Sunday, October 31, 2010

Omar Khdar. Who says we want him back?

I can't really say I've followed the case with any sort of diligence... I haven't.  I was somewhat aghast at the initial case, learning that some zealot would take a son and send him off to fight some war "back home". Dad should have stayed there if he wanted to be involved so badly.
What I don't get, is why Canada spent as much time as they did negotiating this "deal". Omar pleads guilty, says some nice words, gets a 40 year sentence from the jury and then an 8 year sentence as a result of his plea bargain.
I like bargains. Ask my friends, (or my wife, who is forever eating the 30% off meats from the clearance section at Safeway), and they'll tell you I know how to find a deal, but this one surpasses anything I could have pulled off. After a year (or so) at GitMo, he can apply for a transfer to his "home and native land", where the idea of justice is somewhat skewed... at a level about equal to his Dad's ideas about peaceful demonstrations.
Once here, he'll probably do two years, and get probation, telling us all who he wants to change the world through peaceful dialogue. Nice. S o let me go back to my high school math and figure out what 3/40 is. My thinking is that it ends up as a small fraction.
Just one day I'd like that kind of justice. I'd like to get a $300 fine for speeding through a "red light camera" and pay $22.50, or get clocked at 160km/hr in a 90km/hr zone but have the Officer look at the 70km over as being 5.25km and ignore me all together.
Ahh to dream... like even the interest on my credit card to go from 24% down to .42%. I'd borrow more.
I worked with an older Russian Mennonite for some time who had a way of making his thoughts known when he heard about this sort of thing. He'd bellow out in his accent,"Oh Canada!" I think those were the only words of the anthem he knew... and there are times I don't hold that against him... like now.
Here's hoping Vic Towes gets in the middle of this travesty.
What do you suppose our neighbours to the south think about this?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Election Results

I loved one of the lines in Judy's concession speech. "We've changed how things are done at City Hall, and they can never go back"
Ya, OK Judy... if you say it, it must be true, even if only in your own mind.
I also like a quote from "Anybody want a Peanut" regarding the goings on in our ward.
"To the people who voted to Harvey Smith: Come here. A little closer. A little closer. A little closer. *SLAP*
If only a few hundred had received that slap BEFORE voting. Regardless, Harvey is our councillor again... with no regard for the best before date stamped clearly on his forehead. I had no investment in CGP's campaign, so to say I'm disappointed might be a bit strong, but I think a paradigm shift in the hood may have... no, would have been a good thing.
The NDP machine. This is another story all together. What do we make of it's humiliating defeat? Can you spin it any other way? Consider the bodies they've been handed.
In our hood, the only NDP hack to get elected is Tony Ramos. The NDP split the vote in Elmwood letting a parachuter land the job. And Judy... Just Judy was told to take her hug a thug ideas, her gun registry, and her flavoured cigarillo legislation, and GO JUDY GO... AWAY.
Judy said she'd be volunteering and working in the community as an activist. I think she'll be leaving shortly, She wanted little or nothing to do with her riding while she was supposed to represent them, what makes anyone think she'll be here past December? She might get some patronage appointment to something where she really can't do any damage, but my guess is that Ottawa is as happy to get rid of her as a lot of Winnipeggers are to know that we won't have to listen to her blue sky ideas as a tax and spend mayor, happy increasing CUPE's union dues by hiring gang members to work for the City for the average 3 hour day.
Unfortunately, what we seem to be missing (still), is a visionary. We're staring another 4 years of bland leadership in the face... the same sort of leadership that has led us to where we are. A pimple on the face of the map. Saskatoon is better positioned to grow than Winnipeg is, and that's a direct result of one thing... decisiveness.
Winnipeg has had a long history of doing a study, reading it... and putting it away. We had a plan for a subway once (shelved) an inner city beltway (still not realized, and a poor facsimile of what it was supposed to look like), and real growth as opposed to the type of growth we currently enjoy, which is not the sort that "grows" a City insofar as it's economy goes.
We continue to embrace people who say things like, "Housing needs to be affordable, and we need better quality housing" who also says, "I fought urban sprawl for all my years at City Hall". I wonder if that person ever heard of the laws of supply and demand?
Winnipeg is lost. We have no real vision, and as such, we have no substantial future. Don't get me wrong, Winnipeg will still be here in 4, 8, 16, 32 years and beyond, BUT I have an idea what Winnipeg COULD be, and the Winnipeg I see in the next decade is pretty pale in comparison.

Regardless of my comments, I think every person who takes the time to run a real campaign should be lauded for their efforts. While we can sit around and wonder how the votes would have shaken out had Lito not run in our hood, it was his right to run, and peoples right to vote for him... likewise Cardoso, and all of the other candidates in all of the other ridings. While I've always laughed at people who get as many votes (or less) as Natalie Pollock, it takes a lot of chutzpa to put yourself out there.

