ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Establish tax rates Yay 10-0 Presentation
2 – Canadian Transit Company retaining wall Yay 10-0 Consent
3 – Status regarding clocks on Ottawa St. Yay 10-0 Consent
4 – Servicing agreement Yay 10-0 Consent
5 – Application to close alley north of CNR Yay 10-0 Consent
6 – Fire services bylaw Yay 10-0 Consent
7 – Tender California Ave. sewer Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Car Pro Industries festival Yay 10-0 Deferral
9 – Construction of curbs and gutters Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Pinoy Athletics request Yay 10-0 Delegation
11 – Central Box Study EA Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Peacekeepers and Afghanistan Memorial Yay 10-0 Delegation
13 – Campaign Wake Up Windsor Yay 10-0 Consent
14 – Transfer of surplus funding Yay 10-0 Consent
15 – Utility cut restoration Yay 10-0 Consent
16 – Create corporate sponsorship policy Yay 10-0 Consent
Report No. 186 – Mediterranean Seafood parking Yay 10-0 Delegation
Report No. 185 – Opening our Streets Yay 10-0 Delegation
Notice of Motion – Accountability Act of Ontario Yay 10-0 Deferral

Item #12 – Council unanimously approved the establishment of a Memorial to Peacekeepers and Veterans of the Afghanistan War in Reaume Park, while also approving the inscription of Afghanistan on the Cenotaph at City Hall Square.  The delegation featured a stirring speech by Windsor Police Officer and Afghanistan Veteran Mike Akpata.

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Waiver of Fees and Grant Policy Yay 10-0 Consent
2 – Document Fees Yay 10-0 Consent
3 – Purchasing shared resources Yay 10-0 Consent
4 – Tree trimming Yay 10-0 Consent
5 – Year end operating budget Yay 10-0 Delegation
6 – Snow angels volunteer program Yay 10-0 Delegation
7 – Request from Town of Tecumseh re Land Yay 10-0 Consent
8 – Succession Planning Yay 10-0 Consent
9 – Naming of Community Rink Yay 10-0 Consent
10 – Site approval for 415 Ouellette Yay 9-1 Delegation
11 – RFP for three-point hoist Yay 10-0 Consent
12 – Alley closing Yay 10-0 Consent
13 – Enhanced capital plan forecast Yay 10-0 Delegation
14 – Established tax rates Yay 10-0 Consent
15 – Self watering planters and baskets Yay 10-0 Delegation
16 – Participation in investment Ontario Yay 10-0 Consent
17 – Paul Martin Bldg. encroachment agreement Yay 10-0 Consent
18a – City to enter discussion with Coco Paving and Ministry of Natural Resources regarding construction of Big Box Store adjacent to Ojibway Park lands Nay 8-2 Regular

 

Item #18a – the issue came up of the construction of a Big Box Store adjacent to the environmentally sensitive Ojibway Park lands at the corner of Matchette and  Sprucewood.  Recall, that approximately 7 years ago, City Council approved the permit for Coco Paving to build a Big Box Store adjacent to lands that contain a large number of species-at-risk plants and animals.  That decision was again reconfirmed in 2013.

The question before Council on Monday was whether the City of Windsor should be part of the conversation now taking place between Coco Paving and the Ministry of Natural Resources regarding the land in question as it is being developed.

That seems innocent enough, but here’s the rub:  the case of the Big Box Store development is currently before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which has the right to reject the development.  The OMB process has been ongoing since 2011.  Coco Paving decided to circumvent the OMB process by using rarely used clause under the Endangered Species Act in order to deal directly with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

Councillor Halberstadt raised the concern that by agreeing to be part of the conversation between Coco and the MNR – the City would be in essence signalling to the OMB that it supports the development.

I shared that concern which is why I first supported Councillor Halberstadt’s motion to delay a decision on this matter in front of Council in order to invite environmental specialists and the Save Ojibway group to comment.  This original motion was not supported by a majority of Council.

A subsequent motion was put forward for the City of Windsor to join the conversation between Coco Paving and MNR regarding the development.  For the concerns stated above, I voted against that motion.

In the end, I do not support the development of a Big Box Store adjacent to environmentally sensitive parkland that we should protect. For example, the development of a Big Box Store will triple the amount of traffic in that area (18,000 cars by one estimate), which will endanger our little Garden of Eden.

My predecessor Percy Hatfield voted against the Big Box Development when it came up years ago, stating that “I hope the developer loses at the OMB – this land is worth saving”.

I wholeheartedly agree.  We should allow the OMB to make its decision and not short circuit that process.

Windsor has one of the lowest levels of natural areas in Ontario.  We should do what we can to protect, improve and increase our parkland and natural areas.

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.