Last Day for Poke on the Drive

June 14, 2021

Poke 5, at 2247 Commercial, is closing for good tomorrow night.

They were here for about three years and I never tried them, to be honest. They blame the pandemic for the closure.

It is unfortunate they are closing now just while other veterans and new places are beginning to re-open on the Drive.


Library Fines Forgiven!

June 12, 2021

I happen to think that a free and accessible public library system is one of the highpoints of modern life. But did you know that more than 70,000 Vancouverites are blocked from using our fabulous library and its services because they have outstanding fines exceeding $10? And that most of those 70,000 live in DTES, Strathcona, and Grandview?

Starting on Monday 14th June, and for two weeks thereafter, VPL will clear any outstanding fines and reactivate your library card—available to anyone, for any reason:

We want to offer people a fresh start by removing fines and fees from their library card. Fines create negative experiences for both our community and staff, and discourage individuals and families from using the library. By removing outstanding fines on Vancouver Public Library cards, we hope to reconnect people with their library and the collections and services they love and need to succeed.

People wanting to take advantage of this offer should go to their local branch, or go online to vpl.ca/finefree, or call 604.331.3670


GWAC and TMH: A Report

June 8, 2021

I attended the GWAC ZOOM meeting last night which featured a long discussion about Temporary Modular Housing (TMH) in general and the new building at 1580 Vernon in particular.

The meeting began with an overview of TMH in Vancouver by Steve Bohus. It was a very useful review and was applauded by Lisa Jimenez, a CoV planner.

The meeting was then turned over to Julie Roberts and Robbie Moza of Community Buildings Group (CBG) who are in charge of operating the new building which is scheduled to open in July. CBG operates a number of low-barrier homeless shelters in Vancouver, along with two TMH projects, one in Marpole which has operated very successfully for three years, and another at Naomi House which opened earlier this year.

The new TMH at 1580 Vernon will include 98 housing units, along with a community kitchen, common areas, and office space. Each of the housing units is roughly 250 sq.ft. and includes a private bathroom and a small kitchen area. Ms. Roberts played a short but enlightening video of the TMH at Naomi House which illustrated the kind of housing units that will be available.

CHG is currently working with BC Housing to select the first tenants who will be offered space at Vernon. There is an attempt to prioritize local homeless.

CHG also creates what they call a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) from the local residential community. The CAC is designed to help integrate the TMH within the local neighbourhood. In the case of 1580 Vernon, there are no residences within three blocks of the building and so the CAC will probably be peopled by the businesses that are close by.

CHG noted that there were significant community concerns before the Marpole before the TMH was opened. However, after three years of operation, there now seems to be good acceptance of the building and its residents.

I found the presentation and the discussion to be extremely valuable. I have been a strong supporter of this development, and the proposal for 1st and Clark, and I hope that this presentation helped soothed some of the concerns people may have.

It was good to see CoV Planning and BC Housing staff, along with Councillor Jean Swanson and two BIA executives, join in with the GWAC meeting.


Our Compost Flower

June 7, 2021

A couple of years back, when the City started collecting organic waste, we rather gave up on our apartment compost bin that we had nurtured for almost twenty years. The part of the balcony where it sits is always closed off during the winter months, and what goes on in there tends to be left to its own devices.

Now that I have re-opened the area for the summer, I discover that a plant has colonized the bin in quite spectacular fashion.

It sits next to our long-suffering but always abundant clematis and together they give the area a beautiful look of greenery from the part of the balcony where we sit and contemplate.

The plant also has these delightful flowers. I am sure someone will be able to tell me what it is I am growing here.


R.I.P. Frank & Danse

June 5, 2021

Two of the Drive’s most colourful characters are now both lost to us.

Frank, on the right, and Danse, on the left, have been habitueès of the Drive for as long as I can recall, sometimes carving wood and sometimes just begging. They had several pitches but most of the time they had a spot outside Home Hardware at Graveley.

I found them a cheerful pair, always willing to chat. Danse could be a bit loud on the bus, but in a happy way; proudly announcing with his big grin that no-one had to bow to him as he passed.

A few years ago, they moved back to small-town Alberta, which they hated, and they soon returned to the friendlier streets of Grandview. Their support network included folks at Home Hardware, Tim Horton’s, and the Dime, and I suspect many others too.

Now, they are both gone. Frank died a few weeks ago and I heard this week that Danse had died in intensive care on 27 May. They will be missed.

I understand that their sister is coming up from San Diego for a celebration of their lives on 20 June in Grandview Park. I also hear that Home Hardware will be erecting a plaque in their memory on their wall.


Turn Corporate Taxes Into Licenses

June 3, 2021

The new Trump tax code,

“lowered the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, but in practice large companies often pay far less than that because of deductions, tax breaks and other loopholes. In the first year of the law, the amount corporations paid in federal taxes on their incomes – their “effective rate” – was 11.3% on average, possibly its lowest level in more than three decades … [T]he new law introduced many new breaks and loopholes.”

Corporations around the world play the same tricks. Often they reside in tax havens and levy enough “corporate service charges” on their overseas subsidiaries to ensure that no taxes are paid.

And this all comes at a cost to the rest of us.  As corporate taxes fall and government deficits grow, there is increasing pressure to reduce those deficits by reducing spending on welfare services, health, and education.

Centre-right politicians have suggested that lowering corporate tax rates will encourage more companies to stay in-house as it were.  That is just an excuse to make the rich richer as the new Trump tax code proves.  There is a simpler and much more efficient way.

I suggest that corporate income taxes be eliminated completely. They should be replaced by a “license to operate” fee equal to, say, 10% of revenues earned in the country no matter where the head office is based. Simple to understand, simple to manage, and, I suspect, very difficult to get around.

Country of ownership becomes immediately irrelevant, and transfers to an offshore HQ will be pointless for tax purposes. Indeed, they may well create a double taxation situation in which those transfers become taxable revenue in the home country. It also gives corporations the right to NOT operate in any particular country if they choose to forgo the revenues.

Finally, I would make this tax law bullet-proof by including a provision that, should some smart accountant or lawyer find a loophole, then that loophole is closed retroactively to the dater of the law’s passage.

We should give this a try. It is a commonsense approach, eliminates the need for accountants, lawyers, and an army of regulators. It will produce fairness across the board.


GWAC and Temporary Modular Housing

June 2, 2021

This month’s meeting of the Grandview Woodland Area Council (GWAC) takes place on Monday 7th June, 2021, at 7:00pm on ZOOM.

A really important topic that has generated heat on both sides of the argument.

Image c/o Steve Bohus


Another Future For The Drive?

May 27, 2021

After an evening of speakers last night, and an afternoon of debate and amendments this afternoon, Vancouver City Council passed the BIA-sponsored motion entitled “Prioritizing Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian-First High Street.”

Rather than me try to summarize, the original Motion can be found at Motion – Prioritizing Commercial Drive as a Pedestrian-First High Street – May 18, 2021 (vancouver.ca) The final Motion approved was slightly different (the exact wording probably won’t be available to me for a few days) but the essentials are the same.

This is a plan that — through the midwifery of Councilors Fry and DeGenova — comes fully formed from the Commercial Drive Business Society (the BIA) without any consultation with groups such as GWAC, Britannia, or any others except the Italian Cultural Centre, and it must be viewed in that context: It is designed to meet the BIA Board’s view of what businesses want, and to meet certain of their specific goals.

That being said, in my opinion it has some really good things in it; policies I support and have encouraged for years — a pedestrians-first agenda, slow streets, sidewalk widening and improvements, a better matching of the southern half of the Drive with the northern half.

It also includes some things — such as “maintaining and improving” parking on the Drive — that give me serious pause.

More generally, I have some concerns that the further gentrification of the Drive — and let us make no mistake, that is what this will be — could have significant and negative effects on the poor, troubled, and often homeless folks who live and spend their time in and around the Drive. Councilor Swanson voted against major parts of this Motion for the same reason.

But the Motion passed, so what does it actually mean? Very little in my opinion. There is no budget at Planning or Engineering for any work on the plan to move ahead: that was made very clear during the Council debate. An amendment to the Motion seeks funding in a future capital plan, but that can only be considered as wishful thinking at this point. I assume that lack of funding will also prohibit the kind of extensive consultations that are suggested by the Motion. So, we stay the way we are.

And that, believe it or not, meets one of the BIA’s most important goals — to defeat or substantially delay any plan to put a segregated bike lane anywhere on the Drive (as suggested, for example, in the Climate Emergency Action Plan approved recently by Council). Some might say that was the major goal of the exercise from the beginning. As was to be expected, Councilor Boyle made a number of amendments to get a bike lane included, but each was voted down, to the relief of the Motion’s sponsors. I have no dog in that particular fight.

I am hoping that the BIA will take this opportunity of a public debate to widen their engagement with groups and individuals in the neighbourhood. They fight hard to protect the parking that they believe encourages visitors from other neighbourhoods to come to the Drive. They need to fight just as hard to include the residents of Grandview in their plans. It is we, after all, who, day in and day out, provide most of the revenue to their businesses and make the Drive the lively and wonderful place it is.


Council Finally Boyles Over

May 26, 2021

As regular readers will know, I have been deeply disappointed by most of the current bunch of Vancouver City councillors. They have approved pro-development stuff that even Vision would have been leery of supporting, and they have done nothing to improve community engagement. In fact, quite the opposite.

