Posted on Friday, August 24th 2012 at 02:10 pm
As the summer pool season winds down, I'd like to highlight a public/private partnership called Summer Splash that made a huge difference in the lives of families across Tucson.
On May 30, parents, children, local businesspeople and city leaders celebrated Summer Splash. It was more than just the reopening of six city of Tucson public pools; we celebrated the generosity of the community.
In 2009, 17 of Tucson's 27 public pools closed because of a Tucson Parks and Recreation management decision to close them. Only 10 of them remained open, until the Summer Splash program raised nearly $100,000 in donations to help reopen six public pools.
I said then and I maintain that the problems in our cities can't be resolved by just government. We have to have the community involved.
I helped spearhead the fundraising effort and I was humbled by the donors' sense of responsibility.
It's a tough time, but they stepped up even though they didn't have a lot, and they gave. They gave to open public pools all over town in areas where private pools are not an option, where public pools are a necessity, not a luxury.
As we were planning for the Summer Splash, I read in the Arizona Daily Star that taxpayer dollars that could otherwise be used for roads and parks were covering the city's golf debts.
I have since learned that City Golf hasn't been generating sufficient revenues to cover its operating expenses for many years now.
At a time when Tucson's charter-mandated responsibilities such as police, fire, potholes and pools are underfunded, it is unconscionable that taxpayers are subsidizing city golf courses.
It is especially disturbing to me that public pools were closed while golf was and is being subsidized.
I have nothing personal against golf, but I question the management decision to close public pools while continuing to subsidize City Golf.
There are over 50 golf courses in this community - lots of places to play. Only 10 public pools were open when we initiated what would become Summer Splash - not a lot of places to splash.
It is clear to me that City Golf must find a way to pay its own way.
The big question is how does City Golf go about sustaining itself into the future while not taking away from Tucson's charter-mandated responsibilities?
If local businesses are going to do our part and pitch in to help as I think we have and should continue to do, then we want the city to do the same.
It is not fair for the Tucson to have its hand out for pools while golf is being subsidized.
It may require some tough decisions for the Tucson mayor and City Council regarding golf, but tough decisions are what all our local businesses and family households have been forced to make the past few years.
It's time that our city did as well.