Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood councillor Kevin Klein has sharpened his focus on many hyperlocal and city-wide issues —building on the work of 2021 — as Winnipeg enters a municipal election year.
Klein plans to dial in on public safety in 2022.
"Crime is growing rapidly in our city, and elected officials don’t want to talk about it; they want to ignore it," Klein said. "That crime is not just in one area of the city anymore; it’s reaching all areas of our city."
Klein alluded to a "corrupt system" in council and the public service that "operates behind closed doors"— a system he said he will continue to push back against. The councillor plans to do this, he said, by eliminating what he calls an "old boys club."
When asked which issues residents are kept in the dark about, Klein offered that the notion that the city’s budget is tight rings hollow when considering administration sometimes finds more money for certain initiatives.
"Our snow budget — if you look back over the six years Coun. Gillingham has been the finance chair — the snow budget has basically remained the same, it’s gone up a little bit, but in and around the $35-million mark, but we always spend over $40-million," Klein said.
"Where do we come up with that? How is it that we can’t afford to do anything unless the public service wants to do it?"
Klein is critical of the city’s recent public opinion survey on police funding. He believes the province’s justice department should work to eliminate the Winnipeg Police Board and "replace it with a stronger body that can hold the service accountable."
Klein said he resigned as police board chair because the city was not at arm’s length.
"I’m not saying just increase funding to police — not at all — but we have to manage this better," he said. "The Manitoba Police Commission needs to become more actively involved because we shouldn’t be playing politics with public safety."
More on the note of public safety, Klein said he wants to improve the intersection of Wilkes Avenue and Elmhurst Road, which he cites as one of the most dangerous in the city.
"I don’t want to have to address it once somebody’s been killed — and somebody’s going to die there eventually," Klein said.
Housing continues to be a key issue for constituents, Klein said. He believes council should take a more strategic approach to create infill housing that matches the neighbourhood in question.
One initiative stood out to Klein as perhaps the most impactful project he helped champion through council this past year.
In November, the property and development committee approved Klein’s motion to sell a chunk of city-owned land to Homes for Heroes, a national non-profit that builds houses in a tiny, "park-like" setting for veterans.
"We know there’s over 200 people that are vets that live on the streets of Winnipeg," Klein said.
HFH is expected to begin construction this summer. Klein said he’s working with other organizations to determine if this housing style could benefit other communities.
Apart from housing, Klein is pleased with the work that was done this past year to refurbish parks in each of his ward’s neighbourhoods. This year, the councillor plans to have the city remove the gravel from two area playgrounds and have the material replaced with a gentler surface. Replacing the trees that were illegally removed along Roblin Boulevard is also a top priority, he said.
Klein remained vague about whether he planned to campaign in this year’s upcoming mayoral election. However, he did offer, "I never say never."
Katlyn Streilein is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She can be reached by phone at 204-697-7132 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org