However, this week, they were faced with a Motion sponsored by OneCity’s Christine Boyle — to allow 12 storey buildings with 70% of all units at market rents almost anywhere in the City without any public consultation — that was so egregiously anti-democratic and anti-community that all but a few of them finally had to call a halt.

After about 100 speakers came and almost unanimously hated this misbegotten Motion, a large majority of the Councillors recognized the way the wind was blowing and crushed the Motion 7-3. Only Boyle herself, the Mayor (who only came into the meeting to vote, having avoided listening to the chorus of opposition), and Jean Swanson (who failed to see the bait-and-switch that was being proposed) gave it support.

I listened to virtually all the speakers and I did not hear one person complain about building more social housing. But I did hear scores complain about the anti-democratic spirit behind the Motion and the fact that under the City’s definition, 100% of the units built under the scheme — even those with market rentals and above — would be called social housing.

It is interesting to note that Green Councillor Michael Wiebe recused himself from the discussion under conflict-of-interest guidelines because he had received a legal opinion that, as a direct result of the increased land values that would be caused by this Motion, his condo building would significantly increase in value.

It is good that the Motion was struck down, but Boyle could not leave it there. Today, on Twitter, she claimed that Council had voted “against more co-op and non-profit homes.” This a big lie equal in fakeness to almost anything Donald Trump might have said. Council voted down a Motion that was badly drafted, that would not have achieved what she claimed, that would have further destroyed trust in Council’s willingness to listen to the people, and would have wreaked further destruction on Vancouver’s affordability.

I congratulate the majority of City Council for seeing through Boyle’s vacuous proposal. Now, hopefully, we can move on to more serious consideration of how to deal with the lack of affordable housing in this City.


The Mechanics of Tripping

May 19, 2021

One of the most popular of my posts recently was about the beautiful visions that a peyote trip can bring. So you may also be interested to learn that a group of scientists have determined how psychedelics such as mescaline and LSD actually work in the brain (or so they theorize).

Singleton and his colleagues set out to test the so-called Rebus model of psychedelics. Standing for “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics”, it frames the brain as a prediction engine. Under the model, the brain takes thoughts and information from the senses and shapes them according to its understanding of the world. This makes the brain highly efficient: armed with prior beliefs, the noise and uncertainty of perception and thought are swiftly hammered into coherent reality.

But the brain works differently on psychedelics. According to Rebus, substances such as LSD weaken the influence of prior beliefs that the brain uses to make sense of the world. In one sense, the drugs rewind the brain’s clock to a time before it learned that walls tend not to move and furniture is rarely threatening.

“You can imagine you might experience altered perceptions,” said Amy Kuceyeski, a senior author on the study at Cornell. “If your prior belief is that walls don’t move and your prior belief melts, then that wall may appear to move…”

The ability of LSD to free up brain activity may explain why psychedelics can help people with depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder. “In depression, people get locked into a way of thinking that is repetitive and ruminative. It’s like tramline thinking,” said Nutt. “Psychedelics disrupt those kinds of processes so people can escape from it.”


Nakba Day

May 15, 2021

On Nakba Day — the day of the catastrophe — we remember the millions of Palestinians violently displaced from their homes at the creation of Israel in 1948.

We remember this year with especial importance as the carnage continues in full force this week.


Grandview Gardeners Plant Sale!

May 14, 2021

Good News, and Bad

May 10, 2021

The bad news is that Vancouver Coastal Health have declared Grandview (and a few other neighbourhoods) as a covid-19 hotspot.

The good news is that those 30-years old and up in the ‘hood can now apply for an appointment to get a vaccine.

VCH will be opening a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Killarney Community Centre (6260 Killarney Street) and from May 8 to 14, 17 to 21 and 25 to 28 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Vaccinations will be provided by appointment only.

All B.C. residents 18 years of age and older (born in 2003 or earlier) are encouraged to register now through the provincial Get Vaccinated website, call centre (1-833-838-2323) or in person at a Service B.C. office. Translation services are available through the call centre.

Following registration, residents will be notified by phone, email or text message as soon as they are eligible to book a vaccine appointment.

I encourage everyone to register and get vaccinated as soon as possible.


Snacks Tonight #41

May 5, 2021

It is barely May but we got the most wonderful strawberries at Norman’s on the Drive today. They are large, juicy, and sweet; and I just had to make this strawberry cake.


School Liaison Workers

May 4, 2021

A week or so ago, the Vancouver School Board voted to end the participation of uniformed police officers in “school liaison” programs. It was a decision with which I thoroughly agree.

There was, as you might imagine, a Twitter storm about the decision, with many people complaining that these officers did the vital work of mentoring our children, often acting as coaches. It was, some said, a “disgusting” decision.

But none of these complainers asked themselves the question: why should police officers take up this role? What value do they have that, say, accountants or lawyers or nurses or plumbers or doctors don’t have in the role of mentors and coaches?

People may not like this, but the fact is that for many people, including our children, regardless of the other good work they may do, the police have become representatives of the negative armed and oppressive authorities in our society. Every week, our media is filled with stories of police officers killing unarmed civilians, or using massive state power to put down legitimate protest. In such a world, police liaison officers are nothing more than public relations practitioners.

I ask again: why cannot lawyers or doctors or electricians or shop managers or housewives be mentors without the negative connotations connected to police work?

Bravo to the VSB for this decision.


International Day of the Worker

May 1, 2021

 

In most parts of the world, May 1st is recognized as the International Day of the Worker and we celebrate it as such. Labor Day in September is a North American tradition, encouraged by President Grover Cleveland so as to distance American labour from socialists and anarchists.


Food Photographer of the Year 2021

April 28, 2021

The Guardian has an excellent spread on winners in the 2021 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year contest. The overall winner, and one of my favourites, was:

Photographer: Li Huaifeng

I also liked:

Breakfast at Weekly Market by Thong Nguyen
Making Rice Noodles by Abdul Momin

Keeping Banks Safe For Our Money

April 27, 2021

As anyone who has read the papers or seen the news in the last few years knows, banks around the world have broken numerous serious laws, have had to be bailed out with taxpayers money, and yet still pay millions of dollars to inept executives and billions more to stockholders. Many of their problems involve their connection to complex financial transactions that do nothing but make money for already-rich individuals. There has to be a better way, and there is.  The economic melydown created by the covid-19 crisis seems a perfect time to reorganize the sector.

I would oblige all banks to become credit unions and I would strictly limit their functionality.

Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions cooperatively owned by their members. They operate solely for the benefit of their members rather than for outside shareholders, of whom there would be none.  Their senior management is elected by the members and their policies are offered up for approval at regular meetings of the membership. Senior management remuneration would require members’ approval. The billions of dollars that are currently paid out in dividends to outsiders would be used to increase services and lower costs for the members. Any surplus could be re-paid to the members or added to the credit union’s capital.

I would limit their functionality to the taking, managing and disbursement of members’ deposits, and to the issuance of personal loans (including credit cards) and personal mortgages.  Any member or corporation that required business loans, corporate mortgages, investments or insurance would turn to investment companies, mortgage brokers and insurance companies designed specifically for that function.

No one would be limited in their desire to engage in stock market or other investments.  But these would be handled entirely by companies separate from banks.   No longer would bank depositors’ cash be at risk in the marketplace for derivatives, for example.

Competition between credit unions, if such were needed, would become a function of service and accessibility.  I believe this would get us more branches on the streets and a more personalized service between member and bank.  It would bring banking back to the people, to a smaller scale that we can understand and control — after all, it is our money they are using.

 


GWAC : May Meeting

April 27, 2021


This Anarchist’s View of The Vaccination Controversy

April 26, 2021

I wrote this in 2015 when there as a measles outbreak and the last anti-vax movement.  As I read today, in the context of covid-19, of schools in Florida refusing to allow vaccinated teachers to be close to kids, as I read today of some Vancouver business people hallucinating on QAnon anti-vax nonsense, I thought it would be worthwhile to read what I had written then.

*  *  *  *  *

Much of the western world appears to be suffering from a recurrence of measles, a disease that many of us had thought to have been essentially eradicated. It is a simple and undeniable fact that 99% of cases of measles can be avoided through the use of vaccination. However, some people see the potential dangers of that vaccination as worse than the disease itself; and that has created a major controversy, especially among those who are involved with public education.

I have followed this issue closely in the media and have, indeed, indulged in some conversations on Twitter about whether parents should be forced to vaccinate their children regardless of their own views. People that I usually trust have been strong advocates on both sides of the issue.  This is my point of view.

As an anarchist, I cannot possibly support the idea that parents should be forced, by law, to vaccinate their children, against measles or any other disease. To support such an idea would be a complete negation of my core beliefs regarding personal freedom. That being said, the anarchism to which I aspire is not a life without rules, it is a life wherein one makes a free choice whether or not to be a member of certain groups which have their own rules. In this case, I believe that schools, community centres, libraries etc can make rules, if their members so choose, that bar unvaccinated children from their premises and their services.

The perfectly reasonable price of personal freedom of choice is the acceptance of the consequences of such choice.

In the case of measles, my suggestion is far from radical; many school boards across the country already bar unvaccinated children. Unfortunately, we have not taken that step in Vancouver. Here, we are left in the ridiculous situation where I cannot give my school-bound child a peanut butter sandwich for lunch (on the off-chance that some other kid might be allergic) but I am forced to accept that some other kid may give mine a deadly disease. That is truly bizarre.