Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House AGM & Bylaw Changes

Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood house held their AGM today. It has now been moved from October to July. Despite summer doldrums, about 50 people were in attendance.

The chair explained that while the neighbourhood houses are required to hold individual AGMs they are not in fact autonomous legal entities but are actually branches of the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia. The chair emphasized several times that this was not a "legal meeting."

Highlights of the event: A new website has just been rolled out. It's

The daycare has a waiting list of about 50 children, an increase because of the closure of other daycares in the neighbourhood.

Repairs and upgrades were dwelt on lovingly with before and after pictures. Most changes related to new flooring and more environmentally efficient lightbulbs and appliances.

Sad news: Broadway Connection has had its funds eliminated by Coastal Health and the program may end in October unless reinstated. It's a therapeutic peer to peer self-help group for disabled adults that has been funded by Vancouver Coastal Health for twenty-five years. The previous beneficiaries mounted a publicity campaign but have so far been unable to get those funds restored.

Bylaws* changes that had been decided by the board were ratified by those assembled.
A major change allows persons to serve on the Community Board [formerly called the Board of Managers] who do not live in the neighbourhood.

There were several changes around membership. One was that those who take out a family membership will only be allowed to have one adult vote per family at the AGM, unless they take out an additional adult membership. (Adult memberships are now $4 and family memberships $6. Not including a now-voluntary $2 ANHBC membership.) The most surprising change was that free memberships will be given to children 12 to 18 and that these will be voting memberships.

As the meetings are conducted, however, voting doesn't mean very much. In the interim between the previous AGM last October and this one, the board and staff made their own decision about filling all but 2 of the previously vacant board seats. They presented a "slate" nominee at this AGM for one of the remaining seats and announced that unlike in the past there would be no nominations from the floor. They say they are holding the last open seat vacant for a youth member.

Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House's activities are primarily aimed at programs for low-income and immigrant residents of this neighbourhood area, so it's rather a contrast to see who is on their now-self-appointing community board. The new board member - approved, of course - is a nurse with a masters in public health. Nearly every other member of the board also has a master's degree, and/or is a business owner or an administrator.

With such a highly educated and well-connected board, one would hope for some high-powered fundraising. This past year, donations and fundraising accounted for only $34,000 of the more than $1.5 million dollars in revenue - an increase over previous years of about $11,000. A "business fundraiser" was described as having been "controversial" and therefore a financial failure. There was no time allowed for questions to clear up what this meant. Fundraisers initiated by members were not mentioned.

For fiscal year 2009-10 (which ended March 31) there was about $200,000 more income than the previous year, but MPNH still ended up more than $63,000 in the hole. The treasurer said staff hours have now been cut. (Salaries & benefits had increased by about $200,000, to $1,249,645. The number of staff this covered was not reported.)

If you want to know more about Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House, it's at the corner of Prince Albert & Broadway. Check it out.

*One change was to rename the house's Operating Guide to the Bylaws. As MPNH is not in itself a legal entity, there is some question about whether these are legally binding bylaws; and some of the things in the bylaws, such as who may drive the house's cars, seem more appropriate for Rules and Procedures than for bylaws.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Willow Blight in Area

On a trip today to Trout Lake, we observed many weeping willows looking seriously blighted on both sides of the lake. A similar blight seems to have affected a curly willow in our yard. Leaves blacken, curl up and die. The stems look as if burnt.

I googled "willow blight" to read more about this disease, and apparently it has been moving steadily from the East Coast for decades, and had been observed in Vancouver as early as the late 1970s. It's fungal - actually, a combination of two fungi - and there really is no treatment, as the fungus hides inside the tree. According to one article, the blight flourishes during wet summers, and not only rain but also mist or fog can worsen it. Planting trees too close together also helps it spread.

Trout lake has a great many willows that add a lot to its beauty - I'm sad to see that we may be losing so many. The large willows that are farther away from the lake and on higher ground seemed to be healthy, but most of the trees that are closer, and close to the other undergrowth, are not. The new growth on the recently constructed willow fence looks fine, so far.