Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm Having A Bad Day Today

My morning started at 6:30am. The new neighbours at the rooming house were in their back yard yelling. They were drinking and talking with their outside voices. Then the dog behind us started barking. And it continued barking for the next two hours. While the dog continued to bark, the neighbours continued to yell and howl and talk. That's how I woke up this morning.
I talked to the landlord just yesterday about the tenants that come through that house. I said the tenants all seem to be criminals and asked why those were the types of people that were being put in the rooming house. I was told the landlord wants to give them a chance. The young guy who was on parole, was given a chance, and lasted a month and a half. The criminal with the 43 charges on his record (we found his rap sheet in the lane) finally left when the sherrifs had an order against him. Another tenant went to jail for assault. Each time new tenants come, they leave again because of all the problems. Now, the new tenants seem no better. And the answer I get from the landlord is that they should be given a chance.
How about me. How about my husband. And how about our neighbourhood. Why can't we be given a chance. Why can't we get a break from these tenants?
Today, I have been scared to be in my yard. I have not wanted to deal with the happenings around me, and want my husband at my side. Every time he steps more than three feet away from me, I get edgy again. What kind of a life is this? I don't really think anything will happen, but the bullshit is getting pretty thick today, and I am just getting sick of it again. I am having one of those "run for your life" kind of days.
This was a good street when my husband first purchased his house, but over the years the tenants have changed. We have several houses that I consider to be "bad houses". Unfortunately, there is no law against bad people living on my street. And there is no law against landlords putting known criminals in their houses.
Spring is here on my street, and today, it just isn't going all that well for me.
I can't say everything that's gone down in the last 24-36 hours in this blog. Some things I don't feel comfortable in typing into this blog, for fear of retaliation from the criminal element. Pretty sad state of affairs, if you ask me. Criminals should not have this sort of power over the good folks living in the eye of what seems like a tornado.
Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully I can shake this feeling of powerlessness that is hanging over me today. Maybe the sun will come out and brighten my mood.
But for now, I am just going to put in a good chick flick, and pour myself a cocktail. (Unfortunately, no chocolate in the house at the moment).

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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Much Is Too Much?

As you know, my van was stolen this morning. I wasn't even upset. After writing my post earlier today, I got to thinking. If my car being stolen didn't really bother me, then what is it that actually does get under my skin? What is it that really bothers me? And why doesn't it bother me when my van gets stolen.
So, why doesn't it bother me when my van gets stolen? I guess because there is a clear process I follow. I know the rules. They are clearly laid out. And after following the process, I sit back and wait 30 days, and my vehicle re-appears. It always takes 30 days. And I always get my van back. There is no question of what I should do, how I should handle things, or what is involved. It's clear and simple.
Now the other questions need a little more thought. What really gets under my skin? And, what really bothers me? I had to think about that for a bit, and I came up with two things that really bother me. The first one is garbage. That would have to be the whole garbage package. I mean, the scrappers digging through the bins, throwing garbage in the alley and not putting it back, the illegal dumpers tossing mattresses and construction material, the over-filled dumpsters that spill out into the lanes when they get emptied, the entire package. That's one of the things that just drives me crazy.
The other thing that gets me going is Circus Boy. I have never mentioned him before, but he used to be a tenant in my house. He was a tenant when I started going out with my husband a few years back, and he was a tenant when I moved into the North End. But he did not stay a tenant much longer. I was not about to put up with a criminal in my house who refused to pay the rent, and threatened us when we asked for money. He was a bad guy with a bad attitude, and he had to go. We finally managed to get him removed from the house, which was no easy feat. But we did manage to get him out. Then the guy moved into another house just a few doors down. That was just too close for comfort, but it was not against the law. The man has a right to live where he wants to live. As the years have passed, Circus Boy has stopped yelling at us, threatening us, and giving us the evil eye every time we crossed paths. But the sight of him still irks me. I know he is always up to no good. And I know it is always a circus when he’s around. We all know him around here, and we all know to watch out for him. Now that Spring is here, Circus Boy “spottings” are far too frequent for my liking.
I would have to say that Circus Boy gets under my skin far deeper than the garbage issue. But garbage bothers me with more regularity.
So, on to the next question on my list. How much is too much? I would have to say the swat team appearing on my street last August was too much. That's what pushed me to start this blog. That is what started me sending a copy of each blog entry to the Mayor, the City Councilors, and the media. I continued sending the emails to these people up until mid-January this year. Now I just blog. It is kind of therapeutic. I've gone through several stages since living in the North End. I have wanted to put up razor wire around the property, I have wanted to build a fence with broken glass along the top, and I have wanted to run screaming from the neighbourhood.
I know I just wrote a blog entry about the safety of the North End. I still stand by what I said. Have a look at the block, and be aware of your surroundings. My personal safety has never been an issue here. But I have had my share of problems. As far as property or vehicles being stolen, I have had that happen in other parts of the City as well, it is not unique to the North End.
But sometimes the Circus wears you down. And some days it does feel like it is too much to handle. And then the Winnipegger in me kicks in, and I tell myself I am not going to let some punks drive me from my home. After all, it’s just another day in the hood.

Criminal Runs Low On Cigarettes ... Steals My Van

I have owned two vans in the last five years. I like vans. They hold lots of stuff, I can sleep in the back when on a road trip, and they are fairly cheap to purchase at the auctions. I stopped buying cars at used car lots after discovering the wonders of auctions a few years back, and I have been able to pick up fully functional, inexpensive transportation for far less than I used to.
My first van, an old Hydro van, got me to New Orleans a couple of times, and to the Tom Waits Glitter & Doom concert in St Louis, MO a few years back, not to mention countless shorter trips. My new minivan has also taken me on a few adventures. I have itchy feet, and I love to travel. So, getting a van is really the best way to go for me.
But, the downside of owning a van is that criminals love vans. They are very handy when robbing gas stations, doing Break and Enters, and any other criminal activity they do in my vans. The Hydro van has been stolen three times since I've owned it. And now, my red minivan has been stolen twice. They have not all been stolen from the same location even. The Hydro van was stolen from my old house on Corydon Avenue, then twice in front of my house in the North End. The red minivan was stolen last September from the parking lot at Garden City, then again last night from in front of my house. Yes, my van was just stolen again last night.
It is a red, 1995 Chevy Lumina Minivan, license plate FJA 667.
I didn't have to look for my vehicle registration to get that tidbit of information. I just went to my blog and entered "stolen" into the search box. Yes, this blog as already gotten an entry in it regarding my van being stolen. The last time was September 12, 2010 (see blog entry). I don't get upset anymore, there's no point. In fact, this morning when my husband asked where we left the red van, and said it was no longer there, I just laughed. Of course it isn't there. I guess someone ran out of cigarettes and needed to rob a gas station or something. I followed protocol, I called the police to report it stolen, then called Autopac to start my claim. I'll go to Autopac to fill out the official report tomorrow, and as far as the van goes, I wait. I wait until the police recover it, either at the scene of a crime, or left abandoned on a street somewhere. And I will go to the car rental agency and pick up my "car for the month". I learned after the first theft that autopac offers extra coverage for car thefts. There is zero deductable, and I get a rental car right away. That is definitely the way to go, and how I handle all my autopac insurance these days. This extra coverage only costs a buck or two a month, and well worth the cost.
So, here's the thing. My Hydro van was stolen three times. The first two times the van was stolen, it was returned to me without an immobilizer installed in it. Apparently white Dodge vans are not on the "most wanted" list for immobilizer installation. And I guess, only after being stolen three times, Autopac finally decided it should have an immobilizer. Now the Hydro van is safe on the streets, and hasn't been stolen since. But after being stolen three times our poor Hydro van has so many issues that it is no longer trip worthy. The power steering is messed up and the transmission doesn't work properly. When this information was brought to the attention of Autopac, we were told it was regular wear and tear and nothing to do with the treatment the van received while criminals had custody of it. That's why we got a new vehicle, or another vehicle. Our red minivan came back to us in October feeling a bit off, but running mostly as good as it did previously. No doubt this time when it is returned, it will be just a little further along down the road to destruction, and likely returned without an immobilizer being installed again. Of course, I will ask for one. And of course, I will try to get a van returned to me in the same condition it was when it left. But of course, it will be somewhat less of a van than it was yesterday, and less of a van than it was last September. And I will be told it is all part of the "wear and tear" of an older vehicle as my poor minivan gets assaulted by theives and criminals and used against it's will, as it is returned to me without the protection it needs to make it feel safe.
Every time something happens to us in the North End, be it mattresses dumped in our back lanes, vehicle thefts, bicycles stolen, or whatever, we are returned to our lives just a little less than we were the day before. And we are told it is just regular "wear and tear" on our lives.
If you see my van, let me know.