I'm a positive guy. My wife often says, "You don't worry enough." (She does much of my worrying for me, like whether I'm eating enough cruciferous vegetables.)
So I would have much preferred to say Yes to the second-try $62 million City of Salem police facility plan than No.
But I can't do this.
Because I wouldn't be able to live with myself, and I'm not aware of any way to move out of my own mind.
I led the fight against Measure 24-399, the first-try $82 million plan that was defeated by voters last November. So it made sense that a Statesman Journal story in today's paper, "New Salem police facility price shaves about $20 million from previous ballot measure," would mention me briefly.
Councilors on Tuesday discussed pushing seismic upgrades for the Salem Public Library to a November vote.
“I hope ... there's a real understanding that no matter what happens with the police facility, the library is going out in November," Mayor Chuck Bennett said.
The move triggered backlash from local blogger Brian Hines, who was among those against last year's ballot measure.
"There will be organized opposition to the second-try bond measure," Hines said.
Though the correct implication here is that the organized opposition by me and other supporters of Salem Can Do Better is related to seismic upgrades for the Library, I want to lay out much more fully the reasons I'm opposed to the new $62 million police facility plan -- which, once again, omits funding for lifesaving seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall.
Yes, this plan is improved from the first try.
Less expensive: $62 million rather than $82 million
Smaller: probably about 115,000 square feet rather than 148,000 square feet
But as I'll explain below, improved doesn't mean good enough to deserve a Yes vote.
Here's the main reasons why.
(1) The lives of people who work at or visit City Hall and the Library are still getting second-class treatment. Over and over during the campaign against Measure 24-399 I'd say, "If it is important to save the lives of Police Department staff when the Big One earthquake hits by moving them into a seismically-sound building, it is equally important to save the lives of everyone who works at or visits City Hall and the Library, including children at StoryTime."
I'd use an image such as this to illustrate what I meant.
Up until 2015 City officials planned to include seismic retrofitting of City Hall, and probably also the Library, in the budget for a new police facility. This made sense, since the Police Department currently is on the ground floor of City Hall, and the plan is to move other City employees into that same unsafe space after police employees move out.
But the new $62 million plan makes the same mistake the $82 million plan did: it calls for saving the lives of Police Department staff without asking at the same time for money to seismically retrofit the Library and City Hall. This is wrong. I argued against this in the fight against Measure 24-399, and I'll also argue against it in a campaign against the second-try bond measure.
Here's a video I made last year about the earthquake issue. It explains why I feel so strongly that continuing to postpone seismic upgrades for the Library, especially, is so wrong-headed.
(2) Citizens agree that making the Library and City Hall earthquake-safe should be part of a new police facility bond measure. If I was the only one deeply bothered by the prospect of children and other people being crushed to death at the Civic Center when the next Big One earthquake hits, I wouldn't have fought so strongly for seismic upgrades to these buildings being part of a second-try May bond measure.
But there's plenty of evidence that lots of others feel like I do.
Thus I consider that I have a duty to stand with them in opposition to the City's new $62 million police facility plan, since just as Measure 24-399 did, it omits money for lifesaving seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall.
Here's a video of my testimony at last Tuesday's City Council work session where I presented evidence about the importance Salem citizens put on seeking funds to make these buildings earthquake-safe at the same time voters are asked to approve a police facility PLAN B.
This is the first slide that I showed. It presents the results of an online survey that I put up on behalf of Salem Community Vision that got almost 400 responses in a short time.
Two-thirds, 66%, of those who responded to the question of which police facility option they liked the most favored a plan that included seismic upgrades to City Hall and/or the Library. So much so, even a City of Salem $79 million plan for a new police facility and renovations to the Library that included seismic upgrades was preferred over two standalone police facility plans that cost much less.
Further, at the work session three city councilors spoke about how their constituents wanted these seismic upgrades to be part of a second-try police facility bond measure. Yet at the end of the video (see below) I made of their remarks, Mayor Bennett dismissively says that he doesn't believe making the Library and City Hall earthquake-safe was a concern of voters.
Which makes me wonder what sort of a bubble he is living in. Pretty clearly, one that doesn't allow the voices of ordinary people in our community to be heard.
(3) Four city council conservatives blocked an attempt by the four progressive councilors to consider a police facility plan that included seismic retrofitting of the Library. I don't like how divisive politics in our country has become. But this is a fact of life. It just is especially disturbing when good ideas get squashed at our local level on a party-line basis.
Such happened at last Tuesday's City Council work session when a motion to include seismic retrofitting of the Library as part of a 115,000 square foot police facility plan failed on a 4-4 vote (one council seat is vacant until a special election is held in March to replace Daniel Benjamin, who resigned last year).
This screenshot of the CCTV video of the work session shows the progressive councilors -- Matt Ausec, Sally Cook, Cara Kaser, Tom Andersen -- raising their hands in support of that motion. The council conservatives -- Jim Lewis, Steve McCoid, Brad Nanke, Chuck Bennett -- said NO to the Council even considering asking voters for money to make the Library and City Hall earthquake-safe in a May police facility bond measure election.
Here's how I described what happened in a Facebook post.
Last night the four conservative members of the City Council -- Mayor Bennett and councilors McCoid, Nanke, and Lewis -- blocked a motion supported by the four progressive members -- Andersen, Kaser, Cook, Ausec -- to ask for money to make the Library earthquake-safe in a May bond measure that also would include funds for a new police facility.
