Proposed Vancouver community centre plan draws opposition

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      Residents opposed to a proposed new operating agreement between the Vancouver park board and community centre associations packed a gym at Kerrisdale Community Centre Tuesday evening as part of what organizers called an “emergency” meeting.

      Hundreds of residents filled the building to pose questions to the park board’s general manager Malcolm Bromley about a proposed new model that would see revenues generated from programs and room rentals across the city's facilities managed by the park board.

      According to Bromley, the proposed plan is aimed at ensuring equitable access across the city’s “have and have not” centres. But some community association leaders maintain that revenues should continue to be managed by the organizations that are most familiar with the needs of the community.

      “The resounding concern is the people here do not want the city to take control of the funds, because they do not trust the city’s ability to manage those funds,” Robert Lockhart, vice-president of the Kerrisdale Community Centre Association, told the Straight following the meeting.

      “The other message that was here is the people here are not against equality, they’re not against equity for people—it was suggested that what’s needed is some management help in those centres that are having difficulty, and I think I heard people here saying that they’re more than happy to support that kind of approach.”

      Bromley said the proposed changes to the park board’s operating agreements with many of its community centre associations are intended to ensure access for all income levels to facilities and programs across the city.

      “There is a surplus that’s generated, and it works really well here, and Kerrisdale’s done a terrific job of doing programming,” Bromley told reporters. “In those other areas of the city where they cannot afford fees, there’s no ability to support them."

      He noted there are “five or six very struggling communities” where fees are difficult for people to afford.  

      “The impact of recreation on their lives is very significant,” he said.

      Some speakers at the meeting Tuesday (January 29) expressed concerned that the proposed new operating agreement will come at the expense of local programming.

      “Let’s get it more equitable for folks in community centres where there’s not sufficient funding,” community member Isabel Minty said to applause. “And Mr. Bromley should be fighting for more money for the centres who need basic funding, not taking from those who have it.”

      Residents also met Tuesday evening at the Killarney Community Centre to raise concerns about the proposed operating agreement.

      Killarney Community Centre Association president Ainslie Kwan said in a phone interview before the meeting that her organization believes the city is “out of touch” with what the programming needs are in communities.

      “Each individual community has different programming needs and by allowing community centre associations to respond to those needs, we make sure that programs that are right for the communities are provided in the communities,” she said.

      Bromley said local programs won’t be eliminated as a result of the agreement.

      “There would be no programming cut—we’re confident,” he said. “The current option that we’re proposing is that there’s enough money in the system to pay—it’s who cuts the cheque for the employer.”

      According to park board commissioner Niki Sharma, the proposed new operating agreement is also aimed at allowing a universal membership card for a network of community centres across the city, and ensuring that subsidized programming for people that live below the poverty line is offered at all centres. She noted that community centres would still have the ability to do their own fundraising.

      “We just think that no matter what neighbourhood you’re in, your community centre should have the same services and affordable programming as any other neighbourhood,” she said in an interview before the meeting.

      Bromley noted the operating agreement is still under discussion as park board staff meet with community associations, and will come to the board for a vote. 




      Jan 30, 2013 at 9:47am

      Where are the have-not centres who support this agreement? I certainly haven't heard from them yet; do they even exist?


      Jan 30, 2013 at 10:19am

      That picture really tells the whole story. Nothing but a bunch of old, white people unwilling to share with the rest of the city.


      Jan 30, 2013 at 11:07am

      I bet after the take over the programs at the centres will all be bicycle related:

      How to ride a bike 101
      How take your children on a bike 101
      How to carry 2 x 4s on a bike

      Raymond Tomlin

      Jan 30, 2013 at 11:42am

      As one of the speakers at the Kerrisdale Community Centre meeting told those assembled to hear both sides of the argument respecting the renegotiation of the community centres' Joint Operating Agreement / reorganization of the administrative structure of Vancouver's community centre associations, "this is a Vancouver City Hall staff dominated, staff driven process where all Vancouver Park Board decision-making and power would reside in the office of Dr. Penny Ballem, Vancouver's City Manager."

      Our community centre associations act, in effect and in practice, as our duly-elected neighbourhood councils, representing the interests of residents in each of Vancouver's <a href="" target="_blank">21 neighbourhoods</a>. The CCAs represent grassroots democracy at its best. Yet our Vision Vancouver dominated City Council and Park Board would wrest control from neighbourhoods and centralize decision-making out of the City Manager's office.

      The proposal of the Vision Vancouver dominated Park Board and Council was defined by many as a blatant cash grab by the City - which it is. What would the net effect of this 'cash grab' mean for the residents of Vancouver? As explicated by the many speakers at the Kerrisdale meeting: at a minimum, a loss of planning authority at community centres, across the board fee hikes, cuts to both operating and staff hours, and equipment loss. In addition, CCAs could no longer access the tens of thousands of dollars of annual provincial and federal grants that are now available.

      In respect of the equity issue, none of the Boards of the 21 CCAs have suggested that they are opposed to equal access to ALL Vancouver residents - Flexipass and Leisure Card access would be honoured at ALL of our community centre associations.

      In response to the statement by Vancouver Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley that our current CCA model is "broken", former TEAM city councillor Dr. Setty Pendakur told those assembled at the Kerrisdale Community Centre Tuesday evening, "In fact, the CCA model is working just fine for most associations. The functioning CCAs have offered their assistance to those that need our help. City Hall wants to fix a model they say is broken. The model is not broken. If one light bulb in our home burns out, we do not replace every bulb in the house."

