Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Windsor's own Star Chamber at work

Fired crime committee chair doesn't know why he was ousted
Sarah Sacheli, Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2008

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

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

"It has been brought to the corporation's attention that your recent behaviour directed toward City of Windsor employees contravenes the spirit of the Respectful Workplace Program," the letter said.
While I'm not downplaying the concerns of City employees, basic principles of justice would allow Mr. Middleton to know what his alleged transgression(s) was and be allowed an opportunity to respond - BEFORE he was dismissed.
"Council had some pretty compelling information," said Marra. He said that during his meeting with Skorobohacz, Middleton was not told the names of his accusers, but that there was "a general disclosure of the contraventions."

And, Marra added, "the contraventions were very serious."

All the more reason for Council to have both sides of the story before taking such a drastic step.

Council can spout all the claptrap they want, but look at this if the situations were reversed. What if Mr. Middleton was filing a complaint against City employees? I'm sure there would be a process of investigation involving all parties, mediation, corrective measures etc. Summary dismissal would most likely not even be on the table. Because Mr. Middleton is a volunteer, does he deserve anything less?

The way things look, if I was the Chair of the Windsor Heritage Committee, I would be very concerned. Those pesky heritage people have been getting very vocal lately. That's a big no-no in Windsor.

Procrastinators rejoice!

If you file your tax return online, you now have until May 6th.

You choose

Either our City Administration is incompetent or suffering from political interference on the Arena deal contract.
"Windsor's FOI co-ordinator Chuck Scarpelli said Tuesday that it was "the city's prerogative" to wait until then and that staff is preparing a report to council and a "media package" to coincide with the document's release."
They've had 30 days to prepare to release a contract that they've had since 2006. In those 30 days a briefing for Councillors and media package couldn't be assembled?
"We're not trying to hide anything," said Duben, adding that a Friday release is "so council has at least time to review it."
I'm sure all the Councillors are anxious to view the documents, especially the 7 current Councillors who approved the deal without seeing the actual contract. I wonder if a few of them are sweating things out a little, hoping that there's nothing hidden in those pesky little details they didn't need to see over a year ago.

The funniest line?

Ward 3 Coun. Fulvio Valentinis said council has "a good grasp of what went into it" and that the sooner details are released the better.

"I don't know why it's being held back," he said.

Here's a hint for our esteemed Councillor. Call a special meeting of Council for this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Pass a motion to immediately release the contract. It's what you should have done 29 days ago.

This City Council would put a Maytag washer to shame.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Speaking of wasting time...

Councillor Lewenza was very concerned about "wasting administration's time" as it related to Councillor Dilken's notice of motion last night.

It's a shame he didn't have the same concern about his own request for a report on the benefits of municipal tap water versus bottled water. An eight page report that, as regular Shadow reader Vincent pointed out, required sign off from no less than five different employees of the City.

What Councillor Lewenza is really worried about is the citizens of Windsor finding out how high their fixed costs are for both water and sewer as compared to the rest of the Province. The City sets the sewer rate, the WUC sets water fixed charges and rates.

Councillor Dilkens is to be commended for his leadership on moving forward with an issue that will impact every household in the City. Windsor's reliance on extremely high fixed cost pricing with relation to it's water utility bills is a dis-incentive to both conservation and cost reductions for individuals. I recently spoke with an owner/landlord who now has the water turned off and metre removed from his empty units because it is cheaper. The monthly water costs of empty apartments was eating up what little profit he is able to make on his other units, especially in a City with a vacancy rate of 15%.

Having read both Chapters 7 and 8 of the Watson report extensively, I'm looking forward to seeing both the report from administration and what the WUC will bring forward next year with regard to rate structures.

It's a girl!

Congratulations to my sister-in-law Leanne Synnott on the safe and healthy arrival at Guelph General Hospital last night of my newest niece, Breanna - 8lbs, 11 ounces.

I suppose I should congratulate my brother Derek as well. He had a part somehow in this whole process, or so I'm told.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Let's get on with it

Let it stream!

Councillor Drew Dilkens asked the following at last week's City Council meeting:
Asks for a report regarding the feasibility and cost of webcasting our meetings on the City web site.

AF2008 (April 21, 2008)
An excellent idea. The costs can really be as little or as much as we want. As with many other tech related issus today, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Work on leveraging resources provided either for free or low-cost.

The best case scenario would be for Cogeco to stream the meetings, as they are already broadcasting them live. Many cities that currently stream have their local community cable station handling the job, but unfortunately it seems to be Rogers and not Cogeco. I couldn't find any instances where Cogeco was streaming Council meetings.

If Cogeco does not want to handle this, it could still be easily accomplished with their permission. A PC with a TV capture card could easily pick up Cogeco's broadcast and stream it to the net. All that would be required is the PC, a hi-speed connection and capture card. Very minimal cost if this is handled by volunteers.

A fixed digital camera in the Council Chambers with an input from the Council speaker system is another alternative. Again, connect it to a PC (Firewire) and stream. This method also allows for a digital copy in case there are any issues with the feed.

UStreamTV offers a complete FREE solution to streaming, distribution and storage. They offer format conversion (.wmv, .mov, or .mp4), archiving and downloads. Did I say it was FREE? Their player can be embedded almost anywhere - City website, Facebook pages, MYSpace etc.

Canadian Cities Streaming Council Meetings

1. Oakville

2. Niagara Falls

3. Sudbury

4. Guelph

5. Toronto

6. Ottawa

7. Vancouver

8. Chilliwack

9. Nanimo

10. North Vancouver

I'm sure there are many more, but I only searched Google for about 1/2 hour.

Quick Hits - Monday April 28th

1. This editorial about Essex Council raises is bang-on. Pity the Windsor Star can't raise the same indignation about Windsor City Council back-dooring their $15,000 dollar salary increase through the Windsor Utilities Commission. At least Essex Council conducts their business in public. I believe it was former Councillor Zuk who stated that this raise was a "one-time" thing and would disappear in the future. That was three years ago. I believe the salary paid Windsor Councillors is too low, but in typical Windsor fashion, we're denied the opportunity for any sort of debate or discussion.

2. Windsor 'the most polluted city in North America': RFK Jr. - I guess nobody told RFK about our new marketing initiatives.

3. I'll take whatever I can get.

4. Anti-vomit bylaw questioned - personally, I think we should close off Ouellette every night from 8pm to 5am (May to September) from Wyandotte to University, with the exception of the cross street intersections.

5. I would guess that Guelph is already 3 to 5 years ahead of Windsor.

Downtown debate at Council this evening. Tune it at 6:00 pm.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

WE Speak Updates

I had a little bit of time for some tinkering with WE Speak this morning. I've added a new "Stream Local Videos" section in the left sidebar. You can stream the latest CBC News @ Six Windsor broadcast or the latest CBC News Now clip. Hopefully sometime in the near future I'll be able to add a livestream for Windsor City Council meetings. More on that Monday.

In the "Stream Local Radio" I finally managed to get CJAM working.

I've also finally managed to resolve an encoding issue with the template. It is now UTF-8, which basically means you won't see all those funny characters displayed when you use apostrophes or quote marks in your post or title.

The "Featured Video" seems to be working well along with the Video Section. If you have a video account like Google or YouTube that you'd like added to the site, drop me a line. If your videos are already listed on the site, contact me and I'll set you up with a site login so you can add videos on your own. Once you're logged in, the process of adding videos is quite simple. All that is required is to paste in the link to the video you wish to add, check the details and hit save.

I'd like to thank everyone who visits WE Speak every day and those who offer suggestions and ideas. I use WE Speak to test out ideas and once they're working I roll them out on the other Speak sites, London Speak and Guelph Speak. If the stars are aligned right this summer I'll also be rolling out Speak sites in Mississauga, Kingston and Ottawa.

As a friend of mine said online the other day, "I'm not a coder or programmer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night".

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A little bit of everything, weekend edition

1. Gee, I wonder why the Windsor Star likes City Hall so much. It couldn't have anything to do with their ad revenues lately, could it?

2. "When it's not too much trouble, Windsorites conserve" - Which explains why we keep electing Federal NDP representatives with large majorities. Deep down we want to conserve more, we just want the government to tell us how and when to do it.

3. Of course, all this is based on the assumption of a down-river bridge, which at this point, still looks pretty remote. The only thing happening on the US side is improved connections to the bridge.

4. “Check Out This Sprawl” - fire up your cameras

5. Nominated for the "Most Self-Serving, Waste of Administration Time, Council Question". Kind of reminds me of Rome and fiddles.

6. Order of Business - Notice of Motion - Councillor Dilkens - is this possibly the first steps towards more of a user pay system for water/sewage services? We can only hope.

Found on Kijiji Windsor

The Downtown Market Exchange

Experience the market with a variety of vendors (Food, Clothing, Arts & Craft & Fruits & Vegetables) at the new Downtown Market Exchange.

Opening April 21 at 10am

Regular Hours
Tuesday to Friday 10am - 6pm
Saturdays 9:00am - 4pm

Located at:
406 Pelissier (the South East corner of Park & Pelissier)


* Organic products
* Ethnic Products
* Plus Size Fashion
* Pasta
* Breads
* Frozen Meals

Interested in becoming a vendor:
Affordable space from $75 / week.
Call 519-567-9000
or 519-945-9239

Friday, April 25, 2008

Windsor Star Photo Blog

The Windsor Star's newest blog - The Photo Blog
Star staff photographers will post their favourite photos of the week and comment on the shots. We encourage readers to send in their comments too. Tell us what you think about the blog or the photos that are featured. We also want to hear about photographs that appear in the newspaper.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Welcome to the twilight zone

Instead of actually releasing the 400 City Hall Square audit, we get a new media protocol.

What of our elected representatives? Their silence on issues such as this is telling.

With regard to the audits being stalled by the City, we might as well forget about them. By the time they are released they'll be so washed and spun dry as to be devoid of any value.

The real battle facing citizens will be over the creation and appointment of the City's Auditor General. First we must demand that this position be created before the next election. Second, we must be vigilant in ensuring that when this position is created it is truly an independent auditor, free of political control and influence.

This situation fits in nicely with the City's new "We Can" campaign. Council seems to be of the belief that "we can do anything we want and get away with it".

Positive thinking, Windsor style.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Something to wish for

A local paper that breaks municipal stories.

We could only be so lucky.

County Council and Tecumseh join the "naysayers" club

In Windsor, this would be called "naysaying" in the County, it's called effective representation. When the County began asking questions back in November the City hurled all sorts of accusations at them, simply for doing what they are elected to do - protecting the public purse. Maybe some of our own Councillors could learn a lesson or two.

It's certainly interesting, though not surprising to find out Windsor's is the only paid development commission in the Province. Windsor's representation on the WEDC is the un-elected CAO John Skorobohacz.

The WEDC is shaping up to be the poster child for what is wrong with city owned "arms-length" corporations. In the last 5 years we've had four different CEO's and and almost complete turnover of staff, leaving no institutional memory left at the commision. While our Mayor and Council drag out the howitzers to fire at a cash-strapped Library Board (which is the last board in Windsor that is not an arms length corporation), the very organization that is tasked with helping transform Windsor's economy is leaderless for the fourth time in five years.

Taxpayers should be very concerned considering we have recently setup the Tunnel Commission and Airport as arms length organizations with the new Tourism Windsor and Essex to follow.

Remember, it was this current City Council who voted against Councillor Drew Dilken's motion to automatically receive minutes from all boards and commissions.

Accountability and transparency may be the buzzwords of the day to many politicians but the reality in Windsor shows they really are swear words.
Motion Calling for More Transparency from Development Commission Supported at Council Meeting

Some members at the town of Tecumseh council meeting last night feel something needs to be done about the commissions failure to provide information requested at a county council meeting back in November.

