Patrick Couling, a board member of the False Creek Community Centre on Granville Island for 27 years, agrees with opposition candidates that the primarily Vision-COPE Park Board has lost independence.
According to Couling, Park Board staff have plenty of strong opinions on the issue, but hesitate to voice them publicly due to concerns over their own job security.
“There was a time, up until this last group, when the Parks Board commissioners would go to war with City Council! Now, they just roll over and play dead [when the city cuts their budget].”
In Couling’s mind, the Park Board cuts represent a misallocation of priorities. He is especially concerned about some community centres in the city in need of renovations and earthquake-proofing, who will have to make do for at least another year.
In 2011, $200,000 – more than a quarter of the total cuts to the Park Board – fell on recreation services, including community centres.
In 2010, the recreation budget actually increased, but the additional funding was earmarked for new facilities built in 2009; pools, ice rinks and community centres still saw a 5 per cent cutback overall.
Staffers acknowledge that some discretionary spending projects — including building refurbishment — have been delayed as a consequence.
“[The City Manager] is a nice lady, but she’s having to balance the [city’s] budget around programs that probably never should have been brought in,” Couling said. “The pie hasn’t shrunk; they’ve spread it out. It’s a philosophical problem.”