Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, September 25, 2009

More On Windsor's Cargo Shanty

Edgar is so completely predictable. I am almost embarrassed to point out what he said. Almost.

When the story came out about the problems at Willow Run Airport, it was hardly unexpected for our Mayor to react this way:
  • "The closest air cargo facility to Windsor has seen such brutal cuts in business it's become a "financial disaster."

    But the mayor and city council members say that shouldn't detract Windsor from pursuing its dream of developing a similar operation of its own.

    If anything, Mayor Eddie Francis said the current woes at Detroit's Willow Run Airport could even translate into an added business potential for Windsor and its plans for a "cargo village."

And Councillor Gignac, is she afraid of doing her own thinking or too busy to do so or does she need a foreign consultant to do it for her at a cost of $500K:

  • "With Windsor economically "on our knees," Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac said the city has a responsibility to proceed to the next stage and find out whether it's a good investment for its publically owned but under-utilized airport.

    If that next step concludes it's not a good risk, then "there shouldn't be any embarrassment saying it looked good but it didn't pan out," said Gignac."

Why are we spending anything. Councillor Valentinis should just show us the results of his work:

  • "But Coun. Fulvio Valentinis said that, while the Willow Run experience "sends a signal that you need to be careful ... we need to proceed to the next step." Valentinis said his own research shows that air cargo facilities in other area airports, like Hamilton and Toledo, appear to be doing well."

Of course Edgar is an airport expert since he is Chair of the YQG Board:

  • "Francis said he's "very familiar with the Willow Run situation" and that there are other issues that airport has to deal with, including the fact it is forbidden from hosting airline passenger services other than private charters and that that sector has taken "a huge hit."

Considering half of air cargo is carried on passenger planes, I wish he would get more familiar with Windsor's lack of passenger service.

  • "To a large degree, air cargo traffic relies on scheduled, frequent passenger services in hub-and-spoke as well as in point-to-point traffic. YQG is presently suffering from a lack of scheduled uplift capacity."

Poor Edgar. He got so giddy with glee and jumped for joy too soon. It will be interesting to see if the Star reports this now since it shatters the Mayor's hopes:

  • "Willow Run to stay open despite big revenue losses

    Willow Run Airport will remain open for the foreseeable future despite a sharp drop in revenue, the Wayne County Airport Authority said Thursday.

    News media reports this week highlighting the losses suggested that the authority might shut down Willow Run, which is used mainly by cargo carriers and private planes.

    To lay that to rest, Michael Conway, a spokesman for the authority, said Willow Run will operate on a smaller budget but definitely will stay open.

    "The airport authority for the foreseeable future has no intention of closing Willow Run," Conway said...

    After collecting just more than $5 million in revenue in 2007, Willow Run is expected to see its revenue drop by almost half of that this year, the authority said."

Seriously taxpayers, who needs Lufthansa when internet searches make valuable information available to us at no charge and readers send "heads up" emails pointing out useful information.

As an example, Lufthansa talked about Customs at the airport

  • "Further, the establishment of an integrated Pre-Clearance Facility for cargo intending to cross the Canadian-US border will serve to significantly increase the air cargo opportunities."

Yet they did not mention an important factor in detail which undercuts the at comment:

  • "Christopher Alf (Chris Alf), National Air Cargo (NAC) founder, and other transportation industry experts are speaking out to herald a supply chain solution to meet the congressional mandate of screening 100 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft by August 2010. The original mandate is a result of the passing of the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, which requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a system to enable the industry to screen 100 percent of cargo transported on passenger aircraft commensurate with the level of security used for checked baggage...

    Christopher Alf is quoted as saying: "The current process is so time-consuming that it would be almost impossible to fully implement 100 percent screening in time to make the deadline. This is due to a lack of sophisticated screening technology being available and affordable across the states."

    Christopher Alf continues by stating that "many experts in the industry believe, as I do, that a better solution can be found by certifying trusted supply chain vendors and increasing the number of available screening options."

In other words, border pre-clearance to a large extent will be done at the point of shipment and away from the border as is being done now with trucks.

But here is something even better that was published over a year ago that a reader sent me. As he said,

"Except for the hills, this could be Windsor."

  • "Struggling to Stay Aloft
    Small-City Airports Threatened by Carriers' Service Reductions

    By Sholnn Freeman, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    LYNCHBURG, Va. -- American cities have long viewed a thriving commercial airport as a source of civic pride, a way to attract businesses and jobs, a selling point promising an easy connection to the outside world. Any community vibrant enough to support a respectable airport, the thinking goes, is a community that counts...

    Now Lynchburg and other small-city airports, which represent the majority of the nation's 524 airports with commercial service, are under threat. Airlines are cutting back service to keep their businesses alive as they confront economic contraction and volatility in oil prices. Smaller airports are vulnerable because they rely on smaller, more expensive planes and with fewer passengers have less economy of scale. Airports are putting together contingency plans for service cuts of up to 50 percent. They are halting expansion projects, freezing hiring and trying to preserve what service they've got.

    Despite millions of dollars spent to improve Lynchburg's airport, departures have fallen from 20 a day a decade ago to just six. Airlines are so reluctant to fly here that Lynchburg can't pay them to come. The airport is dangling a $405,000 incentive package to get an airline to connect the city to a big hub to the north, such as Dulles International Airport or Philadelphia International Airport. The largest part of the package is $250,000 from a small community air service grant from the Department of Transportation. Mark Courtney, the airport director, has met with three airlines to discuss the offer. So far, none has taken the bait.

    Passenger traffic continues to slide. The number of passengers boarding planes at Lynchburg in 2007 was 55,675 -- about half of the peak number in 1994, two years after the new terminal opened.

    "We've reached the low-water mark," Courtney said. "We can't afford to go any lower."

    Collectively, the major U.S. airlines lost $2.8 billion in the first half of the year, according to the Air Transport Association, the airline industry's lobby group. To stem losses, carriers have announced an 8 to 15 percent reduction in flights set to begin later in the year. Aviation analysts predict deeper cuts if oil prices start increasing again after falling over the past five weeks. Jet fuel prices have increased as much as 50 percent this year, compared with a year earlier.

    Even before this year's oil spike, airlines were hunkering down at the nation's 30 largest airports, which account for the majority of U.S. passenger air traffic. But most of the nation's commercial service airports are Lynchburg's size or smaller. They are the ones that will suffer.

    "If you have a 10 percent cut at a place like Dulles, the typical passenger doesn't feel it," said Keith McCrea, manager of air service and policy at the Virginia Department of Aviation. "If you have a 10 percent cut at a smaller airport -- all of a sudden, boom. It might mean one of their five flights is going, or two of their five flights is gone."

    For the nation's smaller commercial airports, he said, the situation is only going to get worse if oil prices stay high. "After Labor Day, it's no secret that we will be looking at another set of capacity reductions," McCrea said.

    The Lynchburg airport dates to 1931. It's right outside of town on the site of a former farm, one of the few flat expanses of land in the area's hilly terrain. Rex Hammond, president and chief executive of the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, thinks the area has lost new business prospects as air service has declined.

    "For a business that wants to come to a community, it's not so much what they are looking for, it's finding a fatal flaw," Hammond said. "If you're knocked off the list, you'll never know it. A community that doesn't have a vibrant airport is operating under a competitive disadvantage."

    The biggest user of the Lynchburg airport is Areva, a French nuclear power conglomerate that has a U.S. subsidiary in the city. Areva employs 2,000 people in Lynchburg. Last year, it announced an expansion of 500 employees. A spokeswoman said the expectation of good service at the airport came into consideration when the company decided to expand.

    The airport is 25 minutes from the home of Reggie Pugh, a regional manager at Areva, whose work territory includes Missouri, Kansas, Michigan and South Carolina. He worries about the inconvenience of reduced air service in Lynchburg.

    He can still take a 6 a.m. flight from Lynchburg to arrive in St. Louis or Kansas City, Mo., by 9 a.m. But the dearth of flight options makes it more difficult to get back home. Pugh sometimes has to fly to Roanoke or Charlottesville, then rent a car to drive 60 miles home or wait hours to get the next direct flight to Lynchburg.

