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Community activist leaves BIA board

'I was frequently the desperate voice on the board,' Deva reveals

LEAVING ON GOOD TERMS. Little Sister's co-owner Jim Deva, who has been an outspoken critic of the West End Business Improvement Association, says it was his decision to leave the board of the BIA. Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

After years of serving on and off the board of the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) since its inception last decade, Little Sister’s co-owner and community activist Jim Deva has decided to leave the BIA.

“I got appointed to the [City of Vancouver’s] LGBT Diversity Committee. I think I can spend my energy more effectively on that committee,” he told Xtra West after the BIA’s annual general meeting, at Pulse Jul 7. The diversity committee was struck by the city to advise council on queer issues.

The BIA made headlines last year when it unilaterally removed the rainbow flags from lampposts throughout the gay village.

Originally launched to represent all the businesses in the three blocks in the heart of the gay village, the BIA expanded its reach in 2007 to encompass all of Davie St west of Burrard, Denman and lower Robson Sts. It also changed its name to the West End BIA.

Since then it has faced questions from some members of the gay community about a lack of consultation and understanding of gay issues.

BIA president Robert Graham promised to consult the community more in 2009.

“It will be part of the [BIA] committees’ responsibility to reach out to community leaders and community members to gain their input when specific initiatives or issues arise that will benefit from their input,” he told Xtra West last December.

“It [community consultation] has always been in place, but we have gone through some very strong growing pains,” admitted Graham, who is gay.

Deva says he’s happy that, even though he is leaving, the board will continue to have gay representation. He points specifically to new board member Michael Schelt of Priape.

“That means a merchant from the Village is on the board and that’s really important,” says Deva.

Schelt would not comment on why he joined the BIA or what issues he would like to see addressed by the board.

The annual general meeting, initially set for Jun 30 but delayed to Jul 7  due to a lack of quorum, also welcomed two more new directors: Mary Phelps of Vancity and Justis Morginn, owner of the Denman Bike Shop.

Graham, who owns Momentum Grooming, returns for a second term, as does Susan Anderson, manager of Sandman Suites on Davie; Brinder Bains, owner of Cobbs Bakery on Davie; Feyoun Kahn, regional vice president of Diamond Parking; David Buddle of Prima Properties; and Calvin Deschene, assistant general manager of the Listel Hotel and newly appointed WEBIA secretary-treasurer.

Also on the agenda was the appointment of a new independent auditor, as well as a year- in-review report.

Calling last year a “good year,” Graham said WEBIA has ramped up safety and security measures throughout the West End.

“We did have the coming together of the BIA and the Community Policing Centre and the Vancouver Police Department and we are now working very closely together to watch what is going on in the downtown West End,” he reported.

“Part of that is the downtown ambassadors,” he added. “They are our eyes and ears.”

Graham says he will continue to honour his promise of greater community consultation.

There has already been some community consultation regarding recent incidents of what he calls “aggressive panhandling” on Davie St, he notes.

“The community is involved when we have something going on that needs the community input,” he explains.

“A lot of the marketing stuff is not necessarily community involvement because it is more business-focused,” he continues.

“Definitely with the safety and security and as we move into urban planning there is a consultation process that is going to be happening with the community,” he says.

Deva says he is leaving the board on good terms — and plans to return in the future.

He says it’s important to him to know that when he’s ready to return there will be place for him on the BIA board.

“I was invited back on the board,” he says. “I wanted to make sure I was invited back on the board. They made it clear that I would be appointed again and once I saw that there was no opposition to me being back, I decided to leave. It was my choice,” he assures.

Deva, who publicly opposed the BIA’s removal of the rainbows in the gay village, says he will continue to follow the BIA closely.

“If anything, [leaving the board] gives me a voice not hindered by the board restraints to critique their progress,” he notes.

“I was frequently the desperate voice on the board and I championed our community and the Village and the importance of that,” he reveals.

“No, I didn’t get total agreement on a lot of things but I certainly did on other issues,” he says. “They are trying to do the best at what they’re doing.”

Overall Deva says he’s happy to have contributed to the BIA.

“I don’t think one should sit on the board forever,” he says. “I think my last two years [on the board] were very important. I think I got some of my points across. The rainbow banners are flying on the street and other things were accomplished and I feel good about that.”