Crime Stats down in the City

Recently I read in the local papers that current statistics indicate crime is on the decline in New Westminster and across Canada. I sit on the New Westminster Community Police representing the Moody Park Resident Association. I’ve heard first hand from the New Westminster Police Department that crime in New Westmister has gone down and I believe what I’ve heard. But does that change my behaviours? Not really. Are my perceptions different than they were 2 or 3 years ago? Regrettably, no.

I have the advantage and disadvantage of living on 8th Avenue in Moody Park. It’s a nice neighbourhood that is transitioning well into a ‘better’ neighbourhood. The older homes are being purchased and renovated or restored, which wasn’t happening when we first moved into our home 6 years ago. I like to think that as each of us does our little thing to make our properties better, our neighbours are inspired to carry on the new practice, and little by little our neighbourhood improves. Whereas older heritage homes were being neglected and torn down, I see renos going on, new paint and gardens popping up. All these things are good. Perhaps Moody Park may never reach Queens Park stature in my lifetime, but there is a steady positive progression that is reassuring.

However on a recent Sunday morning, four separate police cars sped by the house within a half an hour – sirens blaring, flashing lights and going what had to be 100 km/hr. This happens throughout the day and night, every day. What impression does that make on residents who don’t get the personalized updates about crime stats? By the way, it’s not unusual to see/hear multiple responses to an event – police, fire and ambulance – as each agency jockeys to arrive first, take command and add to their statistics. There are times when my street feels under siege. We nervously joke that people are dropping like flies in the neighbourhood. I’ve lived in several cities across Canada, in larger communities than New West, and I’ve never experienced this at this magnitude.

From a personal perspective, I won’t walk anywhere in New West at night by myself, including my own street. I won’t run an errand on 12th Street after sundown. I won’t walk through Moody Park when there are groups of young men hanging out. Ironically when I attend the Police Committee meetings, which are held at the police station, I won’t park in the parkade after dark, and I won’t park on the side streets around the police station – after dark or otherwise. I simply don’t feel safe. I wonder if anyone will respond if I find myself in a situation. Other than emergency responses, we rarely see a police presence in Moody Park.

A few days ago, a woman strung out on something tried to get into my house in the middle of the day! On the same day, I received a phone call from a resident only a few blocks away, wanting to get some help from the Moody Park Residents Association because she repeatedly witnesses drug deals going down in front of her building. This isn’t the first resident to watch drug deals go down in front of their homes. I have firsthand accounts from at least three residents within 4 blocks of each other on the same street describing their frustrations that the police appear to be nothing about the drug deals. It’s a sad state of affairs when you not only know the cars the dealers drive, but you can also call them by name. And now there’s a new ‘girl’ working 12th Street, just when we thought the street was cleaned up. The stats may indicate crime is decreasing in New Westminster and across the country, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Crime may be going down, but do residents feel safe? I don’t think so. We may have a long way to go before people will instinctively say that we live in a safe city.

– Voice director, Jan Fialkowski

SD40 Capital Project framework announced

Congratulations are in order for all parties involved in what appears to be a very encouraging proposal and framework for resolving the many longstanding issues relating to the school district’s capital plan (a plan which includes replacement of New Westminster’s only secondary school, construction of a third middle school, and the replacement of John Robson elementary).



This proposal provides facilities for up to 3,000 of the district’s school children which is good news indeed.



We will be eagerly watching community reaction to the proposal which also includes replacement of the Massey Theatre and the addition of Neighbourhoods of Learning facilities.



Four key documents relating to the project proposal that provide additional details can be accessed through the links below:



Press Release



Capital Project Proposed Comprehensive Plan



Letter from the Minister of Education



Performing Arts Centre Business Framework Agreement



There are also some related articles in the local papers and these can be accessed through the links below.



Massey Theatre could be replaced as part of high school project (New Westminster News Leader: July 21, 2010)



Parents’ groups say high school/Massey plan is ‘promising’(New Westminster News Leader: July 22, 2010)



School plans unveiled (New West Record July 21, 2010)



We’re looking forward to the comments and reactions from the community to this long-awaited announcement.



The Positive Role of Voice

Some time ago the Voice directorship decided to re-energize the Voice blog, “The Express”. Through our blog we have attempted to bring to your attention issues of concern in New Westminster, and also some news items that we deem to be relevant. Sometimes we comment on items in the media, sometimes we arrive at issues before the media does, and we think it is important to put all of these issues before you.

By its constitution, Voice is an electors’ organization, whose main purpose is to find and support candidates for the positions of Mayor, Councillor and School Trustee. Our constitution also provides for us to raise issues of concern and to put them before the community.
Voice pursues a “big tent” approach, and to facilitate this we do not get bogged down in the debate regarding policy issues or ideologies. On some things, however, we all agree. Voice is committed to transparent and accountable government. We also believe, firmly, that government should deliver value for money.

