This is my third consecutive Council Corner about the budget. I recently learned that our current year deficit is now projected to be $1.1 million more than was projected just a few months ago and thus, in my opinion, the need to tackle the budget now is even more important.
If you have been reading the various Council Corners you know that the budget process is starting early and that the City Staff is going to start by providing suggested areas for budget cuts and revenue increases. I have publicly taken the position that I am opposed to increasing taxes and that the budget deficit should be addressed by cuts and by charging for some City services that are currently provided without charge. I have also taken the position that some of the problems can be addressed by consolidated services with other cities and that we can work with our City Staff to address compensation issues that are out of line in the current market.
My point in this article is that to accomplish this, we, your City leaders, need to lead. Each of the members of our City Council is a proven leader. For example, Vice Mayor Koelling has been a leader in the area of transportation and has recently taken the leadership mantle to stop the State’s taking of millions of dollars of our redevelopment agency funds. Councilmember Pam Frisella is a leader in the area of environmental sustainability and has actively led the fight to put Foster City in the forefront of cities in sustainable environmental living. Each of your Councilmembers is a leader in her or his own right.
However, what Foster City really needs right now is economic leadership. We each need to take whatever else it is that we are doing, set that aside for now and become advocates for responsible government spending. We need to aggressively attack the budget problem. Listen to City Staff for sure, but act as leaders, look outside the box, study how other cities have failed and how those few that have succeeded have managed to realize that success, and then advocate for the 30,000 plus residents of Foster City to put us on the sustainable track to financial responsibility and success.
Most importantly, I believe that we need to act this year. With the deficit seemingly growing each month, the need to act is greater than ever before. We cannot wait to cut programs and spending next year. We need to use this early start in the budget process to lead as advocates for immediate financial responsibility. If a program is one that will be cut next year, then we should cut it as soon as we can. If shared services presents a feasible alternative, we need to start that process as soon as we can. In other words, we need to lead proactively.
Being a leader is not always immediately popular and in that way is very difficult, especially when your leaders are, by nature, political creatures. Popularity, like it or not, is what got us here and therefore it becomes what we are comfortable with.
However, once we arrived, we assumed a responsibility to act in the best interest of the community as a whole and to do what each of us believes is best for the residents and for the long-term prosperity of the City, regardless of whether it is a popular thing to do today or not. That is why we were elected to be leaders.
However, just as we need teamwork with the City Staff, we also need team support from you, the residents of Foster City. Thus, I urge you to consider these thoughts and the underlying problems and to talk to each of us, tell us that you understand that some of what we do may not be popular, but you support the fact that it is what we are morally and ethically obligated to do for the sake of our City as a whole. Tell us that you elected us not just because you liked us, but also because you wanted us to continue to be strong leaders and to make the difficult decisions. Together, you can help us continue to be leaders by showing your support and your understanding that fiscal responsibility is something we must have, even though at some level it has a cost. To be effective leaders we need your support.
Those are my thoughts. Tell me what you think. Share your ideas with me by email at email@example.com or call me at (650) 286-3504.
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