Saturday, August 24, 2013

War of Words?

If you read yesterday's Life with Lynnie (LwL) entry, you'll know that I wrote about a lawsuit being filed against the Ambassador Bridge Company (Bridge Co.). 

You'll be happy to know that this will be the last day I write about this issue.  At least, for a while!

As I wrote about yesterday, the lawsuit was not filed by the group that my daughter P and I belong to.  The group fighting the government about the boarded-up houses problem in P's area.

The lawsuit was filed by those who own property on Indian Road, here in my city, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Here is a link to an article published by The Windsor Star entitled, War of words erupt as bridge company responds to $10M Indian Road lawsuit

In case you can't access the link that has photos, I decided to reprint it, here.  It says:

The Ambassador Bridge blamed the City of Windsor on Wednesday for blocking the demolition of more than 100 vacant bridge-owned properties in the west end.
The bridge, responding to a $10-million lawsuit filed by neighbouring homeowners, accused the city of using residents as “pawns” in its efforts to prevent construction of a  twin span.
The city, led by Mayor Eddie Francis, “has tried very hard to stop any improvements near the Ambassador Bridge,” the bridge said in a statement.
“Hypocritically the city government has continued to demolish structures and close roads to improve the city-owned tunnel (a $30-million plaza expansion) at taxpayer expense. We say this is unfair treatment.
“The residents near the Ambassador Bridge have been pawns in an attempt to handicap the bridge and prevent us from ever building a replacement bridge.”
Bridge president Dan Stamper told The Star Wednesday he hopes conversations with city officials can end the showdown and find a solution that will satisfy neighbouring residents.
“The lawsuit identifies what has been going on for a long time,” he said. “It’s time for the city and the bridge to get together to fix this issue and stop struggling with each other. This may end up being a good thing.
“The problem is the mayor has made it clear he wants us to drop efforts to build a second span and they will approve the houses coming down,” Stamper said. “We cannot do that. We have obligations. We think we can open the doors to do good stuff for the community. We want to pinpoint how that can happen.”
A lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court by lawyer Harvey Strosberg is seeking $10 million in punitive damages — described as the largest amount in Canadian history — on behalf of homeowners on Indian Road and Rosedale Avenue.
The homeowners allege that the bridge purchased dozens of homes in the area, boarded them up and left them to rot, turning the neighbourhood into a “slum.”
The bridge company has 20 days to file a legal statement in response to the lawsuit and Stamper said its lawyers will do so.
“We will clarify the facts that are wrong,” he said. “We will defend the lawsuit.”
Strosberg said the bridge company, owned by Michigan billionaire Matty Moroun, should have kept the 120 homes occupied and in good condition until it received government approvals to expand its operations and build a twin span.
Ignoring their upkeep is a violation of the city’s building code and property standards bylaw, he said.
The lawyer bristled Wednesday at the bridge company’s attempt to deflect responsibility for the Indian Road controversy.
“Even today (the bridge company) doesn’t realize it has an obligation to conform to the Windsor minimum standard bylaws,” he said. “They have an obligation to restore these houses. Every day that goes by, the company will pay for its continued nuisances. We will soldier on and not surrender to its media strategy.
“I look forward to seeing Dan Stamper, Matty Moroun and (the bridge company) in a court room in front of a jury. The sooner, the better.”
City solicitor George Wilkki said the bridge’s attempt to blame the city has already been rejected by the courts.
In 2011, Superior Court Justice Richard Gates ruled the city’s actions to block demolition were not “conspiratorial.”
He ruled the city’s community improvement plans and heritage studies which partially prevented demolition on Indian, Rosedale and other nearby streets were years in the making and reflected good public policy.
“These allegations are old news,” Wilkki said. “They are rehashing that this is all the city’s fault, but it’s not the city’s fault. The blight is caused by 120 houses boarded up by” the bridge company.
“There was neither blight nor abandoned houses in the area until the company started buying them.”

Sigh... I guess you can tell it's quite a problem.

How grateful I am that some of the issues I wanted to write about, were addressed in that article.

I agree that the Bridge Co. should not have purchased properties prior to obtaining governmental permission to expand the Ambassador Bridge plaza and obtain permission to build a second (2nd) span.

