Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sarah Blyth Changes Her Motion after Pressure Brought

Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Why Are Park Caretakers being Phased Out?

Commissioner Sarah Blyth originally planned to bring forth a motion on June 13 which was called contentious by the Vancouver Courier news. The motion asked park board staff to explore re-using empty park field-houses for artists-in-residence. The motion asked that artists-in-residence be allowed to stay for a number of years.

Our field-houses traditionally housed park caretakers and still do and who provide 24/7 security in our parks. They open, close and clean the park washrooms.

The park caretakers are given free rent and are paid no salary. This has been good value for the citizens as it has kept our parks safe from hooligans and predators who prey on children.

Tonight June 27 at the Park board meeting, Commissioner Blyth changed her motion to include community and sports groups besides arts groups having access to the empty field-houses. Ms Blyth said she did this after hearing that many citizens were outraged that she appeared to be favouring one group over another. Perhaps Commissioner Blyth should have thought of this before bringing forth such a divisive motion that has as it's intent to pit one group over another.

But nowhere in Commissioner Blyth's motion was there any talk of park caretakers. This even though in December 2010 Park Commissioners clearly asked staff for a report on the field-houses.

Tonight when this writer asked Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper to clarify what happened to this long awaited report, he enquired from the general Manager about the status of the report. The General Manager replied that it was his understanding from the December 2010 meeting that Commissioners were seeking a report on Park washrooms. Yes folks that is what you get when someone is making a few hundred thousand a year. Nice isn't it?

Green Commissioner Stuart MacKinnon thankfully reminded the board that in fact Commissioners had previously requested from staff a report on the field-houses.Commissioners decided to support Sarah Blyth's motion which I assume was a result of her changes to her original motion.

A looming question though remains and that is why are there empty field-houses? Why when they become vacant are they not filled with new park caretakers?

A few Commissioners although they won't say this publicly, allude to that there could be liability issues for the Park board regarding park caretakers. This however, makes no sense since it seems that park board liability insurance which covers all park employees would also extend to park caretakers.

It seems very suspicious if liability were the issue would this not also be the same concern if community, sport or arts groups were housed in the field-houses?

So why is the Park board not allowing the empty field-houses to house park caretakers? Is there some plan to empty all field-houses of park caretakers and someone at Park board needs to answer this.

Even though the General Manager makes a few hundred thousand a year, I am not betting that he can provide an in-depth report on the status of the empty field-houses and why when park caretakers retire they are not replaced by new caretakers.

Jamie Lee Hamilton