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Save the Park Board and local democracy! Reform, not abolition, says TEAM for a Livable Vancouver




VANCOUVER, Dec. 11, 2023 — TEAM for a Livable Vancouver is in the fight against ABC’s proposal to abolish Vancouver’s elected Park Board.

 

People from all parts of the political spectrum are angry about this assault on local democracy. We need to make our voices heard and stop it before it’s too late.

  

TEAM for a Livable Vancouver is calling for change at the Park Board – not its abolition.

 

Park Boards have made irresponsible decisions in the past 10 years under the influence of City Council, staff and special interests that have adversely affected the health and usability of our parks and recreation system. This has weakened the Board's ability to fulfil its mandate.

 

The unique administrative structure of our elected Park Board dates back to Vancouver's early history. People recognized the need for an independent body accountable to the public to balance the mandate of the City to develop land. ABC’s proposed abolition of the Board would upset that balance – and open the door to the loss of our precious parkland to ABC’s big-money developer friends.

 

Sim and ABC are trying to justify this blatant power grab with a bunch of myths that just don’t hold water. Let’s go through them one by one:

 

Myth #1: Abolishing the Park Board will save taxpayers money

 

The ABC task force on the City budget is months late completing its “fine-tooth combing” of City finances. No comprehensive audit has even begun at the Park Board.

 

Myth #2: City management can run the Park Department more efficiently than current staff

 

Centralized control means reduced efficiency because Park Department staffers have locally-based knowhow that helps them get things done by working with local communities.

 

About 46% of the Park Board’s budget comes from golf courses, concessions, community centres and other attractions. They need to be managed efficiently and transparently. Elected commissioners, accountable to residents, ensure that their concerns are aired and that the buck stops somewhere.

 

Myth #3: There’s no need for an elected Park Board

 

Abolishing the democratically elected Park Board is comparable to the Province taking away the rights of cities to conduct public hearings. Both are assaults on local democracy and the public’s right to be heard. Since Vancouver doesn’t have a ward system, the Park Board plays a vital role in ensuring community participation in the political process and delivering specialized services at the community level.

 

An elected Park board answers to the public, not City Council. We saw the Park Board at work on our behalf when it voted unanimously -- across party lines -- to have the Broadway Plan include parks and recreation services to match population growth.

 

Myth #4: Vancouver is the only city in Canada to have a Park Board

 

Vancouver is the only major city in Canada to have an elected Park Board. If Vancouver’s parks were administered by Council, the City would be able to sell parkland as it sees fit through City Hall’s Real Estate Department. The Park Board doesn’t have the power to sell off parkland.

 

Ken Sim and ABC don’t have the historical perspective and institutional knowledge needed to operate Vancouver’s parks. What they do have is the backing of big developers who are casting a greedy eye on the city’s precious parkland – which Vancouver has less of than most other North American cities.

 

Sim’s arrogance has cost ABC its Park Board majority. Three ABC Park Board commissioners have expressed their opposition to the Sim power-grab and have left the party to sit as independent commissioners. It’s time to send a strong message to the rest of ABC that the people of Vancouver won’t idly stand by while democracy and our park system are under threat.

 

In its 2022 campaign,  ABC offered six superficial Park Board “priorities." So far the only thing we've seen is the alcohol-on-beaches trial.

 

In contrast, TEAM policy-makers spent nearly a year developing a detailed 28-point action plan to ensure an elected Park Board had the administrative structure and funding needed to properly manage the parks and recreation system. TEAM released its plan a full two and a half months ahead of election day.

 

A few highlights of the TEAM action plan:

·              Restore the Park Board’s authority over its operations and facilities by restoring finance, operations and facilities to the Board’s jurisdiction from the City’s planning, real estate and facilities departments

·              Stop the politicization of park management with policies and goals outside of the core mandate of maintaining and enhancing parks and recreation for all Vancouverites

·              Expand green spaces, recreational facilities and parks to address increasing density and existing park and amenity deficiencies -- especially on the east side, which has been historically under-served

·              Improve street tree management to protect existing mature trees and add new trees where currently underserved, with the goal that all city boulevards have healthy tree coverage

·              Resolve Stanley Park accessibility issues and introduce policies to ensure the Park and its facilities (Aquarium, restaurants, horse-drawn carriages, etc.) are accessible to everybody, including cyclists

·              Support local Community Centre Associations and their roles in their joint operation of community centre facilities

 

Vancouver voters came out in greater numbers in 2022 to elect Park Board commissioners than City Councillors.

 

TEAM calls on City Council to listen to the many experienced voices of former Commissioners and to Vancouverites who value their right to vote, and oppose the Mayor’s motion to abolish our elected Park Board.

 

Any question of an end to an elected Park Board must be put to the voters of Vancouver, honestly and openly, in the 2026 civic election.

 

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