Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stories You May Have Missed



Who can possibly cope? There are so many sources of information that it is virtually impossible to read everything. Here are some interesting items that you may have missed.

BOMB THREAT

The silence is deafening. Can you imagine what Canada’s Senator Kenny would say or Brian Masse or the DRIC people or bureaucrats and certain politicians on both sides of the border if the Ambassador Bridge was closed down for one second because of a threat.

Yet we have seen over the past couple of weeks bomb threats at both the Blue Water Bridge and at the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel where they were both closed down and not a peep from anyone.

No one is demanding that an extra bridge or two be built in Port Huron/Sarnia. No demand for a new Tunnel in Windsor (What an opportunity that Mike Hurst is passing up but he is now involved in doublestack rail tunnels).

No, only if there is an issue at the Ambassador Bridge will someone open up their mouth.

BORDER REDUNDANCY

I have to admit that if I was a Senator in Michigan, and I would have to wonder about some of the people at MDOT.

There was some discussion at the Cropsey hearings about redundancy. No, I do not mean building an entirely new Ambassador Gateway project for the DRIC bridge at a cost of a quarter of $1 billion or more in the event that the Customs area is damaged so that truckers have a four or five day problem.

There was a suggestion that they would be massive problems in the event that Ambassador Bridge was out of circulation. Of course, the MDOT people seem to have forgotten about the “floating bridge” concept that the Bridge Company presented to the House hearings which would eliminate that issue. The strong suggestion however was that a new bridge was needed for redundancy concerns.

Even though most of the long distance carriers could use the Blue Water Bridge, that fear was raised about how inconvenient that would be. More importantly, there are concerns about the 2000 or so local international trucks and the just-in-time delivery that would be hurt.

Interestingly enough, the Ambassador Bridge would be the redundancy solution for both of the bomb scares at the other crossings:
  • “Windsor police were preparing to deal with possible extra truck traffic on Huron Church Road had the [Blue Water Bridge] closure lasted longer and traffic diverted to the Ambassador Bridge.”

Just so that the MDOT people understand what is going on and to provide assistance for future hearings if a question of redundancy comes up, here’s what the Blue Water Bridge says about the Ambassador Bridge:

  • "C o m p e t i t i v e R i s k
    …is the risk that changes and improvements made by our competitors or by changes in government policy that might significantly affect traffic volumes.

    The main risks to the BWBA’s strong volume trends include:
    - Improved transportation access and additional capacity at the Ambassador Bridge" and,

    "Primary Competition

    As the fourth busiest U.S.-Canadian border crossing, the Bridge provides an efficient trade gateway between Canada and the United States. There are alternatives to the Bridge; however, other than the Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge, none is considered by the Authority to be a major competitor."

Here is what the Tunnel’s Belitsky has to say:

  • “As Neal Belitsky said "If anything happened to the Ambassador Bridge, the industry is smart enough to figure out how to put their goods on smaller trucks to get it across....Right now we serve as the redundancy."

As an example “DaimlerChrysler has a special fleet of flatbed trailers that meet the tunnel’s clearances to shuttle parts between Detroit and Windsor manufacturing plants.

THERE MUST HAVE BEEN AN ELECTION COMING

I wonder if we should tell our leaders in Ottawa that Windsor has a big French speaking population. Perhaps in that case we might actually get some federal money down here as they do in Québec:

  • "The Port of Montreal announces $2.5 billion investment in expansion.

    MONTREAL — Over $2.5 billion will be invested into improving the Port of Montreal, port authorities announced Sunday.

    It will be the first major expansion in two decades.

    Montreal port president Patrice Pelletier said funds for the expansion will come from a combination of financial reserves, loans, private investment and the federal government.

    Michael Fortier, minister of international trade, highlighted the importance of the port for Montreal's economy.

    "It's such an important player in our economy and it needs room to grow," said Fortier during a news conference.

    He couldn't confirm a government investment of $600 million needed by the Port for its expansion but said port authorities and the government are discussing the project."

STADIUMS, AND TUNNELS DON'T PAY

It sounds like Megaprojects run amok.

The following excerpt from the book was sent to me by a reader. I thought it was interesting not only with respect to a stadium or an arena but also with respect to the Tunnel deal:

  • "There will be no plan B," promised Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy, just hours before the November 1997 general election. Residents in the eleven-county Pittsburgh area would soon be voting on plan A, a referendum to increase the region's sales tax to finance new stadiums for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates and expand the existing convention center. The referendum was crushed by an almost two-to-one margin, losing decidedly in every county. The public had spoken. Pittsburgh-area residents did not want to use public dollars for new stadiums. The message could not be clearer.

    Clear or not, four years later the Pirates and Steelers were playing in two new stadiums paid for primarily with public tax dollars. Despite his election-day warning, Mayor Murphy organized a plan B working group immediately after the referendum, which quickly and successfully devised a strategy to finance these new stadiums publicly without a popular vote. The total price tag of these stadiums was more than $500 million, with most of the revenues accruing to the teams...

    There has been an explosion in new stadium construction since the 1990s, and several things make this current boom very different from any other period in history. First, the breadth of new construction across the country and the amount of public contribution is unprecedented...and one analyst has estimated that approximately $10 billion of public money has gone to all new sports stadiums since the mid-1980s (Keating 1999). Although these stadiums are almost always officially owned by quasi-governmental stadium authorities, the revenue streams from new stadiums increasingly flow toward private pockets. So our use of the term private stadiums refers less to the nominal ownership of these facilities and more to who benefits from their publicly financed construction and operation.

    In trying to identify the leaders of a stadium project, we immediately examine what we call a city's "local growth coalition." At heart, a growth coalition is an institutional alliance between the local corporate community and the local government, although the specific form of government involvement may vary...

    The second pillar of our analytical framework concerns the strategic choices made by local growth coalitions (or other advocates) to justify why a community should spend public dollars on new stadiums. These strategies generally fall into two categories. The first claims that new stadiums will provide all sorts of tangible economic benefits to the local community. The second insists that new stadiums will benefi- cially augment the way in which a community views itself, how the community is perceived by others, and how community members get along with each other-what we call "community self-esteem" and "community collective conscience." Stadium advocates rely on both justifications and often use them simultaneously.

    Nevertheless, there has lately been a noticeable shift away from economic promises and toward promises of social benefits. We believe this is not just random but reflects conscious strategic decisions by stadium proponents in each city. Proponents have realized that the path to publicly financed stadiums will be less problematic if they downplay the tangible economic benefits and accentuate the intangible social goods that might accompany stadiums."

Decide for yourself if the authors are correct about how the East End arena concept was sold in Windsor and try to figure out why it changed from Eddie's election promise of a public/private partnership in the downtown at a maximum cost to taxpayers of $15 million.

Consider also how the Tunnel deal is being sold. There is supposedly a "business case" for it in which we are being led to believe that there is a financial advantage for Windsor. However we have not yet seen it. More importantly, it is being presented along the lines of keeping the Tunnel in public hands and away from those big bad Bridge Company people, protecting 5,000 commuters, needed for tourism and economic development etc. etc. etc.

In case you are interested, the authors of that study concluded:

  • "of the dozens of publicly financed projects he has studied, not one has lived up to its financial promises...

    When you add up the tangible economic indicators—such as jobs created, tax ratables and sales revenues—it never justifies the investment of public dollars in construction, infrastructure upgrades, policing and other needs, he said. Only the team owners make out big in the end...

    When a stadium is torn down so a new one can be built elsewhere, you’re merely moving money from one place to another. The cash being spent at the arenas and new stores, hotels and restaurants that crop up around them is just cash not being spent on other forms of entertainment, he said.

    “We usually find stadiums shift spending from one part of a state to another. There’s no new income being generated,” Eckstein said.

    Although they’re large structures that garner lots of attention, stadiums don’t actually produce much money for their cities, he said. The public may own the majority of the buildings, but the team owners command the majority of event revenues...

    The key to making a stadium investment pay off is the ability to draw people from outside the pool that financed it, he said. If a county pays for an arena, then it must attract fans from beyond county lines, or there can be no net gain"

Naysayers Political Action Group Forming



video


In case you are hearing some very strange sounds around Windsor, do not panic. There is no reason for you to contact the authorities. You are not in danger.

The sounds that you hear are the sounds being made by a number of Windsorites who are imitating a horse nickering. The explanation for this will become absolutely clear when you read the rest of this BLOG.

They could not leave nay enough alone.

Nope, the strap on “W” cheerleaders who throw the soft lobs for the Mayor to hit a home run on his CKLW Morning Drive interview show had to bring up the subject of naysayers again. That allowed the Mayor to attack them as well.

Listen to the clip and you will understand why the Mayor’s comment is completely hypocritical. You see the Mayor will graciously allow people to have an opinion so long as it is based on a “informed” input. Naysayers are those “that do not have information in front of them.”

I finally understand it all. It took the WeACT Freedom of Information Application and the Mayor’s comment to make it absolutely clear. As you will recall, the City wants WeACT to fork over $350,000 to gain information about the 400 Building Audit and the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel deal. Obviously, without that information, members of WeACT are in no position to comment intelligently about the issues.

Accordingly, the only person in Windsor who is allowed to speak on certain issues, because he is the only one who has the information, is the Mayor. He controls it. If you want to share the information, even if you have $350,000 and are willing to spend it, you’ll have to wait 500 days so that the City can gather it all together and decide how much of it that it chooses to disclose to you because of the so-called “mandatory” exemptions under the Statute.

For the next two years therefore on these issues and on any other that is run by the Voice of Council, the Mayor is the only informed person in Windsor who is allowed to speak. His is the only opinion that counts since it is based on input. Everyone else, every citizen, every taxpayer, every Councillor, every man, woman and child in Windsor is a Naysayer. None of us have information in front of us so we cannot form an opinion that is worthwhile listening to.

My understanding is that a number of people became so incensed at the arrogance of the comment of the Mayor that they decided to form a Municipal Political organization. I do not believe that they have chosen a name yet but their mascot is a horse. After all, horses neigh don’t they!

Here is an explanation about why you may hear the “nickers” around the City. The explanation comes from http://www.equusite.com/:




video


  • The neigh is the loudest and longest of the horse sounds. The neigh is not a sound of fear. It is used when a horse is being separated from others.

    "Is anyone else here?" - The horse neighs with his head high, looking around for other horses or people. The horse usually neighs several times (if the horse neighs after a companion has answered his neigh, he is usually saying "Where are you".

    Response:
    "I am here" - A returned nicker made by a fellow horse who hears the original horse's question. This response is also a nicker, meant to tell the other horse that he's not alone.

Do you see what I mean… all that nickering means that the Naysayers are not alone. I'll let you discover for yourself the sound of a nicker. Then you can make the sound and join up too!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Letters


Here are some more comments from readers. I really like a lot of them this time around:


1) Good for you - you have shaken the foundations of the Star.......

2) I loved your Guest Column in today's Star!WELL DONE ED! PS: If there had been enough Naysayers perhaps Canderal and MFP would NOT have taken place

3) Thanks for keeping up the good work, you sneering naysayer you. All the best


4) Way to go Ed! As usual, very well said.


5) Congratulations – they actually published it and you took full advantage!

Good job!

6) Be careful, you may end up having permanent lunch dates with Gordo.

7) The thought crosses my mind as to just who will be a reasonable choice at the next election. Character and integrity are major concerns but the electorate seems to find out about this after and not before elections.

8) Thought you might be interested in this article from TheRecord.com. Boy! Is the difference black and white between Waterloo and the City of Windsor when it comes to supporting public libraries. Not only in education levels but funding! Waterloo is where Windsor wishes it was. Please visit link: http://news.therecord.com/article/395040

9) This was an interesting turn of events for sure. Looks like the anti-naysayer campaign backfired. Judging by the nature other letters today one might speculate that the Star might be getting a lot of pro "naysayer" feedback. Looks like you're mainstream now.

10) Congrats Ed. You deserve it.


11) Congrats Ed, word for word, your comments are exactly what I'm always emphasizing to the many apathetic morons in this city who do nothing but bitch and yet make no effort to call their councilor/MPP, write the Star or call CKWW when the opportunity arises.

12) Congrats! I just noticed you were published by the star!

13) Impressive

14) Dawg... Re: "Pressing for Transparency "Naysayers" Positive Role": Looks like you have the Star's ear.

15) Congrats Ed! I never would have thought they would publish you. I am wondering if this is a peace offering or just a way to tell their readers that they are not so one sided in civic politics?

16)I just noticed the comments on your site about the matter of the tops of that train being crushed in July, when it attempted to take over-size rail cars through the tunnel.

Someone may have already clarified this matter, but in case they didn't the apparent confusion over the matter of claims that the tunnel can accommodate double-stacked containers can be explained as follows: It is technically true that the rail tunnel can accommodate these, but the key is the type of containers being referred to. This is the source of the confusion.

The tunnel can accommodate double-stacked marine or sea containers, but not regular sized containers. The former are a bit smaller than the latter (I forget the precise dimensions, but I think they are about 8 feet tall versus higher heights for the regular containers).

I hope this clarifies matters for yourself and others who may be confused. On the need for a new, enlarged tunnel, no question, Windsor and Detroit need that ASAP.

But just some additional thoughts, Ed. As has been suggested elsewhere, I think an excellent use for the present, older tunnels/tubes, once a new, larger rail tunnel is constructed, would be to use them for a cross-border electrified LRT service, linking up with, and forming a part of, the proposed Woodward Avenue LRT line in Detroit. Such an electrified LRT operation could travel via new or restored railway stations, near Tecumseh on the Windsor side, and a reopened Michigan Central station on the Detroit side. Such an LRT service could interconnect at these points with restored intercity rail passenger service linking Windsor and Detroit with Toronto and Chicago.

This would surely syphon significant volumes of local cross-border vehicle traffic from road routes, and free these up substantially.

17) Have you noticed the weeds already growing in the grass at the Dougall Ave.
beutification project, that didn't take long...........

18) Finding your blogs these days rather entertaining, but you may not have an appreciation for how out-of-date these ideas are.

The cross-river gondola and the cross-river ferry concepts were pitched years ago…we were privy to the complications involved in any cross-border transportation plan.

Listening to these re-cycled ideas come out of the mouths of our local politicians is smile-worthy…at least until I start thinking about how a tax base of 200,000 people is going to maintain them. Years ago I was part of a small group that was examining the viability of a [name of project]in Windsor…Our conclusion?...we could probably beat the bushes and find cash to build the thing…but it’s the continuous upkeep that kills you……..these projects all fall into the same category.

19) Was Eddie talking to Zoom Airlines for those job flights out west?

It's been over two weeks since a mega million dollar project has been announced.
What is Eddie doing, sleeping?

Shanfields is Windsor's best tenant in the downtown core. I never hear them whining about fixing the core and it needing millions.

20) In my hometown several long tenured and well-liked media folk (TV and print) have been let go because their years of service have driven their salaries to a level that is not competitive with well qualified but younger professionals. Maybe in Windsor also.

21) I deal with developers all the time and over the years have gotten a pretty good idea on how they work...

You'll notice that the concept drawings of the canal had nothing at all representing real projects... just blocked out faceless buildings. Any serious developer...would have presented detailed drawings of real potential projects along side the canal. They are more than likely, illustrations to present a "look" to create short term excitement...

I could be wrong, and this is a subjective judgment... a canal like the one proposed for Windsor would really be insignificant - even if it were built. We are surrounded by water. Just a couple of blocks away is the Detroit river with lake freighters, a great view of Detroit, excellent parks, beaches etc. What would be so special about a little downtown ditch to people in this area? At least in San Antonio there is not much water, so the concept works. In Florida the canals are functional. There is really no comparison...

I don't even think the "east side-renaissance" will be successful. An OHL junior hockey rink, a few ice pads for the kids, and the odd concert is not enough to attract the kind development [that is being talked] about. It may bring in speculators who are betting on pie in the sky dreams... However the location is just not right for hotels and downtown type developments. It will be interesting to see how many real developers invest their money in real concrete proposals describing what they intend to build. Don't hold your breath.

22) [Re the biggest Councillor disappointment] That's easy. Percy Hatfield.

23) I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Your blog stories about the DRIC project appear on the electronic clipping service that Google provides free of charge. I am very impressed by Google's electronic clipping service and even more impressed by what I am reading on your website...

There are some aspects of the early DRIC research work that were totally overlooked in the delineation of alternatives to be examined. Two of them that I believe should have been examined and that could still be examined would deal with ways to lessen congestion on the existing facilities --

(1) enhanced intermodal railroad service between SE Michigan (and perhaps NW Ohio) and the Greater Toronto Area, using existing railroad tunnels in Detroit and Port Huron
(2) a cross border light rail transit service to siphon some of the local peak hour commuter traffic off the existing Windsor-Detroit border crossings

One consequence of proceeding with the DRIC project that apparently is being ignored by DRIC advocates is the impact that the new crossing will have on the demand for widening 401 between Windsor and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Consider this: the DRIC traffic forecasts for year 2035 apparently are 4,800 truck trips per direction between the US side of the Detroit River and the GTA!

One of the DRIC reports asserts that one truck has the same highway space requirement as three automobiles. Thus running 4,800 truck trips in each direction each day on 401 is the equivalent of having 14,400 auto trips. Assume for a moment that all of them tavel during a 12 hour period each day, which would mean the total truck traffic accounts for an average flow of 1,200 auto equivalents per hour per direction.

A highway lane typically can not carry more than 1,800 autos per hour. Thus, the projected truck traffic between the Detroit River and the GTA probably accounts for about 66% of the capacity of one traffic lane. The implementation of DRIC will add credence to the argument that 401 should be widened all the way to Toronto. Somebody in Ontario should be adding the cost of adding capacity to 401 between Windsor and Toronto to the price tag for DRIC.

24)I think you are missing one of the biggest pictures with regards to the CCW lands. That land should be used for residential/mixed-use only. As it stands Windsor does NOT have a strong functioning neighbourhood downtown other than the West River Village (where the canal is "supposed" to go).

Putting a museum or any other "attraction" for visitors on that land would destroy any chance of the downtown area gaining a decent neighbourhood. If a museum needs to be built, and it does, I would suggest vacant land just east of the Casino or open dialogue with Mr. Sofos and build it on The Junction lands.

But then again egos would have to be left aside and we know darn well that isn't about to happen.

25) Ed, that voice clip of Senator Cropsey is the most disgusting scenario regarding the bridge project I have heard. Why, why, why are we looking at wasting half a billion dollars of public funds when it is not needed and is being overseen by a bunch of bumbling fools!! Are free lobotomies for politicians and bureaucrats paid for by OHIP?

Does Eddie Support The Bridge Company Now



video




Have you noticed that the rhetoric that used to be employed against the Ambassador Bridge Company by the City has lessened dramatically recently?

It seems that after the Court of Appeals in the United States allowed the Bridge Company lawsuit against David Estrin, Windsor’s lawyer, to go forward the consequences of that decision may have hit home to our Mayor. Have you heard Estrin’s name being mentioned recently? To be honest, I would have thought that his name would have been used by the Mayor as a threat in the latest brouhaha with the Senior Levels.

As a lawyer, I’m sure that the Mayor understands fully the significance of that Appeals decision and frankly how far it goes. Can it be that the Mayor has finally figured out that the Bridge Company is not the “enemy” and that it might make sense for him to be their “friend” after all? Has he finally figured out strategically, that he should treat the Senior Levels as his foes but that he needs a strong ally to help him out, one that is NOT afraid of the Governments on either side of the river!


The two of them working together would be formidable opponents to the Senior Levels on both sides of the border and something that I suggested many years ago in a paper I presented to Council. Then this region would prosper as the border would finally be fixed up to the advantage of Windsor/Essex, Detroit and the Bridge Company as well as the economies of both countries.

Instead of fighting, the Bridge and the Tunnel could work cooperatively to build up industry and tourist traffic to the region as well. The objective would be to increase the “pot” of traffic by working together and not fighting to get a vehicle in a declining market share.

You mock me, dear reader. You say that it cannot be so. How could anyone change so quickly? Is there any other explanation that can be given after listening to the clip above?

The Mayor would clearly be the leading witness on behalf of the Bridge Company if they decided to sue the Senior Levels for not building a road to their bridge using the Border Infrastructure Fund Money. That is exactly what it was to be used for. The Prime Minister said so and now, our Mayor confirmed it beyond any shadow of a doubt. When you listen to the video, there are no ifs, ands or buts. Here is the transcript:
  • [Story intro: Six years ago $300-million dollars was promised to the City of Windsor. Upper levels of government set it aside to solve problems related to border traffic until a new crossing could be built. Only about a third has been spent on projects in the city. Tonight on A-News at Six municipal affairs specialist Daryl Newcombe reported on where the rest of the money went.]

    Reporter: When the Prime Minister and Premier announced the $300 million Lets' Get Windsor-Essex Moving fund six years ago, its intent was clear.

    Prime Minister Jean Chretien: To address immediate congestion pressures on the Windsor side of the Windsor-Detroit gateway.

    Reporter: These new lanes on the 401 will eventually lead to a new border crossing however the Mayor questions whether the use of the Border Infrastructure Fund to pay for some of this work is actually true to the original intent of the $300 million fund.

    Mayor Francis: The Border Infrastructure Fund was created to fund projects at or near the existing border crossings to deal with the current situation.”

That money was to have been used as an intermediate solution because of the current situation to pay the cost of a road to the Ambassador Bridge, an existing border crossing as the Mayor pointed out. The amount of money set aside, $300 million, is the amount that the Bridge Company said that the cost of that road would be. They in fact did engineering work to demonstrate that the road could be built and for about that sum of money. [Note: the Tunnel received their $20M as an existing crossing for their Project. Don't tell me the Bridge Co. does not have a good case!].

Instead, those funds were used for other purposes as the EH News story states. Of course, the Senior Levels were never going to build that intermediate road because if they had, then the border problems would have disappeared. If the problems disappeared, then how could the bureaucrats justify spending billions of dollars on a DRIC project that is not needed.

The positive statement by the Mayor that supports the Bridge Co. position demonstrates to me that he finally got it. Or perhaps it is an indication that he was pretty sure that he was going to get it, if you get my drift!

If the Mayor and other City Councillors now wish to work with the Bridge Company, I am sure that they would be prepared to do so provided that the City Hall people are acting in good faith.

To make the Bridge Company opponents go apoplectic, it is quite interesting to note that in general they have been right in almost everything that they have said about the border crossing situation. Even our Mayor understands that now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Windsor's Traffic Woes Are National Now


Mike Hurst taught Eddie Francis well. More than he knew. Read on.

Darn Politicians. We BLOGGERS/NAYSAYERS cannot compete with local politicians that are giving this City a black eye day after day after day. It’s not fair. We are trying to do our job to badmouth the City, according to our critics, but these politicians do it so much better than we ever possibly could and they do it on a national scale as well.

Here’s a story from Canadian Press. No BLOGGER could ever get this kind of great press for the City:


  • Windsor Traffic Woes

    WINDSOR, Ont. - The mayor of Windsor, Ont., is pledging even stricter truck traffic controls in his city unless there's action from the federal and provincial governments.

    Eddie Francis is furious, blasting both levels of government for not doing enough to deal with border traffic in the city.

    Francis also claims that the province is spending border infrastructure money on improving surrounding county roads while Windsor itself is crippled with traffic.

    He cast a deciding vote on a pilot project to ban truck turns at a busy thoroughfare, and is urging city councillors to watch out for other potentially dangerous intersections.”

Which phrase did you like better---“Traffic woes” or “Windsor itself is crippled with traffic?” This along with the photograph in the Financial Post showing road patching crews near the University is certainly wonderful for our image.

I believe that Eddie needs to chill a bit given that he is so "furious". He’s much too excited in the story and too angry. The guy who should be angry is Councillor Dilkens who saw the Mayor take the file, and the political glory, away from his hard work for a cheap headline.

But that has been done before hasn't it.

It tells me that Eddie's behind closed doors negotiations with the Province and/or the Federal Government with respect to the road to the border and the Tunnel deal are not going well at all. It may well be that no deal is possible and that no money will be coming to the City.

Greenlink no longer works so an alternative DRIC road blocking tool was needed. Thus, Eddie needed an excuse to lash out at the Senior Levels and chose the Dougall Avenue matter as the way to do so. Unfortunately, that could cost him dearly in the end and Windsor too.

Perhaps Councillor Valentinis could do him a favour and tell him to keep his mouth shut for once. One hardly can make friends with those with the cash by badmouthing them or threatening them with lawsuits. How many times does the Councillor have to have it shoved into his face why Windsor is being overlooked for money?

I can just picture Eddie's favourite people, investors. Yes, I want to put a plant in Windsor, invest money here and buy a new canal home with traffic this bad. Oh yes, let's chase traffic to the Blue Water Bridge as controls get even tighter for trucks around the City. The Economic Development Offices of neighbouring communities need only cut out the quotes of our Mayor in order to get business to move to their jurisdictions and not ours. He is just making it too easy for them.

However, the Senior Levels have been there before with the City of Windsor. It is old news for them although, for most of us, I’m sure that we have forgotten the game.

Here is why Eddie is play acting at being so furious. It might be a good tactic if it were not so obvious. It is about the only thing that IS transparent with this Mayor.

Perhaps he thinks he can terrorize Sandra again as he did with the arena since they supposedly talked about the canal deal. After all, he wound up getting several millions of Provincial dollars for the arena didn't he. Eddie would not have the nerve to try and intimidate Dwight or former Senator Fortier. I hope that Eddie did not forget there is no Provincial election that Sandra has to be concerned about at this time. I am sure that Eddie also heard about her remarks at the Orman roast.

Eddie thinks he has learned well from former Mayor Mike Hurst about how to try and get money out of the Senior Levels. Here is what Mike did a few years ago. It is not all that much different than what Eddie tried with Greenlink and now with his massive study on every road in the City that he announced at Council the other night. They are DRIC road blocking tools designed to stall and hamper what the Senior Levels want to do.

I can just hear Eddie---"You cannot start your project until after we have completed our multi-year study. You are putting the City at risk with traffic. You must wait for us."

In passing, now the Senior Levels have a small taste of how the Bridge Co. felt with the Interim Control By-law and the soon to be announced Heritage Study results.

You know the game now...give me the cash I want as the "host community" and all of my opposition melts away. The only real difference is that demand for the sums of money are so much greater now than they were with Hurst.
  • Truck ban is off -- for now;
    Windsor Star 07-12-2002

    Mayor Mike Hurst's threatened truck blockade at Windsor's city limits is off, at least for now, after the federal and provincial governments pledged $880,000 Thursday to improve traffic flow on Huron Church Road.

    The fast-track money fell short, however, of the $1.2 million the City of Windsor asked for, but Hurst was nevertheless pleased.

    "It's very good news; job well done," said Hurst of federal Transport Minister David Collenette and Ontario Minister of Transportation Norm Sterling, who jointly announced the grant. "We asked them to respond in a very immediate way and they did."

    The city originally asked for $1.2 million in a written submission April 4 and again in a letter from the mayor on July 2 -- a day before a frustrated Hurst publicly threatened to enact emergency legislation and force U.S.-bound trucks to line up at a holding station on Highway 401.”

    Council postpones vote on truck ban; Windsor Star 06-03-2003

    Rejecting a call to provide immediate relief to residents of the west end, city council decided Monday to defer a bylaw amendment which would have banned trucks from certain streets until a further report can be prepared by the city engineer.

    "This is an urgent cry for help from our police services, who need help in implementing a truck containment strategy," said Mayor Mike Hurst. "They're at a stress point in their ability to manage international trucks on our city streets and they need our help.

    "And this is the best expert advice we can get on the subject in terms of being pro-active in controlling the infiltration of international trucks on our streets," said Hurst of a report from the city's traffic engineering department.”

I’m afraid that our Mayor is playing a very dangerous game with his road blocking theatrics. There comes a time when his childish temper tantrums and foot-stamping become tedious. At some point, obviously after the federal election and sooner rather than later, we in Windsor may well get up one morning and read the headline in the Star that the Senior Levels have pulled out of this area.

And then what with 15,000 jobs disappearing and no proper border solution. Do the Councillors have a contingency plan if that happens? I wonder what career path they will choose at that time because politically in Windsor they will be run out of town. As for Eddie, he can always get an acting job at the Capitol...if it ever opens.

Does Windsor Have A Mayoral Mess Now Too


There is no doubt but that intense pressure was put on all parties to get a resolution of the mayoral matter in Detroit in order to allow that City to move forward. At a time when it was in crisis, the City could not afford to be in turmoil for a year or more while the various criminal and other charges outstanding against its Mayor were played out.

Now that the situation on the other side of the river is beginning to settle down, is Windsor about to experience its own mayoral crisis as well? I am afraid that it may happen unless decisive action is taken immediately to get a Court resolution of this matter.


According to the Windsor Star,
  • “Mayor Eddie Francis cast the deciding vote Monday to stop trucks from entering westbound E.C. Row Expressway off Dougall Avenue following a two-hour debate and deadlocked 5-5 vote by city council.

    "We do have a serious safety issue as it relates to traffic and trucks collecting in the left-turn lane," he said. "These trucks are occupying the turn lanes and causing backups."

The Mayor did not have to be involved in this Agenda Item. He did not have to participate in the debate. He did not have to vote. He chose to do so. He made that decision knowingly and willingly. If he had not taken part, then Councillor Dilkens’ Motion would have been defeated on the basis of the tie. The Mayor’s vote broke that tie and in fact allowed the Motion to pass, 6-5.

The Mayor's vote improved the condition of Dougall for home owners and businesses in the vicinity. As a result, there is no longer a safety issue on Dougall Avenue, noise and damage to homes are reduced, and presumably the businesses on that stretch of Dougall will be able to retain their customer base and prosper.

To be quite blunt, I was surprised that the Mayor did not declare a Pecuniary Interest in the Dougall matter and that he did not leave the Chair when it was discussed. I was even more surprised when he voted, especially to break a tie. He has not voted in every case where there was a tie in the past.

The Mayor is very cautious in these matters. As the City Clerk wrote to me with respect to an issue that I raised on a Tunnel Duty-free Shop issue where the Mayor declared a Pecuniary Interest:

  • “I can advise that the Mayor has always been cautious to take the high ground with respect to any possibility of an actual or perceived conflict of interest.”

Here are some examples that I was able to find in going through the City Minutes where the Mayor declared a Pecuniary Interest and did not participate in the Council matter. These declarations should raise a concern in your mind as it did in mine about the Mayor’s participation in the Dougall matter:

  1. March 29, 2004

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on the Notice of Motion respecting Post-Employment Code of Conduct due to the fact that he is the only full time sitting member of Council who remains as a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and intends to return to the practice of law. A provision of the motion may be interpreted to have a direct or indirect impact.
  2. March 20, 2006

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on any matters related to Windsor Arena, as his father owns property in the vicinity of Windsor Arena.
  3. April 27, 2006

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on any matters related to Windsor Arena, as his father owns property in the vicinity of Windsor Arena
  4. July 10, 2006

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Report No. 1 of the Planning Advisory Committee respecting "Gracinda and Peggy Ramos, rezoning, west side of Dougall Ave, north of Liberty Street, Business and Medical Office", as his spouse operates a Chiropractic business on Dougall Avenue.
  5. October 10, 2006

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Item No. 13 being the report of the General Manager of Public Works respecting "Notice of Motion presented by Councillor Halberstadt – Time Restricted Truck Route: Wyandotte Street", as his father owns property along the affected corridor.
  6. January 15, 2007

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Item No. 3 being the report of the Licence Commissioner respecting "CQ81-2006(C) – Bed and Breakfast Establishments", as one of the owners of a √property owned by a√ bed and breakfast establishment is also the landlord to the business of his spouse.
  7. April 16, 2007

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on report no. 3 of the Planning Advisory Committee respecting "362216 Ontario Corporation, rezoning, 4881 and 4909 Riverside Drive East, nine-storey mature lifestyles (retirement) facility", as it would affect his area of residency.
  8. August 13, 2007

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Communication No. 12 dated June 25, 2007 entitled "Wyandotte Truck Route Time Restrictions" authored by the General Manager of Public Works, as his family owns retail along the affected corridor.
  9. November 19, 2007

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Item No. 6 being the report of the City Solicitor dated November 6, 2007 respecting “Council Resolution CR255/2007 – Amendment of the Conveyance Price,” as he resides in the general vicinity.
  10. February 4, 2008

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Report No. 119 of the Windsor Licensing Commission of its meeting held November 27, 2007 related to Bed and Breakfast and Guest House Establishments, as one of the owners of a property rented by a bed and breakfast establishment is also the landlord to the business of his spouse.
  11. February 11, 2008

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Report No. 2 of the Planning Advisory Committee respecting "South Windsor Properties Inc., rezoning, northeast corner of Dougall Avenue and Cabana Road West, to permit a business, financial (with a drive thru) or medical office, professional studio and personal service shop", as he resides in the vicinity of the affected area.
  12. February 25, 2008

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on the Report of the Planning Advisory Committee respecting "South Windsor Properties Inc., rezoning, northeast corner of Dougall Avenue and Cabana Road West, to permit a business, financial (with a drive thru) or medical office, professional studio and personal service shop", as he resides in the general vicinity.
  13. April 14, 2008

    Mayor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Item PAC 2 respecting "Salim Concrete, rezoning, 525 and 535 Cabana Road East, permit a one-storey medical/professional building with a footprint of 469 square metres and a total of 34 parking spaces", as he resides in the general vicinity of the affected area.

