To start the new year, the Rose City Politics panel asked themselves, 'What advice do you have for Mayor Dilkens and City Council in 2017?'
2017 should prove to be an interesting year for the Mayor and City Council. We have seen over the past year the personality conflicts and ideological differences among the Councillors and Mayor. Unfortunately we have also seen a council that has at times taken their differences and run to their ideological corners. Going forward, I'd like to see all Councillors and the Mayor be less entrenched in their positions and listen to each other a bit more. I hate to break it to all of them, but just because they were elected doesn't mean they are now right and knowledgeable about every issue that comes before them.
Economically Windsor has been handed a great opportunity and window to move the city forward. Like it or not, our economy still revolves and hinges on the Auto contracts with our remaining assembly plants. Fortunately we have managed to get an agreement for another four years that has already resulted in increased hiring and investment. This presents us with the opportunity to decide if "Diversifying our Economy" is an actual policy or just an great talking point during an election campaign. So far it would appear our only ideas we have for accomplishing that goal is to count on taxpayers funded sporting events that basically give us our own money back.
To truly move the city forward we have to look at what different economic opportunities we have already in our area and build off of them. Those include our burgeoning high tech organizations who could use some additional funding from the city since their "families refuse their requests" as some on council suggested. Our University and College has many great people doing research and development in various fields outside of automotive, and many current local businesses are advancing their technology and innovation that can and must, be encouraged and expanded. Yes these types of things are investments that sometimes will need taxpayer money. Investing in our future and doing so in a fiscally responsible way are not mutually exclusive of each other. Councillors who use the pre packaged excuse of "if we invest in that, it will mean we have to raise taxes" are growing quite tiresome. There always seems to be enough money around for Councillors pet projects, or to add another trough to our new City Hall.
Great ideas and new directions don't have to cost a lot, or appear at first to be grand great ideas. Continuing to throw taxpayer money at grand schemes that do cost a lot and return little, come from small minds with narrow visions of what Windsor is, or could be. The best future comes from looking and building on strengths from within, not from the outside. So Namaste dumb-asses, get back to work.
- Don Merrifield
Fourteen years as a Windsor realtor, musician, father of one son Miles, politics-run financially conservative yet socially liberal. Merrifield Jr. was a candidate in the last municipal election in Ward 3 for city councilor, a cigar aficionado, motorcycle enthusiast and lover of travel.
In the first two years of his first term Mayor Dilkens has mainly continued the policy approach of his predecessor. The Mayor's political approach is where he differs most from Eddie Francis. My advice to Mayor Dilkens is to reconsider both.
Windsor needs a politically skilled activist mayor with a more ambitious agenda than what is on offer now. The recent hires at Fiat Chrysler have given the city valuable economic breathing room. We should use this moment of prosperity to lay groundwork for the future. The city can fill a crucial role if the Mayor chooses to use his influence to coordinate and encourage cooperation between institutions, industry and all levels of government.
Mayor Dilkens has what it takes to go down this road but first he must mend fences with council and the community. The strained relationship between the mayor and his perceived political opponents has become increasingly entrenched. While responsibility for this problem is shared by many, Mr. Dilkens is in the best position to change the channel and focus on cooperation instead of competition. His sometimes petty and sneering tone only serves to inflame his opponents.
The progressive minority on council should focus on bringing their best arguments to the community and broaden their base of support. Stay focused on the issues and make the case for change with discipline and passion, and look for opportune moments to make positive change.
The conservative majority on council should consider whether voting as a bloc in support of the Mayor's narrow, tired agenda serves their own and the community's best interests. Is it going to be enough to tell their constituents at election time that they know how to keep their heads down and do as they're told? Windsor deserves better.
- Doug Sartori
Doug Sartori is a technology consultant in Windsor/Essex, a partner at Parallel 42 Systems and the President of Windsor Hackforge. He tweets about lots of things including politics, video games, and history.
Abandon your designs on continued sprawl and focus exclusively on the core. Take a tour of Detroit and ask how their revitalization happened. Learn how they focused on their core (including more than downtown). Start paying more attention to the underlying work and decisions that have lead to the astonishing amount of new construction projects. We always hear about Dan Gilbert, but learn about how Roger Penske lead the way by paying attention to the unexciting basics such as cleaning and infrastructure.
This brings me to Number 2: No more shiny new objects. First we prepare the core for living. Unnecessary underpasses leading to an aquatic center won’t be what saves it. Start listening to the voices in our community who have spent their lives learning and living urban planning and renewal. Start recognizing that you are witness to a groundswell of a far more educated electorate who you dismiss at your peril and at Windsor’s.
My advice to one specific Councillor who draws far more criticism than the others: own your votes, stop the double talk of supporting a cause and then voting against it. Don’t claim to support issues like the Auditor General and Pelissier Parking and then vote against them. As a well respected person once told me, the public will forgive almost any bad act a politician commits with one exception. They will never forgive being played for fools.
My final advice is start preparing for 2018, which I predict will be the most important election in Windsor’s history and the year where I predict our mayor will have to deal with a 6-4 split the other way.
- Mark Boscariol
Husband, father, and entrepreneur. Owner and/or creator of Tecumseh Roadhouse; Walkermole; Bedroom Depot; Chanosos; Oishii; Buda; Flying Monkey; Automatic Slims and Windsor International Film Festival. Advocate for Windsor and supporter of all things good.