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Allocating More Money For Fire Protection

Audio

Aired 7/22/10

As cities and government agencies in San Diego continue to face shrinking revenues and cutbacks like fire station brownouts, the effort to get a fair share of any kind of tax becomes deadly serious.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. As cities and government agencies in San Diego continue to face shrinking revenues and cutbacks like fire station brownouts, the effort to get a fair share of any kind of tax becomes deadly serious. Lately, there's been some discussion about the way San Diego County is divvying up the revenue from Prop 172. That half cent sales tax was approved by voters way back in 1993. But critics say the proceeds have never been fairly divided or dispersed in San Diego. Joining me to explain the issue are my guests. Erik Bruvold is president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research. And, Erik, good morning.

ERIK BRUVOLD (President, National University System Institute for Policy Research): Oh, good morning, Maureen. Thanks for having me on.

CAVANAUGH: San Miguel Fire Chief Augie Ghio is President of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association. Chief Ghio, good morning.

AUGIE GHIO (President, San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association): Good morning, Maureen. Thanks for having me again.

CAVANAUGH: And San Diego City Council member Marti Emerald is with us. Good morning, Marti.

MARTI EMERALD (Member, San Diego City Council): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Now we invite our listeners to join the conversation. What do you think San Diego needs to do to pay for adequate fire and public safety? Do funds need to be shifted? Or is that a dangerous precedent? Give us a call with your questions and comments. The number is 1-888-895-5727. Marti Emerald, I know you’ve been a vocal critic of the brownouts of fire stations in San Diego. Let me give you a chance to respond to this tragic death of the two-year-old in Mira Mesa.

EMERALD: Well, obviously it’s a loss to his family, the community. It’s just awful. I mean, how do you put words to it? This is the worst case scenario and what we had feared might happen, that our resources were spread so thin that we put the public at risk. And I know that the – there’s still no confirmation of whether this little Bentley Do would’ve survived or not but his chances certainly would have been better if a crew had been available at Station 38 just a block away from his home. So it’s a real tragedy and we’re going to do our very best to try to restore some funding and get engines back on the streets. In my Public Safety Committee, which I chair, every month since February we’ve had updates from the fire chief on the response times and we’re watching a gradual erosion and last month we did send a memo to the mayor’s office asking to allocate money out of the appropriated reserves, which is not the City’s, you know, emergency reserve but money that we’ve been able to set aside through other cuts. We’ve yet to hear from the mayor’s office in response to that memo but next week we have a committee meeting and we will renew that call to restore some engines.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Marti. We are talking here specifically about the revenue from Prop 172 and how that revenue is being handled in San Diego County. Erik Bruvold, give us some background about this debate. What was this half-cent sales tax designed to do?

BRUVOLD: Sure, Maureen, and we have to kind of go back to the early 1990s and I know this’ll come as a shock to you and the listeners but the state was in a budget crisis then and one of the ways that they dealt with it was to shift how property tax dollars were allocated. More money went to schools, less money went to counties, cities and special districts. And the state reduced the amount of money that it had to spend then out of its general fund for K-12 education. Now, counties complained bitterly and so did cities that this cut would be in the billions of dollars and so the state put on the ballot a half-cent sales tax for public safety, essentially designed to backfill those cuts. They allocated it since most of the money came from counties, most of the money in Prop 172 went to counties. And counties like San Diego that didn’t have a firefighting department, didn’t have a fire department, ended up spending the vast majority of their money on the sheriffs, district attorney, and public defender and probation departments, so law enforcement.

CAVANAUGH: And, in fact, in San Diego County, how much of that money does go to the sheriff’s department and the probation department and the district attorney?

BRUVOLD: Yeah, it’s sort of a 95-95 rule. 95% of the money that’s collected in Prop 72 (sic) flows to the county and out of that 95% of it flows to district attorney, sheriff, probation, public defender’s office.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Chief Ghio, when this proposition was being proposed, did fire agencies in San Diego County back it?

