Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friendship, The Conclusion (Part 5)

I trust that I, at least, have made you do some thinking over the last 5 days.

You will need to read right down to the end of this BLOG for you to appreciate how difficult a matter the friendship issue is and how it has been dealt with in other situations.

I will repeat again. Neither I nor any of Gord's "smear artists, conspiracy theorists, tire slashers, child harassers and professional moaners" brought up this controversy over friendship. The Integrity Commissioner as confirmed by the Mayor's statement did.

I am not suggesting any improprieties. No illegal activities, no pay-offs, graft, under the table deals or bribes. Nope, it is a very narrow matter; it is the issue of being a "friend" or perhaps a "business associate"that has now reared its head so we need to look at this concept carefully.

The friendship/business associate matter is not a legal concern for anyone except a member of Council. He/she has the legal responsibility to declare the pecuniary interest and follow what the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires.

Mr. Basse stirred up a hornet's nest as far as I am concerned with his still not released to the public Report on whether Councillor Jones should have recused himself and not been involved in anything to do with the CUPE matter due to his friendship with Jean Fox, the President of one of the CUPE locals.

I have spent some time looking at the Mayor and his friends and business relationships because of his key role in the City. More importantly, he confirmed the concern raised by the Integrity Commissioner about Councillor Jones and friendship
  • "City councillor Ron Jones has hired a lawyer to defend his interests against allegations of wrongdoing that may emerge from an investigation into hundreds of cell phone calls to CUPE union president Jean Fox during the 101-day strike by municipal workers.

    Jones insisted repeatedly Saturday there has been nothing “inappropriate” in his relationship with Fox — either before, during or after the strike...

    His calls and friendship with Fox date back years and many of the calls occurred around his prostate cancer surgery in February, while others focused on supporting Fox while she obtained a restraining order in court against an anti-CUPE protester, Jones said."

However, our Mayor claimed as I Blogged previously:

  • "The issue in front of us is discussions that were taking place with the head of CUPE in the middle of negotiations. That is an important distinction to be drawn here."

It would seem that the Mayor is of the opinion that even if the calls were purely "innocent," since there was an important City matter involved, that makes a big difference.

If Councillor Jones should have recused himself then from the CUPE strike matter because of "friendship," using Edgar's own logic, should the Mayor be required to do so on the border file, the Arena, the canal, the Zalev properties and so on? Clearly, if "friends" or "business associates" are involved in a City matter, using Edgar's perspective, what choice has he but to recuse himself and to permit new leadership from the City to take over.

As Gord wrote, perhaps this is exactly what Windsor needs, a "vanilla man" who, along with one or two other Councillors, would form an executive team who will not go to war against everyone but who might actually accomplish something:

  • "And make no mistake. Marra is a nice man. Polite. Well-spoken. Amiable.

    Those are fine qualities, even if Coun. Alan Halberstadt described him as "a bit vanilla." But is that what Windsor needs in 2010 and beyond, a nice guy to manage the corner office and keep everyone placated, if not happy? Under normal circumstances, I would say yes. Maybe it's time for a healer and soother who won't ruffle too many feathers and can get along with Liberal friends at Queen's Park."

Do you understand now why in the first BLOG I mentioned about the earth shaking and why I was optimistic finally. We would have people in charge who would view our issues differently and who would actually try to achieve a solution rather than constantly being at odds with everyone to our economic detriment!

What are we to conclude from this discussion? I think it is simple. We need a stated case to a Judge or a judicial inquiry to detemine how far the conflicts of interest policy spreads in our political arena.

Will it be expensive to do? I would expect so unfortunately. Here is what the inquiry into the issues surrounding Mayor Hazel McCallion may cost:

  • "But inquiry lawyer Will McDowell warned "a great deal remains unknown" about the issues and the commission's focus will evolve as new information emerges.

    The inquiry is now adjourned for preparatory investigative work.

    It is to resume no later than March 1.

    Its $2.5 million budget compares with the original Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry into municipal corruption, which ran for 214 days, cost $20 million and had about 60 lawyers acting for the 22 parties.

    Cunningham said his inquiry will differ from such prominent ones as the Walkerton water scandal and Air India bombing.

    Those inquiries, he said, set out to determine what caused those tragedies and how they could have been prevented.

    "On the other hand, we set out to examine certain transactions and relationships," he said.

    "These may well be important matters, and they are certainly matters of contention."

    Cunningham framed the two broad areas to be investigated:

    The context, history and conduct of city business as it related to a purchase and sale of a 3.5-hectare parcel of land owned by OMERS that involved Peter McCallion and World Class Developments.

    (The deal involved private meetings between Mayor McCallion, the developer and OMERS, while zoning of the land was still before council. OMERS subsequently sold the land to the city, which in turn leased it to Sheridan College.)

    The circumstances surrounding an agreement that gave OMERS, a 10 per cent shareholder in Enersource, a controversial veto."

Friendship, business associates....does the Mayor now have to back out from a number of major transactions in this City? Given the Basse comments and Edgar's own words, Edgar (aka Eddie) has no alternative in my opinion but to recuse himself from some or all of the matters until the issues are clarified or risk negative comments from Windsorites during the entire election year until we know what the line is that should not be crossed.

Take a look at this story and see how something that is legal and innocent can take on an ugly and dirty side very easily:

  • "Friends in high places

    In Canada, business influence appears at all levels of government. The biggest single donors to the election campaigns of municipal leaders are property developers. Is it because property developers as a group are more concerned about the democratic process than others? It might be. However, it seems likely that the donations are also made because municipal politicians control the zoning and development of land.

    That's why a group in London, Ontario is asking questions. George Sinclair of the Urban League of London thinks there's a "troubling" connection between donations made to candidates for city council and a subsequent vote.

    Prior to the November 2003 municipal election Shmuel Farhi, president of Farhi Holdings Corp., made total donations of around $5,000 to about a dozen candidates. Two weeks later, Council voted 10 to six to allow Mr. Farhi's company to demolish the former home of baseball legend George (Mooney) Gibson. Of the 10 who voted in favour of the demolition at least six received donations from Mr. Farhi. Of the six who voted against, only one accepted a donation from Mr. Farhi.

    The developer told the London Free Press that his sole motivation "is to help people who spend a lot of time and effort to make the municipality a better place to work and live." Mr. Farhi added that the timing of his contributions was "pure coincidence."

Would that defence work for Mr. Farhi today in Windsor given his "friend" comment about the Mayor? Could our Mayor claim that his and his wife's relationship with a "friend" and "business associate" when dealing with City matters are of little concern? It is not an easy question to answer.

Take a look at this story commenting on a US Supreme Court decision . It is based on the US Constitution but the reasoning could be very applicable here. It shows how friends and business associate questions can be dealt with in a logical fashion. Of course, what is reasonable to one may not be reasonable to another. But it is a start:

  • "Judge Should Have Recused Himself in Case Involving Contributor, Court Rules

    The 5-4 ruling, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a victory for groups interested in curbing the influence of money on judicial elections.

    The Supreme Court ruled Monday that West Virginia's chief justice should have stepped down from a case involving his campaign's biggest financial supporter.

    The 5-4 ruling, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is a victory for groups interested in curbing the influence of money on judicial elections.

    "In all the circumstances of this case, due process requires recusal," Kennedy wrote.

    Kennedy's opinion was joined by the court's more liberal justices.

    "There is a serious risk of actual bias when a person with a personal stake in a particular case had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge's election campaign when the case was pending or imminent," Kennedy concluded.

    The case closely resembles the plot-line in novelist John Grisham's 2008 book "The Appeal."

    The case examined Justice Brent Benjamin's decision not to recuse himself from a $50 million lawsuit involving the man who spent millions of dollars to get him elected to the bench. The losing side in the West Virginia mining case before Benjamin argued he should have stepped aside for his "probability of bias" in the case, which involved Massey Coal.

    Massey's CEO spent $3 million in ads to help Benjamin's election.

    The Supreme Court had previously only recognized the need for recusals when judges have a personal financial interest or some other closely held personal connection to a case. Monday's opinion expands that reach."

Justice Anthony Kennedy speaking for the majority sets out the approach and how to handle matters:

  • "Under our precedents there are objective standards that require recusal when "the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable...

    Not every campaign contribution by a litigant or attorney creates a probability of bias that requires a judge's recusal, but this is an exceptional case...

