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Budget Woes Close NYS Parks. Better To Privatize?

by Cliff Weathers

This is one of the saddest days in New York history. The State is closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites as a result of the budget crisis. The sites include the Tallman Mountain State Park swimming pool and the Stony Point Battlefield in Rockland County.

With the State Budget being held hostage by the dysfunctional State legislature, Governor Paterson’s draconian recommendations have kicked in and New York families and communities are the losers.

But one legislator might have an idea, it seems. Sent on the eve of the park closings, in a mailing from State Senator Thomas Morahan, there is a push poll asking constituents if we should privatize our parks. Read on, I’m not making this up.

The mailer contains the “2010 Legislative Questionnaire.” This is a one-sided survey as it has very limited questions with an even more limited range of answers, that range from fiscally moderate to ultra-conservative. The possible range of responses pushes respondents to right-of-center conclusions. There’s no room for a thoughtful, progressive answer anywhere in the questionnaire.

More to the point, question #4 asks:

Which of the following aspects of government should be privatized? (check all that apply)

Highway and roadway maintenance
Parks and Recreation
Health care

But beware, this isn’t a legitimate survey. This is a politician playing craps with public opinion using a pair of loaded dice. This is an attempt by one party to push through an agenda by attempting to change public perception using taxpayer dollars.

This recent push poll is not unlike others. It is a underhanded political technique where Senator Morahan is trying to sway public sentiment and opinion by bringing certain issues to the forefront. There is very little science behind this polling process. And while a large number of people are contacted, little or no effort will be made to collect or analyze their responses. I know from my own experience that analyzing polls is very cost prohibitive and Senator Morahan’s office does not have the time, nor the resources to analyze the data. So this survey cannot possibly provide an accurate gauge of the pulse of the 38th State Senate district. It’s no wonder that push polling has been condemned by good-government groups and even the American Association of Political Consultants. And in New Hampshire, push polling is downright illegal.

Closing our public parks is just plain wrong. Locally, the Stony Point Battlefield is critically important to the economy of the Town of Stony Point as visitors to the site often spend money at the town’s shops during their visit. The Tallman Mountain pool is the only public pool in the entire town of Orangetown. They are now gone; they may never come back.

What’s worse is that we’re now being asked to entertain the idea that  they  be privatized. This is cynical to say the least. And trying to push public opinion to this conclusion using taxpayer money is unethical to say the least.

There’s a sad irony to all of this: Mailings from our State legislature cost taxpayers $27.3 million per year and they are nothing more than incumbency insurance, or political campaigning paid for by our tax dollars. That amount is roughly the same as the $29 million that has been cut from our State Parks, resulting in today’s closings. So shouldn’t there be a question on Senator Morahan’s survey asking if we should do away with legislative mailings?

This opinion piece is cross posted at Left of the Hudson.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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