Bare: Representative Democracy and the YMCA

March 24, 2013

I have taken a break from posting about the YMCA issue. Since March 20th, I have watched the process evolve and seen the ugly side of big money politics first hand. On the 20th, I watched the Community Maritime Park Associates (the people who actually hold the master lease for the maritime park) debate the future of the ymca on the maritime park property. The CMPA was operating under a vague motion made and approved by 6 of the 9 city council members the week before. This motion approved a concept of a ymca on parcel 8 of the park property, but the discussions that followed the proposal of the motion provided unclear directions for the Community Maritime Park Associates board. In fact, the maker of the motion went so far as to say that the board could redline the entire document and start over.

Acting as our agents, in accordance with their master lease and subsequent amendments, the CMPA board made a motion to encourage the YMCA board to look at parcels 5 and 6. While the motion did not specifically exclude parcel 8, it was interpreted that way. Due to their actions, the CMPA board was vilified by our mayor who stated that their action was a direct slap in the face to the City Council. I couldn’t disagree more. It was the mayor and CMPA chairman Collier Merrill who negotiated multiple versions of a lease without the CMPA board’s or the city council’s knowledge. In the words of our city attorney, the CMPA members never showed an interest in participating in the process. However, they were never asked.

I received an email from former city councilwoman Diane Mack on March 22nd. In this email, Mrs. Mack stated that it “became very clear that the present membership of that board [CMPA] contains a majority who lack the deep understanding and institutional knowledge that service on that board requires. I hope that situation is formally remedied without delay.”

Apparently, she would like for us to remove those members of the board who don’t agree with her position in favor of the ymca on parcel 8. Again, I couldn’t disagree more. I have great respect for the members of the CMPA. They have been put into an unfortunate position of holding a lease over which they have little say. Can you imagine holding a lease and having someone else dictate to you that you had to have a certain party sublease a parcel. I can’t. It simply doesn’t make sense.

As a city councilman, it is my job to uphold my oath of office. In addition, I must be accountable to the citizens of this city (all of them). I have reached out to many in this situation, and they have reached out to me. Whether I am on the baseball field, in Sam’s Club, in the park with my children or carrying yard debris to my curb, people have stopped me to tell me they appreciate my stand and support my efforts to keep the YMCA from building on parcel 8. There are many long time members of the YMCA who are looking beyond their own self-interest and who do not support this move because they realize that the YMCA can provide their services in just about any location. It does not have to be on the most valuable piece of waterfront property at the maritime park.

Representative democracy is based on the principle of elected people representing a group of people. I believe this election empowers us with certain rights and abilities, but it does not substitute for the will of the people. As a representative, I don’t know better than my fellow citizens. In fact, I rely on citizens to provide me information so that I can make the best decision possible. Representative democracy can lead to corruption when people disregard the value of citizen input. I ran to give citizens a voice, not to have the citizens give me a voice. This is an important distinction that I hope my colleagues understand. I attend neighborhood associations to hear from citizens not to be heard.

In the case of the YMCA, I believe an expensive marketing campaign has forced many to believe this effort is widely supported. But my conversations with citizens tell me differently. I applaud the efforts of the CMPA and thank them for standing up in a difficult political climate. I encourage my fellow citizens to let their voices be heard on this matter. The city council will meet tomorrow at 3:15 pm at City Hall for the committee of the whole meeting. There is nothing on our agenda about the YMCA, but there may be an effort to bring the item back up for discussion. I hope you will be part of that discussion.

Charles Bare

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  • L.Laird March 27, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Nothing in life is FREE Epenn…Y is not free. A new Y with modern facilities will bring more members. Currently, people with handicaps cannot even get into the old Y. Therefore this group of individuals would become members. The Y does provide free membership to poor families. Senior citizens thru Silver Slipper Medicare gets almost free membership, which is a loser financially for the Y…The Y can only charge Medicare $3 per visit, and only pay for 3 visits per month…With a new Y, including hot tube, pool, after school and summer camp programs for school age children, and many other amenities, I personally will be willing to pay more. Y is not setting on a pot of Gold; the 5 million is a gift, if built on the CMPark. The Y will pay a lease fee in excess of $130,000.00 per yr., which is more than the ball park is paying to the citizens of Pensacola. A new Y will bring people every day, year round. After the old Y is sold, it will be placed on Tax rolls. Parking needs to be solved not only for the Y, but all future tenants. Nothing in life is perfect, so deal with what we have and enjoy.

  • Dale Parker March 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    L.Laird unfortunately no one will ever know about memberships, number of memberships, credit ratings, financial status, etc for the YMCA because they refused to answer those questions. If YOU were to lease equivalently I can assure you there would be a certain amount of due diligence which is common in these types of long term commercial leases. Well, with exception of with the City I suppose.

    SO, you or no one knows their ability to pay but the execs at the YMCA.

    Also, you are very vocal for the YMCA going on Parcel 8, yet again NO ONE will answer WHY parcel 8 is so strategically important to the YMCA which admittedly can carry out its mission from anywhere.

    But what REALLY peeked my interest was your suggestion that there was some backlash from members that want to revoke Mr Bare’s membership when I have recently had the pleasure to talk to some friends whom ARE members and ALL of them think it is a bad idea and are considering cancelling their memberships if the YMCA moves and becomes inconvenient to them. Now I cannot help but think that feeling is rare!

    Face it, the YMCA is really just a membership only gym. People go there to work out, play racquetball, basketball, swim, soak in the hot tub or sweat in the saunas. They do Yoga, Spinning, etc…. JUST like other gyms. Now, promising the moon if they get their way … well we bought into that once and you would be hard pressed to find a 1910 fishing village at the park. SO, lets just talk about what they do NOW!

    With that being said, do you think that individuals whom took risks, borrowed, invested and built their gyms around town find it fair that the City is subsidizing a gym to compete against them? IF the YMCA happens to get a few new memberships as they claim, where do you think they will come from? Possibly the other for profit, taxable gyms which hire employees? So aren’t we just subsidizing one business to compete against hard working families running their businesses?

    You are un-apologetically liberal and you believe that government should spend spend spend to provide everyone a playground I get it. However, shouldn’t your liberal heart also extend to the businesses that could possibly be harmed? I am appealing to your softer side here Ms. Laird.

    I also get it that you have no interest what so ever in the poor finances of the park. Nor do you have an interest in the impact that those finances is having now and in the future to the taxpayers. Which is significant. This type of disinterest is common for liberals and I get that too. However, don’t you have at least the smallest amount of compassion for those of us that live in the City with the certainty of higher taxes due to this park? OF WHICH, is not the park we voted for or expected.

    Ms Laird, let me ask you this… don’t you minimally struggle with the fact that the CRA for the next 30 years will not be able to invest in the poor communities in the CRA district? And for that, we got a baseball park.

    I for one, am troubled by all of those that bobble around without a care in the world talking about isn’t this fantastic, bring on more and completely disregard the shaky financial ground it all sits on. A perfect example is putting the YMCA on Parcel 8 which happens to be once of the most valuable pieces of available property the city owns. The City should develop a development plan, marketing plan, and get out of the way!

  • EPenn March 26, 2013 at 9:11 am

    LL, you seem to be inthte know.. can you answer my questions? Also, is the Y membership fees going ot be increased? If so, how would that promote greater membership? I don’t know of a lot of people with a bunch of extra cash waiting to join the Y even at todays rates… If they should increasse which would not be uncommon for a project like this (they have to pay for it some how). or is the Y sitting on a bunch of cash?

    Everyone seems to think, or its being advertised as it is, that the Y is free… which is far from true.

    Still not sure why one of the other lots are not okay for the Y or do they need water front property for their parking lot too? I assume they will have a parking lot…

  • L.Laird March 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Bare stated. “There are many longtime members of the YMCA who are looking beyond their own self-interest and who do not support this move.” Come on Charles, you have not step foot into the downtown Y for weeks. I have to give you credit for some brain power, you knowing Y members whom go daily and not very happy with you. I heard there is a petition going around revoking you membership…There is an old Yankee saying “ Don’t sh__ in the bed you sleep in”.

  • EPenn March 25, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Will the YMCA become free at some point or are they going to pay property tax? What exactly is so bad with the other parcels? One has water frontage and the other could be used for much needed parking? So, what’s the beef?

    Whta is the plan for the old YMCA building? Does it sit empty? If so, what is the net gain for the city?

  • Rusty March 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

    John, I couldn’t agree more with your last point. I would like to hear from Mr. Bare at which “neighborhood association” meetings did he hear from people on the Y issue or is his “taking trash to the curb conversations” one in the same to him. If so, then I hope he can recognize that there is a “important distinction” between the two. Also, what the heck does, “I ran to give the citizens a voice, not to have the citizens give me a voice,” mean anyways?

  • John March 25, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Ironic that Charles is justifying his crusade with the words “representative democracy” since he’s been pleased as punch to see that system (the elected council) undermined by an unelected group whose decisions have no citizen recourse (like referendum) Tell me Charles, If the council had voted down the YMCA lease only to see it approved by Collier Merill and friends, would you still be crowing that “the process works!” ..or is that only when YOUR side gets the last vote?
    If your argument is “the people tell me they don’t want a YMCA”, lets see some proof! Who are these people? Do you have any documentation of these claims you’re making? We need our “due diligence”!

  • CJ Lewis March 24, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    As a matter of contract law, was the City Council’s vote on March 14 anything more than purely symbolic? Where in the Community Maritime Park’s voter-approved Master Development and Lease Agreements does it prescribe that the City Council, or the Mayor acting alone, can order a private developer the CMPA to execute a ground sublease to a corporation for any use to include one not consistent with the objectives of an economic development project? Prove it.

    Further, has everyone forgotten that the CRA relies on property tax revenues to pay off the bonded debt and that City “and” County taxpayers deserve a return on their projected $83,000,000 investment? At Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, someone should read aloud Section 10 (Private Improvements) of the Master Lease Agreement for the benefit of the Mayor, City Attorney, City Administrator and six City Council members who have never read it.

    As for any thoughts of the City Council removing CMPA Trustees from office, the CMPA’s Bylaws, Section 10 (Removal of Trustees) of Article III (Trustees) read in full, “Any Trustee may be removed from office by the City for lack of sympathy with its objectives, or for refusal to render reasonable assistance in carrying out its purposes. In the event of the removal of a Trustee, the City will appoint a new Trustee to the Board.”

    What are the “objectives” of the City? Are the objectives of the City the ones prescribed in the Community Maritime Park’s voter-approved Master Development and Master Lease Agreements? That seems the more likely answer than a City Council rogue action made by a majority of the City Council caving to political pressure to include Montessori students with animal balloons on their heads. What is more important, the will of the voters or the will of the Mayor pressuring the weakest and most malleable of the City Council members?