Measure to Fund City Pools Fails

Photo: The Berkeley High School warm water pool, used for therapeutic and exercise programs, will close after Measure C failed to pass.
Anna Vignet/Staff
The Berkeley High School warm water pool, used for therapeutic and exercise programs, will close after Measure C failed to pass.

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In the wake of Measure C's defeat Tuesday, some community members struggled to understand the loss, while others still held out hope for the city's recreational services.

The measure, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, gained 60.38 percent of votes, meaning pools at both Willard Middle School and Berkeley High School will close.

Willard Pool shuts down July 1 followed by the closure of the warm water pool at Berkeley High School - which, at 92 degrees Fahrenheit, is home to various exercise, therapeutic and youth programs - when the high school remodels next year, according to Scott Ferris, recreation and youth services manager for the city.

"The undemocratic nature of the two-thirds world bites us again and suppresses the majority opinion," said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. "Here, the pools got over 60 percent and yet they're still losing."

The measure would have incurred $22.5 million in bonds - which would have been used to replace the indoor warm water pool, renovate pools at Willard and West Campus Junior High School and construct an all-purpose pool at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School - and created a special tax to repay the bonds.

JoAnn Cook, co-chair for the Berkeley Pools Campaign, said she is discouraged by the outcome of the election.

"It's a terrible loss," said Cook, who has used the warm water pool for more than 20 years. "It was pretty clear that without a miracle it was going to be a 'no', but I found it hard to hear the actual, final (verdict)."

According to Mark Numainville, deputy city clerk, the current turnout estimate of registered voters for this election is 22.6 percent - less than the 51.1 percent turnout in the March 2004 primary election, the last time there was a special election for ballot measures in the city. He said this number will probably increase once the rest of the ballots are counted.

In light of the economic downturn, Greg Harper, treasurer for the Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, said the measure would have imposed an unbearable tax.

"The bottom line is we can't afford to do this now," he said. "You've got people losing jobs and their houses ... People thought this wasn't the time to increase taxes."

No matter the reason for the measure's defeat, Robert Collier, co-chair for the campaign, said losing the two pools will directly impact the health and well-being of many residents.

"It certainly doesn't speak well to how Berkeley treats its seniors and disabled," Collier said. "It's heartbreaking that we didn't reach the minimum two-thirds threshold."

Berkeley resident Marie Bowman, who formerly worked on various city commissions and is a member of the Berkeleyans Against Soaring TAxes (BASTA) campaign, said the measure did not pass because residents want a measure that will support recreational services for the entire population.

"While we really care about our community, we also want both a socially and financially responsible government," Bowman said. "What the results are saying to the city government is, 'Go back and take another look.'"

Despite Willard pool's set closure, Worthington said the city can still save the pool, though it will be challenging.

"We've dealt with this year after year ... but we have always managed to keep it going," he said. "I don't know if we can do that again, but I'm certainly going to try."

He added that the Berkeley City Council should consider a separate ballot measure to save the warm water pool alone or ask the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education to delay the pool's demolition.

"There are several tracks that we need to be working on to respond to the undemocratic nature of the loss," he said. "The City Council could vote to put it on the ballot for November, but it would be 20 percent of the measure that was voted on (Tuesday)."


Stephanie Baer is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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