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Monday Outdoor Rink Report # 14 Feb.22 2010

1. The weather: this winter has had the least bad weather of any year since we began documenting the rinks. But now it will be a little trickier -- since the sun is getting stronger. The first sunny day with above zero (Sunday Feb.21, 5 celsius) showed mushy ice all afternoon, at all rinks. Many rinks did not close their ice and so it was very chopped up. Winter is winding down.

Many people are still unaware of the relation between the angle of the sun and the ice, so in the later afternoon the rinks were crowded with frustrated skaters clomping around in mush. However, gentle persistence in teaching skaters about the physics of ice and sun seems to be leading to insight. "Okay, so you're reminding me that that in mid-November on a low-sun-angle day with 8 degrees the ice was fine and now at 5 degrees with higher sun it's unskateable. Yeah, I get it."

That's progress -- now what's needed is the understanding that the outdoor rinks should close on Feb.28 and reopen on November 15. This would certainly help the overworked compressors.

2. Arena Boards of Management as a target for more Parks and Recreation control -- this has been an interesting argument, perhaps with legs. The Star quotes a Freedom of Information request for North Toronto Arena, to demonstrate the skewed income. It may be a good idea to supply the parallel figures for all the arenas, city and B of M. I continue to be astonished that the 49 compressor-cooled outdoor rinks are almost invisible, so that the empty ice or low usage (public or permit) goes unremarked. That will hopefully change.

As for Brenda Patterson's explanation to the Star that the city arenas offer a larger percentage of "non-permit time" and therefore make less money, here are the current public times in the schedules: Arenas Public Skating Times. Not a lot.

3. "Conflict of Interest" warnings to Ward 18 staff: On Tuesday Feb.23 there will be a meeting on this subject, with Kelvin Seow, Dave Hains and Tino DeCastro, plus the senior PT staff. Although both the general manager and the recreation director have told reporters recently that the current Ward 18 offerings or snack bars, skate rentals, etc. are in no danger of elimination, management pronouncements over the past year suggest otherwise. Last rink season I was told, and PT staff were also told, that they must find a way to stop handling cash outside of city policies. To drive the point home, the recreation manager sent everyone the auditor's fraud policy. PT staff made considerable efforts to adapt the existing viable cash handling system to that of the city. They sent in a detailed report on possible ways to make it work, but that report seems to have been shelved without comment.

Attempts to continue former involvement at Christie Pits were discouraged by rec supervisor Kim Brown, saying that rec staff were not to handle cash, for food or skate lending.

Then in September 2009 the recreation director spent some considerable time explaining to PT staff Sarah Cormier that her contributions to the JJP proposals put her in real danger of conflict of interest. He emphasized that he was quoting from a conversation he had with Brenda Patterson. And finally, rec manager Kelvin Seow told me 10 days ago that he felt the staff were acting in conflict of interest, and that he intended to call them together to discuss this.

Therefore I sent the attached 2005 job description to the rec manager, asking him to highlight those tasks that were against policy and therefore prohibited. The senior PT staff have added a bit more to the list, to reflect additional responsibilities since 2005. Hopefully this will help provide some clarity to the discussion.

4. Letters to the ombudsman: I asked neighbours and rink users to raise the issue of Tino DeCastro's transfer to Metro Hall, as well as the larger issue of lack of consultation with park users. This generated quite a lot more public discussion than I had expected. The ombudsman has now sent me an e-mail suggesting I meet with a "Ms.Chen" from her office to discuss why she cannot address our issues. We will invite Ms.Chen to meet with those people who wrote in, so we can all get a better sense of what the ombudsman does and doesn't do.

Jutta Mason


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