[Update: I've gotten a message from City Manager Steve Powers that is reassuring. He says that all police facility options are still on the table for the February 21 City Council work session.
Thank you for your email. Council has not taken the library and civic center/city hall seismic work out of consideration for a May 2017 bond measure. The action that Council took Monday night was to add for discussion at the February 21 work session an option that would have the City proceed with a ballot measure for a police facility in May followed by a later ballot measure for library and city facilities improvements. The action was taken after discussion under Special Orders of Business, item 5.a., May 16, 2017 Public Safety General Obligation Bond Measure, as shown on the published agenda for the February 13 Council meeting.
Good news. But at the time I wrote this post, I was operating off of what a City of Salem Facebook post about the February 3 City Council meeting said. This excerpt from the post matched my interpretation of the motion passed by the Council after I left the meeting and later watched the CCTV video.
The City Council voted to separate the police facility and seismic retrofitting of City facilities into two separate issues. They will hold a work session on February 21 to discuss police facility options and which one they might put on the May ballot. They agreed that they will seek to put a seismic upgrade option on the November ballot. The specifics of the potential bond for the November ballot will be decided at a later work session.
This sure made it sound like only police facility options that didn't include seismic retrofitting of Civic Center buildings would be discussed at the February 21 work session. But I'm glad that City officials are interpreting that motion differently. A new bond measure for a police facility will have a greater chance of passing if it includes money to make City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe.]
I'm a big believer in open, transparent government. Important policy decisions should be made in the public eye, not behind closed-doors. Citizens should have plenty of opportunity to present testimony about those decisions before they're voted on.
For quite a while this hasn't been happening here in Salem. City Hall is notoriously biased in favor of top-down decision-making where the public only is able to weigh in on decisions that, for all intents and purposes, already have been decided.
So public participation is pretty much a sham.
Here's an annotated video I made of part of last Monday's City Council meeting that shows what I mean. It features a Robert's Rules of Order dance between Mayor Chuck Bennett and Councilor Tom Andersen where the moves seem to have been pre-arranged. Here's how I describe the You Tube video.
I added some annotations to the clip of what happened at the February 13, 2017 City Council meeting where some of the options for a new police facility bond were unexpectedly removed from consideration in advance of a work session on February 21. So the public won't have a chance to testify about these options, which ended being any option that includes making City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe (after Councilor Andersen's motion shown in the video was amended). I find this deeply disturbing, because it goes against the intent of making policy decisions in an open, transparent, public manner.
As background to the above, here's the content of an email that I sent to City officials yesterday.
If City of Salem officials, staff, and councilors wanted to guarantee that there will be strong organized opposition to a new police facility bond measure on the May ballot, the unexpected action of the City Council last night just guaranteed it. Very aggravating.
AGGRAVATING! CITY COUNCIL SAID "NO" TO SEISMIC UPGRADES FOR THE LIBRARY AND CITY HALL AS PART OF A NEW POLICE FACILITY PLAN
I left last night's City Council meeting after testifying in support of a Salem Community Vision plan that would put a proposal on the May ballot to build a new 115,000 square foot police facility AND seismically retrofit both City Hall and the Library for $66 million. Until a few minutes ago I didn't know the Council unexpectedly voted later in the meeting to discard any new police facility plan that includes making City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe.
The video below of the meeting should begin at about the 1:26 mark, which starts off a 25 minute or so discussion. There was no advance notice that last night the City Council would decide to make lifesaving seismic upgrades to the Civic Center buildings a possibility for some future date, rather than leaving this as a viable option for discussion at a February 21 council work session regarding a May police facility bond measure.
My Salem Community Vision colleagues and I will be discussing this disappointing action by the City Council tomorrow.
At the moment, I'm so irked by the Council taking seismic upgrades off the table before citizens had a chance to testify at the February 21 council work session, I'm leaning toward opposing any police facility bond measure on the May ballot that doesn't include money for lifesaving seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall.
I led the fight against Measure 24-399, the standalone $82 million police facility plan.
Even though we opponents were outspent by about $102,000 to $3,000, voters still rejected that bond measure. One of our best arguments was that it made no sense to move Police Department staff out of a building that would collapse in the Big One earthquake, then move other City employees into the same City Hall space so THEY will be the ones crushed to death.
Along with children at the Library, and other people in that building.
So it looks like I and others who want to see the lives of people in City Hall and the Library saved along with the lives of Police Department staff will have to oppose a new police facility bond measure just as strongly as we did the last one. This would be really unfortunate.
I'd hoped that Salem could come together in a community consensus that a PLAN B for the police facility needs to include lifesaving seismic upgrades for the Library and City Hall. But the City Council just voted to ignore the pleas of citizens to make the Civic Center buildings earthquake-safe at the same time as this is done for a new Police Department headquarters.
I don't know whether voters will decide to approve a standalone police facility bond in the May election, but the way I feel right now -- deeply irritated and disappointed -- I'll do my best to defeat that bond measure.
Because the lives of everybody who is working at, or visiting, City Hall and the Library when the Big One earthquake hits are at stake. I can't live with myself if I don't fight to save those lives by once again trying to defeat a police facility bond measure that values the safety of Police Department staff over the safety of other citizens.
The plan taken off the table by the City Council