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Letter to CBC radio reporter Taylor Simmons, Jan.10, 2018

Hi Taylor,

the Regent Rink skate events meeting was yesterday. I wasn't there, but I'm told that there is a willingness to "make this work" -- meaning for sure there is to be a Family Day event and hopefully two more events of 3 hours each, with Artscape supplying the DJ, Daniels Corp providing hot chocolate and cookies, and the city helping with promotion. We've donated the skate collection, helmets, sticks, record-keeping binder etc. to the Friends of Regent Park, and funds from David Rothberg's donation will help them pay for doing the actual skate lending on the day(s).

So the skates that would have been available for use at the rink every day since Nov.27 will stay in storage, somewhere, the rest of the time. The two existing rink staff will continue to sit behind the rink change room desk with nothing to do most of the time (they say they like it like that), and the drop-in times at Regent Rink will often be sparsely used or empty -- as is the case at too many of the city's outdoor rinks.

The three Ward 18 rinks (Dufferin, Wallace and Campbell) continue to have staff-run skate lending every day, but Rec management says that skate lending is not part of the city's "council-approved core business" and therefore they can't assign the existing staff to lend out the skates at any other rinks.The rink staff have to focus on safety -- in other words, act as security guards.

When I looked up the council meeting at which council mandated converting the rinks' rec staff into security guards, I only found a 2011 consultants' report saying that the city must focus on registered recreation programs (fee-based except where council funds free programs) and that drop-in programs should require only minimal staff supervision. So I guess the Council of that time must have approved that approach.

This is part of a long and tedious process of converting full-time recreation workers, formerly called "recreationists," into doing mainly data entry, augmented by meetings and training sessions, and turning part-time rec workers at drop-in programs into security guards. Lucy Troisi, the acting Ward 28 city councillor, was a recreationist when I first met her 30 years ago, and her executive assistant, Herb Pirk, was the city's Commissioner of Parks and Recreation before amalgamation. So they both know this story but they may feel it's a good sign, not the disaster I think it is.

I don't have more to say on this right now, but if you feel there's a story here and want to talk to the others who have been involved, directly or at a distance, they are: Matt Cutler, the general manager's manager of issues management, Emily Martyn, the Regent Park CRC manager who is the contact with Friends of Regent Park, Courtney Sweet, who is the community partnership person at Daniels Corp, Elle Alconcel, the Artscape curator at Daniels Spectrum, Councillor Troisi, and Herb Pirk. I've copied them all here.

As I said to you when you called last week, I'm amazed that CBC is still interested in this story. I would have thought the tale is, on one hand, too technical, and on the other hand, pretty tedious by now. However, it may be newsworthy that Councillor Layton has sent a letter to be considered at the January 17 Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting next Wednesday (Jan.17), -- asking them to ask the Parks and Rec general manager to report back in July about doing skate lending at outdoor rinks.

We (the group around have been asking for better outdoor rink programs since 2007, and maybe 11 years later they'll make a start, but I'm not holding my breath. I've copied Councillor Layton here as well. This is a bit of a switch for him since he's been mostly quoted in the media explaining why the city can NOT do skate lending.

At any rate, I'm out of this game for now, happy to get back to the book draft I'm working on. But as you see, your call has given me a chance to sum it up for the people cc'd here, thanks!

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Content last modified on January 10, 2018, at 12:22 PM EST