Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 09, 2010

Is Edgar's Greenlink Compromise Mike Hurst's "Made In Windsor" Solution

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It is almost too funny now. Edgar (aka Eddie) is turning into Mike Hurst.

Just listen to him give a speech . Quote often, the inflections in his voice are very similar to that of Hurst. Not only is he becoming and sounding like him, it looks like Edgar is borrowing his idea too.

I am sure that most of you will not remember this. It was the Mayor Mike Hurst "Made In Windsor" border solution back in March, 2003. That solution caused a major uproar since it seemingly reversed a Council position of a few months earlier that opposed DRTP. That lead to a Council revolt of which Edgar was one of the ring-leaders that ultimately resulted in Mike not running again and Edgar becoming Mayor.

Hmmmmm will history repeat itself? Is Edgar's Compromise (OMG....Alan can use that word and get slammed but Edgar can use the C-word and all is forgiven) the beginning of the end for Edgar just like with Mike? It won't be as dramatic because there is no STOPDRTP around to lead the charge. But how many people will feel upset by Edgar after trusting him to lead us to the better land errrr road? Again, just like with Mike's supposed reversal of position!

Of course, it is NOT 100% the same (eg "Hurst's proposal takes no position on the issue of how truck traffic would get from E.C. Row to the border and leaves that part of the solution up to the environmental assessment process.") That process is now completed but for the lawsuits. But take a look at it and see if I am right!

Following are the key components of Hurst's proposal for discussion with my fisking comments:

A "made-in-Windsor" border proposal would reduce congestion on city streets, remove railway crossings from heavily travelled arteries, create green space and provide $25 million in servicing for future industrial development near Windsor Airport, Mayor Mike Hurst said Friday. [Just like Edgar's plans for Windsor and the airport with its transportation hub]

* development of a two-lane dedicated truck route parallel to Walker Road and Riberdy Road from Highway 401 to E.C. Row Expressway along the Pelton Spur rail corridor with access to the Walker Road industrial park. [Now we have Walker Road being widened]

* a fully serviced Division Road along the south boundary of the Windsor Airport lands from Lauzon Parkway to the Pelton Spur to provide infrastructure for a proposed DCX plant and additional development in the lands north and south of Division. [We don't need this since we are getting a Manning Road and a Lauzon connection to an upgraded E C Row and an improved Walker Road from Highway 401 so trucks can reach the airport from different routes]

* construction of interchanges at Pelton Spur and Division, Pelton Spur and E.C. Row as well as at E.C. Row and the new Canada-U.S. Trade Route wherever that should be. [We have the DRIC interchanges and will get new E C Row ones]

* removal of the tracks along the CASO rail line between Highway 401 and E.C. Row and the transfer of existing rail traffic to CPR's main line. [DRTP is dead now so this is irrelevant but we do have rail rationalization]

* dedication of the CASO rail corridor between Highway 401 and E.C. Row for use as a green park and/or bicycle path. [DRTP is dead now so this is irrelevant but we do have rail rationalization]

* upgrading of E.C. Row from Pelton Spur to Ojibway Parkway to accommodate additional international truck traffic. [This is coming but notice how it was NOT mentioned in all of the big news. Edgar would be laughed out of town if it was. Remember Manning Road and the 10 lanes on E C Row west of Huron Church. Now the middle will be done but not announced probably until after the municipal election]

* upgrading of the existing E.C. Row and Huron Church Road interchange. [DRIC will do it]

* development of a Canada-U.S. trade route consistent with the environmental assessment process. [DRIC road/Ambassador Bridge will be the final resolution]

* elimination of grade-level railroad crossings along the CPR main line at Dougall Road, McDougall Avenue, Howard Avenue and Walker. [Partially being done now]

* establishment of a compensation program for any residents whose property values are negatively affected. [New homes being taken along the area of mass destruction]

Of course, never mentioned but understood was a Lauzon/EC Row/401 connection and now we are getting it! $5M for an EA.

Poor Mike. If only he had not supported DRTP, he might still be Mayor! Or perhaps he still is.

Why Vanilla Is Needed For Windsor

Remember this comment about Councillor Bill Marra:
  • "As for Marra's mayoral aspirations, Halberstadt said he's a "smart enough guy" and well spoken but "a little vanilla. He doesn't want to offend too many people and if you want to get things done, you need to offend some people."

He stood alone amongst the Council members but Councillor Vanilla turned out to be correct didn't he. He knew how to get a resolution and would have achieved it years ago if he had been Mayor.

After all, about Vanilla, "It's the flavor that goes best with everything else. It is the badge of honor."

Just so you do not get caught up in the flood of Edgar (aka Eddie) praise, do not forget what Bill said that ultimately proved to be the right approach. Consultation and negotiation not litigation:

  • Caution urged in DRIC fight; Marra says city should exhaust other options before going to court
    12-22-2008

    Coun. Bill Marra says the city should think twice before seeking a judicial review that would delay the $1.6-billion border feeder highway.

    "Any decision that may prolong the process has to be given second thoughts," he said. "Before we proceed with legal action we should make sure we exhausted all opportunities.

    "A premature move towards legal action is very concerning to me because we haven't had that discussion. We should not only be looking at legal options, but look at others that will not bring us in a courtroom. I'm not inclined to support legal action until we have that discussion..."

    Mayor Eddie Francis and council are pushing the city's Greenlink border plan, which provides twice as much tunnelling...

    Francis said he supports legal action.

    "We have come this far and believe there is a better solution. Unfortunately, the province doesn't want to compromise," Francis said. "Actions the city takes over the next several months are actions that are justified by the process that belongs to them.

    "Their own data suggest reasons for a better solution and they have ignored it."

    Coun. Jo-Anne Gignac gave the first public indication Monday that council will pursue a judicial review.

    "We keep hearing (from DRIC) 'sorry for your luck, the process is finished,'" she said earlier this week. "The premier came to Windsor and virtually said this is done. Our ministers have said the same thing. It's only fair people know the options as we go forward and council is willing to explore every one.

    "People keep telling us explore whatever option is available so we are not getting a project that negatively impacts us. They said, 'we want you to fight for our rights.' Council has instructed the mayor how to approach this."
  • City council to continue push for GreenLink
    08-25-2009

    The city has threatened to launch a judicial review to delay construction unless council is happy with the final design...

    The two local ministers are prepared to meet with Francis and council, "but the parkway (construction) has to begin," Duncan said.

    "The approval is final and this design is the basis for what we will build," he said. "There is some room for minor adjustments, but the parkway is what we are proceeding with. The city had some good ideas that have already been incorporated in this..."

    Coun. Bill Marra said a court fight should be avoided.

    "I don't think legal action or a judicial review are in the best interests of the community," he said.

    "We can't forget the perspective that we have achieved significant success in what the design looks like today. In the beginning there was not a metre of tunnelling even being considered."

It's A Sell-Out

There.

All of you Windsorites who sent in post-cards for Greenlink or had the Greenlink flags on your car.

All of you Windsorites who attended the Edgar (aka Eddie) meetings to be educated why Greenlink was our salvation and why the DRIC road was evil.

All of you Windsorites who have health problems and who have children that might be impacted by the health effects of the DRIC road such as having to wear breathing packs.

How do you feel this morning after you read the leaked story to mini-Gord?

Do you feel dirty, used? You ought to.

You have been used and abused for years as Windsor suffered. This is nothing more than the Joint Managemnt Committee Report of 2002 re-negotiated in secret by the Mayor and imposed on Council a few days ago and now imposed on us.

Everything that everyone fought for---down the drain. For what, a few extra dollars that Edgar can waste on another mind's eye vision of his. We could have had this result years ago so that we would NOT have suffered during the economic downturn.

There is only ONE winner in all of this. I will let you figure it out for now from reading mini-Gord's story.

Oh and in case you have nothing better to do, read the following about how you have been let down by the Voice of Council. It's not everything. I got tired after a while copying all of this stuff from my archives. Read what Edgar (and a bit of Gord and the Star Editors) said over the years and weep now for yourself, for your children, for Windsor.

We have all been pawns. We have all been suckers:
  •  As Francis put it, Windsor deserves a first-class project, meaning a bridge that would pay for itself with tolls and a tunnel that would be a "money pipeline" for the Canadian economy. "We're not going to settle for something they want to do on the cheap. They can do the right thing and our job is to ensure they do it," he vowed.

  •  Despite bending to pressure and agreeing this week to consider tunnelling as part of a new route to the border, a binational team working toward a new crossing should go further and dump the other options, Mayor Eddie Francis said Tuesday.

    "If they are serious about the well-being of Windsorites, they can commit to a tunnel," he said.

    "It can be done, it's just a question of will."

  •  Mayor Eddie Francis and other local politicians say they are ready to push senior government decision-makers into building a tunnel to keep border-bound trucks off city streets.

    "Tunnelling is the best solution we've seen thus far," Francis said.

  •  Francis insisted the new Schwartz plan, which cost the city $500,000, is not negotiable. "This is it. This is the city of Windsor's position…"

    "This is not going to be a plan I can sell on my own. It's going to require the entire city to stand up for Windsor and send a message to Toronto and Ottawa that we deserve a higher quality of life. If the residents join with us I assure you they will get it.

    "We will be able to walk away with great pride that we accomplished something many said could not be accomplished."


  •  [Henderson] Hyperbole and rhetoric shouldn't be needed to sell this plan, which has been crafted at considerable cost behind closed doors and which Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis insists is the city's non- negotiable position. Francis has staked his political legacy on this plan, which is being dubbed GreenLink Windsor and heralded as the 21st Century interpretation of the parkways designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the genius behind New York's Central Park.

    If this plan is as good as Francis and Schwartz and city councillors claim it is -- and they have had more time to review the foundation of facts behind the pretty sketches than Windsor residents -- it shouldn't need a salesman. It should sell itself. It is a bargain and supporting it should be a no-brainer for Windsor residents tired of rigs on city streets and associated noise and air pollution.

  •  Mayor Eddie Francis welcomed the "very positive" reaction to the GreenLink plan, saying residents were eager to move forward.

    "This is it," he said. "It's no longer just the city saying we want this. Now we have the numbers behind us."


  •  The city is launching the grassroots lobbying campaign just two months before final recommendations are released by a binational government team on locations for a new border crossing, plazas and roads.

    "The question is simple -- do people want to see a cheap DRIC solution or a better solution in GreenLink," said Mayor Eddie Francis. He said it's vital for citizens to express what they want - - the GreenLink plan that offers more truck tunnelling and parkland on the border route to a new crossing, or the plan touted by the Detroit River International Crossing team...

    "This is a serious project that requires serious consideration," Francis said. "Our team is world renowned and world recognized," he said of the GreenLink proposal. "(DRIC) has never built a tunnel."

  •  [Henderson] The DRIC press release ended on an arrogant note, explaining that the study team "will rely on Ontario's successful approach to highway design and construction. This means using best practices and standards to ensure road safety is the number one priority."

    Note they refer to "highway design," not tunnel design. They can't make that claim because it's a field in which they are worse than neophytes.

    Sadly, none of this matters. The asphalt bureaucrats and their Dalton Gang allies have decided to ram their half-assed plan down Windsor's throat and nothing will stop them. Pupatello told a Windsor TV station Thursday that this issue will be decided on the basis of "the science" and that the city is wasting its time collecting postcards supporting GreenLink. I guess that means the close to 10,000 area residents who've mailed in those cards should have no say in these matters.


  •  "We are at 11th hour and we need people to say our community likes GreenLink and will not settle for anything less," said Coun. Caroline Postma.

  •  [Star Editorial] The community hasn't been presented with any compelling evidence that GreenLink isn't feasible, or a good investment.

    As the mayor said: "What others must accept is that this new border crossing isn't just a cost. It is a strategic investment. A strategic investment in helping our environment. A strategic investment in connecting and protecting our communities. A strategic investment in improving our quality of life.

    "We can't, and we shouldn't pinch pennies when it comes to these kinds of projects that are integral to our residents, to our city, and to our future. We shouldn't focus on the cost today, but on the purpose tomorrow. This investment will transform our city, and transform our region."

    In other communities, the mayor pointed out that senior governments understand that infrastructure investments pay off. The Greater Toronto Area will benefit from a $17.5-billion plan for infrastructure and transportation. Railway links will be renewed from downtown Toronto to Peterborough.

    So why is this community any less worthy of a similar well- thought-out investment? An investment that will have far greater impact on the economic well-being of Canada.

    But what seems obvious is that without the help of cabinet ministers Dwight Duncan and Sandra Pupatello and MPP Bruce Crozier, this community's interests will not be put first.

    "Sandra, Bruce, Dwight -- help us out," said Francis. "We have seen what you can deliver for your city and region. Now that the decision regarding one of the most important projects in our region's history is upon us, together we can redefine the future face of our city, and our region. We ask you to come to the table. To work with us. "

    In fact, the mayor said he was "pleading" with the MPPs to get involved. But really, it is their political responsibility and moral obligation to finally put this community first when it comes to the border file.

  •  "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the city and improve quality of life for residents," he said.

    "For too long we have (carried) the consequences of having international traffic go through our city. What we are saying is, you are building a highway and it's in our backyards and we've got some children out there.

    "Do not build a 1950s-style highway, no other city has to deal with what we do..."

    "We will not go away," he said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this city. It's time for Windsor to stand up.


  •  On Wednesday, Mayor Eddie Francis welcomed the medical society's intervention, even though it came on the eve of the release of the DRIC report.

    "It's never too late for the right decision to be made," Francis said. "DRIC is a study -- that's all it is. Depending on what they release, it will have to be submitted to the decision-makers, so I welcome the doctors' position."

    As the caregivers of our community, he said, "doctors are the people who treat the consequences of pollution -- asthma, cardiovascular disease, and having their voice is a very important voice."

    Glanz, a cardiologist, said this region not only has high rates of respiratory illnesses but is a "hot spot" for cardiovascular disease.

    The doctors' public statement is a reminder to the province as well as DRIC officials that their priority should be the health and quality of life of Windsor-area residents, Francis said.

    "Health and quality of life should be the overriding issue," he said.

    "And that's why my blood boils every single time they say this is the most expensive road that we're building in Ontario. My blood boils because they fail to recognize the quality of life should be issue No. 1, that you have an opportunity here to improve the lives of individuals, to improve the environment."


  •  DRIC's $1.8B border link includes 2 km of tunnels; Binational team to unveil plan today

    Francis said Wednesday he has been shut out from learning any details about today's announcement.

    "I hope tomorrow isn't going to be a day where the city was sold out," the mayor said.

    "We don't know anything, but you assume (that) if it was good ... we would know something. I can only conclude it's not good. If it was, they would be working with us."


  •  Francis described DRIC's presentation Thursday as a public relations campaign.

    "What council has expressed is they clearly are pissed," Francis said. "It's not GreenLink and council wants to explore all their options -- legal, technical, community -- all of that."


  •  A lot of councillors feel passionate about the issue. They feel betrayed," said Mayor Eddie Francis on Friday. "A lot of them believe in a better solution and all are looking at ways how to achieve that."



  •  DRIC's health report says residents are already suffering from higher rates of health problems because of bad air quality. The parkway project would do little to change that.

    "The conclusion they come to is Windsor is already suffering from heart, cancer, respiratory and other medical conditions associated with pollution and the parkway in their opinion is somewhat similar to doing nothing," Francis said.

  •  "This is a long process and there are a number of steps available to us," Francis said. "The step we are involved in now is make a compelling case under the (EA) process for more changes."

    Council will not rest until it sees more tunnelling in residential areas, he said.

  •  "We're here today to arm you with as much information as possible," Francis told a meeting of about 300 residents Saturday at St. Clair College.

    "Go fight for your neighbourhoods and residences.... We've had 17,000 signed cards in support, more than 3,000 people at public meetings and DRIC says we don't reflect what the community believes. At those meetings next week it's imperative you tell them how you feel."

    The mayor said the DRIC proponents always insist that their plan, consisting of partial tunnelling or bridging along the length of the open route, would have minimal impact on the quality of the Windsor air.

    But Francis said that position is misleading.

    "They say it will make no difference to the airshed, no discernible difference beyond 100 metres, no change in the quality of the Windsor airshed," the mayor said, referring to the DRIC illustration showing the white cloud blotting out neighbourhoods.

    "When you go to those meetings next week, ask them instead what will be the difference in air quality in my backyard."


  •  Mayor Eddie Francis will bring forward several of the city's hired experts to explain to city council today concerns over information contained in a human health risk assessment report released by a government study team.

    The Detroit River International Crossing study team released the data a couple of weeks ago as part of its final environmental assessment documents required to build a border feeder highway in the Huron Church Road-Talbot Road corridor’’.

    "The reason we are bringing them in is so the public is as informed as we are," Francis said.

    "The data is so alarming from the health report that we want the public to understand and (the experts) will walk everybody through it.

    "It's a decision we will live with for several decades. It's imperative to understand the impacts of their proposal."

    Findings in DRIC's health report say residents are already suffering from higher rates of health problems because of bad air quality and pollutants from diesel trucks that will remain essentially the same whether DRIC builds its new parkway or not.

    The city's GreenLink border plan calls for 3.8 kilometres of tunnelling in the corridor -- twice as much as planned under DRIC's parkway proposal.

    The mayor believes the road project must improve the quality of life in nearby neighbourhoods, not simply maintain the status quo. He said more tunnels can minimize the future pollution impact and better shield residents in subdivisions.


  •  "For all residents sick of our air quality, the choice is clear," said Mayor Eddie Francis. "Accept the status quo or try to stand up and get (the provincial government) to make changes that are required to improve quality of life for this region."

    Those changes include more adoption of the city's Greenlink border plan, which offers twice as much tunnelling as DRIC'S $1.6- billion parkway proposal -- a six-lane below-grade highway in the Huron Church-Talbot Road corridor.

  •  Council's position remains that the DRIC parkway plan is "bad for health and puts people at risk," Francis said.

    In a city with above average rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer and asthma, Francis wants a solution that takes that into consideration.

    "We know it's possible," he said. "But what DRIC is proposing is a 1950s-style (road) solution."

BLOGBREAKINGNEWS: Is There A DRIC Road Deal


Read this Media Advisory and you can guess as well as I.

If there is a deal, then the question is: who blinked and folded like an accordion!

It would have to be Edgar (aka Eddie) or else the EA process would have to restart. Moreover, the Premier would have been embrrassed for what he said here about getting on with the DRIC road and that is NOT going to happen.

The fun will be reading Gord's column to see how he spins it as an Edgar victory. You can bet that you will see this: Edgar brought the Senior Levels up from $300M to $1.6B.

Of course it is not true, but hey, who cares when there is an election to be won!

PS

Is it just me or don't you find it odd that no one from the Federal Government is there too since they contribute half of the money. No one from the County either.

Hey I got it...Perhaps I have it all wrong. The real story is that the Province is putting up the cash for the Tunnel Plaza Improvement project since the cost has escalated dramatically and to buy control of the US half of the Tunnel too.

Smears Don't Work

What is wrong with this world we live in?

The old reliables---name-calling, smear tactics, vilification--- do not seem to be working any more. Imagine, the strategy of demonizing Matty Moroun may have to be re-thought. Consider these two recent opinion pieces in Michigan media:
  • "Yes, we need rich guys to spend their money

    This is not about a bridge to nowhere, this is about a bridge going somewhere.

    No one questions that a new bridge is needed connecting the Detroit area to Canada. The Ambassador Bridge is too old and too narrow. If something should happen to that bridge before another is in place, the economies of both sides would be devastated — as hard as it is to imagine local finances worse than they are now.

    A lot has been said about Matty Moroun’s plans to build a second bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor. Moroun, unlike most of us, already owns a bridge — the Ambassador. More precisely, the bridge is owned by Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co.

    There’s no doubt a new bridge would be good for commerce between the two countries, as it would ease the long waits that truckers now endure.

    The Coast Guard doesn’t want Moroun to build another bridge. The Canadian government is also opposed.

    Jack Lessenberry, a columnist for the Metro Times weekly newspaper, has been a frequent critic of Moroun’s plans.

    Lessenberry points out that disparate types such as Gov. Jennifer Granholm and L. Brooks Patterson oppose Moroun’s plans and support the efforts of Detroit International River Crossing group, which also wants to build another bridge.

    Billionaires like Moroun are used to getting their way because they usually do.

    Now you may hear a little fife music in the background when I say the following: This country has been built by rich guys with grand plans.

    Public money is tight, so we need to listen long and hard when a successful businessman wants to boost the area’s infrastructure.

    Lessenberry (who will speak March 23 at the Mount Clemens Public Library) thinks Moroun just wants to keep his monopoly. That may be true.

    Obviously Moroun’s a businessman and plans to make money on this bridge. But we need rich guys spending their money. Especially here in the Detroit area.

    Don’t count out Moroun yet."

Detroit News Editorial

  • "Editorial: Michigan should mothball Detroit River bridge plan

    The Detroit River international bridge dispute shouldn't stalemate yet another state transportation budget. Until Michigan can afford its share of the cost and the traffic counts rise enough to justify this span, it's time to suspend Michigan spending on the project and halt the endless squabbling about it.

    The state, federal government and government of Canada are working on a plan to build this second, publicly owned crossing downriver from the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, in the area of Zug Island.

    The proposed span has stirred controversy from the start, first due to the proposed location and in recent years over whether public money should be invested in the $5-billion venture when owner Manuel Moroun has announced plans to construct a second span for his Ambassador Bridge.

    The dispute each year delays approval of the transportation department's budget over the question of whether to continue parceling out state funds to continue planning and preparation for the bridge.

    It appears, however, that lawmakers' work has been simplified this year. A new study has lowered daily border traffic projections for 2035, about 15 years after the bridge would be completed, to 34,600 vehicles. A 2008 study had pegged prospective traffic at 38,218 vehicles a day.

    Border traffic levels, in fact, are down from their peak volumes of the 1990s and may at best grow slowly for years, which should mean there isn't a rush to finish the project.

    Proponents say a public span is warranted by national security considerations, protection of a trade route carrying billions of dollars in commercial traffic, and the construction jobs created by the four- to five-year project. Those are compelling arguments.

    There's a June 1 self-imposed deadline for lawmakers to green light this project, called the Detroit River International Crossing, or suspend paying for continued work on it.

    But the Transportation Department is short of money.

    It has knocked more than 100 repair projects off its five-year road construction plan because of flat-lining fuel tax and vehicle registration revenues.

    These taxes are earmarked for keeping state and local highways, secondary routes and bridges in good condition.

    The state stands to pass up as much as $2 billion in federal road money over the next five years if it can't come up with enough matching revenue, and the number of road miles in poor shape will increase dramatically.

    There's no greater deterrent to the revitalizing of Michigan's economy than miles and miles of cracked and pot-holed pavement.

    That adds to transportation costs and delays, discouraging businesses from locating news plants and facilities here.

    An increase in gasoline taxes to raise the money needed has been widely endorsed in the business community.

    Lawmakers this year should put aside the Detroit River bridge controversy and make that their transportation Job One."

Oh my gosh, what will Transport Canada and MDOT do now?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Tunnel Deal Questioned

The question I have always had in my mind is why Edgar (aka Eddie) who is supposedly such a smart business person bid so much money for the Detroit half of the Tunnel. The $75M was so outrageous an amount that even the Bridge Company who wanted it backed off
  • "Windsor’s $75-million bid to secure a tunnel deal with Detroit involves a price tag the Ambassador Bridge company has no intention of competing with, bridge president Dan Stamper said on Thursday."

A new report out the other day makes this deal appear even dumber than before! It could have meant severe financial problems for this City at a time when we are having enough problems with the economy. It brings into question the financial acumen of our Mayor in a very stark fashion.

The Citizens Research Council (CRC) of Michigan prepared an interesting report on "The Fiscal Condition of the City of Detroit."

Its role:
  • "For over 90 years, the objective of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has been to provide factual, unbiased independent information on significant issues concerning state and local government organization and finance. CRC believes that the use of this information by policymakers will lead to sound, rational public policy in Michigan."

I read the part of the report that dealt with the Windsor/Tunnel deal and what it said made that deal even more absurd than before. Let me quote relevant sections:

  • "The city budgeted $275 million as revenue from the monetization of assets. Although there is precedent for the sale of future revenue streams in other cities and states (Chicago leased the Chicago Skyway TollRoad and parking meters, and tried but failed to lease Midway Airport), it is highly unlikely that Detroit can sell future revenues from the parking and lighting departments. Discussions on the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel have occurred, but, even if an agreement were to be reached, the sale would not generate the amount included in the budget."


  • "Monetization is the process of converting assets into legal tender. The FY2010 City of Detroit budget includes $275 million in general fund revenues to be generated by the long term lease of Municipal Parking, Public Lighting, and Detroit’s 50 percent interest in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. This plan to sell the income from specific city operations or assets for a specific period of time was defined by the former mayor as “unlocking the value of city assets for citizens...

    Probability. There may be progress on the sale of income from the city’s interest in the Detroit Windsor Tunnel this fiscal year, but the $275 million budgeted from monetization of assets appears to be a “plug” to balance the budget. [Bing's] Crisis Turnaround Team estimated that $225 million of the budgeted $275 million would not be realized in 2009-10.”


  • The major revenue component of the plan was the sale of future revenues from the City’s interest in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and from the Municipal Parking Department and the Public Lighting Department. In his statement, Mayor Cockrel made the following comparison “This is no different than a citizen winning the mega millions jackpot and taking a lump sum payment immediately instead of a series of payments over many years.” According to the City Council Fiscal Analysis Division review of the Cockrel Plan, “it appears the generation of $250 million will require present value calculations of revenue streams to be taken over a 50 to 75-year period to realize this level of one-time cash. One major caveat, however, is the outstanding debt service and capital improvement requirements on the leased assets that could significantly lower the amount of cash generated from the proposals in order for the investor to earn a reasonable return on investmentt.”


  • The city must reengage the discussion with Windsor or other entities about sale of the revenues from the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. Although the city receives only about $60,000 annually [may be a typo: $600K] from the operations of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, there does appear to be some potential for monetizing this particular asset.


  • The FY2010 budget, with its $280 million prior years deficit, was “balanced” by the inclusion of three revenues that are highly unlikely:

    Detroit Windsor Tunnel Securitization $100 million

There has to be more behind this deal than meets the eye. I really wonder if it was ever going to be completed as structured.

The whole Tunnel deal is so strange to me especially because we cannot get the facts to decide if the deal ever made sense. Clearly, from what is being said, CRC seems to believe that the amounts being thrown around are completely unsupportable.

Even now, Windsor is still fighting WeACT's request for:

  • "Any or all appraisal reports, valuations prepared by any party with respect to the tunnel or any part of it from September 1, 2005 until the present."

We still do not know how much money Infrastructure Ontario was prepared to loan Windsor for the Tunnel deal although I was told that the amount was $20M or less.

We know that both Matty Moroun and Transport Canada thought a deal with Detroit was only worth a fraction of what the City was prepared to pay Detroit.

Now the CRC Report states that "even if an agreement were to be reached, the sale would not generate the amount included in the budget" and that "the outstanding debt service and capital improvement requirements on the leased assets that could significantly lower the amount of cash generated from the proposals in order for the investor to earn a reasonable return on investment."

Why then would Windsor offer $75M? The Tunnel is worth much less especially if DRIC is going to take away a huge amount of its traffic. Edgar is such a smart business person we are told. Why would he overpay so dramatically? It mystifies me especially when Edgar is backing the DRIC bridge. He would be supporting the Tunnel's competitor who would take business away from him and make his deal risky.

Here is how the Star reported it at first:
  • "Under the terms of the proposed tunnel deal, the Ontario government would first loan the $75 million to the recently formed Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation. The $75 million would next be sent to its counterpart in Detroit -- the Detroit Transportation Authority -- with $65 million passed on to plug a hole in Detroit's budget."

Note, $10M of the $75M was NOT going to Detroit but for legal, insurance and other expenses of the transaction that I never saw reported broken down in dollar amounts. In fact, my recollection is that Kwame needed $58M leaving an additional $7M that needed to be accounted for.

Here is a comment from the CRC Report:
  • "There may be progress on the sale of income from the city’s interest in the Detroit Windsor Tunnel this fiscal year, but the $275 million budgeted from monetization of assets appears to be a plug to balance the budget. "

PLUG, an interesting choice of words. Like plug a hole in the dike before it breaks and there is a flood that causes huge damage too all in its path.

Remember that the previous Detroit Mayor was able to "balance his budget" with the $75M supposedly coming from Windsor. As I wrote at the time:
  • "I saw this in Crains Detroit:

    "Two Detroit City Council members changed their minds Tuesday and voted "yes" on Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's sales plan for the city’s half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

    Kilpatrick said the action allows Detroit to begin the new fiscal year with a balanced budget."

    Without actually receiving one penny from Eddie, Detroit's deficit was wiped off the books! Ahhhh, isn't accounting wonderful! Kwame has a balanced budget as promised. Who cares if the Windsor money ever comes in. As far as Kwame is concerned, he just bought 4 months worth of time thanks to Barbara-Rose. That goes along with the year he received since June of last year even though no deal was ever done with Windsor. Why Eddie and his lawyer, Cliff Sutts, were his biggest allies as they restructured the deal how many times trying to get this deal done. Fortunately for Kwame, they never gave up or backed out of it.

And this:

  • "On Monday, as it closed out the fiscal year, the council voted 5 to 3 to reject the tunnel proposal, marking what seemed to be the end of a long push by Kilpatrick to accomplish the deal, which he first proposed in 2007, and which he reportedly touted to rating agency analysts as key to gaining stable financial ground. Under his plan, the city would sell its stake in the tunnel for $75 million to a new holding company, the Detroit Tunnel Authority. The transaction was expected to generate $65 million in a one-time cash windfall after insurance and other transaction costs.

    After the council vote, Adams told the council that the layoffs of up to 1,300 employees were now "inevitable." Perhaps to avoid the discouraging prospect of those layoffs, two council members yesterday decided to reverse their no votes and approve the measure, which allows the city to set up the tunnel authority. Kilpatrick still needs to win approval within the next 120 days from the council for the remaining financing and operational details of the deal, but the mayor heralded the reversal as a major victory for the city.

    "This tunnel agreement would be the final piece of the puzzle to put the city on stable financial footing and start moving forward," said Canning.

And this:

  • "So here are the key points that I think you should understand in all of this:

    --the hope of a Tunnel deal was necessary to "balance" the Detroit budget and to eliminate Detroit's deficit

    --deal or no deal by June 30, the Mayor can claim a balanced budget since the 2 sides are working on a deal

    --without one penny coming in, the Mayor has been able to claim that the budget will be balanced for a year and now for another 120 days

    --this transaction was important for the bonding agencies to keep Detroit's rating up and interest costs down and since Kwame made promises to them."

For over a year, Eddie's seemingly extravagant offer allowed Detroit to claim it had a balanced budget when it appears that it really did not since the likelihood of getting so much money was remote. Remember, when Mayor Cockrel wanted $100M for the Tunnel, Edgar (aka Eddie) went ballistic and said:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis questioned how Detroit arrived at a $100-million price tag for control of the U.S. side of the tunnel.

    Windsor has gone through an "exhaustive process" to arrive last year at a $75-million value, he said.

    "That was the number we were prepared to pay back then, but economic conditions have changed considerably and are very different than five or six months ago."

    The mayor said 2010 toll revenues for the Detroit side are projected at about US$11.5 million, but the city has no way of knowing exactly since it is controlled by Alinda, a private company which holds a lease until 2020.

    "Does the tunnel have revenues to support $100 million on the American side? I'd be interested in looking at their numbers," Francis said.”

Getting the information requested about the results of the "exhaustive process" would go a long way to understanding the deal and what the participants were doing but that is being firecely opposed.

I wonder what the answer would be if the valuation was less than $75M, or if the IO amount was $20M requiring Windsor to find $55M. Would Kwame have come to Windsor if he knew that the valuation was lower than $75M or that IO would not put up the cash needed? Heck, he might never have had to go to jail for coming over here.

Perhaps there is more. I ask again if the whole so-called Tunnel deal was part of an effort to get control over both sides of the Tunnel to control Tunnel tolls to make it easier for a DRIC P3 operator to run the new Bridge. Seriously, who else would have an interest in a declining asset.

Let's watch if the Tunnel deal is revived by Edgar. To me, given the low valuation of the Tunnel, Detroit might be smarter to keep the $600K income per year. Windsor would be smarter to run away from the deal.

Remember that the Tunnel is almost as old as the Ambassador Bridge and Congressman Dingell has still not asked for the reports on the condition of this "unique security risk" to protect the users of the Tunnel.

Why The Star Continues To Ignore Junior

Poor Junior. He gets no respect.

Actually, I was surprised that the Star covered the meeting at the Caboto Club put on by a number of groups concerned about the City about the direction that Windsor is heading. Rather, a Star reporter was there and did write about some of the meeting. The story did not reveal much that would cause problems for Edgar (aka Eddie) and the hardliners who want to outsource garbage and parking enforcement as well as close down the municipal daycares so it was "safe."

There was nothing in the story about the money that the Province will provide for daycares that could help prevent the municipal daycares from closing. Nothing about how important the municipal daycare is to people who are being retrained or who are single parents and who might not be able to work otherwise. I guess it is better if they stay on the welfare rolls.

Nothing at all about the waste to be caused to taxpayers by the City if garbage is outsourced including equipment write-downs and costs to move employees into new jobs. We did not see in the Star story anything about the other municipalities that contracted out but then brought garbage back inside the City because of cost and service deficiencies. Nothing at all that I heard about how the City cost is about $10 lower per garbage stop than that of the County nor that the cost of City Garbage services has not really increased over a period of almost 18 years considering that we have the second-best garbage service in the country.


I found it interesting given the fact that NAFTA is in the news in Windsor that nothing was mentioned about what the impact of NAFTA was if garbage was outsourced considering that its provisions were now being extended to the Provinces and municipalities in Canada.

But it was the omission about anything that Ken Lewenza said that I found most strange. In fact, there is nothing in the story that let the Star readers know that he said anything. It was as if he sat there like a bump on the log like his two Councillor colleagues:
  • “Councillors Ron Jones, Ken Lewenza Jr. and Percy Hatfield were in attendance at the meeting, along with a number of councillor hopefuls, including John Elliott, Tristan Fehrenbach, Colin McMahon and Shannon Porcellini.”

Oh well, Jones and Hatfield can still claim that they are Labour supporters because they attended the meeting.

Why is the Star, and the Mayor, so afraid of Junior? Why is it that the Star refused to cover his Ward meeting where he talked about the CUPE labor dispute and also did not cover what he said at Council about it? Why are they so afraid of what Junior said at the Caboto Club too?

Are the Star and Edgar that afraid of what might be exposed? I guess that actually answers my question. I forgot what happened in Toronto where their Mayor was chased out of town by the media after his failure in their strike resulting in him saying that he would not run again. Both of them know that if the truth was known, Edgar and the hardliners would be in serious trouble come municipal election time.

Better to ignore and be criticized by the Obliging Blogosphere for shoddy journalism than to disclose the truth to Star readers.

Accordingly, as a public service, let me state briefly what Junior had to say last night. He told us:

  •  That in his opinion the process with respect to outsourcing garbage was flawed especially because it was held in camera. In passing, why the CUPE leadership has not taken advantage of this to stop the process is beyond me

  •  He mentioned that at the in camera meeting the management person that knew the most about the garbage situation was not allowed to attend to inform Councillors about because it might “confuse” the Councillors. Are their brains that tiny that they cannot grasp the information to be presented?

  •  He said that the decision has been made already that 50% of the garbage should be outsourced and I assume 50% of it should stay within the City. That is probably the worst of all worlds for taxpayers as I described in a recent BLOG about what took place in the City of Ottawa where the private contractor’s employees threatened to go out on strike to get wages and benefits comparable to City workers.

  •  The astounding statement was made that no business case has ever been presented to Council to justify outsourcing of garbage. If it is true that our workers are the second-best in Canada, realistically I do not see how a private contractor can beat them. Teh only way it can be done is by deliberately low bidding what the price would be, since they know what the City costs are already, with the expectation that once the City is out of the business they would increase rates.

We are being terribly served by our major media voice in the City. The one-sided coverage really is quite shocking but is one that is expected.

It is even more despicable when one compares what mini-Gord discussed in his column about the recent candidates meeting where he gave a presentation and what Chris Schnurr in his BLOG said about his comments

  • “Stating that all candidates warrant scrutiny and challenge on the CUPE issue, the columnist will be hunting down sympathizers posing as municipal candidates in what will amount to a witch hunt leading up to the 2010 Municipal Election…

    On November 21, 2009, the columnist referred to the CUPE strike as the “fight…that refuses to die.”

    Interestingly enough, it is Mr. Vander Doelen in his witch hunt of municipal candidates who is keeping the fight alive.

    Our economic issues are much more complex than the simplistic “unions are responsible” arguments put forth by Mr. Vander Doelen. Such a narrow focus on a much broader issue does a great disservice to our community and the ideas candidates may have – which could be ignored should they express one ounce of sympathy for CUPE members.”

After all, the major election platform that the Mayor and hard-liners will be running on is the labour issue. As Gord so bluntly put it in his latest column:

  • “The canal, dismissed by the unimaginative and pothole-obsessed as a useless "ditch," has drawn significant interest from out-of-town investors.

    There's a buzz around it. But with an election less than seven months away and with Francis still pondering whether to take on CUPE and its allies and seek a third term, it's too late to advance that "red flag" issue.”

Now you know why Junior must be ignored at all costs. If Junior’s truth was known, Edgar would have to leave town too.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pitying Spanky

The poor man. Another major hurdle to overcome on his long road to possible success.

He is being scooped big time. The tragedy for him is that he knows it and can do nothing about it. His Chamber speech will be nothing more than allowing him to make our Mayor to be seen as a hero at his expense. For such a supposedly smart politician, he is looking awfully silly.

No matter what you may think of him personally or as a politician, one has to feel sympathy, or perhaps pity is the better word, for the Minister of Finance, Dwight Duncan.

My suspicion is that the Premier will resign before the next provincial election and our Spanky would like nothing more than to take his job. I assume that he has a pretty good shot at it but one of the concerns he must have is what our Mayor might do to prejudice his run for the job.

How else to explain the sight of a 98 pound weakling, a small-town Mayor, kicking sand in the face of the second most powerful politician in Ontario, the Minister of Finance, and getting away with it.


How else to explain Dwight being forced to eat humble pie continuously, fearing an attack the way Sandra was dealt with, as our Messenger spreads the Edgar (aka Eddie) gospel.

To be direct, if I was going to be one of Dwight’s opponents at the Liberal leadership convention, I would point out how weak Dwight has been in how he has dealt with the Mayor of Windsor.

Now you can see why I have nothing but pity for Dwight. Damned if he fights with Edgar because the Star might crucify him and perhaps cost him his seat and damned if he does not because then his leadership opponents can do so.

Don’t forget also that he has to walk a tightrope because a good chunk of his riding is in Tecumseh and the last thing that he can appear to be is pro-Windsor. That gives the Tecumseh Mayor some leverage over the Minister as well to ask for some goodies soon.

There is no doubt that some kind of announcement is going to be made during Dwight’s speech to the Chamber of Commerce. What it will be exactly, who knows. In fact, we’ve been down this road before where we have expected to Dwight to say something significant but he has backed off because Edgar has pulled some kind of a dumb maneuver that has infuriated the Minister. Will it happen again on Friday if Dwight gets mad at the Edgar hijinks?

That something has been in the works for a very long time is obvious. Gord has told us:
  • "As mayor of Canada's unemployment capital, Francis is itching to announce early in the new year success on three "files" the city has been pursuing, each involving non-government investments with the potential to inject large numbers of new jobs into Windsor."

  • "There's one other bit of good news on the way.

    Stay tuned for an announcement by the end of this month on a "very significant" new office tenant for our vacancy-plagued downtown."

  • "What's interesting is that the confirmation of his [Edgar's] intentions, originally slated for March, might now be pushed back to late April or early May, after a handful of key tasks, especially related to border infrastructure, might be wrapped up."

Leaks, what leaks?

Moreover, in the Star stories the emphasis has been on economic development, however, with just a hint about the border.

  • "Economic opportunity eyed

    Mayor Eddie Francis has called a special meeting of city council for tonight to discuss an economic development opportunity so pressing it can't wait until council's next regular meeting April 12...

    The session starts at 5 p.m. behind closed doors and will include an update on the city's negotiations with the province over the new border route.

    The mayor has been holding discussions with Windsor's two cabinet ministers to try to get the province's Windsor-Essex Parkway to more closely resemble the city's Greenlink plan, which would see more of the new border expressway located underground.

    "Over the past several months ... we've been making very good, steady progress," Francis said of the talks.

But here’s the part that has to be so galling to Dwight. Nothing can be done in this City without Provincial money and assistance. Nevertheless, Edgar gets the glory.

We saw that play out with the Sutherland announcement where it was made to appear that Edgar was responsible for the jobs that came here in the call centre when the reality was without Sandra’s involvement there would have been no deal whatsoever.

Now it is Spanky’s turn to see the same tactic worked on him.

Look at the drama that we are seeing. We are going to see several days of Edgar’s face in the paper talking about this huge mysterious deal that he has been working on for so long.

  • "Windsor council meeting on 'economic development' shrouded in mystery

    Mystery continues to surround a new “economic development potential” that necessitated a special meeting of Windsor city council behind closed doors on Tuesday."

Councillors have already been warned to keep their mouths shut or face the consequences. (That means only Edgar can have the glory or else). At the least, Edgar has learned to call in the Councillors in advance and in private, even though it is last-minute again, so that we cannot have another “your arrogance has no bounds” attack on him personally.

As for the border, it probably has to do with the DRIC Road and Greenlink. But it will not be the Province winning. It will be portrayed as the Premier, Dwight, and Sandra, if her name is mentioned at all, bowing down to Edgar and conceding everything to him:

  • "Hatfield cites tax fight in bid for Ward 7 seat

    In the next session Hatfield said council should put the border file behind it, adding he is now optimistic the province will make enough concessions to "wrap it up."

  • "The mayor has been holding discussions with Windsor's two cabinet ministers to try to get the province's Windsor-Essex Parkway to more closely resemble the city's Greenlink plan, which would see more of the new border expressway located underground."

How embarrassing for Senior politicians. Imagine being part of the mountain coming to Edgar. It is THEIR project being made to look like his, not the other way around. How pitiful.

What could the solution be? Various possibilities:

  •  unlikely that there would be any significant changes to the Windsor Essex Parkway because that would require another Environmental Assessment process
  •  perhaps some additional green space so that the Mayor can claim that it is now healthy for the community
  •  an upgraded E C Row is a good possibility both as a detour when the DRIC Road is being built and as a connection to Edgar’s airport transportation hub mind’s vision (no wonder Sandra paid for the Lufthansa study). This is even more likely now since CBC told us that Edgar is going to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as part of a plan to " set up a cargo hub at Windsor International Airport."
  •  as an inducement to the Mayor, expect the Province to pay for a good chunk of the seemingly dead Tunnel Plaza Improvement project since work is being started on the other side for some improvements there. (Oh expect the Feds to throw in some money too because there is the opportunity now to buy the rights to the US side of the Tunnel cheaply because Detroit is in such a financial mess. That would help the DRIC Bridge P3 operator).

In reality, an Edgar failure will be spun by the sycophants to make it appear that he won. And then the sell-out after the elections, both municipal and provincial later, for the cheap DRIC road. Who cares what happens then, IBG...YBG.

Let's see how it plays out. It is only a few more days.

And please, do not snicker when you see Dwight, even behind his back. He is a very proud man. I do not want to see his feelings hurt even more than they are now.

A Few More Border Stories

Here are some things you may not have known

THE BORDER DISTRACTIONS

Focus on a DRIC bridge not terrorizing the Ambassador Bridge Company; focus on full tunnelling, Greenlink and the Windsor-Essex Parkway not upgrading E C Row to be our border road and on a cheap road solution; focus on building a DRIC bridge not buying the Ambassador Bridge; focus on P3s taking over key border crossings so there is no Dubai Ports incident, not Canada.

All of these matters jumped into my head when I saw this quote from John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
  • “It was almost illusionist, drawing your attention to something that isn’t important, so that you’re not watching what’s happening, which really is important.”

CAN MATTY REALLY RUN A BORDER CROSSING

Take a look at how the Sarnia Mayor describes the Blue Water Bridge:

  • "Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley has seen the same trend in his border city. He said traffic on the Bluewater Bridge has been down every year since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, even though the bridge has been twinned and substantially upgraded."

What is also true is that tolls at the BWB were kept artificially low for years to try to take away business from Moroun. They were finally almost doubled recently to the chagrin of OTA's David Bradley who likes taxpayers paying the costs not truckers who actually use the bridge.

Remember that the Ambassador Bridge with all of its supposed negatives already takes traffic from Sarnia.

No wonder no one wants Matty to build his second bridge in the same manner as in Sarnia. Truckers would go where the operator really knows how to run a border crossing!

MORE BAD NEWS FOR SEAN O'DELL

A glimmer of hope for the man and then this:

  • "Region facing new reality

    LOONIE: Tourism, retail and manufacturing are being hit with a double whammy from the higher Canadian dollar and tighter border security


    Get used to it.

    With a tighter border and the loonie poised to eclipse the American dollar in value, Southwestern Ontario's tourism and manufacturing sectors are adjusting to a new economic reality.

    Both Americans and Canadians are more reluctant to make quick cross-border hops to hunt bargains or see a show.

    Cross-border traffic with the U.S. sank 9.2% last year and the number of Canadian visits to the U.S. was down by 10%.

    That trend was seen at the Stratford Festival, where ticket sales to Americans have fallen to about 30% of the market.

    "The days of Americans coming down to see one show and have dinner are almost over," said Anthony Cimolino, general director of the Stratford Festival.

    Cimolino said the explanation is more than the soaring loonie. New U.S. regulations requiring passports at the border and the depressed economy in Michigan, a key market for Stratford, are discouraging casual cross-border tourism...

    The higher loonie has also caused a major shakeup in the manufacturing sector.

    Paul Hogendoorn, head of the London Region Manufacturing Council, said many of the manufacturing plants in the region that were dependent on a low Canadian dollar to drive export sales have gone under.

    "If you're just reliant on coming in at the lowest price, there's always someone, somewhere, who is going to beat you," he said...

    Douglas Porter, an economist with BMO Capital Markets, said Southwestern Ontario manufacturers have had some time to adjust to a higher loonie, but "the jury is still out" on how well they can cope.

    "I think it's still going to be a real burden. It's one reason to believe Ontario will have a sub-par economic recovery in comparison to Western Canada, in particular."

CANADA HELPS OUT A PRIVATE WINDSOR BORDER CROSSING OPERATOR

Can you imagine, the Canadian Government spending taxpayer dollars to help out a private border operator even though his business would surely disappear if a DRIC Bridge was built

One day the Government of Canada will be called upon to explain this discrimination. Why it helped one private border operator in Windsor but not another:

  • "Major revamp for Windsor-Detroit ‘hazmat’ ferry dock

    Despite its four-month construction time frame — and November start date — by late January more than half the work had been completed at the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry dock in Windsor’s Ojibway Industrial Park...

    The Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor Detroit Tunnel are the two major crossings between Windsor and Detroit. Lesser known is the hazardous goods ferry.

    Since Earth Day 1990 the ferry, a barge pushed by a tug, makes several trips a day and lately it’s been up to 14, carrying five tractor-trailers each time across the almost two-kilometre international river crossing.

    The privately-run ferry carries trucks with hazardous goods which are banned by the bridge and tunnel and oversized loads...

    The $8.8 million project is included in $300 million of special federal-provincial infrastructure money, announced in 2005, to alleviate some of existing traffic congestion leading to the border...

    After landscaping is completed in spring the Detroit-Windsor ferry will no longer look like the poor cousin to the area’s other crossings, finally getting the infrastructure respect it deserves."

WHY EDGAR HAS NOT ANNOUNCED

Remember that Edgar (aka Eddie) and Dwight were to have meetings on the border. Remember that Edgar was having conversations with people about whether he should run again.

That was months ago and nothing has happened since. No one got suckered in to announce that they were running as the E-Machine tried to accomplish.

Just in case you were wondering why nothing is going on, or rather nothing is being mentioned publicly, Gord told us back in mid-February.

  • "What's interesting is that the confirmation of his [Edgar's] intentions, originally slated for March, might now be pushed back to late April or early May, after a handful of key tasks, especially related to border infrastructure, might be wrapped up."

Oh, I guess that announcement will be made right after long-delayed Fahri's February announcement. Here is what Farhi said on December 5:

  • "Windsor's battered downtown is getting a much-needed vote of confidence from larger-than-life London developer Shmuel Farhi, who has been opening his wallet to scoop up properties here and hopes to make an announcement in February of his plans for the core area.

    "I don't want to say too much much right now. But it's going to be good news," said the former Israeli soldier whose Farhi Holdings Corp. owns and manages four million square feet of office, retail, industrial and residential space across Ontario, including a significant chunk of downtown London.

    "Over the next two months we'll be expanding our interest in Windsor and hopefully early in the new year we can come with an announcement in regard to my future business there," said Farhi."

If he can delay, then so can Edgar. Here is what Farhi said on February 23:

  • "But Farhi promised "very, very exciting news" coming soon for downtown Windsor.

    The year after acquiring the 100-acre Lear property for $8 million.

    Farhi traded 40 acres of the land in 2006 to the city for its new arena, in exchange for a prime 1.1-acre site west of the Art Gallery of Windsor plus $1.5 million in cash.

    Farhi wouldn't say what those downtown plans are but promised an announcement "very, very shortly" involving "my plan for the downtown."

    There are rumours Farhi Holdings Corp. has been actively acquiring, or negotiating for, more downtown Windsor properties to add to its portfolio. Farhi won't divulge details, but said in December he was optimistic about the city's future and would be "expanding" in Windsor in the next few months to take advantage of "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities."

Delays happen. Remember when Farhi said in August, 2008:

  • "London-based developer Shmuel Farhi will demolish the former Lear Corporation plant on Lauzon Road this fall, clearing the way for a massive development that could top $100 million and include a hotel, restaurants, retail outlets, apartment towers and senior-citizen residences.

    Farhi, who owns much of downtown London through Farhi Holdings Corp., which has real estate assets of more than $500 million across Ontario, confirmed in a phone interview that he's finalizing plans to tear down the sprawling 43-year-old factory, with demolition beginning as early as October, and is working on long-term development plans for the 60-acre site that could, over the long haul, exceed 500,000 square feet and would benefit from close proximity to the city's WFCU Arena complex.

    "It would complement the great work the city has done."

    "I see mixed use. Commercial. Anything and everything we can build there. We can do whatever...

    He said he's been in discussions with hotel firms that could build and operate a hotel...

    "I can see eventually 60 acres being developed ... the equivalent of an entire downtown," said Farhi. Asked about the risks of investing in a city rocked by economic misery, including a disastrous real estate market, Farhi sounded unperturbed. He said Windsor has obvious advantages, including being located next to the U.S."

Gosh, do you think he listend to much to Sean's optimistic traffic projections?

Now he is saying:

  • "While he has "great plans" for the [Lear] site, including mixed-use retail and residential, Farhi said they wouldn't be implemented in the immediate future.

    "In this economic climate, bankers are very conservative -- building on spec is not our forte," said Farhi, who owns a large chunk of downtown London as part of his company's extensive real estate holdings.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Where Oh Where Can He Be

The new Undevelopment Commission head. Wasn't he to have started by now?

Don't you wish you knew what he thought:


  • "5.1 Board Chairperson’s Report

    The Chair Lindsay Boyd welcomed Ron Gaudet, and asked him to report on his perceptions/ thoughts after his initial 2 weeks in Windsor‐Essex...

    Moved by Joe Byrne to accept Chair’s Report, seconded by Dave Cooke."

I know he has been having "in camera" meetings:

  • "It is a message Ron Gaudet repeated endlessly during his first two months on the job, as he met business and community leaders day after day. He delivered it again Wednesday and got an encouraging response during a six-hour, closed-door session with 165 of them at the Ciociaro Club."

And making speeches:

  • "Windsor Essex County Engineering Week
    2010 "Engineering The Future"

    Guest Speaker: Ron Gaudet, Chief Executive Officer of the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission"

He will be speaking in Leamington too at the end of the month at the Leamington Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. The promo for the event shows that he has more prizes than even our Mayor for business:

  • “Canadian Economic Developer of the Year”
  • “Canada’s Top 40 under 40”
  • “Top 50 Atlantic Canadian CEO’s”

To be fair, he had an interview on CKLW the day after his term started and then a seven minute CKLW interview in mid-March. [However, that was in this time-slot: "TUESDAY: 4:50pm -- Vice President Patrick Persichille from the Windsor Essex Development Commission." Why isn't Ron speaking instead?]

And truly remarkably, his colleague got a big contract here although Gaudet was not involved:

  • "After hiring Gaudet, the WEEDC board's next priority was to revamp the region's roadmap for economic development, said chairman Lindsay Boyd. It used a $40,000 provincial grant to hire Moncton-based David Campbell, a former colleague of Gaudet, to do the research and complete a draft of the strategic plan by April, Boyd said.

    Gaudet was not involved in the decision to award the contract to Campbell's Jupia Consultants Inc., and the board considered several other proposals, he said. "By far, David's was the best."
But still, this is hardly a good sign:



Perhaps he has been in hiding, updating the Undevelopment Commission's Newsletter since the last one shown on its website is dated January/February, 2009.

My reasons for asking where he is:

  • "Francis calls meeting that can't wait

    Mayor Eddie Francis has called a special meeting of city council for tonight to discuss an economic development opportunity so pressing it can’t wait until council’s next regular meeting April 12...

    While remaining tight-lipped, the mayor said the item is unrelated to the recent multibillion-dollar Samsung investment announcement for Ontario and that it is “something we’ve been actively pursuing.”

Wow, can't you feel the excitement. The City has been captivated by this hint from the Mayor!

That is the royal "we" in case you are interested. You know how much Edgar (aka Eddie) likes to share glory. Will the CEO be there to make the presentation? That should be fascinating to find out. Oh heck, maybe it is just related to a possible DRIC road settlement and the gazillions of jobs it will produce for us.

And this:
  • "Plant signals solar future
    Up to 100 green jobs possible in city as German company eyes May startup


    Mayor Eddie Francis said he hoped Schletter's arrival in Windsor to set up shop was the first of many such green energy plant openings to come.

    "We've been working on a bunch of these for a while now, and it's good to finally see one come out of the hopper."

    Patrick Persichilli, vice-president of the development corporation, said Schletter's decision to choose Windsor for its latest plant is a harbinger of good things to come.

    "The significance of this investment for us is that it's among the first European companies on the component side (of solar energy) to set up shop in Ontario," Persichilli said.

    "And there is a reason they're here. They've got something in the pipeline, obviously. They've got a plan. And we have what they want: location and a highly skilled workforce."
Again, the royal "we" but more importantly, it is the VP speaking on behalf of the Development Commission not Mr. Gaudet.

Who knows, perhaps Ron will jump out of a cake with a big announcement for us tonight. After all, he is showing the Leamington people
  • "how we can help achieve our mission to maximize economic diversity, growth and prosperity in the Windsor-Essex Region."

Windsor's Direction

Come out and attend the meeting





UPDATE

I am sure you saw this in the Star

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis has called a special meeting of city council for tonight to discuss an economic development opportunity so pressing it can’t wait until council’s next regular meeting April 12."

Gee, how can municipal politicans be in two places at the same time! The perfect excuse for snubbing citizens concerned about our future!

UPDATE2

Apparently, the Clerk merely sent a note at 4 PM to Councillors with no details other than it is a meeting re: the border and economic development.

Hmmm, will attendance be taken and Councillors slammed if they could not make Edgar's surprise last minute meeting? Naturally, Edgar will be there so he cannot be criticized. The meeting was called by him to meet his convenience!

As a furious reader wrote to me:

  • "I just can't believe he, Eddie aka Edgar would try this trick again!!! He certainly does not respect city council or the citizens of Windsor! Urgency and expediency are no excuses for decision making and consultation! The pomposity and arrogant nature of this man is unbelievable!!!!

    I don't care what it is, this is no way to conduct business in this city!!!

Windsor Star's Stories of Desperation

Who really is the most desperate one? Matty Moroun or the Windsor Star or rather the DRIC people?

I cannot believe it. Another Star story telling why the Bridge Company NAFTA claim will not succeed. Of course, there is no one telling us why the Bridge Company might win but what can one expect from the Star.
  • "Moroun suit claims NAFTA breach
    Bridge owner unlikely to win $3.5B, experts say
Ok, I guess Matty better pack it in given what the Star says. He ought to throw in the towel. It's over for him.

Mind you, after American Secretary of State Clinton rocked Ottawa, I would think that the adjective "desperate" applies to the Prime Minister these days.

When Lawrence Cannon says this, then you know Canada is in trouble. He sounds like Minister Van Loan, living in a dream world:
  • "Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Hillary Clinton's criticisms of Canada's maternal health initiative were her own views and not the policy of the Obama administration.

    "Mrs. Clinton expressed not her government's position; she expressed her personal point of view ...," Cannon told CTV's Question Period on Sunday...

    Clinton also criticized Canada last week for not inviting three Arctic countries, as well as indigenous groups, to talks on the Arctic, and made a public appeal for Canada to keep its troops in Afghanistan beyond its 2011 withdrawal date.

    Cannon said the criticisms did not signal a cooling of relations between Ottawa and Washington.

    "This is a tempest in a teapot," Cannon told CTV.

    "This is not snubbing anybody; this is nothing that is detrimental to Canada-U.S. relations. Our relations are the best relations in the world."

As if the Secretary is so dumb as to make off-the-cuff comments. Give me a break.

A word to the wise to the PM. Keep Governor General Michaelle Jean. She is all you have to preserve your relationship with President Obama!

I will deal with the latest NAFTA story another time but let us look at what the Star has written before.
  • "Bridge legal challenge called an act of desperation
    Claim to border tolls called shaky
    "

Mind you, it comes after their recent absurd story about the bridge value decreasing:

  • "Windsor's Ambassador Bridge losing value, expert says"

Of course, the Star should be applauded for trying to educate their readers on important issues and setting out questions that are relevant. However, acting in a one-sided manner is hardly enlightening. Rather, it makes a mockery of the debate.

Even the Star cannot possibly believe what they are publishing so how can they expect their readers to do so.

Why would the Star quote Cliff Sutts for heaven's sake. Is he the only lawyer in town? Was he the stand-in for Edgar (aka Eddie) who is afraid to open his mouth now since he is scared that he would be sued? You had to read 8 paragraphs into the story before you saw:

  • "Sutts, who represents the city's tunnel commision."

You remember, dear reader, Sutts acted on the failed Tunnel deal with Detroit. That file cost the City a bundle in legal and expert's fees.

In fact, in a previous Star story, he was described this way:

  • "Lawyer Cliff Sutts has handled tunnel issues for the city for decades."

Of course, we know who the Tunnel's biggest competitor is don't we?

What do you expect him to say:

  • "Yup, Moroun has got them by the short and curlies. He won"

Come on Mr. Beneteau, we remember how Cliff feels about the Bridge Company:

  • "Sutts agreed the driving force behind the [City's Tunnel] deal has been "to keep this out of the hands of Matty Moroun and the Ambassador Bridge."

    The lawyer said a plan unveiled by the bridge last year to relocate the tunnel customs plaza to a new 200-lane superplaza in Detroit was "not in anybody's best interest."

    Sutts anticipates Moroun -- or potentially other private investment companies -- will attempt to derail the deal before it is completed."

And then to quote Brian Masse. Oh please. Mr. Bridge Public Authority.

I found this comment shocking for a Member of Parliament who makes laws that govern how parties are to act with each other:

  • "If this is successful in any way, it shows business has more rights than citizens of this country. It would set quite the precedent."

No Brian, it says that the law has been applied.

I expect that many of the questions posed can be answered by reading sections of the International Bridges and Tunnels Act (Bill C-3). That is the Act that Brian took the credit for when it passed while his real contribution was setting the world's record for the number of times the word "inadmissible" was used in relation to his proposed amendments.

  • "The Chair: We have an amendment introduced by the NDP. Again, I'm advised by counsel that it is inadmissible due to its being contrary to the principle of the bill.

    Mr. Brian Masse: I would like, at an appropriate time, at least written correspondence from the department on the inadmissibility of the amendments. They were originally submitted--those ones, in particular--from the City of Windsor and their legal experts."

Wouldn't it be a real hoot if, in the end, Brian is responsible for Matty being allowed to build his bridge because of Bill C-3!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Be Still My Beating Heart

Gord Henderson has no shame. He is desperate. He MUST convince Edgar to run again for Mayor. He will do anything to get what he wants or rather, so he will not lose because it will be costly for him.

Remember this bet that he discussed in his column in July, 2008:
  • "Betting on a vision

    Arthur, a reader with a dry wit and a nice touch with words, contacted me Wednesday to express deep skepticism about the marina and canal being touted for the near west side, and to throw out a thirsty challenge.

    "Count me in with the skeptics about the proposed marina: such a dead-end pond, with no circulation of water, will become a weed- filled ditch," he predicted...

    "I am willing to put a bet on this marina -- say a bottle of whatever it is you drink. Let me know if you are interested," he concluded.

    Challenged in that manner, I had no choice but to respond. And given the nature of the debate -- moving water -- I chose to put on the line a bottle of Scapa, single malt whisky from Scapa Flow, the great natural anchorage (and final resting place of the battleship HMS Royal Oak) off the north coast of Scotland...

    After placing the bet I developed the inevitable cold feet. In a subsequent conversation with Mayor Eddie Francis I confessed to having rashly placed my wallet and a piece of my Scottish heritage at risk.

    His advice? "Double the odds. Double down. Raise it to a case. I'd take the bet because it will be done before I leave office," he insisted."

Could that mean that Edgar will run forever because that is the length of time it will take for the canal to be built!

Saturday's Henderson column has to be one that even Gord does not take seriously:

  • "The heart of downtown Windsor is still beating."

Perhaps he knows something that the Star told us about last December:

  • "As mayor of Canada's unemployment capital, Francis is itching to announce early in the new year success on three "files" the city has been pursuing, each involving non-government investments with the potential to inject large numbers of new jobs into Windsor."

Scratching, Gord did say this after all:

  • "There's one other bit of good news on the way.

    Stay tuned for an announcement by the end of this month on a "very significant" new office tenant for our vacancy-plagued downtown."

Good thing that the Integrity Commissioner has been defanged or else he would have another leak to investigate.

Perhaps Dwight will help out his new buddy when he comes here to speak soon and will tell us that some Government Department might finally be going into a Joe Mikhail building.

Hmmm, let 's see, our downtown is on life support:

  • Urban village, what urban village. The RFP for that one has never happened

  • Downtown arena, what downtown area. It's somewhere in the boonies with a rate of return on our $70M invested of just over 1% last year. If the real amount invested is $100M as some have suggested , then the rate is less than 1%

  • Chasing Summer Fest out to the arena to try to get its business up but forced to retreat because of citizen outrage.

  • Continued "mulling" for a half a year of a "Pelissier mall plan."

  • Various Star reports of fights and serious injuries almost every week downtown

  • Eddie's famous comment: "In the wake of another murder on Pelissier Street, Mayor Eddie Francis warned residents Monday to steer clear of the area late at night if they value their safety.

Don't you find the downtown so exciting and vibrant now?

Why I remember what Edgar (aka Eddie) said in his 2006 State of the City speech:

  • "The entire face of our downtown is transforming, and transforming for the better.

    Two and half years ago, we talked about building a balanced downtown where people could work, live and play.

    We believed in a friendlier, more vibrant downtown.

    Some said it couldn’t be done.

    Some said that we should live with a downtown that many people found intimidating, and just accept it for what it was.

    But our Council took action. Our Council believed in a better downtown for Windsor.

    Today, our downtown has what people did not think was possible."

Edgar is right for once. Who would ever think this as our downtown with high vacancy rates four years later:

  • a chain restaurant located in our money drain Canderel building with 5 cent parking,

  • a new reduced price bus terminal located right near a building that Mr. Farhi was going to build as high-priced condos and

  • an influx of St. Clair students who were going to turn downtown into an area jsut as vibrant and alive like Wyandotte West near the University.

Here is the new Francis mind's eye vision as told to us by Gord. Rather, it is the Sheriff telling us about another Francis failure:

  • "Meanwhile, there's new evidence that the controversial marina/canal plan for downtown is not dead and buried as its critics hoped, and that at least one segment, the transient marina, could see design work completed this year.

    The canal, dismissed by the unimaginative and pothole-obsessed as a useless "ditch," has drawn significant interest from out-of-town investors.

    There's a buzz around it. But with an election less than seven months away and with Francis still pondering whether to take on CUPE and its allies and seek a third term, it's too late to advance that "red flag" issue.

    Sadly, it's on hold. And for Lord knows how long."

Instead what do we get:

  • "But the other piece, the 35-berth transient marina proposed for the riverfront between Caron and Church, with an estimated price of $11-million, which includes breakwall work that must be done regardless, is a different story.

    Francis plans to ask council during capital budget talks for approval to conduct, as early as June, a "design charrette," an intense workshop involving leading designers from far and wide who would produce a ready-to-roll marina blueprint for consideration by the next council."

Oh great, a public consultation on artists' renditions but no consultation on daycare. The Mayor truly has lost his perspective and has no sense of value!

I hope you noticed the part "it's too late to advance." No one is responsible for the delay other than Edgar. Here is what Gord wrote about a year ago so we can see the speed at which our our Mayor operates.

  • "The marina proposal, by the way, has been radically altered. Initially slated for the Caron Avenue cut, that site has been ruled out, for technical reasons, as "prohibitively" expensive.

    Instead a transient marina with 35 to 40 berths would be built on the riverfront west of Dieppe Gardens for about $11 million, which includes significant work that must be done whether the marina proceeds or not."

Nothing like rehashing the past and making it seem new again.

Oh, the rest of the column was another pitch for the University to do something. It will be either in the Mady complex so one can pretend the Armouries are involved or the Capitol or perhaps Mr. Farhi will build it on his land so he can get out of the downtown.. Again, Edgar's blinding speed:

  • "The current talks, which were triggered by discussions involving Wildeman, St. Clair College President John Strasser and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan during last year's Red Bull festivities, are aimed at developing a "creative cluster" downtown, building on St. Clair's trail-blazing downtown campus in the former Cleary and its spectacular $5-million plus mediaplex now nearing completion in the former Salvation Army building."

Unless Dwight is putting up all of the cash or the University President is not doing any trips any more to places like the Olympics, do not expect much. After all, Gord told us in 2007:

  • "Nice plan, no cash

    A month has passed since the University of Windsor developed cold feet and retreated from a $58-million downtown campus proposal, but Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis still winces as he examines the glossy images of what might have been.

    And little wonder. The preliminary sketches from Calvin Brook, the consultant who prepared Windsor's Central Riverfront Implementation Plan in 2000, show the area from the new bus terminal west to Caron Avenue, and from University Avenue north to Riverside Drive, changed from asphalt wasteland into a dynamic urban space featuring attractive academic buildings, creative museum space, student residences and existing housing.

    A standout feature would have been the transformation of the Caron Avenue rail cut, currently a weed-strewn dumping ground, into a canal (shades of San Antonio's Riverwalk) leading to a riverfront waterfall. That waterway development has been on the city's planning books for several years but could have been accelerated with the university as a downtown campus partner.

    So close and yet so far. The drawings are just one indicator of how seriously Francis took the university's proposal -- a second proposal which followed the university's rejection of the downtown as a site for its $110-million Centre of Engineering Innovation -- to occupy as much as 100,000 square feet of space in the core area for programs that could have included a new law school, school of social work, business incubator and part of the nursing program...

    And then, splat, in an instant it was gone, snuffed out by number crunchers who concluded the university was in no position to make additional investments on top of its engineering school commitment.

    How did it happen like this? How could expectations be raised to such towering heights and then sawed off at the knees? According to Marty Komsa, outgoing board of governors chairman, board members were hugely excited about the proposal from university president Ross Paul, but it simply couldn't be justified financially...

    There was just one problem, according to Komsa. At $58 million, which included money to refurbish existing campus buildings, it was $35 million to $45 million more than the university could afford at this time, given the $135 million being invested in the engineering and medical schools.

    "Our business plan clearly indicates it's not feasible. At this point in time we just don't have the funds," said Komsa. "We're short. And where would we come up with the money? It just boils down to, our business plan doesn't support it."

So do not get too excited when we see more retreaded design charrettes....just think "municipal election."