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Posts Tagged ‘Winnipeg Issues’

The Premier has stated that he prefers a Disraeli Freeway rehab plan that allows some of the bridge lanes to remain open.  Aside from the obvious fact that pretty much EVERYONE wants some of the lanes to remain open if possible, I think it’s clear that the Premier has no intention of showing leadership on this issue.

The best way to ensure that traffic flow is not severely impeded during construction is to include the twinning of the Louise Bridge as part of the Disraeli project, with a new Louise span built before any Disraeli closures take place.  This project enhancement would increase the capital costs starting in 2010 by approximately $5 million per year.

The city of Winnipeg cannot afford to combine the two bridge projects without significant cuts to its other capital commitments, and such cuts are unlikely.  The Doer government can add the Louise Bridge to the city’s Disraeli project by committing $4 million a year from 2010 until 2014, for a total contribution of $20 million*.

If the Premier is truly concerned for the economic and safety issues that will be created by a full Disraeli closure, he will agree to contribute funds for the Louise Bridge.  The 100,000 residents of Northeast Winnipeg deserve a guarantee from their Premier that we will have adequate transportation options during the Disraeli project.

* – The amount of $4 million is based on several possible plan alterations, including postponing the active transportation bridge and possibly delaying Disraeli construction until 2011 if safety permits.  There are quite a few options available to the city to increase its Disraeli expenditures by $1 million per year along with the provincial contribution.  This also assumes a Louise budget of $100 million for moving the bridge to the East, while a reconstruction at the current location would probably cost around $60 million.

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There has been some discussion in this city about the Smart Bag Co. building (1884) at 145 Pacific Ave.

See Robert Galston’s posts:
Don’t act surprised
A silk gym on a parkade’s head
Saved for now

An application was made for it to be demolished, in order to make way for a 3-level parkade and a high-performance gym.  Sport Manitoba decided to alter its proposal, sparing the heritage property for the time being.  This was in exchange for the building becoming a Grade III listed property, rather than Grade II, Grade III being far less restrictive for developers.

Rendering

This drawing (not a final version, so there is definitely room for some good ideas) seems to indicate that only the façade of the 1884 structure will be kept.  The demolition of the Smart Bag Co. building is phase two of the project, so it may not happen if the funding doesn’t materialize.  However, this doesn’t change the fact that the city appears to be using the Grade III listing for the preservation of façades as opposed to buildings.  Of course, it is possible that City Council will reject the application for demolition of the Smart Bag Co. building, if the demolition is sent to Council for a vote.  (see the RRC addendum below to understand my wariness of the process)

The three grades of listed properties

Here is the description of the three protection grades, from the City of Winnipeg’s Planning, Property and Development Division:

Grade I buildings are Winnipeg’s outstanding examples of architectural and historical merit, which are to be preserved in perpetuity. Restoration and maintenance of the entire interior and exterior of these structures are the only types of work permitted. In general, alterations, deletions, and additions to these buildings are considered unacceptable.

Grade II buildings include the majority of Winnipeg’s heritage stock. Sympathetic alterations and additions to the exterior and listed interior elements of these buildings may be allowed in order to maintain the economic viability of the structure. In certain instances, the adaptive re-use of listed interior elements may be permitted.

Grade III buildings have been identified as moderately significant heritage examples worthy of listing. Suitable exterior alterations and modifications may be permitted. There is usually no restriction on interior alterations.

Very few buildings in Winnipeg are listed as Grade I, including the Walker Theatre, the Grey Nun’s Convent (St. Boniface Museum), the Union Bank Building (home of the planned RRC expansion), and the Upper Fort Garry Gate.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Union Bank Building; the Red River College expansion should need to follow very strict guidelines due to the building being a National Historic Site (which should carry more weight than its Grade I designation).

But as a Grade III property, what can happen to the Smart Bag Co. building?  Here’s what The Historic Buildings By-Law (1474/77) says about Grade III:

(c) Grade III; the objectives of which are:

(i) to prevent demolition, removal, alteration or repair of the building, erection or structure unless and until shown to be necessary to the satisfaction of the Designated Committee in cases of removal,
alteration, or repair and Council in the case of demolition, and

(ii) to regulate any necessary demolition, removal, alteration or repair of the building, erection or structure so as to preserve the special architectural or historical interest as far as possible, and

(iii) to record, or preserve where possible, components deemed to have special architectural or historical interest prior to, or in the course of, any necessary demolition, removal, alteration or repair.

