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New sales tax at heart of Santa Rosa budget debate

Police, fire departments compete for funds with other city services

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa voters last fall passed a quarter-percent sales tax to protect “vital city services” from being gutted.
In just over a week, they’ll see if they’re getting what they paid for.

The budget debate gripping City Hall for the past several weeks culminates with three days of hearings beginning June 14 that will determine how the $6.5 million in new sales taxes will be spent.

So far, the council majority has made it clear that public safety is their highest priority, moving to restore proposed cuts to the police, fire and gang-prevention budgets.

Councilman John Sawyer has said the council has an “obligation to try as much as we can to maintain and enhance” police and fire services because voters have twice expressed strong support for those services.

But other council members have questioned whether that really was what voters had in mind last fall, suggesting that Measure P was as much about potholes, parks and pools as it was about public safety.

“Measure P didn’t stand for ‘pensions,’” said councilman Gary Wysocky.

These differing views are shaping up to dominate the political debate of a contentious budget season that could continue a trend in which police and fire are taking an ever-larger share of city spending. The two departments now account for almost 60 percent of the city’s general fund.

Even with the infusion of extra cash, the city still faces long-term financial challenges, and voters may not get all they were promised in Measure P for some time.

Measure P is the eight-year, quarter-percent sales tax that voters passed Nov. 2. It was estimated to raise $6.2 million for general city services, but slowly improving sales tax revenue has bumped that estimate up to $6.5 million.

Fifty-seven percent of the voters endorsed the measure, pushing the city’s sales tax rate to 9.5 percent. Because it is a general sales tax, which only needed 50 percent of the vote as opposed to two-thirds for a dedicated tax, the council can use the money any way it chooses.

The ballot language said it was “to help maintain essential City services including police and fire protection; violent and gang-crime prevention; pedestrian safety; property and nuisance related crime prevention; street paving and pothole repair; park safety; and recreation and youth programs … ”

The ballot argument in favor of the measure noted it would avoid various “draconian” cuts and “restore badly needed services.”

The added revenue is helping soften the city’s budget woes. Next year’s proposed $116.7 general fund budget is $7.8 million larger than this year’s, a 7 percent difference.

Police and fire budgets are kept largely flat. Gang-prevention services get a boost. And pools and senior centers will be spared closure.

“It’s making a difference,” said Public Works Director Rick Moshier, whose department faces losing three positions instead of as many as 20. “If I cut 20 more positions, it’s hard for me to even imagine. That would be gruesome.”

Yet, because of a host of other rising costs – including $2.9 million for employee pensions and $1.2 million for health care benefits — voters won’t be getting everything mentioned in the Measure P language and ballot argument.

One of the “draconian cuts” the ballot language said the measure would “help prevent” was the imposition of park fees, namely the $5 daily parking fee proposed at Howarth Park. Another promise was to “restore badly needed services” in departments that had been cut deeply in previous years.

Next year’s budget, however, does neither.

It calls for further cuts to most departments and doesn’t prevent the Howarth Park parking fee, something Wysocky has called a “bait and switch” on voters.

City Manager Kathy Millison acknowledges that voters won’t be getting all the services they were promised in Measure P next year.

“It’s preserving some of them, but not all of them,” Millison said.

Millison’s first budget, presented in April, called for $4 million in cuts spread across the city departments to offset the $8.8 million in cost increases the city faced just from “standing still,” she said.

She spread the cuts across city departments in proportion to the amount each department is contributing to the deficit.

“I offered a draft budget that kind of shared the pain,” she said.

But Mayor Ernesto Olivares, a retired Santa Rosa police lieutenant, and Sawyer, a former downtown news store owner, balked at the cuts to police and fire, which they said were too deep.

Together with newly elected Councilmen Jake Ours and Scott Bartley, who received police union endorsements in last fall’s campaign, they now make up the majority on the seven-member council, and often are at odds with Wysocky and Susan Gorin and Marsha vas Dupre.

