Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Katz drops the ball on the mosquito issue

Our illustrious mayor has been doing his darnedest to make political hay out of this issue. The city loves to point to the province's licencing requirements as the reason for the controversial buffer zones around properties whose owners don't want to be fogged with malathion. With all that in mind, you'd think Katz would love a win-win solution, one which would control mosquitoes without the use of malathion (and hence the need for buffer zones). Not so:

A plan to fill in low-lying areas of Winnipeg to reduce mosquito-larvae habitat was axed last year during a round of job cuts designed to help the city maintain a balanced budget.

In 2009, the city laid off 41 professionals and middle managers and trimmed 42 other full-time equivalent positions from its 8,300-member workforce as part of chief administrative officer Glen Laubenstein's effort to find $11.5 million worth of "efficiencies" in the public service.

At the time, Mayor Sam Katz lauded the cuts as part of an effort to balance the city's $785-million operating budget without raising property taxes.

One of the jobs, however, was the vacant position of "source-reduction" engineer -- a full-time staffer responsible for identifying low-lying areas of Winnipeg where mosquito larvae develop and then filling them in to reduce the amount of standing water during rainy periods.

The job was proposed in 2005 as part of a mosquito-fighting strategy council approved during Katz's rookie term as mayor. Money was placed in the budget for the job in 2007, but the position was never filled, according to city budget documents and departmental business plans.

From the Free Press. Considering the controversy around fogging, the expense, and the fact that at best it only provides a few days' relief, you 'd think preventative measures would be a no-brainer. Seemingly not, though; presumably fogging is the preferred method because it's visible. Fogging is a way of being seen to be dealing with the mosquito problem; filling in low-lying areas is a way of actually dealing with the problem, but doesn't get the publicity (and hence, Katz no doubt figures, the votes).