Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, May 28, 2010

Border Thoughts

I just wondered about some of these things and thought you might be interested too

BAIRD NOT OPTIMISTIC RE MICHIGAN SENATE VOTE

Oh my gosh, what will he have to promise Michigan Senators after his House $550M? Take pity on Canadian taxpayers dear Senators and kill the P3 Bill. I beg you!

Here is what the Minister said in the Transportation Committee meeting after returning from Lansing and talking to Senators there this week http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jan9wh99K8








Looks like he pretty much thinks he has lost already. But of course, that is to create a false sense of security in the Bridge Company mind so they will let their guard down.

Only the BLOGMeister can guess what will happen next but, for that, you will have to read my Monday BLOG.

DOES THE DRIC STINK

Literally, I mean. Have the DRIC engineers considerd this in their environmental studies? I did not make this up. It was expressed by Rep Tlaib, one of the big DRIC boosters in her Detroit radio interview





video



I guess that MDOT will have to post this sign for tourists now entering the US:

Welcome to Michigan but hold your nose!

WAS BAIRD IN LANSING FOR THE DRIC/P3 VOTE

Yes he was but not one media report that I have read reported it until a few days later.

I wonder why it was not reported right away. Was it considered not newsworthy? It should have been headline news. Mr. $550M in Lansing on the day of the P3 vote. Mind you, it did make it easier for the media types just to dump on Moroun for having people there talking to legislators. What a terrible act on his part. Imagine trying to prevent his business from being crushed.

Whom did Baird meet, what did he say, did he promise anything more? Who knows since again we have been poorly served by our traditional media.

WAS BAIRD'S $550M OFFER A SUCCESS

For those of my readers who came to the conclusion that the Minister's offer was not a mere "loan" but perhaps something more as the CBC host put forward as an alternative, does the vote in favour of the P3 legislation help out?

The vote for or against means nothing in itself but when the Michigan Speaker says this, then one has to step back and take a good hard look at what was done:

  • "House Speaker Andy Dillon anticipates the Senate will approve the legislation, but he expects changes will be sent back to the Democrat-controlled House for final approval. He applauded the Canadian government's offer of $550 million to cover Michigan's share of the project for helping to make a difference in the vote. "It was pretty significant, because obviously we don't have money in the state government to fund our portion of this."

For those who viewed the payment as "harmless," does this change your mind?

Does Windsor Have Its Own "Guergis" Affair

Oh you know it is going to be juicy by the time it is done.

John Middleton is not someone who is a shrinking violet. He is running for Council again and I suspect that by the time that this is done, the political careers of some Members of Council might be made or broken by the revelations. Is this why the City Solicitor said:
  • "Wilkki said the chance that Middleton’s defamation suit would be settled before election day is “zero.”

Read the Statment of Claim for yourself http://www.scribd.com/doc/31801653/Dismissal

If you recall the Guergis affair, her big complaint is that not only was she dumped from the Cabinet and prevented from running for Conservatives but she has never been given the reasons why:

  • "While I was told by the Conservative Party lawyer that some aspersions had also been cast towards me, I was never told by anyone what the specific complaints against me were.

    Since that time, I have asked repeatedly what it was I had supposedly done. As it is claimed that I have already been told, I am at a loss as to why this information cannot be repeated to me, and to everyone who shares my interest in addressing what really matters, the truth.

    Yesterday, the apparent source of the information relating to my alleged improprieties, Mr. Snowdy, swore under oath that he provided no information about illegal or even inappropriate behaviour regarding myself to any representative of the PMO. He also swore that he never had any evidence of illegal or inappropriate behaviour on my part.

    There obviously has been some misunderstanding or disconnect in the relaying of that information to the PMO."

I liked this description given even though by a Harper opponent

  • "Helena Guergis’s career was destroyed by a parliamentary process run amok and a Prime Minister who is out of control, Liberal Party President Alf Apps says...

    Canadians need to get back to a “Parliament that’s respectful of the rights of individuals, a Parliament that’s respectful of natural justice and due process...”

    Mr. Harper, he adds, has not simply expelled her from cabinet and caucus but overseen “her effective demonization, her ostracization, her vilification, the complete destruction of her political career..."

Now take a look at the Middleton situation. From the original Star story:

  • "Crime prevention chair fired by city; Volunteer mystified
    Windsor Star 05-01-2008

    A volunteer removed from the city committee that runs such programs as Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parents said Wednesday he still doesn't know what he did to warrant dismissal.

    Until last week, John Middleton was the chairman of the Windsor Citizens' Crime Prevention Committee, a volunteer committee on which he has served for nearly five years. He said he was summoned to a meeting with city chief administrator John Skorobohacz on April 23 where he was handed a letter saying council had voted to have him removed from the committee.

    "It has been brought to the corporation's attention that your recent behaviour directed toward City of Windsor employees contravenes the spirit of the Respectful Workplace Program," the letter said.

    "I'm racking my brain trying to think what I've done," Middleton said Wednesday. "I had no warning, no nothing ... I have the right to know what someone has said or accused me of."

    Councillors Alan Halberstadt and Bill Marra, members of the crime prevention committee, confirmed Middleton was removed following a discussion at a closed-door city council meeting April 21. "Council had some pretty compelling information," said Marra. He said that during his meeting with Skorobohacz, Middleton was not told the names of his accusers, but that there was "a general disclosure of the contraventions." And, Marra added, "the contraventions were very serious."

    Halberstadt said council determined Middleton treated city employees disrespectfully.

    Middleton said his tenure, of late, on the committee has not been easy. He said city administrators have been "putting up roadblocks" and even contravening city council instructions.

    When asked for specifics, Middleton pointed to the creation of a supervisor of compliance and enforcement in the city's licensing department, replacing the crime prevention co-ordinator his committee hired. Middleton said money was twice taken out of his committee's budget to pay for the new position. In February when he applied to have $28,000 left in his 2007 budget carried over the following year, he was told $20,000 of the money was no longer there. When he asked questions, he was told the books were closed, he said."

Well there you have it...one is supposed to be satisfied with a general discussion about serious contraventions.

Jump forward to the recent Star story "Windsor council candidate John Middleton sues city" and it gets even better. Note the reference to him running in the headline:

  • "Mayor Eddie Francis and council were made aware of the legal action this week. Francis said the city’s defence will “leave no question as to why council acted the way it did.”

    City solicitor George Wilkki had even stronger words, suggesting Middleton “may want to withdraw his lawsuit at that point...

    Wilkki said the reason Middleton was never given details of what was alleged is because it would have identified city employees. He said the accusations came from “absolutely credible” individuals who will eventually be witnesses in court.”

    Wilkki said council heard of “serious problems” relating to Middleton while he headed the crime prevention committee, which led to a decision to have him removed at an in-camera meeting in April 2008. The WCCPC is an advisory body to council filled with non-paid volunteers appointed at the discretion of council."

I sure hope that they are right since we now have the Mayor and City Solicitor jumping in stating that Middleton has done something wrong but not disclosing it still. In fact, the defence is so damaging to Middleton apparently that he may want to drop his case. Will Middleton's lawyer now seek to have the damages increased and add the 2 people personally as parties in the action for their remarks and argue that there is an ongoing effort to discredit his client?

On the other hand, who knows perhaps they are doing Middleton a favour. Did someone just recently signal the issue in a most bizarre way?

Oh and now we find out that there are "absolutely credible" employees involved. Frankly, I do not understand why they did not reveal all now. Supposedly it will be in the Statement of Defence coming out shortly.

I love the City's defence too:

  • "He said Middleton was never fired or terminated because he was not an employee but a volunteer serving at council’s discretion."

Now maybe there is a case and maybe there is not. That is what lawsuits are all about. However, here is the part that is absolutely mind-boggling about a person who is so disrespectful that he had to be forced off of a City Committee:

  • "[In the original story] Middleton is also the vice-chairman of the city's property standards committee. Marra said there has been no discussion about having Middleton removed from that post."

  • "[In the subsequent story] "He questions why council deems him “unfit” to sit on the WCCPC but continues to allow him to serve as co-chairman of the city’s property standards committee. Asked to explain, Wilkki said it’s because there were no complaints about him on that committee."

Here's the hoot. The Crime Prevention committee positions are volunteer. The Property Standards Committee members get paid!

If there is a jury trial, it could be very interesting. I expect that Middleton's lawyer would quote a Supreme Court of Canada case that would say:

  • "In my opinion, it is time to remove uncertainty and confirm that the law regarding senior civil servants accords with the contemporary understanding of the state’s role and obligations in its dealings with employees. Employment in the civil service is not feudal servitude. The respondent’s position was not a form of monarchical patronage. He was employed to carry out an important function on behalf of the citizens of Newfoundland. The government offered him the position, terms were negotiated, and an agreement reached. It was a contract...

    In a nation governed by the rule of law, we assume that the government will honour its obligations unless it explicitly exercises its power not to. In the absence of a clear express intent to abrogate rights and obligations – rights of the highest importance to the individual – those rights remain in force. To argue the opposite is to say that the government is bound only by its whim, not its word. In Canada this is unacceptable, and does not accord with the nation’s understanding of the relationship between the state and its citizens."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

56-51

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When All Else Fails Demonize and Vilify Again

What the heck is wrong with Michigan Legislators, especially Democrats.

From MIRS in Lansing:
  • "Meanwhile, in the House, the issue has begun sounding like a leaky faucet -- DRIC, DRIC, DRIC . . . For the third week in a row the insider wise guy predictions have been that "they're doing DRIC today." But that word proved wrong again at today's somewhat brief session. The reason DRIC hasn't come up is transparent - they don't have the votes to pass it, and until the votes materialize it won't be brought up."

The headline screams

  • “Granholm calls for Ambassador Bridge vote
    House delays as negotiations continue”

Huh…Ambassador Bridge vote, what Ambassador Bridge vote? I thought the Legislature was dealing with a P3 vote. Or, rather a vote that will lead to DRIC by giving MDOT power to enter agreements without legislative oversight.

Come on, it may cost Canadians $550M so get the story right.

Oh we know what Republicans are like. They support Big Business. They are against the people. They are the Party of NO especially when it comes to P3 $5.3B DRIC boondoggles and passing P3 legislation that would allow MDOT to mortgage the State for 50 years with no legislative oversight. Just ask the President of Michigan AFL-CIO.

But Democrats….Democrats. Can you imagine, no P3 legislation passed yet in the House even with a $550M offer from Canada. What can they be thinking? WHY are they thinking? Are they getting all mushy and not allowing the Bureaucracy to run amok? For shame.

There is a need to get them onside. NOW!

How to do when even $550M won’t work. I know…let’s use demonization and vilification again. It’s a good tactic. You know how it is done. Smear and innuendo.

How about this…make news:

  • LaHood backs new Detroit to Canada bridge
    David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

    Washington -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood supports plans for a new bridge linking Detroit and Windsor.

    LaHood told reporters Monday that his department is waiting to see if the Michigan Legislature approves a measure allowing the state to enter into an agreement with Canada and a private developer to build a $5.3 billion span over the Detroit River

    "We'll watch it and see what the legislature does," LaHood said. "We know how important this bridge is to our government and the Canadian government…"

Hardly a ringing endorsement but enough for the News to do an Editorial the next day saying:

  • Time to build the Detroit-Canada bridge

    It's time to end the long debate over the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) and start building it. Canada's offer of $550 million to front Michigan's share of the cost has removed the state's biggest obstacle and should ease the decision to go ahead with it.”

Do you like this kind of stuff that came from them as well: “As unfair as the process may seem toward owner Matty Moroun” or “These are benefits we should reap now, while trusting there'll be room for an entrepreneur like Moroun to continue to prosper as well.”

Can you believe it? From a responsible newspaper?

Sure the Editorial was full of misinformation but it does not matter. Nor does it matter that the News had said a short time before in an 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…

    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…

    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…

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

Huh, what changed? The $550M 2-page letter with no terms and conditions? The unreviewed by the News P3 legislation? Does someone have unflattering pictures from the last News Christmas Party?

Oh it gets worse than this. Remember the Governor saying this:

  • "Granholm said this morning she would be happy to support the second Ambassador span, but pointed out the Canadian government is opposed to Moroun's plan, which critics say would be too disruptive for the City of Windsor.

    "I've long said that if he could get the permits, we'd be all in."

Not now dammit:

  • Granholm calls for Ambassador Bridge vote

    Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday that Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun is trying to maintain a monopoly at the busiest trade crossing in North America and urged the Legislature to move quickly on a bill that would clear one of the few impediments remaining to Canada and the U.S. building a new span 2 miles down the Detroit River.”

Wow, what a change of heart. Amazing what the promise of money does to the brain.

  • “Speaking to reporters after an event at the White House, Granholm noted Canada -- which is adamantly opposed to Moroun's plan for a new span next to the existing Ambassador Bridge -- had already offered to put up $550 million to cover the State of Michigan's share. To turn that down, she said, "is illogical" when it will lead to more jobs and more infrastructure to support economic growth in southeast Michigan.”

DUH, Governor. I guess some thoughtful Democrats and Republicans don't accept your lesson in logic. Moroun’s project does the same without any financial risk to Michigan and without making him an “Instrumentality of Government “ of Michigan as you want to do with all that this entails.

And now the Buffalo comparisons and the supposed inconsistencies which I demonstrated in my recent BLOG are incorrect.

What comes next….tire slashing claims. OMG, YES!!!

  • "DRIC Topic Of The Day, Tire Slashing?

    According to Rep. Rashida TLAIB(D-Detroit), she woke up Thursday morning and found that all four tires on her vehicle had been slashed.

    The chair of the House Judiciary Appropriations Subcommittee and a leading voice on the Arizona illegal alien bill debate, Tlaib has no shortage of contentious issues that might have put her tires at risk. However, she said today that she had trouble not seeing the tire slashing in context with her position on the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC).

    "There is no way of getting any proof one way or the other -- and I certainly wouldn't make any accusations," Tlaib told MIRS. "But the day before I had made an impassioned speech in caucus about this (DRIC) and then the pro-Ambassador Bridge people got up and argued their side. I suppose it could be a coincidence."

Perhaps her father or her brother might offer some insight into this.

What’s wrong with Democrats. Why won’t they do what Jennie says:

  • “Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday continued to voice support for the $5.3 billion Detroit River International Crossing project, urging state lawmakers to act quickly by approving legislation that would allow Michigan to participate in the construction and operation of a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.”

Act “quick.” Do not think. Do what you are told. Pass legislation that is shoved down your throat in the last minute so you cannot consider the impact.

We have to beat those Morouns no matter what the cost to our State. After all, Jenny needs a legacy. If it all screws up, heck, she will be long gone so Legislators can face angry taxpayers alone.

Characterizing Canada's DRIC/P3 $550M Offer

Do we need to call the Fed's Eliot Ness or the RCMP's Sgt. Preston of the Yukon to investigate?

After all, with the senior Government people involved at the highest levels in Canada and Michigan and possible serious allegations being made, who else would you call in? It could be an international incident since the phone lines were used across the border to finalize the deal we were told.

DRIC/P3 matters are heating up.

What would you call the money being offered by Minister Baird to Michigan? This is another of those BLOGs where I present the facts and you draw your own conclusions.

Has the nature of the DRIC debate changed?

Clearly yes if you listen to the CBC host on the show when Matthew Moroun was interviewed. Listen to the host's reaction to what Matthew says and then his concluding words



video


A bribe....naawwww so gangsterish. We need to call it something much more genteel.

Here is the complete letter



While the letter itself is very interesting, it is what Tranpsort Minister Baird himself said when he announced the $550M offer that explains in full detail what is going on. Listen closely to the excerpts that I have made from his Press Conference.






video


Tempest in a teapot? A mere diversion? Or is this escalating matters?

If only it was so simple as the Minister said in his recent Detroit speech:

  • "We’re now at the stage where I believe we can get this bridge built. We want Michigan to be ready too. Let’s be clear . Not only is this project the most important infrastructure project in Canada. It’s the most important issue for North American trade.

    It will create thousands of jobs, thousands of jobs here in Detroit. It will support Michigan’s economy. It will expand trade for years to come and it will greatly boost and assist our national security on both sides of the border. That’s why on April 29th the government of Canada announced even more support for this project by committing up to $550 million to help jump start this project on this side of the border."

But he did NOT just say something similar to that in the excerpts above did he? He went a lot further. Did he go too far so that might give rise to a possible investigation?

Here are some of the key points he mentioned that should be considered in your decision:

  • -that’s why our Government has said since 2007 that it is committed to building a new bridge in the region


  • -Michigan is facing some significant obstacles in getting the proposal approved and our Government is stepping up to move this important project along


  • -We have waited a generation or two to make this happen and we want to get it going as soon as possible


  • -The opposition of the Ambassador Bridge Company has obviously been a huge problem literally for a generation or two on this issue. We have been working tremendously hard as has been my predecessor but nothing has happened… We required an important piece of legislation to go through the Michigan House and Senate… This was the way to move it along. If you wanted to make this thing happen, this was the only way we could do it


  • -This was required to put it over the top.. If we did not act now, this could literally put this thing off for another 2 years. We cannot wait for this project any longer. One of the mandates the Prime Minister gave me when I took this responsibility some 16 months ago was to make it happen.


  • -We needed this Bill through the Michigan House and Senate


  • -In order to get this thing moving along we need a P3 Bill through the Michigan House and Senate.


  • -This program has been delayed and delayed and delayed. There has been fighting and fighting and fighting. The mandate that the Prime Minister gave me was to bring this game to a close and to get the job done.


  • -This is a 2-page letter that we have given today and we have gone through the first hurdle in the House.

Why was a P3 Bill needed---it gave MDOT a way to circumvent the Michigan Senate opposition to DRIC is one possible explanation.

In case you are wondering, here is one Act that could be applicable. The Americans have a comparable statute. It is not an easy decision to decide whether what was done falls within the Act and whether there has been a breach or not:

  • Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act

    Bribing a foreign public official

    3. (1) Every person commits an offence who, in order to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of business, directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind to a foreign public official or to any person for the benefit of a foreign public official

    (a) as consideration for an act or omission by the official in connection with the performance of the official’s duties or functions; or

    (b) to induce the official to use his or her position to influence any acts or decisions of the foreign state or public international organization for which the official performs duties or functions.

    Punishment

    (2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

My concern has always been and it is proving true now is that this file will soon go completely out of control and, like the FIRA litigation, will take a decade or more to work its way through the court system.

Who gains from all of this? No one, not even the parties. Lawsuits for another decade just like with the FIRA ones

Is there a way to resolve the differences? Sure there is if the parties, all of them, will sit down in a room and discuss in good faith what their differences are and how they can be resolved. It might require a facilitator or a mediator of some repute to assist but why not try.

If that process fails, then I guess I will be writing border BLOGs for a very long time.

"On, King! On, you huskies!"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Border Stories

Here come some more of them

OPEN AND TRANSPARENT DRIC PROCESS

P3s are on the House agenda again today. Does anyone know yet which proposed Bill is to be considered or is it all to be a big guessing game?

Remember how the DRIC-ites bragged about their process. Well I am waiting to see the newest version of the draft P3 Bill to be sprung on Michigan Legislators in the last possbile second so no has a chance to think.

Moreover, the very same MDOT that says there will be transparency in the PPP process is the same one that won't let the Bill be seen in advance of voting. Now THAT is a confidence builder.

In addition, I love this quote from MDOT's Captain Kirk:
  • "He also said MDOT will keep the revenue estimates secret until after the final bid process so that the bids remain competitive. That includes keeping the revenue estimate, and how much the bridge needs to generate, secret from lawmakers for now...

    MDOT says that the financing will be complex and that it’s not yet known how it will be put together, so using back-of-the-envelope estimates is risky."

Is MDOT mad? Will legislators allow them to get away with this especially with the proposed P3 Bill?. Complex financing and elected officials are to know nothing about it!

That has to be unconstitutional and if it is not, it ought to be.

WERE THEY EVER WRONG

Even the US government back in 2001 messed up re traffic volumes for this area:

  • "Intelligent Transportation Systems at International Borders

    Spanning the Detroit River between Downtown Detroit andWindsor, Ontario, the privately owned Ambassador Bridge is a single span facility with two travel lanes in each direction, and toll facilities to capture revenue. The bridge is the single busiest international land border crossing in North America, serving as a portal for 27% of the approximately $400 billion in annual trade between Canada and the U.S.

