Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stories For The Holiday Weekend


Gobble gobble gobble.

No that does not mean "Eat Beef this weekend!" It is Turkey talk for here is some interesting reading for your Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy the beautiful weather!

SLAM THE PROVINCE MEETING

I see that there is another Special “Eddie is our saviour” Council meeting
  • “A special meeting of Windsor City Council has been scheduled for Thursday October 16, 2008 at 6:00 p.m., Council Chambers, Windsor City Hall. The agenda will include a Border Update. Please note that TV Cogeco Cable 11 will broadcast this meeting LIVE.”

Someone obviously went to a lot of trouble to have this event televised so presumably this will be a big extravaganza in which the Mayor will tell us about Son of Greenlink which has already been rejected by DRIC.

Expect to see Parsons Brinckerhoff in attendance, probably making a presentation with all of the errors made by DRIC being pointed out in great detail. I wonder if David Estrin will dare show his face as the City’s lawyer. If so, I am sure that the Bridge Company lawyers would like to see that as well.

I would have liked to have given you a lot more information by calling up one of the Councillors and asking the question about what is going on. However, I decided that there was no point in doing so. I doubt if they have seen the Agenda for the meeting yet. Unless they are loopy!

I note that the Agenda for the October 20 meeting is to be posted today but no time is given for the Agenda for the meeting on the 16th to be posted. I wonder what else is on the Agenda or are we to be surprised by that as well.

I wonder if Delegations will be permitted to speak at the session. Probably not because Eddie will not want to hear himself being blamed for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars and stalling on 15,000 jobs. Nor will he have the nerve to listen as he is being slammed for still spending thousands on another rejected Plan. He would be so busy interrupting people with his Points of Clarification as delegations spoke that the "kill" button on the PA system would be worn out by evening's end.

Oh well, I assume this is the justification for months more of more stalling and delays. The big question of the evening is whether or not our Mayor will threaten litigation. By the way, on John Fairley's show, Councillor Valentinis made it clear that nothing will happen as far as a decison being made for litigation for months and months and months from now so don't take anything said seriously.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Mr. New Detroit Mayor would you please watch what you say so that Messrs. Sutts and Francis don’t have to clarify the record again to let people know what is going on. Remember, they were forced to do so by your predecessor.

We learned from a Free Press article on the ninth that:

  • “Clifford Sutts, Windsor's lead negotiator on the tunnel, said he had not yet heard of the Harris proposal and declined to comment on it. He said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is awaiting a call from Cockrel on the issue once Detroit's new mayor settles into office.”

Yet you claimed, Mr. Mayor, in a Free Press article on the eighth:

  • “A big part of the deficit stems from Kilpatrick’s failed attempt to sell Detroit’s half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to raise $65 million, a proposal Cockrel said is dead. Cockrel said he has spoken with Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis about a modified proposal where the two cities would enter into a joint management agreement.”

You better clarify immediately exactly what you mean by that Mr. Mayor. I expect that your conversation with our Mayor took place some time ago but who knows. On September 18, you said

  • "As it stands at this point, the tunnel deal as we know it is dead," Cockrel, who will be publicly sworn in as mayor Friday, said during a news conference at Detroit city hall. "But I think there is still some potential there.

    I've already had some preliminary discussions with Mayor (Eddie) Francis about that. I look forward to continuing that dialogue."

I note that Mr. Sutts did not say that he had not spoken with anyone from Detroit, just that he did not know about the Harris proposal

Who needs another accurate but narrow answer about what is going on with the Tunnel deal.

EDDIE’S WAY OR NO HIGHWAY

I find it interesting that the City and County seemed to have agreed that poverty is an issue for our area and to work on a solution.

  • “Windsor and Essex County councils agreed Wednesday on several new regional initiatives -- including development of a broad-based anti-poverty plan.”

Moreover, it finally appears as if our Mayor understands that infrastructure jobs can be the way out of our economic dilemma:

  • "Instead of plummeting from $230 million in 2002 to $158 million this year, Windsor's debt would be nearing $300 million, with punishing interest rates crippling the city's capacity to respond, including investing in labour-intensive capital projects."

Accordingly, one might have hoped that he would back off of his ridiculous opposition to the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project and the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge so that 15,000 or more high-paying infrastructure and spinoff jobs could be created. At the very least at the Joint Councils meeting, one would have expected that Eddie would have looked at some way to work out an arrangement with respect to the Manning Road construction so that some jobs can be created to give hope.

Not our Mayor. Oppose, oppose, oppose! And the heck with new jobs.

  • “Burton's comment that the city shouldn't be putting up roadblocks to county projects like the widening of Manning Road didn't go over well with Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis.

    Francis said the city has the right under the environmental assessment process to comment on road projects in neighbouring municipalities.

    Francis said the city supports widening of County Road 22, E.C. Row Expressway and Manning Road, but objects only to the timing of the work, to ensure the Highway 401 extension to a new border crossing is completed first.

    "We're not against Manning and E.C. Row. We are against the sequencing," said Francis.

    "We can disagree without being disagreeable."

    Essex Mayor Ron McDermott said the congestion on County Road 22 and Manning Road needs to be corrected sooner rather than later "when half of us will be dead."

That’s it. No jobs. They did not bow down to Eddie’s wisdom.

CREDIT UNION SHOULD DEMAND ITS MONEY BACK

The subject of the Windsor Essex Development Commission and its future should have been one of the issues that was discussed at the Joint Councils meeting.

The City, County and the Woodslee Credit Union are major participants in the Windsor Star magazine that is going across Canada and have contributed significant sums to the ongoing operation of the WEDC.

The Development Commission some might argue is doing terrific work these days:

  • They had a nice trade show in London, England the results of which no one has yet chosen to tell us
  • “The Windsor-Essex Development Commission's website -- www.choosewindsoressex.com -- took a first-place award at the Economic Developers Association of Canada's annual Marketing Canada Awards”
  • With the proactive and supportive stance of the WEDC, a Michigan-based information technology company opened up an office here with one employee although they hope “to add between 15 and 20 employees within the next year or two.”

To be honest though, who needs them. We ought to scrap the organization, refund the money given to support the group and let Windsor’s Mayor do all the work. He does it all now anyway.

After all, the Mayor just returned from overseas after talking to the Red Bull people in London and then he went to Germany to talk to the onion importers. Mind you, I don’t remember hearing the results of that trip either.

  • “The mayor said that he will also use his brief trip overseas to visit Frankfurt, Germany, and hopefully advance the establishment of a perishable food distribution centre in Windsor, a proposal he has been pursuing for almost a year.

    "There have been a lot of steps taken on developing a business case," Francis said. "This trip is an opportunity to meet with the people in Frankfurt and determine the next step."

Now, his office handles new business opportunities for local companies. Here is the press release:

  • Lockheed Martin Seeks Business from Local Aerospace and Defence Companies

    Mayor Eddie Francis wishes to advise local companies of an opportunity from the Consulate of Canada in Philadelphia, PA. In partnership with the Embassy of Canada in Washington D.C. the Consulate requests applications from Canadian Aerospace and Defence Companies interested in doing business with Lockheed Maritime Systems & Sensors (MS2). The companies who are selected by Lockheed Martin will be invited to meet with MS2 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at MS2’s facility in Moorestown, New Jersey. Successful Canadian companies will receive an executive overview of MS2’s ongoing projects and requirements and attend one-on-one meetings with engineers and project managers responsible for vendor selection.

    Applications must be submitted by Friday, October 10, 2008. Please contact the Mayor’s Office for an application if your company specializes in the following: green power; defense-related companies, R&D or SME with capabilities for next generation; Technical Innovate Products, using COTS; and Training.”

Who needs a Development Commission with Eddie on the job! Just keep your mouths shut business people and you can get in on the new business opportunities through Eddie's office. It looks like he will control that now.

Let me see now, with my $25 pro rata refund of the Estrin legal fees, my share of the DRIC project reimbursement and money back from the WEDC extravaganza, I might be able to cover part of my increase in taxes.

Bridge Company: We Are Going To Build That Bridge


Nothing like being outspoken to shock some people back to reality from their DRIC dreams!

I would imagine that a number of bureaucrats on both sides of the river have been searching through their archives to try to figure out where Dan Stamper is coming from:
  • Ambassador Bridge has "right" to twin span
    Stamper: They have to live up to the law

    The Ambassador Bridge company claimed Friday it has all the approvals it needs to start building a six-lane twin span beginning next year.

    Legislation from the 1920s when the bridge was constructed provides the company all it needs to push forward with construction, said president Dan Stamper.

    "There are agreements and legislation out there," he said. "I think we have the necessary approvals. We are going to build a bridge because we have a right…"

    "My hope is people will live up to legislation and agreements made by everybody through the years. I think anybody against replacing an 80-year-old bridge has a different agenda -- one that's not good for the public or transportation.

    "Other than political interference, I see no reason we won't be in the ground next year."

His comments are hardly a surprise. No one as shrewd and as smart as the Owner of the Bridge Company would spend a decade and a half billion dollars building his Enhancement Project on spec! He must have an iron-tight, legal right to do so. I took Stamper’s comment in the Star and earlier ones in almost the same terms in a Canadian and American publication as a reminder to the Governments that the Bridge Company cannot be stopped by bureaucratic foolishness in breach of their legal obligations.

What is interesting to me is the timing. It is very clear from the Cropsey hearings that something is going on in the background. Senator Cropsey’s hints about agreements suggest to me that the Senate was provided with information that they had never seen before.

It was certainly not provided by MDOT, over whom the Legislators are supposed to have oversight. Aren't the Legislators supposed to be kept properly informed by MDOT when their representatives appear in front of them?

That did not happen. Is it a game in which certain information is not to be provided unless specifically asked for? Isn't MDOT supposed to provide them with complete and proper information so that informed decisions can be made?

It took Dan Stamper to tell the MDOT and FHWA representatives as well as the Senators what the contractual rights were, as an example, with respect to maintenance reports and inspections. It was a shock to me that the MDOT representative would make the outrageous remarks that he did in the previous hearings. Either he did not know, which is absolute negligence, or he was deliberately keeping information from the Senator. In either case, MDOT ought to be embarrassed or worse.

Frankly, this echoes what Stamper told the Canadian Senate in their hearings:

  • “There are numerous pieces of legislation governing the Ambassador Bridge, not only in Canada but in the U.S. as well. This legislation in both countries has been created and together they govern the Ambassador Bridge as an international border crossing. Any unilateral change may disrupt the meaning and application of these international agreements.”

I wonder if the Canadian polticians are just as in the dark as their American colleagues or has Transport Canada told them everything? Wouldn't that be a scandal! I have a suspicion that the Senators do not know everything based on this language:

  • "Senator Dawson: At the beginning, when this bill came in we were led to believe, and I am not saying there was any bad faith, it was going to be a bill that would pass easily...

    All of a sudden we understand that there is an adverse effect for one of the strong participants in the bill."

  • "Senator Munson: I wish to echo the sentiments of Senator Dawson and Senator Mercer. This seemed to be slam dunk before."

Suggestions of litigation are hardly new either:

  • “The key elements of Bill C-3 are designed to give bureaucrats the opportunity to take business away from our border crossing and send it to a government-sponsored new bridge… Accordingly, it should not come as a surprise to anyone when we say that we will protect our business.”

Like it or not, and obviously the bureaucrats do not like it, Bridge Company has its protected rights in the Windsor/Detroit corridor. Let me remind you again of what the Department of State said in the United States. That Department issues Presidential permits that would be needed for a DRIC bridge but not by the Ambassador Bridge Company. In a letter dated November 4, 2005 we learned that DRIC in a “closed-door session,” sought

  • “State Department concurrence in the conclusion that the centrally-located alternatives are the only practical alternatives for a new Detroit River International crossing.”

Not only was that concurrence not granted but the State Department stated

  • “Lastly with respect to the conclusion that the only practical alternatives for a new crossing are those that are centrally-located [ie the DRIC proposal], we would point out that the proximity of any new crossing to the existing crossings may mean that a problem at any one crossing may affect all the centrally located crossings.”

By that, State effectively rejected the DRIC proposal due to the damage that it could cause and preserved the Bridge Company's rights conclusively.

I have never understood why millions of dollars and several more years of time has been wasted on the DRIC process when the clearest possible language has been used by the State Department on behalf of the President. Don't the Canadians understand it either?

Interestingly, Stamper’s language in the US publication is consistent with what he said in the Star:

  • “Dan Stamper, president of Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge, said in an interview that with or without approvals from U.S. and Canadian officials, he would move ahead with plans to construct a new, six-lane twin span.

    "We are going to build that bridge," he said…”

I assume that what Stamper is saying is that, if it is needed, the Bridge Company will take the appropriate legal action to protect their business and to ensure that the Governments live up to what they have agreed to do. They would the appropriatge steps to prevent the Governments from continuing to promote DRIC and from using the Environmental Assessment process as the means to try to stop them:

  • “Stamper said legal action by the bridge company remains an option to push forward with its plans or stop DRIC, but hopes it will not be necessary.

    "We have not yet threatened to sue anybody, but we reserve all our rights including legal," he said. "I've had plenty of opportunities, but have not sued anybody. We believe rational people will come to rational decisions.”

We are in a state of limbo right now. With the Canadian election coming up within a few weeks to be followed by the elections in Michigan and United States, not very much is going to happen from the political perspective until we know who is in power.

To me, what Stamper is doing is positioning his Company for the new political regimes on both sides of the border. The Ambassador Gateway project has moved forward and it should finish on time and on budget. The next step obviously is to start construction on the Enhancement Project. That was part of what the Ambassador Gateway was designed for as MDOT has conceded.

There is a touch of frustration and annoyance that comes through loud and clear in what Stamper is saying. Well, you would be concerned too if your billion-dollar project is being delayed improperly! Stamper is telling them that he has no intention of being delayed any longer.

As for lawsuits, the American publication reminded us:

  • “Moroun has a long history of suing governments. One case with Canada lasted 11 years, another, against the U.S. General Services Administration, stretched 25 years.”

We are rapidly moving to decision-making time. The plan of the bureaucrats crashed in flames with the first Michigan hearings and with the Globe and Mail article. Those two incidents on their own finally taught them that they had completely misjudged what the Bridge Company was prepared to do. They never expected that the Bridge Company actually wanted to build their Enhancement Project. They were expected to sell out and at a cheap price.

Anyone who has driven through the Ambassador Gateway project construction should get the message by now wouldn't you think!

Now they know the reality. Their rationale for a DRIC bridge has been shot down as summarized by the comments made by Senator Cropsey in a very nice package. The comments made by Transport Canada during the Parliamentary Hearings and the Observations made by the Canadian Senate will make it extremely difficult for Transport Canada to move forward with a DRIC bridge as they have described it. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

When we finally find out what is going on behind the scenes, I expect that a number of people will be deeply embarrassed about the waste of taxpayer money on the DRIC project to say the least. I wonder what my personal pro-rata share of the DRIC costs are so I can ask for it back just like my $25 for Estrin legal fees.

For myself, I will be interested in reading what the Bridge Company is relying upon and what the political decision-makers seem to know little about. It will be interesting once it is revealed to see how the bureaucrats would try to justify what they have done for so long and at such an outrageous price.

M. Fortier, assuming that he is elected, (but according to the pundits that seems doubtful), and the Conservatives form the Government, may have a very challenging time with Mr. Stamper.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bank Of Windsor Taxpayers Going Broke


The Federal Finance Minister is praying that the Bank of Canada will not have to step in before the federal election to save the faltering Bank of Windsor Taxpayers. He is desperately afraid that if this Bank fails then other municipal Taxpayer Banks may also fail and there goes their majority government hopes.

The Windsor Taxpayer Bank it is almost tapped out given the unceasing demands by rapacious Governments. One knows when the situation is desperate when the Governor of the Windsor Bank said the following:
  • "It's going to be rough. We are in deep s**t. It will catch up to us and have a significant impact," said Francis...

    Financial markets are crumbling. And guess who's left on Main Street to deal with all these issues? The taxpayer," said Francis...

    The bottom line, said the mayor, is that this is no time to be hammering Windsor residents with property tax increases. "People can't handle any more. There is now more pressure to deliver a budget with no increase, so that it doesn't add to their woes. We can't be adding to the pressures they're already feeling at the kitchen table."
This BLOG is certainly educational if nothing else.

