There’s a difference between practicing politics and fighting fires, which I have been doing for a living here in Glendale since 2004. When you respond to a 911 call to find lives at risk or a structure burning, what’s required is action. As fire fighters, we spend thousands of hours training for such emergencies, so that our crews have a plan of attack when lives hang in the balance.
With politics, it seems taking action is often secondary – to talking about taking action.
I was reminded of the difference last week while watching the Glendale City Council vote 4-3 to extend the 7/10ths of a penny sales tax approved by voters in 2012. In the spirit of full disclosure, my organization – the Glendale Fire Fighters – together with the city’s police union knocked on more than 25,000 doors during the Proposition 457 campaign that ended in a landslide victory meant to avoid massive city budget cuts.
Two years later, Glendale’s finances have improved, but not enough to cut tax revenues without drastically cutting services, including public safety. The math dictates that sunsetting the tax in 2017 would mean a loss of about $27 million a year. Given that two-thirds of the city’s budget pays for police, paramedics and firefighters, you can only imagine how such a reduction would play out. Couple those cuts with rising crime statistics, slower 911 response times and the fact that Glendale is Arizona’s busiest fire department per capita and you can understand why four members of council took a tough stand and voted to keep the tax in place past 2017.
The part that’s hard to understand is the talk we heard from Mayor Jerry Weiers, Councilman Ian Hugh and Councilwoman Norma Alvarez, the three officials who opposed keeping the tax in place. Their arguments relied heavily on the promise that this tax – which costs the average Glendale household about $2 a week – would be temporary. While I admire their commitment to that promise, I have to question their memories. In seeking the endorsement of the firefighters during the personal campaigns, candidate Weiers and candidate Hugh both filled out questionnaires promising to save public safety from the chopping block at all costs.
Weiers, discussing Glendale’s budget, said we “have to explore every possible option. That has to include spending cuts (excluding first responders who have already been cut to the bone).”
Said Hugh: “We must get through these hard times maintaining the security of our neighborhoods as our number one priority.”
Simply put, our city cannot cut $27 million a year in revenue while “excluding first responders” – a promise Alvarez emphasized in her remarks last week. And more cuts to police and fire will surely mean sacrificing “the security of our neighborhoods as our number one priority.”
To me, these promises sound like more talk – unless this actually walks the walk. I would ask them to put on paper and introduce to the taxpaying public a plan, one that details how our city can cut $27 million in revenue yearly yet leave public safety uncompromised. We know the city in the past has struck bad sports deals and in the future may face the threat of bankruptcy. What we don’t know is how our elected leaders plan to solve the budget problems Glendale faces while keeping their many promises.
While talk is great, now is the time for action. The taxpayers deserve nothing less – especially with paid petition circulators on the street as we speak, collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would destroy public safety in our city.
We look forward to seeing their plan far more than we did their promises.