In the event I changed my mind, I’m going to the center

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

Yeah, a tad corny I know, but it is what it is. I suppose this will surprise some folks as well, given my penchant for being against just about everything government tries to do in terms of making our lives better. But just because I don’t like the method, project or what the government decides is best doesn’t mean it won’t be good for our community.

Let’s face it: Our government at all levels gives proof time and again it sticks its nose into things it shouldn’t (or in the case of the feds, can’t, because it’s unconstitutional) for “the greater good” and things naturally end up worse than when they started. All one needs to do is look to roads and schools and health care to prove this point without question over the decades. But while justified, it’s also a lazy excuse to always knee jerk when something new is proposed. It’s easy on the federal level because it should be with the Constitution. But the closer we get to home, the murkier waters become. And just because there’s a shorter field of vision, it doesn’t mean there isn’t bounty in those waters for everyone to enjoy should they choose.

Such is the case in our own “Two Rivers.” While incredibly murky, there’s the definite possibility of a pretty good haul (no pun intended) if we cast a better net with an improved events and convention center right here in River City.

Yes, my first reaction was simple — absolutely not. After all, if we can’t operate Two Rivers and the Avalon at a profit, there’s no way this thing isn’t an even bigger drag on and waste of our tax dollars. Plus, we have the new “amphitheater” at Las Colonias for the bigger, better attractions, and I’m still not sure about that. I also have serious doubts about how the city handled the building of the public safety building — along with renovations at the Avalon. Worse, when the voters have rejected the city’s ideas, it went ahead and did a lot of them anyway. So, with that in mind, let’s just say at the minimum, I’m a huge skeptic.

And yes, when I went to a meeting with the local man, Landon Balding, in charge of getting the word out on the events center, I had my list of bullet proof points and counter points and arguments that were sure to keep me all comfortable in my little “no” zone. For the record, I was wrong.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I promised to take time to seek out those folks who disagreed with me and have a lunch or cup of coffee conversation to see where there’s agreement, to find out what we have in common and to discover that not everything from the other point of view is evil or has bad intent. And by asking me to meet (in spite of my comments on Facebook) and take the time to learn more about the project, let’s just say the table in front of me was turned.

After taking the time to look things over with a closer eye to understand just what a new events center will bring to Grand Junction and Mesa County, the good outweighs the bad. I never thought I’d say that.

Yes, there’s a sun-setting sales tax increase to finance it. The good news is, that’s the only way it can be built. The city isn’t going to go over our heads to do as it pleases. This is probably the most important point. If the center is built, it will be according to voters’ wishes — unlike the safety building or Avalon projects. The better news is that our area will receive in return tax benefits from folks traveling regionally to see performers (the Avalon is too small a venue for the amount of dollars these performers command) we couldn’t previously host, for conventions Two Rivers is too small of accommodate (the VCB turns down upwards of 20 of these per year) and generate greater retail dollars across our town and county from folks traveling here for these events (anywhere from 35 percent to 66 percent of people who attend these events are from out of town) with which we can do bigger and better things for our town. And yes, this includes roads, a community center, parks and all the other things people keep saying our dollars would be better spent doing.

We’re now at a point at which retail and traditional forms of tax revenue can’t support the growth our city needs to attract the types of people, businesses and professionals needed to make Grand Junction the destination of choice that so many who oppose this center (like I did) claim it to be. The events center will be a new source of tax revenue and growth that traditional sources can no longer be. Do investments cost money? Yes they do. But I’ll be honest and say I don’t mind this extra $30 a year given what our city and county and state and country do with my thousands with which I disagree.

I urge everyone to look more closely like Landon did with me with a sit down to get the facts on this proposal to learn how it will be implemented and managed. And I urge a yes vote on your ballot.