Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Michigan Taxpayer Funds Wasted

Here is the traffic projection graph that started this border mess. It was produced in 1999 as part of the Southwestern Ontario Frontier International Gateway Study that eventually morphed into DRIC.

Boy is it ever wrong!

45,000 vehicles per day at the Ambassador Bridge by 2021 was predicted. In 2009, it looks like around 36,000 vehicles on the graph. 2009 actual: 17,800, about half. In fact, volumes approached that number in 1999 and have sunk like a stone since.

Imagine how angry politicians would be at McCormick Rankin who produced this report if they had built a second bridge here based on their projections. Why it would almost have been as bad as twinning the Blue Water Bridge and seen traffic not grow as projected. No wonder Wilbur Smith put in the disclaimer it did in its MDOT report. Cannot sue them, ever! I wonder if they did the same with the Canadian one.

I am not mocking the engineers. They did their best. BUT to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on "projections" that may not be accurate, which we know with DRIC are not, seems foolhardy at best.

I feel obliged to BLOG something about MDOT's Wilbur Smith Traffic Report because, frankly, you expect me to do so. After all, if I don't, then who will?

However, I am telling you straight out. I am NOT going to do a detailed analysis of the 500 or so pages of bumph. I am sure that it is, as one commentator who knows a lot more about the subject than I do
  • "Like most Wilbur-Smith studies this seems to be a meticulous examination of the factors bearing on future traffic and a conscientious effort to put the best numbers on it."

Trouble is that there is a fatal flaw in it that the commentator missed. The MDOT director, Captain Kirk, said in his press release:

  • "We welcome the opportunity to have the traffic projections that were used for the FEIS reaffirmed by a new investment-grade traffic study"

He had to say that because Michigan law required:

  • "The department shall submit an investment grade traffic study to the legislature by May 1, 2010 from a reputable traffic company with appropriate experience intended to provide a detailed traffic projection for the ensuing 10 years, taking into account projected infrastructure modifications, expansions and improvements announced."

What did Wilbur Smith say they were doing, an investment grade traffic study. MDOT wishes. Nope, they said they were doing this:

  • "refresh [of] the comprehensive traffic study undertaken in 2008 on behalf of Transport Canada for the new proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) within the Detroit-Windsor region."

In other words, a waste of $275K because it did NOT comply with what the Michigan Legislature asked for. If the report in 2008 was the one they were retained to do by Canada (who now seems NOT to want to be Michigan's partner), why were they so modest in not mentioning their own name as the author? I think that study was to cost over $800K so clearly the MDOT study was NOT a new report independently arrived at.

In fact, if that study was the Wilbur Smith study it produced for Canada, the results of which Transport Canada refused to provide to me, then that study was "fixed" too by its terms of reference to produce a great result regardless of reality!

So what we have is a "refresh" of a poorly framed traffic study because of the criteria chosen that is not an investment grade traffic study that does NOT meet what the Legislature asked for.

Do you understand why I do not want to waste a whole bunch of time on it! The Legislators won't even consider it.

Moreover, how can I comment on this report if the 2008 one has been hidden?

Ok, ok...I will make a few comments from fisking the Report to prove I have no life:

  • "Preliminary results" [Part of the title. When do we get the "final" results? After the Bridge Company gives its findings so it can be rewritten to answer the objections?]

  • "Current accepted professional practices and procedures were used in the development of these traffic and revenue forecasts. However, as with any forecast of the future, it should be understood that there may well be differences between forecasted and actual results that may be caused by events and circumstances beyond the control of the forecasters...

    All estimates and projections reported herein are based on WSA’ experience and judgment and on a review of independent third party projections and information obtained from multiple state and local agencies including Michigan Department of Transportation. These estimates and projections may not be indicative of actual or future values, and are therefore subject to substantial uncertainty. Future developments cannot be predicted with certainty, and may affect the estimates or projections expressed in the report, such that WSA does not specifically guarantee or warrant any estimate or projections contained within this report.While WSA believes that some of the projections or other forward-looking statements contained within the report are based on reasonable assumptions as of the date in the report, such forward looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from the results predicted. WSA take no responsibility or obligation to advise of changes that may in any matter affect the assumptions contained within the report, following the date of this report as they pertain to: socioeconomic and demographic forecasts, proposed residential or commercial land use development projects and/or potential improvements to the regional transportation network. [Your mileage may vary. In other words, don't blame us if we are completely wrong and you will spend billions based on this report]

  • "The annual traffic estimates for the proposed DRIC were developed based on the following basic assumptions: The new crossing is assumed to open to traffic by January, 2016; [Now we know that the DRIC bridge is at least 3 years late! More problems for our economy if we do not allow the Enhancement Bridge project to go forward now.

    Moreover, if the 2016 projected numbers are wrong, then the whole Report is wrong. We are already told by MDOT that within 2 years after the FEIS numbers were prepared, this Report came up with traffic numbers 10% less! Clearly, the FEIS has a major problem in it since its assumptions were clearly wrong. Oh well, another ground to overturn it.]

  • "Toll rates and border processing times for the DRIC baseline were pegged to the existing Ambassador Bridge and are assumed to remain at parity in the future" [If Moroun lowers toll rates or chooses not to raise them, then the DRIC bridge will never pay for itself if it ever could be financed based on tolls alone. We are already hearing about "availability payments" which mean Government subsidies."]

  • "Ramp-up is assumed to be modest at 90 percent in the first year and 95 percent in the second year, given that this bridge project has been discussed publicly for many years and is in close proximity to the existing crossings" [Is 90-95% modest? Does not seem so to me. Oh wait, it probably is: "is in close proximity to the existing crossings." So much for security and redundancy advantages for DRIC]

  • "The DRIC is projected to yield a border crossing travel time saving that will range between 2.0 to 8.0 minutes compared to the existing crossings by 2025 for select representative long-distance movements." [A ton of money and a lot of risk to save a few minutes on a long-distance trip. There seems to be no appreciation anywhere of technological changes and moving Customs away from the border that makes wasting this much money a boondoggle]

  • "The DRIC will capture 34.5 percent of the overall combined 2025 traffic along the four frontier border crossings within the Detroit/Windsor/Port Huron/Sarnia region. The new crossing will result in an average overall traffic share reduction of 20.5 percent at the Ambassador Bridge, 7.2 percent reduction at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and a 6.9 percent reduction at the Blue Water Bridge.

    The DRIC is expected to capture 27.6 percent of the total passenger vehicle traffic and 44.2 percent of the overall commercial vehicle traffic by 2025. The new crossing will result in a 2025 average passenger vehicle share reduction of 12.7 percent at the Ambassador Bridge, an 11.8 percent reduction at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and a 3.2 percent reduction at the Blue Water Bridge. The 2025 commercial vehicle shares as a result of the new crossing will yield a 31.5 percent reduction in the Ambassador Bridge commercial vehicle shares, while the Blue Water Bridge will experience a 12.1 percent reduction in its commercial vehicle share." [Good thing the BWB numbers were now lower or people there might ask why they needed a new plaza, a project that Wilbur Smith was involved in.

    Good thing Windsor did not get Detroit's half of the Tunnel. Losing that much business means the Tunnel is broke since it does not pay a dividend now

    The numbers before were a lot higher:
  • The City of Windsor owned Detroit/Windsor Tunnel could lose up to 26% of its total traffic.
  • The Ambassador Bridge could lose up to 75% of its truck traffic and 39% of its car traffic.
  • A seven percent decline in overall auto traffic on the Blue Water Bridge and a 16 to 18percent decline in overall truck traffic with the introduction of a proposed DRIC crossing in the 2035
  • A proposed DRIC crossing could carry as much as 80 percent of the truck traffic handled by the two bridges and about 60 percent of all traffic, depending on the alternative eak hour could be expected
  • "The DRIC is anticipated to attract approximately 9,000 passenger cars and 9,500 commercial vehicles during a normal weekday by the opening year of 2016. [Effectively, by 2016 traffic will rise so dramatically that the DRIC bridge will have 18,500 crossings per day. That is about what the Ambassador Bridge has today.]

  • "The DRIC is expected to attract approximately 5.9 million vehicles annually in both directions in the opening year (2016)" [The total business of the Bridge and Tunnel in 2009 was about 10.4M vehicles. If true, DRIC will put these crossings under severe financial pressure. If not true, DRIC goes broke.]

  • "The forecasted growth of commercial and passenger cross-border traffic, under certain project scenarios, has been projected to exceed the capacity of the existing crossings as early as 2015, under certain project scenarios. [So much for those discredited scenarios]

  • "The WSA team is comprised of Wilbur Smith Associates, IBI Group (current consultant for the DRIC study model development)...[Why not get the whole DRIC team involved to have complete apprehension of bias, or actually, real bias!]

  • "The automobile traffic at the three crossings reached their highest volumes in 1999, and demonstrated an average annual growth of approximately 2.4 percent between 1972 and 1999. The Ambassador Bridge, during this same period, had an average annual traffic growth of approximately 3.2 percent...Since 1999, the traffic declined at an average rate of -6.6 percent...The commercial vehicle traffic at the three crossings plateaued in 1999 and demonstrated an average annual growth of approximately 5.6 percent between 1972 and 1999. The Ambassador Bridge, during this same period, showed commercial vehicle average annual traffic growth of approximately 5.9 percent...Since 1999, the traffic plateaued with unprecedented declines occurring in 2008 and 2009....The historical annual total vehicular traffic for the three crossings exhibited significant increases in traffic between 1972 and 1999...The Ambassador Bridge had the highest average annual growth of 3.8 percent for the total vehicles among the three crossings over this traffic volumes at the three crossings since 1999 declined at a combined average annual rate of approximately -5.9 percent" [With these horrific numbers, how can one realistically demonstrate that "The DRIC is expected to attract approximately 5.9 million vehicles annually in both directions in the opening year (2016), and is forecasted by 2025 to capture 8.4 million vehicles, representing an average annual growth rate of 4.0 percent (with ramp-up included)."]

  • "(however these projections do not take into account the more recent economic turmoil)" [Yes, that is the problem especially when an auto part crosses the border so many times. If the auto business is down, traffic will be down too. If distribution changes eg mother and satellite plants, then traffic volumes will not grow rapidly. If Canadian businesses relocate to the US to be close to Mom....big trouble]

  • "The border crossing automobile traffic has been continuously decreasing since 1999 with an almost 37.1 percent reduction in the total United States-Canada border crossing traffic currently tracked by PBOA in 2009" [And why should it grow? Latest numbers "Closer to home, in 2000, almost nine million Americans made same-day trips to Windsor. That number has fallen consistently every year over the last decade. In 2009, little more than 1.5 million Americans made same-day trips to Windsor.]

  • "The traffic in 2001, prior to the events on 9/11, had shown signs of a decline as a result of the economic downturn that was already underway at the time, such that following the events on 9/11, the downward trend continued" [Key point. We were in economic trouble before 9/11]

  • "The overall total traffic demand across the frontier is currently 40 percent below the previous DRIC-EIS projections and the revised projections are shown to be close to 35 percent less than previously forecasted by 2015. Beyond the 2015 time horizon, the forecasts were expected to converge, such that the revised forecasts were expected to be approximately 10 percent below the DRIC-EIS forecasts by 2035. This is primarily driven by the reduction in same-day traffic that is expected to continue in the short-term as a result of several factors including the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the collapse and restructuring of the automotive industry, and the economic recession. The return of the same day markets are expected to be gradual and are likely to increase over the long-term as the regional economies diversify and begin recovering. The commercial vehicle markets are, to a lesser extent, dependent on the local economies and are expected to rebound faster such that these are forecasted to be approximately 15 percent below the DRIC-EIS study forecasts by 2015, and approximately 10 percent less by 2035. A detailed description of the factors influencing these forecasted trends are further described in the detailed report in Appendix C." [The economy was turning sour before 9/11. The Report lists a host of reasons why traffic is down. No one expected the sharp decline in 2008-9 either. Frankly, what makes these long range positive predictions any more likely than the mistakes made by DRIC already in such a short period of time. In the Report I did not see what would grow trafic to the rate required.]

  • "The addition of the DRIC is not expected to divert much of the current Blue Water Bridge traffic, since the Blue Water Bridge will still hold its advantage of providing shorter travel distances to some local and long-distance markets." [Wow, that means the EIS for the Blue Water Bridge need not be thrown out and the plaza can still be built at a cost of $500M. Wasn't Wilbur Smith involved in that too]

  • "The DRIC, under the baseline assumptions, is forecasted by 2025 to capture 4.4 million and 3.9 million passenger cars and commercial vehicles, respectively, representing an average annual growth rate of 4.1 percent and 4.0 percent between 2016 and 2025. The passenger car traffic along the DRIC is expected to grow to 6.0 million by 2035 and 7.7 million by 2060, which reflects a long-term annual growth rate of approximately 1.0 percent during the 25-year period. The commercial vehicle traffic growth during the same time period is expected to grow from 4.9 million to 7.0 million, which reflects an average annual growth rate of approximately 1.5 percent." [That is a huge percentage considering we no longer have the Free Trade growth spurt. Remember, between 1972 and 1999, the commercial vehicle traffic at the three crossings demonstrated an average annual growth of approximately 5.6 percent. The drop after 2035 seems shockingly low after the big increase before.]

  • "The DRIC is anticipated to attract approximately 9,000 passenger car traffic and 9,500 commercial vehicle traffic during a normal weekday by the opening year of 2016. These will by 2025 grow to 12,800 and 13,500 for the passenger car and commercial vehicle, respectively. The DRIC is therefore expected to serve a total of approximately 26,500 daily vehicles by 2025, and over 37,000 by 2040 when the miscellaneous traffic is included." [The DRIC 2016 number is more than that of the Ambassador Bridge today.]

A lot of the report was a description of traffic modelling and risk anlysis and other things that made my eyes glaze over. So be my guest and read it for yourself. To be honest, I did not get much out of it!


Sure, sure you say, what else would one expect from the Blogmeister but showing the fault of what was done. Obviously concerned about my brilliant rejoinder, DRIC had a peer review of the report undertaken. Sort of.

They had what is called

  • "Internal Peer Review of the Comprehensive Traffic and Toll Revenue Study for the Detroit River International Crossing Project Forecast Refresh and Update"

An independent peer review. Don't be silly. They might find soemthing wrong.

Instead get a team member to do an internal one! What does that mean:

  • "1.1 Report Purpose

    The purpose of this report is to summarize the findings of an internal peer review performed by IBI Group on the traffic and revenue forecasts for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) Study, as prepared by Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA) for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

    The internal peer review involves a review of the assumptions, methodology and results of the DRIC traffic and toll revenue forecasts and includes a review of data validity, economic parameters, travel demand procedures and parameters and toll rate sensitivity analysis. The objective was thus to assess the credibility, reasonableness and any associated risks with the forecasts and their reliability with respect to supporting informed decision-making by MDOT. As an internal peer review, IBI Group was part of the WSA Team responsible for the development of traffic and revenue forecasts and thus was involved in discussions with WSA throughout the study. Given the aggressive time schedule, this was beneficial as IBI Group was able to provide timely input on assumptions and methodology, allowing refinements to be incorporated into the development of the WSA forecasts as required.

    1.2 Internal Peer Review Process

    IBI Group is a leading transportation consulting firm that includes specialties in the areas of transportation planning, travel demand forecasting and toll forecasting. The firm has been responsible for the development of traffic forecasts for the Detroit River International Crossing over the past decade, supporting major US-Canada Bi-national Partnership efforts as part of the Planning/Need and Feasibility Study (2004) and the DRIC Study (2007), and undertaking several Windsor Gateway traffic analysis studies for Transport Canada and the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario (MTO). IBI Group was also part of the WSA Team that prepared the draft Investment Grade Windsor Gateway Traffic and Revenue Study for Transport Canada (2008). IBI Group has also undertaken toll traffic and revenue studies and peer reviews for toll facilities across North America and abroad, and thus provides the historic understanding and technical skills necessary to be uniquely qualified to perform an internal peer review of WSA’s DRIC Refresh for MDOT.

    The internal peer review was initiated with the notice to proceed provided to WSA by MDOT. As part of the WSA technical team in the Windsor Gateway investment grade study, IBI Group’s role in the MDOT Refresh included providing input and updates to networks, trip tables and assumptions, continuing this role from the previous Windsor Gateway study."

Honest. I cannot make this stuff up!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Traffic Numbers Do NOT Justify DRIC Bridge: MDOT Experts

Of course you did not see that headline. Did you ever think you would?

Get real! Instead the MDOT Press release said
  • "MDOT: Findings of new Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) traffic study reaffirm need for project"

I cannot keep reading this stuff so early in the morning. I laugh so hard that I get pains in my sides and have to take it easy the rest of the day! Can you imagine if I still subscribed to the Star and was reading this story with my hot coffee. I could have scalded myself!

Can you imagine being MDOT Director, "Captain" Kirk Steudle or frontman, Mohammed Alghurabi, the Senior Project Manager. I would not want to be in their shoes trying to justify the unjustifiable to Senator Cropsey and friends. If any of the Legislators bring out my BLOG "December 11, 2009 Place Your Bet In The DRIC Bridge Completion Pool," then they are finished!

In that BLOG, I demonstrated that according to Canada, SEMCOG and MDOT itself, the project is being stalled off slowly but surely and a new bridge may not be needed until almost 2040!

Here is another knee-slapper I picked up when I went to the MDOT Website:

MDOT is so proud.

  • "Average weekday traffic (AWT) projections for 2035 (the horizon year used in the FEIS) contained in the DRIC investment-grade traffic study are less than 10 percent different from the traffic projections in the December 2008 DRIC FEIS.

Come on, you have to laugh. In reality, the Traffic projections are so bad as undertaken by DRIC that in less than 2 years, from 2008 until now, their numbers are off by almost 10%! And we should spend billions based on this! A Danish Professor's MegaProject running amuk.

It will be interesting to read the Report itself once it comes out. But I am sure it will be very well prepared.

Actually, don't bother reading it. It should be completely ignored, tossed out, thrown into the garbage can even though it cost Michigan taxpayers $275,000 as you will see below.

However, something bothers me. Strategically, why would MDOT release the Report months ahead of when it is needed? It has to be provided to the Legislature for the May-June timeframe. Why release it now and allow the Bridge Company all of that time to rip it to shreds as they will. Why not spring it on everyone in the last possible second. That is what I would have advised.

The only answer that I can think of is more confirmation that the Canada/Michigan partnership has collapsed due to the end-run by Canada of Michigan to buy the Ambassador Bridge. Michigan is no longer worth the effort to Canada.

  • "A P3 is a preferred option for Canada,” said spokesman Mark Butler, senior adviser for the Windsor Gateway Project, which is Transport Canada's half of the Detroit International Gateway Project.

    Canada has such laws, but Michigan must as well because the bridge itself would be co-owned by the two governments.

    “You can't build half a bridge,” Butler said.

    Without such a Michigan law, options include Canada building the entire bridge or the U.S. federal government somehow using its public-private partnership law to construct the span and then delegate the project back to Michigan."

