Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | April 12, 2011

Budget-related eye rolls

It’s time for another round-up of things that make me roll my eyes, shake my head, and utter a two-syllable “puh-lease.”

First is the eye-roll inducing decision of the Gilroy City Council to not even study the possibility of contracting for fire services with the Santa Clara County Fire Department or Cal Fire. Morgan Hill has successfully contracted its fire services for years.

Councilman Perry Woodward, who plans to run for Gilroy mayor, was the lone dissenting voice, and the lone wise one.

In this Great Recession, it’s unconscionable for elected officials to be unwilling to even explore the possibility of delivering expensive essential services in a more affordable manner. That it’s been done in Morgan Hill successfully increases the incomprehensibility of this decision.

Morgan Hill fire engine, photo by Santa Clara County Fire Department

Councilman Bob Dillon earns an extra eye roll for his beyond inconsequential reason for protecting the status quo from study: because he likes seeing “Gilroy” on the side of the fire engines. “I just like that. I can’t explain why,” Dillon said, according to reporter Mark Powell’s article. Never mind that “Morgan Hill” still appears on the side of its fire engines.

Woodward was exactly right when he called Dillon’s argument “pretty weak.” What’s inconceivable is that it carried the day.

At a time when cities like Morgan Hill are looking to further reduce administrative costs by regionalizing fire protection even more, Gilroy’s heading in the opposite direction and imperiling that effort. Gilroy’s decision affects not only the pocketbooks of Gilroy residents, but likely also the pocketbooks of residents in the greater region.

While I’m rolling my eyes, the six Gilroy council members who have essentially stuck their fingers in their ears while chanting “La, la, la, I can’t hear you” in the face of Great Recession ought to be hanging their heads.

•••

A two-syllable “puh-lease” escaped my lips as I read a letter to the editor from David Frazer. He wrote, “On one hand, the Morgan Hill Unified School System is facing potentially $7 million dollars in cuts that will gut our educational system, increase class sizes, and likely require the closing of another school. Yet on the other hand, the city council just voted to move forward with streetscape improvements on Monterey road that could cost over $10 million.”

Huh? The city’s budget is completely separate from the school district’s budget. The city’s decision about streetscape improvements has nothing to do with and no effect on the school district’s budget.

Frazer’s entire letter posits the false premise that the city and school district share a budget. I certainly don’t know if his lack of understanding is the fault of the New Jersey schools, as he suggested, but the lack of critical thinking displayed in his letter doesn’t look good for him or his weak attempt to keep the city from spending money on a project he seems to dislike.

If he wants to argue against the Monterey streetscape project, Frazer ought to do it by making valid arguments involving relevant facts.

As it is, he’s reminding me an awful lot of Glenn Beck.

•••

Finally, the tea party’s role in the ongoing federal budget standoff has me shaking my head.

While claiming to be all about fiscal responsibility, the tea party wing of the Republican Party took this nation to the brink of a federal government shutdown — that would mean, including among many other things, that American service men and women fighting in two wars and in whatever Libya is, would not be paid — by attaching policy riders about social issues to the appropriations bill.

Many GOP tea partiers wanted to completely defund Planned Parenthood, which spends no federal money on abortion, and hasn’t since the mid-1970s due to the Hyde Amendment. Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services to poor women, including cancer screenings, birth control (which prevents abortions), and much more.

In addition, they wanted to override the will of the residents of the District of Columbia — who have no representation in the House of Representatives or the Senate — to use their own local tax money to pay for abortions for poor women. Talk about an un-American, undemocratic, taxation-without-representation position! They failed on the former, and, shockingly, succeeded on the latter.

The appropriations deal reached late Friday narrowly avoided a shutdown — perhaps for a few days, perhaps for a few months. If the tea party wants non-extremists to believe their line about fiscal responsibility, they’ve got to stop attaching social policy riders to budget and appropriations bills.

Puh-lease.

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