Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Hey everybody, forget Monopoly and having a space on the Board named after Windsor. Boring.

We need a distinctly Windsor take-off on a game to pass away the time at the unemployment office until our economy booms again. Something exciting but quick since we know that the attention span of Windsorites is low. That is why the Star publishes stories with the key points buried at the end so no one will read them.

The game has to be timely too so people will understand its significance. I figured that the game could be a take-off of Tic-tac-toe. Oh that game is NOT as simple as you think:
  • "The simplicity of tic-tac-toe makes it ideal as a pedagogical tool for teaching the concepts of combinatorial game theory and the branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the searching of game trees."

Accordingly, I wanted a simple but fun game that is a good pedagogical tool for teaching the concepts of the border file settlement that was just reached. Thus in three words we learn everything as I name the game:


Do you understand. It explains that

  1. we got a DRIC road settlement,
  2. the Taqtaq family sees hopefully Duty Free Shop improvement as the Plaza gets fixed up (although under Edgar's leadership, Tunnel volumes are tanking so they may need a big rent reduction) and their lands around the Tunnel are expropriated finally and
  3. Windsor gets dough for its projects, the $78M that Edgar negotiated with the Province.

Naturally we need to replace the X's and O's. So here is how it would look

OK, OK, I know I am being silly but surely not as silly as the sycophants whose vicious objections and opposition to the DRIC road disappeared as quickly as saying "Re-elect Edgar Francis For Mayor" when he got $78M extra. Health concerns, pollution and noise impacts and the effect on children simply if they never existed. Because they did not.

You have to admit though the three words do explain it all very concisely. Let me go into more detail. I have already Blogged about DRIC ("It's A Sell-Out") and the Dough ("The Price Of The DRIC Road Compromise"). Now let me talk about the third part.

$24.2 million dollars of Provincial money to help out an international border crossing, the Tunnel, owned by the City of Windsor. What a great use of Provincial money in a time of deficit. Does her Majesty's Loyal Opposition at Queen's Park know about this and approve it? Torontonians must be so proud of us that we get the money they are losing.

What a coup by our Mayor. I am shocked that the Star did not publicize it more. We all ought to be applauding it not seeing it hidden away by the traditional media. Come on guys, let us know more so we can praise the negotiating skills of our Leader.

Hmmmm, that's odd. I have not seen so far what I am going to tell you reported in the Star. Why not? Oh, I guess their reporters don't know any of this. It's all factual too just like the Bloggers Basher on CKLW wants. Were the following facts reported by the very well-trained journalists on the radio? Naw, I guess they did not know the facts either.

I really think that this is a gorgeous photo of our Mayor at the wedding of his obviously good friend, Abe Taqtaq.

In case you forgot, Abe's family runs the Duty Free Shop at the Tunnel Plaza location which is leased from Windsor taxpayers (I am not sure now if it is still the Windsor Tunnel Commission who is the landlord or the new Tunnel Corporation, both of which are headed up by the Mayor).

The Tunnel is the beneficiary of a huge contribution from the Province as part of Edgar's negotiated DRIC Road deal in case that part of the Edgar (aka Eddie) is our hero in the Star stories escaped you.

The Taqtaq family also is an owner of the plaza where the Mayor's spouse has her business. PCR, who built the new East End arena under a single source contract from the City, was also the contractor there I believe:

I mention this because of this startling declaration in a Tunnel Commission Minute. Surely it must be wrong. Surely she does not rent space at the Tunnel too but that is what it says:

All of this intense interest in the Tunnel on the Mayor's part to make it part of the DRIC Road deal. Think this is strange. Nope....It's hardly a surprise as you shall see. After all, the Tunnel is a City asset, right, and we have 5,000 commuters to protect no matter what the cost or so Edgar claimed before.

Let's see now. Here are some Tunnel facts that may interest you:

  • the Tunnel has been described as a "unique security" risk
  • the report on the shape of the Tunnel has never been made public (I guess Congressman Dingell still does not care about the safety of Tunnel users the way he did with Ambassador Bridge users, both crossings being about the same age)
  • the Mayor wanted to spend $75M of Windsor taxpayer money--where it would come from, who knows--to take over running the US half do the Tunnel, not owning it either but failed miserably to do so at a cost of over a million dollars of taxpayer money in legal and consulting fees.
  • the Tunnel no longer pays the City a dividend
  • the Tunnel Plaza Improvement project was dead in the water since the City could not afford its $10M share and the price of the project had escalated dramatically as was told to us by the now departed Dev Tyagi

    (Current Project Status
    The first of three scheduled Public Information Centres on the proposed alternatives was held February 23, 2006. This is part of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process to allow the public to comment on possible alternatives for the improvement area. The second Public Information Centre was held July 26, 2006.
    Next Steps

    We are working with the City of Windsor to finalize the schedule for this project based on the remaining requirements for the EA study."
  • the Tunnel traffic is falling dramatically: "Detroit-Windsor Tunnel - almost all cars and local - is doing horribly. Jan-Mar this year totaled only 886k v 1,050k Jan-Mar 2009, over 15% off."
  • the DRIC Bridge is expected to take away a huge chunk of their business.
  • The Provincial share of the project increased by 142% from $10M to $24.2M and its share of the total project increased from a one third share to 55% (Whatever happened to each of the Governments sharing equally?)

