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Park and library cuts decided, while Vancouver foregoes parking revenue

November 26th, 2009 · 16 Comments

Here’s the Vancouver Sun’s recap of last night’s difficult park and library board meetings (though unfortunately doesn’t specify the third park board commissioner who voted against the cuts). Also a little confusing, as Loretta Woodcock says there are sponsors willing to fund the petting zoo and conservatory, but Ian Robertson makes it sound as though the sponsors won’t have a chance to donate now that the board’s made the decision to close the two attractions.

On other news from the there-will-be-blood budget front, my pal Allen Garr did a fun FOI to find out how much the city is giving up in parking revenue by allowing people to get one free “get out of parking ticket” pass just by making a call to city hall begging for mercy. (I have to say, as an aside, that I used this once and so am not completely opposed to this freebie. I also wonder if it would really net the city that much more money as my bet is that some people just wouldn’t pay anyway, even if they didn’t get the forgiveness.)

And over on citycaucus, an interesting questionnaire circulating among exempt staff at city hall, apparently, asking how they feel about giving up a four-per-cent salary increase.

Categories: City Hall Talk

  • Council is in a difficult position – our city government is starved of revenue by senior levels of government while being forced to deal with increasingly expensive costs for social ills the other levels of government have walked away from.

    But this Council also brought some of this mess on themselves, needlessly firing non-political staff (leaving us to wonder if they were fired because they were non-political?) with huge severance packages totaling in the millions of dollars, and extravagant hires brought in from outside Vancouver with large incentives adding additional millions to the city’s overhead. Are we really getting the most value from those high-priced hires?

    And, as some have suggested, eliminating all new staff positions and offering an early retirement program might help save the jobs now under threat.

    Finally, perhaps they could find savings in the $1 Billion “security” budget for the Olympics. The VPD’s expensive new “Deafenator” sonic weapon is one example – if its ability to deafen innocent citizens has been turned off, why not just return it for a refund?

  • Chris

    Considering how expensive land is, it’s amazing that we give it away for free parking. Where we do charge for parking, it’s often cheaper per sq foot then most of us pay for rent.

    The city should start charging more for parking. It would help the budget and discourage people from driving.

  • Alex

    what the #$%$ are they thinking?

    based on my experience working for the eng. department, the city should be pulling in much higher revenues from its parking operations. the city writes far fewer tickets per bylaw officer than just about everywhere else on the continent. i know of one accountant who never feeds the meter downtown because he has calculated that it is just cheaper to pay the tickets than pay for parking.

  • One other thought would be to not go ahead with the 100 new police officers Vision committed to hiring, at an annual cost of approximately $12,000,000. Crime rates continue going down while budgets continue rising, despite Chief Chu’s great efforts to hold down costs.

    When it comes down to a budget choice between police or parks, the answer is an easy one – the arts, parks and recreational opportunities help parents raise well-adjusted kids that won’t become crime statistics later in life.

  • Darcy McGee

    Yeah well, this park board voted to take down the hollow tree too and that particular dog is still standing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t follow through on this either.

    As for parking…it’s too cheap in Vancouver. Of course I rarely use it…parking revenues could supplement public transit services.

  • cw

    Actually this park board voted 6-1 to keep the hollow tree standing, but the repairs were supposed to have been done last summer. They just voted to extend the time for putting it upright for the 2nd time.

  • Rick in Sooke

    Requiring senior management to forego a wage increase should be a no-brainer. Over the past 10 years, some positions have received pay increases that are more than ten times the increases received by unionized staff. And since the days of re-engineering when bunches of management positions were eliminated through reorganization, the highly valued and expensive department heads have been working diligently to replace all these positions and add even more, so that some departments now have a higher management to worker ratio than ever. All it would take is for Council to do its own review of staffing, including doing serious performance reviews of all managers – as if!

    Remember, right now all the recommendations for cuts are coming from the highly paid senior management, and not one has suggested getting rid of thier own, or their friend’s, positions.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Good thing they didn’t cut the budget for “Project Paradise” — we really need that red carpet to keep rolling out for the big corporations. I mean, who needs the conservatory — a functional, local, “green” enterprise that helps connect urban kids to nature and attract tourism — when you might, maybe, possibly, five years down the road, attract some large “greenish” type corporation to an industrial park somewhere in Metro. And some bright folks call this “city building”? What does the Greenest City team think?

    Quit wasting our money trying to capitalize on the Olympics, you fools!

    And I agree with Sean: 1oo more cops? Why, so the VDP can try to top their record of 1300 tickets given to homeless people this year? Tickets that will never, ever get paid? Do the math: 1300 tickets = how much time to write up and causes how much admin paperwork? What a bloody waste of resources!!!

    Tough choices in bad times, we can all live with. Dumb, shortsighted, wasteful ones on the other hand….

  • Otis Krayola

    No, Darcy, this Park Board voted to ‘save’ the hollow tree, in spite of Stuart Mackinnon’s arguments to the contrary.

    Much in the same way that Lenin is ‘preserved’ these decades after his demise.

    A miracle of waxworks, taxidermy, and refrigeration.

  • jesse

    “parking revenues could supplement public transit services.”

    Haha good one. You know very well it goes to general revenue. Can someone clarify why the City is all of a sudden in such a big hole? Have the federal and provincial governments scaled back or is there something else going on? I haven’t seen what’s changed since last year.

  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of the Day
    “It’s this age-old chicken versus egg question, that bothers me lately. Which came first, the “Business Friendly Politicians” or the “Friendly Business Campaign Donors”?”

    On other blogs I read some political wannabes asking rhetorically, I assume, why did the Park Board not look for some private donors, hmm, beforehand.
    I say, hey, you expert Bozos and public freebies giveaway lovers, why look for some private donors and not look at the cause of this problem, dead on.
    Which is… cuts in funding across the city and the province to almost any and every public amenity, during which time the majority of greedy but friendly Corporations are getting Tax Breaks in the $Millions and money, money, money are shoved with a wheel bucket at anything that starts with the word “Olympic”.

    The four VV commissioners that voted recently for the cuts are nothing short of a bunch of part time, stay at home, politrucks. In the real world if you go to any Casino in town to try out your luck it’s highly unlikely to align the three cherries on any of the several One Hand Bandit Slot Machines, even after thousands of tries. But for these four, no problem, they can pull Four voting Cherries anytime cause’ the whole Party Machine is full of cherries only!
    Isn’t this great?
    It’s so sad to watch those guys, explaining themselves. It’s like watching four senior ballerinas on full dozes of Robaxicin performing Ravel’s Bolero. And I’m talking Maurice Bejart here…yea, they wish.

    The story on these types of corporate sponsorships is an old item. I don’t understand why some are crying foul only now. Tell you how it is done.
    The numbers below in $$$$ are fictitious, the real numbers could be even more frightening for the average taxpayer. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.

    First, the political clique in power in Victoria eyes a public asset that needs to be “rehabilitated” or “taken care of”. Let’s take for example, a public educational amenity, named The Wonders of Science.
    Funding for programs, staff…in the amount of $ 2 million is cut by the Province. During the same time a big friendly corporation receives a couple or more $ millions in tax breaks (Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, BC Liberals) money that otherwise would have gone in the Provincial coffers…that initially funded “Wonders of Science”.
    The “victim” shouts “Help, anybody!?”
    To which the big friendly corporation responds in kind with a $ 2 million (formerly known as taxpayer’s money) sponsorship proposal. W of S accepts, how could they not? The big friendly corporation gets a $1+ million Tax credit for their charitable donation on their Corporate Tax Break of $2 million contributed to the cause. Voila!
    Now it looks as if the Province is throwing $ 2+ million dollars at the big friendly corporation in tax Breaks and Credits during which time the big friendly corporation gets to have their name on the Marquee… and gets to keep $ 1+millon. And that is how “Wonders of Science” becomes “Talk about Us Instead of Science”.
    Extrapolate and multiply from here on.
    If I was a tax break beneficiary I would cut a cheque to my friends in the BC Liberal Party during the next election campaign, wouldn’t you?
    JUST IN!
    Recently inaugurated, the GE Ice Plaza (bye, bye, Robson Square); we’ll probably have a Toyota Art Gallery and a Bell Conservatory, maybe a Wal-Mart Library or why not, a Coca Cola aquatic center for the thirsty.
    With a bit of “luck” a KFC Animal Farm in Stanley park. Of course a Vancouver Visionary and/ or a BC Liberal will always see this venture as a practical way to offsetting some carbon credits, you know, by being compliant with the 100 mile diet.
    Will the chicken have a say in all this? Yes of course, they will have three choices: Original, Spicy and Pissed Off!
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • grumbelschmoll

    I find it totally amazing how in these times of much hyped fiscal restraint, cuts in public services and clearcut logging in the arts, there is no money to fund non-market housing unless we land a highrise district in Little Mountain, yet miraculously there will be $458 million to put a bleeping retractable roof on BC Place.

  • Bill Lee

    And having been in some branches on Sundays (the day most are cutting), those 4 hours are the heaviest use of the week, no chair to sit down, all computers in use, piles of books coming in and going out.

    These are walkable locations. Saying that one can go to Central or a further away branch does little good to local branch users. Maybe they expect the people to go to church? It is a warm and dry place that is not a shopping centre on a Sunday. Leave their budget alone.

    And speaking of the new GM Robson skating rink. The news accounts say that the regular populace won’t be able to go there as it is to be locked off in the misguided security corridors of the misguided City Olympic rules. So much for other public amenities, even if sponsored.

    And this weekend, I see the streets in the square mile around Begbie school from Hastings to First Ave have new signs saying no parking during late February. Already on Day 30 of the Nazi-inspired torch relay, we are reminded that we are under occupation and that the peasants are to remain indoors while their royal Olympic lords are conveyed along the avenues in their limos.

    5 rings = 1 or 5 swastikas?

  • Darcy McGee

    > No, Darcy, this Park Board voted to ’save’ the hollow tree, in spite of Stuart
    > Mackinnon’s arguments to the contrary.

    They voted to take it down for safety reasons. They waffled on that forever by not taking it down, and then reversed their vote when a private group emerged.

    http://www.thestar.com/article/407782
    http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=2c5d3e82-2f84-4047-8232-9eda0cf51f7b&k=25563

  • TW

    The Parks Board could have avoided the budget shortfall (and saved the petting zoo and conservatory in the process) by merely delaying the construction schedules of the artificial turf playing fields (each about $ 2.8 million).

    That said, our elected representatives seemed to have dropped the ball (no pun intended) since they likely have their eyes on the federal recreation infrastructure stimulus funds which are applied by Ottawa on a fairly strict time frame. It does not apply to petting zoos but does apply( in Vancouver and elsewhere in western Canada) on a schedule set by Ottawa not a strategy that fits the Vancouver voters.

    A pity the Parks Board Commissioners were not more forthcoming about this misfit strategy that sees sports field lobbyists dominate the agenda to the detriment of more generally based family recreation.

    Who is really setting the recreation strategies in Vancouver?

  • MB

    “…misfit strategy that sees sports field lobbyists dominate the agenda to the detriment of more generally based family recreation.”

    That is a very common reality in every parks department. Sports consumes hundreds of millions in public money, whereas culture and “family recreation”, let alone smaller more passive urban parks and habitat preservation efforts do not warrant as much attention by politicians.