A few months ago Grand Rapids Mayor Heartwell and the gang approved a $5 million tax subsidy for Amway billionaire Rich DeVos's new hotel downtown, but they won't part with twelve hundred bucks to keep the restrooms open in Aberdeen Park for ordinary city residents to use.
Well, that does sound like a lot of money for a couple months of water and sewage. Maybe Heartwell should have the City Engineer take a look at how to conserve water usage in the park's restrooms, so the City can keep them open for us. You know the City Engineer, don't you? That's Bill Cole who retired from the City Engineer's post three years ago to start collecting a big pension from the taxpayers and then immediately double-dipped by taking back his old job at full salary.
But don't worry, folks, Heartwell and the City Commission have just approved a $50,000 study by a private consulting firm to figure out how they can make the City more efficient: Like shutting down the restrooms in Aberdeen Park.
A couple of weeks ago, Robert Harrison, the coach of Creston High School's girls tennis team, discovered during a practice session at Aberdeen Park that its restrooms were closed. This concerned Robert because the park is a bit of hike from the high school and there are no other public restrooms in between. Besides, his team needs the park both for practice and hosting matches with the other teams, so they really need to use the restrooms at the park. Robert also noticed that other residents were frustrated by the unannounced closure of the park's restrooms.
So Robert talked with Tom Zelinski, chief of the maintenance division of the Parks & Recreation Department. Zelinski told Robert that it is just too expensive because of budget cuts made by City Manager Kurt Kimball (who still maintains a bloated staff) to keep the toilets operating at Aberdeen Park. According to Zelinski that cost was about $1,200 for water and sewage through the fall. Hardly a budget-buster, but that was that.
Robert then contacted the City Commission about the absurdity of closing down the restrooms at Aberdeen Park when the residents clearly needed them. Commissioner Jim Jendrasiak offered to find a port-a-john for Robert's tennis team, plainly oblivious to the fact that 16- and 17-year-old girls wouldn't be caught dead in such a contraption. To limit use of the restrooms and keep that "huge" water bill down, Robert offered to take responsibility for a key to the restrooms, open them only for the use by his team, and keep them cleaned up. The City responded: No dice.
So do you see how it works, folks? Ordinary citizens like us are going to get the shaft during the City budget crisis. The things that are actually useful to us, like the parks, will be made as miserable as possible. Meanwhile, Heartwell, Kimball, and the City Commissioners are making sure that the wealthy suburbanites in Grand Rapids Township get fire protection from us. Billionaires will continue to get their tax subsidies for hotels no one needs. Greedy double-dipping bureaucrats will get both a paycheck and a pension check from us for as long as they want. And jaw-jacking private consultants will be paid big bucks as they have always been to produce worthless studies.
Who's to blame for this wretched state of affairs? You and me, dear readers. Until we vote to toss out these bums, our elected officials are going to toady for the players and the City staff -- not us.