All of this interest and expenditure in a declining asset. Yet Edgar made it part of the DRIC Road deal.

Would it have been a deal-breaker if the Province said NO? I guess we will never know unless Sandra and Dwight tell us what they discussed over breakfast in Sandra's house. How charming. I wonder if there was any concern about the Members Integrity Act as Sandra made waffles and coffee for them.

Good to see that the Province and City want to become active participants in a NAFTA case!

So what is one of the big deal points on a settlement that is primarily concerned with the DRIC Road to the Ambassador Bridge (yes that is what will happen) and that takes up a good chunk of the $78M prize money that Edgar (aka Eddie) negotiated as a consolation prize for chickening out and putting Windsor at risk using his own and David Estrin's presentations as evidence:

  • Building on the Let’s Get Windsor-Essex Moving (LGWEM) strategy

    Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Canadian Plaza Improvements
    • Ontario is investing an additional $10 million for improvements to the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Canadian Plaza. This is in addition to the $10 million announced under the LGWEM strategy in 2004 and $4.2 million spent on property to date.
    • Ontario and Canada will immediately restart the environmental study.
    • Public consultation sessions will be held shortly leading to completion of the study and the necessary environmental report.
    • Subject to environmental approval, property acquisition, and completion of further engineering work, construction could start as early as winter 2011 and will take approximately one year to complete.
How terrific that it is getting started so soon just after Edgar turned the Tunnel into a private company where pesky taxpayers and reporters can be kicked out of Tunnel meetings just like at the airport.

$14.2M extra...making a $30M project now $44.2M. I am certain not all of that increase is due to construction cost escalation.

But wait, the City did not have $10M in its budget for its share....Where will that money come from? Perhaps from the sale of all of those City properties to the Province:

  • "$12 million for the purchase of 150 city-owned properties along the route of the parkway"

Or maybe it will come from the obscene selling price that the Feds paid for the Brighton Beach property sold by Edgar.

Oh well, at least the Taqtaq family can breathe a big sigh of relief. They run the Duty Free Shop. The Star also claimed several years ago that they owned a lot of land around the Tunnel. You must remember the 5-part BLOG series I did about Friendship.

They must have been quite concerned because nothing was happening with the Tunnel Plaza Improvements for years! You remember the BLOG I did about this property right across from the Tunnel. Why it was empty for so long that they must have lost a fortune in rental revenue.

Moreover, their Duty Free business must have been suffering badly with the huge reduction in traffic as well. With the improvements at the Ambassador Bridge, who would ever want to use the Tunnel.

Please note above the Mayor's declaration of pecuniary interest and declaration thereof in only two of them. Edgar is so modest. "member of the former campaign." Pshaw, Abe was his campaign manager. As the City Clerk told me after I asked, remember:

  • ----- 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 Taqtaqs must be overjoyed that part of the DRIC compromise negotiated by Edgar resulted in so much more money being given to the project so that their business operations can be improved and so that their land can finally be expropriated. Didn't the Star say at one time that:

  • "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."

Of course as I said above, the Mayor must protect the Tunnel's business but note this as well where the Mayor did NOT disclose a pecuniary interest when he was a Councillor. I do not know why he did not do so:

He introduced the Motion to support what the Duty Free Shop wanted and did not declare a pecuniary interest.

Remember also the Coltaq Motion introduced by the Mayor that must have helped the Coltaq and Collavino families:

Moreover, Phase One of the Let's Get Windsor-Essex Moving Strategy included:

  • "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 when Huron Church was supposed to be the trouble spot. 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."

In passing, 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?

I don't recall the City negotiating that kind of money for the Tunnel's border competitor, the Ambassador Bridge, to improve their operation as part of the Strategy. There was $300M in BIF money around after all. Why not? They are an important crossing too. They have been hurt in traffic reduction. Their Duty Free Shop must have lost business.

There never was a Phase II Agreement which presumably would have dealt with the Bridge. What the Bridge received from Edgar, instead of helping them with a property issue, was the denial of demolishing homes on Indian Road!

There you have it dear reader. The new game, an explanation of each of the key elements and knowledge about the border file so that you can dazzle your friends with three little words.