Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Random Residential Suite Perusals"

The building at 639 E. 8th Avenue has cracked stucco and an obviously broken drainpipe, but at least it has some new signs. The sign hanging out front reads:

"Fraser Manor - Vancouver's first fully-certified crime-free multi-housing community."

There are two other signs beside the front door. One reads:
"we have joined the Vancouver crime free multi housing program keeping illegal activity out of rental property."
The other sign has an image of a cobra poised to strike, encircled by a ribbon with the initials R.R.S.P. above the snake, and below, the phrase "Random Residential Suite Perusals." The rest of that sign says:

"This building does random residential suite perusals* [*inspections] to ensure the safety of its residents and to protect the building from any illegal activities. Any resident found to be partaking in any illegal activity will not only be evicted but they will be prosecuted to the utmost extent the law allows."

Searching the web for more about this draconian policy, I try "Random Residential Suite Perusals" on Google Canada. It says my search did not match any documents: Did you mean: "Random Presidential Suite Perusals"

I do find that the phrase "crime-free multi housing" has been used in Vancouver at least since 1997, when several East Van neighbourhoods had it as a line item for $10-$25,000 in their community safety grant budgets.

In New Westminster, the police offer a "crime-free multihousing workshop". Their website only mentions safety tips for building managers, like keeping the keys and files safe, being safe when showing a unit to strangers, and protecting the money.

The RCMP in Burnaby also have a section about Crime-Free Multi Housing on the web. Perhaps the R.R.S.P. serpent lurks on their page under the phrase "how to strengthen rental agreements for the benefit of residents and owners alike..."
or maybe the phrase "how to spot potential trouble-makers."

I wonder how far they go with random inspections to spot trouble-makers?

Reason for eviction: roaches under the sink.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The strike: Silver linings

It's really a pleasure to see all the long grass and wildflowers in the park, now that the park workers are on strike.

Looking for places to offload your trash is a good way to become familiar with Vancouver lanes, now that the garbage workers are on strike.

Used booksellers are having a business boom, now that the librarians are on strike.

No city workers' vehicles clogging up traffic, or tearing up the paths in the park with their tires.

No noise and carbon emissions from leaf-blowers and huge gas-powered mowing machines in the parks, either.

No garbage pickup means more time to look over the trash around the bins to see if you want anything. Binners can sleep in.

Less garbage and recycling truck noise. Easier for everybody to sleep in.

Privately employed landscapers don't have to look enviously at guys with better-paid (and less-supervised) city landscaping jobs.

Food banks and panhandlers can look for more sympathy and gifts from city workers when they start getting paid again - "it could be me" will become "it was me."

Banks can look forward to collecting a lot of interest on city workers' built-up credit card debt.

The dogs in the neighbourhood get such a thrill when they smell a rat.

Women who used to sell blow-jobs to guys in city trucks stopped just off Broadway on their way to work now have more time to enjoy the sunshine.

Hey, things are great - don't settle it!

(Just kidding!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Librarians' Pay

There's an interesting article in the web magazine The Tyee, titled "Vancouver's Library Strike: Women's Pay on the Line." Tom Sandborn, the author, wrote yesterday, "to date the city negotiators have refused to discuss any of the local's four key bargaining demands: pay equity, improvements for part-time workers, job security and general benefit improvements." Women librarians doing jobs mainly carried out by women are reportedly getting $6 an hour less than people doing jobs for the library that are mainly carried out by men, and the women also have a much slower route to pay advancement.

So, if you ever want to check out the new Harry Potter book down at Mt. Pleasant branch, better call city hall and tell them to Settle the Strike.

Just to spur you on: you may recall that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in a case involving Newfoundland and Labrador that provincial government had the right to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and delay pay equity settlement if budgetary considerations are severe.

If we want equal pay for women workers in Vancouver, we'd better get it in place before the bills for the Olympics hit the fan.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fortune Unhappiness

The shooting at the Fortune Happiness restaurant near Broadway and Fraser continues to be a major topic of discussion in the neighbourhood. For anyone who still doesn't know, eight people were shot at 4:30 am Thursday, inside the restaurant with the yellow awning across the street from the bus stop for the #8 when it turns from Fraser onto Broadway. Seems that two men in balaclava masks came into the restaurant, one from the back door and one from the front; they focused on one table and shot it up with some fast-repeating guns. Two young men were shot dead and three women and three men at the same table were wounded.

Reportedly, the restaurant had been staying open all night for a while. According to a conversation I heard today, one person said that there were always people playing Mah Jongg at Fortune Happiness and that they thought it was a gambling parlour. Another person said she had always thought there was prostitution being run out of there. Some media implied there were drugs. It could have been all three - or, perhaps none of them. Some people seem to think there is something sleazy per se about all night restaurants, but when a city runs all night people need places to eat all night.

One of the aunties who watches her block and lives near the restaurant observed that police may well have known something was going to happen. She says there were cops in unmarked cars roaming around looking at stuff in the area during the night before the shooting. This seems to contradict the reaction of some people who've called in to the radio saying this stuff wouldn't happen if Vancouver just had a bigger police force. A First Nations mother who lives around the downtown eastside told me the police came to her house Thursday night and questioned her son about the shooting. She said they are always trying to pin all sorts of crimes on him - even though [maybe because?] he is an athlete with leadership potential. She said she had even seen her own name on a list as a suspected drug dealer, which she called ridiculous. You've heard the phrase "round up the usual suspects," right? It's not that much of a joke.

The day of the shooting, when not much news was being released, the CBC-TV midday news featured police saying that they wanted to let people know that this was a "targeted" and not a "random" shooting because they didn't want to hurt the reputation of the neighbourhood. Yes, there are houses for sale around here for 100% more than they went for 5 years ago - back when everyone said it was a bad neighbourhood. Not that we need to have shootings, but I think we need to appreciate our unsavoury elements - the crack-smokers in the alley, the street prostitution, the dog poop and litter on the sidewalks, the drunks sleeping on the street, the KFC and the empty store-fronts. Because if they weren't around, then property values would rise, rich people would move in to replace the great working-class mix we have, and property taxes would be even higher than they are now.

Today, CBC radio reports that police have raided a location of the United Nations gang in Abbotsford and seized some guns they think might be related to the shooting here [although, later that day police were quoted as saying that the United Nations gang had nothing to do with this shooting]. It's called the United Nations gang because it unites members from many races. Let's think of another reason to do that besides drug smuggling, eh?

Being discussed among the neighbours is how we could put an end to this kind of crime like the Fortune Unhappiness shooting, by legalizing, regulating and taxing drugs. A fellow running a weed-eater in the hood yesterday told me that he considers it tragic that some of his relatives are hooked on crack, but he pointed out that when they do get their crack hit they are able to put in a day's work. Having the drugs illegal didn't keep them from getting hooked, and it puts them in bad company and harm's way dealing with their addiction. Imagine how much tax money there would be for rehab, policing, and all kinds of stuff if that huge underground economy could be tapped. Maybe our property taxes could even go down.