Posts tagged ‘City manager’

July 22, 2009

No Violation Of Civil Rights At Esther Short Park Farmers Market

by lewwaters


It seems a misunderstanding, or miscommunication occurred last Saturday, July 18 at the Esther Short Park Farmers Market. Understandably, this upset some people, primarily political candidates and some from political parties that set up in the free Public Information Area at the NW corner of Esther Short Park.

It was said that a Farmers Market official told these candidates “they had been banished from the Farmers Market Area and would have to move to the far away NE corner of Esther Short Park next to Vancouver Commons.” Or at least, that is how some took it.

It was reported that this official said, “the City Manager had issued a directive banning PIAs from the Farmers Market Area.”

Another person representing one of the political parties said she arrived and found it odd that vendors were setting up where the PIA’s usually set up. As she was setting up, the mother of one of the candidates came over to inform her that the PIA’s, Freedom Row they call it, had been moved and she felt she should know before the set-up was finished.

Some of the Political candidates returned to the NW corner to set up their tables, vowing they would remain and exercise their right to be there.

As I first said, this is all due to a miscommunication that could have been easily resolved.

I emailed the City Manager, Pat McDonnell to ask about any such “directive” on banning PIA’s from the NW corner of Esther Short Park. He replied to me, “I think there were some miscommunication and some construction issues that caused the confusion…We did not issue a directive banning this from the Farmers Market Area.”

He further told me that the Program & Event Coordinator for the City of Vancouver would send me a more detailed explanation of what happened and why. Below is her email I received,

I would like to explain the confusion and miscommunication that took place last week regarding the Public Information Area in Esther Short Park.”

Due to both the addition of the Friday Night Market and the need to relocate some Farmer’s Market vendor booths that were displaced as a result of gas line work being done on 6th Street, the Farmer’s Market obtained a permit to use the grass along the north side of Esther Short Park and 8th St.”

As you know, the PIA has traditionally been located in the NW corner of Esther Short Park immediately adjacent to the Farmer’s Market on Esther St. To ensure that the designated Public Information Area for Esther Short Park remained adjacent to the Farmer’s Market, careful work was done to locate the PIA adjacent to the Farmer’s Market’s new permitted area inside the park. New signage was created to ensure clarity that the PIA was not gone, just temporarily moved.”

My understanding is that the Farmer’s Market did not occupy the area in which they were newly permitted last weekend. This caused confusion about the PIA since the new-signed area now appeared to be yards away from the Market as well as its original location. I believe there may have also been some confusion with the Market’s staff in regards to the movement of the PIA and their obligation to inform the public of this move.”

In the future, you can be assured, the PIA in Esther Short Park will always be immediately adjacent to the Farmer’s Market, not yards away! There may still be a few weeks where the Farmer’s Market needs to be in Esther Short Park due to the continued work on the gas line.”

To clarify, the Public Information Area in Esther Short Park is a designated area that individuals and/or organizations may set-up tables and/or canopy tents for the purpose of passing out and/or displaying information. The PIA is by no means the only location where individuals can disseminate information to the public. A person can, at any time, talk with people and pass out literature on any public right-of-way (sidewalk), but they may not block that right-of-way. Since they cannot set-up a table and/or tent in a public right-of-way, we created the PIA in Esther Short Park. The PIA in Esther Short Park is the only space besides the playground area that may not be reserved/rented for an event.”

Rest assured, it appears our Civil Rights remain intact and political candidates of both parties, as well as information booths of both parties, will still be there next to the Farmers Market on Saturdays.

On a related measure, a vendor who objected to another booth set up by a particular religion confronted the lady who I spoke of above. As she said,

Aside from a personal bias against that particular religion, he was also very bigoted about ‘separation of church and state’ meaning that religious speech should not be allowed in a public park. That is a quieter but more insidious threat to our freedoms than anything about where we are located in the park.”

I have to agree with her on stifling anyone’s freedom of speech to speak of their religion in public. No one has to listen to them and they are free to walk away, just as we are if anti-religious people speak out in public or political candidates we disagree with.

Freedom is precious and if we wish to retain ours, we must accept that others also have the freedom to speak out, even if we are offended.