Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cropsey 2 The Sequel: The Cow Bridge


video


And you thought that bovine flatulence was a problem.

If you can, watch and listen to the movie clip. No, I have not lost it. It is quite eye-opening as you shall read further on.

I listened to the three hours plus of the Senate hearings on DRIC held by Michigan Senator Cropsey. To be direct, I’m not going to spend the amount of time that I did on the first session giving you the details of what was said.

I’m not doing so for three reasons:
  • It will take me hours and hours to do a summary (The BLOG on the first session took me about a day to do in total over a several days and this session was much longer)
  • There really was not much new disclosed except for one particular matter that I found shocking. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth about how MDOT operates that should offend the Senator and infuriate him.
  • After listening to what was said I believe that I have a better appreciation of what the game is about.

This latter point is what I want to talk about primarily in this BLOG.

The most interesting revelation to me is what was talked about before the hearing actually got started. It makes a mockery of the spending of $60 million for the DRIC study. The sound quality was not particularly good and seemed to kick in when there was an off the record discussion about the history of the Ambassador Bridge. During that discussion, Dan Stamper talked about the early tolls on the Bridge. Apparently there was a charge for cows using the Bridge although Stamper did not know how many cows actually crossed over.

Just think about that and fast-forward 80 years until today. That same Bridge that could be used by cows is now the major border crossing between Canada and the United States carrying by far more traffic than any other bridge and yet is only at about 50% capacity. I have Blogged before about how many studies have said that the Bridge would be jam packed by this date and yet it still can handle millions of vehicles more without any problem.

What it tells me is that the Ambassador Bridge people know how to run a bridge to handle the volume of traffic that crosses over. They have been able to do it without the need of building another bridge and are only looking at it today because their bridge is getting older and requires rehabilitation and because of the technology that requires another lane in each direction so that pre-approved traffic can flow smoothly.

The Senator found the document that I was referring to that said that the Bridge is capable of handling almost double the trucks today due only to the Ambassador Gateway project and without having a new bridge. It was confirmed by MDOT that in fact a new bridge might not actually be needed until the time period 2020 to 2035. Imagine, someone is trying to convince us to spend billions on a new DRIC Bridge today when it may not be needed for more than 25 years. Does that make sense to anyone?

What makes no sense whatsoever is the failure to understand that the Bridge has evolved and that it has been capable of handling more than cows without adding any new lanes over the river. There was talk about the 14 lanes that are available in the Buffalo/Niagara area. Remember the conversation with the FHWA rep who was suggesting that we might need up to 15 or 16 lanes here now. There seemed again to be no recognition by MDOT that lanes were not the issue but that Customs processing was the concern. I thought that it was said during the hearing that there could be up to 60 booths at the Ambassador Bridge. The new DRIC Bridge will have 29 inbound Cutoms booth lanes into Canada for 2035, the number of lanes that the Bridge Company has now interestingly enough.

Does this mean that the DRIC bridge and plaza is underdesigned already for future expansion? What, another new DRIC Bridge and plaza after 2035?

There seems to be a failure to understand as well that the Bridge itself can handle more vehicles given its capacity capability and the Gateway project. There seems to be a failure to recognize that the new technology such as FAST, NEXUS, and E-manifest will reduce the time at the Customs booth allowing vehicles to cross in a shorter period of time thereby increasing capacity dramatically. The desired procedure now seems to be to move Customs away from the border anyway, especially for trusted shippers.

As far as traffic goes, we still heard the same old, same old DRIC talk about the trend of volumes going upward even though the trend over the last decade has been downward. A recent Canadian Government report made the following comment:

  • “For example, an automobile may contain components that have crossed the border 18 times before the finished product reaches the car lot on either side of it.”

Where is the recognition that if you multiply 18 times the number of vehicles that the Big Three are not building in this area because of the decline in their market share that the volume of traffic over the Ambassador Bridge will also decline dramatically? One only has to look at the number of trucks that are not crossing the Ambassador Bridge today. It is not due to the Gateway project because the Blue Water Bridge is not picking up that traffic either.

Let’s be realistic. Governments are not THAT stupid. They are capable of making the same types of calculations that you and I are doing plus they can afford experts who will tell them the same thing. They know that the Bridge Company's Enhancement Project bridge means that a new bridge will not be needed for years.

We see how DRIC operates. It determines the criteria which then achieves the result that it wants. For example, with the DRIC road, it determined that a tunnel should not be more than 240 m long. Accordingly, since a number of the Greenlink tunnels were longer than that, then Greenlink did not meet its criteria and it was dismissed out of hand without much studying supposedly being required. DRIC did that as well with respect to both private proponents for a border crossing. That was one of my objections when I first did a presentation to the Joint Management Committee on behalf of STOPDRTP an eon ago: the criteria determines the result. DRIC is merely continuing on with that practice.

Another revelation about the DRIC 100 acre Sandwich plaza drawing. It was not to incite people in Sandwich or to be misleading after all. What they were doing was building a separate Government bridge beside the existing Ambassador Bridge. In other words there would be two separate bridges side-by-side, a public Bridge and a private Bridge. Accordingly for that "public" bridge, they needed to duplicate separately all of the facilities that would take up a hundred acres and would destroy Sandwich.

This was the DRIC people's idea. Honestly, have you ever heard anything more absurd than that. It would almost be laughable except that it is so pathetic. That is how you knock out something you don't like, by creating an absurdity. How this fits in with their environmental assessment obligations, I have no idea.

It seems that Government people just want to build plazas all over the place. We already heard last time about the need for a new plaza as redundancy for the Ambassador Gateway project. There is a need for $450 million plaza in Port Huron to clear up the mess there and they are talking about how to expand the plaza in Buffalo. Of course, as I said based on the comments by the FHWA spokesperson, the US and Canadians Government must build new plazas all across the United States and Canada for plaza redundancy now.

What truly bothered me at the hearing was the disclosure about oversight of the Bridge. We heard at the last session that MDOT had more oversight over carnival rides than they did over the Bridge. That now seems far from the truth as far as I am concerned. Dan Stamper trotted out the legal Agreements signed between the Bridge Company, FHWA and MDOT respecting the Ambassador Gateway project that gave the Government oversight over the Company including the provision of information respecting the condition of the Bridge!

Why didn’t the representative of MDOT know that? It is inconceivable to me that people being put forward as spokespersons for the Department would not know this fact and yet still make the outrageous comment they did. Why?

Of course, a similar argument is made in Canada as well. If that was true, Bill C- 3 changed all that. The Federal Government has all the power that it needs with respect to oversight.

As far as I'm concerned, traffic, security and redundancy have been eliminated as issues. If then the issue is not oversight now, as it seemed to be before, then what is it? What is this all about? That became much more clear to me at the hearing.

The Director confirmed that no new bridge could be built without Michigan legislative approval. He also confirmed that effectively MDOT controlled the process in creating the Environmental Impact Statement and then it would be handed over to FHWA. The games playing at the previous session where the MDOT people passed on difficult questions to the FHWA rep was nothing more than the MDOT people trying to avoid responsibility for the poor decisions that are being made in this project.

Dealing with P3’s. Michigan has very little experience in these matters while Canada has a great deal. After all, Canada’s Senator Fortier is the P3 money guy on this file. I’m sure that he could tell Michigan everything they needed to know about these kind of transactions or, if he could not, then some Australian company, could as the MDOT spokesperson said last time around.

There was a lot of conversation by the Director about design, build and finance type projects. Not quite P3’s but getting closer. He told us about how much Michigan learned in doing the small projects he described.

Do you see where I’m going? This is all to do with money and finance and nothing to do with commerce, oversight, or any of the other silliness that the DRIC has put forward as a rationale for a new bridge.

That could explain as well why the MDOT Director muddied up the waters again as far as I was concerned about the federal matching grants after Stamper merely read out what was said in plain English on the FHWA website to try to clarify things. It seemed pretty clear to me. However, Legislators have to be kept confused about whether or not the Enhancement Project bridge would bring in a couple of billion dollars to be used for the the Michigan Road system. Confirming that it would bring in all that money would make things very easy for an Enhancement Project bridge to be built wouldn't it.

The Director confirmed that the existing Blue Water Bridge and plaza could not handle all of the traffic from Detroit and did not go so far as to say that the BWB with a new plaza could do so either. Remember, this project will cost about $450 million. Again, MDOT played a bit fast and loose when they said that, even if the traffic was taken from that bridge by the new DRIC bridge, there would still be sufficient traffic left to pay the tolls needed to pay down the bonds on that bridge. They needed about $2 million a year to do so.

Of course, they forgot to mention that someone has to pay for the bonds for the $450 million plaza. What would that amount be per year… around $20 million? Would the State have to subsidize that bridge if they lost 15% of their traffic? The example was given also of the Soo Bridge, as I Blogged recently, where it has a huge shortfall in monies required because the tolls are too low.

The Canadian Federal Government is “driving the bus” as Dan Stamper said. They are the ones driving the process because Canada absolutely requires control over all of the crossings in North America if Transport Canada’s Corridors and Gateways policies are to be successful. Canada needs to protect and preserve access to the US market for Canadian goods and for foreign goods that are shipped to Canada through the Canadian Atlantic and Pacific Gateways for distribution into the United States, and in particular through the Windsor/Detroit Gateway.

That is what NAFTA-gate was all about after all and why Canada is trying to "blackmail" the United States over NAFTA with oil, gas and electricity and soon, water.

MDOT does not seem to care whether hundreds of homes and businesses are destroyed in Delray while nothing is happening in Sandwich. The Senator was struck by the fact that MDOT did not seem to be particularly concerned about it.

Why is MDOT going along with the Canadians? It seems very peculiar doesn’t it. For the answer to that question, we merely need to look to the first Report of Sam Schwartz and its Socialist-type musings. That Report was prepared at a time when Eddie and the Senior Levels were buddies and he would have known what their thinking was. If something was set out in that Report and happened years down the road, then Eddie would be a genius and he would be able to say that the Senior Levels were doing exactly what he told them to do. What a boost for his curriculum vitae and his future career opportunities.

Here is what Sam wrote:

  • Balanced Traffic between Blue Water Crossing and Windsor-Detroit Crossings

    Developing a balanced traffic network between the Sarnia-Port Huron and Detroit-Windsor Crossings would provide benefits without a new crossing but would be compatible with any of the new crossings. Essentially it means adopting acceptable levels of service guidelines at all facilities as a goal and maintaining the goal, as best possible, through Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) measures, policies, directing trucks after they are screened and pricing strategies. It sets aside the profit-motive, which means each facility is competing for the most traffic, with a utilitarian-motive: the greatest good for the greatest number. Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants."

How can this possibly happen? How can manage revenue sharing between two bridges unless you own them both? Do you really believe that a private enterprise operator is going to set aside the profit motive to help out its competitor when it is the more efficient operator? This can only happen if there is one owner of both bridges.

And that is the nub of the matter. That is what this is all about. As I have said innumerable times before, the purpose of the DRIC study in my opinion is nothing more than to force the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell out as cheaply as possible. It could not have been made any clearer than it was at the hearings.

MDOT is prepared to go along with Canada on the transaction because then both bridges will be Government owned. MDOT is interested because their expectation I am sure is that there will be a P3 offering to help pay for the Blue Water Bridge expansion. Their Canadian Government P3 teacher will instruct them how to do it. How else would Michigan come up with that kind of money in the economy that it has now?

Imagine the amount of money that MDOT will not have to pay to build a plaza in Port Huron because a new investor would have to do that. Imagine how much money the Governments will not have to pay to build a twinned Ambassador Bridge because that was what they always intended to do after forcing the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge to sell.

After all, as Dan Stamper pointed out, the Ambassador Bridge location was ranked as one of the highest crossings in the DRIC study and, but for the Sandwich Plaza hundred acre and the Huron Church road issues, their crossing would have been the one picked.

And even if there was not a P3 at the Blue Water Bridge to pay for the expansion "Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants." It would mean that Michigan would not have to worry that a private operator in Windsor/Detroit who runs the best border operation in North America would take away business from them. They would not really care then if the new DRIC bridge took away 15 or 16% of their truck traffic because there would be some kind of a revenue sharing program to ensure that the Port Huron bridge did not go broke.

Recent P3 examples like Chicago, Indiana and Pennsylvania make bureaucrats drool. All of the huge sums of money that would come in would allow them to squander it as they so chose on their favorite projects.

Who do you think taught Eddie what to do in these public-private partnerships that he ultimately will do to bring in cash for Windsor? P3’s were part of the Tunnel deal rationale and we may well see one with respect to Enwin or WUC. After all, one of the County towns was prepared to get rid of their utility for cash recently.

Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the other senator who was at the hearing but by the end of it his head was rolling. He was concerned that all that he was seeing was paralysis and that nothing would ever be done. He was absolutely right.

If Canada still takes the position that they are taking, then there will be trouble. The strong suggestion that was being made towards the end of the hearing was that CBSA was being used to cause Plaza problems for the Bridge Company. In other words, one arm of the Canadian Government was causing difficulties so that another arm of the Canadian Government could stall off the Bridge Company from getting its environmental permits.

There was great debate whether MDOT and FHWA were incorrectly telling people that the Canadian Government would not allow the Enhancement Project bridge to land in Canada. Dan Stamper told the hearing that he was told by the Canadian Government that their Company would be treated fairly with respect to the process. What could the poor Senator think with all this conflicting information?

Senator Cropsey did not seem to be too impressed by what he was told. I do not think that he will change his mind about what he thinks about the need for a DRIC bridge. Assuming that the Michigan Legislature continues on with the position that they have taken respecting the DRIC and does not pass the legislation that is required to build a DRIC bridge, then there is trouble on the US side as well.

We are left with two halves of a bridge that never meet so that nothing will get built. Canada does not seem to want the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project bridge and Michigan does not seem to want the DRIC Bridge. Utter and complete chaos.

And if the Government people believe that somehow they can build the DRIC bridge, they must understand that there will be at least a decade of litigation that goes on. It happened before in Canada over the Foreign Investment Review Act and will happen again. After all, if you have already invested $500 million in a project based on an understanding with the Governments, I would assume that you would want to protect your investment and your business too.

I do not see a solution. I am not sure what the answer will be. All I know is that taxpayers on both sides of the border are being played for fools. No one seems to care really about the economies of both countries because they don’t have to. The Ambassador Bridge is making everything work in spite of the mess. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think.

Follow the mooooooney and you won't go wrong in figuring out what is happening. That old saying still makes sense.

So much BS. Isn't this charade just too mooooooovelous!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hot Topics



Every day, new topics of interest cross my desk. (Or rather my PC desktop) Here are some more interesting ones for you with my comments.

BYNG-KING AFFAIR

All of you Canadian history and constitutional law buffs better brush up on your knowledge of this matter.

You may see it discussed again in the media if Prime Minister Harper talks about calling an election soon by dissolving the House and the Liberal leader asks the Governor-General NOT to do so because he has the support of the other parties to form a Government.

Perhaps we might see Harper trying not only to reform the Senate but also the role of the G-G if that is the case!

WOULD YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA

I have not followed the US Presidential elections very closely. I did happen to see a very interesting report that troubled me greatly about the Democratic nominee.

The website Politico.com ran a story about “Obama's lost law review article.” It was an unsigned article that he wrote in 1990 when he was on the Harvard Law Review. It was abortion related whether “fetuses should be able to file lawsuits against their mothers.” Obviously, it can be controversial.

Here’s the part of the Politico.com story that troubled me greatly
  • “But Obama has never mentioned his law review piece, a demurral that's part of his campaign's broader pattern of rarely volunteering information or documents about the candidate, even when relatively innocuous. When Politico reporters working on a story about Obama's law review presidency earlier this year asked if he had written for the review, a spokesman responded accurately - but narrowly - that "as the president of the Law Review, Obama didn't write articles, he edited and reviewed them."

    The case comment was published a month before he became president
    .”

“Accurate but narrow.” You know exactly what I’m getting at I am certain.

  • “I can share with you that Mr. Sutts has been following the direction of City Council and, ah, I don’t believe there have been any face-to-face meetings since then.

    There may be some scheduled this week, as Mr. Sutts tries to respond to council resolution."
Accurate but narrow too.

THE PROVINCIAL WINDFALL AND PRIORITIES

It is a good thing that the program provided that the monies were to be distributed on a per capita basis or else guess which Councillor would be crying today asking why Windsor was ignored again!

Oh my goodness... $20 million in the hands of this Mayor and Council. How are they going to squander it? The thought of it makes my stomach queasy.

In looking at what the billion dollars provided by the Province is supposed to do, the Backgrounder states:
  • “In May 2008, the government passed the Investing in Ontario Act. The Act allows the government to use a portion of any unanticipated year-end surplus to address priority public needs…

    Through regulation, the government designated municipalities as the eligible recipients of payments for 2007-08…

    While the funds are to be used for capital purposes, each municipality will have flexibility and discretion to spend its allocation on its own capital priorities such as improved roads and bridges, expanding transit or upgrading social housing…”

One can hardly say that the development of the Airport lands is a priority for the City of Windsor as the spending was put off until 2011. Moreover, I would assume that major environmental assessments would need to be done as well as involvement of Transport Canada since it is near the airport.

Presumably there are other higher priority items in place for which this money should be spent now.

MARTIUK SHINES IN BURLINGTON

It looks like our loss is Burlington’s gain.

Here is a news story about the reorganization of City Government in Burlington. For some reason, it does not have the drama that took place in Windsor.

In case you had forgotten, Roman Martiuk was General Manager, Corporate Services and City Treasurer in Windsor. He is now City Manager in Burlington. Read the rave review:
  • “These changes were developed by Martiuk, after lengthy consultation with managers and human resources staff. Martiuk has been city manager for about nine months, and is proving to be knowledgeable and thoughtful. When councillors report that he defends his recommendations and does not kow-tow to individual members, that's a sterling recommendation.

    There must be enormous pressure on a new city manager from the mayor and individual councillors, and I'm hearing that Martiuk handles it with aplomb.

    Burlington appears to be on the right track.”

WINDSOR’S ZIGGURAT

To be blunt about it, Eddie’s vision for canals in downtown Windsor is boring and small-town-ish. A few blocks of water is not really going to get somebody’s heart beating quickly. It is hardly going to be our signature on the world’s stage like the Toronto City Hall that will attract people from everywhere to come here for tourism, for business and to live.

If you really want to do something, you have to do it on a world-class scale so that the media around the world will cover the story. I did a quick search and could not find any newspaper that reported on the Windsor story.

Compare Windsor with a story out of Dubai about the building of a ziggurat that might be able to house a million people in an area the size of West Windsor, about 2.3 sq km or less than 10% of the original land surface:

  • “Timelinks, a design firm based in Dubai, has unveiled plans to make a pyramid of its own — one that could house a million people, feature an efficient vertically and horizontally running public transportation system, and generate all of the energy it needs. "

    It may sound like just another concept that'll never be a reality, but Timelinks already set about patenting the design as well as the technology that would make it possible. The structure, nearly a whole square mile by design, would use a combination of steam, wind, and other alternative energy-gathering methods to keep itself entirely off the grid. There would also be "green spaces" that would provide the pyramidal city with agricultural space, to provide food and green-based commerce.”
The project is described using all of the latest buzzwords too so people would pleased: sustainable, environmentally friendly communities in tune with their natural surroundings with a better quality of life for the inhabitants. Moreover, cars would become redundant.


It will be unveiled at Cityscape Dubai in October with the advance publicity surrounding it to build up the hype.

The moral is that if you are going to do something that you know is never going to happen anyway do it big to gain some publicity. Why think so small!

CRUISE SHIPS TO DOCK HERE

A Cleveland newspaper reports that
  • “Two small, high-end cruise ships - one new, the other newly refurbished - will make their debut next summer on the fresh-water waves of lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior."


The Clelia II, an all-suite ship with room for 100 passengers and the Pearl Mist, the still-under-construction ship with 108 suites, will both stop in Windsor on their Great Lakes cruises. Not often mind you according to their itineraries but it is a start.

I wonder where they will dock in Windsor given the problems that the Rose City Cruise Line had with a ticket kiosk. If the waterfront is becoming “cluttered” because of a kiosk, imagine the space that the ships will require. Depending who is on the ship and where they are coming from, there may be all kinds of interesting issues that have to be dealt with such as Canada Customs and the space required for inspection and who will pay for it.

Presumably, space might have to be found outside the downtown but then the downtown usinesses would probably not gain the advantage of all of those rich tourists walking around the Area. The cost of the cruises is said to range up to $10,000 for seven to 10 days. Or will they use the new canal and Marina area? I am waiting for that one!

Hmmmm with all of the negative stories about roses in Windsor, perhaps Rose City might want to consider changing the name of their company to something involving dandelions, our new plant of choice for Windsor

They could say something like:

  • "Our cruise is dandy and we aren't lyin' . "

I think I better work on that a bit.

Route Canal Work



video


The secret is out. I finally figured it all out. Of course, it took an outsider to make it all obvious. In this case, one of Canada's national newspapers.

Just follow along the pathway I am setting out so that you will see how the Grand Canal Vision developed and why and what steps have been taken already to advance it.


Also learn that building canals may not be smooth sailing and silly mistakes can be made.

NAYSAYING ON A NATIONAL BASIS

Payback is a…well you know the word. This is a G-rated it BLOG so I cannot use it.

Can it get any worse. The value of that train trip to Toronto and the big party there has to be about nil right now. As I have said to you before, we naysayers cannot compete with some of the big players in town about being negative about Windsor.

The National/Financial Post is distributed nationally and is a sister publication of the Windsor Star. Don’t tell me that someone from CanWest, the parent company, is not angry about the 20 page PERSPECTIVE WINDSOR 2008 insert in the Globe and Mail, their big competitor. That has a lot of advertising dollars in it at a time when the market is very tight.

