Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Parks Are Political

HARBESON: A form of recreational government

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I’m not sure New Albany-Floyd County Parks Superintendent Roger Jeffers understands the inherent nature of his job — he always seems surprised that politics is involved.

For example, he recently said, “We’re not a political group, but we seem to get caught in the middle of political groups.”

Mr. Jeffers is mistaken. All government programs are political. No matter how much he may not want it to be the case, Jeffers simply cannot deny being part of a political group.

Mr. Jeffers is a government employee running a government program. His group does not operate through peaceful voluntary means. He is inside a system that gets its funding through the threat of force.

He will always be part of a political group as long as government is involved in funding and operating local recreation. So if the pursuit of such funding feels political and makes him uncomfortable, well Mr. Jeffers needs to understand that it’s the system he chose to work inside and he must accept this sad truth.

Although Mr. Jeffers doesn’t see himself as part of a political group, he does admit that he’s involved in politics in general, however unwillingly, because he’s also said, “We want to take politics out of it,” when discussing alternative methods of funding parks.

That’s a nice goal, but this, too, is impossible, particularly when considering what Mr. Jeffers thinks is the answer. He has been consistently and continually promoting a proposed attempt to use state government to get what he wants — a special taxing district.

Talk about politics at its worst! If Mr. Jeffers doesn’t want politics involved he certainly should not be supporting a political scheme that would create yet another law upon the people, making it easier to force funding into a particular government entity. By appealing to a higher government authority to get what he wants locally, he would be using the very politics he claims to disdain.

Mr. Jeffers will never be able to “take politics out of it,” as long as it is a government program, and not something offered through the voluntary marketplace. However, when parks are voluntary, anyone who is not a user or involved in some way will never find himself unwillingly pulled into political battles.

No, voluntary groups just quietly go on their way, doing what they do, in whatever manner the people involved decide. We know this can be done even in parks because we have been able to see evidence for ourselves in the local area for 20 years now — Perrin Family Park in Jeffersonville. People who care can develop private recreational facilities through voluntary means.

But when people try to accomplish similar goals through the force of government, everything changes. People who don’t care and don’t want to be involved still have to endure fights over power and control, battles over money, disagreements on how a recreational property should best be used and on and on. It’s a problem because people who happen to live inside a geographical boundary cannot opt out of participating like they can when a park is privately operated.

It’s important to point out the truth when someone who is inside the system like Mr. Jeffers tries to pretend his little niche is different somehow. It’s not. It’s just another government program and we need to at least be honest about that before discussing any related issues.

In the end, I side firmly with Mr. Jeffers in his desire to get “politics out of it.” I’d love to put recreation into the private realm where people can voluntarily and peacefully interact with each other as they work toward common goals.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson would love to get politics out of, well, everything.

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