City admits problem with downtown boozing

As referenced my post from earlier today – about the plans from CentreVenure for a “four district model” of a revitalized downtown – the agency (and therefore the city) finally makes a tacit admission that selling booze out of vendors at hotels on Garry Street at 9 a.m. has had an impact.

From CBC News:

” The city said a key part of the proposal will be addressing safety and “public comfort” by developing a public safety plan for the four districts and working with the provincial government to “resolve the impact” beverage rooms and a handful of low-rent hotels have on the area.

Many business owners on north Portage have complained about public intoxication, vagrancy and panhandling that accompanies the sale of liquor in the area.”

Good to hear at least the problem isn’t being totally ignored. It’s a miserable one. Office workers on Garry have told me about the hassles just getting into work in the morning.

You step outside for fresh air at your own risk…

Thanks to all who wrote in with comments on Facebook and here at the blog.

Licencing Mayhem

Google Maps

It was more than a year ago that I wrote about how business owners on the north east section of Portage Avenue felt as if the MLCC – Manitoba’s liquor commission – were ‘licencing mayhem’ by allowing beverage rooms and low-rent hotels (usually housed in the same building) to sell cheap king cans of beer to people starting at 9 in the morning and throughout the day.

They were tired, they said, of the rampant drunkenness, vagrancy, fights, threats and hooliganism and public urination.

The above map shows just a few of the places in the heart of downtown where booze is available cheap and early.

In Today’s FP,  we see that there’s a new plan to save downtown courtesy of CentreVenture, the city’s downtown development agency.

A key feature to this plan is:

an 11-block sports, hospitality and entertainment district, or SHED, would encompass the MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the Metropolitan Theatre and the Burton Cummings Theatre. It would be designated a tax-increment financing zone, which is an area where property tax revenues from new development can be used to help fund even more development. —-Kives

And it sounds great to a guy who has no head for numbers.

But I’d just want to add that prior to doing this, the city should first consider making the area a ‘zero-tolerance’ zone for public intoxication, panhandling and vagrancy. That means, to start, no more cheap booze sold to anyone, at any time, period.

We could look at the Minneapolis example of how officials — with help from corporations — completely revamped the Nicollet Mall, once a haven for petty crime and drug dealing — and turned it back into a favoured destination for tourism and other folk in the city.

Until these crime-related issues are addressed first, no amount of boutique hotels or TIF zones will make people go downtown and stay downtown – especially after 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Currently, you cannot walk from Portage Place [a notorious drug-dealing hub for street gangs] to the Richardson Building without being hassled by someone wanting something, change, a smoke, whatever. Often, the hasslers come in packs.

These beverage rooms and hotels are simply feeder zones that fuel the downtown’s demise. And we allow them to stay open.

Unless this changes, nothing else will, I suspect.

UPDATE: Steve Lambert of the Canadian Press news agency sends this link via Facebook:

Here’s a slide that shows the income levels of downtown Winnipeg residents:http://img.slidefinder.net/imagegethandler.axd?id=5753703&size=2″

Thanks, Steve!

The Swoop

Second of two proposed designs for WPS cruisers

So the WPS appears to be headed from blue and white to black and white.

According to former dep. chief Menno Zacharias, the Winnipeg force is soliciting opinions from officers about their preference for a new design and colour scheme on their mobile offices.

I think I like it. The black on white — especially with the ‘swoop’ logo — looks cool and powerful to my eyes. My only wish is that they were moving to the Dodge Challenger as the model for the cruisers.

The proposed new slogan/motto, however: ‘Building relationships’ – I don’t know about. It sounds good in theory, but in practice?

Let’s put it this way. If the force is so concerned about forging positive relationships with the public,  why don’t they get a say in what the new design looks like?

According to Zacharias, its police officers [and possibly civilian members of the force?] who get to weigh in on the plan.

After all, it’s their tax dollars at work to pay for the initiative in the end.

It also would have been a simple and easy way for the WPS to reach out to the public and — as Chief McCaskill always says at least once when the media’s around — ‘Start building those relationships.’

People love to feel included in things like this. No one’s saying the WPS has to listen to the public, ultimately — but at least remember it’s not just your officers who have to look at the cars as they swoop around the city.

[hopefully always viewing them from the outside, and never the back seat]

Come to think of it, I wonder where the idea for the new slogan came from? Hmm….

Kudos to Britt Harvey of the Winnipeg Free Press for a good look at this story in today’s paper.

[Update: My employer has also done a story on this with 2 interesting additions: 1st,  any change to the WPS crest would require royal assent from the Queen – but more importantly about how the new design scheme would ‘improve officer morale.’ Next, each car will be equipped with an Apple laptop.]

Anyone else agree that WPA president Mike Sutherland’s comments in the FP seem strange? He indicates the cars’ new colours will be more visible and improve officer safety.

I thought it was those flashing lights and sirens that did that.

Hard to miss them, even on today’s blue and white cruisers.

{Update 2 – blogger John Dobbin agrees with me. The public should be consulted]