Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How WSO Will Help Eddie

Geez. Call it the W.E. Symphony Orchestra and the County would kick in half! This idea should get me a pair of complimentary tickets to the next concert.

At least the Star on this matter has given us both sides of the issue so that citizens can be properly informed. If only they had done that on more City questions, we would not be in the mess we are in today!

The Star Editorial took one side and explained why we should not:
  • "While we appreciate the cultural value the WSO provides for many people in the City of Windsor, we don't believe it's the City of Windsor's responsibility to keep it afloat."

Anne Jarvis on the Editorial page had an even bigger column and took the other side and explained why we should:

  • "But when council, also wrestling with plunging revenue, considers the orchestra's request Monday for a $300,000 interest-free loan, it needs to understand this: the WSO isn't a liability.

    The highly regarded orchestra, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, and its dynamic conductor John Morris Russell are one of Windsor's great assets. Like our beautiful riverfront and our winning Spitfires (for whom we just built a $71-million arena), the symphony breathes life into our community."

At least now, there can be an informed debate about whether taxpayer money should be loaned to the Symphony.

The ratings on Cogeco will skyrocket on Monday as citizens view the action at Council. Will they or won't they will be the question on everyone's lips until the baton is waved by the Mayor to start the debate at 6 p.m. on Channel 11.

There is no doubt whatsoever. The supporters of the Symphony do not have to worry. They will get enough money to help them out. They can bank on it. After all, they are helping out the Mayor.

They need to get the money to pay for the rent increase that St. Clair College has imposed on them because the Cleary is suffering losses. St. Clair does have the right to give the Cleary back to the City, something that our Mayor desperately wants to avoid. Accordingly, given his quote in the Star, Eddie has made it clear to Councilors what they had ALL better do!

I wonder if he will speak first again in this debate as he did with the Undevelopment Commission matter so his position is clearly articulated or whether it will be necessary for him to speak at all. I would think that he would only do so if it looks like he might lose the vote. THAT cannot be allowed. People might think that he lost control of Council the way that Mike Hurst did after March, 2003.

Whether it will be exactly $300,000 or not or what the terms of the “loan” will be are the only outstanding matters. That allows the Councillors to play their games to make it appear as if they are being tough on the Arts community in this time of economic restraint.

Why I can picture already watching on TV a certain Councillor bristling as he asks his questions designed to demonstrate that he was a budget analyst in his former life. Just watch as he asks the questions as he listens to the sound of his own voice. I wonder if he really cares what the answers are.

He had better not say too much because then he is attacking the foundation of our Mayor’s knowledge-based industry mantra. He does not want the Windsor Star mad at him in case he runs for Mayor if Eddie decides not to do so.

I wonder if Councillor Loopy will do something to try to justify the fact that he supported that the City contribute to the study on the Armouries. Had he undertaken due diligence on their financial position at the time, he might have questioned the need for the study in the first place.
Junior better change his mind and quickly. The Mayor cannot afford to tolerate this:
  • "A request for a $300,000 interest-free loan for the Windsor Symphony Orchestra has struck a sour note with city councillor Ken Lewenza Jr. He doesn't think it's the best use of city resources. He says he'd find it difficult to believe that, after the difficult budget session that council has gone through, such a request could be granted."
I'd like to know on what basis the Councillor has made this remark when the Mayor who is smarter than he, as Junior once told me, said otherwise.

Just so that you do not have to bore yourself watching Cogeco on Monday, here’s what the Symphony people will say to justify the money being given to them. It’s a good story and frankly it’s a shame that it is being politicized.

The WSO is only asking for an amount of 10% of the $3 Million plus sponsorship money that Red Bull is getting for a weekend of air racing. Perhaps while Eddie is making his phone calls to get that sponsorship cash he might also try and get a few bucks for the Symphony.
  • “For Immediate Release

    City Loan Critical Component of WSO Stabilization Plan

    (Windsor, ON—February 26, 2009) An interest-free $300,000 loan from the City of Windsor is a key element in the Windsor Symphony Orchestra’s financial stabilization plan. The request will be made on Monday, March 2.

    The City of Windsor is the orchestra’s single largest supporter, providing an annual operating grant of $300,000, which reflects the organization’s important role in the region’s cultural and educational infrastructures.

    Developed in November 2008, the stabilization plan identifies cost savings for the coming season, many of which have already been implemented. The orchestra’s focus on high quality programming will be maintained, although the number and scale of offerings will be reduced.

    The loan, which is scheduled to be repaid over ten years is for the same amount and under the same terms as those governing a loan made to the organization twenty years ago when it was confronted by similar financial challenges. That loan was repaid to the city in full and on time.

    “In my view, the team at the WSO has learned from experience,” states Katherine Carlton, Executive Director, Orchestras Canada, “they have identified the issues they face, and they’ve developed a credible plan to move forward while remaining accessible to all of Windsor’s citizens. What they need now is the time - and the cash-flow - to implement their plan.”

    Challenging economy
    Total attendance and box office income are on track to achieve record levels this season. Ticket sales, however, account for less than 29 percent of total revenue.

    In 2008 the world-wide financial meltdown caused a dramatic reduction in interest earnings from the WSO’s endowment funds. Contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations were also down due to economic conditions. As a result, what had been a balanced annual operating budget was almost immediately subject to unanticipated pressure, which led to the development of the stabilization plan.

    “Like many other performing arts organization in Canada, the WSO has been achieving amazing things on razor-thin margins,” adds Carlton, “and with almost two-thirds of their annual revenues coming from ticket sales, corporate and individual support, the WSO has been quick to feel the impact of the economic downturn”.

    Musicians support plan
    “I can assure you we are all working together to find every possible avenue of cost savings,” states Greg Sheldon, Orchestra Member and Chair of the Musicians Negotiations Committee, “the arts are currently being affected like every other industry, and, like so many others, we are all making sacrifices. But now, more so than ever, it's imperative that Windsor maintains its support for the arts.”

    Integral part of this community
    In addition to being a symbol of pride and quality of life in Windsor and Essex County, the WSO employs more than 50 professional musicians and administrative staff. It is a valuable educational resource for the entire region, as well as a core attraction in cultural tourism initiatives and regional development marketing efforts.

    During the current season, the orchestra will enrich the lives of more than 50,000 citizens of Windsor, Essex County and beyond, including more than 10,000 school children. The orchestra will stage 63 concerts, 77 small ensemble performances and 46 school and family programs.

    The orchestra’s December 6 world premier of Brent Lee’s “Ruck and Rill” has already received two national broadcasts on CBC Radio 2. Last season the Canada Council for the Arts’ Vida Peene Award was granted to the WSO for artistic excellence and the orchestra’s popular CD “Peter and the Wolf”, narrated by Colm Feore, was nominated for a Juno Award.

    The WSO’s partnerships and initiatives include creative collaborations with the Windsor Classic Chorale, Windsor Light Musical Theatre, the Windsor Dance Experience and the University Of Windsor School Of Music. Orchestra members also participate in musical therapy efforts for Pediatric Oncology patients. Of particular importance is the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra, which was initiated in 2005 and provides an invaluable musical experience to 55 gifted students annually.

    The contributions of WSO musicians to the region are far-reaching. Their work with the orchestra provides the base from which they branch out individually as performers and teachers. These gifted professionals enrich lives and nurture talent throughout our community.”

Friday, February 27, 2009

Making A Fool Of Oneself

Every so often I will get an e-mail from or I will speak with a Reader of my BLOG. The person will tell me that perhaps I am being a bit too harsh on [Name of Person].

In such a case I will reconsider my approach but in the end I usually find that my criticism cannot compare with what these people do to themselves. Moreover, I take a look at the comments on the Windsor Star Forums and in many cases my remarks are mild compared with what other people say.

Honestly, I do not have the imagination, even if I was writing a fictional BLOG about a person, to come up with some of the things that these people do.

And that brings me to Councillor Ken Lewenza Jr. who is also the Chair of the Windsor Utilities Commission. You probably did not know that because during the last WUC fiasco, the Chair was virtually invisible as the Mayor did all the talking.

A few days ago in a Star A3 Column, the Councillor/Chair attacked Bloggers. That is fair because we go after him. One has to have a thick skin after all if one writes a political BLOG. But the manner of his attack was personal and ad hominem:
  • “Lewenza lumped Halberstadt in with the small group of dissidents "who are often negative and like to create a lot of noise."

    Halberstadt's true constituents aren't the residents of Windsor, but the online bloggers more interested in raising their profiles than offering constructive ideas, he said.”

