Last week, the City Council budget committee released its recommendations for the 2006 Park Services budget. One of those recommendations was to close Davey Crockett Golf Course, which the committee said lost $237,000 last year.
On its face, that decision seems understandable. That kind of money isn't chump change, and golfers have several other city courses to choose from. But therein lies the rub. This same City Council is spending $4 million to build a new nine-hole golf course in Whitehaven, plus $700,000 a year to maintain it. This same City Council is spending $1.5 million to build a new clubhouse for the little-used nine-hole Riverside Golf Course. That's six million tax-payer dollars invested in two half-golf courses.
And how much money will these two boondoggles lose next year? I'm betting that it's going to be a whole lot more than $237,000.
Why would the budget committee do something so financially illogical? Let me give you the one-word answer: pork. That's right, friends -- pork. And that starts with P and ends with K and that spells, uh, well, tax dollars up in barbecue smoke. You see, the concept of doling out government-funded sweetheart projects to one's constituents is not limited to Washington, D.C. It's alive and kicking right here in River City.
A couple years back, Councilwoman Tajuan Stout Mitchell decided she wanted a golf course in her district and, by God, she got it. And after Mitchell got her pulled pork for Whitehaven, Councilman Edmund Ford decided he needed to build a lavish new clubhouse on the dirt-and-crabgrass goat field known as Riverside. (The clubhouse is reputedly more than twice the size of the clubhouse at the most expensive private country club in Memphis.)
Meanwhile, Davey Crockett, a real 18-hole course that is undeniably the prettiest and most challenging of all the city's public courses, will be allowed to return to weeds and forest -- or sold to the highest bidder. Sorry, Frayser.
It's a stupid decision. The City Council needs to take a mulligan on this one. Their first shot went way out of bounds.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor