We all know the economy is in grim shape. Revenues are down, expenses are up. What’s a fella to do? Well, in the case of Chuck Dooley, the answer is simple: cut your expenses. I learned that in Accounting 101. Which I got a D in, by the way. The other method is to increase income. I’ll get to that part.
Dooley, in case you don’t live in The City by the Arch, is the County Executive for St. Louis County.
Doctor Dooley intends to remedy the situation by closing several St. Louis County parks. We’ve heard lots of news coverage on that one. Angry letters to publishers and media and websites. Vocal opposition en masse. “Don’t close our parks,” they say. “We need our parks.” Well, maybe “yes,” maybe “no.”
It would be helpful to look at it from the other side. You know, walk a mile in my shoes, or something like that. So here I am walking in Dooley’s Cole Haan slip-ons, and I’m thinking, “Hmmm, close the parks. Maybe close a whole lot of parks. We’ve got too many anyway. Empty land just sitting there. Think of all the money that’ll save. And I seldom have time for a picnic.”
So I’ve come around to Professor Dooley’s point of view. He’s right. Close ‘em up. Lock the gates. But he doesn’t take the idea far enough. He needs a bold vision, a significant and non-retractable stroke to shape the future. Well, here it is - my bold vision to address the lack of monetary balance in the County budget right now. First, we close ALL the parks. Lay off all those people who keep the parks clean, cleared, trimmed, patched, accessible and whatever else they do. But don’t fire the folks at the top. The ones who tend to the parks from their desks. Keep them on your administrative staff. Maybe even add some staff (More about that in a minute).
Let’s face it, who needs parks? They just use up a lot of space. Who needs to walk or sit or run or bike, have a picnic when the weather’s nice? Crazy stuff like meditate and write poems and feel closer to whatever is out there or up there. That’s lazy stuff, isn’t it? No productivity in that. And what we need now, more than ever, is productivity. I’m sorry, but walking your dog on a beautiful spring day, looking at new leaves emerging from winter, hearing the twitter of little birds and the rustle of a slight breeze.... what kind of income do you think that actually produces? “Not a feeble farthing,” as Dickens said.
So, Mr. Dooley, here’s my vision, and you can have it. Free. Close all the parks. Cut down all the trees. Sell the lumber. (estimated income: $3.76 million). Rescind any charter or agreement that holds the parks sacred and protected, and sell the land to real estate developers. But with a codicil in the public interest: Only “green” construction. (estimated income: $568 million). Levy a tax on the construction there: condos, retirement centers, malls, sports arenas, casinos. (estimated annual income: TBD but huge).
There you have it, Mr. Dooley. More money than you ever knew what to do with. And what do you do with it? Why, that grand plan to build Dooley Towers in the heart of Clayton. A 45-story building to house your administrative staff. Even add a few people just to maintain a sense of self-respect and to reward some political allies. A building worthy of Dubai, with your name in neon at the very top. With plenty of money left over.
That leaves all those people... and, really, just how many are there? .... who want a place to walk or wander or sit around. Just like the song in West Side Story says, “there’s a place for them.” Use all that empty space that was once parking lots for abandoned Wal-Marts and Targets and Shop ‘n Save and Builder’s Square and Circuit City. Paint paths on them, add an occasional PortaPotty, stick a few folding chairs around for those that insist on sitting, and maybe hang some stuffed robins and blue jays from the parking lot lamp posts.
Call them Dooley Downs.
See how simple that was? Dooley Downs. Followed by Dooley Towers. It proves if you just apply that old American ingenuity, no problem is too big to overcome.