Thursday, June 28, 2007

City on "weak, weak ground" in barring elected blogger.

Bill Simpson, a homeless Carnegie Board member, was standing on the sidewalk in front of Carnegie Centre on Monday evening while the Board meeting took place inside.

Ethel Whitty, the City of Vancouver's on-site manager at Carnegie, was inside at the Board meeting revising her story about why City Hall had barred freshly elected Bill Simpson from entering the Carnegie Center.

The new and improved version of Simpson's barring being presented inside by Whitty was so new in fact that the City had not yet run it by Simpson. This new version of the barring surfaced just a few hours after Internet news sites began reporting that Downtown Eastside senior, Wilf R., had asked Mayor Sam Sullivan to investigate the undemocratic barring of a Carnegie Board member by City managers.

Let's look at the three versions that the Vancouver City vacillators have now provided for the barring of Bill Simpson.

Various versions of the Vancouver City vacillators:

Version 1: Simpson was barred for "blogging" on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer

In Dec. 2006, William "Bill" Simpson arrived at the Learning Centre on the 3rd floor of Carnegie only to be escorted by Co-ordinator Lucy Alderson to the office of Skip, Head of Security, and told that he was barred from the Learning Center. It was because, Alderson told him, he was blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. In the weeks prior, a computer monitor, C.M., says he was interrogated separately by Alderson and Whitty about whether Simpson was blogging, and whether a woman who had been seen chatting with him was blogging.

Simpson quickly made a written request that Carnegie management provide him with the reason for the barring in writing so that he could appeal. But Whitty, Alderson and Skip in Security, have evaded responding for six months now, despite a reminder to do so.

Version 2: Simpson was barred for "linking" to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog
When Simpson arrived at the front door of the Carnegie Center last Friday, June 22, 2007, he was stopped by security and told to wait for the arrival of City managers, Ethel Whitty and Dan Tetrault, who work on the third floor. Whitty delivered a letter to Simpson barring him from the entire building indefinitely. In the letter, signed by City Hall's General Manager of Community Services,Jacquie Forbes-Roberts (who was paid $199,032 last year), Simpson was notified that he was being barred for operating a website which "links" to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. He was no longer accused of having written the blog.

In the letter, Forbes-Roberts claimed that the DTES Enquirer blog to which Simpson "links" contains "inaccuracies". Upon reading the letter when Whitty handed it to him, Simpson asked, "What inaccuracies?" Whitty declined to provide him with even one example.

(The letter on City letterhead contained extensive smears, all in the form of sweeping generalizations about the Downtown Eastside Enquirer, all unsubstantiated. The DTES Enquirer will not be reproducing it as we are reviewing our legal options.)

Version 3: Simpson was barred because the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog to which he "links" allegedly creates a "Work Safe" issue at Carnegie

Between last Friday and Monday, June 25, 2007, the Vancouver City vacillators changed their story again. Whitty arrived at Monday's Board meeting at Carnegie with the new and improved reason for the barring of Simpson, a version which to this day, now Wednesday, Simpson has not been informed of. Whitty announced that the reason for the barring of Simpson was that, "In fact, we are left with an unsafe situation in the Carnegie where there are staff members who are afraid to come into the building because of the situation with the blog." This new angle that Whitty referred to as a "Work Safe" issue had never previously been mentioned or even hinted at, not in the six months that the City of Vancouver management have been subjecting Bill Simpson to barrings. Whitty, predictably, pointed to no specific statement on the blog that had ever made anyone feel unsafe.

Board member Grant Chauncey told Whitty that he had the WorkSafe reference at home. "Maybe you could point it out, where this applies because," he said emphatically, "I don't see it…I want you to show it to me, right, as soon as we leave here." Whitty refused: "I'm not going to show it to you…" Chauncey reminded her that she had a responsibility to explain this barring to the Board. "I'm not actually responsible to you", she retorted.

Then Whitty told Chauncey, "I'm explaining it to you out of respect." But of course she had just refused to explain it.

Two people who several Carnegie members believe have some explaining to do are Mayor Sam Sullivan and City Manager Judy Rogers.

Sam? Judy? Why did the City of Vancouver suppress evidence?

The new 'unsafe Simpson' angle was floated by the City almost immediately after the following politically uncomfortable stories appeared on internet blogs and news sites in response to the barring of Simpson: 1) the City of Vancouver letter barring Simpson had been signed by Forbes-Roberts' who, along with her boss Judy Rogers, had a documented record of complicity in a previous suspicious barring at Carnegie of a politically vocal individual without due process and 2) the Mayor was being asked to remove Rogers as City Manager and member of the Olympic Organizing Committee until a criminal investigation could be carried out into allegations that people on the City payroll were arranging for police harassment of DTES Enquirer bloggers, bloggers who had been vigorously criticizing City managers and supervisory staff for failing to deliver services.

There is speculation that after those stories broke, the City Legal Department, which answers to Judy Rogers incidentally, scrambled to come up with a way to cover asses. They came up with an angle that would make the City calling police on bloggers more palatable to the public: Simpson had been making the Carnegie "unsafe" and employees were "afraid".

When drawing up their new claim that Simpson was creating an "unsafe" environment at Carnegie, the City suppressed evidence to the contrary. That evidence was in the possession of Mayor Sullivan and Judy Rogers. Mayor Sullivan had received a lengthy e-mail dated Mar. 21, 2007, just three months earlier, informing him that Carnegie patrons “using the internet to speak freely about practices at Carnegie” were being placed at risk by the conduct of Board members and workers at Carnegie. The e-mail author portrayed internet writers as the victims, not the cause of the increasingly "toxic" environment at Carnegie. The e-mail began:

"Last Friday, …Bill [Simpson] was subjected to a rude verbal tirade by Robert Sarti, a Board member of the Carnegie. Sarti accused Bill of writing about Carnegie in the news media.

While at Carnegie, [a female patron can be] often seen chatting with Bill. That may be one reason [she has] now become a target of verbal abuse by [a Carnegie Coordinator]....”

The author went on to describe specifics of verbal abuse by workers at Carnegie, including one instance of degrading, misogynous, verbal abuse accompanied by physical aggression, to which this female Carnegie patron had been subjected. Names, times, witnesses, and other specifics were provided.

Sullivan was made aware that he was being contacted because City Manager Judy Rogers had persisted in ignoring the same e-mail. The information had first been sent to Rogers on Dec. 4, 2006. A second copy was sent to her on Dec. 14, 2006, along with a reminder that a response was being awaited.

Like Rogers, Mayor Sullivan did not respond.

Carnegie members want answers. Why was evidence that favored Simpson suppressed by the City when the decision to bar him was being made? Witnesses to the events outlined in the e-mail were never contacted. Neither was the author of the e-mail who had signed with full name and contact information.

City Department headed by Jacquie Forbes-Roberts provides an official website link to a publication verbally abusing bloggers

Evidence revealing that it was the City of Vancouver, not Simpson, that had actively created an unsafe environment at Carnegie, did not have to be hidden in the offices of Mayor Sullivan and Judy Rogers to be ignored in this case. The City ignored a witch hunt approach to the blogger being encouraged in the Carnegie Newsletter, a publication that the City of Vancouver official website identifies as being produced under the managerial eye of Ethel Whitty and Jacquie Forbes-Roberts in Community Services. In the Dec. 15/06 issue, editor Paul Taylor called the DTES Enquirer blogger a "blog bozo", "slimy", a "blank", a "four year old spoiled brat pissing his pants", a "pest". The blogger was further described as a "neighborhood snitch", a "dismal excuse". The City's official website, specifically the page pertaining to the Community Services Dept. headed by Forbes-Roberts, provides a promotional blurb about the "lively" Carnegie Newsletter and a link to it. A link? Isn't that what they barred Simpson for?

Any member of the public choosing to use the link provided by the City department headed by Forbes-Roberts, can treat themselves to Carnegie Newsletter editor Paul Taylor praising Board member Bob Sarti for his role in a witch hunt (by then Bill Simpson had been falsely identified as the blogger) for the blogger: "Bob is one of the unsung heroes for getting to the bottom of this guy's attempts to remain anonymous...." Sarti, who for years wrote in the Carnegie Newsletter under pseudonyms as he worked as a Vancouver Sun reporter, had on two occasions approached Simpson in the corridors of Carnegie, yelling, "Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie! Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie!", and wagging his finger wildly at his face. Simpson wrote to Whitty requesting that she call off the "mad dog".

Whitty never barred Sarti, even though several staff persons witnessed his conduct. In fact, Sarti who has recently retired to Hornby Island, was visiting with Whitty, both inside and outside Carnegie, in the days leading up to this month's barring of Simpson. Witnesses report that Sarti was allowed unsupervised access to the Carnegie Association office. Special privileges for special people.

Forbes-Roberts can't claim she didn't know what her Department was linking to. The vitriole she was sponsoring in the Carnegie Newsletter was outlined on the DTES Enquirer in an article about the previous barring of Bill Simpson. Forbes-Roberts had a obligation to familiarize herself with the content of the DTES Enquirer before signing a City letter barring a man for featuring links to its content, and doing severe damage to his life and reputation in the process.

The witch hunt generated in the newsletter and elsewhere by the Carnegie establishment was frightening to one low income member who had been aiding bloggers by confirming dates and times that members were being locked out of publicly-funded services at Carnegie. That individual raised concerns about personal safety back in Dec. 2006, insisting on complete anonymity. It wasn't Simpson that this member was frightened of.

Want to smear bloggers? Do it on City of Vancouver letterhead.

When introducing the new improved third "unsafe" version of the barring, Whitty did not entirely discard the second version. In fact, she allowed photocopies of Forbes-Roberts' letter to be disseminated to all members of the public and Board members at the meeting, despite the fact that it had the label "confidential" on it in tiny letters at the end.

While Whitty had a live audience in front of her, she took the liberty of extending the smear campaign against DTES Enquirer bloggers that her boss at City Hall, Forbes-Roberts, had begun in the letter. Whitty read aloud some of the worst smears that Forbes-Roberts had written and, as was the case in the letter, made no attempt whatsoever to substantiate any of them. Whitty topped up the letter by uttering vicious verbal smears, not all of which had appeared in the letter, and claimed to be relaying the position of the "the City" -- again, no substantiation whatsoever. The DTES Enquirer will not repeat the smears as legal options are being examined. But suffice to say that sweeping, false generalizations were recklessly disseminated at public meeting, with City of Vancouver letterhead being used as a legitimator.

When later in the meeting, a male Board member asked Whitty to be more specific in her critique of the blog that Simpson had linked to, Whitty referred him to the City Hall letter signed by Forbes-Roberts -- knowing that he would find no examples, in that letter, when he got around to reading it.

Whitty ensured that only the false claims she was making would be heard at the public meeting, no other perspective. She refused to answer questions at the meeting about the Simpson matter. Board member Rachel Davis ( a.k.a. Rosetta Stone) balked at this, reminding Board President Margaret Prevost, "You e-mailed me and said that Ethel was here to answer questions." Davis met only with intransigence: individuals with questions would have to go to Whitty's office later to speak to her and another City manager, Dan Tetrault.

When Board member April Smith, a supporter of Simpson, announced that she would like to read a letter on "the Bill Simpson matter", she was quickly told by Jeff Sommers, an old guard left-wing Board member, that she was not allowed to. Sommers, Ph.D. SFU (Geog. '01), a founder of the Strathcona Research group has spoken in the media on issues ranging from housing to human rights on the Downtown Eastside, yet seemed to have no qualms about silencing a perspective favoring a duly elected homeless man. Later in the meeting, when Simpson was nominated for President, Sommers refused to even write his name on the list on the blackboard.

Chauncey confronted Whitty again and again, "These are allegation and there's no crime. And it's not good enough, not good enough! No proof at all." Whitty's admitted that people can be barred from Carnegie without proof: "People are sometimes barred for an allegation." She further admitted that the facts are not always paramount in a decision to bar an individual from Carnegie, that she has in the past been willing to bar a member based on an employee's "feelings." Board member, Sophie Friegang then expressed a view that members have been expressing for years, "There's no protection; anybody can be barred for anything that is allegated [sic]."

Member Terri Williams, with a slight Mississippi accent, pointed out a double standard, that allegations against Carnegie staff are not treated as seriously as those against members. "Ethel," she called out. "What happened with the allegations against Colleen? [a staff person]…Why didn't she get barred?"

Towards the end of the meeting, Chauncey said that although he was not a fan of Simpson, he would defend Simpson's right to free speech. He summarized the view that numerous Carnegie members have expressed about Whitty and Tetrault working with a City Hall lawyer -- without once speaking to Simpson -- to finesse the barring: "They're on such weak, weak ground, they had to get some back-up!"

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mayor asked to investigate barring of Board member by City management

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and City Manager Judy Rogers are taking the heat today about the barring from Carnegie Centre of Bill Simpson, who was elected as a Board member this month.

On Friday, Simpson received a letter signed by City Hall’s Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, barring him from the entire Carnegie building because he operates a website that “links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog.

What is foremost on the minds of Carnegie members today is what Bill Simpson was told by City Hall’s on-site manager at Carnegie, Ethel Whitty, after she delivered Forbes-Roberts letter to him. Whitty told this elected Board member that he will not be allowed to attend Board meetings “unless they are held outside the building.” That would include the Board meeting this evening, Monday, June 25th at 5:50 p.m. in which the Election of Officers -- President, Vice President, etc. -- will occur. Members want him there.

Here are excerpts from a few of the lengthy letters being sent to Mayor Sam Sullivan and City Manager Judy Rogers.

Wilf R., a Carnegie Seniors Program member writes to Mayor Sam Sullivan,

“I'm told that you already have some knowledge about this incident and others like it in the past at the Carnegie, and it's time that something was done.”

As a member of the Carnegie and a supporter of Carnegie member and director William Simpson, I'm asking you to use your office to fully investigate all aspects of the matter.

A male Carnegie volunteer writes to Judy Rogers,

“There are always those who oppose Democracy and Free Speech, especially when such free speech threatens the income of those who live off of the poor, but I am surprised and disappointed that such power would be used from City Hall itself in the person of Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manger, Community Services Group, Vancouver City Hall. Is this what we elected our government to do: heavy-handed thwarting of the public voice and the democratic process?”

Terri W., a Mississippi-born woman in the Carnegie music program, writes to Judy Rogers,

Mr. Bill Simpson has been accused rashly by Carnegie staff of something he is not guilty . . . .If Ethel Whittey has proof of her outrageously unfair accusation, then she should prove it without a shadow of a doubt to the Carnegie Community Centre members who voted for Mr. Bill Simpson as a board member. Otherwise I feel once again the staff at Carnegie is undermining the community spirit whom it serves.

A number of upset members have said they intend to be at this evening's meeting at Carnegie to voice opposition to the City's barring of a Board member they elected. The meeting is open to the public.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Boy accused of stabbing Poeung will not be charged

The 14 year old accused of fatally stabbing 13 yr. old Chris Poeung will walk.

Prosecutors interviewed over 40 witnesses, watched surveillance video and believe the accused acted in self-defence. According to 1130 radio news, "he VPD says the boy was swarmed during a fight involving two groups of teenagers."

Friday, June 22, 2007

City of Vancouver bars elected blogger from Board meetings

William “Bill” Simpson, a homeless man who was barred from Carnegie Learning Centre for allegedly blogging and was elected to the Board of Directors this month by low income members of the Centre, has now been barred again. This time he has been told by the City of Vancouver that he is barred from the entire building because he operates a site which “links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog which contains criticisms of Carnegie with which management disagrees.

The barring was executed on the morning of Friday, June 22nd, just hours after the Downtown Eastside Enquirer and Blogger News Network reported that old guard Carnegie Board member, Margaret Prevost, had instructed Security guard Ted Chaing to rip up leaflets Simpson was using to invite supporters to a meeting.

The barring, Simpson points out, comes “on the eve” of the Election of Officers — President, Vice President, etc. — to be held on Monday, June 25th at Carnegie. "I'll be barred from being elected to office," he points out. Having just been elected to the Board, Simpson was planning to attend the meeting which will decide who officers will be. But when he arrived at Carnegie today, he learned that the City of Vancouver had changed his plans.

When Simpson arrived at the Carnegie Centre Friday morning, Trey, a City of Vancouver Security guard, met him at the front entrance and told him he had to stay there until Director Ethel Whitty came downstairs. "I couldn't enter any farther than the front desk," Simpson says. But he emphasizes that Trey, a black American whom he says is one of the better security guards at Carnegie, had nothing to do with instigating the barring. “Trey was following orders; he could have lost his job if he’d refused.” When Whitty arrived in the front reception area with Assistant Director Dan Tetrault, she gave Simpson a letter on City of Vancouver letterhead announcing that he was barred from the Carnegie Centre building.

The letter dated June 21, 2007, on City of Vancouver letterhead, was signed by Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manager, Community Services, City of Vancouver. Forbes-Roberts works at City Hall, not specifically at Carnegie. At the bottom of the letter was the notation: “cc: Ethel Whitty, David Hill.”

Despite giving Simpson this letter announcing this fresh barring, the City of Vancouver and Whitty continued their six months of stalling in regards to his request for a written reason for the first barring which was executed in Dec. 2006. He was barred at that time from the Carnegie Learning Centre and it’s public access computers. Shortly after that barring, Simpson submitted a letter to Whitty and Learning Centre Co-ordinator Lucy Alderson requesting that the reasons for the barring be put in writing so that he could appeal. Carnegie receptionist, Donna, refused to sign for the letter, though she did put a copy in Whitty’s mailbox. The letter was then ignored by Whitty and Alderson, despite Simpson verbally reminding Alderson that he was awaiting a response.

At the time of the first barring, Alderson told Simpson that it was due to the fact that he had been blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. Alderson, an out-dyke who is presented on the internet and elsewhere as a friend of the marginalized, met Simpson at the door of the Carnegie Learning Centre and escorted him to the office of the Head of Security, “Skip”, where she gave him this news. There was never any evidence against Simpson of wrongdoing, or in fact of even being a blogger.

Simpson says he has never posted on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog, although he supports the content of the site. (He has since opened his own website with a similar name, Downtown Eastside, from which he links to the blog.) Carnegie Board member Gena Simpson admitted in a comment on news site earlier this year that Simpson had been barred for merely being a “suspected” blogger.

The fact that Simpson had not been blogging on the DTES Enquirer blog, despite being barred for that, seems to now be conceded by the City of Vancouver. In the letter on City of Vancouver letterhead delivered to Simpson on Friday, Forbes-Roberts stated that Simpson was now being barred for having a site which “links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog which she claimed contains “numerous inaccuracies and allegations of misconduct, and unwarranted invasions of privacy of other patrons and staff at the Centre. ” Forbes-Roberts did not provide even one example to support these allegations.

"What are the inaccuracies?", Simpson asked Whitty on Friday, after she barred him. She declined to answer his question. Simpson pointed out to Whitty that, "The blog is open to rebuttal and correction," unlike the Carnegie system in which people too often are left with the Freedom of Information Act as their only route for finding out what they are accused of. Simpson then imitated Whitty, using a voice tone that sounded a tad snooty: " 'I'm not going to respond', she says." Simpson added emphatically, "She can respond to charges and we can't; we can't even find out what we're charged with."

Forbes-Roberts claimed at the end of her letter that, "Your right to free speech does not entitle you to damage people's reputations...." It is the position of DTES Enquirer bloggers that City staff seem to confuse accountability with damage to their reputations. Simpson was first barred after the DTES Enquirer blog began reporting back to taxpayers when richly funded services for the poor at Carnegie were not being consistently delivered. Despite the roughly $500,000 worth of management and supervisory staff on the third floor, it was not unusual for members to arrive to find either the Learning Centre or the Computer room locked, sometimes both. When Ethel Whitty and others presented the opera, Condemned, to the media and funders as having been written and performed primarily by homeless people, the DTES Enquirer pointed out that this was not accurate. When a Carnegie volunteer supervisor demonstrated a pattern of engaging in ongoing sexual relationships with clientele, some of whom were troubled and committed or attempted to commit suicide, the DTES Enquirer reported that pattern (but withheld her name at the request of sources.) The City removed her from Carnegie so they obviously knew the story was not fictional. Never in the decade or more that Forbes-Roberts has been the City Hall overseer of Carnegie and Tetrault has been Assistant Director has there been this level of accountability.

Another reason Forbes-Roberts provided in her letter for Simpson's barring was that he had "used the Centre’s address and a Centre phone number for Internet purposes….” Forbes-Roberts lied by omission. She is well aware that all Downtown Eastside residents, and even transients passing through, are authorized to use the Carnegie address and telephone as their personal contact information. This service has been offered for two decades because many Downtown Eastside residents do not have phones or stable addresses. Thousands of people over the years have taken advantage of this well-known service; Bill Simpson is not unique. Kim, Dan, and other front desk receptionists at Carnegie take phone messages on a daily basis for residents who have given out the Carnegie telephone number as their own; one need only walk into the Carnegie reception area to see the lists of telephone messages and mail for residents. People give out the address of Carnegie, which the City bills as the “living room” of the community, all over the B.C., Canada, and anywhere else transients end up.

Now with mail expanding to the internet, Carnegie’s address and phone number is being used there too. One volunteer uses the Carnegie phone number as his contact for collecting computers, etc. from a Recycling Depot — but he is in the left-wing in-crowd at Carnegie so is unlikely to be challenged. James and others working in the Carnegie Learning Centre have allowed members to use Carnegie contact information on the left wing Homeless Nation website, which hosts individual blogs that tend to trash the Conservative Harper government. (Simpson has incidentally never used the Carnegie contact information for commercial purposes.)

After Whitty handed Simpson the letter from Forbes-Roberts barring him from the Carnegie Centre, he specifically asked her if he would be allowed to enter the building to attend future Board meetings. She asserted that he would not be allowed to enter. Simpson recalled her explaining that he could not attend future Board meetings "unless they're held outside the Centre."

It is not surprising that Forbes-Roberts signed the letter barring Bill Simpson. Forbes-Roberts has a documented record of allowing illegitimate use of Carnegie’s barring policy that now dates back several years. There is a paper trail in another case -- which an advocate has told the Enquirer he will turn over to us on condition that we not reveal the complainant's name without her consent -- in which a woman was barred from Carnegie computers after complaining about massive sexual harassment. When this female member would sign up for a public access computer funded by the City of Vancouver, she would be asked by a coffee seller to go home with him and watch pornography, to die her hair and lose 20 lbs. to be more attractive to men, and she was told by another coffee seller when she wore a fisherman's knit sweater and a plaid skirt that she was making him horny as he like that school girl look, etc., etc. After lodging complaints, she arrived one day to learn that she had been barred from all public computer access at the Carnegie Centre.

