Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ethel Whitty's Deaf Ears

Does the word "deaf" mean anything to you? That's the question several Carnegie patrons have for Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty, while they're still able to hear the answer.

Every afternoon and evening, and on many mornings, Whitty allows Carnegie computer users in the Carnegie basement Lounge to be subjected to noise levels that could rival a rock concert. Both male and female patrons complain on a regular basis -- even people who have spent years sitting in bars where bands play loudly complain -- only to have their complaints fall on deaf ears. People use the basement lounge only because they don't have computers at home, or they have computers that are old and slow on the internet, and need to access the Vancouver Public Libary computers.

But they are running into Whitty's priorites.

And her priorities do not appear to be health standards or computer literacy. Yesterday unemployed Carnegie members were encouraged to veg out on a Flinestones movie in the middle of the afternoon, played at the sound level of a rock concert. One woman told a friend in an e-mail that she had to abandon her computer and go home. "The noise level was making me shake", she said in an e-mail to a friend, who passed it on to the DTES Enquirer.

This woman noted in her e-mail that she has complained about the noise level four times in the last two weeks. When she complained a little over a week ago to Devor, the coffee seller in the Lounge, he called Security as he has done in the past "to intimidate" her into shutting up. Security guards Trey and Myles arrived. She told them that her ears ring after she leaves the Lounge, which is a sign she is developing tinititus. She told Trey and Myles that this ongoing noise level has become a health and safety issue. She recalled Myles making a face that suggested that he thought she was being silly. Trey said getting the noise level turned down in the Lounge wasn't his jurisdiction.

I insisted that Trey and Myles deal with this issue, she said in the e-mail. They said they would write it up in the Security log and make certain management saw it. Guess what the result of that was? The television has been even louder since.

Others have complained too. Jim A., who is slow to anger, recalls using the computer in the basement and finding the noise level intolerable. "I flippped out," he says. "There was gunfire and glass smashing. It was nerve wracking."

Bill Simpson says he complained when he was using a computer and couldn't hear the sound through his headphones because it was drowned out by the television on the other side of the room. He complained to the coffee seller, Vivian, but met a hostile response.

The noise problem has been discussed on the internet by bloggers -- who Whitty has attempted to silence. One woman, Antonia, was reported as asking that it be turned down, saying, "We're all going to be deaf."

Health and Safety standards have not been taken seriously at Carnegie under the Whitty administration and, in fact, have been perverted for political ends. Whitty recently supported a politically motivated "Work Safe" complaint against a man accused of being associated with a blog which criticized work place performance of herself and her staff. Carnegie Board members confronted Whitty; both Grant C. and Rachel D. told her that there was no legitimate health and safety issue here. But when there are genuine health and safety issues at Carnegie that Whity has known about for at least a year, she continues to turn a deaf ear.

The DTES Enquirer will be providing updates on the performance of Director Ethel Whitty, Asst. Director Dan Tetrault, and Lounge supervisor Marlene Trick. Today, as guns were blazing in the basement, Whitty lounged in the front lobby. A patron says he saw her chatting with another male patron about a book called, "Yiddish", as a woman left the basement in tears because she asked the coffee seller to turn down the television and he wouldn't.

[There is no need for the City to pacify the unemployed with Finestones and war movies in the middle of the day. Don't just turn down the DVDs, turn them off. May, a Carnegie member, talked on Co-op radio last Monday about this pacifying of the poor by Carnegie management. They seem more interested she said in supporting DVD rental stores than the poor. The DTES Enquirer will be reporting on May's perspective in the future.]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Evidence-tampering in CUPE police complaint

CUPE members in Vancouver are on strike and a stench can be detected. It is not the stench of garbage left uncollected, it is the stench of CUPE's dirty laundry.

A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents is talking.

The secretary continues to talk about the police complaint CUPE lodged against her after she complained of the "non-union sweatshop" they were quietly operating at Local 116 at UBC. VPD Constables Megan Herrmann and Kevin Ng -- who don't have jurisdiction at UBC -- left voice mail and showed up at her home. Their message: muzzle yourself about unfair labour practices inside CUPE.

When the secretary got a copy of the police report, she was shocked to discover that letters she had sent to CUPE President Barry O'Neill and BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair about unfair labor practices inside CUPE had been submitted as "evidence". Copies of these letters were enclosed with the police report. This fact has been discussed in a previous post, "CUPE Strike Haunted by Secretary Scandal". What is new is that the DTES Enquirer has learned that the police report pertaining to the CUPE complaint was retroactively altered roughly a year after the case had been labelled "CLOSED".

The alteration of the police report occurred after the whistleblowing secretary contacted CUPE President, Barry O'Neill, and BC Federation of Labour President, Jim Sinclair, in writing in 2003. She informed O'Neill and Sinclair that as long as the unfounded "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" notation remained adjacent to her name in police records, she would ensure that it remained on their public records as union leaders. Speaking up about workplace conditions did not constitute "WORKPPLACE HARASSMENT", she reminded them. It was then that the term "WORKPLACE" disappeared from the police report -- even though the case had been labelled CLOSED by the VPD the previous year. The secretary doesn't know who changed the "offence" for which she was investigated but she can prove that it was changed in the police file long after the case had been closed.

It was quite by accident that the secretary stumbled upon the change. It was when she received documents from a second Freedom of Information request, that she noticed that the Vancouver Police had retroactively changed the offence for which she had been investigated. The offence was changed from "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" to "HARASSMENT/ OBSCENE COMMUNICATION". She suspects that the term "WORKPLACE" was dropped as a form of damage control, to reduce potential embarrassment to union leaders -- but she can't prove it.

What she can prove is that there was nothing harassing or obscene about her communication with labor leaders. Her letters, which remain on file at the VPD Property Office, can be used to confirm this. "What was obscene about this situation was the way people who worked for CUPE were treated", she says.

The fact that the whistle blowing secretary had been investigated for the specific offence of “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” and not "HARASSMENT/ OBSCENE COMMUNICATION cannot be disputed. "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" is clearly typed at the top of the police report she obtained through Freedom of Information shortly after CUPE called police on her. And the fact that the case had been "CLOSED" in Dec. 2002 is also typed on the police report. Further, the DTES woman has preserved correspondence from the VPD informing her that the “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” notation would remain on the police PRIME data base permanently. It did remain on the police data base until after she contacted O'Neill and Sinclair in 2003, after which time the "WORKPLACE" angle for which she had been investigated disappeared.

The whistle blowing secretary sees this retroactive alteration of an investigated "offence" in a closed police file as a form of evidence- tampering. She speculates that it may have been prompted by the fact that she was requesting a criminal investigation into labor leaders involved in this case. It was "no secret", she says, that she wanted union leaders criminally investigated for public mischief for lodging what she considered to be an unfounded police complaint. [Context: When CUPE lodged their complaint in Dec. 2002, the lodging of unfounded criminal complaints to silence vocal Downtown Eastside residents was an epidemic problem. Inspector John de Haas stated in one case involving the Vancouver School Board that bureaucrats lodging unfounded police complaints against political adversaries could justifiably face "public mischief" investigations, if a victims requested them. An advocate on the Downtown Eastside was advising residents to seek public mischief investigations in such cases.]

The whistleblowing secretary says CUPE and police were well aware that she had never visited or telephoned her CUPE "WORKPLACE" after leaving her job there. There was no workplace harassment and that fact was just too obvious so, in her view, somebody arranged for the "WORKPLACE" element to get retroactively disappeared. "I e-mailed Jim Sinclair in 2004 and I asked him if he had any idea who that somebody was," she says. He didn't respond. But she did preserve a copy of her e-mail to him.

There was no workplace harassment. There was no harassment, period. That's the position of the whistleblowing secretary."I have as much right as CUPE members [currently] on strike to protest about working conditions."

Monday, July 23, 2007

CUPE Strike Haunted by Secretary Scandal

photo: Barry O'Neill, President, CUPE - BC Division

A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents says she'll cross CUPE picket lines. CUPE, she says, expects rights and benefits for their members that they have denied their own secretaries. In Dec. 2002, CUPE arranged for Vancouver Police Constables Megan Herrmann and Kevin Ng to telephone and visit her at her home to demand that she muzzle herself about unfair labour practices inside CUPE.

The whistle blowing secretary, who will be identified here by her initials “R.M.”, had exposed CUPE for allegedly operating a "non-union sweatshop". She claims she saw two female co-workers fired after speaking up about issues such as an excessive workload, verbal abuse, and the reneging on a promise to provide a pension plan. She saw a third woman, a long time bookkeeper at Local 116, fired after she got cancer and became less efficient.

This scandal, says the former secretary who left CUPE with two glowing letters of reference, goes right to the top of the CUPE hierarchy. When she obtained a copy of the police report dated Dec. 17, 2002, she discovered that as "evidence", police had been given a copy of a letter she had sent to Barry O'Neill, President of CUPE - British Columbia Division, and a similar one she had sent to Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour. The polite letters outlined unfair labour practices to which secretaries working inside the non-unionized office of CUPE Local 116 had been subjected. The message was clear from the filing of these letters in the Police Property Office, she says: "CUPE and the BC Fed believe that a woman speaking up about working conditions is committing a crime."

The secretary asked both O'Neill and Sinclair in writing in 2003 to have these letters removed from the VPD Property Office. Speaking up about working conditions is not a crime, she reminded them. Neither O'Neill or Sinclair had the letters removed. Never once did either of these leaders ever speak to the secretary about this situation.

The whistleblowing secretary appealed to the Vancouver Police to expunge the notation of "Workplace Harassment" adjacent to her name on the police computer as a result of the CUPE complaint. Speaking up about unfair labour practices is a right, not workplace harassment, she pointed out, and in her case she had not even visited or telephoned Local 116 since leaving her job there. (The VPD does not even have jurisdiction at UBC. The RCMP does.) The VPD responded in writing that such notations remain on record for "99 years", even in cases such as hers in which the accused has been completely cleared.

The whistleblowing secretary also discovered from the police report that Ian Aikenhead, a former NDP President and CUPE lawyer, had provided information, albeit misleading, to police. It was information that was in his possession as a result of his wife, Catherine Aikenhead, being an NDP-appointed public representive to a dental regulatory College years earlier. He resorted to exaggeration and misrepresentation in an attempt to present her as a complainer to police, she says, "because he knew that CUPE did not have the facts on their side."

Indeed there is evidence that CUPE did not have the facts on their side. Other secretaries from Local 116 had previously taken coplaints to higher ups at CUPE. S.A., a woman who had put in 12 years as a secretary at Local 116, S.A., had spoken to Joe, a Regional Representative, after she was fired. He would not discuss the issue and simply told her to "Get a lawyer". She sued for the pension she claimed she had been promised. When another secretary, S.K., was fired after speaking up about excessive workload and being expected to absorb verbal abuse, she too took her case up the CUPE hierarchy. The Local 116 President and Vice President were summoned to the Burnaby office of CUPE to explain themselves. When S.K telephoned several members of Local 116 to request permission to attend the next union meeting to appeal the firing directly to the membership, CUPE sent her a letter ordering her to 'cease and desist' or she would lose overtime pay accumulated. Even the whistleblowing secretary says her pay stubs and other records can be used to verify her claims that she worked for long periods without benefits that every CUPE member enjoys.

It is not just top union leaders, though, who have acted in a manner which indicates that the tactics used against the whistleblowing secretary are within their comfort zone. In 2003, CUPE Locals in Vancouver -- including those currently on strike -- and the surrounding area were notified in writing of human rights issues raised by this case and asked to ensure that CUPE leaders resolved them. What did they do? Nothing.

A steamfitter gets muzzled by CUPE BC, under Barry O'Neill's administration

The secretary was not the only whistleblower CUPE Local 116 and CUPE BC played rough with. They had successfully muzzled a whistle blowing steam fitter just months earlier in a case that led to accusations against CUPE BC of practicing political psychiatry. The steam fitter,"S.J.", had worked for years in Plant Operations at the University of BC and was a dues-paying member of CUPE Local 116 (unlike the whistle blowing secretary who was directly employed by CUPE Local 116.)

The steam fitter got on the wrong side of CUPE when he was briefly off work on compensation. Compensation cheques were issued through the union office and the steam fitter claimed that he and others receiving cheques were being shortchanged. He did the math and took the figures to CUPE. He was ignored. But he persisted. He received a cheque for $1,500 in the mail, the amount he had claimed he was shortchanged, but CUPE wouldn’t tell him what the cheque was for. He didn’t shut up. He sent a letter to CUPE pressing them on this issue and, this being just after 9/11, he wrote, "God Bless America" at the bottom of the letter. "A week later," he says, "a cheque for $640 came through the door." The steamfitter says that the cheques were issued to him through the Back to Work office on the UBC campus which was run by Colleen Garbe, a member of the CUPE Local 116 Executive.

The steamfitter also spoke to CUPE BC and CUPE National. Just as the steam fitter was considering going to the RCMP to request an investigation, CUPE called the RCMP on him.

Leaders at CUPE Local 116 told the RCMP that the steam fitter had made a death threat against CUPE Vice President Paul Cooke. The steam fitter, an immigrant from Scotland, and Cooke, an immigrant from Ireland, worked together in Plant Operations and knew each other well. The pipe fitter claims that he had a few beers and sent Cooke an e-mail about the compensation cheque issue, telling him at one point, ‘I should take you out’. This expression, the steam fitter explained, is heard in pub culture in Britain; it means that the two of us should go outside and settle this with our fists. The RCMP spoke to the steam fitter. No charges were laid.

But CUPE was turning up the heat on the steam fitter. They sent a lawyer from their Burnaby headquarters to a meeting arranged with the steamfitter at UBC. She was “tough” the steam fitter said of the lawyer. She informed him that he would have to submit to a psychiatric assessment and take medication in order to keep his job. The steamfitter did not have a lawyer at the meeting and, wanting to keep his job, he succumbed.

CUPE ruined his chances of ever getting a promotion, he believes. When he later applied for better jobs in the workplace, he found he was being ignored.

The whistleblowing secretary knows the steam fitter but neither knew of one another’s problems with CUPE as they were occurring. The workplace harassment and psych record the steam fitter acquired will be attached to his name on the police computer system for life. Just as a similar smear* is going to remain on the whistleblowing secretary's record for life; the last she heard it would be "99 years".

If I encounter a CUPE picket line, the secretary says, I'll cross it and I'll tell them why. If they try to convince me to support their right to struggle for better working lives, I'll say, "Talk to me in 99 years."

*A year after the case of "WORKPLACE HARASSMENT" was closed by the VPD, the alleged offence for which she was investigated was fraudulently altered in police records. This occurred after the secretary told O'Neill and Sinclair in writing that as long as the WORKPLACE HARASSMENT notation remained on her record, she intended to ensure that it remained on their public record. She cannot prove that labor leaders had any involvement in the retroactive change to CUPE's police complaint. For more information see post, "Evidence Tampering in CUPE Police Complaint".

Friday, July 20, 2007

CUPE Strike Chatter at Downtown Eastside Cafeteria

[The following post was e-mailed to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer by a reader whom we know to be a credible person. Like many Downtown Eastside residents, this reader regularly eats at the City-funded cafeteria at the Evelyn Saller Center on Alexender St. You can eat a full course dinner there for roughly two dollars. Lunch and breakfast are even less.]

Hi again. I thought I would write you about the Saller Centre after this morning's display at the center. I couldn't listen to anymore and had to leave without eating, I was that upset. First of all, on a regular basis, we are always made to wait for an extra 10 minutes before the staff gets things ready for us. This means that when they say that the cafeteria opens at 10:00am, it may open then but don't expect the staff to start work for at least another 10 minutes. This is also extended for the afternoon opening of 3:30pm. We also have to wait for an extra 10 minutes then. Sometimes like this morning it was getting closer to the 15 minute mark. Add this up in dollar and cents to see how much money is squandered on a yearly basis. Let's say $20 an hour for 8 employees. 10 minutes twice a day is almost $7 a day per person, times 8 people is $56 a day. Add that up for a year and I figure that the taxpayers waste at least $20,000 a year on cafeteria staff at this one centre alone. AMAZING and nothing is ever said about it.

One of the waitresses started talking union propaganda this morning and telling her coworkers that if anyone should say anything about it, to slow the work down to a crawl. I had to bite my tongue not to say that they couldn't work much slower than they do on a regular basis. Another man asked if they were going to strike and in a very loud voice so that the whole room could hear, she stated that, " you're damn right we are going on strike. Don't forget to recycle your garbage folks!" Clientele were guaranteed by Ernie, the centre's manager that all staff would continue to work through any work stoppage by the union and we would not be affected at all. Finally when one of the men asked her a question that I couldn't hear, but quite civilly I might add, she got angry and told him that he shouldn't listen to the media, that it is always biased and stupid. Gee, I hope that it doesn't include blogging, I didn't think that telling the truth where others won't is stupid, or is it just me that sees this!

This particular waitress has been put on the table for losing control with the clientele before on a couple of different occasions. She has even been forced to take anger management workshops in the past, yet continues to handle herself with the usual union arrogance.

I must be fair here too, saying that the kitchen staff seems to work as they should, but we don't see them as much being behind the scenes in their daily work assignments. The food for the most part is quite adequate and preparing that amount of food on a daily basis can't be a very easy task at any rate.

Finally, when it comes to the statement from the union head himself on the news last night, there will be no overtime work performed by union personnel. Well, I guess that means it depends if you are classified as an essential service or not, (which the center and Carnegie for that matter have not been classified one way or the other, just let slip through without mention one way or the other). My favourite waitress, who also doubles as a washer woman, worked overtime in the Health Services this week doing laundry. She often does this for extra days just about every week. Another waitress doubles as a worker for BC Liquors and uses the centre for extra money. Both of these women said the strike is not about the money.. They always say it's not about the money but sure are fast as hell to scoop it up when it's placed on the table. Greed, that's what it's all about! Our friendly waitress from BC Liquors also has a thing for one of the security men at the centre, pawing at him at every chance when they happen to be on the same shift. Too bad they are both married and not to each other. ;-)

Do Judge Judy [Rogers] or Jackie [Forbes-Roberts] need to know of these people and the rest that I haven't mentioned yet? The centre's management knows of all of the antics that go on there and turns a blind eye to most of it. One day, not long ago the mayor actually showed up to tour the facility and I thought that maybe it might be a little tree shaking but even with him there, we were made to wait the usual 10 minutes.

