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.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that most of the info in this latest post of yours is hearsay. In my experience people get barred from Carnegie when they become abusive or violent. I would think that there is much more to this story than what you've been told.

Anonymous said...

Good luck interviewing the guy in question, a seriously disturbed ex-parks board and mayoralty candidate who exhibits really poor anger management skills, really bad judgment, and a startling proclivity for violence on an ongoing basis. You of course are free to champion the speech rights of whomever you like, but the guy in question needs to seriously consider how HIS OWN bullying behavior, harassment campaigns, and general bugfuckery affects those around him before complaining about his treatment at the hands of authority.

And no, I don't work in around or for the Carnegie.

reliable sources said...

"In my experience people get barred from Carnegie when they become abusive or violent."


Barrings are common at Carnegie, but violence is not common. The fact that Carnegie doesn't need this epidemic of barrings to maintain safety in the building, is supported by the fact that Carnegie members also frequent the UBC Learning Exchange where there are no security guards. None of the staff there have been assaulted to my knowledge.

You claim that the other reason people are generally barred is that they "become abusive". Your use of that vague phrase actually points to the central problem in the barring procedure at Carnegie. A staff person can spin anything and everything as abusive when convenient ...and they do.

And let's not forget that there is a very different standard for what is considered "abusive" behaviour on the part of a low income member and what is considered abusive on the part of a staff member. [Even a staff person having sex with clientele who eventually attempted or committed suicide was not investigated as abuse.) I have never seen a staff person held accountable for abusive behaviour. But I have heard a tape in which security guards Ted Chaing and Skip Everall barred a woman from the entire building for simply asking Everall his name so that she could appeal a decision he was making about her.

Bill Simpson has remained barred for years from Carnegie and he was not a violent man and he was not verbally abusive -- although he was verbally abused by Board member Bob Sarti who chased him across the third floor. Sarti was not barred, even though he repeated the behaviour.

Simpson did a good job of describing in a radio interview just how a security guard or security supervisor can manufacture a situation where a member can be defined as "abusive". When a security guard doesn't have evidence against a member and they want to bar them, they will "push your buttons" until they get a reaction, i.e. the member raises their voice or says something inappropriate. Then, as Simpson said, it's "Gotcha!"

A Carnegie volunteer described his "Gotcha!" moment. He was called to the Security office by former security boss, John Ferguson, based on hearsay that he "gave the finger" to a Christian band as he stood in the crowd at the Mission folk festival where Carnegie volunteers had gone on a trip. The volunteer got so exasperated talking to Ferguson that he said he could give anybody the finger if he wanted to, "Even you!", and gave Ferguson the finger. Gotcha! He was barred for weeks.

Not even City manager Penny Ballem believes that barrings are strictly for people who are violent or abusive. I was briefed on a meeting held with Ballem in January, a meeting where she was reportedly asked to limit Carnegie barrings to people who are either violent or engage in clearly-defined verbal abuse. She refused, on the basis that that would be setting the "bar too high."

A man who is not foul-mouthed or violent and has frequented Carnegie since it opened thirty years ago, said that he and every one of his friends have been barred from Carnegie. The bar is obviously absurdly low.

These barrings are serious business. They result in security reports which remain on a person's record for years. I've been told that, officially, they are supposed to be removed after two years. But I interviewed a woman a year or two ago, who said that an incident in which she had spoken up about sexual harassment in the Seniors Lounge ten years ago had just been used against her in a new security report.

reliable sources said...


You claim that the man who was barred demonstrates "a startling proclivity for violence on an ongoing basis." Yet you provide not one example.

I don't know the guy but I know who he is; I've seen him around over the years. I've never seen him act in a violent or threatening manner, or even a verbally abusive manner. But you may know something I don't.

You accuse him of "harassment campaigns". What is defined as harassment on the part of a low income Carnegie member, is considered effective organizing on the part of middle class person. The guy in question went to the media about the epidemic of Carnegie barrings and he managed to get the Republic newspaper to cover the story. That is effective organizing.

As a member of the Unitarian church, he also apparently asked their Social Justice Committee to support the rights of poor people to sit as elected officials at Carnegie. Specifically, he asked them to take up the case of Bill Simpson.

I hope it's not his organizing work for the poor that you're defining as harassment.

Anonymous said...

I was at Carnegie this weekend and found out that Ann Livingstone was elected to the Board of Carnegie. Next step: President of Carnegie. Pat McSherry also was elected. Pat McSherry is a director of DERA, a director who is responsible for DERA's demise and who agreed by a secret agreement to turnover DERAhousing to BC Housing without a fight so that she would not be prosecuted for any wrongdoings at DERAHousing.

reliable sources said...

Thanks for the info, Audrey.

I was talking to a longtime Carnegie member who was at the Carnegie AGM and he told me that he didn't even recognize some of the people elected.

Another guy who was there was telling me that even though many Carnegie members came out previously to vote down a motion to hold a nomination meeting at Carnegie for candidates PRIOR to the actual election at the AGM, the motion was later re-introduced and passed under the radar. I haven't confirmed that with anybody else but if it's true, it's sneaky.

Rachel Davis said...

Not only did they pass that under the radar, they didn't even poster for this year's nomination meeting ahead of time......so no one, except the people who were on the board already, or those they knew they wanted to nominate, knew when the nomination meeting was happening.
All of a sudden it was just " come and vote for OUR nominees!"
An eyewitness to the last meeting before the election says that Matthew Matthew, the outgoing president, was fully aware of the legal need for notice of the nomination meeting, and of the fact that it hadn't been done, and he, to his credit, was angry and berated the secretary for it. ( is that why Matthew didn't run again?)
But the fact remains that they went ahead with the election anyway, knowing full well that the general membership was completely, and illegally, left out of the picture.
If it wasn't intentional to not poster for the meeting, they could have easily postered properly, held a real, membership involved, nomination meeting and postponed the election by a week.

The fact that they didn't speaks volumes about their lack of desire to let the DTES "voices be heard", despite the use of that phrase on so many, many DTES grant applications, including the Carnegie's.

Convenient Voices Only Please!

reliable sources said...


Thanks for that info. They should lose their status under the Societies Act for that.