Park Board intends to terminate agreements with 6 Community Centre Associations – The back story and some pieces of the puzzle

OneCard sign a Hillcrest Centre

The chain of events put in motion by Park Board at the Feb 4th Special Public Meeting earlier this year has culminated in the announcement of the City’s desire to unilaterally terminate the Joint Operating Agreements with 6 Community Centre Associations. Our sources have indicated that the end of the 90 days termination period will be around the end of November, with Park Board giving the CCAs the month of December to move out.

The six affected centres are Hastings, Hillcrest, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Killarney and Sunset. The volunteer run Community Centre Associations at these centres belong to the group My Vancouver Community Centres; further details are available on their website at www.myvancouvercc.com. These six centres collectively felt that they were left with no option but to file a lawsuit against the Park Board. The OneCard injunction case goes to court Sept. 3 (Vancouver Courier, Sandra Thomas). In terms of actual numbers, these six centres collectively make up a significant number of users overall in the city. Hillcrest, Kerrisdale and Killarney are the largest community centres in Vancouver in terms of usage. There was a clear level of non-support for Park Board’s plans at large public meetings at the Centres in January (Killarney & Kerrisdale), February (Hillcrest) and March (Kensington).

Public Meetings at CCA, Park Board

The last time Park Board received Public input about their proposed changes was at a Special Public Meeting held on February 4th, 2013. The overwhelming majority of the speakers were against the Park Board plan. This meeting ended at 3:30am in the morning; Vision Vancouver Commissioners repeatedly voted down attempts by NPA Commissioners Coupar & De Genova to reconvene the meeting at a later date.
One Card (highlighted 6 centres)On February 25th speakers urged the Board to support a motion for public consultation.
The motion passed in an amended form, and Park Board GM was supposed to report back to the Board on March 11, 2013 with a consultation plan that would include a number of consultation meetings. Prior to the March 11th meeting, the Vision controlled Board took the GM’s report off the agenda; no public consultation plan was ever presented to Park Board. Councillor Adriane Carr fared no better in trying to get information about the financial implications of the proposed moves by Park Board when the City Manager prevented her motion from even appearing on the February 25, 2013 Council meeting agenda.

The long and tortuous path taken by the Park Board majority has now culminated in the volunteer organizations being served notice to leave the centres, and the lawsuit before the courts. The OneCard was unilaterally imposed with no public consultation. This card does share some of the characteristics of the flexipass; the 6 centres were not opposed to having such a setup.

The Park Board has conducted closed-door negotiations with 12 of the other centre organizations. It was reported in the article Central Park: Park board ditches mediator, looks for new one (Vancouver Courier, July 9, 2013). Reports suggest that the Marpole-Oakridge Association is no longer in the talks. The Dunbar Association on the other hand had adopted a resolution to bring back any possible deal to their members for ratification; this has not happened. There has been no public discussion or debate about the merits and drawbacks of the OneCard setup; this has been forced onto all organizations. The OneCard appears not to be ‘optional’; it was truly never optional.

Secrecy continues at Park Board. Its website shows that a meeting was held on August 28th; unfortunately it was in-camera, closed to the public. There will be a second in-camera meeting prior to the Sept 23rd public board meeting, also in-camera. This is not a public process by any stretch. The Park Board majority is going ahead and simply implementing the report presented by GM Malcolm Bromley at the controversial meeting on February 4th, 2013.

A number of key points may have been missed or not reported in much detail by the mainstream media.

The OneCard calls for the elimination of CCA membership. These have been sold for upwards of 80 years at some of the Community Centres. Other organizations such as the YMCA, Rotary Club, Lions have memberships; it’s a standard way of operating a volunteer run organization. The existing Joint Operating Agreements require that Park Board sell CCA memberships. However, staff at Hillcrest Community Centre refuse to sell CCA memberships even when they are asked to (they claim that they are out of membership forms).

The money generated by the CCAs for decades has gone back into subsidizing the Centres. The existing CCAs can also able to apply for certain grants due to their designations (non-profit or charitable) that the City of Vancouver would not be entitled to. The centres also run pre-school activities and have done so for more than a decade. Will programs in the fall of 2013 be affected? That’s a question that is difficult to find an answer to. Some programs bridge the months of November and December. Can Park Board take over contracts with contractors who are delivering programs at the 6 centres? Will the city try to replace many of the instructors who deliver programming for 2014?

The OneCard fees are collected directly by Park Board. In theory, Park Board is supposed to reimburse the centres. In practice this might not work well. Park Board apparently owes community centre associations a lot of money, and in the case of Kerrisdale the amount owing is in the six figures. The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has been accused of repeatedly violating the Joint Operating Agreements. Over the years volunteers have put in countless hours to help run Vancouver’s Community Centres.

Many programs, from the range of pre-school to seniors were pushed for and created by the community and their associations. The programming was always driven from the bottom-up. Now Park Board wishes to have central control of all programming and have certain mandatory ‘core programs’ for all centres. In effect, in this model bureaucrats will effectively end up calling the shots on programming everywhere, in a top-down model.

Some of the Community Centres were built by plebiscite. For example, in Killarney, Douglas Park and Riley Park they were built by the community because the Park Board & City of Vancouver didn’t have the resources to undertake the construction of these centres. The CCAs have at times stepped in where the Park Board won’t replace equipment out of their budgets. The City has also made some mistakes with the recently constructed Centres as some of their designs have inadequate space for programming. The City had left CCAs out of the design process.

The moves by Park Board to terminate the Joint Operating Agreements appear to be in direct response to the filing of the lawsuit. However, the reason for filing for an injunction by the 6 CCAs on the issue of the One Card is directly due the actions by Park Board.

The 6 associations have held a series of large public meetings with cumulative attendance in the thousands of people. For further background information, please see the videos contained in the following posts:

A key point is that the first thing an association needs to be is the voice of the communities they represent. An open question is if the decades-long partnership with the associations has worked so effectively, why then does the Park Board want to substantially alter this arrangement? If Park Board does not change course, the outcome may prove to be very messy. Stay tuned.

CityHallWatch welcomes information from readers that might help the public put the pieces of this puzzle together and make sense of what is going on, and what is really driving the Park Board actions.  Write citizenYVR@gmail.com.

For information about the court case, please see our earlier post here: City taken to court by 6 Community Centre Associations over One Card, violations of Operating Agreements

Further background information about the Community Centre Associations is in a video from the David Berner show. Here Eric Harms, President of the Hastings Community Association is interviewed as a guest:

3 thoughts on “Park Board intends to terminate agreements with 6 Community Centre Associations – The back story and some pieces of the puzzle

  1. Thanks you, again, CityHallWatch, for following the Parks Board Community Centre Associations controversy so well!

    While there is no deal yet, the Dunbar CCA is still working hard to negotiate issues of real concern to our community, including the key issues of local control and financial control.

    I would caution that adding the words “closed-door” to the term “negotiations” is redundant and inflammatory.

    As a point of clarification to DCCA members who may review this, the OneCard trial has no significant effect on the Dunbar Community Centre Association. As before, Dunbar Association membership is automatic to anyone who takes a program at Dunbar. Also, as with past membership cards, if a member really wants a membership card, they can ask for one and a Dunbar branded OneCard will be prepared for them. Finally, as before, even if you haven’t taken a program, you can still purchase a membership, at which point a Dunbar branded OneCard will be prepared for you. The OneCard will replace LAC and Flexipass cards, as well as gain a member access to the DCC Fitness Centre (which is already run by the Parks Board).

    For more details on single-card access, please see our post from June: http://dunbarcentre.org/dunbar/exploring-single-card-access-to-fitness-centres-pools-and-rinks-in-vancouver/

    Best regards,
    Dave, DCCA

    p.s. I look forward to watching the Eric Harms interview – Eric has an amazing knack for distilling a complex issue down to its fundamental challenges.

    • Thank you for your comments and the links to your site.
      The concerns about the current negotiations partly stem to the lack of public involvement; this is of course outside of your control. Park Board regrettably decided against going forward with a public consultation plan at the beginning of March.
      Please let us know when there’s an updated draft JOA that we can examine. This will probably be the best way to see how the current JOA compares with the proposed changes. The success of decades of joint Community Centre operations with Associations and Park Board is evidence that the current system has worked well. We hope that the final outcome will be overall positive for Vancouver residents and it will be resolved in a setup that is amenable to all of the stakeholders involved.

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