Recreation authority is a splendid idea, but why the cloak and dagger?

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.

News of the exploration of establishing a recreational authority in the Wayland Union School District leaves me with mixed emotions.

I think a recreational authority to reboot discarded recreation programs would be a splendid idea. Wayland years ago combined the community education and reacreation under David VanEerden and Joan Medendorp, but Gov. John Engler and the state threw it in garbage can more than 20 years ago. Engler, when asked why back then, replied with his customary Devil's worshopmean-spirited and short-sighted attitude, “They (adult education students) should’ve gotten it right the first time.”

Giving up so quickly on young people who failed academically and at the same time closing mental health facilities was a social disaster that’s still being felt today. Furthermore, I fervently believe in the old saying that “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop.”

That is, I believe when young people don’t have much to do or places to go, they are more likely to get into trouble. The explosion of interscholastic athletics has helped occupy the time of teen-agers, but there just isn’t enough.

Recreation programs enrich communities, as do adult education programs that give people a second chance at getting an education. Perhaps the crime rate will decrease as a result.

I said I have mixed emotions.

The negative part revolves around how it all developed. Michigan already is regarded as the least transparent of the 50 states, and things like public officials meeting semi-secretly for years are nasty examples. It makes me queasy.

My understanding is that at least eight public officials — Wayland Schools Supt. Norm Taylor, Finance Director Bill Melching, former Wayland City Manager Mike Selden, City Council Members Jennifer Secret meetingsAntel, Rick Mathis and Lisa Banas,

Mike Selden, Wayland schools public relations coordinator Laurie Zywiczynski and Wayland Township Trustee Pat Staley held several meetings without a lot of other people knowing about it.

It gives me the creeps because it brings home the point that public officials can meet in secret to make public policy without the public’s knowledge. I am certain this group had no evil intent, but too often the appearance of impropriety is worse than the actual offense.

It also is my understanding that even other public officials were unaware of these cloak-and-dagger sessions.

So finally the prospects of a rec authority came before a City Council meeting earlier this month. I think it all could have been handled better.

As long as there continues to be discussion about how to fund community recreation for the Wayland school district, including the City of Wayland, Wayland Township, Dorr Township and the Gun Lake Casino, I wonder how this will be funded.

A school district millage for recreation might really be dicey because next year voters will be asked for funding for facility needs, including a new pool. Perhaps the recreational authority question could be part of the mix, but it still will be a challenge to get the public on board.

And those secret meetings didn’t help in the public relations department.

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