GHIO: Yes, they did. Fire agencies throughout the county supported this because it was a means to try to get back some of those dollars that we lost. We thought at that time not just from the most recent shift in ’93 but also from the education shift in funds that did affect special districts in 1992 and it was backed as a means to enhance all of public safety. In our minds at that time, it wasn’t just the sheriff, the district attorney and the probation department.

CAVANAUGH: Now, as we’ve learned, though, this 95-95 rule, that means that the actual fire agencies aren’t getting much in San Diego County from Prop 172 revenues. What was the reaction when the county didn’t allocate money for fire?

GHIO: It was a bit of a surprise at the time although there is a valid explanation for it. The county at the time did not have a fire department but they did provide other emergency services through the sheriff’s department, the district attorney and the probation department, which are extremely essential services. The cities, 14 of the cities that had incorporated prior to 1970, I believe, did receive part of the funds. They received approximately 5.6 or 6% of the funds, so they got a taste but obviously not nearly enough to develop or provide a higher level or maintain a level of service. And then on the back end, the fire districts, because in the county’s determination we were exempt in the 1993 education shift, we did not receive any of those funds for a fire district. So we did not make up any of the loss that we saw in 1992. In my district, that means since 1992, we’ve lost about $18 million. It’s averaging out to almost a million dollars a year.

CAVANAUGH: So the situation has changed in how the fire agencies work and cooperate in San Diego County but, indeed, the allegation from this Prop 172 sales tax hasn’t.

BRUVOLD: Well, I think that’s a really good point. I mean, in a lot of ways, what we’re talking about is sort of two sides of the coin. On the one hand, there’s really an argument to be made, hey, after the state stole or shifted this county funds, they needed 172 just to kind of tread water with the sheriff’s department and the DA’s office. But the other side of the argument is, is that the needs of the county have really changed. We’ve got a county that’s growing older and will require more emergency services. San Diego’s been home to two of the three worst wildfires in California’s history measured by property losses. And in that type of situation, you might say, yeah, you know, that was the history of 172 and an education shift but moving forward can we look about reallocating that money to respond to, really, the increasing priority in needs of fire service and emergency services in our county.

CAVANAUGH: There are a lot of our listeners who want to get involved in this conversation but, Marti Emerald, first, where does the City of San Diego come into this argument over Prop 172 funds?

EMERALD: There’s been no formal effort to reallocate 172 funds at the city level. I’ve been talking about it since my campaign days, about the need to do so. We’re talking about an average of about $200 million a year coming into the county to be divvied up for public safety. And as both of your – Erik and Augie were saying, the vast majority, well over 90%, goes to sheriff, DA and probation. The City of San Diego receives, on average, about $7 million a year yet we provide much of the heavy lifting when there’s a regional crisis. And the bulk of that money, at least half of it, comes from taxpayers in the city of San Diego. I would like to see a reallocation of the money so that it is allocated more fairly to each jurisdiction based upon where the money’s coming from. So that, for example, Augie Ghio and his fire agency would receive an amount that is commensurate with the amount coming from his area, the people of San Diego would receive an amount commensurate with the money they put into this fund. And I understand the needs of all public safety agencies but we’re coming to find that our fire agencies throughout the region have been struggling so much for years and it was fire emergencies that really inspired Prop 172 in the first place, from my understanding of the history of it, and I think it’s time that we take a fresh look at this and find ways of making sure that our fire agencies are properly funded so they can respond to every emergency, whether it’s a medical emergency, local fire or the wildfires that we’re seeing more commonly here in the region.

CAVANAUGH: Chief Ghio.

