35 Worcester religious leaders on pools: “prioritize poorest neighborhoods”
Saying that “The future of Worcester’s pools is a moral decision,” 35 prominent Worcester religious leaders today issued a statement asking the City Manager and City Councilors to “take into account the impact the loss of pools will have on our young people and low-income families” and to “prioritize Worcesterâ€™s poorest neighborhoods for pool renovations and rebuilding both as part of the final plan as well as any timeline which will phase-in pools over the coming years.”
The statement comes out as the Council prepares to vote on the City Manager’s new plan to focus funds on replacing the city’s nine decrepit swimming pools with a few huge ones.
The statement and signatories are below.
Dear City Manager Oâ€™Brien and Worcester City Councilors,
As leaders within Worcesterâ€™s faith communities we wish to add our voices in support of saving and rebuilding Worcesterâ€™s public pools.
For over 30 years Worcesterâ€™s pools have served our residents, most notably the young and the poor. The closure of pools this year and the decisions about their future are not merely economic decisions, they are questions that go to the heart of community. Who has been served in the past by the pools? Who will be left out of new plans? The future of Worcesterâ€™s pools is a moral decision.
We recognize as elected and appointed city officials you share an obligation to be fiscally prudent. As leaders of congregations, parishes and communities we too wrestle with spending decisions, and the biting budget challenges imposed on us by the current economic crisis. Unfortunately the decisions to renovate or rebuild Worcesterâ€™s pools must be made within this context, but they cannot and should not be decided solely as a reaction to this crisis divorced from the lives of young people and families.
As planning for Worcesterâ€™s pools proceeds we bring two items to your attention and decision-making.
Much has been discussed publicly about how many pools Worcester should have. In deciding the fate or future of any pools we must take into account the impact the loss of pools will have on our young people and low-income families. Every pool that is closed, never to reopen, will significantly impact the lives of youth for whom the pools truly are their only outdoor summer activity. There are valid concerns about Worcesterâ€™s ability to renovate or rebuild all nine pools. We should be thoughtful and good caretakers. Our responsibility, however, is not only to maintain the community resources that we have, but to the young people who have only those resources.
Secondly, during these times of limited resources we must guarantee that our decisions do not disproportionately hurt those who are poor and in need. We ask that you prioritize Worcesterâ€™s poorest neighborhoods for pool renovations and rebuilding both as part of the final plan as well as any timeline which will phase-in pools over the coming years. Where we build Worcesterâ€™s pools is as much of a moral question as how many we build. The proposal to renovate and rebuild one pool in each City Council District is a lowest common denominator political decision. Where Worcester rebuilds pools must take into consideration community needs rather than attempt to chart a course between the political lines.
The voices of youth and low-income residents who have asked for the pools to be rebuilt need to be heeded and addressed. A unified voice, which has spoken loudly from Main South, Piedmont, Green Island, and Great Brook Valley must not be ignored. Everyoneâ€™s voice must be included in this decision.
Worcesterâ€™s nine municipal pools are valuable assets which have served many and which we hope will continue to serve many.
Rev. Dan Wilson
Aldersgate United Methodist Church
Rev. George Riddick
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church
Rev. Kevin Bean
All Saints Church
Rev. Nancy Baillie Strong
Saint Matthew’s Parish
Pastor Rafael Reyes
Amanecer de la Esperanza
Rev. Mark Frykholm
Salem Covenant Church
Diane & Michael Boover
John Paul Marosey
Faith Into Action Committee
St. Georges RC Church
Assoc. Pastor Belmont St. Baptist Church
Rev. John Madden
St. John’s Roman Catholic Church
Higher Education Resource Center,
Christ Tabernacle Church
Rev. M. Lise Hildebrandt
Previously St. John’s Episcopal
Marybeth Kearns-Barrett , M.Div.
Assoc. College Chaplain, College of the Holy Cross
The Rev. Warren Earl Hicks
Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
SS. Francis & Therese Catholic Worker
Rev. Dr. Louis G. Bond
Pastor, Covenant/Saint Andrews United Methodist Church
Rabbi Seth Bernstein
Pastor Juan & Zoraida Pacheco
House of Worship
Rev. Aaron Payson
Pastor, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester
Rev. Jose Encarnacion
Rev. Dr. Sarai Rivera
Iglesia Cristiana de la Comunidad
Rev. Terry Fitzgerald
Pastor, United Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Roosevelt Hughes
John Street Baptist Church
Sister Rena Mae Gagnon
Little Franciscans of Mary
Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan
Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester
Sr. Michele Jacques
Director, Marie Anne Center
Rev. Vicki Woods
Wesley United Methodist Church
Rev. Jesus and Ana Sequera
Ministry of Reconcliation
Rev. Oscar Amparo
Ministerios La Trinidad
Fr. Bernard Gilgun
Mustard Seed Catholic Worker