Anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm a proponent of limited government. I believe that government has a purpose, but a limited one, and that government should stick to those limited tasks.
I also believe that government takes too much money from us in the form of taxes and fees - and they do so in order to 'provide' more than the basic services government should be providing.
So it should come as no surprise that I oppose public funding of pools and recreation under the guise of 'quality of life' or 'for the children' arguments. I'm of the firm opinion that families would be able to provide such 'recreation' for their children if government wasn't taking so much of their money in the first place.
But I am apparently in the minority on that position, as the City of Toledo is again planning on opening the pools because, as the ordinance states, it's important that "citizens in all areas of the city will be able to enjoy aquatic recreational opportunities this summer."
On a positive note, the funding for the pools is coming from donations and the Parks Trust Fund - not the general fund. I'm very glad that community groups and churches have stepped up to fund these activities, though I must admit that one of the sources (a grant from EOPA) is actually tax dollars from the federal government. I believe that this is the proper way to permanently fund these types of things. I believe that other groups might step forward to do the same if the government hadn't taken over the responsibility in the first place.
The total amount to be spent this year (three ordinances are on the agenda) is $136,398. The problem is the number of children to be served.
As I've highlighted in previous posts, the pools serve less than 2% of the population and less than 6% of the children in the city. And the number of users has declined over the last three years.
As calculated in my previous posts, the pools serve roughly 4,700 unique visitors. At that number for this year's funding, it's about $28 per person. For the same amount of money, the city could purchase a year-long membership at the Boys & Girls Club for 27,000+ kids (calculated at the 16-18 year old membership rate of $5, not the 7-15 year old rate of $3). If we really care about kids, why aren't we providing them with year-round activities instead of just a couple of months (depending on weather) of pool access?
But if the city told you that they were going to purchase memberships for kids to a club, would you support the expenditure of those dollars while we're laying off police and not planning on residential road improvements? Probably not.
It's an issue of priorities and Toledo government doesn't have a track record of setting good ones.
Beyond that, it's an issue of responsibilities - it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to provide entertainment and recreation for the children in the city. If you want to do something like that, you make a donation to private organizations who provide those types of services. And if there are private organizations who are willing to fund such activities this year, let's develop a plan by which they will be able to do so every year and get the city out of the business of swimming pools.