Few sports teams have generated as much community pride in recent years as the Petaluma National Little League team. These local lads earned the respect of the nation for their never-say-die attitude and come-from-behind antics this summer.
But the discouraging side of this story is that when these young men move up to playing at the juniors level next year, they will be joining the ranks of other teams in Petaluma that are struggling to find playing time and places to play. For all the support and attention the Nationals have received, it's been a much different story for parks and recreation facilities in general. Over the past three decades, funding for parks has been reduced to abysmal levels leaving the city woefully behind in keeping up with needed maintenance of existing facilities let alone the construction of new ones.
That's why, long before the Petaluma Nationals starting getting prime-time coverage, a group of Petaluma residents were devising strategies and collecting signatures for a ballot measure to raise funds for local parks. The outcome is Measure X, a parcel tax that would raise an estimated $12 million over 15 years toward making some much-needed upgrades to existing recreational facilities. For example, the money will be used for:
; Providing $1.3 million in repairs and renovations for the heavily used Petaluma Community Center at Lucchesi Park.
; Making $300,000 in repairs and upgrades for the Cavanaugh and Petaluma swim centers.
; Building the long-awaited first phase of East Washington Park, a 25-acre site owned by the city. This $6.1 million project will include three, all-weather fields that will be used by youth and adult soccer, football and lacrosse teams, making Petaluma a destination community for families far and wide.
; Creating year-round playing fields for adults and children at Prince Park
Funds also will be used to re-surface paths and create new trails for hiking and biking, renovating the Polly Klaas Performing Arts Center, upgrading tennis courts and making a host of other improvements.
Opponents contend the city should first get its pension liability problems fixed before seeking tax increases. It's a fair argument. But voters should recognize that none of this money can be used for pensions nor can it be shortstopped by city officials for some other purpose. This is not a City Hall initiative. This is a grass-roots movement by parents, swimmers, bike riders, tennis players and others who saw a major need in the community and came together to meet it. They could have asked the City Council to put this on the ballot but instead bypassed City Hall and got the petition signatures they needed to put it on the ballot themselves.
For single-family homeowners, this tax works out to just $1 a week. For commercial property owners and owners of large apartment complexes, it will be about $500 a year — still a modest sum for a major need. Plus property owners are likely to see a far greater return through increased property values.
Measure X is a healthy measure that makes recreation a community priority and sets a good example for all of Sonoma County. The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote.