UNIONS PAYED FOR ALMOST HALF OF DEAN FORTIN’S CAMPAIGN EXPENSES: Ralmax + Traveller’s Inn also notable for generous donations

Organized labour unions paid for almost half of Socialist Mayor Dean Fortin’s election campaign expenses, according to a report by Jason Youmans in Monday Magazine’s March 12 edition on page 5.

Unions donated $22,400 of a total of $49,051 to Mr. Fortin’s campaign, which very likely gave him an extraordinary advantage over all the other Victoria mayoral candidates not so closely associated with NDP-friendly unions.

By doing this, Mr. Fortin has put himself in an awkward position.  He got himself elected, alright, and supposedly it is all quite legal to accept such large sums from such special interest groups, but ethically it stinks.  

The provincial legislation governing financial donations to municipal election campaigns is in serious need of overhaul to prevent such vested interest groups from exerting undue influence over election results or subsequent Council votes.  The amounts allowable should be reduced considerably, to level the playing field, so as not to favour unions, corporations or private companies.

Next time the new Victoria City Council has to vote on renewing contracts with inside and outside CUPE workers at City Hall and the Public Works yard on Garbally Road, Mr. Fortin should recuse himself, and not vote, lest he find himself in an embarrassing conflict of interest.

Mayor Fortin is used to recusing himself, as he has had to do many times recently as a Coouncillor whenever public expenditure had to be decided upon at the new Burnside-Gorge Community Centre, where he was also employed.

He also apparently recused himself many times on votes relating to the new planned homeless shelter on Ellis Street.

Other donations will definitely prove problematic for the new Mayor.  John Asfar’s Traveller’s Inn company donated $1,000 to the Dean Fortin campaign.  Mr. Asfar has had a very belligerant relationship with the former Council, threatening to sue them when they didn’t accommodate his desire to rezone one of his properties for a new downtown gambling casino.

Mr. Fortin also took $1,000 from Ralmax properties, which is very strange as the City of Victoria already has substantial business relationships with Ralmax who supply the Public Works yard with concrete, sand, gravel and other road, sidewalk and pathway building materials.

A recent instance of egregious waste of such materials can be seen in Beacon Hill Park. A new gravel pathway has been laid down from the Quadra and Southgate entrance to the park, heading south through the Mayors’ Grove of heritage trees now deemed out-of-bounds for homeless campers.

Next time any votes come up in Council chambers having do with Mr. Asfar’s interests or those of the Ralmax group of companies, or any other of the many donations he took from unions and businesses who may want his vote, Dean Fortin should definitely recuse himself from voting one way or the other, lest he put himself in a very serious conflict of interest.

The same principle applies, of course, for any other Victoria City Councillor who might be tempted to recognize such campaign financial donations through favourable Council votes in the future.

– Gregory Paul Michael Hartnell, President

   Concerned Citizens’ Coalition

NATURE WORSHIP TRUMPS COMMON SENSE: New City of Victoria bylaws put tree protection before homeless people’s temporary shelter rights

The other day the front page of the monopoly daily newspaper showed a practically illegible map purporting to outline off-limit areas in City parks where homeless campers will not be allowed to set up tents.  The silly map, the new restrictive bylaws and the lamentably callous mindset that they represent are all frankly ludicrous.

In doing this, the new Council clearly shows its true values: it holds protection of ‘sensitive ecosystems’ as more urgent and of higher value than the temporary shelter rights of Victoria’s homeless human species as mandated recently by Madame Justice Ross of the B. C. Supreme Court .

For reasons known only to them (as these decisions are made in secret meetings), the new Victoria City Council also changed the hours allowed for such camping from 7:00 p. m. to 7:00 a. m. to 8:00 p.  m. to 7:00 a. m.  Could this have something to do with visibility?  As the days get longer with more daylight hours, we wouldn’t want our tourists seeing the poor setting up tents before dark in City parks, would we?

Today the headline in the monopoly daily tells us that Socialist Establishment Mayor Dean Fortin and his Council have put homelessness on the top of their priority list of seven urgent issues needing attention in Victoria.

Isn’t that wonderful?  After being in power for about four months, they put homelessness on the top of their list.  But what have they really done for them besides make their lives more miserable with these anal, micromanaged nitpicking decisions?