I'll leave this with you today. I only started taking notes yesterday and you can see what's come up in such a short time. I'll continue taking notes there and if anything drastic comes up, I'll let you know. If you want to post this, by all means do so and I'll leave comments with any new details there. Feel free to contact me any time. See ya later.

Carnegie Locks Low Income Residents Out of Computer Room -- Again!

Patrons coming to Carnegie Center to get an hour of computer internet time this evening found themselves locked out of the computer room.

The Learning Center was also locked all day. Even though the teacher is off for the summer, a poster on the door announces that the Center will be open from 1 p.m - 5 p.m. as long as there is a volunteer. But staff don't seem to bother arranging for a volunteer to sit in the room. A couple of weeks ago, the DTES Enquirer got a report from an eye witness that it was closed as well. There are computers in there that Downtown Eastside residents want access too but can't get through the door.

The only services on the 3red floor of the Carnegie are the Computer Room and the Learning Centre. So you would think that with roughly $500,000 worth of City management and supervisory staff on that floor, including Director Ethel Whitty, they could manage to keep the basic services open. Whitty was there today, wearing a navy blue suit.

At one point, Whitty was seen standing with the head of Security and other staff talking about the strike. If you ask me, they're already on strike.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Anti-Semitism from a Carnegie Board member and Mr. Dress Up

The woman in front of me in the cafeteria was buying a banana and a potato salad -- they make a nice potato salad with the skins left on -- in the Carnegie Center yesterday. An aboriginal guy, a Carnegie Board member who sometimes volunteers at the cafeteria, was operating the cash register and jokingly asked her how much she owed him. She said "$1.15". He said it was actually $1.50. He then added jokingly, "You don't have a bit of Hebrew in your blood do you?" She said, "Hebrew?"

An aboriginal woman ahead of her, who had just gone through the cash, looked at the woman and laughed, as though she expected a bonding moment on this humor. The laughing aboriginal woman is well known at Carnegie, having been recently held up as a role model by Carnegie staff and management as "Volunteer of the Year". Before that the povertarians got her a job a the now defunct Four Corners Community Bank that Jim Green started.

The cashier had by this time had turned his attention to ringing in the purchases and, when he did so, realized that the woman had been right. He announced that she actually did owe just $1.15.

I thought of yesterday's anti-semitic moment at Carnegie when I was reading a post on Covenant Zone blogspot this morning about how Palestinians are using Western children's programming -- Mr. Dress Up, Mickey Mouse, etc. -- to indoctrinate children into hatred of Jews and Israel.

The "Hebrew" comment at Carnegie didn't come out of a vacuum if you ask me, but from an environment in which ones-sided information is provided encouraging disdain for Jews and Israel. Upstairs the Carnegie Center has hosted pro-Palestinian talks inviting speakers, some of them Jews and one of them a Palestinian, who make a hobby of criticizing Israel. There have also been movies shown on this theme. Never has there been anything to my knowledge that would be sympathetic to Israel. The Carnegie newsletter, subsidized by the City of Vancouver, also tends to be pro-Palestinian. The joking cashier/Board member has been around for years so it would be hard to believe that he hasn't been exposed to this.

A change of topic -- Bored by Mr. Dress Up, fascinated by Ooglie Wooglie

Reading about Mr. Dress Up and the Friendly Giant on Covenant Zone blogspot brought back memories of the crappy children's programming I was exposed to. As Paul Simon sings, "It's a wonder I can think at all."

I remember being a kid and thinking that Mr. Dress Up talked in a phony way. Years later, I read about some popular children's television entertainer who didn't realize he was being broadcast and he said what he really thought of the kids viewing, calling them little bastards, etc. I immediately wondered if that's the attitude Mr. Dress Up was suppressing behind his phony voice.

Mr. Dress Up bored the daylights out of me. I learned nothing because I just got too bored to sit in front of the television and watch him. I didn't find Finnigan interesting either; he was some sort of puppet figure who Mr. Dress Up chattered to.

I was bored with the Friendly Giant too. But I liked him a little better than Mr. Dress Up. I liked the way the furniture on the set was built to different scales, some huge and some miniature. Years later, as an adult, I was watching the news and they played a clip of the Friendly Giant sitting in the rocking chair and announced that he'd died. I was sad, but just for a minute. I thought of the deprivation of my childhood in Ottawa, sitting in front of the television trying to glean something from the Friendly Giant.

There was another children's show that I used to watch. A woman would stand in front of the camera beside a huge sheet of paper hanging on a tripod, and she would tell a story about a worm named Oogly Wooglie. She used a black felt pen to sketch illustrations as she told the story. When she finished one picture, she would flip the paper over the back of the tripod and she would start drawing on a fresh piece. She was calm but fast in the way she would keep the pictures coming.

