Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 22, 2008

Should MDOT's Steudle Be Desperate


I would not like to be the Director of MDOT who has to appear in front of Senator Cropsey shortly at his hearings. He is to be followed immediately at the hearings by the representatives from the Bridge Company who, I am certain, will not be too complimentary of the Department.

I’m sure by now that you’ve had the opportunity to read my BLOG on the Cropsey hearings in Lansing, Michigan. [August 18, 2008 “The Michigan Senate Hearings].

If you have not had a chance to do so, you ought to read it this weekend if you have any interest whatsoever in the border file. It is most enlightening. And disturbing.

In trying to describe what the representatives from FHWA and MDOT were saying, the one word that came to my mind was “desperation.” How else to describe some of the bizarre and absurd statements made by them in answer to Senator’s Cropsey’s questions.

They must know that they are in trouble with respect to the building of a new DRIC bridge and never expected that I and others would actually listen to what they had to say and would Blog on it.

I wonder if the MDOT Director will accept the “invitation” of the Senator to attend at his next hearing or will the Senator have to make that invitation a little bit more formal. I must admit that if I was the Director then I would know that I have been put in an impossible position by my subordinates and the Federal representative. Now I have to support their ridiculous positions or disown them, thereby making myself and my Department look foolish.

He is going to be hammered by the Senator with respect to a major change in the Department's position with respect to the border as well. He will be embarrassed no matter what he says.

If that was not bad enough for MDOT, then take a look at this exchange between Brian Calley a member of the Michigan House of Representatives and Bill Shreck, director of communications for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Tell me the last time when you have seen a civil servant take a shot publicly at a Member of a Legislature, one of the people who controls the budget purse strings for the bureaucracy. That is stupidity to the nth degree. If this does not show desperation then I do not know what does.

It all started when Calley did an opinion piece for the Lansing State Journal newspaper. Unfortunately for Representative Calley, he seemed to support the Ambassador Bridge project and not MDOT’s DRIC project. Here are excerpts:
  • "Calley: State's proposed bridge project does not make sense

    The question of whether or not to build a new bridge would normally bring all kinds of consternation, because this type of bridge could really bust the budget. In fact, if Michigan were to build a new bridge between Michigan and Canada, it would probably be the most expensive infrastructure project in our history.

    However, today in Michigan, we have a very unique opportunity. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge want to build a new bridge themselves. It would be located right next to the existing bridge. And here is the best part: they are not asking for any money from the state to do so.

    So what has been the reaction from the state? Basically, it has been "thanks, but no thanks. We'd rather build our own…"

    And here is the kicker: much of the amount spent by the private company on a new bridge would qualify for the federal match. That could fetch our Transportation budget a couple billion dollars from the feds.

    It seems the state bureaucracy has a philosophical opposition to privately owned infrastructure. That opposition goes so far, that they're willing to break the state budget, and leave billions in federal dollars on the table to build their own bridge.”

Foolishly MDOT could not leave well enough alone. They had to hit back at the Representative and tell him publicly that he did not have a clue about what he was talking about. Of course, we don’t know who within MDOT was the one who asked for this letter to be written in the first place. I hope that Senator Cropsey asks the Director if he was responsible for it and if so why he did not sign his name to the opinion piece but let a communications guru take the heat for it.

Here are excerpts from the reply. Note also the big difference between what the MDOT representative said here and what the MDOT representative said in front of Senator Cropsey:

  • Shreck: Bridge project won't bring in new federal $$

    State Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland, is just plain wrong when he says the proposed new border crossing between Detroit and Windsor would take away state transportation dollars from Michigan counties. I'm writing to set the facts straight about the Detroit International River Crossing (DRIC) study of the busiest trade crossing in North America…

    Calley also is wrong about the Detroit International Bridge Company's ability to generate matching funds. This falsehood continues to be heard even though MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have repeatedly told the Legislature that the bridge company's project cannot and will not bring new federal dollars to Michigan.

    MDOT supports a replacement of the existing bridge, but also believes a new border crossing, as proposed by the DRIC study is needed to keep trade flowing and protect our economy…

    We agree with Calley that $1 billion is a lot of money. That is why MDOT is determined to use facts and hard evidence in the management of Michigan's border crossing network…”

In passing, did you note what the Communications Director said:

  • “MDOT supports a replacement of the existing bridge”

There must have been a huge change in policy at MDOT between the date of publication of that comment, August 3 and the date of the Cropsey hearings, August 15.

Gee, I thought that the MDOT REPRESENTATIVE, in front of Senator Cropsey, would not "SUPPORT" the Enhancement Project because it was a private project and the State had no role in it. FHWA said the same thing. The rep at least said that the Department did not "oppose" the Project.

That is not what was said a few weeks before. I do not understand why MDOT could not have told the Senator that they were assisting the Bridge Company to expedite the process for building the Enhancement Project bridge even though they thought another bridge was necessary. Isn’t that what the Senator asked? I believe that the Senator must ask the Director what caused this major shift in direction to the detriment of commerce in Michigan.

In addition, previously, the Department had said that only one bridge was supportable. The head guy at the US DRIC consulting firm has admitted that

  • "it is believed (by Joe Corradino) that the market won’t support three bridges."

In addition:

  • "the state's leader of the public project, MDOT's Mohammed Alghurabi, said only one span will be successful. The private plan is further along in the process.

    "We've been clear that the intent is not to have two bridges," Alghurabi said. "If the Detroit International Bridge Co. were to succeed (in getting cleared for construction), then the (public project) will not continue."

Back to the exchange. The Michigan Representative was not going allow some flunkie to take a shot at him and with incorrect information. Here is the latest reply article from Representative Calley:

  • “Another State Rep Weighs In On Detroit River International Crossing

    Unfortunately, his [Bill Shreck} commentary was extremely misleading - although I suppose I should be used to that by now.

    He stated the construction of a new crossing by the Detroit International Bridge Company would not bring any matching federal funds. He seemed to speak for both MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. I have a FHWA document dated Aug. 4, 2008, entitled "Innovative Management of Federal Funds." It indicates otherwise.

    "Toll credits are earned when a state, toll authority, or a private entity funds a capital highway investment with toll revenues from existing facilities." The document goes on to say, "By using toll credits to substitute for the required non-Federal share on a Federal aid project, Federal funding can effectively be increased to 100 percent."

    Additionally, Shreck said there would be no impact on funding for local roadways.

    This is interesting in light of information found in the same FHWA document. It reads, "Toll credits provide states with more flexibility in financing projects. For example, by using toll credits, 1) Federal-aid projects can be advanced when matching funds are not available, 2) state and local funds normally required for matching may then be directed to other transportation projects ..."

    It seems that there could be an impact on funding available for local roads after all…

    But, of course, these guys really hate oversight. It comes with a pesky thing called accountability.”

As I have said time and time before, to me the DRIC project is nothing more than an attempt to force the Owner of the Bridge Company to sell out at a cheap price so that the Governments can build and own another bridge exactly where the Ambassador Bridge wants to build theirs, right beside the existing crossing.

If you can explain the contradictions, the new stories, the changes in position, the facts that seem to bear no relationship to reality then I know a desperate Director that you might want to contact.

Is the FBI Investigating The Tunnel Deal


video

It is getting scary to be blunt about it. Councillor Hatfield must read my BLOG since he can call me, as a Blogger, one of Councillor Halberstadt’s friends. Apparently so does the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Only last week I wrote:
  • “Come on. Admit it.

    You have been wondering just as I have whether the FBI has been looking into this Tunnel deal with all of its strange goings-on as part of their investigations. Have Canadian police forces been involved also?”

