Category Archives: Winnipeg: Growth and development

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

Winnipeg golf courses: As usual, we’re arguing about everything except the issues

Winnipeg could be a much better city if we concentrated on constructive action, instead of beating each other up over ideological agendas. The golf course issue is a case in point. A discussion that could have been about the best use — and best opportunities for enhancement — of public facilities has instead become a war of ideological agendas.

One of the agendas is that of Mayor Sam Katz, Continue reading

Corydon Avenue illustrates Winnipeg City Hall’s communication failures

Corydon

Corydon Avenue is in the eye of a political storm that’s been raging for a long time. The Corydon-Osborne Neighbourhood Plan Facebook page starts on June 9th, 2011. That’s how long planners and citizens have been arguing about Corydon, unless you count a planning document entitled The Villages of Fort Rouge, (click and scroll down a bit) dated August 1998.

It’s not surprising that Corydon Village is controversial.

Continue reading

Take a deep breath, St. Clements, and get a whiff of chaotic development

Sinkhole

The City of Winnipeg is surrounded by a city (Selkirk), a town (Stonewall) and 13 so-called rural municipalities. Despite the designation “rural”, many of the residents of these municipalities are urbanites, whose objective is to enjoy the benefits of both country and city life, at a more moderate price than they would have to pay for similar properties in the city. (After clicking on the link, scroll down for price comparisons.) That’s why planners refer to these communities as “exurban”. Continue reading

Oops, forgot the environmental assessment

For a day or so, it almost looked as if there was a plan for the second leg of Winnipeg’s bus rapid transit system. The system, which was conceived in the early 1970s (or earlier, depending how you date it) took concrete form as the first leg of of a line connecting the centre of the city with the University of Manitoba, 12 kilometres to the southwest. Click here for map  (The line ends after the bus leaves the Fort Rouge station.)

After the first line was completed, it seemed to be taking the city forever to finalise the plans for the second leg. Finally, last Saturday, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Winnipeg Transit had decided on a route through an open field called the Parker Lands. However, three days later, it became obvious that Continue reading

Pity the city planners: They have to invent rationalisations for bad decisions

TransconaW2012

The big green area in the Google map above tells a story. It marks an undeveloped area between the east Winnipeg neighbourhoods of Elmwood and Transcona, an area that remains undeveloped because the city obligingly extends roads, underground pipes and the full range of its services past it, at taxpayer expense, without requiring its development. My latest article shows how Winnipeg, like many other North American cities, pays a heavy price for its failure to ensure that its infrastructure and services be developed and used in an efficient manner.

Continue reading

Why we love cities, even while we tell ourselves we hate them

Last year I blogged about rural fundamentalism, a visceral dislike of cities that has deeply shaped the world we live in. Rural fundamentalism, however, is only half the story of our ambivalent relationship with cities, because, even though our choices of places to live is driven primarily by a desire to flee the city, the way we conduct our lives ties us to cities, both personally and materially.

Our ambivalence leads us into bad policy choices, and there’s no reason why it should. I’ll come back to that, but first let’s look at why cities are so important to us.  Continue reading