By Mike Archer. This week in Abbotsford we have witnessed a power structure, caught with its pants down, treating its woes as a public relations issue and using its media contacts to do its dirty work and smooth everything over for it.

Here are the rules in Abbotsford:
1) Claim to take full responsibility (while blaming someone else)
2) Do nothing

It’s a simple formula but, with a pliant and subservient media, it has proven time and again to be the successful way of dealing with embarrassing and potentially illegal activities committed by public officials in Abbotsford.

Within an hour of Abbotsford Today reporting this issue and asking Mayor Banman and Abbotsford Council about the issue, City Manager George Murray had a press release prepared taking full responsibility.

George Murray - responsible but not doing anything

George Murray – responsible but not doing anything


Then, thanks to Abbotsford Today having sent both the original story and the City Manager’s response to all media in the Lower Mainland – including the out-of-town local newspapers – the world blew up under the City Manager as he and his staff began dealing with calls and news coverage, quite literally from around the world on the issue.

The story was out, reaction had begun and the City Manager had responded before either of the chain-owned local newspapers shared a word about the story with their readership.

Did you hear from a single councillor on this issue? Did a single member of Council say a thing in public?

Well … yes. Councillor Henry Braun responded to Abbotsford Today‘s questions, confirmed the incident and expressed his sorrow and disapproval.

Bruce Banman,  responsible - doing nothing

Bruce Banman, responsible – doing nothing


Every other councillor ‘left town for the coast,’ in figurative terms, waiting for Bruce Banman tell them what to say or, as it turns out, to shut up.

Banman then raised the stakes and held a news conference to stand proudly by his chief of staff and take personal responsibility with him, shake some homeless hands and then ask every body to move on … nothing to see here folks … thank you for coming out.

Speaking of Chicken Shit …
We were told by a reader that they had put a comment about the issue on one of the local newspapers’ websites including links to the Province newspaper’s coverage and Abbotsford Today’s. When the comment was published the link to ours was removed. Really professional guys. Every media organization from Vancouver to London acknowledged to source of the story.

Then this:
reporter toolsOn Friday Murray gave an “exclusive” interview with the City’s chosen media organization to announce that, although he is fully aware of and indeed knows the truth quite well he isn’t about to share it with the people who pay his salary – us.

“City manager George Murray, who has issued a statement assuming responsibility for the incident, told The News in an exclusive interview on Friday, that he knows who was responsible for the act, but will not disclose details.”

So he knows who is responsible but, since he is responsible neither one of them can be held accountable … Have I got that right?

“”We’re slowly peeling back the layers of the decision-making process,” Murray said.
“If you’re looking for who is responsible, ultimately, that’s me.”
He said this issue should not detract from the good work done by the city’s staff. “We’ve learned from this. We’re going to move forward from this.”

move on … nothing to see here folks … thank you for coming out

Where was the Sally Ann in all of this. What role did they play in this incident? Where were they when their ‘partners’ at the City spread feces on the homeless camp across the street from them?

Here’s what the Sally Ann’s PR rep (Yes the Salvation Army pays someone to deal with public relations. They even have a hefty advertising budget) had to tell the News in the same feature:

PR and Advertising honcho for the Sally Ann Deb Lowell

PR and Advertising honcho for the Sally Ann Deb Lowell

Busy Moving Forward

“”We’re busy looking after the folks that were displaced and the folks that come to us for service every day, whoever that might be. And that’s what we need to focus on and concern ourselves with doing. And we want to try and work together with different stakeholders, including the city, to make good decisions, healthy and safe decisions, not only for our client population but everyone in our community.”

“”We’re just interested in moving forward and looking after the people we’re caring for with dignity and respect, that’s what we’re about doing.””

I’m sure you are “just interested in” the future on this issue Deb. What good could possibly come from the media looking into the Business of Poverty the Sally Ann has become, or the role it plays in perpetuating the cycle of dependence and funding making Abbotsford home to one of the most intractable homelessness problems on the west coast.

A lot of moving forward being done here isn’t there.

move on … nothing to see here folks … thank you for coming out

Why would a journalist or a media organization be satisfied with the ‘chicken manure’ they are being fed by the ‘authorized knowers’ they speak to for confirmation of reality who are responsible for such a despicable act which has brought shame on an entire community.

Why not talk to some of those who had the chicken manure thrown at them.

‘We know what happened but we’re not going to tell you. I take full responsibility and we are now going to move on …’

Oh Really?

There seem to be a lot of people pretending to do their jobs, rushing forward to take full responsibility and then doing neither.

Nobody from the City to the Sally Ann has either taken actual responsibility or done anything responsible in reaction to this incident.

men at workTaking Responsibility For What?

Taking responsibility means doing something … not calling your favourite reporter and telling her in an “exclusive interview,” that you have nothing to tell her.

Until this City and the Salvation Army can wrap their heads around the fact that homeless people, drug addicts and the poor are not an opportunity to make a nice income for the Sally Ann, nor are they a herd of less than human cargo to be beaten, moved about, left to die and covered in shit, we will continue to be seen for what we are – an uncaring, unchristian horrible place to live unless you happen to have money and know the right people.

These people are citizens. Just because they don’t own or rent real estate does not mean they can be treated as some awful fungus we wish would go away. We have allowed ourselves to be fooled into believing that those we pay to take care of things know what they are doing and are doing it in an honourable fashion.

Hiding behind chains of office, religious organizations or phony pronouncements of ‘character’, people to whom we have given responsibility are letting us down … badly.

The fact this awful incident happened in the center of the Bible Belt ought to give community leaders pause. Saying you have character does not make it so. Being religious, belonging to a church or publicly espousing their values only to turn around and allow this sort of shameful act to occur is to debase and defile the meaning of the institutions behind which you hide.

Stop hiding behind institutions and belief systems which have value and meaning as though you somehow embody what they stand for.

Jesus would be ashamed of the City of Character.

For the record, this is the way responsibility works in the rest of the English speaking world:

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