Today I'm going to teach you a lesson in municipal economics. We are going to learn how taxpayers are made sad while Bond Raters are made happy. We will learn how taxpayers give their hard-earned money to their City at no interest while they become impoverished. We will learn why increased taxes reduces economic activity.

According to Standard & Poor's our bond rating is still AA. According to them:
  • "Among the reasons cited for the rating are "declining debt burden, robust budgetary surpluses and improving financial flexibility."
Good for investors who hold the City Bonds. Unfortunately, the story might have been different if Standard & Poor's did an analysis or gave a rating for the Bank of the Windsor Taxpayers. Its rating would be just about at junk bond level I would think.

We will learn in this BLOG how our political leaders can say is things such as:
  • "This has been great news story for the community, for people who use the facility,"

even though the costs of the 400 Building have risen dramatically over the initial cost, and even as the audit of the 400 building has been kept from view from citizens for almost 1.5 years. It seems that the Mayor and certain Senior Administrators have seen all or at least parts of it. No one explained how the CAO could claim that it came in $1M under budget when clearly it did not as City Hall staff have now reported. It was over-budget.

You will learn that City Hall's "pay as you go" philosophy is great for Administrators. That can keep borrowings down and interest rates lower as the City supposedly becomes financially stronger and fiscally responsible. The problem is that the cash comes right out of the pocket of taxpayers.

We become the "banker" to the City except we are forced to "give" the politicians the money whether we want to or not. It is taken from us through increased taxes or through games playing like 86% increases in WUC charges and sewer levies. A debt reduction Levy is not really used for debt reduction but rather for "debt avoidance." That means, while we think that our money is being being taken to reduce the amount of our debt, it is not. It is being used on spending programs.

In some cases, pay as you go makes sense, say for small item purchases. So if you bought a TV set, you really should have the cash rather than pay the outrageous interest rate that stores and credit card companies charge for credit purchases.

But how many people would buy their house that way? Very few. Most people do not have the money to do so and would take out a mortgage. Even if a person had the money, it would be unlikely that it would all be paid out just for the home since who wants to be "house-poor." Life is more than a house eg travel, education, entertainment etc. Perhaps a bigger down-payment would be a compromise. After all, the purchase of a home is a big ticket item and one normally would amortize it over a long period of time as one lives in the home. No one gets too excited about it because it is the norm. As long as money is managed properly, then the individual can live quite well even if some money is paid out for borrowing.

So take the 400 building or the arena. Taxpayers are going to pay "cash" for it upfront even though the buildings will last for years. Taxpayers today are stuck paying for it all and in effect the taxpayers tomorrow get the benefit of it without paying a penny for it. Of course, if a "mortgage" or "bond" had been placed on it, sure interest would be paid out but all taxpayers over the life of the building would pay their fair share.

Look at what else Councillor Lewenza claimed. He said that we saved millions in interest payments. That is true for the City BUT not necessarily true for taxpayers. After all, we had to find the money to pay for our taxes.

However, here is what the Councillor ignored: the multiplier effect. That is defined as

  • "An effect in economics in which an increase in spending produces an increase in national income and consumption greater than the initial amount spent."

Here it is explained in more detail and what the effect of taxes is on the economy:

  • "In the Keynesian multiplier story the initial consumer expenditure creates new income for the next person, who in turn creates income for another person and so on. However, to have income for consumption one must first produce something useful that can be exchanged in the market.

    Through the production of goods an individual can secure the produced goods of other individuals in an economy. His production backs up, so to speak, his demand for the goods he wants to secure. For instance Bob the farmer secures one loaf of bread from John the baker by paying for the loaf of bread with five tomatoes. Bob also secures a pair of shoes from Paul the shoemaker by paying for the shoes with ten tomatoes...

    Let us examine the effect of an increase in the government's demand on an economy's overall output. In an economy, which comprises of a baker, a shoemaker and a tomato grower, another individual enters the scene. This individual is an enforcer who is exercising his demand for goods by means of force.

    Can such demand give rise to more output? On the contrary, it will impoverish the producers. The baker, the shoemaker, and the farmer will be forced to part with their product in an exchange for nothing and this in turn will weaken the flow of production of final consumer goods. Again, as one can see, not only does the increase in government outlays not raise overall output by a positive multiple, but on the contrary this leads to the weakening in the process of wealth generation in general. According to Mises,

    "there is need to emphasize the truism that a government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens and that its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens' spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity."

Thus thanks to the increased taxes to pay for the 400 Building or the arena upfront our local economy suffers. Consumers are deprived of all of that money and so cannot spend. The 400 Building took $30M right out of the local economy at once rather than say $2M per year if it had been financed over 30 years at 6% interest per year. Consumers still could have spent $28M which amount would have been subject to the multiplier effect AND the 400 building still could have been built.

The other part that is so troublesome is that Government starts believing that the money is theirs to spend as they wish and never to give back to taxpayers in the form of a tax reduction. It just encourages more spending. Thus the justification for being able to pay for the Arena was paying off Huron Lodge and other pay-as-you go items. As Gord gushed:

  • "By turning its finances around and funding major projects out of revenues, Windsor is saving $81.7 million in interest payment over 20 years, more than $4 million annually, that would have been paid on debentures.

    TORRENTS OF MONEY

    By 2009, when major projects like the Norwich Block fiasco, the city hall welfare tower mistake and the new Huron Lodge at St. Clair College have been paid off, the city will find itself with torrents of money flowing in and no major funding obligations. In 2009 it will have an additional $23.5 million available, in 2010 $36.4 million and in 2011 another $36.4 million."

And the most ludicrous statement of all from the Mayor:

  • "But our financial prudence is paying off and giving us flexibility. We can pay for this (the arena complex) without going to debentures and without going to the taxpayers," explained Francis."

DUH, where does he think this money is coming from? Does it grow on the trees in our WOW-Factor gardens on Dougall, amongst the weeds that are growing back nicely.

Unfortunately with the Bank of Windsor Taxpayers, we are stuck. We cannot take out out money out and put it somewhere else. The only way we can salvage our situation is to move out of town. No one would do that, right. Think again:

  • "Windsor had the worst population decline of any major Canadian census metropolitan area in 2006-07, and observers and federal election candidates warn the troubling trend is going to continue..."

Windsor As Detroit's Bank




I absolutely refuse to get all upset over this story.

It is so obscene, so ridiculous and so stupid that I cannot believe that anyone is serious. It has to be a joke. No one could actually support something like this from Windsor's perspective. Right Mr. Sutts!

The Detroit Free Press stated at first:
  • "A big part of the deficit stems from Kilpatrick’s failed attempt to sell Detroit’s half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to raise $65 million, a proposal Cockrel said is dead. Cockrel said he has spoken with Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis about a modified proposal where the two cities would enter into a joint management agreement."

Then the story changed with this addition:

  • “A big part of the deficit stems from Kilpatrick’s failed attempt to sell Detroit’s half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to raise $65 million, a proposal Cockrel said is dead. Cockrel said he has spoken with Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis about a modified proposal where the two cities would enter into a joint management agreement.

    Harris [Cockrel’s chief financial officer] said Cockrel has made him his point person on a new tunnel deal with Windsor. Instead of selling Detroit’s half of the tunnel, the Cockrel administration is exploring the idea of selling the rights to the tunnel fare revenue that the city receives -- $700,000 annually -- to Windsor in exchange for a lump-sum payout, the exact amount of which is unknown, Harris said. The City of Detroit would retain ownership of its side of the tunnel, Harris said.”

Then it changed again:

  • “Kilpatrick had planned to patch about $65 million of that hole with a deal to lease out Detroit’s stake in the Windsor Tunnel, but that plan never got done. Cockrel, who voted against the tunnel deal as City Council President, confirmed Wednesday that it clearly won’t get done in time to fix last year’s budget."

Very peculiar don’t you think. There may be other changes but I can’t keep up with the Free Press.

And then to top it all off, the Detroit News had a completely different story:

  • “Harris said he is recommending Cockrel freeze all non-essential hiring to save cash. And he said he'll try to restructure the deal to sell the city's share of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to make it a win for the city, in order to help reduce the deficit even more.”

