I've read a lot of crappy Statesman Journal editorials during the 39 years I've lived in Salem. But today's "Salem police deserve better than lowest common denominator" could well be the worst of them all.
You can read the whole confusing, nonsensical piece via the link above, or in a continuation to this post.
The basic "argument" --and I put that word in quotes to indicate how the editorial barely has any coherent logic to it -- is that those, like me, who want to protect the lives of everybody who works at or visits City Hall and the Library from the next Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake (the "Big One"), not just Police Department employees, somehow is guilty of a Lowest Common Denominator thought crime.
I can't even begin to attempt to describe how this assertion makes sense, because the editorial lacks any sense.
For example, the editorial writer, who probably was Dick Hughes, added URL links to supposedly bolster points he was making. One would thlnk that the link underlying "public safety is the #1 responsibility of local government" leads to some academic research or political science article.
It leads to a Statesman Journal story about the Salem Chamber of Commerce endorsing Measure 24-399, the $82 million police facility bond measure on the November ballot. And the story says nothing about public safety being the #1 responsibility of local government.
As Jim Scheppke points out in his comment below, when the Chamber of Commerce commands, the Statesman Journal editorial board obeys. Such is the power of corporate advertising in this age of newspapers teetering on the edge of a financial abyss.
Here's the online comments that I and several of my Salem Community Vision colleagues made about the editorial. We demolished it.
Time to retire "Statesman Journal Editorial Board." How long did it take for you to research and write this? Did you knock it out in under a half hour? This piece is pretty breathtaking in its lack of analysis of the many subtle nuances of the police facility issue that the other commenters here discuss intelligently.
You are also guilty of binary thinking, something editorial writers should scrupulously avoid. The claim here is that you are either for the $83 million Taj Mahal police facility or you are for "the lowest common denominator" and don't believe that police are important. That is not the position of the people like me who plan to vote "No" on this bloated bond measure.
Another mischaracterization that you make is that the opposition won't support a new police facility "until the civic center and library also are rebuilt or replaced." No one is calling for replacement. And we firmly believe that all of the projects can be completed at the same time for $20-30 million less than the Taj Mahal by itself.
It seems obvious that the SJ is determined once again to take direction from your overlords at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, and not undertake a careful and thoughtful analysis before rushing to judgement.
This is an astoundingly uninformed editorial. Whoever wrote it didn't bother to educate themselves about the police facility planning saga.
If they had, they would have realized that until 2014 Mayor Peterson, Police Chief Moore, and other city officials were totally on board with a Public Safety plan that sought funds for (1) a 75,000 square foot police facility, and (2) seismically retrofitting City Hall and the Library so lives and public property are saved when (not if) the next Big One Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits.
This plan made sense, and was being pushed by the City of Salem, because City Hall will collapse in a large earthquake. Which is a prime motivation for moving the Police Department out of City Hall into an earthquake-safe building.
What the wise 2014 City of Salem plan recognized, and what the Statesman Journal editorial board is failing to understand, is that moving the Police Department out of City Hall obviously does nothing to fix the seismic deficiencies of that building, and of the Library.
So the current unwise plan is to move other City employees into the same unsafe space in City Hall now occupied by the Police Department. Thus other City staff, rather than police employees, will be killed in the Big One earthquake.
Further, children and other Library visitors will be buried under tons of concrete, because the proposed $82 million bond measure doesn't include the previously allocated funds for making City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe.
The editorial board is absolutely wrong with its "lowest common denominator" talk.
Opponents of the wasteful $82 million police facility plan on the November ballot object to this boondoggle because the cost per square foot of the vastly oversized police facility is DOUBLE what other police headquarters have been built for recently in Oregon.
What we want is a lower cost yet adequately-sized police facility that recognizes the common denominator of keeping BOTH police employees safe and other Civic Center employees safe (along with visitors to the Civic Center).
See the Salem Can Do Better web site for more reasons to vote NO on Measure 24-399.
There isn't a need to choose between protecting the lives of Police Department staff and the lives of everybody else who works at, or visits, City Hall and the Library. Just a few years ago, before the size and cost of the police facility got supersized by Chicago consultants, the Mayor and Police Chief argued for making seismic retrofitting of the Civic Center part of a Public Safety bond.
They were right.
