Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 01, 2009

Council Contempt For Citizens

You may wonder why the Star’s City Hall Reporter did not tell us about this recent Council event by doing a story on it. From what I hear, there may be a shakeup at the Star and I am not certain who the City Hall Reporter is now.

If in fact there is a new person, that person clearly was not around when some of these events happened. Alternatively this could be a terrific new tactic to ensure that nothing negative about City Hall is ever published. Just don’t have a reporter present.

No disrespect to the members of the media who were there but they just don’t have the coverage of the Star.

It feels great to be almost over whatever illness I had over the last week or so. It does get somewhat disturbing thinking that I merely had a spring cold and then reading in the media about swine flu! Oh well, nothing has changed in this City while I was out of commission. Actually, it has gotten worse.

I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to read Councillor Halberstadt’s BLOG the other day but I wanted to build on what he had to say because he has not given you all the information that you should know about. I am sure that he does not dare do so for obvious reasons:
  • “I cast opposing votes on two of the mayor's pet infrastructure stimulus projects that will be forwarded to the federal government… and some $44 million for Eddie's west waterfront marina-canal.

    The canal-marina was defeated on a 6-4 vote. I couldn't, in good conscience, vote for a project without seeing any details or a business plan. Dave Cooke turned over the documents to the mayor a number of weeks ago, but the plan has yet to be seen or vetted by Council or the public.

    Council, too often, is asked to make such decisions at the 11th hour, with procedural notice bylaws waived, shutting out any public input and pointing a gun to fatigued Councillors' head. This happened last night since stimulus applications have to be in on May 1. Council didn't see any of administration's candidate projects until late Monday night, after all regular business was dealt with, in the sweaty Walkerville room.”

Remember my BLOG Tuesday, March 31, 2009 “Manipulating Windsor Democracy.” It happened again!

  • "More importantly, not one single Councillor objected to this procedure, to this denial of citizens' democratic right to appear as a delegation in front of Council to express an opinion.

    So much for democracy in Windsor. No member of the public was allowed to appear as a delegation to this matter because no one knew about it. No one was allowed to appear at Council to complain bitterly about what the Mayor and Council were doing, nor to support it either."

I wrote yesterday about the contempt shown to Council Postma with respect to the canal. It is even worse obviously. She claimed that

  • “I have not received a report yet nor have I received any drawings or engineered specs…

    I cannot commit either way yet – I have no information.”

More than that, she was told:

  • “I learned a report will be coming forward not only outlining the business case and engineered study but also incorporate all of the studies that have been done in that area.”

She promised:

  • “Rest assured when I receive the report it will be shared with the residents well before council debates whether a Canal is worth while or not.”

Promises, promises.

It seems that not only Councillor Postma but Councillor Halberstadt and perhaps some of their colleagues as well were given very little information about the Mayor’s Canal Vision. But for Gord Henderson’s column they and Windsorites would know nothing about it.

You might wonder how a project costing $44 million and which could change the face of Windsor dramatically could be discussed without citizens knowing about it and not being given the opportunity to speak on it. Some people may like the idea and some people may say that it is a foolish waste of money when the City is in dire financial straits.

Anti-Democracy in action in Windsor is how citizens are kept out of the loop.

Remember how I Blogged about Councillor flip-flops yesterday. The Councillors did not have to worry about anybody accusing them of speaking out of all sides of their mouths because the public did not know about the meeting. They were nicely protected. We know that four Councillors supported what the Mayor wanted to do but we do not know which Councillors they were or why Councillors were for or against the spending of so much money. We know nothing about anything. We are kept in the dark.

As for an informed decision by Councillors, based on what Councillor Halberstadt claimed, do not make me laugh. I take Councillor Postma at her word too. She has to be furious for being embarrassed personally by what happened. How could she possibly keep her word? Imagine trying to explain what happened to her constituents. Sure she promised citizen involvement but now we see the reality in anti-Democratic Windsor.

Sit back and relax and let me tell you again about how Democracy is played in Windsor. It is a disgraceful exhibition because after all, only a few weeks ago the Mayor stated accurately but narrowly as we now know:

  • “Francis said Thursday he will bring the study to council for approval sometime before the end of this month. "If council gives the go-ahead we could get a shovel in the ground this year," said Francis.

    The mayor would reveal little of the financial or engineering findings contained in the feasibility study, which has been conducted over the last six months by a committee led by former MPP Dave Cooke.”

"Sometime" before month-end turns out to be a mere few days before infrastrucutre lists have to be submitted.

But then again, back last July well before the feasability study had been completed, the Mayor had clearly made up his mind what should happen:

  • “When you ask, 'Is this really going to happen?' Just watch us," said Francis.”

He also had said in PERSPECTIVE WINDSOR 2008 that:

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

Heck even Gord was onside when his reader, Arthur, challenged him:

  • "I am willing to put a bet on this marina -- say a bottle of whatever it is you drink. Let me know if you are interested," he concluded."

Let me fill in some of the blanks in Councillor Halberstadt’s BLOG, give you some of the background information and explain some of his cryptic comments:

  •  Last Monday night at the Council meeting, Council discussed the capital budget process....specifically the need to identify projects for the Federal/Provincial infrastructure funding that is coming.

  •  The deadline for submissions was May 1, only a few days later notwithstanding all of the time that was available to discuss the matter fully previously and in public rather than in the last possible minute

  •  Many projects were included...

  •  A Motion was made to include the Canal failed.

  •  A Motion was then made to include the canal pending approval by Council had to see it and approve it first prior to making the submission for funding...which incidentally is today!

