Comment: When Tom met Shirley in support of pools

Robert Collier, co-chair of the Berkeley Pools Campaign, writes about this week’s press conference for Measure C, which is on the ballot in next Tuesday’s election.

At a press conference late Tuesday, Mayor Tom Bates and former Mayor Shirley Dean temporarily set aside their longtime rivalry to join forces in denouncing the anti-Measure C campaign.

“We’ve seen a sort of scurrilous campaign being run against Measure C, things that are just outright lies, deceptions and outright lies,” said Bates.

For example, in a mailer sent to thousands of city residents last week, the opposition claimed that the UC Berkeley campus has a Warm Pool that could substitute for the city’s own Warm Pool. They claimed that Willard Pool is a competition-size pool. Elsewhere, they have claimed that Measure C would raise pool maintenance spending to$3.5 million annually. Other accusations have included suggestions that the city’s debt is “skyrocketing,” and a wide variety of claims of budget malfeasance by city officials. All are provably false.

The press conference was held at the Warm Pool, the decrepit facility on the Berkeley High School campus that is scheduled for demolition next year to create much-needed space for students.

Surrounded by Warm Pool users in wheelchairs, Dean said that if Measure C fails to receive the necessary two-thirds voter approval and the Warm Pool closes, the result will be human suffering. “The people that will be hurt[(if C is defeated] are … people who are infants, people who are disabled, just everyone in the whole community,” she said. “And we need to step up to the plate and make sure those people are served and that this warm water pool survives.”

More details are available on the Measure C campaign’s FAQ list on its website,

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  • EBGuy

    Anybody want to talk about the Many compromises [that] were made by everyone concerned while this measure was being crafted? I have not yet pulled the lever (or checked the box) as the case may be. From my perspective (not having participated), it appears that the compromises included allowing everyone’s wish list to be tacked on. I’m sure that’s not the case, so let’s hear about it…

  • Over-taxed Berkeley Native

    The problem with Berkeley is not that it taxes too little, but that it spends too much. They provide us with a choice at the ballot box when it comes to increasing spending for necessary school, library, and pool funding, but no choice when it comes to diverting our tax dollars for obscene pensions, generous social programs, its 45 special boards and commissions, the mayor’s gym membership or its other plethora of wasteful spending. Voting NO on C is one way we can send a message to the politicians that enough is enough. VOTE NO!

  • EBGuy

    Compromise: Warm water pool temperature to be set at 92 degrees instead of 94 degrees; see, that wasn’t too hard.

  • Jared

    To the “Over-taxed Berkeley Native”: It’s understandable to feel that way. But one chooses to live in a great city like Berkeley. And we have so many wonderful community resources like our pools, our teen and senior centers, our libraries, etc… and we pay for them. It’s classic conservative thinking, i.e. “starve the beast”- and it’s a shame you actually think that shutting down two public pools will “send a message to politicians.” Think a bit, and have a bit of compassion.

    I just hope you understand that a vote against Measure C is a vote against our community, especially our kids (I have 2), who use this community asset. I’m voting YES!

  • Regarding compromises:

    The warm pool had trouble getting support in the first place, eventually became well supported, and then became threatened. There was an effort to put a measure on the ballot in 2009 to preserve this service but other issues took precedence. Meanwhile other pools, particularly Willard, have severe maintenance problems. Between those problems and budget cuts, the City announced in January that Willard faced closure.

    Roughly concurrently with all of this a larger coalition of pool supporters was formed. The pools task force was formed. The Berkeley Citywide Pools Masterplan was worked out – and thus the issue made the ballot for 2010. The masterplan is well worth reading (and is easy to find on the net by title), as are the council resolutions cited in the ballot measure.

    I was at the “press conference” in the video although, as nearly as I can tell, I was the only member of the press and the only audience member. Missing from the video shown above are some moving and persuasive comments from some of the users of the warm pool.

    The piece I wrote is:

    One Measure C supporter has communicated to me that he regards the piece as factually incorrect on the matter of how the bond money can be spent (I disagree) and, generally, as unfairly biased against Measure C (with which I also don’t agree). Your mileage may vary.