    Much like determining whether a judge is actually biased, proving what ultimately drives the electorate to choose a particular candidate is a difficult endeavor, not likely to lend itself to a certain conclusion. This is particularly true where, as here, there is no procedure for judicial factfinding and the sole trier of fact is the one accused of bias. Due process requires an objective inquiry into whether the contributor's influence on the election under all the circumstances "would offer a possible temptation to the average . . . judge to ... lead him not to hold the balance nice, clear and true..."

    Although there is no allegation of a quid pro quo agreement, the fact remains that Blankenship's extraordinary contributions were made at a time when he had a vested stake in the outcome. Just as no man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, similar fears of bias can arise when--without the consent of the other parties--a man chooses the judge in his own cause. And applying this principle to the judicial election process, there was here a serious, objective risk of actual bias that required Justice Benjamin's recusal...

    But, as we have indicated, that is just one step in the judicial process; objective standards may also require recusal whether or not actual bias exists or can be proved. Due process "may sometimes bar trial by judges who have no actual bias and who would do their very best to weigh the scales of justice equally between contending parties." The failure to consider objective standards requiring recusal is not consistent with the imperatives of due process. We find that Blankenship's significant and disproportionate influence--coupled with the temporal relationship between the election and the pending case--" ' "offer a possible temptation to the average ... judge to ... lead him not to hold the balance nice, clear and true." ' " On these extreme facts the probability of actual bias rises to an unconstitutional level.

    The Court was careful to distinguish the extreme facts of the cases before it from those interests that would not rise to a constitutional level."

What was intersting in this case also is that another judge recused himself because of friendship and some photographs:

  • "Maynard withdrawing from Supreme Court case after vacation photos with Blankenship released

    State Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard will withdraw from the court's reconsideration of a decision that favored Massey Energy, a coal company run by his longtime friend Don Blankenship.

    "It is not enough to do justice - justice also must satisfy the appearance of justice," Maynard wrote in a brief memo filed today with the court.

    He added, "I have decided to voluntarily recuse myself from this case. I will recuse myself despite the fact I have no doubt in my own mind and firmly believe I have been and would be fair and impartial in this case. I know that for a certainty."

    Controversy erupted this month over Maynard's majority vote in the court's 3-2 decision that excused Massey from a $50 million verdict after photos surfaced showing the chief justice and Blankenship allegedly vacationing together in the Monte Carlo area...

    Caperton wanted Maynard off the case because of the justice's decades-long friendship with Blankenship. He also wanted Maynard to withdraw his majority vote from the decision...

    At least three of the photos show the men posing and smiling at seaside locations and sitting at an outdoor restaurant.

    It's unknown who took the photos, which were dated July 3-5, 2006 - a time when Massey had an appeal pending before the Supreme Court...

    In his memo released today, Maynard said he worries that the controversy that the photos have caused is the sole reason he's stepping aside.

    "Above all else, I am very concerned about how the public views this court," Maynard wrote. "Without question, the judicial branch of state government should always be held in the highest public confidence and trust. The mere appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether it is supported by fact, can compromise the public confidence in the courts. For that reason - and that reason alone - I will recuse myself from this case."

All this is very interesting you might think. Think about what I have written in the past 4 BLOGS and apply the facts to what the US Supreme Court said. Then if you think you have the correct answer, consider this photo in addition. It is of the Abe Taqtaq wedding party with Edgar as one of the important members of that party.

What is your answer now? What should be done on the many key areas in which the Mayor is involved? Should the Mayor at least on everything to do with the border continue to be the Voice of Council or recuse himself now because of the Taqtaq relationship. Or not!

In this instance you, dear reader, are the Chief Justice in the Court of Public Opinion in Windsor:

COURT CLERK: How say you. Is this one of those "exceptional cases or not? In this case YOU are the Judge"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Friendship (Part 4)

Have you been reading each of the previous parts of the series so that everything is fitting into a context, dear reader? We are almost at the conclusion. Just two more parts.

We are looking at the concept of "friendship" and what impact it has on Members of Council and how Windsor is governed.

We have seen that it seems to be a big concern now thanks to the Integrity Commissioner and the Mayor. That question raised about Members of Council and major players in town needs to be dealt with in order to get clarification ASAP.

Given, Edgar's seeming confirmation of the issue, I decided to take a look at his particular situation and discussed the building in Dougall Plaza in the last BLOG.

Now let us take a look at the Tunnel where Edgar is the head of the Tunnel Commission and where the Taqtaq family leases their Store. However, the issue is much broader than a mere lease at the Tunnel as you shall see.

To be fair, when issues involving the Duty Free Shop have arisen, the Mayor has declared an interest at Commission meetings.

He was modest at first and did not disclose the "general nature thereof" so that is why I contacted the City Clerk for an explanation in the first place. It surprised me since the Mayor, as a lawyer, clearly knew the rules and has acted out of an abundance of caution both, it would appear, from what the City Clerk said and from his practice at Council:

No explanation given here.

Then he opened up more:

Former campaign manager is the reason given, or rather, "a member of his former campaign" without mentioning the person's name or title. Should the explanation have been broader? To include his spouse's situation as well perhaps?

Note, do you think as worded this declaration of pecuniary interest by Edgar fits right into the "friend" or "business associate" category? If so, then it explains why Edgar could easily make the remark he did respecting the Jones/Fox issue. He viewed it that way for himself already for quite a period of time.

But what do you think of this when Edgar was a Councillor:

Perhaps Edgar and Mr. Taqtaq were not friends then but how could Edgar participate and introduce a Motion to help obtain what Mr. Taqtaq wanted if they were?

Moreover, did the request to "abandon a standard" create a huge liability on the City if something went wrong? How could the City argue that it was acting in a reasonable manner by abandoning what the association said should be done? Hmmm, I wonder if this action concerned Mr. Sutts so that it was easier for him to suggest that the Tunnel be placed into a subsidiary company to limit the City's liability.

The reason I raise this is because the only major Agreement that the Three Levels ever agreed to on the border file shockingly did NOT deal with the Ambassador Bridge where the trucks were backed up but only dealt with the Tunnel. Phase One of the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy included only:

  • "Windsor, Ontario, March 11, 2004 - The Governments of Canada, Ontario and Windsor today announced new measures that are part of a joint $300 million federal-provincial investment to help improve the Windsor Gateway, Canada's busiest border crossing.

    Today's agreement identifies five initial project investments, including:

    Improvements to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Plaza in order to provide for more effective traffic management, including the implementation of the NEXUS program;"

At the time, the decision to focus on the Tunnel made little sense to me. And the agreement was signed within months of Edgar becoming Mayor too.

The improvements are very important to the Taqtaq family because business was hurting at the Tunnel obviously with the reduced number of visitors:

  • "Traffic at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel remains in a slump, and the border crossing's retail duty-free store is feeling the impact.

    It's been this way for months, and while the list of reasons seems as long as the tie-ups some days, Marwan Taqtaq, who operates the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop with his family and staff, remains optimistic.

    The pending redesign of the tunnel plaza is expected to provide better store access for vehicles."

The City has set aside $10M of taxpayer money for their share of the Tunnel improvements but we know now that more money is needed but we are not sure exactly why. I have speculated, and obviously with the number of years that have gone by with no action, more money is needed for expropriation since owners have sat in limbo.

I don't recall the City setting aside that kind of money for the Tunnel's border competitor, the Ambassador Bridge, to improve their operation as part of the Strategy. There never was a Phase II Agreement which presumably would have dealt with the Bridge.

As I have Blogged:

  • "Notwithstanding his assertion that “We're a public utility” in relation to the Tunnel, he is also the business competitor of the Ambassador Bridge. Does this competitive side of the Mayor help explain why we still have a border mess on Huron Church road? Why would he fix up that road when Goyeau is a mess and the Tunnel Plaza improvements are far from being done as both Dev Tyagi and Abe TaqTaq have told us recently."

  • "This was one of the projects for which the City wanted money. I thought we had set aside the funds years ago when the Phase 1 Agreement was signed with the Senior Levels. Each level was to put up $10M for the project

    Where are the City funds now? What happened to them? Do we have the money available for our share? If not, is the whole deal dead since the Senior Levels would not put their $20M into a project that cannot pay for itself.

    By the way, we do know that the costs of the project have increased dramatically above the $30M mark. We were told that at Council a long time ago by Mr. Tyagi. I speculated that it was due to increased expropriation costs as well as increased construction costs.

    Is this why the City has done little for years on this project: no more money. If so, why is Eddie wasting millions on trying to do a deal with Detroit if we cannot afford to improve the access to the Tunnel."

