Updike Administration wants to Abolish Park Board

Front page of the Herald Press again today, announces that the Updike administration is recommending to City Council this Tuesday evening that the Park Board be abolished — with the Mayor citing the Umbaugh operational processes study as his rationale.  

In my opinion, the mayor’s move to abolish the Park Board has nothing to do with the Umbaugh study — I can’t even find the words “abolish” and “Park Board” in the study.  It seems that whatever is driving the administration to pursue this matter is motivated by something else.

Throughout the history of the city there has been an on and off existence of the Park Board.  There was a Park Board for many years until Mayor Robbins dissolved it in the early 1980’s.  In 1999, Mayor Kyle appointed a committee to look into the benefits of reestablishing a Park Board — later on in 1999 a Park Board was reestablished by the City Council upon the recommendation of the Park Board Exploratory Committee. 

Their specific rationale was that a Park Board would . . .

1 — “provide the community a mechanism for improving our quality of life
2 — make the city eligible for more grant programs
3 — provide a (system) of checks and balances for the city parks
4 — increase awareness of park needs
5 — provide a citizen’s board to oversee the park department operations
6 — (embrace the premise that) the more people are involved, the better things will look and work (in our parks)
7 — help restore pride and enthusiasm for our park system
8 — (recognize) that parks belong to the constituents of the city and the park board gives them a little more control of park programs and facilities.”

The final conclusion of the Park Board Exploratory Committee is as true today as it was in 1999:  “Due to the fact that human beings seem to need aesthetically pleasing open spaces in order to enjoy a high quality of life, and living in a city environment limits the open spaces and vistas people can enjoy, which means that city parks commonly provide the only outdoor experiences necessary for many people.  Also, the condition and availability of city parks has a big impact on the city’s image to visitors.  Because of the importance and pride that quality parks provide a community — we see the re-establishment of a city park board and the development of a master plan to guide the park’s activities as the preferred way to bring back pride in our community’s parks and improve the overall quality of life in our fine city.”

The administration’s move to abolish the Park Board is short-sighted and fails to keep in sight the long-term benefits that the Park Board has and will continue to provide to the citizens of Huntington and our quality of life. 

If the administration is serious about implementing the valuable recommendations of the Umbaugh study they should turn to the index on page 6 of the October 6, 2010 report and look through the recommendations, such as . . .

. . . moving forward with consolidating Dispatch Centers (City and County)
. . . moving forward with upgrading the Landfill Scales and Updating Rates
. . . moving forward with shifting the cost of street cleaning and leaf pick-up from the Street Department to the Water Pollution Control Department (since these tasks are mandated by EPA and IDEM as part of keeping our rivers clean and the efficient operations of our sewers)
. . . moving forward with meaningful discussions between the City, County and HCCSC consolidating our automotive and equipment repair services
. . . moving forward with a host of ways to provide meaningful and necessary city services in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

The City of Huntington has a bright future.  It is not necessary or prudent to abolish the Park Board or sacrifice our Parks on the altar of  short-sighted leadership.    There are a host of better ways to provide high levels of service to the citizens of Huntington without first hastily turning to user fees or politicizing our parks.

Let’s move forward!

Brooks Fetters

Posted in Campaign News

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