Tempers flare over basketball courts / Mayor Pro Tem Chandler’s words
By Galen Patterson
Tuesday night’s City Council meeting saw dozens of sign-holding citizens speaking out against the removal of basketball courts from Eisenhower Memorial Park.
Some of the speakers called for Mayor Pro Temp. Roger Chandler to resign following his remarks on the issue from the Aug. 20 council meeting when Chandler said he did not like the “type” of people the courts attracted to the park.
The speakers ranged from young children to senior citizens, almost all of which spoke in favor of the basketball courts.
Ron Ely, an Arcadian living near the park, said that in the past the courts did attract unauthorized basketball tournaments, which caused a disturbance, but the city posted a sign stating “Organized Basketball Tournaments Are Not Allowed” which solved the problem, according to Ely.
The proper course of action from Ely’s perspective is to “post the rules and enforce the rules, end of story.” Ely spoke in favor of replacing the basketball courts. He has Parkinson’s disease and requires exercise for his treatment, which the courts used to provide for him.
Signs were made by Shirley Chi, an Arcadian and mother who owns a business in the city and lives near the park. Chi said she is most concerned about the wording Mayor Pro Tem Chandler used to defend his stance against the basketball courts, and that she does not want her children to grow up thinking that playing basketball negatively stereotypes people.
Sraavan Donthineni was born in Arcadia and now raises his own children in the house he grew up in, situated near the park. Donthineni said he organized the rally by informing his neighbors of the council’s plans and verbally chastised Mayor Pro Tem Chandler and Councilman Sho Tay for their method of service to Arcadia on the council.
Councilman Tay’s remarks about the basketball courts being too expensive and that the city should not spend money on them when the public library is discontinuing a popular program based off of a miscommunication do not make sense to him.
However, the funding for the park comes from the city’s park fund and cannot be used for any other department within the city, leaving Tay’s argument somewhat invalid, which further frustrated the crowd. “What Chandler and Sho Tay said was a disservice to the community,” said Donthineni in an interview with Arcadia Weekly.
During the council’s deliberation, Mayor Pro Tem Chandler accused Mayor April Verlato of orchestrating the rally against him and said it was the fourth time he was subject to her orchestrations. The accusation caused Mayor Verlato to call an emotionally charged recess to the meeting. She later denied Chandler’s accusations. Donthineni also denies conspiring with Mayor Verlato when organizing the event.
Mayor Pro Tem Chandler apologized to the public for his phrasing from the last council meeting, saying he meant to infer that the courts attracted the intimidating and rule-breaking type of people that used the courts prior to the postage of the sign more than a decade ago.
The council also reconsidered their previous decision on the basketball courts and moved to add a single basketball court to the plan. The single court will face east/west, will cost between $200,000 and $250,000, and will most likely delay opening of certain parts of the park by one month.