  •  I suspect that the Canal Study was not presented to Councillors for them to review before or at this Meeting from what Councillor Halberstadt has said

  •  On Wednesday, only two days later, an in camera meeting was held to discuss the MoE Report on DRIC and to discuss how to deal with the more than 100 appeals on the Sandwich Heritage matter

  •  By the way, David Estrin made a report about DRIC that was received as information (and as was stated on CBC Radio, legal action is still an option). However, Council decided not to retain Estrin to fight the appeals of Windsorites. The legal costs would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so and this is a planning matter, not an environmental matter. It should be interesting to see if the City’s Legal Department is given carriage of the matter or whether an outside lawyer is retained.

  •  After the in camera meeting ended, and notwithstanding that few members of the public had knowledge I would expect that such a meeting was taking place, a Motion was passed to waive the Procedural Bylaw rules and immediately enter into a Public meeting of Council

  •  Of course, no member of the Public would know about that meeting at all thereby ensuring that no member of the public could appear as a delegation to speak nor could a member of the public listen to what the Councilors and the Mayor had to say. No Star reporter was there either I was told.

  •  I do not know if all of the Councillors approved of the waiving of the Rules but obviously most of them did so

  •  Why then was this Public meeting held

  •  Its purpose it seems was to discuss the capital budget again... even though it had been discussed on the Monday

  •  Specifically Council was going to discuss the list to submit for funding...again!

  •  This time the list was shorter as the requirements of the program state that they will only consider projects that can be done by 2011.

  •  Remarkably, there was a great emphasis about 'signature projects' which the Mayor claimed the Senior Levels were looking for.

  •  Of course, this was a lead in to the canal project, again.

  •  As the discussion took place, the Mayor requested that his Chief of Staff fetch the Canal Study and a riverfront study and he answered questions from Councilors based on the materials that were in front of him. He of course remained in possession of these volumes of documents

  •  Unfortunately, Councillors were not given a copy of these studies and had no idea about what all of the details were. Only the Mayor knew

  •  Here is the wrinkle though and a huge concern which was raised by Councillors. The canal project is estimated to cost in $44M, a significant percentage of any allotment received from the Senior Levels. If the canal was not approved by Council (who had never seen the Study yet) but approved for funding by the Senior Levels then Windsor had no recourse to request different projects to make up the $44M that was requested. In other words, Windsor would lose the opportunity to do other projects that we know need to be done!

  •  Another motion was made to include the $44M in the request. The vote fortunately was 6-4 against doing so primarily because Council had not seen the canal study and there was a risk to the City to lose the funding of $44 million

  •  Apparently, the canal deal is still not dead yet because there may be a further program from the Senior Levels later on in the year where money might be available

  •  The 4 Members of Council who wanted to include the Canal were Councillors Lewenza, Valentinis, Gignac and Hatfield I am told.

  •  I am glad to see that Councillor Dilkens did NOT flipflop and remained true to what he said that "we need to be prudent with our resources."

So that is how Council operates. Sure, Councillors did not go along with the Mayor to pursue the Canal Vision but the Councillors did go along with the anti-Democratic way in which the Procedural Bylaw was used to prevent the public from knowing what was going on and from participating in the Democratic process.

It would have been interesting to know how Councillors Gignac and Hatfield performed their flip-flops to approve the Canal vision after their negative comments with respect to the Armouries and the Art Gallery.

What a way to run a City. While it is not $75 million like the Tunnel deal, the amount of information given out by the Mayor was just as miniscule. Only he is to know and Councillors are there merely to rubber-stamp. After all, why should they know anything… it was private money used to finance the Study and not City money. Councillors therefore were completely irrelevant notwithstanding what they had been told previously. Councillors who voted to support the Mayor have to be ashamed of themselves for doing so without a detailed review.

I do not know how Councillors can look at themselves in the mirror any longer. Are they not ashamed of how they are abused? They are treated like Kindergarten children. I do not understand how the Councillors can truly believe that they are performing their function under the Municipal Act.

Do they not have any respect for the citizens of Windsor! How can they continually allow these procedural tricks to be played? More importantly, how can they vote in favour of them? It is beyond my comprehension.

Meetings are held it seems whenever that Mayor snaps his fingers. They are long and involved with him controlling the information. Why do Councilors permit this? I cannot believe that their families are pleased at them being away from home for so long. Then again, that’s the name of the game that the Mayor is playing. Approve what he wants to do so that you can leave quickly. If not, then you are required to attend after school with a detention.

I also cannot understand how the Councillors can sit there without any information. How can a $44 million decision be made in the last possible minute? That is absolutely irresponsible and not in the best interests of the citizens of Windsor.

Moreover, and I know this is a silly comment to make, don’t any of the Councillors or the Mayor want to hear what citizens have to say? After all, it is only our money.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh and too hard. Perhaps the Councillors have finally had enough. The Mayor clearly must have been concerned on the DRIC matter because he did not ask for a vote again to confirm the previous Resolution to permit the commencement of a lawsuit for judicial review. Did he suspect that he would lose on that vote?

I am surprised that our legal weapon of mass destruction was not retained to handle the Heritage appeals. I wonder if the Bridge Company lawsuit to remove Estrin had any impact. In any event, not retaining him is a slap to him because, as far as I am concerned, the Heritage matter is part of the City’s strategy against the Bridge Company.

I am astounded that the Mayor lost on the vote to include the Canal. This really is his first big loss. I know it may be a month or so late but is this the beginning of the end of our Mayor’s control over Council. Is this March, 2003 all over again when Mike Hurst lost a vote over the border file and never won another one while he was still Mayor?

I hope it is.

I wish that Windsorites could have seen which Councillor was the leader in this matter. Or was there more than one as in 2003?

Oh well, Arthur may be happy at least. It looks as if he may win his bottle of Scapa, a single malt whisky from Scapa Flow, from Gord after all.