Even then, I knew that this was a very cheap way to do a television show. But I liked it. I liked the way she drew Ooglie Wooglie's head with one quick line in a half-oval shape, and then two eyes with two more quick lines in half-oval shapes. Sometimes she would underscore each eye with a quick, loose, horizontal line. No extraneous detail at all. I don't remember her name. I think it was "Miss" something.

Monday, July 16, 2007

DTES residents locked out of Carnegie Computer Room Monday Morning

Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty returned from a two week vacation today. Whitty left for vacation just after delivering homeless Bill Simpson a letter barring him from the Carnegie Center, putting him on the street to endure the recent heat wave. It is now common knowledge that he was barred for daring to feature "links" on his website to a blog which happens to criticize the job performance of Whitty.

Let's criticize the job performance of Whitty. Whitty had been back on the job not more than 1 1/2 hours when low income residents arriving first thing Monday morning to use computers found themselves locked out of the Computer Room on the third floor. Just meters away, Whitty was seen ducking into her office, wearing a light yellow sweater and beige slacks. At 10 a.m. and at 10:35 a.m. the Computer Room was checked by a DTES Enquirer informant. It was locked both times.

The DTES Enquirer stopped officially tracking the locking out of DTES residents from Carnegie services last winter. But people sometimes report closures anyway. On Tuesday, July 3, 2007 a Carnegie patron, J.A., who doesn't generally criticize Whitty and says he doesn't like to see people "cutting her down on a blog", was frustrated when he arrived at the computer room at around 8 p.m. and found the place locked tight. He said he's 90% certain it was Tuesday evening but there's a 10% chance it was Monday. The Computer Room is scheduled to be open until 10 p.m.

J.A. was also clearly frustrated at the July Board meeting which Whitty skipped to take her vacation. It was a raucous meeting with members wanting answers about why Bill Simpson, an elected Board member, was standing outside on the sidewalk in the heat unable to set foot in the building. It was "dammed dirty" what was done to Bill Simpson, J.A. can be heard hollering on a tape of the meeting. "Dammed dirty!"

These service closures are important to put on record since Whitty accused bloggers at a Board meeting on June 25th "defamations" in their reporting. Locked doors are bricks and mortar facts. Not defamation.

Another thing. Today in the cafeteria, there were no trays and no forks at lunch time. A couple of weeks ago, on Welfare Day, the DTES Enquirer was told by witnesses that there were no trays and one woman resorted to using a dirty tray that someone else had returned to the trolley for dirty dishes. And of course the tables were filthy, with people expected to eat on top of other people's crumbs.

The Downtown Eastside is a high disease area, so why isn't the City of Vancouver Health Department looking more closely at Whitty's shortcomings? Of I forgot, the City is busy claiming that blogging is a "Work Safe" issue. That's why they put Bill Simpson on the sidewalk where he could end up with heat stroke.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Is City Hall Spying on Bloggers?

[To enlarge, click on picture.] Government Bureau by George Tooker

Suspicions that City Hall staff are spying on bloggers who criticize City managers were supported by statements made at a Carnegie Center Board meeting on Thursday evening in Vancouver.

One such statement was made by Margaret Prevost, Carnegie Center Association President, when announcing that the issue of Carnegie staff being criticized on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog had been referred to “the City” months earlier. Speaking in a slow, measured fashion, as if she were choosing her words carefully, Prevost said:

“They have resources that we don’t have in order to get information from websites.”

What information was City staff able to get from websites that could not simply be read from the computer screens at Carnegie? That was the question being asked by contributors to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog.

The employment of “resources” at City Hall against bloggers criticizing City management staff was not a fleeting exercise. This has been “a six or seven month process”, said Gena Thompson, Vice President of the Carnegie Center Association, at Thursday’s meeting. “It started in the winter,” Thompson told the audience who had come to the Carnegie theater in the sweltering July heat. But when Thompson narrowed down the approximate month in which the City had taken over the blog case, it became apparent that this campaign against the Downtown Eastside Enquirer bloggers had been underway for longer than 6 or 7 months. Thompson said records would have to be checked for confirmation, but to the best of her recollection, the meeting in which the blog case was referred to the City had occurred last October or November.

The time frame laid out by Thompson raised eyebrows amongst contributors to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. It was just after the City reportedly took over the case that unwitting bloggers had begun to notice that when passwords were typed into public-access computers operated by the City of Vancouver (through the Vancouver Public Library), they seemed to be getting stolen. The DTES Enquirer blog was repeatedly hacked into, as was an account at the NowPublic.com news site used by a blogger to post links to the DTES Enquirer -- until a policy was enacted that passwords would no longer be typed into City of Vancouver computers.

