Windsor Star photo - IrekMy name is Irek Kusmierczyk and I am honoured to be your voice on Windsor City Council as the Councillor for Ward 7.  Welcome to my blog called Forward 7.  Scroll down and you’ll find posts about issues residents have raised at the door, ideas and plans for improving Ward 7, how I voted on matters before council, and discussions about innovative best practices in other cities.  I hope Forward 7 becomes a space where we can connect and a first step in making City Council more transparent, accessible, accountable and responsive to residents.  I invite you to surf my site and as always I am available any time to talk in person, by phone or email.

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn
ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Great Canadian Flag Project Yes 10-0 Delegation
2 – Fire lock box policy Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – FINA 2016 Project Charter Yes 9-1 Presentation
4 – Site Plan Windsor Police Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – South Windsor Recreation Complex Yes 10-0 Presentation
       
       

 

Item No. 3 – Council received the Project Charter for the FINA 2016 World Swimming Championship.  Three concerns jump out off the page as the City shifts towards the execution stage.

FIRST, a significant number of City staff are being asked to commit their time to the organization of the FINA games on top of their normal workload.  As the report notes “it is likely that a resource risk will occur and the consequences are high.  Therefore the overall risk is significant”.  FINA will be the third major sporting event the City has organized in the last three years.  What impact does that have on our staff in terms of impact, burnout, and ability to carry out its core tasks.

SECOND, the total event budget is roughly $11 million.  The report tells us that with the Canadian currency dropping in value – there is a risk that due to decreased purchasing power the real cost of the games would increase by an additional $3 million.  That is a significant risk to the budget.

THIRD, the previous City administration committed $3 million to the FINA games and planned on raising an additional $7 million from federal and provincial government sponsorship.  Any shortfall, it is assumed, will be covered by the City.  Again, there is a serious concern here that the hit to the City budget will be significantly larger than anticipated.

The previous Council committed the City to the FINA games.   The role of the current Council is to make sure the games are executed so that both the city’s reputation and budget are protected.  Athletic games of this magnitude always bring with them a significant element of risk.

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn
ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Appointment of hearing officers YES 10-0 Consent
2 – Broadway and Healy drains Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Delegation of Authority Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – Site Plan Fed Ex Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Site Plan application for IBSL Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 263 – Alley closure Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 264 – Pattison signs Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 258 – TBQ Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 259 – Deny Walkerville curb cut Yes 7-4 Delegation
Report No. 262 – Deny alley closure Yes 10-0 Delegation
Report No. 255 – Deny condo conversion FOREST GLADE Yes 10-0 Delegation
Communications No. 10 – Parking Fines Yes 10-0 Communication
Communication No. 11 – High Tension Cable Barriers for EC Row Yes 10-0 Communication

 

Communication #10 – Council passed my motion to extend the 15-day window to pay parking fines to 30-days.  Simply put, most residents are shocked to find out that their parking ticket fine has doubled after such a short period of time e.g. 15 days.  Introducing a 30-day pay window provides residents with a little more time to pay their ticket without incurring the hefty late penalty.

Communication #11 – Council passed my motion to include High Tension Cable Barriers in the upcoming Environmental Assessment (EA) of the EC Row expressway which is slated for 2016.  I strongly believe that HTCB are critical components to improving safety on EC Row.  It makes sense to study HTCB as part of a comprehensive EA.  A recent report published by Transportation Alberta titled High Tension Cable Barriers Performance Evaluation Study (October, 2013) concluded “the HTCB system has been highly effective [and] … This high tension cable barrier has reduced the severity of collisions, is highly cost effective, and can serve as a model for further application of this barrier application in Alberta and in other Canadian jurisdictions.”

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Windsor is a safe city and the East End is a safe community.  In fact, Ward 7 has seen a 13 per cent decrease in reported incidents of crime in 2014.  Having said that, there is no such thing as too much preparation and too much collaboration when it comes to public safety.  On Thursday night we were delighted to host a Neighbourhood Watch meeting at Our Lady of the Atonement Church on Forest Glade Drive – with special thanks to co-organizers Neighbourhood Watch Windsor, Crime Stoppers, Windsor Police Services and Dispatch 911 as well as the Safety Village.