Getting out to vote

Regardless of how people choose to exercise their right, I hope they do (did).
Voting is one of those things we take for granted. People in Iraq stood in line for hours, believing they finally had a voice. While generally I found the invasion of that country offensive, the idea that the Americans provided people with the ability to choose their own destiny was a big plus.
Countless young men, their smiling faces extinguished as a result of wars designed to TAKE AWAY the voice of the people and insert thinking of a totalitarian nature fought for our right to exercise our right to a FREE VOTE. No where is that driven home more than visiting Berlin, and witnessing the monument erected (buried) to remember the book burnings that took place during the totalitarian oppression of the Nazi's. Don't know what's there? Empty book shelves. This is the cradle of sick minded thinking that would not tolerate opposing views. I do so cherish my ability to vote, read what I want, blog if I feel like it. read the paper, (even if it is the terrible reporting of the "crack team of journalists" in the FreeP)
That brings me to an offensive story I heard today. The actual players will remain nameless, but the situation was/is real, even in todays enlightened world.
A young woman is a blog reader here. She is not really politically active, and decided to follow my advice on how to vote. To be honest, I know her fairly well, so it's not as if she picked some random blogger to follow and ask advice from. That sort of thing is akin to passing spiked kool-aid around, and we'll have none of that.
Apparently, the fact that she was going to vote for the candidates I suggested (she lives in the same ward), put her at odds with others in the house she lives in. I'd say the "home", but read on, and make your own judgment regarding how much of a "home" this is.
She was berated for NOT voting for Judy. I see no need to get into the why not. or why you should, that isn't important to the story. OK, I get a healthy disagreement about politics. What else is more divisive than possibly religion?  Apparently the young woman couldn't go vote with the rest of the people in the house because she wasn't voting the "right way". Unsure of where to go to vote, she found out where her polling station was, and walked there. The "head of the house" also wouldn't drive her to her university classes that afternoon, because she didn't vote "the right way".
You have to shake your head. I mean we have secret ballots to prevent coercion. Women have the right to vote, and DON'T need to ask their husbands who to vote for. Shouldn't the young woman be lauded for wishing to exercise her right to vote?  Frankly, she has every right to walk in there, tell the world (if she wished) who she'll vote for, tell the pollsters that she'll support their candidate, call any candidate for a ride, and vote for WHOEVER SHE WANTS.
As a man, I find it offensive that anyone would try to force a young woman (or a young man) how to cast their ballot. I find it even more offensive that this was carried out by a woman. Who better to know oppression and coercion than a woman, and then to perpetuate that offensive behaviour on anther... it's sick.
In the end, regardless of how she marked her ballot, I'm so very glad this young woman made the effort to be HERSELF and true to what SHE believed.
As far as this story goes, Sam or Judy... who cares? They're SO unimportant in this. This young woman, being true to what she chose to believe... that's freedom. That's democracy, and SHAME on you who didn't vote, for whatever lame assed reason you might have, including "I didn't like any of the candidates".
If you didn't vote, I'd like you to shut up and sit down for the next four years. YOU have nothing to complain about, and what's more, you gave away your right to complain by virtue of your apathy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pre Election weekend antics

So the unknown shooter... was he/she trying to make an election issue of this? I've said for some time now that the North End deserves a presence. A military presence. I worked in the 'hood for a couple of years, and frankly I don't go back except to buy something fresh at Gimli Fishmarket. I've said for a number of years that things there are only going to get worse, especially since the egg heads keep building university campuses on Selkirk, training more and more downtrodden losers to be social workers.
Now before you berate me, I've seen FIRST HAND the sort of households these "future experts" run. The kids are out of control, the place is a stye, and the parent is not really very happy. I guess social work would be right up their alley. Maybe they should go and walk an alley... with an empty 11 pack, so it rattles just enough to get the attention of the hoodlums hiding in the shadows.
The police are too busy to be there 24/7, but are the army reserves? Orders to shoot any armed person on sight, the ability to detain looters (commonly called thieves), and the mere presence of any order would do the area some good.
A few weeks ago, this idea may have sounded absurd, which is why so few have heard me iterate these thoughts out loud, but how about now? Still think a strong presence in the area is a bad idea? Clearly our Chief is knee jerking. Sure NOW we have a stronger police presence there... what's that saying about the barn door and the horse?
Just Judy was the MP for that hood for YEARS and look at the mess. Is it HER fault? No, I don't think so, but neither is it Sam's. Sam's statements to Judy that she never ONCE called him about problems in the area, and how they might work together speak volumes of her ability. Shhh! Quiet!... still listening for it? Ya... you hear NOTHING, right?
Sam has his plate full too. Crime really isn't a Mayor's thing. I mean it is, yet it isn't. Judy's party watered down the YJA (Youth Justice Act) so badly it tastes a bit like camp kool aid. Blechh. So what's Sam to do? The Province (with Andy at the helm of Justice) is just as bad as the Fed NDPs. He said, (in response to a young offender missing dozens of curfews, shipping school and not complying with an order) that, "Manitobans don't want to be harsh with young offenders who miss a curfew". I wrote Andy and corrected him.
What's Sam to do? Ideas? He's not responsible for housing, yet Winnipeg spends millions on it. He's not responsible for training, yet Winnipeg spends money there too. If you had an idea about how much money was spent "training" gang members, and actually SAW how this all takes place, it'd likely make you hurl your lunch.
I've seen the foolishness first hand. I know why politicians keep talking about the "successes" of programs like "Build" and "ICR", and it's because no one actually looks into the DETAILS of these programs. No one asks questions like, "How many of the trainees have become carpenters?" or "How many of the trainees are still employed (in any field)? These programs, designed by egg heads to "give hope", don't.
I don't have the answers. There are things I know though.
I was asked by the head of NERC, "What do you think is the most important thing we can do for the people in the North End?" "Teach them to fish", I said. "Good. And how would you encourage them to learn how to fish?", he asked. "Stop giving fish away", I said.
At that comment, I was told I'm bitter, and he went on... like the drone pipe on a bagpipe...
A Mayor is responsible for the business of the City. A mayor is NOT responsible for ensuring the revolving door of justice gets closed, not responsible for workplace training or education, not responsible for health care, not responsible for housing, yet because the fires are burning with such intensity, the Mayor is forced to take up time on these matters because the PROVINCIAL NDP is fiddling while Rome burns.
Don't blame the Mayor for anything other than the business of the City... and especially the crime. It's NOT his gig. Wanna complain? Call Andy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Response from the candidate

