My 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.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1-Malden landfill tender||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
|2-Ash Grove Manor parking||Yes||10-0||Referral|
|4-Tilston Armoury upgrades||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5-Corporate radio upgrade||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6-Subdivision draft plan||Yes||9-1||Delegation|
|7-Public Works capital budget pre-approval||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8-Downtown Farmers Market Fee Waiver||Yes||8-2||Delegation|
|9-Flu vaccine clinics||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|10a-Waiver of Fees Policy||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|10b – Waiver of Fees for Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF)||Yes||4-6||Delegation|
|11 – Signing authority for corporate accounts||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|Report No. 339 – Windsor Express||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Report No. 330 – KEK Investments||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|Report No. 331 – 1290 Tecumseh Rd. E. Brownfield Redevelopment CIP||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
Item No. 3: Vote to Establish the Office of Sports Tourism
Council voted twice on the Office of Sports Tourism.
I put forward the original motion – which was defeated 7-4. This first MOTION read:
(a) That the City maintain the STATUS QUO and not fund the establishment of a Sports Tourism positions.
(b) That administration come back with a report on the cost of a Value-for-Money audit by PwC of the International Children’s Games, CARHA and FINA
c) That administration report back with an item-by-item account of how the Estimated Return was calculated for the four events listed on Page 7
Subsequently, the second motion – put forward by Council Gignac – was to establish the Office of Sports Tourism at a cost of $300,000. I voted NO on this motion. Here is my explanation:
City Councillors repeat the need to hold the line on taxes. We heard that refrain over and over during the Auditor General debate held just three days prior.
Voting in favour of establishing a Sports Tourism office does the exact opposite of that. It requires reaching deeper into the pockets of taxpayers without even a single independent study – without any evidence- to demonstrate that taxpayers are receiving a Return on their Investment.
By next year we will have hosted four major sporting events. The prudent course of action would be to conduct an independent Value-for-Money audit to see what financial benefits these sporting events have brought to the City. Only then should we talk about spending additional funding on sports tourism.
At the end of the day it is about priorities. Do we want to continue to spend millions of dollars on sporting events that last one week and bring little long term benefit to the City?
Or do we spend on priorities such as infrastructure – roads , parks , community centres, libraries – things that will improve the long term Quality of Life of our residents.
Don’t get me wrong – I support the City leveraging home grown sporting events – like the North American Basketball Association championships that was organized by the Filipino Community last month. The local organizers were responsible for 100 per cent of the fundraising, 100 per cent of the risk and 100 per cent the organization. The City came onboard as a partner by offering to reduce some of the permit fees. That is a win-win for the community and for the taxpayer.
Item No. 8 – Downtown Farmers Market Fee Consideration
I support the Downtown Windsor Farmers Market. In essence – City Council voted to reduce 70 per cent of the permit fees for the Downtown Farmers Market. That is a solid partnership and a solid vote of confidence.
Item 10: Permanent Fee Waiver (WIFF)
I am a huge fan of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) and I strongly believe that the City of Windsor should partner on this remarkable homegrown festival that puts Windsor on the map.
Here is the motion that I put forward – and which was eventually defeated 6-4.
MOTION: I move the recommendation with an amendment to include the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) on the Permanent Listing of Grants and Waivers of Fees.
Over the last ten years, the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) has grown into an institution in Windsor and has grown into a top ten film festival in all of Canada.
Sixteen thousand tickets are sold annually. The sixteen thousand people who flock to the Capital Theatre help revive downtown – they go to coffee shops and restaurants. They create a buzz.
WIFF attracts visitors from out of town and has the potential to be a real draw for film buffs from across the Great Lakes region.
WIFF also celebrates and highlights the fact that our City is the fourth most culturally and ethnically diverse city in Canada. It makes so much sense that we have a vibrant International Film Festival – not just because it strengthens our City’s brand – but because through international films we get a glimpse into the culture and history of our neighbours who come from different countries.
An international film festival has the potential to bring our diverse City together.
On top of all that – WIFF contributes $20,000 to the Capitol Theatre every year and has been contributing $10,000 to the City of Windsor through ticket surcharges.
The WIFF is not looking for a handout – but a true partnership with the City of Windsor.
The City of Toronto provides the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) about $800,000 every year. And in return – the City receives a $180 million return on investment – according to a consultant report.
The potential economic return for the City is tremendous.
WIFF and its 250 volunteers do 100 per cent of the heavy lifting in organizing the festival.