Voters should reject the $82 million police facility bond, because $50 to $60 million would allow Salem to BOTH build a perfectly adequate police facility and make City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe.
Had to add another thought about this ridiculous illogical editorial. Here's the proper swimming pool metaphor that applies to the $82 million police facility boondoggle:
Imagine a plan to give two Salem high schools, A and B, swimming pools. But after out-of-state consultants come to town, the plan changes. Now high school B will get an Olympic-sized pool, double the size of what was planned before, and high school A won't get ANY pool.
This is exactly analogous to how plans for making a new police facility and the Civic Center earthquake-safe have changed.
First, a new 75,000 square foot seismically-sound police facility was to be built, AND the Library and City Hall would be seismically retrofitted to save lives when the Big One earthquake hits.
But then Chicago consultants were hired, and the size of the proposed police facility doubled to 148,000 square feet. Plans to do seismic retrofitting for City Hall and the Library were dropped.
So before, Salem had a common denominator: save lives of BOTH police department employees and everyone else who works at or visits City Hall and the Library, including children at Storytime.
Now, the $82 million plan gives the Police Department double what it needs, while ignoring the urgent need to prepare the Civic Center for the 8.0 - 9.0 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that is a matter of when, not if.
The Statesman Journal editorial board needs to read the public documents that I've collected regarding the dangerous structural deficiencies of the Library and City Hall before making rash assertions that returning to the Public Safety plan being pushed by the Mayor and Police Chief in 2014 -- a 75,000 square foot facility PLUS renovations to the Civic Center -- reflects a "chip on the shoulder" mentality.
No, it doesn't. It represents a "Save the lives of EVERYBODY who works at or visits City Hall and the Library, not just the lives of police employees." This is why voters need to say NO to Measure 24-399.
It makes Salem less safe.
The speaker for the Salem Can Do Better PAC, at the City Club debate on Friday, was crystal clear that the opponents of the current proposal, for an over sized and over priced police facility, DO support a state of the art "MODERN" police facility, and they are actually IN FAVOR of what the city, and the previous consultant, planned for the O'Brien site in 2013, and that was a $30 million facility and $15 million of seismic strengthening of city hall, and a replacement Council Chambers, all for a total of $55.8 million.
I believe EVERYONE would support that.
The new city councilors should place a $60 million Police+Seismic on the ballot in May 2017, so we can ALL vote for it. 75,000 sq.ft (they have 28,000 now) actually provides excess space for decades of growth, and we observed all that when we toured Eugene's handsome new 74,000 sq.ft. facility ($17 million complete).
Here are FOUR reasons why this current $82 million proposal is a bad idea, (and has divided this community), and Salem Can Do Better.
Here's the entire Statesman Journal editorial for what it's worth (which isn't much):
Salem police deserve better than lowest common denominator
Salem has an unfortunate chip on its shoulder: No one, and no neighborhood, should have anything better than I have.
That theme has resurfaced in the civic debate about constructing a new police headquarters.
Most people would agree that Salem has a well-run, well-respected police department. There also is widespread agreement that the police badly need a new, larger headquarters. And events around the country have shown the importance of designing that facility with community interaction in mind.
An $82 million bond measure on the Nov. 8 Salem ballot would pay for that community-oriented police and 911 dispatch center.
Salem’s 1970s city hall and public library also are in sad shape and vulnerable in a big earthquake. And that’s where the chip-on-the-shoulder comes in.
Even though public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of local government, some folks contend that the Salem Police Department should not have a modern facility until the civic center and library also are rebuilt or replaced. That argument sounds reasonable in theory, but it fosters a lowest-common-denominator approach to civic life.
Salem-Keizer high schools illustrate that. With the exception of North Salem High and its nearby Olinger Pool, all of the high schools lack swimming pools.
Water safety is among the most important life lessons for adolescents, especially in Oregon. Swimming is an excellent lifelong activity, one that can be fostered by getting into it during school years. But every time a new high school has been on the drawing boards, other Salem-Keizer residents have opposed adding a pool – because “their” high school lacked one.
In the same vein, Salem has been unwilling to develop branch libraries with the exception of the West Salem branch, which has endured due to the generosity of the Roth family and the passion of West Salem residents.
Isn’t it time for Salem to have higher aspirations than the lowest common denominator?