Tag Archives: city hall

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.

 

 

 

End of an Era

10 years ago I began broadcasting the Grand Forks City Council meetings on cable TV. Over time this has changed from live on cable TV to live / on-demand on the Internet and watchable later on Cable TV.

Well all that comes to and end with the next council meetings, which will be my last.

I have resigned from my position. I quit, no one fired me or pressured me in to quitting (though that has been attempted in the recent past).

The impetus for this decision stems from my most recent video and posting. It was an angry, ill-conceived, single take reaction to anger I felt. After fighting on facebook for most of the week with the vocal supporters of Councilor Butler and being blamed for all of her problems and told I should be paying everyone’s legal bills I reacted badly to the Mayor’s behaviour and portrayal on CBC radio. He didn’t deserve the vitriol and anger … well not so much. He did deserve to have his say and I didn’t give him that and for that I also apologize.

The fact that I reacted so strongly and wrongly gave me pause to reflect on what I am doing, why and how.

I’m a volunteer. Sure they give me an honorarium but I’ve costed it out and I cannot replace the equipment for the amount I get. Effectively speaking it costs me money and time to do the volunteer job I have been performing. I’m a volunteer. I consider it an honour and privilege to to have been able to serve my community in the way for the last 10 years.

Once I came out in from of the camera to take a stand on an issue I became a target. I’ve blissfully existed with only an occasional inkling that there are people out there who wanted me gone from that position. Now I’m hearing it went on for longer than I knew and involved more people than I knew. But I’ve also found out that people have stood up for me without telling me or asking for anything in return. I have Enemies and Champions. All over taking a stand.

When I take a stand and make public statements I face the same scrutiny as anyone else in the public eye. I also have to watch what I say, how I say it and the words I use. If the Mayor or a councilor mis-speak they have our support in the form of tax dollars paying their legal bills. I have no such support – I could face financial ruin for a little mistake.

Well my detractors can now do their happy dance. They have gotten their way and I’m gone from the council chambers. Or am I?

 


Here is the text of my notice of resignation:

It is with mixed emotions that I tender my resignation from the position I hold of broadcasting the City Council meetings.

After 10 years I’ve come to a point where I can’t stop my feelings from interfering and I know it’s time to step back. My recent video should serve as an example. The anger outshone the humour. By a large margin.

That doesn’t do anybody any good.

I’ve felt honoured to serve my community in this capacity. In the last decade I’ve watched and listened as our elected officials governed our community. They’ve been a mix of humans. And humans are complex creatures – there’s things to like and things to dislike in all of them.

For years I stood behind the camera saying nothing about what was going on except to try and get council and the public to pay more attention to each other. Then I offered humour and a bit of a conscience. It was good. Then the water meter issue became the major distraction. I had my wish – a sector of the population had come down and virtually camped out in the gallery. All over a single issue.

I still managed to remain neutral until the idiots and idiotic ideas began crowding out reason. Then the paranoid beliefs crept in and with the last election it looked like partisan politics had come to our town in the guise of grass roots push back. So I stepped out in front of the camera. At first to try to introduce some reason and balance into the process, later to try and stop what I saw as a process of self-destructiveness. I was so naïve … the community picked sides and one of them picked me and I found myself on a side group which has become reviled for taking a stand. And since I’m the only self identified member of that group I get to wear the hair shirt that political attack dogs drape over me. I’ve been the subject of behind the scenes and public campaigns to have me removed from the position of council webcaster. Orchestrated by a member of council I’m told.

Last summer I did some costing and found that every meeting costs me nearly $40 more than the $50 I get as an honorarium. By that I mean that I don’t make enough to cover the cost of replacing the equipment I use to do the job I do. Which, since 2011, has been all my own equipment. Many of you have seen the mass of things I have to bring, set up, and take down for every meeting. (The last council meeting took less time than my setup time) Well if any of the expensive stuff breaks I cannot afford to replace it unless I go into debt.

Last weekend I put together a small video where I called on the Mayor to resign his seat. It even surprised me with it’s angry content. And it’s a warning indicator on the dash board saying I’m over heating and I should do something about it. No one should take it as license to bring weapons down to city hall and attack anyone. Use your words please.

One of the things I find disconcerting about our current Mayor is his tendency to shoot from the hip when his emotions get the better of him. It’s something I’m prone to myself. When the Mayor does it we all backstop his words – if he says something wrong that brings legal eagles down on our necks we all pay for it. I have no backstop. If I say the wrong thing, turn a phrase the wrong way, I could lose my house. I’m a pensioner with part time work and now I have enemies in the community who’ve showed a penchant for going after people’s jobs. Try finding a job in your 60s.

