Tight Times at City Hall
Group criticizes Seaside leadership as officials crunch dismal budget numbers.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
An array of campaign literature and plastic U.S. flags greet visitors at the 1-month-old Seaside Voter Education Center at 1676 Fremont Blvd.
The 1,000-square-foot space is an upgrade from its former closet-sized office in University Plaza.
Although it’s billed as a non-partisan place for voter registration and education, the center is a project of the Citizens for Transparency in Government, the group that campaigned against City Manager Ray Corpuz when former Seaside police chief Steve Cercone was forced out of his post.
“If we’re going to make a difference in Seaside, we want citizens to know what’s going on with their government,” says Al Glover, a former real estate developer who’s helping fund the center. “We’re not happy with the leadership at City Hall.”
Glover says CTG doesn’t plan to produce candidates for the city’s November election, when the seats of Mayor Ralph Rubio and councilmen Dennis Alexander and Tom Mancini are up for grabs. But he’s bothered by council’s frequent 5-0 votes: “That doesn’t speak for transparency in government.”
Whether Seaside’s mainstream electorate is still hung up on the Cercone matter remains to be seen. City Hall appears more concerned with the floundering local economy, which is holding depressed revenues flat for the 2010-12 fiscal years. “We don’t see any growth,” Corpuz says.
The 2009-10 revenue is looking close to $17.5 million, he adds – a 30 percent drop from the $25 million projection. The city has made up most of the difference through service cuts, early retirements, hiring freezes, salary cuts and furloughs.
As a last resort, the city recently announced four layoffs, including three from the fire department and one – Assistant City Manager Jill Anderson’s position – from management.
“It’s easy to blame the [U.S.] president for the economic Great Recession, or the governor, or yours truly on the city’s budget,” Corpuz said at a June 3 Redevelopment Agency meeting. “But there are many factors for why the revenue is not here.”
With a June 30 budget deadline looming, Corpuz’s office is scrambling to balance the 2010-12 numbers. Every city department is being hit, but most of the cuts are likely to come from public safety, which comprises the majority of the General Fund.
One way for Seaside to save money is to join the regional Joint Powers Authority for fire services, which would create a single fire chief for participating Peninsula cities, then consolidate administration, and finally full operations. Seaside would save $132,000 in the first phase and even more later, Corpuz says.
“It’s hard to maintain the current level of service without some dramatic changes,” he says.
But the Seaside Firefighters Association is hesitant. “We are not totally against the merger; we are just raising questions and concerns,” says union President Dave Nava.
The City Council will vote on both the 2010-12 budget and the fire JPA at a special meeting Thursday, June 17, beginning at 4pm.