Well we warned you, but we’re not happy to be right. In the case of Eureka’s squandering of the City budget and Measure O/Q funds, we took a lot of grief for our predictions. Measure Q won by a large margin, but now as reported on John Chiv’s blog, the City of Eureka is looking to make major cuts at the Eureka Police Department.
WTF? Are you doing a double take about now? You should be. Measure Q “For Public Safety” was supposed to ensure a fully staffed and budgeted police department, but it looks like that promise was barley good for 5 months. After the dialogue about the cuts was opened, we reached out to some of our sources at City Hall. We were given an email that was sent department wide at EPD by Chief Mills.
Below is a portion of the email (original errors left intact):
“As you may have heard I have been asked to substantially reduce our budget. I have some thinks to fight about (computations on vehicles and computers for example) and examine before I make any decisions. Last year we were creative and figured it out and did so with minimal problems. It will be tougher this year, but I am committed to working hard and fighting for each employee.
I have to be frank. I did not see this coming and its worse than I thought. I asked you to get out and push for measure Z and many of you did so. I also spoke publically more than 20 times to community groups. It helped significantly, but the costs of health care, PERS and workman’s comp continue to rise markedly and now with the reduction in revenue for water ($1.2 m) we need to cut budgets citywide. We are all in this together.”
Now, this seems pretty straightforward. The city’s revenue is down, so cuts have to be made. Why the City Manager would choose to cut public safety is beyond imagining, but it seems to be what he is proposing.
But….and this is a big but….the City also happens to be in contract negotiations with the Police Department. EPD voluntarily put off pay increases for several years during the worst budget times. The last contract was only for two years, included no pay increases, and caused police officers and dispatchers to pay more for health insurance. That’s what we would call a pay cut by any standard. EPD took pay cuts 2 years ago, bottom line.
Now, in part because of all the questions raised on this blog and from others the police union (EPOA) made a choice in this round of labor negotiations. The EPOA voted to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have a “forensic audit” of the cities books to see where the money is being spent.
Did that scare some folks at City Hall? Abso-freakin-lutely. An independent forensic audit is what we have been calling for and just what the city needs, but it’s also exactly what the entrenched powers in Eureka don’t want to happen. It was a strong play by the EPOA, but it looks like the City is swinging a pretty big stick to stamp out the effort.
So is Eureka, even after an overwhelming vote to extend the sales tax increase for public safety, really going to cut the Police budget? Or, is this a ploy to try and get the EPOA to back off of an independent audit of the city? Only time will tell.
However, if the EPOA is able to get a forensic audit of the city, we would encourage that information to be passed out to the public. The EPOA can send the information to us or any local media source. Our belief is that a REAL audit will dig up some of the ugly skeletons from the budget, and we hope that the wool isn’t left over the eyes of the taxpaying citizens of Eureka and Humboldt County.