Op-Ed: Berkeley — take steps to re-open Willard pool

Sadly, Measures O & N failed to obtain the required 2/3 vote.

I urge the Berkeley Unified School District Board, and the Berkeley City Council, to take the steps necessary to re-open Willard pool as soon as possible.

Re-opening Willard pool would cost just a fraction of the costs that would have been incurred under Measures O & N. Prop 30 passed, and we ought to be able to afford to re-open Willard pool.

Berkeley has access to measure WW funds that could be used to open the Willard Swim Center.

If the School Board and/or City of Berkeley are unable, or refuse to re-open Willard pool, we should consider the implications.

The decision to close Willard pool and keep King pool open is not consistent with the principles of social justice and equality our district is committed to.

Students on the Southside of Berkeley deserve to have access to the same amenities as students on the Northside.

Filling in Willard pool with dirt, while King pool remains open, is a slap in the face to Southside students. King pool is being renovated. It is not being filled with dirt.

The school board and city council must correct this blatant inequity, and live up to the 2020 vision, and the values of our community.

A clear majority of Berkeley voters want the dirt taken out of Willard pool, and restoration of other aquatics programs in Berkeley.

If Berkeley can’t renovate Willard pool without another bond measure, then the next proposition for Willard pool should stand independently of other pools or projects. Any proposal for a warm water pool project should stand independently of a proposition for bonds for Willard pool.

Willard pool has more widespread support than the warm water pool, and should not be held hostage by the warm water pool controversy. Let the voters vote on each component separately.

There were a lot of people who would have voted for Willard Pool alone, that voted no on O & N, because of cost of the warm water pool.

The Berkeley school district and city council should act swiftly to correct the injustice that has been done, and is being done, to BUSD students on the Southside of Berkeley.

How much money is actually needed to re-open Willard pool?

If the district and city won’t fix Willard pool, will they at least allow Berkeley residents to pay out of pocket to re-open the pool? BUSD and the City of Berkeley could start accepting ear-marked donations to re-open the pool  Over 31,000 people voted yes on measure N.  If 20,000 people make a one-time contribution of $100 each,we would have $2,000,000 more ear-marked for Berkeley aquatics.

We should follow the example set by the City of Richmond, which entered into a public/private partnership with the community and charitable foundations to renovate the Richmond Plunge.

A clear majority of voters support reopening Willard pool. What will the school board and city council do to fulfill the wishes of the majority of Berkeley voters?

Will we continue to provide a pool only for middle school students and community members on the Northside? If we can’t afford to re-open Willard pool, why can we afford to renovate King pool?

I suggest a moratorium on all outside consulting contracts, and other lower priority expenditures, until the necessary capital expenditures have been made to re-open Willard pool.

We can do better. Berkeley students and Southside community members deserve better.

Let the BUSD board and the Berkeley City Council know that we still want them to take the dirt out of Willard pool!

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David Lerman is proud Berkeley parent of a disappointed Willard Middle School student who would love to swim at school, like students at King Middle School do, but can't because the Willard pool is full of dirt and weeds instead of water.