Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 17, 2009

P3 Investing: Before And After

Do you remember some of the news stories encouraging people to invest in Infrastructure Funds? Small investors were being dazzled by the kinds of returns that these Funds are going to generate for them. They were supposedly a safer alternative than investing in stock market mutual funds as an example.

How many sophisticated investors like pension funds or Sovereign Funds for instance poured money either directly into Infrastructure or indirectly into these Funds managed by top people. They too were going to get big returns over time that would match their requirements. They were being encouraged, actually required in some cases, to lock in their money for long periods of time.

Here is a story that you will not believe out of Australia where a lot of these P3 deals started. I trust that the Michigan Legislators will ask MDOT about these type of transactions in a lot more detail, especially because MDOT has been talking to Australians about P3s.

I would suggest that the Canadian and Ontario governments do so as well but there hardly seems to be a point in doing so. For whatever reason, they seem ready to throw billions of dollars worth of projects at these P3 firms so that they can generate huge profits at taxpayer expense. Perhaps if someone would actually show my BLOG to some of our Canadian politicians, someone might actually wake up and stop this madness.

  • BrisConnections shares expected to soar

    May 20, 2008

    ANY motorists who will drive along Brisbane's new airport link should grab some BrisConnections shares.

    At least that way they will be gaining on the swings what they lose on the lack of roundabouts and traffic lights.

    One of the major selling points for the $1.2 billion BrisConnections float will be a stellar internal rate of return of around 17 per cent.

    That compares with a more traditional IRR in recent years of around 12 per cent.

    When you add on a 14 per cent yield for the first year, followed by an 8 per cent guaranteed yield for six years as the second and third instalment payments are made, it could make paying the tolls for 45 years easier to swallow.

    It is also the reason why Leighton subsidiaries John Holland and Theiss plan to park themselves on the share register on the same terms as other shareholders.

    And why a list of around 17 institutions, including consortium member Macquarie Capital, are already in the queue to pick up shares in the offer, which is due to list late this year.

    The public offer to be revealed in the next couple of weeks is also underwritten by Macquarie Capital, Credit Suisse, Deutsche and JP Morgan.

    The reason behind such a strong yield and rate of return is simply that the twin 6km road tunnels to the airport are guaranteed to grab a large slice of Brisbane traffic.

    Quite simply, the link will be one of those irresistible and difficult to avoid pieces of infrastructure that link various parts of Brisbane together.

    Which means traffic projections that will support the $4.8 billion project, with a total two-way toll on current dollars of $7.50.

    That provides a highly predictable and CPI-adjusted revenue stream on which the project hangs.

    It is also enough to keep the debt providers happy at current market yields - which are substantially higher than when previous Australian PPPs were written."

And then only 6 months later, watch this report or read the transcript below. It is an incredible story! Almost unbelievable.

The shares dropped to the point that they were almost valueless. More than that, because of how the deal was structured, those who bought in as speculators may also meet financial ruin even though they bought shares which crashed to 1/10th of a penny.

There is now a lawsuit going on in Australia to windup Brisconnections. That is a bizarre story as well since

  • "the company's biggest shareholder is a 26-year-old owner of an IT company operating from a block of flats in St Kilda.

    Nicholas Bolton of Australian Style Investments bought 47,643,166 BrisConnections unit trusts for about $47,600...

    [Name of newspaper] has concerns that Bolton may not be able to pay the $95,286,332 he will owe the toll-road company for his shares:"


  • Many Brisconnections shareholders facing financial ruin

    Broadcast: 20/11/2008

    Reporter: Thea Dikeos

    Many small time investors in the recently floated company Brisconnections could face financial ruin after discovering the shares they purchased are to be paid for over three instalments. Many investors bought into the company when the share price plummeted from $3 to just a mere tenth of a cent believing they were snapping up a bargain. Now, investors face bills running into millions of dollars when the next dollar per share payment is due in April, a liability they claim was never spelled out to them.

    KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The biggest single success story of modern banking in Australia, Macquarie Investment Bank, has saw its share value tumble many times more than the market in recent months, and has copped a profit mauling as well. But there's one bizarre story emerging about a company set up by Macquarie called Brisconnections, in which many small time investors who thought, later on, that they were snapping up a bargain re now facing the prospect of particularly excruciating pain in the hip pocket.

    Brisconnections was floated in July after winning a $3.5 billion contract to build a toll road in Brisbane, a deal brokered by Macquarie Bank. Shares were issued at $3 each, to be paid in three instalments of $1. But when the share price of Brisconnections plummeted to just a mere one tenth of a cent, bargain hunters moved in. Now, they face bills running into millions of dollars when the next dollar per share payment falls due in April, with another to follow in 2010. Thea Dikeos reports.

    THEA DIKEOS, REPORTER: Ramesh Velougondaiah may not look like a big time stock market player, but this IT consultant from Toongabbie in Sydney's west owes a staggering $5,640,000 for his shareholding in a company called Brisconnections.

    RAMESH VELOUGONDAIAH, BRISCONNECTIONS SHAREHOLDER: Definitely, I don't have $5 million, even if I sell myself, you know, or my rest of life, I think I don't make $5 million.

    THEA DIKEOS: He's not alone. Brisconnections was floated in July after winning a $3.5 billion contract to construct a toll road from Brisbane to the airport. But the international credit crisis drove the share price down to a minuscule tenth of a cent attracting many small time investors who thought they were snapping up a bargain.

    Gerhard Limnios bought two million shares for his 82-year-old mother.

    GERHARD LIMNIOS, BRISCONNECTIONS SHAREHOLDER: There's no way that mum could afford, you know, paying $2 million. She's living, you know, with is, and she's on a pension.

    THEA DIKEOS: What these investors say they didn't know when they purchased the shares was that they owed the company more money. Shareholder activist Stephen Mayne owns 500 Brisconnections shares.

    STEPHEN MAYNE, SHAREHOLDER ACTIVIST: A lot of people have bought the shares for one cent or 0.1 of a cent not realising that next May, they have to pay another dollar a share and then 12 months after that, they've got to pay another dollar. So, a lot of people weren't properly informed about the legal obligations that came with buying these one cent shares, and now - never before in Australian corporate history have we seen a situation like this, where small mum and dad shareholders are going to be sued for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

    RAMESH VELOUGONDAIAH: I was really shocked. I didn't expect it to pay another $2, and I thought it's like a normal share and when I'm buying in CommSec, there is no information that I need to pay another $2.

    THEA DIKEOS: Did you do enough research, do you think, into the stock?

    RAMESH VELOUGONDAIAH: Not really, actually, for this particular share, I didn't do a lot of research, as I'm busy with other kind of the family commitments.

    THEA DIKEOS: Ramesh Velougondaiah bought over five million shares for approximately $5,000, using the online trading facility CommSec. He contacted Brisconnections and said he wouldn't be able to pay the first instalment of over $5 million in April and asked about his options.

    RAMESH VELOUGONDAIAH: They said that they are going to send the debt collectors to collect this money if I don't pay after the April.

    THEA DIKEOS: Gerhard Limnios purchased the $2 million shares on behalf of his mother on the ANZ E-trade site, and he only found out about the further $2 instalments when the 7.30 Report contacted him.

    GERHARD LIMNIOS: We have never actually seen the prospectus. When you go and you purchase, you know, the shares online, there's no warning message that you're buying a commitment with those shares.

    THEA DIKEOS: The company insists it did enough to warn investors of the liability.

    TREVOR ROWE, CHAIRMAN, BRISCONNECTIONS ('Inside Business', 15 November): We write to them and we send 'em a kit which has not only information on the project, and a project that we think is a very sound project, it's moving ahead effectively - so it has that detail and it also reminds them in bold letters there is this outstanding commitment that they have. Now, now: it's on the website, it was in the PDS. What more can one do?

    STUART WILSON, AUST. SHAREHOLDERS ASSOCIATION: It's something that I've not seen in my time on the share market, where you have a company that is floated, has an amount owing to it from the investors, and proceeds to tank to - into oblivion, leaving shareholders a.) with no value, and b.) with an obligation for another $2 per share.

    THEA DIKEOS: The deal was put together by Macquarie Bank, which earned over $100 million in fees and commissions.

    STEPHEN MAYNE: They just simply got this one wrong. They offered too much to take on this infrastructure project. They did one of their cute structures, with the, you know, three instalment payments, and they loaded the thing up with too much debt and now it's completely blown up in their face.

    TREVOR ROWE: I have a view that in the longer term this is an extremely valuable investment. This is a crucial piece of infrastructure connecting Brisbane's CBD with the airport.

    THEA DIKEOS: Macquarie Bank recently sold its shares in Brisconnections, but its not the end of the matter. If these small investors are unable to pay up, it will be Macquarie and Deutsche Bank who'll have to come up with the money.

    STEPHEN MAYNE: I think they'll be the ones who end up stepping up and paying, but if it becomes a really big public fiasco and scandal, well then maybe the pressure will be on the Queensland Government to step in and take back an infrastructure project which a lot of people thought probably should have been a Government project in the first place.

    THEA DIKEOS: The chief executive of the Australian Shareholders Association supports the idea of the Queensland Government stepping in and letting the small but heavily endowed investors get out.

    STUART WILSON: There's no market for these people to get out of this obligation. There's no one buying it, so effectively they are stuck and that's certainly no fault of their own.
    THEA DIKEOS: But Macquarie Group's chief executive Nicholas Moore has ruled out seeking any assistance from the Queensland Government.

    NICHOLAS MOORE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MACQUARIE GROUP: The Government has negotiated a concession deed with the company. The Government's position is absolutely clear on that. This is the responsibility of the company, its advisors, its underwriters and its funders to make sure that this project gets delivered as specified to the Government.

    TREVOR ROWE: If they don't pay in April, we have an obligation under the underwriting agreement that we need to pursue the collection of any outstanding instalments. But we get the money anyway, 'cos it's underwritten by Deutsche Bank and Macquarie Bank.

    Gerhard Limnios hopes to sell before the deadline, but says he might consider paying someone to take the shares off his hands.

    GERHARD LIMNIOS: Just before drowning, then you would say yes. You have no other choice; but other than that, probably not.

