Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Livermore parks district welcomes back incumbents

LIVERMORE — The business world isn't the only thing bearing the brunt of the sickly economy.

If the financial picture doesn't improve soon, some of the region's most precious commodities — its parks, trails and recreational programs — could find themselves on the chopping block, parks officials say.

Steve Goodman, one of two Livermore Area Parks and Recreation District board incumbents who were re-elected Nov. 4, said that although he was happy for the opportunity to serve on the board another four years, he has been rolling up his sleeves for what could be a bumpy road ahead, trying to pull together funding for existing services.

Voters last week overwhelmingly welcomed back LARPD board members Goodman and Beth Wilson, who defeated challenger Barbara Kraybill by a healthy margin. In the final tally, Goodman captured 41.8 percent of the vote, followed by Wilson with 32.1 percent and Kraybill with 25.9 percent.

"I'm excited about winning, No. 1, because it's nice to win — it's better than losing," Goodman joked. "That being said, I know with the financial situation, both with the nation and state, there's going to be some (tough) decisions we're going to have to make. I don't think we're going to get through this unscathed."

If worst comes to worst, that could mean making painful cuts at the more than 40 parks, facilities and recreational programs that fall under the district's umbrella, he said.

An Advertisementindependent agency created in 1947, the parks district borders Pleasanton and Dublin to the west and Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties to the north, east and south.

Similar to all local agencies, the district is vulnerable to raids on its coffers by state legislators who will be looking for ways to plug the state's gaping deficit in coming months.

Exacerbating matters, officials say, is the loss in some property-tax revenue that has occurred because of the downturn in the housing market.

Earlier this year, funding shortfalls led board members to close The Friendship Center, a popular senior program in the city.

Despite the challenges, Goodman said he and his fellow board members planned to push forward.

Talks about a possible collaboration on some trails projects with the East Bay Regional Parks District were in the works, he said.

"I'm excited about the future, but also solemn in the approach we're going to have to take going forward.

"The budget is going to be the most critical thing we may need to reconfigure," he said.

"So far," Beth Wilson said, "we've been very fortunate the governor has not advocated taking even more money away from parks as he has done with schools and some social services."

With cutbacks, she said, maintaining parks will be most important.

"Keeping our parks, our neighborhood parks and special-use parks is our No. 1 priority," she said.

"They may not get watered as often, or fertilized or mowed as often, ... but those are our investments."

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