A Message to Winnipeg's Next Mayor
This fall, Winnipeg will elect a new mayor. Even if Katz runs, I think it’s pretty unlikely that he will get back into office. Having worked on two of the Katz campaigns, I can say confidently that he has done a good job, but his City Hall is starting to falter and it is time for new blood.
What a lot of politicians don’t understand is that, as young as you may be, as shiny as your shoes are, or as cute a slogan as you have; the people don’t trust politicians. Too many have come before this latest super-pack of lawyers and exotic entertainment agents. Too many have lied to get into office. Too many, have broken their bond with the people.
I, for one, am very disillusioned with politics. It seems like very little ever really gets done. Politicians are so out of touch, and continue to govern themselves based on old principals that no longer apply. As a person that has participated in civic, National, and International politics, I feel like I have studied enough to make specific requests. So here they are; my (let’s get started) requests for the next mayor of Winnipeg. 1) Get the tax system under control You know why people hate paying taxes? It’s because we pay for all of these public services, but don’t even get a receipt. Nobody understands where their money is going. Sure, generally speaking, we understand, but really, does anyone even know our tax code anymore? Has any Mayor ever actually read this important piece of the puzzle? We live in the information age, and taxes are a prime example of government not being aware of it. Break down the info into a simple set of charts that are searchable. Give the people the exact numbers, and if you’re going to push a new tax on us, get creative with it. Give the people their say. I often dream of being mayor and coming with a $1.00/pay cheque tax. Each quarter, the city takes to social media and votes for where they would like the money to go. Each of the potential selections are offered based on needs identified by City Hall. Top 3 choices, get the money. As a citizen I love this! I get to be heard, this uses social media effectively, and I understand what’s going on with my money. Remember, government is not supposed to operate at a profit. Taxes are meant to pay for what we need, and not a dollar more. Surpluses mean that our city can get a nice bonus like a new water park or something. 2) Marketing Stop spending millions on a slogan, and $65,000 on a logo. Once again, this is the 21st century, and no one has any business spending that kind of money on marketing materials anymore. Hold local contests online, and I guarantee with the talent that we have in this city, you’ll find your next marketing campaign. If City Hall gave the winning company some major shine off of it, pay wouldn’t be necessary. That’s great publicity that so many marketing companies crave. 3) Don’t Dance We don’t want a mayor that sits in his ivory tower making decisions that affect our lives, without you first letting us know what’s going on. Once again, you could use that newfandangled invention called The Internets to produce a low cost, dummy proof video, that explains what’s going on at City Hall. Make a vlog, and inform us. Be transparent, use social media properly, and you’ll gain the trust of the people. 4) Drop “The Voice" While you’re making a vlog, or actually before you even get into office, please drop the fake voice. Every politician does it. You’re trying to sound important, but really you sound unapproachable. Originally, the voice came about to shout over large crowds and command attention way back when, given that there were no mega/microphones. "Hear ye, hear ye” days are long gone. Just stop it, you robot. 5) Admit What You Can & Can’t Do I know, you know, many know—that the streets of Winnipeg are going to be a mess until some really exciting new technology comes along. It’s the price we pay for living in the climate that we do. Just admit it already. Then while you’re at it give a realistic outlook for many public services. We’ll appreciate the honesty. 6) Crime You’re not the one breaking into cars, or shooting people. Saying a mayor is responsible for crime in a city is like saying everyone in Winnipeg wanted the Human Rights Museum—it’s simply not an accurate statement. However, you’re the top dog, so you have to make this a top priority. Gord Steeves cost us our community cops years ago (which is why he won’t be getting my vote). It’s time to reverse that horrible decision. Bring back those service stations, the beat cops, have them stop with the ridiculous ticket quotas and bring back community development. As a kid, I remember the cops stopping by my grandparent’s home just to say hi. They knew each other on a first name basis, and as a result more information was shared than there is today. I want those days back. Instead of making “building relationships” a slogan, actually allow the cops to do it. 7) Marijuana Become an advocate of legalization, or decriminalization of weed. It’s a plant! It’s not a drug. Pure and simple, get ahead of this thing. The benefits are huge. Legalize, tax, and stop wasting our resources on arresting pot dealers. You just look foolish, when a real crime is committed. 