Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By-Law Dept Says: "Do Our Job For Us"

The Winnipeg Free Press ran a story today about the number of 311 calls regarding neighbours yards. (see article)
The article mentioned an increase in the number of calls reported to 311 regarding garbage in neighbours yards, weeds, derelict vehicles, and houses not being maintained. It seems Winnipeggers have increased their calls in the last year regarding poorly maintained properties. To me, this would be a good thing. People are caring more about their communities and calling those who can enforce change for the better. It was stated that a lot of the calls were coming in regarding the older neighbourhoods. More people seem interested in improving the look of the residences in these older neighbourhoods.
As you may know, the By-Laws department is complaint driven. That means nothing gets done unless someone complains. So, in order to cause change for the better, people have to report issues to 311. And people have increased the calls. You have no idea how happy this makes me, that people are reporting issues. If we keep up this momentum, and continue to report By-Law infractions, the older neighbourhoods will keep improving.
But that does not seem to be the focus of the By-Law department. The article talked about increased expenses due to complaints. It mentioned 62 complaints costing the department 55,441. Get out of town. How can 62 complaints cost that much money. And if they really did, and the complaints were so tremendous that they actually were that costly, maybe consider increasing the fines associated with those issues.
Further to that, Peter de Graaf mentioned that neighbours should not be calling 311 right away when there is an issue. They should be talking with their neighbours first. Are you kidding me? These complaints are mostly coming from older neighbourhoods. So, they are likely coming from the North End and West End. I am not going to knock on the door of my neighbour who is pitching garbage out the second floor window of her suite, leaving them to stack into a pile in the back yard. I am not going to walk past that pit bull looking dog at another residence and ask the neighbours to maybe pick up the dog feces. And I am not going to go to the house that is in bad repair asking those people to fix their house. Sorry, I am not that brave.
In an area where police don't want you to take the law into your own hands and try to stop a criminal, the By-Law department wants you to knock on the neighbours doors. In an area where residents are afraid to call police for fear of retaliation, we are to face our neighbours and ask them to clean up.
I, for one, will not be asking my neighbours to clean up their mess. I will be using the system in place, 311, to report By-Law infractions. And I will expect the City to take care of these By-Law infractions being reported in the same way that I expect the Police to take care of crimes that are reported.
There are many houses in the North End and West End of Winnipeg that need to be fixed. If the City will not take care of these houses on their own, and continue to run a complaint driven system, we must continue to report these issues. Otherwise, things don't get done, and our neighbourhoods get worse, instead of better.
We must hold the By-Laws department accountable, and our Councillors, and the Mayor. This is our City, and they work for us.


  1. We are very interested in this situation, can you contact me please - I would like some more information.
    Robert Huff
    The Centre for Environmental Health Equity

  2. Keep up the great work!!! We need more people like you in the North End.

  3. Rae we are making a difference, a few people are turning neighbourhoods around. A friend who runs the Dufferin Powerline, had a call from someone in her area saying what a difference cleaning up the neighbourhood was making. Excellent!
    If the city was not complaint driven it would be cheaper! Imagine a truck follows a route On Day 1 picking up abandoned furniture and the garbage collectors pick up spills as they happen.Day 2 the truck takes another route etc.
    Just leave 311 out of the thing we spend time on phone or email reporting a problem, 311 scribes report this to the correct dept, who then tells the truck where to go to pick up furniture.
    My suggestion is if the driver of the truck is intelligent enough to be a driver, he could probably figure out a mattress or couch in a back lane is not correct, ditto that if is found on the boulevard.
    By-law inspectors could write down or digitally record as they drive where they see by law infractions, cutting out the scribes at 311. I am not into losing the 311 staff their jobs, but it does seem like an unnecessary bit of bureacracy?