Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 06, 2009

Are Mayor Cockrel and Detroit In Trouble

Is it history repeating itself? Should Detroit Mayors understand that they ought to be extremely careful in dealing with Windsor with respect to the Tunnel deal?

Ex-Mayor Kilpatrick certainly has learned that I would think. Just before his campaign to be re-elected for Mayor, our Mayor was very concerned when it appeared that Kwame was prepared to enter into a transaction with the Bridge Company over the Tunnel. Events took place that were certainly helpful to Kwame’s opponent, Freman Hendrix, and could have cost Kwame the election.

I need not discuss what happened with respect to the Tunnel Deal between those two Mayors afterwards because that should be fresh in your memory.

However, are Mayor Cockrel, and the City of Detroit as well, now facing the wrath of Francis because of recent events? Could it mean not only the end of Cockrel’s career as Mayor but also the financial distress of the City of Detroit?

Lest you think that I am being overdramatic, let me remind you what our Mayor said:
  • Detroit seeks $100M for tunnel agreement
    Grace Macaluso, Windsor Star, Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    The cost of entering into any kind of a tunnel agreement with the City of Detroit has soared to US$100 million under a new proposal unveiled by Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr…

    Anthony Neely, spokesman for Cockrel, said Monday.

    "It's not proposed as a deal with the City of Windsor. It was proposed as a deal with an outside, private business that would operate our end of the tunnel for us and and pay out that amount of money to the city in exchange for regular collection of fees from the tunnel…"


    Mayor Eddie Francis questioned how Detroit arrived at a $100-million price tag for control of the U.S. side of the tunnel.

    Windsor has gone through an "exhaustive process" to arrive last year at a $75-million value, he said.

    "That was the number we were prepared to pay back then, but economic conditions have changed considerably and are very different than five or six months ago."

    The mayor said 2010 toll revenues for the Detroit side are projected at about US$11.5 million, but the city has no way of knowing exactly since it is controlled by Alinda, a private company which holds a lease until 2020.

    "Does the tunnel have revenues to support $100 million on the American side? I'd be interested in looking at their numbers," Francis said.”

There, do you understand what I mean? If not let me take you through what is going on.

Detroit has a budget deficit of about $300 million. Mayor Cockrel, as did the previous Mayor of Detroit, wants to help solve that deficit by doing a deal involving the Tunnel, whatever the type of transaction may turn out to be. The assumption everyone was making is that the deal would be with Windsor. Eddie certainly expected it. A Tunnel deal is a fundamental plank of what has to be done for Detroit. Kwame wanted $75 million while Cockrel wants $100 million to fill the Budget hole.

The little wrinkle that makes this more interesting is that there will be an election on February 24 for Mayor of Detroit because of the resignation of Kwame and Cockrel is running as well as Freman Hendrix who also ran against Kilpatrick. The actions before the last Detroit mayoral election would have helped Hendrix. Will Eddie’s comments hurt Cockrel and help Hendrix and Cockrel's other opponents this time around too?

The comment from Cockrel’s spokesperson effectively means that Eddie cannot get the Tunnel. Is Eddie a gracious loser? Is he thankful he is out of a bad deal? Does he contact the Detroit Mayor and say instead let us talk again to see how we can help you and do a deal? No, he lashes out and in doing so undercuts Cockrel and Detroit.

Effectively, our Mayor has said that the Tunnel is not worth more than $75 million. He should know shouldn't he because he operates the other side. After all, we went through “an exhaustive process.” Eddie also questions whether the Tunnel can support a $100 million deal. And everyone always, that Eddie is never wrong.

Accordingly, we know that the maximum price is $75 million which would leave a $25 million shortfall for Detroit. But does Eddie stop there? Oh no. He now reveals as if it is new news what the Blogmeister and other Bloggers have been saying for a very long time and which made this transaction nonsense from Windsor’s perspective:

  • “economic conditions have changed considerably and are very different than five or six months ago."

Eddie has been listening too long to Harper/Flaherty about our economic crisis that suddenly appeared after the last Federal Election it seems.

I assume that he is not just talking about the decline in traffic but the DRIC challenge of taking 25% of the Tunnel traffic away in the event of a new DRIC bridge.

Let us do some rough math and say that that would result in a $25 million decline in the value of the Tunnel making its worth only $50 million now.

Oh my goodness… Cockrel’s Budget does not work. There is a $50 million hole there that cannot be filled. No one would bid more than $50 million when the Mayor of Windsor is telling everyone what the price of the Tunnel should be publicly. And he is the expert remember.

There goes Cockrel’s credibility as a financial manager who can help Detroit get through its economic crisis. Cockrel obviously has no idea about what the Tunnel is worth. Had he known, he would have understood that more action needed to be taken on the Budget. He has left Detroit in a jam!

Hendrix and the other candidates now can attack Cockrel mercilessly based on what Eddie has said. The beauty from their position is that they have the word of the Mayor of Windsor on this, obviously someone who has no interest in the outcome of the campaign.

What about the City of Detroit? What are the bond rating agencies going to say now and the holders of existing bonds when there’s a $50 million hole in Detroit’s budget that no one has contemplated. Could this push Detroit’s financial position over the edge? There are very delicate negotiations going on with respect to Detroit and its creditors. Could this result in more onerous terms being Detroit being imposed on Detroit or perhaps the creditors pulling out of any further negotiations. Could that result in the economic collapse financially of the City?

Perhaps I am overreacting. Perhaps I am not. In my opinion, our Mayor should not have opened his mouth the way he did. He should have thought through the potential negative impact of what he was saying.

This is the future of a City at stake and a mayoral career. Depending on what happens, will Eddie and Windsor be blamed?

Red Bull-ogna

Those poor people at Red Bull. They are used to dealing with big cities, not small towns. It should be a learning experience for them since this is Windsor, not Detroit.

Of course, I am sure that you are trying to understand what is going on considering that this seemed to be an Eddie Francis event that has suddenly turned into a Province of Ontario extravaganza.

I wrote yesterday:
  • “That press conference must have been hastily set up. Dwight was not around and had to be conferenced in. Interestingly, his name was plastered all over the Star story but Sandra was not mentioned although we did see her photgraph.”

I was proven correct!

Consider this. Here is the media advisory that was sent out about the press conference to be held at four o’clock on Tuesday.

Looks very professional don’t you think. I found it interesting that the Provincial Ministers’ names are listed first but perhaps that is protocol. Guess what time it was sent out? In the morning, so that the various editors could arrange for a reporter to be there? If that is what you guessed, you would be wrong. According to my information, it was sent out from the Mayor’s Office after 3 p.m.

Poor Sandra. I wonder where the MITI Minister was when she got a call from someone telling her that she better attend that Press Conference since Dwight obviously was out of town.

Clearly, there was a need for a Press Conference pronto after the Globe story! It would be pretty hard to slam CEOs for waste in bailouts after the Province was giving away more than $3M, especially to help sell a popular stimulant energy drink.

Look at what happened to the Bank of America and the criticism they received:
  • "Despite a near collapse that required $45 billion in federal taxpayer bailout funds, Bank of America sponsored a five day carnival-like affair just outside the Super Bowl stadium this past week as President Obama decried wasteful spending on Wall St. "

Wasn't Dwight Duncan the guy who:

  • "criticized Detroit auto executives Monday for flying in separate private jets to Washington last week, where they were seeking financial aid for their struggling companies.

    "I was just astounded at the Detroit three CEOs flying in on private jets to Washington. Talk about out of touch in terms of what's going on," said Duncan."

I sure hope that she was in her car on her way to Windsor at the time so that she did not have to go too far out of her way or was forced to make a special trip. I would hate for Gord Henderson on Saturday in his first new column to accuse her of paying so much money for airfare to come down just for this Press Conference.

When you listen to the video that I posted the other day it is pretty clear that Sandra and Dwight did not get their stories straight. I wonder who briefed her. Sandra talked about “backstopping.” the project while Dwight never used that word. He talked about providing “Host City funding.” In the Star, “Finance Minister Dwight Duncan pledged $3.2 million to sponsor the event. “

There were three versions. Which one is it: providing the balance outstanding only, giving the money or merely pledging it.

I suspect that Sandra did not know much about the transaction at all until she got her phone call. It was interesting that the Star chose not to talk about her in their news story at all.

This reminds me of the $500 million Gong Show story a number of years ago where Ministers Dwight Duncan and David Caplan promised us money one day and took it back the next. It was very clear in that story that Sandra was out of the loop. In fact, she was not even present when the announcement was made.

Is someone out to get her within her own Party? I have seen that happen before to a Liberal in this area.

Finally, here is a copy of the Press Release.