Mr. Taqtaq has to be extremely interested in the expropriations as well since we were told by the Star:

  • "Closing a portion of Goyeau Street to all but tunnel-bound traffic is being considered by the Windsor Tunnel Commission as a solution to the traffic tie-ups at Goyeau and Wyandotte Street East. The closure, which would affect Goyeau between Park Street and Wyandotte, would allow an expansion of the tunnel plaza and reduce the congestion during morning rush hour and at other peak crossing times.

    "The status quo simply isn't working," said Mayor Eddie Francis, who is chairman of the commission. "We don't want people to panic because it may not be feasible, but we have to find an alternative to a situation which has become intolerable for our citizens, for commuters and for tourists."

    The commission has requested a report from the traffic engineering department on the impact of closing the street and what it would do to traffic patterns in the immediate vicinity.

    Along the stretch of Goyeau being considered, the only building not owned by either the city or the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop is a Burger King franchise opposite the tunnel entrance."

Go back up and look at the Council Minute of July 24, 2002. Isn't what the Mayor is talking about exactly what Mr. Taqtaq was requesting years before. Of interest, that request was not included at the time when Councillor Francis as he then was introduced his Motion.

Here is a rather astounding fact that I found in a Tunnel Commission Minute also:

I do not know if the property involved was the Duty Free Shop but presumably it had to be on the Tunnel's property and it claims that the Mayor's wife was a tenant there. Frankly, without knowing exactly which building is involved, it is hard to be able t0 comment about what the impact is on our discussion.

Remember that I wrote before a BLOG about the Windsor Mayors' [plural ie not just this Mayor] inherent conflict of interest over being Mayor and also being head of the Tunnel Commission. [BLOG October 25, 2005 "Windsor Mayors' Conflict Of Interest"]

  • "In other words, is there an inherent Conflict of Interest built in when the Mayor and Councillors are both a Tunnel Commission Chair or member and when they are also a member of City Council. On the one hand the Mayor can say from a Windsor-wide perspective : "We see the tunnel as a public utility while the DCTC sees it more as a profit-generating private operation." On the other hand when the Bridge takes away Tunnel traffic, he says as a true competitor "our traffic has gone to the bridge and we have to do a better job of convincing people that the tunnel should be their crossing of choice."

Obviously the Bridge and City are competitors here but are the homes on Indian Road, the various by-laws the subject of OMB appeals, the Sandwich Community and so on all part of this as well? What about the US$75M deal proposed by Edgar with Detroit for Windsor to control their half of the Tunnel, how does that fit in with all of this friendship concept?

Remember the outrageous sum that the City received when Brighton Beach was sold to the Feds at a sum that seemed overly generous, $34M as opposed to around $5-$6M: As the Star reported:

  • "City council will use $6 million from the deal to pay off its legal costs for Toronto lawyer David Estrin and others incurred during the last five years of the border road debate, with the rest of the money being directed toward the city's capital budget and replenishing municipal reserves, said Mayor Eddie Francis...

    The mayor said the transaction is another indication of council's support for the Brighton Beach location for the next Windsor- Detroit bridge. The city has opposed a twin span proposal by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun."

Naturally, if there was no DRIC Bridge, the City's land would not have been needed and never would have been sold. Was that one of the reasons why the City has been so aggressive against the Bridge Company? And all of that Estrin money for opposing the Bridge Co. is being re-imbursed in effect by the party blocking the Bridge Co. moving forward as confirmed by Governor Granholm.

Has the border file now become even more confused given the relationship amongst Edgar, his wife and Mr. Taqtaq?

Given all of this uncertainty and confusion, how can Council allow Edgar to be their main negotiator with the Senior Levels and the Voice of Council? How does the Mayor justify remaining in that position given his friendship and business relationship with the Duty Free Store owners who helped him get elected Mayor in the first place?

Clearly, we need a way to deal with these types of issues and a way to find an answer to all of this. And there is one. Just read the conclusion of the Series.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Windsor News And Blogmeister Views

My comments on news of the day


What is it with Councillor Halberstadt and the colour white these days:

  • "And make no mistake. Marra is a nice man. Polite. Well-spoken. Amiable. Those are fine qualities, even if Coun. Alan Halberstadt described him as "a bit vanilla."

  • "Mayor Francis, a young man who delights in mounting white chargers, promised to meet with Counc. Hatfield to craft a sustainable plan [for Roseland golf club]. It is my fear that the plan will include halving or completely eliminating the $150,000 annual payback."

Perhaps it was because the Councillor is reputed to be our white knight fighting the guys in the black hats.

Or perhaps it is because he is on the Audit Committee. Isn't the 400 Building Audit supposed to be coming out soon? I wonder if it will have been vetted by the outside lawyer and accounting firm.

  • "Committee member Max Zalev said the members had not seen the report as of the beginning of the meeting at 8 a.m. and would need "several hours" to review and discuss it."

Perhaps the Councillor is worried that it will be a WHITE-WASH!


I wonder if these workers will get an increase for 2010

  • "John Miceli, the city’s manager of facilities operations and president of the group that’s attempting to unionize the 420 employees, said the main sticking point was an issue of reciprocity with CUPE Local 543.

    “In the past, we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing any of the wage increases that 543 got. We received (them) as well,” he said."


  • "City councillors in Windsor, Ont., have decided not to continue negotiations with a group of employees and managers who are trying to finalize their union status. The decision came after a closed-door meeting on Monday night, following the rejection of the city's offer to the 420 members of the Professional Employees Trade Union (PETU) a week earlier."

Hooray, Edgar and Council can be our champions against these workers too now! Re-election here we come! There is only one problem. If the results are as poor as those achieved by the "inspired leadership" of the hardliners with CUPE, then this City is really screwed.

I don't get any of this.

Here is the first Star story.

  • "The City of Windsor’s managers and non-union professionals could surrender their three-year-old fight to form a union when members gather in two weeks to vote on a proposal by the employer.

    “The city is presenting us with an offer in the hopes we’ll suspend our bid to certify,” said John Miceli, president of the Professional Employees Trade Union...

    Accepting the employer’s offer would mean an end to PETU and continuation of CANUE, the Civic Association for Non-Union Employees, the pre-existing association representing non-union employees that does not have the right to strike.

    “We feel that’s positive,” Mayor Eddie Francis said of the decision to take the employer’s proposal to a vote. “Obviously … when you agree on something, it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added."

Listen to what the Mayor says now. How do you compare the first story with this:

PETA, PETU, It's just one vowel difference. So I made a mistake. Maybe the workers would have gotten further with Pamela as their spokesperson.

Why would Edgar make an offer knowing it would be rejected since they are so far apart, the issues are too significant. It is not a question of "refining." The gap is too wide still.

Son of CUPE, here we come!


Some of you may remember him. He was before my time here I believe. He was involved in the Today Group of Companies, Re/Max Today Realty Ltd., several malls throughout the city including Devon Plaza and Studebaker's Lounge, construction of a Royal Trust building , expansion of the Royal Bank branch on Huron Church Road, and Uptown Plaza.

Take a look at this story out of Dallas. It almost sounds like a variation of something I worked on for 5 years out of my life commuting between Windsor and London, England for 2 of them!

  • "Embattled real estate investor left Dallas for Brazil, texts say

    As legal and financial pressures mount against Dallas real estate investor Eric Brauss, more evidence is emerging that he left the country and won't return, at least not to Dallas.

    "I am not planing [sic] the rest of my life in court," Brauss wrote in a text message Nov. 23 to one of his largest investors.

    Doug Barnes, who owns a nationwide chain of eyewear stores, received that reply after asking Brauss if he was serious about "probably never" returning to Dallas.

    "Yes Doug, to [sic] many lawsuits etc." wrote Brauss, who said he was in Brazil.

    Copies of the multimessage exchange, conducted about a week after Brauss shuttered his Dallas office and disappeared, were included in a court filing late Friday. In the exchange, Brauss, 66, said that he sold all his personal assets. The stress of his financial predicament was killing him, Brauss said, and his main concerns now are where to eat and which cigars to smoke.

    Barnes, who lives in Dallas and says he has about $35 million invested in Brauss partnerships, is joining other investors who say Brauss diverted funds and fled the country.

    Altogether, hundreds of investors have between $130 million and $175 million at stake in Brauss partnerships, attorneys involved estimate....

