Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shaw Snoops on Subscribers to Sell

Shaw Cable told one of the aunties that they have 17 "auditors" going around town right now looking to see if anyone has renters living with them in their homes. They send people around to snoop on your property and talk to unsuspecting people who are at your house. If they think that you are not just a single-family unit, Shaw will leave you a note signed by a "technician," threatening to disconnect the cable to that part of the house the very next day unless you sign up for a whole second subscription. According to offers they are sending out in the mail right now, the introductory offer on a subscription is about $75 a month.

When you call Shaw up to dispute the disconnect order, they say that you have to let them send an "auditor" into your house to "inspect" who is living in there. One man who answered the phone in the residential department that takes new and changed subscriptions at Shaw said that "legally" you have to have a separate subscription if you take any money from anyone who lives in your house, even if you rent out a room temporarily.

The auntie advises not to let anyone from Shaw inspect your house, as this is a company getting waaay too intrusive into their customers' lives!

The company may be getting desperate as so many people are watching TV on the internet instead of getting premium cable subscriptions. But what is happening is that they are getting formerly satisfied, regular-paying customers in an uproar and now starting to look around for other options for not only their cable television but also their phone and internet services.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Red-light District Proposed by Council

Actually, this was in the Flashback column in the BC section of today's Globe & Mail - an article about something that happened in October 1985. It says that the Harcourt-led Vancouver City Council created a red light district in response to complaints about "rampant prostitution" in Mt. Pleasant. The council spent $36,000 on street lighting and wooden barricades in the area between Alberta and Ontario on the west and east and Second and Fifth avenues on the north and south. This designation of an old warehouse district as "red light" was supposed to keep prostitution activity off the streets of Mt. Pleasant, where residents were complaining. The article quotes Marie Arrington, from the Alliance for the Safety of Prostitutes, as saying that the designated area was too deserted and that the lights wouldn't make it safe.

Now that that Main between 2nd and 5th is being subjected to a city development project, those 12 square blocks are likely to be more in demand and much less deserted soon. I wonder if it is still officially on the books as a Red Light Area.

One of the things not mentioned in the Globe piece is that 1985 was also the year that Federal Bill C-49 "expanded the definition of soliciting to include the act of stopping or attempting to stop a person to communicate for the purpose of engaging in prostitution." ( )

According to the Rape Relief Files on prostitution, "On April 10, 1986, because a prostitute challenged the new law, a Vancouver provincial court judge ruled that C-49 was unconstitutional. The police put 67 cases on hold; women continued to work the streets." However, they add that

May 7, 1986. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the law was not unconstitutional and overturned a lower court ruling. Since then, 341 arrests have been made. The police are back at the entrapment, harassment and brutal treatment of prostitutes and so are the courts. The convictions since the Supreme Court ruling in May now include probation restrictions to stay out of particular named areas of cities, and one woman was confined to her home between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am. The courts have been forced by women's necessity and women's defiance to use the injunction tactic again, in addition to fining and holding without trial.

The Statscan page I cited earlier graphs reported prostitution-related "incidents" between 1981 and 1997. Among the comments on the page is a note that reporting varies with trends in police enforcement practices, and that as of 1997, 89% of the incidents were about communication - only a few about pimping or bawdyhouses.

The Rape Relief prostitution pages document that after C-49 passed the numbers of "escort services" and "massage parlours" openly advertising increased dramatically. Also that police charged to arrest men beating women generally failed to arrest if the woman was a prostitute.

So one might infer that pretty much from day one, the federal anti-prostitution law was used primarily against street prostitution, not against pimps, bawdyhouses, and prostitution outcall services "living off the avails."

On September 28, 2010, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that all three provisions of the federal anti-prostitution law violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and called on parliament to write new legislation to prevent the proliferation of "unlicensed brothels."

If that were to happen, perhaps Vancouver's Red Light District (or another so designated) might become a site of licensed sex trade. It should be noted that both major strains of feminist opinion on prostitution/sex work support some form of decriminalization and neither has shown support for licensed brothels. For more on this split, I refer you to my previous post:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's being built by the VCC Clark Skytrain Station

Remember the very active volleyball area that used to be right beside the VCC Clark Skytrain station? As you came down the escalator you could watch a bunch of games going on at once. Then nearly a year ago the games left and construction started. For months, we were treated to the noise of pile drivers from early in the morning until evening. I was hoping that this might be construction of a link between the two sky train lines, Millennium and Expo, which come so close to each other at this point you could almost sail a paper airplane across.

But no. Today, looking from the top of North China Park to where the yellow crane was towering, I could see the skeleton of a building coming up there. As someone sensitive to the loss of public views, I feared another Hong Kong style skyscraper could be rising between the park and the mountains; so I walked the dogs down the hill and along the sidewalk between the fish plant and the Shaw service truck parking-lot, to see if there was any identifying sign. (The dogs loved the whiff of rotten fish.)

Thanks to Harper's obsession with signage on federally-funded projects, there certainly is a sign. Two signs, actually - one of the infamous ones about your federal dollars creating economic stimulus, and one that states simply "Police Property Office and Forensic Storage Facility." I repeated that all the way home until I could make a note of it and check the internet.

Search result: despite the sign touting federal money, the project is actually being funded with $10 million from the fed, $10 million from the province, and $10.3 million from the city for a total of $30.3 million. Of course, all three are our tax dollars. Ottawa has said it will only pay invoices for work completed by March 31, 2011. Since the province and city also have funds in this project, hopefully they are presenting Ottawa with the first $10 million (probably just about enough to cover the rebar already in place). Since the other levels are capping their contributions at $10 million each, if there are cost overruns, the city will presumably end up paying that bill.

The scope of this project, as found in a backgrounder online is that it will be a new, consolidated facility of 65,000 square feet "for receiving, storage and safekeeping of found and seized property and evidence, and the construction of vehicle forensic laboratories and associated storage." While "forensic" sounds like a morgue, I don't see any evidence that people bodies will be there - just auto bodies. I wonder if the proximity to the railroad tracks is intended to be useful for bringing vehicles in and out.

Given the square footage listed and the dimensions of the building, I think that the steel skeleton you can see now is likely pretty close to its full height - so, not a view-blocker. And there may yet be room in that railroad corridor to join the two Skytrain lines, giving a direct way from VCC Clark to downtown.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House AGM & Bylaw Changes

Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood house held their AGM today. It has now been moved from October to July. Despite summer doldrums, about 50 people were in attendance.

The chair explained that while the neighbourhood houses are required to hold individual AGMs they are not in fact autonomous legal entities but are actually branches of the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia. The chair emphasized several times that this was not a "legal meeting."

Highlights of the event: A new website has just been rolled out. It's

The daycare has a waiting list of about 50 children, an increase because of the closure of other daycares in the neighbourhood.

Repairs and upgrades were dwelt on lovingly with before and after pictures. Most changes related to new flooring and more environmentally efficient lightbulbs and appliances.

Sad news: Broadway Connection has had its funds eliminated by Coastal Health and the program may end in October unless reinstated. It's a therapeutic peer to peer self-help group for disabled adults that has been funded by Vancouver Coastal Health for twenty-five years. The previous beneficiaries mounted a publicity campaign but have so far been unable to get those funds restored.

Bylaws* changes that had been decided by the board were ratified by those assembled.
A major change allows persons to serve on the Community Board [formerly called the Board of Managers] who do not live in the neighbourhood.

There were several changes around membership. One was that those who take out a family membership will only be allowed to have one adult vote per family at the AGM, unless they take out an additional adult membership. (Adult memberships are now $4 and family memberships $6. Not including a now-voluntary $2 ANHBC membership.) The most surprising change was that free memberships will be given to children 12 to 18 and that these will be voting memberships.

As the meetings are conducted, however, voting doesn't mean very much. In the interim between the previous AGM last October and this one, the board and staff made their own decision about filling all but 2 of the previously vacant board seats. They presented a "slate" nominee at this AGM for one of the remaining seats and announced that unlike in the past there would be no nominations from the floor. They say they are holding the last open seat vacant for a youth member.

Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House's activities are primarily aimed at programs for low-income and immigrant residents of this neighbourhood area, so it's rather a contrast to see who is on their now-self-appointing community board. The new board member - approved, of course - is a nurse with a masters in public health. Nearly every other member of the board also has a master's degree, and/or is a business owner or an administrator.

With such a highly educated and well-connected board, one would hope for some high-powered fundraising. This past year, donations and fundraising accounted for only $34,000 of the more than $1.5 million dollars in revenue - an increase over previous years of about $11,000. A "business fundraiser" was described as having been "controversial" and therefore a financial failure. There was no time allowed for questions to clear up what this meant. Fundraisers initiated by members were not mentioned.

For fiscal year 2009-10 (which ended March 31) there was about $200,000 more income than the previous year, but MPNH still ended up more than $63,000 in the hole. The treasurer said staff hours have now been cut. (Salaries & benefits had increased by about $200,000, to $1,249,645. The number of staff this covered was not reported.)

If you want to know more about Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House, it's at the corner of Prince Albert & Broadway. Check it out.

*One change was to rename the house's Operating Guide to the Bylaws. As MPNH is not in itself a legal entity, there is some question about whether these are legally binding bylaws; and some of the things in the bylaws, such as who may drive the house's cars, seem more appropriate for Rules and Procedures than for bylaws.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Willow Blight in Area

On a trip today to Trout Lake, we observed many weeping willows looking seriously blighted on both sides of the lake. A similar blight seems to have affected a curly willow in our yard. Leaves blacken, curl up and die. The stems look as if burnt.

I googled "willow blight" to read more about this disease, and apparently it has been moving steadily from the East Coast for decades, and had been observed in Vancouver as early as the late 1970s. It's fungal - actually, a combination of two fungi - and there really is no treatment, as the fungus hides inside the tree. According to one article, the blight flourishes during wet summers, and not only rain but also mist or fog can worsen it. Planting trees too close together also helps it spread.

Trout lake has a great many willows that add a lot to its beauty - I'm sad to see that we may be losing so many. The large willows that are farther away from the lake and on higher ground seemed to be healthy, but most of the trees that are closer, and close to the other undergrowth, are not. The new growth on the recently constructed willow fence looks fine, so far.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Daylighting Mount Pleasant's Stream: A Conversation on June 6

This looks really interesting!

From: Rita Wong []
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:43 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Daylighting Mount Pleasant's Stream: A Conversation on June 6

Please forward this invitation to people who might be interested in participating. Thanks!

Daylighting Mount Pleasant’s Streams: A Conversation
Native Education College
285 East 5th Ave
Vancouver/Coast Salish territories
Sunday, June 6, 1 to 4 pm

Have you heard water gurgling under the manhole covers as you walk around Mount Pleasant? Maybe you heard Brewery Creek, St. George Creek, and China Creek, which flowed into False Creek when its water used to reach all the way to Clark Drive.

Many streams have been paved over.

Why and how would we bring them back to daylight?

We invite you to join Bruce Macdonald and Bryn Davidson for a conversation about daylighting neighbourhood streams. We will begin with an opening song led by Russell Wallace, in honour of the neighbourhood streams. The conversation will be facilitated by writer and Mount Pleasant resident, Rita Wong.

Bruce Macdonald is the author of Vancouver: A Visual History and worked closely with the Brewery Creek Historical Society.

Bryn Davidson is a Mount Pleasant resident, and a designer and sustainability consultant who has proposed a plan to daylight St. George Creek.

Russell Wallace is a composer and musician who sings with the groups Tzo’kam and Tiqilap (whose first CD will be launched at the NEC on June 18).