Unlike many of the current and past office-holders in New Westminster, we are not beholden to special interests; we are not funded by them, nor are our strings pulled by them, or by anybody, for that matter. We answer to the residents, businesses, and taxpayers of New Westminster – that’s it. Many of our directors and members come to community involvement via the resident’s association movement, and thus we are very grass-roots and community/neighborhood oriented.

To get to the core of this posting, we are very aware that those who oppose us have labeled us as negative and wish we would just go away. We are also aware that this negative label has had some traction in the community. We understand why and how this has happened, but we feel we have a constructive role to play and we would like to carry this out and be perceived in a positive light.

On our blog, you will find posts of all kinds. Some of these could be interpreted as being positive, others as negative and several fall somewhere in between. Not all comments that are sent to us are appropriate to be posted and the blog’s moderators reject a number of comments.

We do not apologize for the fact that we were formed because we would like to see the City and the School Board go about their business in a very different way than is currently done. Our blog has played a vital role in getting out our message. We have been very vocal about lack of transparency and accountability, and also about value for money.

After the last election, some things did change as a result of the concerns and issues we exposed, but in our opinion much work remains. The city’s financial position and much of our public infrastructure have deteriorated over the last seven years. Our amenities have not kept up with the needs of our residents as we moved towards major densification of the city.

Many of the issues that we have brought forward have proven to be exactly as we initially suggested. We brought up the issue of severe dysfunction in the Development Services Department specifically and in the City generally. As we exposed, this was leading to the waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As events unfolded, our observations were proven to be very accurate. Were we negative as our detractors have claimed? We maintain that the negatives were already there and that we were just exposing them and bringing them to your attention.
We strongly believe in the public’s right to know about the conduct of public individuals involved in the lawsuit currently being brought against the city regarding the 12th St. liquor store. We think it is important to put the facts before you. That is why we are attempting to secure transcripts of the court proceedings. Of course those who were involved claim that we are being negative. They would love dearly to have the facts remain hidden.

The same can be said for the debacle at the Pier Park. We stated at the time in very clear terms that the City should take out an option on the waterfront property and exercise it only when due diligence was completed. Our opponents were very upset with this position and they claimed that we were opposed to the park and that we were being negative. Once again though, as events have unfolded, our concerns have been borne out. The cost of the park has tripled, and only one third of the anticipated scope of the work will be done in the initial stage. Were we negative on that issue as some have claimed? We think not. We believe that for items as large as the $60-100M Pier Park project; there should have been a comprehensive, transparent and honest process to lead to a decision.

That’s how a Voice Council would have conducted the process and that is how we would approach all of our decisions.

On the School Board side of things we believe that our Voice Trustees have brought forward many positive initiatives and we look forward to that continuing.

In conclusion, we will continue to put issues in front of you and we hope that you will judge us by what we bring forward and for the issues we advocate. We hope that you will be discerning, instead of just believing what our detractors say about us and how they would wish to have us branded.

Please continue to read our blog and better yet, give us a response outlining your opinions.

– Neil Powell
President
Voice New Westminster

Book Signing Opportunity for Book on the New Westminster Frasers Baseball Club

New Westminster’s own, and Councillor Betty McIntosh’s husband, Ken McIntosh has written a book on the New Westminster Frasers Baseball Club (1974).

He interviewed the then 22 year old general manager who is now Vice-President/Assistant General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. Twelve players were contacted and interviewed. The book details the season, where the players are now and what they are doing.

The cover was done by Vancouver artist Jennnifer Ettinger who has done the murals at Nat Bailey Stadium. The book sells for $19.95. It is the perfect gift for any New Westminster baseball or history fan.

There is an opportunity this weekend for you to pick up a copy and get it signed. Ken will be conducting a book signing at Renaissance Books, 42 Sixth Street, on Sunday July 18 from 1-3 PM and also at Village Coffee Lounge, 705-12th Street, Sunday August 1st from 1-3 PM.

Yet Another Great New Westminster Festival

I recently read that New Westminster is fast becoming the “City of Festivals.” Well we have another one to add to our repertoire.

A committee of involved residents in the West End are putting on New Westminster’s latest festival, Summerfest in Grimston Park, this Saturday, July 17th. The event will apparently be a family-friendly evening of play and live music. It kicks off at 4pm with the opening of a mini-Farmer’s Market. Along with some of the regular Farmer’s Market food options there will also be pizza from Papa Dave’s Pizza and coffee by donation from the Village Coffee Lounge.

Families will also have an opportunity to explore the newly completed playground. The evening goes late as there will be a fantastic outdoor screening of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Be sure to bring your picnic blankets.

For more information check out the Tenth to the Fraser’s website.

Who was in charge? Who is telling the truth?!

It was interesting sitting in courtroom 101 last week listening to some of the testimony from our Mayor, the City Administrator, the Director of Legislative Services, the former Director of Planning and Development, and the present senior planner. The process was tedious as the lawyers built their cases brick by brick.

