Brookhaven, GA, December 18, 2015 – Open Letter to Brookhaven Officials, by Rob Turner – Simply put: the time is now for Brookhaven to commit to funding immediate capital improvements in all of its parks.
Brief history lesson: the folks that pushed hard for Brookhaven to be incorporated touted “Parks, Police and Permits” as the main reasons for forming a city. As a parent who enjoys playing with his children in our many local parks, the idea of having local park control was so important to me that I voted for cityhood for that reason alone: local control to improve our parks.
In my view, the founding element of Brookhaven that has received the least amount of funding (and attention) in the city’s 3 year history is the park system. I volunteer a good bit of my free time helping to improve Briarwood Park. Speaking first hand, the volunteers at our park have had to ‘beg, borrow and steal’ for any morsel of capital improvements from the city beyond routine maintenance/upkeep. I get the strong sense that for most of our other Brookhaven park volunteers, they share a similar experience (sorry kids, no $).
Within the next few weeks, contractor Greenberg Farrow will submit final recommended proposals for every Brookhaven park. Those proposals will include details necessary for each improvement so that if the city desires, it can put the recommended improvements out for bid. We will have actionable park improvement plans that can be implemented….
What is missing, of course, is the funding for those parks.
This letter is going to take a quick but meaningful detour before I come back to park funding…
This week 3 of the 4 elected council members (I presume Mattison recused himself) voted to guaranty/fund a $3.3 million Development Authority bond to purchase Skyland Center. You can read many articles on the Brookhaven Post to get a sense of the contentiousness of the Skyland Center purchase being funded by the city. The contention comes from the fact two current Brookhaven councilmen sit on the board of a new school that really wants the Skyland Center property. The school apparently needs real estate, but can’t afford to purchase or lease anything. However, the school does have two councilmen serving on its board. Whatever the real story is on the city’s apparent need for the property and how it may be leased to future tenants such as the school, one thing is clear: the purchase will be funded by you and me: the $3.3 million Development Authority bond. The council members’ vote to greenlight this purchase hit a raw nerve with me.
This was my first thought when I read about the council members voting to approve the bond: “Why can the council so easily find $3.3 million dollars to guaranty/fund a property purchase whose need is questionable, yet all they seemingly do is delay, delay and delay on funding improvements to our parks?!?”
Back on track from the detour… the council members’ vote this week is the catalyst for this opinion: Brookhaven must immediately commit to funding fund park improvements (in a major way!), starting in early 2016.
I call on each of elected Brookhaven officials: Gebbia, Jones, Mattison, Park and mayor-elect Ernst to pledge to the citizens of Brookhaven that they will fund parks improvements as a first priority in 2016.
Here’s the pledge:
“I will secure the immediate funding necessary to pay for Phase I and II Greenberg Farrow recommended capital improvements for all Brookhaven parks.”
Yes or No, Gebbia, Jones, Mattison, Park and Ernst?
Naturally, I expect the push back to be along the lines of, ‘love the idea Turner, but we have other priorities,’ or some such platitude along those lines. Please save it; you found a way to fund a $3.3 million dollar property acquisition that will more than likely house a charter school. Find the dollars in 2016 to fund our park improvements.
It’s on us the citizens to hold them accountable (or vote them out).
– Rob Turner
Rob Turner is a 15 year resident of Brookhaven, is a founding director of the Briarwood Park Conservancy and he also serves on two other local non-profit boards. Rob is a partner at 360 Venture Law (Shmalo Turner), LLP, an Atlanta-based law firm with a broad range of commercial experience serving their clients as their “on-demand legal department” in a host of business and commercial real estate matters.