News
Dec 01, 2009

Park Board defers vote on service cuts for public input

VANCOUVER—Vancouver Park Board voted on Tuesday night (Nov. 17) to defer a vote on service cuts to allow for more public input. The meeting was packed with concerned citizens who listened to staff’s recommendations and spoke against cuts to community centres and the closing of both the children’s farmyard at Stanley Park and the Bloedel Conservatory.


The staff report calls for 60 FTE positions cut, with service losses to community centres, parks maintenance, Sunset Nursery, garbage pick-up, street cleaning, and the City’s street tree program. The cuts would save $2.8 million.


Commissioners questioned when details of the report would be released. Many people at the meeting criticized a flawed process that did not allow for full public input or reaction to the suggested cuts. One speaker suggested it was like being told you were getting elective surgery –but without being told what surgery was to be done until after the operation was completed.


CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro challenged the board to stand up for public services and to “defend proper funding for our park system.”


Faoro commented on the poor process and lack of consultation. He said that the recommended cuts did not protect core services: “If community centres are not core programs, I don’t know what is.”


Faoro advised the board that CUPE 15 had filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board under Section 54, which requires discussion between the parties involved to seek alternatives prior to layoffs. Faoro also said that VANOC should reimburse the City for $1.8 million in parking revenue the City is losing because of street closures during the Olympics.


CUPE 1004 president Mike Jackson told the Park Board that they could use city crews more efficiently and streamline a new management structure instead of cutting services for residents. Jackson cautioned the board that they had no analysis of what will happen over the long term because of cuts. He reminded the board that public workers deliver quality services.


“When we do the work, we’re accountable. We take pride in the work we do and the services we provide our community,” said Jackson.


Mavis Hnidy, who works as a cashier at Bloedel Conservatory, spoke about how much she cares about her job: “I love that place. I’ve never stood up to speak anywhere before.” Hnidy spoke about how important the conservatory is to visitors and asked that the board find a way to keep it open. “We’re the only place like this in North America,” she said.


Many other speakers throughout the evening spoke passionately about the importance – to Vancouver residents of all ages – of services at community centres.


Many workers from the farmyard attended the meeting and cheered when one of the participants said how much these workers care about the animals, many of them rescue animals. A woman speaking in support of the farmyard was concerned that some of the animals may end up on “the auction block.” She said that closing the farmyard doesn’t affect only the animals: “every service that you cut will impact thousands of families.”


CUPE 1004 members who work at the farmyard are dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. They are workers who have been auxiliary for at least five years and have turned down full time status in order to stay at the farmyard. Although the cuts call for 5FTEs, the reality is that all 9 auxiliary workers will lose their jobs.


At the end of the evening, the park board voted to defer the vote on the recommended cuts to allow for more public consultation. To contact the Commissioners, go to http://vancouver.ca/parks/board/commissioners.htm.


The Vancouver Public Library Board will also be voting on recommended cuts on November 25 at 5:30 PM at the Central Library Branch.


“I encourage everyone to come to this meeting so that we can make sure that our fantastic, culturally-diverse collections stay public and that frontline library services are not gutted,” says CUPE 391 president Alex Youngberg.


“Let’s speak up to protect library hours of opening and to ensure no library neighbourhood branches are closed.” To ensure a seat at the meeting or to register to speak, please call 604-331-3603.


The next meeting of the park board is scheduled for Monday, November 30.


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