The blogosphere and the Freep’s comment section have been murmuring about the connection between River Heights-Fort Garry candidate Michael Kowalson and Sandy Shindleman, arguably the city’s most powerful developer.
Earlier this summer, Shindleman sent out a fundraising letter for Kowalson, asking for donations to help Kowalson’s bid to unseat lefty-rookie Coun. John Orlikow. The letter touts Kowalson’s community service, including his volunteer work for Variety and the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. It also mentions his six years as a small businessman and his high-profile supporters such as Liberal Sen. Rod Zimmer and Tory MP Steven Fletcher.
"Together we can elect a strong new voice to city hall who cares about the future and direction of our great city," wrote Shindleman.
Shindleman’s influence at city hall has always been the subject of speculation. It’s well known that he’s close friends and old business partners with Mayor Sam Katz. Shindleman sat on the board of Riverside Park Management, the non-profit organization that sublets city land to the Katz-owned Winnipeg Goldeyes, and used to list Katz as president. Shindleman is also a founding partner in the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ Canwest Park, and he does a lot of business with city hall. About a year ago, council approved a $24-million parkade sale brokered by Shindico, a $30-million police-building purchase vetted by Shindico and a $9-million library-lease extension in a Shindico-managed mall.
I wondered today just how much Shindleman spends on candidates. Turns out, not much. I spent an hour in the clerk’s office going through the campaign returns from 2006, looking at every candidate’s list of donors. Shindleman or Shindico didn’t appear once. Lots of other developers did - Qualico, Ladco, Shelter. But no Shindleman.
It’s also entirely his right to support a candidate with his money and time.