Sunday, May 31, 2009

Man Threatening to Jump from Rooftop Shuts Down Hastings

Hastings St. was blocked off by police for a couple of hours tonight, from Main to Carroll St.  A man standing on the roof of the New Lux appeared to want to jump.  The New Lux is government funded housing for the hard to house, near the United We Can Bottle Depot. 

The man was sitting on the roof and would occasionally stand up, teetering back and forth and hollering.  He appeared to be playing to the crowd of about 75 people watching from behind yellow police tape.  

One spectator quipped, "He's mad Pittsburgh lost the hockey game."  

Carnegie Staff Battered and Broken

Carnegie staff have more injuries than playoff hockey.

Skip Everall, head of Security has a bandaged hand.  Catriona Moore who oversees the kitchen has her arm in a sling.  

And Ethel Whitty reportedly broke her wrist and is in pretty bad shape.  Members say it's more relaxed now that she's away.  Call it harm reduction.  

Michael Ignatieff: Your Choice for a Bi-Polar Prime Minister

Radio host Roy Green said this morning that he didn't believe Harper's so-called "attack ads" on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff were attacking enough.  So he made his own attack ad.  And instead of the 30 seconds the others had, he made his 60 seconds long.

Green's attack ad opens with the music of Springsteen, "Born in the U.S.A. I was born in the U.S.A."

Then there's a clip of Ignatieff telling an audience, 

"You have to decide, 'What kind of America do you want', right?  You have to decide.  It's your country just as much as it is mine."

Then we hear "Born in the U.S.A." again.
And again Ignatieff:

"You have to decide, 'What kind of America do you want', right?  You have to decide.  It's your country just as much as it is mine."

Then there is another song with lyrics that I didn't fully hear, something about "the colour of my life". 

Then there was an Arnold Schwartzenegger clip,
"I'll be back."

The "I'll be back" joke is a bit threadbare but the rest of the attack ad got me laughing.  And I enjoyed how unapologetic Green was for putting this ad together. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Making Waves at Waves

Photo:  Waves coffee shop at Main & Cordova 

I wonder if the Waves coffee shop that just opened at Main & Cordova will make a go of it. The coffee shop, which has replaced Vic's restaurant, doesn't draw much of a crowd at night. It's not as welcoming an environment as the Waves on Hastings St. at Richards. And on Sunday and Tuesday nights, if you sit on a stool in the window sipping your tall latte, you're faced with the long line-up at the Sally Ann soup truck which parks across the street to feed the penniless.

Photo:  Line-up for Sally Ann soup truck

I was listening to a CKNW radio interview recently with a guy who said he owned three Waves coffee shops on the Downtown Eastside -- one at Main & Pender which closes at 10 p.m., one at Hastings & Richards which is open 24 hrs., and one that just opened at Main & Cordova which closes at midnight. He was emphasizing what a fabulous relationship his staff have with the Downtown Eastside community.

This fabulous relationship does not include hiring Downtown Eastsiders. None of his staff have that lived-in look of Downtown Eastsiders. His taste runs to recent Russian immigrant women in their late teens or early twenties. I would say the Richards St. location is exclusively staffed with young Russian women. A couple of young Russia men have also managed to get hired there on the all-night shift. I don't hang out in the Pender St. (Chinatown) location near Carnegie Center; it seems less Russian.  I've seen a Chinese woman working there. A woman who regularly works evenings at the Cordova St. location seems Russian to me, although a man at Carnegie has since told me he believes she's German).

Regardless of where this young, heavy-set woman with a blond ponytail came from, she comes across like a school marm who would love to swat a Downtown Eastsider across the ear with a ruler.

There was a group of regulars in there on Friday night recently -- they used to show up at the Cordova St. Waves a little after 10 p.m. and when that location closed, they would sometimes head up to the Richards St. Waves -- and this staffer caught one of them eating a stick of stuffed celery as she chatted with friends staring at their laptop screens. The staffer walked over to the customer and scolded her, "You can't eat your own food in here." The customer said, "Ok". But the staffer returned for a second go-round, snapping at the customer about how the next time she had her own food, "I will ask you to go outside."

