Funeral for Berkeley's Warm Pool
Funeral for Berkeley's Warm Pool
A mock coffin was carried into the pool, as participants in the water and on the decks held candles and mourned the loss of the Warm Pool. Wednesday, Dec. 14, was the pool's last day open to the general public; a regularly scheduled Berkeley City College class for the handicapped will be held the following day. Then the pool will be mothballed for several months, with demolition scheduled for June.
Rabbi Sara Shendelman played Tibetan bells and read an interfaith series of prayers, invoking the world's great spiritual traditions. To close the event, longtime Warm Pool swimmer Judi Berzon read a statement from the Berkeley Pools Campaign, of which she is a Steering Committee member:
Welcome to the Warm Pool funeral.
On the eve of the Warm Pool’s scheduled final closure, we are gathering together with great sadness to mourn many losses:
We mourn the Warm Pool, which has served the disabled, elderly, parents, infants and many others since the mid 1980s.
And we mourn for ourselves. The Warm Pool is the only available and affordable form of exercise and therapy for many of us who are disabled. For some, the pool’s loss may be the chronicle of a death foretold. Its disappearance will certainly lead to diminished health for many, and for some it will inevitably lead to premature death. To say this is not melodrama or exaggeration. It is reality.
NOTE: Voter turnout was the lowest in Berkeley's history - about 22% - at least since 1975.
Recently, Berkeley lost part of its heritage and its quality of life. Willard Pool, one of the city's four public pools, became the victim of years of deferred maintenance and a budget crisis that is threatening to gut municipal facilities and services all around the Bay Area.
While Measure C received overwhelming support throughout Berkeley's middle-income and lower-income flats, it was defeated by a heavy "no" vote in the wealthy hills neighborhoods, where residents complained that the pools were too expensive in hard economic times.
In Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, the trend is the same — public pools are being padlocked because of budget cuts, leaving children and teenagers out on the streets with fewer healthy alternatives. This summer, two of Oakland's seven pools are closed; two of nine in San Jose are shut; all of San Francisco's nine pools are closed one day per week.
The problem is likely to get markedly worse in the coming year unless voters are willing to support new taxes to offset the cascading domino effect of budget cuts in Washington, Sacramento and individual city governments. Congress has abandoned legislation that was to provide $24 billion in aid to the states, prompting Sacramento officials to warn that funding cuts to cities will be deeper than expected.
Many cities are readying parcel taxes for the November ballot to keep services alive. For example, Oakland will vote on a parcel tax for police, and Berkeley will have a schools bond and parcel tax. If these fail, catastrophic layoffs will result.
There are red flags galore. The defeat of Alameda's schools parcel tax by a razor-thin margin, with 65.6 percent of the vote, will force the closure of one-half of that city's schools. This should have every Bay Area community scared witless.
The two-thirds minimum is especially hard to achieve because municipal campaigns typically are run by average residents rather than political professionals.
Residents volunteering for these all-out, grass-roots efforts must steal time from their families and day jobs. In the case of Berkeley's Measure C, for which I was a co-chairman, our group of local swimmers, parents and other pools supporters was taxed to our individual maximums — and beyond — by the monumental task of trying to gain support from two-thirds of all voters throughout the city.
As we worked late into the night after our spouses and children had gone to sleep, many of us wondered not a few times whether there wasn't a better way for a city to make its decisions.
But this is the bleak future for all of us. Attempts in Sacramento to reform Prop. 13's two-thirds rule have gone nowhere and seem likely to continue to fail. As a result, if we want to save our pools, schools, police and other basic services, we must be ready to organize, vote, and invest in the future of our communities.
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