Posted 4/25/12 by Common Good
The following editorial was published in today's Providence Journal:
The drowning last June of Marie Joseph, 36, in a state-run Fall River pool has elicited the response that such sad events often do -- the imposition of complex changes but not the expectation of greater responsibility. Guidelines for supervision of such public facilities by lifeguards and other staffers have long been clear.
Incredibly, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Swimming Pool, the body of Ms. Joseph, who apparently couldn't swim, was undiscovered for two days after she drowned. The excuse given was that the water was murky.
But if it were that murky, why didn't some staffer notice? Indeed, state officials said the water did not meet state standards and that the pool shouldn't have been opened last year.
So the people who use these public pools will suffer as officials try to show that they're doing something. Officials are suspending the use of all water slides at the state-run pools. Less fun for the low-income folks who tend to be the biggest users of these pools. That is despite Massachusetts Recreation Commissioner Edward Lambert's saying that the slide at the Fall River pool did not appear to be a direct factor in Ms. Joseph's death.
Meanwhile, the depths of 11 of the 24 pools run by the state will be lowered to 5½ feet by June 23, and security cameras installed, The Boston Globe reported.
The remaining 13 will eventually also be transformed if money is found. More lifeguards will be hired and there will be a couple of weeks of additional training. And, of course, a new administrative structure will be created to oversee all this, with the new post of state aquatics director.
The net effect will probably be fewer pools and fewer days of operation, as money and other resources are diverted for these changes -- all aimed at giving the appearance of preventing tragedies that attention and common sense should block in the first place. So fewer people will probably have a chance to enjoy this healthy exercise.
Without a culture that re-emphasizes personal and institutional responsibility, such changes won't measure up to the publicity associated with their creation.