"What did she say?", a regular male customer, a t-shirt artist with a studio up the street, asked. "She wants us to eat those terrible sandwiches they sell," a man who buys lattes there on a regular basis called out.

You'd think the staffer would be grateful to have a group of regulars in an almost empty restaurant on a Friday night, I thought.

Then the staffer did the unthinkable. She switched off the internet without telling customers. It was not yet midnight and one man had just bought a coffee and was pissed off that he couldn't surf the net while he sipped it. He politely asked her -- she was by then mopping the floor around his table with Lysol -- if she had turned it off. She said she had, "You're always here late and we're closing. We have to go home." He pointed out that usually they lock the door to new customers at midnight but let people already inside finish their coffee. "We'll take our business elsewhere," he announced to his friends. "We'll tell Bill to get a blogger to write her up", he said laughing.

He then held up his paper cup of coffee saying, "This cup is leaking." The staffer nonchalantly replied, "Some of our cups are leaking tonight," as she continued to mop around him. "Some?", he said. Familiarity breeds contempt. I know that's a cliche but it seems to be exactly what was happening here. The staffer slipped a second paper cup over his leaky one.

As he was leaving, he announced that there was too much water on the floor from the mopping. "That will ruin the floor," he said. Outside the door, he stood on the corner yelling, "Leaky cups! No internet! What next?! If you have leaky cups, you don't serve them, you tell your supplier!" Another regular guy interjected, "Maybe she had no other cups. She was nice to me,"he said, "She said goodnight. Stay on good terms with them. It's good to have wifi in the neighborhood."

They turned to walk up Cordova, taking their business elsewhere. To Waves on Richards, owned by the same man.

That was two weeks ago and when I've since walked past Waves on Cordova at night, I've looked in the window to see if the regulars were there. They weren't.  So I asked the guy who got the leaky cup and he confirmed, "We don't go there anymore."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2608 filled with Hate

 There is a cop with white blond hair, in his early twenties, who is often standing around outside Carnegie. Mark my words.  He's trouble.  I made a point of getting his number: 2608.  

He's got an attitude problem.  He talks to people with a "You're shit" tone.  When he could be neutral in the way he speaks to somebody, he power trips.  He's never bothered me when I walk by that corner but I notice him all the time, because he's such a power tripping peacock.  Ask me who else is policing outside Carnegie and I couldn't tell you, I couldn't even describe them, because they don't stand out like this guy with the white blond hair and the major attitude. 

Here's an example:  A young native guy was standing in front of Carnegie near the cross walk and this cop goes up to him and sticks his nose just inches from the native guy's nose and asks in an aggressive "Fcuk you" tone, "What are you doing here!!?".  He fired a battery of questions at the native, all with a fcuk you tone, but the native guy persisently acted deferential.  The cop didn't seem to have anything on the native guy; he and his fellow partner didn't search him.  The blond cop eventually walked away and the young native guy kept standing there.  The native guy was no doubt into something if he was standing outside Carnegie but the cops have all the power, they don't have to treat him in a way that could get a rise out of him.   Nathan, who used to run a Philosopher's Cafe at Carnegie, once said that when you're fcuking with somebody, it's best to be polite.   Then he laughed.

Sooner or later, #2608  is going to become an embarrassment to the VPD. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barry Miller: Dead and Gone

Photo:  Barry Miller having a sandwich at the Army & Navy food floor around Christmas 2007

“If you see Kelly, tell him to pay me back the $20 he owes me or I’ll slash his tires,” Barry Miller said, laughing.   I told Kelly.  That was a month ago.  A few days ago, Kelly dropped by Solheim Place apartments on Union St. and buzzed the manager to ask if Barry was around.  "Ooooh, he's gone," the manager replied in a solemn voice which Kelly imitated for me today.  “Maybe he's gone to Ontario; I'll try again in two or three days,” Kelly told the manager and took off.    

Shortly after that, Kelly heard a group of guys talking about the “man with the cats” dying.  That was Barry.  The word was he'd had a heart attack.  