There are 7 Neighbourhood Watches set up in Ward 7 – and we certainly hope to increase that number this year, which is why we will be organizing subsequent meetings in the coming months.

Here is a good CTV story about the evening: CLICK HERE

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

According to a report published by the Conference Board of Canada called City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities – Windsor must do a better job of creating a climate of innovation after receiving an across-the-board grade of D.

City_Magnets_2014

 

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was in Windsor this week to talk with Ontario residents before he tables the Province’s budget in 2015.  Many organizations were present and did not shy away from taking the microphone to put forward their excellent ideas and important concerns.

I took my turn to praise the government for making investments in the two Campus Linked Accelerators (CLAs) at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor that will provide support for young homegrown entrepreneurs.

At the same time, I proposed to the Finance Minister that a provincial fund be established to help municipalities like Windsor launch City Led Accelerators modeled after the $30 million Bayview Yards redevelopment in Ottawa that is converting an old abandoned factory into a world-class innovation and technology incubator.  The Bayview Yards projects represents a 50/50 partnership between the City of Ottawa and the Province of Ontario – with most of the city costs provided in-kind e.g. land.

I encourage you to Google “Bayview Yards” to find out more. Here is an article to get you started: CLICK HERE

Here is a Youtube video about the transformation of the old lands: CLICK HERE

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn
ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Basement flooding subsidy program Yes 10-0 Regular
2 – Establishing Retail Corporation Yes 10-0 Deferral
3 – Fairbarn Cemetary Yes 10-0 Presentation
4 – 2015 Sewer surcharge update Yes 10-0 Regular
5 – Support to budget issue 2015-0211 Yes 10-0 Regular
6 – Council remuneration Yes 10-0 Regular
7 – Windsor Water World Yes   Delegation
8 – Operating budget addendum Yes 10-0 Regular
9 – Grand Prix sponsorship No 7-3 Regular
Adie Knox Yes 10-0 Delegation
Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation No 5-6 Presentation
Delaying Elimination of One Hour Downtown Free Parking for one year No 6-4 Delegation
Continue Arts/Culture Funding Yes 10-0 Delegation
Continue support for Windsor Symphony Orchestra Yes 10-0 Delegation
Safety Village support Yes 10-0 Delegation
 Seniors Hockey – increase fees  No  8-2  Delegation

 

Council unanimously passed the 2015 Budget on Monday with a zero per cent increase to the General Tax Levy for the 7th straight year – making Windsor the only city in Canada to be able to stake that claim.

The 8 hours of 2015 Budget deliberations accomplished what we set out to do as a City Council: balance the budget, keep the General Tax Levy the same, and yet manage to provide additional support for some important community organizations and services such as Adie Knox, Windsor Water World, Safety Village and Windsor Symphony Orchestra that keep our city and neighbourhoods vibrant.  Well into the evening, Council had made about $600,000 in additional commitments that were not contained in the Operating Budget 2015.  Fortunately, having studied the 2015 Budget front-to-back, Councillors had prepared in advance a list of potential savings and revenue generators to offset these costs and balance the books.  All in all, this was an important exercise especially for Councillors like myself who are new to the Budget process – as we learned a great deal about the economic health of our City, the state of our infrastructure and services, as well as the budgetary pressures on the horizon that we must address starting today.

Item #1: Council voted to pre-commit $1.2 million from the 2016 capital budget to support residents who make the necessary investments (e.g. backwater valve and pump) to protect their homes from flooding.  Funding for the Basement Flooding Subsidy Program in 2015 represents a 500 per cent increase from 2012 – reflecting the growing challenge posed by the City’s aging infrastructure.

Item#2:  Council voted to defer this vote until a later time.

Item#6: Council voted to review  City Councillor pay in 2017.  City Councillors in Windsor have not received a pay raise since 2005 rejecting even a modest increase to keep up with inflation and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – which over that time amounts to a 16 per cent pay cut.  Council decided for the 9th straight year that it is better to invest in the community than increase Councillor salaries.  This is a different philosophy than our counterparts in Toronto City Council which are about to approve a 17 per cent increase to the Mayor’s Office as well as a 2.5 per cent increase to Councillor salaries.

