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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Reason killed parks plan
Jonathan Pait
November 19, 2002

I’m glad I live in Greenville County where a parks plan was just rejected by the voters.

A good thing.

The voters made their decision against the plan with a final tally of 57,721 to 40,180.

The plan was touted as a no-negatives opportunity to increase our quality of life. $50 million dollars were to go to build parks in the county and several other projects.

Ah, but leave it to those country bumpkin county dwellers to destroy opportunities that any enlightened community would have jumped at! Recently I was at a meeting within the city limits of Greenville and I overheard one community leader say to another, “Well, at least here in the city the park plan got more votes. It’s not our fault.”

My, you would think that now our communities would fall into complete disarray. No one is going to want to live in Greenville now. Probably within the year, we’ll see our population drop dramatically. It’s all because of those backward county council members and those provincial voters who keep reelecting them.

The enlightened ones did try. Though some would question just how hard. There was Upstate Forever stepping to the plate to give it a swing. Hurrahs have gone up in some quarters for others that truly care about our community (unlike those who voted against the plan) for attempting to knock the home run. From them we received the nice little “Penny for Parks” yard signs that popped up near intersections – and yes, along the roadside in downtown’s Cleveland Park (was that legal?) as well.

Here is where I maintain that the country bumpkins show themselves to be the intellectuals.

They did not fall for slick ad campaigns or political sales. Paul Hyde, in today’s Greenville News, laments that no one stepped up to the plate to help push the plan. He writes that had more leaders stepped forward and waved pom-poms and advertised more, the plan would have gone through. I disagree. It seemed that the more “slick” the campaign became, the more distrustful became the voters.

This distrust drove most voters to look beyond the hype and look for the facts. The fact is that there were lots of unanswered questions and downplayed agendas.

First, this was more than just a “parks” plan. Paul, in his editorial, calls them, “other capital projects in the six municipalities.” A big question mark rose in the minds of the small-minded county dwellers, “So, where exactly is this money going? Is it really a 25% increase in the sales tax for parks, or is somebody else standing to gain here?”

Second, though I am sure it stretched all of their reasoning capabilities, these boorish county dwellers looked down the road into the future and some asked, “Great, it is nice to have all these new parks, but who is going to pay to keep them up?” They noticed that the parks and recreation department was hardly able to take care of the parks we enjoy now. What was going to happen when they had even more for which to care?

The answer was that the interest off of the $50 million would cover the initial upkeep for the parks. Hmmmm, so then what happens? Silence. The enlightened ones felt that we should wait and cross that bridge when we got to it. The country bumpkin sitting on the back of the broken down pickup in his weed infested drive asks, “Now, you wouldn’t be planning on coming back later and extending that 25% sales tax increase for several more years, now would you?”

Finally, though I am sure there are more, the fact is that those simple-minded folk see that a “family friendly” community doesn’t only mean parks, festivals, soccer leagues, etc. Such a community starts with the family. Let the family then decide how they want to spend the money for their family. Why does Greenville County have to take it from them and decide for them?

I am afraid that Greenville will become family friendly in name only. We will have all the trappings of being that type of community, but we will fail miserably because we will look to those external things as the signs of our communities commitment to the family, while we slowly but surely erode those things that are truly most important.

No one wants to savage the idea of having parks. Most people in the county did not vigorously oppose parks. They opposed the plan. I personally would have been willing to vote yes had the questions been answered and the plan presented forthrightly. We also hear rumblings that indeed the idea for parks is not dead – only the plan.

The parks plan failed. It’s Greenville County’s gain.

Oh, and by the way, you cosmopolitan types don’t help your cause by talking down to us simple-hearted folk.

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