The new Vancouver Park Board was sworn in at a ceremony at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on December 1st. There has been a very large change in the composition of the seven-member Board, with Commissioner John Coupar being the only one returning to office for this term, which goes until 2018. All others from last term decided not to run again, or failed to get elected.
The first order of business was the selection of the Park Board chair. As many predicted, John Coupar was nominated to the post and acclaimed. Sarah Kirby-Yung was selected as the Vice Chair. They are joined by Casey Crawford, Catherine Evans, Erin Shum, Stuart Mackinnon and Michael Wiebe (Commissioner breakdown by party: 4 NPA, 2 Green, 1 Vision). The new Board plans to hold 25% of its meetings in communities across the city. They will also fast track the implementation of live video streaming of Park Board meetings to increase transparency and public access.
In his first speech, Commissioner John Coupar outlined the priorities for the new board, and he touched on the following points:
- to restore and rebuild relationships with Community Centre Associations and to complete new Joint Operating Agreements
- fast track the construction of the Killarney Seniors Centre, and include seniors fully in a complete a consultation of requirements and needs
- to ensure the permanent protection of parks and green spaces via legislation (bylaw)
- to improve park maintenance and reestablish horticultural excellence in parks and gardens
- increase the number of outdoor pools and increase access to aquatic activities (and refit or re-purpose wading pools)
- develop strong relationships with the tourism sector and reestablish a marketing committee to promote facilities
Coupar also said that Park Board needs to be more responsive, and he used the example of the slow progress in replacing the miniature railway station that burned down. He wants to increase marine access to residents and tourists and to review and improve paddling opportunities. There are high expectations of the Park Board delivering really good experiences, and this will be a focus. Coupar recalled the struggle to save the Bloedel Conservatory and of how he became engaged as an impassioned citizen. He invited audience to stay engaged because “we need your help.” Coupar wants the Park Board to be “a happy place”, deliver good services, and he wants people to have great pride in the system. He also announced that the 45th anniversary of the Bloedel Conservatory will be celebrated on Saturday, December 6th (10am – 4pm, ceremony at 1pm, free admission). The priorities are outlined by Commissioner Coupar are also in the following video:
The new board approved the schedule for 2015. Unlike the previous Park Board, there were no fights over who the seconder was; the motion on the schedule was seconded by Catherine Evans, without issue (she is Vision Vancouver’s sole Commissioner for this four-year term). Is this a good sign for more conciliatory and cooperative Park Board? Time will tell. But it’s good to see that the new board appears to be off to a good start. The first regular business meeting of the new Board will be held on December 15, 2014.
The inaugural Park Board meeting was held in front of a packed audience. There was no sign of Mayor Gregor Robertson, but City Councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball were in attendance. Vision Vancouver Councillor Raymond Louie was also in the audience (he is also the chair of the PNE). A number of past Park Board Commissioners and Councillors were there, as were VSB trustees-elect Janet Fraser and Christopher Richardson. Residents and volunteers from Community Centre Associations also came to congratulate the new board. Outgoing Park Board Chair Aaron Jasper provided a closing presentation of the last three years, before handing over the baton to the new board. Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley thanked the outgoing Commissioners and presented each of them with a gift. City Clerk Janice Mackenzie (who also served as Chief Election Officer on election day) administered the oath of office (an oath that included specific references to a number of provisions in the Vancouver Charter). The new board dealt with three items of business. Finally GM Malcolm Bromley invited members of the audience to the reception that followed the inaugural Park Board meeting.