December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Things in Winnipeg are looking up, according to Mayor Sam Katz -- so up that he hints he will seek another term in office.
On Friday, Katz delivered his annual state of the city address to 1,000 people at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
The mayor focused on the positive -- the downtown renovations of the Metropolitan and Avenue buildings, the new IKEA store and the overhaul at the Assiniboine Park Zoo -- saying the city is in a period of renewal.
His address was in stark contrast to last year's, when he used it to complain the city needs a better funding deal with the province and said Winnipeg does not have enough money to finance new and existing infrastructure.
The mayor made no new policy announcements Friday, but reiterated the city's pledge to reduce red tape for businesses through a speedier permit process and adopting a national business number system. He said investors are lining up to come to Winnipeg and the city wants to continue to support local communities through recreation and employment opportunities to keep the momentum going.
After his speech, Katz hinted he may run for re-election in 2014.
"Can you think of any reason why I should not run?" he asked reporters.
He was elected in a 2004 byelection and has previously said two full terms as mayor should be enough. He will have served 21/2 terms when the civic election is held is 2014.
Business leaders praised the upbeat address for highlighting some of Winnipeg's recent achievements. Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Dave Angus said he thought it was important Katz focused on positives, as dwelling on negatives can bring a city down.
Last year, concerns over Winnipeg's fire-paramedic station replacement program sparked two separate audits. The city is in the midst of an audit of real estate transactions dating back at least five years and a probe of the fire-hall project.
Angus said the mayor wasn't defensive or negative and used the address to discuss what the city has accomplished, which may signal his intention to run for re-election.
"You could draw that conclusion because it really is looking at what we've accomplished, and some of the things he talked about go back a ways, so who knows?" Angus said.
Asked if he's confident he will win another term, Katz said the first time he ran for mayor he defeated many high-profile, quality candidates. In the last civic election, he beat a former MLA and MP (Judy Wasylycia-Leis).
Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo), who is considering running for mayor in 2014, said Winnipeg is fortunate to have so many people in the community who do great things for the city.
However, she said she would have liked to hear the mayor specify where Winnipeg is going as a city and she questions why the city needs a tax increase in 2013, given the recent growth it has seen.
Half the net proceeds from Friday's state of the city luncheon will be donated to Beyond Borders, ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
The mayor took a dig at the city's new waste collector, Emterra, which won a business award last week. "No word on whether the award has been picked up yet," Katz joked.
Katz said Winnipeg offers inner-city youth free recreation programs and yes, "they still ask me to come back and play soccer."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2013 A13