Letter to the Editor to start 2009

I would like wish you all joy, peace and love throughout 2009. It seems it doesn't take long for the work of the New Year to begin as the holiday season draws to a close. In case any of you missed this, the letter below appeared in today's Free Press: Coun. Gerbasi responds Re: Mayor weathers toughest year, Dec. 29. I am writing to respond to comments made by Mayor Sam Katz in his year-end interview with Bartley Kives which can be heard in full on the Winnipeg Free Press website. It was unfortunate that the mayor used this opportunity to take an extensive nasty personal attack against councillors who have spoken against many of his decisions this year. In the past year, the mayor has publicly called one opposition councillor the same thing as what is in a dirty diaper and accused another of not having the ability, integrity or intelligence to be in the same room as deputy CAO Phil Sheegl. In the year-end interview, he again called members of council hypocrites lacking integrity, intelligence and ability. What the public should know is that these personal attacks are coming only from one direction, from Mayor Katz. The opposition councillors' focus has been, and will continue to be, on the issues important to Winnipeggers. We are simply democratically elected people who are representing citizens. In fact, it is part of our responsibility as elected officials to ask questions and speak against decisions and policies we disagree with. I would also like to set the record straight regarding comments made by the mayor about our positions on such issues as the MTS Centre, the sale of Winnipeg Hydro and the water and waste utility issue. The mayor has taken a comment out of context to imply that opposition councillors did not support public input into the MTS decision. What he may not know is that then-city centre community committee councillors Harvey Smith, Garth Steek and I held extensive public meetings outside of the required hearing process to listen to the concerns of the public. The decision to proceed with the MTS Centre was one of the most difficult ones we had to make. I believe that most Winnipeggers agree it turned out to be a good decision. The mayor has called us hypocrites for supporting the sale of Winnipeg Hydro to Manitoba Hydro but not supporting the proposed changes to our water and waste department. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison. This year we voted against the concept of having a private company design, build and operate our water-treatment facilities and have an arm's-length board deal with our drinking water, garbage and recycling and land-drainage systems. I believe that these are core public services that need to be overseen directly by the public service. On one final note, it is interesting to hear that the mayor's wish for next year is to see rapid transit proceed all the way to the University of Manitoba. If this is what the mayor truly wants, my hope is that we will soon see a change to the capital budget and five-year forecast that council just passed. Projects must appear in a budget to be real. As we start a new year, I hope that council will do its work in a respectful, honest and democratic fashion. Ultimately, that will depend on our mayor. Jenny Gerbasi Councillor, Fort Rouge East-Fort Garry Thank you for your interest in Civic Issues! Cheers! Jenny Jenny Gerbasi Councillor Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry jgerbasi@winnipeg.ca