Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Today's Letter to the Editor from Ontario Municipal Water Association President Diane Gagner nicely mirrors our local utilities approach to communication - divert, deflect and distract.
First up we have the bogeyman/red herring Walkerton Inquiry. None of the issues or questions being raised has anything to do with the Walkerton Inquiry other than Chair Ken Lewenza's continuous attempts to use it as justification for the price increase.
Next up is an Ontario Water Board. I certainly don't remember Chris Schnurr or anyone else even mentioning a Water Board. Not once, not ever. Regardless, we're treated to a lecture on how the Energy Board caused an increase in rates of 10 to 15 percent.
The OMWA describes their mission on the homepage of their site - "OMWA's mission is to act as the voice of Ontario's public water supply authorities and their customers on policy, legislative and regulatory issues"
Good for them. Unfortunately, none of the questions being raised in Windsor relate to "policy, legislative or regulatory" issues, unless things like raising Councillor's salaries by $16,000 to $17,000 a year through utility board meetings is an OMWA policy related matter. Maybe the OMWA has been relying on information from the "authorities" side a little too much and ignoring the "customer" part of their mission statement.
While not related to the letter, something else occurred to me last night. The Municipal Audit was championed as being the best alternative because the Auditor General wouldn't be able to act any sooner than eight weeks. By my count, we're into our 6th week now and I haven't heard anything on when the Municipal Audit will be starting, who will be conducting it and what the terms of reference are. Tick, tick, tick. If you actually see any local Liberal Cabinet Ministers campaigning over the next several days ask them how things are going. Better yet - ask them if they care.
PS - absolutely loved today's political cartoon. Haven't laughed that hard in a long time.
Friday, September 28, 2007
There have been nine audit and finance committee meetings this year and six were held last year, according to de Vries.There were no audit and finance committee meetings held the two years prior. There were seven general meetings in 2004, six in 2005, five in 2006 and four so far this year, according to de Vries. Each of those general meetings was preceded by an in-camera meeting.The additional $17,000 that Councillors have been receiving each year from Enwin/WUC is looking more and more like a back-door pay increase. No messy public meetings or minutes to deal with. Why hold a public discussion on the issue when you can accomplish what you want in secret.
Images & Photonews from Windsor, Essex County & Lower Southwestern Ontario and LEFT-RIGHT? UP-OR-DOWN?
WE Speak and the Windsor/Essex blogging community continues to grow. If you're interested in joining the blogroll, see the details here.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Lost your job yet? Bumper sticker politics
I've never heard the leaders of Honda or Toyota workers demand that 35 million Canadians collectively reduce their wealth and buying power by devaluing their national currency just so an exclusive group can export more vehicles and get richer at the expense of the rest of the country. The CAW has made that demand almost daily for the past year. Even as a member of that union, I think currency devaluation to favour a tiny minority is a monstrously stupid idea.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
BookFest Windsor 2007 - Friday, November 2 at 7:30pm - 82 members
Windsor International Film Festival - Wednesday November 7th - 20 members.
2. Don McArthur's on a tear this week. Keep it up!
3. A loss to the Art World, especially to an artistically challenged person such as myself. Growing up in Guelph, I always liked Ken's work. He will be sorely missed. He often donated his work to causes/special occasions in the area.
4. Hmmm..... $200,000 in union dues to pay to name a rink after a living person. Makes it easy to remember why I don't care for unions right after governments. Yet another organization that you're forced to give your money to with little or no realistic say in how it's spent. It may not be a popular opinion - but it's mine.
5. Beautiful night shot at Blog Windsor. One of these days I have to learn how to do more with my camera than point and shoot.
6. Nik Nanos and SES Research deliver the latest poll numbers on Canada's great multicultural experiment. It's a lot more surprising that many would guess. News Release and complete data set available. Pretty even male/female split. Difference comes in the over/under 35 category. Income figures show the middle class solidly against.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Great wall of secrecyWindsor is no stranger to this "great wall" mentality. The only way to break down these walls is to continue to speak up. Write letters to the editor. Email or write your City Councillor, MPP or MP. Explain your concerns and demand action. File Freedom of Information Requests and if you are turned down, appeal the decision to the highest level possible. Each successful appeal helps improve access for others in the future.
