October 22, 2008

City budget cuts library, maintains police spending

Mayor Becker's 2008 budget is out. The JT's Stephanie Brien reports the equivalent of 5 1/2 jobs will be eliminated.
The mayor maintained all public safety positions, but there are five and a half city positions that the mayor proposed cutting. The mayor proposed eliminating one of four property assessors, one of two electrical inspectors, a half-time parks and recreation mechanic and hours equaling that of three full-time library assistants.
Part of the mayor's plan is to cutback on property assessments to every-other year, which is interesting timing because property values are reportedly falling around the state and country. Becker may be buying the city time by putting off a new assessment next year.

It's also worth noting that an unglamorous job like an electrical inspector seems like an easy target for a budget cut. But I'd be interested to learn more about the inspector's job - and their job in preventing shoddy or dangerous electrical work in homes and apartments.

As for the library, NorthStar Economics, Inc., a respected private economics firm in Wisconsin, completed a study that showed every dollar spent on public libraries led to a $4.06 return on investment. But so goes the city trend: the mayor cuts the library to spend more on police in the hopes of preventing crimes that are basically unpreventable. (Don't forget about the $400,000 police OT referendum in two weeks.)

Brien quotes Becker in her story saying it's the fewest number of jobs he's cut since becoming mayor, and notes salary costs in the police department will be reduced by senior department members retiring. Then there's odd detail:
The police department’s budget includes increased expenses for ammunition, mobile computer wireless costs, fuel and additional equipment.
Ammunition? Let's hope the increase comes from rising material costs, and not forecasts of an increase in need for more bullets.


  1. Speaking of spending, check to see who the attorney was for the woman collecting the 80 grand for the lawsuit against the city.

  2. Oh! Just realized - does this mean the mayor might be cutting the position of his "alleged" girlfriend? I guess that's one way to deal with the problem LOL. Hahahahahahahaha

  3. so, the budget includes a cut in library positions and last night the city council agreed to sell land in mount pleasant to the library for a branch location.

    just so i have it straight.

  4. so dustin, are you suggesting the city should layoff police and hire librarians?

  5. Dustin-
    Are you for real?

    it is one thing to report on the budget, yet another to ask questions but the inferences you are trying to draw are a real stretch. Are you implying we should have an electrical inspector inspect all homes in Racine? Having an electrical inspector did not prevent the fire you linked to. Maybe the city could.charge an electrical inspection fee and inspect all structures. But be prepared for George Meyer fighting back.

    Perhaps you could actually be a journalist and sit down, ask questions and get real answers.

  6. Racine could emulate the business model of Newport Beach in Southern California. The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) relentlessly pursues citations to generate revenue for the city. Newport Beach has the advantage of people carrying identification and having the income to pay citations such as unleashed dogs, don’t walk signals, parking tickets, and bicycle left-turns. And instead of taking preventive action for public safety, the NBPD does after-the-fact duties to cover the city for injury liability.
    In the second week after Labor Day, a neck injury occurred at the Corona del Mar Beach. Despite a hot weekend with two inland school buses of children and conditions of swells and sandbars, the three lifeguard towers were un-staffed. Newport obtained over $2 million in 2006 from California funding to build a glass observatory for the 1,000 feet of beach. In the same year, Newport also reported about $800,000 in parking fees revenue for the beach. The lifeguards are now salaried as firefighters and eligible for comparable pensions. The lifeguard was remote from the beach in the glass enclosure instead of patrolling the beach with an intermittent microphone announcement about the conditions. And the NBPD police came to the situation – one officer was exchanging laughter with a senior lifeguard while writing the report and another officer was taking pictures of the beach warning signs. They were covering the city’s liability for the ocean injury, but what has happened to public service to provide safety?
    On this recent Halloween night, a Newport apartment complex had a party with several hundred people on a clubhouse balcony designed for small gatherings. A commanding police officer in a high-tech SUV parked outside the clubhouse, but never set foot out of his vehicle to check for safety or behavior concerns. The development has 1,400 dwellings with about one-third elderly residents. He appeared to be entering information in his notebook, possibly to request Parking Control officers. It was after-the-fact work. Instead of stopping more arrivals to the over-crowded event, the focus was revenue from the 150 illegally parked cars. Amazingly in this economic slowdown, the NBPD has posted job openings for Parking Control officers.
    The role of police in public safety becomes questionable as frivolous citations multiply into being disservice. Fully-uniformed officers, not Animal Control, spend evening sunsets on Newport’s viewpoint knolls above the Pacific Ocean waiting for someone to unleash their dog. Officers are probably assigned to catch local residents with an evening cocktail for both a pooch and beverage citation. Animal Control covers schoolyards and parks for citation revenue, while raccoons and skunks roam the hillside neighborhoods. For Don’t Walk signals citations, the tactic is the three-officer approach to directing traffic on holidays such as the Christmas Boat Parade. At intersections with a crosswalk on only one side, two officers direct traffic while the third officer stands on the corner without a crosswalk to snatch citations. For parking citations, the holidays again are the focus such as July 4th. Instead of directing traffic away from crowded streets with unclear parking signs, the officers work after-the-fact with ticketing and towing. The only traffic-directing is yelling at residents to get out of the way of the tow trucks.
    Bicycles making left-turns on red arrows with no traffic are the strongest revenue generator with the least effort because the NBPD earns a pseudo-vehicle citation. The state of California has Law AB-1581 for the first placement or replacement of traffic-activated signals to detect bicyclists. I have only found one left-turn signal in Newport that detects bicycles, and it is using older technology rather than the new embedded wire loops and quadruples. Newport Beach Principal Civil Engineer Tony Brine and Traffic Engineer George Bernard sent me an e-mail that the traffic signal to a heavily ridden bicycling preserve has been set back to not detect bicycles. A concern could be safety, or perhaps the police need productivity. Officer David Darling chased me on a Christmas weekend with no traffic and a green through light. He apparently chases so many bicycles that his procedure is efficient and decisive. His opening question was whether I owned a car despite my being middle-aged. He never told me what the violation was. He took off his helmet and put his head down to my bicycle seat tool-bag as if sniffing for a driver’s license. He encircled “medium traffic” on the ticket possibly because police motorcycles qualify to be mid-heavy when there is no traffic. Despite California Law AB-1581 for bicycle signal detection, Sergeant Mike James told me in a telephone call that motorcycle police chase bicyclists and enforce state laws on left-turn arrows regardless of no traffic and a green through light. Traffic Services Commander Lieutenant Steve Shulman sent me a letter advocating that bicycles should dismount to use crosswalks. In a telephone call with Lt. Shulman, he asked me where I lived. He laughed at my reply, probably because I did not appear to be a significant Newport land baron. I have tried his method of using crosswalks, but drivers are making gestures of disapproval at a bicyclist in a crosswalk holding up the traffic. And Newport is a family-oriented and athletic fitness city with car drivers being bicycle-friendly. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Selich, who drives a motorcycle, agreed that Newport signals are not detecting two-wheelers. But he declined involvement, possibly because of politics and the city’s business model of police generating revenue.
    The Newport police practices are seen in their annual Christmas sobriety checkpoint outside the police station. The NBPD received $7,000 in 2005 and $14,000 in 2006 from the California state government to operate the checkpoint. It is outsourced to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and is like a fraternity party of good old boys standing around with nothing to do. I made the mistake of grocery shopping after a long work week, and drove through the check point. I do not drink and did not have alcoholic beverages in the car. I was detained about 15 minutes and finally, an officer dangled the keys in front of my face saying that I could pick up the car down the street at a car dealership. The car was strewn with groceries. The conduct outside the police station might be an indication about the jail suicide hanging earlier this year inside the NBPD headquarters. The preoccupation with generating citation revenue has distorted police services, but reduces city budget cuts.