It’s no secret how the Yankton City Commission feels about the aquatic center issue that now faces Yankton voters.
We stood together on Oct. 8 and voted unanimously to “dive in” to this pool project. Our intent with approving the property tax opt-out as a commission was not to take a short cut or to deprive citizens of a vote on the issue.
Many of us attended the public meetings held by Dive In Yankton over the last 18 months so we could hear first-hand the feedback they received. We saw and listened to Dive In Yankton share their efforts with our local news outlets and via their social media outlets. We know they spoke in our schools, in service group meetings — to anyone that would have them. The nine of us also spoke with our constituents during that time.
We felt the energy and momentum as Dive in Yankton educated our community and raised money – now approaching $1 million — and we heard little negative feedback about the proposal and the funding package we knew it would take to make it a reality.
And after all that, we felt the responsibility to act to move the project to the next step. That’s what we are elected to do — to lead.
However, as we’ve now seen through the referral process, there are many members of our community who do want to vote on this project and have a say at the polls.
We respect that. You, too, are our friends and neighbors — and this is democracy at work.
So residents of the City of Yankton can vote on whether they want this pool project to proceed on Dec. 11 (or by early voting beginning Nov. 26).
Now what we have ahead of us is an opportunity.
First, it’s an opportunity to educate.
For those of us who support this project and the funding mechanism to build it, we have to talk with our fellow citizens about why we think this is needed for the community. Unfortunately, the math on this is not analogous to calculating costs and expenses for a business. This is a quality of life project that creates a place for recreation and socializing for people of all ages who live in Yankton or who may just be visiting. It’s about providing current and future residents with modern amenities that many have come to expect of a community of our size. As we look around the region, there is no doubt about that expectation. We are notable for our lack of an aquatic center.
Second, this is an opportunity to set an example.
There is a significant portion of our citizens that has been very involved in the planning and fundraising for the aquatic center, but they will not have a voice at the polls. I’m, of course, referring to the kids of Yankton. They have perhaps given us and Dive in Yankton the most encouragement to invest our efforts, and our hearts, in this project. Their input and their enthusiasm has been incredible. And the passion they have is infectious.
While we have planned a facility for all ages, we know a lot of this is about the children and their families having a place to have fun and to create memories.
We know they will be watching this process play out. They’ll be visiting with their parents, teachers and other mentors. They’ll be reading and hearing media coverage.
So I ask this of our community: Whether someone is for or against this project and/or its funding mechanism, stay focused on the issues and don’t let passions run so high that we devolve into name calling or petty bickering.
We will disagree. And that’s OK.
But we need to handle those disagreements in ways that will allow us to go back to being friends and neighbors when Dec. 11 has passed.
Yankton is a community that needs to stick together to handle the many challenges that lie ahead, and we can’t let an issue like this divide us in a way that makes us forget our common bonds and unable to talk with one another about the next collective community decision.
So, thank you to everyone in our community who has set a good example for our youth throughout this process.
Now, I kindly ask that everyone study this issue in the weeks ahead and go to the polls to vote on Dec. 11!
You can reach Johnson at email@example.com