Sunday, February 10, 2013

Paula Havixbeck

Paula Havixbeck
There has been a lot of cheering for Paula Havixbeck in the last while after her stand on the city budget. Sam Katz gave her the heave ho and suggested she was difficult to work with and the reason she was off the Executive Policy Committee was because she changed her mind on issues that she had previously convinced her colleagues on.

It was suggested Justin Swandel left EPC because he wanted to chew his own arm off rather than be in the same room with the councillor from Charleswood-Tuxedo. In the last few years, Swandel has been a tad tetchy and has not suffered critics lightly. He probably hates Havixbeck more than any other city elected official there is.

The thing he doesn't like about Havixbeck is she has questioned the way council does things. She resigned from the police chief selection committee when it was revealed that Phil Sheegl alone would make the choice. It was likely that alone made her a source for scorn from Katz and Swandel.

Swandel does not like doing laundry in public. He has said it is not the way things are done.

The problem as we have seen is that these behind closed doors decisions can come back to haunt you. The fire hall issue struck many people as side stepping oversight, consultation and an actual vote. It was presented as a "done deal."

City Circus showed a speech by Havixbeck and it wasn't of an unhinged and hysterical woman as Katz and his insiders might have wanted to portray. The sad fact is that we had a tax increase at the same time the council was choosing to have their budgets increased. Special funds for council and the mayor to spend as they wish seem more attuned to getting re-elected than meeting budget responsibility.

There is room for policy and staff support for council. They need support in terms of keeping aprrised of what is happening in the city. The administation running roughshod over elected officials will deepen if councillors don't have the right information and policy options. The problem is an increase in budget to fund pet projects is left in place making the whole thing unpalateable.

Havixbeck has pointed this out among other things. And she has gotten turfed.

I did not vote for Paula Havixbeck. I felt she was too connected to the Progressive Conservatives and was too much the choice of Katz and supporters. They must have felt the same since when she was elected, she was escorted to the big table that other councillors can only dream of. And now she stands on the outside.

My one dealing with Paula Havixbeck was in regard to sub-standard asphalt on Sterling Lyon Drive in front of the new IKEA. Like many drivers, I felt it was not a good job and I called the councillor to take a look for herself. I got a hold of her assistant.

The response after that was a curious one. I received a call from 311 giving me the contact number for the contractor. I thought: what?

Still, not ones to let it rest, I called the contractor and was told they felt the asphalt was good as it was. I asked if an inspector had looked at it. The contractor said no but that in the new year (as it was getting too cold to do any continued road work), work would resume in and around the area. I was told they would look into the matter then and that an inspector would sign off on the work. I said I didn't think the work would pass muster and in the end, it didn't.

The asphalt along Sterling Lyon was scraped down and re-done.

I can't say my Councillor helped in this matter.  And I was surprised my number was handed to 311 when I didn't call them.

In the end, I acted myself and to the contractor's credit, they re-did the work.

Now, this was early on in Havixbeck's term. I realize there is a learning curve but I was disappointed.

In the last while, there has been a small rallying cry for her to challenge the mayor (if he runs) in the next election. I'd welcome more Councillors throwing their hat in the ring. Most won't if the mayor runs again because the patent unfairness of them having to resign their Council seats while the mayor retains his.

I can't say if Havixbeck is ready. The reason I didn't vote for her aside from her close ties to the PCs was that she had less of a defined policy platform than her competitors. An equally run campaign for mayor won't likely sway me.

For the moment, I will stand up and cheer a more outspoken counterpoint to what we have seen in City Hall the last little while. Things need to be better and it won't happen if Councillors keep getting blindsided by a lack of information.

Let's hope this promises to be an interesting year in city politics.

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