Winners 1, Aginners 0 but the games continue
We’ve had a lesson in the past week. In less than five days, we’ve been treated to one exercise in good decision making and another by local “aginners” who almost derailed that first decision and are threatening another.
Last Wednesday night, after I seated myself next to former mayor and City Council colleague Gregg Palmer in the City Hall council chambers, Gregg asked, “Have you been to any other council meeting since you left office?”
“Not that I recall,” I replied, my aging memory quickly scanning the nine years since I left office in May of 2007.
What brought us back to the setting where we both spent eight years charged with helping make community decisions was crunch time for Las Colonias Park. As longtime members of the Grand Junction Lions Club, the group that helped kickstart the Riverfront Project decades ago, we joined fellow Lions interested in making certain this latest project, one we’d pledged more than a quarter million dollars to help complete, went forward.
The Las Colonias stretch of lower downtown riverfront has been begging for more than the most basic of amenities if it is to become another jewel in the decades-long effort to redevelop the banks of the Colorado River from the mouth of De Beque canyon to the start of the Kokopelli Trail west of Fruita.
Last Wednesday night, amid worries about how the decision might go, the Grand Junction City Council approved by 6-1 votes a $3.6 million series of contracts giving the go-ahead to construction of the amphitheater and other amenities that will drive traffic other than trail users, disc golfers and occasional visitors to the Botanical Gardens. Mayor pro tem Marty Chazen was the “aginner.”
It was a no-brainer, really, but already other “aginners” are upset. You may have already seen the complaints in letters to the editor and in Sunday’s “You Said It” here in The Daily Sentinel. Most demonstrate what’s unfortunately a not-so-startling lack of basic information.
“How can the city spend tax dollars on an amphitheater,” most complaints say in one form or another, “while facing financial problems that threaten the jobs of some municipal employees.”
There are some easy answers to all but those most oblivious to reality.
First and most basic, no general fund tax dollars will go into the project. It is, in fact, mostly a gift to the community from outside funders.
Seventy-four percent of the $3.6-million project comes from public and private funders outside Grand Junction — from the Lions, foundations and other donations. Even the biggest single pot of funds, from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, comes via a grant from energy impact funds, not the city’s separate severance tax allocation.
There is $960,000 in city funds going into the amphitheater and other amenities. But those dollars wouldn’t help alleviate the budget crunch. They come from conservation and parks improvement funding that must be spent in those areas. You could argue it should be spent for other parks-related projects, but not one dime would pave your streets or save the job of a single city worker.
But the “aginners” seldom let facts get in the way. Witness still another example on the front page of yesterday’s paper: a petition drive against the latest local venture into the evil world of roundabouts.
Never mind that you won’t find a single traffic study that says roundabouts aren’t safer and don’t move traffic more efficiently. Never mind the evolution in design of local examples that finds the roundabout at 23 Road and G Road exponentially better than our original one at Horizon Drive and 12th Street. Never mind that funding for the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Highway 340 and the Redlands Parkway comes from the Colorado Department of Transportation rather than local coffers.
Never mind that most of the 28 crashes at that intersection in the last five years would have been prevented according to engineers — that rather than being “a bridge to nowhere,” according to one opponent, it might be a bridge to saving lives and avoiding property damage.
And there’s the most curious argument, that there’ve been too many improvements to Highway 340 and, therefore, we need a break from construction. Really? Too much improvement means we shouldn’t continue to improve?
That’s what passes for logic in the world of local “aginners.”