When Brian Bowman rebuked the police service this week for loaning the police helicopter to a movie company (at a full cost-recovery price) for a short scene he demonstrated his limited grasp of how the city works.
Just as his city hall colleague Councillor I'M-MARTY-MORANTZ-AND-I'M-A-LAWYER learned to his chagrin two years ago, the police department reports to the police commission, not the mayor or city council. Morantz had tried to browbeat a senior police official at a committee meeting, but was quickly informed by the police chief of the way things run and the next day ate crow for breakfast, lunch and supper.
Bowman was delivered a hefty helping of his own on Monday when the police responded to his lecture about extending police resources to Hollywood directors.
"This is what any large city would do if you're trying to attract the film industry here, and we have been very successful, from my understanding, in doing that for a long time...It's simply beyond me why this is an issue," police spokesman Const. Rob Carver told reporters, according to the CBC.
For the record, the helicopter was flown to La Salle, Manitoba, for a scene in the movie 'The Parts You Lose' being shot there. That's a whopping 20 miles (32 kilometres) past Winnipeg city limits. The helicopter flies at up to 380 kilometres an hour and could respond to any call for service in the city in 5 minutes.
Why the mayor decided to stick his nose where it doesn't belong is a mystery, but an even bigger question is: what happened to Bold Brian, the man who ran for mayor four years ago?
You remember him, don't you? He was going to be the "cool" mayor.The guy who loved heavy metal bands, who dodged bullets in a bus hijacking in Mexico, who was going to transform Winnipeg into a city of the future with rapid transit extending into every corner of the metropolis and wi-fi on every speedy bus to link everyone to the universe. How cool is that?
Three years later, he's the scold, the stickler for rules even if he's wrong, the drudge who's only success as a mayor is raising taxes, frontage fees, water rates, bus fares, and speeding tickets. Remember how he was the candidate for mayor who promised lower taxes than SpeNDP candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis? You've got to laugh to keep from crying.
With Bowman looking ahead at running for re-election in 2018, the question is how does he rate as a mayor? To be fair, we're going to look for the answer from the only man who knows---Brian Bowman.
Anyone running for office delivers a barrage of promises for what he or she is going to do if elected, then hopes voters forget most of what was promised. In the case of Brian Bowman, one solemn pledge stands out, and its that alone that delivers the measure of the mayor.
"I'll go as far as I have to, to restore Winnipeggers' trust and faith in city hall," Bowman told the CBC and other news outlets in year-end 2014 interviews.
His predecessor Sam Katz's final years in office were characterized by scandal---rigged bids on multi-million dollar construction projects, preferential treatment for an investor of the mayor's baseball team, a suspicious purchase of a million dollar house for cash by the mayor from an officer that that investor's business, damning audits, ending with an RCMP investigation into allegations of kickbacks for a sweetheart deal on the construction of a new headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service.
Winnipeggers were shell-shocked by the time of Bowman's election and welcomed his promise for clean government. How's he done?
Bowman's third year in office ended with city hall under a cloud of controversy that's engulfed city councillors, the mayor, the city's CAO, various city administrators (now gone), and a prominent developer. Sound familiar?
It stemmed from a plan to extend a road in Charleswood (called the Sterling Lyon Parkway). The extension would mean expropriation of 96 homes. The homeowners were surpised to find out about the plan for their properties because public consultations held by the city never mentioned it. Sound familiar?
Of course it does. This is the same city scam that's been run for years. Take the Disraeli Freeway replacement in Sam Katz's day.
City officials used the same template in Charleswood under Brian Bowman.
Only they hit a snag. They came up against people who had money. Who could hire lawyers and researchers and planners of their own. And the scheme fell apart in the bright light of day, but not before uncovering documentation suggesting that their own councillor knew about option four but didn't tell them. Councillor Marty Moranz plans to call for a city audit of the project, that's now on hold.
Internal emails also disclosed that the mayor at one point intervened personally to stop the road extension project (temporarily) for an undisclosed reason. Did his intervention have anything to do with his mother, who lives in the area and who attended at least one public hearing? You've got to admire a man who loves his mother.
Anything else? There's the Parking Authority which keeps getting caught gouging drivers. Most recently they planned to ticket Saturday parkers who thought the stickers that read "2 hours complimentary parking on Saturday" meant 2 hours free parking. Oh, no, said the Parking Authority. It obviously meant pay for two hours and get two hours additional for free. What's the matter with people? Can't they understand plain English?
There's the North End sewage-treatment plant that continues to hemmorhage money. In 2016 it was estimated to cost almost $800 million. We wish. The current estimate is $1.4 billion and only God knows when it will be completed. Apparently everybody we've hired so far doesn't know what they're doing. Bowman is unperturbed.
The RCMP investigation into the construction of the Winnipeg Police headquarters has entered its third year. It has expanded to include construction of the Canada Post Mail Processing Plant near the airport, which was built by the same company involved in the police HQ project.
And remember how Winnipeg wound up building a firehall on land it didn't own on Taylor Avenue in River Heights? A bylaw passed in 2014 called for expropriation of the land. The city was to receive recommendations early in 2015 on what to pay.
Do voters have more trust in city hall than they did before the last mayoral election?