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Pool thoughts...

It's not so much that I have deep, passionate thoughts about whether to spend $37 million on a new high school pool. It's that, by default, if one doesn't join the debate about the issue then the voices of negativity and opposition limit any real discussion. My "I don't care, sounds good" eventually becomes silence in the face of the shouting against.

There's two pool backers in this house if it comes down to it. We'd vote yes. Neither of us necessarily plans to use a pool--though time available to the community would be a huge benefit. Maybe our kids will one day. We just think the idea of an indoor Olympic-sized pool is a good one. A good resource to have. The high school swim team and students deserve better than what's currently there. Is it the first thing I would have chosen to add to our village infrastructure? Maybe, maybe not. But that's beside the point. Our elected school board members think it's a good investment and I voted for several of them and trust their oversight. In short, I'm fine with it. Fine with the location. Fine with the garage coming down. Fine with cars parking in the neighborhood surrounding the school. Not a full-throated fanatic about OPRFHS having a new pool. Just enough of a supporter to not understand where the ferocious hatred for the whole project is coming from. Actually, I'm much more skeptical about opponents than I am the pool itself.

I don't even know whether to classify the people who turned in over 4000 signatures to get the pool referendum on the ballot as "pool opponents" since not everyone who signed is against. Lots of issues going on there. Apparently, a few pool proponents just disliked the idea of the high school board not putting the money for the pool up to a community vote. There's debate about whether or not the building is "new" or can be attached via an elevated walkway to the existing school to be called part of that structure. It's all too much. Does this really, really need to be the raucous community debate we're having (that we always seem to have)?

There's always some form of NIMBY-ism going on with every issue in Oak Park. Just in the short time I've lived here (since 2006), there's been opposition to: the stadium lights, artificial turf athletic fields, a new school administration building, bike lanes on Jackson, affordable housing, bike lanes on Madison (full confession, I was originally part of that opposition and have changed my tune), countless new developments, speed bumps, closing school when it's too cold, putting air conditioning into schools, brick pavers, removing pigeons from underneath the L tracks, and keeping the Housing Center open.

This list is not exhaustive. We oppose everything! Air? We oppose it! The wheel? We oppose that, too! Seriously, all these issues came and went and we all lived. I was at a Friday night football game for the first time this past fall and half-expected a line of picketers I'd have to cross to enjoy the game. Those evil, villainous stadium lights!

The assumption for every issue seems to be that if enough people get together and complain then whatever the "we're opposing it" flavor of the day is can be stopped in its tracks. That's the American way! And it shouldn't be that way. Civic improvement and the political process shouldn't hinge on whether a vocal group of activists can derail the things that our (local) governments were designed to do. This is why we have elections, people! If you think you can make better decisions, run for office. Don't try to throw your personal pet peeve of a project onto the ballot or bring a lawsuit just because you find a decision that was made runs counter to your preferences. It's like an annoying form of backseat driving micromanagement. Which isn't to say citizens shouldn't keep an eye on what their government is doing. But there's a fine line between participating and honoring outcomes...and throwing "no" grenades from the sidelines.

Do I love the idea of a new pool? I'm lukewarm. But what I absolutely detest is the negativity coming out of the anti-pool camp. Ok, we get it. You don't like the idea of a pool. Now let's build this thing and move forward.


  1. Interesting. I found your blog on triathlete I'm always looking for new blogger friends. I'm in Miami and you'd think there would be lots of community pools. Nope not at all. The two Olympic size pools within 20 minutes of me are both at private high schools. The local public school kids allegedly swim at the community college pool (a 15 minute drive if you're lucky). Recently there was a push to build a public aquatic center. It lost hugely to a ... dog park. Sigh.


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