If the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission cannot find enough lifeguards at $15 an hour, it needs to pay more. If we can spend $41 million to renovate the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, surely we can pay $30 an hour to lifeguards.
This is just one more instance of misplaced priorities in our parks and rec system. The aquarium is largely part of the tourism economy, not a recreational facility. Keeping kids occupied during the summer is an important part of keeping them out of trouble and keeping juvenile crime low.
To paraphrase the Rev. Gregory Boyle, whose Homeboy Industries worked with gang members in Los Angeles, nothing stops a bullet like a pool. But more than that, swimming is one of the joys of childhood and a life-saving skill, one that might be needed for those seeking high-paying jobs in marine transportation and offshore energy production.
Preventing kids from learning to swim and enjoying their summers is inequitable today, and will perpetuate inequities long into the future.