Parks off City's Corporate-Sponsorship Plan

Article excerpt

Councillors give CAO power to grant rights

CITY council has handed Winnipeg's chief administrative officer the power to award exclusive commercial rights to city streets, skywalks and other public spaces, without political oversight -- but not in parks, as originally planned.

On Wednesday, council approved an amended version of a plan to update the corporate-sponsorship program, which has achieved mixed results since its introduction in 2009.

The plan originally called for the city to grant its CAO the authority to conclude sponsorship deals that grant exclusive commercial rights to all public spaces, including parks.

But after six members of council's unofficial opposition rose to voice concerns about the potential over-commercialization of public spaces, Mayor Sam Katz accepted what he called a friendly amendment to drop parks from the list of locations that would be affected by the change.

"We're not talking about commercialization of parks, period," said the mayor after Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan pointed out the report before council called for changes to the parks bylaw with no precise language governing what forms of commercial services might take place in parks.

Earlier, Couns. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) and John Orlikow (River Heights) also expressed concerns the plan would place too much power in the hands of the CAO.

At one point, Orlikow mused whether the Domino's Pizza logo would appear on police cars. "As long as they're there in 30 minutes," Katz quipped in response.

Following the meeting, the mayor told reporters he doesn't believe the city intended to include parks as part of the report and suggested the proposed change to the parks bylaw was "just part of the way the administration does it" when it writes reports.

Katz also said he doesn't believe the CAO's new power to grant exclusive commercial rights constitutes an end run around the city's tendering or bidding processes.

The new policy allows the city to conclude a pair of $75,000 sponsorship deals that respectively granted the Winnipeg Sun exclusive access to three Southwest Transitway stations and the free daily Metro exclusive rights to five locations on the city's weather-protected walkway system. …