Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Carnegie Managers Cashing Pay Cheques for Half a Million Dollars decide the Poor should Pay an Extra 25 Cents for Meals

It is common knowledge that Carnegie Centre managers whose wages collectively top half a million annually, received a 25% raise over 5 years. And now these managers have ordered each poor person to pay an extra 25 cents for a meal at Carnegie Centre. Ethel Whitty who was making well over $100,000 even before the latest raise, has announced to the poor that they will now have to pay $3.25 for meal, rather than $3.00.

And the decision-making powers of the half million dollar management -- Ethel Whitty, Dan Tetrault, Brenda Procten, and David McLellan -- have resulted in major shrinkage of the amount of food on the plates served to the poor. For months now Carnegie members have been asking, "Who shrunk the meals?" The meals have become noticeably smaller as the wages of the half million dollar management have become noticeably larger along with the tax bills of home owners. I recall the amazement in the voice of Dean Obreau a few months ago when he was describing how little food was on the plate he had been served at Carnegie Centre. He died a few weeks later. No word if malnutrition was a contributing factor. RIP.

The Friday night before last, I bought a dinner and I couldn't believe it: there was a scoop of carrot-spinach salad (hardly any spinach) with dressing, and a bowl of beans, almost like a soup. There was a sugary dessert too (although they put less sugar in their desserts than most cafeterias) but I asked to substitute a banana.

The place was deserted. When I grabbed a tray and stood by the steam trays deciding what to order, I was the only one there, where there would have been a line-up in the past. I sat in the dining area, eating and looking around. There was nobody to talk to; many of the people I've known over the years have been barred, never to return. It felt like Stalin's dining table, where historians report it was not uncommon for somebody who had been a regular to suddenly get extinguished under suspicion of not being a party-liner, never to return.

An extra 25 cents per meal is a lot to ask from people who have $150 a month to live on after their rent is paid (some have as little as $50 after their rent is paid; others have several hundred if they are on a disabled welfare rate.) There has been no 25% raise for welfare recipients or for the working poor.

Here's an example of Whitty's management wizardry, why she is, to borrow a phrase recently used by Penny Ballem, "paid the big bucks". Earlier this year, before deciding that the cafeteria couldn't function without the poor forking over an extra 25 cents per meal, Whitty hired two new cafeteria cashiers at union wages. Those jobs were previously performed by volunteers (getting work experience.) The new cashiers, Teo and Brent, are arguably less personable than the volunteers were. Teo has been named in a criminal complaint about activities at Carnegie.

I knew Whitty must be in a financial squeeze when a few months ago I saw the wheels of her propaganda machine turning. A two page colour spread appeared in the Province newspaper promoting the Carnegie cafeteria as the best thing for the poor. (There had previously been a big spread in the Vancouver Sun when the Carnegie street workers/police informants were facing cuts.) It was such puff piece that "Advertisement" should have been printed in small type at the top of the page. The reporter quoted cafeteria co-ordinator Catriona Moore saying there should be more cafeterias of this type in the City. A colour photo of Moore in the kitchen accompanied the story.

Whitty was also interviewed for the piece and couldn't conceal her attitude that Downtown Eastsiders are lepers: "They come, we accept them, we feed them." Here's the truth: "They come, we abuse them, and we are feeding them less and less."

The cafeteria is one of the few services at Carnegie, a Centre with a budget of over $3 million. (The Learning Centre is run separately by Capilano College, and the Carnegie Library is run by the Vancouver Public Library.) Most of the $3 million goes to Whitty and her paypals. How many highly paid City staff does it take to turn on a television in the basement day after day after day? None actually; they've delegated that job to a volunteer.

Time to trim the fat and put the food back on the plates.

Confidentiality Laws Ignored under Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty

It was a test. When a barring at Carnegie occurred in April 2010, a decision was made by the victim not to tell anybody. The goal was to expose the level of disregard for privacy law under Ethel Whitty.

Word spread fast. Within days, all staff in the cafeteria knew and soon the customer base got wind of it.

Five months have gone by. This weekend, the victim of the barring reportedly heard residents of her apartment building, one of whom works at Carnegie, talking about it.

An estimated 200 Carnegie members a year are victims of this reckless disregard for British Columbia's tough privacy laws.

Carnegie staff even attempted to get the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog to print material about female Carnegie members. They wanted women who had been barred or spoken up about undemocratic practices inside Carnegie to be identified -- they sent the DTES Enquirer the names of these women -- and they wanted them publicly labelled "barnyard animals" and "nudie lesbians". City Manager Penny Ballem was aware that this was occuring. So was Councilor Raymond Louie.

Whitty vigorously enforces privacy laws when it comes to staff at Carnegie, but not the clientele. At one point Whitty attempted to pass a motion at a Board meeting to prevent the names of staff from being mentioned at committee meetings where a complaint lodged against them was being discussed. When then Board member Rachel Davis objected, Whitty asked her why staff where "fair game", to which Davis responded that she resented the implication that she was viewing staff as prey to be hunted.

Contrast Whitty's protectiveness of staff with her attitude that a Carnegie member can be told that they are barred by a dumpster diver or some other person on the street who was told by Carnegie staff or who overheard Carnegie staff talking about it. One guy learned while eating dinner at the Evelyn Saller Centre that he was barred from Carnegie. Another guy dropped in to Carnegie to buy a tea and heard Security boss Skip Everall openly conspiring with a coffee shop volunteer to bar a member. "You're barred,", the tea buyer told the member on a Saturday night outside Carnegie. A meeting was held with Whitty about that breach of confidentiality; two years have passed and Everall has not been held accountable and Whitty has yet to even respond to the complaint.

The privacy of Carnegie staff is so fiercely protected that if a member lays a complaint with a security guard about physical aggression by a staff person -- there is plenty of staff aggression; ask the skateboarder who got thrown onto the marble floor by 3 security guards for bending the rules by using a pull-cart to return his library books -- they will be scolded by Security boss Skip Everall for doing so. Everall considers reporting staff to a security guard to be a breach of staff privacy. Complaints about staff must must be directed to Assistant Manager Dan Tetrault, Everall has asserted, and if a member feels at physical risk by a staff person, they are expected to wait until Tetrault docks his yacht and returns to work on his next scheduled shift. Security guards at Carnegie offer class-selective security, just as privacy laws are applied in a class-selective manner at Carnegie.

Whitty can't have it both ways. Carnegie is classified as a social service provider rather than a community centre, possibly as a means of maximizing funding, getting grants, etc. But most people use Carnegie as a community centre, dropping in to get a bite to eat in the cafeteria, use the Music program, check out books or use computers in the library. There are no social services being provided. But there is a social service mentality encouraged by Whitty and the staff; Whitty pushed to hire a security boss from a mental hospital, which revealed how she wanted people treated. The social service agency classification though would require that Whitty and her staff be particularly vigilant in ensuring that personal information about members is handled in a manner consistent with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. She ignores the Act.

Whitty has a license to practice as a social worker. Time it was revoked.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mayor Robertson has begun to "question how worthwhile democracy is"

The Province newspaper began today's editorial by calling Mayor Gregor Robertson, Gregor "Robinson". But after that stumble, they quoted Robertson admitting on his trip to China that he finds democracy frustrating:

"You can be critical of lots of regimes around the world and you can question how worthwhile democracy is in a lot of countries right now which frankly are ignoring the biggest crisis in the history of our species with climate."

Robertson commended the Chinese government for taking "dramatic action" on the environment", unlike "Western governments right now, democratically elected, because they're afraid."

