Editorial: The new normal
Jul 9, 2010,
Last month Sheriff Sadie Darnell asked for a public dialogue about merging city and county law enforcement. Darnell said, “Because of the dire economy and the fiscal constraints we all face, we have to have a dialogue about it.”
Now comes County Manager Randy Reid with another sort of prodding. In his annual budget message, Reid said that shrinking tax revenue represents the “new normal” in local government. And while he didn’t explicitly endorse Darnell’s call, Reid does add: “Research and personal experience has shown me that any service can likely be consolidated or privatized.”
Taking note of Darnell’s call for unified law enforcement, Reid adds: “If the County Commission directs, I will open a renewed discussion of consolidation of fire services in the same manner.”
Given the angry tone of the many letters we’ve been publishing in opposition to the proposed city and county fire assessments, commissioners are well advised to so direct.
However, Reid also raises a caution flag when he wrote that “consolidation does not guarantee that costs will be less unless there is a political willingness to reduce service levels or the costs of providing those services which are clearly personnel-driven…”
In other words, consolidation is no slam-dunk for savings unless commissioners are also willing to engage in hard bargaining with their public employee unions for pay and benefit concessions.
Reid calls the new normal “a time of change and readjustment of service priorities and delivery methods.” Taxpayers get that. Do commissioners?