Our View: Recreation board needs to boost unity and professionalism

Our View
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The Auburn Recreation District board and its supporters lost out on their attempt Tuesday to persuade Placer County supervisors to more fairly fund Hidden Falls Park expansion. Placer County supervisors, amid growing taxpayer frustration, rubber-stamped a parks division money grab, despite what a majority of Auburn and Meadow Vista-area residents want. Supervisors voted 4-1 to take $150,000 in developer fees from Auburn-Meadow Vista, $109,000 from the Lincoln area and $46,000 from Ophir-Newcastle to pay for the final piece in a complex funding scheme for Hidden Falls Park expansion. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery cast the only “no” vote. She rightly suggested that the financial burden should be shared among all five supervisorial districts. The current Placer County gang of four, supervisors Jim Holmes, Rocky Rockholm, Kirk Uhler and Robert Weygandt, overruled Montgomery. The big take from the small. It’s not fair, but it is business as usual around here. Given the reality of Placer County’s political climate, Auburn Recreation District needs to look within for other funding sources. The recent squabble over the Bad Boys calendar, a fundraiser in which Jim Ferris, an ARD director, proposed that well-known Auburn men pose semi-nude, showed for every two steps forward ARD takes there is another step backward. City of Auburn officials, including City Manager Bob Richardson and former Mayor Bob Snyder, said they felt duped by Ferris and the ARD calendar effort. Instead of a united, well-thought-out fundraising campaign led by capable ARD administrator Kahl Muscott, Ferris went out on his own soliciting “models,” and apparently not effectively communicating his “vision.” ARD needs the city, and public, on its side, like it was in the Hidden Falls money grab incident. The Bad Boys semi-nude calendar effort reminds us of the cat-chow fiasco, when ARD director Gordon Ainsleigh munched on pet food during a meeting to accentuate a point that healthier food should be served at district events. The intention then and now might have been positive, but the method by which the statements were made just brings more embarrassment to the district at a time when it needs public support. Now the Bad Boys calendar is being developed without semi-nudity. That’s not the point. The issue isn’t whether the models are semi-nude or fully clothed, it’s how the ideas were presented. Clearly, if it were even semi-professionally presented, the miscommunication with city officials could have been avoided. Still, the big picture – ARD needs an adequate funding source – needs to remain in focus. The board needs to think bigger and act with more unity and professionalism. Placer County board chairman Kirk Uhler said he sympathized with recreation district directors regarding their lack of a reliable funding mechanism for park maintenance and other needs. He didn’t feel bad enough to vote for them, however. With Jack Duran coming on the county board in January, and Jim Holmes as a swing vote, things might change next year. Meanwhile, the ARD board needs to consider other fund-raising ideas like selling the naming rights to Recreation or Regional Park, selling more signage on recreation fields, hosting major sports tournaments or creating a huge event — maybe a large fund-raising party like the Black & White Ball. Even passing the hat at Party in the Park should be considered. Or, go the other way and cut paid services by creating a volunteer coordinator to enlist residents in doing maintenance or other work. Or better yet, ask the staff and public to come up with fundraising ideas and truly consider them before developing a well-thought-out and united plan that can be professionally executed. What are other cash-strapped park districts around the state doing? Maybe there are some good ideas out there. It seems clear that unless a fairy godmother shows up soon, ARD needs some help. The Placer County Board of Supervisors made it clear Tuesday they are not going to help Auburn Recreation District out of its financial straits. It’s now up to ARD directors to turn this negative action by supervisors into a positive for residents. That will take unity, creativity and some work.