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Opinion: Public Safety is No. 1 Priority

Letter to the editor: Candidate Loella Haskew talks about the courage to consider raising taxes.

By Loella Haskew

There are two things you should know about me. First, I love Walnut Creek.  That’s why I’ve chosen to live and work here. Second, I firmly believe that public safety is the number one priority of any city government.

I am sure you are thinking: “Big deal – every candidate says they love Walnut Creek and supports public safety.” You’re right, all the candidates do.

But here is the thing that every voter needs to consider: what will it really take to preserve the Walnut Creek that we know and love – and which candidates have a realistic plan to do that?

I am a licensed CPA who served on the city’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Fiscal Health, so I understand the financial needs of our city.

I am the only new candidate in this race that has identified and publicly stated a multi-pronged approach to increasing revenues and decreasing costs, including support for a referendum to raise the sales tax. Contrast that to the other two new candidates who have pledged to increase funding for public safety but not raise taxes.

Here is what will really happen. Our City’s tax revenues (that took a big hit in the recession) will not rebound in line with the projected growth in operating costs. If no additional revenues are identified, there will be cuts in programs and services. In addition, infrastructure maintenance must be put on hold and that will mean bigger replacement and repair expenditures down the line.

Thus, we start the slippery slope to the erosion of the perceived special value of our City. That reduces the attractiveness to new homebuyers and visitors, reducing our property tax and sales tax base, which limits our revenues and so the cycle goes.

For decades, our city council understood this critical balancing act and acted accordingly. As citizens who love Walnut Creek, we cannot allow our council to head in the opposite direction.

I am the only candidate willing to go on record supporting a sales tax increase so we can expand City funding and accomplish the goal of maintaining the balanced level of everything we appreciate in our City including solid, effective public safety.

It takes courage, as a candidate, to say we need to consider raising taxes. It takes courage to stand up to innuendo. It takes courage to have a vision for the community and run for City Council to make it happen. I want to take a stand for what is right. I am running to make a difference.

Sincerely,
Loella Haskew

Loella Haskew is a candidate for Walnut Creek City Council Nov. 6.

P.S.  There is one more thing you should know about me. I’m not a big fan of people misrepresenting the viewpoints of others to skew an outcome. I refer you to the Rossmoor News to see what each candidate really said at the forum and page 10 of a recent City report that provides accurate crime data.

