Like many cities in California, Whittier is facing a budget shortfall due to the high cost of employee retirement contributions along with lagging annual revenue.
As shoppers defer to more on-line purchases, brick-and-mortar establishments are falling aside. Store closures nationwide are announced every day. The opening of the new OSH in East Whittier was followed almost immediately by its demise.
Another large, empty spot on the main thoroughfare does not enhance the city’s image nor produce sales tax. A new way of thinking is required.
To reduce expenses, the city announced plans to fire the entire Parks Department staff and contract park maintenance and tree trimming to outside sources. This proposal met with fierce resistance from the community, especially within the context of the homeless problems affecting our parks.
The Whittier Conservancy took an active role in opposing this decision. Most importantly, without a locally based, in-house staff, it would have been impossible to implement our Tree Ordinance. The Director of the Parks Division has sole authority over the Tree Manual and its enforcement. He relies on employees with first-hand knowledge of our parks and their particular needs.
The Parnell Park Zoo and its care was not even mentioned when the city went out to bid.
Seven of our parks are home to designated historic landmarks: Penn Park, Founders Park (including the two original cemeteries), the Girl Scout House at Broadway Park, City Hall, the Depot, the Bailey House, and the iconic—though failing—Walnut Tree on Whittier Boulevard.
These local treasures require consistent care that has been given by qualified, caring personnel who take pride in the way they tend to our parks on a daily basis. City employees live, work, and play in Whittier. They have a commitment to the community that cannot be duplicated by large for-profit corporations with multi-city contracts.
Had this proposal gone through, Whittier would have lost the equivalent of over 300 years of institutional knowledge about our parks that could not possibly be duplicated by low-wage strangers.
Thank you to our City Council for their 4-1 vote in support of our parks, our workers, and the community. Let’s hope this trend continues into the next fiscal year.
Pictured: Some of Whittier’s much-loved urban forest / Sustainable City News