Back to business for Winnipeg's city hall
Committees start virtual meetings as health crisis forces politics at a distance
Councillors will be in separate locations and delegations will appear remotely by video conference as the City of Winnipeg kickstarts its day-to-day business.
The city's property, planning and development committee is the first to meet in what its chair, Brian Mayes, calls a "guinea pig" role for testing the technology.
"We're expecting the unexpected," Mayes said. "I expect probably some technical problems, but [this] gets us back in business, so that's a good thing."
Getting the major committees back on track means agendas will move forward for water and waste, infrastructure renewal and public works, finance, and protection and community services.
Some councillors are worried delays in getting community committees running could cost the economy, as those smaller meetings likely won't restart until mid-May or later.
City council last met April 3 to declare a local state of emergency and direct the administration to develop a package of property and business tax deferrals.
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Mayes said there are a number of items that have been put on hold as the COVID-19 health crisis brought city business to a halt.
"It can wait a month to do a traffic study or something, but some of these projects that people want to get going do employ a lot of people. They've got to get through some hurdles at city hall," Mayes said.
The property and planning committee will consider development plans for parts of the Waverley West suburb as well as an application to rezone the area around Polo Park to allow more residential.
Councillor says delays unacceptable
Coun. Kevin Klein is pushing to have the rest of the agenda at city hall restarted by having the community committees running as soon as possible.
Klein was approached by the Co-op grocery store chain, which asked for help with zoning for a new location on Sterling Lyon Parkway.
It has to go through the Assiniboia Community Committee and Klein said it's "unacceptable" that there is no plan in place yet to get those meetings going.
"We have to do everything to get the economy back on its feet.… We need to be the city out in front, saying we are good to go," said the councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood.
A spokesperson for Mayor Brian Bowman said an effort to get those committees back on track is underway.
"We are expecting an update from the public service to be published next week for executive policy committee's consideration that will address these scheduling concerns," the spokesperson wrote in an email.