[Editor's note: this piece originally was published in the East Bay Express. The editor thoroughly enjoyed it and secured the author's permission to reprint it here. ]
While it is certainly understandable that many people are upset, if not disgusted, at the opening of yet another big box chain store in Berkeley, it would not be fair to see the Derby/Telegraph CVS as the same old/new thing.
We should recognize that, due to the foresight and leadership of Berkeley's city government, on many levels, we now have a situation many of us can applaud. Led by Mayor Tom Bates and city staff, an arrangement was negotiated with CVS to reopen the now closed, and very much missed, Willard Pool as a condition for building and use permits for the CVS just across the street.
While such arrangements are common in many other cities, it's been a long time since we saw one in supposedly progressive Berkeley.
Sure, it's in CVS's interest to have a pool used each year by thousands of people just across the street. Sales of things such as sunscreen, goggles, swimsuits, towels, snacks, drinks, etc. to the mostly young users of the pool will be considerable. Team T-shirts, etc., for the newly revived Willard Middle School boys and girls swim teams will also be a big profit item for CVS.
Unfortunately, no visible progress seems to have been made toward reopening the pool this summer. Therefore, dozens of young Berkeley residents will not be able to get desperately needed jobs as lifeguards and pool attendants. And hundreds of kids will not have the traditional swimming classes and relief from hot days that Willard has provided in the past.
But the knowledge that funding has come from a private source will no doubt help Berkeley city government overcome its reluctance to spend city funds in the public interest, and get busy soon to restore what never should have been lost.
If you'd like to thank Mayor Bates for his leadership on this issue, and encourage him and city staff to reopen the pool as quickly as possible, his office phone is 510-981-7100. Individual city councilmembers may be contacted via their web sites.