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Fixing the blight

The Free Press deserves commendation for again drawing attention to the problem of surface parking lots in our downtown (The fight against the blight, June 25).

If the city really wants more residential development, it will have to do something about the ugly appearance of these lots, especially when they are empty on weekends and look even worse. Many are badly maintained, with weeds growing in cracks, surrounds such as fencing neglected, shrubberies running wild and mingling with weeds and garbage.

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We who live downtown can't go for a walk without looking at these sights. It's galling to think that many of these lots are primarily for workers living in leafy suburbs, many of whom could well use buses.

So some Americans, living in sunny Florida or elsewhere, own some of these parking lots? How did this happen? Who authorized these properties to be sold to people out of our country? Why does Canada continue to sell off so many of its assets to foreigners?

Is it free trade or apathy? City council wrings its hands over the problem, but as the years go by, it seems to do nothing.




Pick any summer evening and walk in the shoes of a first-time visitor to our city and one can easily appreciate the "blight" of our downtown open space used for parking.

Many of our guests in downtown hotels have commented on walking two blocks in any direction only to find a gravel or a poorly maintained parking lot void of trees, landscaping or anything architecturally pleasing. It's not much incentive to further explore our downtown and not a good return on our tourism marketing dollars.

Without a strong civic policy, these vacant lots are a no-brainer for the developer. Tear down a building, level the ground and start collecting parking revenue almost immediately. Less investment, fewer taxes and problems and no incentive to do anything more.

Do we need downtown parking? Absolutely. But most urban centres have insisted on building up into multi-storey facilities that fit into the local architecture, not an empty space of convenience that sends the message that we don't have any concept of what else to do with this prime piece of downtown real estate.


East St. Paul


Paladin of justice

Re: Time to get victims off the street (June 27). I don't know how good James Jewell was at solving murders (I suspect very good), but his blueprint to significantly reduce homicides involving women at risk is flawless.

The man is a paladin of justice. Hire him, fund him and get it done.




It is no surprise to me that retired police officer James Jewell would advocate for more of a police state in order to clean up the streets. Persons in need of protection from themselves should be left alone in a free country rather than rounding them up and forcing them to adopt mainstream values as the Soviet Communists tried to do with the capitalists. Forced conversion of values works, but as the Spanish Inquisition and the Soviet gulag tells us, it does not work for many and is a very ugly business.

How about we repeal drug prohibition? Then so-called addicts can acquire their drugs at the drugstore. Repeal would remove contact with the black market and the inherent violence associated with it. Prices would drop drastically, which means anybody working the streets for drug money would not face anywhere near the exposure they do now.




Misconceptions abound

In the June 22 story Trustee irked by kids not in class, a Winnipeg School Division trustee expressed his concern about the amount of time students are spending out of class during the school year.

To clear up some misconceptions, the date for final classes varies between schools. In fact, only a handful of WSD schools ended courses on June 12, with most others in the city doing so only for Grade 12s on that day. The reason the Grade 12 curriculum ends earlier than others is so students can complete exams, finish up assignments or work on course completion to ensure graduation.

Also, Grade 12 marks have to be submitted weeks earlier than others to prepare for graduation.

As for the amount of time students spend in class, study after study have shown that lecture-based instruction is the worst way for students to learn and that interactive activities provide a better learning environment. Also, if students are participating in a work-learning experience or practicum program, does that mean they have learned less than other students?

Learning is always occurring. The focus should be on the quality of education rather than the quantity of time spent in a classroom.




Look beyond accounts

Jen Skerritt's June 26 piece Famed architect urges city to preserve his building prompts this brief comment. Quite aside from the sheer wastefulness of demolishing a perfectly usable and functional building, surely city fathers (and I use the term loosely) could look beyond the account books and preserve some of the few esthetically pleasing buildings in the city.




Gunning down stats

Letter writer Ron Charach (Using same tactic, June 26) claims that as many people in the United States are killed by guns as by car crashes. This is completely false.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics on causes of death released in 2009, the homicide rate per 100,000 people using firearms was 3.7. (The rate for all homicides was 5.5.) The fatality rate from motor-vehicle accidents was 11.8. By comparison, deaths from falling was 8.1. The death rate from gun accidents was 0.2.




Shift of convenience

Canada Day is our national birthday and our national holiday. As such, it is an immovable date, along with Christmas, New Year's and Remembrance Day.

Why then are stores allowed to open on Sunday, July 1, and close on Monday, July 2? Is Canada Day just not that important anymore? Shame on our legislators if they have condoned this shift of convenience in legislation.

Can you imagine the uproar in the U.S. if July 4 celebrations were moved simply because they fell on a Sunday? For many, Sunday is a day of worship, and what better way to thank God and count our blessings that we live in this country than to celebrate the birthday of our nation by church attendance?



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2012 A13


Updated on Friday, June 29, 2012 at 10:56 AM CDT: adds links

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