    Larry Friedman, Brauss' attorney, said he hadn't seen copies of the text messages. When they were read to him, Friedman said the messages sounded like his client. He said Brauss is mainly a victim of the worldwide economic downturn and is still concerned about doing the best he can for all his investors. Brauss, born and raised in Germany, moved to Canada in 1970, according to his company biography. In 1990, he moved to Dallas, where he started building an empire that includes investments in hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of retail, office and multifamily projects. His lead company was Today Realty Advisors, which had offices in Dallas, Florida and Canada.

    Over the years, Brauss and his wife also have been prominent patrons of the Dallas arts, including the opera and performing arts center. They owned expensive cars, lavish homes, fine wines and expensive jewelry...

    Barnes' text message exchange with Brauss came on the same day another group of investors filed suit against Eric and Christine Brauss and their companies.

    "We need to talk...When can we meet????" Barnes wrote.

    "Hi Doug ..." Brauss responded. "I am on a [sic] extended vacation in Brazil...I agree we should talk Doug, better then [sic] any lawfirms [sic] or crazy lawyers."

    After Brauss confirmed that he would "probably never" return to Dallas, he offered some details about his financial situation:

    "Right now I have 200 Mio. [million] In peronal [sic] guaranties suing me, a ridiculius [sic] number. I sold all my personal properties and assets and checked out 2 weeks ago..."

    "Just can't get anyone satisfied," Brauss continued. "Between you and me I had so much stress daily, I was going to get a stroke or heart attack. Now this is gone, decissions [sic] are where to eat and what cigars to smoke. If I did not make this move, I was definitly [sic] dying Doug," Brauss wrote."


Whew, Dwight, Sandra, Edgar, Nelson, Jeff, Joe and Brian can keep their jobs as our elected representatives now. They single-handedly solved our unemployment problem here, provided we can hold out until 2025!

  • "Establishing a Prosperity 2025 task force to develop a long-term job creation strategy for the Windsor region is the next step in matching the area's unemployed with the skills needed in a growing new knowledge-based and diversified economy.

    Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who recommended setting up the task force"

It's absolutely brilliant. No need to talk about jobs during an election campaign, just point to the task force.

Perfect example of IBG... YBG problem-solving. [ie in 15 years...I'll be gone. You'll be gone]

No wonder Edgar can say:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis said he wasn't surprised by the convivial tone of the meeting "because we've been working collaboratively for months on many different files and the level of co-operation has always been very high."

It is the perfect do not rock the boat solution for all of them.

Do you know why these politicians think they can get away with it:

  • "According to the group's research, the Windsor area has a lower number of residents with Grade 12 education and with post-secondary degrees than the provincial average which "places us at a competitive disadvantage and points up the need to improve the basic education of our residents."

We were dead last of 27 areas in Canada in literacy. We are too stupid to know I guess when we are being bamboozled.

Mini-Gord's column was another laugh a minute one. Read the negativitiy in the first half.

  • "After three hours of blather about the unemployment crisis Monday, it was starting to sound like none of the region's top politicians had a clue about the real economy.

    At least 34,619 people are unemployed in Windsor and Essex County that we know of, not counting the thousands who have given up or are suffering in silence in their parents' basements.

    Well over 100,000 people are in economic agony locally, counting spouses and children. That's better than one in four of our rapidly dwindling population.

    And the best our political elite could do Monday was waste time on self-indulgent twaddle about "identifying innovative ways" that "stakeholders" can "facilitate strategic investments" in education?

    An unemployed person in that room would probably have been forgiven for screaming: "what about JOBS!?" before hurling a chair in frustration."

Then it seemed just like someone tapped him on the shoulder and all of a sudden everything was golden

  • "But Monday's dreary yakfest about unemployment was actually productive. A job-creation plan is afoot, folks.

    The outcome could have been much, much worse. But nobody argued or pointed fingers of blame. As I found out later, they're already working together behind the scenes.

    The good news is, the 30 elected representatives who represent the city and county at the federal, provincial and municipal levels are all on speaking terms. No fangs were bared Monday."

Why praise be

  • "What's to be done? Duncan, Watson, and Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis all hinted heavily that something is in the works.

    Several important economic development schemes that have been cooking for years are nearly ready to come out of the oven and there are a significant number of jobs involved.

    Permanent jobs. No one is saying yet what they are, or in what industry.

    But the region has to get its ducks in a row before it can take the steps necessary to retrain our unemployed to take those jobs. Everybody had to lay their cards on the table Monday as a prerequisite."

I know, I know....the onion guys are coming back!


Hooray. The program was announced and by golly, quicker than you can say "Vote for me," money comes pouring out. More job training money especially for us older types:

  • "$58.5M investment to benefit older, unemployed workers

    The province and federal government are coming together to help fund a program to help older unemployed workers to learn new skills to get a new job.

    The Targeted Initiative for Older Workers will see both the governments of Ontario and Canada invest $58.5 million over three years to provide training to 5,000 older workers."

I have always wanted to learn Spanish or Chinese. I assume that is what this program is all about: language skills

Since there are no jobs here, job training programs are useless. To get a job, we will have to work in Mexico or overseas.

Friendship (Part 3)

Merely being a friend or business associate of someone can now potentially give rise to an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner resulting in a member of Council being forced to recuse him/herself from being involved in some key matters in Windsor.

It seems that our Mayor seems to support that proposition given his remarks respecting Councillor Jones' friendship with Jean Fox during the CUPE negotiations.

Accordingly, if a Member of Council is in a position where a friend might somehow be involved in a relationship that could give rise to a conflict, it would seem that the Mayor would agree that the Member ought not to be involved. I assume that it includes himself too.

But what are the rules around this? Does the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act apply even though does it not mention "friends?" Is the language broad enough to cover this:
  • "When present at meeting at which matter considered

    5. (1) Where a member, either on his or her own behalf or while acting for, by, with or through another, has any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter and is present at a meeting of the council or local board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, the member,

    (a) shall, prior to any consideration of the matter at the meeting, disclose the interest and the general nature thereof;

    (b) shall not take part in the discussion of, or vote on any question in respect of the matter; and

    (c) shall not attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question."

I believe that is broad enough to cover the kind of relationships we have been talking about. Let's assume it does. Even if it may not, Edgar and the City Clerk have made it so. Remember this comment from the City Clerk:

  • "Also, while the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act excludes matters that are remote and insignificant, the Mayor has also noted that his spouse is a tenant in a building that Mr. Taqtaq has an interest in."

I am not so sure that I agree with the City Clerk about remoteness and it being insignificant. Moreover, there is another section that is important and is applicable:

  • "3. For the purposes of this Act, the pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, of a parent or the spouse or any child of the member shall, if known to the member, be deemed to be also the pecuniary interest of the member.

I showed you a photo of a building that Collavino's PCR built in a plaza on Dougall:

  • "Constructed two new buildings to house existing and new tenants, and prepared the site for demoliton of the existing structure for construction of an additional building."

The owner of the lands when the buildings were built was a company owned by the Taqtaq family. That Company was an amalgamated company. Mario Collavino was an officer and director of one of the companies amalgamating into the new Company but I do not know his role in the new Company, if any.

A unit in one of the buildings is occupied by the Mayor's spouse, Michelle Prince, where she runs her chiropractic clinic.

How did Ms Prince get there? She left her space on Howard Avenue and moved there.

Here are her new premises and you can tell who the leasing person was too at the Plaza:

Note that Mr. Taqtaq's phone number is that of the Tunnel Duty Free Shop. It is the same phone number as this building right across from the Tunnel that was for rent too that I Blogged about before:

As we can see, Edgar's spouse has an interest in the lands as a tenant. Edgar is deemed to have a "pecuniary interest" in it too.

Do not forget that not only is Edgar the Mayor but the Head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission as well. The Duty Free Shop rents space at the Tunnel from the City.

What do we have but Edgar and Abe Taqtaq being friends, having a business relationship as Landlord/Tenant through Edgar's wife and a relationship at the Tunnel.

What does this all mean? Keep on reading the next Part of my BLOG.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Did You Know This

Here are more stories that you may want to consider:


Oh of course, I forgot. We have to build now for our future. Won't that be the rationale. We cannot afford just to sit back. Canals, airport hubs, Greenlinks, who cares....let's build them all. Taxpayers' wallets are bottomless in Windsor.

We won't hear much about financial problems when the mind's eye vision of Edgar (aka Eddie) is brought forward again:
  • "These are difficult times for members of the corporation," said Francis. But he said the changes are required given the economic pressures Windsor is facing and that they are part of a "well thought-out, comprehensive" plan.

