NPA park board commissioner Melissa De Genova is accusing her Vision Vancouver colleagues of flip-flopping on a recent decision to increase public consultation on a controversial plan to restructure community centre operations.
The proposed agreement would see services and programs centralized at 23 community centres, as well as changes to their financial model. Under the new agreement community centre associations would be forced to pool revenues, which would then be distributed by the park board. The park board is in negotiations with 12 out of 20 community centre associations with assistance from professional mediator Terry Harris.
De Genova introduced a motion to the park board Feb. 25 asking for more public consultation on the issue prior to the July 1 deadline for a board decision on restructuring. The motion passed unanimously, but De Genova said on March 7 the commissioners received a memo that Vision Vancouver park board chair Sarah Blyth had directed staff not to present a plan for public consultation and had removed the item from the March 11 meeting agenda.
"They voted in favour of it in public and then tore it up in the back room," said De Genova. "This is Vision's attempt once again to hide their agenda from the public."
De Genova said she's appalled at what she said was Vision Vancouver's lack of public accountability and transparency.
"This is a dictatorship, not a democracy," said De Genova. "My motion had overwhelming support from the public, but now Vision Vancouver is going to force this plan down people's throats."
A group of dissident associations has banded together under the name My Vancouver Community Centres to fight the proposed financial model of the restructuring. In response to this recent turn of events, the group released a statement, which reads in part: "It's clear that neither [park board general manager Malcolm Bromley] nor the park board are interested in listening to the public on this important civic issue.
Both have repeatedly ignored public opinion on multiple occasions because it doesn't align with their intentions and would delay their planned implementation date of July 1_"
Blyth was surprised by the concern and said public consultation has been simply postponed and not cancelled.
"The associations and staff both requested more time," said Blyth. "It was always our intention to have public consultation but they wanted more time to come up with a plan."
Blyth said the executive boards of the associations are made up from volunteers with jobs and families who need time to schedule meetings.
"We never said there wouldn't be any public consultation," she added.
Meanwhile, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver hosts a panel discussion March 13 with Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Society, Phil Daum, treasurer of the Sunset Community Association, and Jesse Johl, president of Riley Park Hillcrest Community Association.
The discussion will focus on the changes sought by the park board, examine the role of volunteers in running and setting priorities for local programming, and examine solutions for funding and improving public access to community centres. There will be an open microphone and most of evening will be dedicated to taking questions and comments from the audience. The meeting takes place at 7:30 p.m. March 13 at the Hollywood Theatre, 3123 West Broadway.