They take 100 per cent of the financial risk and are responsible for 100 per cent of fundraising.
WIFF is not asking for any grant. They are not asking the City for a penny.
They are just asking that the City remove a financial obstacle and waive the $10,000 ticket surcharge.
The benefits of a true Partnership between WIFF and the City of Windsor is tremendous.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – PWC Final Audit Report||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|2 – PWC Dashboard||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|3- Public sector accounting board||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4 – Corporate gift policy||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – Improvement to Lou Romano Plant||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 – Recycling contract extension||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7 – 2015 3rd Quarter Variance||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8 – Charles Clark Square – Fake Ice||No||6-5||Delegation|
|9 – Auditor General||Yes||4-6||Delegation|
|10 – Science Centre||Yes||10-0||Consent|
Item No. 8: Installing “Fake Ice” in Charles Clark Square:
I voted against installing “Fake Ice” in Charles Clark Square. We can do better than that. Residents rejected the ice once already. I was surprised to see this issue return for a second time.
Item No. 9: Hiring of an Auditor General
I voted YES in support of hiring an independent Auditor General.
Let’s not focus on the fact that 33 per cent of Ontario residents – one in three – reside in a municipality that has had an independent Auditor General in the last three years.
Let’s not focus on the fact that reports demonstrate that for every $1 spent on an Auditor General – there is an $11 return on that investment for taxpayers in terms of savings and cost efficiencies.
At the end of the day – you can boil this entire debate to one word: information.
In order for City Council to make the best decisions about how we use taxpayer money – we require the most reliable and the most complete information about our performance as keepers of the public purse.
In order for us to build and maintain the public’s trust – we have a responsibility to provide citizens with the best, most reliable and most complete information by maximizing transparency, accountability and openness.
An Auditor General is the Gold Standard for openness, transparency, and accountability.
And so the real question on this night is which Councillors are prepared to invest an additional $200,000 to provide our residents with the Gold Standard for transparency and accountability.
PwC in its Report to the CAO states clearly and concisely: This Engagement Does NOT Constitute an Audit with the Canadian Auditing Standards
I voted YES on the Auditor General because:
- It would have improved the calibre of decision-making at Council
- It has the potential to find efficiencies and save the taxpayer significant money
- It maximizes transparency and accountability
- It will build trust between the Citizens and Council
Last but not least – I voted YES because I owe it to the residents who I met at the door during the campaign to follow through on my pledge to vote in favour of an Auditor General
Communications Item No. 10: I was delighted to read the report from the Director of Water Production at ENWIN which states that necessary steps have been taken to address the issue of Bromate in the City’s water and that there have been no incidents of exceeded levels of Bromate since March 18, 2014.
I directed Administration to formally request that in future reports to Council any incidents of exceedance are highlighted AND that the provincial Maximum Allowable Concentrations (MACs) are included and highlighted in the chart.
Roseland Board of Directors Committee Report:
I would like taxpayers and members of the Little River Golf Course to know how much revenue the course brings in and how much of that money is reinvested back into Little River Golf Course. Hence, I asked that in the future Administration separate the financial statements for Roseland and Little River Golf Course – which until now were reported as one.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Award of tender – Malden Landfill||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
|2 – Chimczuk bequest – agreement change||No||8-2||Presentation|
|3 – Sports Tourism Office||No||9-1||Deferral|
|4 – Bylaw establishing PHEDSC||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – Authorize local improvement charge||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 – Stage lift for Capitol Theatre||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7 – Update on Climate Protection Plan||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8 – Expression of interest Pelissier garage||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|9 – Waste Bins for City Facilities||Yes||6-5||Regular|
|10- Purchase loader for Parks||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|11 – Ward park allocation||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|12 – Winter maintenance tender||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|13 – Declare municipally improved lands||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|14 – Declare municipal improved lands||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|15 – Review municipal act||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|16 – Interim control bylaw for parking areas||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|17 – Review of Conflict of Interest Act||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|18 – Town of Tecumseh – Transit RFP||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|Notice of Motion – Direct Administration to provide information on setting up Office of the Auditor General||Yes||10-0||Consent|
Notice of Motion – Direct Administration to Report on Setting up Office of the Auditor General:
I supported this motion. This is a responsible first step that will provide Council with information necessary to have an informed debate about setting up the office of an Auditor General.
Maximizing both transparency and accountability were included as goals in the draft of the 20 Year Strategic Vision.
Item No.9: Establish Waste Coordinator for City Facilities: Originally, the Administration recommended spending $153,000 to establish the position of a Waste Coordinator that would help City of Windsor employees improve recycling at City facilities.
Whereas I recognize the value of recycling, I did not support establishing this position as it does not represent a proper investment of taxpayer dollars. Simply put, we already have the internal resources in place to improve recycling by City employees. We can improve recycling by asking our CAO and Management to remind City employees to recycle while AT THE SAME TIME making it more convenient to recycle by adding waste and recycle bins.
Evidence supporting this position comes from Adventure Bay. After additional waste and recycle bins were added – with some education of staff – the recycling rate increased from 10 per cent to 51 per cent diversion.
Hence, we do not need to spend an additional $153,000 of taxpayer money to see positive results.
Instead, I put forward the following motion at City Council on Monday:
(a) That Administration increase the number of blue and red recycle boxes throughout city facilities
(b) That Administration transfer $15,000 from the Public Spaces Recycling Project in order to fund the purchase of 15 Waste Stations in 2016
c) That Administration report back in 2017 on the performance of these incremental improvements on Waste Diversion in the Corporation
(d) That the Communications Director establish a communications strategy to improve recycling in City facilities
Item No. 2 – Chimczuk Museum: Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Joseph Chimczuk generously bequeathed $1 million to the City of Windsor to build a museum. It took 10 years for the City of Windsor to come to an agreement with the Chimczuk Museum Inc. (CMI) to use the funds to build Museum Windsor – which is nearing completion. It took 25 years to fulfill the wishes of Mr. Chimczuk – which included a very long, drawn out negotiation with CMI.
The agreement which finally closed the chapter included – at the City’s request – the dissolution of the CMI organization and relinquishing all trademarks and claims to the Chimczuk name by CMI to the City.
Just as the chapter appeared to be closed, another organization stepped forward requesting that the CMI not be dissolved. Rather, the organization wanted to keep alive CMI’s registration as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) so that the new organization could take donations.
The organization in question is a not-for-profit which is working hard to establish a Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media and the Creative Arts.
I could not support this motion for the following reasons:
(a) It took 25 years to close the chapter on the Chimczuk bequest – including 10 years of hard negotiations with CMI that ended with an agreement that administration worked hard to attain. I cannot support any action that could undermine that hard fought agreement.
(b) The Administration admits that such a move – which has no precedence with the City of Windsor – may have unintended consequences
(c) In essence – the unusual move by the City conferred a benefit on the Windsor Centre to the exclusion of any other organization
A very good article published by Frazier Fathers on his blog Ginger Politics that talks about the opportunity costs of building a New City Hall that is growing more expensive by the day.
I voted NO both times on the New City Hall – whose costs have escalated by 25 per cent.
Opportunity costs basically means – what investments are we not making as a result of committing more and more dollars to the New City Hall.
I have pasted Frazier’s blog post below – and here is the link to his Ginger Politics website which you can access by CLICKING HERE
I can appreciate the tough job that City Councillor’s have, stewards of taxpayers dollars they have to make tough decision about how to spend the dollars collected from citizens. This was why I was surprised to read today that work had already begun for the new City Hall. Council narrowly voted 6-5 (Mayor casting the tie breaking vote) and although a call for tender is still needed, it seems that another major decision has reached a forgone conclusion.
Faced with that realization I decided to see what may have been given up on in order to build a $43.3 million City Hall.
- According to the CBC reports to grind and repave one block in Windsor it costs approximately $600,000 = 144.3 blocks repaved
- Windsor Water World at full operation levels costed approximately $418,068 annually = 103.5 years of operation
- Almost build a new central library and innovation hub at a cost of $50 million or build many small libraries across the city at that cost of the new Optimist Library at a cost of $2,463,000 = 17.5 libraries
- According to the 2011 Census there were 87,830 residential households in Windsor = a one time tax rebate of $492.99
- Just over 1/5 of the total municipal costs for the new Windsor Regional Hospital being paid for without a levy on taxpayers.
- A one time 20% increase to all department budgets
- City Buses run between $600,000 and $900,000 for their life cycle per bus (depending on the type – see pg 21 of linked report, costs divided by 100 to get a per bus cost) = 48.8 buses fully funded for their life cycle
- Almost meet the low end cost estimate for a Street Car running from University of Windsor to Via Rail Station = $50,000,000
That being said, something will need to be done with the existing City Hall. Repair costs were estimated between $20 million to $35 million which is $8.3 million under the current projected budget. If I were to recalculate many of the above alternatives we get- 13.8 blocks of streets repaved; 3.38 new libraries; $94.50 tax rebate; a 3.8% budget increase to city departments; 9.2 buses fully funded or keep Waterworld open for almost 20 years.
Given the broader needs in our city, any number of these other would in my opinion have a greater positive impact on the day to day lives of Windsorites than a new City Hall.
Another great article from Anne Jarvis of the Windsor Star talks about the benefits that a world class science and innovation centre would provide the City of Windsor.
Here is an excerpt:
Think of what we could do if key players — the city, school boards, university, college, industry and community groups like Hackforge — joined Science City and committed to a centre for science, technology and innovation. No one is expecting to build a new science centre. The city’s capital budget is largely already spent until 2020. But one of the planned projects is a new main library, and some councillors are talking about the new library including a centre for science and technology, an innovation hub.
“That has tremendous potential,” says Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk.
Why science and technology? Because Windsor, says Kusmierczyk, is a city that builds things, and technology is exploding in advanced manufacturing. Because we live on the Great Lakes, where a growing cluster of clean water technology companies are addressing the global water shortage. Because we already have leading scientists in fields like invasive species at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research here. Because we’re grappling with the issue of toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.
The majority of new jobs require skills in the so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math. But Kusmierczyk goes further, including the arts. He read University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman’s passionately argued essay in The Globe and Mail last week on the value of humanities and social sciences.
“A centre that awakens in our young people a love of inquiry and innovation,” Kusmierczyk called it.
Locate it downtown, he said, to continue revitalizing the core and to give kids from vulnerable neighbourhoods the opportunity to continue learning after school, on weekends and in the summer.
For the whole article CLICK HERE
And the same week Maclean’s Magazine published an excellent article highlighting libraries as engines of innovation and economic development.
In order to read the whole article CLICK HERE
The simple fact is – Windsor must keep pace with cities like Toronto, Kitchener, Halifax and even our own Detroit in putting in place the kind of infrastructure that will diversify our economy, boost innovation and support homegrown entrepreneurship.
This is an important piece of the puzzle for a City wanting to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy.
An innovation hub that combines a maker space and tech-infused library is a potent tool in the hands of Windsorites – especially considering our 100 years of manufacturing know-how. We know how to build things.
And of course, education is the foundation of economic development – hence we must do what we can to bring more resources and partners to the table when it comes to preparing our young people for success in today’s economy.
Let’s start here.
Anne Jarvis wrote a great piece in the Windsor Star titled New Dynamic at Windsor City Council. For the full article CLICK HERE
Here is an excerpt:
“There’s more debate,” said Kusmierczyk. “Councillors feel they can ask tougher questions. I’ve seen administrators’ reports challenged more. Councillors push each other as well. You’re expected to come to council with more research, look for more best practices from other jurisdictions.”
And they are less hesitant to vote against big projects. Five councillors voted against proceeding with the environmental assessment for the Riverside Drive underpass. Fivealso voted against more money for the new city hall.
They’re more likely to introduce new ideas, even risque ideas, like paying for parking at all city facilities to raise revenue for public transit. All of which, in turn, is more likely to engage the public.
How could this be bad?
We expect council to get things done but that shouldn’t preclude accommodating new ideas and different perspectives that fully reflect the community.
And what of the so-called “left-leaning big spenders?” They voted against an additional $4.4 million for the new city hall and against the $3-million underpass. They’re also the ones questioning how the heck the city ended up spending $2.2 million more — more than double the estimated cost — to operate the aquatic centre. Sounds more parsimonious than profligate.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Pedestrian Lighting on Ottawa||Yes||9-0||Deferral|
|2 – Tax reduction applications||Yes||9-0||Consent|
|3 – Riverfront brick program||Yes||9-0||Consent|
|4 – Relief from property taxation||Yes||9-0||Consent|
|Report No. 293 – Traffic Calming Policy||Yes||9-0||Regular|
|Communications No. 12 – WUC Financials||Yes||9-0||Communications|
Communication No. 12 – Water Utilities Canada 2rd Quarter Financials: I asked a simple question, why the 2nd Quarter Financials for WUC reported a huge $3 million increase in administrative costs and also a significant decrease in revenue. I asked Administration to find out and report back.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Pedestrian lighting on Ottawa Street||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
|2- Local improvement work on Roselawn||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3 – Local improvement work on Lloyd George||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4 – Local improvement work on Clemenceau||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – Sidewalk café permit on Erie Street||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 -185 Ouellette Avenue encroachment||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7 – 20 Year Strategic Vision – proposed projects||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|8 – Source water protection||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|9 – Councillor Elliott’s Motion – CUPE garbage pick up||No||5-6||Regular Business|
|Report No. 313 – 2072 Riverside Drive||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Report No. 316 – repeal heritage designation||No||0-10||Delegation|
|Report No. 315 – Tru Land Development||Yes||5-6||Delegation|
Item No. 9 – Councillor Elliott’s Motion to Reinstate CUPE garbage pick- up: I voted against Councillor Elliott’s motion to reinstate CUPE garbage pickup.
