The Winnipeg Free Press responds to the announcement that the city's top planning post has been given to a developer.
"The City of Winnipeg has been without a director of property, planning and development since the last head of the department resigned more than one year ago. It's not clear why the key position has gone unfilled for so long, but presumably the city wanted to make sure it found the right man or woman.
In any event, the search apparently has ended and Winnipeg businessman Phil Sheegl is to be named to the post next week. Not much is known at this point about his qualifications, except that he has served on the board of revision, which hears appeals of property assessments, he was the sales agent for a group of condos on Waterfront Drive and he runs Winnix Properties, with offices in Winnipeg and Phoenix.
It appears, however, that the city was seeking a candidate from the private sector, presumably to make the planning department more business savvy and more responsive to the requirements of builders and developers, which frequently complain that the planning department is overly bureaucratic.
Winnipeg needs a professional planner at this time more than ever. Plan Winnipeg, the city's long-range planning document, is coming up for renewal at a critical juncture in the city's development.
The city could run out of uncommitted vacant land within its borders in 20 to 40 years, according to some estimates, meaning the choices that are made over the next few years could determine the final shape and nature of the city. The inner city and downtown areas remain major areas of concern, there is too much substandard housing, and the city is 50 years behind the times in terms of transportation planning. Aboriginal issues and the impact of poverty on the community are also questions that the new director will need to consider. The director should be a person with a long-term vision and considerable experience in public administration, budget development and human resource management.
By all accounts, Mr. Sheegl is an intelligent and capable individual, with special skills as an entrepreneur and training as an engineer. No doubt he is also a quick learner. That's good, because the learning curve at city hall can be very steep, indeed."