Friday, March 30, 2007

Toyota and Honda at the University of Windsor

The University of Windsor certainly seems to be hosting all the "must attend" events lately:

Monday, April 2, 2007
Stephen Beatty
Managing Director of Toyota Canada
"Redefining 'Canadian' in Today's Auto Industry."
Odette Building - Room: Basement “06”
5:30 p.m. - 6:50 p.m.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Jim Miller
Vice-President of Marketing for Honda Canada
“What’s Hot with Honda”
Odette Building - Room: Basement “06”
5:30 p.m. - 6:50 p.m.

RSVP: Seating is limited
Barbara Barone
519-971-3678 or

In terms of future high tech R & D investments, Ford, GM and Chrysler are not the only game in town. Windsor has a excellent School of Engineering that we should be doing everything possible to promote. Toyota Hyundai and Honda require research as much as any other manufacturer not to mention Tier 1 giants like Magna. We have the Ford Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing at St. Clair and Chrysler Research at the University of Windsor, why not a Magna University or Hyundai Tech Centre?

Eat hearty, it's only tax money

From today's Star article on Weekly Meetings:

In 2006 there were 44 council meetings, which occurred weekly, with the exception of the summer months, when meetings take place every other week. The bi-weekly approach adopted for the entire year would result in a cost savings of $46,500.

Here's how it would break down:

Closed Captioning, $10,000

Catering, $28,000

Council services staff overtime, $2,000

Information Technology staff overtime, $3,500

Agenda delivery, $3,000
Anyone besides me still amazed at what the single biggest cost is? The savings in catering from changing to bi-weekly meetings is more than every other category listed.

From a comment on Alan Halberstadt's site, I learned that unionized employees are entitled to a $12.00 meal allowance when required to work over. What wrong with Council actually leading by example for a change?

$12.00 x 30 (10 Councillors, 1 Mayor, 19 staff) = $360.00 per Monday night. 44 meetings x $360 = $15,840.00 for the entire year. Hell - increase it to $15.00 and we'd still have a bargain.

In case anyone has forgotten or didn't hear, right about the same time as the story came out about Windsor's catering budget Toronto Council had a similar dilemma. The Mayor and 49 Councillors voted for a $20,000.00 catering budget for City Council in Toronto and the media and people went crazy.

It really makes me wonder what the taxpayer is paying for catering at other public institutions like Hospital Boards, Local Health Networks and EnWin to think of just a few.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What is the Institute for Liberal Studies?

After the recent Windsor Liberty Seminar, I had a chance to sit down with the Institute for Liberal Studies Executive Director Peter Jaworski.

Cross Posted from Blue Blogging Soapbox

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Around the City - Quick links

Talk of the town today

Keep up the good work. (subscribers only)
"It's never an easy exercise," Gignac said. "Probably with this department more than any other, I find myself torn." Gignac said she cannot continue to accept the downloading of social service costs from the province. She voted against funding some programs, like counselling services and job training programs, because she feels they should be the province's responsibility.

What speaks louder - a $250,000.00 dollar spin doctor communications department or reality.

No need to "Wrestle" with tunnel traffic.

Let fly the Red Ensign - it's the right thing to do.

Take a few minutes to let everyone know your thoughts on this weeks poll (righthand sidebar). Look at then register your vote.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

211 a reality

The tax and spend crowd won last night.

Councillors Jones, Postma, Hatfield, Marra and Valentinis voted to take on this new service. Councillors Dilkens, Gignac, Brister and Halberstadt were opposed with Councillor Lewenza and the Mayor not present.

We've just downloaded a new service onto the City with no long term funding available from the Province and an inequitable cost sharing agreement with the County. (The City/County split of the costs does not take into account the large amount of Windsor funds that have gone into the establishment of the current 311 service. )

We've added 3.5 full time equivalent positions to the city with all the associated long term pay, benefits and pension requirements. I'm really looking forward to seeing the cost sharing agreement that will guarantee these costs will continue to be shared between all three funders into the future. (Windsor/County and the United Way).

