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Community Notebooks: Ward 18 Conservancy
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Correspondence related to the conservancy

05-Apr-2012 [1131]

On Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 3:20 PM, Jutta Mason <> wrote an e-mail to various neighbourhood contacts:

Hello -- this e-mail is about the creation of a "Ward 18 Parks Conservancy." Something good! City Hall is taking a very narrow, centrally-determined approach to public space. That approach needs alternatives.

What's at stake here is the conserving of the rinks and the playgrounds/wading pools/park liveliness/etc. All of what has developed in the Ward 18 parks is currently under threat, for reasons that go back well before the current mayor.

I want to write to Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailao and ask her: "please engage with CELOS and park supporters to begin the Ward 18 Parks Conservancy discussion." The councillor needs to know that there is a broader interest in this issue, in the neighbourhood and beyond. May I include your name in my e-mail to her? Please e-mail me back if the answer is yes. If I don't hear from you, I won't add your name.

This does not oblige you to engage in a bunch of meetings nor to read all the research we have done so far, or will do from now on -- although you're welcome to do both! I'd just like to keep you informed of progress from time to time, and of the timing of meetings when e-mail is not enough.

I've attached our first poster about the conservancy. We know why we want to conserve the liveliness of the parks here, but there's a lot that needs to be figured out about how. What is the "Toronto model" of a parks conservancy? An interesting inquiry...Let the discussion begin. Also: if you have ideas/links/cautions you'd like me to post on the "conservancy" web page or on the park bulletin boards, great! E-mail me back, or call me at 416 533-0153. And tell your friends.

February 27, 2012, e-mail to Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailao, from Jutta Mason

Last week it became obvious that the current Parks and Recreation approach to public space does not have room in it for some important elements of Ward 18 parks. Could I meet with you sometime this later week to put out the first feelers for public discussion of an alternative, a "Ward 18 Parks Conservancy"?

Last Friday afternoon I sent out the e-mail below, and over the weekend quite a few people asked to have their names added to this "conservancy" discussion request. Most of the names below are from Ward 18; some are park users from other neighbourhoods, who may be happy to speak to their own councillors when the time comes to bring this question to council.

March 2 2012, e-mail to Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailao from Jutta Mason

On Tuesday you wrote: "I am completely booked this week and early next week with Council. Nic will work something out with you for after that."

I can imagine you're busy. I hope we can have half an hour's chat later next week, to sketch out the general possibilities of an alternative parks structure pilot in Ward 18. Thursday and Friday are both good for me. What I hope to talk about with you:

1. bylaws -- (a) we're studying the Toronto Board of Management structure; one of their directors has sent us the original documents from 1982 setting up those centres; (b) we're also contacting conservancies in other Canadian cities and in the US. (c) Are you familiar with the City of Toronto Act's provisions affecting projects of this nature?

2. budget -- today I'll submit a freedom of information request about the Ward 18 PFR budget details, and we're gathering and posting all the relevant F.O.I. information we've already collected over the years. Do you have budget line information to add to ours?

3. conversations -- with Ward 18 park friends in the south and north of the ward, to round out the picture. I also hope to talk with both David Crombie and John Sewell within the next couple of weeks, about the history of alternatives, and what works. Both of them have been big boosters of ours, and I think we can learn from them. If you can give us additional names to contact, I'd appreciate it.

I have blind-copied the current list of people (117 now) who asked to be kept on the Ward 18 conservancy mail-outs to you. Their names are once again added to the bottom of this e-mail. As soon as the weather warms up, we'll poster park bulletin boards throughout the ward, to let more people know.

Request to City of Toronto Corporate Access and Privacy, April 10 2012, from Jutta Mason

I need the Parks budget numbers for Ward 18 for 2011 (actual) and 2012 (projected):

Expenses: - the caretaking budget lines, if any, relating to Ward 18 parks

- tech services budget lines relating to maintenance/repairs at Ward 18 parks

- specific maintenance/repair costs associated with recreation programs (includes opening/closing costs) for: wading pools, sand play areas, bake ovens

- all park maintenance budget lines, including e.g. daily washroom maintenance, litter, grass, garbage (including whatever Solid Waste does, presumably charging back to parks), gardening, etc.

- all outdoor rinks operations, for the three outdoor rinks in Ward 18

- overtime costs, by park or rink if possible

- all forestry budget lines including tree maintenance, emergency fixes (branch down etc.), and tree planting budget

- all energy costs relating to parks especially to rinks and sports field lighting

- vehicle costs charged to Ward 18 (please specify number and type of vehicles)

- insurance/self-insurance fees charged to Ward 18 Parks

- signage and related amenities

- park furniture budget

- contracts e.g. locksmith, exterminator, any other contracts

- materials budget lines e.g. cleaning materials, brooms, machinery parts etc.

-- and any other expenses that I've left out, by individual park if possible, or by the most detailed cost centre available.


-- any revenues earned at Ward 18 parks, specifying the individual park, the permit category, and the season, e.g. rink permits (winter) versus social gathering permits (warm weather), etc..

Request to City of Toronto Corporate Access and Privacy, April 10 2012, from Jutta Mason

I need the Recreation budget numbers for Ward 18 for 2011 (actual) and 2012 (projected):


- On-site and supervisory staff, i.e. total full-time as well as total part-time allocation to each park that has recreation programming, including Dufferin Grove year-round, Campbell Rink and wading pool and clubhouse, Wallace Rink, MacGregor wading pool and events/clubhouse. Please include the recreation programming in any other Ward 18 parks.

- On-site and supervisory staff, i.e. total full-time as well as total part-time allocation to the Ward 18 community recreation centres, i.e. Wallace Emerson and McCormick

- work orders and maintenance charged back to Recreation (with as much detail as practicable)

- phones (landline and cells and radio phones)

- city website updates (Ward 18 portion)

- any new software to track costs (Ward 18 portion)

- PT hiring and training costs (Ward 18 portion)

- permit processing (Ward 18 portion)


- permit revenue

- donation revenue

Plus any other Recreation expenses or revenue related to those sites in 2011, and anticipated in 2012, that I've missed.

Clarification for City of Toronto Corporate Access and Privacy, April 21 2012, from Jutta Mason

here is some more information about the FOI access I am seeking. If PFR cannot access their budget information by individual park (as noted in the PFR response to my access request 2011-01738), and if they also cannot answer my questions in reference to an individual ward (Ward 18), then please ask them for access in the following way:

Parks: I would like to have access to the individual budget lines available to Dan Vala, parks supervisor for Ward 18 and 14.

Recreation: I would like to have access to the budget lines available to the two recreation supervisors who are currently assigned to Ward 18: Glen Synowicki and Peter Lewis.

The level of detail I need is reflected in my original request. Although the Act does not require the requester to give a reason for wanting the information, I am glad to do so. I need this information, in this detail, in order to work with my community on our "Ward 18 parks conservancy" project. We agree with the opinion of Prof.Elinor Ostrom, who holds the 2009 Nobel Prize for her work on "Governing the Commons": in order to make good decisions regarding our public spaces, citizens need "continuous access to detailed information."

I hope this solves the problem.

Letter to Glen Synowicki, Ward 18 Recreation supervisor, April 21 2012, from Jutta Mason

The month of May is almost here, and some of the Ward 18 parks will be inundated as soon as the weather warms up. Every year Recreation hires new part-time staff for various locations to replace those who have left. Last year they hired 647 people citywide, the year before, 710. The busier Ward 18 parks have very specific staff requirements, understandably. When I asked about new hires, I got the impression that Recreation intends not to act on the shortages until a summer schedule is created and current staff are assigned by the off-site CPR. But a very solid summer schedule template already exists, and has been in use for years.

I've attached the on-site staff's 2010 version of the summer staffing template (June, July, August) for Dufferin Grove and MacGregor. The May template is not in this document but can be called up as well. You'll note that the 2010 wage ranges are also attached, and in order for this schedule to work, the Kaplan award categories will need to be matched in a better way than at present.

This is a baseline, not a ceiling but a floor, on which programming is built flexibly by on-site staff as they respond to community use. The template stayed within budget for years, as opposed to last summer's off-site budget experiment, which went over. (When we count the off-site staff time devoted to re-inventing the schedule, last year went massively over-budget.)

Because the off-site, re-invented scheduling approach of 2011 worked so badly, it's time to bridge to the Ward 18 conservancy pilot, several small test-steps at a time. Bridging to a conservancy pilot that's built on the already-existing success of these parks requires direct support by PFR management. I hope that Councillor Bailao will be able to broker the ties that are needed, so that we* can -- all together -- be covered with glory when the simple, thrifty "Toronto model" for community centres without walls becomes famous. :-)

But in order to make it work, there have to be some new part-time hires NOW, with on-site staff in a fully collaborative interview role, helping to find good people. Do you agree?

April 23 2012, e-mail to Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailao, from Jutta Mason

Since you and I met to talk about the conservancy on March 9, numerous conversations have begun in the parks and the neighbourhood about what a "Ward 18 Parks conservancy" might look like. People were glad to hear that you support trying to build on the success of what's grown in Ward 18 parks in the last decade.

Your upcoming "Ward 18 community summit" about parks, at Dovercourt Park on May 5, will provide a chance to develop the conversation even more. In addition, now is the time to lay some groundwork for bridging the Ward 18 parks toward a conservancy pilot project.

Here's what's needed right away (once again I'm using Elinor Ostrom's Nobel-prize work on "Governing the Commons" as a guide):

1. continuous access to detailed information: in this case, access to the budget numbers for Ward 18 Parks, Forestry and Recreation. When my direct inquiries to management didn't work, I went to Freedom of Information. The first response was "we don't have the numbers you want." Please let staff know that they should release the detailed numbers.

2. adapting operating rules to fit local circumstances: as summer approaches, City of Toronto Recreation management continues to direct operations from off-site instead of supporting local community and onsite staff input. Hiring of needed part-time staff is stalled. Attempts to broaden the conversation are turned away. Please help bridge the gap to management so that, instead of starting all over again, we can build on what we already have -- working together week by week, beginning now.

Here's the "Ward 18 Parks Conservancy" section of the public commons website, for reference: I include the link to your May 5 Parks Summit poster, for the signers of this letter: