How should I vote? A look at the community center controversy

By Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo City Councilmember | Mar 13, 2013

A sense of community is a great thing that many cities strive to obtain. Sometimes, however, that sense of community we all strive for comes to us incidentally without any deliberate actions.

The success of the Tails and Trails Mukilteo Dog Park is an example of a project that builds community. Thanks to some amazing volunteers in our city, we have a great place to bring our best friends for some social interaction.

The somewhat unexpected benefit of the new dog park has been a realization that along with our dogs’ social interaction comes social interaction of their masters .

If you’ve visited or even driven by the dog park, you know what I’m talking about. I recently heard a comment that the dog park is the best thing that’s happened “down here” for a long time. I agree.

Another example is the Red Cup Café in the Lincoln Courtyard across from the Rosehill Community Center. Ironically, for many, the Red Cup is the community “center.”

For whatever reason, the community building equation just works here. Not only is the Red Cup open seven days a week, but the location, atmosphere and people make it a pleasant and friendly experience.

You may be aware that for the past two years the new Rosehill Community Center has been open, I’ve been fighting for a more balanced use for the community over the current priority as an event center.

Two of the ideas that have previously crashed and burned have been to extend the hours the community center is open and to designate a community meeting room where groups could meet at no charge.

I’ve been able to revive the discussion to extend the hours the community center is open, but it’s turned into a really weird counter-offer/divide-and-conquer scenario.

As a result, I’m not sure I can support the idea I originally proposed because of the excess baggage that’s been attached. So, I’m going to take the easy way out and ask you how I should vote when this comes back to the council.

But first a little background.

The most recent fatality was the community meeting room idea where in cooperation with the Mukilteo Seniors, the Christiansen Room would have been dedicated for community use.

An analysis of the room use showed it could be done, the city attorney said it could be done, but the idea didn’t float because Mukilteo officials made stuff up and sold it to the Parks and Arts Commission and then the council.

Now there’s an even bigger effort to book events in that room so the synergy that could have been created by having a community meeting room along with extended hours isn’t likely.

Extending the hours the community center is open to the community had previously died a similar death, so in November at the budget hearings I proposed increasing the budget by $24,960 to fund two part-time employees to have the community center open an additional 16 hours per week.

(Fridays extended from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday extended from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and new hours on Sunday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.)

What happened is the mayor had the director come in from vacation, who sold the council on the idea that what was really needed is additional but unrelated staffing. So, the council did what they do best when the community center is involved, and put off the decision until we could “discuss” it in a work session.

Work sessions, or “sales sessions” as I call them, are an opportunity for staff to sell the council on an idea and get agreement before bringing it back to a regular council meeting for adoption.

The staff proposal at the sales session was to increase the hours by nine (I had proposed 16) at a cost of $92,421 (I had proposed $24,960, which was actually twice what was really necessary).

The $92,421 would fund some other positions that should have been brought up by staff at the budget hearings in November, but weren’t.

I see this proposal as staff playing games and find it difficult to approve nearly four times the cost for about half the hours previously proposed.

However, it will likely pass as sold to the council, so I’m willing to be on the winning side of the vote, if you think I should be.

Please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FMT2PBM and tell me how I should vote. You can also reach me at kstoltz@ci.mukilteo.wa.us or the entire council and mayor at elected@ci.mukilteo.wa.us.

Please join Councilmember Steve Schmalz and myself for our monthly Council Chat from 7-8:30 p.m. next Wednesday, March 20, in the Rosehill Room at the Rosehill Community Center. Bring your questions, comments, compliments and criticisms.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.

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