Vancouver park board to hold meeting on proposed community centre agreement

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The Vancouver park board will hold a special meeting on Monday (February 4) about a contentious proposal to change its operating agreement with community centre associations.

Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Niki Sharma said the meeting is intended to provide board members with an update on its discussions with presidents of community associations on the issue.

The proposed new operating agreement, which would see revenues generated from programs and room rentals at park board facilities collected and distributed by the park board, has been drawing increased opposition, with hundreds of people packing the Kerrisdale Community Centre earlier this week.

Park board staff say the proposed new agreement is intended to ensure equity across the city’s “have and have not” community centres. But critics see the proposed funding model as a “cash grab," according to Non-Partisan Association park board commissioner Melissa De Genova

“This is Vision Vancouver’s idea of stripping the public of their money, and in a sense, their power in their own communities,” she charged in a phone interview.

De Genova has submitted a motion for the next park board meeting at the end of February regarding the operating agreement, and is hoping to have the discussion moved to Monday’s meeting. The motion calls for the park board to set up public meetings in communities throughout Vancouver to consult on the new operating agreement, and for the board to direct staff to retain a third-party facilitator for further discussions with community centre associations. 

Sharma said the board has already been working to set up a facilitated negotiation with the associations. She noted that a group of 13 community centre associations submitted a proposal to the park board in early January indicating they are prepared to accept memberships purchased at any community centres, and to accept Leisure Access Cards at association-run fitness centres.

“One of the things that I feel very positive about is the fact that there seems to be an acceptance for I’m not sure all but at least the majority of centres to accept our LAC pass for low-income residents, and that’s fabulous, because now that’s one huge step that we’ve been working towards,” Sharma told the Straight by phone. “The next step is figuring out how to fund that—how do we share and how do we fund a system like that.”

Kate Perkins, the chair of the community association presidents group, said facilitated negotiations were part of the proposal submitted by the 13 associations.

“That was our ask, and they have responded that they would like to come to the table,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ll be sending a response back to say that those centres signed onto this would like to move forward with negotiations. We’re just vetting a facilitator that we said would be mutually agreed upon, and look forward to sitting down at the table and getting this done.”

“There’s a lot of common ground there, and I think that we can work together to achieve that,” she added. “But what that takes is dialogue.”

According to a presentation from Vancouver park board staff, the new operating agreement for community centres is intended to ensure that a single membership card can be accepted at community centres across the system, in addition to the low-income LAC card, that programming and fees are optimized across communities, and that resources are allocated among associations “to optimize the whole network of centres”.

The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, February 4 at the West End Community Centre.

Comments (9) Add New Comment
DJ Lam
Discuss semantics of "community" and "neighbourhood" definitions, but as far as I'm concerned, I live in Vancouver. I want health care to be as universal as possible, so similar principles must ring true with city-based services, opportunities and activities. That said, much like a ward system would be good, Balkanized community centres may have benefits. Where's the data?
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stuart
Parks board is attempting no consolidate power, be in control and have first crack at more revenue. Community groups better watch the Board for tricks and meaningless doubletalk. Any agreement with the Board should have a six month escape clause.
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Jeremy
I know from comments from leisure centre staff members that a lot of people with means to purchase passes are using loopholes to get them free. Time to close the loopholes across the system if it is to be equitable.
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Randy
Do the residents of Vancouver want a one-size-fits-all recreational plan at the same cost in Strathcona as Point Grey? Will it be only Tai Chi or only Pilates? A library or daycare? And when service cuts are mandated from on high--as they have been over the past several years--will we accept that we no longer can recruit volunteers to keep our community centres active, engaged, and supportive?

Centralized control will further split the haves from the have-nots, increase costs for those least able to pay, benefit those who have the luxury and carbon footprint to drive across town to use another centre, and starve our neighbourhoods of the voluntarism that builds strong community ties and delivers the most caring and responsive programs.

Vancouver is a livable and wonderful place to call home in large part because of our hard-working, independent and diverse community associations.

Since Vision Vancouver took power of our city in 2008, Vancouver has steadily slipped down in the world rankings of livability. Are these blatant attacks on our communities perhaps the reason why? Is this the reason why sales of homes in Vancouver last year plummeted by 20-40%?

Is this part of the political sell-out of everything we once loved about our city: our views, our street life, affordability, plentiful jobs, accessible recreation, and our heritage buildings? How much longer will we take this blatant disrespect, and watch our communities suffer?
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Rob
The Park Board staff want to negotiate, and 13 community centres agree with this plan. What is not said is that when the Community Centre Associations submitted a proposal to negotiate there were 16 Association signed on; all willing to accommodate low income residents, and to accept Flexi-pass. What happened? Mr. Bromley's response did not agree to negotiate based on the Associations proposal but focused on a rushed through negotiation over three weeks; with no indication that funding was negotiable. The result, three of the Associations backed out - tired of the continuing high pressure tactics of the City.
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Rita
While I'm pretty uninformed about the changes, I think that it's important to think of Vancouver as a city, not a collection of exclusive villages. The outcry has to do with how the history of each community centre evolved. This is important for citizens across the city to be aware of. The hostility shown at the meetings is very disturbing.
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JEN
It's kind of like if the school board suddenly decided to take over funds that individual Parent Advisory Councils raise for their individual schools, in order to ensure equity. Kind of. Isn't it? Or is it?
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Petra
THIS JUST IN: Park Board/City Hall is clearly feeling such heat that they’ve decided to change the meeting from ‘Public Information’ to a form of closure. They will receive Malcolm Bromley's report, hear all speakers, and then vote to accept the ‘agreement’. As many as possible need to turn out. Please stand up for your community! Wear pink, as this is a form of bullying!!!
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Rob
Most cities run community centres on a city wide basis - has this been shown as a practice that does not recognize neighbourhood needs? I'm interested.
Also, who pays for the operation of the programs and the centre - the city or the Boards - if I pay taxes to operate a community centre - then the city should get the money and determine how to spend, if the boards pay for the operation (heat,light, admin, supervision) of the centres, then they are certainly entitled to their money!
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