Thursday 29 April 2010

Sam Katz

If you live here in Winnipeg, you are aware that Mayor Sam is getting some serious competition for the job of running this little berg in the prairies. I am not going to comment on his competition at this time, and I am certainly not endorsing her, but I wish to share some thoughts on Mayor Sam. But first, I will share a story:

Back when this blog was barely a little blogling exploring the exciting new world of web commentary, the Upper Fort Garry issue came up. I noticed the insanity in what was going on, including the biased media coverage (Bartley Kives excepted) and I made this post on it, among others. But I did more than blog about it ... I also sent an email to Mayor Sam.

It went something like this:
I believe that the Crystal Development proposal is respectful of the Fort Garry gate, and at the same time brings much needed population and economic development to the downtown area. The apartment building does not preclude the development of a park and interpretive center on the site of the fort, and it would add to our tax base instead of consuming tax dollars as the Friend's proposal would. This is an important issue to me as a tax payer and resident of Winnipeg, and I would urge you hold your ground in the face of misleading media coverage, and do what you know is right by opposing the proposal to extend the deadline for the Friends of Fort Garry.
Much to my surprise, the mayor called me on my cell phone the next day. "I totally agree with you" he said. He concurred that the coverage by the media was atrocious and seemed genuinely happy to have found somebody else who understood the situation as he did. He proceeded to give me his word that he would stand behind the Crystal development, in spite of all of the ridiculous "save the fort" crap that was going on.

Wow, how about that? He took the time to call me, and he seems committed to doing the right thing despite all the pressures to do otherwise. What a guy! Yes, well ... only about two weeks later, after a little summit with Gary Doer and the Friends, Katz backed away from his position. Crystal Developers consequently abandoned their contract with the city when it became apparent that their friend at city hall wasn't behind them anymore.

Oh Sammy, how could you betray me like that? A little tear rolled down my face, dripped off my chin, and landed in a puddle in the shape of disappointment.

That story illustrates my over-all impression of mayor Sam. He's a people person who knows how to say the right thing, and he's accessable -- he'll respond to ordinary Joe's like me, and he'll even make regular appearances on the Great Canadian Talk Show for face to face discussions with a raging, ranting ex-wrestler who could snap at any moment. (I mean that in a nice way, Marty. You know I'm a fan.) However, as nice as he seems, he can't always be counted on.

There are two main factors that influence Sam's decisions at city hall: optics and jealousy. In the example above, optics were not on his side so he switched sides. Sam, like all politicians, wants to look like he's working hard and accomplishing a lot, and he wants people to like him. Sometimes that means making politically expedient decisions instead of correct ones.

I'm not sure if the jealousy factor is actually jealousy or just a giant inner child wanting to come out, but it is clear that Sam wishes that he was a big city mayor. He wants all of the big city toys. He wants an IKEA and is willing to bend over backwards to make sure we get one, without bothering to plan for infrastructure to accommodate it. He wants a helicopter because all of the big cities have one. Never mind the cost, or the police officers we could put on the beat with that money. He wants an LRT. No .. a BRT. No .. an LRT. Yes ... definitely an LRT. Much cooler and big-city-like than a BRT. And what's with this bizarre obsession about a waterpark?

He wants all these things whether they make sense or not, process be damned. Maybe some of them do make sense, but we don't know because Sammy danced right by the due diligence part of the process, going straight from idea in the noggin to implementation. No master plan. No grand vision for the city, (like Chris Leo says, in a Sinclair column that's not nearly as bad as the one that prompted my earlier post.) Aside from general maintenance and flashes of fiscal conservatism here and there (property tax freeze, garbage collection outsourcing) his tenure has largely been a random mish-mash of ad hoc development and sprawl.

We now officially have a legitimate contender for the job. I have very few good things to say about the organization that she left, but I welcome the competition. Maybe if you throw a businessman with no plan and an NDPer in a press and squeeze really hard, some actual ideas will drip out the bottom. Maybe even a vision of some kind.

not looking very promising on the ideas/vision front so far:

She also refused to say whether she will raise property taxes, refused to say whether she prefers bus rapid transit to light rail transit and refused to offer her opinion on the stadium deal. She said she will consult with people during the campaign before she makes specific promises.

thanks to Policy Frog for the shout out on Twitter. (If I were on twitter I would have twitted that.)


StBPegger said...

Great post! I like how you peg Katz and what drives his decision making.

Regarding his consevative-leaning: while I agreed years ago that we needed the propety tax freeze, right now I find it negligent as a mayor. The city is crumbling and desperate for money, yet Katz won't budge on its main source of revenue. When the increase finally does come around, I hate to see what it will be.

Anonymous said...

If you want to blame anyone for the Upper Fort Gary debacle lay the blame where it is due, with Gary Doer and the provincial NDP.

The site will be declared a provincial park and Assiniboine Ave will be closed at Fort St.

That was why the apartment block was scrapped.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm just not a big fan of someone who's part of the biggest ponzi scheme in the province. "legal" or not , Sam's attitude to repaying the Crocus fund while he siphons 300K from the ball park revenue ( a ball park he does NOT own by the way ) exposes his true nature.

Do the Goldeyes even pay rent or taxes ?

cherenkov said...

@ StB: Thanks. I think I agree re. property taxes.

@ Anon: I don't blame just one person, believe me, but Sam was the one guy who seemed to be standing up against the Enemies of Winnipeg, and he caved like a cheap suit. (That doesn't make sense, but anyhow..)

@Mr.No: true, I didn't even touch on his fishy business dealings.

The Traveler said...

Good comment on the man and yes I do believe you have hit dead on about him . He has done far to much for his friends at our expense . The deal for the Stadium has to be re examined for its cost to us the tax payer. And yes it is time to raise taxes for their is to many things not getting done .

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Nobody, I guess you aren't a fan of Judy Wasylicia Leis since her campaign manager, Darlene Dziewit was a Crocus Board member.

Anonymous said...

Anon - I think there are alot of Crocus scumbags walking the streets of Winnipeg and in politics.

Trying to somehow bring Judy to Sam's level of scumminess on the Crocus issue is a bit of a stretch. But yes, if Darlene was a part of the scam, she'll have to deal with it.

That being said, Sam doesn't get my vote and Judy still has 4 months to convince me.

I have to give Judy credit for bringing the fruit flavored tobacco issue to parliament ( which was passed ) and for her decision to fore go monies she has every right to take.

These are little things but then again, they are positive.

cherenkov said...

Darlene is supposed to be interim, until a real campaign mgr is hired. But in any case ...

So MrN: in the likely event that you don't like what Judy has to say (or the lack of substance in what she says), then what? Don't vote?

Anonymous said...

I'll void my vote for Mayor. It'll still register as a visit to the ballot box.

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