Mayor Gregor Robertson blamed for park board cut

Vancouver’s lone Non-Partisan Association councillor is alleging that Mayor Gregor Robertson and Coun. Raymond Louie are behind a move to lop off more than 50 percent of the park board’s 2009 capital budget.

Coun. Suzanne Anton also suggested that Robertson and Louie, the latter being the chair of council’s finance committee, are destroying the independence that the park board has traditionally had from city council.

Council is scheduled to take up today (June 11) a report on the entire city’s 2009 capital budget of $171 million. This includes a $30.4-million allocation for the park board, which is less than half of the $67-million capital budget approved by the park board on May 4.

“The mayor and the mayor’s office and Councillor Louie, as chair of finance—they are behind this,” Anton told the Straight.

Reminded that the planned reduction was contained in a staff report, Anton remarked: “Every report we have now is a political report. This is not from staff. This is from the mayor”¦and Raymond Louie, who want to be boss of the park board.”

Kevin Quinlan, Robertson’s executive assistant, said the mayor’s office had no comment on Anton’s claims and punted the matter to Louie. Louie didn’t return a call before the Straight’s deadline.

The park board’s original $67 million capital budget included full allocations for the post-Olympic conversion of the Hillcrest curling venue and the renewal of the Trout Lake Community Centre and buildings at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. But in a report that council will discuss on June 11, staff recommended “planning/phase 1 funding only” for the three capital projects.

“In other words, we [the] city are going to be breathing down your necks, looking over your shoulder for the whole capital period,” Anton said.

In a meeting on June 1, the park board approved a motion by Commissioner Aaron Jasper calling on council to restore the original allocation. Jasper belongs to the Vision Vancouver party, as do both Robertson and Louie. The motion noted that the capital budget was based upon the 2009-2011 capital plan for parks and recreation that was approved by voters in a referendum during the 2008 civic election.

Loretta Woodcock, the lone Coalition of Progressive Electors commissioner on the board, told the Straight that city hall’s revision of the board’s capital budget is a “departure from past practice”.