So what does this mean?  It means that the building can be altered to preserve its architectural or historical interest as long as it meets the approval of the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development.  Grade III structures can be demolished or removed through a vote of Council, while the Grades I and II require delisting or at least a downgrade to Grade III.

This means that as long as the committee is satisfied that there is a satisfactory level of preservation involved extensive changes to the interior and the exterior can be approved.  The big question in my mind is where the line is between alterations and partial demolition.  I could not find an explanation of this in The Winnipeg Building By-Law (4555/87).

Façadism

A trend that has emerged in the past decade in development is façadism, where the façade of a historical building is preserved while most of the building is demolished.  This has become popular in Europe and in some American cities.  The best example of façadism in Winnipeg was actually caused by a fire, as opposed to a wrecking ball: the St. Boniface Cathedral (1908).

In 1968, the cathedral caught fire and was mostly destroyed.  Rather than demolish the ruins, which were still quite impressive, renowned architect Etienne Gaboury designed a reconstruction that preserved what had remained after the fire.  The end result is a unique landmark that is probably one of the best examples of façade preservation on earth.

The St. Boniface Cathedral is a much different case than most instances of façadism, as the structure was not demolished by choice.  Most orphaned façades are on purpose.

Some people view façadism as a compromise between preservation and development.  I personally view it as development that pretends to preserve history, while in reality takes life out of the buildings and leaves empty fronts.  The parts of a heritage building that are demolished are gone forever, and the remnants look more like movie set pieces than living history.

I’m not saying that I am condemning façadism in all its forms, but I am saying that it isn’t preservation when almost all of the building is demolished.  In fact, many preservationists view façadism as a danger to their efforts, because what looks at first like a compromise is really a loss for preservation.  A project that takes a historic structure and leaves only its façade is demolition and new development, not restoration or preservation.  In addition to the loss of history, façadist construction is often very unappealing, in my opinion:

Façade #1Façade #2Façade #3

Can this really be called preservation, when it more closely resembles a living death?  I’m not sure the designers and builders of the original structures would appreciate these frankensteins.

Originally, I believed that an attempt to convert a structure such as Smart Bag Co. into a parkade or a sports facility would require delisting, as the only retrofit I can imagine would include the removal of most of the original structure, perhaps preserving the façade alone.  I see now that delisting is not required; however, City Council approval of partial demolition is required.  That is the life and death cycle of a Grade III building; I wouldn’t call it protected — I’d call it buffered.

Middle ground

So is there a middle ground between façadism and preservation?  Is there a way to redevelop a heritage building, rather than only saving the front or forcing it to stay exactly the same?  I’m not sure.

On the one hand, it’s important to preserve our city’s history by keeping the best examples of the past in their original state.  However, if we save all of our historic buildings just as they are, we’ll end up with two hundred beautiful heritage buildings, but half of them will be empty.  Our city cannot sustain the complete preservation of so many buildings in their original states.

(a beautiful photo from Bryan Scott – Winnipeg: Love and Hate)

One proposed project that is receiving some criticism is the renovation of the Masonic Memorial Temple (1895) on Donald.  The existing historic building has very few windows due to its former use for Masonic rites, so the plan that was approved by the city includes a glass addition that will protrude from the North Wall and hang over the sidewalk from the second floor.  Is this an innovative way of improving space in a historic building, or the defacement of a treasured landmark?  I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion.

Corner rendering #1

Corner rendering #2

Can an existing building of historic value be redeveloped?  I think it can be.

The best example of a redevelopment (as opposed to pure façadism) is the Red River College Princess Street Campus.

(Images taken from http://www.architecture.uwaterloo.ca/faculty_projects/terri/sustain_casestudies/princess.html)

Five historical buildings were partially demolished (a bank from the 1960s was demolished with some materials reused), while their fronts were preserved and restored, and large portions of the original buildings were retained.  In addition, a neighbouring warehouse building on William Avenue was completely renovated and joined to the structure.  I find the interior of the RRC building to be more interesting than the façades, because I’ve always had an interest in the more utilitarian parts of heritage buildings.

Here is an excellent diagram that’s part of an article from Canadian Architect:

(More info on the original buildings can be found at http://www.heritagewinnipeg.com/advocacy/redRiver.htm)

In essence, Red River College’s Princess Street Campus is part façadism and part something else.  And it’s that something else that is very exciting.

Rather than removing the existing buildings entirely, the structures were joined together along with new construction to create a blend of old and new.  The original buildings by themselves did not meet RRC’s needs, and they had been vacant and neglected for thirty years.   So by redeveloping as opposed to completely demolishing, the end result was far more palatable than façades alone.  Not everything was saved, but the Grain Exchange trading floor is there, as are some original vault doors.  Doug Corbett, George Cibinel and their team came up with an architectural design that gave the old buildings a second life and created a building that respects the history of the Exchange District.

Perhaps the solution to our preservation problems is to choose the best option for each situation.  For Red River, the vacant buildings on Princess were reused as much as possible.  For the Former Union Bank Building, full preservation is the best idea.  So what about little old Smart Bag Co.?  Hopefully the final proposal will take a page from architects like Etienne Gaboury and the team at Corbett Cibinel; with a little daring, we can have something the breathes new life without snuffing out the history.

RRC Addendum

Note: this might be an error on my part, but it appears that the Red River College Princess Street Campus was constructed without proper delisting of two Grade II buildings, as their alterations were more extensive than a Grade II listing should allow.  The Historic Buildings By-Law still lists 160 and 164 Princess St as Grade II, which I believe means that these changes should not have been allowed.

(b) Grade II; the objectives of which are:

(i) to preserve the entire exterior of the building, erection or structure
and such of its interior elements as are specified in the listing, and

(ii) to ensure that all repairs thereof are appropriate to their special
architectural or historical interest, and

(iii) to prevent or regulate demolition, removal, alteration or repair of the
remainder of such interior in the manner described in subsection
5(c).

The three Grade III buildings may have had proper approval by Council (I haven’t checked at this point) for their partial demolition, but I don’t know how permits could have been given for 160 and 164 without reclassifying them as Grade III or delisting them.  What does this mean for the Former Union Bank Building?  Can its Grade I interior be altered without proper historical appropriateness?

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From what I can tell, Plan Winnipeg was intended to bring a long-term vision to city council, and to function as a guideline for all future development. Reading it nowadays, it leaves me the impression of being a “feel-good” document, one that aspires to a greater city, but leaves out too many concrete details and any legislative teeth.

So if there is going to be a new Plan Winnipeg, what will it look like? Will it be another feel-gooder, but this time with some clout? I don’t think so.

Most Winnipeggers live in the suburbs and drive to work. Most Winnipeggers shop at big box stores like Walmart and Superstore, and rarely venture downtown for shopping or entertainment. So when Mayor Katz and the majority of city councillors vote on a new long-term plan for Winnipeg, it will most likely be based on the desires of the majority of Winnipeggers. This means that while there will be some mention of active transportation (Councillor Clement has been a big supporter of this for years) and rapid transit (certainly a favourite of Councillor Wyatt), there won’t be any plan to dismantle the sprawling suburban developments. Most Winnipeggers are happy with the way things are.

So how do we make sure that the Winnipeg of the future is better than the Winnipeg of today? I think the answer is simple: finding some common ground.

It seems that most of us agree on what we want in our lives: we want to provide a good life for ourselves and our families, with clean air, safe streets, and fun things to do. There are a few issues that cause honest disagreement, such as pro-life vs. pro-choice, or Coke vs. Pepsi. But almost everything else seems like a disagreement of ends, while in reality being only a disagreement of means.

I want to be able to drive my car without using fossil fuels, while Mike from Don Street Blog wants to take the bus. Meanwhile, Mark Cohoe from Bike to the Future prefers active transportation, which I’ve never been tough enough to do during the winter. We could spend all day arguing that our way is the better way to save the Earth, but in the end we’d all be happier if I could drive without polluting, Mike could take transit in winter without too much waiting or freezing, and Mark could ride his bike on dedicated trails and lanes. And if the rest of Winnipeg could choose from these three options, they’d be happy, too.

In the future, some of us will live downtown, others will live in the inner ring around downtown (the original City of Winnipeg along with old St. Boniface), and around half of us will still be living out in the suburbs of Greater Winnipeg. On top of that, there will be more and more people living along corridors in neighbouring municipalities, and you may even see some “metro” transit poking out to places like East St. Paul or Oakbank. But none of this will be a drain on the city itself, as we’ll hopefully have elected a Premier who is able to create a Capital Region agreement that ends the property tax war. If we can learn to live with this idea, we can start to work together to make the best of the situation.

I have been speaking to various people at City Hall, and I can see that big things are coming. This city is going to be changing very quickly over the next ten years, and not all of it will be sprawl — but some of it certainly will be. Waverley West will continue, yes, and I expect that there will also be developments north of Jefferson once commuting from the Northwest become a little easier. People who want their single family home will still get their single family home, while a growing number of people will opt for urban living at its finest.

