At last week’s finance meeting, La Crosse Common Council member David Marshall stated our parks are the place most citizens care about and interact with -- our city’s greatest public-relations asset.

Yet, for the last seven years there has been a lot of controversy -- the marina, bandshell, Memorial Pool, Poage Park, the golf course, pools, tennis courts, Myrick Park Zoo, staff promotions, ash trees, soccer fields, Erickson Park, Hixon Forest, trails, Myrick Center and EcoPark.

Thankfully, the recently elected council is asking questions aimed at improving the Parks Department culture to work more harmoniously with residents.

Rather than being embroiled in politics, the face of the city should build relationships with friends groups, neighborhoods and patrons through collaboration.

The recent audit proposed may not reveal any legal wrongs, but it may expose contractors, leaders and nontransparent money shuffling that limits City Hall effectiveness and increases risk.

Case in point: At last Thursday’s meeting, a $100,000 budget item labeled “bandshell” was really for the “fountain,” yet still passed – why?

These tactics spurn citizens and donors or pits them against each other, while leading cities are fostering community by growing foundations and volunteer networks instead.

Leaders should avoid being perceived as guilty by association, having been promised their multimillion-dollar legacy project, or afraid of learning about improvements to help citywide financial systems.

Help shine a light, as it may lead to the biggest improvements in many years.

Tell the mayor and council members today that hope and accountability require an internal and three-year external audit.

Robert Cooper, La Crosse

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