GHIO: Yes, I think Marti brings up a good point on that but I do want to bring up a couple of issues here, is although there could be a better distribution to ensure that all emergency services is balanced in the county, the Prop 172 funds actually make up about 27% of the sheriff’s budget, 29% of the district attorney’s budget, and then 10% of the probation department’s budget. So any shift would have a dramatic and deleterious effect on those budgets and those are essential services. I think it’s where do we go in the go forward. As we get out of this recession and the funds start to come up, could we redistribute some of the increased dollars in that fair, equitable fashion? So there’s a lot more to it than just a broad distribution. We – I know out in the unincorporated area of the county, we still need the sheriff and we don’t want to inhibit the ability for him to do his job either.

BRUVOLD: And least we forget (sic), I mean, the incorporated cities also use those. I mean, the district attorney is the law enforcement agen – entity that prosecutes the felons wherever they commit the crime within San Diego County. The sheriffs run our jails, which, you know, are used by both the unincorporated and the unincorporated areas (sic) so, I mean, the challenge really is, is that, and especially that sort of focus just on 172. It’s a zero sum game. If we put money into fire, we have to, too, recognize that it’s going to come out of something…

CAVANAUGH: Somewhere else, yeah.

BRUVOLD: …and that’s probably why, you know, one of the things I know that that’s where both the chief and I were two years ago, why some of the ideas for the parcel tax made a lot of sense because it provided a dedicated new funding stream to fire services and also provided really some of the bootstrapping that we needed to look toward more regionalism, more efficiencies that we could get in fire services throughout the county.

CAVANAUGH: That was Prop A, which was rejected by the voters. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call. And let’s hear from Victor calling from Encinitas. Good morning, Victor, and welcome to These Days.

VICTOR (Caller, Encinitas): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. You know, I think the citizens of San Diego would be surprised to learn that for a brownout to occur, what happens is that if one firefighter or one paramedic calls in sick, the City, because they do not want to pay any overtime, will brownout one whole station to take a member of that crew and put him in a vacancy in another part of the city.

CAVANAUGH: Victor, are you a firefighter?

VICTOR: Yes, I am.

CAVANAUGH: And you’ve witnessed this happen then?

VICTOR: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Marti, I wonder if you’ve heard about this?

EMERALD: Well, that’s what the brownouts are. The eleven and a half million dollar savings is primarily in overtime, so you’ve got crews filling in for firefighters who are on vacation or out sick and so there’s a shifting around of crews throughout the city. That’s a big element of the savings plan, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Daniel, calling us from Clairemont. Good morning, Daniel. Welcome to These Days.

DANIEL (Caller, Clairemont): Thank you, Maureen, for having this conversation and for everybody that’s there. I’m very happy that they’re there and representing us this way. I’d like to say that I noticed that in the Jacobs’ Journal, the county supervisor’s little newsletter that she sends out, that a new rating means saving on flood insurance for the county and for its residents and businesses and I’m hoping that maybe the businesses and maybe even some of the residents can pony up some of that savings to maybe get some broad insurance for fire coverage for the County of San Diego. They’re going to pay in the long run. You know, when the fire comes through and burns out their businesses or burns out the roads or burns out the wires or whatever, they will pay because they won’t get the customer base that they need. And this is a preventative way that we, the public, can get together in a private way and help the county some way.

CAVANAUGH: Daniel, thank you for that. And I’m wondering, Erik, is that – are any counties in California pursuing any kind of public/private finance or fund for fire insurance or fire coverage in any way?

BRUVOLD: Well, yeah, I don’t know about that. I do know that, you know, one of the things that—I think it speaks to both your callers—which is important for this conversation is that, you know, we’ve done some research that’s shown that on a per capita basis, San Diego invests less that Los Angeles or Orange County when we look at all the fire departments combined. And so I think that, you know, to Daniel’s point, we have to begin again to once again take a look at some ways and to generate some new revenue to make this investment especially given an aging county and a county that’s more and more vulnerable to wildfire as we’ve built out our county in a particular way.

CAVANAUGH: I’m wondering what – yes, Chief Ghio, what would you like to add?

