Local programs and seniors lunches will not be cut, said Park Board general manager Malcolm Bromley to a full house at Kerrisdale Community Centre on Tuesday night.
Hundreds of people came to the centre’s auditorium. Two overflow rooms were needed as people kept coming, many of them seniors.
The open house was organized by the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society to discuss a new partnership agreement with the Vancouver Park Board. If approved, the agreement would centralize financial operations and harmonize fees in all 24 centres.
“I’m on the side of the parks board, because I was unaware there was even an association before all this blew up,” said Joy Oxton, who uses the Kerrisdale fitness centre. “I’ve always thought that my money was going to the parks board and I’m horrified to find out that it isn’t.”
Marianne Kropf, who eats daily at the seniors lunch program where she pays $5.20 per meal said she does not know how she would make ends meet without it. “It’s a very reasonable program,” she said.
Park Board and Community Centre board thoroughly disagree
Park board general manager Bromley insisted that surplus revenues should be redistributed.
The current model works well in Kerrisdale, but not in every centre, he said. Think beyond Kerrisdale, he said as boos from the audience rose. “Be reasonable.”
Robert Lockhart, vice-president of Kerrisdale Community Centre Society, passionately refused to “agree on the lowest common denominator.” “KCC was built by the people, using the people’s money, working with the community. Suddenly the parks board wants our revenue,” Lockhart said amid the applause of the crowd.
Jesse Johl, president of Hillcrest Community Centre, the former Riley Park centre, cautioned against radical decisions. He said the Hillcrest centre needs more space, and some of the changes, like tearing down the old building, were regrettable. “Take your hands off our centre,” chanted Johl to four park board commissioners present.
Four Park Board commissioners present; only two speak up
Commissioners Melissa De Genova and John Coupar, both NPA, took the opportunity to speak. De Genova thanked the crowd for coming out and Coupar said that one can “fix this with a screwdriver, not with a hammer.” Commissioners Constance Barnes and Niki Sharma, both Vision Vancouver, were present, but did speak publicly.
“I love it when Vancouverites are so passionate about something,” Bromley said in an interview after the meeting. He said he hopes the time frame for the negotiations between the community centre associations and the Park Board will be as short as one month.
That might be optimistic, considering the association of community centres is planning a media campaign and legal action, as Lockhart stated.
A similar event took place almost simultaneously at Killarney Community Centre.
Reported by Katja De Bock
In the video: the entertainment highlight of the evening was a rant in ballad style in support of the community centre: