Saturday, July 23, 2011

If A Garage Falls In The North End ....

If a garage falls in the North End, does anybody care?
The fellow I talked to at City Planning led me to believe they were on the case. He called the demolition people and was told they could be out the same day to take care of the issue. They just needed a P.O. Number. The demolition guys needed a P.O. Numbers so they would not be charged at the dump when unloading the materials. The City Planning employee said that could take up to a week to get. So, in actual fact, the demolition people were not able to take care of the garage as quickly as I was told. They would have to wait for the office work to be done. Then they could take care of a pressing emergency that may cause bodily harm to people or animals close to, or inside a building crumbling in on itself.
This is the condition the garage was in when I reported it to 311 on July 20:
I have been watching the garage deteriorate more each day, as it waits for a P.O. Number to be provided to the demolition company. I have watched as neighbourhood cats climb through the inside of the crumbling structure.
Here is the garage today:
So, who is going to win this race to the ground? Is the garage going to completely fall apart before anything is done? Or is the City going to hit a few keys on a keyboard and produce a P.O. Number so this garage can be taken away?
To me, this would seem like an urgent matter. There must be a mechanism in place at City Hall to deal with urgent matters. When the house down the street from me was gutted with fire damage, the demolition team was on site before the sun came up. They had machinery and trucks lining the street waiting for the fire to be extinguished so they could haul the remains away. The burned remnants of that house were removed within 12 hours of the fire starting. So, there must be some mechanism for P.O. Numbers to be issued when there is an urgent matter needing to be dealt with.
What I don't understand is, why is this garage not urgent enough to get a P.O. Number?
That's all it needs, and it will be taken away. Just a P.O. Number.

The Police Are Present, But What Are They Doing?

I look out my window, and see a Police car down the street. That is not an unfamiliar sight for me. The Police are on my street on a daily basis, sometimes visiting two different houses at a time. One house had three seperate visits in the same day last week. This must be a real hotbed of crime to have so many Police cars on my street.
I see a lot of Police on my street. But what I do not see is anything actually accomplished. The Police don't leave with anyone in custody. Sometimes they just knock on the door, then bang on the door, then bang really hard on the door, and then leave. The guy was home you know, he just wasn't answering the door. He knows it's the Police. I guess he just didn't want to talk to them.
So, what are the Police really doing on my street? Are they coming for a cup of tea?
Are the Police dropping by these houses to check on parole conditions? Or are they attending domestic disturbances, and can't do anything stronger than knocking on a door? What is really going on in these houses surrounding me that the Police are visiting on such a regular basis?
I know when I called a few weeks ago, to report an intoxicated individual damaging property, and attempting to break into a window nothing was done. "He likely lives there", I was told. And when a second call was made for the same individual driving drunk and crashing into a fence, then parking the car and passing out in the drivers seat, again nothing was done. "He's just waiting to be let in" the Police said. It was just another case of Police presence, dropping by for a chat and leaving without an arrest.
When I reported a landlord trying to run me down with his van, I was told it was a matter of "he said, she said" and I was told to say out of his lane when he is there.
When I reported night after night of drunken parties, all I saw was a final result of the kids being taken away, followed by parents being taken away, followed by the landlord cleaning out the house, followed by the same parents and kids moving back in to party all over again. It looked to me like vacation, free house cleaning, new furniture, repeat.
And when I do ask the Police what is going on, they say they cannot tell me. Are they protecting the individuals privacy, or their inability to uphold the law? What are they doing on these all too frequent visits? Who are they visiting, and why? Is anything actually being accomplished? And as citizens and tax payers, how would we know if it wasn't?
Are crimes being reported and the Police just can't do anything about it? Are domestic disturbances being reported and they cannot do anything more than knock on a door? Are the police dropping in on members of the public on parole? Because it sure looks to me like nothing is being accomplished. It's the same old, same old, every day on my street.
Just how broken is our system? Are the Police so overworked that they disregard the little stuff in order to take care of the bigger issues? I know they have a tough job. And I sure would not want to be in their shoes. But what is really going on?
We have a Provincial election on the horizon, and I don't know how to vote just yet. I don't know if we need more Police, a change in management, or an adjustment in manpower at WPS. I don't know if we need a complete overhall of the Justice System, or just a few tweeks. As a citizen, it is hard to tell what is really needed or what is really going on, because everything is protected by the "Privacy Act".
Nobody needs to know nothin' about anything. It is all under control.
As Kevin Bacon, in Animal House, said "Remain Calm, All Is Well" as he was trampled by the crowds.
Remain Calm ..... All Is Well.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Roof Caving In On House ... Reported April 27/11

On the topic of buildings falling down on themselves, I have another gem. There is a house down the street that I noticed in late April. It is a single story home with an addition built onto the back of it, a sort of lean-to addition popular in this area. I noticed it on one of my daily walks down the lane. The roof on this house was sinking. It concerned me for a few reasons. First, the roof was caving in. And second, there was an older gentleman in the yard. My thought on that was that there was, very possibly, an older gentleman living in this home and the roof may collapse in on him.
I was truely concerned for the safety of the individual, who likely lived in this home. Now the residence had a few other concerns as well. The yard was filled, and I mean filled, with piles of material. The house was not maintained, and needed far more than just correcting the imminent collapse of the roof. But my real concern was for the safety of the individual inside the house.
I wrote an email to 311 on April 27, 2011, notifying them of this safety issue I had.
There is a house on my street that seems to be in desperate need of repair. It is xxx xxx Ave. I have attached a photo of the back yard. The addition at the back of the house has the roof caving in on itself. I believe there is an elderly gentleman living in the residence and I would hate to have that addition fall in on him. Could you please investigate this location.
The image I included in my report to 311 is the following:
As the days, weeks, and months passed since sending in that first image and notification, I have watched the roof drop further and further down into the house. I have contacted my councillor on the matter. I have requested updates from the City. But everything takes time. The City is on the case.
On June 24, I provided an updated image of the roof of this same house, as it dropped significantly from the first time I had reported it.

Then yesterday, while coming back from my extended walk, I passed this same house. After just witnessing a garage in imminent danger of falling on someone, I saw the roof finally dropped in on itself.

I mentioned this particular residence to the City Planning person who called me this morning regarding the demolition plans for the garage down the road. He said not to worry. The gentleman does not live in that house. It is a vacant house. The guy just uses it to store stuff. I was told not to worry because the yard has a fence around it, so there is no danger of anyone getting hurt if the structure falls.
I took it upon myself to ask this City Planning person a few questions. I asked when he was first notified of this residence. He said May 4. It was redirected to him from another department. He said he provided a notification to the owner. I asked how long he gave the individual in the notification. The owner was given until July 13 to get a demolition permit. I asked about the deadline on the demolition. It seems that does not have to be completed until the end of September.
There was no concern that the roof had fallen. There was no urgency in removing the back extention on the house for safety reasons. I should not worry about the safety of the house, the owner, or the neighbourhood. I shouldn't worry, because the yard has a fence.
I guess I have been told. There is no need to be concerned. The yard has a fence.
Silly me!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Bloody Garage Is Going To Fall On Someone

I went for an extended walk today. Instead of going down two blocks and back up the lane across the street, I went all the way to McGregor. I find I need to do this every now and again to get photos of all the bulk garbage that has been dumped in those lanes and get them reported to 311 so they will get picked up. If you have been following this blog, you know the bulk items do not get picked up unless someone calls them in to 311. And nobody seems to call them in except me. Further to that, if you have been following this blog you are aware that there is a City Worker who is supposed to be patrolling the back lanes in order to find these bulk items, and schedule BFI to pick up these bulk items. But again, they don't get picked up unless I report them. And I do not get paid for this. But I take the time to report these issues. I do this because I want my neighbourhood to look better. And I don't want the bulk items to get set on fire. And the better the neighbourhood looks, the more we will all have a bit of pride in the neighbourhood, and the more people will start caring. Well, you get it.

