The victims of the City of Concord’s austerity program have been City workers. They have taken reductions in pay, pension fund contributions, and now 13 furlough days. It is no wonder that Union Teamsters Local 856, which represents many City of Concord employees, held a protest rally Friday morning at the Corporation Yard in Concord to protest the plight of beleaguered employees.
It is good that Local 856 workers, many of whom reside in Concord, are waking up and challenging the political establishment that has sacrificed them in the name of balancing the budget.
Local 856 is wondering why Measure Q** funds have been spent this year propping up the Cities reserves while City workers are taking it in the shorts, so to speak. The union can rightfully say that essential city services ranging from picking up broken glass at Todos Santos to much needed 911 operators don’t take furlough days.
As a member of the City of Concord Measure Q Oversight Committee, I am very concerned about not only the way the sales tax revenue is spent, but also the direction of the City Budget in fulfilling the needs of the community.
From the process of the Measure Q Committee, I was very much impressed with the work of Acting City Manager Valerie Barone, and her staff. In reviewing the materials made available to us along with oral presentations in our meetings, I am convinced that they are doing everything possible to preserve City Services.
Unfortunately, there is very little the oversight committee that I have served on can do anything about this injustice. The City Manager’s office in Concord is at the direction of the City Council who sets up priorities of what services are to provided for the citizens of Concord. These elected officials hold all of the cards when setting priorities.
Right now, Council budget decision support the Police Department and over 60% of gross revenues of the City that funds them. What concerns me is:
- The deployment of patrol officers which in some cases has lead to duplication of labor in dealing with particular incidents. (How many times have we seen 5 plus patrol cars at a minor incident?
- Are traditional patrols (given the high labor expense) the best use of precious city resources?
- Given the huge labor costs for police officers, what can be done to have civilians, at lower pay, handle some of these functions?
- What priority should be given to the value of community policing versus traditional uniformed and patrol services? (including sub stations in high crime areas)
- What can be done to put police department salaries and pensions in line with present budgetary constraints which are expected to get worse.
Depending on what happens with the State tax increase proposal on the November ballet, if the Concord City Council does not address these issues, perhaps the voters will.
Lastly, I am troubled by the extensive influence of the Concord Police Officers Association (CPOA) on City Government and City Council. It is not a coincidence that the most victorious City Council members in recent years have had POA backing.
With this being the case, will the City Council have the will to make tough decisions when the police department is involved?
Perhaps non-sworn City Workers and the electorate should be thinking about this when they endorse candidates for the two city council slots that are up for election in the November election.
Will the voters continue to support candidates endorsed by the POA (Dan Hellix and Tim McGallian this time), or independent individuals who are not bought and paid for by special interests.
Measure “Q” was designed as a stop gap measure to stabilize city government services for five years. Based on what has occurred for the first two years, it has accomplished its goal. Fiscal restraint and building reserves appears to be working for the rocky days ahead. We certainly don’t want Concord to go the way of Vallejo or Stockton.
If changes are not made to rein in government expenses, it is difficult to imagine, unless there is an immediate economic turnaround, that Concord will be able to manage without the Measure Q revenues after it expires in 3 years.
In this very possible scenario, it is incumbent on the City Council to make the difficult decisions needed to manage finances not only to reduce expenditures, but to also preserve the lifestyle we are accustomed to in this community.
Political figures in Concord have historically repeated the slogan “Where families come first” in prioritizing the mission of local government. We are at a cross roads where we have “guns or butter” decisions to be making of what is most important to the citizens.
Unfortunately, with the State government in free fall collapse, we can’t please everyone.
With the economic turndown that has forced most of us to cut expenses, “prioritizing” is something that the tax payers of Concord are used to doing.
Hopefully the City Council will do the same.
~ Richard Eber, a Concord resident and business owner, is president of Anerasa Rapid Transit USA Inc, based in Concord, CA. He is an appointed member of the City of Concord’s Measure Q Oversight Committee. His views expressed are his own and are not any official view of the Measure Q Committee.
** Concord’s Measure Q —a is sales tax increase that narrowly passed in 2010, and should not to be confused with the current County Wide Measure Q parcel tax scheme to prop up out of control budget and pension costs of the County’s Consolidated Fire District ~edited for clarification by BGR.