A gift with strings
by pete edwards
A gift is a gift. It is not normal to attach conditions to a gift. Sometimes conditions are associated with a donation, but never to make it ineffective for the purpose it was given. You don't give aid to starving children but stipulate it can't be used to buy food. This is what the City of Cleveland is facing with a donation of land for a park made in 1937.
When the land, for what is now Johnston Memorial Park in Downtown Cleveland, was dedicated to the city, there were many restrictions on how it could be used. Basically, the park was to contain no structures apart from a monument to the parents of the donor, Clyde Johnston Hardwick, and was to be maintained as a green space only, with no playground equipment or amenities to aid it's enjoyment by the public. The donor wanted a pretty view of open space for the monument with the city responsible for maintenance.
During the 1970's, improvements were made with the aid of federal funding that enhanced it's use by the public, which included the amphitheater now used on Veteran's Day and for the summertime Evening Shade musical concerts. The heirs to the Hardwick Johnston estate are now saying the improvements and present use violate the conditions set in place by the donor, and want the park restored to its original condition. Today, the estimated cost to the taxpayer would be $350,000 to remove the structures and replant the area. Is this good value for money?
The Cleveland City Council are at a loss as to where the money will come from at this financially strapped time, and there was only one councilman with a sensible solution. George Poe suggested the park be put back on the tax roll by allowing it to revert back to the donor's heirs and allowing them to pay for maintenance and upkeep in the manner expected of the City of Cleveland. The park could then be kept pretty for the monument, exactly as they would like it to look.
At present, the park is used mainly by vagrants and drug dealers so giving the land back to the heirs will be of little loss to the public, and would likely save a lot of money. If the heirs decide to remove the monument and sell the land for development, then that means more tax revenue for the city. In this instance, I support George Poe's simple but sensible suggestion. Not only is it fiscally responsible, but it sends a subtle message to others in the community who use the guise of being a community benefactor in order to avoid taxes - you actually have to be giving something up to qualify.
This park, with the strings attached is of little use to the taxpayer, park goers, or the City of Cleveland so the Cleveland City Council should say to the Hardwick Johnston heirs, thanks, but no thanks, the price is too high.
That's what I think. What do you think?
Or, you can now make your feelings known immediately, by commenting on this editorial through our blog, The Grapevine.