    In 1997, 2.7 million trucks crossed the bridge, a 50% increase since 1993. This volume is expected to double again by the year 2012. A substantial portion of this trade supports the manufacture and distribution of automobiles. The Detroit International Bridge Company, owners of the facility, plan to add an additional sixto-eight lane span, which is projected to be open for use by 2012."

Note though the expectation was that a twinned bridge would be open by 2012. There was no thought of a DRIC bridge for capacity reasons. Why not? Consider this which has been virtually ignored by DRIC-ites:

  • "The successful deployment of federal systems on a privately owned bridge crossing was the result of an effective public/private partnership that relied on extensive coordination of 11 stakeholder groups..."

    Plans:

    Planned second bridge span and highway improvements to facilitate travel to and from the bridge are likely to have a significant impact on traffic flow...


    FOT Lessons Learned

    Ambassador Bridge International Border Crossing System (ABBCS)

    Implementation of a system such as ABBCS, in conjunction with a carefully selected lane assignment scheme, has the potential to significantly reduce the length of vehicle queues on the bridge during peak traffic periods, reducing the time necessary to transverse the compound by as much as 50%. Reconfiguration of the entry roadway into the Customs compound from one lane to two would have an even more pronounced effect, allowing participating vehicles unhindered access to equipped lanes.

    Simulation results indicate that the Dedicated Commuter Lane concept has the potential to positively impact traffic on the bridge, provided all equipped lanes are open to all vehicles."

That sounds a lot cheaper than $5.3B

MDOT HIRES NOSSAMAN; FORMER NOSSAMAN ANALYST SLAMS DRIC P3

It just cannot get any funnier. I am not an analyst and I could figure it out by doing some math. From Crains Detroit, a devastating story for DRIC-ites:

  • "DRIC traffic study questioned by industry insiders

    An infrastructure investment analyst is sounding warnings about the border traffic estimates being used to justify the proposed $5.3 billion Detroit River International Crossing, and believes the bridge will need taxpayer subsidies to be built.

    The study, mandated last year by the Michigan Legislature, was conducted for the state by Columbia, S.C.-based engineering and planning firm Wilbur Smith Associates, which has an office in Lansing.

    It estimates that border traffic locally will grow significantly in the next decade, especially commercial trucks. It’s currently at 1987 levels, with increases shown this year, but remains at half of its peak level set in 1999.

    “The infrastructure investment community considers the Wilbur Smith study wildly optimistic. There’s not a lot of confidence in the traffic demand study,” said Brian Chase, an investment analyst on large infrastructure projects for the Washington D.C.-based International Finance Corp., part of the World Bank Group.

    Chase was formerly a financial/legal analyst with Los Angeles-based Nossaman L.L.P. which specializes in toll road issues...

    Toll industry analysts have estimated that a typical 30-year construction financing arrangement, along with yearly operational costs, would mean about $120 million in annual bridge debt — probably not sustainable under the traffic projections in the study...

    The nearby presence of the competing Ambassador Bridge means tolls could be much more expensive than what the border currently has — or DRIC would require a taxpayer subsidy to avoid default...

    Skepticism about the study makes DRIC nearly impossible to finance based solely on tolls, Chase said.

    “I can’t think of a single financial investor that would take the (traffic) demand risk,” he said.

    Even with Canada’s offer to pay up to $550 million of the state’s DRIC costs not covered by federal or private financing (money that Michigan requested), there’s still going to be public cost on this side of the border, Chase said.

    “There will be some sort of U.S. taxpayer subsidy, either at the national, state or local level,” he said. “I think it’s reckless to say the project will not require some sort of U.S. taxpayer subsidy. If the project’s being sold on that basis, it’s problematic...

    Political, civil and business community backers of the joint U.S.-Canadian crossing, which has a $2.1 billion estimated price for its bridge and $5.3 billion cost overall, have said that tolls will repay the construction debt and operational costs. The majority of civil engineering/construction firms and financial agencies that have expressed initial interest in DRIC say they have doubts about tolls and traffic, and prefer guaranteed government payments instead, called availability payments"

SELF-IMPOSED DEADLINE

Pressure is really on to have a vote on the P3 legislation:

  • "Detroit-Canada bridge vote on hold in Michigan

    Supporters and opponents of a proposed bridge to connect Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, are waiting to see if Michigan lawmakers will vote on legislation that would allow the state to get involved with the project...

    The legislation would permit Michigan's transportation department to enter into a relationship with Canada and a private project developer.

    Michigan lawmakers face a June 1 deadline to approve bills allowing Michigan to join the new project, but that deadline is self-imposed and can be changed."

Sure if the Law is changed. Lord save us from that!

USER PAY

All of these people from industry rallying for a DRIC Bridge. Very impressive.

One question though

I wonder how many of them will be willing to pay the actual tolls required to finance the crossing, up to 4 times higher than today's Ambassador Bridge tolls.

Or will we have to listen to not only David Bradley whinge about high tolls so that taxpayers will get stuck paying but the people from Chrysler and Ford as an example as well. They were too spoiled I guess from looooooow Blue Water Bridge tolls which just doubled. After all they have a misdesigned plaza which requires over $500M to finance.