The female member would find herself subjected to a pattern of undemocratic practices that were not unlike those to which Simpson would be later subjected. She was expected to serve her "sentence" without first being allowed access to an appeal process or being given a reason why she was barred. A paper trail reveals that Forbes-Roberts allowed Carnegie staff to ignore the woman's written request to be given a reason for the barring in writing. A paper trail reveals that both Forbes-Roberts and her supervisor Judy Rogers, City Manager currently on the world stage as a member of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics, were complicit in the barring harassment of this woman. (A second article will be posted about this case.) "Both Forbes-Roberts and Rogers should have been fired after that case," says an individual familiar with the case in an e-mail sent to the Enquirer. "Why are they still around to pull this stunt again?" Tetrault was Assistant Manager at the time that barring was executed and the woman denied due process.

Only this time around, in the Simpson case, the barring has involved activity which DTES Enquirer contributors and several Carnegie members believe warrants criminal investigation into the conduct of City of Vancouver staff. There is evidence that they have abused their positions by arranging for police harassment of Simpson and individuals suspected of blogging on the DTES Enquirer blogspot. As was noted by an observer, a politically astute blogger, somebody with "pull" was behind getting the police to contact bloggers because there was never any evidence on this blog of content of a criminal nature. One targeted individual who is not a writer for the blog reported that the constable who visited him at his home about the DTES Enquirer blogseemed to be doing a City staff person a favour: "When have you ever heard of the police doing an interview alone? This detective showed up at my door after being let in by management, flashed his badge and asked if he could ask a few questions . . . . He was obviously off duty since there wasn't any partner to be seen. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure he's not allowed to perform police duties for a civilian while not on duty. This was done solely as a favour for . . . ."

This was not the first time questions had been raised about whether City of Vancouver staff believed they were entitled to police favours. A longterm Carnegie volunteer walked by a meeting of Carnegie staff in which Assistant Manager Dan Tetrault was present, and reported hearing a staff member announce an intent to ask a relative at CSIS for assistance in tracking down the DTES Enquirer bloggers. There is no evidence that CSIS ever did become involved.

But harassment by VPD constables has now became quite public. VPD detective, Mark Fenton, left a public message in the Comments section at the end of the article, "Olympics Civil City Slam marred by hypocrisy" appearing on the DTES Enquirer this month. "Certainly, if they are trying to intimidate people into not sharing information or writing stories for the DTES Enquirer, this is one way to do it," a contributor noted.

It is imperative that Judy Rogers step down from her position as City Manager and member of the Olympic Organizing Committee until a criminal investigation into this affair and the alleged misappropriation of police resources for political harassment purposes is completed and her past relationship to undemocratic suspensions at Carnegie is reviewed. (A request to the Mayor that Rogers be required to step down is being sent today.) It has not gone unnoticed that the police harassment began after the publishing of an article, "Carnegie Supervisor has Sex with Clientele", which ended with a promise of a follow-up article exposing a paper trail revealing that Judy Rogers ignored warnings about an out of control sexual harassment situation at Carnegie Centre. Rogers allowed the situation to remain unchecked, to the point where a Carnegie supervisor was having sex with clientele. (Some of her clients had mental health problems; one committed suicide and another hung himself from a bridge but survived and is confined to a wheelchair.) This 'coincidence' must be investigated.

The criminal investigation should be expanded to include the fact that when the DTES Enquirer reported on Simpson being barred by Carnegie for blogging, the Enquirer blog was hacked. Words were changed to make Simpson a "homo" blogger instead of a "homeless" blogger. The name of his website, was altered to "", suggesting he was as pedophile, etc., etc. He is not gay. He is not a pedophile. But this material was read by numerous people on the web. Eventually the entire DTES Enquirer blog was deleted. As well, DTES Enquirer postings to the news site, NowPublic were hacked, with smear inserted into the text. But a pattern began to be noticed: the hacking occurred only if Enquirer contributers used their password on Carnegie computers. This led to speculation that Spyware was operating on their computers. (Another man, Elvis, who was doing his own blog independently came to the conclusion that he was under surveillance when blogging at Carnegie; a Security guard even intercepted him once while he was blogging and barked, "You can't write that." When Assistant Manager Dan Tetault was told, he did nothing.)

Mayor Sam Sullivan, who has been made aware in the past of blogger harassment at the City- operated and funded Carnegie Centre, has so far done nothing. It is time for him to intervene. Ironically, some of Simpson's views -- which are not palatable to the left wingers who operate Carnegie -- are similar to the Mayor's: specifically, the Mayor's view expressed during his election campaign that the poverty industry on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is ultimately "disempowering" to those it is intended to help. The Mayor who became wheelchair bound after a water skiing accident, has, like Simpson, been mired in the poverty industry.

First, Mayor Sullivan must ensure that Simpson, an elected official at a City institution, is not blocked from attending meetings. The next meeting is Monday, June 25th at 5:30 p.m., so the Mayor must act quickly. It is noteworthy that Jacquie-Forbes Roberts wrote in her letter to Simpson, "We are continuing to investigate this matter. In the interim, we have determined to bar you from the Carnegie Centre until our enquiries are complete." Shouldn't the enquiries be complete before the barring? Simpson claims that they fast-tracked his barring because they do not want him participating in the Election of Officers on Monday.

Second, the Mayor must ensure a complete investigation into evidence supporting allegations that his management staff are perpetrating criminal activity targeting bloggers and eroding the free speech rights of all Vancouver residents.

Following is an e-mail Simpson sent to his supporters today after being barred by Forbes-Roberts:

Hi folks,

Well we wondered and now we know, what their tactics would be, I am
banned from the building and as such am unable to attend to my duties
as CCCA [Carnegie Community Centre Association] Board member.

I have decided that prudence calls for a short break on my part so I
will be taking a one week hiatus from DTES [Downtown Eastside] things.

The letter came from city hall and revolves around my ownership of linking to with "numerous inaccuracies and
allegations of misconduct, and unwarranted invasions of privacy of
other patrons and staff at the Centre." The letter states that I am
"engaged in activities which are contrary to the interests of the
Carnegie Centre" [and] is signed by Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manger,
Community Services Group.

I responded, "Yes I am engaged in activities which are in the better
interests of the members."

