By Arthur Zaczkiewicz
The spat between the mayor and lawmakers over spending money on a gazebo at T.R. Gallo Park in the Rondout, as reported by the Daily Freeman today, can be easily resolved.
According to the Freeman, Mayor James Sottile is miffed over a decision by the Finance/Economic Development Committee to table — for a second time — his $4,000 request for installing the gazebo. Sottile wants the recreation fund (a pool of money paid by developers) to be tapped for the expenditure. The mayor says the gazebo would be for seniors.
Majority Leader Bill Reynolds notes that a lot of development has been done on the Rondout, and other parks in the city now need attention. Alderwoman Andi Turco-Levin says Forsyth Park could use some upgrades. Currently, there is $19,440 in the recreation fund.
A simple — and more democratic — solution would be to dole out the money equally across all of the city parks. According to the City of Kingston website, there are 13 parks, which include two neighborhood centers. Why not earmark $1,495.38 for each park?
I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it could be used as “seed money” for larger improvement projects. It would work like this:
1. Each alderperson would gather a group of citizens around each park in their ward, recruiting them to be “friends of the park” — just like the Friends of the Forsyth Nature Center.
2. The friends groups would have regular meetings to include a visioning session where they decide via a consensus process what improvements are needed.
3. They would then create a fundraising plan and budget — with the $1,495.38 seed money included.
4. The friends group would then execute their fundraising effort, which might include music concerts, bake sales, barbecue cook offs, whatever.
5. And finally, the group would spend the money to make the improvements and upgrades.
This process would allow for better use of public money while also creating “citizen ownership” of our parks. Of course, there are some challenges in this proposal. Ward 9, for example, would have to decide which city park to adopt and support since it doesn’t have any in the ward. Or, maybe it would decide to use the seed money to buy some open space to have a park.
And for the mayor’s gazebo, Sottile would have to work with Ward 8 residents and its alderperson in the visioning process to convince them of the need for the gazebo. They could likely want to spend the money on new picnic tables, for example.
Either way, this is a process worth considering. What do you think?