City facilities should be open for public use
Several people voiced several heated opinions about the city council’s recent decision to deny an exclusive use permit for the city softball fields. Personally, I believe the council was spot-on, but not for the reasons some might think.
First and foremost, I like and respect the organization that requested the permit, and the individual that came forward to defend t
hat organization’s request. I appreciate the purpose the organization serves, and I admire their desire to provide recreational activities for the youth of our community.
Having said that, the face of this community is changing daily. Our population is growing, and our needs change constantly. Notably with regard to this conversation, our need for recreational sporting activities has grown – apparently exponentially. “The way it’s always been done” might not work anymore.
The organization requesting the permit has had exclusive use of the fields, Monday through Thursday, for several years. The request for the same permit for next year was denied, and I applaud the council for denying it.
“Exclusive use” is a broad term. It means, effectively, that anyone else that wants to use those fields would either have to get permission from the permit-holding organization, or work around their schedule – four days a week, for a full year. That’s a bit excessive.
I don’t play ball, so I’m not affected on that level – nor are many other Lockhart residents. However, it’s the greater precedent set by “exclusive use” that worries me.
To me, allowing one organization “exclusive use” of a public facility opens the door for any other organization to request the same for any other facility. And often, organizations service too narrow a segment of a population to make that reasonable.
For instance, let’s say a fishing club asked for exclusive use of the pond, four days a week, for a year. Grandpa Smith could be run off the fishing pier for taking his visiting grandson out to cast a few on Tuesday morning during summer vacation. Is that fair?
Or what if a water-aerobics class asked for an exclusive-use permit for the pool, four evenings a week, all summer. Forget about your 12-year-old daughter’s birthday pool party, unless you had permission from the permit holder.
I’m not saying we aren’t a community and we would not all work together to accommodate those needs. I suspect we would – but no rule is in place forcing us to. And if we go around granting exclusive use of city facilities to this group or that, we run the risk of allowing our facilities to be held hostage, based on nothing more valid that one group’s desires, needs or mood.
If we were allowed to pay the taxes that fund the facilities based on our desires, needs or moods, I might be able to see being granted or denied access to those facilities based on the same principles. But we can’t, and as long as we continue paying for the facilities, we should be able to use them as need or want them, without having to ask permission from any organization except the city.