Here come the bean-counters! The Park Board death watch begins next week
CityCaucus.com can confirm that Sierra Systems Group of Vancouver has undertaken the City of Vancouver's "core services review" on behalf of City Manager Penny Ballem, and that it includes a review of "shared services" between the City and the Park Board. It is being reported that the findings of this review are pending and will be revealed next week.
The fact that the Park Board is included in this review is a signal to some that the ultimate goal is to eradicate the Park Board as a separate entity altogether. Allen Garr wrote about this today and suggested that General Manager Susan Mundick retired early because she didn't have the stomach for a full-scale dissolution of the Park Board under her watch.
Apparently, at a recent in-camera meeting, Park Board Commissioners pleaded with Mundick to hang on to stick up for the interests of the Park Board. But Ballem has her sights set on making cuts, and she is clearly not someone you want to rumble with. Garr spells that out in today's column:
When I pointed out to Ballem last week that a number of senior city hall types past and present were critical of her micromanaging methods, she said: "Tough, eh."
CityCaucus.com spoke earlier with an employee [name withheld at their request] of Sierra Systems Group of Vancouver, who was predictably tight-lipped about the work underway with the City of Vancouver.
CityCaucus.com: I understand you've been contracted by the City of Vancouver to do a shared services review at the Vancouver Park Board. Is that correct?
Sierra Systems: "Shared services" review for the Park Board? [pause] No, I don't believe that's correct. Anything else I'd probably have to direct you to the City of Vancouver communications person.
CityCaucus.com: So you're not doing any kind of services review at the Park Board?
SS: That's part of an overall core services review that we've been doing since June. Parks are within the scope, but we're not doing a specific service review as it relates to the Park Board.
CityCaucus.com: So it's across the city...
SS: (unclear) it's the Park Board, it's everything else.
CityCaucus.com: Can I confirm that this report is now complete and with the City Manager?
SS: Um, I'm not sure where it sits to be honest. Again, you'd have to check that with the city itself.
CityCaucus.com: So your overall scope includes the Park Board as well?
SS: There are aspects of that, yes.
CityCaucus.com: It's our understanding that the contract with Sierra Systems is worth $100,000. Is that correct?
SS: I couldn't confirm that.
So finding redundacies across Vancouver's public service is clearly the objective of Ballem's review, which is not coming cheap. But how will it affect other parts of Vancouver's Parks service? One insider speculates that even deeper cuts are coming to the Park Board, forcing them to reach into the pockets of the profitable community centres across the city.
What is not widely understood by the public is that Vancouver's Community Centres are jointly operated by elected community associations and the Park Board, and they generate much of their income from program fees, in the millions of dollars, across the city. These fees help pay for community benefits such as daycare facilities and staff for youth sports programs. Those dollars are held by the community centres at their discretion, and do not go into the Park Board's general revenue fund.
We've asked the question ourselves, does Vancouver need an elected Park Board when the strings are merely being pulled by City Council? Penny Ballem is spending a lot of public money to prove that there is a lot of fat in Vancouver's civil service. The Sierra report will undoubtedly indicate that. But you can bet your last buck that the Vision City Council will not let a single card-carrying CUPE employee go while they're running City Hall.