Citzen Action Stops Cincinnati Pools from Closing

Soapbox Cincinnati writer Matt Cunningham reports how citizens were able to band together to keep their community pools open during tough budgetary times.

The pools will open.  That’s the news the Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC) announced in April, when a combination of public, private and community efforts motivated Cincinnati City Council to re-allocate funds to help open 19 city swimming pools this summer.

The story is likely familiar to anyone who follows the city’s news media: near-historic budget problems in the city forced City Council to move for sweeping cuts, including closure of the city’s pools.

This provoked a grassroots movement from the city’s neighborhoods, many of which began petition and fundraising drives to open their pools. As momentum grew across the city, additional sponsorship came in from larger community donors.

Enough had been raised by an April 15 deadline – and enough supporters had raised their voices – that city council voted to provide $600,000 to support the pools, with donations covering the slightly more than $200,000 needed to foot the rest of the bill.

While moving that much money – especially five months after the city budget first came out – drew protest from fiscally conservative voices in the city, the story of the Cincinnati pools raises a bigger question, one that goes beyond the dollars, and transcends one department’s effort to keep some of its services available to the community.

Could the drive that opened the pools be a model for how things can get done in Cincinnati?

“This is the first time I’m aware of the community taking such an active role,” said CRC Superintendent of Recreation Michael Thomas. “This is a very healthy thing for the community.”

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