Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dingell MUST Support Ambassador Bridge Project


Darn, darn, darn!

Matty Moroun did not lie after all. He does not need to when the facts are all on his side.

No big story here? Au contraire mes amis. There is a huge one that the media has not yet recognized or has chosen NOT to publicize!

Now it is U.S. Rep. John Dingell, born in 1926 before the Ambassador Bridge was completed in 1929, who is placed personally at risk as well as the Governments of Canada, the US, Ontario, Michigan and Windsor thanks to the release of the Bridge condition report.

It was a huge non-story blown up by certain people for reasons that we can guess. The Bridge Company people had already told Canada during the Bill C-3 hearings that they had no concerns with the safety and security provisions of that statute and told the Cropsey hearings that they provided Bridge information already as part of the Gateway project.

So what was the big deal other than another attempt to smear and gain traction with the Michigan Legislators?

I do not believe that the Bridge Company suckered the Representative into acting as some might think. He did everything on his own to make himself look like the complete fool! I wonder which bureaucrat, State or Federal, helped make a joke out of him by convincing him that he would be a hero for releasing the report. Of course, only a cynic would think it had something to do with promoting the DRIC Bridge and I am no cynic am I.

The Congressman made the statement
  • "He said he wanted the report released -- despite an unsuccessful court challenge by the bridge's owners -- "so that smarter people than John Dingell can look at it and arrive at an informed judgment."
Shhhh, do not tell him that State and US Federal agencies experts have seen the Bridge Reports for years already and did not voice a complaint. Morever, their biggest foe according to the Michigan Governor had this to say:
  • "Mark Butler, a spokesman for Transport Canada in Windsor, said Canadian authorities received an executive summary of the 2007 report under a recently passed federal law in Canada. Transport Canada did not see anything in the executive summary that authorities felt warranted immediate action, Butler said."

The Bridge Company was obliged to start the lawsuit to prevent distribution of the Report first because as their spokesman said:

  • "Company spokesman Phil Frame said the company opposed the release of the report because its findings are out of date, it contains proprietary information, and it poses a security risk if it falls into the hands of terrorists."

I liked this line of his too:

  • "Phil Frame, a spokesman for the bridge company, blasted Dingell for releasing a report that contained structural drawings of the bridge. He said that posed a danger to national security and that the drawings have “no value to the general public, but have every single value to any member of Al Qaeda who has an engineering degree."

If you saw the part of the Report as posted on the Free Press website, they had to sue as well since it only says: I guess confidentiality agreements mean nothing in the US and one can get around language such as this easily:

  • "A copy of the report, stamped confidential, was provided to the Michigan Department of Transportation after the state agency agreed it would not provide the report to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. But the agreement provided for the state agency to give a copy of the report to the Federal Highway Administration, which was not subject to the agreement and deemed the report subject to release under FOIA."

So release it to the Representative so that he can release it too to put pressure on to build the DRIC Bridge. Ooooops, did I say that? Too bad it was released AFTER the Michigan Budget was set.

Do you think the Governor was aware of the Report when she said that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project was her #1 priority so as to put the blame on Canada if something went wrong! That is at least one explanation I can think of for her dramatic public statement.

Some may think that the Bridge Company people are smiling right now. They should be because what they have constantly and consistently said has been proven to be true, once again:

  1. They need their new bridge NOT for capacity reasons but for traffic flow purposes

  2. Their 80 year old bridge ought to come out of operation as soon as their new bridge is built so that it can be rehabilitiated. That work can be done more quickly, more inexpensively and with less disruption to traffic if they can close their old bridge down while that work is being done.

It is NOT that the Bridge Company people are that smart as I have said before but that their enemies are that dumb. The Bridge Company people do not have to prove their case. Their enemies do it for them all the time!

Why the Congressman decided to get involved is an interesting question. However, now that he has made himself the self-appointed border sheriff and protector of the masses, what can the Representative do other than to demand that the Enhancement Bridge be built immediately. He has no other choice now

  • "The report by consulting engineers Modjeski and Masters Inc. of Harrisburg, Penn., was made available to the news media today by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who obtained it under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

    "I'm not comfortable that fair condition, with 11 million people going across it and thousands of heavy-duty trucks going across it every day, is in the condition I would like it to be," Dingell said during a conference call from Washington, D.C. However, "I can't tell you that it is not."

If he is not comfortable and the DRIC Bridge will not be finished until 2015 at the earliest and will take 60 months after all of the permits are obtained (I wonder if DRIC can ever get a Presidential Permit after what the State Department said), he must insist now that the Enhancement Bridge be built.

Moreover, here is what the head House Democrat recently said in Michigan which, along with the Governor's remark supporting the Ambassador Bridge project as the #1 priority, ought to be the end of DRIC. The remark was buried at the end of a Detroit Free Press story:

  • "As for a new bridge, the battle continues between Moroun, who wants to build a span parallel to his Ambassador Bridge, and U.S. and Canadian authorities, who want to build a publicly owned bridge about 2 miles downstream.

    Michigan’s Speaker of the House, Andy Dillon, said the report shouldn’t put a stop to the preliminary work being done on a publicly owned second span, known as the Detroit River International Crossing, or DRIC.

    “But until the money is there for DRIC, I don’t see it happening,” the Redford Township Democrat said. “We certainly don’t have the money for it.”

Congressman Dingell opened his mouth and here is what came out. He absolutely must become the biggest booster of the Enhancement Project in Congress




video


After all, he is concerned about bridge users isn't he and the commerce of Canada and the US!

PS. I am really surprised that the 80+ year old US Congressman would throw stones at the 80 year old Bridge. He ought to know better from his own personal experience.

After all, he has a few aches and pains for which he has been able to compensate. He has had worn out parts replaced and he is as good as new now isn't he. Being older has not stopped him from being one of the key Legislators around. As his website states quoting a Detroit News article:

  • "The easy way out (after losing the chairmanship race) for somebody his age would be just to bag it, and say it's time to go," Cole said. "But he saw he had a role to play and he played it superbly..."

    "John Dingell is a masterful legislator," Pelosi said. "The Democratic Caucus, and indeed the entire Congress, continue to rely on his expertise..."

    Shortly after his setback, Dingell and Waxman agreed that in his new "chairman emeritus" role he would take the lead on health care, one of Obama's priorities...

    Following serious knee [replacement] surgery, crutches and a cranberry-colored electric scooter enabled him to keep up with the brisk back-and-forth between the office, hearings and House floor. Seldom missing votes also ensured that he could always be found in his favorite seat on the House floor."

Hmmmm. I trust that the Congressman will be giving out annual detailed medical advisories to his constituents publicly so they will not be concerned that he cannot represent them properly.

The CUPE Strike That Never Ended


I know I had a lot of CUPE readers during the City strike. They might be interested again in some things I have to say. As might taxpayers in general who are going to be bombarded with propaganda over the next several months to fight the good fight all over again.

And check the UPDATE right at the end too.

If any CUPE Windsor leaders and some misguided CUPE members think that they settled their strike with the City and that everything will be lovely over the next 4 years of their contract term, are they ever mistaken.

The first stage of the war, to weaken the financial position of workers after a 101 day strike, merely ended. That was the softening up stage even though it went on much longer than expected. The major battle is about to start.

Thank goodness the Star is there again to back our Generalissimo, the fighting for the public taxpayer Mayor, Edgar (aka) Francis. Look at what has been published recently:
  • The Brister setup ploys for outsourcing right after the strike ended
  • Mayor and others looking at outsourcing eg the recyclables story re the need for expensive trucks to purchase never mind garbage collection and traffic enforcement
  • tax revenue declines because of the poor economy
  • the budget debate starting with the proposition that we want a 0% tax increase

And what has NOT been published recently but disappeared

  • stories about Junior's proposed attack on the anti-CUPE Members of Council for their failed strike efforts that were detrimental to taxpayers

Then this wonderful Editorial with the unstated target being CUPE:

  • "In fact, a report going to council Monday says the budget process will be set in "what is best described as the proverbial perfect storm." Contributing to this scenario, the report cites "declining revenues due to the highest unemployment rate in Canada and increasing service demands in many areas, including increasing caseloads, management of increasing tax arrears, management of an unprecedented infrastructure program, etc."

    In other words, council has its work cut out for it -- if it is serious about a bottom line that includes a zero increase in the tax levy.

    And given the fact that residential and business owners already pay high taxes, and most will be facing another tough year in 2010, it's hard to imagine any taxpayers want to see an increase in their tax bills next year. Preliminary budget documents already point out that projected wage, salary and benefit increases will create new spending that would result in a four per cent tax hike.

    The report goes on to say "administration advises very significant service level reductions/eliminations will be required to achieve a zero per cent tax levy increase."

    If there's any good news in the report, it's that council has roughly four months to set the budget -- and that provides a reasonable time frame to engage taxpayers in the process and also conduct a thorough spending review. That means being prepared to look at different ways of providing services and, in some cases, the impact of reducing them. City managers must also be challenged to come up with ideas to run departments more efficiently and effectively.

    Let's have the budget debate, with the goal of putting the interests of Windsor's hardpressed taxpayers first."

The assumption is taxpayers want no tax increase and the way to do it is to bust CUPE by outsourcing and slashing jobs and demanding wage cuts or no increases in wages regardless of what the recent contract states. Greedy worker wage increases are the problem. After all, use the auto companies as the precedent to hammer CUPE as before.

Is it any wonder that some at CUPE are gunshy again and afraid that if they tackle the Mayor on the bad faith claim, then CUPE may be hurt again? It brings back into the news the stories about the strike.

The view being expressed by some, as if it makes sense, is to follow the advice of Councillor Valentinis and "move on." Everything will be fine if the apple-cart is not upset.

In a word, would that ever be idiotic.

If any leader of CUPE ever advised that, then he/she ought to be thrown out on their rear end and replaced. If the City wants a war, and it does, then fight it! The negative stories will be brought back regardless. They have already started.

Sure, let the Mayor and others off the hook. Don't serve them with a Notice to be examined by Litigation Counsel. You know how terrified the Mayor and certain Councillors would be of being personally blamed. Don't get at the real truth, but let the "truth" of the Messenger be all that Windsorites know. Ahhh, nothing like Neville Chamberlain and "Peace in our time."

Wake up! The anti-CUPE war is continuing. Anyone suggesting otherwise is delusional hoping appeasement works. It does not as World War II aptly demonstrated.

CUPE must gather all of its resources and get ready for the battle that is already appearing on the horizon:

  • it needs a well-thought out PR campaign that end-runs the Star by going directly to the public and explaining its point of view

  • it needs to put the "fear" into the Mayor and Councillors, especially before an election year

  • it needs to unite the Labour Movement in town and set up a political action committee which will support credible candidates---not just pro-Labour either---with financial support and bodies for the campaign to get rid of the dullards on Council.

  • it needs to counter the anti-CUPE feelings by fighting as vigourously as possible the OLRB "bad faith" complaint, especially by calling the Mayor and certain Councillors and City negotiators as witnesses, perhaps a former official or two as well, to explain the Postma BLOG, the leak, the stairwell deal, the back to Work Protocol near-riot

  • it needs to pray that Junior really can prove what he says and if so, it needs to trumpet to the hills how the taxpayers were fooled, why, by whom and how much the strike really cost everyone

  • depending then on the legal position, it needs on behalf of its members to sue for backpay and the retention of their PRBs!

If CUPE did all that, then they would at least have a bargaining position they do not have today against a City that thought nothing of using taxpayer savings to crush them as the miniscule tax rebate proves.

Thinking again that I am overdramatizing. Hardly.

I already BLOGGED about the Conservatives in England and their anti-public service plans with Canadian assistance. If this can happen as well in oil-rich Alberta with the built-in excuses, then consider what will happen in "have-not" Ontario with its huge budget deficiency. Like it or not, with David Miller fleeing in Toronto by not running for mayor again, Windsor is the battleground one more time and CUPE Windsor has been deemed to be the victim:

  • "Premier freezes public managers' salaries, asks public sector to follow suit

    Calgary Herald, October 14, 2009

    In a prime-time TV address to Albertans, Premier Ed Stelmach defended today his government’s handling of health care and energy development while revealing the deficit-laden province will freeze government manager salaries for two years and ask the entire public sector to follow suit.

    The premier’s 16-minute speech, however, made no mention of MLA wages, which have been frozen for one year. Despite the temporary suspension, Alberta’s premier and his inner circle are making substantially more than they did before the March 2008 provincial campaign.

    Two months after the Tories’ overwhelming election victory, Stelmach and his cabinet ministers approved, behind closed doors, a wage increase of 30 to 34 per cent, while backbench MLAs are paid extra for committee work...

    The province has projected four straight years of deficits. This year’s tally is forecasted at $6.9 billion.

    Stelmach said the government will use its cash reserves to cover the shortfalls and expects to return to a surplus in three years.

    “We’ll take firm action to deal with the fiscal challenges we face. We’ll limit government spending and live within our means,” he said in his speech.

    To help accomplish this, salaries for civil service managers will be frozen for two years,” the premier added. “And we will be asking the entire public sector to share in this effort.”

    The premier’s spokesman, Tom Olsen, said freezing the wages of 6,500 managers in 2010-11 and 2011-12 will save the government a total of $22 million. He noted the province could save hundreds of millions in additional dollars if unions representing government workers, teachers, university staff, nurses and doctors agree to a two-year pay freeze as of April 1, 2010.

    “Whether they have contracts up for negotiation or whether they have contracts in place, we’re asking for, voluntarily, individuals to forego those raises,” Olsen said.

    “We want everyone to buy in . . . to be part of the solution,” he added. “There’s no heavy-handedness.”

    Despite not mentioning MLA salaries in today’s speech, Olsen suggested the premier won’t let politicians’ salaries rise.

    “We’re not going to ask managers to have a freeze and then MLAs are getting raises. That’s not going to happen,” Olsen said.

    He didn’t, however, address the 30 to 34 per cent cabinet salary hike introduced in 2006.

    Aside from announcing manager salary freezes, Stelmach steered clear of mentioning new government measures in his TV address..."

    The premier noted the recession has battered government coffers and several of the province’s key industries, including natural gas, agriculture and forestry."

UPDATE:



It looks like the CUPE members will be asked whether they want to go forward on the bad faith claim or not soon.

It is NOT merely a legal issue no matter what the CUPE lawyer says about how hard or how easy it will be to win. It is a strategic matter for CUPE members to decide on their own in which the future of the Union and of each individual worker is at stake.

CUPE members have no alternative but to move forward and fight in my not so humble opinion!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tory England Would Slash Public Service



There is some method in my BLOGs over the past few days concerning outsourcing and slashing the public service. You will read the reason tomorrow.

Some critics of mine believe that I dream up conspiracy theories just to be outrageous. Not true.

It is an easy way for them to mock rather than to try and develop an understanding of what is really taking place in our City.

What I do is look at relevant facts and try to piece them together in a way that makes some sense out of them to try to figure out what is happening especially when there is a concerted effort by those in power to hide information from us. Not only to hide but to mislead us as well.

Am I 100% correct in what I hypothesize? I wish.

In the border file for instance, I believe that my musings are getting closer to what the truth really is. No one outside of a very select circle will really know the plans of Governments, not unlesss there is litigation with people under oath when the process will ensure that most of it will be disclosed.

I really do not believe that many people will be prepared to lie under oath in front of a judge and risk jail time for perjury to accomplish some grand scheme.

This is a long introduction to try and justify my comments about a conspiracy by Governments in Windsor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada and elsewhere to try and crush their public service unions first and then other powerful unions such as what happened in the automoblie industry.

