I kick-started 2016 by taking a few photos of the dilapidated state of the median on Banwell Road between Little River and Wyandotte Street East.  This median has been a sore spot for residents of this gateway boulevard for years.  It is a gateway boulevard because thousands of residents use this boulevard as their main thoroughfare in and out of East Riverside.

The Mayor has an open door policy where Councillors can raise concerns and Ward specific issues – and so I took full advantage by presenting the Mayor with these photos on January 5th and meeting with him in his office to discuss possible solutions to this longstanding problem.

You will observe in the photos that 10 out of 35 tree wells sit empty, unkempt and overgrown that represent a staggering 29 per cent of the total tree wells on the entire stretch of boulevard. You’ll also notice that the median is stained in some parts and the photos illustrate crumbling concrete in others.

On January 4th, 2016 I tabled a Council Questions asking the Parks Department to report back with a plan to improve the median on Banwell Road.

Check back periodically for updates as I work with Administration to get this issue resolved.

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1-      RFP SCBA gear for Windsor Fire Yes 10-0 Consent
2 – Connecting Links grants Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – Appointment of integrity commissioner Yes 10-0 Presentation
4 – Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative Yes 10-0 Delegation
       

 

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1-      Pedestrian lighting on Ottawa Street Yes 4-6 Delegation
Report No. 362 – Open Streets Yes 10-0 Deferral
Report No. 333 – 3329 Sandwich Zoning Yes 10-0 Consent
       

 

Item No. 1 – Pedestrian Lighting on Ottawa Street:  Mr. Barry Horrobin – a certified Law Enforcement Planner with the Windsor Police Department – provided testimony based on his 26 years of experience that the new LED lighting installed on Ottawa Street is insufficient and unsafe.  Public Safety is paramount and that is why I voted to install additional lighting in order to address the gap in lighting and gap in public safety on Ottawa Street.  Unfortunately, the majority of Council saw things differently and voted down the additional safety measures.

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1-      MOU Mobile Command Unit Yes 10-0 Consent
2 – Essex County Fire Services Training Yes 10-0 Consent
3 – 2016 Annual Temporary Borrowing Yes 10-0 Consent
4 -2016 Interim Property Tax Bill Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Caesars – FINA Agreement Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Windsor Economic Development Delivery Strategy Yes 10-0 Presentation
7 – City of Windsor Visual Standards Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – Refuse and Recycling from Outdoor Furnishings and Bush Shelters Yes 10-0 Consent
9 – Cabana Road reconstruction Yes 10-0 Consent
10 – FCM Leadership in Asset Management Yes 10-0 Presentation
Report 343 – Service Mold Aerospace Yes 10-0 Consent
Report 318 – On street parking modifications Yes 10-0 Delegation
Report 336 – Chateau Park Lodge Yes 10-0 Consent
 

 

Item no. 5 – FINA Agreement with Caesars Windsor: Taxpayers of the City of Windsor will cover $400,000 in hotel expenses at Caesars Windsor for organizers and delegates of the FINA World Swimming Championships.

Report No. 343 – Service Mold Aerospace: City Council approved financial assistance to a local homegrown aerospace company called Service Mold Aerospace valued at just under $500,000 in order to support expansion and job creation –which is the top priority for City Council.

 

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IREK’S TOP 21 CITY COUNCIL MOMENTS OF 2015

√  Campaign promise fulfilled

  1. Balance the budget with zero tax levy increase  √
  2. Improve transparency by voting YES on Auditor General √
  3. Support job creation and retention by voting YES on three Community Improvement Plans (CIP) and a Brownfield Redevelopment CIP to support local industry expand factories and create jobs √
  4. Take a pause on big ticket purchases by putting forward motion to eliminate $2.5 million Riverside Tunnel Underpass √
  5. Build strong neighbourhoods and improve quality of life by voting YES on East End Community swimming pool √
  6. Build strong neighbourhoods by voting YES to keep open Windsor Water World, Adie Knox and Seminole Public Library √
  7. Prioritize key infrastructure such as roads by introducing motion to bring in outside expert to review asphalt specifications while reassessing City’s quality control & maintenance programs √
  8. Mill and pave Tecumseh Road East from Forest Glade Drive to Banwell Road √
  9. Maintain Lakeview Park Marina as public marina with increased capital investments
  10. Improve accountability through performance review of Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation
  11. Improve accountability and transparency by publishing entire 2015 voting record online @ www.irek.ca √
  12. Support a 20-Year Strategic Vision for the City of Windsor
  13. Windsor Essex Youth Advising City Councillors (WEYACC) – a program that engages youth in local politics supported by myself and Councillors Bortolin, Holt, Marra, Bachetti – successfully brought forward resolution to support amendment to Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the Right to a Healthy Environment
  14. Putting taxpayers first by voting NO on New City Hall that went $8 million over budget despite major reductions in design and not counting $7.2 million parking garage √
  15. Introduced motion to support homegrown cultural and sporting events such as the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) and Tour di Via Italia cycling race
  16. Voted YES to support the Downtown Windsor Farmers Market
  17. Put taxpayers FIRST by voting NO on new $300,000 sports tourism office and unnecessary $186,000 recycling guru for City staff √
  18. Protected Windsor’s architectural heritage by voting NO on demolition of St. Barnabas Church
  19. Voted YES on consolidation and expansion of Windsor Public Library
  20. Successfully included High Tension Cable Barriers in upcoming EC Row Environmental Assessment (EA) to improve transportation safety
  21. Successfully convinced administration to remove concrete jersey barriers from residential areas and replace with more aesthetic planters
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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1-      2016 Council Schedule Yes 10-0 Consent
2 – Outsource caretaking No 5-6 Delegation
3 – Photocopier lease Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – Grand Marais Drain work Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Exemption from Sandwich Demolition Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Naming rights – WFCU Centre Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – Repairs to Charles Clark Square Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – 2016 Operating Budget meeting Yes 10-0 Consent
9 – UBER consultant report No 7-4 Delegation
10-WECHC Recommendation – Atkinson Yes 10-0 Deferral
Report 312 – Little River Park Yes 10-0 Delegation
Report 303 – Improve cycling/ped markings Yes 7-3 Delegation

 

Item No. 2: Outsourcing Caretaker/Janitorial Services

I voted NO on outsourcing caretaking services.

The debate over outsourcing caretaker services was the hardest decision I have had to make in my two years on City Council.  That is the reason why on Sunday – before our meeting – I spent the afternoon going door-to-door talking to residents of Ward 7 to get their opinion.  I was looking for a clear mandate.

Instead, out of the residents I spoke to about 1/3rd said they supported outsourcing, 1/3rd say they opposed it and 1/3rd were undecided.

I never once sought or received any direction on this issue from any group other than the residents of Ward 7.

To be clear – I support the outsourcing of garbage disposal for the very same reasons that were put forward in support of outsourcing caretaker services: the opportunity to reduce costs, balance our budget and keep taxes from going up.

However, there are significant differences between outsourcing garbage and caretaker services which made this decision on balance less clear-cut.  Here are a few of those points:

  • The garbage outsourcing did not lead to any layoffs as all affected workers were redeployed in the corporation, WHEREAS the caretaker outsourcing would lead to significant layoffs as the City could not absorb the affected workers.  My position is that in a City with 10 per cent unemployment – the highest in Canada – we should first look to other areas to find savings – and that includes cutting capital projects that are wants and not needs.  In short – let’s not look to cut costs on the backs of our employees as a first resort.
  • There was a significant risk that approximately 300 summer student positions would be cut as a result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement which states that no summer student position can be filled while any regular full time staff members are laid off.  These students depend on this income to continue their education and also to support their families.
  • Administration clearly stated that the in-house caretakers provide the Administration with flexibility that lead to a high level of service delivery and service efficiency that save the Corporation costs e.g. our caretakers not only execute janitorial services, but they also do snow removal, pool services, minor maintenance, event set up AND they are available weekends and nights – whereas a private company would charge extra for all those services.  Administration highlighted the fact that outsourcing could create significant disruptions to service delivery.
  • It has been repeated that the savings would potentially amount to $1 million.  However – this amount has never been tested and represents an overly optimistic best-case scenario which is reminiscent of the rosy cost-saving predictions for the Family Aquatics Centre which was presented as an efficient cost saving reorganization of recreational services that has quickly turned into a serious operating cost that is $2.2 million over budget -  annually.

As I stated, this was a tough decision because my first instinct is to find efficiencies and reduce costs for the taxpayer.  My record over the last two years speaks to fiscal responsibility and the fact that I have the highest respect for hard earned taxpayer dollars.  That is why I have voted NO on the following big ticket items:

  • $2.5 million Riverside Tunnel Underpass
  • $7.2 million Downtown Parking Garage
  • $45 million new City Hall
  • $300,000 sports tourism office

Most recently, I voted against a $30,000 consultant for Uber and against a $180,000 waste auditor.

TOTAL TAXPAYER SAVINGS: $55 MILLION+

I also voted FOR the position of an Auditor General exactly because an Auditor General has a proven capacity to save taxpayers money by conducting Value-For-Money audits and finding efficiencies.  For every $1 invested in an Auditor General – there is an $11 return in the way of efficiencies.

In Conclusion …

In the absence of a clear mandate from my polling of residents, I weighed the potential disruption to service, layoffs of full and part-time staff in a city with the highest unemployment rate in the country, as well as the risk to the summer student program which provides a source of income to 300 students – and I made the determination that this particular outsourcing at this particular time would do more harm than good.

There are complaints that Council should at least have sought additional information by undertaking an RFP.

To that I say – the information I had on hand after reading the administrative report, consulting with residents, and deliberating at Council was sufficient in my estimation to make an informed decision at that time.

Another important consideration underpinning the need for decisive action is that this also saves administration from committing a significant amount of staff time and City resources preparing what would be a complex RFP and service reorganization.  At the same time, I was sensitive to the fact that a prolonged RFP process would cause the affected employees and their families significant anxiety as we wait 9 – 12 months for a report and a resolution.

Hence, my preference for a decision rather than a protracted examination.

 

Item No. 9: Hiring Consultant to Study Taxi Bylaws in Face of Uber Challenge

I voted NO on spending $30,000 to hire a consultant to study our taxi bylaws in the face of the challenge from Uber – a mobile app based ride sharing service that is very similar to a regular taxi service.

Four other cities have already hired a consultant to study their bylaws and are awaiting the results any moment which will be public.  Surely, we could have waited a few weeks to study the results of these consultant reports and saved the taxpayer $30,000.

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1-Malden landfill tender Yes 10-0 Deferral
2-Ash Grove Manor parking Yes 10-0 Referral
3-Sports Tourism No 7-4 Presentation
4-Tilston Armoury upgrades Yes 10-0 Consent
5-Corporate radio upgrade Yes 10-0 Consent
6-Subdivision draft plan Yes 9-1 Delegation
7-Public Works capital budget pre-approval Yes 10-0 Consent
8-Downtown Farmers Market Fee Waiver Yes 8-2 Delegation
9-Flu vaccine clinics Yes 10-0 Consent
10a-Waiver of Fees Policy Yes 10-0 Delegation
10b – Waiver of Fees for Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) Yes 4-6 Delegation
11 – Signing authority for corporate accounts Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 339 – Windsor Express Yes 10-0 Delegation
Report No. 330 – KEK Investments Yes 10-0 Consent
Report No. 331 – 1290 Tecumseh Rd. E. Brownfield Redevelopment CIP Yes 10-0 Deferral
       

 

Item No. 3: Vote to Establish the Office of Sports Tourism

Council voted twice on the Office of Sports Tourism.

I put forward the original motion – which was defeated 7-4.  This first MOTION read:

(a) That the City maintain the STATUS QUO and not fund the establishment of a Sports Tourism positions.

(b)   That administration come back with a report on the cost of a Value-for-Money audit by PwC of the International Children’s Games, CARHA and FINA

c) That administration report back with an item-by-item account of how the Estimated Return was calculated for the four events listed on Page 7

Subsequently, the second motion – put forward by Council Gignac – was to establish the Office of Sports Tourism at a cost of $300,000. I voted NO on this motion.  Here is my explanation:

City Councillors repeat the need to hold the line on taxes.  We heard that refrain over and over during the Auditor General debate held just three days prior.

Voting in favour of establishing a Sports Tourism office does the exact opposite of that.  It requires reaching deeper into the pockets of taxpayers without even a single independent study – without any evidence- to demonstrate that taxpayers are receiving a Return on their Investment.

By next year we will have hosted four major sporting events.  The prudent course of action would be to conduct an independent Value-for-Money audit to see what financial benefits these sporting events have brought to the City.  Only then should we talk about spending additional funding on sports tourism.

At the end of the day it is about priorities.  Do we want to continue to spend millions of dollars on sporting events that last one week and bring little long term benefit to the City?

Or do we spend on priorities such as infrastructure – roads , parks , community centres, libraries – things that will improve the long term Quality of Life of our residents.

Don’t get me wrong – I support the City leveraging home grown sporting events – like the North American Basketball Association championships that was organized by the Filipino Community last month.  The local organizers were responsible for 100 per cent of the fundraising, 100 per cent of the risk and 100 per cent the organization.  The City came onboard as a partner by offering to reduce some of the permit fees.  That is a win-win for the community and for the taxpayer.

Item No. 8 – Downtown Farmers Market Fee Consideration

I support the Downtown Windsor Farmers Market.  In essence – City Council voted to reduce 70 per cent of the permit fees for the Downtown Farmers Market.  That is a solid partnership and a solid vote of confidence.

