One of the most useful things about writing a weblog for me is that it serves as a bit of a historical reminder of what I am working on or find important at any particular point in my life. To that end, I've found "year in review" posts to be especially useful for me to wrap up all the things that happened during the previous year in my life and my community.
As I'm putting together that "year in review" post, I realize that so many things I worked on were related to parks that it deserved it's own little post. Explanation now given… my "parks" year in review:
The year started off with an excellent audit done by the Milwaukee County Department of Audit titled, "A tale of two systems: Three decades of declining resources leave Milwaukee County Parks Reflecting the Best and Worst of Times" As I wrote at the time, "The report highlights both the good and the bad in Milwaukee County Parks right now, and it’s worth pointing out that the highlighted “jewels” in the report all have strong “friends groups” or are actually run by a non-profit friends group. As is the case with most well written audits and reports, it's been completely dismissed and forgotten by policy makers in Milwaukee.
There was progress on the legislative front in January of 2010 as well as AB504 – which would provide a dedicated funding source of a 0.5% sales tax for parks and culture – moved through the Assembly. I had a hand in crafting that legislation (which to this day is the most involved in the sausage making process I've been) which ultimately went nowhere because Democrats in the majority who were afraid of being labeled as "taxers!" by the right and being voted out of office did nothing and were summarily voted out of office in November after being labeled as "taxers!" by the right.
25 parks maintenance workers were fired by the County Executive in February leaving only a handful of full time employees left for basic park maintenance. The results were predictable as complaints of overflowing trash bins and unsafe parks were voiced by frustrated park visitors throughout the summer.
There was a bit of a dust up over the fact that because of layoffs and budget concerns the par 3 golf courses would have pay stations at them instead of full time attendants. As I pointed out at the time, my County Supervisor Lynne DeBruin saw an opportunity to stomp her feet and get some press because she was outraged at that move. This despite the fact that she had personally voted to cut the very park worker positions in question a few months earlier. It turned into a bit of an odd situation as it became her and I debating the policy on the TV and in the paper. It should be pointed out that despite the predictions of rampant cheating and fraud by her and others, golfers were generally unaffected by the pay stations and the whole thing turned out to be a tempest in a tea pot.
As would be expected, the summer was a busy one for the parks. Bradford Beach saw absolutely huge crowds early in the season as more and more people get to know that it's not a stinking beach filled with creeps anymore.
A former landfill on Milwaukee's northwest side was rehabilitated into a new park.
My personal park highlight of the year was the action taken by myself and other park supporters to threaten a lawsuit if the War Memorial Corporation tried to pave over lakefront park land for a parking lot. We developed and executed a very successful media and advocacy campaign pretty much in under a week and got a huge amount of media coverage. As a result the Board of Supervisors voted to reject the attempts by several Supervisors to ram the plan through with zero public input. I made a few enemies that day, but sometimes that's a barometer of doing the right thing. The whole story is here.
A terrible tragedy occurred in late June when a piece of paneling at the O'Donnell Park parking structure fell off and killed a teenage boy. To this day the structure remains closed.
The Park People successfully held the first annual "Run for the Parks" last July in Humboldt Park. 125 runners/walkers participated and best of all, we raised over $3,000 to renovate the bathrooms in the Humboldt Park band shell. They needed it. This year, we're looking forward to the 2nd annual run and adding another event as well in a different park because it went so well. The run really took a lot of hard work by a lot of people to pull off.
I worked with the Greater Milwaukee Committee to develop an initiative they're going to be pushing soon to look at ways to improve the delivery of services like parks, transit and mental health to the residents of Milwaukee County in light of the budget deficits we'll be forced to deal with in the coming years.
The Park People created and printed an awesome 2011 calendar which includes over $60 of coupons and great little historical tidbits about some of our Milwaukee County Parks. Pick one up today!
Working with several Supervisors, community groups and neighborhood organizers, we were able to successfully advocate for over six million dollars to redevelop the Calvin Moody Pool which had been boarded up since 2002. The Park People and me personally were the only people "lobbying" our County Board to support the money for the redevelopment. It just goes to show that when a dedicated group of people work hard, they can accomplish a lot.
In closing, it was a very good and productive year for the Milwaukee County Parks. I really feel great about the work I did both individually and through my role as Board President with The Park People. In the coming year, there could be a lot of changes as we'll have a new County Executive for the first time in eight years. I think no matter who is elected to the position, the parks will receive more attention than they have in the past.
