It’s Not Just Us, Then?

I guess we can expect more of the same from some at the Windsor Star in the lead-up to this year’s municipal election. Trying as hard as they might to carry out the stated intent of Marty Beneteau to invoke change, the Star and it’s not so intrepid reporters are doing all they can to keep things the way they are. Status quo for the poorest run city in Canada, and led by the unqualified, is what Beneteau et al want for Windsorites. That bodes ill for taxpayers.

In the latest fusillade from the Star, Gord Henderson predictably scribbled a column pressing for the re-run of Eddie Francis this fall. Those of you who were regular readers at my old site will be quite aware how I feel about Windsor’s current mayor, and what I think another term would bring the city. But old Gord has a differing opinion.

But we need one more term from this guy to seal the deal and ensure Windsor is irrevocably on course to becoming the kind of smart, streamlined, low-tax, low-debt community that can attract investment and survive, even thrive, in the challenging decades that lie ahead with China in charge and North America reduced to an economic backwater.

Well, first off, Gord, Windsor has one of the highest municipal tax rates in the province for which we receive an ever diminishing number of services. Don’t get me wrong, Edgar sure does spend the money we give him, we just don’t get anything in return for it. No jobs to help those in Canada’s unemployment capital, no investment, no hope. Do we really need another term of stagnation and recession?

No we do not.

We also don’t need more over spending by the mayor. Millions of dollars spent to fight the provincial government instead of allowing the Windsor-Essex Parkway to be built. How many of you remember the mail-in campaign and car flags? Or the lawyers and consultants from 400-500 km away to obfuscate, delay, and threaten litigation if the mayor didn’t get his own way? Only to give in to Ontario Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan and agree to what was on the table years ago. And there was the Star to spin it into a win for Edgar. At least they tried but no one was willing to drink their koolaid.

Or how about the WFCU Centre being built in the east end to the detriment of Windsor’s already dying downtown? Was it grossly over budget by tens of millions of dollars and sole sourced contrary to the city’s own purchasing by-law? I can hardly wait to read the  Arena Audit  Report before the election. That is unless we  have another Dunbar fiasco. 

Let’s also not forgetthe land deal with Shmuel Farhi. The London developer buys an old plant on the east side, an area devoid of development, and a short while later it  becomes the site for the arena. What a shrewd investment. Go back in history to discover how much he paid for it and how much of that amount the City paid back to him even though we purchased only a small part of the total  parcel.

And don’t forget the  land swap for the prime  piece of real estate downtown for which no taxes were paid for years (which taxpayers in effect made up) and which the City was obliged to clean up as well.

Old Gord continues to blather endlessly about some of Edgar’s so-called successes but he is just shining the light on what is really the downfall of Windsor as an investment destination.

And I’m only scratching the surface, given the more than $600 million that’s being splashed around Windsor to rebuild streets, bridges and other much-needed infrastructure.

And that is Edgar to a T. He’s a user. He is using federal money (our money) to fix infrastructure that he would not ever have attempted to undertake if forced to use city money (our money) for the projects. He couldn’t very well fix roads and sewers when a legacy was awaiting him with pie-in-the-sky visions of flying trucks and playing children’s games. With old Gord’s help, Edgar is attempting to take credit for projects he really had no desire to pursue. Case in point is the storm water retention basin being constructed at the riverfront.

Windsor is the 3rd worst polluter in the Province of Ontario.

Unless addressed, the situation is only going to get worse, argues Ecojustice, because climate change is making storms more intense and frequent. Dev Tyagidoesn’t dispute that assessment. Windsor’s general manager of public works said the city has been expanding the treatment capacity at the Lou Romano Reclamation Plant.

The retention basin would go a long way toward reducing the amount of pollutants entering the Detroit River. But at the May 1st council meeting last year councilors were told to forget putting the basin on their wish list for federal funding since it didn’t meet the government’s criteria. Instead, Edgar tried to force his pet canal project on the blindsided councilors. Even Conservative Party MP Jeff Watson had seen the canal proposal six weeks earlier.

Not to be bullied (at least that time) council rejected the canal and put the basin on their wish list. Lo and behold, the city received funding for the retention basin from the feds after all. What did Edgar have to say about it?

“Other cities are putting forward massive projects with vision. Today, here, instead of such vision, we have a receptor sewer project … how does that diversify our economy,” Francis said after the meeting.

Compare the mayor’s environmental stance to that of Leamington.

When Leamington finishes its $40-million renovation and expansion of its sewage treatment plant in late 2010, it hopes to permanently eliminate the dumping of effluent into Lake Erie, said John Tofflemire, director of community services. “The Ministry of the Environment was after us, that’s why we are anxious to get the project done,” Tofflemire said. “It’s environmentally unacceptable to be doing this.”

It just shows where Edgar’s prioritites lay.

By supporting the basin project publically, Dev Tyagi was setting himself up to be let go from the city’s employ. He was gone shortly after the end of the city strike in July. That is typical for city operations  during Edgar’s watch. The long, long list of city managers who have been forced out, eased out, or who have seen the writing on the wall and got the hell out of Dodge. Remember when fromer CEO John Skorobhacz’s suddenly vanished?

Skorobohacz cited several reasons for his decision to part ways with the city, including growing disagreements with council and weariness from the heavy-handed control of Francis.

The latest victim of Edgar’s my way or the highway approach to personnel was Mary Beruth who suddenly ceased to be a city manager just last week. Reportedly she disagreed with the mayor on some issue(s) and is now on the outside looking in. How can this be a productive and encouraging atmosphere in which to work? Where is value for tax payer’s money?

And according to Gord Henderson and the Windsor Star we need four more years of this management in secrecy? Cone of Silence administration? Management by tyranny? This obvious lack of leadership in favour of “loudership”?

No we do not.

But old Gord and the Star continue to try to persuade Windsorites that Edgar alone can save the city. That’s like thanking the arsonist for not setting fires. Even Gord’s old canoeing buddy, Councilor Alan  Halberstadt, sees through the haze.

These words appeared in yet another of his weekly genuflections to Mayor Eddie Francis. Gord is a sweet man, an old friend and a fine writer, but he has finally spurred me to ask the question: “Who would have thought that Gord Henderson, the once ferocious City Hall watchdog and fact-finder, would become such an unquestioning lapdog of the mayor of Windsor?”

In other words Gord is getting old, dull, predictable, and irrelevant. He is spitting into the wind; the wind of change. I guess it’s not just us, then that see beyond the bluster and spin.

I welcome you to The Square, the newest online news and opinion portal addressing the issues and providing the analysis that the “lapdogs” at the Windsor Star refuse to question.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata

Ian writes for and provides imagery to Square Media Group as well as accepting freelance photographic assignments. In addition, he has contributed to media organizations, sporting groups, and individuals across North America including the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Chatham-Kent Sports Network, the Golf Association of Michigan, League 1 Ontario, as well as numerous colleges and universities in Canada and the United States.

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1 Comment on "It’s Not Just Us, Then?"

  1. hey hey | 21 July 2010 at 21:56 |

    No, it is far from just you.

    This town is awakening from the daze.

    One by one.

Comments are closed.