Guest Commentary – October 25, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
People chose to live where they do for a variety of reasons. Some because they were born there and don't like change. Sometimes of necessity because of employment. Many residents of Geauga County reside here because of choice. This county is a beautiful natural area with plentiful forest, fields, farmland, clean air, low popolation density ... you get the idea. If you asked most residents they would tell you they like it the way it is. They don't want it to turn into just another crowded subburb of Cleveland.
Unfortunately, its difficult to keep these admirable Geauga County qualities. Thereâ s always some opportunist willing to buy a beautiful piece of land, clearcut the forest and subdivide it, not caring about the ramification to wildlife and to the community. That person then moves on to do his or her demolition elsewhere. In short, we have freedom "to" but very little freedom "from."
Here in Geauga County the one organization that's a major protector of natural areas and the desirable qualities mentioned is our Geauga Park District. If asked, most Geauga residents would likely say the Geauga Park District is part of county government, but that would not be correct. A park district is similar to a school district in that it is an independent agency. It is overseen by three park commissioners, but, unlike a school district whose board is elected, the park commissioners are appointed by a probate judge.
In the 50-plus years of our park district's existance, the appointments have been generally excellent and nonpolitical. The commissioners have concertrated on protecting thousands of acres of threatened natural areas in our county.
However, with the untimely death of Judge Henry, who was killed in a bicycle/auto accident, Tim Grendell was appointed to take his place as probate judge and it seems an era of controversy and politics has arrived at the parks door.
Judge Grendell refused to reappoint the highly respected Dr. Mark Rzeszotarski as one of the commissioners, instead appointing a park critic and Tea Party inclined individual, Michael Petruziello, who to my knowledge has never shown any interest in the goals and mission statements of park districts. A Tea Party website quotes him, "Want to take back country from these radicals in office in all parties.â
One wonders if he considers his two fellow commissioners as radicals that need to be removed. If that's the case, he may get part of his wish as another commissioner is up for reappointment and one wonders what judge Grendell will do.vTwo anti-government, free market, privatization types could do what they want with the parks, including selling off park land, and the people could do nothing. Park commissioners are not subject to recall by the voters.
So what to do? In the immediate future, the park district has two tax levies that are expiring and the commissioners have decided to let one expire and turn the other into a replacement levy. The net result is that the park district income will be cut by about $680,000 per year.
There is some misinformation that has been circulating to the contrary stating the park district income will actually increase, but that is not the case. Check the official minutes from park commissioners meetings for the actual facts.
With natural areas disappearing so quickly here in Geauga County, now seems a particularly bad time for a steep cut in our park district's budget.
Although Tim Grendell has been appointed to fill Judge Henry's unexpired term, Grendell must run for reelection on his own this Novenber. If he appoints two anti-parks people as commissioners, the duo could sell park land, allow "frackers" to gut the park with oil/gas well roads and wells, or decide our biodiverse old growth park forests need to be working forests and sell off the logging rights to clearcutters.
Although we can't choose our park commissioners, we do choose the probate judge who appoints them. You have the opportunity to send a message to Tim Grendell when you walk into the voting booth this November.
John G. Augustine