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Mayoral race roundup

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Mayoral candidate Paula Havixbeck

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Taming photo radar, helping small business and untying the information knot at 311 were promises made Wednesday by three mayoral candidates.

 

Steeves sees new signs that warn of photo radar

GORD STEEVES wants to erect yellow or green neon signs before road-construction sites to alert motorists of the presence of photo-radar cameras.

Steeves stood alongside Kenaston Boulevard Wednesday to decry the use of photo radar as a means of filling up city coffers and said they should only be used to convince motorists to slow down.

"Let's remember the goal is safety, not revenue," said Steeves, who also pledged to erect secondary signage after road-construction sites to notify motorists they can resume driving the regular speed limit.

Steeves also said he'd like to see photo-radar tickets issued more quickly and would like to see two tiers of fines, with higher penalties meted out when workers are present.

"We should not be ticketing people for putting people in danger when the site has been abandoned for weeks," he said.

The Selinger government, however, is cool to the idea of two-tiered construction-zone fines.

The existing single fine "helps ensure drivers comply with a posted speed limit prior to encountering workers by having the same fines apply whether or not workers are present," provincial spokesman Jean-Marc Prevost said in a statement.

"Workers are not always immediately visible to drivers approaching a construction zone. That's why speed limits must be followed in construction zones at all times."

Steeves also said he'd like to increase the duration of amber lights on streets with higher speed limits. Fellow candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette made a similar pledge earlier in the campaign.

 

Bowman raises the idea of lowering business tax

BRIAN BOWMAN wants to make life easier for small-business owners.

Standing inside the popular Exchange District restaurant Shawarma Khan, Bowman said he'd raise the small-business tax credit to $30,000 from the current $23,800, and ensure annual reductions in the business-tax rate to offset corresponding increases in annual rental rates -- effectively freezing the amount of business tax paid by individual operators.

Bowman said the measures would save small-business operators about $1,700 annually but only cost the city $1.7 million in total.

"The city's current business tax is an especially onerous burden on our small businesses," Bowman said during the morning news conference, adding business owners already pay property tax and see no return for the business tax.

Currently, businesses whose annual rents are $23,800 or less are exempt from paying business tax. Under Bowman's scheme, he would raise the limit to $30,000.

Restaurant owner Obby Khan, the former Blue Bomber who owns Shawrama Khan, said Bowman's pledge would result in a significant improvement on his bottom line, which would amount to about $5,000 over four years.

"For a small business starting off, the potential to save, over four years, $5,000 is huge," Khan said, adding he supports Bowman and hopes to see him elected mayor.

Bowman said he'd prefer to eliminate the business tax entirely -- it's expected to raise $60 million this year -- but said that's not realistic. "I'll eliminate the tax burden on as many small businesses as possible and for those larger businesses that continue to have to pay, at least freeze the actual amount that's collected by the city."

Bowman took a swipe at Judy Wasylycia-Leis's plan to freeze the business-tax rate, saying businesses will continue to pay more business tax under her scheme as their rental rates increase.

Bowman also promised to hold an annual small-business summit, providing business owners a forum to suggest how they'd like to see the business-tax revenue spent.

The small-business tax was a target for funeral home operator Mike Vogiatzakis, who earlier in the campaign promised to cap the total amount of business tax collected at the 2013 level and allocate $3 million every year to help grow new business.

 

Havixbeck has the 411 on overhauling 311

PAULA HAVIXBECK tackled one of the public's biggest complaints with city hall -- 311, city hall's single portal for complaints and queries.

"This will improve the day-to-day living for citizens in our city," Havixbeck said during a noon-hour news conference in the city hall courtyard as she outlined how she would overhaul 311.

Havixbeck, the first-term councillor from Charleswood-Tuxedo, said 311 would be reorganized to ensure every caller's issue would be managed by the same 311 agent, from start to finish.

Havixbeck also promised timelines would be placed on every complaint, to ensure calls aren't lost in a bureaucratic maze.

"They were told one thing... it doesn't happen, it doesn't get communicated," Havixbeck said of calls to 311.

"If something can't be handled immediately, it would have to be triaged into a 30-day and have one person manage that," she said.

Havixbeck also promised to have a new CAO in place within three months of the Oct. 22 election.

Veteran city administrator Deepak Joshi was appointed interim CAO following the sudden resignation in October of Phil Sheegl, after revelations of further cost increases with the construction of the Smith Street police headquarters building and lingering concerns over the fire hall paramedic replacement program.

A search for a CAO was launched in the spring but the process was unexpectedly halted in early July.

The public reason given was there wasn't enough time to hire a replacement because of the October election.

But sources told the Free Press the real reason was a split within the nine-member selection committee (Mayor Sam Katz and eight councillors), where a faction wanted the next mayor and council to decide who should be new CAO.

Havixbeck said the office of the CAO would be restructured to ensure it has a customer-service focus.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2014 B5

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