So when Kelly spotted me today, he stopped on his bike and said, "You know Barry, the guy I owed the twenty bucks to?  He’s dead!”  Kelly's voice cracked.

A neighbour of Barry's at Solheim Place has since said that he had a heart attack at roughly 5:30 in the morning and was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.      

The last time I talked to Barry was about a week ago when I spotted him sitting on a bench in front of a bank on Main St. at Pender.  I believe he said during that conversation that he was 69 years old. 
Barry enjoyed his cats, his Canada Pension, and going to restaurants.  I remember him counting down the years and then the months until he got his Canada Pension.  With his pension, he saw life as Easy Street.  He didn't go to Carnegie Center as much.  He ate in restaurants more.  He told me he liked the Slocan restaurant up at Nanaimo and Hastings.  Kelly mentioned today that he'd seen Barry at the Slocan with a "big spread" in front of him.

“It was death by knife and fork,” said Kelly, shaking his head.  “I’ve seen it so many times.”  

I thought of Barry buying coffee at McDonalds and using half a cup of cream.  

Barry fed his cats well too.  Even before he got the pension, he would buy them a case of Fancy Feast, the tiny tins, every month at the Tisol Pet store on Main at 12th.  And he always had lots of dried food for his cats too.  

He used to have coffee at McDonald’s with Kelly who had been raised as though he were one of a litter of cats. Kelly's parents in New Brunswick had a huge number of children and would sometimes give one away to a relative who visited.  He said that practice wasn’t unusual were he grew up.     

Barry had been a drinker but quit a few years back.  He had helped the Downtown Eastside Residents Association drink the Metropole Hotel into the ground.  DERA owned the hotel until it went bankrupt and when Barry would drop in, staff from DERA would be drinking in there and would offer him beer on the house.  

Barry liked the DERA crowd.  He thought Terry Hanley, the former Director of DERA, was attractive.  He would occasionally ask people, “Do you ever see Terry Hanley around?”, with a twinkle in his eye.  He had always gotten along ok with her spouse too, Eric.  He used to drink with them.

Up until his death, Barry was working for DERA cleaning and painting suites when people moved out.  The building he lived in, Solheim Place, was run by DERA.  He told me that once when he was doing some work for DERA, the current Director Kim Kerr told him,”I’m gay”, as though he thought it might be an issue with Barry.  Barry responded, “I’ll know where to go if I ever want a bl*w job."   Kerr laughed.

Two other people Barry liked were Margaret "Muggs" Sigurdson and Bob Sarti, who had a house in Strathcona and had helped run Carnegie Center for years.  He used to drive out to Fort Langley with Muggs in her truck to help pick up a load of eggs. They would bring them back to the Dug Out drop-in center at Powell & Columbia; low income people could buy a carton of large eggs there for about $1.75. Then Muggs and Bob moved to Hornby Island.  The Dug Out no longer sells eggs.     

Like many Downtown Eastsiders, Barry had a less than stellar start in life.  His mother had died in childbirth so his aunt raised him for about a decade.  Then he got passed around. That was in Ontario, near Orillia.   

Barry got in trouble a lot when he was young, but he wasn't a hardened criminal.  The whole time I knew him, he was living a straight life.  When he was young, he and a pal were picked up by the cops in Ontario,  and one of the cops flicked his finger on Barry's eyeball, on purpose. It hurt bad, Barry told me.  He lost the sight in that eye.  But you wouldn't know that from looking at him.  

Barry knew Downtown Eastside Enquirer bloggers and contributors but he never read a blog in his life. He would just shoot the breeze with us in McDonalds while he drank his coffee.  

When I heard today that Barry had died, I thought of his cats.  If there was any unfinished business in his life, it would be finding a good home for those cats. He loved his cats.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

BC Election: RCMP asked to Investigate Former NDP President and Currrent Funders

Photo: Barry O’Neill & Carole James

A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents yesterday sent a letter to the RCMP requesting that they investigate tactics to which she was subjected after blowing the whistle about CUPE Local 116 executives staffing their union office exclusively with non-union secretaries and firing them after they spoke up about excessive workload, verbal abuse, or lack of pension benefits. In the letter dated May 8, 2009 to the RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C., Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, the secretary requested an investigation into former NDP President and lawyer Ian Aikenhead, and union executives including: CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill, BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair, and former CUPE National President Judy Darcy (now a public relations person for Hospital Employees Union).