Things to watch for in the near future:
1. no infrastructure costs to the City as a result of adding 211? (outside of the one-time provincial funding of $200,000)

2. call volume projections - will probably be found to be too low

3. staffing projections - too low requiring the addition of 1 to 2 more staff

4. Database maintenance/upkeep/upgrading - more difficult/time intensive than projected, requiring further staffing/IT resources

5. 24 hr service will require the contracting out of after hours calls to another 211 Call Centre in Ontario. Yet another long term cost that appears rather fuzzy. This cost must be at least on a break-even basis for the other call centre, if not at a profit. Going forward we will be at the mercy of the other centre's funding decisions. Don't like it? Then we will have to in-source that capability. 168 hours in a week, 311 currently operates for 83 hours. We must contract out 85 hours per week.
One other thing, while not directly related, is worth noting. I was quite surprised at some of the cheap political shots that occurred during this debate at council and at several other times during the evening. It has certainly motivated me to move forward with something that I have contemplated for a while - digitally recording Council meetings. Thanks to a snazzy PC TV Capture card, a little bit of software, a few clicks and some hard drive space that task has now been completed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Discover Windsor Part II

Related to this week's poll question and a post from last week - Discover Windsor, regarding our local efforts at a Convention and Visitor's Bureau website.

Here are a few other websites to compare Windsor's with:




Durham Region








United States

New York State

Las Vegas

Shadow Poll #5 - Results

Pretty much a slam dunk for last week's poll. The entrepreneurs win.

Whatever happened to the review of City assets?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Windsor Council Essex County's Gastronomical Winners


  • S: (n) gastronomy (a particular style of cookery (as of a region)) "New England gastronomy"
  • S: (n) gastronomy (the art and practice of choosing and preparing and eating good food)

Take-out bills for most town councils are modest

Amherstburg spent about $5,000 feeding councillors and staff
By Roberta Pennington, Windsor Star
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2007

Windsor councillors weren’t the only ones to have dined at the expense of taxpayers in 2006.

Rural municipalities in Essex County reported spending up to $5,000 in taxpayer dollars to feed councillors and bureaucrats last year, according to a survey conducted by The Star.

Amherstburg spent the most, about $5,000, on take-out food from restaurants such as Naples Pizza and Pasta, Pronto Delicatessen, Papa Paninis Pasta and Sandwich Shop and Sobeys last year, its CAO Frank Pizzuto said.

Spread the news

Help the City of Windsor spread their message of positive news. You can include this widget on your blog or website - FREE!

The code is available here. Just a simple cut and paste to include on most sites.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quick hits

Reality, not spin

The real price of a Capitol bankruptcy

This page will be updated in the near future -

When? 2008?

211Service - can the City afford yet another expansion of services?

Your own comments/links in the comments section if you so desire!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Discover Windsor

Speaking of branding...

Is the budget at the Convention and Visitor's Bureau that small?

Microsoft Frontpage and scrolling iframes?

Nothing a stick of dynamite and some professional TLC couldn't help.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Budget rhethoric

It's budget time - time to roll out the same old rhetoric. If you want to save money, the only way to do it is to cut services.
Windsor City Council will have a tough time deciding whether to settle for a 2.6 percent tax hike this year or try to lower it and abolish programs or positions. City administrators have handed in their tentative budget proposals that would see a 1.6 percent hike in operating costs and a 1 percent capital levy. Mayor Eddie Francis says councillors may object to some of the proposals that are recommended. In past years, administration has recommended closing Atkinson pool and the Lanspeary rink to save money. City council voted to keep those facilities open.


The never ending mantra of City Hall at budget time.

This is what the Modified Zero Based Budgeting was supposed to eliminate - Administration presenting budgets as a fait acommpli. "This is the budget and if you want to save money then you must cut this, close this and reduce that"

The Mayor can spin it any way he wants but this year's budget process is not the Modified Zero Based Budget process that was followed in recent years.

What happened to starting at ZERO on all discretionary items and requiring each department to justify each expenditure? It's now March 14th and to my knowledge, Councillors have not received the budget documents as yet. The public certainly hasn't.

