Sunday, February 24, 2008

oh if only I had...

Have you ever had the cause to think that maybe you've missed your calling? That maybe somewhere along the way you missed a path that, if taken would have put you in a drastically different place today. In the immortal words of Blue Rodeo, ever "Wonder what you are doing here"?

Personally I couldn't be happier with the place I'm in today even though like many people I think, I ended up here almost completely by accident. So I haven't really had the occasion to wonder to much, but last week a co-worker and I were talking and this conversation combined with some recent events in our city have got me thinking...

I think that most of us are in a similar boat, we get up 5 days a week (often at a time that seems way too early), battling traffic in some variety we go to work, clock in and provide a several hours of whatever it is that we are good at for (in most cases) the ultimate benefit of someone else. Hopefully we like what we do and the people that we do it with so that the time we spend at work doesn't kill us in one way or another. Then we go home, spend a few hours of the day doing the things that really define who we are, with the people that we really enjoy being with, go to bed, wake up and do it all over again. Then, after a week or two in reward for our efforts we get paid and in turn we pay a whole bunch of other people, just to keep the cycle moving.

Whether or not we like our work or the people we work with, I think that we can all agree that there is always something else that we would rather be doing and we think about this each morning that we drag ourselves out of bed and through the ritual that takes us to work and back. Question is why do we put ourselves through this?

If your like me (and I like my job and the people I work with) you do it because you have to. We do this to support the lives that we've been given, to pay for the roofs over our heads and the food in our stomachs. Hopefully we do it so that we can also afford to do the other things that make us happy but like it or not, we also do it to help contribute towards our communities and in turn to help support the lives that have been given to others. Even when those others seem to do very little to support themselves!

So what would I do if I could go back and do it all over again? Given the chance I think I would become an advocate. I have to be careful here because the truth is that we are all advocates to some degree. Most of us have something that is important to us that we try hard to protect or make conditions better for, but I'm not talking about this kind of advocate. I'm talking about the truly devoted advocates that don't do anything else but advocate. Full-time advocates! Hard core advocates that don't really advocate for anything in particular anymore, they just advocate and they do it with loud voices, heavy fists and lots and lots of props! So many props that most of us can't hear the message anymore because we are so distracted by the props.

I want to be one of those advocates that have become more important, have begun to take themselves much more seriously than the causes that they initially became advocates for!

Last week the village idiots that make up the Anti-Poverty Committee took their brand of advocacy (complete with brightly colored props) to the streets of Vancouver again and, in two separate incidents attempted to send an increasingly unclear message but succeeded in doing nothing more than terrorizing innocent people and destroying property. Hiding behind the very real problem of homelessness in Vancouver and British Columbia as well as paint suits and masks, members of the APC last week attempted to draw attention to what they call "the contradiction between the BC Liberals, the Olympics and the thousands of people living in the streets". This despite the fact that the BC Liberals have committed to an unprecedented 2400 units of housing in Vancouver alone since last April.

Two weeks ago Premier Campbell and Housing Minister Rich Coleman announced another $23 million to purchase 6 more SRO hotels in the downtown east side (DTES) which will provide homes for another 330 people. This means that the province has now purchased 16 buildings all in an effort to solve the problem of homelessness on our streets. Will these hotels, combined with the 1 200 units being offered by the City completely solve the problem? Of course not, but its a step in the right direction and its a step that no one has ever taken before in British Columbia. The APC, rather than acknowledging this step refers to these purchases as "a few crummy hotels" or "a change in slumlords". An interesting judgement passed on a project not yet completed.

Never mind the fact that the APC have historically used props and fear tactics to make their points. Never mind that they push women off podiums to steal mikes that allow them to swear in front of children. Never mind that the cause becomes lost as they bully their way into the spotlight with no regard to who they step on along the way and lets just pretend for a moment that there is a legitimate message buried somewhere in the rhetoric. What is it? Well according to people like Jill Chettiar, Thomas Malenfant and David Cunningham what the APC want (this time) is a share of the $2 billion surplus being held by the provincial government. They want a piece of our savings account.

The problem that I have with the APC's demands is two-fold. First, while I fully support the efforts that the BC Liberals have made so far with the purchase of some 16 SRO hotels, I'm not in favour of more similar housing in the DTES. I just can't see how concentrating homelessness or social housing into one area (the DTES) is going to solve the problem. One need only look around some of the existing SRO's to see that this is true. I do support the idea of more social housing throughout the province, in communities like Langley, Abbotsford, Hope, Kelowna, Prince George and so on. Housing needs to be built and support provided in the communities that the people currently living in the DTES are from. This includes Calgary, Regina, Toronto and the other places in this country where conditions make living in the street impossible.

My second issue goes back to how this post began. The $2 billion surplus that the government is holding is ours, we worked for it and we contributed to this with our sweat, our ideas, our taxes and I can't help but wonder the size of the pie that represents the contributions made by the APC and similar groups. At the end of the day how much have the advocates contributed in the only real way that will change conditions for the homeless? How much money do they bring to the table?

The next question then is how does their share of the contribution measure against the cost of cleaning up after them?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

...Darwin's rolling over in his coffin. Cuz the fittest are surviving much less often.

Now everything seems to be reversing, and its worsening... angry mob mentality is no longer the exception its the rule.

And I'm starting to feel a lot like Charlton Heston, stranded on a primate planet...

I really try hard most of the time to give people the benefit of the doubt. I recognize that we all make mistakes, act before we think sometimes and suffer the occasional moment of stupidity. After all, aren't some of the most important lessons in life learned through trial and error?

Then again, sometimes the immortal words of punk rock legends NOFX (above) seem to strike a little closer to home and sometimes it really does seem like the idiots are taking over. Sometimes its hard not to worry about the future of our civilization, especially as it seems to grow increasingly uncivil as time goes by.

If I had my way I would have all of the horns removed from all of the vehicles currently on the road and I'd see to it that no cars or trucks built in the future were done so with a horn. Or, even better I'd see to it that horns could only be heard by the driver on the inside of the vehicle. Crazy? Maybe! Of course I understand the intent behind the car horn however I'm am now convinced that the original purpose to a horn has become lost on today's driver and in fact horns have become more of a distraction than a safety feature, especially amongst those who feel that their gratuitous horn use is really their god-given right.

Once I've succeeded in eliminating the horns of the world, my next step will be to somehow have the middle finger surgically removed from anyone wishing to obtain a drivers license.

This past Saturday I found myself at the Park and Tilford shopping center in North Vancouver. The mall was unusually busy and parking was at a premium so I think I was lucky to find a spot in the furthest corner of the lot. I was walking back to the car when I happened to notice a driver pulling out of a lane onto the road that exits the mall. I didn't notice anything unusual about the way he pulled out, there was a van approaching but he had more than enough room to safely make the maneuver given the conditions at the time.

Apparently the driver of the van didn't think so.

What happened next seemed so absolutely ridiculous to me that I couldn't help but laugh out loud. The woman driving the van was probably going a bit fast for the lot and unfortunately, the driver pulling out in front of her meant that she was forced to move her right foot from the gas over to that other pedal to the left, the brake I believe. I guess she didn't like this and her immediate reaction was to hit the horn. Actually this is an understatement as I'm sure that her fist made a permanent dent on the center of the steering wheel. As if this wasn't enough, once she was sure that she had the attention of the other driver she then proceeded to thrust her middle finger forward so hard that I was sure it was going to go through the windshield.

The lady driving the van was in a fit of rage the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen before. I can't read lips but still I have a pretty good idea what she was saying and while this should have been enough clearly she wasn't satisfied. Once again she drove her fist into the horn and with the other hand again shoved her finger forward, willing it I'm sure through the back of the head of the driver in front. She obviously wanted everyone to know that she was angry, unfortunately this was the point where I started laughing.

Sadly, all of this was taking place in front of the van's passenger who could not have been more than 15 years old. An important lesson being passed on to a daughter, niece, whatever... but an even more important lesson was about to unfold.

Once the drama was over inside the van the male driver in the car up front stopped, got out of his car and approached the van...

In this case all the driver did was look at the lady, shrug his shoulders and ask the lady what her problem was but considering the seemingly increasing level of violence in our communities lately one can only imagine how this situation could have unfolded, and for what? But then I can't help but wonder, how exactly did the driver of the van expect the other person to react? What did she hope to gain by her obvious over-reaction and should she really expect the other guy to sit still through this when he really didn't do anything wrong?

This was a ridiculous, laughable event and in the end no one was hurt. Yet somehow I am troubled by it and what it says about us.

A few years ago my wife was at a 4 way stop when another car approached and blew the intersection out of turn. My wife gave the driver the finger and a couple of days later she was confronted by a high school friend who asked why she (my wife) had done this to the friends mother. To my knowledge my wife hasn't fingered anyone since.

A silly little story for sure, but I'm pretty sure that there's a lesson here somewhere. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

an ounce of prevention...

When I was in grade 12 I worked part time at a full-serve gas station in Langley. I was 17 years old and I usually worked the 4 to 11 pm shift by myself, without benefit of a cage, cameras or an alarm. Looking back I don't think that I ever really gave my safety a second thought but part of the reason may have been that I was 17. That was 20 years ago and while 20 years may not be that significant in the grand scheme of things, it was a different world than the one we live in today.

After I finished high school I got a job working the car wash at a 24 hour self-serve station. There was no such thing as a "touchless" car wash back then and my job was to scrub the tires, rocker panels and bumpers before guiding the driver into the wash. I also had to go into the bowels of the carwash to retrieve any mirrors, antenna's or other car appendages that it may have consumed. I also covered shifts in the gas bar from time to time, often over the graveyard shift. When I first started the job there were no alarms, cameras and no thought to securing the attendant in a cage even at night, until one night the station was robbed. Thankfully I wasn't working, but shortly after that incident we installed a button that allowed the attendant to unlock the door and two panic buttons, one under the counter and the other was worn on a chain around the attendants neck. This was only a year after I had worked at the full-serve but already the world had become a different place than it was the year before.

A lot has changed since my days pumping gas (not including the price per liter)... there are very few completely full-serve stations left and there is no longer the choice between leaded and unleaded. Back then pay at the pump meant that you passed your cash or a credit card through your window to the guy who pumped the gas and if you paid by credit card you signed your name and the paranoid people asked for all of the carbons. There was no option to use debit. The world has changed.

I realize that change doesn't always come easy to all of us, none-the-less I can't help but be a just a little concerned with a few of the letters I've read in this weeks Vancouver Province. It troubles me how little compassion we can show towards the safety of others when this safety is measured against our own convenience. As most of you are probably aware on Friday the 1st of February "Grants Law" came into affect requiring British Columbians to prepay for gasoline purchases and for station owners to introduce measures to protect attendants working alone. This law was introduced in response to the death of Grant DePatie who was tragically killed when he tried to stop (quite mistakenly) a gas and dash at the station where he was working.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

...or so the old saying goes, but in response to Grants Law Province readers said "Initiatives like Grants Law rarely accomplish their objectives and are usually counterproductive", and "The net effect of Grants Law will be to make gas stations more dangerous for all of us." According to one letter writer "Grants Law is an over reaction to a tragic incident that happened once and never happened again."

If this is the path that our "enlightened" society is choosing to follow somebody please stop the world so I can get off!

Of course Grants Law is not going to stop all thefts from gas stations, nor is it going to stop all gas thieves, especially as the price of fuel rises. But if this law prevents just one theft, if it deters just one person from attempting another gas and run, if it makes just one gas station attendant feel safer while doing their job...doesn't that make it a worthwhile exercise and a reasonable strategy at making our community safer? Does anyone really believe that potential gas thieves will now be lurking behind pumps in well lit stations waiting to hijack gas consumers now that they can't steal the gas from the pumps themselves? Really?

Am I the only person bothered by this?

