Over the last few months, we at The World have received a lot of feedback regarding the North Bend City Pool. Personally, I received half a dozen emails after I wrote a column about the pool.
Based on what we hear, the view is most don’t want to pay a tax for the pool, but they do want to keep it open. I can fully understand that. Individually, I don’t want to pay any taxes. I don’t want the federal government, state government or local governments to take my money. If I could choose, I would simply keep all the money I earn.
But that simply isn’t possible. We live in a society where government must have funding to pay for certain things. How much the government should take and what services they should pay for is certainly debatable, but the fact remains we must all pay something for basic services.
I think the vast majority would agree paying taxes is necessary for things such as good roads, decent schools, clean water, a working wastewater system, police and fire protection and a strong military.
It may not be as strongly supported, but I think the majority would support taxes to help the least fortunate in the community with basic items such as housing, clothing and food.
Those are the basic services, and there are many more, that we need to live in a decent society.
Nowhere in that list is a pool, nowhere in that list are parks, nowhere in that list are things like libraries, community centers and senior centers. Those are not basic services, but they do have a value.
On top of basic services, most Americans expect their government to add to their quality of life. Parks, public spaces, libraries and even pools make our lives better. And they do have a cost. The question for the residents of North Bend is whether having a community pool is worth about $100 a year. Personally, I say yes. But I acknowledge I may not be in the majority. I have four children living at home and a day or two at the pool is good, inexpensive fun for my family. And I understand operating a pool is fairly expensive.
North Bend Councilor Susanna Noordhoff is right, though, when she says asking the voters to approve a tax levy just a year after they rejected public safety funding is bad optics. It doesn’t look good. It gives the appearance that North Bend simply ignored voters and shifted money around, putting the pool at risk.
I could probably argue either side of this issue, and both would be correct. North Bend did move some money from the pool to public safety to keep police available 24 hours a day. That is true. But I don’t think it was malicious. The reality is the pool was closed due to a global pandemic, and the money was not going to be spent. And, in my opinion, providing police service, one of our basic services, is what government exists for. I support that decision. I understand others don’t, and their view have as much validity as mine.
But my view is a strong police force has more value than a community pool. In an emergency, I want police to arrive quickly. When they do, I want them well-trained and prepared to help. In my life, I have called police two times. I have visited city pools hundreds. So, I have probably received more value from pools, but if I had to choose, I would choose police over a pool.
I am probably lucky because I have never had to call police in a life-threatening moment. My life and the lives of my loved ones have never been on the line when I made the call. In a perfect world, I will never have to make that call.
But if I do, I want someone to answer, and I want officers to arrive quickly, and I want them to know exactly what they’re doing when they get there. Therefore, I will never complain about paying taxes for police, for fire, for our court systems.
While I like having pools available, and I am willing to pay for them, the issue is not the same. And now in a few months, voters in North Bend will get to weigh in on how much value the pool has. I hope the measure will pass, but ultimately that is out of my hands.