Walking the Walk, Step Two
In my last Council Corner I wrote about the budget and made some suggestions of areas in which we could start to see savings or generate revenue without raising taxes or fees on the residents. Since then we have had a few Council meetings and have put a plan in place to start the budgeting process for FY 2011-2012 as early as next month. We are expecting the City Manager to provide us with suggestions on where we can make cuts and how we can generate revenue to balance the budget over the next three years.
The process, however, is not just about numbers. In fact, it is really about people. It is about the residents of Foster City and what they expect to receive in the way of City services. Our City provides services to the residents in ways few cities are able to do. We have outstanding Police and Fire Departments: responsive, courteous and professional. Our Public Works Department provides us with, among other things, award winning roads, well maintained lagoons and water and wastewater services that we never have to think about. Our Parks and Recreation Department gives us the finest parks anywhere and recreational programming that brings us together as a community. Our Community Development Department keeps our neighborhoods looking like neighborhoods and diligently works to make our City bigger and better without significant impact on our day-to-day lives. Behind the scenes helping it all to run smoothly and relatively invisible to the residents are the administrative and support departments: City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk, Human Resources, and Financial Services. Their abilities and the work they perform contribute in no small part to the wonderful services that our City provides and that our residents have come to expect as part of their lives here.
Thus, as I said, it is about people, people who give service, the City staff, and people who receive service, our residents. It is likely that not a single resident, including me, want the services they enjoy in Foster City to end. Equally true, there is likely not a single member of the City staff that does not want to continue to provide those services. So what’s the problem? The problem, of course, is money. All things being equal, the City simply cannot afford to pay for all the services at their current level. So what’s the solution? After the relatively easy budget cuts are made, the solution is people.
We have enjoyed our life here in Foster City because our residents and our staff act like a team. We plan, implement and enjoy our lives here together. I therefore submit to you, that when we are faced with a crisis, like the current budget issues, we must continue to act like a team. Residents and staff must stay united for the benefit of all and must, as a team look for and participate in solutions that address all of the issues.
I have received many emails suggesting that what the City Council should do is to start cutting salaries, start cutting pensions, start cutting benefits. The truth, however, is that a large number of our City staff are subject to existing labor contracts and without their agreement we cannot do any of that. All we could realistically do is to start laying people off. If, however, the residents and the staff look at the issue as a team, compromises can be reached that will allow the residents to continue to receive the services that they have become accustomed to and allow the staff to continue to provide those services.
Now I am not suggesting that there aren’t areas in which compensation for municipal employees is out of line with compensation for private sector employees, but those issues, can and I believe, will be addressed. I am also unwaveringly committed to a fiscally conservative policy: the budget must be balanced with no new taxes. But implementing that policy should be done the same way we built what we have now, as a team. It will be beneficial to all, residents and staff included, and is, in my opinion, essential if we are to succeed in addressing the budget while maintaining service levels. We got here by acting as a team and we can stay here only if we remain a team.
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.
August 18, 2010
Walking the Walk, Step Two