Obviously there is conversation going on between the two Mayors. Why? Wasn't this all on hold here? Who give the word to permit it to go forward again?

There is a worldwide financial meltdown going on. The major banks and financial houses have to be saved by the Governments around the world. Loans even to some of the best customers are drying up. Why else is the US Federal Reserve Bank taking the drastic steps that they are taking to prevent a complete financial collapse.

Now it is being proposed that Windsor should effectively give the money to Detroit by buying a revenue stream of a declining asset! Is somebody mad? Windsor is not in the lending or factoring business is it. We are not a bank.

If we do want to get into lending or purchasing asset business, I can think of better risks to be blunt than a City like Detroit where its new financial boss states:
  • “The city's deficit could range from $100 million to $150 million, the city's new chief financial officer Joe Harris said today.

    "The best case is $100 million," Harris said. "I really don't know."

Is Harris trying to bring back the old deal? The new Detroit Mayor had said:

  • “Cockrel said he is interested in reopening talks on a deal with Windsor on the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. But he doesn't want to sell the city's half. Instead, he wants to work out a joint management agreement that could net the city revenue over the long term…”

Perhaps the word “restructure” in the News story means a totally different way of looking at the Tunnel deal.

The way Free Press story talked about the transaction it seems that we would buy a revenue stream. What good is that when the amount is fixed for a dozen years at $700,000 and after that who knows if the Tunnel will still be in business if the DRIC bridge is built.

That should not work for Eddie because Detroit could still sell the Tunnel to a private party who could cement up the Tunnel. Buying the revenue stream does not keep the Tunnel in "Public Hands" as Eddie claims is his interest.

It is a great deal for Detroit because there cannot be a default. We would be buying a revenue stream, whatever that amount is, with no repayment of the amounts given to Detroit. They sell revenues and we buy them. PERIOD! Windsor taxpayers bear all the risks. There are companies that do that...let Detroit go to them for money and not to the City of Windsor who can use the money for our own taxpayer purposes.
Why this desire to help out Detroit? Why this fixation on a Tunnel deal? I don't get it!

Or are we now in the money speculation game as a new business venture? I don't even know if the City is legally able to do this and frankly I'm not going to check right now and see unless someone is serious and wants to do this transaction.

However, dear reader, do not worry. Something is going on. The legal fees that Windsor has to pay for the Tunnel deal are just starting up again. The clock has started to run and the cross-border trips are going to take place.

Am I worried? You bet I am. If this is the kind of deal that people are talking about in this kind of a financial environment then the Ontario Government better start considering whether or not they should take over the operation of this City. I hope the fellow at Standard & Poor's doesn't get a heart attack when he reads the story as well.

However, the real reason I am very upset about all of this is what Gord Henderson signalled in his recent column:
  • "Instead of plummeting from $230 million in 2002 to $158 million this year, Windsor's debt would be nearing $300 million, with punishing interest rates crippling the city's capacity to respond, including investing in labour-intensive capital projects."

Investing.... taxpayer money... deals like this ... Councillors...HHHHEEEELLLLPPPP!!!!

One more question finally. Where is Infrastructure Ontario in all of this? On hold still too?

Hello Eddie's City



video

I did not hear the show live but just the clip on the CKLW website so perhaps there was an explanation about Eddie's new theme song.

However, I am pretty upset. Out of the dozens and dozens of songs that I and my readers picked for possible selection for Eddie’s new theme song for his interview show on CKLW not one of them was chosen.

Instead, it looks like someone decided that the song would be “Hello City” by the Barenaked Ladies. Or were they just doing a trial balloon?

At the least, they are a Canadian group. However, someone at the radio station has a very strange sense of humour or did not vote for Eddie at the last election as you shall see.

Moreover, I am afraid that Eddie is working too hard. As a micromanager par excellence who is in total control of everything, how could he have let this one go by? How could he let this song be picked as his possible theme?

Champion Naysayer of Windsor… after this song, Eddie is the winner by far. Just check out the lyrics:
  • Hello city ...

    Another night at the palace cause there is nothing else to do.
    The same people, the same drinks and the same music, the same quicksand.
    I think this harbour town is waist deep and sinking fast.

    Chorus
    Hello city, you've found an enemy in me.
    Hello city, hello city.

    Second night at the warehouse,
    And my mock turtleneck just reeks.
    From the liquor room to the changeroom,
    To the doom and gloom of the hotel room.
    I wish this seaside beerhall would sink into the bay.

    Chorus

    Maybe I caught you at a bad time.
    Maybe I should call you back next week.
    Maybe half the fault was mine that
    The sun didnt shine on barrington street.

    Its three oclock in the morning,
    And Im hungry so lets eat.
    Climb down three flights to the streetlights,
    And the bar-fights, we're just taking in the sights.
    I hope tomorrow that I wake up in my own bed.

    Chorus

    What a good place to be.. dont believe them, cause they speak a different language
    And its never been happy for me.
    Its happy hour again.
    Hello city..hello city..

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Absolutely, he is working for us right now -- on all files,"


I definitely want back my $25 now as my pro-rata legal fee refund!

Every day when I wake up I wonder what I should BLOG about. Fortunately, I live in the City of Windsor. There are so many stories from which to choose that I just cannot believe it. They are limitless.

Take the border file for instance, please. Okay, okay… enough of the Henny Youngman jokes. One would think after writing so much about the subject for so many years that I could not possibly say anything new.

If that’s what you think, dear reader, then you are wrong. I have given up trying to figure out what is going on with this file. There are so many twists and turns. I just go with the flow.

Seriously, I don’t have the imagination to make this stuff up. It seems that something new and bizarre takes place so often, something unexpected. I just sit back in amazement and awe and wonder. Is someone actually masterminding all of this stuff or is it completely and totally out of control? Are we all being played in some master scheme or are we like the ball in a pinball game?

Taken the latest shock as far as I am concerned
:
  • “Windsor is keeping Toronto environmental lawyer David Estrin as its legal expert on border issues, despite a lawsuit by the Ambassador Bridge's ownership claiming he and his law firm have a conflict of interest…

    "Absolutely, he is working for us right now -- on all files," said Francis afterwards.”

I have to admit that I am surprised by that. After all, the US Court of Appeals stated:

  • "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...”

Moreover, the Court stated:

  • “If the vague and general information that CenTra possessed regarding prior, different conflicts was enough, then the client would bear the burden of identifying and understanding the full scope of any conflict of interest. It is not the client, however, to whom the various codes of conduct have given this responsibility; “[t]he affirmative duty here rests not with [the clients] but with [the law firm] and its attorneys.”

Maybe I am missing the point but combined, these two statements suggest to me that there is a real question whether Gowlings should be acting for the City. Given what the Court of Appeals is saying, it may well be that Gowlings has a professional duty not to be acting for any of the parties. Accordingly, they should be resigning from acting as counsel for the City.

After all, the Trial Court stated:

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

Even Estrin stated:

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

It was also said that:

  • "The search did not reveal Estrin's representation of Windsor adverse to CTC because, when Estrin's general representation of Windsor on border crossing matters gradually turned adverse to CTC in 2003, he did not amend his initial conflict filing to add CTC as an adverse party."

The issue seems very simple to me. The firm has admitted that their conflicts system failed initially and that Estrin failed to change his initial filing. Accordingly, they did not pick up a conflict between the City and the Bridge Company. Whether this is negligence of their system or Estrin’s negligence in not amending his filing, it does not matter. The firm has admitted that there is a conflict.

The debate now is whether that conflict can be waived. The Court of Appeals has very much put in play whether or not the adverse relationship between the Bridge Company and the City would permit a waiver. It may be one of those instances that cannot be waived.

Given the fact that our Mayor IS a Lawyer, he ought to be concerned about this and whether or not Estrin and the firm can continue to act for the City. The point is why do we want to be involved in all of this.

It is not as easy as Eddie is trying to make it. He is positioning it so as not to accept blame if this falls apart since we may have wasted millions on legal fees:

  • “this is a matter between Gowlings and Centra [Ambassador Bridge]."

Wrong. It is much more than that. The concern is the proper representation for the City of Windsor in this most important matter. Are we getting it?

