Tuesday, June 22, 2010

For 57 Days City Hall has Avoided Giving Barred Carnegie Member Reason "in writing"

A witness who has spoken up about the use of the City of Vancouver "security" database at Carnegie to make fraudulent entries about critics, has found herself barred from Carnegie Centre for 57 days now, with no end in sight. She is not allowed to enter the building, not even the Vancouver Public Library branch there. She was notified of the barring on April 25, 2010 and immediately asked to be given the reason "in writing". Her request was instantly refused by the security guard who informed her that she was "barred", a guard who identified himself as "Ty" only after she asked his name.

There is evidence that the ban was pre-meditated and politically-motivated. From the beginning of the process of being informed that she was barred, the fact that she had been one of the Carnegie members who made complaints to Penny Ballem was referred to by Ty as the "problem." [If I obtain a copy of the statement she submitted to police, I will quote Ty's alleged comments more completely.] A few minutes later, when Ballem's name came up again, Ty reportedly claimed he didn't know who she was. Toward the end of the barring, after he had followed the woman to the bathroom, Ty revealed that the barring was a result of pressure from Penny Ballem and Gregor Robertson to clear her out of the building. "I guess, they don't want witnesses around", says the barred woman.

Police have been made aware of everything from verbal abuse to assault experienced by this woman since coming forward as a witness to fraud and other abuses involving the City's "security" database at Carnegie. A male Carnegie member recalls eating dinner with this woman at Carnegie in the spring, when a volunteer took her photograph, using a flash, without her permission -- she would later be told that the photo had been taken on instructions from Tio, a City staff cashier on duty, a fact she says Tio did not deny when she asked him about it -- and then stood yelling insults at her at the top of his lungs, grabbing the attention of the crowd of diners in the cafeteria. "Why isn't security doing anything!" the witness demanded to know. A security guard stood beside the yelling man, just inches away.

She was also at Carnegie having dinner -- she had just finished -- on the evening in April when Ty told her she was now barred from the entire building and refused her request to "put it in writing". At a later point, she asked that he at least allow her to read the "Incident Report" so that she could counter false statements. He refused. He told her that he did not need input from her. She told him she wished to sit down and write her own incident report about what she was experiencing, but he refused, ordering her out of the building. Such biased practices -- including outright fraud -- had been previously brought to the attention of Penny Ballem, once during a meeting in January at City Hall. The Mayor was also made aware of these practices.

Shortly after being barred, the barred woman mailed a request to City Hall and requested, under the Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act, a copy of the incident report and a copy of entries made in the City's electronic "security" database. She then telephoned the Freedom of Information office twice to see if they had received it. She spoke to a male assistant to manager Paul Hancock. The assistant told her on April 29th that he had finally received her letter. She explained that she needed a copy of the incident report quickly so that she could appeal the barring; she asked him to keep in mind that for every day that passed without this Incident Report, she was denied access to City Services in her neighbourhood, such as the public library at Carnegie. She told him that there should be no reason for extensive delay in getting the incident report to her, as it was easily retrievable from the Incident Report binder which sits on the front reception desk at Carnegie for all staff to review. The assistant reviewed her request letter and said it seemed straight forward to him and he didn't anticipate it taking long. He said he would "send it out" that day.

Shortly after speaking to the assistant, the banned woman received a letter dated April 30th from Paul Hancock, Manager, Corporate Information & Privacy, City Clerk's Office. Hancock wrote:

"This will acknowledge receipt of your request dated April 26, 2010. . . for a copy of an incident report written about you by Ty, a security person at Carnegie Centre at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 25, 2010."

"Under the Act, we have thirty (30) business days to respond to freedom of information requests. The City received your request on April 29, 2010 so we are required to respond by June 11. 2010 at the latest."

I ran into her on Sunday, June 20th, at Sunrise market and she said she had not received it. Even if the City had mailed the Incident Report on the last possible day, June 11th, she would have had it last week as Vancouver has over night delivery.

Hancock ended his April 30th letter to her with,

"We understand that this is an urgent matter for you so we will do our best to expedite this request for you."

That was 52 days ago, as of Sunday.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vancouver Library Eliminates Public Computers for Seniors at Carnegie

A million dollars worth of City management staff put their heads together and decided that the popular public computers in the Carnegie Seniors Lounge that had been going full tilt 13 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the past 15 years, were best eliminated.

Those computers were one of the most in-demand services in the Centre. People would sign up and sit and wait for half an hour or more for their turn. Ever notice the crowd on the front steps of Carnegie in the morning when you drive by on your way to work? They're not all buying drugs; some are waiting for a security guard to swing the doors open at 9 a.m., so they can rush past him and dash downstairs to the basement Seniors Lounge and get onto a computer, ahead of the next guy. People use those computers to check email and to look for jobs on sites such as Craig's list.

But those computers had become a source of embarrassment to the million dollars worth of City Hall and Carnegie management staff, from Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty to City Manager Penny Ballem, who have been exposed for allowing security to block access to them as punishment for free speech. This harassment of people who speak up has been previously documented on this blog so I won't go over it again. But the VPL librarian, Beth Davies, and her supervisors in the VPL administration have colluded with this withholding of library services -- often it involves blocking access to the entire VPL branch at Carnegie for months or years -- and this removal of VPL computers looks like an extension of that collusion.

Now that the internet-surfing poor will have little reason to show up at the Lounge, the poor who operate more within the comfort zone of CUPE and City management will have the lounge to themselves. You can find them sitting in there any afternoon staring at the big tv, filling in the gaps between welfare cheques and staff pay cheques. Movies made available in this City government Lounge generally fall into the range of cowboys, gangsters, and that new federal government category, "busty hookers."

Now that VPL computer access in the Lounge has been eliminated in favor of allowing big screen TV access to predominate, it's important that the savings be passed on to taxpayers. The computers and the steady stream of people who came to the Centre to use them were under the supervision of Seniors Co-ordinator, Marlene Trick (formerly exposed for supervising the City's now defunct "Teddy Bear Picnics" for full grown functional adults.)

The computer program in the Seniors Lounge was also a rich source of make-work projects for Security guards who would be called to infantalize computer users who stood up to the belligerant coffee-seller, a ritual which involved security guards writing "incident reports" and executing barrings as punishments, and holding follow-up meetings. All of this will be gone now, meaning that less labour hours will be needed for the co-ordinator to co-ordinate and security guards to punish.

The cramped computer room by the bathroom at the back of the third floor at Carnegie remains open. In fact the computers in there have been replaced with new ones. But Seniors have to compete with other age groups to get onto a computer there, increasing the number of people on the waiting list. People sitting in the waiting area for their name be called to get onto a computer can sometimes get frustrated and ask the monitor questions like, "How much longer do you think I'll have to wait?," and some monitors -- not all -- get annoyed at the ongoing pressure and if a disagreement ensues, security may be called.

This tension can be expected to increase with the elimination of Seniors' computers by the million dollar management, which of course includes CUPE's Dan Tetrault who is Assistant Manager at Carnegie and, like BP CEO Tony Hayward, has a yacht which can be helpful for clearing the head of the problems of the "small people".

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blogger Assaulted by CUPE Representative

When a CUPE representative abuses a blogger, does anybody see? The above video of a CUPE representative roughing up a pro-Israel blogger last month for using a video camera at a rally, was posted on YouTube. But the public generally doesn't see video footage of abuse tactics employed by CUPE members against people who don't share their political views.

Certainly the public doesn't see CUPE abuses of people at Carnegie Centre who dare speak to bloggers who criticize CUPE, people who are almost without exception too poor to afford lawyers. These people can get roughed up physically by CUPE "security" at Carnegie, but more often they are simply targeted for permanent removal from this taxpayer funded Centre.

I was reminded of what is not being seen when Pivot Legal Society announced they had been granted a hearing at the BC Human Rights Tribunal on May 31, 2010 about "removals" of poor people from public spaces. Pivot's complaint was not about Carnegie. It was about removals by the Downtown Ambassadors who work for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. The Ambassadors earn lower salaries than CUPE members -- a welfare recipient who takes a security guard course can sometimes get a job strutting around in an Ambassador uniform -- who guide tourists and ask the poor and downtrodden or addicted to stop sitting in doorways, on sidewalks, or on benches, to leave and not return.