They advised Millison to return with a budget that restored $1.3 million to keep Fire Station 10 open part time, added $750,000 to preserve four officer positions and add an analyst, and boosted gang-prevention services by $110,000.

That $2.2 million is expected to come from three places: $1 million from concessions from existing workers, $700,000 in additional cuts from non-public-safety departments, and elimination of the $351,000 surplus Millison’s budget envisioned.

Millison would not criticize that decision. She said she had clear direction from the council in how to prioritize spending of the extra sales tax dollars.

“Public safety is a core service for the city, no question about it,” she said.

But can the city continue to afford the “baseline” level of service for police and fire? It’s a question Councilwoman Susan Gorin says she’s been giving a lot of thought in recent weeks.

A separate quarter-cent sales tax increase, Measure O, passed with 70 percent of the vote in 2004. The money was allocated specifically for police and fire funding, setting baseline spending levels that increase from 2005 every year based on inflation. The tax lasts for 20 years.

The baseline for police in 2005 was $35.9 million; next budget year it is $41.6 million. Fire has similarly grown from $21.3 million to $24.6 million, according to figures presented to the council by city finance officials.

The Police Department, which has had its budget cut by about 9 percent since 2007, would have fallen about $2 million under its baseline under Millison’s initial draft. But Olivares and Sawyer said they wanted to begin turning that around over two years.

The Fire Department has fallen about 7 percent over the same period, and would have remained over the baseline figure even with Millison’s initial draft.

By comparison, the two other largest city departments, public works and recreation, parks and public services, have seen the general fund portions of their budgets reduced by 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

Gorin thinks that’s inexcusable, and says the constituents she’s hearing from are incensed.

“I think the public should be questioning the motivations of the council majority in why they feel it’s important right now to put more money into police and fire when all of the rest of our services are being slashed,” she said.

The Measure O baseline formula set by voters in 2004 is out of whack with the economic reality the city is facing today and needs to be revised, she said.

But Bartley said strong public safety services are intertwined with the city’s economic health. Two of the preserved officer positions are dedicated to schools and two to the downtown, he noted.

“Once you lose control of graffiti and that kind of stuff, it can lead to a downturn in the economy,” he said.

It’s also not fair to demand next year’s budget accomplish everything, he said. The council is working on long-term solutions to the city’s fiscal problems, such as establishing the pension task force whose work is nearly complete, he said.

“The public has given us eight years to get our house in order,” Bartley said.

The proposed budget does not dip into the city’s $10.3 million in reserves.

Millison said a city Santa Rosa’s size should have a minimum of 10 percent in reserve for emergencies and to demonstrate fiscal health to potential lenders. The council’s goal is 15 percent. Reserves under her proposed budget would be 8.8 percent of the general fund.

The biggest unknown is how much the city will be able to save through employee concessions.

Millison’s revised budget calls for $1 million in concessions, and she said she’s confident employees will step up. Health care, pensions and salary are on the table, she said.

The city is negotiating with most of its bargaining units. The exceptions are the police and fire employees, whose contracts are up next year. But the city is nonetheless requesting concessions from those public safety units, both of which have given some concessions in the past.

Firefighters deferred 3.5 percent and 2.5 percent raises in the past, and by contract are in line for 6 percent raises in the budget year beginning July 1, Millison said. That would cost the city $440,000. But she doesn’t expect that to happen.

It’s become a pattern Wysocky said he’s tired of.

“This is no different from other budget years. We’re waiting on public safety to tell us what concessions they’ll make, if any,” he said.

Millison said it’s important to note that the additional revenue from the parking proposal and other cuts will help “chip away at” the city’s long-term deficit. But much more work remains to make the organization more efficient and sustainable, she said.

“My hope is that they will see this budget not as a fix,” she said, “but as a first step in a direction.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





37 Responses to “New sales tax at heart of Santa Rosa budget debate”

  1. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @John – why didn’t you include the full quote from Alvernaz:
    .
    “Our membership is willing to defer — six months, 12 months, possibly 18 months — but it isn’t interested in giving it back.”
    .
    As I said, he was willing to do exactly what you guys did, except that it sounds like he was willing to defer the whole raise, instead of just a small part like you guys did.

