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Phil Matier: Naming Rights Considered To Fund Oakland Parks

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OAKLAND (KCBS) — Oakland’s Parks and Recreations Department, which lacks funds to improve or even maintain the city-owned properties, is now considering a policy that would allow corporations and wealthy donors to buy the right to name public parks, gardens and recreation centers if they can pay their care.

While reporter Will Kane points out in his article in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle that the budgets for parks are shrinking all over the country and now Oakland is shaking the tambourine for money.

The idea is that you get a corporation or person to kick in the money and have a park named after them as long it’s not named after somebody already—otherwise, they will get a “sponsored by” tag.

It’s not really a totally new idea. In San Diego County, for example has list of park or recreation centers are available for name purchases. It’s the same for many other cities and municipalities all the over the nation, so why not Oakland?

It’s interesting to see how park and recreation departments have morphed all across the country. It used to be the leader of the civic-budget battles. There was a time when signs were put out for various bonding measures that that essentially said “more parks, more fun for the kids” and people would vote for them.

But all that eventually shifted over to public safety and education. Add the public pension problems that cities are facing along with a challenging economy and it becomes increasingly difficult not only to build a park, but also to maintain it.

It’s the maintenance costs that cities, like Oakland, have to contend with. Sure that baseball field or soccer field was a splendid idea at the time, but how does it get paid for on weekly basis?

So now there’s the ideas of bidding out the fields and parks.

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