The secretary had asked NDP MLA Leonard Krog this week to ensure that her case was investigated. She made the request of Krog in writing after she watched him on the steps of the Vancouver law courts calling for an RCMP investigation into an alleged “corruption scandal” involving the Liberal government and former co-chair of the BC Liberals, Patrick Kinsella. Like the secretary’s case, this case dates back to 2002. The secretary believed that an alleged scandal involving a former NDP President and current NDP funders was just as worthy of investigation.  “He ignored me”, the secretary says of Krog.   

Another person who ignored the secretary was British Columbia NDP leader Carole James.  The secretary asked James in writing in March 2009 to suspend the use of campaign donations from O’Neill and CUPE BC; Jim Sinclair and the BC Federation of Labour; Judy Darcy and CUPE National; and former NDP President Ian Aikenhead, while tactics they had used against her as a whistleblowing union secretary remained uninvestigated.

Photo:  Poster produced by unions criticizing Premier Gordon Campbell 

Former NDP President Aikenhead did not completely ignore the secretary.  She telephoned him last week, on April 30, 2009, after hearing that he had been pressuring Blogger News Network to spike a post about her case.  Aikenhead spoke to the secretary for a few minutes before saying he had “another matter to attend to” and hanging up on her.  Aikenhead denied that he had broken any laws and said he objected to the wording of the article.  Aikenhead was starting to sound to the secretary a little like Kinsella’s lawyer issuing a warning to Carole James. Aikenhead denied there were parallels between the two cases.  

For years, the secretary has been speaking up, and bloggers have been blogging, about the tactics to which she became the target after blowing the whistle on alleged unfair labour practices inside CUPE Local 116:

Former NDP President Aikenhead and his union clients, the secretary alleges, Lodged an Unfounded Police Complaint against her for “Intimidation” purposes

In Dec. 2002, Aikenhead and his deep-pocketed union clients called Vancouver Police on the whistleblowing secretary, claiming that her written complaints regarding unfair labour practices amounted to “criminal harassment.” Before calling police, neither CUPE or Aikenhead sat down with her to discuss the working conditions to which she and three other women had been subjected inside CUPE.  Vancouver Police did not find evidence to support criminal harassment charges and cleared the secretary ….but not before Constable Megann Herrman and/or Constable Kevin Ng pounded on her apartment door and Herrmann left telephone voice mail messages pressuring her to muzzle herself about CUPE.

VPD has acknowledged that it constitutes a breach of the Criminal Code, “public mischief”, to lodge an unfounded police complaint against a political adversary. Aikenhead asserted during last week’s conversation with the secretary that his conduct in her case was not criminal.
[A whistleblowing steamfitter paying union dues to CUPE Local 116 at UBC has since surfaced to say that he was subjected to some of the same tactics as the secretary…only worse. John S. says the RCMP were called on him for writing a “rude email” to a CUPE executive after being ignored when raising concerns with Local 116 and CUPE National about alleged financial irregularities. He had actually not been totally ignored: he found a cheque slipped under his door but he couldn’t get straight answers from the union about what it was for. No charges were laid. But CUPE BC had more in store for the steamfitter. More on his case at the end of this article.]
Former NDP President Aikenhead and his Union Clients Misrepresented “Evidence”, the secretary alleges

The police report dated Dec. 17/02 reveals that as the sole evidence to support their police complaint of harassment, Aikenhead and his union clients gave police letters the secretary had written to union executives. In last week’s telephone conversation with the secretary, Aikenhead acknowledged that he and a CUPE representative sitting in his office had personally given police these letters as “proof” of criminal harassment. Yet the secretary insists that there was nothing harassing about those letters.  Indeed, police found nothing in the secretary’s letters addressed to Aikenhead or union leaders including O’Neill, Sinclair, and Darcy that would constitute harassment.

