Baldo Salcido: Measure A sales tax should not subsidize police

By Baldo SalcidoMay 23, 2013 

Measure A should sunset in January as specified by voters.

On April 3, the City Council voted to place a redirection of sales tax dollars on the ballot in November.

In 2004, 72 percent of voters approved Measure P to increase our sales tax. Those additional funds were designated to augment the general fund, to provide salaries for our Police Department, funds for new police facilities and a training tower for the Fire Department.

In 2009, with the approval of Measure A, sales tax funds were redirected to pay some salaries of the Los Banos Police Department. Those funds in accordance with Measure P were intended to build a new police facility and a training tower for the fire department, for police salaries.

Ironically, the purpose of both Measures P and A was to provide sufficient police officers to protect the citizens of Los Banos. Unfortunately, the Los Banos Police Department failed in that mission.

Despite the collection of additional sales tax for the past 10 years, and the redirection of additional funds during the past four years, the citizens of Los Banos have experienced an increase, in crime rate, gangs and gang violence, shootings that resulted in the killing or wounding of innocent bystanders, shootings at cars and homes, increase in drug activities, brawls, deterioration of our neighborhoods, minimal to delayed or no police response, minimal police presence or visibility.

There are currently 38 police officers, some of whom were partially financed by Measure A and P to specifically curb crime. Patrol cars were upgraded with high-tech equipment to assist officers in identifying suspects. We were promised more public safety with the passage of Measures P and A; instead we are facing higher crime rates, increased gang violence and higher drug traffic in our city.

Citizens of Los Banos should be reminded that 60 percent of the Los Banos general fund 2012 budget was spent on our Police Department alone.

Setting the higher crime rate aside, let's not overlook the economic conditions in Los Banos. Thirty-five percent of homes in this city were in foreclosure; unemployment rate in Los Banos is 19.3 percent. These high numbers also result in more citizens being homeless, hungry and in need of so many more social services.

Instead of redirecting more funds to the Police Department for seven more years, the City Council should direct its attention to sustain public services, i.e., water, sewer, waste management, the animal control department and city parks. With the above statistics, our citizens should not be burdened with any further increase of fees.

To redirect or maintain the proposed increase of sales tax for an additional seven years to benefit the Police Department that receives 60 percent of the city budget borders on mismanagement of public funds. Perhaps with the new city manager, we can look forward to some changes and hopefully more accountability of our Police Department.

Incidentally, I am not swayed by the recent sweep of criminals that violated their probation or parole. These sweeps are too few, and seem to be more of a timed political tactic to sway public opinion. It's been consistently three to four years of increased crime rates. Where is the accountability?

The measure on the November 2013 ballot to redirect our sales taxes for an additional seven years, hopefully, will be defeated. We need to send a strong message to our local government officials. There should be no more taxes, no more redirection of our sales taxes to pay for police salaries. Instead, we need more accountability, effectiveness and more coordination with our citizens. Anything less and perhaps the citizens of Los Banos should consider the repeal of Measure P, and eradicate the initial increase of our sales taxes.

Baldo Salcido is a 13-year resident of Los Banos.

Baldo Salcido is a 13-year resident of Los Banos.

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