Letter to the City Manager
Tuesday, December-22-09, Calgary, Alberta
To whom it may concern:
This is an official complaint regarding the treatment of our ministry, Street Church, during our City authorized festival on December 20, 2009.
Street Church received permission to host its annual Christmas festival at the Municipal Plaza. In spite of this fact, we received ongoing harassment from Terry Taks, Administration Coordinator from the City Clerk’s Office.
Here is the account of what happened. On the date in question, Street Church arrived at 12:15 pm to prepare for the festival, at the North side of Municipal Plaza. When we arrived, there were already two vehicles parked close to a loading area, they were a snow clearing crew. We parked to unload in the same area. Right away we were approached by Terry Taks, telling us that we cannot park there. I told him, that we needed to park the vehicle not only to unload, but also to supply power for the amplified equipment we were given permission to use by the City. He indicated that we had to move the vehicle. I asked him if he would, then, allow us to use the power from the City. He said no.
I let him know that, since the City gave me permission to use amplification in the Municipal Plaza, and since Mr. Taks would not allow us to use power from the City that I needed to park the vehicle there in order to provide power for the sound system. He stated that he was calling the officers to deal with this matter. He turned around and went inside City Hall. As we were unloading the equipment, three separate bylaw vehicles arrived. I explained to the officers what the situation was. I pointed out that there were two other vehicles parking in the same area without harassment. I explained to the officers that we had tried every approach that we knew of to work with the City for this festival.
We had applied for and received a permit to use the Plaza, purchased the required 2 million dollars of liability insurance, and gave $1,000 damage deposit to cover possible damages from the event. I asked the officers for their view of the matter and they agreed that the City was being unreasonable. While I was telling the officers what was happening, Terry Taks was listening in. He indicated that he was going to deduct from the $1000 money to cover his time for being at the Plaza for our event.
The next thing that happened was that, since Terry Taks tactics regarding parking were not working, he turned his attentions to our propane powered heaters. He indicated that we could not have propane tanks in the Plaza. I stated that there was no mention of that in the permit. Mr. Taks argued that in fact there was. One of the bylaw officers interjected, asking for Mr. Taks to present the permit and to point out the restrictions on propane tanks in the plaza. Mr. Taks retrieved the permit; the bylaw officer reviewed it, only to find that in fact there was absolutely no prohibition of propane tanks, or heaters in the permit. Finding that the City official had again stepped out of his area of competency, the officers turned around and left.
We thought that that would be the end of things. In order to try to be overly compliant, I even moved the truck and parked it on the street and ran extra long extension cords to the amplified equipment. For Terry Taks, that was not enough. He called in the firefighters, and in a few minutes, we had an entire crew and its truck, blocking the street, to determine if we were, in fact, some kind of danger to the safety of City Hall. Finding that we were using government approved professional outdoor heating equipment they, in short order, found that we were not causing any risks or hazard. So about 20 minutes to half an hour later, they left. How did Mr. Taks respond to the assessment of the fire department? He took his camera, walked around us, intimidating our volunteers, our guests and the homeless, taking pictures of our "dangerous" behaviour.
It is clear to us, as we have witnessed many other events being held in the Municipal Plaza, that even with the City’s "permission" to use the plaza that certain City officials have no interest in working with us, even after we have jumped through every conceivable hoop that we could think of. It is also obvious that such officials continue to demonstrate prejudice, discrimination, and bias in how our ministry is treated compared to other organizations.
We do not agree with any of the $1000 damage deposit given to the City, being taken for wages of this individual. He not only was not helpful in the operation of the festival, he caused more strife and problems, cost the City thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenditures for other City employees wages (bylaw officers and firefighters), and in our view acted irresponsibly as a representative of the City toward a ministry that had permission to operate an event in the Municipal Plaza. We feel that this matter warrants an internal investigation, and that this City representative should receive disciplinary action for his mistreatment of our ministry, which was merely trying to give Calgary’s homeless hope and joy during the Christmas season.
I look forward to your prompt response in this matter, and I await the return of our full damage deposit, since we have proof that we left the Plaza clean and tidy and in better condition than we found it. We followed the terms of the permit and did not distribute food or beverages in the Municipal Plaza and ensured that all decibel level regulations were adhered to at all times.
on behalf of Street Church Ministries
Carbon copies sent to:
All City of Calgary Aldermen, Corporate Security, City Manager, Mayor