Safety Insights, Data Privacy, and Spatial Justice

I am a supporter of OpenMedia which is “a community-driven organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free”. This morning, I filled out the OpenMedia Privacy Act Survey which has been adapted from the Canadian Department of Justice’s 50-Question Survey (open until February 14th).

Here are some questions that it asks:

5. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following: I have a right to know if federal government departments or agencies are using artificial intelligence to make a decision that affects me.

6. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following: I should have a right to request human involvement in a decision-making process about me that relies on computerized automated processes, such as artificial intelligence.

7. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following: A federal government department or agency should be free to collect, use and share personal information that is readily available to the public, including information on a social media website.

8. How comfortable are you with a federal government department or agency sharing your personal information without your explicit permission with the following entities in circumstances where doing so would help carry out the same purpose the information was originally collected for? D) With a private sector for-profit business.

9. How comfortable are you with federal government departments and agencies sharing your personal information without your explicit permission with the following entities to achieve a purpose that is different from what the information was originally collected for? D) With a private sector for-profit business.

Then, later on this morning, I thought I would dive a little deeper into the recent agreement between Ford Smart Mobility Canada (the other FordNation) and the City of Windsor:

The City of Windsor is the first municipality in Canada to sign an agreement with Ford Smart Mobility Canada Company to access Ford Mobility’s Safety Insights platform. Ford Mobility is a business line within the Ford Motor Company that works with cities to better understand their unique challenges and then design targeted solutions that help improve the quality of life for residents.

Ford Mobility’s award-winning Safety Insights tool enables cities like Windsor to streamline what can be a costly and time-consuming process of accessing and analyzing transportation data. By integrating this data into Safety Insights and supplementing it with simulations and solutions based on industry-standard best practices, cities can spend fewer resources on crunching data and focus on helping to improve the safety of their streets.

Windsor the First Canadian City with Ford Safety Insights Platform, January 21, 2021

Like, Frazier Fathers, my first thoughts were that the City of Windsor already has both the data pertaining to car crashes and a GIS team that already has the ability to make inferences from that data.

Given that the platform is really just an online dashboard it certainly seems like the WEEDC is paying a lot for insights that they could be or already are being generated. I am curious how many man hours will be saved by this investment of $30,000 for 1 year.

In 2018 the City released a report on the most accident prone intersections. This 2020 report on potential red light camera locations at the most dangerous intersections in the City.

A Few Thoughts on Week 45, January 24, 2021.

Curious what possible insights Ford’s Safety Insight product might deliver, I watched its 2:49 promo video.

Here are some screenshots. The first is of the system’s crash layer. What can we glean from this? Well, it appears that in order for that type of information to be available to the City of Windsor, the City of Windsor is going to hand over the data that will identify what crash factors that has been recorded for each car crash to Ford.

This next screenshot caught my attention. How does Ford know the volume of pedestrians walking down these streets? Then I looked up what AADT stood for and learned that these are Annual Average Daily Traffic counts. Unless Ford is buying cell phone location data from brokers, this information might be coming from the City of Detroit.

Addendum:

This next slide gave me pause. It looks like the purpose of the Safety Insights dashboard to is generate calculations of the cost of future accidents versus the cost savings from investing in a countermeasure. I would like to believe that the human cost of a car accident is included in this calculation. I certainly hope so.

This is my favourite screen capture of them all. Ford Safety Insights is powered by MACHINE LEARNING.

Combining data provided by the city, FSIP uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning as well as industry-standard algorithms to reveal crash-reduction predictions. The results, said the FSIP reps, are actionable.

Smart city: Windsor is first Canadian city to launch Ford Safety Insights Platform to reduce crashes, N.F. Mendoza, Tech Republic, January 21, 2021,

So at the very moment in which the Federal Government is asking Canadians how we feel about handing over personal data to corporations and asking how we feel about artificial intelligence making decisions that may affect our safety, the City of Windsor announces this finished agreement, without any consultation from either residents or city council.

Does this mean that the decision whether there has been enough near-fatal accidents to have occurred at the intersection at your child’s school is enough to justify a stop sign will be made by an algorithm that has been trained been on American drivers, some driving Michigan lefts?

Does this mean that in future, the City of Windsor can hand over some or all of its data pertaining to residents to any private company in exchange for a discount of that company’s product?

I have yet to see any evidence that Ford’s Safety Insights system can deliver what it promises and do better than what our city staff can already provide. Is this project innovation or outsourcing?

Shouldn’t the City of Windsor first develop its own policy on how it will use machine learning in civic decision making and in doing so, ensure that there is also some form of human intervention in the cases that the machine has learned incorrectly or has embodied the structural biases from its training data?


These are not unreasonable questions to ask. There are historical precedents to these concerns.

For example, early attempts at using geospatial data to make firefighting more cost-effective that started in 1968 directly resulted to the death of thousands in New York City over the next decade.

