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This article was published 24/9/2013 (2210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CATERED meals for Winnipeg School Division trustees and more open budget meetings were more fizzle than sizzle Monday night.
But ward boundaries — that's shaping up to be a hot one.
After months of maverick trustee Mike Babinsky's raising heck about trustees ordering in food when late afternoon committee meetings continue into evening board meetings, the meals will still be there.
However, with only Babinsky and Anthony Ramos opposed, the rest of the board will determine, at some point, "an appropriate maximum amount to allow for food expenditures related to trustee and board meetings."
'We're trying to push something through that was not well thought out'— Mike Babinsky
Finance chairwoman Cathy Collins said it's hard to get trustees free to come in for committee meetings earlier in the day.
"We will try to keep our expenses to a minimum," she said.
Babinsky was still steadfast that trustees can bring their own food or wait until they get home. Even if other bodies call catering, "that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do," he said.
Babinsky has also been demanding the board hold far more open meetings while deliberating on its budget. Last year, there was one public forum at the end of February after all the decisions on a $365-million budget had pretty much been set.
Now, there may also be an open house on the budget in November and parts of some budget meetings will be open — if there are no personnel decisions or "matters of a sensitive nature."
Babinsky was befuddled: "What would a sensitive piece be?" he wondered.
The division has thousands of employees, and most spending decisions involve how many people would be on the payroll.
"There are going to be times when we need frank discussions with each other," Collins said. "There has to be the opportunity to hold those discussions."
However, the debate over new ward boundaries that's been kicking around for a dozen years will go to a public forum Oct. 28 — after being defeated at least four times over the years.
The pitch from community activists is to go from three wards of three trustees each — with each ward bigger than many federal ridings — to nine wards of one seat apiece.
Trustee Kristine Barr said the administration is preparing ward maps that would be no more than two per cent more or less than the average of 15,099 voters each.
"There was a strong majority that wanted to move toward consultation with our stakeholders," said Barr.
Parent councils, student councils, employees and other community members will receive details on the proposal.
"We're trying to push something through that was not well thought out," said Babinsky.
Trustee Jackie Sneesby didn't see 11 people presenting a petition as reason to make fundamental changes: "That's not my idea of democracy," she said.
But trustee Mark Wasyliw argued: "A smaller ward system will be more democratic and more accountable," allowing more people a chance to run.
Declared Barr: "We need to seek feedback. I want to see more diverse candidates come forward."