Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Special Delivery

Get your emails to me before the holiday crush

1) Looks like Edgar's buddy is going to make him look like a hero just before elections.
When is the last day Eddie has to submit his running?

If Fahri's impressed with the students in the core he's kidding himself. All the students I know have enough money for Macaroni and cheese with some left over for beer money. Hardly tourist potential.

Yet there are so may people out there wanting to get things done yet Edgar slows or stops them all together.

I can't wait until Edgar gives the bridge some sort of legal document threatening them with expropriation or clean up. Edgar would be in court for years.

2) For whatever it's worth, I have composed this letter to send to everyone on council. Perhaps it is naive to think that one individual can influence or even change the direction of a political glacier.

Keep up your invaluable work.

I’d like to expand, for your consideration, the current debate on whether Windsor should privatize the parking enforcement office. I hope that my years of experience while on that job, both as a temporary and later as a full time staff, lends some merit to this essay.

The position is extremely difficult, nobody would claim otherwise. You must juggle the core issue of revenue generation versus public service. Receiving a parking infraction notice from City Hall is akin to being levied an unexpected tax. The citizen generally feels at best, a sense of marginalization and resignation, but then things could deteriorate. The Officer is dealing with three extreme flashpoint issues; the public, their vehicle and their wallet/pocketbook. Several times per shift, despite common misconception, you face down the citizen as the ticket is being served. Feelings of real duress and the chances of conflict go up immeasurably. There is however, a real science in dealing with members of the public, under these circumstances, that only years on the road can accomplish. My experience was that I was perceived as a legitimate representative of City Hall, with the sworn credibility of the court system backing up any enforcement action. I also employed well honed skills of public relations and exercised a fair amount of discretion when warranted. With this in mind, I still brought far more revenue than was expected and to those persons I engaged at the street level, they would conclude that their encounter with a municipal employee wasn’t necessarily a negative one. My work assessments would bear witness to this.

If we proceed to farm out these positions with full media fanfare, to perhaps a security firm, this will prove problematic at the control, communication and public perception levels. Questions must be raised.
-will the City have any control on who fills these tentative positions?
-whom do these people serve, the citizens, City Council, their own possible out of town bosses?
-will the shock value of daily public scorn and vastly lower pay lead to a high turnover rate?
-what type of training, principles and experience with the public will be brought in with them?
-is the City willing to pay for enhanced training and take responsibility for their conduct?
-will there be language, cultural barriers to overcome?
-who accepts the liability in the advent of possible violence?
-what happens due to the real possibility of a vehicle accident?
-can an RFP really spell these and other issues out with any degree of accuracy?

My own experience in the private security field left much to be desired. My tenure with several companies followed the same pattern. Little or non existent training, entry qualifications minimal at best, standards for education and even literacy below sub par and pay was barely at the poverty level. Their staff member was basically an unmotivated, untrained, uneducated warm body, thrown into an ill fitting uniform and then placed at various sites, all hours of the day or night. One must ask, is this the unprofessional calibre of possible frontline staff that City Hall wants to enforce their by laws? Will the irate taxpayers respect these novice contracted employees when they are dispatched to dark alleys and violence prone streets, busy malls, tailgate parties, alcohol soaked athletic events, hostile neighbour vs neighbour situations? Perhaps members of Council could arrange for a ride along, just to see what the typical by law Officer encounters during his or her shift. It is very much removed from the simple checking of parking meters downtown.

There is currently a well documented problem in the parking enforcement office, pertaining to absenteeism, increased sick occurrences, combined with falling revenue. My response to that is that there is a corporate mechanism to sanction those that would abuse the system, and rightly so. The City does not owe anyone a living and the ratepayers deserve better. Does this mean that we deal with one problem by creating another perhaps to endure for years to come? That office as well as how they govern themselves should be re conceptualized with a new raison d’etre. Past questionable practices, both union and management will not be tolerated. Those not comfortable with the nature of that business, due to being transferred in because of past injury, be encouraged and facilitated to transfer out to another department which would promote overall morale. More promising is the fact that new part time employees are required, as per the new JJE directives, they must possess post secondary credentials, notably in the police foundations and sciences programs. As when I first began there, these personnel are paid in scales that commensurate with service, are generally younger in age and scope, are more motivated and focused on the job, and are less likely to call in absent. Managerial problems will be ironed out through attrition and Council diligence. These points were brought up at a recent Council meeting, however Administration was hesitant to answer queries under cross scrutiny.

On the question of falling revenues, there are a myriad of non draconian strategies to increase the city coffers and staff satisfaction. Tens of thousands of uncollected dollars extra could be extracted monthly by merely updating an obsolete by law ie it is an infraction to sabotage and then park at a meter for free, by introducing scheduling changes, different enforcement hours, a full compliment of Officers per shift vis a vis shorter response time, chasing down delinquent accounts, enforcing scofflaws etc. As well, the City has within its own ranks, dozens of years of collective and quantifiable experience and professional expertise in this specialized field. Why open a Pandora’s Box throughout the corporation and the community when the answer lies in house? Do the citizens really want this? Has there been a plebiscite on this issue?

In conclusion, do we really want to throw away one of the few money generating departments to the wayside and hand it over, wholly or in part to a questionable private sector? Other municipalities have experimented with this in the name of fiscal responsibility but then have reverted back to a municipally run system when the “for profit” outfits proved disastrous. In Windsor’s case, there would be short term gain yet long term problems that may well erode the sense of the quality of service. Philosophically for that matter, should a private company even be allowed to be in the position to enforce laws that must remain the domain of the state, merely because they claim to be able to operate slightly cheaper? Where does this process halt? Windsor and the region’s current economic woes notwithstanding, the public must demand more of municipal government.

3) It amazes me that he [mini-Gord] can talk about saving tax dollars yet be happy we are spending billions of tax dollars to build an public bridge that someone else is willing to pay for.

All for Edgar

4) I am a daily reader of your blog and while I do not necessarily agree with
all of your positions I must say that I am continually amazed at the level
of research and due diligence found in your writings. I am a firm believer
in gathering multiple views on a single subject in order to form my own
opinion. Please keep up the excellent work.

5) (a) Ms Bertolin;

I’ve read your report regarding the outsourcing of POOs. I’m puzzled by many aspects of it as well as your subsequent interview with Doug Schmidt of The Star. My biggest issue with the report has to do with “unplanned absences”.

While a lengthy debate could be had solely on the basis of what constitutes an unplanned absence I’ll leave that for another day. What I would like to know is what that number is in other departments in the city, as well as an aggregate average city wide. Assuming that the POO’s average is significantly higher than any other department and the corporation as a whole; what explanations would whomever is paid by my tax dollars to run the POO office be able to provide for this anomaly? I would also like to see the unplanned absence number for the last few years to see how those years compare to this. Further what is the disciplinary policy as it relates to excessive absenteeism and who’s job is it to enforce that policy?

It is my understanding that a number of the employees in this department have been transferred here in order to allow them to come off WSIB and accommodate restrictions as a result of established work-related injuries. How many people in parking enforcement would fall under this category? Is a savings realized by the taxpayer by having these employees on the job versus at home collecting WSIB benefits? If so was that savings included in the calculations for the cost of this department?

It seems to me that this report exaggerated and highlighted absenteeism without really looking at the root cause because the financial aspect of outsourcing is nowhere near compelling enough to justify privatization. It is incomplete and therefore unacceptable as a basis for making an objective informed decision.

I’ll quickly recap the questions I have and eagerly anticipate the answers. If you are unable to provide this information to me please advise where a taxpayer may find it.

1. Average unplanned absences for each city department using the same criteria as the report

2. Total average of unplanned absences for the whole corporation

3. Same numbers for previous years

4. Disciplinary policy for excessive absenteeism, who enforces this policy

5. Number of employees in Parking Enforcement with permanent work-related injuries

6. Amount of money saved by finding suitable work for injured employees

(b) From: Bertolin, Diane
Subject: RE: Outsourcing of Provincial Offence Officers

By way of this email, I have sent it to our Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator, Mr.Chuck Scarpelli. He will explain the process and fees associated with responding to your request.

(c) Councillors;

I feel this response to my questions is unacceptable. I would implore you as my elected officials to compel the release of this information. I would have hoped you would have taken it upon yourselves to request these particulars. The information I seek it would seem to me is essential to put the numbers presented in the report as well as her statements to The Star in some type of relevant context.

It is entirely unfair to offload injured workers into one department in order to save money on WSIB then turn around and blame these workers for the implications of their workplace injuries. I’m disappointed that both of you continue to allow this type of demonization of our workers especially those who were injured performing the work of the collective conscience of our city while caring for the elderly at Huron Lodge. I find this abhorrent and reprehensible. If neither of you feels the need to allow the truth to be told then at least on my behalf insist on full disclosure of all relevant facts and I’ll stand up for the truth myself.

Further, the notion of paying a fee for this information smacks of stonewalling. This information should already be compiled as it should have been included in the report.

6) [RE Biker clubhouse demolition an exception to the rule] What do residents have to do - ride Harleys???

7) Dear Mr. Mayor and City Councillors,

I came up with an idea a few days ago, regarding funding for development of our economy AND our environment. I thought it would not hurt to at least mention it, as an informal proposal. Here is the plan in a nutshell:

Development of a fishing community in Windsor, along Detroit River, stretching from the Sandwich area to Lake St. Clair. This would entail several designated fishing areas, without taking away from the parks, only enhancing them.
-Detroit River would have to be cleaned up:
-Divers and special machinery would need to remove debris from the bottom of the river;
-Windsor Utilities Commission would need to initiate a cleaning /filtering system to maintain clean water;
-Build shops along the riverfront (on the river side), like mini restaurants, bait shops, cafes,etc.;
-Have the river stocked with game fish;
-Renovate areas that would deter tourism, ie Sandwich area and areas around downtown.

Benefits include:

Tourism (There are NO fishing communities anywhere near Windsor)
Short, mild winters mean a longer season than any other in Ontario
Many jobs would become available
Good for the environment
Funding could be pursued from two sources
Beautifies the city for other tourists
Three consultations are free! For initial consultation, I would recommend our local Scuba Shop (Benthic) regarding the diver's role in this project; Ministry of Natural Resources for advice on the feasibility of creating the suitable environment for a fishing community; and Windsor Utilities Commission regarding cleanup of the water.

I am an angler, diver and a City employee. I would love to see our economy built up and our environment improved. There are many who would agree!

Whether my idea is utilized or not, I thank you for at least giving it some thought.

8) Interesting piece in the London media. Guess this is why all of a sudden the canal poject is getting press again - cause London is getting the hub

9) All smoke and mirrors....saying Jones leaked information to Fox is like saying my pool filter is leaking into my pool. The leak was to the media, not cell calls between the two parties.....confuse the topic, I wonder who is in charge of all this

10) “This piece of legislation has wreaked havoc on this city. I don’t think the public realizes the ramifications."

Just so we are clear Fulvio you are saying that paying woman what they deserve has wreaked havoc in this city?

Fulvio I am just curious, do you not support equal pay for equal work? Do you think that females should be paid less if they are doing a job that the male equivalent gets paid more for?

Really I think your comment should have been "The people of this city don’t realize how much money we have saved over the years by paying woman less then men who perform similar jobs. And unfortunately instead of us deciding to pay the woman we employ equally we needed the pay equity legislation come in and tell us"

Ah I see why you wouldn’t say that. Because the blame would lay on you, this way you have a scape goat, Pay Equity Legislation. City Council can do no wrong, it is always someone else's fault. Again reminds me of my 4 year old nephew.

11) Ed, you said......

According to Markovic's version of events, which was backed by Postma, he and a councillor and a city manager were in a boardroom when the manager received, via his PDA, details about negotiations and a notice that a special session of council had been called for 2 p.m. later that day.

I believe this was the evening of June 30th.

I should be pretty simple to determine who sent the PDA message to "the manager" that evening by simply issuing a subpoena to acquire the text message records of city hall staff around the determined time that evening that Postma said the message was received. (just like Kwame got caught in the text messages between he and his girlfiend) These messages are stored in the carrier's (Telus, Bell Mobility or Rogers) database and are easily obtainable as are cell phone records.

Sounds pretty simple to confirm the leak by doing the foregoing. .... "the Manager" will be identified and so will the originator of the message.

Question is..... will Basse do it or has he been pressured from above?

It is impossible to "skirt" digital technology these days.

12) I have just read your blog on the leak. It is easy to figure out I just think it is [Name of person(s)..] That is my opinion.