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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Greenspace, arts advocates cry foul over proposed city budget cuts

click to enlarge Georgia Council for the Arts rally in 2010 - MIKE GERMON
  • MIKE GERMON
  • Georgia Council for the Arts rally in 2010

'Tis the season when City Hall department heads stand before the Atlanta City Council and tell policymakers how next fiscal year's proposed budget — which includes cuts to most programs save for public safety — might affect services.

Among those on the chopping block: Parks and arts funding.

Supporters aren't thrilled about the news — and are planning a show of force during Thursday evening's public hearing about the spending package.

Atlanta arts groups including WonderRoot, Flux Projects, Dashboard Co-op and others plan to rally outside City Hall starting at 5 p.m. to show support for the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, which oversees grant funding for artists. The department reportedly risks seeing its funding cut by half. One hour later supporters will head into Council Chambers to speak during public comment. (More details here. Facebook group here.)

Park advocates plan a similar show of strength around the same time. Park Pride, a nonprofit group that pushes for greenspace improvements, sent the following alert to supporters last night via email.

The City faces a $15 million budget deficit and the Office of Parks is being disproportionately impacted compared to other departments, with a cut of approximately $1.4 million.

The impact of proposed budget reductions and new charges for water = more than a 14% decrease in funding for our City Parks — another devastating double digit funding reduction to an already meager budget.

What does this mean? More trash. More graffiti. More weeds. Lower property values. Public spaces that don’t feel safe.

• Inadequate park maintenance is one of the biggest hurdles to raising money for parks and the BeltLine. Private funders want to see their investment protected. A drastic reduction in the Parks Department budget will result in a loss of trust from the private sector that the City can maintain and manage its parks.
• The result of the disinvestment in parks is a loss of trust from private funders who have donated millions to support parks and the BeltLine and the probability of losing future investment.
• The invasive removal program will be eliminated — kudzu and other invasives in parks and rights-of-ways will not be sprayed and will proliferate.
• During the warm season the City will move to a 12- business day mowing cycle — this would amount to visiting each park once every 2 ½ weeks to mow, blow walks, trim, remove graffiti, repair broken items and look for safety hazards.
• During the cool season, the City will move to a 15-day cycle — visiting the park only once every three weeks.
• Graffiti removal will no longer have a 48-hour removal response standard — it will now go to a 2 ½ to 3 week response time.
• There will be no further funding for park security.
• Parks will lose eight full-time positions and lose seasonal help, , including two full-time BeltLine maintenance positions.
• The Parks Department will no longer be able to haul away trash, illegal dumping, invasive plants and similar materials cleared by BeltLine Adopters/volunteer groups. All of those volunteer projects and clean-up days along the BeltLine will no longer be supported by Parks during the warm season.
• Cutting parks is regressive — it takes significant time and resources to make up for even one year of neglect.

Supporters are urged to show up inside City Hall at 6 p.m. and wear green — and if possible, also attend Parks Commissioner George Dusenbury's appearance in front of City Council Thursday morning at 9 a.m. to discuss the cuts.

If you're eager to see people speak up for their causes, consider stopping by City Hall or tuning in to Channel 26.

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