Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, July 09, 2010

BLOGExtra: Will Harper Survey Windsor Damage

Can you imagine if 211/311 had moved there, to the building behind which the parking garage collapsed:
  • "Council scrapped a recommended move of the city’s 211/311 call centre to vacant office space on Ouellette Avenue Monday, concerned the process to pick a new location was faulty and incomplete...

    The city administration’s recommendation to council was to enter a five-year agreement with the Mr. Bay Inc. to occupy 1368 Ouellette, paying $80,958 annually, with an option for another five years at $98,295 annually.

    Roger Bramhall of Mr. Bay Inc. was visibly angry after council’s decision to disregard the RFP, but refused to comment when approached."

I never understood why that site was rejected. At the time I wrote:

  • "In any event, the Administration decision was rejected not because of anything wrong with the Mr. Bay site. In fact, I don't even think the site was discussed by the Councillors. Rather, Councillor Jones in particular thought that the RFP was too narrow in scope and should be completely redone."

Let me see now. It was a "storm of the century" we were told and "and the city's heaviest rainfall in almost 30 years:"

  • "Heavy rain flooded hundreds of homes in Windsor, Ont., on the weekend as part of the same storm system that spawned a tornado in nearby Essex County also pummeled the border city.

    At least 1,400 homeowners reported water – and in some cases sewage – in their basements on Sunday."

What does the City do:

  • "Starting well before sunrise Friday, municipal sanitation crews roamed the streets to tackle mountains of storm-related garbage...

    He said residents were appreciative the city was offering the free special pickup that continues through today."

Up to 2,000 homes damaged and the Mayor had this to say:

  • "You can never avoid Mother Nature," Francis said. "When there's a storm that's of such intensity and of such ferocity, you just deal with it and hope that the damage is as minimal as possible."

Then we get a once in a long time parking garage collapse and the Mayor declares a State of Emergency. Even though the "Building and now-collapsed parking lot are privately owned," for the residents in the nearby apartment who were forced out:

  • "Tenants of Church and Hanlin’s apartment building beside the collapsed structure were told to plan on sleeping in a hotel for at least a week.

    “The evacuation is being done out of an abundance of caution,” Francis said...

    The city’s social services department would pay for the hotel rooms, Francis said."

Why it would not suprise me to read next that yes, the Prime Minister is coming here to survey the damage after the Big State of Emergency declared by the Mayor:

  • "Harper surveys flooded Prairies; offers aid package and then travels to Windsor

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper surveyed flood-stricken areas of Saskatchewan from a helicopter Thursday after announcing a relief package for rain-drenched farmers.

    The prime minister made one stop during his aerial tour, landing at a farm to speak with farmers whose fields and crops have been washed out by recent downpours.

    Harper, who did not speak with the media, told the farmers they can count on the federal government to lend a hand during these difficult times...

    Following his visit to Saskatchewan, Harper will head to Alberta to visit family and attend the Calgary Stampede.

    After that, he and his family will head to Harrington Lake, the official country residence of the prime minister near Ottawa.

    However, since the Harpers are travelling WestJet as an economy measure, they will stop off in Windsor, one of WestJet's stops, on the way back. Here, Harper will survey the damage to the parking garage (and Sandra Pupatello's office) and to offer Windsor UP TO $5.50 in a loan that has to be paid back using Tunnel tolls provided that Canada becomes an Instrumentality of Government of Windsor."

Darn, too bad that Red Bull air race is over. Harper could have toured the area by air as well, as Dwight Duncan did recently. Unfortunately the Red Bull pilots have already left town."

Will Edgar Break His Promise

What do you, dear reader, think that Edgar will do? Can you read his mind?

Go to:

Enter your response in the blank, click finished and you are done.

The survey closes at 5 PM next Monday, right before the Council meeting.

More Fascinating Stories

Just a few matters you may find of interest:


Happy days are here again. Just like with traffic numbers showing huge truck traffic increases that the DRIC-ites like to use, can we now say that the Big Three crisis is over using the same logic? Hardly:
  • "Chrysler Canada said its June sales soared 101 per cent"

Its numbers went from 9,211 in June 2009 to 18,502 this year.

