Columns: Let’s Try Something Completely Different

By January 2, 2013Faith, Hot Topic, Issues, Mike Archer

UPDATED 02/01/12 – COMMENTS RECEIVED – By Mike Archer. Where have all the homeless gone? That was my reaction after reading a piece on the Vancouver Sun website Wednesday by Josiah Neufeld about the Atangaurd Community Project in Downtown Abbotsford.

The piece, entitled ‘Notorious Abbotsford SRO becomes community living experiment‘ describes the resurrection of the old Fraser Valley Inn which the City shut down because it had become a run down, dangerous, unsafe and unhealthy building that was a place of last refuge for some of Abbotsford’s poor and homeless.

At the end of the story one of the residents is quoted as describing what he is regularly told by the former residents who were kicked out of the building – “You live up there? I was there 20 years ago. It’s a lot different now.”

Brilliant. We’ve found a home for young, mostly christian folks who either have a job or are getting an education at the expense of the homeless and the poor who, having been chased by police out of Jubilee Park, have now moved up to Mill Lake.

Much like marijuana activist Tim Felger’s store front, the building and its occupants were also considered an eyesore and bad for business by Bob Bos, the former president of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA). Bos had invested a lot of money in buying up run down old properties in downtown Abbotsford and turning them into profit-making rental properties and poor people and political pariahs like Felger didn’t fit very well with Bos’ retirement plans for cashing in on the cheap property he was buying.

Rather than do something with the Fraser Valley Inn that would help the marginalized, poor and often mentally challenged occupants, the City simply changed the zoning to commercial and let the homeless and the poor drift somewhere else, away from any property Bob was trying to develop.

As pointed out in a comment on a letter from Gerda Peachey this week – Letters: We Can Afford To Give $17.5 To YMCA But We Can’t Clean Our Public Washrooms? – “The movement of people out of Jubilee Park has led to their migration to Mill Lake and the washroom problem is evidence that homelessness, drug addiction and criminal element are still alive and well, but, are now in the Mall and Mill Lake area of the city.”

So the City of Abbotsford, rather than do anything about the fact that some of its most vulnerable people are poor, homeless and destitute, makes it illegal for them to congregate near Bob Bos’ investments and, as a result, they all move up to Mill Lake where there are washroom facillities but the cash strapped City can’t keep them clean. But Bob’s properties are nice and clean now.

Being the second most indebted city in BC with virtually all of our capital reserves and DCC funds already depleted or borrowed, we have no money to clean up our own messes on our own property.

In another piece of great community and neighbourly love the Abbotsford Foodbank has lost some of its church funding because either its facillity or the poor and hungry who frequent the Foodbank are not Christian enough – Faith: Abbotsford’s Hungry Are Not Christian Enough – Fallacy Of Words.

“In the North of Abbotsford has arisen a fancy new Tower of Babel, the occupiers of which have cut their support to the food bank. My understanding of the reason they turned their back on the growing number of hungry in Abbotsford is that the hungry in Abbotsford are not christian enough or the Food Bank is not Christian enough or some combination thereof.” – James Breckenridge.

The debate over whether we are truly, as many like to claim, a christian community in the middle of the Bible Belt when we treat our poor, homeless and marginalized people so wretchedly is one which we should never stop discussing. Certainly not all in the faith community are narrow-minded souls who claim ownership of the PR rights to the faith so they can use them for their own selfish purposes. Rather than condemn the whole faith community for the things being done in their name, we have to learn to accept and deal with those who do so instead of pretending or looking away.

We can at least agree, I hope, that the actions of some of our community and church leaders certainly defy any claims to to be based on the basic teachings of Jesus.

To allow people to use his teachings as a way of furthering their own interests – political, financial, personal – is simply not wise.

Hiding behind the fiction that we live in a nice community because of the labels we have chosen is not a mature or intellectually honest approach to civic governance or to community living.

The lesson we have to learn as a community is that we can no longer allow the things we say about ourselves, or get our newspapers to tell us about ourselves, interfere with the truth which becomes so evident in our actions.

Our senior City staff and councillors can tell the newspapers whatever they want. The reality of the mess they have been making of our city finances and our future cannot be undone by a PR campaign or a taxpayer-funded telephone survey.

People now know their city is broken. Facing the truth is the necessary first step before beginning to fix things.

Parks & Rec Director Mark Taylor

Parks & Rec Director Mark Taylor

The latest proposal by City staff to funnel more public money into private hands – the YMCA Proposal – only adds to the impression that either our City and its council don’t give a damn about the damage they are causing to the social fabric of the city or they simply don’t read or understand the documents and proposals brought before them.

Having put their friends and neighbours on the hook for almost $500 million worth of expenditures, long term debt and commitments by their mishandling of the decision to build the Abbotsford Entertainment Centre (AECS) without an anchor tenant and then agreeing to finance the Abbotsford Heat with taxpayers’ money through a revenue guarantee/subsidy, Council is now set to give another $17.5 million to another private organization which will compete with existing private businesses.

Will they simply never learn or are they determined to break as much of the City of Abbotsford before being asked to stop? If the latter … PLEASE STOP … WE’RE ASKING!

The City of Squamish is just one other community debating the same issue. Its citizens and business owners are asking why the City of Squamish would use taxpayer funds to subsidize a private business – the YMCA – and help it compete against existing recreation, health and fitness companies.

[Reference sent to us by Gerda Peachey]

Great money-making scheme indeed for the YMCA. How can I apply for taxpayer dollars to build my business?

And our councillors, most of whom seem to love nothing more than giving away their friends’ and neighbours’ money, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Since following their instincts has resulted in our city fathers basically ruining our city, could we try a different approach in 2013? Councillor Henry Braun is the first councillor in years to actually read the documents put before him and actually seek out more information so he can make informed decisions.

Believe it or not, he believes that’s what he’s being paid to do by his friends and neighbours – look after their money. If we can convince just another two or three to follow his example, who knows what we can achieve.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Editor says:

    Rob Bartlett Says:

    The most indebted cities are the most corrupt. How else to explain spending money they don’t have. If the money is not available in the city coffers, it should be time to reduce spending and tighten the fiscal belt, but no, they create debt on the backs of taxpayers to line the pockets of the Chosen few. Bob Bos is one of them – corrupt and greedy.

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