It’s almost as though we’re all wishing to make Winnipeg the next Manhattan, but we forget about all of the New Jersey and Long Island that comes with the package. The same could be said about London, Paris, or San Francisco. And even Portland, Oregon. Those cities are trying to manage sprawl and big-box and freeways as best they can; they know that those things will still exist 25 years from now, but they’re hoping that there might be less of them.

Those of us who want more density downtown will have more success if we can also come up with ideas to cope with the sprawl as best we can. We can promote alternative transport without making people feel guilty for owning cars; we can push for high-rises downtown, but understand that people in North Kildonan aren’t going to accept new 21-storey apartments in their backyard; and we can look at the good things about IKEA (brownsite cleanup provided by a private company, positive promotion of Winnipeg as a growth market during the downturn) while personally deciding to buy local when we can.

The biggest step for the great minds who want this city to improve is to bring everyone to the table. We need to applaud each other’s successes, and thank our opponents for their sincere efforts to make this city a better place. Let’s take some risks, and let other Winnipeggers take some risks, too. Complaining about new ideas doesn’t just kill the bad ideas; it tends to keep all ideas from sprouting.

Instead of saying a bad idea just won’t work, can we come up with ways to make that idea better? If you think the Canadian Museum of Human Rights will be too depressing, start coming up with ways to make it more uplifting. If you don’t like IKEA coming to town, start seeing what it would take to get a Whole Foods Market to move into the Bay downtown.

Let’s build a city that gives everyone something to like. Plan Winnipeg Part II will have some sprawl, but it can also have Light Rail Transit. It may include plans to bring Chinese air cargo to CentrePort, but it can also include more and better downtown housing for all income levels. If we can find some common ground, and understand that we all want many of the same things, we can get to work on the task at hand.

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I’m sure it came as a surprise to many councillors that I came out in support of the budget at city hall on Tuesday.  I think that it was well-received by most of city council, but not by Councillor Swandel, who did not like my remarks on the Disraeli and Louise bridge projects, and asked me how much of a property tax increase the people of Elmwood and EK would like.  What I see as a shuffling of timelines and budget priorities, he apparently sees as an attempt to spend more money.

Here is the text of my speech:

I am here today to voice my support for the 2009 Capital Budget.  Like most people, there are a few things that I’d like to see changed, but overall I think this is a good budget that focuses on infrastructure at a time when the economy is uncertain and infrastructure is a priority.

I know that the people here today, whether we are city councillors, city activists, journalists, or Your Worship the mayor — that we are all here because we truly want what’s best for our city.  I don’t believe that we will make any progress in Winnipeg if we don’t work together, and I think that together we have the ideas that will move our city forward.

Like the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition, I am not yet convinced of the effectiveness of Private Public Partnerships.  However, I believe that if the city is willing to accept requests for transparency by making public all future arrangements with contractors, including maintenance contracts, that most residents are willing to accept these capital construction projects using the P3 model.  We can’t move forward if we are unwilling to experiment; however, we won’t get anywhere if we can’t openly examine the results of these projects.

Like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, I would love to see more spending in areas that are sorely in need of new funds.  However, I do not feel that it is prudent at this point to raise taxes, and I believe that surcharges to new housing starts and tolls for out-of-town residents will increase competition and animosity in the capital region and could make any future accommodation with our municipal neighbours much more difficult, if not impossible.  I personally believe that any successful initiative for a capital region funding plan will need to come from the provincial government, and I certainly hope that they will show some leadership in this matter.

I know that active transportation has become an important issue for many voters, and as a fair-weather cyclist, I can understand why.  However, it would be disingenuous for me to say that I believe that it’s more important than the majority of current infrastructure projects or riverbank stabilization.  If city council does believe that a doubling of the active transportation budget is feasible without affecting priority projects, then I certainly would not disagree.

There has been some genuine concern in the past from residents of Northeast Winnipeg that our infrastructure needs were not being addressed as promptly or as fully as the needs of South Winnipeg.  Many residents were upset by past decisions by the city, including the closure of Kelvin Community Centre and some aspects of the current Disraeli Freeway rehabilitation plan.  But there have also been some encouraging moves made by the city that have not gone unnoticed in these communities, including the Northeast Pioneers Greenway along Gateway and Raleigh, the Bronx Park community centre expansion, and now the Louise Bridge twinning project.  These projects are beginning to send a message that the residents of the Northeast are equal partners in Winnipeg.

There is however, one outstanding aspect of the capital bridge projects that is causing some serious concern for residents.  It’s not an issue of cost, but more of timelines and planning.  As there is a project to rebuild the Louise Bridge as a two-span, four-lane bridge, can this project be coordinated with the Disraeli rehabilitation project in such a way to reduce congestion related to bridge closures?  Is it possible to include a new Louise span as part of the existing Disraeli project?  An additional component of the Disraeli requirements could be for the construction of a new two-lane span for the Louise, either beside the existing span or sited at the alternate East-West crossing site.  Once the Disraeli rehabilitation project is complete, a new second span of the Louise can be constructed.  If the alternate East-West crossing is chosen, the current Louise Bridge could possibly become an Active Transportation link, removing the need for a third bridge to be constructed.

I know that this request is not an easy one to grant, as it will take some planning and ingenuity in a short timeframe, but I do believe that it would go a long way to showing the residents of Northeast Winnipeg that our mayor and council are actively working to improve our neighbourhoods.

All in all, I do believe that this capital budget plan can make things better for Winnipeg, and I feel that if this council can continue to be receptive to the issues and concerns of Winnipeg residents, we can build a city that we can all be proud of.

I will be sending a note to Councillor Swandel to better explain my request; I’ll be sure to post any results here.

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Winnipeg is often said to be a city that is run by property developers. There have always been rumours and innuendo that this or that politician is in bed with this or that developer. So I find it strange that these past few days I keep thinking about how rough things can be for developers.

I won’t speak to whether or not the two hundred residents from Whellams Lane were justified in their opposition. I haven’t been to the site, nor have I seen the plans in detail. I do know that it’s easy for some people to call the residents small-minded because they would rather choose to keep things the way they are than have $50 million of investment, while few critics would accept a high rise next door to their single family home.

So what is the solution? Is it telling residents to “suck it up”? Is it telling developers that they’re not welcome in Winnipeg, which is the message they’re receiving these days?

I think the solution will probably come from recognition that while Winnipeg needs more multi-family rentals, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. I’m not saying that Devonshire Properties was wrong to want to expand in Winnipeg, or that it’s right to send a developer away from our city after many hours and dollars spent on a plan that could never had made the neighbours happy. What I’m saying is that we need to create a strategy that asks for a little bit of compromise from residents and developers, and provides a clear understanding to everyone of what city council will be likely to approve in future.

From what I see in Winnipeg, there are three types of residential areas:

1. Mostly single family homes with sections of multi-family structures: these neighbourhoods have either a grid plan (streets and avenues) or a street hierarchy design (curved roads, bays, etc), and are lined with homes. Some older neighbourhoods have commercial buildings on street corners, while the newer neighbourhoods reserve commercial zoning for the main routes that pass around or through the community. The apartment buildings or condos are often found along or near the main routes, clustered together. The residents of these neighbourhoods will not accept new highrise apartment buildings outside of the pre-existing multi-family area. Examples include River Heights, Elmwood, Windsor Park and Lindenwoods.

2. A mix of single family homes and small multi-family buildings: these neighbourhoods are older and are located close to Downtown. They were originally built as single family neighbourhoods, and smaller multi-family construction or conversion occurred later, sometimes due to the original (and often well-heeled) families moving away to the suburbs. Two excellent examples of this type of neighbourhood are the West End and St. Boniface. The West End has large numbers of apartment blocks and duplexes and triplexes, while St. Boniface tends to have more duplexes and triplexes, while its apartment blocks are generally clustered on major routes. Residents of these neighbourhoods are used to the types of multi-family that exist in the community, so new projects that are similar to the existing buildings would be generally accepted with limited opposition.

3. Almost exclusively multi-family buildings with the occasional single-family home: these neighbourhoods are filled with towering apartment towers and large multi-tenant complexes. The two neighbourhoods that fit this description are Downtown and Osborne Village. In these neighbourhoods, it is expected that new high rise buildings will appear over time.

In my opinion, the Devonshire Properties project failed because it was attempting to expand on what was already an anomaly: a large multi-tenant complex nestled within a single-family enclave. The large apartment buildings along North Henderson are north of Chief Peguis Trail, in an area designated “Valhalla”, while the Devonshire complex is south of the Trail. When I look at the satellite photos of the area, I can see that the Whellams Lane enclave is still separated by an old rail bed from the Fraser’s Grove / Kildonan Drive neighbourhoods that line the Red River; this would have made it a great place for large multi-tenant buildings, but only if there were no single family homes. Because those homes are already in place, new large multi-tenant buildings are no longer considered acceptable to the residents. Whether that opinion is right or wrong doesn’t matter as much as the fact that new construction of apartment blocks here will meet with major opposition.

