The Pork Park

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is quietly trying to keep the Presidio on the public teat. That's a good thing.

"Such an outcome would be a breach of the legislative goal of self-sufficiency for the Presidio," said Dan Wenk, deputy director of the National Park Service, during congressional testimony July 15.

In response to my request for an explanation, Pelosi's office seemed to acknowledge this.

"Law enforcement costs are increasing beyond what the Presidio Trust can afford," the Pelosi statement said. "Removing this expense will allow the Presidio Trust to focus on their mission of restoring historic buildings and providing services to park visitors."

And well they should.

The term "self-sufficiency" has a nice ring to it, especially when it comes to saving taxpayers millions of dollars. But in the Presidio it has been a recipe for mismanagement because it diminishes the park's value as a place for recreation, historical stewardship, and natural preservation.

When private security guards at the Presidio shoo cyclists off the Lucasfilm corporate campus, or a Disney museum makes a joke of the old Army base's historic promenade, or a textile tycoon's modern art museum threatens to become the center stage of a supposed historical landmark, the park becomes worth less as a public asset.

I have no doubt that the aggressive entrepreneurs on the Presidio Trust board of directors will continue to commercialize their park, even with the poison pill gone. It's what they were chosen for. But if it becomes law, Pelosi's bill would allow them to slow this destructive trajectory without endangering the park's survival.

Pelosi's bill comes at a crucial time, just as the park is considering proposals to turn the Main Post area into the real heart of a national park, rather than the office park and parking lot it now is. Projects include an archeology museum, a park lodge, and Fisher's infamous modern art museum proposal. The idea is to draw people to the park for reasons other than office work. Luring and caring for these visitors, while fulfilling the park's natural and historical preservation missions, will be expensive. Given that these are the core objectives of any legitimate national park, they will be worth every penny.

Once Democrats take complete control of Capitol Hill this November, I hope the House speaker takes the next logical step concerning HR 6305, and passes another bill providing $100 million or so to allow the park's administrators to stop shilling, and devote themselves to running an actual park.

This will require disingenuousness, cunning, and massive pork from our local congressional representative. And I'll root for her just the same.

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