Yesterday, Berkeleyside published an anti-pools bond comment by Marie Bowman. Robert Collier, co-chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign, writes that there were numerous errors of fact in Bowman’s comment and he feels he’s in a “closed loop” where every statement requires immediate correction:

In Washington, D.C. and around the country, conservatives are hoping they can bluff their way into upset victories in this year’s elections. Health care, clean energy, financial regulation and other much-needed reforms are in their gun sights as they fire inflammatory claims and accusations. In Berkeley, the local “Party of No” seems to hope it can use the same tactics to defeat a ballot measure that would save some of our community’s most basic yet best-loved amenities – our four municipal swimming pools.

The conservatives’ strategy is brazen – to combine one bogus factoid on top of another as fast as possible, in a barrage of bluster that is intended to overwhelm and confuse voters. A perfect example is the comment by Marie Bowman in yesterday’s Berkeleyside. Bowman packs an astounding number of false statements into her argument against Measure C, which will be on the ballot June 8. Nearly every claim in her article is provably factually incorrect.

Let’s start with some truths that Bowman glosses over. Measure C would save two of the city’s four pools from certain extinction – Willard Pool, which is scheduled for permanent closure this July, and the Warm Pool, which will be evicted next year from its location at Berkeley High School. Measure C also would remodel West Campus Pool and expand King Pool. Overall, it would save and improve the four pools as wonderful community centers for Berkeley’s children, adults, seniors and disabled.

But the Party of No has turned reality upside down. Here are some of the false claims in Bowman’s comment:

Claim: Measure C would raise annual pools maintenance costs to $3.5 million, to be further adjusted for inflation. Fact:Measure C provides $980,000 for pools hours, programs and maintenance, adjusted for inflation. Measure C has an authorization limit of $3.5 million by 2040, most of which is for annual repayment of the bond’s principal and interest.

Claim: $20 million in new taxes were approved by Berkeley voters last November. Fact: Zero new taxes were approved last November.

Claim: UC Berkeley’s program for the disabled operates a warm pool that could be used by the city. Fact: UC Berkeley has no such pool. The Cal STAR sports program for the disabled provides access to the three campus outdoor pools, none of which is warmer than 82 degrees – far too cold for most disabled people, many elderly and others who cannot generate enough body heat while in the water.

Claim: The Warm Pool at Berkeley High School could be remodeled and not demolished. Fact: Even if many wish otherwise, the School Board has decided that BHS needs more space for classrooms and other facilities and that the Warm Pool must be evicted to make way for a new building. Demolition is scheduled for June 2011.

Claim: The Warm Pool could be substituted by the Downtown Berkeley YMCA’s two warm pools. Fact: The YMCA has only one warm pool, which is only 3.5 feet deep and thus cannot serve the disabled and others who need full-body immersion, and its lateral dimensions are so small that wave action prevents lap swimming. YMCA administrators say their pools are near maximum user capacity and cannot handle a significant increase.

Claim: The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) does not recommend the use of pools above 86 degrees except for limited uses, and the Warm Pool’s 92-degree water is dangerous. Fact: AEA official guidelines explicitly state that 92-degree water is appropriate for infants, physical therapy for all ages, and people with arthritis and Parkinson’s.

Claim: The new Warm Pool would be Olympic size, extravagantly large. Fact: The Warm Pool would be the same as its current 2,250 square feet, which is about one-sixth the Olympic 25 meters by 50 meters, or 13,455 square feet.

Claim: The Berkeley High School competition pool could meet the needs of middle school students and the Barracudas team.Fact: The BHS competition pool is solidly booked with BHS aquatics programs every weekday afternoon after classes.

Claim: Rehabbing Willard as a competition pool would reduce Measure C’s cost by $2.5 million. Fact: Doing so would raise the measure’s capital cost by $1.3 million, plus extra operating expenses.

Claim: Berkeley municipal debt is rising from $4 million in 2010 to $15 million in 2011. Fact: By law, the City must approve a balanced budget each year. Berkeley has a Standard & Poor’s bond credit rating of AA+, putting Berkeley in the highest 1 percent of cities nationwide.

Claim: Maintenance costs for Measure C have grown 380 percent. Fact: Nothing remotely resembling any such increase exists.

So why such a reckless disregard for the truth? Perhaps because Berkeley voters have soured on Bowman’s “anti-tax” ideology. In the 2006 and 2008 Berkeley elections, Bowman and her Party of No tried to defeat ballot measures that supported the public schools, branch libraries and emergency services. But the Party of No failed each time, as Berkeley residents voted in favor of the facilities and programs that are so important for our quality of life.

Certainly, Berkeleyans have legitimate concerns about high taxes. But support for Measure C is broad. It was approved by all nine members of the City Council and all five members of School Board. Other endorsers include former Mayor Shirley Dean, Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and scores of other groups and community leaders.

In the end, Measure C boils down to one simple question – should our community invest for the future? Should we plan for a good quality of life for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and other Berkeley generations? Or should we allow Berkeley’s naysayers to shrink and eliminate our city’s most beloved assets?

PLEASE VOTE YES ON MEASURE C – for our pools, our health, our kids and our community.

Guest contributor

Freelance writers with story pitches can email editors@berkeleyside.com.

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23 Comments

  1. Sorry about that last reply-wrong conversation. Plus moderate that one out!

    I was going to say:
    Berkeley doesn’t have a balanced budget-it has a balance SHEET. 2 different things. The debt is in the balance sheet.
    Part of the balance sheet is the payment on the bond interest or debt.
    That does not mean that Berkeley spends a dollar for every dollar it gets back in taxation. It’s running a deficit-like everyone else. The trick is to keep it manageable, but the last 2 generations of taxpayers and politicians do not understand how to manage costs,debts and tax inflows.
    If I need a new roof, and I don’t have the cash I will take a loan out for the absolute minimum to pay for it. But that job is done in a week and I begin pay down.
    Paying salaries and perpetual expenses on a credit card is super expensive. the best course of action is to make the people that use the pools pay more and for everybody in Berkeley to pay a smaller tax to benefit the whole community. A use tax and a community tax.
    Current plan is totally bass ackwards by taking away money from the future (and other capital outlays) because the city government is too chicken to ask for it. Berkeley has a fine history of paying extra for things that benefit the community.
    Hiding city costs in a pool measure(ie: salaries, pension payments or whatever it will be raided for) just makes us mistrust government more.

  2. I wrote this on other section:

    After getting the pro-C flyer(I use the pools and would gladly pay for them if it’s presented correctly) I came up with this:
    -there are 45000 households
    -each household would pay on average 70 dollars
    -45,000 times 70 times 30 years=94,500,000 million dollars TOTAL for principle and the “loan”
    -The renovations are slated to cost about 25 million for all 4 pools. That’s to fix them
    -The pool maintenance is slated to be just under a million a year(that’s the city’s numbers)
    -At worst that’s 30,000,000 over 30 years for running the pools
    -30 mill + 25 mill=55 million total.
    -Why is the City paying 40 million in INTEREST payments. Who gets that? Goldman Sachs?
    Now, the proper way to float this bond is ask for 25 million in bonds to the building costs as we need that now.
    -Next tax households in perpetuity for the maintenance.
    -Why are we bonding 30 million in permanent costs. What happens after 30 years? Another bond measure to borrow.
    -The pool looks like it is costing near double the real costs because the politicians think that debt and bonds and credit are free. But that 40 million could be used for libraries and other things. The costs of running these facilities are doubling because the city cannot to 3rd grade math and have to go to the piggy trough and beg corrupt banks for a loan when it’s not a capital improvement cost it’s an ONGOING expense.
    My check for 20 bucks a year for the pools is in the mail.
    Marketing the pools as the future for the city with emotion is exactly why the county is in paralysis. If people would stop being lazy and look at the facts as presented, there are ways to do this without it being YES or No.
    My solution is raise taxes 20-30 dollars a year per household for running the pools.
    Ask for a 25 million dollar bond to raise money for constructions. Pay the minimum bond interest because all that extra is just making bankers RICH
    Regarding:
    Claim: Berkeley municipal debt is rising from $4 million in 2010 to $15 million in 2011. Fact: By law, the City must approve a balanced budget each year. Berkeley has a Standard & Poor’s bond credit rating of AA+, putting Berkeley in the highest 1 percent of cities nationwide.

    No city has a “balanced budget” in the sense that incoming=outgoing. The city is in debt, but is a AA+ creditor. Adding more debt harms the debt rating of the city. AA+ is also not AAA, which is the best. I suspect Berkeley has fallen in recent years like all city governments which have gone to the credit card/bond system too long without a reasonable “balanced” budget to pay for increased debt service. And interest rates are going up.
    Paying 40 million in interest for a sub 100 million dollar project is a bad deal.
    Facilities=26 million in renovations
    maintenance for 30 years=30 times @1 mill=30 million.
    We are paying @1.3 million in interest a year!
    Principal needed=56 million for running them for 30 years and construction.

    And as I said before, the less debt the better. We should only be financing any money that is needed at the start of construction. Floating a bond to pay for recurring costs of salaries, equipment, chemicals etc. takes care of these for 30 years. But we know costs will go up, because this is Berkeley, so saying that the pools will cost more than 980,000 a year(3 million? Who knows!) is not far fetched. I suspect the “overage” will go to other parts of governments to pay salaries in the parks,the yard,police etc. Like I say, who knows.

  3. Regarding:
    Claim: Berkeley municipal debt is rising from $4 million in 2010 to $15 million in 2011. Fact: By law, the City must approve a balanced budget each year. Berkeley has a Standard & Poor’s bond credit rating of AA+, putting Berkeley in the highest 1 percent of cities nationwide.

