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!"

9 comments:

dag said...

Loved the photograph of the laughing Leftist Stalin delivering the letter to Bill Simpson.

The question now is:

"Who'll laugh last?"

truepeers said...

"Of every thousand dollars spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that nine hundred and fifty dollars is unwisely spent" - Andrew Carnegie, 1889, "The Gospel of Wealth"

"The man who dies... rich also dies disgraced" - ditto

So I wonder what the old man would make of Bill Simpson. Of City social work bureaucrats, I think I know what he'd make. Go carefully, RS, it seems like city officials and police are outraged at your freedom. Too much reality for them? Or is it really true that they are up in arms about some homeless liar with a blog?

reliable sources said...

truepeers,

Thanks for the response.

The City no longer even accuses Simpson of writing the blog. Get this: roughly a million dollars worth of City management, supervisory, and legal staff turned their attention recently to barring the penniless Simpson over a blog he didn't write.

At the Board meeting, Grant Chauncey pointed out the result they achieved: "The blog's still there."

Jacquie Forbes-Roberts supervised this irrational exercise. And Mayor Sullivan has recently appointed her to work with Geoff Plant on the Civil City project to make Vancouver streets more safe. Don't you feel safe already?

dag said...

We can't walk down a city sidewalk in peace and security in this city at any time of the day or night, and yet the problem this city's local administration chooses to focus on is some homeless guy who (didn't actually do anything)to piss-off some over-paid nannies? No, I'm not feeling safer at all.

What the hell does the mayor of this city do for a living!?

truepeers said...

The problem with government leading a "civil city" project is that civility is really only something that can be promoted by non-authoratative institutions that are able, in the not entirely rational ways of religion, to bring us to perform acts of good faith in which we open ourselves to the possibility of trust and civility, which is something that cannot be rationally ordered along governmental lines. Countless "socialist" attempts to do that have failed because civility belongs to a domain beyond rational organization and calculation. In other words, civility comes first, and if it achieves something in freedom, brings something new into the world, this can then become institutionalized along rational lines. Civility is a pre-condition of good government, but it is not something that government can create in any direct fashion.

A thought occurs to me that maybe the reason City Hall is making such a mess of the Carnegie blogger situation is that with the Olympics coming to town (and the Europeans providing the bulk of the bureaucratic power in the Olympic movement) the Mayor & Co. are trying to act like EUcrats, to impress those they think are world class, because they don't know enough how to act like free Canadians and thus teach the world something about us.

If civility is to come to the Downtown Eastside, it will be the achievement of the private religious charities, or of public institutions like Carnegie getting rid of a lot of totalitarian bureaucracy and taking a chance on society's "losers" and allowing for much more representative self-government of Carnegie by those who use the place. If that is not possible, if the "losers" do actually need to be ruled by an alpha bitch (motherly or not), and if there is not something akin to a religious revival, governments can throw all the money and social workers they want at the problem but it won't increase civility, just more calculating reason about how to game the system.

In the meantime, if this government-encouraged police harassment of bloggers is what you say it is, you need to think of ways of getting the story out. It's scary for you guys, maybe you're shy, but some things should not be tolerated in a society that aspires to be free and civil. I understand why you want to remain anonymous. We bloggers are not in it for money or power or fame: in other words, ours is an act of faith that we can do something real to promote civility. One day maybe the city bureaucrats will wake up and begin to see the potential in what RS has started here, and they will learn to work with it, recognize the function it serves, and respect the blogger's place, instead of freaking out that someone is pointing out they can't even do what they are highly paid to do. Let us pray...

dag said...

Uh, but the Stalinists do think they can legislate civility. The whole point of the social engineering project is to transform the people into a pleasant-to-look-at version of happy peasants in the fields, decoration for the visions of the povertarians who will glide past smiling benignly. Yes, just let these red fascist rubbishers change this and change that and in time, with enough tax money coming in, then all will be a pretty utopia, and the 100 thousand a year baby-sitters can glow maternal in the dark.

But of course, this is all a phantasy, and a bad one at that, a pornographic vision of people as models and props, people who don't have real lives beyond their roles as models to push and play with. The red fascists deserve nothing but the worst, and they rule this day. Time will come, even for the denizens of the open-door mental hospital that is the Carnegie Centre, when the inmates understand that they are play-pieces in a game for fascists who care not a thing for people. The red fascists care only for their game and their status and the the glow of saintliness emanant.

