Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sending the wrong message

(click on image for full size)



Councillor Postma's motion on "Blockbusting" passed with one minor amendment (adding persons or people I think it was, after corporations) and little or no debate or discussion.

Thankfully the motion has no legal effect, being nothing more than a plea to the Province to enact a law that would do little more than stifle development through yet more layers of red tape and bureaucracy.

While I'm sure the average resident isn't paying much attention to this issue, the average developer certainly is. The message they're hearing from Windsor certainly isn't encouraging.

The "squalor through neglect" described in Councillor Postma's motion is a direct result of Council's interim demolition by-law covering the West End.




Far from being a battle between just the City and Bridge company, this by-law is affecting other developers.

Councillor Alan Halberstadt blogged about one such developer - Innocent Bystander.

Matt Buschante has dropped by Alan's blog to provide an update:

Since my orginal presentation to council I have experienced major vandalism which I made very clear to council I was in fear of. I will be forwarding pictures along with police report in hopes of council to reconsider and create a motion to bring back to council. We are not bridge corp., we are a corporation with a diversified student development sector that is committed to supply students with much needed development. At the same time, I would like to think that we are cleaning up the area and maintaining or increasing not only surrounding home value but a sense of security that the area needs desperately. We have 2-3yr plan that would address major "hazardous properties", you would think council would be thanking us for taking the risk and money to do something that they won't. Allowing this to happen, with all hidden politics aside, would be common sense and is seen that way to vast majority of surrounding residents and students. Whats the problem?
To this day, only response that I have been getting is from Mr. Halberstadt whom shows genuine concern and direction on the matter. Councilor Dilkens did support at council as well, 2/9 is a start!
Pictures and further thoughts to follow!
Mr. Buschante's development would rid Windsor of a dilapidated house, increase density and create further student housing. The location is near a bus route, within walking and biking distance from the University. The developer has even indicated a willingness to work with the City in designing buildings that reflect Old Sandwich architecture.

For a city that says they want to encourage urban redevelopment, they're certainly going about things in a funny way.

Communication



It's interesting to hear Councillor Lewenza discuss the "misrepresentation" that has been going on surrounding the Windsor Utilities Commission rate hike. The sad fact is, it was Councillor Lewenza, the Mayor and various WUC officials who were the source of the misrepresentation.

Between the quotes in the Windsor Star the day before the WUC Open House, the press conference, the Open House and the follow-up story in the Star, you need a roadmap to follow along. I won't even get into how this rate increase was placed on the agenda and passed at Council. Blaming it on the media or others misrepresenting what was being put out there is ridiculous. I don't see a press release outlining their message on either the City of Windsor site or the Windsor Utilities site. The May 10th press release on the WUC cites 600 million over 30 years while the latest figures put out this month are now citing 750 million over 30 years. That's a hell of a lot of inflation in two months. There was mention of a 50% increase during budget ratification, which has become 36%. There have been several mentions of a further rate hike before next year, but when and how much is another topic you don't hear too many politicians being clear about.

Councillor Lewenza congratulated the Mayor on what a good presentation he did last night. He's right, it was a good presentation, it's just a shame it wasn't done six months or a year ago. Even three or four months ago might have been a better time for this information to come forward, you know, right about the time all the budget deliberations were going on.

If you'd like to see a good example of open and public disclosure, debate and consultation, take a look at Guelph's 2007 User Pay budget. This budget encompasses their Parking, Water and Wastewater services. Public notice and meetings were held PRIOR to the budget (and it's rate increases) being approved in December of 2006.

As far as Windsor being the first municipality to deal with their water infrastructure replacement, go have a look at Guelph's 2004 User Pay Budget. For those that don't want to wade through the whole thing, let me give you one quick highlight:




Maybe this issue is nothing more than a justification exercise on why we need a $250,000 dollar communications department. If this whole evolution is any indication, that much money won't even begin to address what's wrong with "communications" in this city.

BTW, nice to see Gord and the Windsor Star are onboard with messaging.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Quick Hits - Monday July 30th

Adding insult to injury - the Windsor Star publishes a big article on saving water, while admitting it will do little or nothing to your bill. Looks like the Star is already adopting the City Hall line - shut up and pay your bill.

After 2 years and lord knows how much in legal bills
, now the City is ready to talk to owners. That "talking" thing - maybe it's an idea who's time has come on a number of pressing City files.

Speaking of legal bills, next up- Boardwalk Reit Properties Holdings Ltd vs City of Windsor?

What's up doc?



Is Windsor City Council feeling the heat yet? I doubt it.

There's only one way to make your voice heard - contact your own Ward Councillor or the Mayor's Office.

