This may sound counterintuitive, but even if you are (at least initially) opposed to the idea of a Methow Aquatics District, if given the opportunity you should sign a petition calling for a public vote on the question.
Yes, the passive response would be to simply decline to sign. That’s a quick and easy “no” for most people. But this is too big an issue to die for lack of a ballot presence, and it’s not ideologically divisive. The aquatics district deserves an up-or-down vote, not to languish for lack of a few signatures. It’s vital for the community to be fully heard on whether a new special taxing district should be formed. Voting is an opportunity for expression — either in support of or opposition to a project that will have long-term implications for the valley’s resident and visitors.
The current petition drive needs some 800 valid signatures by registered voters of the proposed aquatics district (the same boundaries as the Methow Valley School District). Supporters of the effort hope to collect at least twice that many to assure that a proposal will be placed on the November general election ballot.
It’s true, we’ve been here before, sort of. In 2014 there was an enthusiastic effort to win support for formation of a metropolitan park district — familiarly referred to as a recreation district — to serve the general needs of the same service area as now proposed. For various reasons, the well-intentioned effort was thrashed at the polls. Friends of the Pool, the nonprofit that has for years been aiming toward replacement of the worn-out Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp, is well aware of the previous pitfalls and adjusted accordingly.
For more details about the ballot effort and its intent, as well as information about what the district’s new facility might look like, see reporter Ann McCreary’s story on page A1. In summary, here a few important distinctions between the park district effort and the aquatics district proposal:
• It’s just about the pool — a year-round, indoor facility that would greatly expand the current offerings to everyone in the valley — as opposed to a more broadly defined mission.
• There is no provision to accord eminent domain powers to the new district, as there would have been in the 2014 proposal. Supporters of the park district said it was unlikely that eminent domain would ever be invoked, but their assurances could not overcome the suspicions and paranoia of some opponents (there was a fair amount of dis- and mis-information promoted at the time).
• The aquatics district’s governing board would be appointed, not elected, as would have been the case in 2014 when some opponents of the plan ran for the park district’s board of directors with the implied intent of reining it in from being very effective.
• The aquatics district’s tax revenues won’t be expected to do it all, but would be a necessary part of the package that could include grants, private fundraising and allocations from state and federal sources.
As one Friends of the Pool board member noted, without formation of the district it’s virtually certain there will be no new aquatics center, absent a massive contribution by a private donor. And it’s clear that the Wagner Pool’s waning days are numbered — it is again leaking badly, and is beyond repair or quick replacement.
Petition circulators have until Aug. 1 to collect the valid signatures they need to move the aquatics district to the November ballot. There is plenty of time to learn more about the proposed aquatics center or the aquatics district — find information at the Friends of the Pool website, foptwisp.com. Don’t dismiss the proposal just because you don’t like new taxes or think an aquatics district won’t benefit you. Consider the real value that those taxes and facilities will add to the valley’s quality of life. We all share in those benefits.