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Havixbeck vows to stretch street-repair cash

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Paula Havixbeck, with her sons Nick and Adrian, registered Wednesday for her mayoral run.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Paula Havixbeck, with her sons Nick and Adrian, registered Wednesday for her mayoral run. Photo Store

Paula Havixbeck claims she could fix more roads without spending more money if she's elected mayor this fall.

On Thursday, the second day of her mayoral campaign, the Charleswood-Tuxedo councillor pledged to stretch Winnipeg's infrastructure-spending dollars by tapping into surplus funds from road-construction projects completed under budget.

"Last year, all the money that was dedicated for roads wasn't even spent," she said of the $72.9-million roadway construction and maintenance budget for 2013.

She did not specify how much was not spent. A trio of recent finance reports about capital projects does not corroborate her claim.

Nonetheless, Havixbeck said some money is available.

"If the (public works) department can't get the tenders out quickly enough to get that additional money spent, it sits on the books. I'm saying the money is there; we just have to look for it."

Havixbeck also pledged Thursday to increase the number of city council meetings each month from one to as many as four and to hold more special council meetings and council seminars.

She said additional meetings are required during the summer, when builders and developers are trying to get their plans approved by city hall in order to take advantage of Winnipeg's limited construction season.

"If council is taking a vacation from July 16 to after (the) September long weekend and there are no meetings, that's smack in the middle of the construction season. How is anybody supposed to get anything done in the city?"

In total, Havixbeck made three campaign promises during the first two days of her campaign. When she registered on Wednesday to run for mayor, she pledged to eliminate executive policy committee.

Lawyer and former city councillor Gord Steeves, the first high-profile mayoral candidate to register, has yet to make a campaign promise.

Privacy lawyer Brian Bowman has made one pledge -- a two-pronged promise to make Winnipeg a continental open-data leader.

Bowman proposed to increase political transparency by making the mayor's daybook public. He also pledged to make administrative data accessible online by ensuring every city department collects information in a machine-readable format.

Mayor Sam Katz, who has not revealed whether he will run for a fourth term, said Winnipeg is already "a very open and transparent level of government," and claimed the city is more transparent than the provincial or federal governments.

Katz said Winnipeg is struggling to handle what he described as a high number of freedom-of-information requests, adding the city might create a new department to handle such requests.

Without mentioning Bowman by name, Katz said it's not easy for any mayor to effect change without a co-operative council. Bowman is an outsider in municipal politics, like Katz was when he was first elected in 2004.

Havixbeck took a more direct shot at Bowman, who described her Wednesday as a former Katz lieutenant "who knows the corridors of power." Bowman made the comment following a well-attended event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, where he received a rock-star welcome from a young, enthusiastic crowd.

"I'm not about throwing parties; I'm about getting down to work," Havixbeck quipped.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 B1

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