  • "There has been some consideration by government officials on this side of the border, plus U.S. federal authorities in Washington, to push forward on DRIC without Michigan's involvement should its state politicians withdraw financial support for the new bridge.

    There has been a push to find private investors to support a public-private partnership for DRIC, plus the other governments involved -- Ontario, Canada and U.S. -- may decide to pitch in extra funds should Michigan drop out, said sources close to the project."

MDOT knows this and is desperate. They have spent all of this money and now they are being pushed out of the partnership and very publicly too. What would the Michigan Legislators say? Who would be fired over the waste of $30M plus if Michigan got nothing out of this deal? Ergo, try and scare Moroun so that he will come calling ASAP.

After all, look at all of the pressure stories in about a week including the traffic report:
1) MDOT's lawsuit to tear down the Duty Free shop and gas pumps
2) Leak by Michigander, ex-Governor Blanchard of Canada's effort to buy the bridge
3) MDOT: Ambassador not interested in ITS border partnership

And the olive branch via the Free Press Editorial: a Michigan/Moroun partnership over the border crossings in Sarnia/Port Huron and Detroit/Windsor

  • "Moroun's legal efforts can stall the planning and building of a second crossing, but ultimately they won't stop it. If the Ambassador wants to continue getting a big piece of the border action, it ought to negotiate an agreement under which it would jointly own and operate the Ambassador, the new downriver crossing and maybe even the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Moroun's company could even share revenue on the new downriver crossing while repairing the Ambassador.

    The bridge company, which has done an excellent job of operating the Ambassador, has the capital and expertise to make such a public-private partnership work. If structured properly, such an agreement could protect the bridge company's economic interests while providing the public oversight and governance that a border crossing should have.”

But I have it. I know the problem. And I have the answer: MDOT senior bureaucrats do not have the Bridge Company phone number and do not know how to find it

  • "Dan Stamper, president of Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co., denies that his boss has ever rejected such a plan [Re ITS].

    "If Mr. Steudle is serious, tell him to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail and we'll sit down and work it out tomorrow," Stamper told the paper."

It is not unique to MDOT either. Senior Canadians do not know it either.

  • "Here's the thing. We have never had what I would call a real conversation with the Canadian government," says [Matt] Moroun.

    "All the talk so far has been at a lower level, and it starts with the Canadians saying, 'No matter what, we're going to build a new bridge and kill you. Now what did you want to talk about?' It's a pretty tough way to start off. It puts us in a position of saying, 'No matter what, we're going to stop you.' "

    The Morouns say it's time to start anew. At the highest level.

    If they can win an invitation to Ottawa, if the doors of the Prime Minister's Office will open, they are ready "to agree to what Canada needs to be able to sleep better at night. We can allay their concerns. We can be Canada's best friends."

Let me help out. My finder's fee is 10% of the value of the savings by NOT building the DRIC bridge. In either US or Canadian dollars, I am not that fussy. Let the senior people from both sides go here:

Guess what they will find: PHONE NUMBERS!

Back to the investment grade traffic study. Seriously, if one was to be done and to be relied upon by the Legislators, why would anyone in their right mind choose Wilbur Smith Associates to do it.

I am sure that they are a wonderful firm, but aren't they conflicted or can there be such a perception...or as the courts would say:

  • "It is of fundamental importance that Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done."

How can anyone take seriously their independence? They prepared the traffic survey for Canada. Are they going to take 2 different positions? Hardly, they have to be consistent or the whole DRIC project goes into the toilet.

Presumably, the results must be good for Canada or else why would they offer to buy the Ambassador Bridge and then twin it (Mind you, Canada would buy the bridge even if cows only crossed over it. They have been trying for 50 years!)

Now I have my suspicions about the results of their work since at least 2 reports were prepared and Transport Canada refused to provide them to me even after I submitted a Federal Freedom of Information application for them. I chose not to appeal their refusal since it would have taken ages to do so.

So Wilbur Smith really had no choice but to agree that the results for MDOT had to be the same. If not, would Canada have come aknocking asking for their fees back?

But here is their real problem. The firm is NOT independent. They are an advocate for the DRIC Bridge! Remember this ad:

Oh look, Jim Blanchard's name is there too. He's a paid consultant for DRIC too isn't he?

Reasonable apprehension of bias! A Report prepared by a Canadian Govenment consultant who also is strongly in favour of building DRIC. That is also the consultant involved in both the Blue Water Bridge and Peace Bridge, sites that compete with the Bridge Company. DUHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

I would have thought that MDOT's good friend Caanda would have taken pity on the State that needs money and would have given them their reports for free so MDOT could use the $275K instead for putting more dirt and equipment on the access road to the bridge. Did MDOT have an inkling if Canada did not provide them that Canada was working behind their back and had Blanchard start nosing around?

Clearly, MDOT has lawyers. They know about the rules of bias or reasonable apprehension of bias. They know the Wilbur Smith report would be tossed out. It is of no value whatsoever.

Yet MDOT spent $275,000. Now we know why. They were afraid to make the phone call. They are praying that Moroun will call.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Even More Border Stories

Can you believe it...more border stories


You as the Government have a only a finite amount of money. Should it be used to build an unnecessarily expensive DRIC road at a cost of billions or should it be used to help retro-fit trucks across Canada
  • "CTA urges feds to provide enviroTruck incentives in next budget"

    OTTAWA, Ont. -- The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has asked federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to help offset the costs of adopting environmentally-friendly transport technologies.

    The CTA suggested the feds include incentives to help encourage early adoption of technologies included in the organization’s enviroTruck concept. The Alliance says doing so will reduce pollution from trucks.

    CTA president David Bradley also took the opportunity to remind Flaherty of his previous election promise to reduce the federal excise tax on diesel by 50%. That promise went out the window when the world economy collapsed.

    Alternatively, the CTA said the feds could take an amount equal to the diesel tax cut and put it into tax credits for fleets looking to add green technologies to their equipment. That way, said Bradley, federal revenue would not be impacted yet the government could still contribute to helping the industry reduce its carbon footprint.


I guess that an MDOT employee took offence at my BLOG where I went after Michigan's Governor and suggested that she also might want to consider if certain MDOT people should still stay in their jobs over the toll credits controversy, [January 18, 2010 "Does MDOT Need New Leadership Now"]

Frankly, I think he was mad that I asked for a 10% finder's fee on the $1.6B of federal matching grants that were not being used.

Here is our exchange of emails:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 7:23 PM
Subject: RE: Does MDOT Need New Leadership Now

In your blog today you posed the following question:

Consider this Detroit Free Press story and then explain to me
what other answer you have other than animosity or perhaps stupidity:

The answr today is that same as its been the last couple of years when this issue has come up in legislative hearings - toll credits do not work the way the DIBC says they do. However, I suspect you already know this.

As you further questioned later in your blog.

I sat there reading the story and not believing it. Why doesn't MDOT call
Moroun's bluff? Ask for the supporting materials. He would have to produce them
or suffer the consequences.

The simple answer is that MDOT has made more than one formal request, both before the DRIC study was initiated, and as a follow up to legislative hearings where this issue was raised. those requests are always ignored by DIBC and there are no consequences for them. No one can force a "donation." I would further note the the original offer by DIBC to use their expenditures to generate toll credits goes back to the early 1990's when the Gateway Project was being initiated - well before the DRIC started in 2000. To date the DIBC is only interested in talking about toll credits, not in actually generating them.

MDOT has never denied the DIBC could generate toll credits, it has only said that DIBC has miscalculated the amount of toll credits thier project could generate, and that they are wrong in describing how they can be used. MDOT is not the only agency that asserts this, you can feel free to contact any other state DOT in the country, or any county road commission that has ever made use of toll credits, or even MITA itself and they will tell you that the DIBC
s description of toll credits does not hold water.

But as I noted earlier, I think you already know that.


----- Original Message -----
From: WindsorCityBlog
Sent: Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:52 PM
Subject: Re: Does MDOT Need New Leadership Now

I apologize for the delay in replying to you but family matters took priority.

I don't mind you disagreeing with what I write but if you write me again in the tone you did "But as I noted earlier, I think you already know that" I will ignore you. I do not like to be accused of acting improperly by you or anyone else.

I do not claim to be a toll credits expert but no one has disputed that the Ambassador Bridge credits are available for MDOT use. However they are decribed and whether the Bridge Company is right or wrong, MDOT wants them and can use them. I have a tape of the MDOT Director at the Cropsey hearings where the Director was to send a letter to the Bridge Company asking for their documents. If the toll credits could not be used, why send out a useless letter? I assume that MDOT sent the letter and gave the Bridge Company comfort in their letter that their funds would NOT be used to compete against them.

That was well known to MDOT long before. In fact, wasn't this an issue in the 1990's re toll credits? I am sure that you would agree that it makes no sense for the Bridge Company to fund a competitor.

From Crains Detroti a year ago:

"Moroun's offer of the money is rooted in a public-service desire, said Mickey Blashfield, the bridge company's director of governmental relations.

“We're spending the money anyways, and as long as (the credits are) not being used to harm us, that would be a good thing,” Blashfield said. “If (the credits) are used to meet transportation needs here in the state, it's tantamount to the same public service we provide every day operating the bridge.”

The Director at that time also admitted that toll credits from public bridges were used by MDOT so why would MDOT not want money from a private bridge?

I have some trouble with what you are saying considering that the Director obviously thought the money could be used as Stamper described although he said it would only last for 6 months because of the amounts needed by the State! He said that the State had bigger needs than that in 2010-2011 and beyond.

I am aware of the KPMG report that states:

"Observation #4:
We understand that FHWA guidelines allow for the inclusion of qualifying expenditures by toll authorities and local officials for transportation under Section 120 of Title 23. Currently, we understand that neither the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) nor Detroit Windsor LLC (DW) provides capital expenditures to MDOT for use in the MOE determination...

Additionally, if a state meets its MOE determination and is eligible for toll credits, Section 120 of Title 23 provides that "[a] State may use as a credit toward the non-Federal share requirement for any funds made available to carry out [Section 120 of Title 23] toll revenues that are generated and used by public, quasi-public, and private agencies to build, improve, or maintain highways, bridges, or tunnels that serve the public purpose of interstate commerce..."
MDOT notified the DIBC that the financial statements may allow MDOT to maximize Michigan’s federal toll credits by updating the Toll Credit Application and Maintenance of Effort calculation for the State of Michigan...

In accordance with FHWA guidelines and correspondence, the audited financial statements from the DIBC or DW would permit MDOT to include qualifying capital expenditures in its MOE determination and/or toll credit calculation...Moreover, inclusion of these qualifying expenditures potentially allows MDOT to update its Toll Credit Application and may allow for the State of Michigan to receive additional toll credits."

I really cannot believe that discussions have not been held for such a long time when $1.6B is at stake. For that the Governor has to take the ultimate responsibility for MDOT's actions. In my opinion it is not sufficient for MDOT leadership to send out a couple of letters and then wash their hands of this matter.

The parties need to deal with the important issues even if they are suing each other. Both sides are big boys.

To be direct, I do not care who is right or who is wrong but want that the money to be used as best as it can to help solve Michigan's needs. That was the point of my BLOG. Both sides need to work together to maximize the return from the Bridge Company's expenditures. Both sides need to accommodate each others concerns whether we like it or not or nothing will happen. It is insurmountable unless the parties do what Carmine Palombo suggested.

I am sure you will agree with me that $1.6B is a good start and it makes sense for the parties to sit down together and negotiate something that works out for everyone especially the public."


I think the Governor listened to me rather than my MDOT friend given her remarks in her SOS speech!


What a shocker thanks to the Free Press

  • "Ambassador Bridge owner ties up courts in effort to stop rival
    Motive money as suits filed in U.S., Canada

While money is obviously a part of the lawsuits, there is more to it than that.

The bridge is Moroun's baby and he is NOT going to let someone take it from him for nothing, or more importantly to him, from his family as their heritage.

From a fairness perspective (estoppel for Councillor Jones) when Michigan and Moroun spent $250M on the Ambassador Gateway already that was to accommodate a second bridge, and he has already spent a half billion of his money on the project over the last decade, should there not be some element of fairness involved. There was an expectation that he reasonably had that he would get his bridge. He is not that foolish to spend $500M on spec.

If Governments can change the rules, especially when based on miskeading information, then they should expect litigation. You cannot lead someone on then say ooops, sorry I want someone else to take over your business.

Is it a suprise that he is using the legal system? Hardly? What are his alternatives otherwise, duels at dawn?

As most are aware, this was totally predictable from Day 1. It did not have to be this way but Governemnts misjudged and assumed wrongly that Moroun or his son would fold under a bit of pressure.

Because they misjudged, our region will suffer for another decade. We have already suffered since 2002.

We all know that these lawsuits are merely the beginning. The best from both sides is yet to come.

One day this will be resolved. How, I wish I knew.


Does Canada care if Michigan passes P3 legislation. Nope:

  • "A P3 is a preferred option for Canada,” said spokesman Mark Butler, senior adviser for the Windsor Gateway Project, which is Transport Canada's half of the Detroit International Gateway Project.

    Canada has such laws, but Michigan must as well because the bridge itself would be co-owned by the two governments.

    “You can't build half a bridge,” Butler said.

    Without such a Michigan law, options include Canada building the entire bridge or the U.S. federal government somehow using its public-private partnership law to construct the span and then delegate the project back to Michigan.

    Canadian officials have been regularly meeting with MDOT to discuss the project, including the status of the partnership legislation.

    “It's always a topic of conversation,” Butler said. “We're anxious to see that the legislation comes through.”

That would not bother Canada one little bit!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Daycare: "It is of fundamental importance that Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done."

It is not what Doug Schmidt of the Star would have us believe at all:

  • "For any Windsor politician these days, just being a friend can mean being accused of a breach of trust and of a serious transgression, ethical if not legal."

No, to me the issue is not JUST being a friend and never was. If it was that, then it would be easy. The issue is how Edgar (aka Eddie) framed it. As I Blogged:

  • "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."

It is even more complicated than that too since we have to deal with both "real and apparent" as you shall see following.

A very interesting BLOG by Doug Schmidt on his Star BLOGsite "When Friends Make Enemies Through Conflict" I am not sure what the headline means but the BLOG interested me

Apparently, according to Doug, "anonymous e-mails and an obliging blogosphere" are the cause of problems over daycare. According to Gord, bloggers along with "conspiracy theorists, sound-off twits, Windsor haters and small-town axe grinders" are the ones who "vilify" the Mayor.

I cannot believe that in such a short time so few Bloggers have achieved that much power in this City. Do you think that so few Bloggers with relatively few readers have been able to out-muscle the traditonal media in Windsor.

Come on Doug, get real.

Our "power" if we have any is providing background research and analysis on stories that the traditional media cannot afford to do any longer. Your parent company's financial problems are one of the obvious reason why not. We are here day-after-day calling out politicians on what they are saying using their own words out of the past and trying to put into perspective what the impact of their proposals is for Windsor's future.

We are NOT Messengers or cheer-leaders or non-attendees of meetings like the Lewenza one or the daycare one because it might give a different spin on what is going on here. We give our opinions based on our varying perspectives. In general, I believe that Windsorites are well-served by what Bloggers in town write since they get an alternative perspective to consider.

"An obliging blogosphere, screamed out" that was pretty nasty. To whom are we obliged, Doug? What are your actual facts to back it up or is it mere gossip, innuendo and made-up stuff? I can speak only for myself when I say that I am not obliged to anyone on this story.

I find it amusing nonetheless that Doug conveniently did not mention that Eh-Channel News broke the story to make it public and that his paper did nothing it seems to follow up on the story at all...until their Saturday paper. Please don't tell me that no one at the Star heard the rumours. What did the Star do to check them out as the only newspaper in town to enlighten Windsorites?

I saw the same website that Daryl Newcombe mentioned in his story. Did Doug? I am showing below parts of the page:

What is the most obvious thing that jumps out when looking at the site. Clearly in the context, the name "Warsh."

And she is not in an insignificant position either and has had a key position for some time. Here is how she was described in 2005:

Doug has set out what the real concern is: Is there a violation of the Code of Conduct. Doug can try to change what the focus is by making comments like "cashing in as a result" or "pocketing profits from this outrage. That inflammatory choice of language does not change the issue:
  • "...common sense should prevail. Preferably, Ronna should have said during the debate that she knows someone in the daycare sector, but even if she didn't, it behooves those who detect something fishy to find a fact or two before throwing out innuendo, and even then, restrict the commentary to what they actually know."
If she had, what would the answer have been?

Doug does not seem to get it. It is the obligation of the Members of Council and staff to comply with the Code of Conduct. "Preferably" does not come into the picture at all. The relevant fact or two was made public. What innuendo is he talking about?

Frankly, given the highlighted comment above, why is Doug dumping on others? It seems to me that his use of "preferably" takes away from the force of whatever argument he is making. Isn't he really questioning what went on too?

Is he as a Blogger, not a reporter now, part of a different "obliging blogosphere" with language such as "conveniently excuse herself from the divisive daycare debate and vote (hmmmh)" and "who also shied away from the daycare debate 'cos a relative dabbles in city daycare" in relation to a couple of Councillors. What am I to take from what he is suggesting? Being burned or seeing someone get burned is surely a good reason to act out of an abundance of caution.

Bloggers did not make "friends" the issue in Windsor. The ill-started Commish Investigation respecting Jones/Fox did, assisted by the Mayor's comment.

Doug makes a flippant remark about Councillor Dilkens and Ms Warsh being Facebook friends to make a point I assume by mocking:
  • "I've learned from a source, the two are friends. That is, Facebook friends, but that means they're friends or at least friendly to each other, right? And that's just plain wrong, right?"

But Doug forgets what the City's Code of Conduct says and the standard expected:

  • "The codes of conduct should go beyond the minimum standards of behaviour and set out the highest ideals and values toward which all public servants should be working."

The Commish wrote and clearly it must apply to staff based on the above even though the Commish's statutory powers are in relation to Council:

  • "The public expects the highest level of integrity and ethics from its elected municipal officials and often hold these officials to a higher standard than others in private industry."

It may well be that there are new rules in Windsor dealing with conduct and this phrase may now be the new norm that has to be adhered to:

  • "Members of Council and City staff must be like Caesar's wife, above suspicion."

Doug accuses people of grabbing

  • "a piece of rumoured hearsay and then throw it out there, bolstered by further gossip, innuendo and made-up stuff."

Then, he gives us some advice, which is frankly good advice:

  • "a good defense is always being able to back up what you write and say with the actual facts...

    Those who wanna play citizen journalist, by all means, go for it. The more that's dug up and the more the light is shone into the dark nooks and crannies of the body politic, the more informed the citizenry and the better off our community is. But play by some of the rules."

In my opinion, I have tried to be responsible on how I Blog even when I am very critical. I did not use the "M" word in relation to the Mayor while a Star Blogger has. I too have had vicious names used against me in the Blogosphere. Sure I have nicknames for people but I do not think that they have crossed the line.

I am aware of what the concept of "Responsible communication on matters of public interest" is. I have tried hard to follow the ideal even before it has been enshrined.

