Suspicion unwarranted in SHEDG offer

Since Sweet Home Economic Development Group decided to offer a pile of cash to School District 55 in exchange for removing the high school tennis courts, some have looked at SHEDG with suspicions of nefarious back-room plots.

At the core of the suspicion is the idea that SHEDG just wants more space for the Oregon Jamboree.

Well, pardon my childishness for a moment, duh.

No doubt, SHEDG will be able to fit more people onto that slab of ground and, no doubt, it will recover what it’s going to give to District 55. The Jamboree may even record larger net revenue from it. How much? Jamboree officials say they don’t really know.

It doesn’t even matter.

The Jamboree might make a dollar more or $100,000 more. It still doesn’t matter. All of those proceeds will fall under the direction of the SHEDG Board and be used either to further develop the Jamboree or for local projects of one kind or another.

SHEDG programs have tended to require a matching contribution on the part of the benficiaries. As one of the volunteers on whose backs the Jamboree is built, I appreciate the care the board takes to ensure a buy-in from those who want to make improvements.

The School District is not the only recipient of such an offer. SHEDG offered money to the city to take care of Weddle Bridge.

While it was not handled completely without public dollars, the majority of it, including SHEDG’s match, was funded voluntarily by donation or in-kind work or donations.

This is the way we should strive to improve our parks and other community amenities rather than relying on tax dollars.

SHEDG is sitting on a large wad of cash, contemplating the purchase of its own property. It is still willing to offer a cash match to improve the fields on which it has operated the Jamboree since 1992 but will likely be only a short while longer.

It is willing to pay $100,000, with a possible benefit lasting only two or three years, for the use of the land roughly a week out of each of those years. This is high rent.

Except SHEDG doesn’t view it as rent. It views it, incorrectly, as a “gift.” That’s just semantics that some critics can latch onto.

Really it’s more of the kind of investment in the community that many people want, better school facilities. It may not fall specifically under what I might want to see, but it’s a win-win for the School District, community and SHEDG.

That’s the crux of the issue for some folks, though. SHEDG and the Jamboree will benefit. That somehow makes the offer worthy of suspicion. They seem to think that SHEDG should altruistically give the cash away.

To those who think this way, think about the same thing as you walk into Thriftway or Safeway for your groceries. Those stores care nothing about feeding you in particular. Sure, the staff at both may appreciate you and your business. They may even like you and talk to you, but their primary concern as grocery stores is making money.

Some might say it’s wrong for these businesses to exploit the hungry and suggest that grocery stores should be more altruistic and give the food away; but anyone like that is living in the same delusional fantasy where Karl Marx resided.

Both the grocery consumer and the grocery supplier benefit from the trade. That’s obvious here, and it’s obvious with SHEDG’s offer. To listen to SHEDG officials, the benefit would be small, but they admit there would be a benefit. There’s nothing wrong with this.

If the district can find a way to afford the deal, it will benefit as well, with brand new tennis courts or other sports facilities it needs, such as soccer fields or football stadium improvements. The School Board should look at this offer as an opportunity.

SHEDG President Ron Moore has outlined ways that it could benefit the district. The district would have unlimited use of the $100,000 with two conditions: Tear out the tennis courts and raise $75,000 in matching cash.

I don’t know if the district has the cash itself to match the funds, but this remains an opportunity for the district if district officials, sports boosters and tennis fans can step outside the box and look for the matching cash.

In the district’s defense, it may simply be unable to afford to take advantage of this offer. This should not perplex the members of SHEDG or the community.

But if true, given those circumstances, those tennis courts will likely be gone on their own in just a few short years with no outside help to replace or rebuild them.

That’s why the district needs to play it smart and try to take advantage of SHEDG’s offer. The benefit will go to more than SHEDG.