Social and Political Commentary

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Fake news and our Mount Hood Mexicans

... why the members of the Mount Hood golf community are like the Mexicans
who President Trump says will pay for his border wall.

by Joe Sullivan

It would be well for the golfers to keep an eye on the upcoming bidding
process that will be used to select the Mount Hood golf course manager.
The reason is the slippery things the city has done in the past to get
money from the people who pay to play golf at the Hood.

It’s no news now that the city was able to push through legislation at
the State House that would set aside a provision in the law that
created Mount Hood in 1936. The provision was that any money produced
at Mount Hood must be spent at Mount Hood.

The city said that the reason for creating the special legislation to
get the Mount Hood money was to build a spectacular, new state- of-the-
art sports complex.

No way, Jose’

Fake news. The reason for creating the special legislation was to get
the Mount Hood money, period. Anyone who thinks that the city will stop
taking the Mount Hood money once the sports fields are paid for should
stop driving his car.

Chapter two of the Fake News is that the city actually got  a sports
complex out of the Mount Hood money. It didn’t. The Fred Green Field
behind the high school is spectacular but its design eliminated the
school sport of track and field. A visit to Pine Banks Park will show
how the city’s response to the needs of its school track and field
teams. A spectacular running track, but no lockers, dressing rooms or
showers for the runners and no viewing stands for their parents to
watch them compete.

As opposed to the facilities at Fred Green Field the High
School Running track at Pine Banks has no lockers, no dressing room, no
showers, and no viewing stands.

The shortcomings don’t stop there. The running track is not in Melrose,
the city doesn’t own it. With no space for it in Melrose, the city
gifted it to the Pine Banks Park Commission so that the Melrose track
kids would have a place to compete. But, by its location at Pine Banks,
the track is as much Malden’s as it is Melrose’s. Not only that, the
city who could pay for the running track would not pay for working
bathrooms. Last year, porta-potties would provide for the sanitary
needs of the runners. Those kids didn’t even have a place to wash their

To get to their track meets from school the runners must travel to Pine
Banks on their own. One grandmother called a Mirror reporter to point
out the safety concerns resulting from this. With its string of deficiencies
there is no way that the running track when combined with Fred Green
Field qualify as a “state-of-the-art” sports complex.

A fair question is why are the running track accommodations so
deficient when compared to those of Fred Green Field?
It should be remembered that the fake news reason that the city wanted
the Mount Hood money was to build a sport’s complex. Special
legislation to get the Mount Hood money would require the approval of
the State Legislature, a process which required adequate time.

Time would become an issue in the creation of a plan for the running
track. A series of public meetings was set up by the Park Commission in
June 2007. It had retained a top notch company Beals and Thomas to
conduct a feasibility study to look at a number of alternatives that
could be built at Mount Hood. Modification of a number of golf holes
and construction of a 400-meter running track were some of the

An environmental killer.

Special attention was given to the environmental issues involved in the
construction of a running track. Dealing with them would cost over $3
million. The construction cost of the track would be additional. That was the
end of that alternative.

What was not known then was there was already a plan for constructing
Fred Green Field at the high school. The city was keeping the plan a
secret. Revealing the plan would entail questions as to where the money
would come from.

The golf course modifications were rejected. They would take away the Mount
Hood money from the secret-sports fields plans which did not yet
include a running track.

At the end of the public meetings the city secret keepers were still
left with what was becoming a huge problem. It still had found no place
to put a major component of its “state-of-the-art” sports complex, the
running track.

A location had to be found soon. Not allowing adequate time for State
House approval would mean that not only would the funds for the sport
complex not be available but the license to take money from Mount Hood
until the end of time would be dead.

But this is for money.

The answer to the problem was building the running track at Pine Banks.
With all of its lousy inadequacies it would allow the city to submit it
as part of an plan that included Fred Green Field. This integral plan would  
justify the special legislation that would let the city to get at the Mount
Hood money.

It is almost unimaginable that an elected city government would make
young people victims of such a self-serving plan. It shows the extremes
this city government will go to when money at stake.

This extreme is well to keep in mind during the upcoming selection of the
golf course management company. The city is obliged by law to rebid the
golf management contract every five years. The current manager Golf
Course Management Company (GCM), has won the bid each time since 2007.

The Park Commissioners’ selection of the winning bidder must include
approval of their choice by the Board of Aldermen.

When the bidding process was first introduced the circumstances
involving the bid are different than they are today. Originally the
Commissioners’ job was to select the best golf course manager. This
time the Commissioners will have to include in their deliberations
costs arising from the “Special Legislation”. This legislation made the  
city eligible to take the “excess” money from operating the course and
use them for another purpose.

Not some of it, all of it.

It would be easy to conclude that what the city gets is the amount
that’s left over from operating the course. Fake news. In March 2011
Mayor Dolan sent a letter to the Park Commission insisting that a
$62,000 payment to the engineering firm that designed Fred Green Field
be included in the Mount Hood golf course budget.
This budget provided an excess but one not big enough to cover the
Mayor’s $62,000 demand. To accommodate this non-golf course expense the
Commissioners reduced a planned expense for redesigning the 11th golf
hole. With the $62,000 change, so much had been taken from the redesign
project that it had to be eliminated from any realistic consideration. A golf
course improvement was eliminated to pay for something that had nothing to do
with the golf course.

The heart of he matter..

This arbitrary action showed what was really at the heart of the
“Special Legislation” ..a way to pay for the sports complex expenses
and other expenses. It makes them part of the Mount Hood golf course

This provides a pretty good example of what will be part of the Park
Commissioner’s selection of the golf course manager. A contender will
be evaluated on not only its ability to run the golf operation but how
his bid will leave enough course revenue to pay for the costs
introduced by the “Special Legislation.”

This will be a problem. Golf course revenue has peaked at a little more
than $2 million. In its last bid for the job the current manager, GCM,
increased its bid, looking for more money to run the course. This is
not good news for the city because it is relying on golf course revenue
to pay for the fixed costs of the “Special Legislation.”

Complicating the issue is the general belief that the current course
manager is the entity responsible for achieving the $2 million revenue.
Replacing them with a lower bidder could very well produce a manager
whose lower price is an indicator that it cannot produce the same $2
million revenue.

What’s bad for the golf community is the realization of what the city
did when it wanted the non-stop money from the Mount Hood golf community. It
stuck the track-team kids with an inadequately equipped, poorly located
running track at Pine Banks as a way to do it.

Maybe the upcoming selection process for the golf course manager will make our
golf course another version of our state-of-the-art running track.

Joe Sullivan as well as his entire family have been Mount Hood golfers for
a very long time.

May 5, 2017


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