We're back to a closed door process.

What ever happened to the monthly departmental reports that were supposed to be presented to Council? This was to assist Council in tracking individual departments performance vis a vis their budget. The end of the year is not the time to find out about increasing overtime costs, the impact of fuel prices on budgets, absentee rates etc.

There are many tough questions that should be asked each and every year at budget time, especially on the operations side.

The City opened 4 more Service Centres last year. Was staff shifted from the Clerks Office or other City Departments to fill these positions or did we simply hire more staff?

What is the City's absentee rate? What steps are being taken to achieve the lowest rate possible?

What is the City travel budget for conferences and such? While items like this are often defended as being very worthwhile, educational and a relative small amount in the overall budget - look at it another way. Reducing the Council food budget from $35,000.00 to $10,000.00 would produce $25,000.00 in savings. Ten $25,000.00 dollar reductions equals $250,000.00. Ten $250,000.00 dollar reductions equals $2.5 million.

The answer is not "cut this entire program" or "close this facility". This is the standard administration tactic of providing Councillors with politically unpalatable choices in order to reduce spending.

/rant off

Shadow Poll #4 - Results

I must admit, I was surprised at the results of this week's poll. Either I have less small c and more arts readers than I thought or there's simply stronger support for the Capitol than most imagine.

This week's poll will be posted later today.


Too many idle leeches (subscription required)
Gord Henderson, Windsor Star
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It would be less costly and more productive to shovel $300,000 in small bills off the city hall roof than to set up a public relations office that would become one more leech permanently mooching off Windsor taxpayers.

I nearly fell off my chair when I returned to the city on the weekend and caught up with the appalling news that city bosses are proposing to squander up to $260,000 annually, plus startup costs of $47,500, to create a communications office with seven employees.
It should be interesting to follow the Letters to the Editor over the next few days. Budget Season is looking lively this year.

Gord - loved the egg salad dig. Classic.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Mayor and Blogs

Just listened to the story on AM800 regarding the proposed Communications department at City Hall. Certainly sounds like Mayor Francis doesn't care for blogs in general and Councillor Halberstadt's in particular.
2007-03-12 06:26:51

Criticism of a report from city hall administration by some city councillors has left the mayor shaking his head.

The report calls for the creation of a communications department of up to seven people at city hall.

Ward 3 Councillor Alan Halberstadt slammed it on his online blog, calling it an "embarrassing proposal."

But, Mayor Eddie Francis says it was council who directed administration to prepare the report.

The report has been deferred to an ad-hoc council committee for discussion

This would be the same report that the Mayor was defending last week as being a more efficient approach - spending $250,000.00 more.

His comment on " politics being played " was priceless. Apparently Mayor Francis is the only politician in Windsor who doesn't practice politics. His altruistic motives leave me almost speechless.


They must be selling pieces of that bridge again today.

Update: here's the clip from AM800

Layoffs at the Star

The story virtually every media outlet in the City is covering - except the Windsor Star.
Windsor Star Layoffs
30 part-time employees at the Windsor Star will be laid-off in May. The company says the reader sales and service jobs will be outsourced to a call centre in Winnipeg for efficiency reasons. Union Chair Jim Angus says C-A-W Local 240 will fight hard to save the jobs and continues to talk with the company. The layoffs take effect May 18th.
Although this is tough in a city that is facing an uncertain future, it's what rational corporations due when faced with tough times.

Hopefully the City Council can be inspired by CanWest for this year's round of budget deliberations. Now is not the time to be expanding services and staff.

We still have nine departments that haven't had the benefit of our new (old) modified modified zero based budget process.

Time for a good line by line examination of those departments, as well as all the others.

Find the (in)efficiencies.

What do Windsor Council meals look like?

I wonder if the Windsor Council is as camera shy as their counterparts in Toronto?

Toronto, with a Council 4 times the size as ours, has a budget of $20,000.00 for Council meals as opposed to our Council's $35,000.00 spent last year on the same.

An interesting discussion has developed on Alan Halberstadt's blog regarding this issue. Make sure you stop in and let your views be heard.

Dinner's on us

It seems some councillors were a bit sensitive last week about chowing down on their first free meal -- taxpayer-paid -- as part of their new, shorter dinner break.

A Toronto Sun photographer was barred from shooting the politicians at dinner, despite an invitation from councillor Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North), who vows to put no free food to his lips.

Meanwhile, a Globe reporter -- interviewing willing councillors on another matter -- was first told to leave the council chamber and then ejected from the lounge where members enjoyed their buffet.

Council speaker Sandra Bussin (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) loudly summoned the sergeant-at-arms, after just seconds of discussion.

Perhaps the lefties running city hall are now taking media-relations tips from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has clashed with the Parliamentary Press Gallery since his election?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Smart business

How can someone resist a good beverage and a FREE movie or two?
The present future at Milk Coffee Bar

On Monday and Tuesday nights, the venue’s proprietor, Angelo Marignani, rolls out the projector, drops a large screen over the front window and plays old and new classics like “Blade Runner,” “Bram Stoker's Dracula” (can you believe it’s been FIFTEEN years since that film came out??) and “Aeon Flux,” to name just a few titles. Best of all, tickets are free. And, on any given movie night, at least two films — but usually three — are screened back-to-back beginning at about 6:45 p.m.
Monday and Tuesday have to be tough nights downtown. I think this is a great idea to drum up some business.

Friday, March 09, 2007

End of an era

A friend of mine emailed me a story link yesterday that made me feel both nostalgic and very sad. A Halifax icon, the North End Pub, otherwise known as "Joe Comeau's" was destroyed yesterday in a fire. Thankfully, no one was injured.
Fire guts popular pub
North End Diner and Beverage Room goes up in flames

The Daily News

HALIFAX - It looked like the aftermath of a war zone.

Debris fell, a pile of timbers and a crooked power pole burned in the street, and a loud bang startled a crowd of hundreds of onlookers. Firefighters battled not only an out-of-control blaze, but also a -25 C wind chill. It froze their equipment. It even froze the water they pumped, creating an ice hazard.

The North End Diner and Beverage Room went out in a flourish of flames yesterday, creating a spectacle that kept people watching for almost two hours in sub-freezing weather.

I looked around the net for a history of the pub, but couldn't find anything. I know it goes back to before World War II.

The pub was located on Gottingen Street, across the street from Stadacona.

I've a lot of good memories of that place, a few not fit for publishing here!

Great times spent at Joe's as a young Signalman on my TQ5 course. Nothing like a few pitchers of draft and a bunch of glasses to practice your Fleet Maneuvering! Formation Foxtrot's were especially dangerous to accomplish - too much spillage.

No more sliders at Joe's.

Update: just another quick memory. General John Cabot Trail of the Cape Breton Liberation Army and his regular bits from Joe's - Priceless!

Cross Posted from The Torch

Start adding it up

Clock ticking on 211 service (subscription only)

Should the partnership be approved by Windsor council, the city will be required to pay $112,639 of the 211 system's annual operating cost.

The County of Essex, which already approved the plan, would also pay $112,639 for the service, and the United Way would pay $96,548.

According to the story, the Province is supposed to kick in $200,000 for this venture. The problem is, how long will that Provincial funding last? When it disappears, will we reduce the service accordingly or simply increase the amount required by Windsor and Tecumseh?

Hasn't the Province downloaded enough services to the City already without appropriate funding? Now we're actually looking for additional services to download ourselves, with no long term stable funding in place.

Not now, not in Windsor.

If the Province wants cities to provide a 211 service then they should fund the entire service. Period, full stop.

It doesn't sound like much, but these new expenditures are beginning to add up now and will continue to add up in the future. Don't forget, the salaries attached to these positions will all become part of the " non-discretionary increases " that the budget is subjected to each year due to increased wages and benefits negotiated.

$112,639.00 - 211 Service
$259,427.00 - PR Office
$47,500.00 - PR Office startup
$250,000.oo - Environmental Coordinator and staff
$35,000.00 - City Hall meeting catering
??????? - Sewer Surcharge increase
??????? - Water Rate increase

Total so far - $704,566.00 and we haven't even seen the budget yet.

