Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Pathetic CUPE Response



With that bemused expression on his face, I can just imagine the ex-CAO thinking
  • "Yes, that is what I think will happen. As for me, I expect to be out of here soon. Let the Mayor deal with it and be cross-examined."

Instead, what did CUPE workers get? They did not even get their bad faith claim heard by the OLRB who tossed it out because it was so narrowly framed. No chance whatsoever to get $30M of back-pay since their Union did not ask for any of it, not even one single penny.

Who can forget the job losses that CUPE workers are and will be suffering while citizens are being fed the story that the hardliners won.


We saw what Jim and Jean want:

  • "We were looking for something, (even just) a slap on the hand"

  • "Both sides said Friday it’s time to move on."
Can they be that naïve? Forget it all happened. It was all a bad dream.

Then did you read this pitiful Letter To The Editor from CUPE 543 President Jean Fox:

  • "Time to stop battle against CUPE

    By Jean Fox, Windsor Star March 11, 2010

    Mayor Francis' quote of "frivolous and without merit," regarding CUPE's bad faith complaint once again misleads citizens into believing that the labour board ruled on the merits of the complaint made by CUPE. In fact, what the board said was, and I quote, "to litigate these complaints would be a lengthy process and serve to reopen old wounds. I see no real reason to engage in that process in these circumstances as the parties have reached a collective agreement. Accordingly, the board declines to inquire into this application."

    The truth is, the OLRB made no ruling into the merits of the complaint whatsoever, but Mayor Francis would like citizens of Windsor to believe they did. Why? Could it be to try and discredit the union or perhaps pit taxpayers against CUPE? I would hope not.

    Members of CUPE face uncertainty with the elimination of jobs, bumping and threats of contracting out which is stressful enough. It's time to stop the battle against CUPE members and work on rebuilding this community."

DUH, Jean, who cares what you have to say now. In fact, I cannot believe that you even had the nerve to write a letter in the first place. First Jim with his too little-too late letter and now you. Both of you must be running for re-election! As if the letters will help one little bit.

You had the chance to clear the air, to let everyone know the truth, but you chose not to do so with your weak OLRB complaint. You could have demonstrated conclusively that the City acted in bad faith by examining Councillors who would have admitted it under oath. Yet you let the opportunity pass you by.

You had the chance to help your members overcome their financial woes and even the OLRB said so 3 times in their 2 page decision. Yet you let the opportunity pass you by.

Stop the battle--are you that out of touch? Slamming CUPE is the re-election battlecry for the hardliners! It's all they've got so they cannot let up!

Don't you get it yet, Jean. CUPE's supposed complete and total strike defeat with all of the job losses to come has resulted in this. This will be trumpeted as you take more hits:

  • "Budget Deliberations Achieve a Tax Decrease

    After extremely challenging operating budget deliberations, City Council was able to achieve a tax levy decrease in the range of $26 for the average residential homeowner versus the rate in 2009.

    In recognition of the challenging economic times faced by many citizens in the City of Windsor, City Council had committed to a zero tax levy increase. However, through the work and commitment of administration and City Council, the additional savings were found and a tax levy decrease was achieved.

    “This budget was very difficult,” said Mayor Eddie Francis. “Reduced revenues and increased costs have continued to impact the cost of delivering service to our community. However, our City Council was able to balance a number of competing factors, while also providing some relief to taxpayers.”

CUPE is the "additional savings."

They got the savings off the backs of your members, Jean, and will be applauded for it! Edgar (aka Eddie) already made the calculations on cost savings before the Budget was finalized. He was that confident of the results.

The real war has just begun and the other side knows there is nothing YOU can do to stop them---daycare, garbage, parking. What's next?

Actually, I like the idea of a class action lawsuit by CUPE members against the City for back pay or perhaps against the Union too. Given the $30M possible claim, I think there might be a lawyer or two who might work on a contingency basis. The legal fees would be quite nice after a victory.

Perhaps a grievance can be filed or a small claims court action as a test case. That would be less costly and more fun too, especially when it came cross-examination time.

I also like the idea of dumping CUPE, to be direct about it, due to their complete mismanagement of everything to do with this labour dispute or at least bringing in new blood. There must be another Union or two around who would like to pick up some disgruntled ex-CUPE members.

Do I really expect anything to happen? Not likely. Who would lead the workers now since they have been so abused emotionally and financially. Clearly action could have been taken with both the daycare and garbage issues to stop or at least delay the City but what has CUPE done about it? The usual.

I think the CUPE workers have had enough and really won't put up a fight with no one to guide them. Keep your nose clean, your mouth shut and you might not get fired! As a frustrated CUPE worker/reader wrote to me:

  • "But whatever. CUPE 543 members have something else to do and any excuse to not stand up. Hair to be done, nails to be polished, lunches to attend.

    Monday Council will be a celebration of the defeat of CUPE 82 & 543 on the bad faith bargaining complaint.

    And we're all gonna sit back on our fat, lazy, busy with something else behinds and blame "the union". Well there is no union... "the union" is NOT in the bloody office. The union is at the FRONT LINES. The office is merely a front for "the union". Coordinator for "the union". Made so weak by "the union" dragging its butt on the ground and "busy with something else".

    Well too bad, so sad. You lose, I lose, we all lose together.

    Pity the same can't be said for winning. You win, I win, we all win together. What a strange concept."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

DRIC As Garbage

Here is another MegaProject run amok example for you. If you think of this project as what is going on with DRIC, then you will understand what I mean:
  • years in the making
  • huge governmental bureaucracy involved at a big cost
  • mistake after mistake
  • ignoring key data
  • projections being made incorrectly
  • costs escalate horrifically
  • revenue decreases
  • huge "toll" difference--10 times higher--resulting in loss of business to competition from day 1
  • taxpayers stuck as technology changes
  • new technology increases capacity without the need for anything new
  • building something when we cannot afford it
  • political brilliance with no accountability that may backfire on us.

Sounds like what will happen if we have a DRIC bridge doesn't it. But it is not. It all has to do with garbage. From Mini-Gord's column:

  • "Brilliant, I thought to myself. Giving away access to a limited local resource to pay the bills of an overpriced government bureaucracy.

    I wasn't alone in my irritation. "Remember how hard it was to open that thing?" another Star grey hair groused to me.

    Sure do. The multimillion-dollar fight to locate and open "the new dump" dragged on for almost a generation -- from 1984 to 1997.

    Creating the new dump on County Road 18 (Concession Seven in the former Colchester North Township) was a painful, divisive, horrendously expensive process.

    It cost somewhere between $28 million and $40 million, depending on who you believe, split communities, ended political careers and caused lifelong grief to the owners of land expropriated for the greater good.

    Which is why so many of us have the same kneejerk reaction against importing "foreign" garbage. Shouldn't we be preserving a scarce public resource for the local residents who paid through the nose for it?

    Well, yes and no, says Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who took over as chairman of the waste authority this year. (City and county politicians take turns chairing the authority.)

    Francis's argument in favour of importing garbage -- at least for the short term -- is convincing. I'm not sure I actually am convinced yet, but here is the argument:

    The current dump was supposed to be good for 25 years when it opened in 1997, five years late. Its closing was originally planned for 2022.

    Capacity of the dump's four "cells" -- four massive mounds of clay-capped garbage -- is limited to a maximum of 12.2 million cubic metres, estimated as the equivalent of 6.1 million tonnes of waste.

    But because the authority set its fees at up to 10 times the rate charged by Michigan landfills for industrial wastes, the flow of garbage into the new landfill plummeted from planned levels from the day it opened.

    In addition, compacting technology has advanced to the point that more weight can now be packed into the same space. The dump can now legally hold an estimated seven to eight million tonnes of waste, packed more tightly.

    Based on recent dumping rates, the remaining landfill space owned by Windsor and Essex County taxpayers is now sufficient to last us a whopping 47 years -- or until 2044.

    We still have 33 years left on a resource that was designed to last for 25. We paid through the nose to open and operate the dump, but we still have all of the original lifespan left, plus seven bonus years.

    But as Francis argues, "What are we prolonging it for? At what cost?"

    Even if we, as owners of the dump, take in 50,000 tonnes of garbage from elsewhere in Ontario for the remainder of the dump's life, it would still last us until 2037, or 15 years longer than we originally planned.

    Continuing to exclude "outside" garbage would give us use of the dump for an additional seven years. But do we really need it?

    Francis and other board members argue that would mean the current generation of taxpayers shouldering a burden for future taxpayers, at a time when we can least afford it ourselves.

    But to me the most convincing argument against prolonging the life of the dump is rapidly advancing disposal technology. "Do you really think we'll still be using landfills in 2044?" Francis asks.

    Good point. Few European countries still landfill. A process called gasification is the way of the future. More than 50 companies are currently trying to commercialize the process in the U.S., and their eventual success is a near certainty, many experts believe."

Of course, did you see any mention by Edgar of this:

  • "But little can be done. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the movement of trash across the border is little different from the interstate movement of trash, which courts have ruled is protected by the Constitution's interstate commerce clause. "

Hey, we might be importing MICHIGAN garbage soon. Payback for all of the Toronto trash sent into Michigan perhaps?

Nor did you see this:

  • "Michigan has enough space in its landfills for the next 25 years, the latest trash report said."

  • "Michigan has the lowest per ton fee of any state in the Great Lakes region. That is the main reason it attracts out-of-state trash. But that also means it has less than other states get to oversee solid waste programs."

  • " there’s not enough revenue to cover landfill inspections to make sure they meet requirements."

That's our Edgar (aka Eddie): Edgar has positioned himself as Chair so he can be our so-called hero and then move on leaving what will be a mess if he is wrong for someone else to deal with. Just like with the losses at the arena.

And you still want a DRIC bridge!

Some Quickies

Some really short comments

EAST END ARENA TO BE IN HUGE LOSS POSTION IN 2010

We are being set up already to expect it.

Thank goodnes for the HST! It is a saviour for Edgar (aka Eddie).

He is one lucky guy. A built-in excuse for the big loss that the arena will have after 2 years of significant underperformance:
  • "At a time when Windsor is hemorrhaging recreational facility users, it would cost local ratepayers an estimated $500,000 to $600,000 to absorb the annual impact of the provincial government’s coming HST on such facility rentals, city council heard Monday night.

    “This is a ridiculous download,” said Coun. Percy Hatfield. He said he’s been approached by a number of local sports leagues worried about the financial hit once Ontario’s PST gets added to the federal GST on July 1 and the combined harmonized sales tax is applied to a broader range of goods and services.

    “There’s great concern about what the HST will do to their registration numbers,” Hatfield said.

    Council meets next week to hear from the public before finalizing the city’s 2010 operating budget, and sports groups will be among the delegations seeking relief...

    As part of council’s budget debate on March 10, Mayor Eddie Francis said a “trending report” will be presented showing that, due in part to the ailing economy, registrations have taken such a hit that recreational programming is already being subsidized to the tune of up to $300,000 annually."

But wait, all is not lost. I heard that the City is trying to "force" groups to move their festivals and events to the Arena parking lot to try and build up revenues.

So much for helping the downtown!

THE PENNY PINCHER

I saw this in the Star and could not believe it. why would the Star even publish it unless they were trying to embarrass the Councillor formerly known as Councillor Budget:

  • "Just as city council is holding the line on spending increases, so too should The Windsor Star, Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. told city council Monday night.

    "We've done our job," Lewenza said after proposing a motion instructing administration to return to the newspaper and insist on a better corporate advertising rate than the two per cent hike offered for 2010. The motion was seconded by Coun. Caroline Postma...

    The motion passed, with Coun. Dave Brister voting nay."

Edgar (aka Eddie) was tried to helpful:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis pointed out that the line rate charged the city is already The Star's highest-volume discount not normally extended to any customer purchasing that level of advertising."

Imagine, softliners like Lewenza and Postma trying to save the City some money. Wow, it almost sounds like what they tried to do during the CUPE strike but were outvoted by hardliners like Brister. I wonder how Doug Schmidt will spin this one.

OUTSOURCE THE CITY'S LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Come on, let's save a few bucks there too. They cannot do a minor debenture matter as we heard at Council.


They need an expensive outside firm for a tender matter:

  • "The Toronto law firm that helped write a scathing report on how construction of the 400 City Hall Square building was tendered has been brought in to handle the city's request for proposals on privatizing Windsor's residential garbage and curbside recyclable pickup.

    Miller Thomson LLP's involvement will "ensure all the rules are understood upfront," Mayor Eddie Francis told reporters following city council's in-camera meeting Monday night. In what he described as "an aggressive timeline," Francis said documents should be issued by the beginning of next month for prospective marketplace bidders, with the deadline for responses by about mid-May."

Who needs them?

PAY-AS-YOU-GO

Let's see, we can finance a $4m debenture over 20 years


But we have to pay off a $70M arena right away and cripple the City's finances for years.

Bizarre

WHY WON'T COUNCIL LISTEN TO WUC

According to Councillor Lewenza, who is also head of WUC , they have been trying for months to appear in front of Council and the public via Cogeco to explain their proposed rate increases.

However, they have NOT been allowed to do so? Why?

Oh I know, Edgar did not attend many of the WUC Committee meetings where this was discussed and could be criticized because of it. I wonder if his pay should be docked for missing meetings or if he should resign if any of the non-attendances were due to family matters.

Better to do what he did before--talk about a rate reduction--and have the rates kept low before the election and then boost them up after!

You have to give Lewenza an "A" for having the guts to go to the people on this.

AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION HUB IS ALMOST DEAD

  • "Federal government and Via Rail officials announced Monday that Windsor will see construction of a $6.3-million train station in Walkerville.

    Construction will begin in June and be completed by fall 2011. The new facility is to be built just east of the existing station, said Marc Laliberte, president and CEO for Via.

    Talk of a new Via train station in Windsor has been around for years with potential sites that included the current site, the airport..

    Despite the new infrastructure, a move toward high-speed rail passenger service is not expected to happen any time soon, Laliberte said.

    "We are doing the studies," he said. At this stage, it's something in the long run that makes sense, but it's also a question of money. There are many things to look at technically. We expect in a few years to have a final say about it."

    A move to cross-border passenger rail connections to Detroit or Chicago is also not going to happen any time soon, Laliberte said."

Even Edgar in the press release conceded the point:

  • "Today's announcement will help ensure that Windsor's passenger rail service is fully equipped to continue delivering convenient, comfortable and efficient service well into the future."

Sorry Sam, you lost again.

AN ARBITRATION LESSON FOR EDGAR

Slap, what a put-down to Windsor.

Just so Edgar will NOT lack information, the Province told him what arbitrators look at:

I would hate for him to spread misinformation about union negotiations and arbitrations.

Taxman Software Cometh Again


Price is right for a great piece of software that I have used for several years now to do my income taxes:

FREE!!!


Of course, check it out first to make sure it works for you and fits your need.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Has The US Said The Border War Is Over For Canada

There is no other conclusion that can be drawn.

I will say this again for the umpteenth time. Whoever has been running the border file for Canada has made one disastrous mistake after another.

Instead of working with the Bridge Company, Canada has tried to destroy them. Instead of working with US President Obama, Canada has tried to endrun him.

It seems that memories are short in Ottawa, forgetting about NAFTA-gate and the Dubai ports. Why not try and smear the US Secretary of Homeland Security (she's still around by the way) and put the US Ambassador on the spot on Canadian national television. That makes for winning friends.

The problem with bureaucrats who are so clever and smart is that they form a view of the world that must exist at least in their own minds. When that world proves not to exist in reality, then they do not know what to do.

It is absolutely clear now that Canadian bureaucrats made fundamental but incorrect assumptions about how Moroun as a business person would act and how they could force him to make the choice THEY wanted and expected him to make. They misread and misunderstood both him and his son. Instead, he ignored them, laughed at them and did what a prudent businessman in his position would do: fought them.

Throw in the disastrous failings of the Big Three, the near Depression, the financial problems of major banks around the world and the collapse of the P3 market, none of which could have been contemplated by the bureaucratic geniuses, and you can understand why Canada is in the mess that it is in at this time.

No one in their right mind will finance a bridge when traffic has dropped to 1999 levels or lower, when there is little hope for a rapid recovery and with a strong competitor whose tolls would be about 75% lower! A DRIC bridge would go broke without a Government guarantee or subsidy.

Prime Minister Harper's secret decision to try to buy the Ambassador Bridge proves my point!

No wonder the only tactic left for Canada is vilifying and demonizing the Bridge Company owner. I assume that this tactic is designed to bolster their Michigan DRIC friends except, that Canada’s secret mandate letter to buy the Ambassador Bridge has undercut the DRIC project completely and made MDOT look like complete fools.

Obviously, Canada cannot do anything on its own since we are dealing with an international bridge between two countries. The assumption must be that the US Federal Government will step in in place of the bankrupt Michigan and will help Canada in building the bridge, or rather taking over the Ambassador Bridge and building another bridge right beside it as the Bridge Company wants to do.

Take a look at these comments and tell me whether you believe that Canada has missed the mark, again. I certainly do. The US Ambassador is telling Canada, diplomatically of course, that it will NOT allow a 100% Canadian owned operation at the biggest land border crossing between our countries so Canada controls imports into and exports from the US.

From the US Ambassador just the other day as reported in the Toronto Star but NOT in a Canwest newspaper:
  • "Canada-U.S. border crossing faster than before 9/11: ambassador

    OTTAWA – Security may be tighter, but getting across the Canada-U.S. border today is faster than it was before the terrorist strikes of 2001, U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson says.

    Jacobson, in his first major public remarks on Canada-U.S. border concerns, told an Ottawa audience Tuesday that for all the worries about “thickening” of the border between the two countries, the reality is that things are getting better.

    “We’re already making progress. Border wait times today are, on the average, less than they were prior to Sept. 11,” Jacobson told a sold-out crowd of politicos, lobbyists and business people at the Chateau Laurier. “In fact, since 2007, average border wait times for passengers have been cut by almost a third and during that same period of time for goods, wait times have been cut in half.”

    This progress has come despite concerns about all the extra security measures and passport requirements, Jacobson noted, as well as a perceived rise in U.S. protectionism since the economic crash of 2008. Some Canada-U.S. experts have suggested that wait times are down because overall trade traffic is also on the decline since the downturn.

    Wait times at the border are tracked by Canadian and U.S. officials and updated almost hourly at various government and non-government websites. On Tuesday, for instance, the Canadian Border Services Agency was reporting a 10-minute delay at the Bluewater Bridge near Sarnia and virtually no delays anywhere else.

    Embassy officials said that Jacobson’s numbers on the faster border crossings comes from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.

    Jacobson said he’s been paying special attention to border matters since his arrival in Canada five months ago. He even spent a whole day going back and forth through various border crossings to get a sense of traffic flow and security measures – a day he called educational but noted he was “not sure I’d recommend it for a family outing...”

    “I was amazed at the dividends paid by recent investments in technology,” he said, noting that the U.S. alone has spent $600-million in upgrades to the border in the last several years. Canada is also spending $11-million this year to put 44 high-tech body scanners into airports with major traffic between Canada and the United States."

SLAP---Canada's thickening mantra is about to be completely ignored too.

Oh the Ambassador is a very clever fellow too. He talked about what Canada is interested in, perimeter security:

  • "a common customs and immigration perimeter could help make the border between the two countries “much less of a barrier.”

    “As you move that barrier out toward the perimeter of both of our countries, the border becomes less of an issue,” Jacobson said following a speech in Ottawa today on border issues, in response to a question from the audience. “I think you’re on to something.”

If that is the case, the border virtually disappears and so do security and capacity issues. In fact, we may NOT need another bridge here at all, public or private.

However, let us not get too carried away. I doubt he really takes the concept too seriously. Moroun will still need his new bridge for Customs reasons since the border will not disappear that soon. Instead, Canada better hope we keep NAFTA or we are in serious jeopardy:

  • "U.S. lawmakers urge scrapping of NAFTA

    WASHINGTON — The Harper government sought Tuesday to fend off a new trade threat from U.S. lawmakers pushing legislation to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    The anti-NAFTA bill, which has 28 Democratic and Republican sponsors, comes only a month after Canada and the U.S. reached a deal to end a protracted dispute over Buy American provisions in the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

    With U.S. midterm elections coming in November and the American economy still losing jobs, the legislation could portend another wave of protectionist sentiment on Capitol Hill.

    "We are closely following this bill, of course," International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan told reporters in Ottawa. "Our evaluation is that this is certainly inconsistent with the direction that the Barack Obama administration has chosen."

    At issue is legislation introduced last week in the House of Representatives by Representative Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat who cited America's near-10-per-cent unemployment rate as the motivation for trying to kill the trade agreement involving Canada, the U.S. and Mexico."

I wonder when Canada will finally figure out it is over and try and work with Moroun. Or are the bureaucrats too embarrassed to admit that they have been wrong for a decade? In fact, it is the Bridge Company who is now putting on the pressure:

  • "Ambassador Bridge beginning deck replacement, second span still planned

    WARREN, Mich. – The Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC) will seek bids soon from qualified companies to replace the main deck of the Ambassador Bridge, with the project expected to begin in May. Bridge customers should see little or no disruption to traffic.

    DIBC also announced that it remains fully committed to its proposed Ambassador Bridge Enhancement Project – a six-lane replacement span next to the 80-year-old, four-lane bridge – despite the U.S. Coast Guard’s return of permit paperwork on March 2.

    “A request for bids for the deck replacement will go out within the next two weeks,” said Dan Stamper, president of DIBC, which owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge. “We expect construction to begin in May and take two years to complete because we will minimize the impact on traffic using this most vital international crossing.”

    Even though traffic on the Ambassador Bridge is down 48 percent from the peak in 1999, it remains the No. 1 international crossing in North America and carries more than 25 percent of the trade between the United States and Canada. The Ambassador Bridge carried 4.2 million cars and 2.3 million trucks in 2009, down from 8.9 million cars and 3.4 million trucks in 1999.

    “We plan to schedule work on the deck during off-peak hours and we’ll close no more than one lane at a time to keep any inconvenience to a minimum,” Stamper said. “As most Ambassador Bridge travelers know, we frequently shut portions of one lane for necessary maintenance without affecting travel time. The excess capacity we have now due to the steep downturn in traffic will help.”

    The deck replacement is one of many capital improvements DIBC has made to the bridge in response to intensive annual inspections, or to improve traffic flow and traveler amenities.

    “Our carefully planned improvements are designed to get the work done right the first time with minimal disruption, avoiding costly and wasteful re-dos that seem to plague projects at some government-owned bridges,” Stamper said.

    Stamper said DIBC is undeterred from its plans to build a modern second span across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. The U.S. Coast Guard cited unresolved land acquisition issues for returning permit paperwork to DIBC earlier this week.

    “After securing some 95 percent of all necessary property rights – in addition to having completed the necessary plazas and inspection areas – we feel no farther away from building a second span and fulfilling our long-term obligation to the border,” Stamper said.

    “In this long journey, we have overcome bigger hurdles than this last one. Fortunately, the substance of our preparations and already-existing infrastructure and assets weigh heavily on our side. Through wars, economic booms and busts, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the blackout of 2003, we have kept traffic and commerce flowing and made the Ambassador Bridge an economic engine for this region.”

If you read between the lines in this statement, Moroun has just told Canada that it is in big trouble!

The Edgar You Never Knew

Here are excerpts from a Speech that Edgar (aka Eddie) delivered in 2007. It is fascinating reading since it gives us the best insight into how our Mayor thinks, what motivates him and what his future plans might be. I believe that lot of what I have Blogged about is pretty accurate based on what Edgar says about himself.

It is what he does not say about himself, and even what he does here, that his political opponents need to discover and focus on if he foolishly decides to run again for a third term as Mayor. That is the roadmap about how to beat him.

I have already set out a few excerpts about his spouse's role in a previous BLOG. See if you can see here the themes being discussed about:
  • Talking the talk but mis-stepping the walk
  • How he is smarter than others
  • How he loves taking the credit
  • Edgar the entrepreneur and business person
  • Why Government success is difficult--''In politics, you know what needs to get done; you can't get it done until you get everybody else on the same page, and that takes years and years and years."
  • PLANS--"work hard, know what it is you are trying to accomplish, set out the plan to accomplish it, and go and do it"
  • What cities must do
  • Co-operation
  • What his future involves
  • The border file and why he is not what he says he is
  • City quality of life

Naturally, there is little in here about his failures and his weaknesses that have resulted in little being accomplished while he has been Mayor and this City being polarized. But I will let you decide for yourself about this self-portrait by our Mayor.

Entrepreneurship: business and government. (Canada-United States Law Institute Annual Conference on Comparative Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship in Canada and the United States).

SPEAKER

Hon. Eddie Francis *

MAYOR FRANCIS: Thank you, Chuck. Thank you for that kind and warm introduction.

And I have got to admit right off the bat, as a politician, having someone copy each and every single word makes me nervous, but it is good to be here. And part of my discussion this evening will be a discussion focused on, obviously, entrepreneurs, and given my position as Mayor of the City of Windsor, how entrepreneurs play a role in the government if it does have a role to play at all...

There is a large Arab population, both in Southwestern Ontario as well as in Michigan and even in Ohio. But all of them were still making bread in their own kitchens and their own ovens. So my father established the first pita bread operation in Southwestern Ontario in the early 1970s, and he only catered to the Arab population because that's all he knew...

So he retired for two years and then decided to get back into it in 1997 as I was deciding where my future career was going to be after my undergrad.

He bought the building. He bought the machines. He was about to get started again, and then he fell ill. So I was asked, being the oldest, to come down and run the family business... And growing up in the family business is not that hard, right? I grew up in it. It seemed pretty easy. The machines did everything, and the workers were there, distributed the product. It was just flour and water, and the rest is simple. After all, for years he had been making a living doing this; he had taken care of us, raised three kids, and provided for us. It can't be that hard...

I discovered that, although my dad was very good at what he did, my father was very smart at what he did. He only catered to one aspect of the market, and that was the Arab market. You can't blame him for it because he did a good job.

So my brothers and I decided that we could take this to the next level. And again, that was 1997. This is 1998. This is before the Atkins diet. This is before the carb craze. This is when people were starting to discover pita. McDonald's even had pita on the menu. Subway was getting into flatbreads...

So my brothers and I wanted to exploit that. We wanted to take it to the average citizen. We wanted to take it to the Canadian and American marketplace, outside of the traditional Mediterranean-Arab marketplace. So we said we are going to do that. So we got the business.

We started running it, and we ran into a couple of problems. Back then, when we first started--I was 22 years old, my next brother Roger was three years younger, and Frank was 16 years old. We ran into some problems...

So we came up with a pretty innovative product mix. What we did was we were going to take pita bread to the next level in the sense of recognizing that it was not a specialty product. It is only flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast. You go to the store and buy a pack of five of pita bread, it is like four dollars. It cost us 30 cents to manufacture and produce it. Yet, people were still selling it at four dollars, and that's because people were treating it as a specialty product. So we said we were going to go with a product that was an accurate reflection of the cost. We were going to market it, fresh every single day, and produce the product and get the pita into the stores.

Again, to go back to my original point--we didn't even have the flour. I couldn't get the flourmills to supply us with flour. So we approached Costco, and we said to Costco--you have all been at Costco, fight? You know Costco sells flour? So we said we are going to go to Costco, and we are going to say to Costco, "We need some flour. Will you supply us?"

And in return, we are going to ask them to carry our product for us. So we went into Costco, we scheduled a meeting. It was the biggest meeting ever, again I was 23, 24, right? Put on our best suits. This is our first pitch we ever made, and we go to Costco and said to Costco, we are owners of Royal Pita. We want to buy flour from you. In return, we want you to carry our product in all of your stores. We want access to all of your stores, and I am going to guarantee that we will buy flour from you. Costco said okay, sounds good. How much flour do you guys need? I said one bag a month.

That was exactly their reaction.

I said to them, though, give us a chance, and I promise you that bag will turn into something larger. Within a matter of months, Costco let us in. We got access to their stores. Within a matter of months, we took that one bag and turned it into 22 tons of flour a week...

And what we were able to do from a Windsor location, from a Windsor plant, was produce 7,000 packs an hour, ship them down to Atlanta in less than 24 hours and out-compete the bakeries that were in the Atlanta area...

We were delivering in our Ford Escort backing up into loading docks with these big competitors, right? You got the Westins and the Dempster's in Canada. Here you have different Wonder Bread companies that distribute. So these guys were backing up and piling up stacks and stacks and stacks of trays of bread, and we are just walking in with four packs of bread, and we knew we were going to out-compete them. But that's the prize of entrepreneurs, and that's what you have heard over the past few days--an entrepreneurial spirit that gets you up and wants to make you compete and makes you want to do better.

That's the same thing that led us to get involved in Royal Pita and also led us to get involved in our community. Royal Pita in Windsor, I got involved in the community. I will never forget, I was at a wedding a couple months before we opened Royal Pita, and we opened up Royal Pita on a street called Wyandotte Street. Wyandotte Street traditionally didn't have a good reputation. That's where all the drug dealers were, where all the hookers were, the prostitutes. That's how we got a good deal on the building. We bought the building with the vision that once we buy this and establish this business, we were going to be able to turn around the entire community...

But we got involved in our community through our business. By one entrepreneur locating on a desolate corner that others would not even pay attention to, it served as a catalyst for other entrepreneurs to do the same thing, because it only takes one. It always takes that first person to lead to the other investment, for others to follow.

I am happy to report, today Wyandotte Street is a whole different street. In a matter of six or seven years it is now known as Mediterranean Row. You have tons and tons and tons of storefronts that have been filled now by immigrants that, otherwise, would not have filled them--from bakeries to retail stores.

So what happened was, in 1999, as we were doing that, as we were developing that, we got involved in the community, and we were fortunate enough, my brothers and I, to be recognized by the Chamber of Commerce. I recognized my brothers because they still give me grief, to this day, because I take all the accolades--but we were recognized as "Young Entrepreneur of the Year," and that was in February of 1999.

In June of 1999, there was an opening on city council and there was a bi-election that was open. This is a true story. Because of the profile that was gained through the "Young Entrepreneur of the Year" award and our work in the community, I was on my way to do a product pitch, and I got a call from a reporter at The Windsor Star.

She asked me if there was any truth to the rumor. And I said, "Truth to what rumor?" She said, "You are running for Windsor City Council." I said, "Excuse me, who are you again?" She said, "My name is Granell--my name is Margaret Granell from The Windsor Star." I said, "I don't know what you are talking about. Thanks, good talking to you." That was it.

Next day in The Windsor Star there was my picture with 15 others "Rumored to Run." Well, I thought about politics, but I never thought about running for politics. I was 25 at the time. I just applied to Windsor Law School and just received my acceptance into Windsor Law. So my career was to go practice law in the City of Windsor, go be a lawyer and contribute to the community...

My campaign team was a campaign team of three: myself and two other brothers. The business suffered those couple months, but we put on a strong campaign, and we were not supposed to win.

But then, fortunately, I was elected to represent Ward 5, which is the east end of Windsor. I wanted to apply what I learned through the business to Windsor Council, and I did that, but at the same time I went to law school. And then I became a lawyer, and I had a decision to make.

The decision I had to make was whether I was going to be a lawyer or whether I was going to be mayor of the City of Windsor. My wife and I decided to go away for a vacation, decided to have this most important discussion while we were away, and I had made my decision...

Politics is interesting to say the best. It is not for everyone. My hats off to those individuals that can do it, that do it extremely well and do it consistently, but politics is a different sport. It is a different environment than in the business sector. It is different.

And I didn't expect it to be as different as it was...

Windsor is an amazing city, and I am not saying that because I am the mayor. It is an amazing city because of its history, because of its location, and because of its potential. Here is a metropolitan area--350,000--and when I decided to run for mayor, I was facing some critical issues, and those critical issues would certainly set its course in what it would be in the future.

So I saw that as an opportunity to contribute. I wanted to bring my business background, my business acumen, I wanted to bring my experience to change the way things were traditionally done because it always seemed that it was going one way. So I decided to run for mayor, and one of the things I decided was to run on a platform with the same entrepreneurial spirit that carried me. And that spirit was a success for me and my family through the business, and that is: work hard, know what it is you are trying to accomplish, set out the plan to accomplish it, and go and do it--very simple. But I was 29. People don't elect 29-year-old mayors. They don't, right?

So that was the biggest challenge. I was running up against strong competition, years and years of experience on council. But I set a very specific plan. Just like in business, this is where we want to be. We want to be a city that is thriving, a city that is dynamic, a city that is diverse. That is how we are going to get there.

So I started off by mapping out the same thing you do when taking over a business that is going in the wrong direction. You have to get your financial house in order, right? You can't do anything if your financial house is not in order. So I set out, and I said in my campaign platform that I was going to reduce the city's debt by $40 million.

Our long-term debt was projected to be about $272 million by the end of 2006. So I said for my term in 2003, I was going to reduce the debt by $40 million. People looked at me and said there is no way you can do that. It is a ploy. It is a promise. No way. They were right. We didn't reduce it by $40 million; we reduced it by $115 million in our three-year term.

Then we focused on making sure that we had the solvent infrastructure that we needed in place. And one of the most critical things that Windsor had to deal with, if you don't know, is that Windsor is in a strategic location. It is the most important and most valuable crossing point in North America; crossing through the Detroit-Windsor border.

And 28 percent of all trade is between our two nations, Canada and the U.S., and crosses through that gate, $150 billion. It is explosive trade that has taken place over a series of years because of all the trade and the explosive things that have taken place. But it is trade that has taken place on infrastructure built by our grandparents.

And one of the things that you do in business, and that we did in business, in our own business, and that entrepreneurs do all the time, that is, we invest in the business. You reinvest in the business and make sure you have the proper tools and proper equipment to produce a greater product. Why can't the same thing apply to government?

So the biggest challenge we had--we knew we needed a bigger, better infrastructure. Long before we started talking about infrastructure as a way to improve productivity in Canada and the U.S., the Chinese and now other Asian countries and India and all of them have been pouring millions and millions and billions and billions of dollars putting their infrastructure in place, long before anybody knew what they were doing. They were creating the critical supply chains, long before anybody knew why they were doing it. Today with the situation in North America, our ports, they are under extreme pressure.

The critical supply chain between Detroit and Windsor is still trying to do things the way they used to do things 75 years ago. So the border was a key issue for us, and that's something we have been working towards and trying to work on.

I use that as an example in terms of where entrepreneurs can go. The private sector doesn't apply in government. In business, you invest in the infrastructure and get it up to speed, and you make it happen. In government, it has been now--how long, George? I have been there for about seven-and-a-half, eight years. I started there talking about the border, they are still talking about the border, and that has been the difficult challenge for me.

That's why I said earlier that politics is different than business. Politics has a way of really providing you a different perspective in terms of how to get things done. In business, you know what needs to get done. You get it done. In politics, you know what needs to get done; you can't get it done until you get everybody else on the same page, and that takes years and years and years...

The way things used to be done, the way that companies used to locate in a city, the way that companies used to locate in towns, the old paper mills would come in, the flour mills would come in, the lumber mills would come in, and when they came in, they would locate and invest in it, and people would follow. People would always follow the jobs.

That no longer is the case. Today's global market, where technology and capital is shifted around the world at the push of a button, it is no longer people following jobs; it is jobs following people. That's where it becomes important for us as politicians and leaders of a community to recognize where the entrepreneurial spirit needs to be at play. Recognizing the change in the trend is important in terms of securing ourselves and moving forward.

People are now choosing where to live based on quality of life, and where the people are, the jobs are going to follow. And this is where it is extremely important because our ability to compete as a city in Canada, or as a city in the United States, is primarily going to be driven on our ability to innovate, in our ability to come up with ideas because nobody else can compete with us there. Everybody else can produce the product, but not everybody can come up with the idea to produce that, right?

So how are we going to attract people to our cities? Because we need to attract these people to our cities. If they come to our cities, if they are living in our cities, if they are raising their families in our cities, then they are going to be coming up with the ideas in our cities.

If it is our cities that are coming up with the ideas, then we are going to have to do competitive damage as we compete with other global forces. The first thing we need to do is recognize that it is no longer city against city, city against town, or neighbor against neighbor. It is region against region, and I am happy to report that government is final getting that. I think it maybe is two, three years too late, but I think they finally realize that they have to work together.

And I think the governor of Michigan uses a very, very good term in terms of describing that, and that's cooperation. And the cooperation that they use instead of the competition that used to be in place is now forcing the cities and towns to work together. So when I talk about Windsor's region, I include Ohio in all my discussions. I include London, Ontario. I include southwestern Ontario, southeastern Michigan, and the Ohio District because, as one region, we are powerful.

And what we have to do is send a message--just like we do in business send a message, we are competing with other customers, right? We are competing with other companies to attract those people but sending the message to attract people to live in our cities because we are investing in a quality of life.

So now it is no longer at the municipal level talking about roads and sewers. It is talking about the arts and cultures, talking about the parks. It is talking about the amenities, talking about the facilities we have involved, because we want those people to come and live in our region.

One of the greatest examples we use is the Detroit-Windsor example. I am perhaps the only city of my size--I don't have professional sports teams, but a five-minute drive across the river, I have got access to all the professional sports. So by attracting those people to live in our city with those amenities gives us an advantage.

And the advantage is how do we take those people, and how do we tap into their ideas? And that's where the universities and the colleges and all these institutions come into play. That's where we come into play, and that's what you heard over the last two days. How do you foster that entrepreneurial spirit? How do you take those entrepreneurial ideas and turn them into product? It is that support mechanism that is required to turn it.

So if we can attract people as cities, we will do our job; we will make our city so livable, create so high a standard of a quality of life that they will come. They will raise their families and will come to live in our cities. Yet, the issue then becomes what is going to be the support network to take those ideas, to turn that routine to product?

The university and colleges play an extremely critical role. Business is playing an extremely critical role. The problem we have at the city municipal level is that we cannot provide them with the type of incentive that they can live with. That's going to have to come from senior orders of government or from another type of collaboration that could take place between the institutions and the companies. That's the key...

Today we have, in Windsor, the Auto 21, the ARDC Center and the University all collaborating with each other. Chrysler, GM and Ford, they are collaborating with each other. That level of collaboration, that level of support is required, but the challenge for the municipality is we can't provide it. We will bring the people to our cities. We will bring the institutions to our cities, but that level of cooperation that has happened and is harnessed in an entrepreneurial way, that's going to really be driven by the organizations themselves.

And that's the challenge that we are going to have. That's the biggest challenge we are going to have. So, over the next little while, you are certainly going to hear about cities investing in quality of life, marketing themselves as the best place to live, marketing themselves as being the best place to do business.

You are going to hear about universities and colleges saying come to us, we will provide you with the best education. Come to us, we will provide you the skills and tools that you need, but what we need here, what we want to happen is that network that needs to be established, and that requires collaboration and cooperation.

And from a Canadian perspective, we have a long way to go to do that. I am not sure whether or not on the American side you are there yet. We do have a number of opportunities that are in existence, but I am not sure where that will go. But one thing I am certain of, in today's economic climate, today's environment of three percent growth--three percent new growth in a city in any region is done by 50 percent of the companies that are already in the region.

And that's what we need to have, and that's why cities are always looking to land a big plant--1,500 to 2,000 jobs. That represents one percent of new growth, and you are lucky if you get a plant. So that's what we have to have start happening into what's existing in our own cities and regions. That's going to require this type of dialogue--this type of discussion. Do not expect government to do it.

If I can leave you with one message: do not expect government to do it. Government is too slow to respond to the needs of business, and I know that because it is the biggest frustration that I live with everyday in my capacity as a mayor. It takes way too much longer to bring everybody else on the same page to execute a decision than it does from the private sector.

So it needs to be driven by the entrepreneurs. It needs to be driven by the independent businesses in their respective communities. And that's the key.

And thank you, that's all.

I am perhaps the only mayor that I am aware of--we don't have term limits in Canada--that is term limited. This will be my last term as mayor because I truly miss private business. I truly miss the flexibility, the ability to get things done as we do as entrepreneurs, and I am truly frustrated at the turtle pace of things in government and the challenges that we face with the gridlock of bureaucracy from time to time.

So moving forward, I would hope that with these types of discussions and I think this is a wonderful opportunity when you bring people together. These types of discussions need to be held because this is how collaborations are established in the true spirit of entrepreneurs. The true spirit of entrepreneurs--the true spirit of businesses--the true spirit will really create the type of movement that we want.

And so I thank each and every one of you for taking time from your busy schedules to be here and participate. I know that you learned a lot and met new people. My hope for each and every one of you in moving forward is that you build on those relationships, and that we actually can work together to get things done. I know I am depending on it as mayor of the city because, as the mayor of the city, it is your ideas and your cooperation that allow us to do it.

So I am available for questions. If you have any questions I would certainly be happy to answer them.

DISCUSSION FOLLOWING THE REMARKS OF HON. EDDIE FRANCIS

DR. KING: Do you plan to go higher?

MAYOR FRANCIS: Do I want to move up?

DR. KING: Do you want to move up?

MAYOR FRANCIS: I could have all the aspirations in the world, Henry, but my wife has other plans. You know, I get asked this question a lot, and my answer sometimes--I am 32.

DR. KING: You have got a long way to go.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You talked about the enormous amount of trade between the two countries that crosses across the bridge. I was at a conference two weeks ago, and we pondered the thought that if that bridge were ever the target of an attack--what type of emergency preparedness or contingency plans do Detroit and Windsor have to guard against that if, God forbid, it would ever happen, to ensure that trade and commerce would continue flowing?

MAYOR FRANCIS: The issue of the bridge: the bridge in Detroit-Windsor is privately owned. I know that surprises a lot of people. But 28 percent of our trade crosses over a privately owned bridge, and there was actually--there was a discussion group, I believe last year, and there was a question to one of the Coast Guards in terms of, if the bridge is knocked down, what happens to the economy, because we saw that post-9/11 everything came to a standstill.

Billions and billions of dollars were lost at the border because of that, and the question to the Coast Guard official was: in the event that there was an event that took down the bridge or caused problems on the bridge, what would happen?

And I think the response was: we table topped this, and the table top exercise had shown that if the bridge was knocked down, there would be at least a minimum of two weeks of complete cessation of the economy. Think about that. The economy would come to a stop for a minimum of two weeks.

I am not talking about the economy of Detroit-Windsor. The economy between the two countries would be at a stop for a minimum of two weeks. Right now there is a movement afoot to get a new crossing located.

Prior to 9/11, in 1999, the Government of Canada together with the province of Ontario, State of Michigan and Washington established what they call the Bi-National Partnership, and the Bi-National Partnership was charged with the responsibility of looking at the future trends--looking at current traffic to try and determine what would be required to meet future capacity for crossing the Detroit-Windsor corridor.

Currently, there are approximately 9,000 trucks that cross that corridor every single day, and as I mentioned, $150 billion of trade. By 2030, it is projected that 30,000 trucks will be crossing that corridor.

And that's why they began the exercise in terms of trying to establish when the next crossing will be built. Since then, they made some progress. As I mentioned, some of my frustration has been the slow process. In business, you would have had a new bridge up and running. You wouldn't wait for all the things that take so much time.

In government, you have to have a plan, study it, and you have got politics. Right now they are projecting--this partnership is projecting to have a new crossing built by 2013, and they hope to have all the studies done by 2010. And hopefully, there will be a new crossing by 2013.

But again, the challenge that they are going to have--and I can say this because I am not part of the partnership--they have a private owner that is going to do everything to block it. Interestingly enough, there is another point, the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.

In 1930, the Detroit-Windsor tunnel was built as a connection between downtown Windsor and downtown Detroit. When this was constructed in 1930, the individuals that constructed it invested or had the vesting charter 60 or 70 years later, half to Windsor, half to Detroit.

So we own the Canadian half. The City of Windsor owns the Canadian half of the tunnel. It is a vital link because over 5,000 people cross into Detroit every day: nurses, students and automotive employees go to work in Detroit and come back. They use that facility to cross. It is an important aspect to have in our region.

A year-and-a-half ago there was an attempt to try to sell the American half to a private entity, same owner. Perhaps just this past Friday there was an announcement that was made by Mayor Kilpatrick because for the past year we have been negotiating with Detroit. The announcement that Kilpatrick made this past Friday was that we reached an agreement in principal between the City of Windsor and the City of Detroit. The City of Windsor will be acquiring Detroit rights to the operation and management of the tunnel--$75 million for a term of 75 years.

But here is the question that I leave you with, and again, this is where I struggle all the time in terms of being someone coming from the private sector background, from an entrepreneurial background, from a business perspective, you need to do this to protect your investment. If you don't do this, you lose your investment. If you don't do this, you don't provide for us, you won't be able to redirect the city into the future.

It becomes a challenge to communicate that to residents, to see that it is $75 million, number one. That's one issue of struggle.

Number two, why is it that the city, a municipal jurisdiction, is responsible for securing a vital link of national importance? Why should the taxpayer in the city--because again, my revenues are supposed to go--it is very simple. I take in money from property tax. That money that I take in should be used to service that property. It should be used to service sewers, to service roads, to pickup garbage, to provide service to that property. The money isn't intended to provide for the national security of Canada and the U.S. So those border issues are real, and those are border issues that we deal with.

But going back to your point, the reason we do what we do is because when senior orders of government are slow to move, somebody has got to move, and that's where the entrepreneur's background comes into play.

I take donations, too, by the way.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you for taking the initiative.

MAYOR FRANCIS: Thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I am glad you included Ohio in the region you govern. We are very similar to Windsor and Detroit. We have a Ford casting plant--builds engines here--have two Ford assembly plants. We built a lot of automotive plants. We have Chrysler, GM, and a lot of people around here are worded because we don't know what's going on in Detroit.

We don't see that there are--people are afraid of losing their jobs, and you are a lot closer to Detroit. And one of the things you said was that there is a reduction in our manufacturing base. We see the CEO of Ford taking $39 million for four months of work while people are losing jobs. (39) People are afraid for their jobs.

Being close to Detroit and being so tied in with the Detroit economy and the regional economy, what do you know about what's going on in Detroit? And how can we preserve some of the jobs--many of the jobs--that we have in this region?

MAYOR FRANCIS: I think our biggest--our challenge is similar to your challenges here because you are dependent on manufacturing and very dependent on the automotive sector. One of the things we have to recognize is that we have to diversify our economy. One thing I do not want to see in terms of all the challenges, all the struggles of the automotive manufacturing industries--one thing that you have to recognize is that this region has a qualified and a very highly-skilled work force.

I don't know of any other people that can take a line change or a new product change and have it implemented in the time that you do it. It is unheard of. The reason they are able to do that is because of the skill set they have. So what we started doing in our city was try to diversify and also change the mindset.

That's a difficult thing to do, but we have gone to the advance manufacturers that otherwise would have been servicing the automotive industry, and we said to them, your skill set can be applied in other industries. To date, we have applied manufacturers--advance manufacturers --that were once only supplying the automotive industry that are now supplying the aerospace industries, supplying airline industries, supplying the medical fields.

Those type of skill sets are applicable somewhere else. Just like in business, I would never give more than ten percent of my business to Costco. What would happen if Costco went down? I would go down. You never put all your eggs in the same basket. And the thing we need to do from an automotive rich region is recognize that we have skill sets that no one else has.

China doesn't have the skill set that our region has. They don't have the same capacity and knowledge and innovation that we have here. What we need to do is recognize that the automotive industry has gotten us this far, provided us with these skills, and just like in business when you change under different circumstances, we have to transition to applying those skill sets to others.

I know it is difficult, and I have had over a thousand laid off from Ford, another thousand from Chrysler, but it is transition we need to work together. One of the things we look for--and I apologize, I am not too familiar with what American programs are available--but one of the things we need to do on our side is take those individuals that have that skill set, allow them to provide the support for the transition, upgrade the skill set, and apply it somewhere else. Because, from our perspective, not only do we have individuals that are in the skill set right now, right now I am third behind Vancouver and Toronto. That's unheard of.

And I have all these people coming into my city, and I need to be able to provide them skills, but I can't do it at the municipal level. R & D is a key thing. I am telling you R & D. You know why the automotive industry is struggling? It is very simple. It is all about product. Those companies that have hot products, those companies selling the product, they come up with great ideas. How do you come up with a great new product? R & D.

The idea goes back to what I was saying earlier. We need to attract people that can have the ability to develop the ideas and then have the facilities to take those ideas and turn them into a product. Those areas, and those regions, that can do that, and this is where the R & D comes in. You need to have the cooperation. I may have somebody that comes up with the idea, but I may need somebody in Ohio to produce it. That's where that cooperation and collaboration comes in because then we can compete.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You were 23 when this whole thing started. You grew the business, went to law school, went on to council, and now you are a mayor. This is in nine years. So you have done all this at an unbelievable speed.

Do you have any interest in going back to the whole entrepreneurial thing? You keep going at this space, you are going to run out of life times, you know? But it would seem--

MAYOR FRANCIS: I feel like I am 72 on the inside.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: When did you sell the business?

MAYOR FRANCIS: I referenced in terms we have 10 or 11 months in a law firm. So when I went to interview for Articles, I interviewed with a law firm, and they said you are with city council. We are not going to give you a job unless something gives, and I couldn't get off council. I needed the Articles to get called to the bar.

When I began the business and set it up and established it with my brothers, we went in with a goal. Our goal was simple. Those people were out there, and the people we were talking to thought we couldn't do it. And our job was to take out as much of the competition, and we brought so much of that, and it came to a point that our competition was ready to buy us out.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: When did you sell?

MAYOR FRANCIS: In 2002.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is your father still alive?

MAYOR FRANCIS: Yes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What did he think about this?

MAYOR FRANCIS: My father is from the old country, and you still can't do it fight.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Would you go back to what I was saying, yourself as an entrepreneur?

MAYOR FRANCIS: I miss it, and what I was trying to convey, perhaps being in government right now when people ask you, there is no way to do it in two terms. I miss it because government restricts the entrepreneurial aspect. I feel so held back from doing what I normally do, and that's being an entrepreneur.

The thing I liked about being a lawyer, you get to be an entrepreneur in everybody else's business, so you learn about so many different clients and different businesses that you are an entrepreneur and in a different business everyday. That's what I enjoyed about the law; it gave me that same type of opportunity to channel that energy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You are still young, and you have a chance to be prime minister, but it seems you have that ability.

MAYOR FRANCIS: You realty have to meet my wife. She doesn't want any part of it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You may have a chance to make Canada, as an entrepreneur, as a great country of the world. Think about that.

