Jay Jagpal: Park board needs to refocus and serve the community

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      Vancouver is a city of immigrants. Every family has a story to tell—whether their history goes back years or centuries. Many of us share a common aspiration: we came here to build a better life for our children and ourselves.

      Growing up, I learned many life lessons from my immigrant parents. One in particular comes to mind when I look at our current park board policies: take nothing for granted. Communities have lost so much under the current administration at Vancouver city hall.

      My parents worked hard to instill good morals and values in my brother and me. They made sure we were grateful to live in Vancouver, and in Canada. My mother made sure we integrated well into the neighbourhood and created solid relationships. Some days after school, we would spend time at Sunset Community Centre. There, we built life-long friendships, interacted with seniors, and joined many programs. We felt safe, understood, and part of the community at Sunset.

      Today, I stand as a candidate for park board commissioner because my community of Sunset—and others like it—is under attack. The current park board has created turmoil in our beloved communities. Citizens feel marginalized and disconnected from their city. They feel disrespected by politicians who seem to think they know better than the people, and that anyone who disagrees with them is an enemy.

      Joint operating agreements between community associations and the City of Vancouver have been thrown out. The results speak for themselves. Interim agreements have expired and have not been renewed after more than 50 negotiation meetings.

      And then there are the lawsuits.

      The city is using our collective tax dollars to go up against its very own communities in court. That makes no sense. The current park board is disconnected, arrogant, and off track. We need to refocus.

      The treatment of our seniors today is a far cry from my grandfather’s days, when he felt joy as he met with his friends at Sunset Community Centre. They would spend the afternoon in discussion and conversation. Seniors in our communities have contributed immensely to the prosperity and cultural richness of our communities. But they are being left out of vital discussions. Time and again their frustrations fall on deaf ears at city hall.

      There is a lot of work to be done. Some communities speak of insufficient soccer fields as their programs grow. Others are dissatisfied with the utter lack of attention by the current park board to their community centre upgrade needs. Every community is different.

      Each of our NPA park board candidates brings expertise. Each candidate comes from a different community with a unique identity. I’m a mechanical engineer by trade and a community advocate at heart. I’ve had the opportunity to work in Singapore and Germany. I have seen first-hand how those beautiful countries and their cities involve their citizens in creating a good sense of community. These experiences will allow me to approach municipal issues from an informed perspective. As a team, the NPA will govern the park board with a holistic approach. We will work toward consensus—both on the board itself, and with communities. Starting with unity, we can regain the confidence of Vancouver’s citizens and rebuild the respect and trust that has been broken.

      Vancouver is a city second to none. Our diverse people and our parks are world class. Let’s not take our parks and community centres for granted. Let’s make sure we maintain our existing community assets and build from there. Together, let’s build the Vancouver our communities want.