Obviously, one of the things on Eddie's mind, as he said before is:

  • “Mayor Eddie Francis called the timing of the lawsuit "predictable." He said the border crossing debate is at a critical juncture, with the city ramping up its opposition in recent months to the bridge company's bid for a twin span.

    "The timing on this speaks volumes," Francis said. "It also speaks to the effectiveness of our strategy to protect residents of Windsor. When people resort to these type of tactics and setting up roadblocks, it's an indication we are being effective.

    "The reason (the bridge company) is attempting to do this is they want the city and law firm to be distracted away from what they are trying to accomplish."

That was a reasonable position to take at first IE the Bridge Company does not want a major law firm acting against them.

However, that argument loses its force based on what is going on in the US Court system. I do not understand Eddie in this case when there is an admission of the conflict. Why would Eddie want to continue using Estrin? Eddie now has to bear the risk on behalf of the City of Windsor that Estrin will win. What if he does not? What happens then to the City’s position? Will citizens be prejudiced and how?

Seriously, could the continued representation by Estrin be made part of a bad faith claim by the Bridge Company against the City like the failure to allow them to tear down homes on Indian Road and the Heritage Plan? Is this just making it easy for a major punitive damages claim to be made that taxpayers would have to pay if the Bridge Company is successful? Who needs that risk!

But there is more. As I have pointed out before, Gowlings acted for Borealis, one of the owners of DRTP, and also for DCTC, a competitor of the City with respect to the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel. Why did Eddie want to use Estrin and Gowlings in this situation that started even before Estrin was first retained?

If. L. Brooks is correct, and there is a competition between Buffalo and Detroit for the next crossing, then why would Eddie use the environmental lawyer for the Peace Bridge, David Estrin?

Again, as a citizen of the City of Windsor I have to ask the question about whether the City has been well served by Gowlings given all their relationships. Were those relationships disclosed to the City in the first place and if so to whom? How can a law firm act for all these parties at the same time when it can be argued that the interests of the parties are not necessarily the same and are conflicting?

To be blunt because this is a question that needs to be asked… to whom does Gowlings owe their main loyalty? All of their clients, some of their clients and if so, which ones? How can they act for everyone vigorously and to the best of their abilities if there are so many potential and real conflicts?

Are there potentially other conflicts that we do not know about yet given the problems with the Gowlings conflicts system. Has that been looked into?

Lets take one example:

  • “Although a different law firm prepared the memorandum, CenTra provided to Gowlings the Goodman Legal Memorandum and all of its supporting documents. This collection of materials, according to CenTra, is very similar to the research that Estrin described in his letter to the U.S. Coast Guard…

    CenTra questions whether Estrin used CenTra’s Goodman Legal Memorandum in preparing Estrin’s letter on behalf of Windsor to the U.S. Coast Guard in opposition to CenTra’s Bridge Plan.

    For his part, Estrin denies that he used any confidential information from CenTra. “The letter that I sent to the United States Coast Guard on September 14, 2006 is not based on confidential and/or privileged information that was supplied by Centra to Gowlings. I have never had any such information in my possession.”

How many other similar situations could take place as the fight with the Bridge Company is being pursued and why does the City need to be put into this kind of position?

The CBA Conflicts Report of which Estrin’s partner, Scott Jolliffe, was the Chair made this their test of conflicts:

  • “The principle is that there is a conflicting interest when there is a substantial risk that a lawyer’s representation of a client would be materially and adversely affected by the lawyer’s own interests or by the lawyer’s duties to another current client, a former client, or a third person.”

You can decide as well as I can about how this applies in the City/Gowlings relationship considering all of the parties for whom the law firm acts.

All of this is much too confusing. There must be some method in all this madness but it escapes me.

What is also interesting is whether or not Council has had a role in this. Was there a vote on Monday night at the in camera session about whether to retain Estrin? It does not appear to be so since it seems to have been more of an information item. I would have thought that Eddie’s use of the word “absolutely” suggests that Council is on side. Yet, it seems clear that Council has specifically not supported the use of Estrin recently.

Is Eddie afraid to put this to the vote of Council because he might lose?

There is no doubt at all now that the front-page story about the Bridge Company’s “right” and the Estrin praise by Henderson were designed to keep Estrin on. So far at least, the tactic seems to be working.

As is usual, I am sure that there is more to this story than meets the eye. This is Windsor after all where nothing is simple.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Stories You Have Never Read Before


Oh you might have read the stories or heard about them. However, did you have time to think of the consequences? Probably not since you have so many other matters that occupy your day.

Isn't that why you read the BLOGs in town? We BLOGGERs just love to analyze some of the issues for you. Take these stories as examples:

HOW THE CANAL DEAL WILL BE SOLD

Or perhaps it will be the shovel ready lands at the Airport or maybe even {shudder, shudder} helping to pay for Son of Greenlink.

You see we are in economic distress in Windsor because of the loss of manufacturing jobs, especially in the automotive industry. Not only Windsor but a good part of Ontario is in such a mess.

However, since the Mayor and Council have kept our taxes so high so that they could pay for extravaganzas such as the 400 building and the East End Arena on a pay-as-you-go basis, and taken about $100 million out of our economy, we can now afford to borrow tons of money for the new extravaganzas that the Mayor is dreaming up. As Gord wrote,
  • "Instead of plummeting from $230 million in 2002 to $158 million this year, Windsor's debt would be nearing $300 million, with punishing interest rates crippling the city's capacity to respond, including investing in labour-intensive capital projects."

Just think of how well off we would have been

  • had our debt been reduced,
  • the debt reduction Levy not been used for other projects but rather for the purposes for which it was taken,
  • if we were only at risk for $15 million for the Arena, and
  • if our tax and water rates were lower.

Imagine how well off our City would have been had we not squandered the tax money and how we could have confronted the miseries we are going through and which will get worse.

But it is all right. It is only taxpayers who have been punished.

GUERILLA DRIC WARFARE

Interesting news item by Daryl Newcombe of EH NEWS the other day. Something about the DRIC engineers missing some lighting requirements that will cost an extra $60 million or so and that they are looking at slurry walls, something that the Greenlink engineers considered, whatever the significance of that means.

I wonder who gave him that information. I hope no one at City Hall leaked it. That would be irresponsible wouldn't it.
Obviously, we are seeing the beginning of the campaign to discredit some of the work that DRIC has done so that our Mayor can rise up in anger and demand that there be a compromise solution between the City and DRIC with respect to the road. Eddie does hate to lose don't you know.

I expect that we will see more leaks of DRIC problems, probably in a gigantic Henderson column, so that Eddie can demand in another in camera meeting that David Estrin be used to threaten litigation again. I expect that Eddie will keep on doing this until the Councillors agreed to do what he wants. He does not intend to take NO an answer.

In passing, Dave Wake needs to be much more outspoken when being interviewed. I know that his hands are tied by our Liberal Cabinet Ministers but seriously, he came across very poorly by not answering relatively easy questions properly.

JOYS OF COMMUTING

I once spent about 18 months commuting overseas on a major project. It lost its novelty quickly.

I can remember how difficult it became as time went on to adjust to the time-zone differences. Just as I recovered when I came back home, I had to leave again. It became a physical and mental strain. How some people can thrive on that kind of a life is beyond me.

I expect that part of the problem was that I could not sleep on the plane even though I travelled through the night. After all, someone had to stay up all night long to help the pilot fly the 747.

I have to admit it, I envied the people who could fall asleep just as we took off and would wake up just as we were about to land. Just like this fellow in the picture on a flight between Windsor and Toronto.

Say, doesn't he look familiar, even from the back! He looks like a guy who would have "frequent airport encounters with people who are leaving the area for jobs in the West."

Let's hope that we can create some jobs here soon so that people will not be forced into that kind of a life-style. It is not good for the individuals and certainly is not good for families!

LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY

There certainly is no love lost between the Mayor and Council and the Ambassador Bridge Company. After all, when the City calls one of its largest taxpayers and one of the reasons for its success its “enemy,” then one wonders how this relationship can ever be made good again.

I happened to see this statement in an article dealing with the David Estrin lawsuit that should trouble a number of people in Government and I do not mean just in the City of Windsor:
  • “the lawsuit will resume with the bridge company seeking “extensive discovery” before it goes to trial.”

