Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 03, 2008

It Is A Priority


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You and I, dear reader, speak one language. Politicians speak another.

We think we know what a word means in our language. It does not necessarily mean the same in theirs.

Perhaps that is why there is so much confusion and why we get so mad at them. They should not be blamed because we do not understand them.

We need to translate what they are saying in their dialect into ours. I hope this BLOG will help out in a small way to clarify one word, "priority!"

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

I owe some politicians an apology. You see, I did not know that there was a “political” dictionary.

If I have a problem with the definition of the word, I look up in my Funk & Wagnalls or my Merriam-Webster or go online. How was I supposed to know that politicians have their own vocabulary and their own reference works. Is it my fault if the Windsor Library System cannot afford to stock the political dictionary on its shelves because of Council cutbacks?

Let me try and explain. For how long have politicians at all levels on both sides of the river been telling us that the Windsor/Detroit border is a priority for them. How long have they been saying that it is essential that the border be fixed up for the prosperity of the economies of United States and Canada? How long has nothing been done?

You and I believe that priority means
  • “Precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency. Something afforded or deserving prior attention”

However, when a politician talks about priority it does not necessarily mean the same thing we do nor in the same timeframe.

Let’s take the new Windsor jail as an example. The Star stated:

  • “MPP Sandra Pupatello who has been working for 10 years to land Windsor a new building to replace the overcrowded old jail in the west end”

That is some time period for a priority matter isn’t it. If you think I am taking some liberties, well here is what the politicians said back in October, 2004:

  • New city jail pledged: Aging lockup 'has to be replaced,' Kwinter says;
    Windsor Star 10-07-2004

    Building a new Windsor Jail is a "top priority," Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Monte Kwinter said Wednesday.

    "We acknowledge that that jail has to be replaced," Kwinter said in an interview. "It's virtually at the top of our priority list. We have every indication, every anticipation, that we will build a new jail."

    The ministry has already looked at several potential sites in Windsor for a new jail, the minister said. But it will be at least two years before construction can begin, he said.

    Kwinter spoke following a tour of the jail on the city's west side with Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello.

    "This city needs a new jail, and we have got to get serious and get down to the details of how we are going to come up with a new facility," Pupatello told reporters after the tour.

    Windsor Jail, built in 1925, is in the worst condition of any jail in the province, she said.

    Pupatello, who promised she will "become more and more persistent on this issue,"

Note that the Minister did not say that construction would start in two years back then and also note that we are told now:

  • “The site still must clear an environmental assessment, including public consultation which begins in November, before it gets final approval for construction, which would start in mid-2010.”

I wonder which we will get first… a jail or a new border crossing. Which item is the biggest "priority?"

And in case you are wondering where our new museum is going, back in 2004 Eddie said:

  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis has told ministry officials he wants to retain part of the old jail as a museum to commemorate the Underground Railway, Kwinter said."

HELP NOT WANTED

Unofficially, it seems that the delay in Eddie completing his commuter survey may have cost numerous Windsor workers their employment opportunities out West.

It appears that Eddie must have been using the political dictionary and its interpretation of the words “important” and “priority” in developing a strategy to help people get a job out West and then come home for the weekends. Here is what is happening, thanks to a reader, and it seems to have bypassed Windsor:

  • Prairie call to Ontario jobless: Go West
    Officials at job fair pitch allure of Saskatchewan

    As thousands of Ontario's laid-off manufacturing workers face the reality of fewer job opportunities, politicians from Saskatchewan are visiting Toronto this week in hopes of luring skilled labourers to the Prairie province.

    Premier Brad Wall will be at Toronto's National Job Fair to sing the praises of the employment opportunities in his province.

    "We have a labour shortage, we have a people shortage in Saskatchewan," Wall said in an interview from his province last week.

    Wall and Rob Norris, Saskatchewan's minister of advanced education, employment and labour will accompany 50 of the province's employers who are looking to fill a variety of skilled positions.

    "(Saskatchewan) is a great place to make a living right now, but it's also a great place to make a life," said Wall.

    "Saskatchewan has had a reputation of being great to be from, as we have exported a lot of people over the decades. Well, now we're a great place to be."

    There about 10,000 unfilled jobs in the province, said Norris, in the interview from Saskatchewan.

    "We're aware of the downturn in some of the (employment) sectors that Ontario has and what we want people to be aware of is there are some other options," said Norris.

    Saskatchewan has an abundance of natural resources including oil, potash and uranium, along with a strong knowledge-based economy in the high-tech sector, said Wall.

FIREFIGHTERS CONTRACT

If you are surprised about the strike at the University, did you know that the contract with the firefighters and the City of Windsor has not been negotiated yet.

I was told that it expired at the end of 2005 and, I believe, is the only one with City employees that hasn't been settled as yet.

Here is the latest from a reader. I'm sure that it is a "priority" for the City too:

  • "It is going to an arbitration hearing February 26, 2009. The one thing the City did was that back in July an advance for retro pay was paid out to people who have retired since the end of 2005. I think that the current employees got the same thing but I don't know if they are being paid at a new rate or if this was just an interim payment."

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE GAZELLES

Perhaps they are dead from starvation!

Weren't we supposed to be cultivating them, fast-growing entrepreneurial businesses that had the potential to make our region prosperous? Small business was to be the cornerstone of our prosperity according to the former head of our Development Commission. I guess when he was forced out, so were his ideas and the need to cater to small business went out the window as well.

About a month ago, we read in Gord Henderson's column the following:
  • "Drowning in red tape
    Windsor Star 08-28-2008

    A task force led by retired business professor Alfie Morgan is calling for a major shake-up of a regulation-obsessed city bureaucracy which it charges is drowning Windsor's small businesses in punitive red tape."

Why would Alfie Morgan, formerly Eddie's interim CAO, have to go running to Gord to get some publicity about small business. Could it be because the Agenda Item Report that was scheduled for the last Council meeting was dated April 30, five months ago? If Alfie can't get something on the Agenda, then how can a mere mortal?

The Task Force Response to this Report was dated at the end of August, a month ago. Now finally it made it to Council. I wonder if someone was afraid to have it go in front of Council.

The Recommendation of Administration in their report was enlightening. Political priority in Windsor:

That is bureaucratic response to do nothing rather than an action oriented call to action.

Read this. If you think my criticism of City Hall is harsh, then what do you say about this that was written by the Task Force at the end of August, almost a month ago:


There is no point in me getting outraged about this. It is typical about how this Mayor carries on the City's business. Why deal with problems when you can ignore them by studying matters to death and then do nothing to solve them.

Don't save money by entering into a partnership with a private operator with respect to an Arena...rather move it out of the core to some place in the East End and pay an extra $50 million of taxpayer money or more to help out some wealthy hockey team owners and put taxpayers at risk for the operations of the Facility.

Stall, stall, stall on a Border solution with 15,000 high-paying jobs at risk for reasons unknown.

Fly off to Europe to talk to a startup onion importer or to an air race energy drink supplier or figure out ways to fly our best and brightest out of town on some absurd commuter scheme.

Or the ultimate, turn Windsor into Venice by spending who knows how much money on unneeded infrastructure rather than trying to figure out how to involve developers in a true urban village redevelopment of the downtown.

You can read the entire Small Business Task Force Response here
http://www.scribd.com/doc/6295468/Small-Business

Regretfully, this call to action by the Task Force is doomed to failure right from the start. You see it attacks Eddie's fundamental weak point: his fear of failure and to be blamed:

So much for priorities!

Readers' Themes: Windsor's Top 100 Picks

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Hey there all you guys and gals. Welcome to the BLOGMEISTER's sock hop! We have put together for your reading and listening pleasure the the greatest selection of hit songs that any Windsor Mayor could ever want for his Theme song.

Time-Life Records has nothing on us!

You can get a 9 CD collection of all of these songs at a cost of only a 5.9% increase in your 2009 tax bill. And, thanks to the good folks at MPAC, we'll even throw in a bonus CD at an extra 1% tax boost since house prices are falling for most folks, making it 10 CDs in all!

