Fire Alarm

I’m glad it was a personally busy week because it kept me from posting a blog on Tuesday flaming Council Prez. Scott Peters before he had a chance to redeem himself yesterday. The triggering of my pyromaniac punditry was a report on KPBS Tuesday morning about how Senator Dianne Feinstein came to town Monday to flame the City and County governments for not adequately addressing the region’s fire fighting needs, especially in the wake of still smoldering memory of the Cedar Fire.

As Feinstein pointed out, San Diego is about 22 fire stations and 800 firemen short of a full, fire fighting deck. She also pointed out that we are the largest county in the state that doesn’t have an integrated County fire department. But, then, Senator Feinstein comes from Northern California and doesn’t fully appreciate the political culture of San Diego. You know, the one where any attempt to integrate local government services is seen by our resident right wing wackos (yes, listeners of Rick “Rabble Rouser” Roberts, that would be you) as the first step to forming a North American Union in which we lose our sovereignty to the black helicopters of the globalist conspiracy. And where any suggestion that, if you want adequate fire protection and the resources—read tax dollars—to provide it you’re labeled a socialist.

By the bye, has the San Diego Taxpayers’ Association ever met a tax it liked? Oh, and by the way, I’m a San Diego taxpayer and I don’t belong to that group so, on my behalf and that of all the other San Diego taxpayers who neither belong to your group nor agree with your too often myopic world view that all tax cuts are good and all taxes are bad, might you consider changing your name to the Association of Those San Diego Taxpayers Who Agree With Us or some such? Don’t get me wrong – I think the SDTA raises good points about waste in government, etc., but it would be nice if they advocated just as strongly for tax fairness, as in having everyone pay their fair share of the social burden they place on our government of the people. Such as, I dunno, developers, maybe, who extract great profit from doing business in San Diego by continually pushing development out into the back country fire zone while municipal and county government fails to demand they pay the true cost of that development. That would be fees to cover those 22 fire stations and 800 firemen, not to mention the cost of the police, schools, water, roads, parks and other miscellaneous municipal incidentals whose true costs developers are allowed to push off on the rest of the residents of San Diego. The motto of San Diego’s anti-tax libertarians is Live Free—and make someone else pay for it!”

But I digress. How unusual of me.

At the end of the KPBS piece, Uber-Councilman Peters was quoted as saying that, the voters have twice rejected ballot measures to raise taxes—even Transit Occupancy Taxes that out of towners would pay—to fund needed fire protection expansion. That’s when I started seeing fire-red.

What a cop-out, I thought. Oh, the poor City Council. You tried to raise taxes to provide what was necessary for the public good but the dumb ‘ol public said “No!” (Actually, the hotel and tourist industry and the anti-tax zealots of AM talk and the SDTPA said no and put up the money where their mouth was to shoot you down. And, a few years later, San Diego burned while you all fiddled.) Oh, how can the poor City Council raise revenues to keep San Diegans’ from losing their homes—and lives—in the next great fire when no-one wants to raise taxes?

Ah, guys and gals? That would be called “Leadership.” You know, the thing where you explain to the people that, in life, hard choices have to be made and that, in order to save lives and protect property (which, as I recall, are a couple of the biggies government is supposed to do) you are either going to have to raise new revenues to fund public safety or cut other services and programs and shift the money. Neither are attractive options for anyone but, then, that’s adult life. And it’s time for San Diegans to put on their big boy and girl pants and man up. Oh, and those anti-tax advocates who keep ponying up money to convince San Diego’s that any tax is the first step towards Bolshevikism? How about pointing out that they are basically saying “I’m willing to let the rest of you burn and die so I can pocket a few extra coins and pad my corporate bottom line.”

Then you take the inevitable political heat and backlash from these municipal misanthropic miscreants at the election and stand tall and proud saying “I’m doing what I’m doing for the public good.” And, if the people of San Diego are, in fact, rational, you win. What you don’t do is stick your collective heads in the sand for four years until the next big fire to figure out how to do what you have been told repeatedly by the experts must be done. Which is what the Council did do after the fires of 2003.

Yeah, I was gonna flame Peters on this one. But procrastination is the mother of new discovery.

Yesterday, Peters showed some true leadership style, saying that the city might (Scott, just say it: Will) have to go back to the voters to raise the money by bond — of course we’re not in the bond market, yet–or sales tax. That is a great first step.

The next step is to not then shoot yourself in the foot by saying such an attempt may be “futile.” You don’t go into the big game saying “Hey, we’re probably going to lose,” big guy. You go in guns blazing. Your correct retort to San Diegans’ historic rejection of taxes should be: “After two massively devastating fires that cost the San Diego billions of dollars and over a dozen lives, only a misanthropic miscreant could oppose raising the revenues necessary to protect the people of this great city.” (Okay, substitute something softer for “misanthropic miscreants”— I just kinda like the phrase.)

Bravo for daring to raise the “T” word. Now prepare to get slammed by said miscreants. You’re in your last term on the council, Scotty. Time to put on your big boy pants and fight the good fight for what you know is the right thing to do.


4 Responses to “Fire Alarm”

  1. Jeffrey Davis Says:

    Thanks Carl. I’ve gotta think our strong mayor deserves an equal share of blame. To say nothing of fortifying public safety, Sanders campaigned on being the adult who’d get our financial house in order. Somehow, though, taxes and fees became verboten after his first mayoral act (sewer fees). Then, to everyone’s great surprise, hundreds of millions of dollars in efficiencies weren’t found in our meager government (our missing WMDs). News now is the city will be $400 million shy of meeting the deal it made to workers in order to secure a pay cut. I’m speechless. How do people think there’s any plan in place for paying our debts? How are we not still digging the very same hole we just finished all our gnashing of teeth over? And, uh, where’s the UT, again?

  2. mlaiuppa Says:

    I’m an adult in a city of children, run by children.

    You’d think non of these people ran a household. When you have expenses you cannot meet (debt) you can either cut your expenses or you can bring in more revenue. For those of us in the real world, we hold a garage sale, sell stuff on eBay, drop the cable or the cell phone or we don’t buy that winter coat for another year. Or we get a second job. Or we get more education/training and look for a job that pays better.

    Same holds true for government only on a larger scale. You cut back on expenses or you bring in more revenue. That means cutting services or raising taxes. Sometimes you have to do both.

    I think the problem with some of the people elected to run this country on many different levels from local to Federal is that they’ve NEVER had to budget their lives like the rest of us. They have so much money they’ve never had to cut back on expenses or raise more revenue.

    And that’s why we’re where we are.

    I also think you haven’t laid enough blame on Sander’s door. And I’d like to read some of that original flame because I’ll bet many points still apply.

    As for blame, yes, I’ve got plenty. Of course, I can’t vote against Peters because I don’t live in his district. But I can vote against Sanders (again.) And I can vote against Roberts (again.)

    I think no one should be elected to government that hasn’t run a household on a limited budget and done it IN THE BLACK.

    We could do a lot worse than having this country run by Grandmothers on Social Security.

  3. Carl Luna Says:

    Bring on the grandmothers!

    Meanwhile, the basic fiscal problems of elected democracy is “other people’s money.” I remember reading a story about LBJ’s budget director. The guy was sitting in the White House canteen during budget crunch time and everyone–cabinet secretariies, senators, generals–was coming up to him begging for extra money. He kept saying “okay, II’ll find you that five hundred million, you’ll get the billion, don’t worry–we can sneak in another five billion.” Then he gets a call from his wife. The roofer said it would cost them five grand to fix the roof on their house. He replied, aghast, “Does that guy think I’m made out of money?”

    I’m certain many of our City officials know how to balance their own checkbooks. But when it’s other people’s money, and those people keep voting for you regardless of your fiscal irresponsibility, what’s the incentive to be a penny wise versus a pound foolish?

  4. mlaiuppa Says:

    Too many politicians.

    Not enough public servants.

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