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Opinion: Of Community Centers and Bureaucracy

One of the recommendations in the Comprehensive Plan, which is still in the draft stage, is to take a serious look at building a Community Center. I have heard arguments both for and against this proposal. While I both agree and disagree with some of the recommendations put forth in the Plan, my conclusion is this – we do need some form of a Community Center in McCandless. The scope of such a facility is something that should be up for a serious discussion.

Opponents of the plan cite the fact that we have a 3,000 acre park at our disposal within the Township. It is true that North Park offers multiple activities and spaces for the public’s enjoyment at the expense of County tax dollars. There are so many activities in North Park, it is hard to nail them all down. From the obvious fishing, hiking, biking, picnicking and walking to county-sponsored activities like organized hikes, moves in the park — there are far too many to even mention. Opponents feel that raising tax dollars in McCandless to build a community center would be a duplication of efforts. In some sense, that is true.

However, in my own personal experience, which I will share here, I have found that there is a need for some type of Community Center.

While the Comprehensive Implementable Plan outlines grandiose plans that are clearly unobtainable without significant tax increases, in addition to an expansive and costly “Parks and Recreation” branch of local government, there is clearly a need. Here’s why…

I founded the McCandless Community Association in June of 2017 with the purpose of providing a local nonprofit whose sole purpose is to promote the community and to hold some activities for families and seniors and other members of the community. We got to work right away and began holding some great activities such as the Valentine “Hearts & Crafts” party for kids. The first year that we held the event, we were at a loss for a venue. I called Northland Library to ask if we could use one of their meeting rooms to hold the event and was given a terse and quite franky rude “no.” Moving on.

We asked then-Town Manager Toby Cordek if we could use the town’s facilities. At first we were told that we could not use Town Hall, however, Mr. Cordek was more than willing to help us get some programming off the ground and offered to allow us to use the History Center.

I was grateful for the venue, but also a bit worried because it was completely inappropriate for a party where kids have paint and glue. I had visions of glitter all over historical items and old NA yearbooks. We did use the facility and had a great turnout. The kids and parents had a blast, and those of us who ran the event watched everything like nervous hawks to ensure that we didn’t damage anything. I was in need of a tranquilizer when the pizza came, following everyone around with garbage bags, hounding them to see if they were done and falling to the ground immediately to pick up anything that was dropped. It went off without a hitch, and our volunteers left the history museum in even better condition than we found it.

As expected, a bunch of nimby biddies from Citizens of McCandless complained about our use of the facility because, “Cindy bad.” We disagree about almost everything, so their response was to try to stop our COMMUNITY FAMILY ACTIVITIES because… nimby. Of course, the other nimbys on Town Council nodded their heads and put through some kind of rule that nobody besides “history” organizations or those they deem worthy are allowed to use this $600,000 facility that was built with our tax money. Those Citizens of McCandless – always doing good things like throwing wrenches into family activities!!! (Yes, they are that petty.)

In our second year, we didn’t even bother to ask anyone even remotely related to the Township to use their venue because I was really tired of the political BS responses. I posted on our Facebook page that we needed a venue, and the awesome people at Franklin Park’s Parks & Rec Dept. offered to let us use their amazing facility, free of charge. It was a wonderful event. Tons of kids and parents showed up and got their creative juices flowing in the dead of winter when there was absolutely nothing to do. It was an incredibly successful event for two years in a row, and we’re sure this year will be no different.

We have, on multiple occasions, asked to use Town Hall. We were told “no.” Recently, we asked if we could hold a class to teach residents who may have tight budgets to drop cable and use streaming services. Again, we were told NO by our new Town Manager, Robert Grimm, with a new and improved excuse – only “political” parties can use the facility and because we asked, they are now going to write a new policy that basically prohibits use of the space, probably so people quit asking. Oh, and “with all of the new committee meeting…” blah blah blah.

North Allegheny has been pretty cooperative – they let us use their soccer field between McKnight and NAI for one of our “movies in the park” events. There is a lot of red tape there, as well, because you have to go through the school board, the principal, an act of congress (kidding) and NA facilities to get it all together. Not complaining, because NA has thus far been cooperative, it’s just that we would have a lot more programming if we were able to find space. We held our Seniors’ Jingle Bell Brunch because the awesome folks at Memorial Park Church allowed us to use their facilities at no cost.

Okay, so back to the issue at hand – a Community Center. CLEARLY we need somewhere for groups to meet. I have spoken to countless people through Access McCandless who were looking for venues to hold events for their group events, to no avail. Not, at least, without an associated cost. In this vain, we need something.

Do we need some massive building with gyms and exercise equipment? No. There are literally about 20 exercise clubs around McCandless. How in the world would anyone even begin to try to compete with that and provide incentive for people to drop gym memberships for a community center that can’t even begin to offer the same equipment? Also – there’s a fabulous YMCA just over in Franklin Park that could really use some members.

Also, if someone could please explain to me why Town Council is moving ahead with an “Activities Committee” when we already have a nonprofit organization who is ready, willing and able to work with the town to provide recreational activities is beyond me. Oh wait. Nimbies. Cindy bad. In addition to that – why are we moving ahead with an Activities Committee for a Comprehensive Plan that is still in DRAFT form? Wouldn’t it seem logical that the plan should be in its final form before we start adding unnecessary “committees” and oversight that adds layers and layers of bureaucracy to our town government?

Consider this… if you wanted to have an activity in the past, you could just go to a town council meeting and speak directly to your town council. NOW, with all of these new committees, you have to get through the politics of a committee before you can even get to council. Awesome. On top of that, several town council members have been appointing friends who share their political views to these committees so they have more control over what happens. I don’t care who you are – this is bothersome.

Case in point: As President of the MCA, I went to the EAC (Environmental Advisory Committee) to pitch a plan for a community garden. The idea was that we would ask to use a piece of property that is owned by town to create a community garden. The garden would be run by the MCA and volunteers to do a few things: first and foremost, I wanted to create a vegetable garden that would provide produce to local food banks and churches to help those in need. Second, I wanted to also partner with North Allegheny School District to build the garden into the science curriculum of the school so that kids could plant seeds in class, then transfer them to the garden, and watch the literal fruits of their efforts. NA seemed to be responsive. Then I heard that our school resource officer, Mike Metzger, took it upon himself to clean up and make use of one of the many greenhouses that our school district has for the same purpose. I saw him at a school board meeting, and we talked about it. I also wanted to add native plants, with the help of gardener extraordinare Dan Heckert (also an NA wresting coach), so we could add education about bees and pollination.

The response from the EAC was this: Councilman Steve Mertz said, “well, Citizens of McCandless wants to do something like that.” Okay great – where is their proposal? Where are they? Are they here? Have they presented anything? Tell them to join us. I put together a presentation, showed up at an EAC meeting to pitch it and this was the response. Seriously?? In addition to that, road blocks were thrown up at every step along the way, to the point where council president Kim Zachary was BEGGING developers to add a community garden, because… Cindy bad. But I’m digressing again. Bureaucratic idiocy tends to make me do that.

To the opponents of this proposal, I say this: we need SOMETHING. We don’t need a full-blown-LA-fitness-style community center, but we need SOMETHING.

To proponents I say this: We don’t need an LA-Fitness-best-of-the-best-equipment community center. We need MEETING SPACE that is available to all organizations, free of charge.

Did you know that the comprehensive plan calls for “Staffing and operation management of a non-profit organization?” (This is code for “WE ARE RAISING YOUR TAXES.) If you don’t think our current council President has a huge plan for increased layers of government, tax increases to fund not only a brick-and-mortar community center, but a huge new department with staff and salaries – you’re delusional. (Zachary, the Democrat-turned-fake-republican-and-endorsed-by-fake-republican-PAC.)

Also, just wondering if these people are aware that a comprehensive plan is not a bible? It’s a suggestion.

I am no longer the President of the MCA. The biggest reason that I stepped down was personal and has to do with family matters. The second? I’m tired of nimbys using political opinions to thwart GOOD things because — Cindy bad. Oh, I’m still here alright. I’m still planning activities and running around doing things for the MCA, I’m just not in charge right now. I turned that over to someone who has the spark and the fire, like I do, but more ability to be deal with the obvious frustrations. Joe Beierle is now the President of the MCA. (Great choice for Town Council – not a nimby.)

My question to you is this, and I hope you’ll respond:

  • Do you think we need a community center?
  • What kind of community center?
  • Would you be willing to pay additional taxes for a facility?

Yes, these questions have been asked before. I fully believe that those on the steering committee for the comprehensive plan tried to garner public opinion, even the hand-appointed friends of Kim Zachary. However, I want to hear for myself what the community thinks.

Cindy Killeen
– NOT a nimby
– P.S. “Cindy Bad” has raised about $17,000 for flood and fire victims in McCandless.

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