    No city has a “balanced budget” in the sense that incoming=outgoing. The city is in debt, but is a AA+ creditor. Adding more debt harms the debt rating of the city. AA+ is also not AAA, which is the best. I suspect Berkeley has fallen in recent years like all city governments which have gone to the credit card/bond system too long without a reasonable “balanced” budget to pay for increased debt service. And interest rates are going up.
    Paying 40 million in interest for a sub 100 million dollar project is a bad deal.
    Facilities=26 million in renovations
    maintenance for 30 years=30 times @1 mill=30 million.
    We are paying @1.3 million in interest a year!
    Principal needed=56 million for running them for 30 years and construction.

    And as I said before, the less debt the better. We should only be financing any money that is needed at the start of construction. Floating a bond to pay for recurring costs of salaries, equipment, chemicals etc. takes care of these for 30 years. But we know costs will go up, because this is Berkeley, so saying that the pools will cost more than 980,000 a year(3 million? Who knows!) is not far fetched. I suspect the “overage” will go to other parts of governments to pay salaries in the parks,the yard,police etc. Like I say, who knows.

  4. After getting the pro-C flyer(I use the pools and would gladly pay for them if it’s presented correctly) I came up with this:
    -there are 45000 households
    -each household would pay on average 70 dollars
    -45,000 times 70 times 30 years=94,500,000 million dollars TOTAL for principle and the “loan”
    -The renovations are slated to cost about 25 million for all 4 pools. That’s to fix them
    -The pool maintenance is slated to be just under a million a year(that’s the city’s numbers)
    -At worst that’s 30,000,000 over 30 years for running the pools
    -30 mill + 25 mill=55 million total.
    -Why is the City paying 40 million in INTEREST payments. Who gets that? Goldman Sachs?
    Now, the proper way to float this bond is ask for 25 million in bonds to the building costs as we need that now.
    -Next tax households in perpetuity for the maintenance.
    -Why are we bonding 30 million in permanent costs. What happens after 30 years? Another bond measure to borrow.
    -The pool looks like it is costing near double the real costs because the politicians think that debt and bonds and credit are free. But that 40 million could be used for libraries and other things. The costs of running these facilities are doubling because the city cannot to 3rd grade math and have to go to the piggy trough and beg corrupt banks for a loan when it’s not a capital improvement cost it’s an ONGOING expense.
    My check for 20 bucks a year for the pools is in the mail.
    Marketing the pools as the future for the city with emotion is exactly why the county is in paralysis. If people would stop being lazy and look at the facts as presented, there are ways to do this without it being YES or No.
    My solution is raise taxes 20-30 dollars a year per household for running the pools.
    Ask for a 25 million dollar bond to raise money for constructions. Pay the minimum bond interest because all that extra is just making bankers RICH

  5. As someone who really needed the Warm Pool to heal chronic back pain and disability over a couple years, I really appreciated having access to it. My physical therapist taught me the exercises at the YMCA (Grace’s Pool), which is much smaller, much colder, and much more expensive for me to use as I am not a Y member. So I went regularly to the Warm Pool at BHS and did the exercises, and my back is much better.

    I also noticed while there that there were lots of families, autistic children getting swim therapy, and people of all ages and abilities using it regularly. Some were adults learning how to swim for the first time.

    My son learned to swim as a child at King Pool, and took many years of lessons there. He eventually became a lifeguard, swim teacher, and Assistant Pool Manager at King. He also worked at West Campus. He was a swimmer while at BHS, and his team often used the Willard Pool.

    The Berkeley pools are a wonderful resource and need to be supported by this modest tax measure.

  6. I hope everybody interested in Measure C will please visit the campaign’s website — http://www.berkeleypools.org, where there’s lots of information about what’s at stake for the pools and what’s going on in the election campaign.

  7. Just one word about swimming lessons for little ones. 12 years ago when I had a water-phobic child who couldn’t swim, all summer after work I drove to El Sobrante and Piedmont, as these communities had very warm pools with beginning swimming lessons. I couldn’t take another tantrum at the Berkeley or El Cerrito pools. By the first day of kindergarten she could swim. If indeed the new warm pool will be offering lots of beginning swimming lessons, that will be a great community service and hopefully will also provide some income. Wild horses couldn’t get me to take a toddler into the current warm pool; the whole building is too gross. Everyone deserves a better pool and yes, the students of Berkeley High deserve more classrooms. The “eviction” of the warm pool from the BHS campus is entirely appropriate.

  8. I am turned off by the whole tone of this discussion. Mr. Collier’s response makes it clear that much of his concern relates to some ongoing squabble with Ms. Bowman and other political groups with which she is affiliated (BASTA?).

    I can tell you that I neither know nor care about Ms. Bowman’s history, actions taken by her or others on taxes in 2004 (when I didn’t even live here), or what she thinks about schools or libraries. That is not related to measure “C”.

    The best way to convince those of us who are undecided or leaning against this measure is not to publish a screed against Ms. Bowman’s past actions (who cares about her, really?), but to take the high road and lay out your arguments calmly and rationally in a way that makes it clear why “C” is a benefit and a valuable thing for us to support. This piece and its responses do not do that very well, and degenerate into petty bickering between political factions. To get this to pass you need to convince those of us who have neither been working on this for a decade, nor know or care about Ms. Bowman.

  9. Robert,

    I do appreciate your point that the school board is evicting the warm pool.
    And the willingness to acknowledge how we got to this point where years have been wasted.

    I do not agree with this statement “They have opposed improvements in the schools, libraries and emergency services.’

    BASTA did not oppose IMPROVEMENTS, that rejected throwing more money at bad government practices while making good recommendations for balancing the budgets and demanding transparency and accountability. They demanded the city focus on essential services in hard economic times, and ask city officials to do what is politically challenging, identify essential services and figure the cost of those services. BASTA is not alone in wanting a leaner higher functioning local government. I am not a member of BASTA and do have criticism. However I do not want to lose sight of working from what is true, especially since you chose the “truth” as your title of your retort to Bowman claims.

    Several members of BASTA have served on city commissions for years providing volunteer expertise and commitment to community well being. Bowman was an asset to the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) for several terms often providing critical leadership in sustaining and improving community resources.

    I fully understand many voters have adopted a strategy to reject additional funding city services until the city makes needed changes in operations and budgeting. I agree that strategy might be the wrong approach, but painting adversaries as you have will not help persuade folks who resent such simple reductionist thinking, as others have already explained well.

  10. Here are some responses to a few of the comments above:

    1) It is wildly unrealistic to suggest that there is any chance of getting the School Board to reverse its decision to demolish the Old Gym. The School Board’s five members are adamant that the building must come down and the Warm Pool must leave. Their position is wildly popular among BHS students, faculty, parents, and the broader community of Berkeley parents. In the campaign for Measure C, we take no position about the decision to demolish the Old Gym, although many in the campaign would have preferred that it be rehabbed. But we must face up to reality and move onward. The Warm Pool is being evicted, and we must find a new location.

    2) Let’s be clear that Marie Bowman and others are trying to use the elderly and disabled as cannon fodder in their conservative crusade against the School District. It’s a cynical attempt that is destined to fail. The anti-schools faction failed miserably in their campaigns against school parcel taxes in 2004 and 2006, which won landslide victories with 72 and 80 percent, respectively. The schools bond measure this November will need only 55 percent to win, and it is virtually guaranteed to win. Berkeley swimmers will not allow themselves to be used for extraneous political agendas that lead only to dead-end failure.

    3) Bowman, BASTA and her funders, led by landlord leader Robert Cabrera, are indeed the Party of No. They have opposed improvements in the schools, libraries and emergency services. In effect, they are Berkeley’s version of the conservative, Howard Jarvis anti-tax movement elsewhere in California. In Berkeley, we are fortunate that this faction has only a small minority of voter support.

    4) I don’t want to get caught in a closed feedback loop of constantly having to respond to Marie Bowman’s outrageous and false claims. I’ll leave that sort of thing for Fox News. Let’s remember the positive side of this election — Measure C is about preserving and improving the pools for years to come, for all ages, neighborhoods and ability levels. As a couple commenters above have noted accurately, Measure C is the result of years of community organizing and public process. It is a uniter between the young and the old, the able-bodied and non-able-bodied. Let’s remember that without Measure C, two of the city’s four pools will be lost forever. At a time when budget crisis threatens to overwhelm our state and drag our community down into decay and retrenchment, Measure C protects a wonderful part of Berkeley’s quality of life for decades to come. I truly love Berkeley, I expect to stay here for the rest of my life, and that’s why I’m supporting Measure C.

  11. Collier tells us:
    Claim: Berkeley municipal debt is rising from $4 million in 2010 to $15 million in 2011. Fact: By law, the City must approve a balanced budget each year. Berkeley has a Standard & Poor’s bond credit rating of AA+, putting Berkeley in the highest 1 percent of cities nationwide.

    As Maureen link to the city’s budget page shows Bowman assertion regarding rising debt is accurate. Colliers’ response is the standard response year after year. The tactic of marginalizing anyone willing to question the status quo is also a typical strategy.

    Of course the old gym could be rehab, Peggy I suggest you take a tour of the old Merritt College campus on MLK and enjoy the wonders of a historic beauty that serves the Oakland community extremely well. Once former Supt Lawrence decided the old gym was toast and refused to consider options which allow for the creation of sufficient classrooms and the rehab of the existing pool, the warm pool dilemma was certain. A good comparison would be the absurd process regarding the development of the Derby St baseball field. In the end the ALTERNATIVE plan which was never was taken seriously during the “drama years” won out revealing a far better option for all purposes.

    I am still in favor of rehabbing the historic OLD Gym. As to any hope of the city officials improving services or developing budgets based on revenue generating potentials, not a chance as long as the city policy of no layoffs and everyone gets paid on Friday regardless of performance continues.

