On Friday, the Courier newspaper published an article about the release of the COPE Park Board Policy Platform earlier this week. NPA hopeful Melissa De Genova – the spokesperson for the NPA in this case, although the other NPA Park Board candidates have said much the same thing at all-candidates meetings – accuses COPE of being fiscally irresponsible for some of its promises.
On Mt Pleasant pool, anyone who has paid attention to the community knows that they are willing and able to fundraise for a new pool if the Park Board will only implement the motions that COPE brought it 3 years ago after extensive public consultation. The Park Board would be expected to provide some seed money if, for example, the senior levels of government contribute to a new pool – but the Park Board has already committed to providing $1 million to convert the site to a park, and no one has questioned that the Park Board can find the money. If we can source $1 million from a Development Cost Levy (which cannot be used for buildings or other infrastructure), we can find $1 million from an alternate source such as a Community Amenity Contributions to provide seed money as part of the fundraising for a new pool. As for the operating cost, the old outdoor pool costs about $70,000 a year to keep it open during the summer months (the total Park Board operating budget is about $92 million) and some of this will be offset by admission fees and revenue from other uses of the building – which must be retained as long as the old pool is there, because the mechanics for the pool reside in the building.
COPE Commissioners have said that they want a review of the existing Community Centre Renewal Plan and the Aquatic Services Review to determine if the Park Board and its community centre partners are still on track, revisit priorities, and look at how the current rate of renovation and rebuilding our aging Park Board infrastructure might be accelerated. Asking for a review is hardly fiscally irresponsible – if we don’t seek out solutions, we will never find them!
The NPA Parks Board candidates have so far not come up with anything better than adding more private commercial enterprises in our parks to generate revenues. They have been mum about the Park Board increasing management positions, which adds costs to the operating budget. The NPA only decided that they were in favour of not decreasing the seniors discount after COPE pressed the issue, and they are still vague on whether or not they would support raising recreation fees for young families – a decision that could still be taken at the Park Board’s November 24 meeting if Commissioner Woodcock’s motion to defer the annual fee increase to the new board is rejected by the current NPA majority.
Meanwhile, the NPA-dominated Council, which sets the total amount of the Park Board’s annual operating budget – has had no trouble in funding their Project Civil City and the Ambassador programs, and their candidate for mayor, Peter Ladner, who is the chair of council’s finance committee, seems completely unconcerned about the financial viability of the Olympic Village construction in South-East False Creek.
Who is fiscally irresponsible here?