A nine-hour public park board meeting Monday night, regarding the centralization of the city's community centres ended at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday with the arrival of police.
The VPD was called after the remaining members of the initially large crowd at the West End Community Centre demanded the resignation of the Vision Vancouver members of the park board.
The park board voted in principle to approve a controversial plan to centralize the operation of 23 community centres, including a new financial model that will see community centre associations forced to pool revenues. For more than 40 years that revenue has been retained by those community centres' non-profit, volunteer-driven associations and used for staffing programs, buying computers and constructing facilities such as rinks and pools.
The Vision Vancouver-dominated park board argues the money should be pooled into a general account.
The board wants the money to be distributed among community centres in less affluent neighbourhoods.
The evening began with park board general manager Malcolm Bromley offering a 30-page slide presentation regarding the proposal. Bromley explained the plan was designed to level the playing field between the "have" and "have-not" community centres.
Dave Sexton with the Renfrew Community Centre Association was one of many in the crowd who said the presentation included misleading information. Sexton said the presentation showed his association had contributed only $50,000 towards facility renewal, when he said in fact the group has given almost $630,000 in the past 10 years.
Many also took to Twitter Monday night and Tuesday morning to criticize the park board for agreeing to continue the meeting after public transportation had stopped running.
Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Association, said at least 30 people on the speakers list were forced to leave because of the meeting's length. Earlier in the day at a media briefing, Bromley told reporters that despite the large number of residents registered to speak, the meeting would not be held over.
"At 1:30 in the morning people were leaving because the buses were going to stop," said Kwan. "Why would you not schedule this over two days?"
NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova told the Courier Tuesday morning she was "appalled" the Vision Vancouver commissioners not only refused to defer the meeting despite dozens of requests, but also because they met with executive members of Vision Vancouver during the break prior to making that decision.
"That was completely inappropriate," said De Genova. "I heard about an 80-year-old woman who left at 2:30 in the morning and had to find her own way home."
De Genova criticized the Vision Vancouver commissioners for approving the plan without further public consultation.
"If they're so proud of this why didn't they call the meeting at a time when everyone could come out?" asked De Genova. "But last night people had to be home to get their kids to bed and get up for work. We tried, but we were voted down. And then they called the police."
Vision Vancouver park board chair Sarah Blyth confirmed she and her fellow Vision commissioners conferred with Vision Vancouver caucus members before deciding whether to proceed with the meeting. She added it was important to continue so everyone who took the time to attend would have an opportunity to speak.
"I felt there were people in the room that wanted to speak that had waited so long. I know it wasn't easy but I thought we could get through it," said Blyth by email Tuesday morning. "We don't generally postpone meetings."