Almost immediately thereafter, a new story broke. There were headlines in the Detroit media about the Detroit Mayor’s former Administrator and good friend being involved in a federal probe.

The Tunnel deal was not mentioned in the Detroit media. However, it was not too soon after those stories came out that the Star did its story and talked about the Tunnel deal and Derrick Miller’s involvement in it. It was an obvious angle to take since the Star had told us about his role previously and Crains Detroit had written

  • “New post for Detroit official

    Derrick Miller, former chief information officer for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, now is founder and managing partner of Citivest Capital Partners L.L.C…

    He continues work for Kilpatrick on concession agreements between the city and Windsor about their joint ownership of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and its operation and future.”

Cliff Sutts is proving to be not only a first-class lawyer but a first-class psychic as well. Didn't he say quite recently:

  • "We are negotiating a tunnel deal -- and now we are involved in a criminal case. It's absurd."

I wonder if even he thought that this commercial deal could turn into a criminal matter itself if it is part of a larger investigation.

Fortunately, he and the Mayor have already gone public with their version of some of the events that took place involving the Mayor of Detroit "to put the record straight." I would assume that if they are questioned by the authorities, if in fact the Tunnel deal is being looked at, they would have answers at their fingertips.

  • "We feel we need to reveal the facts..."

    "We are taking this position because frankly we have been dragged into it," Sutts said. "We are not going to lie or appear that we are not being truthful. The facts are the facts -- and they can't change them."

A point in the Star story that is very interesting is:

  • "Francis, who communicated often with Miller about the deal..."

and that

  • "agents told him [Pangborn's lawyer] they'd been looking into Miller for about a year."

If there were telephone calls or text messages between them on the Tunnel, have they been captured by the Authorities?

Who knows what is being investigated on the other side and whether the Tunnel is involved. It is just another wrinkle in a file that makes no sense whatsoever to me. I truly hope that this matter is "on hold" until everything sorts itself out!

Never Ending Stories


Here are more stories for you to read with your coffee.

By the way, have you forwarded my BLOGsite address to your family, friends and colleagues? Alternatively, feel free to send me a list of e-mail addresses so that I can send out my "teaser" e-mails to them as well. Word-of-mouth is the way that my subscription list has grown and grown.

TRANSPORT CANADA TRAFFIC NUMBERS

Perhaps US DRIC could get their information as to volumes from their partner in DRIC. They would see a rather drastic decline


LIBRARY SEARCHES FOR BELL REPLACEMENT

I told you that naysayers cannot compete when it comes to destroying Windsor's image. Who would come here to work at the Library after reading this:


DOES FARHI SUPPORT THE BRIDGE COMPANY

Not directly of course, because I don't even know if the men behind the two companies have ever met.

As you well know, dear reader, and as the neighbours know even better, the City’s demolition bylaw prevents the Ambassador Bridge Company from tearing down their vacant homes so that they can improve the neighbourhood using the services of the University’s Green Corridor group.

Of course, many people believe that the City's actions are foolish but then again those people are not professional land owners and developers. They are only people who might be negatively impacted by those homes or are mere citizens of Windsor.

One would think therefore that if a sophisticated real estate person is concerned about vacant property then the City ought to be as well, especially when there was a fire in one of the Bridge Company’s homes.

Here is what Mr. Farhi had to say:

  • "It is true that, if the Ontario government fails to act responsibly... it [Elgin County courthouse] will likely become vacant...

    It would never be my choice to demolish such a landmark, but it is a sad fact that empty buildings too often tend to attract misfortune. Locust Mount and Alma College are only some of dozens of heritage properties across the province that have fallen prey to vandals."

Perhaps now City Council will ask the Bridge Company to tear down the homes!

A LESSON FOR COUNCILLOR VALENTINIS

Perhaps the Councillor might learn something and, since he is an academic, could teach his colleagues, especially the Mayor, how to get things accomplished quickly. It's called co-operation, not wasting money by threatening lawsuits as an obvious negotiating tool.

On June 27, 2008, we saw this Press Release:

  • CANADA AND ONTARIO TO WIDEN COUNTY ROAD 22

    WINDSOR — The governments of Canada and Ontario, in partnership with the County of Essex, today announced funding for the widening of Essex County Road 22 from Lakeshore Boulevard to Patillo Road. This project is one of several projects under the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy. Funding for this strategy comes from the Canada-Ontario Border Infrastructure Fund, a joint commitment by the federal and provincial governments to invest $300 million in the Windsor Gateway.

Lo and behold, only just over a month later, we saw this one:

  • August 15, 2008 CANADA AND ONTARIO ANNOUNCE START OF CONSTRUCTION ON ESSEX COUNTY ROAD 22

    WINDSOR — The governments of Canada and Ontario, in partnership with the County of Essex, today announced the start of construction for the widening of Essex County Road 22 from Lakeshore Boulevard to Patillo Road. This project is one of several projects under the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy. Funding for this strategy comes from the Canada-Ontario Border Infrastructure Fund, a joint commitment by the federal and provincial governments to invest $300 million in strengthening the transportation networks in Windsor-Essex.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Canada Pressures The United States Again


Here is a fascinating speech delivered by the Industry Minister a few days ago.

I just cannot believe truly how stupid the Canadian Government is. The arrogance of the Conservatives in power is bewildering. They seem to have forgotten already about NAFTA-gate.

If you read the speech properly, you will see that Canada is intervening again in the American Presidential election. Have they been reading the public opinion polls and seen that Senator Obama might not be the US President after all since the polls are very close? Are they trying to help Senator McCain win since he is the champion of Free Trade between Canada and the United States? Or will this be another dumb mistake again just like their intervention in the Democratic Party primaries that will hurt Canada, especially if Obama wins?

Nothing like Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, flaming out in style!

If that is their strategy, they are doing it in a way that makes no sense. Pressuring Americans is not smart as Mickey Kantor made clear in his radio interview that I Blogged. The Minister’s speech talked more about NAFTA and Canadian energy exports to the United States—oil, gas and electricity and Canada being their number one supplier-- than about trade liberalization and border infrastructure.

That was the threat used by the Prime Minister when he was speaking at the Press Conference with the US President at the SPP meeting earlier this year. In effect, he warned the United States that if Canada was hurt by any NAFTA renegotiations then the Americans might not get Canadian energy.

Yeah, right. That is a real smart tactic to use. You know the saying about when the Americans sneeze Canada gets pneumonia. If the border is "thick" now, just wait and see what other non-tariff barriers can be imposed like the"customs rule that requires foreign ships to notify customs of details of U.S.-bound cargo 24 hours before it's loaded on the boat" described in the Star today. So far, it does not apply to trucks at land crossings.
  • "It could be paralyzing and devastating for the border," said Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. "
It is interesting how this story came out just after the Prentice speech. Purely a co-incidence eh/huh.

If an American Secretary had made these kinds of comments during a Canadian election there would have been hell to pay.

Note how little was said about the border crossing in our area. More importantly, look at the choice of language.
  • “This Gateway includes the vital Detroit–Windsor border, where a new crossing is planned.”

Which new crossing is being referred to: the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project or the DRIC bridge? The language is deliciously ambiguous.

If in fact it does mean the DRIC bridge, then here is another Minister of the Federal Government disrespecting the process. Note the past tense of “planned.” In other words, the decision has already been made even while the DRIC study is ongoing in Canada and the US.

As an aside, I wanted to see what the Americans said about Prentice’s speech but in a quick search, I could not find any American news outlet that even covered it.

It is important to read and that is why I have included all of it in this BLOG.

  • The Honourable Jim Prentice, PC, QC, MP
    Minister of Industry

    Americas Competitiveness Forum


    Atlanta, Georgia
    August 18, 2008

    Bom dia, buenos dias, bonjour and good day. Thank you for your kind introduction. It is an honour to participate in this forum with so many distinguished participants from across the Americas.

    It is fitting that Atlanta is our host city. World-class transportation and communications have made this city a focal point in the global economic system. Atlanta is one model we could follow in strengthening competitiveness across the Americas.

    Earlier today I met Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Ruiz to discuss ways to improve North American competitiveness as a follow-up to our leaders' meeting in New Orleans earlier this year.

    Today, I want to discuss trade liberalization and border infrastructure.

    Then, I'll talk about the importance of our integrated North American energy market to competitiveness.

    Finally, I'll discuss the importance of strengthening gateways and trade logistics in North America and across the Americas.

    The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a great success for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Trade in goods and services among our countries has tripled since 1993 to almost $1 trillion a year. Investments, jobs and gross domestic product have all increased — improving the lives of our citizens.

    NAFTA has set a solid foundation for our people and companies to build regional platforms and forge continental, as well as global, supply chains.

    Canada and the U.S. enjoy the world's largest trading relationship. Our borders clear nearly $2 billion in trade every day. That's double what it was just five years ago, and it is behind more than 7 million U.S. jobs, as well as one in five Canadian jobs. Canada is the single largest export market for 35 states and buys more from the U.S. than all 27 members of the European Union combined and four times more than China.

    In fact, NAFTA has served all three countries well since it entered into force in 1994. It has made all three partners more competitive, and it allows producers of goods and service providers to better realize their potential by operating a larger, more integrated market.

    In 2006, the NAFTA partners' foreign direct investment holdings in North America were worth almost $523.7 billion. Canada continues to work with Mexico and the U.S. to find ways to further increase North American trade and investment and boost competitiveness and prosperity in all three economies.

    But groups like the North American Competitiveness Council and the Canadian and U.S. chambers of Commerce warned in a joint report that new fees and regulations are creating costly delays at the Canada–U.S. border.

    Last summer, my government appointed an independent panel of five key Canadian business leaders, led by Red Wilson, to review key elements of Canada's competition and investment policies. The Competition Policy Review Panel recently released its report and stressed that the "thickening" of our border since 9/11 is "threatening the viability of the fully integrated NAFTA business model."

    Canada recognizes the importance of our trade relationship with the U.S. We are committed to improving security at our borders. This is a vital part of our competitiveness and future prosperity. We are working to create smarter, more efficient borders and to improve their infrastructure.

    While our North American relationship is vitally important, it would be a mistake to think Canadian interests end at Mexico. Strengthening our partnerships in the Americas is one of our Prime Minister's top priorities. The proximity of the economies of the Americas to one another is a distinct competitive advantage, and we need to make this advantage work better for us.

    Eleven years ago, we were the first country to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with Chile. Now our government has signed an FTA with Peru and has concluded FTA negotiations with Colombia. And we are exploring the possibility of one with Panama.

    Canada will continue its re-engagement, given the outcome at Doha a few weeks ago, to ensure that FTAs work even better for exporters, importers and citizens, and to reinforce our existing FTAs.

    But it's not just asphalt and concrete that link our economies together. Electrical power lines and oil and gas pipelines are equally important in binding our economies.

    Canada is the largest source of energy imports to the U.S. Our annual exports are close to $100 billion.

    On oil alone, Canada has been the largest supplier to the U.S. since 1999 — not Saudi Arabia, not Kuwait, nor any other producer from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). We have 14 percent of global oil reserves — putting us second only to Saudi Arabia.

    Canada is a stable supplier of energy to the U.S. — whether it is gas and oil in the West or integrated electricity grids in the East. And being close means lower delivery costs than most other power suppliers.

    Developing our oil sands has had its environmental challenges, but we've come a long way. Our Prime Minister insists that Canada be the most responsible environmental producer of oil and gas in the world. Since 1990, industry has reduced the CO2 intensity of oil sands production by 45 percent. We will also be introducing tough new regulations that will require even more dramatic cuts.

    Building on the gains in technologies over the last five years, we need to continue to expand clean energy technologies, such as the Canada–U.S. cooperation on a pilot project that piped CO2 from North Dakota into a partially depleted Saskatchewan oilfield. Our leaders agreed in New Orleans to pursue more opportunities like this one.

    Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are also harmonizing many of our energy efficiency standards. We are working on ways to promote biofuels and enhance our electricity networks. Together, we can address North America's air quality and other environmental challenges.

    Just as energy security is critical to North American competitiveness, so are our supply chain dynamics.

    To improve the flow of goods and people between Canada and the rest of the world, Canada is investing $2 billion through our Gateways and Border Crossings Fund.

    We are building three strategic Gateways.

    There is the Asia–Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative. It connects Canada's West with the Pacific Coast of the Americas and Asia.

    Last fall, the first containers from Asia were unloaded in the new deep-water intermodal terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The speed and efficiency of this new terminal allowed those first containers to reach Chicago only 12 days after leaving Yokohama, Japan. And all of those containers were X-rayed at Prince Rupert.

    Another is our Atlantic Gateway. It will connect eastern Canada with the eastern seaboard of the Americas and Europe.

    The third is the Ontario–Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor. It connects the West and the East to the centre of the United States and the rest of the Americas. This Gateway includes the vital Detroit–Windsor border, where a new crossing is planned.

    But even the most modern infrastructure doesn't guarantee the most efficient flow of trade.

    That's why we are also moving to 100-percent electronic transmission of commercial trade. To improve logistics, we are using similar criteria for admitting companies to our Partners in Protection and the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) programs.

    We've also heard a call to action to improve upon what we've done to date. A World Bank report last year suggested that trade logistics is critical to harness global trade and reap the benefits of globalization. It said that success in integrating into global supply chains hinges on a company's ability to move goods across borders rapidly, reliably and cheaply.

    We should all be concerned that the report showed that of the 150 countries reviewed, the Americas had one country in the top 10, two in the top 30 and four in the top 50. By contrast, Asia had three countries in the top 10, seven in the top 30 and nine in the top 50. We have some catching up to do.

    The private sector has an important role to play.

    In the last two decades, a logistics industry has been created to manage these supply chains. This has allowed countless small and medium-sized enterprises to act as "globalized" players. And this industry has kept government up to date on the logjams that hinder competitiveness.

    We need to make trade logistics and border infrastructure a priority in the short term or lose opportunities to other global competitors who are better organized to facilitate trade.

    To conclude, trade liberalization and improving infrastructure are absolutely vital to enhancing prosperity across the Americas. Governments and businesses have important roles to play here.

    Canada is committed to improving North American competitiveness and to doing its part in making the Americas more prosperous.

    Now more than ever, we must take advantage of our proximity to each other so that we can reap all of the benefits offered by trade liberalization in our hemisphere.

    Thank you, merci, gracias and obrigado.

The Oakville Perspective On Windsor


Oh my goodness. The shorts of one of the Windsor Star Editorial writers must be in a knot these days. First they had to rough up Councillor Halberstadt, the Library Chair, about the Brian Bell matter. Since Alan seems to be the People’s favourite, that took a bit of courage.

Then it was time to take a shot at the Mayor again. How else would one explain this nasty little dig at our Mayor the other day:
  • “While it was a bit rich for the uber-secretive Mayor Eddie Francis to condemn the murkiness surrounding Bell's departure…”

The corporate nose of the Windsor Star is out of joint for some reason. Did the Mayor do something wrong that got them so upset?

The Star has been so supportive of the Mayor, more supportive than this Mayor should ever have expected. There are a myriad of reasons why this happened, none of which need to be discussed again in this BLOG. You, dear reader, are well aware of them by now.

