Bylaw enfarcement no joke
The City of Victoria got a taste of its own medicine this weekend when the inauguration ceremony of the new plaza on Pandora Green saw a group of “Bylaw Enfarcement Officers” ticket city officials and community members who were lazing around on the green, enjoying the day.
The celebration, which happened Saturday, Sept. 10, involved a key address from Mayor Dean Fortin on the initiative of beautifying Pandora’s historically tough neighbourhood. During his address, the eight officers swarmed the crowd to hand out mock tickets, which explained sitting down to rest and placing belongings on the ground violated city bylaws — bylaws that anti-poverty activists say have been used to intimidate and persecute the street-involved community. Fortin himself received a ticket, but then handed it back to the officers.
“I didn’t want them to waste paper,” says Fortin on his move. “The activists were raising legitimate concern for all of us, and it’s been a really important issue we’ve worked hard to recognize … I think these changes will make [the Green] safer for everyone. We’ve moved them [homeless people] off the boulevard and onto the sidewalk which is 20 feet away, and is safer.”
Jody Franklin, one of the enfarcement officers, says there were few street people involved in the celebration, though many people were responsive to the group’s satirical skit.
“We can not solve the crisis of homelessness by chasing people into dark alleys and side streets,” says Franklin. “Our community needs affordable housing and harm reduction services, not more police harassment … If anything, our action sparked conversations that needed to happen that day.”
In October 2010, the city passed a bylaw to prohibit people from standing, sitting, squatting or kneeling on any boulevard or median, including Pandora Green. Another recent bylaw allows police to confiscate homeless people’s belongings when they are placed on the ground. This year the city committed $510,000 to install sprinklers, hard benches and concrete, which activists say are intended to discourage people from resting in the area.
“The $510,000 invested to ‘beautify’ Pandora Green could have been used to eradicate poverty and homelessness,” said Jesse Howardson, one of the activists involved. “Advocacy, social services, harm reduction and health services are all underfunded. Street-involved people are still using Pandora Green, and will continue to do so until we put real solutions to poverty and homelessness into place.”
Last call for artists
This Friday, Sept. 16, marks the last day you can get your voice in to a review that is trying to prove how much B.C. artists need money — the allocation of Community Gaming Grants, to be specific.
The review, being conducted by Skip Triplett, has been funded by the provincial government in an effort to examine the impact recent funding cuts have had on various arts communities. In particular, through cuts to Gaming Grants.
In Victoria, the ProArt Alliance — an 18-member organization made up of galleries, theatres, music groups and film societies — gathered last Thursday, Sept. 8, to make their plea for improved funding.
“All groups have been cut since we lost Gaming funding, and over $1 million has been lost to Victoria alone,” says Peter Sandmark, ProArt Alliance interim coordinator. “Our big demand right now is the reinstatement and increase of funding for arts groups aimed at adults, which are no longer eligible for grants.”
Sandmark says he was impressed with the meeting the group had with Triplett, and hopes others will take the initiative to leave their comments before Friday’s deadline is up. For more, see communitygaminggrantreview.gov.bc.ca.
We’re not dumb yet
The buzz hasn’t quieted down over BC Hydro’s Smart Meters yet.
After hundreds of B.C. residents sent letters to BC Hydro refusing to allow a Wireless Smart Meter to be placed on their home, BC Hydro is now replying to those letters stating that this refusal will be null and void unless there is a meeting between BC Hydro and the customer. Activists have supplied a legal non-consent form at citizensforsafetechnology.org/Alert-Reply-to-Hydro,25,1335.
Meanwhile, outraged residents will gather on the lawn of Victoria’s legislature this Sunday, Sept. 18, between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. M