Printed Letters: March 19, 2017
Outside revenue won’t rescue Grand Valley
Can we talk about the Elephant in the Room? Sure, it’s hard to see The Elephant when the room is so full of elephants — the political kinds who tell us “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” Yet, where have years focused on spending cuts taken our community?
To a meeting where the county clerk tells commissioners she’ll close her office one day a week, rather than cut more from a budget she had just voluntarily cut. To which Commissioner Scott McInnis responds: “The reality is we just can’t wish this money will fall from the sky.”
The Elephant is, we have been wishing this money will fall from the sky — or at least not come out of our own pockets. We’ve bought the notion that we can get outsiders to pay for our infrastructure. That businesses from elsewhere will choose us if we just make our low taxes lower — that going without or doing it on the cheap shows character.
Larimer County does a comprehensive budget survey of the 10 largest counties excluding Denver. In 2016, Mesa County had the lowest proportion of its operating budget funded by taxes and fees. We have the next lowest per-capita property taxes after El Paso County. And we ranked first by far in relying on state and federal funds (51 percent of our budget).
Certainly, our high percentage of non-taxable land accounts for some of the difference. But let’s not discount our faith in the revenue fairy — tourists, energy companies and free-spending minor league hockey fans that leave money while we sleep.
The reality is, outside revenue doesn’t come to rescue anyone. It comes to be part of a success that’s already underway. But it’s easier to make unpopular cuts when the alternative is even less popular.
Mesa County shows lack of investment in education
Regarding $200 million needed for new schools. My wife and I would like to comment on the article regarding the need for funding for new schools in the Sentinel on March 8. We moved here about three years ago from Johnson County, Kansas, a Kansas suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.
There are multiple school districts within Johnson County and most of them have excellent reputations, outstanding facilities and diverse educational paths for the students. It is admittedly a more affluent area than Grand Junction, with much higher taxes, especially property taxes. However, economic growth, new building starts and housing values there all reflect the desire of the residents to live where there are quality schools and education. While Kansas City (which is adjacent to Johnson County) has struggled with their school system and slowing growth, suburbs making the right investments have flourished.
As we observe conditions here in Mesa County, it seems to us that there is significant under-investment in one of the most important aspects of a growing and vibrant community — education. While we recognize that this area lags behind in the economic growth of other urban areas, the failure to invest in education and the related infrastructure is a negative factor when it comes to improving economic growth, maintaining and improving housing values and attracting employers and younger people to the area. There needs to be a coordinated and managed campaign to convince people on the necessity of making this investment and securing their supporting vote.
It seems to us that Mesa County, Grand Junction and the area surrounding the cities need to work together to prioritize improvements and capital investments in order to maximize the value to the entire community. Our schools should be an overarching focus.
LEONARD and PHYLLIS LITTLE
County should capitalize on wealth of opportunities
What’s wrong in Mesa County?
Look at the results for the state of Colorado: the lowest unemployment in decades, with much of the growth in recreational related activities. So what’s with Mesa County and specifically the self-proclaimed, as it should be, “hub” of Grand Junction? Both continue to report lower and or declining revenues and employment while we apparently wait for something to happen. Another extraction boom maybe? Remember, “Winners make it happen; losers let it happen.”
This county has available to it an abundance of natural beauty and opportunities that could be capitalized on with minimal (relative) expense to attract the younger outdoor enthusiast, and across the board visitors and residents.
Imagine something as using the Redlands Canal Inspection road as an already-built major part of our trail system, with miles of riding without ever leaving this immediate valley area. What a concept/example. Think of the potential spinoff of positive exposure and revenue. I’m not a bicyclist, and I do understand property rights, so this is not a self-serving or new idea, but is simply an example of doing something without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Desperate times require thinking responsibly outside the box a bit — not desperate thinking.
The elected county commissioners and city councilors are those we elected to hopefully implement items designed to sustain and to grow a healthy financial and personal well-being environment.
Now is the time to seriously examine our area and ask, after years of electing these “ultra-conservative officials” (cynically using quotes similar to President Trump) and seriously ask yourself “How’s that working for us?”
Citizens, government, should have same health coverage
The answer to Paul Ryan’s health-care problem is actually simple. Make all government employees, at all levels of government pay the exact same health insurance rates that we, the citizens, have to pay. No discounts, no perks, no freebies. The same health coverage plan for the same prices. Either that, or put all citizens on the same health insurance coverage plan that government employees have, along with the same prescription plan. Easy peasy. It’s not hard at all.
The politicians are just telling everyone it’s hard. The only “hard” part about this is that if they do the right thing and give us the health insurance plans we all want and deserve, it will be hard for “them” to hold this over our heads the next election cycle, and to use it to scare us into voting for them again.
Event center a necessity for cities like Grand Junction
It always mystifies me why some people, regardless of age are so hesitant to look forward and realize changes are good. Think Ford, Edison, Flemming and Pasteur.
When the Fruita Community Center was being proposed and the town of Fruita was asking its citizens to approve a .3 percent sales tax increase to help fund it, it took two ballots before the FCC had enough votes to pass. What a fantastic decision that was!
The FCC is the envy of the valley. People from all over the area, Utah included, enjoy the benefits of that decision. The doubters are now active participants with the million plus guests that have passed through the doors during the short time since opening.
Those same arguments are now being made concerning Grand Junction’s proposed tax increase to fund a new event center. Building an event center in Grand Junction will place our valley on the map as a place on the go; not just for people living in Grand Junction, but from miles around, because of the many kinds of entertainment, conventions, athletic and community activities it will attract.
There is the argument that Grand Junction would benefit more by building a community center instead of an event center. Grand Junction already has multiple fitness centers, swimming pools and parks. The population and size of Grand Junction is no comparison to the small town of Fruita, and that’s the reason the FCC is such a huge success.
An event center is a necessity for larger cities like Grand Junction in order to maintain its credibility as a growing community going forward, looking to the future.