GHIO: Well, you know, the new and sustainable revenue source is really what’s needed. Reallocating such as Prop 172 is really borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. And then when we talk about Daniel in Clairemont was talking about, you know, the reallocation of savings on flood insurance to over to fire insurance, I’m not sure about that. But the county has taken some positive step in the last few years. They’ve established San Diego County Fire Authority, they’ve been putting $15.5 million annually into that as well as making additional funds available for air resources. That is an insurance policy. The better we can improve the ability to respond to fire and medical emergencies in the unincorporated area, as Marti was saying, there’s less demand on the other departments, fire districts and cities, to backfill or to also augment those responses. So the County is kind of stepping up. It’s not directly related to Prop 172 but they are putting some significant amount of dollars and I know we are working through the deployment study with the County to prioritize recommendations to see where do we go from here? How do we move the blueprint for success forward in fire and EMS service in the county of San Diego?

CAVANAUGH: But, Erik, as you were saying, San Diego County, still considering its fire risk, spends – doesn’t spend as much as other counties do.

BRUVOLD: That’s right. We’ll be doing our yearly update come September to see where the numbers stand this year but we’ve looked over the last three years when we’ve released that report. The per capita gap, it ranges anywhere between $20.00 to $40.00 on a per capita basis. And the worst thing or the thing that’s the most concerning is the caps have been growing bigger. So Orange County and Los Angeles have been upping their investment for fire services and ours has been staying flat or slightly declining.

CAVANAUGH: San Diego County used to be known as a welfare county when it came to fire services because we depended so much on outside agencies to come in. Are we still looked at at that way?

GHIO: I would not say that that’s an accurate statement any longer. When you really take a look at how well this county, with our 55 fire agencies and how well we coordinate, we share resources, we manage resources. We actually do a very good job. It can be improved. And what we need to work towards is more consolidation, more regionalization, more functional consolidation such as dispatch centers and training of venues throughout the county, and that’s where Supervisor Jacob wanted us to go when she took the lead with the deployment study with the County Board of Supervisors. It’s going to be a long road but I do believe we’re going to get there as long as there’s the will.

CAVANAUGH: Marti Emerald, I think you wanted to respond.

EMERALD: I do. I think the big reason that San Diego County spends less per capita on fire services is because we’re not spending the Prop 172 money on fire services and all the other counties in the state are. That’s a big issue. Our ability to extend has been greatly hampered in the last couple of years in particular, too, by the takeaways from the state. The City of San Diego alone has lost about $100 million because the state has come in and raided the till. That’s part of the reason that the city council, this next week, is going to be voting on putting a half-cent sales tax on the ballot so that we can create a new source of revenue and we can fund these vital public safety agencies. And if it were not for the absolute dedication of fire crews, fire agencies in this county, we’d be in much deeper, deeper trouble than we are now. Those 55 agencies, we have to credit because the men and women who serve in the fire services, it’s a calling, and they’re absolutely dedicated to public safety. And I have no doubt that no matter how slim budgets become, they’re going to find innovative ways to protect the public. But we’ve come to the point now that without a reallocation of 172 money or without new sources of revenue, all of that goodwill and intent and professionalism is really going to – isn’t going to make the difference we need to keep the community safe and provide the services that this community needs and deserves.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue our conversation and take a lot of calls. So many callers are on the line and they’ve been waiting patiently. We will get to you. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Erik Bruvold. He is president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research. San Miguel Fire Chief Augie Ghio, who is also president of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association. And San Diego City Council member Marti Emerald. We’re talking about new ways to – ways to find more money for fire and safety protection here in San Diego, and specifically a discussion about the way San Diego County is divvying up the revenue from Prop 172. I should mention that we invited the San Diego County Sheriff and District Attorney and chair of the County Board of Supervisors to participate in this program but they either declined or did not respond to our invitation. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s go right to the phones. Ross is calling from University Heights. Good morning, Ross. Welcome to These Days.

ROSS (Caller, University Heights): Good morning and thank you for taking my call. I don’t think anybody would object to an increase in our sales tax if we know exactly what that money is going to be spent for and that there’s a guarantee that it will be spent only on those things. Otherwise, I’m positive without a doubt that the increase in sales tax is going to go down to defeat as is – has all other tax increase issues have been put on the ballot. And my second point is that I used to own a business right by the airport and at least three, sometimes four times a week, 8 to 9 pieces of equipment go down to the airport and line the runway. And I’m sure that it has to do with safety for the airport but I think the airport now, under these brownout things, that the airport should have its own fire equipment and not be using San Diego City fire trucks to cover its lack of facilities.

CAVANAUGH: Ross, thank you. Let’s take another call right away and then respond to both calls. Shane is calling us from Chula Vista. Good morning, Shane. Welcome to These Days.

SHANE (Caller, Chula Vista): Good morning. I’m calling to say it just seems like a waste that we’re sending a team of firemen for a non-fire emergency. Once upon a time, we’d send an ambulance and a medical expert and it just seems a lot more feasible.

CAVANAUGH: Instead of having a paramedic with a fire engine, is that what you mean?

SHANE: That’s what I mean.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, thank you for the call, Shane. Well, let’s talk about some of these issues. Marti Emerald, the idea of making any proposed sales tax very specific so taxpayers know exactly where the money is going.

EMERALD: Well, if we are very specific as part of the proposition, we would need a two-thirds vote. That’s very difficult to get, okay, just practically speaking. However, anything that does go on the ballot will include provisions for citizens oversight. Of course, we have an independent auditor as well to make sure that this money is being spent for the highest and best purpose. And the people of San Diego have told us that their number one concern is public safety and that they would be willing to pay more to put more firefighters and police on the streets. We understand that. We see the impact every single day and so that would be the intent of the measure and we would build those safeguards into it.

CAVANAUGH: And, Chief Ghio, I’m going to direct the other two questions to you, the one about the airport fire engines and why there are – there is a fire engine and a paramedic instead of just a paramedic and an ambulance.

GHIO: All right. Well, Chief Mainar would probably be the best to answer the airport question but since I did come – spend 30 years in the city, I’ll go with that one. The airport fire station is funded by the Port District so that is not something that comes out of the city’s general fund. Those are city firefighters that are fully reimbursed through that airport contract and the apparatus and facilities that are on the airport are paid for by the Port Authority also. Now on the mutual aid side, when they do have an incident, there are secondary units from the city to go in there just like we do to neighboring agencies all over the county. And it works and it doesn’t cost the city on those dedicated resources at the airport. The responding with a first responder on medical aids is a very, very proven and cost effective way to handle medical aids. When you take a look at, on an ambulance, it’s called a one-in-one system. We have one paramedic on an ambulance with an EMT and you have a paramedic, at least one paramedic on an engine company. By responding together you really need more hands, especially on heart attacks, stroke victims, major traumas. That gives you anywhere from 5 to 6 hands to handle those incidents. And then oftentimes it takes two paramedics to transport the patient to the hospital so you’re shifting the firefighter/paramedic over to the ambulance and driving to the hospital and that way you’ve got two paramedics in the back with the EMT driving. So it’s a very proven, it’s a very effective system and it’s cost effective also, especially out in my area where we have a contract with American Medical Response Services. They have a lot less personnel cost versus the cost of a firefighter on that ambulance.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Jormans, oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know what this – your name is, calling from San Diego. Maybe you can tell us your name. Good morning.

JORMANS (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. My name is Jormans.

CAVANAUGH: Jormans.

JORMANS: …for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

JORMANS: This is my question. In lieu of the brownouts and the cost-cutting measures has there been any thought to scaling up activities with, say, the American Red Cross, the local chapters, to make the community itself more proactive in first response measures like basic CPR and first aid?

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Jormans. Again, Chief Ghio.

GHIO: We have, across this county, several partnerships. One, in the City of San Diego, that’s where Jormans comes from, has the largest contingent of community emergency response team members in the county. So the City’s done a very good job of utilizing grant funds to build that really first responder team from the communities where they live during large disasters like an earthquake, and they can also support other disasters. The Red Cross already partners with fire agencies throughout the County of San Diego in providing CPR training as well as automatic external defibrillator training that we support from the County Fire Chiefs Association. So those are already there and those programs are growing. Most recently, the Red Cross also established a program in partnership with CERT where they will cross-train CERT team members to be the evacuation center workers or the casualty collection point workers. So these types of partnerships are going on all over the county of San Diego as we speak.

CAVANAUGH: Marti Emerald, the idea of reallocating Prop 172 funds that we’ve been talking about in the bulk of this conversation, the argument has been made that it would be a critical loss to the sheriff and DA’s office. How would you make up for that loss?

EMERALD: It’s very difficult. This is part of the reason that reallocation hasn’t happened here. I know Orange County made an effort to do it and they had a tough time as well. We value all of our public safety agencies. The one way that the loss could be compensated, at least in part, would be that there would be a billing system through the County for sheriff’s services, for DA services, for probation services. And that’s very difficult to do. This may be an issue that won’t get traction here in San Diego County but to – but we have to discuss it. We’ve got to be educated on what the situation is, how much money is coming in, what the possibilities are, because we’re in such a desperate situation now. Again, in part because the state has come in and raided the tills of every city in the – in California to try to cover the state budget. And they’re already in the red by about $19 billion in Sacramento. We all have concerns. We share concerns that the state will come back again and cut funding to the cities and the counties, and so we’ve got to explore all of our options locally to generate revenues that will stay here in the community and be used for public services and primarily public safety.

CAVANAUGH: Erik Bruvold, exploring all the alternatives, have we actively been doing that?

BRUVOLD: Well, I think we’ve been taking kind of baby steps. The Prop A, the effort for a fire parcel tax, had some support from Supervisor Roberts and sort of lukewarm support from a couple of other supervisors but not really a unified front. I appreciate the politics of trying to get a two-thirds measure passed but I would say I think that, you know, it would be an opportunity to have a real dialogue about public safety if a sales tax measure for the City of San Diego was put on with a dedicated revenue stream to police and fire, given the importance that the public puts on those services. And, ultimately, we’ve got to have a conversation with San Diegans. I mean, the conversation with San Diegans really has to revolve around we’ve got the current level of services that we have, we have the cost structures that we have, if people are satisfied with the level of services that they have in these areas, yeah, I mean, let’s let – leave the revenues where they are. We’ll see probably a gradual cutting of those as we meet budget needs but that’s where they are. Conversely, I think, you know, you only have to look at what the Los Angeles County Fire Department did with the Griffith Park fire here two years ago. The Santiago Fire in Orange County was absolutely, there was property loss there but a very bad Santa Ana fire they responded to with overwhelming force and did not see the kind of loss that we did, as we saw in 2003 and 2007. And I think we could have a conversation with San Diegans and sort of say, hey, you know, we do the best we can, we’ve got great cooperation by agencies like Chief Ghio’s and others to try and really maximize services but, you know, we’ve got the level of resources that we do and we provide the lev – the best services but that’s all we can afford.

CAVANAUGH: Is it too late in the day to have the conversation about a countywide fire department, Chief Ghio?

GHIO: Oh, no, and we’re actively working with the County Board of Supervisors and county staff on that as we speak. The deployment study that was commissioned by the County Board of Supervisors, $300,000, we are reviewing that with a cross-section of fire chiefs throughout the County of San Diego and county staff to establish those as priorities and provide a report back to the County CAO, to the board of supervisors. I think that’s a great starting point. Where the proof in the pudding will be, once we establish those priorities, where will that funding come from to take those next steps? Whether they’re baby steps or moderate steps, that will be left to be determined but I think that Erik really hit the point home. What level of service are our citizens willing to pay for across the county of San Diego? A half-cent sales tax will help the city of San Diego if it’s dedicated to fire or emergency response activities but that does not help the rest of the county. We still need a clearly identified adequate sustainable funding source that will allow us to hold on and build the emergency response services as our population ages and as our population increases, and it will increase according to the SANDAG projections.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a call from Jim in San Diego. Good morning, Jim. Welcome to These Days.

