Summer is just six weeks away, yet Toledo officials are no closer to figuring out how to open four — maybe six — municipal pools and the Savage Park splash pad. The dithering over this essential city service needs to end.
Mayor D. Michael Collins and City Council are struggling with keeping the pools operating as they address budget constraints and that three pools need repairs estimated to cost $50,000. Yet the city already offers such limited recreational activities for its young people that losing the pools would be another blow to the community.
The pools are not a frivolous perk. They provide a basic service that should be available to all Toledoans. That will require city officials to enlist help in the short term, and to create a structurally sound budget plan for the long term.
City officials don’t want to talk about raising taxes; Mayor Collins pledged during last year’s campaign to seek a slight cut in the city’s income tax rate. But a lack of revenue in recent years has led to annual raids on the city’s capital-improvement fund to balance the general-fund budget. If the city is in bad fiscal shape, it’s time to stop the shell games and talk honestly about taxing and spending priorities.
Meanwhile, Mr. Collins has been flailing about trying to solve the pool problem. He proposed taking $254,383 from the general fund — money initially allocated for apparel for uniformed city employees — to operate the pools. City Council approved that plan in March.
Late last month, just days after she learned that some pools were in disrepair, City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson proposed taking $261,000 out of the capital projects budget to open two additional pools.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson should be commended for acknowledging the pools’ importance. But opening the pools and fixing streets, for example, should not be an either/or exercise. Both are priorities.
City Councilman Matt Cherry has suggested that members of local skilled-trade unions might be willing to volunteer their labor and services to fix the pools. Mr. Cherry and Ms. Hicks-Hudson could profitably work together on an effective pool plan, and persuade Mayor Collins, their council colleagues, community groups, corporate citizens, and city unions to unite and get it done.
Public pools for young — and other — Toledoans — are a significant city service and a quality-of-life issue. Many young people, especially in the central city, don’t have parents who can afford to provide such recreational activities on their own. Closed pools will present fewer positive choices for how young Toledoans will spend their time this summer.