It was also shortly after the City reportedly took over the case that access to blogger.com, the site used by bloggers to post on the DTES Enquirer, was blocked on City computers at Carnegie. Access to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog by the general public had been blocked earlier in the fall of 2006.

The hacking and censorship was reported to DTES Enquirer readers on Dec. 14, 2006 in a post entitled, "Back After Being Hacked". It was revealed in the post that the hacking had begun in the second week of December. First the hacker had deleted a few posts, but later returned and deleted the entire blog. A coincidence was clear from this post -- that it was during the same week as the hacker began interfering with blogging, that access to Google blogging technology on City computers at Carnegie was blocked.

In a post dated Jan. 11, 2007, the DTES Enquirer updated readers on the ongoing problem of hacking: "Hacker Smears Blogger as 'Child Porn Watcher' " When the City barred a homeless man, Bill Simpson, from the Carnegie Learning Center, claiming that he had used their computers to blog, the DTES Enquirer was hacked within hours of documenting the barring. This time the hacker did not delete the post, but inserted libelous text. Simpson was presented as a "child porn watcher" and a "FAG" who would masturbate inside the Carnegie Learning Center. The name of his website timetender.ca was changed to "yougboyz.ca".

In the same Jan. 11th post, it was reported that at the NowPublic.com news site, the hacker entered the account of "jr", who posts excerpts from the DTES Enquirer. Assuming the identity of "jr", the hacker changed the term "homeless" Bill Simpson to "homo" Bill Simpson. (Simpson, for the record, is heterosexual.) Racist material was also fraudulently entered in the comments section via jr's account by the hacker: "Chinks, Spics, Beans and Niggers.... by William B. Simpson". This article ended with the racist text, "Ban some of those chinks for gambling and drunk Indians." Simpson did not write these comments. He is quick to tell people that his grandmother is Metis, a fact that he is proud of.

In another post dated January 14, 2007, Hacker Leaves Another Harassing Comment, the DTES Enquirer reported misogynist text that had been inserted by the hacker. The Downtown Eastside Enquirer was referred to as the "Yeastside Enquirer" with "piss pussy power".

Hacking was reported to Google. Google advised to DTES Enquirer bloggers change the password -- something that had already done more than once. Only ceasing to post on the Vancouver City-Public Library computers cured the problem, which led to suspicions that the surveillance was occurring through those computers.

Whether City Hall staff recruited to delve into the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog were lifting passwords from computers remains open to question. What is clear, though, is that in arranging to have the case of the DTES Enquirer turned over to City Hall, Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty was in a conflict of interest position. She was arranging to have resources of City Hall used against blogging taxpayers who just happened to be criticizing her management performance. Whitty, who is paid $104,000 annually by the City to deliver computer, educational and other services to the Downtown Eastside underclass, was exposed on the blog for too often allowing doors to those services to be locked. Criticism which began in a July 6, 2006 post, Carnegie Members Consider Pressing for Forensic Audit, resulted in no noticeable improvement. Frustration mounted, leading to the more acerbic criticism of Whitty in the Nov. 29, 2006 post, Carnegie Director Accused of Failing to Deliver Taxpayer Funded Services to the Poor.

Last fall, Whitty went to the Carnegie Board and stated that she was "hurt" by the blog criticism, according to a Board member (who did not grant permission to be named). Whitty got approval from the Board before turning the issue over to the City, but that was largely a formality. Whitty reminded the Board just last month when questioned about a City decision to bar a man from the Carnegie Center for posting "links" to the DTES Enquirer blog, that she discusses decisions with the Board only as a courtesy. "I actually don't answer to you", she said.

Whitty was not the only person in a conflict of interest position in making the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog a target of City Hall “resources”. Whitty's supervisor at City Hall, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, and in turn her supervisor City Manager Judy Rogers were also in a conflict of interest position. At the time the blog case was turned over to City Hall, both Forbes-Roberts and Rogers had been exposed on the blog for their handling of a sexual harassment complaint at Carnegie. They were exposed when Rogers complained of mistreatment by Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham, after he had placed a used target practice silhouette on her desk. It was demonstrated in the post that when it came to insensitivity to a woman, Graham had nothing over these two. That post is one of the few that was never retrieved after a hacker deleted the blog, although the content will be re-posted with a new angle in the future.

Certainly Rogers has demonstrated suspicious conduct in relation to this case. She consistently refused to respond to e-mails sent to her, one dated Dec. 4, 2006 and one dated Dec. 14, 2006, about the fact that individuals suspected of blogging were being harassed by workers at Carnegie. Mayor Sullivan acted in a similarly suspicious manner upon receipt of an e-mail dated Mar. 21, 2007, in which he was asked to ensure that Rogers stopped evading these e-mails. He simply would not respond.

City staff whose combined salaries totaeld roughly one million dollars last year have been turning their attention to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog since last fall. These staff persons include City Manager Judy Rogers and managerial and legal staff whom it is her job to oversee. And they include talent from the grossly understaffed VPD Computer Crimes Unit, recruited to 'chat' with bloggers.

In the spring of 2007, City staff arranged for police to contact individuals suspected of being involved with the DTES Enquirer blog -- despite not a shred of evidence against the bloggers. City staff availed themselves of the scarce resources of the VPD Computer Crime Unit -- resources that needed to be focused on credit card fraud rings and pedophile activity on the internet -- to target bloggers who were criticizing the performance of a few City managers and one supervisor. One man who does not even post on the DTES Enquirer, reported that the police officer who visited him seemed to be off duty, arriving after-hours with no partner and no uniform, and appeared to be doing a "favor" for a City staff person. Laying unfounded police complaints against bloggers is public mischief. It's a criminal offense.

The "blog burners" at City Hall remain active. The Downtown Eastside Enquirer has obtained a copy of the Notice on City of Vancouver letterhead signed by Jacquie Forbes-Roberts and dated June 21, 2007, banning a man from entering the Carnegie building because he has posted "links" to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. Forbes-Roberts ended the notice with what could be interpreted as more intimidation, "We are continuing to investigate this matter."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Art Bell's replacements announced

George Nori announced last night, July 3rd, that Ian Punit will take over the Saturday night slot of the Coast to Coast radio show left vacant by Art Bell's retirement. Punit, an Episcopalian minister from Minnesota who is prone to eczema on his hands and a racy sense of humor, has previously hosted on Saturday nights when Bell was away.

Nori will now be hosting on the first Sunday of every month, in addition to his regular week night shows.

The other slots left vacant will be filled by guest hosts for the time being. There will also be the occasional re-run or "best of" show.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Thelma and Louise Moment

There is considerable evidence that Colleen G., an employee at Carnegie Center, had input into relentless barring of homeless man, Bill Simpson, from the Center. And there is evidence that she had input into the recent unfounded police complaints against Simpson and other suspected bloggers.

Immediately after Bill was barred on June 21st, Colleen returned to work at the Center, after not having been seen for awhile.

A few days before Simpson was last barred on June 21, 2007, Colleen passed him "in a car with a Carnegie kitchen worker wearing a bandanna", waving vigorously and hollering, "Hi Bill!" Simpson was nonplussed. But being a born-to-be-polite Saskatchewanian, he returned the greeting.

It has been pointed out by a Carnegie member watching the Simpson barring case that this attempt to connect with Simpson should be put on record -- since the latest story, the third version now, from the City of Vancouver is that Simpson was barred because employees felt "unsafe". And who would those employees be? Thelma and Louise?

Art Bell Retires from Coast to Coast Radio Show

Art Bell announced last night that he is retiring from his popular Coast to Coast radio show.

Knowing that his listeners have heard him retire on previous occasions, Bell said, "This time it's for real though. (chuckles) It's for real."

Bell explained that this time he was retiring not for some tragedy or emergency, but to be with his wife and infant daughter. He married Airyn (Ruiz) Bell, roughly 40 years his junior, last year -- just a few months after his wife Ramona died suddenly. A daughter, Asia Rayne Bell, was born just a few weeks ago. Bell's voice sounded emotional at times during the announcement, as though he was holding back tears:

“God has blessed me with love in my life at a time, frankly, when I thought I had lost any reason to live following Mona's death: my wonderful wife Airyn and now our daughter Asia. I really want what time the Lord has left for me to be with them."

Bell commented that on June 17th, he became eligible for Social Security. Then he laughed as he reflected on that fact. He turned 62 on that date.

Bell explained last night that he had needed to return to the air after Ramona's death because his audience was what was "familiar", they were "family" in a way. "All I had left at that dark time in my life was all of you." Being a private person despite being a public figure, he had a very small circle of close friends "and that's about it." But he now needs, he said, to go off the air as he enters a new phase in life. He added that it's not often that a person gets a "second chance" in life.

So listeners can no longer expect to hear Art Bell's relaxed but upbeat voice on Saturday and Sunday nights announcing that it is "my privilege to escort you through the weekend.” But he will still be associated with the Coast to Coast show he helped found, he says, and will be back occasionally to fill in or do a special. Listeners can still reach him, he said, at his two e-mail addresses on the Coast to Coast website.

Although Bell had not mentioned in his retirement announcement at the beginning of the show that he was going to the Philippines, his guest made mention of it at the end of the show when wishing him a good retirement: "I know you're going to the Philippines. Enjoy it." Bell responded, "OK".

Bell reminded his listeners that it had always been a "distinct pleasure" to be their host and then signed off:

"From the high desert. . .Goodbye."

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