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Show rationale for new district

Everyone likes parks, but not everyone uses parks on a frequent and regular basis. Parks do add to the quality of life of a city. Keizer has 19 parks from pocket parks to the jewel—Keizer Rapids Park.

There has been talk for several years now about how to fund our parks. By necessity the parks have been at the bottom of the budget list after the city allocates money for public safety and the infrastructure of the city (sewers, streets, etc.). Some think that is unfair and think that parks should get as much financial support as any other part of the city’s operation. That’s a nice viewpoint, but until the city is able to increase its tax base, our leaders will have to work within the revenue we have.

A few years ago there was discussion of adding a surcharge to water bills or some other existing fee that homeowners already pay, but that idea was dead on arrival.  It seems there are people who have already decided that a special district is the only way to sustain funding for Keizer parks and they’ll find a way to make it happen. Of course a parks district cannot be wished into existence, it will require the approval of Keizer voters to levy a new tax on themselves.

Those who propose a parks district concede that it will be a long process—researching existing parks districts in Oregon, deciding how to move forward with a master plan for all the parks and how the district woud operate. A district would call for an elected board, equipment, staff and operational organization. That’s a lot of extra bureaucracy for 19 parcels of land.

A governing body of parks supporters with control over a pot of new money could easily go out of control. One would expect there would be public hearings regarding budgets and how to allocate money to parks other than Keizer Rapids Park (KPR)—which really drives the whole parks district proposal.

The master plan for Keizer Rapids Park is really a blueprint for an amusement park. When we think of parks we think of opens spaces, trails, fields, benches, picnic tables, nature. With most of Keizer Rapids Park forest undevelopable, parks and athletic supporters eye the remaining land with visions of pavillions, soccer fields, tennis courts, softball diamonds and more. The more activities that are crammed into Keizer Rapids Park the further from its original intent it will be.

Residents like to have a park in their neighborhood they can walk to and use when they want. Would a parks district assure that every park gets equal attention?

If a parks district is placed on a ballot for voter approval, the public will have the final say on increasing their own taxes. In a political climate where cutting taxes is always a winning campaign platform, the rationale for asking Keizer households to add another financial burden had better be well thought—and planned—out.