An Open Letter to Mayor Kevin Faulkner and the City Council of the City of San Diego

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San Diego’s Community Recreation Councils;
Assets that are the Fabric of Our Neighborhoods and Our Communities.

“Avoiding Unintended Consequences of Administrative Changes when the Changes Are Unequivocally Bad”

In an era in which many families depend on two incomes to participate in our vanishing American Dream, local community support is indispensable. If a community is to thrive, maybe even just survive, facilities and services that depend on volunteers from the community are paramount to maintaining a viable community. In San Diego community volunteers come from all walks of life, although some individuals are more able to give the time required to ensure that the community thrives while others may work such hours that they cannot, even if they would if it were possible. Communities such as Mira Mesa in which we live, are particularly fortunate because it has a cadre of devoted individuals who for years to decades have led the efforts to make their communities better places in which to live. Among the membership of the Mira Mesa Recreation Council are professionals with doctoral degrees in the sciences, some retired others in the prime of their careers, retired US Navy officers, software engineers, sales and marketing and human resources professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs and more than a hundred youth sports leaders/coaches. All, neighbors helping their community in multiple ways that make their community better for everyone.

Evidence today suggests that the farther from the local community control of local governance is, the less those governmental entities are trusted to reflect the wishes and needs of the communities. Reasons are many, but as demonstrated vividly in responses to recent natural disasters, neighbors help neighbors first, and later provide support to others with less evident immediate need for help. We naturally support our communities first.  Community volunteers are unique to their communities, they live in it, know its citizens and their community’s needs. They donate their expertise, time and make a commitment to their community. No community can afford to lose these volunteers; they are the assets of a community that keep the fabric of the community intact.  When actions are taken by a more remote governmental entity that have the potential to undermine and discourage community volunteer support it should never be taken without appropriate and careful consideration.

The current proposal from the Park and Recreation Department has without doubt, the unintended consequence of discouraging City support for community Recreation Councils, placing impediments in the way of solving simple local problems, from items as simple as acquiring new swimsuits for the swim team to items as large as long term ventures, such as creating larger, more beneficial parks for the community. Procedures for the operation of Recreation Councils have worked well for decades. Fine tuning may be important, continuous improvement is an approach that can have substantial benefits. To us, however, the proposals currently presented by the Park and Recreation Department do not speak to improvements. Rather they transfer control to a more remote governmental entity with adverse consequences. Whether intended or not, the adverse consequences of undermining community member participation in community betterment outweigh any evident benefits. The City Council should demand that the need for changes be presented unambiguously by Park and Recreation management. Park and Recreation must address the consequences of the changes they are suggesting, both beneficial and adverse. Changes and the reasons underlying them must be clearly articulated and a proposal produced, if in fact such is needed, be available for thoughtful, perhaps even wise comment from those who will either benefit or suffer from the envisioned changes. Until appropriate consideration and deliberation has occurred, the City Council should reject the proposed changes until such time that the benefits of the changes can be recognized and unintended adverse consequences avoided. In the meantime, renewal of the authority of Recreation Councils to perform their work is a simple expedient that can provide time for thought regarding changes in Community Recreation Council operations.

We implore you to not prematurely permit the proposed changes to be made. In the interest of continued community support for all of San Diego, we remain…

Craig M Jackson, Al Radick, Bruce Brown, Jeff Stevens, Ted Brengel, Bari Vaz, John Horst, Joe Frichtel, representing the Mira Mesa Recreation Council, the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group, the Mira Mesa Community Fund and the Mira Mesa Town Council.