I admit my memory is bad. I blame it on fatherhood. As Bill Cosby said, "Kids cause brain damage."
But I can remember as far back as November. I remember the debate surrounding Measure P, the quarter-cent sales tax that<NO1><NO> passed with 57 percent of the vote. And at no point do I recall that being all about preserving public safety as the Santa Rosa City Council majority now contends.
The message seemed pretty clear at the time. Voters were asked to push the city's sales tax rate up to 9.5 percent in order to avoid cutting police and fire positions <CF102>and</CF> closing community centers, shutting down swimming pools and parks, having more brownouts at fire stations and taking other drastic steps.
Yes, it was vague. General tax increases have to be. If they're specific about how the funds would be spent, then the measure would require a two-thirds majority to pass. Those are the rules.
Fortunately, we have a tendency to write things down here at the newspaper. So I went back and reviewed what the measure said, what we said and what other people were saying at the time. And it looks to me that the City Council majority is guilty of some revisionist thinking.
The measure began with simple language, "To help maintain essential city services, including police and fire protection, violent and gang-crime prevention, pedestrian safety; property and nuisance-related crime prevention, street paving and pothole repair; park safety; and recreation and youth programs, shall" the city adopt a sales tax increase?
Is preserving public safety part of it? Absolutely. But was this a mandate from the voters to fund public safety at the expense of everything else? No.
Nor was it the main thing advocates, including us, were talking about leading up to the election. Most of the discussion was about the draconian things that would happen if Measure P failed. In addition to closing a fire station and eliminating police positions, "Some parks will be closed and park user fees will be implemented," read the ballot argument supporting Measure P. "On the chopping block may be the Ridgway and Finley Swim Centers, the Senior Center and our Homeless Center."
The City Council also made clear that if the tax didn't pass, Santa Rosa would start charging for parking at Howarth Park.
<NO1>Plenty of other examples exist in our archives of similar warnings in letters, stories, editorials and even an Oct. 30 guest opinion from the city's interim finance director, <NO><NO1>Bruce McConnell, who posed the question whether paying a few dollars a month was worth maintaining "our quality of life, safety and provide positive alternatives for our youth?"
<NO>Nevertheless, the City Council majority gave the city manager the clear message last week that keeping the police and fire departments whole comes before everything else, including charging $5 to park at Howarth Park and, possibly, shutting down the senior center and the Ridgway Swim Center, things voters were promised would be avoided.
To address the city's $3.9 million shortfall for this year, City Manager Kathy Millison had proposed a number of cuts, including a reduction of $700,00 from police. But based on the council's direction, Millison put the money, plus another $50,000, back into the budget. She also says she may have found a way to keep the senior center and the Ridgway Swim Center open. But the funding for that is something of a mystery.