Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rock in the New Year with a Civil Liberties Abuser

Carnegie members thought they were done dancing to the tune of John Ferguson when he retired as head of Carnegie Security. But now they are expected to ring in the new year dancing to his band, the Rockingguys.

Despite his record of involvement in abusing the civil liberties of low income Downtown Eastsiders who couldn't afford lawyers, Ferguson and his band the Rockingguys have been invited to play the New Years dance tonight at Carnegie. The poster at Carnegie advertises the Rockingguys as offering "lots of sax..." and "party favours (and after party favours)". Ferguson also played the Christmas Volunteer dance at Carnegie.

First things first: the guys who play with Ferguson in the band, most or all of them being Downtown Eastsiders, are not involved in human rights abuses. Forget them.

The complaining is about Ferguson. One musician is asking: Why is Ferguson taking money that is supposed to be available to be earned by low income musicians in the Carnegie Music Program? This musician says that Carnegie used to pay bands $500 for dances on Special occasions, but he believes it is now $750. That money is split amongst the band members. Ferguson has been known to donate his share to the Carnegie Newsletter, but that doesn't make it right, according to the musician. Musicians who frequent Carnegie -- virtually all of them are living on welfare or less -- want the opportunity to earn that money. Carnegie funders are told afterall that the Music Program is to help Downtown Eastsiders develop skills.

Ferguson has rarely been seen at Carnegie since he retired. He is not part of what the povertarians like to call the "community". Where was he when his former fellow CUPE members were disenfranchising the poor by barring homeless William Simpson from the building after they had elected him to the Board? What did he do? He showed up on the picket line to support the very people who had been involved in the barring. He stood on a picket line with Dan Tetrault, Rika Uto, and Colleen Gorrie. When Board member and musician Rachel Davis was defending the right of Simpson to sit at the Board table, Ferguson, if I remember correctly, refused to talk to her when she approached him.

The musician believes that the reason Ferguson is being hired for dances on special occasions that pay well -- the regular monthly dances pay $250 (about $50 per band member) and they are often assigned to low income Downtown Eastsiders -- is that it relieves Carnegie staff of the responsibility of having to stick around until after the dance ends to pay the musicians. "The New Years dance doesn't end until 12:30," he said. "They can leave the money with Ferguson and he'll pay the musicians." Staff trust Ferguson. He is one of them.

This is not the first time I've heard grievances aired about Carnegie staff or retired staff siphoning money off the Carnegie Music Program. I heard a different musician complain a year and a half or two years ago that the Carnegie Music Program was becoming a "staff perk". He named "Peggy and Sue", two women employed as street workers in the Carnegie Street Program, who were being hired to play and sing at Special events. Like the other complainant, this musician didn't mind people from outside the neighborhood showing up to contribute to the music program, he just didn't want current or ex CUPE members being given priority over local people in earning what little money the Music Program had available.

Complaints about the Music Program remind me of what Nathan, a guy who used to run a Philosopher's Cafe on the third floor of Carnegie said, when asked why Governor General Michaelle Jean would give former Carnegie Director Michael Clague the Order of Canada for his work with the poor ...without asking the poor what they thought of him. Clague was Director while Ferguson was head of Security, a period when civil liberties abuses were rampant at Carnegie. Nathan's response was this: The middle class talk to one another, not to the poor. That's the way the world works.

Happy New Year.

(The above photo was taken on the Carnegie outdoor smoking patio on Main St. on Dec. 22 or 23, 2008)

Four Cops with Guns Drawn at Main & Hastings

Just after 3:30 p.m. today, Vancouver Police apprehended a guy in front of Carnegie Center who apparently was "flashing knives around". A man told me, "I heard yelling, 'Get on the ground! Get on the ground! Then I saw four cops with guns out."

A male police officer reportedly asked underclass men standing around in front of Carnegie if they had witnessed anything. They said they hadn't. But they had of course seen something because they were chatting with one another about the incident. One guy later said, chuckling and shaking his head, that one of the knives the guy had been flashing was large.

There was blood on the sidewalk. In addition to the blood in this photo, there was a smaller area of blood nearby on the sidewalk. The blur on the right of this photos is someone's pant leg as they walked by. I asked a witness if the guy on the steps had been stabbed and he said, "No."

Police sat the suspect on the steps of Carnegie Centre in handcuffs. Paramedics arrived and put a white bandage around his head. He was apparently bleeding.

