Park Board storm troopers preparing for possible battle with City Hall
It's been a very fast moving file, but Vision's attempts to strip the Park Board of its independence this week may be hitting a brick wall. Earlier today, Sue Mundick, General Manager of the Vancouver Park Board, was called into the City Manager's office for a little heart-to-heart conversation. We're told the meeting lasted about 25 minutes with "most of the discussion being quite one-sided."
A number of Vision caucus members are now getting a serious case of cold feet about Ballem's plans to restructure (a.k.a dissolve) the Park Board as we've known it. A number of them have been very busy on their cel phones figuring out how they're going to get themselves out of this very sticky situation now that Mundick has announced she's packing her bags.
The NPA's Suzanne Anton and Ian Robertson can sniff blood. They realize that any attempt to dismantle the Park Board will be met with resistance. In fact, word tonight is that a number of former Park Board commissioners (both NPA and COPE) have been working the phones to determine if there is anything they can do as a group to help save the Park Board.
One of those former commissioners called CityCaucus.com to say they were prepared to work day and night to fight city hall. There is even talk of an all-party news conference being planned which would demand Ballem and the Mayor's office publicly commit to supporting the Park Board's independence.
Late today, the NPA dusted off their fax machine and issued a rare news release condemning Vision for their interference in Park Board affairs. Here is a copy of that release:
Vancouver—NPA City Councillor Suzanne Anton is calling on Mayor and Council to reaffirm the independence of the Vancouver Park Board after an email from City Manager Penny Ballem surfaced last week.
In a late motion to council, Councillor Anton makes it clear the elected Park Board has been an independent advocate for parks since 1886 and the General Manager of the Park Board has always been hired by the Park Board independently of the City. The motion asks council to “affirm the independence of the elected Park Board” and “confirm that the elected Park Board has unfettered jurisdiction to choose the next General Manager.”
“The Park Board has a long history of advocating for our parks, our community centres and our sports and recreation facilities,” says Anton. “Up until this board, they were a very strong, independent voice. Unfortunately, this Mayor and Council seem to be trying to gut the Park Board and centralize control of everything in the Mayor’s Office.”
Anton goes on to say that the Mayor and Council have no mandate to make such a significant change to the Park Board’s governing structure: “There has been no public discussion of this. Vancouver residents are passionate about their parks and have a strong interest in being involved in this discussion. An edict from the Mayor is not good enough.
The motion was provoked after Park Board general Manager Susan Mundick’s ‘retirement’ was announced on Monday. In an email that surfed on Wednesday from the City Manager to Mundick, it is clear that the City Manager is trying to control the actions of Mundick who, theoretically, answers to the Park Board. In the email, City Manger Ballem writes to Mundick: “The general manager of parks and recreation has a line of accountability to me…” and “I will work with Raj [Chair of the Park Board] and the other commissioners to support this work in relation to choosing your successor.” Ballem finishes with: “Any new appointments you might wish to make will put the city at risk if we have to reorganize again and therefore it is not appropriate to undertake anything like this.”
NPA Park Commissioner Ian Robertson is also concerned about Ballem’s interference. “The City Manager’s actions are despicable,” says Robertson. “She is undermining the authority of the elected Park Board.” Robertson adds, “This email confirms our suspicions about why so many experienced and talented people are leaving City Hall.”
I suspect there will be a lot of Visionistas burning the midnight oil this weekend asking themselves how they got themselves pinned into this corner.
That's because within the next couple of weeks city staff will be facing the real threat of layoffs while Park Board supporters raise the heat on Vision. At the end of the day, it is looking more likely that Ballem's core services review will be put on the back burner while the political strategists figure out an exit strategy from this self-imposed SNAFU.
Strap on your seatbelts, the next few weeks might make for a really bumpy ride in Mayor Robertson's Happy Planetville.
**Answer the CityCaucus.com poll question: Should Vision Vancouver phase out the independent Park Board?