Item 10: Permanent Fee Waiver (WIFF)

I am a huge fan of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) and I strongly believe that the City of Windsor should partner on this remarkable homegrown festival that puts Windsor on the map.

Here is the motion that I put forward – and which was eventually defeated 6-4.

MOTION:  I move the recommendation with an amendment to include the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) on the Permanent Listing of Grants and Waivers of Fees.

Over the last ten years, the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) has grown into an institution in Windsor and has grown into a top ten film festival in all of Canada.

Sixteen thousand tickets are sold annually.  The sixteen thousand people who flock to the Capital Theatre help revive downtown – they go to coffee shops and restaurants.  They create a buzz.

WIFF attracts visitors from out of town and has the potential to be a real draw for film buffs from across the Great Lakes region.

WIFF also celebrates and highlights the fact that our City is the fourth most culturally and ethnically diverse city in Canada.  It makes so much sense that we have a vibrant International Film Festival – not just because it strengthens our City’s brand – but because through international films we get a glimpse into the culture and history of our neighbours who come from different countries.

An international film festival has the potential to bring our diverse City together.

On top of all that – WIFF contributes $20,000 to the Capitol Theatre every year and has been contributing $10,000 to the City of Windsor through ticket surcharges.

The WIFF is not looking for a handout – but a true partnership with the City of Windsor.

The City of Toronto provides the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) about $800,000 every year.  And in return – the City receives a $180 million return on investment – according to a consultant report.

The potential economic return for the City is tremendous.

WIFF and its 250 volunteers do 100 per cent of the heavy lifting in organizing the festival.

They take 100 per cent of the financial risk and are responsible for 100 per cent of fundraising.

WIFF is not asking for any grant.  They are not asking the City for a penny.

They are just asking that the City remove a financial obstacle and waive the $10,000 ticket surcharge.

The benefits of a true Partnership between WIFF and the City of Windsor is tremendous.

 

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – PWC Final Audit Report Yes 10-0 Presentation
2 – PWC Dashboard Yes 10-0 Presentation
3- Public sector accounting board Yes 10-0 Consent
4 – Corporate gift policy Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Improvement to Lou Romano Plant Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Recycling contract extension Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – 2015 3rd Quarter Variance Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – Charles Clark Square – Fake Ice No 6-5 Delegation
9 – Auditor General Yes 4-6 Delegation
 10 – Science Centre  Yes  10-0  Consent

 

Item No. 8: Installing “Fake Ice” in Charles Clark Square:

I voted against installing “Fake Ice” in Charles Clark Square.  We can do better than that.  Residents rejected the ice once already.  I was surprised to see this issue return for a second time.

Item No. 9: Hiring of an Auditor General

I voted YES in support of hiring an independent Auditor General.

Let’s not focus on the fact that 33 per cent of Ontario residents – one in three – reside in a municipality that has had an independent Auditor General in the last three years.

Let’s not focus on the fact that reports demonstrate that for every $1 spent on an Auditor General – there is an $11 return on that investment for taxpayers in terms of savings and cost efficiencies.

At the end of the day – you can boil this entire debate to one word: information.

In order for City Council to make the best decisions about how we use taxpayer money – we require the most reliable and the most complete information about our performance as keepers of the public purse.

In order for us to build and maintain the public’s trust – we have a responsibility to provide citizens with the best, most reliable and most complete information by maximizing transparency, accountability and openness.

An Auditor General is the Gold Standard for openness, transparency, and accountability.

And so the real question on this night is which Councillors are prepared to invest an additional $200,000 to provide our residents with the Gold Standard for transparency and accountability.

PwC in its Report to the CAO states clearly and concisely: This Engagement Does NOT Constitute an Audit with the Canadian Auditing Standards

I voted YES on the Auditor General because:

  • It would have improved the calibre of decision-making at Council
  • It has the potential to find efficiencies and save the taxpayer significant money
  • It maximizes transparency and accountability
  • It will build trust between the Citizens and Council

Last but not least – I voted YES because I owe it to the residents who I met at the door during the campaign to follow through on my pledge to vote in favour of an Auditor General

Communications Item No.  10: I was delighted to read the report from the Director of Water Production at ENWIN which states that necessary steps have been taken to address the issue of Bromate in the City’s water and that there have been no incidents of exceeded levels of Bromate since March 18, 2014.

I directed Administration to formally request that in future reports to Council any incidents of exceedance are highlighted AND that the provincial Maximum Allowable Concentrations (MACs) are included and highlighted in the chart.