Whew, the list of songs is long even if some of the titles are not too complimentary either. Hey don't blame us if that's the message being delivered in three quarter time.

Thanks for helping out the good folks at Strap-on 800, CKLW, find a new theme for their Eddie Francis interview show. Here are some suggestions received from readers like you so far.

Are you ready to Rock Around the Clock? Ok then. Let's Go To the Hop:
  1. The theme song from the old "Francis the talking mule" TV show!
  2. I Did It My Way- his philosophy
  3. Can't Touch Me- his philosophy again
  4. The Funeral March- what we are heading to if he remains
  5. Crying- what we are all doing because we can't get rid of him
  6. Tell Me Why- the question a lot of us wonder regarding his hatred for the Ambassador Bridge folks
  7. Theme song from the movie "Bridge On the River Kwai"- because it was built by hand a lot faster than it took to put the DRIC study together
  8. It's my party...and I'll cry if I want too
  9. Bye Bye Miss American Pie--- The Tunnel Deal
  10. No Sugar Tonight-- When Eddie explains at home the outcome of his misadventures
  11. Sittin' By The Dock of the Bay-- When the canals open to the public
  12. I Don't Believe in If Anymore-- After the Bridge sues and wins!
  13. Imagine-- At the unveiling of the next major redevelopment scheme undertaken with tax dollars
  14. Everything I Do, I Do It for You-- At his next election campaign
  15. Please Forgive Me-- If and when he gets into a legal logjam over his mayoral actions
  16. House of the Rising Sun-- When he loses his last hand on failed projects
  17. Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood-- Encore for above!
  18. Who'll Stop The Rain-- When the Council makes a clear break to revolt!
  19. Who Will Answer?-- When the time to spread the blame comes around.
  20. Town Without Pity-- The denouement to all of the above.
  21. And should WeACT fail to bring about accountability then the entire Windsor Chorus will be singing 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place
  22. Hello Goodbye-- as it could be a short term for Mayor
  23. Should I Stay or Should I Go
  24. Somebody’s watching me– For the bloggers, citizens & council members who are, if not laughing AT him, are laughing near him…
  25. The Joker
  26. Eve of Destruction
  27. Cruel to be Kind
  28. Tunnel of Love – a tip toward Eddie’s mismanagement of Tunnel Commission & the sale fiasco.
  29. Bridge over Troubled Waters
  30. I am a Camera – a tribute to all the in camera meetings
  31. Theme from Matlock or Perry Mason – for all the money paid frivolously to lawyers
  32. Theme from Six Million Dollar Man – a tribute to David Estrin and the legal fees paid to Gowling for… well what?
  33. Hit the Road Jack – ‘ nuf said
  34. Come Fly with Me – in tribute to Eddie’s employment scheme of long distance commuters
  35. Still Crazy, after all these years – despite the grand plans, no results
  36. We’re off to see the Wizard – Just don’t look behind the curtain, as there is a diminutive man, not a wizard
  37. Legend of a Mind – Tune in, turn on and drop out
  38. Time for me to Fly
  39. Slowride
  40. One Tin Soldier
  41. New Day
  42. That's Just The Way it is
  43. Glory Days
  44. No Surrender
  45. Can't Touch that
  46. The River
  47. Tunnel of Love
  48. Theme from Alfie ("what's it all about, Alfie?...")
  49. Don't Come around Here No More
  50. (Party like it's) 1999
  51. Sharp Dressed Man
  52. Walk this Way
  53. The Future's so Bright, I have to Wear Shades
  54. Halleluiah
  55. Everybody Knows
  56. Detroit City
  57. Playground in my Mind
  58. Two Tickets to Paradise
  59. Respect (Martha Reeves & the Vandellas - with Martha on Detroit council...)
  60. Theme from "Get Smart"
  61. Things can only get better
  62. Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)
  63. Secret Agent Man
  64. Proud Mary (Ike & Tina Turner ) "Left a good job in the city... Rollin'on the River"
  65. (I'm a) Soul Man
  66. Here comes the Sun
  67. I can see clearly now the rain is gone
  68. Listen to what the Man said
  69. Chaos & Creation
  70. Time wont let me
  71. Stayin' Alive
  72. Straighten up & Fly Right
  73. Border Song
  74. Gonna Wash that Man right outta my Hair
  75. Fight for Your Right to Party
  76. Whistle a happy tune
  77. What a fool believes
  78. No One is to Blame
  79. Do you really want to hurt me?
  80. Hold the Line
  81. All Right Now
  82. Honesty
  83. I Just Wanna Stop
  84. Come on, get happy
  85. Happy Together
  86. Eve of Destruction
  87. I’d Love you to want me
  88. With a Little Help from my Friends
  89. Stuck in the Middle with You
  90. One
  91. Tell Me Something Good
  92. Somebody’s watching me
  93. The Waiting
  94. The Long and Winding Road
  95. Words into Action
  96. Would I lie to you
  97. Everbody Wants to Rule the World
  98. If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me
  99. You keep me hanging on
  100. No reply at all
If you have any other suggestions, keep them coming!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Border Comedy Series


Wasn't there a recent TV drama series involving Windsor and Detroit called "Across The River To Motor City."

Well, I have decided to produce a TV sitcom about the border file and try to flog it to one of the big television networks. It truly is a laughable situation. The stories are so absurd that no one could ever think of them. Honestly, they are a laugh a minute.

And do you know what? This series could go on forever. The stories are limitless as these items demonstrate perfectly.

WATCH OUT FOR DETOUR SIGNS

Surely you must have seen them. From Highway 401 right to the E C Row Expressway so far. All of those MTO detour signs telling us that there is going to be massive road construction. What about the final drawings for Plaza and new DRIC bridge.

Oh, you haven’t seen them yet.

Well then, you must have seen all of the advertisements in the Help Wanted section offering high-paying jobs in the construction business to build the road to the border and the new DRIC bridge. What about the spinoff jobs that will be needed to support all of those workers and the massive building. I mean, there are up to 25,000 jobs available.

Oh, you haven’t seen them yet either.

For sure, you must have seen the traffic survey and the financial justification for spending all those billions of dollars and the assurances given that the other border crossings here and in Sarnia will not go bankrupt or require a massive Government subsidization.

Oh, you haven’t seen them yet also.

Well I don’t understand why based on the comments made by a couple of the candidates who are running for federal office. You and I must have missed the announcement, especially the one made when the Prime Minister came to town about all of these projects starting and all of the jobs that are being created. Perhaps they are going to be mentioned during the Leaders’ debates.

Here’s what Brian Masse has told us and for which he demands that we praise him and re-elect him:
  • "As your MP, I have been voicing your concerns and demanding solutions in Ottawa. Together we have secured a federally financed, publicly owned new bridge while at the same time passing legislation establishing rules and regulations for all of our border crossings.”

Here is what Jeff Watson has said as well in order to be re-elected:

  • "With global economic insecurity we need a steady hand in Ottawa and a voice at the table here in Essex County. Stephen Harper is a strong leader and together, he and I have delivered results for our economy: a $1.8-billion border solution with 25,000 jobs.”

I don’t get it. Both of them are taking credit for the same project and yet they are in different parties. Both of them are taking credit and I don’t see anything happening. Both of them are taking credit and yet the only action I see on the border is on the other side of the river where the Ambassador Bridge Company is actually doing something with its Ambassador Gateway project and on this side, where they have built new booths that are still unused.

Oh I get it now. Dan Stamper is getting ready to run for political office! Can you imagine the position that he can fill by showing that he actually did something rather than pretend that something is being done.

I wonder if he owns property in Windsor. If not, now is a good time to buy with everything falling in price. I know some canal property that he might be interested in too.

ARE THE NDP CANDIDATES ADVOCATING BREAKING THE LAW

Don’t you think that it makes more sense for federal politicians to stick to federal matters and stop muddying up the waters “constitutionally?”

It seems to have been decided that building the road to the border is a Provincial matter rather than a Federal one. So why are Brain and Joe butting in? They have enough problems that they should deal with federally.

