Can you imagine...What if we had a Council that understood its function. What if we had Councillors who knew what their legal responsibilities were. What if we had Councillors that did not allow the Mayor to treat them like children and who were prepared to stand up to him. What if we had a Council who did not believe as ex-Mayor Hurst once claimed:
Because of my involvement in the border file, I have been able to get acquainted with the Councillors, some more than others. During the last few election campaigns, I have worked for a number of Members of Council to help get them elected. I also worked for some people who unfortunately lost out.
As a result of writing this BLOG, my involvement in City matters has extended beyond that of the border file. Not everything interests me at City Hall nor do I have the time to comment on all of the things that I would like to BLOG about. However, this involvement has allowed me to develop some views about our City Government.
I've had the opportunity over the last week to speak to some former Councillors. It wasn't anything planned; we just happened to be in the right place at the right time so that we could speak. I must admit I wondered what this Council would have been like if these people were still members. From their perspective, they all seemed so happy that they are not a Member of this Council. They cannot believe what is going on.
As I have written before, I like most of our Councillors personally. Several of them, I have no time for and I am sure that the feeling is mutual. Such is life.
I expect that many of them have no experience or training in handling the big files that they are working on now and that helps explain a lot about why the Council just seems to be unable to get untracked and is incapable of real action. Seriously, how many of them are able to get through reading a major contract and understanding its significance when that is NOT their life experience.
And the amounts that concern them are not insignificant: millions and billions of dollars for border crossings, fixing roads, sewers, and watermains, economic development for a City that is in serious trouble, Tunnel deals, University complexes, an arena and so on.
Liking people however is no reason to close one's eyes to their failures. And this Council has failed, miserably. I've written a couple of BLOGs talking about my own negativity and asking what is there to be positive about. I am still looking.
These last few days is absolutely typical of how bad this Council is. Let me give you a few examples:
1) Councillor Gignac has been complaining for months about the failure to deal with the downtown. For whatever reason, it appears clear to me, after the public show at Council by the Mayor about setting up a meeting to discuss the subject, that he has no interest in wanting to do so right away. Imagine therefore my surprise to see that there was a two-hour strategic session dealing with the downtown. However, what did they decide after those hours of conversation:
- "City council has decided that stakeholders will be called and we will have a meeting," said Mayor Eddie Francis. "We will wait and see what comes out of that discussion."
A 2-hour meeting to set up another meeting. More meetings, more wait-and-see, more studies, more inaction. More time wasted.
2) More phony posturing on the DRIC road. Let me see, how many threatened lawsuits have we heard about? I have lost count.
Didn't David Estrin spend about an hour at Council publicly raking DRIC over the coals for not doing their work properly in complinac with the law? What more could he possibly say? He must have his legal options figured out by now or why would he have made that presentation to Council. But of course, here is what happened:
"Mayor Eddie Francis says he will urge Toronto lawyer David Estrin to quickly provide legal options in dealing with the province's controversial border traffic highway planned for the Huron Church Road-Talbot Road corridor...
"(Council) has asked me to pick up the phone, call David Estrin and tell him to hurry up his work," Francis said. "Council wants to know all their options from A to Z -- what are the benefits, pros and cons (and) what steps need to be taken.
"The legal issues will be flushed out more and brought to council for Monday or soon after."
I know where the issues can be flushed!
Apparently Council met in camera for more than an hour to discuss the issue. Another hour wasted.
Seriously, do you mean to tell me that Estrin said all these things without a game plan and that Council did not know what their options were before he said what he said? That is incomprehensible.
The other thing that I find stomach turning already is the Mayor saying that Council told him to pick up the phone. On the one hand if a Councillor dare speak out on the border file, the Mayor is quick to chastise him/her by saying that he is the Voice of Council. However when it comes to paying out legal fees, then the Voice is suddenly quieted and it is Council that makes the decision and will take the blame for the taxpayer money spent.
Doesn't anyone really care on this Council about jobs, our future, economic development and a real concern that the Senior Levels will pull out or, more likely, give us the poorest solution possible for road to the border.
3) What is Eddie's deadline on the Tunnel deal?
When will the Mayor instruct Cliff Sutts to close his file? How many more taxpayer dollars will have to be paid for legal and consulting fees before the Mayor calls it quits since no one seems to know his deadline date.
Councillors should be ashamed of themselves for not having answers given to questions they have asked for over a year ago as was disclosed in Councillor Halberstadt's BLOG. From what my insiders are telling me, few of them have any idea of what the transaction is all about.
I understand that the Mayor stared down Council when they had the nerve to suggest that he might not give them enough time to look at this deal if it is presented to them. He dared them to give him one instance when he did not give sufficient time. Apparently not one Councillor had the balls to talk about:
- the arena
- the Jobs Today fiasco and the $100M fund
- the Engineering Complex.
These are just a few items that immediately came to my mind.
Just compare what our Councillors are doing compared with that of the Detroit Council and it makes one ashamed to be a voter in Windsor.
Apparently the newest twist in Detroit is:
Witness number one to support that proposition is the Mayor of Windsor who stated in the past:
"It's complicated by having competing interests," said Francis of the tunnel's operations. "We see the tunnel as a public utility while the DCTC sees it more as a profit-generating private operation."
"We're a public utility and when business is down, as it is at the tunnel, the last thing you need to do is increase the price," said Francis. "Instead, we are looking first at ways of improving services by cutting down on the time it takes to cross."
"The tunnel should be run for a common purpose," Francis said. "They're operating it as a toll road where we're trying to operate it in the public interest."
Have our Councillors no respect for themselves to allow this to go on for so long without being told anything significant while Detroit Council is forcing their Mayor to tell them everything.
4) To be quite honest, the Tunnel deal must be so bad that no one in their right mind should ever enter into it. How else to explain the lack of detail? What are the two Mayors so afraid about?
I must admit that I have one serious question that may need some auditing down the road. If the City of Windsor pays over $75 million to Detroit and all that Detroit needs it seems is $65 million or perhaps it is now $58 million, what happens to the balance of the $10-$17,000,000? Where is it going?
Legal fees and insurance... I find that hard to believe without knowing more about it. We know that Windsor has spent so far slightly over $1 million for legal and consulting fees and I cannot believe that Detroit has paid that much more. What insurance has to be purchased for so many millions of dollars?
The question of auditing obviously brings me to the issue with respect to 400 building. Can we now agree that what we are told in the past about it being under budget needs an explanation:
I'll talked more about the 400 audit in another BLOG but again, it boggles my mind that the Councillors on the Audit Committee have allowed this state of affairs to go on for so long.
We need to get back to reality. We need to understand what our Councillors are obliged to do for us legally. Here are the duties of Councillors as set out in the Municipal Act
Section 224. It is the role of council,
(a) to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;
(b) to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;
(c) to determine which services the municipality provides;
(d) to ensure that administrative policies, practices and procedures and controllership policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement the decisions of council;
(d.1) to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality;
(e) to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality; and
(f) to carry out the duties of council under this or any other Act
I will let you look at these items and let you decide for yourself whether our Councillors are for fulfilling their mandate. It should not be very difficult for you to come to a conclusion just looking at the four recent items that I have discussed above.
I wonder what a Council with people like Charlie Hotham, Joyce Zuk, Chris Schnurr, Tony Blak, John Middleton, David Cassivi, Ed Sleiman and some others would have been like. I wonder what the City would be like if Bill Marra had decided to run for Mayor.
Always the "What Ifs"