I was pleasantly surprised when I checked my in-box. I was chatting with a follower, (r) , just this morning at coffee regarding all the GOOD reasons my request for time would not get a response.
My blog is critical. After all, I'm not a reporter. My bias is evident, and if she read my blog, "holding my nose" at voting for her and my comments  in my request  for time regarding past politicians supporting her would have set that tone fairly clearly. Her response is as follows,



Hi RM,

Thank you for your email.  I would love to sit down and chat, you sound like you have some experience and I could learn a few things.  I am trying to get to as many doors as I can when it is daylight, so if you have the time to meet after 7:30 that would be great.  I have just a few days to go and as you probably guess I am working around the clock.  How does Friday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 at my campaign office at 819 Sargent work for you?   Let me know if that works for you.  You can always give us a call at 781-6230.  

Thanks,

Cindy


How refreshing is THAT!? I love the honesty that she's demonstrated. She was unwilling to commit to any matter she didn't have enough information on at MERC, and is approaching an informal meeting as being mutually beneficial. While I stated earlier that I'd be "holding my nose" at the ballot box, and I really did feel that the pool was shallow when it came to quality candidates, I'm feeling a bit better now. Unfortunately, I had to respond as follows,

Cindy,

Thank you for your response. Unfortunately I am out of town at that time. Regarding the timing of meeting, I've left my decision and request for time to chat a little late. If you are too pressed for time, know that your willingness to dialog is appreciated and confirms your statements at MERC.
I am free every evening next week, however I realize you may not be. Regardless of our scheduling, you have my (our) support and I (we) hope to work with you to make Winnipeg a better place, especially our West End neighbourhood.

Thank you and good luck on the 27th!

RM
West End address provided in original e-mail


Maybe... just maybe we can get a councillor in the area who'll do more than nod, agree, tell me they'll do something, and generally attempt to convince me that they're working for me while blaming everything on the Mayor and cuts at City Hall.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Garbage day in the 'hood

Always a day to prepare for, we giddily drag our wheeled carts to the lane, trying hard not to scrape the vehicles as we go past. I don't like to tempt fate, so I always park the thing far enough away from my vehicle to make sure the lid doesn't slam into the hood, or the forks from the automated arms puncture my grill and rad. Heaven forbid that one of the stray cats that some owner lets out every night should lick up the glycol and be unable to spray against our shed at night, or better still, drop a load in the grass.
I was driving down the west Beverly back lane in the 400 block, and came across the latest item the children in the area amuse themselves with. Garbage can tipping.
Really funny.
Here we have the cans lying in the lane, their contents spewed over the ally, and the truck unable to negotiate the "pylons". I'm sure the residents will be told, "We're sorry, but you're responsible for your bin and ensuring that the truck can properly access it".
I'll bet Keith Bellamy would tell us that it's because of poverty and poor Community Center planning, and that punishing the kids by making them pick up garbage in the neighbourhood until 2012 isn't a good answer. After all, he seems to be buds with Andrew Swan, who is the "hug a thug" justice minister. Just Judy would tell us that the children just need to go swimming the next day for free, but for those of us left cleaning up the mess, what is the answer?
Sure, kids have always been mischievous. I remember hiding under a bridge and pelting passing cars (police cars included) with snow balls, an escape route well planned and cutting into a wooded area of a nearby park. We all did things that were considered by those who were "older" to be reckless or downright "dangerous" (there could be a piece of ice in the snowball and someone could loose an eye). As if.
The garbage situation in the area is bad enough already without these kids "trashing" the lane. At our home, near an intersection ripe with at least three chicken places, a sev, and other take outs near by, we also get the garbage tossed from windows from the BK down on Portage.
The answer is simple I think. Singapore.
Don't laugh. We could learn a thing or two about how they handle this sort of thing there, and while I'm not advocating public caning, a stiff, swift, no nonsense reaction would cure the next "good kid" (I say that because they really might be) from escalating their actions next time.
Hey Andy. Pay attention. Get creative and come up with some real ways of teaching. Your coddling approach isn't working. If they're caught, they get to clean the lane EVERY WEEK for the next year. I'm sure someone would volunteer to supervise them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Request for an audience

A copy of the e-mail requesting a bit of time from candidate Cindy Gilroy-Price

Good day Cindy,

I hope the informal is OK. I was at last night forum and wondered if you had some time to discuss a few issues at greater length. Possibly a half hour or so? I have a number of questions regarding your take on development in the area, condo conversions, housing, etcetera.
Not to ambush you... I blog a bit. Probably not a big audience, but I know a number of residents in the community who read it.
http:winnipegonegreatcity.blogspot.com if you want to review my thoughts so far.
I'll also offer up that although you're likely my choice in the upcoming election, I'm less than impressed with pictures of old politicians who come out of obscurity to pose with you. One left the city deep in debt, the other just plain left the city. One of them thinks the ward is his painting palette, able to take over and close streets, add lights, and redirect traffic at a whim, and without consulting the community groups (SNA) or businesses located on the affected streets.
This invitation will also be posted on my blog, as will your response.

Thank you,
RM
West End address provided in original e-mail

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Great Debate at MERC

Well we all got to see the candidates in action tonight. Well almost all of them. Lito was busy. Maybe he took his kids to the zoo across the street from home, or went golfing, across the street from home... regardless, if you can't make it out to the only forum in the 'hood you want to represent, you'd better hope all your "community" comes out to vote for you because you organized a few Folklorama Pavilions.
The questions were pretty safe, and provided in advance. I've never written on a forum or debate before, so I don't really know how. Maybe I should highlight the things I thought were most important, or just provide a general synopsis of the answers the candidates gave... or maybe I'll do both.
The event was well attended. I think there may well have been 300 people there. Harvey was nicely trimmed (I complimented him on looking well groomed), Keith looked casual, John looked a little dated, and Cindy looked... professional.
Andrew Swan was there, along with some other party faithful. Tom Simms was holding some NDP signs for school trustee Myra Laramee as well as passing out leaflets.
I took a lot of notes. I think I have 20 pages or so, writing on every question and every response, but I wont bore you with the details. If you wanted all the details, you wouldn't be asking me who you should vote for. (Forgive the blanket statement, but I know there are a number of you out there who have told me first hand that you want me to tell you, so here it goes)
As I said before, I'm going to hold my nose, and vote for Cindy Gilroy Price. She provided (what I thought) were honest answers and non partisan thinking. She believes in working together, and THAT is the type of City Councillor we need. If Daniel Mac wants something, our rep needs to work with other councillors to get that to happen.
Cardoso was (at times) hard to understand, and spent all together too much time talking about immigrants, (including saying that there are "10-15-20 thousand people who don't know where the community centers are" when asked how to make them (community centers) more useful in the inner city) and repeating ad nauseum, "It's not going to be easy", and "It's a tough job", as well as giving Harvey the elbow to the ribs at every opportunity. Consider this quote, the people last elected were,"... slow doing their job or don't know how to do it."
Keith Bellamy's BEST line came from a question from the floor asked by Mr. B from Beverly Street. I know Mr. B, his family having lived there (almost) since my Grandparents did... like half a century ago. The questions was (paraphrased) "Will you commit to reducing the business tax and holding the line on property taxes" prefaced with the statement that every time any level of government looks for more revenue, their hands are in OUR pockets. Keith had 90 seconds to say, "NO and NO". Honest... that was all he said, (to much applause). The NDP hacks were out in full force. I guess they don't realize that a business tax is ultimately paid for by the end consumer. Some of them would do well to take an introductory economics course.
When asked (from the floor) if party politics belonged in a civic election, Keith said "Yes". All 4 parties in Manitoba are out campaigning, wither with volunteers or organizers, and an endorsement is simply a statement. Cindy was clear. "NO". You can't have party divisions in City Council. It doesn't help people work together, which you have to do to get anything done.
Harvey. Poor Harvey. He still believes in Party politics at the City level, in spite of being shown the door. When I asked him why he took time in his literature to support the other NDP candidates after the party showed him the door, he said something like, "Ya, well... "as he walked away. Sorry Harvey. Sore spot?
There was a question about gangs, housing, and a number of other issues, but what struck me most were the obvious contradictions from the "endorsed candidate". On housing, he went on about the lack of rentals and how important good housing was without ever mentioning rent controls. Now it's all about the big bad condo developers. He was also big on taking over more properties that have troubled tenants like (he said) they do in Toronto. I wanted to ask him who'd take back the Manitoba Housing Units that are a problem in the area. The NDP's chosen one also thinks that keeping kids out of gangs is done by first "stabilizing communities before you can fix the problem". Do people not GET IT? The last NDP guy was there for almost 2 decades! The NDP has been there provincially since 1999. That's 10 years to stabilize the community. You people who eat this up... I really don't think there is help for you. There is a hand writing on the wall, and you aren't reading the message.
Cindy got it right. You have to give the kids a sense of belonging and value. Not blaming it on poverty, not on anything "out there" that might push the blame... the simple solution that actually makes some sense. Instill pride in themselves. Sure it's a tall order, but it's the right one. Where she and I disagree is with her answers to the housing issues. She felt that there should be restrictions on condo development (as did Bellamy, however he said anytime vacancy is below 2.5% there would be no condo conversions). I did like her idea of fast tracking permits and reduced fees for inner city re development, latched onto by Harvey, who found himself talking through both sides of his mouth. Harvey also went on to pontificate about ICR and Build, as well as saying, "I organized the west End BIZ". I didn't know that.
Harvey doesn't want to get rid of the business tax, or hold property taxes. "We need the money from business tax" yet when asked about redeveloping Ellice and Sargent he said there should be "tax breaks for businesses in the area".
Harvey went on about how Sam was evil. "You have to change the mayor" (to much applause) and my favourite, "Vote for me. With people like Harvey Smith on council the Mayor won't just be able to do whatever he wants". Well Harvey... I disagree. I think that if you'd have worked with him a bit more, you'd have done better for the community. Your personal views came between you and your job of serving the community. His campaign has been reduced to Sam is bad, vote for Judy, vote for Tony, (both NDP), vote for me! I guess it's a stab at whatever he can do to try to remain associated with a party that doesn't want him.
Cindy walks away the winner in my book.
As for school trustees, I got to talk with the 2 men I already thought I'd vote for, Brad and Rolf. Both just seem to want to give back and are open to talking, don't think they should need more money to run the show, and Rolf feels that there are too many trustees, too many superintendents and vice superintendents, and far too much bloated over head. He's in favour of a single school board in Winnipeg AND getting school taxes OFF of the property tax bill. I already like him.
Myra Laramee is also an NDP endorsed candidate, so I can't support her. Party politics don't belong at the school board. How can the trustees criticize the Provincial Education Minister if they plan to work their way up the party ladder? How can they lobby for change, when the NDP want none of that? Nope... so by default it goes to Cathy Collins.
There you have it. On election day, it goes like this
Sam Katz
Cindy Gilroy Price
Rolf Salfert
Bradly McKay
Cathy Collins

Don't blame me if it all goes bad.

Sears...

I wondered about how Sears was doing so I checked the shares over the last 5 years. I guess everything is down, but they were at $200 and are now at about $75. I was curious, because this was, (in my mind), the last bastion of the customer being king. I don`t think that anymore.
I started on line, looking for a particular tool accessory. I found it online and decided to use my $10 off a purchase of $50 or more coupon. They hand out coupons to encourage people who might otherwise not go to the store, to visit.
Well that worked. I went. I drove there, parked, walked to the tool section on the second floor, walked around and did not find the more expensive, heavier duty one even available in the store. Seems it`s either a catalog, or online item only. Nice. Ok... I can forgive them for that. Let`s look at the cheaper one. Lighter duty, and regularly priced at almost $70. Today, it`s available... at the regular price. So lemme see here, The better unit is on sale through the catalog or online store for just under $70, reduced by almost $30, and the cheaper one is the same price. It`s on sale for just under $60 this weekend.
"But I`m not here this weekend. I`m out of town at the cabin ".
"Well at least you`re at the cottage", the salesman said, "I have to be here working."
Nice. No offer to reduce the price today, no suggestion that I get a price adjustment next week, just a "Sorry about your luck sucker" comment.
Guess what Mr Salesman? I don't have to buy this item at your store, or any other Sears store. I can get it cheaper mail ordered from the US, and given the strong dollar, I will. I'll pay the GST and PST anyway, so the only guy who looses is... you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Permits. How do we fix it?

Sure, anyone can criticize. I'm especially good at it. Offering up real solutions.... that's a different thing.
There are a few ways. The first one is using the existing "mess". Real target dates. No more, "Well, someone will call you when it's ready." A hard and fast date. You walk in on Oct 1, your permit will be complete Oct 14. Two weeks. Am I being too lenient? I think I am. I think it should be less. Inspectors? 24 hours for a visit, and a reference number when you call. I'm tired of "Oh I'm really busy". Ya? SO AM I! I called Three times for an inspection on a basement floor, and finally took pictures and poured it. Later I got the "You have to get a camera in there, or tear it up. I have 2 words for you Mr Inspector. You can figure it out... you've heard them before. Real deliverable dates, no more BS.
The other solution has CUPE up in arms. Fire them all.
Get a draughtsman to draw up the plans. Retain an architect to review code compliance and an engineer to review the structural. Then hire either them, or private inspectors  (who carry E&O insurance) to enter a contract to visit the project at various stages with 24 hours notice. Easy.
Other jurisdictions have gone to "self inspections" for electrical and plumbing, but even I see the problem with that insofar as the NBC and the whole building. The issue is, right now no one really inspects the "whole" building. Inspectors don't get into the mud, crawl into a crawl space, or spend too much time freezing their asses off outside in the winter. A private guy with his own insurance would, or her wouldn't be in business long.
Mike Holmes likes inspectors and permits. I would too if it was all as nice as it is on TV. No budget, no clients, and no problems getting a permit. Mike can't come to Winnipeg. He couldn't just tear it out and "make it right". He'd HAVE to tear it out, and apply for a permit... and STOP.
Stay where you are Mike.

Building Permits. The bain of a Contractor

FYI, Iv'e been doing this for 25 years now.
Last winter, CoW and the tall fore heads there had an idea. They probably had more than one, but this one stood out. Gord Steves likened the idea to a "car safety". The City was going to report to a new purchaser whether or not building permits had been issued on their property, they wanted to provide a zoning memorandum, and wanted a new survey for every land transfer. Apparently Deepak Joshi felt that "City staff are capable of handling the new work load and would only require a day to do this.
Ya right, and I have $250,000 some Nigerian wants to deposit into my bank account... all I need to do is...
I'm trying to APPLY for a permit to do a project. Same old... I call the Permit Technician to be clear on what I'll need to provide. I need a lot drainage plan prepared by an engineer. I retain the services of a surveyor and they do both a Building Location Certificate and a geodetic drawing. The geodetic used to be provided by the City back in the day, but they had too many problems with staff not really knowing how to work a transit, so they off loaded that. The plan (prepared by an engineer) has to go to Water and Waste for approval. We are now three weeks into the wait. I finally got the call today, and I can get my BLC and geodetic to be able to APPLY for a permit. After about 6 weeks, I'll get my permit. Then I can start.
Who has 2 months to tie up waiting for people to decide if you can do a project when the whole project should only take one month?!
Who runs that show? The "new" head of Permits and Inspections has been there since he graduated from university with his PEng, and clearly doesn't realize the problems his "crew" causes, and has no idea how to FIX the problem.
Here's how it worked BEFORE. By before, I mean before this "new and improved" system came into effect. when PP&D moved into Fort Garry Place from the Hamilton Bank Building. I do remember the permit process from the old Municipal Building formerly just south of the old Fort Garry Gate, but I was never personally involved in a way that lets me recount it.
Back in the day, you'd go to the District office with your plans. after one or two days, they call, and your plans were ready to be picked up, the area services and lot grading completed. Then you'd go to the Hamilton Bank Building and visit Zoning on the Main floor (often after picking a number). Here you got to talk to Barry, Ron, Harvey, (or if you were lucky, Sharon) and get your plan approved. A stamped drawing and an initial in the box, you were sent to the 5th floor where you saw Julian, Walter, or Brian , who reviewed the structural portion... and gave you another initial and sent you back to the main floor where you... PAID! You paid and received a PERMIT! All that in under a week!
Today, you go the Permit office in the Fort Garry Place, and if you are unlucky enough to have to pick a number, you get looked after by someone who can't actually read a blue print. Their MAIN GOAL is to SEND YOU AWAY, telling you that you don't have enough information. They ask you where the bearing walls are so they can highlight them. NEWSFLASH! If you can't find the bearing wall on a drawing YOU SHOULDN'T BE THERE READING THE DRAWINGS! It seems to be a dumping ground for "I was almost enrolled in a course to study..." people. Most of the Permit Reps visible from the front counter are completely inept. If you're lucky (as I am) you can call ahead for an appointment.
I always call the same person, although they do shuffle people around. After all, you don't want them getting too good at what they're doing. Here at least it's understood that you'd better not ask me too many stupid questions, and you'd better make sure I really need what you're asking me for before telling me you can't accept my application. After 15 to 20 minutes, I get to leave with a piece of paper that has a file number on it, and my District Inspectors name (often left blank because they need to rotate them around too, they can't find qualified help, and need to double up areas whenever someone is sick or on vacation). Now I get to...go home.
I could wait, but not in the office.   This is the much vaunted "One Stop Shop". Thing is, the only work the staff here knows is STOP! Everything Stops here... green lights, not so much. Why can't you wait for your permit? Firstly, they don't want you around there for 6 weeks... you start to smell. You see, I don't get to talk to a zoning officer any more. If they have a question, I have to wait for them to have time to ask me. If by some fluke it gets to Plan-X, they too get to have it sit on their desk until my "turn" arrives, and will send me an e-mail or give a call telling me they are looking for more info, or telling me something is "wrong". Hey... buddies... there is ALWAYS something missing and wrong. People simply CANNOT provide a drawing showing EVERY part of a house. Some of this has to be understood as conforming to good building practices. Why not just inspect it for good workmanship and Code Compliance? I have a set of drawings stamped by an engineer, approved by the City... and it's UN-BUILDABLE! I actually build the thing, and the inspector gives me a hard time for not following the plan! I point out that it's wrong and not code compliant, and he tells me I need to RESUBMIT THE DRAWING! I have to have the engineer back out to do the inspection. Why not just delete the City Inspector from the whole equation?
Lucky I'm a personable fellow... I'd be tempted to cuss at him. You people HAD YOUR CHANCE!
Here's the rub. The inspectors DON'T KNOW the code. Julian Saj said, "Inspectors are only there to ensure the building is built according to the plans submitted to the City and approved by the Plan X department". What?
You mean the clowns you have "inspecting" the place aren't capable of making judgment calls on site? I mean, really... a renovation simply cannot plan every minutia. there are literally dozens of things that need to be determined on site, and not all of them can by code compliant. These inspectors... are they really just capable of interpreting the plans?
Wanna be an inspector? You don't really need to know much... but it gives you a lot of opportunity to be a real ass. If you get off on that sort of thing, here's your big chance! Since you cannot make any substantial decisions on site, you can be a nit picker. You can find some obscure section of the code and force builders to do your bidding.
Paul Gloux (retired) used to do that. He was terrible. For a time he just focused on cross bridging. Driving down a street in a new development, you could place bets about what the red sticker was for... Later, it was house numbers, and then his favourite... questioning the value of the work as declared on the permit.
We don't get stickers anymore. Wonder why? Liability. No reason to say "Yes, it's all good" because it makes the City responsible. There's no proof it was inspected, and if the inspector is inept, he can cover his ass by lying.
Try getting an inspector out for a "building final". Good luck on a residential unit. I once tried 3 times to set appointments and finally had to write a nasty e-mail to John Barns to get the district inspector to actually show up. If you don't do a final inspection, you don't say "It's all good" and the City isn't responsible.
See a pattern here?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Public Works Update

