If you believed the future of Winnipeg lay in turning the clock back to the 19th century, before the internal combusion engine was invented and cars replaced horses, you were embraced and pushed to an exhalted position at the front of the line.
But if you felt that city taxpayers should have the final say about how the city should grow, develop and look 25 years from now, you were reviled, scorned, insulted and treated like a leper.
Welcome to OurWinnipeg, the sham consultation process conducted over the past week.
OurWinnipeg is the latest of the series of phony public non-consultation processes conducted by Mayor Sam Katz and his supporters. You know...
* There was the one, ahem, "consulting" people about a bike path through their North End neighbourhood, where residents got notice of the meeting one day, two days, three days, four days AFTER the meeting took place.
* And, of course, the, uh, "public consultation" over which of three designs for the Disraeli Bridge was most preferred. The public selected one, which was immediately scrapped while the city planners held secret meetings with a special interest group, which led to a decision to build two bridges at a cost higher than the most expensive bridge rejected by the public at the "public consultations."
This is just more of the same, only with more bells and whistles.
* The city planning department claims they heard from 42.000 people over the past year about how they want Winnipeg to evolve over the next 25 years. They say they synthesized those 42,000 opinions into four or five fancy booklets stuffed with what they claim is the direction those 42,000 voices want the city to take.
It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
* The short-lived Police Advisory Board asked citizens in the highest-crime areas of Winnipeg what they wanted to see from their police force. More police on the streets, said the people. Close the crack houses. Protect our children from gangs. Chase away the street prostitutes.
But the city planners heard "more social workers to address the root causes of crime." (Oh boy, you're going to hear a lot about root causes this week. Stay tuned.) Nowhere in the planning documents does it mention that the NDP government pledged 10 years ago to address the root causes of crime. How's that working,by the way?
* Every year Winnipeg motorists beg the city to fix the potholes that make driving a nightmare. The planning department heard them say "oh boy, potholes are great tools to drive cars off the road. People should ride bicycles."
* The city devoted one whole week to get feedback from the public about the 25-year plan. Yep, one entire week. Seven whole days. The clock stops June 1.
The only problem was that the city planners failed miserably when it came to a little thing called communication. The booklets they put out for the hoi polloi were....well....useless.
Let's see. They invited people to discuss “spatial articulation."
Oh, and of course, they want Winnipeg to "link persons with ongoing public safety issues to appropriate long-term support.'
Huh? Huh? And double-huh.
It was obvious in seconds that they didn't want anyone's opinion but their own.
The language was designed to baffle and turn away everyone except city planners, who could then claim to council that the public had been "consulted" and had no objections to anything in der plan.
And it gets worse.
* Shouldn't Winnipeg homeowners who pay the taxes that run the city have the major say in how the city grows, a planner was asked.
He turned various shades of purple.
Taxpayers? Making decisions? Preposterous. "Is that the city you want?" he bellowed.
That's exactly the city we want.
Gopher Boy and the ban-all-cars contingent have made their pitch, but the final say belongs to the people who pay the shot. If they want to drive cars, then the city MUST work at providing the best environment for motorists in the world. If you don't like it, MOVE.
If we want our boulevards mowed regularly, then the city must buy enough grass-cutting equipment to keep up with the growth. If we want daily spraying of malathion to eliminate mosquitoes during our short summers, then buy in bulk or hit the road.
That's called democracy. If you want something else, run for office and let's see how many votes you get. We can all use a laugh.
The priorities of city taxpayers must be the priorities of the city.
Former mayor Glen Murray thought his "visionary" status allowed him to spend taxpayer's money on street parties and fancy overpriced bridges instead of policing and road repairs. When he quit and lost his bid for federal office, he couldn't find another job in Winnipeg and had to run away to Toronto. The city had spoken.
* And city taxpayers must have a veto.
Why are we spending $20 million on trendy bicycle paths to be used by a tiny handful of commuters, when, we're told, we need to spend billions on fixing streets, sidewalks, and backlanes.
When, exactly, was the public asked how they wanted their money spent?
Remember that in October when you vote for a new council.
For another view of the OurWinnipeg process read Progressive Winnipeg at http://progressivewinnipeg.blogspot.com/2010/05/our-winnipeg-draught-dripdripsomethings.html