ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – New City Hall Design Concept Yes 9-1 Presentation
2 –Declaration of Vacant Lot Oak Street Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Riverside Vista Project Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – Project methodology policy Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Inaugural meeting of Council Yes 10-0 Delegation
6 – Enterprise Risk Management Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – Relocate garbage collection on Kildare Yes 10-0 Delegation
8 – University of Windsor - - -
9 – College and Brock parking lot Yes 10-0 Consent
10 – Vesting 530 Janette Yes 10-0 Consent
Repot No. 243 – Market Square Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No.228 – Acute Care Hospital No 2-8 Delegation
Communication no. 25 – ROW gardens Yes 10-0 Defer
       

 

I wanted to take the time to contribute a little perspective to the debate surrounding the Big Box store that came before City Council last night.

Contrary to some information that has been making the rounds – Council did not vote to approve the Big Box development last night. That decision was made in 2007 and confirmed again this summer by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which granted the Coco developers an environmental permit to proceed with the development.

At this point Council has little say in how that private property—the empty, abandoned concrete parking lots at the Windsor Raceway on the corner of Matchette and Sprucewood—will be developed.

What Council could do—and did do last night—was add green space and remove the most serious threat to the viability of Ojibway.

Council voted on two things last night:

(1) Council voted YES to accept 10 acres of land—the size of 8 football fields–from Coco that will be added to the Ojibway ecosystem as permanent protected natural habitat and serve as a green buffer between the park and the stores.

(2) Council voted unanimously YES to begin the process leading towards the closing of Matchette Road thereby making the two sides of the Ojibway Prairie complex whole and protecting Ojibway from the real danger, which is traffic.

Last night at Council we heard testimony from a local biologist named Russ who has dedicated his life to the protection of Ojibway. His passion for Ojibway is matched by over a decade of experience in the study, conservation and care for natural habitat in Windsor-Essex.

He made the point that the location of the Big Box store on the abandoned parking lot of Windsor Raceway—while not ideal nor desirable—is not a direct threat to Ojibway as the parking lot lands have little environmental value and are far enough away from the natural habitat.

Russ testified that instead the real threat is traffic barreling down Matchette and that the dream solution—from an environmental standpoint—would be to stop traffic by closing a portion of Matchette and thereby making Ojibway whole.

Council listened and Council acted.

As a result of last night’s vote we have added an additional 10 acres of permanent green space to Ojibway and we have started on the path to close Matchette and make Ojibway whole.

It is about a pragmatic way forward that balances real environmental and economic concerns.

I hope this provides you with a clearer understanding of my Council vote last night.

 

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.

Narmco_1

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

 

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.

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

 

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.