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.
According to a report published by the Conference Board of Canada called City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities – Windsor must do a better job of creating a climate of innovation after receiving an across-the-board grade of D.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was in Windsor this week to talk with Ontario residents before he tables the Province’s budget in 2015. Many organizations were present and did not shy away from taking the microphone to put forward their excellent ideas and important concerns.
I took my turn to praise the government for making investments in the two Campus Linked Accelerators (CLAs) at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor that will provide support for young homegrown entrepreneurs.
At the same time, I proposed to the Finance Minister that a provincial fund be established to help municipalities like Windsor launch City Led Accelerators modeled after the $30 million Bayview Yards redevelopment in Ottawa that is converting an old abandoned factory into a world-class innovation and technology incubator. The Bayview Yards projects represents a 50/50 partnership between the City of Ottawa and the Province of Ontario – with most of the city costs provided in-kind e.g. land.
I encourage you to Google “Bayview Yards” to find out more. Here is an article to get you started: CLICK HERE
Here is a Youtube video about the transformation of the old lands: CLICK HERE
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Basement flooding subsidy program||Yes||10-0||Regular|
|2 – Establishing Retail Corporation||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
|3 – Fairbarn Cemetary||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|4 – 2015 Sewer surcharge update||Yes||10-0||Regular|
|5 – Support to budget issue 2015-0211||Yes||10-0||Regular|
|6 – Council remuneration||Yes||10-0||Regular|
|7 – Windsor Water World||Yes||Delegation|
|8 – Operating budget addendum||Yes||10-0||Regular|
|9 – Grand Prix sponsorship||No||7-3||Regular|
|Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation||No||5-6||Presentation|
|Delaying Elimination of One Hour Downtown Free Parking for one year||No||6-4||Delegation|
|Continue Arts/Culture Funding||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Continue support for Windsor Symphony Orchestra||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Safety Village support||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Seniors Hockey – increase fees||No||8-2||Delegation|
Council unanimously passed the 2015 Budget on Monday with a zero per cent increase to the General Tax Levy for the 7th straight year – making Windsor the only city in Canada to be able to stake that claim.
The 8 hours of 2015 Budget deliberations accomplished what we set out to do as a City Council: balance the budget, keep the General Tax Levy the same, and yet manage to provide additional support for some important community organizations and services such as Adie Knox, Windsor Water World, Safety Village and Windsor Symphony Orchestra that keep our city and neighbourhoods vibrant. Well into the evening, Council had made about $600,000 in additional commitments that were not contained in the Operating Budget 2015. Fortunately, having studied the 2015 Budget front-to-back, Councillors had prepared in advance a list of potential savings and revenue generators to offset these costs and balance the books. All in all, this was an important exercise especially for Councillors like myself who are new to the Budget process – as we learned a great deal about the economic health of our City, the state of our infrastructure and services, as well as the budgetary pressures on the horizon that we must address starting today.
Item #1: Council voted to pre-commit $1.2 million from the 2016 capital budget to support residents who make the necessary investments (e.g. backwater valve and pump) to protect their homes from flooding. Funding for the Basement Flooding Subsidy Program in 2015 represents a 500 per cent increase from 2012 – reflecting the growing challenge posed by the City’s aging infrastructure.
Item#2: Council voted to defer this vote until a later time.
Item#6: Council voted to review City Councillor pay in 2017. City Councillors in Windsor have not received a pay raise since 2005 rejecting even a modest increase to keep up with inflation and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – which over that time amounts to a 16 per cent pay cut. Council decided for the 9th straight year that it is better to invest in the community than increase Councillor salaries. This is a different philosophy than our counterparts in Toronto City Council which are about to approve a 17 per cent increase to the Mayor’s Office as well as a 2.5 per cent increase to Councillor salaries.
Item#7: Council voted to maintain operations at Windsor Water World. Simply put, the services provided to the downtown core community are vital. Closing Water World would have moved us further along on the path towards a community of two Windsors: the Windsor that can afford and access recreational activities like swimming and soccer, and those that cannot.