I support the private delivery of garbage pickup. I support our current contract with private company Green-for-Life (GFL). I do not support a return to garbage pick by CUPE.
Item No. 7 – 20 Year Strategic Vision: I asked for three goals to be included in our 20 year plan:
- Under the heading Jobs & Economic Diversification – I included an explicit goal of increased support for homegrown entrepreneurs and innovators through the establishment of a vibrant Technology Business Incubator and establishment of a Maker Space in partnership with other community stakeholders
- Under the heading Improving City’s Image – I included the goal of maximizing transparency & accountability, for example, by publishing voting records of all City Councillors on the internet
- Under the heading of Keeping and Retaining Valued Citizens – I included the establishment of a city-wide Mental Health and Addiction Strategy.
I believe that broader goals such as downtown revitalization are dependent on economic diversification and simultaneously addressing the challenge of mental health and addiction.
Report No. 315 – Truland Development near Woodlawn including Parkwood extension: We heard from a number of residents on Parkwood Avenue who protested plans to have Parkwood Avenue opened up as part of the plan to build a new subdivision with over 100 housing units. Their concerns about traffic are valid and must be addressed.
However – the moment that the Fire Chief Bruce Montone stated clearly and emphatically that the Windsor Fire Services (WFS) requires open and unobstructed access to the new subdivision through an open Parkwood Avenue – I believe it became my duty to as a City Councillor to listen to his professional advice, support his call and vote in favour of opening up Parkwood Avenue. At stake was nothing less than the safety of residents in that neighbourhood – which should have been the overriding concern of Council.
An article appeared in the Windsor Star this week stating that some members of City Council – myself included – supported bringing back garbage collection by CUPE.
Plain and simple the article is wrong. I never voted to bring back CUPE garbage collection and that has never been my position.
Mr. Vander Doelen published an irresponsible and inaccurate article in the Windsor Star that presents the opposite of my position and the opposite of how I voted to the residents of Ward 7 – and that’s what matters to me.
Last weekend I called Mayor Dilkens to tell him that I was concerned with Councillor Elliott’s proposed motion to bring back CUPE garbage collection and I told the Mayor in no uncertain terms that I would not be supporting Councillor Elliott’s motion to bring back CUPE garbage collection.
During this Tuesday’s Council Meeting I followed through and voted to not even allow the debate to move forward in Council Chambers. Councillor Elliott’s motion was soundly and rightly defeated.
And yet – Mr. Vander Doelen names me as a Councillor who “voted to sell out taxpayers by giving the reins of control back to CUPE“.
As you may know, I am the only City Councillor to publish their voting record online – and I do this because I believe both elected officials and those reporting and commenting on the news have a responsibility to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
The initial debate on Bulk Item Pick Up was brought to Council a month ago on August 4th – and on my blog I write about how I voted. You can read it here: http://irek.ca/ireks-votes-august-4-2015/
In short, the issue on August 4th was NOT about bringing back CUPE. The issue was whether we wanted to add Bulk Item Pick Up to the regular pick up that is being conducted by a private company called Green For Life (GFL).
At no point did any City Councillor propose that CUPE conduct Bulk Item Pick Up.
What I supported was asking the private company GFL to provide us with a quote on how much extra it would cost to add Bulk Item Pick Up to the current contract when it is up for renegotiation in 2017 with the private company GFL.
Only Mr. Vander Doelen can explain why he took my position and published the exact opposite.
What concerns me is not public criticism of the positions I take – be it my position to cancel the $2.5 million downtown tunnel underpass or my position to vote against the New City Hall and its $9 million increase in costs. That is always fair game.
But what makes this case so unfortunate, is that my position was erroneously communicated to Ward 7 residents – which is ultimately what matters to me.
The bottom line is that I remain determined to serve our Ward 7 residents with maximum transparency, accountability and integrity.