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John Coupar: Incoming Park Board Chair, An Inauspicious Start

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

On December 1st, a new Vancouver Park Board will take office.

The Non-Partisan Association, with the support of VanRamblings and in support of incoming Park Board Chairperson, John Coupar, with a goodly number of the public, were elected to a majority position around the Park Board table: second-term Park Board Commissioner, John Coupar, will be the individual his majority NPA party colleagues — Sarah Kirby-Yung, Erin Shum, and Casey Crawford — will choose to lead them over the next year.

The remaining, newly-elected members of the Vancouver Park Board include the Green Party of Vancouver's Stuart Mackinnon, who held office on Park Board from 2008 til 2011, his fellow Green Party elected, Michael Wiebe, and lone Vision Vancouver Park Board elected, Catherine Evans.

The most politically astute politicos sitting around the Park table are Stuart Mackinnon and Catherine Evans, both veterans of the political wars, savvy, extremely bright, community-oriented politicos, Stuart Mackinnon's claim to fame his dedication to democratic governance and community involvement in Park Board decision-making, and Catherine Evans — appointed to the Board of the Vancouver Public Library in 2009, and most recently, Chairperson of the Board, and more than any other of the newly-electeds, an individual who throughout her adult life has dedicated herself to building consensus, in the community, as a member of Boards on which she sat, and in every other endeavour in which she has engaged, where it was necessary to move forward collectively, wholly, in the best interests of all.

Needless to say, Vancouver voters were wise to elect Catherine Evans — who topped the polls this Saturday evening past, with 64,707 votes, quite clearly, the consensus choice of the people — and Stuart Mackinnon (56,406 votes), the Green Party running their 2014 campaign for office on a shoestring budget, approximately 5% of that of the two mainstream parties, Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association, to Park Board.

As anyone who reads VanRamblings on a regular basis is aware, we are more than a little over-the-moon about the Non-Partisan Association's incoming Chairperson, John Coupar, for most assuredly, one of John's NPA colleagues will nominate him for the position of Chairperson of Park Board.

Opposition NPA takes control of board, John Coupar To Become Next Park Board ChairJohn Coupar Wins Re-Election | Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost , PNG

VanRamblings had hoped for a unanimous vote of support for the principled & utterly humane Mr. Coupar, a defender of Vancouver's parks system like no other — you may wish to read VanRamblings' profile of Mr. Coupar, for an insight as to why we have written so generously about the man, about his character and integrity, and commitment to public service.

As of Monday, November 18th, the prospect of John Coupar's ascension to the role of Chairperson, Vancouver Park Board, receiving the unanimous consent of all of his Park Board Commissioner colleagues sitting around the Park Board table would very much seem to be in doubt.

When John Coupar was running for a second term at Park Board, his platform was a simple, but transformative: restoration of a parks system that had been desecrated and allowed to fall into abandon under an overly politicized Vision Vancouver Park Board, and an early resolution of the almost two-year-old dispute between six of Vancouver's community centre associations, and the previous Park Board and City of Vancouver, the latter charge led by the — it has always seemed to VanRamblings — none-too-psychologically stable City Manager, Dr. Penny Ballem.

On this Sunday past, on the day following Saturday's surprising, and not-so-surprising, Vancouver civic election vote, VanRamblings had contact with Stuart Mackinnon, who indicated he was in partial agreement that ...

A majority Vancouver City Council will subvert everything that Park Board will attempt to do — which, of course, doesn't meant that a Park Board led by John Coupar and Stuart Mackinnon won't be a strong defender of our beleaguered parks and recreation system, but rather that Vision Vancouver will attempt to starve the Park Board of funds, and go to war with a Park Board no longer under its control, employing the ugliest of tactics, while undermining their own elected, Catherine Evans, who is a good person, and someone the entire Board will both enjoy working with, and from whom the Board has much to learn.

To be perfectly frank, Stuart, I have concerns in respect of John Coupar's fitness to lead the fight, and the possible consequences for his health. John's goals as a Park Board Commissioner have been simple ones, and are what brought him into public life: John Coupar wishes to serve the public, and to protect the integrity of our parks.

Certainly none of the other NPA elected are capable, or possess the political sophistication necessary to take the fight to Vision (at least not yet). In fact, it very well may be you, Stuart, who in the coming years emerges, at some point in the future, both as the Chair of the Park Board, & the public face of the defense of the interests of all of us who have a deep caring for our Vancouver parks and recreation system.

I have no doubt that you are up for the fight, if it comes to that.

I am concerned, at present, for the employment of Park Board General Manager, Malcolm Bromley, with whom I have very much been impressed since his arrival from Ontario, in 2010. At the time Malcolm was hired, City Manager, Dr. Penny Ballem, changed the terms of his employment contract, such that as had always been the case previously, and was the case with the outgoing Park Board GM, Susan Mundick (who was "dismissed" in 2010), the incoming PB GM would report not to the Park Board Chair, but to her — creating divided loyalties for Mr. Bromley.

