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.