The new city council has weathered its first storm of disagreement and still managed to pass its plan to build a bike-friendly city over the next 20 years, in spite of opposition from some of the older members of council.
This bodes well for the necessary storms ahead, because if this group is to complete its mission there will be storms. The only bad sign would be if the status quo prevails and new storms don’t arise.
Hopefully, this summer is being spent parsing next year’s budget plans and working out how to tackle some of the major headaches that have arisen over the past few years: the ungainly size of the security budget for police, emergency and fire services whose expenditures represent 45.6 per cent of all tax dollars collected; the lack of respect for business and citizens shown by contractors when it comes to tearing up our streets and getting repairs done quickly and efficiently; the lack of planning that results in ugly civic routes to and from the airport. These are just a few of the issues, hangovers from the past, that need fixing.
Even more important is the vision for the future. Let’s move the railways that are cutting our town in half, stalling traffic and forcing urban sprawl when that city centre land could be put to better use for housing and transportation. Let’s get on with the businesses of opening up Portage and Main to re-institute life in the downtown core once more. Let’s show some progress on dealing with homelessness. Let’s get behind the First Nations folks who want to develop Kapyong Barracks (I’ve seen some tentative plans – this could be the showcase of the city) and ensure that the feds get the deal done and stop stalling.
Mayor Brian Bowman made an inspiring speech at the annual Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce State of the City luncheon back in March. Some of the promises he made that day included Wi-Fi accessibility on all public transit, a transportation management system that is the envy of the nation and a housing first policy that will eradicate homelessness.
All great stuff, but there was more.
The budget consultation process, he said, will be realigned to include public engagement. “Residents will be empowered through grass roots involvement to meet the specific needs of their own specific neighbourhoods.” This will be done through the use of online web activities, social media and public open houses.
Wab Kinew was appointed to head a task force called the Mayors Indigenous Advisory Circle to deal with Aboriginal race relations in the city.
He also announced a second task force led by former CAO Anita Stenning. This task force will “help shape the Winnipeg partnership that is critical to build a more modern, thriving city, with an overview that looks toward our big-dream vision and away from short-sighted quick fixes while we grow our capital region to one million people in the next 20 years.” A big job, but one I am sure she is equal to. So far, the committee has been unable to meet although it expects to get underway shortly.
All these pronouncements and announcements are positive and uplifting, but now citizens are getting restless, wondering when they are going to see things get started. The mayor has been extremely active in the community and his winning smile is a camera magnet. Unfortunately, it creates an impression that photo-ops are all he is doing. I know better than that. Let’s stand behind him as he moves his agenda forward. He can’t do it without our confidence.