Herring Run update

Yesterday afternoon, someone from Parks & Rec tried to reach me, but wasn’t in when I returned his call. And still no word this morning. I’ve been thinking that I should forward all of this to Baltimore’s new Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Ms. Blake just named Gregory Bayor to the Director’s position:

New city recreation and parks chief named: Appointee has been charged with improving the department

April 13, 2010|By Julie Scharper The Baltimore Sun

A former Montgomery County recreation official will take the reins at the city’s beleaguered Recreation and Parks department, officials announced Tuesday.

Gregory A. Bayor, who oversaw special events and cultural programs for Montgomery County for over a decade, was appointed permanent director of the city’s recreation and parks department by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake.

Bayor, who starts immediately, will be charged with improving programming and crafting a strategic plan for the department, which came under fire for a lack of leadership and transparency by a volunteer transition team appointed by Rawlings-Blake.

“We will no longer accept mediocrity or the status quo,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

Bayor, who lead the Montgomery department under former County Executive Douglas Duncan, has most recently headed the Cecil County’s Senior Services Community Transit program. A University of Baltimore alumnus, he serves as President of its Board of Governors.

The recreation and parks department, which saw its budget slashed by a third in a preliminary budget scenario, has been led by 14 directors or interim directors in the past two decades. The department’s management of capital funds for building and renovations has been sharply criticized by the transition team and Councilman Carl Stokes.

Earlier this month, the parks department inflamed some Federal Hill residents by allowing Under Armour to paint its logo on the historic hill.

Dwayne B. Thomas, who served as interim director of Recreation and Parks since the fall, took responsibility for the decision to allow the company to paint the hill.

The Montgomery recreation department received national accreditation under Bayor’s leadership in 2004. The leaders of the city’s parks and recreation advisory board have stated that they hope the department will be accredited, which would hold recreation leaders and programs to high standards.

A number of the city’s 55 recreation centers have been targeted for closure due to declining attendance and a lack of organized programs, according to officials. The department’s budget has been repeatedly cut and the number of recreation centers has been winnowed by two-thirds in the past few decades.

If the council passes a package of taxes and fees, all city recreation centers will stay open through the summer, but some will be closed in the fall.

On Monday, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young created a Recreation and Parks subcommittee and appointed Councilman Nicholas D’Adamo its chair.

Rawlings-Blake also appointed David Ralph to serve as deputy city solicitor Tuesday. Ralph, the current head of the city’s litigation department, oversees all high-profile suits against the city.

He replaces deputy city solicitor Donald Huskey, who is retiring. Huskey has also served on the city’s ethics board.

Julie.scharper@baltsun.com

With this information under my belt, I started reading more back story for baltimore parks and found this article:

City residents turn out to air budget complaints

April 07, 2010|By Julie Scharper | julie.scharper@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun reporter

Shouting “Save our jobs” and “Save our kids,” more than 500 residents, youth advocates and union members streamed into a public meeting Wednesday evening to call for Baltimore’s top officials to reverse deep cuts to parks and recreation and preserve the jobs of city workers.

The impassioned crowd pleaded with leaders to halt plans to close more than half the city’s rec centers and swimming and wading pools and to fully fund the recreation and parks department, which was eviscerated in a preliminary budget scenario proposed by Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake’s administration.

“We’re not going to shut up. We’re not going to sit down. We’re not going to stop making noise until every one of our children has a safe place to play this summer,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, co-chair of the BUILD interfaith coalition, which led a rally in front of the War Memorial Building.

The meeting provided a first chance for residents to publicly air their grievances about the grim spending plan, which seeks to close a $121 million gap in the $2.2 billion budget by slashing city services and laying off more than 600 city employees, including 120 police officers and 90 firefighters. Seven fire companies would be shuttered and several police units, including the helicopter and mounted police, would be disbanded.

The preliminary budget is expected to help Rawlings-Blake rally support for a $50 million package of taxes and fees that she will present at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Critics charged that the budget — which includes deep cuts to programs that benefit youth and seniors — neglects the city’s most vulnerable residents.

NAACP president Marvin “Doc” Cheatham asked how future generations would judge city leaders for cutting recreation programs in a city plagued by violent crime and drugs and soaring rates of youth obesity.

“Mayor and City Council, you are about to fail morally on all tests,” Cheatham said.

The recreation and parks department is hit particularly hard in the budget, losing nearly a third of its $31 million general funds. Advocates implored city leaders to keep the rec centers and pools open and to restore funding for park maintenance.

“It is not OK to cut the maintenance of our parks from the current bare bones, inadequate level of 12 people per park to a ridiculous five people,” said Carolyn Wainwright, president of the parks department’s advisory board.

Maybe I’ll receive a call-back from the Parks Department today, and if I do I’ll post it here.

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