DOWNTOWN VICTORIA BUSINESS ASSOCIATION TRIES TO SHAME BUSINESSES INTO CLEANING UP NEEDLES LEFT BY ADDICTS

The Downtown Victoria Business Association, one of a number of quasi-official groups that purport to represent downtown Victoria businesses, is now apparently in the business of publicly shaming these same businesses into picking up discarded hypodermic needles left on the streets of Victoria by sick anti-social hard drug addicts.

An article in the free Victoria News, dated January 30, 2009, written by Todd Devlin, is accompanied by a Don Denton photo showing the DVBA’s general business manager Ken Kelly holding ‘up a brochure and a container to hold used needles during a press conference in Centennial Square.’

The ludicrous new policy is meant to supplement the inadequate efforts of a group called the Clean & Safe Committee, apparently comprised mainly of AIDS Vancouver Island ‘staff who go out every morning for two hours, and, on average, pick up between five and 40 needles off the streets downtown.’

If this two hour sweep is not keeping Victoria’s downtown streets ‘clean and safe,’ it is hard to imagine harrassed business owners getting very enthused about the ‘Safe Needle Disposal Toolkit,’ a twelve page booklet ‘providing information regarding the safe disposal of needles and other drug paraphernalia,’ as Mr. Devlin describes it.

Meanwhile, today the Victoria News ran a tiny article on page A2 on March 11 entitled ‘Health centre to receive grant.’  The City of Victoria just wrote a $50,000 cheque to set up a new clinic at 713 Johnson.  The usual suspects are involved: AVI, VIHA and Victoria Cool Aid Society, all of which have a history of giving free needles to addicts.

This new clinic will be one among many in the Capital Region where needles will be given to addicts at public expense, if ‘harm reduction’ fanatics like Mayor Dean Fortin and Councillor Philippe Lucas get their way.

– Gregory Paul Michael Hartnell, President

  Concerned Citizens’ Coalition

 

TEMPORARY SHELTER: CHRIS JOHNSON: Open letter to Faith in Action

TEMPORARY SHELTER

Hello,

My name is Chris, and I was put on this list after attending an event that Faith in Action hosted at the Jewish Community Centre.

I’ve been putting a lot of time into advocating for solutions to homelessness in Victoria, and have not yet really connected with anyone in your group yet. (Though I hear about FIA often).  

The main project that I am involved in now, as concerns homelessness, is the Temporary Autonomous Shelter Collective.

TEMPORARY AUTONOMOUS SHELTER COLLECTIVE:

http:www.tentcity.wikidot.com

Basically, we are motivated by the fact that there are far less shelter mats than homeless people, and affordable housing will not come soon enough for many.

We have been researching the concept of a sanctioned, organized tent city, which can trigger some negative images when mentioned, but we feel not only is there a need for more temporary shelter (of a different style than currently offered as well), but that all the negative aspects of such a concept can be mitigated.

Few people would ever think that an unsupervised, unregulated tent city could work, and very few would dare think something like that could happen in a city park.

There are successful tent cities just south of us in Washington, hosted in church parking lots and backyards.  We have been down to visit these camps, and have collected a wealth of information, from legal ordinances to nitty gritty operational details to video presentations of life in these communities.

I think one of the  main objections that people have to this idea is that it is not a solution to homelessness.  Indeed, many homeless people we talk to tell us that they don’t want a tent city, they want real housing.

Others though, tell us that they want real housing, but are on a 3000 person waiting list for BC Housing, etc., and need somewhere to stay in the meantime.  Let’s not get into a critique or defence of the shelter system.  Sufficed to say that hundreds of people in this town have valid reasons why the shelters are unsuitable to them.

No one is suggesting that tent cities are a solution to homelessness.   I would also argue that tent cities, or any other form of temporary shelter do not interfere with our efforts to create real housing.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

In fact, and this is something that the people in co-operation with local churches will tell you, that whenever tent cities are created, it creates more real housing, because it makes the governments take notice.

It makes the problem that much more visible and real to people, and they demand action.  Please take a moment to consider this.  It’s almost paradoxical, but it’s true.

