Sunday, March 23, 2008

On Boredom and Lofty Goals, part one

As some of you already know, I am absolutely in love with this bloody city.

As such, I am semi-active in civic-oriented web forums, am on mailing lists of several special interest groups/advocates, and of late, have been doing a little independent research on Winnipeg.

It's this research that helped alleviate the boredom this weekend.

My family, for reasons not readily discussed here, had our annual Easter dinner yesterday (Saturday). So, with nothing open and nobody else around, I was stuck at home all day. After leaving a trail of smartass comments on the web forums I frequent, I shut my iMac off and walked over to my bookshelf, grabbing the first book that caught my eye.

The book? "Juba", by Michael Czuboka.

Took me a few hours (and two litres of Dr. Pepper) to read through, but an interesting read it was. It is a semi-official biography of Stephen Juba, who was mayor of Winnipeg for over twenty consecutive years ('56-'77). He was certainly a colourful character - like him or not - but his term as mayor is essentially a history of what I'd call "Modern Winnipeg". So many things happened during his reign (The Floodway, Disraeli bridge/freeway, the "New" City Hall, the Pan-Am games (1967), the amalgamation of outlying cities and municipalities into "Unicity") that it's hard to overlook his impact on the city.

Being somewhat of a LRT/subway advocate, I was especially interested in his vision for a monorail. It seemed almost tailor-made for the city: running on cheap and locally-generated hydroelectricity, as opposed to fossil fuels in the middle of a global oil crisis; running above ground at the second-storey mark, it would virtually eliminate costly expropriation, and would not be hampered by road conditions (especially in the winter).

Unfortunately, however forward-thinking the monorail was, it was doomed from the start. Thanks in part to our backward thinking city councillors.

But I digress.

I've developed an almost insatiable thirst for all things Winnipeg lately. Partly inspired by fellow New Winnipeggers Mr. Christian and Mr. Point, I've been out-and-about, taking pictures of buildings and landmarks around town, and have been doing a goodly amount of reading on Winnipeg history in general.

Another book I've been reading lately is "Winnipeg 100: 100 Year Pictorial History of Winnipeg". It's a great photo album depicting Winnipeg from its infancy in 1873 all the way up to the then-present day of 1973 (coincidentally, the year I was born). It's fascinating to see my city taking its first steps, learning to walk, growing up, and settling into the sort of morbidly obese, directionless, atrophied, and blind form it has taken.

I want to take it upon myself to become Winnipeg's seeing-eye dog. To put it on a strict no car(b)/no sprawl diet. To get the blood (people and dollars) flowing to the atrophied areas. To give it a kick in the ass (or electric cattle prod) to start it moving (and thinking) forward again.

I also want to help bring the issue of light rail transit back into the spotlight.

In Winnipeg, the car is king.

To me, that king is Louis XVI.

No comments:

Post a Comment