Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2007 (4678 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On Feb. 27, Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, England, announced his city would become the greenest in the world with a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent in 20 years. All new homes are to be "zero carbon" by 2016, better insulated and drawing their energy from zero- or low-carbon technologies. Businesses will be pushed to cut greenhouse gas emissions — the focus of a campaign to turn off computers and lights at night, for example — and spending will be hiked to improve public transit, build walking paths, encourage cycling. High-polluting vehicles will pay a hefty daily tax for rolling through the central streets.
Livingstone has joined the herd of some of the world's progressive cities in steering his hometown into the 21st century, investing in innovation and changing urban lifestyles to cut the municipality's "carbon" footprint.
Katz has followed up his street-sweeping plan with a ban on selling spray paint to minors.
Livingstone is pushing London to the horizons; Katz will trim the hedges.
There's a dearth of excitement and purpose in this city, and I'm underwhelmed by the discouraging sounds out of city hall. Not only is there no agenda there, there is a disturbing acquiescence in the mayor's office to the reign from Broadway.
The fact there are two seats of government sharing one city has always been a sticky political reality for Winnipeg, but Gary Doer is seizing control of the priority planning for the municipality, where his government's tenure will be determined.
It began long before the current election campaign, before "Can-do Sam" took power following the resignation of Glen Murray, who had tried to push back Broadway, but gave up the good fight to rejuvenate the city with more robust spending financed with an expanded taxing authority.
The death of the new deal ushered in a rapacious provincial paternalism and Doer has built an impressive political empire, binding Winnipeg to handouts. As Winnipeg grows increasingly beholden to the party in power for its budgets, civic engagement can only wither. It's like putting the city on autopilot, controlled by the provincial cabinet joystick.
The fact this city holds more than 60 per cent of Manitoba's population should mean something both politically and economically. Unfettered by transfers and funding agreements, the city would have a hope of becoming a dynamic urban centre where new businesses vie for expensive rental space downtown to take advantage, for example, of full WiFi service (London again, as of April 23). Aggressive development of downtown and Exchange District housing could be a real magnet for young people and couples looking to launch careers.
Instead, Winnipeg suburbanites and students abandon Portage Avenue and its neighbouring streets to the panhandlers at 5 p.m. or darkness, whichever comes first.
The mayor has been reduced to a cheerleader at Doer press conferences, when he's not going hat in hand to the legislature for help in keeping his capital budget in the black.
Now it's moved beyond potholes and pavement. Routine municipal programs and services have become provincial files. Daily NDP campaign announcements have poured bucks into recreation, bike and walking paths, police services, firefighting and sports complexes. All good things, maybe, but who is setting the agenda? Remind me why we need city hall?
Gary is out there talking to your citizens, Sam, offering appliance rebates to cut their municipal water bills, linking them with "green" corridors in St. Vital, Fort Whyte, Transcona and Kildonan, protecting their houses from fiends and fire.
Winnipeggers are being conditioned to cast their eyes to Broadway to serve their interests and it is not a good fit. Gary Doer cannot strengthen Winnipeg's economic base because his interest lies in securing provincial power over spending and solidifying his partisan appeal in the city by catering, piece-meal, to the wish-lists of the constituencies. That's divisive.
Winnipeg's interest lies in new taxing power, but that can't be done without provincial permission, which is not something premiers volunteer.
It is an unnerving development in the life of the city, begging the response of a leader with the political instincts to resist.
More unnerving is the deafening sound of silence out of city hall.