    THEA DIKEOS: Ramesh Velougondaiah is banking on being able to sell his shares by early next year to avoid his $5 million bill. But that is by no means a done deal.

    What happens if you get to March and it hasn't sold?

    RAMESH VELOUGONDAIAH: Oh, that's really worrying me - worries me.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: A market dynamic you'd never want to experience. Thea Dikeos with that report.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

People Who Live In Glass Train Stations Shouldn't Throw Stones

Oh my goodness. Nothing is as simple as it seems when dealing with the Bridge Company. There always seems to be some facts not disclosed by their opponents that could change things dramatically.

I am sure that you have read all of the nasty stories directed to the Company because of the Michigan Central Depot. The Mayor of Detroit and the Council want it torn down because it is an eyesore and want the Bridge Company, the owner of it, to pay for the demolition.

Has the world gone mad----upside-down and topsy-turvy?

Apparently, in Detroit, they are prepared to demolish a heritage building but leave up thousands of abandoned homes. Contrast that with Windsor. Here in Windsor, our Mayor and Council will not allow the Bridge Company to demolish their abandoned homes but require them to keep them standing to the distress of the neighbours but in the name of heritage.

Oh my, if the Detroit News story is correct, it may well be that the Bridge Company has a claim against Detroit for not ensuring that the City's properties were properly maintained so that vandals could not enter the Depot site and damage it. How many millions would that be?

Moreover, the City may also not be able to demolish the building according to the News story.

Of course, this is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot designed to demonize the Bridge Co. as they are successfully moving forward on their Enhancement Project. But you knew that anyway, dear reader.

  • Depot fight isn't what it seems

    Charlie LeDuff

    A little-known, 25-page deed showing the city of Detroit holds title to much of the unsecured land surrounding the Michigan Central Depot that plunderers and vandals have used to break into the landmark.

    The chase

    The city is locked in a feud with the owners of the crumbling, half-million-square-foot leviathan that has become a symbol of the city's decay.

    The City Council last week voted to raze the 96-year-old building and force billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun to pay the $3.6 million cost. A public hearing Tuesday could clear the way for demolition within 30 days.

    Property records unearthed by The News show that, perhaps, things may not be what they seem in Detroit.

    Why it matters

    According to the deed, the city is responsible for the upkeep of a Vernor Highway underpass adjacent to the depot and loading docks -- an open area by which vandals, graffiti artists and treasure hunters access the depot.

    Consolidated Rail Corp. sold the land to the city for $1 in 1989. The deed lasts another 126 years and does not appear to permit demolition.

    "The city should take care of its property," said Dan Stamper, a Moroun spokesman. "They own the back door into our property which has allowed people to destroy a city jewel that we have been trying to save. People who live in glass train stations shouldn't throw stones."

    A city spokesman said Wednesday that the city owns just three parcels in the vicinity, but none are adjacent to the depot, and they will be sold to the Mercury Bar as soon as today. City Council President Monica Conyers said, "I agree the city needs to keep up its portion of the depot and to demolish it if that's the case."

Christmas Comes Early

The Mayoral Scrooge in Detroit and his band of Elfian Councillors thought they could destroy the Michigan Central Depot building easily. Bah Humbug.

Now a lawsuit has been started to prevent the historical building from being torn down.
  • "Suit seeks to halt demolition of Michigan Central Depot

    Detroit --Two-time mayoral candidate Stanley Christmas sued the city this week, seeking to halt the demolition of the Michigan Central Depot.

    Christmas and the Eclipse Foundation sued the city in Wayne County Circuit Court on Monday, claiming that razing the building would violate the National Historic Preservation Act. The suit seeks an injunction from Judge Robert Colombo.

    "Detroit City Council is discriminating against the Michigan Central Depot, in public service for political expediency, and Defendant Detroit City Council has failed in its impartial obligation to make a survey of the historical site, buildings and objects for the purpose of determining which possesses exceptional value as commemorating or illustrating the history of the United States," reads the suit, authored by Christmas...

    The council last week passed an emergency resolution calling to raze the grand, dilapidated depot and bill owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun. The Beaux Arts style building opened in 1913, but has remained vacant since 1988. The next step comes April 28, when city attorneys are expected to outline the process to the council.

    Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. also plans to demolish the building, but has proposed using federal stimulus money to cover the estimated $3.6 million cost."

Deer oh deer! I wonder if there may a jolly old Clause in the Act that may prevent what Detroit is doing or at least slow it down.

Oh Dasher....that could be the start of a legal war, a Blitzen attack! Where Detroit Government was Prancer-ing around before, they had better Dancer carefully now. The City may have to act like a Vixen and send out fawning Cupid signals to the Bridge Company soon. If Detroit lost, they may have to Co-met a whole bunch of bucks to pay for legal costs.

Perhaps a better idea might have been to talk to the Bridge Company first to see if the Company and others could have been convinced to Donner-ate some money to help rebuild the site so that it became a symbol of Detroit's rebirth. Instead of Government infrastructure dollars to demolish, why not use the doe to rejuvenate!

This could cost Mayor Cockrel deerly in his re-election fight. He should have learned from Rudy Giuliani, the former New York Mayor who knew from all of the books in his collection a lot about Mayoral tenure because of term limits in NYC. Here is the reason why:


Capture The Moment!

How many times have you watched this video so far? And weeped. Yes, even you toughies out there.

Don't tell me that you did not react just like the audience and the judges right after Susan just started singing!

Please make sure that you forward this link to your family, friends and colleagues so they can experience the moment. You owe it to them and to yourself.

Guest BLOG: New Orleans' Lesson For Windsor

A guest BLOG for your reading enjoyment!

New Orleans NOW: For the very first time

By Elaine Weeks, MANAGING EDITOR of the Walkerville Times. Her husband is Chris Edwards, Executive Director of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Area

Is New Orleans worth the trip? A first time visitor to New Orleans, 3½ years after Hurricane Katrina, shares her experiences and observations, as well as comparisons to her city of Windsor, Ontario, an auto town being hit hard by the global economic melt down.

Part 1

Arriving, Jan. 29, 2009

It’s growing dark as our taxi begins its journey to downtown New Orleans from the airport. There’s not much to see anyway from the freeway, other than some industrial buildings and a number of billboards for sleazy strip joints.

I’m not getting a good feeling here.

Ok, stay positive. Things can’t be all that bad. I mean, we’ve heard how New Orleans isn’t the same post-Katrina, but surely it hasn’t lost its soul.

Must focus on other things. Everything so far seems pretty normal in fact, and there’s no obvious evidence that we are in what was a recent disaster area. The fact that the ride is so nice and smooth it’s actually worth noting.

My husband agrees. “The roads don’t go through the heaving from the snow and ice like ours do.”

Could the entire freeway been repaved, I wonder? Back home in Windsor, Ontario, the streets and expressways will be more of a mess than usual come April, when hopefully, winter will be finally over. I heard a true story about someone with a dislocated knee being transferred to the hospital after we’d had a melt. The speeding ambulance hit a deep pothole and the fellow’s knee popped back into place. It may sound far-fetched but I’ve navigated those potholed streets and they are a menace.

I wonder how our driver fared during and after Katrina. I sense this is a perfect opportunity to find out from a local what it was like, but I feel a bit hesitant to ask in case it might be still too painful to talk about, even after 3 1/2 years.

He has the news on. The announcer is describing something rather extraordinary – an orangutan escaped from the local zoo that day by wrapping a t-shirt around the electrical wires surrounding his exhibit and clambering over top. He wandered about for 10 minutes and then jumped back into his enclosure.

We all start chuckling. Chris says, “He probably wanted to go get a cocktail and then realized it was safer inside than out.”

The news segues to a female jazz artist who’s singing about food, lots of it, in great detail. She’s so good she’s making me hungry. Wondering if she might be a local, I ask our driver if he knows who she is but he doesn’t.

Escaping orangutans, a jazz song about food…. Somehow it all makes sense since we’re about to enjoy a few days in a city world famous for its jazz, food and party animals. I sit back to enjoy the rest of her song.

Then, reality hits. Chris and I spot the unmistakable shape of the Louisiana Superdome up ahead to our right.

As he and I gaze at what was a temporary “prison” for 25,000 poor, unfortunate souls who couldn’t leave the city and were stranded here with no food, water, sanitation or even light for a week, I take the opportunity to finally ask our driver, Leroy, how he fared during the storm.

“I got out before Katrina hit and went to Atlanta,” he replies in a quiet, matter-of-fact voice. “I’ve got relatives there.”

“Did you lose your house?”

“Not much you can do when there’s 7.5 feet of water inside.” He paused to let this sink in. “You can’t imagine the devastation. Houses were swept off their foundations or just reduced to piles of rubble.”

I learn later that Hurricane Katrina had an average 12-foot storm surge and in New Orleans it reached 22 feet. The highest recorded was 27 feet in Mississippi.

Despite having seen countless news stories about the incredible destruction left behind when Katrina ripped through the area in August 2005, he’s right. I can’t really imagine it because thankfully, I didn’t have to live through it. But millions of people did.

"Do you think it could happen again?” I ask.

“Possibly. But, the good news is, the levees are being built up and reinforced with concrete.”

And indeed, the radio supports his claim with news about work being carried out in the industrial canal district.

Researching later on-line, I learn that New Orleans is partially below sea level and shaped like a bowl, its levees serving as the rim. Some suburbs are within the levee system, while others lie outside it. Since 2005, the Corps of Engineers has repaired some levees, made others higher and put gates on certain canals, enabling the city to block a storm surge.

But equivalent gates have not been installed on major navigation waterways in the eastern part of the city. Despite our driver’s confidence, a strong storm surge could barrel down the waterways and inundate the city and suburbs, once again.

We arrive at the historic and beautiful Crowne Plaza, conveniently located right in the heart of downtown, on the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets. We collect our luggage, say goodbye to Leroy and immediately begin experiencing a palpable energy coming from the street. There are knots of people strolling about and a trolley is trundling down the middle of Canal. How charming is that! I am definitely feeling much better.

My husband is here to attend the International Downtown Association DOWNTOWN INSTITUTE, a two-day conference devoted to rejuvenating and energizing downtowns anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. It includes a close-up look at New Orleans's core and the neighborhoods hardest hit by Katrina, as well as strategies, programs and projects employed during the crisis and after by New Orleans Downtown District Development Staff.

Chris recently took on the role of Executive Director for downtown Windsor’s business area, a job that has tremendous challenges since Windsor, an auto town, was hit hard at least two years before the current downward spiral of the global economy.

Windsor's downtown, a magnet for tens of thousands of young drinkers every weekend from Michigan and Ohio during the '90s and early '00s due to the lower drinking age, (think Ft. Lauderdale north), endured a huge blow after 9/11, which has made the one-mile border between Windsor and Detroit much tougher to cross.

So the kids aren't coming like they used to and, with the malls and big box stores springing up in Windsor's suburbs, over the last few decades, downtown retail has become almost non-existent.

Given these circumstances, Chris is cautiously optimistic the conference will provide him with some inspiration. If a city almost obliterated by a hurricane can survive, surely Windsor will also rise again.

Chris and I have extensively travelled the world but somehow, never made it to New Orleans. Leaving the doom and gloom of Windsor in the middle of what has been a bitterly cold and snowy winter for a few days is definitely an attractive option. I am looking forward to finally seeing the Big Easy, or, as I call it, the new New Orleans, and to write about that experience as a first-time visitor post-Katrina.

What do I expect? I expect to see a place that is trying mightily to recapture the allure and mystique that has drawn millions of people from around the world for decades. I expect to see people bravely carrying on like their city wasn’t nearly swept off the face of the earth. I expect to see a thin layer of sadness underlying forced smiles and drunken reverie.

Ok, that last part is a bit much but I definitely was led to believe that things are not the same here and never will be. Oh, and that crime is still a huge problem. Stories about the filmmaker shot dead in her own home and her husband being shot while protecting their baby son have permeated my subconscious. I was nervous enough to leave my diamond ring at home. I certainly hope my fears will be unfounded.

Part 2

To Hell and Back

Chris has a cousin living in New Orleans so our first night in the Big Easy included a fabulous Creole dinner with Dawn and her husband at the Upperline Restaurant, a 1877 town house crammed with a treasure trove of 400 local art objects and memorabilia accumulated over 40 years by the genial owner and manager, JoAnn Clevenger. With her round, red spectacles we couldn’t miss JoAnn as she moved from room to room, visiting tables of guests. I was pleased at the opportunity to ask her about her Katrina experience.

“We had to take all the art down before the storm but we were open almost right away – but just the one room,” she recalled.

What an enormous job I think but amazingly, she seems to have taken it all in stride.

“Our customers back then were mainly the neighborhood people and they were so happy we were open. We thought it was important to try to bring a sense of normalcy back to the area.”

I also quizzed Dawn and her husband about their experience. They had evacuated their young children, several neighbors and friends to her parents’ house in Arizona ahead of the storm.

“Before we left, we moved tools and other essentials to the upper floor of the house,” explained Dawn whose husband owns a construction company. “We thought we’d be back relatively soon so we didn’t pack a lot of clothes.”

Needless to say, they didn’t come back for months and when they did, they had to live upstairs as their main floor was a muddy mess. But they soldiered on and their house is just about back to normal while their business has done very well due to all the re-building activity.

After our delightful introduction to some of New Orleans’ best food and hospitality, we were eager to learn more about how this fabled city was coming back from the brink. Bright and early the next day, The “Devastation Bus Tour”, (organized and conducted by the New Orleans’ DDD), took us from the hotel into another world – the areas hardest hit by Katrina and the storm surge.

We first explore the Lower Ninth Ward, a low-income area once populated mostly by African Americans. The term "Lower" refers to its location further towards the mouth of the Mississippi River, "down" or "below" the rest of the city.

Nowhere in the city was the devastation worse. Storm surge floodwaters poured into the neighborhood from at least three sources. To the east, water flowed in from Saint Bernard Parish, while to the west the Industrial Canal suffered two distinct major breaches: one a block in from Florida Avenue, the second back from Claiborne Avenue. A huge barge actually slid into the neighborhood through one of the breaches leveling homes beneath it as it floated in the floodwaters.

I am struck by the emptiness and the eerie quiet. The scoured out streets, with porch steps leading nowhere and twisted street signs on the corners give me the illusion that we are seeing the aftermath of an atom bomb. Was this once a real neighborhood where thousands of people lived?

And after the floodwaters poured in, were these acres and acres of empty lots really the scene of uprooted houses and smashed and piled up cars, of people sitting on their roofs praying for rescue while bodies floated down the streets? The multitude of images flashing across TV screens and filling newspapers and the Internet for weeks after the storm had left an indelible imprint on my brain.

Finally, we see some life. We pass some workmen who are appearing to be readying a lot for a new home, and our guide points out two houses in the distance “built” by move stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as part of their contribution towards the rebirth of the area. Somehow, the homes’ pastel colors and whimsical shapes only add to the surreal quality of the devastated streets.

We also see a couple of examples of structures called “camp” homes, houses built on “stilts” to avoid the effects of flash floods. Sounds sensible except that insurance won’t cover these kinds of homes if there is another catastrophic surge so there’s no real incentive to build them. Incredible.

It would take a lot of courage to actually want to live in this forsaken area again anyway.

Our bus then takes us to what used to be the marina on Lake Pontchartrain. Here the driver makes a short stop to allow us to stretch our legs and gaze at the stumps of piers that once held a multitude of boats but now are just roosts for seagulls, egrets and pelicans. The only boats we can see is one for sale near the road and a barnacle-encrusted seadoo in the middle of the empty parking lot. The sole person we encountered was an older woman I thought might be considered a local character, who was striding past the bus and waving as we pulled up.

The second part of our tour is a significant contrast: The “Sliver by the River” is the nickname for the area closest to the Mississippi River that escaped major flooding after Hurricane Katrina hit. The “Sliver” is situated on higher ground made of the natural levee built up by hundreds of years of flooding before there was a human settlement in the area. It includes the French Quarter, Warehouse District, and Garden District areas of New Orleans. Most of the major damage in this area was from wind.

There is no real sign here that anything is amiss. The beautiful old homes look well tended and the streets are bustling with cars and people going about their business. It feels like we’ve entered a completely different world.

A Catalyst for Positive Change

That afternoon, we go on a walking tour, also organized and conducted by the DDD, through some of downtown to get a sense of how Katrina impacted on the business district. Two Public Safety Rangers, kind of like downtown “hosts” who serve as extra ears and eyes on the streets and provide visitors not only with information but security, accompany us.

When Katrina passed east of New Orleans on August 29, 2005, winds downtown were in the Category 3 range with frequent intense gusts. The Hyatt Regency is still empty due to heavy damage from the roof of the SuperDome blowing off and smashing into it. We spot the building and notice that roof top sign spells “yatt.”

Right after Katrina, there was talk of giving up on New Orleans because of the extent of the devastation, and a lot of people who had the means to come back didn’t. But, because the city is world famous, there was tremendous outside support to save it.

It is evident from the walking tour and our own meanderings later which takes us past and into fascinating shops and antique stores as well as tempting restaurants and bars, that New Orleans is experiencing a major revitalization. There is also art every where we look – even the trolley shelters which have all received a “skin” of artwork after a call to artists went out from the DDD to help jazz them up.

The four main attractions: music, food, art and architecture still serve as the major draws to New Orleans. In fact, bars were the first businesses to reopen in many areas of the city (two remained open in the French Quarter even during the worst of the storm and the official mandatory evacuation). Most other businesses, such as gas stations, supermarkets, appliance stores, and restaurants, followed somewhat later as they required more work before they could reopen.

Among the few businesses to do significantly better business after Katrina than before were new car dealers. Flooding totaled an estimated 200,000 vehicles in Metro New Orleans, and dealers able to get in shipments of new cars quickly found customers.

There occurred what some call the “Disaster Boom” – construction work, nursing and other medical jobs that surfaced during the re-birth of the city. There was also an influx of young, talented entrepreneurs who took advantage of cheaper housing and the opportunities to start new businesses while helping New Orleans re-invent itself.

As our brief, safe and invigorating time in New Orleans drew to an end, Chris and I knew we would be back. We also pondered whether our hometown of Windsor needed a disaster even worse than the economic one it’s currently suffering to allow for any real positive change to occur.

This is a terrible thought of course, and we know that though the reality is things will probably get worse, that more factories will close, more people will lose their jobs or move away to look for one, and the city’s infrastructure will continue to crumble, we know that there is a life force that won’t let the city die.

Windsor has managed to come back from several previous recessions. The city’s creative class hasn’t given up on it and hopefully they will attract more like-minded people who see Windsor’s potential. In his role as Executive Director of the Downtown Business Area, Chris is keener than ever to tap into that energy and is ready to tackle the job.

If New Orleans can do it, why not Windsor?

To check out photos and videos and to get more facts and figures, go to:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Has Killed The Dream I Dreamed

Not always as you shall see!

You have no choice. Once you listen to her voice, you will be hooked.

You MUST watch and listen to this clip of Susan Boyle from the British TV show Britain's Got Talent.

If you are not weepy-eyed by the end....

Watch this clip any time you are feeling down for an immediate high!

The Quote Not Read In Windsor

Is Windsor Canada's answer to Susan Boyle? Will our dream come true too if only someone will give us a chance?

After all. Windsor has talent too!

I thought so when I moved here over 20 years ago. I still do and that is what my BLOG has been all about: attacking those people in power who are killing what Windsor deserves to become.

We have a dream about Windsor can be, each of us, and infrastructure spending is our huge opportunity now if we capitalize on it and not fritter it away on silliness as our politicians have been doing for years now.

They are killing the dream we are dreaming.

Be careful of what you may be thinking as we are fed propaganda. Her stardom just did not happen. Boyle became an "overnight" sensation at age 47. She is becoming a "star" because of the foundation that she had built over all of those years. It was no fluke, no quickie fixer-upper. She just needed an opportunity and the TV show and the millions of hits on the Internet listening to her voice gave it to her!

This is how one commentator talked about her and it could be about Windsor too:

  • "She bided her time through the judgmental hoots and snickers of the studio audience and judges (headed by international snickerer-in-chief Simon Cowell). She sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. And she brought a worldwide audience to their feet -- to her feet -- with the grandeur of her voice."

That is Windsor. We have the grandeur behind our rough exterior. We have a solid foundation through our workforce, our small businesses, our industrialists, our schools, our culture, our generosity to our fellow citizens in time of need. We are a bit dowdy and not so with-it, a bit of the country bumpkin to be honest.

We need our chance now and we can have it. And that brings me to this comment.

I wonder why the Star did not publish these quotes in a Canadian Press story from our political Bobbsey Twins. Of course you will understand why after you read them.
  • "Shrinking Ontario economy reflects global economic crisis, government says

    Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said governments around the world have to take steps to restore consumer confidence to get people spending again.

    "It is about confidence, and confidence is about laying out policies that will eventually get businesses and individuals spending money again," Duncan said. "Getting that confidence back is important."

    Word that Ontario's economy shrank by 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter after no change in the third quarter came on the same day Statistics Canada reported Ontario shed another 11,000 jobs in March.

    Ontario has lost 171,000 jobs since October, and even though the losses in March were far less than in previous months, Duncan said growing unemployment is still a concern...

    Windsor, Ont., had the distinction of having the worst unemployment rate in Canada at 13.7 per cent, and Mayor Eddie Frances predicts it will go higher.

    "That number just reflects how hard-working people in the city of Windsor and the region, our families, our friends, our neighbours, are being affected by this downturn in the economy," he said.

    "It'll be a while before the economy is working again and people are being put back to work."

Pretty depressing isn't it. But then again, Eddie says things outside of town that he believes will not be reported here.

Dwight as the Minister of Finance and as a local MPP ought to be acting and having the Province and Feds making decisions already not making Gong Show promises. That would give us confidence and jobs and allow us to spend money again.

Dwight needs to stop hiding behind the Integrity Act and to start talking to the people who count before he becomes unemployed after the next Provincial election. And I am sure that Dwight knows I do not mean our Mayor as being relevant in these conversations.

The quotes seem to make a mockery of Eddie's Canal vision concept now as a jobs generator don't they and make CIBPA's "Do-A-deal" pitch more urgent and more relevant and more deserving of support!

In effect, we are being told by Eddie that we are going to have to sit things out in Windsor until somehow the economy turns around. There really isn't anything that can be done according to our Mayor other than watch things get worse. But then again, we know that all he is good for is talking not acting so that is no surprise.

That is why Eddie needs a WEDC hub conference with another big name, multi-book writing, FOREIGN-paid guru talking head to tell us what Eddie wants us to hear.

More importantly, he needs the Canal to dominate headlines and conversation for weeks. And he needs a mouthpiece to spread the dream spinning. For that he has the Windsor Star.

Thank goodness Eddie had Gord on Saturday diverting our attention from reality and now Gord has a minor league player as a helper, Anne Jarvis, doing it on Page 3 as well.

That is all that the Canal is---diverting our attention from more job losses, more foreclosures and more business bankruptcies. Better to fight over a Vision than to try and solve problems that Windsor supposedly cannot solve on its own. That is the Eminence Greasie political way isn't it? Hoping and praying someone else does solves the problem before the 2010 municipal election so that all of this trouble will be forgotten and so that the Mayor can claim the glory.

Anne Jarvis's column today is pathetic frankly. A complete disgrace. All of the cliches rolled into one space. Is this what we have to look forward to now:

  • "It's time to dream big"
  • "Go Big or go home"
  • "world-class, state-of-the-art"
  • "I'm dreaming of the Windsor that could be"
  • "where's the wow, the project that will take our breath away"
  • "a huge opportunity to transform our city."

Yes Anne, tart us up for the outsiders:

  • "the project that will take our breath away, the one that will bring all those tourists and retirees we want and help us turn the corner?"
  • "Communities with poor civic image tend to be overlooked by needed investors and people. That's why we spruced up our gateways last year."

That is right Anne, let us spend millions on make-up. Unless these dreams come true so that we will not leave town, who needs the dull and boring

  • "Smooth roads and dry basements."

I must adnit that if I was moving to Windsor, I would not be all that interested in having a canal in my basement.

I sit here and feel like gagging from the BS that is being shoved down our throat by our hyper newspaper and our talking Mayor. They have thrown up their hands in defeat and use slogans and dream-making as their alternatives for action so we are supposed to do so as well as we wait for someone, somehow to save us. They have given up so we should let them kill our dream too.

We do have an opportunity. There is an answer though but our Mayor and the Senior Levels as well as the Star have been fighting it. There is a way to signify that we are really open for business and that there can be thousands of jobs created. NOW!

Unfortunately, Anne wrote a column opposing the obvious answer as her first column as a Page 3 writer last Saturday. She really is advocating for a lawsuit instead, no matter who starts it, that will tie up our region for a decade or more. However, she fails to realize that in her dreamworld.

Sure, take over what someone has built up with their sweat equity and toil and make it public. She sneers at the

  • "price of the only privately owned, profit-motivated major border crossing in Canada."

Yes, that private party not only made this region what it is by facilitating trade over what he made the #1 crossing in Canada but he at his own expense solved the 9/11 problems by challenging Governments on both sides of the river. Which "public" official would do that?

She hypocritically wants to save her image of Sandwich but does not care if at the same time she destroys Delray, or one of the historic areas of Buffalo in passing.

Our opportunity is readily apparent but not it seems to our politicians. Sure, why partner with a man who really knows what he is doing and who has proven it! Why should Windsor become an "overnight" sensation when the agenda is to drive a successful family and their Company out of business. Do you really think that a bureaucrat or a politician would have been able to accomplish what the Bridge Company has been able to achieve! If you want to see it for yourself, go and cross the Bridge from the US into Canada and see what has been done!

I have never suggested and I do not now to give the Bridge Company everything on a silver platter. There needs to be tough negotiating over whatever that has to be done. It is NOT rocket science but negotiating a business deal for heaven's sake.

But can you imagine what would happen when there was a successful conclusion. Then we could not only DREAM BIG but BE BIG too! We would have our opportunity and could build on our foundation for real stardom. We could stop sleeping and start doing.

We would have a new bridge for now and a protected location with the blueprints for a crossing in the future when really needed, a new road to the Bridge, a sign that this region is open for business and jobs, thousands of them and high-paying too, a robust economy. We would have the luxury as we transition to our new economy. That is a dream that is doable and realistic. Canals, symphony halls would follow. There would be a reason then for them.

Let's look at the Bright Side as the Star wants us to do while our Region is dying through inaction and active opposition to our real chance of stardom.

At the least Eddie is happy with all of the publicity and media attention so he gets his name in the news. When the media thinks of distressed areas, Windsor and our Mayor come to mind immediately.

Why you just cannot buy this kind of publicity... and who would want to!

The Newest MDOT DRIC Bridge Justification

Honestly, it gets funnier and funnier as time goes on. Logic seems to have escaped the bureaucrats in the border file. It reminds me of Canada's old National Energy Program for the oil industry that was supposed to protect it from foreign companies. Rather it achieved the opposite, resulting in the sale of many Canadian companies, Dome Petroleum being the biggest name to fall.

Please be kind to Sean O’Dell if you do happen to run into him. Do not please comment on the fact that he seems a lot shorter now than he did before. I would think that he is very sensitive about this fact since he has been cut down to size.

Sean is Executive Director, Windsor Gateway Project, for Transport Canada. He is the gentleman who made the ridiculous remark in the Detroit media:
  • "Moroun will lose some traffic, but there's more than enough business to go around."

How he could say that is beyond me since the DRIC investment-grade traffic survey has been delayed for about a year. I do know however that there have been some interim reports prepared, at least two of them, and I am waiting to receive them both under my Freedom of Information Application.

There is no doubt however that traffic numbers have decreased considerably and I expect that the reports will finally confirm that fact. It is no wonder that they have not been released to the public yet. I expect as well that the authors will be hard pressed to say when the traffic numbers will increase given the misery that is going on with the automobile industry, the big users of the Ambassador Bridge.

If the Federal Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have been relying upon DRIC and Transport Canada figures for their P3 extravaganza, will they ever be embarrassed. I wonder if they know yet about the Port Mann Bridge in British Colombia? Or has that been kept secret from them?

Poor Sean. Part of the reason for his decrease in height is that he has been cut off at the knees by MDOT. MDOT is a big booster of the DRIC project notwithstanding what the Michigan Senators may think.

I am pleased to say that MDOT has been hard at work trying to justify spending even now hundreds of millions of dollars on a new bridge and plaza on the US side that may result in the dislocation of hundreds of homes and businesses in Delray.

The need for a new bridge originally was because of capacity issues. You remember, traffic was growing so quickly and was expected to double such that we needed a new bridge. When that argument failed, we then heard about the security interest as the justification. A variation of that became redundancy being the requirement to construct the new crossing.

Let us forget about security being brought back again recently and say that the MDOT and the FHWA people started getting a little bit desperate. We heard about the need for redundancy of roads on the US side and then the most bizarre argument of all, the need for a duplicate plaza, even though the State and the Bridge Co. were spending a quarter of $1 billion a mile down the road at the Ambassador Gateway project, the largest project ever undertaken in Michigan.

Over the last few months, MDOT has started getting very nervous when they were pinned down. They tried to forget at first that the Gateway project was designed to accommodate a second bridge. They had difficulty remembering that they had said that their relationship with the Bridge Company was the first public/private partnership in Michigan, a true partnership and not just a financial partnership. They did finally remember to say that they were not opposed to the Bridge Company and their project but they still need a bit of pushing to get them to fulfill their obligation to help the Bridge Company get their bridge built.

So if you are one of the strategists at MDOT what do you say now to protect the Department’s neck? You know that traffic is down, you are stuck supporting the Bridge Co. project but what you really want to do is make sure that the DRIC bridge is built.