So a number of posts ago, I commented on signs erected on Ellice, the length of time they were there, measured in weekend drives home from the cabin. Today, it appears that some fine citizen moved the signs. To that person, exercising civil "common sense", I say "Thank you!" I was tempted to remove the useless signs myself, but alas, I didn't bother to get out of my vehicle.
If CoW workers wonder why people ignore street construction signs, it could be because they get erected weeks before anything happens, and are often left for days after the work crew is gone, a product of "that's not my department"
I saw a poster once. A long asphalt highway with freshly painted lines... and a dead possum with freshly painted lines on him. The bottom of the poster said, "It's not my job".
On a similar note, a friend of mine (also in construction) recently witnessed a CoW crew repairing a lane. They did a half assed job sweeping the broken concrete out of the "hole", and basically just dumped in asphalt and rolled it. In his words, "It's no wonder it falls out again in a few months".
Any one with a clue knows you have to PREP the surface you're repairing, but as said before, not just anyone can work for the City... you 'gotta be qualified.
"You got papers?"
"Sure, I got papers... zig zags OK?"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Police Helicopter. It's all about safety

When was the last time I heard that? It sounds familiar... I think it was... when Red light cameras came out.
Now group, did you remember the City telling you "Red light cameras" were also capable of providing a record (in photographic fashion) of speeding infractions?
I pay pretty close attention to things like this, because I think pretty much everything Big Brother tells me is BS, or slanted to twist the truth to suit their purpose. I don't ever remember "Red light cameras" being sold as "radar traps". You?
The much vaunted Police Helicopter should be in the air soon. It's going to help the Po-Po's (as my kids call them) avoid high speed car chases and help them "fight crime". It's (supposedly) going to be flying for 18 hours a day. Why?
See here's where a lot of people fall down... asking "Why?" We don't ask, we simply accept the BS.
Here's my stab at prophecy.
More "traffic control" meaning... speeding tickets.
It's done in other areas. I read a number of comments in the Freep like "why so much money? A helicopter doesn't cost that much".
I'll bet it does. I'll be a "properly equipped police helicopter" has the ability to measure your speed, and have license plate recognition cameras. I'm guessing there was a secret projection about just how much money this thing would make, and since the NDP is gasping for every extra dollar it can squeeze out of us, they agreed to pay the "yearly operating costs". What's missing, is the (potential) revenue this "flying white elephant" can make.
The Police press release (http://winnipeg.ca/police/press/2010/05may/2010_05_07.stm) doesn't mention anything other than "Added deterrence and enforcement of traffic related issues", but a quick look at the Eurocopter site gives us a hint when you look at the police helicopter. Google "Wescam MX-15 Electro Optic sensor" and you get L-3 Communications where you can see the different views, including "narrow". Check out the "payloads" and you can see what a camera is capable of if properly equipped, and "laser rangefinder" is one of the modules as well as a "laser illuminated night spotter" which can recognize a face in darkness.
If it can recognize a face... can it do a license plate?
The "Integrated GEO-Tracking: calculates the speed & estimated direction of the target for precise tracking" . Hey...  Wait a minute... do I look stupid?
Clearly... we all are. All we've done is given them another piece of equipment  to send out speeding tickets you can't argue about, and don't get points for...
But it's all about safety.
Since our Police Chief has given "the boys" quotas on the ticket writing, this really should be no surprise.

Slight of Hand Elections

A magician gets you to believe you saw something by drawing your attention away from the thing he doesn't want you to see. I have a brochure here that seems to be about the same. Thing is... it's not from Dean Gunnerson.
The "I work for YOU" guy in our 'hood has out done himself. A glossy hand out coming to the door going on and on about... NOT voting for Sam! Instead, Harvey wants you to vote for Judy and Tony.
Harvey! Wake up! Did you miss the memo? The NDP dumped you! Run YOUR OWN campaign!
Harvey will come to your door, sit on your deck, agree with how bad the garbage situation is in the 'hood while blaming cuts by "City Hall" and then in his brochure, tell you that the Water and Waste department has served us well for 70 years!
OK. I DON'T like the Veiola deal (whatever it might look like), but c'mon Harvey, "Served us well"? Really?
Let's review. We get our water from a lake through an aqua duct that was paid for about a hundred years ago. We don't treat it except for adding fluoride and a bit of chlorine. We have some reservoirs and pumps, (some of which are as old as the aqua duct) and we get water pumped through pipes (many of which are a hundred years old and seem to leak fairly regularly) to our homes. We flush into pipes that were also installed in 1910, and simply cannot handle the capacity of today's demands... and we replace them... when the fail... sometimes two or three times (like on Ellice about 8 years ago) When we replace the water lines, sometimes we forget that we live in a place where it freezes and the pipes aren't buried deep enough (like on Moray about 8 years ago).
Our waste systems are also quite deficient. We dumped sewage into the river after a big rain for most of my lifetime. We stopped doing that. (or so we tell people). We didn't upgrade, so it was forced upon us (at great cost). It's the type if system where we can have one guy turn off bolts on a pipe without knowing if it was under pressure (and full of sewage) until it's too late, the bolts are off, and the sewage is flowing freely. Our well trained Civic employees. Not everyone can work there. You 'gotta be qualified.
Should we talk about the garbage scenario? Ever been to Brady Road? Now I'm old enough to tell you about Springfield Road and Saskatchewan Avenue dumps, but not old enough to remember Westview. Basic loads from homeowners were free, and there was a dump located in proximity to where you lived. Now I used to go to the dump pretty regularly and never had the sort of flat tires I enjoy now, and I try to go to the dump as little as possible. The place is badly run. There is clearly no attempt to get the wood with nails or shingles off the driven area. We pay by the ton to dump our debris, the cost of which was OUT OF CONTROL before BFI opened a dump in Rosser.
Go there with a toilet and ask where to dump it for recycling. No clue. More well trained staff.
The W&W department recently gave us these big black garbage cans that stink to high heaven with our garbage "stewing" inside them in the summer. The tall foreheads told us to put our garbage cans on the other side of the lane, and never bothered to look at a lane in the winter and see the impossibility of that. They had to go and renegotiate the contract. We never did hear what that cost us.
Drive a lane in the North End. Auto bins overflowing, and not a transfer station anywhere to be found. Don't know what a transfer station is? It's a place with REALLY big bins where you can dump your stuff. IN Minneapolis, you can take your water bill (as a homeowner) to the transfer station 4 times a year and dump for free. Maybe if people in Winnipeg had the option we wouldn't have so much illegal dumping, but there is NO plan to "fix" the problems we have. Why fix it? It works... very well... or so the tell us.
Ever hear about the City not getting paid for water? Don't pay, and it goes on your taxes. If you have a legitimate complaint or concern about billing, too bad, it goes on your taxes. They don't need to negotiate or offer customer service, they are a monopoly.
The W&W department ISN'T good, or healthy, or efficient. STOP with the lies already. Like every other department, the entrenched mentality of "this is how we do it" stifles ideas, growth, and improvements... and YOU dear citizen... you keep your ideas to yourself, or send them to 311... who will not pass them on, and W&W won't respond.
Trust me. I've tried.
Harvey. It's time to go. The doors to your right... you know the way... the NDP showed it to you, and in a few weeks, so will the residents of Daniel Mac.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Councillor update

I got a flyer today from Lito. Nothing about where he lives, just that he's going to make sure Public Works works at night to get projects done with less disruption, he's a family man, Pastor Bruce Martin from Calvary Temple knows him...
The family thing... Personally, I'm big on family. There is nothing more important in my life than my beautiful wife, and my three children, BUT...
If you don't think family, your orientation, or personal life is fair game, then you shouldn't be "selling" those issues in an election. Pictures of your family are fine, being a respected member of your community are good, I mean I'm NOT saying this is "bad", just that if you introduce them into the election campaign, they're fair game.
Lito lives in the 'hood but not in ours. His hood is more of a zoo, but neither of the Osborne Village Zoo variety, nor the North End on cheque day, more like the Tuxedo Golf and Country Club 'hood. His house is assessed at over $400K on the corner of Corydon and Shaftsbury, and I'm not sure if I want him here to help the "little people" of our area.
I think Lito will get a chunk of the ethnic vote, which in my mind is racism.
Now before you scroll over to the upper right side of your screen with your mouse to close this window, gimme a sec.
Let's say I say, "I'm not voting for Sam because he's a Jew" (which I'd never say... I respect and really like most of the Jewish people I've had the pleasure of meeting and working for) but let's imagine I could spew such watered down Gibsonism, I'd (rightly) be called out as a racist.
Now If I said, "I'm voting for Rolf because I think he's German", that too would be racist. It has NO basis on supporting that candidate based on anything other than race and THAT is RACISM.
The ethnic vote, by it's very nature is offensive.
This, (and other) elections sicken me when special interest people spew their drivel based on playing the race card. Lito (and Cardosa), are clearly working "their community", not "OUR COMMUNITY".
Just check out the location of the signs and see who lives there.
I'm NOT saying a Filipino candidate (Or Portuguese) isn't qualified, but simply being Filipino (or Portuguese) doesn't qualify you.
I'm in town on the Sunday Lito is giving away hot dogs. I don't plan to attend... but I might. So far, his residency as a major issue for me. You want to know what it's like to live here Lito? You want to enjoy people publicly urinating on your boulevard, shamelessly staring back at your incredulous look at them and hear them yell, "I'm taking a piss" ? If you do, I'll swing by your area with a few friends, we'll open a case on across the street and piss on your yard. I wonder how long before a car with "Building Relationships" painted on the side showed up?

If Judy doesn't win it's because...

...She's a woman.

Yup. That's the fact. If you attend the U of W, you are bombarded with this sort of absolute garbage from the quacks they have there "teaching" you.

All I can say is "Mayor Susan Thompson".  Well no... I can say more.

The article in the Freep (was a waste of good ad space) says that Judy will only NOT be elected if there is gender bias. In other words, this egghead doesn't believe we can listen to the promises, see the NDP ties, remember the past voting record in the House of Commons....... no. We're all to stupid for that. All we can see is that she's of the "female persuasion".

I read the Lindor Reynolds article where she told us about Sam's dating habits only to say something like, "That isn't really any of our business". Imagine if we had talked about Susan's dating habits 20 odd years ago. I STILL don't know if she dated, or if she was straight or lesbian and I DON'T CARE. Not then, not now, not tomorrow. She got elected, AND suffered from the same malady as Judy alphabet. Why not suggest that if JustJudy doesn't win that it's based on a Ukrainian Bias, or a bad haircut bias?

In keeping with the Freep article ( http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/gender-may-sink-judy-expert-104231469.html )  here's my reasons Judy won't get elected in the order the Freep wrote them.

1. Judy has promised to raise property taxes.
2. Judy has no friends without an orange sweater in the City
3. Judy is a career politician
4. Judy hasn't worked in the "real world" to accomplish anything with her own money
5. Judy caters to Nick Ternette's crowd
6. Judy will cry when people give her a hard time
7. Judy has never been in a position to make a decision that affected anyone substantially

GO JUDY GO! (away... go away)