Monday, August 15, 2011

Retool the Message?

In this editorial from the Sacramento Bee, the proponents of a regional parks district to take over the parks that Sacramento County has not been able to take care of for years (to be funded by a sales tax increase) are urged to retool their message, which is apparently not yet resonating with taxpayers.

Our advice, on the other hand, would be to drop this adventure in futility—extracting yet more taxes from an already over-taxed public during one of the worst economic times in memory—and instead examine the real-world success of the type of innovative parks management noted by Doug Ose in a recent article, which we blogged on, and visit Gibson Ranch.

Here is the response from Doug Ose to the current editorial on the comments page:

“As often as the editorial board opines on the issue of regional parks in Sacramento County, they have yet to visit Gibson Ranch and see the success that private management has achieved. The editorial board of the Bee has consistently opined about what an evil turn of events it is that private management was given the opportunity to operate Gibson Ranch. Now, the editorial board argues that the only way to preserve regional parks is to adopt an operating system developed for the Bay Area. The editorial board does not talk about creating revenue by offering programs and services that the public wants and thereby having the park system support itself. The editorial board does not talk about reforming maintenance practices. The editorial board does not talk about revamping work rules that dictate narrow job classifications and employee compensation far in excess of what is paid in the private economy. The editorial board only talks about increasing taxes so as to give more money to a new governmental bureaucracy probably run by the very same people who proved incapable of sustaining the parks in the first place.

“Let's just review the facts. Gibson Ranch Regional Park was closed by the County Parks Department the day after Labor Day 2010. Prior to that, it was open only on Saturdays and Sundays, except on summer Fridays when the Rio Linda Elverta Recreation and Parks District stepped in and operated the facility. Little if any maintenance was performed and the facility deteriorated almost beyond repair. Rental cabins and camping spaces and the swim hole were closed to the public. The Ranch House was closed. No programs or services were offered to the general public. The bathrooms weren't being cleaned for weeks on end. The garbage sat moldy and uncollected in the garbage cans from months previous. The grass was being cut about every five weeks. The pastures were unkempt. The Hmong community moved their cultural events to another location. Country in the Park relocated to Capitol Mall. A new $400,000 entry gate was installed. The public was not able to use the park.

“Compare that with now. The park is open every day. The bathrooms are cleaned every day. The garbage is collected and removed every day. The grass is regularly cut. Camping is slowly growing into an everyday occurrence. Civil War Days is back and thriving with over 3,000 people attending on May 21/22. The Hmong community has returned and held a large cultural event on July 9/10 that attracted about 18,000 people over two days. The Midnight Mass Car Show was held on July 30 and attracted over 12,000 people. Country in the Park will be held at Gibson Ranch on September 11. In addition, companies are holding their annual picnics at Gibson Ranch. Families are holding reunions at Gibson Ranch. Birthday parties abound. BBQs every weekend. The rental cabins are on the verge of being completely remodeled after 15 years of no use. The lake has been stocked with trout and people are pulling fish out every day. The contrast is startling from just over four months ago to today.

“The plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors is working at Gibson Ranch.
Under the lease arrangement approved by the Board, the County manages a contract. Services and programs are funded and delivered by a private operator subject to certain performance standards. The park is open and people are using it.

“The editorial board is getting ready to "sell" you on the need for new taxes and a new governmental bureaucracy. There is no need for either. Come to Gibson Ranch and see for yourself.” (highlighting added)

Doug Ose August 12, 2011 @ 1:04 AM