This event is free. It is organized by Mount Pleasant residents. Anyone who cares about Mount Pleasant and its streams is invited to participate.

All are welcome. Please email to RSVP so we have a sense of how many people to bring snacks for.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Neighbourhood Small Grants Project and the Vancouver Foundation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 21-29: Last chances to comment on Mt. Pleasant planning draft

The Mount Pleasant Community Planning Program is nearing completion. Over the last two years residents and City staff have worked together top develop a new Community Plan for Mount Pleasant. Come to an open house to comment on draft policy for Mount Pleasant's shopping areas (Uptown, Broadway East, Broadway West and Main from 2nd to 7th Avenues) and residential neighbourhoods (topics include housing, parks and open spaces, heritage, culture, transportation, safety, services, laneways, and character).

There are five open houses scheduled for you to drop in, view the proposals, talk to staff and to complete a comment form. Cantonese Mandarin, Tagalog and Vietnamese speaking volunteers will be available to assist in the translation of the presentation materials. Child minding is available while you are at the open house.

Please pass the word around, forward to your friends, neighbours, colleagues. Thank you in advance.

Wednesday, April 21, 4 - 8 pm
Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House
800 E. Broadway

Thursday, April 22, 4 - 8 pm
Tenth Church, 11 W. 10th Avenue
(access from Ontario Street)

Saturday, April 24, 11 am - 4 pm
Kingsgate Mall, 370 E. Broadway

Tuesday, April 27, 4 - 8 pm
Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street

Thursday, April 29, 4 - 8 pm
Native Education College, 285 E. 5th Avenue

Beverly Chew
City of Vancouver
Community Planning Department

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Giant Cross Is Gang Symbol

Researching online for other views about the giant cross at VCC Clark Sky Train, I found out that it is copied from a gang symbol that guys in the neighbourhood used to write on walls and get tattooed on their arms back before tattoos were chic. You can read the article at this site, written by someone who approves of it - but also, read the comments below it:

Apparently there was an article about the plan for this cross last November in the Vancouver Sun.

I looked up the guy who designed it, Ken Lum - here he is on Wikipedia.

He has tons of honors and has done tons of public art projects previously, but some of his other projects have also been "controversial."

The Wikipedia article says he was born in 1956 and grew up in Strathcona, and that "his art is conceptually oriented, and generally concerned with issues of identity."

Perhaps he has put this gang symbol up in East Van as a way of claiming it for the gang-bangers (probably some other term was used back then) of his generation. I wonder if he was a member, or a wanna-be. At the time this mark was invented, it must have been intended to create a sense of belonging for some and strike fear into those who didn't belong. It's still doing it.

I don't like it. But if it could scare off the yuppies...

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Crucifixion of East Van

If you would like to complain about the giant cross now dominating the VCC-Clark Skytrain station, I think this could be a good place to do it.

Here's what I posted.

Incident: Please quickly remove the giant cross with "East Van" written on the back that has suddenly appeared towering over the VCC-Clark Skytrain station. I gather that this is intended to be a work of public art, however, to me it is distressing and offensive. Having spoken to other residents of this neighbourhood, I believe this to be a general sentiment. There was no consultation to my knowledge, and if there had been, the opinion would surely have been against it. We are a highly multicultural neighbourhood, and this monstrous secular installation of a symbol sacred to one religion is insulting to non-Christians and Christians alike. I think we would be happier with some nice flowers on this spot, but if we have to have art, please give us the giant raindrop that was removed from another stop at the behest of TV crews. Unlike the Cross, rain is a universal symbol for Vancouverites.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Petition for Off-Leash Area in Guelph Park

Message received:

> Hi,
> We really need an off leash area for dogs in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently signed:
> "Petition for OFF LEASH Dog Area in Guelph Park"
> I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It's free and takes just a few seconds of your time.
> Thanks for your support !
> ------------------------------