Independence voters have a couple of straightforward questions to answer April 3.



Does city the need more police officers? Is a modest increase in the property tax proposed by the city the best way to address that?



The answer to both is yes.

Independence voters have a couple of straightforward questions to answer April 3.

Does city the need more police officers? Is a modest increase in the property tax proposed by the city the best way to address that?

The answer to both is yes. Critics have raised countless issues – many of them valid but also many of them unrelated to the central question. This discussion is about police, not failed economic development projects. City Hall has a major trust issue on its hands, but public safety concerns need to come first, and we urge voters to say “yes” April 3.

A Public Safety Services Task Force laid this out 19 months ago: “As residents of Independence, the Task Force members believe the City is a safe place to live, but the evidence indicates the community is changing and neither our Police Department nor Fire Department are able to satisfactorally keep up with increased calls for services by our residents because of insufficient staffing.”

The city is asking for a tax that would raise $3.7 million a year, about a 14 percent increase in spending for police. It would be enough to add and equip 34 officers and eight civilians.

Chief Tom Dailey stresses the need to get out in front of an emerging problem. People who see something need to call, and the police need to hit any problems quickly and firmly. But the police need the personnel to do that. The city is seeing increases particularly in property crimes, and Dailey says gang-related crimes and violent crimes are on the upswing. Response times – the time between a call to 911 and the arrival of help – are troublingly high.

Also, looking to expected growth in the Little Blue River valley, Dailey says this is a way to simply keep up. “The 34 isn’t a panacea,” he says.

Following the defeat of a sales tax on this issue three years ago, Dailey promised to go forward as best he could with the resources at hand. The department has put civilians in several positions formerly held by sworn officers, putting more officers on the streets, but Dailey says his department has made as many of those kinds of changes as it can.

Public safety means people are secure in their homes and businesses and also feel secure. It’s often a difference maker for someone looking to buy a home or invest in a business. Staying on top of this is fundamental to everything this community is trying to do to improve our schools, add jobs, add to the tax base and have a great place to live.

Opponents of the tax increase have raised several points, most rooted in frustration with City Hall. Many, many people in the community are livid – rightly so – at the city having to bail out the developer of the struggling development anchored by Bass Pro Shops. It is costing the city millions. It is not enough for city officials to lamely say they are victims of a bad economy. They took a huge calculated risk, and it has backfired. They knew that was possible.

This feeds into the frustration that many feel about City Hall’s perceived lack of transparency and inability to give straight answers to straight questions. Much of the rhetoric in that criticism is overblown, but there is merit in what the critics say. Still, although these are fair questions, they are separate and should not cloud the public safety issue.

And there’s this point. You hear it in discussions with advocates on both sides, in the tone of some letters to the editor. It’s a determination to paint these issues – the need for cops, City Hall’s shortcomings – in the starkest terms, and it’s a refusal to really listen to the other side.

A spirited conversation settled by a vote of the people is healthy for a community, but the damage to trust coming out of this particular election is not. We have spent fair amounts of time with advocates on both sides, and we don’t see anyone who wants anything other than what’s best for the community. It’s just a difference of opinion. That doesn’t make the other side the bad guys.