Well, now we have an example of what we might do about it. Colorado Springs, it seems, has the same problem Oakland does, only smaller - a $28 million shortfall in its budget. Oakland's deficit is $100 million, but then, we're a bigger town. Colorado Springs citizens resoundingly voted down a proposed tax increase to cover the deficit, so Colorado Springs is - shutting down. According to a recent article in the National Post, the city is:
- Turning off every 3rd streetlight.
- Cancelling bus service at night and on weekends.
- Stopping park maintenance, draining municipal pools, closing city recreation centers and museums. (Not that you could swim in Colorado Springs right now anyway, but you get the picture.) These facilities will have to find private support to stay open. They're asking citizens to bring lawn mowers and mow the grass in public areas.
- Removing trash bins from local parks. Haul your picnic garbage back home, slobs.
- Offering police helicopters for sale on the Internet (from the Denver Post).
- Laying off firefighters, beat cops, the vice squad, the burglary investigators.
- Stopping payment for street paving, relying on a regional authority.
I don't know what the answer is here. Cities, like a lot of people, have developed the habit of spending the money they think they ought to have, instead of the money they have, which is almost always a smaller amount. Somehow we have to break that habit, and go back to more frugal practices; but nobody wants to hear that they can't have all the perks they're used to. Come to think of it, Oakland is now doing some of what Colorado Springs is - cutting park maintenance, for example. And OPD is already understaffed.
If you live in Oakland, there's a city budget meeting next Tuesday, Feb. 16. You have an interest in this. If you're interested in some possible solutions from other citizens, take a look at the letter Make Oakland Better Now! sent to Jane Brunner as city council president - you'll find it here. We have to solve this. I just don't know how.