Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vecchiato's Voice - April 24, 2008 - Musings On Homelessness, Bureaucratic Dialogues, Surrey's Campbell Heights Sucks & Nationalism

HOMELESSNESSAn angry letter to the editor about the new Salvation Army facility probably echoed a lot of people's feelings. I'm not particularly keen on their new location and the recommendation of the old Apex site would have been far better.

But I think we get myopic when we view others' situations from afar.

My 50-year-old brother is homeless. When he's not homeless, he is in a correctional facility in Arizona. If he sneezes on a street corner, they pick him up. He looks like the sort of man who would really annoy cops (and his mother). Think it doesn't get cold in the mountains there? It snows. When you see people riding their bikes with bags of cans on their bike, that's my brother.

When he was 21, he rolled his car off a cliff near Baghdad, Arizona, where my dad has procured a job for him at a basalt mine. My brother stayed in a coma for two months, and when he awakened, a halo supporting his neck, he opened his mouth and asked the nurses, "What are you doing in my f***ing room?" Obviously he missed his epiphany. That was 29 years ago.

Substance abuse and brain injuries aren't disabilities people necessary seek. Starting to drink at age 12 is the ultimate case of arrested development. There are people, too, who can't live nor work within a fixed environment. I think it' is something like social claustrophobia.

I just finished a memoir by Jeannette Walls called The Glass Castle, where ultimately, she and her sister and brother end up successful and their parents are squatters in an abandoned building in Manhattan. The parents like it that way. They can't function within the system.

I knew another man who lived in Langley but suffered from mental illness. The guy was brilliant and read the Greek philosophers, but his ability to function within this world would never change. He walked into the river with stones in his pockets on a cold March evening. Why, you might ask? If you knew his story, how the neighborhood kids used to stick firecrackers in his ears and light them, you'd see how people become damaged goods and end up beneath the cold surface of river waters. .

I once went to the Armory in San Mateo, California, which opened as a shelter when a blast of cold gusted in from the Arctic. One young man lived there or in his car, showered at the gym, and went to work every day. He couldn't afford rent because he had to pay child support and alimony.

It happens. Everyone spins a different tale as to how they become the guy on the bike with the cans, the philanthropist, or the customer service rep at Telus. Ninety-nine percent of the people on probation have a substance abuse problem. Instead of condemning, maybe the solutions have to come earlier rather than after the sordid fact.

* * *

I was in the midst of drafting a letter in response to the glaring clear cut on 200th and 29th. It's just one of many. The national anthem of Brookswood is the chainsaw, and I've adjusted to it in the fall and winter; however, when nesting season begins, no one seems interested in species protection, which is actually legislated provincially and federally. So I called the provincial hotline and the federal CWS pager to guarantee the numbers were current . A field officer called me back from the regional office Tuesday morning and told me that the five acres in questions was private property and they could do what they wanted. (I'm thinking, This guy's a conservation officer?)

I said, "I was under the impression that nesting birds are protected regardless of where they are."

No, he countered, adding that only eagle and heron nests are protected. He told me that, of course, there would be animals in the trees and that the ministry was dealing with huge logging sites. I mentioned that the combined amount of clearing in Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford equalled a logging site, and also that I believed pileated woodpeckers were blue listed. He didn't know, and said that just because someone sees a woodpecker doesn't mean there's a nest. I told him my report came from upset residents on the adjoining lot (who are going to be royally creamed with wind throw in the winter.

Finally, I said, "Then we must be reading two different pieces of legislation or you've changed the Wildlife Act where it states that you cannot harm a nesting bird or its egg."

He begged to differ, so I said, "OK, then I'll call Barry Penner's office, even though he never calls anyone back."

I was told Penner was really busy.

I got my American gut going. "When I needed assistance and called my U.S Congressman Tom Lantos; he had a staff member call me back right away, and I think a U.S. congressman is far more important than Barry Penner."

Five minutes later he called me back to report that yes, nesting birds are protected. I have to give the guy credit for getting back to me. His inability to know the provincial legislation followed on the heels of the planning staff member at Township Council who did not know when nesting season began.


If you've ever been to an open house hosted by developer's consultants, think: slick marketing. Such was the case with High Point and most recently Campbell Heights Business Park. The consultants, Binnie & Asssociates, had great displays; you'd think it was a Sierra Club presentation with promises of habitat and streams. People like to say that Stokes Pit and Latimer Lake were man-made, which is true; however, they've had over 60 years to regeneration the ecosystem to the point of it being classed as an Environmentally Sensitive Area #1.

The attendees I liked best were the residents from the local trailer courts and the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Clubbers, who have been fighting this for decades. What is proposed is a mere anorexic strip along 196 that even an overweight raccoon would have to suck in his stomach to traverse. The verdant gullies and hills that lead to the actual site of the Campbell River are particularly small, just enough, in fact, to satisfy fisheries.

The problem I see has numerous edges. One: What Surrey does impacts Langley and vice versa. Industrial and commercial pay for themselves while residential does not (iddn't your taxes just go up?). Surrey gets the industrial, and we'll get East Clayton-style 3500 square foot homes that are not praftical nor affordable. Two: Many people agree that 192 and 24th was a bad spot for an industrial park: no public transit, not near anything resembling pavement, and just reflects the sprawl mentality of development. the City of Surrey erred mightily when it allowed the amount of clearing done, resulting in a virtual wildlife cull. Even the guys from Progessive were sick about it, or so it was reported. They drown trapped all the beavers, diverted the renaturalized channels and put in new ones without any shade so they could take the parking lot run off. River experts say that a lack of shade makes the water too warm for salmon. Surrey also allowed the water table to be lowered by one meeting, this drying up Latimer Lake that looks like a huge cesspool in the summer. And because our aquifer is unconfined, there are water issues at stake.

Unfortunately for the new stakeholders, they are picking up the pieces of a botched job. I'd rather see them build where they've cleared (a huge amount of barren land land with services installed already along 192) and do a land swap at one of the fill sites or gravel pits in the area. It could work, if there is a will.

Oh, and the consultants claimed that it is sustainable. There are two words I want banned from all newspapers: green and sustainable. If you say a word often enough, it loses its power. Try that with four letter words. It works.

I talked to a border agent today who used to work the Vancouver Airport. On the day the U.S. invaded Iraq, his 7 year old's teacher had the boy come to the front of the class and was asked to explain why his country was killing people. I am wondering how the teacher ever completed five years of university, especially knowing that the dad worked for the U.S. government.

Perhaps I feel guilty about saying Barry Penner is less important than recently deceased Tom Lantos, who represented part of San Francisco and the Peninsula. Maybe I'm older and less self absorbed, but I notice things more, and what I feel is an absolute contempt by government for the public. Of course, it's often not different in the States, but here it seems so blatant that they must think we are all stupid.

I love people who write letters to the editor, like the woman today who said the anti Gateway to Hope people were called assholes by city Council. Isn't expressing yourself great?

Regarding stupidity, a recent report in The Vancouver Sun's business section read, "Energy companies expect to announce windfall profits" and subtitled "Analysts say firms need to figure out best way to use high-than-expected earnings." The report, which was out of Calgary only confirms the fact that not only politicians think we are stupid.

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for many years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP...

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