About that splash pad

People have asked: How can we impact local decisions?

In this case, they are referring to the City of Webster City’s proposed splash pad for East Twin Park.

If you joined the conversation late, here’s the Cliffs Notes: On November 17 in this space I challenged people to put their name where their mouth is by openly expressing their opinions on issues that potentially impact all of us.

Then I proceeded to dive into the punchbowl by saying I, for one, think the splash pad stands way down in a long list of major expenditures this city is facing and cannot avoid.

In response to my column, several people have written letters to the editor, but a vast quantity of you have taken to social media to say you cannot support the splash pad project. Not one of the many, many of you who shared your opinions with me argued for the splash pad.

Not one.

So, now what happens?

Here’s a little Civics 101: Contact your city council. Nearly three times a week each of their email addresses appear at the bottom of this editorial page. Why? Because they need to hear from you.

Heck, they want to hear from you.

They represent you.

But if you don’t tell them what you think, they act on the best advice they are given by paid consultants, city staff and advisory committees whose earnest efforts go into helping the council make the right decisions for the populus.

Let’s go back to the source of all this.

In the case of the splash pad, the momentum cranked up when a short-term city manager suggested we sell East Twin Park so a development company could build a retail space that they would then rent to Dollar General.

Bad idea.

If you attended the council meeting that followed that news you know how that played out. It was standing room only in the council chambers at City Hall. Disgusted residents dribbled out into the hallway when there was no more room to stand. People carried signs, for heaven’s sake!

The result was a 180-degree swing towards very positive work focused on East Twin. By the way, it’s absolutely wonderful.

But during the transition from mundane park to vibrant community space, an ad hoc committee listed everyone’s ideas for what would be great in that park.

On that list was a splash pad.

So there’s the answer for many of you who incredulously examined my face and asked: Where did this splash pad come from in the first place?

Answer: It started as a suggestion for ways in which East Twin Park could be improved.

Move that forward to 2023. The city council had agreed to put the splash pad into the overall city budget. Consequently, over and over this year it has been talked about — and written about. Hearing no outside input from people thinking it was a bad idea, the council — or at least a portion of it — assumed it must therefore be a good idea.

See how that works?

In civics, you are tasked with paying attention so that you can have an informed voice. That’s part of the root of the phrase civic duty. It’s your job, as a citizen, to be informed.

It’s kind of like eating. You are responsible for what goes into your mouth.

Your brain? Same thing.

So here we are. Some people have asked me how to stop the splash pad. Here is the short answer: Tell a city council member that you are opposed.

Hint: If the splash pad project spills over into January and goes out to bid, your opinion will have gone down the drain.

Jane Curtis is interim editor of the Daily Freeman-Journal.


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