Friday, December 17, 2010

VANCOUVER PARK BOARD makes over $700,000 in CUTS

Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

VANCOUVER PARK BOARD makes over $700,000 in CUTS

For the third year in a row the Vancouver Park Board has made significant cuts to Vancouver parks and recreation services.

This time the cuts were over $700,000 and this is concerning.

At the Board meeting last night I was asked by Vice-Chair Constance Barnes what I would cut.

I had already asked that no cuts be made, however, when challenged by the Vice-Chair I stated that there were too many upper managers and some cuts should be made there for significant savings.

Obviously the Park board needs to prioritize its spending and I was aghast that they are spending over $800,000 on the new Trillium Field-house which is going to be an sports house for athletes from all over the metro region. Moreover, this park when completed is about four blocks from Strathcona Park which can accommodate many more sports groups. Essentially Strathcona is under utilized.

There are going to be frills added to the Trillium fieldhouse which include skylights over the washrooms and changing rooms. Apparently the glass will be frosted (thank god) but it makes you wonder why there has to be sky-lights?

It must also be noted that there is going to be excessive expenditures for the 125th birthday celebration of Vancouver. The cost is $ 7 million and one wonders if we might scale back on this celebration and put the savings toward the park budget to maintain parks and recreation services.

We just had a significant celebration with the Olympics so I'm wondering why we need another large event to celebrate our birthday. Surely cake can't cost that much?

It is interesting that Park board cancelled its public meeting the day before Council approved their budget. This move erased the ability of citizens to voice our displeasure to Council regarding cuts to the Park board.

The Chair Aaron Jasper and Vice-Chair Barnes said they lobbied hard so that Council would provide some additional funding.

Council through Councillor Raymond Louie made a verbal agreement with the Chair that these extra funds needed to go specifically into one area of the parks budget and the Chair agreed to this. It is obvious that Council wished to be viewed favourably by the public.

The problem unfortunately is that the entire Park board did not have an opportunity to meet before Council set its budget and essentially what the Chair and Vice-Chair agreed to is a backroom deal.

Commissioners Loretta Woodcock and Stuart MacKinnon voted against the budget while the majority Vision approved it. The lone NPA Commissioner Ian Robertson said he objected to the process and therefore abstained his vote. Sadly though an abstention amounts to a vote in favour and I'm not sure what Commissioner Robertson was getting at. If the process was flawed Commissioner Robertson should have voted No to the budget.

A positive moment did come forward at last night's meeting and the new General Manager of Park board is doing a review of the park field-houses. He will report back in the new year and Commissioner Sarah Blyth has promised me that I will receive a copy of his report.

It seems to me that a terrific 125th birthday gift to Vancouver would be the re-opening of the 40 empty field-houses complete with caretakers who by their presence alone assists in deterring crime in our parks.

Jamie Lee Hamilton