At the last city council meeting, Parks & Recreation Superintendent Robert Diaz came back to Wylie City Council to present additional information on a new program called Planet Kidz. This is a much needed youth program for children in Wylie in the 3rd through 8th grades, however as I listened to the meeting MP3 posted on the city website, I have some nagging feelings about the ‘options’ suggested by the Parks & Rec board for sponsoring this program. I also have some nagging feelings that someone didn’t do his job and needs to get a boot up his hoo-hay.
The first concern I have is that this program would require closing our one and only Recreation Center early every Saturday night. Currently the Rec Center is open 8-8 on Saturday but Parks & Rec want to close it early at 6pm for this program.
To make up for those lost 2 hours of operation, they propose:
Saturday open at 6a and close at 6p rather than open 8-6
Saturday, open at 7a and close at 6p then Sunday open 11a close at 8p instead of 12-8 on Sunday
This idea is really stinky poo because I am wondering why council or anyone would consider jacking with the current hours of operation on a new building that I don’t think has reached its full capability on annual pass sales and most certainly not reached capacity on classes. Are we not attempting to hawk the building wares to the citizens and get them to buy an annual pass into it? Oh sure, Diaz and crew can calculate that perhaps 20 people or even less use that building from 6-8pm on a Saturday night. So they only displace 20 or less people but what about future marketing capabilities? I can’t wait to hear his totals for Saturday night. So the hours are changed. Just how many people will not purchase a pass in the future because they cannot count on the hours not being jacked with yet again? When another program comes along will council approve even more changes to hours? What happens if we really have a budget crunch and have to reduce hours? More jacking. When does the insanity of the rotating hours tactic end? Can the citizens count on anything consistent or is the only thing they can count on is consistent inconsistency?
The founder of the Planet Kidz program was at the meeting and he said he didn’t think it was appropriate to bother worrying about displacing 2, 3 or even 20 members compared to how many children may be served. His estimation was 400 children. As much as I can agree with wanting to serve the children and the program being awesome and all, is it really coming down to a money making scheme? Sure maybe 20 members will be displaced now but how many in the future? The marketing plan for the Rec Center has sucked in my opinion. Wylie is seriously lacking a stellar marketer for all things Wylie. Will we ultimately end up with a multi-million dollar building that is catering to only the children? If that happens, hells we may as well have built a huge daycare so the kiddos can party every night. Sure the program is desperately needed but I think the real problem here is that someone didn’t do their job and find another option other than taking down our much desired Recreation Center early on a night that should be capitalized on by someone possessing some serious marketing skill. Every morning on my way to work I see totally untapped revenue, minuscule marketing of classes, lackluster marketing of membership, only a mere of options when I walk in there: basketball, walking, some equipment, and a climbing wall. Someone needs to be rocking that building with resident participation but that’s just not happening. Another mark missed.
Councilman Bennie Jones made what I think is the statement of the night and his statement goes along with my second issue with this program. Jones asked Diaz just who at WISD this program was taken to. Diaz responded that he met directly with staff, but then narrowed that down and said he met with the Communications Director and Maintenance Director. Wow, really? Communications and Facilities? Oh my, he did go all out.
When council was polled whether they could support this program right now, Jones stated that he felt this program was taken to only a few WISD staff members who made a sweeping decision but the program was not taken to the real key decision makers. All right I embellished what Jones had to say but it really makes the point. I have to agree with Councilman Jones that Diaz did not market this program fully or properly to the ISD. This just seems to be a bumbling plan lazily stamped with Diaz’s seal of approval. I don’t know about you but I am thinking Diaz is in over his head. I’ve sat through a couple of his presentations to council in workshops over the past year and, well, there is just no polite way to say it. He has the personality of a slug. So it took Councilman Bennie Jones to tell Robert Diaz how to do his flipping job.
As Councilman Jones stated, Diaz needs to take this program to the Trustees and to Superintendent Vinson and pitch it. I mean, really pitch it like a professional salesman. Meeting with the Maintenance Director is nice and well enough but somehow I think Diaz missed the mark on that one. I cannot imagine him not getting a few cheerleaders out of some of our trustees, particularly those who have children in WISD, had he pitched it to them.
Why wouldn’t Gooch support it? What a bonus selling point for her when she shows new families homes here in Wylie. Why wouldn’t Goss, Goff, and Westhora support it? They appear to be the conservative members on the board. If there is money to be made from this program that can be split between the sponsoring entities, why not have real and meaningful dialog about it? I hope Diaz didn’t just go to the Communications Director and say, “You don’t want this program in your district, do you?” Doh!
If and only if some serious discourse has taken place between Parks & Rec and WISD with the actual people who make the decisions, and the program is still turned down (then I would have to blog about because I cannot imagine any ISD turning such a deal down) at that point other options should be considered and exhausted rather than immediately attacking the Rec Center and risk losing some memberships now and in the future. Even I am left with one more space invading idea before I cave.
We have the old library building which was handed to a bunch of seniors gratis, and I wonder if they would be willing to share their building with the children of Wylie? My next comment is stereotypical in nature I’m sure, but I wonder just how many seniors need to come out on a Saturday night? Wouldn’t they be attempting to spend their weekends with family? Wouldn’t funds from the program be helpful to the seniors currently attempting to raise funds to renovate the building? Please don’t tell me the city wishes to keep all of the funds generated from this program for their own use. Might that be the underlying reason Diaz claims WISD did not have any interest? Consider the feather in Diaz’s cap to actually make the city some money rather than have the Rec Center operate in the red as it currently does and was planned in the budget to continue to do.
Not only do I think the seniors might be willing to share their building, but I think they would share it because Saturday night is when most of the families have free time to visit with parents and grandparents. I bet many of them prefer the daytime activities. I also bet many don’t care to be driving at night. Nope, I don’t believe that Wylie’s seniors are that selfish as to not consider sharing their building with such a great program and making a little cold hard cash on the side.
In the council workshop someone brought up utilizing the Bart Peddicord building, but they say is too small. If the Rec Center is being considered because it has classrooms and a gym large enough for a DJ, dancing, games, and other activities then having been in the old library, I would think that building would also be ideal. There could be some small groups doing arts and crafts in the old meeting rooms, and the larger area for group activity. There is no gym there, but couldn’t the kids and staff utilize the beautiful park next to the old library for their ball games weather permitting? If the program is run correctly, there would not be worries about taking the children outside as groups. The old library certainly makes sense as a win-win option. I wonder how the group of seniors who sit at every city council meeting would feel about sharing the building the city gave them for free rather than share it back with the city in a pinch. Maybe someone should ask them.
Then again, maybe someone should have asked the WISD Trustees who are the real key to a facility that meets everyone’s needs.
I’ll bet council votes Tuesday to merely change the hours at the Rec Center rather than put this thing off and do it right. After all, isn’t that just easier than working on other solutions? This program was brought up in August and only now comes back to council the end of October. Not sure what Diaz was doing all that time but according to Mayor Eric Hogue, there is only one meeting in November and one in December so golly let’s push something through. Heaven forbid waiting to find a better solution. Heaven forbid make Diaz actually do some meaningful work like speaking to the WISD Trustees or Superintendent about this program like he should have from the very beginning. We’ll see if my prediction about Council blindly passing this program and shortened hours at the Rec Center comes true.