San Jose’s Fiscal Responsibility

Earlier this month, I got the bad news that our city library hours are being cut again, with Mondays dark, and Fridays only open for half a day. But as I hear the news of shortfalls at all levels of government, not just city, but county, state, and federal, as well, due to a weak economy, I was a little glad that my city was facing the problem head on and making tough, unpopular cuts, so we can at least have something we need for little longer, instead of hoping the county/state/federal money fairy will fly in with a last-minute save.

Last year, the city cut out the fourth of July fireworks festival downtown, which was a shame because we’d so enjoyed being able to see it from the top of our office building. But we went to Morgan Hill that year, and this year we stayed home and watched the fireworks show put on informally in our own neighborhood. This year, the city cancelled the Tapestry of Arts festival, which takes place downtown on Labor Day and lets us check out all sorts of groovy arts and crafts. I will miss it, but there’s festivals like that up the Peninsula, too.

Our city unions (like police and firemen) have tentatively agreed to a pay cut; California Sports Center (a private business) is partnering with the city to keep open two public pools; our largest city parks are closed on Mondays; and many of the businesses which supply the city (such as Zap Manufacturing with has graffiti-removal spray) gave the city discounts.

There’s also quieter cost-cutting going on. I had Kelly at a summer camp which gave her two field trips each week, and I saw them morph as the summer went on. The trip to to the Exploratorium become a movie outing; instead of going to the Tech, they had a sports and games day with children at another city camp. It didn’t matter: Kelly had just as great a time with the revised field trips as she would have with the former ones. And getting out with camp friends to go to another park is better than no field trip at all, or for that matter, unpaid counselors or no camp at all.

Understandably, anyone who uses public services is unhappy with cuts, and, yeah, I’m really bummed about the library cuts, because we go there a lot. But there’s really no way to raise all the income needed to cover our costs: raising taxes more isn’t going to help since our taxes are already relatively high and doing so could likely cause the businesses there are out of business, or out of town. But I’ll live with the cuts–I’d rather have my local library open at all, than the whole system shut down to insolvency.

Meanwhile, my state is still waiting for the federal budget fairy, which did fly by with a huge present last year, and very well may do so again this year. But that fairy’s got scary debt itself, and that scares me a lot more than a park having to be closed part time.

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