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Tom Bacon & Ed Wulfe

Don’t cut quality of life

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Houston is looking at a budget deficit of $120 million for its next fiscal year, a daunting number even in the context of a total general fund budget of almost $2.2 billion.

Houston has a financial problem, and the City Council and administration should be applauded for facing it now, before it worsens. The problem, though, must be understood and faced realistically with full appreciation of the various roles played by city government.

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The value of our green spaces was made clear when citizens overwhelmingly approved the November 2012 Parks and Bayou Greenways bond with 68 percent of the vote. Houstonians understand that our parks, trails and bayou greenways are more than frills. They create value, bring economic development, improve the lives and health and will drive Houston’s prosperity in the future.

Parks affect our health, encouraging the exercise that is often hard to get in a car-centric city. Robust studies show the simple truth that people exercise more if they live where parks are accessible. Seniors live longer where they have a safe place to walk.

Parks are critical at a time when our nation is battling rising health costs, which are increasingly driven by obesity and related illnesses. And, greener neighborhoods have less crime, less litter and better property values.

We trust that these lessons will be remembered as, together, we face our financial challenges. Yes, we need to wash away the red ink, but not at the expense of Houston’s quality of life.

Full commentary: Bacon, Wulfe: City shouldn’t turn to parks for budget cuts
Source: Houston Chronicle, November 22, 2014

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