  12. As for the budget question, I found this on the city’s budget page:

    “We are faced with growing deficits in many of the City’s main operating funds, totaling about $14.6 million in FY 2011. The City Council is now considering proposals to revise the FY 2011 budget in order to close these gaps (and stabilize the City’s future fiscal health).”

    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=31064

  13. My kids took swim lessons at the Y in downtown Berkeley beginning in infancy. It was plenty warm for 3 month old babies. It was also an indoor pool and the issue of air temperature may not apply to indoor pools.

    Before one more bond measure passes, the City of Berkeley has to demonstrate it has performed long-term infrastructure planning and show us that all required projects are in line for repair. Not only roads but sewer and water mains as well as the old City Hall that will fall down in an earthquake require a lot of money in the coming years.

  14. A lot of the negative comment about the warm pool revolves around the idea that
    it benefits relatively few and is costly to heat. At the same time, approval is expressed for spending for the goals of reducing drowning risk and teaching children to swim.
    But a 92 degree pool is at a preferable temperature for these uses, just as it is
    for therapeutic uses.

    Please consider the following, taken from a page on a private swim school’s website, on “what makes for effective swim lessons”:
    “Keep the water temperature warm. 86 degrees minimum, 90-94 is ideal, says the
    United States Swim School Association, an organization of over 250 swim schools nationwide. Because of the liquid medium, a pool feels about 20 degrees cooler than the air to a child. A 90 degree pool is like 70 degree air. The focus should be on learning well, and shivering and blue lips make for less effective retention.”
    http://www.happyswimmers.com/swim-tips.html.
    Those who imagine a 92 degree pool is or would feel unpleasantly hot, please note
    the “90 is like 70.” I have visited about 100 of the US Swim School Association’s member websites. Of those that say what temp their pools are, I’d say easily 80% are in the 90-94 range, with most of the rest 88-90. All ages and levels are taught in these pools. The schools make money at it. Why couldn’t Berkeley at least run a pool with
    high cost-effectiveness. One might ask, well, why aren’t they already. The main answer is that the current pool is available only after school hours. Staff there have told me
    they look forward to the opportunity to do more teaching for kids, and water-introduction for tots, in warm water, if we get a new Warm Pool. And they are aware, as the pros are aware, as one of them wrote to the City Council: “The money-maker in aquatics is swim lessons.”

    In sum, a warm pool is of community wide, deep benefit, a benefit easily commensurate with the cost. Last week I counted 25 people who showed up for
    the one weekly hour of “family swim.” Their only complaint is that there’s only that hour.

  15. Measure C is the culmination of a long process and the efforts of many people who are a part of or have an interest in the Berkeley pool community. Throughout the several years of grappling with deteriorating facilities, pool closures and impending permanent closure of the warm pool, many voices have been raised and heard. Proposals have been developed, analyzed, argued, vetted, tossed, and changed. Compromises have been made. Mostly, there is agreement on some basic issues: Berkeley’s pool facilities are near the end of their useful life; the existing warm pool will be demolished; the warm pool is of significant benefit to Berkeley residents; and swimming is a lifelong healthy activity. The result, Measure C, addresses all these issues and more. It is the best of the democratic process in that it includes something for everyone and we all got there by yielding to the greater good rather than holding on to one or other particular self interest.

  16. Marie Bowman spoke at a Warm Pool advocacy group meeting I attended several
    years ago. She said she too was partly disabled and was also a user of the Warm Pool and wanted to secure its future. The means she suggested was getting the pool building land-marked, and other similar measures to achieve leverage to get BUSD to go along with rehabbing the pool in situ. Despite her claim to be a friend and supporter of the Warm Pool, she was unwilling to say whether she would support a bond measure for a new pool if efforts to keep the pool at its current site failed.

    None of the special legal mojo she implied she possessed ever moved BUSD at all. Now she’s implicitly willing to concede as much, and–to support her anti-tax agenda– to claim that the pool she once swam in is dangerously hot for most purposes, and doesn’t really need to exist at all. In fact, it’s known by Warm Pool users that Ms Bowman is currently still swimming at a therapeutic warm pool of this temperature, a private one some distance away.

    Robert Collier’s characterization of Marie’s claims is exactly right. Her article is a grab bag of whatever she thinks will serve her purpose, with no regard at all as to whether any given bit is true or not.

  17. There are many ways to invest for the future. This is one, and may or may not be the best use of funds. Our roads are consistently worse than our neighbors, and I have no confidence that public infrastructure projects are being addressed responsibly. Until larger questions of ongoing costs for this amenity are made clear I am uncertain about voting for it. As a heavily taxed homeowner struggling to keep myself and my business going in lean times, I am not sure this is the best use of funds at this time.

    And I am extremely disappointed in the nasty tone of this article. Not everyone who questions this project is either a conservative or a member of “The Party of No.” I am certainly not. Such a tone only perpetuates the political nastiness of our current era, and turns me off completely. The factual points are helpful – but they are so tainted by the insulting tone of the opening paragraphs that I almost didn’t care to read them.

  18. The pool bond measure is the product of a year’s worth of meetings between pool users, neighborhood groups, and school and city administration representatives. As a pool user, I brought many of Marie Bowman’s suggestions and concerns to the meetings. The cost of financing a bond, the possibility of opening the high school pool to the community for early AM and late PM swim, the possibility of making a warm pool a regional effort–these were some of my concerns and proposals.

    Having lobbied swimmers, school and city officials for the past 8 years, I appreciate Measure C , not as “the best we can come up with,” but as hard won common ground between conflicting interests.
    . If we support this one, we can improve the pools–programs, schedule, staffing, facility management, water quality and temperature, fuel efficiency.

    We can’t have pools without the support of the warm pools users and the schools. The public pools are tied to their interests. We have to work together.

  19. Mr. Collier . . just in case you are interested in persuading me to vote for the pool proposition you support, I thought you might like to read my suggestions of what I would like to know.

    Can you tell me how many elderly and disabled citizens of Berkeley regularly use the warm pool now?

    Are many (any?) of the elderly and disabled people who actively use the current Berkeley warm pool actively working to get the pool proposition passed? And if so, I would be curious to know some data, i.e. specific numbers.

    Have there been any surveys of the elderly and disabled related to need and/or demand for water exercise in a warm pool? Has anyone polled the elderly and disabled who ACTIVELY rely upon the warm pool for their exercise and/or physical therapy to learn if any (and how many) would continue to execise in a non-warm pool? And while you are asking these folks, ask them if they have ever tried to exercise in a non-warm pool? And ask if they are open to change?

    Can you define warm pool? (I swim at Speiker Pool at UC, which they maintain at eighty one degrees and most lap swimmers will tell you that is too warm for them . . . I think 81 degrees is a warm pool. I cannot, truly I cannot, swim in a pool at 90 degrees!!)

    As I mentioned in another too-long post here, I used to live in Mountain View, a prosperous city in Silicon Valley that has no warm pool. There were many seriously elderly swimmers at my pool, like Betty who was wheeled to the side of the pool, lifted in and out with the help of her attendant and life guard . . . Betty was 96 last time I saw her, unable to walk . . . but she swam in Eagle Park Pool, which was kept at 78 degrees when the swimmers were lucky — the pool was often much colder and the same seniors, many with significant disabilities, kept swimming. One guy joined our swim community at Eagle after losing his right leg from the knee down and his left wrist and he had a colostomy bag . .. and he swam in our 78 degree water 4-5 times weekly.

    Can you explain to me the current costs to maintain, for example, King pool, breaking out the budget by staff and maintenance costs, maybe insurance costs, administrative costs, etc? Just give me the details for one pool, and present the costs now and the projected new ones after the new pool work is done.

    I have neighbors who swim at the warm pool at the high school. If I have understood them correctly, the warm pool classes are completely free, whereas seniors and the disabled pay to swim at the other city pools. Will the new warm pool continue to be free for the elderly and disabled?

    Tell me some facts about the costs of teaching this community’s young people how to swim. How is that effort funded? What does it cost a ten-year-old to take a swim class in the summer? And what does it cost the city to offer that class, pay the teacher, pay to maintain the pool so the class can happen?
    Will these costs remain static with the new pools?

    I think the prices for the public to swim at Berkeley public pools are very high. Again, I refer to Mountain View, a prosperous suburb in Silicon Valley. The Berkeley pool fees are almost twice as high and the pools here suck now. Will pool use fees go up with the new pools? Does the proposition guarantee that the pools will remain accessible to the poor?

    Tell me something about the salary, benefits and paid holidays of the pool staff now and tell me how such costs are expected to rise in the next decades, with the new pool?

    Shortly after I moved to Berkeley, King Pool closed. I found out because I arrived to go swimming because the city website said the pool was open but it was closed when I got there. A maintenance man happened to be passing me so I asked him and that was how I learned that in winter 2009, King Pool was closed for planned maintenance and the city website had no info but this maintenance guy told me it would be a few months. But THEN it turned out that the business that city staff had hired to do the repairs — get this! — the biz was not qualified to do the work!! So King reopened and West Campus closed .. . again, no mention on the website. And get this: I called city phone numbers to get current info. The recorded messages were out of date and not updated over many months. No one from the city EVER responded to my requests for info.

    The chuckleheads who hired a company to do those King repairs got paid good city employee salaries and benefits to make that boneheaded decision. And I bet someone gets paid to keep the city website updated. And I bet someone is paid to answer the phones and provide citizens with information. And yet, I aggressively asserted myself for weeks trying to find out accurate info.

    I did eventually plug into the swimming community . . . but the paid employees at the pool, while all nice, mostly young people working as life guards and water aerobics instructors — all those employees were uninformed and/or misinformed and often, when I asked a lifeguard for current pool schedules, they would laugh and say ‘your guess is as good as mine’.

    If that is how the pools are run now, I am unpersuaded that this city’s paid staff will magically become cost efficient and competent after an infusions of many millions of public dollars for this pool proposition. Can you give me some FACTS that might suggest the pools will be better staffed and the city government will become functional? I am not just talking about city staff being responsive to wealthy developers who schmooze city government staff to get development fee waivers and stuff like that. .. I am talking about ordinary clerks working for the city being competent at their jobs. I am talking about serving ordinary citizens with no influence other than they live here and need help and or info . . . Berkeley city government is dysfunctional . . . I think we all read about the city council aide who got to keep his job even though he was breaking the law by building a small house where his garage used to be? I don’t trust that city government with the pool proposition funds.

  20. Thanks, Mr. Collier, for clarifying the serious factual mistatements in Ms. Bowman’s anti-pool measure rant.

    I have not lived in Berkeley long. When I read, in Ms. Bowman’s dishonest rant, that Berkeley residents approved twenty million in new taxes last year, I swallowed her lie even though I was a Berkeley resident last fall and was wholly unaware of a vote last year for new taxes. But I did do a little inteliectual jiggle . . . when I read Ms. Bowman’s bald assertion, I concluded that she must have been referring to an older vote that took effect last year. . .which goes to show you how powerful dishonest rhetoric can be. I ‘knew’ there was no 20 million ballot initiative in Berkeley last fall but I assumed Ms. Bowman was honest and presented facts.

    I love the way you correct Ms. Bowman’s dishonest assertions, Mr. Collier, but, for me, you don’t offer reasons that persuade me that the 2010 Berkeley pool measure is a good one. It is my impression that many are supporting the measure because people are weary of trying to fix the outrageous, even tragic pool accomodations in Berkeley.

    It is all but incomprehensible to me that a progressive city like Berkeley has grossly inadequate public pool facilities. Any community has many important community interests to justify having adequate swimming facilities for the community. A community has a shared interest in ensuring that all children learn how to swim so they are at less risk of drowning. And a community has a public health interest in having citizens exercise. And a community has a public health and justice issue in having accessible accomodations for the disabled.

    I don’t have to be persuaded that Berkeley needs good pools.

    I am not persuaded that the plan, represented by this ballot initiative, is a good one. I am new to Berkeley so I don’t have an embodied experience of watching this issue be dragged on for decades without getting the attention it deserves.

    I know Berkeley is the birthplace of disability rights. And I read your helpful factual statement that the “Aquatic Exercise Association official guidelines explicitly state that 92-degree water is appropriate for infants, physical therapy for all ages, and people with arthritis and Parkinson’s.”

    What is the AEA? Is it run by medical professionals and physical therapy professionals and athletic professionals? I have been an avid lap swimmer my whole life. I had my now-27-year-old daughter in a swimming pool when she was a few months old. I have significant arthritis. I have never had access to a warm water pool and back in the Midwest, it is routine for infants, persons with artrhitis and Parkinson’s and physical therapy classes to swim in the same pools that lap swimmers use. “Appropriate” is not “necessary”.

    A warm pool is an expensive, luxury. Many of us want things we cannot afford. The disabled in this community do not have a medical need for the warm pool which Berkeley cannot afford. And I go further: I resent the fact that the warm pool is tied to the larger community needs for swimming pools. That puts me in the position of sounding like an ogre when I oppose buying Berkeley an expensive luxury that it cannot afford. I am a disabled person, legally disabled. Tying the entire community’s pool needs in with the preferences — not NEEDS — of people who like to exercise in warmer water is manipulative.

    Berkeley can survive without a warm pool. It really could. But, heading into the next few decades, I don’t think Berkeley can survive with a populace that does not learn how to swim in childhood and does not develop the practice of regular exercise which could include swimming.

    And getting beyond the warm pool, which I guess you can see I am strongly opposed to funding in this economic climate, I do not have confidence in this city’s government to spend the proceeds of the pool proposition. The proposition does not look well thought out and it sure looks to me like the proposition seriously underestimates what things will cost. Since the projected costs of the warm pool do not include a specific site, those costs estimates are all fiction.

    When I first moved to Berkeley, in winter 2009, I swam at the public pools for the first several months I lived here. I was often approached at the pools about this pool proposition. I heard a similar argument over and over, which was that Berkeley has put off the pool problem for far too long and this proposition is better than nothing so I was pressured to support it. I talked to people who have actively worked on the pool problem and even people with real familiarity with the city and the pool challenge seemed to think this proposition kinda sucks . . . but then people say ‘it is better than nothing’ . . . such arguments tempt me. I love good swimming pools. I don’t think anyone loves swimming more than me and very few people swim more than I do. And I am a lifelong liberal bleeding heart do-gooder and I am burned out with the bad economic choices I keep seeing made on the public sphere.

    I want Berkeley to have good pools. Honest. I am not persuaded that this measure is the right measure for this city. I am not going to give it my vote. I am sick and tired of public measures being compromised and dumbed down and dumbed down.