The fascist Left feel that they should be able to make things in the image within their minds; but look at the life of people they rule: people die like bugs in the dirt. That is the social condition the Left has created, that the tax-payer funds, that the losers sustain by playing their dying parts as fools in the play-pen of this tragic act without end.

Dump these scum povertarians in the nearest trash bin and go on to anything, even a lousy job that pays little. Anything has to be better than living under the rule of those who "make things better."

Keep up the blogging, Bill. Let the lot know that this rotten fruit is a smear that stinks on the ground. Get rid of the ones that can be got rid of till the whole thing is buried as a bad memory and a thesis project for some long-from-now geography candidate.

Speak. Let the Stalinists do as they will. Their laughter will soon be drowned out in a storm of rage against these red fascists. Speak.

truepeers said...

There is a very real problem that will exist even when there are no more povertarians to make it infinitely worse. Modern market society - in its brutal competitions; its elimination of traditional forms of status with which one could live proudly even when one wasn't a winner in the wars of careerism; and the market's promotion of all-consuming desires - does create a lot of losers (and authoritarian bureaucrats who'd rather be shopping than helping people) who lose the discipline needed to remain productive and connected to society. It happens to all of us, more or less, at some point.

So, there is a very real need for civil society institutions that can help people pull themselves together, to be civil, faithful, free of addictions, and once again productive. The left's top-down government bureaucratic answer has failed endlessly now for over a century, with countless millions of deaths to show for it. That doesn't stop many dreamers from trying to recreate their (inevitably totalitarian) "utopias" on the backs of the fallen of the Downtown Eastside, which isn't to say that from time to time they might not succeed in deferring some violence, some deadly addiction, or suicide. But.... whatever temporary success, mostly, they deepen an ultimately unproductive dependency on top-down bureaucracy.

In the end, the problems of market society will only ever be possibly solved by market mechanisms themselves: People need to be put to work at something redeeming; true civil society organizations need to be fostered and funded by market players with a conscience and intelligently informed sense of responsibility for maintaining the conditions for a free political and economic market, in face of the losers and the ideological and political corruption that that goes with free markets, corruption of the free market that the market itself tends to create with the help of the left that far too many market winners sympathize with, to ease their guilty conscience and thus help to make the situation worse and in need of ever more guilty fools to pay the bills.

The market system must become more intelligent, truly charitable, and hence find the ways to grow itself by redeeming its losers at the expense of the leftist elites. Bloggers have an important role in making the necessary ideas and connections happen. Those who try to stop that are scum.

dag said...

Among others, perhaps others more responsible than he for the continuing mess of the Bill the Blogger affair, the mayor of the city of Vancouver has some explaining to do, directly, to his constituents. This particularly local and nasty affair of Bill S. is out of control, and the mayor, busy as he must be, must also find the time to address this issue with those who take it upon themselves as citizens and as residents of this city to examine this affair and bring about a rational and reasonable solution. If it were just one man, and one not significant in the larger picture of a large city, still his case would merit the attention of this mayor and his replacement should it need come to that.

A duly elected member of Carnegie Centre is banned from attending his duties in the building as a board member his fellows chose to represent them as their spokesman, their particular liaison to the city's officials. What happened to the voice of the people? Banned, along with Bill the Blogger. Yes, there is more to come on this. It gets worse by the day. This has to stop.

We concerned citizens of Covenant Zone will discuss furthering a letter to the mayor in the expectation that he will meet with us to discuss the situation of privacy and authority abused at the city's discretion. At our discretion we'll send the mayor a letter, which we'll post publicly, to inform the mayor, who is readily available to us on a weekly basis, that we request his presence. We see him each eek, and this time he will join us to explain the city's postion and response to this outrage or he'll find himself short of votes to start with, finding himself with unsympathetic voters determined to campaign against further abuse of the public trust, and he'll very likely find that his neighbours as well have their post boxes stuffed with his opponent's campaign literature.

Don't be fooled: this is a serious problem. The rulers of the Carnegie Centre use enormous amounts of public money to do whatever jobs they are expected to do; and when that tax-funded effort is turned against a homeless man because he writes on the Internet seemingly and so far shown as valid complaints, when the state turns on one man its full force, then it is a threat to all members of this society, of this city, of the people who live and pay their taxes. This has to stop. The mayor must explain himself. We'll be waiting, and we'll make it public the response we receive-- or do not.

truepeers said...

Please draft a letter for our discussion.