Wow spectacular until you remember that in 2009, industry sales were much lower and two of the Big Three were in bankruptcy. Remember as well that Chrysler sales in 2007 and 2008 were 22,029 and 22,048.


  • "Canadian Intelligence Director Repeats Claims of Foreign Influence

    The director of Canada’s intelligence service told a committee in Parliament on Monday that he thinks two provincial cabinet ministers, as well as some municipal politicians and public servants, are under the influence of foreign governments...

    “This is not quite as extraordinary as everyone is making it out to be,” he told the committee, noting that past annual reports by the intelligence service have included general accusations about foreign nations’ influence in Canada...

    “We are dealing here with a spectrum of behavior by foreign entities that often start out innocently, but later veer toward something that actually harms Canadian interests,” he said. ”This is a very subtle process.”


Those Russian foreign agents are small-time players, not in the Big Leagues when it comes to influencing.

Great story in the Wall Street Journal that you must read about how foreign governments try to compromise people: "A Cold-War Spy Story."

  • "Ever since news broke that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had rounded up alleged Russian spies in New York City, the lingering question has been: What were they after with all their B-movie spycraft?

    Paul Browne thinks he has a pretty good idea. Long before he had ascended to his position as a deputy New York City police commissioner, Mr. Browne had firsthand experience being recruited by a Russian agent—a Soviet spy betting a relationship with a small-town newspaper reporter would one day bear fruit.

    The year was 1973, and Mr. Browne, then 24 years old, had taken a leave from his job as a political reporter at the Watertown Daily Times to get a master's in journalism at Columbia University. As part of a class taught at the United Nations, he met and became friendly with Alex Yakovlev, a 32-year-old who broadcast U.N. news to Eastern Europe.

    Mr. Yakovlev started wooing Mr. Browne over drinks and dinner. At one point, he offered Mr. Browne $30 to write a freelance article "on anything you wish..."

    But 35 years later, it seems clearer. Since Columbia and Watertown, Mr. Browne has been chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan and for the Office of Enforcement of the Treasury Department, where he had top-secret clearance and sat in on daily federal law-enforcement briefings. Today, he is one of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly's top policy strategists.

    "At the time it made no sense to me," Mr. Browne said about Mr. Yakovlev's attempted recruitment. "But in retrospect, the Russians were in it for the long haul. Had I been turned, it would have paid dividends for them years later."

$30...Peanuts! Imagine if they had $550M to offer! Why the Russians could take over major assets of a US State for that and become an Instrumentality of the State Government too I bet.


Think the declaration by Edgar (aka Eddie) was correct or an over reeaction? You decide:

  • "Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

    “emergency” means a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.

    Declaration of emergency

    4. (1) The head of council of a municipality may declare that an emergency exists in the municipality or in any part thereof and may take such action and make such orders as he or she considers necessary and are not contrary to law to implement the emergency plan of the municipality and to protect property and the health, safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the emergency area.


    declared emergency

    A signed declaration made in writing by the Head of Council or the Premier of Ontario in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This declaration is usually based on a situation or an impending situation that threatens public safety, public health, the environment, critical infrastructure, property, and/or economic stability and exceeds the scope of routine community emergency response.


    A situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act, whether intentional or otherwise. Term defined in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.


    The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) has recently received several requests for information on how to access the resources of the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) response teams and heavy urban search and rescue (HUSAR) teams operating under memorandums of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Ontario and available to respond to significant emergencies across the province.

    In this context, significant emergency is defined as:

    a large-scale or complex natural or human caused heavy urban search and rescue emergency,

    where the need for resources to respond effectively to the situation exceeds local capabilities, and the municipality has declared an emergency or is in the process of doing so.

Wouldn't you like to see this and know what was in it

  • "Municipal emergency plan

    3. (1) Every municipality shall formulate an emergency plan governing the provision of necessary services during an emergency and the procedures under and the manner in which employees of the municipality and other persons will respond to the emergency and the council of the municipality shall by by-law adopt the emergency plan."

Imagine, how comforting that this would be if anyone was trapped in the rubble:

  • "Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis declared a state of emergency to allow the city to access provincial emergency response teams that will delve into the wreckage to help search for any trapped victims...

