If the opinions expressed by San Carlos residents on Monday night at the City Council meeting were in any way indicative of the feelings of all San Carlans, the city may face a Braveheart-like rebellion by its residents if the fire department and police departments are replaced by less attractive options such as Cal-Fire and the Sheriff’s Department. I was present for the parade of public speakers and I did not hear more than one that was in favor of replacing our police and fire departments with less expensive options.
Residents emphatically rejected the San Carlos city staff proposals which examined the possibilities of closing the budget shortfall of 3.5 million dollars by farming out our fire department to Cal Fire and have our police department be absorbed by the Sheriff’s Department. Here are just a few of the comments and reasons residents gave to the City Council during the public comment session:
* “When your house is on fire, who do you want to come rescue you…….our fire department or a cheaper alternative?”
* “It takes our council 10 years to decide on synthetic turf, and only weeks to consider dumping our fire and police departments.”
* “If you take away these departments now, they will never be coming back.”
* “Our police department took 85 years to build and possibly only a few weeks to dismantle.”
* “Out of all of the city’s recommendations, I never once heard about cutting salaries at city hall.”
A more distant proposal floating around centers around keeping our police and fire departments with minimal changes, and instead making massive cuts to other city departments. If the council decides to go in this direction, San Carlans will experience some “tough love” with regard to city cutbacks, as other city services and parks and recreation take massive budgetary hits.
One thing that everyone can agree on is the fact that the cuts need to happen and they will be severe. The only question remaining centers on the source of the cuts. Clearly, many San Carlans are on edge over those cuts coming in the form of losing their fire and police departments.
An underlying theme which seems to be prevailing in the budget talks centers around the defeat of Measure U. Several speakers made mention of the fact that they voted against Measure U, but had they known of the true ramifications of its defeat, would have changed their vote in a heartbeat. This underlying theme begs the question of whether or not a similar tax measure would now be passed by San Carlos if given a second opportunity. If the “tough love” option is ultimately put into action by the council, look for a successful tax measure in the not too distant future.