  • EBGuy

    I’m having a hard time downloading the three Council Resolutions regarding the pools initiative, but I did find this:
    Only the Special Tax for Facilities will be used to support debt service on the CFD No. 2 bonds, and the bonded indebtedness will not be used to finance the Services. The Special Tax for Services component of the Special Tax will only be used to finance the Services.
    Not sure if it has the force of law behind it…

  • Robert Collier

    re: compromises … Measure C is considerably cheaper and less ambitious than the Preferred Plan in the Final Citywide Master Plan. The Preferred Plan would have included another $10 million (plus hundreds of thousands more in annual operating expenses) to build an indoor recreation pool alongside the Warm Pool at West Campus. This state-of-the-art, 3,500 square foot rec pool would have included slides, a “lazy river,” sprays and other play features. The Preferred Plan also called for converting the Willard dive pool into a slide pool with a 27-foot-high water slide, for an additional $1.2 million and more than $100,000 extra in annual operating expenses (because two lifeguards would be required for the slide). Many swimmers and elected officials felt the Preferred Plan was an inspiring vision that was too ambitious for Berkeley and that would reduce our chances of winning the election. Others had a wide variety of other preferences for greater or fewer amenities. All in all, the past several years have been an exhaustive public process with passionate arguments. After zillions of hours of Task Force meetings, public testimony, staff presentations and more debates, the City Council finally decided on Measure C. It’s less than some people wanted, more than others wanted, but it seemed the most realistic compromise. You may like it, you may not, but please do realize that Measure C did not come out of nowhere. It is the result of a very sincere, painstaking and democratic community decision-making process.

  • EBGuy: trouble finding the links to download them or technical trouble viewing them? The “records online” link is to the left. Select “resolutions” and “city council” from the menus, and enter the digits in the numbers without punctuation or the hyphenated stuff at the end; one at a time.

    The confusion over what bond money goes for or can go for seems to run pretty deep, so let me make an attempt to sort it out (standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, it is merely by best understanding):

    Mello Roos legal code makes a distinction between facilities and services. Bond money can be raised for certain facilities and for certain kinds of service.

    The Council resolutions upon which we are voting declare that the purpose of this bond money is for the “cost of facilities”. The special tax other than the bond repayment tax is for services. This is why supporters are correct when they say that the bond money can not be used to fund pool services.

    As an example of what Council has NOT done with the measure (again, NOT done): they could have floated a measure saying, “let’s double pool hours for a year using bond money for various special events and to help increase pool use and usage fees collected; we’ll use the bond money to pay for extra staff for this expanded service, temporarily”. That is, again, NOT what they did but that they legally could have has caused some confusion over this issue.

    What Council did instead was to impose a non-bond special tax for services and a bond and bond tax for “cost of facilities”.

    So we have these two technical terms: Services (not from the bond) and Facilities (from the bond). So far so good?

    Let’s add a third term just in its ordinary plain English sense of the term: “operations costs”. By this we mean costs that are not logically essential to the construction or renovation of the facilities, but that are needed to operate the facilities. In maintaining a balanced budget, Berkeley must in theory ensure that its revenues cover those operations costs, generally speaking.

    The pools are especially challenging in this regard. They don’t pay their own way in fees. Now we are doing renovations and expansions. One of the jobs the pools task force did was to study and project these operating costs. Part of measure C proposes a new tax to help meet these needs and that new tax has nothing to do with the bond. With me so far?

    My concern (in the context of an ambitious budget and project outline) hinges on the fact that in a new development like this, the common sense notion of “operating costs” is not limited to what Mello Roos calls “Services” (excluded from the bond money in this case) but can, during the start-up of the project, overlap “Facilities Costs” (bond money). Clearly, the City would likely be unable to (and unlikely to try to) hire new pool staff for the long run using bond money – that is why the resolutions declare “cost of facilities”. At the same time, the City would be able subsidize the “plain english” operating costs, justifying the directing of those funds as an essential part of the cost of facilities. After a time, that subsidy being gone, I wonder how whether we will face a call for an increase in the (non-bond) special tax in order to operate the pools at or above their then current level of service. I wonder (and fret, a bit) about that because of what the pools masterplan tells me about the gap between revenues and expenditures with the pools. I also fret about it because if that maneuver is made it means paying for operating expenses with borrowed money.

    I said in an earlier thread on this blog that I was more persuaded by the “no on C” campaign. Research, including speaking with warm pool users, pushed me closer to “yes” but I’m not all the way there yet.

