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In a financial squeeze everything seems broken, and there is a tendency to jettison not merely the squeaky wheel and not merely ones that could need a lot of grease but sometimes even those wheels that keep our City running smoothly.
This is what happened a few years ago when the City Council voted to shutter most of the City’s health services and last year when the City Council did not renew the lease on the South Branch Library.
The same danger is arising, whack-a-mole style, with several of the City’s assets, as City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has requested that the function of most City-owned buildings be examined. While he put the Chandler-Newberger Center on the chopping block separately, it is likely that City Council members will consider it at the same time they consider the other community centers; Robert Crown, Fleetwood-Jourdain and the Levy Center.
The City Manager questions whether the City should be in the business of recreation. We would answer in the affirmative and question whether essential City services are supposed to be revenue-generating.
Where the City Manager would search in bricks and mortar, dollars and statistics for an answer to his question, we would point to community and to contributions to the welfare, culture health and vitality of residents young and old.
We would also caution against selling a precious asset for what could at best be a short-term gain. An asset that has value in a recession will be even more valuable in better times. The fact that the City continues to face financial difficulty is no reason for a fire sale.
At the state level we have witnessed the folly of selling concrete assets. It is easy to measure a short-term gain, but very, very difficult to plumb the depth of a permanent loss.