Friday, November 4, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished - Parks Edition

Apparently, Richardson residents are soon to know the location of their new park in the Richardson Heights and Cottonwood Heights area. I say apparently because, as far as I know, the city has not yet officially announced a property purchase. But the blogosphere is abuzz. If you believe what you read, a homeowner who sold out to the city, a neighborhood association president who has worked tirelessly for this park, even a city council member, have all said it's a done deal. The properties are purchased. The mini-park is on its way.

Good news, right? You don't know local politics. After the jump, a look at how this good deed is being received.

True to the old saying that no good deed goes unpunished, the criticism was swift and sharp.

  • "How come I didn't know about this?" How, indeed? It's not like the park wasn't prominently featured in the 2010 bond proposal that was put to the voters and approved by a wide margin. It's not like there weren't public hearings to obtain neighborhood input on location and design features. It's not like the council, in open session on October 10, didn't authorize the city manager to negotiate the property purchases, even naming the targeted addresses. Still, some critics claim some secret conspiracy at work to spend taxpayer dollars on an unwanted amenity.

  • "I didn't know they were going to tear down houses for the park." Then you weren't paying attention. The neighborhood targeted for the park was targeted specifically because the neighborhood was full of houses but had no park. It was always obvious that to retrofit even a small park into that housing development, you'd have to tear down a few houses.

  • "Why were the negotiations with property owners kept a secret?" Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Try to negotiate a property purchase in public and see the asking prices go up. Do it in private and see the critics complain about a secret cabal at work.

  • "Parks aren't always an asset to a neighborhood." Really?!? Name one neighborhood with well-maintained homes and schools and an active neighborhood association in which the park is the problem. More likely, it's the whole neighborhood that is in decline, *including* the park. A new park fights decline.

  • "It would be nice if another stop sign came with this." Sigh. This is a variant of "What have you done for me lately?"

My own take on the matter? Good for the neighborhood. Good for Richardson.

City of Richardson, learn a lesson from this. In these days of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (my latest favorite), the city has to be swifter in its communications with the public. Even if you do everything right leading up to a big transaction like this, it's that last, final step that's going to get the most attention. If the public doesn't get accurate, official information from the city, someone else will be all too willing to fill the void with inaccurate information. Try to stay ahead of that.


Mark Steger said...

Richardson's "Week in Review" this week contains this item:

Richardson Purchases Properties To Create New Neighborhood Park

The City of Richardson has closed on the purchase of four properties in the Heights neighborhood that will allow for the creation of a new neighborhood park. The park is one of the Proposition 2 projects approved by voters in the 2010 Bond Program.

The properties that have been purchased are located at 400, 402, 404 and 406 South Weatherred Drive and cost a total of $782,000. The general location of the park was determined through public input meetings leading up to the 2010 bond election and in the park design process.

The next step is holding community meetings to gather feedback on the desired amenities to be featured in the park. A schedule for those meetings has not been set, but they are expected to kick off in early 2012.

The 2010 Bond Program allocates $2,363,500 for the construction of new neighborhood parks in the Heights and Northrich neighborhoods. Options for a possible neighborhood park in the Northrich neighborhood are still being explored.

The projects were proposed in the 2010 Bond Program because the City's Parks and Recreation Master Plan shows a need for parks in these two neighborhoods. Once the new facilities are constructed, the City will have met its goal of providing a neighborhood park within walking distance of every home in the City.

mccalpin said...

Your points above are right on target - many of the statements above could have been made only by people who weren't paying attention.

Indeed, this presents a problem for the City...if people aren't paying attention, is there any way that the City COULD have communicated the information any better?

But the most distressing comments came from our "friend" in San Antonio who felt the need to accuse Andrew Laska of having inside information from closed City Council sessions...because, being so far away, he had no idea what was going on and couldn't be bothered to watch the Council session through the Internet.

Anyone as active as Andrew has been would have had a very good guess as to what the executive session was about the moment that its agenda was published - there could hardly be any other reason for property considerations by the City "in the Belt Line Rd./Floyd Rd./Hyde Park Dr. Area". And, indeed, not long after the motion was passed in open session to instruct the City Manager to do what was necessary to acquire the properties, one or more Council members called Andrew because they knew he would be delighted.

This is not what one calls "insider knowledge", but "good constituent services". Trying to pervert this into some sort of ethical violation is itself an unethical accusation by someone who left Richardson a year ago.

Congrats, Mark, on a timely response!


Nathan Morgan said...


In this information age that began several decades ago, and the advancement in communication resources, there is no excuse for the municipal government in the Telecom Corridor to be so inept when it comes to getting information distributed as soon as it becomes a matter public record. There is no excuse for delay or secreting activities regarding public business. To do so is more significant than a legal infraction. It's a moral violation.