A letter from Action Alameda News publisher David Howard
Measure C promises to build yet another swimming pool in Alameda, which we surely can’t afford to maintain better than any of the existing four pools. Construction generally amounts to 1/3rd of a facility’s total lifetime cost to operate, and Measure C provides no operating funds.
But, that’s correct, I said ‘four’ pools. Emma Hood, Encinal Swim Center, and two pools, one each at Franklin and Lincoln park. The latter two are owned by the City of Alameda, but leased for operation to the Alameda Swimming Pool Association, a non-profit.
According to IRS filings for this group, “volunteers staff classes to provide free instruction to non-members consisting of approximately 700 kindergarten age Alameda children, special education children and senior citizens.” Oh! So Alameda’s children do have access to these City-owned pools after all.
Not so fast. As one salt-and-pepper haired lady of a certain age on the Alameda League of Women Voters board explained, one needs to be a member of the association to use the facilities, other than this free instruction. In the IRS filing, the group claims membership of 550 families, out of roughly 30,000 households in Alameda. Oh! So Alameda’s children do NOT have access to these City-owned pools after all.
Why the membership requirement? “For historical reasons,” my interlocutor continued. When I hear that, I know well enough to interpret “historical” as “hysterical.” Digging into City of Alameda records, I found a recent recommendation from Alameda City Manager John Russo to extend the lease of these two pools to the association.
According to that document, the “hysterical” reasons behind handing over publicly-owned swimming pools dates back some 60 years or so. One can only imagine what sort of hysterical reasons white, middle-class, Alameda had in the 1950s for restricting access to a publicly-owned facility through membership.
So, what are the plans for the new pool supposedly paid for Measure C? Will it be run by the City of Alameda and truly open to all residents? Or will it be turned over to this existing association, in one of the public-private partnerships that John Russo touts as the future of municipal government, so that they can restrict access to the pool to only those families that can afford to pay the membership dues?
Honestly, the answer doesn’t matter all that much, because I don’t believe the new pool will get built. In a court ruling on the Measure C Williams v. City of Alameda petition, the judge wrote that Measure C, “describes only general projects that are eligible for funding but does not commit the City to a definite course of action as to any particular project.”
The language of Measure C allows council to allocate the $54 million to any project they want, including allocating it all to public safety, and none to building a swimming pool, or renovating libraries, and I suspect that’s just what will happen.
– David Howard, Alameda