Thursday, 23 May 2013

"Mayor Selinger" vs Mayor Katz

Sam Katz responsibly deciding to fund community
groups instead of new 'burbs & political ad campaigns?

Now that's funny!

Image Source
Borris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press
The Winnipeg Free Press has an editorial out titled "Mayor Selinger". It's about the Province funding community initiatives and centres throughout Winnipeg.

The Freep editorial, written by a "staff writer", claims that the Province is intruding on the City's rightful turf as distiller of grants to community organizations. According to the Freep editorialist, this is bad because the Province can use such grant money for political purposes like shoring up support in south Winnipeg swing ridings.

The proper and less problematic grant distributor, so the column seems to imply, is the City.

There's some holes in that reasoning.

For one thing, the municipal government really has no constitutionally guaranteed role. They're able to do whatever the Province lets them do and derive their authority from the fact that the Province sees it fit to delegate certain tasks to them, for logistical purposes.

The buck stops at Broadway.

Illustrating this point is a discussion I had with a Manitoba Green Party supporter about the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition. 

The person claimed that the problem with the Coalition was that there were too

Financial axeman & Katz's number two man
Russ Wyatt wants to cut the Broadway Community

Centre grant. 

Image Sources

many NDP partisans affiliated with it. This was a problem because if the organization really disapproved of City Hall they should criticize the Ledge. This is so, the person reasoned, because the Ledge can fix any problems with the City by amending the City Charter or overruling its decisions.

In short, to solve civic problems my fellow discussant recommended trampling over what the municipal rights people hold dearest. It appears that the Province has, partially, followed suite.

The Freep also fails to argue exactly why the City is in a better position to dole out grant money than the Province. Given that Manitoba's population is less than that of Toronto's and that the provincial government is located in Winnipeg, it doesn't seem like there's a "too much distance from the governed" problem. Indeed, Winnipeg's diverse swath of neighbourhoods and communities are likely better represented by the 31 MLAs in Winnipeg versus only 15 councillors at City Hall.

And the notion that there's less politicking at City Hall is ridiculous. As the campaign to privatize the golf courses shows, there's pretty much NO distinction between politics and bureaucracy in the municipal government. Heck, prior to suggesting that the City slash and burn essential inner city programs, our deputy mayor secured generous money for pet projects in his ward. This is the exactly same shoring up support with grant money problem the Freep bemoans.

 The City suffers just as much, if not more, from the problem of pandering to the outer suburbs as well. Just look at the extension of roadways to the city's fringes, the plans of constructing new outer-ring fringe suburbs, and the enormous sway developers have with City Council. If anything, the Province (with it's greater revenue capacity) might be in a better position to resist pro-sprawl forces.

Responsible, wise, and impartial with public funds City Hall is not.

Municipal governments, on the alter of subsidizing suburban sprawl, seem itching to cut community programs and sensible public investments. Despite massive partnership deals from the Feds and Province, the Katz administration has done very little on Rapid Transit. His number two man, meanwhile, wants to axe countless community programs while Council plans for a new 'burbs.

Urbanists rightly criticize the fetish for mega-projects in this province. What could be a better antidote, in the Freep's own words, than "micro-promises" and "micro-announcements"?

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1 comment:

  1. Winnipeg Citizens Coaliton was a clstrfck that went nowhere.