Thursday, May 03, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Thank You Councillor Ladner

A longtime civic grant which DERA held for 30 years has been revoked. The ruling municipal NPA party, made a wise political decision, considering the really tawdry behaviour of DERA of late. The discontinuing of this grant, was a prudent decision made on behalf and in the best interests of taxpayers who truly were not getting good return on their investment. I don't believe for a moment that the taxpaying public wants their hard earned money squandered on a group who actually was operating, I allege, under false pretenses.

This once strong organization was widely respected by wealthier and lower income citizens alike. Many admired the group's proud history of championing for the rights of our more downtrodden citizens. DERA has clearly lost its political vision and their continuous mistreatment and abuse, of area residents and even local politicians was the final straw that broke the camel's back.

During the lengthy debate regarding the appropriateness of providing DERA further funding, the debate dragged on for five consecutive hours. This as a result of opposition party, Vision, continuously feeling the need to repeat itself with endless and inexcusable attacks on NPA Councillors, Peter Ladner and Elizabeth Ball. In my opinion, Vision resorted to unnecessary and silly behavior. The actions of Vision Councillors, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson, in particular, was deplorable and does nothing to advance genuine civil debate.

As one of five speakers bringing forward a number of concerns regarding the DERA grant, even I was not spared the venomous tongue-lashing from the two Vision Councillors. While, I am certainly open to answering questions or providing clarification regarding my presentation, I was quite taken back when the questioning from Mr. Louie and Mr. Stevenson approached what seemed like cross-examination. In fact, Councillor Tim Stevenson was rather snake-like when he publicly stated that my presentation was an attack on DERA.

Just so people know here are the facts. Myself along with two other former board members of DERA, presented briefs outlining serious lack of transparency and accountability in service delivery associated with this City issued grant.

For 10 months, in 2006, DERA who was provided a yearly $31,000.00 grant for a Chinese Seniors Co-ordinator, but failed to deliver any programs. For most of 2006, there wasn't a Co-ordinator in place delivering specified contracted services. A moral question is whether DERA was operating under false pretenses by collecting the funds yet not using it as stipulated by the grant funding criteria? In fact, still needing answering is what was this public funding actually used for? I think taxpayers deserve a clear answer from the City in this regard.

In 2003 and 2004, DERA axed many of the funded services supplied by the City grant and no accountability process was in place to determine and ensure whether citizens received good value for these public trust expenditures. Actually city staff, said and I believe, quite erroneously, that no matters surfaced which would have alerted them to concerns regarding this grant. This I find shocking considering that a former Seniors Co-ordinator who worked at DERA for a number of years, alerted city staff in 2004 that she was without a workspace or the necessary equipment to deliver seniors programming needs. So another question is this. If the Co-ordinator had no worksite and many of the essential services such as ESL classes were gutted, what services actually were delivered? While I'm not an Ethicist, however, I would think any breach of public trust dollars is a matter of grave concern for the public since it raises matters of questionable ethics.

Its too bad that Vision Councillors, seem to have a disdain for safeguarding the public's money. Repeatedly, Councillors Louie, Stevenson, Chow and Heather Deal, aided by COPE Councillor David Cadman, impugned the motives and often besmirched the reputations of Councillors Ladner and Ball, both who lobbied politically to sever the City's ties with DERA. The opposition Councillors in fact, repeatedly slammed these Councillors for not listening to City staff recommendations.

It is truly a sad day for democracy and politics when a group of Councillors think it OK to transfer their fiduciary duty onto city staff. Clearly this half-baked thinking puts the responsibility and onus of governing the public's money onto the backs of unelected and unaccountable City staff. This is sheer lunancy.

The NPA thankfully realize that the public's hard earned money is entrusted with them to properly safeguard and disperse it in a manner which is responsible and ethical.

Too bad the Vision elected officials don't quite get this.

Jamie Lee Hamilton