  2. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @John,

    First off, I did not get any raise since I was not SRCEA. Second, it is my understanding that with the furloughs, you can not use vacation time. It is time off without pay – kind of like being partially unemployed. So let me get this straight – you defer 2% and take the remaining 5% of your raise, and you call that reducing your pay…!? All employees, including SRCEA, should’ve redone contracts made before the crash to better match the current economic reality. That didn’t happen. Don’t get my wrong, I respect what you guys do, but if you insist on taking your current 6% raise, others in the City will be laid off or bumped, and that just isn’t right.

  3. John says:

    LBR – From your link:

    Tony Alvernaz, “… isn’t interested in giving it back.”

    “We support the idea of deferral to avoid layoffs and to show we have an interest in the city not failing. But we fought too long and too hard to give up what we’ve gotten,”

    So what did SRCEA do? They took the raise, chose furloughs, and let your fellow workers get laid off. When ALL others gave something up, SRCEA TOOK THE RAISE!

    Taking a raise then giving it back is a cut just as much as not ever taking the raise. Except you get paid more until the cut.

    As far as unpaid time off (furloughs)- it’s time off (you’re not working). We would love furloughs instead of reducing our pay rate but for obvious reasons we can’t. You get less pay because you chose the day off instead of a Salary cut. I’ve heard some are even using a vacation day during those furloughs so their paychecks are not any different. Pretty crafty. Then when things turn around you don’t have to fight to get your SALARY increased because it is still where it was. Again when those furloughs stop you will get an instant return to higher earnings where SALARY CUTS will have to be re-negotiated. Again, Pretty crafty.

    To answer your layoff question AGAIN – We chose No layoffs. Had we taken our contractual raise LIKE YOU DID we would have had to lay off people. WE CHOSE NOT TO. Yet we are still down 21+ people from where we were in 2007 due to unfilled retirements and ‘bumping’.

  4. Observer says:

    If they dont play ball now, at the end of their contracts they will probably get hammered, as well they should. If they go to binding arbitration, there is no guaruntee they will get anything and the City will probably cut even deeper on them. Pay back is a beast, but recoil is a mother,,,

  5. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @John – In searching the PD, I found this article – http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20081124/NEWS/811240313 – which makes it sound like SRCEA was willing to do exactly what you did – defer some (all?)of their contracted pay raise – but the City wanted to eliminate them entirely. If you know something different, please do tell. It is my understanding that their members have since lost that 4% at least temporarily through the un-paid time off they’ve been required to take. And I personally know people in SRCEA who’ve been laid off or bumped. From what I’ve heard, you only defered part of your raise in 2008, and only to save other unit 2 employees. According to what Reality Check posted, you’ve since recieved a number of raises, and it is my understanding that you are now going to get a 6% raise. It is also my understanding that most of the budget increase is coming from units 2 and 5 this year as a result of your raise and your increased pension costs. So now, there will be more layoffs and bumping and un-paid time off for the remaining employees. Is any of this wrong? And again I ask, have any unit 2 employees seen a pay cut or been laid off since this began? You talk about the great struggle between the working man and the big corporations, but in this case, it really looks like it is the non-powerful employee associations against the powerful public safety unions. Frankly, I think all employees in the City should give up their contracted raises COMPETELY until the economy improved. Instead, you are seeing some employee groups taking the brunt of the pain, while others have seen their paychecks go up. And it is the individuals that are getting bumped or laid off that I really feel for, and I’m sorry, but it just seems like units 2 and 5 have no compassion at all for these employees, including those in Fire and Police that are not in your unions.

  6. John says:

    @ LBR – I will start by saying (again) that in 2008 when city budget balances were turning negative that Santa Rosa Firefighters were the first to voluntarily open their contract to negotiation. This resulted in wage concessions and Reduction of positions which prevented layoffs. We gave up raises to prevent layoffs.