8) Digitize the Non-Essential Jobs That guy holding the slow down sign doesn’t need to be there. What a waste of money. Put a digital sign at the beginning of road work with red and blue flashing lights if a vehicle is going too fast. We even have signs for the people holding the signs now. 9) Route 90 Start the process towards the City’s first freeway. Now I know, this is a hard nut to crack, but here’s my idea. Since many of the military homes along Kenaston are abandoned, relocate the remaining families to the military homes in St James. Now, make 3 lanes on each side thru-lanes (with zero traffic lights), two lanes breaking off to the left and right which will connect with the roads like Grant, Inkster, etc., then build walking bridges. Those connecting lanes must be long though, so that connecting traffic doesn’t flow into the freeway. Until we have the money for technological solutions, put live personnel on traffic cameras to make sure there is very little congestion (see point 9 for the the resources to hire that staff). There you go. Lag to Inkster in under 15 minutes. With digital speed signs that set limits based on conditions we could make the speed limit 100km the entire way during summer months, and the efficiency of the traffic system would improve. 10) Tech Incentives A lot of Winnipeggers don’t know that Facebook wanted to bring a data farm to Winnipeg. There are various reasons why it didn’t happen … all of them short sighted. Tech moves the world forward, and we need to offer incentives for these companies to setup shop in Winnipeg. Portage Place would make a pretty epic tech haven for Canada. We have enough malls, don’t we? 11) The Homeless I don’t have the answer regarding what to do with the homeless situation in Winnipeg, but I’m sure someone closer to the problem does. It’s time that we deal with the elephant in the room. Mr. Mayor, I know you like headlines. Imagine this, “Winnipeg Becomes First City to Solve Homelessness in Canada”. Sounds like a pipe dream? Maybe you’re not right for the job then. Think outside the box. 12) Set Simple Goals or YOU’RE FIRED! You are guaranteed job security for the next few years. That’s more than most get. Set monthly goals that are easy to understand, and if you don’t meet them, you’re done. This is how the real world works. I want to see monthly progress reports, with report card style grading. If you fall under a certain percentile, you’re simply not good enough for the position. 13) The Festival One of my fondest memories of Winnipeg will always be the Portage Avenue street festival. It really brought people together. Having it on Portage Avenue was insane though. Run it down Waterfront and into The Forks. Bring back that sense of community, and develop it even further to include some sort of announcements about the year to come. Maybe the State of the City moves to kick-off the festival. 14) Green Incentives We could be leaders in so many ways. Let’s make green energy one of them. Solar costs are considerably lower than they were just two years ago. Hybrids on our congested streets would be a step in the right direction. Backyard/balcony gardens are a great way to go green. Whatever the change, create real incentives to drive us in the right direction. 15) Snow Removal This one is more for the citizens. If we have more snowfall than expected, another service must be cut to deal with the issue of snow removal. It’s that simple. They don’t just print money at City Hall. That said, we need a mayor that is willing to get creative with the issue, and possibly develop more modern solutions. I’ve heard Geomelt works well. Imagine what we could come up with if we just asked.
16) Transit & Bikes Rapid transit not moving along Pembina is insane. It’s a band-aid solution to a large problem. If it’s not feasible to build it properly, don’t. It’s that easy. Why these issues aren’t dealt with prior to starting a project makes zero sense to me. Truth be told, we need more transit specific routes, but we don’t need bikes on the road. Expand out the sidewalks for bike lanes. If any bike were a car on the road, they would get a ticket for going too slow. It’s absurd that we haven’t figured this issue out yet. On Pembina there are bike lanes in the street, and the sidewalk, pretty much eliminating any argument that bikes are on the roads for safety reasons. These two issues seem to constantly cause a problem for each other. Let’s deal with them in a practical way that won’t cost us a ton of money. As a last piece to the puzzle, let’s get water buses more prevalent, and in the winter, ice buses. These are two routes that would not hinder traffic in anyway, but are virtually untapped. Really, I should be able to get from St. James to the U of M via the river routes. Why are our river buses more tourist driven than functional? There’s big opportunity here. 17) The Hospitals Civically there is a not a lot that can be done, but I’ve been in an emergency room in Winnipeg. We all have. There is plenty of room for improvement. Health care is a vital service, and deficiencies should not be tolerated by the public. 18) Clean-up Youth offenders, criminals with charges that don’t warrant jail, and many other of society’s victimizers should be cleaning up our streets. The dirt of winter as the snow melts, the graffiti that could never be considered art, litter and cigarette butts all need to be cleaned up by someone. Let’s get a better program in place and clean-up our city. 19) Better Parking Solutions If you live downtown, you should be able to park downtown for free. That’s simple. Instead, we’re scaling back this service. Major routes such as Portage and Pembina should not have parking on the street. Academy is a nightmare. Enough is enough. Parking on side streets or in parking lots only. Our city would flow so much better. These are just some of the ideas I have off the top of my head Mr. Future Mayor. I’m no God of Politics, but these seem like some pretty rational suggestions. Most of all, just don’t be full of shit, and we’ll get along just fine. Now someone, anyone; inspire me to vote!
WRITTEN BY JAMIE HALL Writer, Entrepreneur & Fan of Superman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada