It is unusual for politicians in Berkeley to be unified on any single issue. The campaign for “YES” on Measure C is a necessary bond measure to ensure the ongoing health and viability of Berkeley’s aging aquatic system.
Swimming pools are a vital and necessary resource for any community – swimming is NOT a luxury, bourgeois sport. Rather, drown-proofing is a NECESSARY part of education for any community situated on the water. It is a highly recommended activity for people of all ages, and a vital cross-training element for athletes involved in other sports from track and tennis to basketball and volleyball.
Berkeley happens to be blessed with a climate that makes year-round outdoor swimming feasible. Swimming pools are as important to education as are schools and libraries. Pools also bind communities socially and add a priceless element to social and educational experiences.
The Campaign for Measure C is necessary because the City of Berkeley will not use its available resources from the general fund to finance the necessary improvements. The Campaign AGAINST measure C is coordinated by a group that notoriously opposes any and all new tax and bond measures in Berkeley. But the opposition is not just a garden variety, Reagan-Jarvis anti-tax loonies. Rather, they are a thoughtful group, led by Marie Bowman, and have become frustrated by the tendency of Berkeley politicians to avoid tough decisions by punting them into ballot issues.
Measure C is necessary because Mayor Tom Bates, City Manager Phil Kamlarz and their minions on the City Council and School Board have REFUSED to make general fund money available for these improvements, and have REFUSED to apply for available grants that could also finance the projects. Indeed, the Campaign for Measure C notes in their literature that, “Berkeley has a AA+ bond rating from Standard & Poors, in the top 1 percent of all cities nationwide.” Bowman points out that the COB never applied for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that were available. She also notes that bond issues are not traditionally used to finance day-to-day operations of any aspect of city government. But this has become a default mechanism for Berkeley politicians. This is consistent with other Berkeley political habits including REFUSING to set performance standards for city contractors, and not implementing a system for followup on deliverables. In summary, the current system seems designed to avoid accountability in many areas. Making this a bond measure is yet another attempt at avoiding financial accountability.
The fact that this came to a ballot issue, rather than financing it from available resources is a window into the deep corruption in Berkeley. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a “rally” for Measure C at the Willard Pool. Imagine my surprise to see that one of the campaign coordinators was Lars ______________, also known as one of Tom Bates’ most visible political operatives. Previously, I’ve known Lars to work on Bates’ campaign, WHILE he was employed by Bates’ administrative staff at City Hall. This picture is further skewed and confusing because Mayor Bates repeatedly REFUSED to look into allegations of systemic failures in the aquatic system at the Berkeley YMCA. And Lars was involved in the effort to officially ignore the situation. Why the sudden interest on the part of Mayor Bates in aquatic programs and safety? The dissonance occurs because the COB gives the Berkeley Y over $250,000/yr. but has repeatedly turned its back on complaints about poor aquatic administration and sexual activity in the men’s’ locker room of the Berkeley Y. They recognize the importance of a healthy pool system for the good of the community and their political asses. At the same time, the Mayor and Council have REFUSED to even investigate the allegations of sexual activity in the men’s locker room at the Y because they are afraid they may appear to be “anti-gay.”
Sadly, Mayor Bates, the City Council, the School Board and their members have all conspired to blackmail the city with this bond measure. If it doesn’t pass, the city’s recreational aquatics system faces certain death. Vote YES on Measure C. Then vote the rascals out next time around.
H. Scott Prosterman moved to California for a job in the aquatics industry in 1999. Previously, he has published articles in the DP calling out health code, hygiene and code deficiencies at the Berkeley YMCA.