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posted October 18, 2007
Until October 12, Mayor David Miller stuck to his story that the city’s 49 outdoor compressor-cooled ice rinks wouldn’t open until January 1, to save money. (Or maybe: December 31.) So rink friends from various parts of the city started “Save our rinks.”
This story has some unexpected plot twists. Although requests by Councillors to take up the rink issue were repeatedly ruled out of order at City Hall, MasterCard suddenly changed the bad news – by offering to pay the $160,000 that the City said they would save by keeping the rinks closed during the busiest month of the rink season.
Mayor Miller accepted the offer a few hours later. The arrangement appears to involve no “branding,” but who needs it? It was a wonderful gesture by MasterCard, certainly unforgettable, and it worked in favour of skaters all over the city.
Of course, as Mayor Miller says, you can’t run a city on corporate donations. That’s why we have taxes. And you can’t run the outdoor rinks on $160,000 a month either. How much the outdoor rinks actually cost to run is still unknown, according to City Outdoor Rinks manager Kevin Bowser. At an October 17 outdoor rinks meeting called by CELOS, Mr.Bowser acknowledged that city staff are still working on the project begun by ex-Parks and Recreation director Don Boyle in 2002: finding out the details of how much Parks and Recreation spends to run each of their various operations. Mr.Bowser said that the cost discovery project will not have the outdoor rink costs information until January.
At the October 17 there were rink supporters from various rinks in the city, plus the CELOS rink research crew. They met with Kevin Bowser for two hours to consider the Rink Report’s suggestions. New recreation manager Constanza Allevato was also at the meeting, plus this area’s recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro. They’re keen to follow up.
Kevin Bowser is now in his second year as the “where the buck stops” person for outdoor rinks. He said that if rink users want changes in how the outdoor rinks are scheduled and maintained, they will have to show community support. Moral: this is the year to get a lot of information and feedback to Parks and Recreation management.
So rink users from all over the city need to e-mail their complaints/follow-up suggestions to management staff, and to get in touch with other rink supporters in their area. Time to speak up!
1. Rinks represented: Rink users at the meeting were there for the following rinks: Rennie, High Park, Campbell, Wallace, Dufferin, Ramsden, Jimmie Simpson, Monarch and Greenwood. Plus the CELOS rink research team, who regularly visited 23 rinks.
2. Follow-up about the timing of the rink season and other rink details: Outdoor rinks manager Kevin Bowser said that any change of season would need larger community input. Good idea!
CELOS will therefore undertake to contact each city councillor with rinks in her/his ward, and offer help in setting up forums for giving input THIS WINTER about the rink season and other aspects of the outdoor rinks.
-- each councillor will get a copy of the new rink booklet by the first week in November 2007 Rink Report
-- each councillor who wishes, will get a CELOS outdoor rink briefing, giving updated information on budgets as the numbers come in, and on easy rink improvements, and on climate
-- CELOS will help any councillor who wishes to canvass opinion in preparation for a ward rink meeting (with posters, web links for rink users, rink booklets available from rink attendants, etc.)
-- CELOS will send a presenter to meetings if the councillor (or local rink supporters) want that
3. Follow-up about outdoor rink costs:
a) Although Kevin Bowser says the rink costs will not be available until the new year, three September 27 Freedom of Information requests are mandated by law to have a response by Nov.5. That means the city must supply whatever information they can find by then. The information will be posted on saveourrinks.ca.
b) Follow-up freedom of information requests will be filed about rink staffing and job descriptions, and the responses will be posted also.
4. Follow-up with Recreation staff:
CELOS researchers and recreation workers are meeting with Recreation manager Constanza Allevato on Thursday Oct.25 to plan for:
-- making sure there's a functioning phone at every outdoor rink, with listed numbers that rink users can call for real-time information, and rink staff trained to be friendly and informative
-- signs indicating staff rooms, change rooms, and washrooms in every outdoor rink
-- printed schedules for rink users in every outdoor rink
-- working bulletin boards inside and outside of every outdoor rink, with up-to-date rink information, and rink attendants trained to keep the information current and visible for ink users
-- procedures worked out for better cleanliness, including better access to cleaning supplies
-- good indoor and outdoor seating for rink users --collaborating with Parks staff to identify locations that need it, following up to make sure it gets there.
5. Follow-up on community input:
a) Rink attendants will be asked to post Kevin Bowser's name and contact information at every rink, and following up with people who wish to contact him -- this is to address his concerns about information not reaching him.
b) Rink attendants will be asked to help rink supporters and activists (e.g. Heather O'Mara at Jimmie Simpson, Garfield Mahood at Ramsden, Sally Bliss at Greenwood) contact the neighborhood team leads, so they can get cross-branch information and set up a meeting if desired
c) Rink attendants will be trained to log and pass on rink user views, with contact information, to their supervisors, so that the user comments go to the right staff, or to the ward councillor if that's what the rink users request
d) Rink supervisors will work with ward councillors if they wish to set up community forums to get rink users' views
6. Follow-up with Kevin Bowser: CELOS researchers will send Mr.Bowser a follow-up list of Rink Report questions and also the Dufferin Rink staffing information he seeks, for discussion on Friday Nov.2.
7. Follow-up with rink reports:
CELOS researchers will work with any rink supporters who wish to put on special events, start a rink web site, or who want to solve a problem at their rink. A CELOS researcher will also be visiting each of the outdoor rinks in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough, which were left off the visiting list last year. All findings will be posted on the web.