Sunday, April 22, 2012

...public parks were usurped by private interests, with the collusion of bought-off politicians...

From comments

Frankie says: April 19, 2012 Wasn’t derelict land reclaimed and used to create something that gives people a reason to come to Benton Harbor? A trophy golf course brings money in from other areas and helps create jobs. Didn’t the same private money that paid for the golf course also pay to have the beachfront re-done, and is now a cash generating enterprise? I can not explain how poorly your angst is placed. Get a life.

Reply - occupythepga says: April 20, 2012 @ Frankie: Thank you for your comment. It gives an opportunity to clear up some misconceptions. The golf course was not built on “derelict land”, it was built on land occupied by a beautiful beach and factories. Harbor Shores promised 2,000 jobs for the community (initial projections were over 4,000) and have failed to produce meaningful jobs. Most of the jobs created will be short-term construction jobs anyway, not the kind that will provide lasting employment in the community.

But the community will change, because the golf course will bring gentrification. As land values and rent rates rise, Benton Harbor community members already living in poverty will be forced out to make room for more wealthy residents. The integrity and future of the culture and community are at stake.

You’re correct that there was some derelict land involved–the scattered parcels that Harbor Shores offered in unfair compensation for the pristine 22 acres of Jean Klock Park stolen from the public. After the give-away was approved by federal agencies who failed to do their job, it came out that several of the parcels, previously industrial sites, are so contaminated with toxic heavy metals that they’re unsafe without remediation.

Having the beachfront “redone” included clearing 8 acres of trees, stripping the dunes of vegetation, brush-cutting wetlands, and removing 900 truckloads of dune material to shape the course. This occurred despite lawsuits against the development being unresolved, so that by the time they reached decision on appeal, they were considered moot points. Pollution from the greens is reported to be running into the park via drainage ditches that were not indicated in the plans.

You may continue to believe Harbor Shores’ promises if you choose, but they have failed to meet many of their commitments already. They have been caught illegally stealing water from Benton Harbor’s Paw Paw River. According to Harbor Shores themselves, over two-thirds of the projected tax revenue, assuming the project doesn’t fail in this era of declining popularity of golf, will benefit St. Joseph and Benton Township, not Benton Harbor. Likewise, the 2004 land grab that took four acres from the park for development has not translated to jobs or meaningful revenue.

We stand for the human rights and self-determination of the people of Benton Harbor. The democratic processes that should have allowed them to have a real voice in what happens in their community and to their public parks were usurped by private interests, with the collusion of bought-off politicians.