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 Resources have been withdrawn thanks to massive corporate tax cuts, privatization, and special amenities designed to lure in the “creative class,” as the wretched urbanologist Richard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.