Community centres opposed to a proposed new operating agreement with the Vancouver park board are hoping to rally more support from members of the public concerned about the plan.
Eric Harms, the past president of the Hastings Community Association, said 200 people recently attended a meeting on this issue at the Kensington Community Centre. That facility is the latest to join a coalition of associations fighting the park board’s proposal to pool financial resources and take over programming of centres around the city.
"We want people to put pressure on both council and the mayor and park board," Harms told the Straight in a phone interview. "Clearly, staff is willing to go ahead with this. It would take the willingness of elected officials to actually put the brakes on it."
Currently, 12 out of 20 community centre associations are in facilitated negotiations with the park board on the proposed operating agreement.
Kate Perkins, a spokesperson for those 12 centres, said the associations feel the negotiations are going well.
"I think we are working toward a partnership model, and we’re both feeling positive and optimistic," she told the Straight by phone.
The six centres that have come together in opposition to the plan under the name of My Vancouver Community Centres say they are open to negotiating, as long as the park board’s proposed financial model isn’t the only option.
"We want transparent and respectful negotiation on all of the points," Harms said. "And we need assurances in writing that they’re willing to negotiate all points, and that they’re willing to give enough time to negotiate all the points."
Harms said one of the coalition’s greatest concerns is the July 1 implementation date scheduled for a new joint operating agreement.
"We don’t see any change in their plans of instituting this by the 1st of July," he said. "That is a major concern, because it implies that they’re going to try and institute this without any kind of negotiated settlement with those that haven’t negotiated, and that certainly raises legal issues."
Perkins said when the 12 associations sat down for discussions, they specified that they were looking to negotiate, and wouldn’t be looking at any implementation until the talks are finished.
"It’s in both of our interests to get this completed, and…I think we’re all very cognizant of it’s not about rushing it through, because what we’re working on is looking to last, and it’s important that we do this correctly," she said.