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Dec 2010
Colton city leaders’ unbalanced spending will come at a cost to public safety

While at times the League and City leaders may not see eye to eye on issues of staffing and budget balancing, the residents of Los Angeles can always rest assured that public safety, entrusted to our world-class police force, never takes a back seat to political disagreements. But other cities aren’t as fortunate.

Colton, California, a 21-square-mile city with a population of nearly 52,000, may very well lose 16 of its 60 police officers to close the city’s budget gap. There’s nothing novel about city layoffs in our current economic environment, but when a city government keeps hiring high priced department directors, while pushing the firing of police officers and rejecting good-faith solutions, things don’t add up.

The City of Colton is facing some serious financial shortfalls. And Colton city leaders are looking to make up for them by giving at least 16 Colton police officers their walking papers. A tough measure for an indisputably tough situation, but is it really that cut and dry?

One has to wonder how a cash-strapped city like Colton can afford the personnel spending spree cited by the Colton Police Officers Association on their website. The questionable hiring began in September 2009, when Colton picked up a new finance director at $143,141 per year. Since then, enough money was found to hire new directors of Development Services and Public Works, at annual salaries of $140,000 and $145,000, respectively; and a new HR manager at $105,000. Curiously enough, city leaders have been making public declarations that the city is broke, but they still doled out over $300,000 for consultants and studies in the last year alone. The city manager himself is collecting an annual salary of $220,000 (plus a monthly $600 car allowance) to run this small working-class city.

The Colton Police Officers Association, meanwhile, has been doing its best to offer solutions that don’t include having fewer officers looking out for residents of a city with the dubious distinction of highest per capita rate of violent crime in San Bernardino County. The Association offered a package of financial concessions totaling over $1 million, but it wasn’t good enough for city leaders, who instead decided to drop some more Colton taxpayer money on a PR firm to take on the Association and put a positive spin on the city’s unbalanced spending.

Colton’s city leadership is not being honest with the media or the public. Instead of mounting a media campaign to discredit the concessions its officers are making, they should reexamine their spending and work harder and more honestly to find budget solutions that don’t leave Colton city residents – and their safety – on the losing side of negotiations.



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