Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Mayor offers up a plan for downtown youth issues, The School District increases the number of potential school closures in the district and someone call Carmen Sandiego, where on the hill is Prince Rupert's time capsule

Daily News, Front page, headline story
CITY HAS A MESSAGE FOR COMMUNITY PARENTS-- The large gathering of youth found on downtown street corners at night may soon come to an end, that if Mayor Jack Mussallem has his way. The Mayor outlined his thoughts and potential strategy on the always popular local topic as part of a front page story in the Daily News (Podunkian capsule can be found here).

Over 2,000 letters have been received by the Environmental Assessment Agency as British Columbians and other Canadians weigh in on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project. Enbridge the proponent of the project hailed the response as a significant development and one which they believe brings the process on step closer to becoming a reality.

The City's search for its time capsule moved on to a call for help from the public, the capsule which is believed to be somewhere on the hillside across from the hospital is to be opened at the city's 100th anniversary celebrations (providing they can find it at time). The news item on the search was also featured nation wide on the Globe and Mail's website.

Girls High School basketball and peewee hockey were the featured items in the sports section for Tuesday.

(Daily News Archive Articles links for December 8th)

The Northern View
Closure bylaw read for three elementary schools as Prince Rupert board votes for middle school model-- The Northern View provides the first look at the School District's deliberations at their Tuesday night board meeting. Among the developments which may surprise a few locals, the introduction of closure bylaws for Westview, Roosevelt and Port Edward elementary schools. That followed the vote to switch towards the middle school option, which would see Prince Rupert Secondary School close following the next school year. (see article here)

The Northern View
Walter Smith named Freedom of the City as Prince Rupert honours outstanding residents -- The city honours some local citizens who have made impressive contributions to the fabric of life in our city. (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Cullen Denounces HST Process -- With Parliament set to render final approval on the bill to harmonize the GST with British Columbia's provincial sales tax, the much discussed HST may be finally ready for the implementation phase. Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, outlined his anger at the push towards HST. (see article here)

CBC British Columbia, Daybreak North
No items for Tuesday were updated on the CBC Daybreak website
Daily News, Front page, headline story
City has a message for community parents
By George T. Baker
The Daily News

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It is time for Prince Rupert to reign in teenagers says Mayor Jack Mussallem.

Local teens habits of late night partying, haunting the local doughnut shop, hanging out with the bar crowd at 3 a.m. and purchasing illicit drugs have the Mayor convinced that something needs to be done to keep the people between ages 12 and 18 inside and safe.

Mussallem said when the Community Policing Officer role returns to Prince Rupert in January, he has asked the local RCMP to begin community initiatives to create safer streets. The job has been vacant since Cstbl. Krista Vrolyk transferred to Quesnel, B.C. last summer.

Mussallem said he has two priorities – one is bringing back the D.A.R.E program for children and the other is the defunct Citizens On Patrol for the downtown area.

“If we do not get those programs successfully up and running in 2010 – specifically COPs – then the city would have to look at going forward with some form of security with perhaps a security firm,” said Mussallem.

“We can’t afford that and it would go for an increase in taxes, which the city is trying to be very mindful of. But at the same time, if you have people who don’t believe it’s important to know where their kids are after midnight, the city does not have too many other choices.”

In the past, council has bandied about the idea of a teenager-only curfew, but the motion has never gained traction because of legal concerns.

Simply, Mussallem said he isn’t interested in investigating a curfew for local teens, saying it wouldn’t be likely to stand a test of the Charter of Rights and current provincial

“You haven’t seen any communities in British Columbia implement it and there is some talk that it wouldn’t stand the charter,’ said Mussallem.

Youth crime, however, has been under the microscope on the North Coast for some time.

In 2008, a report ranking crime stats by BC Statistics placed the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Region as the fourth highest ranked region in the province for serious crime involving youth. The SQCRD also ranked number five for serious property crime involving youth.

Some teens in Prince Rupert agree there is an issue with crime, but say they aren’t sure what would stop the problem outside of police work.

On a rainy night in November, the local Friendship House Youth Hub was filled with teens playing Nintendo, listening to raucous music and joking around. Outside the Hub, a flock of teens are having a smoke and joking some more.

Teenagers in Prince Rupert aren’t necessarily convinced that the City of Prince Rupert can do much to control the kids. A group of teens – Terri-Lynn Barki, Beatrice Bright, Randal Wilson, Darnell Temple and Josh Peardon – sat with the Daily News to respond to the Mayor’s call for more community enforcement.

The group said they engage in late night activities because it’s amusing.

“We head to Johnny B’s to watch the bar crowd – it’s fun to watch the drunk people and how they are always dropping money. We can pick up that money to buy munchies,” explains Barki on why she hangs out late night on Second Avenue on a weekend.

But the kids don’t spend their whole time on the streets. They are inside, like this evening, at spaces like the Youth Hub.

One of the young women is a pregnant teen. She said she used to perform Break and Enters and Snatch and Runs (purse snatching) until she became pregnant. She speaks about her behaviour as if she were a senior remembering a youthful past.

“It was about want – there was a lot of need in those days,” she recounted.

The Youth Hub is more heavily visited by Aboriginal youth, though organizers say that is not the intention of the space. It is meant to be a place for all teenagers in the community to enjoy.

Peardon said that he believes education was a fundamental key to changing the behavior problems.

“Without education, what else do you have in your world?,” he asked. “I am not sure if Aboriginal kids face special challenges, but I have been discriminated against and it always comes from adults. Prince Rupert seems to be a closed-minded town.”

Sam Bagg is a father of eight kids. He said he’s fed up with teens roaming the streets at night and wants the city to do something about it immediately.

“I support a curfew, for sure. Teens don’t know any better and they needn’t be out late at night.”

But Barki challenged that notion.

“Nobody would listen and there would be too many of us that would have to be brought in,” she said.

There are rules to follow at the Youth Hub, instituted in an effort to teach teens about personal responsibility. A swear jar has begun fining students for cursing. Clean up activities are important, as the Hub must return to the state the teens found it when they enter each day.

Temple said the only real answer lies with activity and not with policing.

“We need more participatory workshops. We need more activities.”

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