Weeknote Nov 3 – 9 2020

Tomorrow promises to be a looooong city council meeting filled with delegates testifying for and against the Mayor’s motion in support of the County Road 42 location of the amalgamation of our local hospitals.

Since I wanted to wait for the Ontario Provincial Budget to be released first, I sent my own position against the motion in an an email to the Clerk’s office just after 5pm on Thursday which I thought was plenty of time before Friday noon deadline.

My letter is not in the council package that was published on Saturday afternoon.

I guess I’m part of the silenced majority.

I considered counting up the letters in support of the mayor’s motion to support the County Road 42 location and comparing them to the number of those opposed but now knowing that this number would be inherently inaccurate, I opted instead to bring attention to the fact that many of the letters in support of the Mayor’s motion 1) make no mention of the location of the hospital and 2) are form letters.

Hey, let’s do some research. When was Windsor’s population less than 20,000 residents? According to The Canadian Encyclopedia in 1918 Windsor had a pop. of 21,000. Were Windsor’s two hospitals built in 1918? No. But there is evidently there is a DOOR from 1918 that still exists, so these writers are not technically lying to make their case.

I want to be clear: there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a form letter. Activist groups frequently make use of such templates to encourage letter-writing campaigns. That being said, whoever wrote this particular template shouldn’t have suggested that the authors were inspired to write these letters after they were just doing some independent research and fed them such a far-fetched conclusion.

There are many other form letters that also exaggerate to the point in which the truth might be considered stretched. For example, 23 letter writers (who might live in Windsor) state that the current hospitals in Windsor are crumbling . From CAMPP’s recent newsletter:

“Their extreme concern for the physical condition of WRH’s buildings ignores nearly $200M in capital investments and expansions in the past two decades. It also flies in the face of the “Accreditation with Exemplary Standingawarded to WRH on December 30, 2019 for 99.8% compliance with national standards for patient quality and safety.”

But let’s get to my real complaint. These letters are likely from the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation’s mobilization efforts. WEEDC (whose board the mayor sits on as a director) is funded by the City of Windsor and the County of Essex. Taxpayers of Windsor are paying WEEDC to lobby City Council despite the fact that mayor has gone on record that he believes that tax-payer’s money should not be used for advocacy (and BIA funds are not taxpayer’s money).

Honest question: if the Mayor wants to send a message to the Ford government, why doesn’t he lobby them directly?

“We needed a pitbull fighting for us and ended up with a poodle.”

Speaking of the provincial government, let’s sidetrack from city council for a moment.

The fact that the Ford government released its Ontario Budget in the same week of a contentious American election suggests to me that the government is not exactly inviting scrutiny. There is certainly a lot of problematic plans that the budget contains, including

And while Canadians were celebrating the triumph of democracy with our neighbours to the North, this was happening

Also, this is troubling:

Ok, back to Windsor City Council. I’m very much looking forward to a public conversation that is focused on addressing racism and anti-racism directly and not sideways via uptalk of diversity and inclusion.

On December 19th, it will be 6 months since the Mayor’s Windsor Black Lives Matter Panel and we are still waiting on some sort of action or report from its survey.

Weeknote Oct 27 – Nov 2 2020

The next city council meeting is November 9th. The agenda is 643 pages long. I have not read this document, but here are somethings that caught my eye when I skimmed it:

  • There’s a city response to a council question from 2019 about payday loan establishments. I learned that some cities have established buffer areas so that Payday Loan Establishments cannot be located near ‘body rub parlors’ and gambling establishments. Other cities restrict the number of payday loan establishments per ward. For example, in Kingston and Hamilton there’s only one per ward. In Windsor:

Oh yeah, there’ also this:

I find that the Mayor’s efforts to constantly signal to the Provincial government about consolidating our hospitals as tiresome. I was disappointed how much oxygen the issue took up in the recent Ward 7 by-elections and how also it took away from other necessary conversations during the recent telephone town halls for the rest of the city wards. The Premiere has already stated on the record that he would support the development so why does this campaigning from the mayor’s office continue?

I don’t know but I will say that all this activity suggests to me that the proposal is still on shaky ground and not a done deal. And that’s why I’m going to write to the city clerk to voice my disapproval of this motion on the grounds that it will cause the most harm to the most vulnerable and least mobile, that it accelerate sprawl beyond the carrying capacity of the city, and that the process to select the hospital’s location was not done in a way that lent confidence in the decision. You too can voice your opinion by November 6th.

I have lamented in several posts on this blog that natural coverage of the county of Essex is 3.5% — the worst in all of Ontario. I have since learned that this point of data from 2002 is no longer accurate. In 2012, the coverage moved 8.5% My new question is why hasn’t the measure of coverage not moved since 2012?

Compare and contrast:

Halifax’s striking central library was cited again and again Tuesday, as Windsor Public Library board members envisioned what a new central library for Windsor should look like…. Dilkens joined the board Tuesday. The first item on the agenda was electing a chairman to replace departing chair Peter Frise. Dilkens ran for the job because, he said, “I want to be a part of what happens with the central library and make sure we build something the community will be proud of, something that is iconic and something that is a modern library.” … “I want them to say ‘Wow, this is Windsor, this is community, this is inclusive,’” said member Margaret Payne, who also cited the Halifax library as the kind of library she’d like to see. It has a plaza-like atmosphere outside with chairs and tables. Its coffee shop on the fifth floor with expansive city views has been called Halifax’s living room. The inside is open concept with multiple activities on offer, from free yoga to puppet shows to musical performances. “There was everybody there — little kids, old people, everyone in between,” said Payne. “The vibe from that place was amazing.” Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk told the consultant he envisions a place where residents from all walks of life can access innovative technologies. It should be a source of pride for the city, he said.

Mayor envisions ‘iconic’ new central library for Windsor, The Windsor Star, Brian Cross, Jun 21, 2017

… to this

“It’s actually kind of exciting,” Drew Dilkens said of the early response to the city’s Library Central Branch Catalyst Project. The idea is that instead of the city going on its own and building a $39-million-plus standalone library, it could dangle the library out as a carrot to spur a much larger development project that would include the library as a tenant. According to Dilkens, there’s been a big mix of ideas from investors. The due date to make submissions is Nov. 27, with the expectation that council could be starting to choose among the best applicants in the first quarter of next year. …He said the successful project could combine the library with residential units, a hotel, commercial space, retail, restaurant, cultural space, commercial, or mixed uses involving classrooms for students at St. Clair College or University of Windsor, which both have downtown campuses but no downtown library….

The city is looking for at least a $15 million investment and a 30 per cent increase in municipal assessment from the project, with the expectation it will spur additional investment in the surrounding area. City solicitor Shelby Askin Hager said the city wants the central branch to be designed and located in such a way as “to acknowledge it’s an important piece of civic life and an important part of the vibrancy of the downtown core.” It also wants one or more complementary uses to increase the catalyst effect, and architecture that enhances the public realm and supports the people who live, work and visit downtown. The request from the city also talks about the importance of increasing the residential units downtown and reusing vacant buildings.

City seeks proposals for library-anchored downtown development, The Windsor Star, Brian Cross, Oct 28, 2020

Last year I was invited to share Some Thoughts in response to this prompt:

Over the past two years, Sidewalk Toronto has brought some important questions about cities – and our collective futures – into sharp focus. Some of those questions are new; others we’ve been asking for a long time. This is a collection of ideas to help build on and continue these discussions.

We asked contributors for a short, standalone description of an idea, policy, strategy, or best practice that might expand this conversation about cities. The people we asked met three basic criteria: a) people that have shown an interest in contributing to the discussion b) people that have a history of participating in public discourse and c) people with an explicit mission of inclusivity in their work. This list of contributors is not comprehensive or complete.

Within the collection there are conflicting ideas and world-views, which is exactly the point: to open up dialogue and create the largest possible tent to discuss what we want to see in our cities and spaces and how we might make those things happen. Our hope is that this convening will make space for more collaboration and conversation in the future.

I contributed a short consideration called PUBLIC DATA BELONGS IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY :

Three years ago, my family had the pleasure of staying in the coastal city of Aarhus, Denmark for several days. At the time my children were ten and eight and while we were in Aarhus, we were joined by my cousin and her four year old son. It was a rainy Sunday when we all met up. As the day passed, the children became more and more restless in our hotel room. So we opted to brave the rain and walk to the nearby DOKK1 – the world famous Aarhus Public Library. The library was our salvation. It was filled with generous spaces where the children could play while the adults could linger or sit and talk nearby.

