Escondido, CA

Act like it’s a crisis


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.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

4 responses to “Act like it’s a crisis”

  1. Brenda Townsend says:

    Thank you, David Ross, for your thoughtful and insightful piece. This issue is definitely not dead, but in fact, built upon memories of a similar situation that goes back 10 years to the secret closure of the East Valley Branch. Last night’s decision was such a slap in the fact to our entire community, who came out in droves to make the message clear: “We, the taxpayers, do not support privatization!” The City Council majority turned a deaf ear, and that will cost them dearly in the November 2018 election, and in votes for a new library bond. Why should we finance a project, headed by a for-profit, private corporation? Not happening. I can understand the Mayor and his boy, Gallo… But Masson? He just sold us out, and crushed his own dreams for a jewel in Escondido’s crown, in the form of a new, state-of-the-art library. I don’t get it. Big thanks to Morasco for a wonderful surprise “no” vote…. He was one of the real heroes of the piece.

  2. William King-Lewis, MD says:

    I fully agree! As a soon to be new Escondido resident I do not know any to walk into a city with a board of elected leaders that is pennywise and pound foolish. From the limited interactions I’ve had in Escondido I can guarantee that the city manager has not earned a raise of 50k. That a mayor and any board member who says the city is in for a fiscal crisis and decides to pay for such with salary increases to the persons in charge at the expense of cutting services that insure that every citizen has access to information, knowledge, and numerous other resources that benefit those with the most need, should be fired.

    If this board continues to display this level of short soghtedness and false flags of gloom and doom with limited proposed solutions I will do their job as an engaged and concerned citizen. However I demand and expect of my locally elected representatives to do their jobs and do them at the same level required of me at my job given the lower level of personal dangers to others (in the immeadiate sense) that being a proper and prudent bean counter is required of a city council member and mayor.

  3. Harv Dykstra says:

    CalPERS is a criminal monopoly. Just try and get out of it, see what happens!
    It should be disbanded by state initiative and replaced by a 401k-type retirement plan.

  4. Steve Hilmer says:

    Tempest in a teapot. Our country is in free fall and y’all are worried about a library.

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