“We know definitively that, if not for the brownouts, Engine 38 would have been available. And I’m confident they could have reached the home in two minutes,” said San Diego fire chief Javier Mainar at the July 28 Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee. Mainar was discussing the July 20 death of a toddler who choked on a gumball in Mira Mesa.
“What we don’t know is whether that more rapid response would have allowed us to save the child’s life. We simply don’t know.”
Talk of brownouts in relation to the death of two-year-old Bentley Do has circulated inside city hall and appeared in the media during the past two weeks.
Since news spread of the toddler’s death, brownouts and other cuts to public safety have become a rally cry for those who believe an increase in sales tax would boost revenues and prevent additional cuts to fire and police departments...cuts that will be inevitable if the City does not find a way to solve the estimated $72 million budget deficit for 2012.
According to Jay Goldstone, San Diego’s chief operating officer, to do away with the brownouts, the City needs around $10.5 million greenbacks to come in; if not, the total deficit would grow to approximately $82 million.
“Perhaps voters will approve a temporary sales-tax increase combined with pension reform and managed competition,” said councilmember Marti Emerald after Mainar concluded his presentation.
Emerald’s comment on a potential sales-tax increase came one day after councilmember Donna Frye suggested the idea, and only a few hours after councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio released their own criteria for financial reform, denouncing Frye’s plan as “future assignments for city leaders to work on, with absolutely no guarantees for action and results for taxpayers.”
According to Emerald, councilmembers are waiting to hear from council president Ben Hueso’s office on a special meeting to put the sales-tax measure on the ballot this Friday, July 30. Judging by last Monday’s city-council vote and Frye’s new proposal, the introduction of a half-cent sales tax looks like it’s a done deal, at least at the city-council level.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get this issue resolved and get this on the ballot,” said Emerald, “maybe even get something going sooner than that.”