    "Our biggest reason for flying is to maximize face-to-face time with customers," he said. "If we're spending more time driving or going through security, we're minimizing that time."

    Leisure travelers have long since abandoned Lynchburg for the airports in Roanoke, Washington, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Cindy Sober, a Lynchburg resident, said that when she flies, she drives to Roanoke, an hour and 15 minutes away.

    Sober said she's never flown out of Lynchburg. "Only for rental cars -- that's the only time I've ever used the airport," she said.

    Since 2000, about $32.8 million has been spent upgrading the Lynchburg airport, including $15 million to expand the runway. About $22 million came from airport improvement grants from the Federal Aviation Administration, $5 million from state sources, $2.2 million from ticket fees paid by passengers and $3 million from airport funds.

    In contrast to the hopes that the investment represents, the airport can be starkly quiet. No 737s roar. During long stretches of the day, there is only the overhead buzz of propeller-driven Cessnas.

    Gate agents can look out the airport windows to see regular customers pulling into parking spaces. The agents chat about the gorgeous mountain sunsets and talk about ever-expanding job descriptions.

    On a recent tour, Courtney, the airport director, swipes a security card and takes the back stairs to the empty jet ramp outside. Stepping onto the tarmac, he notes that the layers of reinforced concrete underfoot are thick enough to support jumbo jets.

    Courtney peers out to a clump of oaks and hardwoods. The long-term plan for expanding the airport has called for building cargo facilities in this "underutilized" space.

    Courtney thinks cargo might be a good bet for the airport and could offset declines in commercial service. The airport recently extended its runway by 7,100 feet to accommodate the take-off needs of planes loaded down by cargo. Courtney said the airport was beginning to explore options for attracting more air cargo traffic.

    "It's a real simple game," Courtney said. "The only way you can get in the game for some of the future growth is having a longer runway."

    But some analysts question the wisdom of allowing Lynchburg and other airports to keep bulking up while service slides.

    Former airline executive Michael E. Levine, a researcher and lecturer at New York University School of Law describes efforts to expand and bolster small airports as "pretty classic regional pork," especially when they are within a few hours' drive of bigger airports.

    "I would say I understand why everyone wants to be on the aviation map, but you have to ask, 'Is this the best expenditure of the public dollar?' " Levine said. "If Lynchburg has difficulty supporting service now, it will have difficulty in the future.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

If You Cannot Silence 'Em, Hire 'Em

I am hoping that I get a job offer soon too. With my luck, can you figure out in which Department it will be if I am right?

It looks like Blogger Chris Schnurr may not be BLOGGING any longer, at least about City Hall matters. It looks like he lucked out and has a new job in the Legal Department of City Hall.

You see, the Star told us that the City's Legal Department released the "Employment Offer."

I knew that Schnurr had released it before the Star did in his BLOG. Naturally, from what was written, I assumed that the Star received something directly from the City.

Being curious, I searched under the name "Skorobohacz" and here is what I saw [Note, in all of the images, I have deleted the irrelevant sections for easier viewing]

The reference was to Schnurr's Blogsite.

So I clicked on the PFD link on the top right corner of the Star story and was taken here, again to Schnurr's Blogsite

What could I assume other than Schnurr had a new job. With the City. And with the Legal Department in particular. After all, Chris had Blogged before about "Black letter law" so who could be more qualified!

Accordingly, I called Chris to congratulate him but was taken aback when he said that he did not have a new job and was happy where he was! He still would be Blogging.

Ohhhhhh, I get it now. The Star must have thought that the document came from the Legal Department because of the notation on the fax and that it is why they said what they did. That was the Department that sent out the Fax back in 2004. Schnurr must have received it from Council Services since that Department date-stamped it on September 17, 2009.

Imagine, the Star was scooped by a Blogger on such a key document!

Oh, it's Thursday by the you wonder where the Star Editorial is on the payment to the CAO and how it ties into Councillor Dilkens' Motion? I sure do!

Letters, We Get Letters

Stacks on stacks of letters. Here are some

1) Greetings from Chicago

It is so nice for us to be able to keep up with the news while we are away. Usually we have to wait until we get home and find the time to go through the old papers. We have been able to keep up with things through your blog.

2) [Re: The impact of 9/11 on Windsor/Detroit] This was one of your best ever Ed. A really good and heart felt assessment of this messy project.

3) [Re: "But Mayor Eddie Francis already has a vision of a bustling airport filling his mind's eye..."

I got it. Do you think Eddie's mind's eye may need glasses!"]

The best line ever!

4) I just read your blog on the airport cargo project and couldn't agree more with analysis of the situation. I have tried to open up peoples eyes to what is happening and to get the word out on the Windsor Star web site as "Aviator" in the comments area but I don't think anyone is listening. It now looks like city council fell for the sexy sales pitch of getting Windsor involved in the aviation industry.

I have been in the aviation business for many years and have to say that I can't think of an industry with more snakes, con men and dirtbag operators as the aviation industry. (with cargo being the worst) Now Windsor city council has been seduced by the idea and will surly be taken to the cleaners by everyone involved.

I personally would love to see the airport expand and do well but, Windsor airport has to walk before it can run. They should start with the basics and build from there but now the sharks have seen them coming and will sell them a gold plated project which will probably not be able to sustain itself.

I will continue to question the project, not because I am against it ( I am for it ) but because it looks like city council has no experience with aviation and needs to be pulled back from making lots of stupid errors as they blindly try to find their way through this.

Keep up the good work

5) Just a few thoughts on the Labour Day festivities.

By telling Eddie to stay away the Labour Council made him out to be the hard done by victim being bullied by the unions. Typical union misstep. Had they just remained quiet, he wouldn't have showed up, but Parent had to puff out his chest and play to the limelight one more time. I have an issue with union leadership. There isn't any. During the 101 day strike there was a marked absence of help from CUPE national as Jim and Jean were well in over their heads and sinking fast. Complete and utter chaos behind the scenes with no strategy and zero tactics. Not until the 7th week did national send an advisor to help, but whose head was not on the strike, but elsewhere.

Some grandstanding by CAW president Ken Lewenza got some press, but little other effect. His absence at the labour day parade speaks more to union un-solidarity as he would rather spend the time in Toronto than in his home town, probably because of Syd Ryan's presence. It was also hypocritical to see Masse and Comartin at the gathering. Where were they hiding during the strike? Front and centre when its safe to show their faces but nowhere to be seen when they actually have to take a stand and disclose their positions. Under orders perhaps?

The future of unions looks bleak, but not for the lack of need nor a lack of devotion by it's hard working, dedicated members. It's bleak because of a detached disinterest permeating the "leadership" and the absence of vision and competence.

6) As I was coming back from Ann Arbor this morning it dawned on me...
The I-75 roads to the bridge are almost done and they look great.

They started them after the DRIC proposal and all that has been done on this side is talk.

Mr. Moroun shouldn't worry about a new crossing downstream in his lifetime or his sons.

7) What would Eddie get for $20 million.

What you need for cargo. The door alone was $5 million. No kidding.

Let's not forget the maintenance crew needed for repairs and hanger for that.
Any cargo facility must have a repair building or planes don't fly when they have problems.
It doesn't work like the auto club.
And it has to be big enough to put a cargo plane into it securely in case of major repairs.

Eddie isn't thinking of what it takes because he has no idea about what it takes
to make planes fly.

Money, and lots of it with no bottom in sight.

8) I found your blog about 8 months ago , wanted to
let you know I appreciate the work you put into it ,
I consider it alternative media to the slants that the
few news organizations here present ,

as far as the current airport thing well ,
I used to work there & now I live nearby
so the subject interests me , when Eddie
started talking about many of these ideas , I started to
wonder about a few things ,...

there is a lot of land on the east side of the field but you really
have to know what your doing & have serious aviation experience to understand
what your doing...

for instance much, mostly industrial development has been
allowed to creep pretty close to runway 07-25 which
is getting pretty close to limiting a parallel gear up
landing on the grass next to the runway, do you remember
when a heavy cargo jet could not stop & went off the end of
that runway towards riberdy road? If the mayor envisions a
steady stream of heavy cargo aircraft all I can say is I
hope he doesn't paint himself in a corner & develop any
closer to any runways anywhere around the airport ,..
I may not know politics or business but I know that even under
good circumstances heavy cargo planes fully loaded need
alot of room , make lower approaches & climb slower & if
there is ever a problem , they need options ,...even more

Now me livin nearby, I happen to have a very small
field between myself & the runway which I would hope they
don't develop as the soft grass bleeds off speed better than
buildings full of workers ,...I'm not against the idea
I just hope they know what they are doing , also the Air carrier
business is very fickle always trying to underbid each other
companies come & go all the time ,...thats why I got out
of it

In these times I don't think its something we should paying for either
with the competition so strong its more of a gamble & like
everyone in Windsor I dont want our money wasted ,...

like the canal project which I still dont have a complete
understanding of its true use or purpose ,...

I had also wondered if you had any thoughts about the
windsor police , after having some "issues" of its own
switching to a,... I think it was 10 million dollar
encrypted radio system so the public cant listen
to its public servants at work ,...for our own privacy
because they say we wanted it ,...Even the media now must
rely on them to disclose their version of events..

I dont remember any options being discussed,...gotta love this kind of freedom
Anyway keep up the good work

9) Land in Windsor for pre-customs clearance or fly to a US port for free?
Someone isn't doing their homework.

Dayton is only a few hours away and more accessible to the greater US and the world
with development ready lands.

10) Windsor Airport is at least 5-8 years behind in development after London.
London airport is set already with ample room and warehouse space.
Windsor has 8-10 years of construction to even be competitive.
So why is Eddie rushing?
Election fever has begun!
Fix the airport!
Fix the roads!
Claim victory!

The election will be about as much fun as watching paint dry.

11) I don't know if you are aware of this memo from Natalie Litwin, President,Transport 2000 Ontario. I tthink this is fabulous. Talk about tell it like it is. I would think that if the pressure was put on the Minister of Transportation this should open some doors. You may have noticed that I am a strong supporterof the Ambassador Bridge. The memo is at the Transport 2000 Ontario. Again this appears to dynamite! If they can get some politicians on both sides of the border to read and understand this maybe we can get somewhere. Good luck with your cause.

Presentation to Dave Penfold, Policy Advisor to the Minister of Transportation
By Natalie Litwin, President, Transport 2000 Ontario
August 11, 2009.

Section 6.1(2) (b)(ii) of the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act requires that an environmental assessment include “…alternative methods of carrying out the undertaking and alternatives to the undertaking.” Transport 2000 has reviewed the DRIC EA and has concluded that the EA failed to consider feasible alternatives to the undertaking and alternative methods in sufficient depth to make an informed decision.

Transport 2000 believes that a thorough exploration of “alternatives to” and “alternative methods” would question the need for the very expensive DRIC project. We argue that alternative methods and alternatives to the undertaking are not only viable but represent a more cost effective approach than the $4 billion we understand from your Ministry and from the Michigan Department of Transportation reports to be the cost of the combined U.S. and Canadian DRIC project.

1. Border Processing: The Canada Border Services Agency that is responsible for managing the nation’s borders announced in March of this year that it will publicly fund border services at some airports. CBSA already provides this service at Pearson Airport before international flights. CBSA has also developed efficient methods of processing freight both truck and rail. Unfortunately, delays at international borders have negatively impacted passenger rail to the point that they killed the Chicago Amtrac train that crossed into Canada to service Southwestern Ontario. CBSA’s charge of $1,500 dollars per train is hampering the launch of a second Amtrac train from Oregon to Vancouver. Surely, with the right political will, security methods for moving rail passengers over the U.S./Canada border can be streamlined to run more efficiently.

2. Travel Demand Forecasts: In the Planning Needs and Feasibility Study phase of the project the rosy forecasts projected for traffic at the Detroit crossing, and updated in 2005 in a report entitled, Travel Demand Forecasts need another serious review. We argue that the present economic downturn in Ontario’s manufacturing sector is not short-term, and when the economy recovers, Ontario’s business landscape will look very different. Further, it is well known that traffic at all the vehicular crossings between Michigan and Ontario have dropped drastically. The declining traffic levels are regularly reported in the media. Adding road and bridge capacity in the era of peak oil and climate change is yesterday’s solution. Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge (AB) was down over 14% in 2008. Traffic levels have been declining steadily since 1999. In contrast to what is generally claimed by supporters of the DRIC crossing, border wait times are not significant. A random sample from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website shows wait at AB at 5 minutes for commercial vehicles, 6 minutes for passenger vehicles. For the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron: 5 minutes for commercial; 5 minutes for passengers. From the Canada Border Services Agency website: AB commercial, no delay; passenger, no delay.

3. Intermodal Truck/Rail: In Europe, governments build intermodal terminals as a strategy to remove trucks from roads to reduce congestion, pollution and noise. In Canada, intermodal infrastructure is left to the private sector that claims no business case for that investment. Barrie, Peterborough and Oshawa are good candidates for intermodal terminals east and north of the GTA and would offer good incentives for business to locate there. Ontario should consider the quality of life and health of Ontarians and model its policy on building intermodal terminals on the European example. Furthermore, reduced congestion and reduced pollution may not represent a business case for the private sector, but it is a strong positive for Ontario’s overall economy.

4. Second Rail Tunnel: Sam Schwartz Engineering was retained early in the DRIC process by the city of Windsor to provide an approach on how to address commercial and passenger issues at the crossing. A new rail tunnel to accommodate “double-decked” (technically, double-stacked, 9ft.6in. high-cubed container) trains was their first recommendation. Now CP, joint owner with Borealis is asking for government funding to implement this recommendation. Although these high containers represent 5 to 10% of CP’s traffic, they are becoming standard with European shippers, so a new rail tunnel will increase shipments and allow CP to access a market that it is currently unable to compete for. The province of Quebec is supportive of this project since the containers come through the port of Montreal. The $400 million cost is a fraction of our estimate of the $4 billion cost of DRIC. The existing tunnel can effortlessly convert to passenger rail, but there are challenges, not insurmountable, in re-aligning existing rail traffic and in relocating a new railway station in Windsor. Schwartz had recommended a multi-modal facility at the airport linking ground, air and rail transport so the concept has some weight.

5. Increased Use of the Blue Water Bridge: Traffic on this bridge that connects Sarnia, Ontario with Port Huron, Michigan similar to all vehicular crossings, has experienced a considerable decline in traffic. Traffic at the Blue Water Bridge is lower today than when its second span was opened. A colleague recently drove along Highway 401 westbound near the approach to the 402 interchange and found no highway signs indicating driving distance and estimated travel times to Detroit using that route as an alternative to AB although the travel difference between the two routes is insignificant. A traffic forecast consultant to DRIC effectively stated that the need for a new international crossing would be deferred by six years if the public were aware of the travel times associated with using the Blue Water Bridge.
(Travel Demand Forecasts, Sept. 2005, p.124)

6. High Speed Rail: HSR in Canada may look impractical at this time but it is inevitable considering what has and is still happening in the rest of the world and taking into consideration the present U.S. government’s commitment to HSR infrastructure. The city of Windsor is in an excellent position to become a hub in the planned Chicago Hub corridor of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, etc. When HSR comes, and it will, the Windsor-Essex Parkway will be redundant.

7. If we add travel demand management and regional transit improvements to the above alternatives, the argument against building the DRIC project is very persuasive. Transport 2000 Ontario urges your Ministry to seriously reconsider. Road-based infrastructure has had its day – it is time to move into the future, and the future is rail.

