Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Katz outlines plan for city’s future

Mayor presents annual state of city address

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WINNIPEG needs to be a better­-trained, better-planned and more co-ordinated city, a subdued Mayor Sam Katz told 1,150 businesspeople, politicians and public servants at his annual state of the city address.

In his fifth annual spiel at the Win­nipeg Convention Centre, Katz prom­ised to spend $3 million over the next three years on aboriginal training, broaden the powers of the city auditor, move forward on plans to replace the city’s obsolete planning framework and — as announced last year — cre­ate a new umbrella organization to handle all transit and transportation planning.

Katz promised to hire a chief per­formance officer, a new city staffer who would assist the city auditor and ensure city departments are account­able for the money they spend.

"Often, what you will see is, our audit department going in and mak­ing suggestions on how a department should have done this or should have done that. I want conformance," Katz told reporters after the $75-a-plate lunch.

On the planning front, Katz said the city will hold an invitation-only, multi­media seminar called A Sustainable Winnipeg that will be part of the on­going effort to replace Plan Winnipeg, the city’s all-but-obsolete long-term planning blueprint.

This morning, city councillors will learn more about a new land-use and infrastructure framework that’s sup­posed to govern Winnipeg’s next 25 years.

"It’s basically a plan for our future. We haven’t had one done since 1972, which really means that there’s never been one done for the city," the mayor said. In fact, Winnipeg updated the document in 1986, 1991, 1993 and 2001. The mayor also said concrete steps will be taken this year to de­velop a transportation authority to de­cide how to plan and spend money on roads and transportation.

"For too long, our city has built out its suburbs, with new housing develop­ments and commercial-retail proper­ties, then later struggled with the impacts this growth has on our trans­portation infrastructure," he said.

But the mayor also made an oblique reference to the IKEA-led develop­ment that’s wound up in the cross­hairs of urban-sprawl critics, refer­ring to the $400-million project as "a new major commercial development" that will soon be the subject of a pub­lic hearing.

Reaction to the mayor’s speech was mixed. Tax watchdog Colin Craig praised Katz for stating his goal is to freeze property taxes for the 12th straight year. City council finance chairman Justin Swandel, however, said another tax freeze will be dif­ficult to implement this year without more help from the provincial govern­ment.

Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, a frequent Katz critic, said she was dis­appointed the mayor made no mention of downtown revitalization.

Businesspeople in the audience gave Katz an easier time. Maxim Truck & Trailer president Doug Harvey said he was satisfied with the content of the speech, even though he wished Katz would have mentioned the proposed CentrePort development outside Rich­ardson International Airport. He also said the mayor could have been more upbeat.

"He’s the chief cheerleader for the city," Harvey explained.



Training, planning and transportation

Highlights from Mayor Sam Katz's fifth state of the city speech, delivered Thursday at the Winnipeg Convention Centre:

New promises

ABORIGINAL TRAINING: The city will spend $3 million over the next three years on an aboriginal youth strategy.

CITY AUDITOR: New powers are coming for the city auditor, along with a chief performance officer who will ensure city departments remain accountable.

Progress on previous announcements

LONG-TERM PLANNING: This spring, Winnipeg will launch a symposium called A Sustainable Winnipeg as part of the an effort to replace Plan Winnipeg, the city's almost obsolete long-term planning blueprint. The aim is to create a 25-year plan for land use, transportation and infrastructure.

TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY: Last year, Katz said a new regional transportation authority would co-ordinate the transit and transportation needs of the city and its suburbs. That authority will begin to take shape this year, Katz said Thursday.

And is this a promise?

PROPERTY TAXES: Katz all but promised to freeze property taxes for a 12th straight year, but the wording left the mayor a little wiggle room. "My goal again will be to freeze property taxes," he said. City council finance chairman Justin Swandel said it will be tough to balance the operating budget that includes a tax freeze without more help from the province.

The bottom line

DOUR BUT SUBSTANTIVE: Thursday's speech amounted to a dour accounting of the challenges facing the city. Some audience members called it dull, as the mayor essentially read a long laundry list of plans and priorities. But the serious tone -- the speech was completely bereft of the jokes typifying earlier state of the city addresses -- seemed appropriate for the gloomy times.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2009 B2

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