RP city council really mangles ‘crisis’ label
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By Jud Snyder  June 21, 2013 12:00 am

NOBODY ASKED ME IF my pocket-handkerchief was sodden with sympathetic tears while watching Rohnert Park’s City Council approve a new budget last week. No, it was dry as a bone. 

I assume the three or four other people in city council chambers had dry hankies, too. It’s a shame more people weren’t watching the actual performance. It was a doozy, but live RP city council meetings are not exactly hot ticket items. I’ve seen my share of ‘em.

The June 11 meeting deserves an Oscar nomination, but I can’t figure out the category. Maybe it’s something satirical, think Evelyn Waugh’s “Vile Bodies,” or a wickedly humorous twist of a Woody Allen film script, if such a category exists.

What happened was someone on the council dropped the phrase “fiscal crisis,” and the quintet up there in easy chairs leaped all over it, pulling, tugging and growling like a troop of enthusiastic retriever puppies worrying a tossed hunk of driftwood. The PeeDee (Press Democrat) headline the next day repeated the word “crisis,” and newspaper readers up and down the county could conjure up visions of Rohnert Park gasping on the sands like a beached sea bass clutching bankruptcy papers in its fins.

GIMME A BREAK! The council’s Oscar-winning performance was heart tugging. But I detected later on as they wallowed amid ghastly tear-stained deficits, the edge of reality was working its way in, especially in the comments of Vice-Mayor Joe Callinan and council veteran Jake Mackenzie. You know, “It’s not really that bad, but it’s too late to retract ‘crisis’ so let’s go with it, gang.”

Look. Five or six years ago, the deficit was five or six million dollars, depending on whose version you read. Retiree pensions and health benefits were escalating like crazy every year as Wall Street greed poisoned the air, and all the city councils year after year knew this. Voters approved Measure E (which expires in 2015), but the national economic recession did the most damage. The city couldn’t help here.

What saved the city’s goose during those really bad days were city unions and city employees. They trimmed, shaved and rearranged their jobs on their own. To be sure, the council graciously (and often) thanked them. 

If it wasn’t for Brian Masterson at the Dept of Public Safety, all the union leaders in city hall (I can’t keep track of ‘em all) and the well-paid workers seeing the writing on the wall, RP would be like Vallejo and Stockton today.

THE CITY BUMPED along during those really deficit-ridden days without whimpering “crisis” into crumpled Kleenexes. To hear it now is like looking at pictures in an old Life magazine layout on Ulithi atoll. The list of past crises is tending to fade away. They’re being replaced by tinsel crises seemingly with handles to grasp. The only exceptions are retiree pension and health benefits, which balloon freely because no one’s controlling them. 

This situation probably can only be solved by a government bailout like banks and auto companies received. But who in Washington has the political courage to do this? 

 

IT’S FASCINATING to read, speaking of crisis, RP’s own SCAYD asked the Graton Tribe for help in their homeless prevention campaign. The tribe said no, but left the door open a crack for about a year. They want to prove their validity first, they said. But has anyone heard of a tribal casino filing for bankruptcy? I haven’t. 

So a crisis scenario already looms. You know, a family living from one paycheck to another loses the rent money because of the casino’s slot machines or blackjack table. “Hey Graton! Have you got any mitigation funds handy? We got a crisis.”

The family created their own dilemma, “but gee whiz, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make more money.” No one’s looking forward to this situation, naturally, but it will be as normal as Mom’s apple pie cooling on the windowsill. The anti-casino forces will exploit this like a string of  made in China firecrackers.

IN TRUTH, there are all kinds of crises (I hate that pluralization. It’s clumsy, but it exists.) 

All I’m saying is RP City Council’s weepy dramatization June 11 was overwrought, and all it lacked was a sobbing Greek Chorus in the background writhing in diaphanous gowns and chanting Grecian odes, or Kenny Rogers’ ode to gamblers.

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