A Provincial Government Insider (no, not Gord’s friend who may be looking for a new home in order to spill leaks now that Gord does not have a regular 3 times a week column) suggested to me that you

  • “can tell by the formatting of the release on the website that it was done by a provincial government person.”

Perhaps this person was being unkind since presumably the Mayor’s Office would know how to do a Press Release properly.

If you were a Martian, and I showed this Press Release to you, which Government would you think is in charge of this Project? Yes I would agree with you:

  •  Province Partners with City

  •  McGuinty Government Supporting Tourism to Windsor

  •  Members of Provincial Parliament Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello announced today that the Ontario Government will support

  •  More details on the Air Race and the government’s participation will be announced in the coming months

  •  Dwight quoted first, then Sandra and our Mayor bringing up the rear.

I hope that the sale of tickets on our side of the river goes better than it did last time when the US media had to tell Americans that tickets were still available in Windsor or else we might have been left with a lot of unsold ones.

So welcome to the world of Small-town Ontario, Red Bull. This fiasco is what happens when a Mayor of a little burg gets too big for his britches. He has a habit of grabbing glory. You just need to cut him down to size as the Ministers did.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

"We did things that newspapers can do to bring about change, positive change."

That is a quote from Marty Beneteau, Editor of the Star.

In my opinion, this one newspaper town is being badly served so far by our newspaper. Or perhaps I am condemning them prematurely. Perhaps they are working on a massive series about the evils of public-private partnerships: P3s, AFPs as Ontario calls them or 3Ps as Michael Kergin did. Anything to confuse the public!

Bridge and road Megaprojects are running amuk in Canada and more are to come. The Danish Professor who writes on this subject should be offered a Chair at the University of Windsor so he can write about this. Or perhaps I will do my Doctorate on the subject about how taxpayers are being fleeced.

Here is what the Star's sister newspaper in Vancouver has been telling its readers about a massive bridge project that has gone hugely over-budget. Have you read about it locally? It is only a $3B+ project that doubled in price in a year. Does that scare you about DRIC's true cost? It ought to!

Is DRIC going to be our Big Dig too!

Moreover, the winning P3 partner, the Australian company Macquarie---are they MDOT's Australians---almost had to back out because they could not raise the money required with the economic melt-down. Instead the Province will have to put up one third of the huge amount required.

Did you see any of this in the Star? Nope we saw instead the Editorial today between the love-in between Eddie Francis and Dwight Duncan over Red Bull:
  • "When Finance Minister Dwight Duncan promised $3.2 million from the province to sponsor the event, organizers signed on the dotted line.

    "Without Dwight's involvement this event would not be coming back -- period," Francis was quick to say when the big news was announced on Tuesday.

    Duncan's commitment sets the stage for a series of unprecedented opportunities."

Oh my goodness. What was discussed in that car trip to Toronto airport between the two of them.

Oh Lord, please save us from the opportunities I am thinking about and with whom! No wonder we have not seen Dave Cooke's Report yet and we have just heard about the West End brownfields!

How much will all of this cost taxpayers at all levels just to stop the Ambassador Bridge Company!

Obviously, much more to come in subsequent BLOGs.

  • Four-step program for buying a bigger bridge blows the budget

    Vaughn Palmer
    Vancouver Sun

    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Premier Gordon Campbell proudly took the wraps off the design for the new Port Mann Bridge project Wednesday, declaring, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

    A thousand words? Try more than three billion dollars.

    For $3.3 billion is the B.C. Liberal government's latest estimate for the "all-in cost" of its plan to double the carrying capacity of the Port Mann and widen the adjacent stretches of Highway 1.

    The new price tag is a shocker, to put it mildly.

    As recently as last June the government was still maintaining that the project could be completed for a capital cost of as little as $1.5 billion.

    As to how we got from what now looks to be a bargain-basement estimate to today's stratospheric rendering, the premier and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon described a four-step escalation.

    Step 1: The raid on contingencies. At some point last year, the government realized that the project would be more expensive than initially estimated. So the Liberals took $230 million from the contingency funding for the Gateway project (which includes the Port Mann), boosting the budget to $1.73 billion from the initial allowance of $1.5 billion.

    Step 2: Inflation takes its toll. The preceding numbers were in 2005 dollars, a caveat that appears in some government documents though not invariably. In order to give a more complete picture, the Liberals switched to 2013 dollars, that being the year when construction is scheduled to be finished and the new bridge and road open to traffic. Eight years of inflation (by the government's reckoning) transforms the $1.73 billion construction cost to an estimated $2.1 billion.

    Step 3: Buying a bigger bridge. In the initial tender call, the Liberals asked for bids on construction of a new five-lane span downstream from the existing Port Mann plus all the related highway widening and improvements in intersections.

    They also wanted the builder to retrofit the existing span, bringing it up to modern-day standards for earthquake-proofing and safety. The winning bidder would then be contracted to maintain the entire project for 35 years of operations.

    But the bidders balked at tackling the old span on those terms, believing it wasn't worth it to try to extend the life of a bridge that was already 45 years old and costly to maintain. They "didn't want the risk," according to Transportation Minister Falcon.

    The winning bidder countered with a proposal to build a new 10-lane bridge on the downstream site, then demolish the old one. Cheaper to maintain and more reliable in the long run. But more expensive up front.

    The one-bridge solution boosted the price tag (remembering that we are in 2013 dollars now) to $2.46 billion, a jump of $360 million.

    Step 4: Everything including the kitchen sink. The province is also required by the auditor-general to tally up a number of ongoing costs, including maintenance, rehabilitation, operations and interest charges. The running tab is calculated to be $840 million, boosting the all-in cost to -- well, here's the relevant passage from the government press release:

    "The total cost will be released when the contract is finalized but is expected to be approximately $3.3 billion."

    Give or take? The Liberals didn't say. But the working estimate is onerous enough, particularly as the province has agreed to finance one-third of the total through its own borrowing power, meaning taxpayers will be ponying up $1.15 billion.

    Repayable at commercial rates, insist the Liberals. And the government can back out as early as 2010 if a bank or pension fund is willing to take its place as an investor in the project.

    Either way, the full cost of the project is supposed to be repaid through tolls, which will be collected throughout the 35-year life of the operating agreement. Starting toll is $3, which should yield an annual take in excess of $100 million.

    The projected long-term stream of revenues from the tolls must be lucrative, given that they are expected to repay the escalated cost as surely as they were going to cover the original low-ball estimate.

    Other details will be made public when the deal is finalized, which could happen as early as next month, according to Campbell and Falcon.

    The Liberal duo spent much of the press conference one-upping each other on the merits of the project, describing it as the biggest infrastructure project in provincial history, the greatest relief to traffic congestion, and so on.

    But one superlative that isn't likely to crop up in their boasting is the one suggested by what happened to the estimated cost of building the thing. From the $1.5 billion minimum last June, we're now at $3.3 billion and that still may not be the end of it.

    Sure, a lot of factors contributed to the increase: overruns, inflation, scope changes, carrying charges. There's nonetheless a jump of 120 per cent or $1.8 billion in a mere eight months, surely a record for a provincial project of any kind.

    And they've just started putting shovels into the ground.

Survey Fallout

“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.”

How true that statement is. Now I know how the messenger feels after he has been shot!

For a guy who is as sensitive as I am and who wants to be loved by everyone, this is been a very traumatic week for me.

First, a couple of my readers made some nasty cracks that really had nothing to do with the municipal political survey that I prepared but were personal to me. If that was not bad enough, now this:
  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Gignac, Jo-Anne (Councillor)
    Sent: Monday, February 02, 2009 3:46 PM
    Subject: Re: Mister Softie's lament

    Please remove me from your email list.

Then this:

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Jones, Ron
    To: WindsorCityBlog
    Sent: Monday, February 02, 2009 10:19 PM
    Subject: RE: Busy weekend of border stories

    Please remove my contact from your mailing. Thank you. Ron Jones

How polite even as I heard the "bang" go off.

I knew that these two Councillors could not have been the authors of those nasty comments. But their request for deletion from my BLOG e-mail list hurt all the same.

One right after another. After all of this time too on my list. On the same Monday too, Council day. I wondered if this was a subject of an in camera meeting discussion. I had better check the Minutes when they come out. Who is going to be next to go? Could this be a plot to see which Councillors actually read BLOGs so that they can be re-educated?

I did not understand. These people are elected by the Taxpayers of Windsor. I am a Taxpayer. Don’t they want to know what I think about what is going on in this City? I know that I am not always in favour of what they are doing but is that a crime for which I should be so punished?

It especially hurt about Council Gignac since I praised her recently for her foresight on the Cleary transaction about being the only Councillor who voted against it. I guess it is what have you praised me for lately that counts.

Seriously, do Members of Council only want to hear from YES-men and women? Are they afraid of hearing criticism, especially constructive criticism as I set out in my BLOGs?

Perhaps they did not want to be part of a small group. After all, Councillor Hatfield recently said that only 20 or 30 people might read a BLOG.

A Star writer in a BLOG said before that:

  • “Ward 1 candidate Coun. Dave Brister is not a fan of blogs.

    “I don’t read blogs,” he said recently.”

It was also said about him:

  • “Brister said all the criticism directed at council over the last year about secret deals and secret meetings has only been an issue for two or three people in the community — “two or three people out of (a) 200,000 population.”

I wonder if I am classified as one of those two or three people.

I get it, perhaps the Councillors want me to do charitable work instead. The Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget said to another BLOGGER in town in a not so polite way:

  • “Remove my name from your mailing list and find a charity to which you might devote your time.”

I scratched my head trying to think of what I had done wrong. Then it came to me. It had to be the survey. They were upset at the results. I guess they did not want my readers to know what other readers thought about their activities as Councillors.

But why were they taking it out on me? I did not make it up. I did not fill in all the surveys. I did not make all of those comments. All I did was report how my readers voted.

It is not my fault that Councillor Jones has a disapproval rating of over 70% and an approval rating of just over 7%. How can I be responsible if Councillor Gignac’s disapproval rating is almost 40% and her approval rating is under 20%.

They are responsible for what they do on Council, not me. I cannot help it if people think that they are doing a very poor or poor job. Perhaps they are and it should be a wake-up call for them.

I would have thought that the Survey results were like a report card that a Councillor would have received as a student in school. After all, they are used to be treated at Council like Kindergarten students by the Mayor/Principal. They have been scolded enough times by him publicly and did not run out of the Council Chambers crying.

It is just a mid-term report card, not the final one. They have not done better than the last report card. In fact, they did worse. However, they do have time to improve between now and the next municipal election.

Hopefully, at that time Councillor Jones will not be voted as the Worst Councillor on Council. I know that Councillor Gignac must be upset that she did receive a few votes saying that she was doing the worst job. Perhaps she might try and learn from her peers, such as Councillor Dilkens who received no negative votes, probably because he is a proponent of open and transparent Government.

I know that both of the Councillors did not receive a single solitary vote as being the Best Councillor but if they are re-elected perhaps it is due to them doing a better job after seeing their poor results. Do you think that they would write to me and apologize and thank me for helping them do better? Do you think that they would want to be added back onto my e-mail list. Hardly.

Then I wondered if there was a different explanation.

Is Councillor Jones really mad at me, not because of those survey questions, but because I did not list him as a possible mayoral candidate? I might have done so except I did not think he wanted that job.

Look at how much time and expense I saved Councillor Gignac. She might have thought that she had a chance to be Mayor and might have spent some money on a mayoral campaign. She would not have had a chance and would not have been on Council at all if she ran for Mayor and lost. At least now, given the past history of her Ward, if she works diligently, as I know that she can, then she has a good chance to be re-elected as a Councillor.

I thought some more about it and perhaps the explanation is that the Councillors are not suited for the job. They do not have the disposition for it. Perhaps they are not very happy at what they are doing and are taking it out on me. If that is the case, then they should remember what ex-President Truman said:

  • “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

DRIC and The Air Race: It Has All Been Cock And Bull

Ok here goes:

  • Eddie, You're The Man!

  • Only you could have done it!

  • Take that whiners and naysayers

  • Windsor on the World Stage Again

  • It's a symbol of our rejuventation

  • We are Canada's Aerospace Capital now

  • We will be known as a world-class tourism destination

  • Jobs, jobs, jobs.

There, does that make some of my naysaying cheerleader readers happy. It's easy to be so positive and rah-rah-rah until the real facts come out.

How do people feel now when we know that it is the Province working with our Mayor as the insignificant junior partner who made this happen when we all thought it was OUR Mayor alone who was the hero. What a switch from yesterday to today in media coverage. Who knew about Provincial involvement until we saw this video

Talk about our Mayor looking and acting uncomfortably!

That press conference must have been hastily set up. Dwight was not around and had to be conferenced in. Interestingly, his name was plastered all over the Star story but Sandra was not mentioned although we did see her photgraph.

I wonder when the information about the two levels of Government working together would really have come out. Several months from now IF Eddie could NOT have lined up sponsorship funds?

It has been kept from us by our Mayor and two Cabinet Ministers since last fall. I wonder what role Transport Canada has played as well since my insiders have said that they played a key role in this too. They would have to be deeply involved because of their air navigation responsibilities at the least.

So nice learning that the three levels of Government can work together so closely and secretly for so long. Makes one wonder doesn't it.

However, Eddie just could not leave well enough alone. He must have thought that he was dealing with Windsor Councillors still and that he could get all the glory. The Province probably would have let him get away with it, they had up until now, but the story in the Globe and Mail probably angered someone at Queen’s Park. If it was just in the Windsor Star, who cared because it was just for the locals… but in the Globe for everyone to see:

  • "Global air-race tour to hit Ontario

    February 3, 2009 at 10:28 AM EST

    WINDSOR, Ont. — Windsor has been selected as the lone Canadian stop on the six-city Red Bull air tour and will host the event the weekend of June 13th.

    Windsor shared host duties with Detroit last year, but Mayor Eddie Francis said the Michigan city decided to forgo involvement this year.

    Mr. Francis estimated the economic spinoff for Windsor and Essex County will be as much as $70-million.

    Other stops on the tour include Abu Dhabi, San Diego, Budapest, Barcelona and Portugal.

    The race sees pilots in fast, agile planes hitting speeds of up to 370 kilometres an hour along a low-level aerial track.

    The event attracted thousands of fans to the Windsor river front last summer, and Mr. Francis said he expects bigger crowds this year.”

The kiss off to the Detroit media will not help our Mayor very much either:

  • “Nora Bertram-Romero, who works for the Windsor mayor's office, said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis had been in contact with Red Bull.

    "He's spoken directly to them but nothing has been secured at this point," she said. "The provincial budget is being revised this week, and Mayor Francis is very busy right now."

How about this in the media as well:

  • "Windsor and neighboring Detroit shared host duties in 2008, but Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis says the Michigan city decided to forgo involvement this year."

I do not recall seeing this in the media before. Why isn't our Mayor inviting Detroit to be involved as they invited Windsor know, all of this 2 nation co-operation platitudes giving us the uniqueness for this type of event.

I cannot believe that both Eddie and Dwight can throw around numbers like $70 million. It sounds like the huge amount of money that Windsor was supposed to get at Super Bowl time so that the City could justify all of the money that it sunk in to that project, including sponsorship money. It turned out that the amount actually received was a fraction of that amount. I guess they think they can fool us again.

Take a look at the video. Forget listening to what was said. Just watch Sandra and Eddie. At his moment of glory, why did the Mayor look like he was in shock, completely stunned. Look at his feeble smile when Sandra looked at him. He looked like someone who had just been scolded and sent into the corner for bad behaviour. Now he knows how the Councillors feel when he treats them as like Kindergarten children.

And his behaviour was abysmal. Did you see anything in the Globe story but the name of Eddie Francis. Not a word about Sandra and Dwight and the Provincial backstopping of this project.

At the least, with the Montréal Grand Prix, it was 3-level Government attempt to win the race back for that city. It was all public too.

  • "Fortier seeks meeting to save Canadian Grand Prix

    MONTREAL -- Federal International Trade Minister Michael Fortier says he is seeking a meeting with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to try and save the Canadian Grand Prix for 2009.

    Fortier met today with Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and Quebec Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand to discuss a course of action."

Here it looked like it was all the Mayor of Windsor alone.

It was also very reminiscent of the Sutherland matter which, when it first came out, made it appear that Eddie Francis was again totally responsible for bringing jobs to Windsor. It was not until later that we found out that it was Sandra’s money that did it. She was able to obtain put up the cash that actually did the trick.

The body language tells it all as do the voices of Sandra and Dwight. Even though this was a video from the Windsor Star they did not record one second of Eddie's comments, if he actually gave any.

This is the Province who is responsible for this tourism coup. It was brought here by our two Cabinet Ministers and not our Mayor notwithstanding that he tried to grab all of the credit.

Poor Eddie. He is in serious trouble. The Province is only providing “backstop” money. Eddie has to go out and find the $3.2 million. From the way that Sandra described it, it is only if Eddie cannot find the money that the Province would be involved. The pressure is on our Mayor. He has to perform. And if he doesn’t, then fingers can be pointed at him.

Eddie will now have to demonstrate how wonderful he is at fundraising. I am certain when he approached the Province back in the fall he thought it would be nothing to get money from sponsors since our economy really wasn’t in all that much trouble. Today however which corporation is going to be seen to be throwing money at a frivolous air race. Companies are cutting back, not spending lavishly as they did before.

Oh well, it looks like Eddie is going to be occupied in matters other than looking after the well-being of the City. Who cares about roads and sewers when his neck is on the line.

Moreover it is not just of Windsor alone that will be involved in this project. The Province will be involved as well. After all, if you are putting up the gold, you make the rules.

I expect that the Province is not too pleased about being involved given what is going on in the economy but they are stuck. The Opposition ought to have fun about this but Spanky and the MITI Minister will be able to bluster their way out of it. A hint for the leader of the Opposition: use what I Blogged before from one of the leading business people in the US:

  • "Here is what Roger Penske did in Detroit:

    Detroit Grand Prix group understands cancellation

    On everyone's lips was the cancelation of the 2009 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, which had leaked out a few hours earlier.

    No rumor -- just plain, cold facts. With the Motor City suffering from an economy in crisis, organizers of the race thought they could not, in good faith, stage the event scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

    Roger Penske, the force behind the return of the GP to Belle Isle in 2007, pulled the plug -- with the understanding of the Detroit city officials, event sponsors and the Indy Racing League, the race's sanctioning body. ..

    Merrill Cain...who has run the GP's public relations efforts from his office at the Renaissance Center, wasn't putting a spin on the night's mood. He was bitterly disappointed, like everyone, but he understood the necessity of cancelling the race.

    "With a lot of folks in Michigan hurting, it just wasn't right to stage the event," Cain said. "We all had a few beers and talked about it. Everybody wants this race to come back. But we knew it wasn't a good situation to go ahead next year with it..."

    the decision to cancel the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is a good one.

    But to expect the public to shelve out that kind of money for the 2009 event in such economically challenging times would have been foolish and arrogant.”

Of course, there is more to this story than meets the eyes. We have been bambozled once by the politicians and their secrecy. Why not again. Our Councillors have to feel like fools now. They above all have been used as pawns unless they are in on it too.

Naturally, you know that I am going to talk about the border. You remember the secret Eddie/Sandra/Dwight meeting, the infamous car ride to the airport.

You know I am talking about the "family feud" over the Schwartz Report, full tunnelling, Greenlink/DRIC Road and the fight to put the Ambassador Bridge Company out of business. It was all designed to stall until after 2010, the time when the Province thought they would have money for the road to the border.

If this does not tell you that the City and the Province are working together and all of the feuding is nothing but a stage-managed farce, then nothing will prove it to you.

What are the other deals that have been made now that we know about the secret Red Bull one?

I can guess one of them...Did you see the story the other day about Brownfields and the Editorial today. You wait and see....we will be given the choice of Greenlink or cleaning up our major Brownfield: the Zalev plant! How do I know? It was in a Henderson column the day after the last municipal election! That is how the Province will get out of building the DRIC road.

  • "Look for border infrastructure, the Zalev scrapyard and Windsor Airport to top the must-do list when Mayor Eddie Francis and his new council meet with a facilitator in early December to draw up a battle plan for the next four years."

In 2007, we read in another column:

  • "Is the timing right for a deal between Windsor and Michigan waste disposal magnate Anthony Soave, the Grosse Point Farms resident who owns the former Zalev Brothers recycling yard and perennial city eyesore...

    Meanwhile, Mayor Eddie Francis, who made a 2003 election commitment to eliminate the 50-acre Zalev mess once and for all, recently asked the company to schedule a meeting on the operation's future. "The time has come for us to have a serious discussion, to see what is possible and what is doable," said Francis.

    He's had a lot on his plate with the border file, but has never made a secret of his desire to see Zalev move. He said it would be consistent with current efforts to boost Windsor's sustainability through beautification and environmental and quality of life improvements."

The timing is much better now for both the municipal and provincial politicians as the next elections are fast approaching.

So much for Eddie threatening lawsuits and never starting one. So much for the millions in legal and consulting fees that we have had to pay out. For what?

Let's get real. Eddie knows who the Senior Level is. He knows who has all the power. There is no doubt that he was reminded of it before the press conference with Sandra.

Eddie will do what he is told. The Province and the City are ganging up against the Federal Government and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

We will get the kind of road that the Province wants to give us. Eddie has always known that and now we do too. I would be hopeful that we would get a road similar to I-696 but will probably get an at-grade expressway from Highway 401 to the Ambassador Bridge. The dream of a DRIC Road is now dead. Keep your Greenlink flag however as a memento. You might be able to sell it on eBay a few years from now to make a buck or two.

Why would Sandra and Dwight want to put up this kind of money for a weekend in Windsor? In the end, it does not cost the Province all that much since Eddie has to produce and there is probably some tourist program under which it falls. Our MPP/Cabinet Ministers can show us how much they are doing for the area too.

It is really a cynical exercise in power politics after all.

Eddie Francis should have listened more closely to ex-Mayor Mike Hurst when he said:

  • “I am the Mayor of a small town. I have no authority; I have no clout.”

Now Eddie knows that Mike was telling the truth. And so do we!

WEAK-LING Label Gets Stickier

It really is sad watching Eddie Francis self-destructing right in front of our faces. If you ever wanted to witness a person with so much potential destroying himself almost daily and publicly, that person is our Mayor.

There is almost a feeling of desperation around him. Everything that he tries turns to dust. He is a small-town Mayor playing in the Big Leagues where he cannot control the kill button on the microphone system. Look at how he was outplayed on the Tunnel deal at a cost of almost two million of taxpayer dollars.

Reading the Star is very instructive because it again showed us clearly all of his failings. It shows us how weak he has become and accordingly, how much we are losing.

I must admit that I still believe that this so-called DRIC war is all a "family feud" being orchestrated with the purpose of making Eddie our Saviour while at the same time allowing the Senior Levels to build a low cost road to the border. We will demand that Eddie sue to save our children, or so he will claim, and that gives the Senior Levels the excuse to permit them to do what they really want to do but they can say it is merely an interim step until the lawsuit is over. No one would be the wiser either.

However let us play along with the charade. Let us not show others that we can see through all of this. Let us assume that there really is no deal between the Province and our Mayor and that the parties really are feuding.

Recently we had a Henderson column [you remember Gord Henderson don't you] blasting Ministers Duncan and Pupatello and a Star Editorial doing the same thing. On the other hand, we have a front-page story “MPPs blast GreenLink ad blitz” with the two Ministers saying
  • “The Ministry of the Environment is not influenced by media campaigns, advertising blitzes,” said Minister of International Trade and Investment Sandra Pupatello, the MPP for Windsor West…

    Duncan advised the city against taking legal action that could slow down what has already proved to be a cumbersome process.

    “Believe me, we’re hearing from people and here’s what I’m hearing: Get on with it. Knock off the insanity of slowing things down,” said Duncan. “We need jobs. We need investment. That’s what they’re saying to me.”

Just watch this clip and especially watch Dwight's face as he threatens when the subject of lawsuits comes up. Except Eddie knows he is not threatening! It was what Pupatello's office claimed before as well and is probably for real.

It should be obvious that the Liberals have done some polling in this area. They are hitting right at the Mayor’s witnesses: wasting taxpayer money and the need for jobs. Eddie knows it too as the latest Greenlink ad shows.

We have seen the approach that the Star has taken before…when Henderson hammered Minister Pupatello day after day after day on the Arena matter and his attacks were picked up by the NDP in Queen's Park questioning. That does not work this time around because a Provincial election is a long time away. Windsor's mayoral election comes first and we know whom Dwight and Sandra will not support!

Why do I call Eddie a WEAK-LING. Because the Star and Henderson in particular have made him one. So much for Gord being an Eddie-fan as many still believe. So many times now we are being harangued in the newspaper about all of the ills that will be caused to us by the DRIC Road. Eddie now calls what DRIC says "Lies, Lies, and more Lies."

We were told that it would be unconscionable not to sue, that our kids are at risk necessitiating the use of backpacks for breathing reasons, that every known disease under the sun would befall us. Eddie is snubbed by the Ministers citing the Memebers' Integrity Act even though Dwight met Eddie in a car on the way to Toronto airport to discuss the border issue and the 2 Ministers met with Eddie in secret before. Now our Mayor should understand the consequences of snubbing the Premier and the Minister of Finance's pre-budget meeeting twice in a row.

Yet what is our Mayor's response. A lawsuit? Hardly. All he can do is talk, talk and more talk. He is going to make more representations to the Environment Minister and will run an ad campaign that will fail just as his earlier Greenlink one failed too. I am sure that the Senior Levels are shaking.

Do you read the Greenlink ads....don't send Eddie your letters. He does nto want them. Send them only to the Province. If the DRIC Road is built, then it is YOUR fault dear reader. Your letters were not good enough!

Why is Eddie a WEAK-LING? He just cannot act as a leader, as our Mayor. He relies on others to do the dirty work for him. It is always Council's decision when something can go wrong, or someone can be blamed. But guess who is there front and centre whenever there is glory to be earned.

Let Henderson do the attacking not our Mayor. Actually, Henderson has backed off rather dramatically, making the Premier the villain in his column. Otherwise, this City would lose its Queen's Park allies:
  • "Have Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello been hung out to dry -- and left to twist in the howling wind -- by their former rival and current boss, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty...

    Dwight and Sandra are victims rather than villains in the province's decision to play smash-mouth politics and try to crush Windsor on the border file rather than engage in constructive negotiations."

Whoever dreamed up that approach, and I truly hope that it would not be the Eminence Greasie or I would use my respect for one of the shrewdest people in town, is out of their mind. You don't attack the head of the Government Party personally and expect to win. I know, it was the provincial government insider who always gives Gord the big scoops. He probably wants McGuinty to retire soon so blame him.

I do have to admit though that I think that our Mayor may not be able to take the pressure anymore given the three-time use of the word "lies." Putting himself at risk is not something that the Mayor normally does. However, it may be that he is just upping the ante at Dwight and taking a shot at him because Dwight only said twice:


There is no doubt that Henderson has seen the error of his ways too and does not want to appear even more foolish than he already has. Did you see anything in his column about lawsuit or our legal weapon of mass destruction, David Estrin? That is the clearest signal of all that our Mayor is a WEAK-LING.

It is not like before. Instead this is the funny part. Now even Henderson wants "constructive negotiations." For merely suggesting this, he slammed Councillor Bill Marra and called him a WEAK-LINK. Now, that is the approach that the WEAK-LING Mayor should adopt.

What the Star Editorial is doing now is trying to shut up any opposition to the Mayor. That is their role but in a much more intellectual fashion. There are too many people in town who know that the MAYOR IS WRONG and they have to be silenced by name-calling again:

  • "If people who know better are suggesting, or implying, that further discussion about alternatives will jeopardize jobs, they are guilty of pitting job-desperate families in this region against families with real concerns about health risks."

Oh please, the only one supposedly pitting families against each other is the Mayor who is raising this bogus issue in the first place. For whatever reason, the Mayor refuses to acknowledge the obvious about the new technology that will dramatically reduce emissions. He has to ignore or else he has lost. In this respect, he is no better than DRIC.

The fight is futile. Eddie knows it. The Star knows it. Henderson knows it. Most important of all, the Senior Levels know it.

I found it fascinating that Eddie is kissing up right now to the Conservatives federally. Does he know something that we don’t via his good friend Brian i.e. Joe Comartin may be retiring so that Eddie may run for the Conservatives. He would be running against Dwight Duncan who would want to take over the seat for the Federal Liberals and get a prestigious Cabinet job especially because he was an Iggy supporter:

  • “Meanwhile, the City of Windsor and the federal government are enjoying something close to a love affair as they close in on a property deal for an inspection plaza in Brighton Beach.

    "There's been a wonderful working relationship and things are moving forward very productively," said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis as he heaped praise on federal officials who've bent over backward to be co-operative.”

Really, I have heard otherwise. I have not heard such a thing from the Government people that I talk to at the Senior Levels but then again, guess who Gord is getting his information from.

In passing, it seems like the brouhaha over the jail going to Brighton Beach has disappeared now. Just wait until the Feds don’t want to pay the price that he wants for the City’s land there. The love affair would be very short-lived.

Eddie needs to keep the Feds onside because, as he conceded at the Senate hearings in Ottawa, he knows that they have the power under the Constitution to take over control of the entire road to the border if they choose to do so. That is his ace in the hole against the Province, or so he thinks. However, the Feds are not that stupid. They don’t want to have responsibility for the roadway.

The war, if there really is one, is between Eddie and the Province and it is a war that he cannot win. At any time, as the Mayor knows, the Province can upload a road and that is the end of it. Expect them first to upload E C Row and then Huron Church Road where they will build the cheap solution. After all, that is what the Joint Management Committee wanted to do and that was part of the Nine Point Plan.

Here is the real tragedy for Windsor. We could have had it all by now including money for being the host community for the border crossing. Unfortunately, our Mayor does not know how to negotiate. His smarmy attitude and his arrogance are costing us dearly. He is not as smart as he thinks he is nor as he wants us to believe:

  • “Francis pointed out that a construction technique suggested by city consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff was adopted by DRIC for the Parkway, resulting in a savings of $67 million.

    “A cheque from the finance minister would be greatly appreciated instead of the criticism he’s giving us today,” said Francis. “If they want to do the right thing they should pay us because their consultants left that money on the table. They benefited from the work we are doing.”

Here is Eddie again, the pompous little know-it-all Mayor who always is right and who has to shove it into your face so you know it too. Instead, if the Mayor was not confrontational and had worked with the Senior Levels, we probably would have been able to get this kind of money for our City and more because our experts would have been working together jointly.

The City could have made a good argument years ago when the Senior Levels were flush with cash and when Eddie had everybody eating out of his hands because of groups like STOPDRTP who gave the City power. He would have had a very powerful position at that time that probably would have been successful that the City was owed money because of all of the pain that we would suffer here.

I have no idea whether the City and Province are really fighting or not. I do not think that they are to be blunt about it although I also believe that the various personalities cannot stand each other by now. Look again at Dwight’s face in the video clip. Still, I expect that they are laughing at all of us as they are playing their drama. Too bad that this drama is not taking place at the Capitol Theatre. It would run forever.

In the war against the Bridge Company, the combatants have to stick together no matter how distasteful and how much each of them disgusts the other.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Doing The Tunnel Twist

I wonder if Chubby Checker would come to the Casino to perform. If he did, would he do the Tunnel twist dance there.

There are almost as many twist and turns in this file as in the DRIC matter.

I really have to wonder if Detroit ever knew how much money Infrastructure Ontario was going to provide to Windsor supposedly to do the transaction on the Tunnel deal whatever form it was going to take.

I suspect that they had a good idea that Windsor was never going to get $75 million. In fact, my bet is they were happy to pretend that Windsor was going to pay them $75 million because it certainly solved a budget problem for them for quite a period of time.

Our Mayor was played like a violin as far as I am concerned. He was used I suspect to get the price of the revenue stream up to the hundred million dollar mark. After all if a Third Party who happens also to be the owner of half the Tunnel like the City of Windsor believes that is worth $75 million, someone else might be convinced that it is worth $100 million. After all, why would Eddie be offering an amount where he cannot make extra money. Eddie was used to boost the price for Detroit!

Of course, where Detroit went wrong on this was that the marketplace for infrastructure opportunities has gone into the toilet and there is not a lot of cash around for these types of deals anymore. Of course, if you remember, I also suggested that a Pension fund in Detroit that had a surplus could have helped the Mayor solve some of his financial problems so that a deal with Windsor was not necessary.

It looks like the Detroit Mayor wants to package together all of the infrastructure deals and offer them to one party in order to get his $250 million rather than doing it piece by piece. It that was his intention, then Windsor is out of the picture.

I wonder who the successful party will be with Detroit if there is one. Depending on which private investor it is, it could be a kick in the you know where to our Mayor. His worst nightmare could come true. And I do NOT mean that it is the Bridge Company.

What I find somewhat troubling about all of this is that it appears that Detroit may have been misleading our Mayor and our Lawyer. That is hardly the way to be a Good Neighbour. Both Eddie and Sutts claimed that they were told that the only party being talked to was Windsor on the transaction. Neither of them were given any suggestion of anyone else. My bet is that they really wanted to know if the Bridge Company was their competitor.

Yet in the Star now we read the following:
  • “Anthony Neely, spokesman for Cockrel, said Monday.

    “It’s not proposed as a deal with the City of Windsor. It was proposed as a deal with an outside, private business that would operate our end of the tunnel for us and and pay out that amount of money to the city in exchange for regular collection of fees from the tunnel.”

Perhaps Detroit has not yet started looking for an investor so what our people were told was the truth. Accurate but narrow in Detroit as well I guess.

Mind you, it all worked out very well. Cockrel now has a budget that he can use in the Mayoral election in Detroit. Eddie has a reason now that he can pull out from the Tunnel Deal with his head held high saying that you cannot blame me. He can point the finger at Detroit and accuse them of bad faith.

Well almost. Windsor Taxpayers are out a couple of million dollars.

I wonder now if the Windsor Councillors will have the nerve to ask the Mayor to answer the questions that have been outstanding for a year since the deal is dead. There ought to be in no concerns over confidentiality now. There should be accountability on how this matter was handled by our Mayor and how the money was spent. Or will he just brush them off saying there is no need to waste time on this subject any longer.

This whole episode certainly will help me with my Freedom of Information Application so I can learn the facts.

Even More Border News

You would think by now, dear reader, that there is very little new that I can say about the border crossing issue. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

There is so much going on that it is becoming virtually impossible to keep track of it. More importantly, it is getting more and more difficult to make any sense out of it since it is so confusing. It is almost information overload.

Let me try and give you in point form my thoughts after reading so much in the last few days. There is absolutely no significance to the order in which I am setting out the facts. Rather I’m looking at a number of articles and commenting on them:

 Crains Detroit ran a number of stories in their latest edition to try and summarize where everything is right now. This followed an Editorial in one of the major Detroit dailies. Does this mean that the Americans are starting to take a look at the border file more seriously?

 If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the front page picture of Matthew Moroun in Crains Detroit probably will cause a number of heart attacks in four Government capitals.

Just as the Globe and Mail story was significant as far as I am concerned since it said that Matty Moroun was not going to be intimidated by a bunch of bureaucrats who were trying to force him out of business at a cheap price, this photograph is symbolic as well.

Normally one would have expected a photograph of his Father or that of Dan Stamper. My belief is that his photograph is a statement to the Governments. It was deliberately done, just like his attending at the Senate hearings in Ottawa. First, it says that he is intimately involved in the border crossing file. Second, is the statement that the Ambassador Bridge is a “family asset” and that his family does not intend to have it stolen away from them.

If there was a view that he would be more willing to dispose of it, unlike his Father, and perhaps even cheaply just to put money into the bank, those thoughts ought to be at an end now.

The bureaucrats and certain politicians misjudged again just as they did before about his Father!

 Another day and finally a story in the Windsor Star that Detroit wants $100 million for its interest in the Tunnel revenues. What took them so long?

 Is the whole Tunnel deal a farce?

Has anyone asked Eddie how much money he has for the deal or is it better not to know? This way one can pretend there is a hope of balancing the budget. If you are a Detroit Mayor and want to buy time, do you just put in any amount into your budget for what the Tunnel deal is worth?

I can just hear this conversation
  • “Mayor, we need another $25 million to balance the budget.”

  • “Not a problem, make that Tunnel deal $100M, not $75 million. We are not going to do it anyway but that will keep the Credit Ratings agencies off our back for a while”

 Expect Windsor to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars more in legal fees if Eddie decides he still has an interest. The Bond Buyer newsletter states

  • “Pending approval by the City Council, the city hopes to close the lease deals by December, 2009.”

 Why do the media keeps saying that Kilpatrick wanted to “sell” the tunnel when he did not. Oh I know, it makes it easier to “lease” the Tunnel or the revenues for years and years and years---40, 50, 75 or 99 years--and still say that we “own” it.

 Check out Chris Schnurr’s BLOG. It is absolutely devastating to our Mayor.

Why would a Windsor citizen have to go to the Province to get an answer about something owned by the City. And why wouldn't Windsor's Tunnel person know the answers?

 The #1 item on Eddie’s Wish List is the Tunnel Plaza Improvements. Presumably, this project is “shovel ready” in order to be eligible for the Government funding.

Why would the Government fund something that the City already agreed to pay in its Agreement with the Senior Levels? More importantly, it is very clear from what MTO has said that this project is nowhere ready to be built at this time.

What does this say about Windsor’s credibility with respect to its entire list of items that need to be done? Should they all be audited to see whether in fact they meet the Government Criteria? What a disgrace.

 If one is to do a Tunnel deal with Detroit, one ought to have traffic projections to make an informed decision what the revenues would be. Here is what is said

  • “The information pertaining to traffic conditions was presented during PIC 2. The PIC materials can be viewed under: [Website link here]...

    As part of the remaining work for this study, the traffic numbers will be further updated.”

I did go to that web page and here is what I found there:

  • “Although the traffic queuing problems have lessened somewhat recently, it is anticipated that the amount of traffic using the Tunnel will grow in the future.”

In other words, they have no projections.

Just so you know, this statement was written before US DRIC said that they would take away about 25% of the business of the Tunnel.

 Do you remember how difficult it was for MDOT to tell Senator Cropsey about how toll credits could be used?

Crains confirmed:

  • “Moroun's construction expenditures over the years, plus toll revenue, could be used to generate up to $2 billion in credits to cover the state or local match on other federally funded transportation projects.”

I do not think that MDOT understands the concept yet from reading their comments in Crains. It might be useful if they went to the DOT website and saw how other States in the US used the toll credits effectively both for roads and for public transportation.

Oh silly me, they cannot do that. If they did, then the Michigan Legislators might understand the value of building the Enhancement Project by using toll credits properly.

 If there is no value to the Toll Credits according to MDOT, then why did Crains say

  • “MDOT has sent two letters to Moroun asking to explore the toll credit funding."

 There is a new bridge expert in town. Let’s call him TermLimited and needing a job with a Public Authority Steve Tobocman. Thank goodness that he is finally on the side of the Ambassador Bridge now and probably would condemn the failure of the City of Windsor to look after their own bridge.

It was stated

  • "Tobocman, who favors government ownership of border infrastructure, also questioned the need to replace the Ambassador Bridge.

    “There are plenty of bridges a lot older than 80 years old. We did a lot of wonderful engineering in the 1920s,” he said.”

Clearly, this is a direct attack on all of the critics of the Bridge Company who said they were not looking after their Bridge properly. Too bad that Steve did not go all the way and have the nerve to come out in favour of the Bridge Company.

 It is clear now that the new IBTA is the new Canadian FIRA that Herb Gray tried to use years ago against the Owner of the Ambassador Bridge and was unsuccessful. I guess the theory must be: If at first you do not succeed...

  • “Transport Canada, the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Transportation, [says] the bridge company will then need federal Canadian approval under the 2006 International Bridges and Tunnel Act.”

That should be good for a dozen years of litigation like the last time.

 Congratulations to Today’s Trucking Magazine.

They analyzed the Federal Budget and identified all of the money that the Federal Government was going to pour into various crossings across Canada including the money to be paid for improvements to the bridges in Fort Erie and Sarnia. They made the point:

  • “Absent from the budget are any plans to improve the Ambassador Bridge, Canada's busiest border crossing, connecting Windsor, Ont., with Detroit.”

I wonder if this would be considered actionable discrimination. If so, that ought to be good for a dozen years of litigation as well.


Crains again stated the obvious:

  • “No one disputes border traffic is down, the latest numbers showing 1.7 million fewer cars and trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge in 2008 than the year before. That's a 19 percent decline, and mirrors a trend since 2001."

Here is the most troubling part. If the following is what the State of Michigan actually believes, then their economy is in serious trouble because the Government does not understand what is going on in the world today:

  • “The decline is temporary, and traffic will rise and require a second bridge, Schrek said.

    “In the last 35 years, this is the fourth period of flat growth at the crossing,” he said. “It always restarts again. This is cyclical. Michigan is blessed with two of the busiest border crossings in North America.”

If only Transport Canada was not a year late on their investment grade traffic survey or if Eddie had done one on the Tunnel, we would know what the latest traffic projections are. One would have to be foolish not to suspect that they are horrible and that is why they have not been released!

Even our Mayor has recognized that the transformation going on is not cyclical but structural. Don’t the people in the Governor’s office read the newspapers these days?

 I wonder if Sean O'Dell saw this too that was claimed in the Sarnia Observer:

  • "They've just announced layoffs at the Blue Water Bridge because of a lack of traffic," he said. "Why are they barging ahead, so they can fix the overpasses for the mayor of Point Edward? They're laying off nurses and spending $45 million on a highway we don't need."

 The Bridge Company is exactly right in what they are saying

  • “The Morouns agree that traffic will eventually increase, but say another bridge crossing isn't needed until statistics prove it is necessary.”

Why would anyone want to spend the billions of dollars today that are not needed and jeopardize financially the other crossings in the region by taking away traffic from them.

As I have said before, if one wants to justify DRIC, then one need say that they have identified the road to the border and where a new bridge might be necessary in the future once it appears that the Ambassador Bridge is really actually close to capacity. It is at 50-60% or perhaps even less now capacity.

Now you should understand the game, dear reader. Governments will say whatever is necessary to be said, even if some of the comments are questionable, in order to protect their desire to beat the Moroun family. They are not completely stupid but do recognize, as was said by the Peace Bridge General Manager, that traffic volumes can no longer justify the building of a new Bridge in this area. In fact, the MDOT spokesperson echoed what Mr. Rienas said

  • "We need both (bridges),” said Bill Schreck, the agency's communications manager.

    “The business community is telling us that they need better access and mobility at the border.”

Nothing about capacity here.

Moreover, and the bridge in British Colombia is just the latest example, P3 investors just don’t have the money to finance these projects. In fact, the Government needs to do so as it is doing in BC by investing $800M or the project would have died.

Why is this being done? Some of the points I raised above plus all of the harangues by Eddie/Estrin and his colleagues at City Council are designed to try to get the Bridge Company to sue. The hope is that litigation over years and years will take place to give time for the economy to improve and for traffic to increase. Accordingly, a decade from now, there would be justification again for more phony numbers about what traffic will do in the future so that Great Grandson of DRIC can be built.

Poor Matthew Moroun. One does not need to read tea leaves to understand what his relationship with the Governments will be in the future. At the least, his Father is giving him some good training in how to beat them at their own game!

There is more that I could write about but I am sure that by now you get my drift about what is happening. It is a process that is completely out of control designed by people who thought that they could control the universe with their wonderful Business Plans but who perhaps have understood that the world works the way it chooses to work.

I think that I will just let Crains have the final comment:

  • “In the meantime, there's an air of inevitability about the second Ambassador Bridge span.

    Its new ramp, roadway and customs booths on the Windsor side are done and await only the installation of the span itself. The Detroit side is close behind, with the new ramp open in the mornings for traffic onto the old span.

    Canadian officials have been critical of a new Ambassador span because of traffic concerns in Windsor, something Blashfield said can be overcome with alternative routes available in the city.

    The bridge company's public comments, and use of lobbyists to push their case in Lansing, have drawn the ire of DRIC's backers.”

Yes, for DRIC supporters, hearing the truth is very uncomfortable!

Monday, February 02, 2009

How A Public Authority Supported The Bridge Company

It is an absolute miracle. Read on.

I am not the toughie that you think that I am. Rather, I am a very sensitive guy who wants to be loved by all of my readers. A real softie if you want to know.

I am certain that when you read my BLOG you understand that my comments are made more in sorrow than in anger. As an example, here I am trying to help out our municipal politicians who have gone astray by forgetting their campaign promises due to the infamous amnesia disease at City Hall but I receive no thanks for doing so. Not only no thanks but I am called a naysayer as well.

It is a cruel world.

You may wonder what has prompted this cry of anguish on my part. Why am I so distraught? The answer is very simple. If you will look again at the comments on my Municipal Political Survey you will note that there is not complete unanimity. Two out of all of the number of respondents were critical of me. It seemed to me that they did not believe what I was saying about what was going on at the Ambassador Bridge.

I could not understand this. I have tried very hard to be factual. I racked my brains trying to figure out what I could say to make these people understand.

As if HEAVEN heard my pleas, I was given the WORD but from the most unusual of sources.

Here are the relevant excerpts from a news story from the Buffalo News that was published Sunday. The reason it is so important is that the person making the comment is Brian Masse’s bestest border buddy, the person whom he has brought to Windsor to explain to the Public here everything there is to know about border crossings, Ron Rienas. In case you have forgotten, he is the General Manager, Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority:
  • With traffic down, is new bridge needed?
    Officials say ‘yes,’stressing efficiency— not vehicle capacity

    By Patrick Lakamp NEWS STAFF REPORTER

    …Figg, of Tallahassee, Fla., has teamed with Menn to develop a bridge concept for the Peace Bridge Authority.

    Amid that work, plans to expand the U. S. plaza and build a new bridge have come under further questioning from some because of declining bridge traffic.

    The number of car trips across the Peace Bridge last year fell for the sixth straight year in 2008, to the lowest level since 1978.

    Truck crossings also dropped. Peace Bridge officials say a new bridge and plaza are still needed — but not for the reason they once offered.

    The current environmental review for a new bridge and plaza has been under way since 2001 — when 6.6 million cars crossed the steel arch bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont.

    Last year, 5 million cars crossed the bridge.

    “The reasons for doing the project have changed from 10 years ago,” Rienas said. “Before, it was absolutely to increase capacity to accommodate increased traffic.

    “Now, it’s about being able to handle more efficiently the existing traffic and replace an antiquated, inefficient customs plaza,” Rienas said.

    The existing plaza in Buffalo doesn’t meet security requirements of the Department of Homeland Security, he said. It lacks adequate secondary inspection facilities. It doesn’t have adequate X-ray facilities for the trucks. The waiting areas for travelers to be processed are so small that sometimes they line up outside the door in freezing temperatures…

    “Their traffic projections don’t hold water,” said Mitskovski, vice president of the Niagara Gateway Columbus Park Association, a group of residents who live near the Peace Bridge.

    “By next year, the PBA will switch themes again and it will be the number of geese transiting the Niagara River. The theme has changed so many times, there is no credibility to what they’re saying...”

    As for a new bridge, it would include a dedicated lane for prescreened travelers, like those enrolled in the NEXUS program, which authorities say would move traffic along quicker.

    Now, those enrolled in NEXUS have a dedicated lane on the U. S. plaza, but that doesn’t help if traffic is backed up onto the bridge and they’re forced to share one or two bridge lanes with non-NEXUS travelers.

    Hurdles remain for the authority. Preservationists, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and the Prospect Hill-Columbus Park Association, among others, are fighting plans to expand the plaza, warning that a historic Buffalo neighborhood would be destroyed and Front Park further damaged…

    Olmsted officials don’t want to give up on the idea of putting U. S. inspection facilities on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge — even though Homeland Security officials have ruled it out. A new administration in Washington could resurrect the notion, said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, chief executive officer of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

    The authority says the portion of an expanded plaza devoted exclusively to trucks would be 5.6 acres out of the 38 acre project area. Nearly 11 acres would be devoted to green space, parkland and buffer.

    While it is necessary to take 84 residences, 10 businesses, five Episcopal Church Home properties and about a dozen other properties, the plaza would not encroach into the Prospect Hill historic district, he said.’

Do you see what I mean? All of the things that I am saying are being said in Buffalo/Fort Erie as well. Don’t jump on me. What I am saying is hardly different than what is being said in the Buffalo newspaper by Mr. Rienas and others. To summarize:


  •  Even at the Peace Bridge, car traffic has dropped off dramatically and truck traffic is down as well. Just as in Windsor/Detroit.

  •  People are questioning the need for a new bridge paid for by the Governments or rather, the Public Authority

  •  A new bridge is not needed for capacity reasons but for traffic flow purposes

  •  In Buffalo (as was done in Sarnia/Port Huron as well), the new bridge is proposed to be built beside the existing bridge while in Detroit/Windsor the Governments have ignored the obvious place to put it

  •  Somehow in Buffalo, there is no need for a 120 acre plaza as DRIC suggested was needed in Windsor at the Ambassador Bridge

  •  In Buffalo, a green space is proposed similar to what the Bridge Company wants to do with the Green Corridor group

  •  There is a need to take homes, businesses and other properties with the Peace Bridge expansion and with the DRIC on both sides of the river. That is NOT what the Enhancement Project requires.

  •  Just as in Buffalo, “The [DRIC] theme has changed so many times, there is no credibility to what they’re saying

  •  Just as in Buffalo, the new Enhancement Project bridge “would include a dedicated lane for prescreened travelers.”

  •  Remember also that the Bridge Company proposed shared border management at their site

  •  The Ambassador Gateway project on its own would be able to handle about twice the truck traffic at the bridge now without the need for a new bridge and it was designed from the beginning to accommodate a new bridge.

So to those few readers who made those nasty comments, take pity on my fragile sensibilities. I am not the only one saying that the Bridge Company is right. I wonder if the Bridge Company was not his competitor in Buffalo if Mr. Rienas would be an Ambassador Bridge fan too.

The Lost Americans And The College St. Bridge

How could I have been so blind!

The Sheriff gave out the information publicly around a year ago but few people, including myself, understood what he was really talking about. He warned us what would happen but we did not take him seriously. He knew what was going on given his background in City matters and his history.

Remember there is the obvious in the Henderson columns but there is also the hidden meaning. Obviously, he understood that he had written too cryptically in this case and learned. He changed his writing style so that he made it perfectly clear what he was doing.

My only defence is that I just cannot be on top of everything, even something that has taken place constantly over the last decade. I just don’t travel in that area very much so I would not have known about the problems.

Of course, I am
talking about the College Street Bridge and its closure for who knows how long. But there is more to it than that, much more!

