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.]