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 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:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mayor Sam Katz gets the message

Winnipeg street gangs sent a message to Mayor Sam Katz last night.

Message to the Mayor:
"You're A Punk!"

Police had barely left the scene on Magnus Avenue where a man was shot to death outside a known crack house, when another man was gunned down in a drive-by shooting--one short block away.

It couldn't have been more brazen. Without the slightest concern for an increased police presence in the area, the gunmen shot the man in broad daylight within sight of the police tape at the earlier murder scene.

It's funny what a public bitchslapping can do. This afternoon the Mayor shook off his torpor and announced a "no tolerance" policy on crime and disorder in the Magnus area. Qu'elle surprise.

"Mini-Rudy" Sam Katz has been studiously ignoring the mayhem on Magnus Avenue. Three murders along a four-block stretch of one street weren't enough to catch his attention. Neither did the year-long wave of arsons and drive-by shootings and firebombings.

Instead Katz has been pontificating about how he's going to clean up crime by following the example of New York's legendary mayor Rudy Guilliani. Look, look, he brays at every opportunity, I introduced Crimestat.

Crimestat (def.) --a map on the Internet with red dots where cars were stolen and people were killed.

The gangs on Magnus Avenue showed on Thursday what they think about Crimestat---and Katz.

Sam Katz has confused his huckster's gift of gab with true leadership.

When confronted with his failure to address the pleas of the decent residents of Magnus Avenue for help, Katz has launched into a series of retorts.

There was the shuck and jive:
"Hey, I grew up in the North End. You don't have to tell me about the problem."

When that got lame, he switched to a game of Pretend.
"Hey, I believe in being proactive. I'm not going to wait until something bad happens."

When the bad happened and it became clear he was all talk and no action, there was always his last resort.
"The Mayor is on holiday. He knows of your concerns. He has a list but it can't be done overnight."

Which isn't true.

When Phil Haiart, the son of a doctor, was killed in October, 2005, by a stray bullet fired in a gang shootout in the West End, Katz acted virtually overnight. Within 10 days Katz and his sidekick former Police Chief Jack Ewatski rushed to the TV cameras to announce Operation Clean Sweep. They had cobbled together 40 police officers from who-knows-where to launch a round-the-clock patrol of the shooting area.

Within weeks residents were applauding the success of Operation Clean Sweep. Then, without warning, Operation Clean Sweep disappeared.

Friday we learned what happened.
The police blinked.

They caved to the complaints that police were too aggressive. While the law-abiding decent residents of the area were cheering the police, the " community groups" who always put the "rights" of criminals first, were complaining. People on parole, on probation, on house arrest were tired of being recognized and questioned. So the police stopped and sold out the honest homeowners and residents and oh yes, the youth at risk too...

Welcome to Jack Ewatski's legacy as police chief.

Oh, Katz claimed for months that Clean Sweep still existed. In fact, he said, it's now permanent. The only problem is that nobody could ever say where Operation Clean Sweep was. Because it had morphed into the Gang Unit or the Street Crimes Unit or whatever they're calling it today.

The last sighting of Sam Katz's Operation Clean Sweep Part 2 was Wednesday, the day before the shootings on Magnus Avenue, when the Street Crimes Unit descended on a house on Arnold Street to seize---wait for it----45 marijuana plants.

Wow, don't you feel safer already?

The Street Crimes Unit was still questioning the plants when one man was murdered on Magnus and another was shot in an attempted murder.

Before that the Street Crimes Unit spent weeks on surveillance of high school girls, uh, make that potential drug dealers, at a school in Southwest Winnipeg.

Whew, a tough job but somebody's got to do it.

The only place the Street Crimes Unit never turns up is on Magnus Avenue unless its after the fact, after the murders, after the firebombings, after the drive-bys.

Oh, wait, Mayor Sam says the Street Crimes Unit has been spending half their time in the area. Yeah, right.

Tell that to the residents of the area who have been pleading with the Mayor, with their city councillor, with anybody -- to send police. They haven't seen hide nor hair of this alleged intensive police presence.

If the SCU has been there what have they been doing? Lurking in the back lanes? Hiding behind telephone poles?

Note to street crime unit: the drug dealers, the prostitutes, the gang members use the front street because you never see a cop on Magnus Avenue between Main and Powers.

So now, says Katz, there will be an additional 12 police cruisers assigned to District 3. And they'll be assigned to clamp down on the public disorder that's making the Magnus area unliveable.

Before the words were out of his mouth, acting Police Chief Menno Zacharias already started the backtracking. The extra police would be available--- if they weren't needed to answer calls; there's already a shortage of police because of summer holidays, don't you know. And they could patrol the streets on foot -- if they wanted to.

Oh, well. Better than nothing. In fact, a lot better than the inaction the good citizens of Magnus have been used to from the Mayor.

"Mini-Rudy" Sam Katz showed in the Haiart case he could act when he wanted to. He just thought he could hide behind the fiction that Operation Clean Sweep existed when it obviously did not.It took a double shooting on one day to expose the lie.

Sam Katz has the blood of Aaron Nabess on his hands, because he could have prevented that murder if he had acted sooner.

He has the blood of the 19-year-old shot on Magnus Avenue Thursday night on his hands, because he could have sent a strong message when it mattered.

He has the blood of Thomas Roy Phillips on his hands because he could have been proactive and sent in Clean Sweep when the Magnus homeowners were begging for help well before Phillips was shot to death in his car in broad daylight on a day in March.

Just a few weeks ago the residents of the Spence neighbourhood were begging Sam Katz to bring Operation Clean Sweep back. The residents of Magnus Avenue have been begging Katz to give them the same protection that Operation Clean Sweep gave the West End.

On Monday, Katz went golfing with Winnipeg Free Press publisher Andy Ritchie.

He sent the gang members a message -- the streets belong to you.

On Thursday, they took him at his word.

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