Berkeley’s fiscal hawks, often accused of undue pessimism, inhumanity, and an unseemly low civic boosterism level, are being vindicated by the hard cold facts.
For years we “hawks” (BASTA, Budget Watch, Berkeley Budget SOS, Committee for FACTS) have warned about the high level of unfunded liability, the decline of services, excessive City employee consumption of our budget, wasteful spending, and unwarranted burdens placed on generous taxpayers. We have pored over arcane City budgets, analyzed a plethora of taxes, tried to educate the public, put forth sensible initiatives. Very few officials listened and, because they disliked the message, continually tried to marginalize the messengers.
Thankfully, the day of reckoning may be hand. We truly need to reckon so that we can get a clear picture of the problem and move ahead with the hard and painful job of real solutions. This is the biggest issue facing Berkeley. If we have no money and few services, and our infrastructure continues its decay, what kind of Berkeley are we leaving our children?
In a Wall Street Journal Market Watch article on October 10, entitled “Moody’s Reviews 32 California Cities’ Ratings” Nathalie Tadema advises that Moody’s is reviewing 32 California cities “mostly for potential downgrades”. The particular cities to be reviewed for downgrade were especially chosen out of 95 rated California cities, and Berkeley is among the chosen. Tadema continues “In contrast, the ratings for Los Angeles and San Francisco are on review for an upgrade…” because of their economic resiliency.
This election cycle, Berkeley voters have a chance to opt for politicians and measures that focus on our fiscal health. Jacquelyn McCormick has been at the forefront of the fiscal accountability effort and deserves our vote for mayor. Meanwhile Tom Bates continually tells us that Berkeley is in good financial shape and Kriss Worthington is willfully ignorant and ignoring of the problem. After observing most Council meetings for the last fourteen years (!) I still do not know what Kriss really stands for. Councilmember Anderson thinks we have bigger fish to fry than the City debt!
Voters should also vote yes on Measure V, the FACTS fiscal accountability citizens initiative, and no on the three ill-conceived tax measures M, N and O.
It’s time for a reality check.