Thursday, January 10, 2013

If you love our parks, set them free

Speech to the Josephine County Commissioners, 9/15/2010  

Commissioner Toler made a good point on September 1st, speaking of the necessity to fine people who won’t pay $2 to park a car in a park or to use a boat ramp.  He said that allowing them to not pay is “welfare,” which is to say, forced charity.
Our parks now run independently of our tax dollars and general fund.  The people that one is forcing to pay for one’s park visit are other users of the park who pay fees to camp, use a boat ramp, or park for day use.  When you pass this ordinance allowing fines, the parks will be run completely like a business, albeit a non-profit business.
This creates another opportunity to do what we did with our libraries: set them free of the strangling hand of government.  In that case, we had a charity that needed to be run like a charity, asking some people to pay for others to use the libraries, which they are glad to do.  In this case, we have a non-profit business that is already running like a business, asking people to pay for what they use.
If they are running so well now, why should we set them free?  Because everything that is run by our County is threatened by union contracts and the PERS retirement system.  Our parks can be run more efficiently than they are now, and be less vulnerable to county budget problems, simply by handing them off to non-governmental organizations using non-union employees that are not covered by PERS.
This Board should write an ordinance that would divide our park system into sections that group parks together by proximity, and allow any neighborhood association of people who live within a section to take over management of its included parks, if they can show a business plan that would run them more efficiently than there are now being run, under bylaws that would keep fees for particular activities, like camping, day-use parking, and use of boat ramps, reasonable and uniform.  The bylaws would have to include that said parks are being run for the benefit of all as “Josephine Community Parks” and that any proceeds above maintenance costs shall be dedicated to park improvements.
A neighborhood association would have the greatest interest in keeping their neighbourhood parks well-maintained and free of low-life activities, and they are right there to make sure that it is done.  They could hire a person to live in their parks and make sure that fees are paid and park rules are followed, and to call the cops if people won’t follow the rules.

Published at under Force and Charity #9.

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