Thursday, May 7, 2009
Today I had a meeting with Adam Vaughan, the city Councilman who represents the church's Ward. The meeting took place at the City Hall, which is a rather grand building built in the sweeping 70's style that reminded me of either 2001: Space Odyssey or perhaps one of the sets from a James Bond super-villain. I thought it was quite attractive, actually!
One of his assistants met me at a reception desk and we chatted briefly about the building. I noted that all his staff (that I could see), were young women, and I wouldn't be surprised if this position is functionally a kind of internship. His offices were compact, but not overly cluttered. He was finishing up his breakfast as I came in, and he joked about how sometimes he ends up having lunch and dinner together and at home. "Half of politics is explaining why you are ten minutes late to a meeting when the last one was only supposed to be five minutes long," he said throwing away his wrapper. One of his "Constituency Assistants" sat next to me with a steno pad taking notes. The councilman kept his own notes in a small notebook with graph-ruling with a mechanical pencil. He tends to use key phrases organized linearly, sometimes underlining or circling for emphasis.
At first we talked a bit about the church. What kind of people come to Messiah and what ways we serve the community around us. Then I asked him about his perception of the needs of our community. He immediately zoomed in on 250 Davenport, a 25-storey community housing high-rise just Southwest of the Church by a hundred metres. Originally it was to be senior housing, but eventually evolved into general-purpose community housing. They have had problems in the past with drugs, and Adam didn't hesitate to use the language of pathology to describe the effects of that on the health of the building as a whole. He also talked about the loneliness and isolation of many of the people living there, and suggested that it was a place infected by the social disease of poverty.
I told him about how the church once had ministry to the children living there, and he liked the idea of a "movie night" that we have been kicking around here at COTM. Now Adam Vaughan was wearing a button on his lapel that had a one-way sign made into a "two-way" sign, a clear invitation to negotiation? So I told him one concrete way the city could help us make such a thing possible. He said that he might be able to find a little money for what I had in mind in one of the city budgets. Nice to see that give-and-take works well. No guarantees, of course, but he would like to see a proposal from us in writing. After that our short (20 minute) meeting was over.
Once in the outer office I told his Constituency Assistant about some of the problems the church has been having with parking tickets (they are not supposed to ticket outside churches on Sundays) and The Epic Garbage Battle of 2008-09. Many moons ago the city garbage inspectors gave the church daycare a citation for illegally dumping garbage in the park across the street. When we investigated we found video footage of a street person taking our garbage from the back alley and dragging it off (presumably to the park where it ended up). The city prosecutor still wants to take us to court, but next time we are bringing a trial lawyer who is a member of the congregation. He plans to kick ass. "If I lose in garbage court to a city prosecutor I'll never hear the end of it at my firm!"
Incidentally, the garbage thief has been back, and took more than trash. He stole some stuff from the church playground this time. The police have been called.
Anyway, I'm not sure the Councillor's office can make this nuisance go away, but it doesn't hurt to try. Another reason why having this kind of meeting every once in a while with your civic leaders is a good thing! I'm all about the partnerships....