That is hardly what I would consider a reasoned argument. Take a look at what the Three Musketeers said the other day and you can see from whom Junior learned:

  • “Mayor Eddie Francis and County Warden Nelson Santos as well as acting commission CEO Remo Mancini accused the agency's critics of spreading innuendo through the news media.”

As I have Blogged before, no one is more professional in destroying this region in the national media than our Politicians. No Blogger in town could ever do the harm that our politicians have done for years now.

In the same respect, no Blogger could damage the reputation of Councillor Lewenza the way the Councillor is doing it to himself.

As an example, who was the Councillor who introduced the Motion to “Buy Canadian.” Yet who was the Councillor who voted in camera for hiring a foreign consultant under the sole source provisions of the Purchasing Bylaw to do a study on the airport? JUNIOR!

The poor Councillor did not understand that he was set up and that when the Resolution went public he would be slaughtered. Moreover, his discomfort obviously heightened when he saw the Saturday Star story that a subsidiary of Luftansa, the German airline, was going to do the work.

Poor Councillor Lewenza… he thought he would be protected because the name of the Foreign Consultant was supposed to have been kept confidential on the report that was made public. No one would have known. No one would have been the wiser. His “BUY FOREIGN AND SOLE SOURCE” could not have turned around and bit him in the rear end before the Buy Canadian Motion is heard. Now it has and he looks foolish.

Did he not know we already had a consultant's report on the airport and the consultant turned thumbs down on it? That was called SERCO walking away from Windsor.

  • "In 2006, Serco Aviation Services Inc. had announced that it requested early termination of its contract with the City of Windsor regarding its management of the Airport."

Pssst, between you and me, dear reader, who do you think leaked the story to the Star for his/her own glory and to ridicule Junior?

Please believe me. I could not have made this stuff up in my wildest imagination.

Then the latest faux pas is this story in the Star:

  • Consultant to gauge public tolerance for WUC rate increase

    Two years after a public outcry over an 86 per cent water rate increase, the Windsor Utilities Commission plans to hire a consultant to get the public’s input on whether to raise rates again this year…

    The board plans to solicit the public’s input through a hired consultant, who will confer with 150 residents invited to participate in a focus group in March and April, said chairman Ken Lewenza Jr.”

Is the Councillor/Chair so out of touch with reality? Can he be this foolish? I would expect that very few people will be tolerant of another rate increase or of the hiring a consultant to prove the obvious. I wonder if the Councillor/Chair will open up the bidding for a consultant to foreign and Canadian organizations or whether he will sole source a foreign one again.

In passing, after reading the McNamara/Burton Guest Column in the Star, if it is acted upon, then I might know a Consultant who would be available at a cost of about $1200 a day for three days a week and might be able to undertake the task.

As the Star quoted, the Councillor/Chair learned early on how to use ad hominem attacks:

  • “When pressed about how WUC would regain the public’s trust, Lewenza blamed the media for spreading misinformation about the water rate increase and WUC. He did acknowledge that “there are things we could have done better.”

Oh my goodness, I may be wrong. He may have taught the Three Musketeers.

I could go on and on, dear reader about the Councillor, but you might think that I am unfair because after all the Councillor attacked Bloggers and you might think that I just want to hit back. Instead, may I direct you to the Star Forum and you can read what your fellow citizens are saying for themselves.

From 8:42 p.m. last night until 10:56 p.m. when the person responsible for the Forums must have gone home there were 67 comments in such a short time. It will be interesting to see how many there are today.

One last Lewenzaism. The guy whom I have not yet heard opposing a $3.2M freebie give-away for the Red Bull sponsorship for a one week-end event said on CKLW:
  • "A request for a $300,000 interest-free loan for the Windsor Symphony Orchestra has struck a sour note with city councillor Ken Lewenza Jr. He doesn't think it's the best use of city resources. He says he'd find it difficult to believe that, after the difficult budget session that council has gone through, such a request could be granted."

But WUC can hire a consultant at what cost after the difficult budget session to tell WUC how to make rate increases tolerable. Another foolish remark.

The Councillor owes it to Lufthansa to fly over to Germany again at taxpayer cost again for the day and show them his Blackberry to tell them how citizens feel about the hiring of consultants. Fair's fair since

  • "executives with Lufthansa Consulting turned to three visiting Windsor councillors and asked how a $220,000 proposal to study the feasibility into a similar facility at their municipal airport was being received by their community.

    "Positively," replied Mayor Eddie Francis. As proof, Ward 4 Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr., pulled out his city-issued Blackberry, displaying an online report bearing the headline -- "Cargo central."

    The story was splashed on the front page of the Windsor Star Saturday."

Of course, since Windsorites had not heard of this before, I do not understand how Junior could have taken such a foolish step. Do you think that the Councillor or the Mayor will direct them to the Forums?

After reading this BLOG, you will understand why my criticism of [Name of Person] is nothing by comparison. I do not have to make a fool of them. They are quite capable to do it to themselves better than I ever could!

Backflowing Water Solves Windsor Unemployment Issue

It is good thing that Joe the Plumber did not decide to help John McCain more or President Obama would not have won the election! Plumbers are becoming the most important group in our society. Make sure that your kids go to plumbing school. Who needs a doctor or lawyer!

It is not for me to tell people what they ought to do. However, if you, dear reader, are unemployed or fear that you might be unemployed from a high paying auto industry job, then you can either go and work at a minimum wage call centre or go back to school and become a plumber.

The City of Windsor will make sure that your career move is a good one and you will be assured of a high income. Moreover, in helping you out, the City will be helping itself out as well with all of the new licence fees that it will be charging to home and business owners over the next few years.

It is a brilliant plan that obviously has been discussed in camera. It solves the unemployment issue in this City dramatically while at the same time enriching this City’s coffers with new license fees so that more foreign consultants can be hired for more THINK BIG dreams.

Let me explain. Do you know what one of the biggest risks to the City’s water system is:
  • "What is a Cross Connection?
    A Cross Connection in a plumbing system is defined as "any actual or potential connection between a potable water system and any source of pollution or contaminate".

    What is the most common form of a cross connection?
    The garden hose is the most common offender as it can be easily connected to the potable water supply and used for a variety of potential dangerous applications.”

Do you think I am being silly? You would think that the biggest source of pollution could come from some industrial operation and that is why there is a need for protection. Honestly, I do not make this stuff up. This came from the Ontario Backflow Prevention Association.

Since the garden hose is the biggest risk, then there is a need for someone to look at every home and business in the City, continually. Do you see what I’m getting at? You are looking at making big dollars in your new career.

How is the City of Windsor going to help you out you may be wondering? Take a look at this Windsor Utilities Commission by-law summary:

  • By-Law 90: Cross Connection and Back-Flow Prevention

    The purpose of this by law is to prevent the inadvertent contamination of the water distribution system by the backflow of a contaminant into the distribution main. A condition may exist that reduces the pressure in the main such as a significant leak or major use of water such as fighting a fire. The bylaw mandates the installation and annual testing by a qualified person (such as a plumber) of cross connection control backflow prevention devices and premise isolation devices in accordance with the provisions of the Canadian Standards Association. The bylaw provides that:

    No Consumer or other person shall connect, cause to be connected, or allow to remain connected to the Water Works Distribution System, directly or indirectly, any piping, fixture, fitting, container, vehicle, device, appliance, or the like, in a manner which under any circumstances, may allow water, waste, or any other liquid, chemical, foreign or deleterious substance to enter the Water Works Distribution System.


    Where a risk of possible contamination of the Water Works Distribution System exists in the opinion of the Commission or an Approved Authority, a Consumer or other person shall, on notice from the Commission or Approved Authority, install and put into service a Cross Connection Control Device approved by the Commission or Approved Authority.”

My understanding is that letters have been sent out to businesses requiring them to install these devices immediately. Depending on the size of the business, the costs can run into thousands of dollars. And don’t forget

  • “All Cross Connection Control Devices shall be inspected and tested at the expense of the Consumer or other person upon installation, and thereafter annually, or more often if required by the Commission.”

The plumbers will have so much work to do that they will never be able to see their families! Check out too the "annual" inspections which will require an annual licence. Think of the money that will come pouring in. Oooooops sorry, bad choice of language. I wonder if the sewer surcharge will apply to this so an even bigger hit!

The Bylaw does not say that residences are exempt. How can they be when garden hoses are the big problem?

So far however the Commission has taken this position:

  • “section 2.3 -" Where a risk of possible contamination of the Water Works Distribution System exists in the opinion of the Commission or an Approved Authority".

    Right now as the Commission we deem anything that is non-residential use as a risk of possible contamination.”

However, once the businesses are completed, the plumbers will need more work. What will happen then? You got it. Notices will be sent out to residences to put in devices as well. Their opinion will change.

I have seen some stories that suggest that the price of these devices for a house can run between $100-$500 plus installation. I wonder what the annual licensing amount will be too.

Here is a story out of Ottawa that puts this into an interesting perspective. It is clearly anti-plumber:

  • IN THE GREEN: City water retrofit requirements all wet, opponents charge

    Landlords say no examples exist to justify backflow prevention upgrades

    Critics say a city proposal that would force the property owners behind nearly 9,300 water billing accounts to make costly connection upgrades is an overreaction to a non-existent problem.

    City staff are working on a plan that would require backflow preventers to be installed on many Ottawa multi-residential, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings to prevent water supply contamination.

    Such devices can cost between $8,000 and $12,000 for a 100-unit apartment, said John Dickie, chair of the Eastern Ontario Landlord Organization.

    "We're all set to concur with the need to fix problems," said Mr. Dickie.

    "But there seems to be no or very few documented cases of problems ... that these devices would prevent among multi-residential buildings."

I really should end this BLOG right here because this is bad enough. However I cannot do so because of another story I saw. St. Clair College will have to set up a separate campus to train all the plumbers that will be necessary by the time this project is finished.

This could be the real reason why Eddie is so opposed to the DRIC road. He knows that all of our unemployed will have skills training to become high-paid plumbers. They will not be able to work on the road. This will be his PLAN by the time the glory has to be handed out.

Read this and weep. Solving the backflow problem creates another major one for which plumbers will also be required and probably insurance adjusters as well after there is water damage in homes and businesses:

  • “The reason this is a relatively new problem is that, until recently, most household systems were open to the municipal water supply, which meant when household water was heated it simply expanded back into the municipal supply. The situation has changed and it is becoming the norm for municipalities to enforce existing codes and regulations, requiring the installation of a dual check valve, or what is more commonly known as a backflow preventer. With the installation of a backflow preventer or water meter with a check valve that had previously been an "open" system has now become "closed" system.

    It has become a "closed" system because hot water can no longer expand back into the municipal supply, and as a result, during periods when hot water is not being used, the system pressure rapidly increases until the pressure relief valve (PRV) is activated, releasing the excess water and pressure. In a typical situation, the PRV will activate two or three times a day, wasting hot water and causing premature failure of the valve, as it is only designed to activate in emergencies.

    The constant over-pressurization as the result of thermal expansion creates other problems as well, such as leaking ball seals and valve stems. The most critical hazard is the potential collapse of the center flue in a gas fired water heater, allowing lethal carbon monoxide fumes to leak into the residential environment.”

Quick. Call a plumber!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

EH Channel Disappearing Update

The game continues to pressure the CRTC to give the networks money:
  • "CBC is examining its options, which include more American programming and shrinking its geographic coverage by consolidating local stations, president and CEO Hubert Lacroix said Thursday."
Don't say too many nasty things about Susan Pedler and the CBC on the Star forum. You may not have them to kick around any more either!

The EH Channel people better call me soon about my idea of the online TV network before the CBC reporters do.

Junior "BUYS FOREIGN" And More Stories

A few more items of interest for coffee break time


Interesting A3 column by Grace Macaluso in the Star today. Now I understand why a nothing announcement about signing a consulting agreement required the Mayor and 2 Councillors to go overseas at taxpayer expense and why we saw the huge front page Star story on Saturday and the Editorial on the airport.

I think Chris Schnurr is right. It looks like confidential information was leaked to the Star after all:
  • "Further, as the report reads before you on page 4, confidential issues are involved; and this purchase may be made in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the consultant.

    Why is it necessary to protect the confidentiality of the consultant? According to the report, this consultant is simply conducting a feasibility study.

    However, “confidentiality” no longer appears to be an issue since the disclosure of the name of the consultant in the Windsor Star was a Lufthansa subsidiary, probably Lufthansa Consulting - but does raise an issue that appears to contravene Section 6 of the Code of Conduct passed by this council.

    Who disclosed this “confidential” information before this was discussed tonight?"
  • "And Mayor Francis, if confidential information is truly “getting out there,” may I suggest utilizing the services of the integrity commissioner to make an official determination?

    If the city can utilize his services for free Spitfire’s tickets for the opening night of the WFCU Centre, then I would presume the intentional leaking of confidential information would be a little higher on the priority list?"

All that taxpayer money wasted to convince Lufthansa to take a quarter of a million dollars from us. How ridiculous!

Naw. I think that Councillor Halberstadt is telling us that there is some deal going on perhaps with Lufthansa until they find out that there is no business at Windsor Airport that can justify them coming here. No wonder Eddie did not answer his question at Council.

However, it allows Lufthansa to do a major cargo aviation study about this region at our expense to see whether they should get more involved in Aerotropolis at Detroit Airport where they fly already. That is the only air transportation hub that will count here.

We are suckers in our Mayor's desperation to look good! Throw out ideas and maybe one of them might stick.

Grace also mentioned that WeACT people spoke at Council about the airport and raised some troubling issues just as they did with WUC where Junior was the invisible Chair during the 86% fiasco when the Mayor did all the talking:

  • "Other than a small delegation [4 delegations is small???] from the Windsor Association of Concerned Taxpayers, the Ward 3 representative was the sole councillor to oppose a plan to spend $220,000 of taxpayer money on the study into creation of an air cargo and perishable goods centre at Windsor Airport...

    Halberstadt’s rank-breaking isn’t new. But the derision that greeted his concerns are indicative of a herd mentality that seems to be gripping city council...

    Lewenza lumped Halberstadt in with the small group of dissidents “who are often negative and like to create a lot of noise.”

    Halberstadt’s true constituents aren’t the residents of Windsor, but the online bloggers more interested in raising their profiles than offering constructive ideas, he said."

Fortunately I am not one of those Bloggers nor am I familiar with any in this City. Perhaps Junior is still jet-lagged and is looking at some other Windsor community in the world. Speaking of "jet-lagged" is Councillor Dilkens better now since he missed Monday's Council meeting!

What I think is that Councillor Junior is really furious because BLOGGERS have pointed out his hypocrisy. The Councillor who introduced the BUY CANADIAN Motion at Council BOUGHT FOREIGN AND SOLE SOURCE so no Canadian company could bid on the consulting job and perhaps offer a much lower price too!

I bet his CAW brothers and sisters were not too happy with him either!


Canwest has to be a bit happier today. If the story is true that the Star is for sale, its sales price may have gone up because I am certain that its advertising rates will. Who knows, Canwest may decide not to sell the paper because it is effectively now the only show in town.

The DRIC curse continues. There is no doubt in my mind that the Federal and Provincial Governments have decided that they are going to fight issues over funding infrastructure in places like Windsor rather than say fighting over the funding of the subway system extension in the GTA. That is too serious a matter that could impact their own electability. Whatever then is achieved here would be the template for other places within Ontario.

The same now applies for television stations it seems. Fight the battle over a small, local television station like the one in Windsor rather than a major market area. Use the closing to try and put pressure on the CRTC:

  • “'A' Television Stations in Wingham and Windsor to be Shut Down

    TORONTO, Feb. 25 /CNW/ - CTV Inc. announced today that, given the ongoing structural problems facing the conventional television sector in Canada and the current global economic crisis, it will not be applying for renewal of the CKNX-TV Wingham and CHWI-TV Wheatley licences (and its rebroadcaster in Windsor).

    "This decision was difficult but necessary. The traditional economic model for Canadian television is broken. The financial pressures facing our conventional television operations are further compounded by the Commission's decision to turn down requests to implement a fee-for-carriage regime for local television in October 2008," said Paul Sparkes, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, CTVglobemedia. "Unfortunately, we may need to consider similar actions in other local markets given the current regulatory framework."

What the networks are talking about is that their incomes may be reduced and so they need an additional source of revenue. Here is what fee-for-carriage means

  • “Canadian cable company leaders are trying to get the CRTC to back down on the idea of charging fees for TV programming on monthly cable, satellite or telco bills. Fee for carriage has been proposed by broadcasters headed by Global Television. The proposal would have Canadian viewers pay an additional monthly fee on their cable, satellite or telco TV bills for local channels such as Global, CTV and CBC.

Thus it would appear that Windsor will be another test market. Close our local station down, threaten to close other local stations down, wait for the public outcry and hope that Government officials will get involved to pressure CRTC to allow all the networks to get five dollars a month or so extra per viewer. How else can the CBC budget issues be solved too! They need $65M.

