Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We're a city without a plan for path to future

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UP THE BIKE PATH WITHOUT A PLAN... If it wasn't for city Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry), we still might be waiting to learn a group of her colleagues at city hall have decided, despite what they decided earlier, we don't really need a comprehensive plan for a system of bike and pedestrian paths stretching into our future.

Not right now, anyway.

Not that we should be surprised by the decision to scrap the already awarded $400,000 consultant's study of the future of biking and walking.

All you have to do is look at where the city agreed to build the Bombers' new stadium to understand vision and planning are not one of the Katz administration's priorities. Gerbasi broke the news that the city's active-transportation plan had been ditched late Tuesday afternoon on her blog.

"I have just learned that the Pedestrian and Cycling Strategy for the city has been cancelled indefinitely," she wrote.

Gerbasi said she made the discovery after making inquiries of the public works department about the plan's progress.

This is the way it was explained to her in an email: "Due to the current and foreseen short to medium term human resource pressures within the Public Works Department, we are suspending the pedestrian and cycling Strategy until further notice. What we have completed to date will serve the citizens of Winnipeg well for many years to come..."

Executive policy committee member Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) explained it differently to the Free Press's Bartley Kives: "We put a halt to the plan, thinking the money could be better spent on actual active-transportation projects."

So the $400,000 -- or what's left of it after the project's abrupt start and stop -- will be added to the $1.26 million that's already in this year's budget for bike and pedestrian paths.

That money will probably be well spent. But Winnipeg risks making wrong turns with short-term planning for active transportation.

It was that dump of federal infrastructure money during the 2010 civic election -- and quickly spent without planning -- that seemed to convince the mayor and city council we need a well-thought-out strategy for bike and walking paths.

Hence the $400,000 budgeted to create that plan. And now, suddenly, we're building again without a strategy for the long run, or the long walk, for that matter.

I thought the traffic-jam fiasco at Investors Group Field -- and the way so many fans responded by climbing on their bikes and even hoofing it to the opening game -- would have convinced city hall active transportation is a future in need of a grand plan.

Gerbasi sees the decision to abandon the planning as a "step backward for our city." I see it as a metaphor for an overall malaise at city hall.

We are a city without a plan for a path to the future that we can actually follow. And we have a city hall that couldn't distinguish a fork in the road from a fork in the river.

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GARTH "BOOOO"UCHKO TAKES A BOW... Bomber fans booed the football team's CEO, Garth Buchko, at the official opening of Investors Group Field last month, but this week, in front of another audience and at a different venue, it was all grateful applause. Buchko is one of the co-founders of the Hunger for Hope fund, which, over the last six years, according to what he told the crowd at Winnipeg Harvest's annual golf tournament, has raised about one million dollars, all of which has gone to buying baby formula for kids from needy families.

Nobody was going to boo that.

And Tuesday, at the spectacular new Southwood Golf and Country Club, co-hosts Doug Brown and Ace Burpee helped the food bank and Hunger for Hope raise another $106,000.

So, take a bow, Garth. You and everyone else involved deserve it.

-- -- --

AND NOW A MESSAGE FROM POLICE... On Monday, I asked Winnipeg police why they didn't call a news conference the same day they released the so-called "report card" on how the goals they set in their strategic plan measured up against the results, just so media pests like me could ask police questions for curious citizens like you.

An answer arrived in my email Tuesday, the same day the column on the report card appeared.

Senior members of the Winnipeg Police Service will be available to the media during the week of July 22-26, when the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics issues its annual crime stats for 2012. Apparently, the police report card's noting violent crime was down four per cent city-wide was just a teaser. So we'll all have to wait to see if the Slurpee Capital of the Universe retains its even more dubious distinction -- Murder Capital of Canada.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2013 B1


Updated on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 8:44 AM CDT: replaces photo

9:18 AM: corrects typo

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