Friday, August 3, 2012

An Outsiders Opinion ... I just can't stop my fingers!

I am not really back, but I was just listening to CJOB, the topic was overfilling dumpsters on 700 block of College. The resident said his new fancy garbage container just got emptied, but the hugely overflowing BFI autobin was still there, overflowing, in all it's smelly glory.
Now I am no expert on the current conditions of Winnipeg back lanes, and I have no desire to drive down my old back lane, or any other back lane in the North End for that matter. But from what I hear, there seems to be a problem in Waste Management at the City of Winnipeg.
Oh, and sorry to the reporter from The Sun who wanted to interview me on the subject. I don't do interviews anymore. But I do have to say something on this topic, right here, and right now.
When I was on the committee that made the decision on the new Garbage Masterplan, I distinctly remember saying there had to be a plan put in place to take care of the transition period in the North End and West End. I was told there would be. So, is there?
This is what I know about garbage pick-up for autobins. The  BFI truck drives down the lane. If the autobin is  too full, they don't pick up. If there are any items leaned up against the autobin, they don't  pick up. If there are any large items inside the autobin, they don't pick up. Oh, and they don't report the issue.
Now, if a resident reports that the autobin has not been emptied, they must describe the issue. If they do not mention items leaned up against the autobin, or large items inside the bin, and do not describe them properly, and say how many items there are, no truck is sent to correct the issue. If a truck does arrived to remove large items, it only removes items reported, to a maximum of 6 items, and does not report that it left anything behind. The resident must make a second complaint.
Now, if a BFI truck empties an autobin  and any garbage falls to the ground, they do not clean up the mess. That is up to the residents. In this case, if an autobin gets emptied, is there a truck right behind it to collect the empty autobin, or does it sit an hour, a day, or a week to be collected. If it sits even an hour, it will likely have garbage in it. I have seen dumpsters fill within minutes of being emptied.
If the dumpster has garbage in it again, the whole process starts over again.
Get a regular BFI truck, and one that picks up bulky items. Team them with an employee who will pick up garbage that falls on the ground. And follow this with a truck that will pick up that dumpster. Make a parade out of it, and pick up one dumpster at a time.
The alternative is madness!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Day In The Hood Has Left The Building

That's right, we left.
My husband and I no longer live in the North End of Winnipeg. We don't live anywhere in Winnipeg, for that matter. We moved into an RV, a home on wheels.
So, why didn't we just get another house in the City? That's easy to answer. We can't afford to live anywhere else. And I can't live in the North End anymore. But we can afford to purchase an older, used motorhome. And that is what we did.
I am not sure where we are going to 'live' now. I guess we will travel for a while and see what happens. (Follow our new adventures - Freedom at 51).
I would like to apologize to anyone who feels I have let them down with my leaving. But, one has to do what is best for oneself. I can no longer deal with the issues facing me on my street in the North End. It is not just the garbage in my back lane, or the illegal dumpers who think they can leave all their unwanted crap in my neighbourhood. It is not just the sirens, not just the helicopter, not just the constant fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars on my street. It is not just the graffiti now appearing in my lane. It is not just the partying that goes on all night long, and the yelling that we hear on the street. It is not just the drug houses on the street and the youth we see in neighbouring yards where they don't belong, uttering their threats as they look at us. It is not even just because someone broke into my house in the middle of the night when I was sleeping. It's the whole package. And I am sorry, but I just can't do it anymore.
We have left the North End for happier times.
If you want to know the turning point, the day we made the decision to leave, it was the day I wrote the blog post "The Decline And Fall of Civilization". That was the day I realized this City cares nothing of the North End, and will do nothing to fix it's issues.
North End, I wish you all the best going forward. And I pray the City will care enough to save you some day in the future.
Good day and God bless.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Was Sleeping, You Know!

I was sleeping last night. I say it that way because I don't always sleep at night anymore. Some nights I am up all night with every noise outside. But last night I slept. Well, that is until something woke me.
There were noises outside on the street. They woke me from a sleep I could have used. When I opened my eyes, my husband was standing by the bedroom window. He was looking down the street. He didn't say a word, and I just lay in bed watching him. Then he came back to bed. Not a word. Then there was another noise outside, and I looked at him with that all too familiar look. It said "what now". He said there was an ambulance down the street. He said it has been there for a while.
I got up and took a look. Sure enough the ambulance was sitting on the street, lights flashing. A minute later there was the sound of a siren in the distance. It was getting louder, and louder. It was close. Then the siren stopped. With the siren off I could hear the sound of the fire truck nearing. Then the reflection of flashing red lights began bouncing off windows down the street. The lights moved closer, dancing off more windows as it approached. Then it stopped in front of the ambulance. I went back to bed.
For the next ten or fifteen minutes I heard the fire truck making noises as pumps operated. I have no idea what it was doing down the street. I found it odd that the ambulance was first on the scene and the fire truck came later, much later. Who knows what these people do at 4 o'clock in the morning. Finally, they were done.
The ambulance backed down the street, past my house, beeping it's back-up signal and flashing it's emergency lights. It stopped at the corner to wait for a car to pass. Then on it went, with the fire truck following behind.
So, now can I get more sleep?
If it's not one thing its another, on my street in the hood.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Burning Down The Lane

Oh, the sound of sirens. That all too familiar sound. Then it stopped. I know that means the fire must be close. I tore myself away from 'Talking Dead'. It was tough, but I did it. You never know if your fence, house, or dumpster might be on fire. It's always best to check.
It was dark outside, being 11:20pm and all. I had a quick look out the back window and saw an odd orange reflection in the neighbours window out back. That must be the fire. I went up to the window to have a closer look. Sure enough the fire truck was stopped right behind my house. That's a familiar spot for them to stop. They have been in that exact spot several times in the past few years.
Now I see it. Sparks are shooting up from the dumpster on the other side of the neighbours garage. Fire men are trying to get into the yard next door. They need to gain entry, and locate the neighbour so they can check the garage from the inside.
The fire was extinguished from the dumpster. I don't know how many times that dumpster has been on fire this year. It seems to be a popular one for torching. Someone stuffed a mattress into it a few days ago. I guess we should be happy we still have these large metal dumpsters. If the mattress was just thrown against the garage and lit on fire, the garage would have burnt. With the dumpsters the fires are contained.

I noticed something else last night. It isn't anything new, I have seen it at every fire on the street, and every time the Police come into the neighbourhood. The firemen were in no hurry. I don't mean that they don't care. But they are not rushing to the job. They get out of the truck and survey the scene. I guess they discuss stragegy, then finally, extinguish the fire. They know what they are doing, and they get it done. But there is no panic in their actions. For this particular fire, it was a dumpster fire, a mattress burning in a contained unit. I am always a little surprised at the slow pace that our emergency personel work at. It is not like the movies or the cop shows on tv where everyone is rushing around and crimes get solved in 60 minutes. This is reality. These firemen risk their lives on a daily basis putting out arsons and accidental fires. And they do it in real time, one step at a time. I see this sort of reality all too often here in the hood. It is an education I never asked for, and one I could do without.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Katz Wants Less Police Presence

Finally, I get my wish. But you know what they say, careful what you wish for.
I asked for less police on my street. I wanted to see fewer police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. It seems not a day goes by that we don't have some sort of police presence on our street. But soon, if Mayor Katz gets his way, that may change. He wants to save our fine city a little cash, ween the budget, tighten the belt on city spending. And he has found the perfect way to do it, just cut back on police overtime.
I wish he had thought of that sooner. Imagine how much money the city could have saved if he had cut police resources right after his latest election victory as mayor. You know, right after he promised 100 more police officers because crime was such a major issue in that election. That was right before the city experienced its highest homicide rate yet, closing 2011 with 38 homicides. Lets cut back on our police presence. Great plan Mayor Katz!
I know, the police spend their overtime sitting in court. And Katz is going to flood the city with new officers, so we won't need all that overtime. Except he has been promising these officers for a while now. Just how is he planning on rolling out this great cost saving measure? Does he cut overtime after the new officers arrive? Does it become a natural decrease in overtime that he takes credit for? Or does he slash the budget on overtime with no regard for public safety?
Wasn't Katz last comment on crime one that stated the Downtown was not dangerous? And didn't he just sign off on allocating police resources to walking the beat downtown? He says it is to bring the sense of safety, because after all, there is no real danger there. So, he is telling us that he is wasting police resources on a "feel good" solution to a "non violent" situation, and at the same time cutting police funding where it is needed. Who is this moron? And why do we think he is capable of running this town? Can we impeach him? No really, can we?
We have serious gang problems in this town, and a downtown that is actually experiencing violence. We should be increasing funding to the police so they can do their thankless jobs and protect the law abiding citizens of this fine city.
If you want to cut back on spending, figure a way of stopping the repeat offenders from continually being a burden on the police, the courts, and the correctional system. Look into ways of making the youth give back to the community. But for goodness sake don't remove the police from the streets.
Give your head a shake Mayor Katz. Save money somewhere else.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Guy Covered His License Plate With Cardboard

My husband went into the back alley just now. He was taking the garbage out. You know, to the dumpster. The one that is meant for us, and just a few of our closest neighbours.
As he was approaching the dumpster, there was a guy in some 'piece of shit' half ton dumping wood in our dumpster. Then he went to the next dumpster, and the next.
My husband was good enough to let the fellow know that it was illegal to dump the wood in our dumpsters. Well, the guy didn't care. He did say "at least I am spreading it out", as he filled several dumpsters with his unwanted wood. When my husband approached the truck to get the license number, he found it was covered with cardboard. That's a sign that the fellow knew damned well that it was illegal for him to be dumping in our lane.
Same old story, day after day. People come and dump their unwanted materials in our lanes.
And will these people change their habits and drive to the dump when we get the smaller carts, or will they continue to cover their license plates with cardboard and dump in our lanes. Only time will tell. But either way, the City turns a blind eye to it.
It's just the North End.
Does this guy not realize that he is adding to the many problems facing this area, and the rest of Winnipeg.
Hey guy with cardboard on your license plate, the ripple effect of treating our area like a dumping ground is that people grow up not caring about their surroundings. They become Youth who spray graffiti, rob stores, stab and shoot people. The next time you read the newspaper, and come across an article about one of these Youth crimes, know that you helped the process along.
It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes one idiot with a truck full of garbage to ruin it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 8th Fire And Me

I tuned in to the 8th Fire last night on CBC TV.
So, what did I think of the first installment of a series? I liked it. There wasn't much I really did not already know. Not that I am a know it all. But I have Aboriginal friends, have for years. I have a degree in Native Studies. I have an Aboriginal name, and have attended many a ceremony. And I live in the North End. So, it was more of a refresher for me. It was also a documentary from the eyes of the Aboriginal Peoples.
As one of the White Folk watching the show, I found a few things disturbing, or off. First, it was mentioned that very few people ever come across Aboriginal people in a positive way. Most interactions are negative. Come on. Have you never gone to the forks to watch the Grass Dancers? Have you not had a good conversation with Kevin Chief? Take a closer look at some of your friends, they may be Aboriginal. Did you not have a teacher or professor who was Aboriginal? Maybe you were introduced to a friend of a friend when out on the town, and they were Aboriginal. I have had positive experiences with Aboriginal people since I was a small child. Aboriginal people are so intertwined in our communities and our lives, I am sure you know someone, and just don't know it.
Another issue I have with the show was when the Police pulled up to talk to three guys, dressed like 'gangstas'. It seemed to be a friendly enough conversation, but Brooklyn took offence because the Police are always stopping them and 'harrassing' them. But, wasn't one of the guys picked up on an outstanding warrant? Maybe the Police were just doing their jobs. Maybe the issue there is not with the Police harrassing people dressed like gangsters, maybe the issue is more with people not assisting the Police in the reporting of crimes. Instead of looking at the Police as the 'bad guys', maybe help them remove dangerous criminals from the street.
The last item I would like to bring up is education. The show mentioned a program in Quebec, where Non-Aboriginal people learned about Aboriginal culture. It was at some sort of community center. I thought back to Thunderbird House. You know the place. That wonderful building at Main and Higgins. It was built when I was still in University studying Anthropology and Native Studies. I was so excited about that building. I hoped it would become a place where the Non-Aboriginal could go to learn about Aboriginal people and culture. I thought it could be a very positive move toward bridging the gap. But alas, that did not happen. Instead the area is strewn with negative images instead of positive.
We need to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people. We need to do that, especially in Winnipeg, where we have the largest urban population of Aboriginal people. Start by looking around you. Start by finding the positive. I am sure there are far more positive Aboriginal connections than this program mentioned. And on the Aboriginal side, look for the positive in us as well. We are not all that bad either.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winnipeg From The Outside

Did you watch Saturday Night Live this weekend? I did.
Did you catch Seth Meyer's Weekend Update segment? I did.
Did you hear the one about the woman who requested to finish her beer before being attended to, after being shot in the eye? I did.
Thank goodness they didn't say it happened in Winnipeg.
Normally I like the small references to Winnipeg when watching shows on TV. Every now and then a show will say something about our town, and we gush with pride, knowing we can survive weather and circumstances that others may not want to, or be able to. We are a tough bunch, and are proud of it.
But I was not proud of this last mention of our town. No, not one little bit. Someone died at that party. They were shot to death. And the person with the eye injury was harmed by that same individual.
The person mentioned in this event must have a pretty serious alcohol problem to refuse medical attention until her beer was finished. And that is no laughing matter.
When thinking about Winnipeg from the outside, another story comes to mind. The Winnipeg Sun ran an article in August regarding a fight that broke out between several people attending a party on Garfield Street. The article was written by Mark Bonokoski. I guess this incident happened on his first day in town. He was shocked by what unfolded, saying he had never wittnessed anything like it in his "many years on the police beat" in Toronto. Again, this is nothing that we should be proud of. And again, it is a sign of major alcohol problems.
A third article I would like to mention is a blog post written by one of the Winnipeg Free Press interns I had the pleasure of meeting this last summer, William Burr. He wrote the post back in September, but I did not read it until today, when a fellow independent journalist sent me the link. Thanks Marty. It is a good read, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the view of Winnipeg from the Outside.
Here are a few paragraphs of his post that I would like to highlight:
People are proud of living here. And most impressive, there’s this dynamism, heart, and sense of belonging despite a brutal crime record, part of deep desperation and poverty.
I’m grimly fascinated by the stories. People stabbed for a beer. Groups of kids in their early teens bludgeoning a lone man or woman to death. A drunken woman smashing a baby’s head on the pavement. Eighty-year-old widows robbed while paying their respects at a cemetery.
And the strangest of all, a brawl that Ian dubbed social Darwinism gone wrong, where people got into two vehicles and started smashing into one another. The 17-year-old girl at the wheel of one of the vehicles is charged with first degree murder in the death of a man who was run over. She also apparently inadvertently ran over her boyfriend’s mother.
Most people in the city just get on with their lives, despite the horrors. What else can you do?
Have we become too jaded to see the violence and alcohol problems in our city for what they are? Are we so used to the endless stories of stabbings, assaults, machette attacks, shootings, and other violent crimes that we cannot see what a violent city Winnipeg is becoming?
I checked my twitter feed today, only to see that there was a machette attack on Selkirk Ave, a stabbing on Spence, and three people arrested for their part in three assaults that took place on Sunday.
This is not how I want people to see my home town. And this is not the City I want to live in. There is too much violence, and far too many incidents tied to alcohol.
Get some help Winnipeg. You need an intervention. And you need it now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Fairy Tale 2012 In Winnipeg

Wouldn't it be nice to walk down my street and see well maintained houses. And wouldn't it be nice to not feel threatened by the youth on my street. Wouldn't it be nice to go two weeks without seeing police cars on the street. Wouldn't it be nice to no longer hear about stabbings, shooting and gang violence. Wouldn't it be great to have the gang houses actually closed down. Wouldn't it be great to see kids on bikes going to the park to play instead of delivering drugs?
Could you imagine a day when the criminals of our city are picked up and put in jail? What would my North End be like if the gangs were shut down?
I don't understand why it is so difficult to remove gang graffiti. The removal of the graffiti would be a start. But it is caught in red tape.
I don't understand why it is so difficult to close a gang house. The police know where they are, and know who comes and goes from the houses. If they are identified as gang houses, shut them down.
I don't understand why it is so difficult to stop known houses from dealing drugs. When they are identified, reported to the police and Safer Communities, it takes months / years for investigations to begin. And when they do actually get investigated, issues are only dealt with if the person dealing is on the lease. And if that happens the people are asked to move. Then they just move next door or the next street over. How is that helping anything? How does that make a community safer? It doesn't.
I don't understand why bad behaviour is allowed to continue in lower income communities. That just encourages even worse behaviour.
Wouldn't it be great if criminals were charged with crimes?
Wouldn't it be great if by-laws were enforced?
Wouldn't it be great if illegal garbage dumpers were prosecuted?
Wouldn't it be great if the North End was a valued community in Winnipeg?
And wouldn't it be great if we stopped saying "it is just the North End" and "what do you expect".
Wouldn't it be great if we expected better.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's A New Year, Winnipeg

We are starting a new year, which is generally a time for hope, a time for resolutions, and a time for change.

Last year Winnipeg was met with 39 homicides, the last one happening on the very last day of the year. Apparently there were shots fired on Selkirk Ave and two went to hospital. One did not survive.

Violence spilled over into 2012, with our first day showing a variety of incidences. There were shots fired in the in the 400 block of Aberdeen Avenue. A couple of fires on Government Ave and Corydon Ave happened overnight and are under investigation. There was also a stabbing on Kennedy Street to round off the day.

What are we to do about all of this crime and violence that seems to be taking over our City?
Really, what are we to do?

If we followed the lead of City Hall, Mayor Katz, and those in charge of informing us of crimes, we could simply brush it all under the rug. We could adjust the information given to the public, adjust what the media reports on, and adjust the stats collected. We could have a City where our Mayor proudly proclaims that our Downtown is safe and we need not fear our streets. We could have a City where the Crime Stats show no violent acts. Simply remove the homicides and shootings from the listings, just as the arsons, assaults, and stabbings are missing from public view.

We could run our City like George Orwell's 1984, where words dissapear from dictionaries. We could have a City where everyone turns a blind eye to crime, just as long as it is not in the more affluent areas of town, and remove it from our thoughts completely.

Winnipeg is a great place to be in 2012. We have our hockey team back. We are building a fancy rapid transit corridor. We have a Human Rights Museum being built. We have a new football stadium hopefully opening this year. What a great City. All we have to do is erase the fact that violence is taking over our City. Just scrub away a few more statistics, and we will have that great City we know Winnipeg can be.

Lie to me baby, and tell me the North End of Winnipeg is a safe place to be.