At the the February 22, 2011, meeting of the Princeton Borough Council, Ann Yasuhara and Nancy Strong represented Not In Our Town’s Opinion that the Community Pool should be renovated. Here is Ann Yasuhara’s account.
Nancy Strong joined me in representing Not In Our Town last night at an interesting Borough Council Meeting that went well and ended well. We went to represent NIOT’s position on keeping the community pool up and running for the indefinite future.
Ben Stentz, the Executive Director of the Recreation Department presented the financial situation, most of which he’d told me on the phone that morning. Of particular concern to us and to some of the Council members was how those who might not be able to afford the usual fee are subsidized. It is a very thorough undertaking on the part of the Department and quite impressive. He also explained the many variables upon which the setting of the pool fees depend and how it is impossible to predict their value over the next 20 years (the time the Recreation Department has to pay the Borough one million dollars for its part of the expenses). He gave an upper bound of $50 increase and also said how low our fees are compared to those in surrounding municipalities.
Then Deana Stockton, Project Engineer from the Township Engineering Department, showed us the plans and explained the simplifications from the last presentation, and how much money this would save. This was the first time Nancy and I had seen any plans and they certainly looked very nice. There were questions of various kinds from the Council, but never hostile.
The Mayor asked for public comment. Four of us commented. There were two persons who, as I was told, had been pretty negative. At this point they weren’t so much so, but did make specific points, in particular, how long would the proposed pool last. (Answer: at least another 40 years.) Then I spoke saying that Nancy and I were there from NIOT. I didn’t read our letter, but referred to it and then spoke about those few chances that we have to be in real community and how wonderful it is when we are. I mentioned as examples: Communiversity (but only one day a year), the Library (almost every day) and the pool (some months of the year) and how important such opportunities are. Since the pool is one of those few chances, it is important to our mission that it continue. After me Dana Hughes spoke as a person who had grown up in the community, has worked with youth in the community all her life and how extremely important the pool is. She was terrific.
The Mayor then requested that the question of the bond issue be moved and seconded and deliberations begun.
Barbara Trelstad said, quite rightly I thought, that if she had known earlier about the system for subsidizing membership costs, she would have had a more positive attitude. Roger Martindell spoke about how he’d like to see the financial arrangements of the Recreation Department structured – along the lines he, Roger, had outlined to me on the phone. A general agreement on that point was made. After a few more friendly interchanges the vote was taken and the proposed bond issue passed unanimously.
I don’t really know what the many month process was for arriving at the decision. But several on the Council spoke about how new and different and sometimes difficult it was to engage so many segments of the community, but how important that had been and should be considered in the future. I thought that was absolutely excellent.
After the pool part of the meeting was over, most the audience (pretty good size) reassembled, excitedly and joyfully, in the hallway. We got lots of people thanking us, almost more warmly than perhaps we deserved.
I have been reflecting on this NIOT effort and the one regarding the supervision of the police department last year. Do our efforts really matter? I think that they do. We alert people to our view and urge them to think about the matter more carefully from our point of view. And I think they do. Even though 2 weeks ago it didn’t look like the pool would pass, I think we helped open the discussion, but it probably would have passed without us. But in the police case I am pretty sure we, along with the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (working together) turned it around. Without us, I doubt that it would have happened.