When it comes to projects like the community center, I think I’ll opt out

Craig Hall
Craig Hall

As anyone can see from social media and news coverage, possibly the biggest disagreed upon ballot initiative coming up is the proposed community center for Grand Junction. It’s put me into some commenting positions that would seem contradictory from issues I’ve taken sides on in the past. Because of that, let’s do some transparency before we get into the heart of the current matter.

My first go around on a community center came in the form of a presentation during my first go around as a member of the Grand Junction Lions Club in the early 2000s. This situation put me into a particularly odd place in taking a stance in my column because the initiative was presented by advertisers on differing sides of the issue. For the record, I came down on the side of “NO” for a couple of reasons: The center would have been a subsidized competitor of private businesses in our community, and I just don’t think government should build facilities that already exist.

This situation also confirmed one of the best lessons of all in my then young newspaper career: that my readers and advertisers understood the difference between opinion, news and advertising and the twain should never meet in a quality publication. I knew this because the advertiser I decided against continued to advertise with me because he saw value in my product, and he also took the time to tell me so after my column was published. Incidentally, the businessman I took the side of in my opinion would become the subject of many columns and emails that were opposed to his positions as time went along. He appreciated my takes on those as well.

That’s how it’s supposed to work in the life of a publishing magnate who also writes a few times a month.

My second foray into something similar was with the events center proposed for downtown as an expansion of the Two Rivers Convention Center.
I supported this for a couple of reasons. First, no one else was going to build something on that scale of risk in Grand Junction as a private investment.Moreover, the city was already in the convention business, and an expansion would offer a way to attract larger conventions and entertainment to the area. The biggest factor was the issue would be decided by voters and there was a very specific, fully laid-out plan on the ballot.

Many people thought I took this position because I’m a good friend of someone in the hotel business downtown. Others thought I was just trying to buy favor with advertisers. Still others just thought I was selling out. All I can say is I don’t sell out (to a bad fault, some say). I have my own opinion formed by my own “look-see” into an issue. As for my friend, she knows my mind all too well (sometimes to her dismay) to think that.

Oh, I also think for a city council that seems to do whatever the heck it pleases in favors for favored businesses, going to the voters on an issue (that we know damned well it would do any other time) is total chicken you know what. But that’s for another day.

Like today. Using the voters to see whether or not the city will build what it wants to build without ramming it down the taxpayer’s throats — a new community center. And truth be told, my issues with it are still the same issues I had years ago, along with a few more.

I can now add to my no vote mix —because of the infiltration of Starbucks into our retail market — that it matters not if a yes vote is only the cost of a cup of coffee per month. This says two things: Coffee is too expensive, and it tries to make people think buying coffee is not a choice.

I also don’t buy into the fact it’s only 39 cents on $100 to build the center. As with all taxes, they’ll always need more, they’ll fall short of expectations and they’ll never go away. So there’s a
no-brainer.

Additionally, I don’t think I should have to pay for someone’s swimming pool, day care or place for birthday parties or bridge clubs, especially since only a small percentage of the population demands or will use it. You can provide your own. Some stuff costs money, like Starbucks.

Finally, if government is going to subsidize one business, it should subsidize all businesses equally. Our city government offers an excellent example of how unfair government is in this arena.

Here’s my solution. Since it’s so cheap to build according to supporters, voters in favor — this means no yes/no vote, allowing free people to “opt out” — will receive a special debit card provided by the city. You must purchase all items in the city with this card, to which a special tax will be added to your purchase to support the construction and operation of your “community center.”

This way, you’d invest in the business you want by choice. It’s almost like a free-market investment solution. Which some need a lesson on.