Why, the Star even bought into the Boost Windsor campaign of the Mayor. Remember how teary-eyed I got when I saw the Publisher’s Message that was printed in the Star. Put on a happy face. Counter those nasty whiners and naysayers. In fact, the Star wanted everyone to join its Believe Windsor-Essex Movement! All you had to do was call Ray in Star Advertising.

But nothing surprises me about anything coming out of Windsor anymore.

If you happened to get the Globe and Mail the other day, you would have seen an advertising insert called Perspective Windsor. Such an insert has been running periodically for a number of years now.

In it were advertisements from the University of Windsor (lots of them), the airport, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, St. Clair College, ERCA, the Development Commission as the public sector advertisers. Wow, I did not think that they had this much cash to throw around.

Oh yes there were a few non-public sector ads: a back page by the Rosati Group, a half page one by the local winery Association and a less than a half page one by Windsor Crossing.

I was surprised that there was no Casino Windsor advertisement nor one from the WFCU. They did get a freebie article about them both.

This concept was produced by some company out of Oakville, not Windsor, called Perspective Marketing Inc. That Company stated that the insert was “produced independently of the City of Windsor.” I’m not sure that I understand what that means but it really doesn’t matter.

I would be pretty upset if I was the Publisher of the Star and saw all those advertising dollars go to a nonlocal company. It almost makes a mockery of a Boost Windsor campaign doesn’t it.

However, that is not reason why I’m writing this BLOG. It is what is disclosed in this advertising insert that I found shocking. Why, I did not even see some of the information disclosed in the news pages of the Windsor Star and you know how close City Hall is to the Star and how often the Star gets scoops. Perhaps this is why the Publisher, the Editorial writer and even now the Star News Department must be furious.

Here are some of the shocking revelations:

  • There is actually no need for a canal feasibility study. The Mayor did not say that we are studying whether we should do this or not but “that’s why we are planning a new canal and urban Village development that will expand our spectacular waterfront into the downtown core.” Poor Dave Cooke who is wasting his time and effort in his study. Perhaps he could help out the University now instead. And the companies that poured in all of that cash, they ought to be angry, especially the WFCU members. The decision has been made and by the Mayor alone! Who needs pesky Councillors or even tame ones.
  • Get ready to spend big taxpayer bucks so those shovel-ready lands will be available. The Mayor is telling us that there will be “major investments in infrastructure that will enhance our airport… creating stronger connections to world markets.” All that for onions to deal with some startup company in Germany.
  • Good thing that the Mayor forgot to mention his opposition to the University Engineering Complex location when he was promoting that it was going to keep us on the “cutting edge of innovation and research.”
  • Thank goodness that Council passed the hybrid bus purchase before the insert's publication date or else the Mayor could not have mentioned that.
  • I am sure that the Investors from around the world are going to be impressed with YQG’s “one-stop connection to any place you want to go” using the services of Air Canada Jazz and Sunwing.
  • The Mould Makers better get moving. I don’t think that the 50 investors that they expect to attend their show will be all that interested in seeing the exhibits prepared by the Development Commission, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and St. Clair College. They might want to talk to Delcam or Platinum Tool Technologies Inc. Would you come to Windsor to talk only to 2 outfits?
  • Did you know that it was the failure so far of the “governments in Canada and the US to build a better gateway between their countries [that] have hindered business and put future investment at risk.” Fortunately the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association forgot to mention about Windsor threatening lawsuits against the Governments and their “Enemy” or fighting over the DRIC road with Greenlink.
  • It is incredible, it is the “cities of Detroit and Windsor who are teaming up on a large-scale endeavour to increase economic competitiveness throughout the region.” Silly me. All this time I thought that it was the function of the Senior Level Governments on both sides of the river to come up with the billions of dollars necessary to make this project move forward. All these stories about Detroit being in financial hardship are clearly incorrect. No wonder our Mayor can afford canals and arenas and shovel-ready lands if we can build this project.
  • Not a word in this section of the insert about lawsuits or disagreements over the border road. Obviously those issues must have been resolved without us knowing about it.
  • I am so happy that Windsor International Airport “has embarked on a mission to become a leader for global travel and trade.” How pretentious and how silly given Aerotropolis. In reality, YQG is not about an airport but it is about “2000 acres of development potential for aviation, distribution, manufacturing, office and retail developments and future cargo facilities at the airport and 4000 acres of greenfield development abutting the airport lands.”

There is certainly more in the insert but you should take a look at it for yourself. After all, the Windsor advertisers have paid big dollars to put their name into this publication frpm Oakville for the Globe readers. And in case you were wondering:

  • "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON WINDSOR


    OAKVILLE, Ontario, August 19, 2008 – Today, Perspective Marketing Inc. announced the release of Perspective™ Windsor 2008. The publication promotes Windsor as an ideal investment destination, and was distributed throughout the Greater Toronto Area and the Windsor-Essex Region in subscriptions of the Globe and Mail, and to select households in Windsor via Canada Post...

    Perspective™ Windsor 2008 is part of a series of 17 Perspective Marketing Inc. publications reporting on municipalities in Ontario."

I am disappointed that the WEDC did not have the up-to-date publication for distribution for their London, England trip. Such poor timing. Think of all the extra new business it would have generated.

Amazing. I learned so much from an advertising publication prepared by an outsider. At least someone has come into the area to tell me what is really going on!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Biggest Disappointment


If I was to ask you which Councillor has been the biggest disappointment of all on this Council, whom would you pick? No, you cannot pick the entire Council just one of them. The following comments might help you understand whom I would easily choose.

There must be a Code of Honour amongst Editors and reporters that exists that protects ex-members of the media from harsh criticism if they decide to become politicians. How else to explain this deletion and others from the Star online story (“Halberstadt slams Francis over marina plans”) to the Star published version (“Mayor rapped over secrecy”):
  • “Sure it's city land that's been talked about for years, but I don't have the same concerns as Alan and his blogger friends do," Hatfield said.

    "To me, council's role begins when the feasibility study comes in. Nobody can proceed doing anything on that property without council involvement. There could even be expropriation so council will have a very active role."

What sneering condescension by the Councillor about the role of citizens in this City whose money is being squandered by the Councillor and his colleagues and the role of Council.

I seriously wonder if the Councillor ever took the “Effective Municipal Councillor Program” run by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, especially Module I: "What Every Councillor Must Know." If not, he ought to take it. If he did, he needs a refresher!

The Councillor seems to have forgotten that there is something called Council Meetings where members of the public are supposed to see how the business of the City is run. The Councillor also seems to have forgotten the rules with respect to in camera meetings. There is a procedure in place to ensure that they are limited to only those subjects permitted by law.

Instead our Councillor prefers to meet one-on-one in secret with the Mayor to get the inside info. He must think that this is proper way to run a City. It’s a nudge nudge, wink wink way of doing things so that everything is under the control of the Mayor and the Councillors are given the crumbs that he chooses to give them:

  • “But Hatfield said Tuesday that councillors had sufficient opportunity to be apprised of the marina-canal proposal at the mayor's invitation before it became public knowledge.

    "He tipped us off he was working on a deal, that if you want more information before the news conference to drop in the office," he said. "I did -- most of council was in the loop."

Our City is run by tips now. That is how information gets disclosed. Now we know how leaks at City Hall take place!

Who else got "tipped off?" Are Councillors supposed to run to City Hall at the whim of the Mayor and just before a press conference to find out about City business that could cost the taxpayers at least $60 million at a time when our economy is in trouble. What else does the Councillor know that he is not telling us?

The Mayor is very concerned that a majority of Council are upset as to how he is running deals like the Tunnel deal. Didn't at least six of them sign a request for a Special Meeting that shocked him? So the new technique is to divide and conquer.

The Councillor should inform us which of his colleagues were not in the loop and did not know about the plans until the Mayor’s press conference. That would be Eddie's Official Opposition I guess. Is the Councillor concerned that the Mayor might be creating a deliberate split on this Council to make it dysfunctional? All of the Governor's Hubby's work down the drain! Is the Councillor concerned that Minister Pupatello knew about it months before he did? Is he concerned that his media friend was fully briefed on the subject before any other ordinary taxpayer in the City?

Not in the least it seems because he is part of the “In-crowd” who gets “tipped off.” I wonder who else knew about it. Clearly, there were a number of non-City Hall people who did. Were they asked to sign confidentiality agreements? If not, why not?

Does the Councillor not understand that this manner of dealing can give rise to ugly rumours and suspicions that certain people may have advantages that others do not. I’m sure that he has heard the stories already, as I have, about what is going on in the area that might be developed.

Is this the type of City Government that the Councillor wanted to create when he was first elected and wants to be part of?

It’s fantastic… Percy is still the reporter who gets the scoop so that he can be smarter than everybody when the story breaks. Gee whatever happened to Administrative Reports, Council Agendas, legal Council Meetings and all those silly things that the law requires.

And I really like the way the Councillor looks after our money. He has no problem with the Mayor spending taxpayer dollars here and there for pretty pictures with no authorization from Council. All that he has to do is go to his subordinate, the CAO, and he gets an approval. Perhaps the Councillor believes that those rules apply to him as well so that he can go out and spend money just by going to the CAO’s office and asking him to approve something under his CAO authority.

I wonder if the Councillor ever thought that he might ask the Mayor what other funds have been spent using this system. I wonder why the Councillor never thought to ask the Mayor why he did not get Council’s approval in advance to spend these funds. No, only that Councillor from Ward 3 who never lets the facts get in the way of a good story, as the Mayor smarmingly described him, would ever ask awkward questions like that.

No, the Ward 5 Councillor is just too lazy. He doesn’t want to think about anything until such time as a Report is placed in front of him by Administration. Then he can make his sound bite at the Council meeting in the hopes that it will be picked up by his media friends.
  • “To me, council's role begins when the feasibility study comes in."

What a disgrace! He ought to have his lawyer explain to him his legal obligations under the Municipal Act. Remember the arena deal and how he looked out for citizens:

  • "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."

It is too bad that he did not speak to Councillor Dilkens first. Then he might understand what his function as a Councillor is. As Councillor Dilkens stated, and again Percy was protected because this did not get printed in the published version of the story but only online:

  • “his main concern revolves around whether city administrators will be asked to play a major role during the marina-canal feasibility study, taking them away from their main responsibilities overseeing city operations.

    "It makes me want to know how much time will be spent on this since it has has not come to council," Dilkens said. "

I am sure that Councillor Hatfield’s busy “tipping-off” schedule did not allow him the time to read the Mayor’s Press Release either or he would have seen the following:

  • “It is anticipated that the feasibility study will be over a period of approximately 10 weeks.

    The final schedule would depend on when the assignment begins and the availability of other study participants (City Administration, Approval Agency Representatives, etc.)”

The Councillor is so smug and tries to distinguish his role on the symphony feasibility study with his inaction on the canal proposal. He seems to base the distinction on the fact that the City paid $15,000 for one study while private money is paying for the other. It is a distinction without a difference where the plan is the Mayor’s and not that of private enterprise. And did he forget about the $10,000 of City money spent?

It has now been made obvious to everyone, thanks to the Councillor, why the Mayor chose to have private money pay for the study so that the kind of argument that Councillor Hatfield is making can be used to try to squash any opposition.

I wonder what would have happened if the Councillor had NOT been tipped off. Would he have felt the same way?

I wonder however if Councillor Hatfield has really been “tipped off” about what is going on. I don't think so . Unfortunately for him, I have been.

He has been played as a total fool. The decision has already been made. The feasibility study is a farce designed to suck in the unthinking to do what the Mayor already has planned. Poor Dave Cooke, several months of his life wasted on a study that is not required. All that cash poured in has been squandered for nothing. The time spent between the Mayor and Councillorss could have been spent on something more productive like fixing problems in this City. And the poor Administrators having to work so hard to do this extra task that was not needed.

The Mayor stated in the black and white in PERSPECTIVE WINDSOR 2008 what was going to happen. There is actually no need for a canal feasibility study. The Mayor did not say there that we are studying whether we should do this or not but
  • “that’s why we are planning a new canal and urban Village development that will expand our spectacular waterfront into the downtown core.”

It's a done deal, Councillor. Aren't you furious I found out before you did! The Mayor himself has decided what has to happen even without a report. You just need to rubber-stamp what he wants to do and you can keep on getting your tips and scoops so you can be used to take the heat as his apologist.

Councillor Hatfield should hang his head in shame after this stunning revelation. He owes his constituents an apology, his Council colleague, Councillor Halberstadt, an apology and Alan’s Blogger friends an apology.

Whatever happens to people when they become elected? Why does that fire go out? Whatever happened to that journalist who could make politicians squirm on Percy’s Panel when he asked a question?

Perhaps Council Lewenza should not be so quick to advocate removing bottled water from City facilities. It may be something in the water in Ward 5 that does this. After all, his Wardmate, Councillor Gignac, has made a number of classic quotes too!

For your inforamtion, here are the main excerpts removed from the published edition of the story:
  • "Sure it's city land that's been talked about for years, but I don't have the same concerns as Alan and his blogger friends do," Hatfield said.

    "To me, council's role begins when the feasibility study comes in. Nobody can proceed doing anything on that property without council involvement. There could even be expropriation so council will have a very active role."

    He said the situation with the symphony is different because council was asked to cough up $15,000 to support that feasibility study -- and he is connected to the process because of his previous role on the armouries re-use subcommittee.

    "I keep reminding them they will have to look elsewhere for funding (if the symphony project is deemed feasible)," Hatfield said.

    Coun. Drew Dilkens said his main concern revolves around whether city administrators will be asked to play a major role during the marina-canal feasibility study, taking them away from their main responsibilities overseeing city operations.

    "It makes me want to know how much time will be spent on this since it has has not come to council," Dilkens said."

Is Eddie's Canal Vision Doomed To Fail


$110,000 for a feasibility study on a new museum. $90,000 for a feasibility study on the Armouries becoming a concert hall for the Symphony. But only $65,000, and private money no less, for technical evaluations to confirm the practicality, and the feasibility of key elements of the Bluelink vision. "Bluelink" is my name for the plan for connecting the City to the river using a canal.

Is it just me or is there a disconnect somewhere!

A lesson that you should have learned from the whitewash WUC audit, dear reader. Frame your terms of reference properly and you get the answer you want. Read on.

Here is what one may think if one has a good memory. Before the canal even gets off the ground so to speak, it will fail.

We don't need a feasibilty study. It is doomed, done, finished, kaput. We don't want to rain on anyone's parade with all of that cash pouring in for the study but save your money folks!

Oh sure, it was an "intriguing proposal" but it has not got a chance.

Oh Eddie, how could you! Those wonderful 3 drawings that you showed us on the City website which I assume cost us $10,000... all for nought. Perhaps they can be autographed and auctioned off subsequently to get some money back for us.

One can just imagine a restaurant owner downtown all worked up over how much money the new project would bring to his establishment with all the people moving in and then getting so upset when he finds out that nothing will happen, again. But then, I am sure that he would agree with this sentiment
  • "I would go as far as saying that its dishonest of our politicians to begin these studies if they do it knowing they may not have have budget to implement them. "
And what is this feasibility study to do...prove people want to come to live there. Will it be as extensive as the Museum study:
  • "The study will make recommendations on the design, construction and operations for a new museum in Windsor, according to an administration report to council. It will define the market area and community needs, analyze demographics and forecast usage. The effort will also include a financial analysis.