Remember when I was talking before about an online newspaper to compete with the Windsor Star. It will be even more important now given the almost complete domination that the Star will have in this area. I wonder if one of the out-of-town chains might decide to set something up here, say a local version of the Toronto Star or the Toronto Sun.

What I am thinking now is that there might be a good business opportunity for local people to get together to create a combination online newspapers/TV station. Who knows but there are some interesting business opportunities that I can see.


As I am sure we can all agree, Windsorites have been Delrayed over the construction of a new border road. We cannot afford a DRIC Road nor a Greenlink.

When Infrastructure Ontario confirms that there is no P3/AFP money around, at that time I expect the Minister of the Environment to kick out the DRIC Road.

Oh my goodness you may think, that means the process has to start all over again and will take more years.

Oh no, just like with windmills, the Province will wipe out local opposition to important projects. Here is a recent story that will show you exactly what I mean:

  • "Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario

    RCCAO report calls for elimination of environmental assessment red tape

    Red tape delaying shovels from breaking ground on projects needs to be cut now more than ever before, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) says.

    “There has to be a political will for streamlining the EA (environmental assessment) process and I think there is a real appetite to make it happen,” says Andy Manahan, executive director of RCCAO. “Unless red tape is eliminated, there will be delays for projects to come on stream.”

    The RCCAO is not saying that environmental concerns should be minimized, but its recent white paper, Environmental Assessment Reform: A Tool for Economic Recovery, says that time-consuming and, at times, repetitive legislation is inefficient and could hamper the quick roll-out of economic stimulus projects...

    The RCCAO white paper urges that Ontario immediately unveil a Declaration Order to simplify EA requirements, as it already has done for transit projects. The required consideration of “alternatives solutions” for a project would be removed, especially for those that are part of economic stimulus packages."

Amazing, this economic crisis is permitting all kinds of things to happen that would have been unthinkable before. No wonder Eddie is so quiet now on the border file.

Bye-bye Greenlink.


Speaking of the RCCAO, I found this note in one of my past BLOGs:

  • "As the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario report on bridge improvements tells us… it looks like we need to spend $5-7 Million per year annually. The 2007 budget is $1.5 million. Fingers crossed we do not have a tragedy here."

And some people think we ought to have a Public Authority running an international Bridge in Windsor!

Speaking of Public Authorities, I saw this article:

"GOLISANO, MAZIARZ LAUNCH ASSAULT ON BRIDGE COMMISSION'S SECRECY: Lawsuit promised to force agency to comply with New York law"

Obviously, I have no idea if it is true or not but it makes for an interesting read.


There was supposed to be a Tunnel Commission meeting on Thursday at 3 p.m. Unfortunately, the meeting was cancelled due to this:

  • "Due to the special in-camera meeting of Council scheduled for tomorrow, the meeting of the WINDSOR TUNNEL COMMISSION SCHEDULED FOR 3:00 P.M., ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2009 HAS BEEN CANCELLED AND RESCHEDULED TO THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009 AT 3:00 P.M., IN THE WALKERVILLE MEETING ROOM."

On the City's website, the following was written:

  • "Special In-camera meeting of Council regarding a Border Update to be held Thursday February 26, 2009 at 3:00 o'clock p.m. Town of Walkerville Meeting Room, Windsor City Hall."

This has to do with the City's response to the DRIC environmental assessment. It must be a meeting to approve what Estrin has written since the deadline is only a few days away.

However, the Mayor could have held that meeting early in the morning on the 26th or later in the day and still had the Tunnel Commission meeting. I'm sure he did not want to do that because he knew that members of WeACT were going to be there to ask some very difficult and awkward questions. He got his last-minute reprieve until the fifth.

In fact, this came from the Clerk:

  • "Please be advised that the time for the Special In Camera meeting of Windsor City Council originally scheduled for Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm has been re-scheduled to Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 3:00pm."

Those Bloggers and WeACT reps are mean. Just ask Junior!

If only the Mayor had rescheduled for the 15th. Then I could have said "Eddie, Beware the Ides of March."


The Praise from the Windsor Star is amazing. Lufthansa should be thrilled:

  • "Airport hub

    A welcome initiative...

    Given the attributes of Windsor and Essex County -- the water, the thriving agricultural industry and the proximity to major centres in Canada and the U.S. -- it would seem at first blush to be a viable proposition."

I wish though that the Editorial writers would actually read their own newspaper before they write this piffle. The Star should realize that this is another pipe dream. Junior gave it away:

  • "Coun. Ken Lewenza, who was named to the board last week, said redevelopment of the airport could take years but "it's something we have to do, I believe, if we're to bring about diversification of our local economy.

    "It could be breathtaking in its scope because of the number of jobs in warehousing, logistics, skilled trades, trucking, technology and other sectors," said Lewenza, who toured Frankfurt Airport's facilities during a brief weekend trip to Germany."

All that information gathered in a "brief" trip by amateur aviation/distribution experts. Sure it "could" be but then again, perhaps it "could not" be.

The Editorial writer did put in this line which I thought was rather hilarious:

  • "Last February, those officials told city council that Essex County was an ideal site for quickly moving fresh fruits and vegetables, and pointed out that we had both commodities at our doorstep.

    "It is incredible what has not happened here in the past," said one executive. "I would say it's a crime not to develop such an airport."

I agree that it is a crime. It is a crime for the Mayor to sit on his rear end and do little for one year. Isn't that the reason that the Mayor said:

  • "What we have been doing the past year was investigate, research and develop partnerships that can develop the air cargo business in the Windsor-Essex region," Francis said as he left Windsor."

If he has done something, then let us know exactly what he has done. He could have saved us a ton of money because then we would not need the Undevelopment Commission.

Did you read a word of praise about Sandra's initiative which is real and could actually create jobs now? Why not even though the Star is a sponsor?

Will Ontario's Transportation Ministry Be Closed

It would not surprise me to see the Ontario Ministry of Transportation wound up before the next Provincial election in 2011. That is not quite right. There would need to be one person there to write a cheque every month to P3 operators. It seems that they will be the ones responsible for designing, building, maintaining and financing roads in Ontario if the DRIC road becomes the precedent.

Who needs public servants if that is the case. Get rid of them and earn the plaudits of the electorate!

Nevermind that it will cost taxpayers substantially more than if the Ministry did the roads themselves. We will find our P3 addicted Ministers federally and provincially shoving taxpayer money at private investors faster than anyone can imagine.

Can you imagine it. The Premier announces that thousands of MTO public servants would be made redundant because effectively, the Government has outsourced our road group. It would be breath-taking. The Opposition would not have a chance! No wonder the DRIC road really will not get started until late 2010. Just in time for Sandra and Dwight to get the credit here.

But you as a faithful BLOG reader would say that this is crazy since the P3 costs would be excessive. Let me remind you of what Margaret Thatcher's speech-writer wrote:
  • "The decisions that really matter to political leaders are those to do with the getting and holding of power. Other decisions may turn out well or ill. They may cost billions of pounds or hundreds of lives, but for enlisted politicians those decisions are secondary. What matters to them is: will I still be here after this?"

It is bizarre to me that we have not yet learned our lesson after the Auditor General of Ontario audits of Bruce Nuclear and the Brampton Hospital. If one looks at the hundreds of millions of dollars of waste on just these two projects, imagine how much extra it will cost taxpayers if we have dozens of such P3 projects.

Bear with me as I give you a bit of background and do some mathematics to show you the huge mistake that we were making on the DRIC Road project.

The Internet is truly a wonderful tool with which to undertake research. Literally, at one’s fingertips are newspapers, magazines and journals from around the world that give us information that we would never otherwise easily find. If we knew they existed in the first place.

Of course, there are the online databases and subscriptions that enable us to find out all kinds of information and to permit us to remember what people have said years before, including some things that they would like us to forget.

Moreover, there are a number of tools that feed us this information that makes it even easier for us.

Every morning, I go through a ritual which enables me to find out valuable information that I can share with you each day in this BLOG. Contrary to what one may think, it is amazing that what we are going through in Windsor with the DRIC project is not unique.

Something similar is taking place in British Columbia involving the Port Mann Bridge. Vancouver Sun readers are very familiar with the ins and outs of that P3 project including the fact that the P3 investor, Macquarie, could not raise the necessary funds and required a bailout by the Provincial Government. Moreover, the actual cost of that project has more than doubled since it was first announced.

