Now it’s Up to Park Board

For the past three weeks, many Community Centre Associations (CCAs) have worked hard in collaboration with our legal counsel to develop the right language for the appendices for the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). Let’s put where we are in context.

Currently, about two-thirds of the CCAs have not signed the JOA.

We have been fighting this battle to get a JOA that works for each of our diverse communities for many years. The JOA that it is replacing is from 1979. We agree that it needs updating. Times have changed – a lot. That’s not all that has changed. Prior to 2009, the CCAs enjoyed a collaborative and effective working relationship with the Park Board. It became rocky when the Park Board stopped treating the CCAs like partners and began making decisions unilaterally without consulting them, and proceeding when we objected to how the Park Board was violating the spirit of or the actual language of the agreement.

It’s our role as CCAs to push back on this demand for increased control – it doesn’t serve our communities. And we have done that since 2009 – eight years. That is a very long time. It is 2,920 days. That is 70,080 hours. It is 4,204,800 minutes.

CCA presidents, board members and other representatives are volunteers. Along with their leadership role at their association (which manages the community centre in partnership with the Park Board), they have day jobs, they have professional and personal responsibilities, they have obligations. They have things they want to do other than meeting, working on getting a JOA, and pushing back on the Park Board. They are committed to getting an agreement that works for each of their communities. These are dedicated human beings who have sacrificed evenings and weekends. They have missed family gatherings, worked on the JOA on vacations, and got up early and stayed up late because they know that this is a critical turning point for community centres in Vancouver.

At 12:13 a.m. on Wednesday morning (I told you they were up late), the three CCAs (Hastings Community Association, Kerrisdale Community Centre Society and Killarney Community Centre Society) that are taking a more public role in pushing back on the JOA, submitted recommended language for the new clauses in Appendix C. CCAs have been told by the Park Board that it is in this Appendix that the six identified issues within the body of the JOA can be addressed. Park Board Commissioners and staff have acknowledged these six issues as serious and publically stated that they must be addressed before we can sign this contract.

The new clauses to be added to Appendix C was done through a collaborative process with the CCAs who have not signed the agreement. CCA legal counsel assisted in drafting the language. It is a serious document. And now, it’s up to the Park Board.

At a Park Board meeting on October 23, Commissioners finally stepped into a leadership role regarding the JOA. They voted to make two changes in the JOA that give the appendices strength, should a conflict arise. Then they directed staff to work with CCAs on the appendices and address the serious issues in the body of the JOA.

The Park Board needs to do what is right for the people of Vancouver and accept the language in the appendices that has been drafted by the people who have successfully run CCAs and community centres in Vancouver for decades (some more than 70 years).

We are at the turning point, folks. It’s up to staff – and Commissioners – to finally listen to the expertise and experience of the CCAs and get a JOA that works for the Park Board and the CCAs.

We will keep you posted on the Park Board’s response to these appendices. This is the last step in getting to a JOA that CCAs can accept and sign.

We are calling on Park Board staff and Commissioners to accept the language CCAs have put forward for Appendix C. CCAs were cautiously optimistic at the October 23 meeting. Now, we will find out if our hope that we could get a JOA that works for our community centres was misplaced.

The ball is in your court, Park Board.