When the Financial Post published a story with the headline “Crumbling infrastructure reduces productivity,” which city do you think was the poster child for crumbling infrastructure?



If you guessed Windsor, then you are a naysayer par excellence. The Post said as part of the caption of a picture showing Windsor workers putting asphalt into potholes

  • “Road repair workers in Windsor, Ont. were busy with a multitude of cracks and gaping holes along University Avenue West near California Avenue.”

Not just cracks and holes mind you but a multitude of cracks and gaping holes.

The value of that 20 pages of expensive advertising was wiped out by one photograph! We are still the laughing stock of Canada!

By the way, isn’t that address where the patching is being done near the University where Dave Cooke is the Chair and the one who is spearheading the feasibility study on the canal project?

Pure coincidence or a message being delivered for the future. You be the judge of that.

EDDIE’S GRAND CANAL SCHEME

That story in the Financial Post got me thinking.

Why would Eddie be undertaking a feasibility study for the canals while at the same time saying in PERSPECTIVE WINDSOR 2008 that:

  • “…we’re planning a new canal and urban Village development.”

The answer is so obvious that I should have seen it but it took the photo in the Post to help me understand it.

You don’t really believe that our Mayor, the man who wants us to THINK BIG or GO BIG OR GO HOME, would be satisfied with a few measly blocks of canals in the downtown do you.

Piffle!

Eddie’s comment doesn’t sound like some small canal system to me. No siree, there is a much bigger plan. The City has been deliberately allowing the streets in the downtown to deteriorate so badly that they have to be replaced. Oh, the few shovels full of asphalt are a temporary fix to keep people quiet. Just look at Wyndotte West as an example as Councillor Jones should know. A disgrace.

However, when the Cooke study comes back saying that canals are feasible, as we know the study will, expect the Mayor to make his big announcement. Rather than replacing our streets with more asphalt so that cars can travel over them and pollute the atmosphere or so that Montréal to Tijuana international trucks can go to the Ambassador Bridge, our Mayor will announce that he has demanded of the Senior Levels millions of dollars of infrastructure money so that all of the downtown major streets can be dug up and used as canals! Heck, he just got $20M just the other day to use as he wants.

Now that is how to use the Greenlink proposal to lever money out of the Province and the Feds.

What a people and environmentally friendly City that Windsor would become when we can travel City streets by gondola and water taxis just like in Venice. What a legacy that would be for our Mayor.

THE PORT AUTHORITY’S GONDOLA MISTAKE

I really could not understand why the WFCU contributed money for the feasibility study. For all I knew, perhaps there may be another section of the Naming Rights agreement respecting the East End arena that gives the WFCU the right to name the canals if they contributed some money to the feasibility study. Perhaps that might be why they are involved.

As far as the Windsor Port Authority was concerned, I was rather disappointed. I thought they might have used their time and money more productively to figure out how Windsor can take advantage of HIGHWAY H2O rather than to be concerned about water taxis. I assumed that, if there was a water taxi, the Authority would make a few dollars on docking fees. But that hardly seemed to be enough money to be involved in all of us.

Do you think that this might be the explantion? It cannot posibly be true but then again look at this. According to Wikipedia, an often-repeated urban legend was that a mistake was made in building the London bridge that was reconstructed at Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The Purchaser thought that he was buying the Tower Bridge!

When the Port Authority people heard about gondolas they did not think of the ones in Venice. They thought that the discussion was about the Jorgensen gondolas! That is why they were interested and threw in all of this money.

You forgot already didn’t you. That Jorgensen plan was a

  • “$100-million cable car project linking Windsor and Detroit…

    Dwight Duncan, [at the time] minister of energy, government house leader and key player in the Dalton McGuinty cabinet, has been prodding the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLGC) to consider accommodating the Skylink International gondola plans in its $400- million Casino Windsor expansion and renovation…

    "It would absolutely save Casino Windsor," argued Jorgensen, describing his cable proposal as a "conveyor belt" that could ferry 4,000 individuals every hour between the casino and a site east of the Renaissance Center, delivering people in as little as 41/2 minutes. "No cars. No lineups. No pollution," he enthused.

    "It would do 10 times more for Casino Windsor than all of that expansion would do. It would be a knockout, linking a corporate world headquarters with a glittering billion-dollar casino. I just shake my head when I think how Windsor and Detroit could have had this world-class gondola that would really enhance the regional market."

The Port Authority people obviously got so worked up that they thought that this plan was coming back. Why would they be interested you might say. According to what Gregg Ward of the Detroit/Windsor Ferry claimed:

  • “They also have the authority to be involved in residential uses, food, beverage and retail services in support of tourism…

    A few years back, the port proposed to charge the gondola project $0.25 per passenger for use of air rights over the river.”

At 4000 people per hour, that is a hefty chunk of change for the Port Authority to make over the period of a year.

Imagine their embarrassment when the only gondolas being talked about would have a singer inside.

I suspect that they will not be the only ones embarrassed by the time that this project is considered further.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tunnel Deal--When Can It Get Done



The Tunnel deal in Detroit seemed to fall apart when Detroit Council would not transfer the Tunnel into a new Authority, supposedly the way Windsor did. According to Cliff Sutts:
  • "The deal we have got on the table requires them to create this authority,"

Councillor Marra said

  • "Windsor won't resume negotiations unless Detroit puts the tunnel in the authority."

I wonder if the negotiators on the Detroit side on the Tunnel deal were aware that Windsor’s subsidiary company does not yet own the Tunnel since the asset has not yet been transferred here. Was Detroit Council ever advised of this fact as well before any of their votes? If not, why not?

I received this note from a gentleman who has been corresponding with the City about this matter. As you know, Transport Canada consent to the transfer of the asset, the Tunnel, was a condition of the Asset Purchase Agreement between the City and its subsidiary. Here is what the City representative wrote:

  • “The International Bridges and Tunnels Act stipulates that a change in control of an international tunnel must be approved by Transport Canada. At the present time this application has been filed by the City of Windsor and is pending. Until this application is approved by Transport Canada the transfer of assets from the City of Windsor to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation cannot be completed. The Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation is 'non-functioning' until the transfer is completed as the corporation would have no assets until that time. As you may be aware, a report has not been brought to City Council announcing completion of the transfer - this is based on the reasons stated above.”

I don’t know how Transport Canada will be able to approve such a transfer until Regulations to the Act are passed and that may not happen for several more months. If Transport Canada does grant such approval without Regulations then you know the firestorm that will be created. The Bridge Company will rightfully be able to say that the Government is again trying to help out one of their competitors by giving them an advantage. They will rightfully be able to argue that they are being prejudiced by their "judge" on the Enhancement Project. They will rightfully be able to say that they are not being treated fairly.

One other question that still bothers me. I know that the City put its application for a loan with Infrastructure Ontario “on hold.” I would still like to know if anyone in the City or any of its lawyers or consultants received a communication in any form, not just “face-to-face,” from Infrastructure Ontario setting out what that organization believed the value of the Tunnel was and what amount it was prepared to lend to the City. It would have to be the City at risk since the subsidiary is just a shell right now. Apparently as at the end of July, the subsidiary

  • "is not active and is a shell corporation at this time and no CEO or CFO have been appointed."

If it is anything less than $75 million, then the Mayor needs to explain to us what the “business case” for the Tunnel deal is and who will make up the deficiency. If it is more than $75 million, what will the excess be used for. We have all assumed haven't we that the City's application was for $75M! We have never been told otherwise.

