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Save Columbia Pool marched in the St Johns Parade:
Mayor Wheeler released his proposed budget this week. As in the Parks proposed budget, the Mayor’s proposed budget includes funding for Columbia Pool through June of 2020, and plans for its closure in July of 2020. It also includes funds for a project manager to work on “service transitions and asset closures” at Columbia Pool and other impacted sites.
While the Mayor could have declined to include this funding in his budget, it was not likely. Likewise, while the other Commissioners could decline to include this funding, it is unlikely — but it certainly doesn’t hurt to encourage them to do so. So, it’s not bad news, but it’s not necessarily cause for great celebration.
The rest of City Council has yet to vote on the budget, and we should continue to send our unified message that we don’t want the North Portland peninsula to be without an indoor pool for one year, let alone 5+ years.
Looking forward, here are other upcoming actions where you are needed and will make a difference!
- Show up at the Budget Hearing on May 9, the rally starts at 5:00. Speaking raffle starts at 5:30PM, arrive early for parking and speaking. Budget hearing begins at 6:30PM. World Forestry Center, 4033 SW Canyon Rd, Portland.
- Phone bank for community centers with Laborers Local 483. More information.
- Join us at the St. Johns Parade. We’ll be marching in the St. Johns Parade to celebrate our pool and parks and would love many neighbors to march with us. It will be a fun way to support the pool – some of us will be in swimsuits and we’ll be waving pool noodles. Super simple signup sheet.
And looking back a bit, here are some updates on recent past events …
Since we first found out about the Parks Budget proposal in mid-March, the City has held several budget hearings at which opponents to the plan have been vocal and visible. Under a very short timeline, many people organized, made plans, and, most importantly, showed up, called and wrote to our local elected officials.
More people gave eloquent, moving and compelling testimony than can be mentioned, but of particular note: Portland Aquatic Club members have shown-up in strong numbers and added to the visibility of support by bringing – and sharing – their swim caps. Otto White, a school student at Rosemary Anderson High School, gave a rousing speech at a rally before the April 2, 2019 budget hearing, as well as tirelessly organizing outside the pool entrance and around the community. Beth Staus, Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association, has shown up for numerous opportunities to weigh in on the budget so far (including one event where public testimony was legally allowed but scarcely publicized). Her testimony there led to a dialogue with Commissioner Fish that is one of the few times he’s spoken publicly about the closure, although his and Parks staff have responded to questions.
Parks and City leadership have reiterated the structural problems in the Parks budget, and indicated it was something of a surprise when they found out late last year. Commissioner Fish and Commissioner Fritz have asked for community support for the concept of a pool at the Charles Jordan Community Center. Commissioner Fish has said that while there aren’t funds available for deferred maintenance at Columbia Pool, system development charges can be used to build a new aquatics center at Charles Jordan. They also say that pools that are integrated in community centers are consistent with Parks standards, as is on-site parking (Columbia Pool has on street parking but not a parking lot).
Others have speculated that closing Columbia Pool would facilitate the lay-off of staff at Columbia Pool, and help the Parks budget adjust to the increased expense when Portland Parks hired 100 seasonal workers as permanent employees in response to labor arbitration three years ago.
At the budget hearings, testimony also came from members of the labor unions, users of the Sellwood Community Center, which is also slated to be closed, members of the Portland Parks Board, Democratic Socialists, making the strong argument that cuts to the Parks Budget will have a disproportionate impact on families with young children, women and people of color across the City. Many strongly object to the City’s budgeting priorities, some arguing that funds spent on budget items such as police should be redirected to the Parks Budget. The idea of a Parks District has also been mentioned, with advocates pointing to the model of Seattle’s Parks District. For instance, Parks Director Mike Abette mentioned the concept at a City Club forum on Portland’s City Form of Government on Feb. 23, 2019. In interviews about his budget, Mayor Wheeler has mentioned “new operating models.”
The concept to put a pool at Charles Jordan Community Center appears to many community observers and advocates to be lacking in details and substance.
A late 2018 analysis by the City of Portland Budget Office said that it would take at least five years for construction of a new pool and would require intensive public outreach. That outreach has not begun, nor are there things like engineering studies, etc. (Although Parks confirmed a pool will fit, and that they are aware of the existence of the Peninsula Train Tunnel.)
However, the idea is one that the community should consider and respond to in ways that are specific and grounded in real needs. If you think this could be a good idea for you, but doubt it will happen, let them know so and why. If you don’t know enough to know whether it’s a good idea, let them know what you want to know. If you think it’s a terrible idea, let them know – and why.
On Tuesday, April 30, Rachel Burdon (Friends of Columbia Park), Beth Staus (Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association) and Mary-Margaret Wheeler-Weber (Portsmouth Neighborhood Association) met with Parks and Nick Fish’s staff and shared a summary of concerns and questions that had been heard (if these concerns are not inclusive of yours, please let us know). Adena Long said they would work to provide answers. Not a whole lot came out of the meeting itself that moves the dial, but it did seem like there was openness to the questions posed. Parks and Fish were invited to hold a community forum at some point, but have yet not committed.
This isn’t going to be a short struggle, but we’re all in this together.
Commissioner Fish is committed to a pool at Charles Jordan via system development charges. There are certainly a lot of questions on this, and there is concern that a pool isn’t really viable there. We hope to have more information in the next few days after meeting with Commissioner Fish’s office.
However, some neighbors don’t want a pool at Charles Jordan at all and want to keep Columbia Pool in operation. Until more is known about what can be done at Charles Jordan, the future here is a bit murky. If Charles Jordan is a no-go, a renovation at Columbia Pool would be the push. The city has funds for capital improvements but not maintenance. Otherwise, if Charles Jordan does move forward, the city likely wants very little to do with Columbia Pool, and it would be up to an external group to take over its operation and management.
Mayor Wheeler will release their budget on May 1st, so we’ll find out where the Mayor stands on funding for Columbia Pool very soon. The Mayor might be keen on trying to keep Columbia Pool open longer than Fish’s proposed 1 year of bridge funding or maybe he’ll be looking at closing it now.
As for next actions, public testimony will be heard on the Mayor’s proposed budget on Thursday, May 9, 2019, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, at the World Forestry Center – Miller Hall, 4033 SW Canyon Road. Tickets for testimony by lottery will be available starting at 5:30 PM. Wear blue and your swim gear—goggles, swim caps, etc—to show your support for Columbia Pool! Your presence will make a big impact!
We are also marching in the St. Johns Parade for Columbia Pool on May 11th. Join us!
Save Columbia Pool had a huge showing at last week’s budget forum! Check out video of the event here. Our next action is on April 9th for the Portland Parks Budget Community Work Session at David Douglas High School (1001 SE 135th Ave) from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. While there is no open public testimony at this event, Mary-Margret Wheeler-Weber of the Portsmouth Neighborhood Association has been invited to give testimony about the pool closure. Your presence will support her testimony and show the city we stand in solidarity to Save Columbia Pool!
The latest from Commissioner Fish is looking at using system development charges to pay for a new pool at Charles Jordan Community Center. There isn’t anything concrete on the proposal, but a Save Columbia Pool coalition member from Arbor Lodge engaged with him on record at a housing budget event yesterday.
The City Budget Forum is tonight! This hearing is going to be our best opportunity to get in front of the city council, in person, to communicate what an important resource our pool is to the community – so your role is critically important!
The hearing starts at 6:30PM. Tickets for testimony will be available at 5:30. We’ll also be having a rally at 5:00PM with the coalition of organizations and neighborhoods that are being impacted by these cuts. Please join any time you’re able!
Wear Blue. We will all be showing up in blue shirts to demonstrate visually the number of people that support our pool. Please also consider bringing any equipment you use at the pool to communicate the diverse services the pool provides. Wear your swim cap, goggles, bring your SCUBA gear (!), kayaks oar, or anything else!
Spread the word. We need our neighbors to show up in force! Send the following link around via email/social media: https://forms.gle/J4897pLJX6mJWCii8
If your number is called, you’ll be given about 2 minutes to speak. That goes by really fast, so we’ve created some general talking points so that you can use to stay on message and concise. CLICK HERE FOR TALKING POINTS
Budget Forum Details:
Topic: Public Testimony by Lottery (tickets available starting at 5:30pm)
Date/Time: Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Location: IRCO Main Office – Gym, 10301 NE Glisan Street, Portland, OR 97220
Transit: MAX Red Line, MAX Blue Line, Bus Line 15, Bus Line 19, Bus Line 25
March 20th, 2019
The budget for PP&R was submitted to City Council yesterday, so all budget decisions for PP&R now rest with City Council.
The Portsmouth Neighborhood Association (PNA) hosted aligned individuals and organizations at an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the closure of Columbia Pool, and various workgroups were formed to focus on different areas of work on a very tight timeline. If you would like to be part of the organizing, you can join in here.
As stated by the PNA:
We recognize that this is an “all hands on deck” situation, with skills, leadership and experience coming from a variety of individuals and organizations. We look forward to working together to prevent the pool closure. This action would have a negative impact not just Portsmouth – one of Portland’s most diverse neighborhoods – not just the North Portland Peninsula – which remains underserved in many respects – but all of Portland.
There will be more information forthcoming very soon and many opportunities to be involved. Check back here for the latest.