Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year In Reflection - From A North End Perspective

I would have to say that this has been an interesting year for me. Since I started writing this blog, in August of this year, I got a call from the Mayor, became a member of the Stakeholders Committee for the Garbage Master Plan at City Hall, joined and was elected Vice-Chair of the St Johns Residents Associate, started attending meetings at City Hall, and met a lot of interesting people.
The folks at 311 have gotten to know me through my emails to them, with 44 bulky item removal requests, 3 requests for dumpsters to be sanitized, 3 illegal dumping reports, 3 reports of litter around dumpsters, 1 request to have a new dumpster delivered, 3 reports of untended yard litter, and several requests for information.
I have been talking with the people at Waste Management, adding my two cents worth into the mix as they negotiate a new contract for garbage removal. I have been told that the trucks sent to pick up bulky items in the back lanes of the North End will now be picking up all bulky items in the lane instead of the items listed on their one specific ticket. This is a major victory in my eyes. The bulky items are fire hazards and homes to rodents. The quicker they get picked up, the cleaner and safer our back lanes and our neighbourhood will be.
During this last year, my husband and I have been getting to know the landlords on our street. We managed to change the behaviour of one landlord, who emptied a residence into the back lane, filling 6 dumpsters with rodent and bug infested items. He now trucks his garbage out of the area. We also managed to rid the street of a few bad tenants. The party house is no longer partying, and a few bad eggs from another house were evicted as well.
On the illegal dumping front, we have seen many instances of illegal dumping, and reported three specific instances. Of those three, one had sufficient evidence to proceed. My husband and I made a statement against that illegal dumper, and the person has been served. I do not know the status of the issue right now, but I will go to court if needed, in order to ensure this person is fined for his actions. So far nobody has ever been fined for illegal dumping, so again, this is huge.
I was published in the Free Press in an article written by Gordon Sinclair Jr (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/making-sure-her-hood-is-heard-105418393.html), and the Community Newspaper, The Times in an article written by Rob Brown (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/times/Faraday-getting-Citizens-on-Patrol-program-111874059.html). Scott Price at The University of Winnipeg radio station also did an interview with me for his People of Interest show, which aired Dec 14 (http://ckuw.ca/index.php/schedule).
Marty Gold often mentioned my blog during his Great Canadian Talk Show from the Red River College Radio Station. He would read from the blog during the show, and often had a segment on Mondays called "A Weekend In The Hood". Unfortunately that show has disappeared from the Winnipeg airways and will be sorely missed.
I would like to thank the Winnipeg Bloggers who have added me to their blog lists. I get many people coming from Winnipeg Love Hate, Slurpees And Murder, and One Man Committee. Thanks Guys :)
That's it for now. See you in the new year.

Thursday is Garbage Day, Even After Christmas

It was garbage day in my back lane today. The Christmas Holidays have not affected the weekly removal of trash from my dumpster. I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
I had noticed a few of the dumpsters were overfull in the past few days, with the remains of presents and wrappings, and was curious how the lane faired after the garbage truck emptied the dumpsters. So, I took my first walk down my lane since Christmas.
What I noticed most along my walk today were the number of black garbage bags lining the lane. Most of them were deposited beside recycling boxes. I found it odd, because I normally do not see garbage bags on my walks at all, not even in the dumpsters. Most people in the area just dump garbage in the dumpsters. Some of the garbage is contained in small plastic grocery bags, but very rarely is there a large black garbage bag. In my experience, the black garbage bags are a sign of someone dumping garbage from outside the neighbourhood.
I found myself wondering where these newly deposited garbage bags came from? Did my neighbours purchase garbage bags for the Christmas holidays? Were they preparing for the extra trash they would have during these days? Or did the bags come from somewhere else. It wasn't only the presence of so many black garbage bags that was so odd, but their locations as well. These garbage bags were not piled next to dumpsters. They were up against fences, meters away from the nearest dumpster. And they were next to recycling boxes. Are the garbage bags filled with recycling, resting in the lane in hopes that they would be taken by the recycling truck to be sorted and turned into lawn furniture? Or maybe, like always, the black garbage bags came from outside the neighbourhood. I cannot say how many garbage bags were in the lane before the garbage truck arrived this morning, as I had not done a back lane walk for a while. But there is definitely a presence of black garbage bags in the lane now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas Spent Away

My husband and I were asked to house sit for family this Christmas. When we were first asked, I looked forward to the idea of getting out of the North End for a week. I looked forward to the peace and quiet of country living. There would be no sirens, no traffic, no noise coming from the neighbours. We could spend some quality time in the country, enjoying the lack of drama of the North End.
During the week of house sitting, we dropped in to the North End every few days to check on our own home. We made sure the walk was shovelled, and mail was brought in. I took quick trips to the back lane as well, making sure all was well. It felt good to drive down my street and park among the familiar cars, and walk down my familiar street, and up my sidewalk to my house. Any time I have gone away on a holiday, it has always felt good to come home, and these short trips into town were no different.
Then back to our temporary home, on the outskirts of town, we would go. Back to the quiet and serenity of the country.
I found myself missing my routine of walks down the back lanes, and missing the familiar noises of the neighbourhood. As crazy as my street gets from time to time, it is still my home. And I missed it.
As much as we love to hate Winnipeg, we love to come home to it as well.
Here is a link to Youtube - Weakerthans - One Great City (I hate Winnipeg)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Police Helicopter Training Over My House

I kept hearing a car driving down my back lane. I would get up, looking out the back window of the house, but there was no car to be seen. This has been going on for a few days now. I thought I was going nuts. But no, I just looked out the window again, and this time I could see lights in the sky. It was the police helicopter. It's not even in service and it is already driving me out of my mind. It didn't just fly by once, or twice, but I saw it fly past my house three times within a couple of minutes, just circling. I can't wait until the helicopter flies over the house at 2:00am.
During the training hours with the helicopter, how many hours a day will it be in the air? And how many times will it go past my house within minutes. I have already seen it over my house last night, earlier this afternoon, and again tonight. But tonight it just won't go away.
What are the hours of operation for this helicopter? If I am woken up by noise at 2:00am and it turns out to be the police helicopter, am I allowed to call the police to make a noise complaint? If they are simply patrolling, and not officially tracking a specific criminal performing a crime, would it be considered un-necessary noise?
And what about the search light? How invasive is that going to be? And are they going to be using the search light with their current training exercises? I feel like I am in one of those gang movies "Boyz In The Hood" or "Colors", with the constant sound of helicopters overhead, with search lights shining into windows.
While the helicopter is doing its training, how many hours will it be up in the air? Are they doing their training only over the North End? Are we the only lucky recipients of its noise? When will they begin training with the search light? I can't wait to see all the criminals the helicopter is going to catch while it disturbs me with its noise. I say that because I believe it won't make a damned bit of difference in the prevention or investigation of crimes, or the catching of criminals. I can hear that helicopter again as I am typing this blog, windows closed, curtains covering them. Imagine the noise in the summer, when my windows are open, as the helicopter competes with the neighbours swearing and smashing property all night long.
The police helicopter may be the final straw that makes me put a for sale sign up.
I can still hear that damned helicopter. I can't believe how angry it is making me. I try not to rant in this blog, and I don't swear in it, but I can still hear that damned helicopter. And I find it very disturbing that it is a Police innitiative that has made me this upset.
What were they thinking? All this helicopter does in increase the feeling that we are in a war zone. Add more police, bring in more dogs, increase the cadets, but for Heaven sakes get rid of that damned helicopter.

Christmas Shopping In The Hood

I looked out my window this afternoon and saw some people shopping in the dumpster behind my house. I know the dumpster was just emptied yesterday, but as it happens, a nice coffee table was placed in the dumpster shortly after it was emptied. So, this afternoon we had some interest in the dumpster contents. As I was watching, the lucky shoppers pulled the coffee table out, set it down on the ground, got a good grip on it, and walked it down the back lane to it's new home.
A few minutes later, the same people were back collecting another furniture item. It had been placed by one of the other dumpsters in the lane a few days ago. The item in question had not been picked up by the garbage trucks as it was not placed inside a dumpster. The furniture item was sitting on the ground beside the dumpster, and was on display when these people were shopping for furniture.
I am not sure if the scrounging was for their own personal use in their residence, or if they were doing their Christmas shopping. But I guess they were saving money either way.
Here in the hood we practice the three R's, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Not only did these people save money during the Christmas season, they helped reduce the carbon footprint.
Later tonight there was a different sort of action happening on the front street. As we were coming home from a quick trip to the store we noticed three police cars parked down the street. One of the police cars was stopped in the parking lane, facing the wrong way. The other two were in front of the house in question, and blocking traffic.
It's winter in the hood, and we still have our police presence much like we do in the summer. The police still show up on the street, and they are still visiting the same few houses. I can't say for sure how often they are on the street during the winter because I am not outside as often. My windows are covered more in the winter, and on really cold days they are frosted over. But I am often surprised looking out of the window, seeing police cars on the street, or driving down the road finding them close by.
I took a photo of the Police Cars on the street tonight, but it's hard to see them because it was dark outside at the time. As I was taking the picture of the police cars, I noticed our great eye in the sky helicopter flying high overhead. I guess they are doing some night training. Thankfully they were fairly high up and did not make a lot of noise.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Garbage Truck Took My Pink Couch

The garbage truck came down my lane this morning. It's Thursday today, and as you may know, Thursday is garbage day in my back lane. I was a little concerned that the dumpster behind my house would not be emptied, because there was a big pink couch sticking out of it. I remember earlier in the summer when someone dumped a door in the dumpster, that the garbage truck was not able to empty its contents. I had to contact 311 and request a special truck to come down the lane and remove the door so the dumpster could get emptied. Well, I expected the same results this morning.
When I went down my lane this morning, I noticed all the dumpsters had been emptied. I mean all of them, even the one that had the big pink couch in it. I don't know how they managed to get the whole thing into their truck, but more power to them. That saved me an email to 311@winnipeg.ca to have the couch picked up. Thanks garbage guys. I appreciate your efforts.

On a related topic, I had asked Peter deGraaf a question regarding the reporting of illegal dumping acts. Peter is the manager of Community By-Laws Enforcement Services. I wanted to know if all reports containing a vehicle license number would be sent through the Legal Services department to have the owner information requested so prosecution could take place. This morning, I received a reply to that query.

Hi Rae,

Thanks for your inquiry. 

With respect to illegal dumping, CBES needs the following evidence in
order to proceed with enforcement activities:

-a witness statement
-vehicle plate number
-vehicle description
-description of the individual

Pictures of the above would enhance the investigation.

Yours truly,


Peter de Graaf
Manager of Community By-law Enforcement Services
City of Winnipeg
Community Services Department

So there it is. We now know what information we need to collect in order for the Community By-Laws department to be able to act on the illegal dumping reports that we are sending in.  They need the license number, vehicle description, description of the individual doing the dumping and a statement from the witness to the illegal act. And if one could take a picture that would be even better. Now that we know what we need, lets work toward getting all the required information, and report this information to 311 or 311@winnipeg.ca so we can stop these illegal dumpers.
If you have provided all the information needed and have not been asked to make a statement, contact 311 or the By-Law Offices and find out why.
It is up to all of us to patrol our neighbourhoods, and ensure these people are not using our lanes like a landfill. And it is up to us to ensure the City Departments are taking our efforts seriously.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

City Hall, Councillors, and Votes

I took my place in the gallery at City Hall to hear the last Council Meeting of 2010. The agenda was huge, printing 6 pages in total. Like the meeting I was at yesterday, most items were passed even faster than they could be read. This time they were passed in groups, two, three, and nine at a time. First reading passed, second reading passed, suspending rules for third reading passed. I hope the councillors know what they are doing, and I hope they all read what they were passing prior to attending the meeting. Because I sure know they were not being educated at the meeting on the content of most items that were carried.
There were a few items discussed, and some at great length. I was interested in the discussion of Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works 2011 Capital spending on local streets and alleys. Councillor Wyatt stated it is "demoralizing that we do not look after our infrastructure". Councillor Smith echoed that thought. Then Councillor Eadie went further, stating nobody in the North End has respect for back lanes. He said they were a place for hoodlums, and where dumpsters are set on fire. He stressed the importance of repect for the streets to reduce crime, and said his area has only been given budget money for two back lanes and two front streets to be repaired this next year.
In another part of the question period Councillor Eadie asked Mayor Katz when the North End would be getting the much needed 58 new officers and how they were to be financed. Eadie stressed the need, with the Mynarski ward having such issues with crime and violence. Katz stated the money would be coming from the Operating Budget, and resources would be coming in stages over the next few years. Mayor Katz did say the new Cadets were sworn in yesterday and hit the streets today. He said there will be 20 more officers walking the beat, 20 going into the gang unit, and gave more numbers, but I wasn't able to catch it all.
In another of the items that were passed with haste, it was carried that more money would be going into the Canine unit facility. I like that. I feel the police dogs do a great job in helping to track criminals. We should ensure the police dogs are properly housed and taken care of. As I was typing this I was wondering what the actual report stated, so I took a quick look. The Canine Unit is getting $1.25M, coming out of the Police Radio 2010 capital budget, Police Priority Dispatch System, and WPS unspecified Capital Account. I sure hope they know what they're doing. The WPS is getting all kinds of improvements and increases in officers, and it is all magically coming out of the same pile of cash. Somehow I am finding that particular pill hard to swallow. When will the other shoe drop on that one.
Then there was an item in the Financial section that caught my eye. It was the 2011 Fees and Charges Increase. There was a very brief discussion on this regarding changes where they were going to have full cost recovery incorporated in some areas, and add new fees that were not being charged previously. My mind went immediately to By-Laws on the books that are not currently fining people, but could. I wondered if maybe this could be the issue I have been waiting for, and dreaming of. I couldn't wait to get home and read more about it. I am all for fees used as a cost recovery, especially if someone has committed a By-Law offence and is costing tax payers money in remedying the situation.
When I got home, I had a look at the report in the Agenda for the Council meeting. It turns out they were discussing Water and Waste. Garbage is waste, so I got a little more excited, and kept reading. Then I saw it. All they were talking about were issues related to water, sewer, and that sort of waste. Now, I think they were talking about how they were not going to be increasing our taxes, but just adding the fees to recover costs into the bill. Now I am wondering if my property taxes will be higher without the Mayor officially "increasing" them. Hmmmm.
But again, lets find the bright side. Is this where I need to look to ensure By-Laws are enforced and fines are levied? Should I go to the Financial Council Meetings and see how they come up with these changes? Should I lobby for change in the By-Laws that regulate Fees and Charges? I wonder.

There's A Couch In My Dumpster!

On my way home this afternoon, I happened to take a quick look down my back lane. I could see something sticking out of the dumpster behind my house. What Now? What's been dumped in the lane this time?
Well, I went into the lane to have a look. There was an entire couch stuck into the dumpster. Now, I know that nobody from my lane put the couch into the dumpster. Nobody lifts a couch up over their head and places it in a dumpster. No, this came from the back of a truck. Then I had a closer look into the dumpster and noticed two tires and some windows. Then I saw the dumpsters down the lane had been filled with more items. It seems the dumpsters that have no lids are the ones with items dumped into them. I guess it is easier when driving down the lane in a truck, to stop at the dumpsters without lids.
My husband commented that he noticed something sticking out of the dumpster earlier this morning. He said he was in the lane yesterday and those items were not present. And he said he heard a truck in the lane last night as well. But you can't get up and look out the window every time you hear something.
On a more positive note, while I was in the back lane looking at all the extra goodies we now have custody of until garbage day, I saw that the old burned out couch from across the back lane is now gone. The back of the house still remains the same, with scorch marks and holes in the porch wall, but the couch is no longer sitting against the fence. It is gone.
I guess we have to celebrate the victories.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's Happening At City Hall Today?

I attended my first meeting in the Council Building at City Hall today. It was the Lord Selkirk - West Kildonan Community Committee meeting. The meeting was run with Councillor Pagtakhan as chair. Councillors Eadie and Sharma were also in attendance, along with the clerk, a representative from Public Works and one from Planning, Property and Development.
During the regular session of the meeting there were eight items to be discussed. Of those, seven were passed, denied, or adjourned in the blink of an eye. I could hardly keep up. I guess one has to read the reports prior to attending, because nothing was being said at the meeting. A single line was read off the Agenda and decisions were made.
The eighth item actually had a fair bit of discussion surrounding it. A couple of concerned citizens were present as Delegates, and spoke at the beginning of the meeting. They had concerns about parking around one particular business on Main Street. The business owner had an opportunity to speak, and disputed the claims later in the meeting.
When the Parking and Safety Concerns issue was brought up, Councillor Sharma made some recommendations regarding the issue. There seemed to be discussion between the clerk and Councillors on proper process for making recommendations. Bottom line, it was going to the parking authority for them to decide if it was getting approved. Or I think that's what they decided. More to the point, I think I was witness to Councillors in training making important decisons that matter to businesses and residences.
Then the public hearings were held, and they were just that. They were public. Each item was discussed, presentation boards were used, and information was distributed to the Councillors. The Councillors then recommended for or against the request, or adjourned it for a later time.
What I want to know is why the parking concern was part of the regular meeting, and not a public hearing. Is it because the parking concern was a complaint requesting change, and the public hearings were requests for change? If the business in question wanted to change the parking signs would they be presenting their case in the public hearings instead?
And if I wanted my back lane to be zoned for a land fill, could I request my case in the public hearings?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back Lane Patrol Dec 8, Snow And All

I went for a walk this afternoon down my back lane. I have been walking down the lane at least once a week since the winter snow fell, and have periodically found bulky items hiding under the snow. I guess winter is not stopping people from cleaning out their houses and leaving the remains in the back lanes of the North End. Last week I let 311 know there were some mattresses behind one of the dumpsters in my lane, and today I see that it has been taken away.
My back lane was clear of any excess bulk garbage today, but in the lane down the street from me there were two dumpsters with a mattress each, and one dumpster having a sofa chair beside it. The next street over had two dumpsters with wooden furniture or dressers beside them. All bulk items have been reported to 311 and should be picked up sometime within the next week or so.

I will be going to my second meeting at City Hall tomorrow, for the Stakeholders Advisory Committee to the Garbage Master Plan. At the meeting I will be recommending these bulk items to be picked up on a weekly basis, by a regularly scheduled garbage truck.  There is enough garbage being deposited into the North End that the current system of reporting single items for pickup is far too time intensive and expensive for us to continue with. Until this illegal dumping gets under control, the garbage must be picked up. At the Stakeholders Advisory Committee meetings I have learned two important things so far. First, they are very much aware that illegal dumping is a huge problem. And second, the picking up of garbage in cities is done because garbage is a health concern. This bulk garbage must be picked up in a timely manor because the city is supposed to be taking care of it for health reasons, at the very least.
Now, as far as the illegal dumping of garbage goes, everyone in the North End knows there are bulk items being dumped in our back lanes. We all know they appear mysteriously in the night and are often coming from outside the area.
Although it is against the law to illegally dump these items in the back lanes of the North End, nobody is ever prosecuted. At this point you are wondering why I should care so much about all this garbage being deposited outside my yard, in the dumpsters behind my house, in my lane, and in the North End in general?  Why should I keep writing about garbage, and why should I get so upset that I go to the extent of attending meetings at City Hall?
Well, I will tell you why. I care because the people who are doing the dumping are making a statement. They are saying the North End is not worth caring about. They are saying they have no respect for the North End and feel there is nothing wrong with tossing their garbage in our lanes. They are saying the North End is nothing but a garbage dump. And they are beating us down with the trash they are depositing on us.
City Hall is allowing these actions to take place. They are turning a blind eye to the illegal dumpers and ignoring any hints that the Community By-Laws Offices are not doing their jobs. City Hall is saying to the North End "We don't care about you". They are saying the North End is not worth fighting for and not worth upholding the laws for. And City Hall is saying the North End is, was, and always will be a garbage dump.
It's amazing how City Hall can say on one hand how concerned they are about Crime in the North End, and hail the new helicopter as a great resource in the fight against Crime, and on the other hand do nothing about the criminals dumping their garbage in the area, creating a huge culture of disrespect for the children of the North End to grow up in.
My little issue of garbage is the tip of the iceburg in building respect and raising children that care about themselves, their property, and their community. It's far more than one guy driving a truck into the North End and throwing a pile of construction material into a dumpster. Car theives and shotgun weilding gangsters don't just wake up one day and say they are going to be criminals. They are moulded into that life by their experiences and their environment.
Help me help the city become a better place. Lobby City Hall to start enforcing the By-Laws and lets get this illegal dumping under control.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winnipeg's New Bat Copter Unveiled

Am I the only one who feels I am in Gotham City, with the great unveiling of the new Bat-Copter at the airport?

I just received the latest Winnipeg Police Services News Release. In it, Selinger is committed to "public safety and crime prevention initiatives". Katz has given the WPS the "tools necessary to reduce crime in our city" believing the helicopter will keep the citizens of Gotham City, I mean Winnipeg safe. And Police Chief McCaskill says it's "an exciting day for the Service", believing the copter will "improve the safety of the community".

I am feeling safer already .... No I'm not!!! What I am feeling, is that there will be a new noise in the North End keeping me up at night. Not only do we have dogs, all night parties, sirens, cars without mufflers, but now we are going to have the noise of a helicopter overhead. Somehow, I don't think the helicopter is going to make our City and our Streets safer. It does not run day and night, it only goes in the air when needed. And how long does it take to wake up the pilot, get him to the airport, get the copter running and in the air, and going to the area of interest. By the time the helicopter gets to the crime scene, there is nobody in sight except the police, who have already been scouring the area, and the canine unit with a dead scent.
I don't think we are spending our money wisely on this one. I think we could have done far more good with the funds going into social programs, or more Police and Cadets on the streets, or more 911 operators.
But, what's done is done. We have a new helicopter that will patrol the City from the air. It will shine it's light down on us in search of criminals. And the City will be given that false sense of security that it needs.
I wonder how they will notify the helicopter to take to the air. Maybe "Help, someone just stole my purse ... turn on the Bat Signal".
Crime will continue as it did yesterday, Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winnipeg Crime Stats Boiled Down

I was reading the Free Press the other day and there was mention of the 2009 Annual Report by the Winnipeg Police Services. The article said one could go to the WPS website to get a look at the report as well. So, of course I went looking for it. I was not able to find a link to the report myself, but after contacting the people at 311, I was given the URL for the Annual Reports. (http://www.winnipeg.ca/police/AnnualReports/annualreports.stm)
I took a look at the report, specifically the stats that were compiled at the end of it.
There were a few statistics that I found interesting. First, the stats showing crimes in the various parts of the City. I fully expected the North End (District 3) to show the highest number of crimes. That's a given, everyone knows that it would be the highest. For 2009 district 3 showed 40,106 crimes. But what I found more interesting is that the East District was not far behind at 36,106 crimes. Then I had a look at District 6, and it had more than half the amount found in District 3, showing 23,256 crimes. District 2 had the fewest crimes, with only 17,443. In looking at those same crime statistics I saw that District 2 and 6 showed a 7% increase in crime, where District 3 only had a 5% increase, and the East District had a meer 1% increase in crime.
The violent crimes, being murder, attempted murder, assaults, abductions, robberies, and other crimes against persons were higher in District 3 than the other Districts in the city, but the same could not be said for property crimes. The East District had the highest property crimes, at 10,692, followed by District 3 at 8,660, then District 6 showing 7,182, and lastly District 2 having only 5,061 property crimes in 2009.
As I looked further into the crime stats I saw a very disturbing statistic. It was the one concerning Young Offenders. In Total Criminal Code Offences, 23% of the offences were committed by Young Offenders. The information showed 16% of all Criminal Code Offences were committed by Male Young Offenders and 7% by Female Young Offenders. Breaking the statistics down, crimes against persons show 20% being committed by young offenders (14% male, 6% female). Crimes against Property are committed by Young Offenders 34% off the time (23% male, 11% female), and Traffic Offences are committed only 4% off the time by Young Offenders (3% male, 1% female).
When I think about the total number of crimes that are committed by Young Offenders I am reminded of the newspaper articles citing youths being arrested for the 10th, 50th, 80th time for the same type of offences. And these same youth are set loose on bail to continue their crime sprees. They are a huge burden on Police resources, and the court system. They are also quite a burden on citizens who are violated by their actions. Yet nothing is being done to correct the Youth Justice System in our city, province, or country.
I was at a breakfast a few weeks back, held by the Manitoba Justice people. One of the speakers at the breakfast was Chief Justice Raymond Wyant. In his speech he mentioned one success story in Brooklyn, New York. Apparently, they brought in a Community based court system. It is called the Red Hook Community Justice Center (http://www.courtinnovation.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageID=572). It started in 2000, and has become a huge success. They system worked because the criminals were held accountable to their communities. And the community has a say in how people are sentenced. Instead of sending the offender through the regular criminal system, they are judged by their peers, possibly having to pay restitution in the way of repairing damages done, or doing volunteer work in the community. Could you imagine if the person who had been charged with the 80 counts of graffitti actually had to go out and remove the graffitti in the neighbourhood as a penalty. Maybe he would think twice about committing the crimes if he had to go out every day for the entire summer removing graffitti.
We need to put pressure on the governments, at all levels, to correct the Youth Justice System, and reduce the number of crimes being committed by the young people of our city.
Our children are supposed to be our greatest treasures, not our biggest threats. We need to take action and work with community organizations to keep kids out of gangs. We need to provide better after school programs for kids at risk, and fund the community centers in the North End, and other at risk areas, so they can keep kids busy and off the streets. We need to change the way Young Offenders are handled after being caught for crimes, and give the Police and Courts the tools to stop these youth from re-offending.
These are OUR kids, Winnipeg, not just the kids of the North End.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Confusion of City By-Laws Information

When I first reported an act of illegal dumping of construction materials into the dumpster behind my house I was told the By-Law department could not proceed. They did not have access to the MPI database that would allow them to find the owner of the vehicle used. This was back in August of this year. I spoke with the By-Law officers' boss, Kevin Seaford, and again was told the department did not have access to the MPI database.
My blog has been logging my efforts to have this issue corrected. I mean, how can the By-Law department not have access to the information they need in order to perform their jobs? I have been requesting information from the Mayor's office, as Mayor Sam Katz, himself, promised me he would take care of this issue personally. When he called to ask for my vote, I told him about the issue with the By-Law department. He said he would see to it personally that my issue was taken care of.
Well, I guess the Mayor came through on his promise. I was contacted by the By-Law department on November 10 and told they finally got the truck owners name.
But when did the Mayors' office decide to uphold the promise? Was it when Gordon Sinclair published my story in the Winnipeg Free Press on Oct 21? Or was it just done out of the kindness of his heart?
I thought my fight was over when I went down to the By-Law office to make my statement regarding the illegal dumping of the construction material. I thought the issue of the By-Law department not having access to information was corrected. But no. When I asked Kevin Seaford about that, he said this was a one time deal. He said they still do not have access to the MPI database. He also said nobody has ever been fined for illegal dumping.
I don't know what made me more upset. Was it that nothing had been fixed? Or was it that the problem was far deeper than I ever imagined. Not only did they not have access to the information they needed to prosecute offenders, but none of the offenders have ever been fined. Not ever.
When I was first told that the By-Law department did not have access to the MPI database, I was told the reason was because of the Privacy Act. Or at least that is what I thought I heard from the two people I spoke with at the By-Law office. When I checked back on the notes I made when speaking with Kevin Seaford on the phone, I had written "Asked & Asked, denied, privacy laws". I remember that conversation. Seaford had said he had asked and asked for the information, and it was denied. He must have given the reason as 'privacy laws' at that point.
When I found the section of the Privacy Act that actually allows for information to be provided in order to assist in the prosecution of a crime, I thought I was on to something. So, I called Kevin Seaford at the By-Law office, to see what he had to say about this new finding of mine. The response was not what I had expected. Kevin said I got it wrong. Apparently the Privacy Act has nothing to do with the reason the By-Law Office does not have access to the MPI database. He said all he could tell me was that his office does not have access to the MPI database. He suggested I speak with his boss, or his bosses boss (Peter deGraaf).
I am all for going to the top, and I had Peter deGraaf's email address. So I sent him an email. I want to know the "official" reason why the By-Law department does not have access to information needed to do their job.

>> Peter,
>>
>> As you know I have filed a complaint with the By-Law department
>> regarding the illegal dumping of construction materials in the Autobin
>
>> behind my house. I had included a photograph of the individual,
>> including the white
>> 1/2 ton truck, the Manitoba license plate number and a clear image of
>> the person doing the dumping. I sent this complaint in on August 20,
>> and received a reference number of 405412. I was told the following
>> Thursday by telephone that the By-Law department could not proceed
>> further because they did not have access to information from the MPI
>> database that would allow them to obtain the vehicle owner of the
> truck committing the crime.
>> The reason given at that time was that it involved the Privacy Act. I
>> understand the information regarding the owner of the vehicle was
>> obtained, but as a special, one time instance.
>> I have since read the Privacy Act, and find that Section 17(2) b
>> states information can be made available from a public body if it "is
>> necessary to prosecute the violation or continue the investigation".
>> I would like to know why the By-Law Department informed me that they
>> do not have access to information they need to follow through on these
>
>> By-Law infractions. I do not see the Privacy Act infringing, in any
>> way, the obtaining of information needed in the prosecution of a
>> violation. I do not see any obstruction to information needed in the
>> enforcement of this By-Law.
>>
>> Rae Butcher

Well, I got an answer from Peter tonight.
HI Rae,

Thank you for your communications.  It would appear there was an initial
misunderstanding relative to the ability to access the necessary
information in order to proceed with this investigation at the outset.

The City of Winnipeg Community By-Law Enforcement Services Unit (CBES)
has consulted further with The City of Winnipeg Legal Services and as a
result, the matter has in fact proceeded.  Also, in terms of accessing
MPI database information, Legal Services submits CBES database
information requests to MPI according to an established process with
MPI.

This case is now before the courts.  We sincerely appreciate citizens
taking an active role in the health and wellbeing of our community and
once again thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Yours truly, 

Peter de Graaf
Manager of Community By-law Enforcement Services City of Winnipeg
Community Services Department

So, does this mean that the By-Laws department does have access to information they need to take care of these illegal dumping issues? Is there really an established process for the By-Laws department to request information from MPI to do their jobs?
How could there be a misunderstanding? Did they loose the manual on how to make a request? Or have they never made a request before and just didn't know which button to push to send the request through?
What is the actual probem? Is it that they really do not want to prosecute these illegal dumpers? Is it that the North End is not important enough to process any request by it's citizens? Are North Enders really such sub-citizens that the By-Law department has a policy of not acting on their complaints? I sure hope I got this one wrong.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

City Politics 101

My street is a lot quieter now. Winter has set in, and the outside world has calmed. Even the people who seemed frightening a few weeks ago, are just parka clad folks out shovelling their walks. The yards are all covered with that clean blanket of snow, and traffic has slowed, be it pedestrian, bicycle, or motor vehicle.
Walking down the lanes and front streets is now more difficult, and I will be conducting my walks with less frequency. As with everyone, I will turn to more indoor activities to get me through the winter months.
Since starting this blog, I have read many By-Laws and legal acts, posting their links as I find them. I have been educating myself on subjects I once considered irrelevant and unnecessary to bother with. But in order to ensure the rights of my block are upheld, it has become necessary for me to familiarize myself with the legalese of the City.
In my quest for knowlege I have also found schedules and minutes for the various meetings held at City Hall (http://www.winnipeg.ca/clkdmis/). And I have even gotten myself on one of the committees. A few weeks prior to the Speak Up on Garbage Expo at the convention center, I received a phone call. I was invitied to attend a meeting at City Hall for the Stakeholders Advisory Committee to the Garbage Master Plan. I am now a citizen member of that Committee.
While browsing the City of Winnipeg website, I have found which committees discuss derelict buildings, what has been happening at the latest Lord Selkirk - West Kildonan Community Committee meeting, and the Winnipeg Committee for Safety minutes. It seems these meetings at City Hall are public. That means anyone may attend them. During the winter months, I am going to start attending some of these meetings, starting with the Winnipeg Committee for Safety on Dec 10.
I was never interested in Politics before. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom Of Information Act Versus By-Law Dept Unable To Obtain License Info

Back in August, I made a report to 311 regarding the illegal dumping of construction material into the dumpster behind my residence. I sent a photograph, showing the white half ton truck, the Manitoba License plate number, and the individual doing the illegal dumping. I also provided a photo of the lumber, metal, and door that the individual deposited in the dumpster.
I explained that the individual was asked if they lived in the area, and if they were aware that it was illegal to dump the construction material in the dumpster. I also said the dumpster was for residents of the area, which he said he was not. And I also told the individual that I took a photo and would be submitting it to the By-Law department and he would be fined for performing the illegal dumping of the construction material. I gave him the opportunity to remove the items from the dumpster, but the individual declined the offer, and said I should clean up my back lane. The individual said I should be happy that he was at least cleaning up.
So, I sent the information to 311. They in turn forwarded it to the By-Law department for investigation. A week later the By-Law department said they could not proceed further, as they did not have access to the MPI database to get the information on the owner of the vehicle. They said it was because of the Privacy Act.
Now today I happened to be reading through the Privacy Act, or rather, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. In it, I noticed a section that would allow information to be provided if it was needed for law enforcement.
Division 3
Mandatory Exceptions To Disclosure
Privacy of a Third party
Disclosure harmful to a third party's privacy
17(1) The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose personal information to an applicant if the disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party's privacy.
Disclosures deemed to be an unreasonable invasion of privacy
17(2) A disclosure of personal information about a third party is deemed to be an unreasonable invasion of the third party's privacy if
(a) the personal information is personal health information;
(b) the personal information was compiled and is identifiable as part of an investigation into a possible violation of a law, except to the extent that disclosure is necessary to prosecute the violation or continue the investigation;
etc.
As far as I can see 17(2) (b) should give the By-Law people the right to request this needed information. There should be no reason that the By-Law department is not allowed to gain access to information from the Manitoba Public Insurance, when requested, if they are requesting the information to "prosecute the violation or continue the investigation".
Or am I missing something?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Street Is Covered In A Clean Blanket Of Snow

I went for a walk today, on my own. This was the first time I have ventured more than a block from my home on foot alone since the shootings in October. The shootings are no longer a topic of news, and are drifting from peoples memories.
I have tried to get back to normal, but things kept happening.
A few days after the murders, there was the sound of a shot gun coming from behind my house, somewhere in the back lane, or very close. Then I watched a person steal a car, right in front of my window. And there were the other actions occurring within view of my house. Then last week I had an unfortunate encounter with a person on a bicycle. I have been looking at bicycles along the side streets of the North End in a different light since the murders. I remember the Police said the individual or individuals doing the shootings were seen traveling by bicycle.

But today, I went for a walk on my own, and I left my block.
As I left the house I noticed not one, but two McDonald's coffee cups. They were discarded on the street and on the boulevard. It seems they are always discarded right in front of my house. I guess I live exactly the distance from McDonalds that it takes to finish a cup of coffee.
The snow has covered the North End in a fresh coat of crisp, clean camouflage. The yards are all filled with clean, white snow. You can still see the boarded houses, and the paint falling off the side of a few homes. You can still see the broken windows and fences that need repairs. But with a fresh coat of snow covering everything, it somehow seems less depressing. The snow seems to even things out a bit. The neighbourhood could almost be in another part of town.
I could not see any dirt and mud filled yards. The garbage strewn around the yards is hidden under the snow. For now, the yards are clean. With a fresh lick of paint, some of the rougher looking houses would look just fine.
I walked down the front street today, which was nice. Then on my way back home I took the lane. There were a few dumpsters that were overflowing already. It is only Tuesday today and the dumpsters are likely not getting emptied until Friday this week.
The dumpsters that are overflowing are not filled with residential garbage. They are filled with construction material, lumber, and paint cans. There was a dresser that was smashed into pieces and put into one of the dumpsters. And there was a couch and a couple of mattresses behind another dumpster down the block. Another dumpster was full of broken furniture and lumber. On my block alone there are three dumpsters now overflowing with non-residential garbage. We still have several days until the dumpsters will be emptied. As residents of the lane put their garbage out, it gets stacked on top of the already existing garbage in the dumpsters. Then it blows into the lane, or gets spilled into the lane as the dumpster gets emptied.
If our dumpters were used solely for residential garbage, they would not overflow, and would not spill out into the lane. Our dumpsters would be able to hold our household waste, and be emptied into the garbage trucks at the end of the week, and our lanes would be clean.
Out front streets are looking crisp and clean, but the back lanes will again turn into garbage strewn alleys.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Same Truck, Different Day, More Garbage

I caught a quick look at a truck in my back lane this afternoon, Nov 22 1:40pm. I think it was the same truck that was dumping items in the back lane last week. This time I saw 4x4 written on the truck on the right side, just behind the rear wheel. That part of the truck was hidden by the dumpster last week.
So, does this person have nothing better to do with his or her day than to drive down my back lane and fill dumpsters?
It is winter now, so it takes me a lot longer to get outside when I see illegal dumpers. In the summer, I can grab my camera, slip my sandals on as I am running down the stairs and out the door. I can be outside and in the back lane in a matter of seconds. But not now. Now I have to make sure I have socks on. And I have to get my shoes and make sure they are on. Then I need to grab my jacket, and mitts. And I have to get my camera. And then I need to go through the yard, through the gate at the front of the house, and the one at the back lane. Hopefully, I have already shovelled the path, so my travel through the back yard is faster. And I seem to be moving more slowly in the winter than I was in the summer. The thought of scrambling to the back lane is far less appealing when I know I have not shovelled the back yard path.
Today, I did not see the truck until it was starting to drive down the lane. But I could see there was still garbage sticking out of the back of the truck. I knew it would be dumping into another of the dumpsters in my back lane. I could have caught the person, if it was summer. But not today.
I found a pair of socks, located my shoes, grabbed my camera, then I had to go back upstairs and get my mitts. By this time, I was sure I was not going to find anyone still in the lane. But I kept going. I got my snow suit on, and out I went.

