Thursday, October 28, 2010

COLUMBIA PARKS TAXES: Fairly distributed? Not in black neighborhoods.

COLUMBIA, 10/28/10  (Commentary) -- There's a strangely ironic sign in front of the JW Blind Boone home, owned for years by Columbia City Hall and crumbling from within.  

"Merit -- not sympathy -- wins," the sign instructs, outside a new coat of exterior paint that cleverly camouflages piles of filth and plaster inside.
Planned as a combination park/museum, the Blind Boone home (bottom, left) is one of two City-owned dilapidated historical treasures with the unfortunate circumstance to be located in historically black First Ward neighborhoods, where Federal block grants -- or private fundraising efforts -- often replace city tax dollars, despite that all First Ward residents pay city taxes, too. 

The other dilapidated historic building is the Field Park Building, aka the Heibel March Store (pictured) an official City of Columbia Notable Historic Property left within yards of an elementary schoolhouse to decay on a city park. 

Talk about a wonderful example Columbia's Parks Department is setting for neighbors, children at the nearby school, and the rest of a city forced to obey structural and aesthetic codes.  

Talk about a great example of meritorious conduct (not!) 
Parks sales tax revenues in Columbia are not equitably distributed and haven't been for as long as anyone can remember.   White people in historically-white neighborhoods get full benefits; black people in historically-black neighborhoods  -- and white people in historically-black neighborhoods -- get partial benefits. 

The rest they are forced to make up through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Federal HOME funds, private fundraising, non-profit groups, or other out-of-area financial aid. 

Of course, city administrators are full of excuses when inner city parks go begging, blaming low balances in the General Fund or inadequate block grant dollars or what have you, while boldly sticking their mits out for another $12 million more tax dollars.   Prove the merit of that tax, gentlemen!  Merit -- not excuses -- wins. 
Regardless the excuses, residents of so-called "CDBG-eligible areas" -- historically black neighborhoods, mostly in the First Ward -- wait and wait to see their projects done; see far fewer of them; or don't see them at all.  
Asking them to vote for a parks tax this November seems like adding insult to injury. 

Field Park Building, aka Heibel March Store
Blind Boone Home


  1. Thank you for your good founded comments on the Blind Boone Home and the Heibel March Store.

    Here in Columbia, we do not see the caring for community history that other towns we have lived in have had.

  2. I've had to live down the street from this decrepit old building (on a park) for years while the city walks the streets telling private homeowners to fix up their houses, etc. Then hoodlums shot out the door and they left it sit for several days then boarded her up. This is right on and I know if I lived in a different neighborhood, it wouldn't be going on.. I'm voting not only no, but HELL NO!

  3. Mike,

    Your column is very thoughtful. I’m wondering why there hasn’t been a concerted effort by progressive or fair-minded Columbians to band together tot help equalize the comparative burdens with inner city folk.