#swimaustin – Aquatic Interactive Town Hall

swim tallYesterday evening I got to participate in the panel component of the City of Austins’ Parks and Recreation dept. Aquatic Interactive Town Hall meeting – LIVE from GW Carver Museum.

There is a full video of the proceedings online via the Citys ATXN online network, here.

I learned a number of things, importantly that many of the pools will have extended hours this summer, starting June 6th, will be uniformly open at 8am during week days, with some opening at 7am. Many will also stay open until 8pm during the summer.

The Aquatic Division operates 50 public pool facilities, which include 6 municipal pools, 28 neighborhood pools, 3 wading pools, 11 splash pads, 1 rental facility and Barton Springs Pool. I also learned that there were some 7-pools on the critical list, and 4-pools that had been closed for many years.

Overall the city has a very aging pool inventory, the average age of the pools is almost as old as I. Many of the questions were either because of the under funding of aquatics, or how to fund aquatics to resolve the critical, closed, and aging pools, as well as how to further extend the hours the pools were open. We were offered numerous alternatives and there was an online/txt voting system which seemed to work well.

Rather than debate the merits of the different funding, it was to me the same old Texas debate that I posted about earlier in relation to alternative transport policy. Texans have become so accustomed to the low taxation, and distrust of government, that is repeated Ad nauseam that they really don’t see the bigger picture.

Given the age of the pools, how were they built 50-80 years ago? It’s a staggering achievement for what was a relatively small city. Back in those days the relative affluence must have been significantly lower than today? Why is it today we can’t even have a proper program of repair, renewal and rebuilding of those same pools? How can we not afford it now?

Are we just a penny pinching,selfish people, no longer community focused? Or is it just a city government that feels held hostage by gun wielding small government, low tax protagonists?

I’ll list at the end some useful city websites, but this exchange, copied from the Speakup Austin website sums up most discussions both during the meeting tonight, after the meeting, and online.

Lucy Grant 5 months ago
I would like to see pools built with some of the more modern features, like slides, wave pools, rope swings, lazy river and zip lines. I really liked the idea of sharing a downtown pool with the YMCA. I’m sorry that proposal was dropped.

 
Coapublic Information admin 4 months ago
hi lucy, thanks for the comment. In what way should the City of Austin go about financially covering the cost of updating the cities aquatic facilities?

No explanation of why the proposal was dropped, no explanation of what might happen in the future, no discussion of the merit or potential use for a pool such as the one Lucy suggests, just go straight for the throat, how would you fund it?

As always, what seems to be missing is leadership, vision and strategy. Without those the focus will always be on finance because people don’t know what they are getting, and are afraid they won’t get “their fare share” and others will benefit.

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Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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