Time Runs Out On Katz's Credibility as a Crime-Fighter
Tick Tick Ti....mes Up.
Don't you just love the irony.
The man accused of fatally shooting Phil Haiart in 2005 went on trial Tuesday, exactly 15 days after a man was murdered in cold blood in broad daylight on Magnus Avenue.
On the fifteenth day after the death of Haiart, in a street gang crossfire, the Mayor and Chief of Police held a news conference on the street at Sargent and Langside to announce an unprecedented concentration of police resources to attack street crime in the West End, where Haiart met his demise.
They had obviously practiced their Alpha-male posturing.
"It is time to take back our streets" blustered Sam Katz. "We have the police force, and they have the intelligence on the criminals. The police know who they are, what they do and where they operate. We don't need an ivory tower policy discussion. We need to start cracking down, and this Operation is a major step in the right direction."
"Public safety is our number one concern, and that's why we are taking our enforcement efforts to another level," declaimed Police Chief Jack Ewatski. "Not only is this an unprecedented manpower commitment, but it also brings together all our crime fighting resources to collaborate with other agencies and the community to make a safe Winnipeg."
Foolishly, we believed them.
After all, they did cobble together a special unit of 40 police officers and assign them to patrol the streets of the West End exclusively, targeting gangs, drug dealers and street prostitution, the social cancers that destroy a neighbourhood once they take hold. We applauded the success of Operation Clean Sweep, as they called it.
Stupidly, we believed they meant all those bold statements about "taking back our streets."
Today, we sadly know different. We now know that Mayor Sam Katz wasn't talking to us, the peons. He was talking to his real constituency, those connected South End voters.
It's now, on Day 16, an incontrovertible truth that Katz has a double standard when it comes to public safety in Winnipeg.
When the son of a surgeon from Charleswood got killed, Katz went into action. In two weeks he forged a special police force with an special mandate. That's an undeniable fact.
But when a family man in the North End got killed, Katz went on vacation. Keep me posted, eh.
The homeowners of Magnus Avenue have seen no action from the Mayor, no special police unit, no crackdown, no news conferences, no bold statements.
That, too, is an undeniable fact.
What double standard? Operation Clean Sweep still exists. Somewhere. In some fashion. Only not on Magnus Avenue.
It took the killing of one boy, one connected rich boy, to get the mayor to move scarce police resources into a high-crime area.
There have been three murders on Magnus Avenue in the past 14 months, plus a couple of fire bombings and a gang related arson. Name one other street in Winnipeg with that record. But the Mayor doesn't think that makes Magnus a priority.
He's admitted the police force is flush with officers compared to October, 2005. It's just that having them babysit car thieves and patrol schools in the suburban Winnipeg is more important than helping the honest citizens of Magnus reclaim their neighbourhood.
Watching the old television footage of Ewatski and Katz bragging about their crime-fighting credentials ("We're coming for you," declared Ewartski) is painful. Each hollow word is another spit in the face of families in the North End who know how meaningless the promises of the Mayor and the Police Chief are.
We started the clock 16 days ago to test the credibility of Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz. The test is over. Put down your pencils.
There's an old saying: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
There's plenty of shame to go around:
* You can start with the city councillor for the area, Harry Van Winkle.
He lives on Magnus Avenue, only a block and a half from where the latest murder took place. He claims he's walked along the street for decades. But he talks like he just woke up from a deep sleep after 50 years.
Coun. Harry Van Winkle Lazarenko says gangs aren't his problem.
Call someone else.
He says crack houses aren't his problem.
Call someone else.
He says the only leadership he has to provide is if your garbage isn't picked up. Then, like the part-time city councillors of the Sixties, he'll wake up, make a call, and "presto" your garbage is collected. All is good.
Except for the residents of his ward, who have watched the area deteriorate year after year after year under his watch. Nor could they depend on their MLA, the invisible George Hickes.
* Hickes represents the NDP which means he c-a-a-a-a-r-e-s.
Except that nobody can actually verify there is a George Hickes.
Nobody in his riding can remember ever seeing him.
Certainly he's never walked down Magnus Avenue or spoken to anyone on Magnus Avenue.
Unlike his colleague, Greg Selinger, Hickes has never shown any leadership.
* When the residents of 101 Marion called out for help to clean out the drug dealers and prostitutes, Selinger stepped up.
While newly elected city councillor Dan Vandal ignored his constituents, Selinger worked behind the scenes to marshall the community resources at hand to help. No attention-grabbing news conferences. No cheap news releases. He did what was right, what residents expected him to do. He did his job as an MLA. And by all accounts, he did it well.
George Hickes, like Rip Van Lazarenko, has done absolutely nothing for his riding.
The shame of it is that both of them represent Mynarski ward.
* Mynarski is named after Andrew Mynarski, a winner of the Victoria Cross for bravery. He was one of only two members of the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military award for bravery in the entire British Commonwealth.
Andrew Mynarski lived in the North End with his Polish immigrant parents. He attended King Edward and Isaac Newton elementary schools and St. John's High.
When his bomber was shot down by Nazi aircraft, instead of saving himself, he stopped to try and save the life of a trapped fellow gunner. He left only when the trapped man told him he could do no more and he should save himself. By then it was too late. Mynarski's parachute was on fire and he didn't survive the jump. He sacrificed his own life to save another.
His memory is dishonoured by the pathetic quality of those claiming to represent Mynarski ward---Harry Lazarenko and George Hickes.
Throw in the Mayor of South Winnipeg Sam Katz, who, of course, never fails to remind people he grew up in the North End, and you realize Mynarski is the worst represented community in the city.
It's no wonder the decent, honest residents of Magnus Avenue feel abandoned at every level.
And that's a shame.