Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, July 25, 2008

BREAKING BLOGnews: The Wheels On The Hybrid Buses Go Round And Round

Whew, thank goodness that Council approved the contract for the purchase of hybrid buses on July 24. Administration had almost screwed things up by not submitting the Report in time. No wonder Eddie said at Council he would call a Special Meeting on the following Monday or before!

No wonder the contract for the buses came so quickly out of the blue as Councillor Postma and Junior stated.

No wonder Junior made such a big deal at Council about buying Canadian made buses.

No wonder the Henderson urban legend column was needed.

No wonder that Councillors were used again as pawns:
  • Attention News Editors:

    CAW Urges Canadian Content in Government Infrastructure Projects

TORONTO, July 25 /CNW/ - Following today's announcement for additional transit funding CAW President Buzz Hargrove is urging all levels of government to require Canadian content when purchasing for infrastructure projects.

"At a time when thousands and thousands of jobs are being lost, plants closed or downsized in the Canadian manufacturing sector, our elected officials must show leadership in ensuring tax dollars are spent on Canadian-made goods and services that create jobs in Canada," Hargrove said.

"The wages earned are put back into our economy and further support Canadian infrastructure and social services."

The federal and Ontario government announcement of billions of dollars for transit is an important step forward in the improvement of the province's transportation infrastructure, he said. The rapid transit route announcement is more positive news following a federal government commitment yesterday of $6.2 billion to be spread across the province for infrastructure improvements.

"It's also a critical opportunity for the federal and Ontario governments to ensure Canadian jobs are being created at a time when thousands of workers and their families are suffering because of the crisis in manufacturing," Hargrove said. A recent positive example of government spending is the proposed purchase of 18 new Canadian-made hybrid buses by the City of Windsor, manufactured by New Flyer in Winnipeg.

If only we had a Mayor who worked with the Feds, we might have seen a press release similar to this one:

  • Government of Canada makes significant investments in Toronto's public Transit System

TORONTO, July 25 /CNW Telbec/ -

The City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is $100 million richer thanks to the recent transfer of federal funding from the Government of Canada for subway and bus

The $100-million investment represents one of the largest one-time reimbursements for federal public transit funding ever made by the Government of Canada. The federal funds transferred are a portion of an overall commitment of $350 million to the TTC.

- $72.4 million was provided as a first payment for the purchase of 212 hybrid buses. Ultimately, a total of 324 buses will be purchased at a cost of $251.4 million, with the federal government contributing a further $43.4 million. Again, the balance of these funds will be transferred once further invoices have been provided.

"I am pleased to be collaborating with our Federal partners to makeimportant investments in public transit that are good for the City and forCanada," said Mayor David Miller. "Through partnerships with other governments we are undertaking city-building initiatives that might otherwise be difficult. The on-going improvements to our public transit system have been greatly assisted by funding partnerships like the Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund. Working together we can build a prosperous, livable city that provides opportunity for all."

My Thoughts For The Weekend

Just a few thoughts that you might want to consider:


Wow, that was pretty nice press that Councillor Postma received in Gord Henderson’s column the other day.
  • “Raised in the tough-as-nails west end and forged in its take-no-prisoners schools and playgrounds, Ward 2 representative Caroline Postma is as close as Windsor council comes to boasting its own junkyard dog.”

Praising the Mayor several times at the Council meeting on Monday about his genius with respect to the hybrid buses works wonders now doesn’t it so that Gord can write:

  • “Postma, a mother of three who rode the bus regularly when her kids were toddlers but finds it too time-consuming now, knows the system is dysfunctional but sees a new day dawning now that Mayor Eddie Francis is championing transit as an essential service in need of radical restructuring.”

By the way, in case you did not know, Junkyard Dog was the name of a WWE Wrestler. If the Councillor is a rasslin' fan, then she can head the Windsor committee if Wrestlemania returns.


Thanks to Gord as well for helping certain Councillors understand that his column the other day on the hybrid buses meant that they were supposed to approve the transaction. There is no need for them to read anything, as with the Arena Deal, or to understand the business case for it as with the Tunnel Deal, when it is presented by the Mayor.

I was sure that you noted in Gord’s column the other day, this comment that was published in the Star on Thursday, before the Council meeting:

  • “Lost amid all the hubbub over Transit Windsor's acquisition of 18 hybrid buses, to be formally approved by council today.”

It was a sure-thing as was demonstrated by the unanimous vote. Next time, they will do as they are told so that they can stay at home to enjoy the sunshine.


Forget the text messaging scandal and the new messages that may be released and the charges filed against him, Detroit’s Mayor has bigger problems.

According to the Windsor Star, after his not-so-secret meeting with our Mayor

  • “He [Kwame] was driven away in a black Cadillac Escalade that had been idling on Goyeau Street since about 8:30 a.m.”

It is not clear from the story exactly where the car was located on Goyeau but if it was parked in front of the building where Cliff Sutts has his office, it is right across the street from Police Headquarters. I was not aware that cars could park in that area.

However the big story is the “idling.” I am afraid that Mayor Francis will have to undertake a major investigation right now to see whether the law was broken. In order to verify the Star story, given the normal prickly relationship between the media and politicians on issues such as investigative journalism, he will have to handle this matter with considerable care.

I expect that this matter will be dealt with at the highest levels. Accordingly, I expect that the Mayor will ask his Chief of Staff, Norma Coleman, to contact one of the Star Masthead Editors to get confirmation of the story.

If that is obtained, the Mayor will be put into the difficult position of whether the Mayor of Detroit and/or his driver should be charged for “excessive idling.”

The City bylaw states clearly:

  • “B Y - L A W N U M B E R 233-2001

    Passed the 18th day of June, 2001.

    WHEREAS under section 320 of the Municipal Act, by-laws may be passed by council for providing that any person who contravenes any by-law of Council passed under the authority of the Municipal Act is guilty of an offence;

    AND WHEREAS motor vehicles are a major source of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxides and volatile organic compounds (air pollutants) into the outdoor air in the City of Windsor;

    AND WHEREAS the levels of air pollutants from vehicle emissions in the City of Windsor are associated with various adverse health effects, including acute and chronic effects on respiratory health, especially among the very young, the elderly and those with respiratory ailments;

    1 (2) IDLE – The operation of the engine of a vehicle while the vehicle is not in motion and not being used to operate auxiliary equipment that is essential to the basic function of the vehicle

    2. (1) No person shall cause or permit a vehicle or boat to idle for more than five (5) minutes in a sixty minute period.

    3. Any person who contravenes any provision of this by-law is guilty of an offence.

Our Mayor has no choice. Sandbox logic one might say. He has to act if he is to be our green champion who will “move smog-choked Windsor into the 21st century.”

Perhaps Kwame's apology and promise not to do this again would be sufficient.


And perhaps Windsor might actually get some money if we partner with the County:

  • "Feds, Ont. announce $6.2B for projects
    Municipalities plan bids for infrastructure cash

    Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said Windsor, Leamington, Lakeshore, Essex and his town will make a joint submission for sewer projects that will, among other things, stop sewage from pouring into lakes and rivers every time there's a heavy rain.

    The plan is to do a joint application for the region," said Santos, also the county warden. "We felt stronger attention would be paid to it if we applied as a number of municipalities under the program."

You will note that the name of Eddie Francis is conspicuously absent. That might be the technique that Councillor Valentinis is looking for so he can stop whinging.


I just don't get it. With all the problems in Windsor and Detroit, the one that our Mayors seem to focus on to the exclusion of most other issues is the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal. It is so important that according to A-Channel news

  • "At Kilpatrick's request, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and his legal team met inside the offices of chief negotiator Cliff Sutts to discuss what it'll take to restart the stalled Windsor-Detroit tunnel deal."

It is so important that Kwame had to come over here and in doing so, Crains reported :

  • "James Canning, Kilpatrick’s deputy press secretary,...said that Kilpatrick had gotten prior approval from 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles to leave the state for the meeting, a condition of his the bond."

I don't understand why. The latest out of Detroit Council that contradicts what Kwame claimed is that a public vote might be needed before the Tunnel can be transferred from the City to the Authority:

  • "Council agency: Voters should decide tunnel sale

    DETROIT -- The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel should not be sold to an authority that would take over operations until it is approved by a public vote, the City Council's Research and Analysis Division said Tuesday in a report.

    Citing an ordinance and the 1997 city charter, the division concluded that the tunnel is a public utility and "cannot be sold to the Detroit Tunnel Authority until the matter is placed on the ballot and approved by a vote of a majority of the electorate."

