Re: Ketchikan Pool Bond Vote
By Dave Kiffer
June 18, 2009
I'm glad that Mr. Bylund considers himself an expert on the "general
welfare" of this community. But either he wasn't here in
the 1960s when I was growing up or he wasn't paying attention.
I remember those halcyon days before there was a community pool
in Ketchikan. Mostly what I remember is that - in our community
entirely surrounded by water - children drowned just about every
summer. In fact, it was a pretty light year if only one or two
did. One year six children died in five separate swimming accidents
at local beaches and harbors.
Now, how was that possible in a town where so many people made
a living on the water? Let me explain. Even in my own commercial
fishing family (great grandparents, grandparents, father) swimming
was not stressed or necessarily even encouraged. In fact, to
this day, I can't even say whether my grandparents - who spent
60 years commercial fishing around here - even knew how to swim.
There was a belief that if your boat got in trouble you'd be
too far off shore to save yourself anyway.
Maybe it was just that old fisherman fatalism at work, I don't
know. I just know that a lot of the adults in Ketchikan didn't
take the issue seriously. They always had a reason to say no.
I know that the youth of the community petitioned local government
at least three times between the 1940s and the mid 1960s to build
an indoor pool. But it never happened. There was an attempt to
make the tidepool at Bugge Beach a community swimming pool and
I'm sure that some folks did learn to swim there. But an outdoor
pool with few organized lesson programs was not a really good
option for Ketchikan.
Simply put, the powers that be were loathe to spend the money
to build the pools and then to require students to take lessons.
And kids just kept drowning (not to mention quite a few adults).
I'm sure that the excuses given all those years of not going
into debt and not raising taxes would sound very appropriate
to Mr. Bylund. And I'm sure that at least someone back then pointed
out that somehow the vast majority of the people shouldn't be
forced to pay for something that might only benefit a minority
of residents, the children of the community for example.
Personally I get tired of hearing people say that they "would
like to see a new pool" yet they are clearly not interested
in paying for it. They offer up a variety of "what ifs"
intended to make any proposed plan look faulty. But the "what
ifs" are merely speculation and not very accurate speculation
at that. Once again, they are an excuse not to do something.
I'd rather have the pool opponents just be honest and just say
that a new pool is not a priority to them.
Anyway, two pools were finally built when the state offered to
help in the early 1970s and school kids were required to spend
time in them and what happened? Drownings became a very rare
In fact, I can't remember the last time a local school child
Now the existing single pool is indeed on its last legs and we
are faced with either building a new one or going without. I
remember what it was like to be without.
I'm half tempted to provide Mr. Bylund with a list of parents
whose children drowned in Ketchikan when I was growing up. I
would love to hear him explain to them why the level of his taxes
is a more important consideration than the lives of the children
of this community.
About: Dave Kiffer is Mayor
of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
Received June 18, 2008 - Published
June 18, 2009
POOL BOND VOTE by Ken Bylund
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