Mayor's Office

City Councillors






Try out the Windsor Water Bill Calculator

Picture included to save the Mayor and Council the trouble of removing their shoes and socks.

Ontario Auditor General to investigate Windsor Utilities

Hopefully that will be a headline we read very shortly in the Windsor Star. Without an investigation by an independent authority into exactly what has been going on at WUC for the last three years, this current council has lost virtually any credibility it has.

Six out of ten Councillors are on one or more of the various boards and commissions that makeup the Enwin/WUC organization. They are there as the taxpayers representatives. At present it's not evident that we are getting very much in the way of representation. Lots of buck passing, spinning, justifications and misdirection, but little or no information.

There remain far too many unanswered questions:
Why is the information only becoming public AFTER the rate increases were passed at Council?

Why was it put on the supplementary agenda and then passed as a consent item?

In the years where we weren't spending enough on watermain replacement, as claimed, how much money was being transferred to the City for operating or other capital uses?

A $3.2 million dollar billing error was discovered in 2005 but not reported and explained to the public until last week - Why?

Were any attempts made to collect this lost revenue or was it simply written off?

Why was this information not released prior to the last Municipal Election?

How many Councillors would have been re-elected had this information been released prior to the election?

Is this the reason for several resignations and departures from Enwin/WUC over the last year?

Was the water usage rate kept at it's currently ridiculously low level in order to sign deals with Tecumseh and LaSalle?

What are the implications for Tecumseh and LaSalle if we double or triple our water usage rates? Are they locked in at the current price?

Are Windsor water users subsidizing Tecumseh and LaSalle residents with higher Fixed Meter Charges?
Those are a few questions that come to mind. I'm sure there are many more. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments.

The last question to ask is whether or not we have one or more Councillors willing to step forward and begin demanding an audit or public inquiry?

Is it "all for one and one for all" on this Council or do we have a leader amongst them?

We'll all know shortly.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Calculate your water bill

For anyone who's interested, I whipped up a little form so that you can see what your new water bill will look like after August. Feel free to email the link to your friends, family and co-workers.



Make sure you try the form out with the "Water Usage" set at zero as well as your normal usage figure. It's an eye opener.

When I get a chance on Monday, I'll find out exactly what the Fixed Charges are for the various large users and add them into the spreadsheet as another variable.

Edit: if anyone notices any errors in the form's calculations, please email me or drop a note in the comments.

If you're interested in voicing your opinion, here are the appropriate Councillors:

Windsor Canada Utilities

1. Eddie Francis, Mayor, City of Windsor
2. Dave Brister, City Councillor, Ward 1
3. Jo-Anne Gignac, City Councillor, Ward 5
4. Ron Jones, City Councillor, Ward 2

EnWin Utilities Board

1. Eddie Francis, Mayor, City of Windsor
2. Fulvio Valentinis, City Councillor, Ward 3

Windsor Utilities Commissioners

1. Eddie Francis, Mayor, City of Windsor
2. Ron Jones, City Councillor, Ward 2
3. Ken Lewenza Jr., City Councillor, Ward 4
4. Bill Marra, City Councillor, Ward 4

Citizens for the Capitol Theatre - Online Petition

CCT Online Petition

The Citizens for the Capitol Theatre (CCT) has started a petition. Windsor and Essex County residents (both current and former) are invited to sign this petition to support our efforts to see the Capitol Theatre re-opened with community input. Criteria of signing are:

  • I SUPPORT the mission and objectives of the Citizens for the Capitol Theatre,
  • I SUPPORT the re-opening and operation of the Capitol Theatre as a community organization, and
  • I SUPPORT arts and culture in Windsor and Essex County!
You can sign the petition here. You must have a valid email address in order to verify your e-signature.

Oakville City Hall - embracing the internet

Congratulations to the Town of Oakville, Ontario. They're the first municipal site that I've come across with RSS feeds - autodiscover even!

News Releases

Public Notices

They also feature TownTV - live streaming and archive of Oakville Council meetings and special events.


Cross-posted from MUNIBlogs.ca

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Moving towards user pay

Some people seem to have gotten the wrong impression of my previous post comparing water rates across municipalities. You can read the comments and I've received numerous emails to go with, both for and against.

I acknowledge that there is some degree of comparing apples and oranges, but quite frankly I'm not ready to accept the various WUC officials and politicians when they say the reason for the dramatic rate increase is that Windsor is the first to face their Municipal Water/Sewer infrastructure deficit.

