Don’t force taxpayers to support sports group

Published 8:54 pm Thursday, December 2, 2010

Suffolk has a wonderful assortment of youth sports programs geared toward improving the athleticism and character of the boys and girls who participate. From Pop Warner football to Little League baseball to youth soccer and private lacrosse clubs, there is a wealth of opportunity for Suffolk youngsters to learn valuable life lessons in sporting competition with other kids their age.

But the lessons aren’t only learned on the fields and not only by the youth, as youth participants and adult leaders found out during a meeting of the Suffolk City Council on Wednesday.

Adult leaders from the team, which is sponsored by Suffolk’s Inner City Athletic Association, came with hats in hand to the Suffolk City Council Wednesday seeking a donation from the city of $4,000 to help pay the cost of a trip to Orlando, Fla., by the organization’s eight-member dance team, which is set to compete in the national finals next week.

Email newsletter signup

It’s easy to imagine that the organizers expected the request for $4,000 to be approved quickly and without controversy. After all, $4,000 out of Suffolk’s $460-million budget represents a percentage so minimal that it might not even be missed by a team of auditors. And causes that involve children are famously hard for politicians — even at the City Council level — to ignore.

But the Suffolk City Council held firm against the temptation to get caught up in the moment on Wednesday, denying the request after much discussion. The decision might have been unpopular to the half-dozen or so members of the team who were at the meeting and to their parents and organizational leaders. But it was the right one for Suffolk’s many thousands of other taxpayers.

Councilman Charles Parr spoke a tough truth when he told the group, “I just don’t see this as being a taxpayers’ emergency.” As a private organization, however well intentioned, the Suffolk Steelers needs to do its own fundraising to make sure its teams have the support they need.

Appropriately, some council members pledged their personal support, despite denying taxpayer support. The Steelers make a positive difference in kids’ lives, and they deserve the support of the community they serve. But taxpayers don’t deserve for the city’s government to force their support with taxpayer dollars.

That’s a hard lesson for anyone to learn. But we can think of few that are as important.