Thank you, Mayor-elect and current City Councilor Chuck Bennett.
You may have thought that you were stating some reasons to vote "yes" on Measure 24-399, the $82 million police facility bond measure on Salem's November ballot, but actually you made a great pitch for a NO vote.
On August 24 Chuck Bennett appeared on a KYKN talk show hosted by Gator Gaynor and Denise Nanke. Here's a 2-minute audio clip from the show where Bennett talks about the bond measure.
Those of us who are opposed to the wasteful, poorly-thought-out police facility plan (check out the Salem Can Do Better web site and associated Facebook page) are thrilled that Bennett made such good arguments for voting NO on the bond measure.
(1) Salem's General Obligation bond tax levy rate will go up by 40% if the police facility bond passes. Wow. That's a lot. Forty percent! I'd thought it was "only" going to be 24%, from $1.01 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.25.
But Bennett said that the levy rate is scheduled to go down in 2017-18 to .89 per $1,000, and the police facility bond would add .36 to that. So instead of paying .89 per $1,000, Salem property tax payers will be forking out $1.25 per $1,000 if the $82 million police facility bond passes, a 40% increase.
Thus as the bottom half of the City of Salem financial analysis shows, someone with a home assessed at $200,000 would be paying 40% more for the General Obligation Bond Tax if the police facility bond is approved: $250 a year rather than $178, $72 more.
And the $72 isn't just for one year. It's for fifteen years.
That adds up to $1,080 to pay for a way over-priced and over-sized police facility that is double the cost and size Salem's Mayor and Police Chief said was needed just a few years ago. (Before Chicago consultants came to town and "supersized" the 75,000 to 106,000 square foot recommendation of a local citizen committee all the way up to 148,000 square feet.)
(2) It makes no sense to only move the Police Department to an earthquake-safe building when City Hall, the place they're moving from, will collapse when the "Big One" hits. This is my favorite reason to vote NO on the police facility bond measure.
When the cost doubled to $82 million, this squeezed out the money in a previous Public Safety proposal that was going to make seismic upgrades to City Hall and the Library, and build a lower-cost 75,000 square foot police facility -- which the Mayor and Police Chief had said would meet the police department's needs for the next 30 years, with room for growth.
Councilor Bennett spoke about how important it was to keep employees of the Salem Police Department safe. He didn't mention that moving the Department to a new police facility leaves visitors and staff at City Hall and the Library unsafe, including children enjoying Storytime at the Library.
Here's how the interview ended up:
Bennett: I don’t think there’s a person in Salem that won’t say our [Police] Department deserves to be as safe as they can possibly be. And I can just assure you that they are not in their current facility [at City Hall].
Nanke: Just the earthquake. You hear those subduction numbers, and it’s going to happen a little sooner than we thought.
Chuck Bennett admits that a recently updated study of Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes here in the northwest found that these massive (up to 9.0) quakes happen more frequently than was previously thought. And when, not if, the next earthquake happens, the impact will be enormous.
The death toll could reach as high as 10,000 from the combined earthquake and tsunami should the big one hit, some 85,000 buildings could be damaged and the rebuild costs could top $32 billion.
City of Salem officials, including Bennett, know that two engineering studies of the City Hall and Library showed that the buildings won't survive a Big One earthquake. Yet all Bennett cares about is keeping Police Department employees safe.
Yes, this is important. But equally important is keeping everybody at City Hall and the Library safe -- the goal of those, like me, who are opposed to the current wasteful $82 million police facility plan.
It gives the Police Department way more than even the Mayor and Police Chief originally wanted in a new building, while, as noted before, squeezing out money that previously was going to be used to protect the lives of employees and visitors at the Civic Center.
Salem can't afford a "first class" (Bennett's words) police facility that forces other needs in this town into third or fourth class territory. It is morally wrong to give the Police Department much more than it needs -- the "full meal deal" in the words of city councilor Steve McCoid -- while starving Salem's parks, transit system, library, help for the homeless, bike paths, and such.
Salem can do better. Vote NO on the police facility bond measure, 24-399. After it fails, citizens can work with City officials on a wiser plan, one that gives our Police Department what it needs, but not way more than what it needs.