Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Charleswood-Tuxedo Candidate Timothy Martin
I will update this when the candidate sends in the rest.
Questions for the candidates for Charleswood-Tuxedo Ward
John, I apologize for the delay in returning this question and answer. It is an excellent idea, but one that has caught on quite successfully, and I have received (too) many requests from diverse groups for statements on positions that affect their members. I would like to take more time and get back to you with more of the questions completed, so at this time I turn this into you not fully completed. You had a question about in what capacity I have appeared before municipal councils and city community committees. I have appeared before them as paid legal counsel representing land owners on issues varying from zoning variances to subdivisions. I also once appeared on my own behalf, to successfully fight a zoning variance that would have allowed commercial signage near Alcrest and Roblin Boulevard on the North side. It probably wouldn’t have gone through anyways, but we spoke out against it. I strongly believe in preserving the green, residential nature of Charleswood (wherever practical), and opposing commercial sprawl.
Question 1:What is your name? Timothy (Tim) Martin
Question 2:What is your profession? Lawyer (solicitor). My practice mostly relates to real estate and small business work, although I do some wills and estate work as well. I seldom appear in court.
Question 3:How old are you? 46
Question 4:Can you tell us about your family? We moved to Charleswood in 1964 (the year I was born). Both of my parents were country school teachers, who moved to Winnipeg to take teaching positions. I am married and have two wonderful step-daughters, who are now attending university.
Question 5:Why are you running in Charleswood-Tuxedo? We are in a new era of increasing complexity and demands on our councillors. I see the need for someone rooted in the community, knowledgeable and enthusiastic to step up to the job, but wonder if that alone is enough. With the increasing complexity of civic matters -complex public private partnership agreements for instance- we need someone who will do the due diligence for the citizens before binding them to agreements that will last for decades to come. I want to combine my love of our community with my professional experience as a lawyer and make a contribution back.
Question 6: How long have you lived in the ward? 46 years
Question 7: Have you had any past political affiliations in provincial or federal politics? no
Question 8: Who did you vote for in the last civic election both for mayor and councillor and why? How would you rate the last council and mayor? I voted for Bill Clement and Sam Katz. Bill Clement did an excellent job, and made decisions that pleased the majority of our ward, as evidenced by his lengthy tenure. His record for returning calls and giving straight answers is to be admired. Sam Katz seems to be running into the same pitfalls as many populist politicians, we like the song he’s singing, but actually accomplishing all of his goals is proving to be a challenge. Eliminating business taxes comes to mind. I keep an open mind, but would like to hear more about the details and rationale that go into some of the more controversial high profile decisions being made. Veolia and light rail based rapid transit for instance. Overall though, I see Sam Katz as taking us in the right direction.
Question 9: Do you feel your political views are left, center or right? How would you describe your political views? I believe in fiscal responsibility and seeking good value for my tax dollar. I suppose that would make me a fiscal conservative. I believe it is important to carefully discern between the mandate of the City and the Province, and not to attempt to duplicate services that are the Province’s role. We can’t be all things to everyone on revenue raised from property taxes. To get our house in order, we need to concentrate on the basics of providing infrastructure and attracting residential and commercial development to build our revenue base.
Question 10: What do you think are the major issues for the city of Winnipeg? Planning, resource allocation, accountability and transparency, crime reduction, low cost housing.
Question 11: What do you think are the major issues for the ward of Charleswood-Tuxedo? Roads, traffic, taxes and law enforcement and affordable housing.
Question 12: Do you support a continued tax freeze or do you believe that taxes should go up to re-build infrastructure and support programs? The City of Winnipeg, like most major cities, has a serious shortfall between property tax revenue and infrastructure and service costs. Look at one major issue, like replacing the combined sewer and storm drains, and the estimated cost of in excess of $400 million. That’s just one project that could eat up our entire property tax revenue in one year. Clearly, we need to take a serious look at whether increasing property taxes is our only alternative. Property taxes are too narrow of a base of income to truly fund our needs. Reasonable property taxes attract investment in our city and build our revenue base. I believe we should keep property taxes low to attract investment and infill housing, and seek increased funding from alternative sources that draw from a larger base. As well, we have to continue to look for increased efficiency and cut waste.
Question 13: Do you support cuts in the city of Winnipeg budget? Where? It would be reckless to advocate cuts without having clear evidence of specific areas of waste. I do think we need to be vigilant about improving efficiency, and I wouldn’t be afraid to make cuts if it made sense.
Question 14: Do you support increases in the city of Winnipeg budget? Where? Roads, infrastructure and crime prevention strategies rank high on my priorities. Our biggest issue in this ward is getting services commensurate with the level of taxes we pay. As for police presence, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and we seldom see a patrol car here, aside from a speed trap. That’s something I want to see change.
Question 15: Do you support an increase, decrease or a freeze in the city budget for police officers? Do you believe we need more police officers? If so, would you support a tax increase for it? I want to see more police presence on our streets, and I can’t see how that can be accomplished for free, not unless you can find a way to free up police officers administrative time.
Question 16: What is your view on crime in the city of Winnipeg and what can you as councillor do about it? I believe in the Community Policing model. I am trying to get Neighbourhood Watch established on our street. I see policing as just one tool of many in a strategy to deal with crime. Any true strategy must also address many of the root issues such as gang recruitment and social services. I do not believe that the City should bear the burden of financing the entire cost of the needed social support. We can barely manage our primary mandate to build supporting infrastructure. The Province, with its much larger stream of income should fund the vast majority of such programs.
Question 17: Do you support rapid bus transit or light rail transit? Do you have any other ideas for rapid transit? Do you believe Charleswood is well served for public transit? I find the reasoning behind the Rapid Transit Taskforce Study sound, and agree with the conclusion that a bus based rapid transit system best suites Winnipeg at this time and for years to come. I am however open minded to review any new information on the subject, and recognize that a rail based system has the advantage of an enhanced public perception and increasing property values around stations. I believe through public education, a bus based system can be shown to be equally attractive. As well, I like the made in Manitoba solution of using buses. I rode the bus for many years to University, and for me the biggest issues were winter comfort while waiting for the bus, and predictability of bus service. A full fledged bus based rapid transit system would address these concerns through having proper bus stations and real time display of arrival times.
Question 18: Do you believe a city should fund a zoo? If yes or no, please indicate why. Would you support closing or selling the zoo or ending funding of the zoo? The zoo is an asset and should be continued. I’ve been going to the zoo off and on for probably 40 years. I’ve never been overly impressed with the concessions, and I’m surprised they can’t make a better go of it, and contribute some revenue. I am against selling off any of the zoo property, once gone we will never get it back.
Question 19: Do you believe a city should fund arts and culture? If yes or no, indicate why. As in life, everything is about balance. One man wants to see a hockey or football game, another an art gallery (or the zoo!). I can’t see how we can fund one, and not the other. The level of funding would be a matter of serious consideration, given our current infrastructure deficit, and any opportunity to leverage public money by seeding a potentially commercially successful venture would seem smart to me.
Question 20: Do you believe the fire department should have an increase, decrease or a freeze in their budget? Would you support a tax increase for the fire department? I’m not in favour of property tax increases, and believe we need to look elsewhere to balance our budget and do what needs to be done. I see a new firehall is already on the books for Charleswood, and that is great to hear. As the city continues to develop new neighbourhoods, we have to ensure that we provide adequate fire and emergency services to them.
Question 21: Do you believe that roads, water and sewer should receive an increase, decrease or freeze in their budget? Would you support a tax increase for roads, water and sewer? We have to continue to find greater efficiency before increasing taxes. For instance, through better planning, we can avoid waste. The way some road work, in particular pothole repairs, is done often leaves one wondering if a more lasting solution could not be found. I hate seeing a pot hole filled and only days later the only remnant is asphalt debris on the road and the hole remains.
Question 22: Do you support the present hotel tax? I guess the question I’d need answered is what impact it is having on attracting business.
Question 23: Would you support the city of Winnipeg having a sales tax in addition to property tax? No, but I would entertain the idea of the entire province contributing a portion of the sales tax to the city of Winnipeg. I would also like to see our fair share of the estimated $55M land transfer tax, generated mostly by the sale of Winnipeg homes, stay here in Winnipeg. The land transfer tax has been a windfall for provincial revenue, for the most part on the backs of Winnipeg residents.
