Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another WUC Investigation Needed

Oh Lord, here we go again. WUC-gate2, the sequel

There is something rotten going on again in the Windsor Utilities Commission, or perhaps in reality somewhere else this time, that needs investigation.

Don't expect the Windsor Star to do it. They're too busy talking about Monopoly and other Children's games to be concerned with important matters in the City. The responsibility lies with the Chair of the Commission to start it at least. Is he up to the job?

Ken Lewenza Junior is an interesting character.

The story about him is that he would probably be first in line to replace Joe Comartin when he decides to retire some day. Accordingly, one would have thought that he should "play it safe" and not rock the boat too much. Why jeopardize his future chances.

Instead, he leads the charge in the ridiculous CUPE dispute and tries to explain to the public what really happened, why a strike was not necessary and how much it cost us all. Unfortunately, the Messenger decided that it needed to protect the hard-liners, especially our Mayor, and refused consistently to report anything that Junior had to say. Not only that, they perpetuated the myth that the hard-liners won when instead they cost the city taxpayers millions of dollars.

Now we have the matter involving water rates. The Councillor could have played it safe and played the Mayor's game of keeping rates down before the election and then hammering taxpayers after the election as was done before. Instead, the Councillor took the unheard-of action of telling citizens that a 10% rate increase was required and then took the rate increase show on the road to demonstrate why that was needed and to listen to the reaction of citizens to what was being said.

I think it can be said that the general reaction of citizens who attended all of these information sessions was to support what was being proposed by WUC ie the large increase.

Lewenza learned from the earlier WUC fiasco and took the career chance to get his lumps from the public and see his political career go down the tubes if he failed at his task. In fact was congratulated by his colleagues on Council publicly for his actions and taking the steps he did. Hmmm, that says something about his colleagues too doesn't it.

Of course, Council Colleagues who are running again are afraid of what the reaction of citizens would be. They voted on a 3% increase for water rates, something that the Commission has never supported. Yet now we learn that the Commission will be going ahead with 5% because after all they have the rate setting ability. That should lead to a nice confrontation

Why was that done... Junior has the perfect line and probably the true explanation:
  • "Lewenza said sarcastically that his colleagues could now tell voters they fought for cheaper rates and “all go to sleep at night knowing the five per cent per year was going ahead.”

There is no doubt in my mind that we will see a column by mini-Gord expressing outrage, an editorial or two denouncing the actions of the Commission and who knows what Gord will say in his column protesting what is going on.

Naturally the Mayor will also speak out loudly about protecting the interests of poor citizens who are under so much pressure these days paying out money. I could see him attacking his fellow Commission colleagues for their actions defying Council. Doesn't this sound like the Library Board as well?

It would not surprise me if Commission Board members resigned also. That would hardly break the heart of Council who would then replace the members with more compliant individuals who knew how to take and follow orders. Shades of the Undevelopment Commission.

This action by Council is no different than the Mayor suggesting several years ago that water rates perhaps should be reduced at a time when it was clear that a massive amount of work would be necessary to fix up the water system.

However, there is something bizarre going on at the Commission itself. Is the Commission completely out of control? Do the Board members have the faintest idea of what is going on? The Chair needs to discover what is happening or else it looks like the Minister may have to send in another team of auditors to try to piece together if his City is being well served by the people who are running the Commission.

Consider this. Why would anyone in their right mind after a proposal was rejected by the Board, put forward that proposal to be considered by Council. I'm talking specifically about the 3% solution. That was presented as Option #2 at Council.

There is no doubt in my mind that Councillor Lewenza was trying to prevent the Board from being embarrassed when he said:

  • "Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr., chairman of the WUC board, said Tuesday the cheaper option presented to council “wasn’t an option … it was out there for discussion purposes...

    Asked to explain why councillors were given WUC documents providing two options, Lewenza said Tuesday: “I’m completely perplexed.”

There is no doubt in my mind that he was protecting his Board and his people.

At no time as far as I understand it did the Commission ever support such a low number in any of their presentations or public discussions or conversations with citizens. Why have Council even look at it if it would be irresponsible to support it.

Yet Ms. Zuber could write in her report:

Who instructed her to add that option and why and then present it to Council? How can she claim it is financially viable as well if it is inconsistent with what the Board voted on? Pay as you go for major improvements....oh please! That payment philosophy was never intended to used for large-scale, long-term debts unless it is a pet project such as an East End arena.

Councillor Dilkens asked the right question

  • "Why send us a second option when you’re not even going to consider it?” said Coun. Drew Dilkens."

Then Councillor Gignac, who surprisingly has not gone to have tea with the Queen again was able to say:

  • “They gave us those two options — they were there in black and white,” said Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac."

Even the Chair of the Commission, Councillor Lewenza was forced to say:

  • "Asked to explain why councillors were given WUC documents providing two options, Lewenza said Tuesday: “I’m completely perplexed.”

Well Councillor, it is up to you now as Chair not to be perplexed but to find out what is going on. How can both options be financially viable when you claim:

  • "While the difference doesn’t appear large for the individual water customer, Lewenza said it adds up to about a $15-million difference over the five-year period and would have meant delays for a number of needed watermain projects...

    Lewenza told reporters that the lower spending would eventually put Windsor’s water system in jeopardy...

    Lewenza said WUC needs the higher income for necessary watermain replacements and system upgrades."

Without sufficient money to run the system properly, how can it be financially viable? That is absurd.

Wow, wasn't the Mayor lucky that he was in Bahrain doing an unneeded, two-hour presentation. Or rather it was necessary to for him to be away from the Council meeting where this fiasco played itself out so he could say he was not there and had no role in it. I wish next time he would try and promote something closer to home so that when he leaves town he does not have to spend the money to go overseas.

By the way, who gets the air mileage points when he travels?

I believe that the Chair needs to bring the Board together immediately to try to figure out what is going on.

Naturally of course the Blogmeister can be of tremendous assistance to the Councillor because I have a suspicion of what is really happening. I believe that a deliberate attempt is being made to discredit the Commission in the eyes of the public. Who did it and why, one can only guess at this point in time.

Why do I say this? There is a survey being circulated right now online to selected residents by a firm called Vision Critical. The questions asked are very specific to the City of Windsor so obviously somebody locally is sponsoring it. The questions have to do with our Mayor, what kind of a job he is doing, the CUPE strike and then specifically to privatization of garbage, parking enforcement and child care. Surprisingly though, two other items were added under privatization: sewage and water.

There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that someone wants to gauge how well or poorly the Mayor has done with respect to privatization of the three services that we know about and if he has a chance of being re-elected using CUPE-bashing as his platform. If the results are positive, and they have to be due to the terrific work of the Messenger, then there is no doubt that privatization of these other two services would become so much easier. Especially, if it can be alleged that the Commission is overcharging consumers and improperly ignoring the wishes of Council.

I think each member Council should asked if they know who is responsible for this survey being undertaken and if it is being paid for by the City. Wouldn't you like to know the results? I sure would.

More importantly I would like to know if the City is paying for information for incumbents to be re-elected so that the election campaign can be directed at specific items that will resonate well with citizens. Hasn't this game been played once before with a survey taken before an election?

Remember as well but I predicted that a number of the City's assets could well be P3ed. Along with the Tunnel, especially if Windsor had taken over the US half, Enwin is a perfect candidate. If you are going to get rid of electrical, one may as well get rid of water and sewage at the same time in one big gigantic P3 package.

It of course will be sold as bringing in tons of money for the City--- when it really is the opportunity for Edgar (aka Eddie) to get his hands on millions of dollars to fritter away and waste on frivolous mind's eye visions--- and hammering those greedy CUPE workers who deserve what they get.

As I have explained to you before, nothing goes in a straight line in the City of Windsor. Why have the discussion honestly and openly about privatization and P3ing assets when games playing and hiding the truth from citizens is so much more fun.

Let's see what Councillor Lewenza does now.