Roseland Board of Directors Committee Report:

I would like taxpayers and members of the Little River Golf Course to know how much revenue the course brings in and how much of that money is reinvested back into Little River Golf Course.  Hence, I asked that in the future Administration separate the financial statements for Roseland and Little River Golf Course – which until now were reported as one.

 

 

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ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
1 – Award of tender – Malden Landfill Yes 10-0 Deferral
2 – Chimczuk bequest – agreement change No 8-2 Presentation
3 – Sports Tourism Office No 9-1 Deferral
4 – Bylaw establishing PHEDSC Yes 10-0 Consent
5 – Authorize local improvement charge Yes 10-0 Consent
6 – Stage lift for Capitol Theatre Yes 10-0 Consent
7 – Update on Climate Protection Plan Yes 10-0 Consent
8 – Expression of interest Pelissier garage Yes 10-0 Consent
9 – Waste Bins for City Facilities Yes 6-5 Regular
10- Purchase loader for Parks Yes 10-0 Consent
11 – Ward park allocation Yes 10-0 Consent
12 – Winter maintenance tender Yes 10-0 Consent
13 – Declare municipally improved lands Yes 10-0 Consent
14 – Declare municipal improved lands Yes 10-0 Consent
15 – Review municipal act Yes 10-0 Consent
16 – Interim control bylaw for parking areas Yes 10-0 Consent
17 – Review of Conflict of Interest Act Yes 10-0 Consent
18 – Town of Tecumseh – Transit RFP Yes 10-0 Consent
Notice of Motion – Direct Administration to provide information on setting up Office of the Auditor General Yes 10-0 Consent

 

Notice of Motion – Direct Administration to Report on Setting up Office of the Auditor General:

I supported this motion.  This is a responsible first step that will provide Council with information necessary to have an informed debate about setting up the office of an Auditor General.

Maximizing both transparency and accountability were included as goals in the draft of the 20 Year Strategic Vision.

 

Item No.9: Establish Waste Coordinator for City Facilities:   Originally, the Administration recommended spending $153,000 to establish the position of a Waste Coordinator that would help City of Windsor employees improve recycling at City facilities.

Whereas I recognize the value of recycling, I did not support establishing this position as it does not represent a proper investment of taxpayer dollars.  Simply put, we already have the internal resources in place to improve recycling by City employees.  We can improve recycling by asking our CAO and Management to remind City employees to recycle while AT THE SAME TIME making it more convenient to recycle by adding waste and recycle bins.

Evidence supporting this position comes from Adventure Bay.  After additional waste and recycle bins were added – with some education of staff – the recycling rate increased from 10 per cent to 51 per cent diversion.

Hence, we do not need to spend an additional $153,000 of taxpayer money to see positive results.

Instead, I put forward the following motion at City Council on Monday:

(a) That Administration increase the number of blue and red recycle boxes throughout city facilities

(b) That Administration transfer $15,000 from the Public Spaces Recycling Project in order to fund the purchase of 15 Waste Stations in 2016

c) That Administration report back in 2017 on the performance of these incremental improvements on Waste Diversion in the Corporation

(d) That the Communications Director establish a communications strategy to improve recycling in City facilities

 

Item No. 2 – Chimczuk Museum: Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Joseph Chimczuk generously bequeathed $1 million to the City of Windsor to build a museum.  It took 10 years for the City of Windsor to come to an agreement with the Chimczuk Museum Inc. (CMI) to use the funds to build Museum Windsor – which is nearing completion.  It took 25 years to fulfill the wishes of Mr. Chimczuk – which included a very long, drawn out negotiation with CMI.

The agreement which finally closed the chapter included – at the City’s request – the dissolution of the CMI organization and relinquishing all trademarks and claims to the Chimczuk name by CMI to the City.

Just as the chapter appeared to be closed, another organization stepped forward requesting that the CMI not be dissolved.  Rather, the organization wanted to keep alive CMI’s registration as a charity with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) so that the new organization could take donations.

The organization in question is a not-for-profit which is working hard to establish a Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media and the Creative Arts.

I could not support this motion for the following reasons:

(a)    It took 25 years to close the chapter on the Chimczuk bequest – including 10 years of hard negotiations with CMI that ended with an agreement that administration worked hard to attain.  I cannot support any action that could undermine that hard fought agreement.

(b)   The Administration admits that such a move – which has no precedence with the City of Windsor – may have unintended consequences

(c)    In essence – the unusual move by the City conferred a benefit on the Windsor Centre to the exclusion of any other organization

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