Sunday, April 26, 2009

30 Seconds Ahoy

Now that I have some time and I'm not exhausted, here is an overview of yesterday morning's events. I'll go over what the Mayor said in his...keynote of sorts, summarize what people were saying in their 30 seconds and post a few quotes, and post quotes by the (only) 3 people who didn't have something good to say.

On to business...

First Nations elder Wilfred Buck opened the event with a blessing and performed a song intended to open minds and be willing to listen to others. Very nice.

Mayor Sam gave his speech, which was quite good. I was still very skeptical at this point but it was nice to hear the Mayor not bring out the usual rhetoric. In his introduction he stated that "business as usual will make it challenging to address future issues." The most promising part of his speech was more towards the end where he emphasized citizen INVOLVEMENT, not consultation.

It was at this time we were bombarded with information. One of the very, very SILLY parts of this whole thing. There's the sustainability forum we were all there for, there's some kind of eco-pavilion thing at the Forks, there's FLEET vehicles behind the WAG for being hybrids or something and, looky looky, Winnipeg joined the 21st century and launched an interactive website!

Speak Up Winnipeg.

A "call to action" draft of the plan will be out in November of this year.

Now, I'm critical of all this information because only 200 people like me were there. Aside from a couple of small newspaper stories about this forum, by and large the public did not know. Katz wants the whole city involved, but he's unveiling a website to 200 people. I think this would have been much better done if there was buildup and they got some kind of hype machine going beforehand. Also on that note, way too much information for one day. They could have limited today to registered attendees only, and used today (Sunday) or even next weekend to promote eco-pavilions and eco-races and even more events, whatever they could think of.

The Panel was introduced. They are:

Chris Corps. Perhaps the most valuable person on the panel, understands the financial side of sustainability. Most likely the Mayor's best friend on this panel.

Arne Elias. Executive Director of the Centre of Sustainable Transportation. Also on MEAC.

Ian Jarvis of Enerlife Consulting. Expert on green buildings and such.

Anne Lindsey. Executive Director of the Manitoba Eco-Network.

Jane Pagel of Jaques Whitford an environmental consulting company.

Jay Walljasper. Hailing from Minneapolis, Jay is an urbanist, focusing on the community/people level of neighborhoods. On The Commons.

Onto the 30 second epics.

CBC broadcaster Terry McLeod moderated the event. You could tell the room was kind of uneasy at first, as if everyone was thinking the same thing: how in the fuck is this going to work? But McLeod was enthusiastic about the whole thing and once we got going, it became clear that this would be a phenomenal sharing of ideas. You only get 30 seconds. That's not enough time to climb onto a soapbox.

As panelist Ian Jarvis put it, the 30 seconds worked like a "mosaic".

Some people like myself chose to focus on one specific message. Many people tried to cram in several points in their 30 seconds. Anybody taking a shot at the current PW and how it is not followed, got applause. Just about everybody there made a decent 30 second message. The people who's messages were weak, were for the most part people invited to the forum from an organization....not grassroots organizations but professional ones. The Suit would stand up and glaze everyone over with their company's rhetoric. It was lame. I say that only because it wasn't a personal, heartfelt message like the rest were. Thus they stood out.

Several themes were prevalent. In the order of popularity that I perceived:

1. Transportation/Active Transportation.
2. Density/limiting urban sprawl.
3. Accountability to the new PW/lack of accountability to the old one.
4. Social sustainability/Poor/Homeless/low income neighborhoods
5. Green/LEED buildings

I wrote down the names of everyone who participated, and wrote down the jist of what most of them were trying to say. On occasion I managed to get a quote, so here are the best.

Pam Tonsaker: Suggested using capital from expansion projects to improve urban areas and density. (Graham's note: very cool idea.)

Cam Dobie: Talked about urban sprawl and density. I'm only quoting Cam here because he used a line that I would later use in my presentation, which was about 100 people later. "Rebuild the heart of our city."

Grant Johnston: Spoke against the Stadium plan, suggesting that it was not being done in the best way and that all options may not have been explored.

Ken Klassen: Speaking of what the new plan must embody (and taking a mighty fine shot at PW 2020), "cannot cite when convenient and ignore when it's not."

Corinne Pierce: Identified herself as a professional who works downtown, and stated the need for cleaning downtown and safety. She mentioned the need for more policing downtown.

Alex Stuart: From Global Wind Group. Suggested exploring rooftop wind power. (Graham's note: Alex's presentation was met with snickers from the crowd. Unfortunately rude, I thought. I don't know how feasible this is either but at least let the guy speak). Alex silenced the crowd by stating that Mayor Bloomberg of NYC was laughed at when he suggested exploring this topic and that "I know Winnipeg is smarter than that."

Jenny Gerbasi: Wrote a Haiku poem, and got the loudest round of applause in the morning. Let's just say that some of the people in that auditorium were so left-leaning, that at times I felt like a staunch conservative.

Jeff Browaty: Spoke (surprisingly) about downtown. We need a "downtown first philosophy."

Harvey Smith: The only person to get on a soapbox. It was entertaining though.

Blaine Urban: Identified himself as being in the construction field, and shared an experience of his, "opened my eyes to new construction materials."

Eric Davidson: "Saying 'Winnipeg is a car city and always has been a car city' is not an excuse to maintain the status quo."

Gabriel Hurley: (Kudos for most entertaining presentation of the day). Gabriel crammed a 5 minute presentation into 30 seconds. He even used power point slides. While sounding more like an auctioneer, he would interject a "next slide, please!" and would continue his auctioneer-like speech. It was so fast I'm not even sure what it was about. But it was good!

* * *

People who didn't make any sense:

One person who was quite obviously at least a little bit disturbed by abou 130 presentations he had witnessed, and stated "you can't legislate where people live." No, you can't. Was this guy listening to people? I had someone make a comment like that on one of my posts quite some time ago and it didn't make sense to me then either. Nobody is LEGISLATING that you move downtown. Nobody is FORCING you to live in an apartment, and nobody ever will, so why even bother acting like pro-urbanists are going to somehow take your "freedom" away?

Another woman chose to waste her 30 seconds and talk about putting IKEA downtown. Oh! HERE they are! Where the hell were these people at the public hearing? Here you go, Tom Brodbeck. Now you can finally say that people want IKEA to go downtown. Funny, in not one of her 30 seconds did she suggest where to put it or how to do it. I suppose it could float magically above Portage Place? Also funny, IKEA is going through. Her chance to speak was at the EPC meeting which I attended, not at this forum.

And the last of 3 people to speak who did not make any sense was none other than Transcona Councilor Russ Wyatt. Wyatt went on and on about infrastructure, our crumbling infrastructure. That how we are building things isn't sustainable. "We don't have an infrastructure crisis, we have a sustainability crisis." While this is all good and true, I decided to put Russ Wyatt in the "did not make any sense" category because I personally witnessed Wyatt commit the City of Winnipeg to what will become the biggest, most unsustainable bout of infrastructure construction we have when he voted without even the slightest of hesitation in favour of the IKEA Development. You're right, Wyatt. This is are we going to fix an 11 lane highway in the future when we can't maintain the 2 lane roads we have now?

* * *

That's it for now. More coming, I'm sure. I'd just like to say in closing that it was a very uplifting, positive an optimistic event. It really made people feel like we were going somewhere. The fact that the Mayor was behind this and was directly involved himself enforced this. I will also add to this and say that McLeod was a fantastic choice for moderator, he amplified people's enthusiasm and did a great job moving things along without causing any friction.

Hopefully, a lot of people sign up for Speak Up Winnipeg and take part in further events. As long as the new plan contains a measure for accountability, I think this is the real deal.


Anonymous said...

Did anyone mention getting rails out of the City....come on, there must have been at least one.

Graham said...

Moving the rails out...nope.

I can agree with you on that to an extent...there are many unused lines around town that could be put to better use, transit/transportation corridors and greenways and whatnot.

But don't you think it would be incredibly difficult to move those huge rail yards out of here? Or even cost effective?

I say that because the cost of building a single BRT/light rail line here is astronomical and people won't go for that.

Anonymous said...

Well, incredibly difficult shouldn't stop anyone from building a City for the next 100 years.

I'll be posting something about connecting the dots to maximize resources. But consider, the inland port is on the drawing board, rail is a significant factor , if not the major one. I think it would be wise to explore the option and see how opening up 240 acres in the core would make the city more sustainable.

As far as ROW, thats your transit system of the future, well except, for the one in River Heights that now has 8 condos on it. And , the BRT wouldn't be necessary if major decisions are made. Its a huge concept but very simple.