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Should the Hamilton County Park District Use Some of its Funds for Parks in the City of Cincinnati?

By · May 2nd, 2002 · Three Way

David N. Schaff

President, Hamilton County Young Democrats
The Hamilton County park levy is worthy of passage May 7 and county park commissioners have indicated a willingness to partner with the Cincinnati Park Board on many projects.

Still, there are some advocates for sharing the park levy proceeds who have spread misleading information on why it is unfair "not" to share with the city.

The park district was created in 1930, at the recommendation of Cincinnati Mayor Murray Seasongood, as an independent government agency, not a part of Hamilton County government. Seventeen parks and nature preserves, spanning 13,324 acres, make up the park district.

The park levy renewal will allow for continuation of the existing level of services and protection of natural resources in all of Hamilton County, as well as nature education and visitors' services.

The park commissioners changed the May 7 ballot language to allow for cooperation agreements with other public authorities, which would include the Cincinnati Parks.

Some examples of the county park district's plan to provide funding for city greenspace projects include: the planned extension of the Little Miami River Bike-Hike Trail to the Lunken bike path and beyond the city of Cincinnati and the Anderson Park District, as well as the proposed development of Otto Armleder Park along the Little Miami River in cooperation with the Cincinnati Park Board and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

There have also been discussions between the two districts about funding a new Riverfront Park that would be part of the Banks.

The park district's track record indicates that it will follow through on these commitments and be a true regional leader.

Campaigning against this levy sends the wrong message to our community and does a disservice to all of Hamilton County. Voting for Issue 4 ensures that our great parks will not only continue but will provide even greater benefits.

Gwen Marshall

Convener, Southwest Ohio Green Party
Cincinnati City Parks are enjoyed by people from all over the Tristate area, but does that mean that money from the Hamilton County Park levy should be shared directly with the city parks?

If one says yes, then one should also support sharing the county park levy money with all of the municipal park systems in Hamilton County.

One problem with combining all of the park systems under one levy is that it would likely lead to a decrease in funding for the municipal parks as well as the destruction of the county parks.

The present diversity of the park systems would also be reduced under sharing. Some municipalities fund parks emphasizing passive recreation and nature preservation, whereas others spend most of their money on recreational parks. Both stand in contrast to the county's goal of creating large parks.

The reason that some Cincinnati residents think their parks should directly get money from the county park levy is that Cincinnati Parks get basically no financial support from the county park system. It would not, though, be a good tradeoff to have the county park system assume ownership and maintenance of some Cincinnati Parks, because we would lose the ability to politically influence the management of these parks.

The only real input citizens have regarding the management of the county parks is at levy time. In contrast, citizens can use their municipal government's influence in their parks' yearly budget to affect decisions regarding their local park system.

If Cincinnati Parks had the same autonomy as the county parks, citizens would not have been able to stop Krohn Conservatory from being closed or a convention center from being built by the previous Cincinnati Parks director.

The county park board places signs for its levy near Cincinnati Parks to gain a strategic advantage for their levy. The fact that this works shows that Cincinnati residents want their parks adequately funded.

Both county and municipal parks contribute to an improved quality of life in the community, so both do deserve our support, just not under one funding mechanism.

Charles Tassell,

President, Blue Chip Young Republicans

While some would say that whenever a ballot states, "shall levy," we should vote no, we must come to grips with some of the problems facing communities.

First and foremost, with people (property owners) fleeing the county and especially the city, is funding for parks really a necessity?

The city and county bicker over who should get the funds -- the city claims to "need" a piece of the $18 million a year for parks when the hypocrisy of the city is to deny sharing the 2.1 percent income tax on anyone who works in the city: price tag almost $300 million a year!

But the real issue is: do we even need this levy? We just "celebrated" Tax Freedom day here in Ohio (when you stop working for the government and actually start working for yourself) and need to recognize why people are leaving this county.

Across the country, metro regions fear the "donut-holing" of the urban core: nobody wants to be the next Detroit. Yet watching the increase in social programs, property taxes and regulations piled on Detroit and the increase in flight across racial boundaries to the suburbs, a moment of pause is needed: why are people leaving the area?

The government fixes, in the form of regulations and property taxes to pay for the perks and enforcement are always on the top of the complaint list. However, the need to provide the increased services and "quality of life" services are at the heart of arguments utilized for every tax or fee increase, even when each increase drives more people to "cheaper land," as has been cited time and time again.

Sharing issues aside, why does the replacement park levy increase actual revenue by 70 percent? Has the population increased that much? Has usage increased 70 percent?

Actually, the population has shrunk by at least 2.5 percent in the county, much more in the city. The increase is also not about offsetting inflation -- it hasn't increased 70 percent in 15 years.

Ignore the arguments about who gets how much; that is just noise and payoff for an issue that hasn't justified itself or its increase. If it had, we would be inundated with charts on increased traffic and polls showing why people are moving to the region.

We need to save our money for priorities, not waste it on luxuries. Vote no on the park levy.

Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.



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