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.