Once upon a time there was a great disturbance in the force when the Columbia Association decreed that there would be no more free towels at the CA gym facilities. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Are we in such dire financial straits that we can’t provide this simple amenity?” said some. “How can we hope to compete with newer, fancier commercial health clubs appearing on the scene?” said others. It is possible that the name of Rouse was invoked. I can’t remember.
Then came the time that CA wanted a complete accounting of Tot Lots to decide which ones should be removed. They even toyed with the idea of turning some into a different kind of space for older folks. Members of the community wondered why we couldn’t support play spaces for young children. Were they such a drain on the overall finances that we could no longer afford them?
Surely you remember the Aquatics Master Plan, when we were encouraged to think big about innovative and exciting water park ideas, as long as we understood that would mean closing a number of neighborhood pools. That didn’t go over so well. Aren’t we the pools, parks and pathways people? Isn’t that our basic mission? The community didn’t want to sacrifice neighborhood facilities.
Now I hear that CA is looking to close neighborhood community centers. Columbia now has fourteen. They are looking at reducing that number to six.
Here we go again.
If the Columbia Association is looking for ways to cut costs, I’m interested in knowing why. A lot of why's, actually. Why were community centers created in the first place? Why does CA think they could be cut without negatively impacting that mission? Why are we faced with this choice at all?
Are we in trouble financially? Are the neighborhood centers really not in use to benefit the community? (I’m dubious about that.) Has the Columbia Association changed how it views its mission to the community? And, since we, essence, make up the Columbia Association, what do we think about this proposed change?
I’m aware that budgets are finite. We can’t have all of the things all of the time. We need to make choices. I simply want to know why this particular choice is on the table.
A tip of the hat to Oakland Mills Board Chair Jonathan Edelson for bringing this issue to the attention of the greater community.