This map was also published in 1968:

runOverMap

In her subsequent analysis, Warren uses this map as a jumping off point to discuss spatial justice more generally for the Black community. For example, most African-Americans work in the factories which are situated several hours from their community so they leave for work at 3 or 4AM because the buses only run once an hour. Those coming from the black community who do have cars are unable to get on the expressway between the hours of 3-5pm due to the timing of the stoplights. She uses these examples and others to unequivocally demonstrate that Detroit’s urban planning and transportation is inadequate and unjust for the Black community and calls for the DGEI to establish “Black planning” for the city of Detroit

Where Commuters Run Over Black Children, Detroit 1968, June 12, 2013, Alex B. Hill

It is safe to say that every person has had someone close to them either die in a car accident or know someone who has had someone beloved die in a car accident

As such, significant improvements to road safety should be greatly received and celebrated.

Unfortunately, the administration of the City of Windsor seems oddly slow to adopt practices that been proven greatly reduce the number of deaths such as reducing residential speed limits or find ways to establish protected bike lanes.

It makes you wonder if safety isn’t really their number one concern.

Weeknote 3, 2021

§1

Three days ago, The Toronto Star proved that the Ford government significantly watered down the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for schools while the government repeatedly assured Ontarians that they were following the best medical advice. In doing so, not only did they endanger the lives of the educators of Ontario, some would argue by letting COVID-19 spread through our schools beyond our control, they endangered all of our lives and livelihood. Such strong leadership.

Also, here’s something for those of you who are advocating for lifting the lockdown, opening the borders, and re-opening the schools without mass testing or additional resources:

Haug, N., Geyrhofer, L., Londei, A. et al. Ranking the effectiveness of worldwide COVID-19 government interventions. Nat Hum Behav 4, 1303–1312 (2020). https://doi-org/10.1038/s41562-020-01009-0

§2

The video of the January 18, 2021’s council meeting is up and the recording is over 8 hours long.

§3

The agenda for the next council meeting is up (Monday February 1, 2021) and is presently only 458 pages long. Most of the document is related the Community Improvement Plan for the Wyandotte Corridor between the University and Downtown.

But there was something else that I thought I’d dig into:

7.2 Community Safety and Well-Being Program

There’s a weird ask in this agenda. The gist is, the “In 2019 the Provincial government amended the Police Services Act to mandate every municipality to prepare and adopt a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan. At their meeting of July 8, 2019, City Council considered this initiative as outlined in Report #S97/2019 and approved, through CR340/2019, that the Commissioner of Community Development and Health Services undertake a Community Safety and Well Being Plan.” But then, “after discussions amongst the regional Chief Administrative Officers proposing a regional CSWB Plan, Report S198/2019 was brought to City Council requesting authorization to engage the County of Essex and its municipalities to develop a Regional Community Safety and Well-Being Plan (RCSWB).” Because of that delay and because of COVID, the ask for the upcoming meeting is to ask Council for permission for the Plan to come together using with a December 31, 2021 deadline even through the provincial deadline was originally January 1, 2021 and is now likely July 1, 2021.

I mention this plan for three reasons. First, I’m disappointed that there is a Consulting Agreement with StrategyCorp is working on this file because I have not forgiven them for their laughable 20 Year Strategic Plan that they left our city to deal with.

Secondly, there is a lot of potential good that could come from establishing a common plan. Here is a short list of what Ontario municipalities have done so far:

  • Niagara, after a first round of consultations, has set these as their local priorities: addictions/ substance misuse, affordable housing, mental health, poverty and income, and homelessness
  • Hamilton is currently seeking community feedback using their public engagement platform
  • Ottawa, after a first round of consultations, is planning to address six local priorities: discrimination, marginalization & racism, financial security & poverty reduction, gender-based violence & violence against women, housing, integrated & simpler systems, and mental well-being. It gathered these through its public engagement platform.
  • Peel Region has already delivered their plan. Their local focus is family violence, mental health and addictions, and systemic discrimination
  • London, after a round of consultations using its public engagement platform, is currently drafting their plan

You know what? I would have loved to have an opportunity to tell my City what safety means to me. I would loved to see a CSWB plan as a means to consider systematic racism, drug addiction, and violence against women in our communities at the systems level.

But it looks like much of the public consultation from the City of Windsor has already been defined very narrowly.

– Facilitation of three pilot Sector Network Community Conversations consisting of 81 participants. Pilot community conversations were held with the Windsor Essex Local Immigration Partnership (WE LIP); We Care for Youth Committee (WCFY); and the Seniors Advisory Committee (SAC)….

Facilitation of three additional Sector Network Community Conversations consisting of 23 participants. Community conversations were held with the Downtown Windsor Safety and Security Roundtable (DWSSRT); the Ford City Safety Committee (FCSC); and the Enforcement and Justice Pillar of the Windsor Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy (WECOSS – E&J).

And this brings me to the last reason why I wanted to mention this item. It strikes me as terribly pathetic to see our mayor trying to get as much political mileage as he can in the media from writing a letter about a random and tragic crime when he could actually do the work to ensure that the city of Windsor use the opportunity of the CSWB to generate an cross-sector roadmap to actually improve the safety of the people in our community.

I am very tired of political theatre.

I am very tired of pandemic theatrics.

§4

I’m also very tired of a very white Canadian Media.

§5

I hope the proposed CIP for Wyandotte can address this.

