This evening a public forum was held in the Carol Shields Auditorium at the Millennium Library, put on by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. This forum invited residents from all over the city to listen to people from neighbourhood organizations and keynote speakers deliver presentations, followed by public discussion where attendees got to tell their stories and speak their minds. A vibrant dialogue took place, and representatives from multiple neighbourhoods and backgrounds got to speak their minds on issues that residents across the city can unite on for a stronger voice.
Presentations were made by the Armstrong’s Point Association on the legal action their community took against the City to defend the legal rights of residents, by OURS (outdoor urban recreational spaces) Winnipeg on the City’s attempts to sell public greenspace to private developers, the Corydon Village residents association on citizen participation in secondary planning being ignored or discarded after much effort and input, and Friends of VIctoria Park in advocating for a place of historical importance to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike to be turned into a park where our heritage can be celebrated. Keynote speakers from academic and political backgrounds – Sherri Blake, Brian Kelsey, and Richard Milgrom – gave their informed and experienced input in where the problems lie and what needs to be done for us citizens to regain control of the direction of our city.
When the floor was open, comments came from people across the city and of all backgrounds – South Osborne and Lord Roberts residents who have had Rapid Transit and its associated developments imposed on them; university students who see their generation flocking elsewhere because of the City’s stagnation on urban development; seniors who have seen eras come and go and know Winnipeg can grow back into its potential; immigrants who have lived in Winnipeg for varying lengths of time with different shapes to their perspectives. Judy Wasylicia-Leis, who ran for mayor against Sam Katz in the 2010 election, spoke passionately about three basic problems that are moving the direction of the city against residents’ interests: inadequate procedures for citizen engagement, a lack of transparency and accountability from elected officials, and a shortstaffed city planning department that leaves little time to address meaningful changes on the administrative level.
Here are but a few more highlights from the engaging dialogue this evening:
There is a lot of community organizing in Winnipeg, often around region-specific issues – but there is so much common ground in the barriers encountered that neighbourhoods from all across the city can work together to change. To have a say in how our communities grow and develop we need to establish a strong citizen voice to change the way decisions are made that affect the future of the City of Winnipeg – within our communities, between our communities, to public bodies, and to our elected officials.