Talk about mixed messages. On the one hand, the city of San Luis Obispo warns of the need to cut $4.4 million from the budget. Yet in the next breath, it wants to add four positions to advance the cause of something referred to by the touchy-feely term of “neighborhood wellness.”
In more concrete terms, neighborhood wellness means cracking down on noise, rowdy parties, building and parking code violations and other problem behavior.
Or, in the words of Mayor Jan Marx, it’s preventing parts of San Luis Obispo from becoming “like Isla Vista.”
To do that, the city envisions adding four “neighborhood services specialists” who would concentrate on problem areas — specifically, those with high percentages of college students.
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Meanwhile, though, the city may not be able to afford a DARE officer for elementary and middle schools, it may start charging residents for street sweeping and it’s talking about reducing support for the special events that bring tourists to town — helping to generate the sales and bed taxes that provide revenue for city operations.
In better times, adding neighborhood services specialists might be a decent idea.
As we’ve often said, we sympathize mightily with residents who have to put up with boorish behavior in their neighborhoods — vandalism, rowdy parties, trespassing, barking dogs, loud music, illegally parked cars and the like.
We have consistently supported city efforts to curb such violations with measures such as a more stringent noise ordinance, and a social host ordinance to curb underage drinking.
But this latest proposal — which appears to have been driven largely by Residents for Quality Neighborhoods — flies in the face of another city goal: to adopt a fiscally prudent budget.
To be fair, the City Council hasn’t actually budgeted for these four new positions, which will cost an estimated $236,400 per year.
It has, however, directed staff to rewrite the “neighborhood wellness goal” to include the new positions.
But if it doesn’t have the money, why even go there?
Why raise expectations, when city officials say they cannot maintain the level of service provided now?
Another problem: Police Chief Deborah Linden does not want neighborhood specialists to issue citations for noise violations.
“Many of these situations involve alcohol, and I feel strongly that those situations need to be handled by police officers.”
That would appear to tie the hands of neighborhood specialists in many situations.
Bottom line: If the city’s budget situation is truly dire — and we don’t doubt that it is — it should stop fantasizing about adding positions that it cannot afford and concentrate on balancing the budget.