What else is lurking in the unseen budget documents?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ultimate Spin

City needs $260,000 PR office, study says
As it stands, every city department, including the library, parks department and police service, does its own communications with the public and media, said Mayor Eddie Francis. The proposal is simply to consolidate communications, he said.

“You could deliver it more effectively and cheaply if it’s consolidated,” he said.

If this was so efficient and cost effective, why doesn't the report detail the number of positions that will be reduced across the city administration and the total amount of money saved?

I guess they really do need some Professional PR help at City Hall if this is the type of “bureaucratic bafflegab,” they actually expect people to believe.

H/T to Alan Halberstadt for helping bring this issue to the fore:
1. High Cost of Propaganda

2. Propaganda Spending Deferred

This had nothing to do with being "efficient and cost effective". I blogged about this just recently in Budget Blues. The Mayor talked about it in his Inaugural Address:
" commit the significant funds required, to the development and implementation of a comprehensive marketing strategy that will showcase Windsor to investors and decision-makers around the globe."

" It will be expensive, but by marketing ourselves properly, we can – and we will – achieve results."
Whatever happened to that " fireside chat of the twenty-first century " email newsletter that Mayor Francis promised us? " ... it will provide you with a direct update from me, on the progress we are making and the key issues facing our city."

Now THAT would be efficient and cost-effective! Walk before you run.

(Pssst - blogs are free too!)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Back to the Future

Anyone know what the definition of "near" is in Windsor?

Food for thought

I guess when they were talking about cutting last year's budget to the bone we didn't realize Councillors were talking ham bones, T Bones or TBQ bones! H/T Roberta Pennington

Windsor Star blogger Don McArthur takes a bite out of the Capitol Theatre.

A thoughtful resident offers some suggested dieting tips for the Mayor and Council.

At least now I understand the need for the Corporate communications department. Who better to help Windsorites digest our next tax increase?

Since Council will be off next week due to the March Break, I'll offer my services to collect menu suggestions and recipe ideas for the March 19th meeting. Email your tasty tidbits to or just let 'em simmer in the comments.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Capitol Opinion

I missed Craig Pearson's blog about the Capitol the other day. (I really wish the Star would add RSS to it's blogs!)
The Capitol conclusion

Protecting taxpayer dollars is an important role of elected officials. So is creating vibrant municipalities, which include cultural institutions.

That said, with a city this size, the Capitol simply does not attract enough business to survive on its own. Acting general manager Tom Lynd recently suggested the Capitol would need about $300,000 a year to thrive, roughly equal to the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, about 60 per cent of the Art Gallery of Windsor, and about 30 per cent of the what the Cleary International Centre received for years.

If councilors feel supporting the Capitol is too expensive, so be it.

They should hold an open discussion, however, and let everyone see who votes to save the Capitol and who votes to let it die, and then leave it to voters to decide whether they like the kind of community councilors are creating.

But making unrealistic demands for relatively small loans — when the Capitol clearly needs operating funds — and then saying, ‘Hey, we tried to help,’ seems unwise.

It likely won’t create a satisfying conclusion.
Craig's blog is a thoughtful and balanced piece. You should read the whole thing.

Shadow Poll #3 - Results

Well, at least I know that the majority of people who stop in my blog are of the fiscally conservative crowd.

Latest Shadow Poll is posted at the right.

Have your say! It's fun and FREE!

On "sharing"...

For anyone who watched Council last night, I' m sure they enjoyed Mayor Francis "sharing" his thoughts with Council as much as I did following the Riverside Vista vote.

He's just trying to keep politics out of the Council Chambers, don't you know!

Monday, March 05, 2007

645.17 Extra Large Tims Coffees

That's the price of a meal with "average, Tim Horton's guy Dalton McGuinty" at one of his intimate fundraising dinners. If you want to look at it another way, it's only 1.75 years. Considering I won't go 1.75 days without Tims, I wonder what Dalton charges for just dessert?

