It was presented as an outcome of the North Shore Congress Child and Family Friendly Community Charter which was signed by the eight governments (yes, there are eight plus two First Nations) of the North Shore.
Who wouldn’t agree with Children, Youth and Families being better connected? Nobody I’m sure. However, this program is more about the government of the City of North Vancouver trying to increase it's own profile and less to do with connecting children, youth and families with each other.
You might think I am cynical. But after reading the professionally illustrated and produced brochure/report, even the new catch phrase, CNV4ME, seems to me to be organizational self promotion. Here are some of the highlights:
1. It begins with “Quick facts" that tell you about the City. That its arbitrary boundary encompasses only 12 square kilometers 50 thousand of the 190 thousand people that live on the North Shore and that somehow is important for the City to have its own strategies to make a family friendly community.
It’s important to the City bureaucracy that you are aware of how the City is a distinct community, with its own culture, because without any natural boundaries, this somehow justifies having duplicate local governments in North Vancouver. In this world, government creates community, not the other way around.
2. The first action item: “Provide training for City staff and interested partners on strategies to effectively engage younger community members in municipal activities.”
So, are we going to have our street and utility maintenance crews being trained to relate to kids better? Maybe talk them into coming to a Council meeting? Perhaps help out with the street cleaning or garbage pickup.
But don’t we already have a lot of trained people in the North Vancouver School District and Recreation Commission for whom relating to kids is their job? Or is it that the City thinks it is missing an opportunity to indoctrinate kids early on how one community can’t have too many governments?
3. Another action item: create “an easily accessible micro grants program for residents to access for the purpose of implementing new and innovative activities that build intergenerational connections.”
Hmm… are we going to give grants to kids in the City so that they can go visit their parents in the District? Or perhaps the other way around?
And where are we taking money away to fund these direct grants to individuals for ‘new and innovative programs”?
It is likely to come out of the same pot that funds the Community Service Grant program. This program is one that we fund and manage jointly with the District, which is a very good thing for the organizations that apply since most of them operate across the City/District boundary and if we did not collaborate they would be having to do twice the work for the same chance at obtaining a small grant.
On June 23rd the City approved about 60 grants, many as small as $500, for a wide variety of organizations taking care of people from every age group. The City’s contribution to this jointly funded program with the District is $100,000, a level that has been capped at in 2008 as the requests total over 2.5 times the amount funded. (The District's share has continued to increase and is now 2.9x that of the City)
Since actions provide better evidence of priorities than words, it is worth noting that while the City’s contribution to Community Services Grants has been frozen at $100,000 for six years - the City Manager’s salary went from $231,000 to $291,000.
What bothers the powers that be at the City about this granting program for social service agencies (and to the North Vancouver Recreation Commission for that matter) is that they often don’t respect the City/District boundary. Very few do, thank goodness. As a result, the City doesn’t feel it gets proper ‘credit’ and reinforcement of its legitimacy as a government.
CNV4ME is the City government’s attempt to redress that. It is a part of a deliberate campaign to literally buy legitimacy and connection with the people who live within its odd and awkward boundary, but at the expense of the larger North Vancouver community. That’s why I think the “C” stands for Cynical.