Social and Political Commentary

All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinions of others or the organization as a whole.

How much money has been taken from the golf course since 2012?

... bond payments for the athletic fields don't start until 2016. What's happened to the accumulated funds?

by Joe Sullivan

More money to play in 2015

The Park Commission voted to bump green fees for the 2015 season at their December 2 meeting held at the Mount Hood club house.
The new rates were announced in an email on December 10.The increases are minimal, a dollar per round for both residents and non
residents with a 5% increase in memberships. A member pays a membership fee in full prior to April 10, 2015.

Cart rental fees will increase, too, up $2 whether for 9 or 18 holes.

Because of an incentive clause in the cityís contract with the golf course manager, almost all of the increase will go to GCM
the course manager. The company gets 75% of golf course revenue over $1.2 million.

Last year the Commissioners had considered a similar increase but decided against it because a 25% share did not make the
increase worthwhile.

It wonít be a surprise if many golfers perceive the increase as a raise for the golf course manager. GCMís management expertise
has made Mount Hood into a great, little golf course and many players wonít begrudge the increase.

With the 40,000 rounds, give or take, that are played  annually at Mount Hood  will mean about another $30,000 in compensation
for the course manager.

The remainder of the increase will stay as income for the course. The money golfers pay to play already exceeds the costs of
running the course by over $300,000 each year. If operating costs stay the same the fee increase will be added to the $300,000
annual overage.

This overage is scheduled to pay for the costs of constructing the athletic field at the High School and Pine Banks. The city
has floated $5 million  in bonds to pay for these costs. Mount Hood golfers will be paying for this bond for the next 25 years.

Where is the accumulating money and how much is it?

The bond payments are not to start until 2016 but the course has been producing the money to pay for the bonds since 2011. If
the money is not being used to pay for the bonds what is being done with it?

The Special Legislation that was passed by the Aldermen and cleared by the State House in early 2011 allows the city to take the
money that exceeds the expenses of running the course. These yearly excesses must be spent on sports related facilities,
constructing outdoor recreational entities and the like. Projects like this must be approved by the Park Commission first before
it goes to the Aldermen for final approval.

The Park Commission has not approved or even discussed publicly any projects like these since 2011. The Park Commission has not
passed on the information that tells the amount of money thatís been accumulating and where itís being kept. That should be
public information and not buried in some arcane accounting system whose purpose is to keep the amount secret.

Whatís planed for money already collected?

It shouldnít be a surprise if there are new, undisclosed, plans for spending this accumulating money and the plan wonít be
unannounced until the day it  is approved by the Aldermen.

It should be remembered that the plans for the $5million athletic field programs were not announced until the day the mayor and
Aldermen approved them. The same was true for the Special Legislation that enabled the city to take Mount Hood money generated
by the golf course. Before this legislation was passed it was illegal to do this.

Not giving the public the opportunity to discuss the plan before the Aldermenís approval  buried some of itís terrible
inequities. The plan split our school sports programs into two groups. One group would get a brand new field at the high school,
the other group would be exiled to Pine Banks where it would get a new running track on the condition it be shared with Malden.
The Pine Banks group would not get the dressing rooms, showers or viewing stands that were part of the high school field
facility.

A plan based on an injustice.

The plan depended on an injustice. It depended on excluding the track team kids from the high school field benefits so that the
football, soccer, lacrosse, and baseball kids could receive them.

Holding the announcement of the athletic fields plan until the day they voted on it had a significant political benefit for the
Aldermen. They would not have to explain to the parents of the school kids who were being exiled to Pine Banks why eliminating
the running track at the high school in order to get a new football-type field was a good idea.

An open discussion would have provided the time for the general public time to comprehend the overwhelming unfairness of the
proposal. To many it would be simple case of favoritism. No wonder the plan was hidden until the time the Aldermen voted for it.

A denial of the right to know.

Enactment of the plan required the shutting out an additional two groups. Its last-minute announcement allowed the concealment
of a provision of the State law that founded Mount Hood. The provision states that money earned at Mount Hood must be spent
there.

The environmental groups who wanted Mount Hoodís wooded areas to be restored with walking trails and picnic sites had the money
for these projects yanked out from under them when the Special Legislation set aside the provision that limited where Mount Hood
funds could be spent. There would be no money left for these environmental improvements.

The last group affected by the delayed announcement was the golf community, the people who were to provide all the money. They,
too, would not know about what was being concealed and have no opportunity to question what was being done.

Would their golf revenue be taken to fund some other project that had nothing to do with the golf course?  Whenever an outside
project needed more money would their golf fees be increased as a means of getting it.

These were things that happened almost five years ago. The current circumstances warrant remembering them. A mounting pile of
cash that has no purpose assigned to it. A golf course that receives only modest improvements even while it produces tons of
cash.

What happened in the past is the sign of an arrogant dismissive city government. If you are part of a group that would be
expected to oppose a plan because it directly affects you this government will conceal this plan from you.

This government knows that you are not empowered by a law if you donít know about it and will conceal the law from you so that
you cannot use it to defend what itís trying to take from you. This government will enact plans that hurts one group as a means
of benefiting another.

Being suspicious of a city government that works like ours should incur no shame. Not being suspicious of it will again put at
risk  your rights and privileges as a tax paying citizen. The people elected to insure your rights instead work to keep you from
getting them.  


January 2, 2015





     

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