Monday, May 17, 2004

Re: have you had a chance to visit this position paper?

Hi Mr. Craig,

My replies to your email (below) follow:

The HELP CENTER is a "big tent concept." It can begin ASAP -- by July/August 2004. It gathers offices under one roof. Recreation departments, school athletics, WPIAL, volunteers, race coordinators, permit offices --- all under one roof. The HELP CENTER gives citizens a one-stop vantage point to volunteer / engage. The old ALCOA building (Regional Enterprise Tower) is a big-tent for the non-profit sector. We need this hub building for kids, recreation, play, sports, parks. So, let's craft a HELP CENTER.

In due time, the HELP CENTER evolves into a new, free-standing entity -- a new branch of government -- a Pittsburgh PARK DISTRICT.

So, the HELP CENTER is a catalist in early months. But, in later years, after referendums, the HELP CENTER is part of the mission and an on-going outcome for service to citizens, coaches, players, staffers and volunteer leaders.

The physical building that is the HELP CENTER is within part of South Vo Tech High School -- and perhaps expanding to more than the first floor in due time. The HELP CENTER could exist with the existing school in a phase out mode.

As the HELP CENTER as part of the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT -- the final outcome -- think of a new governmental entity. Illinois has this model. PARK DISTRICTS are their own taxing bodies, with own elected leaders, with their own jurisdictions. The PITTSBURGH PARK District would start after a chain reaction of mergers and then a spin-out.

Various steps include:
Citiparks flows into the County Parks Dept.
Pgh Public Schools (for after-school and sports facility use) blends, plus CCAC facilities, Point State Park, Pgh Parks Conservancy, Riverlife Task Force (parts), some of the RAD Funds, and then the County Recreation Department all blend with the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTICT.

Accountability rests with the people -- as there are elected leaders and votes throughout. Democracy and self-determination is a HUGE part of this endeavor. Its constitution is something to talk about in future rounds of discussions.

On your #2 below.
No. We agree.
The County's major parks should be part of the same system with all the parks. I want to merge all park efforts and recreational efforts within the city and county. We will need stages and phases, perhaps.
So we agree. There would be a single office. But, I dare not call this an "authority" -- with appointed leaders. Rather a unit of government with elected leaders. But, this PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT would have the authority to manage, direct, own, etc.

I don't call for a total "ELMINATION of the RAD TAX." A total re-think, yes. And, the position paper calls for some of the RAD Districts responsibilities now serve a new master, i.e., the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT. So, some RAD efforts, such as libraries, would still go to and flow via the RAD BOARD. Libraries are not parks. We still need RAD efforts to continue for NON-PARKs elements.

But, we'd need to unravel some of the RAD duties and incomes and re-tool it with the formation of the new entity.

Furthermore, with the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT, the region gets a NEW TAXING GOVERMENT. We get an overlay that can assert taxes upon residents in a regional manner. So, your benefit of RAD -- the only regional entity -- is now expanded upon as we'd keep RAD (altered some) and insert a NEW regional entity. Our regional toolkit is greatly enhanced in the concepts within the Position Paper.

As to the other counties that are beyond Allegheny -- and the RAD and their right to self-determine their interplay or not -- this too becomes an issue -- in the long term views. I think that the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT starts quickly and with four to six principal partners in the mergers. However, the scope of the Pittsburgh Park District would be able to expand to include other municipalities (i.e. Wilkinsburg) and other school districts (i.e., Quaker Valley and Sto Rocks). Then, as the quilt expands and is made more of a benefit -- sponsorships will help to drive this -- I see no reason why the Park District can't become an entity with multi-county jurisdictions.

Furthermore this vision is already in place in ILLINOIS. The Peoria Park District serves an area that expands beyond the home county. Some places are incorporated into the Park District -- and others choose to remain outside of it. So, the city of Washington might not want to be part of this entity -- but -- the rest of Washington County could opt in.

But, first we have to crawl, then walk and take it step by step. The kids in the city need to get this flowing more quickly.

Thanks for your comments and time.
I read your summary, which in itself is quite a piece of work, and can report the following:

1. I am not familiar with what you regularly refer to as "the fledgling help center"; What is it? That said, you seem to put a great many eggs it the center basket and it is difficult to assess the efficacy of the suggestions until I have a better understanding of the center, its makeup, its authority, its budget, to whom it is accountable, etc.

2. There is a second theme to what you write that I do not embrace, if I understand things properly: That is that Pittsburgh's major parks should be operated separately from major county parks. I think major parks (city and county) should be under a single authority and if possible other major parks outside Allegheny County should be included in what would be one regional system.

3. Far from getting rid of the RAD tax, which as a matter of law is required to support parks, I would assign it even more responsibility for regional assets like our major parks as well as the programs in those major parks. The RAD is the only regional tax we have and we would be out of our minds if we eliminated it. I do not have any problem with a slightly different method of putting people on the RAD board, most particularly people from outside the county, if their attractions are to get support. The problem is that when the enabling legislation for RAD was passed the contiguous counties did not vote to participate, which was their mistake. If they change their minds and embrace a truly regional approach to major park and recreation programs I would put them on the board


From: Mark Rauterkus [mailto:Mark at]
Sent: Sunday, May 16, 2004 9:59 AM
To: Craig, John
Subject: have you had a chance to visit this position paper?

Hi Mr. Craig,

I released a postion paper that deals with many issues including the formation of a new, democratic, PARK DISTRICT.

I'd love for you to read it and react.

I'm not too fond of the Riverlife Task Force, however. Sorry in advance.


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