"So, when you ask people ‘what do you want?’, you raise an expectation on their part that we’re going to put a roller coaster in at Agren Park." - Bill Ameling- at the recent VPD Commissioners meeting.
Up until yesterday I was going to write about not going to Burning Man this year, but since we didn’t go to Burning Man, I was here to go to last night’s Park Commissioners meeting, which as some have noted from my writings of late, is always an experience designed to astound and confound. There is also the question to consider arising from the title to this particular columnar go ‘round, which sprang up recently during a conversation with a friend who is also not going to Burning Man this year. Funny how that works. Although I answered this question with the triad: Vashon Elementary School, a bit of confusion at last night’s meeting over the true name behind the BARC acronym (Burton Adventure Recreation Center) got me to thinking that perhaps the VES in VES fields project might have another meaning. It turns out that in going to the original 2007 VES Master plan on the VPD (Vashon Park District) website, it appears that Vashon Elementary Site might be the correct term, but who knows?
While the stated agenda for this particular meeting seemed tame in comparison to many in recent history, there was, nonetheless, plenty to keep one scratching one’s head as to why we were there and why at least three of the five people at the commissioners table up front were supposedly in control. At first, as the clock ticked ever closer to the 7pm start time, it seemed that myself and my video camera would be the only ones in attendance, which felt a bit daunting. As a few more regulars trickled in, it was decided to move the meeting to the small room in the back instead of having it in the great hall as usual, at which point some 15 or more people arrived to fill almost all available seats, making the close air of the evening even closer.
As we were walked through the banal basics of budgetary concerns for a meeting opener, the topic soon turned to a proposal for a commissioners’ outreach to the community through a special meeting. This was mostly being driven by Lu-ann Branch and John Hopkins, who again distinguished himself as a voice of reason in a land of arrogance and condescension. As if the opening quote above wasn’t enough, Mr. Ameling continued to distance himself from accountability as a public official who might answer to the wishes of the people of Vashon by saying this in regard to letting the public have a say in what they want at VPD:
"….it’s like asking your child what do you want for Christmas? And he says he wants a Lamborghini….there ain’t no way….okay, that’s what he wants…"
Perhaps more interestingly, in a statement about past surveys about what the children (young and old) of Vashon might desire in a park system, Mr. Ameling was quite quick and certain about those polling results:
"…the one thing that people wanted was , cover the pool, buy more land- those were always the top two…."
What has remained unclear throughout the past year of listening to and watching this VES saga unfold is where the demand for this Lamborghini field first came from, and what particular survey or tea leaf reading suggested that Commissioner Hackett bring it to the table at his first meeting as a VPD public servant. I have yet to see anything that supports a claim that there was a demand for this field, especially since there has been zero gain in the actual number of fields available for play. There is also the question of how VES went from a Lamborghini Gallardo in cost to the price tag of an Aventador, while what we now seem to have instead is an Acura RSX in the driveway with a homemade spoiler, tarnished chrome wheels and some low profile sport tires that may or may not be flat.
What also seems odd in all of the things being considered at VPD, is that the efforts of Scott Bonney as the pool director are continually questioned by the board regarding his attempts to make the pool profitable, as difficult as that may be, and as seemingly successful as he has been. It was suggested at last night’s meeting that it might even be just plain luck that this year seems to be a good one financially at the pool. At the same time, there is no such questioning as to why installed sprinklers up at VES had to be dug up and moved so that the grass around the perimeter of the field planted in sand will not dry up and blow away along with our tax dollars and state RCO grant monies. There also appeared to be little or no concern as to whose responsibility it had been to get the sprinklers right to begin with, what extra costs were involved in moving them and why the person(s) responsible there are not held in similar disregard and public scrutiny in the same way that Mr. Bonney continues to be for actually doing a commendable job? One could also ask why, if covering the pool has repeatedly come up as something the people of Vashon would like to see happen, we have instead been saddled with Lamborghini Field (or is it an Acura?) and its attending high water usage, elevated fertilizer demands and future maintenance costs. It seems that as a year round facility, the pool could generate way more revenue than Lamborghini Field ever will, and at a third or a quarter of the initial cost. Of course, with all the money and more now blown on this Lamborghini, with what some have said are many more thousands to be spent before this is all done, providing a venue for asking the commissioners for anything seems to be a bit of a cruel joke at best at this point in the debacle. All of these thoughts and more from just one VPD commissioners meeting? Wow, just think of all the fun I would have missed here if I’d gone to Burning Man.