This is how CityLab describes DOKK1: “The spaceship-like structure houses the library, a municipal service center for residents and newcomers where citizens can pick up their identification card, renew their passports, and register with the municipality; a cafe, ample space for families, public computers, three playgrounds and lecture halls.”¹ A library doesn’t have to be as magnificent as DOKK1 to be a refuge for a family who just needs a place and a reason to spend time together. It can simply be there — in the neighbourhood, open to the community and open to discovery as indoor public space. But a library can be so much more than a family friendly and affordable third place in a community.

Most of us understand that the public library has books, story time, and computers with printers. But only some of us know that the library also houses the librarians who can help answer questions beyond whether a particular book is available. What if your local branch library started to market themselves until they were known in the community as the source of information about, by, and for the neighbourhood? What if the local branch library became the resident’s interface for the city and a resource centre for local community activists? “It would be a place where you could drop in, tell a librarian your idea and be directed towards resources, experts, case studies, maybe even professors at universities who are into just that stuff. Wouldn’t that be great?”²

What if the neighbourhood library was the place to collect, preserve and share neighbourhood data? Many city residents don’t have the data literacy skills to manipulate and interpret data, and as this stands, most of the city’s open datasets are useless to them. Libraries could step in and teach those skills including those involved in the protection of privacy. It could be a fitting role for libraries “whose mission has always been to ‘collect and make accessible to the public information that the public has rights to read.’” ³

The public library could be more than indoor public space. It could be the home of public data that the neighbourhood both generates and understands.

[2] Catherine Porter, “The Boxer: a guide to getting in the ring with City bureaucracy” in “Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto”, Coach House Press, 2010.

I have long imagined the public librarian as guide and conduit to a city that is here for you to use. This week I found the closest manifestation to this vision: the UK charity Citizens Advice. It is so much more than a 211 service. For one, it uses the usage data of its service to generate policy considerations for those in the support sector.

And for all you out there who thinks there is much room for improvement in how we do our politics in Canada, I offer the following TVO Agenda interviews that I recently enjoyed.


Weeknote Oct 20 – Oct 26 2020

On Tuesday, October 20th we learned that the Ford government intends to remove the ability for a municipality to use ranked ballots. I’m a bit gutted about this.

There is still time to register for a 60 minute session on Monday October 26 at 7:30pm from Unlock Democracy about the success of Ranked Ballots in London, Ontario.

Where there is still time to save Ranked Ballots remains to be seen.

“During the past two weeks, 3,647 residents participated in five telephone-enabled town hall meetings hosted by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and all members of Windsor City Council.” The recordings of these town hall meetings are now on YouTube:

The results of all the polling from these Town Halls are also available. There are some interesting bits of information but there is no statistically valid basis to ground any conclusions.

The Windsor Star decided to give a “highly placed city hall official” the cover of anonymity so they could freely blame Federal MP Irek Kusmierczyk for two City of Windsor projects that did not receive federal funding.

When I moved to Windsor, I was shocked by which how many local officials openly expressed an *entitlement* to provincial and federal funding, including Conservatives. The City of Windsor didn’t win two bids for federal funding that it applied for. Rather than resolve to improve, our mysterious source tells us that the mayor and some city councilors are outraged at the lack of government interference?

(Knowing this, what does this tell us about the fairness of any competitive process that might originate from the City of Windsor?)

Judging by the whinging and petulance expressed by the direct quotations in this piece, I’m going to chose to believe that the source is the mayor himself. I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE all journalists from other media outlets in the city to ask the mayor if he was the source.

Or perhaps a journalist could confirm — as the Canadian Heritage ministry official alluded to — whether the application actually fit the program guidelines. Or we could consider that the proposal to spend millions of dollars to encase a streetcar in glass and place it beside a riverfront was never a good idea in the first place.

Here’s another idea. Maybe the City of Windsor should take responsibility for falling short, take the time to find out what were the characteristics of the winning federal bids, and take the steps to build its capacity so that its next applications will be stronger.

But that’s not going to happen. Because while Detroit might hustle harder,

On October 4th, Frazier Fathers made this observation:

Maybe this one is just me, but on my computer(s) Google maps has updated to have a green default colour on maps when zoomed out…

Here’s what a map of our green space should look like:

On a less depressing note, Essex County has a property called Green Dragon Woods.

