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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The Windsor Star published an Op-Ed written by Yvonne and myself on the remarkable heritage of Windsor as a place of innovation and entrepreneurship, with many local businesses developing products and services that authentically put Windsor on the global stage.

As the auto capitol of Canada, it is widely recognized that the City of Windsor knows how to build things.  But we should also recognize and spread the word that we know how to innovate and invent things.

We are not just an auto town, we are an auto and ideas town.

We are a true Maker City.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

To lift a line from a recent Chrysler commercial, we are born makers and inventors.

One hundred years of Windsor-based innovation tells us that building partnerships and platforms that support our homegrown entrepreneurs is a good investment.

That is a vision we can all rally around.

If you want to read the entire article, CLICK HERE

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At the Executive Committee meeting of City Council on July 27, 2015 – I questioned the wisdom of changes to the PwC Audit Plan specifically Key Update to the Plan #6 which states Replacement of Oversight of Major City Projects and Initiatives … deferred indefinitely.  The Windsor Star picked up on the line of questioning and published the following followup article: CLICK HERE

Here’s an extended excerpt from the article:

“Windsor has undertaken a number of large construction projects and we’re hosting some major sporting events, such as the FINA (25-metre swimming) event, that cost over $10 million, and I do believe that having an extra pair of eyes is a wise investment,” Kusmierczyk said. “There were audits conducted on the WFCU Centre and the 400 building and there were lessons learned and controls tightened.”

Kusmierczyk still believes in having an auditor general — a position the City of Windsor did away with in 2012 — since he says an auditing firm essentially only digs into what the city wants.

“I am in favour of an auditor general,” Kusmierczyk said. “An auditor general would have more autonomy and would dictate what they’re actually looking into and what documents they’re studying, as opposed to the current auditor, which looks at documents the city provides.”

Kusmierczyk doesn’t suspect any wrongdoing. He just likes the idea of greater transparency for such things as a $39-million new city hall. The new Aquatic Centre, for instance, has never been deeply audited.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Action Plan for PwC – WDTC Yes 9-0 Communication
2 – Action Plan for PwC – WECHC Yes 9-0 Communication
3 – Q2 Status Report PwC Yes 9-0 Communications
4- Status Report – compliance applicable laws Yes 9-0 Communication
5 – Summary of Hotline issues Yes 9-0 Communication
6 – Windsor Fire & Rescue Q2 variance Yes 9-0 Communication
7 – PwC Internal Audit Report WDTC Yes 9-0 Presentation
8 – PwC WECHC Yes 9-0 Presentation
9 – ITS internal audit Yes 9-0 Presentation
10 – Annual Budgets audit report Yes 9-0 Presentation
11 – Executive summary internal audit Yes 9-0 Presentation
12 – City internal performance audit Yes 9-0 Administrative
13 – Concerned citizen hotline Yes 9-0 Administrative
14 – 2016 proposed budget timeline Yes 9-0 Administrative
15 – PwC Manage ITS changes Yes 9-0 Administrative
16 – PwC Action Plan – annual budgets Yes 9-0 Administrative
17 – Acquisition heavy rescue vehicle Yes 9-0 Administrative
18 – 2015 Q2 budget variance Yes 9-0 Administrative
19 – 2014 consolidated financial statements Yes 9-0 Administrative
20 – Information Management System Yes 9-0 Administrative
21 – Delegation of Authority summary Yes 9-0 Administrative
       
       

 

Item No. 6 – Windsor Fire and Rescue Services Q2 Budget Variance:  The long-and-short of it is that the City and taxpayers will have to find $1.45 million to plug the holes in the Windsor Fire Services budget – a significant portion of which is tied to a provincial arbitrator’s recent ruling, which resulted in a reduced staffing ratio that leads to significant overtime payments as well as increased hourly rates that are 31 per cent higher than the previous contract.

It is concerning that on average over five (5) firefighters are absent from the firehouse on their scheduled shift as a result of non-vacation related reasons e.g. sick, workshop etc.

What is more significant is that Fire Chief Bruce Montone testified that the changes in the built environment e.g. presence of older fire-prone buildings, construction of large buildings such as aquaics centre, university of Windsor downtown campus, nursing homes, and a potential mega hospital etc. – means that there will be significant additional pressures on the WFS to add staff in the next five years.

Fire, Police and Ambulance now eats up 45 per cent of the City’s budget – and those numbers are going up.

Item No. 7 – PwC Internal Audit Report Windsor Detroit Tunnel Corporation:  The report pointed to five (5) items that are a cause for considerable concern which include:

  1. No evidence of documented strategic plan
  2. No evidence of a review of outsourced provider’s contingency plan
  3. Significant amount of time spent reviewing DWT invoices by Tunnel Financial Officer
  4. No noted provisions for fraud reporting in the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA); and
  5. The age of the Joint Operating Agreement

Considering the importance of the Detroit Windsor Tunnel – an economic impact calculated at 150,000 jobs and $13 billion of economic development – it is concerning that the JOA has not been updated in 17 years, nor has the Co-Ordinating Committee tasked with providing governance met in the last five years.

These gaps in governance open up additional vulnerabilities and exacerbate an already unstable environment stemming from the American side of the tunnel operations resulting from (a) bankruptcy of the owner – Detroit (b) bankruptcy of the tunnel operator – American Roads (c) conflict between the owner (Detroit) and newest operator (Syncora) over the bankruptcy proceedings (d) the financial challenges of the new operator – Syncora – exacerbated by the fact they were Detroit’s largest creditor with  $400 million owing and receiving only 14 per cent of those debts from the restructuring plus Syncora’s significant exposure to the financial crisis in Puerto Rico.  It is in this context that the City must protect its interest by tightening up its governance.

Item No. 11: Executive Summary Internal Audit 3 Year Rolling Internal Audit Plan:  I have an issue with Key Update to the Plan #6 which states Replacement of Oversight of Major City Projects and Initiatives…deferred indefinitely.  Surely with a slate of large projects on the horizon (e.g. $40 million new City Hall, $14 million FINA diving competition etc.) we should have an additional pair of eyes helping administration make sure our processes are water tight.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Waiver of Fees for Tour di Via Italia Yes 9-0 Presentation
2 – Vacant parcel of land Cataraqui Yes 9-0 Consent
3 – Motorola communication system support Yes 9-0 Consent
4- Site plan for WFCU Pool Yes 9-0 Consent
5 – Site plan of UofW School of Creative Arts Yes 9-0 Consent
6 – Landscaping right of way Yes 9-0 Presentation
7 – Market Comparison – NonUnion employees Yes 9-0 Consent
8 – Devonshire Road Tender Yes 9-0 Consent
9 – PAYGO Reserve Fund transfer WPS Yes 9-0 Consent
       
       
       

 

 

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Today was a very good day.  The City broke ground on the construction of the new East End Community Swimming Pool at the WFCU Centre.  Look around the nearby McHugh-McNorton corridor and you will see row-upon-row of new home construction.  The East End is a growing community – a community with an increasing number of families, seniors and youth.  Investing in stronger neighbourhoods and in the quality of life, health and well-being of our residents is prudent.

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Proud day at Monday’s City Council meeting for all the Councillors involved with Windsor Essex Youth Advising City Councillors (WEYACC) – an innovative program that engages our youth with the decision-making process at local government. A year after it launched with no funding – WEYACC made it on the Agenda with a pretty big idea: the Blue Dot movement which seeks municipal support in convincing upper tiers of government to adopt the Right to a Healthy Environment as part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Way to go Advisors! And congrats to my fellow WEYACC mentors Rino Bortolin Chris Holt Joe Bachetti and Bill Marra 

For information about WEYACC or how to apply for the upcoming intake visit: WEYACC

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Waiver of Fees Tour di Via Italia Yes 10-0 Deferral
2 – 1630 Bruce surplus land Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Environment Canada memorandum Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – CAO objectives 2015 Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Vacant lands on Edward St. Yes 10-0 Consent
6- Vacant lands on Hickory St. Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – IESO FIT 4.0 program Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – Bylaw for 10th Concession Drain Yes 10-0 Consent
9 – Old School Car Show Yes 10-0 Consent
10- RFP  snow plow and salter equipment Yes 10-0 Consent
11 – Sandwich demo exemption Yes 10-0 Withdrawal
12 – RFP – ITS for Transit Windsor Yes 10-0 Consent
13 – 20 Year Vision Yes 10-0 Presentation
Report No. 274 EnviroTransportPublic Safety Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 271 EnviroTranportPublicsafety Yes 10-0 Delegation
Report No. 307 SociaDevelopment HealthCulture Yes 10-0 Delegation

 

Item No. 13 – 20 Year Strategic Vision: The City of Windsor took the first steps towards defining a 20 Year Strategic Vision by passing a draft document which provides a very high level overview of some of the challenges, opportunities and strengths the City will be working with.

The document is light on substance – and one expects that meaningful community consultation and further Council deliberations will put some more meat on the bones.  Otherwise, this will be a superficial exercise with little impact.