HOW SANCTIONED TENT CITIES WORK

If I can, let me explain how these sanctioned tent cities work.  We’re not at the point where we’re asking people to host them yet.  We’re exploring the concept, propelled mainly by a large number of homeless people who have asked for such an option.  

We have questions and concerns, as many people do, but are learning every day how useful this form of temporary shelter can be if done right. Please put the vision of needles and filth and crime in our public parks out of your mind.  That is something different.  

What I want to share right now is a sanctioned model that has been operating in Washington state for many years.  Other cities are now picking up on the idea, and we are looking into it because we recognize the need for temporary transitional shelter, and we see a lack of options that fit our capabilities, financial and otherwise.

Tent City 4 in Seattle is completely user-run (SHARE/Wheel is the largest homeless shelter operator in the region and they provide financial management and oversight).  The residents of the tent cities (who average 6 weeks in the tents) contact a church and make arrangements to have that church host a tent city.  The churches provide the space, at minimum.  Usually the back of the parking lot, so that there is still room for the congregation to park.

They host 100 people in 60 – 80- tents.  You’d be amazed how little room that takes up when the tents are nearly side by side.  The tents are on pallet  platforms, and the whole operation takes less that a day to move.

It is the congregation’s choice if they want to provide volunteer assistance, and they often do, and are pretty much always glad they did.

The camp moves to a different location every three months.   They have their own dumpsters, portable toilets, shower, kitchen and water containers.  There is one entrance into the camp, with a security tent at that entrance.  That entrance is staffed at all times by a resident or community volunteer.

The residents form a council, vote in members and create their own regulations.  There are always people on site functioning as security volunteers.  They are provided with non-violent crisis intervention training.  Conflicts are resolved internally, by a small community judicial council.  Police are rarely called, and the police in these jurisdictions will tell you how well self-regulated the camps are.  Crime rates often go down while a tent city is in the neighbourhood.  

The residents of the camp volunteer in the community to keep it safe and clean.  They provide temporary labour services, and they do a great deal to change people’s opinions and attitudes about homelessness.

According to SHARE/Wheel, these churches are always glad they hosted a camp, and many invite the tent city back for another stay.  (City regulations state that a tent city can not be at the same church more than once in a year.)

STRICT CODE OF CONDUCT

All of these sanctioned tent cities (they also exist in Olympia, Florida, and perhaps other places that I have yet to find) have a strict code of conduct.  Residents must agree to not drink, do drugs or fight.  So they are places of recovery, sobriety and healing.  They are transitional places where people can rest, rejuvenate, get clean, get help, get a job, and move on to something better.  Form many it’s this, or hiding under a bush every night and never getting healthy and whole. 

The people in these camps are very protective of their community.  They need the tent city, and if any trouble starts, they deal with it, because the last thing they want is the neighbourhood rejecting them.  This is their home, more so than anything they have found on the street, and they work hard to protect it.

I would urge anyone to visit these camps.  It is absolutely inspiring.  Seattle and Olympia are both very close, and can be visited as a day trip.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  Just go see what a bit of compassion and community has done in these camps.

Lastly, we find it to be important that these camps are user-run.  Not only does this mean that churches do not need to assume any financial or operational burden, but it allows the residents to experience community and independence.  It’s not a hand-out, it’s not someone else taking control of your life, enabling homelessness.  It’s empowering people to care for and provide for themselves and their community, and has benefits that reach far beyond the provision of food and shelter.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TENT CITIES

If you want to learn more, we have put together a website to collect our research on tent cities at:

http:www.tentcity.wikidot.com.  

This research also includes the unregulated camps, the protest camps and camps that do not work, so if you want to read about sanctioned camps that work, go to the sections for Seattle and Olympia.

If you want to read about a Catholic Church that has decided to run a programme themselves (normally churches just host a programme), go to the section for St. Petersburg Florida.  The bulk of the information comes to us from media articles, and these  are accessed by clicking on the media archive link for each city, which will take you to an external site.

We hope to interest other groups to host information sessions and outreach events this spring.  Please consider attending and watching some films about sanctioned tent cities, as well as hear from some speakers that will be traveling up from the tent cities in Seattle and Washington.  I will be sure to post details on this list as soon as we have them.

Thank for you for your time, and God bless.

