Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Guest Editorial: For Park Commission

Commercial Appeal
Letter to the Editor
By Fred L. Davis, Member Memphis Park Commission

The Memphis City Council is about to pass on an ordinance that would dismantle the Park Commission. Why does the council want to do this?

Is the commission doing too good a job of keeping politics out of its operations? Is it serving too many diverse needs? If that is the case, the council should state which needs the commission should stop serving. The commission's 100-year history is free of scandals and investigations.

Or does the council have so much free time that it needs another project? I'm at a loss.

The commission was created to manage and preserve the city's most precious natural resources, and to provide a buffer between them and politics. Some of the city's most capable citizens have served as its chairman, including Abe Plough, Bert Ferguson, John D. Martin, William Wolbrecht and John Maxwell.

The commission made enormous progress under John Malmo, who resigned as chairman last June. It spent $200,000 and 2 1/2 years developing a 20-year capital facilities plan, which the City Council approved. If there was any fault with Malmo's service, it was not showing proper deference to the council's ego.

Perhaps its seamless operation has led Memphians to take the commission for granted, and led the council to conclude that anyone can do the commission's work. The commission does not exist just to oversee parks, playgrounds and community centers and provide after-school and summer activities for children. It is also custodian of Memphis's art, recreational and cultural jewels - the Memphis Zoo, the Pink Palace, Lichterman Nature Center and the Goldsmith Civic Garden Center among them.

The commission does not directly manage every facility for which it is responsible, but it does have budget, planning and policy oversight. These responsibilities require decision makers who have acquired these skills in other areas and are willing to share their expertise with the city.

Memphis needs the Park Commission now more than ever.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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