Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mr. Katz: Please call home

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Mayor Sam Katz does not seem to enjoy the ceremonial aspects of his job, but there's little excuse for not attending a Remembrance Day ceremony. His unexplained absence this year reflects poorly on him personally and on the city generally.

Unfortunately, the mayor's blatant disrespect for one of the country's most solemn occasions is typical of his approach to the job. He has a reputation for accepting invitations and then cancelling appearances at the last minute -- including at a previous Santa Claus parade -- and for spotty attendance at Folklorama, the city's major multicultural festival.

A spokesman for Mr. Katz claims he accepted invitations to 201 events last year, but wouldn't confirm he actually attended that number of events. And despite what the mayor's office claims, previous mayors, particularly Glen Murray and Bill Norrie, were much more active at community events, partly because they enjoyed it, but also because they saw it as part of the job.

To be fair, Mayor Katz has two young children, a responsibility previous mayors did not have. His family duties might require him to curtail some events, which most people could easily understand.

But he also has a tendency to schedule long weekends for personal time, including many spent in Arizona. Since Remembrance Day fell on a Friday, it seems the mayor may have used the long weekend for another trip south.

The mayor is not obliged to disclose his whereabouts to the media on a 24-7 basis, and he is entitled to a private life and private time. In a wired world, he can always be reached by someone in the event of an emergency. His personal presence in the city is not absolutely essential either.

But ducking Remembrance Day for a trip to Arizona or other personal indulgence is a case of mixed signals and mixed-up priorities. In the absence of a better explanation, the public is left to deduce that the Sun Belt looked a lot more appealing than laying a wreath to the fallen in a crowded convention centre.

The job of mayors today is less ceremonial and more business-minded than it was in the days of a part-time council run by a board of commissioners. But as the leader of the city, the mayor is expected to represent the community with grace and dignity. Attending important community events is part of the job, which doesn't mean he has to match or exceed the records of his predecessors.

But he does have to do a better job of picking his spots.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 16, 2011 A10

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