Public debate needed for budget questions
For five generations my family has lived in Walnut Creek and I value our city's long history of supporting and enhancing Walnut Creek's quality of life and the lives of its residents.
The recent recession fundamentally changed the economics of state and local governments. After significant cuts during the last five years, the City Council has been advised by our city manager that the city cannot continue to provide or maintain the existing array of programs, services, and facilities at current levels with existing funding sources (Agenda Report to City Council, 10/25/2013).
City staff has prepared long-term projections of expected revenues and expenditures, which show General Fund deficits growing to $15 million in the two-year 2014-16 budget, and remaining at $7 million to $9 million annually for the next eight years. The city must, by law, balance its budget, either cutting expenditures, increasing revenues or both.
We must ask ourselves how we feel about continuing to support -- with public funds -- the educational, cultural and recreational services that define our community as we have been doing (appropriately, I believe) since I was a boy? How do we feel about maintaining senior programs, arts and natural science education, library operations, theatrical productions, parks, trails and playgrounds?
Absent new sources of revenue, the city cannot continue to fund these essential quality-of-life elements at the levels we have come to expect.
I suggest public debate on these questions is needed. A decision by the council to put a general sales tax increase on the November ballot would produce such a debate.
Too much time on their hands
It would appear, based on the Times' March 27 editorial ("Changes are needed in law that requires gloves in restaurants"), that some of our elected officials in Sacramento have too much time on their hands, no pun intended. Fortunately, AB 2130 passed by a vote of 21-0 in the first round of Assembly Health Committee voting.
The fact that an actual law (effective July 2014) was passed that would have prohibited your local bartender from actually touching that lime, or your favorite sushi chef from making hand-to-hand contact with the tools of his or her trade, proves once again that some politicians have lost sight of some of the real, pressing issues in California. To pass a law prohibiting any hand-to-food contact is beyond overreach.
Most restaurants go to great lengths to provide and enforce sanitizing practices for their staff, and we are regularly inspected by the county Health Department. With AB 2130 on its way to passage, your local restaurant can focus on providing quality food and drinks without government interference.