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Instead of new tennis center, how about a new city league?

According to a 2008 study by the United States Tennis Association, approximately 10 percent of Americans have played tennis. About half of those, or about one in 20 people, are active. Of the one in 20 Lake Oswegans who play tennis, something less than 100 percent play on public courts.Tom Maginnis

You can see where I am going with this. Tennis is not a citywide, heavily pursued activity like youth soccer. It is a small, highly eccentric sport. That is not, in my opinion, an argument to destroy all public courts, but it does cast doubt about the wisdom of building another publicly owned and operated tennis center. Here’s why:

1. Only one in 20 or 30 Lake Oswegans will use the courts. All Lake Oswegans will pay for it. Is that fair?

2. With every public building comes outyear costs. More maintenance, more payroll, more capital expenditures, more benefits. Every project cuts into the ability to fund some future good idea or need. Ever-increasing taxes are not the answer, as Portland is learning. Many of our citizens are refugees from Portland schools, taxes and general craziness. Where will our refugees go?

3. A public tennis center is not required to be a profit center. Therefore, there is little incentive to rein in costs. My son went to work for LO at the teen center at age 16. By the time he left for college, he made more than an average restaurant shift manager and he had almost vested his PERS benefits. Portland is on the verge of being bankrupted by its public employee benefit costs. Shall we blindly follow in their footsteps?

4. Tennis is an activity that is being undertaken quite handily by the private sector.

Competing with the private sector is a slippery slope. More of our citizens dine out than play tennis. Shall we build a world-class restaurant? How about an auto repair center? Stationery store, newspaper, bookstore, clothier? All these activities are being done by some city in the U.S. Should we just condemn all of the downtown area and make it public? Who of our citizens shall we try to bankrupt, besides Jim Zupancic, the owner of the new private tennis center (in Tualatin)?

5. Every new public employee who lives in LO becomes another reliable voter for ever-larger government. That is why the founding fathers withheld the national vote from Washington D.C. We should not continue to build our public employee body to a tipping point or the city will eventually become too expensive for all of us.

Anyone who proposes to quash a noble goal should have an alternative, if possible. I propose that instead of building a competing tennis center, converting rural land in the Stafford Basin, spending ... millions of taxpayers’ money and creating endless outyear obligations for our taxpayers, the council create a city tennis league and devote a fraction of that money to subsidizing the organized play of Lake Oswegans.

The result? Competition, a vital private sector sports complex or complexes, no new public employees, a more restrained financial approach, minimal new taxes and the ability to pull the plug on the program without ending up with useless facilities, in the event we have future civil financial difficulties. Is there a problem with this approach?

Tom Maginnis, Lake Oswego, is a local businessman who ran for House District 38 last November on the Republican ticket.




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