This time, there was a pallet, some carpet, and a fence post in one dumpster. In the next dumpster down the lane there was another fence post, and several large cardboard boxes. It seems this person has been replacing a fence. And they got rid of the boxes for a 10'x10' canvas canopy.

I will continue to take pictures of items that are illegally dumped in my back lane.
And I will continue, even through the winter, to try and get photos of the vehicles and people who are doing the dumping.
Last week, I went down to the By-Law department on Main Street. I made a statement regarding the illegal dumping of garbage in the dumpster behind my residence back in August. While I was making a statement, I was told that there has never been a single fine levied against an individual for the illegal dumping of garbage in the North End. I, myself, find this hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that there would be a law on the books that has never been enforced, or rather, a law on the books that is written in a way so that it cannot be enforced.
Back in August, when I first made the report of illegal dumping, I was told the By-Law department could not proceed with the case. They did not have access to the MPI database to find out who the owner of the vehicle was. Even though I provided a photo containing the White Dodge 1/2 ton, the Manitoba License plate, and the person doing the dumping, I did not provide enough information for the criminal to be located.
A few weeks ago, I was told that the By-Law people were able to obtain the information from MPI regarding the owner of the truck doing the dumping. But, the obtaining of that same information was a one time thing. The By-Laws department still does not have access to the MPI database to locate vehicle information on any other complaint they get. How wrong is that!
I was told that if the By-Laws officer goes to the resident of the vehicle owner, and it turns out that it is not the same person as the one in the photo, the By-Law people can go no further. How wrong is that!
I was told that many people who do go to court simply say they were dumping garbage for their friend, who lives on the street they were dumping. Well, don't they have to prove they know a person on that street, and doesn't that person have to prove they are truely a resident of the street? No? How wrong is that!
How can the illegal dumping of garbage be such a problem in the North End of Winnipeg, and still, there has not been a single fine given to a single individual committing the crimes?
How is it that the North End continues to be a dumping ground for the rest of Winnipeg, and nobody is doing anything about it?
Well, no more.
I will fight this.
I will continue to fight this.
And I will win.
The people who are throwing their garbage in my neighbourhood will be fined.
I will see to it.
I will fight to have the By-Laws corrected.
And I will fight every case where I can identify a person or vehicle dumping their garbage in my neighbourhood.
I did not move to the Brady Landfill when I came to the North End, I moved to a neighbourhood.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

North End Etiquette And Bicycles

I guess I made a mistake today.
I had an errand to run, and on the way home I thought I would drive down a few different streets in the St Johns area of the North End. I do this quite regularly now, choosing different streets and back lanes in the area to drive down. Since joining the St Johns Residents Association, I have taken an interest in more streets than just my one block.
Today I chose to drive down a few of the front streets in the area, looking for boarded houses. I was taking my time driving down the streets. I was driving fairly slowly as I looked at the houses on each of the streets I drove on. I was just about home, one street over from my residence. There were two bicycles in front of me on the street. One of them was pulling a small trailer. I was not interested in passing the bicycles as I was not travelling that fast. I held back and continued watching the houses. The street was lined with parked cars and the bicycles moved over to the side, close to the parked cars. The one cyclist who was pulling the trailer seemed to be getting annoyed that I was not passing, so I finally decided I would pick up my pace and pass the bikes. I was going fairly slowly still, as I did not want to get too close to the trailer behind the bicycle. As I was just about to pass the bike, it sped up a bit, swerved in front of me and spun around.
The cyclist threw the bike down and came at my car. He was mad. He came right up to my window and started to yell in a very angry voice. I don't know what he was saying. But he was very angry. He continued to yell as I threw the car in reverse and sped backward down the block.
I thought he was going to smash my window. He definitely scared me.
So what did I do wrong?
I didn't pass the bicycle, and I didn't pass him soon enough or fast enough.
In the future, I guess I either will not go down a street where there is a bicycle, or I will pass the bike as fast as I can, and get out of their way.
I guess I will not make that mistake again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Truck Illegally Dumps Garbage With Vertical Adventure Indoor Climbing Facility Sticker

A truck just pulled up to the dumpster behind my house (Nov 16/10 11:45am). It stopped and began unloading garbage into the dumpster. I was not able to get a look at the person doing the illegal dumping and was not able to get a license plate of the vehicle. But maybe some of the garbage may look familiar to you. Or maybe you recognize the truck. Maybe we can put pressure on these illegal dumpers by having their friends and neighbours calling them on it.
Do you know the truck?
I was not able to get a close picture of the truck, sorry.
Here's the garbage that was deposited. Do you recognize it?

Close up of the sticker on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet picture. It says "Vertical Adventures Indoor Climbing Facility". Does anyone know this picture?
Part of a chair or futon was thrown out as well, with wood and fabric. Does this look familiar?

Alarm Clock Set For 4:13am?

I was woken up this morning at 4:13am. I don't remember setting the alarm that early on a Tuesday morning. No, it wasn't my alarm clock going off. It was the neighbours. Through the closed windows I could hear the yelling and screaming. I could hear a mans voice, an extremely loud mans voice, yelling and swearing. Then the voice of a woman.
From my closed window I could not tell exactly where the sound was coming from. It was likely from the party house, but I could not be sure. The voices carried on for about five minutes, then stopped. About ten minutes later they started up again for a few minutes. Then I managed to fall asleep again.
I did not call the Police regarding the noise. There are two reasons for that. First, I was not sure exactly where the voices were coming from. And second, the yelling did not last for an extended period of time.
But if this becomes a regular occurance, I will definitely get the Police involved. I will log the dates and times, and I will collect incident numbers from the Police.
But for today, I will just be a little more tired than usual because my sleep was disturbed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Sunday Walk Down My Back Lane

I went for a nice walk down the lane with my husband today. It was a bit chilly. I am going to have to start taking mittens with me in the future, as my hands were getting a bit cold while handling my icy cold metal camera.
As we were going down the lane, we noticed an individual checking the dumpsters. A few times the person got his head right in the dumpster. Then he jumped all the way into the next one. I don't know what he was after, but he seemed quite persistant in making sure he checked every morsel of trash.
We went a little further down the lane and noticed one of the dumpsters on the block had been recently burned. Actually, it was the new dumpster I had installed earlier in the summer, where the garbage was piling up on the ground. Now there is no lid, or very little remaining anyways, and the metal shows signs of a recent fire.
Behind the burned dumpster, there are a few old tvs stacked. There are always stacks of tvs in this particular yard, and regularly several tvs in the dumpsters in and around the house. I often wonder where the tvs come from. And what is being stripped out of them that someone would go to the bother of collecting, then disposing of them. This will become another project of mine, to watch the number of tvs being disposed of from that house. It is actually against the rules of garbage disposal to put electronics in your regular garbage. They should not be going to the Brady Landfil. But the dumpsters make it easy to dispose of all sorts of items that should not be in the Landfil. If the item is in the dumpster, it gets taken away. And I have seen dumpsters in my back lane stacked high with electronics, and the contents of those dumpsters get picked up and taken to Brady. There are all sorts of electronics being thrown out.
The next house had a broken toilet sitting at the back of the yard, next to the garage. The toilet has been there for quite a while. I will have to let 311 know it is sitting there, and see if it can be removed.
One block over from mine, there is a boarded up house. I noticed it got boarded a few weeks ago. And a street over, there is another boarded house. What happens after the house is boarded up? How long does the owner of the house have to do something with the location?








This will be another of my projects. I want to see how many houses there really are in my area that are boarded up, and what is actually being done with them. If they are getting fixed up, I am all for it. But if they just sit there and cause more houses to drop into the same disrepair, I am far from fine with that happening.


During the walk, I found a couch and chair stacked in the back yard of one house, up against the side fence. It is not being used as lawn furniture, and is not covered. It seems to be an item that has been discarded, but has not been moved to the back lane where I would be able to have it removed. Maybe I will ask 311 about it. The couch is a fire hazzard, just waiting to happen. I do not want it to be lit on fire like the couch in my lane last week.
There are so many issues, just in my back lane. I have a burned out couch and fire damage to a house from a fire last week, which I have already reported to 311, and the recently burned dumpster down the lane. There are electronics stacking in a back yard that will later end up the dumpster. Then there is a broken and abandoned toilet. The neighbourhood is filled with boarded houses. And there are couches in back yards, just waiting to be set on fire. Who is actively taking care of these issues? Is the City of Winnipeg so problem oriented that nothing gets seen as an issue until someone complains? Do By-Law Officers and other city officials only notice issues where a citizen complains? And are the issues taken care of after a complaint is made? I didn't even mention everything everything I saw on my walk today. I never mentioned any of the graffiti that I passed. I never said a word about the broken windows I saw. There are so many issues, just in my back lane.
I don't even know how to end this blog entry. How about:
Who really cares about the North End?
Who's job is it, anyway?
What is being done to make my neighbourhood a place where I feel safe, and a place where I want to live?
What's this world coming to?
I guess I will keep sending my issues to 311.
And I guess I will continue to care about my block in the North End.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Illegal Dumping Man Found And I Am Making A Statement

I reported an illegal dumping of construction material to 311 back in August. I was told at the time that nothing further could be done to find the person because the City By-Laws department did not have access to the MPI database to find out who this person was. I had a picture of the person, the truck he used, and the license plate of the truck used in the illegal dumping. That was not enough, at the time, to determine who the person was. The illegal dumper was free to dump whatever he wanted, whereever he wanted, because the system was broken.
Well, today I got a call from the By-Law department. I was told they were provided the information on the license plate and were able to proceed with the case. I will be making a statement next week. If necessary, I will also go to court to ensure this individual knows they did something wrong.
I remember the arrogance of the individual telling me he had the right to put his construction materials in my dumpster. I remember the arrogance of the individual telling me I should clean up my back lane. And I remember that my dumpster could not be emptied that week, because the door he jammed into it was too large to fit through the garbage truck mechanism. I remember that the City of Winnipeg tax payers had to pay for a second truck to come down my lane and get the door removed from the dumpster before I could get the dumpster emptied the next garbage day.
It took two and a half months to get the information from MPI, but at least they got it. Maybe the system is getting corrected. I sure hope so. But I will continue to work to correct the issues of waste management in the North End.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Garbage Master Plan And My Back Lane

The Garbage Master Plan Expo is this coming Saturday at the Convention Center. I am going to be there. And I am going to give my 30 seconds of input on what I think our Garbage Service should be like going forward. I want to make sure that my concerns are heard.
The North End could be a cleaner and safer place. If our back lanes were better taken care of, and garbage was removed regularly, including the bulk garbage that seems to accumulate all too frequently, we could start to change the attitudes of the residents. If we could have cleaner back lanes, we could feel better about ourselves, and start to have more respect for our neighbourhoods.
If the illegal dumping of bulk garbage was reported more and the By-Laws department were able to actually investigate all complaints and enforce the By-Laws, we could begin to change the actions of those who are currently doing the illegal dumping in the North End.
Imagine a North End that was clean. Imagine driving down a back lane in the heart of the North End and find the dumpsters empty and burn free. Imagine the back lane with no mattresses or couches lining it. Isn't that enough of an idea to fight for? Imagine the change in attitude from people inside the North End. And those who would dump their construction materials and unwanted household waste may think twice about dumping in a clean back lane.
Maybe I am a dreamer, but nothing gets done without a dream to start. I think the North End is worth fighting for.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Fate Of A North End Couch

I left the neighbourhood for one day and the whole place seemed to go up in flames. I read in the Friday Free Press that there were fires in the back lanes of Redwod, Alfred, and Aberdeen, all in the 300 block. Someone must have been busy with a book of matches.
When I got home Friday night, I did a quick drive down my own lane to check and make sure it was 'burn free'. No such luck.
There was one house in the lane that had a couch up against the back of it. The couch had been sitting there for as long as I can remember. But it was no longer sitting against the house. Its burned out carcass was up against the fence. And the back of the house had markings of a small house fire.

During my back lane walks I have been reporting bulky items that have been located in the lanes and against dumpsters. I know I can report those items and have them eventually taken away by the BFI trucks. I know I complain about the system, and how inefficient it is, but at least I can get those items removed from my neighbourhood.
But what can I do about the couches that sit in back yards. What can I do about the fire hazzards accumulating in so many of the yards of the North End? Is this an issue to report as a By-Law infraction? Should I notify the landlords that there are couches sitting in the back yards of their properties? Or do I just wait for them to be set on fire, and wait until someone moves the burned out carcass of the couch into the back lane so I can report it to 311 to have it picked up?
At least the fire was contained to the one house. And at least the fire was put out before it got out of control.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Garbage In ..... Garbage Out ....

Thursday was garbage day in my back lane. It has been now for a few months. This morning was no different. At 7:30am I heard the garbage truck stop at my dumpster. I looked out the window, and sure enough my dumpster was getting emptied. The hydrolic arm connected to the dumpster and pulled it up toward the truck, dumping its contents into the large BFI truck.
At 9:00am I heard the noise of the garbage truck in the back lane. This time when I looked out the window I saw the BFI truck at the neighbours dumpster. What took so long to go from my dumpster over to the neighbours? Well, as long as the dumpsters get emptied. I went about my business.
About fifteen minutes later I heard the scraping of metal in the back lane. I looked outside again and saw garbage coming out of the BFI truck. I could not believe my eyes. Garbage was actually being thrown out of the BFI truck. I went outside to get a better look at what was going on. Sure enough, someone was inside the BFI truck, scraping what sounded like a shovel, along the inside of the truck, and throwing garbage out. The garbage was landing in and around the dumpster in the back lane. I was shocked at what I was seeing. I was getting madder and madder, thinking the BFI guys were now throwing garbage out of the trucks into the lanes of the North End. I was thinking, what next. Honestly, this has got to be just too much.
But as I was getting ready to go inside and call 311 to report this absolute absurd issue of garbage being emptied into my lane from a BFI truck, I heard someone talk over the radio from the truck. They said it was a little early for this to be happening to the truck. The workers were shovelling garbage out of the truck, then trying the hydrolics on the side to see if the arm would extend to pick up a dumpster. Then they would shovel more garbage out.
So, I guess they were not just throwing garbage into the lane. The workers were trying to get the hydrolics working. They tried for another fifteen or twenty minutes, then left. An hour later another BFI truck came and finished the job.
And yes, all the garbage that they dumped on the ground was cleaned up.
I guess I shouldn't be so quick to think the worst of these guys. And I did get a laugh in the end.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shot Gun Heard .... And I Called 911

I heard a shot gun this afternoon. It rang out loud and clear. And it was close.
Prior to this last weekend, I would not have called the police unless I heard several shots. But I tell you, I called this time, and I called right away.
The police called back very shortly after for further information. They also let me know there were several police cars in the area looking. Not only that, but they dropped by to talk to us in person. They let us know again that they were being vigilent.
Whether it was the same person as the weekend, or someone else, I cannot speak to that. But I truely believe we will catch this lunatic. If we all work together, talking to the police when we see something, and the police on high alert, we will catch this person.
This is OUR neighbourhood. See a crime, make a call, take a stand. We are all in this together.

Monday, October 25, 2010

We Need To Take Back Our Neighbourhoods

My street was quiet this last weekend. Neighbours were out raking leaves and doing last minute work on the roof. My husband and I went for a walk down the back alleys on one of our garbage patrols. We found a few bicycles, and a set of twelve esspresso cups. You know what they say, one mans garbage is another mans treasure.
My street was probably typical for streets in the North End over the weekend. But there were three streets in the North End that were not so calm. One was Stella, another Dufferin, and the third was Boyd Ave. Two men are dead and one 13 year old girl is still in hospital. On Saturday evening, someone bicycled to three different locations in the North End and shot three people. The police do not know, or are not saying, the reason why. There is no mention if these incidents were related. But I, on my street, want this sort of activity to stop. The big question is "How do we get it to stop?".
People in the North End are afraid to speak out. They are afraid to tell the Police what they saw. They are afraid of retaliation. But as long as we live in fear, the criminals win. As long as we keep quiet, the violence will continue.
I am as guilty as the next person for keeping quiet. Two doors down from me, in the rooming house, a new tenant moved in a few weeks ago. I saw the young individual, along with a few juvenille individuals bicycling over to my back fence. They stopped, and looked over the fence. Then they went back to their house, and climbed on the first story roof of their rooming house to get a better look at the contents of my back yard. They bicycled past the yard a few more times trying to look over the fence as they went past. The whole time they were doing this, I was watching from my upstairs window. If I was in a different part of the city I may have called out to them to tell them to get lost. But not here. If I did, I know windows would break, or worse. I could call the Police and report the actions, but what would they do? Would they come by and take a statement and visit the young individuals? Then what? Would my windows break again? What if these young people have guns? I chose to stay quiet. I chose to be afraid of what these young kids might do.
I often hear gun shots when I am at home. I very rarely ever call the Police when I hear a gun shot. What am I going to tell them. There was a loud noise, sounding like a gun shot. No, I do not know where it came from. It sounded close though. No, I rarely call the Police when I hear a gun shot. I remember earlier this week I was walking over to the Shoppers Drug Mart at Main and Redwood. As I crossed the parking lot toward the door of the Shoppers, there was a gun shot. I looked around me to see if anyone reacted to the noise. There were people walking along the sidewalk on Main Street. There was someone coming out of the Shoppers. There was a group of people sitting outside the Robins Donuts, and a few people walking in the parking lot. Nobody seemed to notice. Nobody turned a head. And I did not miss a step as I entered the Drug Store.
Most of the people in the North End are hard working, friendly people. Most of the people in the North End are not gang members, and are not selling drugs. And most of the people in the North End, I am sure, just want to live their lives in the homes they rent and the homes they own. So, how do we get back to feeling safe enough to speak out?
We all know at least a few bad houses on our street or in our neighbourhood. We need to start paying attention to these bad houses. We need to start talking about what is going on. We need to start reporting what is going on. And if we don't want anyone to know who we are, we need an anonymous way of reporting issues, large and small. We need a place to report issues we see that are not crimes. We need to report excess garbage in the yards, broken windows, loud parties. We need to report By-Law infractions on the bad houses, even if the issues seem small. As the reports pile up on individual houses, actions can be taken against the landlords and/or the tenants.
We need to get involved with our neighbourhood residents associations. I have recently joined my residents association and found others who share the same issues as me. I have found that being a part of a residents association, one does not feel alone in dealing with these issues. As a part of your local residents association you can help develop better safety measures, or assist in carrying them out. You can be an anonymous voice in a safe environment. If you need help in finding information on your association send me an email.
We need to clean up the bad houses.
We need to hold landlords accountable for renting to gang members.
We need to take back our neighbourhoods.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Visible Cleaning Of The North End

There were signs along our street last night letting us know that we could not park on the street today during the day. This happens every year at this time. It is time for the street cleaners to come down the road, remove the leaves, and give the streets one last cleaning before winter.
On my way out this afternoon I actually saw the street cleaner coming down the road. As I walked to my minivan, yes my minivan (got it back Wednesday), as I walked to my minivan I saw some other cleaning going on. One individual, wearing an orange safety vest, was picking up garbage along the side of the road, and another individual was mowing the boulevard.
I find it funny how the visible areas of the North End get cleaned. They are cleaned religiously, every spring and fall. But the not so visible areas are left out of the equation.
Do the people in City Hall make conscious decisions to clean areas that can be seen by them as they drive home from work along major arteries? How do they decide what gets cleaned on an annual, or semi-annual basis? What makes the few leaves on the front street such a high priority every spring and fall? Why are a few pieces of garbage on the front street getting picked up while the back lanes remain riddled with garbage? What makes the autobins, bulk garbage, and hidden areas such a low priority when the City decides to implement cleaning plans?
Is City Hall so compartmentalized that one department has absolutely no idea what another department is doing? Who decides the budget for street cleaners compared to the budget for autobin sanitization? Is garbage a non-issue for the City when planning fall cleanup because it has been outsourced? Is that why the back lanes of the North End are in the condition they are now in? Is the City so detatched from Waste Management that they never check if the contract they made is being upheld? Is this why my dumpster was rarely emptied prior to my contacting 311 in June? Is this why we have such problems with bulk garbage getting picked up in our back lanes? Is this why the autobins are never included in the fall clean-up of the City?
And when a citizen does take it upon themselves and do some fall cleaning of the autobins, why is it done so poorly?
My email request to 311, in requesting the cleaning and sanitizing of autobins in my back lane went as follows:
Could you please have the bins near my house sanitized. There is cat litter
stuck to the bottom of the bin at the back of xxx xxxxx Ave. There is misc
garbage stuck to the bottom of bins behind xxx xxxxx Ave and xxx xxxxx Ave. I
would like to have them cleaned and sanitized please.
Thankyou
I provided adequate information to let them know I wanted the bins cleaned and sanitized. I wanted the cat litter and rotting garbage removed from the bottom of the bins, and I wanted the bins sanitized. I did not expect to have sanitizing solution sprayed or tossed on top of rotting garbage. I do not consider that a job well done. I have requested a call from a supervisor of Waste Management to see why this was not done.

It's Official - The Dumpsters Have Been Sanitized

Well, I got a response from 311 this morning. I sent an email last night inquiring about the sanitizing of the three dumpsters I had requested last week. The email I received stated the 'tickets' (requests for each dumpster sanitizing) were closed, which indicates the work has been completed.
That being said, I went to the dumpsters and had a look, in daylight this time. I took photos of the dumpsters at noon yesterday, after the dumpsters were emptied and before the sweet smell of bleach appeared in the lane.


The garbage stuck to the bottom of this dumpster still remains. And this dumpster does not smell of any sort of sanitizing agent. I think they forgot to sanitize one of the dumpsters on their list.

This dumpster had, and still has, cat litter stuck to the bottom of the dumpster. But it no longer smells of burned garbage, and the odor of cat litter is not present.

This last dumpster has the same sweet smell of sanitizing product, so it has been sanitized. But how they managed to sanitize it and keep the garbage intact along the bottom and side of the dumpster should be commended.

I had no idea how the dumpsters were going to be sanitized when I made the request. I simply knew that I could request it. I thought I could get them cleaned. And I thought I could get them sanitized. But I guess all I can really do is have someone from waste management drop by and spray a sanitizing agent over the already existing garbage.

Could you imagine if your Dad asked you to clean the garbage can. If he said there was something stuck to the bottom and he wanted you to have it cleaned and sanitized by the time he got home from work? I would not want to be around when he found out that all you did was toss a bit of bleach into the bottom of the can.

If this is all the Waste Management people do when a request is put in to have a dumpster cleaned or sanitized, then why are the 5400 autobins not sanitized on a yearly basis, at the very least. And how much do they charge the City of Winnipeg for dropping by and giving the dumpster a fresh smell of sanitizing agent? I am sure it is tossed in or sprayed, but there could not possibly be any sort of scrubbing or scraping involved in the process. The garbage that was in the bottom of these three dumpsters did not seem to move an inch in the sanitizing process.  Maybe I should just get a jug of bleach and toss some into the garbage bins myself when they start to stink. I will send my bill to City Hall.

I have requested a supervisor from Waste Management call me to explain the procedures of cleaning and sanitizing the autobins.