Everything Chris Reader, of Grand Rapids' Friends of Garfield Park, said a while back on this listserv, about efforts to save parks is true. It is a small group of people--every time--that does the bulk of the work, and the rest of the community is privately grateful that others are brave enough to carry on and give it the public face.
Now we see residents in Van Buren County facing the same scenario.
It's tough enough going up against your own city elected officials and some two-bit developer. But protecting Jean Klock Park locally or on the state level has not been a fair fight, nor has it been a fair public process.
Be sure to see the 6-minute YouTube video "Save Jean Klock Park" in which residents denounce the takeover of their park and the manipulation of their community:
People "Get It"
Speaking out and going against a huge corporation and the state of Michigan has been a frightening and frustrating experience for this community. People have been intentionally kept in the dark, lied to, and just plain played. The divide- and-conquer tactics the developers have played for years are really paying off for them. The City of Benton Harbor and the compliant local media have done a superb job of not informing its residents of anything, and when it rarely does, it is not the whole truth. No letters about the project go out to residents. No maps of the project were available at city hall or in the library. Many people don't get the newspaper. Cars, phones,
computers, all are in short supply.
But people there get it. They basically see what's going on. But all the facts are not in plain view.
One thing's for sure--it is no longer a local decision, if it truly ever was. Ignored by Granholm
Fear of harrassment and being blackballed from any potential jobs that might appear in the future, is what keeps some Benton Harbor residents from signing petitions, or coming to protests, especially when they occur outside the police jurisdictions of Benton Harbor, as was the last invitation-only, roll-out of the Harbor Shores project at Lake Michigan College, an event the governor spoke at.
And yet, they have. Hundreds of people signed petitions this fall.
100 people attended the DEQ public hearing in January, despite the public
notice in the paper printing the wrong date. Nearly everyone was against the golf course in the park.
Residents and area people have written letters to the editor in favor of protecting the park. Letters pro-Harbor Shores are by writers connected in some way to the developers. There were two more great pro-park letters in the paper recently--one by a former councilman.
Residents repeatedly went to Lansing and protested at the Trust Fund Board. They went to Lansing to lobby state legislators, and some legislators did try to influence the governor and the Trust Fund.
Residents wrote letters directly to the governor. You can see one on the Friends' website. The governor's faith-based initiatives state employee, who was also, conveniently, assigned the chairmanship of the Benton Harbor Task Force, we were told, "handled" the letter. No reply was ever given.
As Alex Sagady said a long time ago, Bill Milliken and Jim Blanchard would not have done this. It shouldn't take the image of a dead child on a coffee mug to convince a governor who says things like: "We refuse to choose between protecting a beautiful environment and promoting economic growth?". (www.michigan.gov) that destroying a 90-year public park for a privately-owned golf course is a good thing.
In this michigan.gov press
release and radio broadcast speech Granholm spouts sheer propaganda for the developer. No mention of Jean Klock Park:
Balloons for the Children While the Governor Steals their Park
I personally witnessed Benton Harbor children being bused in on four nearly- empty school buses (buses that never take them to Jean Klock Park) for the Lake Michigan College Harbor Shores invitation-only affair a few weeks back. While the speakers inside talked about how wonderful all these new plans are, and hyped the "expansion and improvement of Jean Klock Park" rhetoric --a park that is dedicated to Benton Harbor's children-- the children in attendance were treated to an event with the governor, some free food, and .... balloons...
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
Join me in urging Governor Granholm to redirect Whirlpool to put their golf course on their own corporate land on Lake Michigan where it belongs and leave Jean Klock Park to the children and to future generations as it was intended, and as has been fought for by generations of Benton Harbor residents.
Contact the Governor
Governor Jennifer M. Granholm P.O. Box 30013 Lansing, Michigan 48909