I suggested that Canada had a prominent role to play in this quoting a story in the Times of London:
  • "Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the Conservatives were looking for “serious efficiency savings”, but refused to put a figure on how much would be cut from spending.

    A Tory government would be determined to safeguard basic public services, said Hammond: “I hope civil servants are not simply going to sit around the table and come with a series of options which cuts everything at the front line and leaves the mandarins’ back office alone.”

    Hammond revealed he had recently met a delegation of politicians from Canada, who were responsible for a radical 20% cut in spending imposed by the federal government in the 1990s.

    “The psychological tactics they used to get ministers to work together, looking at it as a shared problem rather than a series of departmental problems, were important,” said Hammond.

    The two architects of Canada’s programme review, Jocelyne Bourgon, who was the country’s top civil servant, and Marcel Massé, a former minister, cut 47,000 civil service jobs."

I was right.

Unfortunately the English Conservatives probably had not heard of the Edgar (aka Eddie) Back To Work Protocol fiasco or else they might have backed off for a few more months until its memory faded away.

It was a major setback in Ontario. If I am right about the concerted effort, look what happened to poor David Miller the Mayor of Toronto as a result. He is not running again.

Here is another story out of London for you to read published by the Telegraph. After you digest it, I dare you to tell me I am wrong:
  • "George Osborne plans biggest public spending cuts for 30 years

    A new era of austerity would be ushered in by a Conservative victory in the general election after George Osborne announced the biggest cuts in public spending for 30 years.


    Published: 06 Oct 2009

    The shadow chancellor set out a detailed range of cuts, including a one-year pay freeze for five million public sector workers, which, he said, would save the taxpayer £23 billion over the next five years...

    But in a calculated political gamble, Mr Osborne said that he was simply being “honest” about the economic difficulties facing the country. He pleaded with the public to accept that everyone had to face up to the challenges ahead...

    In a frank assessment, Mr Osborne gave warning that Britain was “sinking in a sea of debt”. While public sector workers would bear the brunt of cuts, middle-class families would also be asked to share the burden, he said.

    Measures included:

    A one-year freeze on public sector pay from 2011 for all those earning more than £18,000, except members of the Armed Forces.

    A £50,000 cap on the maximum pension payments for senior civil servants

    Reducing the cost of Whitehall bureaucracy by a third, saving more than £3billion...

    Mr Osborne’s plans for a wide-ranging public sector pay freeze dwarfed the Government’s earlier recommendation to peg back the pay of certain highly paid public sector workers. Union leaders reacted by threatening industrial action over any attempt to deny pay rises.

    Mr Osborne insisted, however, that only drastic action and “difficult decisions” could rescue the economy. “This is about character as well as policy,” he said. “Now we face the biggest challenge.

    “How to build the sort of Britain we want in the face of the largest deficit in the developed world. There cannot be one rule for Westminster and Whitehall and another rule for everyone else...”

    Mr Osborne added: “A pay freeze of the scale I’m talking about is the equivalent to saving 100,000 public sector jobs. And I say to every public sector worker it is the best way to try to protect your job during this difficult period.”

You will not believe the impact of this action in Canada and what I will have to say about it. Come back tomorrow and read.

Have You Considered This


More stories for your consideration

MERE CO-INCIDENCE, I THINK NOT

Just days after the Prime Minister returned to Ottawa after meeting President Obama and Congressional leaders, we read this:
  • "New border patrol boat features high-tech surveillance

    Detroit -- The U.S. Customs and Border Protection today unveiled what could be its newest weapon in fighting the smuggling of drugs, weapons, goods and illegal immigrants across the Detroit River and other coastal borders.

    The 43-foot boat, a prototype that's in the testing stages, can hit speeds of 75 mph (65 knots) and is loaded with high-tech features such as a camera that can see a mile away at night.

    The Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator vessel is being tested in various waters around the United States and has been in Detroit for more than two weeks.

    The boat's high speed could be particularly effective in the Detroit area, said Thomas Norton, director of Customs and Border Protection's National Marine Center.

    "You've got relatively short distances between countries, so you've got to be able to react quickly," he said."

That boat and drones should deliver a message to Stephen from Barack and Janet!

BODY BAGS

This will be nasty but it is how I feel.

How lovely that our Government apologized:

  • "Health Canada apologizes for sending body bags

    Anticipating an H1N1 outbreak later on in the year, Health Canada shipped H1N1 kits to Northern Manitoba First Nations. Body bags were included as part of the shipment to some of the communities. The H1N1 kits also included facemasks and hand sanitizer.

    First Nation Chiefs in northern Manitoba are outraged. They believe that this delivery of body bags has sent a horrifying message to their communities...

    In a Sept. 17 press release, Health Canada apologized for the incident saying that it was an error and that they regret the alarm that it has caused any First Nation communities."

Now could some of these lovely Government people and their sycophants apologize to Canadians for the military body bags of soldiers killed in Afhganistan to build a DRIC bridge:

  • "He said Mr. Harper could leverage dearly bought political capital on Afghanistan to push for border infrastructure investments to ease trade: " Then he may have a more willing partner."

    The trick is to use alliances on global concerns to open doors for bilateral ones."

THANK GOODNESS FOR YOU AND ME

Pension funds like OMERS don't have to worry all that much about stock market crashes, private equity melt-downs and mortgage foeclosures.

