Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, April 05, 2010

Be Still My Beating Heart

Gord Henderson has no shame. He is desperate. He MUST convince Edgar to run again for Mayor. He will do anything to get what he wants or rather, so he will not lose because it will be costly for him.

Remember this bet that he discussed in his column in July, 2008:
  • "Betting on a vision

    Arthur, a reader with a dry wit and a nice touch with words, contacted me Wednesday to express deep skepticism about the marina and canal being touted for the near west side, and to throw out a thirsty challenge.

    "Count me in with the skeptics about the proposed marina: such a dead-end pond, with no circulation of water, will become a weed- filled ditch," he predicted...

    "I am willing to put a bet on this marina -- say a bottle of whatever it is you drink. Let me know if you are interested," he concluded.

    Challenged in that manner, I had no choice but to respond. And given the nature of the debate -- moving water -- I chose to put on the line a bottle of Scapa, single malt whisky from Scapa Flow, the great natural anchorage (and final resting place of the battleship HMS Royal Oak) off the north coast of Scotland...

    After placing the bet I developed the inevitable cold feet. In a subsequent conversation with Mayor Eddie Francis I confessed to having rashly placed my wallet and a piece of my Scottish heritage at risk.

    His advice? "Double the odds. Double down. Raise it to a case. I'd take the bet because it will be done before I leave office," he insisted."

Could that mean that Edgar will run forever because that is the length of time it will take for the canal to be built!

Saturday's Henderson column has to be one that even Gord does not take seriously:

  • "The heart of downtown Windsor is still beating."

Perhaps he knows something that the Star told us about last December:

  • "As mayor of Canada's unemployment capital, Francis is itching to announce early in the new year success on three "files" the city has been pursuing, each involving non-government investments with the potential to inject large numbers of new jobs into Windsor."

Scratching, Gord did say this after all:

  • "There's one other bit of good news on the way.

    Stay tuned for an announcement by the end of this month on a "very significant" new office tenant for our vacancy-plagued downtown."

Good thing that the Integrity Commissioner has been defanged or else he would have another leak to investigate.

Perhaps Dwight will help out his new buddy when he comes here to speak soon and will tell us that some Government Department might finally be going into a Joe Mikhail building.

Hmmm, let 's see, our downtown is on life support:

  • Urban village, what urban village. The RFP for that one has never happened

  • Downtown arena, what downtown area. It's somewhere in the boonies with a rate of return on our $70M invested of just over 1% last year. If the real amount invested is $100M as some have suggested , then the rate is less than 1%

  • Chasing Summer Fest out to the arena to try to get its business up but forced to retreat because of citizen outrage.

  • Continued "mulling" for a half a year of a "Pelissier mall plan."

  • Various Star reports of fights and serious injuries almost every week downtown

  • Eddie's famous comment: "In the wake of another murder on Pelissier Street, Mayor Eddie Francis warned residents Monday to steer clear of the area late at night if they value their safety.

Don't you find the downtown so exciting and vibrant now?

Why I remember what Edgar (aka Eddie) said in his 2006 State of the City speech:

  • "The entire face of our downtown is transforming, and transforming for the better.

    Two and half years ago, we talked about building a balanced downtown where people could work, live and play.

    We believed in a friendlier, more vibrant downtown.

    Some said it couldn’t be done.

    Some said that we should live with a downtown that many people found intimidating, and just accept it for what it was.

    But our Council took action. Our Council believed in a better downtown for Windsor.

    Today, our downtown has what people did not think was possible."

Edgar is right for once. Who would ever think this as our downtown with high vacancy rates four years later:

  • a chain restaurant located in our money drain Canderel building with 5 cent parking,

  • a new reduced price bus terminal located right near a building that Mr. Farhi was going to build as high-priced condos and

  • an influx of St. Clair students who were going to turn downtown into an area jsut as vibrant and alive like Wyandotte West near the University.

Here is the new Francis mind's eye vision as told to us by Gord. Rather, it is the Sheriff telling us about another Francis failure:

  • "Meanwhile, there's new evidence that the controversial marina/canal plan for downtown is not dead and buried as its critics hoped, and that at least one segment, the transient marina, could see design work completed this year.

