The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lazy Free Press reporting delivers predictable "solutions" for Magnus morass

The Winnipeg Free Press discovered Magnus Avenue this week, and there wasn't even a millionaire to be found.

After a relatively good story by James Turner on Saturday about the problems plaguing Magnus, the city beat heavyweights-- Bartley Kives and Mary Agnes Welch joined by Carol Sanders---combined to offer solutions.

Here's one. You guessed it---the perennial favourite.

"Tackle Poverty Head-on"

Mary Agnes Welch went to the biggest enabler in the city, Wayne Helgason, director of the Social Planning Council for his opinion. More government intervention in everything, he said. The words 'personal responsibility' never crossed his lips.

Those words are like garlic to vampires to people in the poverty industry.

In New Zealand there are virtually no beggars and no homelessness, said Helgason.

Uh, Wayne, the problem on Magnus Avenue isn't homeless people, it's the creepy people in the problem homes.

"Don't Tolerate Derelict Houses" was another solution.

Bartley Kives went to the expert on derelict houses, Rip Van Lazarenko, the hapless city councillor for the area. His answer? More housing inspectors.

In a word: WRONG.

The answer is more bulldozers and more graders.

If Kives had bothered to watch CKY news, which also discovered Magnus Avenue this week (will wonders never cease), he would know that the Vacant and Derelict Buildings Bylaw which Lazarenko clings to is completely toothless. The city CANNOT shut down any building because of all the loopholes in the law.

There's a backlog of more than 500 houses already declared derelict but which can't be torn down. We don't need more inspectors to put more houses on the list.

Kives could have learned that from his other interviewee, Point Douglas Councillor Mike Pagtakhan.Yes, the same Mike Pagtakhan who chairs the city's housing committee which oversees the useless Vacant and Derelict Buildings Bylaw. Oh, Pagtakhan told CKY he's going to look into the bylaw. Yes, he's on the case.

Going to the people who have failed for answers is a pointless exercise.

Solution No. 3 from Carol Sanders was "Banish the Sleaze".
Well, duh.

Shut the crack houses, move the prostitutes out and give the kids something to do to keep them out of trouble. That's novel.

A founder of the William Whyte Residents Association complained the police simply swept crime into her neighbourhood when they launched Operation Clean Sweep in the Spence Area. Why didn't the police simply follow the crime north, they asked.

Instead, Police Chief Jack Ewatski disbanded Clean Sweep. Pure genius.

What word never appears in Sanders' story?
Clue: it starts with G and rhymes with 'bangs.'

In fact, the entire page about Magnus Avenue never mentions 'gangs'.

"Get More Kids Playing" was the final solution.

Yeah, if the gangs let them.

Somehow, the reporters forgot what the children of the north end keep telling people like the Governor-General. Kids are intimidated by gang members, sometimes even into "joining" the gang. Recreation venues can (inadvertently) act as recruitment centres, seeing as how the gangs have the run of the neighborhoods.

The Free Press can get a little credit for even recognizing that Magnus Avenue exists. But Sunday's story was just about as lazy as you can get. Not a single new idea.

No discussion about driving out the enablers with their free condoms and free coffee.

No suggestions on how to squeeze absentee landlords out of business.

No mention of the key ideas of the residents that Turner even included in his story the day before.

Here's another idea.

When a house is ravaged by a fire, its declared uninhabitable and its owned by an absentee landlord, tear it down immediately. Pay the landlord the value of the house -- which is zero the day after the fire.

Okay, cough up a token one dollar.

The landlord still owns the land, which is where the only value is. Now give him a month to tell council what he's going to build on it, or declare it abandoned.

The reporters could have collected a sheaf of ideas if they had actually talked to anyone who lives on Magnus Avenue.

And Harry Lazarenko doesn't count. He didn't think there was a problem until the murders literally started creeping up to his doorstep.

How can you write about poverty and not talk to a single poor person living on Magnus? You might have learned that they're less worried about their income than about the stray bullets and aggressive prostitutes in the area. Instead, the FP talked to somebody who claims to speak on behalf of the poor. Who elected him?

How can you write about the derelict housing without talking to anyone who lives next to one of the 18 derelict houses identified for demolition?

Or to somebody at City Hall as to why the bylaw to remove these houses doesn't work, has never worked, and will never work in its present form.

How can you talk about recreation without talking to any children, or any of their parents?

How can you write about a street that's had four murders in less than two years without talking to a policeman? Or better yet, one of the shooting survivors.

We bet they have a few ideas of what's wrong on Magnus and how to solve it.

It's not too late to do the story again. And do it right.

Right, Bob Cox?


Operation Light Dusting, as we're calling the cut-rate version of Operation Clean Sweep that Mayor Sam Katz has given the North End, has been in operation for one week. And, just maybe, people are sensing a difference. Here's one example of a Magnus Avenue resident emboldened to fight back.

Early in this past week a car thief was racing up and around Magnus Avenue in a stolen van, until he smashed it into a garage. A man in the neighbourhood chased the car thief, and chased him, and chased him, and chased him right up to Main Street where he caught up with him. He then hauled the thief almost a mile to the North End community police station at Main and Aberdeen Avenue.

That's where the sad part of the story begins.

When he produced the car thief to the police officer manning the station, what do you think he was told?

Was it "Good job. Thank you. I'll take over now. I'll slap the cuffs on this punk and get a cruiser to take him to jail. And another one to drive you home."

Ha ha ha. Yeeeeaaaah, that'll be the day.

It was more of what we've come to expect from the police "service."

"What do you expect me to do?" said the cop at the "community" police station.

Have we heard that one before?

The cop whined that there was no place to hold the car thief in the building. All he could do, he said, was put him in the back of the cruiser parked outside.

Oh, how tough it is to sit in a community police station all day and have to deal with citizens who catch criminals and BRING THEM TO YOU.

Still, it's one punk who learned the people of Magnus are willing to stand up and fight to retake their neighbourhood.

All they want is some help from the mayor and the police. But as ususal, there was no sign of a cop on Magnus when the car thief went into the garage, or when the citizen chased him for blocks, or when he caught him.

24 extra police, claimed the Mayor.

And every one of them MIA.

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