Almost 400 seniors showed up to a hastily called meeting at the Kerrisdale Community Centre Tuesday afternoon to protest what many are calling a cash grab by the park board.
As first reported in the Courier in 2011, the park board is negotiating with the city's community centre associations to finalize a new joint operating agreement. The Vision Vancouver dominated board wants to change the way the centres operate, including centralizing "core programs." The most contentious of the recommendations would see the park board take all revenues from room rentals and programs - money traditionally retained by the associations. The park board argues the money should be pooled into a general account to be distributed amongst "poorer" centres. The park board calls the recommendation "non-negotiable."
That's where at least six community centre associations have drawn a line in the sand. The model for the joint partnership, developed almost 50 years ago, sees the park board supply the physical building while the associations manage the centres. In some cases, the associations helped build the centres, rinks or pools.
The afternoon meeting at Kerrisdale was held for seniors while a second meeting Tuesday evening at the centre was open to the public.
Senior Marianne Kropf told the Courier she's been a regular at the centre since her husband died three years ago. She warned the park board must pay attention to the senior vote.
"If you want to get something done get a bunch of seniors involved," said Kropf. "There's power in this."
Robert Lockhart, vice-president of the Kerrisdale Community Centre Association, said the two main concerns with the proposed agreement are a fear the costs for programs will increase dramatically and that the seniors lunch program would be eliminated.
Another evening meeting was held at Killarney Community Centre, where the gathering turned ugly when Vision Vancouver commissioner Trevor Loke addressed the crowd in what can best be described as a tirade. Loke began by thanking the crowd for showing up, but those platitudes quickly turned into a rant about the inequalities between poor associations and their rich counterparts in communities like Killarney.
Loke's comments caused the crowd, made up largely of blue-collar workers, seniors, immigrants and young families, to react with shouts and boos of disapproval.
Following Loke's comments, a man stood up and asked the young commissioner why he thought it was reasonable to "scream at us like kids."
"Who the hell do you think you are," the man yelled at Loke.
Former Green park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon also addressed the crowd at Killarney Tuesday night.
"Tonight we are discussing in my opinion, the most cynical, desperate and dishonest power grab by a city management who are more concerned with their own megalomania and control than what is best for the people," Mackinnon said.
Green Coun. Adriane Carr told crowds at both Kerrisdale and Killarney that despite information to the contrary, the issue is in fact a council matter and does not lie solely with the park board. Carr explained if there is a financial trickle-down effect to changes in the way park board programs are run, any demand for more money will come back to city council.