PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A referendum is on the ballot for a city tax to fix public parks and playgrounds but not everyone is on board.
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy made their case to Pittsburgh City Council today.
“Parks in urban areas are critical to the well-being of residents,” said Jayne Miller of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. “How can we improve the parks in the neighborhoods? How can we assist the city in making the parks what they used to be?”
The non-profit says the city’s 165 parks are in rough shape and need about $400 million in repairs to restore them.
Their proposal is a referendum this November asking voters to increase their property taxes by $50 for every $100,000 of valuation.
However, some City Council members balked at the proposal.
“We live in a city which is one of the highest tax for real estate purposes in the country and now you want to add another tax on,” said Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb.
Councilwoman Darlene Harris was concerned about who this tax could impact.
“This tax hurts the seniors and those on fixed incomes the hardest,” Harris said.
While leaving that decision up to voters, Councilman Corey O’Connor sought assurances the city and the public will continue to own and control the parks.
“We have to make it clear that if the residents vote for this, we are not privatizing the parks,” O’Connor said.
Mayor Peduto and his administration said the parks will stay public but the passage of the referendum is necessary to make them desirable places again.
“We have disinvested in our neighborhood parks, our courts, our playing fields that they are in such a state of disrepair they need a major overhaul,” Peduto said. “Just like when they were created 100 years ago, the goal is not to have a good park system in the city. The goal is to have a great park system in the city that will make people want to live in the city.”