It is my sincere hope that this process will also bring to life a new platform where our industry leaders – with names such as Solcz, Beneteau, Zekelman, Rodzik, Boscariol, Tayfour, Quiring etc. – will have the opportunity to inform and guide policy direction at the local level.   Job Number One for the City of Windsor is to create jobs – and that means creating favorable conditions for job growth, cultivating a competitive high-skilled workforce, and supporting our own homegrown entrepreneurs and innovators.  That job is simply too big for 10 Councillors and 1 mayor alone. It’s time for an all-hands-on-deck approach.   It’s time to bring in the folks who have first-hand experience and deep knowledge of what it takes to succeed in this economy – and I emphasize this economy: not the economy we hope to have, nor the economy we had, but the economy we have today and tomorrow and all its challenges and opportunities.

There are models that exist which could be copied.  I am thinking of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) – which counts over 60 CEOs of the largest companies and community stakeholders such as the university, college and hospitals as its members and who advise local and state government on policy – not just economic policy, but health, education, quality of life which are integral components of vibrant economies and vibrant cities.

We need a Windsor-Essex County Corporate Partnership (WECCP) – and the 20 Year Vision offers us an occasion to bring such a body to life.

Moving forward, if you want to see a good example of a Strategic Vision – I encourage you to visit The Way Ahead – which is the Strategic Vision of the City of Edmonton up to the year 2040.   You can find it here: The Way Ahead

Turn to page 20 where you will find a list of 12 Outcomes, 26 Measures, and 26 Targets.  It is crisp.  It is clear.  It provides the basis for accountability, progress and ultimately a proper measure of success.

It’s a good guide.

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Two weeks ago the Windsor Star published an Opinion piece I co-authored with fellow WEtech colleague Deborah Livneh about the promise of economic diversification – with a focus on the opportunity for Windsor to build upon its manufacturing capacity to include the manufacture of medical devices.  Here is the article:

Manufacturing_Medical_June_2015_-_WS

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Here are some snapshots from a busy month or two that really paint a wonderful picture of the Spirit of Windsor – which remains strong.

Starting off with a Saturday morning visit with grade school students at Polish School to talk about City Hall and local government.  Like many immigrants, I too attended Saturday morning classes to learn about the language, history and culture that forms part of my heritage.

The students didn’t know I was coming, which made the hour long Q&A so impressive because the questions were really, really well informed and pretty tough!  Also, I really think they nailed the silly selfie!

polska szkola

I also had a great time at the Windsor 180 conference – which brought hundreds of young people ages 18-34 together to connect and engage our City to make it great!

windsor 180

What better way to spark a revitalization than to be present at the launch of a technology incubator right in the downtown.  It’s a small but symbolic endeavour that brings together a publicly funded non-profit and a private entrepreneur in a very innovative public-private partnership that we’d like to see more of in our City.

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Of course, diversification is so important!  Which is why we were proud to bring Hacking Health Windsor Detroit to our region – the first ever cross-border Hacking Health in the world that teamed up 250 doctors, nurses and programmers to dream up, design and build mobile applications for the health care sector.  Over 30 partners were involved including 6 major hospitals and 6 major universities from both sides of the border.  Diversification.  Cross-border Collaboration.  Economic Development.  Here’s a photo with the Senior Trade Commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit.

hacking health

And here is another great photo that really captures the collaboration of a Hacking Health.  Check out the quote on the wall!

Hacking health 2

Cross-border collaboration is so key to our economic development and also key to protecting our quality of life through environmental sustainability.  That is why it was important for me to participate in the 11th Annual General Meeting of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI) – a truly cross-border collaboration of 120 mayors and local governments around the Great Lakes basin that balances economic and environmental concerns.  I registered for this conference as a Windsor City Councillor but was happy to travel on my own dime as I feel very strongly our City ought to be at the table of this important cross-border organization.  Here is a photo of Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope addressing the audience after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

great lakes

Diversification and cross-border collaboration is also the reason why I was excited to be present at the launch of the Cross-Border Life Sciences Hub – a partnership between Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital and the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation.  Here’s Essex County Warden Tom Bain addressing the gathered.

life sciences

The last month has not only emphasized cross-border initiatives, but also wonderful cross-cultural experiences such as celebrating Sikh Heritage Month in April at the Windsor Public Library.

sikh

In addition to great cross-cultural experiences, it was wonderful to take in the Battle of the Bands at St. Joseph’s High School where hundreds gathered to listen to grade school bands battle it out for City supremacy.  Sounded fantastic!

st joes

We have some incredible youth in our City – but we also have some incredible volunteers across all ages whose commitment to our City really should be celebrated.  That’s why it was an honour to attend a Volunteer and Staff Appreciation night for VON – our blue angels.

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It’s not all fun and play.  It was also time to get down to some serious business, which is why I was pleased with the turnout at our Banwell Road Environmental Assessment (EA) which put forward the blue print for a complete development of Banwell Road including the critical EC Row interchange.

What better way to cap off this month of cross-border and cross-cultural experiences than celebrating fireworks in front of the Spirit of Windsor – which is strong!

spiritEA

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