When you think of parks, whether Yosemite or your corner playground, you probably think of them as quintessentially public institutions—as the Ken Burns documentary puts it, “America’s best idea.” And while parks are indeed public institutions, a great many owe their existence, growth, and endurance to the generosity of creative donors.
This is why we can’t have nice things, New Yorkers might have muttered when they heard the news: Bill de Blasio, a shoo-in to be elected mayor next month, supports a plan to gut one of New York City’s most successful policy innovations of the past three decades.
That innovation is Central Park, the crown jewel of America’s urban parks. De Blasio made headlines when it was revealed that he supports a plan to redistribute money from Central Park’s operating budget to other, smaller parks throughout the city.
That may sound innocuous, but take a closer look. It would be one thing if de Blasio was proposing to move money around within the city’s $380 million parks and recreation budget. Instead, de Blasio has endorsed a plan to raid the assets of the private nonprofit group that runs Central Park.
On November 8, 2006, Dick DeVos woke up with nothing to do. The day before, he had lost the election for Governor of Michigan. “If you’re not elected, you’ve basically cleared your entire schedule for the foreseeable future,” he chuckles. “You’ve got time on your hands to reflect on, ‘What should I be doing?’”
It wasn’t a feeling DeVos was used to. The former CEO of the multi-billion-dollar direct-selling firm Amway and head of the Orlando Magic NBA team, DeVos had also been involved in civic activities, including serving on the State Board of Education and on numerous non-profit boards. He was a mentor with Kids Hope, a charitable group in his native Grand Rapids.