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.]


Anonymous said...

It isn't THAT loud - gimme a break! Besides, ever hera of ear plugs? If you dont like it, go elsewhere! ANd while you're there, get a life!

reliable sources said...

It is excessively loud! People don't get ringing in their ears from safe sound levels.

The Lounge tv is not at a consistent volume all the time though -- that's part of the problem. Several people have pointed out that the noise level gets unbearable when the action scenes come on -- which is every few minutes in the action films made for 18-24 year old males that are regular far at Carnegie (even though people that young are not allowed into the Lounge.) If you walk into the Lounge when there's just dialogue happening in the movie, the volume can seem tolerable. But stick around for a couple of minutes. And you'll feel like you're in a war zone. The coffee sellers have said that they don't want to have to turn the volume down each time an action scene with the gunfire etc. comes on. That's why those DVDs in the afternoon have to go.

The solution I believe from talking to several people -- three people spoke to me this evening to say they were glad Ethel was being called to account for this -- is that regular programming such as news could be played AT A REASONABLE VOLUME during the day.

One woman -- she said I could use her name but I forget it; she is 40ish, heavy set with strawberry blond hair -- said that the problem is that the volume is set by Devor. "He's partially deaf," she expained.

The Vancouver Public Library has to take some responsibility for the horrible environment in which Whitty is placing the public access computers they provide. I've been told that a complaint is going to be made directly to the Library if Whitty doesn't start enforcing health and safety standards. I'll try to get hold of a copy of it.

Your comment, "If you don't like it, go elsewhere!" indicates that you work for Carnegie because that is the response people with complaints are predictably given there. In fact, the e-mail that a friend received from a Carnegie member and forwarded to me contains something about this. If I remember correctly, the woman who talked to Trey and Myles on Security was asked by Myles if she could use a computer elsewhere. As a Carnegie staff person and a person who is no doubt a CUPE member on strike for better wages, my response is: If you don't like it go elsewhere!

In fact, I've heard that Whitty's failure to rectify the noise problem is the last straw, that people would like to see Whitty go elsewhere. People are outraged that C.G.'s Work Safe (WCB) complaint about a non-violent man whom she claimed was blogging was expedited while this noise issue that is leaving people with tinititus has been ignored for OVER A YEAR!

Oh I forgot... you suggest ear plugs. They've been tried. Some people carry them with them at Carnegie but they are no match for the sound levels in the Lounge. One coffee seller admitted that some people even take paper towels from the coffee shop and roll them up and plug their ears. But it's not enough. Every time there's a loud bang on the screen or a sudden outbreak of machine gun fire, it's stressful for people concentrating on the computers. As Jim A. said, "It's nerve-wracking."

karmalyzed said...

Why isn't the Board of Directors in some capacity involved in this kind of issue? Why isn't there a dispute resolution mechanism in the By-Laws of the Association which does not include city staff or security at the first level? Why aren't the Board members using their powers as set out in the By-laws to "...make rules and regulations governing the Centre's operation..." How can watching cartoons in the middle of the day "...contribute to the betterment of the community." as stated in the Constitution, Article II - Purposes of the Society?

Has the issue been brought to the attention of the board? What committee would/should provide oversight? Volunteer committee on the issue of the behaviour of the volunteer coffee servers? Program committee on the compatibility of cartoons at excessive volume while working on computers? How about a board motion to "Advise the Carnegie Centre Director..."(see the rest of Article II of the constitution) about the appropriateness of cartoons and computers in the same room?

I'm a new Carnegie member and am quite baffled by the way things seem to run, or not, at the Carnegie. I'm asking questions and attending meetings but there must be others with more experience at the Carnegie who could bring some clarity to these issues, and suggest an appropriate course of action.

There's a board meeting tomorrow, Thursday, August 2nd - I believe at 5:30 - maybe something can be done there to get the board on track.

Wm said...

Is it interesting to note that Ethel takes responsibility for nothing? Clearly, what's in "the best interests of the Carnegie Centre" as JFR states and Ethel serves, is not in the "best interest of the people who use the centre" as the CCCA Constitution calls for. The CCCA Board is supposed to be there, where are they?
The “Bully Board Majority” is ignoring and going against BC Societies Act by preventing members from voting and a board member from attending. Plus they have abandoned their own constitution and bylaws to illegally elect themselves to executive positions, plus they can continue to ignore important issues that not only threaten the well being and safety of the public, but with the civil service they threaten democracy and behave as fascists.
Where is Libby Davies in all of this? Isn’t this her crowd?
If you want to carry on this dialogue and more go to www.DowntownEastsideEnquirer.ca and click on Community Forum.
RS, will you reply to Wilf’s request for a Timeline please, with links back to your site from first story to last.

reliable sources said...


Enforcement of health and safety in the building is the City's responsibility. I have been listening to tapes of meetings that have been passed around to people who couldn't attend and I heard Whitty point out that health and safety in the building is a City responsibility, not a Board responsibility. She, and I believe Peter Fairchild, made statements to this effect when discussing the fact that a Work Safe complaint had been generated against an alleged blogger by a Carnegie staff person.

Since Whitty is spending time with the Work Safe manual, she could look up safe noise levels. It has been established, I believe, that 90 decibels is the cut off point.

Thank you for you input. It's interesting to hear from somebody who hasn't become jaded from being around for 20 years.

karmalyzed said...


I'm not sure if your last line is a dig or not, but I'll leave it at that for now.

I guess the point I was trying to make is that the Board should be there to support the membership, and this seems to be a good instance where they could do that, regardless of what EW does with her WorkSafe Manual.

reliable sources said...


It wasn't "a dig". Sorry if it came across that way. I genuinely find it interesting to hear from someone who is new to the DTES and taking a fresh look at the Carnegie situation .

People who have been around for years have largely given up on using processes at Carnegie. One man, B.B., calls the process at Carnegie, "obstruction by essay". He says he's just told to put things in writing and then nothing is done. He stopped going to the basement Lounge because his complaints of abuse by a coffee seller (and we all know who that is) were not seriously addressed, in his view, by Dan Tetrault. He said that he interpreted Tetrault's attitude as, "Oh no, not another person who wants to change things."

Michael W., who lives at the Lucky Lodge, is a storehouse of information about Carnegie processes. He has taken issues to committees, the Board, etc., etc. and he just gave up after 15-16 years. He rarely goes to the place anymore.

karmalyzed said...

Thanks RS, Here's a new development. An article written by Paul Taylor in this edition of Carnegie Newsletter. Sorry, you have to go here read it all - I pasted the article and my email to J F-R along with my letter to PT delivered to CCCA office today:


dag said...

Change anything you can on a piece-meal basis but don't expect anything substantial to occur from your efforts. If things are not working as they should in the system of the Carnegie Centre it's not this issue or that issue, it is the system. To ensure that the system is functional one needs investigate the workings and the very nature of that system. If there is a clear goal involved in the investigation of the system, some point to looking into it, some hope of making it work in some rational way rather than finding this or that thing to tinker with, then one might find the means to repair the damage done by invested cliques of ideologically motivated time-servers awaiting lucrative pensions and double-dipping as "consultants" on issues related to "poverty."

If the patrons of Carnegie Centre and other such venues are seriously interested in social change and social justice in their personal lives, then it will require a team effort to take political control of the centre itself to make it work for the needs of the community it reputedly serves. At this time the Carnegie Centre is nothing more than a make-work playground for povertarians who soak up vast amounts of tax-payers' money for the sake of swaggering as they walk, showing themselves to the world in their personae as the saints and saviors from the Left. They are no such thing, and unless there is a clear analysis of who and what the povertarians are, why they exist as they do, and what they do, the harm they do, then incremental reforms of office procedures will lead the patron of the Carnegie Centre only into further abuse by the minders and poseurs of povertarianism.

What do you want to do? What is to be done? And why?

I would recommend meeting off-site to discuss what it is the community at-large truly needs from such a place as the Carnegie Centre, if anything at all. To ask questions without fear of disbarment it is likely necessary to meet away from that place. What do you get, what do you want, and how do those things differ? Why do they differ? How can you make them the same in word and deed?

I'd gather up my friends and go somewhere to discuss the options out of sight of the "experts" who manage the lives of the poor. If they do that good a job, why are there more people in poverty now than ever? Is it the ruthless government or is it a Frankenstein's monster create by the Left to promote their own lives at your expense?

I ask my friends, somewhere private, and I'd show up with a reason for wanting to know why I'd even question the problems.

reliable sources said...


I say what you say, only moreso.

You mention that attempting to make even minor reforms at Carnegie could lead a patron "into further abuse by the minders and poseurs of povertarianism." I've been reminded of that recently. There are two Board members, Rachel and Sophia, who are speaking up about human rights in the barring of Bill Simpson and it is sad to watch how much hostility and even abuse is being directed at them. It's coming from the very people who claim to care about the homeless and human rights and emphasize this angle on their grant applications.

A guy who was at this evening's Carnegie Board meeting gave me a tape of it; their process is disintegrating just because two women have insisted that a guy's human rights be respected. These women are being villainized. The President, Margaret Prevost, used the f-word and said she was "pissed off" when Rachel insisted on speaking to a motion before it was voted on. People were sniping at each other. One Board member would leave the room when Sophia spoke, a fact she pointed out on the tape.

Discussion of the Bill Simpson issue was blocked. A woman stated at an appropriate time, just after the Community Relations report, that she wished to raise the issue of Bill Simpson's barring but she was quickly told that she couldn't. She is the constituency that the povertarians are supposed to serve but they only want them when they're docile.

A Carnegie staff person on a picket line was spreading misinformation to a Carnegie member a couple of days ago about Rachel, encouraging distrust of her -- possibly because she is well liked by Carnegie members who are generally pleased to see her protesting the fact that their Board member got barred from the building without due process a week after they elected him.

And yesterday, Rachel was attacked in a column in the Carnegie newsletter along with Bill Simpson.

Your life and reputation can be destroyed at Carnegie for daring to speak up about human rights and free speech.

But instead of getting depressed about the povertarians, I focus on watching the courageous minority, like Rachel, Sophia, and even Grant who go to meeting after meeting to press this issue. Sophia and Grant are upfront about the fact that they are not fans of Simpson, yet like Rachel they understand that he has rights that can't be erased just because they've become inconvenient for the handlers.

A volunteer said that the reason the Carnegie establishment has Rachel in the cross-hairs is that, "She went on Co-op radio" along with some others. They talked about the poverty industry and how Carnegie is part of it.

I don't have the energy to transform Carnegie -- Bill and a few of his associates seem to have energy for it -- but I do find the human rights battle worth watching.

Sophia gave the Board and Asst. Mgr. a mini speech on human rights at the last Board meeting. She did it in this radio announcer's voice. She should get the Order of Canada.