Looking at the other instances where the Mayor took a position and did not participate, he did so in general because:

  • A provision of the motion may be interpreted to have a direct or indirect impact
  • he resides in the general vicinity of the affected area/affect the area of his residency
  • landlord to the business of his spouse
  • family member owns property in the vicinity
  • father owns property along the affected corridor/ family owns retail along the affected corridor.
  • his spouse operates a Chiropractic business on Dougall Avenue.

I’m sure that it is obvious now to you what the problem is that could result in a mayoral mess in Windsor. Has the Mayor breached the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by participating in and voting on the Dougall truck matter? After all, our Mayor should know better than anyone what the issue is. After all, our Mayor IS a lawyer.

There are of course two positions on this matter. It may well be, in the words of the City Clerk again:

  • “the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act excludes matters that are remote and insignificant.”

Accordingly, the view to be taken is that the Mayor is acting out of an abundance of caution and that he had no legal obligation to declare a Pecuniary Interest in the first place.

That is a very reasonable position to take as is the opposite position that he was obliged to declare a Pecuniary Interest since:

  • a provision of the motion may be interpreted to have a direct or indirect impact on him
  • he resides in the general vicinity of the affected area and it affects the area of his residency
  • the premises of the business of the landlord of his spouse is close to the affected area (The Clerk advises that his spouse is a tenant in a building that Mr. Abe Taqtaq has an interest in. The Mayor has a “personal acquaintance with Abe Taqtaq, his former campaign manager.”)
  • his spouse leases property on Dougall Avenue where her business is located and it is along the affected coridor
  • his spouse operates a Chiropractic business on Dougall Avenue.

The City is in a very precarious position. Our tax base may be eroding significantly with deficits perhaps likely or alternatively massive increases in taxes or cuts in service. The City is hurting badly as our main businesses are closing down and as our unemployment rate rockets to the highest in Canada. There are intense negotiations going on between the City and the Senior Levels. We are seeking new investors for the economic redevelopment of our area.

How can any of this take place if there is a cloud over the position of the Mayor and if we do not know whether someone at some time will bring a Court application to have him removed from his position whether successful or not?

While the situations are obviously not the same, given the fact that the situation in Detroit dealt with possible criminal matters, nevertheless our Mayor could be involved in extensive litigation on this issue that would detract from his ability to govern. In our civic condition, we need to know that the Mayor is spending his full-time on City business.

Of course, the reality is that it is unlikely that an individual will take action in this matter. It is very costly especially if the individual loses since court costs would have to be paid. There is of course no guarantee that this will not happen. If it does then the consequences can be horrific for our City.

The only solution that I can see that would bring this matter to a proper conclusion and in a very short period of time is for the Mayor and/or the City Council to choose a representative elector who should bring an application, a test case if you will, to have the issue resolved under the provisions of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

This issue is simple: determination of the question of whether the Mayor has contravened the Act.

In this way, a Court can make a decision to clarify this situation once and for all to allow the City to get on with its business.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving



Isn't the image how it feels trying to get the border file moving?

If I had added in the word "Please" at the end of the Subject line, then it would have sounded like a Henny Youngman joke. But then again, after you read this BLOG, you will consider the program a huge joke in the way it is being carried out.

"Let’s Get Windsor-Essex" was the name that some sloganeer dreamed up for the name of the Phase 1 Agreement signed between the City and the Senior Levels an eternity ago. Those were the good old days when the three levels of Government seem to be working together with respect to the border file.

There never was a Phase 2 Agreement [sigh]

At Council, an update was given to the Agreement that was signed on March 11, 2004. 2004… almost four and a half years ago. Here are some of the lowlights:

WALKER ROAD CPR GRADE SEPARATION



I do not know if I am reading this properly but it seems to me that the work that the Senior Levels are undertaking is probably going to be finished first and perhaps ahead of schedule.

If I am correct, then the reason that we will not be able to use Walker Road is because the City’s part of the work will not be completed at the same time but later. Is it only now that Administration woke up to try to co-ordinate the schedules better? Or rather, does it mean that the City wants to ensure that the public does not find out it is the cause of the delay.

DETROIT/WINDSOR TRUCK FERRY INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS



You remember this fiasco:
  • “A $5-million project to improve the the terminal area, access road and dock of the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry is on hold after it was learned a small road section in front of the operation's only access point is privately owned.”

And the consequences if that land was not expropriated immediately:

  • “The original date to put out tenders was April 23. The project was on a strict timeline due to environmental restrictions on when dredging work can be done in the Detroit River -- between July 1 and Oct. 30…

    “As it stands, Ward fears Morterm could play the bad guy "and say 'you can't use our property anymore and we would be forced to close that day."

Oh well there really was no need for urgency. After all, as Mr. Ward stated:

  • “The ferry is the only approved border local crossing for trucks carrying hazardous goods and helps several dozen big rigs daily across the Detroit River. It is also the main crossing alternative to get trucks across the border should there be a major incident or customs lockdown at the Ambassador Bridge.”

Oh my, I wish someone had mentioned this at the Cropsey hearings. It means that there is redundancy for the Ambassador Bridge already. We do not need a DRIC bridge for that purpose anymore.

TUNNEL PLAZA IMPROVEMENTS PROJECT

I am sorry. You going to have to explain something to me.

How can we possibly afford to do a deal with Detroit on the Tunnel when the City has put this project on hold for budgetary purposes? Is there a disconnect somewhere?

My understanding from what has been said at Council is that the cost of the project has risen dramatically and that the parties are negotiating something. I expect that what is being negotiated is how much the Senior Levels will contribute above the $20 million that they are already putting in. If you’ll recall each level of Government was supposed to put in $10 million.

How long has this negotiating been going on for heaven's sake? Around a year I believe! If this and the Ferry expropriation cannot get resolved quickley, then how can the Greeenlink/DRIC road get resolved in a tiemly fashion? It's pathetic.

We have never really been told what the cost increase is due to. I would bet however that the construction costs have risen dramatically, probably as well as the expropriation costs since buildings are empty in the area. Given the experience in other Windsor projects, I would guess that the increase construction has to be fairly dramatic.

There are other very serious issues with respect to this project as well that are going to have to be dealt with one day. But we’ll leave that for another discussion at the appropriate time.

HURON CHURCH PEDESTRIAN OVERPASS

Oh oh, something serious is going on here. There are deficiencies that need to be corrected, although we are not told exactly what they are.

It is bad enough that it takes so long to resolve construction issues, the poor subcontractors at Huron Lodge may have to wait for an eternity to have their issues finalized. However there is an interesting issue that I would like to raise. I thought there was a bonus paid to get the bridge finished earlier:

  • “The contractor, Facca Inc. of Ruscom, added a $406,000 premium to its bid in order to get the bridge done 45 days early so that students could use it sooner. Additional subcontractors were hired to get the work done, Brydges said.”

If there are “deficiencies” such that the overpass is not completed, then why have we paid out an extra $400,000 when the project is not done? It would seem to me if I am correct, and I don’t know what the term of the contract says so I might not be, that the contractor should be refunding the money.

This is going to raise a big fuss I would think with the contractor who thought that he had the job but in the end did not get.

  • “I was having a nice dinner at home. Then I got the acid reflux," said A.M. Razak, president of Oscar Construction Ltd., as he recalled watching city council on cable on May 16 and realizing that a contract to build the "Taj Mahal" of pedestrian bridges was being taken away from his low-bidding firm and given to a Ruscom company that had agreed to an earlier deadline.

    "It was shocking, shocking, shocking. My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe it. 'Hey,' I said, 'They're taking my project away.'" Razak fumed as he saw Mayor Eddie Francis cast the tie-breaking vote to award the contract to a firm which agreed to build the bridge over Huron Church Road 45 days faster for a premium of $406,000, or $9,022 a day.”

    Razak, an affable straight talker, knows the matter is decided and nothing can be done to reverse it, but he's appalled both by the decision and by the way it was handled, with no advance notice from the city that would have allowed him to be present with a delegation to argue his case.”

In the circumstances, I would think that the Mr. Razak now has the opportunity to give some other people heartburn. Where’s the Tums?

THE STALLMEISTER STRIKES AGAIN

Technically, this is not part of the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving strategy. Actually, It’s more along the lines of Let’s Prevent Windsor-Essex Moving.

The most surprised person in the Council Chambers last night had to be Councillor Drew Dilkens. Not only did his Wardmate support his Motion but also so did the Mayor. The Mayor broke the 5-5 tie on the no left turns at Dougall north to westbound E C Row. (Will they need to bring another Motion soon about no left turns to Tecumseh West?).

