Mayoral candidates debate downtown safety
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/09/2014 (3117 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They agreed a roundabout at Portage and Main is a dumb idea, but that’s about the only thing the top five mayoral candidates settled on during a scrappy debate about the future of downtown.
Rapid transit plans were dissected. Candidates were accused of sowing fear about downtown safety, being flip-floppers or beholden to the provincial NDP. Robin Hood was invoked and one candidate even interrupted to invite everyone out to chat near his campaign motor home.
Wednesday night’s standing-room-only debate, hosted by the Downtown BIZ in the atrium of the Manitoba Hydro building, kicked off with a key issue – the perception the downtown is unsafe.
Gord Steeves, who reiterated his promise to crack down on panhandling and public intoxication, said he has no fear of being downtown. But the perception of danger, he said, is a legitimate barrier to the downtown’s growth.
“The challenge is that, we happen to know because of specific data, that the vast majority of our citizens do not feel safe in the downtown,” he said.
That prompted Judy Wasylycia-Leis to accuse Steeves of “casting blame and raising fears” instead of dealing with homelessness and poverty.
Paula Havixbeck piled on, saying tackling the root causes of crime ought to be the focus.
“We’ve been adding police for 10 years,” she said. “It’s not solving the problem.”
The BIZ debate came under some criticism for only inviting five leading candidates to the take the stage, leaving five others who are running low-key campaigns out of the mix. One of those, Mike Vogiatzakis, waited in the wings near the stage hoping to have a chance to field a question and briefly interrupted the debate to invite voters outside to speak with him near his campaign motor home.
Though there were plenty of rehashed pledges, the candidates were asked to weigh in on a few new, nitty-gritty issues, such as how much they might be willing to earmark to save the Bay, which has reduced its floor space in recent years.
“I will never subsidize one private business to compete with another,” said Steeves, emphatically.
He said he would relax red tape to help any business survive and would hate to see The Bay building torn down.
Wasylycia-Leis was among the few candidates to suggest that some city cash might be needed to save a downtown institution, if a deal involved other levels of government and could generate revenue for the city long-term.
Updated on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 9:31 PM CDT: Adds videos