Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Should The WUC Board Resign

Of course not. Why should they?

Just because some Star Editorial writer on Saturday wanted to intimidate them and was doing possible damage control in advance doesn't mean that they should back down from what needs to be done now and to prevent something happening that may cost taxpayers dearly in the future if I am right.

Why, there is nothing better than having a malleable Board:

  • "Under the City of Windsor Act of 1936, WUC was granted most but not all of the legal powers of a separate corporation. WUC has the power to raise rates to carry out its duties. But it does not have the power to borrow money, or appoint its own board.

    WUC exists entirely as a legal creature subservient to the City of Windsor and its elected city council. Windsor voters elect councillors who appoint WUC's board members. They can "un-appoint" them, too."

By acting as the Star is putting forward, I would suggest that the Board members are opening themselves up to legal liability. They were not put in their position to knuckle under any time Council demands. They are put into their job to act in the best interest of the Commission.

I really find what is going on quite fascinating. It is all part of a well laid out plan just like the CUPE strike.

There was no need for 101 day labour dispute except that there was a political agenda that had to be met designed to destroy public service unions not only in Windsor but in Ontario and even overseas as I had Blogged previously:

  • "The Public and Commercial Services union warned that it would use "all means" at its disposal to fight moves by the coalition administration [in the UK] to target payments to public sector employees who were made redundant.

    Last week the Office of Budgetary Responsibility predicted that 600,000 public sector jobs would go if departmental budgets were cut by 25%, as envisaged in the budget. A document sent to ministers by the Treasury has asked them to look at the possibility of stepping up departmental cuts to 40%, it emerged over the weekend."

Even though the hardliners caved in and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars over the lifetime of a public servant's career, the Messenger made it appear as if the Mayor and certain Members of Council won. The fact that the union lasted 101 days in the face of overwhelming anti-union propaganda is a huge surprise to me. But they did.

What happened almost immediately after the strike ended: privatization. First came the garbage collectors even though they are supposedly the second-best service in the country. Daycare workers then had to be eliminated because the private sector could do it so much better while parking enforcement officers had to see their jobs go out to tender.

It became so much easier to accomplish when union workers were smeared as being greedy even though they were prepared to settle with 0% increase in salary. Photographs in the Star, video on A-Channel, police comments on a legal decision that I have never been able to find were all part of the technique that was used to vilify the Union so the public would go along with eliminating them.

Tell me what is different today with the Windsor Utilities Commission. They wanted initially a 10% increase in rates as they explained to the public to make the water system viable while our Mayor and certain members of Council wanted a much lower rate that was never put forward by the Commission at all. Immediately, WUC was the greedy bad guy and certain members of Council were fighting for taxpayers.

WUC was sent back to do their work again and came up with a lower rate but not one that Council was prepared to swallow. Accordingly, Council voted for a 3% increase. Then, shockingly, the decision is made by the Commission to go with 5%.

That was the opportunity needed to slam the Commission for doing what the law imposes on them:

  • "Windsor Utiliites Commission to ignore council's wishes on rate hike

    Ignoring city council’s preferred option for water rate hikes, the Windsor Utilities Commission is proceeding with its own pricier plan that will see five per cent increases in each of the next five years for the average residential customer."

Like the language used?

Acting responsibly, how could a Commission Board member support a rate increase that was unacceptable? Commission Board members are doing their jobs by acting the way that they are. It is not something they just dreamed up overnight but was based on staff recommendations and supported by the public in meetings across the City. Did you ever hear a Council Member, especially one who is on the Board object before at the higher rate? Why now, in the last possible second, days before a report had to be submitted to the Ontario Government?

Why would the Star try to intimidate them today by suggesting that Council could appoint others? Why would the Star write:

  • "Since WUC is choosing to ignore the direction of the majority of city council after substantial discussion and debate, it may be time for council to find a new chairman for WUC. Council has the ultimate authority over WUC rates and they should be sure its collective decision is implemented by WUC."

The answer is as I have Blogged before: privatization. Soften them up for what is to be done in the future. Figure out who can be pressured to go along or needs to be forced out.

It is absolutely the same as what took place after the labor dispute ended. Council immediately moved to privatize.

Do not forget as well that we had the brouhaha involving the date of the meeting that the Commission was to go in front of Council. Another confrontation:

  • "Windsor Utilities Commission to boycott city meeting on water rate hikes

    The Windsor Utilities Commission plans on boycotting a special meeting of council called to deal with water rate hikes because the Thursday night meeting won't be broadcast by Cogeco.

    "The meeting is going to go ahead but we're not going to be there," said WUC chairman and Ward 4 Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. "It shouldn't be hidden in a special meeting of council. We have done too much work on public transparency to discuss this issue at a meeting no one will see."

    Lewenza sent an email Monday requesting the meeting be deferred and claims he has been stymied by Mayor Eddie Francis in his bid to have WUC officials lay out their six-year plan at a regular session of council -- one that would be beamed live into the living rooms of Windsor residents still smarting from an 86 per cent rate hike in 2007.

    Francis bristled at the suggestion he is attempting to keep the issue of rate hikes off the public radar before October's election, pointing out media outlets other than Cogeco, including The Star, would likely cover Thursday's meeting."

Remember that the Commission wanted to appear in front of Council on June 14 but the control of the Mayor of the Agenda meant that that was not possible. Did you ever read about the June 14 meeting request in the Star? Why was Edgar (aka Eddie) afraid to have them appear in a timely fashion?

Controversy leading to bad mouthing an organization leading to privatization. Why not? We are being set up for such a move, probably after the next election because there would be too much controversy now if it was put forward. Better to do at after election when the hardliners are in control again too.

Junior has never figured out that he was made Chair of the Commission for a purpose: to beat up on the Unions when it was decided to P3 the water system. He would take the hit for it and would be forced to justify it as a Chair of the Commission. There really is no need to keep him in the job any longer because the Messenger has done such a good job that the Public will believe almost anything that the hardliners tell them as long as it it is positioned as greed against the poor taxpayer.

If you have read any of my BLOGs on the Michigan P3 legislation, you will know that I am absolutely opposed to the P3 concept. It is nothing more than ripping off taxpayers to the advantage of investors. That means huge water rate increases in the future that taxpayers will have to pay and they will have no control over at because Council would have leased out the water system for up to 99 years.

It really is as simple as that. Look for more controversy involving the Commission. Look for more attacks against Lewenza. In particular, he has to be destroyed because he dares suggest that the Mayor is wearing no clothes. It's interesting to me that he and the Mayor no longer speak very much as revealed by the Star in their cell phone story.

After the Star Editorial, it will be very interesting to me to see what the Commission decides to do, if anything. Will they just sweep it under the rug and ignore what took place? That is really what the Star editorial is all about. Keep your mouth closed and do what are told and everything will be fine.

The most obvious question that must be answered is why the option dealing with the 3% was put before Council in the first place. That justified the 3% Council decision. In my opinion, that was a key step in the destruction of the credibility of the Commission and of the Board members themselves.

It is clear that the Chair had no idea that this action was going to be taken:

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

    Because of the “disconnect” between what WUC wanted and what council was willing to approve, Lewenza suggested there be a discussion on whether to continue having a separate board to oversee Windsor’s water utility."

I believe that such a debate is worthwhile. However the outstanding issue of how did Option #2 got in front of Council must be dealt with first. It is a tremendous embarrassment to the Commission and brings into doubt their judgment or lack thereof.

More importantly, the answer to that question will help us decide whether or not this is all part of a plan designed to destroy the Commission and if so, who is involved in it.

Obviously, the Chair was unaware that Option #2 was going to be introduced. Did the Commission Administration decide to do it on their own, directly disobeying the Board? If so, some people ought to be fired. It is not their job to make those kind of decisions but rather the Board's job.

Was there a lack of communications? I doubt it since the Board had never suggested such a low rate of increase in all of their discussions with the public.

What else could it be? There is an obvious alternative that I am certain you have figured out on your own by now.

There are serious questions whether something is going on at WUC, something that is not necessarily in the best interest of taxpayers. If Junior goes, I wonder who would become WUC Chair. Can you guess?

If Junior and the Board fail to take immediate action, then they should not resign. Rather they should be fired. They have a legal duty and may have a duty under the City's Code of Conduct to take the appropriate action depending on what went on.

Get moving. Peform your legal obligations. And ignore the Messenger completely!