Sam Katz painted a rosy image of Winnipeg and its future on Friday, dismissing the public's outrage with the scandals at city hall and daily infrastructure emergencies as "an emotional reaction."
Katz's annual state of the city address at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon contained a long list of success stories: the arrival of new American retailers, record housing starts, booming downtown construction and low property taxes.
Winnipeg is undergoing a renaissance, Katz said, adding city hall is "building a Winnipeg that is a better place for families."
But while another chamber crowd recently gave former mayor Susan Thompson a standing ovation, this audience in a cavernous hall at the downtown convention centre gave Katz only a tepid response.
"Things are going well in the city, but very little of it is attributable to city hall," lawyer Brian Bowman, who is considering running for mayor in October, said of Katz's speech.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased with Bed, Bath & Beyond coming to Winnipeg but that does not map out a bold vision for the city."
Katz began his speech acknowledging the serious problems facing the city now -- close to 800 properties without water because of frozen pipes and over budget fire hall and police headquarters projects.
"How can you not talk about frozen water lines and what people are going through?" Katz told reporters following his speech.
He said the city is dealing with those and other problems, adding he wanted to remind the audience of all the positive developments in the city, including several major civic construction projects that were finished on time and either on or under budget.
Katz also announced in his speech:
-- The Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg is donating $1 million for the renovation and upgrades to the Sherbrook Pool, which will be renamed after the Kinsmen Club.
-- An outdoor concert in Cental Park some time in the spring, with performances by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Sarah Sommer, the Chai Folk Ensemble and the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.
Katz never mentioned his political future in his speech on Friday and told reporters what he has said many times before -- he will announce his intentions in June.