Originally published Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. / Last updated Aug. 28 at 11:54 a.m.
Residents to rally and demand basketball courts be restored at Sept. 3 council meeting
By Terry Miller
Last week during a council meeting, comments made by a longtime councilmember regarding a basketball court at Eisenhower Park incited heated community reaction and prompted citizens to vehemently object to the councilmember’s ill-chosen remarks.
The City Council last week recommitted to an improvement plan which permanently eliminates Eisenhower Park’s basketball courts. The move, approved 3-2 by Councilmen Tom Beck, Sho Tay and Chandler, upset many community members.
However, it was Mayor Pro Tem Roger Chandler’s opinion that rose more than a few eyebrows. In fact, Chandler made it crystal clear when he insinuated that a basketball court would bring outsiders to Arcadia.
During the Aug. 20 meeting, Councilman Chandler said he wouldn’t want the basketball courts rebuilt there because he doesn’t like the “type” they attract. Chandler’s intolerance seriously irked the community at large.
“I’ve personally observed the folks, and they’re not the type I would drive into Arcadia, nor is their language conducive to children playing,” Chandler said during the meeting.
Last Sunday, over one hundred residents staged a demonstration next to the newly razed Eisenhower Park. Many in attendance carried signs objecting to Chandler’s contentious comments. One young woman’s sign read “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere” another said “The time is always right to do what’s right.”
Signs reading “Remove Intolerance, Not Basketball” and “Arcadia Accepts All,” were also placed on the fence surrounding the park.
Arcadia Mayor April Verlato vigorously agrees and was among those in attendance Sunday.
“I do not agree with Mayor Pro Tem Chandler’s statements about basketball. Those statements are not representative of Arcadia. I believe public parks need to provide a variety of outdoor play. Basketball provides an opportunity for neighbors to gather, create community and provide fun play for children, fostering confidence and good health.
“There were about 100 residents at the protest yesterday [Sunday]. The purpose was to bring about awareness of what is happening at Eisenhower Park and recruit more people to come to the next council meeting in order to get a councilmember to change their vote,” Mayor Verlato said in a written statement to Arcadia Weekly Monday.
Our repeated efforts to get comments from Mayor Pro Tem Chandler were unsuccessful as of print deadline, however we did hear from Councilmembers Tom Beck and Peter Amundson.
“My decision was solely based upon the safety of the children. We were faced with squeezing in a court after the design was completed. I visited Eisenhower Park Monday with our city manager and public works director and a couple other city employees.
On Aug. 20 the City Council was given two options. One was the south of the park where the picnic area is located. This is the heaviest used picnic area in the City of Arcadia. It would totally interrupt that area and take away an asset that is heavily used. The second option was to place the court between where the 2-5 year old play equipment will be located and the T-ball field that has 4 and 5 year old children playing,” Councilman Beck told Arcadia Weekly.
Councilman Amundson shared the following:
“I have lived in Arcadia during six decades. I will certainly say that Arcadia has a history of being a giver, always giving more to the San Gabriel Valley community than it receives in return. I am pleased to say that Arcadia is a hospitable city. I am proud of what we have done to be more inclusive during my time on the City Council. From our One Arcadia program, to our language access policy, to the various cultural events that are held throughout the year, we strive to be a welcoming community for all.
“As for the basketball courts at Eisenhower Park, it is a shame that the neighbors who wanted to retain the basketball courts were not heard earlier. I am not placing blame on staff or on the residents. I think staff, if they had known, could have incorporated the residents’ suggestions in the plans and saved Arcadia money. At the council meeting I voiced my preference for the compromise of one basketball court centrally located. This location and plan would have sustained basketball and not disturbed the southern area that is popular for families and picnics.”
The Sierra Madre Tattler’s always colorful John Crawford wrote about the fiasco on his blog. Some of those who commented on the post allege that longtime Councilmember Chandler is a racist and one comment by an anonymous poster in particular caught our attention: “Didn’t Chandler get a pension for life from the LAPD for bone spurs or something?”
There will be a rally before the next council meeting between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 at Arcadia City Hall to protest council’s decision and in particular Chandler’s alleged insensitive and inappropriate remarks.
Arcadia City Manager, Dominic Lazzaretto informed Arcadia Weekly on Wednesday morning that there will be an agenda item at the Sept. 3 regular council meeting regarding the basketball issue. “It will allow for reconsideration and further direction if the city council wishes to do that,” Lazzaretto said.