The Pine Bluff City Council is thinking of doing away with the Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission in favor of it becoming a city department.
We couldn’t agree more.
The council considered voting on the issue at its regular meeting last Wednesday, but lack of unanimous support for an immediate vote scuttled the proposal. Instead, the council’s Public Works Committee will examine the proposed legislation to abolish the commission, then likely forward the legislation to the council for a vote.
Alderman Bruce Lockett, who, along with Alderman Steven Mays and Alderwoman Thelma Walker, voted against holding an immediate vote, said he wanted more discussion on the matter. A proposed ordinance cannot be added to a City Council agenda without unanimous support from the council.
″[The ordinance] hadn’t gone through committee, and I feel that all legislation go through committee so that all interested parties are heard,” Lockett said. “I didn’t want to blindside somebody without giving time for discussion.”
Good call, Alderman Lockett. This is an issue that needs time to absorb, but one we hope the council will soon take up and authorize.
Under a proposed ordinance abolishing the commission, oversight of the Parks and Recreation Department would be transferred to the mayor’s office, a similar arrangement to most other city departments. Mayor Shirley Washington said that under the new arrangement, a parks advisory board would replace the commission in offering citizen input. It would not, however, have the power to hire and fire employees as the current commission does.
Washington said some aldermen had been urging her to abolish the commission from the time she was inaugurated in January.
“… We thought we’d be better with an advisory board,” the mayor said. ” It’s not that we wouldn’t have citizen input. They’ve done this in many cities.”
The proposed ordinance was sponsored by Aldermen Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and Glen Brown Jr.
“We’ve had some issues over the years that I have noticed,” Holcomb said. “We just need to try to correct these issues. It’s nothing personal against anyone, we just want to move the city to a better situation.
″[The commission is] being funded by the city, and therefore having an advisory board by the city, I think we should have some input. With that being said, with things that have gone on in the recent past, there’s a change that needs to take place.”
Alderman Holcomb has a great point on this issue. It makes no sense having the parks department as its own entity, especially since parks and recreation are so vital to a city’s success. Studies have shown that the quality of a city’s parks directly correlates to the health of its residents.
And we feel that under the auspices of the mayor’s office more can get done to improve our parks system in Pine Bluff. However, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Omar Allen defended the current organizational structure and said what was most needed is greater funding for parks and recreation.
“I still support the parks and rec commission the way it’s set up,” Allen said. “I don’t see any changes that could possibly happen if it was under the mayor if you’re not going to invest in appropriated funds that need to be invested in it.”
While we certainly respect Mr. Allen’s thoughts on the subject and agree that more funding is needed, it’s time for the city to run its parks department, not a separate commission.