Reprinted from Sunday's Record of Stockton
Anthony Silva said Tuesday that "it's never a bad time to talk about public safety." Stockton's mayor is right about that. It may be the only correct thing he said as he presented an ill-timed and financially dangerous plan to bump the city sales tax to pay for the hiring of as many as 100 additional police officers.
Silva said his plan would generate $18 million a year through 2025, tax money that he wants overseen by what amounts to a shadow government of unelected officials we can only presume he would control.
The arrogance of this proposal doesn't stop there. In dreaming it up, Silva failed to work with Police Chief Eric Jones, City Manager Bob Deis or any of his fellow council members. Not one council member was on hand when his news conference got under way. Councilman Michael Tubbs showed up about 30 minutes after it began and then, he said, only after reading about it on Facebook as it was starting.
And the plan ignores -- although Silva claims otherwise -- a comprehensive, broadly based, communitywide anti-crime package, the so-called Marshall Plan, that took the city months and cost thousands to formulate.
Silva's plan: buy more cops. His is a hook 'em and book 'em approach that has a storied history of failure when not combined with other efforts to address the underlying causes of crime.
Silva, funded by a group he refuses to name, periodically forgets that he is one vote on the seven-member council. Stockton operates under a city manager system of government, not a strong-mayor system.
He's ignored political reality that holds you should build support among your fellow council members for any big proposal, especially for new taxes, before presenting it.
His presentation sadly coincided with the testimony of the city's interim financial officer in federal bankruptcy court. In that testimony, David Mullican said the city is on course to emerge from Chapter 9 bankruptcy with a $100 million gap over 10 years.
That's a figure Silva might want to plug into his tax plan.
Which brings us to another misstatement made during the mayor's presentation.
William Bratton, a nationally known law enforcement expert who once headed the New York and Los Angeles departments, stood beside the mayor and said, "Your mayor ... (is) proposing to once again invest in that first obligation of democracy: public safety, and very specifically, the criminal justice system." Wrong.
The first obligation of government is to stay in business. If you can't pay your bills, you can't have a police department.