Cooper: Park … where?

I truly intended to write an insightful, even supportive, column about SARC and its board’s current survival strategy to find a secure home as a Metropolitan Park District.

I truly intended to write an insightful, even supportive, column about SARC and its board’s current survival strategy to find a secure home as a Metropolitan Park District.

But I can’t; the counter move by the Sequim City Council to propose a ballot measure to form a larger Metropolitan Park District that would include all parks within greater Sequim, in this case meaning the Sequim School District, raised too many questions.

Does that make any sense to you? What’s going on that these two duly elected public governing bodies are proposing dueling ballot measures? Can’t they just get along?

Apparently they can’t, which makes me think this has nothing to do with public parks.

You will note that I use a lot of qualifiers in this column. I am trying to understand a confusing situation. This seemed to start when the 2015 SARC levy, unable to muster the required 60 percent approval, failed.

I wrote a column around that time about my view that the SARC board was so intimidated by the 2002 levy loss of a measly $26/year that it took them 10 years to get up the courage to ask the public for the same measly levy. I further suggested the SARC levy had “more than a whiff of desperation” that drove them to resist bold vision in favor of cowering in the face of yet another defeat.

Someone said or if they didn’t, they should have, “Act like a loser and you will become one.” Threatening the loss of the pool, laying guilt and whining as strategies didn’t work. The lesson SARC seemed to take away from the failed strategies was it was never going to work so the next best thing is to get out from under the 60 percent approval rule.

Not only is that possible through becoming a Metropolitan Park District, they benefit from the time honored method of managing a crisis — change your name. Metropolitan Park District does sound like a bigger more important entity.

But not so fast, says the Sequim City Council. Why not create a larger Metropolitan Park District to support all parks?

SARC board chairman Frank Pickering responded, “ … we would have appreciated it if the City had approved (the SARC) effort because SARC is in serious financial condition, as we have said many times.” (Peninsula Daily News, April 28, 2015). Yes, we have heard it many times and SARC’s future gets more dismal with each new statement. Most recently the prediction is not only will the pool close, the whole facility will shut down the at the end of 2016 without additional funding.

Wolf, wolf! Although I do believe funds are running low, my sympathies are eroding in this continuing environment of circumventing the realities around the dire circumstances in which SARC finds itself.

A well-run organization, institution, home ownership or marriage knows that it must continually reinvest, update and refresh itself in order to thrive. The moment it begins to spend reserves of financial and emotional strength for daily survival is the moment it begins the downward spiral.

I voted for the levy and I signed the petition, but that’s all you get from me until you convince me that you are up to the job of managing a public resource. I believe that SARC would benefit if the community heard something besides righteous indignation over the City’s action or public apathy from SARC leadership.

I like many am not a SARC user but I understand the value of a fitness center with a pool to the community. Just give us out here something to be excited about.

I understand from a former insider that SARC and the City historically have been unable to get along — which must be right, because they aren’t supporting each other now. One giant step would be a summit in which each comes together with a serious intention to work a solution. After all, this isn’t the Middle East.

Setting SARC up as the only entity in a Metropolitan Park District isn’t the solution. To do so seems like a self-interested, even arrogant act of desperation. A certain pride seems to exist, the kind of pride that drives us to be separate and eventually leads to our destruction.

Someone did say, “Pride precedes the fall.”


Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

 

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