Weeknote 2, 2021

§1: Words vs. Deeds

On January 7th, Drew Dilkens and an unnamed source that I like to call ‘The Mayor’s Chief of Staff’, threw Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, under the bus in an article in The Windsor Star. Rather than provide the health unit any additional resources, it appears there was some sort of attempt to take the authority to administer the vaccines away from Dr. Ahmed.

Dilkens said he is concerned about the ability of the health unit, already stretched as it deals with a tsunami of cases, to take on mass vaccination.

“Dr. Ahmed and the health unit can not do this alone, not successfully,” he said. “It just makes sense to bring in more horsepower. It’s about making sure we have all the resources that are needed.

“We have a shared goal,” he said. “We all have to take ownership here. It’s going to take many hands to get us across the finish line.”

But there is also concern that the health unit doesn’t appear to have a plan yet for mass vaccination.

Dilkens called Premier Doug Ford last week after the health unit received its first shipment of Moderna vaccine for long-term care and retirement homes and expressed concern that there didn’t seem to be a plan for administering vaccine.

Local vaccination task force warned to ‘ramp this up‘, Anne Jarvis • Windsor Star, Jan 07, 2021.

On January 11th, it was announced that Windsor-Essex was the first in the province to vaccinate all long-term care homes.

Also, since we are talking about vaccine distribution…

The fact that several area hospitals broke the distribution protocols by administering vaccines to non-front line healthcare staff before our 70+ population has been made moot as on January 12th as the province quietly changed the designated Stage 1 recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine.

§2 This is also Canada

Nick Kouvalis, a veteran conservative operative and principal at Campaign Research Inc. and Campaign Support Ltd., tweeted and subsequently retracted a false claim last week that anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter activists ⁠— not supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump ⁠— were responsible for the Capitol riots.

“These BLM/Antifa dudes get around like they’re Forest Gump (sic),” Kouvalis said in a since-deleted tweet from Jan. 6 that was accompanied by a photo of the Washington, D.C. rioters.

Top Tory adviser under fire for tweeting U.S. election misinformation, Emma McIntosh, National Post, January 13th 2021

Speaking of shitposters, I’d like to bring your attention to the January 12th Routine Proceedings dispatch from Dale Smith about The Rebel’s exclusive “interview” with Erin O’Toole.

What this stance O’Toole is making demonstrates is what I talked about in my weekend column – that his party is still happy to turn a blind eye to racists and white supremacists when they think they can use them to score goals against Trudeau. It also brings to mind Andrew Scheer’s farewell speech as leader, when he told party followers to trust outlets like True North and the Post Millennial for their news rather than mainstream sources, which is alarming because of the fact that much of their “reporting” is not actually that, and has been a driver of misinformation. Also of note is that the Post Millennial is in part controlled by the professional shitposters on O’Toole’s payroll – so that gives you an idea about what they are actually looking to promote and gain accreditation for. That O’Toole says they won’t respond to Rebel inquiries in the future is not comforting, because this demonstrates that they still considered this an audience worth engaging with until they got caught.

Roundup: O’Toole’s Rebel problem, Dale Smith, January 12, 2021

§3 We deserve digital

Why does our federal government continue to outsource essential work to consulting firms and diminish the capacity of our civic service?

OTTAWA – The federal government has awarded international accounting firm Deloitte a $16-million contract to build a national computer system to manage the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The contract was recently posted to the federal procurement department’s website after Ottawa called on a select number of companies to submit proposals for developing the system in December.

The new vaccine management system “will help manage vaccine rollout, administration and reporting on a go-forward basis, as the volume of deliveries increases,” according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Ottawa gives accounting firm Deloitte $16M contract to track COVID-19 vaccinations, Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press, Jan. 11, 202

When the federal government needed a COVID-19 tracking app that protected privacy, they had one quickly designed and delivered by their Canadian Digital Service.

The Canadian Public Service can be digital and it can be exceptionally so. But that potential will not be met if those in power keep outsourcing government work.

§4: Over 1000 pages

There is a city council meeting tomorrow. Its agenda is over 735 pages long, the appendix is 406 pages long, and the additional information package is 388 pages long.

Did I read all these pages? No, I did not. Sorry, readers but this week you are on your own.

But I will share with you a little hack that I’ve picked up. One of the means by which a city councillor can try to make change is to ask administration to prepare a feasibility report or response to a directed question. In the supplemental documents, you can find the list of outstanding council questions under the heading 18.1.

All of these questions are labeled CQ and so you can always check the current agenda to see if one of these questions is going to be answered by searching for ‘CQ’.

For example, at tomorrow’s meeting, Council will be receiving a report based on this question from the Mayor from January of last year:

CQ1-2020:Asks Administration to prepare a report on policy and/or bylaw changes that require new construction projects in the City of Windsor to prepare for electric vehicle infrastructure including, at a minimum, the rough-in necessary to facilitate future transition to electric vehicles. In addition, report back on best practices or policies that would benefit existing buildings to convert as needed. SW/13715 18.1(January 20, 2020)

The answer brought me to this information and map of current public charging stations:

Presently, the City of Windsor only has one City-owned EV charging station. It is located at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre and is free for the public to use. However, through funding made available through the Government of Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP), the City has been able to expand the number of charging stations available for public use by twenty-two (22) additional electric vehicle spaces. The City will be installing eleven (11) Level 2 dual connector electric vehicle charging stations for public use at nine (9) different locations throughout the City. In addition, a charging station will be installed in Assumption Park North as part of the Celestial Beacon project which will house the newly-renovated Streetcar No. 351.The location and number of additional proposed (ZEVIP funded) charging stations are listed below. These sites will also be free to use at first, with the option to charge for use later.

Compared to the rest of the council documentation, councillor questions are the most straight-forward and also the most interesting.

I particularly can’t wait for CQ17-2020 to be answered:

It is important that we recognize and acknowledge the historic and systemic nature of racism and discrimination in our country and our City. We understand that to move forward and promote equity and eliminate anti-racism requires reaching out to and hearing from the voices of those in our community and Corporation most impacted by discrimination and racism. In this pursuit, it is also essential that we work towards having a Corporation that is representative of the people it serves and that everyone is treated with respect. As such, I am seeking the input and recommendations of Administration and our Diversity Advisory Committee on the viability of:

1. Including community-led consultations on systemic racism, under Phase 2 of the City of Windsor Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

2. Seeking the input of those in our Corporation and related entities and our community most affected by racism and discrimination, regarding barriers to hiring and advancement in our Corporation and related entities as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

3. Including recommendations and input regarding providing historical information and educational materials for City owned statues, buildings and streets named with racist histories as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, and further developing a plan for inclusive street and property naming practices in the future. APM2020 (July 13, 2020)

Weeknote 1, 2021

§1: Partisanship is hazardous to our health

In a better world, all of our levels of government would work together to contain COVID-19 and protect lives.

But we live in Windsor, Ontario where the Mayor and the Head of Windsor’s Regional Hospital are more than happy to criticize the Federal Government’s work in supplying vaccines for COVID-19 and remain completely silent on matters that the province is responsible for.

According to journalist Dale Smith, this line of complaint is a Ford-talking point. From his January 9th Round-up:

As for the blame-shifting, Ford (along with a couple of other premiers) are howling that they’re running out of vaccines, after the slow roll-out – so slow that Ontario is already starting to give people their second doses. But, running out of vaccines is a good thing, because it means they’re going into arms. And more to the point, he knows that there are thousands of more Pfizer doses coming next week, the week after, and then again, the week after that, plus another bulk shipment of Moderna vaccines – and deliveries are expected to scale up further in February. They know this. This has been communicated for a while now, but he’s trying to deflect the attention to Trudeau once again to divert away from his own incompetence. (And apparently there were some hurt feelings among the premiers during Thursday’s first ministers meeting because Trudeau dared to criticize the provinces for their role in the slow roll-out. The poor dears).

For those just tuning in, examples of Ford’s incompetence in protecting Ontario residents from COVID-19 include:

  • putting the province into ‘lock-down lite’ the day after Christmas
  • not addressing the continued spread of COVID-19 through tighter controls at workplaces that not affected by the lockdown such as manufacturing, construction sites, warehouses, and agri-farms
  • not restoring sick days cut by the Ford government in 2018 so that those with COVID-19 symptoms don’t have to lose their income to stay home
  • allocating less money to LTCs in the Ontario Budget than last year
  • confusing lines of command by introducing a vaccine distribution task-force on December 4th with no nurses or family doctors represented

More troubling was another article that came out on January 7th in which The Windsor Star lets an unnamed source take pot-shots at Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

(“We can walk and chew gum at the same time, right?” Who is this asshat?)

This all very much reminds me of when David Musyj of the Windsor Regional Hospital was livid because the Health Unit was concentrating on distributing PPE to Long-term health care facilities instead of engaging in mass COVID-19 testing. Just as it is now, this was a story about non-public complaints that made it to the media via some mysterious, un-named source. (By the way, our Health Unit made the right call).

It is the job of the medical officer of health at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to lead the direction of the COVID-19 vaccination program. Breaking ranks from their direction holds consequences. And those consequences arrived the next day:

“I am disturbed by the fact that with the limited supply of vaccine, we are throwing away the prioritization and are completely ignoring the ethical framework that is provided to all of us,” Ahmed said during the local health unit’s morning news conference.

Some local health-care workers have complained to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit that some individuals receiving the vaccine do not work with patients at all, or work with patients very minimally, he said. He’s also heard that some “executives” and “leadership team members” have already received the vaccine, though he wouldn’t provide names.

Windsor-Essex hospitals facing backlash for offering vaccine to managers and executives, CBC News, January 8, 2021

Now I want to be very careful how I say this. I’m not saying that the CEO of Windsor Regional hospital broke ranks with the health unit and distributed doses to staff who are not in contact with patients as a means to use up all the vaccines as soon as possible with the explicit purpose of providing political cover for Doug Ford.

I’m just saying, the actions give this appearance to others in the province.

