Is this about fixing people – or saving their own jobs?

Due to illness, there will be no Bits and Bites today. God knows why, but this year  it seems as if I’ve been destined to catch every freaking bug my kids bring home – something that is extremely unusual for me. I go years without getting ill.

However, for you Newton readers,I did spot  a story in The Leader that leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding the Newton Bingo Hall Slots proposal.

As it has as along, this proposal is NOT about gentrifying the neighbourhood as the developer and the mayor would have you believe, OR about fixing the many social ailments that continue to plague our neighbourhood in increasing numbers.

This proposal is all about money. Money for the people who run the Bingo Hall and their employees, money for grants to keep the many social agencies open who rely on gaming funding to pay their overhead and payroll. 

A representative of the Newton Bingo Hall has now sent around an email to many social agencies asking them to lobby for the proposal ,and take part in an informal poll on the Surrey Leader website, as told in this excerpt:

” Several of the agencies are being asked to lobby for expanded gaming in Newton, which would add 150 slot machines to Newton Country Bingo, near 72 Avenue and King George Highway. The developer, Boardwalk Gaming and Entertainment Inc., is also willing to invest $25 million in upgrades to the mall and surrounding neighbourhood.

Almost 60 not-for-profits are on an e-mail circular being sent around by Newton Bingo Country’s Alan Dyck.

“All right everyone, the time has come for us to band together and get to work,” Dyck states in a March 6 e-mail, encouraging recipients to show support for advancing the proposal to public hearing by voting on The Leader’s web poll this week.

“I need all of you to go on-line and vote and then have all your members, friends, family, neighbours, dogs, cats, everyone you know vote on the poll. Let’s show how much support we really have?”

Reached by phone, Dyck said he’s comfortable with the e-mail.

“They’re the ones that are going to benefit more than anybody by this,” Dyck said. “I’m a Surrey resident too, and all I can do is ask people if they think it’s an important issue and see where they go from there I guess.”

Well, Mr. Dyck, nice strategy. Tell me,did you get that from some less than honest  social agencies who are known to “pad” their statistics to make it look like they help more people than they do? A dirty little secret well known in the not-for-profit sector.

 Make it look like a lot of people want the slots by participating in a newspaper poll, when really all you have is a lot of people trying to protect their loved ones jobs! Clever,Mr. Dyck,  clever.

 I am a Surrey resident as well, and I am questioning the effectiveness of all these various agencies ,considering the increasing numbers of the indigent population in the area.

As I wrote just last week,, this is one of the poorest areas in Surrey. The petty crime and drug dealing here is out of control. The hookers outside your establishment are not going to go away with a renovation, nor will the slots help them. The  alleged improvement to that block constitutes nothing but a cosmetic veneer. What adding slots into the mix WILL do, is attract every down on their luck bum in the area inside to try and stike it rich with their nickels- ar at least win enough to buy their next fix. Nickel, dime and quarter slots do nothing but attract the people who can least afford it.

 The city, the Newton Bingo Hall, and the social agencies are the only ones to benefit from this proposal.

Not the residents of Newton. Not the people who live here and work here.  

The funding ensures the jobs  of those who work for the agencies and nothing else. Oh sure, they are concerned for their clients, but I’ve been privy to many a conversation with workers freaked out about job cuts due to lack of funding. Happens in every single agency.

 Remember, I worked in non-profit for a long time, and I know how it works with these grants. They are the easiest source of funding for agencies with the least amount of accountability to get them. No hoops to jump through,no other work to be done hunting down other sources of funding. No lengthy proposals to be written, no presentations etc.

And like I said, this place is like the DTES – agencies here, agencies there, and still plenty of addicts, homeless and poor everywhere.

There’s more though. One councillor will already exempt herself from the vote to avoid a conflict of interest. And councillor Tom Gill seems to be in same situation.

 ” The list of non-profits benefiting from gaming in B.C. through direct grants reads like a who’s who of Surrey social services, with most of them key to helping this city’s most vulnerable.

Therein lies the rub, according to Surrey Coun. Tom Gill, who is also Chief Financial Officer for Coast Mental Health in Vancouver. In that role, he applies for gaming funds to help pay for services.

Several not-for-profit organizations are finding the application process a hard pill to swallow, Gill said.

There are people that are both on the board of directors and people that are part of charities… that are feeling that they are crossing an ethical barrier… that are trying to access money through the government through these means,” Gill said. “At the end of the day, crossing this ethical barrier for some people is hard to resolve.”

One large Surrey service provider said some people in her organization feel conflicted applying for gaming revenues, which are coming, at least in some small degree, from the clients they serve.”

read the full story online here :

And of course, Mayor and Council must still justify why they have been so willing to entertain this proposal when it is in contravention of their own gaming policy.  This is not and never will be a tourist destination. Try again – more like an area to avoid.

I have another proposal.

It is time for the Newton Bingo Hall to go. No renovations, just close down and spare us the hassles.

The fact that revenues have dropped 30% would support that move. Clearly, the clientele are drying up, or no longer can afford to even play Bingo. There are other outlets in Surrey to feed that habit for those who remain.

It it time for the local social agencies to stop relying on a source of funding that contributes to the overall problem, and quit trying to rationalize that fact to make themselves feel better about doing it. Be a part of the solution, not the problem

It is time for the mayor and council , FOR ONCE,  to  truly consider the impact this will have on the surrounding area and its residents.

Mayor and councillors, walk around this area. Walk in the BC Housing complex right behind this proposed  renovation. Walk the Newton Town Core and see how many pawn shops and cheques cashing establishments already have booming business. See how far away from the King George corridor the problems extend. It’s not pretty, and I guarantee you it will not be fun, but you are obligated to see firsthand what we are dealing with.

Mayor and council, the proposed  improvements are not going to solve the issues in this area no matter how nice the building is, because the addition of slot machines will only make things worse.

If that sits alright with you, then you  have no business being a representative  for our residents.