Item#7: Council voted to maintain operations at Windsor Water World. Simply put, the services provided to the downtown core community are vital.  Closing Water World would have moved us further along on the path towards a community of two Windsors: the Windsor that can afford and access recreational activities like swimming and soccer, and those that cannot.

Item#9:  Council voted to sponsor the Grand Prix in Detroit to the tune of $50,000.  I voted against this motion.    First off, I don’t remember the last time the City of Detroit sponsored anything in Windsor (e.g. International Children’s Games, FINA?).  Second, I would rather see that funding invested at home.  For example, a Windsor-born entrepreneur named Bob Huggins spent the last three years producing a film about an important part of Windsor’s history and its link to the Civil Rights Movement.  The movie is called The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth and it captures a wonderful story woven around rarely seen video footage and photographs of Windsor and Detroit.  The movie premiered on TVO in December 2014 and is scheduled to anchor TVOs Black History Month celebrations in February.  The City of Windsor is not a partner on this film and yet I strongly believe it should be one.  I would rather see part of the Grand Prix funding go towards this important film that tells the rest of Canada and other parts of the world about Windsor’s proud history and our part in one of the greatest social movements of our time.

Item Adie Knox: Simply put, the ice pad at Adie Knox was a critical community centre for thousands of youth in the city core and beyond for hockey.  We voted to maintain the ice pad.

Item Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC): Councillor Hilary Payne put forward a motion to withhold funding to the WEEDC for the second half of the year until the organization presents its accomplishments to Council in the summer.  I agreed with the underlying sentiment of the motion—making sure that WEEDC is accountable and that it provides City of Windsor residents value-for-money.   I also communicated to WEEDC that they will be measured by one overriding metric: job creation and retention.   I ultimately voted against the motion because withholding this funding undermines the ability of WEEDC to carry out its task by undermining its credibility and undermining its ability to plan ahead.  Furthermore, unilaterally pulling that funding without consulting our partners in the County who co-fund WEEDC sends the wrong message, and undermines our regional collaboration at a time when we must stand together as a region on Economic Development.

Item Delay Elimination of One Hour Free Downtown Garage Parking for One Year:  I voted against the motion to keep one hour free downtown parking for one year and agreed with the Administration’s original recommendation to immediately eliminate the free parking downtown for the following reasons: First, simply put we need the funds to pay for maintenance of parking garages.  Second, we undermine the millions of dollars we invested in new buses, enhanced bus routes and new bike lanes by providing incentives for drivers to avoid public transit and bikes with free and cheap parking options.  Third, we will face a parking crunch on the first day the new downtown university campus opens.  Anything we can do to make it more likely that students bike or bus to downtown will provide us with relief. Free parking will only make the parking crunch worse.  Fourth, we reduce the chance of private investors building parking options near downtown by providing publically subsidized free parking

Item Seniors Hockey Fee Increase: I voted against the motion to increase the fees to $91 for seniors renting ice during off-peak hours. I support maintaining the longstanding practice of keeping ice rental for Seniors Hockey at 50 per cent of the normal rate for the rental of ice time during the off-peak period.  The term Dead Ice refers to off-peak periods when the ice pads are not in use – normally during the day when young people are in school and other folks are at work.  During the day, approximately 70 per cent of ice time is Dead Ice – meaning that the City still incurs costs of maintaining the ice but there is no revenue to offset the costs because the ice is not being used.  Encouraging Seniors to rent ice during off-peak hours brings in additional revenue to the City while helping Seniors to maintain their physical, mental and social well being.

 

 

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

Below is an excerpt from a column published by The Windsor Star’s Anne Jarvis titled Where’s the Beef? about the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation after its CEO Sandra Pupatello came before Council to present the economic development corporation’s accomplishments.

To me, the most important point the article puts forward is the following:

There should also be more collaboration among the seeming multitude of economic development organizations – business accelerators, incubators, entrepreneur programs, not to mention the mayor’s proposed retail development corporation. 

The article goes on to state:

Still, as Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk said before voting on a stunning motion Monday to withhold half of the corporation’s money until it further quantifies its results, there is only one metric: Jobs.

