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Downtown discomfort

Re: AirCan move 'fishy,' Katz says (Oct. 3). A lifelong Winnipegger, I truly love our city and our downtown, through which I frequently walk. The changes over the past 25 years have created a vastly improved urban environment.

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At the same time, our commercial heart has suffered from the results of myriad social problems that we as a society sadly have failed adequately to address. The unfortunate result is that many people, especially women, feel uncomfortable walking on the sidewalks in our central downtown. I believe this discomfort is one reason why attracting new retailers has proven such a challenge. It is also one reason there are so many new hotel rooms in the Polo Park-airport area.

Many years ago, the downtown sidewalks were prominently patrolled by police officers on foot. Today, police foot patrols have been replaced by less expensive and less effective Downtown BIZ patrols and occasional forays by police cadets.

We need to bring back police foot patrols, not to clear the sidewalks of every social problem, but in part to reassure pedestrians, especially women, that there is someone nearby who can and will assist in the event of an unwanted intrusion into their enjoyment of our vastly improved downtown.

Mayor Sam Katz can take pride in the progress made during his term in office. But rather than complaining to Air Canada, he should now work to ensure that Winnipeggers and visitors alike feel more comfortable on our downtown streets, by implementing downtown police foot patrols.




Mayor Sam Katz should stop the finger pointing and look at the real reason that Air Canada wants to move their layover quarters farther from downtown. it is very likely to save money on hotel rates and travel to downtown.

He should first try to resolve the safety issues for the general tax-paying citizens. If this is resolved, the Air Canada concerns will have been addressed.



Rose-tinted account

In his angry dismissal of an earlier letter, Mike Fegelman (A vicious slur, Letters, Sept. 30) offers a rose-tinted account of life in Israel. His claim that students "are educated at the same schools" is particularly absurd. The Israeli ministry of education supports four types of public school: state, state-religious, independent and Arab.

The first three types serve primarily Jewish students. The Arab schools have a different curriculum from the Jewish schools and are taught in Arabic; they also receive far less state funding per student.

The only exception to this pattern is a group of five schools developed by the Hand in Hand organization, which actively seeks to expose students from Jewish and Arab backgrounds to each other's cultural experiences. This is a brave experiment, but the total number of students in Hand in Hand schools is only about 1,000 out of a total school-age population of 1.4 million -- less than a 10th of one per cent of the whole.




Following the application by the Palestinian Authority to the United Nations for recognition as a sovereign state, the mainstream media has once again focused on Israeli settlements in the West Bank as being the major obstacle to a peace agreement.

It is interesting that no mention is made of the fact that the authority of the P.A. extends only to the West Bank and not to Gaza, which presumably would be part of the state that the UN is being asked to recognize.

This past May an attempt was made to form a unity government comprising Fatah-ruled West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza. This was presumably done to impress the international community that, following a bloody civil war, the two sides were coming together to build a new country.

Progress stalled, however, when they could not even agree on who would be the new prime minister. And how could the application coming before the UN appear to be credible when Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel and openly calls for its destruction? There lies the major obstacle to peace.

Sixty-three years after rejecting the UN partition plan for Palestine, and after rejecting opportunities for peace following wars in 1967 and 1973 and again after an almost certain deal had been brokered by U.S. president Bill Clinton, the fundamental issue still remains the inability of a significant number of Palestinians and their supporters to accept the reality of a Jewish entity in their midst.

Recently a national newspaper ran a major piece on the conflict, soliciting the views of younger, well-educated Israelis and Palestinians. They, after all, would be more open to compromise than the established older leadership.

The view of the younger Israelis was generally pessimistic, while the majority of the younger Palestinians were opposed to the two-state solution. Why? Because the goal is still one Palestine without Israel and the Jews. And there, very clearly, is the real obstacle to peace.

Bob Freedman

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg

Refreshing change

I totally disagree with letter writer Judy Brown (Backward move, Sept. 30). It is so refreshing to turn on the local CTV Morning Live show and actually see what is happening in our own backyard and get local news, weather and traffic updates.

Who cares what's happening in the East? That national news jumps right over Manitoba like we don't exist.



A city matter

In the sidebar to the Sept. 29 story Councillors ditch tax-free salaries, I read with astonishment that Mayor Sam Katz has sent letters to all provincial party leaders asking them "how they plan to tackle the deplorable state of Winnipeg's infrastructure?"

I think all citizens of Winnipeg need to ask Katz that same question and remind him that the city of Winnipeg's infrastructure is the responsibility of the city, not the province.

As long as the province has its own budget challenges (and deficit), and the more important responsibilities of health care and education, not to mention rural infrastructure, he is foolish to think the province will bail out the city after decades of neglect -- and zero-tax-increase policy -- by our elected mayors and councillors.



Hoover spent big

Wherever did some Canadian economists get the strange idea that U.S. president Herbert Hoover "helped plunge his country into the Great Depression through austerity measures" (Economic woes bedevil Ottawa, Sept. 28).

Hoover never practised austerity. His government dramatically increased government spending. Federal spending rose from three per cent of the U.S. economy in 1929, the year he took office, to 8 per cent in 1933, the year he left office. The nation's budget deficit became so huge as a result that by 1932, it was spending more than $2 for every dollar it took in.

It was not austerity that deepened the Great Depression, but other measures backed by Hoover, like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. That massive tariff increase triggered trade wars between the U.S. and other countries that wiped out millions of jobs.


Washington, D.C.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2011 A11

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