Voter surveys don't show need for pool

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2005

City officials pushing a second swimming pool say a recent survey shows Juneau voters want the pool more than any other capital project. But I read the 2004 survey by the League of Women Voters and drew a different conclusion.

First of all, the survey never explicitly asked the question: Do you support building a second swimming pool? Rather, it queried respondents about the importance of a "Valley Community Center (pool, library, gyms, meeting rooms)," lumping the pool in with a bunch of other things proposed for the facility. On this question, 38 percent of respondents ranked the center "very important." But another 61 percent ranked it "somewhat important" or "not important." Is that a clear mandate to spend $30 million on a second pool plus all the tax dollars it'll take to operate it?

The waters were muddied even more by another question in the survey worded this way: "How would you recommend changing level of service for swimming pool?" Across the board, people in the Mendenhall Valley, Lemon Creek, Downtown and Douglas preferred no change - and the percentages were high. In Lemon Creek and downtown, 68 percent of people wanted no change to pool services. Even in the Mendenhall Valley, the site of the proposed multi-million-dollar pool, nearly 52 percent of respondents preferred no change. Wouldn't a second pool be considered an increase in pool service?

Proponents for the pool also argue that in 2000 and 2002, voters ranked "youth activities" as one of the top city functions deserving increased services. But the 2004 survey found 58 percent of people wanted to decrease services for youth activities or keep the status quo.

Perhaps a second pool would pass muster at the ballot box. But I don't think the 2004 survey is a clear indicator of community support, and proponents shouldn't use it to make their case.

Kathy Dye


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