November 20, 2018

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Key to city? Whose idea was that?

Turns out it's usually recipient, not the mayor

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/7/2011 (2678 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gene Simmons' event promoter asked Mayor Sam Katz to give the aging rocker some recognition just weeks before the Kiss singer and reality-TV star received a key to the city, internal emails obtained through a freedom of information request reveal.

Katz is adamant it is common for people to approach his office -- including celebrities -- and suggest a deserving recipient for the key to the city. It's a promotional tool for both Winnipeg and the recipient, he said.

However, Katz now says he was at a mayoral conference in Israel when his staff made the decision to hand Simmons the award.

"I guess I would have to tell you that I didn't decide," Katz said. "A decision was made, I wasn't here and a decision was made. That's it."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/7/2011 (2678 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gene Simmons' event promoter asked Mayor Sam Katz to give the aging rocker some recognition just weeks before the Kiss singer and reality-TV star received a key to the city, internal emails obtained through a freedom of information request reveal.

Katz is adamant it is common for people to approach his office — including celebrities — and suggest a deserving recipient for the key to the city. It's a promotional tool for both Winnipeg and the recipient, he said.

Gene Simmons

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Gene Simmons

However, Katz now says he was at a mayoral conference in Israel when his staff made the decision to hand Simmons the award.

"I guess I would have to tell you that I didn't decide," Katz said. "A decision was made, I wasn't here and a decision was made. That's it."

Documents show Winnipeg event promoter Jerry Shore met with Katz in May to ask if there was some form of recognition or presentation the city could give Simmons, who was in town June 15 for a question-and-answer event at the Centennial Concert Hall.

Shore said he instigated the process on his own, and Simmons never asked for anything from the city.

He said he approached Katz since Kiss donated money to flood victims in 1997 and Simmons is interested in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

It's not the first time Shore said he's asked the city to recognize achievements of celebrities he's promoted, noting former U.S. president Bill Clinton received a watch and singer Johnny Cash received a plaque.

Two days before Simmons' award ceremony, Shore offered mayoral staff a pair of tickets to the upcoming show.

"I said, 'Will you do something because he's going to be here?' And (Katz's) words to me were, 'I will discuss this with my staff,' " Shore said. "I didn't know what (the recognition) was going to be until the day before."

The move sparked a backlash from the public and several city councillors who criticized the decision to honour Simmons, who has claimed to have slept with more than 4,600 women. Complaints over Simmons' key to the city prompted several councillors to suggest Winnipeg adopt new criteria and a new policy on doling them out.

Steve Nash (above) and Jerry Seinfeld (below) wanted their own keys.

TRIBUNE MEDIA MCT

Steve Nash (above) and Jerry Seinfeld (below) wanted their own keys.

"Just because a promoter picks up the phone and says, 'We've got some free tickets for you,' I just think there's got to be better criteria and better vetting," said St. Charles Coun. Grant Nordman.

Nordman said he first thought the announcement to honour Simmons was a joke, and he doesn't understand how celebrities and rock stars become candidates for the award when they come to town.

He said it makes more sense to recognize Winnipeggers, such as Jonathan Toews, for their achievements.

At Wednesday's council meeting, Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) introduced a motion that asks council's executive policy committee to consider changing the key-to-the-city award process. Smith said he'd like to see city council vote on potential honourees.

"The key to the city is not as prestigious as it once was, so I want to restore it," Smith said.

But Katz said honourees don't have to have a local connection to Winnipeg to receive the key to the city. In fact, Katz said, his office has only independently nominated and awarded the key to the city to one person, former Blue Bombers great Milt Stegall. Everyone else approached his office first, he said.

Jerry Seinfeld

PATRICK HARBRON/NBC

Jerry Seinfeld

Recently, Katz said, his office was approached by NBA star Steve Nash and comedian Jerry Seinfeld for similar recognition. He said Seinfeld has contributed to the community at large by making people laugh. He said all recipients are out-of-towners or former Winnipeggers, since the original idea was to make people "honorary citizens."

Previous recipients during Katz's time in office include Olympian Jon Montgomery, actor Henry Winkler, musician-activist Sir Bob Geldof and Stegall. Katz also made professional wrestler Roddy Piper an honorary citizen.

Former mayor Glen Murray conferred the honour upon actors Shannen Doherty and Shirley MacLaine.

"It's always been that a request comes in from somebody and we move forward from there," Katz said.

jen.skerritt @freepress.mb.ca

 

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