2018 Municipal Election Question – Portage Avenue and Main Street
Please see the Motion brought forward.
My comments on the floor of Council today regarding the Portage and Main Plebiscite:
I rise to speak to this motion.
Mme. Speaker – four years ago I put my name on a ballot and asked the citizens of South Winnipeg – St Norbert to elect me to be their representative at City Hall – and
- the current governance model we operate under – gives citizens the power to select the person they want to represent them make decisions on their behalf at City Hall.
- good or bad – it is the model we’ve been operating under for almost 20 years. And I want to be clear – I am speaking to this issue here today as their representative – not as Janice Lukes, a private resident, but as Councillor Janice Lukes, representative of the South Winnipeg – St Norbert ward.
Mme. Speaker –
- I represent a vast growing suburb – of citizens who are new to Canada – citizens who’ve lived in Winnipeg a long, long time – and many who commute to work downtown and pass through Portage and Main.
- I represent the largest and the fastest growing ward in the City of Winnipeg and I am very active in the ward – I am very accessible to the citizens, attending events every week – talking to people – hearing issues, opportunities and ideas.
- And you know Mme. Speaker – everyone in the ward wants to see Winnipeg be a growing, thriving, more modern city to live, work and play and raise their families in – without a doubt .
- They want this – and have elected me to work towards that goal – and many citizens in South Winnipeg elected the Mayor to work towards this same goal –
And Mme. speaker – for the record –
- while I currently live in the suburbs – I have worked and lived downtown for a timeframe of 20 years –– Adelaide St. / Cumberland Ave. across from Central park – Sherbrook and Furby St. – that was my residential and working neighbourhood
- And Mme. Speaker – I’ve travelled and walked and biked many great cities in the world – in their downtowns – London, Ho Chi Min, San Jose, Kathmandu, New York and more
- And Mme. Speaker – I’ve invested over 15 years working on active transportation
I am not an urban planner –
- but I absolutely understand the importance of a City focusing on revitalization of the downtown –
- and I recognize – like Mr. Grande stated – that there are many, many aspects required in revitalizing a downtown. Not just one – but many many – and yes – revitalizing Portage and Main would surely be one of many.
So now – as a representative of a suburban ward– and as an active Councillor engaged with the citizens – and as someone who has been educated on urban issues – and who has lived downtown –
I have to say what’s happened on this file over the past four years – is absolutely a textbook example of an epic public communication & leadership failure
Public Consultation 101 says –
- Go to the people – reach out to them to listen – hear their concerns – and work with them to address their concerns
- Has this occurred over the past four years on the Portage and Main file?
- Has the Mayor – worked hard on his campaign commitment – and used the office of public engagement to reach out to the public in any way whatsoever for meaningful conversation?
- No – Not once
- No formalized consultation process – no reaching out – no engagement at all – no listening to concerns – in any way whatsoever with the public.
And do you know Mme.Speaker what’s even more important in the Public Consultation process ?
- the real value of public consultation is the opportunity to Educate Educate Educate citizens on the project – whatever project it is – to educate the stakeholders
- so with no public consultation – there has been very, very limited opportunity to educate those who do not – who have never and may never live and experience downtown
- There has been none – zero – absolutely no presentation – and no urban education done on this file.
So when a new idea is presented – and it represents tremendous change – a change to something new – and when no meaningful data and conversations occur to support this change – other conversations rise up.
- Conversations that say – Why change? Why?
- Why would we change –
- We don’t’ understand – so let’s not change –
and the flames are fueled to stay the same – people default to what they are familiar with – and close their minds –
And any public relations expert will tell you – once people reach a certain point in their decision making process – or understanding of a project – often only the passing of time allows the vision to rise up again and be logically discussed again.
Having worked in the field of active transportation for 15+ years – I am well aware of the polarizing issues that can surface regarding cyclists and pedestrians – and am quite surprised the Office of Public Engagement – and the Mayor and his advisors were not more savvy in how they approached the communication around this polarizing issue.
- C. Orlikow is an expert on conversations around round abouts – ask him
- C. Gerbasi is an expert on conversations around protected bike lanes on Assiniboine – ask her
And probably the most shocking part of this handling of this file – is that none of the recommendations set out in the 2011 Audit which focused on Active Transportation Public Communications – were adhered to in any of the Portage and Main discussions.
I’ve spoken in great detail with the leaders at The Forks, at the Chamber of Commerce – and with urbanists over the past four years – about reaching out to suburban communities – and the importance of reaching out –
- Reaching beyond downtown to speak about any grand vision related to downtown and the need to educate suburbanites on urbanites issues
- and the need to educate urbanites on suburban issues at the same time.
Matter of fact – if I am elected for another term I will commit to having a series of urban meets suburban discussions.
I will have a ward half the size and will be able to do this. Currently – I do not have the resources to deliver this kind of conversation that I thought would be coming from the Mayor’s office with the Portage and Main file –
So here we are today –
Mme. Speaker –
- Mr. Mayor had four years to reach out and share the vision
- To listen to residents who don’t live in downtown and probably do NOT have the knowledge of urban planning / and details around the many initiatives it takes to make a downtown safe and vibrant –
- And to listen to those concerns and address their issues and educate why this aspect of revitalizing downtown is an important part of the bigger picture.
- And did you hear this morning – even today we heard from the Diana Wiesenthal, Chair of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ stating even she was unsure about the opening of Portage and Main – until she educated herself
And Mme. Speaker – again – representing the largest suburban ward in the city of Winnipeg – I find this astounding:
- one would think the leader – the Mayor – would have reached out to the representative of the largest suburban ward in the City of Winnipeg – to me – someone who is a passionate active transportation advocate, to gather feedback / insight – thoughts on what citizens are thinking and what their concerns are.
- But not one request. Not one.
- Mme. Speaker – I have to say I’ve not had one request – on any issue – to meet with the Mayor over two years
- Not one meeting request to meet with the mayor over two years on any issue in South Winnipeg – and there’s been a few worthy of discussion – Recreation Deficit / Building Cap / Water Fountains / managing growth and maintenance
- And that style of leadership is the key contributing factor as to why we are here today.
So – Mme. Speaker –
Many, many, many people that I speak to still have no idea WHY the Mayor wants to open Portage and Main to pedestrians
- the people want to speak and be heard
- and now – its reached the point where we are having to a plebiscite to let them speak and to be heard –
and in closing – what I think that is very very disappointing is:
- the absolute fumbling – missed communication and education opportunities on this file – by the Mayor and his advisors –
Because the suburban residents will speak – without any ‘urbanist’ or ‘downtown city building’ education and understanding – and they will speak from their perspective – of passing through.
And this is all a result of very, very disappointing leadership & advice on this file.