Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Orlikow holds off Kowalson

Questions about traffic circles dog incumbent

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A controversy over traffic circles didn't seem to matter much as incumbent River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow blasted the owner of two submarine sandwich shops out of the water.

Orlikow easily bested rival Michael Kowalson by 10,713 to 8,677 during Wednesday's civic election to return to city council.

"It was a hard one," Orlikow said, as he arrived at his victory party at The Grove restaurant to the cheers of supporters and a room festooned with green and white balloons -- his campaign colours.

"The people have spoken... this campaign was incredibly hard and incredibly long.

"This is a community voice. I will make sure your voice is heard at city hall."

Orlikow admitted the traffic circles in the River Heights neighbourhood and the traffic barrier at Harrow Street at Academy Road were "a serious issue for many people.

"I have to respect that," he said.

Orlikow said his plans for today are "to start picking up signs and go to the office and start working again."

A few blocks over, at Kowalson's post-campaign event inside the Mona Lisa Restaurant, things were more subdued.

But Kowalson said it was still a victory, albeit not for him, but for the residents of the ward.

"Orlikow now knows residents want to be consulted now... they need to be kept in the loop."

Kowalson said he faced an uphill battle in the campaign.

"I think the power of incumbency is large in this city," he said.

"I think Mr. Orlikow is a household name and I was a virtual unknown six or eight weeks ago. But the people have spoken."

Orlikow, who came third in a byelection six years ago against Donald Benham, won the seat in a byelection 19 months ago after Brenda Leipsic died.

Before being elected councillor, Orlikow, who is married and has two daughters, followed in his father Lionel's footsteps as a school trustee in Winnipeg School Division.

Orlikow has said repeatedly he is an independent voice for his ward, but during his 19 months on council he has voted frequently with the so-called opposition to Mayor Sam Katz.

It was the most contentious ward fight in the city. Almost from the word go, the gloves came off in the battle to become councillor in River Heights-Fort Garry.

The most contentious issue of all was the one fought over bicycles and where they could ride.

Traffic circles, more properly called calming circles because their purpose was to slow down vehicular traffic, popped up like mushrooms in several River Heights neighbourhoods, immediately becoming a lightning rod for dissatisfaction with many residents and, by extension, the sitting councillor who agreed to the changes on his watch.

And then -- little more than a week before the election -- came what Orlikow must have been dreading: a traffic collision at the circle at Grosvenor Avenue and Waverley Street so serious it sent one person to hospital.

The most Orlikow, a bicyclist himself, would say during the election was he still supported the circles but would move to have the city remove the barrier at Harrow.

Orlikow got the bulk of his support in vote-rich River Heights, where the traffic circles are, but trailed Kowalson in Linden Woods.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

River Heights-Fort Garry

John Orlikow* 10,713

Michael Kowalson 8,677

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 28, 2010 B7

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