Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, September 27, 2008

WE-DRIC: Windsor-Essex District Regional Incarceration Centre


You read it here first! Another BLOGMeister world exclusive!

BLOGExclusive

Mayor opposes Province's WE-DRIC project
Estrin/Schwartz team rehired to fight Provincial EA process

Mayor Eddie Francis is outraged and has demanded that his choice, Brighton Beach, be used to house the new, co-ed Windsor-Essex District Regional Incarceration Centre (WE-DRIC) if in fact studies demonstrate that there is a need for a new Jail.

"Why do we need to disrupt the Community by constructing a completely new Jail. Look at the waste of taxpayer dollars when rebuilding the old one is perfectly satisfactory. If we need a new one, then perhaps building it right near the old one makes the most sense. Logistically, Brighton Beach works out the best for everyone."

"Can you imagine putting this sprawling WE-DRIC facility in the City's newest downtown on Walker Road," fumed Francis. "Shoppers will flee from this area like the plague. I can just hear it now. "Attention shoppers. This store has been locked down because of a prison break!" It is bad for business and bad for investors.

We demand a Made in Windsor solution, not one imposed by Queen's Park bureuacrats. If we do not get it, then I will have no choice but to ask Council for instructions to have our well-known counsel study this situation carefully and provide us with a position paper outlining every possible alternative up to and including massive lititgation. We will have this study undertaken forthwith and will have a Report back within a very few months which we shall provide to Council so they can take the appropriate legal action."

Francis has retained David Estrin, without consulting with Council first because of the emergency, to fight the proposal to put the WE-DRIC jail at Walker and Highway 401, the area of Windsor's Big-Box stores. Estrin expects that his fees for the WE-DRIC EA process will only approach that incurred for the DRIC opposition but ought not to go higher. In this case, after doing a conflicts check, he is not aware of a problem so he is confident that he can act for the City.

"The Senior Levels have again decided to impose arbitrarily a solution on local Windsor residents." said Estrin. "Government inmate traffic figures are exaggerated. We have demonstrated conclusively that inmate volume has decreased as crime has dropped in Windsor by 19.4 per cent. We do NOT need a bigger facility. We merely need to rebuild the existing one. Who can oppose replacing an 83 year old building with a new one. It is like replacing an old factory with a new one. It is the right thing to do. It is irresponsible not to do so immediately!"

Estrin will retain Gridlock Sam Schwartz to protect solicitor-client privilege to come up with the Made in Windsor solution to this problem.

"I do not understand why they cannot put this Jail completely underground, Schwartz proclaimed. "If Windsor can be the terminus of the Underground Railway, then there is no reason why we cannot be home of the Underground Jail. Marin County, near San Francisco, has one near its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Civic Centre. Windsorites can have our own "Jail Hill" here too. We are entitled to it. We are owed it. We should demand it. Windsorites must "THINK BIG," Schwartz said until he was reminded that he had used that line before in Windsor.

The Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget believed that "the money for lawyers and consultants can be found without increasing taxes if we do not buy any books at all for the Library system. Who needs books if Windsorites are the most illiterate in Canada!"

Councillor Ron Jones was shocked. He claimed that Council understood that "The jail was to be located in Sandwich to replace the old one located in Ward 2. We West Enders are people of great conviction too. We need a jail here."

Chief Gary Smith of the Windsor Police Department was quite upset, expecting jail numbers now to sky-rocket. The WE-DRIC facility is a co-ed jail of 315 beds. "Can you believe the parties there especially on weekends if it is co-ed? Why Americans will be getting drunk here in droves to be locked up for Friday-Sunday nights!"

Sandra Pupatello was furious at the Mayor's reaction. "Didn't the Mayor attend the Maurice O'Callahan happiness session at the City of Windsor event at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts the other day? If not, he should have. Why can't he "adopt a "cultural shift" and start thinking positive thoughts and focusing on making things good rather than hopelessly moping about the bad," Windsor's MITI Minister exclaimed.

Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan was outraged at the Mayor's negative reaction "THE MAYOR IS WRONG, THE MAYOR IS WRONG."

Councillors have been surprisingly quiet. Rumour has it that a number of them have been approached by WE-DRIC Officials and told off the record that if the Mayor continues to protest, the WE-DRIC jail will be moved to the lands in Tecumseh where Project Ice Track was supposed to have been constructed. They are terrified that Windsor could lose all of the high-paying construction jobs and the on-going jail services employment. Tecumseh Mayor McNamara was said to be unavailable for comment.

READ THE HENDERSON COLUMN FOR GORD'S REACTION
Windsor's new Welcome Centre, a Jail!

Can you imagine a visitor or potential new business investor just arriving off the 401. The first impression of Windsor will not be a Parks Department WOW-Factor Garden but the sprawling walls, bars, barbed wire and gun turrets of a MegaProject WE-DRIC jail.

Those snivelling bureaucrats from Toronto have done it to us again! Oh they have a criminal sense of humour. First DRIC, Now WE-DRIC!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bridge Company's Michigan Win



How can that be you say? DRIC lives on for another day. Why would I say that the Bridge Company was successful.

Read on oh you skeptical BLOG reader and understand that this was just a skirmish. The real fight has only just begun in the DRIC war in Michigan. The machinations going on in the Michigan House and Senate have just set out the battleground for the fights that are to take place.

For Michigan taxpayers, it is a shame that the Governor and the House Democrats did not have the courage to end the DRIC project and to stop the draining of millions of taxpayer dollars to support a project that makes no sense.

It is a shame for Canadian taxpayers as well because if DRIC was killed on the other side of the river, then presumably it would have died over here as well.

I guess the theory is that if one is in for 60 plus million dollars for the studies to date, then one should be in for a few more millions of dollars to continue on. Otherwise, taxpayers would ask why all of this money was wasted and the studies were not completed. At least, by the time that the studies are done, we will have something to use 50 or 60 years from now when it might be necessary to build a second bridge across the River. That assumes that the Governments protect the DRIC corridor.

I’m sure that the Bridge Company people were also hopeful that the Senate Republicans would be successful. For obvious reasons. However, I am certain that they were realistic enough to understand that the likelihood of killing DRIC was remote in an election year when MDOT was flooding the media with stories about how transportation projects across the State were going to be put on hold, including the Ambassador Gateway project. Which Legislator wanted to be responsible for that:
  • Construction in Michigan Could Come to a Stop

    All construction in Michigan could stop if state lawmakers can not agree on a bridge in Detroit.

    The state budget is done with one exception, but that exception is a big one. Lawmakers are supposed to have the new budget hashed out by October first but Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Bill Shreck says thats too late, and a delay could cost tax-payers a fortune. The hold-up is over a proposed bridge project. MDOT wants to work on the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Windsor Canada and add a second bridge in the same area.

    Bill Shreck told us. "We need both the Ambassador Bridge's replacement span and also a second span at that crossing because it's so important to Michigan and the United States economy…"

    If the transportation budget is not finalized by september 26, all MDOT construction will stop. That includes not only the highway's but also shutting down all rest areas, and closing some bridges.

    "Except for a few things that are critical to public safety, virtually all of our operations." Says Shreck.”

Was it worth it for the Republicans to fight the battle and get the bad publicity right before an election? Get real. However note the major concession made by MDOT:

  • “We need both the Ambassador Bridge's replacement span and also a second span at that crossing because it's so important to Michigan and the United States economy…"

Now the Department has no excuse, as they tried to present in front of Senator Cropsey, and they must help the Bridge Company expedite the building of their Enhancement Project.

Did the Senate Republicans accomplish anything? The answer is clearly yes. The public is now being better informed about what the costs of the DRIC project are to the State of Michigan. That really has not been discussed to a significant degree before. It now is out there and the public will have to decide as the fight escalates whether it makes sense for the Governments to spend billions and to lose billions or whether private enterprise should do the job at its expense.

When the next battle is fought, around this time next year when the MDOT budget has to be reviewed, it will be much easier for the Republicans. As an example, the Detroit News got it:

  • End squabbling, move Michigan roads budget

    We don't need to build a new bridge across the Detroit River immediately. We do need to pass a state transportation budget immediately. The budget should not be hostage to a dispute about the bridge.

    The Metro Detroit region may need an additional river crossing at some point, but the fact is that traffic is down on the Ambassador Bridge. Between 1999 and the end of 2007, traffic volume declined 49 percent.

    Still, the private owners of the bridge, the Maroun family, have vowed to build a second span next to the current one and increase capacity by two lanes. They have already invested more than $500 million and their staffers have been quoted in a Windsor newspaper article, posted on their Web site, stating that they plan to have the project completed by 2012.

    Given these facts, the Legislature should be wary of committing additional dollars without further review for an additional span to be built less than three miles away from the Ambassador Bridge. State Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, a member of the transportation bill conference committee, told The News a new span could cost as much as $2 billion...

    But the costs and benefits should be carefully thought through; an additional bridge crossing shouldn't be built simply to provide temporary jobs. The effects of such a crossing on the economic viability of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel should be part of the calculation."

