29 December 2015

Ten New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

2015 saw some significant changes at the Park Board table. The atmosphere of hostility and showmanship decreased appreciably. However, with the NPA majority on the Board, some things have reverted to old ways of thinking. The focus on commerce and commercialization of our public spaces has taken a great leap forward. I have always believed that commercialization of public spaces is generally wrong. Alcohol fueled parties should have no place in public spaces, except in extraordinary circumstances. While I have approved some of these this year, the number of permits coming to the Board has been an ever increasing concern of mine.

This Board made a commitment to negotiate a new Joint Operating Agreement with the Community Centre Associations (CCAs). One year later and we still have not been successful. It will take some determination and compromise on both sides to achieve this.

Being in a minority in a highly partisan system means that not all of the issues I think are important will be achievable, but I will continue to work for what I believe is both in the public interest and, quite frankly, the right thing to do. These include a public discussion on cetaceans in captivity, and a shift away from destination facilities and back to a neighbourhood focus.

So here are ten resolutions, or wishes, for the New Year:

 1. A new Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) between the Park Board and the Community Centre Associations that is fair, effective, and sustainable. One that recognizes the uniqueness of our CCAs as well as equity of access and core programming within the system. 

 2.  More scheduled meetings with community groups to build trust and genuine dialogue.

 3. Better partnering with sports and community organizations to prioritize field maintenance. 

 4. Introduce more local food products into our parks facilities.

 5. Introduce an animal-waste composting program for our local dog parks.

 6. Work on stream day-lighting and seek salmon-safe certification for all parks.

 7. Make a commitment to build at least one neighbourhood outdoor pool in this term.

 8. Create a long-term budget and financing plan for continued facility maintenance.

 9. Create policies to end the continuing erosion of parks by commercial enterprise.

 10. Put in motion a city-wide plebiscite on keeping cetaceans in captivity in our parks for the 2018 civic ballot.

For 2016, making neighbourhoods the priority, by giving them the tools to make planning decisions that reflect community needs and values, is my goal.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year.

22 December 2015

A Year in Review at the Vancouver Park Board

The Green Party of Vancouver values our network of community centres as the real centre of the community.  In an increasingly densified city, our parks and our waterways are everyone’s backyard and should be maintained and enhanced with sustainability and accessibility top of mind. Green Commissioners Michael Wiebe and Stuart Mackinnon have been hard at work protecting your values. Here are some of our highlights:

 Connecting With Community
    Our motion to permit public input and comment on all Commissioners’ motions was defeated, with the NPA opposed to the idea.  Current practices limit public speaking at Park Board meetings.  This is just not good enough to ensure real community engagement.

  At the Chinese New Year parade

    A motion by Stuart reminded the Park Board of past practices that involved the community in naming our parks and his colleagues now agree.  Under the previous Vision-led administration, the Park Naming Committee never met, but now, a Committee is being struck to name two parks.

    Stuart spoke out against the proposed recreational fee increases.  In particular, he continued to oppose the application of fees to children who are under 5 years of age.  This is a significant barrier to participation at a time when we should be encouraging active participation, establishing a lifelong commitment to active living. 

      Green Commissioners

Promoting Sustainability
    There was unanimous support for our initiative to increase water fountains and water filling stations at Park Board facilities and parks.  

    There was unanimous support for Michael’s initiative to improve water quality and achieve zero beach and recreational water closures in our City’s waters.
Speaking out about the English Bay oil spill

    We were proud to support our colleague’s suggestion for a campaign to reduce improper discharge of waste in local marinas and anchorages.

    Michael gained support from commissioners for the Park Board to propose strategies that will reduce the negative impacts of future drought and water restrictions.  Options include reducing water consumption, reusing and/or recycling grey water.

