Milwaukee Magazine - - Editor’s Letter - Roger By­bee, Mil­wau­kee

I’m pleased be­yond words about Vir­ginia Small’s piece with Tom Tolan [“No Pic­nic,” July] on the col­lapse of the Mil­wau­kee County Park Sys­tem. I hope a copy goes to ev­ery County Board mem­ber and also to var­i­ous

or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Park Peo­ple.

The story’s killer stat: How the sys­tem went from 1,100 work­ers to just 200 cur­rently. Due to a con­ser­va­tive tide in pub­lic pol­icy, AFSCME Coun­cil 32, which rep­re­sents Mil­wau­kee County work­ers, has been un­able to play its long­time role as the most ef­fec­tive pub­lic watch­dog for the park sys­tem.

Ul­ti­mately, the ques­tion comes down to the down­grad­ing, and de­creas­ing ap­peal, of the pub­lic sec­tor and “the com­mons.” Resources have been with­drawn thanks to mas­sive cor­po­rate tax cuts, pri­va­ti­za­tion, and spe­cial ameni­ties de­signed to lure in the “cre­ative class,” as the wretched ur­ba­nol­o­gist Richard Florida calls it. As the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion pro­ceeds, the pub­lic loses faith in the pub­lic sphere, and we see a de­cline in their will­ing­ness to fi­nance the main­te­nance of even a re­mark­able in­sti­tu­tion like Mil­wau­kee’s “green neck­lace” of pub­lic parks.

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