Friday, September 28, 2007

Jurassic Park Board

God love the Vancouver Park Board.

I thought it would be a slow Friday until I read today's Vancouver Province, Sun, Courier and CBC.ca.

Park Board management has put out a sixty page request for proposals to locate 25 - 30 life-size animatronic roaring dinosaurs along the tracks of Stanley Park's miniature railway. After 8 years of re-introducing native plants back into Stanley Park we now wish to offer a touch of Drumheller.

Tourist Ylang Nguyen was shocked that animatronic robots might soon be part of the Stanley Park experience.

"We came to see nature -- that's why we flew all the way to B.C. from England," she said. "The last thing we want to see is robots."

Vancouver Province

Easy Jurassic jokes abounded today. It was recommended that Park Board consider the following less expensive Jurassic exhibits:

  • Susan Mundick, Park Board General Manager;
  • Lori Mackay, Director, Queen Elizabeth District;
  • Park Commissioner Marty "The Clear Cutter" Zlotnik; and
  • Park Commissioner Heather "I am not in a conflict" Holden.
Park Board senior management, for the past 8 years, have developed a jurrasic approach to Vancouver's community centres.

Community Centre development was a North America wide post WWII movement. They were meant to recognize the efforts of fallen soldiers and provide a balance of social and recreational opportunities for neighbourhood residents.

Now the goal is strictly recreational. The Vancouver Park Board "does not do social work" is General Manager Susan Mundick's constant refrain. What she really means is let's download social programs onto local non-profits.

Each community centre has a non-profit board which generates revenue through designing programs whose revenue subsidizes neighbourhood social/recreational programs for children, youth, adults and seniors.

Over the past three years Park Board has removed itself from child care (daycare / preschool) leaving the local non-profits, Community Associations, to pick up the costs.

These Community Associations can be strong and well organized or descend into a morass of myopia, fief building and nepotism. Most are strong and community focussed.

When a community program does generate significant revenue Park Board managers request a significant share of the profit. If the Community Association disagrees it becomes next to impossible to work with Park Board senior managers unless a photo opportunity presents itself.

Further, Park Commissioner Marty Zlotnik has mused about term limits. Two terms are required for Community Association board members to understand Park Board operations and politics. What Commissioner Zlotnik wants is to clear cut the experienced Community Association members and replace them with naive new members who will readily agree with whatever Park Commissioners recommend.

The tensions between Community Associations and Park Board management has come to a head over what is called the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). It's the rulebook which governs the relationship between the Park Board & Community Associations (non-profits).

The JOA, dated and requiring updates, has exacerbated Vancouver's east - west divide. The process involved bringing the Community Association presidents together on how to best jointly operate community centres.

Unfortunately these meetings were not well facilitated and presidents from east side centres felt marginalized by both the facilitator and their west side counterparts.

The result - an east side Presidents' table. When management representation was requested they were rebuffed though approximately 2/3rds of all community centres are on Vancouver's east side.

Park Board management's jurassic approach to community centres and their non profit Community Associations has resulted in perpetuating and stratifying the growing gap between Vancouver's recreational haves from its have nots.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said - couldn't say it any better!

Anonymous said...

RIght on the money!!!! Although I think you will find Commissioners taking the fall at the polls for the actions of this managment group. Park Board management forgets that they work for the taxpayers and the taxpayers own the facilities!

Time to hold these politicians accountable.

Anonymous said...

I heard the Vancouver East Presidents met with a City Council member regarding their concerns about cutting of Social issues in community centres. It would appear that this group is headed in the right direction and is not going to sit back and be pushed about by management. Lets all hope they keep it up and not back down!

The Blackbird said...
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The Blackbird said...
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jonuck said...

excellent - Jack Webster award for sure.........you know what is really bad about this is that those robots are left over from Storyeum!
Of all the most natural reserves Stanley Park deserves to stay natural as a jewel in the heritage of Vancouver - Lord Stanley must be turning over in his grave as they say

Isn't it in some charter that when he gave that land to Vancouver it was on the condition it was to be preserved?

Picket Boy said...

Stanley Park is actually federal land.

The City of Vancouver acts as caretaker but is not the owner.

It is possible to lobby the Federal government about this especially with a Federal election expected this fall.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about both these issues Picket Boy.
I'd urge everyone to lobby the park board first, before bothering with the federal government. Email the board at pbcomment@vancouver.ca.
I think this idea has gotten way too far already.

Spencer Herbert
Park Commissioner

Anonymous said...

Nice to see Commissioner Herbert checking in. I would also like to know how this got so far? And when and how did he find out about this? Was he briefed by Management?

It would appear that certain Commissioners knew all about it.

Is this report being written by management currently being paid $77 an hour?

If this is the most pressing issue for Park Board right now then we are in big trouble.

Anonymous said...

I heard about this proposal through the press. It was never discussed by the board.
I think what happened was the private company approached the chair, and then he spoke to his NPA colleagues and told staff to go ahead and write this 66 page Request for Proposals. One of our management staff also flew to Toronto to look at a version of this. And you're right - this was happening while the strike continued. It boggles the mind.
If an elected Commissioner is kept in the dark like this, you gotta wonder why we have an elected board, and what happened to democracy.

Spencer Herbert
Park Commissioner

spartikus said...

I've been involved in blog discussions since 2002, and every time I'm tempted to write the whole thing off as shouting matches and exercises in ego massage, I'm occasionally reminded of the promise this medium holds - such as elected officials interacting with members of the electorate.

Anonymous said...

So Spencer will the general manager Ms. Mundick be held accountable for her actions? Or will whe be free do this over and over again. She needs to be caled on the carpet!

Anonymous said...

Who authorized management to fly to Toronto? Will we be paying them $77 an hour to look at Dinosaurs?

Anonymous said...

Pete McMartins column in todays Sun tells the story. Someone from Park Board was at a party and heard of this. I guess this proves you do dumb things when you have been drinking.

Spencer said...

Hi there,

I am writing to you today as I've just been alerted that the proposal to put 25 to 30 large robotic dinosaurs into Stanley Park will be debated by the Park Board earlier than expected. The "Dinosaur Experience" will be discussed at the Planning Committee on Tuesday October 23rd. The Planning Committee will be recommending whether or not this proposal should continue to the full board for approval.
Articles with more detail can be found here:

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=ae4cc88e-25ff-4c2c-b960-201abe3ad374&k=77294

I think it is vital that the public let the Planning Committee, and Park Board know what they feel about a Jurassic Stanley Park.
The meeting is at 7PM on Tuesday October 23rd and will be held at 2099 Beach Avenue in the west end of Vancouver. To address the committee you need to sign up by Monday the 22nd at 12 noon which you can do by phoning 604-257-8451, or emailing pbcomment@vancouver.ca. If you are unable to come to speak it is vital that you email the board your thoughts. An email can be directed to igrobertson@telus.net, korina.houghton@vancouver.ca, adegenova@sutton.com, spencer.herbert@vancouver.ca, heather@heatherholden.ca, lorettaisalways@shaw.ca, martyz@zlc.net.

If you are as concerned about this proposal as I am, and don't believe robotic dinosaurs are the right fit for Stanley Park please forward this message to your contacts, and urge them to let the Park Board know what they think.

I hope to hear from you soon,

Spencer
Spencer Herbert
Park Commissioner
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
spencer.herbert@vancouver.ca
778-859-4905