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‘No’ to using hospitality taxes for ‘Y’

Posted: September 25, 2012 12:13 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Like Mr. James, I have been reading about and discussing the issue of the “Y” over the last year. I have come to the conclusion that this is not about the “Y” as much as it is about how that building will be funded. Sadly, the way the city proposes to fund this, using “H taxes,” forces me to come down on the side of “No to the Y.”

I doubt there are many folks who are against good health, community spirit, family or better facilities. And this is exactly why funding a building that will produce no revenue and will strap taxpayers and the city be pledging as much as three-fourths of our hospitality taxes every year for the next 20 years makes poor financial sense, even if it turns out to be a legitimate use. Why don’t we build something we can not only afford to build and run, but that will produce revenue? There are other options that I believe we must consider.

There is no question that Rhame Arena should either be upgraded or replaced. That building is a multi-purpose facility that hosts everything from antique shows, fire fests, animal shows to boxing matches, all the while serving as a sports venue for our youth and adult leagues. The proposed Y will not serve that purpose. The Y will not close to its members as needed to provide space for uses such as large shows, exhibits or conferences even if it could accommodate them. So why not consider a replacement for Rhame, bigger and better, built in partnership with the county, which will not only attract out-of-towners, but produce revenue as well? Why couldn’t it be built on the proposed Y property and include a permanent memorial to the beautiful and historic Mather Academy that was destroyed? Why commit the majority of our H taxes to build a facility we cannot afford to run? Why buy a Ferrari when you can’t afford to run it? At least Councilman (Pat) Partin was honest when he admitted the city could afford to build the building but could not afford to run it.

I hear loving, well-intended parents say: it’s for our children, they want/need it. Come on! It’s not as though there aren’t physical activity options available, just as there have been for years. The county recreation department has done a brilliant job with not only their physical resources, but with the quality of the coaching staff who have dedicated their lives to teaching the games as well as the values that are vital in our children’s lives. It is a system that we as county residents own and are responsible for … not leaving it to a third party over whom we have no control. How about partnering with the county to expand and improve what already exists? How about plowing the H tax back into revitalizing downtown? Grow businesses there and the children will have job opportunities from high school on that will teach them far more than working out at a Y. How about advertise and market Camden to attract visitors to enjoy what we have and spend their money here? The more we grow what we already have, the more we can expand our options and the more we will be able to afford.

In reality, Mr. James is not wrong about all the things that are important in a community. I do find fault with how he thinks we can continue to teach those values. I believe personal responsibility, saying “no” if you can’t afford something, even it breaks your heart, and partnering with others, like the citizens of Camden and county government, to afford what we need is a much more prudent way to proceed and to teach our children that you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you’ll get what you need.

I say “No to the Y” as funded the way the city intends to fund it, and No! to every elected official who insists on such poor stewardship of the public trust.

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