Joint Operating Agreement with Park Board –
Status Report to KCCS Members
Following are events between August and October in the Vancouver’s community centres’ continued fight to get a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with the Park Board that provides an effective, workable framework for a constructive relationship that will benefit Vancouver’s communities over the next 10 – 15 years.
On August 10, a group of community centre associations (CCAs) met with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Park Board to discuss several areas of concern with the proposed JOA approved by elected Commissioners in April 2017 and suggested changes that would address them.
On September 12 a letter signed by 14 CCAs that reiterated the JOA concerns was sent to all Commissioners. Park Board maintained its position that there would be no changes to the Agreement.
On September 18, Park Board staff reported to the elected Commissioners that only 2 of 20 CCAs had signed the agreement. Staff presented to Commissioners a superficial summary of the associations’ concerns. There was no opportunity for public speakers at that Park Board meeting.
On September 19, ninety-seven percent of the 496 votes cast by members of the Kerrisdale Community Centre Society directed the Board of Directors to reject the proposed agreement approved by the Park Board in April 2017 as it stood at that time. Meetings were held at other community centres in September with similar outcomes. These results were a clear message to elected Park Board Commissioners that the agreement they had approved in April was not acceptable to Vancouver’s community centres. Still, Park Board Commissioners and senior staff insisted that there would be no change to the body of the agreement approved in April.
On September 27, Park Board’s Director of Recreation sent CCAs a set of proposed appendices for inclusion in the JOA that she believed addressed the concerns raised by the CCAs. These proposed extensive and confusing revisions to the appendices only partially addressed the six areas of serious concern in the JOA identified by the CCAs.
More critically, two sets of legal counsel retained by different CCAs said that without changes to the body of the JOA, the appendices would always be subordinate to the body of the agreement and therefore afford no protection in case of differing interpretations.
By the deadline for signing, September 30, a total of six CCAs, less than 1/3, had signed the new Joint Operating Agreement. The Park Board had earlier said that it would no longer work with CCAs that had not signed the agreement by September 30.
On October 13, Park Board staff offered CCAs the opportunity to have our lawyers meet with Park Board staff and its legal representatives as soon as possible to discuss Park Board’s proposed solutions. Due to a scheduling conflict, this was changed to a phone meeting. Then staff unilaterally decided there would be no meeting. Instead, a Park Board lawyer sent a letter to the CCAs dismissing their concerns.
On October 16, ten CCAs proposed two options for addressing our concerns in a way that would decrease the apparent contradictions that existed in the Park Board’s September 27 proposal.
The option that was strongly advised on October 20 by both sets of legal counsel was that the key issues be addressed directly and unequivocally in the body of the JOA. This would best reduce the uncertainty that may emerge in the future when the JOA is relied upon to resolve a dispute or to help interpret the roles of the two parties.
The less desirable option presented was to add two override clauses to the body of the JOA which will reference the appendices directly and make clear that the appendices are part of the entire agreement and will prevail in the event of apparent variances between the JOA and the appendices.
In a surprising move on October 23, the Park Board unanimously passed a motion to make changes to the proposed Joint Operating Agreement that declare the appendices to be integral parts of the agreement and state clearly that if there is an apparent conflict between a clause in the body of the Agreement and a clause in the appendices, the clause in the appendices will prevail.
Even with these override clauses, the 43 page JOA is now so complicated that the addition of extensive and complex appendices make it probable that disagreements between the two parties will end in costly and time-consuming arbitration. Given all the hours spent to develop a workable JOA, this situation is outrageous.
The community centres’ now have only way to have our concerns fully alleviated in the JOA. We must present the Park Board with clearly written appendices and Park Board must accept them. If acceptable appendices can be negotiated, and if our lawyers say that Kerrisdale’s interests are adequately protected, the revised JOA could be signed. These are big IFs.
If Kerrisdale doesn’t sign this contract, we would continue to work with the 1979 JOA, protected from eviction until the lawsuit, originally filed in 2013, is adjudicated by the Court. The law suit may be activated by either the Park Board or by the six CCAs that filed it.
The Kerrisdale Community Centre Society has operated a very successful community centre since 1955. Recently, our community centre has twice been recognized for its excellence. According to the Vancouver Courier Readers’ Choice Awards, Kerrisdale is Vancouver’s Best Community Centre for 2015 and 2017.
We deserve the respect of the Park Board Commissioners elected to represent the wishes and needs of the people of Vancouver and of the staff whose job it is to carry out the directions of the elected Park Board. Let’s hope this respect is reflected in a new Joint Operating Agreement that we can sign, confident that it will protect our ability to operate effectively for our community for the next 10 – 15 years. By November 5 just six CCAs had signed the current agreement. CCAs are sending a clear message to Park Board that an acceptable JOA isn’t ready yet.
Best wishes for a happy Christmas season and an exciting new year full of great activities at the Kerrisdale Community Centre.
Kathleen Bigsby, President
5 November 2017
Why Vancouver’s community centres are concerned about the Park Board’s proposed JOA:
Park Board has agreed to provide a special appendix that will allow us to meet the conditions of the licensing necessary to operate our popular seniors’ lunch program. The Park Board had refused to consider the implications of the proposed JOA for this program until there was a torrent of protest from Kerrisdale.
Additional Issues for Kerrisdale:
2. Kerrisdale’s lawsuit against the Park Board
For the latest information on this important topic please check the JOA negotiations page on the Kerrisdale community centre website or the Society bulletin boards in the Centre