Citing Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark, the editorial explains how these amenities are are funded:
In large part, it’s Houston’s private donors. Most obviously, a check from the Jamail family launched the skate park. But just as admirable are the many members of the two conservancies that support Hermann Park and Discovery Green; they provide money for the endless extra love and care that top-notch parks require.
While urging Houstonians to lobby city council to spend more on neighborhood parks, the editorial acknowledges that police salaries and fire trucks take priority. With the city "tightening its belt", the Chronicle advocates "direct action": "Give money. Raise money. Volunteer your time."
This is all well and good, but it doesn't address the fundamental issue--the city should not be in the park business. The city should sell its parks, beginning with the neighborhood parks.
Economically, taxpayers benefit from the elimination of the costs associated with park maintenance. Those who value parks would be free to provide financial support, and those who do not will be equally free to spend their money as they choose. The editorial makes it clear that there are individuals and groups who value the parks and are willing to pay for them.
Some may fear that the parks would disappear as developers buy up the land and build town homes. There is some justification in this. But considered in its full context, and by implementing appropriate measures, such concerns can be easily addressed.
I have previously advocated selling the neighborhood parks to the home owners of the neighborhood. The "cleanest" arrangement would be for the home owners association to own and operate the park. This is currently done in many subdivisions. As a part of the sale, deed restrictions could be attached to the property so that it cannot be used for other purposes while the deed restrictions are active. When the deed restrictions lapse, the owners could then decide to renew them and retain the park, or use the property for other uses.
Such a plan provides short term protection for property owners who purchased their home because of its proximity to a park, yet allows the owners to control the use of their property without intervention from government.
Morally, individuals should not be forced to provide financial support for parks (or anything else) against their own judgment. If Jane Doe wants to have a park down the street with clean restrooms and freshly painted equipment, she should be willing to pay for it. She should not--nor does she have a right to--force taxpayers to provide her children with a place to play.
Privatizing the city's parks is both practical and moral.