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This article was published 9/10/2018 (405 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
You won’t see any lawn signs bearing Gary Lenko’s name this civic election, but the semi-retired contractor still wants to become the city councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry.
Lenko, 61, is making the jump from home construction and renovation (he’s also moonlighted as a dance school director) to the realm of politics to tackle what he sees as some of the city’s biggest failures.
"I do keep up with the news every day and with the cost overruns and no accountability, and lot splitting, and clear cutting of forests, I figure it’s time," he said. "Our councillors aren’t doing anything for us in the neighbourhood."
"I’ve been a public advocate for years questioning the government, holding them accountable, and taking them to court if I have to," Lenko said.
Lenko is currently suing the City of Winnipeg, Government of Manitoba, and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation for damages over a dispute related to the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program.
The longtime west Fort Garry resident and staunch opposer of lawn signs in municipal elections said he was motivated to run for council by a perceived disregard at City Hall for folks in his neighbourhood. He’s also concerned with the cutting of trees in the Parker Lands and a lack of recourse for neighbours.
"When I hear councillor and mayoral candidates say ‘I want to be open and transparent,’ those are nice buzz words, but nobody is doing anything about it. Now I’ve got a plan to do something about it, let’s get rid of the executive policy committee," he said.
If elected, Lenko said he would table a motion to eliminate the EPC to make sure all councillors, and by extension their ward residents, have an equal footing at City Hall.
"I promise that I will give them a voice. If I have to fight for it I will. I’m not scared of fighting," Lenko said. "I don’t care if it’s the federal government, the provincial government, or the city government, if they’re doing something against the public interest I will bring it up and fight them on it."
At the ward level, the grandfather of six said more attention should be paid to maintaining safe roadways, updating the city’s infrastructure, and would like to see infill housing planned with more sensitivity to the community.
"They’re splitting up lots that are 50 feet wide," Lenko said. "They’re taking one house and putting two in the area and all that rain water, with no grass or trees, is putting extra stress on our sewage system.
"Infill strategy should deal with vacant lots or derelict buildings, it doesn’t mean split and create a vacant lot," he said.
At the city level, Lenko believes proposed projects such as opening Portage and Main to pedestrians and building an eastern bus rapid transit corridor should be dropped. Instead the money for those causes should be spent on increasing transit frequency, safety and offering free access to students, seniors, and low-income residents.
"I don’t believe Portage and Main should be opened up at all. We’ve got five months of winter and particularly in the winter the traffic gridlock and cost would be astronomical," Lenko said.
"We can get away with a lot of hassles with transit safety if we make fares just a little cheaper," he said. "Why not give people transportation so that they don’t have to worry about getting to a doctor for their kid or buying a quart of milk."
Danielle Da Silva
Community journalist — The Sou'wester
Danielle Da Silva is the community journalist for The Sou'wester. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org