The secretary also alleges that Aikenhead and his union clients concealed from police the fact that she had repeatedly been instructed to put her concerns about unfair labour practices in writing. The secretary even has a letter from Aikenhead instructing her to outline her concerns in writing.  The police report and voice mail left by police at her home left the secretary with the understanding that police had no idea that her correspondence had been solicited by union leaders.   

During last week’s conversation, the secretary confronted Aikenhead with her belief that her letters had been “misrepresented” to police.  ”That is not fraud,” Aikenhead responded, referring to the wording of a previous allegation in relation to what was or was not told to police. The secretary pointed out to Aikenhead that to a “layperson” it “felt like fraud” when police showed up to pound on her door after being led to believe that there was something criminally harassing in her letters when there wasn’t.  

“I was just counsel,” Aikenhead told the secretary. The secretary now scoffs at that defense.  ”He was the one who went to law school,” she says, noting that he would have been in the best position of all involved to know that communication must be “threatening in nature” to be criminally harassing.      

After being cleared by police, the secretary lodged complaints with union leaders about the release to police of her letters addressed to them. “It wasn’t too late for them to take a stand and say it was all a mistake and apologize,” she says, “but they didn’t.” She says that removal of those letters from the police evidence office is an essential step toward resolving her case.

Another issue:  the secretary alleges that by releasing her polite letters to police without justification or a court order, Aikenhead and his union clients breached privacy legislation as those letters contained confidential data. 

There was one question the secretary asked Aikenhead to answer: Had Barry O’Neill at CUPE BC been behind his pressuring of Blogger News Network to delete the post about her case? Aikenhead said that was a question he was not willing to answer.  

She also asked Aikenhead if he could see how “bad” the optics were of him pressuring BNN to delete an article in the middle of a provincial election campaign. He didn’t answer that question either. 

Former NDP President Aikenhead Released Confidential Information to police, the secretary alleges, that he possessed as a result of his wife’s NDP-appointment as a Ministry of Health public representative

Constable Herrman’s police report reveals that in discussing the case with police, Aikenhead released information about a case unrelated to the CUPE complaint.  He made reference to a complaint the secretary had pursued with a health care regulatory body years before she worked for CUPE.  It was a complaint which his wife Catherine Aikenhead had handled in her role as an NDP-appointed Ministry of Health public representative.  ”I thought that was confidential,” says the secretary.  Yet the police report contains Aikenhead’s commentary about this previous case as he spoke to Constable Herrman in his office with a CUPE representative present.  CUPE was paying for Aikenhead’s time, the secretary notes, while he provided this commentary. “I didn’t think that information was for sale.”  

During their telephone conversation last week, Aikenhead denied that information he had provided to police pertaining to the health regulatory case had come from his wife. “You told me [the information],” he said. The secretary blurted out, “You’re lying!”, and insisted that she had never spoken to him before. He denied that he was lying and said that he had spoken to her in the past.  The secretary says she would have had no reason to speak to Ian Aikenhead about a health care regulatory issue.  

Aikenhead told the secretary that she had left messages at his law office. “That part is true”, says the secretary. Catherine Aikenhead had told her that messages could be left for her in her role as a public representative at her husband’s law office, while her home answering machine was malfunctioning.

The secretary alleges that the commentary Aikenhead made when speaking to police contained distortion and exaggeration.  ”He didn’t get that from me.  I wouldn’t talk about myself that way.”

The secretary has informed Carole James in writing that she expects her to review the information released by Aikenhead to police should elected NDP Members of the Legislative Assembly be considering providing him with work involving public trust.  

Evidence-Tampering — the listed “Offence” for which the secretary had been Investigated was Altered in the Police Report a year after the investigation had been Closed.

When the secretary obtained a copy of the police report, she was shocked to discover that the specific offence for which she had been investigated was “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT”. She was identified as “CLEARED” in the police report, but learned that the “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” notation would nonetheless remain on her record in police files. The secretary wrote to Jim Sinclair at the BC Federation of Labour, reminding him that the act of a woman speaking up about poor working conditions does not constitute “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT”. And she applied some reverse intimidation: she told him that as long as this notation remained on her record on police files, she intended to ensure that it remained on his public record. Shortly afterward, the alleged offence of  “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” disappeared from the police report — even though the case had been labeled “CLOSED” by the VPD the previous year.