Green Dragon Woods is a 32.8-ha site located along the Canard River, upstream of Canard River Scout Camp. The significance of this site is that it contains a number of rare species, including the rare Green Dragon, which grows on the floodplain. There is also hydrologic significance associated with this site. The site is composed of the channel and floodplain of the Canard River. The floodplain is approximately 200 m wide and contains oxbows and braided flood channels that provide flood storage capacity and reduce main channel velocity

Town of Amherstburg Water Master Plan Update & Environmental Assessment Final Phase 2 Report

Last week Toronto Life published an article with an Windsor angle: “I’m 25, live with my parents and own 20 rental properties. Here’s how I did it.

I have a personal aversion to talking about real estate and taxes which puts me at odds with almost all other adults I know. Rather that properly address the potential serious problems that comes to mind from the Toronto Life profile, let me draw your attention to one real-estate reform that sounds most promising to me:

Housing policy should be based on three important principles. First, we should value housing for its use-value, not its exchange-value. Second, housing policy should be part of community and neighbourhood building. Third, housing policy should promote social mixing and sharing, rather than stratification.

Let’s unpack the guiding  principles that  should apply to both house ownership and rental?

The first is that we should regard housing for its use-value. Too often we value housing for its exchange-value. We need to decommodify housing. We must build houses to provide ourselves and others with shelter, comfort, a place where we can grow as individuals and a base from which we can develop as full members of society. We must avoid regarding houses as instruments of exchange as is so often the case today with taxation incentives for investment in housing for short-term capital gain. Housing policy should not be influenced by the quest for wealth accumulation. Older people like me have benefitted from increased property values through no particular virtue on our part. But in the process we have frozen new home buyers out of the market. A fall in property values would  be socially very desirable. But the media keeps us focussed on how we must protect our unearned property gains.

Houses are becoming commodities to buy and sell and not homes. By John Menadue, Pearls and Irritations, 25 September 2020

And from waaaay back

If we really wanted housing to be profitable and plentiful, we’d tax owners on the annual rise in value of their property – a Land Value Tax. This has two benefits: First, you’re taxing a non-productive source of wealth, whereas income and corporate taxes can stifle innovation and risk-taking.

Second, because buyers and sellers know the tax exists, property values stop rising quickly. This makes it easier for newcomers to enter the property market, and for homeowners to buy and sell based on the desirability of housing.

It also means that investors make their profits from land not by pocketing its increase, but by improving its income value – collecting rent, increasing the quantity or quality of housing on it, pressuring government to allow better or more intensive use of the land.

When people can live fairly well, in large numbers, close to their places of work, the economy functions far better. When a few of us are making useless paper profits from our homes and the rest are stuck outside the market, it hurts everyone.

“A housing crisis of global proportions”, by Doug Saunders, The Globe and Mail, April 28, 2012

Weeknotes, Oct 13 – Oct 19 2020

Earlier this week, I plugged my nose and took a deep dive into the City of Windsor’s 20 Year Strategic Plan from 2016. In my post, I admitted that I could not find the 4-year strategic plan that we were supposed to be guided by, but a reader found it:

Our mayor has a B.Comm degree and an MBA. He knows that a strategic vision document doesn’t involve a group of city councilors making up a wish list of items that they then on vote with red stickers to receive funding every four years until 20 years have passed.

And yet, here we are.

“Telling our story”

This article Policing Protests: A Double Standard from the Council of Canadians captures this feeling of disconnect that many of us are feeling while we witness RCMP inaction in Nova Scotia. I have found that following public policy agencies has been even more useful than following local journalism for in-depth and meaningful coverage of complex issues.

Last week I had forgotten to duly note this important work of journalism from The Toronto Star

Public health won’t tell us which employers have COVID-19 outbreaks. But we obtained WSIB data to help paint a picture, By Sara Mojtehedzadeh, Toronto Star, Sun., Oct. 11, 2020

The CBC did a similar bit of reporting using similar methods in August of this year.

Sarah Mushtaq’s guest column in The Windsor Star asks some good questions

Which neighbourhoods have amenities (such as swimming pools — public and private — golf courses, tennis courts, libraries, science centres, art galleries, playgrounds, parks, green spaces, sidewalks, streetscaping, street lighting, bus stops, bus shelters, etc.) and which do not?

Amenity mapping, as Pitter calls it, looks at the type and number of amenities that exist in a certain area. In talks, she encourages residents to explore their own neighbourhood as well as two other neighbourhoods they may be unfamiliar with to compare and contrast the differences.

