My 3 year old had her last park district class today. At the end of class, the park district director for our location brought out renderings of proposed playgrounds. This particular facility currently has two playgrounds. One my kids call “the splinter park” because it is old, dangerous, and wooden so they inevitably get a splinter each time they play. This playground is proposed to be demolished and turned into a “green space”. The other playground was installed 10 years ago, has no structural issues, and likely has at least 10 more years of play left. This is the park being replaced. One parent asked why the old equipment can’t be moved to the other park when the new one is installed. No answer was given, though the change was explained by the director as a “grant from the city and not a burden on the taxpayers”.
Where exactly does she think the grant money is coming from? Some wealthy anonymous benefactor who is personally funding these new parks? It seems obvious to me that the city is using its taxpayer funds to offer “grants” to the park district and we are in fact footing the bill (it should be noted that I have a masters degree in Public Service Administration and I don’t like bullshit). I would also like to point out that none of the parents standing there really believed that the residents have a say in the final decision. In fact, I picked the proposed plan that had all of the same features as the current one (including a pirate ship play structure similar to what is currently there). This renovation is scheduled for the fall…my guess is that the equipment is already sitting in storage and the decisions have been made.
The proposed playground equipment easily retails for over $100,000 not to mention having the union guys demo and rebuild. Our city is on the verge of bankruptcy and we are tearing down perfectly good playgrounds and not relocating the still usable structures we are replacing. In addition, what is going to happen with the playground that they aren’t replacing? Will they sell the scrap metal to benefit the park district, or perhaps the city? The City Comptroller is supposed to enforce a rule that all city owned scrap metal be sold at auction to benefit the city. In April, several media outlets reported that the Chicago Water Department had employees who routinely sold scrap metal on taxpayers time and kept the profit for themselves. Clearly, we are a city with accountability issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very aware that once the money is allocated it is going to get spent, so if anyone gets a new playground why not my neighborhood? Personally, I would rather see my kids amazing park district teachers with health insurance and a living wage…and don’t even get me started on the Chicago Public School budget fiasco…but the new swings are good too…