Back when I began this position there was an argument between my employer and city hall. It ultimately cost me my job and the incumbent mayor re-election. But even back then I realized that 10 or 15 years later we’ll still have to live and work together so making enemies would be counter productive. I can proudly say that I can chat and joke with the mayor and council members from that time.

Now … it’s not the same at all. The political arena in this town has taken on nasty overtones and whether it’s just me or others I’m afraid I cannot make the same statement. I worry that a decade from now something I’m involved in might suffer because somebody holds animosity to me.

I’ve been involved in a number of things in the community – some I initiated and others I’m just a part of. I’ve tried to be a community booster. I won’t stop that but I won’t see any of it blunted and frustrated by small minded people with vendettas. So it’s time to go.

To the members of council – I wish you luck. I have respect for most of you for taking on a tough job for the right reasons. I hope you do your jobs well – I’m still a taxpayer here so I have a vested interest in that. Even if I wasn’t I have friends here and I wish the community a functional council.

To the community at large – You’re just going to miss me when I’m gone. For a while and then you’ll move on with your lives. Please, please don’t turn your backs on council. An informed and aware populace is a requirement of a functioning community. When you ignore them until they’re doing something you don’t like we get fiascos like the recent one.

To those who would consider themselves my enemy – I’m not going anywhere.

Some can take this as sour grapes – that’s their choice. I just think it’s my time to go.

There is a native story about two wolves struggling inside of all us, the good and the bad. When the child asks its elder which one wins the answer is ‘the one you feed the most’. In this last year I feel that the community and me have been feeding the wrong one too much. It’s time for balance …

Best of luck to all of you / us.

  • Les Johnson
  • Mar 9, 2016

Arsonist Strikes City Hall

Update:
Police have released information regarding the person involved and charges he faces:

Grand Forks RCMP
2013-09-20 0853 hrs
Boundary Regional Detachment, RCMP are now releasing the name of the person charged in connection with the Arson Fire at Grand Forks City Hall on 2013-09-19.
Charged is; Andre Robert CONN, 31 years old of Grand Forks B.C.
He has been remanded in Custody to appear in Nelson Court on Tuesday, September 24th to answer to charges of; Break and Enter, Arson, Possession of incendiary materials, Possession of break in Instruments.
The Grand Forks RCMP is seeking the public’s assistance in this investigation and ask that anyone with information regarding the fire contact the Grand Forks RCMP at 250-442-8288. Those wishing to provide information anonymously, are encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, leaving a tip online at www.crimestoppers.net
Released by;
Staff Sergeant Jim Harrison
NCO i/c Boundary Regional Detachment
Royal Canadian Mounted Police


Original posting:

People downtown woke up to the sound of sirens early this morning to find Fire Rescue and

Arson Fire In City Hall

Arson Fire In City Hall

RCMP vehicles clustered around Grand Forks City Hall. Shortly after 5AM someone had broke into the building and set a fire in the main floor open area. This resulted in Intrusion and Fire alarms going off and that brought Fire Rescue onto the scene in less than 5 minutes.

With luck and quick response by the volunteers of Grand Forks Fire Rescue this fire was brought under control in less than an hour and did far less damage than the last arson to occur downtown, the destruction of the remaining two of the original hotels. In fact it would appear that the fire was contained within the open area of the main floor and put out before it could spread. Offices on periphery of the main space saw little or no fire damage due to their doors being closed. Smoke damage is the only result present on the second floor and the basement only suffered water damage from the firefighting efforts.

At this time the full extent of all this is not completely known and cannot be properly assessed until after a structural assessment is done and the fire and RCMP investigators have done their jobs. What has happened to the historical archives, city records and computer and heating systems in the basement are some of the questions various groups are waiting to know. For the near future city staff are working on reconfiguring their operations to continue on in some fashion elsewhere. How long this will take and where it will happen is still unknown. It is unlikely that the next city council meeting will not take place at city hall.

This appears to the actions of one individual who was apprehended at the scene and is now in police custody. Until more investigation has been done and charges have been laid police cannot release any details about who it is or what evidence they have. We won’t speculate on motives here – the rumour mill is already generating enough stories.

Once more the people of Grand Forks can say thank you for the efforts and quick response of the Volunteers of Grand Forks Fire Rescue.

Thank you (Councilor) Gary Smith for the initial call to us about the news item.