The following appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 12. Thank you to the authors for their recognition of the effort. Vigilance is still required as some of the county supervisors may yet put forward another proposal to sell the park.
"Dedicated Davids won"Truly bad public policy ideas always can be measured by the large number of lobbyists hired to convince elected officials otherwise. That's what Milwaukee County Supervisor Gerry Broderick aptly said Dec. 18, shortly before the County Board rejected the proposed sale of O'Donnell Park to Northwestern Mutual.
"Last week, Journal Sentinel reporter Don Behm revealed that the insurance giant spent $210,000 on five registered lobbyists hired to pitch the park sale ("Lobby bill for county park hit $210,000," March 6). Those eye-popping figures do not even include other paid consultants and in-house staff assigned to craft and promote the dubious deal.
"In contrast, a grass-roots network of alarmed citizens spent less than $1,000 to defeat Milwaukee's mother of bad ideas. Volunteers, including many newly engaged park defenders, rallied to protect this prime lakefront park. We mobilized other citizens, spoke at hearings, called, emailed and met with supervisors. Our tools were fliers, banners and traditional and online media. We championed the sacrosanct American principle that public parks are priceless and not for sale.
"The public had just a few months to stop an unprecedented park sell-off. Northwestern Mutual and county officials, however, had prepared since 2011. In July, 2014 they announced Northwestern Mutual's quietly negotiated offer to purchase the park — just before Wisconsin's fall election.
Dedicated Davids can prevail over deep-pocketed Goliaths intent on usurping public assets for corporate gain. Successfully preserving the common good is reward enough."
Chris Christie, Daniel Folkman and Pat Small
Full disclosure: I am a board member of Preserve Our Parks, which led the effort to save the park.