Running on Empty. The Brian Bowman campaign for Mayor.
Without a lick of experience at City Hall, this Gen X-er believes he should start at the top, as Mayor. To compensate for knowing nothing about the job he wants, he says he will provide the city with "leadership."
But seeing as how all the mayoral candidates will likely play the leadership card, how does Bowman stand out?
Tuesday morning, before filing his papers to run for mayor, 42-year-old Bowman, a lawyer, showed up on Charles Adler's morning talk show where he expanded on his idea of leadership.
Yep, Bowman is running on the vision thing.
'Vision' is the code word among the Ivory Tower elite for the rich man's burden.
'Vision' means the airy-fairy mega-million dollar projects that are, surely you understand, beyond the limited knowledge and imagination of the scrabbling masses. But not their wallets.
Can you believe that city council has been debating a rapid transit line that runs barely 10 blocks, Bowman snorted to Adler. He, on the other hand, wants to look ahead, far ahead - to 2035 - when Winnipeg is predicted to have a million people. Bowman wants to build public transit for that city, not the grubby city we live in now.
That, people, is vision.
That, people, is also delusional.
It demonstrates that Brian Bowman has no understanding how city council works. Winnipeg, in a nutshell, is run by 16 monkeys---a mayor and 15 councillors. Everyone has an equal vote. The mayor's only power is to appoint councillors to executive policy committee. Currently, the biggest toadie on EPC is another lawyer (ptui).
Intelligence and competence play no part in who gets elected and what role they play on council. But when people have a problem, they have their councillors' phone numbers and they're not shy about giving their councillors an earful. Those councillors then bring those problems to City Hall.
City Hall is dealing with garbage pickup in back lanes, not designing where to put charging stations for hydrogen-powered hovercraft buses for the city-of-the-future.
Bowman's only experience with leadership is his time at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce (one-term chairman) and the Art Gallery (a board member). Make big plans, lobby politicians, go for a power lunch. The press snapping at your kiester? Call security. Say, what's the theme of this year's fundraising gala going to be? Pink or powder blue?
As a privacy lawyer, Bowman couldn't be more removed from the day to day concerns of citizens. How often have you consulted a privacy lawyer? A criminal lawyer, a divorce lawyer, maybe. But a privacy lawyer? How la-de-da can you get?
Bowman actually told Adler that one of his major election planks would be to improve transparency at city hall.
Not snow clearing , potholes, mosquitoes, or gangs.
Wow. Is this guy in touch with the issues or what?
Bowman wants to talk about "moving forward." Forget those niggling problems of the past, that firehall thing, the police station thing, the stadium thing. It's hard to keep those things straight.
Gen Xers don't like hard.
Focus on infrastructure. Yeah, love that word. Infrastructure. Everything you build is infrastructure, so everything you build is good. Who can object to paying for the greater good?
Not you. That's why you're going to be happy to pay higher taxes, Bowman believes. Yes, a tax increase each and every year to pay for his "vision." At the rate of inflation.
He told Adler he's very proud of the big ideas that the Chamber under his watch brought forward to politicians under a campaign called Manitoba Bold.
Let's see how much he talks about the BOLD idea for a separate city sales tax.
Somebody might remember that Sam Katz used to talk about vision. Remember when he brought former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani to Winnipeg to pitch his broken windows theory on reducing crime? Nobody else does.
Or Katz's excitement at the plans of hippie city entomologist Taz Stuart who was going to replace mosquito foggging with holistic eradication methods? One morning Taz was gone but the fogging trucks weren't.
Bus Rapid Transit was out, then in, then on the shelf for Light Rail, then back in, then in limbo, and now in again, coincidentally with a slight detour that benefits Sam Katz's friends.
That, also, is somebody's vision.
Brian Bowman has Sam Katz's smile (the one from the early days, not the forced one Katz slaps on today). But in this mayoral election he's Kaj Hasselriis, not Sam Katz.
Nice guy if you were electing a class president in junior high, but being mayor of a city is not a starter position with benefits.
Postscript: Judy Wasylycia-Leis also ran on 'Vision' in the last mayoral election. Here's what we had to say at the time. It's still relevant, obviously: