Reasons To Vote No On Metroparks Replacement Levy

I’ve been privy to scandalous stories about Cleveland Metroparks (CMP): Murders, accidents, lives lost and saved, low staff morale, wanton greed, public trust violations, and the park system’s demonstrably ineffective deer “population control” program, sharpshooting.

Now, CMP wants more money for its 10-year replacement levy on the ballot this November.

Park users who live in this circulation area, with a combined population of 111,000 -- 10% of Cuyahoga County’s population –- should consider the following reasons for voting against the levy.

Follow the Money: The $800M, 2.7-mill replacement means an additional $54 annually for properties worth $200,000. It's not a huge jump, but where do we draw the line, considering there are five county levy measures on the ballot next month, including one for the hotly debated Parma City School District?

If the park levy fails, home values will not decrease. And it won’t result in a less-than-stellar park system.

CMP recently won a prestigious national award. And while CEO, Brian Zimmerman, rakes in a salary pushing $300K, the park saves A LOT by relying on a volunteer base for big events and many programs.

DUBIOUS ECONOMIC CLAIMS: CMP officials allege economic impact of $873M via its go-to study by The Trust for Public Land. But the study doesn’t quantify the breakdown, is based on citations from agencies outside Ohio, and claims the biggest slice of pie comes from “direct visitor spending” which doesn’t hold water. “Visits” doesn’t translate to “visitors.”

CMP claims to attract more people –- more money -- to the region. But the latest census reveals Ohio’s population growth is -0.54%. And populations served by CMP continue to leave Greater Cleveland for places like burgeoning Columbus.

CMP VIOLATES FREE SPEECH: About half a dozen years ago, a suit was filed against CMP for violation of free speech. Now, groups of 20 and fewer are permitted to exercise free speech within park boundaries, permit-free, even if they protest on park properties, except for the zoo.

Or are they?

Open session at the February 2019 administrative office board meeting saw me thrown off the property immediately after presenting data – partly from the park’s own records -- that proved its decades-long deer “management” program of killing thousands failed to meet its own conservation benchmarks.

In their words, I was “escorted” off.

But video of it circulated and, when CMP legal counsel got wind of it, I was staring down a potential civil suit for violation of free speech. Instead, I opted to push the park for a more affordable, effective, safer, and humane method of deer management: EPA-approved chemical birth control.

PARK IGNORES SCIENCE, OBFUSCATES: It took almost two years -- suspiciously close to the civil suit statute deadline -- for CMP to finally agree to meet. Officials conveniently couldn’t schedule a time before the deadline, only a few days after. They essentially forced me to forfeit the civil suit, and pulled a bait-and-switch.

But we still met, and presented data to park officials on the efficacy of PZP. No other wildlife management program offers such elegant population control, meaning it meets all published criteria and is the preferred method, including that of majority stakeholders, the public.

Then, CMP lead biologist admitted his team has no way to track the effectiveness of sharpshooting because deer move in and out of reservations. But, when he alleged birth control wouldn’t work for the same reason, we cornered him.

That should have settled it. But CMP, a political subdivision of Ohio, still refuses to ask Ohio legislators permission to use PZP via humane dart method because. If officials did, they would be striking at the roots of their own tree: Ohio is a major player in the for-profit hunting industrial complex, and our Division of Wildlife manipulates deer populations for maximum yield.

CMP VIOLATES SUNSHINE LAWS, AND MORE: In order to bypass public scrutiny, CMP and a consortium of area conservation groups (Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership) meet annually with officials from cities like Parma, Parma Heights, and Seven Hills to strategize more deer killing. Members of the public are not permitted, which violates the Public Trust Doctrine.

Taxpayers don’t even know that nonlethal measures aren’t on the table.

Hey, Parma Heights, wonder how the city got on board with the planned deer slaughter, despite the police chief’s opposition?

MORE METROPARKS MESSES: CMP’s law enforcement division still hasn’t solved the double homicide that occurred in the Rocky River reservation in June 2019, despite acknowledging it wasn’t a random crime. Why not? What do they know, since partnering with additional enforcement agencies earlier this year?

Tell Cleveland Metroparks to clean house and act like a public body before asking for more money.

Lucy McKernan

Animals first

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 8:04 AM, 10.01.2022