Category Archives: Urban growth and development

Here’s an audit that would help us know how well we’re governed

Note to my readers: Some of the comments posted at the end of the next blog entry, entitled “Are businesses more efficient and effective than governments?”, are relevant to this blog entry. Check them out.
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City land deals have dominated Winnipeg’s news this summer. Reviews of fire hall land swaps and the development of a new police headquarters have turned up a string of irregularities in the way the city did business. The provincial government appropriately took time to assess the findings and then, in mid-August, referred the file to the RCMP.

All eyes now turn to the police, and question whether the irregularities will be seen to warrant criminal charges. If no charges are filed, many will conclude that the matter is resolved. That’s not good enough. We should not concede that, if Council and city officials have avoided criminal behaviour, they’ve done their job. It is their obligation to defend the public interest, and nowhere is the public interest less well defended than in matters related to land use. Continue reading

Time out

I’m taking a leave from my blog for a month or so, to pursue other professional and personal duties and pleasures. In the meantime, some of you might be interested in taking a look at some blog entries that I think are worth reading, but that are buried in the nether recesses of this blog, and an earlier version of it.
“Radar Dogs” remind me that all is not (yet) lost
Take a deep breath, St. Clements, and get a whiff of chaotic development Continue reading

Discussion: Are car-free cities possible?

On April 20th, 2014, in the Passing Scene column to your right (or below if you’re reading this on your device), I raised the above question. Peter Woolstencroft was good enough to comment in Facebook, and gave me permission to post his comment below, together with my response. There’s also an exchange with my friend and former student, Dave Danyluk. Here’s the picture I refer to in my response to Peter:

Leipzig6A delivery vehicle in downtown Leipzig, manoeuvring carefully to avoid pedestrians.

Peter Woolstencroft: A car free city is a nice idea, but what happens to the costs of road building, maintenance, and repairs? Who is paying for these expenses? I like the firetrucks and ambulances that go past my house on a paved and well-maintained road. Much appreciated are the trucks that bring goods and services to people in their houses and apartments. In other words, what proportion of road building costs and maintenance are accounted for by gasoline taxes, licenses, vehicle permits, and whatever else motorists generate by way of their economic activity (such as taxes on insurance)?

My response:

Continue reading

Preventing urban sprawl: The state of the art

MarkhamGnblt
The title of this post — “Preventing urban sprawl” — is likely to provoke, in some readers, one of two reactions, the first driven by good old Winnipeg complacency and the second by antagonism:

  1. What are you talking about? That’s impossible.
  2. You can’t tell people where to live.

The second reaction is easily refuted: Yes, the government can tell people where to live. In fact, everybody takes the power of government to tell people where to pursue all their activities for granted. Continue reading

Slow growth: The language has changed, but what about policies?

A number of years ago, with help from two friends, I published a pair of academic articles on the subject of slow urban growth, a topic that had previously received almost no attention, either by academics or in the “real world”. The articles were novel because they a challenged conventional wisdom, in which it was taken for granted that slow urban population growth was undesirable. This view was so entrenched that, for the most part, both academics and practitioners stated it as fact without bothering to argue the case.

In my articles — you can read them by clicking here and here. — I argued that neither slow growth nor rapid growth is inherently good or bad, but that they are different in ways that our decision-makers need to appreciate. On the surface, it looks as if the articles may have had a modest influence, at least in Winnipeg, because today slow growth is often spoken of simply as a fact, not as a blight to be eradicated. But policy doesn’t change as easily as language. Continue reading

Taxes and fees aren’t the only ways to tackle Winnipeg’s revenue problem: A taxpayers’ bill of rights

Last week Winnipeg City Council endorsed a proposal to ask the provincial government to allow the imposition of new fees on residential and commercial development. It was the latest turn in a decades-long struggle by the city to overcome an infrastructure deficit of at least $7 billion. The proposal, followed by a quick refusal from Broadway, unleashed a flurry of news and commentary, accompanied by more than 200 letters from readers. (See links at the end of this post.)

From the start, the fees were referred to as “taxes”, and for the most part, comments, by both writers and readers, focussed on taxation. Absent from the discussion was a recognition of the fact that the infrastructure crisis wasn’t caused by insufficient revenues, and will not be resolved by the imposition of additional fees or taxes. A major, but completely overlooked, cause of the crisis is the city’s failure to draw up a coherent growth plan and stick to it. Continue reading

Why gentrification is a non-issue in Winnipeg and why that matters

It never fails. Whenever urban issues are being discussed in Winnipeg, somebody mentions gentrification. It happened a few weeks ago at a Trib Talk (#tribtalks), a public forum sponsored by the Spectator Tribune, an attractive, struggling on-line newspaper that has lately sprung up in the prairies’ cyberspace.

Gentrification is an important issue, but — as I’ve been arguing tirelessly for years — it has no place in a discussion about Winnipeg. At the Trib Talk, I responded to the mention of gentrification with a twitter outburst: “Gentrification is a non-issue in Winnipeg”, whereupon Robin Mae asked, via Facebook, “By non-issue, do you mean that it’s not happening or that it’s not an important issue to address?”

That’s a good question, and it deserves an answer, but the answer requires a bit of explanation.

Continue reading