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.

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If you reside or conduct business in the East End – you’ve noticed the deplorable state of Banwell Road.  Seems like the Ontario Hot Mix Producers Association (OHMPA) has finally woken up and noticed the problem is widespread across the Province by launching a Quality of Asphalt Pavement Task Force.  We await with bated breath the results of the Task Force in the coming months – and expect that it does more than just tell us our roads are in bad shape and that it’s the fault of Mother Nature.

For the full article CLICK HERE

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – John McGivney Children’s Centre Yes 10-0 Deferral
2 – Lou Romano tank refurbish Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Local Immigration Partnership Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – Social Housing Reserve Fund withdrawal Yes 10-0 Consent
5- Lou Romano turbo blower Yes 10-0 Consent
6- Housing supports standards Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – Combined heat/power at WFCU Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – Ministry of Education agreement Yes 10-0 Consent
9 – Power washing and graffiti Yes 10-0 Consent
10 – Site plan approval – Huron Church Yes 10-0 Consent
11 – Windsor Professional Fire Fighters award update Yes 10-0 Presentation
12 – Solar panel roof installation Yes 10-0 Consent
13 – Fairview road rehab RFP Yes 10-0 Consent
14 – 2014 investment report Yes 10-0 Consent
15- GHD scope change for asset planning Yes 10-0 Consent
16 – Solid Waste Authority 2015 budget Yes 10-0 Consent
17- Learning and organizational policy update Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 277 – Social Development Compassionate Charter Yes 5-5 Presentation
Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation  (WEEDC)– Receive for Information Yes 10-0 Presentation
       

Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC):  It is important to begin by noting that the Waterloo Region—which is composed of eight (8) municipalities and townships such as Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge—just concluded an intensive three year review of their entire economic development ecosystem – reviewing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and gaps that exist among all organizations and institutions operating in the economic development sphere.  They had a very frank discussion about what works and what doesn’t, about where there is overlap and inefficiency.

This is important to note because the Waterloo Region is one of the best performing economic regions in Canada and North America.  Its unemployment rate is less than 6 per cent – way below the provincial average.  In fact, more remarkable is the fact that Waterloo has the highest job participation rate in Ontario.  The area is economically diverse and is home to thousands of companies including giants such as Blackberry, Toyota, Manulife Financial.

And yet despite being one of the best economic regions in Canada and North America – rather than rest on its laurels and be satisfied, they are constantly reviewing the region’s performance trying to find ways to do economic development better.

Surely, if Waterloo is constantly measuring and rethinking its economic development – then Windsor ought to be doing the same.  We must constantly review the performance of our economic development ecosystem and seek ways to improve it, to make the organizations that operate in that sphere more accountable, more accessible, more effective and more efficient.

But here is the other remarkable fact about the Waterloo Region and its comprehensive review of economic development: after their three year review – which included an independent third-party report—they concluded that the best way forward is the establishment of a Regional Economic Development Corporation that is almost identical to the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation.  The one difference is that the Waterloo organization is even more arms-length and independent of political oversight.

The Waterloo board has no elected representatives of government on their board.

Windsor’s economic development agency has two elected representatives of local government: the Mayor and the Warden of Essex.

This is important because on the one hand it validates that we in fact have the right economic development structure in place in Windsor: a blend of arms-length, industry-driven know-how with a measure of elected oversight.

But on the other hand– the report also demonstrates that even the best performing regions constantly review and improve their performance.

I believe we can start that process today by introducing the following measures which are not costly nor time consuming on the part of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation – but which address the communication gap at the heart of the recent debate:

  • WEEDC should provide quarterly written reports to City Council – not annual – which provide clear performance measures
  • WEEDC should open its meetings to the public – with in-camera meetings maintained where appropriate e.g. where sensitive information is shared
  • WEEDC should fund out of its own budget a review modelled after the Waterloo Region Report (2013) – a cost of $100, 000—which would study the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and gaps of the economic development ecosystem in Windsor-Essex.

Finally, it should be noted that in the grand scheme of things, the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC) is a small piece of the economic development puzzle in our region.  Other important actors include the solar system of industry partners and economic development organizations as well as the University of Windsor and St. Clair College.  Most importantly, Windsor City Council – overseeing a $750 million annual budget – has a tremendous impact on the establishment of a business-friendly environment that invites investment and job creation.