Former Director of Planning and Development, Tim Whitehead was anything but kind to his former employers or his former staff, but he did admit on the stand that he (and by inference the City) was responsible for some of this debacle in the first place. Then we had Rick Page, Director of Legislative Services, and the Mayor, Wayne Wright, denying any responsibility, and pointing the finger at each other for this mess. Following the Mayor and Rick Page, we listened to the master of the dodge and weave, City Administrator Paul Dominato, deferring all responsibility to others as he decreed he was either not involved or had no input.

As I listened to the testimony unfold I was struck by one thought – no one in New Westminster is in charge. The City operates in spite of those at the top. At the end of the trial, the judge in this case will have to decide who is telling the truth. But even if the City wins the case, the citizens of New Westminster have still lost.

Blair Armitage

World Cup Weekend in My Country of Birth – Neil Powell

Well, after a few weeks of less than thrilling games of 1-1, or 0-0 ties we got to the semi-final matches of the Football (Soccer) World Cup which were way more exciting. With more on the line and a sudden death elimination game at stake the teams played very different games than they tended to play in the early days of the tournament.

Now we’re down to the final weekend with the third and fourth place finish game to
be played on Saturday (Uruguay vs. Germany) and the final match to be played on Sunday between the Netherlands and Spain. Neither team has won the World Cup before so it will be exciting to see either team win.

I’ll be watching the game with a number of Dutch friends so although Elizabeth and I love Spain and our memories of our time there I’ll likely be cheering for the Dutch team. Both teams have played very good games to get them to this point though.
What are your thoughts on who might take first, second and third positions?

“Procrastination” Letter to Editor – by Gavin Palmer

Voice director, Gavin Palmer, has submitted the following letter to local media.

Our City has been offered a large financial gift of $35 million for a Multi-Use Facility from Starlight Casino. This DAC funding was negotiated by the City in 2007 and the funds must be used to pay for the complex that has to be completed by 2013. It was a big surprise for our civic officials who held an open house consultation on June 10th to find out, according to Bill Harper, chair of Arts and Culture Commission, that there is “some genuine confusion in the community about the components of the Arts Centre in the future Civic Centre.”

I have two questions for our civic officials and City council.
1) If you knew that this project must be completed by 2013 or we lose the funding and you knew the terms of the deal in 2007, why did you wait until June of 2010 to invite the people of New Westminster to an open house to find out what they would like to see in this facility?
2) Why does this City’s leaders and officials seem to only get on with improvements in the City when deadlines approach with the threat of losing grants or funding? A few examples are: the parks and trails in Queensborough that must be completed by year end; the final agreement of NWSS building plan which is holding up provincial funding for the needed construction of an elementary, middle and high school (the latter should have been built 10 years ago); the waterfront pier park (now granted a small extension); and the civic centre.

A concerned taxpayer, Gavin Palmer

News Flash – Mayor Wright takes the stand

As we write this, Mayor Wright is reportedly on the stand in the New Westminster courthouse giving his testimony in the Windsor Hotel lawsuit.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as information comes in.

Until then, readers might want to check out the Newsleader article by Michael McQuillan who attended the trial earlier this week and filed a story about the testimony given by former Development Services Director Tim Whitehead.

McQuillan’s article is posted on the News Leader’s website and can be accessed by clicking here.

McQuillan recounts how Whitehead’s response to the numerous questions posed by Nirmal Walia’s lawyers was typically “I can’t recall.” This is consistent with the information we posted on Monday regarding the testimony Whitehead gave last week.

McQuillan also reports on a negative comment made by Whitehead about one of the city’s planning staff, namely Steven Scheving whose emails and reports Whitehead said were full of “tangents.”

Again, this corroborates the information we posted on Monday.

Stay tuned!




Youth Centre @ Moody Park Fundraising Campaign Wants Your Help!

The Youth Centre @ Moody Park fundraising campaign is one of 20 winning entries in the Kraft Celebrations Tour contest. To win one of the $25,000 grand prizes we must receive the most online votes.

The youth centre campaign is only up against one other project in BC so we have a great chance of winning $25,000-but we need your help! Yes, it really is that easy!
Voting for youth centre entry starts Friday, July 23 rd 9:00am PST until Saturday, July 24th 8:59am PST.

To vote, visit http://kraftcelebrationtour.tsn.ca/top20/1699#matchup
You only have 24hrs to vote so please save time in your calendar to vote on Friday, July 23rd beginning at 9:00am PST.

Please vote frequently and please add this to your facebook and distribute to all of your family, friends, contacts, etc (Votes from across Canada and internationally are encouraged!)

For more information on the youth centre campaign, visit www.youthcentreatmoodypark.ca
10 communities (one in each province) will be profiled on TSN’s Sportcentre broadcast. The winning entries will be announced on TSN’s Sportscentre on July 26th.