A person with a camera offered to take some photos and send them to me. Comments late made by the photographer via email left me with the impression that it's time Chief Chu had a talk with his constables about respecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When the photographer went to take a photo, a female police officer with dark hair apparently made a point of stepping in front of the camera to block the shot. Photographers have as much right to work on a public sidewalk as police do. There is no expectation of privacy on a sidewalk and taxpayers have a right to see photos of police at work.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mission Possible Impossible during Holiday Season

William Simpson, a homeless man who frequents some of the free meal places on the Downtown Eastside, has this to say in an email about Mission Possible Compassionate Ministries Society which operates out of a storefront on Powell St.:
Mission Possible claims to be a 'relief' mission and sports a sandwich board that also claims they help break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, etc. The mission has closed for the past two holiday seasons since USA missionary Brian Postalwaite (sp) has taken the helm.

Hasn't the Xmas/New Year season traditionally been a suicidal time and the most needed time for pastoral care?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Comes Down Must Go Up

Saturday evening, I walked by the Chinatown bakery where the awning had fallen but the awning wasn’t on the sidewalk anymore. It was back up and two service men were on ladders under it.

One of the service men, who spoke good English with a Chinese accent, asked, "Why are you taking my picture?" "For the internet news", I said.

He then volunteered a comment about the awning business being brisk after the snowfall. "I've done sooooo many today." He listed some of the places he'd been working that day: "Commercial [Dr.], City Center, Victoria [Dr.]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Snow-Packed Awning Crashes to Sidewalk in front of Chinatown Bakery

When an awning falls in Chinatown, does anybody hear? People in the second floor dining room at Carnegie Center heard a crash. One Carnegie member recalled that he was watching a movie in the dining area at the time; he's pretty sure it was Christmas Eve.

It was not until he and others went outside later that they realized that the awning over the bakery on Main St. (next to the Royal Bank at Main & Hastings) had fallen to the sidewalk. It appeared to have collapsed under the weight of the snow.

The above photo shows the holes left after the bolts gave way and the awning fell.

As of this evening, the awning was still lying on the sidewalk. It's filled with water, after last night's rain.

Friday, December 26, 2008

City of Vancouver Serves Free Christmas Dinner

On Christmas Day there was a free turkey dinner open to the public at the Evelyn Saller Center on Alexander St. (Many Downtown Eastsiders call the Center "the 44", as some of these facilities used to be at 44 Cordorva St.)

Everyone who walked in the door was given a dinner ticket that had "City of Vancouver Dept. of Housing and Properties" written on it. They were also given a second ticket that they could take to Santa in the recreation room and exchange for a gift after they'd eaten.

Santa gave one guy thick socks. He gave a woman a package with three types of cocoa butter in it.

There was a Chinese woman serving the turkey dinner from the steam trays in the cafeteria who seemed to be enjoying Christmas. She was singing, "Christmas comes just once a year." One guy who had been in the line up said, she's probably happy about the double time she's getting paid.

Salvation Army: Turkey with a TV Camera

Salvation Army Harbour Light near Cordova & Main St. on the Downtown Eastside served a full turkey dinner on Christmas day. There were volunteers of all kinds. There was even one boy about 13 years old serving from a steam tray. Another teenage boy was serving tables. There was a Jewish couple, Ezra and his wife, serving from steam trays. All the volunteers were friendly and warm.

The dining hall was full, with new people constantly coming in from the waiting room. The wait was about 15 minutes in the waiting room where they played Christmas music. There was a red banner at the front of the room with something on it about accepting "Christ", but there was not a heavy emphasis on religion.

There was the occasional double-dipper. One guy who looked downtrodden said he had come through the waiting room twice so he was on his second turkey dinner, but he was too full to eat a second apple pie. So he offered it to the guy beside him who thanked him a couple of times. Another guy eating a dinner asked a middle-aged male server if he could take a second dinner home in a take-out container. The male server said they occasionally allow that but don't like to make a practice of it; a little later, a female server gave him a second dinner in a styrofoam take-out container.

Everybody who ate dinner was handed a gift as they walked out the door. The gifts were things people could use, like winter gloves or socks. And the gift packages included a couple of candy canes, a mini chocolate bar, and chocolates wrapped to look like large gold coins.

The Salvation Army runs on government funding as well as donations. But the people serving were volunteering their time.

There was a television camera at the dinner for a while too. But not during the entire dinner.

Boxing Day Deception at Carnegie

A thirty-something man says he travelled in the falling snow from 41st Ave. and Victoria Dr. to Carnegie to use the Vancouver Public Library public-access computers because "all the other libraries are closed." When he arrived, the computer room on the third floor of Carnegie which houses most of the public library computers in the building was closed.

This is false advertising. The computer room was scheduled to be open on Boxing Day. Carnegie is funded to be open 365 days a year.

The closure of the computer room was frustrating to a number of Carnegie members. One regular computer room user said the volunteer who supposedly hadn't shown up, Norman, had actually left two months ago and the Carnegie Volunteer Co-ordinators Colleen and Sindi hadn't replaced him. Director Ethel Whitty seems to make no contingency plans for the holiday season or any other season to ensure that services stay open even if a volunteer doesn't show up.
The closure of the 3rd floor computer room means that the few other computers available in the building are heavily taxed with line-ups.
(Above photo taken from inside the Carnegie Library at around 3:20 p.m. today as snow falls outside.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Has Jim Sinclair been Naughty or Nice?

On Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. labour unions hosted their annual Christmas dinner at the Martime Labour Hall in East Vancouver. The dinner was advertised on a poster at Carnegie Center as being for the "less fortunate", but everybody who showed up was welcomed.

The hall was full, and a special City bus repeatedly circled back to the Downtown Eastside to transport more people to the dinner.

The dinner consisted of turkey, dressing, gravy, a mixture of corn and carrots, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and a bun. People donating their Christmas Eve time to dish up food from the steam trays were warm and friendly, exuding Christmas spirit -- not a grouch among them. Volunteers were walking around the tables in the hall offering people pumpkin or apple pie for dessert, and coffee, pop or juice to drink.

A few people brought plastic containers to take an extra dinner home. The servers willingly filled them up. The first thing they ran out of was dressing.

Santa turned up too, with gifts for children. And there was live music too, although one guy eating dinner thought the singer ruined John Lennon's Christmas song. "He should give silence a chance."

There was also a clothing room with donated clothing.

The line-up into the dinner wasn't as long as last year, which according to Downtown Eastsiders was the case with other free Christmas dinners on the Downtown Eastside. That could be the reason many adults leaving the Maritime Hall after dinner were given whole pumpkin or apple pies to take home, along with the usual bag of groceries containing a couple of large potatoes, two large carrots, and a can of baked beans.

Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour, was there as he is every year, wearing a Santa hat. Sinclair looked thinner than last year, less paunchy. He was enthusiastically serving food from a steam tray along with union elves. (He is fourth from the left in the top photo.) He later walked around the hall and chatted up the volunteers. Sinclair didn't chat Santa up though, so he never got asked whether he's been naughty or nice. You be the judge: Evidence-tampering in CUPE police complaint

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snowy Jack

The Gassy Jack statue in Gastown in Sunday's snowfall. (Photo taken Sun., Dec. 21, 08.)

Up to 20 cm. of snow is forecast for tomorrow.

Merry Christmas.

Pathways to be Locked all day Tomorrow

The povertarians are taking off early. The doors of Pathways Employment Center at Hastings & Main will be locked all day tomorrow.

Brian Adams' Music Studio just before a White Christmas

A meteorologist on the radio said that Vancouver has a white Christmas about once every ten years. This is one of those unusual years.

This photo of Brian Adams' studio in Vancouver was sent to me just after it was taken this afternoon at around 2:30 p.m.

In previous years, I've seen Christmas lights in the windows when I walked by Adams' studio, but the photographer said there don't appear to be any this year.

Orca Sculpture Snowed Under

The Spirit of Vancouver Orca sculpture in downtown Vancouver, Saturday evening, Dec. 20/08

Monday, December 22, 2008

Central Library Evacuated due to Fire Alarm on Roof

At around 8 p.m. this evening, a loud bell started ringing - bing bong, bing bong -- at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library. A woman came on the loud speaker to say that the fire alarm on the roof had gone off and she would keep us posted.

Later she came on the loud speaker again and in a more excited voice told us to evacuate. She said something about "the roof" but I didn't hear exactly what, because of the noise the alarm was making.

I asked one of the staff persons putting on an orange neon vest where the fire was and she said, "I don't known, one of the upper floors".
Patrons came down the elevators and streamed into the lobby. As seen in the above photo, two firemen entered the library.

Suddenly there were staff everywhere wearing orange neon vests. It was obvious that staff have emergency response training.

One staff person, a middle aged woman without an orange vest, zipped into the washrooms to make sure there was no one in them. She kept leaning on people lingering over the first floor computers to get a move on.

I wasn't paying close attention but it seemed to me that the entire library was evacuated in under five minutes. At the risk of sounding like I have Stolkholm Syndrome after being a taxpayer held hostage by library staff this summer, I will say I was impressed by the performance of library staff.

Some staff and patrons went outside and stood on the snowy steps. From the steps, billows of what looked like steam or smoke poured off the roof. People were saying it was probably just steam. One guy looked around and said that none of the other buildings had it.

At about 8:40 p.m. staff were allowed back inside the library. A few patrons were lined up in the lobby in front of the locked doors at about 8:45 p.m. when I left.

