Listening is key for public safety plans

Gene Kinsey, the well-respected former mayor of Grand Junction who now spends part of his time opining in the blogosphere, was an eloquent and frequent critic of the city’s failed public safety initiative.

That was the $98 million proposal to build new police, fire and other law enforcement-related buildings which was rejected by voters earlier this month.

Kinsey is a grown-up, so he can defend himself from the rude treatment he received from City
Councilman Doug Thomason, who told the former mayor to no longer communicate with him. For good measure, Thomason said Kinsey was a “has-been” — not exactly the most appropriate response from a sitting council member to a city resident, particularly a former mayor.

Thomason’s comments themselves aren’t worthy of discussion, other than as an object lesson for the city as it goes about figuring out what to do next. The city botched the election, but the urgent need for a new downtown police and fire station remains.

When Thomason decided to engage in some name-calling with the former mayor he, unintentionally, showed the rest of us one reason the city’s proposal was so soundly defeated.

It went down in part because city officials didn’t listen to a chorus of citizen concerns about the plan. City leaders were so certain of the correctness of their proposal that other points of view were given little consideration or were dismissed outright.

They should keep that in mind as the city regroups. Well-thought-out, sensible proposals should be the starting point for any future attempts to build new public safety facilities.

But, even more importantly, city officials must listen to constituents and take constructive criticism to heart. City Manager Laurie Kadrich and her staff have begun doing just that since the election, trying to get an idea of what voters will or won’t support in a public-safety proposal.

That makes far more sense than dismissing critics out of hand, whether they’re former mayors or just plain city residents.


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