Friday, September 16, 2005

Nowhere to Go, Part III

Closed for Season II

So readers, if you've been following closely and taking notes, we've learned from various City Commissioners that the City has the cash to pay a consulting firm $50,000 to teach bureaucrats how to make do with less (but don't worry, they've pledged not to lean themselves out of a job) and also $74,000 to fund an information desk. (Where is this desk? Is this money going towards a salary and benefits? If so, why? Last time I looked, Google was free to anyone with internet access. Send Dell $500 for a desktop computer and pay SBC $15/month for DSL internet. There, I just saved the City $73,320 per year.)

Now, I'm no math major but I can add. That's $124,000 the City can ill afford to waste on boondoggles when children are being forced to urinate behind bushes due to lack of restroom facilities. That's no typo folks, that's what the mother of one of my athlete's told me at Thursday's match. She brought some children to the park to play, not realizing the restrooms were locked for the rest of the year. One boy couldn't hold it, so behind the bushes he went.

Now couple those items with the fact that the City has given Rich DeVos a $5,000,000,000 tax break on his newest hotel downtown, and you'll know why I sent this email to the Commissioners tonight:

From: Robert Harrison
Date: Sep 16, 2005 12:23 AM
Subject: Re: Aberdeen Park


I updated the parents of my athletes on the Aberdeen Park restroom status at today's match, and quite a few were upset. One mother runs a daycare from her home and brought the children to the park recently. She told me she was forced to let a child urinate in the bushes across the roadway from the tennis courts because she had not realized before arriving that the restrooms had been shut down. Frankly, that is disgusting.

I fully realize the impact the budget woes are causing, but I wonder if the Commission and administration grasp just how bad this makes the City look to outsiders. Today's match was against Cedar Springs, so the entire Cedar Spring tennis team, their coaching staff and the parents (about 8-10) that came to watch their daughters play now know that our town cannot afford to flush some toilets. This embarrassing spectacle has been or will be repeated with visitors from Wyoming Rogers HS, Wyoming Park HS, Byron Center, West Catholic HS, Catholic Central HS, GR Central, Union HS and Ottawa Hills.

Don't you folks realize that debacles like this only encourage people to flee the Grand Rapids Public Schools - currently at the rate of 800 students per year? I will be honest with you - I don't have any friends my age (I'm 29), married or single, who are contemplating putting their kids into GRPS past elementary age. If GRPS goes under, the city will follow. What stable family would buy a home in the GRPS district if they had options elsewhere? How will my elderly grandparents afford retirement? I'm sure they are counting on eventually selling their home in the North Park area and downsizing to an apartment/condo. Who would spend $160,000+ for GRPS when Northview is only a half-mile away?

Events like this apparent lack of fiscal foresight just add to the growing impression that Grand Rapids is falling behind and apart. How is it the City can afford to give Rich DeVos, a BILLIONAIRE, a $5 million tax break to build yet another hotel downtown but our children are being forced to pee in the underbrush at our public parks?

I (and a ton of other voters) would love to see some real courage downtown. Tell DeVos that if he wants to build a hotel, he can just take a bit more of his $2,000,000,000,000 fortune and do it himself - we need that money for the police, firefighters, roads and yes, the public park restrooms.

That, I dare say, would really make Grand Rapids a "Cool City."

in anger, frustration and disgust,

Coach Robert Harrison
Creston Girls Tennis


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