At Wednesday night’s Escondido city council meeting on the outsourcing of the library—which critics call “privatization,” Mayor Sam Abed made a compelling case that the $400,000 that would allegedly be saved by the action was necessary because of the creeping crisis of CalPERS payments that is forcing the city to come up with $16 million in additional revenue or cuts in four years.
The council voted 3-2 to move forward on negotiating a contract with Library Systems and Services (LS&S) although not until after an occasionally tumultuous meeting—although rowdy is probably a relative term here: we are talking about library supporters, after all! Dock workers they ain’t. They are born to be mild.
If there is an actual crisis of that magnitude, the $400,000 annual savings seems quite modest.
The question needs to be asked: If the city is in a fiscal crisis as the mayor says, why not behave up and down the entire budget as if there is a crisis?
It’s fair for critics to say: I will believe there is a crisis when everybody behaves like there is a crisis. That means, it seems to me, that the recently adopted budget should have reflected this reality.
If the city is trying to pull off the road to avoid a crack up a few “miles” down, shouldn’t it adopt a spending freeze? Shouldn’t there be no more increases in salary (the $50,000 raise that was given to the new city manager comes to mind) for at least a year, and maybe longer? Shouldn’t all city expenditures be frozen in place to deal with the crisis?
If the city is a financial Titanic heading for the iceberg, it would seem prudent to stop serving cocktails on the deck and to start getting the lifeboats ready. Better yet, steer away from the iceberg.
Maybe the council isn’t talking about taking such drastic measures yet, but it’s a good bet that next year when they take up the budget again, they will be. The upcoming election of 2018 and the extremely angry element of library supporters will make that almost a certainty.