Amenities should be studied to eliminate inequities among local neighbourhoods, Sarah Mushtaq, The Windsor Star, Oct 17, 2020

Just before the 50 minute mark of last week’s episode of Rose City Politics is a short discussion of the recent telephone town halls for resident of the wards of Windsor to raise matters of concern with their councillor and their mayor. I bring it to your attention because I share the concerns of the hosts who point out that the software used is usually employed by political parties. Evidently, the polling questions asked in some of the other Ward meetings were much more political in nature than the Ward 4/5 event that I listened in on.

I have some other recommended reads:

A city with a strategic plan is the goal

It’s a cliché but a goal without a plan is a wish.

If that’s the case, the City of Windsor is a city of wishful thinking.

Tonight I spent a little time re-reading The City of Windsor’s 20 Year Strategic Vision just to remind myself if it still holds up as the weakest and the weirdest document I have seen the City produce in my own 20 years in Windsor. Short answer: yes!

You should read it. It won’t take long. The vision document is literally only 850 words.

I’m also incredibly confused why spending commitments over the 20 years was built from resident suggestions made at some ward meetings, an online survey, and a wish list from the city councilors sitting in 2015. You would think that a city’s 20 year plan into the future would be based on, say, evidence-based projections of the future. But not Windsor’s. In our 20 Year Strategic Vision, there’s only one expert projection of the future — and that is a projection that the city seeks to defy.

Evidently the City of Windsor is supposed to produce a series of 4-year Strategic Plans that fit into our larger 2016-2036 Strategic Vision. We’re at 2020 and I haven’t seen any evidence of a 2016-2020 plan nor any indication of a 2020-2024 plan.

So I reviewed The City of London’s current 4 Year strategic plan. Compared to ours, it is magnificent. It doesn’t winge that people are so negative. It just sets to work to make things better.

Also, this document actually resembles a proper Strategic Plan. Instead of wasting space with a word cloud, it has a clearly articulated Vision, Mission, and Values as well as 5 specific strategic areas of focus:

Did you see that? CREATING a Safe London for Women and Girls? London Ontario is a city that is committing focus and resources to improving the lives of its residents. Did you know that other cities in Canada actually apply time, money, and effort to better understanding that they can do to improve the lives of women? It’s true! Here’s a 2019 Report from Edmonton.

Anyway, back to strategic visions and plans.

One thing I noticed about the City of Windsor Strategic Vision was that it was developed with the assistance of a consulting group called StrategyCorp.

From what I can tell, the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan from London, Ontario was developed in-house but they do use a Strategic Plan Dashboard and reporting infrastructure that’s provided by Clearpoint Strategy. Anyone can look at the site to see progress so far.

I think it’s telling that Leading in Public Service is one of the Strategic areas of focus for the city.

It makes me wonder if the City of Windsor even has the capacity to make its own plans.

I wish it did.

Weeknotes, Oct 6 – Oct 12 2020

Jeewen Gill is Windsor’s new Ward 7 councillor with a share of 19.7% share of the vote.

Despite my misgivings, I did listen into the virtual Ward 4 & 5 Town Hall meeting last week. It was better than I expected and I did appreciate the ability to be polled about future budget priorities and traffic calming (although I thought the question around the hospital was a classic example of push-polling and shouldn’t count as serious evidence of support).

I don’t know whether it because of the undue influence of Rob Ford or because residents have a consumer-mindset when it comes to representative government, but throughout all the Town Hall, I had the impression that many residents see their councilor as a personal concierge to complaining to about city property or services. One woman from Ward 5 called to complain about cobblestone paving that she felt is difficult to navigate that Ed Sleiman had already personally inspected with her and had already helped arrange some degree of remedy. Ed’s response was, ‘if you see a problem, please call me.’

During the Ward 7 race, I heard a number of candidates who pledged 24 hour, full-time access for residents to call with their issues. Now, I completely understand why someone would rather call their councilor than to submit their issue to the 311 system. And yet, this state of affairs depresses me. I want my city councilor to be able to deal with long-term systematic issues and to hold the city to account when these issues aren’t being properly dealt with. I don’t want to reduce to the job of councillor to customer service rep. I want my councillor to help align the community towards a more participatory government.

When the sidewalk heaves because the city doesn’t require sewer pipes for leaks before they are installed in the ground, I want a systematic response to the problem.

Other news:

On October 4th, Frazier Fathers made this observation:

Maybe this one is just me, but on my computer(s) Google maps has updated to have a green default colour on maps when zoomed out…

To a degree this is almost greenwashing the map face. When you zoom in it does remove the “greenery” to more accurate satellite determine greenspaces at a glance it make things greener than they are.

The next day, the article Springtime Everywhere: In prioritizing clarity and smoothness in its representation, Google Earth supports how we are consuming the planet was published in Real Life and addresses similar issues.

This is your periodic reminder that “Essex County has less than 3% of its land area in forest cover and scrubland. This is the lowest percentage of any county or regional municipality in Ontario. In addition, less than 2.5% of Essex County’s original wetland area still exists (1986).”

When are the municipalities of Essex going to start addressing and redress the lack of natural cover in the county? When are we going to try to move the dial on this matter? We have experts in Freshwater Restoration Ecology at the University of Windsor.

Next Monday (October 19th, 2020) is the next City Council Meeting.

  • The agenda is 472 pages long.
    • There’s a short report on the viability to establish a curling rink in one of the city’s active arenas
    • A company called GDH is set to be awarded an RFP related to food and organic waste collection (“At its meeting of January 15, 2018, Council received a report from the City Engineer regarding an update on the Waste Free Ontario Act as it relates to food and organic waste. The Act will require the City of Windsor to provide curbside collection of source separated food and organic waste to single-family dwellings by 2025.”)
    • “In July, 2020, the City issued an Expression of Interest (EOI#114-20) to determine options that exist for partnerships within the public sector to meet the City’s goal of processing organic waste resulting from future curbside food and organic waste collection. This EOI further requested submissions to consider the processing of biosolids from wastewater treatment operations to explore synergies between existing City operations.” (Biosolids == poop!)
    • There’s a report from the Integrity Commissioner that read as very vague to me
    • There’s a 72 page drainage report about Marentette-Mangin Drain.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Weeknotes, Sept 29 – Oct 5 2020

Today we should find out who is the new councillor for Ward 7 once polls close after 8pm.

On Friday, the Mayor suggested that Ward 7 residents should exclude candidates who don’t live in the Ward and suggested that it was somehow related to their position on the matter of the location of the proposed hospital. This is a good time to remind people that previous Ward 7 Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk did not live in Ward 7 until he won its council seat. I wonder which candidate(s) the mayor is trying to throw under the bus?

And I don’t want to put too much weight to it, but doesn’t this statement from the Mayor sound like a dig to the younger candidates running in the race?

“Don’t forget, you’re electing someone to sit around the table and spend your tax dollars,” he says. “This is an $850-million corporation, this is not a student council at a high school.”

There’s no city council meeting today on account of being the last day of the Ward 7 by-election. I’d love to report to you about what happened about last council meeting (for example, what happened to the request from the City Diversity Committee??) but there are no timestamps on the video of last council session and the whole thing is too time-consuming and painful to navigate otherwise.

There’s a larger problem here. Local media might write of potential conflict before a council meeting but unless there is something novel or newsworthy in the outcome, very rarely is there a media record afterwards of what happened at council. (If you have ever tried to research local issues, you might recognize this pain of always uncovering half-a-story). Occasionally a journalist will livetweet council but no one here does it consistently and rarely for the whole council meeting. Minutes from Council Meetings come out the next meeting so there’s frequently at least a two week delay in any written record of how a vote went down at council. I find that the whole thing makes it hard to follow local issues.

On September 30th, it was said that the Windsor Police Services nor its Board still have not given a substantive response to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association over its use of a database of COVID-19 health records.

Also on September 30th the City announced that it would be holding Virtual Community Consultations via a telephone town hall format, mere days later

To accommodate pandemic guidelines and maximize resident outreach, a series of five telephone town halls will occur in early and mid-October. Residents in each ward will have an opportunity to hear a presentation from the Mayor and Ward Councillors and participate in a question period regarding constituent and city-wide issues.

These unique telephone town hall sessions are technologically enabled and will automatically allow ward residents with a home telephone/landline to participate without requiring any action on their part: At 6:30 p.m. on the date of each teleconference, landlines will receive a call and residents can automatically join the meeting just by answering. Those residents who do not maintain a home telephone but have a mobile phone are asked to pre-register their mobile no later than two days prior to their ward town hall date via on-line registration:

DateWards (two per call)
Tuesday 6 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 4 & 5
Wednesday 7 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 8 & 9
Thursday 8 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 2 & 3
Tuesday 13 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 1 & 10
Thursday 15 October – 6.30 p.m.Ward 6 & 7

While I appreciate that this is safe approach to engage with the public in these times and that the phone could be argued as more accessible technology than a computer, the ability to listen to a presentation and then have only the possibility for a question to be selected for a response does not feel like consultation to me. A city is involved in so many aspects of daily life – from parking to climate change to electrical rates to noise bylaws to bus routes to social housing to social media… I feel that the format of the town hall is inherently going to be a conversation that’s all over the place with the brashest voices being the only ones brave enough to be heard.

If the city was really interested in consultation with its residents, it could use the same platform that it uses for feedback on its Sewer Master Plan – called Bang the Table – and survey residents to ask them what they need from their city and what they already appreciate.

On Tuesday, September 29th, I joined a zoom call update of the #TimeToTopple Report from Unlock Democracy. While I waited for the call to start, I grabbed these slides from Toronto’s RaBIT’s Introduction to Ranked Ballots:

What I heard on that Zoom call was inspiring.

The next meeting from Unlock Democracy is going to feature representatives from London Ontario who are going to be there to share their experiences with running Ontario’s first ranked ballots election. I will keep you posted.

I have been trying to re-balance my media diet as of late and have been finding that subscribing to news programs from the CBC, NPR, and the BBC as podcasts has helped tremendously in broadening what I learn about beyond my immediate interests.

I also have been subscribing to the RSS feeds of a variety of journalists. I’ve been finding Dale Smith’s Roundups of Canada’s Federal Political scene as particularly good.

Thanksgiving is next weekend and the Ontario government is leading us into disaster. The communication strategy of the Ford government is going to kill people.

That seemed to be the case at Friday’s provincial COVID-19 news conference, when reporters repeatedly asked if families should gather for Thanksgiving next weekend.

The press conference came just as the province issued a news release saying that it is “pausing social circles” and advising Ontarians to “allow close contact only with people living in their own household.”

Instead of echoing that advice, Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and other health officials all gave responses that seemed to contradict it.

Ontario’s ‘dog’s breakfast of guidance’ around COVID-19 sowing confusion, distrust, some experts say: Friday’s news conference contradicted earlier directive to restrict contact to own household, Adam Carter – CBC News, October 02, 2020

Clear communication is an essential part of a pandemic response and health communication experts agree: Ontario is doing a terrible job.

But even more damning is this headline: Many experts advised Ontario for months to boost COVID testing capacity. Sources say they just didn’t want to spend the money. The lack of testing capacity has rendered contact tracing so ineffective that in Toronto its Health Unit has opted to restrict contacting only those who have received a positive test. This means that we don’t have a clear understanding of what the real COVID numbers are in the province.

We had months to be ready for this second wave and the Ford government is trying to address the lack of staff in LTC facilities only now.

When Toronto has to go into lock down three weeks from now, I don’t want to hear that it was the fault of young people who chose to go to (or work at) bars that remain open. I want the blame to be squarely placed on a government that clearly doesn’t want to be responsible for the health of its people if it requires spending money.

Weeknotes, Sept 22 – Sept 28 2020

There’s a City Council Meeting today at noon. The agenda is pretty light. It includes the question of whether used clothing bins be regulated by the city and potential relief from 2019 property taxation due to extreme poverty and/or sickness.

While the agenda is light, there are nine delegates lined to up to speak to By-law142-2020A BY-LAW TO AMEND BY-LAW 123-2020 RESPECTING TEMPORARY REGULATIONS REQUIRING THE WEARING OF MASKS OR OTHER FACE COVERINGS WITHIN ENCLOSED PUBLIC SPACES, including the organizer of a recent anti-mask rally among other characters. From what I can tell, there might be one pro-mask delegate among the nine and if so, I just want to thank this person for being a good neighbour.

I’ve also noted with interest that

That the Diversity Committee as part of the Diversity & Inclusion Plan, REQUESTS to review the hiring practices of the City of Windsor to ensure there are no barriers to employment.

There are still several committees that this request has to get through before it can become actionable.

Only days ago, being a player any time soon in making electric vehicles seemed preposterous. Ontario’s manufacturing heartland, despite its proud automaking history, had been passed over for new investments in the cars expected to take over global fleets. There wasn’t much confidence among industry-watchers that the junior partner in a continental market, next to an increasingly protectionist United States, could easily change that.