By breaking the ethical vaccine distribution framework that was established by the province, Windsor has demoralized front-line workers who are still waiting for their doses:

Those in leadership positions should have noticed the massive outcry against the Christmas tropical island travel vacations of the Ontario Finance Minister (approved by Doug Ford) and the hospital CEO on the Ontario Vaccine Distribution Task Force and saw that the anger generated from these two leaders was much greater than say, the anger generated by learning that some of our Ontario’s LTCs are in utter shambles.

Public trust has been lost. It has to be earned back:

The correct way to respond to a low-trust environment is not to double down on proceduralism, but to commit yourself to the “it does exactly what it says on the tin” principle and implement policies that have the following characteristics:

– It’s easy for everyone, whether they agree with you or disagree with you, to understand what it is you say you are doing.

– It’s easy for everyone to see whether or not you are, in fact, doing what you said you would do.

– It’s easy for you and your team to meet the goal of doing the thing that you said you would do.

Making policy for a low-trust world, January 6, 2021, Slow Boring

It is essential that the local leadership in healthcare stop the infighting. If the matter is related to public health, then they should take direction from from our public health unit.

Dr. Ahmed and his team have my trust.

We in Windsor-Essex have been exceedingly fortunate to have a health unit who has repeatedly gone beyond provincial directives to keep us safer.

§2: The Mayor Hates The Free Market

Speaking of wasting precious energy and attention by pointing figures at other governments, I have lost count of the number of Facebook posts that Mayor Drew Dilkens has made in trying garner more signatures for a petition to the Federal government to protect air traffic control from Windsor’s airport after Nav Canada has put the service under review.

This is your periodic reminder that Nav Canada is a privatized owner and operator of the country’s civil air navigation system and as such are not obliged to run services that don’t make business sense to them.

§3: More please: Hospitals helping LTCs

You know what I think is an under-reported story? I think the work of Hotel Dieu Grace staff who took over some key operations at The Village at St. Clair in Windsor on Dec. 24 when it was struggling with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the area is worthy of more recognition. According to the CBC News story, the hospital will be transitioning out of the Village next week and will be assisting Kingsville retirement home Augustine Villas next.

I don’t know Janice Kaffer, the President and CEO of Hotel Dieu Grace, but I love the leadership that she displays on her social media. Here’s a sample:

§4: “Anyone fortunate enough to have a street named after them deserves the dignity to have their name spelled properly!”

It’s been over six months since the Black Lives Matters protests filled streets around the world. It’s been over six months since the Mayor’s office surveyed the community “to hear and listen to important issues, and understand how to help drive out racism from society” and promised next steps. What have those next steps been?

Is it time yet for Windsor to confront our history and ongoing practice of honouring slave owners?

Or nah?

§5: When the people who espouse”personal responsibility” tell lies to absolve their responsibility

I’m not going to comment about the January 6th mayhem in the U.S. Capitol but I do want to say something related to Trump supporters that does come back to local politics. Before I do, I want to you to read this twitter thread so you can properly understand the context of this particular point:

Did Trump supporters really believe that Obama was born in Kenya? No. Most of them did not. Like Gene, they will never admit this because the ruse was used to cover up people’s refusal to give legitimacy to a presidency that they did not want to accept. Fast-forward to the most recent U.S. election. Do Trump supporters really believe that there was widespread voter fraud orchestrated by their Democratic opponents in 2020? No. But the lie gives them cover to engage in blatant forms of voter suppression towards Black Americans without admitting that this is the activity that they are engaging in.

It’s something to keep in mind when you hear a Trump supporter refuses to concede the 2020 U.S. Election to Biden just as the president of the Windsor-West Electoral District Association for the Progressive Conservatives did on December 15th, 2020.

Weeknote Dec 8 – 14 2020

§1

At midnight, Windsor-Essex will be in the grey zone and schools will be online only until Winter break.

The Windsor Essex Health Unit has a page that lists all the ongoing outbreaks.

I know a lot of people are upset at the regular group of 30 or so who have been protesting outdoors the public health measures set in place to restrict the spread of COVID-19, but for me, it was this group of people had me shaking my head this week.

§2

Windsor leads the province with the most police officers per capita in Southwestern Ontario, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

According to the report, Windsor has 205 officers per 100,000 citizens. That compares to the next-closest Southwestern Ontario municipality, St. Thomas, with 175.6.

The Windsor force employs about 500 sworn officers, 150 civilian staff and expenses close to $110 million in 2020. Expenses were offset by $17.4 million in revenue.

“Report points to high per-capita rate of cops in Windsor”, by Postmedia News, Windsor Star, Dec 12, 2020

§3

The agenda for the upcoming City Council meeting at Monday, December 21, 2020 at 1:00 p.m is up. I am going to pay particular attention to Item 8.2.

If they aren’t able to get the funding that they need, I know of another city service that has a significantly higher than average staff complement that we could take from.

§4

Again, I did not have the fortitude to go through the 489 pages of the City Council Agenda in any depth. But I did look through it enough to find these items of interest:

§5

Did you know our Mayor has issues with Conservation Authorities? From the Hansard:

Weeknote Dec 1 – 7 2020

§1

I was planning to write a long complaint of stories tied together with a common theme of ‘the Ford government is outsourcing the pandemic response” including the story of how the government hired the McKinsey “Proposed Paying Pharmacy Companies Rebates for OxyContin Overdoses” Consulting Group.

