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Doug Clark: City pulls plug on summertime fun

Sat., May 16, 2009, 7:41 p.m.

Fun’s over, kiddies.

Life is hard. The economy sucks. It’s time you brats grew up and started suffering like your stressed-out mothers and fathers.

Yep, it’s adios to Spokane’s long, benevolent summertime tradition of free swimming for youth. The Park Board voted last Thursday to charge kids 4 through 17 a dollar to cool off in city pools.

Aw, Park Board members still want children to have fun. They want kids to learn how to swim.

But first they want to teach them the basic rules of economics:

No dough – no dive.

No scratch – no splash.

And no, just because you pay a fee doesn’t give you twerps a new right to pee in the pools.

Aw, stop your bellyaching.

It costs money to fill the pool.

It costs money to filter the water.

It costs money to chlorinate.

And, hey, somebody’s gotta buy kegs for the teen lifeguard pool house beer bashes.

I’ll admit it. Back in my day, being a kid was a total lark. I had no responsibilities other than keeping air in the tires of my red Schwinn American bike.

I spent many a hot summer day pedaling around Spokane and shooting my Red Ryder BB gun at anything that moved.

Sometimes I’d head up to Comstock for a free jump in the pool.

What joy.

America, alas, is no longer a “Leave it to Beaver” world.

Pull out a BB gun now and you know what happens? You wind up in a Homeland Security gulag being waterboarded by Nancy Pelosi – who will later deny having ever seen water, let alone pouring it down someone’s nose.

I know. There were softies who whined against charging children to swim in city pools. Spokane, they wailed, managed to keep swimming free even in the Great Depression.

These bellyachers forget that swim fees are not unheard of in this town. Former Mayor Jim West, I seem to recall, once offered some dude 300 bucks for a nude pool rendezvous.

(That certainly gave new meaning to the phrase, “Watch me do a few cannonballs.”)

Speaking of Spokane mayors, Mary Verner made the Saturday paper by complaining that the Park Board should have waited a year to impose swim fees.

“I thought it would just be better timing and give us an opportunity to have everybody just thoroughly celebrate the openings of the new pools,” she said.

Ah, I get it, Mary.

The old drip-and-switch routine.

“First splash is free, Little Sally. Then we’ll get you, my pretty. Then we’ll get YOOOU!!!”

Swim fees are only the beginning, of course. This is all part of a secret City Hall plan to use children as a new revenue source.

Soon, all bicycle riders ages 4 though 17 must purchase comp and collision insurance policies from the city attorney’s office ($10 extra for training wheels).

And did you hear there’s a proposal in the works to double the cost of business licenses?

Well, hidden in that proposition is a scheme to make kids buy a $25 mini-vendor’s permit in order to operate a sidewalk lemonade stand.

I know. It sounds cruel. But years from now – when you kids are like me, getting your wages hacked by a distant and unappreciative management – you’ll look back and thank those Park Board philanthropists for teaching you an important lesson:

There’s no such thing in life as a free dogpaddle.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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