Full Speed Ahead On An East Side Yakima Pool
An article in the May 28th edition of the Yakima Herald Republic (YHR) talks about the MLK park pool project moving forward. I have chewed on this a while and I hope all goes well and it becomes a great resource for the neighborhood.
But in all honesty I still have a little heartburn about how it came about. Allow me the rant and I'll try to move on with a smile.
When the city closed pools in the mid-2000's a citizens group looked at things such as usage rates and cost of subsidizing each swimmer. We were told that MLK was the most expensive/least used pool. A lot can change in ten years and maybe there is more interest in swimming now than before. Do we know that? (Does political posturing play a part?)
The east side district City Council members say the people desperately want it. By the way, both of whom spent a portion of last year claiming that the city was out of money . One announced we were broke and couldn't pay the bills -Jason White. And saying among other things on a wish list, we couldn't afford a plaza--despite 9 1/2 million in private money-- since we had budget issues and "Yakima had to live within our means" - Dulce Gutierrez.
I spoke at one of those meetings and reminded council that the cost for the plaza was a fraction of the cost of the pool, a pool loses money, serves a smaller portion of the community and has no economic development component. So what.
The budget woes were again reinforced BUT at the same meeting, the council was willing to move a little money around to fund a 35-thousand dollar pool feasibility study. I asked how that could be fiscally responsible since we "had no money" and just like that, the study funding was dropped ...for the moment--- only to be moved to a later meeting. But it didn't take long and the money was spent and despite the council's own concerns about budget issues, it's now full speed ahead on a pool. "I'm incredibly excited with how rapidly it's moving forward now..."-Jason White.
Back in the day, the city closed pools in a budget cutting move due to the high cost of operation. Miller and Ike pools were closed as well. But a lot can change in ten years and maybe the budget is in a lot better shape now? Is it?
I also recall how early on, the new east side district council members looked to reroute money designated for the new YMCA Aquatics Center for use on an east side pool. That didn't happen -- a million dollar "don't mess with this deal" clause in the contract with the city no doubt played a part -- and now the Y is on the verge of an awesome new aquatic program for everyone. Proponents made it seem then and still do, that somehow, the east side of Yakima was owed a pool.
And now this...In the YHR article, council woman Gutierrez references the push for "equity" with the project and is quoted as saying, "they (residents) feel this is exactly what the city owes them..."
And I guess I'll close with that. What is owed? Good city government should/must live within its means while providing essential services first and amenities second. The city's tight budget shouldn't ever be used to "even the score" or provided some kind of recreational equity when the money is tight.
My journalistic spiderman sense has me feeling the whole east side pool issue has been a promised and planned for political trophy from the beginning, made available by way of federal redistricting and well meaning but misplaced guilt. And that's not the way to run a city and manage a budget.
But it is what it is.... so have fun, and learn to swim for exercise, enjoyment and safety.
Who knows, maybe i'm all wet anyway.