Depending who you ask, the annual general meeting of the Kitsilano Community Centre Association April 18 was either a blow to democracy or a victory against a pack of radical insurgents.
Rumours were flying among community centre associations in the days leading up to the meeting that the standing board of directors at Kits would be overthrown by a group aligning itself with associations that have rejected the new joint operating agreement proposed by the park board.
Robert Haines, incumbent president of the Kitsilano Community Centre Association, said days before the meeting he was told the board would be challenged and potentially hijacked by a group dubbed the Independent Slate led by Kitsilano resident Lewis Pierce, with plans to stack the vote.
Haines was concerned the newly elected board under the challengers would opt out of negotiations with the park board.
I had at least five different sources come to me, said Haines. Ive been president for 20 years and this is the first time Ive been challenged.
The proposed agreement would centralize services and programs at 23 community centres across the city. 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, and redistributed amongst have-not centres. The park board is in negotiations with 12 of 20 community centre associations, including Kitsilano, with assistance from a professional mediator.
Kitsilano resident and park board watchdog Ray Tomlin, who ran unsuccessfully with Independent Slate, said opponents circulated a rumour that if the group was elected it would eliminate all seniors programming at the centre.
Seniors programs are at the heart of every community centre, said Tomlin. He called the rumour ridiculous, but said worried seniors turned out in droves to vote against the slate.
The Independent Slate ran 15 candidates for the board, none of whom were elected.
Tomlin was surprised to see the presidents and members of at least five other community centre associations at the meeting, as well as parks staff, who acted as scrutineers during the vote for the new board by handing out and counting ballots. In an unusual move, Vision Vancouver park board chair Sarah Blyth, general manager Malcolm Bromley and the citys manager of recreation services, Diane Murphy, also attended the raucous meeting. In total, more than 100 people attended, an astounding showing for a community centre annual general meeting.
Normally were lucky if we get 20 people out to an AGM, said Haines.
Blyth said she attended because shes the liaison to the Kitsilano Community Centre.
I was there to welcome the new board, said Blyth. And to thank all of these folks. They put in a lot of hard work and volunteer hours. Im looking forward to another very productive year with this board.
The Courier was unable to reach Pierce before press deadline, but Tomlin noted on his VanRamblings blog: This was a meeting out of control, anti-democratic and belligerent, with two goals in mind: resist the hordes of radicals intent on upsetting the club-like atmosphere of the Kitsilano Community Centre Board of Directors, while ensuring that a board of directors acquiescent to the Vision Vancouver initiated renegotiation of the joint-operating agreement remained in place.