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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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
8.10 2016 Flooding Event Follow Up Report Yes 10-0 Regular
10.1 FINA Final Report Yes 10-0 Presentation
7.2 Banning Circus Acts No 6-4 Delegation
8.33 Literary Arts Bookmark Project Yes 10-0 Delegation
11.2 & 11.3 Riverside Vista Declared Conflict of Interest 9-0 Delegation
11.6 2018 Updated Budget Timelines Yes 10-0 Consent
Special: that Integrity Commissioner investigate comments made by a City Councillor in the Media Yes 9-0 Notice of Motion
       
Lights at Little River Corridor Park Yes 10-0 Council Question
       
       

 

10.1 – FINA Final Report: Below is my summation statement on this issue before the vote:

The report provides a large number of very large numbers.

The two most meaningful to me are the ones that indicate two things:

One: that City Staff did a phenomenal job of carrying out the assignment that they were given by City Council – namely – to carry out FINA on time and on budget. They should be commended.

Two: In addition to staff – there were over 800 volunteers that demonstrated once again why our residents are amazing and why our City & Region are spectacular places to work, live and play. We are a community that comes together, that is proud of our City, and proud of our successes. And we know how to put on world class event.

Those two numbers in this report are dependable and rock solid.

Where the report raises serious doubts – is in the Economic Impact Assessment.

Specifically – numbers that claim that FINA generated $32 million in economic activity for Windsor or that FINA reached an audience of 462 million people.

Those numbers are large – and they are largely unreliable.

Those numbers are based on assumptions and multipliers that experts have warned exaggerate the economic impact.

Sports economist Victor Matheson observes that “The vast majority of independent academic studies of mega-events show the benefits [of sports events] to be a fraction of those claimed by event organizers”.

Another professor who studies Sports Tourism – Dr. Milena Parent from the University of Ottawa – was quoted in CBC Windsor stating there are “too many flaws in the methodology of economic impacts” and that the economic impact numbers are exaggerated by at least 10 times.

Finally, a University of Windsor Sports Management Professor states that economic assessments like the one presented today are often “grossly overestimated”.

The point is – we don’t need to inflate economic numbers in order to tell a positive story. And certainly there are plenty of positive stories to tell about FINA without having to rely on numbers that aren’t real.

Where it matters to have real numbers – real numbers you can count on – is when in the very near future we are trying to figure out as a community and as a City Council – what types of sporting & tourism & cultural events we want to invest in and which events bring the best Return on that Investment.

That’s where the real numbers matter.

Just one example: FINA sold 15,000 tickets over six days. The Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) sold 22,000 tickets – or 7,000 more tickets – over the same period of time.

One way to determine the true Cost & Benefit of events like FINA – is to conduct a Value- for-Money audit from an organization like KPMG or a third-party Cost-Benefit Analysis.

The numbers may come back smaller – but they will be more reliable, and more useful as a guide for future investment.

I want to thank once again our residents, our volunteers and our administration for making our City proud during FINA.

** Councillor Francis put forward the Motion to Adopt the Recommendations. I requested a Friendly Amendment to add the following recommendation: that Administration conduct an independent third party Cost & Benefit Analysis of the FINA event. That amendment was not accepted.

7.2 – Bylaw Banning Circus Acts: I strongly support the humane treatment of all animals and in the strongest possible way condemn anyone who mistreats animals. I voted NO on this motion because the Superior Court of Ontario already ruled against a similar City of Windsor Bylaw.

11.6 – Updated Budget Timeline: Something that we pushed for this year is to split up the Budget deliberations into two nights – one for Operating and one for Budget.

We wanted to avoid a repeat of recent marathon budget nights that started at Noon and ended at 2AM.

This achieves two things:

  • It improves accessibility and transparency because residents are better able to attend budget deliberations and have their say or follow along on television
  • It improves decision-making since Councillors debate the budget and multi-million dollar items with fresh eyes and a clear mind

Process matters. Not just the outcomes. And in this case we took a big step forward improving the City’s annual Budget deliberation process.

