I live in Eagle Mountain, which has about 20,000 residents. Last year around this time city officials started circulating a plan to build a rec center. The closest center to Eagle Mountain is in Lehi, about a 20 minute drive away. Having our own center has been a strong desire of many residents, and many elected officials, for some time. However, when the city's plan to finance one was made known last year, there was strong opposition based on economic issues. So strong, in fact, that the city put all plans on hold. I'm sure that it being an election year had nothing to do with that decision.
I attended some of last year's meetings regarding the proposed rec center. It was stated that no private enterprise would build a facility like those that cities build. The closest thing we would have would be a Gold's Gym type workout center. But anything with swimming facilities and climbing walls and senior citizen areas etc. would never be built without public funding. There is just no money to be made in that area, we were told.
Since then our pro-rec center mayor was reelected and we added a strong proponent of the center to the city council, so it comes as no surprise that the idea is anything but dead. However, what strikes me about this issue is that the economic concerns voiced by the public last year have not really gone away, and even if they had for most people, there will always be some who have economic problems. If it's unjust to impose higher taxes when everyone is feeling threatened by the economy, then isn't it unjust if even one homeowner feels threatened?
So it would seem that raising taxes to pay for a rec center hinges on the question of whether a rec center is necessary for the common good. In this vein, I've heard it compared to city parks. Parks are paid for and maintained by public funds - everyone is taxed for them and they consistently need public funding to remain solvent. No one seems to have any problem with city parks which are clearly recreational facilities, so why would there be opposition to an indoor recreation facility?
While that argument seems logical, I'm not sold. Racquetball courts and family swimming centers would be great. My family would certainly love it. But I remain unconvinced that it is something that falls within an acceptable use of tax revenue.