It's no surprise, Troy just approved a 14.5% increase to its property taxes, after the Democrat Mayor, Patrick Madden, first proposed to the City Council (the majority of whom are Republicans) a 28.2% tax increase. All of this came after a 100% re-valuation of the entire inventory of property to full market value, which is an expensive process designed to lower tax rates.
The pools (there are two, one in Lansingburgh/North Troy; and one in South Troy, formerly, there was another one in Prospect Park on Congress Street toward the East Side of the City) are old and not habitually well maintained. Apparently, a lot of maintenance has habitually been deferred to save money in the current budget, something that also apparently plagues the City's water system. Where money is tight, and it always is in aging industrial cities in the Northeast, the pools were obvious targets.
This is especially true where the pools tend to serve less affluent members of the community. Despite a few people appearing at a City Council meeting and about 300 signatures on an on-line petition (in a City of around 50,000), that is not a constituency necessarily known for attending public meetings, or even necessarily voting.
There are a couple of larger points that can be drawn from this, in my opinion.
The first is that both Republicans and Democrats recognize the limitations of reforms that "break the rice bowls" of more affluent and influential people.
In Troy, Democrats are unwilling to spend public money to rehabilitate a public accommodation that one local politician described on local radio as serving "the poorest of the poor." (To his credit, that politician, a non-Democrat, supported spending the money on the pools).
At a national level, we see similar things with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("PPACA"), which lets health insurance companies sell narrow-network Medicaid Managed Care Plans with a high deductible slapped on as "Bronze Plans" in the Exchanges for a hefty premium. This was done instead of expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts ("HSAs") or non-Employer-based group coverage through mechanisms like Multi Employer Welfare Arrangements ("MEWAs'), such as Professional Employer Organizations ("PEOs"), which would have done almost everything PPACA does for the consumer at a lower cost.
In the situation in Troy, we also see a bit different take on the issue of centralization versus decentralization than is usually presented.
Troy had three pools and now has two. The pools were perceived as local, rather than city-wide, amenities. (As I recall, they were seen somewhat as "turf.") People from South Troy might feel strongly about "their pool," as people from North Troy/Lansingburgh might feel strongly about "their" pool, while people from the rest of the City (like me) might have no interest at all.
This is in contrast to neighboring cities, like Watervliet (across the river to the west and once known as "West Troy"), which has one pool, which people from across that City, of all socio-economic backgrounds, all use.
An attempt to close that pool would cause an outcry, not only from the parents of children and teenagers who use the pool now, but from older people my age, who have fond memories of "hanging out" there with their friends back in the 1960s and '70s and who may have met their spouse there.
Generally, it is better to de-centralize things, so that people can pay for the things that benefit them and can have a greater degree of control over those things that affect them.
However, politically, it is often better to have things that are central that everyone (affluent or not) can use and care about. (On a national, level Social Security has been more like the pool in Watervliet than the pools in Troy.) This makes such programs less apt to be victim to fiscal shortfalls but also make meaningful and necessary reform more difficult.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, should cities be in the business of running pools (or municipal golf courses that Troy also has)?
Mayor Madden is taking the position that Troy's "not-for-profit partners" (like the YMCA, YWCA and Boys' Clubs) can take up a lot of the slack. The Ys and the Boys' Clubs had always run free or low cost aquatics programs in the summers. Possibly, getting support from people who grew up in Troy and used the public pools could expand and "routinize" this to replace the pools. This is an example of something management gaon Peter Drucker used to talk about as privatizing non-core government functions into what he called "the Social Sector."
However, as the controversy over the Troy Pools demonstrates, the transition between these kinds of services being under the rubric of government and being part of the "social sector" is neither sure nor undramatic.