It is genius, sheer genius even though Sean O’Dell becomes the victim. Here is what Michigan Transportation Department spokesman Bill Shreck said

  • “the state needs both new bridges to compete with other border crossings that have many more bridges and lanes. "We need to be competitive and to be ready when the economy rebounds," Shreck said.”

In other words, effectively what he confirms is that traffic has decreased! Oh, when that traffic picks up, then we have to be ready with two bridges, the DRIC bridge and the Enhancement Project bridge.

The trouble is, the brains at MDOT have no idea what they are talking about. Consider this:

  •  The gentleman who operates the Peace Bridge has also said that the issue is not capacity but managing the flow of traffic. Yet MDOT wants to spend more taxpayer money on more lanes when a private operator is prepared to spend its cash
  •  MDOT wants more bridges in order to compete with someone. Presumably, that someone is not the Blue Water Bridge which is an MDOT asset but rather the crossings in the Niagara region. The problem is that MDOT has already stated that those crossings are not competition to the Crossings in this region. So who is the competitor, the truck ferry?
  •  I wish someone at MDOT could tell us when the economy in this region will get better. Presumably, our brains must have some inside information about what is going to happen to the automobile industry here since the Big Three are the main users of our crossings. Maybe I ought to go out and buy some auto company shares if they are going to be booming soon.
  •  Let us assume that magically both bridges can be built but that the traffic is still down and we do not know when it will pick up. Let us also assume that both bridges split the traffic equally. My guess is that this will result in the bankruptcy or at least the financial difficulty of all the crossings in the region because they will all have to fight over the traffic. That will now require massive government subsidization.
  •  I wonder which P3 investor our geniuses will con to finance the project considering that P3s are in serious difficulty these days. The Australians are having considerable problems with their Infrastructure funds decreasing value significantly.

I have talked about it before but let me raise it once again because it will show you how stupid all of this really is. In fact, what is being proposed is anti-user of the crossings. It will result in both commercial traffic and passenger traffic dropping considerably. In fact, it may decimate this side of the river which could well be what our friends in the United States are hoping for. Remember Canadian Senator Kenney’s “Dirty Little Secret.”

I am going to tell you the naked truth. Just bare with me, oooops, I mean bear with me. Follow through this logic that is dependent on Canada’s new International Bridges and Tunnels Act (IBTA):

  •  We must assume that there will be fair competition between crossings with no Governmental favouritism of the DRIC bridge
  •  Let us also agree with what the Bridge Company said that the tolls on the DRIC Bridge will be substantially higher than theirs, three to four times higher
  •  If that is the case, then very few will ever use the DRIC bridge
  •  In order to be competitive, the DRIC bridge will have to drop their tolls to that of the competition. That probably means that the P3 investor will go broke
  •  The Governments cannot allow that to happen so they must have a plan to deal with that situation. They do: IBTA
  •  What will probably be happening in reality is that all of the traffic will be going to the Enhancement Bridge. Oh dear, oh dear…traffic flow may not be as good as it ought to be. What can be done, what can be done?
  •  IBTA SEC 15.1 If the Minister is of the opinion that a change in the tolls, fees or other charges for the use of an international bridge or tunnel is resulting in adverse effects on the flow of traffic, the Minister may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, order the owner or operator of the bridge or tunnel to impose the tolls, fees or other charges that, in the opinion of the Minister, would not result in adverse effects on the flow of traffic.
  •  In other words, the Canadian Government will force the Bridge Company to increase its tolls to the levels of the DRIC bridge so that the DRIC bridge can get some traffic! That means users pay more. A complete absurdity that puts our region in a horrible competitive position with respect to border crossings.

Do you see what I mean? The end result is the complete opposite of what the Governments expected, just like with the oil industry! This desire to force the Bridge Company to sell out no matter what the cost may result in a huge economic disadvantage to this region.

However, the hilarious part about all of this is who ultimately will be the winner of the bridge crossing wars. Do you think that it will be a bridge conceived, built and financed by bureaucrats who have never run a border crossing and who are using taxpayer money? Or, do you think it will be the bridge owned by a private enterprise operator who uses his own money and who has made his crossing #1 in North America?

Here is what Today’s Trucking once said:

  • “Even in the event that the new bridge would be contracted to another party, how would it compete with the Ambassador? Any new bridge would be heavily reliant on toll revenue just to keep above water for the next 30 years. If the Ambassador slashed rates (and Moroun could run for years at a loss), it would deter volume from spilling over to the new crossing and keep a large chunk of truck traffic right where it is. Then, with the new bridge desperate for revenue to pay off debt, can you guess who comes to the rescue?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dogs And Cats Are People Too

Let us admit the unthinkable: our Mayor is slipping.

If you had the chance to look at the video on the CIBPA meeting you will know what I mean.

You remember the scare tactics about the area of mass destruction that Sam talked about around the DRIC Road that would be solved with Greenlink. People’s homes would be in the pollution zone beside the Road that would cause all kinds of misery and hardship. That really didn’t do very much because no one got scared.

Then, and this is still being carried on even at CIBPA, there were these scare stories about kids wearing backpacks in order to breathe, brain cancer, heart attacks, asthma and almost every illness known to mankind caused by pollution, most of it from United States but why deal with facts. To be honest, that hasn’t accomplished too much either because no one got scared.

Eddie missed out on the one issue that would terrify every member of this community single, married, divorced or separated, with kids or without and no matter what age group. Can you guess what that is? Of course you can. Think hard. Which member of the Community has not yet been targeted by City Hall: Pets!

That is right. Pets, dogs and cats... Why hasn’t anyone spoken about them? Why hasn’t anyone stood up for our four-footed friends? Is it because they don’t have a voice other than a bark and a meow?

Dogs and cats are people too aren’t they!

They breathe in the same air that we do. I’m sure that there has to be some negative impact to their health. I do not believe that I have seen a DRIC report dealing with this subject. They won’t even do a report on Bovine flatulence when that is a real problem.

I have this terrific idea for our Mayor that he should capitalize on. He will get the support of every pet owner in the City beyond a doubt. It will not cost too much money to achieve and even if it does, who cares since we are dealing with Man’s Best Friend. It would not surprise me to see that the City could get a grant as well from the Province to deal with feral cats as well and probably rats too.

I can just see Eddie at a Town hall meeting warning people about the problem of pet pollution and contamination and handing out the solution.

I just hope that there is no conflict of interest with this fellow in the news story being a Relative of our Mayor given the family name. If there is, I would be prepared to consent to a waiver of the rules so that our Mayor could get all the credit. Just read the following news story:
  • "Pet oxygen masks to the rescue
    DONATION: Fire department gets pet-saving device

    Orillia's pet population can breathe easier thanks to the latest addition to the Orillia Fire Department.

    Yesterday, the department received a donation of two animal oxygen mask kits, one for each station.

    Each kit comes with three masks sized to fit cats or small dogs, mid-sized and large dogs.

    "We always encounter pulling out pets with smoke inhalation," said deputy chief Jeff Kirk. "All we have to put on them are the regular or peds (pediatric) masks."

    Those masks, designed to fit human faces, don't provide a 100% seal to deliver the pure oxygen needed to clear the smoke and carbon monoxide the animals have inhaled.

    Guy Francis, owner of Invisible Fence Brand of Muskoka, said donating the oxygen masks is part of a company initiative.

    "Basically what we do for a living is keeping pets safe at home," said Francis yesterday. "This goes hand in hand..."

    Kirk said figures show that in North America more than 40,000 pets die in fires each year, most due to smoke inhalation.

    The death of a pet is something firefighters want to avoid if possible.

    "Pets today are part of the family," he said. "It's nice to see a company out there donating these things."

    Items like the animal oxygen kits aren't something that would normally be covered by the department's budget.

    Kirk said it won't be long until the kits join the rest of the equipment that goes to the scene of fires.

    "We'll have a small training session before they go on the trucks but it will be as soon as possible after all four crews are exposed to the devices."

Citizens for Jobs, NOW!

A new Facebook group for Windsor and Essex County residents!

Join up and attend the organizational meeting:

  • Thursday, April 16th at 7 p.m.
    Caboto Club, Windsor

Politics of Despair

It is so sad. People ARE desperate here. Yet we are now going to be fed that we should "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life." That is our new mantra, our new slogan. Our newest "Wonder Potion" that will cure all of our ills.

Craig Pearson in his new column yesterday tells us to
  • "Accentuate the Positive..

    But one thing I know. In this column and in life, I don’t want the negative.

    I want the positive."

You saw the story at the top of Page 3 in Big Bold Print:

    Easter message transcends challenges

    That was one of the inspiring Easter messages area religious leaders delivered to their flocks Sunday...

    “we can have hope and confidence as we look forward, said Pastor Mark Hazzard of Parkwood Gospel Temple...”

    Rev. Kim Van Allen of All Saints Anglican Church downtown delivered a similar message of hope and rebirth to a congregation drawn from a community battered by job losses."

Hope, being positive, how can anyone knock those messages. No one can. Except when they are being politicized to save a failed Mayor and Council who need something, anything, if they have a hope of being re-elected.

Eddie’s politics of hope now and the Star’s “Bright Side,” they are all part of a huge Monty Python joke aren’t they.

Remember these lyrics in the Monty Python song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life:”

“Life's a piece of sh*t
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show
Keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.”

I was disgusted reading this latest bit of wisdom out of City Hall:
  • “Mayor Eddie Francis said Thursday that during an economic crisis such as the one Windsor is facing with an unemployment rate at a 16-year high, “many of our residents are looking for hope.”

No Mr. Mayor, our residents are not looking for hope but rather for jobs or preventing their homes from being foreclosed or to remain here and not split up their family by going out of town to work.

Such a comment could only be made by a person who will wrap himself as an FDR character in his next State of the City speech and will tell us that

  • “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Don't you get it. Eddie is our carrier of hope. He will be our symbol of being positive. This is the beginning of the E-Machine re-election campaign. The Eminence Greasie is back!

Eddie will present us with the “needed efforts” so that we will be suckered into supporting him and those Councillors who for the next 18 months agree with everything he has to say in order to be re-elected.

We saw how Eddie used the Schwartz Report to end dysfunction. It did not matter that what was proposed did not work as a border plan. It worked to get them re-elected and it kept them in their jobs. In the end, that is all that counts for a politician. Keeping power.

