Yeah, I'm showing my age with a power to the people mention.
But given the mostly gray hair in evidence among the dozens of people who showed up to express their opposition to a vastly over-priced, poorly planned $80 million scheme by officials at the City of Salem to build a new police facility next to and over Mirror Pond at the Civic Center, along with renovations to City Hall and the Library, it's fitting to reboot that phrase from my 1960's memory bank.
After submitting testimony to the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Police Facility established by Mayor Anna Peterson, and then a reply to a response to my testimony by the chair, T.J. Sullivan, I decided to go to my 6 pm Tai Chi class last night rather than attend the entire Task Force meeting.
When I walked in about 7:30 pm, it didn't take long for me to realize that the $80 million "Police Palace" proposal that the Mayor and City Manager had been pushing on a deeply skeptical citizenry was in trouble.
Mayor Peterson, who usually does her best to project an aura of calm benevolence at City Council meetings, had her fussy-face on. She wasn't saying much, but her irritated expression spoke for her. Sullivan was doing his best to preserve a Civic Center police facility as a viable option, but he was floundering.
Sullivan kept repeating his big talking point: that getting Salem taxpayers to approve an $80 million bond measure (or two bond measures totaling to that amount) would be easy, as this supposedly translated into a mere $5 per month property tax increase on a $150,000 house.
The people he'd been talking with, Sullivan said, thought this was an insignificant amount to pay.
After the meeting adjourned, and I was chatting with a few power to the people rabble-rousers, someone said, "I bet T.J. Sullivan has been talking with his friends at Illahe," a ritzy country club part of town.
Could be, because I also was told that a dozen or so Salemians testified before the Task Force meeting started. Seemingly all were opposed to building a new police facility at the Civic Center, warning that if City of Salem officials kept on pushing this unpopular plan, a bond measure would fail big-time.
Watching the last part of the meeting, I liked how people in the large audience, virtually all of whom had come to express their opposition to the $80 million path the Task Force had been heading down, weren't shy about yelling out comments when they felt the spirit.
It wasn't exactly like a evangelical revival meeting filled with "Praise Jesus!" But for normally staid Salem, it was about as rowdy as a crowd gets.
I let loose with a few right-on outcries myself, notably after Task Force member Paul Rice (a Friends of the Library representative), made a great statement that exposed the elephant in the room. "Who still believes that a Civic Center police facility is viable?" he asked.
At first nobody on the Task Force raised a hand.
Then Sullivan did, rather tentatively, proceeding to quibble about what "viable" means. "Possible" was an alternative word. As in, it is possible I'll win the Mega Bucks lottery, even though the odds are a hundred million to one that I won't.
Task Force members Geoffrey James and Kasia Quillinan also spoke persuasively about the need to focus on sites away from the Civic Center.
I resonated with the argument that if voters know where a new police facility would be built and what it would look like, they'd be much more likely to approve a bond measure. The Mayor, City Manager, and Sullivan, on the other hand, somehow thought that simply saying "Please give us a bunch of money to do something, somewhere, sometime" would make taxpayers eager to say yes.
Given the tone of the Task Force meeting, it sure seems like building a new police facility at the Civic Center is off the table. But there's a decent chance city officials are working behind the scenes to resurrect this flawed plan.
The next meeting of the Task Force should be interesting. As was this one. I'm cautiously optimistic that the end result will be a plan to construct a police facility at a considerably lower cost somewhere out in the community.
The Task Force has voted to support a site that is within two miles or so of the Civic Center. Since a lower cost site needs to be at least four acres, this limits the possible locations. I don't understand why a Portland Road site, say, wouldn't be entirely acceptable.
After all, the police chief, Jerry Moore (a very likable guy), keeps reminding people that most of his force are out and about in police cars at any given time. They aren't sitting in a police station waiting around.
While I can understand why a central location has some pluses, it also makes sense that a new police facility should be located where it could help revitalize a neighborhood -- which is the case with the Portland Road location -- and also where crime rates are highest (ditto, I believe).
Anyway, Salem Community Vision will be providing updates on what's happening with the Police Facility Task Force. Hopefully good news will keep on coming for those of us who want to see this project planned in a wise, cost-effective manner.