But instead, I think everyone would be better served by reading this explainer by John Michael McGrath called, Emergency unpreparedness: How government failures shaped Ontario’s COVID-19 response. Here’s a key excerpt:

That report, and the ones released this week, outline years of neglect. It would be one thing if Lysyk had said that Ontario isn’t meeting best practices, but she demonstrates that the province has been failing at the basics, like keeping emergency plans up to date. Astonishingly, the province had not one but four plans relevant to COVID-19, but two of them hadn’t been updated since 2013 — and made references to defunct positions and ministries that had since been renamed. The government was supposed to review and update its emergency plans annually; the Liberals set that benchmark, but both they and Tories failed to meet it.

The fact that Ontario’s emergency planning was so out of date led the government (wisely or not) to sign a contract with a private consultant to create a brand-new command structure to handle the pandemic. According to Lysyk, it quickly became bloated and unwieldly. And Ontario’s 444 municipalities had all trained for their own emergency personnel to interact with the province in a clear, structured format through EMO; the creation of a new separate system of “command tables” and “health tables” threw a wrench in basic communications — an avoidable own-goal.

This isn’t about both-sides-ing. It’s about trying to identify a deeper syndrome in Ontario that sees governments consistently under-invest in basic, core functions of government — whether that’s quality data collection or emergency preparedness — while they lavish billions of dollars on higher-profile priorities. The solution isn’t clear, unfortunately: voters tend not to punish governments for failing to invest in the basics.

Personally, I’m not going to be spending much attention on the vaccine rollout because I think the Conservative provincial government will use it as a way to blame the federal Liberal government as a means to deflect from its own non-response for our more immediate and frankly dire needs.

That being said, I predict an flood of think-pieces of ‘who should get the vaccine first’. I hope our teachers and education workers are near the front of the list, because our children will not be able to be vaccinated against COVID19 anytime soon.


§2

On Monday, December 7th, I will taking part of the Day of Mourning that is being arranged by University of Windsor group, RAACES.

While 2020 will be remembered for a great many things, history will duly note that the Black Lives Matters Movement was the largest in US history with protests around the globe, including Windsor.

§3

Tomorrow at 10:30 am is City Council. I had planned to do a proper reading of the Development Charges Background Study but I couldn’t manage to do it.

How I wish Windsor had a it’s own City Hall Watcher newsletter that I could chip in a small amount of bucks a month to help support. I wish a journalism student from the college or the U would try to take it on, and then if they leave, pass it on to another.

Weeknote Nov 24-30 2020

Things are not going well.

How’s My Flattening?

COVID-19 Dashboard
COVID-19 Dashboard

I wrote about where we are at with COVID-19 earlier this week in a post called, The Invisibility of Carework.


Next City Council meeting is Monday, December 7, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. The Agenda is 574 pages long and I have not even glanced through it yet. I did take a peek at the attached item, Item 10.2 – Development Charges Background Study, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure what I should be looking for in the document.


It’s going to be a shorter than normal weeknotes this week as in 15 minutes, I’m planning to join a virtual Sandy and Nora listener appreciation night. Sandy and Nora is the podcast that been giving me much life as of late, if just to let me know that I’m not alone in being somewhat distraught that we have a provincial government that could be doing the work of governing to better protect the most vulnerable among us, but is instead, has decided to do next to nothing.

On the invisibility of carework

If my Facebook feed is any reflection of our city’s concerns at large (which is admittedly debatable), among the posts telling us to shop local and asking why are large chains allowed to be open when mom-and-pop shops must be closed, there is a distinct absence of stories about our dire need to improve the safety and support of our most vulnerable including our elderly and the staff that care for them during these unprecedented times-in-which-we-refuse-to-acknowledge-that-we-went-through-SARS.

I didn’t think I had to remind you all why we are taking profound and wide-ranging public health measures at this point in time, but clearly some people need it spelled out to them.

To state it as clearly as I can: we are curtailing our lives to reduce the opportunities where we may become infected by COVID-19 and then infect other people before we realize we are carrying the virus. We are trying to reduce the number of people who will die from COVID-19 infection and to reduce the number of people who will die because they cannot seek the health care they need in a timely matter, such as cancer treatments, because our healthcare staff will not have the capacity to take on anything but immediate health emergencies because their beds and emergency rooms are filled to capacity with highly infectious patients suffering from COVID-19.

(While some healthy people don’t want to curtail their lives because they know that the chance that they may die from COVID-19 is statistically very small, it is still in the best interest of healthy people to reduce the risk of infection to other people if only to potentially save their own collective-ass by helping keep hospitalized cases down, in case that they may find themselves needing urgent healthcare. )

Now I’m going to go a step further. I am going to say that we will not have a working economy unless we bring our COVID numbers down to zero. Those who are advocating that we continue to open up indoor spaces where infections are likely to spread without first making the necessary investments and efforts to protect the most vulnerable populations in our communities, have essentially decided that these COVID-19 deaths are an acceptable price to pay for the ability to eat and drink scotch with friends in a fine restaurant.

