As a duffer who enjoys golf primarily to be outside, for the conversation and the occasional good shot, I have some observations on the issues and solutions that face the city council concerning the city golf courses. Having been an owner of a business for over 30 years in our community, my frame of reference is free enterprise. Profit-motivated businesses are better suited for certain activities than government management. Our city government is better suited for essential services such as water, sewer, streets, fire and police protection.
Recreation activities such as golf belong in the free market. For the city to have a shortfall of $250,000 per year or $2.5 million dollars over 10 years without having addressed the problem is shameful. No private business could exist with that deficit. For the city council to even suggest a consultant for $50,000 is even more absurd. Further, to believe the city golf department could offer real solutions is also not believable. Where were their ideas for each of the last 10 years when it ws running further in debt? Their solution to the deficit was to raise prices.
At the same time over the last 10 years, golf was evolving and the free market, privately owned courses such as Hunters Ridge, St. Andrews, Airport National, and Amana were innovative with time of day pricing that includes carts. Contrast that with publicly run courses. Private ownership is motivated by a custimer-driven orientation and market pricing in a competitive arena.
Now it is time for tough choices by bold leadership:
1. The city needs to get out of the golf business. It belongs in the free market with private entrepreneurs.
2. Twin Pines’ 150 acres should be sold. Many local and national developers would show interest in this ideal development land along Highway 100 with excellent access off Edgewood Road on one side and the upgraded 42nd Street on the other side. Rather than have the land be a cost to the city, it could be a large windfall as a result of the sale and ongoing income from property taxes that would be created.
3. Jones should be closed and the land returned to the parks department for community use.
4. Gardener on the east side, Ellis on the west side should continue as golf courses leased to a private enterprise with golf course management skills. Again an existing cost for the city would become a new source of income from the lease agreement.
Hopefully, these common-sense suggestions merit an open conversation on how our tax money is used.
• Steve Andersen, of Cedar Rapids, ws the longtime owner of Bezdek’s Florist and Greenhouse. Comments: Bezdeks@aol.com