Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Private Matter

The police were on the street again last night. They were at one of the "usual suspects" houses. I know the houses. I know where the police visit. But as a neighbour and home owner, I do not know why the police visit.
I do not know why the street was blocked off by a police car. I do not know why the police were knocking on the door of the rooming house at 12:30am. And I do not know how the issues may affect me. All I know is that there were police on the street.
During this time a few taxi cabs passed by. One had dropped someone off, and circled the block to pick them up again. Nothin' happen' there (wink, wink).
Finally, the police left, on their own. They got in their car and drove away.
And as residents of the street, we were left wondering what the night had in store.
It's just another day (or should I say night) in the Hood.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung on my street. Actually, it sprung at 1:22am this morning. That is when I was woken up to the sound of a woman screaming for help. I did not know the exact location of the scream, but it was coming from somewhere in my back lane, or the next street over, and it was loud.
My husband had been awake for a while already, and said it had just escalated to the woman screaming for help. So, I got the phone and called the police. I could not decide if I should call 911 or the non-emergency number, but I knew I had very little information on the issue I was reporting. So, I call the non-emergency number. I did not have to look it up, as I call it often enough that I just know it. It is 986-6222. The woman answering the phone was polite and asked me a few questions about the issue I was reporting. She asked how many voices and what the woman was screaming. I could hear the one female voice for sure, and sometimes could make out the loud screams for help. I said there seemed to be a quieter voice in the back ground but I could not be sure of the sex of the individual. As I moved toward the window to listen more closely, the woman from the Police department asked me "is that her". I said it was. She could clearly hear the screaming on the other end of the phone.
I gave as good a guess of where the sound was coming from as I could. I said if the police drove down my lane they would be able to hear it as well. So, that was enough for her to rate this a high priority call, and the police were dispatched.
My husband went into the back lane to see if he could determine where the screams were coming from. Then eight minutes later I saw a police car slowly driving down my lane. By that time I could no longer hear the screams, and had no idea what had occurred. But I could see my husband in the lane talking with the officers in the Police car.
It turns out there were two individuals walking down Charles St, one female and one male. As they passed my street the screams coming from the female became louder. I called the police, and the couple proceeded on their way. When the police car arrived in my lane, my husband directed them down Charles to the now larger group of people walking in the night, with the female screaming at the top of her lungs.
It is hard to say if the female was in danger, being hurt, or just screaming. But they walked through the North End waking people up as the went. And I rang in the new season with a call to the police.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Out With The Dumpsters And In With The Politics

It looks like City Hall is well on its way to making changes in garbage collection. As you well know, we have those hideous dumpsters lining our lanes in the North End. Well, it looks like they are on the way out, to be replaced by the individual automated cart system.
So, how did the City make its decision to select the automated carts? That’s a question I would love to have answered. I know there was a public consultation at the Convention Center, a website that collects input from the public, and open houses being held throughout Winnipeg. I also know there is a Stakeholders Advisory Committee to provide input to the Garbage Master Plan. I know about the Stakeholders Advisory Committee (SAC) because I am on that committee. And I know I was not asked which garbage collection system I preferred.
I do know SAC developed criteria to judge the options, awaiting the chance. Criteria were developed including costs, green house gas emissions, equality and fairness, and public health. I also know that a consulting firm (Stantec) was hired to develop options for the Garbage Master Plan. And I know the members of SAC continually asked the same questions at each of the meetings. “Will the consulting firm take our recommendations into account?” and “What is our role in the decision making?” So, at the last meeting of SAC, when we were advised that City Hall is really only considering automated carts, and the information being rolled out to the Speak Up Winnipeg open houses is limited to automated carts, I cannot say that I was surprised. But again, the members of SAC asked “Has the decision been made then?”, “Is there only one choice to choose from?”, “Will SAC be making any decisions or be given a chance to make any suggestions?” I guess I would have felt better if we were asked our opinions, even if they were not considered behind closed doors. But we were not even asked. The slap in the face was almost audible.
I guess this is politics. Form a well rounded committee from all sectors, have them meet and discuss the important issues surrounding Garbage, Recycling and Composting. Keep telling them they have a voice. Then in the end thank them for coming out and make the decisions that politicians make without any input from the committee.
I expressed my concerns on the automated carts when I was at the SAC meetings. The back lanes in the North End are narrow. During the winter there is a single lane plowed with high snow banks on either side, leaving no space for the carts. These carts will have to be drag through the snow and positioned in the lane somewhere between the tire ruts and the snow bank, hoping not to get hit by a vehicle. I am concerned about the large transient population, the renters, taking care of their automated carts, using them, and taking them back into their yards. I am concerned about the landlords making sure the automated carts are available for use, and replacing them when they are not, at a cost of $40.00 a pop.
Then there is the issue of bulk garbage that will surely still appear in our back lanes. Although the dumping of bulk garbage is illegal, the City has yet to fine a single person for illegal dumping. There is talk that the free pick up of bulk items in areas of high fire risk will be discontinued and no talk of enforcing the By-Laws to fine those doing the dumping. So, who pays for the pick up of so many bulky items that are dumped illegally into our back lanes? Or will they all just remain until they are lit on fire? Then the fire department will have to come out at tax payer expense, leaving the burned out carcasses of couches and mattresses behind. Again, who will take care of the remains?
And finally, what is City Hall planning for the transition into the new automated carts? I am sure they will run a couple of carefully placed ads on TV and in the newspaper. But besides that, are they planning anything?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It’s The Little Things …

