Friday, February 15, 2008

Smoke and Chocolate

Wednesday evening I attended a session put on by the Fire Department at the library, where they presented a draft proposed bylaw about smoke detectors. As we all know, smoke detectors can save lives, but often, particularly in rental properties, they aren't used effectively. We wanted to get input from landlords on how such a bylaw could be implemented so that it works for both landlords and tenants. We hope that having such a bylaw will save lives - in a number of recent fires, smoke alarms have not functioned, sometimes because the batteries have been removed.

The bylaw focuses on a couple of ways of making smoke alarms more effective. It proposes wired-in smoke alarms, to prevent the problem of batteries being removed. Related to that is the location of smoke alarms. They need to be close to where people are sleeping. Often, if they are in kitchens, they become an annoyance because they go off if something is spilled on a burner, for example. (I know that's happened in my home more than once.) This may cause people to remove the batteries or disable the alarm to stop the noise, forgetting to fix the alarm later.

By involving landlords at this stage of bylaw development, we hope to be able to implement the bylaw cooperatively.

About 25 people attended the meeting, which I thought was excellent for such a cold evening, and discussion was good. Points raised will be taken into account as the draft bylaw is revised. We hope to have the bylaw before council within the next month.

I met the next day with Ken Hunter at Bylaw Enforcement, where we discussed some of the input received at this meeting. I often meet with the staff at Bylaw Enforcement, usually about housing issues - renters whose accommodations don't meet the housing standard, for example. As was well-presented in their session with the media last week, Bylaw Enforcement focuses their efforts on issues related to basic living - housing standards, noise complaints, junk or garbage in residential areas. The hope is that by keeping neighbourhoods clean and ensuring that families live in suitable homes, a neighbourhood will be less tolerant of criminal activity, as people are able to take more pride in their homes and surroundings.

Bylaw Enforcement brings together various agencies in a coordinated effort, addressing these issues more proactively, rather than after serious problems occur. I find that the people who work in this unit, which certainly isn't glamorous or high profile, really believe in what they're doing, and are trying to make the city a better place to live at a very basic, day-to-day level.

On Thursday evening, which was Valentine's Day, of course, Andrea and I went to a Chocolate and Wine fund-raiser put on jointly by the Art Gallery and the Prince Albert Community Foundation. It was fun to dress up and mingle with a wide range of people, talking with many old and newer friends - sampling interesting pairings of wine and food, enjoying some lovely music, and bidding on silent auction items. Many people raised questions about council goings-on, of course, and had interesting questions and suggestions for the city's future. People see opportunities out there, and hope that council will be receptive to their suggestions.

Once again, I was impressed by the way two community organizations came together to partner in trying a new way of fund-raising. And my dentist assured me that eating chocolate is not bad for your teeth - not great for the waistline, of course, but not bad for your teeth.

"Every private citizen has a public responsibility." - Myra Janco Daniels

No comments: