I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m saying you’re doing it wrong

Craig Hall

The “it” for my readers: Grand Junction High School. OK. I’ve now opened up the nearly 40-year-old can of worms, the oh so desperate need for our community. As things go with cans of worms, lots of chewing is involved.

Allow me to state for the record a few facts I know. Yes, these are general. But then again, not nearly as general as the overarching bond issue after bond issue local government entities toss at us seemingly every election. For what it’s worth, I know this: Grand Junction High School is in a sorry state of disrepair. Just like the many building and maintenance needs Mesa County School District 51 was behind on and came to voters with just two short years ago. Grand Junction High School needs to be replaced in some manner. And District 51 is still behind on all those needs.

Now, I know I don’t have all of the qualifications of some of our local leaders when it comes to spending tax dollars on all of the perceived community wants and needs. But I do have the main qualifications for this particular situation. I own property, I pay taxes and I vote. Otherwise, the folks in charge wouldn’t care about me one wit. They only care because I have a bucket in the well they aim to run dry. And drying up it is from all the water they demand we carry to and fro on their whims, all at the barrel of a gun.

Sound too inconsiderate? Let’s have a look into the can from the perspective of a lot of folks who are talking, but very few take the time to write out. Here’s what I see from what I hear.

District 51 has serious public relations problems, budgeting problems and saving for new schools problems. It’s easy to see why when it can just keep coming back to the well and people keep pulling out bucket after bucket based on emotions and the children. Between the city, county and school district, there are only so many cups of coffee (or beers) folks are willing to give up before enough is enough. Particularly when it’s caused by bad management. As I’ve written before, it’s MY coffee. Well, beer. Why would anyone keep patronizing a business that’s run poorly, has bad policies and keeps raising its prices?

And for District 51, it can’t write up mob-style loans like the city to avoid voters. So its customer base must be addressed. And the district is doing a poor job of it.

Here’s the main problem in a nutshell in going back to the voters two years after the last time: The district lied. Harsh? Not really. Omission is just as bad in PR as a falsehood of commission.

On the last ballot measure, people approved more than $200 million in funding and interest because the district was so far behind in building and maintenance projects. Surprisingly missing was the need to replace Grand Junction High School — the one thing according to many that’s been needed since 1980. The only reason it could have been missing is simple: The folks in charge knew it would be on a ballot two years later.

It might surprise the district that people notice that sort of omission. It might also shock the district to discover that re-investing in an entity that spent millions of dollars on a huge project like Grand Junction High School back in the 1950s for a building with a life expectancy of only 25 years isn’t the best idea. Or that investing in an entity that builds such a building on basically swampland only makes the previous decision that much worse — unless you have swampland to sell. It might be enlightening to the district that people notice that it spent so much time and effort to put together a shocking list of immediately needed, costly projects in buildings and maintenance spent so little time, effort or money in keeping up those buildings over the years. It might also surprise some in district management that saying for the past 19 years I’ve been here (and more before me) we need a new Grand Junction High School year after year while sinking (literally, sinking) millions into the building might begin falling on deaf ears or create an atmosphere where voters think it isn’t really needed.

District 51 would do well to reach out to the voters much better than some anonymous folks on Facebook insulting anyone with a differing opinion. Perhaps it should consider that district employees working on this new tax on school grounds or on their salaried time is a turnoff because people don’t like doing business with folks who skirt the law. Perhaps the district would do well to admit its mistakes and not take people for granted as water bearers. And finally, the district could have shown some actual interest in this desperate need and put aside a million a year towards this project over past 40 years.

District 51 must have saved millions in buildings and maintenance the past several decades. It admitted as much with the last bond issue. But why do that when you can just vote a new budget and debt ceiling? The rest of us with real budgets aren’t that lucky.