The flip side of NO is YES. Saying No to one thing can open a Yes door to a better thing. Salem voters need to reject the Measure 24-420 bond for an over-priced new Salem police facility. Then the way will be clear for a better approach — one that meets the needs of the Police Department without wasting taxpayer's money and risking lives.
Watch this short 3/1/2 minute video of citizens -- including three city councilors -- testifying about the need for a second-try police facility plan to be (1) cost-effective and (2) include money for making at least the Library earthquake-safe (and ideally City Hall also). Unfortunately, their advice was ignored by City officials, who ended up approving a $62 million bond measure request that is too expensive and fails to save the lives of people who visit or work at the Civic Center.
Below are four good reasons to vote NO on the second-try $62 million bond measure, which City officials came up with after Salem citizens turned down an $82 million police facility bond measure last November.
(1) Cost still is too high.
Excluding land, the $490 development cost per square foot is 26% more than the $389 per square foot a Beaverton police facility is costing, even though Salem’s median family income is 13% less than Beaverton’s. So City officials are asking taxpayers for extra money that people can’t afford.
(2) Earthquake preparedness still is being ignored.
Once again, an overly expensive police facility plan has squeezed out funds for making critical life-saving seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall. Several citizen groups urged that these be part of a second-try public safety bond, but their pleadings to save lives at City Hall and the Library when (not if) the Big One Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits weren't listened to by City officials.
Here's a video of three city councilors -- Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Tom Andersen -- arguing in favor of a bond measure that includes money for a new police facility and seismic retrofitting of at least the Library, saying this is what their constituents have told them they want. However, at the end of the video Mayor Chuck Bennett dismisses the notion that making the Library earthquake-safe is important to Salem residents.
It isn’t good enough for the City Council to say they’ll put a bond for Library improvements on the November ballot. This bond likely will compete with other expensive bond measures. And it sends the message that the lives of people who work at and visit the Library aren’t as important to save as the lives of Police Department employees.
Vote No on Measure 24-420. Force City officials to stop making Library vs. Police a false choice. A unified third-try bond will bring our community together.
We need to stop this from happening to the Library and City Hall
It’s senseless for City officials to want to move Police Department staff out of the Civic Center because it will collapse in an earthquake, while leaving visitors and other employees unprotected.
These officials have said that if the Police Department moves to a new seismically-sound building, other City of Salem employees will move into the same dangerous space in City Hall that will be crushed under rubble when the next Big One earthquake hits Oregon.
This is outrageous. If it is important to save the lives of police staff, it is equally important to save the lives of everybody at the Civic Center, including children at StoryTime.
This video made for the previous bond measure shows why voters also need to say NO to the second-try $62 million police facility bond — so a better plan can be developed that includes money for making at least the Library, and ideally City Hall also, earthquake safe.
(3) Lack of public involvement.
Amazingly, those who led the successful fight against last November’s $82 million police facility bond measure weren’t invited to be part of the planning for a second-try bond. So community concerns about high costs and lack of earthquake preparedness weren’t adequately addressed in this new bond measure. What we got was more top-down planning behind closed doors. Not good.
After voters reject this second-try bond measure, City officials will have gotten the message. Work openly and collaboratively with citizens on a better police facility plan that almost everyone in Salem will support. Here's evidence that people in this town want money to seismically retrofit the Civic Center buildings to be part of a Public Safety bond that funds a new police facility.
When I spoke against the first police facility bond measure, I’d say, “If it is important to save the lives of police department staff when the Big One earthquake hits by moving them out of City Hall into a seismically sound building, it is equally important to save the lives of everybody who works at or visits City Hall and the Library.”
This argument resonated with voters. Such was confirmed by an online poll that was recently conducted by Salem Can Do Better.
Two-thirds of 394 respondents, 66%, favored a PLAN B for the police facility that included money for seismic upgrades to both the Library and City Hall (52%) or just to the Library (14%).
Combined results of Facebook and Survey Monkey surveys
Indeed, until 2015 City officials planned to ask for money to seismically upgrade the Civic Center buildings in the same bond measure that would pay for a new police facility.
This still makes the most sense.
I and others showed City officials how it would be easy to reduce unnecessary costs in the second-try police facility budget by $9 million, freeing up money to pay for Library seismic upgrades.
Part of my testimony at a February 2017 City Council meeting
Since this was rejected, I’m opposing the $62 million standalone police facility plan because it is so important to assure that the Library is earthquake-safe.
Here's a 3-minute video of my testimony at a City Council meeting where I showed evidence that citizens wanted seismic retrofitting of Civic Center buildings to be part of a police facility bond measure, and how easy it would be to afford $9 million to make the Library earthquake-safe.
(4) Salem has many other needs
Wasting millions of dollars on an over-priced police facility means this money can't be used to meet other needs: affordable housing, safe bike lanes, downtown vitalization, better parks, etc.
(Here's a #5 bonus reason to vote No: On 3+ acres just north of downtown, City officials now want to build a tax-exempt police facility where tax-paying mixed-use retail/residential development previously was planned. After getting some documents from someone who opposes building a police facility on the old O'Brien Auto Group site, I now see this as another reason to vote NO on the $62 million police facility bond on the May ballot, Measure 24-420. Read the blog post below for more information.)
Excerpt from post: "Development of this property by the private sector will generate many ongoing private sector jobs and an estimated $500,000 to $750,000 in new annual property tax revenue. When used for a Police Facility the property is taken off the tax rolls forever with no growth of new private sector jobs and the corresponding tax revenue."
Got a question about the $62 million bond measure or the proposed police facility? Email me at the link below. I've also shared some links that lead to sites with information about the police facility.