    "I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- certainly people are nervous, and I'm concerned about that," said Reidel.

    But she said Windsor "is under tremendous fiscal pressures." Council was advised as recently as last week that it had to find almost $13 million in new savings just to keep to its goal of not increasing taxes next year."

OMG..I am literally shaking if that "well thought-out, comprehensive plan" was created by the same people who prepared the multi-page strike manual. I wonder which Chapter dealt with "near-riots" and CAO resignations?


Looks like Ron Stang, ex Melanie Deveau Windsor Now producer at CKLW, has started something up:

  • "Hi Ed,

    Just want to inform you about my new online newspaper ( As you can see I'm seeking to publish stories not necessarily being covered by the rest of the local media.

    Readers can subscribe for free updates by clicking on the RSS button or similar readers on the front page.

    Ron Stang


Poor Dave he away on holidays or is someone punishing him. Mini-Gord got the big scoop re the DRIC bridge EA.

The leak had to come from the Province considering this line:

  • "The approval also covers the new Brighton Beach plaza that needs to be built to service the bridge, as well as the six-lane, below-grade Windsor-Essex Parkway.

    Although a provincial road, the billion-dollar parkway project will be 50 per cent paid for with federal funds, so it required approval under a federal EA as well...

    The delay had critics crowing the new parkway would be a "road to nowhere" when finished."

That Infrastructure Ontario comment had to be about the stupidest ever!

Mind you, it still will be such a road considering the DRIC bridge is stalled again until the end of 2016 or later.

Mini-Gord must keep saying and hoping as the DRIC people do that the US Feds will pull this out for them:

  • "Aside from cabinet approval of DRIC and the awarding of contracts, the only significant hurdle left before construction can start is funding from the State of Michigan.

    But even that hurdle is far lower than DRIC's opponents claim. How many times have you heard people say "the Americans can't afford" to pay for their half of a new publicly funded bridge?

    Well, maybe they can't. But that won't stop them from spending the money, any more than it has prevented them from printing trillions of dollars to stimulate the choking U.S. economy.

    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."

Sure, the Feds are going to put in money to help out the NAFTA-gate PM and beat back an American. If that is what you think, consider the latest Harper snub by Obama:

  • "Harper not on Obama's Afghan call list

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be among the world leaders briefed personally by U.S. President Barack Obama about his plans for a new strategy in Afghanistan.

    Obama will contact a number of leaders, including those of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China and Russia. But despite Canada's lengthy military commitment to the troubled region, Vice-President Joe Biden has been given the task of relaying the president’s plans to Harper."


The traditional media has its problems as this remark notes:

  • "I guess what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, after all" may be the main lesson to be learned from Tiger's undoing, but the other is that no one is smart enough, connected enough, insulated enough to control the news any more.

    The camera-phone and the lawless jungle of the blogosphere have changed everything.

    Tommy-Lee Jones, Agent K in Men In Black, may have been closer to the truth than we knew when he pulled up to that Manhattan newsstand to check out the "hot sheets" for tips on space aliens living on Earth and bought a pile of supermarket tabloids.

    "Best investigative reporting on the planet," said K to his skeptical partner. "But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes." Not this time, they didn't.

    All of us conventional media outlets who were observing the old-fashioned rules of a game that is no longer recognizable got left miles behind on this story.

    As the lurid details emerge day by day, it now seems obvious to even the apologists - of which Woods has many among us in the golf media - that there is a fairly substantial trail of Tiger's mistresses/ girlfriends strewn about who are quite willing, for a price, to peddle their stories (and cellphone messages) to outlets like National Enquirer, US Weekly, TMZ, Radar Online and (your blog here).


There is an international incident brewing but it has been kept under wraps. Wait until the US Tabloids get a hint of who was really the couple involved

  • "Guess who's coming to White House dinner?

    Throwing recession-era caution to the wind, Obama has invited an estimated 400 friends, political donors and — yes — even some Republican rivals to an extravagant soiree in honour of visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh...

    According to the Canadian embassy, Ambassador Gary Doer — a newcomer to the U.S. capital — is not attending the dinner.

    "In terms of a pecking order, there is one," says Lynn Sweet, longtime White House correspondent for the Chicago Sun-Times and a columnist for Politics Daily. "The first state dinner for an administration is always going to be a big deal, no matter who the president is, no matter what the party."

Notice as well that nothing was said about the PM and his wife......You read it here first!


Please, the work was NOT done properly. Just consider the headlines:

  • "Dig uncovers low-level radiation

    The soil was dug up by utility workers installing a fire hydrant at Hill Avenue and Russell Street.

    Windsor firefighters were called to the scene Tuesday morning after an alarm was raised by utility workers who were digging in the area of Sandwich Street and Hill Avenue to install fire hydrants, said assistant chief fire prevention officer Shawn Boutette.

    Soil from the dig site was transported to a scrapyard for backfill purposes.

    Boutette said the scrapyard has a radiation meter that tests trucks as they enter.

    When the soil from Tuesday's dig went through, "the readings were greater than zero," Boutette said.

    The scrapyard contacted the Windsor fire department's hazardous materials team.

    Boutette said the team would be studying the site with their own meters, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been contacted about the situation."

Oh no, an environmental disaster for people using the DRIC bridge and who work there 8 hours per day. Remember why the Ontario Government would not put their new jail in the area!

  • "Tooth fragment found along riverfront

    A tooth fragment was found along the Windsor riverfront Thursday morning near Alymer Avenue.

    A private company was doing soil sampling when the tooth was found about 13 feet underground, police said.

    Police were called but are not investigating because the tooth appeared to be old."

OLD!!!!! OMG.....heritage, artifacts...where is Ron Jones?

Friendship Part (2)

We have been talking about friends, friendship and business associates and the seeming new issue of how that fits in with conflict of interest. The question then arises whether a member of Council needs to recuse himself/herself if a "friend" issue comes up.

Clearly, as I Blogged previously, Mayor Francis seems to think it is a big deal. So do the Integrity Commissioner and those anonymous Leakors who tried to discredit Councillor Jones.

Let us now deal with a real friend of Edgar (aka Eddie) not someone who may or may not be. What I will be dealing with is all public information, something that anyone could have found using the Internet.

The City Clerk provided this specific answer to me when Edgar declared an interest in a Tunnel matter but did NOT state the general nature thereof:
  • From: Ed Arditti
    Sent: February 6, 2008 10:48 AM
    To: Galvin, Mark
    Subject: Declaration of Pecuniary Interest
    Importance: High

    I noticed that the Mayor declared a pecuniary interest twice with respect to matters involving the Duty Free Shop at Windsor Tunnel Commission meetings. However, the Minutes did not disclose the general nature thereof as is required by law.

    Accordingly, as Acting Executive Director, would you please let me know "the general nature thereof" as is required by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

  • ----- Original Message -----
    From: Critchley, Valerie
    Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 12:40 PM
    Subject: FW: Declaration of Pecuniary Interest

    Good Afternoon:

    Thank-you for your inquiry which has been directed to me for response.

    I can advise that the Mayor has always been cautious to take the high ground with respect to any possibility of an actual or perceived conflict of interest and has always chosen to excuse himself from any discussion or voting on any matter related to the Duty Free Shop. The basis of his caution is his personal acquaintance with Abe Taqtaq, his former campaign manager. Also, while the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act excludes matters that are remote and insignificant, the Mayor has also noted that his spouse is a tenant in a building that Mr. Taqtaq has an interest in.

    I trust this answers your inquiry and remain,

    Yours Truly,

    Valerie Critchley
    City Clerk
    Corporation of the City of Windsor

The gentleman mentioned is Abe Taqtaq.

What a nice choice of words "personal acquaintance." Whatever that means, as you shall see, dear reader, it is much closer than that. And we'll talk about that building where Edgar's spouse is a tenant subsequently. Just keep on reading.

You will note the reference to Mr. Taqtaq being Edgar’s former campaign manager. Here is what Edgar said about his campaign team after he successfully won his first term as Mayor:

Respecting the Tunnel Duty Free Shop, I saw this

  • “Marwan Taqtaq
    (BS '65) For the past 21 years, Taqtaq has operated the Windsor Tunnel Duty Free Shop on the US-Canadian border. He recently participated in building a community medical center.”
  • Abe Taqtaq is vice president and general manager at Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Duty Free.

It is this position that may have caused and may cause Edgar significant "friendship" issues.