Openness should be the rule when official information is requested. Exceptions should be made, and information withheld, only in rare circumstances, such as when state secrets are legitimately at stake, or a person's right to privacy is threatened. That isn't happening now, as many bureaucrats insist on blocking the release of public records.
Existing access to information laws appear sufficient to protect the public's interest. What needs to change is the attitude of unco-operative officials. The data they collect belongs to all Canadians, not the agencies that strive to keep it hidden.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Delay, denial and stonewalling still clog FOI systemHopefully the Star will be doing a story on this some time in the future. This is a worthwhile project conducted each year by the media across Canada. It highlights how woefully inadequate our Freedom of Information legislation is and how poorly governments at all levels treat the public's access to information their tax dollars pay for.
A request for sewage-treatment records in Hamilton inspired a city staff worker to curtly declare that she couldn't let a member of the public see the documents. The reporter was told to file a formal information request. In Windsor, a reporter was bluntly told: “Those records are not given out to the public.”
Friday, September 21, 2007
In the GreenApple Canada Smart Transportation Rankings.
While multi-modal strategies remain nothing more than buzzwords, other cities in Canada are moving forward. Windsor suffers in the rankings due to air quality issues that are mostly out of our control, but they are not the only thing dragging us down.
The report focused on four areas:
• Transportation policy such as public transit infrastructure, expenditure and transit ridershipComplete report in .pdf format.
• Air quality measures such as ozone and carbon dioxide emission levels;
• Public policies such as anti-idling laws and trip reduction programs; and
• Technology adaptation such as the total number of hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) in the public transit and municipal fleets.
(click on picture for full size)
Thursday, September 20, 2007
On schedule. And on budget. Brister’s eyes glitter as he delivers those words. Combative by nature, he’s clearly driven by determination to deliver the goods and silence the critics, as in shove it down their whiny throats.Being vocal, asking questions and demanding accountability of our elected representatives is now defined as being "whiny" and deserving of having something shoved down our throats.
If you lift up Gord Henderson's ear and find the "Best Before" date, you'll now find that it's long past, leaving the readers of Windsor with nothing more than curdled milk, spoiled meat and a nasty odour in place of insightful commentary and critique.
I wonder if the citizens of Windsor would be cheerleading as much as Gord if they knew back in October of last year they were about to be screwed over for three years of WUC rate freezes designed to re-elect our current crop of Councillors.
If we have to spend $650 million over the next 30 years on water and sewers to avoid a catastrophic collapse of our water systems, what would $67 million do for that same system if spent over the next two or three years?
Boy, City Hall, Council and friends are rolling out all the big guns these days. Express an opinion contrary to the acceptable norm in Windsor these days and you now risk being labelled "failed", "irrelevant" , "whiny", "toxic", "blind mice", "a minority" and any other derogatory term they can dredge up.
To Gord Henderson, Ken Lewenza, Mayor Francis, Fulvio Valentinis and anyone else who wishes to continue throwing insults instead of answers, please continue. You are hardening peoples resolve in Windsor better than the hottest fire can temper steel.
Duncan: “Unlike Mr. Schnurr and his Conservative friends, we don’t believe the provincial government should just go in for the purposes of beating up municipalities. They’re elected officials at the municipal level, ah, by unanimous resolution, they have as I understand it, they’ve asked us and we’ve complied with their request.”If Dwight Duncan or anyone else in this city is under the illusion that this WUC protest is somehow organized along partisan Conservative lines or restricted to "failed" Council candidates they are making the worst read of a situation that they've ever made in their careers.
While I myself readily identify with conservative policies (although I tend to lean much more to the Libertarian side of things these days), if blowhards like Duncan and Lewenza actually stop talking long enough to evaluate things, they'd be shocked to see the breadth and depth of the disgust resonating throughout Windsor on this subject. In fact, they may well have hit on the one issue that Windsorites can unite on regardless of their political stripe or leanings.
In the old "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" world of Windsor politics, they might soon find a few hundred people clawing instead of scratching.
Update: Chris Schnurr with more on Dwight Duncan and Ken Lewenza - the "champions of Windsor".
A couple of details that they left out of the article:
1. Councillors don't actually have to agree on the expenditures. If they disagree, the $27,000 per ward is split between the two, to spend as they wish. ($1125.00 dollars per month is a nice amount to give out each and every month leading up to your next election campaign. That's 48 groups you can keep happy over a four year term)Think back to last year when the city's CUPE local was raising funds to help Brentwood and was looking for City Council to match their fundraising efforts. Their request was voted down due to the fact that it might set a bad precedent for future requests. Why didn't Councillors offer up $500.00 per ward towards a good cause? Could it be because that would be $500.00 dollars less pork to spread around their ward, demonstrating that they didn't care about their ward? (Care about their Ward with your tax dollars, mind you)
"Moved by Councillor Zuk, seconded by Councillor Lewenza,
M106-2006 That the Ward Fund policy (M73-2005) BE AMENDED to include a provision that in the event that the respective ward councillors cannot agree on the use of their ward fund, that the funds be split 50-50, and to be used at their own discretion, and that the details of how the monies are spent continue to be reported on a public agenda.
2. The only criteria for spending the funds is "Monies must be spent on identifiable projects or undertakings having a specific purpose and objective." These expenditures must then be reported on a public agenda, but don't expect them to be actually discussed. That's it.
These funds can be carried over year to year and spent as Councillors desire, with little or no oversight or evalutation. The criteria is so open ended it is little more than ward pork barreling for the lucky. I don't dispute that the recipients are valid, but that the process is deeply flawed and open to abuse. The "Olde Sandwich Towne Festival" benefits from the largesse of Ward Two Councillors Jones and Postma ($5,000.00) while Festival Epicure almost died this year from lack of sponsorship, initiated by the last minute withdrawal of the Windsor controlled Tunnel Corporation.
The Ward Funds, as they are currently structured, are nothing more than political pork barrels to be given away at Councillor's whims. That's your tax dollars being given away each and every year with no input, no criteria and no oversight. Even worse, any unspent funds can be carried over each year, typically to be spent in the last year prior to an election.
Ever wonder why it's so difficult to defeat an incumbent in Windsor?
Welcome to Windsor municipal politics. In an age of concerns over healthy lifestyles and eating, pork fat still rules in Windsor.
Who has the money to make it happen? The very person the City is intent on not talking to, working with or compromising in any way shape or form.
Instead, we the taxpayer will shell out millions for the "development" of Sandwich for little or no result. The City of Windsor as a property developer has a dismal record that doesn't show any signs of improving.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The City of Windsor is planning a service-review to ensure services are being delivered as efficiently as possible. City Council will be asked tonight to approve the hiring of consultants to conduct the review. Mayor Eddie Francis says, among other things, they look at what businesses the City should be involved in and those it shouldn't.2. Probably one of the area's leaders in diversification efforts yet we still can't seem to find any money for their stadium.
3. Ontario Votes 2007 - the Windsor Star's coverage of the election.
4. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
5. Quote of the week: From last night's Council meeting, regarding the interim control bylaw and a residents application to knock down a shed and replace it with a garage.
Councillor Caroline Postma "It was not the intent of the bylaw to stifle development"Oops - too late. Fearless prediction - come January Council will extend the interim control bylaw, thereby not intending to stifle development for another year.
6. For those that enjoy reading blogs and the different perspective they offer, don't forget the Windsor Star blogs. A few comments always help, now and again. Note: City Beat seems to be missing from the Blog section.
7. In the " I had no idea " category - A Windsor connection in Afghanistan. Former member of the Windsor Regiment, University of Windsor graduate and current Chief of Intelligence for ISAF in Afghanistan - Brigadier General Jim Ferron
Monday, September 17, 2007
WindsorEats.com has added some great new features to their site
International Metropolis blogger Andrew is now published along with his exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor. (.pdf description of exhibition)
Congrats to both!
2. Involve the people, control the process, shut them out and ...
Press Conference details
3. Council Communications - reminder letter for submissions for Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship dated July 2007, received September 2007 for a submission that ended Aug 2007. Bureaucracy at it's best. Better luck next year.
Public Meeting September 27th 7-8:30pm Optimist Community Centre - Presentation by Parks and Recreation on Optimist/Memorial Park playground upgrades and re-installation of toboggan hill.
First winners of the Council Ward Fund Lottery listed in this issue of Council Communications. Don't forget to get your tickets for the next round.
Election season is busy season. Any links for information - drop them in the comments.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Liberal Party of Ontario - Sandra Pupatello
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario - Lisa Lumley (warning: flash messages display before entering site)
New Democratic Party of Ontario - Mariano Klimowicz
Liberal Party of Ontario - Dwight Duncan
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario - Kristine Robinson (RSS feeds available)
If anyone knows of any NDP or Green websites, me or drop a link in the comments.
Cross posted from Blue Blogging Soapbox
Curious that. The fact Zalev works for Enwin raises interesting questions. Will an audit of WUC, as the city has requested, be able to look at the compensation paid to him and others if they don’t actually work for WUC? What else won’t the audit be able to probe because of this division of responsibilities between the two groups?Councillor Alan Halberstadt's blog would seem to answer Don's question:
The Municipal Affairs Ministry, if you look on its website, says this about provincial municipal audits: Nothing in this Part gives to the Ministry any jurisdiction with respect to any of the affairs of a municipal utility commission, licensed under the Ontaro Energy Board Act, 1998, which is only engaged in the distribution, generation or retailing of electricty."Hopefully Windsor gets an aggressive auditor with wide-ranging terms of reference. One part of the above sticks out for me. The relevant portion states "which is only engaged in the distribution, generation or retailing of electricty."
In my view, this opens the door to looking at Enwin as they are not only engaged in distribution, generation or retailing of electricity. By virture of their service agreement with WUC and Maxess communications unit, they are also in the business of providing services outside the realm of distribution, generation or retailing of electricity.
While the electric components of Enwin may be off-limits, the remainder of the business and it's links with WUC should fall under the purview of the Auditor - as long as the terms of reference allow it.
One way to ensure the widest possible terms of reference is to have a few words with Dwight Duncan and Sandra Puppatello when they come knocking on your door over the next few weeks. I'm sure they'll plead all sorts of excuses not to get involved such as remaining impartial, not tainting the process and anything else they can think of. The fact remains, they are our Provincial representatives and Windsor residents need them to convey our concerns to the Minister of Municipal affairs. Their input to the Minister may be the only way citizens can have a say in this process. Don't let them plunk a sign on your lawn until you've received a commitment to ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs for the widest terms of reference possible.
If we line up like the usual lemmings and send both of them back to Toronto without speaking out, we will have squandered our last opportunity to have any impact on the WUC fiasco.
I just got around to reading Gord's column from yesterday.
His wisdom leaves me speechless.
Windsor is so proud of doing the same thing over and over again because electing Liberals and NDP has done so much for us - highest unemployment in the country.
Take a look at this article in today's Star about the supposed 10 best places to do business in the country.
Now take a few minutes to research various Federal and Provincial "economic development" corporations, government funding programs, gateway projects and just about every other taxpayer funded scheme that you can think of.
Compare the two lists. Anything look familiar?
If you're really curious, do some further research on "bellwether" ridings in the country.
Windsor complains and then re-elects the same old, same old, time and again. I guess you truly do get what you pay for.
Windsor Star reporter Dave Battagello's got a great new game on his blog - City Beat.
It's called "Connect the Dots". Draw your own lines.
(click on the pic for full size pic if you want to print out and play along)
In a City of Windsor's size, with a University, College and abundant industry, it's amazing what a small pond we seem to fish out of.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Heart Defect Society of Windsor and Essex County - First Annual Walk'n Roll 2007
Looking for Sponsors, Walkers/Rollers and Volunteers - email Francine
Warm up the backhoes. (barring any last minute court action, of course)
If it works in Ottawa and Toronto, why not Windsor? (wishful thinking, mind you)
International Metropolis with a great look back at the Top Hat in it's day. Scale Down Windsor follow with a former employee's memories.
