Here's a non-shocker: an elected official, in this case Salem Mayor Anna Peterson, not telling the truth.
Fortunately, this town has a blogger superhero -- humble ME! --who is ready, willing, and able to stand up against City Hall truth-shaders with his Truth Bomb superpower.
Today I wield it against a decidedly false statement by Peterson in a newspaper story about a blue ribbon panel charged with considering options for Civic Center renovations and construction of a new police facility.
Download Panel reviews plans for new Salem police station
To date, talk of spending millions of dollars to make the civic center safer and build a 75,000-square-foot police station has produced a lukewarm response, at best, from Salem residents. Critics assert that the city settled on one plan for the civic center and excluded the public from the decision-making process— allegations the mayor strongly denies.
Well, the mayor can deny all she wants, but facts don't lie.
I've dug deep into how City officials decided on their own that a new police facility should be built next to Mirror Pond just north of the current Civic Center structure, complete with very expensive underground parking.
Contrary to what Mayor Peterson says, there was no attempt to involve Salem's citizens in this all-important decision.
All-important, because once the Civic Center location was settled on, the price tag for a new police facility was destined to be much higher -- maybe even double -- the cost of building elsewhere. Read all about it in "Geoffrey James tells City of Salem how to save $30 million."
The factual foundations of this Truth Bomb are described in my previous blog posts on this topic. These have been shared with City officials. No one has proven me wrong. They just keep on repeating the same tired falsity about citizens having a chance to be involved with the Civic Center siting decision.
"How the City of Salem decided to build a new police facility at the Civic Center"
"How City of Salem planned police facility in secretive manner"
"City of Salem planned new police facility in backwards way"
"Will Salem Mayor Anna Peterson admit she spoke falsely?"
Here's some excerpts from these truth-telling posts.
The City of Salem decided to build a new police facility at the Civic Center without any public hearings or public discussion. City staff and the Mayor made this decision.
Investigative blogger that I am, it gives me great pride to share the results of my non-award-winning research into how officials at the City of Salem (Oregon) spent five years secretively planning a $70 million -- now $80 million -- new police facility, along with renovations to the Civic Center.
Citizen involvement in all this by, you know, those people who pay the bills for spendy government projects, was virtually zero. Nil. Nada. Zilch.
There was basically no opportunity for citizens to be involved with planning for a new police facility, or to weigh in on the pluses and minuses of locating this facility in a brand new building at the Civic Center. Even City Council members complained they were kept in the dark about this project.
...This is Day 1 of the Mayor Anna Peterson apology/retraction watch. No response yet to the email I sent her, with a cc to the Salem City Council... I said what I did after listening to Peterson make a preachy, inaccurate mini-speech during a testy exchange at last night's City Council meeting.
... I couldn't believe that Mayor Peterson was actually claiming that the process used to select the Civic Center as the best location for a new police facility had been open to public view, and offered citizens good opportunities to weigh in on the decision.
...I believe an apology and retraction is in order. The Mayor of Salem shouldn't use the City Council podium as a soapbox for spreading inaccurate information. This degrades trust in City government, which already is low.
Fortunately, Salem Community Vision is reporting that the task force appointed by Mayor Peterson will be charged with looking into alternative sites for a new police facility.
Also the article says that the charge of the committee is to "develop a set of recommendations for the civic center site, 555 Liberty Street SE, and present them to Salem City Council." But the chair of the committee told our representative, Geoff James, that "the committee will look at all options" for siting the police facility. That's good news, because the Mayor once said in a council meeting that the committee would not be allowed to "think outside the box."
Be assured that our representative on the blue ribbon task force will be thinking outside the box, and he will be advocating strongly for an adequate but affordable new police facility, and an affordable seismic upgrade to our civic center, including the library.
Hopefully Peterson has finally realized that a decision about where a new police station should be located deserves broad community input after open consideration of a range of siting options, rather than being made unilaterally by City officials behind closed doors.