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I haven’t had the chance to play pickleball yet, but I hear from friends that it’s fun! So I’m glad that a few town committees have been looking into where we can add pickleball courts to address both the increased demand and the noise concern. However, I was troubled by a recent LTE by a Finance Committee member who advocated an alternate path to secure funding for a special interest group instead of the established process for how recreational facilities are funded for our community.
In the LTE Snow Shoveling and Town Meeting; Citizens Petition on Pickleball, this Finance Committee member argues that the Select Board discouraged residents from engaging in rights granted to them by the Town Charter. She then compares other times when residents petitioned to put an article in front of Town Meeting.
The key difference is that if this article is put forward and is passed by Town Meeting, it’ll turn every financial decision into a special interest lobby and severely impact how elected and appointed officials and town staff plan and implement maintenance projects for large town facilities and recreational spaces.
It would eliminate the thoughtful approach that now exists that involves town staff, the Select Board, Finance Committee, Recreation Committee and other boards in determining which field, structure or court needs repairs first. The loudest voice would get shiny new space, while other facilities would fall into disrepair because they didn’t have an advocate on an important board. It would turn sports teams and organizations against each other in a race to demand funds from Town Meeting.
As it is, this proposal would be taking money that could be spent on broad recreational needs and allocating it to a single interest group based on a Town Meeting vote with no engagement with the capital planning process nor the volunteer committee that is already studying how to best use the Symonds Way property. A process that includes consideration for pickleball courts. The LTE misleadingly states that pickleball courts were removed from a plan, implying they were cut or lost. In reality, their proposed location was simply moved. It would be premature to make a decision of this magnitude without considering how this entire project will unfold.
This is an irresponsible way to budget. I’m disappointed that a member of the Finance Committee would support and encourage a process that undermines town staff, the Select Board, and other volunteer committees that make our town work for all residents.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll grab a pickleball racket and try the game for myself. If so many of my neighbors like it, maybe I will, too.
Mt Vernon St