A Berkeley parcel tax measure that would have floated $22.5 million in bonds to improve the city's pools received 60.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election but fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, according to complete unofficial results.
Supporters of Measure C said in their ballot argument that Berkeley's municipal swimming pools are a treasure but badly need to be renovated because they are deteriorating and are nearing the end of their useful lives.
They said children, families, the disabled and the elderly rely on the pools for revival, relaxation, exercise and swimming instruction.
The measure would have renovated the Willard and West Campus pools, relocated the warm water pool, which is now at Berkeley High and is slated for demolition next year, and build a new competitive pool at King Middle School. The measure also would pay for maintaining and operating all four pools.
But opponents, such as anti-tax groups and some neighborhood groups, said the city can't afford the measure and there are more cost-effective alternatives.
Marie Bowman of Berkeleyans Against Soaring Taxes, or BASTA, said the city's finances already are stretched too thin, as it faces a $14 million deficit next year, and $20 million in new taxes were added last year.
Bowman said rehabilitating existing pools can be done at one-third the cost of the bond measure and paying for memberships for pools at the YMCA or the University of California at Berkeley would only cost about 1 percent of the money that the measure would pay for maintenance.
However, supporters of Measure C said that it will lower, not raise, maintenance costs through modernization and energy efficiency and that the city's debt isn't skyrocketing because the City Council is making budget cuts.
Robert Collier, co-chair of the supporters’ committee, gave the Planet this statement in an email message:
“The schools, like the pools, are facing disaster because of budget cuts and long-term deferred maintenance. This is the hard reality of Berkeley and many other cities, despite conservatives' predictable claims that it's just a liberal plot to fleece the taxpayer. Two of Berkeley's four pools are scheduled for closure because Measure C failed to get the two-thirds minimum. Berkeley voters will soon have another choice -- will we also allow our public education to crumble and decay?”