Thursday, September 16, 2010

Of Safety and Stadiums - Part 2

Monday evening the Grand Junction City Council succeeded in passing a funding mechanism for one of the most necessary, yet contentious projects in recent history.

The proposed public safety improvements, changed substantially from the 2008 initiative that was defeated by city voters, will be funded through Certificates of Participation, which is essentially a lease-purchase arrangement that is supported by investor capital. I found a fairly lengthy but accessible explanation of this process here.

At the same time, Council approved the use of the same funding mechanism to remodel the City-owned stadium complex, to primarily accommodate the needs of the JUCO World Series.

These Certificates of Participation require some type of tangible asset to be placed with a trustee (usually a bank) as collateral for payment of investors should the City default on the annual lease payments. City Manager Laurie Kadrich advised City Council on Monday night that the collateral for the JUCO improvements includes Lincoln Park. This fact, while somewhat unsettling, is also an indicator to me of the City's resolve.

The response from the community at large is hard to gauge at this point, at least judging from the general alarm registered in places like the Daily Sentinel comment page and several local blog sites. There has been a lot of negative comment, some of which seems to target what is perceived as an end-around the will of the people, and ranging all the way to an overall indictment of the City government for years of alleged excess at the expense of meaningful projects like police and fire stations. Council and City Administration deserve much credit for tackling this issue in a such a volatile economic and political climate.

I believe that the new proposals are well thought out and mindful of the limitations the voters indirectly imposed on the project as a result of their 2008 disapproval. Ms. Kadrich also mentioned that there is thought of adding an additional floor to the existing City Hall (it was designed to accommodate the need for additional floors), and putting the Regional Communication center there. The stated rationale for this was placing the center more proximal to the City's IT brain trust and physical plant, but it will also help reduce those security and hazard mitigation concerns associated with the area of 6th and Ute.

Little mention was made in the local media coverage about the stadium project approval, and many online comments seemed to mirror that as well. I understand the reasons, stated and otherwise, for why fixing up Suplizio ranks up there with the public safety projects in terms of priority. The City's "We're Glad You Asked" page gives an great answer to citizen questions about the project, including the following:

JUCO has been a long-time, important partner of the City of Grand Junction. Partnerships are a key component of what makes this community the great place it is. There are numerous projects and initiatives across this community that could not have taken place were it not for partners coming together to create successes. Individually we can do much, but collectively we can do so much more.
Memo to the Grand Valley Coalition for the Homeless: The City appreciates the value of partnerships.

I was asked this week by an online commenter if I was ready to foist these "excesses" on my children and grandchildren in the form of an affront to their quality of life through increased taxation in the future. The short answer is yes - I don't think it will come to that, and the City will be better off for building these facilities now. You get what you pay for.

For those of you who think otherwise, Grand Junction's founding fathers left you the means to act on your convictions when they wrote the City's charter. Article XVI, Section 136 provides for citizens to protest the passage of an ordinance by collecting petition signatures during the 30 day period between an ordinance's passage and its effective date.

If signatures can be secured from City residents that are registered to vote equal to 10 percent of those who voted in the last election for Governor, the implementation of the ordinance will be suspended, and Council must either repeal the protested ordinance or put it before the voters at either the next municipal election, or a special election. The only exception to this is those ordinances passed under the charter's "special emergency" provision, which require a unanimous vote of Council and are effective immediately.

According to the City Clerk's office, those opposing an ordinance must currently collect 1,860 signatures of those who are registered to vote in the City to mount a protest via petition.

I'm mentioning this for three reasons:

  • If someone feels that strongly about a particular issue, they should know what mechanisms exist to address those issues before their government. Somehow I think that a good portion of these folks would rather just be an anonymous comment troll.
  • I don't think that opponents of Council's action will be able to obtain the required number of signatures in the allotted time frame. If there is such a thing as a silent majority, I believe they feel these facilities are needed as well.
  • This provision in the City Charter could become a factor again soon, as the result of another action Council approved on Monday night that evaded most of the reporting; setting a hearing date for the proposed ordinance to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. That date will be October 4. More about this soon.
Have a great day.

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