Malcolm Bromley has proven in his short time at Park Board to be a forward-thinking, dedicated public servant, who has well-served the public interest, a person of integrity and character who in the most difficult of circumstances, has somehow managed to troll the roiling waters of discontent between the City Manager's office, and Park Board — even during the tenure of the Vision Vancouver-led Park Board — that did not always do the bidding of the notoriously demanding, brooks no dissent, it's my way or the highway, City Manager.

I believe that Vision Vancouver will almost certainly move to make application to the provincial government to change the Vancouver Charter, to convert the independently-elected Park Board into a Committee of Council, employing an argument of citizen indifference (bordering on hostility, among some members of the public, they will say) to Vancouver Park Board, the Park Board as just another level of government that "drains the taxpayers' pocketbook."

In such a scenario, Vancouver Park Board would certainly mount a vigorous defense of the interests of Park Board and all it represents, no doubt reminding Dr. Ballem and the members of Vancouver City Council that the Vancouver Charter clearly stipulates that dissolution of Park Board requires a 2/3 majority vote of Park Board Commissioners — to which Vision Vancouver would almost certainly reply, "Application has been made to repeal that particular section of the Charter."

Clearly, an action in Supreme Court would ensue, which would be funded out of the public purse. As anyone who has followed the decision-making thought processes of the estimable Dr. Ballem, and the elected Vision Vancouver members of Council, the office of the City Manager, with the full support of the Vision councillors, would move to deny Park Board the necessary funds to mount a legal defense of the position of Park Board, before the Courts.

Make no mistake: the next four years at Park Board may very well prove gruelling, indeed. Park Board Commissioners will have to keep a wary eye on those persons at City Hall who, to the public detriment, would use Park Board as their political whipping boy.

Job number one for the incoming Park Board must be to seek the support of the broadest coalition of members of the public, and to maintain and build on that public support for one of Vancouver's most cherished instituitions.

Now is not the time for division on Park Board, nor among members of the public who present to Park Board, and whose interests are many and varied. Park Board, with the generous support of the citizens of Vancouver, must become a united force in defense of Vancouver's much-beloved — and, perhaps, imperiled — Vancouver parks and recreation system.

Given the potential for a circumstance such as the one described above to unfold, VanRamblings was surprised and very disappointed to read of incoming Park Board Chairperson John Coupar's decision to, as his first order of business around the Park Board table to reverse a motion passed by the outgoing Vision Vancouver Park Board, to ban the breeding of cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium, perhaps the single most divisive issue he might have chosen to engage as he and his Park Board colleagues undertake a restorative programme of change at Park Board, in defense of Vancouver's very much untended to and beleaguered parks system, and in defense of Vancouver's beloved community centres, which have suffered from the hostile actions of City Manager, Penny Ballem, and the Vision Vancouver majority administration at Vancouver City Hall.

A whale being fed at the Vancouver Aquarium

VanRamblings posted the following to Facebook last evening ...

John Coupar announces reversal of ban on the breeding of cetaceans in captivity

[Update: Apparently, John Coupar has left the employ of the company which put him into conflict. The NPA's reverse motion will pass 4-3]

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Green Party of Vancouver Stuart Mackinnon's first public pronouncement related to the Supreme Court action this upcoming Thursday, as Mr. Mackinnon mounted a vigorous defense of Vancouver's community centre associations — one expects because it is the most important issue that should be of concern to the incoming Park Board Commissioners, an issue on which all Vancouver citizens are united, and one of the primary reasons there remains on the Park Board, only one lone member of Vision Vancouver, and the least partisan member of Vision Vancouver, at that — John Coupar, in all his infinite wisdom and lack of political astuteness — expounds on the single most divisive issue that has come before Park Board in 2014, an issue that reached compromise resolution this past July, following the presentations of more than 90 members of the public — and many, many more protesting outside — who expressed their reasoned opposition to the continued containment of whales, and other cetaceans, at the Vancouver Aquarium.

In respect of the about-to-become newly-elected Chairperson of the Vancouver Park Board, the estimable John Coupar, VanRamblings does not express concern that Mr. Coupar would act to fulfill a campaign promise that was made by NPA mayoral candidate, Kirk LaPointe, in the early days of his campaign for office — and a platform tenet about which VanRamblings expressed deep concern to Mr. LaPointe, as a divisive issue, and one that was ill-suited to a candidate for office who was attempting to present himself as a mayoral candidate for "all the people".

Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Society, will be in court ThursdayAinslie Kwan, President, Killarney Community Centre Society, in Supreme Court Thursday

Rather, VanRamblings' concern relates to the inadvisability of John Coupar choosing as divisive an issue as reversing the motion on the ban of the breeding of cetaceans in captivity, as an issue of primary concern that he would express to the public (in a most unfortunate joking manner on Global TV last evening), as his first order of business at the Park Board table.

Surely, Mr. Coupar, the pending court case on Thursday must be of greater concern to you, and to your Non-Partisan Association colleagues, more deserving of your collective attention, and deserving of an outreach to the incoming Green Party of Vancouver Park Board Commissioners than moving forward a reversal of a motion — that had you left it well enough alone — would simply have died on the order paper. You should know better.



Posted by Raymond Tomlin at November 18, 2014 7:57 AM in Park Board

   

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