Update: Parks and Recreation Budget Hearing

On Tuesday, June 10, the City Council’s Ways and Means Committee held their budget hearing for the Parks and Recreation Department. This hearing is an important chance for the city council to make comments and ask questions about the department budget. We are happy to report that our Roslindale Playground Summary was referenced by five different city councilors during the hearing. It is clear that our efforts are making an impact, and it is important that we continue to demonstrate that this is an issue we would like the city to address urgently.

The video of the hearing has been posted on the city’s web site, if you wish to watch it. Be warned, however, that it is just over three hours long! Keep reading for our (still fairly long – sorry!) summary of the portions of the hearing that are relevant to our efforts.

Summary of Remarks

The first councilor to speak on behalf of Roslindale’s playgrounds was Michael Flaherty (At Large), around 23 minutes into the hearing. Before he mentioned Roslindale, however, he made a comment about the parks department as a whole which, if true, will be a tremendous asset to our campaign: that with the change of the administration, he sees a new attitude and a renewed commitment to accessibility and equity. The councilor went on to list our three main talking points (the same three you will find near the top of our home page). He followed up with a call for equity, saying, “I want to be sure we are fairly distributing bells and whistle parks across the city, and Roslindale is in dire need of one.”

Chris Cook, the interim commissioner of the parks department, spoke up to agree with Councilor Flaherty, saying, “the advocates for Roslindale have done a tremendous job and need to be really, really commended for bringing this to our attention. The advocates are absolutely right. Both playgrounds are nearing the end of their useful life and it’s time to go into a design and construction process for both of them.” He suggested that the parks department may be able to accelerate the process for development of Fallon Field. He also suggested that, while there is currently no capital money for the Healy Field playground, he thinks that there are opportunities to look towards external funding. On a slightly less promising note, he indicated that the expansion of parkland in Roslindale would most likely not be done in the short term, referring to such expansion as a “generational approach.”

The next speaker to mention our report was Matt O’Malley (District 6), at around 38 minutes into the meeting. Councilor O’Malley’s district includes part of Roslindale, and he specifically mentioned that when he was growing up he used Fallon Field heavily. His most notable comment on the neighborhood was to say that “there’s a ripe opportunity particularly where we’re having a number of young families staying and growing, so I add my voice to a real focus on Roslindale going forward.”

At around 1:04, Michelle Wu (At Large) added her support with a brief recognition of Councilor Flaherty’s remarks, noting, “I want to add my name as an extra one pushing those things.”

Tim McCarthy (District 5, covering most of Roslindale) spoke at around 1:21. As would be expected, Councilor McCarthy spoke at greater length about our report than the previous speakers. He began by describing his receipt of the report and the interest that it generated from the parks department, noting that Chris Cook was eager to come to Roslindale to speak with us about the report and visit our playgrounds. See below for an excerpt from the comments made by Councilor McCarthy and Commissioner Cook’s response.

The final councilor to speak on Roslindale’s behalf was Ayanna Pressley (At Large). Councilor Pressley’s remarks focused on Boston families: “I wanted to … lend my voice to the chorus around Roslindale. We want to be a family-friendly city. That also means we need to be kid-friendly. In celebrating and boasting how park-rich we are, we want to be sure that we don’t become playground-poor.”

Remarks from Councilor McCarthy and Commissioner Cook

Both Councilor McCarthy and Commissioner Cook have been receptive to our advocacy. The commissioner even asked to join us in Roslindale to see our playgrounds and discuss our requests in more detail, at a meeting that occurred on May 29. Because of their interest in – and importance to – our advocacy, we were pleased to hear the following exchange between the two during the hearing:

Councilor McCarthy: “I just think the study was incredibly well written, and … to utilize that as a tool to help us move forward is really – it’s an amazing process, and I’m glad that it’s happened. I’m looking forward to starting that process, going to those meetings, picking out what we’re going to put up there. That’s really why all of us get into the business. Some day there is going to be a ribbon cutting and kids are going to be thrilled and it’s going to be fantastic. I look forward to taking care of Roslindale.”

Commissioner Cook: “I do too. Just as you said, that’s when the community does a great job of advocacy and informs the parks department of something that, really, we weren’t aware of. We didn’t look at it through the lens of [being] neighborhood specific before. We were looking at the lens of the lifecycle of our playgrounds, which has been our approach. That was really incredibly valuable, that report.”

 Next Steps

While this hearing was extremely encouraging, we need to stay active to keep our momentum and ensure that the city follows through on their words of support. Please consider helping by:

  • Coming to the Mayor’s Neighborhood Coffee Hour at Fallon Field on Friday, June 13 at 9:30, to speak directly with the mayor about Roslindale’s need for more and better playgrounds.
  • Continuing to email our city councilors, the parks department, and the mayor to express your support.
  • Volunteering to help advocate. For example, we need help distributing flyers at the farmers market each Saturday. If you can help in any way, please contact us.
  • Helping to spread the word. Please share our web site on your social networks and tell your friends about our efforts.

Thank you all for your help so far!

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