Needless to say, I don't think the polls respondents are in any hurry to forsake criticizing Council to take up Councillor Brister's advice.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Five City Councillors, the City Treasurer and City Solicitor. I wonder if any of these people have anything better to do than run/oversee the running of a business.
Lots of interesting talk about competing with other courses, the economy of Windsor affecting revenues, marketing and promotional campaigns - nothing about sewers or water pipes though.
I'm glad that someone else bought Bowlero and Roseland Bowl. On the other hand, shouldn't bowlers get the same level of support from the City of Windsor as golfers, curlers and boaters?
Why the discrimination against them?
Poll is located on the right sidebar.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Ottawa, Windsor, Burlington top 3 hazardous waste districts
Title: Hazardous Waste in Ontario: Progress and Challenges
Author: Maureen Carter-Whitney
Date: September 2007
Keywords: Hazardous Waste Management, Land Disposal Restriction Regulation, pollution prevention
Description: Since CIELAP issued its Open for Toxics reports in 2000 and in 2003, the provincial government has made significant progress to address hazardous waste in Ontario. There remain, however, a number of regulatory gaps and many areas for improvement. This paper reports on the progress made and and offers recommendations for future improvement in this area.
The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP)
is an independent, not-for-profit research and education organization whose mission is to provide leadership in the research and development of environmental law and policy that promotes the public interest and sustainability.
The Canadian Press has compiled a list of the August unemployment rates in select cities. The July figure is in brackets:
- St. John's, N.L. 6.3 (6.5)
- Halifax 6.2 (6.0)
- Saint John, N.B. 4.3 (4.8)
- Saguenay, Que. 8.2 (8.5)
- Quebec 4.5 (4.7)
- Trois-Rivieres, Que. 8.0 (7.4)
- Sherbrooke, Que. 5.7 (5.6)
- Montreal 7.0 (6.7)
- Gatineau, Que. 5.5 (5.6)
- Ottawa 5.3 (5.4)
- Kingston, Ont. 6.6 (6.2)
- Toronto 7.0 (7.0)
- Hamilton 5.5 (5.9)
- Kitchener, Ont. 5.6 (5.6)
- London, Ont. 6.2 (6.1)
- Oshawa, Ont. 6.6 (6.0)
- St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont. 7.7 (6.7)
- Sudbury, Ont. 6.3 (6.3)
- Thunder Bay, Ont. 6.6 (6.8)
- Windsor, Ont. 9.9 (9.3)
- Winnipeg 4.2 (4.6)
- Regina 6.1 (6.1)
- Saskatoon 4.8 (4.6)
- Calgary 3.3 (3.4)
- Edmonton 3.9 (4.0)
- Abbotsford, B.C. 4.5 (4.1)
- Vancouver 3.8 (4.0)
- Victoria 3.6 (3.4)
I've started from the first post-election meeting and will carry on until the last meeting before the next election.
You can view the sheet at Google Docs and Spreadsheets. The document is open for public viewing. If anyone wishes to help out with the project, send me an email and I'll add you as a collaborator so you can edit the sheet.
You can also subscribe to an RSS feed of the project if you wish to stay up-to-date.
The "Engineered Slope" or as it's commonly called "The Hole That Can't Be Filled"
I'm starting to wonder which is going to happen first - the Leafs winning a Stanley Cup or the "The Hole That Can't Be Filled" defying all odds and actually getting filled.
Long odds on either option.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The Cult of Secrecy flexed its muscle last night at Council. I was denied access to what should be public information - the legal...The battle for open transparent Councils rages on throughout Ontario.
Complete Post at: The Mumpsimus Blog
This month's issue of BIZ X magazine has an item in the "Heard on the Street" column about Roseland Golf Course.
Seems like the latest hospitality operator Lewisfoods Inc. is bailing on it's contract after less than two years. Michigan Tavern and Aramark Foods were the two previous operators.
The article also reveals Roseland's annual contribution of $300,000 to the City is dropping to $150,000 due to flat revenues and the need for upgrades.
I hear thing are booming over at the Ambassador Golf Club. Wonder why?
If we can't run a water utility, why do we pretend to be able to run a golf course? That reminds me - anyone hear how all that ROOTs brand Windsor gear is selling? How about how many Grand Prix tickets we sold at City
I've got a friend with Mini-Putt course in Sault St. Marie that wants to retire. I told him to send a proposal to the City of Windsor, they'll buy almost anything. (if you hear about a new Mini-Putt opening in Windsor in the next year, remember, you heard it here first!)
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Wow, a City Council that actually votes independently.
Windsorites could only dream of such a occurrence.
Maybe the Mayor of Ottawa should take a few cues from our own Mayor. Give up your chair now and again to speak from the floor, heck, even move a motion or two from the Chair. Works wonders, I hear.
For some of our Councillors, maybe this will help.
Free drama program, Sept. to April with two full staged productions.
Windsor International Film Festival Facebook group - 17 members - let's see if it can't hit 25 this week. Invite your Facebook friends.
Your City Council - saving money with one hand, spending with the other.
Some light reading for your pleasure - especially if you missed last week's Council meeting.
Rumour has it that Windsor may be getting ready to pony up $80,000 USD per year for five years toward future Grand Prix weekends. "Speak now or forever hold your peace", although I suspect if we're hearing the rumours, the consummation has already taken place.
Citizens Environment Alliance (CEA) is screening "Total Denial" Sunday September 16th, 7:30 pm. You can RSVP here.
Heart Defect Society of Windsor and Essex County - First Annual Walk'n Roll 2007
Looking for Sponsors, Walkers/Rollers and Volunteers - email Francine
Looking for something to do this fall to get yourself out of the house? Try REConnect!
First day back to school - drive safe!
Monday, September 03, 2007
Did everyone enjoy their $80,000 USD worth of Grand Prix partying this weekend? I know I was disappointed not to be invited for the lamb chops and oyster shooters. Sounds like typical City Hall fare.
I've heard that all the former 211 workers have now been let go and City 211 training starts next week. Are we going to see an operating agreement any time soon or, like most other things, is it destined for the in-camera agenda? With only 3 part time people to staff this line, how long before postions are added and costs rise? My guess - next budget will see a "demonstrated need based on call volume" to add 4 full time positions to the "combined" call centre.
Enjoy the last of the long weekend. Back to the grind tomorow.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
If you haven't heard of the Ward Fund Lottery, you can catch up here.
Hurry up if you haven't already obtained your tickets - $40,000 in prizes have already been awarded!
Ward 1 Tickets
Ward 2 Tickets
Ward 3 Tickets
Ward 4 Tickets
Ward 5 Tickets
* Actual prize pool could be drastically lower due to the necessity to carry over significant enough funds for the 2010 Election Year.
I am curious about one thing though. The previous report submitted on the public agenda listed a year end surplus of $92,359.00 but this variance report now says that the carryover from last year is actually $245,000.00 - a difference of $152,641.00 . Some unknown Ward is sitting on a substantial nest egg.
(From the 2nd Quarter Variance Report)
Saturday, September 01, 2007
While the Mayor struggles to put out a "21st century fireside chat email" without his $250,000.00 communications department, Alan has persevered in the face of withering criticism from his "colleagues". Agree or disagree with his politics or opinions, he has put himself out there for all to see and comment on.
For the sin of trying to achieve open, accountable and participatory government he gets to open Saturday's newspaper and read Councillor Lewenza holding court on his behaviour. That's about as rich as it gets. Councillor Postma is certainly one to be throwing stones. We all enjoyed reading during the last election how she "spearheaded" things like the City's debt reduction program and anti-graffiti campaign. Dramatic license knows no bounds sometimes.
This blog doffs it's cap to Ward 3 Councillor Alan Halberstadt for the courage of his convictions and the tenacity with which he approaches his elected responsibility.
You'll have to excuse me now. I've reached my blogging limit and apparently need to go seek a charity to work for.
While I'm out - Sign the Petition!
PS. - thoroughly enjoyed today's Windsor Star editorial. What a delicious counter-point to the whine and cheese party on the news pages. Gord, on the other hand, must not have heard he's already won the cheerleading championship.