As the Occupy Wall Street Movement continues to spread and occupy many public places far from Wall Street (did it every really occupy Wall Street?), it occurred to me that many parks have become unofficial campgrounds for protesters. Because community parks don't have the facilities and capacity for overnight "campers" -- specifically in such large numbers I began to wonder, "Who's paying for all the wear and tear on these parks across this great land of ours?" While the protesters (aka Occupiers) have a first ammendment and legitimate right to gather, protest and speak their mind -- is it also their right to add financial burden expenss to already choking city budgets?
My answer came today in a story about the Occupy Portland (Oregon) movement entitled, "The City's Costs to Its Parks Thanks to Occupy Portland? $130,000." According to the article:
"The Portland Bureau of Parks and Recreation has revealed what it cost the city to have Occupy Portland camped out in Chapman and Lownsdale squares for 39 days: The bill comes to about $130,000.
That's $85,850 to retore the parks, plus another $45,000 for maintenance work during the Occupation.
The biggest single cost? $28,000 to repair the men's bathroom in Lownsdale. All three toilets are "destroyed," along with the pedestal sink, and new plumbing is needed in the walls. (Occupiers complained in October that the sink was broken before they moved in.)
Restoring the grass in both parks will cost $12,900 through winter and spring—but parks workers say they "did not encounter any evidence of obvious soil contamination.
Hmmmm -- it makes me wonder? Should there be a protest against the protest? And where would that occupation take place? If your agency is dealing with an Occupy Wherever group -- be proactive (but NOT political!)
- Talk to your public information officer about developing a story to discuss the direct and indirect costs of the movement on your depeartment.
- Let your community know how you are helping keep those in your parks safe and secure.
- Set up a system to make donations to help with clean-up or additional maintenance efforts.
- Engage volunteer groups to help with clean up and post protest beautification.