Brian Bowman for Mayor: A First Look
300 people strike up conversation in the Winnipeg Art Gallery foyer, as the auditorium is set-up for the first rally of a new Mayoral candidate’s five month run at City Hall. There’s a general buzz of excitement in the air. The crowd of family members, lawyers, Winnipeg Chamber Board members, volunteers, media, and the generally curious feel like they finally have a candidate that everyone can get behind. His name? Brian Bowman; a 40-something lawyer with a wife, two young kids, and a ton of charisma.
The WAG is quite suitable for the rally, and not just because Bowman is on the board. It’s a classy, but yet humble venue, which are two words that one could easily use to describe the candidate. There was a sort of innate vulnerability to the man as he spoke about his accomplishments, which is a welcomed change. Some saw it as awkwardness up at the mic, but I rather enjoyed it. I’m tired of politicians with “that voice”. Talk to me like a human being, and you will have a piece of my respect.
I immediately sat in the back row of the auditorium. I wanted to be away from it all—the hoopla. Turns out though, that I sat in the press section. To my left, a young reporter, slightly shy. To my right, a well known reporter that has seen it all, and views everything through rational-to-a-fault eyes. Given my history with politics, and how rational I too have become, I want to sit in the back row and watch Bowman do his thing without any pre-conceived notion or pressure to be just as amped up as the rest of the crowd.
Truth be told, I know very little of the man. I know he’s younger than most, has gone to battle over privacy in the legal arena, and embraces technology. Three wins right out of the gate. However, I don’t know his platform, and he’s an unproven entity so I’m reserved. As I sit and await the rally to start, I’m actually quite excited to see if we get the candidate we need, or the candidate we deserve.
David Angus, Prez of Winnipeg Chamber, opened up the event with a rah rah rah style speech. I felt it was a little long, but served it’s political purpose to rally the troops. I am not a troop. About ten-minutes later Bowman entered the auditorium to rousing applause. I remained hopefully.
As he stood at the mic, I realized two things immediately; Bowman has a very different air about him, and he’s not quite comfortable in his role yet. Both, I’m okay with (for now). Immediately, he loses me though. There was a line pretty early in his speech where he referenced that Winnipeg needs to be a city that can handle 1,000,000 people, but that the city [in it’s current state] can’t seem to handle the winter. He then goes on to talk about brown water. The comments got some laughs from his supporters, many of whom have clearly had a conversation or two with the candidate about these issues. You know the talk. You and your friends pick up on a subject and joke around about it constantly. Your thinking becomes polarized. Bowman actually seems to put the blame for these two critical issues on City Hall—not exactly what I’m looking for in a “new” candidate.
Here’s why I say that. It’s May 14, and we’re all still freezing. In fact, we’re coming off one of the worst winters in a century! Katz and City Hall cannot affect the climate. If Bowman had been in office, this winter would have taken him by surprise just as much as it did our current administration. Many days, it was too cold to have workers out in equipment. Then, once the roads were clean, we were hammered by another major snow fall. Again, and again, Mother Nature gave it to us good. It’s not like Bowman has a secret deal with the Mother of all Mothers. This winter would have happened, the budget would have been set, and the issues would have existed no matter who was in office. I blame the people for these issues just as much as I blame those in charge of the problems. If winter is worse than expected, City Hall must take money from something else to pay for snow removal. This means something gets cut. Money doesn’t grow on trees (as every generation before mine loves to say). The people have to be realistic about their expectations.
Then of course, there’s the brown water, which would have happened as well, no matter who was the top dog at City Hall. This problem exists in most major metropolitan areas, and it’s not something you can really fix entirely while being fiscally responsible.
Then, the dreaded road talking points started. We need to fix our roads! Yes, we do. However, it is impossible to do so with the money and climate we have. Our roads are mostly a mess because of the ground thawing and freezing underneath. Sure, there are tweaks we can make to the system, but we simply don’t have the funds or tech to really tackle this issue. I was hoping that the candidate would come out and say, “We need to look at new ways of solving the problems that plague our roads”. Instead, Bowman almost seemed to act like no Mayor before him has tried to fix the problem. Here’s a secret, that shouldn’t be a secret—every Mayor has tried, all have failed. Until technology solves the problem in an inexpensive way, we are stuck with pot holes, sink holes, and bumps. Get used to it, or move to Nevada.
All three of these issues being presented in Bowman’s first rally really grinds my gears. They’re BS talking points, that (I guess) if you don’t take longer than a few seconds to think about, are great sound bites. However, with Katz, scandals like Shindico, ethics, the Arizona home, and fire/paramedics construction have more fuel. Oh, and not to mention, they are actual issues that Katz could have controlled. I cringed a bit as Bowman hammered on the dirty water, roads and old man winter topics. I also know that I’m rationally never going to agree 100% with any candidate. These are all opinions flying around out there. That’s all we have, after all.
The candidate then used a word that I love—transparency. Kudos to Bowman for wanting a more transparent City Hall. I hope it happens. It also looks like this could-be-mayor is going to use social media and the web to communicate with the citizenry, which is obviously a point in the win column for me. These two issues cannot be taken lightly. A truly transparent government is coming whether politicians like it or not. Bowman taking the bull by the horns would put us ahead of the curve, which we rarely are. The use of social media to talk to the people is an enormous leap forward too. Our current City Hall tried, and failed. Bowman seems to have a better handle on social, so I think we’ll make progress with him as the top dog. We may get to have our say regularly, which after all, since the Mayor works for us, makes all kinds of sense.
All-in-all, I’m still not convinced, nor am I inspired, but, I do see hope. Generally, I think Brian Bowman is a good guy. He kind of has that “Mike” quality, from Suits. I don’t know enough of his platform to form a well rounded opinion yet, but I plan on following his campaign closely. I’d love a chance to sit down and talk with Bowman one-on-one. As my base of people continue to ask who I think should be the next mayor, all I can say currently is, not Gord Steeves. Over the years, after working on the Katz campaign twice, a Federal election here in Canada, and the Obama campaign in 2008, I have heard the same talking points over-and-over again. This has made me very rational when it comes to politicians. So far, I’m split on Bowman. While he does seem to be the most promising candidate, just because all of the apples are bruised, but one isn’t as bruised as the rest, doesn’t mean I’m going to eat it.
Time will tell. For now, I remain optimistic. Brian Bowman is for transparency, and knows his social media. He doesn’t put on “the voice” and he seems like a guy that doesn’t step on the backs of others to get his way. If the only negatives I have to point out are some talking points that get the average citizen excited, I’m okay with that.
WRITTEN BY JAMIE HALL Writer, Entrepreneur & Fan of Superman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada