ITEM # and DESCRIPTION IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Contract renewal for CGI Communications Yay 10-0 Consent
2 – Reduce development charges Nay 0-10 Delegation
3- Russette drain examination Yay 10-0 Consent
4 –Tender – purchase Chrysler minivans Yay 10-0 Consent
5- Year round cafes Yay 10-0 Consent
6 – Road widening University of Windsor Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – Service contract MTCU Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Request for Grants Nay 0-10 Consent
9 – Waiver of fees policy Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Public space recycling Yay 10-0 Consent
11 – Via Rail land acquisition Riverside Dr. Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Construction of curbs and gutters Yay 10-0 Consent
13 – Changes to Windsor Water World Yay 9-1 Delegation
14 – Development charge overview Yay 10-0 Consent
15 – Railway spur to twin oaks Yay 10-0 Consent
16a – Willistead Park pathways Yay 3-7 Delegation
16b – Willistead Park pathways Nay 7-3 Delegation

 

Item #16 – The Parks department put forward a plan for Willistead Park that would (a) replace existing paving stone pathways with asphalt (b) double the number of paths (c) widen paths from 5 feet to 10 ft.

Councillor Alan Halberstadt put forward an alternative plan (16a) which I voted to support which would (a) keep the existing length of the pathways (b) widen the paths from 5 feet to 9 feet (c) use interlocking pavers instead of asphalt.

The Halberstadt plan for Willistead would achieve the following (a) maintain the park’s limited greenspace by keeping existing length of pathways (b) improve accessibility (e.g. for those with wheelchairs) by widening the paths (c) improve access for maintenance vehicles that are 8 feet wide (d) protect the heritage character of Willistead by using elegant pavers rather than dirty asphalt

Check out this video of the Cultural Bike Trail in Indianapolis: bike trail.  It is eight (8) miles of pathways around the heart of Indianapolis that uses elegant paving stones.  Notice how accessible the pathways are for seniors and those with physical disabilities.  Surely, if Indianapolis can install 8 miles of elegant pavers, we can install 3000 linear feet of pavers in Willistead to improve accessibility and maintain the unique historical character of Willistead Park.

Council voted against the pavers and against keeping the existing length of pathways.

A new motion (16b) was put forward by Councillor Dilkens to double the paths and use asphalt.  I voted against this plan.

Item # and Description Irek Voted Council Voted Type of Item
1 – Sidewalk Cafes and Outdoor Ovens Yay 9-0 Consent
2- Coin operated viewing devices Yay 9-0 Consent
3 –Update – social housing Yay 9-0 Consent
4 –Corporate telecommunication upgrade Yay 9-0 Consent
5 – Healthy kids community challenge Yay 9-0 Consent
6 – Status of Woodlot – Greek Community Yay 8-1 Delegation
7 – Land lease agreement WUC Yay 9-0 Consent
8 – East Pelton Land Development Yay 9-0 Consent
9 – Street light replacement EC Row Yay 9-0 Consent
10 – Annual Tax Sale Yay 9-0 Consent
11 – Labelle Street pedestrian Yay 9-0 Consent
12 – Ontario Summer Games budget Yay 8-1 Regular

 

Item #6 – Council passed two bylaws this evening that designated a one acre woodlot on the property of the Greek Orthodox Community of Windsor located on Walker Road as Natural Heritage in the Official Plan and zoned to a Green District (GD) category thereby precluding any further alteration or development of this woodlot.

Some context: A year ago City Council approved a request by the Greek Orthodox Community of Windsor to rezone twelve (12) acres of land alongside Walker Road from Industrial to Institutional which would allow the Greek Community to build a church, centre and other facilities.  In exchange, as part of the deal, the Greek Community agreed that the one-acre woodlot would be protected by being designated Green District and Natural Heritage.  Over the course of a year, the City held up its end of the deal.  The Greek Community, on the other hand, cut down the woodlot without any consultation or warning.

Our city has below average tree coverage compared to other cities in Ontario.  Having lived in a city that was designated an Urban Forest—Nashville—I am sensitive to the need to protect our city’s green space—including woodlots—which have a positive impact on the quality of life of our city.  For this reason, I voted in favour of passing—without delay—Natural Heritage designation and Green District Rezoning that will protect what is left of the woodlot and send a powerful message to the community that the City is serious about striking a balance between economic and environmental aims.

