I read and reread (a) letter … in Saturday's paper, May 9. I was not sure whether he was taking a position for or against Measure 6-177 regarding the limitation of the Public Safety Fee to no more than $15 with a requirement that any future increases to the fee be subject to a vote of the electorate. (I would say he takes no position). He states “The threat of Measure 6-177 passing leaves the threat of layoffs.” As one of the chief petitioners, I would agree there is a threat of layoffs – there is always a threat. However, I also submit to you that passage of the measure affords the city council an opportunity to dig deeply into the spending habits and operations of the City to create cost savings without major reductions in force.
(The letter) then speaks of the reduction in force within the Fire Department after the imposition of this fee from 9 positions to 8 positions. He then states the following: “My question is why is the Fire Department being threatened with more cuts? It doesn't appear that they benefited from the Fee in the first place. They certainly didn't add personnel when this funding came to the City.”
These are the same question and facts I and members of our committee have noted during this process. The answer to his question is that the City Council and Administration are shamelessly using the Fire Department as a tool to create fear within the electorate. They know that “Public Safety” is an emotional issue and they are looking for votes and an unlimited ability to add and/or increase fees without a vote of the electorate. As I have stated before, the City Council may direct the Administration to fund Public Safety first (with an eye to holding the police and fire budgets reasonably close to the current year's level keeping all Fire Department positions and reducing at least 2 Police Office positions which is the level we have seen through 9 months of the current fiscal year) and then go through the difficult choices with all other departments including transfers. Based on my career experience as a municipal auditor as well as my 12 years of public service in elected positions, I know that the city council has this power in the City Charter. Vote YES on Measures 6-176 and 6-177.
John Briggs North Bend, Oregon
P.S, Just a reminder – if you vote NO on Measures 6-176 and 6-177, you give up your rights to vote and complain in the future.