If you’ve driven by the vacant lot at Providence and Broadway lately, you’ve probably thought that corner could use a little something a little less urban blight and a little more urban chic, right? For most of recent history, the corner has struggled with crumbled concrete as a war waged on in the Columbia City Council about whether or not a CVS Pharmacy could build on that property. Eventually, CVS grew weary of the council’s overreaching regulatory demands and packed up their architectural plans and found other cities interested in spurring their local economy with jobs and increased tax revenues. Ahem.
So when I read the latest edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune and saw that the city council has miraculously found $1.1 million dollars to turn that corner into a park, I seriously could only roll my eyes. ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT PLAN?
Because here is the thing…I’m subscribed to the KMIZ text alerts and it seems that hardly a day passes where I don’t get a text alert indicating that shots have been fired in Columbia somewhere. We have a growing crime problem that no one can seemingly solve, not to mention a drug war that we are losing. And by all accounts, our local police department is woefully underfunded and understaffed. The traffic unit of the Columbia Police Department has recently been disbanded to provide more resources to the crime patrols (and I’ve read that there is a significant increase in car crashes in Columbia because of the lack of traffic patrols.)
And while I’m on my soapbox, our schools are overcrowded, many streets are in need of repair, and we are growing faster as a city than our infrastructure can develop. Columbia is an amazing place to live, but we have some very real challenges to keep it that way. And you know what doesn’t help? A $1.1 million dollar expenditure on real estate for a park at the corner of a busy intersection. Yep, I said it.
Clearly, parks are awesome (no snark intended, I’m pro parks…just ones we can afford and ones that make sense.). Also, according to the Parks and Rec website, Columbia already has 92 available parks in all areas of our city. Considering we can’t fully staff the police or fire departments (not to mention pay them a decent salary), or continually grow our education and infrastructure needs without a bond issue at every election, then how do we have $1.1 million dollars to buy real estate FOR A PARK? And where exactly will the money come from to eventually develop the park in that location? And if it gets finished, how do we keep it a safe place for people to gather? (Not to mention…what will one do in that park? Watch the thousands of cars that pass through that intersection each day?). It certainly isn’t in a location that is along a common walking path, so where do you park to go to the park? These are things I suspect the city council failed to consider when they wanted to redeem themselves after the CVS debacle. Or they didn’t even consider because solving all these other issues isn’t easy, but announcing a new park is a “generational opportunity” according to the mayor. Whatever that is.
Here’s a better idea…allow a private company to develop an appropriate property at that corner that employees people and provides the benefits that people need. Take the $1.1 million dollars and use it towards the laundry list of things we all need. Because you know what I need? Less ballots for bond issues. Oh, and less text messages from KMIZ about shots fired. Just saying.