There is also the very strong possibility that this may be the year that something like a "parks district" advances. The fact is that County Government has put parks funding on the back burner for nearly 30 years and that maybe it isn't the best governance structure to manage them anymore. We'll see.
Personally, I'm looking forward to another great year of advocacy and working in our parks to make them better for the generations to come. My current term as Board President of the Park People wraps up in June, but there's a near 100% chance I'll be running for another two year term. There is so much work to do and I feel like I've really only just started to really have an impact on improving our parks, making them safer and more accessible to the families of Southeastern Wisconsin.
Regardless of how much work there is yet to do, I'm truly excited to be a part of it in 2011.
- Taking a 3, 4 and 5 year old to the @bucks game tonight. Some may say I'm foolish, I say adventurous! #bucks #
- RT @ParkPeople: Milwaukee Park supporters we need your financial support (tax deductible!) to finish 2010 strong! http://bit.ly/frcZ6W #
- 3 kids 3 popcorns 3 sodas 3 spills so far at #bucks game. On plus side I still have 3 kids with me! I think…. #
What a great Christmas. Due to the logistical nightmare of kids/dog/present transportation, we stayed in Milwaukee for Christmas for the first time this year. We usually head over to Jenny's parents house for Christmas Eve and come back to Milwaukee the day after, but with the new baby it just seemed easier for them to come to us. Despite all our best efforts, the kids were totally overwhelmed with presents again this year. But they love them all and it was good to have a few days of relative rest and relaxation at home with Jenny and the kids.
I just hit 400 "followers" on the Twitter tube. If you're not one of them, head over to my twitter page and get ALL THE LATEST tweets from yours truly. I think 500 followers qualifies you as a "social media branding consultant futurist expert moneysucker". I look forward to getting to that level which will qualify me to dish out witty half thoughts, insightful rhetorical questions and colloquialisms with even more regularity.
Our own little Jackson 5 is being trained to take over the world of Disney child stars thanks to "Just Dance Kids" for the Wii that we got for Christmas. We're fitting Colton for leg braces and skipping the whole 'crawling' thing so he can get in on the act as well and Jenny and I can enjoy the fruits of exploiting our children for short lived burnout careers of lip syncing and made for holiday TV movie events. Call me Billy Ray Joe Jackson Cyrus.
…mostly half joking of course!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I mentioned this a few months ago, but it appears to be final and is good news for Marinette and Wisconsin in general. Merry Christmas to Wisconsin indeed.
The short-term spending bill that President Obama signed Wednesday includes approval of a Navy contract to buy 10 specialized combat ships from a builder in northern Wisconsin.
Marinette Marine of Marinette, Wisconsin, will built 10 littoral (close-to-shore) combat ships at no more than $480 million apiece, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
The contract will directly generate about 1,000 shipbuilding jobs in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and thousands more with suppliers and subcontractors, Kimberly Martinez, a spokeswoman for main contractor Lockheed Martin, told the Detroit Free Press.
Kudos to Sen. Kohl for helping push this through. It should also be noted that Wisconsin beat out an Alabama manufacturer named Austral for the right to build the ships.
Since it's the Christmas season and I tend to take time off from the "serious" issues this time of year, I thought I'd pass along a pretty hilarious video a friend sent along. All you fathers out there will instantly relate.
This is the kind of thing Brewers fans have been waiting for these past two years. Doing what it takes to get the big name talent to address our number one issue: starting pitching. Zack Greinke will be a huge boost to our starting rotation and seems like the kind of guy who thrives with smaller market teams. I was a big fan of both Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain so it's tough to see them go. Cain in particular was an exciting player to watch and will develop into a solid big league outfielder. So while we lose big in the potential talent category and lose our two biggest threats to steal bases, we get a true "ace" who will make the Brewers a better team than we were last year. Greinke, Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf and Narveson are very very good starting pitching rotation. Way to go Brewers for making sure the team has the talent needed to make a run for it this year!
Good news for those who don't support discrimination: "Don't ask don't tell" was effectively repealed over the weekend. Good riddance to bad policy. I had several gay friends who served in the Army and this was always a frustrating policy for them and one that really seemed more about the sensitivity of bureaucrats than what actual units felt was important.
Finally, we put together a year end review video for all the great work The Park People have done over the past year for Milwaukee County Parks. Check it out below and help support the cause by purchasing an awesome calendar or making a year end contribution. We're able to do such great work because of the generosity of our members, donors and corporate partners!