YMCA: It’s Time to Hold Them Accountable for Poor Performance

MUNCIE, Indiana – Being a competitive brand in Muncie, we try to avoid mentioning the Gannett owned, The StarPress, and its Big Brother in Indianapolis, but sometimes we just can’t help it. There is reporting and then there is whitewashing. From my vantage point, we get two kinds of journalism from The StarPress: 1) Reporting On the In Crowd; and 2) Journalism for Everyone Else.

It’s selective.

If you’re part of the criminal element, the local newspaper will feature you in the Busted section and write all about your arrest and your trial, making sure to exploit your crimes for profit as they turn around and market the Busted section to advertisers (those willing to pay outlandish prices for ads).

Like with all Gannett owned properties, specifically the USA Today, have a long history of inflating their readership. We know the local StarPress is no different since they count papers delivered to pantries and gas stations as readers and most of those end up in the dumpster.

However, here’s their excuse. We are just holding the criminal element accountable for their crimes against society. They broke the law. They committed a crime.

In a word, BULLSHIT.

It’s a safe way to fill your pages because you don’t have to make any judgements or offend the fine upstanding citizenry who also are your last few ad customers – “selective”. The term is whitewashing – a metaphor meaning to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data.

Let’s look at the word crime, according to Wikipedia, “One proposed definition of crime, also called an offense or a criminal offense, is an act harmful not only to some individual, but also to the community or the state (a public wrong).

So, while The StarPress posts photos of our drugged and drunken populations committing acts of stupidity in their Busted Section, they gloss over one of the biggest crimes committed in Muncie on another page.

Another year of County Health Rankings were released this past week and Delaware County dropped a spot from 82nd to 83rd in the state, and the StarPress reporter called it, “A punch in the gut to fitness enthusiasts.”

Really? Who has taken it upon themselves to be the leaders of fitness in our community for the past 100 years?

What most people don’t realize is when a non-profit is being formed, they are describing themselves as providing a social benefit, and asking the federal and state government to grant them a tax exemption. In effect, they are telling the government, “We can do this better than you, so grant us a tax exemption so we can perform this social benefit for the community.”

In other words, we’ll be ACCOUNTABLE for this service, and in return, we ask to not pay taxes on real estate holdings, revenues, and other income generated from our business. Furthermore, those who give us money can write off the contribution, thus reducing their tax obligation.

In exchange for the community foregoing taxes, or contributions paying for government services, we’ll assume the role of wellness professionals.

We know the results we’re getting from outside, non-prejudice sources. We are literally the worst in the United States.

What has the community given up for this business arrangement to lead wellness initiatives?

As far as I could research, the folks in Delaware County have granted a tax exemption to the Muncie Family YMCA since the 1920’s. Since that time, every Chief Executive Officer has been from outside our county – “a corporate YMCA insider”. That’s ninety years of external management in the field of wellness who have come to lead this community and we score 83rd in a state who ranks 40th out of 50 states, according to our recent article on Gallup’s Wellbeing Index.

Just doing a rough calculation on salaries paid over that time, or $20,000 back in the 1920’s, leading up to the current salary of Cathy Clark, CEO of the Muncie Family YMCA, which is $150,000, this community has paid $6.5 million in salaries to people who didn’t live in Delaware County. We’ve said, “We must have corporate YMCA executives because they are the best of the best.”

And, we’re 83rd out of 92 counties. Fair exchange?

Well, we’re not done.

We checked with our local assessor several years ago who told us the buildings in Muncie would yield $250,000 in property taxes, yet they are tax exempt. Assuming it averaged a conservative $50,000 over the same 90 year period with an annual inflation rate of 2.5%, we get close to $16,500,000 in property taxes were avoided.

If you add in taxes on selling memberships, and all the dollars people wrote off on their taxes for contributing to the YMCA, who knows how much more our community has gone without.

Just based on our conservative calculation, this community has missed out on $23.0 million in order for us to achieve results that are one of the worst in this country. And this is just one side of the equation. What about indirect costs, or the cost associated with our poor health?

I’m pretty sure IU/BMH hospital could put a price tag on preventable diseases they’ve treated over the years. However, since the healthcare model has been based on maximizing profits by treating sick people, there has been no focus on wellness. As a result of ACA, this is changing and prevention and wellness will be a focal point. A MAJOR focus because now they will make a profit by keeping people out of the hospital. Our poor rankings literally equates to major losses for hospital networks.

So, looking back, we couldn’t have done much worse if we let the government run our local health and wellness programs, and we could have reinvested $23.0 million back into the community via increased programming for the parks, building new trails, bike lanes, exercise facilities, etc.

The role of journalist is one of an adversary to the government, not a public relations firm for those in power. We are sorry if this offends funding organizations like the Ball Foundation, United Way, or business leaders, but when the country is re-evaluating how our systems serve us, we should take into account all entities, especially non-profits who are alternatives to our government. We don’t get to select services provided by our political opponents, or we look hypocritical, or we gloss over those entities who should be held accountable.

If we’re going to hold our drunken and drugged populace accountable, we should also hold those who are considered professionals – in fact, they should be held to a higher standard.

The conservative elements will rush to defend the YMCA, but they will have to look in the mirror first, because they are also the harshest critics of our local and national government. When you consider the price the community has paid for the YMCA to lead our fitness and wellness initiatives, you’ll have to agree that our investment has not paid off for the majority of folks living in Delaware County.

Sure, a small percentage gets to exercise for a lesser membership fee, but it hasn’t served the greater good which is the purpose of the government. Why should 90% of the community subsidize health club memberships for 10% of the community, and that’s being generous.

It’s time for our elected officials to re-evaluate this relationship. We believe the government can do better for such high costs to the citizens. Let the private market serve those members who want access to health clubs. Let the government serve the masses through public policies and programming. Our democracy only works when all entities are being held accountable, and doing the right thing.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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