Are they that desperate to get votes in this election that they are prepared to give false hopes to the unemployed in Windsor:

  • “Border construction jobs should go to locals: MPs

    Windsor-Essex construction workers should be given preferential hiring treatment when the massive border project finally gets underway, Windsor NDP MPs Brian Masse and Joe Comartin said Wednesday.

    Standing at the side of busy Dougall Avenue underneath bridge construction at E.C. Row Expressway, Masse and Comartin proposed a local workers' mandate guaranteeing that border infrastructure funds are used to hire local workers for the planned roadway to a new bridge and plaza in Brighton Beach on Windsor's west side.

    "What we're calling for is a Windsor border mandate," Masse said. "This is about solving our border traffic problem, reducing unemployment, deploying newly trained workers, as well as skilled development and technology transfer."

What the heck is a “local workers’ mandate.”

I do wish that they had spoken with their friend, Councillor Ron Jones, because he would have told them the black letter law dealing with local preference. He is quite familiar with the topic given the debate at City Council over Huron Lodge:

  • “Facing a potential $3-million lawsuit, city council voted 6-4 to accept the lowest bid for the redevelopment of Huron Lodge instead of a higher bid by a local company which pledged to use almost exclusively local labourers.

    When asked about the legal repercussions of accepting a higher bid, city solicitor George Wilkki said, "the city will be sued, the city will lose and the city will be liable for the lost profits incurred by the lowest bidder.”

I’m certain that if they had asked, the Councillor would have informed them about the Ontario law: Discriminatory Business Practices Act. He would have told them that the Act provides:

  • “The purpose and intent of this Act is to prevent discrimination in Ontario on the ground of race, creed, colour, nationality, ancestry, place of origin, sex or geographical location of persons employed in or engaging in business.”

JOINT MEETING POOPER

I am really angry at Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Tom Burton. He wanted an agenda set before the next City/County Joint Meeting to be held next week.

It seems that his issue was:

  • "I'm just a little concerned at this joint meeting that we have the appropriate agenda before the weekend and that we're not surprised," said Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Tom Burton.

    Issues like the city's GreenLink plan came up at the last joint meeting that weren't anticipated, Burton said later.”

Good thing that he is not a Windsor politician because clearly he would not be loopy. Our Councillors are surprised all the time when our Mayor drops multimillion dollar projects at their feet and demands immediate approval.

Why am I angry at the Deputy Mayor? Clearly, I was hoping that Eddie would tell the County politicians as well as City taxpayers what his new compromise Greenlink solution was because we don’t know anything about it! Sure I know it was rejected by the Province already but it would have been nice to know what it was for historical purposes anyway.

I need all that information for my Ph.D. thesis if I decide to go to the University of Windsor, if their strike ever ends, for my doctorate in borderology.

AND YOU REALLY WANT A “PUBLIC” BRIDGE

Come on. Stop laughing. Government bureaucrats at all levels are involved. What else can you expect since they have no sense of urgency whatsoever and seem to be incapable of solving the easiest of problems in a timely manner.

Gregg Ward of the Truck Ferry does need to learn to keep his mouth closed sometimes:

  • "The intentions on this are good, but the process is what's been difficult on something that really in the big picture should be simple."

    The difficulty to move the ferry improvement project forward doesn't bode well for what the provincial and federal governments need to do in the future on border road projects in Windsor, Ward said.

    "It shouldn't be this difficult, especially when looking at something as big as the border," he said.”

The situation with respect to a small piece of property that could prevent the use of the Truck Ferry has still not yet been solved. I wrote about this mess once before and it is clear that nothing has happened since that time [BLOG: Friday, May 23, 2008 “Blameless In Windsor.” ]

However, there must be some method to the seeming Government madness. Why are they still involved in negotiating this transaction? It is of course another instance, even though it is on a smaller level, of discrimination against the Bridge Company. Again, Governments are helping out one of their direct competitors just like with the Tunnel Plaza Improvements project.

Why would they take such a chance? It must be that they know as well as we do that the DRIC bridge will never be built. As I BLOGGED before:

  • “I was thinking about the short story I wrote the other day about the mess with the Ferry project. I should have figured it out before but I didn't. There obviously will not be a DRIC bridge built. If one is going to be built, then there is no need to spend $5 million on the Truck Ferry.

    As you may recall, the new bridge is supposed to be able to handle hazardous materials. After all, they're going to bring in so much of the Sarnia traffic to Windsor including garbage trucks or else no one would invest in the project. Once the new DRIC Bridge is built, the Ferry is out of business.

    Accordingly, unless the Government is prepared to waste more taxpayer money, they still need a truck ferry.”

BORDER REDUNDANCY

Thank goodness for the article about the Truck Ferry.

Mr. Ward has reminded the powers-that-be that there is border redundancy in case of difficulties. Of course, the Government officials do not want to deal with Mr. Ward's statement. Nor do they want to deal with what the Bridge Company talked about at the Michigan House hearings about their plan for redundancy since that destroys another DRIC argument for a DRIC bridge. However, even the Bridge Company plan is not required any more according to the owner of the Truck Ferry. He again repeats his assertion:

  • “But truck ferry operator Gregg Ward said the unresolved talks have jeopardized the nation's economy since the ferry remains a vital alternative for commercial trade should the Ambassador Bridge's operations be forced to shut down.

    "What are the alternatives for commercial traffic if something happens at the border?" Ward said. "

More For Your Information



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I want to help out in this BLOG and solve a few problems. I hope that you will agree that I have done so.

EDDIE’S NEW THEME SONG

I beg of you, please help. The folks on the Morning show on CKLW… the ones who pitch lobs to the Mayor so that he can hit a home run every Tuesday, the people who work for the Radio Station with the strap on “W” mentality, need our assistance.

Apparently, the Mayor is tired of the Theme Music that they use at the beginning of the segment. He would like something new and different but obviously something appropriate.

It is not an easy taskto find a song that fits.

I thought I would help with a few suggestions which I will list below. But I assume that you, dear reader, will have other ideas. Please send them to me as soon as possible so that the good folks at the Radio Station will have some interesting suggestions to ponder before the next Tuesday show. I will post them for everyone's consideration. Here are my ideas:

  • > Lost Highway: Greenlink or the DRIC with 15,000 jobs
  • >Another one bites the Dust: one of Eddie's vision
  • > All I need is a miracle: what Eddie and Council need right now
  • > Another Day in Paradise: living in Windsor
  • > Cult of Personality: how Council meetings are run
  • > Don't come around here no more: what investors say about Windsor
  • > Don't Worry Be Happy: how the strap on "W" folks want you to act
  • > Windsorite in New York: Eddie visiting Sam and Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • > Every Time You Go Away: for the commuters going out West
  • > Every rose has its thorn: the WOW-FACTOR Gardens
  • > Fame (I'm gonna live forever): Eddie's legacy
  • > Free Fallin': what Windsor's economy and house prices are doing
  • > Get up and go: what our best and brightest are told to do
  • > Heaven knows I'm miserable now: Windsor taxpayers' lament
  • > Holding out for a hero: what we had hoped for
  • > I know there's something going on: the BLOGGERS' state of mind
  • > I Think We're Alone Now: Will the last person in Windsor turn off the lights
  • > Is There Something I Should Know: BLOGGERS, see above
  • > It's The End of the World as We Know it: Windsor's auto industry
  • > Let's hear it for the boy: Gord Orr at Eddie's State of the City speech
  • > Manic Monday: Council meetings
  • > Money for Nothing: consultant and legal fees
  • > No More Words: walk the talk already
  • > Nothing at all: what this Mayor and Council have achieved
  • > Oblivious: what Eddie is about citizen concerns
  • > Out of touch: ditto
  • > Promised you a miracle: THINK BIG, GO BIG OR GO HOME
  • > Promises, Promises: what Windsorites have received
  • > Road to nowhere: right back where we started from (see top of the list)

Now it is your turn

311

I know how to solve the problem about 311 and it won't cost a penny. If we do it properly, the number of calls will be drastically reduced and we might not need all of the staff and space that Administration has told us that are required.

