In their own words: Spending the Measure WW park bond
Two weeks ago, City Councilwoman Lena Tam asked her fellow council members to consider giving $2 million of Alameda’s $3.4 million share of a recently passed regional park bond to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club for construction of a new, 25,000-square-foot facility in the West End.
The club has struggled in the current economy to raise the rest of the money it needs to build the new facility, and its leaders say they need a commitment with the city to push things forward. And they say the new club will reap huge rewards for the community that outweigh the gains that wold be seen by local parks that were slated to get the money.
But park and open space advocates are crying foul. They say the money should be spent on Alameda’s public parks and that if the list the council already okayed is to be changed, it should include money for more public parks and open space.
So The Island asked Club director George Phillips and open space advocate Jean Sweeney to make their case in the pair of editorials below. Phillips won our coin flip, so he goes first.
From Club Executive Director George Phillips:
The mission statement of our Boys & Girls Club says, “To inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.”
Noble words for sure and words that are backed up by statistics. According to extensive and independent surveys taken by professionals, youth who participate in Boys & Girls Club after school programs have a higher high school graduation rate than other youth and they enter continuing education programs (college, community college, trade school) in greater numbers. Children in Boys & Girls Club are less likely to use drugs; experience a lower incidence of teenage pregnancies; or commit criminal acts.
Anybody reading those statistics would come to the conclusion that children who attend the Club’s programs will be better off for the experience, and they would be correct.
But what about the community? What value does it get from the Boys & Girls Club? Well, another facet of the survey found that alumni of Boys & Girls Clubs are more likely to serve on community non-profit boards; are more likely to volunteer to coach or mentor youth; and donate more money to charities. In other words, Boys & Girls Club alums are responsible and caring citizens.
How does it work so well? Here’s an example. Our Club offers a program called Career Launch. Professional staff and volunteers work with youth to get them thinking about their aptitude and the kind of career they might be attracted to as adults. During that process we point out the level of education each career choice will demand and the kind of continuing education they will need to realize their goals.
From parks advocate Jean Sweeney:
The Measure WW fact sheet states that Measure WW will be used to continue to restore urban creeks; protect wildlife; purchase and save open space, wetlands, and bay shoreline; and acquire, develop and improve local and regional parks, tails and recreational facilities close to home for East Bay residents.
Online are the guidelines for grant applications:
1. Project applications will only be accepted February 1st through March 31st will be “held for review in the following year.”
2. All projects have to be consistent with the grantees Rec and Park section of the General Plan. http://www.ebparks.org/files/procedural_Guide_WW_Local_Grant_program-c.pdf
a. The 20-acre Alameda Beltline Railyard has recently become eligible for purchase by the City of Alameda. The Alameda General Plan contemplates a park on the rail yard.
b. The 10-acre Estuary Park between Oak and Walnut streets on the water is also contemplated as a park in the General Plan.
c. The prospect of two new parks in Alameda in areas severely under-parked is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The bond specifically disallows deferred maintenance projects and private clubs. The idea is to increase the number of parks and open space. We are an island. South Shore is a continuous waterfront park area, but there are no walking paths or parks from Grand Street to Park Street on the estuary. This was the industrial part of the island. Now that is changing and is being developed with housing and families. We need parks for our growing residential population.
All the baseball fields, soccer fields and school yards are fenced and not available for the general public, yet all that acreage is counted as parkland in Alameda. We need real parkland and open space for our citizens. We don’t need more facilities available only for special uses or on a subscription basis.