State Parks-Why Aren't Our Taxes Paying for them Instead of Using Corporate Money? Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


State Parks-Why Aren't Our Taxes Paying for them Instead of Using Corporate Money?

17 September 2006 at 10:24:52 AM

Shame. Shame on Perry and shame on anyone in the Texas Legislature that voted to take money that was allocated for state parks to go for some other purpose. The Eagle Lake Park deal was brokered through a middleman "Trust for Public Land" which takes corporate money to, essentially, bail out a park. Why should that even be?

Who's on the board for Trust for Public Land in Texas?

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is pleased to announce the addition of four new members to its Central Texas Advisory Board. Joining TPL's advisory board are Mr. Bill Cryer, Director of Public Affairs at Samsung; Mr. Jerry Converse, Partner at Fulbright and Jaworski L.L.P.; Mr. Charlie McCabe, Executive Director of the Austin Parks Foundation; and Mr. Andy Sansom, Director of the Rivers Systems Institute at Texas State University.

Why does the movie "I Heart Huckabees" come to mind?

I'm not necessarily trying to impugn the motives of Trust for Public Land, as they may believe that, when the federal and state governments don't pony up the money, there still needs to be a way to preserve parks and open spaces, and thus having corporate interests pay into it is the way to go.For the parks that don't exist now and have already been part of our legacy, that may be good. But I believe the action of doing that for legacy parks is the wrong way for America.

Americans have a right to expect that the parks they enjoy will be maintained, that the bills they vote for that allocate money for parks will be spent on.. parks, and that parks will not be subverted into commercial interests, even if only in part. Even if, as with Eagle Mountain Lake Park in Tarrant County, there aren't any gas wells to be drilled on park property, should it be that parks must go begging to corporate interests to bail them out? Shouldn't the people we elect be good stewards and prioritize the monies WE ALREADY THINK WE'RE SPENDING (for example, sporting goods tax! special licence fee tax!) for the purpose intended?

Ralph Nader, who is not one of my favorite people, but nonetheless had good points, calls these types of actions "Corporate Welfare".

And what happens when corporations (besides the obvious gas well interests) get involved with parks? Could they see them as a way to advertise to the public, as in a "McPark"?

There are the public parks — the ones with trees, ponds, campsites and picnic tables — refuges of relaxation and renewal that, alas, are also the malnourished stepchildren of a state government reluctant to adequately pay for public services...Then there are the Minute Maid Parks, the spare-no-expense, fun-filled sports venues where dozens of products and services are hawked in a flashy array of corporate billboards, logos and video displays....."If large corporations are willing to pay big bucks to have 'ball parks' named after them, then why not ask them to pay smaller bucks to have 'state parks' named after them?"

For starters, as the reader acknowledged, we don't want to see our parks transformed into advertising galleries.

Nor do we want to have a picnic beside Coca-Cola Falls, take a hike on Time-Warner Trail or paddle a canoe across Blue Bell Lake. I don't, anyway; no offense intended toward any business entity.

We also should be careful about giving corporations or other special interests with fat checkbooks additional opportunities to assume they have purchased favors from state government. That is always a temptation for financial benefactors, including contributors to political campaigns and, only recently, companies paying to help Speaker Tom Craddick renovate his apartment in the state Capitol.

The first thing the Legislature should do to address the park system's funding shortfall is to use all the money, about $105 million a year, that a sporting goods tax raises and which, under a 1993 law, is supposed to be dedicated to parks.

As the article points out, Texas ranks FORTY-NINTH in the nation in state spending for parks.

One other point worth noting. At what point does a corporate "gift" to a park become part of a deal from which that corporation benefits? With Eagle Mountain Lake, the "Trust for Public Land" is keeping the potential deal a secret from those who would enjoy the park, including just which corporations are involved in it. IF we concede that charity, in the form of quiet giving that expects no return, including putting in gas wells, advertising in the park, or park naming after corporations, can be done, then it sure doesn't look like that's the case with this "Trust" for public land deal.

I don't trust it.

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