Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jeers for survey showing streets top concern

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Fixing streets is the top priority of residents, a consultant hired by the city has found.

But some councillors are disputing the accuracy of the study.

The emphasis on road repair was one of the findings of a $200,000 public-consultation study, a prelude to the 2014 budget, prepared by consulting firm MNP and released by city hall Thursday.

"As we prepare the 2014 budget, it's important for council to know that Winnipeggers consider fixing streets their highest priority," Mayor Sam Katz said in a prepared statement that accompanied the report.

The consultation process found residents' priorities for the 2014 budget also include crime prevention, investment in public transit and efforts to reduce taxes and spending.

The findings were presented to council during a private seminar earlier Thursday afternoon before a summary was released publicly.

Some councillors panned the benefits of the survey, saying it wasn't an accurate reflection of how people feel about city services and gave council little direction.

But Coun. Russ Wyatt, chairman of the finance committee, said it may not have been perfect but added it was the most extensive public consultation for a budget the city has ever carried out.

"Certainly we can do more and we can do better," Wyatt (Transcona) said. "This is a start and we'll improve from there."

Coun. John Orlikow said the consultation report was not of much use, adding he found the process to be "structurally flawed, uninformed and a poor use of public monies."

Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said the techniques MNP employed undermined the reliability of the process. He said the interpretation of responses was not consistent, and questions asked did not outline impacts of choices.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said only 34 people turned out for the six public workshops, adding MNP did not engage the community to any great extent to make its findings worthwhile.

"Who doesn't want their streets fixed?" Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) asked. "Just because people said streets was important doesn't mean they don't believe other services are important."

Gerbasi said people were asked where they would reduce spending without knowing the impacts of their choices, which would affect the decisions they would make.

A component of the consultation was to give respondents an opportunity to increase or decrease spending in any area, as along as the budget remained balanced. The process found respondents singled out two civic areas for budget increases: roads and streets, + 4.9 per cent, and paramedic response times, + 0.1 per cent.

All other civic services were to be cut, including police and fire, and spending on libraries and recreation.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2013 B3

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