Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Councillors fight for more bike trail cash

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Two members of Mayor Sam Katz's cabinet plan to take another crack at putting more cash in the city's bike-and-pedestrian kitty at a Tuesday city council meeting that promises to be packed with cyclists and other trail-building activists.

Earlier this week, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt and Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan annoyed fellow members of council's executive policy committee by voting against the 2009 capital budget, a $476-million blueprint for city infrastructure spending next year.

Wyatt and Pagtakhan voted against Katz and finance chairman Justin Swandel to protest what they felt was insufficient cash for bike trails, sidewalks and other active-transportation corridors in 2009. Katz and Swandel proposed spending $2.75 million on trail creation next year, while Wyatt and Pagtakhan tried to increase that figure to $5.75 million.

The duo will try again to amend the trail budget, this time by asking all members of council at Tuesday's special capital-budget meeting to support a total spending of $4.75 million on trails, sidewalks and other active-transportation corridors next year.

"We can fix part of the problem right now," Wyatt said of the extra $2 million. "Why wait until next year?"

Regardless of what happens, Wyatt and Pagtakhan are promising not to vote against the capital budget, a move that would suggest a lack of confidence in Katz and other EPC members .

The mayor had no choice but to reappoint Pagtakhan to EPC and retain the outspoken Wyatt during an October cabinet shuffle, thanks to Mike O'Shaughnessy's desire to leave the committee and the late Brenda Leipsic's absence from council.

But since EPC functions like a cabinet, a genuine rift between left-leaning and centre-right factions could not be tolerated for long.

"Mike and I, we made our point on Wednesday," Wyatt said. "No one likes to have a gun held to their head."

No matter how council votes, Wyatt and Pagtakhan will have a cheering section on Tuesday. The Winnipeg Trails Association, the Manitoba Cycling Association and Bike To The Future have called on all "cyclists, wannabe cyclists and anyone who uses a sidewalk" to attend the capital budget meeting in an effort to place pressure on council to increase active-transportation funding.

WTA director Janice Lukes intends to present council with a list of 10 projects that could be completed next year with the extra $2 million.

"We're going to compare this city to what other cities are doing now," Lukes said. "What do the people of Winnipeg want to see? Do we want to see a car culture or more active transportation?"

Winnipeg has increased its trail-creation budget significantly during Katz's current term as mayor. The city only devoted $200,000 to trails and sidewalks in 2006, when council adopted the recommendations of a groundbreaking active-transportation study.

 

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

joe.paraskevas@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2008 B6

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