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.
I had a very productive meeting with the CEO and Director of Technology Entrepreneurship at TechTown in Detroit, which is a technology incubator that supports innovative start-up companies in Michigan. We were discussing an exciting cross-border initiative that we are working on in the health sector. More importantly, this visit and this cross-border collaboration emphasizes the need to look beyond political barriers that are separating our two cities. We should be working together to promote regional economic development.
CLOVER AVENUE @ TECUMSEH ROAD EAST LANE RESTRICTIONS
What? Asphalt repairs will take place on Clover Avenue at Tecumseh Road East with eastbound and westbound lane restrictions.
When? Thursday, August 21, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Who? DiPonti Paving/City of Windsor
A 70-year-old homegrown global manufacturing company is looking to permanently establish its World Headquarters in Windsor and expand its operations with some help from the City of Windsor
The $15 million expansion would not only add jobs but retain the over 800 positions–many of them high skilled–that currently exist in the city.
“The pressures on Canadian companies to locate elsewhere are absolutely immense … this is about job creation but also job retention,” said Ward 7 Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk.
To continue reading the whole article CLICK HERE
I firmly believe that an important part of being a City Councillor is to study best practices in other cities and bring those ideas home to Windsor. Towards that goal, I took a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana to check out that city’s innovative Cultural Trail bike paths as well as their bike share and electric car share programs. It was a timely trip as Council will vote very soon on the separate bike lanes on Cabana to complete the Windsor Loop.
I was so impressed with the 20 kilometers of gorgeous separated bike lanes that connect the downtown of Indianapolis. The interlocking paving stones really add elegance to the downtown and functionality – connecting people car-free to street-side bistros, a canal, apartments, cafes and parks.
For a great little video of the Cultural Trail CLICK HERE.
The two parts that make the system work–in addition to the trail–are the bike sharing program (see yellow bikes) and the Indy Bike Hub YMCA which includes a bike shop and storage, a gym, and showers/lockers so that those who want to bike-to-work can.
Click on the following link for my interview with Indy Bike Hub YMCA:
I also got the chance to check out the innovative electric car share program. Click on the following link for my interview with Indy Blue:
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Concussion Policy||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|2 – Flu Vaccination Clinics||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3 – Replace flatroof on firehall no. 4||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4 – Curbs and gutters for Turner Road||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – Transfer of lands to University of Windsor||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
|6 – 2014 Q2 Operating Budget Variance||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|7 – Delegation of Authority||No||9-1||Presentation|
|8 – Central Riverfront Implementation Plan|
|9. Bert Weeks Memorial improvements||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|10. Windsor Express license renewal||Yes||10-0||Referral|
|11. Pan Am Torch Relay||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|12. PwC Quarterly Internal Audit||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
Item No. 6 Q2 Budget Variance – During the Council Meeting—and in subsequent conversations with Administration—I raised my concerns regarding the projected year-end deficit of $5.6 million. Compare this number with the $3.9 year-end surplus the year before – and you can understand my concern with what I perceive to be a $9.5 million downturn in the City’s economic performance. I was assured by the Mayor and City Treasurer that Q2 projected deficits are common – and that by year-end we will be much closer to balance than these mid-year numbers indicate. Fair enough. Nonetheless – these budget numbers do reinforce my approach to taking a pause from big-ticket purchases [e.g. Parking Garage ($7.2 million) and tunnel underpass for Riverside Drive (estimated $6 million)] in order to provide as strong a position as possible for the City Treasurer to balance the books.
I also inquired about the Aquatics Centre which is projected to come in $792,000 over budget this year. Much of that variance is attributed to the increase in energy costs. In fact – my research indicates that the Aquatics Centre will be the second largest energy cost of all our municipal operated facilities, second only to the Lou Romano water treatment plant. Again, the concern with higher-than-expected operating costs underline my current approach to taking a pause from big-ticket purchases such as a Parking Garage ($7.2 million) and the Tunnel underpass for Riverside Drive ($6 million).
