Saturday, March 10, 2012

Who's all wet at the Falls Natatorium?

WHEN MY JOB led our family to a home in Cuyahoga Falls on an unpaved street in 1968, I often encountered a description of the town in a sarcastic term, as in, "So you moved from Columbus to Caucasian Falls?" Empirically, it didn't take long for me to figure that one out. However, history eventually overtook the term. Even the street was eventually paved after we moved several blocks away and finally to another suburb.

But now the Falls may end up with another stain on its image. Beginning with its long-sitting Repubican Mayor, Don Robart, the city has yet to grant a request by a same-sex married couple, one of whom is - good grief! - a wounded Iraqi veteran. The request hardly is apocalyptic. The couple merely asked that it be granted the lower family rate at the city's Natatorium.

Since Day One, it has become more confusing in what the mayor and his team are talking about. Robart offered his excuse as necessary because Ohio law does not recognize same-sex marriages. (Obviously, other Ohio venues who recognize such marriages in their rate structure have yet to understand this.) Next, the mayor insisted that a change would throw the Natatorium's member rates out of whack. That held up long enough for Thursday's meeting of the Falls Park and Recreation Board, which turned down the couple's request 3-2.

It was then that the smoke and mirrors disappeared in the controversy. Board member Dick Sebastian, who voted with the majority, told the Beacon Journal:

"Biblically speaking, I know a lot of people would be upset if it's yanked out."

You bet it's Biblically speaking, particularly when a Baptist minister and 18 of his flock showed up to protest any change. Forget the barrier of Ohio law mentioned by the mayor (Law Director Paul Janis had opined that no law would forbid the Board from modifying the rates);. forget the out-of-whack rate structure; this issue is turning solely on Biblespeak. To clarify, the Baptist minister and his friends have every right to show up and protest as concerned citizens. But the Board had every right to reject him.

Board chairman Tim Gorbach, a Democrat, one of the two members in the minority, was disappointed by the outcome. When I called him, he said he would detail his position on the rate structure in an email.

Here it is in its entirety:
Moving to the Household rate format would result in about $48,000 in annual revenue given our current membership. That is a little more than one pct. of our total annual revenue at the Natatorium.

To minimize this impact doesn't have to mean raising rates across the board. It could mean reducing expenses elsewhere with very little if any impact on our members. For example, we have been paying down our debt at an accelerated rate. This is a great thing, but not something that has to be done. Given the extremely low rates on our short term debt, it wouldn't cost us much in reduced interest savings. This is only one of the many options that unfortunately will not be explored due to the majority's decision to remain the same.

Epilogue: There's still a chance that Falls City Council will come up with a plan to spare the city of further embarrassment. Until it does, could anyone blame Coty May, the injured soldier, and his caregiving spouse Shane if they might be wondering now which America Coty was risking his life for in Iraq. Certainly not the one that denies them a rate change at the Natatorium.


JLM said...

Could anyone possibly think that after having Little Ricky Santorum drop by the Falls for a visit, Hizzoner Don would back any other decision than that which transpired? The outcome of this situation was decided from Day One despite the lip service handed to the press.

Diana Colavecchio said...

Monday night I will discuss this with my caucus. Assuming there is enough support to bring out an ordinance to usurp the Park Board's authority to set rates/policy, then we will ask that it be drafted and included in our packets asap. Assuming it passes, we will form an Ad Hoc Committee to study the issue and make a recommendation to Council. The Ad Hoc will discuss in open meetings and those will be announced. Any recommendation would have to come back to Council in the form of another Ordinance, which then may or may not pass. This is essentially a 2-step process. Our President appoints the Ad Hoc committee - I'm asking him to allow me to chair it.

David Hess said...

Another example of how the stultified minds of the "anti-tax" philosophy play against the interest of folks who deserve a little help from their governments.

JLM said...

Bravo, Ms. Colavecchio.