Read today's Windsor Star article - they can't even get their stories straight two days in a row. Now we're being told that there was no diversion, we were just underspending to the tune of $10 million per year. How many "dividends" did we receive from Enwin/WUC in those years of underspending? Have we really been running a "Pay as you Go" budget or a slightly modified version, buttressed by transfers and reserve shuffling.

Today's Star article reveals that 1000 homes were not being billed for 5 years for their water service. This was discovered in 2005. Why are we only finding out about this loss of $3.5 million in July of 2007?

There is no doubt a lot of hard work has gone into fixing what ails at the utilities. Enwin/WUC paid out over $150,000 to Councillors for their attendance at meetings. The problem, as with many other issues in Windsor, is that all this has been happening behind closed doors for the last two years. Now that there is no other choice but to drastically hike rates, we're simply expected to accept the explanation given and pay.

Sorry, but that's not good enough, especially when over a three day period those responsible for delivering the news can't even deliver consistent and clear information.

User Pay

The single biggest issue with our water system as it currently stands is that revenue is mainly based on fixed charges. There is absolutely no incentive to conserve.

This is an example of the rates as they will be on August 1st, and what I could save if I reduced 3 cm per month:

Windsor 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
1. Meter Fixed Charge $16.84 $16.84 $0.00
2. Water Usage @ $0.266/cm $5.59 $4.79 $0.80
Water Main Replacement Levy (45% of 1 and 2) $10.09 $9.73 $0.36




Lou Romano Plant Upgrade and Expansion Levy (10 % of 1 and 2) $2.24 $2.16 $0.08
Sewer Surcharge (150% of 1 and 2) $33.64 $32.44 $1.20
Total Per Month $68.40 $65.97 $2.43
Total Per Year $820.79 $791.58 $29.21

Reducing my water usage by 3 cm (14.3%) produces a savings of $2.43 (3.6%).

Next, lets look what happens if we leave the Fixed Charge where it is now - at $9.56 per month and raise the Water Usage rate to $0.613 from $0.266.

Windsor 2007 User Pay 1
21cm 18cm Savings
1. Meter Fixed Charge $9.56 $9.56 $0.00
2. Water Usage @ $0.613/cm $12.87 $11.03 $1.84
Water Main Replacement Levy (45% of 1 and 2) $10.09 $9.27 $0.83




Lou Romano Plant Upgrade and Expansion Levy (10 % of 1 and 2) $2.24 $2.06 $0.18
Sewer Surcharge (150% of 1 and 2) $33.65 $30.89 $2.76
Total Per Month $68.42 $62.81 $5.61
Total Per Year $821.05 $753.74 $67.31

The bill is virtually the same, I've simply shifted the money from the Fixed Charge to Water Use. Now that same 14.3% decrease in usage saves me 8.2% or $5.61 per month. Things are getting better.

Next let's take a look at what happens when you make the Sewer Surcharge user pay:

Windsor 2007 User Pay 2
21cm 18cm Savings
1. Meter Fixed Charge $9.56 $9.56 $0.00
2. Water Usage @ $0.613/cm $12.87 $11.03 $1.84
Water Main Replacement Levy (45% of 1 and 2) $10.09 $9.27 $0.83




Lou Romano Plant Upgrade and Expansion Levy (10 % of 1 and 2) $2.24 $2.06 $0.18
Sewer Usage @ $1.602 $33.64 $28.84 $4.81
Total Per Month $68.41 $60.76 $7.66
Total Per Year $820.96 $729.08 $91.88

The same 14.2% reduction is now worth 11.2% a month. We're making progress.

Let's get rid of the Fixed Meter Charge:

Windsor 2007 User Pay 3
21cm 18cm Savings
1. Water Usage @ $1.068/cm $22.43 $19.22 $3.20
Water Main Replacement Levy (45% of 1) $10.09 $8.65 $1.44




Lou Romano Plant Upgrade and Expansion Levy (10 % of 1) $2.24 $1.92 $0.32
Sewer Surcharge @ $1.602 $33.64 $28.84 $4.81
Total Per Month $68.41 $58.63 $9.77
Total Per Year $820.86 $703.60 $117.27

Wow! A 14.3 % reduction in water usage now gives me a 14.3% reduction in my bill. The special levies now work properly. They are also based on your usage. Once the reason for the levy no longer exists, your bill can be further reduced.

(Note: the various rates I used are not exact to the last penny, I did this really quick in a spreadsheet simply to demonstrate the value of user pay).

Under the current system my bill at 18 cm is $65.97. Under a User Pay system it would be $58.63.

Why should people be forced to subsidize someone elses higher use? Use more pay more, use less, pay less.

Now people will be motivated to disconnect that downspout from the storm drain and collect water for their garden and flowers. Low flow faucets and toilets will become very popular. Do you really need to do that 1/4 load of laundry or can you wait until you have a full load? Better yet - what will happen to sales of front end loader washers, which use far less water than top loaders. Same goes for dishwashers.

Suffice it to say, there are numerous ways to reduce our water usage and save money. We simply have no incentive to do it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Water Rate Comparisons

Here's what I've compiled so far. I've based it on my last water bill of 21cm and a desire to reduce my usage to 18cm. What would I save based on 2006 rates versus 2007?

I'll continue to update this post as I find more rates for different municipalities. I'll also post the spreadsheet at Google Spreadsheets so that others can add to it or use it to calculate their own bills.

One thing that jumps out at you, no matter who you compare Windsor with, is the ridiculously low water usage rates we have compared to every other municipality.

Edit: Updated to include Halton, Sudbury and Hamilton.

Windsor 2006 21cm 18cm Savings
1. Meter Fixed Charge $9.56 $9.56 $0.00
2. Water Usage @ $0.266/cm $5.59 $4.79 $0.80
2. Water Main Replacement Levy (13% of 1 and 2) $1.97 $1.87 $0.10




Lou Romano Plant Upgrade and Expansion Levy (10 % of 1 and 2) $1.51 $1.43 $0.08
Sewer Surcharge (180% of 1 and 2) $27.26 $25.83 $1.44
Total Per Month $45.89 $43.47 $2.42
Total Per Year $550.71 $521.69 $29.02








Windsor 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
1. Meter Fixed Charge $16.84 $16.84 $0.00
2. Water Usage @ $0.266/cm $5.59 $4.79 $0.80
2. Water Main Replacement Levy (45% of 1 and 2) $10.09 $9.73 $0.36




Lou Romano Plant Upgrade and Expansion Levy (10 % of 1 and 2) $2.24 $2.16 $0.08
Sewer Surcharge (150% of 1 and 2) $33.64 $32.44 $1.20
Total Per Month $68.40 $65.97 $2.43
Total Per Year $820.79 $791.58 $29.21








Guelph 2006 21cm 18cm Savings
Basic Service Charge (based on $0.13 per day for water and $0.21 per day for sewer) $10.54 $10.54 $0.00
Water Usage @ $0.69/cm $14.49 $12.42 $2.07
Waste Water Treatment Charge @$0.84/cm $17.64 $15.12 $2.52
Total Per Month $42.67 $38.08 $4.59
Total Per Year $512.04 $456.96 $55.08




Guelph 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
Basic Service Charge (based on $0.13 per day for water and $0.21 per day for sewer) $10.54 $10.54 $0.00
Water Usage @ $0.76/cm $15.96 $13.68 $2.28
Waste Water Treatment Charge @$0.84/cm $17.64 $15.12 $2.52
Total Per Month $44.14 $39.34 $4.80
Total Per Year $529.68 $472.08 $57.60




London 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
Minimum Monthly Water Charge $5.00 $5.00 $0.00
First 16.990 cm @ $1.18703/cm $20.17 $20.17 $0.00
Next 39.644 cm @ $1.24775/cm $5.00 $1.26 $3.74
any additional @ $1.30756 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Water Meter Charge $0.47 $0.47 $0.00
Storm Drain Charge $9.00 $9.00 $0.00
Sewer Charge @ 1.19448/cm $25.08 $21.50 $3.58
Total Per Month $64.73 $57.40 $7.33
Total Per Year $776.70 $688.78 $87.92








Kitchener 2006 21cm 18cm Savings
Water Usage @ $1.11/cm $23.31 $19.98 $3.33
Waste Water Treatment Charge @$1.09/cm $22.89 $19.62 $3.27
Total Per Month $46.20 $39.60 $6.60
Total Per Year $554.40 $475.20 $79.20








Kitchener 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
Water Usage @ $1.1827/cm $24.84 $21.29 $3.55
Waste Water Treatment Charge @$1.1920/cm $25.03 $21.46 $3.58
Total Per Month $49.87 $42.74 $7.12
Total Per Year $598.42 $512.94 $85.49








Durham Region 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
Water Service Charge $9.42 $9.42 $0.00
Water Usage @ $0.56/cm (up to 45cm) $11.76 $10.08 $1.68
Sewer Service Charge $3.65 $3.65 $0.00
Waste Water Treatment Charge @$0.930/cm (up to 45cm) $19.53 $16.74 $2.79
Total Per Month $44.36 $39.89 $4.47
Total Per Year $532.32 $478.68 $53.64