    Maybe if Berkeley closes Willard and the warm pool and the city starts living with the consequences of their public health and social justice disaster — maybe the citizens of Berkeley will come up with a good pool plan. I know the idea of spending a few years without Willard and a warm pool is horrific.. . . pressuring me to vote for a crappy measure is short term thinking. . . pressuring me to vote for a measure I do not believe is a good measure is not very different from a corporate board choosing short term profit and ignoring long term consequences.

    I am drawing a line. No more crappy funding measures get my vote.

    And, I reiterate: warm pools are considered APPROPRIATE by that aquatics exercise association. Check out the Midwest. There are infants, elderly and disabled folks all over the Midwest, swimming in the same pools as the rest of the community . .. because warm pools are a luxury, they are not absolutely necessary.

  21. “Measure C boils down to one simple question – should our community invest for the future? Should we plan for a good quality of life for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and other Berkeley generations? Or should we allow Berkeley’s naysayers to shrink and eliminate our city’s most beloved assets?”

    I counted more than one question there, but would agree that Measure C boils down to one simple question, namely – how much money will Berkeley homeowners provide to a municipality that does not practice generally accepted fiscal oversight procedures?

    Mr. Collier’s representation of opponents of Measure C as conservatives and naysayers is polemical, intellectually dishonest and sure as heck unlikely to persuade voters, as the previous commenter noted. And responsibility for “eliminating our city’s most beloved assets” can be assigned to quite a few groups, including the local pols who pander to any group that they see as generating votes, and local groups like the disabled who dismiss the needs of thousands of BHS students for more classrooms and instead only clamor for their own needs, which apparently are questionable, according to the AEA.

    Mr. Collier’s conflation of those of us who oppose Measure C with those who oppose financial reform, clean energy and the health care bill is emblematic of what’s wrong with our town and more than tinged with the stain of tea bags. It would help elevate the debate if he stuck to facts. For example, I don’t know if city debt is now $4 million and projected to rise to $15 million and I don’t know if a city balanced budget requirement means no debt is allowed or if it refers only to deficit in current years. That’s an important point, and it is lost in all the name calling.

    As for the list of supporters of Measure C, well, when have our local elected officials EVER opposed a chance to get money from Berkeley residents?

    All those elected officials will also be supporting the November BUSD bond measure of $200+ million, even after the $116 million Measure AA bond measure monies are now gone, and even after Measure AA promised audits (NOT!) and even after Measure AA promised more classrooms for Berkeley High (NOT!). In fact, the very first line item and the highest dollar amount line item in the ballot measure book was for classrooms at Berkeley High. There are fewer classrooms at Berkeley High today than there were before the bond measure. And the defense for all this is that the bond measure was worded to allow for discretionary spending on whatever the school district decided to do. In sum, we’ll be paying twice for classrooms at BHS. Why is a demand for narrow and specific bond wording and accountability in bond money spending considered conservative and nay saying? The public good always benefits from transparency and accountability, traits sorely lacking in our city and schools and bond measures.

    What rational voter would continue to give outfits like our city and school district money with such a track record? Not this one, and I’ve never voted against a local or state bond measure before.

  22. Absent something like factcheck.org, it’s very hard to tease out how the truth is being filtered by any given side, but everyone does it. That’s called persuasion.

    Someone who argues against a new tax in our very highly taxed city doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with all kinds of conservatives. I find that to be a pretty offensive tactic.

    Personally, I am concerned with many of the same social justice and quality-of-life issues that I figure most of my neighbors are; that’s why I live here and not 30 miles to the east. However, I am weary of fresh bond measures cropping up in every single election, which always pass. I understand the need for Berkeley to tax itself, but I don’t have to like it. And if you’re asking me to approve more debt for our city and then pay for it, yes, you’d better expect to explain yourself as many times as needed.

    I really don’t like the tone of this post. It’s self-righteous and self-pitying. That’s not a way to win votes. I actually started looking into how El Cerrito and Albany financed their swimming facilities and found that they used bond measures. So I understand that we probably do have approve additional taxes to fix Berkeley’s pools. But I don’t want to vote for additional taxes that will be pissed away by disputes and delays–which seems likely–and if the pro side continues to “persuade” with communications like this one, I’ll probably vote no in protest.

  23. Thank you. I read Bowman’s piece and had a lot of questions. This answers many of them.

    Anyone who thinks there is a bat’s chance in hell of rehabbing the warm pool at Berkeley High should go over there and take a look at it. Look at the mold growing in the weight room, check it out during a rain storm as water pours through the ceiling, take a look at the condemned classrooms and think about washing your hands in the locker room sinks. All that building does is create a deep desire to purchase a gallon of Purell.

    Students are meeting in hallways at BHS due to lack of classroom space. It’s time for BHS to regain that space and there is nothing worth saving in that decrepit hell hole of a building. The only thing that building that stretches along Milvia is good for is shooting a horror movie — but wait! Why aren’t we getting some income from that? It’s the perfect place for shooting a horror movie!