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Problems at City Hall run deep - a response from Rocky Kravetsky




Dear Bernie,

 I am not embarrassed.

 At least I am not, as you say I should be, embarrassed by the apparent shenanigans involving Mayor Sam Katz, City CAO Phil Sheegl and the principals of Shindico, because each of them is reputed to be Jewish, as am I.


 If there is fire under the smoke that is currently emanating from City Hall there are lots of reasons to be embarrassed, but the fact that some of the players in one aspect of the failings in the management of civic resources are Jewish in not one of them.

 People who don’t vote in civic elections should be embarrassed.

 People who do vote without thinking through their choices should be embarrassed.

 People who voted for Sam Katz for Mayor because they believed he was a successful entrepreneur and financial wiz should be embarrassed. They should be embarrassed for not taking the time to ask what steak there was behind the sizzle of Sam’s self promotion.  Even the most basic inquiry - a search of Manitoba Court Registry records available on line - would have raised questions. It would have told those voters that successful businessman Sam had gone bankrupt in 1979 and that in 2004, when he was first elected Mayor, he was defendant in lawsuits claiming over $930,000, plus others with no amount specified (4 of the lawsuits claiming specific amounts were discontinued in 2005, the year after Sam became mayor and another in 2009, a 6th appears on the court record to be unresolved).

 The media should be embarrassed for providing no information about any of Sam’s financial troubles and for accepting without question or investigation Sam’s solemn assertions that business had been good to him. A good place to start asking questions would have been about the dealings behind those several lawsuits. Yes lawsuits are how we resolve disputes in a civilized society and being party to one, even suffering judgment, is not itself evidence of wrongdoing or immoral conduct. But a cluster of lawsuits from banks and business associates would at least bear looking into when the defendant is running for mayor claiming to be a successful businessman. Maybe Sam just got into a lot of disagreements with people. Or maybe he was just a bad businessman. As a voter I’d have liked to have known which it was.

 If as reported by you there is indeed rampant unhappiness in the City’s Planning Department because of perceived manipulations by Katz and Sheegl then the employees in that department should be embarrassed for keeping their mouths shut and not, at least, availing themselves of the protections, such as they are, under Manitoba’s whistleblower protection law.

 Each and every City Councillor should be embarrassed for their steadfast silence. If, as was reported, there is dangerously low morale in the Planning Department, the councillors should be embarrassed that none of the unhappy officials of the Planning Department trust any one of them enough to come forward with a disclosure about what it is that is making them unhappy.

 The media should be embarrassed for not investigating. Their job is to search out the truth. Surely experienced reporters doing any kind of reasonable job at City Hall would have been onto the effects of the cozy Katz/Sheegl/Shindico relationship long before now.

 Past mayors and councillors should be embarrassed for creating and sustaining the very culture that allowed the current situation to exist. In my time I have seen decisions made in breach of clear statutory requirements, when meeting schedules were manipulated, when closed door commitments were made long before public hearings, when a councillor had expressed closed minded bias prior to a public hearing. None of these involved the current mayor, the current CAO or Shindico (or, so far as I can tell, anybody Jewish) but they are a part of the culture at City Hall into which Katz and Sheegl have been socialized. The days when the public could have confidence in the processes of City government, if ever there were such days, were certainly long gone before those two arrived at City Hall. Inches of irregular conduct soon leads to miles.

 Provincial governments should be embarrassed for creating a City Council that is too small and is organized to limit rather than facilitate diversity of opinion and true democratic participation in decision making. It is absurd that city government, the level that should be closest to the people is composed of fewer - about half as many - elected representatives for the City of Winnipeg than the provincial government and about half of those are organized into the mayor’s cabinet-like Executive Policy Committee.

 Past and present provincial and civic politicians should be embarrassed for lacking the guts to see that civic politicians are paid well enough to attract highly qualified people to seek office and have pensions generous enough to encourage people to leave instead of hanging on election after election long after their best before date has gone by. It’s cheap and easy politics to rail against pay increases and pensions for politicians at election time, but it is not good policy. The simple fact is that there are lots of ways for smart, highly qualified and public spirited people to do public service, almost all of which are better paid, less disruptive to their careers and easier to get into than becoming city councillors. If we expect people on upward career paths in business and the professions, indeed people building seniority in well paid jobs of any kind to be willing to interrupt those career paths to serve on City Council - including subjecting themselves to the electoral process - then we have to pay them a decent salary for so doing and assure them, by a generous pension plan, that when they leave office, whether voluntarily or by the will of the electorate, they will not be terribly disadvantaged for having taking time away from their careers to do this particular type of public service. We also, frankly, don’t want councillors too afraid to offend the rich and powerful in the City who are their potential employers or patrons when they do leave Council.

 In the last election our candidates for mayor were an incumbent claiming to have been a successful businessman but in apparent financial trouble before he became mayor and, ironically, a long serving provincial and federal politician whose already accumulated pensions were no doubt great comfort that she would not suffer financially had she been elected. Where are the bright and accomplished people with real world working backgrounds, the professionals,  the teachers, the academics, the gainfully employed of any kind? Where are the independent thinkers?

 Those who now serve on Council have no doubt sacrificed a great deal to make civic politics their careers. But is shouldn’t be a career. It should be a temporary engagement in public service. If we want the best and brightest to stand for those offices in future we need to give them a reason to take the chance. If we want to encourage independence of thought and action, we need to create a council that is larger, that is more accessible to the public, that is composed of members more likely to hold each other to a respectable and proper ethical standard and that is sufficiently well paid to ensure that  independence.

 Yes, there are lots of us who should be embarrassed for lots of reasons. We have created a system of civic governance that does not serve us well. Sam Katz and Phil Sheegl may, after investigation, turn out to be current bad guys in the system but if they are it has to recognized that they came to a place with a history and culture they did not create. We - Manitobans - did.

 And about that we Manitobans should all be embarrassed until we do something to fix it.

 åRocky Kravetsky




Add comment


#6 mrshane Nestruck 2012-11-02 05:30
Katz is SUPPOSED to have his businesses and assets in a BLIND TRUST... so he is not tempted to wheel and deal while mayor.

HOWEVER Katz thinks 'BLIND TRUST' is what the public is supposed to have while he is mayor!
#5 Rocky's comments got wider exposureMarty Gold 2012-10-27 19:57
I made use of this editorial on the debut episode for Season 2 of my Shaw TV program City Circus:
#4 Independent ThinkersLivio Ciaralli 2012-10-18 17:26
Quoting Phillip Rosen:
Oct 11/12

I for one, believe that nothing bad has been done! All we have is innuendo from the media, whose job is to publish innuendo.
If Sam Katz has done anything wrong, then I would say, at $125,000 salary, we got what we paid for!

Sorry Phillip, a CAO of the City of Winnipeg and a Mayor, should not be putting themselves in a position that may tarnish the offices they hold.

Its a small sacrifice to give up if you really want to serve in either capacity.
#3 Independent ThinkersLivio Ciaralli 2012-10-18 17:23
Rocky, you've identified the problems we face. As you pointed out and in my experience, the media , has allowed this to happen under their noses. And during elections, they fail to do the work they must to in order to help people make their decisions, or perhaps, even inspire some to go vote.

Non conformists and independent thinkers don't stand much of a chance during an election. The media must do more.
#2 Hm.Omega 2012-10-13 03:46
I'd take 125k and be happy to improve a city.

What does Katz want from us? OH yeah - our prosperity.

You couldn't breed a thicker evil in the deepest pits of hell.
#1 Katz & ShindlemanPhillip Rosen 2012-10-11 17:21
Oct 11/12

I for one, believe that nothing bad has been done! All we have is innuendo from the media, whose job is to publish innuendo.
If Sam Katz has done anything wrong, then I would say, at $125,000 salary, we got what we paid for!
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