Edgar has not always taken this perspective in dealing with matters involving the Taqtaq interests. Consider this involving Coltaq Developments in which the Taqtaqs were involved:

No pecuniary interest declared by Edgar on this matter and he must have voted too. Note that he did declare a pecuniary interest in matters involving Miller Canfield when he was working there as an articling student.

On another occasion in August, 2003, we saw this where Edgar actually introduced a Motion respecting Coltaq. Obviously, he did not declare a pecuniary interest:

At the time, here is what was going on about those lands:

  • "Windsor Star 06-02-2003

    Route debate delays plans; Critics say land tied up unfairly

    Deputy Mayor Gary McNamara is upset that a "set to go" 351-home subdivision has been tied up because of its location within an "opportunity corridor" that years from now may become the route to a new border crossing.

    The Coltaq Developments subdivision is the largest the town has seen in years, on farm fields bordered by Highway 401, Highway 3 and Outer Boulevard. It went through all the regulatory hoops more than four years, but then ran up against Ministry of Transportation concerns that halted its final approval by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

    "This property is at a key location that (if the subdivision was allowed to proceed) would significantly reduce the viability of several corridors," a Transportation Ministry spokesman said recently."

And then this:

  • "Windsor Star 08-06-2003

    Developers angered by delay; Subdivision in limbo because land is within one of five possible border routes

    Investors who have been trying for five years to get a 350-home subdivision built are upset the City of Windsor is opposing the project.

    On Aug. 20, when an Ontario Municipal Board hearing starts, Tecumseh will be supporting the Coltaq Developments plan for its 85 acres bordering Highway 3, Outer Drive and Howard Avenue.

    Windsor will be siding with the Ministry of Transportation, which doesn't want the subdivision developed now because the land is within one of five transportation corridors which may be chosen as the route from the 401 to a new border crossing...

    If the government wants to prevent the land from being developed, it should expropriate it and pay a fair price, said Abe Taqtaq, a partner in Coltaq with contractor Mario Collavino."

All's well that ends well. It would seem that the Motion making Windsor neutral might have been helpful since the Province bought the land

  • "08-20-2003

    Province to purchase land; 85 acres in potential border corridor will be bought and not frozen to development

    The province has agreed to buy 85 acres of prime subdivision land located within one of five possible border crossing corridors.

    The agreement, which is still not finalized, makes an Ontario Municipal Board hearing, scheduled to start today in Tecumseh, unnecessary. Lawyers for the developer and the province are expected to ask for an adjournment...

    The Ministry of Transportation office that deals with media inquiries was closed on Tuesday because of the government's energy conservation measures. Abe Taqtaq, general manager of developer Coltaq Developments, said he hasn't received anything in writing about the agreement.

    "I'd love to make a comment, but I can't until I get something in writing," he said.

    Coltaq has reported spending about $2-million buying and planning the subdivision on the parcel of land bordering Highway 3, Outer Drive and Howard Avenue."

Someone may want to follow up to see if Coltaq or its principals or related organizations made contributions to the Mayor's campaigns too and where their office was said to be located. That can be a concern too if there is an "exceptional case" as you shall see subsequently in another BLOG.

In case you think the name Collavino is familiar, it is. PCR Contractors, a Collavino company, built the East end arena. I am sure you remember this:

  • "09-22-2006

    New arena proposal challenges Ice Track: Family, Killer Bs offer 6,500-seat, $50M idea

    A prominent Windsor construction family has teamed up with a Toronto architectural firm to propose a 6,500-seat arena and three ancillary ice pads in a taxpayer-funded project that will cost less than $50 million.

    Brothers Paolo and Renzo Collavino, whose father was co-founder of the Collavino construction company, are behind the project, which was quietly submitted to city officials back in August.

    The Collavinos, acting as general contractors through their firm PCR, would be responsible for building the arena using plans provided by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects (known locally as the Killer Bs). The city would own and operate the facility. No location was announced.

    "It's no secret Windsor has been looking for an arena for a long time," Renzo said Thursday. "I've had this idea for a while -- I never had a reason to bring it out until the council resolution."

The Taqtaqs and Collavino through PCR have had other business relationships together too. Take a look at these photos which were Collavino projects.

Those buildings will have an interesting role to play in the "friendship" debate as you shall see in subsequent BLOGs.

Contact Santa For Your Holiday Party

Make their Christmas extra special this year!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They can hear those sleigh bells ringing
because Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa will arrive with a chorus of joyful and triumphant music
to deliver a special present to all the good little boys and girls
bringing Holiday Cheer and a Holly Jolly Christmas to all.

You better watch out! You only have 12 Days of Christmas or less!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Monday, December 14, 2009

Friendship (Part I of A Five Part Series)

Did you feel the earth shake? In one momentous moment everything has changed in Windsor.

To be honest, it is the first optimistic moment I have had in a very long time.

Perhaps the border file will finally end and we can get our economy moving after so many years of hollow threats, mind's eye visions, inaction and stalling.

Perhaps we will look at proper priorities for this town of 200,000 and not grand visions and schemes to make us something we can never be but which sound terrific and prevent us from solving our real problems.

Just look at Annie's column today. First Henderson justifying Edgar (aka Eddie) breaking his two-term promise on Saturday and now this:
  • "Revealing hidden beauty

    The ugly towers, pipes and belts of Zalev Brothers scrapyard -- as Mayor Eddie Francis said, it looks like a bomb went off in the heart of Windsor.

    But it could be one of the most interesting places in the city.

    In some unusual and fascinating projects around the world, old industrial and transportation eyesores -- viaducts, street car repair yards, brick factories and iron mills -- and their detritus are being remade into new and inventive kinds of community and cultural hubs, from parks to museums.

    They honour urban history while becoming part of the new economy."

Vote for Edgar and our brownfields can be transformed like those in Dusseldorf, New York or Toronto. How many times will we hear the word "world-class" during the lead-up to the election next year?

We may finally have new leadership in this City to move us forward. Not next year but soon, almost immediately. And if it happens, it will not happen through the ballot box nor through a coup d'état.

We will owe it all to our Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Basse and certain leakors on Council whoever they may be. And most especially to our Mayor who has crystalized the matter in a way I never thought possible.

Of course, I am speaking about the leaked Report that Mr. Basse presented to Council, under what authority I still do not know but it no longer matters, that since Councillor Ron Jones and CUPE’s President Jean Fox were "friends," then the question was whether Jones should have recused himself from any involvement in the CUPE strike whatsoever.

"Friendship" became an issue for conflict of interest all of a sudden.

Then our Mayor confirmed it by helpfully chipping in during a TV interview:
  • "The issue in front of us is discussions that were taking place with the head of CUPE in the middle of negotiations. That is an important distinction to be drawn here."

As I Blogged:

  • “Oh my. A Pandora's box has just been opened by the Mayor not just with this but in other situations.”

Clearly, what the Mayor is saying that mere “friendship” in itself may not be a concern but “friendship” with more such as dealing with the City can result in disqualification from participation in a matter whether it is a strike or a business deal. That is the “important distinction” with a big difference that may impact this City, and the Mayor, dramatically.

Frankly, it makes Windsor even more like Toronto whose conflicts policy states:
  • "A conflict may occur when an interest benefits any member of the employee's family, friends or business associates."

Aren't Edgar (aka Eddie) and Mr. Basse suggesting that our rules go this far too now?

A nice exercise will be defining what a friend or business associate means.

Before anyone starts getting all excited, I am not the one who has made this an issue. Nor did Gord's "smear artists, conspiracy theorists, tire slashers, child harassers and professional moaners." The Integrity Commissioner as confirmed by the Mayor did.

I am not suggesting any improprieties. No illegal activities, no pay-offs, graft, under the table deals or bribes. Nope, it is a very narrow matter; it is the issue of being a "friend" or perhaps a "business associate" too that has now reared its head so we need to look at this concept carefully.

I can just hear the Clerk's voice now booming over the microphone before a delegation speaks at Council as part of the Proceduaral By-law:

  • "Are you now or have you ever been a "friend" or "business associate"of a Member of Council?"
Let us ask some obvious "friend" or "business associate" questions. Let’s think of some "friendship” and "business associate" possibilities with Edgar since he spoke on the matter and some big blockbuster potential deals since he has now made this an issue. As such, since he is so involved in virtually everything, we have to consider most of all of the major Windsor projects.

