On March 12, Grand Junction voters will receive ballots asking them to consider a number of initiatives to invest in our community. I will be voting in favor of the public safety and community center initiatives, referred measures 2B and 2C, respectively. The need for increased capacity to address issues related to our community's health and safety is both compelling and urgent.
Public safety is like oxygen; you don't think about it much until there isn't enough of it. Unfortunately, we have reached that point, putting our citizens' lives and well-being quite literally on the line. And that's the point that keeps getting overlooked in the heated debates about city spending and tax increases — we are talking about the impact on real people's lives and about our overarching quality of life in this community.
This newspaper has dedicated plenty of space to the pragmatic arguments both for and against these measures and all of the facts and data are available on the measures' respective websites and in the ballot guide, so I won't spend time discussing the nuts and bolts of the proposals. Instead, I want to talk about what we want to be "when we grow up" as a community.
The Grand Junction I want to live in takes care of its citizens, brings them together, and looks out for their long-term health and wellbeing. That Grand Junction does not have a mental health crisis, rates of suicide more than double the national average, high rates of senior isolation and depression, an overcrowded jail, or limited pro-social options for many of our youth. It is a connected, supportive community where people thrive.
Our citizens cannot thrive where they fear for their safety because police are stretched so thinly they don't have time to prevent crime, only react to it. They cannot thrive where they do not receive critical life-saving medical support in time because all available EMT firefighters are already on calls saving others.
This is our opportunity to give our city's protectors the funding and resources they need to allow us to thrive. This is also our opportunity not only to meet today's needs, but also to reduce the demand for police and EMT services over time so that we do not find ourselves in this situation again. Support for public safety must necessarily include support for the community center.
The community center initiative is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It will have far-reaching impacts on mental health, physical health, and crime rates in our community for generations. It has been thoughtfully designed to foster connectedness, a major determinant of mental health in all age groups. It will provide a place for youth to gather and participate in activities that strengthen prosocial skills and deter them from criminal behaviors. It will encourage healthy and active lifestyles that improve physical health. The community center is a crucial part of our city's long-term well-being, on both the individual and community levels. That well-being translates directly to public safety.
If you have not had the opportunity to sit and speak with one of our city's EMT firefighters about what a typical workday looks like, how physically and emotionally taxing the job can be, especially at current staffing and resource levels, and what this investment in their department would mean in a very concrete way in their daily work, I urge you to do so. These are some of our community's most selfless citizens and their sincere commitment to us is evident after just a few moments of conversation. Every question I have asked them has been answered candidly and immediately and I have no doubt they would extend the same candor to you.
I also encourage you to attend an event hosted by the community center campaign and speak to the dedicated individuals who have worked tirelessly to create a tangible plan for creating a more connected and safer community. Their vision for what Grand Junction can be is rooted in a deep commitment to and love for our city.
Our city has changed and is undoubtedly growing, thanks in part to being situated in an incredibly beautiful place and offering a lifestyle that people in the rest of the world dream about. Our growth is also a result of our community's specific strategic efforts to diversify our economy and attract families and young professionals that add to our vibrancy. As we grow, we must also ensure that we are protecting and enhancing the very quality of life that has kept us here. The community center and public safety initiatives are a crucial piece of that.
The city sales tax rate has not been increased in over 30 years — that's almost as long as I've been alive. It is reasonable after three decades to now invite our citizens to decide to invest in our long-term safety and well-being.
Anna Stout is the executive director of the Roice-Hurst Humane Society and is running unopposed for the District C seat on the Grand Junction City Council.