The secretary has a copy of both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ police reports. The offence was changed from “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” to “HARASSMENT/ OBSCENE COMMUNICATION”. Her letters in the VPD Property office establish that there was nothing either harassing or obscene about her communication with labour leaders. (Her contact had been exclusively in writing, she says. This fact is confirmed by the police report.) She was never notified of the change and found out quite by accident when she made a second freedom of information request. “This is evidence tampering,” she says.

Aikenhead asserted in Thursday’s telephone conversation with the secretary that he had not been involved in this change to the police report.

Photo: Jenn McGinn (right) campaigning with Carole James

Tactics Used by the Former NDP President and Current NDP Funders Against the Whistleblowing Secretary are Not News to the NDP

The unresolved case of tactics used against the whistleblowing secretary surfaced during last year’s provincial by-election in Vancouver-Fairview, a by-election won by NDP candidate, Jenn McGinn. McGinn, a lesbian feminist, was asked in writing to take a stand on the fact that some of her highest profile funders and a former NDP President had treated a woman as a criminal as she continued to blow the whistle about unfair labour practices inside CUPE. Jenn McGinn shut up.  

McGinn is running again in the current election and, as the NDP accuses Liberal leader Gordon Campbell of not answering questions about an alleged “corruption scandal”, McGinn has joined Carole James and Leonard Krog in ….not answering questions about an alleged scandal.

Secretary First Requested a Police Investigation in 2003

The secretary sees her formal request that the RCMP investigate the tactics used against her to be “a first step”.  The RCMP can start by clarifying what police force has jurisdiction in this case,” she says.

The alleged scheme targeting her was planned and executed at the CUPE Local 116 office on the UBC campus — RCMP jurisdiction.  It has links to the Burnaby office of CUPE BC, an office also under RCMP jurisdiction.  And it was national in scope in that correspondence sent to Judy Darcy at CUPE National in Ottawa was also allegedly “misrepresented” to the VPD as evidence of harassment.  When the alleged “scheme” was launched, VPD Constables Herrmann and Ng were initially called to the offices of CUPE Local 116 on the UBC campus — RCMP jurisdiction — were the supposed victims of the harassment were located, but according to the police report, police couldn’t find anyone to talk to at that location. “They tracked down somebody from CUPE holed up in Aikenhead’s office in East Vancouver, so they drove over there”, she says.  It is possible that because Aikenhead was located in Vancouver, the RCMP will refer her case to the VPD.

It wouldn’t be the first time the secretary has been to the VPD about this case.  She asked the VPD in 2003 to investigate Aikenhead and assorted union executives including O’Neill, Sinclair, and Darcy.  One of the officers she spoke to was Sergeant Warren Lemcke, but she says the VPD simply performed a superficial investigation into the conduct of their own constables in the case and exonerated them. “They didn’t even interview me,” she says. 

The secretary believes that the tactics used against her are not strictly a law enforcement issue though.  They are an ethical issue, and a political issue, even an election issue.  She believes that the tactics used against whistleblowers provide voters with a window into the people behind Carole James, the type of tactics they use when they are operating out of the public eye.

That window was opened wide for the UBC steamfitter. After the police were called on him, he found himself facing a “tough” in-house lawyer dispatched by CUPE BC under the Barry O’Neill administration. She informed him that he would have to submit to a psychiatric assessment or lose his job. These tactics have led to allegations against CUPE — not the first time — of practicing “political psychiatry” of the sort practiced in China and the Soviet Union.  The steamfitter challenged these tactics for years and has now been fired.

The secretary hasn’t spoken to the steamfitter in years but remembers him. When asked if he had seemed mentally ill to her, she said, “No. Consider the source.” His accusers, she says, have a record of “over the top” accusations. A fired CUPE secretary was portrayed as a “nymphomaniac” by Local 116 executives, under pressure from CUPE BC to counter her complaint of unjust dismissal.

