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Cantu: City Hall cant manage city money
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

The presentation before the Manteca city council by fire department and city employees’ supporters was a bit of déjà-vu. As president of the city employees union, I stood at the same podium about three decades ago and made virtually the same “plea” to the then Council who were short of funds, in a poor economy, and on the verge of laying personnel off. The sad aspect of the entire situation is that this scenario has occurred several times after my presentation in the early 1980s (or was it the late 1970s?), without any change on how preceding city councils and administrators manage the budgeting and fiscal system of the community.

The results of the unsustainable budgeting process and recurring lack of funds has always been borne by the employees and residents; in particular, the front line employees, never those in command. One can argue that the employees represent the largest share of the municipal budget or that they are overpaid or there are too many benefits, so that is where the cuts must occur. Cow putty! The simple fact is that somewhere along the way city hall forgot two things. One, that it is a non-profit, service-oriented business with the exclusive purpose of maintaining the public safety, health, and welfare of the community. And, two, it is the responsibility of the city council and the administrators, not the employees, to maintain a stable and appropriate revenue and expense stream that sustains the community’s desired levels of service. Adjusting service levels to accommodate investment of fiscal and infrastructure resources to “others” in hopes of generating needed funds to sustain and improve service levels is akin to the mouse running on the tread wheel.

If municipal management has become a difficult task, then perhaps they need to look within (themselves) and determine what “they” are doing wrong; passing the buck to the employees and the community every eight to 10 years is getting old.

Benjamin Cantu
June 6, 2011