MAYOR FRANCIS: And thank you. That's very kind, but go back to my earlier point: we cannot depend on government to do it. Government will not do it. And again, I am speaking from a very limited experience in terms of my perspective as a mayor. It just takes way too long.

The entrepreneurial spirit needs to be driven by entrepreneurs. It needs to be driven by business and small business, and they will do it. What we need to do as government is be able to provide them the type of support that otherwise they wouldn't be able to get.

I will give you an example. Shortly after being elected--and this is some of the conflicts I face--shortly after being elected, there was an opportunity for us to locate a company, International Truck. Are you all familiar with International Truck? To locate their new R & D center, and Windsor was one of the places, and International Truck was going to make a decision.

I think it was Windsor, Hamilton, London, and Toronto, and they had three R & D facilities they were going to locate. And I asked for a meeting with the powers that be, and I met with them. I just said, "What do you need?" They said, "What do you mean?" I said, "What do you need for you to make your decision?" They said, "We never heard that before."

I said, "Tell me what it is, and if I can do it, I will do it, but what do you need in terms of us providing the support?" They told us. They made their decision, and they are now located in Windsor. As government, we need to be able to approach business and not with the same cookie cutter approach--this is the way it needs to be done.

Their situation may be different than your situation, so what is it for you to do? What is it you need to do, and develop that type of a product, that type of idea, that type of entrepreneurial invention? And if we can provide the support, that's what we need to do. I think we are doing a good job in terms of getting there. Mark is a good example. He does it every day.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I know that you might be frustrated by your job and how you feel you are constrained in what you could accomplish, but you probably are also saying to yourself, "I accomplished a hell of a lot in the term-and-a-half or almost two terms as mayor." Anybody can be proud of what you have accomplished and is going to be concerned about making sure that the next person who comes in takes what you have done and takes it to the next level. You want to get somebody in there even better than you.

So my question is: what's your sense of the landscape, the political landscape in the Windsor area, apart from your two brothers, in terms of talent that can make it look like you were only half as good?

MAYOR FRANCIS: You must have been talking to my two brothers.

I think the best--I am confident--let's put it that way. I think if anything, when somebody comes into the office and is able to accomplish something, set the bar high and hope somebody else will do better, I am confident that will happen. Any good person who steps into a political office sets things in place that you would hope would serve as the building blocks.

And if anything, I would hope that by being a nobody that was fortunate to be elected, that has inspired or has given reason for others to move forward that otherwise would not have considered politics but can now consider politics.

So I would hope that my example--and that's why every time I have an opportunity to speak I say you don't have to be a politician to run for office. You just have to have dedication and passion and the commitment to do a better job than the next guy. I hope that after I am done the next person that comes in, within a year they forget about me because the next person is that much better.

Questions.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What personality traits attract you in succeeding, and if you don't have those, can you still have those by having a good plan and executing it?

MAYOR FRANCIS: It is a good question. Believe it or not I am a very shy individual. It is true. So the personality--you know what? I have never been asked that question in my career. The personality traits, I think, that have helped me are being able to be very--and this comes from my science background--science, they teach you to be very methodical, right? Know what your end result is going to be. Map out how you are going to get to your end result, and that's the same thing I applied in business.

The same thing I applied in my career as mayor. I am methodical in terms of establishing a long-term, direct, knowing where it is I think we need to be, developing a plan and sticking to it. Oftentimes you will get politicians that get swayed one way or the other, and it just doesn't happen.

You stick to it, and if you believe in your plan so much that it is the right thing to do, you just get it done. Patience is a key thing for me, and I still struggle with patience sometimes.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Did You Think Of This

Here are some more interesting tidbits for you to think about

TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

All this fuss about the University President going to Vancouver during the Olympics to meet up with alumni. Seriously, doesn't anyone have better scandals to monger.

Why even the Star got into the picture. I liked how they ended their Editorial:
  • "As spokesperson Lori Lewis said: "We do alumni events all the time. It certainly helps with fundraising. This is part of their duties. This is essentially a fundraising event, and it's an alumni building event."

    If any students still have problems with the idea of courting alumni, hopefully the university can provide a full accounting of the actual costs compared to the financial benefit from alumni events."

Now if only the Star would demand the same of Edgar (aka Edie) and his jaunts but don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

EDGAR IS ON THE RUBBER CHICKEN CIRCUIT

So presumably he is running for a third term.

I don't remember seeing this in a Star story so obviously Edgar is out mixing with groups under the radar or maybe he is trying to export potatoes to Ireland from our proposed cargo hub. Normally, he would have sent a Councillor in his place.

I saw this note in a Letter to the Editor which gave Edgar away:

  • "At last Saturday's Irish Canadian Cultural Club Gala celebrating 25 years, Windsor-Essex citizens heard Irish ambassador, Declan Kelly, congratulate them for their great service to the community...

    Mayor Eddie Francis was eloquent in his remarks stating that Ireland, though compact in dimensions, has been enormous in its influence in Canada."

Eddie will need the luck of the Irish to win!

Oh, is this the same Irish Ambassador?

  • "The Canadian brand ambassador for Jameson Irish Whisky, John Molloy, will visit the LCBO's Roundhouse Centre... to meet people, promote the product and offer knowledge about Jameson and whisky."

SHEILA'S WISDOM

Will she or won't she...run for Mayor? How cute her answer is:

  • "Asked directly if she had any plans to run for mayor in the fall, she said she wasn't ruling anything out.

    "You know, well, people have been suggesting that, but right now I'm not saying yes or no to anything," said Wisdom."

She may as well say NO. She does not have a chance.

FEDERAL CONSERVATIVE CANDIDACY IS OUT

We know now that Edgar won't run for the Conservatives federally in the next election.

A local Conservative took a shot at the Mayor in a recent Letter to the Editor:

  • "No current city councillor will give up their current salary to run for mayor against Francis. If Gord Henderson and The Windsor Star continue to provide this kind of cover fire, then there will be no real debate of the current issues and future of our city. That's bad news for all ratepayers.

    I think there are quality candidates who would run for mayor against Francis but no one is interested in running against a Francis/Henderson ticket."

FUNDS FOR OUR HOSPITALS

Absolutely YES!

Don't give me the BS about Provincial responsibility. The money comes out of our pockets regardless. Give it directly to our hospitals and not through the medical health system where it will be wasted.

What a silly response:

  • "Say this much for Hotel-Dieu-Grace fundraisers. They must have more nerve than a three-legged canal horse in an ice storm if they think this is an appropriate time to come to the City of Windsor looking for help in extracting "donations" totalling $3 million from municipal taxpayers.

    Where have they been for the past six months?

    Have they not seen the blood splatters on the floor?

    Have they not heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth?

    It boggles the mind that, in the midst of long overdue but hellishly difficult budget-cutting and bureaucratic streamlining exercises, they would even think of asking councillors to reach into the threadbare pockets of their constituents for enforced contributions."

As someone who over the last 8 months has seen more hosptial emergency rooms, operating rooms, medical machines, tests, doctors and other medical personnel, I cannot think of anything more worthy than looking after the health of Windsorites.

The opposition to the payment of money to our hospitals is nothing more than a cash grab by the Mayor and Council for them to use the money for purposes such as Greenlink, the canal, airport hub, new City Hall, brownfield extravaganzas and other failed visions.

Why Gord told us about the torrents of money that will be pouring into our coffers given the brilliant fiscal responsibility of Edgar. Let's use it for something worthwhile for once!

MORE WUC LEAKS

Poor Edgar. He did not learn his lesson when he suggested that water rates should be reduced and then that was followed up by an 86% increase which he supported.

Now he is back at it:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis, also a WUC board member, missed Thursday’s meeting because he was overseas, but agreed Friday the water company may have to look at a more gradual increase.

    The mayor took the lead in pushing the 86 per cent hike in 2007.

    “Right now this community cannot handle a 10 per cent increase,” he said. “You need a more realistic approach in what’s required. You are not going to resolve the infrastructure deficit in one or two years. Maybe there needs to be a 10- to 15-year plan and be balanced in people’s ability to handle this."

Edgar may want to listen to ex-Minister David Caplan:

  • "Clean, safe drinking water could cost Ontarians as much as high-speed Internet service if a private member's bill from Liberal backbencher David Caplan becomes law, and the money would be used to pay for much-needed upgrades to pipes and infrastructure.

    Drinking water systems in Ontario have leakage rates of 10 to 50 per cent, with an average of 25 per cent, and many water pipes in cities like Toronto are more than 100years old, said Caplan.

    "We have a lot of infrastructure that is approaching or even exceeding its useful life cycle, and without a firm plan to replace and repair it," he said."

We supposedly have a plan in Windsor. I wonder why Edgar does not want to follow it.

Oh I forgot, there's an election coming soon!

Irresponsible Journalism


No, I do not mean the Windsor Star this time. Why the Star finally proved me wrong and covered the daycare story in Saturday's edition. How refreshing. Or did I shame them into it?

This time it is that so-called august newspaper, the New York Times!

On Saturday, the Times did a story on the Michigan Central Station in Detroit. That is the building owned by Matty Moroun. Not just a story mind you but a FRONT PAGE story to boot!

And it was fair, and balanced discussion. How dare they:
  • "Seeking a Future for a Symbol of a Grander Past

    The last train pulled away more than 20 years ago from Michigan Central Station, one of thousands of “see-through” buildings here, empty shells from more auspicious times.

    Many of the blighted buildings stay up simply because they are too expensive to tear down. Yet Michigan Central is in a class of its own. Some city officials consider it among the ugliest behemoths to pockmark Detroit and have ordered its demolition, but others see it as the industrial age’s most gracious relic, a Beaux Arts gem turned gothic from neglect but steeped in haunting beauty.

    Now Detroit has become embroiled in an urgent debate over how to save what is perhaps its most iconic ruin — and in the process, some insist, give the demoralized city a much needed boost.

    “People compare it to Roman ruins,” said Karen Nagher, the executive director of Preservation Wayne, an organization that seeks to protect architecture and neighborhoods around Detroit. “Some people just want it left alone. But I’d love to see that building with windows in and lights on again.”

You can read it here for yourself http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/06/us/06station.html?ref=todayspaper

Do you want to know how bad the story was? There was a slideshow of 11 fascinating pictures of the building and it was put into a perspective too:

  • "A front window, with little glass. Having lost nearly a million people in 60 years, Detroit has a backlog of thousands of empty office buildings, theaters, houses and hotels. Downtown alone, more than 200 abandoned buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places...

    There is new hope that momentum is building for Michigan Central to become a hub for some government security functions or given Detroit's location close to the Canadian border, a center for trade inspections."

However, the biggest indignity of all by the Times was their failure to mention NOT EVEN ONCE the name Matty Moroun as the owner of the building and then somehow to tie it into the Ambassador Bridge and the DRIC fight and then the destruction of SW Detroit.

Didn't anyone prepare this journalist to do a hatchet job?

No reference to "reclusive billionaire" or "troll" or any of the other pejorative terms that his opponents like to throw around to vilify him and demonize him for ulterior purposes.

Just a factual presentation of the issue, the positions of both sides, an explanation of why there has been trouble doing anything there and a possible hope for the future.

  • "I don’t want to bulldoze it, then find out later there could have been a viable use for it,” said Charles Pugh, a newly elected member who took over as Council president in January.

    Now preservationists, business owners, state leaders and community activists are taking what feels like a last stab at saving the 97-year-old building before it goes the way of New York’s Pennsylvania Station or, more locally, Tiger Stadium and countless other pieces of old Detroit that have fallen to the wrecking ball in recent years."

I wonder if this story, since it will be read in Washington as well, could be the beginning of the renovation of the building. It can be the symbol of the new Detroit in the same way that the auto companies appear to be rejuvenating as well. The Feds can help by putting in infrastructure money and moving Government Departments into the building.

It certainly gives the Detroit Mayor and Council and Michigan federal representatives the means of putting pressure on various branches of the US Government to help in the building as a symbol of the City's rebirth. Here is something POSITIVE that John Dingell could do since he is running again.

As Susan Saulny, the author wrote in a different article in the Times:

  • "Now, as the five winners prepare to take office in a few weeks, expectations are growing that this beleaguered city will see its first significant shift in governance in many years.

    The sense of optimism in some corners is based in part on the new members’ relationship with Mayor Dave Bing, a no-nonsense businessman and former basketball star who won a full term as mayor last month. The five Council winners — among them, a former television news anchor, a pastor and a former deputy police chief — emphasized the need in their campaigns to work cooperatively with one another and with Mr. Bing, who in his short tenure in office has taken a tough-love approach to the city’s many problems.

    “Work horses, not show horses,” Robert A. Ficano, the Wayne County executive, said of the new members. Mr. Ficano, who has often been critical of the city’s political leadership, endorsed all five of the newly elected members and is also a backer of Mr. Bing. The nonpartisan, nine-member Council will now have a majority of newcomers, which Mr. Ficano predicted would result in “a very pragmatic and practical Council.”

Perhaps she could do one of these "disgraceful" but factual stories that tries to set out properly what is really going on in the border file too. Can you imagine if the Times put THAT on the front page too given the big story behind it: Canada/US relations.

Then perhaps we in the region could feel a "sense of optimism" if all of the parties finally woke up and worked "co-operatively" together rather than continue the war that will last a decade or longer for no purpose at all.

Taking Pity On CUPE

Who said that the Windsor Star does not have a heart!

After virtually being a propaganda organ for City Hall during the CUPE strike and helping to spread misinformation which continues even now, the Star had a rare moment of compassion for the Unions they are helping to crush. Look at what they did:
  • Letter to the Editor by CUPE Local 82 President, Jim Wood "Numbers just don't add up"

  • Coverage of the Daycare rally "Keep daycares open, city urged"

Quiet you cynics who think the Star did it so no Ontario Press Council complaint can be filed against them!

Look it how nice the Star was to CUPE also on the story "CUPE's bad faith bargaining complaint rejected by labour board." They did not open up that story to Forum comments! Can you imagine what anti-CUPE comments would have been made.

Of course, most people would not understand what the OLRB decision meant but who cares. CUPE would have been crucified. The hardliners empowered for the next election.

But why not be gracious. CUPE is dead. CUPE leadership helped destroy their own Union. Edgar (aka Eddie) helped along the way no doubt but it was CUPE itself that hurt its own members. What can one say:

  • poorest disorganized strike ever with a lack of strategy so apparent
  • failure to get the public to understand the issues
  • National and Ontario CUPE leadership MIA
  • outclassed local leadership
  • divided Labour movement
  • snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
  • not explaining that the City hardliners have cost taxpayers millions forever and that the Union was prepared to settle for less early on.
  • allowing disinformation to be spread
  • OLRB complaint made to pretend to satisfy members but which was doomed to fail by the way it was drafted
  • ignoring a damages claim as the OLRB pointed out 3 times in its 2-page decision thereby costing its members a potential $30M in back pay
  • ignoring a way to get daycare handled differently thereby causing 100+ workers to be put in jeopardy
  • ignoring a way to get garbage handled differently thereby causing around 30 workers to be put in jeopardy

Oh Jim, your letter was about as useful as the OLRB bad faith complaint. It might help you get re-elected as you point to it as something you tried but it accomplishes nothing.

What do CUPE workers need now---a strategy, new leaders, a new Union? Not someone who starts a process not to win but only for this

  • "We were looking for something, (even just) a slap on the hand"

What it does NOT need is this, the ultimate indignity to CUPE workers:

  • "Both sides said Friday it’s time to move on."

For the City that means taking away jobs with impunity with a toothless Union as an opponent.

For CUPE it means waiting for answers to Jean Fox's "unanswered questions" and huffing and puffing and achieving nothing.

For the workers....well we know that answer, don't we.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Call In Miller Thomson, Again

Why would anyone ever want to do business with the City of Windsor. Especially after what we learned in the 400 Building fiasco.

There is an RFP that just concluded respecting Enwin's PR and Communications services. Gordon Orr wrote a Report to Council about it. Good to see that someone figured out what he can do now. However, the question I have is whether what he did in his report is proper or should the City response to the RFP be thrown out.

Orr told the Mayor and Council in a three page Report (although only 2 pages were produced) that the City's Communication group made a proposal to get the work. I guess they do not have enough work to do and yet they added staff at a time when staffing is being reduced elsewhere.


I don't know how you feel about this but to me, this is a bidder end-running the system! It does NOT matter that it is a City group that is doing it either. They ought to be thrown out.

I don't have a copy of the RFP but I wonder if it was disclosed that a City group might bid on the job and then after they bid would have the ability to run to the Mayor and Council, several of whom are on the Enwin Board, to try and get the job! What other bidder could send a Report to Council like this?

To me, this is putting pressure on the City to try to force the Enwin Board, a separate legal entity by the way, to give the job to Orr's group for the reasons set out.

Were cost savings and synergies part of the Evaluation Criteria? If not, why did Orr have to point this out since it is irrelevant?

In fact, what this is really all about is to get money into the Communications group from Enwin to increase their budget (see Point 4 above) while the City can pretend to hold the line on costs.