A Message to the Next Winnipeg Mayor (2018 Edition)
Updated: Aug 26, 2018
About 4 years ago I wrote a message to the next Mayor. There was very little question that it was going to be Brain Bowman, and in this election season unless a viable candidate comes along with a name brand there is no question Bowman will win a second term.
In that first letter, I wrote what I and many would like to see the Mayor accomplish. The details are in the linked article, but here’s the overview:
Get the tax system under control
Stop Spending So Much on Marketing
Don’t dance, just be honest
Drop “The Voice” and talk like a human
Admit what you can and can’t do
Bring back community and beat cops
Advocate and become a leader for marijuana legalization
Digitize non-essential jobs at City Hall
Expand Route 90 into a freeway
Give massive incentives to bring tech companies to Winnipeg
Get aggressive with a program to combat homelessness
Set simple goals
Bring back the Portage Festival to Waterfront down through the Forks
Offer green incentives to downtown businesses willing to fill their rooftops
Fix transit and bike routes (with a particularly aggressive water and ice transit program)
Become an advocate for the Province to strengthen healthcare
Better clean up initiatives
Better parking solutions
Much of this list stands today. Bowman doesn’t use “the voice”, I’ve heard rumblings of expanding Route 90, and there have been tech incentives offered on a small scale. So, Bowman gets some points there.
Now, to be fair, Bowman has fulfilled his promises:
Opening up the dog park downtown
He’s working hard to open up Portage and Main (more on that later)
He’s increased infrastructure spending (more on that later too)
Wifi on buses seems to be a thing now
Making City Hall more transparent
He maintained his property tax promises (albeit with cuts in 2018 that many consider crucial services like cops)
He reached collective bargaining agreements with essential services
Bowman continued to show support for reconciliation
And I’m sure there’s more. However, one only needs to look at Portage and Main as well as reconciliation to understand that the people of Winnipeg didn’t care much about policy, and they often don’t. Sam Katz was elected Mayor for the same reason as Trump, name brand recognition. Bowman was elected Mayor because he was a fresh-faced, young guy, who held a job many can’t hold as a lawyer. He talked the talk and walked the walk.
This is why Portage and Main reopening has been contested by citizens, RFPs, transit, and just about anyone else under the age of 70 who don't simply long for the good ol’ days. Policy doesn’t drive our civic elections. We keep voting for an image. Now granted, many elections all over the world are won by image, but isn’t that the problem? When the headlines point to a dog park as one of your biggest accomplishments you know there is something not quite right.
So, we’ve talked about Bowman’s accomplishments. Let’s talk failures:
If you live or work downtown you’ve noticed the work Sam Katz did to clean up the area has been all but reversed. I know, because I live and work downtown and things are much worse now than they were 3 years ago. I have been involved in numerous incidents just because I’m walking. Graffiti is terrible, panhandlers are everywhere, and frankly, we’re starting to get a bit “East Granville” again.
Cuts to police, which is probably linked to the first point.
Many freedom-of-information requests have been denied despite the new openness.
He’s increased fines, fees, and water rates.
DUDE IS A LAWYER and he missed a critical date to file a lawsuit related to an incredibly over-budget sewer plant.
Somehow, Bowman over-looked bringing up a critical option of the Sterling Lyon Parkway extension to affected property owner's attention.
He presented a logical plan for cuts to transit after the Province cut funding but then reversed it because in this rare case he listened to criticism and instead increased parking rates downtown. I know, the rates are still lower than many places but many places have more reasons to go downtown.
He and his band of merry men have no idea how to estimate the costs of infrastructure projects. Just look at the new police headquarters. That’s probably why he’s committing to “record” spending. He needs the cushion.
Those collective bargaining agreements I spoke of earlier were needed but made at great long-term cost.
He has not dealt with the ridiculous system of ticketing in this city that is based entirely on profit, and by all expert accounts have nothing to do with safety.
So, if I have so much raging opinion, why don’t I run for Mayor? Well, in short, I can’t. I’ve already been at the center of a political scandal that cost me everything once despite anyone looking into the matter finding out the entire mess was literally the media and NDP run amuck. Go ahead, keep criticizing people for art and fiction and see what happens—no free thinkers will ever run and you’ll be left with much the same.
Running for public office means giving up a lot, including opening yourself up to a narrative that is not necessarily true (or at very least, skewed for click bait). I also have gotten a lot of tickets, worked in nightclubs (and no one wants to admit that sex is a part of our daily lives), I smoke weed, I love the word fuck, and I have no filter. Evidently, all of that means more than good ideas and actually getting things done. Also, evidently people are hypocrites because most of you have gotten tickets, partied in nightclubs, love the word fuck amongst others, smoke weed, and have no filter.
