Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Not one to rock the boat, Coun. Bob Brooks immediately cautioned colleagues last week that "we're not ready to go to the three-to-two.
Why not? A resident phoned at home doesn't have to make any tough decisions when asked their opinion on reduced garbage bag limits. The tough decisions are for council to make. That's why they are elected.
Residents were slow to warm to the idea of a three-bag bag limit when it came into effect last year.
But residents have since learned that such efforts to divert recyclable waste from the dump pay off. Residential waste going into landfill is down by more than 21 per cent. This is a good thing because the current landfill is almost full. Capping it and starting a new one is expensive - about $4.5 million at last count.
It didn't take long for residents to get used to the three-bag limit, which is really quite generous compared to other jurisdictions.
Also, the territorial government's bottle return program proved to be a great incentive for reducing waste going into garbage bags.
In any event, 96 per cent of those polled called the quality of life in Yellowknife good or very good. A similar number gave council their approval so it's doubtful the city will face a revolt if it reduces bag limits further.
What these survey results more likely indicate is that residents are still miffed about user fees and the $1 hike to the solid waste levy without any demonstrable improvement in services.
It's been consistent complaint for many years. Residents were told two years ago that they're paying double what it costs to pick up their garbage.
The city should go ahead with reduced bag limits. A reduction in the solid waste levy will make it easier to swallow.
Further to the 2007 citizen's survey results: 20 per cent say the quality of life has gone down because of the presence of illegal drugs while another 13 per cent cite crime in general as the cause.
The RCMP, meanwhile, are patting themselves on the back for a crime reduction strategy they say has halved the number of violent assaults and break-and-enters from 2004 to 2006.
While we don't dispute the RCMP's numbers, there have been a number of violent, widely-publicized stabbings and beatings in recent months that make it difficult to believe that 2007 is any safer than 2005.
One case, where a man was beaten and left in a coma outside of a downtown restaurant last January, remains unsolved.
Last Wednesday's Crime Watch column, meanwhile, reported 29 assaults over a two week period.
We're happy police are reporting a reduction in violent crimes. The public is clearly still worried.
We hope the RCMP and their community partners - The Salvation Army, Health and Social Services, the Department of Corrections and the City of Yellowknife don't let up.
The stats only prove progress can be made but the job is far from done.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The cynicism of some people in today's world never ceases to amaze me.
And that, valued readers, comes from a journalist with more than a few years at the keyboard.
A day or two after the May 9 edition of Kivalliq News hit the streets containing a feature story on an award-winning gym teacher, I was told in-no-uncertain terms that these awards have become meaningless because there are too many of them on the go.
Believe it or not, other than cynical (which really doesn't do it justice), I don't have a word to describe the combination of tone, facial expression and eye-roll used when the person actually spoke the word "awards."
It was definitely a time for a, "No, tell me what you really think," type of rebuttal, and I wish I had thought of it at the moment.
The person then, of course, went on to suggest maybe it was time I stopped dedicating so much space to these namby-pamby (I kid you not) tributes.
Not the best of timing when you realize the school awards are just around the corner, but, I digress.
Now, let's be honest. If the person was speaking strictly about the number of Commissioner's Awards handed out each year, there may have been the tiniest grain of truth in their contention.
And, we've all been to sporting events where whoever selected the award winners seemed more worried about geographic location than athletic ability.
But, they are what they are and we accept them.
To find fault with a relative handful of educators, volunteers and youth being publicly recognized for their accomplishments borders on asinine.
We are fortunate to live in a country where we enjoy many freedoms.
And among those freedoms, is the choice to watch and listen to whatever type of news we find relevant.
If you want nothing but gloom, doom and despair, coupled with an endless stream of the sky-is-falling rhetoric, there are plenty of numbers on your radio dial and TV remote to accommodate you.
Likewise, the Internet gives you access to plenty of written news (most even have pictures) that focuses predominately on everything that is wrong with the world.
The key to the equation is balance. It's not all doom, gloom and despair, nor is it all love, luck and lollipops.
Let's not waste our time playing down the importance of having people among us who strive to do the best they can.
We should be happy we have so many teachers in our region who care about our kids' educations.
Ditto the volunteers (written here many times and not about to change) who work so hard to make programming available in our region.
In short, these awards are good things no matter how many of them are handed out.
When it comes to people in the Kivalliq being named as award winners, the more the merrier.
Would you rather the Kivalliq have no award-winning teachers?
Wouldn't that be great fodder for filling the pages of Kivalliq News?
Friday, May 11, 2007
If you look at the current animal control by-law, it was dated in 1998 with an amendment in 2001. It's time for an update, I'd say.
Updating town by-laws must be a challenging task.
After talking with one of the by-law committee members I can understand the urgency of the matter.
Apparently we're using by-laws that might be as old as I am.
It's good to see our municipal system at work. Someone was complaining to me about how no organizations are included during the by-law review process. Well, this is the perfect time to have your voice heard.
The by-law committee makes the document, council sees it and passes it for first and second readings during their meetings.
After that second reading, the document becomes public and then we can see it.
Once that by-law is in this stage, we can take it down, tear it apart or re-work it to our needs.
Councillors have held the animal control issue until their meeting on June 11. Anyone in town with a beef on the animal control issue should be at that meeting to voice their concerns.
The most important thing to remember is that this will affect us all.
Even if you don't own a dog, the animal control by-law could limit your rights to own more than three pets.
If you haven't read the draft of the new animal control document, I suggest you call town hall and have them make you a copy.
A few residents came to me about their concerns with the new draft, saying the by-law was "copied and pasted" from other communities in Canada and might even conflict with the territorial and federal acts for animal control.
Now, I agree we have an animal control problem in this town and we always have.
I read some old papers from back in 2003, when the town was up in arms about building a new dog shelter.
Well, we built it and we still have problems with pets in this town. The problem lies with the people who bring pets into their homes without proper preparation.
My girlfriend just got a puppy from one of her friends.
Apparently her friend couldn't keep the dog anymore, big surprise.
If I had a dime for every time a girl gave away her puppy I'd have enough for more than a few KFC combos from across the street.
So now this poor little dog with big bright eyes is being passed around like lip gloss.
While I may not agree with some by-laws in town, every one of them is in place for the safety and comfort of everyone in town.
If council can't come to a decision on the June 11 meeting, they'll hold it off until everyone has put in their two cents.
If you think the proposed animal control by-law is bloated, grab the knife and help trim the fat.
Let your councillors know your concerns and talk to people who are on the by-law committee.
I think this is one of the hotter issues in town because the nay-sayers are having their voices heard by the people in charge.
I'm glad the people who feel passionate about this are coming forward and not just griping to the person next to them in line at the grocery store.
Deh Cho Drum
Friday, May 11, 2007
Pop cans, broken glass, empty chip bags, pieces of unidentifiable plastic, empty paper coffee cups.
These used to be things that were a common sight during any walk in Fort Simpson. On Main Street, side streets and even in grassy fields it was hard to go more than two steps without finding some piece of litter.
Since May 3 things have been much better. The change is the result of the more than 80 people who came out to participate in the community cleanup organized by the Northern Store.
It was fantastic to see so many people put a pair of gloves on, roll up their sleeves, grab a handful of garbage bags and head out with a determined look on their faces. All around the village people of all ages could be seen picking up scraps of garbage and placing them in their sacks before moving on to the next area.
Some people went high tech in their garbage clean-up, coming prepared with fancy contraptions with claws on the end allowing you to pick-up litter without bending over. Others took it down a notch by using a stick with a nail on the end. Even more people simply spent a lot of time bent over reaching towards the ground.
While it was great to see the community pull together and take ownership of the village there was also a disturbing side to the cleanup.
Where did all this garbage and litter come from?
A Rowe's Construction employee was kept busy during the cleanup driving a loader around town to pick up all of the full or heavy bags of garbage and bring them back to the Northern Store where they were deposited in a waiting dump truck. While it was satisfying to see loader after loader of bags being dropped off it was hard not to think of where the garbage came from.
Over a full dump truck load of garbage was picked up during the two hours of the cleanup. It's likely that some litter was missed meaning that even more is lurking around.
Litter is like tangled metal clothes hangers or dust bunnies. Both of these things multiply when left to their own devices in dark closets or under beds.
It's easy to see how litter happens.
Many pieces of litter can be traced back to food products like beverages and snacks. People buy a snack or carry it out of their home while on their way somewhere. After finishing the food or drink, not wanting to be bothered to drag along an empty package, people let it slip out of their hands.
Few people are blameless and Fort Simpson isn't the only place with people who litter.
Once litter is on the ground there's not much you can do about it except have a cleanup. It's after a cleanup is held that people really have a chance to make a difference.
While dropping another plastic straw onto a piece of ground that is already covered in bits of stray plastic doesn't seem like such a big deal, being the first to drop that straw is another matter.
Spring is a time of new beginnings for many things. It also provides a chance for residents of the Dehcho to show that they support their communities by respecting them and keeping them clean.