Monday, June 07, 2010


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


This next month Brian Hutchinson of the National Post is writing a series of articles on the Woodward's re-development and what this means for the longstanding Oldtown and Downtown Eastside neighborhood and its residents.

Mr Hutchinson is staying at the Woodward's District which was a named coined by Bob Rennie, the marketing guru who was provided the exclusive right to market Woodwards by the Woodward's developer Ian Gillespie of Westbank development fame.

Mr Hutchinson is residing at the Woodward's District in one of the pricey condos for the next month. His temporary tenancy is obviously an attempt to provide a first hand glimpse into how this big box development and the surrounding area will be affected by this mega development which as Mr Hutchinson accurately points out was spearheaded by former Councilor Jim Green who had tremendous influence in the re-development of Woodward's. He and now Senator Larry Campbell actually held all the power in the negotiations of Woodward's.

In fact Mr Green attempted to ride on the coattails of Woodward's into the Mayor's seat in 2005 and was heavily supported by Mr Gillespie and Mr Rennie who provided bucket loads of cash to his losing campaign. These two Men brought in at least one quarter of a million dollars to the campaign of Mr Green and now we learn that Mr Green is living in the Woodward's Compound and in Mr Hutchinson's piece he states that Mr Green does not own the luxury three-storey Condo with breathtaking views that he now occupies. So who does own this luxury Condo?

I recall when the late Emery Barnes, the very popular NDP MLA desired to bring attention to the plight of Vancouver's DTES downtrodden citizens, he stayed at a fleabag hotel in the DTES and lived off the welfare rates at the time. He wanted to showcase how welfare created further hardship for low-income people. To me that was a genuine act of leadership and Mr Barnes did not in any way benefit from this selfless act of kindness. This was truly public service. In fact at that time Mr Barnes said he lost a tremendous amount of weight because he could not properly eat with the meager amount he could spend on food.

In Mr Hutchinson's recent piece he paints Mr Jim Green as a black-cloaked Robin Hood.

Interesting that in 1991 Mr Green while head honcho of DERA, thousands of dollars went missing and he signed off on a confidentiality agreement with the public funders that to this day has never been disclosed. At the time that the $10,000 went missing Mr Green was an official check signer on all DERA financial accounts.

In this recent article by Mr Hutchinson, former Councilor Jim Green lashes out at his detractors demanding to know what they have ever done for the Downtown Eastside.

While some people don't want to be known as a detractor of Bossman Jim Green, I will though articulate some great developments which have taken place before Mr Green rode into town obtaining a name for himself as a man of the people.

Funny how there is an Upstairs Downstairs aspect to Woodward's and Mr Green lives upstairs and not with the people he claims to champion for. But that is a whole other story.

Affordable and supportive housing was built in the DTES long before Mr Green came along. Antoinette Lodge was spearheaded by the likes of Shirley Chan and former Mayor Mike Harcourt. The City also spearheaded development of Oppenheimer Lodge, Roeddan Lodge on Dunlevy and Victory House on Cordova was initiated by St James Services.

The New World Hotel was converted to Aboriginal housing by the Vancouver Indian Centre Society led by my cousin the late Wayne Clark who was the Executive Director of the Vancouver Indian Centre.

The proposed freeway through Strathcona was another neighborhood battle which thankfully preserved this historic neighborhood for future generations. Mr Green who lived for a longtime in Strathcona was not involved in this neighborhood movement.

The Militant Mothers of Raymur initiated the ongoing train-track demonstrations which created a safe overpass for children of Raymur in the Strathcona neighborhood who attended Seymour Elementary school and had to cross dangerous railroad tracks to get to school. Again Mr Green was not around for this battle. Neither was he around for the setting up of Vancouver's first DTES Cooperative Food store located at Raymur. This store allowed low-income families including mine to make bulk purchases for healthy foods to reduce expenses.

The saving of Carnegie Centre was another battle won by founding members of DERA including my late Mother and Father Alice and Ralph Hamilton, now MP for Vancouver East Libby Davies, the late Vancouver Councilor Bruce Eriksen who co-founded DERA and longtime DTES Community Advocate Jean Swanson and others.

So Mr Green should not throw daggers at others demanding to know what they have done for this community and neighborhood.

Jim Green's does have a record of activism in the Downtown Eastside with some good acts and some bad.

Yes he helped create two Housing co-ops and three geared-to-income Housing projects in the DTES. One is the DERA co-op which moved to change their name to what is now called the Alexander Street Cooperative. The community there dd not desire a further association with DERA for some reason.

The Four Sisters Housing Cooperative and Pendera won awards and Mr Green should be congratulated for this.

The Pendera, 14 years after it was built had extensive mold problems and envelope failure due to shoddy construction which Mr Green had to have overseen.

Solheim Place which was named after Olaf Solheim who was an Expo casualty now houses most of the leadership of the extreme radical and violent Anti Poverty Gang who played a significant role in taking over the abandoned Woodward's which speared Councilor Green into action claiming he would save it for low income people. Plus he would ensure there was a lo-cost food store built for the neighborhood.

The food store is Nesters, a boutique food market which has at least 40% higher food costs than other food stores and this is interesting since Nesters has a deal where they don't pay any property tax. You think they might lower their prices considering they were given such a sweetheart deal.

It will be interesting to see if Woodward's does re-vitalize the area without pushing people out and we may not know this for another 5-10 years but like many of Jim Green's other promises the only real benefit at this time seems to be the one that he has secured for himself in the form of one luxury sky box within the Woodward's compound.

While I recognize that Mr Green needs to eat and a place to live it just seems kinda obscene that while the people he once championed for suffer on the streets below while he is lapping up and living the luxurious life above.

See Mr Hutchinson's piece here

Jamie Lee Hamilton