Item#9: Council voted to sponsor the Grand Prix in Detroit to the tune of $50,000. I voted against this motion. First off, I don’t remember the last time the City of Detroit sponsored anything in Windsor (e.g. International Children’s Games, FINA?). Second, I would rather see that funding invested at home. For example, a Windsor-born entrepreneur named Bob Huggins spent the last three years producing a film about an important part of Windsor’s history and its link to the Civil Rights Movement. The movie is called The Greatest Freedom Show on Earth and it captures a wonderful story woven around rarely seen video footage and photographs of Windsor and Detroit. The movie premiered on TVO in December 2014 and is scheduled to anchor TVOs Black History Month celebrations in February. The City of Windsor is not a partner on this film and yet I strongly believe it should be one. I would rather see part of the Grand Prix funding go towards this important film that tells the rest of Canada and other parts of the world about Windsor’s proud history and our part in one of the greatest social movements of our time.
Item Adie Knox: Simply put, the ice pad at Adie Knox was a critical community centre for thousands of youth in the city core and beyond for hockey. We voted to maintain the ice pad.
Item Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC): Councillor Hilary Payne put forward a motion to withhold funding to the WEEDC for the second half of the year until the organization presents its accomplishments to Council in the summer. I agreed with the underlying sentiment of the motion—making sure that WEEDC is accountable and that it provides City of Windsor residents value-for-money. I also communicated to WEEDC that they will be measured by one overriding metric: job creation and retention. I ultimately voted against the motion because withholding this funding undermines the ability of WEEDC to carry out its task by undermining its credibility and undermining its ability to plan ahead. Furthermore, unilaterally pulling that funding without consulting our partners in the County who co-fund WEEDC sends the wrong message, and undermines our regional collaboration at a time when we must stand together as a region on Economic Development.
Item Delay Elimination of One Hour Free Downtown Garage Parking for One Year: I voted against the motion to keep one hour free downtown parking for one year and agreed with the Administration’s original recommendation to immediately eliminate the free parking downtown for the following reasons: First, simply put we need the funds to pay for maintenance of parking garages. Second, we undermine the millions of dollars we invested in new buses, enhanced bus routes and new bike lanes by providing incentives for drivers to avoid public transit and bikes with free and cheap parking options. Third, we will face a parking crunch on the first day the new downtown university campus opens. Anything we can do to make it more likely that students bike or bus to downtown will provide us with relief. Free parking will only make the parking crunch worse. Fourth, we reduce the chance of private investors building parking options near downtown by providing publically subsidized free parking
Item Seniors Hockey Fee Increase: I voted against the motion to increase the fees to $91 for seniors renting ice during off-peak hours. I support maintaining the longstanding practice of keeping ice rental for Seniors Hockey at 50 per cent of the normal rate for the rental of ice time during the off-peak period. The term Dead Ice refers to off-peak periods when the ice pads are not in use – normally during the day when young people are in school and other folks are at work. During the day, approximately 70 per cent of ice time is Dead Ice – meaning that the City still incurs costs of maintaining the ice but there is no revenue to offset the costs because the ice is not being used. Encouraging Seniors to rent ice during off-peak hours brings in additional revenue to the City while helping Seniors to maintain their physical, mental and social well being.
Below is an excerpt from a column published by The Windsor Star’s Anne Jarvis titled Where’s the Beef? about the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation after its CEO Sandra Pupatello came before Council to present the economic development corporation’s accomplishments.
To me, the most important point the article puts forward is the following:
There should also be more collaboration among the seeming multitude of economic development organizations – business accelerators, incubators, entrepreneur programs, not to mention the mayor’s proposed retail development corporation.
The article goes on to state:
Still, as Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk said before voting on a stunning motion Monday to withhold half of the corporation’s money until it further quantifies its results, there is only one metric: Jobs.
For the full article CLICK HERE
The following is from the 2014 Annual Report: Community Crime Prevention Programs & Neighbourhood Watch Windsor (NWW):
In 2014, Ward 7 celebrated an overall 13% reduction in total reported crimes. This reduction follows years of collaborated efforts with Windsor Police Services and many other community partnerships and projects, increasing public awareness and community engagement.
