4 min

Council unlikely to pass Centre’s feasibility plan

City planner says 'ball got dropped'

HER BEST PITCH: Donna Wilson, The Centre's executive director, implores Vancouver city council to grant $35,000 in funding for a feasibility study. Getting the money for the study is the first step on Credit: Matt Mills photo

The Centre’s request for money from the city for a feasibility study for a new building inched forward Mar 23, as city council was finally presented with a report from city staff on how the money would be spent.

But critical voting support among the NPA-dominated council won’t likely be enough to get the grant approved, even though the last city council set aside as much as $100,000 for the study in March 2005.

The report outlines a $45,000 feasibility study, $35,000 of which would come from the city with the balance to be provided from The Centre’s coffers. It calls for a two-stage study to take place between July 2006 and March 2007.

Part of the money is to be spent on 10-12 focus group sessions, made up of members from diverse sectors of the queer community, who will help to define three possible visions for the new building, the future role of The Centre in the community, financial obstacles to be overcome, and confirm community support for the project.

“There’s a critical need for the kinds of resources The Centre offers that mitigate the impact of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia,” The Centre’s executive director Donna Wilson told council. “There’s a need for a community gathering place for all citizens of Vancouver to celebrate LGBT cultures and build understanding and bridges between different communities.

“We therefore ask you release funds for the feasibility study and support this important movement towards a vision that will build on the strengths of the city and that will meet the needs of LGBT people and also benefit all citizens of Vancouver,” continued Wilson.

COPE councillor David Cadman asked city manager Judy Rogers why the report took so long to come before council and why the money set aside for the project in 2005 couldn’t simply be rolled into this year to avoid putting the proposal through the budget process again.

“I believe we’ve already approved it in the 2005 budget,” he said. “And that the report before us now would in fact allow us to release that money today from those monies assigned to it in 2005. I’m trying to understand why this wouldn’t qualify and make it simple for us now to simply approve this under a 2005 allotment and not have to have the big fight in cutting back the budget for 2006.”

“I’ll leave what didn’t happen in 2005 to the director of social planning Jeff [Brooks] to speak on,” responded Rogers. “That sum was closed off and we’re now into 2006 funding. It has to be considered as part of new funding.”

“How did we get here? If you’re looking to say, ‘did the ball get dropped?’ Yes the ball got dropped in 2005,” said Brooks. “In October 2005 social planning started working with The Centre on getting the report up to code. If someone needs to point out why the ball got dropped, it’s probably a lot of reasons, but I’ll accept it right now because we need to move forward.”

But Cadman pressed the point, asking Rogers why city staff recommended approval of $187,000 be rolled over from 2005 for community policing offices on Mar 2, but wants money for The Centre’s feasibility study to undergo the budget process again.

Rogers said the difference is that the community policing offices are an ongoing project, while the feasibility study for The Centre is a one-off grant.

Brooks added that the community policing money was a set amount while the feasibility study didn’t have a dollar value attached to it until now.

Cadman countered that the resolution from March 2005 set aside a set amount of $100,000 for the feasibility study.

“We didn’t forward the money from 2005 because it didn’t have any formal approval,” said Rogers. “The report didn’t come forward, so to consider it as part of 2006, the prudency of our budget office is suggesting exactly what we have to do.”

As well as support from all of the Vision Vancouver councillors and Cadman, at least one NPA councillor will have to vote to support the grant for the feasibility study to move forward.

Despite the odds against success, Wilson remains confident that the city will approve the money in the end.

“I’m disappointed it’s not as easy as that, that it couldn’t be finalized as of today and for us to move forward,” Wilson tells Xtra West after her presentation. “At the same time, we’re going to press on and make sure that we’re going to impress on the mayor and council how important this process is to our communities.”

Tim Stevenson, the city councillor who originally lobbied to get the $100,000 grant for the study, says he’s not surprised the money wasn’t simply carried forward from 2005.

“The decision was made a long time ago,” he says. “Once the year moved on, there’s no way that could be pulled back. But it was interesting to have David [Cadman] raise the question publicly, so everyone knew what had happened.

“It’s a big disappointment that we didn’t get the money last year when we had the opportunity because we could have got more money as well,” he continues. “But that’s crying over spilled milk. Now we’ve to got to try and secure this money.”

Stevenson encourages community members to come out and support The Centre’s efforts at the next budget meeting when the final vote is likely to take place.

“When anything that affects the bars on Davie St comes up, they have 50 people out here and lots of speakers,” he says. “That’s very important and very effective. On the day of the budget, it would be helpful to urge people to come out to speak about it.”

Council is expected to vote on The Centre’s money at its next budget meeting on Apr 6.

Wilson was the only speaker and the only member of the queer community in the public gallery at the Mar 23 council meeting.