Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Councillors trade barbs over cutbacks

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City council finance chairman Russ Wyatt and Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck traded accusations of grandstanding Thurdsay over proposed cuts to city projects and services.

Coun. Wyatt (Transcona) has proposed $187 million worth of cuts to services such as snow clearing and projects such as the Southwest Transitway in order to finance a new reserve fund for road and bridge repairs. Mayor Sam Katz does not support the move and other members of council have dismissed the idea as unrealistic.

On Thursday, Havixbeck attempted to bring two members of the city's largest union and a social activist to the finance-committee table to offer their thoughts about the proposed cuts. But Wyatt and St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman declined to suspend the committee rules to allow the trio to be heard, defeating Havixbeck in a 2-1 vote.

"We're not here for you to grandstand, Coun. Havixbeck," Wyatt said.

Following the meeting, Wyatt noted delegates to any committee may only address councillors if there is a relevant report on the meeting agenda.

"There was no item for them to speak to on this agenda," he said. "We'd never allow delegates to speak to non-items on an agenda."

Havixbeck said it was Wyatt who engaged in grandstanding when he announced proposed cuts before speaking to other members of council.

"Whether it's a motion on the table or not, it was out in the media," she said, condemning Wyatt's ideas such as unpaid Fridays for city councillors.

"It's fear-mongering and it's irresponsible. To restore some trust and confidence in city hall, people need to feel they can be heard and have a say in decisions."

Harry Wolbert, a former city council and provincial Liberal candidate, was one of the people who wanted to address the committee. "What we saw today was not a triumph of democracy," he said.

In the coming months, however, city residents will have a chance to offer input into the budget process for 2014.

Wyatt said he has received a positive response to his ideas, which he put forward as a response to the provincial budget and what he has described as inadequate infrastructure funding.

"There's a direct connection between what happens on Broadway and what happens here," Wyatt said.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 A7

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