For the full article CLICK HERE

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

The following is from the 2014 Annual Report: Community Crime Prevention Programs & Neighbourhood Watch Windsor (NWW):

Ward 7:

In 2014, Ward 7 celebrated an overall 13% reduction in total reported crimes.  This reduction follows years of collaborated efforts with Windsor Police Services and many other community partnerships and projects, increasing public awareness and community engagement.

In 2014, we welcomed newly appointed Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk with attendance at his first Ward meeting.  Ward 7 currently has 7 active watches that represents more than 140 residents and our goal is to increase that in 2015.  In October, NWW organized and promoted a public meeting with Councillor Kusmierczyk at Heron Terrace to address concerns brought to our attention involving the park and hill that many homes back onto.  More than 25 residents attended to voice concerns, ask questions and learn about the NWW program.  Windsor Police Service and Crime Stoppers officials attended and answered questions.  NWW plans to meet with Resident Association Presidents in 2015 and a CPTED (security) audit is scheduled for Spring 2015.  A NWW meeting and presentation is scheduled for January 21st (updated: February 5th) at Church of the Atonement to which all residents of Windsor are invited to attend.  Concerns specific to the Forest Glade area will be addressed as well as a NWW presentation introducing and inviting residents to join the program.

In 2015, NWW will continue to maintain a strong working relationship with Councillor Kusmierczyk as we continue to grow the program and address the specific concerns of Ward 7.

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

I welcome vibrant and open debate about the City’s management of community assets.  Council decided on Monday to maintain Lakeview Park Marina as City owned and City operated.  I put forward the reasoning behind that decision in a previous post.

Yesterday, Gord Henderson of the Windsor Star published a column arguing that the City missed an opportunity to examine alternative operational models, namely, either selling or leasing the marina to a private owner or operator.  You can read the article by clicking HERE 

Sarnia Bay Marina is a City owned but privately operated marina which the column holds up as an example of the advantages of such a public-private operation.

Fair enough, but the article neglects to include a pretty important piece of information: Sarnia Council privatized its marina operations at a time when the marina was losing $250,000 per year.  Windsor Council, on the other hand, voted to maintain public operations of a marina that is making a $100,000 profit every year.

For a counter argument to the Sarnia Bay Marina model – take a look at the comprehensive City of Barrie Waterfront and Marina Strategic Plan tabled in 2013.

For the full report click HERE

The report was developed through an extensive collaboration under a so-called Planning Partnership which consisted of multiple municipal departments, public consultation through two major public open houses, and the aide of major private consulting firms such as NBLC and Baird+Associates – companies that understand real estate and economic development.

Under the sub-title Recommendations – the report concludes that the City of Barrier should:

Maintain public ownership and operation of the Marina. In its
current form the Marina provides positive net benefits to the City
as a whole and several opportunities exist to leverage this to a
greater degree in the future. In our view, several potential conflicts
with private operation or ownership are likely to arise given the
fact that the interests between the City and a private operator are
not aligned. Maintaining ownership also means that the City can
develop a comprehensive strategy for the waterfront which includes
the Marina as a public asset where investments in the Marina and its
infrastructure benefit all local residents.

To find this quote in the Report Appendix CLICK HERE

The way forward is for the City of Windsor to make the necessary and long-overdue investments in Lakeview Park Marina to bring it up to standards – while building the kinds of partnerships across the City that will take advantage of this remarkable city-owned and operated asset for tourism and economic development.

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

The Windsor Star published an Op-Ed piece calling for industry and our schools to establish closer collaboration through the FIRST Robotics program in order to work together to position our young people for a 21st century knowledge economy and to fuel our local industry now and into the future.

To read the article CLICK HERE

Education is economic development.

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

The Windsor Star ran an excellent series of articles under the title GONE that examined the flight of young people out of Windsor in search of jobs.

Columnist Anne Jarvis followed up that series with the next logical question: what are we doing about it?

Here is a good quote summarizing one key element:

Education will be key. We need to cultivate a highly educated, highly innovative and highly motivated next generation, a generation of achievers.

Here is the article: CLICK HERE

Share! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn