A Call to Action
This is my fourth but probably not my final Council Corner about the budget. As I noted last time, the projected deficit continues to increase whereby the Council’s stated goal to reach a balanced budget by 2014 will require cuts of $1.2 million for 2011-2012, another $1.2 million for 2012 – 2013 and a final $1.3 million for 2013-2014.
We have already held three closed sessions of the City Council to discuss the labor relations issues associated with addressing a structural budget deficit. We are going to have at least one more closed session. The City Council will soon hold budget study sessions that will be open to the public as the City Council considers, discusses and debates the budget issues. These budget review sessions will start in November and they will certainly involve some difficult decision making by the Council.
By the first of these public meetings we will have provided you, the residents, with the staff’s recommendations on how to achieve our balanced budget goals. That will take the form initially discussed by the Council prior to my being elected of separating services into three categories based on an evaluation of how essential those services are to the residents on a citywide basis. However, while a service may not seem essential on a citywide basis, to any individual resident, a particular service cut may have a significant impact on her or his day to day life. This problem is further compounded by the fact that the budget, by sheer number of pages of information, is enormous, contained in a binder several inches thick with details down to the staffing levels. How then does the average resident attempt to advocate for what she or he needs the City to provide?
The answer to that is “get involved!” You do not need to read the entire budget or the entire staff report to be an active part of the process. You can come to Council meetings, ask questions about areas of importance to you, listen to the Council’s discussions and questions of staff, email or call Council members and ask questions, offer suggestions, compliment, criticize, or just comment. It pleases no one to make budget cuts, freeze or reduce salaries, lay off staff, close programs, freeze hiring, or cut services, but some or all of these things are going to have to happen if we are to responsibly run the City and not run out of money to do it. How we do it, where the cuts and changes are made, what effect those changes have, that is where each resident of Foster City can have input and impact.
Do not be afraid of the microphone at the podium at City Council meetings. No question is stupid, no idea will be simply tossed aside. Our Council is filled with people who serve because they love Foster City and each of us want to do what is best for the City as a whole. Come to meetings, ask your questions, share your ideas, talk to us individually, email us, call us, send us letters if you have to, but this is your chance to participate in how our City deals with the current difficult economic times. We need you to talk to us and tell us what you think are important services, what services are more important than others and how we can look outside the box to find ways other than spending your tax money to provide services that you would like to continue to enjoy.
This is your call to arms. Help us in our fight to keep our City great despite the current economic difficulties that challenge us. With your help we can show our State and our nation that leadership and support from the people can face this challenge by working together towards a common goal. Local politics is the one area in government where the individual has all the power. You can reach out and touch any one of us and we will work with you to better our City. Don’t let this challenge pass you by.
Those are my thoughts. Tell me what you think. Share your ideas with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.
October 27, 2010
A Call to Action
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