City needs to present down-to-Earth public safety plan

One might think that after a requisite number of years on this earth that certain things would finally be understandable. With age comes perceived wisdom. Long after teens are out of the nest, we finally understand that the inexplicable and maddening things our children do during those formative years are perfectly natural, for example. Or a politician never, ever ran into anyone with whom he did not agree. When we were younger those things drove us nuts. Now, with the experiences of a few decades under our belts, we get it. That’s just the way things are.

So why did I find myself scratching my head when I read about the Grand Junction City Council’s latest tactic to build new public safety facilities. I don’t get it.

I can’t imagine what city officials think they might hear that they haven’t heard already — many, many times. They got ears full of advice the last time they took a public safety initiative to the voters. They got it before the election and after.

Before their $100 million pie-in-the-sky a year and a half ago went to the voters, they were told it wouldn’t pass. They were told it was too grandiose, that it was laden with Cadillac amenities and this is a Chevy town. They were told that wrapping it up with a plan to release the city from the limits imposed by the voter-mandated Taxpayer Bill of Rights was a bad idea, one that would do nothing but make an already-doomed plan even less popular.

They were not to be deterred. Onward they marched, confidence bolstered by polling data that showed not just that their ill-conceived plan would pass, it would pass overwhelmingly. Their pollster said they would win in a landslide, with as much as 70 percent of the vote. (Here’s some advice: Get a different pollster.)

Well, we all know what happened. Voters were about as enthused about pouring $100 million into public safety facilities — that included, among other niceties, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, a new municipal courtroom to replace one that wasn’t even a decade old, and yet another parking garage for city employees — as they were about the city’s snow-removal efforts of late. No way, they said. The plan went down 54-46, and the revenue exemption question failed 60-40.

The post-mortem produced no new information. Officials were told after the election what they were told before the election. Too big. No interest in exempting the city from revenue limits. Too many frills.

And now city officials want to go hear all that again.

I suppose there’s no harm in that. But I’m of the mind that city officials ought to be the ones talking. The fact is the city has a great story to tell. And if they present a down-to-Earth plan this town will say OK.

If only the city could get every voter to tour the Grand Junction Police Department building, they could win in a landslide. The conditions under which we make our finest labor borders on unconscionable. Most parts of the county jail are nicer than most parts of the Police Department. Closets have been converted into work spaces. The building is so cramped that it’s highly likely that the victim of, say, a sexual assault may have to walk right by her perpetrator. The evidence “locker” is nothing more than an unfinished basement with virtually no security. I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Those are the conditions that we make our police work in.

That there is a need to replace that mess is indisputable. Going on yet another listening tour is pointless. City officials should be the ones doing the talking. Get as many voters as you can into that building. Produce an effective PowerPoint presentation that shows the appalling conditions at the Police Department and take it on the road to every service club, quilting group, bridge club, AA meeting, Bible study class and anywhere else where you can find more than two people together. Last time around city officials were on the defensive because the plans were so grandiose. It’s their turn to be aggressive.

Present voters with a plan with no frills. Forget the gym, forget the parking garage, forget the courtroom. Build what our officers need. Voters will support that. Maybe not 70 percent of them, but enough to get it passed.


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