Like the whistleblowing secretary, the whistleblowing steamfitter hasn’t been muzzled entirely. He has started a blog, “”.

The secretary is concerned that some of the higher profile people who have so far avoided investigation for tactics deterring whistleblowing, are people to whom Carole James will be indebted should she form a government. “If she’s elected, she’ll be taking their calls.”  The secretary agrees with James’ election campaign comment that it’s in the “public interest” that government insiders be scrutinized. “There are questions that need to be answered,” James said. The secretary would agree.       

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Penalty Industry

Did you hear the one about the guy who got barred from Carnegie Centre for telling jokes?

It's no laughing matter. 

Some people are still annoyed about it.  Last year, Leonard, a pensioner in his early seventies, got permission from Diane, the Co-ordinator of Carnegie Poetry night, to perform as a comedian. Poetry night is popular; a good crowd shows up.

"I practiced for a week," Leonard said earnestly.  

But a security guard -- some witnesses couldn't remember his name; one called him "the grey haired guy"; one called him "the limey"; another said his name was John -- was in the audience and called out to Leonard, "You're jokes are too dirty.   You have to go!"  Many in the crowd wanted Leonard to stay and finish but the guard took him off the stage, barking, "That's enough|!"  

"Oh he was funny!  He was hilarious!", one audience member said of Leonard, throwing his head back, laughing.  "One lady there was laughing her guts out".  When the security guard kicked Leonard out, "She got mad".  He said her anger had the same intensity as her laughter.  Security kicked her out too.

"My jokes were no worse than what you hear on tv", Leonard said.  "Leno and Letterman sometimes tell jokes that are a little dirty; mine were no worse than that", he insisted.

One audience member said that Leonard had told a joke about the bible in which he talked of "foreskins" and that's what set the security guard off.   

This part is not funny at all:  Leonard was barred from the entire Carnegie building for three days.

Leonard has been around for years and is never violent or aggressive.  He's well liked.  To restore his right to come back into the Carnegie building after he had served his sentence, Leonard had to attend a meeting with Security boss, Skip Everall.  (You have to serve the sentence imposed by City of Vancouver security before you can have a meeting to appeal the barring.  Go figure.)  Everall asked him, "What did you say?" Leonard repeated a couple of the jokes and Skip "smiled" and told him he was re-instated.

As is policy, there was a handwritten security report produced on Leonard by the security guard who barred him, and then the handwritten security report was typed into the City of Vancouver Security database by one of Carnegie's twenty-something-an-hour front desk receptionists. Then, of course, there was the time spent having a meeting with the Security boss to get re-instated, after the Security boss was briefed by the barring security guard.  This barring and security report-writing occurs multiple times every day at Carnegie, usually targeting non-violent people.  Some non-violent people have multiple barrings on their security records.   

When a barring is contested, the original penalty can be compounded with another penalty, if the barred individual does not grovel during their meeting with the Security boss.    

When a barring is contested even verbally, more meetings are required, often with more highly paid staff.  It is not uncommon for a barred person to say they had to "meet with Dan", the Assistant Director Dan Tetrault who makes close to $100,000.  Or they may have to meet with Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty who has long surpassed the $100,000 mark.  And it is not uncommon for Everall to meet with both these highly paid individuals about a barring before he meets with the  barred individual, and again after he meets with the barred individual. And then Tetrault and Whitty have to, of course, meet with one another.  Sometimes City Hall's Community Service manager making in the $200,000 range annually, or even the City Manager herself making over a quarter of a million annually, are drawn into the game of a contested penalty and the whole thing has to be run by an in-house lawyer at City Hall.  These costly interactions and meetings are never fruitful; the results are predictable: Carnegie asses are covered every time and the low income Carnegie member learns every time that 'You can't fight City Hall.'  

And if the case of the barred individual turns up on a blog, as is occurring with increasing regularity, more meetings have to be held to talk about who is blogging and legal advice has to be sought from the City.  One woman who was barred for talking back to a male coffee seller at Carnegie, estimates that before her case is finished it will have cost the City $50,000 in labour time.

And as the costs of the penalty industry spiral out of control, so do residential taxes.  Last I heard, they were going up 11%.  And City manager Penny Bellum has not even looked at the cost of the burgeoning penalty industry.  

With one memo, Ballem could drastically cut costs associated with the penalty industry.  She could instruct City staff not to bar anyone from Carnegie facilities who is neither violent or threatening violence.  That would eliminate the majority of barrings.  Many of the barrings continuing to be inflicted on the poor would be grey area cases: a common scenario is a staff person wants to get rid of a low income person who is challenging them, so they call security and portray persistence in a poor person as threatening.     

Virtually everyone on the Downtown Eastside who has used Carnegie Center has a barring story. In the past taxpayers didn't give a shit that the rights of the poor were being trimmed to almost nothing.  But now that taxpayers are being squeezed, they may finally do the poor a favour and insist that this make-work paper work be stopped so that they can save money.  They would be, as Suzanne Somers likes to say, "Doing well by doing good." 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Please Don't Film your TV Commercial in Vancouver

Thinking of filming a commercial in Vancouver?  Please don't.  Make your commercial in Burnaby or New Westminster or Surrey.  Anywhere but Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver Film Office under Muriel Honey is tainted by human rights abuses.  If you do business with them, your company could end up tainted too. 

Here's an example of abuse by the Vancouver Film Office:  Despite verbal promises to a Downtown Eastside resident sickened by a generator outside her street-level window ten years ago during the filming of a Honda commercial on a hot day with little wind, staff at the Vancouver Film Office and their Manager Muriel Honey did little to ensure that she was not sickened again. After a battle that went on for years, Honey promised the poisoned resident in writing that there would be no more generators parked outside her street-level windows.   Honey said that even film trucks would not be situated there.  

Honey lied.  

Over the years, Honey has repeatedly violated the agreement that she personally put in writing.  

Last night the agreement was violated again.  The poisoned resident told me that Honey and her staff arranged for a generator to be parked outside her street-level windows until 2 a.m. while a commercial was being filmed.   "I don't care if they film a commercial," says the resident, "I just want them to respect our agreement." 

Honey didn't just ignore the agreement with the poisoned resident, she ignored the City's agreement with all residents in the vicinity: that the City notify them in advance of filming. "I didn't see any notice; usually, they're taped to the front doors",  says the resident.  She says a friend had offered to pick up some off-sale beer and meet her back at her place, but she would have told him to skip it if she'd known that they'd have to put up with fumes wafting into the apartment all night.  There are no other windows in the apartment to create a cross draft, just those facing Powell St., she explains.  

There is no point in going to Muriel Honey or her staff about last night's fumigation.  The only thing to do is take the problem to the marketplace and ensure that customers know what companies are profiting from deals with a City of Vancouver enterprise that too often relies on deception.  And that deception includes their pointing to the annual outdoor turkey dinner on the Downtown Eastside as evidence that the film industry 'gives back' to the community, while year after year fumes and agreements are ignored in the neighborhood. 

There are alternatives for any company wanting to film a commercial on a location with a century old feel to it, a feel that attracts companies to the Gastown-Downtown Eastside area. They can get that feel in New Westminster, a city older than Vancouver and one with no reputation for a corrupt film office.   

Does anybody know the name of the company that was filming a commercial in the middle of the night on Saturday, May 2-3, 2009, on Powell St. on the Downtown Eastside?  It's important that their name be published on the internet along with Muriel Honey's.  

Honey will usually get you better results than vinegar.  Not in Vancouver.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Library Square

Acrobats practiced at Library Square on Friday, May 1/09.  (Sorry, my camera is broken and stuck on an old date.)

Young people demonstrated at Library Square on Saturday, April 25/09 about the use of child soldiers in Uganda.  A spokesperson said that the U.S. is the only country that has made any effort to put a stop to it.


Bride at the library on Saturday, April 25, 2009

People sit in the sun on the steps in front of the Central Library on Friday, April 24, 209. 

An acquaintance commented that it seems as if we've gone directly from winter to summer this year, skipping spring.