Throughout the 2016 municipal election there were two major threads that sewed together most of the candidates that would eventually assume seats as Councilors. First thread was a commitment to long-range strategic planning that regularly engages the public. The second thread was pointing out the deplorable state of our neighborhood playgrounds and parks along with a promise to address them sooner rather than later. This issue was such a rallying point for Mayor Glenn Elliott that some labeled him the “swing-set candidate,” a moniker he proudly adopted.
A friend of mine once said “Wheeling doesn’t have a money problem. Show me a city, any city, which has all the money it needs. What we have here in Wheeling is a problem of priorities.” Council is making strategic planning and recreational development a priority for our city.
The cities that have excelled in the post-recession economy are those with a strong commitment to executing long-term vision. Our neighbor Pittsburgh is an excellent example. Through several administrations Pittsburgh has remained committed to a multi-decade focus of enhancing its cultural and recreational opportunities. This commitment is now paying dividends as Greater Pittsburgh is a national hot-spot for business relocation, has a burgeoning food scene, and continually ranked one of America’s healthiest cities. Pittsburgh’s commitment to vision and execution of that vision has carried on despite campaign politics and the necessary changes in leadership brought on by elections.
The data supporting the importance of playgrounds and parks is voluminous. From bolstering economic development to creating safer neighborhoods to helping children learn, playgrounds and parks make neighborhoods stronger and the people that live in them mentally and physically healthier. While parks alone won’t save an economy, they factor critically into where businesses and people choose to locate.
One of the founding principles of Weelunk is the sharing of ideas. It is so much a principle that Ideas gets an entire section. The only rule of the Ideas Section is that if you bemoan some aspect of Wheeling life then you must present an idea to solve it. Start the conversation of how we fix that problem.
As candidates they complained. As councilors they deliver a solution.
Over the last few weeks Council has worked to create a new position, Director of Parks and Strategic Planning. Pass it along to anyone you feel qualified.
It will take a while for the city to select the right candidate. It will also take a while to see the benefits of that person’s work, but in the meantime thank your Councilor for making good on one of their biggest campaign promises.