In 2014, we welcomed newly appointed Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk with attendance at his first Ward meeting. Ward 7 currently has 7 active watches that represents more than 140 residents and our goal is to increase that in 2015. In October, NWW organized and promoted a public meeting with Councillor Kusmierczyk at Heron Terrace to address concerns brought to our attention involving the park and hill that many homes back onto. More than 25 residents attended to voice concerns, ask questions and learn about the NWW program. Windsor Police Service and Crime Stoppers officials attended and answered questions. NWW plans to meet with Resident Association Presidents in 2015 and a CPTED (security) audit is scheduled for Spring 2015. A NWW meeting and presentation is scheduled for January 21st (updated: February 5th) at Church of the Atonement to which all residents of Windsor are invited to attend. Concerns specific to the Forest Glade area will be addressed as well as a NWW presentation introducing and inviting residents to join the program.
In 2015, NWW will continue to maintain a strong working relationship with Councillor Kusmierczyk as we continue to grow the program and address the specific concerns of Ward 7.
I welcome vibrant and open debate about the City’s management of community assets. Council decided on Monday to maintain Lakeview Park Marina as City owned and City operated. I put forward the reasoning behind that decision in a previous post.
Yesterday, Gord Henderson of the Windsor Star published a column arguing that the City missed an opportunity to examine alternative operational models, namely, either selling or leasing the marina to a private owner or operator. You can read the article by clicking HERE
Sarnia Bay Marina is a City owned but privately operated marina which the column holds up as an example of the advantages of such a public-private operation.
Fair enough, but the article neglects to include a pretty important piece of information: Sarnia Council privatized its marina operations at a time when the marina was losing $250,000 per year. Windsor Council, on the other hand, voted to maintain public operations of a marina that is making a $100,000 profit every year.
For a counter argument to the Sarnia Bay Marina model – take a look at the comprehensive City of Barrie Waterfront and Marina Strategic Plan tabled in 2013.
For the full report click HERE
The report was developed through an extensive collaboration under a so-called Planning Partnership which consisted of multiple municipal departments, public consultation through two major public open houses, and the aide of major private consulting firms such as NBLC and Baird+Associates – companies that understand real estate and economic development.
Under the sub-title Recommendations – the report concludes that the City of Barrier should:
Maintain public ownership and operation of the Marina. In its
current form the Marina provides positive net benefits to the City
as a whole and several opportunities exist to leverage this to a
greater degree in the future. In our view, several potential conflicts
with private operation or ownership are likely to arise given the
fact that the interests between the City and a private operator are
not aligned. Maintaining ownership also means that the City can
develop a comprehensive strategy for the waterfront which includes
the Marina as a public asset where investments in the Marina and its
infrastructure benefit all local residents.
To find this quote in the Report Appendix CLICK HERE
The way forward is for the City of Windsor to make the necessary and long-overdue investments in Lakeview Park Marina to bring it up to standards – while building the kinds of partnerships across the City that will take advantage of this remarkable city-owned and operated asset for tourism and economic development.
The Windsor Star published an Op-Ed piece calling for industry and our schools to establish closer collaboration through the FIRST Robotics program in order to work together to position our young people for a 21st century knowledge economy and to fuel our local industry now and into the future.
To read the article CLICK HERE
Education is economic development.
The Windsor Star ran an excellent series of articles under the title GONE that examined the flight of young people out of Windsor in search of jobs.
Columnist Anne Jarvis followed up that series with the next logical question: what are we doing about it?
Here is a good quote summarizing one key element:
Education will be key. We need to cultivate a highly educated, highly innovative and highly motivated next generation, a generation of achievers.
Here is the article: CLICK HERE
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Litigation ALS Society||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|2-Extend animal control agreement||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3-Operational Model for Lakeview Park Marina – Keeping Marina in City Hands||Yes||7-3||Delegation|
|4-Lakeview Park Marina updates||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|5-Humidification upgrades Justice Facility||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6-Cellular device policy update||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7-eGaming initiative agreement with OLG||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8-2015 Agency Grant Payments with amendment to partially fund Safety Village||Yes||7-3||Consent|
|9-acquisition of auto extrication equipment||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|10-capital project variance report||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|11-Establishing Retail Corporation – tabled and To Be Discussed next Council Meeting||Yes||10-0||Consent|
Item #3: I put forward the motion to maintain Lakeview Park Marina as City owned and City operated. Below is my statement in support of the motion:
LAKEVIEW PARK MARINA
I will be supporting the Status Quo and maintain City ownership and operation of Lakeview Park Marina for the following reasons.
