Why does the City want to close Columbia Pool? Portland Parks said last spring that they have a budget crisis and it doesn’t make sense for them to invest in repairing deferred maintenance at Columbia Pool.
What kind of deferred maintenance? We’ve asked repeatedly for more details on the condition of the pool facility and this is what they’ve given us.
Are they going to put a new aquatics center at the Charles Jordan Community Center? Commissioner Nick Fish has said he would like to use a different funding stream to put a new aquatics center at Charles Jordan. However, the City has shared no specific plans or designs. The City’s Budget Office estimated it would take a minimum of five years to build a new facility. That’s why we’re advocating for uninterrupted access to year-round swimming on the North Portland peninsula. For now, that means saving Columbia Pool.
I thought the City of Portland was using something called the “equity lens” in their decision making so that communities that have been historically under-served don’t keep getting the short end of the stick? Doesn’t Columbia Pool serve a lot of those communities? Yes! That’s one reason why we’re working so hard to keep this resource. It’s also why it’s important that our advocacy be broad based, equitable, and doesn’t reproduce the apparent hypocrisy we see in the City’s proposal to close Columbia Pool. We also think it’s important to remember that there is a long and ugly history of anti-Black racism in American pools.
What’s next? The decision of whether or not to close the pool will be the result of the City’s Budget process, which takes place over multiple months, concluding with City Council’s adoption in May / June 2020. We about 8 months to change the outcome. Right now we’re focused on getting the word out and connecting to as many people as possible so that when we have specific actions, we can galvanize our numbers.
I have skills and passion and want to work on this – how can I contribute and connect? There are groups of people working on communications, research, development / fundraising, and outreach. There’s a need for everyone’s skills and talents! There are regular community work meetings. Dates and times are posted on the website. If you can attend, those are great times to connect and help move the work forward. You can also email email@example.com and we’ll point you in the right direction. We just ask that you keep in mind this is an all-volunteer effort. We’re glad you’re a part of it!
What decides if the pool stays open? The reasons given for closing the pool have been fiscal and thus the decision will largely be the outcome of the budget process, which has political as well as practical elements. The City’s budget process is complex and that’s one reason why we’ve asked the Budget Office to hold a training session in our community so we can be more powerful advocates. The budget process includes opportunities for public input, and that’s what we’re gearing up for by building a community of support. The budget process ends in May.
Is it cost effective to build a new pool instead of fixing the old one? One answer we’ve heard is that the City would be able to use a different type of funding, System Development Charges (SDC) to build a new pool, so a comparison between the two costs is irrelevant. SDC’s are funds that developers pay into to create community services (and we’re just learning about them). Another answer we’ve heard is that the decision isn’t being made by doing a cost / benefit analysis between the two scenarios in part because SDCs can’t be used to replace services, they have to be increasing them.
Can we do fundraising to save the pool? Will [insert name of big company with local presence] help pay to keep it open? It’s possible that private fundraising may be one of the strategies used in the future. But at this point, the work and funds needed are not entirely known: Would it be to repair the roof, or operation cots, or what? What will the City pay for? Most funders wouldn’t give large amounts of money when so much is unknown, it’s not strategic to ask when we’d be likely to get turned down, and asking for smaller amounts now might undercut bigger asks later. However, Coalition members are building relationships now that may support fundraising in the future.
What’s the timeline? The budget process ends in late May / early June. A lot of things we don’t know the specific dates for yet but this timeline attempts to give a high level view of what we expect.