I had planned on voting “yes” on the new police bond levy. I’ve changed my mind.
I found out that 20% of it is not going towards the police department, and that information was purposefully hidden from voters.
Why not sell the former building and apply the proceeds towards the new police department?
If this does not pass today, I hope they will come back with a real bond for a police department. That I would vote for.
The Police Building Bond: Real Need, Wrong Solution
On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, residents of Moscow have the opportunity to vote for or against the raising of landowners’ property taxes for the construction of a new police building. Although the residents of a community have a real obligation to support those protecting and serving them, and the need for a new police building seems to be real, here are just a few reasons for why the residents of Moscow should nevertheless vote “No” in Tuesday’s bond election.
1. However convenient or needed a new police building would be, the nearly $10 million bond is in fact far too high a price for that convenience or need. Part of the reason for this is that, instead of selling the current police building to help defray the costs and lower the already high burden on Moscow city tax payers, the city’s plan is to keep and repurpose the existing police building for other city government offices, and even using a large portion of the bond funds (close to $2 million) to remodel both the old building and other city government facilities. This means that technically this is not a bond to build a new police building, so much as it is a bond to expand and improve city government facilities generally, doing so under the guise of it being “for safety” and “for the police.” For this reason alone, Moscow residents should vote against the bond and ask the city to propose a more cost-effective and targeted solution.
2. Supporters of the bond for the new building claim that it will make Moscow safer. But will it, and at what cost? If safety were the primary concern, $10 million could be used, for example, to hire more police, raise police salaries to help ensure we have and retain the best qualified officers, and/or purchase more training and better equipment for those officers. Would such expenditures make Moscow safer than a new building? Almost certainly. (Would, given the choice, our current police officers prefer such expenditures over a new building? Quite possibly.) Also, while the present downtown location has very real accessibility issues, it also has the equally real and weighty benefit of being more centrally and publicly positioned. Thus, while relocating the police station to the south of town may reduce emergency response times for some areas of the city, and perhaps even all areas of the city under special circumstances, this must be weighed against the likelihood of it actually increasing the response times for other areas and perhaps under most circumstances. Thus, while the proposed new building may be safer and more convenient in some respects, the question is: will it get us the mostsafety and convenience for the tax-payers’ dollar, and will it decrease emergency response times on average. If studies have in fact been done on this subject, no evidence has been publicly presented or made readily available to suggest that it does.
3. The burden of Moscow city property taxes is already very high, and with Moscow property values themselves on the rise, owning or renting a home in Moscow is becoming increasingly unaffordable for the average individual and family. If the bond passes, owners of homes valued between $250,000 to $300,000 will pay an additional $11-$14/ month, or $132-$168/year, and rental prices will also increase. In a recent interview, Sheriff Richard Skiles commented that a new jail and sheriff’s office will also be needed in the next decade, which should serve to remind voters that more bonds are always on their way, that every bond passed in the present tends to make the passing of any future bond more difficult, and therefore voters should look not only to the real or apparent needs of the hour, but of the likely downstream consequences of their actions.
For these reasons and more, on Tuesday, May 21, residents of Moscow should indeed “play it safe” by voting “no” in the bond election. In doing so, they will not be voting “no” to the police; they may very well be voting for the possibility of a better, wiser, and even safer “yes” in the future.