JIM (Caller, San Diego): Good morning, Maureen. It’s Jim Madaffer here and first commending Marti for your leadership on this. I think the – And as Augie knows, my involvement over the years, the Prop 172 situation is certainly needed to be looked at and I think regionalization is very important and I think that’s something that from the public safety committee redevelopment that the City should continue to focus on. And when you look at 172, one thing I’ll throw out as an idea is perhaps reallocation on new growth, on the growth of the sales tax as we move forward. So that way existing agencies know that they’re going to continue to get what they’ve been getting but as growth in that sales tax goes forward over the years ahead, at least that way that could be reallocated on a per capita basis because without a doubt the City of San Diego’s about half the county’s population and yet we don’t get anywhere near that to support our fire services. And then last point, I think the voters very seriously will see the fact that the City has done a lot in the reform department especially as it comes to pensions and other things, and this sales tax thing just might be the ticket to make sure that we keep from closing libraries and parks as we go forward.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much. Thank you, Jim Madaffer, for calling in. Marti Emerald, I’m wondering, we heard Chief Ghio also suggest that maybe reallocating funds in the future in a different way from Prop 172 money – What are you planning to do to further this idea of this reallocation?

EMERALD: Well, I plan on sitting down with some of our state legislators because I do believe it would need a legislative fix and I want to sit down with the County as well. So in the weeks ahead, we’ll be send – we’ll be making phone calls and try to get folks together to sit down and find a way to reallocate, whether it’s existing funds or future increases, and see if we can get any traction whatsoever on a reallocation plan. And, again, I’m not expecting results any time soon but unless we sit down and start the talks, we’ll never get there. And I just wanted to comment on one thing that Jim Madaffer had to say. This council actually has made tremendous progress in reforming pensions. We now have a two-tiered pension system. We’ve also done a great deal to cut spending at the city and allocate funds where they’re needed the most. Our biggest impediment in the last year and a half has been the takeaways from the state. If we haven’t – hadn’t lost, for example, $100 million in the City of San Diego, we wouldn’t have to be making as draconian cuts as we are making today, and we do need to find ways of also, in addition to the reforms that are already underway, finding new revenue sources and putting them where we need them the most and that’s, of course, public safety.

CAVANAUGH: Marti Emerald, thank you. You get the last word. We are out of time. Thank you, Marti. San Miguel Fire Chief Augie Ghio, thanks so much.

GHIO: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Erik Bruvold, thank you for coming in.

BRUVOLD: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And for the people that we couldn’t get time to speak to on the line, please go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. And stay with us for hour two of These Days coming up in just a few minutes right here on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Dave'

Dave | July 25, 2010 at 2:32 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

In listening to the topic of more tax money for firefighters my mind immediatley turned negative rightfully so or not. The thoughts that came to mind:

(1) Firefighters as well as other public servants are a part of the massive retirement buy out scheme which is having a major detrimental affect on the budget
(2) Through out the years the answer has always been more taxes. However inevitibly the tax increase never seems to solve the problems. It is like taking the windfalls and finding somewhere else to spend the money. As in this case a "new" bureaucracy will be established to "monitor" the spending of these addtional taxes...but...there is no mandate that these funds must be allocated solely to the Fire Dept. and then another question comes up...where is the fire dept. deficit. Is it personnel, equipment, buildings? What is the added revenue expected to solve.
(3) In general until the political forces can get their spending under control without catering to the powerful and the minorities, how can the average taxpayer feel comfortable offering more with no guarantees.

Fix all the existing broken financial aspects of city and county government without taking on new pet projects and then, maybe, the support would be there.

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