I put forward a motion at the City Council Executive Committee meeting on February 24, 2014.  The motion addressed the schedule of audits planned by the auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) for the City’s agencies, boards, and committees (ABCs).  If you take a look at the Audit Schedule (see image attached), you’ll notice six agencies, boards and committees are going first including Transit Windsor and The Airport (2013-14) followed by Tunnel, Solid Waste, Library and Community Housing (2014-15) .  ENWIN is scheduled to go last in 2015-16 – two years from now.  I put forward a motion that Council change the schedule and start with the ENWIN audit.  There are several reasons for this.

First, when I was knocking on doors during the by-election campaign in December, the issue of accountability and transparency came up frequently and by far the object of those discussions was ENWIN.  Not the airport. Not the tunnel.  Not Transit.  It was ENWIN.  The concerns I heard at the door regarding accountability are reinforced by the fact that a petition was organized in support of an audit at ENWIN which gathered 800 signatures across the city.  That is significant. In light of this existing demand, it makes sense to respond proactively by focusing the first audit efforts at ENWIN.  If something comes up, we fix it.  If nothing comes up, we move on with a greater degree of public confidence.

 Second, we know and recognize the fact that we have a highly professional and highly dedicated City Administration that often goes above-and-beyond to serve residents of the City of Windsor.  I’ve seen the long, tough hours they put in.  But we also know that–as with any large organization–there is room for improvement and ENWIN is no different.  For example, from a recent article in the Windsor Star titled “Tortuous ENWIN Response” we learned that it took a Windsor Star journalist nearly two years to receive the documentation she requested from a Freedom-of-Information (FOI) request that asked for something as simple as the length and attendance of past ENWIN meetings.   Surely we can do better than two years, and that’s one of the things this audit would examine.
Third, many of my Council Colleagues put forward the argument that Professionals and City Councillors sit on the Board of Directors of ENWIN, and hence implied there is enough oversight already.  I trust the integrity and professionalism of both my colleagues and the members of the board. However, as former President of the United States Ronald Reagan often stated: “TRUST, BUT VERIFY”.  The point of an audit is not to confirm what we already know, but to identify the blind-spots.
The true value of this audit will be if we can use it to improve the accountability, transparency and responsiveness of our City government.  With ENWIN at the top of people’s minds and in the news, it’s the natural first place to start.

Audit Schedule

Item # and Description Irek Voted Council Voted Type of Item
1 – Internal audit dashboard Yay 10-0 Presentation
2a – Internal audit revised Yay 10-0 Presentation
3 – Internal audit – governance Yay 10-0 Presentation
4 – Concerned citizen hotline Yay 10-0 Presentation
2b – Motion to audit Enwin first Yay 2-8 Presentation
Report #200 – North Portion OPA 94 Yay 10-0 Delegation
Report #160 – WCF Access Yay 9-2 Delegation

Item #2b – I put forward a motion regarding the schedule of audits planned by the auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) for the City’s agencies, boards, and committees (ABCs).  Take a look at the Audit Schedule (see image attached).  Notice that Enwin Utilities is scheduled to be audited two years from now in 2015-16.   Six other agencies, boards and committees go first starting with Transit Windsor and the Airport this year.  I put forward a motion that Council change the schedule and start this year with an audit of Enwin. That motion was defeated 2 to 8.

Audit Schedule

Item # and Description Irek Voted Council Voted Type of Item
5 – Solar Panels on Aquatic Centre Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – Construction of Fire Hall no. 2 & 5 Yay 10-0 Delegation
10 – Closing Sandwich Street for St. Patrick’s Day Party Nay 9-1 Delegation
       
1 – Windsor/Sarnia Border System Yay 10-0 Consent
2 – Construction of curbs and gutters Yay 10-0 Consent
3 – Herb Gray drainage Yay 10-0 Consent
4 – Waste disposal site Yay 10-0 Consent
6 – Ditch cutting program Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – RFP for outdoor furnishings Yay 10-0 Consent
9  – Bylaw amendment Yay 10-0 Consent

***Consent items are normally administrative “housekeeping” matters, typically non-controversial, that are passed unanimously without discussion.

