24 October 2010

Sunset Beach Community Garden: Great idea, Wrong location

A proposal was brought to the Park Board to create an inter-cultural community garden in the west end of Vancouver. Sponsored by the YMCA Connections in partnership with the West End Residents Association (WERA) and Gordon Neighbourhood House, the proposal would have placed the garden in a grassy area at Sunset Beach. This area is well used by local residents and visitors to the beach. After some consultation it became very apparent that this location did not have local support and so the proposal was withdrawn.

This has brought into question the whole idea of where community gardens should be located and what kind of public consultation should take place. Local residents complained that signage was minimal and located away from from paths and sidewalks. Local residents also said that while they supported a community garden, the proposed location was inappropriate as it was already well used.

The City of Vancouver and the Park Board are great supporters of community gardens as a way of building community and increasing local food capacity. While the latter goal may be debatable, the idea of building community in a diverse and dense population like Vancouver's is good. What needs to be discussed is where community gardens should be located. Are they a good use of parkland? Are there alternatives to parkland? Is building community gardens in parks "privatizing public space" as some have suggested? Does the city have unused land in its inventory that could be an alternative?

Before new proposals for community gardens in public parks are brought before the Park Board, I think both City Councillors and Park Board Commissioners need to look at where community gardens can best be located. Rather than the piecemeal process that is in place now, that often pits garden proponents against park users, I think an overall strategy, that includes public input, needs to be developed.

17 October 2010

Parks and Recreation are integral to city life

On such a beautiful Sunday afternoon it's hard not to love Vancouver! The sky is blue, the air is crisp and the leaves are turning into golden confetti. The budget process is under way in the city and news has leaked that the City is $20 million short again this year. For the past two years deficits have meant cuts to the Park Board. Cuts to community services like summer day camps, park maintenance, and community centre programs.

It is important for citizens to participate in the budget process and let City Council know that parks and recreation are important. Parks and community centres are what make our busy city lives manageable. Can you imagine your neighbourhood without gardens and trees? Can you imagine your kids not being able play in the local park? Can you imagine no swimming pools, skating rinks, or community centres? The Park Board looks after all these amenities and much, much more.

Contact the Mayor and City Councillors and tell them that parks are important; that community centres are important; that trees are important. Tell them not to cut Parks and Recreation this year. Write to them at: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

15 October 2010

Park Board Budget

Public input requested
on proposed Park Board 2011 Fees & Charges
and 2011 Operating Budget Priorities

October 15, 2010 – The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation is requesting feedback from the public on proposed changes to its 2011 Fees & Charges and 2011 Operating Budget. Over 40% of the Park Board’s budget is funded from fees and charges with the rest coming from taxes. Proposed changes to Fees & Charges include: inflationary fee increases of 4% in most areas, with different adjustments proposed for Golf, Parking, VanDusen Gardens and Stanley Park Train; reducing the age at which children are charged admission from 6 to 3 years; introducing youth playfield fees; and changing the pricing structure for low cost sessions from Loonie/Toonie sessions to 50% off regular drop in fees.

Residents are also invited to provide input on a number of new revenue options such as sponsorships, advertising and expanded pay parking.

The public can share their ideas through an online survey available on the Park Board web site. The survey includes questions about what services are considered most important by residents, what suggestions they have for improvement, how the fee structure should be set, and how programs might be prioritized in light of budget challenges.

Additional background information on 2011 operating budget
Details of the proposed 2011 fees & charges

The proposed fees and charges will be reviewed by the Park Board at its board meeting on Monday, November 15, 2010 at Killarney Community Centre so that changes can be implemented for next year. The Board will also continue to solicit public feedback on its 2011 budget priorities up to Park Board approval of the budget in January.


For more information contact Joyce Courtney, Communications Manager, at 604-257-8699 or 604-861-4375.

City of Vancouver 2011 Budget Consultation

From the Vancouver.ca website:

Do you want to have a say on next year's operating budget? More than 60% of the City’s operating budget is funded by property taxes, which help the City provide the important services that are part of our everyday lives — our well-maintained streets, green parks, libraries, community centres, and police and fire departments. You can help Council make its important decisions about the budget by being part of the consultation process coming up in the fall of 2010.

In the coming weeks, open houses and information displays are planned throughout the city. The public can learn about how the City budget is spent, current priorities and how the City’s operating budget affects everyday programs and services that citizens value. Participants will have the chance to provide their input on how council prioritizes city spending and discuss the importance of library hours, community centre and park operations, police and fire services, street work, garbage collection schedules and other such priorities.

Key dates include:

- October 18: Budget displays mounted at Vancouver Public Library’s central branch and City Hall; budget information booklets distributed to community centres and library branches throughout the city, and posted on the City’s web site

- October 19: Preliminary budget report goes to City Council

- October 20: Start of online and phone surveys on budget priorities

- October 27: Presentation on budget to Vancouver’s multicultural communities

- October 28: Open house at City Hall

- October 28 to November 20: Series of community stakeholder discussions

- End of November : Report back on public input for the budget

- Mid-December: Final decision by Council on the budget

Join the mailing list for information and updates on meetings, send an e-mail to: obc-subscribe@list.vancouver.ca

11 October 2010

What Ever Happened to Civil Debate and the Exchange of Ideas?

This past week the Vancouver Sun published an Op/Ed written by former city counsellor Jim Green, in which he accuses public policy analyst and developer Michael Geller of being prejudiced against homeless people and the poor. This is yet another example of the drive by smear that is becoming too common in local politics; pundits and politicians who, rather than address the issues, choose to attack and besmirch the intelligence and reputations of those they disagree with. I don't doubt that Mr. Green and Mr. Geller have differing views on civic affairs, but Mr. Green, in a bullying and nasty piece, chose to attack Mr. Geller personally.

I know Michael Geller and admire him greatly. We probably do not agree on everything either, but he certainly is not prejudiced and to suggest so is not only unkind, but I believe, despicable. Michael Geller worked for many years with CMHC building homes for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. He has very definite views on the Olympic Village fiasco, which he shares with anyone who will listen or read. He has the ability to translate complex planning issues into language most people can understand. He is a kind, honest and compassionate man and we here in Vancouver are lucky that he devotes so much of his time to public policy.

During the summer I too was at the receiving end of this kind of smear. The Chair of the Vancouver Park Board, Aaron Jasper, accused me of mischief and putting the Park Board at risk. He did not address the issue at hand but rather chose to attack my honesty and integrity.

It is little wonder that so few good people are drawn into public life, and that most people have such low opinions of politicians. When civil debate is not possible, public policy loses. When the exchange of ideas turns into an exchange of insults, people turn away. It is time that public figures were held to account. It is time to say enough is enough. Stop the personal attacks and debate the issues. There should be no place in politics for cheap shots and personal smears.