At the Executive Committee meeting of City Council on July 27, 2015 – I questioned the wisdom of changes to the PwC Audit Plan specifically Key Update to the Plan #6 which states Replacement of Oversight of Major City Projects and Initiatives … deferred indefinitely.  The Windsor Star picked up on the line of questioning and published the following followup article: CLICK HERE

Here’s an extended excerpt from the article:

“Windsor has undertaken a number of large construction projects and we’re hosting some major sporting events, such as the FINA (25-metre swimming) event, that cost over $10 million, and I do believe that having an extra pair of eyes is a wise investment,” Kusmierczyk said. “There were audits conducted on the WFCU Centre and the 400 building and there were lessons learned and controls tightened.”

Kusmierczyk still believes in having an auditor general — a position the City of Windsor did away with in 2012 — since he says an auditing firm essentially only digs into what the city wants.

“I am in favour of an auditor general,” Kusmierczyk said. “An auditor general would have more autonomy and would dictate what they’re actually looking into and what documents they’re studying, as opposed to the current auditor, which looks at documents the city provides.”

Kusmierczyk doesn’t suspect any wrongdoing. He just likes the idea of greater transparency for such things as a $39-million new city hall. The new Aquatic Centre, for instance, has never been deeply audited.

Today was a very good day.  The City broke ground on the construction of the new East End Community Swimming Pool at the WFCU Centre.  Look around the nearby McHugh-McNorton corridor and you will see row-upon-row of new home construction.  The East End is a growing community – a community with an increasing number of families, seniors and youth.  Investing in stronger neighbourhoods and in the quality of life, health and well-being of our residents is prudent.

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Proud day at Monday’s City Council meeting for all the Councillors involved with Windsor Essex Youth Advising City Councillors (WEYACC) – an innovative program that engages our youth with the decision-making process at local government. A year after it launched with no funding – WEYACC made it on the Agenda with a pretty big idea: the Blue Dot movement which seeks municipal support in convincing upper tiers of government to adopt the Right to a Healthy Environment as part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Way to go Advisors! And congrats to my fellow WEYACC mentors Rino Bortolin Chris Holt Joe Bachetti and Bill Marra 

For information about WEYACC or how to apply for the upcoming intake visit: WEYACC

Two weeks ago the Windsor Star published an Opinion piece I co-authored with fellow WEtech colleague Deborah Livneh about the promise of economic diversification – with a focus on the opportunity for Windsor to build upon its manufacturing capacity to include the manufacture of medical devices.  Here is the article:

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Here are some snapshots from a busy month or two that really paint a wonderful picture of the Spirit of Windsor – which remains strong.

Starting off with a Saturday morning visit with grade school students at Polish School to talk about City Hall and local government.  Like many immigrants, I too attended Saturday morning classes to learn about the language, history and culture that forms part of my heritage.

The students didn’t know I was coming, which made the hour long Q&A so impressive because the questions were really, really well informed and pretty tough!  Also, I really think they nailed the silly selfie!

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I also had a great time at the Windsor 180 conference – which brought hundreds of young people ages 18-34 together to connect and engage our City to make it great!

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What better way to spark a revitalization than to be present at the launch of a technology incubator right in the downtown.  It’s a small but symbolic endeavour that brings together a publicly funded non-profit and a private entrepreneur in a very innovative public-private partnership that we’d like to see more of in our City.

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Of course, diversification is so important!  Which is why we were proud to bring Hacking Health Windsor Detroit to our region – the first ever cross-border Hacking Health in the world that teamed up 250 doctors, nurses and programmers to dream up, design and build mobile applications for the health care sector.  Over 30 partners were involved including 6 major hospitals and 6 major universities from both sides of the border.  Diversification.  Cross-border Collaboration.  Economic Development.  Here’s a photo with the Senior Trade Commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit.

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And here is another great photo that really captures the collaboration of a Hacking Health.  Check out the quote on the wall!

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Cross-border collaboration is so key to our economic development and also key to protecting our quality of life through environmental sustainability.  That is why it was important for me to participate in the 11th Annual General Meeting of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI) – a truly cross-border collaboration of 120 mayors and local governments around the Great Lakes basin that balances economic and environmental concerns.  I registered for this conference as a Windsor City Councillor but was happy to travel on my own dime as I feel very strongly our City ought to be at the table of this important cross-border organization.  Here is a photo of Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope addressing the audience after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

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Diversification and cross-border collaboration is also the reason why I was excited to be present at the launch of the Cross-Border Life Sciences Hub – a partnership between Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital and the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation.  Here’s Essex County Warden Tom Bain addressing the gathered.

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The last month has not only emphasized cross-border initiatives, but also wonderful cross-cultural experiences such as celebrating Sikh Heritage Month in April at the Windsor Public Library.

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In addition to great cross-cultural experiences, it was wonderful to take in the Battle of the Bands at St. Joseph’s High School where hundreds gathered to listen to grade school bands battle it out for City supremacy.  Sounded fantastic!

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We have some incredible youth in our City – but we also have some incredible volunteers across all ages whose commitment to our City really should be celebrated.  That’s why it was an honour to attend a Volunteer and Staff Appreciation night for VON – our blue angels.

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It’s not all fun and play.  It was also time to get down to some serious business, which is why I was pleased with the turnout at our Banwell Road Environmental Assessment (EA) which put forward the blue print for a complete development of Banwell Road including the critical EC Row interchange.

What better way to cap off this month of cross-border and cross-cultural experiences than celebrating fireworks in front of the Spirit of Windsor – which is strong!

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Dr. Simon Hesp knows why roads across Ontario are failing – including young roads such as Banwell and McHugh in Ward 7.

An excellent and timely article was published on Friday talking about research conducted by Queen’s University Professor Simon Hesp into roads that fail prematurely.

Click HERE

In essence, for over a decade asphalt producers and contractors have been ‘cutting’ the asphalt mix with binders and impurities such as motor oil which weaken the material – making it prone to water ingress and cracking.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” is how Dr. Hesp describes the practice and the result.

Dr. Hesp has presented in front of a number of City Council – with the City of Kingston introducing his recommendations for stricter material specifications for contractors.

This is a critical point.

Recall at the Monday, March 02, 2015 Council Meeting – I asked administration to report back on the deplorable condition of Banwell Road.

Here is the official Council Question:

Concerned about premature deterioration of roads—highlighted by the deplorable condition of Banwell Road—administration is asked to provide a report back to Council on the cost and benefit of a third-party review of the City’s Standard Specifications as well as the Inspection and Approval process for road construction.

Only a comprehensive review of our current standard operating procedures will yield improvements to the deplorable state of our roads in Windsor – including very young roads such as Banwell and McHugh in Ward 7.

Today we celebrated Earth Day by planting 2,000 trees in Ward 7 near McHugh and Florence – with the help of a couple hundred of our friends.

We have a right to a healthy environment – clean air, clean water, clean land – but we also have a responsibility to roll up our sleeves and make it so.
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Interested in seeing how the budgets of your local Business Improvement Areas (BIA) stack up against each other? Check out the spreadsheet below. Interesting – some BIAs are better than others at keeping administration costs down and increasing capital expenditures to physically improve their business environment.

Others….not so much.  Interesting that the Downtown Windsor BIA increased their staff costs by 21 per cent and decreased their capital expenditures by 24 .5 per cent.  More money to staff.  Less money on things like streetscaping, planters, banners, lighting, graffiti cleaning, beautification, benches, capital repair etc.  

In fact – a whopping 37 per cent of Downtown Windsor BIA money goes directly to administrative costs.  Compare that to Old Riverside BIA (23 per cent) or Ottawa Streeet BIA (22 percent)

 

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Mark S. Lee dedicated his entire show – Small Talk Detroit – on CBS Detroit to Hacking Health Windsor Detroit that was broadcast and podcast in Detroit and coast-to-coast.

You can catch the podcast if you CLICK HERE

I was honoured to join the Vice President of Research at Wayne State University – Dr. Steven Lanier; the Dean of Graduate Studies at Madonna University – Dr. Debbie Dunn; and the Director of Technology Based Entrepreneurship at Tech Town Detroit – Paul Riser Jr.

Mark led a fantastic conversation about the awesome potential of deepening cross-border collaboration between Windsor and Detroit – in addition to the potential of breaking down barriers between the health and IT sectors.

I was really delighted to hear our counterparts in Detroit speak so highly of Windsor as a partner in economic development – and the need to drive the innovation agenda forward through more extensive crossborder partnerships