Did Vision Vancouver Park Board candidates seek a mandate to change Joint Operating Agreements (JOA) with the Park Board?

Change is a difficult process whether on the personal level or on the public policy front. The plan for the Vancouver Park Board (VPB) to reform the relationship between itself and Community Centre Associations (CCA) has been a long-troubled process.

JOA between the Vancouver Park Board and Community Centre Association

Vancouver’s 22 community centres (CC) are jointly operated between not-for-profit Community Centre Associations (CCA). The relationship is governed by a contract called the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). The JOA outlines responsibilities and duties of the two parties over different areas of delegated authority. For example, the current JOA outlines that VPB pay the wages of staff, such as programmers, front-line workers and maintenance staff. The CCA sets policy for the centre through its committees and boards and advises programmers on community needs for programs. Programmers at CC hire contractors to deliver courses and programs and the CCA set the price of these programs. Revenues from the programs are retained by the CCA. The surplus in programing or “retained earnings” is controlled by the CCA and is usually spent in negotiations with VPB staff (see page 5 of GM’s presentation).ParkBoardSpecialMeetingPresentation

While on the surface it may seem a fair system for the CCA to control the surplus revenue that is generated at their Centre, there are some mitigating factors to be considered. Not all CC have the ability to raise the same levels of revenue. Also, it is important to remember that taxpayers’ funds were used for the capital cost of the building and also all expenses of the CC are paid from taxes. Even surpluses that have been applied to capital expenditures like gyms, came from the investment of tax dollars. Should all of these surplus dollars be retained and not shared at least in part over the whole network of community centres? This is one of the questions that the proposed reform of JOA is attempting to address.

4 principles of the proposed negotiation framework

At the well-attended and controversial special Park Board meeting on Monday, February 4 at the West End CC, the General Manager reviewed a proposed framework for a new partnership agreement. The framework agreement is built on 4 principles:

1. Equity Among Community Centres: All Vancouver citizens have access to a core set of programs that lead to healthy living and ultimately, to healthy communities.

2. Access to a Network of Community Centres: System that allows for a universal membership or other system to be used for all rinks, pools, fitness centres, and core programs across all community centres.

3. Access For All Citizens: Single policy and process that respects confidentiality to ensure all residents have access to basic recreation programs and services regardless of income.

4. Operational Sustainability and Accountability: An operating relationship for community centres that is sustainable, accountable and transparent.
(Page 11 of GM’s power point)

Equity and the distribution of low income cut off

27% of Vancouver residents fall below the low income cut off (LICO). LICO is a statistical tool used by Stats Canadian to give measure poverty in comparison to other families of similar size in their community. One can learn more about LICO on Stats Can website. In Vancouver folks living below the low income cut off are distributed over the whole city. With the highest concentration at the West End, Coal Harbour, Strathcona, Thunderbird and Marpole community centres having LICO populations of up to 40% (p. 12).

Leisure Access Card (LAC)

The Leisure Access Card (LAC) is program run by the Park Board to provide for more access to frec programs and service at the community centres, that is designed to be respectful and discrete for folks living below the low income cu offt. That card provides for a 50% discount on programs and service and one can learn more about the programhere. Unfortunately the LAC is not universally accepted at all the community centres.

JOA renewal

The JOA renewal process has been broken for a long time. I remember going to meetings when I was at the board of the West End CC in 2004. There has been a commonly held suspicion of CCA board members about the city infringing on the autonomy of the Park Board and of the Park Board undermining the independence of the CCA. The lack of trust has hampered the negotiations between the two partners. During the last election no civic political party took a position on what the solutions would be beyond vague generalities about “working with CCA partners in a respectful way”.

Is revenue sharing a form of progressive taxation?

There has been much consultation on the Park Board’s plans to renew the JOA between staff and CCAs with more than 30 meetings alone in 2012. The status quo is not acceptable and more equity needs to be established in our Community Centre network. Devising some negotiated formula to share surplus across the whole Community Centre network would be like a form of “progressive taxation” where some of the resources from rich centres would be re-distributed to centres that are lacking in comparison.

The very basis of progressive politics is the need to make change to create social justice and equity. No question the process of change is as important as the change itself. These changes that the current Park Board are proposing should have been raised in the last election. Some of the fear and anger around this issue stems from a growing mistrust of the democratic process and of elected officials. Elections seemed to be filled with platitudes, photo ops and sound bites and are lacking in real policy discussion. Let’s be honest too, a lot of the outcry about the proposed changes in the JOA is motivated by politics. The NPA are so desperate to regain control of the Park Board and City Hall that every change is being depicted as, “one of the most significant 125 year historical changes in the history of the Park Board”. This fearmongering in communities is deeply disturbing and a disappointingly exploitive tactic

8 Responses to “Did Vision Vancouver Park Board candidates seek a mandate to change Joint Operating Agreements (JOA) with the Park Board?”

  1. Aaron Jasper says:

    In 2011 the Vision Vancouver Park Board caucus did campaign on equity, accessibility and affordability.

    In our platform, under “Affordable Programs for Everyone” we stated:

    Accessibility for children, seniors, and families of all incomes is at the heart of Vision’s commitment to parks and recreation. We have some of the best parks facilities in the world, but it is important that all residents – not just the well-off – have the ability to enjoy them.

    Next term, the Vision Park Board will ensure that all fees are consistent and affordable and will also ensure that the universal “flexipass” and “Leisure Access Cards” are honoured at all Park Board facilities.

    After the election, the Vision majority tasked staff with making it happen. The funding model presented by Malcolm Bromley on Monday night, is in staff’s opinion, the best option for achieving our goals. We look forward to the CCA’s bringing their own ideas to the table.

