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Letter: New police building a very immodest proposal
To the editor:
Regarding the proposed new Police Services Building, this project is problematic from its justification through to announced costs and the absence of public approval.
The online project description is subtitled “Building a Safer Community,” and its first words explicitly link the new building to the “safety needs” of the community. Public safety is again emphasized when the existing RCMP building is described as “too old and too small to meet current policing needs or provide the best possible policing services to our community.
Public safety concerns seem to take on absolute urgency when you read that the current, substandard infrastructure “poses a potential risk to effective policing in our community,” and that “crime rates” will be reduced if the public agrees to finance what is a $43 million, 90,000 square-foot behemoth.
If Shakespeare really, really wanted a new police building, he’d have trouble surpassing such rhetoric.
However, when you study the Current Challenges section of the project description along with the section titled The Proposed New Facility, you find a very different story. What the police actually need is more office space and some interview and meeting rooms.
The larger problem to do with operational needs at the current forensics and identification facilities could be addressed, the project description admits, through a simple $1.5 million upgrade.
Wants are very different from needs, and what the police want is centralization of operations. What they apparently fail to understand is that lots and lots of institutions run out of more than one building—universities, hospitals and the City of Kelowna spring to mind.
Moreover, when you think of large cities like London and New York, policing operations have always been carved into modular precincts.
Kelowna's RCMP have no operational needs that can't be met by purchasing another facility or two for a couple of million dollars, installing office space and meeting rooms, and reorganizing themselves around the fact that the public has no appetite whatsoever to take on a 30-year debt for the Police Plaza of their dreams.
As for the increased operational efficiencies and effectiveness that would come with more elbow room, this is a far cry from the deception visited upon us that public safety and crime reduction are related to a new building, never mind depend on one.
As for costs, letter writer Mo Rajabelly has pointed out that each of the 29 new detention cells will fetch $200,000. Asking if someone can tell him why a cell costs more than an average home on a piece of title-free land sets off an alarm bell for me. Have we so soon forgotten the public toilet the city decided to build for a whopping $800,000?
Editor Jon Manchester at the Daily Courier has pointed out that this would be the second most costly project the city has ever undertaken, and that no one has actually said yes to it except the guys who said yes to the toilet. Critically important, he’s drawn attention to the undemocratic nature of the alternative approval process that will assume public support for the project unless the public makes a point of voicing their opposition
Assistant editor Alistair Waters at the Capital News has written about the same problem: “There’s a reason private companies in this province are not legally allowed to do what the city is doing—making the bill-paying public opt out as opposed to opting in. There’s also a reason taxpayers need to approve big-ticket borrowing by their municipalities.”
Any taxpayer wishing to opt out of this ultra-extravagant project that’s being foisted on us needs to sign a copy of the Alternative Approval Electoral Response form, available in person or online, and mail it back to City Hall before March 28.
Then they need to tell their friends to do the same.