Inclusive and Respectful Relationships
    Michael and Stuart participated in the first ever “Trans Gender Open Swim” at the Templeton Pool.
 A first for Vancouver at Templeton Pool
Thornton Park is home to the monument to the women murdered at Montreal’s l’école Polytechnic. Stuart has been vigilant in ensuring this monument is maintained in good condition, reflecting his commitment to honouring those who have been victims of violence and abuse.  Stuart is committed to ensuring a permanent solution to the maintenance problems plaguing this important monument.

Committed to a permanent solution
Parks and Community Centres for All
  Michael’s motion for a collaborative initiative to improve access to all parks and facilities for Persons with Disabilities, the LGBTQ communities, and Seniors passed unanimously.

  Stuart’s motion at the final meeting of the year asking the Park Board to develop a comprehensive program of supports for refugees, recognizing Vancouver’s commitment to welcoming people in their time of need, was praised by all Commissioners and passed without dissent. 

This is just a snapshot of some of the issues Michael and I dealt with this past year. You can read about others throughout this blog. I will endeavour to keep you informed throughout the remainder of this term through BetterParks for Vancouver. I hope you will come back often. Michael and I thank you for your on-going support. Without you, we couldn't do it.

16 December 2015

One Year In, Same Old Politics

Last Monday's meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation was the final one of 2015 and marked the one year anniversary of this group of elected Commissioners. The evening started well with a staff update on the Urban Forest Strategy. This was a good news story; after several years of our canopy declining, the City and Park Board are working to increase it on both private and public lands. Other business included a new lease for the Fish House Restaurant in Stanley Park, a report on planting more Ornamental Cherry trees, and a special event in the Olympic Village neighbourhood.

With the business of the Park Board Committee over, the Board meeting began with elections for Chair and Vice Chair of the Board as well as the same for the Committee. Once again the NPA used their majority to take all 4 positions, simply shuffling the deck.

There were two motions concerning refugees presented. My motion to work in partnership with the City, Community Centre Associations, and Immigrant Services to support refugees passed unanimously. This motion looks to support all refugees over the long term. 

A second motion presented by Vision Commissioner Catherine Evans asked staff to look into using unused caretaker cottages in our parks for temporary use for Syrian refugees arriving imminently. I had asked staff before the meeting if this was possible and they suggested that 3 or 4 of the unused cottages could be used with some additional work. Commissioner Evan's motion would have directed staff to prepare a brief for us on the costs and time-line needed to prepare them and a decision could then be made quickly. 

Instead of welcoming this innovative and generous idea, the NPA used their majority to block it by referring it to staff (a strange move as the motion was to have staff look into it), as they believed this measure was already included in my previous motion. This is not true as my motion was looking at long term planning and a report back is not expected until the spring. By that time the use of the cottages will be unnecessary as hopefully by then the refugees will have found permanent accommodations. By referring the motion they have essentially killed the idea.

It is unfortunate that the NPA blocked Commissioner Evans motion for short term support for soon to arrive Syrian refugees. Commissioner Wiebe and I joined with Evans to support her motion as we believe there are many ways we can support our new Canadians. At this time when we wish peace and goodwill to all, I found it sad that not everyone agreed.

Partisan politics seem to still be at the forefront of civic affairs. There was some hope that after last year's election a new way to work could be established. I still have hope. Being Green means expecting the best, but being prepared to challenge when anything less is presented.

09 December 2015

Update on Le Marche St. George

City of Vancouver
Information Bulletin
December 9, 2015
Update on Le Marche St. George
In response to several media requests, the City would like to clarify that Le Marche St George, a popular local market in East Vancouver, is not about to be shut down by the City. Reports about an imminent closure as early as this weekend are completely false. As stated yesterday, City staff will work with the owners to better understand business practices and look at options to enable the activities at Le Marche St George to continue.
The City values local businesses and wants to increase and enable cafés and patios throughout the city. The Council motion of June 23rd is the latest example of these efforts: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20150623/documents/motionb5.pdf
Le Marche St George is approved as a grocery store. A recent complaint from a neighbour identified some bylaw issues related to their restaurant and special events. Regulations of food service industry falls to Vancouver Coastal Health. The City is always looking to update outdated bylaws to enhance quality of neighbourhoods and support local independent markets and cafes, and looks forward to working with the owners to ensure the market and its activities can continue.
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Media Contact:
Corporate Communications