However, I am aware of at least one case where a homeowner proceeded without permission and the City of Windsor did not treat the homeowner the way they have treated the Bridge Co.   The homeowner was not punished for proceeding with their desire to build, before permission was granted and permits were issued, even though they violated building laws.

So, I'm not sure they are truly treating the Bridge Co. the way they have treated others.

Since I had attended one of the first (1st) meetings held in Windsor, about the issue of a new border crossing, I believe I knew from the get go that the Bridge Co. would have a problem.
At that meeting, I heard that all other border crossings in our Province of Ontario, are owned and managed by our government, except the Ambassador Bridge, here in Windsor.  It was discussed, by those who manage those crossings, that the Bridge Co. was charging much more to use the bridge, than any of the other border crossings.

Right from the beginning, I knew that the government wanted to build a bridge that they would have control over.  Unlike the current one, owned and managed by the Bridge Co.

So, it wasn't surprising to me that our local municipal government was refusing to allow the Bridge Co. do to anything that would improve the current border crossing.  In my opinion, the City of Windsor was either working hand in hand with our higher levels of government, or being directed by them, as to how they were to handle the situation.

Just so you know, it was around that time when I e-mailed and submitted a suggestion to utilize an unused rail tunnel, to create a system similar to the Chunnel, being used between England and France.  My suggestion would have allowed trucks and/or anyone who wanted to use the system, to drive onto a train, shut off their engines (no pollution, this way!), and be safely railed through the tunnel to the USA and/or back again, with no vehicle collisions.

At that time, my idea was rejected.  However, I recently heard that our government is now considering this idea.  It would cut down on traffic jam ups, and allow for safe crossing without pollution, as I mentioned earlier.

In any case, right from the beginning, I realized that even though the Bridge Co. had purchased homes and properties in the area my daughter P lives in, they would not be able to use them for the purpose they intended.

No way would the City of Windsor support this, when our Ontario government and even our Canadian Federal government wanted a new border crossing.

So, in my opinion, I believe our various levels of government contributed to the problem at hand.

Which clearly tells me that the problem the residents have been facing has more to do with the government, than with the Bridge Co.


Well, you see... when the Bridge Co. acquired those homes, they had an obligation to keep them in good condition, just as the article above states.  If they weren't kept in good condition, our local municipal government had an obligation to ensure the Bridge Co. followed our city regulations.

At our group meetings, I brought up this issue several times.  And, even though our group confronted our Mayor and city council, nothing was ever done.

If you owned a home in another area of Windsor, and let it fall into decline, a work order would be issued.  The owner would have to repair the property to bring it up to standards.  Or, tear it down.

In my opinion, this is where our local municipal government let our people down.  They elected to not issue any work orders for any of the dilapidated boarded-up homes.

So, who is to blame for the problem?  In my opinion, both the City of Windsor and the Bridge Co. 

However, I must say that the majority of blame should be placed on the City of Windsor, for they indeed did what the article states.  They allowed the residents and property owners of the area in question, to be used as pawns in this problem.  And, to suffer, in many ways.

The City of Windsor did not do what they are legally compelled to do.  Place work orders on properties that are in disrepair.

The thing that hurts me most, isn't the political controversy.  The thing that hurts me most, is realizing that not the Bridge Co., nor any level of our government has cared about the plight of those affected. 

Neither put God first.  If they had, the people affected would not have been hurt.  The issues that caused all the trouble would have been peacefully resolved.

Even so, God will deal with them.  Just as He told us He would in Amos 4:6-13, "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name."

It's heartbreaking to me, that even though God has allowed nasty things to happen, no one has returned to God.  Not the Bridge Co.  Not our government.  And, not even some of the people, affected.

Yes, we need to speak up, as God told us to.  Yes, we need to do whatever we can to have issues resolved.  But, ultimately, God will deal with the issues.

It's heartbreaking to me that there are many who will have to suffer, because God allows people to have freewill.  But, this is what God has granted us.

No matter what man does, God is in control.  Not me.  Not you.  Not anyone.  Just Him.  Always.

Until next time...

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