City is tone deaf on citizen services

At least Grand Junction city officials didn’t threaten to euthanize cute little animals to contend with the city’s budget crunch, but they employed the same basic tactic.

City officials told the City Council last week the city may have to, among other things, cancel its annual Spring Clean-up — a popular and beneficial program for the citizens of this city — in order to deal with rapidly declining tax revenue.

Of course, proposing the demise of popular programs or services is a well-used means for government entities to strike fear in the hearts of the citizenry to let them know what could happen when their government is short of money.

Just last week, for instance, a political fight erupted in Massachusetts when the director of Zoo New England sent a letter to state lawmakers saying some zoos might have to euthanize 20 percent of their animals if state budget cuts were implemented. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick rightly called “bull” on that claim.

Grand Junction’s Spring Clean-up program may not generate the same warm and fuzzy feelings that some zoo animals do. But it has a more direct, positive effect on the vast majority of city residents than any zoo creature.

For two weeks each spring, the city will pick up just about anything residents put out on their sidewalks. And city trucks will take the trash to the county landfill, free of charge. The program helps individuals and families by allowing them to dispose of unwanted items, easily and at no cost. And it arguably aids the entire community by preventing such unwanted items from simply being dumped — in the desert, back alleys or other places.

We’re sensitive to the difficulties in the current economy. This newspaper has also had to make painful financial decisions.

But the city has demonstrated it is tone deaf to public concerns in the not-too-distant past.

Remember its insistence on including the confusing and unnecessary TABOR Amendment override provision on last year’s ballot, despite repeated warnings that the provision would likely doom the ballot measure to fund new public safety facilities?

Before the city cuts popular and beneficial programs such as Spring Clean-up, it must demonstrate to the community that it has done all it can to pare money from other parts of its budget, including spending for new equipment, freezing salaries and other measures.

If it does go through with the plan to cut the Spring Clean-up program without doing so, it can expect outrage from people in this community. And this newspaper will be leading the charge.


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