This is not the first time Robertson has revealed that the messiness of democracy does not appeal to him. Earlier this year, we heard him dismiss citizens turning out to a City Council meeting to provide input as "hacks". And we are still waiting for him to lift the barring of democratically-elected Board member William Simpson from Carnegie Centre. Simpson has served a three year sentence. What does the Mayor feel would be an adequate sentence for daring to get elected? And we're still waiting for the Mayor to fire Ethel Whitty for abusing civil liberties and then covering her tracks with misinformation.

Mayor Robertson is afraid.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Ellen Sighting

I spotted City Counselor Ellen Woodsworth looking snazzy this afternoon in her black and white knit jacket and black pants, with her galpal, as I darted into Carnegie.

Crossed my mind that Woodsworth may have taken time out from her schedule to work on the damage control strategy being used by Ethel Whitty and Skip Everall as they continue their undemocratic barring policy at Carnegie. It's a strategy that no doubt needs to be tweaked now that they've been exposed as far away as China for allegedly manufacturing evidence to justify banning political critics from City services at Carnegie.

It's a fraud scandal that has been weighing like an iron rice bowl on Mayor Robertson's head as he tries to pass himself off in China as an upstanding business broker.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marilyn WhiskeyJack's Murderer Could be Back on Downtown Eastside Streets Soon

Terry Allan Herman had 67 previous convictions before he murdered Marily WhiskeyJack at Main Rooms at 117 Main St. (next to the old UBC Learning Exchange) on Sept. 14, 2007. Herman, 38, was found guilty of manslaughter in June, 2010 at his trial for WhiskeyJack's death.

Herman, a big man with short dark hair and glasses, represented himself today at his sentencing hearing in New Westminster Supreme Court. "I have nothing to say," he told the judge.

Herman and WhiskeyJack, 42, had lived together briefly at Main Rooms when they had a fight and he stabbed her in the back of the leg three times. He cut a major artery, then took off, leaving her calling out for help. It took just minutes for her to bleed to death.

You may see this guy on the streets of the Downtown Eastside soon. Crown prosecutor Joanna Medjuck recommended a ten year sentence, minus 68 months credit for time served.

Seventeen of his previous offences were violent.

Members of WhiskeyJack’s family -- she had five children -- including her son and mother came to the sentencing hearing. Her oldest son Jerry told the court that his mother's death had been hard on the family, plunging it into grief.

Herman will be sentenced on Sept. 21.

I used to see the name WhiskeyJack on the list of people who had mail waiting for them at the front desk of Carnegie Centre.

Last May, as the trial was about to begin, Marilyn WhiskeyJack's son, Jerry, sent us a post recalling the day he learned of his mother's death:

Dear Judge,

It has been a very hard couple years. Our family is trying to deal with this tragedy. I remember when the phone call came in, it felt like a movie. I was in my room watching tv. when the phone rang, I knew something was wrong, the whole house was silent, You could hear a pin drop, My grandmother let out a scream, that gave me goosebumps, my throat swelled up as I ran upstairs. She fell into the couch, clutching the phone. I picked it up to hear and officer telling me that " my mother had passed away". Marilyn Whiskeyjack was a mother of 5 children. I as the oldest had to tell all my siblings, that our mother had been taken away from us. We never lived with her, cause of her addiction, but we all had close contact with her. At our awake, in native tradition, we sit with the body for three days before. Remembering her. The looks on all my brothers and sisters faces, was excruciating. We baried her, in the cemetary. I still remember when I shovelled dirt onto her coffin, I felt empty. This tragedy has been very painful on our whole family. Marilyn was not a rich person. She was not even an important person in most peoples eyes. But she was very Important to us. I never want anyone to feel the way our family feels. We lost someone, that had alot of years ahead of her. She didn't die, from a freak accident, she was taken away from us by someones hands. Someone that didnt know that she had children. Today, Marilyn would of been a grandmother of two babys. One was born two weeks ago, the other was born a month ago. I leave it in your hands, I know that you will find it in you to come out with the right decision. Our family doesn't want this to happen to another family.

Thank you,
Jerry WhiskeyJack (son)