    The canal, dismissed by the unimaginative and pothole-obsessed as a useless "ditch," has drawn significant interest from out-of-town investors.

    There's a buzz around it. But with an election less than seven months away and with Francis still pondering whether to take on CUPE and its allies and seek a third term, it's too late to advance that "red flag" issue.

    Sadly, it's on hold. And for Lord knows how long."

Instead what do we get:

  • "But the other piece, the 35-berth transient marina proposed for the riverfront between Caron and Church, with an estimated price of $11-million, which includes breakwall work that must be done regardless, is a different story.

    Francis plans to ask council during capital budget talks for approval to conduct, as early as June, a "design charrette," an intense workshop involving leading designers from far and wide who would produce a ready-to-roll marina blueprint for consideration by the next council."

Oh great, a public consultation on artists' renditions but no consultation on daycare. The Mayor truly has lost his perspective and has no sense of value!

I hope you noticed the part "it's too late to advance." No one is responsible for the delay other than Edgar. Here is what Gord wrote about a year ago so we can see the speed at which our our Mayor operates.

  • "The marina proposal, by the way, has been radically altered. Initially slated for the Caron Avenue cut, that site has been ruled out, for technical reasons, as "prohibitively" expensive.

    Instead a transient marina with 35 to 40 berths would be built on the riverfront west of Dieppe Gardens for about $11 million, which includes significant work that must be done whether the marina proceeds or not."

Nothing like rehashing the past and making it seem new again.

Oh, the rest of the column was another pitch for the University to do something. It will be either in the Mady complex so one can pretend the Armouries are involved or the Capitol or perhaps Mr. Farhi will build it on his land so he can get out of the downtown.. Again, Edgar's blinding speed:

  • "The current talks, which were triggered by discussions involving Wildeman, St. Clair College President John Strasser and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan during last year's Red Bull festivities, are aimed at developing a "creative cluster" downtown, building on St. Clair's trail-blazing downtown campus in the former Cleary and its spectacular $5-million plus mediaplex now nearing completion in the former Salvation Army building."

Unless Dwight is putting up all of the cash or the University President is not doing any trips any more to places like the Olympics, do not expect much. After all, Gord told us in 2007:

  • "Nice plan, no cash

    A month has passed since the University of Windsor developed cold feet and retreated from a $58-million downtown campus proposal, but Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis still winces as he examines the glossy images of what might have been.

    And little wonder. The preliminary sketches from Calvin Brook, the consultant who prepared Windsor's Central Riverfront Implementation Plan in 2000, show the area from the new bus terminal west to Caron Avenue, and from University Avenue north to Riverside Drive, changed from asphalt wasteland into a dynamic urban space featuring attractive academic buildings, creative museum space, student residences and existing housing.

    A standout feature would have been the transformation of the Caron Avenue rail cut, currently a weed-strewn dumping ground, into a canal (shades of San Antonio's Riverwalk) leading to a riverfront waterfall. That waterway development has been on the city's planning books for several years but could have been accelerated with the university as a downtown campus partner.

    So close and yet so far. The drawings are just one indicator of how seriously Francis took the university's proposal -- a second proposal which followed the university's rejection of the downtown as a site for its $110-million Centre of Engineering Innovation -- to occupy as much as 100,000 square feet of space in the core area for programs that could have included a new law school, school of social work, business incubator and part of the nursing program...

    And then, splat, in an instant it was gone, snuffed out by number crunchers who concluded the university was in no position to make additional investments on top of its engineering school commitment.

    How did it happen like this? How could expectations be raised to such towering heights and then sawed off at the knees? According to Marty Komsa, outgoing board of governors chairman, board members were hugely excited about the proposal from university president Ross Paul, but it simply couldn't be justified financially...

    There was just one problem, according to Komsa. At $58 million, which included money to refurbish existing campus buildings, it was $35 million to $45 million more than the university could afford at this time, given the $135 million being invested in the engineering and medical schools.

    "Our business plan clearly indicates it's not feasible. At this point in time we just don't have the funds," said Komsa. "We're short. And where would we come up with the money? It just boils down to, our business plan doesn't support it."

So do not get too excited when we see more retreaded design charrettes....just think "municipal election."