“If you look at what we did, is we acquired an asset for, like, uh, fifty cents on the dollar, because we got the state to pay more than half.” Bill Ameling
Yes folks, it’s been more than four issues now since last we played in the murky outflow at the low end of the Vashon Park District. But after yet another session of chest pounding and finger pointing on the part of high commissioner Bill, I feel the need to ignore the imploring of the poet quoted in my latest horoscope to “make life beautiful”, and once again point at the turds floating in the gyre of the latest Park Commissioners’ meeting effluent.
To be clear, most of the dark, smelly matter in question is unquestionably Ameling in origin. To paraphrase Mr. Ameling, the proof of this postulate is in the brown pudding of his own quotations. As a follow up on the quote that opened this piece, and to the credit of Board Chair Lu-Ann Branch, her quick response to it was: “But we overpaid for that”- that being, of course, the VES fields project. Mr. Ameling responded with one of his favorite statements quoted often here in the past- “but we don’t know that.” As a qualifier, Mr. Ameling continued that “[VES] cost more than we thought, but it’s not an overpayment.” It is this type of logic and rock solid reasoning that all of you (and I do mean all, as attendance at last night’s meeting was meager on any scale) are missing out on by not being there to endure it.
What one should state here is that the use of the word acquire by Mr. Ameling is incorrect as I understand, as the fields where VES now resides were there in number if not in name prior to this project. While we did not acquire any new fields through all of this, we did acquire a significant amount of unnecessary debt, and what we got from the $2 million plus VES debacle was lipstick on a pig. While the previously existing fields may have been a little rough before, the pig designation still holds even with its new emerald carpet and three-holed, trailerable port-o-san. As has been pointed out here a number of times in the past, this new set of fields are and will be hog-ish in their consumption of water and fertilizer. That point is something that we do know, and this is a part of the never ending story that Mr. Ameling only partly acknowledged when an audience member asked how the commissioners would define “finished” regarding the VES project. To this he responded that “there is no finish”, and “this thing will never be done”, which is perhaps the most accurate thing he said all night.
Another thing that Mr. Ameling said in regards to finishing the VES project- actually the first thing he said in response to this line of questioning- was that he didn’t “understand the nature of the question.” A few other things Mr. Ameling doesn’t seem to understand are the meanings of the words “acquire” and “asset”. Given the ongoing debt incurred by the project and the amplified maintenance demands that the sand field will require, one could easily refer to VES as a created and enhanced liability, kind of like global climate change only smaller, and here. And with all its added environmental demands, the VES fields could and should be seen as a contributor to that greater problem with its needs for more mowing, more water and more petroleum based pesticides and fertilizers.
If one were to gaze about the VPD empire, two sites would immediately leap to mind as true, acquired assets. These of course would be the Pt. Robinson Lighthouse and its environs, and the Vashon Pool, both of which were far better deals than the fifty cents on the dollar days of VES, as both were basically given to the District at no cost. The lighthouse brings a fairly steady income to the Parks with its vacation rentals in the crew’s quarters, and the pool came in under budget this past year which is more than can be said for other parts of the VPD. In one of the rounds of meeting’s talks about the latest public opinion survey, Mr. Ameling let slip a while back that the two things people asked for in the past of the parks was to acquire more land, and to cover the pool. At no time did I hear any mention of public clamor for an increase in water usage and chemicals in a never ending experiment in growing turf grass on eighteen inches of sand. For one third of the dollar amount wasted on the VES project, the park district could have actually done what the public wanted- cover the pool. This would have not only increased the value of a free, acquired asset, it would have extended the possibility of using that asset for the entire year, allowing for an expansion of programs ranging from an array of swimming lessons and exercise offerings to possibly even a high school swimming team, not to mention year-round revenue.
With all of this in mind, I set about scouring the internet shopping sites looking for an object, which I found and purchased and modified to make a point. I brought it to the latest commissioners meeting, having first raised it on a spire at the back of the Ober performance room at the January meeting. It seemed to cause some confusion. Some called it a stuffed animal, others called it funny. While it is indeed a stuffed doll of a muppet holding a placard with the word RESIGN on it, I prefer to think of it as Bill Ameling’s conscience asking him to do something that is right. I understand that possibility is probably a stretch of all of our hopeful imaginations, but since I’m having to continue to show up and endure the general insults he casts amongst the crowd, it seemed only appropriate to let Mr. Ameling know symbolically what everyone else in the room is thinking, since he seems completely unaware that he has overstayed his welcome and it is past his time to go.