Chris

CCC – FIA – ICN TRANSCULTURAL PEACE AND JUSTICE PROPAGANDA 2009 

 

CRAIG MORRISON: ‘The Cuckoo’ is the masterpiece on ROCKET RADIO + LIVE AT THE OSCAR disks by his Montreal-based Momentz band, featuring a long psychedelic guitar solo tribute to his late Victoria friend Derek Rolls

Craig Morrison was in town recently, visiting his elderly parents.  Craig’s father is Newell Morrison, who served as a Social Credit cabinet minister,  and is now in frail health.  Craig is an old friend from my gilded youth, and was a roommate of mine in the early 70s when we lived in a communal house on Yale Street in Oak Bay.  La vie de Boheme behind the Tweed Curtain…

I was surprised to hear Craig’s voice on the phone the other day, as I did not register that he was coming back to Victoria at this time.  Since 1984 he has lived in Montreal, having met and married his wife Marie – France there.

A natural musician, I remember being awed by Craig’s obvious talent as a ‘teenage music head,’ as he calls himself.  A professional musician with his Montreal-based band called The Momentz, a music historian and professor at Concordia and McGill, his Ph.D thesis was on ‘patterns of style evolution in popular music, focussing on psychedelic music in San Francisco.’  This is a book I hope to read, having lived in the Bay City myself, not far from Haight Ashbury, in the eighties and nineties.

At the moment I’m listening to one of three CDs Craig Morrison left with me before heading back to his musical life back east.  

It’s entitled CRAIG MORRISON + the momentz ROCKET RADIO, some of which was recorded live at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at Concordia in February 1999.  The masterpiece of this session was ‘The Cuckoo,’ a traditional English folk tune from the 1800s. On this cut Craig Morrison and the Momentz create a beautiful psychedelic extended jam reminiscent of It’s a Beautiful Day’s ‘White Bird.’

‘It refers to the bird that brings notice of spring, the season of lovers.  Because the cuckoo lays its legs in other birds’ nests, it can be seen as an omen of possible infidelity.  Many variants of the song were in North America though the continent has no cuckoo birds (except on clocks). Some American versions mention the 4th of July in praise of USA’s independence (a kind of infidelity) from England. I changed it to July 1st, Canada Day.

‘I learned it in Victoria from a friend named Derek Rolls who was a great inspiration to me. He later committed suicide.  I play it at most of my gigs not only in his honour but also because it’s a grand song to perform.  A very fond memory is of playing it in the family basement as a teenager with my mum singing harmony and my friend Rod Booth (a future founder of the Momentz) playing violin,’ writes Craig Morrison in the liner notes to this, the longest song (6:44) on the ROCKET RADIO CD. 

Another longer (7:03) live version of ‘The Cuckoo’ is also found on Craig Morrison and the Momentz’ cd entitled ‘live at the Oscar,’ which is billed as a ‘roots rocking mix of rhythm & blues, rockabilly, British invasion, and folk rock classics, plus original songs’ recorded in the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at Concordia University, Montreal on February 3, 2001 for the 4th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert.

‘I’ve been doing this archaic folk song since learning if from a friend in the early 1970s,’ writes Craig Morrison in the liner notes to ‘Live at the Oscar.’  Marianne Brousseau’s haunting background vocals are essential to the mystery of this enigmatic ballad, but this one doesn’t have Rod Booth’s violin, however.

An even longer (7:54) psychedelic guitar solo in a similar vein is found on this same disk on the eleventh cut, entitled ‘Himalaya.’   ‘An original song, inspired by an album called ‘Festivals of the Himalayas,’ issued by the Nonesuch label as part of their fascinating Explorer series.  The jam includes solos by John McDiarmid, a great pianist I started working with in the 1990s, and Lloyd Dallaire, a great bass player who did his first Momentz gig in 1989.  The psychedelic style comes from my West Coast roots: I grew up in Victoria B. C., and later researched the development of West Coast music for my PhD. thesis ‘Psychedelic Music in San Francisco.’ 

To find out more about Craig Morrison and the Momentz, or to purchase their compact disks, look for the link in our CCC BLOGROLL to the right under ‘Craig Morrison,’ or look in the comments section below.

– Gregory Paul Michael Hartnell