Friday, 21 October 2016

The Sprawl Lobby's scorched earth campaign against council

Runaway suburban sprawl puts pressure on
City services & drains resources from
existing neighbourhoods.

Image Source: The Analyst/Twitter
The Sprawl Lobby is engaging in a brutal, scorched earth campaign against our City Council. They're still running the anti-fee, fake populist "Don't Stop Growth" smear campaign. A vast array of forces that profit off of a free ride for developers are "partnering" with the campaign along with the rightwing fringe front group that is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Sprawl Lobby heavyweights like Eric Vogan already made a petulant, self-entitled mess while presenting at City Council in late September. You would think they would have learned some dignity and humility in the proceeding weeks, but sadly they did not.

The histrionics continued at the Executive Policy Committee meeting. Mike Moore of the Manitoba Home Builders Association moaned that the move is "reckless and unacceptable", which seems to mean unacceptable to developers who want a free ride. Vogan was at it again, whining about the move being "an attack on neighbourhoods" and that it "insults new home owners". Meanwhile, stooges on council like Russ Wyatt bemoaned the plan for supposedly vilifying developers, who create "wealth" for the city (ignoring that developers are supplying consumer goods whose values are immensely boasted by City funded services).

"Partners" of the Don't Stop Growth campaign.

Image Source: NoHomeTax
There were also stooges for the development industry who used to be on Council. They cashed in through the revolving door and went on to work for the development industry. These include Justin Swandel, a hardline defender of Sam Katz's unaccountable mayoralty, and rightwing loon Garth Steek.

Steek, a past president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association, even insisted that Council was "lucky" to have developers present.
Past Manitoba Homebuilders Association president
and hard right former councillor
Garth Steek.

Image Source: Sean Kavanagh/Twitter

Yeah, Garth Steek really claimed that City Council was lucky to have special interests presenting at their meeting and trying to stop them from implementing new fees. It truly was a noble honour for the City to have corporate mouthpiece after corporate mouthpiece bellyaching about how awful new development fees are.

The Sprawl Lobby really is gunning against this. They hint at a possible legal challenge. They have sent out mass emails urging people to phone Mayor Bowman to oppose the new development fees. Garth Steek even wants to make the fee proposal an election issue.

Proponents of smart and sustainable growth need to fight against the Sprawl Lobby. We need to contact our City Councillors and  - in the case the City does need provincial permission - MLAs (find yours here) and tell them we need developers to pay their fair share.

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Monday, 17 October 2016

The self-entitled Sprawl Lobby

Petulant face of the Sprawl Lobby and Qualico Vice
President of community development Eric Vogan.

Image Source: Bartley Kives/Twitter
For the past decade our city, at the behest of developers, has overstretched. New neighbourhoods and developments were approved despite modest population growth.  Real estate developers had very close - a few disconcertingly so - relationships with mayor Katz. For much of the 21st century one could be forgiven for feeling like developers ran the City government.

Developer associated Sam Katz was succeeded by Brian Bowman in 2014. Bowman had many signs of being a continuation of the standard centre-right, outer suburban developer friendly mayors Winnipeg's had in the past. He was backed by Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Dave Angus, who gave him a rock star introduction at Bowman's 2014 campaign launch in the Winnipeg Art Gallery. He had ties to the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba and campaigned for Pallister CON Shannon Martin. Bowman was even once chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

But he has broken the mold of past centre-right mayors. Based on the 2016 Growth Study mayor Bowman is proposing growth fees. If he sticks with his growth fee plan, he's actually getting serious about taking on the real estate lobby. Downtown boosterism and revitalization efforts are one thing but curbing growth on the edges of Winnipeg shows true commitment to urbanist principles.

Growth fees are sorely needed. Compared to municipalities in Ontario and even some others in Manitoba, Winnipeg does not properly charge for new developments on the fringe of the city. Neighbourhoods like Waverley West and Ridgewood South develop and create strain on our existing municipal service system. The additional cost on infrastructure and other civic systems is nowhere near captured by current developer fees. This means worse services for the rest of us.

Qualico Communities.

Image Source: Qualico Communities/Twitter
The consultant report, the cause of so much controversy, can use tweaks. Bowman himself has hinted that he would like changes, such as exempting infill development from fees (which makes perfect sense). But real estate developers, who are effectively acting as a Sprawl Lobby, are livid about this. After virtually running municipal growth policy over the last decade they're furious with the new, better direction.

There's no greater example of this than the petulant display Qualico Vice-President Eric Vogan made presenting at City Council. He called proposed growth fees a scheme to fill someone's coffers". Yeah, Vogan, they're a "scheme" to fill the coffers for public services that are drained by your lot's incessant outer suburban development. Vogan has also whined that this is "scary" and a "tax on larger homes", telling our elected representatives "shame on you". 

No, Mr. Vogan, shame on you. You want a free (or discounted) ride for developers even as our streets crumble and services decline. You come to City Council and boss around our democratically elected representatives. Your vision for Winnipeg is deplorable and your crybaby antics are unbearable. 

Qualico has been unbelievably two-faced about this.

 On the one hand, Qualico representatives like Vogan sometimes claim it's just about process, lack of consultation with developers, and that it's just going too fast. That they have procedural issues with how new growth fees would be implemented, but aren't against the idea itself.

Then they partner with countless business interests and far-right ideological freaks in the Don't Stop Growth campaign. The industry "partnered" organization has all the hallmarks of past business interest driven fake populist anti-tax campaigns. The campaign boldly proclaims no new home taxes - not "we dislike the current development fee proposal but will work with you for a better one".

Partners with the "No Home Tax" campaign.

Image Source: No Home Tax

The powerful developers and other industries that are a part of the Sprawl Lobby think they run this place. Eric Vogan seems to have such self-entitlement that he ran over his time presenting at City Hall and blatantly ignored the buzzer. Time allotments are are frequently respected by ordinary citizens like teachers, community residents, and students but apparently Qualico reps are above it. We as Winnipeggers can't let these self-entitled folks push us around and set our policy.

You can start to show enough is enough by contacting Eric Vogan and Qualico to tell them to knock it off.

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