Of Safety and Stadiums

In Friday’s Sentinel on the back page of the Out and About section, the City of Grand Junction used its semi-regular “We’re Glad You Asked” feature to respond to what is apparently rampant speculation and questions regarding the request from the JUCO committee for City assistance in securing funds for a proposed remodel of Sam Suplizio Field.

Judging from the speed and comprehensive nature of the City’s response, it feels to me as if they really got hammered last week. From the sound of their response, the City seems to be getting a lot of questions and/or comments about where their priorities are.

At nearly the same time, the Editor of a major public safety trade publication lamented about what he sees as misplaced priorities in building new stadiums, and how too much emphasis on these activities can perhaps hurt a city’s vitality or viability by sapping resources from other critical areas, especially public safety. While he was referring to recent major stadium projects in Minneapolis, New York, and elsewhere, the lessons cannot be lost on those on both sides of the debate locally.

Fellow local blogger Gene Kinsey focused on another part of the City’s advertisement, in essence a bullet point that stated:

The mission of the City of Grand Junction is to make Grand Junction the most livable community west of the Rockies by 2025.

Gene asked some basic questions, and made some assertions about his ideas on what constitutes “livability”:

* If the City of Grand Junction is not the most livable now, which city is?
* What do they have that we don’t?
* Does this include the whole United States?
* Why limit us to west of the Rockies, why not east of the Rockies, too?
How about a mission of providing basic services at a minimum cost?

The gooey “mission” pablum sounds so unspecifically nice. How would one achieve livability? For me it would include low taxes and minimum government. Obviously, the current city government likes high taxes, multiple bonds and huge public works.

The grandiosity implicit in the “mission” is exactly why I think city manager Kadrich and the current city administration needs to go.

The deeper question for me is how does a community define its “livability” – is it the edification of our fondness for athletic events and what people think of us when they come here for one week a year?

Or is it measured in how we take care of our own as well as our visitors, with:

  • Excellent and efficient public safety service delivery,
  • Road and traffic management systems, and public transportation, that facilitate the efficient movement of people to work, play, and commerce destinations,
  • Community planning that supports sensible development, encouraging both commercial growth and sustainable communities across all economic levels,
  • Adequate services for those who are in difficulty, including mental health and substance abuse?

Let’s not forget monitoring and mitigating those activities where the risks to the community at large are considerable, even when the short-term private gains are lucrative. That’s more important than ever here in “Energy Alley”, especially given the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

The City’s mission statement and associated core values are available on this page at the City’s website. The site also includes several bullet points that will probably serve to stir the pot even more with those who see only the price of everything.

The City’s ad also shows to me the priority that the City places on managing the message. The ad is extremely wordy, to the point that a small percentage of readers will likely take the time to read the entire ad. For those that do make it to the last paragraph, the City’s approach becomes more clear:

This is not about choosing one path over another – it is about being able to make smart decisions to be able to meet as many community needs as we can, and to do so in a manner that makes good fiscal sense.

In this context, the City would do better to utilize a mass communication tool like this in a way most likely to communicate effectively to the masses. I’m curious if the ad copy was generated internally by the City, or by someone with more marketing communications experience, such as local firm Cobb and Associates. The answer could go a long way toward explaining whether or not the City’s listening tour expenses, as outlined in yesterday’s Sentinel, constitute an effective use of taxpayer dollars.

The KISS acronym comes to mind when creating something to communicate the City’s approach to a particular issue. Consider this comment from one of the Sentinel’s readers of the listening tour story from yesterday, and you’ll get a taste of what the City is up against:

What part of NO do these politicians not understand??? $40,000 worth I guess. NO new TAXES!! GET IT???

The City’s responses need to be nearly as succinct and direct to have any chance of countering this kind of oversimplified, inflammatory rhetoric. Something like this:

Your Choice.

The JUCO committee was absolutely right to approach the City now with their ideas. They have a three-year ultimatum from the NJCAA. Construction cost estimates are much lower now than in recent years. There is much more than funding being leveraged here – intellectual capital in the form of the City’s expertise in locating grant funding, for example – as well as the City’s essential cooperation in any improvement process. As taxpayers, it is our ballpark.

From the looks of some other reporting, there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, well before Jamie Hamilton approached Council. Patti Arnold’s detailed piece on the proposed improvements to the stadium complex seems to indicate that there’s been an architect on retainer for quite a while now.

I still think that generating revenue through naming rights remains a hidden trump card in all this planning. Ralph D’Andrea ran with a tongue-in-cheek naming contest idea I had over at his blog, but for some reason I couldn’t come up with more than one potential name idea.

Maybe I just don’t think it’s very funny to be putting an extraordinary amount of mental energy toward espousing or opposing the expansion of a baseball park, especially when so few people show up for the listening tour to improve what I believe is the most important service that local government provides. I can only hope that the City has had better luck with surveys and e-mail.

There’s one more chance to personally involve yourself in this process, this coming Thursday afternoon at the Redlands Community Center. See you there.

Whether we’re building and staffing stadiums or police and fire stations, you get what you pay for.

Enjoy your Memorial Day. Remember those who keep us free.

This entry was posted in Government, Local, Media, Public Safety, Sports. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Of Safety and Stadiums

  1. Gene Kinsey says:

    John-Excellent discussion on livability and priorities. Thanks for the reference to Grand Life.

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