OK, don't take the title of this post literally. I couldn't be typing these words if my head had actually exploded.
But after sitting for 90 minutes, watching 3/4 of the scheduled meeting time of the Police Facility Task Force belatedly set up by Salem Mayor Anna Peterson and not-so-ably chaired by T.J. Sullivan, I felt like my head was going to burst from a combination of boredom and amazement.
Not positive, pleasant amazement, like what happens when I watch highly skilled circus performers.
No, this was the "are you freaking kidding me?" sort of amazement as I realized that, some five years (at least) after City of Salem officials started planning for a new police facility, they still are clueless about a few non-minor details.
-- How big it should be.
-- What the basic design should be.
-- Where it should be.
-- What sort of parking it should have.
-- Whether courts should be part of it.
-- How much it will cost.
-- Who will pay for it.
Now, if you're thinking that these are pretty much all of the questions that should have been asked and answered five years ago -- bingo, you're absolutely right!
Instead, as I documented in "City of Salem planned new police facility in backwards way," a few City officials with no expertise in this area decided that a police facility should be crammed into the current Civic Center, then instructed a bunch of college students to come up with a plan for it.
Not surprisingly, things haven't gone very well from that inauspicious backwards-way beginning. Citizens were upset that they hadn't been informed about the Civic Center scheme before it was unleashed on the public as a supposed done-deal.
Supposed, because once questions began to be raised about the cost, design, and location, it became apparent that nobody at the City of Salem had good answers.
Mayor Peterson and City Manager Norris just wanted taxpayers to pay a lot for something or other, which would be built someplace, someday. Pass a bond measure, please! Don't worry about the lack of details regarding what will be done with the money. Just give us the cash!
Realizing that this unrealistic dream wasn't going to happen, Peterson formed a Blue Ribbon (whatever that means) task force to do the planning for a new police facility that should have been done years ago.
As a cogent Breakfast on Bikes blog post said today, the task force has been spinning its wheels, getting nowhere fast.
While the "Blue Ribbon Committee" has been meeting since November, it hasn't been as much an inquiry and investigation as it has been the end of a sonata, a restatement of previous themes, reworked and developed somewhat, but nonetheless introducing very little in the way of truly new material. It's been just one giant "recapitulation" of he said, she said.
Unless something astounding happened in the last half hour of tonight's meeting, which I deeply doubt, the recapitulation mentioned above continues on in an expensive, frustrating, time-consuming version of Police Facility Groundhog Day.
All the questions I listed above keep on being asked, with no agreement on the answers.
Tonight, the 90 minutes I watched mostly involved consultants from the Mackenzie firm, which has considerable police facility planning experience, talk about the design, cost, location and other questions that are only now beginning to be grappled with by the task force and City of Salem staff.
Again, five years after planning began for a new police facility.
The two guys from Mackenzie obviously were familiar with the screwed-up planning that has gone on so far. Not wanting to step on anyone's toes (they're hoping to land a big contract, after all) the consultants agreed with everybody and disagreed with nobody.
Which, so far as I can tell, left the task force facing the same unanswered questions.
If anyone reading this took seriously my plea to attend tonight's Police Facility Task Force meeting, I apologize. You probably wasted your time, just as I did. As feared, the task force approved an agenda that had public comments/testimony at the very end, 8 pm at least.
So any concerned citizen who wanted to speak had to wait two hours, at minimum, for a two minute chance to talk to the task force. Since this supposedly is the next-to-last meeting of the task force, that's shameful.
And ridiculous. From what I saw tonight, the task force is floundering. It needs as much wise advice as it can get from citizens with common sense.
The task force really should call "time out."
It needs to start fresh and do the sort of logical, reasoned, step by step planning and community consensus-building that should have been started five years ago. So far, this is a massive failure by City of Salem officials.