    More importantly, the Senators inserted language into the budget that puts in black-and-white the requirement of MDOT to come back before the Legislature quarterly and not to do anything on the construction of the project without legislative approval. One would have thought that that was rather obvious except one should remember how hard it was for certain MDOT reps to say that in front of the Senator during his hearings.

Isn't it nice to finally have some Legislative oversight on a Megaproject that has cost taxpayers on both sides of the river over $60 million:

  • finishing the DRIC study shall not bind the state in any way to construction

  • The department will report on a quarterly basis to both the house and senate appropriations committees on any expenditures relative to the process identified in subsection

  • advanced property acquisitions that are hardship or opportunity purchases are allowed as long as they do not bind the state.

  • The department will notify, in writing, both the house and senate appropriations committees within 30 days of any advanced property acquisition purchases.

  • The department can not enter into any binding commitment to construct the crossing until authorizing legislation is enacted into law.
As the Senate Republican said in a Statement:
  • "Senate Republicans today succeeded in ensuring that no taxpayer dollars would be spent to fund any construction or any part of a proposed second bridge crossing from Detroit to Canada without first gaining legislative approval," said Bishop, R-Rochester. "Today's action is by no means an endorsement of the DRIC project. The Senate isn't in the business of writing blank checks to fund another 'bridge to nowhere," he said."

For the Bridge Company, what happened in the Michigan Senate is reminiscent of what happened in the Canadian Senate. In both bodies, the legislation went through as should be expected when the Executive and the Department puts all of their resources against you, but the Senators put in some very strong statements on the Record that would support the Bridge Company position if litigation takes place in the future. More of that in another BLOG.

I'm not that familiar with the American system but I have never seen civil servants go after legislators the partisan way MDOT did during the debate of this issue. Do politicians carry grudges? We'll find out when the MDOT Director and his staff appear in front of Senator Cropsey's Committee in the future.

How Public Authorities Keep Tolls Low


I really do find it amusing when Brian Masse and others complain about tolls in Windsor. I also find it hilarious when a Government official talks about how a new DRIC bridge will be paid for:
  • "Shreck wanted to correct any perception the new DRIC bridge would drain funds from other Michigan road projects: "Any bridge that is built will be financed with bonds and paid for by tolls, not state and federal gas tax funds, so it will not affect any other road projects."
Of course that assumes that someone will use the bridge since their tolls will be several times higher than that of the Ambassador Bridge unless Government subsidizes its operations.

They really want to be able to slam the Ambassador Bridge Company for having the highest tolls in Canada but can't do so because the round-trip tolls at the Cities-owned Tunnel are higher.

Of course we know why the Ambassador Bridge tolls are high... the owner reinvests in his bridge so that he can build Customs booths to end traffic backups, increase the number of booths on both sides of the border in advance to minimize traffic slowdowns and to pay for maintenance and upkeep. He does not want to be caught again as he was along with other border operators after 9/11. Then there are these tiny projects like the Ambassador Gateway and Enhancement Project that he has to finance.

Before I get another outraged letter from a Public Authority official, they look after their crossings too. However, it is a lot easier to keep tolls down when one does not have to charge the actual user for all the costs for changes as a private operator has to do. As examples:
  • $30 million, $10 million from each level of Government, for Tunnel Plaza Improvements (which have now been delayed for years since the costs have escalated I believe and the City does not appear to have the money to pay for its share according to its Documents)
  • an application to the Province by the City of Windsor for Government funds for at least $75 million so that it may enter into some kind of unknown transaction with the City of Detroit with respect to its half of the Tunnel
  • $90 million dollar “earmark” the Peace Bridge is seeking from FHWA – complimenting the $76 million Canadian contribution
  • $430 million plus for the Port Huron Plaza improvements (Note that not all of the money is plaza related but is bridge related)
  • who knows how much the new DRIC Bridge will require even after P3 money and how much taxpayer money will be required to subsidize this bridge and the other crossings since there is not sufficient traffic to support all of them.

Remember what I wrote about the Soo bridge. Guess who will ultimately have to come up with the money:

  • "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."

Here is what prompted this BLOG:

  • Federal Government Delivers Support for Improvements to Queenston Plaza at Queenston-Lewiston Bridge Crossing

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ON, June 25 /CNW Telbec/ - The Government of Canada and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission are pleased to announce funding for the second phase of the redevelopment of the Queenston Plaza at the Queenston-Lewiston border crossing.

Funding for several improvements to the bridge complex and facilities was announced today by the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and Ms. Janice Thomson, chair of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC). Contributions to this cost-sharing initiative include up to $62 million from the Government of Canada and $12.9 million from the NFBC.

Phase One of the redevelopment commenced in March 2007 and entailed the construction of new toll, parking and commercial inspection facilities. Phase Two includes the construction of a commercial vehicle secondary inspection warehouse, additional passenger primary inspection lanes, a new central building for the Canada Border Services Agency, a new animal inspection
facility and the installation of a wall to separate traffic bound for Canada and for the United States.

"Since 2006, our government has taken swift action to improve our border crossings and gateways to enhance the flow of vehicles, people and goods between our country and the rest of the world," said Minister Nicholson.

"Today I am proud to announce funding for the Queenston-Lewiston bridge that will relieve traffic congestion, and make the flow of goods and passengers across the border more efficient and secure."

"The Queenston Plaza initiative is a critical component of the rebuilding of the Queenston-Lewiston border crossing, the most significant project that the Bridge Commission has undertaken in recent history," said Ms. Thomson. "We believe that the complete rebuilding of the Queenston Plaza complex is of vital importance to the binational trade relationship between Canada and the U.S., and to the expansion of trade in the future."

She added, "We are pleased that the Government of Canada shares our commitment to building infrastructure that supports efficient movement of commercial and passenger traffic at the border. Today's announcement continues the successful partnership between our agencies and reflects the responsiveness of the government to the critical need for substantial improvements in infrastructure."

The Queenston-Lewiston bridge is the fourth-busiest Canada-United States commercial and land border crossing. In 2007, bridge traffic accounted for approximately 920,000 two-way commercial vehicle crossings, or approximately 2,500 commercial vehicles per day, representing Canada's fourth-busiest commercial border crossing. Improving the existing plaza will allow the NFBC to take advantage of additional capacity provided by the recently constructed fifth bridge lane.

This project is funded under the $33-billion Building Canada plan through the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund. Building Canada, which will support a stronger, safer and better country, was established to provide long-term, stable and predictable funding to help meet infrastructure needs across Canada.

The $2.1-billion Gateways and Border Crossings Fund works to improve the flow of goods and people between Canada and the rest of the world and is a key element of this government's Building Canada infrastructure plan.

Federal financial support for the expansion of the Queenston Plaza is conditional on the initiative meeting all applicable federal eligibility requirements under the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund, a federal due diligence review of the project and meeting all other federal requirements, such as an environmental assessment required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the signing of a contribution agreement for the project."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Has the Voice of Council Been Silenced



video


Did you happen to watch the EH-News last night. It was fascinating to watch the interview with the Mayor. If you wanted to see someone who has totally lost in everything that he tried to do on the border and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars doing it, there was our Mayor. He looked completely defeated and sounded it as well.

If you can, watch the full interview. It is a completely different Eddie Francis than I have seen before.
http://www.atv.ca/windsor/news_62399.aspx Moreover, if I was the Eminence Greasie I would tell Eddie NOT to be interviewed by Daryl Newcombe any more. Daryl destroys him every time just by letting Eddie speak! Even offering Daryl a scoop re the new Greenlink "compromise" plan did not earn Eddie any favours!

Perhaps Eddie will go back just to giving the Star the big stories. As for the poor Bloggers in town, no one wants to tell us anything. We just have to keep trying to figure it all out by reading tea leaves.

How many tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for consultant fees and trips to New York and elsewhere were wasted on creating another variation of Greenlink? Can anyone believe our Mayor when he says that something is not negotiable after he effectively caved in? He has lost his credibility as a negotiator.

I wonder if City Councillors were aware of what was going on and approved the spending of that money. Did they know about the Tuesday meeting in advance or the results or do they have to depend of the media as we all are forced to do?

I am so glad that the Mayor is going to share this new concept of a roadway with us especially after the Province has rejected it. I’m not sure what the purpose of that exercise is except to show us some pretty new artists’ renderings. I wonder if the CAO was asked to approve the payment for them as well or did Council authorize it.

What was also interesting to me in the clip above was the lack of legal threats especially when he said that he does not see DRIC moving at all. I did not hear him threaten to start a lawsuit or suggest that his lawyer draft a Statement of Claim to be ready to serve it. It would seem that the Mayor has finally realized that he can no longer use David Estrin after the Bridge Company won their victory in the Court of Appeals in United States. Whom will he use now?

Perhaps I could get my $25 back as my share of the Estrin legal costs now.

