And with good reason. City leaders seemed to be much more concerned about looking good than about making sure that our children are taken care of. Though it is true, they were operating on information provided by the parks director, who turned out to be lying.
So, it took the city manager 28 days to speak up clearly. But there were some steps the city took leading up to that.
Three days after the first story hit, the city manager and the mayor announced that all 114 of the city’s playgrounds would be re-inspected.
Twelve days later, the parks and recreation department director was forced to resign. (Director of parks is forced to resign, 6/22)
Sixteen days later, a city council committee was set up to clarify the role of the auditor’s office and presumably how to keep it from being influenced by political interests. (Panel will examine post of city auditor, 6/24)
And finally, 28 days later, city manager Sheryl Sculley provided her own op ed with the opening line: “The safety of our children is a priority of the city of San Antonio.” She provided a summary of results from the inspections promised after the first story and gave a deadline for when repairs would be completed. She also pointed out that inspections did not categorize any playgrounds as dangerous. Finally, she stated that a long-term maintenance plan would be submitted to the council and that an analysis of the parks department service delivery was underway.
This case study is far from closed. There will be debates about the auditor’s office. There will be further checking into the status of playground repairs. I wouldn’t surprised if a lawyer somewhere is able to find a child who was injured on one of the dangerous playgrounds identified in the 2003 inspection. Wouldn’t you?
I’m curious about the role – if any – the city’s public relations staff played in this whole affair. I’d like to believe that they gave appropriate counsel and weren’t listened to. It’s also possible they weren’t involved at all. Perhaps some effective crisis communications training is in order for city leader staff.
photo credit: Jerry Lara/Express-News