More with the Sunbowl

It appears much has been decided about the Sunbowl.  I am hopeful that I am wrong.  It is possible that is just a perception which certain bureaucrats want conveyed.  Yet, the people of St. George will presumably have the last word, even if it comes in November.

It is all too frequent that people reach the decision that “you can’t fight city hall”.  When in fact what actually transpires is that people get worn down and give up.

One reason people give up is because “city hall” tends to spend far more time justifying their decisions than seriously seeking public input.  That may end up being the case here, with the Sunbowl.

I read the newspaper reasonably regularly, and don’t recall seeing anything about open discussion at regular city council meetings.  I’m not saying it hasn’t been there, just that I haven’t seen it…and many other people in the city also have not seen it.  There have been “work sessions” of the city council, but they are even generally less well attended by the public than regular business meetings.

In several states there are specific legislated procedures required of municipalities to dispose of public property.  I am researching Utah Law in an attempt to determine if Utah has such restrictions.  But whether they have those restrictions or not, when a historic facility in a city is going to be dumped there should be ample time and encouragement for public input from ALL interested parties, not just a few.

I strongly encourage readers to comment and let me know if I missed the public meetings where demolition of the Sunbowl was discussed at length.

The construction of the Sunbowl was a community project, led by the Lions Club.  It was not a government project.  If it is going to be demolished, than that too should be a community decision.

Being familiar with how government projects evolve I know that many many times a concept is formulated in someone’s mind.  Then, engineers are dispatched to design the concept on paper.  From there commitments are made to defend that design and proposal as the only viable alternative.  My impression is that is exactly what happened with this three-way wheeler-dealer trade to capture tax dollars from the state… to pay for a local project.

The idea being touted is that the win-win is for everyone (everyone meaning municipal, university, and school district officials; not necessarily the interested public) will result in Hansen Stadium being used for rodeos, and the Sunbowl being torn down to build a new elementary school.  I have no disrespect for the rodeo.  I love a good rodeo.  However, the Sunbowl is not simply about a rodeo.  It is about preservation of history.

Whether at the Sunbowl (which is fine) or elsewhere the rodeo ought to have its own venue.  If it is going to moved, which has questionable merit, another location downtown is not practical.  When it becomes essential to relocate a rodeo (again highly questionable here) most cities opt for new locations away from their central business district, not onto a growing university campus football field, costing thousands of dollars annually for maintenance.  The supposition is that the money will be spent to create more bleacher space at the stadium to accommodate the rodeo.  In reality, it is a scheme to generate more seating for the routine and “profit generating” events at the stadium, with the rodeo being secondary.  It may offend some, who may very well need the offending, but this scheme is not about rodeos or multi-use venues.  It is about free money.  As is often said in politics, “if you want to know what is really going on…follow the money trail.”

With reference to the elementary school I will ruffle more feathers.  The central city district is currently highly transition residential.  There are some long time families living there and I mean them no disrespect.  However, the bulk of families with elementary age children is highly transitional.  That in no way implies they are substandard, or that they don’t merit quality elementary schools.  They most certainly do.  However, the demand for classroom space will be in constant fluctuation. The millions in other people’s dollars, contributed by the state, could be be spent on quality upgrade of the existing elementary school.  What is actually happening with the three-way deal is that the school district is trading away an existing location for educating kindergarten graduates in order to give the university a party place for potential college graduates.  Every other higher education facility in Utah, except Utah Valley, is more disbursed than Dixie State.  They function well and graduate students on a regular basis.

Putting an elementary school at the location of the Sunbowl place young reactive children at one of the widest busiest intersections, from all directions, in the city.  It is an invitation for a crisis.  I hope those that are signing off on this three-way deal are as quick to say the demise of a child is as practical as the demise of the Sunbowl.

Now, I have “heard”, in the absence of public forum, the use of a city park will be shared.  “If it happens, the city and the school district would share playgrounds (Vernon Worthen Park) and sports recreation components of the new school.”  Really?  Seriously?  Given recent events across the nation (two incidents in Utah), the most egregious being Newtown, CT (home of my ancestors), do moms really want their children sharing a park with unknown adults with unknown motivations.  What actually will happen is a tall chain-link fence will be built around wherever the school district allows the children to play (supervised by a couple teachers and a part-time bus driver).  The school district attorneys, regardless of what might be professed by bureaucratic administrators, will insist on actions to protect the bureaucracy against lawsuits…even if it also mean protecting children.  The predicted response is that the park will only be accessible during non-school hours.  All the better opportunity for someone intent of harming children to leave some dangerous element on the playground for the next day.

The dangers I mention about a shared park facility will easily be dismissed as being manageable.  That is one of my main concerns.  Every aspect of this proposal can ultimately be “managed away” through talking points.  That is at the crux of the problem.  A public decision made in secret negotiations being defended at any cost against criticism.  Rather than trying to manage away inherent problem in a bad idea, how about “throwing away” the bad idea.

This whole concept of a three-way deal is personified by the glories of “working together” which I would wholeheartedly support, if that were really the situation.  When striped of its “talking points” this three-way theatric slams head-first into one reality.  The university is the one that really gains from it.  They get more seating for THEIR sports venue.  They get more property for THEIR purposes.  It is wonderful that the university is here.  I am personally happy about that.  In fact, scampering back a few years I was at the forefront of attempts to attract a university to a city I was managing.  Yet, city governments represent the whole city, not simply a wealthy prominent segment.

It is truly time to stop pretending that destruction of the Sunbowl is the best solution.  Let’s stop pretending that an elementary school is the highest and best use of a desecrated past.  Let’s cease pretending that football revenue is more valuable for the present than the revenue of memories cherished in a monument, built by a city of volunteers rather than by expedient politicians of today.

Sixty years ago St. George leaders shouted, “It’s a good idea, let’s do it.”  Yet, today the echo back is “Is it expedient?”

Utah stands at the forefront of all fifty states boldly professing “We will honor the founding fathers”.  Yet, on a whim our representatives whimper in the shadows, “Our owner predecessors would make the same mistakes we are making, if they knew all the facts.”

Many people have contacted me since I stuck my head into this particular public noose, saying they agree.  I hope that shall not find myself to be a majority of one, when the rationalization of presumed rational men begin their long winded explanation that “every alternative was looked at, and this is the best.”

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