The clips in this video [see above] I made of the council work session show how out-of-touch Mayor Bennett is with community opinion about saving the lives of EVERYBODY at City Hall and the Library when the Big One earthquake hits, not just the lives of Police Department staff (who would move to a seismically-sound building if the bond measure passes this time; Measure 24-399 failed last November).
Sadly, after the conservatives blocked an excellent proposal to broaden appeal for the new bond measure by including money for seismic retrofitting of the Library as most people in this town clearly want (I'll demonstrate this soon in a blog post), the City Council decided to move ahead with a plan for only a $62 million police facility.
I and others had urged them to make the Library earthquake-safe for just $10 million more so children and other people won't be crushed to death in the next Cascadia Subduction Zone quake. But the conservatives rejected this common sense idea, worrying more about how out-of-state municipal bond investors might view a measure that included money for both a new police facility and seismic retrofitting of the Library.
(An unwarranted worry, according to testimony by City of Salem financial staff, but facts don't matter much to some city councilors.)
Which shows how-out-of-touch with both reality and Salem's citizens the right-wingers on the City Council are. I'm urging a NO vote on the May bond measure because, once again, Salem can do better than the plan that will be put before voters.
It simply isn't right to pit the Library against the Police Department. Both are vitally important to the people of Salem. The buildings housing each of these services need to be earthquake-safe. Favoring Police employees over Library staff/visitors was a big part of the reason voters rejected Measure 24-399.
You'll hear Councilor Kaser say in the video, "I've also heard people say, I will not support a a bond -- I do support the police -- if there is not seismic to the Library at the very least."
I feel the same way. It's good that a smaller, less expensive police facility plan will be submitted to voters as a substitute for Measure 24-399, but the absence of seismic retrofitting for City Hall and the Library is a deal breaker for me and many others.
The City Council plans to put a separate Library seismic bond on the November 2017 ballot, but it likely will compete against other local measures such as a school bond. And Councilor Nanke kept emphasizing last night that the City Council can always change its mind, so there is no guarantee that either a Library bond measure will be voted on in November, nor that it would pass.
So I'm recommending a NO vote in May. Then the City Council can do what it should have done last night: approve a police facility proposal that includes funds for at least seismic retrofitting of the Library, and ideally City Hall also.
Again, the lives of EVERYBODY who works at or visits the Civic Center are equally worth saving. Protecting Police Department staff shouldn't be prioritized over the lives of children at StoryTime when the Big One hits.
(4) Resolving to put a bond measure for Library seismic upgrades on the November ballot is a face-saving effort that voters shouldn't be fooled by. If City officials really cared about saving lives at City Hall and the Library when the next Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits -- could be tomorrow, because no one knows exactly -- they'd make this a funding priority.
But both seismic upgrades to the Civic Center buildings and routine maintenance/upkeep have been ignored for decades. Now the City of Salem is saying that $44 million is needed to pay for this work.
Note that seismic retrofitting is only about $20 million of the roughly $44 million total. So taxpayers need to hold onto their wallets. They're going to be asked to pay extra for deferred maintenance of City Hall and the Library that should have been part of regular operating budgets over the years.
And more City of Salem bond measures totaling over $300 million are in the works for coming years. Here's a possible schedule for them.
City officials have been letting the Civic Center buildings fall apart because they kept choosing to spend money on other stuff rather than maintaining what taxpayers have already paid for. So if a $15 million bond for "Library seismic upgrades" is put on the November ballot, actually it would include about $7 million for repairs to the building.
And what about fixing City Hall? That's another $29 million, most of which would also go for deferred maintenance and renovations, not seismic upgrades.
So there are good reasons to be skeptical of Mayor Bennett's statement in today's Statesman Journal story: “I hope ... there's a real understanding that no matter what happens with the police facility, the library is going out in November."
For one thing, Councilor Nanke repeatedly pointed out at the Tuesday work session that the City Council could change its mind about a Library bond measure. Politicians change their minds all the time.
For example, on February 13 the City Council voted unanimously to separate consideration of a police facility bond measure from a seismic upgrades bond measure. Yet partway through its February 21 work session the City Council had the above-mentioned 4-4 vote on combining these into a single bond measure, so four councilors changed their minds over eight days. Then, in the same meeting there was a unanimous vote to split the police facility and seismic upgrade bond measures again.
So, yes, the City Council could certainly change its collective mind. City councilors frequently change their individual minds.
The deadline for removing a City of Salem bond measure on the November 2017 ballot is the first part of September, based on a 2016 memo. Thus voters can't be sure that a Library bond measure for seismic upgrades will be on the November ballot until the deadline for removal passes in September.
Further, what if the May $62 million standalone police facility bond measure fails? One plausible scenario is that City officials realize that their best bet now is to do what should have been done before: combine funding for a new police facility and seismic upgrades to City Hall and/or the Library into a single bond measure that would have more appeal to voters.
Since it would be foolhardy to ask voters to approve a third bond measure after just another six months, it would make sense to put a third-try police facility plus seismic upgrades bond on the November 2018 ballot, at the earliest. So even though Mayor Bennett said "no matter what happens with the police facility, the library is going out in November," this might not happen.
Anyway, I've given four reasons I'm opposing the new $62 million police facility plan. I have more reasons, but those can wait for another blog post.
(Can't resist adding... in this age of Twitter, I realize that a 2,500 word blog post such as this one seems outrageously long. Well, I'm old enough to remember when lots of people actually read lengthy articles about important subjects if it took that many words to say what needed to be said. I still subscribe to the New Yorker, as I have for most of my life. If you think this blog post is long, read the New Yorker, which remains a marvelous source of great writing and excellent information.)