Does the closure of more than two dozen Philly pools presage a violent summer in the city? Brendan Skwire wants to know.
Although I'm a very politically active guy, during the summer I have a tendency to slack off a bit: There's a giant vegetable garden in my backyard to attend to, weekend bluegrass festivals and visits with my son. And so I haven't been as active in my neighborhood as I would like to be.
So when I bumped into my friend Zach Hershman earlier this week -- a fella I know from the Coalition to Save the Libraries -- and he had that look on his face, well, I knew he had a story for me.
You may remember the coalition: They fought Mayor Nutter tooth and nail to keep the libraries open, and wonder of wonders, people power worked -- at least for this fiscal year.
According to Zach, there's some shit going down with Mayor Nutter's Splash & Summer FUNd: Nobody's really sure why fundraising targets were set so low -- or why some pools are remaining open and others closed.
He's right: By seeking to raise only $1.1 million, the fund simply isn't enough. And Mayor Nutter knows this: he told me himself last November, when 62 pools were scheduled to be closed, that each pool costs $50,000 to run.
The math is pretty easy: To keep all those pools open, our city needs to raise a little over $3 million dollars. So why is the administration only seeking less than half that amount? I have no idea. So I called the United Way, who handles the fund, and left a message. No answer yet. Then I called the mayor's office, and was instead connected to 311, where I stayed on hold for at least 10 minutes, listening to bad light jazz alternating with Mayor Nutter's pre-recorded voice telling me that this was my source for information about city government. When someone finally answered the phone, he told me to call the mayor's office. And around and around we go!
So people began holding rallies. Betty Buford, who lives in Point Breeze and stands to lose TWO pools, organized to save the Chew Pool. About 50 residents showed up, and a lot of more were attracted right off the street. Another rally took place just this past week to save the Stinger Pool: Again, turnout and emotions were high.
"People are fucking PISSED," Zach told me. "Most of them didn't even know their pool is getting closed, because the city hadn't told anyone. The neighborhoods are beginning to feel like they're being strung along, and who can blame them?"
"Thing is," Zach added, "We called the newspapers, who called the Recreation Department, and they finally released the list. [Twenty-seven] pools -- closed, just like that. These pools serve more than 500,000 Philadelphians, and provide over 900 summer jobs. And that's just the pools."
The distrust of the City is echoed in Fishtown:
The issue of our pool (and pools in Northern Liberties and port Richmond) really bothers me.
Citywide the pools serve 550,000 citizens. Many who vote, pay taxes and have nowhere else to go to escape the heat.
I am going to call our city council person and the dept of Rec. to demand to know why certain pools were chosen to be saved by the Splash Fund while others were not, when the splash fund was designed to raise money for all pools, so that no single pool would be chosen over another. I encourage everyone to do so also.
Why are 3 pools closed in the Northern Liberties, Port Richmond, Fishtown area, leaving no pools open within a safe walking distance?...
Notice that they listed the pools that will be open. Not the ones that are closed. We are still waiting for explanations why our pool(s) were chosen.
"It's ridiculous," Zach says. "Philadelphians deserve the transparency that Mayor Nutter promised. Why are some pools open, and others closed? No one knows. When you contribute to the Splash FUNd, you can’t specify which pool it goes to. So lots of people have contributed to keep their pools open, but are finding their own didn't make the cut. People have a right to know where their money goes."
I have another question. Anyone remember this horrible murder a few weeks ago?
When Lewis and Smith were killed, execution-style, while walking down 29th Street near Morris, in Grays Ferry, on April 19, police and their families were stumped for a motive. Both teens were good kids with no criminal records, and Smith hoped to soon join Lewis in the cadet program.
On Sunday, police arrested and charged two teens - Derek Barnes, 19, and Anthony Satchell, 16 - with the slayings. Cops allege that the duo mistook Lewis and Smith for two of their rivals, but say that even after they realized the mistake, they shot anyway.
What do you call it when two kids get shot by would-be rivals for wandering into the wrong neighborhood? Can you say "turf war", boys and girls? I knew you could!
And what do you think will happen when kids in the 19125 zip code, who have lost ALL of their pools, go wandering into other neighborhoods seeking a cool dip? Does anyone in the city want to have a repeat of 2006?
And the crazy thing is, the city agrees there will be turf wars as a result of pool closings. Their solution? More cops in the affected neighborhoods! That's right: when in doubt, arrest your way out of the problem!
How unfair is that? Is it the kids' fault the city can't fund their pools, and they find themselves forced to head into hostile territory just to cool off?
No, I'm sorry. I call serious bullshit on this one.
News flash to the mayor, the City Council, and the Department of Recreation: The Eagles and the city just settled their skybox dispute for $3 million dollars. And what a coinky-dinky: by the mayor's own estimate, it's gonna cost about $3 million to keep ALL the pools open.
Do you see where I'm going here?
Use the money to keep the 27 other pools open! You'll still have $1,550,000 left! And more importantly, you'll probably save some lives! It's a no-brainer!
Which kind begs the question: does anyone in city government actually have a brain?
Brendan Skwire blogs daily at Brendan Calling. His column appears every Monday at PhillyWeekly.com.
Pardon me if I'm less than satisfied with the Rep. Chaka Fattah, and less than willing to assume he'll vote the right way on health care. It's very easy to say you're for this thing or the other, and quite another to actually act on those statements. In fact, in the past three years since the Democrats took control of the House, the Senate, and now the White House, it has been VERY difficult to get the so-called party of working people to actually live up to their promises.
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