“What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.”
— Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, “Parks and Recreation”
The Collinsville Area Recreation District is celebrating its 25th birthday with a bi-partisan call for its death from its former board president, three mayors, a township supervisor and Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan.
The park district has been under fire for years from taxpayers, who voted to cut their property taxes and led the former director to quit rather than live with the new fiscal realities. A couple of discrimination lawsuits have not helped the financial picture.
Add to that feelings that the district was not responsive enough to communities other than Collinsville, was pushing the Willoughby Farm development and the Arlington Golf Course purchase and the Miners Institute Foundation acquisition without much resident interest and the general feeling seems to be that taxpayers are not getting the recreation for which they are paying.
So now comes the insurrection, and you have to figure that a challenge from this list of political and opinion leaders has to be significant. The challengers need a two-thirds majority vote to kill the district, so you know they are motivated to take on that kind of challenge instead of just persuading a simple majority of voters to elect their people who promise to be fiscally conservative.
There’s a big wild card in all this, and that is Collinsville. Collinsville Mayor John Miller and some city council members were at the press conference last week, but remaining neutral. There were not a lot of details on the financial impacts to Collinsville, including getting back the parks that had been leased to the district and from taking on Splash City Water Park operations. Anti-district organizer Andrew Carruthers, the former district board president, said info on the impacts to taxpayers would be released soon, but they are still obligated to $45 million in debt over 19 years even if the district vanished tomorrow.
The bottom line is the bottom line, so we all await those projections.
However one thing is clear at this point: If it survives, the recreation district’s staff and board have a lot of work ahead of them to rebuild public and fiscal trust.