thestar_editorial_windsor_was_right

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

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Norman Road tender Yes 10-0 Consent
2 – YQG – Lounge project Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Museum expansion Yes 10-0 Presentation
4 – Adie Knox recreation complex operation Yes 10-0 Delegation
5 – RFP for video image vehicle detection system Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Road rehabilitation funds Yes 10-0 Presentation
7 – Extension of animal control contract Yes 10-0 Delegation
8 –Cabana road and Windsor Loop Yes 10-0 Deferral

 

Letter_Editor_-_parkade

**** I was delighted to open up the Windsor Star this week and read a very positive review in the form of a Letter to the Editor written by Mrs. Joan E. Tinkess titled “Think Ahead and Look Reality in the Eye” about my vote against the $7.2 million construction of a downtown parking garage.

Here’s a link to the terrific Letter: click here.

Many, many thanks for the kind words Mrs. Tinkess.

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Transportation/Transit consolidations Yay 10-0 Presentation
2 – Pay As You Go leasing for Windsor Police Yay 10-0 Consent
3 – New City Hall – Parking Garage Nay 7-3 Presentation
4 – Transit Windsor roof replacement tender Yay 10-0 Consent
5 – Summer Games archery bylaw Yay 10-0 Consent
6 –Walker Road parking sign encroachment Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – 2014 Final Tax Rates Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Welcome To Windsor sign repair Yay 10-0 Consent
9 – Land lease agreement with District Energy Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Insurance premium Yay 10-0 Consent
11 – ETR Crossing repairs Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Host Tall Ships in 2016 Nay 0-10 Presentation

 

Item #3 – I voted against spending $7.2 million on a downtown parking garage.  According to the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (OMBI), Windsor has the second highest number of paid parking spaces (per 100,000 citizens) in Ontario out of the cities examined.  Windsor also has nearly three times the number of parking spots as Hamilton and double the parking in London.  Hence, I don’t see parking as a critical enough issue to warrant spending $7.2 million.

If private companies or organizations such as the university or college need parking, let them build those parking garages.  I would even propose that the City lease the area around McDougall to these organizations for $1 in order for them to build a garage.

The truth is parking garages lose money. They are money pits.

Finally, last week I took part in a meeting of young people ages 18-39 called Your City, Your Ideas.  About 50 young people who care about their city gathered to discuss where they want to see investments in order to make our city livable and to keep these young people here in Windsor.  Parking garages were never once mentioned.  On that list of priorities, instead, was improving Public Transit and building Bike Lanes as well as investing in community centres.

These are priorities—public transit and expanded bike lanes—that would go a long way to solving our need for parking downtown.

On one final note – I strongly believe that holding off on spending that $7.2 million would have gone a long way to helping the next Council balance the next budget.  Of course, close to 40 per cent of the current Council is not returning next term.

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Transportation and Transit consolidation - - Deferred
2 –Transport Canada Directive No. 32 Yay 8-0 Delegation
3 – Windsor Fork and Cork Festival Yay 8-0 Consent
4 – Refurbish Lou Romano tanks Yay 8-0 Consent
5 – Amendment to bylaw 80-2013 Yay 8-0 Consent
6 – Lease agreement Windsor River Cruise Yay 8-0 Consent
7 – Curbs and gutters for Hanna street Yay 8-0 Consent
8 – 2014 DWBIA budget approval Yay 8-0 Consent
9 -2014 Municipal Elections vote times Yay 8-0 Consent
10 – Benefits for Mayor and Council Yay 8-0 Consent
11 – George Avenue park easement Yay 8-0 Consent
12 – Wyandotte road reconstruction Yay 8-0 Consent
13 – Age Friendly Windsor report Yay 8-0 Consent
14 – PWC governance plan Yay 8-0 Delegation
15 – Drouillard road underpass Yay 8-0 Consent
16 – Corporate Energy Management Plan Yay 8-0 Consent
17 – 2014 enhanced capital budget WFCU Yay 8-0 Delegation
18 – RFP playground Yay 8-0 Consent
19 – Capital project variance report Yay 8-0 Consent
20 – PWC enterprise governance Yay 8-0 Delegation
21 – PWC enterprise policy management Yay 8-0 Consent
22 – PWC strategic leadership Yay 8-0 Consent
23 – PWC detailed 2014-16 audit Yay 8-0 Consent
24 – Walker Road improvements Yay 8-0 Consent
Report No. 227 – Huron Church Road Development Nay 7-1 Delegation
Communications #26 – Geothermal system for New City Hall Yay 1-7 Communications

 Communications No. 26 - The cost of gasoline jumped to $1.42 cents this weekend. We know hydro has gone up by 50 percent over the last 10 years and will increase by 30 percent over the next four years.  We know the City already pays $15 million per year in energy costs. All those costs will continue to go up!

Concerned about the rising cost of electricity and energy, in January I asked Administration to report back on the cost/feasibility of installing Geothermal Heating and Cooling (GT) in the new City Hall.  Geothermal uses the natural temperature of the ground to provide heating and cooling.  It is clean, green, renewable energy that is free.

Today Administration reported back (Communications No. 26) and rejected the idea of Geothermal.

The fact that Geothermal was rejected is not my issue here.

While the report represents a good introduction to geothermal heating and cooling systems, and I thank Administration for their efforts, it does not provide sufficient information for Council to make an informed decision on the choice of heating and cooling system for the new City Hall. In short, the report is incomplete and insufficient, lacking the basic core facts necessary an informed decision.

Hence, I put forward the Motion to Council that it REFER the report back to Administration to include the following critical information:

(1) the estimated upfront capital cost of installing a geothermal heating and cooling system

(2) the estimated payback period for any additional upfront capital costs and thereafter energy savings

(3) federal and provincial incentives available for renewable and more efficient energy systems e.g Federal Gas Tax; Green Energy Fund from the FCM; Ontario Power Authority funding; New Build Canada Fund etc.

(4) the potential for adding geothermal to existing District Energy in order to create a hybrid system

(5) the estimated environmental benefits in terms of CO2 reductions

The report as presented by administration puts forward some core assumptions that I feel are not adequately backed up by fact.  For example:

The disadvantages of the Geothermal System:  That it is mostly used in residential and traditionally not used in large facilities with space constraints like the New City Hall.

This statement is based on the past and only partially represents current trends not just in North America but elsewhere.  The trend IS toward Geothermal District Energy:

Here are some examples from near and far:

The best ‘local’ example of a District Energy Geothermal System is the brand new McMaster University Innovation Park: CLICK HERE

The Innovation Park demonstrates that it can be done in Southern Ontario.  The Geothermal Innovation Park has won countless awards and recognition.  So the question becomes not only “do we want Geothermal versus Natural Gas District Energy” BUT “do we want to lead?”

With geothermal, Windsor can cement its reputation as a leader in Green Energy as we add to our portfolio of wind, solar and other renewable energy projects in the region.  More than just economic sense, this is an opportunity to change Windsor’s brand and image from a heavy industrial city to an innovation and clean energy leader. The potential for spinoffs for tourism and additional investment is significant.

Here are some other examples:

City of London, UK New City Hall: CLICK HERE

New City Hall in Surrey, BC opened in April 2014: CLICK HERE

New City Hall in Corner Brook, NFLD: CLICK HERE

New City Hall in Farmington Hills, Michigan: CLICK HERE

City of Wetaskiwin, Alberta: CLICK HERE

City of Surrey, BC city hall and the Geothermal District Energy system: CLICK HERE

A new geothermal energy system from Ameresco currently provides cooling at Miami City Hall, the Miami Convention Center and the Miami Beach Police Headquarters:  CLICK HERE

The initial cost to install the pipe system is relatively high

This statement is too general with no information on estimated costs – especially in comparison to the current District Energy system that utilizes natural gas.

According to the following article from Manitoba the Return on Investment (ROI) is 100% in 8 years: CLICK HERE

According to the report there is a 30% reduction on the cost of energy and in addition there is approximately a fourfold reduction in the cost of the maintenance of the Geothermal (GT) HVAC system. It means that the savings on using the GT system pay for its installation in 8 years and after that the investor enjoys a big savings on the energy cost.

The cost of gasoline jumped to $1.42 cents this weekend. We know hydro has gone up by 50 percent.  We know the City already pays $15 million per year in energy costs. All those costs will continue to go up!  Geothermal represents an opportunity for some long term relief. This is too important a decision for Council.  Geothermal deserves a proper analysis and consideration.

Here is a Windsor Star editorial titled Hydro Costs are Crippling Ontario: CLICK HERE

My motion to receive a report on Geothermal was defeated.

Item #2 – The City of Windsor was asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement with rail carriers such as CN and CPR in exchange for annual information that would be provided by the railway companies to the City’s Emergency Planning Official (e.g. Fire Chief) on what types of material (oil, ammonia etc.) travelled through our city over the past year.  The Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) would also include the acceptance by the City of something called injunctive relief – which basically means that the railways would gain the right to determine on their own if they dislike how our Fire Chief is using that information and the City would automatically be liable for that misuse.

The motion put before Council was to request the disclosure of aggregate rail cargo traffic through Windsor while REMOVING  and REJECTING the injunctive relief clause.  In voting to support this motion, I argued that the Railways were asking the City to give up a lot of control/power with regards to how we use this information in exchange for information that really tells us something that we are already know e.g. that oil trains are coming through our City.  It was not a fair exchange and yielded too much authority to the rail companies.

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It is time we bring the EC Row Expressway into the modern era of safety while simultaneously pressing the Ontario government to improve Highway 401.

On Monday’s sitting of Council I requested that Administration report back on the cost and feasibility of installing so-called High Tension Cable Barriers (HTCB) along the median of EC Row Expressway separating east and westbound traffic.  The Cable Barriers have been used widely across the United States, British Columbia and Alberta.  They are 95 per cent effective and are 1/3 the cost of regular concrete barriers to install and maintain.  Wherever they have been installed, they have reduced cross-over fatalities to zero and they are endorsed by RCMP and police officers who have seen them do their work.

Here is a Windsor Star article on the subject: click here.

Lynn Martin did a one hour program on improving EC Row on AM800: click here.

Here is a good article that testifies to the effectiveness and cost-friendly High Tension Cable Barriers that have been in use by the Minnesota Department of Transportation over the last decade: Click here

And here is a very good video describing how it works: click here

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – To deny Car Pro industries festival Yay 10-0 Delegation
2 – One foot reserve Yay 10-0 Consent
3- Mandatory recycling facilities Yay 10-0 Consent
4 – 10 year housing and homelessness plan Yay 10-0 Consent
5 – Children’s safety village Yay 10-0 Delegation
6 – WECHU reserve fund Nay 0 – 10 Consent
7 – Municipal funding agreement Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Application for New Build Canada Fund Yay 10-0 Consent
9 – Reaume Park renovations Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Tree planting at Airport Yay 10-0 Consent
11 – Host for Evacuees Yay 10-0 Consent
Report No. 193 – 4 hour dog tethering limit Yay 9-1 Delegation
Communication #22      
       
       

Communication #22 – I asked the City Engineer to explain why 19 out of 33 streets that received supplementary Sidewalk Street Cleaning were located in the downtown core?  I asked for an equitable number of streets in Ward 7—streets such as Banwell, McHugh, McNorton and Little River to receive equal attention under this plan.

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Car Pro Industries waiver of fees deferral Yay 10-0 Deferral
2 – Targeted Initiative for Older Workers renewal Yay 10-0 Delegation
3- Blight mitigation update Yay 10-0 Consent
4 – Declaration of Vacant Land Yay 10-0 Consent
5 – Declaration of improved properties Yay 10-0 Consent
6 – Application to Innovation Fund Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – 2014 BIA Budget Approval Yay 6-5 Delegation
Report No 187 – Concrete Barriers Yay 10-0 Consent

 

Item #7 – The nine Business improvement Areas (BIA) across Windsor presented their budgets for 2014.  Administration put forward several recommendations including approving the budgets or working to complete the budgets for eight (8) of them.  The City administration recommended that Council not approve the 2014 budget for the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Area (DWBIA) which was asking the City to forgive $152,073 it owes the City for streetscape improvements while asking for an extended repayment period for the additional $101,352 it owes the City when the 1 Riverside Drive property was reassessed.

The total under consideration was $253,426.

I voted to support the City’s recommendation to reject both the forgiveness and the ten year repayment plan.  Of primary consideration for me was the fact that more than 30 per cent of DWBIA funding goes towards administration costs.  This seems very high to me.  In essence, the DWBIA levies a tax on small business owners each year and one-out-of every three dollars ($1 of every $3) of that goes towards DWBIA salaries and other office expenses.  Seems to me there is some fat to be cut here.  We all have to tighten our belts.

Although I will not support forgiving the money that is owed to the City by the DWBIA, I will support a longer repayment period if the DWBIA can demonstrate an effort to bringing administration and salary costs down.

Report #187 – A report regarding concrete barriers aka Jersey Barriers came before Council.  In short, Councillor Valentinis had put forward a Council Question in September 2013 asking Administration to report back on whether time limitations or prohibitions can be placed on private land owners who place concrete barriers on their vacated lots.  The City recommended not put any restrictions on the use of concrete barriers.  No other city has such restrictions since it is necessary to secure vacant lots to prevent vandalism, littering and unauthorized use.  Although I supported this motion, it is my view that the question itself is faulty as is the approach.   The City should pursue establishing options for private landowners to choose alternatives e.g. placing large concrete planters with trees/plants in place of the unsightly concrete barriers especially in gateway intersections—such as—the vacant former gas stations on the corner of Forest Glade Drive and Tecumseh Road East.  Though this motion passed,  I will continue to pursue an alternate to jersey barriers with the City such as the use of concrete planters with trees/plants in order to maintain the standard of our neighbourhoods – which in my opinion concrete barriers simply degrade.

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
Report No. 217 – Dawson alley closing Yay 10-0 Delegation
Report No. 216 – Buckingham alley closing Yay 10-0 Delegation
Report No. 215 – Huron Church permit Yay 10-0 Delegation
1 – First Quarter Variance report Yay 10-0 Administrative
2 – Status report compliance Yay 10-0 Communication
3 – Summary of hotline issues Yay 10-0 Communication
4- Time spent in open camera Yay 10-0 Communication
5 – Internal audit report Yay 10-0 Presentation
6- Revised audit plant Yay 10-0 Presentation
7 – Concern citizen hotline process Yay 10-0 Presentation