I guess that not enough people bought into the Star's “W.E. Believe” campaign so now we get the “Bright Side” to make us positive. As Craig Pearson wrote in his column:

  • “Oh, hope, do not forsake us!”

What will Eddie’s projects be that will stir our imagination and give us hope:

  •  The canal
  •  The transportation hub
  •  Zalev cleanup etc

Oh, all of those entrepreneurial schemes that you can rhyme off as well as I that taxpayers of our town of 200,000 will have to find a billion dollars or more to fund.

Oooops sorry, Gord told us on Saturday in order to be controversial and provoke readers that

  • "Critics may howl, but city’s canal idea has merit

    But people who believe that praying for better days won’t cut it — that Windsor must take its fate in its own hands — will surely feel the blood quickening when they see details of the $48-million canal/marina project proposed for downtown.

    Too damn expensive, the critics holler. Too damn expensive for a city that’s being stripped of its industrial muscle.

    That’s just the point, isn’t it? A city undergoing rapid and permanent de-industrialization must be creative in finding new ways to sustain itself...

    Can Windsor overcome its instinctive resistance to new ideas, even one like a canal whose construction costs could be covered without raising city taxes by so much as a dime, and which could be eligible for senior government infrastructure funds?"

Oh my Lord, Gord told us not to pray. Take that religious leaders! He claims that we should be looking for Senior Level money from Eddie's friend, the Premier perhaps, to give us salvation. Our prayeres will be answered then. We'll all come on board because it costs us nothing.

If we don't get it by the way, why how can it be Eddie's fault. Blame Sandra and Dwight. Heck they owe it to us. We are entitled to it.

It won’t be that hard either to convince Council. Eddie will tell the Councillors about all of the money that he has stashed away to be brought out for a rainy day. That is why he is not concerned with people not working and why S&P is not worried about our credit rating.

It will all work out with 2010 coming. It's our municipal election year. Start planning today. We ought to punish Premier Dalton McGuinty for that too. If he had not extended the municipal term from 3 years to 4, Eddie would have been selling us prosperity for his hopes THIS year, not next!

We have hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in our utility companies as an example that can be P3ed to the highest bidder. Like Chicago where this was first done and where they succeeded, we will be told that we will be rolling in dough as we sell off our assets at distress prices to fund our future.

It won’t be put that way of course. He is learning from how Mayor Cockrel is proposing what he is doing now. And that is how Eddie will justify spending $2M in fees on the failed Tunnel deal. It was a learning experience for what is to come. He is our young entrepreneurial wheeler-dealer after all.

Don’t forget the contribution from the Senior Levels either. After all, they have to give him the equivalent of $230M, the amount set out in the Estrin EA Report which is the amount that Windsor is “giving up” by being the host community for the border.

Whether true or not, I have heard that this amount and more has already been offered: upgraded E C Row and Lauzon built at Senior Level expense and unneeded rail lands after rail rationalization being given to the City at no cost.

You can hear it being sold now already---jobs for building our infrastructure for the canal, revitalizing downtown, bringing back tourists, making this town world-class, THINKING BIG! By the way, why have we heard little about Sam Schwartz’s Diamond award for Greenlink?

Gord challenged me and others too:
  • "Cooke has one question for the critics: “If not this, then what?” In other words, if you have a better idea for salvaging a downtown that defines Windsor, where is it?

    “The option is to leave that part of downtown vacant for a long, long time,” warned Cooke, referring to the dead zone south of the art gallery and east of Bruce Avenue.

    He said Windsor has never answered that fundamental question, how to get people out of the casino/convention/entertainment centre “vacuum” to explore the core."

Just in passing Dave, we did answer how to get people out of the vacuum. It was called the downtown arena. Unfortunately, out of the blue, Eddie forgot his campaign promise and out came something else. I still cannot figure that one. Perhaps you ought to challenge Gord since he has all of the inside information even before our Councillors.

Oh and we had an urban village too until you, Marty and Eddie figured out that we needed an Egineering Building downtown. That idea died too but cost us a year of time.

Can you imagine the crowds that would have been thronging into downtown restaurants and bars after the Spitfire games. Can you imagine the crowds who would have attended concerts there too. Can you imagine a Celine Dion concert or Jay Leno at the Casino and a big name at a downtown arena. 11-12,000 people jamming the downtown! [Sigh]

However, that was before our Arena was moved to our new Downtown in “Yahoopitsville without parking” land in the East End thanks to our downtown leaders not fighting for it since they were silenced with the hope of an urban village offered as the golden ring instead.

Dave Cooke misses the point completely. He wants to create artificially a downtown that cannot be sustained. Build a canal and they will explore.

Really who----

  •  The City cannot afford to do much more than dig a ditch if we can even afford that
  •  Home builders whose customers will be the ex-auto company workers in a City with a 13% unemployment rate or company owners who may lose their Big Three customers with a US Government imposed bankruptcy
  •  Developers won’t come to a City with one of the highest vacancy rates in Canada and falling house prices
  •  Rich Toronto seniors who have been scared off by talk of health concerns and lack of medical facilities
  •  Tourists with the lack of retail, empty shops, lack of attractions, an Art Gallery that has to close down to save money, a symphony that will have to cut more concerts.

So let me offer 2 ways to make people want to come downtown now:

First, take a look at what Maestro Russell talked about respecting the Armouries and a WSO Concert Hall. Real plans that are doable and “shovel ready” that can bring people downtown. Let’s call his bluff and see what he can do so he does not go to St. Catherines:

  • “music director John Morris Russell suggested the city's sole con-tribution might consist of simply donating the armouries building and lands to the orchestra.

    "That way, they save on the annual upkeep of the building, save the taxpayers some money, and get a real bargain in return," Russell said.

    As for the rest, the bulk of construction costs would come from provincial and federal programs, just as it does for similar cultural projects, Russell said.”

In fact, if that happened, I know a developer that has plans all ready to tie into an Armouries development that could lead to a real downtown rejuvenation! I have been shown the plans already.

The fact is we need people with jobs and salaries, high paying ones too to replace some of the auto worker ones. There is only one way that will happen. This is the second point:

We need CIBPA to be successful NOW to force politicians and the Bridge Company to do a deal.

The Governments have lost. They misjudged the intent of the Moroun family completely. Moreover, the economic collapse of the manufacturing economy, especially the Big Three auto companies, has destroyed the basis for a new bridge and its P3 financing. They need an excuse to back off and not lose face. After all, they have spent $60M to try to force the Bridge Company Owner to sell out and failed.

Here is the tragedy. We have wasted time and thereby lost jobs and economic diversification opportunities. There is a real development by a real entrepreneur staring us in the face that we ought to be starting now, not that of a vision seller. We ought to be partnering with someone that really knows how to build a transportation hub but instead we do not invite him to speak at our WEDC conference.

Here is what I mean if you have not guessed by now. If you have not yet had a chance to cross the Ambassador Bridge from the US into Canada do so now. The new entrance to the Bridge is almost breathtaking as one drives over the new ramp. Michigan’s part is not yet finished but it will be even more dramatic. And just as you are entering onto the old bridge, if you look to your right, there is the beginning of the new bridge, just waiting to start to make the connection to Canada!

That is how one creates excitement downtown and draws people there---people with money to spend by doing a real deal on Infrastructure----$3 or 4 billion of it by the time it is done. If we have that and some certainty as well, then we can see a change in our downtown. People will be working in Windsor again. We will still need workers from out of town who will require places to sleep and places to eat. It gives us time to transition our economy whether it will be based on renewable energy or a transportation hub or some other alternative that makes sense.

Take a look at the first 1:40 or so of the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney video. Aren’t you tired of snake oil too! I just cannot stomach any more good news.

New Concert Hall Or Else

We may not have to worry about financing the WSO soon. The Maestro may be leaving:

  • St Catherines Standard

    Symphony narrows conductor search to four candidates

    And then there were four.

    After receiving more than 100 applications for music director of the Niagara Symphony, the field has been narrowed to four finalists.

    Christopher Newton, who was the chair of the music director search committee, announced the four finalists at the symphony's fourth Masterworks concert of its 2008-09 season Sunday...

    Newton said applications came from potential candidates from all over North America, Europe and Asia, including Hong Kong. The committee narrowed down those applicants to a shortlist of 20.

    With help from Laura Thomas, symphony associate conductor and principal percussionist, and the artistic advisory committee, a list of six candidates to be interviewed was drawn up.

    From there, the committees, in conjunction with the symphony's board of directors, arrived at four finalists: Timothy Hankewich, Bradley Thachuk, John Morris Russell and Diane Wittry...

    Russell, who was the guest conductor for Sunday's Masterworks concert, has been music director of the Windsor Symphony since 2001. The two-time recipient of Ontario's Lieutenant Governor's Award for the Arts, Russell has developed two concert series, Peanut Butter n' Jam and Family Jamboree, for youngsters and families. He also spearheaded the creation of the Windsor-Essex Youth Choir and the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra."

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Gloves Are Off

A lot of people are getting very excited about the Ambassador Bridge these days. And I do not mean that in a good sense either, more along the lines of being agitated.

Almost the entire Page 3 of the Saturday Star to introduce 2 new columnists. What is their topic with each taking the opposite side: whether the Enhancement Project bridge should be built. Not the pretend Greenlink/DRIC road fight but the Bridge, the real issue

There is good reason for them to be upset too:
  •  The Ambassador Gateway project itself has been like a poke in the eye to DRIC supporters. It showed that the Bridge Company is serious in pursuing their Enhancement Project contrary to the belief of some.
  •  The Bridge Company’s part of the project is virtually completed while MDOT should be finished in the fall.
  •  Have you visited the new, much larger Duty Free shop yet?
  •  The U.S. Department of Transportation gave provisional funding approval for $787 million in private activity bonds
  •  In December 2007, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved $212.6 million in private activity bonds for initial phases of the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project and then on March 18 they approved the $787M in bonds
  •  On March 17, the U.S. Coast Guard held a public meeting to provide an update on the proposed Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project. “As a result of extensive coordination with various agencies, a Memorandum of Agreement pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act has been executed and a Final Environmental Assessment EA/draft Finding Of No Significant Impact FONSI has been prepared.”

With that kind of success and given the DRIC competition, one should expect a push-back. There was. Matty Moroun has become a Motown Rock Star! His picture and name have appeared in the media more over the past few weeks than during this entire border file. He is even becoming an election issue for the Detroit Mayoral election.

You know that someone is really concerned now about his success.

It is an interesting agenda that he has had to face. The tactics are almost like a negative election campaign ad blitz. We have seen everything, both personal and private, being mixed in together to try to demonize him so that this will impact the Coast Guard and the Detroit Council against him. It is obvious who is orchestrating it.

Just looking at news stories we have seen: delays in the MSF funding until the Michigan Senate took charge, his position on the Forbes List, demonstrations at the Coast Guard meeting, asking Cockrel and Bing where they stand on his project, the Bridge “security” concerns, the Michigan Depot and the DRIC Earmark. A few smears are thrown in too along the way too for good measure.

How about this for today:

  • "Bridge protest to greet City Council

    A protest against a proposed new bridge to Windsor is expected to precede the City Council's meeting this afternoon. Southwest Detroit residents plan to ask the council to put forth a resolution calling for a more thorough environmental impact study.

    The council is expected to meet on the bridge issue at noon at City Hall."

In the rarified world of international relations, we have seen the Canadian Government keep on trying with Ministers Van Loan and Baird meeting their US counterparts. Continued publishing of border “thickening” articles come out with a new bridge in Windsor remarkably being part of the solution, a small part, yet it is not part of the problem.

And then there is CIBPA who is tired of it all and wants a deal done now.

I thought you might be interested in reading this transcript of a radio interview between Dan Stamper of the Bridge Company and Steve Tobocman’s replacement since he was term limited at the last election.

I will let you judge for yourself who knows the facts, who uses children’s health as a weapon, who has the “entitlement mentality,” what the facts are re the old bridge and how racial issues got involved. What amazes me still is the seeming lack of concern about all of the families and business that are going to have to be moved out of Delray because of DRIC.

I think you will find it interesting. I made some of the comments in bold so you can read it more quickly if you want:


    ….7 minutes after 1 o’clock and you’re listening to 101.9, WDET. This is Detroit Today. I’m Quinn Klinefelter.

    CRAIG FOLEY: And I’m Craig Foley. Thank you very much for being with us on this beautiful Monday here in the City of Detroit. But right now, a heated debate of the future of the border crossing between Detroit and Ontario is going on. The Detroit International Bridge Company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge is racing forward on construction of a second span, a span they don’t yet have final approval for on the Canadian side. Meanwhile a new bridge has been proposed about a mile south in Detroit’s Del Ray community. That project has the preliminary thumbs up from the State of Michigan, the Province of Ontario and the U.S. and Canadian governments. Meanwhile a hearing of the Michigan Strategic Fund scheduled for Wednesday, could determine whether the Bridge Company will get the financing it needs to build its proposed second span despite some fierce opposition in Southwest Detroit where many residents are concerned about the potential environmental impact of a second span on their community. Joining us now to sort out the situation is Dan Stamper, President of The Detroit International Bridge Company and 12th District State Representative Rashida Tlaib of Southwest Detroit who is opposed to the Bridge Company’s plans. Thank you both for being here.

    DAN STAMPER: We’re glad to be here.

    CRAIG FOLEY: We will begin with you, Mr. Stamper. As I said, we have seen videos showing that a lot of progress has been made, at least on the U.S. side for the second span of the Ambassador Bridge. A lot of the pilings are laid for what looks like will be the supports needed on the, on the U.S. side for the next span. What sort of progress has been made on this and are we ahead of the curve a little with this since you don’t have I guess technically approval on the Canadian side yet?

    DAN STAMPER: Well I think we are finishing up, trying to wrap up Phase 1 of the project called The Gateway Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project. And we’re trying to wrap that up. From our perspective, the Bridge Company’s, we should have most of our, our program operation in early April and the State expects to have completed their portion of Phase 1 some time in September or October. So we’ve moved pretty quickly and accomplished a lot in the last two years.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Now is there the possibility that this is all for not though. Because again, you don’t have approval yet on the other side. You have the property, I understand, but you don’t necessarily have governmental approval on the Canadian side.

    DAN STAMPER: No, I don’t think so and I think that comes from the confusion of people thinking we’re a normal private company who, who bought land and built a bridge. And that’s just not true. We’re a special act. A special, unique company, international company created by an Act of Parliament, Act of, of Congress to be in the international transportation business, international bridge. And, and that authorization stands today and gave us some great obligations and gave us some great opportunities and rights so. We’re authorized from the 20’s to be in this business to maintain, build, operate our bridge. So I, I don’t see all this is, is approvals as much as process.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Well, what is the reaction on the Canadian side to this? What about the neighbourhood over there? Are they, are they with what you’re planning at this point?

    DAN STAMPER: I think the community on, on the Canadian are more unhappy that we have houses that we had bought and boarded up for demolition, and the City has held up our permits for demolition of those houses. Our, our effort in both U.S. and Canada have been compromised or complicated by false impressions or, or interpretations of what’s really going on and we look forward to continuing meetings and discussions like today to get out the reality of what we’re doing.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Well State Representative, Rashida Tlaib with me as well. And, and again we talked about the Canadian side. But on the this side of the River, the constituents in the neighbourhood have been voc…they’ve been pretty vocal about their opposition to the second span and Representative Tlaib, I’m interested to know what’s at the root of a lot of that?

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: Well a lot of that is lack of transparency. And I, you know one of the things that people don’t understand is that you know we can’t FOIA, there’s no Freedom of Information Act when it comes to the Bridge Company. I can’t, you know ever three months go ahead and file a FOIA and find out exactly what these different construction projects are about. You know we, we are really, really not understanding why the Coast Guard would even give a finding of no significant impact on such a large massive project. You know the Environmental Assessment that was done should have triggered an Environmental Impact Study, and it did not. And there, you know, there’s not um and understanding in the community of why that’s the case when we know that air, air quality in our community is already so um, so harsh and and also the fact that this is a six-lane international bridge traffic and we’re not really sure what’s going to happen to the um old Ambassador Bridge that’s 10 lanes of international bridge traffic coming into my community. And that’s where the outrage kind of comes from and that’s where, where you hear a lot of people passionately, who have children that have asthma, who are living right up against it. We have a Clark Park, which is right near there. We have kids that play hockey in that area. We have elementary schools, high schools down the street from this. And so and environmental impact study would have triggered mitigating measures. Um here, we only have a simply environmental assessment, does not do any of, of above so.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Do you, do you dispute what was in that assessment that the Coast Guard put out?

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: Well the only thing that they said was on a impact was the obstruction view of the obstruction of the old Ambassador Bridge. That’s the only thing they found. That is very, um, you know it’s, it’s not understood. Why is that the only impact, when we know that this will impact community development in a community. It will impact people’s property values. It will impact all the, you know, the air quality, the asthma rate rate might come up. And you know, all this is happening so quickly and so rushed, where, you know, we’ve seen projects that have you know up to four years environment studies, where you know we have much more aggressive air monitoring, much more aggressive in, in looking at traffic volume and so forth. Here, we just have a simple short cut process here. And that’s right, Dan Stamper’s right, this is a process. But you need to be, you need to have a a process that’s fair and just. This was not fair and just. This was shortcut to allowing something as massive and as an important of a project to to go through without an environmental impact study. And you know just like the Port Huron Bridge and other bridges, Detroit residents deserve a much more aggressive, we deserve more.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Mr. Stamper, I want to give you an opportunity to respond to that.

    DAN STAMPER: And I appreciate that. Um, we have been transparent. We’ve had numerous public meetings, public hearings with the community and in the fact that some people are against us should acknowledge there’s a lot people who are supporting what we’re doing, and supporting the 4,000 direct immediate jobs and the 20,000 long term jobs based on this project. Secondly, the shortcut is, is the Representative says there is no shortcut in the EA process. It’s a NEPA Act, a law that tells you the the way to do this and we did exactly what the governments had done on the Gateway Project and other projects. There’s no shortcut. The environmental studies that were done were equal to the environmental studies done on an EIS. And I think a lot of people just don’t understand it or don’t want to acknowledge that. So the, the studies that have been done, the analysis that have come from those studies have been looked at by, by federal agencies and they’ve come to a conclusion on their own. There has been no shortcuts taken.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: Just a year ago though, the Environmental Protection Agency, and it’s not clear again cause the lack of transparency, if they’ve even looked at this. Um I don’t know if they’re even required to, but there needs to be a sense of understanding why an environmental assessment which triggers either two things. It will trigger a finding of no significant impact or require the company to to have an aggressive environmental impact study. And it, it just gave them a finding of no significant impact, very quickly, and on an environmental assessment that was done on a project that now has design changes that will include local truck traffic into my local community. Um uh part of that EA was not in, in, in um, in anticipating of truck traffic on Fort Street, a driving lane on Fort Street. This, all these design changes jeopardize even the [the validity?]. I mean is it valid? Is the EA valid now because of the design changes that are happening. I mean part of the design changes proposals by the company include taking part of West Grand Boulevard. It includes taking part of the Service Drive. So all these things are are you know questionable of whether or not this finding of no significant impact should stand.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Go ahead Mr. Stamper.

    DAN STAMPER: Yeah well there’s two things and I think we continue to get mixed up between ‘em. There was a NEPA process done for the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project Phase 1. It came to a finding of no significant impact done by MDOT and Federal Highway, not by our company. The second EA was done, funded by our company under the supervision of of the Coast Guard. And all of the federal agents have been involved since 2004 when we first kicked this project off. And it was a hearing in our offices with all the federal agencies, State agencies present. The, the issues of of transparency have been out there. To, to sit here today and claim there’s been transparency, is unfair to MDOT, Federal Highway and to us. And to the community. Again, I think the community understands what we’re trying to do and I think the people who would get these jobs would be glad to see this project go forward. So I, I think we have to continue to have this kind of dialogue so we can get the reality of what’s been done and the reality of where we’re going on the table. And I think there’s more that, that brings us together than divides us.

