Yesterday Salem voters approved a second-try $62 million police facility bond measure.
This is a good time to recollect how citizen activism led by Salem Community Vision (and Salem Can Do Better, an offshoot formed to oppose the first-try bond measure) prevented bad police facility ideas from being implemented -- which made possible the better plan approved by voters.
Here's the "headlines" of eight citizen activism accomplishments.
Stopping a police facility from being built at the Civic Center
Stopping the Library from being converted to a police facility
Stopping the idea of building a police facility anywhere at the Civic Center
Stopping the City of Salem from taking over the block south of the Library for a police facility
Salem Community Vision urging NO vote on $82 million police facility bond
Voters rejecting Measure 24-399, the $82 million bond measure
City Council reducing second-try police facility plan by $20 million and 33,000 square feet
City of Salem putting seismic retrofitting of the Library on November 2017 ballot
Scroll down for descriptions of what each accomplishment entailed, and a blog post link (or City of Salem page, for #8) giving more details. The italicized section is an excerpt from the link.
(1) Stopping a police facility from being built at the Civic Center
City officials wanted to build the police facility next to, and over, Mirror Pond at the Civic Center, complete with very expensive underground parking. Salem Community Vision opposed this plan, noting that the Civic Center site was chosen with no public involvement.
After the plan to build a police facility at the north end of the Civic Center adjacent to Mirror Pond crashed and burned due to community opposition, City officials came up with the decidedly crazy notion of converting the Library to a police facility. The Library would go somewhere else, maybe the ground floor of the Marion Parkade.
The City of Salem is seriously considering converting the Public Library at the Civic Center into a police facility. The library would be moved to some other location in the downtown area.
...I'd figured that the City Council would lean toward an alternative to the original $80 million plan to build a new police facility with underground parking adjacent to the current Mirror Pond. Which would become Mirror Drainage Swale after a 75,000 square foot police facility building was constructed near and over it.
But converting the 90,000 square foot Salem Public Library to a police facility... that notion had surfaced in several settings, yet seemed too far-out and controversial to be a viable alternative to the plan that the City has been promoting since last fall.
Just as Salem Community Vision had recommended in March 2014, Mayor Peterson appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Police Facility in an attempt to get the faltering project back on track. Peterson still had dreams of building a police facility at the Civic Center, but citizens spoke up at the Task Force chaired by T.J. Sullivan and said "No way."
May 21, 2014: "'Power to the people' on display at yesterday's Police Facility meeting"
When I walked in about 7:30 pm, it didn't take long for me to realize that the $80 million "Police Palace" proposal that the Mayor and City Manager had been pushing on a deeply skeptical citizenry was in trouble.
Mayor Peterson, who usually does her best to project an aura of calm benevolence at City Council meetings, had her fussy-face on. She wasn't saying much, but her irritated expression spoke for her. Sullivan was doing his best to preserve a Civic Center police facility as a viable option, but he was floundering.
(4) Stopping the City of Salem from taking over the block south of the Library for a police facility
Proving that bad ideas die a slow death, City officials and their hired consultants came up with the not-so-bright idea of condemning the entire "Leslie block" south of the Library and using it for a close-to-the-Civic-Center police facility. But after getting an earful from people who lived on that block or owned businesses there, this idea met a well-deserved demise.
February 29, 2016: "Impassioned testimony at City Council hearing on a new police facility"
O'BRIEN SITE ROCKS. BLOCK SOUTH OF LIBRARY SUCKS.
This is the clear message of the many people who are testifying at tonight's Salem City Council public hearing on a new police facility. Great turnout. Lots of impassioned testimony.
People who live and work at the block south of the Library (Leslie block) don't want to lose their homes and livelihood. Listening to them, I kept thinking, "Why didn't City staff and the DLR Group consultants see this coming?"
So far, nobody, repeat NOBODY, is in favor of demolishing the Leslie block for a giant police facility. But this was one of two site possibilities a City Council subcommittee came up with after hearing from the DLR Group consultants.
Knowing that Salem's citizens didn't like the over-sized and over-priced 148,000 square feet, $82 million police facility plan presented to voters in the November 2016 election, every member of the Salem Community Vision steering committee signed on to a voter's pamphlet statement urging a NO vote on the bond measure.
September 14, 2016: "Five good reasons to VOTE NO on Salem's $82 million 'police palace' bond"
This argument is signed by every member of the Salem Community Vision steering committee. Salem Community Vision has been closely following the police facility planning saga since the fall of 2013, three years.
We've advocated strongly for a wise, cost-effective 75,000 square foot police facility plan that meets the Police Department's needs. yet doesn't put an excessive burden on taxpayers.
Unfortunately, City officials have gone along with the "supersized" $82 million, 148,000 square foot Police Palace plan that some Chicago consultants came up with after a local task force appointed by the Mayor recommended a 75,000 - 106,000 square foot building.
(6) Voters rejecting Measure 24-399, the $82 million bond measure
In the November election the first-try police facility plan was rejected by voters, 52% to 48%. The NO campaign was outspent about 50:1, yet people power prevailed over money power.
November 9, 2016: "Lessons for Salem from defeat of $82 million police facility bond measure"
Keep Salem Safe had lots of big name endorsements, lawn signs, a direct mailing to Salem households, a Statesman Journal editorial urging a "yes" vote on Measure 24-399, Chamber of Commerce backing -- everything that traditionally led to a political win in this town.
Except this time it didn't.
The times are a'changing. People are a lot more skeptical of the Power Structure, whether at the national, state, or local level. Their votes aren't a given anymore if certain political buttons are pushed
On the whole, this is a good thing. In a democracy people-power should outweigh money-power. Let's have more of it in Salem.
(7) City Council reducing second-try police facility plan by $20 million and 33,000 square feet
Forced into a Plan B for the police facility after the defeat of Measure 24-399, City officials came up with a $61.8 million, 115,000 square foot proposal. So citizen activism saved taxpayers about $35 million in total, including bond financing costs, given the $20 million reduction in the cost of the police facility. Unfortunately, seismic retrofitting of the Library wasn't included in the second-try bond measure, even though there was a lot of support for this.
On a personal note I found it really satisfying to hear everybody talking about how to reduce the cost and size of the previous $82 million, 148,000 square foot police facility plan that was rejected by voters last November when Measure 24-399 failed.
Having led the fight against the ballot measure, yet recognizing that Salem needs a new police facility, just not the one that was previously proposed, it was deeply heartening to hear the Mayor, City Manager, city councilors, police chief, architectural consultants, City staff, and others agreeing that our community needs to find a PLAN B now that PLAN A was voted down.
...Judging from the tone of what Mayor Bennett and city councilors said tonight, my bet is that the City Council will end up going with some version of the 115,000 square foot police facility plus the Library seismic upgrades plan. But I could be wrong.
(8) City of Salem putting seismic retrofitting of the Library on November 2017 ballot
Salem Community Vision has been strongly urging that City officials make both City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe for the people who work at or visit the Civic Center. It doesn't make sense to move the Police Department out of City Hall into a seismically-sound new building, while leaving that building and the Library unsafe when the Big One earthquake hits, a matter of when, not if. So this is a big accomplishment: getting a $15 million Library bond measure on the November ballot.
I also want to ensure residents that it is the intention of Council and the City to put a bond on the November ballot that will fund seismic retrofitting of the City Library. As with the police bond, the City will conduct a transparent public information campaign for the Library bond. This way residents will feel confident they have a firm understanding of the facts when they fill out their ballot.