INTRODUCE CITISTAT

I still cannot understand why Eddie is so reluctant to bring in the program that made him Mayor in the first place. It was supposed to save us millions of dollars every year in tax reductions because the City would be organized in a much more efficient manner. Problems would be quickly identified and solved so that "service" phone calls to 311 would not be necessary. The problems would not arise in the first place if Citistat was operating properly.

It's time Eddie for you to fulfill what made you Mayor and for us to reap all of the savings promised. We have already lost millions because you have not acted.

MORE ON 311

Wait a minute. What was the reason for freaking out over spending more money for the 311 service. There is probably no need to do anything.

It is claimed that

  • "The service has become a victim of its own success as huge volumes of calls at certain time periods have overwhelmed city staff on duty and added greatly to response times...

    When the city first launched its 311 service in 2005, it was expecting around 100,000 calls annually.

    But in the first seven months this year, 128,000 calls were made. Almost 23,000 of those callers hung up because they couldn't get through."

Why is this happening? Is it really such a success or is the service being misused? Let me give you two examples:

  1. Mayor Seeks Information About Windsorites Travelling West. People are told to call 311

  2. Bring Your Shovel and Help Green the WFCU Centre. For more information, call 311

Are 311 operators supposed to be serving the needs of the public in dealing with City Hall or are they to waste time by dealing with people on survey questions? No wonder people were hanging up.

In the same fashion, one has to ask why one could not have a tape service to answer most of the calls about the East End Arena rather than tying up an operator.

I have not of course talked about the biggest waste of 311 operator time and probably the reason for most of the phone calls and the disconnections: Greenlink.

How many thousands of phone calls came in from people to support Greenlink? There is no doubt, if we believe the numbers that the Mayor and now Councillor Valentinis told John Fairley on Face-to-Face, that we can explain the large number of people who probably overloaded the system and the large number of disconnects. So many thousands called after the City wasted so much money on their ad blitz. Why it was almost our patriotic duty to phone in or to get a postcard to mail in.

Since Greenlink is dead, if City Hall would use 311 for the purposes for which was set up and if some innovative ways are used to deal with people phoning in on standard and repetitive matters then we would not have to waste taxpayer money on this matter.

Press 1 for Greenlink, 2 for WFCU, 3 to register as a delegation, 4 for commuter information and so on.

CUBA SI

Thanks to a reader for this information.

Go to this Star article "City invests $100K in Believe W.E. Can" http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/story.html?id=df72bb8d-17e0-4be6-be40-e6e0fa5db19f

Then go down the left side of the page and click on the icon "Believe WE CAN" and see what happens.

My reader claims that the slogon might read instead ""WE believe WE CAN get the hell out of here!!"

And you thought I was bad!

PENSON PLAN STOCK LOSSES

The Star reported that

  • "Market decline wiped $80B off pension plans

    The fall in stock markets over the past half year has wiped $80 billion off the value Canadian workers' pension funds and RRSPs, a labour economist estimated Tuesday in the wake of the worst single-day of losses ever on Bay and Wall Streets."

Look then for pension fund managers to run like sheep to "safe" investments like illiquid infrastructure assets to protect against the ups and downs of the stock market.

Perhaps they can take their lead from OMERS' investment in DRTP as their model! How much money have pensioners made on that investment?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

UTTER CONTEMPT


Is there any other way to describe the relationship between this Mayor and Council and the citizens of Windsor. It seems to me that as time goes on things are getting worse. There seems to be little respect these days about how our Municipal Government should be carried on.

I am afraid that I am in one of those moods again. I just cannot believe what goes on at City Hall and that no one seems to be ashamed. For heaven's sake, this is a City of 200,000 people. Life is not that difficult here. Sure we have issues but they are not insurmountable. Most of them can be solved pretty quickly, especially the border issue. Can you believe that there is a city in North America that is rejecting billions of dollars of new investment and the creation of thousands of new jobs in a region that has the highest unemployment rate in this country!

One of our key concerns really is that our difficulties have been known for years but we've done nothing to prepare ourselves against their consequences. Clearly in disregard, I'm talking about the automotive industry and the lack of economic development.

I do not expect anything to be accomplished after living through so many years of lack of leadership and agendas for which "hidden" is an understatement.


It troubles me that we have a Mayor who is so secretive and who mocks the expression open and transparent government. It troubles me that Councillors are so timid. It troubles me that they do not seem to know or care what their legal obligations are. It troubles me that there are no checks and balances in the system and that frankly citizens are powerless unless someone wants to risk thousands of dollars of their own money in court action.

In fact, don’t you see the same type of relationship in the dealings amongst the Mayor and Council and amongst themselves too. It is no secret about the friction amongst Members of Council especially when you see the word dysfunctional being applied.

I was going to get all sociological and psychological in this BLOG. I was going to try and use some of the terms that I have heard used in describing relationships and apply them to what I see taking place. However, that kind of approach is really not my style. I thought the easiest way of describing how I feel is to talk about one item that took place at Council on Monday and let you decide for yourself whether I am overstating the case or not.

The big issue was the payment to the Windsor Star of $100,000 for eight pages of a “special Windsor Star magazine to promote this region's attractions and economic opportunities nationwide and in parts of the U.S.” The vote was tied at 4-4 until the Mayor decided to cast the deciding vote in favour of spending the money.

Not such an important issue in the scheme of things…money can be taken out of the City’s contingency fund to pay for it. It’s also probably good publicity for a Region that needs it after all the slams that we have been taking in the media caused primarily by shameful actions of City Hall. If by chance someone decides to take a trip to Windsor or start up a business here or partner with a local company because of the magazine, then it is probably money well spent.

It is the way that this was done that disgusts me. It is the lack of backbone shown that makes me sick. It is the disregard for the rules and the purpose of them, notwithstanding the expedient “waiver of the Procedural Bylaw,” that shows me disregard for citizens. It is the actions of the Mayor that trouble me. It is the totality of all of this that demonstrates to me conclusively utter contempt.

The difference between the Councillors was not about spending the money but rather how the money was to be spent. The very vocal minority on Council, who are generally the ones who seem to have some brains and are prepared to use them, objected
  • “They would have preferred more lead time, so there would be an administration report fully detailing participation in the magazine, or formation of a new overall regional promotion campaign.”

They did not want to put in money for some one off magazine publication. Nevertheless, they were virtually blackmailed into doing so because they County had already decided to contribute their hundred thousand dollars. It would not look very good if there were as no “Windsor” section would it.

I remember watching part of the discussion on television and seeing the Mayor pontificating about how advertising and promotional campaigns are supposed to be carried out. I did not know that he was an advertising guru as well amongst his talents. He talked a very good game about what should have been done and how this magazine should have been part of a campaign both before and after its issuance. Mind you, he is very good at talking rather than executing as we know. Execution might mean he could be wrong and be blamed.

It all made good sense to me until… Until I heard that the Mayor knew about this and had been talking to the Star about this since June. For over 3 months this subject had been discussed between the Mayor and the Star and nothing had been accomplished to develop the Mayor’s ad strategy for the development of the Region.

What was the Councillor reaction:

  • “That didn't sit well with some councillors, irked at a last-minute request to buy into the magazine campaign."

“Irked.” What a mealy-mouthed word to describe the embarrassment that Councillors were put in. They really had no choice. Frankly, I am surprised that four Councillors voted against the proposal. Was this their way of showing disgust at the Mayor in the meekest possible way rather than standing up and censuring the Mayor for the way that he treated them and us? Why this time around, it seems that no Councillor was “loopy!” It seems that they were all kept in the dark.

And still no real objection. Why Councillor Loopy himself had to spend several minutes telling us about all of the good things in the region to publicize instead. He should have been assigned the task to write the copy by Council. He would do such a good job with his media skills!

If the Mayor is correct, given the advertising genius that he is, we just wasted $100,000 of taxpayer money because he had better things to do over the last few months. Red Bull, completing the commuter survey and developing new Greenlink Schwunnels are much more important than keeping his Councillors and the public up-to-date. Delegation to one Councillor or several of them to work the problem, I hardly think so.

Better to have a last-minute crisis to force the payment of the money to the Star than to have a reasoned approach that might have resulted in no magazine being created but perhaps something more productive being accomplished. Imagine, actually working with the County together to achieve something for the good of the region as well. It is so much better to play a divide and conquer game isn’t it. Because they did something, we have to as well, whether it makes sense or not.

I am sure that you are surprised that no member of WeACT was there to speak on this expenditure of money. I would expect that there might have been some people, just plain ordinary taxpayers, who might have spoken for or against the proposal. I was shocked that business people and the Chamber who might be considered the main beneficiaries of this expenditure were not there to speak in favour of spending the money.

The reason that none of them were there is because initially this was a Communications Package item and no one is allowed to speak on those matters under the Procedural Bylaw that the Mayor so steadfastly enforces. The Rules had to be waived in order for the money to be spent and they were, exactly according to the Bylaw.

How legalistic. How anti-democratic!

For months this matter was hanging around and at no time did anyone think that citizens should have the right to speak about it. This matter could easily have been deferred until the next Council meeting to permit people to register as delegations. That was not done. The voice of citizens was silenced. But then again, we are nothing more than the pocketbooks to some of these people.

All that would have happened I am sure if this matter was postponed was that the Councillors would have had to sit around for an hour or so listening to the usual suspects complaining about wasting money at a time when this City is in deep financial crisis. Then they would have approved the expenditure anyway. Why waste time listening to citizens when the result was a foregone conclusion.

Had enough yet? Don’t go away, the best is yet to come.

Interestingly, it was the Mayor who decided to be involved in the debate and who was ultimately forced to vote. I like Councillor Jones. He is a vote-counter. He was at least honest about it all when he said that we all knew that this matter was going to be tied in votes and that the Mayor would have to make the ultimate decision. And he did, he voted to spend the money.

Was this a good decision on his part or bad decision. Frankly, for the purpose of this BLOG, it does not matter. My question is why the Mayor participated at all. He could have let the Motion die by leaving it as a tie. That has happened before.

Why was he in the Chair when this was being debated? Why did he vote? Why didn’t he declare a pecuniary interest in this matter and not be involved at all given how he has acted in "an abundance of caution" in other matters that may directly or indirectly impact him as a conflict of interest. Does he not understand how bad this issue could be and how it could impact him? Does he not understand the turmoil that this City could be put through if someone decided to take him on over it? Does he have a legal opinion that he does not have a problem? Or does he just not care anymore because he knows that no one will challenge him, or thinks he does?

What am I talking about… I have already discussed enough the relationship between his Chief of Staff and the Star’s Editorial/Op-ed Editor. But it is much more than that. An in-law of the Mayor works for the Star and is in a very senior position there.

Is this a legal conflict of interest situation or not? Opinions can differ. However, it just looks bad! The Mayor broke the tie and by doing so gave the Star $100,000. Everything about the way this vote and expenditure took place just looks bad! The lack of Councillor condemnation just looks bad! Doesn't anyone at City Hall appreciate this?

When you put it all together and view it along with other recent matters such as:

  •  the unreleased 400 Building draft audit that followed the whitewash WUC audit

  •  the $350,000/almost 2 year search time Freedom of Information request secrecy

  •  the new Greenlink proposal that has already been rejected by the Senior Levels and never disclosed to citizens nor perhaps to Councillors other than the loopy ones,

  •  the strange lack of litigation threats by the Mayor

  •  the accurate but narrow comments about the meeting with Kwame over the Tunnel deal and the need for the Mayor and his lawyer to go public to put the record straight

  •  the whole Tunnel deal and its secrecy

  •  the last-minute canal vision press conference,

  •  the secrecy over the garage proposal that was only disclosed by our famous Columnist,

  •  the leaks to the media

one has to wonder what this City is coming to.

I really do wish I had an easy answer to what can be done. Let's be direct, there is no remedy other than our Councillors right now. We need a champion (or more likely a few champions) amongst the Councillors to have the guts to stand up and take a stand for the interests of citizens.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs is a joke and the only time they really will get involved is when the City is on the verge of bankruptcy. We have no right to recall of Members of Council thanks to the Premier even though he extended their term by year. To expect a citizen to put their assets at risk in a court action is highly unlikely. In spite of the odd Editorial or comment, Windsor has a media that acts as cheerleaders rather than as members of the Fourth Estate.

I can only hope that this is starting to happen, that several Councillors have had enough of this abusive relationship. Perhaps it is as can be shown by the vote on the Star issue or the lack of threatened litigation against the Senior Levels or the vote on the garage.

It happened with the Council under former Mayor Hurst and we had the best City Council as far as I am concerned for years. Will we see March 4, 2003 again? Your guess is as good as mine.

More Border Issues


No, not those borders. Rather these issues which are of concern to Windsor/Detroit.

Here are some more thoughts that you may want to consider.

DO THEY REALLY SUPPORT THE AMBASSADOR BRIDGE COMPANY

I am sure that you were as surprised as I was to see L. Brooks Patterson, head honcho of Oakland County, and Richard Blouse Jr., President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, support the DRIC project rather than the Ambassador Bridge Project in a Free Press commentary.

We know that L. Brooks was involved in the embarrassment along with our Mayor in a press conference in Detroit where he endorsed DRIC and the Chamber has been a staunch DRIC supporter for some time.

A County Executive butting in again in a City of Detroit matter. Is he trying to undercut Ken Cockrel Jr. before he even has a chance to get going as Mayor! As I wrote before:
  • "One has to ask the question, as disagreeable as it may seem given the turmoil in Detroit over the last few months, what motivated the County Executive to make his comments at this time..."
Was this statement a Joe Corradino event? It may be a mystery that can never be solved just like the press conference:
  • “Patterson’s spokesman Robert Dustman said Joe Corradino of the Corradino Group handled the invites. The Corradino Group is a consulting firm working with MDOT on the project.

    Corradino said Dustman was responsible for the guest list.

    “I didn’t handle any of that,” Corradino said.

    Francis, Windsor’s mayor, also said Corradino put the list together.”

Bear with me. What if you are these two people and you want to drop your support of DRIC. How do you do so and not look like a fool?

Of course, one way is to tell people that you have examined the situation and that you have changed your mind and are now supportive of the Ambassador Bridge project moving forward in an expedited fashion. That does not mean that you have to withdraw your support of DRIC. All it means is you have looked at the arguments, as an example made by Senator Cropsey, and believe that they make sense today for the region.

Of course, some people in positions of power might be unable to ever admit that they might have made a mistake in the past. People might start questioning some of their other decisions.

The other approach then it is to create a "strawman" as the basis of your support and then when it is knocked away, you can change your position. That has to be exactly what these two gentlemen have done.

I cannot believe that these two smart man and their staffs are so out of touch that they did not know what the true legal position in Canada is. I am sure that they did not want to spread deliberate falsehoods so they are hoping that someone will clarify the situation for them so that they can back off. They made this comment:
  • "The current fight in Lansing is whether to build another private bridge across the Detroit River or to construct a publicly owned bridge through DRIC. This is really a moot debate, because the Canadian government passed a law prohibiting the proposed location of a private bridge that would dump additional traffic into downtown Windsor. Therefore, the next viable option is a public bridge, which is what DRIC is attempting to accomplish."

THERE IS NO SUCH LAW IN CANADA!

Do you see how clever they are? Look at what they also say:

  • "The next viable option is a public bridge"

Once they are told that there is no such legislation, then they can support their preferred alternative, the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project.

Eddie Francis really should have invited L. Brooks to come over here when they met and should invite Mr. Blouse as well. Then they would know that the Ambassador Bridge does not route traffic through downtown Windsor.

They made one other comment that is completely incorrect as well so that this myth can be shot down also:

  • "However, the longer the delay with DRIC, the greater the risk the bridge project will move somewhere else. Buffalo, a community that would welcome the jobs and investment from the project, is poised to build another international bridge if the DRIC process falters."

