When I think of the past year, I think about how much we have been able to accomplish, but also how much more we have to do going forward. From the good work in crime prevention and reduction, to the closure of Forster High School, we have had our share of ups and downs throughout the year.
Let us take a look at some of the key areas where progress has been made, where challenges lay ahead and where we are going, together, as a community.
Crime Prevention and Reduction
The Bridgeview Neighbourhood Watch team is operating in full speed. According to the group, they have contributed, either directly or indirectly, to nine arrests in the west-end. In addition, they have provided Windsor Police with useful tips and information throughout the year. In sum, they are doing great work. I hope they receive more help in the new year so they can expand their information sharing and further assist Windsor Police. Moreover, earlier in the year, the City installed a light (Willy's Light) in North Merritt Park which alone has decreased the amount of illegal activity in that park.
The same neighbourhood watch group is reaching out to youth in the area. See what else they are up to here: Bridgeview Community Outreach.
We hosted a town hall with the help of residents on December 5th for the neighbourhoods close to the Church of the Ascension in hopes of establishing neighbourhood watches in that part of the west-end. I will follow up with the Children’s Safety Village in the new year to see how progress is coming along there.
Following our town hall, several residents have asked about forming a neighbourhood watch in their area of the west-end. I received calls and emails from neighbours who live close to Mic Mac Park and Windsor Regional Hospital just off of Prince Rd. I will work with Children’s Safety Village and Windsor Police to organize a few more town halls in the new year so that residents can get organized and form their own neighbourhood watch groups.
A few months back, CBC Windsor and Windsor Police hosted a community town hall where residents asked Police Chief Al Frederick any questions or concerns they had related to crime in our city. I was featured on CBC as part of this initiative representing the west-end. I asked the Police Chief if there is a specific strategy employed for the west-end regarding crime. We face a higher crime on person and on property than the city average so it would make sense that we should have a unique strategy to deal with our peculiar situation. I will keep pressing this issue forward as I believe it is an important one not just for the residents in the west-end, but for crime reduction in general.
A Strategy for the West-End
I proposed a strategy for the west-end several months ago. You can read my article about it here: West End Strategy.
Since that time, I have met with out city councilor, administrators at city hall and several stakeholders in the area. I have been able to gather and analyze important data and statistics on the area and just recently, myself, a local non-profit and other partners submitted an application to receive funding for this initiative. We will hear sometime over the next few months if we were successful (fingers crossed) and if so, we will be able to aggressively move forward on this very important initiative.
Some pieces of the strategy may be ripe to roll out sometime next year such as an important development regarding the university area that I will propose in the spring of 2013.
Forster High School
Dr. Hanaka said it best in his opinion column to the Windsor Star: “When the cause is right, we will fight.” And that is exactly what we did: West End Residents Fight for Forster High School. We fought long and hard to prevent the closure of Forster. The Board of Trustees voted in November to close Forster high school and amalgamate it with Century just east of Huron Church on California Ave.
I was asked to sit on a committee to fight the closure. That same committee intends to reconvene in the new year to discuss the options before us now that the board voted to close Forster. Whatever the committee asks of me I will do and let me be clear, the fight to have a high school west of the bridge is not over.
Awareness Surrounding the West End
The ourwestend.com blog now has over 300 subscribers from the area. Folks are sharing information and working together in ways not seen before. I receive emails nearly every day from residents regarding issues in the area. I see nothing but more of this continuing in 2013. Let’s keep up the good work of sharing information and working together for the common good.
Over the next several years, City Council will be looking at closing community parks all throughout the city. Five of the parks on the chopping block are located in the bridgeview neighbourhood in the west-end. Many residents in that neighbourhood (myself included) are opposed to the park closure, but we must not just oppose the idea, we must also come up with solutions to make these parks viable. I touched a bit on this in my article earlier this year: Community Parks in the West End.
I encourage all of the residents interested in preserving our parks to really think outside of the box about how these parks could be repurposed to better reflect the needs of residents in the area. I know personally there are families that have decided to move in an area where there is a close-by park. We want to attract more families to the west-end. We must preserve our parks.
Many were glad to see that finally something was being done to Grace Hospital. The eyesore will be no more by summer of 2013. What will be developed in its place? We do not know, yet, but hopefully something that complements the area and makes it more attractive, especially to the residents who live in the surrounding neighbourhoods, they deserve it.
I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that good things come out of the talks between the Mayor and the Ambassador Bridge. The status quo is no longer an option for residents in the west-end: Status Quo Not an Option. Here’s to hoping there will be a resolution that will see something being done to the boarded-up homes in 2013.
Myself and a few volunteers dropped flyers in some of the neighbourhoods close to the College Avenue Community Centre around the time when we were told that the Sandwich Community Health Centre would not be moving there. According to good sources, there is good reason to believe (fingers crossed again) that the deal may be revived. I heard overwhelmingly from residents that they wanted to preserve the centre. Let’s hope that good news flows from the second go around at saving the CACC.
Lastly, there have been a lot of smaller developments that occurred throughout the year bringing positive news for the area. Some of these positive developments include: The repurposing of Blessed Sacrament Church, residents coming together to eradicate graffiti in their neighbourhood and community churches coming together to clean up local parks. I have been fortunate to lecture to students at Forster and Assumption on civic engagement and jobs. Check out some of the great things these students are doing: Forster Youth Win Entrepreneurship Challenge.
We have made a lot of progress but there is still much more to do. As we move forward, I intend to work closely with our city councilor, our elected representatives, local businesses, community stakeholders and residents in making the west-end a better place to live, work and play. It has been a tremendous year and I look forward to everything that 2013 will bring.
Have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a relaxing holiday with family and friends.
My Warmest Regards,