In closing, there are two questions I must pose:

 There are three parts to the DRIC Project: The Windsor-Essex Parkway, the new bridge, and the plazas at either end of the bridge. Yet the review of the undertaking by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment dealt only with the Parkway. On the other hand, the Screening Report by the Federal Ministry of the Environment dealt with the Parkway, bridge and plaza. Why?
 Is there a precedent for a government to go into direct competition with a private enterprise such as the Ambassador Bridge with the potential to drive it out of business?

12) Looks like Eddie's micro management and king of the hill stance has gotten him into some time issues. Go figure.

He can't even make a meeting to complain about senior officials not making the meetings.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Did The Mayors Join Together Against CUPE

Wow, what a shocking revelation by Junior!

Does this change everything now? Were citizens deliberately misled? Were all of the media, or perhaps just some, in on it and participated? Was CUPE vilified for reasons that had an ulterior motive that was not just Windsor-based:
  • "Ken Lewenza Jr. is accusing some of his city council colleagues of dragging out the recent municipal strike for political gain and says the release of in-camera council records will prove it.

    “I will demonstrate that council wanted a strike regardless of the issues,” said Lewenza...

    Lewenza said Mayor Eddie Francis had the leadership skills and knowledge to end the strike, but a work stoppage became politically advantageous for the mayor."

I must admit I would like to know the truth but Councillor Valentinis has an alternative view:

  • "But after a long and bitter strike, Valentinis said it might be best for council to move forward rather than second guess its actions.

    “Decisions were made and the question is what are we looking to achieve with this."

Just like with the 400 audit. Why bother finishing that and let's move on I suppose.

I am sure that you remember all of the stories about how Sid Ryan and CUPE were using Windsor workers as pawns in their game against the City of Toronto:

  • The city has offered about 1,800 striking inside and outside city workers a one-time cash payment in exchange for a two-year wage freeze. Halberstadt said Ryan is meddling in the strike because he fears such a deal would set a precedent in negotiations in other municipalities.

    "The taxpayers of this financially disabled city, and indeed the rank-and-file city workers, are being used as pawns in this grander game," wrote Halberstadt.

  • "And yet CUPE leadership has chosen this time to demand large wage increases and insist on future benefits for future employees that can only come at the expense of current taxpayers and future taxpayers -- many of whom are unemployed, or earn less than the striking workers, have fewer benefits, far less job security or are otherwise suffering financial difficulty of various types and degrees.

    And we are expected to accept this as a noble cause?

    At best, this is a misguided cause and, at worst, it is disingenuous and rooted in ulterior motives that have nothing to do with Windsor or Windsor workers."

  • "Sid Ryan and his CUPE brain trust might know a lot of things.

    They might know the plight of Oshawa and the bright lights of Toronto.

    They might, among other things, know how to run a national union that has dues-collecting tentacles in every corner of this great land.

    But they don't know Windsor. And what else but failure to understand what makes our border city tick could lead them into a showdown they were doomed to lose from day one?

    Perhaps they were counting on Windsor's track record as a labour stronghold to crank up the heat."

I have always had this gut-feeling that there was another side to this story: Cities and the Province deciding to crush the public service unions, municipally first and then provincially. To be honest, if I was conducting the OLRB hearing on behalf of CUPE respecting the unfair labour practices, this is an area that I would be investigating.

The similarities in the strikes in Windsor and Toronto are interesting. Of course, the expectation was that CUPE Windsor would collapse within weeks and that would make it easier for a strike to be minimized in Toronto and more concessions being forced on the Union there. The fact that this did not happen may well have messed up the game plan. I am sure the lowest point in Windsor's CAO's career was never contemplated and was so catastrophic that it may well have signalled the premature ending of the strikes if I am right.

Consider this:

  • Each City had a big PR issue that was publicized to the hilt involving big dollar numbers but with little immediate impact

  • less-publicized other concessions were demanded of the unions

  • a much longer than expected strike

  • lack of action by the Province on back-to-work legislation

  • Provincial Ministers biased in the Cities' favour

  • Francis Protocol fiasco resulting in an almost immediate strike settlement in both Cities with the Unions winning significant benefits.

The big difference between the two cities is the media. Toronto's looked at the strike after-math and attacked how their Mayor failed. Our media looked at the strike after-math and told us that the citizens were responsible for our big success without panning what our Mayor failed to achieve.

It is hardly a big surprise from a Windsor newspaper that views itself as a Messenger.

Here though are some fascinating insights from a recent Toronto Star story

  • "Why that 39-day strike happened to us

    The city admits it was ready to make concessions on pay and sick bank months ago. So why didn't it?"
It's so close to what Junior is now alleging:
  • "At the end of the day, what (taxpayers) paid for was more expensive than what was possible.

    Council had chances to cap or negotiate cost sharing with CUPE for post-retirements benefits — the flashpoint of the strike — or strike other deals which were more financially advantageous than the final agreement, Lewenza said."

It is becoming more and more evident that an investigation needs to be undertaken about what co-ordination if any there was amongst the employer-side in these strikes. I think there may well be a big story that needs uncovering. Take a look at this

  • "DAVID MILLER Toronto Mayor

    "In hindsight, Miller says the city could have been more flexible on both wages and the sick bank.

    Could we have given our bargainers flexibility beforehand? Maybe. Those are things we could have done differently. If I had to do it over, would I try to do that? Well, given what I know now, yes, possibly." [Councillor Postma--"Last week we made the decision to allow our team more freedom to negotiate a contract that is fair to both parties and we also agreed that binding arbitration is not the right path for us. I strongly believe that for the past 7 weeks council has not given our negotiating team the tools to truly negotiate. We have set parameters for them but have not given them the autonomy required to get a contract. In essence they have been negotiating with themselves."]

  • "They reveal a deal blocked for months by venomous labour relations, entrenched positions and miscalculations. The outcome suggests there will not be labour peace any time soon.

    "They've sent labour relations back decades," says Dembinski, president of the city's inside workers in CUPE local 79. "It was the nastiest round of bargaining I've ever been in – by far." [I still do not understand why Windsor did not follow the Public Library approach to negotiations over PRBs as a precedent since it worked so well without a strike. There is no doubt that CUPE/City relations are a mess. Moreover, Councillor Halberstadt gave us a history lesson of successful negotiations with CUPE over garbage matters in his BLOG]
    "Miller, as pro-union a mayor city hall has ever had, insists he achieved his bottom line – limited wage increases and an eventual end to a bank of unused sick days that is a $140 million liability for the city. He maintains he did it despite conservative councillors bent on sabotaging his every move.

    But he failed at his preferred objective, the one his negotiators clung to during seven months of bargaining: an immediate end to the sick bank. Instead, it will be phased out." [PRBs are NOT phased out completely for new hires but more importantly, the City seemingly is stuck at ever being able to change them for existing employees. In addition, union members won significant improvements in their pay and benefits and job guarantees. As mini-Gord said "Windsor's property tax hawks will be complaining bitterly today that city council flubbed the best chance in a generation to get labour costs under control.

    We had CUPE on the ropes, they'll howl, and they still get a 6.3 per cent wage increase? And they get all their vacation plus a signing bonus of two grand for nothing? Outrageous!]

  • "Why was Toronto different? Why did daycares have to close and mounds of garbage rot in city parks for the city to reach a deal other municipalities obtained without a walkout?

    It is all the more baffling because a phase-out plan, according to Miller, was part of the mandate council's employee labour relations committee gave negotiators as far back as last September. Yet he says they never proposed it in bargaining, waiting instead until sometime after July 15 – at least 24 days into the strike – for mediators to raise the option. [Isn't this the same question to ask here?]

  • "Outside workers in local 416 had plenty to discuss. President Mark Ferguson says the city wanted changes to contract language on working conditions, grievance procedures, seniority and the process for layoffs.

    "I had never come across such a draconian set of proposals during my 10 years as a trade unionist," says Ferguson, 40, relaxing in the backyard of his modest Aurora bungalow." [The City wanted a "net zero" approach, concessions in 8 different areas according to the Union ie if CUPE wanted an improvement in one area, it would have to be taken from another. See my BLOG July 27, 2009 "CUPE Strike: Little To Do With PRBs"]

  • "Miller says most of the non-monetary issues were resolved by early July. On the 8th, council's labour relations committee agreed to sweeten the wage offer and give city negotiators more flexibility to strike a deal – something Miller now says he might have done sooner." [Eddie's near-riot protocol fiasco took place on July 16 and the parties negotiating teams worked without outside involvement subsequently to reach a deal.]

  • "In an unusual move that incensed the unions, Miller made the offer public a day after presenting it to them. He telephoned to warn union leaders minutes before doing so." [Remember the City strike website story: May 04, 2009 "Is The CUPE Strike Solution Hiding Under Our Noses"]

  • "Miller says city negotiators knew they could eventually settle for 6 per cent over three years, which in the end they did." [Very similar numbers to Windsor's]

  • "But union leaders insist the public offer shored up the strikers' resolve. Says Dembinski: "It showed they were taking money that should have been for our wages and using it to buy out our sick time." [See "net zero" approach above]

  • "A breakthrough came July 14, when local 416 made clear it was prepared to negotiate the sick bank.

    What changed?

    Ferguson says the union realized that a short-term disability plan, which pays workers only when injured or ill, would be better for junior members. Last year, the city says about 300 members of the striking union locals lost pay while ill or injured because they didn't have enough banked sick days to cover time off.

    Clinching the issue was a mediator's proposal of a "grandfathering" option, Ferguson says. [At some point, CUPE took PRBs for new hires off the bargaining table partially. When and why have not been explained]

Not completely conclusive I will admit but with Junior's outburst and the former CAO's comment--his growing disagreements with council, weariness from the heavy-handed control of Mayor Eddie Francis--expect more dynamite before this is all over.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Do But Did We

The Emmy Awards took place the other night. If things work out as I hope they will, this local boy may take the highest honour next year at the awards ceremony!

If my BLOGs do not come out in time over the next few weeks and if I do not post one on the odd day, please forgive me in advance.

I am in the midst of negotiating a major deal for a Sitcom with a huge US TV network which must remain nameless at this time and I have to write a few script outlines. I would be the creative consultant and Executive Producer of the series and would help in the writing.

I expect actually to be flown to beautiful Downtown Burbank soon on the Network's private jet (unfortunately out of Metro, not YQG) to discuss everything with the Network head honchos. Kind of like that Seinfeld show.

I don't ask much from my readers but perhaps just this once you, dear reader, might help me out with some ideas for a 30 minute show.

Oh, it would help if I told you what the Sitcom was all about.

Remember after the CUPE strike, I mentioned
  • "I cannot do it all. I am merely a single, lonely Blogger. I'll let the traditional media do some work.

    Go ask around about what happened at the marriage licence office. I heard there may have been some problems there."

I am still trying to track the story down but the thought gave me a wonderful idea.

What if the managers who handled the marriage licence issuance during the Strike messed up? What if the licences were completed improperly? Were the couples legally married at all? Sure the bride and groom said "I Do." But did they according to law?

I am sure that you can now understand where I am going with this thought.

We'll call the show "The Marriage Bureau --Windsor style." And who said I would not help my City gain notoriety!

Each week the show will start off this way:

  • Pickets around City Hall carrying Strike signs
  • A happy couple running to the Licence Bureau, filling in their form and getting a licence (after waiting the mandatory 5 minutes to enter the building)
  • A CUPE worker after the strike discovering that there were problems with the licences
  • A Mayor/managers meeting, with outside consultants who live more than 4-500 KM from Windsor, being held to figure out what to do
  • Finally a Dear sir/madam letter being sent out to the happy couple telling them to retun to City Hall immediately to correct the errors or there could be legal problems.

Each episode would have the post office delivering the letter and we would see what happens next---would the loving couple stay together or would it be the way for them to start all over.

So I need a half dozen or so examples with which to dazzle the network brass. Here are some ideas I had....Can you add a few more:

1) The so-in-love newly married couple return to Windsor after their honeymoon. What was supposed to be uninterrupted marital bliss was actually a disaster, another day at the office. We see the groom ignoring his bride while he was using Skype for phoning customers to handle emergencies, texting over his Blackberry and emailing subordinates with instructions.

Which will come first: family or the job? Is this the chance now to get an anulment and end it all?

2) It's 25 years later and our couple is getting ready for their big 25th Silver wedding anniversary celebration and their renewal of their marriage vows when the letter had been misplaced for all of this time.

Will the party go on or will they refuse to renew their vows? We will watch them as they talk about the ups and downs of their lives together

3) In this episode, we see a flashback to a marriage based on money not love. Years ago our bride passed up the poor man of her dreams for the rich man's son and financial security. Oh they seemingly lived happily together, and had two darling children. The husband was a good and devoted spouse and father. Yet there was always a "longing..."

Of course, our poor man left town broken hearted to go out West on one of Edgar's charter flights and became unbelievably successful. Then, as if by a remarkable co-incidence, the bride saw her old boyfriend just as he returned to his hometown and on the same day she received the Windsor letter!

4) Then there was the "arranged marriage" where the bride was not allowed to marry her true love but only the man her family decided should be the one...Was this a sign from heaven?

Well you get the idea I hope.

Honestly, when I receive the Emmy for best TV program, I will be sure in my acceptance speech to thank all of the little people who helped me become the TV Executive I was always meant to be!

And of course the Mayor and Council for the long strike in the first place if Junior is correct.

The Truth Always Comes Out

Now you understand why we need a right of recall in Windsor.

Now you understand why Gord took a shot at Councillor Marra in his Saturday column and at Councillor Dilkens too. Discredit them in advance before the Monday Council meeting that might have questioned Edgar's actions! Make sure no one opens their mouths to talk about the issue.

Democracy is in such a bad state under Mayor Edgar Francis that a Councillor, Drew Dilkens, has to introduce a Notice of Motion to change the Procedural By-law so that Councillors can actually know in advance of their in camera meetings what the agenda items are that they are being asked to discuss. In camera meetings for heaven's sake and Councillors do not have the faintest idea what is going on.

As the Councillor said previously:
  • "the criticism being expressed could stem in part from "the larger issue of how things get done" at council. Dilkens said the matter was "sprung on us" without any prior notice at a Sept. 2 in-camera meeting when the mayor introduced Reidel as the new CAO. No other hiring options were put forward and the suggestion that other city hall managers might also be qualified only came up as a result of a question at Monday's closed-door meeting when councillors were asked to vote on Reidel's appointment."

  • "Airport board member Coun. Drew Dilkens said they have been clueless over YQG audited statements of the last two years being incomplete and withheld."

It is intolerable!

Are the Councillors just sheep? Do they have no backbone? Do they not understand their legal duties? There are TEN Councillors and only ONE Mayor after all. There might be some excuse for them but Edgar has been Mayor now for a long time and this is nothing new. All of a sudden they want a change. Their arrogance, and incompetence, has no bounds

Oscars should be given out for the best acting performance for the CAO Press Conference after John announced his resignation. Now we know the truth:

  • "The resignation of former CAO John Skorobohacz was the culmination of at least two years of discontent between himself and city council...

    He cited several factors in his decision to part ways with the city, including growing disagreements with council, weariness from the heavy-handed control of Mayor Eddie Francis and simply reaching the end of the job’s shelf life. His leaving also creates opportunity in the organization for others to move up, Skorobohacz said."

Two years! Where was the media that covers City Hall informing us about all of this? Asleep? Or afraid to rock the boat? No you know the role Bloggers play in Windsor and why we are so despised by certain people at City Hall.

I had heard from inside moles that the CAO wanted out. I had also heard that the attitude of Council was that if wanted to go, then he should go but without a penny being paid to him. My, how that changed!

What a disgrace this Mayor is. He has told us that he is a lawyer. He of all people ought to know better. Five years and no employment contract signed with the most senior Administrator in the Corporation. Is that how Edgar runs the City Hall business? Was it the same with other Senior Managers like Dev Tyagi? Do they have signed contracts?

Or could there be still-secret protocols or side-letters that have not been disclosed yet to the public?

Remember what the Star wrote over the Jane Boyd termination dispute. While her situation was different, it is the thought that counts:

  • "The ex-right-hand woman to former mayors Mike Hurst and John Millson is suing the City of Windsor for wrongful dismissal. Jane Boyd, who spent 14 years as chief aide in the mayor's office, is seeking $23,750 in termination, severance and vacation pay she believes she's owed after newly minted Mayor Eddie Francis decided to let her go last November.

    Boyd's lawsuit highlights the need for strict contracts in the mayor's office...

    In Boyd's case, that crystal-clear distinction was muddied by lazy contract-keeping in Hurst's office. Although Boyd was hired under contract, first by Millson in 1990, then by Hurst in 1991, she spent the last six years working for Hurst without a contract...

    But Boyd's suit could likely have been avoided had Hurst had the good sense to keep her contract current.

    In the future, mayors must be required to keep their aides' contracts up to date. If they don't, the mayor who slipped up, not taxpayers, should foot the bill for suits like Boyd's."

It is no wonder now that none of the Councillors answered my email asking them on what basis they agreed to pay the severance package. Did they even know about the Offer of Employment Letter? Did any ask to see his "formal" employment contract?

Frankly, they should be embarrassed for their incompetence. And taxpayers have to pay for it.

Here is how Councillor Halberstadt described it:

  • "I don’t like it, paying that kind of money when a guy wants to leave anyway,” said Coun. Alan Halberstadt. “My understanding it was in his contract. It’s unfortunate from a taxpayer point of view."

Gee thanks Alan, that makes me feel so much better. It's"unfortunate." What a shameful understatement.

His "understanding!" That means to me that he had no idea other than what he was told. By whom? Why didn't he ask for the contract and read it before agreeing to pay out money that could have paid for PRBs so there was no need for a strike.

It seems clear to me that Alan has given up and will likely not run again. After all of these years of being the lone wolf on Council, he is folding his tent. It is hard to watch.

Then we have the big, tough Junior mouthing off again AFTER everything is done and it is too late. That seems to be becoming a practice of his especially after he voted for it:

  • “No, I’m not happy with what he is walking away with,” said Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. “I was not happy as CAO you are out there doing job interviews the last couple years. When you are in that position, I would expect total loyalty and not focusing on his own intentions in terms of preserving his career.

    “But at the end of the day, council signed a contract. This was positioned to council as if there were no other options.”

Spare us the unhappiness Councillor. Oh I get it now, it is only 5 cents per week per family to pay John his multi-hundred thousand dollar package, the Lewenza "used car salesman justification" for every troubling expenditure.

And which contract was that and why were there no other options. Did Junior dare ask if there were alternatives? John resigned and there was no term that allowed him to receive money on a resignation. Who did the "positioning" as if we cannot guess.

How was it put....oh dear, he could get 2 years severance if there was a lawsuit and he won (that is what the Mayor claimed in the press conference) and we can get out for less, about half. He might be able to sue for constructive dismissal and look how much the legal fees would be too, especially if the City lost. And hey, it is just before an election and can you imagine the dirty linen if he can prove Council was trying to get rid of him because of "growing disagreements with council" and Edgar's "heavy-handed control" with the near-riot being the straw that broke the camel's back.

And what did the other lawyer on Council, Councillor Valentinis contribute to this discussion? Did he read the contract before he voted?

Obviously, there were lawsuit threat concerns. That always scares people.

But here is a different thought out of Councillor Dilkens' mouth

  • "the mutual decision to part ways with Skorobohacz was the best way to move forward...

    “But I was first on alert when the CAO was putting himself forward as a job cut.

    We had a mutual discussion. Instead of saying ‘we fired the guy,’ this was a less acrimonious process. We need to make sure we have the most effective person in that role."

Does that suggest that perhaps there were grounds for termination with cause in the mind of at least one or two Councillors but that Council backed off because of positioning and understanding? Unfortunately, we will never know.

I can hardly wait to read the Star Editorial condemning the Mayor and Council for their negligence in running this City. Or will they somehow blame CUPE for this and suggest that the money come out of the strike "savings."

I wonder if Marty Beneteau will be there with his camera taking a photograph when the Mayor and Council present their cheque to the City for "footing the bill."

Perhaps Gord will apologize next Saturday too since the facts are starting to come out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BLOGWorldexclusive: DRIC Investment Grade Traffic Surveys

They were supposed to be out over a year ago. But they were never released.

They were then supposed to be released in June of this year. But again, they were not released.

My understanding is that there are 2 investment grade traffic surveys that were paid for by the Canadian Government, one in 2008 and one in 2009, so that the Feds could convince P3 operators that the DRIC project made sense.

Hundreds of pages were produced, 608 pages to be exact if the Government document is correct, that should give us the Government's expert's best guess as to traffic volumes, the real justification for spending billions of taxpayer dollars on a P3 bridge, road and plaza instead of allowing the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project to go forward.

Well the BLOGmeister was not going to be denied. After filing a Federal Freedom of Information application, here is what was produced of those hundreds of pages.

Nada, nothing, zero, zilch.

Not one single page of the traffic surveys was produced, not even redacted versions. They are there but mere taxpayers who paid for them cannot see them.

More importantly have Government officials who have to decide whether the DRIC project should go forward or not seen them? If not, are they being deceived since key information is being kept from them? Deliberately!

Are P3 investors going to be lied to as well or are Governments going to "guarantee" them an exorbitant rate of return just so that the DRIC project is built regardless of the ultimate cost to taxpayers?

A surprise...hardly.

My inside sources tell me that the traffic projections do NOT support what the Government wants us to believe. Traffic volumes have tanked. After all, why else has the DRIC project been delayed for almost 2 years. Why else has Minister Baird's justification for the project changed drastically:

In other words, we will spend billions today when the new DRIC bridge is not needed in the hopes that maybe at some time in the future, if traffic ever picks up to the 1999 volumes, we might need one. It looks like his time period is 20 years from now, similar to what Michigan's MDOT director said in the past. Never mind that all the crossings' volumes in the region are down and that another crossing could hurt the existing crossings financially. The Blue Water Bridge has already been downgraded by S&P over traffic concerns.

Remember how proper management of a bridge, new technology and away from the border customs control has allowed a "cow bridge" to become the #1 border crossing between Canada and the US! And without spending billions of taxpayer dollars. No one seems to consider this when talk of spending billions comes up.

By the way, 20, 30, 40 years out is past the DRIC mandate period so such an approach is probably improper as justification for the project since that has never been studied.

Anything to try to wipe out the Bridge Company. That is what this is all about. It cannot get any clearer.

Poor, poor Sean O'Dell. Imagine if he has to take these news stories into his Minister and also to the Minister of Finance. I wonder if they will feel any embarrassment about wasting taxpayer money:
  • "Cross-border Ontario truck traffic still in a freefall

    TORONTO -- All but one Ontario border crossing reported lower commercial traffic numbers in June 2009 compared to the same period from the year before, according to the most recent report by the Public Border Operators Association.

    Truck traffic specifically, went down about 26 percent in June compared to 2008 (from 650,000 crossings to about 483,000)

    Year to date, commercial traffic crossings all border points with Michigan and New York are declined by nearly a million vehicles to 2.8 million between January to June, from 3.8 million in 2008.

    Only the Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge in northeast Ontario is the only crossing that had positive numbers. It posted an 18 percent improvement compared to June 2008, although, more than likely, the uptick is a result of traffic being diverted from the Seaway International Bridge in Cornwall, which has been closed for a couple months because of a land dispute between Canada Border services and the nearby Mohawk community. For the year, the crossing is still down about 5 percent.

    Other than the Seaway Bridge, the border gateway with the steepest truck traffic decline throughout 2009 remains Windsor-Detroit. The Ambassador Bridge is down 31 percent for the first six months of 2009. And traffic dropped 32 percent in June from the same month is '08. The nearby Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, however, declined by a whopping 47 percent this year.