Then came this week’s announcement that Ford Motor Co. will make a roughly $2-billion investment in converting its Ontario facilities to make EVs, mostly by retooling its Oakville, Ont., plant for five new lines of them.

Courtesy of Ford, Canada’s EV moment has suddenly arrived. Are governments ready for it?, The Globe and Mail, September 26 2020

My family is the process of moving from being a two-car family to a one-car family (anyone want to buy my 2000 Ford Focus station wagon?). When our remaining car needs to be replaced, we are going to buy an electric vehicle.

The City of Windsor should consider amending our building code to recommend at least one 40A 240V circuit for new garages. That’s not my idea. I got it from this video:

Windsor could and should be more receptive to EVs.

From Windsor’s Community Energy Plan (July 2017):

Electric vehicle (EV) adoption is starting slowly in Ontario. Approximately 5,650 EVs are currently registered in the province, and as of 2014 only account for 0.05 per cent of Ontario’s overall passenger vehicle population. In Windsor, the number of electric vehicles is even lower at 0.01 per cent of all passenger vehicles. The Ontario Climate Action Plan sets a target of having 5 per cent of all passenger vehicles on the road in 2020 be electric.

Recently, when 12 fleet vehicles were set to be replaced the matter was focused on whether council could opt to buy local. I wonder if it’s too late for the City of Windsor to pivot from SUVs to EVs.

It’s almost as if The City of Windsor forgets that we are in a climate emergency.

Weeknotes, Sept 15 – Sept 21 2020

On Monday, September 15th, City Council held a meeting. Unfortunately, the archived video is not time-stamped, which means it is very difficult to find out, for example, Did measure 8.17 about city support of community gardens pass?

[Answer: yes and you can hear so at the 1:49 mark]

My colleague, Carina Luo is Geospatial Data Analyst at the Academic Data Centre of the Leddy Library. She recently made this map of the walkability of the city of Windsor.

Recently, I have been taking to spending small amounts of time researching more about how the City of Windsor is investing in infrastructure to reduce flooding in the city. To do so, I have been spending some time reading the City of Windsor’s Weathering the Storm site where one can find the Windsor Sewer and Coastal Flood Protection Master Plan.

Starting today (September 21st) and ending on October 19th, the City and Dillon Consulting will be engaging the residents as part of a Stormwater Financing Study. I’m not entirely sure what is going to be asked for public comment, but what I very much hope to see is some sort of incentive program to encourage property owners to naturalize more of their land and to invest in more green infrastructure as a means to encourage more water absorption into the soil.

Both Kitchener and Mississauga have Stormwater credit programs to encourage rain gardens and permeable paving for residents, and a variety of mitigation strategies for commercial and industrial partners.

Compared to these strategies, the City of Windsor’s efforts to reduce storm water in our sanitary systems seem paltry.

Addendum: Melissa Munro pointed out on twitter that Edmonton has had stormwater levies since 2003.

Last week I suggested that community leaders who are seeking a more diverse set of city council members should endorse the adoption of Ranked Ballots in the City of Windsor.

This week, The National Observer has run several articles about ranked ballots including this explainer, What is a ranked ballot anyway?

The use of ranked ballots in the U.S. jurisdictions was largely repealed after it led to the election of women and people of colour, acccording to FairVote. By 1962, only Cambridge in Massachusetts still used multi-winner ranked choice voting. But it has made a resurgence in the States (where it is known as ranked choice voting, or RCV) in local and regional votes in the last 20 years.

National Observer, What is a ranked ballot anyway? Alastair Sharp, September 17th 2020

I also found their article, What happened when voters in London used ranked ballots? particularly encouraging.

In ranked ballots, candidates seek to win the second- and third-choice votes of their competitor’s supporters, which advocates in general — and some participants in London’s 2018 election in particular — say encourages candidates to appeal to a broader set of constituents.

Shawn Lewis, London’s first openly gay city councillor, said ranked ballots “created an interesting dynamic where I feel like candidates across the city were actually talking to each other more about city-wide issues rather than just being bubbled in wards and focused on getting to that 33 per cent of the vote to win the race.

“It took away people’s ability, I feel, to be one-issue candidates, and if they were one issue, they very quickly fell to the bottom of people’s rankings,” he said.

National Observer, What happened when voters in London used ranked ballots?? Alastair Sharp, September 18th 2020

It is important to talk about the future we want. I want a future that includes ranked ballots for Windsor.