Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) volunteers met with Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councilors Andrea Reimer and George Chow at Carnegie on May 22. The themes of the meeting were the need for more social housing and the need to end police brutality.
Sandra Pronteau told the city councilors that we need more social housing, not condos, and that “it’s not acceptable for anyone to have to live in the poor conditions of the SROs.”
Rolf Auer asked the mayor explicitly if he would go on record that the Downtown Eastside (DTES) should be a low-income neighbourhood. He also asked him if the city could overturn the hundreds of bylaw tickets that had been handed out in December and January for minor offenses like jaywalking and vending.
Omar Barahona told the councilors, “We are here and we plan to stay.” He called for more social programs and housing.
Phoenix Winter told the folks from City Hall, “This neighbourhood means a lot to me. We’re all family here. We look out for each other.” She asked if there was a way of dealing with police officers who take out their anger on people who are vulnerable.
Sarah Good said that she had been homeless off and on for four years and told the sad and moving story of recent deaths in her family, mostly due to our society tolerating and creating poverty.
Aiysha Faruk said that she came from a “Third World” country to a rich country and she was homeless and this was not right.
At the end of the presentations, the Mayor and Councilors responded. Robertson said that he and the rest of the Vision and COPE council would work to open up City Hall and make it more responsive to us. He said it was hard to build the social housing we need when the federal and provincial governments won’t provide the money.
The Mayor didn’t answer Rolf’s question about going on record that the DTES should be a low-income neighbourhood. Instead he said, “More people want to live here and people want to build and sell stuff. It’s hard to turn off the tap and say we’re gonna stop.” He also said that we had to ensure that our vision also worked with Chinatown and Gastown. At this point Jean Swanson interrupted him to point out that a majority of people in the whole DTES, including Gastown and Chinatown are low income people, and that associations did not represent low income people.
The Mayor didn’t answer the question about overturning the tickets either but Councilor Reimer said later that she would look into it.
The Mayor did say that the City’s Height Review (the plan to put up to 16 15 to 30 story towers in the DTES) won’t be done until November or into winter.
On the issue of police brutality, Robertson said the challenge was to
respect the police and change the direction inside and try to get the culture to change.
Councilor Reimer then said she and Kerry Jang, another councilor, would be willing to meet with CCAP regularly.
Councilor Chow said, “We need a community for low income people and this is where it’s gonna be. We are really in a third world situation here because there’s not a low of co-operation from provincial and federal governments. ~JS