Winnipeg: We’ve Got a Problem

The Changed Waterfront Skyline

The Changed Waterfront Skyline

With an election still one year away the evidence continues to mount that our current Mayor, Councillors and the executive policy council is dysfunctional. The most recent evidence of this dysfunction is the case of Phil Sheegl and the alleged improprieties of the land accusation and building of the much-needed fire halls. This debacle has cost Reid Douglas, Fire Chief his job and our Chief Administrative Office has also resigned although it is a little harder to feel sorry for Phil Sheegl given the expected $443, 000 payout that comes with his resignation just prior to the release of the Audit around the Fire-Hall Project as indicated in an article written by Bartley Kives. Many have speculated that with these two individuals gone, it will be hard to hold anyone accountable for the findings in the audit. Let’s be certain the overall responsibilities of what happened fall directly on the Mayor, City Council and the Executive Councils’ shoulders.
If this issue was a one-off we as citizens could be more tolerant of the problems I’m sure the Audit will identify, but this is a pattern; a pattern of dysfunction. We have the building of Investor’s Field and the entire process around site selection, transportation issues, cost over-runs and the cost of infrastructure development that is now required in order to address these council-inflicted problems.

We have the issues of Urban Sprawl and the costs related to our cities addiction to building new developments that generate little tax revenue but require huge costs to our Municipal Government for the infrastructure required to address the water, sewer and transportation needs that come with developments built on once fertile farm land. The traffic issues and need for massive expenditures in road construction is a result of our Urban Sprawl. The City’s portion of taxes per house in these development incurred for infrastruture will not cover the expenses certainly put us in a financially difficult position. However, as indicated by study after study as pointed at in my past blog “Creating a Greener Winnipeg” the need for Winnipeg to reduce Urban Sprawl is required to reduce the capital costs associated with increased infrastructure development in sparsely populated areas that do not generate the revenue required to support the burden put on Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments to provide services to these new communities. Creating an Environmental Property Tax Credit for the development of more densely populated communities using existing infrastructures would not only increase revenue to the City of Winnipeg but decrease expenses as well. The benefit also would be our ability to create more cost-effective public transportation systems to reduce our negative impact on our natural resources and environment.
Another smaller example is related to the downtown development, Centre-Venture, the Winnipeg Parking Authority and the Mayor, councilors and members of the executive policy committee lack of understanding, communication and as a result discontinuing a Residential Parking Program for the West and East Exchange Districts. We are into month two of this change and on any given night on the streets allocated to those few residents who have purchased those $100.00 a month parking permits to allow them to park on streets where on any given evening the streets allocated for residents to park on are full as Winnipeggers choose not to use the lots available to pay when attending events or businesses in the area. Let’s be clear all these issues are related. The continuation of Urban Sprawl results in an increased need for parking in the downtown as people must travel from the suburbs to take advantage of the great cultural and sporting events offered in the downtown area. The Residents in the Area walk to the events. Many Jets fans park as far away as Waterfront Drive and then walk through the tunnels to MTS Centre. This isn’t as much to do with not paying for parking as much to take advantage of the restaurants in the area as well as it is quicker to make the 30 minute walk then to be stuck in the traffic-jammed downtown as they depart MTS Centre.
The Winnipeg Parking authority speaks of “consultation with stakeholders in the Exchange District to address the transportation and parking issues within the area. The Winnipeg Parking Authority has developed an East and West Exchange District Residential Meter Permit as a pilot project.” There was no agreement in these so-called consultations and having attended said meetings I did not hear any support from any of the stakeholders for the proposed Pilot Project that took away a previous program designed to support residential development which is what our City needs to reduce Urban Sprawl and increase revenue. The needs of the Residents of the Exchange Area were completely ignored. Residents who requested opportunities to speak to the Mayor, to meet with Mike Pagtakhan or just wrote letters hoping for a response to their concerns were also ignored. Council just sits there hoping the issues just go away as the business of everyone’s life makes it hard to spend time advocating to a Council and Mayor that don’t listen and clearly believe they operate outside any accountability for their decisions to the taxpayers of Winnipeg.
There has to be accountability for just this snapshot of examples of the dysfunction of our Mayor, Executive Policy Committee, Councillors and the departments that either institute their poorly designed vision or act independently in ways that are detrimental to our city and pocket books. I know it is easy to say these issues may not relate to me directly but we can’t continue to have a Mayor and City Council that is not accessible or accountable to the citizens of Winnipeg and continue on a development path that is not only financially unsustainable, is contrary to any urban planning research but perhaps most importantly; environmentally just the wrong thing to do.

About jameswhoddinott

My novel 'When Eagles Dare to Fly' represents my belief that good will always triumph over evil and by developing who we are on the inside we will find our way. My newest novel 'The Fates' was released earlier this year that examines a society that discovers immortality. I have a blog called an 'Author, blogger and his musings' which talks about my writing, political issues as well as other areas of interest like education, art and photography,
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