Teen center and procrastination

Jake Lynch of the Sammamish Reporter has this lengthy commentary about the Sammamish Recreation Center in the April 23 issue. For being relatively new to the community, Lynch was pretty good on nailing some of the issues. But being new, he doesn’t know the broader history.

This is one of those topics for which a successive series of City Councils should be embarrassed by its procrastination and disservice to our City’s teens and the Sammamish Youth Board.

The Sammamish Review calls for a new advisory committee on the Rec Center. This is the last thing the City needs.

The successive series of Councils has had plenty of input from our teens and the Sammamish Youth Board is certainty capable of providing its recommendations. One of the frustrations of Council-appointed Commissions is that the Councils don’t listen to them. Former Planning Commission Scot Jarvis, the Commission’s first chairman, said it best at one Commission meeting: When the Council gets a recommendation it doesn’t like, it appoints another committee. And this has been done over and over and over again, delaying decisions interminably.

The very first City Council, the 1999-2001 one, began talking about a skate park and teen center. The City’s first mayor, Phil Dyer, correctly hit the nail on the head that these were two things needed for our teen population.

A teen advisory committee was established to make recommendations to the City Council about the skate park and recreational needs for the City’s teens.

The recommendations went into the black hole of Council inaction.

It took years for the skate park to be established. It has proved to be extraordinarily popular.

The Boys and Girls Club and the City agreed to create a teen center on 244th Ave. just north of NE 8th St., but nothing happened for years and now a new elementary school is on the property.

The Parks Bond Advisory Committee in 2008 supported a teen center and recommended it be located in the Sammamish Commons. Current council member John James was co-chair of that committee. The center was part of a $30+ million bond issue that won 57% of the vote in the fall of 2008, just as the financial crisis got underway, but 60% was needed and the bond failed.

Finally, 10 years after the City was formed, the Council purchased the old library for a “recreation” center (as opposed to a “teen” center).

This is one of those projects that each City Council said was a priority for our youth but did nothing substantive about it. This is an embarrassment to every City Council since inception.

All it took was political will to get the job done. All it took was political courage to finance it. Each of the Councils was reluctant to adopt a tax to finance this multi-million dollar project without the vote of the citizens. This, frankly, lacks political courage. Even in the face of the fact that 57% of the citizens voting supported a parks bond issue, the Council still won’t issue what are called councilmanic bonds (which do not require a public vote) because they don’t have the political courage to do so.

As for the Youth Board’s objection to “their” “teen” center now becoming a “recreational” center that would also serve senior citizens (another need in our city), their frustration is understandable. But since the series of Councils has already screwed this issue up for a decade, it is left to this Council to fix the need.

I see nothing wrong with this facility being multi-use. During the school year, the facility will largely be empty during the day and this is a great time for the seniors. During the summer, some creative thinking will be necessary to accommodate both crowds.

As for the Sammamish Review’s suggestion of yet another committee (an unintended slap in the face to the Youth Board), forget about it. Have a couple of public hearings for the Council at which youth and seniors can weigh in and move on.

Some day, and hopefully it’s not yet another decade, a rec center should be built in the Commons. At that time, maybe the old Library could become the designated teen center. But a solution for teens and seniors is needed now.

The rec center could be built on the Kellman property in the Commons,  which is why it should not be designated for 240 residential units and which is why the Planning Commission unanimously recommended this allocation be removed (and which the City Council has already indicated it will overrule).

As for the Boys and Girls Club running the rec center at the Library, the City and the Club have been tap-dancing on the teen/rec center for most of the decade in question. The Club failed to raise the money it pledged for the facility on 244th and now it’s failed to raise the money for a gym at the old Library.

This City Council needs to rethink its entire relationship with the Club and its persistent failure to perform. The Council should also wind up its political will and political courage and solve this problem now. Our citizens have waited long enough.

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