My recollection from the previous discussion on this matter was that the Mayor did not seem to be particularly supportive of this. After all, NO trucks on Dougall could cause a risk to the Tunnel business.

So why did the Mayor vote the way he did?

In my opinion, we have another stall in Windsor to try to block the DRIC road. It's another variation of the unofficial Interim Control By-law technique. The Mayor announced that we are going to be involved shortly in a massive street by street analysis on truck routes. This would have to be part of the decision-making that would have to be undertaken when the DRIC road was built to see where traffic would go while the construction was underway.

The blame seemed to be put on the Senior Levels for not saying anything to the City about what their plans were. I did not hear anything about the analysis that would have to be done if Greenlink was built but that’s another story.

Obviously then, nothing can be done to build the DRIC Road until such time as the City has completed its analysis. Since it is street by street, I can envisage this taking at least a year or more. And if the Senior Levels dared to try to do something in the interim, such as use EC Row, while there is no way that our Mayor would permit that. No wonder he mentioned again the issue with respect to Manning Road.

I wonder if the Councillors heard about this before or is this something that the Mayor sprung on them again tonight? Aren't they getting tired of this if so? I sure am.

The Star Dilemma: Whelan vs. Watson
















What to do, what to do?

The problems that the Windsor Star will have in this election campaign trying to decide who should be supported in the only riding in the area where there will be competition. That riding is Essex where the big fight is between incumbent, Conservative MP Jeff Watson, and Liberal Susan Whelan, the former member.

Susan and her family have been getting some very good coverage in the Star:
  • Justin Trudeau to endorse Whelan in Essex fundraiser

  • Local politicians gearing up for fall election

  • Whelan homestead moving to Heritage Village

  • Whelan-Gorbachev meeting put Russia on path to democracy

  • From Berlin to Windsor, culture is a sure winner

  • Liberal auto policy produced winners

One would almost think that the Star wants her back as an area Member of Parliament given the poor job that Jeff Watson has done as a Member of the Government.

So what does it do with a Henderson column that grudgingly has to give Watson some credit for the big announcement made about the Essex Engine plant. Obviously, they have to print it but what to do about it.

The answer was sheer genius. Bury it on page 5 rather than position it in the usual space on page 3. Since it is Thursday and there is no column in the usual spot, most people will think that Gord is off renovating his new home since it must be having problems again. Most readers probably will skip over page 5 in order to look at the Editorials because they are so enlightening.

In this way, Watson cannot complain and Whalen is not hurt too badly.

Of course, Gord has to be controversial and bring up the fact that Whalen is counsel for the Ambassador Bridge Company. Given the Star’s opinion of that Company, one would think that her representation should be fatal to her as far as the Star and Gord are concerned.

There is no doubt that Henderson will bring up the subject on a number of occasions but he and the Star have to be careful. Over the past year or so, believe it or not, support for the Ambassador Bridge within the community has increased dramatically.

It is not that it has become a beloved institution in his City but rather that people have given them the respect they deserve as being the best border operator in Canada and one of the parties that have made this City so successful.

If one looks at the various surveys taken by the media or the comments made on the Star forums when Bridge Company stories are involved, or sometimes even when they are not but it is an Eddie Francis issue, one can see the support that it has been able to gain.

In a survey run by CKLW that I recall, people believed that the Bridge Company was poorly treated by the City with respect to Indian Road. Their Ambassador Gateway project while inconveniencing people somewhat is proof that they are serious about wanting to ensure that the border run smoothly. How many times have the comments been made to let them get on with the job? While Dan Stamper’s interviews and call-in shows have not exactly been lovefests recently, I cannot remember too many negative calls that came into the radio station when he was on air answering questions. And as far as the trade is concerned, they don’t care what kind of Bridge is built as long as it works properly.

If I was Susan’s campaign manager, I would tell her to proudly state that she does work as counsel for the Bridge Company and that she is the one who is trying to help that Company achieve a solution that is good for the area. In fact, I would advise her to compare her record on the border crossing issue with that of Jeff Watson. Ask which proponent he supported and to make a big deal about it.

Here is what I would suggest that she point out. Sure, the Conservatives finally seem to be agreeing to put money into the Ford plant (and then to talk about all that she has done for the auto industry in this region) but what did Watson accomplish when Stephen Harper was actually down here on the border?

Maybe I missed the news, but I did not hear Harper saying that the Border issue was going to be resolved immediately and that 15,000 new jobs would be created to help out this region. I did not hear Harper saying that the DRIC Road would be built immediately and that the Enhancement Project would be expedited so that this region could prosper economically even if he had to use the excuse that the new bridge was a mere “intermediate” solution. I did not hear Harper say that it is time to end the wasteful DRIC project and save taxpayer money.

Nope, if I was Susan, I would not be afraid of the border issue but I welcome it. In fact, I would make it THE CAMPAIGN ISSUE and dare anyone to oppose what she’s been doing!

Billion Dollar Bridge Coming


Yes, dear reader, the Transport Canada Minister said that it is coming. I know it has been a long time and you thought that the Federal Government did not have the funds or the will to do so. However, when push comes to shove, the Conservatives will deliver.

Oh, you thought that I meant the new DRIC bridge for Windsor/Detroit. Or perhaps approvals being given for the Enhancement Project in an expeditious fashion. Don't be silly. That is only important for the economic prosperity of Canada and the United States as our Governments keep telling us.

This is for something really important. Getting a seat for the Conservatives in the next by-election.


Don't you understand that the only thing that is important to a politician is being in power. That is why I suggested a long time ago that, if Brian Masse only crossed the floor of the House of Commons, and left the NDP where he's accomplished nothing, to join the Government, not only would he get a Cabinet position but we would have a solution to the border mess.

For that reason alone because he did not follow my suggestion, he ought to be tossed out as the MP for Windsor West at the next election.

Susan Whelan should be smiling. Jeff Watson could not deliver after all of this time yet the Conservatives can spend a billion in Quebec.

Here's the story from the Globe and Mail:
  • "Ottawa promises new bridge in Quebec by-election riding

    OTTAWA — The Harper government promised yesterday to build a new $1-billion bridge between Montreal and the South Shore, just three weeks before a by-election in a suburban riding that would directly benefit from the new link.

    The voters of Saint-Lambert are used to traffic jams during their 3.4-kilometre rush-hour drives over the Champlain Bridge, which is their main link with Montreal Island to the northwest.

    The Conservative candidate in the Sept. 8 by-election in the riding, Patrick Clune, recently promised that if he is elected, he will take up the matter with the government "the day after" his victory.

    But Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon one-upped him yesterday, announcing in a front-page story in the Montreal Journal that a new bridge is already on order. "We are starting to plan for the construction of a new bridge in the Montreal region," the minister said.

    Mr. Cannon added yesterday that there are 59 million crossings on the Champlain every year, and that he has asked his officials to prepare scenarios for a new crossing, which could include tolls.

    "A new bridge clearly will alleviate a lot of the traffic congestion," he said on a CBC Radio drive-in show, adding the goal is to increase the number of lanes and improve public transit.

    Saint-Lambert has been in the hands of the Bloc Québécois since the 2004 election, after having been Liberal for the previous seven years. The Conservatives are now hoping to run up the middle and take over the riding with their talk of increased "autonomy" for Quebec within Canada.

    But yesterday's bridge pledge was derided by the opposition as a typical election promise. In an interview, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the announcement is the proof that contrary to Mr. Clune's assertions, the electors of Saint-Lambert do not need to elect a Conservative MP to obtain their bridge.

    "It's Bloc MPs that force the government to act," Mr. Duceppe said, adding the bridge pledge is similar to past Liberal promises to build a highway in the Montreal area.

    The New Democratic Party candidate in Saint-Lambert, Richard Marois, denounced the timing of the Conservative announcement as "opportunistic." Still, he said he agrees with the construction of a new bridge, as long as it includes a public-transit component.

    Federal officials said in recent weeks that they were holding off on certain announcements during the by-election campaigns, particularly the news that Quebec City and Ottawa were set to sign a major $4-billion infrastructure deal.

    Still, the coming by-election did not prevent the bridge announcement. The Federal Bridge Corp. has told Mr. Cannon that the government would be better off to build a new link than to continually repair the 46-year-old Champlain. The construction of the new bridge is expected to take 10 to 15 years, and Mr. Cannon has asked the Crown corporation to prepare scenarios for the new bridge, which he would then take to cabinet for approval."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Stories Never Stop

Here are some more stories that you might find interesting.

LARRY HORWITZ FOR PRIME MINISTER

I received this strange e-mail from a company called Indaba Marketing (I found out it is owned by Debi Croucher). Tell me what you think it says:

"Subject: You're Invited to attend Larry Horwitz's Nomination Meeting -
Windsor-West Federal Liberal Riding Association"



From reading what is said, is Larry the official candidate of the Liberal party for the riding or is this just an invitation to come out to the nomination meeting and Larry is merely one of the candidates?

The reason for my question is that I had heard the other day the name of someone else who was running supposedly for the nomination. I wonder if that person dropped out of the race.

I certainly hope that the Liberals are clearer when they set up their policies. Who needs confusion.

WHO CAN SAY NO TO PAMELA

If Larry Horwitz becomes the Liberal candidate in Windsor West, then Brian Masse may well lose the election. He certainly will have his first competition in a long time. No matter what he does, people will say that his campaign is a bust.

One of Larry's insiders was bursting at the seams to get this matter off his chest. I was told that Horwitz has a big, secret weapon that he intends to bring out to help him during his campaign: Canadian superstar Pamela Anderson.

I expect that this is one of the matters that the two of them discussed in Vegas. Interestingly, this was not reported in the Henderson column about Horwitz's trip there.

Let's be real. If Pamela came knocking on your door with her big smile and asked you for a favour, to vote for Larry, how could you resist?

In passing, will the media when Horwitz makes a comment, if he remains as President of the Downtown Business Association, keep on asking him if the comment is made to help him with his run for office or whether it is done in good faith to help out the Association. After all, that is what CBC TV News did to Chris Schnurr during his WeACT press conference.

MORE ON ESTRIN'S CONFLICT OF INTEREST


That is the chair of Gowlings holding up the T-shirt in the Law Times newspaper. It is a shame that the T-shirt was not around when David Estrin and another of his partners were doing conflicts checks to see if the Firm could act for the City of Windsor and for the Ambassador Bridge Company at the same time. It might have prevented a lot of problems for everyone, including a lawsuit against the Firm by the Bridge Company.

You might have thought that a conflict was impossible given the fact that the Bridge Company had used the Gowlings firm for over twenty years.

Yet, David Estrin had said in a Star article:

  • “Every firm tries its best, but sometimes the conflict screen breaks down," Estrin said.”

In its decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated:

  • “Estrin claimed to be even more clueless: “Until a few weeks before Centra filed this lawsuit, I was completely unaware that Centra, DIBC, or CTC had retained Gowlings on any other matter.”

And it was not just Estrin as the Court stated:

  • “For instance, in June 2005, Stamper sought Gowlings’s assistance in certain tax work. Before accepting the work, a Gowlings attorney searched for any potential conflicts of interest but did not identify any. Then again, most importantly for the case at hand, in November 2005, CenTra sought Gowlings’s assistance in creating a $700- to $800-million bond offering by which to finance the twinning of the Ambassador Bridge. Shortly thereafter, Windsor employed Gowlings to help the city oppose the Bridge Plan.”

The Trial Court stated:

  • “Defendants do not dispute that they entered into a conflict of interest by representing Windsor and Plaintiffs with regards to various parts of the Bridge Plan and that any conflict check that Defendants undertook did not discover the adverse representations.”

I found this comment in a Law Times article on the CBA's Conflicts Report that came out recently:

  • "Jolliffe tells Law Times he knew it was time for the CBA to take action on conflicts of interest after twice being asked to speak on the issue to managing partners at conferences.

    “It became apparent to me that there was a great deal of confusion, and we had a conflicts regime that was not simply confusing and difficult to understand, but impractical,” says Jolliffe."

    He says lawyers have been using these “very technical” rules as a tactic in legal actions. Many are bringing motions to disqualify opposing counsel to “delay a case, to cause confusion, to put the opponent off its game, so to speak, by forcing them to change counsel.”

I believe that at the time when the CBA set up the committee Estrin had already been sued but the Trial Court decision had already come out. Do you think that this incident might have piqued Mr. Jolliffe's interest in the subject as well.

Joliffe had said in a Toronto Star article:

  • "Conflicts have become a management nightmare because the rules are so vague. Clients are using conflicts to gain a tactical advantage over opponents by handicapping or restricting their freedom of legal choice," said Scott Jolliffe, national managing partner of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, who is chairing the task force.

    Mr. Jolliffe should know. Earlier this year, CenTra Inc., the Michigan-based owner of the cross-border Ambassador Bridge, launched a legal action in the state's district court to disqualify Gowlings from representing the city of Windsor on the grounds that the law firm also acted for CenTra.

    "They were essentially trying to bully us…"

    Gowlings is continuing to represent Windsor."

Based on the US Appeals decision, it may not be as simple as Mr. Jolliffe tried to make it appear. Mr. Jolliffe may owe the Bridge Company at least an apology for his comments by the time this is all finished.

WE ARE GETTING AN EC ROW UPGRADE

The memory of John Tofflemire still lives in our Public Works group!

You would think that this document would have been part of the Administration Report dealing with the Dougall truck issue. It wasn't. It was buried in the Communications Package because it will weaken the City's bargaining position.

Item #6 Council Question 8-2008 Diverted Dougall Truck Traffic is not supposed to be seen by the masses. Then we would understand why both the DRIC Road and Greenlink may never be built. They were both mere diversions. Instead we will get an upgraded E C Row. uploaded by the Province, as I have predicted before.

Now THAT is a cheap solution, probably all that Ontario can afford at this time.

Of course it will be presented as an interim step as had been suggested before. Of course, it will be as interim as our income taxes.

NO MONEY FOR DRIC

At the Cropsey hearings, a strong suggestion was made that if the State of Michigan could not afford to put up its share of the money required for the new DRIC crossing, then the US Federal Government could put up the balance.

Well, that might be a nice thought in dreamland but the reality I am afraid is something else. Check out the following article.

In the end, the only way that a new DRIC crossing will be financed is by some kind of a P3 type deal. Even forgetting that this kind of transaction is not legally allowed in Michigan and would require a legislative change, the likelihood of someone financing privately a billion dollar deal and having to compete with the Ambassador Bridge and the Tunnel is very unlikely.

Now you know why the Tunnel will have to be wrapped into the DRIC bridge P3 deal, why Senator Fortier is talking to the Mayor, what the Tunnel deal is all about and why the Bridge Company needs to be bought out or put out of business.

  • "U.S. road fund short, may pinch big projects
    Big projects could face pinch unless Congress acts soon

    BY JOAN LOWY • ASSOCIATED PRESS • September 6, 2008

    WASHINGTON -- The federal highway trust fund will run out of money this month, requiring delays in payments to road projects in Michigan and other states, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Friday.

    The trust fund -- a federal account used to help pay for highway and bridge projects -- will run about $8.3 billion short by the end of September, Peters said during a conference call with reporters.

    The shortfall will mean short delays -- and in some cases a temporary reduction -- in payments to states for infrastructure projects the government has agreed to help finance.

    Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Shreck said the agency wasn't sure how the funding crisis would affect roadwork under way in the state. That includes the enormous $170-million Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project in Detroit, "but it's headed nowhere good right now."

    "A lot depends on what Congress does," Shreck said. "We're concerned but in wait-and-see mode."

    But Shreck said Michigan had been notified that payments made to the states would be reduced by 20%-30% starting Sept. 18. He called the shortfall "the first real volley in a crisis" over transportation funding as fuel consumption declines nationwide, reducing revenue from gasoline taxes."

More On WeACT's FOI Request

I am very shocked.

With all of the issues on the other side of the river with respect to text messages and disclosure of documents, I would have thought that this City would be extremely sensitive about the release of documentation to its citizens and would bend over backwards to provide as much as possible as quickly and as cheaply as possible. After all, isn't that the purpose of the Municipal Freedom of Information Act and the "compelling public interest" statutory override of exemptions.

Wrong!

I am really upset. I thought I held the Guinness World Records title for Windsor FOI Applications. I have been cheated. I demand a recount.


Remember this, part of my June, 2006 Municipal Freedom of Information request:

  • "To: CITY OF WINDSOR, OFFICE OF THE MAYOR, WINDSOR TUNNEL COMMISSION

    1) All records dated between November 1, 2002 and the current date concerning any plans or proposals to operate, manage, own, sell, transfer, exchange, lease, or otherwise dispose of all or part of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel including but not limited to any records with
     the Government of Canada,
     Province of Ontario
     the Government of the United States
     the State of Michigan
     City of Detroit,
     the Mayor of Detroit , any member of his Administration
     Council of Detroit
     any agency, Department or Ministry of each of the preceding
     Detroit Councillors
     any administrative or elected officials in Detroit
     the Bi-national Partnership,
     Detroit River International Crossing Project members and consultants
     OMERS and any of its subsidiaries or affiliates including but not limited to Borealis Capital, DRTP
     Macquarie Bank and any of its subsidiaries or affiliates including but not limited Macquarie Canadian Infrastructure Management Limited
     Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation.

It was part one of my seven part request for documents. They only found 57,729 pages of records for mine and only wanted a 10 month extension of time. My charge was a bargain $101,089.00 it seems. The interesting part for me was that at the time of my request, the number of records in the Mayor's Office was 30, that is right, 30! Moreover, it was clear that the Windsor Tunnel Commission was never contacted at all.

Apparently, WeACT's application beat mine. Granted that there was more action on the Tunnel deal after my date but seriously, Schnurr's numbers for his request are unbelievable: 128,209 pages, 500 working day extension or about 24 months, $354,650.00 cost. The WTC was contacted too now.

This time around it seems the Mayor has a few more records---37,603 pages of which it will take 650.25 hours to search and process. For Legal Counsel, it is 7042.19 hours for 84,506 pages. Interestingly, the Mayor can do about 58 pages per hour while Legal Counsel can only do 12.

I cannot understand the time periods set out. As an example, 650 hours for the Mayor. Given Eddie's photographic memory and his ability to pull out documents from his files to harangue Councillors at Council meetings as appropriate to shut them up as we have seen, what is being said is absolutely astounding to me.

Mr. Sutts is a respected legal practitioner. His firm handles huge class-action cases and large and complex commercial and litigation matters. They must have a very sophisticated filing system. 7000 plus hours seems like a lot of hours.

Here's a different way of approaching the matter. Mr. Sutts said that he has been working on this file for about three years. Many law firms require 2000 hours of billable hours per lawyer per year. If Mr. Sutts alone worked on this file full time for three years, his billable hours should be around the 6000 hours mark. Naturally there must be several lawyers involved in this file, not just Mr. Sutts but then again, all of these lawyers are not working on the file full time either.

Given the amount of the fees disclosed to date, $1.2 million (and not all of that amount is for legal fees but let's forget about that) and dividing it by say, $400 per hour, that means that there has been 3000 hours spent so far on this file.

Someone please explain to me why it takes over 7000 hours to search and process documents in these circumstances. I am confused.

I know, I know I have not included the City's Legal Department work. It should be included as well. But since this matter is so complex and has been handed to outside counsel, I would doubt that they have very much involvement in the file at all.

Perhaps I'm missing the point but all the numbers just don't make sense to me.

The big sticking point seems to be how big WeACT's request is. So let's fisk it! Here is what WeACT requested and my comments:

"1. Access to the Audit Report prepared by former city auditor Mike Dunbar with respect to the 400 City Hall Square building. [ONE DOCUMENT. That should not take too long to find and prepare since the City's Audit Committee has dealt fully with it already]

2. Any or all appraisal reports, valuations prepared by any party with respect to the tunnel or any part of it from September 2005 until the present. [We know the City had one and Detroit had one. So We have TWO MORE DOCUMENTS.]

3. Any or all records sent to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor of Detroit, and to members of the Mayor’s office and to Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. from the City of Windsor, inclusive of any or all City of Windsor departments and the Windsor Mayor’s office as well as all outside cousel and consultants, as it pertains to what is known as the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Deal from January 1, 2005 until the present and request continued access from this date forward. [It could be a lot of documents or could be a few. No one knows because the City did not provide any kind of a breakdown. I had that experience as well. Of course it will take another month if Schnurr asks for breakdown for the City to do that calculation. How hard would it be to find those documents? Since it is an active file, probably the amount of time it takes to walk to the appropriate file cabinet and open the drawer or to do a search electronically on one's computer.]

4. The application made to Infrastructure Ontario regarding an infrastructure loan as it pertains to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. [ONE DOCUMENT]

5. Any or all records received from Infrastructure Ontario by the City of Windsor and/or the Windsor Tunnel Corporation or the new Tunnel corporation including records to outside counsel and consultants. [See the comments in #3 above. I would hardly believe that the documentation is tremendously extensive since it is one loan application]

6. All records of correspondence to and from any or all members of Council, city administrators and/or the Mayor and/or the Office of the Mayor to any or all Ministry’s of the Government of Ontario, Cabinet Ministers or members of Parliament; as they pertain to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel from January 1, 2005 until the present. [As above]

7. An itemized list of expenditures, including but not limited to travel costs assumed by any administrator, councillor, employee of the City of Windsor as well as an itemized breakdown of legal and consulting expenditures as it pertains to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Deal from January 1, 2005 to the present." [Again, the amount of the documentation is not known but hardly can be extensive since this is primarily expenditures and expense accounts. If they cannot be readily found by the Finance Department, then the Ministry has no alternative but to send in an audit team to examine the books and records of the City and to take over the operation of this City until a proper finance system is put in place. Of course, this should not be necessary because after all we've had an outside accounting firm checking over the City's financial records haven't we.]

I heard the City Clerk give her explanation on Melanie Deveau's show about all of the mandatory provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information Act. I would have thought that, considering that the Mayor has told us that this is a Commercial transaction, there can be very few "personal" records in the files so the search and processing time would be minimal.

It was strange that she did not refer to the governing section of the Act:

  • 4. (1) Every person has a right of access to a record or a part of a record in the custody or under the control of an institution unless,
    (a) the record or the part of the record falls within one of the exemptions under sections 6 to 15; or
    (b) the head is of the opinion on reasonable grounds that the request for access is frivolous or vexatious.

No one has said that the Application of WeACT is frivolous or vexatious so we can forget about that.

Almost all of those exemptions do not use the word "shall" which is mandatory but say "may" which is discretionary.

Even more interestingly, she did not refer to section 16 at all that provides considerable assistance:

  • "Exemptions not to apply
    16. An exemption from disclosure of a record under sections 7, 9, 10, 11, 13 and 14 does not apply if a compelling public interest in the disclosure of the record clearly outweighs the purpose of the exemption. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.56, s. 16.

This section is an override section that allows the City to provide the documentation even if there is an exemption. It goes without saying that there is a compelling public interest in the release of records.

Perhaps if the City Clerk rereads the Act and agrees with me as to what the Act provides then a quick resolution with Mr. Schnurr would be possible based on the information that I have just presented. Moreover, rather than photocopying everything, Mr. Schnurr could go through the documents and only photocopy the relevant pages or, even better, scan then into a computer to save paper.

I am surprised that Cliff Sutts' name has not been used to justify the use of the magic words of "solicitor-client privilege" to hide all the documentation. I don't think that the Mayor would dare allow the City to do that this time around. He IS a lawyer after all and knows that the privilege belongs to the client and not to the lawyer and that the client can waive privilege. Eddie has already done that with respect to the files with respect the dealings with the Detroit Mayor around the time when he came to Windsor so it is no big deal.

Can we come back to reality now. City Hall knows the game. They played it with Schnurr before when it took about a year and a half for him to get the Spitfires agreement. It is no wonder that the fight was so hard to prevent that document from being released.

Is it the same reason this time around?

It does not matter whether Schnurr gets the documents released or not in the end. It will take years for that to happen before a final decision is reached. By then we'll have a new Mayor and Council and the Tunnel deal, if it is to be done, would have been completed a long time before.

It's pretty simple. The Freedom of Information requests are nothing more than a hindrance and do nothing for openness and transparency.

So what is the solution? A Ministry investigation? Please... we already had a white-wash audit. The Ministry spokesperson was quoted in the Star as saying:

  • "The ministry views municipalities as a separate form of government and at the end of the day accountability comes at the ballot box," said Tim Ryall, municipal adviser with the ministry of municipal Affairs and housing. "

Of course, his comment is an incorrect view of what the Ministry's role is and is a brushoff. Someone ought to give him a copy of the Municipal Act and the Municipal Affairs Act to study and understand. But he did give us the answer for Windsor and he really did put the responsibility where it properly lies if only our Council had guts:

  • "The group is expressing its concern and council should take it under consideration."

He is correct. Let's see how this plays out. Councillors have no choice but to arrive at a decision now that will satisfy WeACT and the citizens of Windsor respecting the immediate disclosure of relevant documents ASAP and at no cost and with no "solicitor-client" silliness. Nothing else is satisfactory!