Newsmaker of the Year and more
With the curtain about to drop on 2006, it's time for the annual announcement of our Newsmaker of the Year.
The title this year goes to Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.
Not only was he re-elected Mayor with a larger vote total than the first time, but he crossed the finish line with four councillors hanging onto his coat tails.
And he did it in face of an unrelenting two-year campaign of smear and sneer by the Winnipeg Free Press. It got so bad that the newspaper's own editor, Bob Cox, had to write an apology disguised as a correction for the misquotes, erroneous headlines and editorial slants slipped into news stories during the election campaign.
The gesture still didn't get Katz to buy a single election ad in the newspaper. His eventual victory underlined how irrelevant the FP has become.
While his predecessor, the preening Glen Murray, threw out a thousand "visionary" ideas and never stuck around to accomplish even one (not counting street parties), Katz does his work behind the scenes. It drives the press crazy. They'd trade a dozen pothole, street light, and transit announcements for one monorail, one subway, or one electric train.
Last year The Black Rod put a Dunce cap on Mayor Sam for his blind support of the city's new bug guy, Taz Stuart, whose refusal to spray with malathion ended only when people began coming down with West Nile Virus and the province stepped in.
Katz is a fast learner, and this year he gave Taz his marching orders---spray, early and often enough to keep the mosquitoes from becoming a danger. His biggest opponent at City Council, Donald Benham, joined the moonbats in calling malathion a nerve poison; Benham has now joined the unemployment line.
For reasons known only to him, Katz ran an almost invisible campaign for re-election. He frustrated even his most ardent supporters. It was a double mystery since Katz had very early on identified the major issue in the civic election---crime---and he was the only one offering an answer.
Since the election, its only become a bigger issue, what with a rash of robberies in and around the Health Sciences Centre, a crack epidemic that residents of the city know too well but no one in office wants to talk about, and an undiminished record of car thefts and break-ins.
Where "the visionary" Glen Murray ignored the crime problem, Katz has promised it will be a priority in his next term of office. He said he will introduce Crimestat, a computer-aided dispatch system for police, of the kind that helped turn the tide against crime in New York City in the Nineties. If he manages to get the same results as New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, they'll be erecting statues of Sam at City Hall.
Looking back through our archives for the year, we noticed two things. One, we were sure busy. And, two, we hit our stride as bloggers.
Readers of The Black Rod were:
* the first to know the damning details of the Provincial Auditor's report into The Worker's Compensation Board and the betrayal of the whistleblower by a desperate NDP government
* the first to read about how far Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin would go to attack a Conservative MP after he revealed she was prepared to overrule Parliament and use 'unwritten principles' to create new precedents, and how CBC did not check the facts before launching the first salvo in the War on Harper.
We were the first in Canada to link to her speech in New Zealand where she outlined this principle, which her office was trying to deny and which CBC bought into hook, line and sinker in a classic case of 'gotcha' journalism against Maurice Vellacott.
* the first to know the Bandidos (Manitoba) had grown powerful enough to have their own farm team - Los Montagneros, who were throwing their weight around in local bars
* the first to know of a Winnipeg connection to the mass murder of 8 Bandidos in Ontario, which lead to the arrests of 3 Winnipeg members on murder charges
* the first to read a blow-by-blow account of what happened at Montreal's Dawson College when a gunman came to kill as many students as he could
* the first to read the actual testimony from the transcripts from the Driskell Inquiry, and see how the MSM was missing, or ignoring, the story behind the attempt to engineer a conclusion to blame police and two prosecutors (one retired and the other deceased), for a dubious miscarriage of justice.
The Black Rod was the only analyst to catch the Winnipeg Free Press literally fabricating a quote to justify a page one story justifying the newspaper's condemnation of former Crown Attorney George Dangerfield
* the first to know that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had scrubbed their publicized plan to build a new stadium at the Red River Ex site and were looking at the St. Boniface yards instead
* the first to know that the still-secret stadium feasibility study says that remodelling the existing stadium is the best option of all
* the first to learn that the Seven Oaks School Division lost even more money than they had admitted on a non-legal housing development (aka O'Learygate), but that they were using creative accounting with the permission of the NDP government to turn the loss into a profit on the books
* the first to know television news host Janet Stewart was leaving CKY to take Krista Erickson's chair at CBC
* the first to know why Brad Pitt's movie about Jesse James, which was partially filmed in Winnipeg, isn't out yet (too long, too slow, too arty)
* the first to know the story of an interpreter working in Afghanistan with Canadian troops who was terribly wounded and feeling abandoned by our country. We extended our reach halfway around the world to play a small role in helping him get his life back on track.
We hope to continue breaking stories and offering insightful analysis in the new year.
Right now, though, The Black Rod wishes a Happy New Year to...
Tom Brodbeck, who continues to run laps around the rest of the reporters in town.
Lisa Saunders, who was on vacation when she learned she had lost her hosting job at City-TV when the station was sold and the new owners announced they were scrapping local news. She was also pregnant. Her new job as mother has bad pay and atrocious hours, but the rewards are priceless.
Glen Kirby, Lisa's co-host, who was flying solo when the axe dropped on City-TV. He picked himself up and went to work on Don Benham's crash-and-burn re-election campaign. Somebody, give the guy a break.
Cosmo of 92CITI-FM, who is eating Charles Adler's lunch in the afternoons (and hammering CJOB in the 2-7 P.M. slot as a whole.) Charles who? How the mighty have fallen.
Michell Dobrovolny, the reporter for the Uniter who provided the best election converage in town. Somebody hire this girl.
"Spanky" McFadyen. Every list needs some comic relief. Elected as leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party on his image as a political wunderkind, he spent the year having his ears boxed by Premier Gary Doer. He started his job by scrapping a campaign to force the NDP to call an inquiry into the Crocus scandal, and he ended the year by begging the NDP to answer his questions about Crocus during a three-week rump session of the House. Between his plan to turn the party into Liberals-lite and the news that his own Youth Leader intended to leave the province as soon as he finished his university year, Spanky just couldn't get no respect ( apologies to the late Rodney Dangerfield).
David Asper whose name, no matter what the Winnipeg Free Press says, just doesn't sound like Diasporas.
Camilla and Leah, who were our favorite late-night news team
The gang at Dust MY Broom.com sorry we missed you when you dropped by Carlos and Murphy's
Jon Fredkove of www.namedevelopment.com,
Jamie Krym, formerly of the 107th Engineer Batallion
Niaz Mohammed Hussaini