      Dave Pasin

      Jan 30, 2013 at 12:02pm

      For those that are interested in what is actually going on and the issues at hand I have posted the Community Centre Proposal in this note.

      If I may suggest perhaps ALL the Commissioners should read our proposal before commenting so they may be properly informed as to what is being discussed and the issues at hand.

      This is not about access, it is about local control of programming that reflects the needs of the Community and the funds needed to take care of programs, equipment and needs of that community.

      I can state categorically that NO ONE has ever been turned away from our centre due to fincancial need. Anyone who want to take a program or wants access to our facility is welcome if they ask.

      Denial of services is a red herring. This is about $ and central control and decision making vs community based programming that reflects the needs of its residents.

      let the bomb throwing begin… please see the Community Centre propsoal that I helped draft to be submitted to the Park Board.

      Enjoy the read.

      Renewing the Partnership:
      A Collaborative Approach

      Community Centres in Vancouver have operated under the current model since 1979. This current model, an operating partnership between Community Centre Associations and the Park Board, allows for local community members to determine the use and focus of these important neighbourhood assets. History and experience have clearly shown that the collaborative model for leading, governing, managing, and operating community centres in Vancouver works. In June 2012, the Associations initiated the process to bring this partnership approach into the 21st century through a roundtable discussion process between Association representatives, the Park Board and the City of Vancouver.

      The Park Board commissioners adopted four operating principles: equity among community centres, access to the network of community centres, access for all citizens, and operational sustainability and accountability. The Associations incorporated these four principles into a framework document that was presented to the Park Board and the City of Vancouver at these roundtable discussions.

      The Community Centre Associations are committed to negotiating with the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation to identify and collectively implement constructive changes to the current model, aimed at achieving the common vision and principles.


      Jan 30, 2013 at 12:24pm

      These centre associations fail to mention that almost all centre programs are coordinated, organized, and managed by Parks Board staff, who are paid BY the Parks Board - many of these associations merely act in an advisory role providing their input (and nothing more) on programs proposed and designed by Parks Board staff.

      As a frequent user of my local community centre, I have had the benefit of meeting and getting to know the Parks Board staff who run my centre - they are there, everyday, working to create community-based programming. I have NEVER met a board member, seen them regularly in my centre, using the facility or reaching out to the community. Furthermore, they're only democratic in the sense that people are SUPPOSED to vote for them (and I know in some cases board members are even appointed) but quorum is ridiculously low. I think it's disgusting that they purport to represent the community. Tyranny of the majority, I suppose.

      Anita Romaniuk

      Jan 31, 2013 at 1:41am

      As someone who has been a Parks Commissioner, a Community Association Board member (Douglas Park in the 1990's) and a CCA Committee member (Mt Pleasant, currently), I know that the Park Board does NOT run all the programs at the community centres! The Park Board provides core staff and staffs the pools, rinks, and some of the fitness centres. The Community Associations hire people to run all manner of programs, ranging from arts and crafts to tai chi & tae kwon do to children's programs. I was the Treasurer at Douglas Park. I signed the cheques - from the CCA account! So Malcolm Bromley says that the community associations can still fundraise? For what? Their ability to fundraise depends on having something that is meaningful to their community to fundraise FOR, and on having volunteers that are involved in activities at the community centre that are run by the community associations. The Park Board has been dependent on the community associations to pick up the slack on capital funding for many years now (in the past 23 years, I can't remember one facility renovation or rebuild that didn't have a contribution from the community centre) and for the past 4 years they have been (under some coercion - facing cuts if not) contributing to operating funds. Many of the CCA's are willing to work on issues of equity (a proposal from some CCA's a year ago went unanswered), use of the leisure access cards and flexipasses for community association programs, and financial accountability. The City and Park Board need to stop the top-down one-sided undemocratic process that it has been up to this point. It will probably take facilitated negotiations and coaxing some of the CCA's back to the table because they are alienated by the process so far. Whose fault is THAT?!

      Jeri Griffiths

      Jan 31, 2013 at 8:19am

      I used to work for Kitsilano Community Centre. Parks Board tried this same approach in the early 80's and failed. It is simply a cash grab. The City and Parks Board cannot even manage their own funds. It is simply a cash grab
      Yes there should be a membership where you can go to any community centre
      However, the City & Parks Board are Bullies in this process and definitely are not democratic. It was quite clear at the meeting.
      The Communiy Centres have purchaseda lot of equipment and done a lot of the capital funding for those Centres
      Shame on the City of Vancouver & Parks Board.. You always approach things as if it is our way or the highway..learn to collaborate it is 2013!!


      Jan 31, 2013 at 10:13am

      I would like to see all Community Centers to have the same equipment...
      Most of my friends join commercially run fittness facility that offer full range of apparatus.
      Those gyms have many locatons and the cost to join is same or lower than the Park Board run complex.


      Feb 3, 2013 at 3:04pm

      The issue that Natalie raises is important. It seems that the community volunteers are hard working, just like other non-profit groups who run sports organizations, arts, etc. The point is though - doesn't the City subsidy (through City staff managing programs, supervising Boards instructors, paying heat, light, janitorial, risk management, blah blah) give these groups the ability to cover most of the overhead, so that is why they have the cash? Do other groups get this type of direct subsidy where City staff run the organization? In Cities like Burnaby, North Vancouver, etc, where there are no community centre associations, is there no diversity in programming? It's a power play. Perhaps the Boards could get grants and then operate the Centre's like other non-profit groups! Then there would be a connection between revenue and expeditures!