The same day Grandview city council voted in favor of beer at the Ox Roast, they spent a lot of time in discussion of the improvements that were planned for Wallace Gardens. Council voted 5 to 2 to put the plans back on the shelf (Panzera and Papineau voted against). The $250K gift of money to help the city pay for the upgrades may not be available if the plans get re-introduced in the future.
At first I read this as a simple admission that council had let “free money” take them into an additional spending path that seemed good but also required spending two-thirds of the cost of the garden improvements from the city purse. The council acted as though the full $750K project was a unit that couldn’t be broken down into smaller chunks. After talking to a parks committee member I found that there was no requirement for the city to match spending in any way, they could have taken the grant and built as much as the money provided.
There is some logic to “if you are doing an upgrade, do it all at once”, so the disruption happens one time. But if holding out for the future means losing the grant, did that really make sense?
I’m wondering if the UA recall has the council on edge, rethinking all spending and obsessing over what might get them in trouble with the voters in Grandview? Park spending is always on the optional list, when city utilities and streets still need work.
The Wallace gardens project was always lacking a clear mandate from the voters. No group that I know asked for the upgrade. I’m guessing that if you went by number of visitors, the gardens have the least use of any park.
When I had my plot of land at Wallace, I sometimes found produce going missing while I was away, and suspected there are people who graze the gardens for free food. An upgrade that would bring more visitors to the park that don’t have a plot is asking for trouble – I would expect surveillance cameras would be needed. The upgrade is not being pushed by the present users, and might be opposed (I’m not aware of any garden user organization).*
If this new caution with the checkbook is caused by the UA recall, I have to say – good. Policy should never be driven by “free” money, the needs and stated wishes of the residents of the city should be the overwhelming factor in any city council – or school board – decision.
* I talked to some of the gardeners at Wallace, they didn’t have any unified opinion of the updates at the park. One of them said he has found people walking through the gardens in the past with shopping bags, picking whatever they wanted. When confronted, they said “this is a community garden – doesn’t that mean community food?