Comparing Business To Government

So trying to float somewhere between public and commercial is like trying to wear the stripes of a tiger and the spots of a leopard; the animal may be beautiful, but a bit strange-looking. I guess the trick, as with so many things in life, is to find the middle ground.

Apparently, there is a range of opinions among recreation professionals on this subject, based on comments PRB received on its new blog, “The Week-Ender.”

Bryan K. writes, “If … parks were a profitable business, Haliburton would be in the park business.”

Karen E. notes that, just like public schools, the purpose of public recreation “is to provide access to all people, regardless of income, as it’s paid for by everyone, not just users of service. If charges were made to pay for all operational costs, it would be private recreation, which serves those who choose to use and can afford to pay. Public recreation is one of the most effective ways to keep all people healthy, engaged and a part of community.”

T. H., whose operation is organized as a park district, has a different perspective: “It’s refreshing to hear this attitude during the number-crunching days we call ‘budget time!’ We have to run our district like a business because we can’t lose money. It’s not, however, a for-profit organization. We want to make enough money to provide for anyone who walks in the door, and maintain the property and assets that we have.”

I think there is a marked difference between the “citizens” whom public entities serve and the “customers” to whom private commercial business caters.

Private business attempts to sell “customers” something they may or may not want or need at a price they may or may not be able to afford.

Public administrators offer services that “citizens” have told them they want via surveys, sign-ups, word-of-mouth or elections. There may be similarities in how to approach the two categories of users, but there are also some significant differences.

But this is just my opinion. How do you professionals in the field feel about it? Call or e-mail me or PRB, or tap into the “Week-Ender” and share your knowledge.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail dls@peachtree-city.org.

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