When asked "what inaccuracies?" Ethel refused [to] disclose them. When
suggesting that the blog was open to receive rebuttals and
corrections, she again refused to comply.

"Of course," I am not barred from board meetings, but unless the board
chooses to meet outside the centre, I will be unable to attend.

I left spouting, "the abuse continues... abuse the victims reward the
abusers, that's the Carnegie way."

A special thank you does out to the eleven souls who joined me at the
first Pro Enrichment Action Contingent (PEAC) meeting, even after the
outgoing president [Margaret Prevost] had the security guards tear our posters up. Thank
you very much for being there.

Long lives the residential school culture.
all things matter

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Elected blogger gets rough ride at Carnegie Centre

Bill Simpson, a homeless man who was barred from the Carnegie Learning Centre for allegedly blogging, has continued to face rough treatment since he managed to get elected to the Carengie Board of Directors in June '07.

An attempt was made to prevent Simpson from advertising a meeting he was holding this evening with supporters at Carnegie. Leaflets he left on the front reception desk -- where an array of leaflets are left for members to pick up, including one for an upcoming bed bug forum -- were ripped up and discarded late today on instructions from current Board President Margaret Prevost. Prevost, a fifty-something aboriginal woman with short dark hair and bangs who can often be seen at Carnegie zooming around in her electric wheelchair, instructed Security guard Ted Chaing to rip up the leaflets. Prevost is part of the old guard on the Carnegie Board and remains President until next Tuesday when new officers are elected.

Simpson, who was in the building at the time his leaflets were destroyed, was told by front desk receptionist, Kim, and security staff who stand nearby, that Prevost had taken this action because literature displayed in the reception area must be approved by the Board.

Simpson does not get welfare or any other form of government assistance, unlike Prevost, and therefore does not have the money to make photocopies of his leaflets when they are ripped up. It is standard practice for Kim or one of the Security guards to hold material, including mail, for members to pick up when they drop into the Centre. But they were not asked by Prevost to hold Simpson's material for him.

Prevost's conduct indicates bad faith. It indicates that she is a Board member prone to being rough on Simpson, who was democratically elected by members of the Centre. (He reportedly got the most votes of the 7 new candidates who ran.) The Centre is operated by an elected Board and City of Vancouver management staff.

Simpson says that at the first Board meeting he attended after being elected this month, most Board members ignored him. There were a few exceptions. Dora Saunders is cordial. Jame Pau and Rachel Davis talk to him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Homeless Blogger Gets Elected

Holy brazen blogger, Batman! Bill got elected!

William "Bill" Simpson, a homeless man in Vancouver who was barred from the Carnegie Learning Centre for allegedly blogging, won a seat on the Board of Directors at Carnegie Centre last Thursday evening.

Carnegie is a community Centre operated by City of Vancouver management staff with input from a Board of Directors elected from the membership of the Centre. Carnegie doubles as a left wing organizing base in the Downtown Eastside neighborhood. It publishes the left wing Carnegie Newsletter, in which editor Paul Taylor has admitted in writing that he censors submissions not ideologically compatible with his views. When a blog, The Downtown Eastside Enquirer, deviated from the party line, it drew fire from Carnegie staff, Board members, and the Newsletter.

Simpson opened his candidate's speech at the June 7th Annual General Meeting with, "I am not the blogger." The crowd laughed.

But laughs don't get you elected. Votes do. So Simpson brought a contingent of Carnegie members with him to the meeting. In the days before the election, Simpson, a tall, blue-eyed man in his mid fifties with wavy, light brown graying hair which he wears in a short ponytail, says, "I talked to people and asked them if they'd be willing to come to the AGM and support me."

Simpson says he actually does not blog on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer, but adds, "If I did, I would be proud of it." These are words Simpson first spoke late last year to Bob Sarti, a Board member who waved his finger at Simpson in the corridor outside the Learning Centre and yelled, "Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie! Tattle tale Queen of the Carnegie!" The stress of publishing power in the hands of the masses appeared to be taking its toll on Sarti, a retired Vancouver Sun reporter who was organizing the Anarchist Surrealist Jamboree which took over the Carnegie Centre in Janaury 2007. After decades of left wing activism, Sarti and fellow Carnegie Board member Margaret "Muggs" Siguirgson retired to Hornby Island, famous for Dr. Hornby marijuana plant fertilizer.

But Sarti got in a parting shot at alleged blogger Simpson before departing in January 2007. He voted along with other Board members to bar Simpson. On Dec. 15, 2006, Simpson was met at the door of the Carnegie Learning Centre by teacher Lucy Alderson and escorted to the office of "Skip", the Head of Security for Carnegie. There Simpson was informed that he was barred from the Carnegie Learning Centre for blogging on the DTES Enquirer blog. In the Dec. 15, 2006 edition of the Carnegie Newsletter -- a newsletter subsidized by the City of Vancouver which provides free office space, etc. -- Sarti was credited with being the "unsung hero" who outed the "now-verified blog bozo."

The Downtown Eastside Enquirer gives a voice to political dissidents inside Carnegie and on the Downtown Eastside, people who deviate from the party line of the left wing establishment in the neighbourhood. Alderson, along with Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty, Education and Arts Co-ordinator Rika Uto, and others had been given low marks on the blog for too frequently locking students out of the Learning Centre or evacuating students in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday -- always with the excuse that a volunteer (usually somebody with a known drinking problem) hadn't shown up.

For a short time, the blog tracked closures of the Learning Centre and Computer Room on the 3rd floor of the Carnegie Centre, facilities which would close despite up to $500,000 worth of management, supervisory and support staff having offices just meters away on the same floor. On the coldest evening of the year when Vancouver's underclass flocked to Carnegie to keep warm by passing the time watching television or using the internet, Whitty allowed them to be locked out of the Computer Room near her office. She took off out the door of the Centre.

This new accountability-by-blogger has met a hostile reception at Carnegie. Just a couple of weeks ago, long term Board member Jeff Sommers accused Simpson of writing for "that stalker rag" and refused to talk to him. Sommers was re-elected to the Board along with Simpson on Thursday evening.

