Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem moved this week to clip the wings of our most notorious Downtown Eastside bully, Ivan Drury.
This follows the meeting last week of the Development Permit Board where, according to witnesses, Drury and a crowd he was leading crashed the meeting in an attempt to block approval of a mixed housing development on the site of the former Pantages Theatre at 138 East Hasting.
According to Foad Rafii who sits on the board’s advisory panel, folks were being shouted down by Drury and his crew even before they could speak. Then there was the threat Rafii heard that there “would be blood in the streets.”
This is typical of the intimidation strategy Drury has employed. Coun. Kerry Jang said that in 2010 the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC) chaired by Drury launched an attack on Mayor Gregor Robertson and Jang. It ultimately led to threatening late-night phone calls to Jang’s home which, he says, has his two kids on edge to this day.
Drury’s bullying and intimidation were also evident during city council hearings last year when the Chinatown community was making presentations regarding height restrictions.
When Fern Jeffries, representing the False Creek Residents and the Crosstown Residents associations, rose to speak at the Development Permit Board hearing, she says, “There were all sorts of things being shouted at me” including “racist pig.”
When Jeffries decided to leave the meeting, she says three police officers suggested she would be safer if they accompanied her to her car. She says that many people have been “traumatized” by Drury’s behaviour to the point they will no longer appear at public meetings. (I’ll get back to this in a moment.)
In a letter to the Courier published online from Drury ally Jean Swanson on Monday, the veteran anti-poverty campaigner disputes the role Drury played at the meeting: “I didn’t hear anyone threatening anyone when I was there. Not once.”
One can only conclude she was conveniently deaf.
I wasn’t there, but aside from Rafii and Jeffries, of those willing to speak up, there is this from city manager Ballem: “I was there. My staff was threatened. I was threatened. I was called all sorts of things.” For the people in that room “it was very scary.”
But the Development Permit Board is just a sideshow. The real action is taking place at the Local Area Planning Process (LAPP) set up by the city to develop a community plan for the Downtown Eastside (which includes Gastown, Victory Square, Strathcona, Chinatown, industrial lands, and the Oppenheimer and Thornton Park areas).
While there are many organizations and interests within that area, the city decided the process “will be developed in partnership with the DTES Neighbourhood Council (DNC), Building Community Society (BCS) headed by Mike Harcourt, and the Local Area Planning Committee which will include residents of the community.”
But here’s the catch: The meetings would be co-chaired by Wendy Pedersen from the DNC and Michael Clague from BCS. And that put DNC member Drury right at the centre of the action. He was on the advisory committee.
And that meant a whole lot of people decided they would be better off staying away, although a few have sent their submissions directly to council.
That was until Ballem stepped in on Monday and bluntly told Clague and Pedersen if they wanted a community planning process, Drury had to go. The fact that he had managed to do as much damage as he had done was on them.
“He cannot be part of the committee. We will not give him the legitimacy of being part of a formal city process. I just said, ‘Out.’”
Clague told me the next day that “all of Vancouver has a stake in the Downtown Eastside.”
That is exactly why the decision to neuter Drury should be applauded.
Now let’s see if it works.