You’ll thank me later

Dear Mr. Mayor,

First let me congratulate you on winning a third term in office as Winnipeg’s mayor. You overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles, such as a city heaving under the weight of violent crime (a situation which failed to get much better under your watch), an NDP-backed opponent and even an unfortunate — and ill-timed — boot to a child’s face, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Bravo.

Winnipeggers braved hurricane-like winds and semi-arctic cold in order to cast their ballot last week, and I feel that it would be a shame if their efforts were for nothing. So I have compiled a handy list of ideas for you, to help you stay true to your campaign, while still managing to make this city a better place to live.

Winnipeg has had a 13-year freeze on property taxes. And while this is sure to get the votes of people who don’t understand finance, I think we can all agree that it is unsustainable. Maybe in a world of zero inflation this scheme could work, but we don’t live in that world.

People I have brought this up to have countered with the argument that, as long as house prices continue to rise, in effect, the city does raise property taxes a little bit each year. This is genius, because we all know that house prices go up forever. Just ask the people on Wall Street.

While you didn’t say whether or not you would raise taxes, your opponent — who made raising property taxes a platform of her campaign — lost, so I can understand if it’s a bit of a touchy subject. Luckily, I have an idea.
It’s no secret that Winnipeg has an infrastructure problem; the city is falling apart, and we have no money to pay to fix it.

I originally thought “wait, we could go with the trend and print more money,” but then I remembered that we’re dealing with a municipal government here, and unfortunately we don’t control the mints (yet). With that idea gone, my mind turned to a concept that both Toronto and Canadian Tire use: why don’t we come up with our own currency!

We’ll call them “Winnies” or “‘peggers” and we’ll use them to pay the construction companies to fix our roads, sewers and water services.
‘Peggers will be legal currency at any City of Winnipeg-owned business, like parking garages and the “parking store,” and even for parking meters and Goldeyes games (the Goldeyes are owned by the city . . . right? I get so confused sometimes).

Yes, the construction companies might be mad about not being paid in money that can be used to buy groceries and gasoline, but they might not even notice. They almost didn’t notice when they got the concrete work wrong on the Jubilee overpass this summer, further delaying its opening.
Maybe we could even pay the 58 new police officers you promised to hire with ‘peggers. I’m not sure how else we’re planning on paying them.

Regardless of how we plan to pay them, I am a bit curious about how 58 new police officers will help prevent crime. Winnipeg’s police are great, and they have a very tough job to do, but police are, at best, reactionary. They react to crime . . . unless you have secured some of those psychics from Minority Report (you haven’t . . . have you? You can tell me).

Yes, more police on more corners will probably discourage crimes of opportunity, but the activities of people who feel that crime is their only shot at a decent life, or who have grown up knowing nothing else, might just be shifted into neighbourhoods with fewer police; a similar effect has been seen by communities that have installed surveillance cameras.

Personally, I think most people would prefer to never meet the “bad guy” rather than know the person who shot/stabbed/robbed them was caught, but this requires us to be a little bit socially minded. It requires us to ask tough questions of ourselves, like what is the root of poverty, and how can we break kids from these cycles?

Properly functioning community centres are a proven way to prevent crime. Unfortunately, if my local community centre is anything to go by, we don’t have these in Winnipeg.

My local community centre can’t afford to hire a general manager, and therefore has to distribute these responsibilities to the executive, which is entirely made up of volunteers from the community. Since they all have responsibilities outside of the club, they can’t hope to match the kind of commitment a dedicated general manager would have, and therefore have trouble instituting new programs that would bring money to the club, furthering its prosperity.

This isn’t to say that you and your administration don’t care about community centers at all. After all, you did choose to lend $2.5 million to a “faith-based” organization building a Christian youth centre on Main Street. It warms the cockles of my heart knowing that some of the most at-risk youth in our city will be able to choose between their own dilapidated and underfunded public community centre, or a privately owned one, which will likely be spreading the “good word” to anyone who comes through its doors.

Maybe my local community centre just needs to get with some God in order to be properly funded? We’ll get right on that. Please have our $2.5 million waiting — we’ll send someone to pick it up.

Mr. Mayor, you can probably tell from the tone of this letter that I’m not the biggest fan of your decisions up until this point, but I’m going to give you another chance. You have four years to demonstrate that you care about the opinions of the 45 per cent of the Winnipeggers who cast a ballot against you. I hope that this will encourage you to work for the betterment of all of us, not just those who think 58 new police officers is the answer to all of our problems.

We’ll be watching.