This week marks the fifth anniversary of my job with the City of Portage la Prairie. I told my hubby I was thinking of doing a column about the things I’ve learned in those five years. Problem was, most of what I’ve learned is boring to the average reader, and anything really interesting might land me in a heap of trouble.
I probably knew less about municipal government than your average bear before I was hired, so it’s a good thing they based their decision on my skill set, my teachability, and my gosh-darn good nature rather than on my knowledge. Here’s a list of 25 things I now know that I couldn’t have told you five years ago, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you might not know all of them either. Give yourself a point for each fact you already knew.
2. Our City Council is made up of one mayor and six councillors.
3. An election is held every four years.
4. Seats on Council are not staggered, which means you could (in theory) elect an entirely new Council every four years.
5. You cannot run for mayor and councillor in the same election.
6. You cannot run for City council and for the School Board in the same election.
7. Like for voting, there are only three requirements for running for Council, provided you can recruit 25 people to sign your nomination: you must be 18 or older, you must be a Canadian citizen and you must live in or own property in the City.
8. The next election will be held October 22, 2014.
9. Portage la Prairie was incorporated as a city in 1907.
10. More than 8,000 by-laws are on our books.
11. One of those by-laws is a curfew by-law for youth, passed in 1998 and available (among others) on the City’s website.
12. A by-law must receive three readings before it is passed, signed, and sealed.
13. Only two of those readings may take place in the same meeting.
14. A by-law can only be amended or rescinded by passing another by-law.
15. It’s against the law to place garage sale signs—or any other signs—on City boulevards.
16. Many of the rules and regulations the City must follow are set out by something called the Manitoba Municipal Act—which you can read in its entirety here.
17. Public Hearings are required for variations, conditional use applications, rezoning of property, and the passing of the annual financial plan (which will happen this year on April 14).
18. Variations are when someone wants to “vary” the rules regarding how close a building or deck can be to a fence, or a fence to a curb, how high the fence is, where a sign can go, and that sort of thing.
19. A conditional use application is when someone wants to use the property for something unique or nonconforming, but still within the zoning rules, for example if a church wants to start a daycare on its premises.
20. Rezoning is when someone wants to change the zoning on a given piece of property (say, from residential to commercial).
21. You violate a by-law if you keep more than three grown cats or dogs or combination of cats and dogs without an excess animal permit.
22. Saskatchewan Avenue and Tupper Street are maintained by the province, not the City.
23. The correct name of our wastewater plant is the Water Pollution Control Facility.
24. If your neighbour throws his snow onto your property, it is not a matter for the City—you will need to work out that dispute on your own or with the RCMP.
25. The City does not run a social services department.
How did you score? If you didn’t already know them all, now you do!