Consider the Miller Canfield firm where Edgar articled because this issue involved a member of that firm before. How would they fit in with this expanded definition? Remember the fuss over Michael Duben who was at the firm when Edgar articled there:
  • "Top candidate' was hired:

    City officials deny new senior bureaucrat got job because of links to the mayor

    Although Windsor's newest senior bureaucrat worked in the same law firm as Mayor Eddie Francis and was hired without an advertised national search, several councillors and the city's top civil servant say Michael Duben got the job on his merits alone...

    Duben said the only contact he had about the job was with Skorobohacz.

    "Eddie was quite surprised. I wouldn't put Eddie in that situation," Duben said of discussions with Skorobohacz...

    "I knew full well the mayor had articled with him," Skorobohacz said of Duben, a labour lawyer who also has represented developers and property owners dealing with the city...

    Skorobohacz said he did not discuss hiring Duben with Francis before meeting with councillors about it. Several councillors said the mayor expressed discomfort because of his personal relationship with Duben.

    "Eddie felt a little uncomfortable about the discussion," Lewenza said. "Eddie did not play a role in the discussion. He really took a hands-off approach."

    Added Ward 3 Councillor Al Halberstadt: "Eddie expressed a bit of fear that it would be seen as him going out and getting Duben."

Clearly, the issue was in some people's minds as far back as 2004, even after Edgar was long gone from the firm, because of a "personal relationship."

Is this still an issue? For example, a question that can be asked is whether Edgar is a “friend” or "business associate" of lawyer Jeff Slopen who is a Principal at Miller Canfield where Edgar articled. I have no idea if they are or are not. I mean to cast absolutely no negative aspertions against Mr. Slopen. It is an issue for a Member of Council to determine, not the friend. It's a real issue though.

I think it important to ask Edgar to confirm what the relationship is. Edgar had declared a pecuniary interest in the past when he articled at the firm and even afterwards, clearly for a different reason than friendship but probably as a "business associate" out an abundance of caution:
  • "Councillor Francis discloses an interest and abstains from voting on Planning Advisory Committee Item No. 3, being the application by Mid-South Land Developments Corporation to rezone the west side of Prado Place between Ontario and Raymond and the east side of Thompson Boulevard between Ontario and Raymond, to permit 8 single unit dwellings each, as the applicant is represented by the Miller Canfield Law Firm, where he recently completed his articles of clerkship "

I must admit I do not recall if he ever disclosed an interest in the border file when Mich-Can was involved since Edgar articled for Miller Canfield, the Mich-Can lawyers.

Since Mr. Slopen is also the lawyer for the owner of the Zalev lands and there are now discussions about buying or expropriating the property, if Mr. Slopen is a "friend" or "business associate" must Edgar now recuse himself and no longer be involved? Look at what has been said in the past so you can understand what Mr. Basse may have to deal with:

  • "Hamilton's model is exactly what we need to see happen here," said Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis. "It would allow us to identify the sites and bundle some of them as a package for developers."

    Francis said the city will need to seek government grants.

    "Our first step should be to establish a committee led by council but also including interested citizens to see if there is any interest on Zalev's behalf to discuss their site and its future," said Francis. "From my understanding, there is some willingness on the company's behalf to do that."

    Windsor lawyer Jeffrey Slopen, who represents Zalev, was unavailable for comment but has said in the past his client was open to discussions. "

  • "Zalev denies causing recent 'putrid' odours

    But the metal recycler said through lawyer Jeffrey Slopen that Zalev has not operated its hot briquette plant since Oct. 31 and could not be the source of the odours Dilkens said he noticed.

    Slopen, in a letter to council, said other industries could be the source of the odours."

  • "Zalev lawyer Jeffrey Slopen said the company is unaware of any current issues but would be willing to attend a meeting if invited.

    "We're trying to be a good corporate citizen," said Slopen, noting the company has responded to concerns of nearby residents in recent years. "Our view is that we aren't aware of any issues with the Ministry of the Environment."

    Brister asked city administration on Monday about the possibility of the city expropriating the Zalev property and building another east-west artery between Howard and Dougall avenues.

    "There has to be a municipal use to expropriate that land," said Brister."

What is the difference between the Jones-Fox relationship and the Edgar-Slopen one if they are friends or business associates?

What about with London’s Mr. Farhi? Are he and Edgar friends? Here is how they met according to the Star in November, 2006:

  • “Francis and Farhi met for the first time about a year ago at a wedding in London.

    Farhi contacted Francis shortly afterward to hear first-hand about the mayor's plans for Windsor.

    "A week later, he calls and says, 'Meet me at the Lear plant. I just bought it,'" Francis said.

    Farhi arrived in Windsor by helicopter and told the mayor he liked what he'd heard the week before about where the city was heading. "He's made that very clear to us, he wants to invest in Windsor," Francis said.

    About one month ago, Farhi was the one to get a call. It was the City of Windsor, wanting to know if he was interested in doing a deal with his land next to Lear.

    "I was very taken by their honesty, very taken by them coming and asking me to help" in the revitalization of downtown.

    He says he took "14 seconds" to say yes. "If it takes me more than 14 seconds to make a decision, it's a bad decision."

I recall Edgar being asked by John Fairley on Face-To-Face about whose wedding it was but Edgar declined to answer.

In passing, the issue for some reason was raised in a recent Henderson column where he went after "tortured souls and conspiracy theorists who hate Eddie Francis with a passion" over the issue. I have no idea who these people are other than as a strawman that can conveniently be raised. Actually, the issue arose because Edgar for years allowed it to be one, not because of anything else. But remarkably, note this comment by Mr. Fahri as quoted by Gord. Was it just an expression of language used or their relationship:

  • "I cornered Francis outside and asked about the rumour. He chuckled and called Farhi over.

    Did you know, he asked, that we're cousins? Fahri roared and gave Francis a crushing bear hug. "If you and I are cousins, my friend, there can indeed be peace in the Middle East," he cackled."

Don't blame me, blame Gord who gave us the quote. He knew exactly what he was writing too because he would be absolutely aware of the "friend" issue over Jones and Fox. Could this be the Sheriff giving us a big hint by directing the "enemies" of Edgar to read this statement?

We may need Mr. Basse to look into their relationship and also what the two gentlemen talked about since a few months before they met, we learned:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and council took the arena plunge over the weekend and promised to do what has eluded a generation of political predecessors -- replace Ontario hockey's most ancient forum.

    Council voted 8-2 Saturday to start looking for a replacement for Windsor's 80-year-old arena, known by fans and cynics alike as the Barn...

    "We're now committed. I have faith this council is different," Francis said following council arena resolutions No. 106 and 107...

    A second resolution, passed without opposition, gives Francis authority to meet immediately with Windsor Raceway management to conduct "exploratory discussions" on its latest proposal to host the site of a new municipal ice arena.

    While the raceway is currently the only proposal on the table, council's motion also gives the mayor a green light to respond to "others as they may come forward."

Depending on what answer is given, should Edgar have had no involvement with the Arena and lands issues and should have no ongoing role? Should Edgar recuse himself now with the canal as well since Mr.Farhi has contributed money to the study and owns a key piece of property downtown right next to where it can go?

Do you understand where this can take us if Mr. Basse is correct in his analysis! Who knows where this "friends" and "business associate" concepts can lead us.

But let us deal with someone who is without question Eddie’s “friend.” But THAT is for another BLOG.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don't Blame Edgar

No criticism ever. No fingers pointed. Look elsewhere. It's NEVER his fault.

Consider the Bridge Company leak. He did not do it. It was an underling.

Always look for an Insubordinate Claus, one might say, to blame.


Remember Edgar (aka Eddie) scolding Councillors like the kindergarten children he thinks they are for politicing when there are important matters to be undertaken over the next year, like getting him re-elected.

Fortunately, there is someone outside of the political field over whom he has absolutely no control whatsoever who can politic for him: Gord Henderson.

Gord just announced the start of the 2010 election campaing by telling us that Edgar will break his 2-term election promise, not because he wants to but because Windsor needs him. We will be begging him to return because of his "inspirational leadership" during the CUPE strike. So much for "moving on."

  • "So much to do. So little time to do it. It's downright mean to say it. But we need four more years from this guy."

Of course Gord knows that if the Star had covered the Lewenza Ward meeting and reported how Windsorites were screwed by the hardliners, then Francis would be following David Miller in Toronto:

  • "Consider what happened in Toronto where nice-guy Mayor David Miller demonstrated the leadership qualities of an overcooked noodle, alienated both camps and soon confirmed the obvious, that he was chopped liver."

