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The Black Rod State of the City Address


Every year the Mayor delivers a State of the City address to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.  And every year a transcript is published on the Internet.

So, of course, given that, as usual, our invitation to the event was lost in the mail,  we went looking for the Mayor's address on the Web. Imagine our shock.

This was the State of the City address? It was a measley five paragraphs long.  It read as if it was cribbed from a city travel brochure. It looked like the Mayor dashed it off at the last minute on a sheet of toilet paper while sitting on the crapper.

Winnipeg is great, it's got a zoo, and some American stores, and (a white elephant, aka) a human rights museum, said Mayor Sam Katz. And there's some theatres, and restaurants, and a convention centre and "optimistic spirit." Okay? Gotta run...

According to reporters, Katz padded his delivery with extemporaneous comments about frozen water pipes, a pledge by Kinsmen to pay up to $1 million towards reopening Sherbrook Pool, and some concert in Central Park in the spring. Whoopee.

Katz also " then assured the business audience on hand the City of Winnipeg would not build a fire station on land not owned by the city ever again. (CTV)"  

He somehow forgot to mention that the person directly responsible for the firehall scandal that's going to wind up costing us millions of wasted dollars was Phil Sheegl, his best friend, and the man he personally vouched for and got hired as the city's Chief Administrative Officer with no experience and, obviously, no competence. Sheegl's responsibility for the bid-rigging that botched the firehall replacement project is Katz's responsibility as well.

But what do you expect from someone who, according to his own story, can reach into his back pocket and come up with a million dollars cash for a house.

In another city.
That he visits on weekends.
On the same flights as Phil Sheegl.

He just doesn't live in the same city as you do, never mind have a clue about what state your city is in.

Compare Sam Katz's city with the city that the rest of us live in. Let's start with the murderous attack on Sam Nemis, 31, 6-3, 300 pounds. It was a Sunday night, not late, the sun had barely gone down. He was cross-country skiing on the Red River just under the Forks, downtown Winnipeg's biggest tourist attraction. 

The first time he knew there was trouble was when someone plunged a knife into his kidney.  This wasn't a mugging. This was a cold-blooded murder in the making. The wounded Nemis, trained in conflict resolution as a security guard at the Health Sciences Centre, tried to reason with his attackers, only to realize they weren't listening. 

"I realized they were going to kill me, just to go through my pockets to find nothing..."That they were going to kill me for nothing, because I had nothing." he told the Winnipeg Free Press.  Nobody knows better than he.

They stabbed him in the back with his ski pole before he managed to break away and scream for help.  Their intent was clear. They intended to kill him and leave his body on the river.

What did they want, we've been asked.  They first demanded his wallet (he didn't carry one), then his cellphone, but ultimately they wanted his life.

This Saturday the Free Press did a follow-up story. It was headlined "This was no isolated incident."  It told the story of the gunpoint robbery of a 55-year-old woman in broad daylight at the Forks only a week before Nemis was attacked.  A Forks spokesman downplayed the incidents. "Isolated," she said.

That's the Winnipeg we live in. Where packs of potential killers roam, picking off the easy prey. And the talking heads hired to pretend downtown is safe turn a blind eye.

C'mon, Black Rod, you're going too far. Oh?  

Tell that to the unnamed man jumped by a mob along Main Street near the Disraeli Freeway, you know, a hop, skip and a jump from City Hall and the Centenniel Concert Hall. His story was also in Saturday's newspaper. He wasn't interviewed. He's in critical condition. 

Five people were arrested, one has already been released on a promise-to-appear. Expect the rest to be back on the street in days.

Or tell that to the security guard at the downtown Millenium Library whose life was threatened by 15 youths when he asked them to leave for causing trouble. His story is in a report obtained by the Winnipeg Sun, dated a month ago, detailing staff concern about the open drug dealing and disorder in and around the library.

 Police, who always seem to be the last to know what's happening in the city, acknowledge they're now aware of the situation that's been obvious to the public for weeks.  You have to wonder if their refusal to act before the security guard was attacked is due to Chief Hug-a-Thug's don't arrest anyone policy.  

That, too, is the city we live in, where the police have become social workers instead of working to enforce public safety.

At least they're out there driving around town and not getting paid overtime to, get this, deliver water.  Yep, our highly-trained firemen and paramedics are getting $60 an hour to bring jugs of water to homeowners whose waterlines are frozen and really heavy sheets of paper to other homeowners at risk of losing their water supply.

Read that again. Sixty Dollars An Hour to carry water jugs and deliver notices. 

We're betting the unemployment office could round up a hundred big, strong men in an hour who would love to make half that, $30 an hour, to risk life and limb carrying those heavy water jugs and those bundles of paper from door to door.

Then we could use those highly-trained firemen and paramedics to sit at desks and make phone calls to find de-icing equipment somewhere in North America that we could beg, borrow or buy.  The number of homes without water is fast approaching 900,  with 5000 other homeowners being warned they might be next. 

Some cities might call this a crisis. In Sam Katz's state of the city, it's called getting emotional.

But don't think the Mayor isn't showing leadership and taking action on all city issues.  While a thousand homes may be without water within a week at this rate, Mayor Sam Katz has called a council seminar for today---on bike lanes.
And that's the State of the City.

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