    Do you want to tell the rest of us what your group (SRCEA)did for he city in 2008 or should I? Or maybe you would rather Lay Off this public attack on public safety.

    Again, let me know how you would like to proceed. Thanks

  7. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @John – I don’t think in this environment it is safe to criticize Public Safety, which is why I don’t use my real name. I’ll go as far as saying that I work for a public agency in Sonoma County, and if I were employed by Santa Rosa, I believe my job class would be represented by SRCEA.

  8. John says:

    @ LBR – I’ll compare numbers with you as soon as you let me know what unit you are in.

  9. PW says:

    Louis, if they have nowhere to go, they should happily take a pay cut. It beats the alternative. I’m thankful every morning that I have a job to go to. If I knew my outside job prospects were not good, I’d take a pay cut to make sure I kept my job and to hopefully save the jobs of my co-workers.

    My take on why people don’t want their pay cut? They live above their means. I see it with friends and co-workers. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck (and these aren’t people making minimum wage) you can’t afford a pay cut. I can withstand a 20% cut if I had to. Why? Because I didn’t buy the biggest house on the block. I drive a car that’s over 10 years old. I don’t have a vacation house.

  10. Louis P. says:

    Q: What do cops and firemen do for employment when they get get laid off due to government budget cuts?

    A: Not much. They haven’t the job skills nor the necessary academic ability to earn even half of what they get as a public employee.

    Thats the heart of the issue. They have nowhere to go where they can demand the pay and benefits that they get now.

  11. PW says:

    Deferring raises may help the city balance the budget this year, but it’s just going to hit later on down the road. Are other departments getting raisies? If not, I don’t think public safety should either.

  12. Kirstin says:

    “I would rather noone had to be laid off or bumped, which is why you need to give up your 6% RAISE this year!” — Lets be Reasonable

    I’m with you, LBR.

  13. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @John – I would rather noone had to be laid off or bumped, which is why you need to give up your 6% RAISE this year! The only reason why you can say that Fire has participated is because you’ve defered some of your unrealistic raises in the past. Have any UNIT 2 employees been laid off or bumped or seen any cut in pay so far?

  14. John says:

    What is it about “layoffs” that is the only acceptable solution for you? Look at the larger picture which says that to date Fire has been equal or above in total % budget reduction. We have eliminated 18 line positions, several prevention positions, and multiple positions in the Admin staff.

    We are doing our part. People are gone. Through choice or not, they are no longer working with Santa Rosa Fire Department.

  15. SR Watcher says:

    The mayor should not be able to vote because he clearly has a conflict but don’t expect that to deter him as long as the City Attorney advises him otherwise. I won’t give them credit for not having guts…they obviously have no problem looking at each other or themselves in the mirror each day. It is like the good old days for the Mayor (he decided to become a council member after helping to for the gang task force and realizing the money that could be had…and John Sawyer finally has a say…since he never got to vote when he had his own business downtown. Look for more of the same…lots of fire and police present at the meetings….ugh just to keep it safe for everyone. Who is going to protect us from them…well, not the City Manager…but no surprise there….I would like to see some real changes and stay hopeful…please stay strong Gorin…we should have seen this coming with how the advertisements were handled by your adversaries…the police and fire???? I thought that the police and fire are supposed to support the City?

    I don’t think any other departments with employees that work “very hard” for the citizenry feel your love as they keep watching everything they care about disseminated by the greed by those who are sworn to protect…. Stop the bleeding of our resources…we deserve to have more than a police and fire city…why can’t we all make the sacrafice?? Our future is in their hands…so scary and yet true. Again, fire and police have not lost anyone and continue to add positions. They also continue to deplete the resources at a fantastic pace….

  16. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @John – I don’t think the mayor spiked his pension, but I do believe that he is biased in this case, and should not vote.
    .
    @RC – I’m not happy with the Council on this particular vote, but I think that they are being fiscally responsible overall. There is a funding gap, and they are dealing with it. Not as I would like it, but they are dealing with it. The binding arbitration is kind of tricky – noone really wants to go there, so City Management agreed in the past to just pay our public safety folks the median of comparable cities. The problem with this is that some of those comparable cities have similar language, except they pay a % above the median and this has led to an upward spiral.
    .
    @WCW – The PD has hailed PD and FD as heros for giving up some of their pay raise in the past. It is only recently that they’ve been critical of the council. The FD and PD supported the ‘pro-business’ slate with cash donations – which is how they bought the council. I believe that SRCEA supported some, but not all of these candidates, but don’t think they donated any money, but I could be wrong. I actually supported some of these candidates, but not next time. The City Manager came out with a good budget – those departments where costs were going up were expected to find ways to lower their costs. FD and PD account for most of those new costs, and they were being asked to make the biggest cuts, especially since the brunt of previous cuts were directed at non public safety departments. The council told her to re-do the budget with no cuts to public safety, which is where I find fault.

  17. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @West County – Members of Units 2 and 5 have not had to have any layoffs that I’m aware of. Other non-sworn employees of police and fire have had some layoffs and bumping, but nothing compared to the other departments. A 5% across the board cut would be the most equal way to deal with this situation, but it has been very un-even so far. Fire is now up for a 6% increase based on a long-term contract, while in other departments, employees are getting laid off and others are getting bumped to lower salaries. Police and Fire do difficult jobs, but statistically, it is safer than being a taxi driver. All the rest of us are asking is EQUAL treatment, but so far, public safety has escaped most of the pain.

  18. Jimmy D says:

    You mean Mayor Ernesto’s 128,000 pension from the City might sway his vote. Really???

    http://database.californiapensionreform.com/database.asp?vtsearchname=&vtsearchemploy=santa+rosa&vtquery=1&vttable=calpers

  19. West County Watcher says:

    @ Lets Be, how did the PD & FD buy the council. When I drove through the City all I saw was ads from all city employees supporting the big 3 business people. Since that was the case I guess you supported them too? Plus the voters put them into office if I recall how the electorate works?
    As far as arbitration goes, I thought both sides could use it if they felt what was occurring wasn’t fair and reasonable. If that is the case, why isn’t the city using it? On face value to me that means that he city may have more money than they’re letting onto and they are just trying to make quick gains while the economy is bad? If it isn’t the case they should go test the waters since arbitrators only award what can be paid by either side, since they want to keep working they wont just award employees.

  20. West County Watcher says:

    @ Let’s Be, how exactly did the PD & FD buy the council. If I recall the election issues with attack ads & signs when I drove through Santa Rosa it looked like all City employees supported the big 3 business candidates? To me that means if you’re an employee you supported them too?
    Also, I thought binding arbitration can be used by either side if one feels the process is unjust? If the City feels that the PD & FD aren’t fairly working with them why don’t they use it? They must not be in as bad of shape as they’re saying because an arbitrator would only award what they City could afford if they ever wanted to work as an arbitrator again, correct?

  21. Pearl Alquileres says:

    I don’t get the controversy.
    They’ve done such a wonderful job with all the money we’ve been giving them how could anyone be opposed to giving them MORE??!!

  22. Reality Check says:

    @LBR,

    Sorry, the citizenry of course are responsible for what they pas and who they elect, but that doesn’t absolve the council from its role in this financial fiasco.

    If arbitration is the problem, and I suspect it’s mostly a convenient excuse to cave on contract demands, why hasn’t the council submitted repeal measures the voters?

    Bottom line, council members have a responsibility to inform the public when the general fund budget is being taking over by unsustainable personnel costs. Instead, they been late and very weak in taking this subject up, more concerned with their reelections, I guess.

  23. John says:

    How did the Mayor “spike” his pension?

    I’ve heard a few of you say it repeatedly but i’ve never heard how he allegedly did it. Please provide details. Thanks.

  24. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC – it is not the council, but rather the population of Santa Rosa who is the one who gave up control of public safety salaries when they voted to give public safety binding arbitration. The only leverage the council has is to threaten to lay off employees – the last time they did this, public safety agreed to defer some of their raises to prevent the layoffs. This time around, it looks like public safety has bought themselves a council…

  25. West County Watcher says:

    From face value the number of articles simply attacking the PD & FD makes me think the Press has friends in other departments or feels somehow wronged by the PD or FD so they want to put them in the limelight. If they’re paid a comparable wage as all the the city employees are why do they get singled out is it because they make more for a dangerous job and shouldn’t be compensated more?
    Everyone’s costs went up and everyone does need to do something. Has any employee group stepped up and done anything long term. All I read about is furloughs and deferrals which are both temporary and solve nothing. I know I’ll hear that people took a demotion and now make less, seems like that has happened in every department so that argument goes out the window too. Maybe it is time to give all employees an even 5% cut across the board. What would that do to the budget? Not to defend a side but seems like Lets Be & Reality have a bone to pick and don’t want their group to do anything?
    Lastly need we be reminded that 2 fire fighters just lost their lives in a standard house fire according to the press in a city near by. They’re obviously paid to do a dangerous job and not sit behind a desk and go home every night to sleep in their own bed with no risk to their life and see their families. Maybe we should try a day in their shoes before we cast judgments on what they are worth?

  26. Reality Check says:

    @LBR,

    Again, your information is reliable. Thanks.

    Here’s a summary of the salary portion of the firefighter contract effective 7-1-06:

    2006 – 5.2% raise
    2007 – Min 2.5%-5% based on area increases
    2008 – Raise based on area salaries
    2009 – Min 2.5%-5% based on area raises
    2010 – Raise based on area salaries
    2011 – 2.5%-5% based on area averages

    Is not the above fiduciary malpractice? Why elect a council if it just outsources major financial decisions to other city councils?

    For 3 years, I served on the budget committee for a city in Oregon. The idea that personnel costs would exceed 60% of the general fund was inconceivable.

  27. john bly says:

    So far, Santa Rosa’s pro-business Council members have not gotten the message yet. Voters approved the sales tax for pools, parks, and potholes-not public pensions.

  28. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC – I believe Fire’s contract was longer than just two years ago. There was a percieved gap in total pay/benefits when compared to other bay area cities, and it was meant to bring them up to parity over a number of years. Two years ago, when the crash first hit the City, Fire opened up their contract and agreed to defer some of that increase to this year, which is why they are due 6% now. At the time, they were hailed as heros, but that contract was done back when the City was in good financial health. Now, Fire getting a 6% raise, when other City employees will be getting some kind of pay cut, along with a number of layoffs and demotions seems VERY unfair. On top of this, most of the increased retirement costs are to pay for Fire and Police’s retirement costs after the market crash. Fire and Police need to step up and do their fair share.

  29. FurloughedCityEmployee says:

    “Santa Rosa voters last fall passed a one-quarter cent sales tax to protect vital city services from being gutted.” Voters did NOT say, “Never reduce salaries of police officers and fire fighters, even if it means cutting jobs and salaries of all other City employees”. It is possible to pay police/fire less and still “protect vital city services”.

  30. Stephen A. O'Leary says:

    If it is true that Ernesto Olivares spiked his own pension as a police officer, why is he even allowed to vote on this? Isn’t it a conflict of interest for a retired cop to be voting on police benefits and salaries? The Press Democrat has made much of other candidates with “ties” to unions but they seem to be absent in questioning the fairness of the Mayor’s position in refusing to ask his old department to share in sacrifices and instead passing the higher taxes and parking fees on to us taxpayers. Not to mention in never reporting on his pension spiking in the first place. Why is someone who’s own behavior (pension spiking)is part of the problem allowed to determine the “solution”(cutting services and raising taxes instead of asking cops to share the sacrifice)? And why doesn’t the PD ask him some of the hard questions about why he is willing to make us taxpayers bear a burden and have less public services so that his favored departments don’t have to give up anything?

  31. Dave Madigan says:

    I am still waiting for the City Manager to tell us how much of her own salary will be cut.

    The silence is deafening!

  32. SRPD and SRFD need to feel the pain says:

    Look at San Jose if you want to see Santa Rosa’s future. If Santa Rosa laid off a few officers and firefighters maybe public safety would get the message.

  33. Paul I. says:

    The past City elected folks sold us out to the Bicycle Folks and the Green Community. The present sell us out to the Police and Fire. Because neither the twain could meet we have this situation of special interest against special interest. The City of Santa Rosa has always taken care of itself, selling out to Housing in the 80s through 2007. This is just a reflection of the mess in Governement at ever level.

    So get used to dysfuntional government.

  34. Reality Check says:

    The first sentence in the above article should have been:

    “Next year’s proposed $116.7 general fund budget is $7.8 million larger than this year’s, a 7 percent difference.”

    The next sentence should have been, “Yet, despite a 7% budget increase, the city still needs to impose severe reductions in city services.”

    Is anything being done to correct this, clearly unsustainable, structural deficit? Sorry, wage deferrals don’t count.

    Who signed a labor contract only 2 years ago that included increases of 3.5%, 2.5%, and 6%? Add in increases in pension and fringe benefit costs and it’s clear the council has yet to see the elephant in the room.

  35. RubenStutter says:

    First 5 already gave them $133 million last year, and Medi-Cal is spent LOCALLY in each county so saying the money will go into some deep hole is untrue.

    But here’s what every voter should know about First 5:

    Unlike EVERY OTHER organization in CA, First 5 has a legal exception to the conflict of interest law – that means people sitting on their Commission Boards can and generally DO receive the lion’s share of the funds (Oh yes they DO!!!). That’s why they are suing. It’s not to preserve what they claim the voters intended, it’s to preserve their own personal pet programs.

    “Karen Scott, executive director of First 5 San Bernardino, said her commission has no litigation plans.” Why? one might ask… perhaps this quote from another Executive Director is why: From Contra Costa’s February minutes: ” Sean Casey: We don’t have any real argument against it which is why we’re really stressing the other piece. Sure, take the money…”

    So add to that Rob Reiner, the originator of Prop 10, supports the $1 billion move – if he thought it were illegal, he’d be up in arms (and he is not) so why sue since the law allows the move?

    Well, this way the commissioners get to spend as much OF THE TAXPAYERS’ money as they want to try to save funds for mainly THEIR OWN agencies.

    This IS what happens when you write into a law that the foxes can guard and eat from the hen house – and the Prop 10 law does just that.

    At least the state is not willing to let poor kids DIE. The First 5 Commissioners, on the other hand, are fighting to do just that.

  36. Priorities says:

    Charging $5 to park at Howarth is a small price to pay to know that if I need police or medical help while at the park, they will be there promptly. I’d rather it be free, but I believe keeping core safety services at proper levels should be the priority.

  37. Robert Sallen says:

    It should be fairly obvious by now that the Mayor and Jake Ours and Scott Bartley are willing to shut down vital city services and lay off staff just to make sure that the police don’t have to make ANY sacrifice. The question is why? Obviously the fact that that Mayor Olivares is a retired policeman (who spiked his own pension right before retirement)is one reason, the other possibility is the much reported “back room deal” that Bartley and Ours made to get the cops endorsement in their campaign for city council. This sweetheart deal stunk back then and it stinks even more now.
    Finaly, the third option is that Olivarez, Bartley and Ours simply don’t have the guts and leadership skills to stand up to public safety and demand that police take their fair share of cuts as every other department has. Instead you and I as taxpayers will pay higher tax and parking fees, not to improve or save city services but so that cops can have a time share in Hawaii or a new car or boat. And then they wonder why people hate politicians!