Here's the real hoot though. The big issues that Edgar is supposed to tackle--"Ontario's most costly road project, Zalev file, the canal file, the airport cargo file, the railway relocation file, the struggle to rehabilitate downtown and the daunting task of reinventing Windsor's place in a post-industrial Ontario--he has had those issues for 2 terms and has achieved little on each of them.

How many times can one recycle failure.

Gord's column was funny. Scaring competitors off, especially Bill Marra, by effectively warning them that they will be smeared. Why even Councillor Brister may be upset since his good buddy encouraged him to think that Edgar was NOT going to run in a couple of columns but the clear message today was that Edgar will.

But hold on for a minute. did you read the Star editorial?

  • "Municipal terms

    Three years was long enough

    In March 2006, when Premier Dalton McGuinty began floating the idea of extending the term of municipal politicians to four years from three, we said it was a flawed idea.

    Today, with the idea now law -- and municipal councils and school boards heading into the fourth year of their expanded mandates -- we still think it was the wrong thing to do."

Heck, don't tell me that the Star cannot face another year of Francis too!

A good part of the Arts community cannot I am sure, especially after the Salvation Army Building fiasco. As Ron Stang wrote:

  • "Local artists launch sticker campaign against Mayor Eddie Francis

    A group of artists has launched a campaign against Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis..

    The stickers are takeoffs of the famous Barack Obama “Hope” poster from last year...

    The Windsor version of the sticker has Eddie Francis in the place of Obama and instead of the word Hope it has various slogans, all negative. One says Still No Change. Another says instead of Obama’s Yes We Can, No We Can’t and a third F--- You Eddie."


  • "The pending St. Clair College journalism building is creating its own news even before the school takes it over -- theatre activists complained Wednesday that props stored in the facility were thrown into dumpsters without notice...

    "This is just shameful and wasteful," said Michelle Mainwaring, artistic director of MJM Entertainment Productions which stages dinner theatre. "It makes me sick. It's totally disrespectful..."

    Mayor Eddie Francis, however, said bankruptcy trustee Stephen Funtig, who represents the creditors controlling the Capitol Theatre -- a legal battle over the playhouse has ensued since it went bankrupt in March 2007 -- was told in advance about clearing the former Salvation Army building.

    "People should address their concerns to the trustee, who is responsible for all that stuff," Francis said. "The city reached out to the trustee. On Dec. 3, we let them know that we needed to clear out the building and said they should make arrangements to clear out the stuff they would want to have. They replied that the cost of removing the stuff was greater than the value of the stuff and that the city should dispose of it."

It's the City's building, not Funtig's. How can Edgar (aka Eddie) pass the responsibility to him?

I wonder if the City understands what "bailment" means.


Surely no one on Mangement's side ever expected their managers and non-union employees to accept this:

  • "The City of Windsor's managers and non-union employees voted Wednesday night to reject a proposal from the city that would have squelched the employees' union drive.

    John Miceli, the city's manager of facilities operations and president of the group that's attempting to unionize the 420 employees, said the main sticking point was an issue of reciprocity with CUPE Local 543.

    "In the past, we've had the pleasure of experiencing any of the wage increases that 543 got. We received (them) as well," he said. "This agreement only provides us reciprocity on the health benefits, but nothing other than that. It prescribes a wage increase up to 2012, and nothing beyond that."

Why there is such a non-trusting relationship between the City and its workers that if the PETU members had accepted it, one would have had to question their wisdom! All they would have been buying is a few years of peace and then when the City screwed them again, they would have had to start all over again.

May as well fight the fight now.

Add another labour relations fiasco to Edgar's list.


In this case, "never" may be smarter than "better late." Why waste one's efforts on a loser project except if one has little else to crow about.

Back in September, the headline read:

  • "'We have to act' mayor says of air cargo plan"

If we have not after several months, then there is only one person who is to blame? And I do NOT mean Ms Nazzani.

Does anyone really believe that Government will take seriously Edgar's report prepared by a "self-interested" consultant like Luftahnsa who wants Government to build a terminal for industry? No wonder Councillor Halberstadt stated:

  • "It is my view that an independent third party needs to critique the work of Lufthansa. To this end, I spoke to Dr. William Anderson, Ontario Research Chair of the Cross-Border Transportation Institute established in 2008 at the University of Windsor.

    Anderson spent 10 years at the Centre for Transportation Studies at Boston University, and 15 years at Hamilton’s McMaster University, where he witnessed the growing pains of John C. Munro’s air cargo industry.

    Dr. Anderson met the Lufthansa consultant when they were in Windsor. He was impressed, but upon reading the 117-page phase one report, he has identified several troubling unanswered questions.

    He would be willing to officially review Lufthansa’s studies and do it for nothing. University researchers like Dr. Williams are valuable to their communities “partly for their expertise,” and more importantly, “partly for their objectivity.”

While Edgar ran off to Germany alone (why didn't he take Messrs Dilkens and Lewenza with him this time since he did before) and ran off to Washington with Ms Nazzani, one wonders if he has raised the money, $310,000 yet for Phase II of the Lufthansa study.

While he is jet-setting:

  • "London International Airport has been given the go-ahead to launch a "cargo village gateway."

    London will receive up to $8 million in federal funding for the initiative, Gary Goodyear, minister of state for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, announced. The city is putting $3 million of its own funding into the enterprise, which is expected to create up to 150 jobs."

If as the Star says "Airport cargo 'race' on." then thanks to Edgar, we are clearly in last place.

And I won't even think about the other race we are losing to Hamilton that is barely mentioned here.


This town ain't big enough for him

Don't be surprised to see Edgar leave town after his term of Mayor ends. We are too small-townish for him. You cannot blame him for that.

As Gord pointed out so clearly as an alternative for him:
  • "Go make a pile of money in your chosen profession, even if it means moving to the bright lights of Toronto or Chicago."

    Leave all this small-town, small-minded grief and b.s. behind."

After all, our Mayor is not like us. As Gord tells us, Edgar

  • "thinks it's perfectly normal to make an overnight flight to Germany in order to hold meetings in a single day with Lufthansa executives, Red Bull Race officials and world youth games planners."
He is after all he is our world-class union fighter, land developer, sports jock, border operator, road and tunnel builder, hub advocate, P3 financier, entertainment impresario, onion marketer and canal builder. He is the guy who is our champion entrepreneur with our money and at our risk.

It's a no-brainer to sell a building for a dollar when you have given away a building worth millions to the same party. Gosh, I might have paid 5 bucks for both if I had been given a chance to bid.

Perhaps, I can partner with Mr. Fahri and get the Capitol cheaply and do the kind of thing he did with the Capitol Theatre in London. We can turn it into an office complex and enter into "a 20-year lease... for civic offices." We'll call it a public-private partnership and ask for more of them as Mr. Fahri did to make it really trendy too and move the Planning Dept there as they did in London so they can continue to make our main street even greyer than it is now.

He and I can even build our new City Hall after we tear down the Barn and those Glengarry units after the report comes out in January about how deficient the existing building is. That would be a very nice P3 even if at taxpayer expense compared with doing it oneself. Just like with the DRIC road fiscal extravaganza.

I don't blame him. Jet-setting and rubbing shoulders with world leaders, who can be interested in such petty items as silencer buttons at Council.

Jet-setting a couple of times to Germany for day trips. Heck, Harrow is a big trip for me.

Do you really believe that Edgar went to Washington, DC "on Friday to promote the city's plans to build an international cargo hub at its airport" merely days before President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. There's more to it than meets the eye.

Speaking of eyes, "the eyes of the world will turn to this city and to this community as the Olympic flame arrives," Edgar stated. I just saw my eye-doctor for a stye in my left eye.

Whirlwind trips to meet children's games officials, Red Bull organizers, the President of Lebanon.

Hmmm, didn't Mr. Farhi claim

  • "If you and I are cousins, my friend, there can indeed be peace in the Middle East."

Does that give you a hint about what noble prize Edgar is looking for now? Think I am joking? Why would Gord mention Chicago? Remember this:

  • "I am glad that Eddie took a day off to go to Chicago to speak at the Annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum on the subject of "The New Urban Dwellers: Addressing the Challenge and Opportunity of Urbanization."

While there he also attended

  • "Developed and hosted by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the first-ever U.S.-Arab Mayors Forum was held April 28-30 in Chicago. The historic conference brought together about 50 mayors from 18 nations to share best practices, exchange information, and build new relationships...

    Ten mayors from North America participated in the Forum, nine from the US and one from Canada...The Canadian mayor was Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis."

If there is a lot of blustery wind coming out of City Hall, you will now why.