    They're followed by the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia (-24 percent for trucks) and the International Bridge in the twin Sault Ste. Maries (-23%).

  • "Canadian exporters seen hurting until 2010

    OTTAWA -- A sluggish world economy that runs the risk of further financial turmoil will hobble Canadian exports until at least 2010, a report warned Thursday.

    In its latest assessment on the world economy, Export Development Canada forecast exports will fall by 21% in 2009 and rise by 6.6% in 2010...

    The auto sector is expected to repeat 2008's decline of 22%."

  • "Border traffic hits the brakes

    Blue Water Bridge sees fewer vehicles after rules kick in

    Traffic on the Blue Water Bridge has decreased since new identification requirements took effect June 1.

    In the first two months since the stricter rules started, about 30,000 fewer personal vehicles crossed the bridge between Port Huron and Pointe Edward compared with the year before, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    But Chief Ron Smith, spokesman for Customs, said the traffic decline was caused more by the struggling economy than the requirement that everyone have an approved document, such as a passport or enhanced driver's license.

    "I honestly believe it has more do with the economy than the document requirements," he said, adding that decreases correlate with factories closing and other such economic setbacks. "A lot of people are being very careful about how they spend their money."

    In June 2008, 153,222 personal vehicles crossed the bridge. This June, 134,276 crossed. Similar numbers were true for July: 176,912 in 2008 and 166,118 this year.

    It wasn't just the number of passenger vehicles that declined. Each of the categories tracked by border protection decreased, including trucks, trains and planes.

    In June 2008, 341 trains passed from Port Huron to Ontario, 116 more than the 225 that crossed in 2009. Similar numbers hold up for July, when 260 crossed this year and 342 crossed in 2008.

    Personal aircraft crossings are down: 75 in June and July 2008 and 44 in the same months this year.

    Smith said the reason probably is the same as for vehicles: the economy.

    With less work being done at automobile plants, for example, there is less reason for cargo to pass between the two countries, Smith said.

    "Just as the truck traffic has slowed, so have the trains because they are transporting commodities," he said.

    Michigan does more business with Canada than any other state -- $67 billion in 2008.

    There are similar trends at border crossings elsewhere.

    Some businesses in tourism-dependent border communities blame the new border requirements for making a bad year worse.

    At Martin's Fantasy Island, an amusement park in Grand Island, N.Y., about 10 minutes from the Canadian border, "our Canadian business is way off," spokesman Mike McGuire said. Nearly one-third fewer Canadian families of four have come for discounted "Canadian Wednesdays" compared with last year, he said. He blames the recession, a soggy summer and the passport rule.

    The park is in the Buffalo border crossing region, which saw a 13% decline in privately owned vehicles in June and July compared with the same period last year.

    Customs officials said the new border requirements make crossings safer and more efficient and aren't to blame for declining numbers. Fewer people have been coming to America via land borders since 9/11, said Colleen Manaher, director of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which mandated the changes.

    Compliance has been high in the new program; 95% of affected travelers arrive at the borders with proper documents, she said.

    "You have to look at this in totality," she said. "There is the recession, exchange rates, gas prices. There's border violence, there's weather."

The CAO Severance Package

What the heck is going on in this City?

The Mayor said by email

  • "This is to advise you that our Chief Administrative Officer, John Skorobohacz, has announced his resignation from the Corporation of the City of Windsor."

A few minutes later Mr. Skorobohacz sent out an email and he did not dispute that fact.

It's clear he was not terminated for cause or without cause since the Mayor said this about him and Mr. Tyagi:

  • "The mayor said the moves have nothing to do with job performances. Both departing individuals "were absolutely valuable," he said."

Some of us I am sure were surprised that the former CAO got a severance package when he resigned on his own. The Star tells us that

  • "Under his work contract, Francis said Skorobohacz will be paid a severance of 15 months salary, 12.5 months if he finds a new job."

What was the basis of this payment? Listen to the clip above. It was part of the agreement for bringing him back when he was recruited.

That did not seem too unreasonable to me since he had just left Windsor and now was leaving his new employer to come back and so he needed some inducement for the disruption.

However, and this is the really weird part, if you go to Chris Schnurr's BLOGsite he was told that there was NO formal Employment Agreement at all.

  • "I am attaching the offer of employment for John Skorobohacz, as you requested. Please note that the offer of employment letter is the final document and as such there is no “formal employment agreement” as referred to in the attached documents."

That to me is astounding considering it is such a senior position.

Oh there was the Letter "Offer of Employment" but it was subject to a formal agreement being signed that had to be negotiated and finalized between the parties. No more Jane Boyd messes for Eddie. The Letter was nothing more than "general parameters."

Clearly there were more terms that needed dealing with. However, it appears that this was never done.

Here is the other strange part....The only clause dealing with a severance package in the Letter was if John was terminated without cause. In that case he would receive 10 months of salary plus some indefinite amount per year of service up to a maximum of 18 months salary.

I did not see any kind of term as set out in the clip above dealing with a payment if he resigned nor any kind of payment scheme as described nor even the amounts mentioned.

Where the heck was that found since it was not in the Letter and there was no formal employment Contract?

So being curious, I emailed all of the Councillors for help:

  • "Subject: CAO resignation payment

    Considering the BLOG posted by Chris Schnurr, was there an employment contract between the City and the former CAO

    There is certainly nothing in there about making a payment in the event that the CAO resigned.

    Would you please explain to me therefore the reason why the CAO received several hundred thousand dollars from the City when he chose to resign and there was NO legal obligation to pay the former CAO anything.

    I would also like to know the reason why no such employment contract was ever entered into even though 5 years passed after the letter was signed."

So far no responses except from Councillor Jones:

  • "Sir. I have asked in the past if you woyld please remove me from your mailout list. I will kindly ask again. Thank you. Ron Jones"

And my response

  • "This is NOT my mailout list but a letter to City Councillors for which I, as a taxpayer of this City, am entitled to an answer from you and your colleagues."

Not one word at Council about it either. I guess no one cares.

Ahhhhh, Democracy inaction in Windsor! Ain't it grand.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gord's Hatchet Job

These 2 By-laws may help determine who is our next Mayor and who will be on Council.

Whew, someone was in an ugly mood on Saturday! But there was an ulterior motive to the Henderson column as I am sure my regular readers would have understood.

It is of course expected that Bill Marra has to be destroyed as early as possible since it is clear he will be running for Mayor. Discredit him or force him not to run, it does not matter. Edgar would lose in a 2-person race against anyone credible.

But attacking Drew Dilkens so viciously, Councillor Nice Guy...what the heck caused that?

Gord's memory must be failing or he is suffering the amnesia disease from hanging around City Hall for so long:
  • "When front-runner Marra was trounced six years ago by upstart Eddie Francis."

Hardly, Edgar was the golden boy then. Marra was the incumbent, long-time Councillor who had to bear the burden of being called Hurst-lite! The campaign was Edgar's to lose and he almost did with a lacklustre effort after the first week of the announcement of his candidacy.

Do not forget that I was involved deeply in Edgar's first mayoral campaign. But for a couple of strategic errors, Marra would have won. Gord must have forgotten that Edgar only received 53.45% of the vote. Marra would have beaten him easily last time around and would do so today except for the CUPE bump that may give Edgar some help.

As I Blogged previously,


    This is how the game is played in the Big Apple according to the New York Times:

    "Mr. Wolfson claimed his first Democratic scalp in May, as Mr. Weiner — once a close ally in the Clinton campaigns — dropped out of the mayoral race amid a Wolfson-led behind-the-scenes campaign to force him to do just that.

    Working with a local press corps he had cultivated for years, Mr. Wolfson and his team dug up and then pushed a steady stream of politically damaging tidbits about Mr. Weiner, giving the congressman an early taste of what he might face come the fall."