I went to a meeting at St Johns High School a few weeks ago, held by Kevin Lamoureux about Crime and Safety. If you don’t know, Kevin Lamoureux is our M.P. for Winnipeg North. He had a guest speaker, who was an X-Police Officer. The guest spoke about issues that people have in their neighbourhoods regarding crimes, and said it was the little things that really affect people, not the major crimes. He talked about the little things, like people cutting through yards, skateboarders, littering, and squeegee people, issues affecting Osborne Village. At first I thought the guy was talking about issues that had nothing to do with the North End. Then I got to thinking, and found he was right. It is the little things, although our little things are different in the North End.
For me, the little things are construction working dumping materials in my dumpster and bulk garbage items being dumped in my lane. Or the garbage truck stopping at the dumpster behind my house, looking at it, and driving on without taking the garbage. Or neighbours partying all night. Or maybe the police visiting “the usual suspects” on my street every few days. And it’s all the City By-Laws that are not being enforced in the North End.
So, the big question is, what can I do about these little things? Well, I can do lots. I can report the illegal dumping of construction material by those people who think they can use the dumpsters in my back lane as their own private Brady Landfill. I can contact 311 and let them know about the illegal dumping, and I can let them know about the bulk items in the back lane, and I can let them know that the garbage truck did not empty my dumpster when it was in my back lane. I actually do this on a daily basis, and I have managed to keep my back lane fairly clear of excess garbage. And my dumpster now gets emptied every Thursday. I could not say that a year ago.
I look at all the little things that bother me, and I have started to make changes in my own part of the North End. And I have been successful. I am slowly working down the list of little things that bother me, and am making small changes, one day at a time. I send an email to to report the issues I see on my street. I like that I get a reference number for each incident I report, and I hold the City accountable to each issue.
As far as the parties that that go on all night long, I call the non-emergency police line, report the incident, and get an incident number. Then I call the landlord and let them know what is happening at their rental property. I have had some success with that problem. Some houses stop partying loudly after midnight, or close their windows so they are not disturbing their neighbours. Other houses take longer, and cause more aggravation. But I continue working with the landlords and the police to remedy those situations as they come along. And Spring is just around the corner, so this issue is going to rear it’s ugly head again. But if I am persistent, I am sure I will have success again this year.
I can’t do much about the Police visits on my street. That is a private matter between the Police and those being visited. But I did read an article in the Free Press last year where problem residences were being dealt with through By-Law infractions. So, I look for By-Law infractions on the houses that have the most Police presence. If the house is run down, windows are broken, eaves are falling off the house, or there is excess garbage in the yard, I report it to 311. My thoughts are, if the people on my block are disrespectful of their neighbours, make noise all night, engage in illegal activities, I would rather they were not on my block. I personally do not care what goes on in the privacy of each person’s residence. But if the issues come out onto the street or the noise keeps me up, I would rather it was not happening on my street.
I have found that we don’t need to join a group, or attend meetings to fix the North End. All we have to do is take care of those few little things we can see from our own yards, and we can all make a difference.
At least that’s the way I see it, on my one block in the North End.