Just to let you know, I have filed a Freedom of Information request for the Infrastructure Ontario file on the transaction.

Windsor's New Sex Symbol


Forget the Windsor ballet. Forget the legs of a certain Cabinet Minister (and no, I do not mean Dwight Duncan). Windsor has a new sex symbol!

I must admit that it fooled me for awhile. All of those blistering attacks by politicians and others and outraged Editorials in the Windsor Star. I thought it was just politics trying to destroy the image of him being the People’s Councillor.

I naïvely thought that the attacks were designed to discredit him politically since none of the Councillors who were on the Library Board previously have said a word about why they didn’t act if everything was so bad about paying the tuition for Brian Bell. They just sat by and let Alan take the heat for their actions.


But I was wrong, very wrong. It all has to do with the green-eyed monster: jealousy and envy. They cannot stand it that he is getting the looks that they think that they deserve instead.

It’s all about stubble. Take a look at the long explanation on the Bloggers’ friend’s BLOGsite: http://www.alanhalberstadt.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Why, the Councillor even has a survey their to ask whether he should cut the stubble or not. When I checked the results, the vast majority suggested that he should cut it.

If you want to know what truly dirty politics is in this City, understand that the survey is being packed by certain people who don’t want the title of sexiest Councillor in Windsor to go to Councillor Halberstadt. They are all demanding that he cut the stubble.

Those jealous and envious people must have read this article published in the Telegraph newspaper in London, England. Need I say more:
  • Women prefer men with stubble for love, sex and marriage

    Stubble is the way to win a woman’s heart, a study has shown. Researchers found that women are more attracted to men with stubbly chins than those with clean-shaven faces or full beards.

    Women participating in the research rated men with stubble as tough, mature, aggressive, dominant and masculine - and as the best romantic partners, either for a fling or a long-term relationships.

    The findings of the experiment, carried out on British women aged 18 to 44, could explain the appeal of actors such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt who cultivate their unshaven look.”

You think I am kidding again, dear reader. You decide if I am or not. Here are a few facts that you may want to consider in making your decision:

  • To which major city across the Atlantic have groups of people from Windsor travelled in the last few months?
  • Who went
  • What did the Councillor call his look.

We Need A New Billion Dollar DRIC Bridge Project Because.. (Part 2)

More and more stories come out about the foolishness of wasting billions on the new DRIC bridge. How can anyone make certain politicians and bureacrats wake up.

We probably cannot because they are not using their money but ours!

ARE MICHIGAN BRIDGES SAFE




video


YES---MDOT

"June 13, 2008 -- State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle today announced that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has again updated information about the safety of 4,400 state highway bridges. This is the third time MDOT has made bridge safety information available on the Web.

"This update reflects MDOT's ongoing commitment to providing Michigan residents with quarterly reports about state-owned bridges. Citizens can be assured that Michigan's bridges are carefully inspected and well maintained," said Steudle.

NO---Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association

"One year after Minnesota’s bridge collapse, Michigan policymakers continue to ignore over 500 state bridges rated in poor condition, 163 of which are serious...

The analysis of Michigan bridges , published on the Michigan Department of Transportation website, shows the state with over 3,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges... Over 500 MDOT bridges scored poor, serious or critical, receiving a 4 or less in at least one category.

According to MDOT’s five-year plan, at least one in every six of the state’s most serious bridges is not even scheduled for repair in the next five years due to lack of money. Those numbers are expected to drop even further with the recent news that Michigan is projected to lose as much as $1 billion a year in federal transportation matching funds...

“The sheer number of bad bridges is frightening given our dire situation with plummeting transportation dollars..."

According to the Gov. Granholm-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee report published last week, it is estimated that Michigan’s roads and bridges will require an annual investment of $6.1 billion – nearly two times the current funding level – for basic improvements to the state’s road and bridge system. Without this investment, an additional 30 percent of Michigan roads will decline to poor condition over the next decade.

USING BRAINS NOT MONEY

Lane changes reduce delays
By JESSE MCLEAN, FOR THE SARNIA OBSERVER

Better lane management at the Blue Water Bridge has contributed to a 50 per cent reduction in delays in July, the bridge's vice president of operations said.

Despite a similar amount of traffic volume, Stan Korosec said there have only been five days with hour-or-longer waits this month -- a fraction of the 19 days recorded in July 2007.

"This is huge," he said. "Last year, there would be a Wednesday with backups all the way to Modeland Road. We're not seeing that anymore."

The dramatic drop in lineups has been noticeable since April, he said, which had zero long-wait days compared to 19 the previous year.

"You expect it on some days, like Sundays or long weekends. That's accepted. But it was pretty terrible," he said of last year's border congestion, which was the worst since the fall of 2001.

"We had people urinating on the side of the road. We had people with medical emergencies who were trapped in line. It needed to be addressed," he said.

Korosec gives partial credit for the improvements to the U. S. Customs and Border Protection, which increased staffing and expanded hours on primary-inspection lanes.

Border officials are also changing lane dedication -- for example, from cars to commercial trucks -- at certain times of day to meet the demand, he said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Star Gazing


What an interesting Windsor Star today. Very unusual. Here is my take on some of the stories.

WHERE IS GORD HENDERSON

I don’t care what anybody has to say. Something strange is going on. No, no, no I have not been offered his position to be the main Columnist at the Star as was suggested some time ago.

Here is what I mean. In his goodbye column, Marty Gervais wrote:
  • “Today will be my last column as a full time writer for this paper.”

Then he said

  • “However, I will continue with My Town on a freelance basis…”

    Keep reading me. I'll be here as usual.”

That is peculiar don’t you think. Why would he give up a full-time job to do the same as a freelancer? Maybe it has to do with his 35 years of service at the Star. I don’t know.

All that I do know is that there is just as peculiar going on with the Henderson column too. Where is that hard-hitting Gord? Is he freelancing too now but we just do not know it.

What has he written about since he has returned from holidays… home renovations, Via Rail fences, defence of Councillor Brister, HMS Detroit, playing soldier, John McGivney Children’s Centre and now, if you can believe it… roses. In fact, he’s even acting as a reporter with respect to the Farhi “downtown” story.

Oh sure, he did write about the canal vision and the naysayers but where are the columns about the Tunnel deal, Eddie’s secrecy, the FBI probe in Detroit and its effect on Windsor, the 400 building audit, the Estrin case, the Integrity Commissioner, Greenlink, the border file and so on and so on and so on.

Perhaps you can explain it.

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

I cannot believe it. A huge story about a Windsor and roses and a Henderson column as well. Has the Publisher of the Star taken up gardening as a hobby?

The obvious point to make is that if we cannot afford our rose gardens then how can we afford the Greenlink parks. I know they were supposed to be “naturalized” but really.

First we are losing our title as the "Automotive Capital of Canada" and now we are losing another title: the "City of Roses."

SHOVEL- READY LANDS

Here we are about to get a windfall of $20 million from the Province and what does our Mayor want to spend this money on?

Let’s have a contest. What do you think that the money should be used for:

  • Watermains so that we will not be hit by another huge levy increase
  • Sewers so that residents will not have water in the basement after the next giant downpour
  • Fixing potholes and streets such as Wyandotte West near the University
  • Building a wireless network to provide advantages for tourists who visit here and to provide low-cost communications services for businesses and residents
  • Tunnel Plaza improvements.

I am sure that you can think of other projects. I thought that Council had a list of prioroty items that they had looked at before. Now that they have all this extra money, there is no reason why those projects could not be completed in a very timely fashion.

However, our Mayor has his priority and it has nothing to do with citizens’ needs today. It was something that was deferred until 2011 but now he wants to bring it forward immediately:

  • “The mayor suggested possibly spending the funds on projects that promote economic development, such as servicing airport lands or the former Sandwich South properties to pave the way for industrial development.”

Let’s see what guts the Councillors have and whether they will choose the citizens, needs or the Mayor’s.

According to the story,

  • “We will have a discussion with council on how best to spend this money and maximize the return.”

I wonder if that will be in a public Council meeting, in an in camera meeting or will the Mayor call some of the loopy Councillors and give them a tip before he tells us what he’s going to do as with the canal project.

Now you know what Greenlink and the canal project were really all about when you see what is important to the Mayor.

SARCASM DOES NOT WORK IN PRINT

As a journalist, Councillor Halberstadt should know better.

He writes a Letter to the Editor about Councillor Loopy’s comments about "in the loop" Councillors meeting privately with the Mayor. Then, in a comment about the $20 million from the Province, he seems to weaken his position when he states that some of the money could be used for

  • “perhaps investing "a few bucks" in the mayor's canal and marina plan for the western super anchor lands downtown.”

If he was being sarcastic, the comment did not work in print. Some people may now take the view that the Councillor was is in favour of doing the feasibility for the canal project but that he was acting politically because of the Mayor’s attacks on him with respect to the Library.

It would be better if he did not make these offhand comments again.

CITIZENS GET SNUBBED TOO

John Tory can feel better now. He should not take it personally when the Mayor snubbed him whne he was in town, supposedly working on the Tunnel deal. Citizens are ignored as well as we can see in today’s Henderson column:

  • “A resident in a condo tower overlooking the park, Barrett watched from his balcony in disbelief last May as city crews ripped out the roses and tossed down straw. Unable to reach Mayor Eddie Francis, he unloaded while leading me on a recent tour of a park that stands out like a sore thumb on Windsor's manicured riverfront.”

I wonder what Eddie was working on at that time that was so important to snub a taxpayer. I also wonder why his staff did not take some action. Even if it was to tell the gentleman that they knew all about it, they could have done something. I am not surprised that he had to take Gord on a tour to get some publicity because of his frustration.

I contacted the BLOGGERS' "friend" to get action on some weed removal. Check out the BLOG of the Mayor of Monmouth http://themayorofmonmouth.blogspot.com/ :

DRRT WILL BE BACK

Will the Jobs Tunnel website come back online? Will we see an advertising blitz from the DRRT people to support a $400 million rail tunnel? Is DRTP dead?

Some more interesting comments from the rail story. If the new train station is to go downtown, is that the end of the transportation hub at the airport? So much for another part of Schwartz’s report.

It is interesting to compare the work done respecting to the rail lands with the announcement of and the feasibility study with respect to the canal project. I wonder to which Naysayer Councillor Valentinis was speaking when he said:

  • "The railway companies have been part of this (study)," he said.

    "This is not just a consultant with a pie-in-the-sky. They have been funders of this particular solution, they have participated."

One thing that is really disappointing is that

  • “the study that will go to city council on Sept. 9 contains the technically preferred solution.”

Public involvement will only take place afterwards. Depending on what information is made available, we may not have the thinking behind the preferred solution. At the least, the DRIC process pretended that citizens were involved. I hardly think now that the City can complain about their process.

And if rail transportation is improved dramatically, please explain to me again why we need a new DRIC bridge.

Strange Sayings

Here are some things that people in the news have said over the last little that you might find of interest.

PLAYING THE SAME OLD TUNE

Councillor Hatfield keeps reminding us that:

  • "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."

Yet if the canal feasibility study comes back positively, as the Mayor has already told us that it will, will the Councillor remind developers that they will have to pay the $60 million or more of infrastructure costs for the project, not the taxpayers of Windsor. After all they will make a profit on the transaction, not the City.

Taxpayers paid $10,000 for drawings so how are the situations all that different? The Councillor should already know, given his background in municipal politics as a journalist, that the City will wind up footing the bill:

  • "There could even be expropriation so council will have a very active role."

Yes we expropriated property for the Western Super Anchor site and it still sits there. And I believe that all of the Canderel expropriations have not yet been resolved either. Perhaps the Councillor does not remember that given the amnesia disease at City Hall.

IN THE LOOP COUNCILLORS

Remember what Councillor Hatfield said:

  • "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."

A writer on the Mayor of Monmouth's BLOG took that as an opportunity to wonder

  • "Maybe we should just refer to the Mayor's office as "the loop" or the "loop portal" and those who are in "the loop" as "Loopers". Those who get sucked in as "Looped".

Doesn't Chicago have the Loop? Eddie looks up to Chicago's mayor, Mayor Daley

I have a different idea for those in the loop in Windsor politics. I would prefer to call those who participate in Government by tips and are proud of it as "Loopy."

WHAT DOES SHE MEAN BY THIS

I hope somebody can explain the last line of this comment in the Free Press because I do not understand it. It must mean something because the Detroit Councillor is one of the bright ones on their Council:

  • "Then there's Kilpatrick's star-crossed proposal to sell the city's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to raise $65 million toward balancing the budget. The mayor failed to get council approval by June 30 to avoid running a deficit in the 2007-08 fiscal year, but then rallied to win partial passage July 1 -- only to see the council rescind its support.

    Kilpatrick has continued to work the deal, but the prospects appear bleak, and the city warned workers of layoffs in September without the sale.

    Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel has said many times she ordinarily would be more open to support the sale, but not with this mayor in these times.

    "There's nothing that I hear that I do not feel has to be checked, rechecked, double-checked, triple-checked," she said. "I look at it now from a prism of what is this designed to accomplish. Is this designed to assist and aid the mayor in dealing with his numerous legal challenges or is this just a good plan?"

How could the deal assist the Mayor with his legal challenges? Very odd.

ARE YOU A DATA CREEP

While there are probably are good reasons for it from a security perspective, here is another reason why people may not want to cross the border unless they actually have to do so.

The Washington Post reported that

  • "The federal government has been using its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations...

    Under the system, officials record name, birth date, gender, date and time of crossing, and a photo, where available, for U.S. travelers returning to the country by land, sea or air."

For non-US citizens, the retention period is 75 years.

Ontario's Privacy Commissioner had this to say about this matter:

  • "Because of privacy concerns, Washington state earlier this year opted for the queries-only approach. [The agency to query their databases in real time for information on a traveler] The Canadian government made the same decision. "There was absolutely no way they should have the entire database," said Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's privacy commissioner, who learned about the Canadian government's decision in April.

    "Once you have data in a database you don't need, it lends itself to unauthorized use," she said. "You have no idea of the data creep."

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS

Don't you just love how this was done:

  • "Becker cautions, however, that despite good news, there remain significant financial challenges associated with the consultant recommendations for the deck overlays, when they are considered with other expected major bridge projects."

I try to help out Brian Masse but he just won't listen.

Here's the scoop---It's nice to want to keep tolls low to help out users. However, they have to be high enough to cover the cost of running a bridge or else taxpayers in general have to subsidize operations, not the actual users.

Here is what is going on at the Soo with their public bridge:

The Good news:

  • International Bridge maintenance diligence delays $80 million deck replacement; bridge financial challenges continue

    August 20, 2008 - - The Joint International Bridge Authority (JIBA) Board of Directors received a very good report on the structural condition of the concrete bridge deck at its Aug. 20 meeting held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

    The consulting firm of Hardesty and Hanover presented the findings of a detailed inspection and structural evaluation of the bridge deck. It was anticipated the 45-year-old deck would have to be totally removed and replaced within the next 10-15 years, at an estimated cost of $80 million. However, the study found the deck to be in exceptionally good condition for its age.

    The report recommends the blacktop overlay portion on the Canadian arch span to be replaced with a concrete overlay in 2009, costing approximately $2 million. It also recommends a concrete deck overlay of the entire bridge in 2023, costing approximately $24 million. The report suggests the deck replacement could be delayed until the mid 2040s.

    "The bridge deck is in excellent condition due to the diligent preventive maintenance program in place at the International Bridge Administration (IBA)," said Phil Becker, IBA general manager. "Our IBA maintenance staff is to be commended for the great job they do to get the full service life out of the bridge deck."

And now the bad news:

  • Becker cautions, however, that despite good news, there remain significant financial challenges associated with the consultant recommendations for the deck overlays, when they are considered with other expected major bridge projects. Other major capital projects in the next 15 years include:

    - 2011 - $11.7 million toll plaza redevelopment project to reduce traffic congestion between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) border station and the toll booths.
    - 2014 - $4.7 million repainting of the Canadian arch span.
    - 2018 - $9.0 million repainting of the U.S. arch spans.
    - 2023 - $11.5 million repainting of the north approach spans and center girder spans.

And now the very bad news

  • "When we consider all of the combined costs for scheduled projects to keep the aging bridge and support facilities structurally sound and safe, we are looking at expending over $60 million in the next 15 years," says Becker. "Given that nearly $4.5 million of the $6 million annual toll revenue goes into the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the bridge, we have little opportunity to put funds in reserve to meet these future needs."

    Becker also noted that the $60 million capital project program does not take into account the $40 million cost to replace the Canada Border Services Agency plaza, for which federal funding is being pursued.

And now the most horrible news of all

  • The IBA is totally self-funded, based primarily on toll revenue, and receives no operational funds support from state, provincial, or federal government sources. Bridge traffic has dropped from 3.6 million annual crossings in 1994 to about 1.9 million crossings in 2007.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mr. Farhi's New Downtown (Part 2)


What I still do not understand is why the Mayor changed so drastically from his platform of a public-private partnership for building an arena downtown at a maximum cost to taxpayers of $15 million to moving that arena out to the east end at an unlimited cost to taxpayers. Clearly, development would move with it.

I find it hard to believe that the Casino was so desperate not to have a competing facility near to them that they would have not built what they were going to do anyway to protect their existing investment from the competition of the Detroit casinos. I found this comment in the story from Rick Lescanec of Deerbrook Realty interesting as well:
  • “As for economic spin-offs from the new WFCU Centre, Lescanec said anything which creates activity is beneficial. "Any time you can get 4,000 or 5,000 people to come down to an event, that has to help."

Didn’t the Casino spokesperson say something similar the other day:

  • "Of course, the Colosseum has been a major change as well and there's clearly been a spike in attendance with the influx of 5,000 people on concert nights.

    "I would say the majority are U.S. visitors, but there has been an increase in our Canadian clientele as well."

It was consistent with Dave Cooke said several years ago:

  • "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..."

Can you image, the Palace of Auburn Hills has Janet Jackson and Celine Dion appearing one day after another at their location. Can you imagine if comparable acts were at the Casino and at a downtown arena on the same day. What excitement that would generate. How many visitors would flood into Windsor to spend money here especially if there were matinee and evening performances.

After all, Las Vegas or the theatre districts in London and New York have not been hurt with one entertainment complex beside another. They just draw people to the area to the advantage of all of the businesses.

There is no point second-guessing really but one has to wonder what downtown Windsor would have been like with an arena here given Mr. Farhi’s comment about a new downtown in the East End that will be created around the East End arena. He does not seem to be concerned about the Arena creating a dead spot on days when there is nothing going on the way some people in the City were about a downtown arena. He understands its purpose as a focus and a draw.

Beztak was chased out of town, we never had an RFP for the urban village lands… just a single source idea dreamed up by the Mayor with $10,000 worth of taxpayer paid drawings using the CAO approval system and only “tipping off” some of the Councillors.

Mr. Farhi is being very clever too. Note that this may be an East End trial balloon that he has created to see what interest is generated. It does not seem that he has any firm plans for what he wants to do yet:

  • "[He] confirmed in a phone interview that he's finalizing plans to tear down the sprawling 43-year-old factory, with demolition beginning as early as October, and is working on long-term development plans for the 60-acre site that could, over the long haul, exceed 500,000 square feet and would benefit from close proximity to the city's WFCU Arena complex.

    "It would complement the great work the city has done."

    "I see mixed use. Commercial. Anything and everything we can build there. We can do whatever. I have to see what we can place next to it (the arena)…

    If someone were to indicate an interest in buying a piece of that 60 acres, Farhi said he would consider it."

He is out there flogging his real estate with a free front page story in the Star to do his selling for him. It will be picked up by others in the general and real estate press. He did not even have to pay for an ad!

What he has done however is told possible investors in Windsor that he is ready to go now with this massive development that will be the Centre of Windsor in the future. Talk about discouraging people from going to the urban village area. He is effectively saying that even if the Mayor was serious about his canal vision, it would take an undetermined number of years to get regulatory approvals and to build the canal system so why go there. Instead if you go to Windsor, go to his complex.

By the time anything can be done downtown, his new "downtown" would be up and running.

In passing, PCR should be really pleased. They got a nice carrot to help him out. They came out of nowhere to get the arena. Now they seem to be the contractor of choice for Mr. Farhi:

  • "he's been "talking to many different contractors" but would especially like to work with the Collavino family, owners of PCR Contractors, which is building the WFCU Centre.

    "They're good people. A great family. I hope they're going to take a good part of that looking forward," he said."

What’s really going on you might ask. It is pretty obvious. Forget the canals and big developments in the urban village space. We don't need it anymore since we have this massive development in the East End. Why it almosts sounds like the rationale for not having a downtown arena doesn't it. If we have a Casino complex downtown, we can move our arena anywhere. So now we can move our downtown eastwards too.

Don't worry about the urban village lands. This property will have other uses needed by the Mayor and the Province will help in that redevelopment too.

We are going to be paying for Eddie Francis Square soon.

I’m sure that you have seen the recent story on Eh-Channel about the mess that the existing City Hall is in and that it might take millions of dollars to renovate it because of all the problems. Remember this also:

  • "Corporate Space Needs Study and Site Condition Assessment Study for 350 City Hall Square: To review the opportunity for consolidating various off site satellite administrative operations within a centralized campus environment with a view of creating a long term spatial program that is both efficient and effective while taking advantage of available corporate synergies."

Centralized campus environment… remember the image above I created of the Golden triangle downtown with a new City Hall being built where the Barn is. No wonder it has never been designated as a heritage building. All of that area will be the new "campus" for our politicians and administrators so that they can rule us more effectively, or rather ignore us completely.

Campus Martius in downtown Detroit; Campus Francis in downtown Windsor. It has a certain ring to it don't you agree!

And of course as I also said before, the Glengarry non-profit apartments have to move as well. You cannot chance having a flea-infested area where there was "drugs, prostitutes and crime" near Campus Francis now can you. Even if things have improved there.

I hear also that the Casino is not happy with some apartment buildings near their complex either. It spoils the view so they need to be torn down sooner rather than later.

Where can they all go… I’ve got it… the urban village lands. I spelled out all of this in my BLOG quite sometime ago [February 12, 2007. “New City Hall Progress Report”]. They all can be rebuilt there. So what if they are not high-priced condos. They are right beside the funky bus terminal. Look at all of the new business that Transit Windsor would get. Of course Mr. Farhi's land would have to be expropriated to make way for them too. He would NOT be happy about that at all I am sure but what choice would he have.

Let's not get too carried away about east end redevelopment yet either. Whatever happened to the Fairfield Inn by Marriott that was supposed to be built in the east end? It was supposed to open in mid-2008. It is said that Mr. Farhi "is planning for the long term."

  • "He's certainly not talking short-term because there's no demand, and it will not develop without demand," said Williams. Shmuel Farhi is a smart man. He's not going to do it unless the economics work."
And back to where I started in Part 1: Greenlink.

Good to see that those in the loop are prepared to do the Mayor's work to try to get money out of the Province. I'd be surprised if the Premier gives them the time of day at AMO.

If Councillor Hatfield thinks he can still sell Greenlink to a person with an "open mind," it must be because the person has no brains. Their brains would have fallen out of their head from "bending their ears" as the Councillor wants to do .

The game has still not played itself out yet. More is still to come.

Mr. Farhi's New Downtown (Part 1)


The canal project must be dead already with this Star headline I saw on Sunday evening on the online edition. First the canal to divert us from the Greenlink failure and now Greenlink to divert us from the East End downtown story:
  • "Councillors to push GreenLink on premier"

My head is spinning from the City Hall spinning!

I wonder when our Mayor found out about the Farhi proposal. After all, it can change the face of this City rather dramatically don't you think:
  • “East-side renaissance”

  • "I can see eventually 60 acres being developed ...the equivalent of an entire downtown."
I am sure that Mr. Farhi contacted Eddie since we have
  • "a straight-shooter" mayor and council who are pro-development"
Some members of the Downtown Business Association may now finally understand how bad the decision was for them to move the arena to the East End. I wonder how many will ask for the money that they paid to their Association to be given back to them. Their Chair at one time had said:
  • "successful downtowns have a number of attractions, which include residential, retail and entertainment developments. Most urban villages have a "centre piece" attraction, such as an arena."
It is too late now. The east end vision includes:
  • "hotel, restaurants, retail outlets, apartment towers and senior-citizen residences."Why it sound just like what is being proposed at the canal urban village!

If you see Mayor Eddie Francis on the street over the next few days, you will notice one thing: he is a lot shorter. You see Gord Henderson’s big story about the redevelopment of the Lear site by Mr. Farhi effectively cut off Francis at his knees.

That gasp you heard was almost the last one of our sick downtown. It is on life support with its condition critical after the front page Star story.


Some of you may have wondered why I have not written more on the GO BIG OR GO HOME canal vision of our Mayor. I did not do so precisely because I have learned with our Mayor that what you see at the beginning is not necessarily what you get at the end. We are generally being set up for something so I chose this time not to waste a lot of time on the pie-in-the-sky concept. I expected something else.

I wonder why there was no discussion with Councillors according to Councillor Halberstadt:
  • "of this signifiant initiative during a special downtown strategic planning meeting of Council on June 23, more than a month after the Brook McIlroy consultants were hired. At the July 23 meeting, called at the insistence of Councillor Jo-Anne Gignac after much delay, development of the City Centre West lands into an urban village was the central topic.
$10,000 for pretty pictures and a feasibility study for a project that was designed to help the Mayor pretend that we were going to do something spectacular in the urban village/Western Super Anchor lands.

I can just picture the gentleman holding back tears of laughter as he said
  • “the proposed downtown marina and canal, now the subject of a feasibility study to which he contributed $25,000, is "a genius idea" and exactly the kind of thinking Windsor needs. "This is the most interesting plan I've seen in any community in this country."

What a nice word "interesting" is. It is also the most ridiculous but he did not have to say that. He must be thinking to himself that if this is the kind of competition he faces in Windsor with other developers and with this kind of a City Hall then he will become a kagjillionaire within a few years. (That is much more than a multimillionaire in case you were wondering.).

Such a genius idea that Mr. Farhi is out there in the East End miles away from it.

I found it quite odd in Henderson’s story that Eddie’s name did not appear until close to the end. I’m surprised there was not a press conference with the Mayor and Mr. Farhi to announce his plans. This has to be a “good news” story for Windsor and yet the Mayor is virtually invisible. No fireworks, no chest thumping by the Mayor. No huge press conference. No pretty artist's drawings. Why not? What is going on? This is NOT typical.

Eddie made a very strange comment that is going to raise a tremendous amount of controversy and questions:
  • “The entire Lauzon Road corridor is going to come to life again. This just adds to and complements the activity at the WFCU Centre. Shrewd investors are already picking up properties."
No, what Eddie should have said is:
  • “ Shrewd investors have already picked up properties.”
Perhaps the Windsor Star or Eh-News, since they have become very investigative recently, could hire a lawyer to do some title searches around the property to see who some of these shrewd investors are. That should be very enlightening don’t you think. I'd like to know who the smart people in town are.

It was a no-brainer after all. Many years ago, I met one of the gentlemen involved in building the arena in Kanata, Ontario which has gone bankrupt twice I believe. He and his colleagues also owned a lot of the land around the arena. They were going to make money redeveloping that land and not running an arena.

I thought that the people behind Project Ice Track were going to do the same thing in Tecumseh. I believe that there was a lawsuit still with respect to the property. The important part of the property was not going to be the arena but the redevelopment around it.

In this case, it is the City at risk with respect to the arena and not Mr. Farhi. In addition it appears that the City is paying for all the roads and bridges and infrastructure required in that area because of the arena.

To come back to the canal vision, is the Farhi "downtown" why Eddie made the announcement of that project? Is that why Eddie is virtually invisible on the announcement of the plans by Mr. Farhi. Just take a look at the words at the top of this BLOG.
  • “I can see eventually 60 acres being developed ... the equivalent of an entire downtown.”

In the circumstances, I do not understand how Dave Cooke can continue on this mockery of a feasibility study especially given what he had said in the past with respect to an arena downtown. He does a disservice to himself and his reputation by doing so. He is being used to make fools of citizens. If he does not understand this now, then I feel sorry for him. If there is a choice between a real project run by a real developer or a pie in the sky concept put forward by a Young Entrepreneur of the Year, where do you think that the shrewd investor would go!

Poor Councillor Brister:

  • “If someone were to indicate an interest in buying a piece of that 60 acres, Farhi said he would consider it.

    "If we have to sever a few acres, sure."
There goes the cheap land for parking. Imagine now how much the cost of the arena will increase because the purchase price of land for additional parking that is absolutely required for the arena has just shot up dramatically.

Will Mr. Farhi receive more years from the City for not having to build downtown at his land beside the Art Gallery instead of renting parking spaces to the City for cash:

  • "As for the feared traffic bottlenecks this winter during Spitfire games at the WFCU Centre, Farhi said that won't happen. "Don't worry. I'll give them what they need," he said referring to the thousands of former Lear parking spaces."
The question that I have to ask is whether Eddie Francis will be responsible for the complete destruction of downtown Windsor. Will that be his legacy? I’m afraid that only history will provide the answer.