The daycare closing issue is an emotional one with strong feelings on all sides. It has just been increased by more than a notch. Let me try and put it into a context considering what is going on

By the way, there are many different aspects to it other than the daycares themselves.

You may want to read Chris Schnurr's BLOG that gives a very interesting perspective in regard to some of the legal issues arising

Councillor Halberstadt wrote a BLOG about a Municipal daycare reorganization that would have seen the at or near-capacity centers kept open. He also discussed in some detail what the implications would be for City Hall if the daycares closed. He also wrote this that puts the daycare issue into the political arena:
  • "As you can see the toll of restructuring is excruciatingly high in both human and dollar costs, although there is no doubt Monday’s decision was politically shrewd. It made taxpayers and the long-suffering, non-city run daycare operators happy. The CUPE supporters who raised hell are not going to support the five aye-vote Councillors anyway in October’s election.

    The special-interest, city daycare community in Windsor is not large, perhaps 350, and many of those parents are from notoriously low voter-turnout neighbourhoods. As for the county, there’s no city voters out there.

    Put it all together and you get what you got Monday night – a blunt instrument."

An interesting turn of events.

  • "Warsh weighs libel suit over daycare charges"

To be direct about this, as I have Blogged before, the decision to do an investigation into the "friend" relationship between Councillor Jones and CUPE's President, Jean Fox has opened up a Pandora's box. Did the mere "friendship" between Jones and Fox require that he recuse himself from any involvement in the CUPE matter?

It is a shame in one sense that Earl Basse's Report was not published since he lacked jurisdiction to even investigate the matter. His report would have provided significant guidance for a case like this one involving Ms Warsh.
Ms Warsh set out the concern in her own words in the Star article.
  • "she will "do what I need to do" to assure citizens that one of Windsor's top bureaucrats "would never violate the code of conduct."

The question is not at all dissimilar to that asked in the Jones/Fox matter. The issue there, as here, was not whether the people involved are honourable or not. The assumption has to be that they are or they would not be in their positions. The question is limited, as Ms. Warsh suggests, to whether there was a violation of the code of conduct.

Did her relationship with her sister-in-law who worked for a day care centre mean that she should have recused herself from any involvement in the daycare matter? Did that recusal apply to the co-authoring of the report only or daycare generally? Is there a difference if her relative was not an owner but a "primary contact?" What if it was a friend who was an employee or senior officer or an owner? What if it is both?

I am not a big fan of Earl Basse as our Integrity Commissioner as my BLOGs show, but in this situation, I think he got it mostly right in his Annual Report. It may help explain the confusion about why we are in this mess as well:

In his Preamble he stated:
  • "The public expects the highest level of integrity and ethics from its elected municipal officials and often hold these officials to a higher standard than others in private industry.

    Pursuant to Section 223.3 of the Municipal Act, Council for the Corporation of the City of Windsor developed a Code of Conduct to encourage high standards of conduct on the part of all government officials. Adherence to the standards set out in the Code applied to Mayor and Council as well as the members of the Local Boards to protect and maintain the City of Windsor's reputation and integrity."

This is all good stuff. It sets out the very high standards that people in Windsor expect of our officials. I understand that Basse's mandate does not extend to staff but it is the principles he sets out that I am concerned about.

The difficulty arises is applying these lofty goals in an actual fact situation. Basse said the following as well which may well be the cause of problems with our Code of Conduct:

  • "Code of Conduct:

    The Code of Conduct is a dynamic document that must be continually reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of the City of Windsor. Throughout the period, the Integrity Commissioner completed a full review of the Code of Conduct.

    There are no standards set for developing or creating a Code of Conduct. Council is guided by codes developed in other municipalities as well as by the report by Madam Justice Denise Bellamy on the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry released September 12,2005. Council has incorporated the Bellamy Inquiry into its Code of Conduct.

    I found the Code of Conduct to be complete. The Bellamy Inquiry was specific to Toronto and Council made provisions for that within its Code of Conduct. However, by attaching the Bellamy Inquiry Recommendations verbatim as an Appendix to the Code, there is duplication and some people have experienced confusion. The Code of Conduct should be re-written and the recommendations from the Bellamy Inquiry incorporated as an integral part of the Code and not as an Appendix."

Then dealing specifically with the issue of "friends," he said the following:

  • "Since October 2009, the Office of the Integrity Commissioner has received four complaints for investigation. These complaints, like the majority of the complaints received, typically relate to conflict of interest.

    This is an area of importance and councillors must be vigilant that their relationships with people are not seen as an apparent conflict of Interest. The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act defines a conflict of interest as a "pecuniary" conflict, However, an apparent conflict of interest is not specifically defined and does not necessarily involve pecuniary interest. This may make it difficult for councillors to determine if their conduct is in violation of an apparent conflict of interest under the Code of Conduct.

    Over time councillors develop relationships and friendships with not only people they do business with but their constituents as well, Councillors are entitled to form these friendships and business relationships, However, it does raise the question in some situations where these relationships may put a councillor in an apparent conflict of interest.

    Some situations may arise where matters are brought before Council by friends or close acquaintances of individual councillors. How should individual councillors conduct themselves in these matters? Should they recuse themselves? There is not always an easy answer to this.

    Just because a councillor knows an individual and has a relationship with that individual does not automatically mean they cannot act on matters brought before Council by that individual, From my experience I have found that if councillors are up front and advise Council of their relationship and assure Council that they are able to act objectively in the best interest of the City of Windsor, Council may make a decision whether councillors need to recuse themselves.

    Councillors may also take advantage of the advice of the Integrity Commissioner to
    determine if they are in an apparent conflict of interest."

With respect, I do not agree that it is Council's role to decide if a Councillor needs to recuse him/herself or a Councillor saying he/she can act "objectively" is conclusive. But except for that, Mr. Basse has raised the problem that arises in this daycare situation. In particular read this part again with respect to "apparent:"

  • "This is an area of importance and councillors must be vigilant that their relationships with people are not seen as an apparent conflict of interest. The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act defines a conflict of interest as a "pecuniary" conflict, However, an apparent conflict of interest is not specifically defined and does not necessarily involve pecuniary interest. This may make it difficult for councillors to determine if their conduct is in violation of an apparent conflict of interest under the Code of Conduct."

The City's Code of Conduct is extremely broad. As an example:

  • "30. Elected officials and staff should take all necessary steps to avoid preferential treatment or the appearance of preferential treatment for friends or family.
  • 33. Staff should refrain from any involvement in analysis or decision making on an issue in which they have a real or apparent conflict of interest. Conflicts or apparent conflicts should be disclosed to or discussed with the staff member’s supervisor."

Who knows how far it reaches. That is precisely why I called for an investigation into this matter. We need to know what the boundaries are. When does one overstep the line and when is it not crossed.

We need to understand what the rules are before we keep having these types of matters raised time and time again.

Ms Warsh's obviously has a strong interest in having this matter resolved:

  • "Depending on “how this plays out,” Warsh said she’ll be “seeking advice on defamation of character — this involves my family and my reputation...

    Warsh, in a phone interview from Florida where she was on vacation, said she will “do what I need to do” to assure citizens that one of Windsor’s top bureaucrats “would never violate the code of conduct.”

On the other hand, there is a public interest as well that needs to be addressed. For the children and their parents obviously. And the CUPE workers who will be displaced also have a strong interest. But Windsorites as well need to know the rules and whether they are being obeyed.

The Eh-channel interview of Jean Fox, the transcript of which is set out in Chris Schurr's BLOG should be looked at.

What should Ms Fox do after hearing those allegations? Nothing? I hardly think so. She would not be doing her job as the President of the CUPE local whose members might lose their jobs. She said what she did:

  • "This information has been sent on to our legal counsel and at this time it is being reviewed and investigated."

It is most disappointing to me that the Mayor would say:

  • "He called the allegation against Warsh “ludicrous” and blamed CUPE of “trying to throw as much mud as possible when there’s nothing there,” in an effort to overturn council’s decision."

He is now politicizing the matter by accusing CUPE of mudslinging, not dealing with concerns over an issue that he helped develop by his comment in the Jones file.

We need to clear the air. And it must be done now. Not only in the interest of Ms. Warsh and her family and for the parents and children and the impacted employees but for the public as well.

Ms Warsh has said that "she will "do what I need to do." Obviously a lawsuit is one way. But there is another.

In my opinion a simple and quick way to resolve the matter is to get the Commish involved or perhaps a retired Judge. We do have an Integrity Commissioner whose job ends June 1. He is still in office. Under the role of the Integrity Commissioner in the City's webpage it states:
  • "Section 223.3 of the revised Municipal Act, supra, enables a municipality to appoint an “Integrity Commissioner” to address the application of the Code of Conduct for elected officials and/or members of local boards. In addition, the legislation provides that the Integrity Commissioner can be delegated any or all of the policy matters surrounding the enforcement of Codes of Conduct for elected officials and/or members of local boards.

    Further, pursuant to section 223.4, an Integrity Commissioner has the power to deal with requests to investigate suspected contraventions of the Code of Conduct."

While technically, his mandate only extends to Council members, there is no reason why Council cannot assign to him, or to someone else if he chooses not to be involved, the task to determine whether there is a violation of the Code of Conduct by a Staff member. The Code of Conduct in Schedule "C" suggests that this be part of his job.

A stated case could be prepared that sets out the facts and asks for an opinion based on specific questions that should be answered. I could help set out the questions too if anyone was interested.

In my view, such action and the opinion given would provide significant guidance to this area of Municipal governance. It should help eliminate the problem in future. Depending on what was said would determine what happens next in daycare.

As for the quote that is part of the Subject-line, it comes from Lord Hewart in the English case Rex v Sussex Justices; Ex parte McCarthy. Below is part of the decision to help explain what the quote means. How it applies in the daycare case with the City's Code of Conduct is something that you dear reader should decide for yourself as a “fair minded observer”, acting “reasonably."

Perhaps Mr. Schmidt before he continues to rail against Bloggers might want to consider it too. The matter is much more difficult than he makes it out to be.

This comes from WikiPedia:

  • "In 1923 McCarthy, a motorcyclist, was involved in a road accident which resulted in his prosecution before a Magistrates Court for dangerous driving. Unknown to the Defendant and his Solicitors, the Clerk to the Justices was a member of the firm of Solicitors acting in a civil claim against the Defendant arising out of the accident that had given rise to the prosecution. The Clerk retired with the Justices, who returned to convict the Defendant.

    On learning of the Clerk's provenance, the Defendant applied to have the conviction quashed. The Justices swore affidavits stating that they had reached their decision to convict the Defendant without consulting their Clerk.

    In a landmark and far-reaching judgement, Lord Hewart CJ said:

    “It is said, and, no doubt, truly, that when that gentleman retired in the usual way with the justices, taking with him the notes of the evidence in case the justices might desire to consult him, the justices came to a conclusion without consulting him, and that he scrupulously abstained from referring to the case in any way. But while that is so, a long line of cases shows that it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

    The question therefore is not whether in this case the deputy clerk made any observation or offered any criticism which he might not properly have made or offered; the question is whether he was so related to the case in its civil aspect as to be unfit to act as clerk to the justices in the criminal matter. The answer to that question depends not upon what actually was done but upon what might appear to be done.

    Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the course of justice. Speaking for myself, I accept the statements contained in the justices' affidavit, but they show very clearly that the deputy clerk was connected with the case in a capacity which made it right that he should scrupulously abstain from referring to the matter in any way, although he retired with the justices; in other words, his one position was such that he could not, if he had been required to do so, discharge the duties which his other position involved. His twofold position was a manifest contradiction."

One final note and I am sorry to bore you with legal cases. Doug makes a point about "non-blood relative" and "salaried employee" as if somehow that distinguishes the case. Perhaps he is right and it does. The Code of Conduct above talks about "family" and real or apparent conflicts without limiting it to families.

Take a look at what the English House of Lords said in a case where, after a decision was made, an allegation was made against one of the judges who took part. It involved the Chilean dictator who was charged with crimes against humanity:

  • "That being the case, the question is whether in the very unusual circumstances of this case a non-pecuniary interest to achieve a particular result is sufficient to give rise to automatic disqualification and, if so, whether the fact that AICL had such an interest necessarily leads to the conclusion that Lord Hoffmann, as a Director of AICL, was automatically disqualified from sitting on the appeal? My Lords, in my judgment, although the cases have all dealt with automatic disqualification on the grounds of pecuniary interest, there is no good reason in principle for so limiting automatic disqualification. The rationale of the whole rule is that a man cannot be a judge in his own cause. In civil litigation the matters in issue will normally have an economic impact; therefore a judge is automatically disqualified if he stands to make a financial gain as a consequence of his own decision of the case. But if, as in the present case, the matter at issue does not relate to money or economic advantage but is concerned with the promotion of the cause, the rationale disqualifying a judge applies just as much if the judge's decision will lead to the promotion of a cause in which the judge is involved together with one of the parties. Thus in my opinion if Lord Hoffmann had been a member of AI he would have been automatically disqualified because of his non-pecuniary interest in establishing that Senator Pinochet was not entitled to immunity. Indeed, so much I understood to have been conceded by Mr. Duffy.

    Can it make any difference that, instead of being a direct member of AI, Lord Hoffmann is a Director of AICL, that is of a company which is wholly controlled by AI and is carrying on much of its work? Surely not. The substance of the matter is that AI, AIL and AICL are all various parts of an entity or movement working in different fields towards the same goals. If the absolute impartiality of the judiciary is to be maintained, there must be a rule which automatically disqualifies a judge who is involved, whether personally or as a Director of a company, in promoting the same causes in the same organisation as is a party to the suit. There is no room for fine distinctions if Lord Hewart's famous dictum is to be observed: it is "of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done."

You Never Knew This

Here are some things you probably never knew:


How will Canada ever recover from the assumptions that they made with their latest attempt to force Moroun out. Clearly, they had no contingent back-up plan because they were so smart that their plans would work. Their excuse is the collapse of the world economy but how does that help them?

Assumption #1

Moroun will understand that the Governments can destroy the value of his bridge and so will sell out cheaply and quickly. DRIC was the obvious tool of choice as Canada's Bridge Company talks make clear. The decision for talking was Harper's it seems .

That failed when the Globe and Mail did their 2 1/2 page story on Moroun.

Assumption #2

This is neatly set out by the anti-Moroun Michigan writer Jack Lessenberry who also writes for the Star but, interestingly, nothing on the border file so far.
  • "What makes this all especially bizarre is that Manuel J. Moroun will soon be ... 83 years old. Odds are heavy that he'll never live to see any new bridge finished, whether he or someone else builds it.

    Furthermore, MM is essentially rolling in dough. True, his net worth, according to Forbes, has fallen to barely a billion dollars. How much more money does [sic] you need? If I were Moroun, I would be sitting somewhere warm with my legs propped up, drinking a glass of good wine and reading a most excellent book."

Matty was to retire to Florida. The view was that Matty would never sell the Bridge since it was his icon but that Matty's son who would take over the business would sell out, as it was put to me, in a "New York Minute."

Oh dear, did they ever misjudge Father and Son. The son's reputation is that, while very polite and gentlemanly, he is just as tough as is his Dad from whom he has obviously learned a lot, especially about strategy! That photo of him on a recent magazine cover was the signal that he is in much more control of the Empire than most people know.


Pull down the Greenlink banner. Stop the DRIC road RFP. We need NOT spend multi-billions on an unneeded expensive road to the Ambassador Bridge. A "cheap solution" road works just as well.

Again, I demand a 10% finder's-fee from the Ontario Government of the amount that I will save them in not spending money on the DRIC road. I figure that is worth about $400M give or take a million. I found out this information not their team of so-called engineering experts.

Remember I begged the DRIC engineers before to do a study on Cow farts for their environmental study. That would have helped the cause. They refused. I wonder if that is part of the Sierra Club lawsuit.

Now read this and gasp, if you have the breath to do so!

  • Is Asthma An Ultrafine Particle Disease? – A Hypothesis

    Jamson S. Lwebuga-Mukasa, MD, PhD. Founder and Director, Center for Asthma and Environmental Exposure, Lung Biology Research, Buffalo. November 20, 2009


    The exact causes of asthma are unknown. Genetic risk factors are important. However, they do not explain the increase in the number of persons with asthma in the United States, from 6.8 million persons in 1980 to about 15 million in 1996... Living in close proximity (within 75 m) of busy roadways has been associated with increased asthma risk. However, this would not explain the occurrence of asthma in cases further away from busy roadways...

    The current hypothesis

    Chronic exposure to high concentrations of ultrafine particles that are generated indoors by electric, gas stoves, ovens and other kitchen appliances in poorly ventilated homes contributes not only to flare-ups of asthma but also to the development of asthma. In other words, asthma is an ultrafine particle disease.


    The above hypothesis is supported by the recent report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that found that nanoparticles are released by common kitchen appliances. In 150 experiments, the investigators found that gas and electric stoves and electric toaster ovens release nanoparticles. Electrical heating elements and wires most commonly consist of an alloy of nickel (80%) and chromium (20%). During the first burn, new heating elements or wires form stable protective oxide layers that in theory prevent further oxidation of the heating elements. However, recent studies using nanobeam X-ray and magnetic force microscopy have found that such protective oxide layers actually consists of a mixture of oxide materials and metal nanoparticles. It is plausible that during heating, metal nanoparticles “escape” from the metal nanonetworks. I speculate that at least in the case of electrical heating elements some of the ultrafine particulates contain nickel or chromium. Recently, Italian scientists reported that nanoparticles were produced by natural gas domestic burners. Thus, electric and gas burners in homes kitchen appliances produce ultrafine particles that cause airway inflammation during normal use...

    Third, it provides a framework that can explain the increase in asthma prevalence which occurred during the period when there were changes in housing construction were made to conserve energy and there was worldwide urbanization. In order to save energy, some individuals in cold climates sealed their windows with plastic. Many homes have cooking stoves that are not vented outside and in some cases stove fans are used sparingly or not at all...

    In the US and other developed countries individuals spend 90% of their time indoors. Ultrafine particles are produced when electrical heating elements or gas burners are turned on. The particulates reach concentrations that are five to ten times the concentrations that are measured at the roadside of busy truck routes. Ultrafine particles (20 nm – 500 µm diameter) once generated, remain elevated for over three hours after the burners are turned off. The heating element by itself, without the addition of food, generates ultrafine particles. The concentration of particulates generated increases with the intensity of the heat of the heating element. Food being cooked generates additional particulates and volatile organic compounds that can be measured. In addition, cooking with gas stoves may release nitric oxide that is converted into nitrogen dioxide which is an airway irritant. Thus, a family that cooks three meals a day or uses a cooking stove continually through the day, is chronically exposed to high levels of ultrafine particles...


Stop the sanctimonious patting on the back for Windsor's wisdom and the nasty headlines and Editorial about Detroit:

  • "Windsor cleans up act as Detroit spews sewage into river"

  • "Editorial: Time for Detroit to clean up its act"

Remember Edgar's contribution to this topic when talking about a "a $60-million riverfront basin to stop raw sewage overflows." As I Blogged:

  • "Here is what I mean in regard to Eddie and the canal deal that tells me that he is out of touch with what this City needs at this time:

    “While ignoring the canal project, council approved adding a $60-million item for a waterfront underground retention treatment basin to end sewage overflows into the Detroit River, an item for which the city was already in the process of seeking senior government funding.

    “Other cities are putting forward massive projects with vision. Today, here, instead of such vision, we have a receptor sewer project … how does that diversify our economy,” Francis said after the meeting.”

    He does not understand that we are tired of his failed VISIONS and are more interested in the bread and butter issue that make this City a place where one can live. Roads and sewers are what is important to people, not spending money so that he can try to create a legacy for himself at taxpayer expense and further his career so that he can move out of here into the big-time when his mayoral term ends."

The Star Editorial was hilarious:

  • "It's ironic that U.S. leaders, who spend so much time talking about climate change, air quality, gas emissions and other eco issues, could allow citizens to live in conditions associated with Third World countries.

    Yet there seems to be no urgency on the part of our nearest neighbour to fix the situation. While Windsor is using infrastructure funding to build a new $60-million riverfront basin that will stop the overflow of raw sewage into the river, Detroit and Michigan have not committed to any project that would make the river cleaner.

    The city and state both say they can't tackle the problem because of the economic downturn."

Why didn't the Star add in to the list of talk subjects the DRIC Bridge?

The Star story stated:

  • “The City of Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant is the largest source of sewage-related contaminants in the entire Great Lakes,” said Matthew Child, director of watershed restoration for the Essex Regional Conservation Authority.

    “Clearly, it’s a plant that requires upgrading or expansion. For Canadians, we definitely have a shared interest in seeing that addressed...”

    But Detroit, which is facing a $300-million budget deficit and possible bankruptcy, does not have the will or resources to fix the problem...

    Detroit’s waste water plant is in the industrial community of Delray, not far from Zug Island. The water flow most often pushes that city’s raw sewage downriver toward Amherstburg and affects Lake Erie communities of Colchester, Kingsville and Leamington."

Hey I have this crazy idea. Instead of the US wasting billions on a DRIC bridge in Delray, perhaps they could use part of that money to fix up the sewage plant!


It's going to be tough to justify keeping open Child Care centres with McGuinty's legacy action of full day kindergartens.Of course, the CUPE strike is part of the problem as a reader wrote:

  • "Sure is ... especially after Eddie has successfully driven away the customers who had to find other daycares during the strike.

    Not to mention the fringe jobs lost with the downturn of the economy. These are the jobs that mom's used to get. Now with the economy low, fewer moms can find work.

    So lower demand for childcare."


He had to. No one could get this much money just working in his new job for 7 months:

  • "Conan O’Brien signs ‘Tonight Show’ exodus

    It looks as though the late-night wars are coming to an unceremonious close. As previously reported, Friday should be Conan O’Brien’s last night as host of The Tonight Show, tenure he’s held for seven months.

    O’Brien and NBC struck a $45 million deal at about 4 a.m. ET Thursday morning that sees tomorrow night as Coco’s last night in the gig, and Jay Leno return to the coveted desk as of March 1."

Watch out that the revolving door does not hit you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Deep Throat's Detroit/Windsor Border Truth

Don’t ask me how or why but I knew exactly who the caller was the second that the phone rang.

"Blogmeister," the immediately recognizable voice on the phone said. "Would you by chance be available for lunch today around noon?"

Who could mistake that commanding voice? One also knew that his request was an order that could not be disobeyed.

"Of course," I said. "I wasn’t doing anything anyway and I could use an excuse to get out of digging out from the snow drifts piling up in my driveway."

At precisely noon there was a knock on my door and there were my favourite military men to escort me to the waiting limousine.

We drove around for what seemed like a half an hour. I did not know where we were going because the windows were blacked out. When we finally stopped, instead of being in the County mansion as usual, we were instead in an area of relatively modest homes that I assumed was somewhere in the middle of the City. Looking around me I noticed that we were in the 900 block somewhere but as if he was reading my mind my military escort mentioned that "We own all the homes in the area. We changed the numbers on them as well just so people would not know exactly where we are located.”

I chuckled slowly to myself knowing that this was the work of Deep Throat.

Is it so co-incidental that he always calls me around the time when the border file seems completely messed up with the events taking place that make no sense at all? These last few days certainly have been just about the strangest involving the border that I can recall. If anyone could give me guidance as to what was going on, that person was Deep Throat.

"Oh Blogmeister. I see that you are now demanding investigations into all kinds of matters in Windsor! Isn't the border file enough for you?" And a big smile broke out on his face.

As I was ushered into the home I could see that the interior was not as modest as the exterior. It is very much what I imagined an English Gentlemen’s Club might look like. I was escorted into a small dining room where the place-settings already set up just for the two of us.

This was a different Deep Throat today, doing a lot of the talking where before he used to let me arrive at what he wanted me to know. I suspected something was up that was very different. How right I was.

"I am sure Blogmeister that you are as confused as everyone about what is going on." As I nodded my head affirmatively, he went on "In fact, I’m not certain that the people involved really know what is going on either."

I had learned from him to blurt out the shocking so I did. “It’s not such a big surprise to me. It is clear that the so-called Canada/Michigan partnership to beat Moroun is breaking down.”

His hand crashing down on the dining room table almost knocking over the glass of fine French red wine and a big burst of laughter with a “Well done, Blogmeister!” told me I was close to the truth.

I told him that I knew that Canada was the moving force behind this file and that they had wanted to terrorize Moroun into selling out his Ambassador Bridge business cheaply or risk losing his business. “However, how did they ever convince Michigan to go along with this. Why would Michigan work with Canada to beat out an American?”

“My dear Blogmeister. Follow the money! Canada is much more experienced than the bureaucrats in Lansing on public-private partnerships (P3). I am sure you remember Borealis/OMERS’s role in DRTP. In fact one of their officials used to work in Paul Martin’s office when he was the Prime Minister.

P3s used to be big dollar items until the economic melt-down. Didn't you call it:
  • "P3 Cocaine

    Did you know that we have a number of addicts who are running our Government at the highest levels? I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol. Rather P3s have become the opiate of the politicians and bureaucrats. Officials have been tempted with the newest substance by those who traffic in money."

“Yes,” I blurted out. “The money was certainly tempting all right. $1.83B for the Chicago Skyway and $3.8B for the Indiana Turnpike. Although both roads have had very serious financial problems recently and are in Macquarie’s "needs a lot more looking after" company after their road assets were split off.”

Deep Throat continued, “Those were gigantic sums when the deals were announced and bureaucrats’ eyes everywhere lit up as they salivated at the thought of getting that kind of cash. It meant that effectively they could ignore their own Legislatures’ oversight if private funds would come in like that. Who needed to worry about politicians at Budget times.

MDOT reps were no different. The thought of all of that cash made them an easy ally of Canada. Who could resist that kind of money.”

I figured out what was coming next and said it before Deep Throat could catch his breath. “So the plan was simple. Buy the Ambassador Bridge cheaply. Get a P3 consortium to re-imburse MDOT and Canada for that cost, have them build the twinned bridge and still get in a pile of money on a P3 lease. A no-brainer.”

Deep Throat had a look just like a teacher does when a pupil scored well in a competiton. “Exactly, my friend. But of course there is more. Sarnia/Port Huron.”

“Oh yes, I know all about that.” I exclaimed. “After looking upriver and downriver for a new location, what did they do but build a twinned bridge. Just like the Governments planned to do here.

However, they messed up. The plaza design did not work. They knew they had to fix it and that was going to cost hundreds of millions that they did not have.”

Deep Throat butted in, “P3 it!

That was the solution. And we know that Canada’s Finance Minister added the Blue Water Bridge as one of a list of assets that could be disposed of. I am sure you can see the plan taking shape now.

The Canadians though made a fatal error. They confided their plans to Windsor’s Mayor Edgar (aka Eddie) Francis who gave their secret plan away. That gave Moroun the information he did not know about respecting what was going on and the Government plans. He was ahead of the Governments for years because of that. It was as if he had captured their Enigma machine and could decrypt their messaging.”

On saying that, Deep Throat almost choked from laughter, "See I picked up that “AKA” from you.

Edgar to show his brilliance spilled the beans. What you called Sam Schwartz’s Socialist-type uttering from his Report was all part of the over-all plan. As you wrote in a BLOG:

  • "Balanced Traffic between Blue Water Crossing and Windsor-Detroit Crossings

    Developing a balanced traffic network between the Sarnia-Port Huron and Detroit-Windsor Crossings would provide benefits without a new crossing but would be compatible with any of the new crossings... It sets aside the profit-motive, which means each facility is competing for the most traffic, with a utilitarian-motive: the greatest good for the greatest number. Such a scheme may require revenue sharing among participants."

    That could never happen unless Moroun operated both crossings or he was bought out and a "private" P3 operator ran both.”

CLICK. I could feel the lightbulb in my brain turn on.

I shouted out “I got it. The Canada/MDOT partnership is now in big trouble. Canada never really wanted MDOT as a partner. They were merely a front to get around the US Feds who might be concerned that Canada owned the largest land border crossings between Canada and the US. Just like with Edgar fronting over the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. Canada did not want the border to become a Dubai ports controversy.

Morever, MDOT was not as good a partner as hoped. With the Michigan economy crumbling, cash was running short. The Michigan Republicans in the Senate became opposed to the DRIC boondoggle while Governor Granholm had trouble even getting her own Party onside with some of her plans.”

“Blogmeister,” my friend said. “you really have learned well.

Now here is something I want you to do. Believe that what the MDOT spokesperson said is true. I know it will be hard but try. When Bill Shreck said this he meant it:

  • “Bill Shreck, director of communications for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said MDOT had only heard about the offer late Monday.

    "We didn't know anything about the offer, nor should we since you negotiate in private," Shreck said.

    "It's an interesting proposition, though."

Of course I am talking about the so-called Canada/Moroun discussions over the proposed sale of the Ambassador Bridge.

It is truly unbelievable that Michigan did not know what was going on before. After all, Canada and MDOT were partners supposedly. Is this how you treat your partner?

I assume that is why you said that the partnership was falling apart. Canada decided that it would take a chance and go it alone”

I stood up and started pacing around the dining room now. “I got it. That is where ex-Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard came in. He is both an ex-Governor of Michigan and ex-US Ambassador to Canada and was also supposedly retained by Canada, Michigan and the US.

He probably sniffed around due to his good Ottawa connections and found out that the Canadians approached Moroun. He was probably annoyed that he was not kept in the loop and then told his buddies at MDOT about it. After all, he IS a Michigander first.

No doubt the MDOT people went ballistic. They were taking enough hits from the Republicans and all of the Moroun lawsuits were getting a bit too close for comfort and now their “partner” was end-running them.

But what I did not understand was why he revealed supposedly the details of the Canada/Moroun negotiations. Obviously, that was designed to make Moroun look bad but how does that help Michigan?”

A look of disappontment crossed Deep Throat’s face briefly, only for a second, but I caught it. “Oh Blogmeister. I was hoping that you understood but obviously you have never entered the world of spy/counter-spy.

That was his cover story in case Canada got mad at him. He could feign innocence. He was taking shots at Moroun. Blanchard had a dual role. He had to keep Canada onside and then his other function.”

“Other function? I questioned. “What other function?”

Deep Throat gave me that look of the cat swallowing the canary. He knew something I did not. “Yes Blogmeister. At the superficial level, he was doing nothing more than discrediting Moroun by making him look greedy.

But there was more to it than that. It was a signal to Moroun that MDOT wanted to talk. After all, the Governor did not mention DRIC in her speech and wanted the $1.6B for Moroun's $400M of toll credits. She talked about that specifically without mentioning Moroun’s name.

Then the big Free Press story about Moroun and the Blue Water Bridge:

  • “Steudle is the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, which operates the Michigan side of the Blue Water Bridge, and he told me this week that he's repeatedly approached Manuel (Matty) Moroun, whose company operates the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, to see if the two bridges could collaborate in providing real-time traffic information for the benefit of drivers entering or exiting the state. But Moroun isn't interested, he said.”

That’s a laugh. If Steudle wanted that kind of a system in place, all he needed to do was call his buddies at the Transportation Ministry in Ontario and up a traffic sign would go. The Ambassador Bridge wait times are already posted. He did not need Moroun's concurrence. It was so ridiculous a comment that anyone could see through it and look for the hidden message being conveyed.

Clearly, at the superficial level, another attack at Moroun but here is the interesting part. It talked about what Moroun supposedly wanted out of the deal. Don’t you find it amazing that no one has said what Canada offered at least as a negotiating position. It seems like just money for Bridge ownership, say in the range of $1.5B. Here is what Blanchard alleged in the Detroit News:

  • “Blanchard -- who has acted as a consultant for the state of Michigan as well as the governments of Canada and the United States -- said his comments are based on discussions with officials from both governments. He emphasized, however, that his comments Tuesday were not on behalf of the U.S. government or Transport Canada.

    Moroun had asked for $3 billion for the Ambassador plus a percentage of the tolls from the Blue Water Bridge and the go-ahead to build a new bridge that would connect Buffalo, N.Y., and Canada, Blanchard said. "

I told him that I saw that reference and this one in the Free Press subsequently:

  • “Former Gov. Jim Blanchard, the onetime U.S. ambassador to Canada who has been lobbying for a new publicly owned Detroit River crossing, said Moroun told a Canadian legislator who approached him about selling the Ambassador last summer that the purchase price would include a piece of the Blue Water Bridge's action -- along with $3 billion and Ottawa's permission for Moroun to build a new bridge near Buffalo.”

I actually started to scratch my head when I said “I did not get it. That deal made no sense. First the price for the Bridge was way too low if DRIC traffic projections of doubling were right. I knew that Moroun wanted to build a bridge in Buffalo but then why would he give up his ownership in Detroit? He lives here unless he was going to change his residency to Buffalo.

But the part that mystified me was that he wanted a piece of the tolls or action at the Blue Water Bridge. That made no sense at all.”

Deep Throat chuckled. “Of course not, No one was to take the comments seriously except for Moroun.

Canada got it right away. They guessed what Blanchard was doing. Not only had he embarrassed them—the bridge offer undercut them totally about kicking Moroun out of the running for building a new bridge, confirmed the Bridge location was the best site for a new bridge and made a mockery of DRIC and their studies—but he was signalling a peace offering as Granholm did.

No wonder Canada, pleased at first about damage to Moroun had to quickly close the story down and get it off the front page before more damage was done:

  • “Transport Canada confirms it has held talks with the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, which spans the Detroit River to connect Windsor, Ont., with Detroit.

    But a spokesman for Transport Minister John Baird says no offer has been made to buy the bridge from Manuel (Matty) Moroun.

    James Kusie says in an email the government has had discussions on a variety of topics with Moroun, but won't comment on the details…

    Kusie says the government remains committed to the building of a new bridge, as additional capacity is needed to support the anticipated growth in border traffic.”

In a bloody email…that speaks volumes. Actually, did you notice Transport Canada rubbing it in MDOT's face. Kusie talked about a "new bridge" not a new DRIC bridge. Canada just challenged MDOT. So much for their partnership

No one including Baird had the guts to speak publicly on this or their whole game would have been blown up sky-high! A couple of questions from the media and they were done.”

A second lightbulb went on in my head: “Now I get the picture. Now I understand. Now I know what MDOT is doing"

I saw this in the Free Press Editorial and could not believe what I was reading:

  • “Moroun's legal efforts can stall the planning and building of a second crossing, but ultimately they won't stop it. If the Ambassador wants to continue getting a big piece of the border action, it ought to negotiate an agreement under which it would jointly own and operate the Ambassador, the new downriver crossing and maybe even the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Moroun's company could even share revenue on the new downriver crossing while repairing the Ambassador.

    The bridge company, which has done an excellent job of operating the Ambassador, has the capital and expertise to make such a public-private partnership work. If structured properly, such an agreement could protect the bridge company's economic interests while providing the public oversight and governance that a border crossing should have.”

That was the message being conveyed via the Free Press Editorial by MDOT’s Steudle and Blanchard. I heard that they were having a big session with some Free Press Editors. Joe Corradino must have been there too since his name popped up all of a sudden.

That was the second and biggest signal from MDOT. The whole Blue Water Bridge story was a big cover designed though to tell Moroun that the State would deal over that bridge too. I had guessed correctly a long time ago when taking about Schwartz's musings: "That could never happen unless Moroun operated both crossings."

It wanted to partner with Moroun on all of the major border crossings in Michigan and probably, they would pressure Canada into some kind of a deal at the Peace Bridge too. They could embarrass Canada in going along with them or they would threaten to tell all. Blanchard proved the point.

MDOT would get some kind of an ownership interest in Detroit, money for the Blue Water Bridge plaza repairs and the end of a controversy that was getting some Legislators agitated at them.

Moroun would still have a big interest in Windsor/Detroit, a good chunk of Sarnia/Port Huron and the Peace Bridge too.

Why it would not surprise me if they already had a draft of the Wilbur Smith investment grade traffic study, which was bad news on traffic volumes increasing enough to support a DRIC Bridge. On June 1, the Legislature would close down DRIC and they would have to explain the loss 0f $30M+ in the DRIC Boondoggle. Better to get a small prize than nothing at all.”

As I finished, Deep Throat stood up clapping his hands. “Bravo, Blogmeister, Bravo!” he shouted. “Brilliant deduction.

However there is another piece of the puzzle buried in a Detroit News story that was on the Michigan Budget, buried right at the end of it where all the important news is placed:

  • “[Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan] Cropsey also is unhappy with Granholm's budget recommendation for the Michigan Department of Transportation. Her proposal calls for reducing operational expenses by $20 million and using that money for road construction to leverage $100 million in matching federal funds. Even so, Michigan will be unable to use an additional $475 million in federal road cash because of inadequate state road funding.

    Cropsey said Granholm needs to think about creative solutions such as instituting road tolls and privatizing bridges.

    "Maybe we ought to turn the Blue Water Bridge over to the private sector and let them run it," Cropsey said of the bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.”

Clearly Cropsey figured out what was going on or MDOT let him in on the secret for self-preservation. That is a clear signal from him that the Republicans would not get upset at all if Moroun got control over both bridges and that they would support MDOT if that was brought to the Senate Transportation Committee. Of course there would have to be oversight, true oversight and not using that word as a euphemism for ownership as DRIC did.

Moreover, the Senator knows the border file well enough to know that no one would bid on a privatization of the the Blue Water Bridge if facing Moroun's competition in Windsor/Detroit. He already takes away traffic from there”

I was pretty happy with myself to be honest. I had done a pretty good job figuring this all out. Then I asked the big question: “With his opposition caving in, what will Moroun do?”

At precisely that instance, as if by magic, there was a knock on the door. My military escort was there to take me back home.

“An excellent luncheon as usual Blogmeister. Something for us to discuss when we meet next,” Deep Throat said. We shook hands and I left. As the door closed behind me, I wondered when that next call would come!