Thursday, March 01, 2007

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, Ca for Feb 28, 07

Park It.

A couple of years ago the county Grand Jury issued a report on the often lamentable condition of our public parks. The parks division budget has been flat-lined for ages while demand for services and population and visitors have increased dramatically. The result is too few parks overburdened and falling behind in maintenance often resulting in conditions that range from merely shabby to dangerous.

To help remedy the situation, a Blue Ribbon Task Force of twelve community leaders from various disciplines came together to study the problem and now have issued a task force report which contains various suggestions for improving our parks.

The Board of Supervisors now has the opportunity to implement the findings, ignore the report, or hold public hearings to get further input on the matter and proceed accordingly.

To date, the biggest concern to hit the papers on the report is its recommendation that a separate county parks department be created and fully funded. Right now the parks department is fitted in under the General Services Department and the concern is that while tucked into General Services, the department is being treated like a red-haired step child. Naturally, that suggestion is hotly denied by Duane Leib, head of General Services, who points out that setting up a separate parks department would cost more since many services would necessarily have to be duplicated. And as for arguing that parks is getting somehow overlooked, Leib is quoted in the Tribune as saying, “I have carefully allowed parks to operate on their own agenda and have not restricted or interfered with their growth and improvement. He added that Jenny [Pete, head of the Parks division] has "always enjoyed "unfiltered access" to the Board of Supervisors.”

So there the matter sits until the BOS acts. In the meantime, the people of this county need to be thinking about some additional questions: If creating a whole new separate department would be too expensive, could the Parks Department get more bang for their buck if they hired a full time volunteer coordinator to set up an aggressively run program of community outreach to enlist the aid of volunteers willing to help in actively improving and even increasing park facilities?

As just one example, consider Off Leash Dog Parks. A few short years ago there were zero dog parks in the county. Now, thanks to Parks head Pete Jenny’s active support in partnering with volunteer groups, there are now four official fenced, properly run (by volunteers), very popular and heavily used Off Leash Dog Parks offering recreation opportunities to all in the county, with more in the works. From zero to four is an expansion and creation of NEW park facilities for very little cost to the taxpayer – all the result of actively joining public/private resources.

But it wasn’t an easy task because too often citizens wishing to create new recreational opportunities face a bewildering maze of overburdened staff, bureaucratic hurdles, the intractable stone wall of political Turf Wars, administrative indifference, or unnecessary legal entanglements, all of which could be lessened by a knowledgeable full time staff person whose sole job would be to help create and support such projects, actively seek grants to fund them and focus on ways cities, the county, the state AND private citizens could all combine forces to create these new recreation areas.

That would be one relatively easy fix. But the bigger question must rest with the community: Just how much do you value your parks? And how much are each of you willing to pay to make sure those resources are not only kept usable but expanded to meet the growing population?

It is a cruel irony of California land prices that when you can’t afford to buy park land is exactly when you need to buy park land because when you CAN afford to buy it, it’s too late, it’s all gone. So that’s the rapidly closing window of opportunity this county has before it: Fully fund both parks acquisition, fund the necessary services needed to maintain and improve the acquisitions, and get creative about finding new ways of partnering to get more bang from each buck. Or, lose it all and have to answer our grandchildren when they ask us, “Why did you turn a blind eye to a future that was not yours to squander?”


Mike Green said...

I'm going to guess that loud thump I heard was a conglomerate jaws hitting the floor.

Ann decrying parks deficiancy while fully questioning the development of a sewer park.
Of course it's way more complicated than that, but I'm sure It'll happen.

Churadogs said...

Mike Green sez:"Ann decrying parks deficiancy while fully questioning the development of a sewer park.
Of course it's way more complicated than that, but I'm sure It'll happen."

Once again, wrong reading, wrong conclusion, wrong perception. And you wonder why so many folks in Los Osos are confused and screaming at one another. Nobody listens to what people actually say or write or they take one comment and twist it all out of context then start hollering or mis-read something then fly off to wrong conclusions. Yikes.

My questions about the SewerPark or Park In A SewerPlant has always gone to . . . PROCESS, not PARK. This is a point that Ron Crawford has always raised and one that I agree with: If the community really wanted a park, and had demonstrated an overwhelming community value to have a centrally located park, then they would have voted to raise their taxes to get the money to buy and build one. That's not what happpened with Tri W, which is why Ron questions the PROCESS whereby a park appeared as part & parcel of a sewer plant, apparently influenced and/or dictated the location of the sewer plant to the most expensive piece of centrally located property around, and was apparently going to be paid for with SRF sewer money funds? Uh . . . . All of that is process, not parks.

Mike Green said...

Gee, I should have put a title on my post,
" The Following is satire"
And the gist was EXACTLY what you replied.
Sorry if I confused you Ann.

Ron said...

Ann wrote:

"...whereby a park appeared as part & parcel of a sewer plant, apparently influenced and/or dictated the location of the sewer plant to the most expensive piece of centrally located property around."

Not apparently. The park dictated the location. No park. No Tri-W (for the initial CSD's second project). It's that simple, as the TAC will soon discover.

So, the next obvious question: Why is there a park in the Tri-W project? And, as I've reported for two-plus years now, there is no good answer to that question. None. Never has been, and never will be.

The interesting thing, Mike, is that both Ann AND I are huge parks advocates. In fact, I think the Tri-W site would make a perfect park location for Los Osos... just without an industrial sewer plant jammed in it.

But it all comes down to funding. Look, if Los Osos wants to pay for a multi-million dollar park at the same time they are paying for a multi-multi million dollar sewer system, well, then, there should be at least a shred of evidence that shows that hard-to-believe "want." (And 87-percent of the "brainwashed" voters from 1998 that voted for a project with a "maximum monthly payment of $38.75" -- a project that included some vague reference to some sort of "future recreational opportunities," but NEVER actually included park amenities -- does not show a "strongly held community value" that a multi-million dollar, centrally located public park be constructed in any sewer plant in Los Osos. I mean, c'mon, think about it, that's ridiculous.)

But, how nice would Tri-W be as a tight, imaginative, sewer plant-free, public park? Question is: How do you fund it (other than by playing "bait and switchy" with the California Coastal Commission so you can put the cost of the park on California taxpayers)?

"... and was apparently going to be paid for with SRF sewer money funds?"

Again, not apparently. Darrin Polhemus, of the SWRCB's Divison of Financial Assistance, told me over the phone awhile back that the SRF loan for the LOCSD was going to fund the amphitheater, picnic area, etc. I can't tell you how much that bugs me, but the part that just kills me is according to the SRF's own brilliant policy, it specifically states that "decorative items" are not eligible for SRF funding.

Think about that... some administrator, somewhere had the brilliant foresight to say, "No. You can't have things like fountains funded by California taxpayers for a loan that is supposed to be used for wastewater facilities only."

And that great concept ended up in the SRF policy. So brilliant. It makes so much sense.

Yet, the LOCSD's SRF loan was going to pay for things like a picnic area, and community gardens, and all kinds of other "decorative" crap. And why were California taxpayers about to fund that crap for Los Osos? Three words: "Bait and switchy."

Such BS.

That's why I wrote this in June, 2005.

Just this morning, I sent Paavo Ogren an e-mail that contained this question:

I understand you, along with the Ferguson group will be travelling to Washington D.C. next week to lobby for sewer funding. Can you tell me if that funding, if secured, will be used to pay for the $2.3 million worth of amenities in the Tri-W project, if it is selected?

Ann wrote:

"All of that is process, not parks."

Dead-on accurate.

*PG-13 said...

TITLE: The Following is Not Satire. It is the Simple Plain Truth, All the Truth and Nothing but the Truth.

Mike Green said > Gee, I should have put a title on my post, " The Following is satire"

Sorry Mike, satire not allowed on this blog. Sewers be very serious business ya know? Which is why my comments are always so serious and right on topic. Can't be beating around the bush when the fate of the community hangs in balance is what I say. Case in point: I think the commentary this blog inspires is represented quite well in this short Monty Python sketch.