Vancouver's elected Park Board: hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil about budget cuts
A couple of weeks back, I posted a story about whether or not Vancouver actually needs an elected Park Board. Boy, did I every stir it up with those folks who are hard-core Park Board fans. That includes COPE, NPA and Vision supporters.
Now that Vision Vancouver has approved a hefty $1.9 million cut to the park board budget, I can now confirm we truly don’t need an elected park board. That’s because with the exception of NPA Commissioner Ian Robertson, not a single elected Park Board official raised a stink about the budget cuts. The silence was deafening.
My heavens, when I worked at City Hall, the mere mention of the NPA cutting even $25 dollars from the Park Board coffee budget would have solicited howls of anger from the likes of former Park Board Commissioner, now City Councillor Heather Deal. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, and she’s doing the cutting, Deal has all but lost her voice.
Vision has sliced and diced the Park Board budget and left the elected officials there high and dry. How else can you describe not only the budget cut, but the decision by Vision to force the Park Board to raise an additional $1.7 million in new revenues.
Surely this decision will translate into a hike in fees for everything from public golf courses and pools, to various youth programs. Raising fees also goes completely counter to the City’s stated goal of trying to increase the level of physical activity by 10% by 2010.
Most people who support an elected Park Poard told me they do so because they assume it is going to stand up to Council and advocate for more parks and community services. However, this new Vision-dominated Park Board seems to be reporting to Councillor Raymond Louie, the City’s budget chair, rather than to the people who elected them.
It’s clear this new Vision gang are clearly fearful of making any public statements that might be perceived as openly bickering (we also know it as free speech). Call it the COPE effect.
Unlike during the COPE years when their caucus openly debated the issues, today, Vision appears hell-bent on appearing unified at all costs. However, in the case of the Park Board, that cost now amounts to about $1.9 million in cuts to the operating budget.
Yes, tough decisions needed to be made by Council if they were going to balance the books. That said, this Council found the money to set up an office for a new mental health advocate and other new programs, while at the same time telling the Park Board there was no money to maintain city parks.
If this or future Park Boards want to retain support from the public as an independent elected body, at least one Vision commissioner had better get their voice back soon. Otherwise, I suspect, there might be a lot more people like me asking the question of whether we really do need an elected Park Board.