Question 24: Do you think Winnipeg should have a tax cut? If yes or no, explain why? No. Our current taxes adequately put us in a competitive place in terms of attracting residential development. I doubt we could balance the budget with a further tax cut.
Question 25: Do you believe that the present city of Winnipeg budget is adequate for the city of Winnipeg? If yes or no, explain why. The short answer is no, but the real question is how to raise the money. Estimates are that our infrastructure needs renewal at a greater pace than we are presently performing.
Question 25: Should education be funded through property tax or through general funds from the province? Having made the decision to invest money in our home, rather than RRSP’s, cars, boats, cottage, etc, I feel an unfair burden placed on that investment in the form of property taxes. I would support an initiative to have education funded entirely or partly though a different system.
Question 26: Do you support term limits? Will you be serving a term limit even if there are no rules in place? How long will you serve? Having been served well by our previous councillor, I haven’t felt the need for a term limit. There are those who believe City council has suffered from stagnation and complacency. With new blood comes new ideas, and renewed energy to tackle previously insurmountable problems. I see that as a legitimate concern, and would not oppose a term limit.
Question 26: Do you think housing should be allowed at The Forks? If yes or no, explain why. If it fits in, I can’t see why not.
Question 27: What changes (if any) should be done to upkeep our city parks and recreation programs?
Question 28: What do hope to see in the Kapyong Barracks along Kenaston? I’d like to see mixed residential and commercial development that is in keeping with the current nature of the existing surroundings. Closer to Kenaston, you could have more commercial development, and as you approach the existing residential neighbourhood, it should transition towards equal or better residential housing. It is imperative that we take action to ensure that whatever the outcome of the First Nations challenge to the sale of Crown owned lands, the City of Winnipeg has standing in the nature of its development. It’s not an issue of ownership, but rather ensuring that its development compliments the existing surroundings. We owe that to the people of Tuxedo. I’d like to see the City of Winnipeg legal department look into the issue and determine whether there is any merit in seeking an intervener status in the case that is tying up the lands. Question 29: Do you support a moratorium on development on old railway lines in favour of rapid transit and bike corridors? The Rapid Transit Task Force did not support the widespread viability of using existing railway lines for rapid transit. In some areas it is suitable and in others it isn’t. I’m all for improving bike paths, it’s a healthy alternative with many benefits, not to mention getting cars off the roads. Its unfortunate that we have already lost many of the closed lines.
Question 30: Do you support widening Kenaston to three lanes in each direction? Yes. Its hard to believe the need wasn’t forseen.
Question 31: Do you support the creation of service roads for any further shopping developments? Yes. I believe service roads would have been beneficial along Kenaston to reduce the number of intersections. Winnipeg has too many four way stops and traffic lights. If we can’t afford overpasses, at least we could use service roads to reduce intersections on main roadways.
Question 32: What is your view on city taxes going to build a stadium for the Blue Bombers and Manitoba Bisons? To be frank, it would not be a priority for me given the current state of our infrastructure. That said, if the majority of Winnipegger’s want it, and are willing to pay for it out of their tax dollars, who am I to argue. I’ve heard many complaints about the city making a commitment to be involved without the actual costs being finalized, and I have to agree that it seemed the process was not taken in the right order.
Question 33: What is your view of a possible call for taxpayer help to expand the MTS Centre? Would you support it? Same answer as Question 32.
Question 34: What do you believe the city should do to ensure a vital downtown? Do you believe it is important as a councillor to support it? I think city council sends out mixed messages when they continue to support commercial sprawl by building more shopping centres. I was going to the University of Winnipeg when they redeveloped the North side of Portage Avenue, and for a while it looked promising. There is a real or perceived problem with public safety in that area, and it needs to be addressed. It’s encouraging to see the expansion of downtown compasses and living space. I think the future lies in attracting the young and adventurous. The MTS Centre was a valuable addition to downtown, and serves as an example of a successful project funded partly by taxpayers. It’s all about the right deals and the right balance being struck.
Question 35: Do you believe that some city service should be privatized? Yes, some may be suitable candidates. What services (if any) I don’t believe in wholesale privatization. I believe we can benefit from both selective outsourcing and continuing to support the development of in house expertise that we will retain and build upon success from. In particular, planning and public consulting should remain in house in order to retain the expertise developed. Work with clearly defined specifications should be advertised for tenders and considered on its merits.