  • "Public pension funds hard hit by downturn but still solid, says DBRS

    Low leverage, superior liquidity positions and strong sponsorship support credit ratings


    Public pension plans and asset managers have been rocked by poor returns, but their credit ratings remain strong, DBRS Ltd. said Monday.

    Pension plans rated by DBRS include the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, OMERS Administration Corp. and Public Sector Pension Investment Board --

    According to new research from the credit rating agency, while the public pension funds and asset managers it rates “have been adversely affected by the challenging economic environment that prevailed in 2008 and into 2009”, they remain solid credits. DBRS points to several factors that support their high credit ratings, including low leverage, superior liquidity positions and strong sponsorship, along with large asset bases."

    DBRS notes that the funds and mangers it rates were certainly hurt by the financial market turmoil, reporting returns of -15% to -25% in the last fiscal year. “The poor investment performance had the effect of significantly shrinking their asset base and eroding their funding position, suggesting that the risk level in certain portfolios may have been higher than originally measured."

DUH, when they have taxpayers' wallets to back any shortfall---remember the tax chaos caused to municipalities and their taxpayers when OMERS lost $600M---they have little to be concerned about.

WHO WOULD BLOCK A BORDER CROSSING

Remember this remark from Edgar when the Bridge Company wanted to manage the US half of the Tunnel:

  • "Fearing that billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun was poised to gain a stranglehold on Windsor's two border crossings, the City of Windsor has entered into a US$75-million agreement with Detroit to take full control of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel...

    "If someone acquired the other half they could fill it up with cement and our investment would be lost," Francis said. "It's in the best interests of our citizens to protect this asset and ensure control of the tunnel remains in the hands of the public."

Looking at all of the border crossings between Canada and the US, which party has blocked a crossing? Is it the Bridge Company? Hardly, why would they put money in and then destroy their investment?

Nope. Here is the answer:

  • "Dispute shuts border

    Police in eastern Ontario shut down a border crossing to the United States that traverses the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve on Cornwall Island for several hours this weekend in the latest confrontation in an ongoing border dispute.

    The closure Saturday appeared to be the result of a dispute over the Mohawks' obligations to report to Canadian customs.

    The crossing over the Seaway International Bridge was closed shortly after noon at the request of the Akwesasne Mohawk police, said Cornwall police Staff Sgt. Pierre Pilon. It reopened at about 5:40 p.m. local time after discussions between Akwesasne Mohawk leaders and Canada Border Services Agency officials."

It's not the first time the Government has closed down the crossing:

  • "Border reopened at Cornwall

    OTTAWA --

    The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced Sunday that it will open a temporary border post in the eastern Ontario city of Cornwall as of 6 a.m. Monday.

    The regular border crossing on Cornwall Island, which is part of the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, has been shut since May 31. The agency ordered it closed amid unspecified threats from members of the Mohawk community who vowed not to allow the scheduled arming of border guards on June 1 on native land.

    "At this time the existing CBSA facility on Cornwall Island remains closed," said a statement issued Sunday by the CBSA. "The CBSA will only reopen its facility when border services officers can work there safely with all of the tools they need to do their job, including their duty firearm. The CBSA is committed to continuing talks with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in order to resolve the situation."

EDGAR, GO TO.....WHERE

Forgive and forget. Here is what Craig Pearson wrote in the Star:

  • "I guess it’s because I felt glad Francis signed the proclamation [for Gary Parent Day]. He showed class.

    He showed recognition that Parent, despite whether you support unions or not, has pitched in for Windsor time and time again.

    And above all, Francis showed by example like a true leader that after one of the most divisive strikes in this city’s history, we can move on."

Uh, no Craig. Is your memory that bad or do you think ours is? A few lines above you wrote:

  • "I signed it,” the mayor later said. “I was just doing my job.”

Hardly the class act being portrayed is it!

THERE GO SOME MIND'S EYE VISIONS

Wow, was this guy ever the wrong one to bring into a conference in Windsor. He just smashed several of our future dreams. What a nerve to speak realistically:

  • "A leading Canadian futurist questions whether Windsor and Essex County will see much benefit from a proposed high-speed rail line and marketing itself as a retirement haven.

    Both ideas have potential but capitalizing on them won't be easy, said Richard Worzel, who on Friday spoke to the annual meeting of the Southwest Economic Alliance.

    The Essex area's decision to rebrand itself as the 100-Mile Coast in an attempt to attract retirees is "a good idea, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to do," said Worzel.

    "Somehow the region has to differentiate itself from the other areas all seeking to attract the same demographic.

    "They're all hitting the same themes of livability, desirability and affordability and somehow there has to be a way to separate yourself from the pack," he said.

    Worzel also questioned the economic feasibility of a high-speed rail line between Quebec and Windsor, suggesting that construction of a Windsor-Toronto corridor would be heavily dependent upon a similar corridor being built between Detroit and Chicago.

    "It's proven technology in Europe and links many cities, but it requires high-density population centres to make it feasible economically," said Worzel. "I could see it running from Montreal to Toronto but even then, I'm not sure the political will exists to build it."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Could CUPE Outsource Councillor Brister



The Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget really knows how to win friends, especially City employees. The Star reported that

  • "Brister said earlier this week he held his nose and supported the strike-ending deal."

Mere days after the CUPE strike ended, the Councillor stated:

  • "In a closed meeting about a month before municipal workers began a 101-day strike, city council unanimously rejected outsourcing garbage collection after a report concluded it would lead to minimal savings.

    But Coun. Dave Brister, who was accused Tuesday of "grandstanding" in the wake of the bitter municipal strike, says it's time to revisit the possibility of contracting out garbage pickup.

    He said it's not only garbage collection he wants administrators to study for outsourcing, but other municipal services they might determine should be looked at.

    "I've got a responsibility to people that put me into office and they raised concerns during the strike," he said. "It would be irresponsible to delay. If you wait two or three months to raise the issue, what would that serve?"

Sure, nothing like trying to wait until after wounds heal. Nope, better to rub salt in them.

Of course, outsourcing will be a big deal with the new budget deliberations. No point wasting all of those anti-CUPE feelings:

  • "Francis said the issue of possible outsourcing can’t be avoided. Provincial offences, parking enforcement and garbage collection are just some of the areas council will be evaluating to see whether the same services can be more affordably offered by outside agencies."

Life has a way of balancing things out though. Perhaps it is now CUPE's turn to decide whether the Councillor ought to be outsourced, and Councillor Valentinis as well.

Take a look at Chris Schnurr's BLOG "Family Matters: The Town and Gown Debate"
http://chrisschnurr.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/conflicts-with-town-and-gown

After running through a history of the matter, Schnurr asks:

  • "How can Councillors Brister and Valentinis declare an interest and yet vote for the membership of the committee in striking committee – let alone participate in the discussion?"

It is a question that deserves an answer immediately.

I do not know what the answer is since I do not have all of the relevant facts. The two Councillors clearly need to give an explanation why they acted as they did in the circumstances in my opinion.

If they erred inadvertantly, then they should say so and move to clarify the record at the next Council meeting. If there is no conflict, then that should be stated as well and the explanation given so there will be no doubts outstanding.

However, what if they choose not to say a thing or more significantly there is a conflict? What happens next?

The answer is nothing UNLESS a citizen under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act decides to take action. Forget about the City's Integrity Commissioner doing anything---he is still chasing down the leak during the strike.

And that is the problem. The citizen has to put his/her funds at risk since this is a court case and if he/she loses then that person has to pay not only the party's legal fees but a good chunk of the Councillor's fees as well. And that can be substantial, in the $50k range or more.

I did notice one interesting fact though. The City's insurance seems to include "coverage for Municipal Conflict of Interest" so the money to fight a lawsuit would not appear to come out of a Councillor's pocketbook.

What is a possible answer then? Would CUPE members if they felt strongly enough, get together and collect the cash to take this matter further if the Councillors choose not to respond and explain their position and if, after as full an investigation as possible, there appears to be a good legal argument that there might be a conflict?

I would expect such an action to be unprecedented. But it might also be a way to even out the war between Management and Labour, whose members are still reeling over their Strike pay losses, over the upcoming City Budget!

I did point out in a recent BLOG what the Council in Mississauga did over their Mayor's possible conflict issue:

  • "After getting a legal opinion from an outside law firm, fellow councillors voted 6-4 on Wednesday to have a judge review the matter."
The consequences can be severe to a Member of Council too:
  • "Power of judge to declare seat vacant, disqualify member

    10. (1) Subject to subsection (2), where the judge determines that a member or a former member while he or she was a member has contravened subsection 5 (1), (2) or (3), the judge,

    (a) shall, in the case of a member, declare the seat of the member vacant; and

    (b) may disqualify the member or former member from being a member during a period thereafter of not more than seven years"

Now that is a punch in the nose!

More Stories


Here is more to think about

18 MONTHS OF SDR EFFORT



Wow, what an impressive effort. Take a look at services, regroup them, change the number and call it a success with only several more years of effort required to implement the changes...Just in time for the new Council to re-organize all over again.

Probably all the extra time taken can be blamed on the CUPE strike.

Seriously, what business could run this way? Which business has this luxury of time?

REVOLVING DOOR (PART 2)

Dave Battagello of the Star did a nice story about the
  • "more than 30 senior managers have either been terminated, taken other jobs or disappeared into the sunset."

When is Part 2 coming out? We need to know who replaced all of those people, how they were hired, what are their salaries and so on. Of course we need to know their connections too don't we.

This language in the Star about how the Undevelopment Commission Chair was put into his position reminded me of how another senior person was appointed:

  • "Lindsay Boyd couldn't refuse earlier this year when Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis and Essex County Warden Nelson Santos asked him to help put the region's foundering development commission back on solid ground."

I guess no one can refuse these types of offers. But it is curious that the Board itself did not choose its Chair.

Dave wrote about something along those lines when he was writing a BLOG for the Star. Now that it has been taken offline, that BLOG disappeared too.

I am sure that he must have kept a copy. Perhaps he could update it and the Star can publish it as Part 2.

THE ROSELAND BUNKER

Imagine my shock when I saw this on the Council agenda:

  • "Roseland Bunker Rehabilitation"

Was someone expecting a war over the border file or the canal project or the non-release of the 400 audit and so was fixing up a site for the Mayor, Council and Senior Administrators to hide out if there was any civil disobedience?

Then I wondered if it had to do with shudder "SEX" after this. We ARE Sin City after all:

  • "Sex scandal funnyman David Letterman kept a secret bedroom at his talk show's studio that only a select few female staffers were allowed to visit, it has been claimed.

    The late night star last week admitted to having sex with his staff after allegedly being blackmailed for $2 million over the juicy details.

    Now staff at The Late Show say their boss has long kept a bedroom they dubbed 'the bunker' in the Ed Sullivan Theater where his show is taped.

    And they insisted that it was strictly off-limits to anyone but his 'favourite female underlings'."

Oh my goodness. I could hardly wait to open the report. And then I found out what it was really about: sand traps!

What a disappointment that was.

WHEN WILL THE STAR STOP PRINTING A NEWSPAPER

Will Windsor become like the Detroit papers?

Interesting figures:

  • "Online in particular saw major readership growth year over year of 10%, demonstrating the increasing dependence and trust Canadians are putting in online sites operated by major newspapers."

Stories too about Canwest selling its newspapers and then NOT selling its papers.

Now that I may have an Editorial cartoonist, all I need are a few more staff and then I can start an online paper to compete.

WE NEED AN UPGRADED E C ROW NOW

This is how it will start, just as in Sarnia. All for the DRIC road detour. This is the excuse that will be used to justify the upgrade of E C Row (along with the airport hub excuse as well):

  • "Traffic snarls expected in Sarnia

    If you're planning a trip to Sarnia this weekend, expect traffic snarls.

    An overpass will be removed on Highway 402, forcing up to 12-thousand vehicles to be rerouted to the Blue Water Bridge to the US.

    Beginning tomorrow, the highway will be closed in both directions to allow for the removal of the overpass at Christina Street.

    Police are asking drivers to avoid the work zone if possible because of traffic flow and safety concerns."

HAZEL IN A HURRICANE

Wow, her Council must have nerves of steel to stand up to such a powerful Mayor:

  • "Mayor Hazel facing judicial review

    Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion will face a judicial review following the news that she did not declare a conflict of interest in a land development deal...

    McCallion is facing a judicial review into conflict-of-interest allegations stemming from her involvement in a proposed $14.4 million land deal that was being brokered by her son, Peter McCallion, while the rezoning of the land was before council...

    After getting a legal opinion from an outside law firm, fellow councillors voted 6-4 on Wednesday to have a judge review the matter."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Michigan Governor Needs To Break Some More Eggs

video

Or perhaps a few heads too.

She has to be embarrassed by what she said. Did Governor Granholm's unilateral killing of a Downriver bridge for DRIC cost her dearly? Was she put into the position that she had to give in to whatever Canada demanded even if it made no sense economically or otherwise, would result in a Michigan business being destroyed and hurt her State? Does she, as a term-limited Governor, now want to build a legacy and regrets what she did? How else to explain what she revealed publicly for the first time that I can recall.

WHAT A SCANDAL!

The Michigan Governor just blew everything apart. She absolutely confirmed all that the Bridge Company has claimed for years. And more. No ifs, ands or buts.

Remember that it was Dan Stamper who said that the Canadian Federal Government is “driving the bus” on the DRIC project. Which means that MDOT was merely going along for the ride, an expensive one too that has cost Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars and will cost them another $2.5M next year.

Listen to what she said above. Read exactly what she said!
  • "Gov Jennifer Granholm speaks about the Ambassador Bridge and a new Detroit River crossing to Canada – WWJ Newsradio 950 10/8/09

    JOE DONOVAN: Governor we would have more money in the state treasury if we refocused the Michigan D-DOT priorities away from spending on whether or not we need a new Ambassador Bridge. Why not just allow Matty Moroun build it with his own money? We have plenty of laws for oversight to make sure that he does right by the citizens of Michigan. And we need to put that money into the school aid and fund or use it to patch up some potholes. Why are we doing this, a duplicate bridge project here?

    GOV. GRANHOLM: We need another crossing. If Canada, and if Canada would allow Matty Moroun to do it, I think everybody would be in favor of that as the first priority. They are opposed to his bridge. So the question is, is there a joint process that can occur between Michigan and Canada, the U.S. and Canada, that allows for that crossing. So until Canada gives permission, he can’t build a bridge that’s halfway across the river."

The Governor said it. Not me with my theories. It was not said by Matty Moroun either or by any of his employees. Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan said it loud and clear.

The DRIC process was a farce. What a remarkable co-incidence that the proposed site for the Enhancement Project Bridge was rejected (Remember how DRIC said Sandwich was going to be destroyed based on their own made-up criteria!).

Canada is blocking the Bridge Company from going forward! Period.

And the Governor allowed Canada's choice for a bridge location to go forward no matter what it did to her State and its Treasury and to the hundreds of people and businesses in Delray that would have to be shipped out for a new DRIC bridge.

Now you know why that pro-DRIC ad was a disgrace and why I was so upset about supposed impartial DRIC consultants being signatories and advocates.

Imagine the consequences after what the Governor said.

MICHIGAN ECONOMY

The Governor should hang her head in shame.

People need jobs in Michigan just as they need them here. She has allowed Canada to prevent thousands of them being created for the Bridge Company project because Canada oppose that project.

Michigan manufacturers need a smooth running border. How can they have one if the Ambassador Bridge is not allowed to become a more efficient crossing? The DRIC bridge cannot be completed now until 2015 at the earliest while the Enhancement Project bridge can be completed in 30 months.

Michigan is so robust that it can afford to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to duplicate the Ambassador Gateway project a mile down the road from the existing bridge where the State and US Federal Government have just spent a few hundred million dollars. NOT! Yet that is the effect of the DRIC project.

Michigan roads are in poor shape and many projects may have to be deferred for lack of money. Yet the Bridge Company project could bring a couple of billion dollars of federal matching grants to the State and yet no one seems to care or be interested.

THE LAWSUITS

She made it a snap for the Bridge Comopany to win their lawsuits. Perhaps they should move now for a court decision even without a trial.

Remember the so-called "racist" lawsuit the Bridge Company started, the one dealing with that horrible concept called "environmental justice." That is the one where the Windsor Star forgot to set out most of what was said in the 64 page claim. Things like inaccurate traffic studies and reduced volumes, stalling, Governor Granholm’s actions, Canada’s role in unduly influencing the results and pressuring the US proponents, the serious harm to the Bridge Company and the diversion of traffic away from the quarter-billion dollar Ambassador Gateway Project which was designed to accommodate a second bridge.

This allegation has now been confirmed:

  • "Once the Brighton Beach location was unilaterally decreed by the Canadian DRIC Proponents, engineering would only allow construction that would land in the Delray neighborhood.

    In fact, the selection of the Delray neighborhood of Southwest Detroit was the inevitable result of the arbitrary and capricious decision of the US DRIC Proponents to yield to Canada’s preferred location for a new crossing at the Brighton Beach area of Ontario"

The MoE review of DRIC makes the case for the Bridge Company so nicely:


Let me remind you of the invisible lawsuit that the media chose not to cover. I know now why not. The Bridge Company was exactly right in what they alleged.

In case you forgot, re-read June 26, 2009 "The Invisible Bridge Company Lawsuit Against MDOT" http://windsorcityon.blogspot.com/2009/06/invisible-bridge-company-lawsuit.html The gist of it is:

  • "Why hasn’t the media picked up the other lawsuit. Why hasn’t MDOT issued a press release denouncing it? They dare not. It explains in the most graphic terms why the Ambassador Bridge has spent $500 million to build their Enhancement Bridge and why they are so angry now.

    It explains MDOT's actions in no uncertain terms...

    Of course, this is from the Bridge Company’s perspective. Who knows what MDOT will say in reply. However, from seeing how they operate, the Bridge Company rarely makes a rash statement and can back up their allegations.

    Effectively the claim is very simple to understand. MDOT and the Bridge Company are partners on the Ambassador Gateway project which was designed to accommodate a second bridge. The State received money from the Feds based on the project as well based on what the State represented the project to be. The Bridge Company is ready to build their bridge. Lo and behold the State is effectively working against their partner with a third party group, DRIC, to undercut their partnership and put the Bridge Company out of business by taking away most of their business. The Bridge Company wants that stopped by the Courts...

Here is what Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Transportation, Bruce McCuaig, said that confirms this:

  • "An excellent example for Ontario is the planning underway for a proposed new Detroit River International Crossing in the Windsor-Detroit Gateway.

    The planning effort for new crossing of the Detroit River began in 1999 with our colleagues in Michigan.”

THE STATE DEMOCRATS AND MDOT

Wow, have the House Democrats especially been made to look like fools by their Party Leader. All this time many of them were supporting the DRIC project when the Governor and presumably MDOT knew that the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project was the priority and thus the way to go.

What an indictment to MDOT too. As I Blogged before:

  • "Gee, I thought that the MDOT REPRESENTATIVE, in front of Senator Cropsey, would not "SUPPORT" the Enhancement Project because it was a private project and the State had no role in it. FHWA said the same thing."

A priority matter for the Governor and her Department is nowhere to be found to push it forward for immediate completion. I guess they forgot the State's legal obligation.

THE REPUBLICANS

They were right. What more needs to be said.

Senator Cropsey in particular took the slings and arrows. Yet what he said was demonstrated by the Governor to be the truth.

DID TRANSPORT CANADA MISLEAD THE SENATE OVER BILL C-3

After what the Governor said, you decide if this really was Transport Canada's position in front of the Senate especially when US DRIC told us that the vast majority of the Bridge Company's business would be lost to a new DRIC bridge:

  • Ms. Marcoux: The intent of this bill is not to put anyone out of business, regardless of who owns the bridge.’.

    The Ambassador Bridge is very important to the economy of our country, and it is important for trade between the United States and Canada. No one has any intention to hurt the Ambassador Bridge…

    It is not the intent of the government to penalize. If we were to penalize or drive the business away from the Ambassador Bridge today, we would create problems with respect to other bridges. Why would we want to do that?

    It serves a purpose, and it is an important purpose."

I wonder what ex-Deputy Minister Louis Ranger would have to say except he left Government service.

Here is another interesting comment from the Governor on a different radio station.


video


Perhaps the Julia Child movie should have beeen named "Jennifer & Julia" instead.

She can do something if she wants to build a legacy rather than go down as a Governor who allowed her State economy to collapse. In fact she has the legal obligation to do so. She is obliged to go after the Federal Governments of Canada and the US to resolve border difficulties. She needs to call up Premier McGuinty since Ontario has similar issues and perhaps he can help out too.

It is time she started making an omelette out of those broken eggs. It is time she started acting as a MICHIGAN Governor!