Trust me, if I had run for civic politics (sans-party) and that “whore” scandal had come up you would have seen a very different response (with the genuine apology still intact, because I meant it). You can only do so much when Justin Trudeau is threatening party cuts if you don’t resign.
So, that aside, I have some suggestions again. While everything I previously asked for stands, here are some new asks of our next (and probably current) Mayor.
1. Get Creative to Make Revenue I lobbied for ride sharing and the dismantling of the taxicab board. I got both. I didn’t necessarily ask for Uber. If this city is going to survive, it must adapt to the changing landscape. The City should get into the business of ride sharing. We have a lot of talented programmers.
Need to cover the costs of infrastructure? Then make money from infrastructure.
There are other areas we can make money too. Transit is bleeding so allow more creative advertising. Drop the wifi idea. It would have been good in the 90′s but is unnecessary now. Have a stand to buy newspapers, headphones, drinks, etc. inside the bus. I don’t know, I’m just spitballing, but I do know there are other ways to make money aside from taxes.
2. Get Real Portage and Main is more important than cops? Street parties are more important than balanced budgets without cuts? If you’re going to be transparent, be transparent. It’s not hard. You make it sound hard, but it’s really not. If you’re really the Mayor of transparency go Facebook Live while at work or funnel all services through a cloud-based public portal.
3. Address Downtown It’s bad out there. Put some ideas from the previous letter into action and work to combat the issues. I know cameras are controversial but it’s time to monitor downtown. Women and many men don’t feel safe at night. I know, I’ve done a poll on networks more expansive than City Hall’s. A lot of people are afraid and it’s getting worse.
4. Campaign Reform Move to a low-cost form of campaigning that takes 30 days and we don’t have to be exposed to needless advertising. It’s really simple to do with the internet and all.
5. Cap Urban Sprawl We do not have the infrastructure to accommodate our sprawl. The more roads we build to new places the less money we have to fix our existing roads.
6. Stop the Insanity I know this is not a popular position to take, but admit you’re providing band-aid fixes to the roads. Until some new technology comes along that’s exactly what we’re doing because of our harsh winters. The definition of insanity … well, you all know it. Why are you expecting miraculous road repairs with the same tech? I don’t get it. We live in a place of extreme temperatures. Our roads are going to suck until …
7. Stop Bringing in US Companies Did we really need Target or Lowe’s when we have Walmart and Home Depot? It’s fine to bring in US companies but you have to limit the reach or we will have a balloon economy. When the US fails so will we. Prop up local and Canadian businesses unless the US companies can show a way to integrate local besides job growth. Yes, jobs are important but if there is a need the supply and demand chain will create the jobs.
8. A Recipe for Success Set deadlines for your goals, and don’t make promises. Make sure you cover 2 large and 1 small goal every month. Report what you have done on City authorized social media. By being clear you won’t have so much disappointment.
9. Talk WITH Winnipeg I organized a petition that had the city and province take action and never heard a constructive word from you or your people. You were constantly present at street parties but of the 6 people I sent to talk to you, none had a meaningful conversation about anything because you were b-line for your buddies. On social media, you and your team almost never engage in conversation with real concerns. I get that you don’t have the time to talk about everything but start somewhere. You are the mayor in 2018. You need to start acting like it.
10. Stop Relying on the Media Again, it’s 2018. Be forward thinking. I know this developer named Joel, and he can throw together a city initiative app for voting in no time flat. You would have stopped this ridiculous P&M discussion long ago if you just talked directly with us. I know this sounds like #9 all over again, but it’s really an idea to involve the people in policy that will greatly affect them. Thinking about cutting buses or raising parking costs? Let us vote on what we would prefer. $12m to open P&M or to provide more camera coverage downtown? Let us vote on what we would prefer. Jeff Browaty has it half right. We should vote on P&M but shouldn’t have to wait every 4 years for an election in order to be heard. Provide the FACTS for each side of the debate, vetted by 2 independent sources with separate ideologies and then a vote option on an app. You could even get people to check the boxes under each paragraph to make sure they understand and read both sides before voting. If they check too quickly you know they aren’t actually reading. Yes, people need that kind of safeguard.
I could go on and on here, but I know most people already tuned out. This blog is long after all. Just please, do better, because if you don’t then you’re going to force a revolution and those are messy.