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 accessible, accountable and responsive to residents.  I also invite you to surf my site where I hope to introduce myself and some of my ideas.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Waiver of Fees and Grant Policy Yay 10-0 Consent
2 – Document Fees Yay 10-0 Consent
3 – Purchasing shared resources Yay 10-0 Consent
4 – Tree trimming Yay 10-0 Consent
5 – Year end operating budget Yay 10-0 Delegation
6 – Snow angels volunteer program Yay 10-0 Delegation
7 – Request from Town of Tecumseh re Land Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Succession Planning Yay 10-0 Consent
9 – Naming of Community Rink Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Site approval for 415 Ouellette Yay 9-1 Delegation
11 – RFP for three-point hoist Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Alley closing Yay 10-0 Consent
13 – Enhanced capital plan forecast Yay 10-0 Delegation
14 – Established tax rates Yay 10-0 Consent
15 – Self watering planters and baskets Yay 10-0 Delegation
16 – Participation in investment Ontario Yay 10-0 Consent
17 – Paul Martin Bldg. encroachment agreement Yay 10-0 Consent
18a – City to enter discussion with Coco Paving and Ministry of Natural Resources regarding construction of Big Box Store adjacent to Ojibway Park lands Nay 8-2 Regular

 

Item #18a – the issue came up of the construction of a Big Box Store adjacent to the environmentally sensitive Ojibway Park lands at the corner of Matchette and  Sprucewood.  Recall, that approximately 7 years ago, City Council approved the permit for Coco Paving to build a Big Box Store adjacent to lands that contain a large number of species-at-risk plants and animals.  That decision was again reconfirmed in 2013.

The question before Council on Monday was whether the City of Windsor should be part of the conversation now taking place between Coco Paving and the Ministry of Natural Resources regarding the land in question as it is being developed.

That seems innocent enough, but here’s the rub:  the case of the Big Box Store development is currently before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which has the right to reject the development.  The OMB process has been ongoing since 2011.  Coco Paving decided to circumvent the OMB process by using rarely used clause under the Endangered Species Act in order to deal directly with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

Councillor Halberstadt raised the concern that by agreeing to be part of the conversation between Coco and the MNR – the City would be in essence signalling to the OMB that it supports the development.

I shared that concern which is why I first supported Councillor Halberstadt’s motion to delay a decision on this matter in front of Council in order to invite environmental specialists and the Save Ojibway group to comment.  This original motion was not supported by a majority of Council.

A subsequent motion was put forward for the City of Windsor to join the conversation between Coco Paving and MNR regarding the development.  For the concerns stated above, I voted against that motion.

In the end, I do not support the development of a Big Box Store adjacent to environmentally sensitive parkland that we should protect. For example, the development of a Big Box Store will triple the amount of traffic in that area (18,000 cars by one estimate), which will endanger our little Garden of Eden.

My predecessor Percy Hatfield voted against the Big Box Development when it came up years ago, stating that “I hope the developer loses at the OMB – this land is worth saving”.

I wholeheartedly agree.  We should allow the OMB to make its decision and not short circuit that process.

Windsor has one of the lowest levels of natural areas in Ontario.  We should do what we can to protect, improve and increase our parkland and natural areas.

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I had the great privilege of joining Minister of Economic Development Dr. Eric Hoskins and Minister of Children and Youth Services Teresa Piruzza and my Council colleagues Fulvio Valentinis and Ed Sleiman for a significant funding announcement from the Government of Ontario in support of a Mentoring program for Entrepreneurial Youth that will be administrated through the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator (DWBA).  The Downtown Accelerator is home to 30 startup companies – many of whom are launched by young people who prefer to invest in Windsor rather than leave.  It is an exciting asset in the heart of Windsor that is cultivating the next generation of successful entrepreneurs. Kudos to all the partners involved!Irek - W7 accelerator grant

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Contract renewal for CGI Communications Yay 10-0 Consent
2 – Reduce development charges Nay 0-10 Delegation
3- Russette drain examination Yay 10-0 Consent
4 –Tender – purchase Chrysler minivans Yay 10-0 Consent
5- Year round cafes Yay 10-0 Consent
6 – Road widening University of Windsor Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – Service contract MTCU Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Request for Grants Nay 0-10 Consent
9 – Waiver of fees policy Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Public space recycling Yay 10-0 Consent
11 – Via Rail land acquisition Riverside Dr. Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Construction of curbs and gutters Yay 10-0 Consent
13 – Changes to Windsor Water World Yay 9-1 Delegation
14 – Development charge overview Yay 10-0 Consent
15 – Railway spur to twin oaks Yay 10-0 Consent
16a – Willistead Park pathways Yay 3-7 Delegation
16b – Willistead Park pathways Nay 7-3 Delegation

 

Item #16 – The Parks department put forward a plan for Willistead Park that would (a) replace existing paving stone pathways with asphalt (b) double the number of paths (c) widen paths from 5 feet to 10 ft.

Councillor Alan Halberstadt put forward an alternative plan (16a) which I voted to support which would (a) keep the existing length of the pathways (b) widen the paths from 5 feet to 9 feet (c) use interlocking pavers instead of asphalt.

The Halberstadt plan for Willistead would achieve the following (a) maintain the park’s limited greenspace by keeping existing length of pathways (b) improve accessibility (e.g. for those with wheelchairs) by widening the paths (c) improve access for maintenance vehicles that are 8 feet wide (d) protect the heritage character of Willistead by using elegant pavers rather than dirty asphalt

Check out this video of the Cultural Bike Trail in Indianapolis: bike trail.  It is eight (8) miles of pathways around the heart of Indianapolis that uses elegant paving stones.  Notice how accessible the pathways are for seniors and those with physical disabilities.  Surely, if Indianapolis can install 8 miles of elegant pavers, we can install 3000 linear feet of pavers in Willistead to improve accessibility and maintain the unique historical character of Willistead Park.

Council voted against the pavers and against keeping the existing length of pathways.

A new motion (16b) was put forward by Councillor Dilkens to double the paths and use asphalt.  I voted against this plan.

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WARD 7 MEETING

COUNCILLOR IREK KUSMIERCZYK

FOREST GLADE ARENA
MARCH 4th, 2014

I would like to say Thank You to the folks who braved a cold winter night to attend our Ward 7 meeting on March 4th, 2014.  We discussed issues of concern and shared innovative ideas regarding parks and public transit, road and sewer work, speeding and traffic safety. I enjoyed the chance to chat with many of you and I will continue to work hard to address your concerns and work together to improve our neighbourhood.

Below, you will find a summary of the issues raised by residents and the responses provided by myself or by City Administration. Many thanks to the City Administration in attendance who made themselves available in the evening and offered their knowledge and expertise. You can find a list of the attendees at the end.

If you missed the Ward Meeting, remember that on my website you can find when and where I am hosting our next Coffee Cabinet session where I invite residents to join me over a coffee to discuss all things Ward 7. These Coffee Cabinets take place about once every two weeks.  While providing opportunities to meet to discuss ward issues I also encourage you to use our city’s 311 system to access services or register concerns, and as always, you can contact me at: 519.946.1111

Best Regards,

Irek

 

SUMMARY OF

GOOD THINGS HAPPENING

 IN WARD 7

 

 

 

 

 

Councillor begins by providing a summary of positive developments in Ward 7 including:

  • Transit Windsor proposing Lauzon 10 bus service directly to front door of WFCU Centre – no more getting off on McHugh and having to cross the parking lot
  • Two bus shelters will be added in front of Aspen Lake Nursing Home on McHugh
  • Councillor working on bringing coffee shop to Forest Glade Library
  • Repaving of Tecumseh Rd. from Forest Glade Dr. to Robinet begins in 2015
  • Development of Old Riverside Water Treatment plant into residential neighbourhood will begin within 12 months
  • Phase III of Environmental Assessment finished on old Wickes brownfield

CONCERN

 

RESPONSE

Wildwood Park should have soccer nets while other parts of Ward 7 should have dog parks, a pool, basketball courts etc. to improve health Councillor informs resident that he will be initiating talks with Parks about installing soccer nets at Wildwood Park
Resident comments that the Councillor should focus on just Ward 7 issues and not—for example—ENWIN which is regulated by the province Councillor explains that he ran on a platform of accountability and transparency, which he considers part of his mandate.
Resident raises concern about speeding on McNorton between Banwell and Lesperance and that a left turn signal be installed on Banwell and McNortonAnother resident on Timbercrest inquires about speeding on McNorton and St. Thomas. 

Another resident raises issue of speeding on Greenpark and Banwell roads

Councillor suggests that—since speeding is an issue in the Banwell Road area and across the Ward—he will work with the Windsor Police Services on a strategic plan for the area to reduce speeding and organize a separate resident meeting on this specific problem.City Engineer suggests a radar trailer can be deployed to monitor speed on streets to gather data before such a meeting.Cautions about left turn signal since it would affect the flow of traffic.
Resident asks why Clover has not yet been connected to Tecumseh Road as planned City Engineer confirms that the road will eventually be open but that depends on when the developer moves forward with development
A resident of Apple Lane asks that an area at Forest Glade park be fenced in for dogs.Expresses delight about the idea of a coffee shop at Forest Glade Arena Executive Director of Parks and Facilities explains a number of improvements to Forest Glade area in 2015 and that dog parks are being considered.  Encourages resident and others to submit their “wants” on the City of Windsor website under the Parks Master Plan Survey
Resident of Radcliff Road indicates residents on Radcliff do not want a bus stop and had a previous stop removed several years ago. Councillor explains that he will work with all residents to find a mutually satisfactory solution that will achieve the goal of better public transit in Ward 7
Resident of Blue Heron Drive refers to a petition signed by 150 people to remove jersey barriers and open avenue to McNorton City Engineer explains that ultimately the roadway to McNorton is on private property
Resident of Rushton remarks that City of Windsor has done a fantastic job of clearing snow but wanted to know if street parking can alternate sides in winter to improve snow removal Councillor concurs and thanks Public Works Department for the great work. Maintenance Manager explains a snow emergency plan has been discussed at Council to get cars off streets to allow plowing

CONCERN

 

RESPONSE

 

Resident of Radcliff and Solomon area asks whether bus traveling East on McNorton could turnaround elsewhere other than Tecumseh Arena Councillor explains that he is working with Transit Windsor to develop several alternatives to improve bus service in Ward 7
Resident asks why snow plows do not remove snow and ice from catch basins Maintenance Manager explains some trucks are not able to and that it is difficult for loaders to find out where curbs are located
Resident living close to CS Wind comments about constant noise from the plant as vehicles back up City Engineer explains that trucks must have beeping noise when backing up as a safety requirement
Resident raises issue of recycling bins and how he is forced to clean up after neighbours due to loose garbage Resident is directed to 311 booth and enteres their concerns on the spot
Member of Professional Firefighters Association invites Councillor to tour Station 7 Councillor is delighted and accepts invitation
Resident comments about not being happy about hard-sided garbage cans being mandated, stating that the wind will cause debris on the street and that the program will not work to curb skunks Councillor responds that the performance of the program will be measured once it is rolled out and that concerns of residents including seniors and those with physical challenges will be considered as improvements are sought.

 

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The Windsor Star had a nice mention of www.irek.ca in an article that talked about the new Accountability legislation proposed by the Ontario Government that will improve how Members of Provincial Parliament make their voting records available to residents.

Windsor Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk is trying to be a leader in transparency. He posts weekly on his blog how he voted at council meetings with summaries of the issues and gives extra information when he voted on a controversial topic.

Click here: article.

Nice to know we are leading a trend towards greater transparency, accountability and accessibility.

transparency

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Item # and Description Irek Voted Council Voted Type of Item
1 – Sidewalk Cafes and Outdoor Ovens Yay 9-0 Consent
2- Coin operated viewing devices Yay 9-0 Consent
3 –Update – social housing Yay 9-0 Consent
4 –Corporate telecommunication upgrade Yay 9-0 Consent
5 – Healthy kids community challenge Yay 9-0 Consent
6 – Status of Woodlot – Greek Community Yay 8-1 Delegation
7 – Land lease agreement WUC Yay 9-0 Consent
8 – East Pelton Land Development Yay 9-0 Consent
9 – Street light replacement EC Row Yay 9-0 Consent
10 – Annual Tax Sale Yay 9-0 Consent
11 – Labelle Street pedestrian Yay 9-0 Consent
12 – Ontario Summer Games budget Yay 8-1 Regular

 

Item #6 – Council passed two bylaws this evening that designated a one acre woodlot on the property of the Greek Orthodox Community of Windsor located on Walker Road as Natural Heritage in the Official Plan and zoned to a Green District (GD) category thereby precluding any further alteration or development of this woodlot.

Some context: A year ago City Council approved a request by the Greek Orthodox Community of Windsor to rezone twelve (12) acres of land alongside Walker Road from Industrial to Institutional which would allow the Greek Community to build a church, centre and other facilities.  In exchange, as part of the deal, the Greek Community agreed that the one-acre woodlot would be protected by being designated Green District and Natural Heritage.  Over the course of a year, the City held up its end of the deal.  The Greek Community, on the other hand, cut down the woodlot without any consultation or warning.

Our city has below average tree coverage compared to other cities in Ontario.  Having lived in a city that was designated an Urban Forest—Nashville—I am sensitive to the need to protect our city’s green space—including woodlots—which have a positive impact on the quality of life of our city.  For this reason, I voted in favour of passing—without delay—Natural Heritage designation and Green District Rezoning that will protect what is left of the woodlot and send a powerful message to the community that the City is serious about striking a balance between economic and environmental aims.

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I put forward a motion at the City Council Executive Committee meeting on February 24, 2014.  The motion addressed the schedule of audits planned by the auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) for the City’s agencies, boards, and committees (ABCs).  If you take a look at the Audit Schedule (see image attached), you’ll notice six agencies, boards and committees are going first including Transit Windsor and The Airport (2013-14) followed by Tunnel, Solid Waste, Library and Community Housing (2014-15) .  ENWIN is scheduled to go last in 2015-16 – two years from now.  I put forward a motion that Council change the schedule and start with the ENWIN audit.  There are several reasons for this.

First, when I was knocking on doors during the by-election campaign in December, the issue of accountability and transparency came up frequently and by far the object of those discussions was ENWIN.  Not the airport. Not the tunnel.  Not Transit.  It was ENWIN.  The concerns I heard at the door regarding accountability are reinforced by the fact that a petition was organized in support of an audit at ENWIN which gathered 800 signatures across the city.  That is significant. In light of this existing demand, it makes sense to respond proactively by focusing the first audit efforts at ENWIN.  If something comes up, we fix it.  If nothing comes up, we move on with a greater degree of public confidence.

 Second, we know and recognize the fact that we have a highly professional and highly dedicated City Administration that often goes above-and-beyond to serve residents of the City of Windsor.  I’ve seen the long, tough hours they put in.  But we also know that–as with any large organization–there is room for improvement and ENWIN is no different.  For example, from a recent article in the Windsor Star titled “Tortuous ENWIN Response” we learned that it took a Windsor Star journalist nearly two years to receive the documentation she requested from a Freedom-of-Information (FOI) request that asked for something as simple as the length and attendance of past ENWIN meetings.   Surely we can do better than two years, and that’s one of the things this audit would examine.
Third, many of my Council Colleagues put forward the argument that Professionals and City Councillors sit on the Board of Directors of ENWIN, and hence implied there is enough oversight already.  I trust the integrity and professionalism of both my colleagues and the members of the board. However, as former President of the United States Ronald Reagan often stated: “TRUST, BUT VERIFY”.  The point of an audit is not to confirm what we already know, but to identify the blind-spots.
The true value of this audit will be if we can use it to improve the accountability, transparency and responsiveness of our City government.  With ENWIN at the top of people’s minds and in the news, it’s the natural first place to start.

Audit Schedule

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