Mayor Ken Sim is in trouble! The only question is how much trouble.
Established in 1888 through the Vancouver Charter to oversee Stanley Park, the Park Board now has responsibility for all of our parks, community centres, pools, ice rinks, street trees, marinas, sports fields, playgrounds, and public golf courses.
The Park Board is managed by seven commissioners who are elected at large for four-year terms as part of Vancouver’s municipal election. As an elected body, it is accountable to the citizens of Vancouver.
If Mayor Sim has his way, the democratically elected commissioners will be tossed aside, and the no longer independent Park Board will become just another of the City’s many departments. All decision-making will be handed up to the City Manager who is accountable to City Council, which in reality means whichever party has a majority on Council will have total control of all Park Board budgets, lands, buildings, and resources.
As undemocratic as the mayor’s proposal is, what was equally undemocratic and quite frankly astonishing, is the way in which he went about imposing his decision on his own ABC Park Board caucus of six Commissioners.
Apparently the ABC Park Commissioners were called to a meeting at the mayor’s office at 5:00 pm on December 5th and were informed by the mayor that he would announce the next day his intention to eliminate the Park Board. Commissioners were told they had until 8:00 am the following morning to chose whether or not to stand with the mayor.
Three of the ABC Commissioners did not support Mayor Sim’s decision. Even before Sim’s 10:00 am press conference, the three were informed by email that they would not take part in the transition process. They then received phone notifications that they had been removed from the ABC group chat.
All had been summarily dropped from their roles. They then declared they would now sit as independents.
There was no vote on this decision by the ABC rank and file at a membership meeting. No vote by the ABC board of directors, whose members are not even identified on the ABC Vancouver website.
In one fell swoop, the mayor has made it clear to all ABC elected Park Board, School Board, and City Council representatives that if they dare to disagree with him, he will simply have them expelled from the party.
This is not the only example of the Mayor Sim controlled Council summarily enacting a partisan move designed to blunt criticism. At a November 28th in-camera Council meeting, Vancouver Library trustee Melody Ma – a vocal critic of Mayor Sim’s decisions and partisanship – was dropped from the Library Board and replaced by a party insider.
The decision to eliminate the independent Park Board is not yet final. The next step is a formal motion by City Council, expected on December 13th and almost certain to pass given the ABC majority. After that, the request will be forwarded to the provincial government and negotiations will begin to amend the Vancouver Charter accordingly.
On top of everything else, there has been absolutely no public input into this decision. When running for mayor during the 2022 civic election, Sim had promised to maintain the Park Board and certainly voters who elected ABC Park Bord Commissioners did so in good faith.
Members of the public are now being encouraged to become involved by civic groups, but even the timing of this move – mere weeks before the holidays – raises suspicions of the mayor actively planning to limit opposition.
As British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once observed, “a week is a long time in politics.” So, it is too early to say how much lasting political damage Mayor Sim has inflicted on himself and perhaps his party. But if this is how the mayor continues to govern for the rest of his term, he may end up being a one-term wonder.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (December 10, 2023): 421.56ppm
One year ago (November 28, 2022): 417.31ppm
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