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Lead balloon or life preserver?

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POSTED March 21, 2009 5:34 a.m.

To access City Manager Steve Pinkerton’s blog go to www.ci.manteca.ca.us/blog/

Sid Reams, the guest columnist in Friday’s Manteca Bulletin seems to have a real problem with their local government even discussing the possibility of revenue enhancements, and more specifically a utility tax. As I noted in Thursday’s blog, we’ve got a huge budget gap to fill. Undoubtedly there will be cuts in service - the question becomes how large will the cuts in service be?

As the City Manager, it is my responsibility to operate the City to its maximum efficiency. I am mandated with ensuring that every tax dollar is spent as wisely as possible. If the guest columnist had attended any of the Budget Advisory Committee meetings, he would have a much better understanding of the steps already taken to make sure that our tax dollars are being spent in a responsible manner. Every department is doing more with less; every department in this city already operates with far fewer employees per capita than our peer group of cities. Every department also has to continue to find more ways to reduce costs without impacting service. Every employee in the City has taken a reduction in their wages (including yours truly). While the columnist is entitled to his opinion, I think it is only fair that he actually perform a little research before he takes pot shots at the city workforce. Manteca government delivers far more service per tax dollar than any other City in the region.

Historically, like most bedroom communities, Manteca has not had a diverse group of revenue sources. However, the City has always been forward thinking and done more with less and grown more diverse economically. Unfortunately, we are still heavily dependent on property tax and sales tax--the two revenue sources most negatively impacted in the current economic downturn. A utility tax is a much more stable source of revenue, as is a landscape maintenance district or parcel tax. With more stable resources, it is much easier to plan out the future of your community.

Ultimately, it will be the City Council’s choice as to whether or not to put a utility tax on the ballot - and IF it is put on the ballot, it will be the majority of the voters in this community who determine whether or not they are willing to preserve city services through additional revenue. This is a local decision as to how we spend our local resources. This isn’t colonial Boston - the voters will get to decide and if approved, the dollars will stay right here and not go to England or to Sacramento!

I understand the public’s fatigue with taxes, regulation and government programs. Frankly, the majority of this fatigue is imposed by our friends at the State and Federal levels of government. Local government is really the only place where citizens have the ability to influence their quality of life. We are floating these revenue ideas because we want to preserve and enhance the quality of life we have here in Manteca. Additional revenue would be a life preserver to save our high level of park maintenance, our relatively low crime rate and healthy rate of local economic growth.

Why Pinkerton started his blog
I’m hoping that this blog can serve as a means of discussing the wide range of issues that the citizens of Manteca face each day.

I’m a firm believer that government is MOST effective when it is a collaborative effort between the citizens and its civil servants. In order to encourage facilitation, it is critical that government operate as transparently as possible.

Transparency encourages open, honest discussion and allows citizens a larger role in determining the range and level of services provided by their local government. As our financial resources diminish, and we are forced to do more with less, it is critical that we continue to provide our citizens with the services that the public determines are the highest priority. Additionally, much of the criticism of government typically occurs due to lack of information. If the public was provided with full information, it is likely that citizens would better understand why government sometimes does things that seem counterproductive or contrary to the wishes of its citizenry. Of course, there are times when we screw up, and we as civil servants would be better served to fess up instead of attempting to justify what we did.

I am hoping that this blog can be that vehicle to let the citizens know what we do, why we do it, and to ask forgiveness when we screw up. Most importantly, I’m hoping that this blog can be part of a larger dialogue that can help Manteca continue to grow in a way that preserves its small town values yet provide the services that it citizens want.

So here it is, I’ll try to contribute something new just about every day and I hope that you, the citizens of Manteca will find it informative and a starting point for working together to keep our community a great place to live.
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