Monthly Archives: August 2017

City Council Meeting Aug 21, 2017

There were supposed to be two meetings on Aug 21 but the Committee Of The Whole meeting was cancelled.

The ‘regular’ meeting was in the evening though it wasn’t ‘regular’ in a few senses.

On days where there are a COTW meeting in the morning and a regular meeting in the evening what usually takes place is delegations appear at the COTW where open discussion happens. Then if any actual decisions need to be made that fall into actions by council those happen during the evening meeting. It’s not always that way but often that gives topics brought by the delegations a broader scope with members of the public being able to participate in the discussion.

This evening meeting had two delegations slated to appear and neither showed up. Why I cannot say but it left council to discuss and deliberate based on the documentation submitted to it. One was the Fall Fair and the other the Herbivore Cannabis dispensary.

The other aspect of the meeting that wasn’t ‘regular’ was the participation of 3 council members by conference telephone call. Councilors Butler, Hammett and Ross appeared in voice only. So while all 7 were discussing and voting only 4 were physically present in the chamber. This is the first time I can recall where more than one council member was a ‘phone in’.

The regular meeting agenda is not the only supporting document to go with this meeting.

There is another PDF file as well, a Late Item regarding an extra $150,000 to be added to the budget for work on 22nd Street.

The meeting is below. To jump to any part just click on the pie slice for that portion and the meeting video will open in a new tab at that point in the meeting.

 

Delegation - Fall Fair Hearing - Business Licence for Herbivore Cannabis Inc Council Reports 72nd Sidewalk Design Options Quarter 2 Financial Report Monthly Highlight Reports Budget addon of 150,000 to 22nd St multi-utility project Questions From Public and Media

City Gives Whispers More Time

Last week the city gave notice to Whispers Of Hope: Cease operating on Friday and get packing to leave – your lease is done.
And Whispers responded with No we will not stop operating, you have no legal reason to terminate our lease.

This week the city relented a bit. their new stance can be found in this press release on the city’s website. The new notice can be read below (here is the link to that PDF doc on the city’s own website).

Essentially they’ve given Whispers 30 days to straighten out and fly right (by the terms of their agreement) or face eviction. And it also says they have 6 months to find a new home even if they do conform. So Whispers / BETHS have some extra time to achieve a move to another place. Some other place not in the city’s yard, back or front.

Unfortunate for sure but not the end of the world just yet. BETHS isn’t even open for the season and they have to find a new place and find a way to make it habitable at least to whatever standards a shelter needs to conform to. To see what they did to make this place take a look a what it was like when it opened.

Download (PDF, 63KB)

Rally to Support Whispers Of Hope

Friday morning Aug 4, 2017

At 9AM supporters of Whispers Of Hope turned out to rally and add their voices to the conversation around this latest action by the city of Grand Forks. (see documents at the bottom of the page)

Nearly 60 people were gathered around the north steps to hear what was said. Organizers Lorraine Dick and Teresa Taylor were joined by Louise Heck, Board Chair of the Whispers Of Hope Benevolence Association. Then the public were invited to speak. A number did: former board members, community social activists, customers of the thrift store and others. Among them was even retired councilor and Mayor Jake Raven.

CBC Radio interviewed Mayor Konrad Thursday morning (8:04 into the recording) As she mentioned on a CBC Radio interview the next day (7:59 into the recording) Ms. Heck said the board was not caving in to the city’s demand to cease operations and vacate the premises.

Watch and Listen to what was said below.

Download (PDF, 218KB)

City Pulls Rug Out From Under Homeless Support System

The City Of Grand Forks announced today (Aug 2, 2017) that it was issuing a “. . . notice of lease termination to Whispers of Hope Benevolence Society and Boundary Emergency and Transitional Housing Society

They want “the soup kitchen, emergency shelter and thrift store to cease operations by Friday August 4th, 2017 at 5pm and to vacate the building within thirty days“.

The bulk of the press release refers to problems such as vandalism, dozens of complaints from the public, worries about personal safety, safety of the community at risk due to campfires during this time of high fire risk, drug paraphernalia like needles laying around, public nuisance issues and expenses incurred in dealing with the problems and the temporary shelters set up by the homeless.

It makes reference to the Committee Of The Whole meeting of July 17 which you can see on this site.

The last words are “Council agreed to start a task force to investigate solutions to improve homelessness and mental health. The City is open to any course of action that will keep public spaces safe and available for everyone to use.

Okay, let’s examine this:

Is this the task force in action?
If that is the case then I have to ask: Just how does this improve things for the homeless and those with mental health issues?

I get that people are upset. I understand that people are afraid. But I wonder how does making the homeless more stressed out by removing their support system benefit the rest of us (let alone help them)?

A few years ago (2013) one of the homeless people tried to burn down city hall because, as I understand it, he was upset about things that city hall had no hand in or ability to fix. But city hall was the most visible and accessible organ of government to him so that’s what he went after. It wasn’t a rational decision but as far as I know this is a person with mental health issues so rational choices aren’t to be expected.

This person is still here and still homeless. And this action is directly attributable to City Hall.

So I have to ask: Has city council thought this through and taken stock of the vulnerability of the site and possible jeopardy they’ve put it in?

When a property burns down you usually see a security guard on site 24 hours a day for sometimes a month or more. Guarding a burnt out hulk that usually has nothing of value to steal. That costs money but the insurance companies foot the bill. Is the city posting any security at city hall now or are they going to wait until after it burns down?

Back in the early 1990s the City of Vancouver tried to stamp our the prostitution plaguing a certain part of the city. The actual result was a bit like trying to squash mercury – it spread out all over the place. Instead of going away from the area known for it other areas of the city began to see scantily clad women ‘hitchhiking’ at all times of day.

By removing support system that some of the homeless use I’m guessing that the city hopes they will go away and take up residence in some other city. IF the homeless make rational decisions and IF they weren’t from here to begin with then maybe that plan will work. Many people think that the homeless we have here have come from elsewhere because either they heard we were a soft touch or other towns have shipped them here. But according to the local RCMP many of them are people who are from here: they grew up here and they’ve ‘come home’ to their home town. Don’t believe me? Just listen to what the RCMP had to say about it when they talked to the Downtown Business Association earlier this year.

So if the city’s action doesn’t make them leave then what’s to become of the homeless? Is the City going to feed them? Are we going to see aggressive panhandling by desperate, hungry, mentally ill homeless people? I guess that’s one way of pushing them into another part of the system, the penal system, and getting them out of your hair.

I don’t claim to have answers to the problems of the homeless or those who have to live near them. But I wonder if the ‘task force’ will have to dig the city back out of a social justice hole it may have dug for itself before it can get around to making any headway.

The small potential issues I’ve described about are likely just the tip of the iceberg of social problems that the city has launched into our community. They need feedback from you, the public, to help them realize meaningful change and reject knee jerk reactionary responses. (though you may sense from this post my knee is jerking up a storm). At the bottom of the Press Release on the city website is contact information – use it please.