The politics of Parks and Recreation

April 12, 2010 6:13:56 PM PDT

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Philadelphia has an estimated 2.5 million of them. They help clean the air and provide shade. The man who heads the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, Michael DiBerardinis, says the city wants to spearhead a green works program to plant more; 300,000 more trees by the year 2015.

Despite budget woes, park supporters want Philadelphia City Council to give Parks and Recreation $3.3 million more than last year. Some of the money would be for trees, some for 43 new staffers.

A few council members are skeptical, saying of the proposed job mix requested it too many managers and too few actual workers to maintain the city's playgrounds and recreation centers.

"(It's) $1.7 million for additional bureaucracy within the department, very few of those dollars around for direct, boots-on-the-ground service delivery," according to William Green (D) -Philadelphia.

In 2008, voters approved the Parks and Recreation merger, thinking it would save money. Councilman Green questions if people want higher taxes for trees and park workers.

While not backing down on the call for the new trees, Parks and Rec. Commissioner DiBerardinis concedes the job mix may need adjusting. "I think he may be right. I mean we may have to look at these positions again. I do think there's some reasonable adjustment in those positions that would in fact reflect more boots on the ground."

As for Philadelphia's city pools last year, the cash-strapped administration opened only 45. This year, Diberardinis says he expects private donations to help fund the opening of all 69 operational pools this summer.

Finally, one councilwoman asked about Robin Hood Dell East. The outdoor concert venue has been closed for several years undergoing renovations. The plan now is to reopen the venue in July and have it host 8 shows this summer.

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