‘Softball mom’ says discriminatory practices are at work over use of South Shore fields
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Having more money than you can spend isn’t usually a problem.
But how the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Facilities Joint Powers Authority should use about $470,000 in Measure S funds raised a variety of concerns this week.
Chief among the concerns was whether the city has given equal treatment to predominantly female softball programs compared to their mostly male baseball counterparts over the years.
The concern was raised during a Tuesday discussion by the City Council regarding a proposed amendment to Measure S, an $18 per year property tax on parcels on the California side of the South Shore to pay for specific recreational facilities. Voters passed the measure in September 2000.
A smaller then expected ball field project near the Lake Tahoe Community College and fewer bike trails to maintain then anticipated will leave the Recreation Facilities JPA with a balance of $470,000 for recreational improvements by summer 2012, said John Upton, staff to the JPA.
City Councilman Hal Cole said the lack of baseball facilities at the field near the college is the “unfulfilled promise” of Measure S and has left many in the baseball community feeling slighted.
To use the money, the JPA has proposed an amendment to Measure S this month that would allow the money to be spent on maintaining bike trails built prior to September 2000 and improvements to Little League fields along Rufus Allen Boulevard.
The JPA will discuss the proposed amendment again at a May 5 meeting. Voter approval will be required for the amendment to become a reality. The JPA isn’t expected to decide whether to place the proposed amendment on a ballot until June 30.
The goal of the proposed amendment is to provide equal amounts of the excess money to bike trails and baseball fields, Upton said.
But the proposal raised concerns from at least one South Lake Tahoe resident who contends the city has long showed preferential treatment to baseball over softball in violation of one California anti-discrimination law.
On Tuesday, self-described “softball mom” Marilyn Breisacher said she was concerned the proposed amendment’s language focused only on baseball programs, which are typically male dominated, at the expense of mostly female softball programs.
Following Breisacher’s concerns, the City Council included softball-specific language in the proposed amendment and removed site-specific restrictions on where Measure S funding could be spent.
While the move was a step in the right direction, there is still a need to address the historic discrimination, Breisacher said.
The softball field at South Tahoe Middle School where girl’s softball teams often play during the summer lacks many of the amenities of the adjacent Babe Ruth field used by baseball teams.
Breisacher said her daughter once asked, “why do the boys have the cool field?”
The quality of the softball field should match the quality of the Babe Ruth field or softball teams should be given access to the Babe Ruth field, Breisacher said. Otherwise, the city will remain out of compliance with AB 2404, a California law requiring local governments to provide equal resources for youth athletics regardless of gender, Breisacher said.
“It’s time to make the fields equal,” Breisacher said, adding the Babe Ruth field could be made into a convertible field desirable to both softball and baseball teams.
She said an improved softball facility would be a tourist draw and a revenue maker because of the numerous tournaments held at the softball fields each summer.
“There has to be some way to address the equality because it’s used by so many people,” Breisacher said.
Softball teams have every right to the Babe Ruth field, said Community Athletic Coordinating Council President Chuck Leonard, but the longer base paths, grass infield and presence of a pitcher’s mound typically make it undesirable to softball teams. The Council is composed of representatives of area sports programs and assists in scheduling the local use of area sports fields.
A representative of the Amateur Softball Association of America has sat on the Council in previous years, but did not this year, Leonard said.
He said it would likely cost upward of $750,000 to change the Babe Ruth field to the convertible field suggested by Breisacher.
The Recreation Facilities JPA will already scrape the bottom of the barrel with the $500,000 available to improve the Little League fields and maintain bike paths, Cole said Tuesday.
“If we have to take on another field we might as well stop,” Cole said.