In the same paper I see a readers response to fire fighter union boss Rod MacDonald's decsion to ignore new rules giving emergency services the choice to turn sirens off when responding to incidents late at night. This despite the concern of downtown residents including Sam Sullivan over the disruption and loss of sleep caused by the excessive noise of "2 fire trucks, a rescue vehicle, a cop car or 2 and an ambulance" for each event. In his letter the writer states that "we are woken every night by sirens from trucks often going 3 blocks to a fender bender..." I'm sure that the writers opinion would change if it was him pinned helpless behind his steering wheel, the smell of gasoline rising around him...

I don't pump gas for other people anymore, for the past 8 years I have been a safety officer, emergency planner and risk manager so my opinions here may be slightly biased in one direction but still I can't help but be disturbed when it appears to me that personal comfort and convenience are held in higher regard than just one life...taken as a result of "one tragic incident that happened once and never happened again."

Until it happens again!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

leeside tunnel

Next week is the sentencing hearing for Dennis White who was convicted in November 2007 for the 2nd degree murder of 23 year old skateboarder and aspiring artist Lee Matasi.

Up until a couple of months ago I didn't know who Lee Matasi was. I'm actually a bit embarassed by this as it shows that I really don't know as much about the community as I'd like to. I was at a Board meeting of the Hastings Community Association late last year and I bought a pound of coffee beans to help support the Leeside Tunnel Project, a community effort to build a place for skateboarders, bmx'ers and mountain bikers to safely ride, huck, ollie and do whatever other tricks apply to their sport of choice. It sounded like just the thing that our community needed and something I was definitely interested in supporting.

The Leeside Tunnel passes under Hastings street between the East end of Pender and the Empire bowl. It belongs to the Ministry of Transportation and was originally built as a bus loop but the project was cancelled in the early 1990's. Not long after the tunnel became a popular hang-out for skateboarders, cyclists and artists and it also provides perfect pedestrian access for residents to get under Hastings to Empire Bowl, Hastings Park, the PNE and all of the other recreational opportunities within.

Leeside is named in memorium to Lee Matasi who was one of the original users of the tunnel and one of the many artists showcased on the tunnel walls. Matasi was shot and killed in December 2005 by Dennis White outside of the Red Room nightclub in Vancouver. White was sentenced last month.

Intrigued by the project and looking for a new short cut to the Second Narrows bridge, my son and I visited the tunnel for the first time today. When we got there we found a half dozen volunteers cleaning up and tearing down some old wooden ramps and hits to make room for newer concrete structures. It seems that even the skateboarding community isn't safe from vandals as a group had set a fire in the tunnel recently, not the first one as I understand. Leeside tunnel is rough, it needs work and it needs the support of the community but despite what the tunnel needs I was impressed with what I saw and with the level of dedication shown by the guys working there today. I think that this project is perfect for our community and its a perfect addition to the many recreational opportunities offered at Hastings Park (see my post "Save Hastings Park"). I also like the fact the Leeside has engaged the community in the project.

If you are interested in supporting the Leeside Tunnel Project I encourage you to visit their site (see the link on the right) and donate or, if you like coffee as much as I do you can show your support by purchasing some Leeside Tunnel Roast certified organic custom espresso blend. Visit Anti Social for details.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

rule number 6...

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: "Peter," he says, "kindly remember Rule Number 6," whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: "Marie, please remember Rule Number 6." Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: "My dear friend, I've seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?" "Very simple," replies the resident prime minister. "Rule Number 6 is "Don't take yourself so g-damn seriously." "Ah," says his visitor, "that is a fine rule." After a moment of pondering, he inquires, "And what, may I ask, are the other rules?" "There aren't any."

(The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander)

I'm not really sure how you would classify "The Art of Possibility". I guess it could be described as a self-help, self-development kind of book. To be honest I haven't quite finished it yet so any decription that I give right now could fall a bit short but I have been so taken by some of the lessons in the book that I thought it worth mentioning here.

About three years ago the entire management team at Grouse Mountain was given a copy of the book from the company president, Stuart McLaughlin. I started reading it immediately but for whatever reason put it down halfway through and didn't pick it up again until very recently. Given some of the changes in my life recently it seemed like a pretty good fit and so far it hasn't disappointed. A couple of posts ago I mentioned how my new job has given me an opportunity to take a couple of steps back and evaluate some of the things that I've been doing, one of the things that I have decided is that I've been taking myself just a bit too seriously.

Rule Number 6!

The Art of Possibility provides a different way of looking at the world and the people around us. It is about participating and allowing those around us to participate too. Its about contributing and encouraging those around us to contribute. There are a lot of us out there who take the easy way out a lot of the time. Its easy to make excuses for the things we've done or haven't done, easy to blame others when we fall short, easy to overlook or ignore the consequences of the decisions that we make. Its not so easy to listen and hear what other people have to say, to encourage those that don't normally say anything to speak up and sometimes it really sucks to stand up and say "Thats my fault, I'm sorry".

I have been taking myself too seriously lately and The Art of Possibility has opened my eyes to that. I know a few others out there that may benefit from rule number 6 and thats why I thought I'd mention it here.

why don't we just pick a bus off the transit tree?

What do you suppose the reaction would be if you stood outside your favorite grocery store and asked everyone entering if they would like to pay less for milk? The answer is obvious isn't it? So what if you created a petition and told all of these people that by signing they would show the store manager that a whole bunch of like-minded people believe that they should be paying less for milk and therefore the manager should give all of us milk consumers a break and roll back the price. How do you suppose the store manager would react?

Perhaps, in this case the manager would turn to her milk supplier and demand that he reduce the stores milk price in order that the store may ease its customers burden at the cash register. Or maybe intead the store manager would call a meeting of her employees and inform them that the only way to meet the demands outlined in the petition and reduce the price of milk will be for each worker to take a pay cut.

Of course this is ridiculous!

The point here is that despite the fact that we would all like to pay less for the things that we use, everything has a price and someone has to pay it. The only way to avoid this simple truth is to go without all of the things that we need or enjoy. So I can't help but wonder what BC NDP Leader Carole James is really trying to tell us when she says that "transit users like the idea of lower fairs"?


Of course they do and it should be no surprise that people would approach her on January 30 at the Broadway skytrain station and sign her petition calling for lower fares. Lets face it, there isn't a person out there that wouldn't like to save a buck or two somewhere and somehow.

Recently Premier Gordon Campbell and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon announced an incredible $14 billion investment to improve transit in British Columbia. This investment is long overdue if we have any hope in meeting the BC Liberals aggressive emission reduction targets and if we truly expect to keep a growing Metro Vancouver population moving at the same time. The question remains though, who is going to pay for it?

If Carole James has anything to do with this it won't be the people that use the service the most! Look out tax payer!

I don't take transit that often. My wife and usually car-pool and lately I've been trying to use my bike more to drag myself around to all the places I need to be. The fact is that transit, in its current state at least, doesn't really fit us that well and I can actually get to work about an hour quicker by riding a bike versus riding the bus. That said, I'm not really that bothered to see the transit levy on my monthly hydro bill. I don't mind a portion of the taxes I pay for fuel or anything else going to service Translink and to be completely honest, I wouldn't be that opposed to any future, moderate increases in taxes to help ensure an efficient and sustainable transit system leading into the future. I don't have a problem long as the people who use the service do their part as well!

The notion that we can ever have "more buses, lower fares" (as groups like the Bus Riders Union would suggest) is absolutely absurd and I suspect that even people like Carole James, deep down understand this.

Carole James and the BC NDP can stand at as many skytrain stations or bus stops as they like and they can amass as many signatures as they like in the process. At the end of the day the obvious will remain, we need to spend a lot of money to improve our transit infrastructure... and no one rides for free!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

help support hastings park.

This week the BC Court of appeals will hear the petition put forward by "concerned community groups" from Vancouver-Hastings opposed to a 2006 decision that has allowed Great Canadian Casinos to install slot machines at Hastings Park. Leading the charge in this case is the Hastings Park Conservancy, a group of volunteers strongly opposed to any kind of development in the park that isn't green and that advocates for the complete return of Hastings to the community of Vancouver-Hastings (or Hastings-Sunrise).

I know a few members of the Conservancy and I have a great deal of respect for some of the things that they have done in advocating for green space and for their passion in preserving an important piece of our community. The trouble is that I don't necessarily share the vision that the Hastings Park Conservancy has of what our park should look like. Incidentally, there are a lot of people who don't.

Over the past 3 or so years that we have lived in Vancouver-Hastings and throughout the last year or so that I have actively participated in groups within the community I have heard loud and clear the battle cries of the defenders of one of Vancouver's largest urban parks (all 162 acres). Phrases like "Hastings Park must be returned to the people." or "Hastings Park is a park for the public before profit." I have heard people in conversation say that all of the buildings in the park, no matter their historical significance should be removed and that a race track that can't survive without slots shouldn't be allowed to survive at all. I have read in bulletins and in letters to the editor that "we want our park back" but I've also looked a little bit into the history of Hastings Park and at the end of the day admit that I am confused.

In 1889 the province of BC gave the 160 acre future Hastings Park to the community "for the use, recreation and enjoyment of the public." What did they mean by this? By whose standard are we supposed to measure what is recreation or enjoyment? Can we not accept that people going to the PNE, Playland, the skate park, the race track, a Vancouver Giants game or the sanctuary are doing so for recreation or to enjoy themselves? Or should we be lead to believe that the only acceptable recreation in the park is that defined by certain advocacy groups?

Shortly after the province gave our community the park 15 acres were set aside for the race track. This area, originally known as East Park was cleared by the BC Jockey Club and Hastings track was soon born, the first race track in BC. Later in 1908, 60 acres of the park were given to the PNE's predessessor the Vancouver Exhibition Association, presumably to fullfil a need for "more wholesome activities such as tradeshows for dairy farmers, loggers, and horticulturists". Since then there have been many changes and additions to Hastings Park. Buildings and attractions came like Happyland, the Forum and Rollerland and buildings went including the Purefoods building, BC Pavilion and Showmart. Our park may have served a regrettable purpose during WW II but it also proudly provided Vancouverites and British Columbians with a place to watch the BC Lions while the Pacific Coliseum gave us a place for our Vancouver Canucks to play their first NHL game.

Although I never really liked them (thanks to a certain high school music teacher) Hastings Park and Empire Stadium also welcomed the Beatles in 1964.

Despite what certain groups (and certain bloggers) would like us to believe Hastings Park has been a park for both the public and for profit for over 100 years and for the most part this arrangement has worked pretty well for everyone. Without the "profits" generated by the PNE, the track, the Colliseum and so on the full financial burden to maintain Hastings Park would fall squarely on the taxpayer. Without permanent residents in the park that have a vested interest in keeping it clean and open to the public our park would undoubtedly fall prey to vandalism, tent cities and other hazards that put the safety of those very few that would still choose to recreate and enjoy this gift from the province at risk.

Advocates tell us that Hastings Park has been stolen from the "citizens of the east end". We are told that the park was never intended for casino purposes, but I can't help but wonder who it was that said the park belonged solely to the east end in the first place. Was the word "casino" ever even mentioned in any documents way back then in 1889? Have any of the people currently opposed to slot machines taken the time to visit the new (temporary) casino at Hastings Park to determine its actual impact? I have.

I can agree in part with the Hastings Park Conservency as I believe that there is more room for greening and there is certainly a need to protect Hastings Park. The question remaining is how should the park be preserved? My version of Hastings Park includes a race track (with slots if needed), Playland, a skate park, the PNE, a shortcut for my bike ride to and from work, the Vancouver Giants, the Sanctuary, the Italian Gardens, the Hastings Little League, Disney on Ice, the Hastings Community Center and so on. My version of Hastings Park has "recreation and enjoyment for everyone" in all of recreation's many shapes and sizes.

Advocates ask us to join them in shouting "we want our park back" but I question whether or not it was ever really taken away. I say that Hastings Park has simply evolved over the last century to meet the changing needs of an extremely diverse community and those others who care to visit for good family "use, recreation and enjoyment."

Monday, January 28, 2008

small school...big bulldozer!

I really wanted to write this post (or one similar to it) about 8 months ago. In fact I did but then my own sensibilities prevented me from putting out into the blog-o-sphere. After a bit more thought and a couple of leaflets in my mailbox I've decided that mine is a tale that needs to be told.

As most people in the Vancouver-Hastings community may be aware the Vancouver School Board decided several months ago to close the Garibaldi Annex to Lord Nelson Elementary. The possibility of the school closing has actually been out there for a lot longer however, last December the Board held a meeting to determine the fate of this small annex with just over 40 students. Supporters of Garibaldi obviously and perhaps reasonably oppose this potential closure stating in the first flyer that we received that "Garibaldi has been unfairly isolated and removed from the ongoing Vancouver School facility review process and targeted for closure."

Interesting choice of words...

No one can say that they truly relish the notion of the closure of any public school, whether its in your community or not. Schools, arguably are one of the few foundations within a community that bring people together to help form bonds and memories that often last a lifetime. I'm sure that there are a great many memories out there that surround Garibaldi, some good and some not so good. But still I believe that the questions need to be asked...At what point does the community outgrow its need for the school or the school fail to meet the needs of the growing community? How much does it cost to keep a school alive for a steadily declining student population? How much do we really owe Garibaldi Annex and how do we measure this against what the school provides for us? At what point do we cut our losses in terms of the number of students attending 40, 30, 20, 15, 7?

Garibaldi School has confirmed 11 new registrations for kindergarten next year. How many grade 4 students are leaving? We don't know, perhaps next year if the school remains open someone will be fighting to save it for 30, 20, 15 students. Then what?

Alright, by now you are wondering what my point is, why am I attacking Garibaldi school, what do I personally have against the tiny k to 4 annex nestled so quaintly between Hastings and 1st and Renfrew and Naniamo? A very good question! As I said earlier I don't think that anyone is super excited about the notion of a public school closing in their community or anyone else's for that matter. The truth is that everyone (except for a few students perhaps) loves to have a school in their neighbourhood since they are good for the community, good for the social networks within the community, good for property values (hmmm) and so on. The truth is that I have a personal history with this particular school and unfortunately the memories that I took away from it aren't really that great.

Garibaldi Annex, or more specifically the administration of Garibaldi Annex made my son's first experience within the public school system absolutely miserable. It was bad for him, bad for my wife and bad for me and this is too bad because we began the year dedicated to the cause of saving this school. We were on the PAC, we attended fund raisers, you name it...we were there. Without going too far into the details of our experience, the school's administration at the time (while friendly to begin with) turned out to have everything but the welfare of our son at heart. While we thought that we were involved with his educational experience, it actually turned out that we had no idea what was going on after we dropped him off. The the staff were far less than transparent and the only item on the agenda seemed to be the labelling of our son with any "designation" that would justify the administrations drive for funding, resources and a future. What was that phrase "unfairly isolated and removed...?"

The latest flyer that we received from Garibaldi supporters (which came last weekend) does what any "save our anything" sort of flyer should do, it aims straight for the heart strings of the reader. It tells us that Garibaldi is a "small school with a big heart" and we are told that the school "provides an intimate learning environment in which children develop strong community values" Let me tell you that this was not the case while we were a part of this school. Our child was separated from the "community" as much as possible often for behaviour that most people would expect from a 5 year old.

The motto at Garibaldi Annex we are told is "We think of others", a great motto for sure but not one that our family experienced that much while we were there. But don't take my word for this alone as there are at least 3 other families that I am aware of who either pulled their children from the school early or did not return this year. I have spoken with a few of these parents recently and all report the wonderful progress that their kids are making in their new environments. Sort of makes you think that maybe, just maybe there's another reason for the steadily declining population at Garibaldi.

Or maybe I'm just a bitter parent! In all honesty though and despite my own real life experiences I do applaud those that love Garibaldi for their efforts to save the school. You know, after all is said and done I have to give the school some credit...after all if the administration at Garibaldi had not made our experience so absolutely miserable we would have never discovered Sir Mathew Begbie, a public school that has shown us plenty of "heart", has worked with our son and us and has yet to even mention the word "designation".

Even still, don't expect my name on any petition to save Garibaldi school.