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The mayor's first 100 days

Bowman marks milestone with virtual town hall

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/2/2015 (839 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Brian Bowman was in a celebratory mood Monday as he marked his first 100 days in office.

It began with a 40-minute telephone town-hall meeting in the morning, during which he took questions from Twitter and live callers about the budget process and his response to Maclean's magazine's portrayal of the city. He followed it up with an exchange with reporters.

Mayor Brian Bowman speaks to a caller during a virtual town hall Monday morning.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayor Brian Bowman speaks to a caller during a virtual town hall Monday morning.

"This virtual town hall... is a good, positive first step," Bowman told those who called in to participate. "It's just the beginning of the dialogue we're going to have over the next four years."

Bowman evoked the memory of U.S. president John F. Kennedy when he told reporters why he took time out of his schedule to mark the 100-day anniversary.

"I know it's going to take a lot more than 100 days to completely restore trust and faith in city hall, but like JFK said, 'All this may not be finished in the first 100 days or the first thousand or maybe not even in our lifetime, but let us begin.' "

Bowman said he'd fulfilled 18 of the 19 commitments he set out for his first 100 days -- the only item not completed was the hiring of a new chief administrative officer, but he added that would be done in March.

The checklist of 19 commitments included many things Bowman was required to do upon taking office, including attending his own swearing-in ceremony and attending the organizational meeting of council.

Not on that list were a few events that caught everyone by surprise and earned Bowman praise for how he handled them: the suspension of the interim acting chief administrative officer; dealing with a city-wide boil-water advisory; responding to a front-cover Maclean's story describing Winnipeg as the most racist city in Canada; and a public showdown with the leadership of CentreVenture, the city's downtown development agency, over its involvement in the purchase and redevelopment of a hotel site near the RBC Convention Centre.

But Bowman said the toughest challenge to date has been changing the culture and public perception at city hall.

"The toughest (campaign) pledge was really to restore trust and faith at city hall," Bowman said. "That was undoubtedly the No. 1 priority I heard at the doorstep, and that's why I focused so much attention on opening up city hall.

"But we have a long way to go before Winnipeggers can say decisively, 'Yeah, city hall is open, transparent and accountable right now.'

"We've got a lot of work to do there."

Bowman said he had no figures to show how many people participated in the town hall -- believed to be the first event of its kind for the mayor's office -- but said he was pleased with the number of questions forwarded to him on Twitter.

Bowman said the two biggest surprises of his first 100 days were the Maclean's article and the boil-water advisory.

"The job is being able to respond to the challenges as they are thrown at you as a leader, as well as it is about moving my agenda," Bowman said. "You have to be pragmatic to be able to deal with those things."

Bowman said his next target date is the annual Mayor's State of the City luncheon hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, set for March 20, at which he'll lay out his vision for the remainder of the year and his four years in office -- which he calculated to be 1,358 days.

Bowman conceded he offered Winnipeggers an ambitious set of promises during his campaign because he wanted to elevate the expectations of voters. "Had I ran a less ambitious platform, I don't think I'd be serving as mayor, because Winnipeggers have high hopes for the mayor and high hopes for city hall, and I'm prepared to work very hard to fulfil those pledges."

Bowman said most of the energies at city hall to date have been focused on drafting the 2015 operating and capital budgets, which he described as "the toughest budget Winnipeggers have faced in many decades."

Bowman ran for office with a promise to restrict the property-tax increase to no more than cost-of-living, expected to be about 2.3 per cent, and to trim two per cent from all civic departments, except fire, paramedics and police.

Without providing details, Bowman said some departments will see serious impacts. "Something's gotta give," Bowman said.

"There are decision that will have to be made in the budget that will not be popular. I'm not happy with some of the decisions that we're being forced to make, but that's the job."

Bowman said he has no plans to abandon any campaign promises, including his commitment to complete all five bus rapid-transit corridors by 2030, squeeze more infrastructure dollars from the province, and find an alternative to property taxes as the city's primary source of revenue.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

How do you think our new mayor did in his first 100 days? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Read more by Aldo Santin.

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Updated on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 6:28 AM CST: Replaces photo, tweaks headline, adds videos, adds question for discussion

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