On my trek down the lanes I came across a garage, or it used to be a garage. I came across an imploding structure. The roof has already caved in, and the walls are on the verge of collapse.
The wall with the garage door is the one that is concerning me the most, because it is leaning out into the lane. I was careful to walk past it at a distance, for fear it may fall over on me as I passed this fragile structure. What I want to know is, just who is responsible for the safety of this structure? Who, or how many people and/or organizations and departments should be aware of what is going on with this structure? And why has it been able to get to this level of collapse, without anyone doing a damned thing about it?
I am sending an email to 311 tonight regarding this structure, and I will be keeping an eye on it as well. I expect it to be dealt with in the very near future, in the extremely near future, right bloody now, before it kills someone when it falls.

And if you think this garage just recently came into disrepair, think again. I checked google. It has been a long time coming.

So, someone has had a bloody long time to do something about this structure years ago already, and not a thing has been done.
Not a thing has been done by the tenants of the residence, or the owners (not sure if they are the same people). Not a thing has been done by the neighbours. Not a thing has been done by the community, City By-Laws, City Planning, the police, waste management, or any other business / organization / or citizen who may have driven, walked or bicycled past this structure as it falls further and further apart. And how long would it still take if I had not decided to walk down the lane, five blocks away from my house, to find this structure in such disrepair.
Tear the thing down, now, before it kills someone. And while you are at it, drive down a couple of other streets and lanes and see if there are any other potential death threats just waiting to kill some kid.

Fires Running Rampant .... In Crescentwood?

There is an article in todays Winnipeg Free Press talking about a huge surge in fires taking place in Crescentwood. It seems in the last three months there have been nine, yes nine fires on four streets in the area. How many blocks are we talking about on each of the streets? And nine fires in three months?
Their answer to this apparent crisis is, and I quote "encourage people to cut away hedges, remove old piles of wood lying around, repair broken windows and store garbage inside".
So, here's my thoughts on this article, written by William Burr.
In the last three months, just on my block and the two on either side of me (that makes three blocks in total) I have personally seen evidence of the following fires:

Burned car - Monday night, July 18

Burned couch - within the last week July 11-18

Burnt dumpster - around June 12

Burned house, internal damage - June 4

House burned to the ground - May 21

Garage burned to the ground - April 19

Garage burned to the ground - April 19

These are just the fires I noticed, and decided to take pictures of. And these are only three single blocks along one street. I wonder how many arson fires there actually were in my small three block area that the fire department is aware of. And I wonder how many fires there were in the same sized area as discussed in William Burr's article in the Free Press today. And I wonder why arson in the North End is not news worthy like it is in Crescentwood, my old haunt.
The Free Press article also gave mention to deterents to arson. They talked about cutting back hedges, removing old piles of wood, repairing broken windows and storing garbage inside. These are all great ideas in reducing the risk of fires. I have had thoughts along the same lines myself as I walk through my neighbourhood. In fact, I often contact 311 regarding items in yards and lanes that need to be dealt with "before someone lights them on fire". I have sent photos of wood piles that landlords have made in their yards, oddly resembling camp fires, and huge piles of combustible garbage set out in the lanes. I have contacted 311 regarding dumpsters stuffed with dried out stacks of wood just waiting for a match. I have contacted 311 regarding couches and mattresses lying abandonded in yards and lanes.  
There seems to be no rush in clearing these fires waiting to happen from yards and lanes in the North End. Not when it is a Waste Management issue, and not when it is a By-Law infraction. As a member of my Residents Association, and as a resident of the area, I am not able to get these fire hazzards removed in a timely manor from my area of the North End. When reporting broken windows and houses collapsing in on themselves, I do not see results happening. I just watch the residences fall further and further into disrepair.
Even when the City agrees that the garbage piled high in and around dumpsters, wood piles in yards, and unwanted furniture in yards are all fire hazzards, they remain for days and sometimes weeks after being reported in the North End.
I wonder if Crescentwood will have the same problems in removing their fire hazzards, when they take on the task of reducing arson in their area of town.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's A Case Of 'Matter Out Of Place'

