Wrecked park department - Page 2

Deep proposed budget cuts to city recreation programs offer a peek into what's to come

17, 2007), the Rec Connect model is "private, funded by undisclosed corporate donations, staffed by volunteers who are often city employees or [Newsom's] campaign donors, and unaccountable to any internal controls or outside scrutiny."

One department employee, who spoke off the record due to concerns about job security, told the Guardian that "there is not the same level of accountability for those in the Rec Connect program. If they leave the building where they are working, there is not necessarily anyone who is watching them."

Sources within the department say there will be 10 new Rec Connect sites opened to offset the budget cuts, a move that comes at a time when Newsom is trying to raise significant money for his nascent gubernatorial campaign.

"I feel like they're using the financial crisis to push something they've been trying to accomplish for a long time," the source said. "And with this model, there are three to four layers of paid bureaucracy before these monies get to the kids. What they aren't telling the public is that it is actually cheaper to allow Rec and Park workers to do our job than to pay the nonprofits, even though the workers the nonprofits contract out are making a lower hourly wage."

Lorraine Hanks, a recreation director who has worked with Rec and Park for 16 years, shared similar dissatisfaction with the Rec Connect program. In a phone interview, Hanks told us that "Rec Connect was supposed to come in and create innovative programs. They didn't do that. They wound up doing the same things we were already doing."

Rec Connect spokesperson Jo Mestelle didn't return Guardian calls for comment by press time.

Hanks also noted that "under Proposition J, 50 percent of funding was supposed to go to Rec and Park, and 50 percent was supposed to go to DCYF [Department of Children, Youth and their Families]. If we had that original 50 percent, we wouldn't have to lay anyone off."

On the way out of Friday's meeting, Betty Traynor of Friends of Boeddeker Park told us that many seniors and youngsters in the Tenderloin will have no park or safe public space to go to if the proposed cuts to hours go through, and that important programs for kids and seniors will be eliminated. Traynor added that the cuts "will also reduce hours for adult users of the park who have no other open green space in the Tenderloin."

Rec and Park employee Brando Rogers said the cuts would hurt youth who have developed relationships with employees and value these after school programs. "These are long-term relationships," she told us. "They can't be replaced by seasonal contract workers. I'm worried that if these precious mentors have their jobs eliminated, the neighborhoods will just be decimated."

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