Opinion piece: An Inquiry Into Police Staffing

One more time with feeling October 28, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Ms. Haskew, Thank you for running for City Council. I have two items for you to consider. 1) A comment from you on what was reported by "Disappointed"? http://walnutcreek.patch.com/articles/simmons-leads-council-fund-raising-race#comments 2) A comment on the majority of the funding source (City's General Fund) of the new library and going ahead with construction plans after twice not being voter approved in the bond process, three times not being approved by the state grant process, and at least two (former City Managers) tell us we could not afford it. (This is not to be a comment on Libraries in general, merely the funding of this particular project.) While we're here, any comment on the fact that the Library Foundation committed to an endowment that does not yet exist or that there is a demand from the Library Foundation to the City to "step up" and fund the sunsetting County Library staff funding for extended hours at the downtown Walnut Creek branch? OK, make it three comments... Thank you!
Steve Rohwer October 28, 2012 at 11:15 PM
My article in no way was meant as an attack on Ms. Haskew. I simply pointed out an error she made in a public forum in regards to public safety at the Rossmoor Forum that there has been more traffic enforcement inside Rossmoor provided in the last year in response to requests from the community. If Haskew didn't say that then I apologize for attributing it to her, I took it directly from the link. I wasn't in attendance so I didn't hear the words firsthand. As I stated, we have not provided more traffic enforcement in Rossmoor or anywhere else in Walnut Creek, but drastically LESS. We have had 1 assigned traffic officer since March. In the 6 months before that it bounced between 3 or 4, down from 9. Now it is zero. I can only hope for the community's sake that since public safety is "the #1 priority" that a proposed local sales tax increase, if it passes at some future time in a state that already ranks among the tops in the country in personal income tax and sales tax rates, with 2 more state propositions on the ballot slated to increase both of these taxes yet again, would help restore the public safety cuts this council has already enacted, which has helped create the staffing shortage we currently face. It is also my hope that with no dedicated traffic enforcement on the horizon for the next year, that drivers in our city will take it upon themselves to drive safely and that no tragedies result as a result of poor driving behaviors unchecked.
James October 29, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Ms. Haskew, please remove your campaign sign from my property on Livornia Road at Lavender. I did not give you permission to put it there and it is against the law. Your sign is next to a Barry Grove sign I placed on my property. Thank you.
Jim October 29, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Hello Ms. Haskew, I checked the Rossmoor News story you cited above. You said "I know the police department has provided more traffic enforcement in Rossmoor during the past year in response to requests from residents." What is your source for this statement? I'm having trouble understanding how this can be true when the number of traffic officers has declined so dramatically (and now according to the police department they are gone altogether). Just curious if there are statistics we are not aware of.
SR October 29, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Sorry Loella, No more taxes! You are all alone on this one. The police department is 35% of the General Fund. In almost every other city in this county it is 50%. The programs you want to subsidize with the other 65% of the General Fund should be able to survive without more taxes.
H Hudson October 29, 2012 at 04:45 AM
A sales tax increase? No no no. Just what WC does NOT need is higher sales tax. California's sales tax and income tax rates are among the highest. At least WC merchants have a small edge over neighboring communities that have raised their sales tax rates, since ours haven't been increased. Now, you are proposing ending that. You lost my vote. Absolutely no sales tax increases. I'm sure there are 'little luxuries' WC can do without, and still remain a desirable place to live.
Steve Rohwer October 29, 2012 at 05:15 AM
I found out from a source at work today that 2 more officers are leaving this month, one to another local agency, and one to be an inspector at the DA's office. This brings the total to SIX more officers that will leave in November, not the four I originally stated in the article. The Chief is aware of course of the staffing shortages and will be aggressively hiring to replace these officers, but this takes time--a long time. You can't just pluck a willing party off the street and throw a uniform on him or her and have them patrol a beat, like you can other jobs in the city. The hiring process itself takes about 3 months, and that's fast. Then there's academy training then field training, 9 more months. The severe shortage has to do with several reasons I stated in my original article. Traffic enforcement isn't the only or even the most important function a police department provides to its community, but it is often the most visible and often reflects the strength and health of a police department. We respect Ms. Haskew's desire to run for council and serve the citizens of WC. We met with all candidates prior to endorsing anyone. We originally endorsed Rajan, Simmons, and Grove. When Rajan later accepted the state position offered by the governor's office, we withdrew our endorsement and gave it to Justin Wedel. We felt these 3 were the most well rounded people who would preserve and enhance all of the attributes that make WC such a fine community.
michael frederick October 29, 2012 at 08:33 AM
Ms. Haskew, Thank you for presenting your case on Patch, a vehicle for public dialog. More WC reps should treat the public with such courtesy, instead of inflicting special interest priorities via edict -- as has been the Regalia model over twenty years, which you choose to promote. You obviously don't appreciate this, so I'll state it: Bad choice. On police services, two of your central supporters -- Silva and Regalia -- ACTIVELY justified WCPD reductions by contending that WC policing needs -- at the intersection of two freeways -- are comparable to Antioch's, at the end of a cul de sac!!??!! WCPD, like everyone else in this city, deserves better than such ignorant, arbitrary, decision making aimed at prioritizing Art, Library, PROs, etc. at the expense of WC credibility, public safety, roads, education -- virtually every interest without a Council appointed commission to act as Council's political "partner." That public officials all gravitate to the same GOOFY arguments, or remain collegially silent, speaks to the problem here. There are two phrases that come to mind: Dumbledore to Longbottom: It's hard to fight one's enemies, harder one's friends. Unknown: You hang with those you ride with. Simply, the other non-CPA candidates (except Simmons, of course) seem to have a grasp of why focusing upon revenue generation while ignoring expenses isn't as valuable as you pretend -- per your Blue Ribbon mandate. As a CPA, ever think to question such?
Darlene Mendez October 29, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I really believe this is largely about the library and how to fund it when Measure Q expires. Ms. Haskew your core supporters are those who were intimately involved in the project and don’t want to see their legacy disrupted. I got one of the emails “Disappointed” referred to and also thought it was in poor taste and smelled of desperation. This view is reinforced when I see letters to the editor by Gwen Regalia, Cindy Silva hanging your flyers on my front door and Charlie Abrams swaying the Chamber endorsement despite the fact every business owner I know is against the sales tax increase. I don’t blame them but I think most people are ready for a change on the council. Many of our financial problems as a city are the result of the library and most of us are not willing to double down on a mistake. I do respect your desire to serve the public.
Ralph Hoffmann October 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
There are several categories of law enforcement: 1. Downtown Bars 2. Traffic enforcement 3. Neighborhood safety How do you rate each?
JClark927 October 29, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I do not believe their is a number one priority for city government. The job is about balancing several critical and valuable priorities. Fiscal responsibility, public safety, education (which, if localized and quality, can dramatically improve home values as in Orinda and Lafayette), utilities and others are all critical. I believe increased taxes will be needed to dig government at all levels out of the holes the voters have allowed their officials to create. That said, I will support no tax increase until public service pensions and retiree medical at all levels are required to be 100% funded at the retirement date of the employee. That is to say, the people who benefit from an employee's service pay for the total cost of that service. If people vote for an item when they are paying the price rather than kicking the bill to future generations, so be it.
Guest October 29, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Ms. Haskew raises an interesting point. A pro-safety, anti-tax candidate could very easily create a situation where our quality of life plummets and our city budget cannot afford adequate police services. Of course, being pro-safety, anti-tax sounds really good on the campaign trail. But I know Walnut Creek voters are much smarter than that. I agree with Ms. Haskew - she has the courage, conviction and common sense we need on the Council.
Ralph Hoffmann October 29, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Regarding pensions, see Dan Borenstein's article on page A7 of today's Contra Costa Times, about the change of State pension rules, and a meeting tomorrow at 10am of the County Employee Retirement Association Board. At the moment, CCTA doesn't plan to televise this meeting, but you may wish to rattle Cris Verdugo's cage at (925)313-1180.
Ralph Hoffmann October 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Correction: That's CCTV!
Darlene Mendez October 29, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I don't buy it Guest. The fire department is paid for at the county level and the police department (even with pensions) is only 35% of the budget. How could our budget not afford to fund "adequate police services" under any circumstances? As SR asked above can't we fund the other stuff with the remaining 65% of the bugdet? Walnut Creek is financially very strong (looked for a parking spot downtown lately?). Or is this more about increasing revenue for the library to replace Measure Q dollars at the expense of Walnut Creek businessess?
Julie Jepsen-Grant October 29, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Guest, please define "quality of life."
Jojo Potato October 29, 2012 at 07:04 PM
We all knew that the library was not funded in a sustainable manner. If your tax increase is a way to make up for that, then just forget it. Tying the police staffing into a tax increase which is really about your pet project, just doesn't cut it. No vote for you.
JClark927 October 29, 2012 at 07:28 PM
People interested in the pension issue should take the time to pop over to the Times site and read the Borenstein article (click on "opinion") that Ralph H mentions. There you will see public service employees and their reps arguing that spiking was promised to them and that they paid for it. Darlene:the 35% number is what is being paid, not the cost that is being incurred. The underfunding is coming home to roost, and quickly. Look at it this way: can you work for 30 years, paving 16-20% of average pay and then retire for 30 years at final pay plus medical? The answer is no. The key, I believe, is to simply say that the amount of benefit must be paid by taxpayers during the work life of the employee (and realistic, 60 year, investment and actuarial assumptions must apply consistently). No tax increase for any purported purpose until the elephant in the room is addressed.
JClark927 October 29, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Spirit of full and fair disclosure: a WC officer responded to a comment of mine on the related Patch article. They advise that WC police retirement does not include medical. This does not change my view, just the depth and speed of the hole. Still, I wanted obsessively analytical types like me to know this point.
Steve Rohwer October 30, 2012 at 01:02 AM
My letter on the other thread was not intended to morph into a discussion about police salaries and benefits and pension reform. Those are important topics that concern Patch readers and the public at large certainly, I would be more than happy to discuss them on a different thread, assuming Mr. Howland allows it. My original letter to WC Patch was to explain why we endorsed who we endorsed, and to correct a comment attributed to Ms. Haskew in regards to public safety issues and police staffing. Mr. Howland graciously agreed to post my letter in full, and had enough sense and journalistic integrity to allow Ms. Haskew to post a response. I don't think her comments to the Rossmoor Forum were intended to deceive or mislead. She so far hasn't denied making them so I must assume that's what she said. I give her the benefit of the doubt insofar as when she stated that traffic enforcement had been recently increased at the request of residents in Rossmoor, that she believed it to be the case. It, however is not the case, nor is the inference (at least the one that I took) that staffing levels and public safety issues are being adequately addressed in WC. Her information was incorrect, wherever she got it from. I also took the liberty of stating where staffing levels are currently at the PD and why.
Steve Rohwer October 30, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Continued: Is the city council to blame for the staffing shortages? Yes, but only partially. Freezing positions has the effect of leaving our Chief with less 'wiggle room' to absorb unforseen circumstances of multiple long term injuries, drawn out military leave for 2 yrs, officers suddenly leaving for other agencies, or leaving LE altogether. That, coupled with several service retirements has put us in this pickle, and the frozen positions certainly don't help. Our Chief has asked for many more positions than the council has given him, thus my statement of long on words and short on deeds which is addressed not to any particular member or part of the council but rather the group as a whole. I would like also to thank Councilman Gary Skrel and Kish Rajan for their service to the citizens of WC. Gary served on the Council 12 yrs and Kish 4. I knew them both personally. Although I never agreed with all of their politics or decisions, that's okay, I never expected to anyhow. Both Gary and Kish I found to be very personable and I have had occasion more than once to chat over a beer (off duty of course) with both men and talk about many other interests besides what's going on within the City. I wish them both only the best. There are no mysteries this year as to whom is backing whom in this race. The voters will have their say in 8 days locally, statewide, and nationally, and we can all breathe and go about our business again.
One more time with feeling October 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM
What happened to (Editor) Lance Howland?
michael frederick October 30, 2012 at 07:11 PM
OMTWF, I noticed your question. It made me wonder -- what happened to Lance? Lance now shows up on Lamorinda Patch. Either we drove him away or he decided WC wasn't safe enough for him(?)
One more time with feeling November 02, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Ms Haskew, Your silence is deafening.
Jim November 02, 2012 at 05:48 AM
http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/local/patrol-unit-rowdy-downtown-walnut-creek-set-lose-o/nStqT/ Hopefully we won't also hear there are more patrols downtown.

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