel traffic has declined 52%. That is reality. If there was any doubt about the urgency of the DRIC proposal based on real traffic needs, DRIC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement acknowledges that they expect to populate their crossing by DIVERTING traffic from the existing crossings (76% of trucks from Ambassador, 24% of vehicles from the Tunnel, 16-18% of the trucks from Blue Water). DRIC threatens to cannibalize the viability of the current crossings to somehow justify another bridge about a mile away.

But let’s go back a couple of years to 2005 – MDOT & FHWA eliminated the Ambassador Bridge location from further consideration by DRIC – despite the massive investments in Gateway and despite the Ambassador scoring as a one of the top two alternatives (“least expensive span to construct”… “better performance than most alternatives in terms of improvement to regional mobility”… “ranked #1 of all 37 alternatives according to citizens weighted scores” … “one of the top performers overall performers [sic.] in terms of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.”) it was dismissed from further consideration in Nov. 2005 because, “in Canada, the plaza and freeway connections…would have unacceptable community impacts” even though the “US project team recommended these alternatives be carried forward for consideration as practical alternatives while the Canadian project team did not.” (DRIC US and Canadian Reports, Nov. & Dec. 2005) DRIC failed to seize the advantage of the North America’s #1 crossing and the Gateway investment. MDOT and FHWA acquiesced to Canada’s preference, but the so-called plaza impacts were always FALSE (never the Ambassador Bridge proposal) and the Canadian road to the border has since been resolved by Transport Canada’s May 1 announcement – except for less than two kilometers in Windsor.

As a result, the alleged community impacts in Canada that have been proven false, compelled the DRIC to move about a mile downriver and now requires the Delray community to have 414 homes, 56 businesses, and 14 churches/non-profits to be condemned. We have raised concerns in appropriate forums and will continue to do so because we are acutely aware of the pain inflicted on the community surrounding the border crossing. The Gateway Project is evidence of the on-going sacrifice of all community stakeholders. It is unconscionable that MDOT would be so willing to duplicate such sacrifice when Canada has failed to fulfill its obligation by fixing the road to the current crossing.

Last week, this committee heard from the Chairman of the Peace Bridge in New York, and I wanted to clarify a couple of items from his testimony. First, the needs at Buffalo and Detroit are drastically different. The Peace Bridge and don’t easily allow “apples to apples” comparisons. He failed to tell you that until last spring, the Peace Bridge was promoting “co-located Customs facilities” in Canada – until US Homeland Security concerns eliminated that option and expansion of facilities in Buffalo has significant impacts. There are many other considerations that differ in the need for another crossing in that corridor versus Detroit-Windsor. Second, he left the impression that the Peace Bridge, as an independent toll authority, pays for its operation out of tolls – ostensibly to demonstrate that the DRIC bridge would be self sustaining. What the Chairman failed to tell you is that there is significant public subsidy for the Peace Bridge, including the $18 million for their environmental study (compared to DRIC’s $34 million DEIS vs. Ambassador Bridge’s privately funded environmental clearance). Also, it might have been appropriate for him to acknowledge the $90 million dollar “earmark” the Peace Bridge is seeking from FHWA – complimenting the $76 million Canadian contribution. Instead of self-sustaining itself from tolls, the Peace Bridge seeks public subsidy in order for it to fulfill its mission. When we testified before the MI House & Senate Transportation Committees in 2006, we warned that this would be the case with the DRIC bridge, based on analysis from Citigroup provided at that time.

Since 1990, the end-to-end border solution for the Detroit-Windsor corridor has been threefold, including:

  • 1. Moving forward with the $230 million Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, under construction;
    2. The replacement span of the Ambassador Bridge which is awaiting environmental clearances from the US and Canada at a cost of $400 million (along with the property acquisitions of $500 million by the Ambassador Bridge);
    3. The “Canadian Gateway” project that was announced in 2002 and partially reaffirmed on May 1, 2008.

This end-to-end solution connects three US Interstates to the single highway in Canada (Hwy 401) The only gap in this historic effort is less than 2 kilometers of Huron Church in Windsor – and now Canada wants the US to move about a mile away and duplicate all the sacrifice and investment of the US, Michigan and the Ambassador Bridge. The solution is simple: Canada should acknowledge the historic commitment to the border on the US side of the river and finish 401 directly to the Ambassador Bridge. This approach addresses the business confidence concerns, assumes the advantage of the new six-lane, cable stayed bridge and allows rehabilitation of the current Ambassador Bridge for redundancy. Most importantly, this approach maximizes the uses of all of the US investments made on the US side. This prevents the cannibalization of all existing crossings, the loss of tax base in Detroit and the decimation of 414 homes, 56 businesses and 14 churches/non-profits.

In 2006 testimony, we posed the question: “What if the money spent on DRIC had instead be dedicated to Southwest Detroit for community enhancements for the sacrifices made to accommodate international traffic?” That question is equally valid today as this legislature evaluates the cost of the DRIC study. That rhetorical question was posed well before MDOT spent an additional $11 Million on drilling over salt mines, brine wells, sinkholes and hazardous waste sites in 2006 & 2007.

The question we leave with this committee today as you evaluate the DRIC is an equally important choice: “Should the historic border corridor be relocated about a mile west of the Ambassador Bridge at Canada’s request and at a cost of $3-5 Billion to connect to a single highway (I-75) from the only major highway in Windsor? – Or, should Canada complete the upgrade of less than two kilometers of existing road to the Ambassador Bridge to accomplish an end-to-end border solution that connects to three US interstates?

Thank you for your time today. We would be happy to answer any question you may have.