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
1 – Cabana Road Bike Trail Yes 10-0 Delegation
2 – Disposal of waste Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Telus contract for cellular Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – Relocation of garbage collection Yes 10-0 Referral
5 – Banwell Corridor EA Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Grit removal contract Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – Purchasing bylaw review Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – Little River controls upgrade Yes 10-0 Consent
9 – Affordable housing extension Yes 10-0 Consent
10 – Vacant land 8549 Wyandotte Yes 10-0 Consent
11 – Sublease agreement  Leamington Yes 10-0 Consent
12 – Service counter renovations Transit Yes 10-0 Consent
13 – Riverfront interceptor upgrades Yes 10-0 Consent
14 – Sponsorship of Via Italia bike race Yes 10-0 Presentation
15 – Advertising right of way Yes 10-0 Deferral
16 – Windsor Express basketball terms Yes 7-4 Delegation
17 – East End swimming pool at WFCU Yes 9-2 Delegation
18 – Children’s Safety village fencing Yes 10-0 Consent
19 – Multi modal cargo tender Yes 10-0 Consent
       

 

Item No. 17 East End Swimming Pool in WFCU Centre: There are a number of reasons behind my YES vote on the East End pool but here are the most important ones:
(1) PUBLIC CONSULTATION – I canvassed WARD 7 over three days and talked to 50 people specifically about whether they are in favour of an East End pool. Not a single person said they were against the pool and 95 per cent enthusiastically told me to vote YES. I visited neighbouring Aspen Lake nursing home to see whether residents there could benefit from the pool and the Director of Recreation said “absolutely, yes!”.

(2) DEMAND: A report prepared for the City in 1989 called for the construction of an East End pool. Residents in the East End have been waiting 25 years for this pool. The WFCU community pool will be the only swimming pool east of Gino Marcus on Drouillard Road and it will serve all ages and–once development is complete–serve about 40,000 people. Let me highlight some of those users. The good folks of an organization called Life After Fifty (LAF) already are headquartered in the WFCU and they represent a significant demographic in Ward 7. St. Joseph’s High School and its 1400 students can walk to the WFCU. Tecumseh Vista and Riverside High Schools are five minutes away by car. Dozens of grade schools can utilize the pool. Nursing homes all within a short drive such as Aspen Lake, Herron Terrace, Banwell Gardens and even Brouillette Manor can use the therapy pool to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. Windsor–by the by–has the highest obesity rates in Ontario. I sit on the Windsor Essex Health Unit, and I can tell you that from a purely health perspective – this is an excellent long term investment in the health of our community.

(3) FISCAL BALANCE and PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS: Council entered into an agreement with Samsung to build a solar farm at the airport and the revenue from this unexpected windfall will cover 3/4th of the cost of construction for this pool. Furthermore – the Samsung deal will pump close to $1 million into city coffers every year for 20 years that could be used for operating expenses. In essence, this represents a kind of Public-Private Partnership. I would always encourage the City to find ways to leverage private dollars for public projects. In addition, I would rather act now and commit the Samsung funds to building a valuable amenity that will improve the quality of life of residents of Ward 7 – the Ward I represent–then to wait for NEXT council to take those very same funds and commit them to something less appealing (marina, downtown underpass etc.) that is located in some other part of town that is NOT directly serving Ward 7.

The mandate I received talking to residents on their front steps, combined with both a genuine long-standing need supported by evidence & the availability of a private-public partnership (e.g. Samsung funding) made this a decision that warranted a YES vote.

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The Windsor Star wrote a very good article titled “Should Windsor Council Candidates Live in the Ward in Which They Are Running?”

Here’s an excerpt:

Kusmierczyk said he has since moved back to Ward 7, and he believes living among the people you represent is an important part of being a ward councillor.

“Literally, the day after I got elected, I started looking for property (in Ward 7),” Kusmierczyk said on Friday. “I feel very strongly about that, so I fulfilled that pledge.”

It’s worth noting Kusmierczyk had ties to Ward 7 before the 2013 by-election, having grown up in the Forest Glade area.

“I think that in the election itself, what’s most important is you have the best candidates running for the position. But once they’re elected — and this is my personal opinion — I think they should move into the ward,” he explained.

Kusmierczyk pointed out that living in Ward 7 means patronizing its businesses and frequenting its neighbourhoods. “I go to the grocery store in the ward. I go to Tim Hortons. I go bicycling … On a day-to-day basis, I get a chance to talk to the residents, know what’s going on, find out what their concerns are.”

“You’re a lot more in touch, and you’re a lot more available.”

Windsor’s 2014 municipal election takes place Oct. 27. The deadline to file for candidacy is Sept. 12.

Read the whole article: CLICK HERE

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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.

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CONSTRUCTION NOTICE

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

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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

 

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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:

Irek Checks out innovative 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:

Irek Checks Out Innovative IndyBlue Electric Car Share Program

 

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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      
  1. a.       Receive report
Yes 10-0 Presentation
  1. b.      Issue RFP for underpass study
No 7-4 Presentation
  1. c.       Improve washroom facilities
Yes 10-0 Presentation
  1. d.      Improve lighting
Yes 10-0 Presentation
  1. e.      Fund study to complete Festival Plaza
Yes 10-0 Presentation
  1. f.        Accept 48 recommendations
Yes 10-0 Presentation
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.

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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

 

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