County politicians have been calling for information from the Windsor and Essex Development Commission regarding governance structure and bylaws since November 2007. Deputy mayor Tom Burton made a motion that the organization provide public copies of the board's minutes, financial statements, and reports. Burton states, "My understanding is this is the only development commission I'm aware of that's paid. We certainly don't want in-camera information but we certainly do want what the public has a right to their tax dollars are being spent."

Tecumseh town council supported the motion and plans to circulate it through other municipalities for additional support. Burton says, "If we don't get the support we think we should get then we'll have to look at the freedom of information, I guess."

However, two weeks ago the commission stated that while the general public can't see its budget, Burton or any member of county or city counil, can see a copy but must first sign a confidentiality agreement.

2008 Recommended Budget Increases and Reductions

From the City's 2008 Budget documents, here are the recommended increases/decreases by department. Of the 22 departments listed, 12 were to receive increases, one stayed the same and 9 were to be decreased.

At this point I'm working off the recommended documents as the final approved budget documents are not available. When the approved budget is posted I'd really like to find out what the actual line by line reductions are versus increased revenue, revenue projections, increased funding from the Province and the pension obligation reduction.

One thing I've yet to find is the rational behind the Library funding decreases.

There are a few things to note about the decreases:

Transit Windsor - this decrease reflects increased revenue due to the fare increase and a $400,000 reduction in payments required for employee pension plan.

Social Support - this decrease is a result of uploading by the Province

Hospitality and Corporate Facility Planning - this decrease is mainly based on projected savings from electricity purchases

Huron Lodge - the majority of this decrease is due to increased funding from the Province

Licensing & Enforcement - the majority of this decrease was due to the possible elimination of the Crossing Guard Program, which I believe was not implemented.

Engineering and Corporate - the majority of this decrease is related to decreased streetlight maintenance and projected energy savings.

Recreation - this decrease is due to a combination of $250,000 in increased revenue (increased user fees) and an in-camera reduction of $750,000. I'm not sure what was actually implemented here.

Operations - the largest portion of this decrease was accomplished by the reduction of snow removal services

Corporate Administration
CAO's Office
- 8.9% Increase

Corporate Services
- 0.1% Increase
Human Resources
- 0.9% Increase
Council Services - 4.8% Increase
- 25.3% Increase
Information Technology
- 1.4% Increase

Community & Protective Services
Parks & Facility Operations
- 1.8% Increase
Recreation - 0.6% Decrease

Licensing & Enforcement
- 23% Decrease
Hospitality & Corporate Facility Planning
- 39.7% Decrease
Fire & Rescue Services
- 4.5% Increase
Building & Development
- 2.5% Increase
Planning - 0.0

Public Works
Engineering & Corporate Projects
- 2.5% Decrease
- 0.6% Decrease
Environmental Services
- 0.2% Increase

Social & Health Services
Social Support
-9.8% Decrease
Housing & Children Services
-4.0% Increase
Huron Lodge
- 4.7% Decrease

Agencies and Boards
Transit Windsor
- 2% Decrease
Windsor Public Library
-7.1% Decrease

Corporate Accounts
Corporate Accounts
- 5.3% Increase

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Joint Council/Library meeting

From the sound of today's Windsor Star article, it doesn't sound like there were too many surprises other than the Mayor and Councillor Brister, amongst others, having an increasingly difficult time making this a political issue about Councillor Halberstadt.

Congratulations to the Library Board members for standing up for what they believe in, despite the politics and games. From what I hear, the City would be very happy if the Library Board members all resigned in frustration, thereby necessitating a takeover. (It should be noted that the current Library board was appointed by a majority vote of this council's Striking Committee)

Anyone else notice how it seems to be alright for Mayor Francis to refer ominously to in-camera items like severance and personnel matters, implying that there are dark and sinister activities going on behind closed doors at the Library? I seem to remember the last time a Council member mentioned something from an in-camera meeting we were treated to one of Councillor Lewenza's trademark tirades along with editorials from the Star and musings from "The Cheerleader". Can we expect the same for the Mayor?

Don''t hold your breath.

Library Board member Ray Guillet wins the "Telling it like it is" Award for stating what is obvious to most people, except Council:
"At a joint meeting all the participants are equal," Guillet told councillors at the end of the session. "I did not feel like a joint participant. I feel I have been reprimanded, lectured and talked at."
Don't feel bad Mr. Guillet, the Federal Government, Provincial Government, County Council and numerous other organizations would probably agree with you.

I've got a suggestion. Why don't we compare the performance of the Library Board and the Windsor Essex Development Commission over the last 5 years. Lot's of interesting rumours floating around out there about the WEDC. Hopefully Windsor's future Auditor General will make this dysfunctional organization a priority target.

One final note. I still haven't heard from the Mayor or Council why the Library budget was initially targeted for a 7.1 % reduction. I'll have more on this later. I'm preparing a post demonstrating the various increases and decreases across City departments along with a breakdown (from the City) of the suggested ways the Library could operate with a $700,000 dollar reduction.

Update: AM800 Commentary - Closing a Library - by Teresinha Medeiros (The commentary is also located in the right hand sidebar for your listening pleasure!)

April Bloggers Meet

It's that time again.

April Windsor Bloggers Meet
Wednesday April 23rd
Taloola Cafe
396 Devonshire Rd,

7:00 pm

Details at the wiki.

Bloggers, commenters, readers - all are welcome.

Location, Location, Location

I've always known my neighbourhood to be a high crime area but I was still rather shocked to see it represented on Google Maps.

I was out running some errands yesterday afternoon and when I came home I found a flyer in my mailbox from a U of W Professor.
Dear Neighbourhood Resident;

My name is Alan Phipps and I'm a professor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at the University of Windsor. I'd like to invite you to participate in a research project entitled "Surveys for The Glengarry and Wellington-Crawford Geographical Monitoring Project". In this project, I've computer-programmed Google maps to create internet-based webpages of the locations and timings of crime and disorder offences, house sales, and fires during the years 2007, and 2006, around where you live. You can spend as little or as much time browsing my webpages as you wish, and you can stop whenever you've had enough. The index webpage at provides more background about the project. A quick look at this may help you decide whether you're interested.
There is quite a bit more info on the handout related to the survey, but the above paragraph gives you the general idea.

I took the survey and viewed the various maps. Although I have a good idea of the rate of crime in this area, I must admit I was still shocked to see it represented graphically.

I remember the Windsor Star doing a piece about 15 years ago showing the worst crime area in the city as a two block area bounded by Caron, University, Bruce and Wyandotte. After viewing Professor Phipps maps, I see some things haven't changed. Seeing as I live right at the NW corner of the worst area, it's not hard to understand why there's never a dull moment around here.

(click on image for full size)

One thing to note is that this area is directly south of the "Urban Village" site. In terms of an area crying out for urban renewal, you're looking at it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Now that's a real estate deal

Luxury oasis in desert

Windsor family buys Arizona estate in record-setting $14M cash deal
Wayne Gretzky and Claude Lemieux for neighbours.

Joint Library/City Council Meeting Today

It's not exactly the best time, but not much we can do about it:

An open meeting of Windsor City Council
with the Windsor Public Library Board
has been scheduled for
MONDAY APRIL 21, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 3rd floor, Windsor City Hall.
Discussion will include the Library Board's decision
to close the South Walkerville Branch on Tecumseh Road East.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Time to air the laundry in Windsor

Farewell to a short-sighted practice.
Ontario premier lifts outdoor-clothesline ban

Updated Fri. Apr. 18 2008 6:49 PM ET

Ontario residents can now hang their clothes and linens out to dry after the premier lifted the ban on outdoor clotheslines on Friday.

There were restrictions in many subdivisions across the province, but the province's new regulation will overrule the neighbourhood rules, which were put in place because clotheslines were considered unsightly.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said the move is also aimed at curbing the use of energy-sucking dryers, which burn up to six per cent of Ontario's power.

"There's a whole generation of kids growing up today who think a clothesline is a wrestling move," McGuinty said during his announcement.

"We want parents to have the choice to use the wind and the sun to dry their clothes for free."

Energy Minister Gerry Phillips said using outdoor clotheslines instead of electric dryers can:

  • Save consumers $30 a year as dryer use would be reduced by 25 per cent
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions, as five dryers produces about the same amount of emissions as an average-sized car
  • Reduce demand on the power grid, as dryers use about 900 kilowatt hours of electricity a year

The new regulation, which has angered the province's building industry, applies to detached and semi-detached homes and most row houses.

High-rise condominiums and apartments will not be affected for now, as the government wants more consultation to deal with safety and other concerns.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Elijah Of Buxton shortlisted for 2008 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards

Congratulations to Windsor author Christopher Paul Curtis on being shortlisted for the 2008 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards in the Young Adult/Middle Reader Award category for Elijah of Buxton.

Two juries of young readers decide the winners, with students from Grade 3 and 4 assessing the picture book category, and Grade 7 and 8 students deciding on the young adult/middle reader category.

This year's jurors hail from Ryerson Community School in Toronto.

A special shout to Guelph native Jean Little who is also nominated in the same category. I remember attending a book reading of Jean's at the Guelph Public Library in the early 70's. She was an inspiration to an awe-struck young boy passionate about reading. She will always hold a special place in my heart where all those favourite memories of our childhood are stored.

Put your marketing cap on

The following was sent to me by a reader who has noticed my interest in the current Convention and Visitor's Bureau website,

I welcome this new initiative and look forward to a more balanced and cooperative approach to tourism marketing between the City and County (not to mention, a new website!).
Dear Member,
I will begin by thanking you for your patience during this time of transition at the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Windsor Essex County & Pelee Island. As we continue to promote the region and deliver visitor and member services, there has been a great deal going on “behind the scenes” with regard to our evolution as a destination marketing organization.

At a joint City/County Council meeting on March 19th, a motion was approved to strike a transitional CVB Board of Directors to develop a regional strategy for tourism that would include such things as funding and governance. Based on this discussion, the current advisory board is being dissolved. Their last meeting will occur in May/June. We thank them for their time and commitment serving on our board. In many cases they have dedicated years to the CVB and the tourism industry for which we are grateful.

Current CVB Board members, as well as stakeholders from the tourism industry, are welcome to apply for the Tourism Windsor Essex Transitional Board. Interested parties should identify the sector they wish to represent (please refer to the attached advertisement outlining board recruitment). The striking committee will consist of three elected representatives from our primary funding bodies - City, County and Pelee Island - and they will determine the transitional board.

The transitional board's work will take them to late fall/early winter at which time City and County Councils will be approached with their findings/discoveries. Once deliberation has concluded, and the recommendations approved, it is expected that the current CVB organization will morph into a new entity known as Tourism Windsor Essex. Until such time, the CVB will continue to promote this great region of ours and will continue to support its membership.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we travel down this transitional road fully embracing the regional approach to tourism in Windsor, Essex County & Pelee Island.

Gordon Orr
Managing Director
You can find the details for applying for the new board at .

Related: A Channel report on the new tourism board.

An inauspicious start

The Windsor Essex Development Commission sent out a press release yesterday announcing their new W.E. CAN campaign. It looks like the campaign is starting out as W.E. Can't (quite yet).

The press release lists as the site to visit for information. Unfortunately, when you visit that site, there is nothing there.

If you visit - you find a hokey "under construction" logo.

How about Nope. All you get there is a timer, which at 5:20 am this morning was reading 1 day, six hours and twenty one minutes.

The Windsor Star has a story on the campaign, but strangely it doesn't mention any of the websites in the press release. Most likely they didn't want to highlight the fact that the CAN WE campaign was starting off with a pretty emphatic NO!

I shudder to think what the reaction to the Press Release is at many of the recipient addresses, as they click away in vain.

Edit: I just received an email suggesting that it's possible that the domain hasn't fully resolved yet and it may only be some areas that can't access the site. Most times when you are activating a domain, you will receive a notice that it can take up to 24 hours for a domain to fully resolve across the net. Try the domain out and post the results in the comments. At the very least, they should point the .ca domain to the .com instead of the "under construction" page.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Windsor Dominos Customer Service

My last two attempts at buying a Dominos Pizza in Windsor.

1. 1:15 pm

Me: Hi, I'd like to order a pizza for delivery.

Dominos: What is your phone number sir.

Me: 252-0869

Dominos: Your address is 653 Park St. You should get your order from the downtown location.

Me: Ok, can you connect me with the downtown location.

Dominos: No, they are not open until 2 pm.

Me: Ok, so I would like to order a pizza from your location (Huron Church and Tecumseh).

Dominos: It will take at least 45 minutes for your order.

Me: Ok, I'd like to order

Dominos: You really should wait and order from the downtown location. They will be open at 2 pm.

Me: So let me get this straight. You would prefer that I wait 45 minutes, call the downtown store, order a pizza and wait another 30 minutes rather than you making and delivering an order for me.

Dominos: Yes, it will take us at least 45 minutes anyways to make and deliver your order.

Me: Thanks, I think I'll make myself a sandwich instead.

2. 1:55 AM

Dominos: Hi, Dominos Pizza, can I take your order please

Me: I'd like to order a pizza for delivery please.

Dominos: Actually, we're closed sir.

Me: If you're closed, why did you answer the phone and ask if you could take my order?

Dominos: Technically we're not closed, but we will be in a couple of minutes.

Me: So "technically" you're closed, but the boss says you have to answer the phone until you're actually closed.

Dominos: Right!

Me: Make sure you get lots of practice at closing, you're going to need it.

Dominos: (silence)

Me: Can you give me the number to Ferarris?

Dominos: I don't understand sir.

Me: I know. Have a nice night.


Keep It Simple Stupid.

This recent AM 800 poll says it all. Hopefully City Councillors are paying attention. Forget the big ticket "legacy" items and focus on the basics.

Every time Council gets the urge to spend on big ticket items, they should drive to Ouellette and Riverside and view the current herd of white elephants. Before we build anymore "beacons", ask yourself if the City really needs to own one of the most expensive restaurant locations in the county.

Fix the potholes, pave the roads, cut the grass, repair the sidewalks replace the sewers and pick up the garbage. Once we've actually mastered some or all of the above, then MAYBE we can look at spending the money burning a hole in Council's pocket or contemplate taking out a multi-million dollar mortgage on the City's future.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Help support an Olympic Dream

Funding big hurdle for Adjetey-Nelson
Road to Bejing Olympics goes through Windsor trials
Jim Parker, Windsor Star
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The finish line for Jamie Adjetey-Nelson will come July 3-6 when Windsor hosts the Canadian Senior Track and Field Championships, which will also serve as the Olympic qualifier.

For the 23-year-old graduate of the University of Windsor and St. Joseph high school, funding could be the biggest obstacle for him reaching his goal of an Olympic berth.
I've put the banner above into the rotation at WE Speak.

Congratulations Windsor City Council


It's only taken this Council close to a year and a half to figure out what the last Council couldn't. Now all we have to do is convince them to cancel the $900,000 in money allocated for branding the City and make this short list a very long list.

If you want to attract new people and businesses to Windsor, do you really think telling them what the image of Windsor is versus what they can see with their own eyes is going to fool people?

People and companies do their due diligence when contemplating a major move. They look at prospective areas and evaluate the schools, streets, parks and other amenities. They look at house prices, tax rates and utility costs
Council eyes city spruce up
Quick fixes floated as summer nears
Doug Williamson, Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A short list of civic beautification and cleanup projects will be tackled by Windsor officials after a four-hour strategic planning session of city council Tuesday.

"We're going to see these ideas come back to council," Mayor Eddie Francis said. "These are very simple things that can be done."

A gathering at Willistead Manor of councillors, city officials and representatives of the city's five business improvement districts brainstormed a variety of ideas aimed at making Windsor more attractive for residents, tourists and investors.

But after seven individual working groups came up with detailed suggestions for improvement, they whittled down the list by the end of the session. Francis said it was important for the city to tackle these issues because the summer is approaching with the opening of the rebranded casino and various summer festivals.
Related: Ssshhhh, this logo's a secret - I'm sure Essex ratepayers will be dancing in the streets at the $200,000 dollar cost of this program

Gambling with your future

Detroit-Windsor tunnel deal under threat

I'd sooner see the City take $75 million, walk to Casino Windsor and plunk it down on a spin of the roulette wheel. That at least would save us the endless years of legal fees, studies, audits, inquiries and other related costs that are sure to follow. From my understanding of things, this will now remove an asset with declining revenues from the City books.

A cynic might observe that this destroys the City's much vaunted "Pay as you go" program, but cynics have to be careful these days. As a new "arms-length" corporation, designed were told, to protect us from litigation, the new Tunnel Corporation is not subject to "Pay as you go" anymore.

Houdini would be proud.

Prediction: in the long run, this will make the Canderel fiasco seem like chump change.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WE Speak does video

One of the things I've had on my wish list for WE Speak (as well as London and Guelph Speak) was adding video capabilities. I wanted to capture local related content for viewing. Last night I started experimenting with how to integrate video into the site.

Videos have been incorporated into WE Speak in two ways:

The Video Centre: these are user submitted videos that can be viewed at WE Speak. Categories have been created for various sites (Scale Down Windsor, The Windsor Star, Schnurr's Sound Off etc...). Videos can be submitted from most major sites - YouTube, Google - over 30 different types supported. User submitted videos must await admin approval before they are published. Once I have a few bugs worked out, users will be able to register and self-publish.

Video Feeds: much like site or blog feeds, these are Windsor related video feeds that I have discovered and added to the aggregator. They will appear on the front page and cycle down the list as any other post. So far I've added the following to get things started:

1. Windsor Star
2. Scale Down Windsor
3. Schnurr's Sound Off
4. Blue Blogging Soapbox

If you scroll down the front page, you should be able to see the first few videos imported from the Windsor Star.

I'm using WE Speak as the test platform to try a few different things. Once I've kicked things around a bit, received feedback and settled on a format, I'll roll it out on all the Speak sites.

The Windsor Star on YouTube

I noticed recently that the Windsor Star switched from hosting their own videos to using YouTube. I think this was a very wise move on their part. Leveraging social media can only enhance the product offered, not to mention using Google's bandwidth instead of your own.

One thing I would suggest for the Star, and any others using YouTube, is to add a link back to any related stories or content. You can add a link in the Video info simply by posting the URL (no html is allowed). If your URL is too long, use a service like to shorten it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quick Hits - Monday April 14th

1. Timing is everything. Amazing that a report from the Library Board dated 09 April takes two days to travel from 850 Ouellette to City Hall. The relentless slow march of the bureaucracy certainly benefited the Mayor when interviewed Thursday night:
But on Thursday night, Francis said council has yet to see that information. "Council asked for detailed, line-by-line numbers. We, as a council, have not seen those numbers yet."
If only the City were as prompt at providing information to it's citizens as the Library Board is to the City (The report is stamped received at the City on the 11th of April).

2. New widget in the sidebar - Did you miss the latest AM800 commentaries? Now you can listen to them anytime. Updated automatically each day.

3. Mayor of Monmouth with more on the Seagrave Demolition

4. MapMyCity - hours of fun! What would be nice to see for future editions would be an API. Harness the power of open-source web development.

5. Canadian medical business booming in Detroit - while we continue to stick our heads in the sand regarding public/private healthcare possibilities in Canada - Detroit is glad for the business.

6. 14 days and counting.

7. While Windsor bashes Ottawa to try and get $30 million, other jurisdictions are playing the same game.
Garnering support by federal bashing

Since the creation of the $2.1-billion national fund for gateways and border crossings, Ottawa has siphoned off $400 million for the Windsor-Detroit corridor and $1 billion for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.

Graham's Liberal government is angling for cash to help complete $275 million worth of upgrades to Route 1 en route to the St. Stephen-Calais border crossing.
8. WindsorWindow - a different view of Windsor by Alan Michael Elliott

More confusion on the budget surplus

The AM800 poll from Thursday sure leaves people with the impression that this money was yet to be allocated. The top news station in Essex County didn't get the message, I guess that's Councillor Halberstadt's fault as well.

Obviously we had better hurry up and spend that $250,000 on a new Communications Department for City Hall. If the reporters need help, certainly us mere taxpayers are almost beyond redemption.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Congratulations Bob Boughner

A well deserved accolade

Boughner voted OHL's top coach

The trio of Boughner, Rychel and Dobrich are doing an outstanding job with the Spitfires.

Petty politics

The situation with the Library Board keeps getting more interesting all the time. I really hope the Mayor, Councillor Brister and Councillor Lewenza keep up their assault on this issue. The more they do, the more they expose themselves.

Let's look at the Mayor's latest comments:

Reached on Thursday, Mayor Eddie Francis stressed that the surplus isn't new money, and has already been earmarked to pay for such things as Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims by firefighters and expected tax reductions as a result of tax appeals.

"It was well understood during the budget negotiations of two months ago that there was going to be a surplus. But it was equally understood that there were costs that had yet to be allocated," Francis said.

According to Francis, Halberstadt knew all this and had a responsibility to communicate it to the library board, since Halberstadt was a part of the budget deliberations.

To start, we'll leave aside the fact that Councillor Brister is also a member of the Library board who we would assume has the same responsibility that the Mayor assigns to Councillor Halberstadt alone.

Let's look at the Mayor's assertion that "Halberstadt knew all this and had a responsibility to communicate it to the library board. "

Yesterday's Windsor Star article
on the surplus had several quotes regarding the surplus from other Councillors, speculating on various uses for this new found money. I didn't see any mention from any of them that the funds were all allocated already.

Councillor Postma:
"A tax break is an option, but you always need to look at the level of service and priorities," said Coun. Caroline Postma. "Before I say tax break I need to look at projects we're working on and make sure we are on the right track with things."

Postma pointed to planned tourism promotions or projects aimed at boosting downtown that council may decide on soon. They will likely require money from last year's surplus.

Councillor Valentinis:
"(A tax cut) is an issue of debate for council to undertake," said Coun. Fulvio Valentinis. "But our (reserve funds) have also been consistently below where they should be ..."
My favourite, City Treasurer Onorio Colucci:
The budget surplus may wind up being used for a handful of unexpected expenses, but most of the money should remain in the city's "rainy day" reserve account, suggested city treasurer Onorio Colucci.
Funny, the one thing I can't find any of these people saying is that all this money has already been allocated. Not even a hint. You would expect that at least the City Treasurer would have made this very clear. Councillors Valentinis and Postma are not rookie councillors, why are they under the impression that this money hasn't been decided upon yet?

The A-Channel's report from yesterday includes the same sort of quotes, with the Mayor even chiming in about concerns regarding the Library's CEO - but nothing about the surplus all being spent. Councillor Brister is more concerned with "messaging" and the fact that the Library Board"defied" Council's direction.

The Star's online edition of this story has some additional material that didn't make the print version.
Indeed, Halberstadt said a board report on the library system's financial conditions indicates the current level of operations aren't sustainable past this year. "It can be handled in 2008. But beyond, we're looking at about a half-a-million-dollar shortfall a year."

Halberstadt said the library board's formal request to reverse the funding cut was sent to city administration on Thursday, and it will likely be discussed by city council at Monday's meeting.

Halberstadt said the library board also sent on Thursday documents regarding library budgets since 2003 - something the city has asked for.

But on Thursday night, Francis said council has yet to see that information. "Council asked for detailed, line-by-line numbers. We, as a council, have not seen those numbers yet."

Asked why it seems City Hall is frequently at loggerheads with the library board, Francis said the city has its own frustrations with the board's lack of information-sharing.

"There are a lot of events over the past two years that have raised a significant amount of concerns among myself and members of council with regard to the operation of the library. And to date, our concerns have not been answered."

The bolded part would almost be funny if it wasn't so sad. The concept of this Mayor complaining about lack of information sharing is akin to Attila the Hun complaining about being called aggressive.

The Library Board recently passed a City-mandated audit with flying colours. The Mayor speaks of a "signficant amount of concerns" with regard to the operation of the library. What are all these concerns and why haven't we heard about them before? If these concerns have occurred over the last two years, why didn't Council take action when appointing new board members?

Library Board members are appointed by a majority vote of Council. Is the Mayor saying that year in, year out, that Council has been appointing the wrong people to the Library board? This running battle with the Library goes all the way back to the previous Council. Is each and every board member appointed the problem and not Council?

The City's base funding to the Library has decreased almost $1 million dollars over the last four years, while adding another branch and demanding that services not be affected. We could only wish that the same due diligence was equally applied across all City departments. Maybe if all this scrutiny had been applied to the WUC over the last four years we wouldn't be getting screwed in that area.

Could the Library Board have balanced their budget this year without cuts? Yes, but only by drawing their reserves down to dangerously low levels, a choice they obviously refused. With the year after year cuts demanded by the City, it's probably a wise choice to hold onto those reserves, especially when this is a contract year for the Library.

The Mayor and Council are of the opinion that the Library Board should expend most of their money in reserve, as this is what Council has consistently done themselves.
"(A tax cut) is an issue of debate for council to undertake," said Coun. Fulvio Valentinis. "But our (reserve funds) have also been consistently below where they should be with respect to our peers."
That's certainly the understatement of the year.

Gord Henderson, The Windsor Star Editorial Board and anyone else who wishes to can join hands with Mayor Francis and the rest of Council and sing Kumbaya Windsor to their hearts desire - I've had enough.

PS. here's some help for City Council - word is they've been desperately searching for the last six months or so.

Edit: Schnurr's Sound-Off with more on the surplus - The truth? What truth? Mayor Francis at it again

I particularly loved this part:

And the Mayor’s statement on AM800 appears to contradict his 2006 Inaugural Address at which he stressed the importance of increasing our reserves to $112-million by 2012.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Garbage in Garbage Out

From Administration's Report on the surplus (H/T Schnurr's Sound-Off):

The fact that someone is tracking and reporting Internet Page Views worries me a lot. It should never be viewed in isolation as any sort of reliable metric for website performance. With the current site based on frames, this stat is probably skewed even more. Page views are a great stat to hype to people who have no idea what it means, especially when it's done in isolation.

This probably explains why the CVB is happy to keep the embarrassing website that we have today.

If it works, why fix it, right? (Although, even the stats as presented show that it's not working).

From Web Analytics on Wikipedia:
Two units of measure were introduced in the mid 1990s to gauge more accurately the amount of human activity on web servers. These were page views and visits (or sessions). A page view was defined as a request made to the web server for a page, as opposed to a graphic, while a visit was defined as a sequence of requests from a uniquely identified client that expired after a certain amount of inactivity, usually 30 minutes. The page views and visits are still commonly displayed metrics, but are now considered rather unsophisticated measurements.

The emergence of search engine spiders and robots in the late 1990s, along with web proxies and dynamically assigned IP addresses for large companies and ISPs, made it more difficult to identify unique human visitors to a website. Log analyzers responded by tracking visits by cookies, and by ignoring requests from known spiders.

The extensive use of web caches also presented a problem for logfile analysis. If a person revisits a page, the second request will often be retrieved from the browser's cache, and so no request will be received by the web server. This means that the person's path through the site is lost. Caching can be defeated by configuring the web server, but this can result in degraded performance for the visitor to the website.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Let the sun shine in

Looks like another municipality that could benefit from a regular "Sunshine" report documenting in-camera time spent by Council.

Kudos to this Councillor for standing up for what he believes in.

I wonder if we could convince him to visit Windsor and have a training session for our own Councillors?

Just a thought.


As we progress through the latest "revitalization" process for Windsor, there is one thing that should be considered about some of the ideas being bandied about. First and foremost, the City can be the catalyst of any project and offer support in terms of planning and implementation, but in no way should the City be owners/operators of any venture.

The London Fog documents the on-going saga in London with Storybook Gardens, purchased by the City of London in 2003. They invested $7 million dollars into the failing venture in 2003 and have lost another $1 million since then.

Windsor has plenty of it's own examples when it comes to white elephants with the Cleary and Canderel leading the pack. Municipalities exist to provide services and infrastructure to their citizens, not play business owner, operator or developer.

In Windsor we own golf courses and marinas, but can't fund appropriate library services. Roseland reportedly makes money, as it's currently reported to the public, but does it really? The City never factors in the staff time to oversee the operation, not to mention Councillor's time as members of the board.

If the Mayor and Councillors want to be entrepreneurs they should do it with their own money, not taxpayers.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

One to read

I meant to post about this blog last week, unfortunately it dropped off my radar screen. Take a few minutes to read Don McArthur's excellent blog on the Spitfire/City arena deal.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis spinning secret Spits deal...

...When Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis says the secret deal the city signed with the Windsor Spitfires is a good one for taxpayers, he may well be telling the truth. But when he tells you the city was “never against it being released,” he isn’t being as clear as he could be. While that probably doesn’t qualify as news anymore, it should still be regarded as significant.

The reality is that the agreement included a confidentiality clause, designed to keep under wraps details that had been shared publicly in the past. That clause was reportedly inserted at the request of the Spits, but the city was under no obligation to enter into it.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Windsor Comedy Festival

Who knew we had one?
Unveiled two weeks ago at his state of the city address, Francis has said the municipal contribution would come from existing sources and not require increased taxes or new debt. He envisions a regional $100 million fund made up of municipal, county and provincial dollars that could be used to lure high quality jobs to the region
Where have I heard that before?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Note to self

Pay attention next time your domain hosting service sends you a reminder to renew your domain.

My apologies for the brief downtime experienced by WE Speak last night/early this morning. Thankfully, in the few brief hours that the site was down due to the domain expiring, no domain prospectors came along and scooped it up. That would have been a pain, although it would also have been a costly lesson to pay more attention to the little details.

Next Generation Bus Service

NextBus is currently being used in Ontario by Guelph and Thunder Bay. The service has features like LiveMap through the company website or through Google Maps. Information on bus arrival times can be accessed by phone/cellphone, internet, Blackberry/PDA and internet enabled cell phones.

Vancouver's service hasn't gone live yet, but is in progress as GPS units are added to the city's buses.

TransLink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, operates public transportation services in Vancouver, Canada. On Facebook, you can use TransLink to lookup your bus schedules or get them by text message!

TransLink launched the popular Next Bus service on Facebook

Vancouver, April 4, 2008 - TransLink continues to make transit information available to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible, introducing Next Bus on Facebook.

The phenomenally popular Next Bus service, launched in December, is now available on the social networking website. Using the unique five-digit bus stop codes, Facebook users can store their favourite stop location and transit route number combinations, and then find out when the next six buses are scheduled to arrive.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

211, 211, Wherefore Art Thou 211

When Windsor City Council approved the implementation of the 211 service over a year ago, administration was directed to negotiate an operating agreement with the County and the Windsor Essex County United Way agency and report back to Council.

Unless it's been approved in-camera, I don't remember seeing this operating agreement come back before Council for approval. It's been more than a year since the initial vote and over six months since the actual service launched.

Where's the operating agreement or, at the very least, an update on where negotiations stand?

It's your tax dollars being spent, you deserve to know the answers.

Duck and cover

"Asked for his opinion, Mayor Eddie Francis said the WEDC is an independent body, and it's board of directors is responsible for it's oversight."
Given how Windsor math works I guess that Eddie's new 5 point Jobs Plan is now at least the "4.5 Point Plan" (and that's being generous).

I've been told that, as usual, the full story will take some time to develop regarding this situation.

Speaking of the infamous "5 Point Plan", isn't it seeming more likely every day that the WEDC will control a joint City/County/Provincial/Federal investment fund for the City of Windosr?

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

PS. - that $900,000 dollar "investment" in branding for the City of Windsor is looking better and better every day. Lest we forget, it was identified as a priority issue in the last round of City consultations regarding strategic planning.

PS 2. - When is the next election date? Do the current lemmings Councillors even care?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Just for fun

How are your typing skills? A quick one minute typing test to see how you rate. Thankfully, the test doesn't include numbers. Throw those in and my speed would probably drop 20 to 25 points.

I learned to type in the Navy on old manual typewriters. I remember struggling to pass the standard at the time, five tests in a row at 20 wpm. On the ship we used four part carbon message forms with no mistakes allowed. A great deal of interesting language could often be heard emanating from the Communications Control Room. Typing at sea was always interesting with a manual. You had to hold the carriage with one hand as you one-finger typed with your other. The ships roll would often cause the carriage to jump as you began hitting a key. When we received our first electric typewriter in June of 1986 it was like a gift from heaven!

I think I'll practice a little more and see if I can't bump my average up a little.

69 words

Speed test

Update: found this pic online. When I first came to Windsor in Dec of 1988, HMCS Hunter still had a small Communications Centre responsible for transmitting all routine unclassified traffic in the city for military units. For the first two years I was using an old CNCP teletype, as pictured below. You had to type the message once to generate a tape, dial the CommCen in Toronto and then transmit using the tape. It would be 1990 before we finally got a computer terminal. We had a fax machine but it was considered to expensive for routine messages. A few choice words used to emanate out of this office as well, especially when someone used to walk in and step on the tape while I was transmitting.

The good old days!

Bad weather

It seems like it never rains, just pours in Windsor. At this rate, we should start thinking about building an ark soon.

On a somewhat related front, Chris Schnurr's got the goods on the City's arena deal with the Spitfires.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Around Town Tuesday - April 1st

1. Vote for Kingsville - Kraft Hockeyville voting - help Kingsville win $100,000 and an NHL game for their community. (you can also vote by phone - 1-888-843-5604)

2. With Essex already switching to the OPP and now Leamington considering the same, it's a shame no one is talking about a regional force.

3. Ever since the Windsor Star started their blogs, I figured it would be a contentious issue. I'm assuming the other added duties relates to filing online stories. A protracted strike by reporters would be interesting in today's online world. How long would it take them to set up their own site and begin publishing content? On the other hand, taxpayers will lose if it's a long strike - City Hall would actually have to move forward with their own communications department.

4. Building a Safe Attractive Downtown, Thursday, Apr. 3, 2008
Presented by the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association with assistance from All Saints Anglican Church

Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 6:30 p.m.
All Saints Anglican Church
330 City Hall Square West, Downtown Windsor (south entrance)

5. Three months of the year are gone. The capital and operating budgets have been put to bed. What else is there to do? I know, let's have a strategy session! I can't wait to see what replaces branding as the #1 Priority in Windsor this year.

6. Flashback - Big sound, big hair, big Camaro News cars - The Big 8, CKLW 20/20 News team
- Byron MacGregor at the 1985 WNIC/CKLW Reunion!
- Bill Gable at the 1985 WNIC/CKLW Reunion!
- Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of The Big 8