Katz’s city state
Mayor's annual speeches graded as he prepares his eighth
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/03/2012 (3804 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Once every winter, Mayor Sam Katz stands up in front of 1,000 people and speaks for 40 solid minutes about what he’s done for the city of Winnipeg and intends to do during the rest of the year.
Early on in office, his State of the City addresses were largely about those future plans. More recently, they’ve been about listing off accomplishments.
This is hardly unusual, as all politicians who spend a considerable amount of time in power grow less enamoured with new ideas and warier of making promises they might not be able to keep.
With Katz set to deliver his eighth State of the City address this Friday at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, it’s worth a few minutes to look back at his seven previous speeches.
What follows is a brief review of the mayor’s addresses, charting his progression from idealistic populist to canny veteran politician. But the old speeches also reveal Katz retains many of the same political priorities he identified in January 2005, when he had only been in office for seven months.
Speech No. 1 (Jan. 21, 2005)
IN his first crack at the State of the City bat, an optimistic Sam Katz promised to revive Winnipeg’s status as “the Chicago of the North” and began lobbying the province for more money to fund infrastructure.
“Broadway can do more to help with Winnipeg’s crumbling infrastructure,” he said. “It’s just a question of priorities.”
NEW PROMISES AT THE PODIUM: Consider selling off the city’s golf courses and its gravel pit. Contract out more garbage collection. Phase out the business tax over seven years. Boost the capital budget by tens of millions. Consider selling water and sewer services to neighbouring municipalities.
SCORECARD: In the ensuing years, capital spending increased dramatically. The city sold off its gravel pit and contracted out all garbage collection. The business tax was cut by 20 per cent and then frozen to exempt smaller businesses. Only now is the city exploring the sale of seven golf courses and trying to work out water-and-sewer deals with neighbouring municipalities Rosser and West St. Paul.
No. 2 (Jan. 31, 2006)
AT a slickly produced speech near the beginning of a re-election year, large screens magnified Katz’s presence to rock-star proportions. The mayor launched a promotional campaign about Winnipeg called “Yes, change is happening” and asked audience members to mail postcards to friends in other cities to create a buzz.
NEW PROMISES: Review management salaries and bonuses. Consider doing away with the Greater Winnipeg Water District Railroad, which carries supplies to the Shoal Lake Aqueduct intake. Meet with high school student-council presidents.
SCORECARD: The city all but eliminated bonuses for senior managers. The railroad remains in city hands. Many a high school student has been met.
No. 3 (Jan. 16, 2007)
IN what seemed like an effort to atone for the postcard gimmick, Katz trotted out some actual policy during his 2007 speech: A pledge to end Winnipeg’s status as the only city in Canada without a police commission.
NEW PROMISES: Create a police commission to “ensure that taxpayers are getting value for their dollars and that crime-reduction targets are being met.” Implement all Red-Tape Commission recommendations by Jan. 16, 2008. Create a new committee to develop a strategy to help Winnipeg compete in the global economy.
SCORECARD: The short-lived Winnipeg Police Advisory Board wound up having limited powers and has already been disbanded. The red-tape pledge was more or less met, with a handful of exceptions. The Mayor’s Trade Council issued a report recommending the completion of an inner ring road.
No. 4 (Feb. 8, 2008)
KATZ’S fourth speech was mainly about fighting crime. He celebrated a variety of crime-fighting achievements and noted newly hired police Chief Keith McCaskill had “the most important job in the city.”
NEW PROMISES: Create an integrated crime-prevention strategy. Create a stand-alone water-and-sewer utility.
SCORECARD: The city spent two years developing plans for a stand-alone utility but ultimately abandoned the idea. The police finally unveiled a crime-prevention strategy in 2011.
No. 5 (Jan. 29, 2009)
IN a dour but substantive speech, only months after the onset of the global financial crisis, Katz listed off the immense challenges facing the city. He made few jokes and even fewer pledges.
NEW PROMISES: Spend $3 million over three years on an aboriginal youth strategy. Provide more powers for the city auditor and create a new position called a “chief performance auditor” to ensure city departments remain accountable.
SCORECARD: The youth-strategy money was spent. The duties of the “chief performance officer” were folded into those of the city auditor.
No. 6 (Jan. 26, 2010)
FACING another re-election, Katz delivered the most entertaining address of his political career: a combative, emotional attack on a variety of targets, including the Selinger government, the NDP in general, school boards, former mayor Susan Thompson, the Winnipeg Sun, racists and the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition.
NEW PROMISES: Prevent the New Democratic Party from taking over city council in the 2010 civic election.
SCORECARD: Katz returned to the mayor’s office and retained a centre-right majority on city council.
No. 7 (Feb. 4, 2011)
AFTER the theatrics in 2010, Katz found himself a tough act to follow last year, when he spent most of his time listing off previous accomplishments.
NEW PROMISES: None, but the mayor did suggest Winnipeg will host the Grey Cup in 2014.
SCORECARD: It remains to be seen, as Ottawa was promised the 2014 CFL championship before its new stadium was delayed. Hamilton and Regina have also expressed interest in the 2014 game.