The Richmond Register


June 1, 2013

Permission sometimes easier to get than forgiveness

RICHMOND — Forgiveness is easier to get than permission, an old adage holds. But that’s not always the case.

In local government, however, it’s usually better to let everyone know what you’re doing and offer a convincing justification before taking action.

Why wouldn’t you do that, especially if you’re confident what you want can be justified?

Three times in recent years, under two different administrations, those in control of Richmond City Hall have taken or attempted to take action with regard to city parks without first consulting the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Each time things turned out badly for those in City Hall.

The most recent example is the removal of a softball field from Irvine-McDowell Park.

The action appears to have been taken with support from a majority of the previous city commission. However, the move was not fully discussed in a regular session or given much public notice.

More importantly, the advisory board was not informed, much less consulted.

Mayor Jim Barnes says the park master plan adopted by the advisory board and a previous city commission calls for moving softball fields from Irvine-McDowell to Lake Reba Park.

Why then would he not at least inform the advisory board that the city was taking an action called for in the plan? If the board had given its endorsement to the move, a subsequent city commission would have found less justification to reverse the action taken under the city manager’s authority.

Some might say that two current commissioners elected on a platform of reversing policies adopted by the previous commission moved to restore the ball field simply to spite the mayor.

However, if he had given the action a full public airing before it was taken, we would have known where the public stood on the issue. And, those who opposed would be unable later say it was done without proper authorization.

Even some who think ball fields should be moved from Irvine-McDowell to Lake Reba say a new field should have been built there before an existing one was removed from the park on Lancaster Avenue.

While anyone can say hindsight and second guessing come easily, it’s also easy for local government to be fully open about its intentions. That way anyone who may be opposed has a chance to voice objection. And, as I said earlier, no one can claim something was done improperly.

Once the old field was taken out, the issue was no longer the cost of building a new field, just where.

City Commissioner Robert Blythe, who cast the deciding vote to restore the Irvine-McDowell field, said he would reconsider if the cost of restoration proves to be too high. However, restoring the previous field probably won’t cost anymore, perhaps less, than building a new one at Lake Reba.

We can all learn from our mistakes and should learn from the mistakes of others.

Several years ago, a group with the commendable purpose of building a skateboard park in Richmond went to City Hall with a proposal to build one in Betty Miller Park. When the proponents posted a call on their Facebook page asking supporters to attend the city commission meeting at which their proposal would be heard, I suggested they hadn’t done their homework.

The parks department staff had thoroughly investigated potential skate park sites, including Betty Miller Park. Former parks director Kevin Gorman reported his findings to the park board, telling them residents around the park opposed converting even part of its green space into a skating facility. The residents also objected to the potential noise and increased traffic such a facility would generate.

However, proponents of putting a skate park in Betty Miller Park told me they had done their homework. They went to City Hall and were told their idea was good. Simply bring it to the city commission, and it would be adopted, they said they were told.

When the issue came before the city commission, however, what the park board and staff already knew came to light. And the effort, which had raised the hopes of skateboarders, failed.

If skateboard park proponents and the folks at City Hall had been attending park board meetings or at least reading my reports of the board’s proceedings in the Register, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and embarrassment.

What’s difficult to understand about this blowup is that Barnes and other commissioners have attended a number of park board meetings.

Of course, you may remember the Camp Catalpa Park fiasco that also could have been avoided with a full public airing that appropriately could have started with the park board.

At least the skateboard park effort cost no money and this latest reversal will cost only a small fraction of what reversing the Camp Catalpa action cost.

Finally, what’s the point of having an advisory board if you don’t seek its advice?

Text Only
  • 06.29 CrystalFarewell.jpg Starting over at Head Start

    All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
    I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.

    June 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Ike Adams They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days

    I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
    At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
    I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth

    When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
    Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate

    Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
    His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

    June 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Senate campaign already in full bloom

    Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
    Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
    McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG ‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’

    What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
    Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association

    Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
    Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Hitting the campaign trail

    The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
    We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
    McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case of the scary black cat

    If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
    Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.

    May 10, 2014

  • Ike Adams Basking in the spring sunshine

    If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
    I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.

    May 8, 2014 1 Photo