Of course, our Mayor explained the real reason for the meeting in his interview on A-Channel indirectly:

  • "They had indicated very clearly that their Council would need all the transaction documents in front of them, and we indicated, well, to get to the transaction documents we need to spend a lot of money and a lot of time and a lot of resources negotiating, and so we have a problem in the process, of one side saying, "Give us the documents; then we'll decide," the other side saying, "Well, wait a minute. If you're not going to do it anyways, why even prepare the documents?"

In other words, the two Mayors must be working together to get in advance a Letter of Intent out of Detroit's Council that will set out the deal terms so that Detroit Council will be stuck when the two Mayors conclude their deal.

The Detroit Mayor would shove the Letter of Intent in the face of Detroit Councillors if they dared renege on the deal once the transaction papers had been prepared. I mean, after all, Cliff Sutts would have spent all that time preparing the papers and that would cost Windsor a lot of money. How could the Councillors in Detroit go back on what they agreed to.

As for Windsor's Councillors, they are irrelevant. They have been fully "informed" according to our Mayor, although they have never seen the business case it would appear and questions have been outstanding for almost a year. They will agree to anything provided that Eddie tells them to sign and Gord Henderson writes a column about it.


Oh, oh. Kwame made the Judge mad!

  • "Judge: Kilpatrick must post $7,500 bond to remain out of jail

    A stern Detroit judge, saying he has thrown people in jail for less, just found that Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick violated the terms of his bond in his criminal case after a sheriff's deputy testified he was assaulted by the mayor Thursday...

    He also revoked the mayor's right to make any trips -- business or otherwise -- and said he will require a hearing before Kilpatrick can take any future trips. He also ordered periodic and random drug screens for the mayor, though there was no suggestion Kilpatrick was under the influence during the alleged assault."

Tunnel Deal "Gotcha"

That Mayor of ours is a really sly guy. You have to listen very carefully to what he says because if you don’t, then he’s got you right where he wants you. It's a "GOTCHA!" The infamous Agenda Item #5 is a classic example for me about this.

Let me give you a recent example of what I mean that is easier to understand. At Council on Monday, the Mayor told us that Mr. Sutts is following Council’s directions and he has had no “face-to-face” meetings with people from Detroit on the Tunnel deal. When we see the legal bills, if the Deputy Mayor of Detroit is telling us what happened, we will note that the City’s lawyer has spoken to people from Detroit.

How can that be you might ask? Did the Mayor not tell us the truth? Of course he did. There is a very simple explanation… a telephone conversation as an example is not “face-to-face.” So what the Mayor has told us is the truth. He can say with a clear conscience:
  • "I did not have face-to-face Tunnel relations with that Detroit Mayor."
Of course, most people would make a different assumption--no meetings at all--that is NOT true. One cannot blame Eddie but only oneself in that case. It’s a “gotcha” if you don’t listen carefully and understand.

I wonder how much time it took to think up that one. It was not just a chance, off-hand remark in my opinion considering what happened on Wednesday. I find the fact that there was a face-to-face meeting only a few days later very interesting although the Mayor did say that there were to be some meetings subsequently. If there was nothing to hide about the Wednesday meeting, why was it "secret?'

Remarkably, as a reader told me and as I Blogged, the two Mayors met face-to-face Wednesday morning in Windsor in a so-called secret meeting that wasn’t so secret if you read the Star story.

In passing, I wonder if Councillors were aware of the meeting prior to it taking place on Wednesday. Without knowing, I would be surprised given what the Mayor said Monday night at Council.

My guess is that the Eddie must have known by the start of the Council meeting that he was going to have that face-to-face meeting. Why do I suspect that… here is what Kwame has to comply with according to a Detroit newspaper article that I read:
  • “Conditions of Kilpatrick's bond, while charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and misuse of office include no travel out of state without authorization of the judge. Kilpatrick's city business travel is unrestricted, but still requires notice to the judge 48 hours in advance."

Accordingly, Kwame would have had to have given the judge notice by early Monday morning at the latest if he was going to meet with Eddie on Wednesday.

Another casepoint. Eddie’s continued use of the words “business case” in relation to the Tunnel deal bothered me. It was too deliberate a choice of language that obviously could mean anything to anyone. What the heck could it mean I thought? I assumed that no one would spend $75 million for half the tunnel unless one expected to make a profit on the transaction. I did not know how that could be done so I made the assumption that the deal would never take place.

It was really another “gotcha” because I did not understand what was being said. I had not been listening carefully enough. It is starting to fall into place for me.

Nowhere did Eddie say that the transaction had to make financial sense. Nowhere did he say that we had to make a profit. I realized finally, in fact, that the transaction could result in a Detroit default thereby costing the City money and he could still claim that it met the terms of his business case.

Eddie made the assumption, and it was a pretty good one, that through his choice of language he would mean one thing but we would take it a different way. He could not lose. He had the perfect answer whether the Tunnel made money or not. Mr. Sutts and his partners therefore did not have to worry about their guarantee either. They were home-free.

Let me give you another example. Eddie likes to divert our attention so that we will be distracted. Again, how many times have we read that one of the reasons for the deal is so that the Windsor can keep the Tunnel out of the hands of the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge? We were given the absurd story that if someone got control of the Tunne,l after spending millions of dollars to do so, then that person might want to block it.

  • "If someone acquired the other half they could fill it up with cement and our investment would be lost."

Of course, the Bridge Co. owner would not do so since that does not make business sense, financially or otherwise. He could not possibly do so realistically. It would be political suicide for him if he took over the Tunnel operations and then closed it down. The Governments on both sides of the river would be all over him. The scandal would be much too high and the risks to his bridge business would be totally unacceptable. Either his Bridge would be taken over immediately, expropriated, or the new DRIC bridge would be built and he would have no hope of preventing it.

Eddie is smart enough to know that this is an impossibility so why would he suggest it? It diverts our attention away from the party that is his main concern… Alinda who actually runs both sides of the Tunnel right now. There is a dispute going on between the City and Alinda as was pointed out in the rollover documents on the transfer of title of the Tunnel from the City to the Tunnel Corporation. What the dispute is about and when it will be resolved I do not know. However the documentation does say that Alinda is holding back monies from the City.

Moreover, that Company also supposedly offered Detroit a deal that makes so much more sense than the Windsor one that I do not understand why it was not accepted. That seems very strange to me as well.

Eddie is concerned about Alinda obviously and wants to ensure that Detroit does not do something that will expand the time during which they are operating the Tunnel. Detroit already did that once and that is why Alinda’s contract has another 12 years to run.

But Eddie has others to worry about as well. OMERS sent the Tunnel Commission a letter saying that they would be interested in helping out on financial arrangements with respect to the Tunnel but they were given the kiss off, politely of course.

I suspect that the Province was interested and still may be interested in the Tunnel. That is the only explanation I can think of about why Infrastructure Ontario might give any consideration whatsoever to doing a loan transaction. I remember when the Ontario Transportation Minister backed off completely on the Province having a role with respect to the Bridge. I’m sure that the Federal Government made it absolutely clear to them that the federal role is primary.

We know as well that the Feds are very interested in the Tunnel. Why else would a bunch of them have flown down to Detroit to speak to the Detroit Mayor when the Bridge Company made an offer to lease the Tunnel in the first place from Detroit to prevent it.

Don’t you find it absolutely amazing that all of these smart people are still interested in a Tunnel Asset
  • that has lost a good chunk of its traffic since 1999

  • that may lose a another chunk if the new DRIC bridges built,

  • that is a unique security risk,

  • that has stopped paying dividends to Windsor

  • that is losing market share, and

  • that is getting old and may require substantial repairs over the next 75 years.

The reality is, and Eddie knows it, that none of the parties including himself has any real interest in the Tunnel except as leverage against the Federal Government. The prize is not the Tunnel but the new bridge crossing whether it is the takeover of the Ambassador Bridge as I believe the real plan is or the new DRIC bridge.

In my view, Alinda and OMERS have an interest in being the P3 partner in the new bridge. OMERS may want to use this deal to become a big player in the world of P3 transactions as well

  • “In the next stage of Borealis Infrastructure’s evolution, we will partner with other like-minded pension funds in the pursuit and acquisition of trophy infrastructure assets around the world.”

The Province is interested in the Tunnel again because the Feds have kept them out of involvement in the new bridge crossing. Ontario needs to protect their entry-way into the US market and has concerns about the building up of the Atlantic and Pacific gateways that are the sexy infrastructure projects that are attracting Federal Government money.

The Feds have no real interest in the Tunnel except that it has to be under their control in order to get a P3 partner in the new bridge. The Tunnel is a competitor to any other bridge crossing and could, if not in the hands of the Federal Government, keep tolls artificially low to pressure any P3 partner at the new crossing. It provides an unacceptable financial risk to the P3 partner whom US DRIC has already said needs to take over about 25% of the Tunnel business, amongst other traffic, to be successful.

Accordingly, Eddie has no concerns about the Ambassador Bridge other than as a bogeyman. He needs to chase away Alinda, OMERS and the Provincial Government so that he alone can leverage the Federal Government to get whatever it is that he wants as a financial deal out of a new border crossing.

In a sense, he really does not care how much he pays Detroit for the Tunnel. That is why he chose a number that would get Kwame out of his financial jam and is so high that no one else would put in that kind of money. He is gambling that the Federal Government would ensure that Windsor is paid out by the P3 partner so that Windsor makes a profit since the amount of $75 million is tiny in comparison with the billions to be spent on the new DRIC crossing.

I remembered what my Detroit friend had written to me quite some time ago and it might made much more sense now:

  • “why are you attacking this deal? financially, it helps the city of Detroit and provides Windsor with certainty over toll structure.”

That is the key for Eddie… “certainty over toll structure.” One only has certainty if one has control and that is what Eddie’s ambition is in the Tunnel deal.

This could be a brilliant financial play for our Mayor if it works. If it doesn’t, it could help destroy the City financially at a time when we need every dollar.

The Star wrote with respect to the greening of the entrance ways to Windsor:

  • “With a tight budget and a diminishing tax base, this city has to carefully watch every penny it spends.”

Yet the Star is meek and mild with respect to the Tunnel transaction as I Blogged the other day.

Eddie Francis was not elected Mayor to play financial games with taxpayer money. From watching his deal making skills in the past, he certainly does not have the credentials to be playing in the big leagues. We have seen enough disasters in this City with financial transactions that go sour and that cost taxpayers in the end.

It is time that Council take control of this City and revoke the Motion in which the Mayor is appointed Voice of Council. He made it clear on Monday night that all that Councillors have received is “information” but nothing with respect to the “business case.”

If Council truly believes that they will be given a business case and the financial information upon which it rests in a timely fashion so that they can make an informed decision, then they only need look at the Agenda Item with respect to the hybrid buses and when it was presented to them.

The Mayor has no interest in what they have to say. As he made abundantly clear and as I wrote the other day:

  • “He has no respect for the Councillors. He has only respect for the process. How else to explain the failure to defer the vote on the hybrid buses so that Councillor Dilkens and others could actually read what was being proposed so they could make an informed decision. Here is what the Mayor said as quoted in the Star:

    "It's not a question of reading a report, but a factor of requirements."

Eddie was not elected to play Bay St. financial wunderkind with taxpayer money. He was elected to speak with John Tory, not to snub him, about jobs in the area not Kwame Kilpatrick about infrastructure plays. He was elected to use tax money for City purposes not to run an international border crossing.

There is no doubt but that Eddie is in the wrong job. He has no interest now, if he ever did, in being the Mayor of a small town in Ontario. Why bother with lowering taxes, potholes, overflowing sewers, leaky watermains and filling buses when there are credit ratings to protect, entertainment complexes to build, land developments downtown at the urban village or at the airport or in the East End Arena area to promote, Intermodal transportation hubs to construct and Brownfields to redevelop.

Can you blame him... it is much more fun flipping Tunnels, P3ing water and electrical utilities, controlling international border deals and having grand visions. Those are multi-hundred million/billion Dollar transactions that would look very good on a resume to be sent to one of the big investment houses once Eddie's second term is completed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cry For Windsor, Councillor Valentinis

Here's the Press Release about all of the money for Ontario Infrastructure. See if you can find which project will be undertaken in Windsor.

Ask the question also why the press conference was held in London while the Ontario Minister of Finance's riding is here.

Get a possible answer to these and other obvious questions especially on the DRIC road when you read the words of John Tory who was snubbed by our Mayor who seems to get a kick out of snubbing Senior Level politicans with money to spend.

  • "Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory called Ottawa's more than $3-billion contribution ``significant...''Tory added.

    ``It's one of the reasons why instead of attacking the federal government I think we should be trying to work with them to form that long-term partnership which will produce the stable funding.''

Canada and Ontario sign $6.2-billion Building Canada Infrastructure Agreement

  • Improvements to Highway 11/17 in northwestern Ontario, Ontario rural
    broadband coverage, Waterloo Region rapid transit, and the Huron Elgin
    London Project for clean water are priorities under Building Canada and
    ReNew Ontario

LONDON, ON, July 24 /CNW/ - The governments of Canada and Ontario today announced the signing of an infrastructure Framework Agreement worth more than $6.2 billion under Building Canada, the Government of Canada's long-term infrastructure plan. The Plan will help address infrastructure needs and priorities in Ontario until 2014.

The Honorable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable George Smitherman, Ontario Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, and the Honourable Dwight Duncan, Ontario Minister of Finance, participated in today's announcement.

The governments of Canada and Ontario also identified improvements on Highway 11/17 in northwestern Ontario, expanding rural broadband coverage in southern and eastern Ontario, and rapid transit in the Waterloo region as initial priorities that the two governments will work together on under Building Canada. In addition, the Government of Canada has previously announced up to $50 million to the HELP Clean Water (Huron Elgin London Project) and Ontario today also committed up to $50 million for the project aswell. Both governments have also previously announced up to $50 million each towards the expansion of the Ottawa Congress Centre.

"The Building Canada infrastructure plan will help support economic growth, a cleaner environment and the overall prosperity of all Ontarians," said Minister Cannon. "Substantial infrastructure funding was long overdue in this country and we're getting it done. Clean drinking water, safer highways, expanded public transit and improved connectivity are all clear examples of the concrete results that Building Canada will deliver to the people, cities and communities of Ontario."

"The Framework Agreement will help keep Ontarians green and connected - through investments in transit, roads, and surfing the Internet. The McGuinty government is committed to building a better quality of life for Ontarians, and this agreement is a clear example of how we all benefit when the governments of Ontario and Canada work together," said Minister Smitherman.

"As Canada's Minister of Finance, I appreciate the importance of investing in infrastructure, that's why we are making the largest single federal investment in public infrastructure since World War Two, that's why we made federal gas tax funding permanent, and that's why we have established the Government of Canada's first public, private partnership office," said Minister Flaherty.

"The funding under the Framework Agreement will help create good-paying jobs and strengthen our economic competitiveness," said Minister Duncan. "Together, we are making the right investments in Ontario's infrastructure to position this province for future prosperity."

"I'm truly happy we've signed the Framework Agreement with the Province of Ontario," said Canada's Environment Minister John Baird. "It will greatly benefit our cities and communities by helping ensure a more competitive economy, stronger communities, a cleaner environment, and a more prosperous Ontario."

Through its unprecedented $33-billion Building Canada infrastructure plan, the Government of Canada will provide long-term, stable and predictable funding to help meet infrastructure needs across Canada. Building Canada will support a stronger, safer and better country.

Millions Lost To City In Arena Signage Deal

Do you want to know what happens when our elected officials do not read agreements? Perhaps you will understand Councillor Dilkens' concern re the hybrid bus deal. Perhaps you will understand better my concern about the Tunnel deal and the lack of information about it. Just read on and weep.

If I am correct, it appears that the Spitfires' owners have done even better on their Arena transaction with the City than I realized at that time I did my original analysis of the deal. There is absolutely no excuse for the City allowing this to happen since they run arenas including the Barn and should understand what revenues can be obtained from sports venues. Alternatively, they should have retained an expert to help them out!

I am certain that you saw this story in the Star but you may not have appreciated its significance:
  • "Sign firms collaborate to win work

    Collaborating on the building and installation of more than 100 illuminated advertising signs at the new Windsor Family Credit Union Centre has enabled a pair of local firms to win a five-year contract from the Windsor Spitfires...

    The signs will be used throughout the main spectator bowl, in the three community rinks and throughout the public concourse areas."

No, the issue is not should this have gone out tender since after all it is City owned property. I will let other sign companies worry about that.

The issue is how much more money is the City giving up in revenues to the Spitfires as a result of the Arena agreement.

I remember Jan Wilson being quoted and saying:

  • "Wilson, who didn't know what the WFCU operating costs would be, said the WFCU Centre will make an annual profit of $300,000 to $400,000."

What if I told you that under the terms of the agreement, notwithstanding everything else that I Blogged about before, the Spitfires could make as much or more in arena signage revenue alone than the City would make as an annual profit on the entire complex!

I expect that by the time the revenues for those hundred or more signs are added up, the Spitfires will make hundreds of thousands of dollars on the transactions per year. Over the 20 year life of the deal, if, for example, three hundred thousand dollars is made per year, $6 million not including escalation in rental has been given away by the City to the Spitfires. If the amount is five hundred thousand dollars per year, the total is $10 million.

I wonder if the City in calculating the value of the arena revenues was given rough numbers as to what signage revenues would bring in. If so, how can this be explained away!

Now that is real negotiating isn't it!

Here are the terms of the Agreement that are applicable:

The City does get some revenues, $25,000 per year, but I expect that a good part of that will have to be paid out for the electricity used for many of the backlit signs!

Just to give you some examples of what the Arena in London charges, here is part of their advertising rates. I'm using London because their manager is the same one used in Windsor, Global Spectrum. Whether they are involved in the signage or not here, I do not know:

  • 2' x 30' Arena backlit sign---$17,500 (plus artwork and installation)

  • Pressbox naming rights---$42,500

  • Level Entry sign---$9,000

  • 2’ x 15’ In Arena Backlit Fascia Sign---$9,000

  • 4' x 8' backlit sign---$8,000

  • 6" x 20" street sign---$8,500

  • 29" x 54" Vomitory backlit sign---$17,000

  • 6' x 6' backlit sign--- $5,500

  • 10' x 10' in ice logo---$10,500

  • Scoreclock bottom sign---$5,500

  • Scoreclock side panel---$16,000

  • Rinkboard/dasher board---$9,500

  • 106 restroom stall door backs--- $10,500

  • Restroom dispensersand advertising frames ---$8,000

Depending on the number of signs, locations and sizes, it would not be very difficult to run up a considerable amount of money per year for the entire East End Facility. All of it, not just the main arena where the Spits play.

I don't know about you, but this Spitfires deal just opens up more questions for me about everything to do with the whole Arena transaction from start to finish especially because of the so-called confidentiality clause that does not exist. I wonder if someone on Council will have the guts to demand a full and proper audit of the entire process from start to finish.

Don't hold your breath with the 400 Building Audit fiasco as a precedent and with Councillors who can say without shame:

  • "City council approved the agreement with the Spits in the fall of 2006, but councillors themselves were not shown copies of the deal. Council endorsed it based on an administration report that was then taken away following in-camera discussions.

    "I couldn't tell you what's in there," said Ward 5 Coun. Percy Hatfield, one of several councillors who will be seeing details of the multimillion-dollar deal for the first time this week.

    "I look forward to seeing it," said Ward 1 Coun. Drew Dilkens. "We had a discussion (on the arena deal) many moons ago ... but I don't recall that discussion."

I would love to get that Administration Report!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More on Council Related Matters

There is a lot more to talk about concerning the Council meeting on Monday night and other related matters. Let me tell you about some of them.


A reader sent me a note this morning claiming that a number of Detroit officials were seen in the Westcourt Building on Goyeau street.

In case you were wondering, the law offices of Cliff Sutts are located at:

600 Westcourt Place, 251 Goyeau Street.


So many threats of lawsuits in this City, especially over the border file. If one is actually started, the floodgates will open and they will last for years and cost millions before there is a resolution.

Rumour has it that we should see a lawsuit started, perhaps as early as next week, involving some events that have taken place recently. Watch the scrambling when that happens.

Rest easy, it is not border related.


Can you imagine what would have been said on Percy's Panel on CBC news? Percy as the moderator would have had a field day with this story.

What was the big influence on Councillor Hatfield in deciding to support the purchase of hybrid buses. Was it what the Mayor said, what Councillors/Transit Windsor members Postma and Lewenza said or was it the late distributed Report justifying the transaction?

Probably none of them. In order to convince Councillor Hatfield to do something it seems a high school girl out of Ottawa needs to send him an e-mail asking him to support the transaction. It seemed important to him that we went forward so that Windsor would be in the lead with respect to hybrid buses. Of course we are not as a bit of research would have demonstrated, but that doesn't seem to matter.

I guess it is not important what Windsorites think about the $11 million deal and whether it makes sense or not. It does not seem to matter to Council whether taxpayers actually get to read the Report in advance in order to decide whether or not they want to appear in front of Council as a delegation. It appears that with this transaction and perhaps with the Tunnel also finances have little role to play in the "business case."

Hatfield said that he was going to write back to the girl after the matter passed the other night. I wonder what he actually wrote after the administrative fiasco at Council that resulted in the deferral of the meeting. I'm sure that she will understand. This is Windsor of course.


In trying to justify the hybrid transaction, Councillor Postma as Chair of Transit Windsor told us that the contract for the hybrid buses was only $1.1 million more in cost than the contract for the diesel buses.

While the dollar number is correct, what she forgot to mention is for that amount of money we're getting three buses less. I hope she knew that.


Shakespeare would be pleased with our Mayor. It appears that he is a procrastinator par excellence. Both Councillors Postma and Lewenza told us that the hybrid bus deal came forward in a big hurry.

That was strange. Eddie came back in April from Chicago with this concept of hybrid buses fresh in his mind and yet it took last-minute actions in July to try to get a contract approved for those buses and that still has not been done.

What could possibly have taken up all that time other than the Tunnel deal? Oh I've got it and here's what it is. Check out the next section.


No wonder our poor Mayor can never sleep. He just has so many things on his mind.

In his State of the City speech, the Mayor came up with this idea of commuting i.e. sending our best and brightest out West to make money and then to have them come back on the weekends.

He has spent all of this time trying to figure out how to make this work since the speech was delivered in mid-March. Why only a month ago, I saw the following comment in a Regina newspaper:

  • "Francis said his city plans to survey to find how many people are already travelling to work out of province, who else would be interested and their areas of expertise.

    "By anecdote, there's a significant number that are already making the trek. We just don't know how many," Francis said.

    Officials can better talk abut logistics, such as how the flights would be arranged and paid for, once it's clear how many people might be involved, he said."

Well here it is... what Eddie has spent all his time on for the last four months. I'm sure that statisticians and survey companies will be examining the Questionnaire to learn how it's done:

  1. Do you travel to Western Canada frequently?
  2. How often do you make the trip?
  3. Do you travel for personal reasons or for work?
  4. If for work, where are you travelling for your job?
  5. If there were a direct shuttle to and from your workplace, would you return to Windsor more often?

Can you imagine, the City's press release about this questionnaire has the nerve to say:

  • "The information you offer will provide a basis for the City’s research into the proposed Jobs Today Program, which was first announced in the Mayor’s State of the City Address."

At the least whoever wrote the press release had the sense not to add in the date when the speech was delivered in March.

With the speed like this is it any wonder that the Tunnel deal has been going on for three years.


You have to hand it to Councillor Lewenza. He is in a class by himself.

As you know, all poor Councillor Dilkens wanted to do was to have the time to read the report with respect to the hybrid buses before he cast his vote. After all, it was presented in the last-minute and it was a very major transaction.

That did not impress Junior. In a comment that I just could not believe I heard come out of his mouth, he told Councillor Dilkens that once Dilkens got the chance to read the Report he was confident that Dilkens would think that it was a very good initiative.

DUH Junior. The reason one reads a report before there is a vote not after is so that one can decide whether one should be for or against what is being proposed on an informed basis. If the vote had been taken, then there would be no point in Councillor Dilkens reading that Report because the decision had already been made! Who cared at that time whether he thought it was a good initiative or not.


It has been said on more than one occasion that no one on Council will second a Motion introduced by Councillor Halberstadt. Yet last night he introduced one and it was seconded.

Who did it... none other than Councillor Dilkens.

Why did he do it? Did he want to get back at his colleagues for their foolishness with respect to his request for a deferral? I don't think he's that petty.

I suspect that he did it because he felt that his Council colleague should have the opportunity to present what he wanted to discuss. I think that is being called being a responsible Councillor.

It did not matter anyway. The Mayor did not allow the Motion to go forward without a reconsideration vote which was lost. After playing with the Motion language subsequently, he did tell the Councillor that that he would have to come back with new language if he wished to introduce a different type of Motion to achieve his objective.

Why that couldn't have been done prior to or on Monday night by amending the Motion is beyond me.


You be the judge of the Councillor's new look when looking at Clooney's photo below.


It looks like there might be somebody new whose name is being kicked around. The rumours with respect to Dave Cooke running just won't go away although I heard that he has said that he has no interest in doing so.

The new name is an interesting one because I expect that he would have a great deal of business support behind him. He is a lawyer in town who has actually practiced for more than a few days. (Oh no, can this City take another lawyer as Mayor?) He was Chair of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce so he would be very familiar with a lot of the issues that impact on the City.

He made good sense recently with comments on the border issue:

  • "But with jobs and investment at stake, the local business community does not want any more delays getting construction started on a border traffic route solution, said the chamber's chairman"

    "We want to see something done," he said. "The concern of business is to get this moving forward. That's in the best interests of the community."

He understands that

  • " we are suffering in this community from a business perspective, yet have a lot of potential here."

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the potential new mayoral candidate, Peter Hrastovec! Another person to enter the race against Bill Marra to take away votes from him so that Eddie can sneak up through the middle.


I found it very interesting that Councillor Brister gave a press conference with respect to the East End Arena.

One should expect that he would give the press conference because after all he is the Chair of the Committee involved.

But just consider, who is the head of the WUC--- Junior. But who was the one who was front and centre dealing with this matter for damage control--- the Mayor.

Who is the Chair of Transit Windsor--- Councillor Postma. But who is the one who was front and centre dealing with the applause of the crowd for going "green"--- the Mayor.

All that I can imagine is that the Mayor knows that the Arena will be a fiasco and wants to stay as far away from it as possible. Let Councillor Brister be front and centre on that one!


I told you before that being able to render drawings is a growing profession in Windsor. We learned that $10,000 has been spent on drawings for some potential economic development opportunity in the Urban Village area.

I am told that we may see a vision that will be focused around Caron Avenue and the river. One person described it to me as resembling San Antonio, Texas perhaps with their River Walk area to capitalize on what has been going on with our riverfront.

With canals connecting to the river, perhaps the idea is to try to become the "Venice of Canada" as well since we already have Sam's plans to make Huron Church the equivalent of the Champs Elysées.

I must admit that, when I heard about this, the first thing I thought of were the boards and artists' renderings created by DRIC in United States to show the Delray residents how beautiful their area was going to become even though an international bridge was going to be built through their community.

The only fly in the ointment there, and here too, will be lack of money. But hey, since when has that stopped anyone from THINKING BIG!

Breaking BLOGNews: Police Surround Star Building

We interrupt your coffee break to bring you this breaking news story from Windsor, Ontario.

Windsor police officers bolstered by local units from the OPP and RCMP with the assistance of Canadian forces elite commandos have surrounded the Windsor Star building on Ferry Street in Windsor today.

Authorities report that in a bloodless coup d'état the Editorial Board of the Windsor Star was captured and overthrown by a posse of whining and naysaying Windsor Star reporters. News of the rebellion was kept secret from even those working within that building and at the Star Way printing facility.

A large section of downtown Windsor has been cordoned off as well. While there was no need to do so because there are no tourists wandering around in the downtown and given the vacancy rates in private buildings, there are hardly any tenants, the authorities felt the need to do so in case an unsuspecting Casino patron happened to leave the premises for some fresh air and got lost.

The news of the revolution only became public after the Star was distributed to its readership this morning. Authorities became concerned about what was taking place at the Star after reading today's Editorial, more specifically, the first paragraph:

  • Cleaning up
    Focus on neighbourhoods

    Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and council seem to care more about what strangers and tourists think about this city than you or your family do. They have earmarked significant resources to beautifying streets leading into town while leaving core neighbourhoods -- those places where people live rather than drive through -- blighted with weeds and garbage.

    A backlog of complaints about unsightly lots left with the city's bylaw enforcement department has residents in neglected neighbourhoods feeling justifiably frustrated. They wonder why their property taxes are so high when their legitimate complaints about messy lots near their homes go unaddressed for weeks on end by a city ill-prepared to deal with an annual problem...

    With a tight budget and a diminishing tax base, this city has to carefully watch every penny it spends...

    The issue comes down to priorities. Francis and council have earmarked about $1 million for improvements to "gateway roads" like Dougall and Howard avenues so that people breezing into town get a good first impression. While this is a worthy initiative, it should not be an either/or scenario. If anything, more resources should be devoted to making neighbourhoods more livable and inviting for taxpaying residents.

    While it is important Windsor be a great place to visit, it is more important people want to live here too."

The first alarm was actually sent to the Emergency Combined Forces Command Centre from Windsor's City Hall. The Mayor's Office works 18 hours a day on such important matters as threatening lawsuits, the Tunnel Deal and designing questionnaires for commuters whom they wish to send out West to earn money to bring back to Windsor.

An unnamed source within that Office was shocked that the Editorial actually said something significant in its first paragraph rather than at the end and that it was so negative. Immediately, an alarm was sent to the Commander of the Combined Forces who was directed to read the rest of the Editorial.

Several battalions were sent out once the Commander read the negative comments about Windsor's Mayor who was actually named. Normally, in situations such as this, the Editorial Board has never mentioned the word Mayor or used the name "Eddie Francis" but referred generically to City Hall or Council.

It was understood of course that negative Editorials about openness and transparency were allowed since the Editorial Board had to give the appearance of being objective in their coverage of politics in the City. But they were never taken seriously as threats to the Established Order.

Usually reliable sources have claimed that the Sherriff of the posse has been interviewed as a person of interest although no formal charges against him have been laid yet. These sources state that suspicions were raised when the Sheriff did not go fishing with his good Councillor buddy who went to Sudbury supposedly on a fishing trip. Sources wondered whether the Councillor was gathering information to demonstrate conclusively to the Sheriff that Windsor was in serious trouble after the positive press that the City of Sudbury received about their economic redevelopment.

Sources also claim that the Sheriff's "renovations" column may have been a signal that he wanted to tear down the old and to rebuild. He may finally have capitulated since his recent column. "Going green" on July 15, was completely out of character since it praised the Mayor so much without the recent, usual, negative undertones designed to show that he really did not mean it. Interestingly, the rebels attacked the Mayor on precisely the same point IE the spending of money "to beautify the city’s entrance corridors."

There is no doubt, these same sources state, that the Authorities believe that the Sheriff was trying desperately to divert attention away from himself by writing that green column. Moreover, the rebels have hung a flag outside the Star building with the image of Mr. Magoo on it.

In case you do not know who Mr. Magoo was, Wikipedia states:

  • "Magoo is a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of sticky situations as a result of his nearsightedness, or latent myopia."

The sources note that the Sheriff in his green column talked about the "myopic minority." That was clearly, it is believed, a signal that he was united with his posse in the desire to overthrow the Editorial Board.

Keep watching this BLOGchannel for further news bulletins. We return you now to your regularly scheduled coffee break.

The Tunnel As A Unique Security Risk

This City would be out of its mind to takeover the Detroit half of the Tunnel. We have enough of a concern by being a partial owner of half of it already.

If we don't have enough problems knowing whether the Tunnel deal is on or not, if we have no idea whether Detroit Council Resolutions are valid or not or can be reconsidered and if we have no idea whether the interest rate on the loan can be capped and whether Detroit has no liability even if they default, now we have security issues to be deal with.

There is something going on with respect to the Tunnel, something quite frightening I believe but we are never going to be told about it. Consider this bizarre story from Channel 4 news in Detroit:
  • "Mich. Talks Homeland Security With Israeli Police
    Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Security Issues Are Expected To Be Discussed

    POSTED: 12:04 pm EDT July 17, 2008

    Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox hosted a conference Thursday that brought more than 200 law enforcement leaders together to meet with members of the Israeli National Police to discuss security issues.

    Homeland security issues regarding the Detroit-Windsor tunnel were expected to be discussed.

    The meeting was one in a series of exchanges between American and Israeli law security agencies. It is also the first one ever to be held in Michigan."
The Detroit News reported:
  • "About 200 law enforcement officers from throughout the state got anti-terrorism lessons Thursday from an organization familiar with the subject -- Israeli police and military officials'...

    Howell Police Chief George Basar... said "We know the various targets in our communities that need to be secured."

The speakers included a Bomb Squad commander, a terrorist profiler and a private and corporate security expert who specializes in the securing of public facilities.

Now what is that all about? Does that make any sense whatsoever.

I have written a number of times asking whether anyone has done anything about the Tunnel and the fact that it was described as a "unique security risk."

One of the Detroit Councillors mentioned a long time ago about Homeland Security although she did not say exactly what.

Perhaps, one can understand now why Cliff Sutts may have been so insistent that the City set up a new Corporation for the Tunnel for liability reasons. Does Eddie know something that we don't know?

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

It is interesting to me that the focus is on the Tunnel and not on the Ambassador Bridge notwithstanding what Senator Kenny had to say. The Bridge Company has taken steps to minimize any disruption to the their crossing even if there was damage to the Bridge and, in effect, removed it as a target.

In fact, I speculated in one of my BLOGs that attention was being directed away from the Tunnel specifically because of ... who knows what!

What is going on? Where is Transport Canada in all of this considering that they have responsibility under their new legislation? Will the Tunnel have to be closed down if there is an unacceptable risk or other measures taken to minimize them such as reverse Customs?

I wish I knew what was going on. Someone owes it to travelers to let them know at least so that an informed decision can be made as to which crossing to use or that the proper security measures have been taken.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Tunnel Business Case

Windsor Councillors are not required or even expected to read reports in order to approve what is to be done. In fact, it would be more expeditious if they don't because if they do read something then there may be questions that need answering. The Spitfires arena deal is a prime example of Councillors not reading the agreement and the consequences that flow from that.