    With due respect to Mr. Collier, I am disappointed that we do not have before us the option of triage: do nothing but repair the existing pools, for now, and build a new warm pool. Concentrate on expanding service hours and revenue. The masterplan we have does indeed present inspiring options it is just that I wish they had said “first, let’s just keep the thing running, then let’s talk about elaboration. one step at a time.”

    As it is, it seems to me, we’re stuck voting on giving the City a much larger line of credit than might have been needed or desirable.

  • Robert, the cynic in me wants to bring something up about the comparison you make there. The masterplan contains a preferred option and three alternatives, the preferred being indeed quite pricey. The bond measure being about 40% more than the lowest priced alternative. The cynic in me is pondering whether, in effect if not intent, the task force asked for a mile in order to get 3/4 mile where what was needed was 10 yards (as in football). I wish there had been more emphasis on “preserve” rather than “enhance” in the process that brought us to this point.

  • Justin Lee

    This is all an accounting scheme. Collier can say all the parcel tax money goes to the pools(well, at lest the first 3.5 million annually) but truth be told WHAT IS NOT NOW SPENT IN THE GENERAL FUND NOW BELONGS TO US(an internet joke, sorry.)
    The general fund doesn’t have to pay the pool costs, so that money goes to plugging the holes in the MASSIVE and BLOATED pension systems.
    No matter how the “parcel tax” is spent, the void left in the General budget is a tasty morsel for the overpaid elected and hired staff of Berkeley.
    Asking not voters, but just homeowners to support the pool-going population of the City is grossly unfair. The Barracudas,casual swimmers and others should put their money where their mouth is and pay a bigger USE FEE to correspond to the raping of the household taxpayer. That’s how it’s done elsewhere. I personally don’t understand why the USERS of the system don’t move into the void. This goes for tennis courts and other recreation systems. The homeowner taxes can pay for a majority of the construction but the actually use and fatigue put on the system can be paid for by swimmers. Like trucks and cars on bridges-the abuse on the infrastructure should be measured and charged to the people wearing the infrastructure down.
    Instead, Bates and Company dangle free/subsidized benefits towards the renter class and milk that acrimony between haves and have-nots.
    And any dope with a 30 year mortgage not only doesn’t have SHYT but is a net DEBTOR.
    Measure C is a classic example of financial ignorance between government classes and lazy progressives. Progressives should know that a dollar well-spent here will= a dollar better spent elsewhere. 30 million in interest could rebuild ICELAND. I never heard a peep out of our elected officials when it comes to private and historic recreation. Bates and co. have access to pool money via general fund and found children’s recreation religion all of a sudden. It’s a LIE

  • Justin Lee

    The potentially dumb move on the pool ponderous crowd is asking for the warm pool to be wrapped up into the bond.
    50% of the money doesn’t go to the kids but to a maximum 100 people(probably 27 people) who want a free hot tub. 94 degree pool-let’s call it what it is-it’s a HOT TUB.
    10 million for 100 people-do the math. If you like kids, then take that 10 mill and use it elsewhere. Just greedy and absurd to ask for the moon when you are in a deflationary depression. Get real.

  • Justin Lee

    The city’s debt is skyrocketing. it’s 16 million off the books now-and then the PERS adjustments(read:gold-plated pensions for the entitled government class) are going to add another 2-3 million to that in 2012 I believe.
    Waiting for the recovery that will not come for 20 years is not a cost-cutting strategy. The city is not thinking and just adding to the city’s debt burden. Saying you are in the top 1% on the standard and poor’s muni debt list MEANS NOTHING. The city is just a great fleece is what that means. Having debt in today’s economy is toxic. Being a AA+ debtor means you are a sucker who BORROWS AND PAYS BACK DOUBLE.
    The city, as ignorant inflationist Keynesians, thinks that the ponzi scheme can go on forever. Borrow ,borrow and borrow. Then default and beg the Feds or the state to bail us out. The city has declining tax revenue and no hope of paying any of this back except via huge tax increases across the board. This is a text run for the big one-tell the City to drop dead and cut salaries 15-20% before it gets worse. The city is created a debt burden for you and it’s called moral hazard because they don’t pay a dime to resolve the budget.