In listening to the full interview, there is no doubt now that the Province is merely tolerating the Mayor. They don’t really care what he has to say. He seems to have lost his bargaining position with them. I do not understand why the Mayor proposed what he did in any event since the Province was clear that they had no intention of having Schwunnels of a kilometre in length. Eddie is still proposing three of them.

I hope this means that the Greenlink sign will finally be taken down from the Council Chambers. He really should do it immediately because it is a symbol of another disaster for which he has to take the responsibility and the blame as the Voice of Council. He wanted the title… he gets the loss.

Again, if you had listened to the full interview, you would not have heard the word “Council” mentioned at all. That was a surprise to me since Eddie usually likes to pass the blame onto others.

The best that he can do now is submit something for the Minister of the Environment to take a look at. We know what the Minister will do with that!

Of course, I don’t expect the Mayor just to sit there and take it. He’s got to come up with some brilliant alternative. He must have a PLAN, Eddie always has a PLAN. I can hardly wait to see what it is and how much is going to cost us.

To tell you the truth, I am still very suspicious of all of this. There has to be more going on than we know about. But then again, we are mere taxpayers. Who cares what we know.

Items Worthy Of Note

More noteworthy items for your reading enjoyment!

CITY TRAINS CITIZENS TO WORK AS SCABS

I am certain that just about everyone in this City knows what a "scab" is
  • "A person hired to replace a striking worker"

Or as Jack London wrote:

  • "A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles."

    "When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out...

    a scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class."

I certainly hope that the City outside workers' union did not agree to this tree planting venture. They are being set up. I am certain that they read in Henderson's column recently a remark by a certain unnamed Councillor who effectively said that there is going to be a strike in January.

Of course the City is starting already to pressure the Union. They are taking away union jobs to plant all these trees, and at overtime rates too on a Saturday, and having it done by citizen volunteers at no cost to the City. What a way to keep this matter on time and on budget to preserve the political career of the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget.

Of course, there will be no maintenance required at the East End Arena. They are undertaking a pilot project on the weed infested WOW-FACTOR gardens on Dougall to see if anyone notices. You see the Arena is to have a
  • “Focus on Naturalized Landscape at WFCU Centre”
After all, what could be more natural than weeds?

But if you think that this is all that this is about, guess again. Take a look at this sentence
  • “Parks and Recreation will organize local volunteers into work groups.”
Do you see the word “organize” and “worker groups.” That gave it all away.


Yes, management will get the names of all of these volunteers and put them into special groups that they can call upon if the City workers dare go on strike. First, Parks and Recreation. Then we will have special litter volunteer work groups who will be organized to pick up garbage. Then patches volunteer work groups for pothole fixing. When you see a press release asking for people to shovel, then you know that volunteer snow work groups are being set up for the January snow falls.


City Hall is not worried about a strike. Citizens volunteers will graciously take the jobs of City workers.

Who will complain and stand up for the Unionists. Not taxpayers because this will keep taxes down since wages don't have to be paid to volunteers. Who cares about the workers since, according to Henderson, "many of whom don't live in Windsor."

So the Workers better settle right away or this will be a long, long strike. Eddie has won even before the strike starts. What a planner.

PRESS RELEASING A PRESS RELEASE

It’s enough already. Give Eddie his new PR department, quickly.

I have never seen anything like this before. Perhaps it is a new style of communications. Here is what is on the City’s News Release page:

Then when you click on the link, here is where it takes you, back to the July 29 press release:


The funny part is that the July 29 press release doesn’t show up on the News Release page now at all. It has disappeared completely.

Weird.

NEVER USE GREENLINK

Here's another story that should scare you if you chose to use Greenlink, if it is ever built, to go to the United States. Moreover, it should terrify you if you and your children ever decided to use the parks over the Schwunnels ie the kilometre long tunnels that are being proposed to improve the quality of life of Windsorites.

The problem is that an accident can happen at any time and the consequences can be horrific. Remember that the new DRIC bridge is supposed to be able to carry hazardous materials too!

  • Tanker burns on Lodge overpass
    FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS • September 23, 2008

    Firefighters averted a potentially damaging explosion this afternoon, dousing a fire in the cab area of a rig hauling thousands of gallons of gasoline on I-75 at the Lodge Freeway in Detroit...

    Reda said Ayoub told him that as he was driving, the engine started smoking so he pulled over to investigate. When he discovered the fire, he tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher but was forced to call 911 when it began to spread.

    Reda said the truck was carrying 11,000 gallons of gasoline.

    The blaze this afternoon was contained to the front end of the truck; its gas tank apparently fueled the flames, which firefighters put out with water and foam."

DO NOT DARE CROSS DRIC SUPPORTERS

What a silly Letter to the Editor Terry Kennedy wrote in the Star.

It was totally predictable that Greg Heil would be smeared. But if someone wants to do the job, at least be accurate.

It seems that Mr. Heil is a lot more aware of Sandwich “politics” than is Mr. Kennedy. He resigned because he did not want to be caught up in the litigation that will obviously be started in which the Heritage study will be one of the factors that the Bridge Company will use to show bad faith on the part of the City. Mr. Heil was very clear on this point such that I thought that Terri would understand it:

  • “I have a grave concern about potential political influences tainting the outcome of this study, which may jeopardize the heritage welfare of Sandwich," Greg Heil said in his resignation letter.

    I'm also concerned about the likely vigorous litigious fallout to which I could find myself personally exposed if I participate."

Terry proves Mr. Heil’s point about the improper use of the Heritage study and about meddling in my opinion when he states:

  • “For Mr. Heil to call it "meddling," when people need protection from the Ambassador Bridge Company…”

Then the ultimate insult of all was used especially to someone who said “he has no sympathy for the bridge.” To Terry and the West End activists and politicos, unless you do exactly as they tell you and hate the Bridge Company, then you are nothing more than a Bridge Company supporter:

  • “I wasn't surprised at Mr. Heil's cynical view. His "inconvenience of residents of Sandwich" remark is an insult, which betrays his true allegiance.”

MAKE THE BORDER THE ISSUE IN ESSEX

It did not take very long before the opponents of Susan Whalen attacked her because she acted as lawyer for the Ambassador Bridge Company.

We have seen several articles in which she has been attacked and I suspect there will be more. I expect a slam or two from Gord Henderson in the next few weeks although it looks like Gord would rather write columns about airplanes and museums rather than about some of the other vital issues taking place in the Windsor these days. After all, it does take time to renovate a house and it is hard to keep up with matters of importance.

I do not think that her support for the Bridge Company will hurt her at all. In fact, I think it will help her. She can say that she provided legal assistance to a Company that knew what it was doing at the border.

She should attack Watson and say that, if he had only helped expedite their process for the Enhancement Project rather than support DRTP and attack the Bridge Company viciously in Parliament, 15,000 high-paying jobs would have been created already in the region. We would not be suffering the economic devastation that we are.

The more important issue that should have been raised in the Star articles is why the Prime Minister did not say something on the border when he was in Windsor recently. Mr. Watson had the opportunity to have him make an announcement about doing something finally on the Border but he did not say a word about it.

What a disgrace for a Government member not to get his Party Leader to talk about the most important issue in this area, one that is vital for the economies of Canada and the United States. But then again, the Conservatives have no idea what they are doing about Canada/US issues anyway, as can be seen especially after NAFTA-gate.

Watson cannot escape from this issue and the responsibility because he is the only Government member in the area. It was his obligation to produce and he did not. The argument is very similar to the one that I used with respect to the NDP who at one time held the balance of power in Parliament but did nothing for the region as well.

Mr. Watson and the NDP have a lot more to be concerned about with respect to the border issue than does Ms. Whelan!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Nutcracker Suite: Dance of the Mighties


It’s a new television season. Have you been watching “Dancing with the Stars” or have you had a chance to see the auditions on “So you think you can dance?”

They are nothing compared with the choreographing that is going on in Windsor these days between the City and the Provincial Government. The star couple by far is the Mighty Mayor of Windsor and the MITI Minister from Queen’s Park who have learned the dance steps so well.

What a nothing story in the Star today about the conversation between the Mayor and DRIC yesterday.

  • “Mayor Eddie Francis says he was left frustrated by his meeting with Detroit River International Crossing representatives on Tuesday, and no progress was made in the "stalemate" between the binational study group and city hall.

    "What surprises me is that over the course of the summer, the discussions that have taken place under the environmental assessment process have not yet resulted in DRIC compromising, or even moving toward a compromise," Francis said.

    "I would characterize this entire process as very difficult and frustrating. Today's meeting was no different than many other difficult and frustrating meetings that I've attended over the course of this file."

That’s it, nothing more? The City is just going to sit back and take what the DRIC consultants want to shove down our throats?

  • “Francis said an additional purpose of Tuesday's meeting was for the city to determine if a solution could be reached in its deadlock with DRIC.”

A fairly frustrated Francis has to be fumingly furious. Say that tongue-twister quickly five times!

In passing, Councillor Halberstadt has to feel vindicated. Remember, he was raked over the coals for using the C-word. Using that term is now acceptable. I sure hope someone apologizes to him:

  • “Francis said the city remains committed to its GreenLink proposal, but "we understand the significance of this project. What we were hoping to have was meaningful discussions under the environmental assessment process, whereby a compromise could be found.”

So that is it. Greenlink is dead. The DRIC bureaucrats win. And it’s all over.

Hardly.

Since when does anyone beat our Mayor? Since when does anyone outsmart him? Since when is someone allowed to play by their rules and not by Eddie’s?

Come on, he is our hero and champion standing up for Windsor’s quality of life. He will not back down or off. He has to protect us and keep those County villains from clogging up our Expressway with Montreal-to-Tijuana international trucks. Heck, he has a future career to protect too. He cannot go out as a dud of a Mayor who failed at everything!

What we see taking place is “Dancing with the Mighties.” No, it is not a missing section of the Tchaikovsky ballet but rather is a series of choreographed steps designed to make our Mayor look like a hero. It is similar to what the auto companies do with the CAW during their negotiations.

Some of the things that happened over the last week or so are now falling into place. Here is a timeline to make it easier for you to understand what is happening:

Sandra on EH-News:

  • Darryl Newcombe: …Cropsey’s amendment would also delay work from starting here in Windsor, threatening the Province’s commitment to have construction begin by the end of 2009.

    MPP Sandra Pupatello: Some of these projects are so huge, they transcend political parties and political behaviour by any one political career. We need to get this done.

Note on Chris Schnurr BLOG based on an out of the Blue call from Sandra's office:

  • But her office stated that the Province of Ontario is “absolutely” committed to construction of the W.E. Parkway so long as there isn’t a lawsuit.

Windsor Star story:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis meets Tuesday with DRIC consultants to ask what it is they still need to study -- five months after the binational group announced its "final recommendation" on a new border route heavily criticized by Windsor."

Windsor Star story:

  • “Mayor Eddie Francis says he was left frustrated by his meeting with Detroit River International Crossing representatives on Tuesday, and no progress was made in the "stalemate…” What we were hoping to have was meaningful discussions under the environmental assessment process, whereby a compromise could be found.”

Predicting the future:


  • Mighty Eddie and Council threaten litigation by instructing their counsel (David Etrin still?) to prepare immediately a Statement of Claim suing the Province over the DRIC Road for failing to meet the requirements of the EA process.

    MITI Sandra denounces this action as jeopardizing thousands of jobs and threatening to pull the plug on the DRIC Road.

    Moaning and groaning by the strap-on “W” Media praising Mighty Eddie for his tough stance on behalf of Windsorites.

It is pretty obvious that this dance is taking place. It has to be a Mia Michaels dance movement since it is so complex.

All of a sudden the Province is threatening to pull out of building the DRIC Road if the Bridge Company does something foolish (that was the EH-News story) or if Eddie does (Note: When do politicians ever reply to Bloggers unless there is a purpose to be served). Eddie is huffing and puffing in the Star story about DRIC which means that he is going to threaten a lawsuit. Again.

The reality is that this is nothing more than allowing Eddie to save face after the Province turned him down on the Tunnel deal and after saying no to him on Greenlink. Those were two of his key deals and he has failed on them. He really does not dare sue and we all know it. As Eddie said:

  • “we understand the significance of this project.”

Do you really think that he wants to be run out of town along with his Council colleagues as the one responsible for losing 15,000 jobs.

My guess is that the Province will graciously back off to make Eddie look like a hero. Why else did Henderson write the recent nasty Column that he did with respect to Sandra. That was Gord's threat to Sandra to play the game or he would destroy her. If she goes along with Eddie, then Gord will make her a Provincial Star who forced the Premier to knuckle under to what she and Eddie want to do for the good of Windsor.

If Sandra plays along with this, and unfortunately I believe that she is a mere pawn with McGuinty calling the shots, she will look extremely weak and will be susceptible to pressure until the next Provincial Election. She loses her credibility.

Why the Province needs to give in to Francis is beyond me. What option does he have? Just take a look at the Star Forum on the DRIC stories over the past few days. Who supports the Mayor?

Sigh, it is so predictable.

Okay judges, your scores for this dance routine.....

DRIC Is A Failure


Time for another good old border BLOG. Have you missed them? This one has been hanging around for awhile but it is still current. With so much other goings-on, it is tough to post everything in as timely a fashion as I would want.

I must admit I didn't really think about it until after a recent Community Consultation Group meeting. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. What DRIC is proposing makes no sense whatsoever for Windsor. And what Eddie is supporting, merely replacing the DRIC Road with Greenlink, is just as bad.

The project has always been a transportation one, right from day one. Oh they can talk about community impact, environmental concerns, keeping trucks off city streets and all the rest but the real purpose of the exercise is moving goods across the border as expeditiously as possible.


Five years ago I made a presentation to the Bi-National group on behalf of STOPDRTP. What I argued was set out in the slide above. I argued about the JMC proposal:
  • "Senior government "medium term" strategy will become the "long term" solution since we expect that the ongoing volume of international truck traffic will be handled by what is now being proposed…..and to the detriment of the City of Windsor."

I specifically focused on the Border Infrastructure Fund language in this slide. Find anything about our Community there:




Nothing has really changed. We are all being played by the conversation over the DRIC Road, Greenlink, green space, tunnels, context sensitive designs, workshops, public information open houses and so on and so on and so on...

DRIC at its simplest is nothing more than the building of a road from the end of Highway 401 to a Customs plaza to a new bridge across the River to a Customs plaza on the other side that connects to the Interstate system. The purpose of all of this is to make sure that trucks get from Highway 401 to the bridge as quickly as possible without stopping. The trucks then have the ability, assuming that they are on one of the technology systems like FAST or E-manifest, to have a lane of traffic so that the truck can go through Customs as quickly as possible as well without being blocked by a non-technology vehicle as they are now in a 2 lane road.

I don't really have a complaint with respect to the corridor on Highway 3/Huron Church because that has always been the main road to the border and was never going to change. I have my doubts whether we will see a DRIC road at a cost of almost $2 billion being built. I expect that we will get a cheapo road as well as an upgraded and expanded E C Row which is something that the Senior Levels have been trying to do for years here.

It is with the plaza and new bridge that I am very troubled because they accomplish nothing other than spending billions of taxpayers dollars on both sides of the river.

I attended a DRIC CCG meeting. There really was no purpose for it since nothing new was disclosed and it was nothing more than a review of what had happened over the last month or so. Relatively few people attended. I think we were outnumbered by the consultants and government officials. I guess the only purpose was to add another notch to the number of meetings held so that DRIC could say that they have discussed what they want to do with the community.

I asked a few questions but unfortunately did not get the answers. They are to be provided subsequently. I asked:
  • What was the size in acres of the primary inbound Customs area


  • what was the size in acres of the secondary inbound Customs area.

At the session, as I had Blogged before, the total area of the Plaza was about 130 acres with all kinds of space that to me seemed unnecessary except if one wanted to justify the need for 100 to 120 acres of land around the existing Ambassador Bridge. It is an area that I thought was hemmed in by Hydro plants and automotive plant that gave no room for expansion if traffic did happen to pick up significantly in the future. The question was raised about security concerns of the Plaza location but it was dismissed by saying security people had already looked at the issue and had no problems.

I also raised the point that when looking at their drawing they had 29 Customs booths with no room for expansion. I was told that initially it would be highly unlikely that all of the booths would be necessary because the traffic wasn't there yet but that it would grow over period of 30 years.

That of course is the Government approach where you only build it at the last possible second, an approach that the Bridge Company has rejected after 9/11 as you can see from the six unused truck Customs booths at the bridge today. The bridge has the insurance booths necessary as required.

I asked for confirmation of volumes and said that it appeared to me that the 29 booths were capable of handling a huge increase in traffic as expected by the DRIC traffic projections. Those projections expected a doubling of traffic at least over the next 30 years. Based on the US DRIC DEIS, the new bridge would handle most of the car and truck traffic that would go to both the DRIC Bridge and the Ambassador Bridge as well as 25% of the Tunnel traffic and a good percentage of the Blue Water Bridge traffic.

I asked the question:

  • how many Customs booths were there at the Ambassador Bridge now.

None of the government people or their consultants knew the answer and one of them guessed at around 20 booths.

Let me tell you what I was getting at and why I am quite upset at the answers and what was also told that the session.

My guess is that the total combined area of primary and secondary inbound examination is not significantly greater than that at the Ambassador Bridge today. I thought that they said that they had truck parking for about 200 vehicles, a space requirement that is absurd with the new technologies that are being put into place. For example, the number of trucks to go to secondary now in Canada dropped from about 800 to about 70 per day once the Ambassador Bridge opened up their processing centre in Detroit.

But the key bit for me was the fact that the DRIC Bridge only needed the number of Customs booths that the Ambassador Bridge already has today. In other words, the number of booths needed 30 years from now are already in place at the Ambassador Bridge. Does any of this make sense to you?

Of course the answer from the DRIC perspective is that Customs wants certain things to be at the bridge that may not be able to be accommodated by the existing plaza at the bridge. Well you know what, Customs can learn to accommodate themselves if the alternative is to waste taxpayers billions of dollars.

As an example, if trucks need to go to secondary inspection, they need to go to the off-site location that Customs already asked the Ambassador Bridge to build for them and which was built. The easy way to have trucks go from the Plaza to secondary and not get "lost" is to have them go in convoys escorted by Customs vehicles as they do today. So Customs will need to have a car and driver to escort the vehicles in a convoy. That's an awful lot cheaper in interest costs savings alone than building a new Plaza isn't it? It is not perfection but the world is not perfect either. Over time, with the new technologies, won't they expect that the number of vehicles that would have to go to secondary will decrease significantly in any event. There would be no need for a secondary customs area capable of handling hundreds of trucks.

Another example that seems to be lost on the DRIC people is the story on RFID devices that are being installed at all of the border crossings. My recollection is that US Customs had said that it would reduce inspection times of a car by about 30 seconds. That means more cars can go through a border crossing per hour than before thereby reducing the number of lanes required for Customs now and in the future.

But it was Dave Wake who told me as he had said to Windsor Council that there was no consideration for a road to the Ambassador Bridge that got me the most annoyed. Again, one of the other participants asked about tolls and why wouldn't trucks go to the Ambassador Bridge rather than the new DRIC Bridge if tolls were going to be lower at the Ambassador Bridge. That question was dismissed by saying that a trucker would go to the location where there were no backups. That is true and that is why he Ambassador Bridge is able to take away traffic from the Blue Water Bridge today.

In case you have forgotten, Mr. Wake made it absolutely clear that there would be an exit at the DRIC Road and Huron Church (at around EC Row) where a truck could leave the DRIC Road and go north on Huron Church to the Ambassador Bridge. The truck would go on City streets in other words

Let us assume that at both bridges, traffic is flowing smoothly. Let's forget that, absent a subsidy, the Bridge Company's tolls might be less than half of that of the new DRIC Bridge so it would get the vast majority of the traffic. Even using the US DEIS numbers as was expressed at the CCG meeting, that means that about 40% of the traffic would still go on Huron Church Road. If that traffic doubles over the next 30 years that means that the volume of trucks that will still use city streets is almost the same as it is today.

eg truck traffic today 3.5M trucks, traffic in the future, 7M trucks, traffic using Huron Church to get to the Ambassadro bridge in future 2.8M trucks (40% of 7M).

What has been accomplished for the city of Windsor? We still have a truck traffic on Huron Church. In fact, we will probably have more truck traffic than before because the the DRIC Bridge in order to satisfy the P3 investor has to bring in truck traffic from Sarnia and take away traffic from the Tunnel. If the Bridge Company is as good a competitor as they think they are and if their tolls are significantly lower, they will ensure that trucks clear their crossing quickly which means that their volumes will be significantly higher.

In the end, think of it... all of these billions paid out for a new road, plaza and bridge and trucks will still use Huron Church Road at the volumes around that which we have today or even higher. This is utter and complete nonsense. What has been accomplished?

Our Mayor is no better. Again, it was something I thought of after I left the CCG meeting. He has an inherent conflict of interest with respect to him being Mayor of Windsor and head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission or the Windsor Tunnel Corporation, whichever party is involved as I have Blogged before.

Our Mayor is thrilled that the new bridge is going Brighton Beach because he said that is where the City always wanted it to go presumably because we can negotiate a deal with the Feds over the land there so that the City can make a ton of money. It is a nice parcel of land, already expropriated. Great for the City but not so good for the Tunnel for which he wants to spend $75 million to get the Detroit interest. It is going to lose a quarter of its business to the DRIC Bridge, and probably a big chunk to the Ambassador Bridge which will compete for the car traffic.

As the Head of the Tunnel, I would have thought that Eddie wants cars to come downtown to use that crossing. That brings all kinds of business downtown as well from tourists, even if they just want to stop and have a doughnut or hamburger before they cross over. However, as Mayor, he has just encouraged the building of a bridge that will move so much more traffic away from the downtown and take away more business from the downtown.

I am sorry but to me this whole approach is foolishness to the nth degree. Billions of dollars will be spent and nothing will be achieved. In fact, if my analysis is correct, we will be worse off with DRIC after spending billions of dollars.

I just don't get it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

News Items Of Interest


Time Magazine is right. With the Internet, one does not have to depend on getting the news just from the usual sources, especially the local traditional media, or rely on them for information and opinion. There are alternatives available now just a CLICK away.

GUESS WHO’S NOT COMING TO DINNER

Poor Eddie. He will not be able to meet one of his great combatants when he meets with DRIC
  • “Mayor Eddie Francis meets today with DRIC consultants to ask what it is they still need to study.”

Len Kozachuk of URS Canada has left and has a new senior position at Infrastructure Ontario.

Len’s leaving has to mean that the DRIC Environmental Assessment in Canada is coming to an end or Len saw the light and decided to get out while the getting out was good! It is too bad. Had he stayed at URS, he could have seen another aspect of the EA business… a dozen years of litigation over what he helped create.

I said “Poor Eddie” because it has to mean that Infrastructure Ontario will now turn down cold any request for money for the Tunnel deal. Given his knowledge of the border crossing, Len has to know that the Tunnel Plaza Improvements project is in limbo and over budget and the City has not yet put forward its $10 million.

More importantly, he has to be absolutely familiar with the US DEIS which stated that the new DRIC bridge could take away up to a quarter of the Tunnel traffic. How could it possibly repay its loan in the circumstances?

Oh well, since the Mayor Cockrel wants to have a totally new deal in any event, it would appear that Eddie doesn’t need their money anyway.

DO NOT LET FDI MAGAZINE SEE THIS LIST

The budget of the Windsor Essex Development Commission may take a big hit this month because they are probably out there buying up all the copies of Canadian Business Magazine. That magazine has just published a list of the “Best Cities To Do Business In Canada.”

As you know, FDI Magazine ranked Windsor ”as North America’s leading small City of the Future” for 2007/8. I’m not sure what this ranking did for the City but a number of Windsorites were able to go overseas because of it. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many taxpayer paid junkets were made?

As well, a City had to apply before FDI considered it. The irony of ironies is that some of the people involved in Windsor winning this award left the employment of the Development Commission.

With the Canadian Business ranking, the Magazine chose the cities and the criteria.

Okay, okay. Enough stalling. I am NOT the Naysayer. Here it is:

WINDSOR RANKS 32 OUT OF 40

In annual operating costs we are #28
In cost-of-living we are #16
In building permit average growth we are #24
In unemployment rate variances we are #39
In crime rate per 100,000 people we are #20.

MPAC NOTICES ARE OUT

Oh boy, just wait for the tax increases or service cuts now as property values decrease for many residences here. No wonder Gord did the column that he did when he did with respect to Government employees. Aren't City employees going to be negotiating a new contract soon:

  • "Public sector workers need reality check

    The gap between the real world and the insulated cocoon occupied by this country's 3.2-million public sector workers is turning into a yawning chasm that could soon rival the Grand Canyon...

    I hear Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis was hauled over the coals and then trotted out to the woodshed by infuriated city staffers (many of whom don't live in Windsor) when he dared to state the obvious, that the party is over...

    That comment was taken as a declaration of war by CUPE locals representing 1,700 city workers and now both sides are girding for a struggle that will likely end in a strike when contracts expire at the end of December."

Guess who's going to bear the brunt of the attack if taxes have to go up. It should be obvious what the game is and how it is going to be played. The softening up the taxpayer so they will know who to blame game has started a few months in advance.

Want to bet who the anonymous Councillor was who has effectively told us that there will be a strike and the public inconvenienced. I wonder if this is a task for the Integrity Commissioner like in Hamilton.

  • "Gee. I sure hope it doesn't snow much in January," said a councillor who requested anonymity (to avoid becoming a CUPE pin cushion) but is betting on picket lines in the new year and howls of indignation from constituents when streets don't get plowed or garbage picked up."

Blame---NOT our Mayor and Council with their taxes-wasting East End Arena and Canal visions. And their failure to get 15,000 high-paying jobs for this city because of their stalling on the border.

EX-HERITAGE CHAIR RESPONDS

It’s nice to see that Greg Heil doesn’t intend to be attacked and that he is prepared to hit back against those who try to do so.

In his Letter to the Editor, he gives us a bit more information about why he retired from the Heritage Committee after being Chair for about 10 years:

  • “In this case, by skewing the district boundaries into an area of clearly marginal heritage value for what appears to me to fight a proxy war with the bridge company has poisoned any goodwill toward the study and will doom it to failure…

    The district boundaries should be consolidated to within the proper limits focused about Sandwich Street and the city should take up its battle with the bridge company separately through the auspices of the formal environmental analysis underway by senior government levels.”

What was also interesting to me was the letter by in the Saturday Star Patricia Malicki, the president of the Windsor chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. She claims that

  • “I am baffled by the comments made by Greg Heil.”

She should not be because she also said:

  • “I am the first to admit there is not much worth saving on the east side of Indian Road, partially due to the neglect of the owners.

    It doesn't make sense to include the west side of the street and not the east side. If the homes on the east side are demolished, that space will provide an excellent buffer between the conservation district and the Ambassador Bridge and can be used for heritage interpretive purposes.”

#321

I was surprised that it was front page news about the Forbes’ ranking of Matty Moroun, the owner of the Bridge Company, as #321 on their list of the 400 richest Americans.

If the positioning of the story and the story itself were designed to generate animosity towards him and negative responses, then those purposes failed miserably. Check out the comments on the Star Forum for yourself http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/news/story.html?id=feaa025d-ed19-4e4e-8531-294769b8274c

What is more interesting is not just the support for what he has been able to achieve as a businessman but an understanding of the border crossing file. This is notwithstanding the millions spent by DRIC trying to convince us that their new bridge is the only answer and the money spent by the City and the smears trying to picture the Bridge Company as the “enemy” of the City.

Everything Is New


Several interesting items for you to consider. All of them are shiny new too. Uncirculated until now.

THE MIGHTIEST CABINET MINISTER OF THEM ALL

Perhaps it was wishful thinking on his part given his vicious attacks on Sandra in the past that were designed to pressure her into submission. But oh boy, did Gord Henderson ever blow it in his column on this one. Did he ever misunderstand what happened to Sandra Pupatello! Queen’s Park understands but clearly those in positions of influence in Windsor don’t.

Sandra is now the Minister of International Trade and Investment. That now makes her the MITI (pronounced “mighty”) Minister, a powerhouse in the Cabinet.

Think traveling the world is unimportant in getting new jobs:
  • Granholm sees progress in Japan visit
    BY TOM WALSH • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

    Gov. Jennifer Granholm concluded a three-day visit to Japan today, saying there is “a very good likelihood” that at least nine of 23 companies she met with will decide in the next few months to create jobs in Michigan by locating or expanding in the state.

    “We did more prospecting this time, meeting with companies we hadn’t visited before, particularly in alternative energy, battery and wind power companies,” she said in a telephone interview from Nagoya.”

What Gord neglected to mention is that this was also the Premier’s way of slapping down our Mayor. The way I heard it was that adding Revenue to Dwight’s portfolio review doesn’t do all that much although it appears that way. However, what it means is that Dwight’s position as the guy who controls Windsor provincially has been solidified and that’s bad news for our Mayor.

It is pretty clear that Dwight who has said “THE MAYOR IS WRONG. THE MAYOR IS WRONG” and Eddie cannot tolerate each other, especially after Eddie snubbed Dwight’s pre-budget meeting.

There is no doubt that Sandra’s function in the past was to be Eddie’s Queen’s Park friend. Or was it babysitter…someone who had to be close to him to figure out his next vision and to try to understand what his agenda was. Given her function and the creation of a new Department, she will have little time to tolerate his foolishness and now, the Premier does not care either.

Councillor Valentinis can continue to cry about why Windsor is treated like the plague by the Senior Levels.

IS A NEW AUTO PLANT COMING TO WINDSOR

Forget the nonsense about the electric car. That is not a Windsor’s future notwithstanding this story:

  • “When the first electric cars reach showrooms in 2011, Windsor intends to be the first municipality in Canada to have public charging stations available to keep them rolling down city streets.

    The day after General Motors unveiled the production version of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car, Enwin Utilities and the City of Windsor announced they are laying the groundwork to create the infrastructure for the Volt and its competitors.”

It is hardly a profit maker for Enwin in the short term at least but rather a cost generator

  • “Larry Burns, vice-president of research and development for General Motors, said GM started warning utilities, architects, city planners and others last year that they should start thinking about creating infrastructure to accommodate the electrification of the car.”

The arrogance of it… the taxpayers should pay for the infrastructure, not the auto companies! The heck with it, charge the auto companies. It's just like the border. Build a billion dollar bridge for their Just-In-time systems so THEIR costs are reduced.

However, I gave you a little hint about this in one of my BLOGs recently.

  • “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!”

Do you remember as well that the Windsor Port Authority

  • “is holding preliminary discussions with the largest commuter ferry operator in the United States, which is seeking to begin a commuter service across the Detroit River."

That won’t work. How you get the commuters from the ferry terminal to their place of employment? Buses! Nope, people need to be able to travel on the expressways to get to their final destination.

Ahhhhh. Do you see what I am getting at?

We need a vehicle built in large numbers that will be able to traverse the street canals of Windsor for all of the thousands of families that will flood this area because of our new exciting, rejuvenated downtown. We need one as well for people to cross the Detroit River and allow people to drive in Detroit to get to their jobs. Moreover, Eddie needs a way to generate revenues in case the volumes at the Tunnel are decreased. He needs a spot where he can charge people for crossing over to the US, say at a downtown marina.

Do you get my drift… Windsor is going to be building a new plant for the Amphicar! That company effectively folded in the late 1960’s:

“No 1968 model year Amphicars were directly imported into the USA. This was because of the U.S. Government's EPA and DOT regulations that went into effect beginning with 1968 model year vehicles. This caused a major financial disaster for the Amphicar Corporation since the USA represented about 90% of all Amphicar sales.”

Or was Eddie's trip to London supposedly to meet with the Red Bull people a phony too. If GM is cutting sponsorship of the Super Bowl ads why would they invest millions in an air race? Perhaps Eddie really went to see the Gibbs Technology people who build the Aquada. After all, we have still never seen his holiday press release about his Red Bull meeting:


They are based in the UK! The concept work for the vehicle was undertaken in Detroit in 1997 and 1998.

This is not your father's Amphicar for heaven's sake! It's the world's first High Sspeed Amphibian capable of speeds of over 100 mph on land on over 30 mph on water. It is a natural for Eddie because it is "leading edge" technology and innovation that the developers claim will change the face of travel as we know it. Just wait until Eddie builds the first hybrid transport truck too that can cross the river! That will fix the Bridge Company.

Now you truly understand what the canal deal is all about. Now you know why Eddie was so interested in the Engineering Complex and bringing it downtown. That was going to be his worldwide centre of research for these type of vehicles. The shovel ready land at the airport was going to be location of the plant. The onion exporting from the airport… just a cover for exporting these vehicles to cities like Venice in Italy.
As long as Eddie makes it difficult for cars to use the Ambassador Bridge, then the waterways between Windsor and Detroit will be packed with Amphicar or Aquada water/land vehicles.

How the worm will turn too. Just watch as Eddie runs to Sandra, begging her to be his super salesperson across the world. And in her new job, Sandra is a salesperson par excellence. As she said in the Toronto Star:
  • “He [McGuinty] needs a salesperson that's all over the world because that's where our potential is for investment ... as well as access to new markets for our companies," Pupatello said in an interview yesterday…

    "What's more difficult is our guys going out there in a whole new ... worldwide market, which we see is becoming so much smaller. We need to help our companies get into these new markets."

    Pupatello acknowledged she has a daunting task, but said she is passionate about it. "When you're in sales, you've got to believe what you're talking about and I'm telling you I believe in my province."

Now you are in the loop too.

MY NEW JOB

The Windsor Star needs me. They are having a tough time as are all of the traditional media in this down economy. Oh no, I do not want to take over when Gord Henderson retires as was rumoured sometime ago. No, I need to do something that will make me feel fulfilled and for which I can use my legal background.

As part of my CV and as justification for what I am going to propose, I hope the Editors noticed that a good part of the grass was cut on Dougall Avenue after I posted the picture on my BLOG of all of the weeds in the newly planted almost $1M WOW-FACTOR GARDENS. Not all of it yet and I am not sure how they will get the weeds out but I will leave that to the Parks Department.

You will of course remember the grass cutting on my median literally a day or two after I posted BLOG photos and of course my huge success

  • Parks Department Responds to Super Naysayer

    Gateway to Willistead Stands a Chance

    ‘Ed Arditti, exalted Blogmeister behind Windsor City Blog, went to bat for Old Walkerville residents. He convinced city authorities that it was time to take care of at least one of their mandatory albeit more mundane obligations; controlling weeds on city property. After all...It's the little things that make a big difference.”

That was outlined on the BLOGsite of the Mayor of Monmouth.

Here is what is going on in the Star’s sister newspaper in Ottawa. Where do I send in my resume

  • The Public Citizen
    Got a problem and want it fixed? Hugh Adami sticks up for Citizen readers
    Published: Sunday, September 21, 2008

    OTTAWA-What drew me to journalism many years ago was its long and celebrated tradition of citizen advocacy.

    The newspapers that stuck up for their readers, that helped them navigate government bureaucracy, that got parks cleaned up and forced businesses to be good corporate citizens were the places I wanted to work.

    I still do, which is why I'm taking on the role of The Public Citizen, a new column that will explore the problems you see in this city, and find the answers on how and when they will be rectified.