The two fundamental questions we should be asking ourselves are:

  • How can we work together better to build up the economy of our region?
  • Is Council making the right investments that create an environment that is attractive to business and that helps make our region competitive in today’s global economy?
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The Windsor Star published a very good write up of our upcoming Windsor Detroit Hacking Health that is being oranized for May 1-3, 2015: CLICK HERE

Bringing together doctors, nurses, pharmacists and hospital admin to team up with computer programmers and designers to dream up, design and build mobile applications for health care holds the promise of improving patient-centric while contributing to regional economic development by fostering the kinds of collaboration that lead to technology startup companies being launched in the mHealth sector in our region.  We need to drive forward an innovation agenda in our City – and Windsor Detroit Hacking Health is a good step in the right direction.  For more information visit windsordetroit.hackinghealth.ca

Windsor_Star_-_HH_March_2015

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WANTED: innovative and creative nurses, doctors, pharmacists and hospital admins as well as computer programmers and designers to register for the first cross-border Hacking Health in the world that teams up professionals and students from the IT and health care sectors to dream up, design and build mobile apps for the health care sector.

According to PwC, the mobile health or mHealth sector is slated to grow to $23 billion by 2017.  Imagine our Windsor Detroit Hacking Health participants teaming up to improve patient-centric health care and also spinning-off some tech startup companies in mHealth.

For more information and to register – visit windsordetroit.hackinghealth.ca

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Here is a link to the Windsor Star article: CLICK HERE

Communications Item No. 5 on the March, 02 meeting of City Council provided the Annual Report for Year 2014 by the Windsor Utilities Commission (WUC).  The report included a summary of testing that was carried out and the sample results for various organic and chemical elements in the water from A to Z.  The report neglected to include what the Ontario Safe Water Drinking Standards were.  It also failed to highlight when samples exceeded the Maximum Allowable Concentration (MAC).  After some additional homework – looking up the Maximum Allowable Concentration (MAC) set by Ontario — it turned out the sample for Bromate exceeded Maximum Allowable Concentration (MAC) on March 18, 2014. Subsequent inquiries revealed that in 2013 there were 71 samples taken that found Bromate levels which were at OR exceeded the Maximum Allowable Concentration (MAC).

I requested at Monday’s Council Meeting for administration to report back on:

  • What is Bromate?
  • How significant is the fact that samples exceeded MAC for Bromate?
  • What steps are being taken to address the problem?

In addition, I will be pushing for improved communication of sampling information from WUC to City Council.   For a better reporting format, chekc out a Halton District drinking water report: CLICK HERE

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At the Monday, March 02, 2015 Council Meeting – I asked administration to report back on the deplorable condition of Banwell Road.

Here is the official Council Question:

Concerned about premature deterioration of roads—highlighted by the deplorable condition of Banwell Road—administration is asked to provide a report back to Council on the cost and benefit of a third-party review of the City’s Standard Specifications as well as the Inspection and Approval process for road construction.

At the same time, I had a meeting with our city engineers and public works to discuss next steps for fixing Bnawell Road – a process that will commence in the spring when the weather improves.  That conversation included a tour and inspection of some city roads to understand why some roads are in good condition and why others fail.  Roads that received timely maintenance were able to withstand the brutal winter.  Roads that did not receive timely maintenance quickly succumbed to the elements.  A critical question emerges: is our road maintenance program adequate?  The short answer appears to be: no.

Banwell Road was constructed in two phases: 1996 and 2003.  There was no maintenance on those roads and the results are stark: significant heaving and buckling as a result of water ingress that turns Banwell into quite possibly the worst collector road in the City.  Fixing Banwell Road is a priority.

ROAD FACTS:

  • The City of Windsor has approx. 1100 km of roads
  • Over One-fifth of those roads are in a “Now Deficient” state
  • To prevent further deterioration would require a minimum annual investment of $40 million (City of Windsor Budget, 2015)
  • Council allocated $6.4 million for road rehabilitation in 2015

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Sidewalk café Yes 10-0 Consent
2 – Outdoor ovens Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – City solicitor bylaw Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – YQG management agreement amend Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Gate valve purchase Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Railway spur line tender Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – Field services building Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – March for Jesus – admin recommendations Yes 10-0 Delegation
9 – WFCU lighting and refrigeration Yes 10-0 Consent
10- Waive fees for FIRST Robotics tourney Recuse 9-0 Consent
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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.

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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.”

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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

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