The line last night that was used by the Mayor gives it all away respecting his attitude as far as I am concerned. He has no respect for the Councillors. He has only respect for the process. How else to explain the failure to defer the vote on the hybrid buses so that Councillor Dilkens and others could actually read what was being proposed so they could make an informed decision. Here is what the Mayor said as quoted in the Star:
  • "It's not a question of reading a report, but a factor of requirements."
He knew before the first deferral vote when Councillor Dilkens received the Report but yet did not suggest deferral at that time. He only suggested deferring after some discussions off microphone. In other words, he wanted to make sure that all the administrative points re notice requirements were complied with so that no one could set aside the transaction but did not seem concerned with the Councillors' state of understanding or lack thereof. After all, as the City press release says:
  • "Mayor Plans and Transit Board to Act"
Is the Tunnel deal any different?

The Tunnel deal is on in Detroit. The deal is off in Detroit. The reconsideration vote was illegal. The vote to set up the Authority was improper in the first place. Why, is there something in the water that local politicians are drinking that causes this administrative mess on both sides of the river!

I am so confused. Why should Infrastructure Ontario know more than Windsor Councillors and Taxpayers of the City of Windsor who may have to fund the Tunnel deal especially if something goes wrong.
  • "Meanwhile, discussions between the city and the province to secure financing for the $75-million deal are "extremely preliminary," said Steve Erwin, spokesman for MPP Dwight Duncan (L - - Windsor-Tecumseh), the province's finance minister.

    "The city will have to provide a business case. It's our understanding that an application has been filed. It's in the very early stages."

Here is what Cliff Sutts, the City's lawyer has said back in April, three months ago and we have heard nothing of substance:

  • "Residents and council in Windsor will soon be privy to more details of the multimillion-dollar transaction, Sutts said.

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

The Mayor again confirmed at the Council meeting on Monday night that no one would recommend the deal unless it is supported by a business case.

Well what is the business case, why can't we be told? Infrastructure Ontario knows. In fact, Council Marra had to record as Councillor Questions the questions that he asked as a Windsor Tunnel Commissioner back in September, 2007 that have never been answered. Why not? What is there to hide?

It appears from what the Mayor said last night that Councillors have been provided with information about the transaction, whatever that means, so they can be blamed if something goes wrong, but they have not been presented with the Business Case. That is not supposed to happen until the transaction is finalized.

Then what is it that Infrastructure Ontario has been given? Is that all wrong now and will the "on hold" application have to be resubmitted with new facts? That will delay the process even more. I wonder if the Detroit Mayor and Detroit Council are aware of this.

Our Mayor is very cute. He said that there have been no "face-to-face" meetings after the Detroit Council action flip-flopping but that some might take place this week. What about other types of meetings, for example by telephone or by videoconferencing? He did not mention those but we will see what took place once we see the City's legal bills.

Eddie is playing a very interesting game. I am sure that you and I believe that a proper business case means that Windsor should only do the deal if we know that we can make a profit on the transaction. Why else would we enter into it and use up scarce City financial resources at a time when this City is facing horrible economic deterioration?

I assume that Windsor has comfort that the Detroit loan will be paid back and that there will be no default. That however does not seem to be something that Detroit is concerned about based on the A-Channel news story. I'm not certain how that can be done since all that Windsor will receive in the first dozen years of the agreement is $700,000 a year from Alinda. If that outstanding interest is capitalized, then by year 13 almost $125 million will have to be paid back over the balance of the 28 years of the Infrastructure Ontario loan.

Increasing tolls may be the answer provided that the Bridge Company decides to increase their tolls as well and that the DRIC bridge when it is built keeps their tolls high. However, with declining volumes as can be seen over the past decade and with the DRIC bridge threatening to take away 25% of the Tunnel business, I'm not certain how that can be done. Just paying back the principal and interest should add on a dollar per vehicle per crossing. I'm having a great deal of difficulty seeing an economic justification for this transaction.

But that may not be the business case at all. Eddie seems to be making the argument that the key to this transaction is keeping the Tunnel in public hands. He is not talking finances at all. It seems that it is important to protect the 5,000 commuters and the few tourists that want to come to Windsor these days. In this version of a business case, losing money at the Tunnel means nothing because we want the crossing to be "public" and it presumably helps our local economy indirectly. I mean, those thousands of tourists that are going to come from Detroit to Windsor to go kart racing during the Grand Prix week are important to us.

No wonder Eddie claimed that the Super Bowl was going to bring in $100 million into our economy while the reality is that it brought a mere fraction of that amount. All of a sudden, Eddie jumped on the Red Bull bandwagon. I'm sure that we will see how important the Tunnel is for that kind of event at the appropriate time too.

Take another example, if those thousands of tourists go back home but stop first at the Duty Free Shop so that its sales rise dramatically, why we should be happy since it is my understanding that we get a cut of their revenue or profits as rent. In this case, it is worth our while to control the Tunnel using taxpayer money even if there is a loss on the deal so that the Duty Free Shop makes more profits so that we can get a bigger amount of revenue to make up the loss. Whew, that gets complicated but then again, that's high finance.

Hopefully, sometime this week, the City's lawyer will get clarification as to Detroit's position. What happens though if he hears the Detroit Mayor say that the deal is on while the Detroit Council says that the deal is off? Presumably, as Councillor Marra told us last night, if Detroit does not agree to put the Tunnel into the Authority then the deal has to be dead. After all, the Councillor told us that this was an integral feature of the transaction.

As you can see therefore, dear reader, a business case can mean whatever it is that Eddie wants it to mean and at whatever time he wants to make it. Not even our Council has been let in on the secret.

I wonder what the Infrastructure Ontario application says because then we would understand what is going on. We might or might not like it. Don't worry though, we won't see it. Probably too much for Windsorites who have trouble with reading anyway given our low literacy rate to understand.

An Administrative Disgrace

I cannot watch Council meetings "live" anymore. I cannot stomach the way that they are carried on. The amount of time wasted is unbelievable for the results achieved. Rather, I tape them and then view the Meeting later by fast-forwarding the tape to try and see if there's anything of significance in those hours of talk.

It almost seems deliberate to chase people away from watching what Council is doing. I can almost hear the start of the debate to hold the Council meetings every other week again soon.

Take Monday night's Council meeting as an example. Please, as Henny Youngman would say!

It was an Administrative nightmare and certainly did not leave me with any confidence that anyone at City Hall knew what they were doing. If you want to know when Eddie is tense, Monday was a good indicator.

Eddie has a switch such that when his microphone is turned on, all the others turn off. His Chairman's microphone was on and off so many times cutting off people in mid-sentence that they were sometimes not understandable. Just watch the red light in front of Councillors and see when it goes off while they are talking because then you know Eddie is about to intervene. The earlier that the red light goes off the more upset Eddie is. It is a terrific barometer of his feelings.
It is so clear that there is no respect given to the public anymore by this Mayor, Council and Administration. Frankly, their attitude almost seems to be why bother with Council meetings anyway. Sometimes for meetings even amongst themselves.

A report on the purchase of hybrid buses is presented in the last possible minute and never posted on the City's website for the public to read. One Councillor, Councillor Dilkens, asks for the matter to be deferred for a week so that he can actually read the Report so that he can understand what he is voting for. It is only an $11 million transaction but his request is defeated if you can believe it.

It seems that Councillors are not supposed to read but just to approve. In the end however, Councillor Dilkens was successful because procedurally, the Report should have been sent out previously and since it was not, then the Mayor said that the matter would have to be deferred.

In case you are wondering, Steve Vlachodimos took the hit on that one. I'm sure that you've noted that Councillor Postma made a point of mentioning that the Report was presented with sufficient time to Administration. She did not want to be scolded by the Kindergarten teacher for doing something wrong.

What was also interesting to me was that the Chair of Transit Windsor confirmed that they had spent a long time working on the project but that the matter was put together quickly and brought forward to the Council in the last-minute for reasons frankly that are still not clear to me.

Doesn't anyone understand what is going on with these kind of deals, especially when the City already had an existing contract with the bus provider for diesel buses? What is clear is that whatever happened required immediate action because the Transit Windsor Board had just announced almost a week before:
  • "Councillor Caroline Postma, chair of the transit board announced today that there would be no Board of Directors meetings for July and August.

    The next scheduled meeting takes place on: Wednesday, September 10, 2008."
What about the matter with respect to the Ovations food area preparations revisions. That is a half-million dollar item increasing the East End Arena costs. I do not recall seeing anything on the public agenda about that matter either. In fact, in order to get it in front of Council, various steps under the Procedural Bylaw had to be taken.

Of course, when it was discovered that there were no final engineering plan so that no one knew what the actual cost would be, this matter had to be deferred again. Of course, Council had spent time talking about a matter that they will now have to talk about all over again.

In that light, I noticed that none of the Councillors picked up on what CKLW did, namely that the cost of the asphalt for the parking lot for the arena is going to be increased by an amount I am sure is in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars since the price of the 17,000 to 18,000 metric tonnes of asphalt needed will have to be increased by about $20 a tonne. Some of the cost can be absorbed but not all of it.

I will talk about the Tunnel deal in another BLOG. However, Councillor Marra had to record as a Council question what he had asked for I assume as a Windsor Tunnel Commissioner back in September, 2007 with respect to the transaction but which has never been answered to date.

Finally, the McHugh Street Extension Phase II matter went on the Consent Agenda if you can believe it. Another cost overage for the arena matter, although the multimillion dollar cost is not considered by Council to be part of the arena cost, and hardly any debate.

Councillor Valentinis did ask the obvious question about why the contract had to be increased when the tender document was accepted only about a month ago. There was an answer given, but I do not have the faintest idea what was meant by something to do with a typo in the Report.

These meetings require a makeover, an extreme one. Perhaps like the one that Councillor Halberstadt had after his trip to Sudbury. I still wonder what he was fishing for there.

The Star Wimps Out

How wonderful, the Star Editorial Board was finally shamed into writing something about the Tunnel deal with Detroit. Finally, they make a statement when it may be that the deal is dead anyway so that whatever they say is of no import whatsoever.

So much for responsible journalism in a one newspaper city.

They seemingly would prefer to play the role of cheerleader such as with their "Believe Windsor Essex" campaign.
  • "The Star and other media outlets have a responsibility to focus on positive stories -- they are out there -- instead of focusing only on the negative ones that land with a thud on the community's doorstep."

Star Editorial Board members do not want to be called small-minded now do they! After all

  • "There's no room in this city for small minds"

The next thing that has to happen is that Gord Henderson will write a column praising Eddie to the heavens for being this financial genius who wanted to do the deal and, but for the whiners and naysayers, would have taken the smart Americans to the cleaners by scooping millions out of Detroit’s pockets for the good of Windsor.

Gord did write once that I can recall about the Tunnel deal, in April 2007:

  • “How the heck did little old Windsor snatch a blue-chip infrastructure investment opportunity out from under the money- sniffing noses of Canada's major pension fund managers?

    You can bet your bottom dollar that the boards of these massive institutions, which have been pouring billions into a hot new field, longterm infrastructure investment, are asking themselves that awkward question following the revelation that Windsor has entered into a US $75-million agreement with Detroit to take full possession of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.

    They'll be kicking themselves where the sun doesn't shine for not recognizing, as the City of Windsor did, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to purchase a safe and reliable revenue stream for the next century and beyond.”

No Gord, they are laughing themselves silly at the thought that someone seems serious to put Windsor taxpayers on the hook for a $75M loan to Detroit.

Now Gord knows the answer. The deal is a dog. No one is interested in the Tunnel on its own and no one in the financial community will put up any cash for this transaction. Our Mayor is stuck dealing with the Province as his last financial resort.

Of course, that loan application is now on hold, put there by the Mayor. I wonder why. I would have thought that his bargaining position would have been increased dramatically if he could dangle $75 million in the face of Detroit Council.

I really wonder if the story is that Eddie knows that Infrastructure Ontario is not going to put up the money. If that is true, the deal is deader than a dodo and even Ken Cockrel Jr. would be able to understand that.

Perhaps the Star could redeem itself by checking this out so we could know the facts. Also their reporter might ask as well what the amount of the loan requested by the Mayor is. It would be interesting to know if it was more than $75M. Finally, what does the $10M for fees and insurance represent and who gets the money.

That's called "investigative journalism."

Back to the Editorial.

As you have learned by now, dear reader, you ought to start reading Star stories, columns and Editorials from the end first. Then you will know what the real steak is and can ignore the opening sizzle. Buried at the end is this statement, what the Editorial really should have been about:

  • “the business case for the city assuming control of the tunnel needs to be rock solid, made plainly in public and robustly debated before the city pulls the trigger on any deal.”

Here is what was not in the Editorial. There was no fuming about a Mayor who has still not let us in on the big secret about what this deal is really about after how many years. It keeps changing from a business transaction to keeping the Tunnel in public hands to beat the big, bad Bridge Company.

No questioning about whether what Daryl Newcombe of A-channel News said about the transaction based on the Letter of Intent in Detroit makes any financial sense for a deal by Windsor. He stated that there is an Interest-rate cap of 5.05%, which is below that charged by Infrastructure Ontario (their 40 year rate ranges between 5.62% to 5.72% already) and no liability on Detroit if they cannot repay the loan.

Actually I understand why the Star would not talk about that because they have been scooped by their competition.

No thundering about how Council has been invisible in this transaction and allowed the Mayor to run roughshod over them unlike their colleagues in Detroit who are protecting their citizens’ interest and probably ours as well indirectly.

No acknowledgment that a third crossing built by the DRIC would effectively wipe out the other crossings in this part of Ontario even though they have finally stated what you, dear reader, already know from reading this BLOG:

  • “Traffic has been declining at the tunnel for a decade and is predicted to decline further -- between 20 and 26 per cent -- upon construction of a third border crossing in the city's west end.

    The strong Canadian dollar and the real and perceived thickening of the border do not bode well for increased tourism over the next few years,”

No admission based on these numbers and the reduction in truck volume that there is no need for another crossing at this time or at the least questioning the assumptions being made.

But there is continued Star promotion of “public” crossings.

It must be hard being an Editorial writer for the Star. How do you balance attacking a transaction that may jeopardize the City and the Mayor who has mishandled it when you have to keep pretending that he is our hero in order to accomplish the goal of beating the Bridge Company into submission.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More Gems On The Agenda Pages

The things that one can find searching through the City's webpages.






Here is the good news

Separated from all the good news is this negative comment

Then to minimize the impact, use the Ken Lewenza Jr.-type approach of it being merely a fraction of a penny on the dollar even though that fraction adds up to over $100,000.


It's Not Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog was right.

It is so easy to appear to be trendy green by buying hybrid buses. It is not so easy and it takes a lot more work to think about a proper business case and an environmental case before making a transit purchase decision. It could be in fact that buying diesel makes a lot more sense if one wants to be “green” in a smart way. Just read on and you will see what I mean.

I think that we have to keep Eddie locked in his office.

How many urban legends have been created when our Mayor was not stuck there, working on a Tunnel deal as an example. Especially when there is a Star columnist who helps spread them around to perpetuate a myth of mayoral competency.

We had the Francis/Strasser Cleary deal beginning over cooking lobsters culminating in a meeting at a Tim Horton’s. Then there was Eddie walking in Devonshire Mall and coming up with the idea of a Youth Committee. Of course, who could forget the wedding in London that gave rise to the $65M and counting East End arena land deal. And now we have Eddie attending a conference in Chicago in April and coming back with the idea of spending extra green on hybrid buses to help give us a green environment.

These stories are turning me green and I do not mean with envy!

I don’t really take the latest legend too seriously. If Transit Windsor had not talked about hybrid buses at Board meetings I would be shocked. Either Eddie was asleep at them, too busy using his Blackberry or did not attend when they were discussed.

It is a shame to give credit to Mayor Daley when a Report had already been prepared for Transit Windsor years before. In a paper titled “TRANSIT RIDERSHIP GROWTH AND ASSET MANAGEMENT PLAN” prepared for Windsor Transit in 2006, IBI Group said:
  • “Future bus purchases will continue to be clean diesel of the latest technology development. Subject to operational experience with and the availability of supplementary funding from the federal and provincial governments, hybrid drive technology could be considered for vehicle purchases beginning in 2008.”

Amazing how that author was able to foretell the future!

I expect it was various Government programs helped change Eddie’s mind too. Windsor received in 2007, over $3.75M in gas tax revenues for public transit:

  • “The McGuinty government is providing $314 million in gas tax funding to 108 municipalities to help get more people out of their cars and onto public transit, Transportation Minister Jim Bradley announced today…

    "Transit is the antidote to gridlock," Bradley said. "Sharing a portion of the provincial gas tax helps municipalities deliver greener, healthier transportation options to their residents and improves Ontario's economic competitiveness.”

I am sure that Eddie must be aware as well of the federal programs: Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund and the Gas Tax Fund.

