Public Safety Depends on Police, Fire — and More
by Robin Lowe
The League and its member cities have been working diligently for the past several years to protect local revenues and essential community services. Today, faced with a deep recession, sharply reduced property tax and sales tax revenues, and an unprecedented state budget deficit, city officials are grappling with the challenges of balancing their city budget while preserving the critically important services that are a central component of our quality of life. Indeed, one of our strategic goals for this year has been “Protect Funding for Vital Community Services.”
Clearly, public safety tops the list of these services. Our police and fire departments are on the front lines every day, 24/7, doing their utmost to keep our residents, businesses and communities safe.
But numerous other local services contribute to public safety in a variety of ways that are not always immediately visible. For example, municipal public works departments play an important role in keeping our streets clear and traffic flowing smoothly. When powerful storms strike and large tree limbs fall throughout the city, it’s public works crews that clear debris from streets, sidewalks and storm drains. Many residents may not consider public works services as essential until they are affected by an event that requires assistance from their public works crew — and then it often becomes a matter of urgency.
Our parks and recreation departments and other programs that serve our youth are also a key component of services that support public safety. Such programs give young people a place to go and something constructive to do with their peers. When these programs are cut, kids looking for something to occupy their time often get into trouble. Vulnerable youths seeking a place where they feel they belong are more likely to drift into gang activity. Numerous studies indicate the clear connection between providing positive, engaging activities for children and teens and reduced juvenile crime rates.
Services for seniors are, in many ways, just as important as those for youth. Our seniors have a wealth of knowledge and experience to contribute. Local services that are designed to meet seniors’ needs help keep these individuals engaged in the life of their community and help prevent them from becoming isolated, depressed and vulnerable.
The list of local services that support public safety goes on and on, and it ranges from providing clean, safe drinking water to maintaining infrastructure and making sure that traffic signals are functioning properly. The point is that all of these local services play an integral role in maintaining the quality of life for our residents and communities.
The fight to protect essential funding for these vital services is not likely to end soon. Every time the state struggles to balance its budget, our local revenues are on the table. Our efforts to protect our revenues and services are strengthened by our numbers and presenting a consistent, unified message to the Legislature. A significant amount of work remains ahead of us, but we have achieved a great deal to date by working together. As I begin my term as League president, I thank all of you for your support — especially my colleagues and staff in the City of Hemet. I look forward to working with each one of you to preserve the quality of life for our residents.