$1,037,490. That is the amount the Palo Alto City Council unanimously agreed to spend last Monday night for a new police building "study" on initial design, environmental review and cost estimates.
It's the cart before the horse. Residents should first decide whether they want a new police building before the council spends a million dollars determining what it would look like and how much it would cost the city to build it.
Building a new police station in town has been an issue here for the last two decades, and we have finally arrived at a point, thanks to a special Blue Ribbon Task Force, that recommended that we should construct a $40 to $50 million, 50,000 square-foot new police station in town.
Okay. But the only wrinkle in this idea is that to do so, the city needs to ask residents not only to approve it, but to pay for it.
That would mean a bond measure, which would mean we would all be assessed "x" amount a year in additional property taxes.
The city council feels it needs to convince voters (us) that the police station is really needed. They plan to have us vote on the idea in June 2008. Earlier this year, the city council agreed to go ahead with plans to develop a new police station, knowing all along that they would still have to get voter approval for the building.
Well, it is now September 2006, and the council has agreed to spend the $1 million for this design and cost study. This, I speculate, is only the first in a series of other studies on the building, as well as the cost of a campaign to convince us that we should approve of this police building.
The council should first find out whether most of us want a new police station in town. I think we have a divided community on this issue. Some favor the police station, others say a new library would be a better investment. But why not have a referendum this coming spring to get community agreement?
If voters okay the idea, then the council would know that any expenditure on a police station is fully justified, and not simply speculative.