Our Mayor has not always been so generous in spending money for transit. I wonder if he saw the political advantages while in Chicago. I am sure that he understands that he can appear to be out front by copying concepts such as:

  • “American Public Transit Association’s “Dump the Pump Day” on Thursday, June 19. The day is designed to encourage people across the country to ride public transportation to save money, conserve gasoline and help reduce greenhouse gases.”

So let’s end this legend now. Our Mayor knew about hybrids years ago but did nothing about it!

Let’s take a look at recent history as outlined in the media:

  • 03-16-2007

City officials stripped the Transit Windsor budget to its bare bones and cut out new bus purchases and fare increases at a budget hearing Thursday…

Transit Windsor administrators were worried about the elimination of bus purchases. The bus fleet, which consists of 99 coaches, is on average 12 years old.

"The useful life of a bus is 18 years," Williams said.

A quarter of the fleet is 18 years old and two buses were bought 28 years ago. Administrators had hoped to buy six new buses this year at a cost of $2.7 million.

"Before we buy new buses, I'd like to streamline practices," Francis said. "I move we not buy new buses and reconsider the issue in 2008. Before we add to services, we need to get a handle on the service we provide."

  • 05-03-2007

In finalizing its budget, council did end up helping the landlords by re-directing a $1-million savings by agreeing not to buy any Transit Windsor buses this year and instead apply the money to reduce this year's multi-residential rate increase from 3.25 per cent down to 2.95.

  • 12-18-2007

Transit Windsor has received more than $3.7 million in gas tax funding from the province for its capital and operating costs.

Windsor's share is consistent with the funding allocated in previous years, Transit Windsor general manager Penny Williams said.

"That amount has been fully allocated in our 2008 budget," she said. "Fifty per cent of it is used to fund our capital acquisitions and buses. The rest goes toward things like fuel and maintenance."

  • 03-27-2008

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty today announced … initiatives that will support public transit...

The Public Transit Capital Trust expands on existing federal support for public transit in Ontario by providing $195 million in new funding. The province will direct the funds into its ambitious plans for expanding public transit

  • 04-10-2008

Twelve new buses will be added to the Transit Windsor fleet in 2009 and six more may come later if city council approves the additional purchase.

The transit board approved Wednesday the purchase from New Flyer Industries at a base price of $379,900 per bus, totalling almost $5.7 million.

The board also approved in principle the purchase of six additional buses for 2009, pending city council's approval.

Transit Windsor also recently bought five old buses from Durham Regional Transit at a scrap metal price of $1,100 each. One of those will become the replacement for bus 504, which was involved in a collision last year and later decommissioned. The other buses will serve as future replacements or will be used for spare parts.

  • 06-03-2008

Windsor is facing a budget shortfall of $6.4 million unless councillors take preventive action, the city's finance department said Monday…

The department also calls on council to consider putting on hold about $3.6 million in infrastructure projects and $2.3 million in Transit Windsor purchases or projects.

Gee if Eddie was so impressed in April, why did his Administration propose to cut Transit Windsor purchases.

There is more….Don’t you find it interesting that the Transit Windsor Board only approved of the change in the contract at 10:35 AM on July 17, the date of Eddie’s Press conference. Why did they have to wait for months after the Daley meeting to act if it was so important. From reading the Minutes of the meeting, it took all of 2 minutes to approve. Now THAT is a thorough review of the whole mattter in keeping with the usual Councillor tradition.

Oh I forgot, Eddie was working on the Tunnel deal and only could meet that morning for such a short time!

If one takes Gord Henderson seriously, then whatever happened to Eddie the legal technocrat who dots the “I’s” and crosses the “T’s” after studying a matter thoroughly. In this case, a decision was made by Transit Windsor and then was changed eventually after Eddie came back from his conference.

  • "It's a no brainer. Sandbox logic," said Francis of the city's decision to follow the lead of cities like Chicago and Seattle and go hybrid.”

Unfortunately, our Mayor may have acted too quickly. There may be even better technology available. At a recent press release from the Chicago Transit Authority states:

  • “As part of continuing efforts to mitigate rising fuel costs, Chicago Transit Authority officials today said they are evaluating a new hybrid electric bus that has the ability to nearly double the miles per gallon of current CTA hybrid buses

    The CTA’s oldest buses average 2.77 miles per gallon and its 40-foot hybrid buses average 3.95 miles per gallon. The DesignLine Hybrid has averaged seven to eight miles per gallon in other cities and the test period will help determine if the buses will run as effectively in Chicago.”

This matter will be raised at Council with the Notice of Motion to approve the deal. We will hear the usual rhetoric about why is this such a great deal since we will save money on diesel fuel, improve maintenance and reduce air pollution. We will be given big numbers for the percentage of fuel savings and emissions reduction.

Of course, if time had been taken to do a proper business case one might discover that, with the new diesel engines and fuel, the reduction in emissions is extremely significant. Years before

  • "Other new buses in Chicago’s fleet are equipped with low-emission engines that produce 60 percent fewer emissions than the buses they are replacing, they also converting to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel."

It might even be cheaper to retrofit existing buses than to buy the hybrid ones. Imagine buying old buses from trendy cities who are going hybrid, retrofittung them and saving money like crazy! Only when the best technology is proven, then one buys the fancy-shmancy buses!

Numerous tests have been undertaken that demonstrate that all of the so-called fuel savings do not necessarily happen. Are the proposed Windsor savings at the high or low end of the range?

  • “The Toronto Transit Commission found that out after almost a year of running new hybrid buses and saving only around 10 percent on fuel cost, instead of the 20 percent to 30 percent promised by the brochure.

    Gary Webster, TTC general manager, explained to the Globe and Mail that New York buses were able to achieve a 20 to 30 percent fuel efficiency because the hybrid technology works better if the buses are driven at lesser speed and stop more often. With a gridlocked stop-and-go bus routes common in New York the hybrid bus relies heavily on its electric motor and regenerative brake system which recharges its batteries.

    In contrast, in cities like Toronto where the routes are characterized by high speed, hybrids use more their traditional diesel engines.”

What has not been considered is whether this deal makes sense from a different perspective. The cost per diesel bus under the contract that the City signed was $379,900. The cost for the 18 hybrid buses is $11,342,133 including spare parts or $630,118.

The savings are said to be $8-$10,000 per year and the normal life expectancy of a bus is 12 years although Windsor runs its buses much longer than that. Please explain to me how this purchase makes sense from a business case perspective given the almost $250,000 difference in price. One could take that price differential and invest it and be guaranteed the savings.

In fact, this deal looks like it is one that Windsor is doing on its own. Contrast this situation with:

  • “The Province of Ontario has partnered with six municipalities on the purchase of new transit buses which will save municipalities an estimated $15,000 per bus, Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield announced today.”

Here is the part that is troubling, because it would appear that no one has taken this into consideration. Since Transit Windsor went to the hybrid buses, it reduced the number of buses to be purchased from 12 diesel to nine hybrid on the first contract. For the $11 million, 18 hybrid buses can be purchased. If diesel buses were to be purchased for that same amount of money, then almost 30 buses could be purchased, a dozen more.

Here’s the point. There are trade-offs to be considered.

With another dozen buses on the road it would make the transit system much more attractive to users and potential users. Increased frequency and new routes could well result in people giving up the use of their vehicles to go transit. How many thousands of automobile trips would be replaced if a dozen extra buses were on the road? How many thousands of new riders would be using Transit Windsor.

Think of the savings in automobile gasoline usage, pollution reduction and convenience we are giving up so that Eddie can appear to be green. Imagine the ridership increase that we would have as well that would result in additional government grants also since
  • “Seventy per cent of the total funding is distributed to municipalities on the basis of their transit ridership levels.”

I thought you might want to read the following quotation from a website called Energy Priorities that puts it all into perspective. What is important for leadership is not playing in sandboxes but using sound logic before a decision is made.

  • “GM's "All Aboard the Magic Bus" ad suggests that Seattle's new hybrid buses will be responsible for big fuel savings. The real fuel savings of a bus isn't under the hood, however, it's in the seats. To boost its image, and make a difference, GM should be spending some ad money to promote bus ridership.

    Riders, even on diesel buses, conserve by leaving their cars at home. GM says that if bus fleets in our nine largest cities were replaced by hybrids, it would save 40 million gallons of fuel per year, "a positive impact the whole country would feel." In reality, we wouldn't feel a thing.

    The fact is, Americans consume 80 million gallons of fuel per day. The fuel savings of those 13,000 new hybrid buses would amount to 1/10th of one percent, while U.S. consumption is expected to grow by 50 percent in 20 years.

    Assuredly, there is an energy crisis. Seattle Metro Transit and GM should be applauded for their commitment to hybrid technology. Meanwhile, there's a simple technology every business can adopt today, that makes a bigger difference: encouraging public transit. Jump aboard."