The blight of downtown surface parking lots, making the Exchange District shine and helping the homeless were on the minds Friday of three of the eight candidates running in this year's civic mayoral election.
Targeting surface parking lots
ROBERT-FALCON Ouellette promises to tax the dozens of parking lots downtown as if they were four-storey buildings.
Ouellette, standing beside one of the 208 surface parking lots downtown, said the promise would raise $26 million in extra revenue for the city.
"Buildings have gone missing like teeth from a mouth," he said, calling his idea the stick approach after the city has used the carrot of a $40-million fund to help with development.
Ouellette said it is not only an eyesore, but the dead zones also lead to perceptions the downtown is unsafe. He said the idea is already a reality in Denmark, Russia, the United States and Australia.
Other promises Ouellette made include working with the province to add a special Winnipeg infrastructure tax to property tax bills of people who live in the capital region but use city infrastructure and services, bump the hotel accommodation tax from five to seven per cent, make school boards collect their own taxes and only raise property and business taxes as "a last resort."
Renovate rooming houses
BRIAN Bowman wants to help renovate almost 200 core-area rooming houses if elected, as part of his platform to combat homelessness in the city.
Bowman said he would look at doing it with tax-increment funding, including tax breaks.
"Our most vulnerable need safe and affordable housing," he said.
"We all have a role to play in how we choose to offer a hand up... we have a long and proud tradition of helping those in need."
As well, Bowman would add five new outreach workers to the Downtown BIZ's community homeless assistance team -- at a cost of $225,000 -- and put forward a motion for city council to support United Way's Plan to End Homelessness campaign.
Make way for bars, restaurants
GORD Steeves wants to turn the Exchange District into the jewel of Winnipeg -- but first he wants to get out a wrecking ball.
Steeves said he wants to demolish the Public Safety Building as well as the adjacent parking garage if it can't be saved.
In its place, he would like to see restaurants, bars, housing and other uses, but he admits there would be a legal issue that would have to be dealt with first. The original agreement with the family that donated the land to the city stipulated it would go back to them if the city ever decided not to use the site for a civic public use.
As for the rest of the Exchange District, Steeves said he would encourage more Winnipeggers and tourists to come down by asking the provincial government to allow more craft brew pubs and microbreweries, encourage more outdoor patios and get rid of what he called a "redundant regulation" forcing the city to hold its own public hearings for liquor licences.
"We suffer through long winters -- we deserve to enjoy the summer," he said.