Halton Region 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
Minimum Monthly Water Charge $8.89 $8.89 $0.00
First 25cm @ $0.727/cm $15.27 $13.09 $2.18
Next 20 cm @ $0.8358/cm $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
next 15 @ $0.9609 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Wastewater Charge $9.42 $9.42 $0.00
Wastewater Usage @ $0.7859 $16.50 $14.15 $2.36
Total Per Month $50.08 $45.54 $4.54
Total Per Year $600.97 $546.51 $54.46








Sudbury 2006 21cm 18cm Savings
1. Meter Fixed Charge $12.16 $12.16 $0.00
2. Water Usage @ $0.837/cm $17.58 $15.07 $2.51
Sewer Surcharge (115% of 1 and 2) $34.20 $31.31 $2.89
Total Per Month $63.93 $58.54 $5.40
Total Per Year $767.21 $702.43 $64.78








Hamilton 2007 21cm 18cm Savings
1. Basic Service Charge (includes first 10cm of water usage) $6.55 $6.55 $0.00
2. Water usage 10cm $10.04 $7.30 $2.74
Sewer Surcharge (100% of 1 and 2 ) $16.59 $13.85 $2.74
Total Per Month $33.19 $27.71 $5.48
Total Per Year $398.23 $332.50 $65.74

Unbelievable

Just got off the phone with Windsor Utilities Customer service and to say I'm shocked is an understatement.

I called looking to find out what the actual new water rate was going to be. Last year's rate was $0.266 per cm. I wanted to have the right info for the spreadsheet calculations that I was doing.

The answer I got was the new rate was $0.266???

The water rate didn't go up - the Fixed Meter charge was increased from $9.56 per month to $16.84 per month. The Water Main Replacement Levy is now 45% of your "Water Charges" (up from 13%), which is comprised of your actual usage in cm times $0.266 PLUS the Fixed Meter Charge.

I could shut off my water and not use a drop for the whole month of August and still have to pay $5.43 more per month than what I'm currently paying using 21cm.

Why even bother trying to conserve? It doesn't mean a damn thing.

Excuse me while I go outside to scream for a while.

Secrecy becoming hallmark of Francis administration

Watch the A-Channel's news report on the Windsor Utilities Commission Press Conference and Public meeting and then ask yourself a few questions.




Original A Channel Video and Report

1. The Water Main Replacement levy was instituted in 2004 by the current administration. Why are we only finding out in 2007 that it has never been used for it's stated purpose?

2. The Mayor claims "we're not going to play a shell game", but that is exactly what has been going on for the past three years - under his administration. Why did voters not find out about this situation BEFORE the last municipal election?

3. Why are we transferring $1.4 million from the Utilities Commission to the City in order to reduce the 2007 property tax increase if the utilities commission is in such dire straits? I thought we weren't playing "shell games".

Which one of these doesn't match the other?

Councillor Lewenza quoted in yesterday's Windsor Star about the rate increases:
But officials say Windsor’s new rates are high because its the first to come to grips with the common dilemma of deteriorated sewer and water pipes and increased environmental requirements.

“One thing to be clear is you can’t make comparisons with other municipalities not doing the (infrastructure upgrades),” Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. said. “This isn’t a Windsor problem. It’s a North America problem.”

Councillor Lewenza quoted in today's Windsor Star:

Coun. Ken Lewenza, who is chairman of the Windsor Utilities Commission, said he didn't know how long the commission had been diverting funds.

Officials were vague on the details about why a designated fee would be used for other purposes, or whether doing so is illegal.

"We've been focused on how do we fix it, we haven't been looking at blame," Lewenza said.

"I don't want to say I'm not concerned (about the practice). (The issue about whether the practice is fraud) hasn't been raised before. I would refer to legal on that question."

Lewenza said he understood the commission started diverting the funds to pay for overhead costs to avoid raising water rates. He suspected it's been a practice for several years and said it appeared politicians didn't want to raise rates, so utility administrators had to find money somewhere.

Since a former regime at the utility left several years ago, councillors have been overhauling the way the utility operates.

"It's been a long and drawn-out process," Lewenza said. "We are finding out things every day. We still need to do a lot of things to better run the utility."

Did Councillor Lewenza have a divine revelation between yesterday and today? What else could possibly explain the two different reasons for the rate increases?

As Chairman of the Utilities Commission, are we to believe he only found out about the Water Main Replacement issue Thursday morning?

As far as the "officials" claim that Windsor is the "first to come to grips with the common dilemma of deteriorated sewer and water pipes and increased environmental requirements", I'll demonstrate what an utter fallacy that is in a series of posts over the next several days.

Later on today, I'll be posting some comparisons of water bills from different municipalities to demonstrate how Windsor's convoluted system of charges and levies does nothing to encourage conservation and makes it very difficult to save any money by reducing usage.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

So you say

Windsor Utilities Commission Open House

Caboto Club 3pm to 8pm

City among highest in water, sewer rates

But officials say Windsor’s new rates are high because its the first to come to grips with the common dilemma of deteriorated sewer and water pipes and increased environmental requirements.

“One thing to be clear is you can’t make comparisons with other municipalities not doing the (infrastructure upgrades),” Coun. Ken Lewenza Jr. said. “This isn’t a Windsor problem. It’s a North America problem.”

The reasons cited for the Windsor increases are the crumbling pipes, years of maintenance neglect and the rehabilitation of the Lou Romano Wastewater Treatment plant. The backlog in infrastructure improvements plagues most North American cities, officials said.

Few municipalities have tackled the problem yet. Lewenza said Windsor is at the forefront of municipalities addressing infrastructure deficit.

Call me skeptical, but I don't buy that line. This one definitely merits some more research over the next month or so. It should be interesting to see what other municipalities are spending on their capital projects in comparison to Windsor.

I noticed the ad in the Star the other day for this meeting. It mentioned a watermain replacement levy increase, which surprised me as this was the only levy I hadn't heard was increasing. Currently at 13% of your fixed meter and water consumption charges, it should be interesting to see what this one is going up to.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Drip, drip, drip

Slowly but surely info on the Detroit Grand Prix and Windsor's involvement is emerging. Looks like the Anonymous Commenter from the other day was right about the Media Centre:
Windsor to be part of party

That includes making sure the race is turned into an international auto festival by including Windsor in the party.

The media centre is named after the City of Windsor and more importantly transportation will be available to bus fans from this side of the border to the track similar to the Super Bowl.

A full list of the event’s Canadian content will be released in the coming days, but Denker said there’s an outdoor event planned for the Friday in Windsor.

“There might be some go-kart racing involved too, but we just want to invite the public out to mingle with Roger and the drivers,” said Denker, who said the event has gotten strong corporate support on this side of the border from Casino Windsor, the city and VIA rail.

Once they reach Belle Isle, fans will be treated to a variety of interactive activities in the Meijer Family Fun Zone. Cheap Trick and the local Detroit band Uncle Kracker will also perform following the racing on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Special Event expenditures of this nature should not be left to the sole discretion of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau (from what I understand, this is where the money is coming from). Council should be afforded the opportunity to examine the merits of these events and make an informed judgement. The WWE and Grand Prix expenditures were announced as done deals and there was little or nothing Councillors could do, whether they approved or not.

The Superbowl was certainly a unique opportunity not to be missed. The remaining money would have been better off left in Windsor to develop local events. An upgraded Riverfront Festival area would allow Windsor to develop it's own world class events instead of renting space at someone else's party.

If at first you don't succeed...

The way the Mayor stacks it up, we could save a whole pile of money and just let him do all the talking.
The mayor earlier this year attempted to push through changes on the city’s communications services, but it was viewed by council as too costly to overhaul during the budget process and deferred.

“With any realignment there will be some upfront costs, but that will be offset by the savings,” Francis said Tuesday in convincing council.
If the Mayor and Administration can actually demonstrate savings over a reasonable period of time with "some" upfront costs, then the exercise is worthwhile. The previous plan did not demonstrate any sort of savings the way it was presented. While various City departments could benefit from centralized communications, that may not necessarily be the case for organizations like the Police and Fire Departments. Those two organizations specifically are very unique in their communications needs and should not be rushed into a reorganization for the sake of it.

On a related note, the Mayor certainly is bound and determined to "push through" his $900,000.00 dollar branding plan.
Councillors will also form a working group to quickly tackle the creation of branding districts across the city, such as a Chinatown in the west end or a Distillery District in Walkerville.
"Quickly" is the operative word as there is $100,000.00 in this years Capital Budget for branding. It's like that money is burning a hole in the Mayor's pocket.

I would hope that Council studies exactly what value we achieve out of the first $100,000.00 dollars before writing a blank cheque for the remaining $800,000.00 dollars.

BTW, how's the "21st Century fireside chat email" coming along? I realize without the $250,000.00 dollar communications department that an initiative such as this is difficult but some of us are hoping to begin receiving it before the end of the decade.

Blogger on the other hand is FREE. No IT or infrastructure overhead. No staffing costs. You can email posts directly using those fancy City Blackberries. Feeling adventurous? Try Blogger in Draft, featuring Video uploads and podcasts. We could have our own ETV!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Muniblogs.com Site Launch

Note: I had originally planned on launching this site next Monday due to some nagging glitches I was trying to work out. Someone must have been smiling down on me last night as I was able to fix the whole lot without too much difficulty.



