If you’ve eaten out lately, you may have seen table tents displayed at downtown restaurants promoting Measure 2A on the city ballot this coming April. The measure asks city residents to approve increasing the City’s sales tax by a quarter cent to fund a $60 million downtown events center.
But beware, these promos strive to deceive.
The larger, more visible lettering on the table tents gives readers the impression that big-name acts like comedian Jerry Seinfeld, musician John Legend and the Harlem Globetrotters are scheduled to appear in Grand Junction in the fall of 2019 at the new events center we don’t yet have. None of these acts are currently scheduled to appear in Grand Junction, though. The smaller, harder-to-read print says “events like this” are “coming to Grand Junction.” But this is also not a fact.
The table tents try to make people salivate over the fantastic entertainment we might be missing out on due to a supposed lack of a suitable venue.
Promos Promise Pricey Acts
Take a closer look at what the events center promoters are saying:
The Harlem Globetrotters are perhaps the most affordable of the table tents’ proposed acts. Tickets for the Globetrotters’ performance in Broomfield March 16 range from $19.50 to $131.50 excluding junk fees, which actually include a an extra $2.00 fee buyers must pay just to print the tickets out on their own home computers. If you want the tickets mailed to you, the extra fee is even more. If you pick them up in person, there’s also a fee for that. Jerry Seinfeld plays mostly in large cities, but performs at a few smaller venues on par with Grand Junction. He will be performing in Grand Forks, North Dakota (population about 55,000) this spring. The cheapest tickets to see Seinfeld in Grand Forks cost $63.00 each plus junk fees. He will be performing there at the Chester Fritz Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Dakota. John Legend performs mostly in larger venues, but has a concert scheduled in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (population about 95,000) on May 16. The cheapest ticket to that event is $72.00 before junk fees. The most expensive ticket is $920.00. Tickets to see comedian Jim Gaffigan, who is featured on yet another table tent, run from $60 to $210, depending on the seats.
So the acts events center backers are using to try and gin up support for the new tax don’t sound like entertainment most average western slope citizens could afford, let alone for their entire families.
The people cheerleading for the events center are throwing these big ideas out to grab people’s attention and try to get voters drooling over the proposed events center. But how much good would an events center do if the majority of locals can’t afford to attend the acts there?
Who Benefits? Who Doesn’t?
Arguments in favor of the events center, as articulated in a front page article in the Sunday, February 26, 2017 Daily Sentinel, include that it will boost the fortunes of local business owners who are already actually doing pretty well. Hotel owners Steve and Kevin Reimer, who already own three hotels downtown, told the Sentinel they will build a fourth and maybe even a fifth hotel downtown if the events center gets built. It’s a clear example of how an events center stands to make successful business owners in town even more successful, while remarkably few benefits will accrue to the majority of city residents who will be paying for it.
The events center proposal would be fine, even terrifically exciting, if town didn’t already lack so badly in amenities that benefit all residents and if the Grand Junction City Council and Mesa County Commissioners hadn’t already spent decades demonstrating an overwhelming preference for boosting the fortunes of a handful of business owners over those of average, hard-working residents. Amenities that make a town great for everyone to live in don’t include projects that mostly line the pockets of a relatively few select individuals. They include things intentionally built to benefit a broad swath of city residents, like generously-sized, safe shady sidewalks, an extensive multi-use path system that helps people get around town without cars, an excellent rapid transit system, great parks sprinkled evenly throughout the area, excellent drainage and sewer systems, well-funded schools, public recreation and community centers, widespread access to reasonably-priced broadband and the like.
Citizens Must Care About Their Town to Get More Real Amenities for Everyone
While it’s up to area citizens whether they’re willing to tax themselves to get amenities like these that benefit so many more people and that would draw more businesses and skilled workers to town, it would have been far more thoughtful towards residents if Council had put a proposal on the April ballot for a recreation center as well — something city residents have been clamoring for for years — and given citizens the chance to choose which project they would prefer to have, or choose if they might even be willing to fund both. Sadly, Grand Junction voters will not be getting that choice, though, and will not get any of these other wonderful amenities any time soon.