Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bowman promises to bring transparency to city hall

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Mayoral hopeful Brian Bowman's first campaign promise is to remove what he considers to be the secrecy behind the decision-making at city hall.

Bowman made his announcement on Tuesday, itemizing how he would "open up" city hall and promising to create the Office of Engagement, which would be the public source of information for all civic activities.

"There is a public perception that secret deals and major decisions, in the absence of public consultations, are occurring," Bowman said during a news event from the courtyard at city hall.

"We know there is a lack of access to governance and public officials at city hall. There is a perception that too many decisions are being made by too few people behind closed doors."

In a swipe at Mayor Sam Katz and the power he wields through his executive policy committee, Bowman said too many times it appears decisions are presented at council meetings as "done deals."

"There is little opportunity for council, let alone the public, to voice their concerns or participate in meaningful debate," said Bowman.

Bowman said the Office of Public Engagement would replace several "ad hoc" public-consultation initiatives that are "fragmented and difficult to find," adding the new office would likely cost at least $200,000 to staff.

Bowman said he hoped to find the funds for the new office by eliminating other communication initiatives that aren't as effective.

Bowman's list to achieve open government would include:

-- A central web page for all public projects that are looking for public feedback.

-- Easy online access to council votes, expenses and travel.

-- Monthly publication online of all discretionary budgets used by councillors, the mayor and speaker.

-- Online publication of councillors' conflict of interest declarations.

-- Publish details of all meetings at the mayor's office.

-- End discretionary exemptions for the release of information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2014 B4

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