- First and foremost, Lakeview Park Marina (LPM) has been profitable every year for the last six years – even during the worst of the economic recession when the occupancy rate has dipped below 50 per cent the Marina still turned a profit for the City. In 2013 – the Marina provided the City with a net profit of $100,000.
- When you consider the improvements—adding more profitable larger well and reducing security cots by constructing a security gate – the Lakeview Park Marina will generate around $125,000 annually for the City
- Consider this important point: Lakeview Park Marina is the most profitable recreational facility operated by the City of Windsor.
- More than just financial considerations – the Lakeview Park Marina provides unique and necessary services to a broad cross-section of our community:
i. Hundreds of transient boaters use the Lakeview Park Marina as the gateway to our City
ii. Hundreds of pleasure boaters and fishing boats use the City’s only commercial launch ramp to access the Great Lakes and waterways
iii. Provides a safe haven for tugs that bring in large vessels or barges
iv. The Marina is used by the RCMP, OPP and Windsor Police Marine unit
v. The report confirms what East Windsor residents already know: that the park is “heavily used by locals walking their dogs, enjoying the boats, viewing the water. Keeping Lakeview Marina in the hand of the City aligns with the Community’s Strategic Plan, investing in quality of life by investing in neighbourhoods, public spaces, and preserving the natural environment”.
- Going back to the numbers suggest that the demand for Lakeview Park Marina – and hence its profitability—will only increase.
i. According to a report submitted to Council June 4, 2013 – the daily use of ramps in that year increased by 440% from the previous year. Regular seasonal passes increased by 263% and senior season passes increased by 217% while fuel sales increased by 32%.
ii. In 2013 – a waitlist was created that consisted of 37 boaters looking for accommodation at LPM.
These numbers all indicate that the Marina is a success for the City.
- Looking forward – I believe an important reason why the Marina should remain in the hand of the City of Windsor is that we have not begun to explore the opportunities to leverage the Marina for economic development for example through tourism. There are countless opportunities to partner the Marina with local restaurants, golf courses, the casino, retail shops both downtown, the cycling community and others.
- Another important point to consider: Selling the Marina would cut off Peche Island – which is just several canoe strokes from the marina. An article in the Windsor Star called Peche Island a “paradise” and “ the loveliest, most storied, most unusual park in the city” that connects Windsorites to its history through Hiram Walker and to a rare natural habitat that draws hundreds of visitors every year.
- The City—under the leadership of its past mayors—spent decades trying to assemble riverfront property to make it public. In their wisdom, they acquired Peche Island and Lakeview Marina. We now have arguably the most beautiful, expansive riverfront in North America. It would be a shame if we sold off that heritage, that public trust.
- I would argue that the Lakeview Park Marina is now an increasingly profitable, critical community asset that is part of the fabric and identity of Windsor’s East End community. Downtown is known for its entertainment. Walkerville its charming shops. Erie Street its restaurants. The East End is known for its year-round outdoor and indoor recreation – the Ganatchio Trail, the WFCU arena and swimming pool, and the Marina is part of that identity. The lighthouse at Lakeview Marina itself is iconic – and a symbol of Windsor as a welcoming community and a safe harbour for tens of thousands of immigrants.
- Turning the Lakeview Park Marina over to a private operator equally makes no sense because the City would forego all the revenue and all the profit WHILE still being on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital investments! That’s like selling your chickens but paying to maintain the henhouse. It makes no sense.
The only viable, responsible and profitable solution is to put our money where our mouths are when it comes to strengthening neighbourhoods and community assets by making a long-term commitment to Lakeview Park Marina as a City owned and operated Marina.
I will be voting in support of a City owned and operated marina and the subsequent investments in 2015.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Settlement Chrysler assessment appeal||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|2-Appointment acting Mayor||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3-2015 Public works capital pre-approve||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4-2015 temporary borrowing||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5-PwC management action plan||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6-PwC management action plan||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7-PwC management action plan – transit||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8-Inclusion of Heritage in PECDSC||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|9-Firefighters on disability||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|10-Lakeview Park Marina||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|11-Lakeview Park Marina||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|12-2015 interim tax bill||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|13-Emergency 911 computer replacement||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|14-Bylaw to authorize special changes||Ye||10-0||Consent|