Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will MDOT Lose Fed Money And Even More Border Stories

You will not believe some of the items. The stories just do not stop.

If you don't shake your head in bewilderment by the end of this BLOG, then you are a regular reader and are just as disgusted as I with all of it by now.


Poor, mini-Gord. Someone is trying very hard to destroy the man's credibility. Leave him alone. He is doing that well enough on his own with his corrupt Councillor story, the identity of whom he has steadfastly protected:
  • "Eighty per cent of the U.S. side of the bridge will be paid for by Washington, which has already approved its share of the funding. And it's irrelevant that Michigan is broke. Canadian federal officials expect the U.S. federal government will cover the state's 20 per cent, too, if necessary.

    Whether it's loans or bonds or Katrina-style emergency funding to help out a state devastated by economic disaster, "the money's going to be there," I'm told."

What if the Feds cut off MDOT from federal funding. No DRIC Bridge then.

Think it cannot happen. Read this from the Michigan Auditor general on MDOT's failure to comply with federal rules on bridge inspections. It sounds like Michigan was already threatened with a cut-off:


Here was the predicted US DRIC costs even though they were not based on actual bidder prices. I wonder if they were as phony as what we now know the DRIC Road $1.6B costs were.

Even if they were somewhat realistic, with a possible completion date as far in the future as 2040 if MDOT is correct, we can toss these figures into the garbage now. Even with a date of 2017, the costs would rise by hundreds of millions of dollars.

When will this insanity stop?


Oh my gosh, I am so worried about Tunnel users especially now when Windsor put the Tunnel into a separate company in order to limit its liability in case of a problem

Is Windsor concerned about something perhaps that we do not know about? I am very suspicious as you will see.

The Congressman does not want to be branded as a hypocrite does he? After all, he said:

  • "The public has the right to know the condition of the bridge," said Dingell"

  • "The safety of the driving public should be the top priority for the Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Depart of Transportation, regardless of whether or not a bridge or its bridge operators are public or private. Thousands of individuals and truckers use the Ambassador Bridge every day and I believe they are entitled to know the state of Ambassador Bridge before doing so"

  • “I urge the Detroit International Bridge Co. to disclose (all their) inspection reports to the people. This is a matter of public safety, pure and simple.”

I wrote to the City of Windsor who owns half the Tunnel (directly or through its subsidiary) and Transport Canada asking for a copy of the inspection reports so I could feel secure if I ever used the Tunnel. I am secure about the Bridge since I have seen the reports about it thanks to the Congressman but I do not recall ever reading a report about the Tunnel. And it is quite old too, around the age of the Congressman I believe.

From Transport Canada

  • "Under the International Bridges and Tunnels Act Regulations, which came into force on February 18th, 2009, the owner of an international tunnel must perform a detailed visual inspection once every year. Upon completion of this inspection, the owner must provide the Minister of Transport with a report highlighting the conclusions of the inspection.

    At this time, the Department has not received such a report from the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. A first report is not required until later in February 2010."

From the City of Windsor

  • "Your message (To Galvin)

    To: Galvin, Mark
    Cc: mayoro
    Subject: Detroit/Windsor Tunnel safety report
    Sent: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 09:52:40 -0500

    was read on Wed, 4 Nov 2009 09:53:11 -0500"

  • "Your message (To the Mayor/Head of the Tunnel Commission)

    To: Galvin, Mark
    Cc: mayoro
    Subject: Detroit/Windsor Tunnel safety report
    Sent: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 09:52:40 -0500

    was read on Wed, 4 Nov 2009 11:06:30 -0500"

Nothing supplied yet!

Well Congressman, what are you going to do about this since the Tunnel is half owned by the City of Detroit. I am waiting to hear you say:

  • "The public has the right to know the condition of the Tunnel," said Dingell"

  • "The safety of the driving public should be the top priority for the Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Depart of Transportation, regardless of whether or not a Tunnel or its Tunnel operators are public or private. Thousands of individuals and truckers use the Tunnel every day and I believe they are entitled to know the state of Tunnel before doing so"

  • “I urge Detroit and Windsor to disclose (all their) inspection reports to the people. This is a matter of public safety, pure and simple.”

There is no double standard here is there Congressman considering that the Tunnel has been described as a unique security risk.


I wonder how Sean O'Dell. Executive Director, Windsor Gateway Project, can explain away the horrific traffic numbers month after month after month after month...

Or to put it another way, how can he justify building a DRIC Bridge

From Toll Road news:

  • "Public Border Operators Association (PBOA) has just released data for November 2009 at their eleven toll crossings (10 toll bridges and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel) at the US-Canadian border (Michigan, New York to Ontario).

    Traffic at 2.72m was down about 2% as compared to 2.77m Nov 2008. But these numbers are still way down (c17%) on Nov 2006 3.26m and Nov 2007 3.28m. A goodly chunk of this decline represents the collapses at GM and Chrysler and the associated auto parts trading Michigan-Ontario, but the eastern crossings New York-Ontario that are more diversified also are down very substantially on the 2006, 2007 baseline.

    Year-to-date numbers for the first eleven months of 2009 were 30.41m v 35.05m Jan-Nov 2008, a drop of 13.2%."


How will Wilbur Smith in all honesty be able to say in a report to the Michigan legislature that traffic will recover over the next decade to justify the DRIC Bridge with numbers like this in the leading border crossing user, the automobile industry:

  • "Two stunning reports about the state of Canada's automotive industry came out this week. Together they describe the cause and effect of the tragedy that has befallen what was once the gem of Ontario's economy.

    First, the job losses. The auto industry as a whole has lost more than 74,000 jobs since 2000, most of them in the last 18 months, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, Inc.

    To put the number of job losses in perspective, the entire Windsor census area had 59,230 family households in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. Imagine every household in the region losing a good job -- plus 15,000 more gone elsewhere...

    Assembly jobs -- nearly all of them at Chrysler, General Motors, Ford and their partners -- are down by more than 20,000, a third of those jobs disappearing in 2009. The plunge in that category hasn't even finished yet, since GM's Windsor Transmission and some Windsor Ford facilities have yet to close...

    Only one in five passenger cars sold in Canada now comes from Detroit.

    Some might question what is to be gained by picking at these scabs. But you can't plot your future unless you understand your past."


SEMCOG just issued a report "Economic Impact of the Border."

It is disappointment that that they do continue to use discredited DRIC numbers for the traffic volumes.

Here is an interesting comment though

  • "Based on conservative growth scenario estimates, it is anticipated that cross-border
    infrastructure will surpass capacity by 2033."

That is a huge change from the DRIC scare tactics with their unreal projections:

  • "Traffic demand could exceed the cross-border roadway capacity as early as 2015 if high growth occurs. Even under “low” projections of cross-border traffic, the border-crossing capacity (bridge and tunnel, combined)will be reached between 2030 and 2035."

Too bad that no one considered falling traffic numbers.

Now read this and tell me what you would expect the answer to be:

  • "In the last 30 years, additions to the physical border crossing infrastructure have not kept pace with the growing level of trade traffic. The most recent forecast indicates 20% to 30% growth over the next 15 years.

    • Congestion and delays at border crossings have been an issue for several years and, if not addressed, can impact individual businesses and, ultimately, the overall economy. By 2030, if we do not address congestion problems, the Michigan-Ontario border would cost the economies of Michigan and Ontario a total of $6.3 billion U.S. in production, annually.

    Physical Condition of Infrastructure

    Like any aging system, some border-crossing facilities are in good condition, while others are in need of short-term repair or long-term replacement. Work at the 71-year-old Blue Water Bridge and the new span (12 years old) focuses on providing additional capacity for its plaza. Many of the bridges and tunnels which make up Michigan’s international border crossing system, including the Ambassador Bridge, were constructed more than 75 years ago and are now in need of significant longterm repair, reconstruction, or modernization."

Yes, support for building the DRIC bridge would have been expected. But oh my gosh, it was not even mentioned. Instead we got this double-talk:

  • "Maintaining and managing Michigan’s international border crossings involves dealing with a number of diverse and complex issues. Capacity, congestion, delays, the growth in international trade, homeland security, and the deteriorating physical conditions of aging infrastructure are but a few."

Building the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement project, while not mentioned either, is a more realistic solution and can happen more quickly since the Bridge Co. is willing to risk its money now.

Are the Governments starting finally to give up and to understand that "oversight" does not mean "ownership" any longer?

Here is the shocker though about the omission of DRIC as the solution

  • "This report was developed by SEMCOG in partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Department of Transportation."

The Chamber and MDOT are big US backers of DRIC!


As an NDPer, I guess he did not understand why a private bridge's tolls would be higher than those of a public bridge. It is all games playing by the public side.

The Ambassador Bridge needs to charge its users for improvements. Public bridges can charge lower tolls and then just have to beg from the Government. Here is an example from the Q&As used by MDOT to justify the almost doubling of tolls at the Blue Water Bridge.

