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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Thoughs on Civic Issues in Winnipeg

Today at lunchtime I went to a video showing put on by the Winnipeg Rapid Transit Coalition . Nothing fancy, just a couple of videos of what other cities had done (Bogata and Melbourne) to make their cities more pedestrian friendly. Nothing big, just a little something for Commuter Challenge Week.

Looking around the room there were about 100 people of all ages with an interest in an urban issue. Not coming out to complain or shout about potholes or crime, but instead to watch and talk about something that most of them is a positive issue.

I ind that ll too often urban issues here are discussed in an adversarial way. Why ?

I think some of that has to do with education. I would imagine that 99% of people who got to at least grade 10 in Manitoba were taught about “the fur trade” and had to memorize the ruling dates of our Monarchs for at leas three grades.

I would also hazard a guess that maybe 5% of them even touched on the topic of civic history - don’t mind get into civic issues. As a result, we never learned a vocabulary to express what we would like to see. The natural reaction is simply to complain about what we do not like.

The other cause, I believe, is the media (yeah, I know, another 'blame the media' guy).

The leading media outlets in Winnipeg are incredibly lazy when it comes to civic issues. The top rated supper-hour newscast has a consumer and a crime “beat” reporter but none dedicated to city hall. The city hall reporter for the number one “news radio” station in town is pretty much the crime reporter that tries to file 15 second “city hall” pieces when there’s a lull at the cop shop.

As a result, no issue is ever covered in any depth - they go to one council member in favour of something, one against, splice the two clips together and throw it on air.

Winnipeg really has no civic organizations to speak of that work to fill this divide. No parties, no formal, or even strong but informal, civic groups. Even issue-based groups are few and far between (not to mention tend to be adversarial and don’t stick around long).

This is not to say that there are not great urban minded groups in the city. There is the Institute of Urban Studies, the City Planning Department at the U of M just to name two organizations. There are dozens of acclaimed planners, architects, engineers that ply their trade here and abroad. Even in the blogosphere there is Waverly West and The Rise and Sprawl among others.

Despite having this infrastructure, then, why in the world are we so bad at getting people together to talk about urban issues ?

Please, SOMEONE work on this !!!

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