Pittsburgh City Council voted Aug.7 to lease the Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park to First Tee, a nonprofit organization that teaches children, many from low-income neighborhoods, how to golf.
But the only hole some councilors were worried about was the one the measure opened in the city's budget.
The problem many councilors had with the lease is that it doesn't really seem like a lease, in that the city isn't making any money from it. Instead, the city is paying $320,000 in capital funds -- money usually earmarked for long-term investments in infrastructure --to help fund operating costs over the next two years. First Tee will contribute matching dollars.
Councilor Jim Motznik began the debate by questioning why a golf course is getting capital dollars, rather than money from the Regional Assets District 1 percent sales tax. Schenley Park already receives RAD funding, Motznik noted, while other city assets have no funding sources at all.
"I need $50,000 to open two pools, one in Overbrook and one in Beechview," Motznik said. "I just can't see giving capital dollars to a RAD golf course."
Motznik was supported by other councilors, including Len Bodack and Twanda Carlisle. Carlisle said that although many young people in her district have used the First Tee program, "I can't support the way this is being funded."
However, Councilor Bill Peduto pointed out that the money wasn't likely to be allocated to start reopening swimming pools or pave additional streets across the city. "We're voting whether this golf course stays open or closes," Peduto said. The measure passed 5-3, with Council President Doug Shields abstaining; Shields sits on First Tee's board of directors.
Council has finally set a date and time -- 1 p.m. Sept. 10 -- for its special meeting to address concerns about police promotion procedures. The meeting was promised after an earlier hearing in June, where numerous individuals and organizations expressed outrage at the promotion of three city police officers who'd had complaints of domestic violence lodged against them.
The delay in setting a second meeting -- this one to include experts from inside and outside the city -- was drawing fire from women's-rights groups. The Sept. 10 meeting will feature several representatives from the police department and the administration. Several national and state experts are also expected to attend, although none have been confirmed.
The public is invited to the September meeting; however, no public comment will be allowed ... which was more or less the stance originally taken when the administration made these promotions in the first place.
Due to council's summer recess, this column will also be taking a vacation until council reconvenes in September.