Well, since you asked...'City Hall wants to know Winnipeggers' thoughts on how we can make our city a sustainable one
By Marlo Campbell
Don't worry if, like me, you weren't able to attend Mayor Sam Katz's recent symposium on sustainability.
The day-long forum on April 25 - at which some 250 people shared their thoughts on what Winnipeg needs to do to become a sustainable city - was really just the kickoff of a year-long process aimed at getting ordinary citizens participating with experts and activists in the development of a new, long-term planning document for our city.
The result of this collaborative effort will be OurWinnipeg, which will replace our current civic policy blueprint, Plan Winnipeg. The new plan will act as a guideline for the next 25 years, meant to shape future development and decision-making at City Hall.
More public events will be taking place over the coming months. However, right now, the best (and easiest) way to get involved is through the city's new website, www.speakupwinnipeg.com.
Dubbed the "online interactive home" of OurWinnipeg, the site allows people to post comments and submit videos (there's already one good one up, posted by a women who's lived here for a year; among other things, she suggests the addition of a guard rail to the Osborne Bridge so that pedestrians can cross it without fear of death, something I wholeheartedly support). Currently, it's a tad shy on content - I'd like to see more links to information about initiatives happening in other cities, for example - but one has to assume this is the kind of thing that will significantly improve once more people get involved.
The city is asking Winnipeggers, "What does sustainability mean to you?" and it wants us to give specific consideration to the social, economic and environmental aspects of that overall concept.
For what it's worth, here are just two of my suggestions:
Invest heavily in new community economic development and support existing CED programs.
Winnipeg is already considered a leader in the CED field, and the model fits perfectly with the stated purview of OurWinnipeg. The term refers to eco-friendly, grassroots initiatives that create economic opportunities and better social conditions for local communities - a 'triple bottom line' approach to development, if you will - and it makes a lot of sense for Winnipeg since our city is home to both the largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada and a growing newcomer community, two groups that tend to struggle with poverty and other forms of marginalization.
Sustainable cities are places where every citizen has a safe place to live, enough to eat and access to employment opportunities. CED can get us there.
Plan Winnipeg contained all sorts of smart recommendations: a downtown-first approach to development, policies that are inclusive to all, the creation of safe, affordable housing, public safety strategies, and a focus on environmental stewardship. The problem is that over the years, the city hasn't followed its own advice. If we're ever to move forward, this needs to change.
There's still plenty of time to make your opinions known, and I recommend that you do. Citizen engagement is not our strong suit here in Winnipeg and, while bitching and moaning can be satisfying, it's usually not all that effective when it comes to actually getting things accomplished.
Besides - if we all get involved in shaping our city's future, it will be much harder for City Council to ignore us.