Councilors form task force to discuss future of Olin Y. Bignall pool
Nearly two years after the Olin Y. Bignall Aquatic Center was closed because of cited needs for repairs and new funding sources, Sandy City Council has formed a task force to focus on how the future of the facility.
Despite the pleas of the public, Sandy City Council voted 6-1 on March 18, 2019, to close the center as of May 31, 2019, claiming that the closure would be temporary while the city finds a funding source to operate the pool without putting financial strain on the city budget.
Mayor Stan Pulliam and a few other councilors at the time worried that further operation of the pool without its needed renovations would be sinking tax dollars into parts of the facility only to have the whole system fail.
Flash forward: At the April 19 meeting of the council, Councilors Don Hokanson, Kathleen Walker and Carl Exner agreed to serve on the Pool Taskforce, which Hokanson said could also focus on the broader task of the community campus.
Hokanson also explained that the nearing departure of long-time Community Services Director Tanya Richardson and the "potential for stimulus money or infrastructure money that may come available" are driving him and his colleagues to establish this task force now.
Councilors hope the task force will answer questions, such as:
As presented by City Recorder Jeff Aprati in a written staff report, the proposed purpose of the task force is to "produce a recommendation to the Mayor on how to reopen the Olin Bignall Aquatic Center."
"Specifically, (the task force aims to) identify upgrades, repairs, and other modifications necessary for reopening the pool," Aprati said. "(A task force would also) determine a preferred operating model for the pool to include programs, hours, staffing that maximizes the utilization of the pool, revenue, and minimizes expenses; identify the cost models including upfront costs, budgets, and revenue streams; propose a feasible timeline for reopening the pool (and) explore the availability of grants or other non-city sources of funding."
The bylaws for the new task force are available online.
In other news:
• Have A Gay Day event co-organizer spoke during public comment, calling on the councilors to support First Amendment rights in Sandy, but still demonstrate where Sandy as a city stands on moral issues.
"While it is certainly true that our government can't and shouldn't abridge freedom of speech, our local officials are not obliged to validate all stances or speakers either," Cloo said. "You have a choice as individuals and a body of elected officials to steer the conversation and show our community values, and lately that's looked like some lukewarm statements in favor of neutrality and condemning extremists on both sides. I just want to say that neutrality in the face of a culture war narrative misses the fact that certain stances can cultivate a community that is not only unwelcoming it can be dangerous for some people. No one is born belonging to a political party, but there are gay and trans people born in rural areas and people of color born in small towns who live here until they make a decision of, 'Is it safe enough? and 'Can I be my open self and not face threats.'"
Cloo went on to give an account of the March 20 Have a Gay Day event, claiming that events like this "are good for Sandy and not just an abstract side in a debate," and this event, in particular, has garnered positive feedback from out-of-town guests, "who said that they felt more welcome than they had at pride events and larger cities."
"Sandy has the incredible potential to be a leader, to stand up for its people and its legacy as a great small town where everyone is welcome in action and not just words," she added. "I really hope to see more of you at future events."
Councilor Walker gave her own comment in her council report, echoing Cloo, saying, "When we have these public uses of our public plazas, I think that we all are understanding of the First Amendment rights and things like; people have a right to gather, speak, protest, march, all those things, but, in my opinion, I think (we) really, to some extent, have to have some permits associated with those (events).
Walker noted that these permits shouldn't be "content-oriented" but perhaps keep groups from using amplified speakers that can be heard for blocks outside of the plaza.
"I think that's something we can control," she said. "There is no legal definition of hate speech. Hate speech is any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate (or) incite hatred against a group or class of persons on the basis of race, religion, skin color, sexual identity, gender identity, and ethnicity, disability or natural origin. Hate speech is protected by our First Amendment. The courts have said that on the grounds that the First Amendment requires that government to strictly protect that robust debate on matters of public concern even when such debate devolves into distasteful, offensive or hateful speech that causes others to feel grief anger or fear. Under current First Amendment jurisprudence, hate speech can only be criminalized when it directly insights imminent criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group. The courts have held that cities may set rules on where, when and how public protests and other gatherings can take place, as long as the rules are reasonable, content-neutral and design to serve legitimate concerns. That's where we legally stand."
Regardless of legality, Walker added that "morally, I hope we as a council and a town stand up to the individuals and groups, especially the ones that live in our community that invite these groups to come to Sandy to kind of stir things up."
"I've lived in Sandy for 35 years, and we're a town where you roll up your sleeves and help each other," Walker said. "I know that we have and have had prejudiced people living among in our town; I've known some of them. But Sandy's a town with very diverse political leanings and opinions, and we generally respect those opinions of each other. We may disagree, but we should not seek to publicly vilify those who thought or voted differently. … I think that we as a city council need to speak up to the folks bringing these folks (spewing hate speech) to town and let them know our thoughts. We can legally allow these gatherings in our town, but we can and should speak up morally with our voices, our wallets, and our backbone and stand against hate speech in Sandy."
• Council discussed changes to development code to comply with House Bill 2001 requirements regarding housing. Council gave staff their thoughts on proposed changes that would affect how accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and duplexes, and attached parking could be developed in Sandy to allow for more middle housing. The council did not make any set-in-stone vote, but staff will bring new code to the council again for review at a future meeting.
• Council voted to change the nature of the Sandy Arts Commission from a commission to an advisory board. This change is mostly to keep things consistent. "This doesn't really change the intent," said Deputy City Manager Tyler Deems. "Ultimately, making it an advisory board has it fall in line with all the other advisory boards."
The city plans to open up the application process to reconstitute the board in May. All seven positions on the board will be open for applicants. With new bylaws, only two members will be allowed to be from outside of Sandy city limits, and all members must live within the boundaries of the Oregon Trail School District.
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