So who deserves the win?
Certainly, freshman councillor Ed Cameron (friend and neighbor) deserves a good deal of credit for pulling the senior center out of its death spiral. This thing looked dead last week when Cameron's own committee--Planning and Development--vote not to recommend the redesignation.
When I heard eight councillors needed to approve the designation, I figured the Cushing Park site was dead on arrival. With two councillors already on record against the redesignation, how hard could it be to find two other councilors to opppose the deal, especially with Ward 3 Councillor James Shanley having little choice but to oppose the idea if he didn't want to face an uprising in his own ward.
Mayor Moak certainly never said die. I'm not sure how common this practice is, but the mayor, in a weekend email to the council, tried to allay any concerns. It was a solid email. It had to help.
Perhaps the seniors themselves deserve the win. At-large councillor Donna Holaday herself said she was a solid "No" up until a few weeks ago until the flood of calls she received caused her to reconsider. She's still not 100% behind the Cushing Park site, but she recognized the redesignation was necessary if fund-raising for the construction of the center were to begin.
In fact, that positioning seemed to give councillors the political cover they needed to redesignate the park.
The council spent close to an hour considering an amendment put forth by Ward 2 Councillor Gregory Earls, who said he's still hadn't taken a position as of the start of the meeting. The amendment basically stamped an expiration date on the designation. Essentially, the redesignation will require a second council vote if the the Friends of the Council on Aging don't raise enough money to build the senior center in five years.
This means fund-raisers have five years to make some serious headway in raising funds or else the designation might be lost. (I'm a little worried this could encourage litigous types to slow this process down in court.)
The council also debated whether or not to include precise language that stipulated that the senior center could be built in another area if it was deemed more desirable. I'm not sure if language was necessary.
Councillors sitting on the fence clearly wanted to have it both ways. They didn't want to stand in the way of fund-raising for a new senior center, so they agreed to redesignate Cushing Park. This gives the fund-raising groups the final piece they needed before they can legally raise a single dollar--an actual location.
However, they also wanted to establish some distance from Cushing Park as a site for the senior center. They're hoping and praying some better site comes along before any ground is broken at the corner of Kent and Washington Streets.
Based only upon last night's commentary, it appeared to me that six councillors were strongly in favor of the redesignation: Cameron, Brian Derrivan, Tom O'Brien, Tom Jones, Steve Hutcheson and Larry McCavitt. Let me know if I misread this.
Three opposed: Shanley, Kathleen O'Connor Ives and Barry Connell. Shanley stepped down from the president's seat to oppose the project, saying a future senior center might be used as community center or other purposes that could adversely impact the neighborhood. "Overwhelmingly what I've heard from the neighborhood is please don't do this," he said.
In her opposition, Ives says she's concerned that attaching the senior center to the Cushing Park site could ultimately slow the project down because of legal questions over its status as a park, thanks to some sloppy work by a council in the 1950s. Connell said he preferred leasing a site as the needs of seniors may change with time, making it unwise to build a site to fit current requirements.
So with six in favor, and three against, it appears politics won the day by pulling both Earls and Holaday into the Yes column. But the seniors won too so who really cares.
Meanwhile, we'll credit Cameron and Mayor Moak with the save.
Promote! Promote! Promote!
1 day ago