06 December 2015

A meditation for those living and dead who have suffered from violence

Meditation of Remembrance on December 6th

May all women who have been murdered be at peace,
May you be safe and protected from harm,
May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all women and children who have been murdered be at peace, 
May you be safe and protected from harm,
May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all women, children, and men who have been murdered be at peace,
May you be safe and protected from harm,
May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all those who are suffering from violence today
Know that there are people who care and who are striving
To create a better world.

May the world be at peace,
May we be safe and protected from harm,
May we be free from suffering and the causes of suffering,
may we have happiness and the causes of happiness,
May our hearts be open to the beauty and wisdom of our spirits,
May love light our way and may love lighten our load,
Though these be difficult times.

May we be at peace.

Variation of a Buddhist loving kindness meditation. Read today at the Women's Monument in Thornton Park, Vancouver by the women and men assembled to remember the 14 women of the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal who were murdered on 6 December 1989.

04 December 2015

Enchanted Nights, Vancouver Park Board’s newest holiday event, begins today

Vancouver Park Board
News Release
December 4, 2015
Bloedel Conservatory is getting into the holiday spirit with Enchanted Nights.
Set among the tropical plants and company of 200 exotic birds, Enchanted Nights is a miniature world of artisan fairy and sprite villages with illuminated landscapes, holiday music and live entertainment. It runs daily from December 4 to January 3 (closed December 25), 4 – 9 pm. 
Several local artists - Benjamin Kikkert of New-Small & Sterling Studio Galss, Melissa Hume of Dirty Clay Studios, Christopher Moreno of 365 Productions, Corey Cote and the Enchanted Forest Collective - are brining the miniature fairly life to life. 

“Bloedel Conservatory is a fantastic setting in which to work with magic and whimsy so we’re very pleased to have local artists involved in Vancouver’s newest holiday event,” said Vancouver Park Board Vice Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung.
The fun continues outside at Queen Elizabeth Park plaza, the highest point in the city, with holiday lights, pony rides and tasty treats.
Tickets are $8.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and youth, $5.25 for children and $19 for families. Children three and under are free. Advance tickets can be purchased at VanDusen Garden and online.
And anyone buying tickets to Festival of Lights at VanDusen Garden, receives free entry to Enchanted Nights—two events for the price of one! The Park Board is also offereing a special deal to Bright Night Christmas Train attendees who receive two for one coupons to Enchanted Nights.
Free parking at Bloedel is available at the top lot Queen Elizabeth Park. More information about the event can be found at Vancouver.ca/EnchantedNights.
Bloedel Conservatory and VanDusen Garden are jointly operated by the Park Board and VanDusen Botanical Garden Association. 
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Media contact:
Vancouver Park Board

03 December 2015

Park Board Support for Refugees

At the 16 November 2015 meeting of the Park Board I submitted the following notice of motion. It will be debated at the regular meeting of the Park Board on 14 December 2015.

Notice of Motion: Refugee Support
Moved by: Commissioner Mackinnon
Seconded by: Commissioner Wiebe

  • Whereas our city has a long and proud history of welcoming refugees and helping them start new lives with hope, security, and freedom here in Canada;
  • And that Vancouver and communities across the country have a longstanding commitment to welcoming refugees and their families in times of need. This is the heart of our inclusive, compassionate, and diverse city;
  • And that Vancouver has taken steps to increase our capcity to welcome refugees, and we will continue to do so--the City has contributed $4.1 million in land and grants for the construction of an innovative new Vancouver Welcome House for refugees.
 Therefore be it resolved that the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation work with the City of Vancouver, our Community Centre Association partners, and the Immigrant Settlement Services (ISS) of BC to support refugees living in Vancouver;

And that staff report back to the Board of the measures taken to welcome and support refugees.