July 5, 2008
Volume 1 - No.7
Darwin Campbell, Executive Publisher
A Bi-Weekly Publication
"Most Powerful Pages on The Planet"
Counting the Human Cost:
Closing Neighborhood Pools Victimizes Kids; Discourage Youth Fitness
By Darwin Campbell
Lone Star Power Pages
DALLAS- Dallas Bean counters are proposing to slash the city budget at the expense of low-income children in minority districts across the city.
However, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem and District 4 Councilman Dwaine Caraway said he intends to fight closing pools or cutting any other recreation program vital to youth.
According to Caraway failing to count the real cost the closings means sending more kids to the streets in search of other forms of dangerous and risky behavior or pushing them back indoors to soft couches and sedentary lives.
“No pools will close,” Caraway said. “We are not cutting services to our youth. These children deserve to have adequate recreational facilities in their neighborhoods.”
At risk of closing are Glendale Pool in East Oak Cliff, J.J. Craft in South Dallas, Tipton in West Dallas and Churchill in North Dallas.
Budget gurus believe closing the pools because of low demand and attendance numbers. According to officials, the move could save $200,000 allowing the funds to be used for adding more police to the streets.
Caraway believes more is at stake than budgets and balancing the books.
Kids are in sad shape, failing to meet basic physical fitness requirements at an alarming rate.
Nationally, celebrities, fitness experts and sports icons are spending millions to encourage kids to get outside and enjoy recreation.
Many kids are shut-ins, sedentary and do not know the adventures of the great outdoor and closing pools is one more nail in the coffin contributing to out of shape children.
Caraway, who is a strong youth advocate, believes bean counters are sending the wrong message and doing a disservice putting low-income neighborhoods and children on the chopping block and in the sights of the accountant’s pen.
“Even if there’s one kid who wants to swim in one of these pools, then that child should be allowed to swim there,” he said. “If there is a shortfall, we may need to revamp things from an administrative perspective.”
Even though Dallas has opened a number of small water parks and spent thousands on water “playgrounds”, not all youth have funds or transportation to leave neighborhoods
to get to those parks.
SAFETY AND HEALTH ISSUE
With nothing to do, many of children are open to the negative influence of street gangs and could increase the risk of being exposed to drugs and teen pregnancy issues.
A sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise opens the door for more time in front of the television, increased childhood obesity, bad diets, junk food and eating disorders, diabetes and future heart problems and other health related problems.
Most Texas schoolchildren are unable to meet basic fitness standards, according to preliminary study data released at a press conference Tuesday. Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott called the results "sobering".
In the largest study of its kind in the nation, 2.6 million children across the state were tested in six basic fitness categories, including stamina, flexibility, and strength. The study showed that fitness decreased as students get older: in third-grade, 32 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys met acceptable standards in each of the six categories. By the 12th grade, this number had fallen to 9 percent for girls and 8 percent for boys.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a Dallas-based fitness advocate who's Cooper Institute developed the test used in this study, said obesity levels in children are at an unprecedented level. "Our kids are the fattest and least fit they've been in our lifetime," he said. Childhood obesity is four times more prevalent than it was in 1963, and Cooper says if trends continue, one out of three children born after 2000 will develop adult-onset diabetes. "If we don't do something now, what will happen in the future?" he asked.
Closing pools is also a safety issues for African-Americans.
Nearly 60 percent of African-American children cannot swim, almost twice the figure for white children, according to a USA Swimming survey.
Black children also drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate, according to government statistics. Another study reveals that 58 percent of the blacks could not swim properly.
Encouraging and training more Black swimmers at the pools slated for closure and at other pools in Dallas communities could not only help lower minority drowning rates, but also develop more interest in swimming for sport and Olympic competition.
MORE PARENTAL INVOLVMENT AND EDUCATION NEEDED
In a recent study on African-Americans and swimming, University of Memphis Department of Health and Sports Sciences professor Richard Irwin said the influence of parents' attitudes and abilities make the difference.
If a parent could not swim, (this was more likely in minority families than white families), or if the parent felt swimming was dangerous, then the child was far less likely to learn how to swim- an issue parents must come to grips with to boost interest and convince “slashers” not to cut the budget.
Irwin said more learn-to-swim programs in minority communities are needed and should reach out to parents.
The big question is: Are Dallas leaders listening?
Dallas needs to put in place a permanent vehicle to encourage more Black children to learn to swim.
Closing pools does nothing to encourage safety, health and fitness of Dallas children.
Parents must stand up, demand pools stay open and support increased learn to swim programs.
Understand the short and long-range value of neighborhood pools and the value of having the pools for recreation, sport and safety and the prospect of training tomorrow’s All-Star Olympic Black swimmers.