In “Richmond Needs More Parks, Lost Report Says” (Street Talk, Dec. 1) Style Weekly reports that “To help pay for these improvements, the plan, completed in May 2008, recommends the parks department search for income sources beyond tax dollars, such as corporate sponsorships, advertising, concessions and usage fees.”
How would sourcing income from corporate sponsorships affect citizens who wish to utilize the park for exercising their rights to free speech? The privatization of public parks should run parallel to the discussion about public-private charter schools.
Is this basically an issue of the free market being handed control over our public institutions in the wake of federal and state debt? Little by little? I feel that this is a scenario straight from the “Shock Doctrine.” The free market opens a window of opportunity to obtain a little more influence over the state. The seed is planted that private industry can help with these public projects and essentially boost someone's political career in the short term, but at what long-term costs?
We must be more critical of these things. I think we're seeing what this kind of quasi-private-public relationship might look like with the Monroe Park Master Plan and how much dominion Virginia Commonwealth University will have over the park once the gentrification process is complete.
Is this really what we want? Corporations invading our public space? Whether it's visible or not, it's there.