Although Simpson has become a symbol of blogger repression at the Carnegie Centre, he has not been the only one targeted. Simpson was barred during what has been termed a 'witch hunt' for bloggers in 2006-07. Volunteers were interrogated by staff and encouraged to turn in bloggers posting on the DTES Enquirer. One long term volunteer is now on record as stating that he was interrogated by numerous staff persons -- Director Ethel Whitty, Learning Centre teachers Lucy Alderson and Betsy Alkenbrack, and Volunteer Co-ordinator Colleen Gorrie -- about who he may have seen blogging on the DTES Enquirer. He stated that he was pressed on separate occasions by all of these staff persons – all of whom claim that empowering this Downtown Eastside "community" is their priority -- to finger a close friend of ten years as "the blogger", a friend who incidentally is not a blogger but had been caught in the net of staff suspicion.

Being under suspicion is enough to get a person barred. Carnegie Board member Gena Thompson admitted in a comment this year on the internet news site that Simpson had been barred based on suspicion:

"…I am a Carnegie Board member and took part in several of the decisions criticised in DTES Enquirer, including the decision to bar the suspected author…."

Thompson argued that a blogger making criticisms of Carnegie should come out from behind their internet name and release their real name – but she acknowledged that such a blogger would risk becoming a target of Carnegie repression:

"After all, all he risks by having his identity known is that Carnegie may choose to refuse him access to its public computers."

Carnegie staff do not appear to have a problem with all bloggers -- only those who criticize them. In fact, the Carnegie Learning Centre hosts Homeless Nation, a Canada Council funded project which teaches people to blog about their experiences as homeless and poor people and blame their problems on centrist or conservative politicians. Did I mention that nobody using Carnegie Learning Centre computers to blog on the Homeless Nation is homeless? Revealing such inconvenient truths was what made the DTES Enquirer a target of repression at Carnegie in the first place. Staff and Board members were livid last fall when the opera "Condemned" was performed in the Carnegie Theatre and the DTES Enquirer pointed out that Ethel Whitty and others were falsely presenting it to newspaper reading taxpayers as written and performed primarily by homeless people. The DTES Enquirer pointed out that the vast majority of those involved in that opera were not homeless and were, in fact, well-ensconced in some of the best social housing in Canada. Gena Thompson's name was mentioned in this regard, apparently leading to her claim that she had been "flamed" by the DTES Enquirer and therefore supported barring "suspected author" Bill Simpson.

After last Thursday's AGM, Simpson says, Director Ethel Whitty shook his hand and congratulated him. "I remain cold to her," he says of this manager from the City who was instrumental in getting him barred for blogging. Like other Carnegie members, Simpson has lingering questions about what, if any, role Whitty played in directing Vancouver Police to contact him at Carnegie recently to chat about the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. He told police he did not write for that blog. Other past and current Carnegie members have also been contacted by police.

One Carnegie member, an American, has observed that the repression of bloggers by Vancouver City government staff is reminiscent of that being practiced by governments in European counties where free speech laws are limp. "This isn't police work", he said, "It's police state work."

Election Results: Carnegie Board of Directors elected June 7, 2007


Gena Thompson
Dora Saunders
Peter Fairchild
Jeff Sommers
Gerald Wells
Margaret Prevost
Sophia Freigang
James Pau
Grant Chancey
Michael Read
Mathew Mathew
Stephen Lytton

New Board members:

William Simpson
Rachel Davis
April Smith

Sunday, June 10, 2007

New baby for Art Bell

Radio host Art Bell, who will be 62 years old in a week, announced on Saturday night that his wife, Airyn, had given birth to a girl, Asia Rayne Bell. Bell married Airyn last year and described her at the time as being in her "early twenties." She had just finished teacher training in the Philippines.

Bell founded the Coast to Coast talk show on which he interviews guests on topics ranging from the paranormal to Middle Eastern politics. Bell's late night show is broadcast from Nevada and has a following on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where unemployment is high and people get into the habit of staying up late. Bell gets many Canadians on his call in line; in fact they dominate the International Line he set up for listeners outside America.

Bell announced at the opening of last night's show that Airyn, 4 ‘ 8” tall, gave birth to the 8 lb. 5 ounce Asia by cesarean section. The baby was born on May 30th at 6 a.m. She was conceived during a visit to Hong Kong. Hence the name, Asia.

Bell says Asia is an "alert, advanced beyond her days" little girl. It's as if she is three months old, he said. But he does not intend to "dwell" on his new offspring because he knows that new parents sometimes do that and for those who are not the parents, "it probably bores them to death."

Bell met Airyn in 2006, just weeks after his second wife Ramona, 47, died suddenly of an asthma attack in their RV in January. Bell told his listeners when he returned to the air that Ramona’s death had left him in almost unbearable emotional pain and he had even considered suicide. But after a few weeks of mourning, Bell began to sound upbeat on his show, almost giddy. When interviewing theoretical physicist, Lisa Randall, he repeatedly kidded her about how a woman so good looking could be so smart. He told her that he knew he was being sexist, and she agreed. He just didn't seem like himself. But his listeners would later discover something.

He was high on Airyn.

An American friend of Bell's who was engaged to Airyn’s sister in the Philippines, had Bell's personal e-mail address and had given it to Airyn. Bell was not aware of this. But he began to receive e-mails from Airyn and they began to correspond. He went to the Philippines to meet her and after a couple of weeks of getting to know her, married her in a double wedding with her sister and his friend.

That was less than four months after the death of Ramona who was half-Filipino. Bell, who regularly interviews people who believe that the dead can communicate with the living, had attempted to check in with Ramona before the marriage. If I'm making a mistake, he told her, "Kick my ass." Bell explained to his listeners that his marriage to Ramona had been good, an experience that left him eager to marry again.

Bell had managed to keep his wedding to Airyn a secret until it was over. Then he put a photo of his wife on the Coast to Coast website and announced to his listeners that he was once again married, in love, and happy. "Life is very short", he repeatedly reminded them, recalling that the coroner had reminded him of that fact at Ramona's death.

Some of Bell's roughly 10 million listeners looked askance at him snapping up a wife almost 40 years his junior from the provinces in the Philippines, where young women are notoriously desperate to marry Americans who can rescue them from poverty. As Jim Arkansas, a Downtown Eastsider who has been devoted to Bell for years, looked at the photo of his wife and said, "She looks like a little girl...I lost respect for Art." But Bell dismissed critics with, “Some people are not happy unless I’m unhappy.”

After marrying Airyn, Bell told listeners that he "retired her" from the teaching profession, which in the Philippines requires that new teachers work in remote areas.

Bell completely relocated to the Philippines, getting a condo -- an entire floor actually -- in a high rise in an American section of Manila and broadcasting his radio show from there. But the typhoons there where making his windows buckle inwards. And his life was in danger when a phony letter, circulated years earlier and traced to a computer at a university in California, was published by a newspaper in the Philippines. The letter falsely presented him as the author of disparaging commentary about the Philippines, that he considered the Philippines to be a "dirty" place, etc. Bell noted that it is not unusual for media personalities to get assassinated in the Philippines.

In 2007, months after announcing to his listeners that his young wife was expecting a baby in June, Bell secretly moved back to the U.S. He returned to the Nevada compound where he has his own radio broadcasting towers. When springing the news on his listeners that he was now back on U.S. soil, Bell noted that many had not been pleased about him picking up shop and moving to the Philippines. He has an almost cult following in the U.S.

Bell gave only one reason on the air for his return to Nevada: he wanted his daughter to have U.S. citizenship and that would involve much less paper work if she were born in the U.S. rather than the Philippines

Bell's newborn daughter is not his first child. He has a grown son, Arthur Bell Jr., from an earlier marriage. It was due to his son that Bell left his radio show abruptly in Apr. 2000, saying at the time that it was "to resolve a family crisis". Listeners would later learn that he had left to deal with psychological trauma suffered by his son, who as a 16 yr. old in 1997 had been raped by a substitute high school teacher with AIDS. Bell sued the Nevada School District on behalf of his son and the court papers ended up on the internet. Bell returned to his show in 2001. He recently mentioned that his son lives with his mother in the U.S., and that it is a "tragic" situation.

Bell, who acknowledges that he is a night hawk and that at Coast to Coast the middle of the night is "when we do our best work", says the new baby has not been causing him much sleep deprivation. She tends to wake up at night which is when he and his wife are up anyway. "Airyn and I go to bed typically at 4 or 5 in the morning."

Bell put a photo of Asia at 10 days of age on the Coast to Coast website. That prompted a listener, Heinrik from College Station, Texas to send Bell a 'fast-blast' e-mail, asking if he was going to put a photo of Asia's first poo on his site via the web cam. Bell responded, "No, Heinrik, but for free samples write to the network."


See related Story, "Is Art Bell Hinting at a Comeback?", at:
Is Art Bell Hinting at a Comeback?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Election tonight in 'little police state that could'

There will be an election this evening in the little police state that could. It comes after a year of assaults on democracy at Carnegie Centre through 'star chambers' hearings and secret interrogations to have bloggers barred, and even soliciting what amounts to favors from the Vancouver Police -- Constable Dave Hancock et al -- to intimidate bloggers exposing Carnegie practices.

The election for the Carnegie Board of Directors will change nothing. The same cluster of left wingers regularly get elected. Most people in this Downtown Eastside neighborhood don't show up at the election. One 35 year resident and activist who wished to remain anoymous -- you can get blacklisted from jobs and perks for expressing opinions in this 'company town' in which most people rely on government funding -- scoffed, "You can't change anything there!"

There will be no scrutineers to ensure fairness -- even though a few Downtown Eastside residents have stated that they would like to see them. Last year, when Carnegie member Bill Simpson spoke up at the Annual General Meeting and asked if there were scrutineers, Director Ethel Whitty -- who is paid $104,000 annually to enhance the life in Canada's poorest neighborhood -- completely ignored him. Then Stephen Lytton, who up until that time had been viewed by residents as the token native on the Carnegie Board, showed some backbone. He turned to Whitty and said, "The man asked a question". Whitty then curtly answered Simpson, "It's taken care of." Whatever that means.

Whitty would later be involved in 'taking care' of Simpson by barring him from computers at the Carnegie Learning Centre, accusing him -- wrongly -- of blogging.

There will be a major difference this year though. Margaret "Muggs" Sigurdson and her spouse, retired Vancouver Sun reporter Bob Sarti, will not be running. For at least a decade, Sigurdson has been either President or Vice President. Sarti, since retiring from the Sun roughly 5 years ago has regularly served on the Carnegie Board. There is a chance that these two lefties will make an appearance at the election at Carnegie though, looking relaxed and refreshed after their recent vacation in that other little police state that could, Cuba.

Despite having been a Vancouver Sun reporter for 5 years, Sarti had difficulty adjusting to the freedom the blogosphere offered Carnegie members. Within minutes, low income people arriving at the Learning Centre or other Carnegie facilities to find doors locked would be blogging, tattle taling to the taxpayer who was paying through the nose for these services. Witnesses watched Sarti on two occasions, yell at suspected blogger Bill Simpson in the hallway outside the Carnegie Learning Centre: "Tattletale Queen of the Carnegie! Tattletale Queen of the Carnegie!" It was time for Sarti to retire. And he and Sigurdson did, to Hornby Island.

If you would like to vote in the election for the Carnegie Centre Board of Directors, go to the first floor theatre in the Carnegie Centre at Main & Hastings. Register at 5 p.m. You have to have held a $1 membership for three weeks to qualify.

But if you're a blogger, watch your back.