Thoughts of a ‘retiring’ Councillor (Guy Heywood)
In the classic 1955 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Trouble With Harry”, a village tries to figure out what to do with Harry. Harry, you see, is dead. His body mysteriously appears and several people in the village think that they might have been the one that killed him.
The renewal of the Harry Jerome Recreation centre has also been dragged around our community for a very long time.
The facility was built in 1966 as a result of a 50/50 partnership of the two North Vancouver local governments with federal support back in the day when local governments were small and common sense could overcome political differences and bureaucratic self interest.
But that would never happen today. And a self-interested City government made sure that it would not happen when it bought out the District’s interest in Harry Jerome facility in 1995 for two and a half million dollars.
Why would one local government buy out it’s neighbour’s share of already a 30 year old recreation centre that would cost over $60 million dollars to rebuild? Seems a lot to pay for a future liability.
I believe there are two reasons: First, the Corporation of the City of North Vancouver was created by a developer to facilitate development, not build community. It has a tendency to look at properties as development sites first, not community assets. It certainly did not want to have to share a potential windfall at this future development site with the District.
Second, the City government does not really want to invest significantly in a major community amenity close to its boundary anyway. The facility is physically closer to the government on 29th and Mahon than it is to the one at 14th and Lonsdale, and at least half of the users of the facility are from the District.
Even though the renewal of Harry Jerome tops the list of desired community amenities in practically every survey of the public, it is more important to the interests that guide the City government to build a new waterfront attraction to boost flagging condo sales than it is to rebuild the most important community facility in North Vancouver. Other than the already too small John Braithwaite Centre which was built by a developer as a community amenity, and negotiating limited public access to the hotel pool at the Pinnacle, the City has never built a recreation facility.
However, in order not to be seen to be directly thwarting the public’s number one priority, any serious discussion of the project at Council has been deflected by requests for studies of outdoor vs. indoor recreation, references to the higher priority of other public infrastructure projects* and impractical suggestions to distribute parts of the facility throughout the City.
And if the parochial interests inside the City can’t derail it, the focused interests of the key stakeholders (Silver Harbour, Flicka Gymnastics, lawn bowlers, the aquatics community) that the City keeps tantalizing and then disappointing can be relied upon to make the puzzle that is the aptly named Harry Jerome Complex appear too complicated to solve.
However, those interest groups are not the ones that have killed our Harry. Like the Harry in the Hitchcock movie, our Harry has been dead a long time. It was killed by the self interest of the government on 14th Street that sees development potential instead of community assets and doesn’t want to have to share stuff with the government on 29th Street. As a consequence the greater North Vancouver community will not get the community recreation centre that it deserves. .
* “In an ideal world .. we’d be looking at key infrastructure projects, such as water and sewer and public transportation being a priority, let’s say, over recreation centres,” Mayor Darrell Mussatto reported in Business In Vancouver, Tuesday June 11, 2013