I remember something one of my Professors said while I was at the University of Manitoba, studying Anthroplogy. I was taking a course in Archaeology at the time. My Professor was talking about 'matter out of place', and how we look at the world. The example he used was mud, or dirt. The stuff you find outside in your garden. You know the stuff. He was talking about how we look at dirt, depending on where it is. When we track it into the house and leave remnants on the floor, it is unacceptable. It is dirt, and must be removed at once or the house is not clean. But, when that same piece of dirt is outside, in the garden, or in the forest, or quietly sitting under the sod in your front yard, it is loved and cherished. It is exactly where it is supposed to be, and appreciated for what it is, life giving organic matter.
Now, why am I talking about dirt? Well, it is not so much the dirt that I am talking about as it is how we interpret the dirt, depending on its location. Location is everything. What we consider to be 'matter out of place' goes far beyond a piece of dirt. I have seen examples of this, and documented examples in this blog since its beginning, last August.
If garbage is overflowing in the suburbs, it is matter out of place. In the inner city, it is the status quo, or matter exactly where it should be.
If Police cars are present on street in the suburbs, it is matter out of place. It is something odd to be investigated, and reported on in the news. The North End would feel naked without our Police presence, cruisers driving down our streets, and the all too frequent stops at all the usual houses. And our Police presence is only marginally covered in press releases or news reports. It is irrelevant to the general public, and seldom talked about in the media.
If intoxicated individuals are staggering about through yards in the suburbs, again, it is matter out of place. It must be dealt with immediately, and eradicated in quick haste. In the North End, not so much. The staggering of intoxicated individuals is all too common, and allowed to exist, just as long as they are not stabbing anyone.
In Gordon Sinclair's article today, he showed a great example of weeds and untended City planters running along Main Street, matter right where it belongs, it would seem. The planters were shown to contain last years dead flowers. Some had weeds growing out of them. But the planters in front of City Hall, and on other major streets are filled with fresh flowers, watered and tended.
If I go further into Anthropological theory here, we seem to have a dichotomy. The haves and have nots, the wanted and unwanted. The clean and the dirty. Shall I go on? The Suburbs and the Inner City.
We all pay our taxes. We are all entitled to vote. We are all citizens of this City. So why, I ask you, is there such a dichotomy between the inner city areas and the suburbs? And why does it exist within so many levels of Civic, Provincial and Federal Governments? Why does it exist with so many groups and organizations? Why does it exist in the very hearts and souls of every person living in the City? I say this last statement, because it would have to be true to have gotten so far into our very nature to think what is going on, can actually continue to happen to this extreme. How can a cruiser car parked on the quiet street of Kingston Row be news, when days earlier a male was shot on Magnus Avenue and little was said? The Winnipeg Free Press gives the story three lines. The Winnipeg Sun has four sentences in its story. And how can we, as citizens of Winnipeg, brush this off as somthing that happened in the North End, what do you expect?
We are all at fault for this. The media is at fault every time they use the term "Notorious North End", and every time they say an issue happened in the North End before consulting a map to find it was West End or West Kildonan, or Downtown. Citizens are at fault for not calling attention to this dichotomy each and every time they see it happen. The City Councillors, MLAs and MPs are at fault for allowing the inequities to exist.
This is not the City I thought I lived in. Since coming to the North End, I have become aware of these blatant inequities that have been allowed to exist and perpetuate themselves to such an extreme level.
Remember, ten years ago the North End was not like this. We can turn things around. But we have to want to. And we have to start including the North End, West End and Downtown with the areas we want to protect. We need to enforce laws the same in the North End as we do in Charleswood or St Vital.
We have to want to turn things around. Otherwise we are lost, in the 'notorious' North End.