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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
       
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