Where's Our Money Going?
We're hikers, mountain bikers, and environmentalists, and we want more parks for everyone to enjoy. But the EBRPD's shockingly huge budget leaves us scratching our heads and asking "Where is all that money going?"
Let's Compare Budgets
The California State Parks system contains 1.5 million acres in 278 different parks. It protects 320 miles of coastline and ocean front, 625 miles of lake and river frontage, 14,500 campsites, 4,500 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails -- for over 70 million visitors per year. It employs 2500 people full-time, and 2700 seasonally.
Their operating budget in 2005-2006 -- before this year's massive budget cuts?
In contrast, the East Bay Regional Park District system contains about 98,000 acres -- less than 1/15th the size.
Their operating budget in 2007?
Yes, you read correctly. The EBRPD has under 1/15th of the land, but nearly 1/3rd of the operating budget of the entire California State Parks system!
How Can That Be?
"Assistant General Managers" at the EBRPD ($163,000-$197,000) make more money than a US Senator! ($169,000)
"Administrative assistants" make $102,000. Even starting gardeners make $52,000.
Now, Let's Compare Results
You'd think, with this kind of money being spent, that our East Bay parks would be the crown jewels of the entire state. Yet nearly 2/3 of EBRPD land is just cattle and sheep pasture, and over 85% of their "trails" are just ranch and fire roads! (Click here for pictures and details.)
Compare the beautiful Mt. Diablo and Annadel State Parks to the wastelands of the EBRPD's Mission Peak, Briones, and Black Diamond Mines, and you'll ask yourselves the same question we're asking:
Why should we vote to give the EBRPD $500 million more of our money, when we get so little in return? Instead, shouldn't we be giving our money to our local city parks departments and California State Parks, who spend it wisely to create beautiful parks we all enjoy?
Vote No on Measure WW!
But What About Land Acquisition?
(Or, "Aren't they protecting land from development?")
The EBRPD spent $143 million last year. For all their talk of preservation, less than four percent ($5.4 million) was spent on acquiring land -- far less than the $6.2 million they spent on executive salaries and "management services", and dwarfed by the $26 million they spent to pay off debt from previous bond measures. We all want to preserve land from development, but the EBRPD's own budget tells the truth: giving them more money won't do that.
Besides, this isn't an irrevocable decision. If the EBRPD cleans up their act, they can put Measure WW on the ballot again next year and we'll vote for it. As it is, they're asking for 20 years of money up front -- and we can't afford another 20 years like the last 20.
Postscript: An EBRPD Insider's View
We've received a stunning (and totally unsolicited) communication from a longtime EBRPD employee, who has given us permission to post it anonymously. Here it is:
"As a former employee, I saw and was subject to all abuses. The bad thing was working with a highly paid, but very lazy staff, a management that was bloated and didn't care about the true mission of an open space agency, and an aloof and distant (pompous) board of directors. I believe all the forefathers of this once great agency are spinning in their graves. I WILL VOTE NO, and tell all my friends. Believe me this isn't sour grapes, but being part of it, I can attest to the waste."