STATE OF THE CITY, PARK POLICE, FACADISM AND BACK YARD SHARING AND MORE

MAYOR'S STATE OF THE CITY SPEECH 2009 The Mayor's annual State of the City Address this week hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce was received by a crowded but somewhat subdued house. The speech included a reiteration of previous commitments such as creating a transportation authority, a water and waste utility, launching 311 and reviewing Plan Winnipeg. It was interesting to observe the things that were not mentioned in the speech namely downtown redevelopment, housing, climate change, Bus Rapid Transit, poverty or the arts. The only completely new commitment made was to hire a "Chief Performance Officer". It appears that the role of this new high level administrator will be to assist the city Auditor in making sure the Departments are held accountable for the money they spend. It is interesting to note that in recent months there have been three high level Deputy CAO positions created as well as this new top level bureaucrat. At the same time, for the last two budget years, there has been significant reductions in middle level staff. We have recently learned that the Park Police will be reduced in half, fallout from the 2008 budget. As we go into the 2009 budget, which has been described by the Mayor as a "battle" where taxes will again be frozen, we can surely expect further staff reductions. I would hope that job descriptions and salaries of these newly created high level staff positions will be made public so that citizens can be informed of where our thinly stretched public funds are being directed. The speech in its entirety can be viewed on the Mayor's web site at www.samkatz.ca. CHANGES COMING TO PARK POLICE Many people may not be aware of the changes that are coming to the Park Police that work under the Public Works Department to keep our public parks safe. In an effort to save $100,000 as dictated from the 2008 budget, the park police is being reduced from 14 people to 7 and temporary seasonal "ambassadors" will be hired. The City administration has the authority to implement this change without a council vote and employees have already been notified. In response to concerns about the implications of these changes, I moved the following motion at the Jan 28th Council meeting. The motion will be heard at the Infrastructure and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, February 10th at 9:00 AM. Members of the public can register to speak to the matter by contacting the clerk: Josie Marques at jmarques@winnipeg.ca or 986 4228. This is the motion which will be discussed on Feb. 10th: Whereas on December 5th 2008, the Winnipeg Park Police were given 90 days notice that they would cease to exist on March 2nd, 2009. And whereas the staff will be reduced from 14 to 7 and "downgraded" to a new "park patrol" concept that will employ untrained seasonal staff as ambassadors And whereas response to crime in our parks is an issue of concern for citizens And whereas the proposed plan shifts the responsibility of dealing with crime issues in our parks to the already high workload of the Winnipeg Police Service And whereas the new model will focus on Assiniboine, Kildonan and St Vital Parks which could mean a lack of security in other city parks considering the high level of demand on the WPS for high priority calls And whereas the projected savings of $100,000 should be reinvested into park safety initiatives or the WPS rather than reducing coverage for city parks. Therefore be it resolved that the proposed changes to matter be referred to the Infrastructure and Public Works Committee for review and for further information to be provided to the committee by the Public Works department and the Winnipeg Police Service. MAYOR AGREES TO WRITE LETTER TO SUPPORT GORDON BELL At Council this week in question period I was able to get a commitment from the Mayor to write a letter to Canada Post in support of the community effort to obtain the land beside Gordon Bell High School for a sports field and green space for the school and the surrounding community. Here's hoping that all of the efforts that have come from so many will add up to a miraculous result that makes our neighbourhood a better place! FACADISM LETTER TO THE EDITOR In case you missed it, the following letter was published in the Winnipeg Free Press today in response to recent events in the Exchange District: We are increasingly hearing about so-called 'win-win compromise' proposals to redevelop heritage buildings by demolishing the structure, but retaining the fa├žade. The recent proposal of Manitoba Hydro to use the approach of "facadism" to create a high voltage hydro substation and dead zone in the heart of the Exchange District is an alarming example of this dangerous road. Choosing facadism should remain an exception and never considered an easily justifiable practice. It has been declared unacceptable by the City's Historical Buildings Committee as well as various international conservation organizations. Buildings are much more than facades, and cities more than mere collections of structures. Focusing on individual buildings is piecemeal and short-sighted, and will impoverish the historic flavour of our Exchange District. Councillor Jenny Gerbasi Chair, Historical Buildings Committee SHARING BACKYARDS Do you have a yard to share? Are you looking for a yard to garden? Manitoba Food Charter, thanks to Lifecycles in Victoria BC, has set up a backyard sharing site for folks to offer or request garden spots. Visit www.sharingbackyards.com and enter your address or just 'Winnipeg' to get started. You'll then be able to create your own message requesting or offering a garden spot. Please pass on to others who may be interested Contact Paul Chorney at paul@mbfoodcharter.ca Manitoba Food Security Website: http://manitobafoodsecurity.ca Thank you for your interest in Civic Issues! Cheers! Jenny Jenny Gerbasi Councillor Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry jgerbasi@winnipeg.ca