One would have thought frankly that the Windsor Star, the sister newspaper of the Sun, would have shared some of that information with its readers. But unless you are a BLOG reader, you would know nothing about it. If the Star publicized the mess out West one might be tempted to ask a question why we are doing a P3 project in Windsor.

Which brings me to a publication called Toll Road News. I have tell you it is not something that I read everyday nor even knew about. However, some of the information in it is priceless. Let me give you some data that you may not know about:

  • 407ETR traffic level, toll revenue up 5.3% in 2008 to $437m, Dec Q down

    407ETR the privately operated Toronto Ontario tollroad reports 2008 traffic about level with 2007 and revenue up 5.3% to $437m. The December quarter saw traffic down - 3.4% as measured by vehicle-km traveled vs 2007Q4, 1.5% down by total trips, 1.9% down by average workday trips.

    Whole year trips (2008/2007) were up by 1.2%, average weekday trips by 1.0%, but the best measure, vehicle kilometers traveled showed level pegging - less than a tenth of a percent change.

    Tolls collected for the whole year of 2008 were up 5.3% (C$546.5m vs C$518.9m) but the December quarter suggests a downturn toward the end of the year as the Ontario economy follows dismal US trends, albeit lagged and not as severe, yet.

    2008Q4 saw toll revenues of C$133.5m vs 2007Q4 C$135.8m - a drop of 1.7%.

    Earnings before income taxes were C$85.1m in 2008 vs C$60.3m in 2007. Income tax recovery enabled the company to substantially increase their net income to C$119m in 2008…

    It is among the top three or four highest grossing and busiest tollroads in North America. 407 International has a 99 year concession and is owned by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte based in Madrid Spain, Macquarie Infrastructure Group based in Sydney Australia and SNC-Lavalin of Toronto in approximately 50/30/20 ratios.
    Operations are by Cintra.”

If you will recall an earlier BLOG I wrote, you will remember that their tolls have doubled in a period of seven years and in 2001, the project was in a $70M loss position compared with today’s profits. Why even when traffic is flat, it seems their revenue increases.

Please excuse any typos. My hands are literally shaking as I see history repeating itself and taxpayers being put at risk:

  • 1) Re Bruce Nuclear--“Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said he would sign the same deal all over again.”

    Re DRIC--"Duncan said last week funding of the border highway is not a concern despite the massive price tag.”
  • 2) Re Brampton Hospital—“Were there lessons learned? Sure there were, and if people look at what Infrastructure Ontario is doing now on other projects, they would see the changes that have been made. But please do not punish my hospital for being the pioneer.”

    Re DRIC—““the "Windsor Essex Parkway project would be the first large road project to be delivered using Ontario's AFP process."

They have their excuses already for the Auditor General report on the DRIC road once it is written. It is interesting as well the accurate but narrow statement was with respect to Highway 407 not being an AFP project. But then again, after the losses in Court, I can understand why the Province wants us to forget about that project.

Here is an interesting line that will justify the P3 road in Windsor and why private enterprise must be given all of this extra money:

  • “The province will pay for the project only upon its completion.”

Do you get it… the private investor will have to pay the carrying costs until completion. Of course that will be built into the price charged to the Government in the first place but let us pretend that it is not. It just makes it so much more palatable to pay out excessive amounts to the private sector.

Of course, no one wants to tell us in this project that this technique has been applied before so that there is no justification for this. In the Lakeridge Health Oshawa hospital project:

  • “Under the Ontario government's Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) program, the approximately $91.5 million redevelopment project is being executed as a 'build-finance' project. "

The private investor

  • “will finance the project through the construction period.”

In this case, once the project is completed, then the private investor gets all of its money.

The financing is a little bit different with DRIC:

  • “The province will pay for the project only upon its completion, making monthly payments for a period of 30 years, said Dougan, likening the arrangement to a mortgage. Should there be any problems with the roadway during that time period, the province would benefit from payment reductions, he added.”

It's hardly a mortgage but I will talk about the mortgage concept subsequently. Now you see a second reason for giving the private investor so much money: the business risk if there are any problems with the roadway.

You remember what was said before. It is not that the private sector investor is making a huge profit:

  • “In a P3, however, the risks and potential costs are underwritten by the private sector, albeit compensated by an appropriate return. In other words, in a P3 procurement, the government is paying an insurance premium to protect against the risk of higher costs, rather than self-insuring at a zero premium cost but at a potentially high failure cost.”

Of course, this is a farce as well. Someone is trying to make it appear as if this is the first road that has ever been built in Ontario. The Transportation Ministry has built roads all over the place and should have a very good idea about what the risks are.

Here is what the Auditor General said in the hospital case about how the risks were overstated in order to justify the P3:

  • “Another concern we had was the $67 million in transferred risks that was added to the November 2004 government design-and-build estimate. This amount was arrived at on the basis of the judgment and experience of management and consultants. Owing to the subjective nature of these estimates, it is virtually impossible to substantiate the validity and accuracy of the quantified amounts. We were concerned that the transferred risks for this project amounted to almost 13% of the November 2004 government design-and-build estimate of $525 million. In comparison, actual cost overruns (a major component of risk transfer) in the design and construction of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre—a hospital built under the traditional procurement approach during the same period—were about 5% of the total contract value."

Want to know how taxpayers get fleeced, then just read this comment:

  • "Critics maintain these sorts of public-private partnerships are costlier in the long run but Dougan called that a “myth,” and promised taxpayers “value for money at the end of the day.”

Is a P3 project being costlier a myth? I hardly think so.

Here is what the deal now is, not exactly as Dwight said it was before when he mentioned 40 years:

  • “The province will pay for the project only upon its completion, making monthly payments for a period of 30 years, said Dougan, likening the arrangement to a mortgage.”

Let us look at financing costs only and take 20% as the rate of return that a private investor wants for a toll road as I Blogged before. For a mortgage interest rate, the rate charged by Infrastructure Ontario for one of its 30 year to a Municipality deals is 5.61%. Let us take the cost of the project as $2B but it will probably be closer to $3B if the other P3 deals are typical.

Total payments, principal and interest: $4,178,606,000
Interest cost: $2,178,606,000

Total Payments: $12,000,000,000

$12,000,000,000-$2,178,606,000= $9,821,394,000

Reduce this amount for carrying costs until completion (although it is buried in the costing) and a minimal amount per year for road mainenance and it is still a hefty price differential that taxpayers have to burden.

Does this look like a myth to you?

Of course, the private investor would not be as crude as to say 20% in its tender documents. However, the Shadow Tolling or Availablity pricing as with Highway 407 would be very substantial by the end of the 30 year period.

Of course, our Governments know all of this. I am not telling anything out of turn or revealing information that is only known to members of the secretive P3 sect. It is not like I am telling you what their secret handshake is.

However, I do believe that Government is keeping some information from us. After all, if they told us the “non-myth,” we might get upset. One day though it has to come out but there is a terrific way of doing it as was disclosed in British Colombia with the Port Mann Bridge. Read it and shake your head in dismay. One comment in particular will make you want to vomit:

  • Total Port Mann cost always near $3 billion, official says

    The B.C. Liberal government has long assumed it would cost close to $3 billion to build and finance the project to twin the Port Mann Bridge and expand portions of Highway 1, a senior government official said Friday.

    "We had a number that wasn't that far off from $3.3 billion," Frank Blasetti, assistant deputy minister of transportation, said in an interview.

    "We were around $2.8 billion…

    As he unveiled the design Wednesday for a new single-span bridge, Premier Gordon Campbell said the entire project will cost $2.46 billion to build, and close to $3.3 billion including the cost to maintain, operate and finance the project between now and 2013, when construction is expected to be complete.

    The announcement came as a surprise to a public that in January 2006 heard Campbell announce the project's estimated price tag at $1.5 billion.”

$2.8 billion, $3.3 billion… what’s $500 million between friends if you are a public servant who plays with taxpayer money and who has no accountability. I wonder if Frank Blasetti will be the cheque-writer in BC!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back Scratching And The Symphony

I do not want to be smug and tell you "I told you" so. But I TOLD YOU SO!

Go back about a month and take a look at my BLOG "January 20, 2009 DRIC And The Symphony."

I talked then about Eddie's strange remark with respect to the Capitol and then talked about the Symphony's problems with the Cleary because of the huge rent increase.

I set out in another BLOG the proposition as well that if Eddie was not careful, St. Clair might give him back a Cleary. "January 26, 2009 Will Eddie Get Back The Cleary."

I speculated that what was being worked on was a back scratching deal that would save everybody's hide.