Drug Addict Slapped Around by Drug Dealer

This afternoon at about 4 p.m., I was walking by First United Church at Hastings at Gore St. A man I presumed was a drug dealer grabbed a known addict and marched her to alley behind the church.

She was yelling that it was just three dollars that she owed him, and he didn't seem to dispute that. She was yelling at people in the vicinity, "Could somebody give me three dollars!" He was holding her tightly by the arm in the alley, yelling at her, shaking her. Finally he swatted her and threw her to the ground. In the above photo, you can see her on the ground in the alley behind First United Church, as a car passes on Gore.

This woman is one of the few Asian addict-panhandlers I see on the streets. She walks through McDonalds restaurant at Terminal and Main regularly to panhandle customers. She has a sense of entitlement that leaves my jaw dropping. Once she approached a couple sitting at a table in McDonalds and asked for money. They refused and she insisted that they should give her something, "I didn't walk all the way up here for nothing!"

But I've never seen her be violent.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let Them Eat Turkey: The Sequel

Last year, I wrote,"Let Them Eat Turkey", about the annual Christmas dinner hosted by the film industry at Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside. This year's Christmas dinner took place today.

The annual dinner is Hollywood North's way to "give back to the community" which is a magnet for filming due to the 'gritty' nature of the area. Unlike residents of more affluent areas such as Kerrisdale, Downtown Eastsiders are not paid for filming disruptions. They are reminded that there will be turkey at the park at Christmas.

"And so this is Christmas and what have you done?" The film industry delivered another Christmas dinner today, as tasty as last year's: peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, dressing with mushrooms, and cranberries. The workers continued to be cheerful. The line-ups for turkey continued to be long.

The film industry has continued it's less than stellar performance on health and safety regulations when it comes to Downtown Eastside residents. One woman in the line-up told me that Muriel Honey at the City Film office is still giving permits to the film industry to park film trucks and dressing rooms with generators outside her only window, even though they promised to stop after she got ill from fumes. (She promised to send me photos of the trucks and dressing rooms that she took when they were parked there on Remembrance Day.)

Photo above: This woman was in a festive mood, wearing Christmas bows on her hood.

One man who had waited in line in the cold for half an hour -- not everybody had to wait that long -- called out to to the staff working over the steam trays, "You guys have the warmest spot."

It was cold outside today. Note the bunny ear muffs on the female server on the right of the photo, standing by the window of the catering truck.

There were a total of three catering trucks from which the turkey dinner was served. One can be seen in the center of this photo on Dunlevy St. with a line up of people headed toward it. (Oppenheimer Park is to the right of the line up.) Another catering truck, an orange one, can be seen in the top left of this photo. The line up for that truck was along Powell St.

A worker gives out plates of desserts. In the background of this photo is Oppenheimer Park.

There was a variety of cookies and cakes for dessert. I got a chocolate cookie with real chocolate chips, an almond cookie, and a date square. They seemed to have been made from scratch. Later a young woman came around and gave out muffins, the large ones that they often sell near the cash register in corner stores.

Along with cookies, there was also hot chocolate.

The pink building on the right of the photo above is a permanent park building. The tents seen in the photo were set up by the film industry for this event. There was one tent where women could pick up donated clothing, another where men could pick up donated clothing, and another which acted as a dining room.

At the beginning of the event, there was a small tent in the middle of the park where a couple of bands played.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mayor Robertson Considers Treading on Civil Liberties to 'Protect' Homeless

Photo of VPD car taken on the evening of Dec. 17th on Hastings St.

Mayor Gregor Robertson has responded to the death of a 47 yr. old homeless woman at Hornby and Davie early this morning, by stating that he is considering infringing on civil liberties. Robertson's response to the death of "Tracy", who was spotted by a taxi driver engulfed in flames at 4:30 a.m., was reported on the CKNW radio website,
"Vancouver's mayor says letting people who can't take care of themselves die in the street is immoral, and something needs to be done, even if it means treading on their civil rights."
Vancouver Police already have the power under the Mental Health Act via "Car 87", a police car carrying an armed constable and a psych nurse, to apprehend people who are at imminent risk of harming themselves. That is, if it's used as it was intended. And that's a big IF.

If the Vancouver police -- both the VPD in Vancouver and the RCMP at UBC -- in conjunction with psych nurses, would stop perverting such power for political ends such as intimidating whistle blowers who are embarrassing United Way, the Vancouver School Board, or CUPE, they might be more available to help homeless people.

Last night VPD patrol officers claim they made contact with Tracy twice, the last time being around midnight. They claim they offered her shelter but she declined. It's interesting that the police then dropped the issue. If you're a whistle blower, enormous resources will be expended on portraying you as a nut, digging through your medical records. I covered one such case involving an author of a United Way report who said her Christmas holidays were ruined because the VPD and their mental health nurse kept showing up at her home, flashing the lights on the police cruiser outside to create drama. All because, as United Way admitted in the police report, they were afraid her report could affect revenues.

As Chair of the Police Board, Mayor Robertson has the power to ensure Car 87 is used as it was intended.

Careful: not all homeless people who won't go to a shelter are mentally ill. Tenant Assistant Program Coordinator Judy Graves, who walks the streets and helps the homeless get a place to stay, says some homeless people won't go to shelters because they can't take their shopping carts or their pets.

Before Tracy's Death, the Dealth of a Homeless Man on Tuesday went Unreported

Apparently a homeless death on Tuesday night went unreported by the media.

The following was posted today on the blog davideby.blogspot.com:

"From Stephanie, a regular reader and plugged in DTES resident, worker and observer:

I'm sorry to report this, but there was a death Tuesday night that didn't make the media - I found out about it Wednesday night from a colleague who works for an agency that serves people with mental illness. Three people went to sleep together, and only two of them woke. Apparently the young man who died was here from up north and had only been in town four or five days."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

McDonald's Asst. Mgr. Threatens to Call Police on Blogger

If Nike's slogan is "Just do it," McDonald's could be "Just wash it."

On the evening of Sun. Dec. 7, a customer in McDonald's restaurant at Main & Terminal near Science World -- that was the day of the Santa Claus parade so it had been busy in McDonald's -- went to the washroom and left her coat on her chair. When she returned, her coat was gone. She asked the cashiers about it and one young male with "Ali" on his name tag said, "I threw it in the garbage."

Ali, who has short dark hair, a calm demeanor, and appears to be of middle eastern descent, walked over to the garbage can and, as the customer watched, fished her coat out. He had to reach down under several trays of garbage and food scraps to find it. 'It had ketchup and grease on it from other people's food", said the customer.

"Just wash it," Ali said calmly, shrugging. The woman was upset and said she thought McDonalds should buy her a new coat. The Assistant Manager, Jennie, a young, thin, white woman with long dark hair, said that wouldn't happen. She used the exact words Ali had used, "Just wash it."

Jennie defended Ali, saying that he had been doing his job as "floor workers" are trained to do it. If there is an empty tray, she explained, the floor workers are under instructions to throw everything away.

When Jennie later realized that this incident was going to be reported on the internet, she insisted that she had never said that tossing coats in the garbage was official McDonalds policy. She asked Ali to back her up on that and he agreed. The boss is always right.

Jennie stated then that if her handling of this incident was reported on the internet, "I'll call the police." She repeated a second time that she would call the police, saying, "It's illegal to put somebody's name on the internet."

Not only the woman's coat but the contents of the pockets ended up in the garbage: her house keys, ear phones, and gloves. She hadn't realized when she went to the washroom that her keys were still in her coat pocket; usually she carries a purse. So she was grateful to find that they hadn't been lost in the garbage. When she got home she noticed that two of the keys were bent though. That could have resulted from the compressor inside the garbage can which presses the garbage to make it more compact. Her ear phones were still in her pocket too. But she was missing a glove.

And McDonald's is missing a customer.

(Above photo: McDonalds at Main St. & Terminal Ave. on the night of Dec. 24, 2008)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Take Out Your Umbrella. It's Snowing!

It's snowing today in Vancouver. Lots of umbrellas out. I don't remember people back East using umbrellas when it snows.

It's welfare day too. So there are lots of people out.

This photo was taken on Main St. near Cordova on the Downtown Eastside.

Harassment Campaign Continues Against Woman Who Challenged Use of City Security Database to Compile Fraudulent Information

Photo: Snowing Outside Carnegie Center, Wed. Dec.17/08

A harassment campaign at Carnegie Center continues against a woman who challenged the use of the Carnegie Security database to compile fraudulent information about members who speak up.

On two recent Saturdays, she was denied access to Vancouver Public Library computers in the Carnegie Learning Center. A witness has confirmed that recently the computer monitor was hostile to her the minute she walked into the Learning Center. The monitor said he was not going to allow her to use a computer. She left without saying anything but she was upset.

The same thing happened last Saturday. The monitor allowed men to use the computers who were not students -- one was a guy who uses the computer to monitor the stock market -- explaining, "It's Saturday. It's my choice." She was not one of the chosen few.

She says the monitor "tried to pick a fight" the instant she walked in the door last Saturday. He barked, "Sign in". She returned the same treatment, barking "Can I put my tray down first!" [She was carrying a tray with soup on it from the cafeteria.] The monitor then called over the young Asian volunteer at the reception desk and told him to watch her...and call Security on her. Part of the conversation was inaudible to her but "He said 'Call Security' loud; he wanted me to hear".

I asked her if she reported this incident to Security and she said, "No, they would write me up." But she wanted this latest round of harassment to be on record, so she asked me to publish a report.

She said that over the past ten days or so, she has also been twice driven out of the Seniors Center when she attempted to use a Public Library computer. The first time, when she sat down the coffee seller, Devor, turned on a war movie with a lot of shooting and noise. He didn't turn it on at the beginning of the movie, she explains, he turned it on in the middle of a gun battle scene. And he turned up the sound on the surround-sound tv. She got up and left. But before leaving she crossed her name off the list of people who had used a computer so that she could have her turn later. Devor got angry and told her not to cross it off. "They don't want me in there," she says.

This weekend, she went to the Seniors Center again to use a computer. The hockey game wrap-up was on, she says. "It wasn't loud." Devor saw her and changed the station to the middle of another show, which she thinks was a sit com. He cranked up the sound loud. She left.

She is not the only Carngie member who has told me this goes on. When I recently bumped into a union tradesman who frequented Carnegie after work until he retired, he was chatting about Carnegie and mentioned Devor. He didn't know his name but he called him the 'goof' in the basement or something like that -- I can't recall the exact word he used-- but he echoed almost exactly what the woman had said, "He turns the tv up loud to get you to leave." He said it had never actually happened to him -- he had stopped going into the Seniors Center out of fear of bed bugs -- but had heard others at Carnegie talking about Devor doing this.

Another Carnegie member, Jim, also finds noise a problem when he's using a computer in the Seniors Center. But he believes that if Devor wasn't there to man the Seniors Center, it would be worse; management would often just lock the doors. On the issue of noise, Jim shakes his head. "You're trying to concentrate," he says laughing, "and there's huge explosions going off."

Whitty ackowledged during a taped conversation that having the Public Library computers in the same room as the tv was a constant source of conflict. She mused about moving them. She has been musing for years.

Ethel Whitty and her City Hall supervisor David McLellan have lost control of Carnegie.

Fired! Judy Rogers' Legacy of Corruption at Carnegie Center


Judy Rogers has been fired after ten years as Vancouver’s City Manager.
Judy Rogers has been fired after ten years as Vancouver’s City Manager. While Rogers acknowledged to the media that it was not her choice to leave the job she "loved", Mayor Robertson was twisting his tongue into euphemisms: “Technically, it’s a cessation of her duties by mutual understanding.”

The firing has swept Rogers off the world stage as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver approach. She had been a City appointee to the 2010 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee in Vancouver [VANOC]. Robertson told the media that he will announce her replacement soon. She will remain as Chairwoman of 2010 LegaciesNow.

A pattern of human rights abuses at Carnegie Center was ignored by Rogers

Rogers’ removal from VANOC has come as a relief to alleged victims of human rights abuses under her reign as City manager. VANOC Executive Director, John Furlong, was asked last month by an alleged victim of human rights abuses and fraud at the City’s Carnegie Center to remove Rogers as an Olympic organizer. For a decade, Rogers had knowingly allowed human rights abuses to occur at Carnegie Center in Vancouver’s low income Downtown Eastside. Downtown Eastside residents pressing to improve this situation under Rogers had as much chance of success as the Jamaican bob sled team in the Winter Olympics.

Rogers was at the $292,000 a year pinnacle of a triad of women earning six figure salaries under whose supervision the City’s Carnegie Center — the “livingroom” of the Downtown Eastside — has gained a reputation for being Vancouver’s Guantanamo Bay. One of these women, General Manager of Community Services Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, “retired” earlier this year after a lawyer informed the City in writing that her civil liberties abuses targeting a male Carnegie member (which had been widely publicized and were known to Rogers) were “contrary to the rule of law”. The last woman standing is Ethel Whitty, Director of the Carnegie Center.

Correspondence signed by Rogers as early as 2000 leaves no doubt that she was aware of a pattern of civil liberties abuses at Carnegie Center. Yet not one formal recommendation for change by residents has been implemented.


Here is Rogers' legacy: Low income people are routinely barred from City services at Carnegie Center and expected to serve their sentences, sometimes without being told what they are accused of, and virtually always without the right to appeal. In addition, there is evidence that the City Security database is being used to compile fraudulent information about Downtown Eastsiders, an issue that Mayor Sullivan was asked to ensure was criminally investigated. But the Rogers' administration may be most notorious for setting a precedent in allowing interference in election results; a homeless man who accomplished the feat of getting elected to the Carnegie Board was swiftly barred from the building and from Board meetings by City Hall. And let's not forget the atmosphere of blog-burning which emerged at the City under Rogers; a witch hunt for bloggers was carried out at Carnegie to expel those calling for a forensic audit and squealing to taxpayers when the poor found doors locked to richly-funded computer and educational services. And Rogers never stopped allowing the City's official website to provide a link to the Carnegie Newsletter which is subsidized by the City while giving a political opponent labels like “blog bozo”, “slimy”, a “blank”, a “four year old spoiled brat pissing his pants”, a “pest”, a “neighborhood snitch”, a “dismal excuse”.

Not only did Rogers do nothing to curb civil liberties abuses at Carnegie, she exacerbated the problem. She allowed Whitty and Forbes-Roberts to hire a new Security boss, Skip Everall, whose experience had reportedly been at a hospital mental ward. Now a Carnegie member targeted by Security for some real or imagined infraction, has about as much power as Jack Nicholson up against nurse Ratshit.


Rogers allowed confidentiality laws to be ignored when convenient

Not only did the poor who use Carnegie have little protection from civil liberties abuses, they also became accustomed under Judy Rogers to having little protection under British Columbia’s confidentiality laws.
Take the case of the barred elected official, William Simpson. As part of a damage control strategy when news media began asking questions about the barring, Rogers apparently had no problem with Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty appearing on CBC Radio to announce that Simpson had been found guilty of posing a WorkSafe risk. Strange, there had been no mention of any WorkSafe risk in the official letter on City letterhead that Simpson had been delivered informing him that he was barred. A year has gone by and he still has not been informed that he posed a WorkSafe risk. But a hundred thousand radio listeners have been informed.

A woman who was barred from the Seniors Center for talking back to a notoriously abusive man has also had first hand experience with the approach under Rogers' reign that confidentiality could be disrespected when convenient. Everall avoided telling the woman that she was barred – even though she saw him at least twice on the date of the barring -- and she was instead informed by an alcoholic dumpster diver. When the woman complained, Whitty told her during a taped conversation that it was “not practical” for Everall to find her in the building to inform her himself. But it is apparently practical to break confidentiality laws.

Again, none of this is news to Rogers. Rewind to a 2000 case involving the mysterious barring that occurred a little too conveniently after a woman had spoken up about ongoing sexual harassment. Rogers personally handled that case and was aware that the barring had been executed on behalf of the City of Vancouver by a self-acknowledged ‘John’ who was vocal about his sex life with a prostitute when he volunteered once a week as a coffee seller at Carnegie.


Rogers lackadaisical attitude toward confidentiality in City institutions under her supervision may have caught up with her when it touched City councilors who have more power to create consequences than low income people with no money for lawyers at Carnegie Center. When City councilors attended an in-camera meeting about a $100 million loan guarantee to the developer of Vancouver’s Olympic Village, Rogers allowed an aide to breach confidentiality by telling the media that Council members had voted “unanimously” to support the loan guarantee.

When a confidential document was taken from that in-camera meeting and leaked to the media, an investigation was launched. Incomplete results of the investigation which was under the control of Rogers were leaked to the media, pointing to Vision Councillor Raymond Louie as the culprit. Louis was put in the position of insisting, ‘I am not a crook’, in the last week of an election campaign. He threatened to sue. Vision won the election. It was time to judge Judy.

It was not only City councilors who appeared ready to judge Judy, but ironically the union representing City staff whose backsides she had covered for years while they subjected the poor to civil liberties abuses. She had angered the Canadian Union of Public Employees during last summer’s strike when she distributed a confidential memo to City staff suggesting that rather than sincerely negotiating a new contract, CUPE was exploiting the strike so that the political left could win the next civic election. When the union-backed Vision-COPE party won the election, CUPE wanted Judy judged.


Rogers continued to cover backsides even when her own was being given the golden boot. The Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee, who spoke to Rogers after she was fired, wrote, "And she made a plea for her professional staff and colleagues to keep their jobs, saying they were continuing to do good work in trying to wrestle down troublesome issues such as homelessness, poverty and the Downtown Eastside."

Good work? Too often there is no sign of work at all. David McLellan who took over as General Manager of Community Services after Forbes-Roberts got fired....typo, "retired", seems to have done nothing about fraud at Carnegie. Same goes for Deputy Manager Brenda Prosken. Evidence that the Security database to compile fraudulent information about Vancouver residents should have been pounced on instantly by these two. Mayor Sullivan was eventually asked to ensure a criminal investigation into one particular case involving the alleged retroactive entry into the database of 15 allegedly fabricated witnesses without names. A 16th witness -- the only one with a name -- who could contradict this claim of 15 witnesses predictably was not entered into the Security database.

Calls for a forensic audit of Carnegie during Rogers reign may have to be revived now that a taxpayer rip-off at Carnegie is re-emerging under McLellan and Prosken. The problem of Carnegie taking millions a year from the taxpayer but not consistently delivering educational and computer services was curbed to some extent when bloggers persistently exposed it -- but it was not curbed until after a coordinated effort by City staff to, as George Bush would say, "smoke 'em out", and bar bloggers from the building failed. This month and last month -- I've had several reports this week -- low income people have arrived at Carnegie on several occasions to find the computer room locked, even with the weather bitterly cold and people needing indoor activities. McLellan and Prosken have also not reinstated the homeless man who lost his right to enter the building after he got elected to the Board. At least one victim of human rights abuses at Carnegie would like to see McLellan and Prosken's heads roll along with Rogers'.

But that is unlikely to happen. Mayor Gregor Robertson, co-founder of Happy Planet Juice, who fired Rogers just four days after being sworn in as Mayor, says he will not be doing further house cleaning at City Hall. After sweeping Rogers out of the City Manager's office and off the Olympic Organizing Committee, Robertson says he's done.

Sweeping Rogers off the Olympic Committee will be easier than sweeping away the mess she leaves though. One alleged victim will be asking Olympic sponsors such as Coca Cola and RBC to ensure that complaints of human rights abuses at Carnegie are addressed before they lend their names to the Vancouver Olympics. The world is watching, and they may see a less than happy planet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm Not Holding Doors for Strangers in Vancouver Anymore

This evening I bought a coffee at McDonalds at the Central Library. The young worker, a Filipina woman, acted as though "thank you" wasn't part of her vocabulary. More often than not, it's like that at that particular McDonalds.

But what happened next bugged me, as it has bugged me so many times in Vancouver.

As I was leaving McDonalds, even though my coffee was getting cold -- it's freezing in Vancouver this evening -- I waited and held the door for an elderly woman with a cane hobbling toward the restaurant. As I was waiting, I was thinking, "I bet she won't even say thank you." She walked through the open door. Not a thank you to be heard.

When this happens, it always knocks my mood down a notch.

I'm finished. I'm done. I'm not going to hold doors open anymore for strangers in the uncivil city. I'm going to be Vancouverude.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Halle Berry Scantily Dressed during Filming after Vancouver's First Snowfall

Last night, we had our first snowfall in Vancouver and tonight at about 10 p.m., Halle Berry was running through the intersection of Hastings & Columbia, "half naked in a ripped dress" as one Downtown Eastside resident put it. As she ran, sixties era cars rushed at her, tires screeching.

The movie was set in California. I noticed California plates on one of the cars when I walked up Hastings. "There was bloody ice on the street," a Downtown Eastsider pointed out afterwards, laughing.

Photo: Note the snow on the roof of the police SUV which was in an accident on the block where the Halle Berry movie was being filmed. This photo was taken around 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 14, just a couple of hours before Berry was running through the intersection at the end of the block.

The Downtown Eastsider watched three takes of Halle running through the intersection. "Each time, the cars got faster", he said.

He was chuckling about the big afro hairdos on the Black guys trying to look like they were right out of the sixties. One guy with an afro whose job it was to walk toward the intersection during each take, told the Downtown Eastsider that Berry was playing a woman with a dual personality. He explained that during this scene, she had just switched personalities and was getting herself out of a situation her other personality had gotten her into.

Related Story: Real Life Police Crash at Halle Berry Film Set

Vancouver Police Crash in Real Life during Filming of Halle Berry Movie

A cop in an unmarked vehicle was doing a U-turn at roughly 7:30 this evening in the middle of the 100 block Hastings St., and was struck by the car behind. That's what Marie, a young aboriginal woman with long dark hair walking along Hastings St., said.

"I saw the whole thing," Marie remarked. "It was the cop's fault."

There were lots of people on the sidewalk, some coming and going outside Insite, the supervised drug fixing site and apres fix cafe. One guy gazing at the crash site joked, "It's hard to know what's part of the movie." I didn't see filming close to the crash but police had Hastings St. blocked off from Main St. to Carroll. I don't know if it was blocked off at the time of the crash. When I walked up Hastings again a little after 10 p.m., filming with Halle Berry was going on at Columbia and Hastings using sixties era cars.

The photographer who passed the photos along to us reports that when she was taking photographs, a young, tall, white male cop in a yellow jacket strutted over to her and said, "Technically I could seize your camera as evidence." The photographer thought he was trying to tell her in a coded way to stop taking photographs. "I have a Charter right to take photographs", she responded politely. He repeated, "I just want you to know that technically I could seize your camera as evidence." Then she held up her camera to take a photo which would include him. See how fast he turned around.

Standing on the sidewalk later, she said to a friend, "I thought he was threatening me." Her friend responded, "He was."