City Needs to Cut Nonessential Spending
By Jennifer Welsh Zeiter
We are wading through high tides. Difficult times call for difficult measures. I’m honored to be able to contribute to this Common Sense column, as a co-author with Laguna resident Michele Monda, who has done a wonderful job of tackling some important issues around town with some much needed common sense. Here’s my first take.
Physical distancing. Collectively, we understand the need to comply with this directive, to achieve quicker containment of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Lagunans’ seem to be doing a pretty good job of this, knowing we are all in this together, to support and keep our community well. Socially, we should continue to reach out and strengthen those community bonds we’ve let slide in these times of great divide
Tightening our belts. The plunging stock market resulting from the near-paralyzed economy and panic selling will result in long term financial difficulties for many. We will enter into a national and global recession if we do not get people back to work and the economy up and running again, as soon as possible. In the meantime, most are tightening their financial belts and spending less, hunkering down both physically and financially. Locally, our city runs on taxpayer dollars, and it too needs to hunker down. Revenues will certainly fall short of budgeted expenses in 2020, and maybe beyond, especially in the bed tax, sales tax, and parking revenues areas. All discretionary non-essential city spending should stop, immediately. That includes a hiring freeze on employees and consultants, freezing expenditures related to the Downtown Action Plan and the Digester, deferring portions of the $23 million wildfire mitigation package approved last summer containing many unessential expenditures including utility undergrounding paid for by General Fund dollars rather than neighborhood assessment districts, stopping tree removal, and freezing (or get extensions on) all property purchases, including the Library property and two parcels in the 31000 block of South Coast Highway. Focus on the essentials, defer or cut the rest, and let’s hope the city’s reserves are not tapped out to get through these times.
Support local businesses. Sweeping lockdowns across the nation may be essential for containment, but they must be removed at the earliest opportunity, otherwise the prevention measures will cause much greater damage long after virus containment is achieved. Where possible, support local businesses like restaurants to help keep them afloat. With new health precautions and practices in place, we need to re-open Laguna, and America, for business, as soon as possible.
Remember your humanity, park your politics. We are all humans first and foremost, living together in our community. If anything good comes out of this COVID-19 crisis, besides practicing good hygiene, it is that we are reminded of our humanity and are coming together to help one another, reaching out to check on neighbors and loved ones, without first checking their political affiliation. Locally, it’s nice to see that most are embracing their humanity, remembering that we are a community, talking to one another, even if from a distance. Unfortunately, there are those in town, whether it be on NextDoor, Facebook or the local papers, who continue to spew hateful political rhetoric (and you know who you are), and insist on tearing down our leaders, at all levels, who are doing their best to do what is right for all, given the ever changing facts and circumstances. Give it a break. You are not helping. On a national basis, there are those in Congress who are playing politics by refusing to pass a national relief package unless it is first stuffed with special interest items that have zero relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are shamefully taking what should be an urgent bipartisan rescue bill as a political hostage. Let’s hope by the time this column goes to print humanity returns to the beltway, people are hurting and need relief now.
Let’s remember that we have more in common than what separates us. Bottomline, we are all in this together, and together we can get through this. Use common sense, take proven safety measures, practice good hygiene, don’t panic, don’t feed the frenzy, and don’t escalate unnecessarily. Breathe. Locally, thank you to our city leaders and all of those who are helping to guide us, knowing they are doing their best in these difficult and unchartered times.
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