Jewell’s point: With budget cuts ‘It Starts in Parks’

Marty Jewell is a man of bold action. He’s not afraid to stick his neck out and say what needs to be said. He has the best intentions for his district and the city he represents. Scratch that Richmond. Marty Jewell is a blowhard that has become the laughingstock of Richmond City Council. According to a […]

Marty Jewell is a man of bold action. He’s not afraid to stick his neck out and say what needs to be said. He has the best intentions for his district and the city he represents.

Scratch that Richmond. Marty Jewell is a blowhard that has become the laughingstock of Richmond City Council.

According to a report from NBC12, Jewell is making the push as council is sorting out the 2012 budget. He wants to cut 33 percent of the James River Park’s $300,000 budget. What, is there another useless study that cost millions and result in nothing but wasted money that he’d rather support?

Marty does have a point – cuts need to be made to balance the city budget, but I don’t think “It Starts in Parks” if you’ll pardon the pun.

Richmond MORE volunteers and JRPS staffers work on Belle Isle trails in January 2011Jewell’s district has the crown jewels of the city’s parks. Bryd Park, Maymont, North Bank, Belle Isle on the north side and the Main Area of the JRPS and Forest Hill Park on the south bank. The James River Park Trail — a highlight of this weekend’s Dominion Riverrock Festival — loops completely through his district. How can he ignore those valuable amenities? Even worse, how can he not expect his constituents to notice his slight against the parks that have transformed so much of his district, raising the property values of homes in the past 10+ years by making them more desirable for outdoor enthusiasts and — by the measure of the heavy usage of the parks — made the neighborhoods safer places to live?

Richmond MORE volunteers and JRPS staffers work on the Buttermilk Trails in March 2011What I find insulting about this proposal – besides the obvious political play (against council president, Kathy Graziano, per NBC12) and the slap at park volunteers – is that parks aren’t that expensive to maintain. What, $300,000 is too much? The James River Park sees at least 600,000 visitors annually (per a VCU study), so we should double the budget to $600,000 to make it a $1 per person.

No, instead Jewell proposes to take the traditionally been underfunded JRPS budget down to $200,000, which would cut the seasonal staffers. We cut them, we lose people we spent good money to train to another city smart enough to pay them. A step backwards — the type of action that keeps Richmond from succeeding. These guys don’t just empty trash cans — there is plenty of valuable skilled labor they do that other cities would love to steal. 

Maybe Jewell was taking a swipe at Dr. Norman Merrifield, Richmond’s new Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, who doesn’t start until next week but will already have a clue as to one guy that doesn’t get a discount on a shelter rental.

No, I’m not worried about Jewell’s proposal to cut funding in the parks, which comes off with about as much preparation one might expect from a high school kid that procrastinated on a big project and decided to switch to an easier topic the night before it was due. “When she’s got a liaison being prosecuted by the Commonwealth’s Attorney, who just walked out of court Tuesday with a slap on the wrist. That’s not important? I think more important than parks,” he said to NBC12.

The topic of the essay was the city budget Marty. You sumitted one rambling paragraph on Graziano and David Hathcock. That’s why you get an “F.”

No, his proposal won’t get far. Other council members will see through Jewell’s political staging. This is at least the second time he has taken a public swipe at Graziano over the David Hathcock-Jennifer Walle fiasco, which really doesn’t concern him. If I was a voter in his district, I would be concerned about his teenage fixation with Hathcock-Walle-Graziano-Michael Herring (Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney). It was a serious issue to some, but is regarded as an inside City Hall matter for most citizens. Jewell should be concerned with the business of the city and if I were a voter in his district, I would be voting in another direction next year.

Richmond MORE volunteers celebrate reopening of Forest Hill Park trails, April 2010The timing of this selfish public disrespect of the parks is unfortunate. Richmond should be celebrating at the Dominion Riverrock this weekend — a celebration of the outdoors and the culmination of a year’s worth of volunteer work. There are many volunteers that make the parks sparkle — free of cost to Richmond — for an event that always bring visitors and competitors from out of town and makes money for vendors, hotels, restaurants….but mostly raises our city’s reputation. Why rain on their parade when we should be thanking them?

Richmond MORE built and maintains the bike trails — for free.  James River Outdoor Coalition built many of the paddling facilities and contributes across the board to happenings in the park, including many cleanups. The Friends of the James River Park contribute year-round and helped secure the Conservation Easement for the James River Park, which protects it from development or sale by the city. Smaller groups under the umbrella of the Enrichmond Foundation make so many of Richmond’s great parks wonderful amenties for our neighborhoods. Why can’t Jewell honor those contributions?

HandsOn Greater Richmond volunteers at JRPS Visitor Center in March 2011Depending on volunteers to be the workforce for the city’s park system is risky. I like the idea of more people being involved in their parks and I’ve written many times that citizens need to take ownership of our parks, but I’m not certain Richmond is ready to depend soley on the generosity of its citizens to maintain its parks.

That said, I love volunteering in Richmond’s parks and I am very tired of the generousity of volunteers being taken for granted. If someone chose to stop volunteering because an elected official like Jewell ignores the importance of our parks and the contributions of volunteers, who could blame them? Nothing is more generous than donating something as precious one’s time. 

Email members of city council to show your support for Richmond’s parks.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are mine alone. I am not speaking on behalf anyone or any entity.

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Phil Riggan

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