    And you wondered why Gord Henderson had been slashing Bill Marra so early on! Now you can understand why that weird term was inserted in the CUPE Protocol re New Beginnings to embarrass Bill. It was a message delivered to Bill and any other possible competitor to our Mayor IF he decides to run for a third term."

Did you like this line from Gord. I almost bust my gut laughing:

  • "I'm all but certain that Francis will pack it in next year. But it appears that Marra, in playing dumb games while Windsor is fighting for its life, is trying to goad Francis into sticking around for a 2010 rematch."

We know what this is really about. Gord is trying to get others to announce that they will run, in particular the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget, so Edgar can sneak in down the middle. The Councillor is being suckered to run since he said he would run against Marra if Edgar did not. In this way, if Edgar wins, he gets rid of both Marra and Brister.

This line was almost as good quoting Councillor Your arrogance knows no bounds:

  • "As for Marra's mayoral aspirations, Halberstadt said he's a "smart enough guy" and well spoken but "a little vanilla. He doesn't want to offend too many people and if you want to get things done, you need to offend some people."

Gosh, using "offending people" as a criterion, Edgar should be the most successful politician in Canada considering how many people are now in the BLOGMeister phone booth.

But Drew Dilkens...Oh my goodness.

  • "Coun. Alan Halberstadt, no fan of the current mayor, is still scratching his head trying to figure out how a shakeup approved twice by council, on Sept. 2 and again this week, could suddenly become unacceptable to Marra and Dilkens. "I'm not sure where they're coming from."

DUH...Alan is now suffering from the amnesia disease. Gord has to slap Drew down for daring to criticize the Francis style of running City Hall and not following the Party Line.

Alan does need to tell us when he and his colleagues first saw the papers that had been passed through outside counsel concerning the CAO and Mr. Tyagi. He needs to tell us if that kind of process is acceptable to him considering his Canal remarks. Perhaps then he will understand Councillor Dilkens' concerns re a fait accompli. It's either that or a bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo.

Here are some recent for instances:


  • "council approved by a vote of 6-4 the East Pelton Secondary Plan -- an urban plan that would allow commercial development of an area that includes the proposed location of the South West Detention Centre.

    Councillors Drew Dilkens... opposed the motion.

    Mayor Eddie Francis supported the motion."


  • "Coun. Drew Dilkens also favours looking into privatization. Investing the proceeds of any sale of assets may be a strategically better option for the city, he said...

    But Mayor Eddie Francis, who chairs the WCUL, and Coun. Fulvio Valentinis, vice-chairman of subsidiary Enwin Utilities Ltd., both caution against readily selling out to the private sector."


  • "Ward 1 Coun. Drew Dilkens agrees that Reidel is "a great choice" for CAO and that that assessment appears to be the consensus among councillors, but said he agrees with Marra that there should have been more vetting in the selection process. Dilkens said council would have benefited by hearing the ideas of other in-house candidates and "learning more about them."

    He suggests the criticism being expressed could stem in part from "the larger issue of how things get done" at council. Dilkens said the matter was "sprung on us" without any prior notice at a Sept. 2 in-camera meeting when the mayor introduced Reidel as the new CAO. No other hiring options were put forward and the suggestion that other city hall managers might also be qualified only came up as a result of a question at Monday's closed-door meeting when councillors were asked to vote on Reidel's appointment."

Airport Audit

  • "Airport board member Coun. Drew Dilkens said they have been clueless over YQG audited statements of the last two years being incomplete and withheld.

    Mayor Eddie Francis, chairman of the YQG board, countered Friday the delay should not be a surprise to anyone."

We'll see what Councillors Marra and Dilkens are made of at the Monday Council meeting when these 2 By-laws come up for discussion.

Will their mouths be closed tight or will we have a nice confrontation or two with the Mayor?

Even More Stories

I told you they never stop


An interesting Letter to the Editor in the Star:
  • "In response to a reduction in revenue caused primarily by a severe downturn in our economy, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel -- the public sector --raised prices.

    In response to the same reduction in revenue, the Ambassador Bridge -- the private sector -- offers their customers a rewards card that provides for reduced bridge fares, $3 each way, up to seven cent reduction in the price of fuel at their duty free location and various reductions on products available at the duty free store. "

An interesting column by Anne Jarvis:

  • "Rules for selling wine bizarre

    Colchester Ridge Estate Winery's 2007 Riesling was the official white wine of Queen's Park last year. It was served in the legislature's restaurant and at events and sold in the gift store.

    But you can't buy it at the LCBO. Colchester Ridge, in Harrow, doesn't sell wine at the LCBO.

    We have 14 local wineries...

    But only four of our wineries sell at government liquor stores. Most can't afford to.

    If Colchester Ridge sells a $10 bottle at the LCBO, it gets only about $3.30. That's a big hit -- too big -- for a small winery...

    Mastronardi Estate Winery of Kingsville is selling a new rose at the LCBO. It's a $12 bottle, and the winery will get about $4.85. Mastronardi is only doing it to introduce its wines to the public.

    Ontario just paid $47,500 to promote Essex County produce. So why does the government make it so hard to buy local wine?

    Maybe it's because of the $1.4-billion dividend that the cash-cow LCBO monopoly earned the government last year...

    The rules for selling wine in Ontario are bizarre.

    If John Fancsy of Viewpointe Estate Winery in Harrow sells a glass of his wine at his winery, he pays the LCBO a six per cent commission. It's like The Sopranos...

    Local wineries need a chance to sell their wine without being kneecapped. They need to be able to open shops outside their wineries or in grocery stores and markets."

And some people actually want a Government bridge!



  • "Other items Bing touched on at the council meeting:

    He also said Windsor's mayor is interested in reviving a deal on the possible sale of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel"


  • "The two also discussed the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, Francis said...

    “The only reason we got involved was because the previous administration was prepared to dispose of the asset to the private sector,” Francis said. “We indicated in the future if they have discussions (about selling the tunnel) we are available.

    “Our priority is to keep it in the public sector. The ball is in their court.”


How many weeks has the City strike been over? Are City books in such a bad condition that financial information is not readily available yet?

If you want to see how the media can ask good questions, read the Toronto press.

From the Toronto Sun

  • "The city saved a substantial amount of money during the strike, while taxpayers got nothing for their tax dollars.

    But Torontonians should not be handed refund cheques for the city's failure to provide the services we expected.

    Unfortunately, cash back fixes nothing in this situation. In fact, with the way our city operates, you can bet it would require a huge outlay of cash, mathematical and bureaucratic gymnastics, and enough staff time that the city would argue more staffers must be hired or more overtime would have to be paid to figure it all out.

    It won't teach anyone a lesson, either.

    And for what?

    In Windsor, Mayor Eddie Francis -- who promised refunds for that city's 101-day strike -- figures the amount handed back would be in the range of 1% of property tax bills, or an average of $50 per household."

Not too complimentary to Edgar were they. As the Sun then said:

  • "Instead of refund cheques, we'd like to see an official accounting of how much the strike cost the city for everything from temporary dumps to management OT to security and more.

    And we want an accounting of exactly how much money was saved through the removal of services.

    That overall saving should be a separate line in the 2010 budget.

    Whether it's $2 million or $52 million, Torontonians should know exactly how that's being used next year. It must be used to bring down what's promising to be a large property tax increase.

    Don't fool us with our own money.

    Be crystal clear on how it's being used."


Considering that half of the air cargo is already carried in passenger jets and Windsor has only a few Air Canada Jazz flights per day, will air emission rules further hurt this business making an air cargo terminal for Windsor a huge waste of money:

  • "Planes 'to reset climate targets'

    The UK may have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 90% by 2050 to make space for emissions from planes.

    That is the warning from the government's official climate advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

    It would mean even bigger emissions cuts than already planned for households and industry in Britain.

    But the committee also says global aviation emissions should be capped during the forthcoming Copenhagen climate talks.

    The committee was asked by government to advise on what should be done about emissions from aviation.

    In a letter to the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis and the Climate Secretary Ed Miliband, the committee says the aviation industry will have to cut emissions from planes back to their 2005 level by 2050."