This year we elected the very first African-American president and North Carolina voted a Democrat into the office for the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976. But was it not for the presidential election, we might remember it as the year the Greensboro City Council pulled the fast shuffle on the people whose interests they are charged with serving.
At issue is the $20 million parks & recreation bond, which passed with about 57 percent of the vote. This is not surprising, because Greensboro voters pretty much always pass parks & rec bonds. Most of us view our green spaces as an enhancement to our quality of life, and for as long as we’ve been watching the Parks & Rec Commission, they have been good and responsible stewards of our money.
But not this time. This time the P&R Commission saw fit to earmark $12 million of the $20 million for a natatorium. “What the hell is a natatorium?” you ask? Basically it’s a
swimming pool. A really fancy swimming pool, suitable for training and competition, but not so much splashing around.
A natatorium is serious business. Swimming. Diving. Maybe — maybe — water polo or synchronized swimming. It’s a safe bet that there will be no epic rounds of Marco Polo at this natatorium.
And it should sound familiar, because this natatorium has been turned down at the polls twice over the last eight years as a standalone bond issue, the last time in 2006 when it was defeated by 10,000 votes.
One might think that the people had made their position clear when it came to this regional swim center. It’s possible that the bond passed this year because of renewed interest in the sport after Michael Phipps’ record-setting string of gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. But more likely the bond passed because of a gambit known as the Trojan Horse.
This from P&R Commissioner David Hoggard’s blog, posted on Election Day: “P&R bonds have a nearly 100percent voter approval record because citizens know that the department is judicious in what it asks for and then provides great results for the money allotted. ‘So,’ said I, ‘if you really want this bond to pass… be quiet.
Don’t promote the swim center at all this time around. If you do, it could doom our entire bond.’” Well played. Fans of Greek history and governmental sleight of hand will be pleased to note that the bond passed by more than 17,000 votes this time around.
And the city’s swimming cartel can chalk up another victory. Artist renderings of the proposed natatorium look fine indeed, and proponents say that the facility will bring dollars by hosting regional and state swimming events. And we suppose this might be true. But if the natatorium is such a good thing, then why trick people into voting for it?
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