After reading that, I would have a cold chill going down my spine. Yet, until now there was nothing that our Mayor and Council could do to try to make friends again. If they said “sorry” or tried to apologize, then that could be deemed an admission of liability and huge damages would have to be paid.

However, and I don’t know if it is because of this situation or not, the Ontario Government has come to the defence of people like the Mayor and Council. Here is what is being done:

  • Ontario to make it easier to apologize for mistakes with new bill

    TORONTO — It will soon be easier to say you're sorry in Ontario.

    The government plans to adopt an act that will allow everyone to apologize without having to worry about being sued. Sources say Attorney General Chris Bentley and Health Minister David Caplan will on Tuesday announce the adoption of the Apology Act, initially introduced by Liberal backbencher David Orazietti.

    Orazietti tabled his private member's bill last April, saying he hoped to encourage more people to offer sincere regrets for their mistakes.”

I think that I will bring my camera and post the photo on my BLOG when I see Mayor Francis on bended knee in front of the Dan Stamper saying:

  • “I want to offer you my sincerest apologies. I am sorry for all of the inconvenience and the extra millions of dollars in costs and the worry that I and City Council caused you. What can I do to help build your Enhancement Project and the road to your bridge?”

Happy Birthday and Retirement!


A reader requested I post the following. Happy to oblige:

Ed

If you would like to mention to-day Justice Saul Nosanchuk will officially retire from the bench, and being to-day is his 75th birthday, a few of us are going out to dinner with a beautiful man, and major giver in the community.

We have been good friends for a number of years , and believe it or not he has kept me out of jail all these years...NOW IT CAN BE TOLD :-)

God Bless him and his wife Nancy.

MDOT Embarrassment


It must be tough being the Director of MDOT.

It is bad enough when your employees and your FHWA partner mess up badly in front of a Michigan Senate hearing and you have to come in and try and salvage it. However, when the Senator claims that your Department has said that a bridge is not needed now and may not be needed until after the DRIC study time period in 2035, then it makes your pro-DRIC position seem totally ludicrous!


  • “DRIC's traffic projections are inflated and unrealistic. Border traffic at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge has fallen every year since 1999. Counter to DRIC projections, traffic has declined from 1999-2007 by 52% at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, by 26% at the Ambassador Bridge, and by 12% at the Blue Water.

    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.”

But if that is not bad enough to make you want to gag, then there are all kinds of interesting documents they are buried in the MDOT archives that can come back to haunt you. Here is one that I found. It was prepared by the Corradino Group Inc., URS Canada Inc., the US and Canadian DRIC consultants and a Michigan Department of Transportation employee. I cannot tell exactly when it was prepared but it would have been prior to March 2003 I believe.

  • The Detroit-Windsor border

    As the saying goes, “There’s good news and bad news.” The good news is that the Detroit Region benefits enormously from having good connections to Canada, its No. 1 world trade partner, by way of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. The bad news is that these crossings have reached a point that congestion, of trucks in particular, has become a major problem on each side of the border…

    The four governmental entities responsible for surface transportation across the border between Southwest Ontario and Southeast Michigan -- Transport Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation – created a Bi-National Partnership to jointly fund and oversee a study to determine if, when and where a new crossing is needed and, if so, to define the type of crossing, i.e., bridge or tunnel, and the number of lanes that will be required to support traffic in 2030 and beyond.

    In the first phase of the bi-national study, all modes of surface transportation were evaluated, including marine, rail and transit. While these latter modes can provide border-crossing capacity, none can provide enough capacity to put off the need for a new roadway crossing.

    The initial feasibility study concluded that at least four additional lanes for roadway traffic will be needed by 2030 and that six lanes should be constructed to accommodate traffic through at least 2050. It also said the crossing should be built as quickly as possible within the constraints of the laws and regulations of the two nations. And, while there may be some debate as to just when the existing roadway system will reach a level of congestion so critical that cross-border travel will be unacceptably slow, especially for trucks, there is no disagreement that dependence upon two crossings, each 70 years old, is unwise. The need for another crossing is further accentuated when issues other than congestion, like safety and security, are considered…

    It is likely that a new crossing recommended by the study will be operating by 2012 or before…

    In the meantime, there are a number of opportunities to address the near-term congestion-causing issues:

    · The Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project to improve the U.S. connection between the bridge and I-75.

    · Increased education and use of the NEXUS and FAST processing systems.

    · Additional border processing staff and facilities.
There are a number of comments to make but one other item was also mentioned that bears a remarkable resemblance to the DRIC road/Greenlink/Windsor WALTS road/Schwartz Road:
  • “Ambassador Bridge Parkway -- This proposal is for a separate controlled-access road connection along Essex Terminal Railway right-of-way between Ambassador Bridge and a new border processing area at E.C. Row Expressway/Huron Church Road; this proposal also includes improvements to the Huron Church/Talbot Road corridor from E.C. Row Expressway to Highway 401; this proposal is located within the Twinned Ambassador Bridge corridor.

DUH…it’s the way to connect the DRIC road to the Ambassador Bridge today in case Eddie forgot!

Just look at some of the things that were said back then and compare with today. It is obvious already that in this short period of time that the DRIC comments with respect to the border crossing are very suspect:

  • These crossings have reached a point of congestion.... not since the Bridge Company opened up new booths


  • DRIC's time period is 2030 and yet MDOT says the new bridge may not be necessary until 2035

  • It is completely absurd to argue that the DRIC Bridge should start operating in 2012 if it is not needed until 2035. It and other border crossings could go broke requiring massive Government subsidies

  • what the Enhancement Project offers meets the requirements until after 2050

  • if four or six lanes are all that are needed and what was this nonsense at the Cropsey hearing about 14 or 15 lanes

  • a big point is made about the age of the Bridge yet impediments are being placed to build a new one

  • security and redundancy are eliminated as issues if the Enhancement Project is constructed.
The point that I am making is that the anti-Bridge Company story keeps changing and the MDOT Director is stuck trying to support it. Every time the Bridge Company proves something that is said by DRIC is wrong, the MDOT/DRIC story changes to something more extreme.

In fact, based on the Cropsey hearing, a strong argument can be made that the three "near-term" solutions make the building of a DRIC bridge absurd. It is not the number of lanes that is the issue but rather Customs clearance. There seems to be little recognition of how technology will allow the processing of vehicles much more quickly to effectively increase capacity at a minimal cost.

In the end, does it really matter what the facts are. It's politics. It is money. And definitely it is lawsuits.

I am still waiting to see what Senator Cropsey's cryptic statement means. I wonder if the MDOT Director is waiting too:
  • "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 we are saying is let's just finish what's been started -- and everybody agreed to -- and then look at the traffic flow and see if the capacity is there in earnest before we get into a new (DRIC) crossing," Cropsey said."

Public Versus Private, Again


I thought you might be interested in reading this story from the Detroit News about changes at the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. Or rather, on the US side of the Tunnel.

To me, it shows the difference about how private enterprise and the Government run a business.

In passing, if Alinda, who operates the Detroit half under an agreement with Detroit for about a dozen more years, is going to be spending all this money, what does it say to a Tunnel deal between Windsor and Detroit? Alinda, as the operator on the Detroit side is not giving up in its fight to maintain its operation of the Tunnel is it.

As you may recall the private enterprise Owner of the Ambassador Bridge has added Customs booths on both sides of the river to help speed traffic through. By adding only four booths, he was able to eliminate most of the truck backups on Huron Church Road. I wrote:
  • “In fact, with the new booths opened recently, the Bridge Company has added in almost the equivalent number of booths as are located at the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. In other words, we have a new crossing already!”

In a BLOG that I wrote a few weeks ago, I asked when writing about the Bridge Company’s transponder system:

  • “How can bureaucrats and a former young entrepreneur of the year who play with taxpayer money and not their own ever believe that they can defeat someone who puts his own bank account on the line every day with his border crossing…

    I'm sure that you read the Star story about the transponder that the Bridge Company is offering to speed people through tollbooths after they have used their Nexus card to speed through Customs on both sides of the river.”

I wrote subsequently

  • “With a NEXUS card and a transponder or credit card, a bridge user barely needs to stop when crossing between Canada and the United States. If there is a stop, the amount of time needed for inspection is minimal since the person has been precleared.

