The voucher resolution dies

Regular readers know about the voucher resolution. As originally presented, it would have forced all private entities using city parks for organized recreation activities to use a government funded voucher program for people who could not afford the programs.

Actually, the voucher program, as intended, was to offset the costs of city mandated charges for people who couldn’t pay, but it has morphed.

Anyway, the Community Resources and Development Committee amended the resolution to allow private scholarship programs with notice to the city or require the use of the voucher program. That was a good start, but it still failed to deal with the problem of us creating a solution for a non-existent problem.

One member of the committee said it could be a problem in the future, but there could be a lot of problems and I personally think it is terribly bad form to start passing legislation to deal with hypothetical problems.

The kicker was a lady who stood up and said she wanted to use the voucher program for her grandson, but could not, so she used her own money — i.e. she had the money, but wanted to use taxpayer money instead.

A member of the committee who was going to support the legislation changed his vote when this lady said that. Nonetheless, it went to full council on a 3 to 2 vote.

In Council, those of us opposed the solutions where there are no problems pointed out that, in fact, this solution could create a problem — namely more programs using an ever dwindling pool of money and, once in the program, denying kids the right to play when the money from the city ran out.

The backers, though well intentioned, could not overcome the problem of there not being a problem. There was no evidence that anyone had ever been denied the right to play in a recreation program because of an inability to pay. Likewise, the sponsors admitted that there had never been a problem and would never be a problem.

The death nail though, came from one of the sponsors. In support of the program he said, in effect, that everyone should use the voucher program instead of private programs and “just because you have a bunch of money and think you have the right to use it as you see fit, does not give you that right.” When he said that, several people who were going to vote for the program changed their minds.

I then jumped in and pointed out that in a “woulda, shoulda, coulda world” this would be brilliant legislation. But in the real world we should avoid solving non-existent problems lest we create problems. Likewise, despite the notification amendment, we’d still be encouraging programs to use the city funding, which is shrinking every year.

Then the most brilliant legislative maneuver of the night happened. Alveno Ross, under Council Rule 11, moved to postpone consideration of the matter until such time as it can be proven that a child had, in fact, been denied participation in a program because of an inability to pay.

I quickly seconded.

The sponsors protested and tried to debate the point, but that motion is not subject to debate.

It passed and the voucher program legislation died.


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Erick Erickson

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