    "This study will take into account all those things," said Mary Baruth, the city's manager of cultural affairs. "It's going to look at what attractions we should be celebrating here. You can't predetermine what it will say, that's the point of the study."

Not a hope. It's effectively an engineering study about the canals, to prove it can be done:

  • "The technical evaluations are needed to confirm the practicality, and the feasibility of key elements of the plan must be undertaken. It is essential that the design concept be based on technical and scientific assessment. An initial project scoping and feasibility study will be commissioned to examine the issues in greater detail."

With enough time and money, they can build it....but will anyone come. That is what is missing.

Dave Cooke is heading the show! Here is what he should be saying now. It is a no-brainer:

  • "Cooke lives in Toronto but still has family here and considers himself a Windsorite. "I still really care about Windsor. It just makes me so angry that we're missing such a huge opportunity. If you want to revitalize your downtown, you build things downtown."

    He fears the "urban village" touted for the Western Super Anchor site is merely a sop to minimize opposition to moving the arena from downtown. "What marketing studies have been done? Where's the business plan to show us this is even viable? Show us the goods...

    He argues that a formal request for proposals must be issued and if it takes a year to sort it all out, so be it."

No that was not about the University Engineering Complex but in July, 2005 about a downtown arena. So to be consistent, he has to kill what Eddie wants to do since there is no business plan or marketing plan being asked for in his terms of reference. Canals do NOT equate to an arena or an Engineering complex no matter how much someone is trying to make them so.

And a three month period is ridiculous.

It is only AFTER this study is completed that the goods are shown

  • "Upon completion of the project scoping and feasibility study, the general scope of the project would be defined, the overall practicality and feasibility of the project would be confirmed, and a more informed decision could be made on how best to proceed with the balance of project planning, design, approval procurement, tendering and construction."

It makes no sense. Cooke should be rejecting the idea right upfront, not being part of it. This proposal is designed to fail in 3 months or as Henderson said

  • "who...could object to discovering whether a project that could transform an underutilized area of downtown is achievable? If it is, great. If it isn't, time to move on."
But wait, Cooke actually said now:
  • "The surest evidence of this undertaking's credibility is the involvement of Dave Cooke, former education minister, current chairman of the University of Windsor board of governors and, if we're very lucky, Windsor's next mayor. Cooke is heading a feasibility study that will determine over the next three months whether the dream can be turned into reality, and at what price...

    "I see lots of challenges but humongous amounts of potential," said Cooke. He cited Fort Lauderdale, which boasts 266 kilometres of canals, as a classic example of how waterways help create a destination attraction. "This is not some wild dream with no connection to ordinary people's lives," said Cooke, explaining that it could transform Windsor's image and attract both tourism and investment dollars."

What gives now? It's a "sop" and pie-in-the-sky. There are no "goods shown."

Don't you get it...frame the terms of reference narrowly, and when Cooke says that it can be done, then who cares if anyone will actually live there or whether it is ever built. It is like-----full tunnelling or Greenlink. Sure it can be done but why???? We can spend years figuring out that answer with more studies.

But it is more than that. Eddie, if he chooses to run for a third term to complete his canal mission, or Dave, since he has been anointed by Gord, has an issue to run on in a couple of years for a mayoral campaign----another new vision.

That is not too satisfying an explantion though. Just for an election campaign is too easy and too obvious. That is not how things get done here. To get from Point A to Point B in Windsor, one must follow a route involving most of the letters in the alphabet. Nothing is ever direct.

AND Sandra has been involved in the canals while Greenlink is so quiet.

What do I think---Get a secret "compromise" over Greenlink and the DRIC Road, get some promises for money for Windsor for backing off on Greenlink, do it all within 3 months if possible or within the new study time period and then kill the canals for being excessive in cost and use the money for what you really want----creating shovel ready land at the airport for industrial purposes!

The canals are the excuse for the money to be given or other municipalities could play the road game too. Once the money has been set aside for Windsor no one cares what the money is used for.

Why do I say this? Mr. Fischer, when he first presented to City Council after he was hired, talked about the need for City-financed industrial land infrastructure development at the airport.

Moreover, as Chris Schnurr wrote
  • "City of London running short of industrial lands."
And Mr Farhi from London is no fool either. Why do you think he is moving westward. He wants to be here first!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

US DRIC Math


I believe that the US DRIC people have been following the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel issue very carefully. They clearly have learned from our Mayor, Eddie Francis, how to present a "business case" as I shall point out!

If I was a Michigan Taxpayer I would be worried right now, very worried.

If it is not enough that the US DRIC people have not yet done an investigation as to whether a new DRIC bridge will bankrupt the other crossings such that the Government will be forced to subsidize them, their economic model seems to me to be fatally flawed with respect to a DRIC bridge.

How can any of the Governments legitimately go to private investors and ask them to be involved in a P3 project with respect to the bridge when it cannot possibly make money if one listens to what the US DRIC people say. The bridge would be bankrupt from day one.

As I stated in a previous BLOG, at the Cropsey Senate hearings, the US DRIC people said that the new bridge would capture future growth and not take away business from the existing crossings. They must have been an error and got carried away when they were questioned on this issue. Alternatively, they did not read the US Draft Environmental Impact Statement where this was all laid out.

I know how busy their time must be so to save them effort let me set out some of the sections of the report the deal with the subject:
  1. Providing a new border crossing would cause travel shifts over a wide area. For example, a new Detroit-Windsor crossing could attract travelers from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron, Michigan. At the same time, the proposed border crossing would reduce traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.
  2. Table 3-11B provides further definition of how traffic on the DRIC alternatives is drawn
    from other border crossings in the Port Huron/Sarnia and Detroit River areas in the
    2035 PM peak hour. It illustrates the following:
    • A seven percent decline in overall auto traffic on the Blue Water Bridge and a 16 to 18 percent decline in overall truck traffic with the introduction of a proposed DRIC crossing in the 2035 PM peak hour. The decline is expected to be greater in the peak U.S.-to-Canada direction than the Canada-to-U.S. direction.
    • The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel would register a 20 to 26 percent decline in total traffic, with the most significant reduction expected to occur in auto traffic in the U.S.-to-Canada peak direction.
    • With Alternative Set #1/2/3/14/16 and Alternative #5, the Ambassador Bridge
    would realize a 37 to 39 percent reduction in car traffic. Also, with Alternative Set #1/2/3/14/16 and Alternative #5, the Ambassador Bridge is expected to realize a reduction of 75 percent of its truck traffic
  3. The traffic volume assignments for the Ambassador Bridge and proposed DRIC crossings are highly sensitive to travel time differences. A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative
  4. For the U.S.-to-Canada Direction
    – From I-75 Northbound: All DRIC alternatives would serve the majority of the car, truck and, therefore, total traffic
    • For the Canada-to-U.S. Direction
    – To I-75 Southbound: All DRIC alternatives would serve the predominant amount of the traffic
  5. Travel demand modeling shows a new bridge would cause travel shifts over a broad area, including drawing traffic from the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron/Sarnia. Its greatest effect would be on Ambassador Bridge traffic. Considering the Ambassador Bridge together with a new bridge, a proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic and 60 percent of all traffic in the 2035 afternoon peak hour.

Please understand that the DRIC people have a major problem. I did not see anything in this material that said that the numbers were "future growth" but rather was dealing with "total" traffic. Moreover at the Senate hearings in Canada the following was said by Transport Canada:

  • "Ms. Marcoux: The intent of this bill [Bill C-3] is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge. The intent of this bill is to ensure that the government fulfills its constitutional obligation and that it has the tools to do so.The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge."

Someone needs to explain how taking away "80 percent of the truck traffic and 60 percent of all traffic" from the Ambassador Bridge would not hurt them. Obviously, if one talked only about "future traffic" that could be one explanation.

So let's do some simple math dealing with "future growth." Let us assume that truck traffic continues to grow at the Ambassador Bridge even though the reality is that it is declining. Let us assume that in the year 2013, when a new DRIC bridge is built, the total truck traffic 4 million trucks. Let us also assume that truck traffic increases 3% a year. That means that the new growth would be 120,000 trucks by the end of 2014, the first year of operation of the DRIC bridge.

Taking away 80% of that business means that the volume on the DRIC bridge is at 96,000 trucks. Let us assume that the average toll at that time is $25 per truck. The total revenue for the DRIC bridge is $2,400,000. Let's double that to take into account car traffic for the sake of argument. And let's round it up to $5 million.

I have no idea what it cost to operate a bridge, even a new one, but I would assume that it would take a good chunk out of that $5 million.

If there is a P3 operator involved, that company would expect to make a profit on that investment. This seems to me to be an obvious difficulty when that company has invested about $1 billion into building the bridge by the time everything is finished. Assuming a 75 year term at an interest rate of 5% a year, the cost of the billion-dollar investment would be over $50 million a year.

Now I don't know about you but I don't understand how the cost of the DRIC Bridge could be covered by revenue of slightly over $5 million less operating expenses, never mind making a profit.

Anyway that you look at it then, the DRIC bridge is a financial disaster. If one looks at "future growth," the new DRIC bridge would be bankrupt from day one. If we are dealing with "total traffic," then the other crossings are in financial jeopardy and one could see very quickly that the Ambassador Bridge could be bankrupted. (Oh my, another reason why the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge might want to sell out right away and at a cheap price.)

I'm sure that you understand now why issues such as security, bridge redundancy and now plaza redundancy have become major concerns with DRIC. They are all non-financial and one therefore does not need to look at the economics in order to justify spending all of this money on a new bridge. That is the US DRIC "business case."

Do you see now what I mean about Eddie Francis. Our Mayor talks about a "business case" for the Tunnel but never tells us what that means. He talks about protecting 5,000 commuters instead. We have never seen the math about how borrowing $75 million makes sense when one cannot figure out how the loan will be paid back when traffic is declining and the dividend on the Canadian side of the least is zero dollars.

Clearly, DRIC has learned how to create a "business case" based now it seems on plaza redundancy in the hope that everyone else is stupid enough to fall for it!

Stories Post-Weekend



There are so many stories coming out that it is hard to cope. I'll keep on trying if you keep on reading!

BYE-BYE RED BULL



video


No wonder we are in serious trouble in Windsor. If Eddie and Council were all elected on their business acumen, we might need the services of Steven Funtig soon.
  • "Low ticket sales threaten city's Grand Prix seats

    Windsorites may lose a chance to sit in specially created "Canadian grandstands" at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix at the end of the month if more tickets aren't sold, says Mayor Eddie Francis.

    In an attempt to build on the success of last year's Grand Prix on Belle Isle, when Windsor teamed up with Detroit, Francis said this year he pushed for a Canadian grandstand section high up at the start/finish line to provide a great view.

    Yet ticket sales have been slower than expected and Francis said he may soon have to release the reserved tickets to the Grand Prix."
Let us see now. Under this Mayor's business genius, our role in the Super Bowl was to be a snow cleaner if it snowed too much. Under his watch, the Tunnel volumes have dropped, its market share has shrunk and dividends have been reduced to zero dollars. If it were not for the Detroit media telling people about the availability of tickets on this side of the river, the Red Bull numbers would not have gone up as high as they were. And now, we cannot even sell out our Grand Prix tickets.

No wonder the Mayor chose to keep secret certain matters from taxpayers with respect to his pitch in London, England:
  • "A number of issues, which Francis wouldn’t elaborate on, had race directors leaning away from a return the Windsor-Detroit area."

All that we can hope for is that the senior people at Red Bull do not have a subscription to the Windsor Star nor do they come to the Star Online. If they do, then it will be pretty clear that the Red Bull Air Race is not coming to this region next year.

One other small thing that would annoy the heck out of me if I was involved in these big projects from the Detroit perspective. What is wrong with this phrase:

  • "when Windsor teamed up with Detroit."

It is so grating on the nerves. It's just like this expression:

  • "Our track record speaks for itself to host these events," said Francis at the time.

    "From the Super Bowl, to Wrestlemania, to the Grand Prix."

And people thought that they were Detroit events!

By the way, has anyone seen that holiday press release yet? Why isn't Eddie making it public?


LIBRARY LITIGATION


Here is a strange note from the WPL:

  • "Alan Halberstadt, chair of the Windsor Public Library Board, previously confirmed that Brian Bell is no longer employed by Windsor Public Library. Additionally, given the high profile of the Brian Bell Issue, the Library Board chair also advises staff that no monies were paid to Mr. Bell at the time of his departure from WPL."

Does this mean he left on good terms or bad terms? Did he decide to leave on his own, say by resigning, or was he terminated? If he was terminated, will he sue? If so, I would expect a claim for wrongful dismissal, disclosing personal information improperly, mental distress and punitive damages.

I wonder if our Mayor would be examined for discovery.

We will find out soon enough.

WILL EDDIE GO TO PORTUGAL NEXT


Eddie has no choice after the Grand Prix fiasco but to go to Porto, Portugal to meet with the Red Bull people to ease any concerns. I mean, seriously, what choice does he have.

But it's OK. He can justify it as well, not by going to see the onion people again, but because Porto is known as the "Cidade das Pontes"(City of Bridges)." He can get some pointers there for our new bridge and his new canals.

BRODE REPORT

A Letter to the Editor in the Windsor Star talking about the BRODE Report captured my interest.

I went back into my archives and found another Letter that talks about the Report in a way that makes sense right now where canals don't:

  • "As Dr. Brode's report outlines, a 30,000-square-foot complex that could house the museum, archives and local history collections would much better suit our needs and bring all of our assets and professional staff together under one roof for increased accessibility.

    Building a new, expanded museum in the Super Anchor Site would create a cultural district for the city featuring the Capitol, the Cleary, Artcite and the Art Gallery of Windsor. This would draw motor coach and school groups, tourists, families and researchers to the core. It would allow one-stop shopping for culture and heritage."

No, let's spend $110,000 on another museum feasibility study which will accomplish some objective of which none of us are aware.

Of course, why should we in Windsor deal with people like former mayoral candidate David Wonham who understands museums and what must be done to ensure that they are not money losers? Why would we ever want to consider a site like The Junction whose owner has already spent money on plans for a museum as I Blogged previously? [BLOG:July 25, 2007 "Windsor's Major New Museum Destination"]

No, this is Windsor where studies are designed to be used to stall and delay but to pretend that we are really doing something.

Here is what I wrote over a year ago that is doable without any pie in the sky ideas. It might even be something that Dave Cooke could buy into:

  • "I just heard the Mayor say on AM 800 this morning that one of the big items at the City's strategic session tonight is to develop a family destination: a family park where families and children can go to spend the time together eg Storybook gardens...

    Well I have a better idea for him and for Windsorites too. One that Eddie is very familiar with since it has been presented to him already. It is one that revitalizes a part of the City that needs help as it has been promised the moon but has received nothing so far, no arena, no urban village. The only actual success in that part of the City, in Ward 2, is a new Tim Hortons it seems.

    How about this:

    Completion of a magnificent community park from the river to the international gardens near University: the Gateway public park

    The building of a huge amphithatre for plays and music just like in Liplock Sam's NYC, the Delacorte Theater, an open-air theatre located in Manhattan's Central Park

    A location for the Chimczuk Cultural Centre and Historical Museum

    A location for the City archives

    The new home for the Spirit of Windsor Engine 5588

    Home for a new Science And Tech centre

    Home for a Planetarium

    Home for an Aquarium

    Family Fun Centre and restaurant

    A new home for former bank facade at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Riverside which now is in storage

    Do you know where the ideal location for this massive redevelopment is: at the Junction on University Avenue, right beside the Gateway Park!"

PS. The artist's pretty picture is already prepared so we do not need another CAO Approval to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars:


FINALLY, WE ARE NUMBER ONE

  • "Ontario house prices set to follow Western drop

    Ontario will likely follow major cities in Western Canada into a house price decline, but while its slide should be shallower it will also be more worrisome due to the province's weaker outlook, an economist says...

    More concerning is the softening real estate market in Ontario, he added.

    Hard hit by the auto sector slump, Windsor-Essex became the first major market in the province to post year-over-year house price declines. Now Toronto also appears headed for a drop, with prices rising a scant 1.5 per cent last month, while sales fell by 12.4 per cent and new listings surged by 17.8 per cent.

    “The concern here is that the potential decline in Ontario would not reflect overshooting, but instead the further slowing of an economy that is probably already in recession,” Mr. Tal said."

SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT A TICKET TO GLASGOW INSTEAD

Instead of going to London, England, why didn't the Development Commission people go to Scotland?

  • "Do I have to do the work for our Development commission and the mayor. Scotland is looking to partner in Canada and they have had an office IN Toronto for two years!

was the comment of my reader who sent me this story. Apparently, YES!

  • "Scotland eager for joint ventures

    The Scottish government has three diplomatic offices across the globe... To that end, the Scottish diplomat was in Ottawa last week, making contacts and laying the groundwork for future trading.

    "The decision to extend the Washington office to include Canada is a significant step, not just in terms of recognizing the importance historically of Canada to Scotland, but also the opportunity that exists to develop a modern relationship based on mutual benefits of trade and investment."

    The push into Canada isn't entirely new. After all, two staff members from Scottish Development International, a trade and investment agency, have been based in Toronto for at least a couple of years. But now the government is adding some political and diplomatic heft to its efforts by having Mr. Naysmith oversee the relationship and liaise with government counterparts."

"W"ONDER "W"HY NOT "W"INDSOR

It should be obvious by now, even to Councillor Valentinis, what is going on and why Windsor suffers

  • "PM's visit to General 'good news' for Hamilton

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper is planning to visit Hamilton Tuesday to make a funding announcement.

    The Spectator has learned the PM is to make the announcement with Industry Minister Jim Prentice and local MPs at Hamilton General Hospital...

    Harper is expected to make a swing through southern Ontario early next week, with a stop in Mississauga Monday, before visiting Hamilton, Kitchener and London.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stories Of Interest


Here are some more stories that you may find of interest.

CITIZEN POWER

I find it amazing that the Windsor Star is recognizing the positive role played by naysayers and citizens groups in Windsor. Here is the latest:
  • "In many respects, other mechanisms -- free ones -- already exist to monitor and probe the conduct of public officials. The media and watchdog groups like the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers scrutinize the actions of councillors and often question them and take them to task."

If WeACT can accomplish in watching over what our municipal politicians are doing what STOPDRTP did in protecting this City on the border file, then we may finally have a check and balance on this Mayor and Council.

It is ironic to me that the politicians who were elected because of citizen involvement in the border file have forgotten the lesson that they learned about Citizen power.

LEONE CAR ACCIDENT

I am certain that you saw this story in the Star "Leone's sister, in critical condition, wasn't wearing seatbelt."

What you did not see in the Star so far are Letters to the Editor expressing outrage at the Star about how the story was written i.e. the comments about her brother. I am surprised that people wrote only online and not to the Star itself.

In the Windsor Star Forum, you would have seen comments such as:
  • Shame on the Windsor Star
  • What is the Relevance of Carls past to this story - besides slimishly grabbing a headline.
  • There was no need to add the fact that her brother is Carl Leone to this article. The young women is fighting for her life.........show some class (Star editors!)
  • Sounds like a nice way to sell an article or give an extra dig against the family. Real classless.
I am disappointed that we have not heard yet from the Star Editor, Marty Beneteau. Obviously, readers were upset about how the Star covered this story. When readers have been upset before-- about the Star coverage of Kwame back in January or disturbing photographs such as one of a car crash on E.C. Row-- we saw a response from the Editor.

I wonder if there will be one again or does the Star believe it will all fade away and there's no need to justify how the story was reported.


BRIAN BELL LEAVES LIBRARY

What makes Eddie believe that merely because the City pays the bills, that he is entitled to any information with respect to the leaving of Brian Bell from the Library?

I thought that the Library was a separate organization with its own Board of Directors of which Eddie is not one. Eddie whines:
  • "We cut the cheque, we fund the library, and I think these are legitimate questions," Francis said Friday. "We want to know what was paid. Was there a buy out...

    "It's concerning. Did we send him to law school, then let him leave without repaying any of that money?" said Francis. "I believe we are entitled to this information."

If he is legally entitled to the information, he should just ask for it and stop going to the media. If he is not entitled to the information, then why is he complaining?

He almost sounds like a Windsor taxpayer who is upset about the transfer of City assets into private companies that taxpayers are financing and from which we can get no information because they are "legally incorporated private companies" with their own Boards.

I'm surprised at the bickering in the newspaper when Eddie should know the legal answer. After all Eddie IS a lawyer


video


WHERE IS THE ESTRIN LEGAL OPINION

I see from the Communications Package on the City website that taxpayers have paid out at least $4 million on the border file so far including almost $600,000 in the latest time period.



These fees cover part of that time period when Estrin was supposed to be providing a legal opinion to the City:
  • "Legal options sought
    Windsor Star 06-24-2008

    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.

    The Windsor-Essex Parkway plan proposed by the Detroit River International Crossing team features a six-lane below-grade highway with 11 short tunnels.

    Council maintains its Greenlink border solution -- which offers twice as much tunnelling -- has been shortchanged...

    "(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 wonder if Estrin's bill for that work is included in that $600,000 or will that be part of a new bill. I must admit that I don't recall hearing anything about the legal options and what the C and ity might do.

I guess that Eddie has been too busy on the Tunnel deal and setting the record straight and worrying about canals rather than thinking about Greenlink and the DRIC road.

GELLMAN LEAVES UNIVERSITY

I wonder if you saw the small story announcing that

  • "Amanda Gellman has decided to leave her post as the vice-president of university advancement when her term ends in December."

To be blunt, I am surprised that she has been in her job this long. One of her key functions is fundraising for the University. I wonder how many people she has helping her in her Department in comparison with other schools.

Can you imagine the pressure that she was under to try to find money in this economy, especially from alumni and businesses in the Windsor/Essex area. She needs to find millions for the still not paid for Stadium, for the medical school building and soon for the Engineering complex as well as for the usual scholarships and bursaries and donations to faculties.

I have no idea how many multimillions she would have been required to find to help finance the University's projects. When the former Chair's organization could pay for naming rights for the City's arena and not for the University's stadium, it must have been discouraging. What does she think now when the former University Chair and Chair Cooke are involved in dealing with canals for the next three or four months.

It looks like the University is looking for a replacement for her. Good luck to that person!