    CRAIG FOLEY: My guests once again, Dan Stamper, President of the The Detroit International Bridge Company, which controls the, the Ambassador Bridge and also State Representative, Rashida Tlaib, from the 12th District, which represents Southwest Detroit. Uh Mr. Stamper, there’s obviously talk of another span down in the Delray area, little bit south, about a mile south of where the current bridge is. There was discussions about that project. The Bridge Company for a long time said that traffic volumes weren’t going to warrant that type of span. And there’s a lot of people that think that that the Bridge Company wasn’t interested in building a second span until it became apparent that this one was going to go through and that the only reason you’re doing it is to protect, of course, your business interests here. How needed is the second span?

    DAN STAMPER: Well I announced the, the building of a replacement second span in 1993.

    CRAIG FOLEY: What, let’s just clarify, would this replace the existing bridge….

    DAN STAMPER: It does.

    CRAIG FOLEY: …or would the existing bridge be used still?

    DAN STAMPER: No. In, in our Coast Guard permit application is exact. And it says that we were going to close the old bridge down, renovate it and keep it closed. And and that is part of our application, it’s part of the application process, it’s in the FONZI and in all the studies. So, there’s no, you know, second guessing of of what we’ve been doing since 2004. Um and again, I, I enjoy these kind of dialogues because I think it will bring some of this to light that maybe people have misunderstood or been misrepresented and and we look forward to continuing.

    CRAIG FOLEY: So, so what is the point then of renovating the existing bridge if it, it’s not going to be used? Why wouldn’t it just be dismantled?

    DAN STAMPER: Well two reasons is SHPO is part of this process, in this NEPA process declared that they wanted to the old bridge maintained and kept up. It is a historical bridge. So we have agreed in writing to a contract with SHPO as part of this process. Secondly is if we have to do maintenance work on our new bridge in the future, we can use the old lanes. We can use them for customs. We can use them for the special events like the marathon to run across, and we have a redundancy, an extra bridge sitting there that could be used any time for an emergency in the future, but to use it is not part of this, this application and process.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Representative Tlaib, does that change a lot, if if indeed that…


    CRAIG FOLEY: …that part of the span was not going to be used? That this would just be a replacement span?

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: And, and, and if you, if you look at any um uh communication from by the company has been flip flopping about this issue. And that’s, that’s the truth. I mean at first they, it was a twin span and then, then and now it’s a replacement, and now it’s an enhancement and now, you know, we’re going to use it for overflow. And I met with the company on Friday, it wasn’t, that was not told to me on Friday. It was told to me that, do you want us to close down the other bridge? Uh obviously that would be great, I mean if that’s going to be the purpose of the project is to replace it. Now whatever’s on paper, that’s great if the Coast Guard does have it as a condition. I hope that that’s the case. I hope that it’s enforced more importantly cause a lot of the issues that commitments by the company in the past have never been enforced. I mean you right now see a Gateway Project, the, the part that’s all on the ground, near my community, being changed in design without con…you know consulting MDOT, but just moving forward. Over 50 percent of that project is almost complete. And no sense of agreement between both the Michigan Department of Transportation and DIBC in regards to those changes, which are directly allowing traffic onto, into my neighbourhood, so.

    DAN STAMPER: Well. Let’s see if we can pay attention to each other for a couple of minutes. None of the changes we’re proposing will allow international traffic, truck traffic onto city streets. None of them. The facts are that we have worked with MDOT, through this process, where MDOT has made major changes to their design construction as we have and we work and continue to work through those changes with MDOT, our partner in…

    CRAIG FOLEY: Mm-hmm.

    DAN STAMPER: …in the Gateway Project. So this is not news. And this isn’t a, a um, you know a brand new open your eyes today, there’s a huge problem. This is ongoing through the whole project from 1994. So any project of this size and this, this project, Phase 1 of the Gateway. Without Phase 2, is the largest single project MDOT is ever done in the State of Michigan. It’s without a doubt the largest project we’ve ever done in our history. Phase 2 is another large project that has all kinds of complexities to it and we’re working through every one of those. And at the end of the day, we will deliver the best international border crossing in North America, cause that’s what we do today.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Is the second span that’s going on there…again, the Ontario Provincial Government is behind it. The, the State of Michigan is behind it. The Federal Government has looked at this and said that they’re probably on board with this as well. Might we see that happen as well? Could we have two spans going?

    DAN STAMPER: That could happen. Without a doubt [inaudible – two speaking at once]

    CRAIG FOLEY: Is that something that that the The Detroit International Bridge Company is okay with?

    DAN STAMPER: Well as long as it’s a fair competition. You know, the governments are talking about doing half the work with tax payers’ money and then turning it over to a private operator.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: The PR Campaign by the company um says otherwise. This is direct competition to them and some of the, the, the uh uh false statements that are made in regards to how this is going to be funded. That the displacement of my residence is, you know, gotten to the point where they use it as, as a, it’s racial. Um it’s gotten really ugly

    CRAIG FOLEY: Well.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: …and, and, and you know uh….

    CRAIG FOLEY: Give me an example of what you’re talking about so

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: Well they, there’s…

    CRAIG FOLEY: ….if you’re going to make that claim


    CRAIG FOLEY: …I want to hear something.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: ….yeah sure, no, that, that it is a minority community and that it is a community that um is getting displaced by uh, by the government in regards to having this um Detroit International Crossing coming through. I’m not specific is, I have the press release…

    CRAIG FOLEY: That would be the downriver span, further down there.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: The, yeah, the Delray.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Yeah.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: And so it was referenced to that that this was a direct attack on a minority community and that wasn’t the case. You know, Detroit River International Crossing and everyone needs to know this, has been a seven year process. It did a four year environmental impact study. The record of decision was signed last month by the outgoing Bush, you know, Transportation Director. Uh the community both in Canada and in my community support it. It’s been completely open and clear. Every month there is a hearing uh um and communication regards to the project. Sure, there’s going be people that are displaced, but if anybody’s been through my community in Delray, um they welcome any improvement in their quality of life. They welcome any mitigating measures that the environmental impact study will allow for my community to benefit from. Um this, you know, this is direct um competition. You know, the volume has decreased, but they are rushing to build a bridge prior, you know, before…I mean it seems to be uh, that seems to be the motive in regards to, to the bridge. Now, I’m a freshman legislator. I came in in regard to the Gateway Project, and this is not something that I, I, I went through the, you know I went to the Detroit City Law Department, I went to the Michigan Department of Transportation, and and very fine a letter that I received from the Michigan Department of Transportation regards to design changes made to the Gateway Project. In December 23rd letter from, and again because I’m able to FOIA or request as a legislator this information, it’s open to the public, I was given a, um five different design changes that directly impacted a hundred and forty-five million dollars that we’re getting from the Federal Government because of design changes made by the company. Um design changes that allow traffic into my communities. It’s, it’s black and white, it’s in there, every single fives, different design changes have been made. Sure there’s been accommodations made. I know for a fact that one of the commendations that MDOT did make for, for the company, cost $1.1 million from the Federal Highway to do that commendation. Um there are going to be some changes, but not this mass, massive change. Uh this massive change includes that lane on Fort Street, includes West Grand Boulevard, includes the [inaudible] at 23rd Street and part of the Service Drive.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Well Mr. Stamper, I want to give you an opportunity to talk about the traffic. Will it be re-routed onto area roads?

    DAN STAMPER: No. And absolutely not. And and that’s part of the problem in this process. And, and for the Representative to accuse us of making this issue racist issue is just, uh, without merit. The, the facts are that the study included cities uh west of Detroit. Wyandotte, Riverview. The one who made this a, a racial issue by kicking all those downriver white cities off the list was the Governor and her predecessor, Mr. Tobocman. And they removed, for political reason, all those white communities west of Detroit and left only Delray in, in the mix. So, uh that’s not something we’ve done. That’s something that the State government has done on its own. And, and it is down to one community. It’s going to lose 250 homes and 50-some businesses. Our, our efforts are to create jobs now and not destroy any homes, no businesses, and I think we ought to have recognition of that by, by the Representative and by the State of Michigan.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: That is, is, our Governor and State Representative Tobocman had no, they had no part of any process in deciding where this DRIC was going to go. The Detroit River International Crossing Study looked at, God, over 15 different sites. They did drilling…

    DAN STAMPER: But let’s, let’s try to be honest


    DAN STAMPER: Read the articles.

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: …in one of the sites was the twin spanning the Ambassador Bridge. And it did not get accepted because of air quality issues and and homeland security issues. I mean if one goes down, so does the other. I mean the, this, the whole reason even that DRIC came about was the fact after 9/11 there was concern that, you know, if something would ever happen to the Ambassador Bridge, our U.S. economy would be impacted very severely. And so they looked at different sites and they said, well they looked at places and why that’s absolutely true. You know, sure 3,000 showed up at those meetings..

    DAN STAMPER: Let’s, let’s be…

    REPRESENTATIVE TLAIB: …and then they made ‘em, they had a meeting in our community and you know.

    DAN STAMPER: …let’s be clear.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Alright, alright. Okay..

    DAN STAMPER: …Let’s be clear and honest.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Okay.

    DAN STAMPER: Look at the articles when those downriver areas were thrown off. It was clearly the Governor’s decision. She made it. She made it public and she removed those communities.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Alright. Well, we’re, we’re going to have to wrap it up right there because we’ve frankly run out of time on this issue. But uh and interesting first discussion on this and I think we’ll just.

    DAN STAMPER: And I hope it’s [inaudible] first…

    CRAIG FOLEY: It will be. There’s a lot more to talk about on this. Dan Stamper, President of The Detroit International Bridge Company. Thank you very much for being with us. Rashida Tlaib, State Representative from the 12th District. Thank you for being here as well. It’s been a pleasure talking to both of you. And uh you know, we perhaps could see two separate spans anyway, right?

    DAN STAMPER: That’s a possibility.

    CRAIG FOLEY: Alright. We’re going to leave it right there.

    DAN STAMPER: Thank you.

    CRAIG FOLEY: This is Detroit Today. [END OF RECORDING]