Mecklenburg County and Matthews are opening a new “greenway” this week. This is part of the recreational program building ‘linear parks’ that allow people to ride bikes, run, walk, and enjoy nature. Things I am all for. (I don’t do them myself, mind you, but will fight for YOUR right to.) And here is the rub: This new greenway cost $1.6 million dollars. Tax Dollars. By sheer coincidence, almost the exact amount we need to keep our public libraries open. And don’t have. Cue Strother Martin: “What we have here, is a problem with priorities.” Something government has never been very good at.
To be blunt: Matthews & Mecklenburg spent $1.6 million of our tax dollars on a “nature” park for the wealthiest citizens to ride bikes in spandex and walk their dogs, but have to close down libraries where kids with eager minds and seniors, who can’t afford to buy books. I’m so proud I could bust!
- Real Estate areas 4, 5 & 9, (Matthews is in area 4) are some of the highest per capita household income areas in Charlotte.
- The kids that need safe parkways the most, live in the poorest neighborhoods.
- NC (and Charlotte specifically) has probably one of the highest concentration of pine trees and greenery in rural environments east of Seattle. Matthews is ALL trees for crying out loud!
- Our public library system is in danger of closing hours and branches in low income neighborhoods, some near senior living facilities and under-funded schools, where coincidentally, they can’t afford new books.
- Charlotte’s South County Regional Library (closest to Matthews) does 4x more volume than any other branch and is in no danger of closing.
But, It’s No Good If It’s Free.
We should have safe places to enjoy nature. In fact, we do. It’s called “Outdoors.” It’s free. Try it. It does not cost a single dime to walk a mile or two. It does however cost money to keep libraries open, buy books and provide library services to the people who want it and NEED it the most.
Too Late to Fix It
The problem now is: that money is spent. We can’t un-do the greenway. The commercial real estate market is in no condition to sell it and use the money to fund the libraries. So what can we do? Easy:
- Think before we spend.
- Prioritize on the difference between NEEDED and what is WANTED. People may WANT parks, but what we NEED is more literacy in our youth.
- Quit letting politicians spend with one blind eye while holding out their hands for money.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a communist. I know who John Galt is, free markets are the best equalizers, and I don’t think the HAVES should pay for the HAVE NOTS. But I also think that our taxes paying for $1.6 million for a place to walk our dogs, when our kids are losing access to books is criminal! I think that government should stay out of the recreation business, period. Don’t even get me started about new arenas, ball fields or light rails! We pay for sidewalks with government money, walk down one for free and donate to the library instead!