Is Sam Katz serious?
Speaker after speaker said they arrived skeptical at The Mayor's Symposium on Sustainable Development on Saturday and left feeling hope and optimism.
"We're at the beginning of the beginning," said panel member Ian Jarvis.
Katz couldn't contain his delight at seeing peoples' transformation.
"This is not just a public hearing; this is genuine involvement," Katz said.
He maintained he is serious about including the entire city in drafting a a future development plan called Our Winnipeg. The symposium was the start of what will be a year-long process to write a new 25-year civic development plan, with the broadest input ever in a development plan.
Katz was even more impressed that nearly 250 Winnipeggers from all walks of life gave up their Saturday to discuss the future of their city.
People were invited to briefly present their initial thoughts on what sustainability meant to their city.
Barry Rempel, of the Winnipeg Airports Authority, said "sustainability is about a thriving community providing equal opportunity.
"A sustainable Winnipeg requires a healthy private sector."
Grand Chief Ron Evans, of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said First Nations people should be equal partners in the city's future.
"We are the largest, youngest and fastest-growing segment in Winnipeg," Evans said.
"Our people have untapped resources... our economy is diverse, but as we adapt to new realities, you can expect that First Nations will speak up for the most vulnerable, the poor, the young and the old throughout the city."
Several presenters mentioned the issue of urban sprawl.
Spencer Nelson said he wants to see the city "prevent further urban sprawl." He also wants to see people encouraged to buy goods in bulk and bicycle more around the city.
Pam Tonsaker said she wants to see money generated from developments like Waverley West go to help the downtown.
Cameron Dobie said "a sustainable Winnipeg is a city that cares about managing urban sprawl."
One idea that impressed Katz was to include 10 per cent affordable housing in new housing developments. "If it's done properly, you wouldn't even know the difference," he said.
A summary of presentations was posted the same day on the Our Winnipeg website, SpeakUpWinnipeg.com. The website will also provide citizens the opportunity to post comments, participate in polls, share videos of their vision for the city's future, and serve as a way for the city to share its research and to report back to Winnipeggers.