I live in a great city, Edmonton, Alberta and in a wonderful neighborhood just off 107 avenue near 116 st. It’s got huge old trees lining the streets and fantastic little stores and restaurants. There’s a large Muslim community here and, all American marketing to the contrary, a sense that the family core is still the most important thing in the world. The people of this community are hard-working and put their money and time back into the community. They own businesses and get involved in community-based ethnic centres. This is one of the few places in Edmonton where you can eat Ethiopian food or buy perfume from the Middle East.

Despite all that, this neighborhood has problems. There are daycares in abundance around here, but the liquor stores outnumber them. There are restaurants with traditional foods, but their fronts are old and need upgrading. There are homeless by the score around here, struggling to get by day to day. Hookers have found their way back and, with them, johns, drugs and drug dealers. The halfway houses meant to assist those coming off the streets, booze, alcohol or any of life’s other ills bring a type of person who is prone to causing trouble. It’s not uncommon to see the police blocking off my street because they need to apprehend some dangerous criminal or some party has gotten out of hand again.

So, about 4 months ago I e-mailed Jane Batty my concerns. I did not receive so much as an acknowledgement so I e-mailed her office again in November. In the e-mail I stated my concerns. I cited the crime that goes on in the neighbourhood and the problems I saw. I told her that there was a nightclub called “Papyrus” that was a source of great concern as it was often the site of drunken brawls and weapons were not unheard of there.  I asked that Ms. Batty help the neighbourhood. I wanted incentives for businesses, legitimate businesses, to move in here. Maybe assistance with upgrading store fronts, maybe an upgrade for the street itself. I know these funds are available. I also wanted to help pressure such businesses as liquor stores to move out. Really, a liquor store on every block is a bit much. I wanted Ms. Batty to pressure such rental companies as Mainstreet and Boardwalk, both with bad reputations for lack of concern in the care of their buildings or who they rent to, to take a more active role in their rental properties. I also desired an increased police presence. Ms. Batty, it seems, was too busy to even e-mail me in return. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the only person in this neighbourhood who feels this way. Many of us want this neighbourhood cleaned up. What we want to know is why can’t we get the action we feel is necessary?

The response I got from her office was enough to make me grind my teeth in frustration. A half-hearted effort to say thanks but go away. Paul Feketekuty from her office took time from his valuable day to write:

Thank you very much for voicing your concerns regarding your neighbourhood. We have sent your concerns over to the appropriate departments. Ms. Batty appreciates your concerns and as things progress we will keep you informed.
Wow. Really. I’m overwhelmed. His counterpart, Ryan Pleckaitis writes;
In light of your email, I have forwarded your concerns regarding the Papyrus nightclub to the Public Safety Compliance Team to investigate.
In other words, passing the buck. What I wanted was for Ms. Batty’s office to look into the matter of the neighbourhood as a whole and start instigating changes. That didn’t happen. Instead, it was left to someone else to deal with.
So let me explain what the cost of this buck-passing and non-interest has been. On New Year’s Eve I looked out my window to see half a dozen police cars lining down the block, closing down the street and stringing up yellow tape. Personally, I hate that yellow tape. It never bodes well. Almost a day later I found that my neighbourhood had the dubious honor of having the first shooting death of the year in Edmonton take place. One half-block from my home. Someone is dead and the Papyrus was the location. I hate to say I told you so but…
I have watched the 118 avenue neighbourhood get upgrading and assistance with their problems. We in this neighbouorhood are only asking for the same thing. But wait. There’s a reason for upgrading 118 avenue. They will be closer to the proposed “improvements and redesign” of the airport. Money. You can’t bring in a nice shopping centre that will mean taxes and money for the city if the neighbourhood surrounding it is crap. The 107th avenue neighbourhood doesn’t warrant the same treatment because we aren’t as close.
I wish Ms. Batty would read this blog. I doubt she will or, if she does, that she will care. She has shown a resounding lack of concern in this neighbourhood during this term in office and I doubt it will change. Someone has died since my e-mail to her office voicing my concerns. How many more deaths will it take before she turns a lazy eye this direction? This shooting was one half-block from my balcony. It’s not the first. It won’t be the last. Happy New Year, Ms. Batty. Hope you get the blood on your hands off. Hope you can get your hands nice and clean.