No more fire stations for Proctor and the Tide Flats. Don’t worry, everything there was either old or flammable anyway.
No more school resource officers. No problem – just hang a few “No bullying” signs.
No more fire boats. Heck, if the fire’s on the water then it’s not really a problem (let’s just overlook all the chemicals and HAZMAT at the port, though).
No more gang unit. Well, they’ll just have to behave themselves.
Enough. No matter how you look at the current Tacoma budget issue, it’s going to hurt. However, this pain will not only be on the faces of those receiving (or who have already received) city pink slips. Nope, this pain will be the real thing.
Cutting proactive police resources means that otherwise preventable crime will occur. Lopping off an entire traffic squad will lead to more and deadlier collisions. Longer fire and police response times will result in more human suffering. These are not guesses.
Two thoughts come to mind as the City Council faces city unions, outraged citizens and this budget. First, maybe Interim City Manager Ray Arrellano wasn’t bluffing after all. Some of us not privy to the city’s account books wrongly assumed that Arrellano’s previous references to drastic public safety cuts were simply the first tilt in a fiscal tug of war. We have ample example. The federal government certainly takes its brinksmanship seriously, not caring that their highjinks might cool an already frigid economy.
The second thought is wrapped up in an outraged box of frustration and can thus be summed up: Why did this fiscal implosion take anyone by surprise?
The threat of huge budget cuts is, like the collective outrage at city council meetings, a little late in coming. Our region has had numerous signs of fiscal desperation from many areas, especially the real estate and construction sectors. Permits lie as dormant as empty storefronts. Real estate signs grow mold. City coffers collect dust.
The only people who seem shocked by this budget are city officials whose function is to manage it.
Other municipalities have demonstrated much more prudence. Many cities took the preemptive steps, including laying off administrative positions, cutting expenses, and requesting (and receiving) union concessions. This early lead gave city governments some breathing room up until this anemic recovery we are currently experiencing.
Meanwhile, most wage negotiations in the public sector have degraded union salary and benefits. Then there is Tacoma.
Not even two months ago the city provided a 5% pay increase to both the city police and fire chief. Though this is a small monetary issue in comparison to the huge deficit, what it says about the city’s mindset and its awareness of fiscal reality is no small issue. It pains me to ask, but was there absolutely no indication, even two months ago, that a massive wave of deficit was rolling up the Tide Flats?
In this world you have to pay to play. If the city doesn’t have enough money for the “luxury” of providing the current level of public safety, then apparently we will have to settle for less. But wouldn’t it be interesting to know what would have happened if the City of Tacoma had been better prepared for an economic collapse that has apparently been lying in wait since 2008?