They have to know that a new bridge is going to be built in Buffalo regardless of what takes place here. Moreover, MDOT itself has said that our region does not compete with Buffalo for a border crossing:

  • "Myth Debunked: Michigan & New York are in Competition

    ►Different trade corridors

    ►Different markets for commodities

    ►No indication of traffic shift from new crossing

    ►Both new crossings needed to support economic growth of region

    ►Southwestern Ontario land bridge between Michigan & New York

So these two gentlemen will now be able to switch their support to the Bridge Company after they are "corrected" in what they are saying.

I just don't know why such convoluted thinking is necessary. Why not do things the simple way. Politics!

Again, some people, dear reader, may say that this is wishful thinking on my part again. How wrong they are. These two gentlemen desperately want out of supporting DRIC but are afraid to admit the error of their way.

If they were such strong DRIC supporters, don’t you think that their comment would have been placed in the Free Press BEFORE the vote in Lansing and not AFTER everything was done. Clearly, they did not want to influence anyone to be negative against the Ambassador Bridge Company.

They have realized that the border crossing issue is not “moot” anymore. As more and more people are coming to understand, the DRIC bridge is not a viable alternative at all for Michigan.

Nor should it be one for Canada!

One final thought. If these men already knew the true legal position in Canada and they already knew that the Buffalo competion was a debunked myth, and yet they still made the statement, how should we judge them? If they chose NOT to look into these matters before they made their comment, how should we judge them?

More importantly, we would need to ask WHY they spread these statements if they knew they were wrong or if they did not do their homework to find out even after the negative comments after the L. Brooks/Eddie press conference! That is what really interests me!

ANOTHER BLOW TO DRIC SUPPORTERS

If only DRIC supporters would read the newspapers and figure out that new technology increases capacity at the existing border crossings at minimal costs compared with spending billions on a new bridge and plaza with connecting roads about a mile away from the huge Ambassador Gateway project.

If only they were ever able to get past their hatred.

Here's a story out of Port Huron that is another nail in the DRIC coffin:

  • "ID system could cut wait at border
    Port Huron Times Herald

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection is installing new technology on the Blue Water Bridge that will use radio frequencies to upload biographical information about international travelers.

    The system, which officials say will reduce border wait times, comes as the Michigan Secretary of State takes the final steps toward launching a new driver license that will work with the technology.

    The new radio frequency machines, which are being installed at border crossings nationwide, work by reading a random digital number assigned to certain government documents, including passport cards and NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST cards.

    Chief Ron Smith, spokesman for the border agency, said the technology will allow border guards to view travelers' information on computer screens without having to type or scan information into a computer.

    When a car approaches the security booths, a machine will be triggered to read the
    numbers on the government documents. By the time the car is to the checkpoint, the guard will have information on a computer screen, Smith said.

    Having the information automatically available will save 10 to 15 seconds per vehicle, Smith said.

    "That is going to wipe out seconds per car," he said. "And that doesn't seem like a lot until you realize that 3,500 cars cross that bridge every day."

DRIC IS AN "OFFICIAL" MEGAPROJECT

I only wish I had found the MDOT presentation before.

As you can tell from these two slides, MDOT admits that their project should be viewed in the context of being a MegaProject.

Without belabouring the point, I wonder now if we should analyze whether the MegaProject formula set out by the Danish Professor in his thesis fits in our context:

  • "In fact, there seemed to be a formula at work:
    (underestimated costs) + (overestimated revenues) + (undervalued environmental impacts) + (overvalued economic development effects) = (project approval)

    Many project proponents don’t hesitate to use this Machiavellian formula for project approval, even if it means misleading parliaments, the public and the media about the costs and benefits of projects. The result is an unhealthy ‘‘survival of the unfittest’’ for large public works and other construction projects."

Hey, he may have something there! This might be a nice project for our new University of Windsor Ontario Research Policy Chair in Cross-Border Transportation Policy, Bill Anderson, to undertake! Perhaps I could get my Doctorate if he sponsored my studies too, assuming the strike ever ends.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Michigan Legislative Provisions



I thought that you might be interested in reading the actual wording of the budget provisions with respect to DRIC that was passed in Michigan.

In addition, I thought it might be even more interesting for you to read the brilliant, well reasoned argument of the Senator who supports the DRIC bridge in Michigan in the Senate Journal [sarcasm intended] and also the comments made by Senator Cropsey that will go far to prove "legislative intent" if this matter proceeds further.

I still find it difficult to understand why anyone would support DRIC based on the comments made by Senator Cropsey. There has to be something that I am missing since I just do not get it.

Please note the strong limitations imposed upon MDOT with respect to the DRIC matter that are now in "black-and-white" and in particular the comments made by Senator Cropsey. In addition, the Senator does need to tell us more about this blockbuster of a statement:

  • "MDOT is honoring the existing commitments, including numerous agreements and the 1999 application for the Gateway Project. The department should be keenly aware that the Federal Highway Administration, Congress, the Ambassador Bridge, and taxpayers have all relied on the partnership commitments, and this Legislature demands that MDOT fulfills its commitments under the Gateway Project. Indeed, MDOT has the moral obligation to fulfill its commitments under the Gateway agreements, including the completion of the second span of the Ambassador Bridge. Anything less than fulfilling existing commitments will seriously undermine any credibility of the department."

Sit back and gasp as you see that the cost of the DRIC study in Michigan was 1000% more than originally projected, from $3.3 million to $33 million. I wonder what the percentage increase in Canada was.

  • Sec. 384. (1) The state transportation department is allowed to finish the Detroit River international crossing (DRIC) study provided that activity associated with finishing the DRIC study shall not bind the state in any way to construction. Certain preliminary activities which are necessary to prepare a proposal for a decision by the legislature are allowed as long as they do not bind the state. Those activities include all of the following:

    (a) Applications for permits and approvals.

    (b) Preliminary design engineering work.

    (c) Preliminary utility planning and relocation.

    (d) Preliminary financial and funding arrangements.

    (2) 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 (1).

    (3) In addition, 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 cannot enter into any binding commitment to construct the crossing until authorizing legislation is enacted into law.
Do you think that MDOT finally understands that the Legislature makes the decisions after they are told four times that they cannot do anything binding without legislative approval? We shall see.

Senator Basham’s statement is as follows:

The previous speaker said that he was ready to take questions. I was here to make a comment, but I wasn’t prepared to have a debate on this issue. I believe the previous speaker did support the conference report. I do believe that a projection is exactly a projection. I know a good college in this state, the University of Michigan, that always makes a projection about the economy. The economy is supposed to be turning around. Just around the corner, we are supposed to have a bottom in this recession that we have been going through in the state of Michigan. Next year when we hear a projection, it’s always going to be around the corner next year.

I think that MDOT does a wonderful job for this state. I think you get a good bang for your buck. I think that certainly a projection is a projection, and I am glad that we can move forward with the Transportation budget and the DRIC process.

Senator Cropsey’s first statement is as follows:

I do have a fairly lengthy statement because this is a tremendously important budget, and it is one that will have implications well into next year and probably the years beyond...

One of the key sections that everybody is aware of is Section 384, which is the Detroit River International Crossing language. This states very clearly that MDOT cannot enter into an agreement to construct the crossing without specific authorizing legislation. Only certain preliminary activities are allowed in the process of preparing a proposal for the Legislature. Keep in mind that this is preparation of a proposal to the Legislature. That is, applications for permits, preliminary design work, preliminary utility planning and relocation, and preliminary financial and funding arrangements. But this is only to make a presentation of a proposal to the Legislature, and they cannot go beyond that.

I cannot overemphasize that I believe the DRIC bridge will reduce state road projects over the entire state for the next generation. The MDOT testimony is that the connecting roads cost at least $167 million. Citibank has said that the connecting roads could cost $1 billion. Citibank has also said that if a DRIC bridge is built, after five years of operation, we would probably need a subsidy of $965 million that has to come from the taxpayers or from somewhere.

For perspective, the state gets only 30 percent of all road funding, so for $167 million in connecting roads, we need to raise $556 million in new road funding. The $193 million annual subsidy means that you need $643 million in new road funding. The summary for the first eight years of DRIC, you will need a 10-cent to 12-cent per gallon gas tax increase just for the DRIC. These figures assume that the DRIC bridge will make up to 75 percent of all river crossing truck traffic, and if that was considered, it could be far worse.

There are a few other problems that we have with DRIC that I believe the department has to overcome. The department’s traffic projections in the last two decades, the MDOT has a poor history of projecting international traffic. For the Blue Water Bridge, their projections were too high by 60 percent after just 15 years. Worse, their projections for the proposed DRIC bridge are too high by over 20 percent after just four years. The MDOT testified in front of the ad hoc committee that private investors require an investment grade traffic projection study before building. MDOT miscalculations in international crossing traffic projections is stunning.

Another issue, the MDOT has a poor history of cost projections. The Blue Water Bridge was projected to cost $67 million. The new span cost $107 million, and the new plaza needed to correct the original plan will cost an additional $433 million—at least. The Blue Water Bridge will end up being 800 percent more expensive than projected. The MDOT projected the DRIC study to cost $3.3 million. Four years later, the cost had escalated to $33.3 million another 1,000 percent increase. The Michigan Department of Transportation claims the DRIC bridge will be self-supporting, but the only private sector cost analysis we’ve seen estimates the DRIC bridge will need taxpayer subsidies of just under $1 billion in the first five years. This methodology ought to give all of us pause.

The DRIC bridge would also devastate a Detroit community. There are several things that I believe needs to be done, and the department would agree on at least four of these before a DRIC bridge is built. First of all, you have to get a congressional or presidential permit. Congress has to act on it. Three things this Legislature must do: We have to have a P-3 law—a public-private partnership law—to govern a DRIC bridge; you need a toll provision law; and you need a governance law. Three items that this Legislature would have to pass. Other items that should be done is that Detroit should have a say; the Detroit City Council should give its approval. We also need an updated traffic projection, an investment grade traffic projection, on what we can do, and we should do it and not just allow Canada to do it, but this ought to be done with our interests in mind. We ought to have the study that says how a new DRIC bridge impacts the other three border crossings. Will they go bankrupt? Also the Ambassador Bridge and the Canadian government, in view of their legal settlements, the projections need to be redone in view of a new Ambassador Bridge going up.

I am especially concerned the committee concurred that the intent of this language does not in any way grant a license to MDOT, but rather it is a limitation. In the ad hoc committee, MDOT agreed that they have little expertise in alternative financing and public-private partnerships, and they agreed that they have no legislative authorization to proceed. I reminded MDOT that this state has had its clock cleaned on negotiating tribal compacts, and the Legislature is in no way interested in compounding our economic situation by allowing MDOT to negotiate with foreign interests. That is why we agreed that MDOT could only explore preliminary funding arrangements but has no authority whatsoever to enter into binding contracts with such financial institutions until they have explicit authorization from this Legislature. With that, I believe we are willing to take questions.

Senator Cropsey’s second statement is as follows:

I am rising to support this budget, but I did want to make very clear that Section 384, the committee was especially concerned that the intent of the language did not grant MDOT a license but a limitation. That is why we have said MDOT could only explore preliminary funding arrangements, but they have no authority whatsoever to enter into binding contracts with such financial institutions until they have explicit authorization from this Legislature.

This means that we expect Director Steudle or any DRIC consultants will not enter into any binding agreements, as the boilerplate states, on any public-private partnership in any way until there is explicit authorization by the full Legislature. In the meantime, MDOT and the DRIC consultants perform academic research to do preliminary financial and funding arrangements, but MDOT certain knows that this Legislature is watching and will reach with appropriate oversight to ensure this is merely preliminary.

Finally, MDOT is honoring the existing commitments, including numerous agreements and the 1999 application for the Gateway Project. The department should be keenly aware that the Federal Highway Administration, Congress, the Ambassador Bridge, and taxpayers have all relied on the partnership commitments, and this Legislature demands that MDOT fulfills its commitments under the Gateway Project. Indeed, MDOT has the moral obligation to fulfill its commitments under the Gateway agreements, including the completion of the second span of the Ambassador Bridge. Anything less than fulfilling existing commitments will seriously undermine any credibility of the department. The Legislature expects that we will study the DRIC for the future, but absolutely we expect to fulfill all existing obligations on the Gateway Project that is currently underway.

In talking with Director Steudle this morning, he very clearly stated to me that MDOT would not in any way impair the Ambassador Bridge project and stated to me that MDOT is on record that the Ambassador Bridge should be twinned. With that, I urge adoption of the report.

Border Race And Mayor Cockrel



For the border race, I do not mean the so-called competition between the Ambassador Bridge Company and DRIC as to who will build their bridge first.

Rather, I'm talking about what euphemistically might be discussed under the subject heading of "Environmental Justice."
  • "EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 12898

    FEDERAL ACTIONS TO ADDRESS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IN MINORITY POPULATIONS AND LOW-INCOME POPULATIONS

    By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
    Section 1-1. Implementation

    1-101. Agency Responsibilities. To the greatest extend practicable and permitted by law, and consistent with the principles set forth in the report on the National Performance Review, each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States."

The EPA defines environmental justice as

  • “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."

This is really not something that has been addressed on our side of the river. It is not the kind of issue here as it is in the US. It is certainly not something that we would be very comfortable talking about.

If you want to understand it very graphically, then listen to the clip above that I recorded. Listen to this interview that I heard on one of the Detroit radio stations. Adolph Mongo is a community activist and head of Adolph Mongo and Associates, a political consulting firm in Detroit.

Listen especially around the 4:15 minute mark. To me as a Canadian these are shocking comments. I would be surprised if anyone would dare make these types of statements over here. Yet, when I made a presentation to Detroit Council several years ago along with a number of other groups with respect to the border crossing, race was a very big issue with Detroit Council. I was quite surprised about how directly and easily the subject of race was brought up and discussed. Obviously my Canadian naïveté was showing.




video


As for the new Mayor of Detroit, if he is to be consistent with his past, he will have to take action immediately to put DRIC on hold. Below is a resolution that he introduced a number of years ago with respect to DIFT-- the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal. His concern was with respect to project of about almost 1,000 acres. When you combine that project along with several hundreds of acres to be eaten up by DRIC, then South West Detroit is devastated.

More hundreds of homes and businesses will be torn down in the name of these projects and people forced to move and relocate at a time of uncertainty while the tax base of Detroit will be further eroded by these projects.

No one it seems has taken a look yet at the combined environmental impact of both projects in Detroit. They are kept separate and distinct for obvious reasons. In fact, one probably should take a look at these two projects along with the Blue Water Bridge project as one total package to see what the impact will be on both Detroit and Port Huron. After all, the DRIC DEIS deals with the impact on traffic of a new DRIC bridge being built in Windsor/Detroit.

I found a copy of a note that I sent to then Member of Council Cockrel in January, 2006 and the response I received back from him. Here are some excerpts:

  • I remembered your remark at Delray that there was a need to study all of the various projects being planned in South West Detroit as a whole and not look at each one separately. If you needed a practical example of the need to do so, this may be the information you need! [I sent him a copy of an MDOT Powerpoint]

    Interestingly, I note:

    -The same consultant is involved in both projects (Corradino)

    -The same project manager is involved in both projects (Mohammed Alghurabi)

    -There is the same threat to the community and the same constituents that are in harms way

    -Same process by which MDOT determines what Detroit needs

    -Same lofty expectations and the view that Senior levels know better (DIFT--"the greatest opportunity to stabilize Livernois-Junction yard, secure significant public infrastructure investments (from which private investment follows), and add economic value to the local community is through negotiation toward a partnership with MDOT."

    -Same negative impact on Detroit

  • REPLY----I am not entirely surprised at this given that MDOT has a history of publicizing that both these projects as well as the proposed DRTP are all under active study. MDOT director Gloria Jeff has even come before our City Council and the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments on multiple occasions and said as much.They have not gone so far as to characterize the projects as a "package though" so that is interesting.

Mayor Cockrel has no choice but to insist that a major environmental impact investigation be undertaken immediately. Let us find out early on what he is made of. If he does not do it, then he may as well not run during the next mayoral campaign.

