When my father Shamus was growing up in Scranton during the Depression, maybe he swam below the “cut” in the Lackawanna River where his dad dug bootleg coal. If so, I doubt that my father or his nine brothers and sisters had real bathing suits. Shamus probably wore a pair of older brother Gene’s hand-me-down shorts or just his knickers.
If city swimming pools existed in the 30s, Shamus never told me about them.
We’ve come a long way in 21st Century Scranton.
Or have we?
City taxpayers foot the bill for several swimming pools, including the big outdoor pool equipped with a brightly-colored plastic winding sliding board at Nay Aug Park, a place that should be packed each summer day with squealing, laughing children.
But several pools will remain closed this summer for a variety of reason – capped by the overall incompetence of city officials who can’t figure out how to open them and provide city kids a much-deserved respite from sweltering summer heat and humidity.
Nay Aug will only offer “free swimming for kids” to those 12 years of age and under.
The rest can either come up with the price of a ticket or go swim in the river. Some will likely find their way to the dangerous nearby gorge and risk their young lives showing adults just what kind of recklessness they can find if abandoned without guidance, encouragement and support.
That’s why the rallying cry “free swimming for kids” must be heard far and wide loud and clear.
A neighborhood group raised enough money last summer to cover the cost of the kids. In previous years no such thing as free swimming for kids existed at Nay Aug. This year, official “action” is a compromise that’s not a compromise at all.
That’s why I’m putting city officials on notice.
“Free swimming for kids” is non-negotiable.
The city simply must pay.
Officials from this recreation board and that city council and this mayor’s office and that bureaucratic sewer authority claim that the money is simply not available, that the cash does not exist.
Yes it does. Find it. Take it from somewhere else – the mayor’s salary, conferences or the coffee fund. Make New Jersey consultant Henry Amoroso pay. City officials helped him grab a fat raise for his “expertise” in urban planning. So tell him that “free swimming for kids” is part of our overall progressive approach to improving the quality of life in the city he’s taking for a ride in his luxury consulting machine.
Henry can either find the money in an existing bank account or get it somewhere else. Scranton residents already pay high enough taxes and service rates to cover the cost – and add free popsicles for kids once a week as well.
One neighborhood organizer accused city officials of discriminating against poor kids. So what else is new? Poor kids always pay for the free ride self-absorbed politicians give themselves, their families and friends.
Go to any of the slew of campaign fundraisers and observe the amount of beer guzzled by campaign workers and supporters, paid for by candidates who claim to support the bright future of the city – a once bustling place now on the verge of collapse led by a mayor who can’t see the forest or the trees. At the most popular political fundraisers the cost of beer alone could pay for free swimming for kids.
If you ostracize the young and make them feel as if they don’t matter because they don’t, you tempt fate by marginalizing the simplest of their dreams.
Innocence lost can turn rabid.
In a dog-eat-dog political world, the bites resulting from such cruel attacks will only fester and get worse.
Free swimming for kids! Free swimming for kids! Free swimming for kids!