The rules governing Winnipeg’s growth are rigged in favour of growth and against the city’s ability to pay its bills. The city is like a drunk who keeps ordering refills, hoping someone will be found to pay the tab. But unlike the drunk’s pals, Winnipeg’s taxpayers must pay up or face the consequences.
The neglect of the public interest is evident throughout our system of urban development. In Winnipeg – and, unfortunately, in many other North American cities – the development of new areas of the city is governed by the proposals of developers, not by the public interest. Developers have a responsibility to their shareholders to make proposals that maximize their bottom line. It’s up to the city to ensure that the proposals that are accepted are in the public interest.
A minimal definition of the public interest would be that development be phased to minimize the burden it imposes on the public purse. If we were serious about governing land use appropriately, that could mean many things, but at the least it would mean that city infrastructure and services were extended to places that produce significant tax revenues. What we have done instead is to extend infrastructure wherever a developer wants it, even if that means extending it across vast green fields, which produce minimal tax revenue. Let’s take a look at an example of what that means in practice, with help from Google Earth.
Winnipeg has agreed in principle to extend its water and sewer systems into an adjacent area of the Rural Municipality of Rosser. The land in question is next to the Winnipeg Airport, and could eventually be part of a multi-billion dollar centre for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution – potentially a huge property tax bonanza.
A precedent is therefore set that will inevitably lead to demands for other such extensions. Already plans are underway for a similar extension of infrastructure into another adjacent municipality, West St. Paul, this time to support residential development outside Winnipeg’s boundaries. Both deals are contingent on service-sharing agreements that have not yet been negotiated.
In both Canada and the United States, we have largely left urban growth issues to local governments, and many local governments have failed to manage them. Many will never succeed because local councils are not, in general, able effectively to resist development interests. Continue reading
In both Canada and the United States, we have largely left urban growth issues to local governments, and many local governments have failed to manage them. Many will never succeed because local councils are not, in general, able effectively to resist development interests.
As a result, the growth of our cities is, in practice, primarily responsive to the interests of developers. These interests are frequently at odds with the considerations that bear on preservation of the environment, maintenance of agriculture, an efficient infrastructure network and a transportation system that serves the population as a whole.
Therefore, in a series of posts on the multi-level governance of land use I’ve argued that:
• In urban growth policy, unlike many other policy domains, too much local control is a recipe for bad policy.
Posted in City politics, Multi-level governance, Researchers' corner, Urban growth and development, What's wrong with the way our communities are governed
Tagged case studies, developers' political clout, global issue, international comparisons, major metropolitan areas, national issue, urban sprawl, urbanizing municipalities
Here’s an excerpt from an article that ought to be required reading for anyone who is involved or interested in the proposal to turn Winnipeg’s water and sewer services over to an independent regional water utility. It raises questions that require careful consideration. The complete article is available at http://strikeslip.blogspot.com/2008/11/wrong-regionalization-oneida-county.html
Thanks to Tom Christoffel for pointing this out to me.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Wrong Regionalization: The Oneida County Sewer District
[This article was originally published in the October 2008 “Utica Phoenix”:]
Over 40 years ago Oneida County made the first “regionalization” effort in Greater Utica by forming the Oneida County Sewer District to serve 12 area municipalities. The goal was noble: build a system of sanitary sewer interceptors, pumping stations and a treatment plant to clean up water pollution in the Mohawk River, and make it affordable by spreading the cost over all system users by charges attached to water bills. The goal was accomplished, but flaws in the scheme have produced harmful results.
Posted in City politics, Slow-growth cities - problems and possibilities, Urban growth and development, What's wrong with the way our communities are governed, Winnipeg politics, Winnipeg: Growth and development
Tagged independent utility, regional governance, regionalization, Sewerage, unco-ordinated decision-making, urban sprawl, water
Mayor Sam Katz wants to create a regional water utility, to run Winnipeg’s sewer and water systems, possibly taking over garbage disposal and recycling as well. The agency would operate independently of city council and, if it wished, market Winnipeg’s water to adjacent municipalities.
The agency would set rates for the services it provides, applying to the provincial Public Utilities Board for permission to raise rates. Katz told the Winnipeg Free Press that “Handing this power over to the board would take politics out of the process.” Good idea, eh? No more interference in these services from low-life politicians: just good, honest, business-like governance.