An article in the Boston Globe today begins, "Sweeping health-care legislation working its way through Congress is more than an effort to provide insurance to millions of Americans without coverage. Tucked within is a provision that could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers’ markets."
After reading some of the comments regarding the article, it seems the public is less than pleased about what many are calling "pork barrel" spending by the Obama administration. The article summarizes, "Critics argue the provision is a thinly disguised effort to insert pork-barrel spending into a bill that has been widely portrayed to the public as dealing with expanding health coverage and cutting medical costs. A leading critic, Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, ridicules the local projects, asking: 'How can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?’' "
I'm currently working with the RAND corporation on a park usage study and initial finding suggest that walking paths are one of the best ways to increase activity in parks and other open space. The article also reports that "Advocates of the measure including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, defend the proposed spending as a necessary way to promote healthier lives and, in the long run, cut medical costs. 'These are not public works grants; they are community transformation grants,'’ said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Kennedy, chairman of the Senate health committee whose health-care bill includes the projects.
"'If improving the lighting in a playground or clearing a walking path or a bike path or restoring a park are determined as needed by a community to create more opportunities for physical activity, we should not prohibit this from happening,' Coley said in a statement.
The park and recreation profession is at an important crossroads. Legislators are finally beginning to understand that we are an important part of the public health solution. Show your support by writing to your legislators so that your voice can be heard. Also, post a comment at articles like the one mentioned to combat negative comments about parks and recreation spending. These comments are carefully monitored by legislative aids and local politicians to gage citizen response to polarizing issues.
The squeaky wheel DOES get the grease. So squeak, squeak, squeak.