Council Question – Lights at Little River Corridor Park: I asked administration to report back on options and costs for installing lighting at Little River Corridor Park including solar lighting. This is part of the effort to improve safety and accessibility of the Ganatchio Trail in Ward 7.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
5.1 PwC Audit Quarterly Report Yes 10-0 Presentation
5.2 PwC Year in Review 2016-17 Yes 10-0 Presentation
5.3 Summary of Hotline Issues Yes 10-0 Presentation
5.4 Status of implementation of recommendations Yes 10-0 Presentation
6.1 Compliance with applicable laws Yes 10-0 Business

 

5.1 PwC Audit Quarterly Report: Among the issues raised – the one that drew my attention were the concerns surrounding the City’s Inventory Controls, meaning, things like paint, bus parts, mowers etc.

Here are three quotes from the audit that raised some flags:

“Two of three operational areas had limited or infrequent controls over documentation and tracking of inventory” (pg. 89)

For facilities “the one site visited did not have any security measures in place in the area where inventory was stored” (pg. 94)

With regards to raw materials “the use of inventory is not tracked nor is the quantity known” (pg. 95).

The key question that arises is: how would we know if items in our inventory were misplaced or misused?

Administration has responded to these concerns raised in the audit with a plan to review current controls, review best practises from other municipalities, and put in place tighter controls.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
7.4 Recognition of Riverwest Neighbourhood Yes 10-0 Communication
7.5 City Hall construction update Yes 10-0 Communication
8.19 2017 report on state of our environment Yes 10-0 Presentation
8.17 2016 Flooding Event Follow Up Yes 10-0 Deferral
11.1 Donation of Streetcar and Restoration No 7-4 Delegation
8.22 and 8. 11 Sandwich Town gateway arch Yes 10-0 Delegation
8.9 Site plan application for University of Windsor Bus Depot Re-Development Yes 10-0 Delegation
8.8 Riverside Minor Baseball Association lease agreement for Miracle Diamond Yes 10-0 Regular
11.2 Renovations at 2437 Howard Avenue Yes 8-2 Regular
11.3 Windsor Express Proposal Yes 10-0 Deferral

 

Item 11.1 – Donation and Restoration of Streetcar: I voted NO on spending $750,000 to restore a historic streetcar. Although I support the City accepting the donation of the streetcar, I believe the City did not review all restoration options that could have saved the taxpayer $750,000. For example – streetcar restoration was undertaken by volunteers in both Ottawa and Winnipeg. In both cases, the streetcars were of the same relative vintage as the one in the City of Windsor.

Hence, I voted NO on the single sourcing of the restoration. In other words, I opposed the fact that not even an Request-for-Proposal (RFP) was issued to see whether there were less expensive options.

A final concern is the fact that – in the photos that I have seen – very little of the original streetcar appears to be salvageable. In other words – I would have liked to find out what percentage of the original streetcar could be restored (10 per cent? 20 per cent?) before committing $750,000.

I just felt there are other capital priorities in the City – and hence we owed it to the taxpayer to do some homework.

Item 8.19 – 2017 Report on the State of Our Environment: Very good Report On the State of our Environment (ROSE).  I raised the following question:

1. The total phosphorous removal in the Little River has decreased (pg. 6) – and what improvements can be introduced e.g. at the Little River Pollution Control Plant?

2. We see a huge spike in the phosphorous loading into Little River recently – how can that be explained?

3. Can we accelerate tree planting in the City of Windsor?

4. In light of the recent storms and flooding – 2016 & 2017 – has the amount of water bypassing treatment at the Little River Pollution Control Plant increased?  If so – what can be done to improve the situation?

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
10.1 & 10.2 & 10.3 Downtown Windsor Enhancement Strategy Yes 10-0 10-0

 

10.1 & 10.2 & 10.3 Downtown Windsor Enhancement Strategy: City Council approved 36 of 39 recommendations of the Downtown Windsor Enhancement Strategy unanimously. This is a strategy that provides incentives for private sector investment in the downtown core.

The majority of the incentives were aimed at improving and increasing commercial & retail space as well as residential offerings by, for example, providing grants to landlords to improve store fronts, or providing grants to entice landlords to convert upper floors of commercial buildings to residential apartment units.

There were three recommendations that invited debate and that ultimately did not pass.

I voted in favour of the first two: a Small Things Matter Community Grant would provide neighbourhood organizations a matching grant up to $1000 to help improve public spaces like boulevards and parks. The Alley Improvement Program would also provide incentives for community groups and commercial business owners a matching grant to improve public back alleys e.g. lighting etc.

I felt that both of these programs empower neighbours and leverages their energy and civic pride to improve public spaces in our community. I felt the City could be a great partner in such a program and the results could be reviewed regularly to make sure the results match the intent.

The one recommendation I voted against was the Small Things Matter Micro Grant program which would provide private home owners in the core with up to $1000 to make small improvements to their homes such as putting in a garden, or painting a fence or fixing a porch. I voted against for two reasons (a) the first is based on the administrative and operational challenges this program presents, namely, that staff time and resources would be tied up processing, administering and reviewing a lineup of very small projects – for example even small DIY projects valued at $50 (b) the second concern was with the fact that public dollars were being used to improve private property without a clear public-benefit. One can argue that incentives which leads to the opening up of a new store in the downtown core has the public benefit of (a) bringing a new service to the core that is open to the public (b) bringing job creators to the core in the form of a small business.

At the end of the debate – I was content to support 38 or 39 recommendations for the downtown core.

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I met with the City Engineer today to discuss the following issues:

(1) Update on current capital projects and those on the horizon for Ward 7

(2) Need to improve Banwell Road from Tecumseh Road East to Mulberry with streetlights, road expansion, multi-use trail

(3) I raised the idea of conducting a micro-study of a neighbourhood – such as Vanderbilt/Sandpoint streets – to (i) investigate how resilient are individual properties to flooding by checking things like grading, backwater valves, downspout disconnection etc. (ii) investigate City infrastructure and potential improvements that could be introduced.  The micro-study could be used as a pilot or demo for other neighbourhoods that have experienced flooding

(4) Flood mapping for Little River Corridor

(5) Need to expedite dyke improvements in Little River Corridor in order to protect homeowners against overland flooding – a risk that could have materialized had the major storm of August 29-30 tracked just a short distance east over the Little River Corridor

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
5.1 Presentation by WEEDC CEO Yes 10-0 Presentation
6.1 Asset Management Plan 2018 Yes 10-0 Business
6.2 Workforce Management Project Request Yes 10-0 Business
Basement Flood Subsidy Program Report Yes 8-2 Business
       

 

The City Engineer provided a report on the Basement Flood Protection Subsidy Program.

The City Engineer introduced the new Fast Track program which allows residents to skip a Courtesy Visit by a City Inspector before hiring a contractor to install city-subsidized sump pumps, backwater valves and other items that helps flood-proof their homes. This allows the City to process the backlog of over 3,000 applications for the basement flood subsidy program.

My concern is that I get the sense from talking to residents that most folks prefer having the reassurance and information that comes with a City Inspector coming to their home and providing a Courtesy Pre-Inspection beforea resident makes the decision to invest $2800 to flood proof their home.

Hence – I asked that administration to report back on the investment necessary to increase the number of City Inspectors in order to expedite the traditional process which includes a Courtesy Pre-Inspection by a City Inspector – and I wanted to see how many inspectors it would take to reduce the wait time to 30 – 60 and 90 days.

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
11.1 Little River Dykes Flood Protection Yes 10-0 Deferral
11.2 Synchro Canada 2018 Qualifier Yes` 10-0 Consent
11.3 Improvements to Basement Flood Protection Subsidy Program Yes 10-0 Presentation

 

Council Questions:

(1)    I asked administration to report back on staff adjustments necessary to reduce courtesy inspection wait times for the Basement Flood Protection Subsidy Program – from about 8-12 months to 30, 60 or 90 days. That motion did not pass.