While the Devonshire complex is a rarity, there are other examples of this situation in other parts of the city. For instance, in Lord Roberts (Osborne South), there is a large seniors’ residence that overlooks the neighbouring single family homes. While this building is accepted by the residents as a preexisting, one-off highrise, it’s clear that any attempt to create a second highrise beside it would not be accepted by the neighbours. If the new construction was among a collection of high rises, such as Valhalla, or the condos at the West end of Lindenwoods, or along Waterfront Drive, the opposition would be significantly smaller.

So there’s the problem: construction or expansion of multi-tenant properties within neighbourhoods that are primarily single family cannot occur peaceably outside of the specific areas that are already home to multiple apartment blocks.

So if that is indeed the problem, what is the solution?

Here’s one possible solution: the city can specify which zoning sectors will allow expansion or new designation of RMF-L and RMF-M (large and medium multi-family) for properties. For instance, while 60 Whellams Lane is zoned RMF-L (up to 150ft, or apparently higher upon approval), the city could specify that any future development within the encompassing zoning sector can only be RMF-S (up to 35 feet high). So it could be determined that the North Kildonan ward could be restricted to RMF-S, while Valhalla and a few other sectors within could allow for RMF-L. But this would add complexity to the zoning by-law, which is already quite complicated.

Another solution is for the city to create special development corridors in the city; these corridors would be sited along major routes or future rapid transit routes, and along with downtown would be considered “wide open” to developers for multi-family projects. Each corridor would have a specific formula as to the size of the developments that are allowed.

In either scenario, any development proposal that fits within the guidelines of a zoning sector or development corridor would be welcomed and accepted by city council, barring any issues unrelated to zoning and size. Residents would be expected to accept that such developments were appropriate, and city councillors would feel well within their rights to approve these projects. Any proposal that did not fit within the guidelines would require community consultation and acceptance would be considered less likely; in addition, an attempt would be made by the city to persuade the developer to rework the proposal.  By having firm guidelines, the city administrators would know which compromises made by a developer would be most likely to result in council approval.

As far as Whellams Lane is concerned, if guidelines that considered the nature of the neighbouring homes had existed beforehand, perhaps instead of a 15- and 21-storey development, Devonshire Properties would have planned for a 2- or 3-storey townhouse-style block. I don’t know if Devonshire Properties would have considered a more modest project, or if the residents would have accepted smaller buildings with open arms, but the process would have done less damage to our city.

I believe that the city should get in touch with Devonshire Properties, apologize for the controversy, and ask them if a compromise project is possible. I also think that the city needs to send a message to developers and residents that there will be a plan put in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

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Overall, I’m okay with the City of Winnipeg’s 2009 Preliminary Capital Budget. I expected to have some big problems with it, particularly regarding community centres and transportation, but most of my concerns are relatively minor.

I’m not convinced the P3s (public/private partnerships) are more affordable than the traditional public financing methods, but I don’t feel that it will bring disaster upon us at the moment. If things don’t work out too well with the current projects, we’ll most likely have a chance to choose new councillors and a new mayor before we start moving towards increased service delivery by private companies.

The one big thing that I am hoping for (and will be asking for) in this budget is some adjustment of timelines. If the will is there, I believe that the city could move up the Louise Bridge project and merge it with the Disraeli Freeway Rehabilitation project. Doing this would allow for a new span of the Louise to be completed before the Disraeli closure, with the second replacement span being completed after the Disraeli rehab is complete.

I read through the alternative budget created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and while I certainly agree with many of their spending initiatives, I can’t say I’m in agreement with their revenue plans. I believe that taxing new housing starts in the city will only increase the expansion of suburbs in neighbouring municipalities, and I don’t believe that a commuter tax is feasible in our current economic and political climate. As property taxes are increasing due to higher assessments, I don’t think now is the time to increase the rates as well, especially as we’re working to maintain consumer confidence in difficult economic times.

The one thing that I would like to see is a stronger (and more strongly communicated) vision from the mayor and council for the future development of Winnipeg. Nine years of a provincial government that has a love for mediocrity has made me hungry for some vision, and I know we have a few councillors in this city who can help give us that vision.

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