The City of Detroit can’t maintain her Parks but the Private Sector Can

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2013

Week in Review

Detroit, the Motor City, the automotive capital of the world (at one time), is an example of what government should NOT do.  The city got rich off of the automotive industry.  They imposed a city income tax.  Greatly expanded the size of city government.  With the public sector unions negotiating generous pay and benefit packages.  Just as the UAW was giving their members generous pay and benefit packages.  And why not?  Detroit WAS the Motor City.  And nothing was going to stop that cash cow.  What could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, a lot.  Competition came in and offered quality cars for less.  And the great decline of the Big Three began.  As did all that tax revenue to fund that expanded government with those generous pay and benefit packages.  Fast forward to today and Detroit is a shell of what it once was.  Half of its population is gone.  Drowning under the cost of that expansive city government.  And forced to close city parks because there’s just no money left after paying for those generous pay and benefit packages (see Detroit to Lose 51 Parks – Impact on Residents by Marilisa Sachteleben by Marilisa Sachteleben posted 2/4/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Detroit’s City Council nixed a plan to lease Belle Isle to the State of Michigan last week. In response, Mayor Dave Bing announced plans to close 51 area parks, cut maintenance at others, and greatly reduce recreation center budgets overall, says the Detroit Free Press…

The Detroit Free Press reports that revenue lost from the collapsed Belle Isle deal means that groundskeeping on Belle Isle will be limited. The Belle Isle Conservancy was able to get the island’s historical aquarium reopened in 2012 after being shut down for several years. With less money, it may be difficult for Belle Isle attractions to remain open…

Detroit resident Syed Mohiuddin of the Michigan Muslim Community Council is very concerned about park closures. He said, “My wife and I live downtown, and we are definitely affected by the announcement. Park closures are not an option. To the contrary, we need to invest more in parks to make our neighborhoods safer and community healthy. How do we do that given the state of our budget? Partnerships. Corporations, suburban religious groups, and others can and should partner with city government and community organizations and find solutions for each and every park. They are just too important to sacrifice, not in the name of politics, not in the name of budgets.”

He’s right, you know.

One local park group came up with such a solution: the Clark Park Coalition. Clark Park, at 1130 Clark St. in Detroit’s Southwest-Mexicantown neighborhood, was forced to close over 20 years ago due to financial troubles in Detroit. Concerned neighbors, activists, organizations, and youth programs put their heads together to preserve Clark Park. They formed a nonprofit partnership with the city recreation department.

Currently, Clark Park’s collective provides year-round programs to over 1,200 youths in the area. It maintains a regulation-size outdoor ice hockey rink (the only one in Metro Detroit). Free daily summer lunches are served to over 100 youth. Activities at Clark Park include baseball, arts and crafts, field trips, soccer, golf, fitness training, softball, tennis, roller hockey, gardening, and ice skating. Kids can come to the park center for homework help, mentoring, and computer assistance. There are community service activities for school projects and even opportunities for kids to find jobs.

Imagine that.  The City of Detroit is going bankrupt.  They can’t afford basic maintenance at their parks.  And look at all the private sector did at Clark Park.  This just goes to show you what the private sector can do.  And what the public sector can’t do.  The lesson?  Cities should privatize as much as they can.  And embrace partnerships.  Corporations.  Suburban religious groups.  And community organizations.

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