Remember what the City said in a Press Release:
  • “As a result of a recent structural evaluation, it has been decided to close the College Avenue Bridge over C.P.R. to all through traffic for safety reasons. The College Avenue Bridge was built in 1927. It has now reached the end of its useful life. Detour signs are being posted to redirect traffic.”

I was lucky that I was able to find it because there is nothing on the City’s Newsroom page about it. I did see in an Administration Report:

  • “As a result of previous inspections and concerns raise, load limits and pedestrian restrictions were placed on the structure in 2004. Public Works has included the replacement of this structure for consideration in its annual budget for at least 10 years.”

It is no wonder that the bridge is at the end of its useful life:

  • “no major structural rehabilitation occurred.”

However, as shocking as it is about the failure of the City to maintain a bridge, that is not why I am writing this BLOG.

I received a call yesterday afternoon from an informant who warned me about a matter that can be so damaging to this City that I thought about not writing this BLOG. However, there is an issue of public safety at stake.

More importantly, this matter could be raised by President Obama in his meeting with Prime Minister Harper. I am warning Ambassador Michael Wilson that he had better discover soon what is going on. Thank goodness no one took Councillor Loopy’s suggestion that the President should be invited to Windsor now. The US Secret Service would never have permitted it. That would have been an absolute disaster for our City as you shall quickly see.

There has been a rumour circulating that desperate West Enders are holding for ransom Americans who have become hopelessly lost in Windsor. No one knows how many people are being held captive. The reason for this despicable action is that the West End, other than the Sandwich area, has been totally ignored by City Council.

These drastic measures were deemed necessary if this area is to survive at all. It was a shout out especially to the Ward 2 Councillors who seemed to be so focused on the Sandwich area.

Back to the Sheriff and his warning. In February, 2008 he wrote:

  • “There'll be further damage to Casino Windsor and downtown businesses -- which they can ill afford -- with the northbound Huron Church Road closing. It could be days before search parties locate some of those dazed and confused Yanks who were redirected south along Huron Church with endless streams of 18-wheelers and ended up marooned (or is it Morouned?) in the frozen wilds of South Windsor. Or maybe Holiday Beach.

He did not mean to talk about the Ambassador Bridge Project. They would have known how to direct traffic. After all, they are involved in the massive Ambassador Gateway project that closed down expressways in the US for several years. This would have been childs’s play for them.

With his prodigious memory, clearly Henderson knew about the College Street Bridge and knew what would happen when the City had to close it down. He suspected as well what would happen given his terrific connections in the West End. I imagine that he must have received hundreds of letters and phone calls from people in that area begging him to help them out with the Mayor and Council.

There is no doubt at all that certain rogue Bureaucrats at City Hall are working with the West Enders. Notice again what the City said obviously to sucker Americans into the trap by giving them a false sense of security:

  • “Detour signs are being posted to redirect traffic”

My informant suggested that I pretend that I was a American coming from the United States into Windsor over the Ambassador Bridge and that I was going to head off to Casino Windsor.

Chances are that I would make a left turn at College to go to the Casino. Here is what I would see:

1) Sign to Casino Windsor

2) A sign saying College was closed west of Wellington and to use Campbell

3) An intersection with traffic lights BUT NO STREET NAME SIGN VISIBLE WHEN ONE IS TRAVELLING EAST and a road closed sign

4) A dead end with a huge Road Closed sign!

There is no doubt in my mind that the dazed and confused Yanks are being seized at this spot by the West End bandits. This is where the ambush takes place. Those that have the ability to do a quick U-turn probably did so and found their way back to the Ambassador Bridge and back to the USA. For those unfortunate others, hopefully they are being treated properly by their captors.

Is there any doubt now why Casino Windsor’s revenues have dropped so quickly? It is not due to the dollar or the cost of gas or border thickening or SARS or the myriad of other excuses that people have used. I am convinced that over the last decade Americans have been warned about going over that College Street Bridge to the Casino by their friends and colleagues due to its structural deficiencies. Now this! That is why traffic has decreased into Windsor in my opinion.

Now clearly Americans have a reason to be concerned with the poor signage and the consequences of being lost in the depths of the City of Windsor!

Now, dear reader, you will understand why the Agenda at the Council meeting is so short on Monday. Supposedly, there is a Strategic Planning Ssession after another "closed-door meeting of Council." Oh there is one all right. The Mayor and Council need to strategize over how they will deal with this dramatic event in our City’s history.

What will we do with Gord only writing one day a week now! Who will warn and protect us now?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Henderson, Going And Coming

Oh no, what will we poor BLOGGERs do now?

More importantly, to whom will certain people at City Hall run to leak information and to give scoops? To whom will a certain Councillor hide behind for protection when the going gets too tough? To whom will that provincial government insider turn to tell us what happens in car rides in Toronto?

Sure he is still going to write once a week on Saturdays, but now that Gord Henderson has announced his retirement, how can we fill up all of our BLOG space?

I remember when I was younger and lived in Toronto I used to read Pierre Berton in the Star and Scott Young in the Globe. There is no doubt that our Mr. Henderson ranks with them as far as I am concerned.

I have no intention of saying nice things about him because he still will be writing one day a week in the Star on Saturdays. After all, I still have to be able to go after him. But I do want to thank Gord for all of the columns with which he has entertained and informed us and, naturally, infuriated us.

As I can testify writing these BLOGs, it is extremely difficult to write so many columns on so many topics and at the same time to try to keep the attention of your readership. However, he had the additional pressure and responsibility that I certainly do not have, namely ensuring that people read his column to help out the financial position of his Newspaper.

Yes, I am one of the people who looked to his writings three times a week first thing when the newspaper was delivered or when I went online. There is no doubt that many people kept their subscription with the Star because of Gord.

I cannot believe that there was anybody in the City that knew more about what was going on here than the Star’s Columnist. There is no doubt I am sure, that he received phone calls and letters from many citizens giving him all kinds of information about Windsor.

It should be interesting to see how the Star fills his space. We will find out Monday we are told. Apparently, the Star will “unveil a new team of opinion-makers in Gord's A3 space.”

Does that mean that there will not be one main Columnist. That would be a big mistake. Or is this the start of a “beauty contest” to see which writer the Star readers prefer the most. Will it be like a version of American Idol where one writer is dropped off every so often until one is left standing? It would be fun if there were online polls saying who we liked the most, or rather perhaps, who made us the most angry!

I wonder what Gord’s column will be like on Saturdays. I hope that it will be less factual and more analytical.

Quite often, it was not what Gord said in his column but what he did not say that was extremely interesting to me. Were those signs or hints about what was going to take place? Was this his way of telling us that what he wrote wasn’t necessarily the complete picture and that we had to do a bit of digging to understand fully?

I would think that one sign of his ability as a writer was keeping us guessing. If we knew what he was going to say, then we probably would not read him as much. He would become too predictable.

So let me leave you, dear reader, with a conundrum about our Mr. Henderson.

As you will note over the last few months I have affectionately called him the Sheriff, the leader of a posse of whining and naysaying Windsor Star reporters who have written negative stories about the Mayor. I have suggested as well that one needs to look at his columns not just by reading what he says superficially but by looking much more deeply into them. It seemed to me that lately, when he seemed to be praising our Mayor, he was really mocking him and pointing out his weaknesses.

Is Gord really the booster of our Mayor or has he turned on him but because of the delicateness of the border file has chosen not to go after him directly? In passing, has Gord’s column and the story written by Don McArthur given away why he supported Eddie so strongly in the past and is so anti-Bridge Company? It did to me.

Let me again suggest that you have to read more closely what Gord has written in his last column and also what has been written about him.

Take a look at both the Henderson column and the McArthur story and what do you see missing?

I saw political names including those of Shaughnessy Cohen, Bert Weeks, Roy Battagello, Ed Lumley, Bill Wrye, Dave Cooke, Eugene Whelan, Herb Gray, Alan Halberstadt, Sandra Pupatello and Dwight Duncan: past, present and possibly a future politician who may take a run at being Mayor. Ken Lewenza Sr. was very prominent as well.

Whose name was missing? Who did not say or perhaps was not asked to say anything about our Columnist? Why were the Provincial Cabinet Ministers so visible but no one on the municipal level other than Alan Halberstadt? Sure, he is Gord’s good friend but also, we know whom he antagonizes as well.

There was also lots of talk obviously about the past. Uncharacteristically, very little was said about Windsor’s future. No Greenlink, no fiscal responsibility, no canal vision, no downtown rejuventation, no economc diversification. There was no bright new future brought to us by City Hall even hinted at.

What does this all mean? Am I right or is it called wishful thinking on my part? I guess I’ll have to read Gordon’s column every Saturday to try and find out.