Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr wondered this week why a city employee has the power to tell an elected councillor what she can do at council.
Carr’s comments were in response to a phone call she received from city manager Penny Ballem after Carr announced she wanted to bring a motion to council Feb. 12. The motion asks park board general manager Malcolm Bromley to report back to council within two months on the potential impact to the city’s budget from the board’s plan to take control of the city’s community centres.
Carr was at a public hearing Tuesday night when Ballem called to inform her that her motion would not be added to the Feb. 12 agenda because it would jeopardize negotiations between the park board and community centre associations. Carr’s motion was in response to a park board decision to approve in principle a controversial plan to centralize the operation of 23 community centres and introduce a new financial model that would see community centre associations forced to pool revenues.
“I’m seeking a legal opinion to find out if the city manager really can stop a motion from going forward,” said Carr, who’s motion was seconded by NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball.
In an email to the Courier sent via the city’s communications department, Ballem said, “Under the Vancouver Charter, and authorities delegated by city council, the city manager is responsible, along with the city clerk and the city solicitor, to manage the business of council. It is not appropriate to discuss conversations with councillors about the management of council business.”
Carr said she is concerned the new financial model will reduce the community centre associations’ ability to raise money and qualify for matching grants from the federal and provincial governments. She said any shortfall could become the problem of city council.
“Through volunteerism, these community centre associations have brought in equipment and programs the park board was unable to do,” said Carr. “They’ve also made the delivery of these programs less expensive.”
NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova is bringing forward a motion to the Feb. 25 park board meeting to put a time limit on evening meetings.
At a marathon park board meeting at the West End Community Centre Feb. 4, the Vision Vancouver majority voted in favour of continuing until early Tuesday morning. “I was appalled that Vision Vancouver kept people at the meeting until 3:30 [a.m.] with no option of getting home,” said De Genova.
“They had no consideration for these people’s safety or the democratic process.”
De Genova described the nine-hour meeting as “legislation by exhaustion” and “disrespectful.” “I’ve had many phone calls and emails from people who said they wanted to stay and speak but had to leave,” said De Genova.
No Vision Vancouver commissioners were available for comment before the Courier’s press deadline.