Interestingly there is an Agenda Item dealing with the Symphony for Monday's Council meeting. Remarkably, so many days in advance, we have seen a TV news item on it and now a Star story. The WSO bail-out story is all designed to get the reaction of Citizens and to give us an indication that something is going to happen that will cost taxpayers a bit of money. After all, as our Mayor said about the Symphony but does not seem able to stay at about the Capitol:
  • "I expect there will significant debate by council on this issue next Monday,” said Mayor Eddie Francis.

    “Our economic climate and budget challenges we are facing put us in a difficult environment (to consider the loan),” Francis said.

    “But having said that we know the symphony is a significant organization that brings tremendous value to the city.”

My goodness, the Mayor just told Councillors how they better vote and the justification for it. No need for delegations to appear. It is all over. If there is an Editorial that supports this also, well then you know it's a done deal.

Why, even the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget can support it on a business case perspective so it will not hurt his run for Mayor if Eddie goes. He needs this to win back the Arts crowd:

  • "Mill said the WSO got a $300,000 interest-free loan from the city 20 years ago. The money was repaid in full on time.

    “We’re a good risk,” he said."

Rather than reinventing the wheel, here is what I Blogged before:

  • "President Strasser helped out Eddie by taking the Cleary off his hands and thereby eliminated a possible Casino competitor. Now Eddie is helping him out by assisting him to get increased rents for the theatre.

    Moreover, since the Cleary is losing money, who would object if the City gives the Capitol to St. Clair for a dollar to take it off our hands so that taxpayers will not lose money. That assumes of course that the City continues to be successful in its lawsuit against the Capitol's Trustee in Bankruptcy. Eddie and Strasser have the precedent of that amount for the Cleary don’t they.

    It is as simple as that.

    The WSO is stuck and they know it. The dream of the Armouries as a concert hall is not going to happen for years given this economy, if it ever does. Even if it did happen, where would the Symphony go in the interim?

    I am sure that they could go to some high school to play but that certainly would not be a suitable venue. The only other place that I can think of offhand would be the Capitol although some changes would have to be made to the seating.

    Eddie’s comment just destroyed that. Because of the lawsuit he cannot guarantee its future use as a theatre. Of course, his comment is absurd but if you are the Executive Director of the Symphony looking for location then he has just put a dagger into your heart.

    The Symphony won’t be able to go to the Arena because the City controls that and the Casino is too large. So they have no choice. They have to go to the Cleary and pay whatever price St. Clair wants so that the President can tell his Board that they are making money and that he did not enter into a dumb transaction. He has to keep his job too.

    Do not feel too bad for the Symphony however because they will be saved. Their first alternative is to increase the price of tickets by a dollar or two. They will do so probably but unfortunately their attendance will drop because of the increased amount.

    However, if our Mayor has other political ambitions, he cannot afford to annoy the movers and shakers in town who support the Symphony and would be the people to whom he looks for political donations as well. Accordingly, expect that when the Symphony comes to Council begging for Arts money, Council will be very understanding and will help out."

Just one other comment about Councillor Loopy. I am surprised that he is so surprised:

  • "Coun. Percy Hatfield sits on downtown armouries re-use committee. “I’m surprised they were asking for money to study for a new concert hall when they were looking at running a deficit,” said Hatfield.

    “It would have been good to know their financial situation before we moved into the armoury review study,” he said. “That’s information that would have been beneficial at that time.”

    Mill said the deficits were reported in the annual grant application to the city."

It is not his fault however that he forgot about the WSO's financial position. It's that darn amnesia disease:

  • "Shortly before the end of 2008, the symphony asked for a $150,000 advance on its $300,000 operating grant for this year. It has run deficits the past three years — $107,000 in 2006, $120,000 in 2007, and $177,000 in 2008. A deficit of $191,000 is projected for this year."
If you want to name that tune, here it is:
  • St. Clair gets its money from the rental increase from the Symphony

  • Strasser is not embarrassed in front of his Board

  • The City does not get back the Cleary

  • The Mayor is not embarrassed in front of his Council

  • The Symphony pays St. Clair the increased rental

  • the City helps out the Symphony with some money, probably a reduced amount to show how tough they are with the Arts in these troubled times

  • The Capitol will eventually go to St. Clair, and now you know why there is no settlement with the Trustee yet.

I forgot one last point...the Taxpayer gets stuck with the bill!


An Innuendo Disease

Oh my goodness gracious. Not only do we have whiners and naysayers in town, and Bloggers too, now we have
  • “[WEDC] agency’s critics...spreading innuendo through the news media.”

Should I wash my hands every time I touch a copy of the Star or listen to the radio or watch TV? After all, there is nothing worse than secondhand innuendo.

Is this covered under the new Province of Ontario law. No listening to the local news in the car if there is a child there?

I wonder if we should call the Centre for Disease Control and warn them about it. I hope that this disease and the amnesia disease that seems to impact City Hall officials every so often will not hurt our tourist trade and scare away people from visiting here.

At least it is restricted to the news media and not the general population. I always did think that some of those media types look strange.

I believe that Mayor McNamara and WeACT’s Chris Schnurr may have made a terrible mistake. Instead of asking for a forensic audit, they should have asked for a “whitewash” audit as we had with the Windsor Utilities Commission. Then no one would have been upset. The Auditors could have done their business and no one would have been the wiser until the results came out.

I am actually very surprised at our Mayor who

  • “challenged McNamara to come forward with information that would warrant a forensic audit.

    “If he has information that is credible and leads him to believe a forensic audit is needed, I would urge him to come forward with that information otherwise this political attack on the development commission and creating or insinuating there are issues hurts our efforts to attract investors and jobs to our region.”

There was no need for that silliness. When our Mayor first ran for office, in his Platform he said that he wanted:

  • Detailed Audit of All Departments

    We need a starting point, a place to know where we are so that we can judge how well we do when we look at results.

    We will conduct in-depth audits of all of our departments to assess where we stand, and to identify inefficiencies and implement sound management principles across the corporation.

    The mandate of the auditor will include:
     Monitor our financial processes and controls
     Review the decisions already taken that will impact the City’s financial position for Council’s information for its budget deliberations
     Assess the extent to which the City has pursued areas for potential savings and identify any areas of possible savings
     Provide recommendations for further action.

Of course, the Mayor never fulfilled that promise. “Detailed” audit, “forensic” audit, I’m not sure that there is a difference in reality.

The point was that the Mayor wanted to create a “starting point.” Isn’t that the situation now? Effectively, the Board has resigned and we have no Development Commission. The only way that we can create a “starting point” is by auditing what happened in the past. What’s the big deal? We had all of these successful business people on the Board so it should not take very long or prove very costly to get all the answers that we need so we can move forward.

What is the point of making a mountain out of a molehill. I am sure that there are expense slips and plane ticket receipts for all of those lun ches and trips to Europe. There must be some kind of docketing sheet that would identify when the Chair came into the office to be the Interim CEO and how long he was there. I don’t see the issue.

The more protesting there is, the more that people might think that there is something to hide. Haven’t we had enough? I’m sure that no one wants the public to believe that there is a cover-up so let’s get this over and done with already.

To be direct about it, I am very disappointed in the Mayor and Warden. I thought that they wanted to go onto the Board to calm things down not to stir things up.

  • “Mayor Eddie Francis and County Warden Nelson Santos as well as acting commission CEO Remo Mancini accused”

Sounds to me like these people want to pick a fight with someone. Perhaps they ought to cool down and read the Windsor Star Forum first. I know that the best defense is a good offense but frankly they are being offensive.

What I find very interesting is the desire to change the nature of the debate. I did not see any of them talking about the 10-month CEO search, $1200 per day fee paid to the Chair, his involvement on the search committee and the Schumacher Company. Isn’t that what people are upset about? If one wants to open up the debate to “results,” then looking at what the Undevelopment Commission listed as their priorities might not be too helpful to their cause.

Just a few comments on some other topics.

It is twice now I believe that the Star has allowed the Chair to provide an “e-mail” response. Is that a new way of interviewing people? Just wondering.

An interesting Star Editorial saying that the Board Members should leave now and not in 90 days. They are absolutely correct in what they are saying about that. One should expect of course that the Star is also softening us up so that we will support the appointment of Alfie Morgan as the interim CEO. They are being so cute:

  • “Some have suggested Alfie Morgan is the right candidate to fill that position while the CEO search is on.”

Actually, the only person that I have seen who has said that is a Star Reporter. Frankly, and no offence to Alfie, if he is offered that position, he ought not to accept it. I can see it being in another friction point between the City and County given his close association with our Mayor. Who needs another war?

Another interesting point raised in the Editorial is something that I have not yet understood

  • “Included in the list of departing directors are City of Windsor CEO John Skorobohacz and Essex CAO Brian Gregg. Their bosses should be demanding to know why they added their names to that letter of resignation.”

One obvious explanation is that the 2 CAOs resigned because they believed that the appointment of the Mayor and Warden was a vote of nonconfidence in their efforts on the Board. I frankly do not understand that because the appointment of the political leaders was meant to be very short-term. Moreover, if they had kept their leaders and Councils advised as to what was going on, then there ought not to be a problem.

Another explanation is that they resigned because they believed that they had to in order to support what the other members of the Board did. Perhaps their view was that everything was done in confidence and that they could not break the confidence as a Board member. After all, they were put in the middle of an awkward position where they owed a duty to both their Councils and to the Commission

But here is the part that I do not understand. They could have resigned with a simple letter. Instead both of them, albeit separately, used similar language and said that the reason that they resigned was because a political dimension was added to the Board. After all, the mandate was that there was supposed to be no elected officials on the Board.

Please tell me when was the last time you told your boss publicly to [expletive deleted] off. This is nothing more than a vote of nonconfidence by the CAOs in their leaders and Councils. Imagine, public servants telling the political leadership elected by the people what they can and cannot do.

Unbelievable! Remarkable! Absurd!!! This is all out of control.

There is something going on that I just do not understand. It seems to me that both of the City and County Councils need to start asking some questions to satisfy the Public as to who is in charge.

Finally, Mayor Francis need not worry. He said:

  • “We need to shift the focus on the work that needs to be done and this is an opportunity to do that,” said Francis, adding that the controversy was hampering by the commission’s mandate to attract jobs and investment to the region.”

I have no idea what that means unless it means to start creating jobs and attracting business investment rather than wasting time and money. I would be concerned however if the Mayor and Worden believe that it is their job now to do that work.

In passing, I must admit that our Mayor, in addition to all of his other duties, has already been doing a lot of the development work on his own anyway… making cold calls into United States, going to Germany to see onion importers or is it food exporters and bringing call-centre errrrr knowledge-based IT jobs here.

However, he really need not be concerned. We have the MITI Minister around. She is the one who will save our City and Region.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Rant Continues (Part III)

Thank goodness I have this BLOG and can take out my frustration by ranting. It is either that or throw my shoes at the TV set and risk breaking it.

Remember what I wrote the other day in Part I of my Rant:
  • “I believe you will be as angry as I. To be very direct about it, I am not sure what we can do unless there is someone who finally will say that he/she has had enough and around whom we as citizens can rally. We can moan, we can write on the Star Forums or even do a BLOG but we truly need a Leader whom we can support and whom we can trust to have our interests at heart.”

And then remember what I wrote in Part II:

  • “I am still optimistic. There is still hope if the right person steps up. It is not rocket science to solve our ills. We just need a leader we can support and trust. He/she better come out of hiding soon. Time is needed to build up a name if one wants to take on an incumbent.”

After breaking my rule and watching part of Council “live” last night, I am not sure that we have any hope. I am still waiting for a leader although one Councillor at least tried on the night's big issue and another tried on an item not even on the agenda!

I will just mention briefly the debate over the Airport but that is not what triggered my anger this morning.

Where is the Star’s investigative journalism and that of the other media in town? Joe McParland wondered on Cogeco last night if Councillor Dilkens did not attend the Council session because he was “jet-lagged.” The Councillor along with the Mayor and his Councillor colleague, “Talk Buy Canadian but Contract Sole Source Foreign” spent taxpayer money on a one-day trip to Frankfurt, Germany.

Of course, a young and energetic Councillor like Councillor Dilkens would not be effected by such a trip. There must be some other explanation why he was not at Council to tell citizens about what he saw the way that Junior did.

Now why isn’t the Star telling us why he was away. Doesn’t the Star think that its Readers might want to know this information? I do. If Voters knew why the Councillor was away would they be angry or would they be sympathetic or they just not care.

Of course, the BLOGMeister knows but unfortunately I was given this information in confidence by an extremely reliable source and I am not prepared to breach that confidence even for my readers. I will let the traditional media reporters find out the reason why but I doubt that they will.

While they are at it, perhaps the reporters could ask when the Frankfurt tickets were booked since it is such a low amount of money and in what class the Members of Council traveled. Did they get an airline discount as an example because they are members of an Airport Board? I have no idea.

I am not really picking on Councillor Dilkens except to demonstrate that it is unlikely that we will see a real Leader emerge from Council members unless someone gets some real backbone.

I thought that WeACT’s President Chris Schnurr took a very reasonable position last night and asked that the Airport debate be deferred for one week so that we might hear Councillor Dilkens’ impression of what he saw. What if he thought that what he was shown had no practical application whatsoever to this City? What if he thought it was disastrous? One could then legitimately ask why Council spent almost a quarter of $1 million to retain a foreign company to undertake a study that made no sense.

Mr. Schnurr also asked that the matter be deferred so that citizens could read the Report of the Airport General Manager. It was not attached to the Agenda Item posted on the website. It would be nice to see what she had to say as well and if it made any sense.

To his credit, Councillor Halberstadt introduced a Motion to defer the matter for a week. Let me tell you who voted for and against that Motion

Oh, I cannot. You see, dear reader, not one single Member of Council had the backbone to second the Motion. Accordingly, it was never voted on so that we will never hear what Councillor Dilkens has to say before the money was spent and will never see what the Airport Manager wrote.

Where was our Council Leadership? Where was the respect owed to citizens? Where was the element of fairness? Was the money spent wisely or not?

A little bit of background Procedural Bylaw information for you. I am well aware that the four members of WeACT who spoke at Council last night did NOT register before noon on Friday in order to speak as delegations. Accordingly, there should have been a Motion permitting them to speak in the first place. But there was not? Why not?

You know what a stickler our Mayor is for the Procedural Bylaw and yet he did not seek permission from Council to let them speak. That seems very unusual to me. But there was a reason.

The Agenda Item was not posted until after noon on Friday.

As far as I am concerned, this is disgraceful. Posting Agenda Items so late, means that members of the public are lulled into a false sense of security by believing that there are no other items on the Council Agenda after the Friday noon deadline. According to Councillor Halberstadt, it was put on the Supplementary Agenda which is usually for urgent matters even though the date of the Report was February 6.

It appears as if the emergency was not to let members of the public know about the matter since more people might have attended and spoken against what was done.

I have to ask as well why we need highly paid members of an Airport Board who supposedly have expertise in the aviation area and yet an amateur aviation Council directs what they should do even before they have their first Board meeting.

Windsor has two Senates it seems: the Undevelopment Commission and now the Airport Board.

Of course, the issue is jobs and economic diversification supposedly. But of course, that is a phony issue because nothing will happen probably for at least another year while the three phases of the Study are worked on at who knows what cost. And Councillor Buy Canadian told us that all this would take a very long period of time before anything happens.

But it is okay… we can pretend that this really means something. Rather than me talking about it more, just go back and read previous stories about how the Mayor criticized DRIC for promising so much but delivering so little now as far as jobs.

I think I have a new name for Councillor Loopy. Given his questions about the Airport, I think I should call him Councillor Loopy de Loop. I have never seen a straight man performance such as the one he put on last night since George Burns did it for Gracie Allen. Normally, the Mayor interrupts a speaker to give his “Point of Clarification.”

Not last night.

The Councillor asked the questions so beautifully that it almost looked like it was scripted and rehearsed. I saw the Mayor looking at something as he was speaking. I would suggest that Eddie in future follow the recent example of Richard Dreyfuss and his earpiece at the Old Vic instead. Fortunately, it allowed the Mayor to use the word “misinformation” several times.

I wish however the Mayor had given us the “information” why it was proper to charge the salary of the General Manager to the Airport Reserve account but not the foreign consulting fee. I do not understand the distinction. I understand that if one does not charge the salary against Operating expenses, it makes the “profit” of the Airports seem higher but why should the taxpayers pay out another quarter of $1 million if there is money sitting at the Airport already and we are providing a subsidy every month to the Airport.

But that was not why I was angry. This picture and story is the reason.

Finally, on Tuesday, the Star decided to tell us about the Alternative Manufacturing Opportunities Summit press conference that took place last Friday. Considering that the Star is one of the sponsors of the event and that one of their representatives was a speaker, I would have thought that the Star should have published this information on the Saturday.

