If city leaders are being honest about their problems with the O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex’s operating contract, then its passage hinges on the discounts to be provided to the neediest city residents.
Alderman Antonio French released a statement this weekend saying that the board’s African American members will not, without more information, pass the agreement required to open the brand-new rec-plex in north city.
The aldermen want three things in order to open the stalled center, according to the statement:
For Mayor Francis Slay to identify the source of the extra $500,000 annual city subsidy.
For someone to provide them a “workable and mutually beneficial” written and signed agreement between the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs, which will, respectively, run and provide services in the center.
And for the Y to give the aldermen its discount formulas, so the aldermen can be certain poor families can still use the $20 million taxpayer-funded facility.
The first request is possible, though city parks director Gary Bess said he’d basically just be guessing – the city is constantly moving money around to stretch dollars, he said.
The second request could happen Tuesday. Flint Fowler, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs, said late last week he is taking a draft agreement to his board then.
But the third is going to take some negotiations.
The Y has said that the income-based formula, which centers use to decide who should get a discounted membership, is proprietary, according to French.
French, on the other hand, insists those discounts must be made public, and become a part of the board bill – hence, a part of city ordinance – so as to ensure that the $1.2 million in total that the city will be paying the Y annually will indeed go toward letting residents use the center.
It’s unclear if the Y will ever release that matrix. The YMCA’s president, Gary Schlansker, and the O’Fallon center’s anticipated executive director, Rob West, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The Y will never release this formula not because it’s “proprietary” (WTF?), but because it’s arbitrary. In the case of this new rec-plex, considering the area it’s in, Shitavious with dreadlocks and a chest full of prison tats will be charged a high fee, while the relatively penniless but well-behaved child of a black NAACP lawyer and his white wife will be charged very little.
On the one hand, the cheaper you make membership for “poor families” in that part of town (guess who), the more likely it is that this new rec-plex will become third world overnight. On the other hand, if you keep membership costs high enough to keep the ghetto out, then that puts a fly in the ointment of the raison d’etre of this rec-plex. Remember, one day after we won the World Series in 2006 over Detroit, Morgan Quitno (as it was known at the time) came out with its most dangerous city survey, again showing St. Louis on top and Detroit in second place. Mayor Slay simultaneously denounced MQ’s methodology and endorsed it, and he endorsed it out of one side of his mouth because he wanted city voters to pass a sales tax to fund building new rec centers (which they did, and this one in O’Fallon Park is one of the two new ones) and renovate existing ones, because Slay said that if ghetto thugs had something better to do, they wouldn’t commit crime. (Turns out recreation centers breed crime, but that’s just a nagging detail of importance to nobody.) So if you keep the membership costs high enough to keep the ghetto thugs out, that means the ghetto thugs won’t be able to experience the supposed crime deterring benefits of being inside a rec center, and this rec center was built for the expressed purpose of giving ghetto thugs alternatives to crime.
I’m getting dizzy.
Agreement. Among the terms, the Y will have to sell $25 a year memberships to 1300 “youths” of the area, half of them directly by the Y, the other half indirectly through the BGCA, and give anywhere from 10 to 90 percent discounts to households making under $31,000 a year for whole household memberships, making the discount formula known to them and not just a YMCA state secret. IOW, this Y will also become a de facto BGCA club simultaneously. I think Alderman Antonio French was insistent on clear and detailed language here, and suspicious about vague rhetoric from the Y people about “proprietary,” because he knew just like anyone else could figure out that the Y wanted only Mr. and Mrs. NAACP lawyers and their kids to be members of this rec plex, no little ghetto Booshondias and Shitaviouses. I still get the feeling that even with the spelled out parameters, the Y and BGCA will still be picky on which 1300 “youths” will get the discounted memberships. There will be some kind of de facto barrier to preclude the worst of the worst from the ghetto from even applying, just as charter schools with “no admissions standards” or “open enrollment” in theory actually do construct virtual walls and barriers to make sure that real bad apples can’t get in.
Remember, the purpose of this rec center is to deter violent crime, to give “youths” something to do as an alternative to falling into a life of violent crime. If Slay and Co. truly believe that, then it should have been open to free membership to all people who live in a given area. This “in between” compromise will only serve to deter the supposed crime-deterring effects of this rec plex for some “youths” of the area.