Item No. 7 Delegation of Authority – I voted against the Delegation of Authority (DoA) request by Administration which would in essence give the CAO the authority to recruit AND appoint without a Council Vote two of the highest administrative positions in the City of Windsor—the newly established Transportation Czar AND the City Engineer in charge of Infrastructure & Environment. Both positions make up the Corporate Leadership Team at the very top of the City’s administration. I trust the professionalism and integrity of our CAO to put forward an excellent candidate, but I also firmly believe on principle that Council should not yield this oversight authority on these two critical positions which together will oversee a gross annual budget north of $150 million. Hence my reason for voting “no”.
Item No. 8 Central Riverfront Improvement Plan (CRIP) – We have one of the most beautiful waterfronts in North America and beyond. The CRIP was launched in 2000 by the Council at the time as a 25 year plan to improve the waterfront. Having crossed the half-way point – the current Council launched an impressive city-wide community consultation to measure our progress to date and to put forward recommendations for future work. Towards that goal – the Survey Report brought before council by Landmark Engineers and Bezaire and Associates provided an excellent benchmark and roadmap.
From the survey – it was evident that respondents were more interested in enhancements to our riverfront compared to radical changes. This is what I heard from the residents and this is the reason why I voted in favour of the recommendations to improve washrooms, lighting and to plant more trees. I also heard from residents the need to permit one or two small cafes to operate where families and visitors could relax and take in the view. I support that too.
The focus on enhancements is also the reason why I voted against moving forward toward the construction of a very expensive downtown tunnel pedestrian underpass for Riverside Drive that in my estimation would cost over $5 million. My arguments are simple.
- Only about 36% of survey respondents directly stated they wanted an underpass – which matches similar polls conducted in places such as AM800 where well over 60 per cent said “No”.
- We already have five (5) at-grade crossings with lights within four blocks around Ouellette Avenue. We should focus on improving these at-grade crossings which would cost next-to-nothing relative to the underpass.
- No traffic study has been done to determine the need for an underpass
- We just received a Q2 variance report that indicates we will have an operating budget deficit this year including a significant operating deficit for the Aquatics Centre. Building an underpass would only add significant operating costs.
- The Windsor Star reported this week that the City will need to address significant capital costs to maintain our stock of social housing in the range of $25 million. This is but one example of where the City needs to take a pause from big ticket purchases to focus on current capital needs and improving our neighbourhoods.
For these reasons – the underpass represents a bit of overkill. It is a want – not a need. And these are some of the key reasons I voted against this proposed component.
For the entire story CLICK HERE
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Extension of Tecumseh sculpture loan||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|2 – WUC request for WRAP continuation||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3 – Community heritage fund mortgage for Mount Zion Church||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4 – Ontario Summer Games Charter||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – LED conversion agreement with Enwin||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 – Tecumseh/Brock monument||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|7 – Skunk control program – end program||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|8 – City consolidated financial report||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|9 – Sanitary drain connection review||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|10 – La Casa del Habano – outside patio||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
The Toronto Star published an editorial this week titled Windsor Is Right To Resist Excessive Rail Secrecy on Dangerous Goods.
The article praised Windsor City Council for standing up to the railway companies who demanded that the City sign a restrictive non-disclosure agreement in exchange for little scraps of information about cargo.
Mayor Francis, Council Gignac and I argued strongly against signing the non-disclosure agreement.
A previous Toronto Star article quoted me as saying:
Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk said the agreement allows rail companies to arbitrarily determine how the information is used.
“I felt that it hog-ties our fire chief, it ties his hands,” said Kusmierczyk. “Our responsibility is not to the rail companies, it’s to the residents of the city.”
I stand by that statement. In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Lac-Megantic, Quebec – we need more information, not less, and we need the federal government to put in place serious regulations that will prevent this from happening closer to home.
Here is the whole Toronto Star Editorial: CLICK HERE
I had the privilege of taking part in a press conference announcing the Windsor International Writers Conference for November 13-16, 2014 which will honour Alistair MacLeod.
Kusmierczyk applauded Goldstein and conference host Raindance Windsor for strengthening the city’s arts community by bringing the first international event of its kind to the area.
“Windsor is a literary city and we are a creative city and we have endless great stories to tell the world,” he said.