    Undoubtedly, there will be a city hall connection to many of your frustrations. There is evidence that local government and many of its agencies aren't working as well as they should be and that municipal infrastructure is falling apart. And since amalgamation almost a decade ago, municipal matters have never been so complex and so aggravating for the citizens of Ottawa. Something as simple as getting snow-removal crews to stop dumping boulder-sized chunks of ice and snow on city-owned evergreens in front of your home can take years…

    I care about the city as much as you do and want to improve the way things work here. This paper is here to help.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Really Cheap Border Road Solution Is Coming



video


I just cannot figure out any more all of the strange goings on in the border file. Listen to this clip from our new Minister of International Trade and Investment, our own Sandra Pupatello. It is from an EH News interview last Thursday.

How about the big headline in the Star on Friday “Granholm defends DRIC.” Yet when you read the story she is not really mentioned. I think she was still in Japan on a jobs-finding trip for Michigan. (Can you imagine the Gov and Sandra fighting over jobs from the same Japanese companies. I want the broadcast rights for that!). The Star story was really nothing more than what had been written in the Detroit media already so what was the big deal.

But life is not so simple in the border file. There are fun and games going on in the Michigan Legislature that could dramatically impact DRIC, even kill it. Their supporters are out in full force to preserve DRIC and at the same time, smear the Bridge Company!


Sandra’s outburst was bizarre. She tried somehow to tell us that the DRIC road would live or die based on what happened in Michigan! We need a road to the border and have been promised one for years. It is an ONTARIO issue (with Government of Canada financing help) that has absolutely nothing to do with Michigan. If you look at the DRIC road, it is nothing more than Windsor’s WALTS road that the Bridge Company proved could be built to its location. DRIC jumped on the routing as well as did Sam Schwartz. What has it got to do with the USA?

Her comment was so out of left field that I had to try and figure out what she meant by it!

The most obvious explanation, especially when you tie in the Star story is that Sandra is helping out the Governor, MDOT, and Democratic Representatives Tobocman and Gonzales pressure the Michigan Republican Senators and other Congressional Reps who are anti-DRIC and therefore they must smeared as be pro-Ambassador Bridge (rather than pro-taxpayer).

Does Senator Cropsey really want to be the guy blamed if the process is stalled?

  • “It's become outlandish that anybody would be putting politics ahead of the economy on this, whether in Michigan or Ontario," Tobocman said.”

Um? What exactly is the Representative doing himself with his smear job in the Detroit and now Windsor media.

You do have to give me credit for one thing, dear reader. I did predict in my BLOG that Congresswoman Candice Miller would be smeared too:

  • “Unfortunately, Congresswoman Candice Miller has not learned her lesson and undoubtedly she will be the next target.”

Her crime was:

  • “Miller sent off a Aug. 25 letter to MDOT director Kirk Steudle saying she does not support the DRIC process, noting a new crossing would hurt revenues on existing crossings.”

But that was too simple an explanation. There had to be a lot more to it than meets the eye or otherwise it would not make a good Windsor border conspiracy theory. In Windsor, nothing is ever obvious and nothing means what someone says it means.

After thinking about it, I concluded that Sandra was the stand-in for our Minister of Finance, Windsor’s own Spanky, Dwight Duncan. If the Finance Minister said what I am about to reveal, the Stock Exchanges around the world could collapse quicker than another investment house going bankrupt. If Sandra says it, who cares.

Ontario absolutely requires that Michigan be blamed for the death of DRIC. As I have said before, Ontario and Canada had no intention of ever building the DRIC Road. Do you think that they were really that crazy to spend around $1.5 billion, 10 times the cost of any other road project in Ontario? Ontario does not have the money to do so. Our economy is in a mess.

Can you imagine though if the Finance Minister admitted that Ontario could not afford this road? Wall Street and Bay Street would tremble! Remember what I Blogged previously the Province’s poor investing:

  • Ontario's subprime hit worse than forecast
    Public is out 7% more than minister's estimate

    The province is taking a writedown of $106.8 million – about 7 per cent higher than Finance Minister Dwight Duncan forecast in his fall economic statement when opposition parties accused him of "rolling the dice" with taxpayers' money.”

As I also said:

  • “Why give the fancy DRIC road the nod when a "cheap" at grade road can be justified at this time as an "intermediate" solution to the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project.”

If the Senate language is used in Michigan, then Sandra can shout and scream that they are stalling everything over there and therefore we cannot build the DRIC road.

Clearly though we have to build something. How about this as an interim solution: upgrading EC Row from four lanes to up to 10 lanes because there is room for that, adding a Lauzon Parkway extension from Highway 401 to the Expressway and then building a Francis condemned “cheap” at-grade solution along Huron Church Road.

My, my, my. Doesn’t this look like something that the Joint Management Committee proposed back in 2002? That was an interim solution too to be built until the Binational/DRIC process was concluded. What is intriguing as well is that Border Infrastructure Fund money is around and already allocated. Interestingly that program was extended without very much fanfare. Now you know why. Now you also know why Eddie made a big deal in the press the other day and at Council about where the BIF money went. That was Eddie signalling that the money was going to be used for these projects.

So that is it. Story finished. Not if you are an avid BLOG reader. You know that there has to be more and there is.

You don’t really expect a DRIC supporter to be blamed do you? After all, about $60 million has been spent on both sides of the river on this extravaganza. People’s necks and careers have to be protected. Moreover, how would one answer the outrage of Windsorites who have come to expect Greenlink but instead are getting what was proposed almost a decade ago.

The answer is so simple that it is laughable. Eddie is no longer concerned about the waste of millions of dollars on fees for the Tunnel deal because now Mayor Cockrel wants to keep it in "public hands." That is all that Eddie was trying to do he claims at this cost of taxpayer money. He was protecting us and the 5000 commuters from the Big, Bad Bridge Company who might have cemented up the US side of the Tunnel. If they were the bogeyman at the Tunnel, then they can't they be the bogeyman of the DRIC bridge too.

Accordingly, after the Bridge Company sues, the Governments will be "forced" to build this interim solution in Ontario until such time as the lawsuit is resolved or settled. Of course, the interim solution really is the long-term solution but we poor taxpayers are not supposed to have the brains to figure that out.

Expect the Governments to do all kinds of strange things to try to get the Bridge Company to sue them. Why else would the Democrats be fighting so hard not to accept the language in the Transportation budget that they accepted only a year ago. If the Democratic language is accepted, I assume that the thinking is that it will force the Bridge Company to sue.

This sounds preposterous but actually it is quite ingenious. The DRIC supporters keep repeating that traffic will pick up and will meet the DRIC projections. Of course, everyone knows by now that those traffic projections are unrealistic. That has to be why the US DEIS stated that the new DRIC bridge would take away so much traffic from the other crossings. The Governments were desperate to show P3 investors that the new bridge was economic and would give them a positive rate of return.

The dilemma then is how do you build a DRIC bridge when there is no traffic. The answer is to get the Bridge Company to sue so that nothing will happen for at least a decade. In this way, the Bridge Company is blamed and they will be attacked for trying to keep a stranglehold over the border. 10 more years of smears ought to teach them a lesson don't you think. At the same time nothing gets done, while traffic improves as the economy hopefully gets better.

At some point in time a settlement is achieved and then down the road after some reasonable period, the new and improved DRIC is launched and the charade starts again.

Think I’m kidding? Just go back in history and look at the fight that the Bridge Company had with respect to its ownership of the Bridge in the first place. There were lawsuits in both Canada and the United States that ultimately resulted in a settlement. It took years and years of litigation for that to happen. But it really did not end the matter. Bill C-3 was introduced as a key piece of legislation in Canada to try to control the Bridge Company and it was nothing more than FIRA in disguise. The old attempt to force out the Bridge Company was back.

Lesson learned and to be applied again today by DRIC supporters.

What about the poor economies of Canada and the United States? Won’t they suffer? Hardly. The Bridge Company is handling traffic very well thank you at the existing crossing and they keep on improving things especially as new technologies are introduced. But here is the important point that Senator Cropsey told us about in his Detroit Free Press article:

  • "If DRIC cannot accurately predict traffic levels from 2004-08, then its 30-year projections are completely baseless. Even with these inflated traffic projections, MDOT testified before my committee that a new span would not be needed until between 2025-35. This gives us plenty of time to address border bridge capacity in the future if the situation warrants it."

It is incomprehensible to me that MDOT would concede this unless they already knew that we do not need another bridge and that no one would invest in a P3 project in Windsor/Detroit. Perhaps they were told that by the Australians P3 people that they met as disclosed in Senator Cropsey’s hearings.

So that is our future I think. At least another decade of turmoil in Windsor. End of story, right. Oh come now, don't you think there is more. Of course there is. We got an intriguing but cryptic hint from Senator Cropsey in the Star story:

  • "He claims agreements from previous decades -- that precede the DRIC study -- called for joint completion of the state's ongoing $230-million gateway project in Detroit to improve access to Moroun's bridge, completion of the twin span and improvements to Huron Church Road."

What is that all about? No wonder that the Bridge Company was to ready to invest $500 million into their project. They were not going to do something without knowing that they were going to get their Enhancement Project completed.

I will be interested in knowing when someone will tell us what that is all about. And then there is this Memorandum of Understanding that I found on the Internet that should shake a view people up on both sides of the river. Oh well, that is for another BLOG.

Dead Men Don't Build 400 Buildings


If the fuel and WUC audits made you mad and the 400 Building audit is getting you angry, then just wait. Huron Lodge and the East End arena still have to be done.

There is nothing ever simple in the City of Windsor. There is always something going on in the background. It is always up to citizens to try and find out what it is. Let me deal with a number of issues about the 400 Building audit.

All I know is that this audit is being limited and the Dunbar Report is being buried. Citizens need to insist that we be provided with the documentation. As you shall see, there is no reason why we should not have it already.

Accordingly both Chris Schnurr and Daryl Newcomb of EH Channel News should be able to get the document forthwith. There is no excuse not to give it to them. And as for the litigation threat, well it is too late now since both the Mayor and a number of the Senior Administrators have already been given a copy of the report so it is no longer confidential and privileged. They are NOT Audit Committee members. Even so, I'm sure that Mr. Roman can draft some appropriate languageto protect the City as best as possible.

In passing, didn't anyone learn from the MFP document fiasco that the City lost in the Court of Appeal and which had to be produced to the other side in the litigation. Here we go again! A key document is not protected properly. It could cost taxpayers millions if a lawsuit is started since everyone is so worried about it.

And the longer it takes to release the initial audit or whatever anyone wants to call it, the more this whole project smells.

ARE THERE SKELETONS BURIED

In my BLOG last week, I talked about a litigation concern as an excuse for not releasing the 400 Building audit. I speculated on who the stakeholders were and especially which one of them would have enough money that they might want to start a lawsuit.
  • “Perhaps an interested party might be one of the contractors that did not get the job if something strange went on. Who knows?”

It seems that I may be correct. I received a strange phone call from someone who claimed that his company was one of the 15 potential bidders who responded to a request for information on the Income Security building as it used to be called. He told me to check out the history of the building because some of the contractors involved were absolutely furious at what the City did and that there might be a potential for lawsuits depending on what came out of the Audit.

I did not find very much in my archives but I found some interesting things. Did you know that this was supposed to be a building to be built by private companies and not the City:

  • Windsor Star 03-05-2002

    “The city has shortlisted six companies to build a new government building that would house federal, provincial and municipal departments on the site of the old police headquarters.

    Mayor Mike Hurst said Monday that of 15 proponents who responded to a request for interest, six have been placed on a short list to proceed to the second phase.

    "City council basically gave the green light to go to phase two of the request-for-proposal process," Hurst said…

    "We want the private sector to buy it," Hurst said. "So when they respond to us, we very much want to know how much are you prepared to give us for our property.

    "We want them to finance it. We want them to build it. We want them to own it. And we want them to deal with the issue of parking at their dollar."

The approach changed however and here is the strange language that Henderson used in describing it:

  • Windsor Star 06-01-2002

    “Hush-hush negotiations for a $26-million to $30-million government social assistance office tower east of city hall are nearing completion and it appears Windsor taxpayers could end up financing the development.

    Sources have told The Star that city officials suffered sticker shock after privately examining proposals for the little-known project from four short-listed bidders, including at least one prominent local firm, that carried pricetags ranging from $26 million to $30 million and boasted Toronto-level leasing rates, ranging from $19 to $25 a square foot.

    However, serious consideration is being given to having the city underwrite the project, instead of leasing space and add the costs to a debt burden already slated to hit $225 million in 2006 if the $41-million plus Western Super Anchor arena development is given the green light.

    The plan originally involved demolition of the derelict former police headquarters at Park Street and Goyeau Avenue for a highrise office tower to be built by the private sector to house federal and provincial civil servants and the city's social services department.

    But in March, for reasons that haven't been made clear, the proposal was switched to the two municipal parking lots at the rear of city hall facing McDougall. The request for proposals called for a structure with at least 142,000 square feet of government office space, adequate underground parking and a ground floor available to Human Resources Development Canada by June 2003.”

Was there something in the Dunbar Report that we should know about that explains what happened and which could give rise to litigation?

There were four shortlisted contractors and then they were cut to two. Did something occur that could give rise to litigation by the two who were cut or perhaps by the contractor who lost out in the end? Is this what the Audit Committee is terrified to release?

Even more interesting is the war that went on between Chuck Mady and the City with respect to this entire transaction

  • “Council, at a March 4 in-camera meeting, rejected a Mady Development Corporation offer to sell its 11-storey, 70,000-square-foot headquarters at 500 Ouellette Ave. for less than $8 million. Instead it voted 5-3 to proceed with a new $27-million social services office tower behind City Hall.

    Mady said he was floored to learn council wasn't interested in saving $20 million that could be used for roads and sewers and instead opted to get into the office development game in a city with a 21.5-per-cent office vacancy rate…

    "Why wouldn't you want to save $20 million? Boy. That does a lot of roads and sewers in this city," said Mady. "They should not be competing with the private sector. It just sends out a negative message and Windsor doesn't have a good reputation outside our community to begin with."

Did the Dunbar report explain why the decision was made to build rather than to buy? Could litigation take place over that decision?

Here is why I’m asking those questions.

First, here is a revelation made in the Minutes of the Audit Committee by the lawyer that they hired. He disagreed with the Dunbar report where it dealt with Councillors being involved in the procurement process.

How did they get involved? Was this proper or not? I would like to have the information from the Dunbar report in order to make my own conclusion.


Second, here is an item on the consent agenda of May 20, 2003. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything more about it than these two sentences:

  • “Payment of Unsuccessful Proponents for Income Security Building…

    CR311/2003
    That Administration be DIRECTED to compensate Ellis Don, an unsuccessful proponent in the Stage 2 Request For Proposal for the Income Security Building, in the amount of $7,500.00.”

When have you ever heard of the City paying out money to unsuccessful proponents? I don’t understand this. Was this part of the RFP? If so, why was only one party paid? Was this perhaps an attempt perhaps to placate one of the parties involved who ran up costs? I just do not know but perhaps the Dunbar audit reported on that.

ARE WE GETTING ANOTHER WHITEWASH AUDIT

Take a look at what Andrew Roman, the lawyer hired by the City had to say about what he believes the scope of the audit is to be:

Those are very interesting questions but they are also extremely narrow. They do not cover at all any of the items that I talked about above.

If that only is what is being asked of this Audit Report, we’re not going to get very much are we? Sounds very reminiscent of the Whitewash WUC audit report. The questions determine the result.

To be direct about it, I would rather see the Report prepared by a professional auditor who is in the business of doing these kind of internal audit reports rather than hearing what Mr. Roman thinks should be in a report.

I took a look at his claim to fame on his law firm’s website and I did not see anything with respect to him being an expert in auditing and accounting. Perhaps he is along with his expertise in competition law and energy policy but his website did not mention it.

In passing, maybe he will assist the City when they will try to get rid of Enwin and the Windsor Utilities Commission to pay for Eddie’s extravaganzas

I find it very strange that KPMG was not asked to comment on the scope of the internal audit. After all, that is their business. But here’s something even stranger about KPMG. The Audit Committee Minutes provide the following with respect to KPMG’s reports:

Please explain to me why reports have to be done verbally and not put into writing? This is absolutely preposterous. I cannot believe that an Audit Committee would suggest something like this. Again, this leads to the conclusion that somebody has something to hide.

And here is a cutie too… solicitor client privilege rears its ugly head:


WHY ASK WHY


Honestly, don’t you find it strange that no one is asking why an experienced auditor like Mr. Dunbar wasn’t given the documents and didn’t undertake the interviews before he made his report? That does not make sense but then again didn’t we hear the same complaint from the Auditor in the dead men don’t pump gas audit when he could not get information from the Department.

Why is the Chair of the Audit Committee not putting the boots to Administration? The episode with 11 boxes of documents being produced even after Administration was supposedly given one last chance to respond is shameful.


DOES THE MAYOR HAVE A CONFLICT

Last but not least, and it should not come as a surprise to anyone, I need to talk about our Mayor. He may be in a pickle.

When the Mayor was a Councillor, he declared conflicts of interest with respect to the 400 building:
I appreciate that the retainer with respect to this matter is probably over. But does that relieve the Mayor of his possible conflict? After all, he has seen the Dunbar report hasn’t he. What if there is something in there that helped his old firm’s previous client? What if whatever it is could give rise to a lawsuit against the City of which he is Mayor? What are his legal obligations then?

I have no idea what the answer is but it is not an easy matter.

Perhaps the City should retain Scott Jolliffe of Gowlings, David Estrin’s partner, about this issue since he was the Chair of a Canadian Bar Association Report on lawyer conflicts.

Problems, problems, problems. Never a resolution in Windsor. Can this file get any stranger. Just you wait and see. It is a given!