City sought too much, lost what is needed

Early this year, city of Grand Junction officials came to grips with the fact that western Colorado’s largest city badly needs a new police station.

The current one is nearly 60 years old and it shows every day of its advanced age.

Polling data at the time indicated voters would support a one-quarter percent increase in the sales tax to pay for it.

It’s too bad the city couldn’t have asked the voters then. We think had they done so, had they asked voters to increase the sales tax to build just a new police station and eliminate the tax once it’s paid for, then such a building might be under construction today.

But the city couldn’t ask the question until Election Day.

Two things occurred in the intervening months to kill the idea.

First, the economy began to go south and city officials didn’t pay attention.

Instead, much like a gluttonous and impolite uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, they decided they wanted everything. What’s more, nobody was going to talk them out of displaying at least a modicum of restraint.

The city started with the perfectly sensible notion of new quarters for the police department. And it began the effort to get a new station with a reasonable idea on how to finance it: Raise the sales tax by one-quarter of a percent.

Nobody likes more taxes, but Grand Junction voters are sensible and we think that had the city simply asked that question, and made the tax sunset when the building was paid off, the answer would have been yes.

But city officials weren’t content with that. Instead, while the economy was deteriorating, they allowed the project to balloon into $100 million worth of improvements, including many that are simply not necessary.

Does the city really need to build another parking garage, this one for employees of the public safety complex? Do we really need a new municipal court simply because of some minor security problems in the existing one that is less than 10 years old?

And was it really necessary to somehow hitch the entire funding mechanism, in a confusing manner to say the least, to permanently removing revenue caps imposed by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

We think the answer to those questions is a resounding no.

The voters agreed. They said no to the grand scheme of $100 million worth of improvements by a 54-46 margin, and spoke even more loudly about removing TABOR revenue caps. That measure failed 59-41.

Now the city is faced with an unsolved problem.

We believed nearly a year ago, and we believe today, that Grand Junction voters are sensible, and faced with the question of raising the sales tax by one-quarter of a percent to build a police station, they would say yes, so long as that is all that is built and the tax goes away when the building is paid off.


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Grand Junction, CO 81501
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