Commentary: City Park Budget May Eliminate Bathrooms

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 19, 2009

To close a $50 million budget gap, the city of Sacramento proposes to slash park maintenance. Because workers who clean bathrooms would be laid off under the plan, the city proposes to close park bathrooms. Parks would be mowed less often and trash emptied only twice a week instead of every day. Imagine the smell of all that dog poop in plastic bags piling up in garbage cans baking in Sacramento's summer heat.

Park lovers are incensed. But rather than whine about the cuts, Rescue Sacramento Parks, a grass roots organization, has its own plan. If local 39, the union that represents park workers won't give up a 4%scheduled pay raise to save jobs - and so far 39 has refused to budge - Rescue Parks says the city should lay off supervisors first, not line staff. It's the line workers who cut the lawns, empty the trash and clean the bathrooms, the work most critical to keeping parks open. Moreover, one supervisor layoff will save three line staff jobs.

To adopt that sensible suggestion, the council would have to challenge powerful public employee unions that bankroll their campaigns. So, what will our council do - protect parks and workers, or union bosses?


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.