    Provincial Emergency Response Teams from Toronto and Bolton, Ont., were dispatched to Windsor with search dogs."

There is a heavy urban search and rescue (HUSAR) team in Toronto that responds anywhere in Ontario but one wonders why they would need to travel here:

  • "Crews sent in a robot and later dogs to determine if anyone was stuck in the rubble or in one of the vehicles smashed under the concrete ceiling. Engineers worked to determine how many nearby buildings might have been affected by the collapse.

    Eventually, it was determined no one was trapped in the rubble.

    “A Windsor police department robot was able to give us some visual of the situation, and the dogs determined that there was no one trapped,” said Francis."


Interesting decision out of the Mayor Hazel McCallion inquiry:

  • "McCallion’s lawyers lose fight to limit inquiry

    The judge overseeing the Mississauga judicial inquiry has rejected attempts by Mayor Hazel McCallion’s lawyers to narrow the council-ordered probe of a controversial land deal involving her son.

    “Members of city council are entrusted by those who elect them to act in the public interest,” said Justice Cunningham in a strongly worded ruling today.

    The decision is the first setback for the veteran mayor at the inquiry.

    Optics are important. In other words, members of a municipal council must conduct themselves in such a way as to avoid any reasonable apprehension that their personal interest could in any way influence their elected responsibility.”

    “Suffice it to say that members of council (and staff) are not to use their office to promote private interests, whether their own or those of relatives or friends,” said Cunningham. “They must be unbiased in the exercise of their duties. That is not only the common law, but the common sense standard by which the conduct of municipal representatives ought to be judged.”

    “For these reasons: I don’t need to more precisely define conflict of interest,” he said.

    McCallion’s lawyers had appeared before Cunningham this week saying she should be judged and examined in the inquiry by a very narrow definition of conflict of interest as set out in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

    They argued the act only requires politicians to declare a financial interest in a matter (as it relates to themselves, a parent, spouse or child) at council meetings and committee votes."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

BLOGexclusive: Is This Edgar's New Job

Announcing on July 20---too early to make sense to me. The question is why.

Could this be the reason why something is being announced now?

There are extremely close connections between senior officials in Edgar's (aka Eddie) office and the Consulate. After all, you remember the Comerica Park evening baseball game sponsored by the office of the Consulate General of Canada.

Moreover, relations are so wonderful with the Conservatives especially with Jeff Watson as well.

And who better to keep promoting DRIC?

So Mr. Noble retires and his leaving accommodates Edgar's timetable. And it gives Edgar his chance to control who his replacement will be and to screw his opponents royally.

Don't you just love it.

The Early Edgar Returns

Thanks to readers who have replied already to the to the Edgar (aka Eddie) running survey. Feel free to send the link to your friends and family so they can vote too.

Go to:

Enter your response in the blank, click finished and you are done.

The big Star story today was a non-event. If you believe this then I have a DRIC bridge to sell you:

  • "On July 20, says Mayor Eddie Francis, both he and the city will know.

    "That week works for me in terms of really buckling down and considering all the things I need to consider," Francis said Wednesday.

    "I'm still going back and forth...

    "I've got to come to a decision ... I'm just not there yet."

Coming from the guy who saved up clippings for years so that he would have the news stories about him at his fingertips to use before he first ran for Mayor, that is completely out of character.

If you think that July 20 is the real deadline date think again. That does not one-up Hurst!

Think about this and July 20. It's a no-lose for him.

If Edgar says NO, then others will announce so he knows who will run against him so he can actively work to destroy them. He can then change his mind subsequently after some huge need for him arises. I can just imagine the Star Editorials and columnists begging him not to leave us. Only HE can save us from disaster.

If he says YES, then he may well prevent a number of people from announcing so that when he drops out in the last minute for "family reasons," or because of an exciting new job to help Windsor his chosen successor has a clear run for the top.

There are still a number of months left in this term of Council. Plenty of time for Edgar to do more horrific deals, say P3ing Enwin and WUC, that will burden us for a generation or two. There is no way that a micromanager would put himself in a position of being a lame-duck Mayor who cannot dominate his Council.

Don't forget that the unexpected economic slowdown has changed things considerably, delayed plans. The real calculation being made is whether everything Edgar wanted to do within 2 terms has been done, can be done or not. That will determine what Edgar's decision will be.

Nope, this is just another E-machine ploy. I bet Mike never thought of it!


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The contest ends shortly, so please visit the link below, click "DEMAND IT!" on the right side of the page and vote for them! Let's make their dream come true!

Make sure to tell everyone to vote please!!

The Survey: Will He Or Won't He

Run for Mayor again, obviously.

Edgar announced that he will finally make up his mind and will graciously tell us on July 20 whether he will keep his word and only be a 2-term Mayor or break it and run again for Mayor for a 3rd term.

Here is exactly what Edgar (aka Eddie) said in his Campaign Kickoff Speech Thursday, July 24, 2003, Riverside Arena, typo and all, in case you forgot:


So what do you, dear reader, think that Edgar will do? Can you read his mind?

Go to:

Enter your response in the blank, click finished and you are done.

The survey closes at 5 PM next Monday, right before the Council meeting.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The ABEs Are Having Fun

The ABEs--- The "Anybody But Edgar" group.

They aren't the movers and shakers that Gord talked about who are looking for a mayoral candidate. Unsuccessfully it seems, according to Gord, so that should discourage anyone from running, right. If the rich and powerful cannot find anyone to oppose Edgar, who can?

Rather the ABEs are a bunch of people who talk informally together. They are of a similar mind about what Windsor has become under this Mayor and Council and who want it changed and are prepared to work quietly to do that.

We'll probably never know who all the members are because it is just set up that way. It is very fluid as people come and go. There is no "leader," no "organization," and no "structure." Just a bunch of people united temporarily with a common goal.

Guerilla politics might be a good description of who they are and what they are trying to achieve and how.

They are having a good time this summer by not doing anything, at least not publicly. They don't have to. They're driving Edgar (aka Eddie) nuts by their seeming inaction. Edgar can't tolerate that because it means he cannot control the universe around him.

Gord at least figured out part of the ABE strategy to neutralize Edgar:
  • "Given the math on council, given the absence of real political clout for mayors in Canada, it wouldn't take much of a numerical switch, orchestrated by special interests, to neuter the next occupant of the corner office."

Sure we know about Brister going but Councillor Postma is another Edgar vote that is gone after the election. Can you imagine, Edgar being a lame-duck Mayor for 4 years ie being in a situation that Mike Hurst was in during his final year when he could NOT get much support for anything he wanted from his Councillor colleagues, losing 7-3 or 6-4 almost every time.

And surprisingly, the prime "special interest group" is not headed by an ABE but headed by someone that I believe that Gord knows very well. No one would believe that this person would do anything to the Mayor, at least not right now. Instead, he/she and his/her colleagues have been working behind the scenes for a very long time. It should be that obvious to political junkies.

How else to explain the campaign over the last six months or more to try to discover who is going to run against the Mayor or alternatively trying to prevent anyone else from doing so. The E-Machine is extremely upset that nothing that they have done has worked.

They forgot that people understand that Edgar has his own agenda and that nothing that anyone else does or says will have an impact on what he has already decided to do a long time ago. There was no way that Edgar was going to say anything last winter or even in June when he has Mike Hurst's river walk to one up.

Don't you like how the Star and the Pizza Queen went after the Mayor demanding that he announce already. After all, a quiet campaign means little advertising and reduced sales of newspapers to the Star and fewer visitors to the website.

In reality though, the Editorial and column were nothing more than ensuring that the Star could point to seemingly anti-Edgar writings in the event anyone ever complained. At the same time, Gord did his "Francis's personal cost-benefit analysis justified" to make everything all right for the Mayor.

I'm not certain that Edgar is going to run again. After all, does he want it known that he breaks his promises? That is not certainly good for one's reputation. Still, what other job pays almost $200,000 a year even though the person in the position has failed miserably at almost every significant task that he has tried.

I must admit that I don't believe much of what Gord said in his column about Edgar's future.

In passing though, it appears that our Mayor is making a mockery of YQG. Again when he travels, he uses Detroit airport rather than ours. It appears that it is a not so quick a getaway after all if he chooses to fly out of the US. If that is the case, then how can anyone make the case that we should spend millions of dollars to upgrade the airport when even the Chair of the Board doesn't use it because it takes too long. What kind of a message is that delivering to potential new investors?

  • "Francis, who has job offers involving considerably more than he earns as mayor."

From whom, a law firm? I doubt it. He has barely practiced law in reality so he would start at best at a very junior level. He is hardly a "rainmaker" and I doubt would bring in an awful lot of business to a law firm.

For large corporation? Which one? And what would he do, what executive position could he fill? His experience at running a business would not impress too many large organizations. Windsor's reputation of being well run is hardly outstanding given our low numbers on almost any significant poll about cities in Canada. Government relations... oh please.

He might make it as a candidate for political party but which one and at what level? Federally, he would have a tough fight against the NDP. Given what was said about him in the Senate, I would doubt that the Conservatives would be too interested in him and even if they were, I doubt that they would offer him a Cabinet position. As far as the Liberals go, my information from a Liberal insider is that he is heard nothing about an approach to the Mayor to run for them.

Provincially? It would be tough to beat either Sandra or Dwight.

In any event, the Opposition would chew him up if he was a Cabinet Minister because they would know that he cannot tolerate criticism or face blame. He would never last after his first crisis.

As Mayor of Windsor, would he be able to succeed afterwards? I doubt it. Depending on who the new Mayor was, he may not even be allowed in City Hall to speak to a clerk, especially a CUPE one.

Perhaps he might go into the land development business. After all, the Star told us that:

  • "Sources said Farhi is working alongside Mayor Eddie Francis in discussions with officials from the University of Windsor and St. Clair College to create a new joint post-secondary complex in the downtown core that could house up to 1,000 students. It was unknown whether that use would utilize existing buildings or new ones would be constructed."

I wonder if that is student housing given the problems with landlords in the West End and which location downtown, perhaps one that the gentleman from London already owns.

Try and guess which University building would be closed down and its occupants moved to the downtown. Obviously, it has to be a building that is in the way of "progress" and rather than tell us exactly what is going on, the students will be moved downtown and it will be described as "revitalization" of our inner core when that is not the truth.

It is even more interesting if what Gord says turns out to be the truth:

  • "The interesting thing about the new list is that the pros are short and sweet. He loves certain aspects of the job, especially the kind of deal-making, networking, investment-snagging CEO stuff that sent him to Bahrain and back in triumph, with booty that could, if everything falls into place, land Windsor the long-sought 50-metre pool that would be for the area swimming community what the WFCU Centre is for the region's hockey fans. The WFCU, by the way, was built with expansion in mind for such a facility."

So now we will have two white elephants in the East end thanks to Edgar: an Arena that barely pays its own way and a swimming pool that requires taxpayers subsidization. Will this location be single-sourced? Oh well, at least Edgar's "shrewd investors" who picked up property near the arena and the pool will be happy.

The big challenge for the ABEs was who was going to run for Mayor. For their strategy, it didn't matter whether Edgar ran or not. As Gord guessed, he would have been neutralized no matter what. However, to be frank, they expected that Councillor Bill Marra was going to run again for the job. It is something that he always wanted, even more than a victory in a Senior Level election.

It was also expected that Marra would win easily. He lost out to Edgar first time but only by a few percent when he had the baggage of Hurst-Lite weighing him down. This time around, Edgar has a record and not a very good one upon which he can be attacked. Marra is smart, attractive and a unifier, something that this City needs badly. He also ran an excellent campaign when he ran against Edgar whose campaign had only one good week of success, the first one.

It was well known that Marra had a four year strategy for becoming mayor but something happened that stopped it in its tracks. Obviously, it was the deal with Edgar and Dwight over the border road that ended any hope that Bill had to become mayor. It was the second time that Bill was screwed by his so-called Liberal friends in a nayoral run.

However, the ABEs remembered Marra's dithering the last time around and were smart enough not to put all their eggs in a Marra mayoral basket. In fact, they counted on him NOT running. Al Maghnieh running in Ward 10 signalled the end of Marra's Mayoral run since Dwight-Lite would have played a prime role in Bill's mayoral election campaign.

Fortunately, there are several people who have said that they are very interested in running for Mayor. Some of them are older and wiser and actually know how to run a business because they have one. They also are united in wanting Edgar out as Mayor. One especially has had a run in with the Mayor and would like nothing better than to be one of the people responsible for removing him from office. And he has the friends and associates to provide the financial backing too. I would expect as well that Gord's movers and shakers would flock to the candidate quickly to lend their support.

It may well be that the ABEs will find themselves with an abundance of riches and will have a number of attractive candidates amongst whom to pick.

The question to be asked is why not start a campaign today. Why wait until it may be too late especially if the candidate is relatively unknown.. The answer is obvious. Why allow the Messenger to hammer a possible Edgar opponent for months and months and months. Why allow the Star to badmouth the person now when there is no reason to do so.

Running a mayoral campaign is not at all like running one for Councillor. The approach is completely different. More importantly, remember that this is a small town of 200,000 people where people know everyone else. Word spreads quickly. I know. I have been there with STOPDRTP. I have seen how quickly our organization was perceived as controlling members of Council. It took us about a month without spending much money. Just remember what happened when it was thought that the new arena would go Tecumseh. Overnight, the story spread like wildfire through the City. Summer Fest stayed in the downtown because of a Facebook campaign.

We just should take Gord's advice from back in August, 2004:

  • "people who are growing impatient for action should kick back and enjoy the final three weeks of summer because the municipal universe is unfolding right on schedule."

David Cassivi gave some good advice then too:

  • "people should keep their shirts on because it will soon become evident significant progress is being made.

    "It's understandable that the public is getting a little antsy. But we must allow the process to unfold. Over the next little while things will be rolled out in a very methodical way and at the appropriate time..."

As Gord concluded

  • "Stick around. The fun begins after Labour Day."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Should The WUC Board Resign

Of course not. Why should they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like the language used?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 05, 2010

Giving Taxpayers The Business

I have to ask this in all seriousness. Is this really how Governments operate?

Don’t they care about taxpayers and the problems that we have in this difficult economy? Is there no accountability for the millions of dollars that they waste it seems day in and day out? Is it ever going to be possible for taxpayers to control what is going on with our elected representatives and the bureaucracy?

I’m sure that you are expecting me to talk about the DRIC file again. But I’m not going to do so this time around. It is in a league of its own.

Instead, I want to talk about the Truck Ferry and the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel and the Tunnel Plaza improvements in particular that are going to be done on our side.

I never understood why the Canadian and Ontario Governments are spending about $9 million to help out a private operator at the border. They are doing no favours for the Ambassador Bridge Company, another private operator, even though $300 million had been set aside to do a road to the border a number of years ago. It just means another lawsuit/NAFTA claim too.

The Truck Ferry project was a comedy of errors and naturally the costs increased dramatically.
  • “Construction is underway on an $8.8-million improvement project for the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry following several months of delay because of a dispute between federal and provincial government officials over costs.

    Provincial government officials leading the project originally estimated the costs at around $6 million, but a tender process was held and awarded to Mill-Am Corporation, a company affiliated with Amico Contracting, which was the lowest bidder at $8.8 million.”

The Truck Ferry’s owner, Gregg Ward, had to be happy that all of this money was being spent on his behalf so that he did not need to spend millions of dollars on his part.

But here is what is very strange to me. If the DRIC bridge was ever to be built, then there would be little need for the Truck Ferry. The new bridge would be able to carry hazardous materials. Who would go out of their way to visit Mr. Ward’s facility if they can cross a bridge so much more quickly.

Here’s something else that is very strange. During the Michigan Senate hearings, we were told that the Bridge Company is also trying to obtain permission to have hazardous materials go over their bridge, other than explosives. In fact, they have been trying for around two years and because of the delay now have their lawyers involved.

It that permission was granted, then again, who would use Mr. Ward’s service other than perhaps for explosives. I am sure that some cynics will have an explanation why it is taking so long for the Bridge Company to get their approvals.

Do you see what I mean? Millions of dollars are being spent on a service that ultimately could go out of business tomorrow. I don’t get it.

What I also don’t get is why we’re spending any money whatsoever on Tunnel Plaza Improvements. I attended their Open House meeting a few weeks ago and was disgusted by what I heard. More taxpayer money being wasted on a project that makes little sense to me.

Think about it, a project that initially was to cost $30 million will now be costing about $44 million. Of course, that number is a phony one because it was not calculated on actual numbers. I am sure that the reality will be very much along the lines of the massive increases that almost every Windsor construction project has encountered such as the festival stage which has about doubled in cost since it started.

But what makes it ludicrous is that the Tunnel volumes have decreased so dramatically since their peak. There was this story in the paper the other day as well that does not bode well for any significant increases:
  • “Local tourism CEO Chris Ryan has been sitting on a nine-person board that has been meeting twice a month in London in a bid to get the regional tourism organization off the ground.

    “There is a lot to do,” he said. “We are putting together a new organization and governance, developing strategic and marketing plans. We are being positive and working at it.”

    Ryan said 68 per cent of Ontario tourism dollars is linked to residents within the province — a number projected to grow to 84 per cent by 2013.

    Meanwhile, U.S. visits will continue to shrink from 20 per cent today to 10 per cent by 2013.”

Moreover, the DRIC people believe that their new bridge will take 25% of the Tunnel traffic.

So please explain to me what was said at the session ie over the next 20 years traffic will increase by about 1% per year at the Tunnel. How can that possibly be?

Even if one assumes that there will be a 1% increase over that period of time, the number of vehicles that will be going through the Tunnel will still be well below their peak.

I remember being given a presentation by one of the Senior Tunnel people several years ago and he had a brilliant plan about how to improve Tunnel operations without the necessity of spending all these millions of dollars on Plaza Improvements. I could never understand why the Head of the Windsor Tunnel Commission, our Mayor, did not listen to him and try to achieve what he wanted to do so much earlier. That would have helped the Tunnel business years ago.

It seems to me that the only people who are going to gain from this project are those whose properties will be expropriated and those nearby whose property values might increase if this area ever gets redeveloped.

I asked a simple question at the session why the “No Build” alternative was not being put forward. My reason for asking the question was because of excessive cost and low volumes.

The answer given was that in the mornings with all the commuters going over there could be lineups and therefore we need to spend money to fix up the Tunnel entrance. All of this disruption in the core and waste of money for this. Absurd.

Spend, spend, spend. Spend money for a business that could be out of business tomorrow. Spend excessive amounts of money for a business whose business is declining.

What kind of business is this? Oh I forgot, this is not business… this is Government.


Do you remember what solved the truck backup problem for Windsor? Not spending $5.3B on a new bridge but rather the Bridge Company spending a few million of its private funds to build 4 new truck booths into the US.

The analogy used is that it is like opening up a couple of cash register lanes in a supermarket to reduce the line-ups.

So why do we need Tunnel Plaza Improvements if this is happening now and there is more to come to get Tunnel users through more quickly:

  • "New Lane Opens at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel
    Two New Inspection Booths For CBP

    Detroit – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Detroit Windsor Tunnel received two new inspection booths with the completion of the first phase of construction at the facility. The expansion increases the number of available lanes from ten to eleven for traffic coming into the U.S.

    On June 19, 2010, the first phase of construction, originally announced in March 2010, at the Customs and Border Protection inspection plaza was completed with the opening of an additional traffic lane and two new inspection booths. Tunnel President and CEO Neal Belitsky announced that crews had finished the $900,000 phase of upgrades at the Detroit side of the tunnel.

    “The tunnel company, working with the General Services Administration, is making improvements to the infrastructure at the tunnel that will help CBP efficiently and effectively accomplish our mission,” stated Port Director Roderick Blanchard. “Working co-operatively with our partners and stakeholders ensures that our travelers receive the best services available...”

    The next phase of construction at the tunnel is scheduled to begin in September 2010 and be completed in June 2011. This phase will renovate the CBP secondary inspection area and offices to improve traffic flow into and through that area of the facility."

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