    It is worth noting that while the NPA commissioners stated their opposition to staff’s funding model proposal, what they actually voted against on Monday night was the Park Board engaging in facilitated negotiations with the CCA’s as well a public consultation process on the matter.

    Aaron Jasper, Vice Chair
    Vancouver Park Board

  2. Lesli Boldt says:

    To be fair, Vision Vancouver candidates ran on a platform of “affordable programs for all” in 2011. This from the Vision platform:

    “*Affordable Programs for Everyone*

    Accessibility for children, seniors, and families of all incomes is at the
    heart of Vision’s commitment to parks and recreation. We have some
    of the best parks facilities in the world, but it is important that all
    residents – not just the well-off – have the ability to enjoy them.

    Next term, the Vision Park Board will ensure that all fees are consistent
    and affordable and will also ensure that the universal “flexipass” and
    “Leisure Access Cards” are honoured at all Park Board facilities.”

  3. Paul Tolnai says:

    To be fair Lesli, the BC Liberals also ran on a mandate to balance the budget. And to be fair, they put the HST in to do just that. Worked pretty well for them, I’d say.

    Something like 3/4 of the community centres had already signed on to LACs and flexipass. Seems like a sledge hammer was brought out, when what was really needed was a board capable of bargaining in good faith.

  4. Lesli Boldt says:

    It’s fantastic that most community centres have proposed to accept the LAC and flexipasses at all locations (it’s not reality yet, but hopefully will be soon) – we weren’t there as recently as last year. So you’re absolutely right, we’ve come a long way. Good people doing good things together yields great results.

    And I voted in favour of the HST.

  5. David Murray says:

    While the 4 principles on page 4 sound great, the cash grab and power grab spelled out on pages 20-21 will destroy a strong network of community support.

    Yes, the 1979 JOA’s are out of date, but the CCA’s are NOT. Even the ‘Have-Not’ communities have excellent community centre services and already have effective funding models available to them as NFP and Charity organizations. Ask them and they will tell you the City’s actions put their services at great risk.

    Neutering the CCA’s is the first step in neutering the Vancouver Park Board; and that would be a sad state. Vancouver Park Board needs to step-up and begin advocating for Parks and Recreation again. Keep Vancouver Green. Keep Vancouver the most livable city on the planet. Keep Vancouver healthy.

  6. B says:

    David, just writing “cash grab” and “power grab” doesn’t mean anything. I have read these phrases many times but have yet to see anyone spell out exactly how the Park Board vote or even the presentation by PB staff would lead to either.

    If it’s a cash grab, it’s the least effective one in political history. The presentation states very clearly that all moneys raised through PB fees would go directly into PB programming and services. And I believe the PB budget was increased by $2.4 million for 2013 – hardly shows the need for the PB to grab a couple million dollars for some nefarious reason.

    And as for a power grab, it’s pretty clearly spelled out in the presentation that CCAs will still be responsible for determining local programming and services, providing input on facility decisions, etc.

    And finally, all that is pure speculation: the Park Board voted to approve staff recommendations that direct them to continue negotiations and to initiate public consultation. Hardly the stuff of cash grabs and power grabs.

  7. David Murray says:

    per: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8tulkveujcnfdfz/Slide%2020.png (see reference below)

    Given the challenges we have faced over the past few years, it is hard NOT to read this as:
    “Single CCA decision-making body” = consolidation of power
    “Pool future tax-based and _Facility_Based_ revenues to optimize access, equity, and outcomes” = consolidation of revenues.

    Note: The City has cut PB funding over the past 3 years, I am not sure how much, but they specified $1.2M/yr be targeted specifically against CC’s. This was during the recession when people were out-of-work, school closures were being enacted, and CC usage was INCREASING (Parks and recreation is a ‘reverse’ market; demand increases with a recession).

    PB Should have been Championing Parks and Recreation, but instead were ‘caving’ to their civic masters. I reminded PB of this in early 2010, and many times since to then chair Aaron and GM Malcolm.

    PB, instead, cut programming including wading park programs (= empty pools), child-minding, reduced operating hours, implemented sunday closures, has cut sr. programming staff in half, cut recreation supervisor hours in half (the s.r staff member on site), and instructed their staff to create programming in CC space with revenue flowing to PB rather than the Associations contrary to the 1979 agreements (e.g. Spin Cycle and Personal Trainers).

    Adding $2.4M (to PB, but not necessarily back to the CC’s) this year and promising programs won’t be cut for another year seems disingenuous, really.

    I HOPE the negotiations continue in good faith, and support the process, but you must appreciate that if the city forces the PB to become entrenched in the centralization of funding and power, the negotiations will fail. Over a lousy (net) $1M.

    And (speculation hat on here) wouldn’t that serve the city just fine? Destroy the partnership between PB and 100’s community volunteers, weaken PB’s mandate, and the City can come in a year later and ‘clean up’? Sigh

    ref: http://former.vancouver.ca/parks/board/2013/130204/ParkBoardSpecialMeetingPresentation.pdf

  8. B says:

    David said:

    Given the challenges we have faced over the past few years, it is hard NOT to read this as:
    “Single CCA decision-making body” = consolidation of power
    “Pool future tax-based and _Facility_Based_ revenues to optimize access, equity, and outcomes” = consolidation of revenues.

    How would this CCA body with some form of consolidated power translate into a power grab by the Park Board? That reads like a formalization of the All Presidents Group to me – not sure how that can be interpreted as a power grab by the Park Board.

    Consolidation of revenues, if retained within the Community Centres system, wouldn’t be anything like a cash grab.

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