Item #10 – Sandwich Improvement Area came before council requesting the closure of Sandwich Street from Brock Street to Detroit Street from 11am to 11pm on Sunday March 16th and Monday March 17th for St. Patrick’s Day in order to establish an outdoor party area where people can consume alcoholic beverages purchased from the bars.  I voted against closing off the street for two consecutive days for the following reasons (i) above all, General Brock Elementary School is located just outside the party area, and I did not feel comfortable knowing there would be St. Patrick’s Day revelry on Monday so close to school children AND the potential of impaired patrons and drivers near the school (ii) In total, 76 Transit Windsor buses would have to be rerouted on Sunday and 252 buses would be rerouted on Monday, representing a disruption to service (iii) closing a busy arterial road like Sandwich Street for two days not only creates traffic issues, but also creates disruption for small business owners in the area.  As last year, I would support closing the street on the Sunday, but not for two consecutive days.

Item #7 – Confirmed the overall budget for the design and construction of two new fire halls no. 2 and no. 5 at a cost of $9 million to be completed by December 31, 2014.

Item #5 – Authorized administration to enter into agreement with Kiwi Newton Construction to build solar panels on the roof of the Aquatic Centre.  I supported this project for environmental and economic reasons.  The photovoltaic system (PV) is clean energy that reduces our carbon footprint and our emission of airborne pollutants that negatively affects Windsorites’ health.  The PV system will also generate 320kw of electricity, which will be sold to the province and deliver $250,000 each year to the city.  Hence, in four years the system will pay for itself, and after that the City of Windsor will enjoy clean profit.  I raised the concern, which administration addressed, whether the PV system will negatively affect the ability of the City to fix any potential problems with the roof of the Aquatic Centre. It will not.  Councillor Gignac also inquired about warranty, which would cover the first ten years of the system.

Recall I voted against spending $35 million on a new City Hall until at least we know where we stand with negotiations surrounding Chrysler’s future in Windsor.
Here is an interesting article in today’s National Post called Chrysler Requesting Unprecedented Government Subsidies for Windsor Plant.  Click here.
Key quotes: “and the threat of the automaker vacating the Windsor plant is very real”.
“…she said part of the advantage U.S. jurisdictions have over Canadian ones is that the municipal governments in the U.S. has more flexibility in what they can do to court investments including tax breaks, cash and land grants, and other incentives”
“Mexico has also coordinated all three levels of government in a way that Canada has yet to do, which has given it a competitive edge”.
I could be getting way ahead of myself, but it seems to me that in the not-too-distant future Canadian municipalities may be asked to play a bigger role in courting investment and the Chrysler negotiations may instigate that change sooner than we think.  The City of Windsor has to be ready if we are called to bring resources to the table to secure Chrysler’s long-term future in Windsor.
Item # and Description Irek Voted Council Voted Type of Item
1 – Acquisition of an easement Yay 10-0 Consent
2 – Newspaper vendor boxes Yay 10-0 Delegation
5 – Asset planning work plan Yay 10-0 Consent
6 – Close portion of Twin Oaks Dr. Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – Disposal of land policy Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Construction of curbs and gutters Yay 10-0 Consent
9 – Provincial grant for sewer retention Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Construction of curb and gutters Yay 10-0 Consent
11 – Purchase of vacuum truck Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Bridge rehab of CASO overpass Yay 10-0 Consent
Report 204 – Central Park Athletics Yay 5-5 Delegation
Report 202 – Close of alley b/w Giles and Erie St Nay 0-10 Delegation

Homegrown entrepreneurs–James and Leigh-Ann King–came before City Council to present their plan to build the third phase of a $17 million Central Park Athletics centre that will include two ice pads, gymnastics facilities, outdoor sports fields and an indoor soccer field that would be also used for football and baseball.  They requested from City Council tax relief in the form of:

(a) roughly $300,000 in Development Charges

(b) roughly $60,000 per year (over ten years) of additional taxes they would be charged for doubling their current square footage during Phase III

In short, the Kings are building a $17 million recreation facility and are NOT asking taxpayers to contribute a single penny to the construction or operation of the facility.

I voted to support this motion.  Consider, for a second, that over the last five years taxpayers have been asked to cover 100 per cent of the cost and 100 per cent of the risk for such local mega projects as:

  • an $80 million recreation facility–the Aquatics Centre and Family Water Park
  • a $70 million WFCU Centre and recreation facility
  • a $23 million MRO airport facility
  • even the $3 billion DRIC parkway, bridge, plazas etc.  puts taxpayers on the hook for 100 per cent of the cost and 100 per cent of the risk

Today, we had two homegrown business-owners from Windsor–not London, Toronto, or Europe–come before Council who are willing to build a $17 million recreation complex that will benefit our community, and these private developers are assuming 100 per cent of the cost and 100 per cent of the risk of this project.  This is the type of economic development model that we should be supporting–where private investors “step up to build up” our community and assume most if not all of the costs and the risk, and where the City is only asked to play a minor supplementary supporting role in the project.  With the Central Park Athletics, the City is only being asked to contribute 5 per cent of the total value of the project in tax waivers while not contributing a single penny in direct funding.

On a personal note, as an Immigrant kid we didn’t have a lot of money for sports like hockey that required expensive equipment, so we played a lot of outdoor sports like soccer where all you had to pay for were a pair of cleats (usually second-hand).  There are thousands of kids registered in soccer across Windsor (18,000 by one estimate!) and I bet a tonne are like me who played soccer in part because we could afford it.  With this indoor soccer park, kids now have the option to continue playing in the winter time.  Same goes for baseball and football, not to mention gymnastics.

The Central Park Athletics complex is a recreation complex that will provide tremendous good for the community for decades to come, with no cost and no risk to the taxpayer.  Sign me up.

 

Item No. & Description IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 Hard-sided containers Yay 10 – 0 Consent
2  New Bridge Plaza technical support Yay 8 – 0 Delegation
3  Security services contract Yay 10 – 0 Consent
4 Sale of surplus fire apparatus Yay 10 – 0 Consent
5 New city hall – delay until Special Committee Yay 9 – 0 Delegation
Striking Committee – Reinstate Councillor Maghnieh to committees NAY 7 – 3 Committee report

*Consent items are non-controversial items that are mostly administrative issues—housekeeping—that are adopted without debate.  For example: City Council accepts the Mobile Update Strategy report

**Minority and dissenting votes are in bold.

BRIEF SUMMARY & NOTES ON HOW I VOTED

Item#1 – I voted to delay the roll-out of the bylaw that made hard-sided garbage containers mandatory in order to provide more time to listen to concerns from residents and also to better communicate the benefits of this program.  We spend $250,000 every year on a skunk removal program.  That is funding that could be going towards maintaining facilities like the swimming pool at Adie Knox, sprucing up our parks, fixing roads and sewers, or simply paying down our debt.  By introducing hard-sided containers, we expect to reduce the skunk & rat problem and hence the need to spend a quarter-of-a-million dollars on skunks.

Striking Committee to Reinstate Councillor Maghnieh – I voted against Council’s decision to reinstate Councillor Maghnieh to Council Committees. Recall, Councillor Maghnieh was removed from committees and boards last year stemming from his actions as a Director of the Windsor Public Library.  Simply put, my predecessor—Councillor Hatfield—made the informed decision last year to remove Councillor Maghnieh from committees and boards with the benefit of extended consultations with constituents.  During my canvassing—and in my brief time on Council to date—I have not received any information or requests from residents or elsewhere that would lead me to change that decision.

Item # and Description Irek Voted Council Voted Type of Item
Item 1 – New City Hall Nay 9-1 Delegation

At the Executive Committee Meeting, Council voted tonight 10-1 to build a new City Hall at a cost of $35-million after a two-hour discussion.  Over the last few weeks, valid arguments were put forward by both proponents and opponents to the construction of a new City Hall as well as by those who argued that a major retrofit or renovation was the way to go.  Here’s an example from Thunder Bay to support the last option: click here.

Although I agreed with my Council colleagues that there was a legitimate need for a new City Hall, I voted against the motion because I felt at this time we needed more information on three fronts:

1. I felt it was important to organize upfront public consultations to bring residents into the decision-making process at an earlier stage.

2. I felt we should delay making a $35 million purchase until we know for sure where we stand with regards to Chrysler’s future in Windsor–one of the City’s largest employers and one of the largest taxpayers–and also keep our options open in case we are asked to come to the table with major incentives. Chrysler will make a decision by the Spring whether to invest $2 billion in Windsor.  The CEO of Chrysler stated last week that this investment is contingent upon government coming to the table with significant incentives.  Needless to say, this will be a historic decision that will have a significant impact on our city’s future.

3. A delay allows City Administration to look into the cost-and-energy saving potential of using Geothermal Heating, Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC).  For example, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana recently completed the largest Geothermal District Energy system that will allow BSU to shut down its 4 aging coal-fired boilers, halving the campus carbon emissions by 85,000 tons, and will result in 2 million in annual energy savings.   Check out the geothermal case study at Ball State: click here.  For Windsor, adopting geothermal energy would be good for the environment by reducing CO2 emissions, good for our health by reducing emissions that cause respiratory illness, and in the long term geothermal would save our city significant energy costs.  Such a move would underscore Windsor’s identity as an innovative, bold and forward-thinking city.  Furthermore, with our existing green energy manufacturing (Unconquered Sun, CS Wind), a geothermal project would cement our identity as a Leader in Clean Energy.

Item No. & Description IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – CAO accomplishments Yay 9 – 0 Presentation
2 – Municipal accomplishments Yay 9 – 0 Consent
3 – Devonwood Trail sale of parkland NAY 8 – 1 Delegation
4 – Roseland Golf & Curling Yay 9 – 0 Consent
5 – Wyandotte road rehab Yay 9 – 0 Consent
6 – Tender of Lauzon Road improvement Yay 9 – 0 Consent
7 – Waiver Property Taxes – Spirit Excellence NAY 7 – 2 Delegation
8 – Annual temporary borrowing Yay 9 – 0 Consent
9 – Annual report card on strategic plan Yay 9 – 0 Consent
10 – Interim property tax bills Yay 8 – 0 Consent
11 – Municipal finance internship program Yay 9 – 0 Consent
12 – Penalties & interest on unpaid property taxes Yay 8 – 0 Delegation
13 – Request for extension of property tax exemption for JCC NAY 7 – 2 Delegation
14 – Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority plan Yay 9 – 0 Presentation

*Consent items are non-controversial items that are mostly administrative issues—housekeeping—that are adopted without debate.  For example: City Council accepts the Municipal Accomplishments report

**Minority (dissenting) votes are in bold.

BRIEF SUMMARY & NOTES ON HOW I VOTED

On three occasions I was in the minority by voting “NAY” including my first 8 to 1 decision where I was the sole dissenter – The Devonwood Trail issue.

Item #3 – Devonwood Trail—brought forward several home owners who wanted to purchase a twenty-foot deep parcel of City-owned parkland to the rear of their homes.  The land was appraised at $128,300.  The home owners offered the City $24, 057 which represents a discount of 81% of the appraised value.  Therefore, I could not support this transaction on two grounds.  From an environmental standpoint, we should protect every inch of parkland and green space in the City rather than sell it.  From an economic standpoint, the offer proposed by the home owners is far below the market value of the parkland.

Item#7 – Waiver of Property Taxes for Spirit of Excellence (SOE)—brought forward a non-profit community organization that operates in the Ford City area.  Due to a decision by MPAC–a Provincial body–the SOE was forgiven its taxes and penalties/interest owed from 2007 onward.  Subsequent to that decision, the SOE requested that Council forgive its taxes/interest/penalties from 2005 and 2006.  I voted against that request.

Item#13 – Please see my earlier post titled “Extension of Tax Exempt Status” dated January 15, 2013 which explains my decision to vote against extending tax-exempt status to additional adjacent property the Jewish Community Centre (JCC) was looking to purchase.  In short, I believe that the path to tax-exempt status must be equal for all community organizations, and for all organizations that path leads through MPAC–a Provincial body–not City Council.