I’ve been asked often of late to address the proposed Measure R on the ballot to revitalize and build new parks and recreation facilities through the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District. Other than the status of our football team, it’s the most talked about local sports story in the last few months.
As with everything, emotion doesn’t come into play when I’m taking a position. There is already plenty of emotion around this measure, some even spending every waking hour to either oppose it or pass it. I appreciate the passion but don’t condone the lack of civility I’ve witnessed, I hope to be more practical in my stance and let data call the shots.
First the empirical data, what I’ve seen firsthand. I had the pleasure while working in intercollegiate athletics at Cal State Bakersfield to travel the country and visit other communities of all sizes. As a result, I concluded that athletics facilities are the new arms race of amateur sports. What a community provides its young people directly equates to success at the high school and college level. The investment returns in other ways as well.
On the statistical side, I recently came across a report from the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty in which the authors concluded that “the community where a child grows up greatly influences his or her opportunities for upward mobility.” Upward mobility is in reference to financial position and currently Tehachapi children have an 11 percent to 13 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of income earners if starting in the bottom 5 percent. Not terrible but plenty of work to do.
Me? I’m what this report calls a “returner,” defined as those who go out from their hometowns, learn vital skills and then return with a mind to give back, to grow, and to steward. I’ll accept that distinction; those are the exact reasons I returned to Tehachapi.
But, as a taxpayer I also understand the over-taxed frustration. Us Californians, we “enjoy” particularly high taxes, we’re often at wits-end and many choose to leave as a result. I choose to stay. I’m a returner, this is my home and I choose to make it better.
Leaving isn’t always the answer. This report maps out how we help those who choose to stay, who choose “familial and communal support over economic relief.” The authors say that this where it becomes incredibly important to build strong towns and revitalize neighborhoods, all things I believe are covered under Measure R.
My favorite call to action in this study was the concept of taking up the vital work of “place-making.” “Comparing this concept to ‘homemaking’ makes the vision clear: we must foster an ordered place, steward its resources wisely, and ensure that it is safe and comfortable for all those who reside within it. It’s a vision that cannot be achieved without determined place makers, community and civic leaders, philanthropists, business-people and politicians who are ready and willing to dedicate themselves to their place.”
We aren’t getting help for this task from outside our community, there isn’t a giant grant to be had or a private entity willing to spend millions locally if we won’t spend a dime ourselves. It is on us to help take up the banner of place-making for the sake of Tehachapi, for the sake of our children. Certainly not all, but a select few that oppose this measure offer misguided frustration; their attacks are personal, vile and don’t belong on this mountaintop. I count on their reaction to this column to be just that. But to win a ball game someone has to lean into a pitch occasionally and take one for the team. So, batter up.
Let’s call this ballot measure for what it is, an opportunity for place-making, an opportunity for leaders to lead and for voters to choose (or not) to subscribe to the American Dream of creating a life for our children and grandchildren that is far better than the one we have ourselves.
As a father of one son, and Lord willing more in the future, if I have to pay $39 per $100,000 of assessed value of my home for that, it’s a bargain in my book.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.