I grew up in Contra Costa County and I’ve watched it change from a collection of small towns to a bunch of bustling suburbs. I’ve watched the open spaces between the cities fill with shopping centers and neighborhoods.
When times were good, they were very good. We made sure that everyone shared in the county’s prosperity.
We instituted services that went beyond the core services mandated by state and federal governments in order to make sure that the quality of life improved for everyone. I’ve been taught that as we move up the ladder of prosperity, you need to reach down to help the next person up to the next rung.
Now, the times are not very good. Unfortunately, with dwindling property and sales taxes, which paid for those extra services, we’re now faced with having to pare down those services that made Contra Costa County a desirable place to live.
We have to learn to live within our budget. Like many of you, when my household budget gets a little tight at the end of the month, I can fall back on my ATM card at the end of the month. The Board of Supervisors doesn’t have that ability. We cannot spend the money we simply do not have.
Believe me, I know this will hurt people. It pains me to have to cast this vote, because in years past I supported most of the programs that are being cut. I know that the people who might be losing their jobs are providing important services, and to their clients, those are vitally valuable services, whether it be treating someone’s bad cold, helping a senior citizen live in his own home, helping foster youth transition to become independent adults, or prosecuting misdemeanors and making sure drunk drivers or shoplifters are punished for breaking the law.
I know that for every person we help, this county becomes a better place. It makes us a better community … and that is why it hurts me to have to face this vote.
We’ve tried – as best we can – to minimize the impact of the cuts, but outside of the Great Depression, the financial environment we’re in is unprecedented. And maybe the cuts in services seem worse that they are because they come on the heels of a prosperous era when we were able to expand those services.
I’ve lost hours of sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night trying to find a solution to this bind we’re in. As a board and as individuals, we’ve had meeting after meeting after meeting with staff and community members – trying to find some way to balance our social obligations with our financial obligations.
But the answer always comes back to this: You cannot spend money that you don’t have.
In the future, when the economy returns to normal, I strongly hope we can restore some of these services.