24 July, 2007

Windsor, Ont. - MUNIBlogs.com is a blog aggregator focused on municipal politics in Canada.

With blogging becoming more of a mainstream communication tool, it's not surprising that many municipal politicians and officials are seeking to use it as a method of communicating with their residents. MUNIBlogs.com seeks to give these blogging Councillors and officials a platform
to continue reaching out. In addition, MUNIBlogs.com offers local officials an opportunity to network locally, provincially or nationally.

One Mayor, fourteen Councillors and one municipal Library form the base of the MUNIBlogs.com site launch. We are constantly seeking out new municipal sites and will add them as discovered. The municipal bloggers currently represented span five Provinces (B.C, Alta, Ont, N.B, and P.E.I) and one Territory (Yukon).

The main page of the site will feature all the latest posts from across Canada. Visitors to the site can also view blogs sorted by City or Province. In the City category, Guelph is currently leading the way with 4 of 12 Councillors actively blogging. Provincially, Ontario leads with eight active blogs, followed by British Columbia with four. Mayor John Stiens of Dawson City, Yukon, is the only confirmed blogging Mayor to date.

For any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to contact me.

Paul Synnott
Site Owner/Admin
Muniblogs.com

Email: paul@muniblogs.com

Blog: Windsor Municipal Shadow

Toronto Sun article on Windsor

Duncan campaigning, Lewenza Sr whining, Francis blowing sunshine.

Nothing new.

Must have been a really slow news day for Blizzard.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick Hits - Monday July 23th

1. When you get a link from one of the most visited blogs in Canada - Kate's Small Dead Animals - your traffic meter tends to go through the roof. Since she began blogging in 2004, Kate has had close to 6 million visitors. For the inevitable comments and emails - I was NOT the person who forwarded this to Kate.

2. Coming soon to a browser near you - MUNIBlogs. Official launch is scheduled for next Monday. (still have a few bugs to work out, but some traffic should help.)

2. Hold on to your wallets, it's time to start the 2008 Budget Deliberations. Work REALLY fast if you want to be heard. The public consultation is next Monday, July 30th.

3. There go the legal bills again. In some strange masochist strategy, Windsor seems to revel in picking fights with corporations possessing VERY deep pockets.

4. Tick, Tick, Tic,........BZZZZZZZZZZZ.
7. Conclusion - The response of the City Solicitor with respect to border and interim control by-law files Fees and disbursements is submitted for information. The City Solicitor is requesting that Council consider requiring the report on a quarterly basis.

5. Only in Windsor could we build a $7.5 million Bus Station with no commercial space (small variety store/newstand, restaurant etc) at the same time as we spend $3.2 million to build a riverfront cafe. We'll add in a commercial component in 2 or 3 years at an additional cost of $500,000. At least it's built. Were it not for the clock ticking on some Provincial Funding, the Bus Station was starting to look like Arena II - The Never Ending Sequel.

Some Detroit Grand Prix Info


Grand Prix Package Prices

Thanks to a link at our design-challenged Convention & Visitors Bureau website, we know now that we've spent a few bucks to have our own fancy poster designed, and packages are being promoted for the Detroit Grand Prix weekend on Labour Day weekend.

From a high of $338 at the Hilton Windsor
Detroit Grand Prix-2 Nights the Hilton Windsor with 2 Day Grandstand Ticket (Row 3-11)
Category: Detroit Grand Prix
Package Cost for 1 Person

For Only... $338.00
2 nights hotel accommodations at the Hilton Windsor * 2- 2 Day (Saturday & Sunday) Grandstand Admissions (Row 3-11) Grand Prix Ticket * 2- 2 Day roundtrip tickets for the Windsor Tunnel Bus - Windsor to Belle Isle * Taxes
Package Includes:
. Accomodation
To a low of $144.00 for St. Clair College
Detroit Grand Prix- 2 Night St.Clair College Residence & 2 Day Grandstand admission (Row 12-22)
Category: Detroit Grand Prix
Package Cost for 1 Person

For Only... $144.00
2 nights hotel accommodations at St.Clair College Residence & Conf Centre * 2- 2 Day (Saturday & Sunday) Grandstand Admissions (Row 12-22) Grand Prix Ticket * 2- 2 Day roundtrip tickets for the Windsor Tunnel Bus - Windsor to Belle Isle * Tax
Package Includes:
. Accomodation
The only problem is that we still don't know what Windsor is getting for it's $80,000.00 USD contribution to the event.

I searched the official Detroit Grand Prix Website and there is no mention of Windsor. Did we pay $80,000 for the rights to market the event in Canada? Does the City get a block of tickets? Advertising at the race? Events in Windsor?

Are we getting value for our tax money here? Unfortunately, we'll probably never know.

Update: here's one of a "series" of events happening in Windsor during the Grand Prix weekend.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

RSS explained - Great Video

For the uninitiated, a nice simple video explaining the concept of RSS and how it delivers content to you instead of you searching for content.

One note, the video only discusses online readers. There are also numerous offline readers and tools for Outlook, Outlook Express and Thunderbird. Personally, I use a simple little tool for Thunderbird called Forumzilla


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Welcome

A belated welcome and congratulations to new City Clerk Valerie Critchley.

It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

Bad Faith

I came across this while surfing. I've added the blog to my sidebar. The blog is by the firm Davis LLP - Municipal, Planning & Environmental Law Group Blog
The Ontario Court of Appeal addresses the Doctrine of Bad Faith

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently addressed the issue of the role of the doctrine of bad faith as grounds for quashing a by-law in light of modern jurisprudence requiring that courts afford deference to municipalities in the exercise of their statutory powers.
Interesting reading. Worthwhile I suspect, for possible future cases in Windsor.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Water and Sewer rate increases

Plenty of not very nice reaction to the rate increases in the Windsor Star's Soundoff section.

(Click on "next comment" at the bottom of the first comment to scroll through all the posts)

You can submit your own comment.

The other option is contacting your individual Councillors and the Mayor, who seem to agree with this method of act first, let the poor public know later.

Mayor’s Office
350 City Hall Square West
P.O. Box 1607
Windsor, Ontario
Canada
N9A6S1

Tel. (519) 255-6315
Fax. (519) 255-7796
Email: mayoro@city.windsor.on.ca

Dave Brister - Ward 1
Phone: (519) 250-7960
Email: dbrister@city.windsor.on.ca

Drew Dilkens - Ward 1
Phone: (519) 250-4607
Email: ddilkens@city.windsor.on.ca

Ron Jones - Ward 2
Phone: (519) 252-1005
Email: rjones@city.windsor.on.ca

Caroline Postma - Ward 2

Phone: (519) 971-0728
Email: cpostma@city.windsor.on.ca

Alan Halberstadt - Ward 3
Phone: (519) 973-8323
Email: ahalberstadt@city.windsor.on.ca

Fulvio Valentinis - Ward 3
Phone: (519) 977-5067
Email: fvalentinis@city.windsor.on.ca

Ken Lewenza Jr. - Ward 4
Phone: (519) 948-9328
Email: klewenza@city.windsor.on.ca

Bill Marra - Ward 4
Phone: (519) 948-0900
Email: bmarra@city.windsor.on.ca

Jo-Anne Gignac - Ward 5
Phone: (519) 945-4434
Email: joagignac@city.windsor.on.ca

Percy Hatfield - Ward 5
Phone: (519) 739-9575
Email: phatfield@city.windsor.on.ca

Edit: if any of the Councillors respond with "there's nothing they can do about it, the rates etc, are set based on recommendations from Enwin/WUC" or something to that effect, it might be worthwhile reminding them that since they all pocketed $17,531.39 from Enwin/WUC, they share in the responsibility for any decisions. (that doesn't include the new Councillors, Marra, Hatfield and Dilkens - though they stand to benefit from this years pot).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Something to look forward to

Some of the extra money is needed to pay for the Lou Romano Wastewater Treatment Facility rehabilitation and expansion. The city will see an additional $14 million in annual revenue. The increase is around 37 per cent. In an effort to explain the increase in water rates to the general public the Windsor Utilities Commission is planning a town hall-style meeting at the Caboto Club on July 26.
From the sounds of it though, any questions will be on an individual basis
Spokeswoman Sylvia de Vries said the open house will feature “museumtype” displays and staff will be on hand to respond to questions.
It's easier to fluff off the tough questions that way. Ones like - if sewer and water repairs/replacement are such a priority, why are we transferring money to the City of Windsor for general revenue? Is that a tax increase by disguise? Why do you impose a levy on top of a fixed charge for Water Meters? What is going on at the Windsor Utilities commission that warrants paying Municipal Councillors an extra $158,968.44 for 2006?

I'll be there to ask the questions, not that I actually expect any straight answers.

The worst thing is, you can't find a media outlet in town to ask the same questions. The Star article linked to in this blog post might as well be a joint City of Windsor/Windsor Utilities press release.

A-Channel seems to be about the only ones left in town willing to ask questions. Not that they recieve any answers, but at least they're out there slugging it out.