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 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 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?