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Renewing our focus

18-May-2011 [160]

• A letter to David Miller

Dear David Miller,

Last week the senior management of Parks and Recreation called together all the neighbourhood-based supervisors and local-area managers and told them in confidence that their jobs are about to be transformed or to disappear. In fact they intend to radically change the entire structure of this public-space enterprise. A copy of the document outlining the changes came into my hands this weekend. It’s called “Renewing our focus – Moving forward with Structural Change in Parks and Recreation.”

There is to be one less director and 18 fewer area-managers and neighbourhood supervisors. The remaining staff at that closed meeting will be assigned to very large sections of the city, and they will float according to a list of “functions” rather than being assigned to any neighborhood.

This is a very bad blow for neighbourhoods. In our area, if this change goes through, our very active ‘park friends’ group will have to work with 21 different supervisors and 6 managers – we currently work with three supervisors and one manager. The relationships we slowly built up after the last big upheaval when the megacity was created, will disappear in one stroke. And the story will be the same for park friends and advisory councils all over the city.

The main steps to dismantling the current neighbourhood-based Parks and Recreation Division, and replacing with a much more centralized structure, are to be taken on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

I have spent part of the weekend analyzing the content of the “Structural Change” document to see how it would affect parks and neighbourhoods, and have written this paper about it. I have also written an appendix dealing with the specific details affecting our park, as an example. It may be that the re-structuring is an attempt to show the new council that senior management are taking radical steps to address the Division’s overspent budget. The budget problems are real and must be solved. But this plan is no solution.

What’s needed now:
1. A sign from city council, to halt their experiment before they do more damage.
2. Removal of the threat of immediate job loss among neighbourhood-based supervisors and their area managers, so that staff can speak freely.
3. Participation of a much broader number of parks and rec employees in the discussion of how to fix what’s broken – and how to shield what’s not.
4. A voice, to ground such a discussion, for the citizens who love our civic treasure of parks and community centres. For the past six years, our civic voice has been muffled or absent a lot of the time. Now there’s a different season….

…..please, David Miller, let’s start over.