Dalton breezed through Windsor last fall, but stopped long enough for dinner. After wading through pages and pages of donation details, here's my best guess for his Windsor dinner dates.

Deposit Date
Reporting Date
Contribution Amount
Aggregate Amount
Rosati Contruction Inc
Toldo, Tony
Canadian Transit Company Ltd.
Raymax Construction Ltd.
Valiant Machine & Tool Inc.

Source: Liberal Party Donations listed on Elections Ontario website. (11520 total donations for 2006)

There may be others that I missed considering the total number of donations that I reviewed to compile this list.

Cross posted from BBS

Friday, March 02, 2007

Quick Links around the City

The Mayor of Monmouth with a piece on graffiti.

Ambassador Bridge hosting another Community Forum.

Alan Halberstadt's latest "Council Chat" video is posted.

International Metropolis tracks the demolition of the old CAA building in photos.

Windsor City Blog with a blog on Heritage Buildings.

Thanks to the discovery of CanWest's new My Feeds Beta, WE Speak now aggregates the Windsor Star's daily Editorials and Opinion pieces.

Looking to promote your Community/Charitable/Non-Profit event? Submit your info here. Submissions generally posted within 24hrs. Note: link updated to new Event Calendar.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Evaluating Non-Profits

The Mayor had some good advice for local non-profits at last Monday's council meeting. Now is the time for a good honest look at the 400 some organizations in the city and what efficiencies can be generated.

Chris at Schnurr's Sound Off has blogged about this several times. I'd like to draw people's attention to one resource that Chris has identified - the Donner Canadian Foundation Awards.

Councillor Gignac's motion directing administration to carry out a study to put a dollar value on the services provided by local organizations fits perfectly with the Donner Non-Profit Performance Evaluation. By participating in the contest, organizations are provided with a free performance evaluation, assessing an organizations performance relative to their peers.

The Donner Awards application covers ten different performance areas:

1. Financial Management. Considers year-over-year financial management, cost containment, program spending and financial reporting.

2. Income Independence. Considers the level of diversification in an organization’s revenues.

3. Strategic Management. Considers the process through which resources are directed towards a common goal or objective.

4. Board Governance. Considers the independence, accountability, and effectiveness of board governance.

5. Volunteers. Considers the number of volunteers, their recruitment, management and development.

6. Staff. Considers the level of programming provided by staff, their recruitment, management and development.

7. Innovation. Considers the uniqueness of programs, how organizations innovate in response to change, and the use of new technology in program delivery.

8. Program Cost. Considers the per-hour cost of providing a program or service.

9. Outcome Monitoring. Considers the extent to which organizations assess their own performance in terms of achieving specific goals in their programs.

10.Accessibility. Considers the extent to which organizations assess need in making scarce resource allocation decisions.

You can view a sample Performance Report here. (.pdf )

If Windsor truly wants to begin leading the country, this is an excellent place to start.

If every non-profit in the city completed this assessment, not only would they qualify for the various Donner awards but we would then have a common base to begin a serious evaluation of our local efforts.

You want positive press for Windsor?

What kind of story do you think could be generated by every non-profit in the city participating in an effort to improve themselves and the services they provide?

Last year's Donner Awards attracted 600 applications from across the country. Windsor could almost double this amount in one year and vault itself into national prominence as a forward thinking city.

Participation in a program such as this would most likely have identified problems at local organizations like the Science Centre and Capitol Theatre long before they reached crisis status.

Strengths and weaknesses across various sectors can be identified. While funds may be the immediate problem for many, it is not necessarily the root cause of some organization's problems. Non-profits strong in governance may be able to offer assistance and mentoring to others that are struggling in this regard. Innovation leaders may be able to inspire others with their unique approach.

The Donner Foundation Award program is based on sound management principles and Windsor could only benefit by it's participation. Now, more than ever, Windsor needs to be agressive and proactive instead of reactive. We can't simply rely on other levels of government. Charity, as they say, begins at home.

Donner Award application Deadline: May 1st, 2007