Regardless of how much of an individual you think you are — oh so separate from the rest of us sheeple — you are among us. Even if you decide to act like a traitor, you still depend on other people.

Among Us is so popular that its developers just canceled the sequel - The  Verge

Nora Loreto has been tracking the deaths of healthcare and other workers across Canada. This morning, I downloaded a copy of her spreadsheet and filtered for Ontario. As of today, 14 cleaners, personal support workers, and nurses have died from COVD-19.

[An aside: Why is this the first time I have learned that 10 taxi drivers have died from COVID-19? And why hasn’t this been mentioned in our own local conversations about public transit?]

Loreto also has the numbers to back up the cruel fact that we have completely failed to protect the elders in our communities.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons why our long-term care facilities deteriorated so quickly when COVID-19 arrived, is due to the fact that for years, we have chosen not to listen to the many, many concerns raised by those people who have working in these places. Our Long-Term Care homes were so bad there was a public inquiry report published not even six months before COVID-19 emerged.

It has been argued that the Ontario and federal government only took the conditions of our long term health care homes seriously after the armed forces were brought in. The military found conditions at the five homes where they were brought in as so bad that they LEAKED what they saw to the media. And how bad were conditions?

Now imagine how bad it might be to work in such a place.

But we don’t hear from these people. Nurses have been sounding the alarm for the years and we ignored them, then and we are ignoring them, now. Maybe, just maybe, we are not paying more attention to the conditions of LTC homes because we don’t appreciate carework. Maybe its because the employees of long-term health homes are also most likely to be women, with many being racialized women. Maybe we care more about poppies than we do about veterans.

I am still waiting for our local media to tell their stories, to give voice to their hopes, their needs, and their fears. Rather than giving regular coverage to those who gather illegally to protest public health measures, I would love to see more journalists covering where 2/3 of Ontario COVID-19 deaths have come from. I would like to see more owners of the long-term homes be held accountable for their inaction. I would love to see more Facebook posts from community members agitating for the long-term investment from the Ontario government that we need in order to keep our elderly safe and our most vulnerable safe.

Until then, women’s labour remains as invisible and unsaid as SARS.

I will leave you with two videos that have helped me better understand what needs to be done.

From October 7th, 2020:

And from yesterday:

Weeknote Nov 17-23 2020

There is a city council meeting on Monday. I’m not going to watch it live but I will try to follow up on the outcomes of the following:

  • 8.1. Capitol Theatre Legacy Grant Application
  • 8.7 Parking Bylaw 9023 – Recommended Amendments on Sandwich Street (C 215/2020)
  • 11.1 Contracting Out Caretaking Services – Phase II- City Wide (C 219/2020)

That being said, it looks like a lot of attention will be paid towards the Sewer Master Plan. I am not an engineer and so I’m not entirely sure whether the allegations that a partially blocked drain of the (federally-built )Herb Way Parkway was a significant contributing factor or there is a narrative that is directing attention to a convenient scapegoat.


Did you know that the beaver is the embodiment of wisdom according to the Anishnaabe? From Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s 2020 Kreisel Lecture, entitled A Short History of the Blockade: Giant Beavers, Diplomacy & Regeneration in Nishnaabewin:

In 1975, the beaver [the animal, not figure] became an emblem of Canada as a symbol of its sovereignty, because the first Europeans in Indigenous territories saw the Beaver not as a relative, but as a money making attraction to supply the continent with nifty felt hats. 

Two hundred years of making beavers into accessories led to their near extinction. And now beavers are mostly known to us as a nuisance and an inconvenience. But this Indigenous land, this Indigenous water, these Indigenous bodies have centuries of oral literature and an embodied practice that know different… Beavers — Amikwag — represent the practice of wisdom. 

I want to think about that for a moment. Out of all of the beings that make up life on this planet, to my ancestors, Amikwag embody the politics and the ethical practices of wisdom.

Amikwag build dams, dams that create deep pools and channels that don’t freeze, creating winter worlds for their fish relatives, deep pools and channels that drought proof the landscape, dams that make wetlands full of moose, deer and elk, food cooling stations, places to hide, and muck to keep the flies away. Dams that open spaces in the canopy so sunlight increases, making warm and shallow aquatic habitat around the edges of ponds for amphibians and insects. Dams that create plunge pools on the downstream side for juvenile fish, gravel for spawning, and homes and food for birds.

And who is the first back after a fire to start the regeneration makework? Amik is a world builder. Amik is the one that brings the water. Amik is the one that brings forth more life. Amik is the one that works continuously with water and land and plant and animal nations and consent and diplomacy to create worlds. To create shared worlds. 

Prior to contact with white people, it is estimated that (North America) was home to between 60 and 400 million beavers. That’s three to five beavers for every kilometre of stream, a beaver in nearly every headwater stream in North America. Biologists call the beaver a keystone species.

CBC Ideas: The Brilliance of the Beaver: Learning from an Anishnaabe World

I am delighted that the beaver have returned to the Olde Sandwich.


It appears that any contribution to flooding from the Herb Parkway system is unforgivable. Can we find a way to live with possible flooding from amikwag? It reminds of me of this article I recently read,

This means that urban wilding must be more than just improving access to nature: it involves redesigning our urban infrastructures to account for our non-human neighbours, so that we don’t just co-exist, but, more, that we are mutually supportive and generative. Cities globally have started experimenting and organisations like Wild Cities are helping chart a path, demonstrating how cities can become happier and healthier, and societies more resilient and adaptive.

Urban wilding, however, has many socio-cultural complexities that differ from rural rewilding (which is a whole separate topic that I’m not focusing on here). Dr Bridget Snaith has shown how people of different race, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds have quite different perspectives on urban landscaping.

You might think that everyone loves green cities, but in actual fact there is no cross-cultural consensus on how, why and when to use green urban spaces, or how to care for them — one person’s lovely ‘wild’ meadow, is another person’s unkempt park suffering for lack of maintenance. Urban wilding — involving social, cultural, environmental and technical infrastructures — needs to account for this diversity of perspective, both in designing wild processes as well as in delivering them.

Making Wild Cities — Notes on Participatory Urban (Re)Wilding, Usman Haque

The seven pedestrian bridges of the Herb Parkway are themed after the seven Grandfather teachings (in which wisdom is represented by the crane) (page 12 of 20).

It is essential that we try to incorporate these lessons into our lives beyond these design gestures.

Weeknote Nov.10-16 2020

Last Monday, Council voted 6-4 in favour of the Mayor’s motion to support the location of the future hospital. During said meeting, the CEO of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation suggested that the only thing holding back receiving $2.3 billion dollars of funding was a unanimous vote at Windsor City Council. So, as someone who doesn’t support the proposed location, I’m taking the meeting’s outcome as a win.

Also, The Windsor Star, AM800, Blackburn Radio, and the CBC all neglected to include this startling bit of information that was made known during the marathon session of council:

Remember when it was normal for the media and the more fiscally conservative city councilors to hold the CEO of WEEDC to some degree of accountability?

You can hear CEO McKenzie’s testimony for yourself. It can be found in the second video at around the 2:25 mark :

As I learned from this week’s episode of Rose City Politics (the conversation turns to this matter around the 60 minute mark), WEEDC’s board members are not selected through the same process as other city & county oversight boards are. Perhaps the matter of how this board is structured is worth re-visiting.


The campaign in favour of the location of the hospital was called We can’t wait and it borrows from a tried and true playbook from our local politicians: create an artificial sense of urgency to bypass required consultations and consensus building within the community. We were given this reasoning with the WFCU Centre (we could lose the Spitfires!). We were given this reasoning with the Aquatic Centre (we are hosting FINA!) and we almost got an a canal and marina downtown when then-mayor Eddie Francis tried a last minute push through via a post-2008-crash government stimulus package proposal after it was twice rejected at City Council.

It is really quite remarkable about all the measures that could improve the quality of life at Windsor that always requires more study and what projects require no study at all.


Speaking of organizations that lobby city council, I think the City of Windsor should adopt a lobbying registry:

Between 2010 and 2014, Paul Bonwick earned more than $1 million for his involvement in deals made by Collingwood city council — almost half of what the town of about 22,000 paid in salaries in 2012 for its full-time staff.

The problem? Bonwick is the brother of then-mayor Sandra Cooper.

That’s just one of the issues covered in a report, released last week, that was produced by a judicial inquiry into business dealings in the town. The 20-month-long inquiry focused on two transactions — the sale of a 50 per cent share of the town’s electrical utility and a decision to award a contract to expand recreational facilities to one builder without considering other bids — and identified the lack of transparency about lobbying as a key issue.

Of the 306 inquiry recommendations from Justice Frank Marrocco, 29 relate to establishing and operating a lobbyist registry — something the town introduced this July, making it only the seventh of Ontario’s 444 municipalities to have done so. “There’s nothing wrong with [lobbying],” says Collingwood mayor Brian Saunderson. “But we need to understand who these people are and whose interests they are advancing.”

‘A cautionary tale’: What this Ontario town can teach us about lobbyists, Mary Baxter, Nov 12, TVO


You hate to see an attempt to open a important conversation about a potential local civic issues on social media that gets immediately overrun with reply guys.


Speaking of local civic issues, the next Agenda of City Council includes

  • 8.1. Capitol Theatre Legacy Grant Application
  • 8.7 Parking Bylaw 9023 – Recommended Amendments on Sandwich Street (C 215/2020)
  • 11.1 Contracting Out Caretaking Services – Phase II- City Wide (C 219/2020)

Of note, no protected bike lanes are being recommended for Sandwich Street despite resident feedback and that Sandwich Street is part of The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail [PDF].


Speaking of cycling…

And lastly something a little different. Over this past week or so, I developed a proof-of-concept map (using leaflet-omnivore) of bike parking in my neighbourhood that I collected in the field using a web-based form that captures both location data and a photo (using kobotoolbox).

The interactive map can be found at
http://atlas.aedileworks.com/bikeparkingwindsor/BikeParkingWindsor.html

It admittedly doesn’t cover a lot of the city but it was fun to make.