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 adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.
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The Black Rod State of the City Address
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
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.
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.
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...
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
people were arrested, one has already been released on a
promise-to-appear. Expect the rest to be back on the street in days.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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When did the magic die? A week ago the Winnipeg police department delivered the bad news---crime in the city is out of control. The picture painted by the numbers (for 2018) was appalling. Robberies up ten percent in a single year. (And that was the good news.) Property crimes were up almost 20 percent. Total crime was 33 percent higher than the five year average. The measure of violent crime in Winnipeg had soared to a rating of 161. Only four years earlier it stood at 116. That's a 38 percent deterioration in safety. How did it happen? How, when in 2015 the police and Winnipeg's police board announced they had discovered the magic solution to crime? "Smart Policing" they called it. A team of crime analysts would pore through data to spot crime hot-spots and as soon as they identified a trend (car thefts, muggings, liquor store robberies) they could call in police resources to descend on the problem and nip it. The police