  • "15. What other funding sources are being used to fund the bridge plaza expansion project?

    A. MDOT will use a variety of funding sources to fund the BWB plaza expansion project. Congressional earmarks contained within the last transportation reauthorization bill (SAFETEA LU) are being used to fund the design phase and partially fund right-of-way acquisition activities.

    MDOT is currently pursuing other new federal aid that could be applied to the project such as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) TIGER grants, and ARRA funding from the General Services Administration. The remaining project funds will be paid for by the sale of bonds. MDOT will repay the bonds with both toll revenue and lease revenue from the federal agencies who will operate on the plaza, and the Duty Free Store."

Oh by the way, keeping tolls artificially low there did NOT take a lot of traffic away from the Ambassador Bridge, its main competitor. The Bridge Co. knows how to move trucks through quicker it seems:

  • "He said even with the increases the rates will remain "significantly lower" than the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel in Detroit. Szuch said the Blue Water Bridge hasn't increased toll rates since 1997, even as the Canadians have increased rates in that time. The rates would match what Canadians charge.

    Szuch said by not increasing fees since 1999 -- when Canadians first increased tolls from $1.50 -- the Blue Water Bridge has forgone $16.5 million in revenue."

In other words, MDOT was subsidizing competition against the Ambassador Bridge by charging taxpayers not users. Is this preedatory pricing ie "the practice of selling a product or service at a very low price, intending to drive competitors out of the market?" Were the tolls set at a rate below cost? Is that really why tolls doubled ie the Michigan economy is so bad that MDOT cannot afford to subsidize any longer? Are there rules about that in the US?

  • "1. When was the last toll increase?

    A: 1997 was the last time the tolls were increased. They were raised from $1.25 (passenger), $1.50(commercial) to the current $1.50 (passenger), $1.75 per axle (commercial).

    4. Will there be other toll increases in the future?

    A. This toll increase is a necessary step to ensure there is enough funding to:
    • maintain the daily operations of bridge (i.e., toll collections, traffic management, snow removal),
    • conduct necessary major bridge maintenance projects (i.e., painting and redecking), and
    • implement the plaza expansion project.

    The need for future toll increases will be evaluated based on a number of factors including; the recovery of our state and national economies, future traffic volumes, and how much additional funding can be garnered for the plaza expansion project from MDOT’s partners in Washington D.C. (i.e., General Services Administration funds, new federal money which may come to Michigan in form of ARRA, TIGER Grants, or Congressional earmarks)."

Place Your Bet In The DRIC Bridge Completion Pool

The Ontario DRIC road to nowhere seems more and more likely.

Look, I try my hardest to keep up. It's not my fault if I cannot do it.

Those DRIC people make my life so difficult. One story for Canada. One story for the US. And then it keeps changing too as they make up stories why previous stories really did not mean what they said.

Take 2013 for instance. How long have we heard that the DRIC bridge was to be finished by that date. On both sides of the border.

Then the big shocker to me was the Eh-Channel story telling us that 2013 really was not the completion date but merely a "target" and that the real completion date was 2015.

Honest, I expected that 2015 was firm. I even read it in the Globe and Mail, in a Jeffrey Simpson column, so it had to be correct
  • "It almost seems too good to be true: a new bridge by 2015. Hold your breath."

Imagine my shock and dismay when Eh-Channel interviewed Transport Canada's Mark Butler the other day and he said that we were now looking at 2016 or perhaps later for completion.

Where is the certainty in this world?

Oh it gets worse. Merely a day or so later Butler is quoted as saying:

  • "Canada last week achieved a critical milestone toward building the $3 billion Detroit River International Crossing. But the final opening still faces at least four years of delay by the most hopeful calculation from 2013 to 2017...

    “I would anticipate that the bridge would be in service within seven years,” taking that to about 2017, said Mark Butler, spokesman in Windsor for the federal department Transport Canada, on Friday. He estimated four and a half to five years for construction of the bridge, customs plazas, access roads and other details, and a couple of years or more to arrange the financing and select a “concessionaire” who would build and operate the bridge under ownership by the governments of Canada and Michigan.

    Butler’s four-year delay from original planning may be too optimistic. There are seven (and counting) lawsuits filed involving Grosse Point billionaire Moroun and his company the Detroit International Bridge Co. Aside from the court battles, final approval of the project by the Michigan legislature faces opponents of the DRIC and supporters of Moroun and the DIBC...

    Sen. Cropsey’s chief of staff, John Lazet, told the Journal of Commerce that falling commercial and passenger traffic now and into the future, and Michigan’s current years of economic distress, mean billions should not be poured into an unnecessary publicly-owned bridge when Moroun wants to build a span adjacent to his present bridge. Lazet said a regional transportation authority in southeast Michigan projects DRIC construction could take until 2025 to complete."

My recollection is that the Bridge Co. could have a new bridge up in only 30 months after they get their permits, not 7 years like DRIC if Butler is correct.

2025!!! Where did that come from? We need a new bridge long before then don't we? For traffic flow purposes not capacity, just like the Peace Bridge honcho was saying for his expansion too. If it cannot be the DRIC Bridge, then it has to be the one proposed by the Ambassador Bridge which should be the #1 prioroty yet Canada wants to block it. Just ask the Michigan Governor. She said it, I did not!


In 2007, MDOT said in their Transportation Plan

  • "Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC): MDOT, in cooperation with its Canadian partners, is conducting an Environmental Impact Study for a new international border crossing in the Detroit River area... The study is expected to be complete in 2008 with a new crossing to be in place by 2013."

In June, 2008 in a SEMCOG document, it was said that the Timecode for DRIC was 2011-2015

In October, 2009, SEMCOG was now looking at the 2021-2025 time period for DRIC.

That did trigger a memory:

  • "Stuedle said construction on the bridge needs to begin somewhere between 2015 and 2030 depending on traffic flow."
That meant completion around 2035-2037 now! That seemed more likely since it was consistent with a recent Pew Center on the States report that said:
  • "Michigan's recovery is going to be a long haul," the report says. "Even if the state were to immediately begin growing at the rapid rates of the 1990s, it would be 2025 or 2030 before it replaced all the jobs it lost this decade."
And here was what was said at the Cropsey hearing that fits in as well to a much later start:
  • "Algurabi: We believe we need ten lanes. Now the need for it, it varies. Again it’s based, I’m told its more of an art than it’s a science, at least traffic projection. When you’re looking at that the need could begin as early as 2025, or could be as late as, I believe its 2015 all the way to 2035 that the need will be, will be there and you’ll have to have it. But the time to plan for it and have it in place, you can plan for it, then you gotta plan for it in advance."
Wow, is this ever becoming confusing to me!

Then SEMCOG just came out with a report and said:
  • "Based on conservative growth scenario estimates, it is anticipated that cross-border infrastructure will surpass capacity by 2033."

They just junked any completion date up to 2017 and beyond! It dropped the previous 2013/2015 language completely.

The DRIC bridge is a non-starter. Here is SEMCOG's role

  • "As the Michigan State Single Point of Contact (SPOC), SEMCOG reviews federal grant applications for a variety of local, regional, and state projects in relation to regional plans and policies."

Given their own figures, they can hardly support spending billions on a DRIC project today! Nor can the Detroit Regional Chamber who partnered with SEMCOG and MDOT in the report.

Look, we need to have a contest or a pool with a fee to play and a prize to the one who guesses the actual completion date. We legitimately can now go out as far as say, 2040. And that is outside the DRIC study period so we may need to start all over again and get new dates taking into acount today's economic reality.

There is one big problem with this Pool scheme however...who will hold the funds, will the prize-winner live that long? I am in pretty good health right now but over 30 years from now....well, it is a long time!

PS. Some advice to mini-Gord. Check your sources a bit better. Whoever gave you the info for this column, "DRIC bridge hurdle cleared," well you may want to confirm his stuff first before you use it again to save yourself from embarrassment and ridicule:
  • "Too bad we can't have the construction hiring halls open before the holidays, so some jingle can be put in the pockets of our thousands of unemployed. But that will come too, eventually.

    A groundbreaking for the bridge is still a long way off. Private partners still have to be selected to finance, build and run the bridge. A design has to be agreed on, contracts tendered.

    But approval of the EA was a big hump to get over, so the people who yearn for this vital project should feel great relief.

    The 12,000 person-years of construction work are one large step closer. Ontario's automotive economy is one large step toward seeing a historic barrier to trade eased, and the region is one large step closer to seeing the construction of a landmark that could redefine us to the world."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Grass Or Not To Grass: That Is The Question

DUH! It's the CUPE leak and Back-to-Work Protocol near riot repeated.

As you will see, we are right back where we were before the leak but matters are delayed for months, just like with CUPE. Moreover, I have learned that a number of Councillors had no idea what was in the Mayor's letter to the Bridge Company that threw everything off the tracks. We were lucky there was no near riot when residents were again not allowed to speak.

Is it just me or do you, dear reader, see a pattern developing of very bizarre behaviour that is quite scary from City Hall? Leaks and an inadvertent distribution seem to be a pandemic there. What a way to govern.

How long will it take for the parties--Ambassador Bridge, residents, City of Windsor--to agree or not on the Bridge Company proposal supported by residents to tear their homes down and grass the area.

Perhaps 30 seconds, maybe less. So why the big drama Edgar-style other than to stall again.

Edgar (aka Eddie) got very offended at Councillor Halberstadt because the finger was pointed at him and his silence button at Council. Edgar just cannot handle any hint of criticisim. Yet the button on the City's sound system worked perfectly at Council. Residents were silenced for the second week in a row. Windsorites were unable to hear about the deplorable conditions they are living under because of the City's anti-demolition by-law. Imagine hearing from resident after resident for about 1 1/2 hours.

City Solicitor George Wilkki's/City Planner Thom Hunt's memo was hilarious. The sky will fall, the sky will fall:
  • "The repeal of by-law 20-2007 Demolition Control by-law would most likely result in massive demolitions and ultimately the gutting of the Olde Sandwich Towne Heritage Conservation District. As a result there would be very little need for the Heritage Conservation District and its associated official plan amendment and zoning by-law amendment...

    If council is prepared to repeal the Demolition Control By-law, then it should also repeal the Olde Sandwich Towne Heritage Conservation District Plan and its associated official plan amendments and zoning by-law amendment...

    It is the strong recommendation of the City Solicitor that Council not hear delegations of petitioners with respect to repealing the Demolition Control By-law until the appeals currently before the Ontario Municipal Board have been resolved. "

Whew, that should prevent residents from being heard just about forever. I wonder if the new outside lawyer retained by the City over this, Chris Williams of Aird and Berlis, had any input into this memo. By the way, does he reside more than 4/500 km away from Windsor? (He did go to law school here at least) Was there no one local to hire?

So where are we? The parties have agreed to mediation, just as they did before Edgar sent out his toothless Ultimatum. I don't get what the point of the whole exercise was. Maybe it is just as simple as Edgar doing his best to keep the Senior Levels pleased that he is stalling off the Bridge Company.

  • "Last week, Mayor Eddie Francis gave the bridge company an ultimatum to meet with council before mid-January or face further, unspecified action, but following Monday's meeting he said the city's "preference is to try and find a resolution as soon as possible."

    While the bridge company has stated it wants its homes torn down and turned into a "green corridor," the city has argued it won't entertain the idea until the bridge company submits that in writing."

I am sure that once the parties agree to whatever they agree to, an agreement can be drawn up that the parties can sign. Who knows Council may still turn it down even then!

One political thought I had. Councillor Postma is in deep doo-doo. Her Motion was absurd and clearly would have failed due to the City Solicitor/Planner's sky will fall memo. That has hurt her. If there is no mediated solution, then the hearing is scheduled for 19 days in front of the OMB right before the election. It will demonstrate that the Councillor was powerless to achieve a result for the area. It would make it very difficult as the story hits the press every day for her to be re-elected. Each story is a sign of her failure.

As for Councillor Jones, his "in perpetuity" will come back to haunt him as well.

Oh there will be a lot of people running against those two Councillors unless there is a quick solution! We may well see new faces in the West End. And that might not bother some people too considering a certain "friendly" leak from Council.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Special Delivery

Get your emails to me before the holiday crush

1) Looks like Edgar's buddy is going to make him look like a hero just before elections.
When is the last day Eddie has to submit his running?

If Fahri's impressed with the students in the core he's kidding himself. All the students I know have enough money for Macaroni and cheese with some left over for beer money. Hardly tourist potential.

Yet there are so may people out there wanting to get things done yet Edgar slows or stops them all together.

I can't wait until Edgar gives the bridge some sort of legal document threatening them with expropriation or clean up. Edgar would be in court for years.

2) For whatever it's worth, I have composed this letter to send to everyone on council. Perhaps it is naive to think that one individual can influence or even change the direction of a political glacier.

Keep up your invaluable work.

I’d like to expand, for your consideration, the current debate on whether Windsor should privatize the parking enforcement office. I hope that my years of experience while on that job, both as a temporary and later as a full time staff, lends some merit to this essay.

The position is extremely difficult, nobody would claim otherwise. You must juggle the core issue of revenue generation versus public service. Receiving a parking infraction notice from City Hall is akin to being levied an unexpected tax. The citizen generally feels at best, a sense of marginalization and resignation, but then things could deteriorate. The Officer is dealing with three extreme flashpoint issues; the public, their vehicle and their wallet/pocketbook. Several times per shift, despite common misconception, you face down the citizen as the ticket is being served. Feelings of real duress and the chances of conflict go up immeasurably. There is however, a real science in dealing with members of the public, under these circumstances, that only years on the road can accomplish. My experience was that I was perceived as a legitimate representative of City Hall, with the sworn credibility of the court system backing up any enforcement action. I also employed well honed skills of public relations and exercised a fair amount of discretion when warranted. With this in mind, I still brought far more revenue than was expected and to those persons I engaged at the street level, they would conclude that their encounter with a municipal employee wasn’t necessarily a negative one. My work assessments would bear witness to this.

If we proceed to farm out these positions with full media fanfare, to perhaps a security firm, this will prove problematic at the control, communication and public perception levels. Questions must be raised.
-will the City have any control on who fills these tentative positions?
-whom do these people serve, the citizens, City Council, their own possible out of town bosses?
-will the shock value of daily public scorn and vastly lower pay lead to a high turnover rate?
-what type of training, principles and experience with the public will be brought in with them?
-is the City willing to pay for enhanced training and take responsibility for their conduct?
-will there be language, cultural barriers to overcome?
-who accepts the liability in the advent of possible violence?
-what happens due to the real possibility of a vehicle accident?
-can an RFP really spell these and other issues out with any degree of accuracy?

My own experience in the private security field left much to be desired. My tenure with several companies followed the same pattern. Little or non existent training, entry qualifications minimal at best, standards for education and even literacy below sub par and pay was barely at the poverty level. Their staff member was basically an unmotivated, untrained, uneducated warm body, thrown into an ill fitting uniform and then placed at various sites, all hours of the day or night. One must ask, is this the unprofessional calibre of possible frontline staff that City Hall wants to enforce their by laws? Will the irate taxpayers respect these novice contracted employees when they are dispatched to dark alleys and violence prone streets, busy malls, tailgate parties, alcohol soaked athletic events, hostile neighbour vs neighbour situations? Perhaps members of Council could arrange for a ride along, just to see what the typical by law Officer encounters during his or her shift. It is very much removed from the simple checking of parking meters downtown.

There is currently a well documented problem in the parking enforcement office, pertaining to absenteeism, increased sick occurrences, combined with falling revenue. My response to that is that there is a corporate mechanism to sanction those that would abuse the system, and rightly so. The City does not owe anyone a living and the ratepayers deserve better. Does this mean that we deal with one problem by creating another perhaps to endure for years to come? That office as well as how they govern themselves should be re conceptualized with a new raison d’etre. Past questionable practices, both union and management will not be tolerated. Those not comfortable with the nature of that business, due to being transferred in because of past injury, be encouraged and facilitated to transfer out to another department which would promote overall morale. More promising is the fact that new part time employees are required, as per the new JJE directives, they must possess post secondary credentials, notably in the police foundations and sciences programs. As when I first began there, these personnel are paid in scales that commensurate with service, are generally younger in age and scope, are more motivated and focused on the job, and are less likely to call in absent. Managerial problems will be ironed out through attrition and Council diligence. These points were brought up at a recent Council meeting, however Administration was hesitant to answer queries under cross scrutiny.

On the question of falling revenues, there are a myriad of non draconian strategies to increase the city coffers and staff satisfaction. Tens of thousands of uncollected dollars extra could be extracted monthly by merely updating an obsolete by law ie it is an infraction to sabotage and then park at a meter for free, by introducing scheduling changes, different enforcement hours, a full compliment of Officers per shift vis a vis shorter response time, chasing down delinquent accounts, enforcing scofflaws etc. As well, the City has within its own ranks, dozens of years of collective and quantifiable experience and professional expertise in this specialized field. Why open a Pandora’s Box throughout the corporation and the community when the answer lies in house? Do the citizens really want this? Has there been a plebiscite on this issue?

In conclusion, do we really want to throw away one of the few money generating departments to the wayside and hand it over, wholly or in part to a questionable private sector? Other municipalities have experimented with this in the name of fiscal responsibility but then have reverted back to a municipally run system when the “for profit” outfits proved disastrous. In Windsor’s case, there would be short term gain yet long term problems that may well erode the sense of the quality of service. Philosophically for that matter, should a private company even be allowed to be in the position to enforce laws that must remain the domain of the state, merely because they claim to be able to operate slightly cheaper? Where does this process halt? Windsor and the region’s current economic woes notwithstanding, the public must demand more of municipal government.

3) It amazes me that he [mini-Gord] can talk about saving tax dollars yet be happy we are spending billions of tax dollars to build an public bridge that someone else is willing to pay for.

All for Edgar

4) I am a daily reader of your blog and while I do not necessarily agree with
all of your positions I must say that I am continually amazed at the level
of research and due diligence found in your writings. I am a firm believer
in gathering multiple views on a single subject in order to form my own
opinion. Please keep up the excellent work.

5) (a) Ms Bertolin;

I’ve read your report regarding the outsourcing of POOs. I’m puzzled by many aspects of it as well as your subsequent interview with Doug Schmidt of The Star. My biggest issue with the report has to do with “unplanned absences”.

While a lengthy debate could be had solely on the basis of what constitutes an unplanned absence I’ll leave that for another day. What I would like to know is what that number is in other departments in the city, as well as an aggregate average city wide. Assuming that the POO’s average is significantly higher than any other department and the corporation as a whole; what explanations would whomever is paid by my tax dollars to run the POO office be able to provide for this anomaly? I would also like to see the unplanned absence number for the last few years to see how those years compare to this. Further what is the disciplinary policy as it relates to excessive absenteeism and who’s job is it to enforce that policy?

It is my understanding that a number of the employees in this department have been transferred here in order to allow them to come off WSIB and accommodate restrictions as a result of established work-related injuries. How many people in parking enforcement would fall under this category? Is a savings realized by the taxpayer by having these employees on the job versus at home collecting WSIB benefits? If so was that savings included in the calculations for the cost of this department?

It seems to me that this report exaggerated and highlighted absenteeism without really looking at the root cause because the financial aspect of outsourcing is nowhere near compelling enough to justify privatization. It is incomplete and therefore unacceptable as a basis for making an objective informed decision.

I’ll quickly recap the questions I have and eagerly anticipate the answers. If you are unable to provide this information to me please advise where a taxpayer may find it.

1. Average unplanned absences for each city department using the same criteria as the report

2. Total average of unplanned absences for the whole corporation

3. Same numbers for previous years

4. Disciplinary policy for excessive absenteeism, who enforces this policy

5. Number of employees in Parking Enforcement with permanent work-related injuries

6. Amount of money saved by finding suitable work for injured employees

(b) From: Bertolin, Diane
Subject: RE: Outsourcing of Provincial Offence Officers

By way of this email, I have sent it to our Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator, Mr.Chuck Scarpelli. He will explain the process and fees associated with responding to your request.

(c) Councillors;

I feel this response to my questions is unacceptable. I would implore you as my elected officials to compel the release of this information. I would have hoped you would have taken it upon yourselves to request these particulars. The information I seek it would seem to me is essential to put the numbers presented in the report as well as her statements to The Star in some type of relevant context.

It is entirely unfair to offload injured workers into one department in order to save money on WSIB then turn around and blame these workers for the implications of their workplace injuries. I’m disappointed that both of you continue to allow this type of demonization of our workers especially those who were injured performing the work of the collective conscience of our city while caring for the elderly at Huron Lodge. I find this abhorrent and reprehensible. If neither of you feels the need to allow the truth to be told then at least on my behalf insist on full disclosure of all relevant facts and I’ll stand up for the truth myself.

Further, the notion of paying a fee for this information smacks of stonewalling. This information should already be compiled as it should have been included in the report.

6) [RE Biker clubhouse demolition an exception to the rule] What do residents have to do - ride Harleys???

7) Dear Mr. Mayor and City Councillors,

I came up with an idea a few days ago, regarding funding for development of our economy AND our environment. I thought it would not hurt to at least mention it, as an informal proposal. Here is the plan in a nutshell:

Development of a fishing community in Windsor, along Detroit River, stretching from the Sandwich area to Lake St. Clair. This would entail several designated fishing areas, without taking away from the parks, only enhancing them.
-Detroit River would have to be cleaned up:
-Divers and special machinery would need to remove debris from the bottom of the river;
-Windsor Utilities Commission would need to initiate a cleaning /filtering system to maintain clean water;
-Build shops along the riverfront (on the river side), like mini restaurants, bait shops, cafes,etc.;
-Have the river stocked with game fish;
-Renovate areas that would deter tourism, ie Sandwich area and areas around downtown.

Benefits include:

Tourism (There are NO fishing communities anywhere near Windsor)
Short, mild winters mean a longer season than any other in Ontario
Many jobs would become available
Good for the environment
Funding could be pursued from two sources
Beautifies the city for other tourists
Three consultations are free! For initial consultation, I would recommend our local Scuba Shop (Benthic) regarding the diver's role in this project; Ministry of Natural Resources for advice on the feasibility of creating the suitable environment for a fishing community; and Windsor Utilities Commission regarding cleanup of the water.

I am an angler, diver and a City employee. I would love to see our economy built up and our environment improved. There are many who would agree!

Whether my idea is utilized or not, I thank you for at least giving it some thought.

8) Interesting piece in the London media. Guess this is why all of a sudden the canal poject is getting press again - cause London is getting the hub

9) All smoke and mirrors....saying Jones leaked information to Fox is like saying my pool filter is leaking into my pool. The leak was to the media, not cell calls between the two parties.....confuse the topic, I wonder who is in charge of all this

10) “This piece of legislation has wreaked havoc on this city. I don’t think the public realizes the ramifications."

Just so we are clear Fulvio you are saying that paying woman what they deserve has wreaked havoc in this city?

Fulvio I am just curious, do you not support equal pay for equal work? Do you think that females should be paid less if they are doing a job that the male equivalent gets paid more for?

Really I think your comment should have been "The people of this city don’t realize how much money we have saved over the years by paying woman less then men who perform similar jobs. And unfortunately instead of us deciding to pay the woman we employ equally we needed the pay equity legislation come in and tell us"

Ah I see why you wouldn’t say that. Because the blame would lay on you, this way you have a scape goat, Pay Equity Legislation. City Council can do no wrong, it is always someone else's fault. Again reminds me of my 4 year old nephew.

11) Ed, you said......

According to Markovic's version of events, which was backed by Postma, he and a councillor and a city manager were in a boardroom when the manager received, via his PDA, details about negotiations and a notice that a special session of council had been called for 2 p.m. later that day.

I believe this was the evening of June 30th.

I should be pretty simple to determine who sent the PDA message to "the manager" that evening by simply issuing a subpoena to acquire the text message records of city hall staff around the determined time that evening that Postma said the message was received. (just like Kwame got caught in the text messages between he and his girlfiend) These messages are stored in the carrier's (Telus, Bell Mobility or Rogers) database and are easily obtainable as are cell phone records.

Sounds pretty simple to confirm the leak by doing the foregoing. .... "the Manager" will be identified and so will the originator of the message.

Question is..... will Basse do it or has he been pressured from above?

It is impossible to "skirt" digital technology these days.

12) I have just read your blog on the leak. It is easy to figure out I just think it is [Name of person(s)..] That is my opinion.

Separating DRIC Fact From Fiction

Believe it or not, I wrote this BLOG in February, 2008 and have not had a chance to BLOG it. Until now.

It is still a good read.

However, I'll let you figure out all that has changed over the past 2 years as you read through it, all for the worse too. It includes the delays in building the DRIC bridge from 2013 to 2016 or later, huge drop in traffic and the economic melt-down drying up funds for P3s.

Recall what I said about Wilbur Smith given their role in Canada and their reports not being issued and in Michigan as well in the advocacy ad for DRIC.


If I was the Ontario Research Policy Chair in Cross-Border Transportation Policy at the University of Windsor, Dr. William Anderson, the first thing I would do is get up to speed obviously on the border file. But I'd also want to make a big splash for my entrance as the Head of the Cross-Border Transportation Studies Institute. How to do it... I would invite over to Windsor the Danish professor, Bent Flyvbjerg, to deliver a speech on Mega-Projects because, after all, we have an international Mega-Project in the Windsor/Detroit area.

And a huge one it is. US DRIC just talked about the costs on the US side alone being around $1.5 billion. On our side presumably the cost would be comparable plus the cost of the DRIC road from Highway 401 to the border.

Do we really know what the actual costs are? Don't be so silly. We've been given estimates both by DRIC and by Sam Schwartz with respect to Greenlink. I would suspect those numbers are questionable to be generous about it. After all if the numbers were real why wouldn't the City and the DRIC have exchanged those numbers already rather than holding them close to the vest and playing poker?

I am not sure how Sam did his numbers but DRIC's basis is not based on actual engineering costs:
  • "Quantities for major construction items were estimated from the conceptual plan, profile,and typical cross-section drawings. Unit costs were obtained from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s unit cost database and other sources, as appropriate."

Now the good professor from Denmark has written some very interesting articles and a book on the subject of Mega-Projects. One of the things that he talks about is that these projects always seem to underestimate the costs and overestimate the benefits.

Of course that would never happen with our proposed international crossing. We will not have anything like the Big Dig in Boston where costs quadrupled from where they started to about $15 billion. Who would dare question that the new DRIC Bridge might capture up to 80% of all of the truck traffic and 60% of the total traffic if one looks at the DRIC bridge and the Ambassador Bridge traffic as a whole. You see with such accurate cost numbers and defined benefits who would not want to invest in a DRIC bridge.

Oh just one thing. I guess they forgot to mention in those numbers that the DRIC Bridge toll costs would be about three times higher than that of the Ambassador Bridge and that the owner of the Bridge is known to be quite competitive and able to take away market share from his competition. A good example is the declining market share of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. Even DRTP did not think that it could take away that much volume from the Bridge but our DRIC consultants are obviously so much smarter.

If by chance there were a few mistakes how would the Danish professor explain the errors. I'm sure that you remember those charts that the Bridge Company presented to the Senate where they showed how inaccurate the traffic estimates were for both the Blue Water bridge and for the Windsor crossings. They bore no relationship to reality whatsoever.

Sure, he could claim as some experts do that mistakes are due to errors in calculation because this is a very difficult matter to determine. I mean really, who can predict the future. Who could have predicted 9/11 or the decline of the US automobile companies or the manufacturing meltdown in Ontario due to the high Canadian dollar. Those are built-in excuses that anyone can make any time. That would be easy. However he goes much further and states the following in one of his articles:

  • "Based on a sample of 258 transportation infrastructure projects worth US$90 billion and representing different project types, geographical regions, and historical periods, it is found with overwhelming statistical significance that the cost estimates used to decide whether such projects should be built are highly and systematically misleading. Underestimation cannot be explained by error and is best explained by strategic misrepresentation, that is, lying. The policy implications are clear: legislators, administrators, investors, media representatives, and members of the public who value honest numbers should not trust cost estimates and cost-benefit analyses produced by project promoters and their analysts."

GULP... that is a very strong statement to make. Does he actually mean that people deliberately tell lies involving projects costing billions of dollars? Would people actually make up numbers to justify spending all of those taxpayer dollars just so that they could make huge fees and profits on the project? Do some people calculate that even if everything they are doing is a lie, there are no consequences to them because no one is going to do anything about it anyway.

That is unbelievable. That is certainly something for the University of Windsor school to take a look at wouldn't you think with respect to the DRIC Mega-Project. After all, the Danish professor states that for "fixed links (tunnels and bridges) [cost overruns are] 34%" and for roads are about 20%. How many more billions would that cost taxpayers if the numbers are wrong.

I give you this background because of an interesting situation that I saw that took place at a P3 conference in Toronto and at a Parliamentary hearing. There seems to be a disconnect between the politicians and bureaucrats with the respect to the traffic numbers.

Why is that important... if this project is designed to deal with capacity issues, then there is a legitimate question to ask whether the project should be built at all given that traffic numbers seem to be rising much less than projected or are even falling. After all CBSA absolutely refuses to use at this time the six new booths that the Bridge Company has opened on the Canadian side because there is no need for them. In other words, CBSA does not think that there is a capacity issue or obviously one of security or redundancy also.

But let's just deal with capacity. We know that MDOT in Michigan has said that there is no need for a new bridge for capacity reasons for some time:

  • "Stuedle said construction on the bridge needs to begin somewhere between 2015 and 2030 depending on traffic flow."

The Ambassador Gateway consultant (who is also the DRIC consultant) years ago said that this project can handle several million trucks more than go through the bridge today, about 2 million more. We know that the capacity of the Bridge is in the 50 to 60% range today.

Moreover, we're getting a mixed message from Transport Canada. Here's what the Deputy Minister Louis Ranger said in the Senate on December 13, 2007:

  • "All the conditions converge to a P3. It's a structure where you can control access. The volume is there.

    Three weeks ago there was a conference in Toronto, and we held a session for two hours with the best minds in Canada in terms of experts in P3. Everybody agrees, all the conditions are met."

Yet, here is what the Minister said said at the P3 conference that Louis Ranger referred to just weeks before:

  • "The existing border crossings between Windsor and Detroit have performed admirably in moving commuters, travellers and goods from one country to the other for many years...

    We have to increase capacity over the next few decades in order to maximize trade and strengthen our already strong partnership with US neighbours."

Given all these conflicts on traffic, thank goodness that the Government of Canada has just hired the firm of Wilbur Smith to do some more traffic projections. I don't really think that they have been hired to solve the conflict but rather to provide "investment grade" traffic and revenue study for private equity investors to take a look at.

The Danish professor warned us about that too:

  • "As regards self-interest, when a project goes forward, it creates work for engineers and construction firms, and many stakeholders make money. If these stakeholders are involved in or indirectly influence the forecasting process, then this may influence outcomes in ways that make it more likely that the project will be built. Having costs underestimated and benefits overestimated would be economically rational for such stakeholders because it would increase the likelihood of revenues and profits."

The results of that study could be very interesting. The obvious expectation is that the investment grade support will provide the basis for P3 investors take a serious look at a DRIC bridge. But what happens if the numbers are not any good and in fact confirm that the likelihood of traffic growing in the foreseeable future to justify a new bridge is remote.

Is that the excuse that the Governments need to call off this insanity or are they hellbent to spend taxpayer money regardless. Will a poor report allow the Governments to save face and to justify the millions of dollars spent so far to build a crossing that private enterprises is prepared to pay for on its own and to assume the risks and making it pay? They can say that the study was done for insurance purposes in case the Bridge Company did not move forward and then they could table the DRIC Report until such time as capacity increases to justify a new crossing. All that they would need to do is to protect the DRIC corridor for future use.

Imagine the pressure now on Wilbur Smith. If the Danish professor is correct, can you imagine the pressure that could be put on them to make sure that their numbers support the building of the project. Conversely, pressure could be put on to kill the project A lot of money is at stake after all. Their report is pretty crucial isn't it:
  • If they are wrong and costs do not match benefits, and taxpayers could be out billions of dollars over the lifetime of the bridge with respect to payments and subsidies
  • if they are wrong, will investors be able to sue the various Governments
  • if the numbers are wrong, and a new crossing is built, what happens to the other crossings from which traffic supposedly would be drawn... bankruptcy because there is not enough traffic
  • clearly the numbers have to be there if the bond rating agencies are to give a good investment grade rating to the project. If the rating is not favourable, and costs go up again

You know what though, if the numbers are wrong, it probably doesn't matter. If the Governments built the project and it had to be refinanced by the investor, the experts would probably be retained again to come up with new numbers for the refinancing at a huge fee. Heck, the people that finance these kind of projects probably know that the traffic estimates are probably wrong anyway and factor that into their decision to invest or not.

As the Danish Professor said, in Mega-Projects, that's how the game is played. After all, we're not really dealing in the real world of business... what's the incentive since in the public sector, no one's money is at risk as it is with private enterprise. We are just dealing with taxpayer money where there is no accountability for mistakes.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mr. Farhi's Lament

If Matty Moroun wants to get anywhere with this Mayor and Council, he needs to learn how to write a letter properly. And perhaps take some other lessons from a London developer about "heritage" buildings."

Take this note from poor old Mr. Farhi about the steel debris on the Lear site. I wondered who complained. I felt so badly about his economic health that I almost sent a note to the Mayor and Council begging them to add another year or two on to his tax-free status on the downtown lands by extending the closing date.

Perhaps if Matty asks Edgar to check out the border crossing stats and see how much the volume has tumbled, then Edgar might take pity on him and let him tear down the homes in the West End and grass the area. He would not have to build a Garden of Eden there and not have to come back time and time again to change plans the way Council made Burger King jump through the hoops.

The timing was perfect for Farhi's note at Council last night too considering Gord's Saturday column. I have no idea why he even wrote the note since we were told that the City could do nothing to him for a one year period ending in October:
  • "Windsor's battered downtown is getting a much-needed vote of confidence from larger-than-life London developer Shmuel Farhi, who has been opening his wallet to scoop up properties here and hopes to make an announcement in February of his plans for the core area.

    "I don't want to say too much much right now. But it's going to be good news," said the former Israeli soldier whose Farhi Holdings Corp. owns and manages four million square feet of office, retail, industrial and residential space across Ontario, including a significant chunk of downtown London.

    "Over the next two months we'll be expanding our interest in Windsor and hopefully early in the new year we can come with an announcement in regard to my future business there," said Farhi."

Who would dare say NO to the man now!

One thing though. In retirement, it seems that Gord has changed from writing "hard-hitting views on City Hall, the school boards, labour, crime, justice and more" to rewriting Farhi "press releases." Just compare his column with the Farhi note. So sad.

Here are some points to consider in that note that are troubling to me:

  • those shrewd investors who bought land around the arena may be in big trouble now since the Lear building had no prospect of being filled in the foreseeable future
  • they might be mad at Edgar's real estate advice when he said "You want activity. You want action,” said Francis. “The entire Lauzon Road corridor is going to come to life again. This just adds to and complements the activity at the WFCU Centre. Shrewd investors are already picking up properties.”
  • does this mean our "new downtown" has little hope of ever being built it the near future too. And our old downtown too
  • did Mr. Farhi check with his tax people to discover whether his property taxes came down after the Lear building was demolished and whether he could get a tax break for his pennies on the dollar multi-million dollar deal loss
  • OMG, the cost of land for parking has just sky-rocketed if the East End arena lands were bought at a discount
  • why would Edgar be so inhospitable take advantage of an out-of-towner like this when he wants to be a "good neighbour" and do new projects for Windsor.

This is a big tragedy. Why I can remember Mr. Farhi being quoted as saying:

  • "Farhi, who owns much of downtown London through Farhi Holdings Corp., which has real estate assets of more than $500 million across Ontario, confirmed in a phone interview that he’s finalizing plans to tear down the sprawling 43-year-old factory, with demolition beginning as early as October, and is working on longterm development plans for the 60-acre site that could, over the long haul, exceed 500,000 square feet and would benefit from close proximity to the city’s WFCU Arena complex...

    Farhi said the Lear plant’s demise is part of a transition in the east end. “This area changes from industrial to future commercial and residential.”

He also said:

  • “Farhi said he foresees the Lear plant moving to an industrial area in a few years, which would pave the way for him and other landowners in the area to create a commercial and recreational hub surrounding the new arena. “This place, the way I see it, it is going to be transformed into a new development.”

And it is too bad that the WEDC fellow from Moncton could not have been hired years ago since he knows call centres. It looks like Farhi lost this:

  • "He is also working on attracting a call centre to the 90,000 square feet of office space he owns in the Lear plant. "

He took a real bath on that WFCU transaction I guess:

  • "Farhi acquired the 100-acre Lear property in 2005 for $8 million. In the fall of 2006 he traded 40 acres of land behind the Lear plant to the city for the arena, in exchange for a prime 1.1-acre site west of the Art Gallery of Windsor plus $1.5 million in cash."

Except I have always been confused since the Star also claimed:

  • "Land registry documents obtained by The Star also show council agreed to pay Shmuel Fahri $4 million for 40 acres where the new arena is to be located -- less than one-third of the overall Lear plant lands Fahri paid $8 million to acquire just over a year earlier in July 4, 2005.

    He has retained ownership of the plant and surrounding property.

    Coun. Joanne Gignac, a member of the arena steering committee, said she had no idea what Fahri originally paid for the land.

    "The ($4 million) was a price council thought was reasonable," she said.

    "We then included the property on Riverside Drive. Rather than pay (more) cash, we had the land deal with Mr. Fahri. He was interested in that."

However, the BLOGMeister wishes to assist our new neighbour whenever possible. With all of that scrap steel, could I perhaps suggest that Mr. Farhi contact the people at the Zalev plant. Perhaps they could take it since they are close by:

  • "Zalev Brothers collects, processes and supplies recycled ferrous and nonferrous metals to the North American steel and automotive industries."

I think that Mr. Farhi's GPS device must not be working and he must think he is in a different City since Gord said this in his column on Saturday:

  • "Farhi, who deals with municipalities from James Bay to the St. Lawrence, said Windsor benefits from having the best mayor in Ontario, a pro-business council and fast and responsive administrators."

Oh yes, a Mayor who is accused of being "provocative" and acted in bad faith when he issued an ultimatum Thursday to the Ambassador Bridge company." With a Council who has been stalling our economic development for years. With an Administration that mini-Gord reported in the same Star edition:

  • "They said it was going to be a boring debate on development policy -- just a required five-year review of the city's Official Plan. Nothing to see here.

    Instead a special meeting of Windsor's Planning Advisory Committee turned into a shouting match this week, with the city's development community accusing planners of trying to kill what's left of their industry."

What a huge co-incidence though. Just as Mr. Farhi is buying up downtown properties, mini-Gord tell us this:

  • "In the meantime, with so much empty space in the city's commercial/industrial zones, city planners have floated this concept in a Land Needs Analysis Report submitted to PAC:

    "New commercial development needs to be encouraged/facilitated in the downtown, main street and commercial corridors.

    "We would recommend that no approval for additional commercial space in the City be made that would result in new commercial development within the next five years."

Wow, was he ever lucky! And we don't need an Interim Control By-law either.

Poor Edgar, Mr. Farhi is a tough guy. What will Edgar do when Farhi may say to him one day as he said in London:

  • "When Farhi speaks, city hall listens, as was the case 10 weeks ago, when he told politicians to step up with plans for parking or he'd raze or let rot some heritage properties.

    "Literally, I can knock down 20 buildings tomorrow," he said then."

Matty, take note!

New Border Stories

Here are some stories that you may have missed


I guess MDOT would prefer to lose money and not complete projects rather than have the Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project bridge built. It's much more fun to throw tons of dirt on their access road to inconvenience the public!

$2B in federal matching grants are available. Oh well, I guess the State does not need the money nor the contractors need the work or the people need the jobs:
  • "Hundreds of Mich. road projects slashed

    Work to fall 60% in five-year plan; bridge jobs set to drop 65%

    Lansing -- Construction projects on Interstates 96, 94, 75 and other Metro Detroit commuter routes are among hundreds to be cut or delayed by the state as the sour economy empties the fund for repairs.

    A five-year road and bridge program announced by the Michigan Department of Transportation last week would delay more than 100 road projects and 575 bridge projects statewide. That translates into a 60 percent decrease in road work and more than a 65 percent decrease in bridge projects. Also, more than 375 miles of road improvements would be postponed.

    In response, the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association will launch today a statewide push to call the public's attention to the cuts and push for increased investment...

    With the loss of stimulus cash, the total will drop to about $1.14 billion in 2011. It's anticipated the state will be $84 million short in matching money, which may lead to a loss of $475 million in federal funds."

Hey Governor, are you listening yet? Oh yes Guv, how are you going to pay for the DRIC project too? Perhaps you ought to phone Matty and President Obama to talk about your #1 priority project but for Canada.


Ontario Trucking Association president David Bradley is nothing more than a whiny baby:

  • "OTA challenges planned toll increase at public hearing

    LANSING, Mich. -- The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) was at a public hearing this week to voice its condemnation of a proposed toll increase for the Blue Water Bridge. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is threatening to increase tolls for northbound commercial vehicles crossing the bridge from US$1.75 per axle to US$3.25/axle

    The planned increase would come into effect Jan. 5. The OTA estimates the toll hikes would add about $8 million in additional costs for trucks crossing into Canada using the bridge.

    “Timing and approach are all wrong,” said OTA president David Bradley in the weeks leading to the public hearing. “OTA considers it entirely unreasonable and inappropriate that an 85% price hike would be imposed in one fell swoop, with such short notice. Given the current economic times, and the stress that has already been imposed on Michigan-Ontario trade increases of this magnitude are untimely to say the least.”

All these years truckers have been in effect subsidized by MDOT who failed spectacularly to take away traffic from the Ambassador Bridge and he wants it to continue.

MDOT claims

  • "MDOT is defending the increase on the basis that it has the lowest tolls of any of the major bridges, has not increased its tolls for 13 years and wants to bring the tolls in line with those charged on the Canadian side of the bridge, which has higher tolls to begin with. MDOT also needs to pay for improvements to the US plaza and a future re-decking."

Perhaps that might explain to Brian Masse, and to Mr. Bradley, why Ambassador Bridge tolls are higher. They don't have the Government to subsidize them or to pay for improvements!

Moreover, since Canada has the Blue Water Bridge on its list of possible items to dispose of, and probably Michigan too, they need to raise tolls if they want to get a good price for it.

Isn't Bradley the guy who wants DRIC built too. No subsidization there I will bet after Sarnia. Can you imagine his whiny screaming when that public bridge is built at a cost of billions and then is P3ed to a private operator for 99 years. What are the tolls going to be? About three to four times higher than today was one guestimate?

I think David better go and visit the Bridge Co. He may want to reconsider OTA's position!


Interesting article from the Journal of Commerce that is even more pessimistic about when the DRIC bridge will be completed:

  • "Four-Year Delay Seen for New Detroit Bridge

    Canada last week achieved a critical milestone toward building the $3 billion Detroit River International Crossing. But the final opening still faces at least four years of delay by the most hopeful calculation from 2013 to 2017...

    Even four extra years can become more if there are further delays from a huge tangle of lawsuits in U.S. courts or from renewed opposition in the Michigan legislature, where the private owner of the venerable Ambassador Bridge, Manual Moroun, has several supporters. Moroun wants to build his own new span and stop the public DRIC.

    “I would anticipate that the bridge would be in service within seven years,” taking that to about 2017, said Mark Butler, spokesman in Windsor for the federal department Transport Canada, on Friday. He estimated four and a half to five years for construction of the bridge, customs plazas, access roads and other details, and a couple of years or more to arrange the financing and select a “concessionaire” who would build and operate the bridge under ownership by the governments of Canada and Michigan.

    Butler’s four-year delay from original planning may be too optimistic. There are seven (and counting) lawsuits filed involving Grosse Point billionaire Moroun and his company the Detroit International Bridge Co. Aside from the court battles, final approval of the project by the Michigan legislature faces opponents of the DRIC and supporters of Moroun and the DIBC.

    Republican State Senator Alan Cropsey and his majority leader, Michael Bishop, obtained a provision in the 2008-2009 Transportation budget requiring by next May 1 an “investment-grade traffic study” looking ahead 10 years. Michigan’s Transportation Department is to present proposals for private-public building of the project by the same date. The debate may go on for a long time.

    Sen. Cropsey’s chief of staff, John Lazet, told the Journal of Commerce that falling commercial and passenger traffic now and into the future, and Michigan’s current years of economic distress, mean billions should not be poured into an unnecessary publicly-owned bridge when Moroun wants to build a span adjacent to his present bridge. Lazet said a regional transportation authority in southeast Michigan projects DRIC construction could take until 2025 to complete."


Stephen Harper must have dimwits for advisors. Just because he gives speeches outside of Canada does not mean that the Canada Desk in Washington does not read them.

Nothing like the PM trying to take away jobs from workers in American ports when speaking publicly in Korea. The US President will be so pleased:

  • "And let’s not forget Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway ports are closer by days in connecting the main markets of North America and Asia than those further south.

    Ship to Vancouver. Ship to Prince Rupert. Canada is open for business."

As was reported:

  • "Canada must look to the East for economic opportunities because its traditional trading partners, the U.S. and Europe, will be mired in slow growth for some time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday as he wrapped up his visit to South Korea.

    Harper said Asia is becoming the world's economic engine and Canada has the natural resources the region needs to fuel its economies.

    "We have every reason to believe that the markets in the United States and Europe ... will probably experience continued slower growth for some time to come," Harper said.

    "So the great opportunity is obviously in the Asia-Pacific region."

More reduced traffic across the border. Thanks Stephen!


I hear the launch of Spike Bell's new 216 page pictoral book, "Memoirs of a Border City," at the St Clair Centre for the Arts was a huge success. Lots of big-name and well-known people in attendance--nearly 250 people showed up

Except 11 people did not come. I was told all the City Councillors plus Edgar never showed up. I don't remember reading about it in the Star either.

Whom did Spike offend?


I saw this story in Tollroad news:

  • "Penn Pike knew they needed solid reputable consulting studies, they ignored us" - FHWA chief counsel 2008

    Marcus J Lemon chief counsel at FHWA through 2008 says he and other federal officials repeatedly told their counterparts at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission they needed more substantial and impartial consulting studies to justify a federal permit to toll I-80. He tells TOLLROADSnews that at a meeting in July 2008 in the Harrisburg offices of the Turnpike where he represented federal highway administrator James Ray and in other conversations he stressed the importance for meeting the terms of the federal law of the Turnpike coming up with:

    - a detailed analysis of the deficiencies of I-80 and a plan to improve it

    - a solid traffic and revenue study to show the basis for revenue projections

    - a fair market valuation produced by a solid reputable firm

    Lemon tells us he "even gave them examples of reputable firms, such as Citi and others, whom they should look to for that service," adding: "They knew straight from the horse's mouth what they needed to do..."

    But Lemon is adamant that the Turnpike's third application should be rejected. The Turnpike Commission has still not responded to requests for a proposal that is soundly supported and clearly comports with federal law, on Lemon's reading.

    He suspects the Turnpike Commission avoided reputable traffic and revenue consultants and valuers precisely because they knew they would not get the answers they wanted on tolling I-80.

    "FHWA will create a horrible precedent if they accept this application based on such a flimsy analysis. It will open the door to other pathetically supported applications that will lead to failed tolling projects and will hurt the advance of tolling and congestion relief in general."

    Lemon says that in the current economic environment with freight volumes and other traffic depressed tolling projects must be especially well thought out and well supported.

    There's a danger he says that tolling I-80 will be what he calls "Pocahontas Part II."

    That's a reference to a not-for-profit toll concession in Richmond Virginia that turned out to be heavily over-borrowed and had traffic and revenues than ran half of projections. It still struggles although bailed out by Transurban a private concessionaire."

Someone needs to explain to me how Wilbur Smith can do an unbiased study for the State legislature on DRIC when they have already undertaken at least 2 traffic surveys for Canada, none of which have been released for obvious reasons.

Moreover they signed an advocacy ad supporting DRIC. How can they now NOT support it!

It is just too laughable the extent that MDOT will go to try to beat the Bridge Company.


  • "1) Close to 20 Ward 2 residents are expected to speak out about the derelict homes in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge. Homes owned by the Ambassador Bridge on Indian Road, Edison Street and Bloomfield Road are boarded up and the city, wary of the bridge's intentions, has repeatedly denied the company permission to tear them down."

Hamilton Is Leaking Too Now

No one can make this stuff up. It is impossible!

Oh well, here is Mr. Basse's first task in Hamilton. Another leaking pandemic there.

Nice to see he can get a fee right away:

  • "Clark calls for new investigation on leaks about integrity commissioner

    Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark says the leaked information about the possible new integrity commissioner to the media continues a culture of “bad behavior” within city government and should be investigated by the new integrity commissioner.

    “It puts Hamilton in a bad light financially, legally and morally,” says the chair of the audit and administration committee. “I think there should be an investigation.”

    The accountability and transparency committee last week approved after an incamera meeting a recommendation to refer Windsor’s integrity commissioner Earl Basse as the top candidate for Hamilton’s position. At the committee was David Broom, Joanna Chapman, Ted Charuk, Denise O’Connor and councillors Terry Whitehead and Scott Duvall. Eisenberger refused to comment on the selection at the time, saying that Hamiltonians “will be pleased with the candidate’ that is being recommended.

    The selection committee, composed of Eisenberger, Chapman, Charuk and Broom, sifted through about 70 applications since this summer to make their final selection.

    But this week Basse’s name was publicly revealed as the top candidate.

    Basse, a former RCMP officer, and former mayor for the District of Sechelt, British Columbian, as well as, the manager of investigations for the Vancouver Stock Exchange, did not return a phone call seeking comment at press time.

    “It’s ironic that the information about the integrity commissioner was leaked,” said Clark, who had been a member of the accountability and transparency committee.

    “This culture in Hamilton (about leaking sensitive information) has got to change,” said Clark. “I hope the new integrity commissioner will educate councillors and staff about their responsibilities to the corporation.”

It's just too funny!

Monday, December 07, 2009

BLOGExclusive----Integrity Commissioner Leaving

Windsor's Revolving Door continues to spin.

Bye Bye Mr. Basse. Nice knowing you for the time you were here. I hope you do better in Hamilton than you did in Windsor. No worries though, there are leaks there too. You will be used to it.

Councillor Jones can breathe easy. That report on his friendship is probably dead now as is the one on Mayor Francis that was never reported out, press conference or not.

Hey, do you think the BLOGMeister should apply for the job here. I would be a good Integrity Commissioner. No Member of Councillor could possibly be my "friend" so I would be completely objective.

Let me know where and when I can apply please.

  • Ex-Mountie tops list for integrity czar job

    The Hamilton Spectator
    (Dec 2, 2009)

    The leading candidate to be the city's new integrity commissioner is a former RCMP officer currently acting as Windsor's city council watchdog, The Spectator has learned.

    City hall sources say Earl Basse has emerged as the front-runner for the integrity czar position. He was one of 68 applicants who vied for the job.

    As Windsor's integrity commissioner, Basse's highest-profile case was the investigation of a leak about secret negotiations during Windsor's lengthy municipal strike this summer.

    In addition to his former post at the RCMP, Basse has acted as the mayor of the District of Sechelt, B.C.

    He was also the manager of investigations for the Vancouver Stock Exchange.

    His name is slated to be presented for approval to a council committee of the whole next week.

    The interview committee, made up of Mayor Fred Eisenberger and community members Joanna Chapman, David Broom and Ted Charuk, recommended Basse to the accountability and transparency subcommittee in a closed-door session last week.

    Chapman, who privately prosecuted former mayor Larry Di Ianni for campaign donation violations, expressed concern that Basse's name was made public before council had a chance to approve the candidate.

    "Where did you get the name?" she said. "There are some things that are public and some things that are private, and this is something that was discussed in camera."

    Basse confirmed that he had an interview with the city, but declined to comment until he has officially been offered the position

Is The Bridge Company Terrified Now

Do you think this is the Bridge Company's secret plan: Let Edgar huff and puff and perhaps he will blow their houses down just like the big bad wolf?

The "inadvertant" CUPE-type, City Hall leak delivering Edgar's silly ultimatum publicly and Hilary Payne's Press Release have blown up in Edgar's face and pretty much destroyed any credibility he has on the issue:
  • "The Mayor's statements today are a further example of the bad faith the City has been exercising throughout this long controversy.

    The Canada Transit Corporation (CTC) has always been prepared, and are now prepared, to demolish all the buildings they have purchased and to grade and grass the area. The City has consistently refused to issue demolition permits for the buildings now boarded up...

    At the OMB prehearing held Tuesday December 1, 2009 CTC advised the City that it is committed to working cooperatively and requested a third party mediator, within the OMB process established at the prehearing, to sit down with the City, CTC and BUHDAG to resolve this situation.

    The Mayor's attempt to make the present degradation of the neighbourhood the fault of anybody but the City is simply a gross distortion of the truth."

If you, dear reader, believe as I do that the City is working with the Senior Levels to prevent the Bridge Company building their Enhancement Project, then you would treat as I do the latest "demand" of Edgar (aka Eddie) with the contempt it deserves.

Why can't Edgar just pickup the phone and call the Bridge Company? Why can't he speak in a civil manner rather than with ultimatums and set up a meeting to resolve this matter quietly? I know Edgar is terrified of Dan Stamper and Paula Lombardi intimidates him but perhaps Matty would tell them both to be nice! Why is there the need for such high drama? Does Edgar have to prove something to the Senior Levels?

Was it really necessary for Edgar to call them names like a kindergarten child rather than act as a mature leader of a City, once at Council and again in the Star? That would tell me what kind of a "fair hearing" I would get in front of this Mayor and Council. None whatsoever.

It is all so predictable that it is tiring already:

  • citizens used as pawns again by Edgar (remember the area of mass destruction previously?)

  • citzens want to express their feelings to Edgar and Council

  • Edgar freaking out because he would be blamed and Windsorites would hear attacks on Council and the Mayor, not the Bridge Company by West End residents seeing their community destroyed by the Demolition By-law

  • refusal to allow citizens to speak

  • Edgar attacking the Bridge Company while they are not present calling them Blockbusters in order to egg them on to appear at Council

  • story in the Star "Messenger" to threaten the Bridge Company "City has power to stop blockbusting by bridge company"

  • Edgar ultimatum

Almost as scary as his threatened, pretend lawsuits against the Senior Levels to stop the building of the DRIC Road because Greenlink was not chosen. That is unless his friends need him to sue because traffic is down so much that they cannot afford to build the road at thsi time and need another stall.

Here is something interesting. Go back and read the column by Annie "House by house, neighbourhood dies"

A fair reading of it would suggest that she has sympathy for the people caught in the Bridge Company/City squabble. Read it all the way to the bottom. I would have thought that her conclusion would have been to allow the homes to be torn down. Instead, we got this line:

  • "It's time for Windsor to draw a line in the sand, deal with the bridge and protect its residents."

HUH...was that really her conclusion? What the heck does that mean? It is completely out of character with the rest of the column in my opinion and her writing style. She had just quoted a resident attacking Council's actions. Did she just get tried of writing and threw in this proposed resolution? Quite bizarre.

Or maybe it ties into her column today "Neighbourhood reborn in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge." She is playing "straightwoman" for Edgar who will hint about this tonight at Council to get Councillors onside and to allow residents to dream of a great tomorrow, another one of Edgar's mind's eye visions. Heck, he learned about this technique from DRIC in Delray. Try it on a few Sandwich residents to shut them up.

Back to Edgar:

  • "Council demands meeting with bridge over derelict housesM

    Mayor Eddie Francis has warned the Ambassador Bridge company to meet with council “forthwith” and state its plans for the homes it has bought and left vacant on Windsor’s west side, or the city will take action.

    “The abandoned condition of these houses has had a destabilizing effect on the neighbourhood. Another term that comes to mind is ‘blockbusting.’ This is unacceptable,” Francis wrote in a four-page letter sent Thursday to Detroit International Bridge Company president Dan Stamper."

Just wait a minute Edgar....the Bridge Company is complying with YOUR anti-demolition by-law. They would love to tear the homes down but you won't let them. How is that Blockbusting? In fact as I Blogged before:

  • "Wasn’t it Councillor Postma who introduced an anti-blockbusting bylaw? She admitted that the Interim Control Bylaw did not stop blockbusting as some thought it would but that it had the opposite effect."

Remember when the Star wrote this in February, 2008 to try to justify Edgar's plans. What a joke then. Even more of a joke now, looking back:

  • "Many west-end residents are frustrated by a city council decision to extend a land freeze in Olde Sandwich Towne until January 2009.

    It means they can't tear down, build up or improve their properties, and it leaves them feeling like they're living in limbo.

    Some say the extended bylaw is a heavy-handed attempt by council to block the Ambassador Bridge Company from buying up properties that stand in the way of its expansion plans.

    Others argue the decision hurts ordinary citizens far more than it does the bridge company. They say it prevents struggling business owners from sprucing up their neighbourhood, and it encourages drug dealers to move into the growing number of abandoned buildings that now dot the landscape.

    We understand all these fears, but we also believe the city is doing what it should to preserve and protect an integral, historic part of our community."

Edgar knows exactly what the Bridge Company's plans are or doesn't he ever talk to Councillor Postma who has been working with the residents on this issue and meeting with the Bridge Company. She would not dare act without his approval.

Why couldn't Council agree with the simple request of residents:

  • "The bridge company has told residents it wants to tear down its homes and “beautify” the area with a “green corridor.” Payne and other residents are urging the city to agree."

Not our Edgar

  • "We want to hammer out an agreement so the parties will live by their commitments,” said Francis. Otherwise, he added, those same residents will be back demanding answers from the city if the proponent doesn’t follow through with what it says it will do."

What is so hard to understand: grass the area as the City has agreed with other applicants, even those whose demolition permits were allowed on consent ie without discussion at Council.

You see it is really a double standard being employed. Councillor Postma told us already "The grass ain't going to cut it." The Council meeting is all a sham. The purpose is to try to transfer the blame from Edgar to the Bridge Company. And to keep the Senior Levels happy with Edgar.

The City wants to prevent the Bridge Co. from moving forward. That is what Edgar's hammered agreement is supposed to do. Just like Councillor Jones' in perpetuity demand.

And accurate but narrow Edgar states:

  • "Francis said council is willing to entertain the proposal but insists the bridge company follow the proper process. He said the only application the bridge company has ever made is for the demolition of six Indian Road homes in May 2007."

Why make an application considering what I Blogged a year ago. Time passes so slowly when one is in agony:

  • "We have seen recently both the Councillor and perhaps her Wardmate relax their position somewhat. She appeared to be ready to allow the Bridge Company to tear down their homes. Councillor Jones said:

    •“I would like to see the bridge company come to city council and say here are our plans," Jones said. "They might be surprised at the help they would get from the people who represent this area.”

    If I was the Owner of the Bridge Company, I would graciously decline the enticement by the Councillors. I do believe that the Bridge Company would be surprised but not in the way that they would have expected after the kind invitation to come to Council.

    It is no wonder that Councillor bristling Brister is terrified to appear on John Fairley’s interview show. He was able to get from Councillor Postma what would happen if the Bridge Company came to Council.

    The answer is: nothing.

    The Councillor at least was honest in saying that she was not sure that her Wardmate, Councillor Jones was in favour, nor was she certain what a majority of Council would do. With respect to the Mayor, she said that his position was that the Bridge Company should bring a proposal to Council to have it discussed.

    They have already tried to do that but no Councillor had the decency to extend their presentation period for more than 10 minutes and accordingly they were not able to show their plans prepared by the University’s Green Corridor Group. What makes anyone believe that anything would change?

    It seems to me that this is just an attempt by the Councillor to placate her Ward residents by telling them that she is trying to do something. However, when the Majority of Council turns it down, she is off the hook. It did not appear from what she said on Face-to-Face that she had done any lobbying with the other Councillors to gain their support for what she wanted to do.

    In any event, if it is so important for the area, then it is up to the Mayor to contact the Bridge Company. After all, my recollection is that the City Planner has said that Administration would turn down their request for a demolition permit until after the CIP was completed."

Here's the truth. And it tells me why Edgar cannot hope to be another Matty Moroun as he desperately wants to be but with my and your taxpayer money instead of his own:

  • "The Ambassador Bridge is a very strategic company — they don’t do anything unless there’s a purpose behind it,” said Francis."

That is absolutely correct. Moroun did not get where he is today by having mind's eye visions the way our Mayor does. He risked his money to get where he is today, by achieving results, by taking the risk.

Edgar will never understand that, not by the hair of his chinny chin chin.