Spevak: Why I’m for Measure K

09/27/2013 12:00 AM

09/26/2013 3:37 PM

When we have to disagree with good friends, it’s uncomfortable and occasionally painful. But sometimes good friends end up on opposite sides of an issue.

That is the case with my friend Baldo Salcido and me and the topic of Measure K, on the ballot this November for Los Banos voters. Baldo is against it. I am definitely in favor of its passage.

Measure K is not a new tax. It is an extension of Measure A, passed several years ago. Measure A, which will sunset next year, is a reassignment of funds from Measure P, passed several years prior, which has no sunset date.

Essentially Measure K, like Measure A, allows the funds collected from a half-cent city sales tax to be spent on salaries of public safety personnel, including police officers and firefighters.

There have been other Enterprise articles on Measure K, so I won’t present here more of its specifics. I’d just like to explain why I’m for it, even though my friend Baldo is against it.

I have spent a lot of time reading, listening to, and pondering Baldo’s viewpoint. I’ve read his letters to the editor and opinion pieces in the Enterprise. And I have talked with him.

I respect Baldo a great deal. He is a strong advocate for our local Neighborhood Watch program. He has done a great deal, especially in his own neighborhood, to promote community safety and solidarity.

Clearly, however, residents can’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone to create neighborhood safety. As Baldo points out, they need to be the eyes and the ears that help alert the police. The police need to be the legs, feet, arms, and hands that get things done.

That’s why I’m a little disappointed that Baldo would want Measure K – which would ensure that the size of the Police Department be kept intact – defeated.

Most cities, large and small, have found that neighborhoods are safer when more police officers are out and about on patrol. So, to me, it is counterproductive for community safety improvement to potentially reduce the number of police officers on the job.

Baldo also believes our Police Department has not been as responsive to citizens’ calls as it should be, including his own. But potentially reducing the number of current police officers won’t improve response time.

Not that long ago, before the economic downturn that hit Los Banos and the entire country, Los Banos had 48 police officers. Now it has 36. And if it hadn’t been for Measure A, which enabled a half-cent tax to be used to pay for public safety employees, that number would have been lower.

My experience in calling the Los Banos Police Department for help has been limited. I have been fortunate not to have encountered the incidents that some residents have, with the exception recently of a stolen car.

In that case, the Los Banos Police Department’s response was exemplary (as noted in columns earlier this year). When I called dispatch to report my car stolen, I was told that it had already been found.

Over the years whenever I’ve contacted Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee about a problem or issue, going back to the time when he was a detective, he has been quick to respond, ready to listen and determined to help.

Can the police and Gary do better? Of course. So can and should all of us, especially when it comes to community safety. But a potential reduction in police officers is not a good first step in this direction. Can the police work more closely with the community? Again, of course.

Here is my wish: I hope and trust that Measure K passes and we maintain the number of police officers on the job. And then I hope Baldo and others like him, who are deeply concerned about the safety of our community, will continue to work closely with our Police Department and Chief Brizzee.

In turn, I hope Gary and his department will find new ways of listening to and working with the community, especially community members like Baldo.

As a friend to both Baldo and Gary, I’m hoping this happens and we find improved strength through improved collaboration and unity.

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