Gary Horton | Our Parks Make Us Purple People

Gary Horton

There’s an interesting thing about the dozens of parks and hundred-plus miles of public trails and specialty spots like aquatic centers and skateboard parks, all located here in abundance in our quite nice Santa Clarita Valley. 

All this has been carefully planned and publicly maintained for our common good. For you and me. And that guy, listening to music while doing yoga. That family, on the lawn with a picnic. For the pickleball players on tennis courts. For the folks walking on sidewalks and jogging on trails. For the brown folk, the white folk, Black folk, rich folk, poor folk, regular old middle-class working folk. All this, for folks from here, from there, whether they live right near us or across the valley. All this, for… for the common good.

And we like it. Mostly anyway, I’m sure.

There’s a lot of government behind all this fun stuff we share among us. Planners who directed and approved the projects. City government, directing the flow of our city’s master plan. Inspectors, insuring quality construction. Tax experts, channeling funds from you and me to keep these things in shape. Contract managers, watching our vendors who perform maintenance services. And a full city staff of park and recreation employees keeping things humming with services and offerings to the public at large. Lots of government…

SCV parks and paths and recreational services are kind of like government of the people, by the people, for the people. While not quite the object of Abraham Lincoln’s quote, these public assets and services are physical manifestations of local government, built by the people, funded by you and me, for our common pursuit of happiness. For the growth of our children. The recreation and health of our families. For our common calm in an otherwise bustling city.

Our town has become a mirror of America overall. Nationally, they say we’re “purple” – but I don’t think that’s the right analogy. To get “purple” you have to mix red and blue. Reading Signal columns and letters to the editor, it appears there’s little or no mixing of our colors. Come national politics, we’re either Republican, and damn the damn socialist Democrats, hell bent on turning us all into commies. Or, we’re Democrats, and damn those seditious Republicans, hell-bent on collaborating with the Russkies to turn us into an authoritarian state. We’re red OR blue. Not purple. And this isn’t helping matters, because for America as a team, as an assembly of our overall people, we must collaborate, not separate, in order to succeed. We’ve got to mix and put our common shoulders to the wheel, not forever fight about the need for the work at hand. But forever fight, we do.

Nationally, we’re red, or blue.

Yet, upon this we can agree: Here in the SCV, we love our parks and paths and beautiful tree-lined medians and street parkways. We love our public schools and appreciate that they are among our state’s best. We love College of the Canyons and all the great work achieved there, all publicly funded and all for our common good.

We fight and tussle over the little stuff of the ways and means, and over parking garages… and this and that – but our overall goal of promoting the well-being and potential of our city’s inhabitants (both human and otherwise) is generally aligned. Here, we blend. Here, we seek common purpose through collaboration.

Local seems easier. We grasp it. We can walk around and kick the tires. We don’t need pundits or websites or think tanks or billions of outside political dark money dollars to influence how we feel about a park, or an ice rink, or a skate park, pool, more trees, or a new program at COC. Here, we can assess the validity and payback of a new proposed investment or expenditure. If a proposal makes sense, we generally find a way to move ahead. If it doesn’t, it usually dies.

We’ve got senior centers, Meals on Wheels, homeless outreach, water districts, sanitation systems, law enforcement, teachers, professors, administrators, overseers, planners – so much going on everywhere around us – all designed for this area or that, of our public good.

And we pay our taxes and we generally feel we’re getting good value and if we have a problem with this or that we can get in front of our City Council and get our voices heard. We can vote up or down, float propositions, and generally self-govern.

And today we blend together into that multi-cultural, multi-demographic mish mash of humanity you see in our public parks and trails and schools and facilities. Take a walk on our paths: Go to our parks. We’re a reflection of all of America now. The SCV is everyone and every race at every stage of life and every demographic. And we blend together in purpose and also in benefit.

To borrow and bend the famous Barack Obama quote: In the SCV, there is no red city or blue city: There is one SCV. 

Yes, it’s true (and perhaps to a few folks’ consternation) that the rich among us generally pay more in taxes building the facilities shared by folks paying less. But here we also understand that our investments pay back to society more than we put in… as we all benefit when everyone’s life holds opportunity and facility for personal improvement and enjoyment.

It’s said that public investment in Cal State Northridge creates $7 of public benefit for every dollar invested. I believe it, knowing so many who’ve graduated there. And our local public investments are likely similar.

We all understand this concept. And I bet, if we queried all Signal columnists and letter writers how they felt about our SCV public investments, we’d all generally get along. And this, even though every last thing I’ve mentioned here is a physical manifestation of our common investment in our common public good – which is kind of like “spreading it around,” as Obama once said and for which he took so much flack.

Here, we “spread it around” from Newhall to Canyon Country, from rich to poor, all around, and we’re good. Here, we get it. Here, we blend. Here, we share common purpose.

Here, in the SCV, we’re purple people. 

And this is a great lesson to keep in mind, thinking beyond our valley floor: Think purple. Because purple builds better lives than red or blue..

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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