These "removals" by Ambassadors from public spaces no doubt do constitute Charter violations, but the Ambassadors will have to work to catch up to CUPE members who have been performing these "removals" for thirty years at Carnegie Centre. CUPE members at Carnegie keep a gigantic black binder documenting such "removals", on the front reception desk, like a trophy. A victim's account of a removal -- they call them "barrings" at Carnegie -- is not considered a necessary addition to the binder. When Pivot was asked to help put a stop to these abuses, after CUPE "security" executed the removal of an elected official who happened to be poor and homeless and didn't happen to share their politics, a female Pivot lawyer refused to challenge Carnegie, saying, "But they're our friends."

The Downtown Ambassadors are not Pivot's friends....because they are not CUPE's friends. The Downtown Ambassadors are infringing on CUPEs turf. The job description of the Ambassadors, according to the website of the DVBIA, is to complete "daily incident reports on issues attended to". That's what CUPE members at Carnegie do -- not only Carnegie "security" staff but Carnegie street workers too, some of whom have been caught working with police to deter criticism of CUPE members. If anybody is going to be restricting the civil liberties of the poor, or kicking the arses of bums, let it be somebody paying CUPE union dues, or CUPE will fight it like it's contracting out.

Former Pivot Executive Director, David Eby, was criticized last year in the comment section of Jamie Lee Hamilton's blog, Oldtown, for ignoring rampant civil liberties abuses at Carnegie. Eby responded that Pivot could not tackle all of the problems in the Downtown Eastside. He's right. But Carnegie Centre is considered "the livingroom" of the Downtown Eastside, a pivotal institution. Pivot has to really work not to see the human rights abuses going on there.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Guy at Carnegie was Right about Cleaning Up the Oil Spill

Last night Richard Hoagland, a former science reporter for Walter Cronkite, was on Coast to Coast explaining that the BP oil spill can be cleaned up using oil-eating microbes. It's a process called bio-remediation. It works, he said. It was done 20 years ago in Texas.

Hoagland asked listeners to e-mail the White House recommending that they try this.

I actually first learned that microbes could clean up an oil spill from a guy at Carnegie last month.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hamburger Helper

Have you heard the one about the guy who got barred from Carnegie Centre for the crime of free speech in the theater program?

A woman eating with us on Sunday night at Carnegie said she had run into a guy at Tim Hortons who she used to see at Carnegie a lot. I recognized his name, but I won't use it. She asked him why he didn't come to Carnegie much any more. He said he couldn't stand the dirty politics, that it was run like "a kingdom" for staff. And he said he had been barred a couple of years ago for speaking up.

He was barred when he spoke up about the fact that Jay Hamburger, who was paid to spend a few hours a week working on lefty theater productions with the poor, was charging people $20 to enter their theater script in a contest. The winner got money. The guy who was barred took the position that marginalized people shouldn't be asked to fork over $20. Carnegie is after all richly funded to provide programs to low income people.

I won't know until I get a chance to interview the guy whether Hamburger, who was not a regular well-paid employee but was paid $12 an hour in grant money, arranged for him to be barred. My guess is that Hamburger did not explicitly say,"Bar this man!" There is no need to. Staff know that security guards will apply the one size fits all solution -- "You're barred!" -- to poor people who aren't pushovers.

Barrings generally work this way: a low income Carnegie member raises a concern with a staff person and is brushed off; they exhibit perseverence, a trait considered healthy in the population at large but not in the Carnegie low income population; the staff person doesn't want to have to do the work of communicating so they raise their voice slightly to announce, "I'm calling security." The task of communicating is then off loaded to a security guard who often has little education and even less communication skills, and can be counted on to do what's quick and easy.

Barring has become a staff convenience.

CBC: Biased Coverage of Israel

Close-Up Footage of Mavi Marmara Passengers Attacking IDF Soldiers

Today, as I listened to CBC Radio coverage of deaths on an aid ship to Gaza boarded by Israelis, I got the impression that Israeli soldiers were senseless murderers whom the world needed to keep in check. I knew there must be a lot not being said. So I looked to see what truepeers at Covenant Zone blog had to say and found the above video.

Coast to Coast radio had fair and balanced coverage of this incident this evening. Host George Noory, who is of Lebanese-Christian heritage, asked a good question: Since Turkey knew that Israel was allowing aids ships to Gaza (after first checking them for weapons), and this ship left from Turkey, why didn't Turkey tell the Israelis that this was an aid ship? It's as if they wanted this incident to happen.