Dear Future Mayor…

Your letters to Winnipeg’s next leader

We asked various Winnipeg residents to write letters to the future mayor. Whichever candidate is elected on October 22, we hope they take these ideas (along with tweets, rants and hopes) to heart.

–––––

I am an 82-year-old senior that was born, raised and has lived in Winnipeg all my life. Since my husband died 30 years ago, I have been fortunate in being able to be independent, employed and now have a pension. I still live in my own small home and thus pay taxes. I would like to stay this way. I still drive a vehicle, attend the opera, symphony and Manitoba Theatre Centre, belong to a variety of senior groups to stay fit, am involved with the community and contribute to the life in our city. 

Budgets need to manage the needs of all the people in our city, particularly the need to be safe and secure. Seniors are as vulnerable, if not more so, than children as they navigate our communities. Crossing wide streets with traffic flow not regulated appropriately in many areas - especially downtown - can be hazardous. Countdown signals need to be more prevalent.  The availability of ice-free streets in areas of senior service locations: senior centres, clinics, active living centres etc., would take some of the fear of falling away and make these services more accessible. Low step busses have been a great addition for older adults and people with strollers.

Does our city really value the people in our society that are over 80, or do we genuinely believe they have had a good life and we should only focus on youth? Should we not instead realize that seniors are a people resource that needs to be valued, respected and tapped for the knowledge, expertise and experience they have to offer?   

Intergenerational programming in schools benefits both seniors and youth as an example of a program that works.

Winnipeg has an Age Friendly designation as a city. Many services are available to its older citizens. These services need to be more accessible. Printing them in booklets and pamphlets is not enough. Senior centres need to be more attached to the community and be centres for all ages. Good Neighbours Active Living Centre is a model where seniors use and operate the facility during the day and youth and their parents are the focus in the evenings; truly an “age friendly” model. Supporting this kind of community venture should be a budget priority of the Mayor and city council for all citizens to benefit. If we make our city friendly to seniors and their needs, we make it friendly to everyone. Then we will have a truly Age Friendly city and one in which all ages can thrive together.

- Peggy Prendergast

–––––

How would you build a city confident in itself and not belied by cynicism?

Adrienne Tessier

As a Winnipeg youth, I stand between two visions of our city.

I stand between a pessimistic, cynical view, and a far more optimistic, forward-thinking one.

Naysayers say that our little prairie outpost is little more than the railroad stop it once was. They point to our long winters, our crime rates, and our crumbling infrastructure. As someone with a certain amount of ambition, I was long told to get out and make a name for myself elsewhere. A perception of an “old boys club” at city hall with little regard for those of us who elected them certainly doesn’t help. Especially when we consider mass transit, sustainability and creative solutions to civic issues, Winnipeg is often far down the list. Unlike in other cities, new ideas are often met with a conservative storm of budgetary concerns.

Be that as it may, the ‘Peg is also an incredible place to be right now. Our noteworthy arts scene, our revitalizing downtown, and the supportive business community make it a very interesting place to call home. The youth of this city have much to offer to this rebirth, whether it be creative solutions to mass transit, inequality, or a myriad of other issues.

And yet, many young people are leaving this city behind to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

How would you build a city confident in itself and not belied by cynicism? How would you mould this forward momentum in such a way that youth want to stay and contribute our innovation to the local community? Because it often feels like we are the ones pulling the city forward as it grinds in its heels.

Sincerely,

Adrienne Tessier

–––––

One of the most important things I want you to address is that of missing and murdered Aboriginal people. I want to see the mayor take actual steps in changing this situation through acknowledgement and action. Then any steps taken must be aimed at the core issues and implemented for long-term so we may see real change over time. 

Aboriginal communities must be shown respect. Our Winnipeg services have failed those communities and our city as a whole time and time again. Who holds services like Child and Family Services or the Winnipeg Police Service accountable? These services were implemented to help our communities, but in some cases, have become part of the problem. 

Mr. or Ms. Mayor, I want you to answer this question: is it the policies or the people enforcing them that need change? 

Let’s also talk arts program funding. I can’t stress enough the importance of funding the arts. Winnipeg prides itself in producing amazing artists in music, film, dance, theatre, etc. Why? Because it gives us a sense of self-empowerment and pride in our city. And when we have pride in our city we want to do better. 

Future mayor, improving our city should mean taking care of those in our multicultural community. The arts offer our communities and our youth a way out of despair. The arts are not merely just something beautiful to look at or to hear, they change something within us. We look at a piece of art, we see something that we recognize and it has the power to heal. 

Art has the power to focus troubled youth on something positive. Future mayor, please support the arts through community programs to help our youth, especially those at risk.

- Alexandra Garrido, artist, dancer and choreographer

–––––

Here is my dream city:

I have a dream that the mayor, council, and City of Winnipeg staff will be honest and comply with our laws, and to propose to the province amendments to the Conflict of Interest Act adding a range of penalties for violations. I hope any individual working for the City that makes over $50,000 should have a mandatory drug test every two years.

I have a dream that the Council will remove the Executive Policy Committee because it gives the mayor additional votes at council meetings.

I have a dream that our city becomes more sustainable. I hope the City of Winnipeg will develop Light Rail Transit using the rail lines all through the City that we already have. This will save us hundreds of millions of dollars. I hope to have free parking for electric cars and bicycle lanes on residential streets and dog parks in new developments.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that the City will give tax credits on renewable resources like geothermal, solar, grey water recycling.

This is my hope that the City will freeze the water bill rates because we are paying too much.

I dream that the mayor will care about the young people in our city. I dream of 24-hour youth facilities for every ward in the City, so youth have a safe place to go.

Additionally, after graduation I hope the City will pay all student loans if you live and work in Winnipeg for 10 years.

October 22nd, this will be the day when dreams come true.

Sincerely,

Joe Chan

–––––

My name is William Bell and I’m on Employment Income Assistance.

I’ve been through terrible experiences in my younger years. The terrible experience of misconstrued to being an unlawfully acting person. I seem to be carrying with me these thoughts through my life.

I feel that $890 is a very small amount of money to be able to live off of due to the fact I have rent and bills that need to be paid henceforth each and every month which makes it very difficult to supply clothes and shoes and food every single time. I’m trying to make a difference in my life even though I’m a little bit of an old man, age-wise.  

In turn, I believe more money should be given to us people who are disabled and stuck this way the rest our lives. 

Thank you, greatly appreciated. 

Sincerely, 

W.B.

–––––

My name is Kerry Weyman and I am a citizen of Winnipeg. I am writing in regards to a few matters that I am concerned about including affordable housing and transit fares. 

As someone on social assistance who lives below the poverty line, finding reasonably priced and clean accommodations for my daughter and I has been a struggle. Currently, we live in a one-bedroom apartment in St. Boniface and pay $600 a month. It is in the process of being sprayed for bedbugs for the fourth time. This is extremely costly as my daughter and I have literally thrown out bags and bags of our clothing, not to mention my daughter’s bed. She currently is sleeping on the floor. We have been told by welfare that we do not quality for new beds until 2016. 

I have tried to secure a two bedroom but have either found they needed a guarantor letter or they considered me ‘riff-raff’ because I was on welfare. If there was more affordable housing, my daughter and I wouldn’t be subjected to this humiliation. In addition to that, getting to and from places can be very costly.

My mode of transport is the bus. Unfortunately, because I am low-income, a monthly bus pass is way out of my budget. This is very costly for people in my situation. I would like to see a reduced fare from the City of Winnipeg or free bus passes for citizens on a limited income; especially those on social assistance who live below the poverty line.

I really hope you are able to address some of these matters, not just for me, but for the citizens of Winnipeg who need help. Thank you for taking the time to read my concerns and I look forward to seeing progress being made in these areas.

Signed, 

Kerry Weyman

–––––

don’t know who you are yet, but I’m sure excited for your arrival! 

You could be a woman, a man, or whoever Sam Katz’ jowls would be if they fell off and became their own person! I don’t care, as long as you have starry eyes of wonder like Glen Murray and a heart bursting with hope like Susan Thompson! 

I had a dream about you last night. You came in and without a glimmer of doubt you gave Winnipeg everything it needed to truly be “One Great City!”

Shining like a God, you stood and with one hand you built homes for all the people left out in the cold due to lack of jobs and shelters. With the other you bought Red Bull for all the overworked doctors and nurses so they could care for your people! 

With one foot you stomped out the potholes and at the same time created two more bike lanes, making every cyclist breathe a sigh of relief. When the other foot fell to the ground every teachers pockets were filled with nearly enough money to pay the rent in their bachelor apartments. 

You knelt down to help a little lady cross the street to her overcrowded nursing home, and when you’re knee reached the ground it hit the earth with the force of lightning, finishing all the construction in the city, even the jobs people were actually working on. 

With a wave of your mighty hand you turned the St. Boniface bridge into gold coins we could use to unburden young mothers without child care, and in the same breath turned the Human Rights Museum into a Salisbury house. A REAL tourist attraction. 

As you rose again the entire city stood hand and hand to look upon you and shudder at your greatness. You looked down at us, and spoke, eyebrows raised, hands on hips and you said “you guys wanna get a nip?” 

Those words shook me awake. Wow! I can’t wait to actually see you. You, our everything. Our MAYOR!!!

- Chantel Marostica

–––––

Poverty is an issue that affects all of us. 

We are looking for leadership on social assistance issues and want you to do the right thing as our municipal leader. 

This is an area that we have been fighting to increase for more than two decades. It is good for business when people get living wage jobs and are more active in our city.

More money in their pockets is what they need. More than 50 per cent of our clients rely on welfare and need to use our services because once their rent is paid, there is a limited amount of funds left to buy food. 

Let’s change this by getting the City of Winnipeg back into the housing business and bringing back the Winnipeg Housing and Homeless Initiative where affordable housing was on the table.

Let’s reinstitute a Poverty Action Committee of city council with top city representatives and community members who will look at major city proposals through the lens of a low-income person. 

Let’s look at recreation - an aspect that is usually overlooked for people in poverty. Healthy body leads to healthy mind which in turn leads to healthier communities. 

The challenge for accessible public transit for all incomes in all weather should be an issue for our municipal leader. 

Helping people step up and out of poverty is what Winnipeg Harvest does every day and has done for almost 30 years. Help us get to 2020 by reducing the need for food bank use by half. 

Together we can make change for all citizens. 

Sincerely,

David Northcott

–––––

Don’t forget your roads and bridges

Don’t forget your cycling lanes

Don’t forget your snow and garbage

And your transit lines

 

Don’t forget your sister cities

And your bedroom towns

Don’t forget your provincial parent

Or your federal touch

 

Don’t forget your grants and taxes

Don’t forget your fees

And your levies and fines and tickets

 

Don’t forget your libraries

Or your community centres

Don’t forget your pools and fields and golf courses and pitches and rinks

 

Don’t forget your parks

Don’t forget your zoo

Don’t forget your museums

And your statues and cenotaphs and especially not your history

 

Don’t forget your rivers

Don’t forget your tall grass

Don’t forget your habitat

And your deer and geese and owls

 

Don’t forget your police

Don’t forget your firefighters

Don’t forget your EMTs

Don’t forget your unions

And your educators and social workers and healthcare experts

 

Don’t forget your sports fans

Don’t forget your cultured

Don’t forget your tourists

Or your entrepreneurs

 

Don’t forget your students

Don’t forget your old people

Don’t forget your indigenous folk

Or your people from afar

Don’t forget your poor

And don’t forget your homeless

Or your down-and-outs and up-and-comings

 

Don’t forget the inner city

And don’t forget the north end

Don’t forget the suburbs

Or the in-betweens

 

And while you’re at it

Don’t forget your integrity

Don’t forget your vision

Keep your values and ideals and respect.

 

Or you can just

Remember that we are the citizens

And this is our city

And you are our mayor.

 

Serve us well.

Sheila Page

Published in Volume 69, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 15, 2014)

We love comments and appreciate the time that our readers take to share ideas and give feedback. The Uniter reserves the right to remove any comments from the site. Please leave comments that are repectful and useful.

You Might Also Want To Read