(2)    I asked administration to report back on the current education campaign for the Basement Flood Protection Subsidy Program – to understand how social media has been employed including number of views, what is the content, and what improvements are recommended and needed to get this information into the hands of residents. This motion passed.

(3)    I asked administration to confer with the Windsor Police Services – Mr. Barry Horrobin – and report back on the safety of Banwell Road in the absence of street lighting on the stretch from Tecumseh Road East to EC Row. This motion passed.

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On Friday, September 8th – I had the privilege of joining a small group of folks gathered at the corner of McHugh & Cypress – just a stone’s throw from the Village of Aspen Lake Nursing Home – to honour the life and work of the late Rev. Charles Payne who was a tireless and fearless advocate for the inclusion and empowerment of all people with disabilities and a champion for the removal of barriers in the City of Windsor and beyond.

A plaque was unveiled in Rev. Payne’s honour at the foot of a newly planted tulip tree – made possible by the generous contribution of Windsor residents through the Ward 7 Fund.

Special thanks go out to the people who were part of our little planning committee who made this day possible: MPP Percy Hatfield, Pat Delmore & Steve Habrun from Transit Windsor, City Forrester Paul Giroux, Accessibility & Diversity Officer Gayle Jones of the City of Windsor, the Windsor Accessibility Advisory Committee, Councillor Ed Sleiman, as well as Joanne Potts and the amazing staff of the Villages of Aspen Lake Nursing Home.

Beautiful memories and words were shared by many – including a moving tribute by Rev. Payne’s daughter that left not a dry eye among the gathered.

The text of the short speech I shared can be found after the photos by clicking the hyperlink.

 

Payne 1 Payne 2 Payne 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the days after last year’s devastating flood on September 29, 2016 – in which over 3,000 homes were flooded mostly in Wards 6 & 7 – I submitted to City Council what I call 20 Questions Plus - formal questions asking the City Engineer to explain the cause of the flood, the City’s response and the steps necessary to address the challenge of basement flooding in the future.

I am posting this as it contains some excellent information, and it may help answer some of the questions you have.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any additional questions yourself: irek@citywindsor.ca

To:  Mayor and Members of City Council

 Subject:  2016 Flooding Event Debrief Report and Response to CQ46-2016, CQ47-2016, CQ54-2016 and CQ57-2016

Author: City Engineer     Date to Council:  January 23, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

On Thursday September 29, 2016 a severe and extreme rainstorm event occurred in the City of Windsor resulting in rainfall amounts of up to 230mm in the hardest hit areas of the City. This rainfall event exceeded the 1:100 year design storm and in some areas, amounted to 144% of the amount of precipitation normally received during the month of September. The City’s sewers, drains, ponds and outlets functioned as designed but were overwhelmed by the extraordinary volume of rainwater, leading to flooded roads, basements and ponds that spilled onto adjacent properties.  A total of 2853 callers reported incidences of flooding to 311 during the event and in the days following.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
8.2 Renaming Two City Parks Yes 10-0 Consent
7.2 Banning Circus Acts with Animals – Motion to Defer Discussion Yes 10-0 Deferral
8.4 Maple Grove Homes 4785 Walker Road Yes 10-0 Presentation
8.10 Closing alley in 200 block of McKay – Motion to Receive for Information Yes 10-0 Presentation
11.1 State of City Playgrounds Update               Yes 10-0 Regular
11.2 National Disaster Mitigation Program Yes 10-0 Regular
11.3 National Disaster Mitigation Program Yes 10-0 Regular
       

 

8.2 Renaming Ward 7 Park – Elizabeth Kishkon Park: I was delighted to support the motion to rename the beautiful and popular park on the corner of Banwell Road & Little River Boulevard henceforth called Elizabeth Kishkon Park named after the first female Mayor of Windsor and a champion of city parks including the establishment of Peche Island as a public municipal park.

11.1 State of City Playgrounds Update: I was excited to support the motion – passed unanimously – which will dedicate approximately $7 million to the replacement of approximately 28 playground units that had been removed as part of the playground audit – including playgrounds on Flora Avenue and Bush Park on Esplanade in Ward 7.

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