SHAMEFUL DETROIT NEWS EDITORIAL

So full of errors and omissions. I had to write this on their website when I read it:

  • "Your Editorial is shameful.

    -it is a shame that you have chosen not to categorize the $550 million "loan"

    -it is a shame that you have not reviewed the terms of the P3 legislation to show how taxpayers would be screwed and how Canada would be granted governmental powers in Michigan

    -it is a shame that you did not report that most P3 financiers did not believe that the DRIC bridge could pay its own way with toll revenues so taxpayers would be on the hook

    -it is a shame that you did not mention that trucks can only use 2 bridges in Buffalo and that we have 31 Customs truck lanes NOW

    -it is a shame you are still spreading the MDOT debunked myth re Buffalo competition

    -it is a shame that you did NOT disclose that the new bridge in Buffalo is for traffic flow not capacity

    -it is a shame that you did not mention that most traffic projections for this area have been wrong

    -it is a shame you did not mention that the Bridge Co. would use their money for construction not taxpayer money making their proposal truly riskless and a no-brainer.

    What a shame for your readers"

Health Canada Warning: Reading Mini-Gord Can Be Hazardous To Your Brain

Clearly, mini-Gord knows even less about the Bridge project in Buffalo than about the one here. Yet he can pontificate.

One of the big advantages to me in Blogging about P3s for the past few days is that I have been able to ignore what mini-Gord has been saying for awhile.

I listened in on the Ambassador Bridge Company press conference the other day and mini-Gord made a fool of himself there with his question. However, he had to confirm it as a badge of honour by repeating it in his column:
  • "I couldn't help myself when Moroun -- a nice guy, actually -- claimed that the Canadian government is so lax about security concerns that it wasn't even guarding the Ambassador Bridge against international terrorism.

    How does he know this? "You can't see any Mounties," Moroun said, straight face still intact.

    I put up my hand. "Have you ever heard of CSIS? The Canadian Security Intelligence Service? You're not supposed to see them. They don't wear red coats."

    There were some titters in the audience. After some blustering about 24-hour security, they ignored my question and moved on."

Uh mini-Gord, the titters were for you. Moroun ignored you because he did not want to embarrass you. What you were suggesting is NOT part of the role of CSIS. From the CSIS website:

  • "What does CSIS do?

    CSIS collects and analyzes information and security intelligence from across the country and abroad, and reports to and advises the Government of Canada on national security issues and activities that threaten the security of Canada. The Service also provides security assessments to all federal departments and agencies, with the exception of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

    How does CSIS differ from the RCMP?

    While CSIS is strictly concerned with collecting information and security intelligence for the purpose of advising the government, the role of the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies is to investigate criminal activity and to collect evidence that can be used in criminal prosecutions.

    Is the work of CSIS similar to how it is portrayed in Canadian television shows such as The Border?

    It is important to remember that shows such as CBC’s The Border are works of fiction, and employ fictional devices and situations to generate drama. While life at CSIS has its moments, the work of intelligence officers bears little resemblance to how it is portrayed on television. The Border, for example, suggests that CSIS can arrest or detain people. CSIS, in fact, does not have the power to do either."

But it was his Saturday column "Bridge's claims contradict" that infuriated me again. DUH, when you want to interview a person about something it is obvious you know nothing about, then wouldn't it make sense to ask someone who might be considered "impartial" or at least offer 2 sides.

Nope, not our mini-Gord. He has to interview Moroun's opponent in Buffalo/Fort Erie for "objective" information: Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge.

I see that Gord Henderson wrote a column not too sympathetic to people in our area who try to cross the border without following the rules:

  • "Hassles at the border? Here's some advice

    I'm getting a chuckle out of all this whimpering from a segment of the Canadian population who've deluded themselves into thinking they have some God-given right to traipse across the "undefended" border, preferably with U.S. customs officers sprinkling rose petals at their feet...

    But who can blame the Americans? Have we forgotten, just nine years later, that they were on the receiving end of an attack, conducted by a tiny group of individuals on student visas, that claimed more lives than Pearl Harbor?

    The threat still looms. And the near misses, from Times Square to Detroit Metro Airport, keep the tension tightly wound.

    Windsor lost something special -- a unique cross-border relationship -- when the twin towers came down and the wall of suspicion went up.

    But we better put away the hankies and face the new gloves-off reality because it won't be coming back any time soon."

I wonder if Canada Customs are tough in the Peace Bridge area. I wonder if a newspaper would write a weepy story if a Canadian resident got caught trying to bring a car purchased in the US back into Canada and was forced to pay Canadian taxes on it.

So let's see how contradictory the Bridge Company is here and in Niagara:

  • Bridges need replacing in both areas because of age. The real issue is where should they be built

  • Rienas wants a new bridge not for traffic capacity purposes but for traffic flow; so does Moroun

  • Both Rienas and Moroun agree that traffic projections need to be down-graded because of the economic turmoil.

  • Rienas wants to build a project with a new plaza that will destroy a Buffalo neighbourhood as DRIC does with Delray; Moroun's projects will NOT destroy neighbourhoods because it will use his existing plaza footprint in Detroit/Windsor and it is away from populated spots in Fort Erie/Buffalo

  • Rienas wants to build a twinned bridge in Buffalo (OMG...does John Baird or Jeff Watson or MDOT's Bill Shreck know that given their security concerns) while Moroun wants to build it downriver. A contradiction---nope see answer above ie build it in the right spot. Of course, the Ambassador Bridge Co. has 2 solutions to the security concerns that I have Blogged about before.

  • Rienas mocks the price that Moroun says it will cost him to build a bridge; Moroun is using HIS money not taxpayers so I expect he has an idea about costs

  • The urban myth spreads again: Rienas' area already boasts four international crossings with a total of 14 lanes to Windsor's total of six. The reality: Buffalo/Niagara has 14 lanes of traffic except only 2 of the 4 bridges can be used for trucks and the number of Customs lanes for trucks in Windor/Detroit into the US is 13 and into Canada is 12 plus 6 built but not occupied.

  • The Nolan State Dept letter in Buffalo is similar to the one that DRIC received in Detroit where the Bridge Co. does NOT need a Presidential Permit. The Nolan letter was in response to Bridge Co. "DRAFT" Presidential permit application - US State Department allows these application to be submitted as "working documents"

Mini-Gord wants Michigan Republicans to get more information from Buffalo.

I agree. How about this:

  • "For the past 6 years we have lived under government-funded condemnation via eminent domain. Today, the historical integrity of our community is facing extinction, because the PBA proposes to expand its current truck plaza footprint from 14 acres to 45 acres. Over the years, the PBA has annexed historic Olmsted Park land which was immediately adjacent to Fort Porter, famous for its role in the War of 1812 but now also gone—one of the first neighborhood casualties, lost during construction of the bridge more than 80 years ago...

    The tax exempt Public Bridge Authority is poised to seize 100 homes, 200 households, 15 businesses, 7 city streets, and cut down 350 mature trees. Hundreds of responsible citizens will be forced out of a community they love and have helped sustain for generations. The truck plaza and bridge will destroy architecturally important buildings and permanently change view sheds of the residential properties ‘left behind’. The truck plaza will replace 5 city blocks of tax-rolled homes and businesses with a duty free store and 500 space parking garage. Cement and steel will blanket 45 acres of urban landscape, and trucks will replace people. This plan will gut the character, history, stability, property values and vibrancy of a neighborhood and forever change the larger adjacent community."

Sure sounds like what DRIC wants to do in Delray to me.

Who was eager to have the Bridge Company involved in New York State because of their expertise:

  • SCHUMER URGES DETROIT FIRM TO CONTINUE EFFORTS ON PEACE BRIDGE

    US Senator Charles E. Schumer today encouraged the Detroit International Bridge Company not to abandon their proposal to take over the existing Peace Bridge or build a new one. While the Public Consensus Review Panel voted on Tuesday night to give no further consideration to a proposal put forth by the company last week, the company believes it may be possible to garner significant support for the plan because there is frustration on both sides of the river with the current delays.

    "This firm has successfully managed the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, and presented a proposal to Buffalo to build a signature bridge with private money, manage the existing Peace Bridge at maximum capacity, study the environmental impact on the surrounding area, restore Front Park , and create a transportation hub that would attract business and jobs to the region " said Schumer. "It was my strong feeling that the plan deserved careful consideration, and I am surprised by the Review Panel's outright refusal to do so. To turn this proposal down summarily makes no sense..."

    "I understand that many people are worried that considering this proposal will slow the process down," said Schumer. "In fact, it may do just the reverse - the company says that it could handle existing traffic more efficiently, resolve other concerns about the location of the bridge, and build a signature gateway that would boost trade and tourism in the Western New York area. I believe this plan merits our consideration as we work together to build a bridge for the next one hundred years."

Let me be one-sided like mini-Gord and tell you what some residents of the are think are issues about the PBA project and answers for which they are waiting to get:

  • Funding v. need v. economic benefits for Buffalo Niagara Region.

  • Trucking goods v. Moving Freight via multi-modal system.

  • Does trucking goods give Buffalo/Niagara a global market edge? Does it justify spending 1 billion?

  • If the building a bridge beside an exisitng one is a security issue as MDOT and the Government of Canada suggest, then why is a another bridge being considered to be built beside the existing Peace Bridge

  • Disappointment about the role being played by their Congressman

  • Closely examine the operations of these bridge authorities who operate as shadow governments

  • the project is a political one not an economic engine for job creation.

Now I expect the Bridge Company people would rather work with people rather than fight them. They must have an idea that that the Peace Bridge people might be having some problems just like DRIC down here. I understand that they actually talk to the Peace Bridge people if you can believe it.

Perhaps the fact that they talk might allow Canada to change their opinion and approach and work with the Bridge Company here rather than fight them.

Perhaps there is an opportunity to find practical solutions for Buffalo/Niagara and Windsor/Detroit international border problems - including financing any future project and without the need for absurd P3 deals too.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Michigan P3 Bill Draft #142

Honestly, the Americans have no clue what Canada's plans are for the border. After all, we have been working on them for 50 years or a "generation or two" in Transport Canada Minister Baird's terms.

142---I think that is the number of redrafts we have had so far of the P3/pro DRIC Bill in Michigan so far. Just kidding but it seems that many with I suspect another redraft on the way for this week

Why should we Canadians care--simple, it could cost us $550M, and much more down the road if DRIC is built, of our taxpayer dollars so that Transport Minister Baird can be a hero with his boss, Prime Minister Harper, after 16 months of failure to "make it happen."

Don't you know, it is part of Canada's Economic Action Plan. I wonder what chapter of the Plan helping out American states falls under since I did not see a budget for it in what the Government published some months ago.


Doesn't it sound eerily similar to the deal our Mayor was proposing along with the help of Infrastructure Ontario, the P3 arm of the Ontario Government. In that case, we were going to provide US$75M to cash-strapped Detroit for their half of the Tunnel for a generation or two. Our tax money would be used to bail out an American City.

Wow, we have money to burn in this country.

Fortunately, I am not a conspiracy theorist or I could argue that Canada, Ontario and Windsor are all working together to take away control of the border crossings from the Americans. We know that Canada wants to do something with the Blue Water Bridge too as well as control the Niagara region crossings with shared border management one day.

Do the the Tunnel and DRIC/P3 loan deals look as if they were co-ordinated? Do they both stink?

I did not know that we had annexed Michigan and made it part of Canada. For me, if I had my druthers, I would rather take over Florida.

Baird at least admits that it is part of a generation or two of effort by Canada, with the last decade being the really hard work, to try and crush the owner of the Ambassador Bridge.

To be upfront about it, I hope some Legislators in Michigan read my BLOG. If I will help contribute to the death of this Michigan P3 Bill I will be a happy camper.

It has nothing to do with the DRIC file. Rather, it has to do with ripping off taxpayers to pay for Wall Street bankers' fees and obscene P3 profits that would run on a toll-road at about 13-20% rate of return. Just do the math and figure out the excess profit that would be made compared with say a Government bond at around 5%, one of the traditional ways to finance a road.

I believe that the Governor, MDOT and Canada made a huge blunder tying the 2 concepts, P3s and DRIC, together. But then again, Canada required it so as to get around the Michigan Senate objections to the DRIC boondoggle.

I have to congratulate a number of Democrat House Reps in Michigan for obviously saying that they cannot support the P3 Bill. Why else has there been no vote and so many redrafts. Obviously those members and the Republican members of the House can see the major flaw in the bill---NO LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT.

The Michigan legislative system would be bastardized by the passage of this Bill which would have allowed the Administration to enter into any P3 it wanted on any terms it wanted, a process that could tie up future Governments for the next 50 years or more without recourse. Imagine being a taxpayer in Michigan when P3 payments had to be made especially if they were "availability payments."

It is clear that Governor Granholm freaked when she knew she did not have the votes to get her P3 Bill passed even in the Democrat-controlled House. Why else Canada's offer of $550M?

Here is how it was really supposed to play out as far as I am concerned but for the Republicans and the thoughtful Democrats:
  • House Committee passes P3 Bill several weeks ago

  • House passes P3 Bill

  • Bill sent to Senate whose members have difficulty with it

  • Baird offers $550M only at that time not before so that Senators now have a "riskless" P3 Bill and a "no-brainer" project to support

  • Amendment introduced in the Senate to make Canada an "Instrumentiality of the Michigan Government" with the right to be part of any P3 agreement and to oversee concessionaires since after all, they contributed some money [believe it or not that was introduced already into a draft of the House P3 Bill prematurely so it gave Canada's plan all away]

  • Senate approves P3 Bill

  • House approves amended P3 Bill

  • Senators reject DRIC on their June 1 vote since it is a huge $5.3B boondoggle

  • Who cares what the Senate thinks. MDOT has the power with the P3 Bill passed. DRIC now approved since the legislators have no say in P3s

  • Ultimately, Canada gets control of the US side of the border and then goes after Moroun on the Canadian side even harder to get him out.

Simple isn't it. That was the Plan.

But do not worry, dear reader. There is another Plan; there always is. After all, when you have 50 years to think through every possible contingency, this is just a mere bump in the road.

Keep your seatbelts fastened though. I fear we may be in for a very rough ride in the next few weeks.

Where Else Would You Go


Did Baird Impress The Michigan Senate

$550M did not impress too many people I am afraid nor did the Governor's theatrics.

Keith Crain, editor-in-chief of Crain's Detroit Business, just wrote this:

  • "There is a controversy over whether or not to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor and whether Matty Moroun should be allowed to add a second span to his Ambassador Bridge.

    I say: Let the guy spend his own money and expand his bridge.

    With all the troubles facing our state from budget and manpower shortages, we would be wise to just shelve the government plans and let private enterprise continue to invest its money. Traffic is down from a decade ago; we can wait to see if the traffic increases enough to justify investing public money.

I do not think Baird did much considering these votes taken by the Senators:

  • "Sec. 384. On or before March 1, 2011, the department shall report to the state budget director, the house and senate appropriations subcommittees on transportation, and the house and senate fiscal agencies on department activities related to the Detroit River International Crossing. The department shall not make any expenditure, commit to an expenditure, or bind the state to an expenditure, related to the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) unless the legislature has enacted specific enabling legislation to allow for the construction of DRIC."
And the DRIC favourite, Senator Basham, tried to help out the P3 cause in Michigan. Sorry no luck there either:

Let's see how events play out this week in the Michigan House and see how impressed they were with Baird's antics.