Letters to the Editor

Rec district: Board inaction propels candidate

Your article on April 24 did not begin to reveal the depth of frustration, inefficiency and bureaucratic wrangling evidenced in the recent North Whidbey Parks and Recreation Board meeting. The board is at least as dysfunctional as it has been described in the past and a sad disappointment to any citizen expecting it to fulfill its mission of making the best use of the public’s money and recreational resources.

I had great hopes that things had changed since I last had contact with the board 10 years ago. At the time I was involved with the original Partnership with Youth project and we were attempting to determine if the board could help us establish a center-based youth facility for our community. I was told in advance that the board existed only to support the pool and that they had no interest in promoting other resources in the community. We attempted to involve the organization in our grass roots effort to network people and organizations in support of our common mission. To no one’s surprise, they fulfilled all of the low expectations I was conveyed by summarily announcing they were not interested (without even a thank you very much). They implied then that they were only interested in securing the future and funding of the pool and that youth were otherwise “on their own.”

I am sad to announce that things are no better and perhaps even worse at present. In its most recent meeting the board wasted the first hour and a half posturing and arguing over semantics and delayed public testimony on agenda items as long as politely possible. It was clear to see there were issues other than the ones on the table at play. They then heard the excited public provide information and support for a bold program to build an indoor tennis center in Oak Harbor, long a dream of board member Dr. Fred Henninger.

Dr. Henninger had done his homework and provided a good starting point to work this proposal before the board so that its merits could be discussed and the public information process begun. Board members then picked apart the resolution without offering constructive feedback for an acceptable resolution and then summarily defeated it with apparent sarcasm and malice for Dr. Henninger.

Dr. Henninger was careful to follow the guidelines he had been given by the board in the proposal. He assured the board that monies from the pool would not be spent on the tennis center and further insured the management of the tennis facility would not drain resource hours from the present director. The board then insulted Dr. Henninger by implying he has personal profit in mind by demanding he recuse himself from the vote because of conflict of interest.

Dr. Henninger is in fact the principal benefactor for the Whidbey Island Tennis Association (WITA) proposal and far from exploiting any arrangement between WITA and North Whidbey Parks and Recreation. He made his agenda clear from the moment he threw his hat in the ring for election to the board. He intended to make the board accountable to the public by expanding the role of the district. I know no man in the state who dislikes wasting taxpayers’ money more than Dr. Henninger.

It is a pitiful fact that the North Whidbey Parks and Recreation organization is in fact a terrible misnomer. It still appears to exist only to forward (and protect) the agenda of the pool and has little interest in serving the recreational needs of the public in spite of its public funding source and much broader mission statement. An off leash dog park and a ball field hardly meets the needs, let alone the spirit of the mission of the recreation district. It is no surprise that the city is having to consider expanding its commitment to recreation as evidenced by the article on page 3 of the same April 24 issue of the Whidbey News-Times. Unfortunately the existing recreational district has proved itself an entity to work around, not work with. It has long been an obvious embarrassment to compare the resources and public support of North Whidbey’s versus South Whidbey’s Parks and Recreation program. South Whidbey has much more support and accountability to the public and manages a number of outstanding resources and programs.

I applaud Dr. Henninger’s tenacity and forthrightness in even bothering to attend these meetings after the way he has been treated. He had no secret agenda and no personal gain to be achieved by involving himself in this miserable excuse for democratic process. It is not acceptable to allow these narrow-minded petty arguments to deter from the overall quality of life and health and fitness of our population. Our nation is in crisis over the issues of childhood obesity, diabetes and other health related preventable illnesses. Tennis is one of the most beneficial activities that one can participate in, just like swimming.

I am not a pool hater as implied by some of the board’s attitudes and machinations to protect themselves from the general public. An indoor tennis facility would greatly expand the opportunity to participate year round in this wonderful physical and social sport. I for one, will not quit when the desire and the means to acquire a state of the art facility for the public, at virtually no cost to the public, exists.

I hereby announce my candidacy for the North Whidbey Parks and Recreation board seat at the next election. The board can count on other members of the public including the tennis public to do the same.

Charles Niedzialkowski

Oak Harbor

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