If anyone believes that the border race will soon be finished, they will have a big surprise waiting.


Monday, September 29, 2008

It's March 4, 2003 All Over Again, Part 2


Oh my gosh. My sides are still hurting from all of that laughter. In fact, I almost spilled my cup of tea since I was shaking so hard. Who needs tea leaves now when you have Gord!

I am sorry. I have to do an extra BLOG about Gord Henderson's Saturday column. If you wanted confirmation of the split between the Mayor and Council, the Sheriff just gave it to us.

And if Gord wanted to fuel that fire between them, he could not have done a better job.

Poor Daryl Newcombe. Now he knows why he was given an interview with the Mayor. He was used as a tool by the Mayor against Council so that Gord could write about Windsor's weapon of mass destruction, David Estrin. Daryl's interview was the set up with the subdued Mayor being cast as our downtrodden hero in need of the legal help of our hired gun outside lawyer to save the City from the nasty bureaucrats in Toronto. Daryl got some info, but Gord got the real scoops.


Still, it is better than what we Bloggers get! We have to scrounge for our information, not get it over a cuppa like the traditional media stars. Tea, watercress sandwiches, scones and scoops all on a silver platter just before press time.

While superficially Gord’s column seems to boost the position of the Mayor, BLOG readers know that you have to read much more deeply into what Gord is writing. This column is designed to inflame just about everybody in this City and elsewhere against Eddie. Gord can then look innocent and say “Really. Did I do that?”

Bureaucrats… the faceless wonders are demonized and by name too. I am sure that Peter Wilkinson, Shelly Jamieson, and Bruce McCuaig being the “consummate professionals” that they are will just chuckle at this silliness and not take it out on Windsor. Right!

Of course, this must mean that perhaps MTO’s Fausto Natarelli who is directly involved with the Mayor must be considered Eddie’s friend so he may be in trouble with his superiors since he was not outed.

Sandra and Dwight… oh my gosh…they have not been invited to High Tea with the Premier so they have no power. If that is the case, then why does Gord keep putting the pressure on them to do something. He is wasting the Star’s ink writing about them.

Windsor business leaders… stop talking to Councillors. You are only allowed to talk to the Voice of Council who will ignore you anyway. I’m surprised that these key people were not identified too so that we Windsorites could take out our feelings of animosity against them because they were selling us down the river. Who would ever buy a single thing from them again or imagine how difficult it would be to get a permit from the City to do something. That was the threat wasn’t it. Back off or you will be in big trouble in this City financially if you are ever named.

Nothing like making enemies of the movers and shakers, the people who will help get us out of this recession.

Councillors…we know that there are at least three “weak links.” IE those who have formerly supported the Mayor but are now wavering. However, what I suspect is that these three, who are not the Three Blind Mice, are the swing votes who right now are opposed to giving Eddie the right to sue the Senior Levels. What it has to mean is that the votes are 6-4 at least against Eddie right now within Council. Gord’s column will do nothing more than solidify their opposition to the Mayor’s proposed actions. Otherwise, it will look like they can be intimidated by a mere column in the newspaper.

I wonder which Councillors were as loopy as Gord:
  • “Some of us waited with bated breath for news that there had been a meeting of the minds and a compromise between DRIC's Parkway and the city's GreenLink alternative might be within reach at last.”

To whom did the word “us” refer? Which Councillors were in the loop this time around?

Strange, my liberal source ---free with information not Big “L” Liberal--- told me that Eddie already knew that his new Greenlink had been shot down by the Province long before the Tuesday meeting. If in fact that is true, then the Tuesday meeting was a phony designed to accomplish one of Eddie’s unknown agenda items.

Other media… I have already discussed this subject enough. It will be interesting for the Councillors to know whether the media got the information before they did about the Tuesday meeting.

Windsor citizens… I am outraged that there was a leak about the new Greenlink plan before it has ever been presented to Windsor citizens to see if we are supportive. I guess it doesn’t matter what we think after all… we can just pay the bills. It’s pretty much like the canal vision. Eddie decides and we must follow like it or not.

Thanks Gord, now we have an Integrity Commissioner matter because of your comment “according to my sources.”

DUHHHH I wonder who that person was who leaked the confidential City information and who gave that person authority to reveal this confidential City data. That could seriously prejudice our negotiating position! Junior should be livid.

Council has no choice now but to demand that an investigation be undertaken. What gall to reveal information to one taxpayer, merely because he writes a newspaper column, and not to reveal it to all the rest of us. It is very detailed information as well. The length of the Schwunnels has been reduced to 2800 metres and the difference in cost is only $150 million.

The Ambassador Bridge Company… last but not least they have been told that David Estrin is still working for the City notwithstanding the Court of Appeals decision in the United States. If this is true, then the damages to which this City may now be at risk have just increased dramatically if the Bridge Company wins in its case.

Have the Mayor and Council put themselves at risk personally too now if Estrin is still acting? Would this be considered as deliberate acts to hurt the Bridge Company after the Appeals decision warned them of the risk of keeping Estrin on? Has the City obtained an outside legal opinion supporting this?

What Greg Heil did certainly should look appealling to Councillors now if a decision is made to use Estrin! I would certainly suggest demanding a recorded vote on the Estrin matter and express my opposition if I was in their position if I wanted to escape liability!

In the end, this all really all comes down to one thing. it has nothing to do with the DRIC Road or Greenlink or the new Greenlink. Eddie has known for a long time that he has lost out on that and there is still time for him to arrive at a “compromise.” After all, this intense pressure by Henderson’s column can be used by Eddie to say that he forced the Province to do something even if they make the tiniest of changes to the Greenlink proposal. He turns into our saviour, all accomplished by him personally in spite of a weak-kneed, turn-coat Council.

It all comes down to David Estrin. Look at the last two lines of what Gord wrote:

  • “Apart from the power of public opinion, Windsor is left with but one weapon in this fight, David Estrin, the guy who wrote the book on environmental law in Ontario.

    But what a weapon.”

Hardly. That weapon may have no bang in it considering what the US Court of Appeals has said:

  • "There are some conflicts of interest to which a client may not consent. Thus, the district court was only partially correct when it stated “that a client may impliedly waive its consent to an attorney’s conflict of interest,” J.A. at 589 (Order at 6), because it ignored the question of whether Gowlings’s simultaneous and adverse representation of CenTra and Windsor was in fact a conflict to which CenTra could consent. We hold that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Gowlings’s conflict of interest with regards to the Bridge Plan was one to which CenTra could consent...”

Now I understand that retaining Estrin to fight the Province may not seem to impact the Bridge Company directly but it would in my opinion. Don’t forget, the City does not want to build a road to the Ambassador Bridge. The Bridge Company could still make the argument that even with Estrin’s opposition to the Province’s road, which is not about the road’s route but on its manner of construction, Estrin is helping the City and the Province build a road away from the Ambassador Bridge to its detriment. Accordingly, Estrin should not act.

If the Court of Appeals is correct and the facts support what the Court has said, then Estrin is in serious trouble and so is his law firm. The conflict could not be waived.

Why would the City want to continue to be in this mess and run-up damages and why would it not want to retain another top-notch environmental lawyer in Ontario? They should and they should do so immediately even if it is just out of an abundance of caution.

The reality is that Eddie and Estrin are tied to each other at the hip. Eddie does not dare get rid of Estrin and that is one of the reasons why Estrin "fired" the Bridge Company as a client. They are in this together all the way.

So how does Eddie redirect attention away from himself and try to help out Estrin. Simple. Get Council to pass a Resolution authorizing Estrin to act even AFTER the Court of Appeals decision is reached. Then it is not the fault of Eddie "I am a lawyer" Francis if the Bridge Company gets a huge punitive damages award but that of Council!

If Council will not do that after an in camera meeting when Eddie asked, then surely it is expected that Gord will shame them into it after his Column if they want a political future here. Which "weak link" could resist that consequence! Better to toe the line

I can go back to juices now. No need to drink caffeine thanks to Gord's insights.

Can you image though. All of those machinations and the planning required just for this one simple point. No wonder nothing of substance ever gets done here.