Rookie Coun. Kevin Klein’s attempt to get members of council to think outside the box hit a roadblock at Winnipeg city hall Tuesday.
Members of the executive policy committee rejected Klein’s proposal to stop the 2020-23 budget process and replace it with a traditional, one-year budget using a version of the zero-based approach (in which all expenses must be justified for each new period).
EPC also said no to Klein’s suggestion to follow the City of Edmonton’s approach to public disclosure of development projects with large signs, rather than the small, yellow notices now required at project sites.
Klein appeared to alienate most members of EPC — particularly finance chairman Coun. Scott Gillingham — when he described the current budget review process as "broken," and compared a recent strategic review session as the equivalent to a corporate paintball exercise.
Klein unsuccessfully argued other Canadian municipalities use the zero-based budgeting approach and Winnipeg should do the same.
"The current system is dysfunctional, it is not inclusive," Klein said. "It is not open or transparent, and it is not working."
Klein said he believed an alternative approach to budget-setting could result in city hall finding upwards of $100 million in savings from its $1-billion annual operating budget, while improving service delivery.
City council is committed to developing a four-year budget by the end of this year, covering the period from 2020 through to 2023, that would include annual department budget and property tax increases.
Klein had hoped to jump-start a department review on development processes that isn’t due to be completed until 2020, with a pilot project using three development sites where the new signs could be posted and followed up with public consultations.
Klein and two other councillors — Janice Lukes and Sherri Rollins — had agreed to cover the costs of the new signs from their ward allowance, but the idea met heavy resistance from Couns. John Orlikow and Matt Allard, who said Klein’s short cut wasn’t needed or welcome.
When EPC was unable to agree on how to proceed with Klein’s proposal, it was ultimately set aside in favour of allowing the planning department to complete its existing review.
At Mayor Brian Bowman’s urging, executive policy committee Tuesday directed the administration to review the recent National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report to see what steps city hall can take to deal with its findings.
"I’d like to see other cities take steps to review and respond to this report. It’s an important issue across Canada, not just Winnipeg," Bowman told reporters. "My thoughts are with the families of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and I think what those families want to see is action by all levels of government.
"Today was the first step in an effort to review and respond appropriately to the recommendations in the report."
The administration was directed to bring back a report within 120 days.
Coun. Brian Mayes hopes a significant portion of the much-maligned Winnipeg Transit Plus service can be operated by Winnipeg Transit, rather than solely by private contractors.
Mayes received majority support from executive policy committee Tuesday for the proposal to be studied by council’s innovation committee.
EPC had approved awarding two, seven-year contracts for the provision of Transit Plus (formerly known as Handi-Transit), but Mayes said he would only support the awarding of the contracts if EPC also supported his plan to have Transit assume responsibility for as much as 30 per cent of the service by 2022.
Transit Plus provides services through a series of private contractors to disabled individuals unable to use regular transit. However, there has been much criticism over the years of poor quality of service.
Mayes said he was mostly concerned the cost had increased more than 50 per cent, adding he hoped the city could see more competitive bidding with having portions of the service provided by Winnipeg Transit.
The proposal would be dependent on the Transit union agreeing to an arrangement that would ensure the city’s costs would be comparable to that of private contractors.
A proposal that would result in city councillors facing serious criminal charges being suspended from duty, pending the outcome of a trial, has been dismissed by executive policy committee.
An administrative report into the idea — first proposed by Coun. Cindy Gilroy, after then-councillor Russ Wyatt was charged last year with sexual assault — said no other level of government in Canada has such provisions, and the administration did not recommend Winnipeg become the first.
Charges against Wyatt, who did not seek re-election in 2018, were stayed earlier this week.
The administrative report said councillors can only be removed from office if convicted of a serious criminal offence.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.