That could not be done. An event hosted by four MPPs including our two Cabinet Ministers that could help salvage the businesses in this area and jobs for their workers is not as important as our Mayor traveling to Europe for the day with two Councillors. After all, entering into a consulting agreement with a Foreign Subsidiary of a Foreign Air Carrier, Lufthansa, is so much more exciting.

To be honest, now that you know about Burns and Allen. you also know that I am an older gentleman whose memory is not as good as it once was. I must admit that I do not remember the Undevelopment Commission VP having much of a speaking role at the session and if he did, it was completely forgettable, at least to me anyway. If you read the fine print, it says the picture was taken at the media scrum afterwards. After all, who can remember anything after our Celine Dion/Jay Leno of politicians, Sandra Pupatello, blew everyone away with her presentation. Bruce Crozier seems like a fine gentleman and he was the host of the press conference but the big star was Sandra.

Where was her photograph? Play ball with Eddie and the Star or you get crucified, Sandra! Or worse, ignored.

If one looked at that photograph quickly, one would almost think that the Undevelopment Commission had a major role in the event. If that is true, perhaps we should keep them around. Isn’t that the Message that the Star was delivering it to us? The WEDC does not. They are merely one of a handful of sponsors of an event run by the Province.

Imagine that the Star did not even ask the question whether the Mayor snubbed the event by going to Germany just as he did when Dwight Duncan came to town. I think that the Cabinet Ministers for taxpayers’ sake should not come here anymore for announcements because we cannot afford these European trips anymore.

What a small minded newspaper we have in this City. I cannot believe they gave front page coverage about something that is unrealistic merely because it is the Mayor that is doing it. Why do I say that? It is very simple. Another worldwide aviation company who knows everything there is to know about Windsor Airport, Serco, pulled out. If there was any hope of success here, do you think they would have left, and left early?

Now you know why the proposal was “sole source.” Do you really think anyone would be interested in making a proposal for a consulting agreement after a major aviation company had no interest in Windsor?

Councillor Halberstadt’s question was bang on and also was not answered by the Mayor in a very rude fashion:
  • “The mayor didn't really answer my question when I asked if it was possible that Lufhansa would become a partner or a client of the Airport as a result of the study.”

Ah, now I feel better.

BLOGExtra: Tunnel 2008 Legal Fees

Report on Tunnel legal Fees. I have asked also for totals on each of the matters, not just 2008 fees.

Note that Miller Canfield was also used, both the US side and Canadian side it seems given payments in US and Canadian $$$.

$43,000 for Municipal FOI matters too!

Total for all fees in 2008: $568,679. 50, plus US$52,202.02

Readers Write

Just a few notes from readers like you. I look forward to receive yours.

There is one from another Councillor asking to be removed from my mailing list. But it's OK. I find that I have some new readers from the County to replace him!

My oh my some of our Councillors are so sensitive. I guess that they don't like hearing from citizens. Mind you Councillor Gignac congratulated those people who appeared as delegations on the airport matter and asked questions last night.

I wonder if I should expect an email from her asking to come back on my list.

Speaking of the airport and hearing from citizens, at Council, WeACT's Chris Schurr asked that the Airport matter be deferred for one week so that Councillor Dilkens who went on the European jaunt and who was not at Council could report on his findings. After all, they deferred a PAC matter because he was away. He also wanted to see and to be able to digest the report of Ms Nazzani the Airport GM which Council had seen but was not distributed on the website for the public to view.

Councillor Halberstadt thought deferral for one week made sense but he could not even get a seconder on his Motion!

1) Please remove me from your mailing list.

Thank you.

Fulvio Valentinis

2) Hello Ed,

I particularly enjoyed your weekend rant. Like you, I'm increasingly mad as hell and determined to see 'regime change' in 2010. Why don't you run Ed? You would have my full support

3) Okay Ed calm down a bit. Don't get your drawers in a knot over the shenanigans continually going on. You have writers burn out and rightfully so. Take a deep breath Ed, square breathing, one, two, three, four.

So much has been going on. I can barely keep up with your blog never mind get through tax season and try to keep abreast of the daily news. Geez, is this purposely going on to keep us all crazy?

The only thing I want to comment on today is the lack of publicity on the March 6th Summit for the Alternative Manufacturing Opportunities. Maybe I have missed the marketing boat but I only read the headlines on-line, and that was on the Chatham Daily News (?) because Pat Hoy is involved. If Sir Ed is not leading something, then nothing is published in The Star (at least the on-line edition).

You are spot on about the community. We have a one man show trying to lead and direct every possible project on his own. What people are forgetting is that we have two MPP's that are working also, trying to bring investment to this community and we have a Mayor that doesn't seem to want to be associated with them. Really sad. We have no room or time for egos in this economy. I'm starting to think he plots his calendar around every event that is hosted in town by the Libs. Maybe he is just not invited. Will be interesting to see if he even attends and we are actually going to be there on the 6th as I think this is a great initiative for the region. Anything to get this damned economy rolling again.

4) I can't help but feel the Globe & Mail's's article title is a cheap shot at Windsorites :(

And as an educated (ie non-high school dropout) Windsor-area-ite this makes me quite sad.

"Ken Lewenza: They didn't take Windsor out of the boy"

5) Hi Ed,

Thanks for the e-mail about your special weekend blog posting, I just finished reading it. Certainly interesting stuff during this winter weather…just like you said.

BTW: Please don’t leave Windsor… Who else will give us your unique style and insight of what is really going on in this region? I know….how about I organize a massive assembly and letter writing campaign to urge your stay....would that help? I can call up all the letter writers, and maybe have 500 for you by next week…lol

6) I just read your post/rant. Believe me when I tell you that my monitor is still dirty with toast crumbs and coffee.

7) RE Rants 1&2 Way ahead of you Ed! Two years till retirement and my girl friend and I are just finishing a new home somewhere else, nowhere near Wastessex!

8) You gotta find a picture of a Jazz aircraft and somehow superimpose one of those bumper stickers "Out of a job yet - keep buying foreign".

9) Add this to the mix.............if the city applies to Infrastructure Ontario for any grants / loans etc for the airport..........will they have to be disqualified since there is now an IO exec on the board? Also - given that IO is the delivery mechanism for the new DRIC road, will this VP from IO be involved in that project and as such, be at odds with the city? It is all very confusing.

10) What about the Bride of Greenlink for the name

11) Great columns today Ed!

I know of another way the city can save another 4 clerical jobs or re-invest it into neighbourhoods (like the ward funds that were never used yet are desperately needed).

Send out RFPs to replace the parking meter attendants. If you recall, a few years back council had the option to go to a private firm to enforce parking alleviating approx. $500,000 from the city's budget but backed down.

If the budget is so tight why are we not putting this proposal foward? Shouldn't the taxpayer be getting the biggest bang for their buck? Are we not supposed to look at all options in times of struggle?

If Bert Weeks could build more than 5 parks parks under his tenure, balance the budget and still move Windsor forward and all this during the rotten 1970s then why haven't we been able to do anything in good times and now stall during the bad?

It seems to me we are just a ship without a rudder, captain and sails. I just hope we don't bash ourselves across the looming rocks.

12) Was there ever an audit done for Huron Lodge?

13) Craig Pearson from the Windsor Star has written an amazing article in the Windsor Star

Here is the linK:

I know I've asked before, but I am sincerely asking for your support once again.

The struggle isn't quite over yet. Please take just a moment to write a comment of support... send this link to your family and friends who love the Capitol also.

Please encourage all the positive reasons why the Capitol should be kept for its intended use, why it's important. If people see it enough, they will respond...think...discuss....and help to keep the faith.

14) I find it interesting that Sandra uses her office to get Red Bull money
yet she doesn't get involved with DRIC or any other projects due to
some vague policy.

Meanwhile, the Leamington Hospital will be cutting back patient care due to
lack of funds. The money from Red Bull would have more than covered it...

Her office must have been created to give away money to foreign corporations.

15) [Re: Can the WEDC matter get any worse] HI ED.

If what you are saying is not the truth then nothing is for sure.

16) [Re Windsor's Swinging Downtown] You have to be losing it. My God Ed, what are you thinking?

The Capital is still one of my favorite small venues in what's left to this wasteland. The acoustics are great and the husband and I have enjoyed many a concert and play there. Why is it that we can't get this place going for ANYTHING?

Please, I would rather see the Capital demolished than see a Swinger's Club. There's plenty of that going in in the bars.

17) Trucks have disappeared everywhere

18) Hey Ed….I know you're serious, the mess and circumstance is pretty bad…..The experts I’ve been speaking with have never seen housing/property issues this bad.

We do need something to save this region