    The more that people use this system, the more people that can be cleared using existing facilities. Explain to me again why we need a new border crossing.”

Now we see the private operator on the Detroit side taking some similar actions as well:

  • Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to roll out toll passes to save time
    Paul Egan / The Detroit News

    DETROIT -- Travelers crossing the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel next spring will be able to use wallet-sized cards to pay tolls electronically, saving time and easing congestion, officials said Monday. Neal Belitsky, the tunnel CEO and general manager, also said plans are in the works to revamp the cramped plaza on the Detroit side of the tunnel to add one more inspection lane for the processing of vehicles arriving from Windsor.

    Electronic tolls should be available for those crossing from Detroit to Windsor next spring; the change is also being considered by Windsor officials who control the Canadian side of the tunnel, though a date for implementation there has not been set, Belitsky said at a news conference.

    The toll cards will be read by an electronic scanner and should shave about 15 seconds per vehicle off the time it takes to enter the tunnel, he said.

    "When you multiply that by the total number of vehicles that go through, that's a real time saving."

    About 6 million vehicles a year cross the tunnel.

    Travelers will be able to put money on their cards using a Web site, among other methods, he said.

    The option of paying cash would still be available, though authorities will probably stop selling tunnel tokens within about six months, he said.

    Belitsky said tunnel authorities will soon detail plans to reconfigure the Detroit tunnel plaza and increase the number of inspection lanes for arriving vehicles to 11, from 10. Combined with other changes, the revamped plaza should increase the capacity for the handling of incoming vehicles by about 20 percent, he said.

    Construction should begin early in 2009 and be completed by the end of next year, he said. Work will be concentrated in off-peak times to minimize travel disruptions, he said.

    Also, starting this November, all lanes for arriving vehicles on the Detroit side will be able to perform electronic reading of cards such as Nexus, for frequent travelers, as well as new enhanced driver licenses and passports that can be read electronically.

    Officials at the Windsor Tunnel Commission could not immediately be reached to say when electronic toll paying would begin on the Canadian side of the tunnel.”

They are introducing a new electronic payment system similar it seems to the transponder concept and are improving the Detroit Plaza. If they can handle an extra 20% more vehicles, then I ask again why is a new bridge needed?

What is the publicly owned Windsor side of the Tunnel doing? Unfortunately we don’t know because they could not be reached to answer the question. We do know that the Tunnel Improvement Project has been put off for years and the cost of the Improvements have escalated dramatically.

A Crains Detroit article did not give us any Windsor information either but told us some more about the construction:

  • "The electronic cards are initially for entering the U.S. side of the border, Belitsky said. Plans remain under discussion with Canadian authorities to implement the service in Windsor.

    The plaza expansion will include infrastructure improvements, a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection office, renovated roadway and implementation of dual-service booths."

Perhaps this is a P3-1 arrangement between Windsor and Alinda: public/private lack of partnership!


One point...people on the Star Forum about this story say that saving a few seconds at the toll booths means nothing when you have to wait an hour or more in the Tunnel to clear US Customs even with a NEXUS card. After all, there there is only one lane in the Tunnel and there are tie-ups at US Customs. Now perhaps you may understand why the Enhancement Project bridge is necessary. It adds a third lane in each direction so pre-cleared vehicles have their own lane for speedy Customs clearance.

And you want the Governments to build a DRIC bridge. You cannot still be serious about that!

Monday, October 06, 2008

More Letters To The BLOGMEISTER


Here are more comments from readers like you! When are you sending in yours?

1) Ed,

Perhaps the mayor is realizing Greenlink proposal developed over a multitude of closed door meetings lacks the substance and credibility to withstand the scrutiny of a true cost benefit analysis.

A great deception is that " tunneling" eliminates or reduces air pollutants; in fact, it only re-directs and concentrates them for our prevailing NW winds to disperse. The mayor should know the existing air exchange building downtown ( next to the old bus station) for the existing auto tunnel is nothing but an exhaust pipe releasing its concentrated emissions into the atmosphere for wind driven redistribution.

There are other principles to which his own behaviour does not conform to add to the list that undermine the credibility of the mayor's position on Greenlink.

For instance, Greenlink is based on the principle that truck routes should not be located near residential neighbourhoods; yet the city has approved numerous plans of subdivision that are located along the 401, Talbot Road and Huron Church Line. Furthermore, Greenlink proposes an integrated system of parks, walking and biking trails to draw people towards the new cross border transportation corridor deemed so harmful to them. The mayor's principles are arbitrary shifting to suit his position du jour.

The mayor advocates fiscal responsibility but has failed to demonstrate any value added for Greenlink beyond BRIC. Without a sturdy foundation, Greenlink resembles another tax guzzling political boondoggle worsened by diminishing resources and shrinking tax revenues.

And the entire question of any potential municipal tax impact of Greenlink has been completely avoided. What are the development and maintenance costs for the parks and trails, who is responsible and if it is taxpayers in Windsor Essex, what are the added tax impacts on the region's municipalities?

That would be a true reality test for Greenlink support!

If decision making by smoke and mirrors is allowed to prevail, Windsor Essex County will continue to deteriorate.

Your investigative reporting is a great service to the taxpayers in the region.

A concerned taxpayer.

2) It looks like the city is going to install a brand new wood privacy fence all along the Southern limit of Little River Acres along the new McHugh Street.

Is the city going to build the same fencing in Little River Acres along Little Acres Drive and Darefield or will those folks be stuck with the same old graffiti covered fences?

Who's budget is the new fencing coming out of?

Who is going to maintain the new city built fence and clean/cover all the graffiti that will quickly begin to appear?

3) There is another "naysayers" group forming as well. The Downtown Resident's Association.

One of the biggest reasons this group is forming is because they are not being heard by Eddie Francis and his cohorts with respect to downtown and what the RESIDENTS want! Not what the city wants. The silly canal plan is just but another reason as to why this association was forming.

So you are going to hear a lot more "neighing" as well.

4) The Mayor is quoted as saying "I would thank him [Heil] for his services." With his educational background he is certainly aware that "would" is a conditional statement. Under what conditions "would" he thank him for his services. Not unconditionally it seems.

5) I read this recent blog closely and you hit it on the head. No need to volunteer here in Windsor- you only get gob- smacked when you do. No matter how much dedication or time is spent, there is always a negative response to someone who kindly gives of their time and energy. And, shame, shame on our elected officials who criticize so quickly with malice. Mr. Jones should button up. No one really wants his opinion these days. He is so Sandwich that he has forgotten he has an entire ward to represent.

Bad behaviour gets rewarded in this region. Ask any do-gooder why they no longer volunteer and their story will be similar. The thorns stay on committees. The voices of reason and the doers leave.

And, you are so right. Mr. Middleton will no doubt have to spend a small fortune to clear his name from his incident.

By the way, glad you picked up on the “manufacturing” word. Our illustrious mayor has a vocab entirely his own which is arrogant and pretentious. Why can’t he say what he means in real English? Didn’t they teach him any oratory skills in his university days?

Thanks for your dedication Ed. Your observations on your blog are looked forward to because someone has to be the keeper of the sane! After they failed to beat up the naysayers, you gained a great deal of respect from the population at large. You deserve a medal for going into the swamp. where no man has gone before! You are a curious, interesting man. Don’t ever give it up!

6) When is I'mA going to keep his mouth shut? When is I'mA going become a real enough "smart" lawyer, instead of a smart ass one and understand that he hasn't a snowball's chance in whatever of stopping the Bridge Company and wherever and that "intelligent" lawyers, like a smart soldiers know when to fight and when to with draw from the field of battle. Not retreating but withdrawing from the field of battle, knowing that you for one can't win the day and two; why throw good men (citizens) and arms (citizen's tax dollars) in harms way.

I'm not a lawyer but I was a soldier and we practiced withdrawing from battle in the dark of night and the light of day (two different ways of doing it) and it was a tactic well worth knowing and using when faced by a stronger opposition or army.

Isn't I'mA a dog food? If it is, then our mayor should keep his mouth shut before he becomes dog meat for the Bridge companies lawyers!

7) How can 11 boxes suddenly appear from nowhere? If they are just finding boxes now our city is in worse shape than we expected. Who is steering the ship and who is running the engines?

8) The first question I would have is just how new is this information? Are these the records that have been missing for months and years finally dusted off? Why could they not be found long ago when it was show time for producing an audit to the city council and administrators? If they are truly new then by what authority were they created, who authorized them, whose signature certifies their authenticity? I wonder what small business person would be able to put this kind of charade when going through a tax audit?

9) City hall mystery files...... Where were they?Who had them?Who filed them?Who kept them until now?

This is not a file folder but at least 200 lbs of documents. Were they kept out until now, umm, on purpose? Maybe they were used as a door stop so the councillors would have access to the mayor's office. If the city hall audit has that many boxes, David Suzuki will go ballistic on the arena files. Staples must have a milk run on paper for city hall if this is any indication

[NOTE: Perhaps each Councillor and the Mayor had a box. That makes 11 doesn't it? They were probably NOT told what was in them]

10) Do I understand that there is now going to be an audit of the audit?This is beyond all reason.

It can only be explained if there is something serious to cover up and, as we know, the cover up is always worse than the "crime."

The administration is concerned about litigation and then they challenge Matty Moroun and his plans. They have bigger litigation problems than this audit.

11) My question is this. Is this new audit a forensic audit or just another whitewash as was the case when we citizens were "Cut off at the pass"

12) [Re: Is the Bridge Company Windsor's friend not foe now] Ed you have never been so right!

13) such a joke - on the news this morning Eddie blasted the province and feds for spending BIF money in the region and not where it is needed.

Amazing how you can bite the hand that feeds you. $20 million from the province recently and they are still persona non grata for the mayor; budgeted funds for the ECRow were allowed to be used for rehabilitation outside of the original scope of the project, and the provice still gets grief.

And now the city says that money is tight and that discretionary spending (ie travel) has to be curtailed. Wonder if that includes outside legal fees and consulatnts' bills. Seems to me the amount spent on Schwartz, Estrin, PB, Sutts would cover the city's shortfall.

14) The small business task force is a joke. A very close friend of mine opened up a new business, is restoring the building and going ahead with a heritage designation. Not once has city hall contacted him nor has any councillor stopped by his shop to say hello and thanks for investing in Windsor.

In fact when he went to city hall (he didn't go online) he was treated with utter contempt (his words not mine) because he didn't know how to get the tax rolls going. He told me that city hall staff did nothing at all to help him get his business started.

If this is but one man, imagine the others that get treated the same way!

I find it absolutely shocking that Windsor does not have a small business task force front and center in today's economic climate. With all of the Big 3 pay-outs, one would think that the city would try and capitalize on this large injection of money and help people become their own boss.

According to many stats, 36% of people would like to be their own boss. Imagine that! Here we have a lot of people with $75,000-$100,000 buy-outs who don't want to retire, who would rather open up their own business, whatever it may be, and we have a city hall that ignores them.

Any wonder why Windsor has the reputation it does? Now you know!

15) This must be the day to "slam" naysayers. First Fast Eddie and then at council or as Ron Jones pronounces it "consul" by Mr. Ward 1 himself.

You know what Ed... since the Detroit River is an international waterway under the jurisdiction of the IJC it would be a monumental task to get approvals to dig canals in Windsor. The project would be wrapped up in red tape for years. Sure hope the committee understand the ramifications before they get too far down the line with the study.

What do they say..." those that are smart enough to run in politics are smart enough not to."

16) perhaps a category of "Nay-doers" also needs to be defined

17) Your observations are not fuzzy. Lack of transparency and disrespect for the voting public is the hallmark of this Mayor and his mealy council. Crystal clear to all Windsorites.

What really galls is that, at it's very best, the Windsor Star is a news publication. It is not an advertising agency or a marketing house. Outside of "pasting up" retail ads and selling ad space the Windsor Star Sales and Editorial departments have no expertise in advertising or marketing...

None of this is funny. For that money to be effective in it's intent (to sell Windsor), This publication, or any promotional endeavor, has to be well planned and well penned. It has to be more than a collage of "feel good" Windsor images and endorsements. For sure it cannot be the whimsy of one man no matter how narcissistic he is. We cannot afford another truck load of green paint, flags and flyers thoughtlessly tossed into the fan because...Consider this...Windsor has to live with what sticks.

18) Perhaps you should start a discussion on your blog about how to tackle these frustrations….in the meantime, I was given this book, all about Windsor, expressing the authors’ frustration as landlords in Windsor….it is interesting…If you are interested, I’m sure you can come by a copy from the authors or publisher………….You see, not all the naysayers actually live in Windsor…we have managed to spread our poor reputation far and wide by treating visitors (and now students) or those who have tried to carry on businesses in this city as shoddily as we treat our own taxpayers……………………the authors of this book do not live here…and given the tone of the book, thank God for the day that they managed to quit Windsor…….

[The book is: "Cloak of Secrecy" by Charles Arthur, Ph.D. and Eileen Gwyneth Roy http://cloakofsecrecy.com ]

19) It appears that Mayor Francis missed the city-sponsored motivational speaker at the Chysler Theatre on Thursday night. If he had attended, he would have heard Maurice O'Callaghan telling city workers to "think positively" and focus on the positive rather than "hopelessly moping about the bad".

On Friday, in response to the announcement by the province that the new jail may be located near Walker Road and Highway 401, our mayor said said he would rather see it built in the Brighton Beach industrial area, since it would cost Windsor police less in transportation costs. Hmmm - shouldn't cost too much given that, according to the Windsor Police Service, crime is substantially down in Windsor. No, the real reason our mayor has to find the cloud with a tranished silver lining is that yet once again he has been snubbed by the provincial government. And who can blame them. While other Ontario municipalities welcome with open arms any senior-level largeese, our Mayor can only be content if he gets his own way. Locating the jail in the suburbs (and dangerously close to the county) takes away yet another west-end investment opportunity. It also precludes the city from charging over-inflated costs for city-owned lands in Brighton Beach.

With the way this mayor treats the senior levels, it is any wonder we get any project in this town. Time for Eddie to strap a W to his chest and as O'Callaghan says "think of something good ...find the diamonds among the stones".

20) My Company has decided to forgo the Ontario market that my father developed BECAUSE WE ARE A UNION SHOP AND CAN NO LONGER COMPETE AND OBTAIN WORK....EVEN IN WINDSOR. My focus is now 100% in the United States, the Caribbean & overseas. Nobody in Windsor is willing to accept globalization. The town will truly parish.

21) The environmental assessment is just a political tool meant to appease individuals/groups that have legitimate concerns about development through their neighborhoods/cities and it has turned out to be a highly political one.

I don’t for a moment think that my letter to the [Ministry] was the thing that actually put [Name of project] on hold for the moment…it was the fact that [MPP] realized how ill-advised it would be to let the thing progress to its inevitable conclusion given that [location] is the place he looks to for a great deal of his support.

This applies equally to the DRIC process…there is no need…and the thing will not move unless the need arises. In the end, environmental assessments are merely a tool to assist transportation initiatives…the terms of reference always discuss the transportation goals that it means to accomplish and the proponent (and its assigns) just try to dress the thing up until it meets the community’s approval.

It is like putting lipstick on a pig….and given the analytical skills and attention span of the average Windsorite, it usually works. I encourage you to use your aptitude to help expose this practice

22) just received my MPAC assessment and boy have Eddie and council done a job on my (our) housing investments.

My MPAC assessment has come back and get ready....my property has been assessed at $38,000 lower than when I purchased it in 2005! $38,000 lower!

I just want to thank Eddie and friends for destroying any value that my property once had.

If you guys don't think that a BIG tax hike isn't coming just wait until the rest of Windsor gets their assessments. Boy, it is going to be a whopper!

23) The time line puts everything in proper and startling perspective. All things considered, now that the City has found 11 boxes of "new" audit information, KPMG and the lawyer will probably be put out another 6 months (7000 hours). Your posting has to be dynamic. Obviously. Wasn't Mike Dunbar the same guy who's diligence caught the MFP fiasco which, after litigation saved this city tons of dollars? Did he suddenly become incompetent and criminal? Trust me...We are all watching this.



24) This city desparately needs a trustee.